Sunday, December 3, 2017

Celebrate 2017 With My Favorite Book of the Year!

It's been a quiet year for me, blog wise. I've had a lot of personal issues, particularly related to my mental health, that have kept me from posting. One of the things that has gotten me through is doing what I do best, losing myself in a good story. Although I haven't written many reviews, I've read some fantastic books this year that have uplifted me during some of my darkest times. In order to ring in the New Year and give thanks for my many blessings, I'm asking you, my readers, to share the books that made the biggest impact on you this past year! I'm going to do my best to post a few of my favorites during this month as well, so follow along as I celebrate the gifts of inspiration and creativity. ~Carly

The Best Book I Read in 2017

The History of Us 
by Nyrae Dawn 

Genres: Contemporary, Gay (M/M), Young Adult/New Adult Romance 
Length: 184 pages

Sometimes it's not about coming out, it's about settling in.

Eighteen-year-old Bradley Collins came out a year ago and hasn't looked back since. Who cares if he doesn’t know any other gay people? Bradley has friends and basketball—that’s all he needs. Even if that means always sitting on the sidelines when the guys go out looking for girls.

When cute film-boy TJ tries to flirt with Bradley while his friends are doing their thing, he freaks. Yeah, he’s gay, but he’s never had the opportunity to go out with a boy before. He’s never had to worry about how his friends will react to seeing him with a guy.

Bradley accompanies TJ on a road trip to film TJ’s senior project documentary. In each city they visit, they meet with people from different walks of life, and Bradley learns there’s a whole lot more to being honest about himself than just coming out. He still has to figure out who he really is, and learn to be okay with what he discovers.

Kicking my feet up on the bench across from me, I pick up a straw wrapper and start twisting it around my finger. I’m lucky. I know I am. My sophomore year I came out to my mom. Apparently she already knew. She could have saved me a whole lot of stress if she’d have let me in on that fact.

When I got sick of making up excuses as to why I never wanted to hook up, I told my friends my junior year. Everyone at school knows, and no one’s given me shit. I get how lucky that makes me. Not everyone has had it as easy, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel like punching something because I’m sitting here by myself and they’re all at another table trying to get laid. Oh, and they’ve all been laid. I haven’t.

There are zero gay people in my family. Zero gay people in my school, who are out about it, at least. They could be there and hiding. I actually know zero gay people at all. Mom’s always trying to talk me into going to this LGBT teen group she found in Brownsville. It’s only about forty-five minutes away, but it’s not like I need any other friends. I have my own. Who gives a shit if none of them are gay? I don’t see the point in making a big deal out of my sexual orientation.

I ball the wrapper up and toss it to the table before I let my gaze travel to the other side of the room, trying to find what had me distracted when Chase was talking to me earlier.
Crap. There’s a girl and a guy sitting at the table the black-haired guy had been at. I shake my head and grab my cell phone. It’s not like it should matter anyway. Still, my eyes sort of case the room. I wonder if he took off or just moved somewhere else. I’ve seen him in here before, doing whatever he does on his laptop all the time, though I don’t recognize him from our school.

“Hey,” a voice says to my left. I look over to see it’s laptop guy and scramble up from my slouched position.

“Hey.” Why are you talking to me?

“How come you didn’t go talk to the girls with your friends?” He nods back to where the guys are. His hair is spiked. From there I look down, taking in the rest of him. His T-shirt is on inside out, but I can still tell his clothes are expensive.

“Umm, who are you? And why does it matter? Maybe I just didn’t feel like it.” Really, I know why it matters. I saw him in here with a guy about four months ago. Maybe that’s why I always notice him, even though we’ve never spoken a word to each other—because he’s gay too.

“I’m TJ.” He pushes his laptop strap up his shoulder and holds out his hand.

Reaching out, I shake it. The heat from his hand slowly slides up my arm, reminding me of a movie or something, when people meet someone and say they feel it. It almost seems like he can see my reaction, so I jerk my hand back.

TJ smiles. “Do I get your name?”

“Bradley.” I cross my arms, wishing I could shake out the burn still there.

“Can I sit?” he asks.

“Why?” pops out of my mouth. That doesn’t stop a vision from drifting through my head—what it would be like to sit with a guy like him while my friends are off doing their thing.

TJ’s brows draw together, and I notice his eyes are blue, this really bright, vivid blue.

“Are you gay?” TJ asks. “I mean, I thought because I’ve seen you staring at me, but—”

“Shh.” My eyes dart around to see if anyone heard him. When they find TJ again, there’s a tightness in his jaw that wasn’t there before. Guilt makes my stomach drop, like a ball falling through the basket—nothing but net. “I just….” I’ve never had someone know without me telling them. In case you’re wondering, my mom doesn’t count.

“Fuck yeah. That was awesome—oh, hey, man, what’s up?” Marcus says as my three friends step up to us.

“Hey,” TJ says to them.

I see my friends look at him, and then look at me, before looking at TJ again. Maybe it sounds stupid, but if Marcus’s skin weren’t so dark, I swear it would be red right now. Jabbar plops down on the seat across from me like he still hasn’t put two and two together. He doesn’t realize that for the first time a guy is talking to me with maybe the same thing in his mind that they have when they hit on girls. He rubs a hand over his buzzed, blond head. “They were hot, Bradley. You don’t know what you’re missing out on.”

TJ’s frown gets deeper, but it’s Chase who speaks, looking at TJ with his forehead wrinkled, like he doesn’t belong. “Collins, let’s go. I need you to give me a ride home.”

I’m already to my feet when Jabbar says, “I’m chillin’. Wanna stay, Marcus?”

He takes the seat I just left. Chase puts an arm around my shoulders. My stomach still feels like it’s going through the net.

“I’ll play you a game of one-on-one when we get to my house. You down?” Chase starts walking, and I automatically start doing the same.

“Yeah. Sure. Let’s do it.”

It’s not till I get to the door that I sneak a look over my shoulder. TJ is standing by the table where I left him, his hard stare following me as I go.

“Come on.” Chase tugs on me, and I keep going.

He screws around on his phone for most of the drive home. We ride together for almost everything because we live next door to each other and I have my own car. Since it’s just me, Mom, and my little brother Tyson, she wanted me to have my own way of getting around, which really means she wanted me to be able to help her get Tyson around. I get it. She’s a nurse at the hospital and works twelve-hour shifts. It makes things tough for her. Plus, having my own car definitely works for me.

When we get out in my driveway, I ask him, “We gonna play?”

He shakes his head. “That cool? It’s cold. I just feel like going inside and chillin’.”

Which isn’t really like Chase, but what am I supposed to say? “No problem. I’ll see you in the morning.”

I make it a couple steps away from him when he says, “Hey, Collins. That guy, was he, like, hitting on you or whatever?”

No. Yes. I don’t know. I think so. How am I supposed to know? “No.”

“I mean, it’s cool. You know it’s cool. We all know, and if anyone gives you shit, they’d have to deal with all of us, it’s just…. We’ve never really seen you…. You always just hang with us…. You don’t ever….” I’m pretty sure this is only the second time in his life he hasn’t known what to say, and the first is when I told him I’m gay.

Chase is my best friend. We’re all close, but he’s always been my boy, so I know exactly what he’s saying. “I know. It wasn’t like that.” But it could be. Maybe it should be. What happens when one day it is? The thought makes my skin prick with unease, so I shake it from my head.

“I know it’ll happen, but it just might… does it make me a dick if it’s kind of weird? I know you’re gay, but you’ve never had a boyfriend, or whatever. It’s just… different.”

No one really wants to be different. I don’t care what they say.
I gave The History of Us 5 of 5 stars and shelved it as one of my Best Books Evah on Goodreads because of how deeply Bradley and TJ's journey of discovery, both for themselves and the people they interviewed for the documentary, resonated with me. It transcended sexuality and delved into the essence of humanity, brought me to tears (which isn't easy to do) and changed the way I look at the world. If you only read one book in the next year, I recommend it be The History of Us.
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  1. The best book I read was The Rules by Jamie Fessenden.

    1. This one sounds intense. I've put it on my list, and it's free on KU! (Here's the link for anyone else who's interested:

  2. I really enjoyed The Consumption of Magic by T.J. Klune and I can't wait for the conclusion of the series next year!

    1. Me too! It's one of my favorite series when I'm in the mood to laugh.

      Tales From Verania Series Page

  3. Hailey Turner released her series The Metahuman Files starting with book 1 in Feb this year. I was given the chance to read ALL the series (to date) as ARC's and they are amazing in the depth of character and world-building. Her 4th book will be out before the end of the year and I literally just received it as an ARC an hour ago....I can't wait to see where she takes her guys this time!

    1. I bought the first book, In The Wreckage, earlier this year. I'm going to have to go back and check out the rest of the series, now that there are three, so I'm all caught up!

      Metahuman Files Series Page

    2. OH I blew through these three books. Read the first one and no-brainer bought and read the next two. Love military and MM. Add in the paranormal and I'm in deep.

  4. I’m a moody reader and my impression on a book might shift after a while. This has been a good year in term of reading though and there’s a long list of good rating titles for me. The few that left impact are Kit Brisby’s Rogue Magic, Marie Sexton’s The Well, and Astrid Amara’s Trustworthy (yes, I find it HARD to choose just one title ;-) ).

    1. I agree about impressions shifting. Sometimes I'll have to put a book on hold because I know I'll enjoy it more when I'm in a different mood. Brisby and Amara are both new authors to me but Marie Sexton is one of my favorites. I'm definitely checking out Rogue Magic ( soon!

  5. Draakenwood (Whyborne & Griffin, #9) by Jordan L. Hawk

  6. I love Reservations by Kindle Alexander!

  7. For me, it was "Back to You" by Chris Scully and "Kill Game" by Cordelia Kingsbridge

  8. This is such a hard question to answer..... I'll just go with the first book that popped into my head: Wallflowers: Double Trouble by C.P. Smith

  9. It's hard to choose. A few titles popped into my mind but I'll go with just the first one. Witches for Hire by Sam Argent

  10. While I fell hard for Mary Calmes and BA Tortuga this year, the absolute best book I read was Letters to an Android by Wendy Rathbone. The descriptions of space were breathtaking.