Thursday, November 12, 2015

Book Review: Him by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

Release date: July 28, 2015
Author links: 
Sarina: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Elle: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Pages: 360
Purchase links: Amazon (free for Kindle Unlimited users) - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

They don’t play for the same team. Or do they? 

Jamie Canning has never been able to figure out how he lost his closest friend. Four years ago, his tattooed, wise-cracking, rule-breaking roommate cut him off without an explanation. So what if things got a little weird on the last night of hockey camp the summer they were eighteen? It was just a little drunken foolishness. Nobody died.

Ryan Wesley’s biggest regret is coaxing his very straight friend into a bet that pushed the boundaries of their relationship. Now, with their college teams set to face off at the national championship, he’ll finally get a chance to apologize. But all it takes is one look at his longtime crush, and the ache is stronger than ever.

Jamie has waited a long time for answers, but walks away with only more questions—
can one night of sex ruin a friendship? If not, how about six more weeks of it? When Wesley turns up to coach alongside Jamie for one more hot summer at camp, Jamie has a few things to discover about his old friend...and a big one to learn about himself.

Warning: contains sexual situations, hotties on hockey skates, skinnydipping, shenanigans in an SUV and proof that coming out to your family on social media is a dicey proposition.

There is something you should know about me.... I AM OBSESSED WITH ICE HOCKEY. 

Being born in to Finland means that you are probably introduced to ice hockey at some point in your life, whether you want it or not. I definitely wanted it. The first time I went to see my first professional game, I knew that me and hockey would be forever. That was over 10 years ago. I went through my Instagram and photos from my computer, and here is a random sample of pictures involving hockey I found:

With my favorite player Pekka Rinne (he plays for Nashville Predators now, but he has been my fave since he played second goalie for my team in the 2000s) - me at a pre-game march during playoff spring 2008 - reading while waiting for the game to start - eating while waiting for the game to start - Getting up in the middle of the night to watch Penguins hockey - Championship party at the market place of my city with tens of thousands of people (I wanted in front of the stage with my friends for like 10 hours just so we get to be on the front row) - Waiting for the champions to make an appearance earlier this year - Post-game thanks to the fans - Watching hockey and eating pizza - Our dog posing with the jersey of my favorite player - My favorite player circa 2005 (I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS WAS 10 YEARS AGO) - Hockey World Championship attire

Oh, those photos really took me down the memory lane...

Because of my burning love for hockey and everything to do with it - games, food, players, friends, winning, losing, happy tears, sad tears, anger, joy - I am always EXTREMELY EXCITED when I come across a book that centers around hockey, because finding something that puts together two things that I love SO MUCH is amazing.

Him is the first new adult m/m romance I've read, so I didn't quite know what to expect. Though I don't mind explicit sexual scenes, I find that I don't read books like that very often, mostly usually when I read books like that, I quickly start to feel all the sex really doesn't have a bigger purpose in the narrative. It is there just for the spectacle or to add some juiciness to the plot. For some reason, I have started to associate with books heavy on sex scenes with books that I end up really disliking or books that don't really have a story of any kind (hello Fifty Shades of Grey... I am so totally talking about you!). Once I started to read Him, I was happy to notice that I had been prejudiced and that the novel was actually much more than just sex.

The two main characters of the book are NHL hopefuls Ryan Wesley and Jamie Canning. Let's talk about those two gorgeous men for a while.

Ryan, more commonly known as Wes, is a forward, which means that he plays either center or the wings. It also means he is the guy who is there to make the goals. He is described as the star forward who is ready to make a splash in the NHL. He is talented, passionate about the sport and willing to sacrifice a lot just to play hockey.

Jamie is a goaltender, which means that his changes of ever getting a chance to play in the big leagues, even if he is on a team, are slimmer than Jamie's. Hockey's usually played using four different lines of forwards and three pairs of defense men, which means that your changes of getting to play are larger if you play one of those positions. There's only one goalie, and though the teams can change goalies mid-game, that usually happens only if the game is going horribly wrong or if the playing goalie gets injured. Usually there's also a starting goalie and a substitute goalie, meaning that the starting goalie is usually the one who plays most of the games during a season.

As it happens, my two favorite players of all time are a forward and a goalie! So when I was made aware of the positions Wes and Jamie play, my reaction was pretty much one of extreme excitement.

It was at the point that their positions was mentioned that my fangirl mode really kicked in, because a little voice inside my brain kept telling me that now I could start to imagine these fictional guys looking like my favorite players. That is something I do quite often, honestly. If a fictional guy has dark hair, I imagine him looking like Sidney Crosby. If a fictional guy has a blond/light brown hair, I imagine him as Pekka Rinne. That just adds something to my own reading experience (maybe it allows me to become more attracted and attached to the guys I'm reading about) and I bet we all have those few people we like to imagine while we read. I DO NOT IMAGINE THEM AS THE GUYS THEMSELVES, JUST LOOKING LIKE THEM.

Now, because I want to take a break to go through Tumblr for pictures, I will insert here collages of these two gorgeous men who have completely stolen my heart.

 When my friends where drooling over Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean or Chad Michael Murray in One Three Hill, this was the guy my teenage heart throbbed for. Teen crushes come and guy, but it seems this guy is here to stay. Pekka used to have the substitute goalie position in my hometown's hockey team and when the news of him leaving for America reached my ears, I was completely heartbroken (I think I actually faked being sick so I can cry at home), but also extremely happy for him. He is now playing for Nashville Predators and though he has become this big time superstar, he is still the nicest, kindest man I know. I had a literal fangirl meltdown when he greeted me in a game and told me he still remembers me.

For those who know even little about hockey, this gorgeous gentleman might be familiar to. Sidney Crosby is a star forward, nm. 1 NHL draft who despite his young age has already pretty much every single metal a hockey player could ask for. I haven't had the pleasure of seeing Sidney play yet, but it is right on top of my wish list. 


Wes and Jamie used to go to a hockey camp together, but haven't been in touch since their summer ended awkwardly four years earlier. Wes is now openly gay, at least to his parent and his team mates. Jamie, of course, has no clue about this. When their teams meet in a championship game, their paths cross again and lead them together back to the hockey camp that started it all.

Wes has been in love with Jamie pretty much since the moment he came to understand his sexuality. Though Jamie remembers the experience that turned their relationship awkward with mixed feelings of fondness and confusion, he has continued with his life, most recently with a friends-with-benefits type of relationship with a girl named Holly. But now that he is back sharing experiences with Wes, he is starting to question his sexuality and his future.

I absolutely loved the way Bowen and Kennedy write about Jamie's "sexual awakening" and the process he goes through in order to understand his feelings that feel right, but seem "wrong." Since I haven't gone through a process like that myself, I cannot really say whether it is realistic or not (though probably processes like that are different for everyone), but it certainly feels that way. Bowen and Kennedy take their time establishing the new connection between Wes and Jamie, and at no point I felt like the story was too rushed.

Since I hadn't read a m/m romance before, I didn't know what to expect from the romantic scenes or the scenes loaded with sexuality, but as I kept reading this one I already started looking for other m/m romances, because wow, I really loved the romantic aspect of this novel. The chemistry between Wes and Jamie is INCREDIBLE and they were able to make me both swoon and laugh (those kind of romances are always my favorite). I loved how different the guys are from each other and how they both contribute something to their friendship/relationship.

In addition to the awesome romance/friendship narrative and Jamie's discovery of his sexuality, the book also quite brilliantly discusses the relationship between professional athletes and questions of sexuality. As of now, there are no openly gay players in the NHL, the National Hockey League. Earlier in 2015, a survey was conducted by USA Today Sports, that indicated that 34 players out of 35 would be accepting of an openly gay teammate. In the book, Wes goes through a process of finding out how his sexuality might affect his career, and I think the way Bowen and Kennedy approach the process is done with bravado. There are jerks in this novel, but in general, I left the novel feeling good about the fictional future careers of these two guys.

This review is probably the most incoherent review I've ever written, but really, I feel like my thoughts about this book are all over the place and I cannot really express coherently how beautiful reading experience this book was for me. SARINA BOWEN and ELLE KENNEDY, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

Just as a last comment/warning: THERE IS A LOT OF SEX HERE! A LOT! So if that is something you are not looking for, or something that you just don't want to read about (because that's completely okay), then this might not be for you. On the other hand, if you like hot, steamy, romantic reads, THIS BOOK WILL BE PERFECT FOR YOU!

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