An Alisa Review: Ace of Hearts by Caitlin Ricci

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

 

Ashton lived for show jumping, until an accident killed his horse, Atreyu, and left him unable to ride. He blames himself for Atreyu’s death and has sworn off horses. Rubbing salt in the wound, his boyfriend and friends were okay with Ashton being ace, but not with his retirement. His mom has purchased him a house with acreage in the hopes that he won’t give up on horses entirely, and a puppy, Leia, but neither is able to pull him out of his depression.

 

Ty lives next door, and it’s a dream come true to find his idol is his new neighbor. Ashton wants nothing to do with him, but being trans in a largely-unaccepting world has made Ty stubborn, and he’s long-used to dealing with people who are hurting, so it’s going to take more than Ashton can muster to push him away.

 

Oh man, did both of these guys have trust issues.  I know it comes with the territory a lot of the time with being ace or trans but they had a hard time letting it go even when reassured or shown they can be trusted.  I liked how stubborn Ty could be as it was just what Ashton needed in his life but I couldn’t help but feel that Ty just quickly fell for the first person who really accepted him.

 

These two but heads more than not at the beginning and it seemed that Ty’s ability to cook Indian food was what won Ashton over.  I was glad Ashton was able to find a balance with horses though didn’t like the fact that he felt he needed to hide to extent of his inability to ride from his mother.  Ashton’s sudden turnaround didn’t work with the beginning of the story for me but I was more than happy for Ty to gain Ashton’s mother as a support when he had been left with none after his grandfather’s death.  I wished we could have seen more of how their relationship continued to build than just down the line where they were now living together.

 

The cover art by Michelle Seaver is nice and gives a cute visual of Leia.

 

Sales Links: Less Than Three Press | Amazon | B&N

 

Book Details:

ebook, 34,000 words

Published: September 27, 2017 by Less Than Three Press

ISBN: 9781684310883

Edition Language: English

BLITZ for Diamond Heart (Cherrywood Grove #2) by M.A. Hinkle (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Diamond Heart

Series: Cherrywood Grove, Book Two

Author: M.A. Hinkle

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: February 4, 2019

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 60900

Genre: Contemporary YA, LGBT, contemporary, YA, high school, twins, arts/music/theater, gay, ace, panromantic, gender-bending, learning disability/social anxiety, family drama

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Synopsis

Gareth has a problem. He got expelled. Now he and his twin brother, Morgan, have to start over at an artsy new private school, and it’s all Gareth’s fault. Not to mention Morgan’s crippling social anxiety and Gareth’s resting jerk face aren’t making them any friends, and their father is furious with him. Gareth could live with this, but Morgan’s mad at him too, and Morgan is the only person alive who can make Gareth feel guilty.

Good thing Gareth has a plan. Cute, bubbly Felix, a student at their new school, has a crush on Morgan, and they both want to act in their school’s production of Midsummer Night’s Dream. Gareth figures it’s the perfect way to help Morgan come out of his shell and set him up with Felix. Then, maybe Morgan will forgive him, and Gareth can go back to not caring about anything or anyone.

But Gareth has another problem. He’s been cast as Oberon, and Felix is Titania. Oh, and Morgan doesn’t like Felix back. And maybe Gareth is enjoying the play and making new friends and having a good time at his new school. And maybe—just maybe—he’s got a crush on Felix. Can Gareth keep up his tough-guy act long enough to repair his relationship with Morgan, or will Felix get caught in the fallout of Gareth’s dumb schemes?

Excerpt

Diamond Heart
M.A. Hinkle © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Everything started when I punched a guy in the face, but I only realized this was more than a regular Tuesday once my twin brother Morgan got home from school looking like he’d been hit by a truck.

Not literally. Morgan resembled the guy on the cover of a romance novel—not Fabio, the Twilight knockoffs, where they were angsty instead of buff. Morgan’s hair was always windswept, except when he pulled it back as per the school dress code. While our school had a dress code, at least it was gender neutral, so anyone could wear whatever they wanted as long as their skirt hit below the knee and their hair was kept out of their face.

Morgan’s hair is always kept out of his face, is what I’m saying.

I was hoping word hadn’t gotten around school, but what a stupid hope. Morgan was ashen. I got to my feet. “Morgan—”

He shook his head without changing his expression.

Crap. I tried to stand still as Morgan went through his getting home ritual: shoes placed in a neat straight line next to the door, tie loosened but not taken off, laptop removed from bag, bag hung on the hook next to the empty one where mine belonged. I put my hands behind my back so he wouldn’t see me digging my fingernails into my palm.

Morgan finished and turned to me. I couldn’t read his expression. “So what happened this time?”

I tried to make my mouth work. But for one thing, I had a bad feeling Morgan already knew the answer. For another—

If he didn’t already know, explaining would be impossible. This went deeper than being dumb and teenage and angry. This was about Morgan and his nerves and me protecting him the only way I knew how. If I could explain it out loud, I wouldn’t have been in this mess. I could have talked things out with Warren Beauregard III (really, truly his name in the year of our Lord 2016) the way Sesame Street taught me, and we would sing a song, and everyone would have gone home happy after learning about the letter of the day.

But before I could figure out how to put it into words, my father came downstairs.

My father—excuse me, Dr. Trevor Lewis, PhD and some other fancy letters—was a professor of Welsh literature. He spent most of his time buried in books written in a language barely anyone spoke, writing papers seven other people would read. Whenever he tried to tell me about it, my soul left my body from sheer boredom.

I didn’t see him much. In order to focus on his research, Trevor taught night classes, which meant all the good people working full-time jobs and going through school snored their way through his English 101. Therefore, he was at home while I was in school, and I was at home while he was at school. It worked well. I didn’t have to see him and remember we looked alike and I hated it, and he didn’t have to see me and remember the family disappointment.

“Let’s sit in the parlor, boys.” His voice was cool.

The change of scenery wasn’t for anyone’s comfort; the furniture was so old it doubled as a torture device. Morgan and I took our usual spot on the couch, Trevor in the chair across from us. Morgan chewed on his lower lip. I wanted to do the same, but I also didn’t want Trevor to see he had me over a barrel.

“The principal decided to avail me of a number of things about you, Gareth,” said Trevor, after a long, long minute of staring at me. He still hadn’t raised his voice. “He said you are, in most respects, a brilliant student. A leader in class discussions, consistently high achieving on standardized tests, and well liked by your teachers. I was aware of all of this.”

I did not relax. Before everything else, Trevor was a rhetorician. He was not reassuring me; he was laying out background before he launched into his thesis. According to family legend, when he defended his dissertation, the evaluators only asked one question apiece because his argument about whatever he studied was so watertight.

“What I did not know is you have also been consistently on the verge of expulsion from the moment you started high school. I don’t see the point of going into detail of the reasons. I’m sure you’re aware—swearing, uniform violations, lashing out at other students.”

The expulsion part was news to me, which was not going to help my case.

Trevor waited, not to see if I wanted to respond. He was pausing for effect. “And it has only been by the grace of the aforementioned good qualities and my not inconsiderable donations to your school that you have not been run out for conduct unbecoming a member of their academy.”

I bit my tongue. Literally. It hurt. Sometimes, I appreciated Trevor’s frankness. Take when he talked about college. He always said, “I expect both of you to attend either the school where I teach or the University of Wisconsin, unless you get into an Ivy League college.” It might sound controlling, but I knew exactly where I stood with him—in the garbage.

“You’re getting kicked out?” Morgan asked, as though I should have led with it when he came in the door.

“I guess, but I just found out too.” I didn’t even know my school expelled people. Then again, I was the only kid ever written up for fighting on school grounds.

Morgan stiffened like we were going over the first drop on a roller coaster, only there was no track at the bottom to catch us. “I can’t stay there by myself.”

Now that was news to me. Among other things, Morgan was valedictorian, first chair violinist in orchestra, and student council secretary. (He’d be president, but then he’d have to talk.) All the teachers thought he was God’s gift to academia, and he’d been fielding college recruiters since we were in eighth grade. And everybody adored Morgan. Girls wanted to bang him, guys wanted to be him/possibly also bang him, nonbinary people high-fived him, et cetera. I wasn’t exactly an outcast, but I wasn’t anyone’s first choice for gym, either.

Trevor’s expression was unreadable. Behind his glasses, his eyes were the color of a freezing winter sky. My father had never been cuddly, but he used to talk to us more, before my mom killed herself four years ago. Suicide should have been the low point, but things only went downhill in our family from there. After the funeral ended and all the flowers were thrown away, we never talked about her again. I hadn’t bothered trying, but Morgan had, and Trevor dismissed him. Not in so many words, maybe, but we got the hint.

Anyway, as long as Morgan was calm and under control, he and Trevor had long and involved conversations about books and crap. But the second Morgan faced something more complicated than precalculus, Trevor was out the door faster than blinking, leaving Morgan alone with his deep-breathing exercises. And me. I always cleaned up the mess, whether or not I made it.

To be fair, I usually made it.

I got to my feet, one hand clenched in a fist. I wasn’t going to hit Trevor—no use. It wouldn’t get a rise out of him. But the pain helped me concentrate so my voice would come out calmly, the same way it did at fancy dinner parties when one of Trevor’s too-rich friends asked me a question that drove me up a wall. I knew Morgan hadn’t meant to say anything out loud, nor would he appreciate it if I answered him right now. So I put on my best Trevor face and pretended Morgan wasn’t hyperventilating beside me. “Well, this is all pretty shitty. When do I find out?”

Trevor’s expression hadn’t changed an inch; he might have been staring at one of the insipid paintings hung on the wall. “You’ve been suspended for the rest of the week while they decide. In the meantime, I suggest you research alternative options. I have enough work preparing for midterms.”

I bit the inside of my cheek hard enough to taste blood so I wouldn’t answer. Morgan was about ready to barf all over the fancy Persian rug, but he almost always was. I couldn’t tell if it was worse than usual.

“You wanna help me search?” I asked. If I didn’t give Morgan some kind of out, he would sit there until the end of time, caught in his own head.

Morgan stood, jerkily. He nodded at Trevor and followed me upstairs.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

M.A. Hinkle swears a lot and makes jokes at inappropriate times, so she writes about characters who do the same thing. She’s also worked as an editor and proofreader for the last eight years, critiquing everything from graduate school applications to romance novels.

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New Book Blitz for Bones and Bourbon by Dorian Graves (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Bones and Bourbon

Author: Dorian Graves

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: April 23, 2018

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 102000

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Ace, bisexual, trans, faeries, dark, immortals

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Synopsis

Half-huldra Retz Gallows is having an awful day. First, he wakes up in the middle of driving to who-knows-where with an angry unicorn head in his passenger seat. This is almost normal, thanks to a lifetime of sharing a body with Nalem, a bone-controlling spirit with a penchant for wicked schemes and body-stealing joyrides. It’s probably a bad idea to ask what else could go wrong.

Jarrod Gallows left home with plans to rescue his little brother from possession. Instead, he got saddled with a dead-end job as a paranormal investigator, a Faerie curse, and a daredevil boyfriend who might be from another world. At least he’s got a new job—except why is his brother Retz here and why does this sudden reunion feel more like a bane than a blessing?

This day’s going to get worse for the Gallows brothers before it gets better. To survive, they’ll have to escape the forces controlling them, as well as the wrath of carnivorous unicorns, otherworldly realms, and even their own parents. Only time will tell if they’ll make it out alive…or sober.

Excerpt

Bones and Bourbon
Dorian Graves © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One: Retz
I woke up right when the teeth clamped down on my arm, which made me crank the wheel and almost ram into a guardrail before I realized I was driving. Neither of these things surprised me because it wasn’t the first time I’d woken up just in time to feel the hurt for whatever it was I’d unconsciously done.

What did surprise me was the identity of my attacker: a lone unicorn head. No body to speak of, just flaring nostrils, bloodshot eyes, and two rows of long, sharp teeth that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a shark.

I did the stupid thing and kept driving while I tried to shake the unicorn head off me. Why? Because I’m Retz Gallows, and I’d learned by then that even if I had no idea what I was doing when I woke up, I needed to get the job done first and ask what the fuck happened later.

I focused on the teeth that had broken through my skin (and my favorite shirt to boot) and were just striking my arm bones. My first order of business was strengthening my skeleton so the unicorn’s jaw couldn’t snap anything in half. It took just a few seconds for the bones to fortify, heavier but sturdy as stone. The unicorn gnawed my arm as if it were a chew toy. It snorted in confusion, both because of the sudden change and the fact that there was no blood or muscles in the way.

In case such wasn’t obvious, I’m not human. Well, not all the way. My father was a man of flesh, blood, and too many weapons hidden on him at any given time. But my mother was a huldra; her body was hollow, but she could still punch hard enough to stop a truck in its tracks. I’d seen her do it before too, though sadly, I hadn’t inherited nearly the same strength.

I imagined how nice it’d be if the unicorn’s teeth were fragile enough to crumble. As I did, bits of teeth stayed buried in my arm as the pieces fell apart, and the unicorn’s head fell unceremoniously into the passenger seat.

No, I hadn’t inherited the ability to control bones, even though sensing them was as natural to me as seeing and hearing. It’s a power my family wishes I’d never been given. But since I was pretty sure the unicorn head was no longer a threat, I decided it was time to ask the source of my powers what was going on.

“Nalem, you’d better not be asleep. Mind telling me where the hell we are?”

A deep, smooth voice purred an answer back in my head, “If you had bothered to look at the sign we just passed, you’d realize we’re in Oregon.”

“In case you didn’t notice, I was a bit preoccupied.”

A chuckle reverberated in my skull, and I felt the false sensation of my arms stretching, the ghost of Nalem’s actions. “Of course I did. I can tell when you’re borrowing my powers—and besides, who do you think left the head in here in the first place?”

I rounded another corner as the aforementioned head tried to headbutt my arm, horn-first. I realized I couldn’t affect the horn with my powers—it wasn’t quite bone, but something more magical that slipped away from my senses whenever I tried. So I just hardened my bones again and ignored the attack as I took in the scenery. True enough, we were on a half-paved road in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by evergreens that tried to block out the bright blue sky. It was late July, so deep into summer that not even Oregon’s fondness of rain kept the heat away. My windows were rolled down, seeing as the AC in my ancient Buick had died out long ago.

“Two questions, then. Where are we going, and why do we have a unicorn head with us?”

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

Much like Sasquatch and other local cryptids, Dorian Graves can supposedly be found in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. Few have ever seen Dorian, but investigators have found trails of plot notes scribbled on receipt paper if they followed the distant sounds of old Blue Öyster Cult albums long enough. There have also been reports of Dorian lurking around the Mills College campus in Oakland, CA, where Dorian was last seen scurrying away with a B.A. in English/Creative Writing. Dorian occasionally crawls out of the woodworks with offerings of fiction, strange and fantastical stories with equal parts humor and horror, but often retreats quickly unless bribed with coffee and bad puns.

When not writing or working “the other day job,” Dorian lives with a romantic partner and a mischievous cat. Dorian Graves can be convinced to sit still if given art supplies, games of all sorts, or a selection from the ever-growing TBR pile. Dorian can be more reliably found on http://www.doriangraves.com, where one can find artwork, fiction, and whatever inane topic Dorian feels like rambling about this week.

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