Blog Tour, Excerpt, and Giveaway: In A Gilded Cage by Mia Kerick

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for In A Gilded Cage, hosted by Xpresso Book Tours! As a fan of fairy tale retellings, I’m happy to be able to share an excerpt from Mia Kerick’s modern twist on the story of Rapunzel, which is set in present day and features a male/male romance. Following the excerpt, at the bottom of the post, you’ll see a Rafflecopter form to enter a giveaway for a $25 Amazon gift card. Enjoy!

About the Book

In a Gilded Cage
Mia Kerick
(Evernight Publishing)
Publication date: October 21st 2016
Genres: LGBTQ+, New Adult, Romance

Lucci Grimley is indeed alluring—crowned with a mane of long blond hair, and blessed with an enchanting musical talent that draws a brave rescuer to a high tower hidden in the forest.

However, this modern-day Rapunzel is a young man, sold as a child to the wealthy and childless Damien Gotham for the price of a fast car and a pile of cash. And Lucci’s heroic prince is William “Prin” Prinzing, a handsome college student and star soccer player, hired to care for the grounds of the lavish Tower Estate. Prin climbs an extension ladder rather than a long golden braid to gain access to Lucci’s second floor bedroom window, ultimately penetrating the secrecy surrounding the cloistered young man.

Friendship, and soon romance, blooms. The tower captive eagerly gives his loving innocence to his brave rescuer, which sends the strict and reclusive Gotham into a frenzy of jealous rage. With Prin, Lucci gets a taste of real life, and he wants more. Together, the young men must face Gotham’s ruthlessness and pay the price of liberating Lucci.

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Excerpt

Father pushes forward his untouched plate of eggs, toast, and sliced melon. It is rare that he does not break his fast with enthusiasm, and I am further perplexed. “Last night, when I held you, I did not miss the stiffening of your back. You did not relax against me … your hands did not curl into mine.”

He is correct.

“Your behavior … insulted me.” His glare burns the skin of my face. I keep my eyes averted, as is expected.

Again, I am unsure how to reply so I do not.

“Your diet will be severely restricted until I feel that you have changed your attitude.”

Guilt floods my mouth with illicit strawberry sweetness. I swallow deeply. “My attitude, Father?”

“Yes. You will improve your response to … to me … in the same manner you improved your attitude toward your music.” He looks distinctly uncomfortable. “I will provide proper motivation to help you accomplish this.”

We are moving onto disturbing new ground in our relationship. Where controlling my behavior has satisfied Father to this point, he is now making an attempt to manage my emotions. I am shaken by a cruel premonition of what I will be forced to endure in his effort to correct my apathy.

“Can you think of several words of affection to start us on our path toward increased emotional intimacy, son?”

I am literally unable to speak. My throat is dry and parched, and I reach for my glass of water.

“No water. I will tell you when it is time to drink.”
“Yes, sir,” I croak.
“I believe I requested a verbal expression to prove that you are open to making this necessary change in our future interaction.”

I swallow deeply and scramble for words to express that I am eager to be emotionally extorted.

Shall I tell him I missed him when he was away? I did not.

I could assure Father that I enjoy our physical closeness while we sleep. A blatant lie that would likely encourage more of the same.

I search the dark corners of my mind, but come up with nothing that will not further my suffering. My hands tremble on my lap.

“You are finished with breakfast, Lucas.” This is no loss. My plate is nearly full, but I have no appetite for eggs. “Return to your suite and consider what we have discussed.”

A tiny voice in my mind suggests that we had no discussion at all. It tells me that once again, Father has attempted to impose his will upon me, and I have failed to respond appropriately, for which I will pay a high price.

“Yes, Father. Am I excused?”


He nods, but refuses to look at me. I have disappointed him. 

Author Bio

Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five nonpedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.

Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled young men and their relationships, and she believes that sex has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press for providing her with an alternate place to stash her stories.

Mia is proud of her involvement with the Human Rights Campaign and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.

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Giveaway

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Blog Tour, Giveaway, and Excerpt: Nora and Kettle by Lauren Nicolle Taylor

Tour banner for Nora and Kettle by Lauren Nicolle TaylorAbout Nora and Kettle

Book cover for Nora and Kettle by Lauren Nicolle TaylorWhat if Peter Pan was a homeless kid just trying to survive, and Wendy flew away for a really good reason?

Seventeen-year-old Kettle has had his share of adversity. As an orphaned Japanese American struggling to make a life in the aftermath of an event in history not often referred to—the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the removal of children from orphanages for having “one drop of Japanese blood in them”—things are finally looking up. He has his hideout in an abandoned subway tunnel, a job, and his gang of Lost Boys.

Desperate to run away, the world outside her oppressive brownstone calls to naïve, eighteen-year-old Nora—the privileged daughter of a controlling and violent civil rights lawyer who is building a compensation case for the interned Japanese Americans. But she is trapped, enduring abuse to protect her younger sister Frankie and wishing on the stars every night for things to change.

For months, they’ve lived side by side, their paths crossing yet never meeting. But when Nora is nearly killed and her sister taken away, their worlds collide as Kettle, grief stricken at the loss of a friend, angrily pulls Nora from her window.

In her honeyed eyes, Kettle sees sadness and suffering. In his, Nora sees the chance to take to the window and fly away.

Set in 1953, Nora and Kettle explores the collision of two teenagers facing extraordinary hardship. Their meeting is inevitable, devastating, and ultimately healing. Their stories, a collection of events, are each on their own harmless. But together, one after the other, they change the world.

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Available at: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | iBooks

Excerpt

I snort, push my sleeves up, and lean back on my forearms. She watches me, her eyes on my bare skin, and I wonder what she’s thinking. “Dances. Really? What’s to miss?” My experience with dances was one forced event in the camps where we watched the grownups awkwardly shift in lines to scratchy music. It didn’t look very enjoyable.

She releases the button she’s been playing with and smirks. “Says someone who’s clearly never been to one.”

“How do you know that?” I say, raising an eyebrow and touching my chest, mock offended.

She laughs. It’s starlight in a jar. I blink slowly. “Oh, I can tell just by looking at you, the way you move. You,” she says, pointing at me accusingly. “Can’t dance.”

The candlelight twinkles like it’s chuckling at me. “I can dance,” I say, not sure why I’m lying to defend myself. I’ve never danced in my life.

She stands up and beckons me with her finger, and I think there’s something wrong with my heart. It’s hurting… but the pain feels good.

She looks like a pirate’s cabin boy, shirt billowing around her small waist, ill-fitting pants rolled over at her hips to stop them from falling down. She points her bare foot at me. “Prove it!”

Shit!

I cough and stand nervously. I don’t know what to do with my hands, so I put them behind my back. She giggles. Touches me. Runs her fingers lightly down my arms until she finds my hands. She grasps my wrists and I gulp as she places one on the small dip between her hips and her ribs, extending the other out like the bow of a boat. Her hand in mine.

I follow her small steps and we wind in circles, avoiding the clumps of debris, painting patterns in the dust.

I stare at my socks and her narrow bare feet, listening to the swish of them across the dirt. “You know, this is pretty weird without music,” I mutter, looking up for a moment and suddenly losing my balance.

She exhales and brings us back to equilibrium. She starts humming softly. It’s a song I’ve heard before, but I pretend it’s the first time. Her voice is sweet, cracked and croaky, but in tune as she gazes at the ground and leads us up and down the back of the tunnel.

This moment is killing me. I don’t want it, but I do. Because I know it won’t be enough and it’s all I’ll get.

The end of the song is coming. It rises and rises and then softly peters out. We look at each other, understanding that something is changing between us, and we have to decide whether to let it. Please, let it.

She sings the last few bars. “And if you sing this melody, you’ll be pretending just like me. The world is mine. It can be yours, my friend. So why don’t you pretend?”

Her voice is like the dust of a comet’s tail. Full of a thousand things I don’t understand but want to.

She stops and starts to step away. She’s so fragile. Not on the outside. On the outside, her body is strong, tougher than it should have to be. It’s inside that’s very breakable. I’m scared to touch her, but I don’t want to avoid touching her because of what she’s been through. That seems worse.

So I do it, because I want to and I don’t think she doesn’t want me to. Her breath catches as I pull her closer. I just want to press my cheek to hers, feel her skin against mine. There is no music, just the rhythm of two barely functioning hearts trying to reach each other through miles of scar tissue.

She presses her ear to my chest and listens, then she pulls back to meet my eyes, her expression a mixture of confusion and comfort. She breathes out, her lips not wanting to close but not wanting to speak. She settles on a nervous smile and puts her arms around my neck. I inhale and look up at the ceiling, counting the stars I know are up there somewhere, and then rest my cheek in her hair.

I don’t know how she is here. I don’t know when she’ll disappear.

We sway back and forth, and it feels like we might break. That we will break if we step apart from each other.

I can’t let her go.

I think I love dancing.

About the Author

Author photo for Lauren Nicolle Taylor

SONY DSC

Lauren Nicolle Taylor lives in the lush Adelaide Hills. The daughter of a Malaysian nuclear physicist and an Australian scientist, she was expected to follow a science career path, attending Adelaide University and completing a Health Science degree with Honours in obstetrics and gynaecology.

She then worked in health research for a short time before having her first child. Due to their extensive health issues, Lauren spent her twenties as a full-time mother/carer to her three children. When her family life settled down, she turned to writing.

She is a 2014 Kindle Book Awards Semi-finalist and a USA Best Book Awards Finalist.

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Giveaway

Clean Teen Publishing is giving away a mystery box full of swag, books, and more! To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. The giveaway ends March 10, 2016.

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You can also get a free gift by taking a picture of Nora and Kettle, sharing it on social media, and sending a URL of your post to publicity@cleanteenpublishing.com! For full details, please visit www.cleanteenpublishing.com/contests

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Guest Post and Giveaway: Wish by Grier Cooper

Wish Book Cover Wish
Grier Cooper

For Indigo Stevens, ballet classes at Miss Roberta’s ballet studio offer the stability and structure that are missing from her crazy home life. At almost 16, she hopes this is the year she will be accepted into the New York School of Ballet. First she must prove she’s ready, and that means ignoring Jesse Sanders – the cute boy with dimples who is definitely at the top of Miss Roberta’s List of Forbidden Things for Dancers.

But Jesse is the least of Indigo’s concerns. When she discovers her mom is an alcoholic, it simultaneously explains everything and heaps more worry on Indigo’s shoulders. As her mom’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic, Indigo fights to maintain balance, protect her younger brothers from abuse, and keep her mother from going over the edge. When the violence at home escalates, Indigo realizes she can no longer dance around the issue. At the risk of losing everything, she must take matters into her own hands before it’s too late.

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As I previously mentioned in my Getting to Know You Blog Hop post, dance has played a huge part in my life. I took lessons from the ages of 3-18, made many life-long friends, and performed the lead role of Clara in The Nutcracker alongside the man who would later become my husband. Although I’m not currently dancing any more, I’ve retained a deep admiration and love for the art form.

I don’t just enjoy dancing and watching others dance; I also enjoy reading about it as well. That’s why I’m proud to participate in this book blitz for Wish, Grier Cooper’s debut novel about an aspiring ballerina contending with the struggles of dancing and living with an abusive mother. As part of this blitz, hosted by Xpresso Book Tours, Cooper is here to share a manifesto on the rules of ballet.

The Rules of Ballet: A Manifesto by Grier Cooper

Indigo’s ballet teacher, Miss Roberta, is very outspoken about a lot of things, including personal hygiene and what dancers should and shouldn’t do outside of ballet classes. Since she was a professional ballet dancer herself, she knows what it takes to be a ballet dancer and how hard it is to make it. This is the manifesto she shares with all of her ballet students to help guide them:

Humans are naturally lazy and dancers have to work hard to overcome this tendency. Take a moment to look at the average person’s posture and you’ll see the truth in this statement. Most of us shuffle through life in the default setting: with our shoulders hunched over and our heads down.

There is always room for improvement. If you think you are a good enough dancer, you’re wrong! Ballet is all about reaching perfection­–your own version of perfection. There is always something to fine-tune or something new to learn.

There will always be someone who is a better dancer than you. This is a difficult reality to face but sooner or later this is true for all dancers, whether it’s due to skill or age. My first ballet teacher used to tell us to never get comfortable or cocky because there would always be better dancers out there. You have to stay sharp and constantly push yourself if you want to reach the top. The good news is hard work and persistence pay off. Work to the best of your abilities and you will forge forward.

It takes hard work and discipline to get ahead. It also takes ironclad willpower, indestructible courage and ridiculous levels of confidence. But hey, no one ever said it was going to be easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it.

If you can’t take constructive criticism, you are in the wrong place. By the time you reach the professional level of ballet, you are not only able to handle criticism, you live for it. Ballet dancers eat up “corrections” like most kids chow on candy because they know if someone takes time to make a comment, they think you’re worth it.

If you are too tall, too fat or too lazy, pick a different career. As stated before, this is not a career for anyone not prepared to work their butts off. Although the physical ideal in ballet is slowly changing it’s still a much tougher road if your body type doesn’t match what ballet companies are looking for.

The love of dance brought you here and it will carry you through your career. Every dancer you see on stage today started with love of ballet in their heart and the dream to become part of the magic onstage. That love is what keeps dancers going day after day, sometimes working through pain in various forms. But ask any dancer if they love what they do and you’ll get the same answer: Yesssssss!

Ballet is equal parts dedication, inspiration, and perspiration. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, either… or for anyone who minds getting sweaty.

The human body is a dancer’s most important tool and our biggest challenge (see Rule #1). As mentioned above, the human body is naturally lazy. Dancers have to fight hard to overcome this tendency. Since top fitness is part of the job description, most ballet dancers spend every waking minute keeping their tools in prime shape, either taking classes, doing supplemental training like Pilates, stretching or going for a massage (although this last activity is far less likely).

Ballet involves sacrifice (of certain dangerous activities…including and most especially boys). If you do the math you’ll immediately see why this is true. If x, the dancer, spends almost every waking moment in a ballet studio that leaves y hours left to do anything else. In this case y=0. But all kidding aside, there are certain activities most dancers don’t do because of the risk of injury or because they will develop the wrong muscles: skiing, horseback riding, and circus arts, just to name a few.

Whether you are a ballet dancer or not, you probably have your own manifesto for life. May it guide you well. Even if you don’t resonate with Miss Roberta’s manifesto, do take her advice and wear deodorant.

About the Author

Photo of Grier CooperGrier began ballet lessons at age five and left home at fourteen to study at the School of American Ballet in New York. She has performed on three out of seven continents with companies such as San Francisco Ballet, Miami City Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet, totaling more than 30 years of experience as a dancer, teacher, and performer. She writes and blogs about dance in the San Francisco Bay Area and has interviewed and photographed a diverse collection of dancers and performers including Clive Owen, Nicole Kidman, Glen Allen Sims, and Jessica Sutta. She is the author of Build a Ballerina Body and The Daily Book of Photography.

Win a Copy of Wish!

I’ve got not one, but TWO great giveaways for you today courtesy of Grier Cooper and Xpresso Book Tours. One reader will win an e-book copy of Wish, and another will win a prize pack of the following items:

  • Collection of dance films (Mao’s Last Dancer, Save The Last Dance, Center Stage)
  • $15 iTunes gift card
  • e-book copy of Wish

Both giveaways are open internationally to anyone age 13 and above. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter forms below.

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Review: The Boy Who Sneaks in My Bedroom Window by Kirsty Moseley

The Boy Who Sneaks in My Bedroom Window Book Cover The Boy Who Sneaks in My Bedroom Window
Kirsty Moseley

Amber Walker and her older brother, Jake, have an abusive father. One night her brother's best friend, Liam, sees her crying and climbs through her bedroom window to comfort her. That one action sparks a love/hate relationship that spans over the next eight years.

Liam is now a confident, flirty player who has never had a girlfriend before. Amber is still emotionally scarred from the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father. Together they make an unlikely pair.

Their relationship has always been a rocky one, but what happens when Amber starts to view her brother's best friend a little differently? And how will her brother, who has always been a little overprotective, react when he finds out that the pair are growing closer? Find out in The Boy Who Sneaks In My Bedroom Window.

Review: 

If I had to choose one word to describe my reaction to The Boy Who Sneaks in my Bedroom Window, it would be “aghast.” I’m stunned and horrified that there is actually a book as terribly written as this one, and I’m even more stunned by the number of people who seem to love it. This novel has an average of 4+ stars on Goodreads, for Pete’s sake! I just don’t understand it.

The issues began during the very first chapter and didn’t let up at all as the novel progressed. To start with, the writing is absolutely horrendous. Rather than flowing, the action of the story is very jerky and disjointed. Boom! A problem arises. Boom! The problem is immediately solved. Boom! Another problem arises. Boom! That problem is immediately solved as well. It didn’t work for me.

Another thing that irritated me to no end was the repetition in this book and how all of the characters sound like leering assholes. In Moseley’s world, there are apparently only two types of people: holier-than-thou saints like Amber, who turns up her nose at all of the “sluts” and “man whores” around her, and said “sluts and manwhores.”

Every character but Amber is basically a leering, foaming-at-the-mouth skeezeball, every guy trying to get in Amber’s pants and every girl trying to get in Jake or Liam’s pants. Hordes of “sluts” literally swarm Jake and Liam’s car every morning in the school parking lot, to the extent that Amber has to swim free of the mob. It’s just absurd. Everyone speaks like they’re in some swanky porno, and if I have to read the words “fine-ass,” “sweet-ass,” or “sexy-ass” one more time, I’m going to spontaneously combust.

There’s a lot more I could say about why I disliked this book – the prevalence of run-on sentences, the grating “voices” of the characters, the overabundance of cooing and groaning, the unrealistic and unoriginal interactions between Liam and Amber – but I think I’ll stop here. I’ve spent too much time on The Boy Who Sneaks in My Bedroom Window already and am ready to move on to bigger and better things.

Review: Boy Toy by Barry Lyga

Boy Toy Book Cover Boy Toy
Barry Lyga

Josh Mendel has a secret. Unfortunately, everyone knows what it is.  Five years ago, Josh’s life changed. Drastically. And everyone in his school, his town—seems like the world—thinks they understand. But they don’t—they can’t.

And now, about to graduate from high school, Josh is still trying to sort through the pieces. First there’s Rachel, the girl he thought he’d lost years ago. She’s back, and she’s determined to be part of his life, whether he wants her there or not. 

Then there are college decisions to make, and the toughest baseball game of his life coming up, and a coach who won’t stop pushing Josh all the way to the brink. 

And then there’s Eve. Her return brings with it all the memories of Josh’s past. It’s time for Josh to face the truth about what happened.

If only he knew what the truth was . . .

Review:

I used to work for a local newspaper, and one of my tasks was typing up the weekly police blotter. Most of the contents of the blotter were your run-of-the-mill car accidents, petty theft, or disorderly conduct, but every now and then a report of child molestation would come across my desk. The reports were sickening, and each time I typed up the details of the incident I would ask myself a) how someone could be twisted enough to engage in a sexual relationship with a child and b) how that relationship had come about in the first place.

Barry Lyga explores the answers to those questions, and more, in Boy Toy. The story centers on Josh Mendel, a senior in high school who, five years earlier, was involved in a full-blown affair with his seventh-grade history teacher. The book goes back and forth between the present and the past, taking you through the life of the affair from beginning to end and showing the impact it has on Josh’s life five years after the fact.

The amazing thing about Boy Toy is that even though it’s about a very heavy subject, it’s still compelling. I honestly could not stop reading it – I switched from my small purse to my jumbo diaper bag of a purse just so I could carry Boy Toy with me everywhere I went. I wanted to hear Josh’s story. I wanted to understand. How on earth did a 12-year-old boy end up having sex with his teacher? What did the teacher see in him? How was their relationship discovered? What were the implications for Josh later, as a teenager?

What’s brilliant about Lyga’s writing is that he makes you look at things in ways you’d never expect. For one thing, I never would have anticipated that I would sympathize with Eve, the woman who molested Josh. This isn’t to say I think what she does is right – there’s no doubt that it is twisted and wrong and incredibly screwed up. Rather, what I’m trying to say is that Eve is more than just your cardboard villain. She seems like a real person, with complicated motivations and clear strengths as well as clear weaknesses. She seems to truly care about Josh in her own messed up way, taking him on dates, cooking for him, cheering him on at his baseball games, etc. Where it all goes wrong is in the progression of their relationship from platonic to physical.

Lyga has caught some flack for the intensity of the sex scenes in Boy Toy. Some readers argue that the scenes are gratuitous and inappropriate, focusing on feelings of excitement and eroticism rather than trauma or violation. I disagree with those readers wholeheartedly; I think the fact that the sex scenes are so hot and heavy is part of what makes the book successful.

Before you start calling me a sick creep, let me explain. I do find it disturbing and twisted that Josh’s teacher seduced him, but I can’t deny that if the scenes were written between two consenting adults rather than a teacher and underage student, they’d be incredibly arousing. Reading the details of Josh’s sexual encounters triggered warring emotions of disgust, excitement, and shame, which is exactly what Josh feels when he thinks back to his experiences with his teacher. It put me in Josh’s shoes and helped me realize just how confused and conflicted he must have felt.

Lyga’s ability to make his readers see things from the point of view of his characters is one of his many gifts as a writer. It’s scary how easy it is to understand why Eve falls for Josh. He’s different from the other kids at his school, mature for his age, precocious, thoughtful. Even at 12 he is almost as tall as Eve herself. He’s capable of holding meaningful conversations with her, of understanding her humor and making her laugh in return.

Josh at 18, the age he is when recounting the events of the book, is no less amazing. He’s insanely smart, with a nearly photographic memory and the ability to calculate the square root of 52 or the product of 12 and 144 in his head. He’s enthralled by the stars and planets. He dedicates himself to working hard at all that he does, whether in the classroom or on the baseball diamond, where he’s a star hitter.

It’s incredibly fascinating to watch Josh try to come to terms with what happened to him all those years ago, to witness him trying to deal with the guilt and the embarrassment of knowing that everyone in his town knows all the details of his sex life. He’s got a great voice, with a compelling blend of attitude and self-consciousness. I developed a bit of a book crush on him, and he’ll go down in my mind as one of my all-time favorite characters.

Barry Lyga is an author who never disappoints me. He always presents a unique perspective, troubled but enthralling characters, and a plot that keeps you interested from start to finish. I strongly encourage you to go out and read Boy Toy. I know I’ll be revisiting it over and over again.