Thursday, August 18, 2022

Virtual Book Tour and Giveaway: Ruby Red by D.L. Croisette

Welcome to my stop on the virtual book tour for Ruby Red by D.L. Croisette. This book tour was organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. On my stop, I have an excerpt from the book as well as a very convincing guest post from the author. There's also the tour wide giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card. Be sure to visit the other stops on the tour for more content. Enjoy!
Title: Ruby Red
Author: D.L. Croisette
Publication Date: May 23rd 2022
Print Length: 314 pages
Genre: Contemporary Romance
One night stands only need apply.

Ali Stinson is having a bad day. Her afternoon tryst was interrupted (before they got to the good part) to discover her investment manager ran away with all her money. Now she has to keep up appearances with her high society friends, find a dress for an upcoming charity event, and not fall in love with Sam, the cute bartender, who insists on helping her. Thing is, she’s 90% sure she doesn’t want help. Adulting is hard.

Looking for work, not love.

Sam Freemont is having a strange day. He was in the middle of the best kiss of his life when his boss walked in and halted the fun, which is not helping with the low profile he’s trying to maintain. Now he can’t get Ali off his mind or out of his dreams. Good thing she’s a regular at the swanky resort he just started working at. Gives him time to find a way back to her lips. Or better yet, into her heart.

Ali sat at the resort bar, ogling the pool boy—or was he a bartender? She was confused—as he vigorously brandished the martini shaker. His muscles flexed with the to-and-fro of the exercise. The blur of fine fingers made her wonder exactly how much one could consume before they got alcohol poisoning.

The shaker paused. “Bartender.”

She raised her gaze from the silver cylinder and met his glittering eyes. Had she said that out loud?

As he placed the cocktail in front of her, he leaned on the bar, his gaze boring into hers. Wavy golden locks framed a handsome face with eyes that stared into her soul—if that was possible. “You asked what my job was here. Officially bartender, but I help where I can.” A flash of him striding across the pool deck swam before her. “I’ve only been here a week.” He offered her his hand. “I’m Sam, by the way. Sam Fremont.”

With as much grace and concentration as she could muster, she wrapped her hand in his. “Ali Stinson.” Their skin made contact, and the little tingle hit her again, making the hairs on her arms stand up.

Sam smiled like he’d won the grand prize in a game show. He moved closer to her. “Nice to meet you, Ali Stinson.” He smelled faintly of lemons, fresh and clean.

She sucked in a breath, blinked a few times, and tried to focus. To avoid leaning in and doing something foolish like kissing him, she veered back and almost fell off the bar stool. He jumped to attention and caught Ali’s arms, steadying her.
D.L. Croisette is a storyteller. She had characters in her head before she had words in her mouth. Now she spins them into romantic stories full of drama and heart. Collector of international friends, avid traveller and always up for a new adventure, she snaps photos to remember each escapade, and peppers the best experiences into her stories. Ruby Red is her debut romance novel, and she’s probably at an outdoor café right now, dreaming up a bold new heroine to stir up trouble.

Let Me Convince You Fake Dating is the Most Romantic Trope
by D.L. Croisette

There is something delectable about watching two people pretending to be in love, actually fall in love. The fake dating trope is a subgenre of the popular forced proximity theme in romances and to me it is a hallmark of a slow burn romance, where emotions grow over time.

Sticking two people together is a tried-and-true method to bring about powerful emotions. But when you add in the additional gooey layer of characters who go through the motions of acting like they are in love, then the romance really amps up. Performing dating rituals like romantic dinners, holding hands and other couple related activities gives us an insta-romance that is believable. Still, the fake dating trope gives the characters the excuse they need to spend time with each other in non-traditional settings, get close to them, learn about their world, etc. Boundaries are pushed for one or more of the couples as they have to compromise or fit into the situations in each other’s lives. It’s a delicate balance between strangers and lovers.

We, as readers, fall in love along with the characters as they spend time in their new roles together. Feelings grow and expand as the couple works together to resolve the reason they are fake dating. Maybe it started as a mistake, like in Talia Hibbert’s Take a Hint, Dani Brown and Ali Hazelwood’s The Love Hypothesis and the couple commit to keeping the farce going. Or it might be a conscious choice, like making an old paramour jealous as Jenny Han does in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before or Jasmine Guillory in The Wedding Date.

Hidden away between the tender scenes is the angst of the will they, won’t they tension. Doubt, denial, and fear of rejection all play into these scenarios, coating each action by the characters with multiple layers of sentiment. Here, we readers experience realistic emotions linked to our own internal concerns and suspicions.

Every great fake dating book has a moment where the pretend couple needs to prove their relationship is real by sealing it with a kiss. A kiss, you and I and the characters, are secretly longing and hoping for. This mid-point of love allows us readers to feel the emotions of the characters, but still be bound up in the tension of knowing these two people have not admitted their attraction to each other. It’s the drama we all desire in a romance. Because what is a romance without drama?

The release of the tension, when the couple admit their feelings for each other, is the sweet spot of the book. Sometimes the scenes are romantic gestures and other times its spontaneous professions of love when we readers and the characters least expect it. But we know it’s coming, and that makes the fake dating trope a satisfying meal.

Have I convinced you that fake dating is high on the romance scale? Let me know if you’re off to read a fake dating romance? Or recommend one for me to read.
D. L. Croisette will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter. Good luck!

(All the Ups and Downs is not responsible for this giveaway, its entries, or the prize. Goddess Fish Promotions and the author assume all responsibility over this giveaway.)

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Book Blitz: Loving Artemis by Janet Mason

Title: Loving Artemis
Author: Janet Mason
Publisher: Thorned Heart Press
Publication Date: August 16th 2022
Print Length: 269 pages
Genre: LGBTQ+ Contemporary Romance

Artemis found the love of her life when she met Linda, but their passionate relationship fizzles when Artemis lands herself on the other side of the law. Pulling the pieces of her life together, Artemis rekindles her relationship with Linda, and together they raise a daughter.

Meanwhile, Grace, running from her past, starts a life with Thalia. At a pride parade, Grace spots someone who reminds her of Artemis, who she was briefly involved with in her youth. Old feelings are rekindled. A lifetime of rejection, abandonment, and fleeing rears its head. Now she must come to terms with her past, put her relationship with Artemis to rest–or risk losing everything.

Artemis and Grace embark on a journey of revolution, love, and marriage and discover that love finds us when we least expect it.

Loving Artemis appeals to a wide readership, with particular interest to the LGBTQA+ audience. As a love story and a coming-of-age narrative, it holds universal appeal. It is also an important slice of American history — enticing to those who have lived through it. It also attracts a younger audience who want to learn about the events that led to marriage equality.

Goodreads * Amazon

Art felt the bike purring under her as she gunned along the highway. She looked down and saw the blur of asphalt. She looked straight ahead. It was mid-morning on Friday and the road was empty. The sun cast a long shadow in front of her.

The shadow looked like a black cartoon of a larger-than-life person on an even larger motorcycle. It looked like something she might have seen on Saturday morning television when she was a kid. She grinned and accelerated more until the pointer on the odometer reached forty-five. Billboards blurred into trees. The highway passed over a wide stream that she could see on her right as the highway turned into a flat bridge.

It was warm for early November. Wind tousled her hair; the sunglasses fit perfectly. Everything was darker and more vibrant. The trees on the side of the highway shed their leaves in a blur of red, orange, yellow. Golden light was everywhere. Art knew the chlorophyll in the leaves captured the sun's rays in the summer, keeping the leaves green. She had learned that in the autumn when the days are bright, but the sun's rays are further away, the leaves take their bright colors from another group of pigments called anthocyanins. This was a process of photosynthesis; science. But as the leaves passed her in a bright autumn blur, it felt like magic.

She was so close to the road that she felt like she was a part of it. Her bike was more powerful than Tommy's. The engine roared. It felt like flying. As long as she kept her wits about her and didn't wipe out, she could go anywhere.
Janet Mason (born 1959) is an American writer and poet. Her poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction and essays have appeared in literary journals including the Brooklyn Review and the Exquisite Corpse.

Her work includes the poetry collections When I Was Straight (Insight to Riot Press, 1995), A F*cking Brief History of F*cking (Insight to Riot Press, 1992), and A Woman Alone (Cycladic Press, 2001), and the nonfiction work Tea Leaves: A Memoir of Mothers and Daughters (Bella Books, 2012).

Her novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders was published by Adelaide Books in 2018 and The Unicorn, The Mystery was published by Adelaide Books in 2020.

She lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Website * Goodreads * Twitter

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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

NBtM Virtual Book Tour and Giveaway: Silver to the Heart (Light of Adua #1) by Brien Feathers

Welcome to my stop on the NBtM virtual book tour for Silver to the Heart by Brien Feathers. This book tour was organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. On my stop, I have an excerpt from the book as well as a fascinating guest post from the author. There's also the tour wide giveaway for a chance to win a $30 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card. Be sure to visit the other stops on the tour for more content. Enjoy!
Title: Silver to the Heart
Series: Light of Adua #1
Author: Brien Feathers
Publication Date: October 15th 2021
Print Length: 307 pages
Genre: Dark Urban Fantasy
— So begins the apocalypse, with death and a story of love —

An old soul (several centuries old), the lover, fighter, and telekinetic Drake receives an order to safeguard Ana, a mortal with Elder Talent.

Ana, an artist beset by haunting visions, falls for the perfect stranger while venturing home to mediate emergent family chaos.

Past-warlord and present commander Sasuke wields his telepathic might to outwit Council traitors in an effort to save the human realm and its Guardian from a new Dark War.

Criminal and light bender Lou, now sought by the Council to answer for his sins, seeks shelter with the Reverend—an Elder fit to bypass rules of magic meant to be unbreakable.

As time’s last grains of sand deplete, an ancient battle may renew, with pieces of the fractured realm imperiling man’s modern world. Though few on Earth are cognizant, dark days now lie ahead. . .
One fate, two paths, six singular perspectives, and plethoric danger.
Contemporary fantasy at its polychromic finest—pure delight.

Drake held her around her waist with one arm. He needed at least one hand free. Seeing the harbor maybe 100 yards away, he landed them on the roof of a nearby building. With his Push, he broke their fall with a moment of levitation—Ana shrieked.

“Ana, you have to stay quiet, I have to be able to hear the arrows.” Preferably when he first releases one, so I can find him.

“What the hell is happening!” Not quiet, but loud. “Drake!” Still loud.

Drake couldn’t hear the Aerian or the arrows—they needed to take cover. As he leaped again with Ana, something grabbed his leg and swiped them into the side of a building. Midair, he turned to put himself in between the building and Ana and felt the impact as they slammed into it.

Pushing against the wall, he leaped with Ana as more arrows whizzed toward them. One, two, three arrows, one after another, struck the cement wall instead of them and fell to the ground harmlessly. They couldn’t kill Drake this way, but he didn’t want Ana hurt. He needed to take down that Aerian, but couldn’t leave Ana behind. In his decision to break direct order not to engage, he hadn’t accounted for Ana. Drake still wanted to capture one of the soldiers—alive, to inquire about the Reverend, but carrying Ana around like screaming luggage, this fight wasn’t going the way he wanted.
Brien Feathers is a fantasy author living in the land of permanent frost, horses, and Mongols. She likes reading, writing (of course), riding (horses and husbands), drinking dark beer, and checking things off a to-do list.

Although she claims to love everyone equally, she really loves her youngest son the most. He has autism superpowers that allow him to speak all types of rare languages including drumbeats, elevator dings, and police sirens.

Miss Feathers loves grey days, orange cats, and all creatures human or otherwise. And she hopes you will love her world (fantasy) and people (characters) as well.

- If you could live in any fantasy world (besides the one in your book), which would you choose and why?

Instead of being fun and simply saying, “Wherever there are dragons and death duels,” I’m going to answer this question in a very personal way and apologize beforehand if it’s depressing— because it’s about depression.

All my life even before adulthood, I’ve dealt with looming depression. Breath for a moment, be still, silent, alone and it’d feel it— the gloom and pointlessness of life. Ordinary life feels mundane. As a mother of two, I shouldn’t say such things, but it is what it is.

About a decade and a half ago, so I’d be about twenty-two or so, I was depressed for weeks about magic not existing in the real world. It may sound as if I don’t have real-world problems, I do (believe me, I do) it’s just that my mental state is fragile sometimes. At the time, I’ve been watching a Japanese anime series called Kiba.

In the anime, the dystopian city (I think it was Tokyo) is built to feel constricting, dark, and damp; a gust of wind thematically symbolizes freedom. But the anime being a world of magic, the main character Zed is literally swept by a wind tunnel that takes him to another realm where it’s bright with clear skies and colorful with green pasture. There, he gets into Pokémon-like duels wielding spirit animals.

Kiba, that is the fantasy world I would go live in. Not the dystopian city but the other realm where the wind lives. I read and write fantasy because the ordinary world is the dystopian city— it’s incredibly constricting, especially once you become less young.

Anyway, try out my dark fantasy series, Light of Adua. ‘Silver to the Heart’, Book 1 is perma-free. And unlike the depressing answer I gave, set in modern-day New Orleans, the story is full of funny vampires and horrible dark wars. Being a dark fantasy, it comes with a reader warning for mature content.

Thank you for having me here, and I hope you give the series a shot— it is a gust of wind, albeit a dark one.
Brien Feathers will be awarding a $30 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter. Good luck!

(All the Ups and Downs is not responsible for this giveaway, its entries, or the prize. Goddess Fish Promotions and the author assume all responsibility over this giveaway.)

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Blurb Blitz and Giveaway: Alonso (Last Man Standing #5) by Allison Wells

Welcome to my stop on the blurb blitz for the Last Man Standing series by various authors. This blitz was organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. On my stop, I have an excerpt from Alonso, the fifth book in the series, by Allison Wells. There's also the blitz wide giveaway for a chance to win either a $20 or $10 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card. Be sure to visit the other stops on the blitz for more content. Enjoy!
You know who he is... the confirmed bachelor. The fellow who claims no woman will ever tempt him enough to succumb. Cupid will never hit his mark.

Well, guess what? We’ve got fourteen feisty heroines who are about to change their minds.

**Available exclusively on Kindle Unlimited.**

Title: Alonso
Series: Last Man Standing #5
Author: Allison Wells
Publisher: Well Versed Publications
Publication Date: August 17th 2022
Print Length: 124 pages
Genre: Sweet Contemporary Romance
Love is a bad word according to news producer Alonso Ortiz. So is the name Piper Campbell. He’s determined to avoid both until the latter becomes his new partner and on-air talent at Action News.

The name Alonso is a curse in the mind of Piper Campbell. After leaving her cheating fiancé and arriving for a new reporter position at Action News, she’s cursing the name even more when she realizes her old nemesis is now her producer.

Daggers and sparks fly as these two do their best to remain icy toward one another despite the growing heat between them. Can they work together and keep it strictly business? Or, will the last man standing fall for the woman he once loathed?

**Available exclusively on Kindle Unlimited**

Piper Campbell was back in Savannah. And I would be babysitting her for the foreseeable future. I walked into work Monday afternoon and was greeted by a name plaque on Jennifer’s old desk that read Piper Campbell in a clear, professional font. There could only be one Piper Campbell at Action News. I swallowed hard and prayed that there was some other young reporter with that name.

Hadn’t she moved somewhere up north? I had mostly lost track of her after I graduated from SCAD, but the alumni newsletter had said something about her getting a reporter position in another state a few years ago.

If the people at work thought I was goofy and disorganized now, they hadn’t seen anything compared to me in college. I partied too hard, I talked too loud, it was a miracle I had graduated at all.

I graduated a semester late, but I graduated. Piper and I interned at Action News together and shared a handful of classes. She, for whatever reason, hated me. Which was fine, because I thought she was a stuck-up snob in school. An extremely sexy and well put together snob, but still.

Despite her snobbery, I had nursed a crush on Piper Campbell for the two years I knew her in college. She was poised and organized and sure of her place in the world. I was chaotic, loud, and as unconfident as one got. When we got the internships at Action News together, I had been thrilled. Until I nearly ruined her career over a stupid prank.
Allison Wells is a wife, mother, and sweet tea addict. Allison writes in two genres - Christian Women's FIction and Sweet Romance. She writes what she calls "gritty Christian fiction," books that show the hard truths of life but ultimately are stories of redemption in the end. Her sweet romances are clean and fun with a dose of laughter (the best medicine). She loves to bring a word of hope to readers worldwide. Her motto is, "Life is short, eat the Oreos."

The authors will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card to one randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter and a $10 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card to another winner via Rafflecopter. Good luck!

(All the Ups and Downs is not responsible for this giveaway, its entries, or the prize. Goddess Fish Promotions and the authors assume all responsibility over this giveaway.)

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Book Blitz and Giveaway: Accidentally Perfect (Hideaway Harbor #1) by Marissa Clarke

Title: Accidentally Perfect
Series: Hideaway Harbor #1
Author: Marissa Clarke
Publisher: Entangled: Amara
Publication Date: March 1st 2022
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Workaholic Lillian Mahoney has given everything to her job. The hugely popular lifestyle show she helped create monopolizes her time, energy, creativity, and anything remotely resembling a life. But all it takes is the show’s womanizing, egomaniac star throwing a massive hissy on live TV to utterly implode Lillian’s career in a New York minute.

Now Lillian’s hiding out in the gorgeous and completely unknown seaside village of Blink, Maine. Out of gas. A stolen wallet. A broken heel. And worse, she’s somehow managed to completely piss off the town’s resident hunk, Caleb Wright. She’ll show that hot, grumpy single father exactly what she’s made of.

But Blink isn’t quite what Lillian expects—and neither is Caleb…or his feisty teen daughter she can’t help but love. And while her entire life and career are in shreds, Lillian might just discover what happens when she gives her bad first impression a second chance.

Each book in the Hideaway Harbor series is STANDALONE:
* Accidentally Perfect
* Accidentally Famous

**Only 99¢ for a limited time!**

Goodreads * Amazon * Barnes & Noble *
iBooks * Kobo * Google Play * Indiebound

And just when she was certain her day couldn’t get any worse, Lillian’s car motor sputtered.

Grumbling every swear word she knew, she pulled off to the side of the road as the car fizzled out right along with her last remaining shred of composure.

She shifted the dead car into park and rested her forehead on the top of the steering wheel. After blinking back tears she refused to allow—she never cried, never— she took a deep breath and reached for her purse. She snorted. Why bother? Her wallet had been lifted at the McDonald’s several towns and many hours back. This time, a tear broke through, and she wiped it away with her sleeve, then checked her makeup in her rearview. All good.

“Look for the bright side,” her mom had always said. “When things are bad, make a list of the good things.”

Well, her makeup was still okay. She had run out of gas near civilization, at least. Her stolen wallet could be easily sorted out with her bank. She had a twenty-dollar bill in her console for emergencies just like this. And hey! At least it wasn’t raining.

With a deep inhale, she opened her car door and struck out for the diner. The side of the road was rocky and uneven. She should have at least changed her Ferragamo pumps before leaving New York to something more practical. No. She loved these shoes. They were one of her pairs of power shoes, and they made her feel feminine and invincible.

She adjusted the purse strap on her shoulder and lifted her chin, then glanced into the woods off the side of the road. Yeah. No way she could outrun a bear in these shoes, but she could impress it with her sense of style, right?

She picked up her pace and pulled out her phone and called Erin. No answer. Of course there was no answer. It wasn’t even daylight yet.

Crack. Aaaaand, there went her heel on her favorite shoes. She leaned down to check the damage with her fingers. Yep, broken off and hanging on by a strip of leather. She’d be making an entry on this date in her planner officially ranking this as the worst day ever.
Marissa Clarke is a multi-award-winning, RITA nominated author of romance for adults and teens. She lives on the Texas Gulf Coast with her ever-patient husband, two cantankerous Cairn Terriers, and an abundance of bossy chickens.

She loves to hear from readers, so please reach out through social media or on the contact form on her website.

Website * Goodreads * Facebook *
Twitter * Instagram * Pinterest
Win a $25 Amazon gift card!

(All the Ups and Downs is not responsible for this giveaway, its entries, or the prize. Xpresso Book Tours and the author assume all responsibility over this giveaway.)

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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Review Tour and Giveaway: Ugly by Kelly Vincent

Welcome to my stop on the review tour for Ugly by Kelly Vincent. This tour was organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. On my stop, I have an excerpt from the book as well as my book review. There's also the tour wide giveaway for a chance to win a $15 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card. Be sure to visit the other stops on the tour for more content and reviews. Enjoy!
Title: Ugly
Author: Kelly Vincent
Publisher: KV Books
Publication Date: June 7th 2022
Print Length: 380 pages
Genre: LGBTQ+ Young Adult Contemporary Fiction
Sophomore Nic Summers tries to ignore the taunts of “ugly lesbian.”

Because she’s not sure they’re entirely wrong. But she also has bigger concerns for now, including prepping for the school’s art contest. And while she isn't certain of her sexuality, she does know her life is on the verge of falling apart when her best and only friend, Sam, drops the bomb that her family’s moving to Scotland. Together, to soften the blow and distract themselves from the inevitable, they start Operation Social Interaction for Nic—or OSIN for short—to try to find her some new friends.

But it’s an uphill battle for the introverted teen artist.

As Sam’s last day nears, Nic's self-confidence wavers even more, and she starts questioning everything. If lesbian doesn’t feel quite right, maybe she’s transgender? It isn’t until she stumbles across the label “gender nonconforming” that things start to make a little more sense, and fall into place. But finding the right label doesn’t really tell her what to do next, and before she knows it, Sam is gone.

Mustering all her resources, Nic realizes she needs to find her own path and live her own truth.

Monday morning I slept past my alarm, so I was running late. Caleb was in the shower and I had to wait for him, but I really needed a shower. So I was sitting with my stack of clothes on my bed when my phone dinged.

A message from Sam. —there’s something I need to tell u

ok. what?

This didn’t sound good. My stomach made this noise and I couldn’t tell if it was hunger or sudden nerves.

not over text

call me then

The shower turned off. Caleb should be done any minute. But I still had time for a quick call.

can’t. have to talk to one of my teachers. see you at lunch

She wouldn’t have her phone in class and I never saw her in the mornings because of where our classes were. I would have to wait until lunch.

My stomach twisted again and I suddenly wondered if she was going to friend-break up with me. Everything had been fine Saturday, but I’d experienced things like this before.

But no, that couldn’t be it. Maybe she’d started dating somebody and wouldn’t be able to do lunch with me anymore.

What if it was something bigger than us? About her family? Oh God, what if she was moving?

I heard the bathroom door squeak open and raced across the hall to shower, all the bad thoughts swirling in my head.
I was so happy when I read the synopsis for Ugly by Kelly Vincent. This sounded exactly like the kind of book I needed to get me out of my reading slump. I was correct in my assumption. I absolutely loved this book!

Ugly is the story of a teenager named Nicole, or Nic as she goes by since she hates being called Nicole, Nic is 16 years old and lives in Oklahoma. Nic is made fun of at school and everywhere she goes. She's constantly being mistaken for a male everywhere she goes. During her sophomore school year, she starts questioning her sexuality and her gender identity. 
It's obvious that the author knew exactly what she was talking about before writing Ugly from being gender non-conforming to even the therapy sessions Nic goes to. Ugly is definitely a well written book for sure. I like how Ugly draws attention to the struggles of not conforming to every day gender and sexual standards. I also want to give a shout out to the author for mentioning asexuality in the book. (I wish more LGBTQ+ books would talk about asexuality.) However, one minor gripe I have is that it mentions a character might be asexual because they didn't want/hadn't been in a relationship. Asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction. Asexuals still can want a romantic relationship. Aromanticism is the lack of romantic attraction. (Even then, asexuality and aromanticism have many more identities under their umbrella.) If the character was an aromantic asexual, it would have made more sense why they didn't want a relationship. Other than that, I loved everything about Ugly. My favorite part of the book (although all of it was fantastic) was when Nic goes to Scotland and sees just how different the people over there are compared to the people in the United States. I felt the same way as Nic when I lived in the United Kingdom. It did feel like people in the UK were less judgmental and more accepting than people here in the US.

Reading Ugly was like being in the mind of a teenager throughout a school year in their life. While the book goes through even the mundane day to day life of Nic, I still thoroughly enjoyed reading about Nic's life. Her struggle of trying to fit in whilst being made fun of and bullied really resonated with me. I felt like I was reading a biography about my life almost. I've never identified more with a book before! I think many teens and adults that were bullied, even those that are secure in their sexuality, will be able to relate to Nic on some level. Nic was the most relatable character I have ever read about. I would have loved to be friends with someone like her back in school (and even today). I also loved Nic's best friend Sam. Sam was just about the opposite of Nic both personality wise and looks wise. I loved how much Sam really cared about Nic.

Trigger warnings for Ugly include profanity, underage drinking, some minor drug use, some talks of politics, child molestation (though the book doesn't go into detail), bullying (including characters telling another character "kill yourself"), and depression.

Overall, Ugly is a book that should be in every school library as well as every public library. I feel like it's such an important book for teens (and adults), especially for those struggling with their sexuality and/or gender identity in this day and age. The research the author has put into the book as well as the author's ability to write a solid novel help to make Ugly such a fantastic read. I would definitely recommend Ugly by Kelly Vincent to everyone aged 14+ whether they are part of the LGBTQ+ community or not. This is a book that everyone should read due to its important topic.

(A special thank you to Goddess Fish Promotions for providing me with an eBook of Ugly by Kelly Vincent in exchange for a fair and honest review.)
Kelly Vincent wrangles data weekdays and spends the rest of her time playing with words. She grew up in Oklahoma but has moved around quite a bit, with Glasgow, Scotland being her favorite stop. She now lives near Seattle with three cats who help her write her stories by strategically walking across the keyboard, with her first novel, Finding Frances, a fine example of this technique. She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Oklahoma City University’s Red Earth program.

Kelly Vincent will be awarding a $15 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter. Good luck!

(All the Ups and Downs is not responsible for this giveaway, its entries, or the prize. Goddess Fish Promotions and the author assume all responsibility over this giveaway.)

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Virtual Book Tour: Northern Echoes (Web of Echoes #2) by Melody Ash

Welcome to my stop on the virtual book tour for Northern Echoes by Melody Ash. This book tour was organized by Pump Up Your Book. On my stop, I have an excerpt from the book as well as a guest post from the author about the inspiration behind the book. Be sure to visit the other stops on the tour for more content. Enjoy!
Title: Northern Echoes
Series: Web of Echoes #2
Author: Melody Ash
Publication Date: March 3rd 2020
Print Length: 301 pages
Genre: Time Travel Science Fiction
Caitlin Benoit assumed the next destination would be her time, her world. Instead, the stone thrusts her further into the past and onto a different continent.

Now in 1831 England, she's discovered by William, the Duke of Lancaster. By sheer luck, he's willing to allow her into his manor. While she fights to gain a footing in this new time, Caitlin discovers the stone also ripped John from Charleston.

Everything she thought she knew about how the stone worked is false, and neither John nor her understand how to escape the grip of the past. As they work to uncover the mystery of the stone, an acquaintance of the Duke plots an intricate scheme certain to destroy them all. She and John must solve the puzzle in an unknown amount of time or risk getting stuck—or buried—in 1831.

Air emanated through Caitlin Benoit like life itself as she inhaled with lungs still recovering from the constriction of time travel. A full rich zephyr. She heaved another breath, the fresh rush inflating her chest. Relief electrified every nerve, and Caitlin's pulse quickened. One more time, a bit slower now, the breath cleansed as she gazed through eyes still blurred from travel.

Sketchy lines of a horse and its rider slowly came into focus, and as the man stopped in front of her, his gentle brown eyes seemed laced with confusion. Dressed in a navy tailcoat over a white silk shirt and beige wool pants, he looked more Georgian than Victorian, and those clothes placed him—and now Caitlin—in the early eighteen-hundreds. And the location…

Her eyes strayed from the man to the grounds beyond the rider. Trees, sloping hills, a magnificent manor house. The far forests seemed to stretch for miles in a thick blanket of green. But they couldn't be relied upon to pinpoint a location, not when similar woodlands spanned the globe within the temperate woodland biomes of the world. It was the house itself that provided the clues, one she recognized from several period movies—a Hollywood favorite.

Chatling Hall, an aristocratic home to a Duke of England. Only that made little sense. After traveling in time to the plantation in South Carolina and living among slaves for a week, she'd been instructed how to utilize the stone she'd discovered at the archeological dig in 2018 and followed those instructions to the letter. Should have earned her a one-way ticket out of 1859 back home. But if this was England, then not only had she traveled further into the past but also managed to hop the large pond between two continents.

"Madam? Can I be of some assistance?" the man asked for what Caitlin thought might be the second time. Maybe the third. Her brain was only just beginning to focus, to wrap around the context of what her eyes saw.

"I think I'm lost," Caitlin muttered as she shook her head.

"I venture to guess so much. Pray tell, what is your name?" He slid from the horse, boots raising a cloud of dust. The man removed his hat, hung it casually from two fingertips. Manners that screamed early-century Europe.

"Caitlin Benoit." She held out one hand, though a handshake wouldn't fit the customs if she was standing in—what?—eighteenth- or nineteenth-century Britain. Still, surprise tickled her when the man took hold of her hand and gently kissed her fingers.

"It is my pleasure to meet you, Miss Caitlin." After a bow of his head, the man replaced the top hat and straightened. "William, Duke of Lancaster."

The duke himself. The stone couldn't give me a little break and place me at the feet of a peasant or a groomsman. "Is this your home?"

"It is," William said with a smile. "Madam, if you are indeed lost, I welcome you as a guest of Chatling Hall until your traveling companions return."

"Thank you. I appreciate that."

He tilted his head, studied her once more. Her modern English against his very proper British accent likely sounded as strange to him as his did to her. And her clothes were as far removed from anything a proper English woman would wear. They wouldn't even be invented for nearly a hundred and fifty years. Caitlin shifted her weight, glanced over his shoulder. If she was in danger, what escape could she have?

"Are you familiar with riding on the back of a horse?"

The question cut through the noise in her head. Caitlin raised a brow. Horseback riding was one of her favorite past times, but the way she rode would make nineteenth-century women blush in shades to match their pretty, fancy dresses while men would question their value as a proper lady. Notions that were both archaic and sexist—they made her skin crawl—but she needed time. Time to figure out how she left a South Carolinian Plantation in 1859 at the courtesy of a mysterious rock, endured the plastic wrap of time travel once more, but didn't return to twenty-first-century America. At this point, it seemed time meant nothing, and yet she needed to buy some now. "No, not well, I'm afraid."

"Then I shall walk with you."

She nodded, fought to ignore the twinge in an ankle badly sprained days earlier, if she tried to define it in the conventional, linear sense. Seemed those conventions were out the window now, but her mind would take a little time to catch up.

Caitlin focused on the hills of the Peak District. She followed all the rules the slave woman shared with her in South Carolina—inside the circle, in the direct sunlight—yet she landed in England. Only… what year was it exactly?

"Forgive me, but I do not recall having the pleasure of your acquaintance in the past. I like to think I'm familiar with everyone in the nearby villages," her companion said. "Are you here on holiday?"

Of course, he knew most everyone nearby. He owned the land, and the villagers were his tenants. Caitlin cleared her throat, prepared for the book of lies she would have to tell until she could leave the past where it belonged. "Yes, it's been a long trip."

"Then you must be tired."

Caitlin didn't bother to respond as he led her closer to the great manor. A path worn with the indentations left behind by carriage wheels curved around a bend where the trees gave way to a full, unobstructed view of Chatling Hall. In front of the manor house, a fountain as long as a football field shot water high into the clear afternoon sky. Set behind the fountain, Chatling Hall appeared to float on the surface of that water. The illusion was a good one, and almost took Caitlin's breath away.

The stone manor house itself was even more impressive than it had appeared in the twentieth- and twenty-first-century movies. Classical architecture climbed three stories towards the sky. Gilded urns lined the roof, while three rows of windows—their frames also gilded—stretched right and left. As she and William neared the home, a staircase came into view. It curved upwards to a proud, rectangular landing to provide an outlook for the fountain.

Chatling Hall dwarfed Shady Oak Plantation in every possible way, even Biltmore paled in comparison. The aristocratic wealth was what Americans could only mimic but never quite attain. North America was too young, the British aristocracy too carefully built and maintained. The house defined the difference in spades.

"Are you traveling with family?"

Caitlin pulled back her gaze to face the duke. "No, no, I'm not. I'm sorry, I know this is going to sound a little funny, but… what year is it?"

The duke's brows furrowed, and he stopped, stared at her. "1831. Did you hit your head? Are you quite all right?"

A hardness filled her stomach. She must tread carefully, or risk finding herself on the receiving end of questions she couldn't answer.

With a mind that reeled in every direction, Caitlin didn't pay attention to the ground beneath her feet. Too late for her to notice, she stepped on a large pebble and stumbled, causing an already weakened ankle to turn. Caitlin dropped to one knee, the fresh pain bursting through the joint. "No, I don't think so."
I grew up loving the endless possibilities Fantasy and Sci-Fi held between their pages or played on the big screen. Star Wars, Stephen King, The Neverending Story, vampires, Disney, I loved it all (and still do!) At age ten, I picked up a pencil and began coming up with stories of my own that toyed with other worlds and the mysteries of this one.

My first attempt at writing came at ten years old while, during a sleepover, I tried writing a ghost story. In sixth grade, I entered my school's writing contest, and in college, my writing professor allowed me to work on a novel instead of following the curriculum.

But at the time, writing was only a hobby I enjoyed. I picked it up, put it down, sometimes for months or years at a time, but I didn't think of it as a career. Instead, I majored in communications with the goal of a career in journalism. After a couple of years, I changed course and entered the travel industry. Travel had always been another love, especially to Walt Disney World, and the choice seemed the perfect fit. I opened my own travel agency and grew it from the ground up until the Great Recession of 2008 rolled in, along with the blessing of my first child.

With her birth, I left behind the office career and finally admitted what I already knew - I wanted to spend my life creating on paper what played in my head. A series that had already been haunting my dreams for months that I knew would be my first attempt to break into the publishing world.

After releasing romantic suspense under the pen name, RM Alexander, Caitlin Benoit started whispering in my ear and her story started forming. My passion for adventure and travel bled onto the pages as Caitlin was launched into the adventure of a lifetime. But because the story wasn't focused on romance, I knew I needed a new pen name that would be focused more on UF / Sci-Fi, and Melody Ash was born.

As a complex PTSD and trauma survivor, I often write characters who often face the worse circumstances and must search for their inner strength. It is my hope readers not only connect with the characters and stories but also are encouraged, as they read the last word, that their real-world problems can be overcome.

Outside my writing world, I spend my time with my husband, two children, and Pomsky (who you'll likely find posted on my social media) in Indiana. I still love to travel and am addicted to orange juice, Ghirardelli chocolate, and adventure.

The Inspiration Behind Northern Echoes
by Melody Ash

Ask any author and they will tell you inspiration for books come from just about everywhere: dreams, movies, a song, the kid next door. And I can tell you all these are true. But for Web of Echoes (because it was really the series I had the inspiration for and not the book) was a little less straightforward. So we’ve got to take a little tour of what I enjoy, and all the pieces will come together.

While I was writing this, I was trying to figure out the best place to start, and since I’m watching tv (Stranger Things) with my oldest kiddo, I figured we’d start there. I LOVE movies off all kinds: romance, some romcoms, thrillers, suspense, adventures. If the story is good, I’m all over it. But I do a thing for movies that can take me away for a little bit, that bend the rules of our world, that leave you thinking, “What if?” When I was growing up, it was Star Wars, Gremlins, The Neverending Story (all you 80s kids will get it). As I got older, not a lot changed. With TV favorites like Outlander and Vampire Diaries, fantasy still grabs my attention.

And that leads us to stop number two. Now you’ve got to understand, I don’t get time to enjoy many hobbies – not with two kiddos, homeschooling and you know, all the stuff that makes up adulting and being a mother. I wouldn’t really have it any other way. But every once in a blue moon, I take a couple hours (usually during the winter) and do a little gaming. Like some of my favorite movies, my favorite games allow me explore and have an adventure, figure out puzzles. Whether its fighting monsters in games like Resident Evil or Silent Hill, or exploring in games like Tomb Raider (which is my favorite, btw), I could lost in these games for hours.

Now stop three and the final one on our little tour, and the one that makes my hubby just a little bit crazy. By now, this probably won’t come as a surprise to you, but you put me in the middle of the forest on a strange path I’ve never been on before, and I can guarantee you one thing: I’m going to want to know what’s at the end of it. Add in some mysterious brick walls or an overgrown brick path, and you’ll have me circling it for hours, imagination in overdrive, looking for clues on what it might have been. Coming up with stories to it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve freaked out my husband when we first started dating, finding the most remote trails and heading down them for hours only to find another and following that.

One thing people will tell new writers is to write what they know about, and as you can see, the inspiration for Web of Echoes came from many different parts of what makes me who I am. In that way, there is probably more of me in the series than in any other project I’ve undertaken, and that’s a scary thing for an author. But in the end, I hope its those pieces that make you fall in love with Caitlin, John, and all the characters who make up the Web of Echoes story.

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