Release Day Review by Pixie: Beneath the Layers (Anthology)

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Beneath the Layers (Anthology)
Stories By: Caitlin Ricci, CL Mustafic, Elizabeth Coldwell, Sita Bethel,
E.M. Hamill, Sydney Blackburn, C.A. Blocke, Asta Idonea
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: April 17, 2017

Anthology Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

See each story for individual ratings

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Release Day Review: Horsefeathers, by Caitlin Ricci

ricci-horsefeathersHorsefeathers, by Caitlin Ricci
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Release Date: January 13, 2016

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Buy Link: Publisher

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Blurb:

Justin was sent to get a mare, and is helpless to explain to his unhappy boss why he came back with an untouchable gray stallion instead, but there’s just something about the horse that wouldn’t let him leave it behind.

Of course, because an angry boss and a horse they don’t need isn’t enough, the horse goes missing—leaving a strange man in his place, a man who speaks in riddles and seems more than a little crazy, but he’s also just as hard to refuse as the stallion…

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Asexual Awareness Week! What does being asexual mean for me, and where can you read about awesome ace characters?

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This week is Asexual Awareness week, which is pretty exciting for me. I mentioned this recently in a blog post, but I identify as biromantic asexual. And the first question I usually get is, “What the heck does that mean?” So raising awareness of what asexuality is and means is super important to me!

Right then. What does asexuality mean?

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Hmm, not quite.

(I’m going to talk about my asexual experience. This is most definitely not “THE” asexual experience. Your mileage may vary.)

Personally, I do not experience sexual attraction. Ever. Tried it, just to make sure, but… nah. Sex isn’t just the physical stimulation of a body part; there are a lot of emotions and sensations that go into it. I don’t think my body is “broken”, I just don’t experience the emotions and sensations that make sex with someone a thing that I am interested in doing.

My body is what it is, and that’s fine.

There are LOTS of different types of asexuality. And there are a LOT of asexuals. WE ARE EVERYWHERE.

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Not all people in the asexual spectrum are just “ace”. Some are grey-ace, or demi, or a number of other words. But all of us experience a lack of sexual attraction in one way or another.

Asexuality is starting to get more attention, too. MTV.com just hosted this article on “How It Feels To Discover You’re Demisexual“:

You will want to cry. Because after searching and searching you have found a word to validate how you feel, to tell you that you are not alone, you are not broken, there is a word for people like you and it is okay.

Now, fiction-wise, there are not a lot of books with asexual characters. There are even fewer with asexual romances. Most people, it seems, still equate “love” with “sex”. And that is true for 99% of the population, but several authors have shown that you can have a loving, fulfilling relationship with no sex at all!

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Of Monsters and Men, by Caitlin Ricci
My Review (3.5 stars)
Buy on Dreamspinner Press

Quick summary: Seth has a great job at the pet rescue with a fantastic boss, who happens to be a werewolf. But when it comes to relationships, no guy stays around. Eventually, they always want more than Seth, who is asexual, is able to give. Seth wants love and a relationship, but not the sex that everyone puts so much value on.

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klune-how-to-be-normal-personHow To Be A Normal Person, by T.J. Klune
My Review (5 stars)
Buy on Dreamspinner Press

Quick Summary: Gus is not normal. And he’s fine with that. All he wants is to be left alone. Until Casey, an asexual stoner hipster and the newest employee at Lottie’s Lattes, enters his life. For some reason, Casey thinks Gus is the greatest thing ever. And maybe Gus is starting to think the same thing about Casey.

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The Goodreads list for Asexual Fiction has more recommendations, but is not a comprehensive list.

With tens of millions of ace folks around the world, I’m hoping that awareness weeks like this one, and books like these, will help to make asexuality something that the rest of the world doesn’t bat an eye at. How does the saying go? We’re here, we’re queer, GET USED TO IT!

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Book Review: One More Time, by Caitlin Ricci (Rating: 3.5 out of 5)

ricci-one-more-timeOne More Time, by Caitlin Ricci
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (September 21, 2015)
Page Count: 200 pages
Genre: Gay (M/M) Romance

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Buy Links: eBook / Paperback

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Summary:

Wanting to start over after breaking off a relationship with his married boss, Caleb Robinson is happy to move from Los Angeles to Thornwood, Colorado. He can barely find the town on a map, which is just the kind of place Caleb needs. He’s not looking for a relationship, and Thornwood looks to be the perfect place to get lost in his art. But when Thornwood’s local police officer, Trent Williams, knocks on Caleb’s front door, both men have an instant attraction to each other, and Caleb’s plans for solitude might have to change.

But he soon learns that Trent is a legendary one-night-stand man for a very special reason. His boyfriend has been kept on life support for the past five years after a serious skiing accident. Even though Simon isn’t expected to wake up and Trent says he’s trying to get past him, he won’t entertain anything that comes close to commitment. As compelling as their attraction is, Caleb doesn’t want to be just another hook-up, and he won’t be the other man. But Trent isn’t sure he can risk the pain of losing someone else he cares about, no matter how intense the chemistry between him and Caleb.


My Review:

I have very mixed feelings about this novel. It’s a really sweet story about two men who are both struggling to understand their attraction to one another, and who have both been hurt in the past by relationships. But there were also things about both characters that prevented me from enjoying the story.

Caleb’s last relationship was with his boss in LA… his married boss, whose wife was less than pleased (understatement!) when she found out about her husband’s cheating. Trent has been hurt in a different way, though; his last serious relationship was with the love of his life, who has now been in a coma for several years. But Trent is unable to move on from that loss, and fills his life with meaningless sex as a way of coping.

One of the things I really loved about this novel was the pacing. It was excellently written, and Caitlin makes sure not to rush to put Trent and Caleb in a relationship together. It feels very organic, and Caleb constantly questions his feelings toward Trent and whether he is ready to get into another relationship.

He got back into his car, and I stood there wishing I could have said yes to whatever he’d been offering. But two months was not long enough to get over someone and start something new, so I let him go and went back inside to my TV, my attention-hungry clients, and the box of cookies I’d call dinner.

Trent is a pretty complicated character. He’s made himself mentally dependent on anonymous sex in order to be emotionally comfortable. Whenever he’s in a rough place, or stressed, he finds an anonymous hook-up and it helps him feel better. I can really appreciate a complex character like this, although he couldn’t make up his mind about Caleb! Obviously he’s attracted to Caleb, but his mind makes him think he only needs Caleb for meaningless sex, not an emotional attachment.

And Caleb, who’s been burned by his last relationship, won’t do meaningless sex. He needs that connection, and it hurts that Trent refuses his attempts to get close.

“He’s an asshole who sleeps around.”

Caleb sounded so bitter saying that, and it made me flinch because I slept around too. “Like me,” I couldn’t help saying.

The first person point of view really sucks, though. I’m sorry, plain and simple, but it did not work for me in this story. It shifts back and forth between Caleb and Trent’s POV, and I kept getting confused.

Overall a really enjoyable read. Trent and Caleb aren’t easy to relate to, but the fact that they’re both well-written, fully-realized characters with complicated motivations really helps me appreciate them.

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