Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Release Blitz ~ Facing The Beat (Young Spades #2) by Riley Long (Review + Excerpt + Giveaway)

Release Blitz ~ Facing The Beat (Young Spades #2) by Riley Long (Review + Excerpt + Giveaway)

Title: Facing the Beat
Series: Young Spades #2
Author: Riley Long
Genre: NA M/M Romance
Release Date: October 1, 2018

Lead guitarist for the indie rock band Young Spades, Liam Wilson has a shot at big city fortune--or he would, if he wasn’t too busy licking his wounds to admit the real reason his girlfriend left him. Determined to stay single, Liam has no time for anything--or anyone--new. 

Jack Newton is used to playing the field. A talented photographer, he knows exactly what he wants and how to get it. There's just one hitch: when an enigmatic guitar player wanders in front of his lens, Jack feels the tug of a chord he has never heard before.
The bathroom was empty, and Liam thanked his lucky stars. He made his way to his favorite shower stall, last in the row, and pulled the curtain behind him. The bench in the little changing area was dry, so he placed his clean clothes on it, and hung his towel on the hook. Liam shucked his clothes and turned on the water, the sound echoing in the tiled bathroom, as he waited a few moments for it to come up to temperature before stepping in.
Immediately, Liam sighed. The water was hot and relaxing, and he was glad he’d decided to shower now, in the middle of the afternoon, when there was nobody else around. He had the whole bathroom to himself, which almost never happened. Usually the times Liam was free, the bathroom was teeming with underclassmen. He relished the time alone.
As the surprisingly good water pressure eased the knots out of his shoulders, Liam soaped himself up and washed his hair. He stood there, letting the water rush over his body for longer than necessary and after a couple of minutes, he decided to relax further. He slid a hand down to his groin and palmed his dick, then began stroking.
He let his mind wander to his go-to jerk-off scenes, mostly images from porn he’d mentally filed away for later. Sweat, fingers pressing into flesh, teeth digging into tender places. He pulled up mental images of breasts, legs, asses. Nothing was doing it for him though.
His thoughts jumped to what Shane and Ari were doing after all, then steered himself aggressively in another direction. Ari was his roommate for Christ’s sake. Shane was in his band. It was just fucking weird.
Liam leaned back on the shower wall and dropped his head against the thick plastic divider between stalls, eyes closed. It figured. Too much pot, too much stress, too much on his mind. Way too tired. Way too tired. He sighed and gave up. Just his luck he couldn’t get anything to happen on the rare occasion he was alone and needed to relax.
He gave up on the shower, turning off the water then toweling off. He’d brought a button-down plaid shirt and skintight jeans, which he tugged on to his damp skin with some effort. He planned to wear this particular outfit to the show tonight, and didn’t want to have to go through the effort of changing again.
All clean, dry, and changed, Liam headed back to his room. He gave the courtesy double-knock he and Ari had agreed on before he walked in, hoping Ari and his boyfriend Shane hadn’t taken advantage of his disappearance to have sex. It happened sometimes, and there was nothing worse than coming back to catch them hastily putting clothes on, or to find the room smelling of sweat and cum.
Liam found them exactly as he’d left them, snuggling on Ari’s bed, watching videos on someone’s phone. He felt a pang in his gut.
“Hey guys,” he said, barely able to conceal his grumpiness. He shut the door and dumped his things onto the dirty clothes pile on the floor.
“Hey,” they said in unison, barely seeming to register his presence.
Liam debated lighting up a joint as he climbed back onto his bed. It would certainly improve his mood, but Ellie would be likely to kill him if she found out he’d been getting high before a show. Liam played lead guitar for indie-rock band Young Spades, and Shane was the lead singer. Ari had become their number-one groupie, and appeared front-row at every show to cheer them on, or perched backstage waiting to tell Shane how fantastic he sounded. They’d only been dating about six months, but Ari had become a fixture at their concerts. Liam didn’t mind—Ari was the best roommate he’d had, and he’d gone through a few during his freshman and sophomore years.
He thought about lighting up again, and sighed. It wasn’t even worth it. Shane in particular took serious offense to anyone smoking anything around him. Liam understood—Shane had lost his mom as a kid to lung cancer, and truth be told, he’d almost not dated Ari because of cigarettes. He sighed again. This wasn’t the mood he wanted to be in hours before a performance.
“What’s going on?” Ari asked, after a minute or so of silence from Liam.
Liam shrugged. “Just not in the mood today, I guess.” He lay down, kicking his backpack to the floor, unconcerned about the books and notebooks inside.
The truth was, he’d started to realize it was his senior year, and he’d done almost nothing except get high, play video games, and join a band. Not that the band was nothing—it was great, and they were planning to move to LA once he graduated. But it felt like not much today. He wanted something more.
Probably living with Ari, seeing him happily snuggling with Shane every moment they weren’t in class or working, wasn’t helping. It couldn’t be good to be surrounded by that lovey-dovey cheer all the time, could it? Maybe that was it—maybe he just wished he had a girlfriend or something.
Ari picked up on his doom-and-gloom mood. “You wanna play some video games before your show?”
“Nah, man, I’m good,” Liam said, even though he knew he needed some cheering up. Instead, he was tempted to take a nap. Getting off wasn’t an option so maybe getting some sleep would help.
Actually, what he needed to do was pick up his guitar and run through a few songs. They’d recently added to their lineup, and while they hadn’t taken the full summer off, they had definitely played fewer shows. He worried a little about getting rusty, if not on the instrument then at least on the tunes themselves.
“Mind if I practice a little?”
“Go right ahead,” Ari said.
At that, Shane sat up. “I’ll join you.”
“Aww,” Ari protested. “You left me.”
Shane smiled warmly and kissed Ari. “I’ll come back,” he promised when they parted.
Liam fought the urge to roll his eyes, grabbed his guitar from its stand, and crossed his legs on the bed. Playing guitar always lifted his mood, and Shane chiming in with his vocals didn’t hurt. After a while, he did feel better, ready to put the weird cloud over his head behind him, and kick ass at the show.
Jack lay on his bed, staring at the ceiling. He was going to get up early the next morning and hike to see if he could take some good photos of birds for his class in the morning light, he decided. His phone buzzed.
“Yeah?” he said by way of an answer, without looking to see who was calling.
“What are you doing tonight?” asked the voice on the other end. He recognized it instantly, one of only two people who ever called him. The other was his granddad, the only person in his family who gave a shit about him.
“Liv, we are literally roommates. You could have waited until you got home to ask me that.”
“Fuck you. Now what are you doing tonight?”
“Nothing, really. I’m going hiking tomorrow with my camera so I’m going to bed early.”
“Not anymore. We’re going out.”
Normally he was up for just about anything, but he’d really had his heart set on getting those shots before his Saturday got too far along. “Do I have to?”
“Young Spades is playing. I’ve been meaning to get to a show for ages. I think you’ll like them. And the drummer is hot, so I want to see if I can get her number.”
“Of course you do. And hey, I’m happy you’re over your ex, but why does that mean I’ve gotta play wingman?”
“You’re my best friend. It’s what best friends do.”
“Listen, you’ve only been out for, what, three years? You’ve hardly hooked up with anyone in months, and you’ve never bothered to have a boyfriend. Have fun. Loosen up.”
“I have fun. I sleep around when I want to get off with someone. I don’t have time for a boyfriend. I’m busy. I wanna build my portfolio so I can get a decent freelance job when I graduate.”
“Photography is great, but have you even had sex before, John Wayne?”
“Fuck you. Keep my real name out of this.”
She laughed—cackled really. “Just because you’re moving literally a bazillion miles away once school ends next semester, doesn’t mean you have to live a cloistered life now. So what time can you be ready to leave? I’m going to work in the art studio until I have to pick you up.”
Jack sighed. “Okay, fine.” He knew he wasn’t going to win this battle, so it was better to give in now than to argue. “What time’s the show?”
“Oh, God. Nine? Really?” He had zero chance of getting to bed early enough to go hiking the next morning. Not if the show started at nine.
“Yes, grandpa, and you’re going.”
“Hey, my granddad stays up late, like a normal college kid, thank you very much. Come home whenever, eight maybe?”
She snorted. “Sure thing. See you then!” The phone disconnected.
Jack lay there another minute. Young Spades. He’d heard of them, but he didn’t know much about the band. They’d even played at the spring music festival on campus last semester, but Jack never bothered going to those things. His taste in music was pretty terrible by any reasonable standard, so he knew he’d probably hate them, but if it made Liv happy, he’d go. Despite the fact that they shared an apartment and were best friends, they didn’t get much time together, considering they both spent a lot of time with their respective art projects. He didn’t mind sacrificing a single plan of his own to make her happy. Not really, anyway.
In the meantime, he could work on editing some shots he’d taken during the week. Jack grabbed his laptop and camera and transferred the images to his computer, then set to work.
He’d taken some shots around campus, mostly candids of unsuspecting students, because he hadn’t really had time to get out and do much else. The first week of school was usually pretty laid-back, but now that he was a senior, it seemed his professors were determined to make the classes challenging.
The time slipped by, and before Jack knew it, Liv was barging into his room without knocking—as usual. She planted herself at the foot of his bed and stared at him.
“Done yet?”
“I’m never done. You should know that, you’re an artist.” Jack saved his work and set his laptop aside.
“So, you ready?”
Jack glanced at the clock on his laptop. It was significantly later than he expected. “Not exactly.”
Liv sighed.
He closed his laptop and took it to his desk, then began rummaging in his closet for something reasonable to wear. Eventually he settled on a pair of comfortable jeans and a plain black t-shirt. He slipped his sneakers on, grabbed his camera, and stuffed it into its bag.
“You’re taking your camera?”
“When do I not take my camera?”
“Good point. Now are you ready?”
“Ready as I’ll ever be.”
Liv grinned. “Perfect.”
The End

~ Pulling Strings: 4 Stars ~

I had the opportunity to read an ARC of Facing the Beat, book two in the Young Spades series and at the time, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read book one, but halfway through Facing the Beat I knew I made the wrong choice. I was going crazy not knowing how Ari and Shane got together, the details of it and all. So the very next morning I went straight away and got book one and devoured it in about four hours or so cause it was SO GOOD.

Ari suffers from bipolar and Riley did such a great job of the representation of the illness, now I myself don’t suffer from bipolar but I do from depression and anxiety and felt that Ari’s reactions were really well portrayed. But besides his mental illness, Ari was adorable and amazing at how he reacted after coming to terms with said illness.

Shane is such a great character, his reactions and feelings are on point and never felt fake or forced, not only toward Ari but his sister as well.

I am glad I decided I needed to read this because it made book two that much more special in the long run.

~ Facing the Beat: 4 Stars ~

Ok, so I read the first one and the second out of order, not smart? Maybe. But once I finished or almost finished Facing the Beat, I knew I needed to go back and read book one. When I read the Synopsis I didn’t think I would really like Ari and his man but seeing the two of them popping up around the story made me crave their story.

Liam is the sexy guitarist who doesn’t really (from my reading) know how he looks to other people. His realization that he is attracted to Jack scares him and makes him question everything he thought he knew about his sexuality. I loved how Riley went through Liam's thoughts about what he was feeling. His confusion is something a lot of people can relate to especially around his age group and older people as well. Going from KNOWING you’re straight one day to somehow realizing you don’t KNOW anything.

Jack is cute and determined which I loved. Even when he isn’t as confident as he seems to be to Liam. I love that he loves photography since it is something I enjoy at times as well (not so good at it, but I like it).

Even though it’s set in college, I’m glad there wasn’t a lot SET in the school but in the dorms and Jack’s apartment and the gigs the band went to.

This was a slightly emotional story at times with thankfully no angst (to me) and sexy the rest of the time. I think this was my first Riley Long book and I can’t wait to continue on with the rest of them!

*** Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie for my reading pleasure, a review wasn't a requirement. ***

~ Pulling Strings: 3.5 Stars ~

This is a young adult novel where Ari and Shane fall in love despite both only investing in casual hook-ups for years. I enjoy books with beautifully broken characters, and seeing how those characters overcome their obstacles. Ari has bipolar disorder and Shane’s family life is a bit broken - his mother died of lung cancer when he was young and his stepsister has cyclical depression. I was curious how Ari’s disorder affected the building of his relationship with Shane.

In the end, the book kind of fell flat to me. The writing was choppy and the dialogue was flat. The emotions of the characters often did not feel real to me. Shane, in particular, comes off kind of bland or stilted or not real. The conflicts seemed a bit manufactured, for example:

- Ari was originally presented as an occasional smoker, but him quitting smoking for Shane seemed to be a principal theme in the book. I was confused how it was so hard for him.

- Their breakup during break just felt overblown and I just kept rolling my eyes at how they handled/resolved the conflict. I actually said out loud “Oh come on!”

I appreciated the care and attention the author put in with Ari’s illness. The one part of the book that “felt” real was experiencing the highs and lows with Ari. Instead of bipolar being some abstract element, it was woven into the storyline quite believably.

*** Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie for my reading pleasure, a review wasn't a requirement. ***

~ Facing the Beat: 3.5 Stars ~

Facing the Beat is another Young Spades novel, focusing on lead guitarist Liam and new character Jack. In the previous book, Liam was decidedly straight. In this one, he meets Jack at one of his concerts and is intrigued when Jack tries to pick him up but tells Jack “I’m not gay”. Jack isn’t deterred (it’s like love at first sight for him) and his persistence eventually pays off. Gay-for-you tends to be quite the interesting trope. This book was a bit better than the last, particularly in the beginning with the build-up of “will he or won’t he” for Liam to go out/have sex/be in a relationship with Jack. But once Liam goes for it, the book falls flat.

After Liam and Jack are boyfriends, the conflict in the book turns weird. The author sets it up where Liam’s ex-girlfriend and high school sweetheart re-enters the picture and seems to want to get Liam back, despite being pregnant by someone else. While Liam’s need to take care of his ex causes disgruntled feelings for Jack, the conflict peaks when I think Liam’s ex drugged him to break up Liam and Jack so that Liam would be her baby daddy. Yeah, that sentence was just about as bad as the plot point… And what makes me most weirded out is there was no real resolution to this at all. The author strongly implied something untoward happened to Liam (not sexually) during that night where Courtney tried to break him and Jack up, and it was completely disregarded. It almost seemed like it was irrelevant as long as Jack and Liam got back together.

It was good to see Shane and Ari still going strong. I’m hoping the next book is about Trick, who seems to be the most interesting of the Young Spades.

*** Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie for my reading pleasure, a review wasn't a requirement.

Riley Long is a wife and mother living a quiet life in Virginia, with her husband, son, and very silly Pit Bull puppy. She passes her evenings writing, reading, and watching bad television (or not so bad television). For fun, Riley participates in NaNoWriMo, GISH, and reads with her book club, the BAMFs. She likes things with silly acronyms. The craziest thing Riley has ever done involves lots of butter and a time lapsed video.

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