Monthly Archives: January 2019

21Jan/19

Aesop Lake by Sarah Leigh Ward

Sarah Leigh Ward is one of our lovely featured writers. You can find her episode and discover more about her work in Episode 193: Finding Your Tribe!

I had a shaky start with this book, but in the end I loved it. This book is needed in every library in every state, in every county, in every country. End of. The use of Aesop’s fables in the chapter heads and the beginning let the reader know right from the start this is a morality story, and one that accepts that morality isn’t a case of black and white, but various shades in between.

Teens and adults will like the way the story gets to the point without going through laborious details of trials and somber navel-gazing. The story was compact, concise and said a huge amount in not a huge amount of words. (200 pages.)

Aesop Lake isn’t an easy read at first, as the hate crime committed against a gay couple minding their own business is horrific, and the ugly beliefs, exacerbated by holier-than-thou attitudes, are searingly unpleasant.

BUT

The story is told from two points of view. First, Leda. She is the girlfriend of domineering bully David, who instigated the attack, and at first she stands up for him, lying to cover up what he has done. Then we find out David has threatened Leda to keep her quiet, by saying he would expose her mother as a drug-dealer.

Jonathan is one half of the gay couple who were attacked. His boyfriend, Ricky, is unconscious in hospital, too traumatised to respond to anyone. Jonathan harbours festering resentment at his small town’s attitude towards the crime, but feels as if he has no one to turn to for help.

I was prepared to hate Leda at first. She couldn’t seem to see how terrible the situation was and to get away from it, she takes a summer job away from her home town. As the story unfolds it becomes clear she is in an abusive relationship with David, and she wants to tell the truth even if it means her mother going to prison. Away from the constrictive confines of her town, she is able to see a bigger picture.

Yes, there was a big chunk of coincidence when Jonathan turns up at the lake as the son of a friend of the people Leda is working for, but their relationship, from distrust, suspicion and dismay to growing friendship is wonderful to read. The author isn’t afraid to make Leda weak and scared, but she also gives her a backbone which she finds away from her revolting boyfriend, making her see how badly he had treated her, and how badly she has behaved as a result.

And Jonathan realises he does have friends and support in unlikely places. It really is a novel about coming of age, of small town “values” and school politics. There’s such a lot in a relatively quick yet powerful read. Some may find it slightly preachy in places, but if they do, maybe they should question why. For me, the book had a lovely feel-good ending from such unpromising beginnings, and a message we should all be aware and take notice of.

BLURB

Seventeen-year-old Leda Keogh is present when her boyfriend, David, commits a hate crime against a gay couple at the town reservoir on a warm May night. When David threatens to narc on her mother’s drug dealing if Leda confesses to what she’s seen, Leda tries to escape the consequences, by taking a summer job out of town.

Jonathan Eales is one of the victims. When he and his boyfriend, Ricky, are caught skinny dipping by two high school thugs, Jonathan manages to swim out of reach, but watches in horror as Ricky is severely beaten.

Jonathan wants to fight back, but fears the small rural community, where he is an outsider, will protect their own.Two voices weave a coming-of-age story that confronts diversity and bullying in rural America.

18Jan/19

Rebecca Langham

January 18, 2019


It gives us great pleasure to welcome Rebecca Langham back as the guest on Episode 199 – And I Cried That She Cried!

Rebecca Langham returns to tell us about her upcoming novel, Breaking the Surface, the second novel in The Outsider Project series. We also discuss her retold fairytale, Finding Aurora, and her romance work under the pen name Kara Ripley.

Follow Rebecca and support her work:

Books mentioned in this episode:

Bio:

Rebecca Langham lives in the Blue Mountains (Australia) with her partner, children, and menagerie of pets. She has been a foster carer for ten years.

A Xenite, a Whovian and all-round general nerd, Rebecca is a lover of science fiction, comic books, and caffeine. When she isn’t teaching History to high schoolers or wrangling children, Rebecca enjoys playing broomball and reading.

Her Sci-Fi novel Beneath the Surface was released by NineStar Press in January 2018. She is currently in the final stages of writing the sequel, Breaking the Surface.

This Podcast episode is available on these channels (in order alphabetical):
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Or right here:


January 26, 2018


It gives us great pleasure to welcome Rebecca Langham as the guest on Episode 148: And That’s By Design!!

This week Rebecca Langham joins us to talk about her first novel Beneath the Surface, playing Broomball, genre-before-romance, being Australian, and then drop the dish on her next book!

Follow Rebecca and support her work:

Bio:

Rebecca Langham lives in the Blue Mountains (Australia) with her partner, three children, and menagerie of pets. A Xenite, a Whovian and all-round general nerd, she’s a lover of science fiction, comic books, and caffeine. When she isn’t teaching History to high schoolers or wrangling children, Rebecca enjoys playing broomball and reading.

Her Sci-Fi novel Beneath the Surface will be released by NineStar Press in early 2018. The sequel is currently being drafted.

This Podcast episode is available on these channels (in order alphabetical):
Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayiHeartRadioSpotifyStitcherTuneIn

Or right here:

11Jan/19

Josh Aterovis

January 11, 2019


It gives us great pleasure to welcome Josh Aterovis as the guest on Episode 198 – Suddenly There Was a Dead Body!

Josh Aterovis joins us to discuss his YA sleuth series (with the current release of A Change of Worlds), and how the landscape of queer YA has changed so much from 2001 when he published his first gay mystery novel.

Follow Josh and support his work:

Books mentioned in this episode:

Bio:

Josh Aterovis fell in love with mystery novels in the fourth grade when he discovered the Nancy Drew series in his school library. He soon moved on to Agatha Christie, which led to a lifelong love affair with whodunits, culminating in his award-winning Killian Kendall mystery series.

His first book, Bleeding Hearts, introduced gay teen sleuth Killian Kendall, and won several awards, including the Whodunit Award from the StoneWall Society. All Lost Things was a 2010 Lambda Literary Award finalist for Gay Mystery.

Aterovis grew up on the bucolic Eastern Shore of Maryland, which, coincidentally, just happens to be the setting for the Killian Kendall books. He now lives in the quirkiest city in America — Baltimore, Maryland — where, besides writing, he is also an artist and, sometimes, an actor.

This Podcast episode is available on these channels (in order alphabetical):
Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayiHeartRadioSpotifyStitcherTuneIn

Or right here:

04Jan/19

Tash McAdam

January 4, 2019


It gives us great pleasure to welcome Tash McAdam as the guest on Episode 197 – Cassius Is Screaming!

Tash McAdam joins us for a ripping conversation about the status of YA, their current release, I Am the Storm, and about the importance of trans and queer representation in literature.

Follow Tash and support their work:

Books mentioned in this episode:

Bio:

Tash is a Computer Science and English teacher in Canada, although they were born and raised in the hilly sheepland of Wales (and have lived in South Korea and Chile before settling down in Vancouver). Tash identifies as trans and queer and uses the neutral pronoun ‘they’. As an English teacher they are fully equipped to defend that grammar! They have a degree in computer science so their nerd chat makes sense, and a couple of black belts in karate which are very helpful when it comes to writing fight scenes.

Their novel writing endeavours began at the age of eight although they will admit that their first attempt was derivative, at best. Since then, Tash has spent time falling in streams, out of trees, juggling, dreaming about zombies, dancing, painting, learning and then teaching Karate, running away with the circus, and of course, writing.

They write fast-paced, plot-centric action adventure with diverse casts. They write the books that they wanted to read as a queer kid and young adult (and still do!)

This Podcast episode is available on these channels (in order alphabetical):
Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayiHeartRadioSpotifyStitcherTuneIn

Or right here:

03Jan/19

Finding Aurora by Rebecca Langham

I love re-imagined fairytales, so when I was given the opportunity to read this, it was with great anticipation. It’s a shame when expectations aren’t met, but I wasn’t disappointed. The author knows how to command a shorter story and make it count. The very issues I struggled with in her longer novel, Beneath The Surface, (mainly the dizzying amount of detail) have been tempered slightly, resulting in a far more balanced, assured read. Every word counts, and the result is like a cardinal finch, a flash of red, dazzling and gorgeous, then it’s gone. At approximately 25,000 words it isn’t a chunky read, but one with depth and character.

It’s hard to review this without giving anything away, but the real love affair is hiding in plain sight as Prince Amir ventures on his quest to rescue the slumbering Aurora. There’s a tense battle scene, some hideous monsters, loss and grief, as well as a gorgeous denouement as love conquers all (that isn’t a spoiler – we all know the story of Sleeping Beauty, after all.) In one word: delicious.

BLURB

Aurora Rose slumbers in the city of Oldpass, a cursed kingdom once allied with Grimvein. The victim of a malicious spell, she is powerless to control her own fate. At least, that’s how the story goes.

Now, as Grimvein faces attack, Prince Amir has been tasked with the life-threatening rescue of Aurora, his parents hopeful he will marry the princess and secure safety for their kingdom. Talia, the strongest spellcaster in the known lands, protects and guides the prince in his quest to save a woman that threatens to change their lives forever. 

In finding Aurora, the pair will realise the truth about themselves and each other, coming to understand just what – and who – they really want in life. 

03Jan/19

The Swap by Annabella Michaels

This is enjoyable fluff, in places so sweet it made my teeth hurt. It’s like playing Chubby Bunnies with giant marshmallows. You get the idea. At first it seemed to be a straightforward romance, with a het couple mutually agreeing to split and support each other whilst finding fulfilment with other romantic partners. That would have been a great story in itself, with the inevitable pitfalls, misunderstandings, jealousies, etc., but the story didn’t quite go where I was expecting.

Sam is bisexual, but had married a childhood friend after getting her pregnant. Now they’ve realised their love is, and has always been, platonic, so they decide to split. Their college-age daughter takes it rather well, considering she then has to process the fact that her father’s new romance is male, after a lifetime of assuming her parents were locked in loving heterosexual matrimony. Again, the story didn’t go where I was expecting.

So the couple go to a “swap party” which wasn’t really one, as everyone seemed to have their eye on someone else before they put their keys in the bowl. Sam spots Oliver, sassy supermodel, highly successful. They eye-fuck each other whilst Sam is actually having sex with another woman, and get together after that. And they say romance is dead.

Sam and Oliver’s relationship develops quickly. I have nothing against insta-love whatsoever, but I sensed this was a book trying to be a bit more than a frivolous romance, and for me it didn’t quite fit. Still, the sexy scenes were well-written and pretty hot, so it was easy to not ask too many questions of the plot.

Again, this would have been enough, with all the complications that arise from having a super-successful, much younger lover and Sam working through his newfound bi status. At times I felt like saying to them, “I get it, you adore each other. Enough already,” but I want to stress the author did a great job of emphasising that Sam had not just gone “gay for you” or “straight to gay” but was indeed bisexual, and I could feel how important it was to make that distinction.

Where I felt the story was weakest, was in the conflict. A serial killer plot had been shoehorned in about half-way through the book and it just wasn’t necessary. There was a disconnect between that and the rest of the plot, with too much tell at the end and not enough show. It struck a tone-deaf note in what was otherwise a solid erotic romance, albeit one with rather too much navel-gazing on behalf of the protagonists.

Otherwise, The Swap was an easy read, somewhat lumpy in places, with lots of sex (yeah, some of it seemed unnecessary but it was finely done so …) and two likeable main characters. Oliver seemed just a little too good to be true, but I was in the mood to read about nice people, so right now I’ll count that as a win.

BLURB

When their daughter goes off to college, Samuel and his wife Gayle begin to take stock of their lives. Realizing they’re best friends and not in love with one another, the two agree to an amicable split. Nervous about jumping back into the dating world, they accept a friend’s invitation to attend a swap party. 

Tossing their keys into a bowl and leaving it up to fate to decide who they’re paired with is too tempting to resist. But when Samuel is faced with an audacious young man who strikes up a conversation, the attraction to men he’s kept buried for so long comes rushing back. 

At twenty-two years old, Oliver Hughes is one of the most sought after male models in the world. Sassy and bold, with a penchant for wearing high heels and a touch of makeup, Oliver’s life is what he always dreamed it could be. Except for one thing… 

Yearning to fall in love and settle down, Oliver’s grown bored of meaningless hookups with shallow, fame seeking guys. While attending a swap party, his last-ditch effort to find someone who doesn’t know who he is when they meet, Oliver finds himself drawn to a handsome, older man. One who’s endearingly unaware of his own appeal. 

As their relationship grows, something sinister and dark threatens what they’ve managed to build. What will it take for Oliver and Samuel to survive, and is their happily ever after doomed from the start?