Monthly Archives: January 2019

28Jan/19

Power Surge by Sara Codair

Sara Codair was one of our lovely guests recently on WROTE. To find out more about them and find links to their work, check out Episode 194: Yeah That Happens!

Power Surge is Part 1 of the Evanstar Chronicles. Erin has a lot on their plate. Having recently come off meds for ADHD, they they think the visions they are experiencing are due to mental health problems. From being stalked by a sinister demon, to seeing fairies and pixies flitting in front of them, it isn’t surprising they think they are slowly going insane. Added to that, they are dealing with unfamiliar feelings for Jose, a childhood friend who has now become more than just a good friend, and at night they are haunted by nightmares. Also, there is the issue of being non-binary in a college full of jocks and prom queens, most of whom dismiss Erin as an ugly nobody, and family issues as well, as their previously close-knit family seems to be falling apart.

So it’s a lot to take in. Understandably, there’s a lot of description as at first, as we need to see inside Erin’s head to understand what they are going through. The balance of dialogue and prose is a little uneven, giving the story a slightly confusing start and this did mean my attention strayed a little, trying to grasp all these different conundrums and elements of Erin’s character. Having said that, the writing was incredibly good, and I really felt Erin’s dilemma as a young person trying to deal with the real world as well as what they assume is incipient madness.

The scene where they find out they are not alone, and Jose is right there with them, also seeing visions, is the best in the book in my opinion. I really felt their relief and joy. Until then, they had been keeping Jose at arm’s length, not wanting to inflict their problems onto him. They had been dealing with the bitchy girls in their social group, and feelings of isolation, so that scene was a wonderful moment.

There were also some gorgeous warm scenes with Erin’s family, and some really terrifying ones when the demons reveal themselves. Power Surge is a melting pot of young people’s issues, dealing with mental health, bullying, gender identity, family crises, superheroes who cannot fly and saving the world from imminent disaster.

Okay, so I didn’t connect with the book as much as I wanted to, mainly due to trying to process all these aspects whilst my brain was fried from dealing with Christmas, but that isn’t the author’s fault. This is a solid story of good v. evil, told by a narrator with vary real issues in a strange, creepy and sometimes beautiful world.

Finally, two things. First, the way they deal with mental health, not demonising it, but acknowledging it can really ruin a persons’ life, is brilliant and unafraid to say “look, this is just how it is sometimes, and it sucks.”

And second, the pronouns weren’t even an issue. Erin is non-binary, and the them/their pronouns sounded as natural as she/her or he/him do in 99.9 percent of fiction, This is an #ownvoices author who deserves recognition from readers of all genders.

BLURB

Erin has just realized that for the entirety of their life, their family has lied to them. Their Sight has been masked for years, so Erin thought the Pixies and Mermaids were hallucinations. Not only are the supernatural creatures they see daily real, but their grandmother is an Elf, meaning Erin isn’t fully human. On top of that, the dreams Erin thought were nightmares are actually prophecies.

While dealing with the anger they have over all of the lies, they are getting used to their new boyfriend, their boyfriend’s bullying ex, and the fact that they come from a family of Demon Hunters. As Erin struggles through everything weighing on them, they uncover a Demon plot to take over the world.

Erin just wants some time to work through it all on their own terms, but that’s going to have to wait until after they help save the world.


25Jan/19

Alex Harrow

January 25, 2019


It gives us great pleasure to welcome Alex Harrow as the guest on Episode 200 – Wait Wait This Is A Thing!

Alex Harrow joins us for a great conversation about the release of their first novel, Empire of Light, the importance of representation and #ownvoices within the community, and writing in a language that isn’t your first.

Follow Alex and support their work:

Books mentioned in this episode:

Bio:

Alex Harrow is a genderqueer, pansexual, and demisexual author of queer science fiction and fantasy. Alex’ pronouns are they/them. When not writing queerness with a chance of explosions, Alex is a high school English teacher, waging epic battles against comma splices, misused apostrophes, and anyone under the delusion that the singular ‘they’ is grammatically incorrect.

A German immigrant, Alex has always been drawn to language and stories. They began to write when they realized that the best guarantee to see more books with queer characters was to create them. Alex cares deeply about social justice and wants to see diverse characters, including LGBTQ+ protagonists, in more than the stereotypical coming out story.

Alex currently lives in Utah with their equally geeky wife, outnumbered by three adorable feline overlords, and what could not possibly be too many books.

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

Or right here:

24Jan/19

I Am The Storm by Tash McAdam

Tash McAdam was with us very recently on WROTE. To find out more about them and their work, check out Episode 197: Cassius Is Screaming!

This book is a rewrite of a previous book, SLAM, but as there is 60% new material, it really is a fresh start. I Am The Storm is Part 1 of the The Psionics series.

Part 1, I Am The Storm, is a tense game of cat and mouse as Sam, a Psionic who can control technology with his mind, has to go on the run to avoid being captured by the Institute, who want to harness his skill. He is also being chased by a resistance soldier, Serena, who needs him to help overthrow the Institute’s monopoly over the city.

When they finally meet and realise they are on the same side, we begin to see the human side of the characters, and that was when I really began to connect with them. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it beforehand. The book is extremely well-written, and the author knows how to play the tension and choreograph incredibly plausible and fast-paced action scenes.

But it isn’t all about the action. There are also some searing scenes of heartbreaking intimacy too, but I can’t say more than that without adding spoilers. The scenes at the Wall were incredible. I was sitting in a coffee shop reading this and honestly, every sound was drowned because I was so involved in the book. That’s an awesome talent, and those scenes alone were enough for me to decide this is definitely a YA author worth watching. It bodes well for the next book in the series. The ending is satisfying, with enough of a cliff-hanger to lead the story on but not so much that you want to scream for more straight away.

Only a few quibbles, the main one being I wasn’t fully engaged in the beginning and I’m still not sure why. I think it was because of the amount of tell rather than show, which can get in the way when a character is running for their life. Another was the slightly odd way the characters used the word “Google” in the way we would usually say “God.” Ie., Thank Google for that. I get that Google is the new God in this rain-drenched, Dystopian world (isn’t it already?) but it just took me out of the scene for a nano-second each time. I think that’s a personal preference though, and shouldn’t reflect badly on the quality of the writing.

Finally, the world-building is great, convincing and bleak, and the plot doesn’t flinch from difficult issues (death, mainly) and crucially, doesn’t try to be “down with the kids.” This is an intelligent novel, and a really strong start to a fast-paced YA sci-fi series.

BLURB

Keep your head down. Don’t look anyone in the eye. Never even think about technology if one of those ghostly, grey cars is sliding silently down the road. They’ll see the thoughts inside you, if you let them. 

Sam’s a technopath, able to control electronic signals and manipulate technology with his mind. And so, ever since childhood, his life has been a carefully constructed web of lies, meant to keep his Talent hidden, his powers a secret. But the Institute wants those unusual powers, and will do anything to get a hold of him and turn him into one of their mindless slaves. 

Sam slips up once. Just once, but that’s enough. Now the Institute is after him in full force. Soldiers, telekinetics and mind readers, all gunning just for him. 

Newly qualified rebel soldier, Serena, doesn’t even know she’s chasing a person, all she knows is that she has to find whatever the Institute is after before they do. But, tracking an unknown entity through an unfamiliar city, with inaccurate intelligence, unexpected storms, and the Watch on the prowl, will she even survive? Will she get to Sam before the Institute does? His special skills could provide the resistance with an incredible advantage, but not if they can’t get out of the city, and over the huge wall that stands between them and freedom. 

I AM THE STORM is the action-packed rewrite of SLAM, with 60% new material and a brand new ending. Don’t miss Book One in what is now a four part series, due in 2018. 

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):
Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayiHeartRadioSpotifyStitcherTuneIn

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?