Thursday, 19 January 2017

Chasing Shadows Spotlight

Great to be spotlighting Chasing Shadows by TA Williams today!

Chasing Shadows by T. A. Williams

Amy had it all – money, brains and beauty. And then the accident happened.
The Present Day: Left blind and without her family, Amy feels she needs to get away. On a trip along the Camino, she is accompanied by the mysterious and troubled Luke. Having been set up to help Amy by a mutual friend, Luke finds he is also running from his past…

1314: A Templar Knight, Luc, is also running. He meets the wife of a former comrade, now blinded in a terrifying attack: Aimee. Taking her under his wing, they must journey together through a dangerous world.

As they travel through the stunning scenery of Northern Spain, this couple, so very like Luke and Amy, emerge from the shadows of time carrying a treasure of inestimable value.

Information about the Book

Title: Chasing Shadows
Author: T. A. Williams
Release Date: 16th January 2017
Genre: Romance
Publisher: Canelo
Format: Ebook

Author Information

My name is Trevor Williams. I write under the androgynous name T A Williams because 65% of books are read by women. In my first book, "Dirty Minds" one of the (female) characters suggests the imbalance is due to the fact that men spend too much time getting drunk and watching football. I couldn't possibly comment. Ask my wife...
My background, before taking up writing full time, was in teaching and I was principal of a big English language school for many years. This involved me in travelling all over the world and my love of foreign parts is easy to find in my books. I speak a few languages and my Italian wife and I still speak Italian together.
I've written all sorts: thrillers, historical novels, short stories and now I'm enjoying myself hugely writing humour and romance. My most recent books are the What happens… series. What happens in Tuscany reached #1 in the Romantic Comedy chart and What Happens on the Beach, the last in the series, came out in July. Chasing Shadows is still romance, but with the added spice of a liberal helping of medieval history, one of my pet hobbies. I do a lot of cycling and I rode all the way to Santiago de Compostela on a bike a few years back. This provided both the inspiration and the background research for Chasing Shadows.
I’m originally from Exeter, and I’ve lived all over Europe, but now I live in a little village in sleepy Devon, tucked away down here in south west England. I love the place.


'This is nice.’ Her voice sounded happy. She reached over so that she was gripping his arm with both hands again. They walked on in silence for a while, until a large rock loomed ahead of them. The snow had melted off it completely in the spring sunshine, and its bulk formed an effective windbreak. He guided her towards it.

‘Fancy a rest in the sunshine?’

‘It’ll be nice to get out of that bitter wind.’ She readily agreed.

They took up positions side by side, the sun warming their faces. She could feel the warmth of his body beside her. It felt very reassuring. More than reassuring, she thought to herself. This feels right. She breathed deeply, but said nothing. He cleared his throat in that way she had come to recognise. It meant he was embarrassed and she heard him launch into tour guide mode.

‘We’re facing west now and we’re in the lee of the rock. That’s why that cold wind’s stopped. You can see the tracks we’ve made in the snow quite clearly. We’re the first humans to come across here since the last snowstorm. Mind you, from the mass of other tracks, it must be a real wildlife show when we’re not around. Those are deer, I would think, and there are lots of rabbits or hares. There are bigger tracks over there, but I suppose they might have been made by a dog. No wolves left now, though the area was crawling with them in the Middle Ages.’

He rattled on, conscious that he was overdoing it. Deep inside he was afraid that if he didn’t, the conversation might take a more intimate turn. His emotions, held in check now for so many years, were still so uncertain. As ever, he did his best to suppress them. Anyway, he reminded himself, he was here as her guide. It would be all too easy to abuse the trust placed in him. ‘Bears, too, of course. There are supposed to be ten or twenty brown bears in this area nowadays, but it’s very unusual to come across one. Mind you, in...’

‘…in the Middle Ages, the area must have been crawling with them.’ She finished the sentence for him, a gently mocking note in her voice.

(Tour Schedule below!)

Tour Schedule

Monday 16th January

Tuesday 17th January

Wednesday 18th January

Thursday 19th January

Friday 20th January

Saturday 21st January

Sunday 22nd January

Monday 23rd January

Tuesday 24th January

Wednesday 25th January

Thursday 26th January

Friday 27th January

Saturday 28th January

Sunday 29th January

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Jughead, Riverdale, and Asexual Erasure

I've been really excited for the upcoming CW show Riverdale ever since it was first announced. It's based on the excellent Archie comics, the casting looks wonderful, and the source material has that rarest of things, a canon asexual character in Jughead.

So the news a few days ago that actually, in this adaptation, Jughead wouldn't be asexual and would instead be chasing the ladies, made me really sad, and has taken away much of my enthusiasm for the show.

I'm trying to process whether I was expecting too much here. While actor Cole Sprouse has stated that he hoped his character would be ace as in the comics, it's never been officially stated whether he would or wouldn't be, prior to this news, as far as I'm aware. But (at the risk of sounding hopelessly naive) it just seemed to make perfect sense that he would be. Firstly, it just seems as if two straight guys, a gay guy and an ace guy opens up more interesting storyline possibilities than three straight guys and a gay guy does. An ace character who has a great group of friends could really have helped push back against the cold and solitary representation which makes up a large proportion of the tiny amount of ace rep we DO get.

And secondly, while I don't generally look at upcoming shows with the thought of "Oh wow, potential ace character!" because that would be a surefire way to massive disappointment, I feel that hoping one of the most well-known canon asexual characters is portrayed as ace is surely reasonable? I honestly don't think the importance of the panels in Jughead #4 last year, where the character was confirmed on page as being ace, can be overstated. This was an established character, talking openly with a friend about being ace, and it felt completely and 100% natural. Reading that as a teen would have given me so much hope that not being sexually attracted to people wasn't a big deal.

And while I'm so, so glad that Chip Zdarsky made Jughead an on the page ace in the comic - and I'm hugely pleased that there are some great representations of ace spectrum characters in YA books I'll mention below - I know that the TV series is likely to have a much wider reach that the comics or any of the currently available YA novels do. For me, on screen rep in a contemporary TV series - especially one aimed at teens - would have been a huge step forward and I think it's a real missed opportunity.

That said, Cole Sprouse has me not ready to completely give up yet. He really sounds as if he understands the importance of Jughead's sexuality, and while I know actors have limited power to change anything, I appreciate that he's making his voice heard about the issue. He said to MTV news that it was possible events in season 1 needed to happen for "Jughead to eventually realise that kind of narrative." Here's hoping!

I appreciate this hasn't been the most cheerful of posts, and while I definitely think we need much more ace rep than we have, some of the stuff that IS out there is really good - so I wanted to share some recommendations for it.

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman - one of the most important characters in this one is demisexual; it's talked about on page and it's a wonderful representation.

This Song Is (Not) For You by Laura Nowlin - straight guy, ace guy, straight girl love triangle. GLORIOUS relationship here and fabulous on-page rep.

What The Heart Wants by Naomi Tajedler - super cute short story; f/f relationship at the heart of it but there's also a straight girl/ace guy romance for two side characters which is absolutely lovely too.

Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate - great story with seven leads, including a pan character and an ace/aro character. The words 'asexual/aromantic' aren't used, which would normally strike me as a missed opportunity BUT I can forgive Riley as I think it's pretty clear that it fits the character not to use them. (As opposed to the pan character, who DOES use the word proudly; again this is a perfect fit for them.)

Rock & Riot by Cheriiart - absolutely wonderful webcomic with gay, lesbian, bi, trans, non-binary and ace characters. Think Grease but hugely diverse. Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous!!

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Top Ten Underrated Books I've Read In The Past Year Or So

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

I always find 'underrated' really hard to define! I've gone for 400 or less ratings on Goodreads.

The Emily Sparkes series by Ruth Fitzgerald (Little, Brown)

I tend to prefer MG adventure stories to contemporaries, but my two exceptions are Ruth Fitzgerald and Susie Day's books. Both of them capture their characters perfectly, with wonderful humour and brilliant friendships. This quartet is an absolute gem of a series, with the hilarious title character dealing with everything from trying to avoid being paired with Gross-Out Gavin for a trip, to aiming to stop her dad embarrassing her by DJing the school disco.

The Storey Street books by Phil Earle and Sara Ogilvie (Orion)

I wasn't 100% sure what to expect from Phil's MG books; his YA novels are superb but deal with tough topics; they are very emotional reads. As good as those YA books are, though, his MG ones are even more wonderful. I love the warmth, heart and humour he brings to his characters in this great reads (they're loosely linked, taking place in the same street and with recurring characters, but can easily be read as stand-alones.) In addition, the pairing of Phil and Sara Ogilvie is a stroke of genius, they complement each other perfectly.

Love Beyond Body, Space And Time: An Indigenous LGBT Sci-Fi Anthology edited by Hope Nicholson (Bedside Press)

Currently reading but on course to be one of the best short story collections I've ever read. Lots of variety here and it's great to see own voices representation of indigenous people. The stand-out for me so far is The Boys Who Became The Hummingbirds by Daniel Heath Justice, some of the most beautiful writing I've read for years and a stunning story.

Seven Tears At High Tide by CB Lee  

Gorgeous romance between Asian-American bisexual guy Kevin and Morgan, a half-human half-selkie. The main draw here is the fabulous chemistry between the two leads, but I also loved CB Lee's wonderful world-building.

Sawbones by Catherine Johnson (Walker) 

Part of me is kicking myself that this was published in 2013 and I only got around to reading it late last year because it is BRILLIANT; on the plus side this at least means I have the sequel to hand rather than needing to wait three years as early readers did. Ezra, a surgeon's apprentice, and Loveday, a magician's daughter, are fantastic characters and work superbly well as a pairing. Great setting of late 18th century London, as well - sequel Blade and Bone takes place in Paris and I'm excited to see how Catherine brings another city to life.

Eden Summer by Liz Flanagan (David Fickling Books)

My favourite setting of last year, as Liz Flanagan brings the West Yorkshire countryside to life wonderfully well in this intriguing tale of two best friends - gothy Jess and popular Eden - and what happens when Eden disappears and Jess is left trying to figure out what has become of her. Awesome characters with a really interesting friendship, too.

Superior by Jessica Lack (Book Smugglers)

If you have any interest in super-cute gay romances, or superhero stories (one of the leads here is a superhero's intern, while the other is a supervillain's apprentice) you absolutely need this in your life! Completely gorgeous m/m story.

I'll Be Home For Christmas (Stripes)

Another fabulous short story collection featuring some of the best writers in UKYA - and raising money for homelessness charity Crisis too! I especially loved the stories here by Juno Dawson, Sita Brahmachari and Cat Clarke of the ones I've read so far (I'm dipping in every so often as I want to savour it); but there's bound to be something for everyone here.

Russell's Attic series by SL Huang (self-published)

This is such an awesomely action-packed thriller series, featuring a lead character who's basically the equivalent of Jack Reacher if he was a young woman with an incredible ability at mathematics. Cas Russell can dodge bullets, return Molotov cocktails, and perform many other incredible feats using her genius (superhuman?) levels of calculation. The moral dilemmas Cas faces as her new friend Arthur's essential goodness rubs off on her, meaning she's trying NOT to do stuff that could randomly kill bystanders, adds heart to the series.

Waiting For Callback series by Perdita and Honor Cargill (Simon & Schuster)

So many awesome fun YA contemporaries out there, and this series is definitely one of the best! I love the sparkling dialogue which is a major strong point, while there's great characterisation (Elektra is a fabulous MC) and book two, in particular, provides a hilarious look at the movie business. 

Monday, 16 January 2017

Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

I'm so excited that Neighbours is back on our TV screen! Over the last 25 years or so, my taste in most areas of entertainment has changed massively (and, in some cases, looped back around to where I started.) In books, I've gone from mainly reading classic children's books and series as a child, jumping straight to adult stuff as a teen (mainly horror, which is way too scary for me now, and crime) and now mainly reading YA - partly because there is such an incredible variety out there compared to when I WAS a teen. In music, I've gone from loving folk and country, to rock, to musicals, and now sort of quite enjoy all of them. When it comes to films, I'll try nearly anything. And for TV series, I spent most of the 90s watching sitcoms which haven't held up well, and police procedurals I no longer have the attention span to follow.

But back when I was perhaps 7 or 8 - a few years after it started in the UK - I got hooked on Neighbours, regularly watching with my friend and his two older sisters at his house after school. That was a friendship which had seemed firm at the time, but actually lasted just a few years more. My relationship with Neighbours, on the other hand, started off shakily (we even tried Home & Away at various points in that first year or so!) but has endured and my love for it has grown.

That's not to say it's always been plain sailing. There have been various times when I've stopped watching, either because I've grown irritated (normally at plots involving Paul; more of this later!) or just haven't found the time. But it's never been more than six months or so before I've brought myself back to it and realised why I've loved it so much for so long.

I think soap operas have an inherent advantage over nearly every other form of story telling I enjoy.  I have followed the fortunes and misfortunes of some of the characters - Karl, Susan and Toadie, especially - for over 20 years, and my emotions regarding them far outweigh those I have for anyone in films, other TV shows, or even books. (I can hear the shocked gasps from regular readers!) I really love that Neighbours - in recent years especially - has such a strong respect for its own history, and it's been great to see former cast members reappear (none so memorably as Drew and Stingray in Neighbours vs Zombies!), past characters' relations enter the show, and in some cases both at once - the return of old flames Brad Willis and Lauren Carpenter, each with their own families, has given us many of my favourite storylines of the past few years.

For me, it's currently in a particularly strong place - I'm loving the romantic tension between Aaron and David, and think David's struggle between his feelings for Aaron and his great grandmother's homophobia is well-portrayed. I also really like that David's brother, Leo, is so supportive of him. Going back as far as Sky/Lana in 2003, I think Neighbours has generally done same-sex relationships pretty well so I have high hopes for this one. I'm also intrigued by the apparent return of Toadie's wife Dee, supposedly dead since their car crashed just after the wedding, while Leo & Amy, Paige & Jack, and Xanthe & Ben are all couples I think work well together.

Of course, few things are perfect, and Paul Robinson is simultaneously one of the best things about Neighbours and the most frustrating. From the moment he returned in 2004, reappearing through the smoke of the Lassiter's fire, Stefan Dennis has been compelling as the 'love to hate' businessman. But while Paul's constant switching between 'good guy' and 'bad guy' works to some extent for his own character - he's greedy and Machiavellian, but genuinely cares about the people he loves and will try to help them - it screws up many other characters who respond to him in ridiculous ways. Chief failure here - on the part of the writers and not the wonderful Jackie Woodburne - is Susan. She's an intelligent woman who has been a great teacher and principal of Erinsborough High, an impressive reporter, and has touched the lives of so many troubled teens. And yet there have been so many times in the last 12 years when she has been left looking foolish for trusting Paul, who has disappointed her. Why, Susan? I get that you are a lovely person and try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but can you seriously be surprised any more? As in the story of the scorpion and the frog, Paul is a scorpion - it's what he does!

So it's not perfect, but I think it's the only thing in the last three years or so that I've considered 'must-see TV' - except, of course, for the 2014 Halloween spin-off Neighbours vs Zombies, which WAS perfect.

Are there any soaps you're a big fan of? Do you think they have an advantage over other forms of story telling when it comes to provoking an emotional reaction? Leave me a comment or tweet me to let me know!

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Shorts on Sunday #3

My new Shorts on Sunday feature continues!

(Title links go to Goodreads pages where available.)

Saboteur by Ha Jin

Available: Best American Short Stories 1997 edited by Annie Proulx and Katrina Kenison

StoryA Chinese university lecturer and his bride are drinking tea in a square when a policeman provokes a confrontation and unjustly arrests him. He's thrown into a cell where his captors demand he sign a confession that he is a saboteur.

Why I'm recommendingHard to say too much without giving anything away - this is the shortest story I've included yet - but this is stunning and brilliantly written and plotted. The tension builds quickly - will the main character confess? - while the story looks at just how far people will go.

Mrs Dutta Writes A Letter by Chitra B. Divakaruni
Available: Online at The Atlantic

StoryAn Indian widow who has recently moved to live with her son and daughter-in-law with their children tries to respond to a letter from a friend back home asking if she's happy in America.

Why I'm recommendingThis is a moving and beautiful story of the culture shock experienced by Mrs Dutta, the differences between cultures and generations, and the conflict between duty and doing what's best for yourself. Definitely an author I'll be seeking out more from!

Complementary and Acute by Ella Lyons
Available: Free on Smashwords

Story: Anabelle has big plans for senior year, most of which involve her best friend and roommate Jac. But when Jac comes out as a lesbian and drops out of the Number Ninjas program they are part of, Anabelle has to figure out a few things herself.

Why I'm recommending: Gorgeously cute f/f love story. It's about 50 pages and so many swoons packed into a short novella! The romance is super-sweet but I also really like the way Ella Lyons writes friendships between her lead characters as well. 

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Twenty Things I've Read #6

My new (hopefully weekly!) links recap format continues! 

As mentioned in week 1, there are some sites which could quite conceivably fill this list between them EVERY WEEK as they constantly produce amazing posts - and I find it way too hard to single them out! So instead, I will just list them at the start of each post. If you're not reading the following, you are REALLY missing out.

Safe Space

Media Diversified
The Pool
Teen Vogue 

The Twenty:

Probably my favourite discovery of the year so far (thanks Erica Gillingham for tweeting about it!) is webcomic Rock and Riot. If you love Grease but wish there were gay, lesbian, bi, trans, non-binary and ace characters, don't miss this!!

I was sad to read Jenny Colgan's review of Nadiya Hussain's Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters in the Guardian - I strongly disagree with her idea of books being a 'zero sum game', for a start. Zainab Akhtar's thread on Twitter about the review is a must-read.

Given my friend Charlie's AMAZING taste I should clearly watch/read/listen to anything she recommends immediately. Somehow it took this Bim Adewunmi piece on Lovesick to get me to get around to watching it, but I'm so glad I did!

Speaking of TV shows, I loved this awesome post from A Life Less Physical on shows to binge watch.

I know there are some massive problems with Twitter, and the refusal to do enough to combat abuse is awful. However I think for me, personally, being able to talk to and read the thoughts of so many incredible people has really made me a better person. There's a great post on this from Always Opinionated Girl here.

In Glamour Magazine, author Juno Dawson interviewed her mum about Juno's transition - a really wonderful piece.

In The Heights just closed after a fantastic run in the King's Cross Theatre (I saw it 9 times; definitely one of my favourite ever shows.) Sam Mackay, who starred as Usnavi, gave a fabulous interview here.

And going from one Lin-Manuel Miranda show to another, Hamilton star Phillipa Soo has a great interview here.
Fabulous blogger Bookavid has a great list of own voices books by POC authors.

And the Daily Beast have a fabulous interview with Vivica A Fox about upcoming all-male stripper show Vivica's Black Magic, which sounds great! 

There's a great post here from Julie Dao on Life After The Book Deal. (I am VERY excited for her Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns!) 

Lots and lots of great book recommendation posts recently! I loved Jared's recommendations of his favourite comics from 2016.

Looking ahead to 2017, brilliant post by Sue on her 24 most anticipated books of the coming year.

And the fabulous Swapna Krishna's wrote an awesome piece for Bustle on 10 Books by Indian Authors To Look Out For.

Airy Reads shared some Asian YA/MG books to watch for in the next 12 months.

I love this fabulous post on I Live And Breathe Words sharing lots of options for the #DiversityBingo2017 challenge.

Speaking of challenges, If you're doing the Read Harder challenge, Book Riot's Rebecca Hussey has an awesome post on classics by authors of colour.

I try and read and review diversely, but one thing that worries me is that I don't always pick up on things that could be hurtful to readers. For cis reviewers who want to recommend books about (and especially to) trans people, this list of trans/non-binary books reviewed by trans/n-b reviewers is an incredible resource. Many thanks to Corey Alexander; they have done an amazing job putting it together.

For anyone who is considering getting a sensitivity read (which should be anyone writing about marginalised people!) Justina Ireland has a great post here about them.

And finally, I loved Shreya Ila Anasuya's piece on India's asexuality networks.

News and Things:

Claire, Kay and Chelsea launched awesome podcast Sisterhood of the Traveling Paperbacks

And two very exciting book deal announcements - this one from last month, which I only just saw. The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo, about a Dominican-American teenager discovering the power of slam poetry, is coming in winter 2018 and sounds AMAZING! And just announced, the wonderful Tehlor Kay Mejia will release her debut in 2019, When We Set The Dark On Fire, with revolution brewing in the streets of a world where high society men get two wives. The lead is a young woman at a school where she's trained to be a wife, whose secret sends her into the arms of her husband-to-be's second wife - this sounds fantastic! 

My Posts:

Busy week for me!

I posted my second Shorts on Sunday feature, with Katherine Webber - author of the fabulous Wing Jones - becoming my first guest poster on the feature.

I also launched my new 'recommendations for secondary school librarians' feature which I'm hoping to run fortnightly. Part 1, with the first 10, is here.

For Top Ten Tuesday, the prompt was books you meant to read in 2016 but didn't. I think I could've got to 30 easily, but was restrained...

On Wednesday, I posted about things I'm trying to do differently in 2017.

Thursday's post saw me share my rough (subject to change!) TBR for DiversityBingo2017, along with some recs in various categories.

And on Friday I was thrilled when Stripes let me reveal the cover for a book I'm highly anticipated, Katy Cannon's And Then We Ran! Check out the gorgeous cover, designed in-house by Lizzie Gardiner.

Friday, 13 January 2017

And Then We Ran Cover Reveal

I am a huge fan of Katy Cannon's - her books Love, Lies and Lemon Pies and Secrets, Schemes and Sewing Machines are really wonderful reads. As I'm hugely excited for her new book, And Then We Ran - coming on April 7th - I was really happy when publishers Stripes got in touch to ask if I'd share the stunning cover, designed in house by Lizzie Gardiner!

So, a little information about the book first...

A perfect road-trip story about following your dreams and embracing the unexpected.

Megan has her sights set on becoming a photographer, despite her parents’ insistence that she should take an academic path after school. She’s determined to be independent and so when an opportunity to pursue her dream appears, she jumps at it. But for Megan to achieve her goal, she’s going to need help – and when help presents itself in the form of Elliott, it’s not at all what she was expecting. But Elliott needs help, too, and maybe doing things alone isn’t always best…

And now, that cover!

To keep up to date on the book, don't miss following Katy on Twitter, where she's @KatyJoCannon, and of couorse the publishers @StripesBooks!