Title: Yuletide Homicide Author: Jennifer David Hesse Series: Wiccan Wheel Mysteries #3 Format: Digital ARC, 320 pages Publication Details: September 26th 2017 by Kensington Genre(s): Mystery Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.
It’s Christmas in Edindale, Illinois, and family law attorney Keli Milanni is preparing to celebrate the Wiccan holiday Yuletide, a celebration of rebirth. But this Yuletide someone else is focused on dying . . .
After years of practicing in secret, Keli has come out as a Wiccan to her boyfriend, and she feels like this Yuletide she’s the one who’s being reborn. But the Solstice is the longest night of the year, and Keli is about to stumble on a mystery so dangerous, she’ll be lucky to make it to morning.
Paired with her unbearably stuffy colleague Crenshaw Davenport III, Keli goes undercover at a real estate company owned by mayoral candidate Edgar Harrison. An old friend of Keli’s boss, Harrison, is being blackmailed, and it’s up to her to find the culprit. But the morning after the company holiday party, Harrison is found dead underneath the hotel Christmas tree. The police rule the death an accident, but Keli knows better—and she’ll risk her own rebirth to nab a missing killer.
Yuletide Homicide is the third in a series of cozy mysteries with a fun, witchy twist. I hadn’t read the previous books in the series but it stood-alone pretty well, so I wouldn’t let that put you off.
The story centers around Keli, who is exploring her Wiccan faith, mainly in solitude, but as the novel unfolds she becomes more open about her religion and practices. The Wiccan element is just one small part of Keli’s life however – she’s a busy lady!
Keli is an attorney who seems to spend her time as more of an amateur sleuth than an actual attorney. Along with her eccentric colleague Crenshaw, Keli is thrust straight into a murder mystery when her boss asks her to find out who is blackmailing him. Not only does she discover who the blackmailer is, but she also finds his body.
I really enjoyed this book. It was a little bit silly in parts, and felt like one of those books that you have to take with a pinch of salt, but it was paced-well, written nicely, and entertaining. I love a good murder mystery, and this reminded me of the likes of Midsomer Murders, which I love.
I enjoyed the dynamic between Keli and Crenshaw, and think it’s great to have a regular, down to earth, Wiccan, protagonist. The only thing that annoyed me was that she wasn’t more ‘out’ and proud as a Wiccan, like it’s something to be ashamed of. It felt a little old-fashioned in its approach in that respect. Hopefully though, that’s all part of the overall series arc.
Yuletide Homicide was a nice alternative to all the festive romances out at the time that I read it. I hope I get to read more in the series in the future.
Title: Release Author: Patrick Ness Series: n/a Format: Hardback, 287 pages Publication Details:May 4th 2017 by Walker Books Genre(s): YA; Contemporary; LGBT Disclosure? Nope, my copy came with a ticket to the book launch – I was under no obligation to post a review.
Inspired by Mrs Dalloway and Judy Blume’s Forever, Release is one day in the life of Adam Thorn, 17. It’s a big day. Things go wrong. It’s intense, and all the while, weirdness approaches…
Adam Thorn is having what will turn out to be the most unsettling, difficult day of his life, with relationships fracturing, a harrowing incident at work, and a showdown between this gay teen and his preacher father that changes everything. It’s a day of confrontation, running, sex, love, heartbreak, and maybe, just maybe, hope. He won’t come out of it unchanged. And all the while, lurking at the edges of the story, something extraordinary and unsettling is on a collision course.
You should all know by now that I love Patrick Ness, so I was of course very excited about his new release, Release, especially considering my friend Dora and I got tickets to the premiere of the book tour.
I posted about the whole shebang here. It was such a great night with insightful and inspiring discussions that my already high expectation bar was pushed through the roof…and I can’t help feeling a little deflated by the whole thing now that I’ve finished the book. SAD PANDA.
Adam Thorn is a gay 17 year old with a bad-boy magnet best friend called Angela, a strict preacher father, and a couple of ex-boyfriends who have treated him pretty terribly. What could go wrong, I hear you say!?
I loved everything Patrick Ness said when discussing this book – the need for diversity in books to reflect the world we live in, the need for YA books with gay protagonists to not shy away from sex scenes, all of it, but it just felt a bit forced here and I think the story suffered because of that.
Release is actually quite a subtle book, and whereas I don’t think that’s a bad thing, I just wasn’t expecting that from all the passionate discussion points in the book launch. I’m not sure this is quite the book Patrick Ness thought he had written. It does spotlight some important issues, but I felt like it needed more drama to really pack a punch. In trying to make it tender, I think a lot of its potential was quashed.
Running alongside Adam’s story is a strange, morbid fairy-tale allegory about a faun and a queen who is actually the ghost of a recently deceased fellow student of Adam’s, and this just did not work for me at all. It came across as a bit pretentious to be honest and I ended up skipping nearly all of these sequences after about a third of the way through. VERY SAD PANDA.
It’s actually quite painful to slag off one of your favourite authors, but I’d be a pretty rubbish book blogger if I couldn’t be honest with myself about how I feel about a book. It has some lovely moments, and is of course written beautifully. And I love everything Patrick was wanting to say with Release, but I think maybe he tried a bit too hard and didn’t quite manage to pull it off.
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish(click the link to visit them) who pick a different topic each week.
This week the topic is… Top Ten Things On Our Reading Wishlist. All those things that make you think I WANT MORE OF THIS IN BOOKS!
I haven’t done one of these in a while. I really felt like joining in this week, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to think of ten…
Multi-cultural families: Inspired by something Patrick Ness said at his recent book tour premiere, and my recent read of The Inexplicable Logic of my Life I think there definitely needs to be more books featuring multi-cultural families. For example, a Scottish father and a Caribbean mother and how their children embrace (or not!) being part of two different cultures.
Mother/Daughter relationships: For Mother’s Day one year I tried to do a top ten of books with great mother/daughter relationships (inspired by Gilmore Girls) but could barely come up with a handful. More please.
Indigenous protagonists: I want to read more stories from the perspectives of indigenous people, from Shawnee tribes-people to Inupiats and everything in between.
Cults: Why aren’t there more stories featuring cults? I’ve always found the idea of cults fascinating, and surely there’s lots of mileage you could get out of a story like that. It could be a horror, or a contemporary YA, a psychological thriller….all would make a great cult story.
Unicorns: Obviously. Grown up, magical but kick-ass unicorn stories please.
Happy Singletons: It really annoys me that there’s not many books about people being single AND happy. It does happen, people!
Damaged guys: This one’s a bit shameful but yeah, I always fancy the damaged, broken guys in books (& tv/film)…I can’t be the only one, right!? More please.
Letter writing: I’m scraping the barrel a bit here but I miss stories were the characters write letters to each other rather than texting all the time. I also haven’t read a good book in diary format for ages.
Allergies: I’m allergic to lots of things and it’s a complete pain in the arse. I’ve only just realised that I haven’t read many books where a main character has allergies. Could be interesting.
Nordic Settings: I know there’s quite a lot of Nordic-based adult fic out there, but I haven’t seen much of that going on on the YA scene. Yes please.
Whoop! I did it!
What’s on your book wishlist? And please let me know if my answers sparked any recommendation ideas!
Last Wednesday was the premiere launch event for Patrick Ness’ new release, Release, and I was there (not to rub it in or anything), but yayyyy!
For any of you who don’t know, Patrick is the author of several (amazing) YA books including The Chaos Walking Trilogy, The Rest of Us Just Live Here, and A Monster Calls which was adapted for the screen recently. He also penned the BBC series Class which has ties to the world of Doctor Who.
The night consisted of an on-stage interview with Patrick, a Q&A with the audience, and a signing. We also got pretty amazing goodie bags (see bottom of post) not to mention the new book a week before its release. *Happy Dance*
Before I get into some of the topics discussed, let me just say that it’s all paraphrased by me as I didn’t take notes, and my memory is pretty terrible at the best of times, never mind after a tipple or two 😉
Firstly, Patrick discussed the new book, Release, which is a day in the life of Adam Thorn, ‘the most unsettling, difficult day of his life, with relationships fracturing, a harrowing incident at work, and a showdown between this gay teen and his preacher father that changes everything.’
Patrick talked about being sick of reading gay YA books where the climax of the relationship is two boys holding hands under a tree. It’s not real. Real teenagers have sex. Yes, even gay ones. A great discussion about sex in literature ensued, with Patrick saying that he needed a book like this as a teenager; where gay sex is portrayed in a tender, sweet, and honest way. For books to omit loving, gay sex is damaging. Teenagers think there’s something wrong with it (them), and they turn to other things to explore like porn and Grindr.
He talked about hating the phrase ‘coming to terms with your sexuality’, explaining that he doesn’t think it’s something you have to come to terms with because it’s just who you are. It’s the world’s problem if they can’t handle that. Feel the fear, but do it anyway.
The discussion about how LGBTQ teens are represented in literature then turned to a broader look at diversity, and Patrick talked about his (many!) nephews and nieces, many of whom are mixed race and multi-cultured. And that’s what the world looks like, if that isn’t represented in books, then it’s not realistic.
Diversity shouldn’t be a tick list, but if that’s what it takes to make sure all people are represented then so be it. He talked passionately about the importance of stories being a mirror. I can’t remember who he said the quote came from but it was that in all good stories, the protagonists are like mirrors – all readers should be able to see themselves in the character – but I whole-heartedly agree with him when he said that it’s only people who are always represented who think everyone can see parts of themselves in characters. And that’s why he didn’t hold back in this book, and The Rest of Us Just Live Here. Recognising yourself in a story is magic… and the world is screaming out for more diverse stories, just look at Angie Thomas’ current success with THUG.
He urges everyone to write their story. If you are not mirrored in the books you read, write that story. Don’t ask permission. Write anyway. Writers don’t just write. They write anyway.
We were then led to the age old YA Vs Adult fiction debate. His definition for the genres was so perfect it made me jaw-drop:
“YA tends to be about exploring boundaries. Adult tends to be about being trapped by those boundaries.”
The book snobbery surrounding YA was mentioned and I loved Patrick’s response. He believes it shouldn’t be a battle. YA shouldn’t be fighting against Adult Lit. There is good stuff everywhere. If you can’t admit that there’s good stuff in other genres you sound like a cult leader (LOL!). His analogy to LA always being slagged off by New Yorkers cracked me up too. Does LA give a shit what NY thinks? Nope. LA says ‘no worries man, come on over and have a good time anyway. Maybe you’ll leave with a different attitude.
Be more LA, YA. Be more LA.
While I agree with him completely, I do get exasperated having to explain the Young Adult genre to people. I work in a prison library and I’m constantly trying get prisoners to engage with reading. I think YA would be perfect for them, but they look at me like I’m mad. But why would you/I read that? It’s for children. Sigh. But no more, I’m going to be more LA, too!
There was lots more discussion, but those were my favourite parts. I’ve also been left with the need to read Mrs Dalloway, and Forever by Judy Blume -both of which inspired Release, and both of which have passed me by.
After the talk and Q&A, my friend Dora and I (and the other 200 -that’s a guess- people) queued to get our books signed. And this is where I feel the need to apologise. The queue was long. I had plenty of time to come up with something great to say to Patrick Ness as he signed my book…
I could have told him what I’ve just told you about being more LA at work. But no.
I could have told him I loved The Rest of Us Just Live Here so much because it reminded me of a Buffy spin-off show concentrating on the minor characters at the school who aren’t in the know about Buffy and the Hellmouth. They witness all the weird shit, but aren’t let in on the big secret. But no.
I could have asked him how he could possibly enjoy redrafting more than getting the story down initially. About how I splurge out all these stories but find it impossible to transform them into a not-hot-mess. But no.
What did I say, Readers?
I said *dons voice of stupidity*are you bored yet? I mean really. What a Knobular. I can only apologise. Patrick was of course extremely sweet regardless.
Thanks to Walker Books, Waterstones and Curzon, (not to mention the wonderful Patrick Ness himself), for putting on such a great night!
Title: Saint Death Author: Marcus Sedgewick Series: N/A Format: Digital ARC, 272 pages Publication Details: October 6th 2016 by Orion Children’s Books Genre(s): YA; Contemporary; Thriller Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.
A potent, powerful and timely thriller about migrants, drug lords and gang warfare set on the US/Mexican border by prize-winning novelist, Marcus Sedgwick.
Anapra is one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the Mexican city of Juarez – twenty metres outside town lies a fence – and beyond it – America – the dangerous goal of many a migrant. Faustino is one such trying to escape from the gang he’s been working for. He’s dipped into a pile of dollars he was supposed to be hiding and now he’s on the run. He and his friend, Arturo, have only 36 hours to replace the missing money, or they’re as good as dead. Watching over them is Saint Death. Saint Death (or Santissima Muerte) – she of pure bone and charcoal-black eye, she of absolute loyalty and neutral morality, holy patron to rich and poor, to prostitute and narco-lord, criminal and police-chief. A folk saint, a rebel angel, a sinister guardian.
I’m a big fan of British author Marcus Sedgwick but the last book I read of his, Ghosts of Heaven was a monumental disappointment. I therefore went into this with some trepidation. Saint Death also feels like a bit of a departure for him, although I’m not sure why because he’s nothing if not eclectic.
In this story, Sedgwick returns to the YA genre but takes us to a whole new place – a slum on the US/Mexico border and immerses us in a dark, spiritual culture.
Arturo has learnt how to survive in Anapra. He knows how to collect water in old coke cans and feed himself on scraps. He knows not to look to the men in the big black cars with the neck tattoos in the eye. He knows to never owe anyone anything.
But, when his best friend- who disappeared a year earlier- returns with his pregnant childhood sweetheart asking for his help, Arturo can’t turn him down. But in helping him, he will be exposed to all the things he’s learnt to stay away from – gambling, guns and drug lords. The only thing he can hope for is that the white lady, Santissima Muerte, AKA Saint Death hears his prayers and grants his wishes of protection.
Gah! I’m very torn by this one. It is a story which sheds light on an enigmatic, often brutal culture, with immigration at the heart of the matter. It is a story which is perhaps even more appropriate today than it was a week ago; portraying an important message that I think is wonderful to see in a YA book.
However, my main issue was that it wasn’t very exciting. It took too long to get to the short-lived thrilling action in which Arturo is locked in a high-stakes (not just money-wise) game of cards with a drug lord in order to save his friend’s life.
It was a quick read, yet the action felt slow and too simple. It was written beautifully, yet it never truly amazed me. It was just one big contradiction in my mind.
I applaud Marcus Sedgwick for putting diversity at the forefront of another of his YA books, but Saint Death didn’t have the emotional drive that She is Not Invisible did. His writing is beautiful, as always, but there was something lacking here. Maybe the ‘message’ overshadowed fully developed characters and plot!?
The jury is still out for me.
Saint Death is available in hardback or digital versions now.
I’ve long held a fascination with Poppy Z Brite. As an emerging teen goth in late 90s, her (as she was known then) books were like the holy grail. They were extremely violent and gruesome, they were deviantly sexual and on the surface seemed to completely humanise and romanticise serial killers and cannibalism. Plus, they were riddled with hot gay men. Some of them innocent wayward boys, some of them diabolical killers. Poppy Brite was my hero.
All of that was the angsty, blood-thirsty teenager in me. I read them because I thought it was cool; because I knew that I shouldn’t. Because I was too young to read them. A small act of rebellion.
But as I’ve grown up, I’ve returned to Brite (now known as Billy Martin after transitioning to a man), on numerous occasions – his books never made it to the charity shop – and I can now appreciate them on another level. They are not just made-to-shock throwaway novels. They’re important novels that act almost as a social commentary of New Orleans, focusing on the issues of feeling different, alienated; on diversity. Brite writes with such a morbid passion. She can describe gutting someone as poetically as falling in love.
If you’ve never read any of Brite’s books, I highly recommend starting with Lost Souls. It’s set in New Orleans, like most of his stories, and centres around three wannabe rock star, bisexual vampires, one of which impregnates a human girl and the child, known as Nothing grows up wondering why he feels so alienated, until eventually meeting up with his blood-thirsty father.
In the past, Brite has been attacked for lacking morals, and writing gratuitous gore and casual sex, and to an extent I guess that’s true, but there’s more to her stories than that, and I can’t think of another writer who creates such evocative atmospheres, and bitter-sweet nostalgia for youth and days gone by.
For Horror October, I decided to read Self-Made Man, a book of short fiction by Brite that I’d never got round to buying. My friend Dora found it in a charity shop and lent it to me. I was dubious after not really loving Love in Vein, another story collection. Short stories just don’t seem to be my thing, even by authors that I love.
However, I was pleasantly surprised by Self-Made Man. It begins with a very short story written from the perspective of a maggot in a slaughter-house which is basically a showcase for Brite’s ability to make disgusting, putrid things sensual.
Arise, is a story about Cobb, a reclusive ex-pop star who faked his own death, who hears that his old band-mate has died. He then gets a mysterious letter saying that he has left his secluded house to him. Did he know all along that Cobb was alive? And why would he leave his house to him? I really liked this story. It had twists and turns and lots of intrigue.
The titular story, Self-Made Man was a hit too. It’s very much in the same breath of novel, Exquisite Corpse, based on cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer. It’s not for the faint-hearted. As was Vine of the Soul which reunites us with two characters from Drawing Blood.
The rest of the stories I could take or leave, but my favourite part of this book was the author’s notes on each story. Fascinating, as ever.
Title: Glove of Satin, Glove of Bone Author: Rachel White Series: N/A Format: Digital ARC, 205 pages Publication Details: June 8th 2016 by Less Than Three Press Genre(s): Fantasy; LBGT Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.
Enne Datchery and Muriel vas Veldina, ex-lovers and witches with a shared apprentice, are tasked by the Citadel, to repair an old grimoire together, despite the fact their relationship is tense at best.
The situation is further complicated when the book is stolen, and tracking down the thief stirs even more of Muriel’s past. It swiftly becomes clear to the two that dealing with their fractured relationship is going to be the easy part of the assignment—if they can live long enough to complete it.
I had it in my mind that this would be a sort of YA Sarah Waters’ with magic, but I was wrong. It’s not even YA, although to be fair it read like YA and the only thing that made me realise it wasn’t was a sex scene which sprouted the C word.
Muriel and Enne are ex-lovers and business partners in their thirties which is considered too old to be single so you can tell what kind of era this world evokes. Their apprentice is basically their adopted child and her upbringing is just one of many things they bicker about. Constantly.
When the High Circle (magic HQ) ask them to repair a grimoire they fail to tell them anything about it, even what kind of magic it contains. It turns out to a book of destruction (which is bad) and Muriel’s other ex-girlfriend steals it and tries to destroy the world.
I really thought this was a great basis for a story and don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed it the whole way through. But that’s all it was, a basis for a story. It was very short and very…basic. There were no sub-plots or twists; nothing going on outside Muriel and Enne’s bickering as they try to find the grimoire and stop the baddie. It felt like it should have been a short story to me.
If you’re looking for a super quick read which has LGBT characters and magic, then give it go. It’s written well too, I just wanted more. Lots more.