Murder At White Oak by Marko Realmonte
When I got to the end of this book, my eyes are all blurry with tears! I won’t spoil the end…because you should really read it.
This is so many things that are fantastic to read… a romance, a comical romp at a boy’s school, a mystery, friendship…devotion…and more. It’s cleverly written with a complex cast of fully fleshed out characters.
It took me a little while to get in tune with the switching of narrators, but in the end, that gave the story a lot more depth. Be warned, even though the story is light-hearted, it can also be hard-hitting.
If you are the kind of reader who is always on the lookout for a story that’s more than just a “queer romance” then this one is worth a read. I like that the relationships matter to the plot of the story and they’re not just sidelines that make the novel more enticing.
I’m looking forward to any sequel that might be in the works.
I was provided with an ARC of this book by the author in exchange for an unbiased review: thanks, Marko.
Tin Man by Sarah Winman
This is a sad story about love and loss. I think that what touched me most about this novel was how realistic it was. There are times when we forge bonds with people without really being able to define them. Sometimes those bonds last a lifetime, sometimes they disappear over time and sometimes they are torn away from us.
This is a story about a man who has loved and lost. He’s at sea in his memories and choices. The novel covers different times in his life. The mystery is beautiful and heart-breaking. The prose is poetic and crisp and a pleasure to read.
This was a purchase from my local bookstore!
Unbroken by Brooklyn Ray
The exact day that Michael Gates moves into his new home in Port Lewis with his sister, he meets a once-witch who is bonded with a demon. His soul is tied to the demon, he’s tied to the home…and he’s intrigued and drawn to Michael. There’s a demon-witch living in the attic. I couldn’t help smiling at that one, and fortunately, the author wove in a lot of clever banter and dark comedy.
There is some remarkable character development in this story. For what is marketed as a male/male romance, it has a lot of depth as the characters explore their relationship with one another. The sex is scorching and well-written: an added plus!
In a short period of time, Michael and Victor are almost overcome by their entanglement with each other. It’s clear to Michael that it’s more than he wants, but what if it’s something that can help him to heal the past? The past… the relationship that haunts Michael. He had a relationship with Christian, a man who abused the power dynamic between them. Michael sees the failed relationship as a dark mark on him, something that shook him to the core and resulted in a trail of meaningless sexual encounters. Disappointed in himself, he was untethered and wandering without direction. But then there is Victor.
I found myself connecting with both these characters early in the novel. They are well-written, convoluted and I couldn’t help liking both of them.
There is dark magic at work and the ancient hierarchy of the witches becomes involved when a drug called Essence is brought to a party at Michael’s house. The tangled web of magical powers, demonic spirits, and human weaknesses reach a peak and difficult decisions loom on the horizon.
I detest spoilers in reviews so you won’t get any from me. This is worth a read. It’s enjoyable, hot and pleasantly complex.
There are some things in this you may want to be warned about, none of it was an issue for me but consider it your trigger warning. There’s bloodplay, abuse, alluding to non-consensual sexual encounters, abuse of a power dynamic and cheating.
I was provided an ARC of this book by NineStar Press via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.
This one is interesting to me.
First, a bit about the plot. Timmy is starting 10th grade at a Baptist Academy (a southern school) in 1980, he comes from a devout family (even though his parents are divorced). His best friend, Carleen, chubby and unapologetic is convinced they are going to have the best year ever. Her prediction seems likely when they arrive at school to find out the new kid, Doug is gorgeous. In addition to being cute, Doug is sweet and seems to want to be friends with Timmy.
Timmy is gay and he seems to be the only one who doesn’t know that. Of course, his religious upbringing hasn’t helped with that situation. Very slowly, he begins to realize through his friendship with Doug that he is attracted to boys. The plot isn’t very convoluted, and it’s not unexplored territory. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything that’s specifically Baptist before… so there’s that.
While the relationship between Timmy and Carleen is cute – they’ve been friends since playschool – they are both experiencing bullying and are quick to bully each other when times get tough. I found a lot of the bullying uncomfortable to read about (I feel like that’s normal and kudos to the author for making me uncomfortable). I didn’t like that the violence escalated to, what amounted to a severe physical assault, and yet none of the adults in the novel seemed to take it seriously. Even Timmy’s Aunt… who is the only character in the book who seems to love the kid unconditionally, kind of laughs off the assault when she finds out how Timmy dealt with it. I’m not completely oblivious, I know there are a lot of adults who don’t know how to deal with bullying and violence but it seemed to me that someone should have taken Timmy under their wing … other than another grade 10 kid.
Timmy is a very naive young man. That being said, I didn’t grow up in the South nor did I attend a strict Baptist School. But I did go into Grade 10 in 1983… and I can tell you that Timmy’s mannerisms and way of speaking didn’t read true to me. Again… I’m not a Southern Baptist so maybe it’s all very accurate.
Bullying and violence aside, it was a good read. The dialogue is well-written (and I can’t speak to the accuracy of the Southern vernacular). There’s a bit of a fairy-tale ending…but we all need those sometimes, right?