Arc August: May Day by Josie Jaffrey Book Review

book review may day josie jaffey

“If the murderer you’re tracking is a vampire, then you want a vampire detective. Just maybe not this one. It’s not that Jack Valentine is bad at her job. The youngest member of Oxford’s Seekers has an impressive track record, but she also has an impressive grudge against the local baron, Killian Drake.
When a human turns up dead on May Morning, she’s determined to pin the murder on Drake. The problem is that none of the evidence points to him. Instead, it leads Jack into a web of conspiracy involving the most powerful people in the country, people to whom Jack has no access. But she knows someone who does.
To get to the truth, Jack will have to partner up with her worst enemy. As long as she can keep her cool, Drake will point her to the ringleaders, she’ll find the murderer and no one else will have to die. Body bags on standby.”
GoodReads.

Hey pals,

I got this book as a free arc in exchange for an honest review and sadly I did not enjoy this book much, I actually ended up DNF’ing the book. Reading the blurb and overview of plot, it sounded great. I love crime and detective stories and really enjoy working through a book trying to figure out a mystery, and I am yet to find an urban fantasy I enjoy but I like the idea of what it is meant to be. I was excited about the idea of combining vampires and supernatural elements with crime and detective plots.

I’m struggling to understand the audience of this book. There are many contradictory elements that suggest it could be YA or Adult Urban Fantasy, I think it’s meant to be Adult. The MC Jack falls flat for me in many ways. She comes across like a teenager who hasn’t settled into herself as a person, there’s a lot of telling rather than showing. The MC narrative tone is very juvenile and feels very YA, irrational and naive. MC and sidekick Cam are both Vampires that died at 18 and 19 respectively, Jack has lived for 20 more years since and Cam is unknown so I’m not sure if I should be expecting them to act 18/19 or almost 40. They are both working Vampire Detectives and Cam comes across older but the MC doesn’t. I assume it is adult because of the amount of casual swearing used, but also because they are detectives as a job vs. in YA like Nancy Drew or Scooby Doo, they’re kids in school still who like to solve crime in their spare time.

I’m very confused about the point in time this book starts, we get into an investigation and Jack is convinced Killian Drake (one of the head vampires) did it and she has this grudge with him that isn’t really explained enough. I know there is a short prequel, but I think it may have just been better to start with the prequel as the beginning of the book for the backstory to make sense because Jack just comes across really irrational in her hatred of him.

When it comes to the investigation related stuff, I’m not sure enough research was done into how this works, or if there’s an in world system for the Vampire Detectives, it hasn’t been made clear and padded out. It’s skimmed over in a lot of places and the people working the case don’t sound very professional.

I found it odd that the characters just got totally wrecked in chapter two. It didn’t really add anything to the plot and we didn’t learn anything about the other characters really. This is the kind of scene I would expect later in a book for an accidental admission of some kind, a revealed secret. Or early in the book to get to know the other character’s the MC will be working alongside but they all quickly dispersed and we were left with Cam and Jack talking about the case because Cam refused to talk about his personal life, it really did nothing for plot development or world building for me.

I find a lot of the writing will give you information, but then diminish what’s said. One example is speaking to Gabriella, Jack mentally notes that her clothes look expensive and would cost more than their work car “which isn’t saying much”, so a lot of meaning is lost with these filler sentences. Now I’m questioning, are her clothes actually expensive looking? I feel like that sentence quickly took back what was said and just think a better comparison should have been made. This happens a lot in the few chapters I read.

I’ve noticed every woman they meet is always the most beautiful woman they have ever seen. Every woman is just minimised to looking beautiful, I’m not sure how to tell all these characters apart when the first thing that’s said about them is they’re the most beautiful.

~

These were my main points of critique. Overall, I think that this book just wasn’t for me. I’ve seen many great reviews of the book, so if you enjoy this book then that’s great but it just didn’t really hit the mark for me. It was quite disjointed and confusing for me to read and I feel like maybe some of it would have made more sense if I read the prequel first, but as I said in a previous point, I think they probably could have done with being combined. Many books will start off with a prequel chapter for some scene setting and backstory before lunging into the main plot however many years later. I just didn’t connect with the MC, which makes reading difficult for me. It sucks too, coz there are some queer characters and some things I wanted to read and find out but I couldn’t push through the parts I wasn’t enjoying. I think I only really got partway through chapter 8 of this book, it was a slow start and I just wasn’t enjoying it personally. I’ll be giving this one star as I DNF’d.

~

That’s my review of my reading experience. I hope this was helpful to some people, I’ll also post a bit on my GoodReads. I was torn about writing this but I’ve tried to be respectful and honest about my experience. I’ll likely donate this book or pass it on to someone who wants to read it.

I’m hoping to review another arc I recieved, later this month, that’s more positive but don’t hold me to it but life does things sometimes. Hopefully I’ll be able to give you another Arc Review for Arc August. I was thinking of making a video as well but again I’m not totally sure yet! If I do, I’ll link the video and post here.

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Let me know if you have read any of these sapphic reads and if you think I should read any of them ASAP!

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~ Artie

Tribute to Naya Rivera

naya rivera photos on a mauve background with lots of stars

Hey pals,

By the time this post is up it’s been almost three weeks since Naya Rivera was confirmed dead, and as someone who grew up as a young sapphic around the time Glee was live I just wanted to give her a little tribute because I think this may have been the first wlw character I saw on TV.

I wasn’t a huge Glee fan, in fact I barely remember much about the show except some parts around the time Santana came out as a lesbian and had her romance with Brittany. I watched plenty of shows and films that were queer coded but nothing overtly queer in representation. I think Santana became my favourite character, because she was always so upfront and blunt. She was hot as hell, as well. Sassy, feisty, deadpan humour, and sharp wit were a selection of descriptors I’ve seen used for the character of Santana Lopez and this was something that always drew me to her as a character. But I didn’t know how much I would love her until I finally watched Glee.

We all know of the curse around the Glee cast. Numerous deaths and controversy follow the original cast members. The first death in 2013 of Cory Monteith from an accidental drug overdose after a past of substance use struggles, and sadly Naya’s body was found on the 7th anniversary of Cory’s death (13th July). Soon followed by Mark Salling who committed suicide after pleading guilty to possession of child p*rnography in 2018, and finally Naya Rivera who drowned after falling into a lake in California. Other awful circumstances have followed the Glee cast. Melissa Benoist came forward about domestic abuse at the hands of her ex-husband (and Glee co-star) which left her with possibly permanent physical damage detailed in her IGTV video. It also appears that Ryan Murphy, one of the shows creators, would get into public feuds with bands that denied his request to use their songs in the show and made some rather distasteful public comments about them and got called out for it by Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters and Nirvana) “the guy who created Glee is so offended that we’re not, like, begging to be on his f–king show”. Yikes. Also he seemingly stole ideas from the cast to write into the show without express permission, Chris Colfer said, “I don’t think any of us directly try to give input on the character or on the storyline, but they definitely steal things from us.” Amber Riley punched a girl in London whilst there with the Cast on tour, something I would call mild compared to the rest. And finally, we can’t forget the shady things Lea Michele herself has been involved in. Besides numerous cast members (particularly Naya) saying Lea Michele was impossible and unbearable to be around, recently Samantha Ware came forward about Michele making Ware’s life hell on set, which sparked a roll of other people’s experiences with Lea Michele as well from a selection of her past productions all the way back to her stage days. Lea Michele seems to live in an ignorant bubble.

I have watched the show properly for the first time during Lock Down and I understand why so many people loved Glee, but boy did it not age well. (I won’t even go into its constant use of the phrase ‘Handicapable’ like some woke buzzword) These characters were born in the same year I was (1994) and during this time, not many shows had out right queer representation and we have Naya to thank for Santana and Brittany coming out and having their love story. Naya really portrayed Santana so well, I would call it one of the more accurate portrayals by a straight actor to date. There were so many moments where she brought a softness that we had never seen before from Santana, but also breaking the stereotype that sapphic couples have to have a butch one and a femme one. She was also one of the first Latina queer representations on T.V. She has such a full character arc, the queer community is always lacking, and I will always be thankful that Glee didn’t follow the ‘bury your gays’ trope that is so damaging to viewers. Though the queer characters may struggle, none of them die. She once said in an interview, “There are very few ethnic LGBT characters on television, so I am honored to represent them.” She took this role seriously, and Demi Lovato (who played a girlfriend of Santana’s in season 5) said, “I’ll forever cherish the opportunity, the character you played was groundbreaking for tons of closeted queer girls (like me at the time) and open queer girls, and your ambition and accomplishments were inspiring to Latina women all over the world.”

In Naya’s 2016 memoir, she wrote a lot about the hard stuff that many people deal with in normal life but also in the acting industry. I love how blunt and straightforward she is, it really shows they chose the right woman for Santana, or maybe they chose Naya because of her authenticity and moulded the character after her. It wouldn’t be the first time as Kurt was created after Chris Colfer auditioned to be Artie. Naya talked of her relationship with Mark Salling “I think everyone should have that one relationship where you look back and ask yourself, ‘What the hell was I thinking?’ You’ll learn something and you won’t regret it. Unless, of course, that relationship was with someone who had a sizable stash of child p*rn on his computer. Then, by all means, regret everything.” but also about being on set, from sexual chemistry to Diva moments of other people on set. She stood up against fellow star’s unprofessional behaviour and stood for Brittana becoming more than just casual ‘lady kisses’.

I’ve read a lot about Naya being everyone’s biggest supporter. In People, a source said, “She always made sure to involve everybody around her. It was never just about her. It was about everybody getting to experience everything that she was doing together. She made sure everybody felt bigger than they maybe were.” and Heather Morris’s instagram posts dedicated to Naya said, “You would tell me “you look so skinny” EVERY TIME you saw me and it made me giggle slash I loved it and when I told you how it made me feel…you said “well I’d always like to hear that I look skinny so I make sure to make others feel good like that.” ” and if you look through Naya’s twitter profile, you can see all the posts dedicated to the BLM movement. She wrote, “In times like these, and always, we must stand up and be counted. Stand up against injustice. Prejudice. Pure evil. These are photos of my grandma protesting for civil rights in the 60s. She was an advocate for civil, women’s, and human rights. She is my hero.” She was clearly a vocal supporter of people from all backgrounds, she made people feel seen, mostly for good reasons but also called out bad behaviour with no remorse. “She was not selfish. She was a very strong person. I think she was ahead of her time for speaking up on certain issues. If you look back around 2011, she was on the forefront of it all. Partnering with GLAAD and doing different things with her heritage,” the source said. “Most people at the start of their careers, she didn’t care if she faced backlash — she just wanted to make sure she spoke out. Some people would’ve hidden, but she took everything head on.” It’s truly tragic that the world lost a woman like this, not many actors or stars stand up so boldly for what they believe and make the voices of the vulnerable heard. She used her platform for good.

Thankfully her talent on screen was seen, as she won several awards in her time. In 2009 she won a Gold Derby award for best comedy supporting actress, 2014 Favourite TV Gal Pals for Santana and Rachel (???), 2014 she won an award for her voice acting role Best Female Vocal Performance, and in 2011 and 2012 she won two awards from ALMA for Favourite Music Artist and Favourite TV Actress for Leading Role in a Comedy. (all from her IMDB I struggled to read this so sorry if anything I wrote was not correct) She was also one of the few cast members of Glee who has had a relatively successful career and regular work since the show ended. I watched Devious Maids but I don’t remember Naya in it so I may have to go bad and give it another watch, it is a good show and one I would highly recommend if you like Drama and Crime. And she was in the Step Up TV show, which I have not seen but may be worth a look but to me nothing will match the original Step Up film starring Channing Tatum.

People speak of her talent a lot. One thing I struggled with when watching the show was that many of the cast of Glee were astronomically talented singers and performers but hardly got any screen time and I found it hard to understand why Rachel and Finn were the stars or lead vocals when many other cast members were more talented and likable. The actor Kevin McHale who played Artie Abrams said, “The amount of times [Naya] would memorize all of those crazy monologues on Glee the morning of and would never ever mess up during the scene… I mean, she was clearly more talented than the rest of us. She was the most talented person I’ve ever known. There is nothing she couldn’t do and I’m furious we won’t get to see more.” and honestly I agree, there was so much she gave already but she clearly was not done.

Naya touched many people’s lives in person and through the television screen. I hope that her death will remind people of everything she did and worked towards, and make you think about how you could better yourself and better the world around you like she did. Obviously, I do not know her, I do not claim to, but everything I have read has lead me to this conclusion, even after reading some bad reviews on her memoir (which I think is just based on a reading preference rather than Naya herself). The world is going through a purge where everything is rising to the surface and we are finally seeing the corruption our personal privileges may have shielded us from. Now is the time to be vocal. I feel inspired by Naya Rivera that there are some people in the world with the right idea, equality above everything. She was a huge part of creating a space for queer women, queer femmes, and for queer BIPOC where there wasn’t one in the mainstream. There’s still a lot of work to do for all marginalised communities and I hope more celebrities will speak out about it the way Naya did.

~ Artie

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My Collective Lockdown Book Haul

artie smiling with images of books 'lockdown book haul' text

Hey pals,

I took some time off blogging after my scheduled posts ran out because life is a little crazy sometimes and I had nothing I really wanted to write about. I’ve been focusing on my inner needs and trying to control stress and anxiety whilst making some big life adjustments so bare with me.

On the plus side, I finally updated my blog to officially being artiecarden.com! Very official!

During Lockdown I have spent a lot more time reading and real got into ebooks (as you may have seen in previous posts). I never knew how helpful and accessible ebooks were and was always a little bit of a book elitist, preferring physical copies over ebooks. But I’ve actually found holding my phone to read is a lot easier than holding a book because of my hand/wrist pain.

I’ve talked a little about my recent purchases on my IGTV, but I only talked about the Classics I got for free through Kindle/Amazon’s free ebook classics programme. It’s always tempting to go with whatever offers free books, and Kindle does offer free books.

I have also bought: Radio Silence, Solitaire and I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman (99p each), the first two Hunger Games books (£4.19 each), a dreadful Mental Health memoir (99p), Loveboat Taipei which was amazing and highly recommend (99p), the first Princess Diaries (99p), If Only by Melanie Murphy (99p), Transformation (99p).

During the first few weeks of the BLM I’d also tried to diversify my reading more as mostly I was reading white and Queer, I picked up: Lot by Bryan Washington (99p) which was interesting but a little hard to follow, A Taste of Honey (£1.99) both books by Black Authors, How to be Anti-Racist (£2.99), and I picked up Divergent (£2.99) as I’ve clearly been delving back into popular fiction of the early 2010s.

I’ve also been wanting to work on who I purchase from/through. Amazon is a giant and very hard to remove yourself from (especially as a disabled person…) I’ve been looking into other options for buying books as this seems to be my main purchases as of late and would be a good first step. I’ve moved over to Hive.co.uk and bought a few of their ebooks, though they don’t use the same app as Amazon, it’s not too difficult to set up. Hive supports local indie bookstores (you can either choose one to support through your purchases, or just support generally, you can choose from a list) unfortunately you can’t share your wishlists from there just yet like you can Amazon, but it’s something they are working on.

So through Hive, I’ve bought: Talking as Fast As I can by Lauren Graham the woman who played Loreli Gilmore of the Gilmore Girls (99p), Ugly Shy Girl (99p), Angela Carter’s books of Wayward Girls and Wicked Women (99p), Dark to Light (£1.67), Want by Cindy Pon I bought this because of my friend Kate’s video (99p), Ballad of Life (£1.55). You can see that the prices aren’t too different to Amazon, so books aren’t necessarily cheaper on Kindle. The selection on Hive is smaller as there have been books I’ve searched that haven’t come up and not as many books are available in ebook format which sucks. I feel like the more people who use this site, and other smaller retailers, the more the selection will grow and the useful functions will be developed too.

There have been some local pages popping up doing book swaps too to I’ve also grabbed a free copy of Generation X out of curiosity.

Edit: I missed a couple of books coz they are in my Books app which I don’t use very often! They are Heart of the Race: Black Women’s Lives in Britain (by Beverley Bryan, Stella Dadzie, Suzanne Scafe) and Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? Police violence and resistance in the United States (by Alicia Garza)

I’ve also been trying to get through physical books I already own, but I’m on a little break at the moment.

With all that said, if you’re a bookish person and are looking to support some Black owned book businesses, here are a few that I’ve come across and plan to use in future when I’ve worked through some of my books I already have! (These are all UK based)

mybookbasket.com

booksofafrica.com

africanbookscollective.com

noordinarybookshop.co.uk

thisbooklove.com

newbeaconbooks.com

I hope this post may have opened your eyes a little to other options away from a huge corporation (that doesn’t treat its employees well, or pays them enough, and the owner literally has enough money to solve 90% of the worlds problems…) and supporting small businesses. Let me know of any other services like this for other things as I’m trying to convert and stop using Amazon!

Let me know what you’ve been reading!

~ Artie

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check out my last book blog post

Check out this post by BookRiot on books with Pansexual representation for some book purchase ideas.

Also these are some useful tips for getting around buying from Amazon if you aren’t in a mainly English speaking country! from this thread.

  • if you have an Apply device you can use the ‘Books’ app and you can buy via itunes, or use Google Play Books app (but you might have to buy on a desktop then read through the app)
  • Hive.co.uk also works outside the UK for ebooks! They have a whole area on how to read the ebooks.
  • Scribd is another option.

LGBT+ Historic Sites Around The World

photo of artie in front of baloons that spell 'queer' lgbt+ historic sites around the world a rainbow and a book

Hey pals,

I always love finding a little bit of history that has been solidified in existence when so much of our history has been literally burned out of existence and covered up by a heteronormative society who want to keep using the argument of it being a ‘new’ phenomena so it can’t be real as an argument not to give us equal rights!

So for Pride month I wanted to show you where you can find these little pieces of history when we go travelling around the globe. This is an incomplete list but I tried to find as many as possible!

New York City

AIDS memorial in Greenwich Village, Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village

The great American writer James Baldwin lived in an apartment in Greenwich Village from 1958 through 1961. The power and eloquence of Baldwin’s varied works impacted ideas about race, class, sexuality, and morality, and played an important role in the civil rights movement. The Village is reflected in the bestselling novel “Another Country,” which he worked on while residing here. Location: 81 Horatio Street (I recommend reading Dark Days)
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San Francisco plaque on the corner of Taylor and Turk dedicated to Compton’s cafeteria riot and the Castro district – marked the beginning of trans activism in San Francisco and was before the Stonewall riot – it began with a trans woman resisting arrest by throwing a cup of coffee in a police officers face and followed by drag queens pouring into the streets fighting back with their heels and heavy handbags. There is also a tour in San Francisco of historic LGBT+ sites, this includes Harvey Milk’s old shop/home, the first openly gay elected official in California’s history.

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Washington DC Congressional Cemetery with dedicated LGBT section

Key West, Florida Tennessee Williams was an out playwright and there is an exhibit in the auditorium in the local library. They have a recording of him reading his poetry.

Chicago, Illinois The Henry Gerber House was the location of the first Queer magazine and organisation in America (1924) there is also the legacy walk.

Philadelphia historic marker across from independence hall, rainbow crosswalks and street signs. There’s also a marker in their Gayborhood noting the first gay bookstore in the United States.

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Manchester Alan Turing memorial Sackville Park war hero acclaimed mathematician cracked the enigma code that led to allied victory of World War Two. There’s also an LGBT+ heritage trail full of locations I don’t know anything about but lovely to see one of the UK’s gay cities is rich in Queer history and so forward with teaching people about it and showing it off.

York has a plaque for Anne Lister the Gentleman Jack at Shibden Hall, Halifax where she ‘took sacrament’ to ‘seal her union’ with Anne Walker Easter. I assume that means they were unofficially married. Anne Lister was a gender-nonconforming Lesbian diarist who wrote a lot but most well known for her writing about her lesbian love affairs.

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London Gay’s The Word Bookshop Bloomsbury. The base for LGSM during Thatcher’s time. Want to learn a bit more? Watch the film Pride. There is also a documentary.

Admiral Duncan Pub, Soho Square has a memorial chandelier and plaque inside dedicated to the people who died and were injured during the homophobic bombing in 1999.

Oscar Wilde is a big one who seems to have a lot of permanent notoriety around the world and has several plaques in London alone. The open plaque society have a few on their list around the UK and Ireland you can check out. One plaque is located at his home in Kensington and Chelsea, another located at Langham Hotel in Portland Place London of a history dinner which lead to ‘The Sign Of Four’ and ‘The Picture Of Dorian Gray’. There is also a plaque for the St. James Theatre which was demolished as it held the first productions of Wilde’s ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’ and ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’. Finally we have the Rainbow plaque at Clapham Junction and commemorated where Wilde suffered homophobic abuse and an attack.

Brent/Kinsbury, London will be gaining a George Michael (Wham!) mural in September 2020

Liverpool, News From Nowhere is an indie bookshop, similar to Gay’s The Word. Supported the Miners’ strike in the ’80s, members of the early women’s movement and the gay liberation movement were drawn here. It’s known as a radical and community bookshop, and though it may not be specifically queer lit, they provide a lot of it along with feminist literature and inclusive children’s books.

Amsterdam Homomonument near the Anne Frank Museum (three large pink triangles on the floor) first monument in the world to commemorate queer people killed by the nazis. one corner points to the national war memorial on dam square, on points at house of anne frank, third to the hq coc nederland the dutch gay rights group. More info here.

Lesbos Greek Island the island of poets, Sappho is from there. Yes, where Santana and Brittany from Glee ran off to at the end of season 5. Sadly there’s nothing particularly gay about it. I didn’t find much on it.

Brussels mural of Brousaille (created by Frank Pé, right picture) located in the gay village at the intersection between rue marché au charbon and rue des teinturiers. it’s a picture of the character who is an animal detective walking with an arm around his girlfriend catherine who looks quite andro and has become the symbol of gay love

Paris, France also has a few locations for Oscar Wilde. You can stay in the hotel room Wilde died in (no thanks, but you do you) and his grave is in Paris’ Père Lachaise Cemetery for you to visit.

Israel, Tel Aviv the memorial for LGBT+ victims of the nazi persecution. honouring victims of the holocaust, Jewish and non Jewish victims. three pink benches forming a triangle. In Hebrew, German and English ‘in memory of those persecuted by the nazi regime for their sexual  orientation and gender identity’

Hobart, Tasmania, Australia has a public art piece to commemorate the largest act of gay rights civil disobedience in Australian history. The artwork is made up of two sentences embedded across the footpath of Salamanca Place which are lit yellow and orange from below. The sentences read: “Forgive me for not holding you in my arms” and “In the wake of your courage I swim”.

These are just few of many, hopefully I can make another one of these sometime and find more around the globe dedicated to historical figures and historical events that aren’t often spoken of. I’d also like to recommend Queer Intentions for beginning reading, it’s a really accessible book. I’m planning on reading Trans Britain to learn more about the history in Britain, as I know close to zero. Only by learning the true history will we be able to avoid repeating it and making change. The world is not friendly to anyone right now so try to be kind, help each other out and remember who has been there for you.

If you know of other places, leave it in the comments! Preferably not related to drinking or clubbing.

~ Artie

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