Cemetery Boys: Book Review Arc August

cemetery boys book arc august review

Hey pals!

I won an arc of Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thoman in a twitter giveaway, I was not given this arc for a review, I am not part of any promotional tours, these are all my own thoughts and opinions! I just really loved this book, the representation, the introduction to a beautiful latinx culture I knew nothing about, and just want to spread the word as the book is released on the 1st September 2020! (Though I think I saw somewhere U.K release is October 1st, so i’ve pre-ordered the book as a birthday present to myself, October 4th.) You can still pre-order, or wait until the 1st to purchase it but I think Aiden is hoping to get onto New York Times Best Sellers List, as the first trans author with a trans main character and I wanna help promote the book and share my love of it!

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“Queer people are like wolves,” Julian told him. “We travel in packs.”

Cemetery Boys is a romantic mystery, starring Yadriel a latinx trans guy struggling to prove his identity to his family members. With the help of his cousin Maritza, Yadriel gives himself the quinces his family delayed indefinitely to prove that Lady Death accepts him as a brujo and so should they. In the first chapter we are thrown straight into the action seamlessly, meeting Yads and Maritza on their way to perform the ritual. We learn all about their latinx culture of the brujx and the gendered roles in a way that is easy to digest, we learn about the beginnings of the culture and the mixture of origins their people have. I love the imagery throughout this book, one I liked was “Spirits have blurry edges… They looked like photographs taken out of focus and with the saturation turned down” giving such a vivid portrayal of the spirits in this story. We get an introduction to the main family members who are important to the story along the way and some background characters really filling in the rich familial history. Unfortunately, right as Yadriel and Maritza complete the ceremony, they both feel a dreadful stabbing pain in their chests for a moment before running back to the main family home across the cemetery (oh, yes, they live next to the cemetery!) to find that one of their family, cousin Miguel, has died but no one can find him. Here ensues the man hunt for his body or the item that would tether him to earth. Yads is not allowed to join the hunt as they do not see him as a brujo, but he obviously defies them and so does Maritza and they return to the location they had just performed the quinces and find a necklace Yads thinks is Miguel’s. Truly trying to prove himself, he chooses to summon whoever is attached to the necklace but… it’s not Miguel… but a very hot kid who went to Yads’ school. Julien Diaz. Now Yads is stuck with a hot ghost boy following him around until they finish Julian’s business… and solve the mystery?

This is a great book, easy to follow and age appropriate but not dumbed down. Slow burn romance! Low key enemies to friends to lovers in a way as they don’t get on to begin with, but enemies is a bit harsh. Amazing trans MC where enough of the plot is and covers transness and trans struggles but that’s not the only thing we care about even though it is a driving force for the plot. Neuro-diverse love interest who is a spirit?? Love him. Outside rough and strong but soft and bouncy like a puppy, so silly and fun. His coming out moment to Yads is pretty humorous, I’m pretty sure I laughed out loud. The descriptions of Julian are honestly some of my favourite parts of this book, you can really feel his spirit (no pun intended) and he is so authentically himself. It reminds me of the song Hurricane by Halsey, “Don’t belong to no city, Don’t belong to no man, I’m the violence in the pouring rain, I’m a hurricane.

“Julian was the most alive person he’d ever met. Even as a spirit, he was bright and full of constantly moving energy. The Sun crammed into the body of a boy. Yadriel didn’t want to see him without his light.”

Cemetery Boys book cover by Aiden Thomas
Cemetery Boys Book Cover

I saw the plot twist coming but I dont think many people will. I’ve just studied literature for too long I can spot how it’s weaved into the story to mislead you but it was great and very well done. Hurt my heart, honestly. We get a wonderful loving family ending, I won’t say anything more but it’s very heartwarming.

I love that this whole plot is Lady Death validating Yads’ gender and just like ‘yep here you go POWERS’ ur a real boy woo! Like, nothing can be more validating than a literal Goddess giving you powers.

There were a few moments I thought were odd and didn’t add much to the story, like the dead end with the sniffer dogs, not amounting to anything… I was hoping to find out something there even if it wasn’t about the missing cousin, but these moments were minimal. For the most part, everything that happened had a reason and was followed through or revisited later. I do wish there was more about Julian’s friends and the other two people who went missing, even a little more back story or it being weaved in more than just some random kids. I just think that would have been more satisfying and made a decision nearer the end harder for the reader. I loved the finale and resolution! I was wondering how that was all gonna work out and I like how it strung in Maritza as well and her role in the brujx culture as she was persistently resistant to their expectations as well (being vegan and forging Yads a portaje).

I adore the cover, I’m always here for a stunning illustration of the characters involved, especially for books featuring marginalised characters. I think it helps to solidify what these characters look like for the -white- audience.

“Yadriel was tired of it. He was tired of forgiving. He was tired of fighting to just exist and be himself. He was tired of being the odd one out.”

There are many beautifully created moments that are deeply saddening sprinkled throughout Cemetery Boys. Some that come to mind are Julian’s worry and troubles with his friends and family and the idea he may not be able to fix anything, Yads’ struggle to be seen as he is and his family being loving but dismissive, meeting quirky characters with rich backstories who come to bitter ends, betrayal from those the characters trusted most, and of course Yads falling in love with a boy who is already dead… Urgh. So many feelings. For the most part, all the characters are created equal, they all have backstories and distinct personalities, they aren’t just plot devices or props, they are full characters. This might sound silly, but it’s so important to me side characters feel full and polished, because I do find a lot of side characters aren’t fully developed so you aren’t as hurt when they die or betray the main character or disappear. Aiden makes you care about each of these characters which helps deliver such a lasting impact.

I read this book in two days, I started it off but wasn’t feeling totally with it so came back to it a couple of days later, and then demolished it. Each chapter ends of a cliffhanger, which I love and hate at the same time because yes! Make me wanna read more! But also I like to put the book down when a chapter ends to either go do something or go to sleep, but you can’t do that when the cliffhangers are so good! You’ll find it hard to put down, is what I’m saying, R.I.P my sleep.

The overall theme of family and acceptance is something I find is often missing from YA books as many neglect parental figures. Even though you don’t see either of Yads parents in this book and Julian doesn’t have any either, there is an emphasis on the importance of their familian links. Yads’ mum died almost a year before the story begins and she is a really big part of Yads being there and being who he is because she accepted him wholly, Yads’ dad is representative of the leaders in any community holding the power to create acceptance among all who follow him and though he might think he is doing the right thing at the beginning and trying to keep Yadriel safe he is also holding his son back and the whole plot is fuelled by Yadriel’s need for his father’s acceptance which would lead to the entire family accepting him as well. Julian’s father turns out to be an important figure and his brother who took over the role of father at a young age to care for Julian, but also Julian’s friends, and this part of the story reminds us that there is the option of chosen family and how they are equally as important. Family of any appearance is still family, and the eventual combining of the two is a beautiful way to round off the story.

I hope you enjoyed my post. There was so much I wanted to say but I didn’t want to get too spoiler-y, maybe I’ll come back to this post in the future when it has been out for a while and add some more thoughts and opinions that are spoilers! But I wanted to write this up and let you all know how amazing this book is, pretty much everyone I know who loves reading it super excited for this book, the hype is real. The day I post this, you can get a free kindle sneak peak on Amazon, so if you’re interested in giving it a read, check that out! If reading the first few chapters doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will. I’ve been delving more and more into books written by BIPOC and found a whole new world of fiction I never knew I would love. The rich culture depicted in the books I’ve been reading has shown me that these books really deserve more promo than they get most of the time and I want to dedicate myself to finding and reading more books by BIPOC (preferably queer, you know me) and I have a bunch on my TBR to get to. Give Cemetery Boys a read! Pre-order! Go now!

~ Artie

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One of BitchMedia’s YA novels Feminists should read.

Being a Debut During a Pandemic

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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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~ Artie

Book Review: WRANGLESTONE by Darren Charlton

wranglestone zombie book YA

Hey pals,

I got the chance to read this amazing book before Christmas and I get to be part of the blog tour! It was described as a Zombie Apocalypse adventure book for

Wranglestone CoverYA with some elements of mystery and… A GAY PROTAGONIST!

I honestly had no idea I wanted or needed this book until I read the description. The writing is focused on the plot, not the character’s queerness, doing well to fill in the gaps in dystopian YA. The cover is so gorgeous as well and really fits the brief.

Here’s a short snippet from the novel:

A canoe hung on the dark water as silently as a wolf in the woods. Peter stumbled back. “Dad!”

“Aw hell,” came a voice. “I didn’t mean to startle ya.” A forest of tangled blond hair swished forward followed by a bloodied face.

Peter let out a deep sigh. “Cooper?”

Cooper tucked a strand of hair back behind his ears and shrugged. “I was just checking you was doin’ OK is all.” 

“Were,” said Peter.

Cooper cocked his head to one side like a confused dog. “Huh?”

“Were OK. Was is the wrong grammatical construction.”

Cooper looked away and seemed to rummage around in his head for the right thing to say. And it should’ve felt good watching him struggle for a change. After all, it wasn’t often that a chipmunk could outsmart a bobcat. Except it didn’t feel good at all. It would’ve been easier to live with the fact that the only other boy around Peter’s age happened to be the best Zee-wrangler the lake had ever seen if he was as mean as a westerly wind. But he wasn’t. From the little Peter knew from watching Cooper out on the lake all these years, patrolling it or ferrying people back home late at night when they’d had too much to drink over at one of the neighbour’s, he was more than useful. He was well liked.

It also didn’t help that he had the bluest eyes either. Even now, with his face half caked in dried blood and dirt, like he’d just crawled out of some stinking geyser, they still blazed like the blue of a flame. Peter pulled down on his sweater and looked away. All he had were his dumb words. Cooper had everything.

“I should’ve come and found you to say thank you,” said Peter at last. “Sorry.”

Cooper scratched under his armpit and shrugged. “I din’t come to chase you for no thank yous.”

“Well, I should’ve.”

There was another awkward silence so Peter filled it. “Did you bury the old man and that thing?”

“Yeah. Good and proper, out in the woods.”

Peter turned to leave. “Well, that must’ve been hard work, so thank you.”

“You going to First Fall soon?”

“I s’pose.”

Cooper leaned forward and for some reason looked hopeful. “Me too.”

“OK. Well, maybe see you there.”

Wanna lift?”

“What? No. I’m going with my dad.”

“Oh, I know. But if you wanted to hitch a ride or

somethin?”

“No, it’s OK.”

Cooper dipped his paddle in the water and brought the canoe a little closer to the shore. “It’s just that I sluiced out a bunch a deer guts from earlier and laid down a new hide on the seats and everything, so she’s good to go if you wanted. If you wanted to travel with me, I mean.”

Peter looked at Cooper’s shirt. It was so bloodied you couldn’t even make out the black and red plaid beneath it any more. Cooper must’ve noticed his hesitation and quickly glanced down to check himself.

“Oh,” he said, wiping his muddy palms across his thighs. “I honk. Do I honk? I’ve not washed the guts off yet, but I got a clean tee back home. Well, kinda clean.”

Peter narrowed his eyes. “I can make it across the lake without being killed most of the time, you know.”

“Course. I din’t mean that. I just wondered if you wanted to come with me is all. But it don’t matter.”

Doesn’t matter, thought Peter. “Besides, I don’t even know if I’m going to go yet.”

Cooper furrowed his brow. “How come?”

“Well, your dad’s gonna make sure Henry gets me out on the mainland for one thing.”

Cooper looked out toward those dark places where only the pine trees dared stand still.

“They’ll get off your back just as soon as you’ve killed one of the Dead,” he said. “I can show you how things work. If you wanted, I mean. Besides, it ain’t so bad out there.”

“I don’t see how it can be anything but.”

“Well, I ain’t saying it’s not crazier than a dog chasing its own tail, but you can’t see nothin’ all cooped up on these islands.”

“I can see plenty.”

“No,” said Cooper, “you can’t. The view from where you’re standing ain’t wilderness, it’s scenery.”

Peter followed Cooper’s line of sight, but he could only make out the black tips of the pines against the starry night. “Why, what can you see?”

Cooper struck the paddle down in the water like a post and rested his chin on the tip. “Oh, everythin’. The mountains, meadows, rivers roarin’. The way the stars aren’t like a flat ceiling overhead at all, but a universe that wraps all the way around us deep beneath the planet.”

Peter gazed up at the flat roof of stars you could see above the trees around the lake. He didn’t even know what Cooper was talking about.

“There’s something about open places that makes a man consider himself,” said Cooper, as if his soul somehow belonged out there.

Peter watched Cooper’s Adam’s apple rise and fall in his throat when he couldn’t even see his own in the mirror and marvelled at the ease he had in considering himself a man.

“Open places make you consider yourself?”

“Yeah,” said Cooper. “Like the plains.”

“And the stars?”

“Uh-huh. And the sea and the desert too, Pa says. But I dunno why that is.”

Peter shrugged. “Perhaps it’s because they make us feel small.”

“No. They make me feel bigger, Peter.”

Cooper sliced the paddle through the water and turned the canoe to leave.

“Well,” he sighed, “as long as you’s doing OK. I guess I’ll see you around.”

Peter felt a sudden tug in his stomach he didn’t recognize. He took a step forward and went to delay him. But he stopped himself and a moment later the canoe slipped inside the darkness and Cooper was gone. Peter ran his fingers across his throat to feel for his Adam’s apple and gazed up at the starry night. The tree house door creaked open behind him and light struck the shore.

“He carried you all the way up the steps to Darlene’s from the canoe,” called his dad. “Wouldn’t a hurt you to say yes.”

Peter felt the sharp tug in his tummy again. “Say yes to what?”

“Come on, Pete. Come inside, it’s getting cold.”

Peter held back, scanning the darkness for the canoe. But after a moment or two, the sound of the paddle cutting through the water had all but gone so he headed back toward the tree house. 

 

It’s amazing, I read the whole thing in one day which I haven’t done in ages! I couldn’t put it down. The queer rep is great, Peter and his dad have a moment near the beginning where it was made clear his dad knew and accepted him.

The world building and description was wonderful, it reminded me of the game Firewatch (I’ve never been anywhere near a real American nature reserve so that’s the best I got!) and the map at the beginning does help in placing where everything happens. The idea of living in a tree house over a lake sounds clever, I’ve never read or watched a zombie piece where they actually lived on a lake or in tree houses. It gave me some Walking Dead video game aesthetics as the lake froze over.

I think Darren Charlton approached the more sexual content well and perfectly hinted at it without writing an entire sex scene. I always applaud a writer who does this well as I don’t think it should be entirely omitted in YA but should be handled with care.

I love that there was a little bit of disability rep too! Often people with disabilities in a zombie book/film/show die because of it, so that gave a nice change too. I’d like to see more media that approached disabilities and chronic illness in dystopian futures. Disabled people are creative, ask anyone!

I cried several times, my heart was broken then sewed back together, and the number of TWISTS? Astonishing. Honestly hadn’t a clue who was behind it all until it was unveiled. Such a great mystery plot and not very traditional zombie world either.

As an adult reading this YA novel, I can say it suits the audience well but is written in such an enjoyable way that I got lost in it as well, so the age-range is much broader.

This is a great adventure book that ‘just so happens’ to centre a gay character. I could go on but I won’t coz it’ll just become spoilers and I’d rather let everyone have a chance to read themselves! It’s a great book for anyone who loves zombies.

Comes out 6th Feb

Check out the other stops on the blog tour!

Goodreads // Bookshop

~Artie

My other posts on this book: instagram / Goodreads / 2019 Reading Wrap Up

I also mention it in this post.

Also in LGBTQ+ book recs video here

Book Review: HEARTSTOPPER by Alice Oseman

 

Hey pals, 

 

We are finally here. I’ve seen a lot about Heartstopper on the Twitter, because I follow a Untitled Design 5lot of queer people in the book blogger/booktube community and also the author Alice Oseman (duh) of the web series. I felt like I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting into whilst also not actually knowing a thing about it! (Besides it being a spin-off to a novel and that it was gay, you know, the important things!)

 

I finally got to reading it because I was DETERMINED to have read it before I went to the book signing in Piccadilly… and I was surprised. The art style really reminded me of manga and even some of the dramatic ‘omg am i gay do i love this boy’ moments felt SUPER rom-com manga. I love the blend of the art style I normally associate with japanese culture, and VERY BRITISH plot points and language. Never did I think I would see boys playing rugby and saying the word ‘lad’ whilst also looking like the cast of OHSHC. 

 

Heartstopper is actually very different from what I thought. I imagined it was more of a whole story (I thought they would be together by the end of part 1) but I’m actually pretty excited about it being more episodic. I haven’t read anything like that in years, and it felt really packed with beautiful art and TENSION… ooooo gay tension.

 

Without trying to spoil the book, there is a page near the end of volume 1: we see Nick, head-to-toe, at a party, and boy does he look like a bisexual icon. The characters have been trying to convince me this boy ‘looks straight’, please. Rolled up short sleeves, cuffed jeans and VANS? This boy has stolen my look and I am CONFIRMED bisexual. You couldn’t convince me this boy was straight by his fashion choices alone, thank you very much. Good thing it was near the end!

 

It took me two weeks to get around to reading volume 2. And that isn’t a bad thing. Actually, it was like when I would buy manga books and couldn’t afford many of them. If i knew I had one book left before I’d have to buy more, I’d drag out the time it took to read it because I didn’t want it to be over. At least if I had it, I knew I had the answers to my questions. Reading Heartstopper is super nostalgic for me because I read it similarly to how I read manga. I read one book in one sitting (4 hours tops) and always had an emotional roller-coaster, wrapped up in bed in the dark. It’s so hard to explain the tension without ruining it! But the art compliments the plot so well that you just get a big old punch to the gut when bad things happen and your chest hurts when something adorable happens. I’ve lost my capacity to talk about this because it just makes you feel things so strongly, and it’s only an experience I’ve ever had whilst reading manga/graphic novels. 

 

I’ve also found I have a favourite boy, which I think it pretty common for the readers of Heartstopper, but I just didn’t think I would? But, I do indeed. My heart cries for our giant buffoon, Nick in volume 2. He’s truly just so loveable.

 

IMG_4895

Alice said in the talk before the signing that these books obviously have it’s twists and turns, there’s angst but not too much that the tone is heavy. And she really works it so well that the overall feeling is light and fluffy, even when our boys are sad. It’s the perfect series for those who love the friends-to-lovers with a bit of ‘they’re almost happy’, because you won’t be depressed for long and if you really can’t wait for the next book, you can always read the webcomic! (I’m going to do my best to hold back!!)

 

~ Artie

https://www.aliceoseman.com/

check out my reading vlog here!