Monday, September 1, 2014

Hilcia's Minis: YA Wallflowers & Dark Horses + LGBT Mysteries: Porcelain Dogs, Cambridge Fellows & Think of England

In August I craved mysteries and urban fantasy. Today, however, I begin my minis with the young adult fiction book chosen by my Internet Book Club. All of the books below are either highly recommended or recommended reads, and four out of the five are old releases with only one 2014 release in the bunch.

YOUNG ADULT FICTION:
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an excellent YA fiction read written in epistolary style. First published in 1999, this short coming-of-age novel is as pertinent today as it was during that time. Chbosky's narrator and main character is young fifteen-year-old Charlie whose personal isolation and awkward social skills are only rivaled by his brilliant mind. The story begins when Charlie is about to start high school and finishes at the end of his freshman year. During that one year, within 213 pages, Charlie undergoes quite a few changes, (character growth) and makes some good as well as some pretty disturbing discoveries about himself. Along the way, he makes some great friends like Patrick, Sam and a few others, but Charlie's family (parents and siblings) are also there in a meaningful way.

This is a smart read, not just a quick one. Chbosky packs in key young adult and family issues, some quite serious, in very few pages while keeping his characters young and fresh as they "discover" and process issues and ideas in their own unique way. While Charlie is the narrator through the letters he writes to "Dear Friend," all the main characters involved in Charlie's life are very well rendered. I was touched by a few them: Charlie, of course, Sam, Patrick and Brad, Charlie's teacher Bill (I wish all teachers were like that!), Charlie's sister and his parents. This is a highly recommended YA fiction read. If you've read it, then you know why. If you haven't, give it try. (1999, Pocket Books)
"In the hallways, I see the girls wearing the guys' jackets, and I think about the idea of property. And I wonder if they are happy. I hope they are. I really hope they are."

"We accept the love we think we deserve."

"[e]ven if we don't have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them."
I read this book for my Internet Book Club. Thanks to Mariana, Lili, Maria, Christine, and Yinx for the recommendation and discussion.
---------------
CONTEMPORARY WESTERN MYSTERY:
The Dark Horse (Walt Longmire #5) by Craig Johnson

I decided to go back and read books #5 through #7 of the Walt Longmire mystery series so I can catch up with some of the past installments I'm missing. The Dark Horse was first published in 2009. In this one a woman admits to shooting her husband six times after he burned down the barn while all her quarter horses were inside. Alive. But even with proof, a witness, and her confession, Walt doesn't believe she is guilty and sets out to prove it. The Dark Horse is my favorite book of the series so far. The mystery is fantastic and the action is even better. Good ole Walt just keeps surprising me with what he is willing to do to solve a mystery as well as for other people. What a fabulous character and what a great series. I'm picking up the other two books ASAP, and then I will be up to date. Highly recommended. (2009, Viking Adult - Kindle Ed.)

***By the way, the end of the third season for the A&E Longmire television program was fantastic! I'm still breathless.
---------------
LGBT GAY MYSTERIES/ROMANCE:
The Affair of the Porcelain Dog by Jess Faraday

The Affair of the Porcelain Dog is the first book in a mystery duology by Jess Faraday that I picked up from the "books recommended" list in Goodreads. It is not a romance, it contains sexual involvements that lead to the mystery and action. Set in the crime-riddled streets of 1889 London, the main character Ira Adler is an orphan and former pickpocket, thief, and male prostitute from the mean East End streets, presently living in luxury under the patronage of powerful crime lord Cain Goddard as payment for an exclusive sexual relationship. Ira has become selfishly spoiled with luxury, but that begins to change after Cain asks him to steal the statue of a porcelain dog containing evidence that under the sodomy laws may send him and others, including Ira, to prison. Ira retrieves the porcelain dog only to loose it to another pickpocket, and the hunt begins in earnest leading to a friend's death, opium traders and more dangerous discoveries.

The setting, characters, atmosphere, action and plotting all come together to create an excellent historical mystery. I appreciate that the sodomy laws in place during that time are not taken lightly or dismissed by Faraday, instead they play a crucial role in the mystery, drive how the characters' conduct their lives and the actions they take in order to survive. I could not stop reading this book and will pick up Turnbull House, Book #2, to find out what happens to Ira, his detecting partner and ex-client Dr. Tim Lazarus, and Cain. Highly recommended. (2011, Bold Strokes Books-Digital Format) 

Lessons in Love (Cambridge Fellows #1) by Charlie Cochrane

First published in 2008, this is the first book in an 8 book mystery/romance series by Charlie Cochrane. There is a great mystery in this introductory book to the series and addictive characters that I want to know better. Set in St. Bridges College, Cambridge in 1905, it all begins when the outgoing, good looking Jonty Stewart joins the teaching staff at the college and catches the attention of stodgy, but brilliant, Orlando Coppersmith. A man whose whole life is wrapped up in the school and mathematics. Their relationship slowly changes to intimacy and a forbidden romance. But the murders of young students interrupt their small world of personal discovery, and soon they are caught up in a dangerous position acting as the police's eyes and ears within the college where any one of their students could be the murderer.

The atmosphere in this book is just fantastic, and I fell in love with both Jonty and Orlando. Much tenderness goes into Orlando's seduction, and there is much more to Jonty's character than his outward outgoing, jolly personality. The gay themed mystery is well integrated with the developing relationship between the main characters. I already picked up Lessons in Desire, Book #2. Recommended. (2009, Samhain - Digital Format)

Think of England by K.J. Charles

"Lie back and think of England…"

This is another turn of the century mystery/romance. Set in England, 1904, the majority of the story takes place at a house party in a country home. Captain Archie Curtis lost fingers and friends to a military accident that he believes was the result of sabotage. The only reason he is at this country home is to find proof that the wealthy owner is responsible. He meets the guests and immediately dislikes foreigner Daniel da Silva, an obviously queer poet with the kind of effete mannerisms and sophisticated wit Archie always despised. But as Archie begins to investigate, he finds that Daniel is conducting his own investigation and they join forces. As the danger grows so does the sexual tension, particularly after Archie and Daniel find themselves in a compromising situation with blackmail and murder becoming a real possibility.

This book was recommended to me by Li from Me and My Books, and she was right. I really enjoyed this story for its turn of the century English atmosphere. Particularly Archie's stiff-upper-lip British attitude juxtaposed with the entertaining, tongue in cheek moments provided by Daniel. Oh, the horror! These great characters make a wonderful romantic couple, -- "Can I call on you?" *snort* -- and the mystery and action are a plus. The sodomy laws are taken into consideration, and Charles works through that in the building relationship as well as the mystery plot. I would want to see how she works with an established romance and the complications presented by those laws in a sequel. I would definitely read it. Recommended. (2014, Samhain - Digital Format) 


7 comments:

  1. I'm glad THINK OF ENGLAND worked for you! I think she has plans for a sequel.

    I've never read THE PERKS OF A WALLFLOWER, though a movie came out fairly recently, didn't it? Also, I have to say that when I read that bit about it being as pertinent today as it was in 1999, I was like "surely 1999 was just a few years ago..." - how time flies :-)

    Li

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the info (again) on the sequel for Think of England. I'll look forward to reading it.

      Li, I know there is a movie for Perks but haven't seen it yet. I mean to look it up though. I loved the book! And 1999! A lot of things change in 15 years. . . I still can't believe it has been that long either -- but then I feel that way about the 80's!!! LOL!

      Delete
  2. I love a The Perks of Being a Wallflower! One of those books that I have read multiple times and loved each time. Have you seen the movie? I haven't yet but do want to.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Samantha, this is such a beautifully written book and it begs to be reread. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I will! I'm looking for it. :)

      Delete
  3. Nice post, Hils!! The YA you posted about sounds good! Going to have to check it out :) And I've been meaning to look up the K.J. Charles because of Li... so now, even more! Sounds like you had some great reads, Hils :) Seems to me your year-end post is going to be hard LOL.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are NOT kidding Nath! My year-end post is already tough! I guess because my year has been so stressful I've been reading (or just finishing) books that I like, love, or enjoy from the beginning. I haven't been in the mood for reading books that don't grab my attention. I'm going to have to choose from a lot of excellent reads!

      The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an excellent YA Fiction read. I'm so glad that Mariana via Lili recommended it for our Book Club. And do try Think of England! It's very well done. So are the other two, but of those I think you would really enjoy Lessons in Love by Charlie Cochrane because it is a mystery and a romance -- so good!

      Delete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete

Anonymous Users disallowed due to large influx of spam.