Showing posts with label Savanna Welles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Savanna Welles. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Valerie Wilson Wesley's "A Glimmer of Death" is Out! Happy Release Day!

Listen. I stood at the stove about to reheat some lasagna (with cheap off-brand breadsticks from Wal-Mart and a "girl-bye" to them) when the UPS man delivered this baby to me. The book came on time. Delivered on its release date. I didn’t get played like I anticipated. So I was good to go! Y’all know the mailing services are off the chain these days. And my messy tail is contributing to it via Amazon purchases. But we’ll talk about that some other day.


Valerie Wilson Wesley is one of my favorite black mystery writers, and she's back with a new series. Also, she's back with a fresh shift in gears toward undertaking the cozy mystery sub-genre. Wesley is best known for the famous Tamara Hayle lady private-eye detective series. She also has a catalog of black contemporary works out there (Playing my Mother's Blues being one). And Wesley is also known for two gothic romance novels (check the labels for “Savanna Welles”). My point is that Wesley has done about everything except cozy mysteries. Until today where we have A Glimmer of Death, book one in Wesley’s Odessa Jones series.

Get into Wesley's Tamara Hayle private-eye series, please

Friday, May 15, 2020

New Valerie Wilson Wesley Book & Series on the WAY!

"Odessa Jones doesn't trust her second sight. The extrasensory "gift" that her Aunt Phoenix claims will always protect her let Dessa down in a major way when she was blindsided by the death of her husband. Now, with her failing catering business looming over her, not to mention the possible loss of her home and continuing grieving, Dessa's last chance to keep her life together is a job at a real estate agency with a shady past.

With volatile boss Charlie Risko and a ramshackle operation, it's far from a dream job, but working at Risko Realty veers more into nightmare territory when Charlie is found murdered. Dessa knows she had a "glimmer"--or premonition--of death the day before, and is troubled to think she could have predicted Charlie's death. Her second sight kicks in again when a coworker is arrested for Charlie's murder - and Dessa knows for certain that he's innocent. This time, Dessa doesn't want to ignore her gift. She teams up with friend, former detective, and current barbeque cook Lennox Royal to help her track down the killer - but will her glimmers help save her before the killer strikes again?"
Get READYYYYYYY!  Release January 26, 2021 (as of now, I guess)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Savanna Welles Tells Secrets

Oh, WEE. Let’s talk about Savanna Welles’s (aka Valerie Wilson Wesley) latest paranormal romance not-so thriller, The Moon Tells Secrets.

The premise is extra simple–though suggests something yards more exhilarating than the actual events. A woman named Raine has been on the run with her eleven-year-old half African- half Native-American son, Davey. The two are fleeing Davey’s marred legacy, one that not even Davey’s Navajo grandmother could protect them from with her traditions and wisdom. However, before death takes her, she leaves the two plenty to run with. And run they do, because the thing that murdered Davey’s father remains relentless in its pursuit for Davey's blood.

But why you may wonder?

Well, Davey acquired his father’s gift, which is the ability to shift into any animal or person. According to Native American legend, these individuals are known as skinwalkers. And the creature that hunts him is one as well.  To preserve itself, it must kill Davey. Now considering his age, this, essentially, nullifies Davey’s potential to kill it in the future.  Seeing that her son is vulnerable to this creature, it's up to Raine to protect him until she can find a solution.  Thus, Raine provides us with the first-person narrative of her struggle to do so. 

Nevertheless, there is a deuteragonist present by the name of Cade. Cade’s third-person narrative interchanges with Raine’s first-person (odd but not something I found disruptive to the overall narrative). Cade is a man struggling with the loss of his wife, a year after she was found murdered in her home office.  According to the cops, her murder was, theoretically, done with an animal-like ferocity. Nursing the bottle since, Cade slowly finds comfort in the company of Raine and Davey instead. A relationship begins to bloom, despite much of Raine's secretive and closed off behavior.  But as the details of Cade's wife’s death come to light, Raine suddenly begins to pull away from him.  Cade can only wonder if Raine’s sudden apprehension is connected to the mystery of his wife’s murder.  Determined to hold on to Raine and Davey, he begins his search to find out.  

And there, ladies and gentlemen, is where the paranormal romance steps in and out goes any sporting thrills.  Which, at the end of it all, I found beautifully satisfying anyway.  But let's still talk about the book.

Naked Romance

Let’s get to the first thing I appreciated about this particular Welles book. I thought The Moon Tells Secrets was better than Welles’ last Gothic romance thriller, When the Night Whispers; let’s just put that out there. Part of my pleasure with Moon arrives from how Welles–to me–did a better job showing instead of telling. Very little of the storytelling and character fleshing was glossed over with narrative cramped with off-stage scene recaps and exposition.  Not allowing the reader to live the events with the characters breeds disconnect.  So Moon had its moments, but it wasn't as "outsider looking in" as Whispers

This made it superior to Whispers, because it allowed the romance between Raine and Cade to unfold before your eyes. Their first “date” was on paper. Their trips to Starbucks (apparently they had waitresses there) was on paper. Going to the fair as a doubting couple? Well, that was on paper as well. Chilling at the house with popcorn and a movie? On paper as well.

You get where I’m going? To be clear, this may be a testament to The Moon Tells Secrets being a paranormal romance, whereas When the Night Whispers was about the deconstruction of a woman because of a toxic romance. So some developments may have been required. Regardless, the difference between the two was too notable. Additionally, this budding romance also filled the pace of the book. It wasn’t until partway through when I realized I had to take the book as a romance and not a paranormal thriller. Once that became clear, I let the romantic incense burn. Though still a little disappointed in the lack of fast-paced chills I came to anticipate.

Bros Over Chills

Navojo skinwalker
This, in turn, points me toward another little letdown I had with The Moon Tells Secrets. Outside of the touches of paranormal, there’s also a mystery. Raine, Cade, and Davey have to find out exactly who is the skinwalker plotting against them. The dribble towards this revelation was mostly weak. They spent more time thinking and feeling and allowing odd moments for the skinwalker to approach them. And its approach seemed mostly ineffectual because–if it was so dangerous and awful–why did Raine and Davey still linger in its radar? Raine encountered the skinwalker a number of times, and yet she'll leave Davey in their new home while she company Cade. Which is odd, now that her cover is blown. The trio even went to a carnival and allowed Davey to prance off on his own–after Raine encountered the skinwalker once more.

So the stakes just didn’t seem to apply. There were talks about the skinwalker waiting until the moon was full, but why show its cards beforehand after it has chased its meal across America? Why ruin the element of surprise? So no. There was little deducing and reasoning Raine and Cade’s way toward who the skinwalker was. They mostly just… well… fell into it all.

I think this is what killed the use of the skinwalker villain. I’m almost tempted to say I wished it got in on the story as the tritagonist of sorts. We hear Raine’s side. We see Cade’s side. What about the quiet, ineffective and less than ruthlessly brutal, skinwalker villain? Who, by the way, turns out to be someone closer to Raine and Davey than they think? And is acknowledged with little emotion–which I found increases how the mystery aspect didn't exactly add up.

If you want to know more about the Native American legend of the skinwalker, click HERE.

Smooth Skinny

However, I reiterate: Paranormal Romance. If you read The Moon Tells Secrets expecting anything else, remind yourself of what it really is. Good paranormal romance? I’d say yes. Though it felt dull and unexciting in the beginning, it became a smooth read when I settled with its romance.

Now what I won't be able to get into is the book's allegory of a mother's love and protection. That'll be up to you to interpret.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

When the Night Whispers Review

“The more time she spent with Asa, the more she couldn’t remember what she’d told or not told her daughter.  Her days away from him seemed blurred and dull.  It seemed as if she forgot everything: the lyrics to songs she’d sung all her life, the titles of books she’d read twice.  She’d stick milk into cabinets and empty bowls into the refrigerator--like some poor soul with dementia, she thought.  It frightened her, this forgetfulness, but then she decided that his presence in her life overshadowed everything else."

I finally managed to obtain a copy of Savanna Welles’ book, When the Night Whispers.  Moved by the fact that Savanna Welles is a pen name to one of my favorite African-American mystery writers, Valerie Wilson Wesley, the need to read this book was undoubtedly paramount.  Nevertheless, I hesitated in ordering a copy after the book released in February.  Maybe I thought it wasn't as absorbing as Wesley’s Tamara Hayle Mysteries (where the last two books actually weren't).  Perhaps it was the synopsis, indicating Wesley’s switch to writing Gothic paranormal under her Welles pseudonym.  Still, as a loyal reader, I knew I was going to get to the book one day.  Finally I did.  I spent two days devouring the novel, but left with that “meh” feeling that kept me from rushing to purchase it in the first place.  That’snot to say that I disliked the book.  However, despite the wonderful imagery, the plot just didn't seem to take off as I hoped.

When the Night Whispers revolves around a divorced mother named Jocelyn, and her eleven-year-old daughter, Mikela.  Separated from her husband for some time, Jocelyn decides to move her single motherhoodedness (yes, I made that up) back to her childhood home, a home passed to her by her deceased mother, Constance.  A house riddled with Welles' descriptions of generations of women gone past, it is here that Jocelyn discovers letters written by her ill-fated great-grandmother, Caprice.  Somewhat ostracized from the family for leaving her daughter behind, Caprice’s letters details the maddening journey she took to separate herself from the charming authority of a dark and influential gentleman.  The novel chops up pieces of Caprice’s personal letters.  Each entry is used to pace alongside the troubles Jocelyn faces when she, too, finds herself suddenly at the sway of another influential gentleman, her neighbor, Asa.  And down the road to the brink of madness does Jocelyn go.  Can Jocelyn salvage herself and break free, or will she fall to Asa’s power and sacrifice her family to please the darkness that he harbors?

Dark stuff, right?  It’s like the paranormal romance without the sappy romance that I so despise (such as Nora Robert‘s Sign of Seven Trilogy).  Another positive is the supporting cast.  Where Jocelyn was nearly out of her mind the entire book, it was characters like Luna and her mother Geneva that really compelled me to continue reading the book.  The novel itself, touched with Southern folklore and porch-songs, had these conscious and aware characters stand out the strongest.  Driven by their intuitive abilities, Luna and Geneva were two who believed in the danger surrounding Jocelyn's neighbor.  So they chose to uncover him.  I love stories surrounding Southern traditions meant to rid people of jinx and haints, and these two characters, buttered with oils and herbs and the will to face the darkness, did not disappoint.  I’ma sucker for cryptic conversations about thwarting the dead; this book had it.

Another supporting character was Jocelyn’s ex-husband, Mike, who did little more than baby-sat their sassy eleven-year-old daughter, Mikela.  Now while this small cast pushed and challenged the main protagonist, Jocelyn, she had some purpose of her own. Besides ruminating about her love/hate relationship with Asa, of course.  It’s through Jocelyn that most of the themes related to the bond between mothers and daughters come about.  As she explores the tension created between her daughter because of a man, she also realizes that those same tensions existed within her family's past.  That realization leads to her desire to keep from making those same mistakes.  And to further the theme of mother-daughter unions was the connection between Luna and her mother (who resided in a nursing home), Geneva.  I believe the secondary theme the book offers is that of relationships and how one can find themselves lost in sustaining one, particularly one that is abusive.

And here is where most of the material fell short to me.  There was a void of concrete sustenance in the development of Jocelyn’s relationship with Asa; toward the beginning to the end.  Their development primarily consisted of pages of told—as opposed to shown—storytelling scenarios revolving around their budding desire.  As someone who likes to dig deep into books and require lots of details to shovel, that wasn't enough for me.  I didn't want to be told about how Asa lured Jocelyn to other countries.  I wanted to see it.  I didn't want to be told how Asa managed to convince Jocelyn to poison her body.  I wanted to see it happen.  And I most certainly didn't want to be told how Asa came to put his hands on Jocelyn.  I wanted to witness it.  I wanted to see those charming good nuggets of things Asa did to win Jocelyn over to the darkness he had to offer.  I wanted to be captured in the moments of their unfolding relationship, but because it didn’t start on such a note, I only ended up humming right through it till the end.  This kind of defeated one of the main purposes of the novel.

Nevertheless, When the Night Whispers was a fantastic read, only because there is enough mystery and cryptic conversations to keep you guessing and reading on into the night.  Some areas could have used a little more fleshing out, but it was still a smooth sail toward some dark satisfaction.

Welles, Savanna. When the Night Whispers. New York: St. Martin's, 2013. Print.

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