Welcome to the October 13th review stop on the Alex McKenna & The Academy of Souls blog tour organized by Silver Dagger Book Tours. The Alex McKenna books written by Vicki-Ann Bush are YA Urban Fantasy novels with LGBTQIA representation, and I love it! Note that the title of this post and the name of the tour aren’t accidental mismatches; Both current books in the series are included in this tour, and I reviewed book one. I realized when I checked back on the tour kit that “review #2” next to my name on the schedule may have meant I was supposed to review book two, not that I’m the second review on the tour (I signed up for this tour when I was still very green on accepting tours,) but I received the file for book one and I haven’t read this series before, so book one it is.
Be sure to follow the rest of the tour for more features, other reviews, and a giveaway! (More on that at the end of this post.)
Please note that this post contains affiliate links, which means there is no additional cost to you if you shop using my links, but I will earn a small percentage in commission. A program-specific disclaimer is at the bottom of this post.
Alex McKenna & the Academy of Souls
Alex McKenna Series Book Two
by Vicki-Ann Bush
Released 20 October 2020
Published by The Parliament House
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy, LGBTQIA
Page Count: 239
Add it to your Goodreads TBR!
After surviving a harrowing case, Alex McKenna just wanted to rest. Unfortunately, his plans are interrupted by the ghost of Seven-year-old Haven, who is lost in an in-between realm.
Despite his great-grandmother’s warning, Alex crosses the bridge between the living and the dead, sending him and his girlfriend into the world of the Academy of Souls, a high school for dead teens who are unable to complete their journey.
There, Alex meets Ophelia, Haven’s teenage sister, who’s been searching for her for more than a century. Together, with a few friends he meets along the way, Alex must cross the treacherous terrain of the Underworld in-between, to save Haven from clutches of the Soul Gatherer and reunite the sisters.
Alex held Margaret, his firm hand pressing her head to his shoulder. His breath brushed across her ear. “Don’t look, no matter what you hear. That’s how it gets you.”
All the other victims had turned to ice. Alex couldn’t understand why, but the rules didn’t apply to him. None of the deceased were family, so maybe that was his armor. His family history protected him somehow.
They were huddled behind the furnace in the basement while they attempted to construct an escape plan. Although in a frenzy, Alex knew the level of heat from the unit should be enough to throw the beast temporarily off their trail. The foul spirit followed the warmth from the living, which made hiding from its ghostly grips difficult. The tighter he held Margaret, the more he worried about Wilby. His little brother had bolted in the other direction.
Alex was careful not to touch the hot, metal tank as he peered around it. He made the mistake a few years back of carelessly brushing against it while moving some boxes. The scar on his right arm left a permanent reminder. Alex crinkled his nose—the damp walls and seventy-year-old pipes needed more than a little fresh air.
It was dark in every corner except for a sliver of light emanating from the single ground-level window. He hated the basement, and especially the furnace room. It was the part of the below-ground space that wasn’t finished, and he felt like he stepped into a portal to hell every time he was there. He could sense the darkened soul still lurking in the shadows but couldn’t hone in on it. Only the goosebumps standing to attention on his arms confirmed his suspicions. He eased back behind the tank. His plan worked for the moment, but it also limited their options. Now he needed a solid way to find Wilby and escape.
“I think I know how we can get out of the house.” Alex spoke softly. “But you’re gonna have to trust me.”
She nodded her head, her eyes widened with fear. Neither were normally the type to rattle easily, this one had them both off-balance.
“I know you’re really scared right now. So am I. But I also know you can do this. I’m going to lead the creature toward the attic.”
“Alex. No.” Margaret grabbed his t-shirt and gripped tightly.
He softly smiled.
“It will follow me. Then you get the hell out of here and find Wilby. Try my mom’s room first; he used to hide under her bed when he was little. It made him feel safe.
“Luckily, that thing stayed on our heels. I know the darkness is down here with us. My bumps are strong. After I get its attention, I’ll run for the stairs. You give it a minute or two before following. Get Wilby, and then head back down here and out that window.” Alex pointed to the ground window. It was big enough for Wilby and Margaret to fit through. “See the large wrench on the bench? Use it to break the window. My mom has rags over there, too. Line the ledge so you guys don’t get cut.”
“Why don’t we just break one of the windows in the den? They’re larger.”
“No. It would be harder to break through one of the double panes, and it would attract a lot more attention. This way you’ll barely be heard.”
Margaret shook her head. “I can’t leave you.” A tear streamed down her cheek.
“I need you to do this for Wilby.” Alex hesitated. He yearned to kiss her but settled for a pal hug. “Text me when both of you are out.”
“How are you going to get the hell out of the house?”
“Don’t worry, I got a plan.” There was no plan, but he had to tell her something so she would agree. Margaret’s fierce when it comes to protecting the ones she loves.
He pulled away and eased out into the open. A chill ran up his spine—it was close. Alex squinted, trying to distinguish the difference in the shadows. He took a step forward; a blast of cold air startled him, raising the hair on his arms and roiling the butterflies in his stomach. He was headed straight toward the evil spirit.
A low, gravelly hum tainted his ears. Could Margaret hear it? He shook his head. No, he was not about to call out and give up her location. He shifted his eyes toward the right, his heart pounding. The beast lunged forward and reached out with a translucent, icy hand. Alex ducked and swerved. Spinning around, he ran straight for the door, and crossed the threshold before it could stop him. He scrambled up the stairs and made the mistake of turning back. It was a costly move. He tripped, and his body hit the floorboards, scraping his knees. He could feel stinging cuts but chose to ignore it.
A frozen grip seized his leg and a layer of ice spread across the denim like a fungus. Furiously, Alex kicked free and scrambled back to his feet, running for the staircase to the second level. The entrance to the attic was in the hallway. Once he got the spirit there, he could buy Margaret the time she needed.
He reached the top of the staircase, rounded the corner, and reached for the knob. There was no need. The door flew open, slamming it into the wall. Chips of plaster exploded and nicked Alex near his left eye. He didn’t stop. Taking the steep steps two at a time, he ran to the center of the room. He heard the door slam and knew his plan had worked.
He was alone with the dark soul and nowhere to go.
Alex McKenna & the Geranium Deaths
Alex McKenna Series Book One
by Vicki-Ann Bush
Published 30 September 2019
The Parliament House
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy, LGBTQIA
Page Count: 313
Add it to your Goodreads TBR!
For Alex McKenna, high school is just a distraction from the love of his life, Margaret, with whom he can’t wait to spend more time once they get to college.
In many respects, Alex is just an average seventeen-year-old boy…except for the fact he’s a transgender medium born from a long line of Strega witches, possessing the ability to communicate with ghosts.
With the help of Margaret and his talented Strega great-grandmother, Alex will learn how to strengthen his abilities. The dead need Alex to help them reconcile issues they left behind—and he finds that he needs them, too. As his abilities multiply, assisting the dead becomes an outlet to channel his new energy, giving him the strength to come to terms with who he is as a transgender male, and how far he will choose to go.
My Rating: 4 Stars
I received a complimentary review copy of Alex McKenna & The Geranium Deaths in exchange for an honest review from the author Vicki-Ann Bush via Silver Dagger Book Tours as part of my participation in the blog tour for this title. Thank you to both Vicki-Ann Bush and Silver Dagger for this opportunity! This has not swayed my opinion on the book. My thoughts are my own and my review is honest.
Alex McKenna & The Geranium Deaths is a unique YA Paranormal Fantasy unlike any other I’ve ever read. Not only is Alex a medium helping ghosts move on, but he’s also trans and it’s no big deal. Seriously! I love seeing so many trans characters and other LGBTQIA representation and issues in fiction lately, but this is the first trans main character I’ve come across in a YA novel who just happens to be trans in addition to everything else. It comes up when such things would naturally come up, and otherwise, it isn’t mentioned. Alex is Alex.
I love the fact that rather than Alex’s abilities being some random thing that cropped up in him, it’s part of his family heritage (Strega witches) and we get to see him learning how to cope with his lot and do his supernatural job better with the help of his grandmother. I love it that none of the things that make Alex unique, be it his trans identity, his paranormal abilities, or anything else are rejected or seen as problems by the important people in Alex’s life. Alex has a great support network who loves and accepts him and just wants him to be the best he can be.
Alex’s repeated use of the Italian language threw me off a little, though. I feel like when you present an “average American teen” with a twist and then make them speak Italian, you’re either going to end up with a pretentious New Yorker whose family hasn’t let him forget The Old Country or just some annoying brat who likes spaghetti and mob movies a little too much. Alex isn’t either of these cookie-cutter archetypes nor is he a genuine immigrant or immigrant’s son (he’s fourth-generation,) and he’s growing up in modern-day USA where you’re unlikely to learn any language other than English fluently unless you really pay attention in Spanish class. I’m fourth-generation (give or take one depending on the branch) and I’ve only just pushed my grasp of Norwegian beyond a few phrases and a Christmas carol with intentional self-guided study in my thirties. Even in families where the grandparents or great grandparents were the immigrants and held on to their language, the grandkids and great-grandkids speak the language they use in school. I suppose one could argue keeping the language alive here was more important in this family because of the inherited paranormal situation, but normally when that stuff is handled in languages other than the local language it’s handled in Latin.
With considerations like that aside, this novel is full of ghostly mystery and intrigue that will keep you on the edge of your seat! There’s murder afoot (or was? Ghost and all, you know) and the mystery element to this book is quite compelling. I love the way Vicki-Ann Bush writes, just in general. Her prose is captivating, not so detailed as to be called flowery and not so plain as to neglect world-building or create scenes full of talking heads. I’m aware that this has become a series, and I would definitely be interested in reading the later books. I’ll definitely be filing this in my “recommend to x” folder for both YA Fantasy lovers and those looking for LGBTQIA novels.
Originally from New York, I’ve been living my author adventure in Nevada for the past thirty-six years. Ominous landscapes have served up sweet delectables for my craving mind.
When I’m not writing you can find me cuddled up with my husband, our Chihuahua-Yorkie mix, Curie, she’s the sweetest girl, and completing our little family, our boy Cuba, a proud, and sometimes mushy great Dane.
My likes include, movie and TV binging, going out to eat for breakfast, and dining alfresco. Oh, and Disneyland… and coffee… and wine.
Dislikes are simple, cruelty of any kind.
One lucky follower of the tour will walk away with a $15 Amazon gift card, and another will win a small swag bag from the author. Be sure to check out other stops on the tour for more chances to enter! Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway.a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.