February 16, 2016

Turning Pages Reads: HOLDING COURT by K.C. Held

Welcome to another session of Turning Pages!

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Jules Verity - whose last name does indeed mean "truth" - can't stop herself from blurting the truth. All of it. All the time. The weird thing is, though, that she can't exactly recognize it as truth. She normally can't recognize the sentences and phrases she blurts out as... anything. Her best friend, Cami, calls it "Psychic Tourette's Syndrome, which is also inaccurate, but whatever it is, it's caused Jules to be fired from every single job she's ever had and to be regarded as somewhat of a freak in the quirky small town of Lunevale. If she'd stop fighting it, her Gran assures her, her gift would sort itself out. All of the Verity women have some sort of gift; Gran helps people find their true love, while Jules' mother can tell the provenance of anything, making her a very useful sort of antique dealer. Jules can't figure out what her gift is good for, and only wishes to get rid of it, buy a car, and drive out of town, in that order. Oh, and if she could somehow separate Grayson Chandler, the boy she's been crushing on since the sixth grade, from his perfect girlfriend, Bree, her life would also be improved. Unfortunately, the thing with Grayson is not going to happen - Bree is way too sweet, and Jules is not like that, anyway -- and Jules' dream of buying a car (and avoiding her Gran's hot pink electric golf cart) are derailed when her mother announces she's traveling to Europe on a buying trip - and plans on the antique store for the summer. Without her usual summer gig, Jules is at a loose end until she meets Henry VIII at the antique shop - Hank Bacon in costume. She blurts out something odd to him, but only later she finds out it means that Tudor Times, Hank's mansion-turned-dinner-theater which once belonged to the Lunes who founded the town, will have an opening. Jules rapidly finds herself employed - but not some gorgeous Tudor princess, but as a mad nun who spouts prophesy. Regardless of the fact that this is one job she can't possibly get fired from, things get dicey the first day -- Jules, trying to hide her black-swathed nun's outfit from Grayson's eyes, trips a switch, finds a secret room and - falls over a dead body. Which, when she screams and finds her way OUT of the secret room, disappears.

It is seriously shaping up to be a LONG, weird summer.

Observations: This book is a ROMP. I love the whole RenFaire vibe, costuming, dinner theater, and all of that - it is a rich, rich setting. Add in Jules' particular "gifts" and the whole thing is just over-the-top awesome. The novel is the kind of deliciously delirious, frothy fun that I love to read in cozy mysteries. It is JUST. TOO. SHORT. I wanted more, more, more - reader greed will bite you badly with this novel.

My cry of "more" can be said of a lot of things: the characters, the town (LUNEVALE. I mean, come ON, it's like Nightvale only...weirder? Is that possible?) the length, yes, but also the emotional detail. We know that Jules is twisted in the clutches of a crush, but we don't really know... why. The way we like people in the sixth grade has to change if we still are crushing that hard sophomore year. What is it about Grayson - other than his resemblance to Prince Wesley and his stunning abs - that make him swoonworthy? I wanted Jules to dig deeper into her own emotions - I know that in many ways, the novel was action focused - that made it really, really fun - but I would have loved to slow down and really feel Jules' emotions of sheer terror, anger, and disgust. She's sometimes just a bit unflappable. Except about Grayson, which, okay, got it: she's crushing.

There is diversity in this novel, but I wanted more of that too - essentially, a deeper exploration of the choices and the emotions behind the discovery. I'll leave it there to avoid spoilers, but if there's anything I'm mildly critical of in the novel, it's that both the emotion and the resolution were just handed to us as faits accompli, which robbed the narrative of a texture and depth it could have really developed. I wanted a little backstory, a little...depth to the Verity family magic as well. If I couldn't have it in this book, I'll accept a sequel. Just putting that out there, Entangled Teen, and Ms. Held. Just putting that out there...

Conclusion: The Verity's are hilarious; Jules is amazing, and this absolutely fantastic debut novel feels like a gift you give to yourself. A quick, light, funny read, the book will leave readers happily clamoring for more.

I received my copy of this book courtesy of the publisher. After March 1, you can find HOLDING COURT by K.C. Held at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!

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