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Review: Little Rock – Alex Beltran

Little Rock - Alex Beltran

Genre: Fantasy, YA

LGBTQ+ Category: Gay, Bisexual

Reviewer: Maryann

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About The Book

England, fall 1993.

Sent against his will, Owen Appletoff arrives at Little Rock boarding school from his hometown of San Diego. Within its high walls awaits Taylor, his handsome golden-haired roommate, with whom a strong friendship quickly blossoms.

Meanwhile Daniel, the sexy school bully, lends a watchful eye to the school’s newest arrival.

As the days go by, any harmony Owen sought is torn apart by the strange visions haunting his dreams. The kelpie, a spirit of ancient Celtic legend, has marked him out as a target.

In a school where things are not quite as they first appear and everyone seems to be hiding something, Owen, Taylor, and Daniel must put aside their differences to unravel the mysteries of Little Rock.

The Review

Owen Appletoff had a special relationship with his Mother, Emma. He loved traveling with her on stargazing adventures. One time in particular has stuck with him. He was ten years old, and they were traveling towards Yosemite National Park and stopped to look at the stars from Tuolumne Meadows. But his joy of spending those special moments with her ended when she passed away.

Not too long after, with a father who is too immersed in his work, Owen’s life takes another turn. At the age of sixteen, his father sends him to England to attend Little Rock College.  

Little Rock is overwhelming. Owen is in awe of the Georgian-style building and the imposing sculpture of a horse rising from water. Although the building seems like a great place for exploration and secrets, the sculpture leaves him with an odd feeling.

As he’s taken to his dorm room by Mr. Brown, he spies another young man – Daniel Woodford – and he’s warned by his roommate Taylor about him. Daniel’s a bully, along with his two friends Peter and John.

In time, Owen makes friends with Walter and Taylor’s friend Mark. But Walter has often been bullied by Daniel and his followers. As time progresses, Daniel and Owen wind up in trouble during a class demonstration requested by their teacher, Mr. Mountbatten. Things go too far, and Mr. Brown metes out a punishment for both young men.

For Owen, Daniel’s a temptation. During one of their punishments, there’s almost an accident, and Daniel saves Owen. Owen makes a deal with Daniel about his bullying, and they have a moment that almost goes too far, until Daniel runs off when Peter calls him.

Owen is also attracted to Taylor, and they form a connection. When he tells Taylor about the stargazing, Taylor comes up with a way that they can watch the stars, the Taurids. On his way to meet Taylor, Owen passes down a strange corridor and sees a green door. He knows he needs to leave – Taylor is waiting for him. In passing, he also sees the trophy case and a picture of students by a telescope from 1952.

When he finally finds Taylor, they head off to the roof in the old building, with a very old trap door providing access. As Taylor and Owen look at the stars together, there’s an intimate moment between them. Owen is surprised, because Taylor has a girlfriend and he never thought Taylor was gay. But the kiss they share is unbelievable, and the first kiss for Owen.  

As this strange triangle between Owen, Daniel and Taylor grows, he will eventually have to choose.

But all is not what it seems. Owen is continually plagued with strange and terrifying dreams, and there are abusive attacks and murders occurring. Is the myth of the kelpie real?

Beltran has crafted a dark story wrapped around the myth of the Celtic Kelpie. I’ve read a couple of Kelpie stories in the past but this one’s unique – more modern and involving young adults. The description of the Kelpie – and its terrifying scenes – are frightening. Little Rock is eerie, suspenseful, and filled with menacing evil that surrounds Owen as he makes difficult decisions dealing with coming of age and forging new friendships, as well as facing heartbreak.   

I really was intrigued with Owen, Taylor and Daniel. All three characters are well written, and they bring conflicting feelings and motivations to the novel. The addition of the secondary characters, Evelyn, Mark and Walter, creates a series of lasting friendships.

There are also a group of characters that made me suspicious: Mr. Brown, Mr. Jason, Zuzanna, Mr. Ahearn, and Mr. Mountbatten. It was difficult to know who to trust.

I highly recommend the book, especially for anyone who likes dark mythology with a twist. Little Rock is very entertaining, combining just the right amount of terror and teenaged angst.

The Reviewer

Hi, I’m Maryann, I started life in New York, moved to New Hampshire and in 1965 uprooted again to Sacramento, California.  Once I retired I moved to West Palm Beach, Florida in 2011 and just moved back to Sacramento in March of 2018.  My son, his wife and step-daughter flew out to Florida and we road tripped back so they got to see sights they have never seen.  New Orleans and the Grand Canyon were the highlights. Now I am back on the west coast again to stay! From a young age Ialways liked to read.

I remember going to the library and reading the “Doctor Dolittle” books by Hugh Lofting. Much later on became a big fan of the classics, Edgar Alan Poe, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker and as time went by Agatha Christie, Ray Bradbury and Stephen Kingand many other authors.

My first M/M shifter book I read was written by Jan Irving the “Uncommon Cowboys” series from 2012.  She was the first author I ever contacted and sent an email to letting her know how much I liked this series.  Sometime along the way I read “Zero to the Bone”by Jane Seville, I think just about everyone has read this book! 

As it stands right now I’m really into mysteries, grit, gore and “triggers” don’t bother me. But if a blurb piques my interest I will read the book.

My kindle collection eclectic and over three thousand books and my Audible collection is slowly growing.  I have both the kindle and audible apps on my ipod, ipads, and MAC. So there is never an excuse not to be listening or reading.

I joined Goodreads around 2012 and started posting reviews.  One day a wonderful lady, Lisa Horan of The Novel Approach, sent me an email to see if I wanted to join her review group.  Joining her site was such an eye opener.  I got introduce to so many new authors that write for the LGBTQ genre. Needless to say, it was heart breaking when it ended.

But I found a really great site, QRI and it’s right here in Sacramento. Last year at QSAC I actually got to meet Scott Coatsworth, Amy Lane and Jeff Adams. 

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