Monday, April 3, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Adventures in Funeral Crashing

Book by Milda Harris
Review by Bruce Carroll

Adventures in Funeral Crashing is an exciting read with all the intensity of a thriller and all the passion of a teen romance. Kait is both a well-developed and memorable character, and the fact she cannot see that popular boy Ethan is as crazy about her as she is about him is simultaneously fun and frustrating.

Kait lost her mother to cancer at a young age, and ever since the funeral, she has been crashing other funerals in her town. Wear black and avoid conversations: that’s how she has managed not to get caught as a funeral crasher. Until the day the hottest guy in school makes his way through a crowd of mourners to ask how Kait knew his sister. Oops!

Kait and Ethan begin to suspect his sister has been murdered. Though Funeral Crashing is billed as a cozy mystery, I disagree. It does borrow from the cozy genre in that the murders all happen offstage. But it also borrows heavily from thrillers. The murderer injects the victims with a lethal dose of heroin in an attempt to make it look like an overdose. The motive is not one of the classic motives for murder. There is even some gunplay at the climax of the story. In addition, there is also talk of forensic tests being done which might not provide conclusive evidence in real life.

None of that mattered to me as I read it. It has all the thrill of an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, and I could not decide if I was more anxious to discover who the murderer was (before Kait herself became the next victim) or to see Kait finally realize Ethan has feelings for her.

If you enjoy cozies, you'll enjoy this high school mystery/thriller with a romantic touch.

 Adventures in Funeral Crashing is a winner of the 2017 Author’s Choice Award (YA Thriller).



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Sunday, March 5, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Silver Cascade Secrets

Book by Rachelle J. Christensen

Review by Bruce Carroll

Silver Cascade Secrets promises to be a “romantic suspense novella” and it delivers in all three categories. Christensen kept me turning pages (well, digital pages), and I can’t say if I was more determined to see Jillian and Travis finally connect or to discover who killed Travis’ brother-in-law and why. The murder was never solved, and as Jillian gets closer to decoding the mysterious letters Craig left behind, the she could be endangering herself. Travis seems like the ideal man for Jillian, but what if he was involved in Craig’s death somehow? And even if he is the man for Jillian, Caleb, her ex, comes crawling back begging for just one more chance.

Christensen has delivered a book which offers genuine romance while still remaining “clean.” You won’t find any graphic sex depicted. And the suspense involves murder and cover-up, yet borrows heavily from the “cozy” genre. I would be perfectly comfortable with my 13-year-old reading Silver Cascade Secrets.

Mystery and suspense mixed with romance in an easy, short read – what’s not to like? I look forward to reading more from Rachelle J. Christensen.

Silver Cascade Secrets is a 2017 winner of the Author’s Choice Award (Novella).



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Sunday, February 19, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Secrets Above

This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. If you enjoy visions of a dystopian future such as Ira Levin’s This Perfect Day or the British sci-fi television programme Blake’s 7, you will love Secrets Above.

It is the story of Amelia – Lia to her friends, although it is illegal to call any citizen of Terra Convex by anything other than their legal name. She lives in an underground society, the last of the human race, the survivors of a deadly man-made virus which began killing every living organism above ground.

I’d go on, but if you are reading my synopsis, you really need to stop and read the book. There are only a few things I should warn you about:

  1. There is some disturbing violence in the book. Most of it happens “offstage,” but we are forced to deal with its consequences much as Lia is. While reading two chapters (thankfully not back-to-back), I had to pause after each paragraph and do something else, just so I wouldn’t gag. I don’t normally like these kinds of books, but it was (mostly) necessary to tell the story.
  2. There is one kissing scene that got a bit racy. Honestly, I thought for a moment it was going to become erotic fiction at that point, but it didn’t.
  3. Both of the above are more disturbing (at least to me) because the book was written by a mother/daughter team. I would have difficulty being this graphic either with one of my parents or my child. Kudos to Ward and Cayenne for being able to pull it off.
  4. This is the first book in a series, and I can hardly wait to read the second!

Secrets Above is an important book for our times. Read it!

Secrets Above is a winner of the 2017 Author’s Choice award for science fiction. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Monday, December 19, 2016

Author's Choice Awards 2016

2016 is nearly over, and in that entire year there was only one winner of the Author's Choice award. Congratulations again to Reagan Colbert for her stunning novella, The Hidden Soul. You can read my review HERE.

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Guess Who?

by Bruce Carroll

The following is a biographical piece about a real person. I did take liberties with some of the minor details. Still, you should be able to figure it out. Think you know who she is? Leave your guess in the comments.

It was a short walk from the greenroom to the stage, but the excitement in the air always made it seem to take an interminable amount of time. She could hear the audience chanting, as if summoning the trio to make their appearance.

Taking that seemingly endless walk, she thought back to how she had gotten here.

*     *     *

“We don’t know what it is,” the doctor said. The young girl wrapped her arms around her aunt, not wanting to hear what the doctor said, but knowing she must. “But it is taking a toll on their bodies.” He looked right at the young girl. “There is a very good chance you could loose both of them.”

The girl buried her face in her aunt’s side. She was not yet ten years old, and already she was facing the loss of both her parents. To a disease the doctors didn’t even have a name for.

That very night, her aunt came to live with her in her home. Her parents’ home. And every day, her aunt and several family members would go to the hospital to be with her parents. She herself was too young to visit patients in intensive care, so she would sit with her aunt in the waiting room. There was nothing for a young girl to do there. The few magazines there were all about fashion or finance.

“Here,” her aunt said one day, holding out an iPod with a pair of earbuds. “Listen to this.”

The young girl pressed the earbuds into place. It was a pop song. A trio of girls sang happily. The young girl smiled. She began to dance in the waiting room, but not so much that she disturbed the others there.

By the time they left the hospital, the young girl had listened to each song at least six times.

“I want to be a singer,” she said to her aunt, her dark eyes sparkling. “I want to join that group!”

Her aunt smiled. “It will take a lot of work,” her aunt told her. “But if you’re willing to work, I’m sure you will be.”

And now, seven years later, she was walking onto this very stage. The trio she had danced to in the waiting room had disbanded, but a new one had formed, and she was a member. One of that first trio’s members was also a member of this newer group.

Both of her parents had miraculously recovered. Her trio had already taken multiple world tours. They sold out Wembly Arena, and ended their last tour by performing for a sold-out audience of 50,000 in her home country. How lucky she felt. She couldn’t help but smile.

The three girls walked onto the darkened stage and took their places silently. She counted her heartbeats as she waited for the explosive chord that would launch them into their first number.

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Monday, November 14, 2016

The Day I Gutted Everybody

I was fed up, the day I gutted everybody. Fed up with the sick hypocrisy that is part of the human condition.

So I snapped. I gutted everybody.

I laid their entrails out for them to see. Racism. Greed. Hatred. Fear. Sins too loathsome to name. I kept nothing hidden. Not even the things that poured from my own heart and bowels.

They were shocked and appalled. Some of them threw up.

I rejoiced. I danced with glee, knowing the vile, abominable creatures had finally been exposed for the appalling things they were.

And then I wept, knowing none of them would ever breathe or walk again.

And I wept again, knowing that even as they read my words, they would not change, or even understand.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Meeting of the Mustangs

by Cathy Kennedy
Review by Bruce Carroll

This is a clever and uplifting story about a wild mustang. It is an easy read, but it may not be suitable for young children as it does include heartbreak, hardship, and death.

The story is somewhat episodic, but some events do connect as the story progresses. It does not have chapters as such, but the narrative does include many divisions for easy reading. I finished it in about a day and a half, and that was with my busy schedule.

While the description of the horses and their perceptions are well executed, the descriptions of the humans and their perceptions are sometimes lacking. At one point two characters decide to “stop at their favorite restaurant for lunch.” We are told “they ordered and ate,” but no details of either the restaurant or the meal are given. It would be nice to know what kind of restaurant it was, what the decor was like, what they ordered and how it smelled and tasted. Then we readers could decide for ourselves if it was “their favorite.”

The eBook itself could use some additional formatting, as I found some paragraph breaks mid-sentence. Still, the story was enjoyable, and the ending most satisfying. I look forward to more from Cathy Kennedy.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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