Weekend Reads: “Meddling Kids”

Meddling KidsMeddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I first heard about this book, I knew I had to read it. I have been a fan of Scooby-Doo and his gang of teenage detectives since I was a little kid. This book brings forth the concept of a teenage detective gang all grown up — with the accompanying challenges, including mental illness — and the third generation of their beloved dog realizing they sent the wrong man to jail on a case.

Meddling Kids is Scooby Doo meets Cthulu, with references to Arkham and Miskatonic thrown in as Easter eggs.

The gang of teens – Andrea (who prefers to be called Andy), Kelli, and Nate — decide to go back to their home town of Blyton Hills to see if they can figure out what really happened in the Duboën mansion thirteen years previously. They found a guy in a suit there at the time, who “would have gotten away with it, if it hadn’t been for you meddling kids” … but they know they got it wrong. Accompanied by their Weimaraner, Tim — and the ghost of Peter, the fourth teen sleuth, whom only Nate can see, they retrace their footsteps with adult eyes.

There is a lot to love about this book, as the young adults battle demons both supernatural and real-world. One of the most amazing things I’ve ever read is a two-page run-on sentence describing a fight. Stylistically, this decision shows how the action never stopped to take a breath. Very clever indeed.

There is a completely unexpected twist at the very end that put a huge smile on my face. I highly recommend this unusual tale.

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Weekend Reads: “Boston Metaphysical Society: Prelude”

Boston Metaphysical Society: PreludeBoston Metaphysical Society: Prelude by Madeleine Holly-Rosing

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This set of seven short stories and novellas will most assuredly whet your appetite for more tales in the Boston Metaphysical Society world. These prequels give us insight into the lives of several of Madeleine Holly-Rosing’s key characters.

My favorite story of the lot was “Steampunk Rat.” I’m an animal lover, and seeing the young scion of one of Boston’s Great Houses care so much about little Tinker was splendid. This story also made me cry, because I was very worried about the rat at one point. Well done indeed, there.

The common thread throughout is how the spirit world lives so close to the human world in Boston … and Medium Andrew O’Sullivan can even capture spirits on camera. Ex-Pinkerton Samuel Hunter (whom I can now only see as cover model Jason Baca, thanks to the book’s outstanding design) has an axe to grind of his own, and inventor Granville Woods is determined to use his inventing skills to make the world a safer place. This team of three discover that they are better together, which we see in the closing tale.

This book isn’t just for steampunk fans (although you’ll love it if you are); it’s for people who admire a tightly written adventure story peopled with believable characters facing unbelievable odds. Nicely done, and highly recommended.

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Weekend Reads: “The Mill River Recluse”

I read this book five years ago; at the time, it was gaining a lot of press for being  99-cent indie book that hit the New York Times bestseller list.  I was willing to risk a buck, and was glad I did.

The Mill River RecluseThe Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m just going to say it right upfront: I completely understand what all the hype is about where this book is concerned.

Darcie Chan has created a little Vermont town with some endearing characters. Widow Mary MacAllister never leaves her home because of severe agoraphobia; she is the titular recluse. The townfolk make up all kinds of rumors about her, not knowing that she hides because of two horrible crimes visited upon her (one of which has left her permanently disfigured). The one person she’s willing to see is Father Michael O’Brien, the town priest with a secret of his own.

Every now and again, tragedy strikes in town … and somehow, the victim is recompensed. Every kid in town gets a birthday card with money in it … and no one knows from whence they come.

Each of the townsfolk in the story has a quirk or a secret, but for the most part they are good people trying to make it in the world. There’s the requisite not-so-nice fellow and the local “crazy lady” (Daisy, for whom I felt a great deal of compassion).

This is a well-written, character-driven story. I found myself caring very much about each of the townsfolk, to the point that I did not want to put the book down. I cried more than once.

Highly recommended for those who enjoy literary fiction.

(I obtained this book from Smashwords, from which it has subsequently been removed. That’s a pity because I would have liked to share this review on the site from which the book was purchased.)

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Weekend Reads: “Dream It! Do It!” by Marty Sklar

I had the pleasure of meeting Marty Sklar three years ago, and listening to him take part in a delightful presentation.  Marty passed away yesterday, aged 83.  He was a gentleman, a raconteur, and a true Disney legend.

Dream It! Do It! (The People, The Places, The Projects): My Half-Century Creating Disney's Magic KingdomsDream It! Do It! (The People, The Places, The Projects): My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms by Martin Sklar

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had the pleasure of hearing Marty Sklar speak about his work for Walt Disney during the 1964 World’s Fair, but until I read this book I had no idea the breadth of his experience.

In “Dream It! Do It!,” Sklar writes candidly about the challenges of working on theme parks (he was involved in the openings of all 11 current Disney parks), dealing with the media, and essentially working as Walt Disney’s ghostwriter. His sense of humor comes through even when writing about some of his most difficult moments, as does his love for the Disney enterprise overall.

Part memoir and part business advice, this book belongs on the shelves of all Disneyphiles who want to better understand the company whose products we so love and enjoy.

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Weekend Reads: “DIY MFA”

Every once in a while, I come across a book that I find so useful that I want to share it with my friends, fellow authors, and readers right away.  Gabriela Pereira’s DIY MFA is just such a book.

DIY MFA: Write with Focus, Read with Purpose, Build Your CommunityDIY MFA: Write with Focus, Read with Purpose, Build Your Community by Gabriela Pereira

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I genuinely believe that reading business books, and implementing the practices that we find there that make sense for us, is an important part of being an author. We need to remember that the business side of writing is also a piece of the art.

So, imagine my delight upon discovering this title, which is a business book specifically for authors. Writer Gabriela Pereira distills the best advice she learned while obtaining her MFA and presents it in reachable, relatable way for her readers. She provides practical advice for setting aside writing time, building your community, and reading with purpose. Oh, yeah … there’s also some sound, practical advice about developing your author identity (aka your brand), pitching your stories, and more.

I started recommending this book to fellow authors before I was even halfway done reading it. I think it’s an important part of every author’s armamentarium.

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