“Broken Heart Attack” (Braxton Campus Mysteries #2) by James J. Cudney

Genre:          Humorous Cozy Mystery
Publisher:    Creativia Publishing House
Pub. Date:    November 25, 2018

I have read a couple of the author’s books and I must say he is getting better and better at his craft.  I do believe that James J. Cudney has the potential to become a household name for those who enjoy light-hearted murder mysteries.  “Broken Heart Attack” is the second book in the “Braxton Campus Mysteries.”  However, “Heart Attack” can be read as a stand-alone book.   One needn’t read the first novel, “Academic Curveball,” to follow along.  The author smoothly informs us that the protagonist, Kellan, is a young widow and a single dad.  (I would love to write more about his marriage because it has such a good twist, but that would be a spoiler).  In book one, he was working as a writer for a murder mystery TV series until he became an amateur sleuth at Braxton College.  He finds a dead body on campus and uses his writing expertise to help solve the crime.

In book number two, Kellan is now working as a professor at the college.  I am happy to report that the characters of his spunky, ringleader-like grandmother, as well as his spunky and sweet young daughter, remain in the series.  Kellan’s young daughter has a larger piece of the writing pie than she did previously.  The father/daughter relationship is easy on the reader’s eyes.   This reviewer hopes it will be continued even further in book number three.   Personally, I would like to see more of Kellan’s family dynamics and issues into the story.  (I actually thought this in “Curveball” as well).  The reader will find tantalizing family dynamics, issues, and major drama, in the characters that make up the Paddington clan.  The possible murder in “Heart Attack” occurred during a play’s dress rehearsal.  Kellan is there along with, Nana D. (the grandmother) and her friends the Paddington sisters-in-law.    It is here that one of his grandmother’s friends dies of a suspicious heart attack.   Nana D. suspects her friend was actually murdered by a poison that caused the heart attack.  So, Kellan is once more back into the crime-solving business.

As in book number one, the story is told in the first person by our professor.  Also, once again the writing is at a top-notch comical level with the character of Nana D.  When she doesn’t get her way with Kellan she is prone to say things like, “I won’t disown you, but I will set you up with every available harebrained girl in town.  I’ll have you fending off more cougars…,” and so on and so forth.  This is to her grandson who she adores.  One doesn’t mess with Nana D.   And yes, once again the novel ends with a cliffhanger leaving you wanting to ask Cudney when number three will be released.

I am not your typical cozy mystery reader because I am not usually a fan of the genre.  But, I do make a few exceptions as with “Curveball.”  This whodunit borders on the tradition of an Agatha Christie read.  At times, the author (who is a friend of mine), doesn’t trust his own talent and tends to explain the plot to his readers especially when writing about potential killers.  But, heck I just said something similar in another review about a book written by the enormously talented and accomplished author, Barbara Kingsolver.  So Jay, aka James J. Cudney, is in very good company.    I do want to add that although “Heart Attack” can be read alone, you would be missing all the fun by skipping the first book in the series.

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I received this novel from the author at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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“Academic Curveball” by James J. Cudney

Genre:        Murder Mystery Academic curveball
Publisher:  Creativia Publishing House
Pub. Date:  Oct. 15, 2018

I just had the pleasure of reading “Academic Curveball.” True to its title, the setting takes place in the world of academia. The novel is filled with multiple spins provoked by murders that may have been the result of the clashing cultures within colleges: educations vs. sports. The author, James J. Cudney, cleverly puts together an often humorous, cozy murder mystery brimming with family drama, action, a twisting plot, and romance. All are nicely wrapped together and kept this reviewer guessing whodunit.

Since spoilers are not welcome, here is a snapshot of the story. Our protagonist is Kellan Ayrwick. He is a young widow and single dad. He works as a writer for a murder mystery TV series. His father is the President of Braxton College. Kellan and his father have a long history of not getting along. The reader will feel the “ouch” during most of their conversations. The mystery gets moving when our hero returns home to attend his father’s retirement party. Once home, murder and mayhem occur on campus, allowing Kellan to play amateur sleuth. There are a host of characters who may be the killer/s. She is not a suspect, but I would be a poor reviewer if I didn’t mention Kellan’s grandmother, Nana D. She is a pistol. Her sassy remarks (all seems a little too Tanya Harding versus Nancy Kerrigan to me) makes her an endearing character as she helps her grandson on his quest to learn the identity of the murderer/s.

In the tradition of Agatha Christie, the story is never dull. However, sometimes I felt as if the information is being spoon-fed to the reader. There is a lot of rehashing. Still, “Curveball” is a delight to read. I am happy to report that I did not guess the killer/s identity. That is a feather in the cap to any author of a murder mystery. Full disclosure: I am friends with the author. I know that in real life his dog’s name is Baxter, so very close to the name of the novel’s college—such a sweet ode to his four-legged buddy. How can you not like someone who names a college after his dog? This novel is the first book in the “Braxton Campus Mysteries.” The last sentence in “Curveball” is a cliffhanger. Personally, I cannot wait to read “Braxton Campus Mysteries II.”

Open the link to buy  “Academic Curveball” on Amazon.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the author at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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October 10, 2018 – Started Reading
October 10, 2018 – Shelved

b. Date:    Oct. 15, 2018


“All Things Cease To Appear” by Elizabeth Brundage

So many different thoughts went through my mind while reading this novel.  First, I All Things Cease To Appearresigned myself to read another contemporary thriller (not my fav) that needs to be reviewed.  Then early in the book I thought “this is very well written,” more literary than bestseller-like.   Next, the story became Gothic, a genre I do enjoy.  Plus, it also has a noir feel which is another genre that I love to get lost in.  So, to my surprise, I am pleased that I read this book.  It is not until the very end of the story that I find criticism with the tale. But I am getting ahead of myself.

The story begins with a short chapter describing an old farmhouse and all the people that once lived there.  The first family that we meet is a married couple with three sons trying to keep the farm alive in horrendous conditions born from poverty.  The parents die in the house and the boys are left orphaned.  The next family who moves into the house is a young married couple with a little girl.  They buy the farmhouse for almost nothing since it went into foreclosure.  The town’s people held that against the young couple.  The new owners are city people who move to the country for the husband’s job as a professor at a small college.  The “whodunit begins in the first chapter when the professor comes home from work and finds his wife murdered in her bed.  The three sons who first lived in the farmhouse are in all other chapters of the book.

There are no quotation marks anywhere in the novel.  The author expects the reader to be smart enough to know who said what.    I enjoyed this style of writing it keeps me on their toes.   There are many characters in this book that can feel overwhelming, but they are tied together nicely, and I enjoyed each one’s part in the plot.   It read similar to “Olive Kitteridge” by Elizabeth Strout, where the characters were interconnected short stories.   In addition, the author adds a large dose of irony into her novel.  The professor’s boss is a big fan of Emanuel Swedberg who is best known for his book on the afterlife, “Heaven and Hell” written in 1758.

The last chapter focuses on the little girl who is now all grown up and in her last stages of  training to become a surgeon.  The reason why the ending is a bit of a disappointment for me is that I thought the author was attempting to add romance into the plot.  In hindsight, it may have been karma (if I explain it would be a spoiler).   Still, all in all, this is a literary spellbinding page-turner that is a ghost story, as well as a psychological thriller.   Was I displeased with the ending? Yes, that is true.  Did I need to sleep with the lights on?  Yes, that is also true.  Read the book and see if you cease to appear.

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