“The Guncle” by Steven Rowley

The Guncle

Genre: Comedy-Drama/LGBTQ
Publishers: G.P. Putnam
Pub. Date: May 25, 2021


Although “The Guncle” deals with young children losing their mother to cancer as their father checks into rehab for addiction, it’s still a funny, feel-good read. Expect to laugh a lot. While dad gets his act together (he is a good dad), the kids leave their Connecticut home and travel to California to spend the summer with their gay Uncle Patrick, who they call GUP. Patrick is a former TV star who became a shut-in following the death of his partner. At first, he’s a fish out of water with the kids, which makes for some very funny dialogue. But, he rather quickly turns into a combination of Uncle Joey and Uncle Jesse from “Full House.” You get the picture. When he isn’t poking fun at his own vanity, or that of the Hollywood cliques with which he used to run, Patrick is busy answering the kids’ many questions with panache. Between laughs, Rowley manages to make the reader feel genuine grief for the children’s and Patrick’s loss. Without being preachy, he gives us a credible glimpse of the difficulties of being a gay man in a straight world.  Of course, the uncle and kids help each other heal. However, you won’t mind the clichés. In this type of tale, you expect the obvious. Think “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman. Predictable, yes, but also a delight. It ends (spoiler) with a return to show business—with the help of his six-year-old nephew, ten-year-old niece, and pinch a of YouTube magic, our hero makes a well-earned comeback.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher 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