I love to curl up with a nice, steaming cup of tea and a free book to review. In fact I subscribe to three book review sites: Book Crash, Book Rooster and The Bookplex just so I can indulge in my favorite leisure activity. What’s even better is when an author contacts me for a review. If you’re an author looking for someone to review your book or short story, check out my Request a Review page.
Because I like to share the great reads I’ve found (and warn readers of the not-so-great finds), I developed a system:
- One cup — worse than a cup of luke warm black pekoe
- Two cups — it may be hot, but you’ll need plenty of sweetener just to tolerate it
- Three cups — it’s not my favorite, but it beats going without
- Four cups — nice and hot and only needs a smidge of sweetener to be perfect
- Five cups — loose leaf vanilla Earl Grey, yummy
Sometimes a book or story doesn’t warrant a five cup rating, but it’s so good it can’t be missed. For those I include the “Must Read” starburst in front of the cup rating. You’ll find my cup rating above the picture of the cover. Enjoy!
The Participants by Brian Blose
Zack Vernon is an immortal Observer sent to watch the world on behalf of the Creator. When his suicide attempt fails spectacularly and earns him a spot on the national news, the other Observers are drawn to him.
They believe Zack to be the reincarnation of a rebellious Observer from a previous world. Several of them plan to punish him for the sins they believe he committed. One of them wants back the man she has loved through hundreds of worlds. But Zack remembers nothing before the present. All he wants is a chance to end his life.
This story kept me turning pages, wanting to solve the mystery of the Observers and how they were different from the Participants. Each new chapter either dangled yet another piece of the puzzle in front of me or asked yet another question I wanted to know the answer to. This was perfect for someone like me who enjoys working out the whys and wherefores of an enigma.
The characters are well-developed and distinctive. Some, like Eric, actually scared me. Others, like Lacey, made me want to slap them until they acquired some sense. The tension and fear in Zach felt real and kept me rooting for him through the entire story.
I also enjoyed the twist at the end. It’s rare that an author can surprise me. Either I’ve figured it out long before the end or the twist comes off like a gimmick, but that is not the case in The Participants.
I only have two complaints. The first is that the story is too short. I enjoyed reading it so much and invested so much energy into the characters that, by the end of the book, I was ready to find out what would happen in the next incarnation — or if there would even be a next one. Along with that was the disappointment that there isn’t a book 2. I would have loved it if either the story was longer or there was at least the promise of another book.
My second complaint is that there was more foul language and brutality than I am personally comfortable with. While I understand that serial killers are more likely to curse and their very nature necessitates brutality, I don’t have to enjoy it. I prefer torture and murder to happen off stage.
As for the cursing, it wasn’t just the serial killer. There were at least two others who swore more than I thought was necessary. Had the characters been in some kind of gang or had some other reason for speaking in such low terms, then I might have been able to overlook it.
I highly recommend The Participants by Brian Blose to anyone who enjoys a good puzzle with a plot twist, but beware that there is plenty of onstage brutality and swearing.