Book Review – Phoenix by A.J. Scudiere

Title: Phoenix
Author: AJ Scudiere
Format: Paperback
Written/Published: 2012

I met AJ several years ago at the Southern Festival of Books (if you’re in Nashville, check it out!), where I won a copy of a small short story collection, and accepted it in full zombie makeup (did I mention it was also World Zombie Day?).
So the last time I saw her, we were chit-chatting and catching up when the blog came into the conversation and she offered me a copy to review. Talk about a no-brainer.

She picked the book, and this is what she gave me; I promptly stuck it somewhere in the dredges of my TBR pile, behind current library books and blog tours. It was a little more mainstream than I usually read, anyway, and I’d get to it eventually. After finishing a pretty good fantasy novel, I needed something in a different vein, and this was sitting there – mocking me. I’d already had it for almost three months at this point.
The story is that of one Jason Mondy. A firefighter on a firecall, he quickly rose to hero when he pulled two kids out of a burning building, one under each arm, and went back in for their kitten. It didn’t hurt that he’s in his early thirties and fairly good looking. But something about this just wasn’t right to Jason. Even though he couldn’t explain it, something was unsettling about this one, and he quit sleeping and when he did, his dreams woke him up.
In the middle of a heart-to-heart with his captain, he listened while his captain told a few stories of bad days – an apartment fire where his partner died but they saved the kids – Chief Adler’s worst of the worst. Then he told Jason to go home to his mother, sleep in the safe bed of his childhood, and hoped he’d feel better.
And that’s when the real bombshell had been dropped. He’d been adopted – he knew that – but his brother hadn’t. Wait, what?

Now, Jason’s life, or what he knew from it, had unraveled faster than a sweater at the hands of a kitten.
Okay. As a writer, reading is a little different than it is to non-writers. For instance, I might read something and then spend a minute getting past the thought of how *I* would have done it. There are some writers who are forgettable. But there are some that I read, and I want to read again and again to learn from. These are the writers that I curse out of jealousy. Janine Spendlove is one, A.J. Scudiere is definitely another one.

There are side stories that I would never have thought about adding in. Bear Mountain and everything that comes with it was genious. And there were so many details that I didn’t expect when I read them and then said ‘duh’ because they were that obvious in hindsight.
There’s the “secret boys club” that his roommate teased him about – the group of guys he had brought into his secrecy about his past and the details they were unearthing.

Oh, and as an added bonus, the prologue of the book is written in second person, to put you in Jason’s head for a minute, so you do the actions that he does. And I love second person with every fiber of my being, so I can’t help but be excited about that.

Yeah, there are a few issues – even though the book itself is third person, the begining of each chapter gives you something to tell you the focus of that chapter: Jason’s name when it’s a chapter about him, the shift schedule complete with rank/title for the firehouse, whatever. The firehouse schedule, though, is way too small to read it well, and I found myself ignoring it after a bit. More of a “oh, look, the firehouse” sort of thing than carring who was where, even though there was a bit of information to be gained there.
A few things were also convenient. Jason’s new roommate, for instance, of course proved to be helpful. But he came by her naturally, so I was okay with it in the end.

Also, there were a few loose ends, but none with major story lines, so I was mostly okay with those, too, even though there were a couple spots where I wanted more.

I think the most telling though was that I was fighting sleep but wouldn’t put the book down. As soon as I was finished I rushed it straight to my mother. “This book, you must read it.”
Five out of five pages.


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