Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Review of Riser

Book Review of Riser

Book Synopsis:

Riser is Book #1 in The Riser Saga

Black swirling holes churning madly in the center of every corpse. This is how eighteen-year-old Chelsan Derée sees the deceased. Her ability to connect to the black spinning holes allows her to control every dead thing within a four-mile radius.

But that's the least of her problems. It's 2320 and Chelsan Derée has to survive another year of high school, which for her is pure and utter torture, mainly due to the fact that her schoolmate Jill Forester's favorite activity is making Chelsan's life a living hell. If that isn't enough, Chelsan's impossible crush on Ryan Vaughn makes her brain do somersaults on a regular basis, especially since she is positive he doesn't know she exists. And being eighteen Chelsan has to deal with the pressure of whether or not she should take a little pill called Age-pro, which cures aging, making the world eighteen forever and highly over-populated.

When Chelsan's mother, Janet, is brutally killed, along with everyone else in her trailer park, Chelsan finds out that she was the intended target. Chelsan must use her power to raise and control the dead to save herself, protect her friends and take down the man responsible for murdering her mother.

Author Information:

Becca C Smith received her Film degree from Full Sail University and has worked in the Film and Television industry for most of her adult life.

Becca is the author of the teen horror/sci-fi novel, Riser. She is also the co-author of the teen graphic novel Ghost Whisperer: The Haunted and also wrote and illustrated Little Family Secrets, a graphic novel based on the true story of her great aunt who was famous for murdering her husband.

She currently lives in Los Angeles, CA with her husband and two cats Jack and Duke.

Chapter Zero excerpt

Year: 2320
Okay, let me explain.

My gift, or curse (I’ll let you decide for yourself) to put it simply is I can raise the dead. I know, sounds cheesy, but fortunately, or unfortunately it’s true, and I don’t mean just people. Basically, anything that had any kind of life: plants, animals, insects, plankton, anything, I can bring back.

The only catch is, they’re not really alive anymore they’re just animated, like zombies I guess, but I control them. Plants are the easiest. My mom’s garden is the prize of the trailer park, and she should take no credit whatsoever.  Animals and people are more complicated, maybe because there are so many working parts. I’m really not sure.

My ability is still kind of a mystery to me. I have no clue why I have this power. It’s not like I’ve ever heard of anyone else having this particular skill either, except in books and movies. I appear to be an anomaly in this world. I was three-years-old when I knew I saw things differently than everyone else. My pet goldfish, Larry, died and a black spinning hole appeared in the center of his body. I thought it was just about the coolest thing I had ever seen. When I told my mother about it, she gave me a look that I’ll never forget. It was a mixture of confusion and horror. She simply nodded and made me promise that I would never under any circumstances tell anyone else about what I saw. I was instantly ashamed and scared at her reaction, but something in the way that she said it made me keep my promise.

After that, I saw the black holes everywhere, from the tiniest dead insects, to the neighbor’s dog when he was hit by a hover car (don’t ask), to Ms. Thompkins when she died from a heart attack. The churning black masses had become second nature to me by then. At that point, I still didn’t know why I could see them and I was scared to death to talk to anyone about it. I kept to myself mostly, afraid I would slip and say something to a neighbor or friend.

It was a very lonely childhood.

It wasn’t until I killed my stepfather Bruce that I figured out that I could raise the dead. I never wanted to take Bruce’s life: hurt maybe, kill no. And that’s saying a lot seeing as he used to use my mom as a punching bag. He’d make me sit in the corner of our beat up trailer and watch him kick the living crap out of her. He’d laugh when I’d scream, he’d laugh when she’d scream, he’d laugh when he’d scream on the few occasions my mom fought back and actually inflicted pain on him. Bruce was a jerk, but he didn’t deserve to die, not like he did, not like how I killed him.

I still can’t believe it had been eleven years since it all happened. It felt like yesterday and forever ago all at once. It was a day like any other day, Mom did some invisible transgression to piss Bruce off and he took it as a cue for another beating. Mom was having one of her comatose days, where I could tell she was just going to take it and hope that he got bored quickly from her unresponsiveness.  Bruce slammed her against the flimsy trailer wall of the kitchen with his beefy forearm. Tiny bits of ceiling floated down like snow on his greasy balding scalp. He sneered at her with glee, but she wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of eye contact. She just kept her eyes down, arms dropped harmlessly at her side. Bruce went on a furious rampage. He punched her, pulled her hair, kicked her stomach, tried anything to get a response out of her, but she just lay there like a rag doll on the peeling linoleum floor.

Then he wheeled around to face me. “NO!” Finally, a reaction from my mother. Bruce was in ecstasy. He stormed towards me like an enraged bull. I could almost see steam coming out of his bulbous nose. Then WHACK! I could literally feel every vertebra in my spine as all forty-five pounds of me slammed against the wall from the impact of Bruce’s fist to my stomach. My world started to spin; everything was in blurred double vision. My mother’s hysterical screams echoed in my head like a horrific nightmare. I couldn’t focus



I could feel my nose crunch when he hit me a second time. It felt like it was really runny, but when I tried to wipe it clean my hands came away covered in blood. The combination of Bruce’s frantic laughter and my mother’s anguished screeches made it impossible to think clearly. I think I started to whimper at this point. My ribs were so bruised it hurt to breathe let alone move my chest to have a good cry like I wanted to. These are the moments in life where you don’t think rationally. In fact, you don’t think at all, you just let your survival instinct take over. It becomes about you or your killer. And I was no martyr. I tried to blink fast enough to clear my vision.


My right eye started to swell from Bruce’s backhand making it even more difficult to focus. At this point my mother, like a wailing Banshee, propelled herself onto Bruce’s back and started pounding her fists onto any piece of flesh she could find. I could hear Bruce’s low chuckle at my mom’s feeble attempt to stop him. From the sound of his amusement I could tell that today was the most fun he’d had in years.

Taking short controlled breaths I took this moment of solace to re-gain my bearings. And that’s when I saw it: a blurred swirling black hole in the corner of the trailer.


Bruce had thrown my mother clear across the room. Her body collapsed into unconsciousness as her head punched a hole through the trailer’s wall. I screamed a horrible, terrible scream: a scream that only a child could make whose world had just been crushed, whose mommy had just been smashed against a wall, leaving her  daughter alone, defenseless, a scream that would make any human who possessed an ounce of parenting instincts come running, without thinking, without rational thought. And I couldn’t stop.

Even Bruce had to cover his ears from the onslaught of shrieking. But Bruce’s instincts weren’t to mother, they were to destroy and he started towards me. And seeing him, fists raised, plowing forward, I suddenly felt inexplicably tied to that black swirling chasm across the room. I was a part of it. It was almost as if strings connected us together. And I did the only thing I could. I made it attack Bruce. 

At first I didn’t know what I was doing, but I suddenly understood that I physically controlled the black holes. I was connected to them like they were an extension of my own body, like they were my own limbs. Bruce bellowed in pain as we both realized at the same time what I had brought back to life. A black widow spider, full of venom and ready to attack.  Over and over I made the spider tear its fangs into Bruce’s body: his neck, his arms, his legs, his chest. Bruce swatted the spider, squished the spider, tore it in two, but nothing he did could stop it. It was mine. It was already dead. He couldn’t kill it again.

He fell to his knees. The poison was flowing through his body now. I could see a small black tornado forming in Bruce’s chest. Fear overtook every fiber of my soul as I realized what I had just done, what I was still doing. I dropped my connection to the spider instantly. It fell lifeless to the floor once more, the black void churning madly in its
center. I crawled over to Bruce’s body, leaving a trail of blood from my broken nose. He was convulsing on the ground, his body seizing from the poison coursing through his veins. He was dying and there was nothing I could do about it.

“What did you do?” my mother’s voice cut through the near silent grunting and gagging of Bruce’s dying moments. She had seen the whole thing.

“I…” I couldn’t think of what to say.

My mother looked relieved, guilty and horrified all in one condemning expression. I wasn’t sure if she was upset about losing Bruce or that her seven-year-old child had just become a murderer. Bruce’s eyes rolled back in his head. His last breath was rattling and eerily hushed. It seemed to last an eternity. As if the oxygen in his lungs didn’t want to leave his body and clung to whatever life it could hold on to.

I stared into my mother’s eyes. She couldn’t speak. She couldn’t move. A small line of blood trickled into her eye from a gash on her forehead, but she didn’t flinch. She just looked into my eyes with a blankness more terrifying than any emotion could be. “Chelsan…” she finally croaked. Her voice was gravelly from screaming. That was all she could say.

It was agony to see her so dead in the eyes, face, body… just staring. I would have given anything I had just to stop her from looking at me with those empty eyes. Her vacant stare felt like a howl of pain so excruciating I almost covered my ears from the silence. At least then I would have been able to hear my own muffled heartbeat. Any noise would have been better than the oppressive judging stillness.

And that was when I realized what I had to do. To break her out of this coma she was encasing herself into. I turned to Bruce. To his raging black abyss spiraling like a whirlpool deep inside his chest. And I switched him on. Just like the spider. He was a bit clumsy at first. I had to concentrate as hard as my seven-year-old brain would let me just to get him in a sitting position. But after a moment or two it became easier and easier and he began to feel like an extension of me. It was an eerie sensation as my thoughts mirrored Bruce’s movements. I would think of his arm moving and it would move. I would think of him speaking and…

“Janet?” I made Bruce call to my mother. His voice snapped her completely out of her stupor. She watched him in shock and overwhelming relief.

 “Bruce?”  And then I made him cry. Cry like he never could do when he was alive. I made him cry until his face and clothes were drenched with his tears. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry,” I made him repeat over and over as he sobbed in the aftermath of the day’s destruction.

Mom crawled over to the two of us, renewed hope in her eyes. Whether she knew what I was doing or not, she didn’t say. All that mattered was that she wanted to believe it. She needed to believe it. I could see it in her face.  I made Bruce embrace the two of us with a tenderness he was never capable of before. I was doing this for me as much as for my mother at this point. Feeling his strong arms around me, holding me close, affectionate, loving. It was the first time in my life I felt like I had a father: a real dad. I nestled in closer. When my mom saw this she did the same. We both had contented expressions on our bloody bruised faces.

I let Bruce sputter and jabber about how much he loved the two of us, how he would never hurt us again, how he was a changed man…And he was. After that day he became the best father anyone could ever ask for. I still find it funny in a strange and disturbing way, that Bruce is a better father dead than he ever was alive. He’s the easiest for me to control now because he was my first, and I’ve had a lot of practice since. It’s almost as if he’s really alive sometimes. But every time I watch his face go slack when he’s watching his holo-tv or he stinks so bad I have to puppeteer him in the shower, I remember.

He’s dead.

Truly dead.

And it’s my fault.

Book Review:

            Ohmygosh, can you imagine having to live with having killed and then revived that same person at the age of 7?  Most 7 year olds have difficulty grasping the concept of death and often refuse to go to funerals because it freaks them out.  But then Chelsan isn’t home one day and the unthinkable happens and everyone at the trailer park exterminated.  Then she is hounded by her grandfather who is trying to kill her.  Talk about your messed up family.

This is a clever premise.  I loved the whole idea of someone having these powers.  Humorous, thought provoking, thought book you go from exhilaration to wanting to weep as you root for, fear for, and rejoice for the heroine.  I can’t wait to share with my kids.  I can’t wait to have my teens read this.  They will love it.

I give this book 4.5 out of 5 clouds.

This product or book may have been distributed for review; this in no way affects my opinions or reviews.

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