Book Review: A Night Twice As Long by Andrew Simonet @andrewSimonet @fsgbooks @XpressoTours

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Title: A Night Twice as Long
Author: Andrew Simonet
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publication date: June 1, 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:

 Amazon / Barnes & Noble 
iBooks / Kobo / Google Play

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What do you call the difference between what you should feel and what you do feel? Life?

The blackout has been going on for three weeks. But Alex feels like she’s been living in the dark for a year, ever since her brother, who has autism, was removed from the house, something Alex blames herself for. So when her best friend, Anthony, asks her to trek to another town to figure out the truth about the blackout, Alex says yes.

On a journey that ultimately takes all day and night, Alex’s relationships with Anthony, her brother, and herself will transform in ways that change them all forever.

In this honest and gripping young adult novel, Andrew Simonet spins a propulsive tale about what it means to turn on the lights and look at what’s real.

Many of us, if not most, have lived through a blackout and we know they’re no fun, for a lot of reasons, chief of which is the uncertainty of just how long it will last. In this case, the weeks-long outage has the feel of a post-apocalyptic scenario but without the tension I expect to find in such a story. That lack is detrimental to my way of thinking, creating a plot that’s a little too nebulous for me but the author has done a nice job with his characters, bringing them to life with significant issues that today’s teens face in real life.

Alex’s autistic brother, Georgie, was removed from her mother’s care a year earlier and Alex has become almost a shut-in because of how it happened. The truth is he may be in an environment that’s more suitable for his needs but her guilt interferes with her ability to see this; on the other hand, the blackout has given her a sort of new look at life and the journey she takes with Anthony opens her eyes even more.

Besides his depiction of severe autism and the effect it has on those around the disabled person, the author touches on racial animosity and parental issues and watching Alex learn to understand the world and herself is what makes this book tick.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2021.

About the Author

 

Andrew Simonet is a choreographer and writer in Philadelphia. His first novel, Wilder, published in 2018. He co-directed Headlong Dance Theater for twenty years and founded Artists U, an incubator for helping artists make sustainable lives. He lives in West Philadelphia with his wife, Elizabeth, and their two sons, Jesse Tiger and Nico Wolf.

Find the author:

Website / Goodreads / Twitter

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Giveaway

One print copy of
A Night Twice As Long

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Book Review: The Boy From The Woods by Harlan Coben @HarlanCoben @GrandCentralPub

The Boy from the Woods
Harlan Coben
Grand Central Publishing /Hatchette Book Group, March 2020
ISBN: 978-1-5387-4814-5
Hardcover

The story opens with a young girl, bullied at school and at home, wondering how to get through another day. Then she disappears and the only one who notices is a classmate, himself trying to fit in, who reports the incident to his grandmother. Grandma is Hester Crimstein, a high-powered attorney nobody wants to mess with. Tough, and a TV personality famous for the cases she takes on, she sets in motion a search that has unexpected, and dangerous, results.

Meanwhile, a man called Wilde, a name taken by a boy of unknown identity who simply walked out of the woods one day, is put in charge of discovering the facts behind the girl’s disappearance. Important people may be involved in a case of bullying that turns into something more far-reaching and serious. Hester and Wilde must work their way through an old mystery, even as the fate of the whole country is at stake.

Each of the characters are well-drawn, especially Hester and Wilde. Wilde’s past is an intriguing precept. How could a boy of about six years subsist in the wilderness alone for months—maybe for years? Even he doesn’t know how long he’d been there, nor does he remember his parents or his name. Supposedly, he managed to break into summer homes, find food, clothes, warmth, even watch TV and learn to speak as a tiny child. Frankly, I found the idea a bit unlikely, but hey, I like a good twisty yarn and this is one of them. However, from the first mention of his lost identity, I wondered why Wilde didn’t go the DNA testing route, but not until almost the end did the subject come up. Wilde may have found a clue at last and I can’t wait to read about it.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, December 2020.
http://www.ckcrigger.com
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Six Dancing Damsels: A China Bohannon Mystery

Book Reviews: The Search for Baby Ruby by Susan Shreve and Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender @AALBooks @kacencallender @Scholastic

The Search for Baby Ruby
Susan Shreve
Arthur A. Levine Books, May 2015
ISBN 978-0-545-41783-9
Hardcover

Jess has been looking forward to her oldest sister’s wedding, particularly being able to participate in the celebratory events surrounding it, for an entire year. Dressing for the rehearsal dinner in the swank Los Angeles hotel suite, she felt a mix of nerves and excitement.

Until her feckless brother barged in, Baby Ruby in his arms. To no one’s surprise, the babysitter he’d arranged did not show up. Danny was determined to attend the event, as he had a ‘very important’ speech to make. He needed Jess to stay in and babysit. She would miss the entire evening’s festivities.

To soothe her soul, Jess lets the baby stretch out on a blanket on the floor while she…admires…the intricately beaded wedding gown and gobs of brand-new make-up. In a typical, sulky-teen-kind-of-way, Jess quickly becomes distracted and is unsure of how much time has passed since she’s checked on Baby Ruby.

When she sticks her head out of the bathroom, she is shocked to see only wrinkles where Baby Ruby once was. The child is gone.

Jess pulls her shop-lifting-sister, Teddy, into her panic and the two pair up to find the infant before anyone else knows she’s missing. Unaware that housekeeping has alerted the authorities, the teen sleuths separate to search the hotel.

The Search for Baby Ruby by Susan Shreve is a Middle-Grade mystery with a quick start and fast, but not frantic, pace that makes for an engaging, effortless read.

Reviewed by jv poore, July 2020.

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Hurricane Child
Kacen/Kheryn Callender
Scholastic Press, March 2018
ISBN 978-1-338-12930-4
Hardcover

Sometimes I’m stunned by how hard a Middle Grade book can hit me. Hurricane Child by Kacen/Kheryn Callender serves as a stellar example.

Caroline is complex, particularly for an adolescent island-girl. She is carrying a bunch of baggage, and has no one to help with the load.

Years ago, an emptiness began to eat at her. Her mother inexplicably abandoned Caroline and her father. With her dad working all the time, and avoiding her questions when he was around, a frustration began to build and threaten to fill her completely. Nothing but negative emotions and absolutely not a soul to share with, Caroline was always angry and so very alone.

Until she meets Kalinda.

New students are rare in the tiny St. Thomas school, but Kalinda seems to handle being the center of attention easily. Caroline is immediately attracted to her confidence and poise and she quickly decides to befriend this intriguing young lady. As soon as possible.

Here, Ms. Callender considers the pseudo-taboo subject of sexuality. Simultaneously showing two sides of the same coin provides perspective and allows the reader to experience differing mind-sets, neutrally. The reason for her mother’s departure keeps me contemplative and has me considering various points-of-view.

Caroline’s stubborn and defiant actions almost over-ride the seriousness of some situations, making the punch a bit more surprising, thus proving to be more painful. And I mean that in the best way possible.

Reviewed by jv poore, April 2019.

Book Reviews: Stray Our Pieces by Jason Graff and Runway ZomBee by J.A. Watson @JasonGraff1 @WaldorfReaders @JollyFishPress

Stray Our Pieces
Jason Graff
Waldorf Publishing, October 2019
ISBN 978-1-64370-012-0
Trade Paperback

Stray Our Pieces by Jason Graff is Realistic Fiction, but it feels more like a Memoir of a stay-at-home-mom/wife. Gloria has absolutely no ambitions right now. No desire to be Super Mom. She doesn’t keep their home spic-and-span or super organized. Neither is the kitchen her place to shine.

Gloria isn’t so much bad at household chores and duties as she is so completely uninspired, in general, that her days are spent physically doing nothing. Well, maybe rushing through the bare minimum, on a great day. Mentally, she seems to be almost consumed by her own inadequacies. Not to the point of addressing them, more along the lines of looking for someone, or something, to blame.

Her story is not shared straight through. Rather, the time-line fluctuates, allowing the reader to see the younger, happier, energetic and inspired Gloria compared to the adult she allowed herself to become. In a roundabout (but definitely right) way, we learn about Gloria’s past and begin to understand her newfound place in the present.

I’ve not read many books that weave a world without a life-changing event. A plot around people who, from the outside looking in, seem to be the perfect picture of normal cannot be easy to create. But, regular, every-day living where there may be pain and aching emptiness, alongside joy and contentment, is certainly easy to understand and relate to.

Reviewed by jv poore, March 2020.

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Runway ZomBee
A Zombie Bee Hunter’s Journal
J.A. Watson
Jolly Fish Press, March 2018
ISBN 978-1-63163-165-8
Trade Paperback

Raksha’s parents, although proud of their daughter’s ambition, were adamant: two separate, summer-long activities are out of the question. The Science Squad project is essentially a grand-finale. Earning their final badge is important, but the possibility of advancing to the final competition in Hawaii is especially enticing. And Raksha is definitely down with learning more about the Zombie fly/bee infestation…however gruesome the observations may be.

Entirely on the other hand, this admittedly out-of-the-blue fashion camp seems simply serendipitous. True, she could attend another time. After all, she meant to sign up for the fall in the first place. But, if she sticks with the summer session, she will also have a chance to finesse a new friendship with Shonda.

She will do both. Secretly.

Having a best friend like Hannah certainly helps Raksha juggle her double duties; but things quickly become complicated. Raksha is fully aware of the fact that Mari Gonzalez, fellow Science Squad Member and Archnemesis, loves to see her fail. She has no idea that the petty teen would stoop to sabotage.

There is so much to love in this Science-y, Middle-Grade marvel. Written in field-journal format, complete with self-corrections, this catchy little caper makes a quick read. Raksha may have gotten herself into a tight spot, but she is resilient, cunning and all kinds of creative getting out.

And, now I know about zombie-fly infection of honeybees and why that matters.

Reviewed by jv poore, February 2019.

Book Review: A New Place, Another Murder by Christa Nardi @ChristaN7777 @SDSXXTours

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Title: A New Place, Another Murder
Series: A Sheridan Hendley Mystery #1
Author: Christa Nardi
Publication Date: June 22, 2018
Genres: Mystery, Cozy

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Amazon // Indiebound

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A New Place, Another Murder
A Sheridan Hendley Mystery #1
Christa Nardi
CreateSpace, June 2018
ISBN 978-1-7218369-1-8
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Sometimes you need to be careful what you wish for.

Pretty much settled into her new home in Appomattox with Brett and his daughter, Sheridan longs for something to keep her busy.  That is, until Maddie and her new friend are framed for theft and murder.  Not quite the distraction she had hoped for, but she’ll turn over every rock to prove their innocence.  In the process, she learns about the powerful Buchanan family and the history of the local community.  Will the truth come out before the person calling the shots takes Sheridan and Maddie out of the picture?

You never know what will draw you to a particular book or series; in my case with A New Place, Another Murder, it was the setting in Appomattox County because I’ve frequently driven through there on my way from Richmond to visit family in Roanoke. And, of course, there’s an awful lot of history there.

As for the storyline, Ms. Nardi has crafted a good one with fully-fleshed characters and a puzzling mystery that was credible and not too easy to figure out. It’s also a story of a blended family and how nice things can be when the family members actually like and trust each other, something that doesn’t always happen when a new parent figure steps in.  When Maddie and Alex are targeted as the possible thieves and a man has been killed, Sheridan dives in out of necessity because Maddie’s dad, Brett, is on the state police force and has to stay out of it, being her dad.

The main characters come from a previous series that I haven’t read but that didn’t matter too much as it was easy to connect with them in their new surroundings even though I didn’t know the details of their backstories. Brett doesn’t discourage Sheridan’s sleuthing skills, which is a nice touch, and Sheridan does have some experience so her investigation comes naturally. While I found the pacing to be a bit too slow for my liking, I did enjoy this book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2020.

About the Author

Christa Nardi is an accomplished author of cozy mysteries. Christa’s background is in higher education and psychology, much as her protagonist, Sheridan Hendley in the Cold Creek mystery series. She has always loved mysteries – reading them, writing them, and solving them. Christa is a member of Sisters in Crime.

Connect with Christa:

Website // Facebook // Twitter //
Bookbub // Amazon // Goodreads

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$15 Amazon Gift Card

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Book Review: The Boy From The Woods by Harlan Coben @HarlanCoben @GrandCentralPub

The Boy From The Woods
Harlan Coben
Grand Central Publishing, March 2020
ISBN 978-1-5387-4814-5
Hard Cover

At the start of this novel we are introduced to the boy referred to in the book’s title.  Thirty years ago, Wilde, as he is now known, was discovered living in the woods in a rural area of New Jersey.  According to the police there was never any report of a missing child. No relatives ever came forward to claim him.

Intriguing as that opening of Coben’s new stand alone is, the novel moves to the present and concerns another child who has gone missing. Her name is Naomi Pines and she’s a teenager who attends a local high school in the town of Westville, New Jersey.   Matthew, a  fellow student, is concerned for Naomi’s welfare.  He’s contacted his grandmother, Hester Crimstein, a well-known New York criminal attorney to enlist her help.

Hester sets things in motion in the search to find Naomi, calling on the local police and contacting Wilde, who’d been befriended by Hester’s son David, Matthew’s father, years ago.

The relationships in this novel are complicated and there are a few more characters  to meet who are involved in a political plot pertaining to a candidate running for President of the United States.

I’m sure you’ll agree that this might be hard to keep track of,  but rest assured you are in the hands of a well known and loved Master.  Jump in…you’ll be glad you did.  I thoroughly enjoyed this and hope Mr. Coben will return to with a sequel so that we might learn more about the Wilde boy from the woods.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, May 2020.

Book Review: Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith @ericsmithrocks @InkyardPress

Don’t Read the Comments
Eric Smith
Inkyard Press, January 2020
ISBN 978-1-335-01602-7
Hardcover

It’s tough for me to write a review for a book I love more than mochas. But, I can’t not share my ardent admiration of Divya, the sensational Glitch streamer in the center of Eric Smith’s spectacular Realistic-Fiction-YA, Don’t Read the Comments.

Initially, I find it incredibly cool that this high-school student enjoys playing almost as much as she treasures the comfort and camaraderie of her followers and fellow gamers. Impressive that she is making money while doing it. Intensely delighted discovering why.

The man she’d prefer not to refer to as her father, has happily taken everything they built as a family for himself. And his mistress. Divya’s mother is finishing classes and working two jobs, so the payments for trying and talking about gnarly new gadgets makes a significant difference. Her first con appearance might even allow for new furniture.

Bekah, Divya’s best bud and imperative part of D1V’s streaming success and popularity, has designed swag to sell. Appearing on a panel will broaden their audience, as well as put them in close proximity with current fans. It is a great opportunity.

Divya’s mother is not so sure. Pride and gratitude war with worry. Some of the comments she’s seen have been downright mean. Apprehension turns to angst as the trolls’ words turn from taunting to threatening. Harassment intensifies as the con date gets closer.

Even Bekah is ready to bow out. Disappointing, yes, but certainly something Divya understands. And yet, Divya already knows that she will attend. She will be scared and alone, but the trolls will not win easily.

There is one person that remains positive and supportive. If only he wasn’t a fan she’d bumped into online. Aaron is constantly dodging desk-duty at his mom’s medical practice to work on a new game he is creating. He is grateful, though a bit perplexed, that his father has been so supportive and willing to cover for him. His mom will not even listen. Perhaps if he had received any form of payment or contractual agreement from the “friend” he was working with, she would be a bit more open. And, maybe Divya and Aaron have more in common than moms that just don’t understand.

I dig how this book gets the typical teen as well as reaching students that truly have roles and responsibilities outside of school. I’ll be adding this to several classroom libraries.

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2020.