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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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:

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A Night Twice As Long

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Book Review: Earth Star by Janet Edwards

Earth StarEarth Star
Janet Edwards
Pyr, April 2014
ISBN: 978-1-61614-898-0
Ebook
Also available in hardcover

Jarra is now 18 and finishing the first year of her history degree. After the dramatic rescue in Earth Girl, she’s slowly getting used to her new found family. But things are changing. A new threat has come to Earth. Will Jarra be able to save them all and will there be an Earth left to return to?

You know what they say about the second novel being the most difficult book to write but fortunately for us, the second Jarra Tel Morath novel is a good one! After the dramatic events at the end of Earth Girl life slowly gets back to normal for Jarra. While most people on her course accept and respect her, there are still some there who are quite happy to make her life a misery. But things are different now. She’s found a new family and discovered that her true parents are in the military.

In this outing, a strange threat has come to Earth and the military have sprung into action. Keeping their movements a secret from the rest of the Earth’s population is an arduous task and it’s inevitable that someone will let the cat out of the bag. This is when Jarra steps in to play her part and some unexpected characters find themselves with their own role to play.

All in all, this is an excellent second outing in the Earth series. Jarra’s character is developed further with more connections made to her true parentage and extended family. We also see more happening with her relationship with Fian and the obstacles they have to face as a couple and it’s nice to see how they tackle those challenges together and individually. It will be interesting to see what happens after this since Jarra ends up becoming pretty important to the military so her future is looking more and more intriguing. So I say well done to Janet Edwards, you’ve created a future that any young reader would love to delve into.

Reviewed by Laura McLaughlin, April 2014.

 

Book Review: Earth Girl by Janet Edwards

Earth GirlEarth Girl
Janet Edwards
Pyr, March 2013
ISBN: 978-1-61614-766-2
Hardcover

Jarra is about to turn eighteen and soon she will embark on her college course. The trouble is, she wants to apply to an off-world university and teach all the norms that an ape girl can be just as good as they are. It’s not her fault she can’t leave Earth and not her fault her parents abandoned her. But when events on Earth take a dramatic turn, the norms sure are glad she’s there.

This is a young adult novel, set hundreds of years in the future. By this time, William Crane has developed the portal system, allowing humans to jump from planet to planet and colonise the galaxy. Each colony has slightly different ethos and moral code but ultimately, there is peace between humans. Jarra is a teenager that happens to be ‘handicapped’. Devoid of a critical gene that would allow her to portal between worlds, she is one of a small group that cannot ever leave Earth. But she’s passionate about history and is adept at archaeological digs by the time she’s off to college. Determined to prove herself she applies to an off-world university to study history since they spend their first year on Earth studying pre-history anyway. What starts off as a plan for petty revenge on the ‘norms’, changes dramatically when she begins to realise that they aren’t as bad as they seem. Before she can tackle their prejudices against the ‘apes’, she needs to tackle her own and make peace with her affliction.

This book is chock-full of great characters with a plot that is interesting and engaging. It was good enough that I finished it in one sitting and I wonder whether there will be any more to come as I would like to see what Jarra gets up to when she finishes her course. I think that young adults will like this title and I would definitely recommend it. Check this one out, just don’t go off planet…

Reviewed by Laura McLaughlin, March 2014.

Book Review: Shadows on a Cape Cod Wedding by Lea Wait

Shadows on a Cape Cod WeddingShadows on a Cape Cod Wedding
An Antique Print Mystery 
Lea Wait
Perseverance Press, April 2013
ISBN 978-1-56474-531-6
Trade Paperback

Antique print dealer Maggie Summer is spending time on Cape Cod, helping her best friend Gussie with her wedding. Arriving at Gussie’s home a little early, Maggie takes a walk on the beach and, lucky her, discovers the body of a murdered man.

Maggie, being blessed—or cursed—depending on who is talking, enters full steam into the investigation. Plenty of suspects are available, but what seems lacking is motive. Leave it to Maggie to dredge up several scenarios. Could the murderer be the man’s daughter, who’d thought her father already dead? The cousin he lived with, who manages expenses with no visible means of support?  And why doesn’t the police chief seem more concerned?

Knotty questions indeed for Maggie to wrestle, and at the same time soothe her possible fiance, who wishes she’d mind her own business.

This cozy, while not quite this reader’s cup of tea, has a very good puzzle at its core. The setting is excellent and the story well-written. The characters? I’m still evaluating. It seemed at times a little much to include a deaf woman, a boy with Down Syndrome, and a lady confined to a wheelchair all within one novel, while the romance between Maggie and Will didn’t seem to strike any sparks.

One thing I liked very much was the catalog-style listing of an antique print, complete with pricing, that headed up each chapter. A reader could learn a lot from this alone. Kudos.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, May 2013.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

Book Reviews: A Christmas Home by Greg Kincaid, The Morphine Murders by LJ King, and Drop Dead on Recall by Sheila Webster Boneham

A Christmas Home
Greg Kincaid
Crown Publishers, November 2012
ISBN 978-0-307-95197-7
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Todd McCray, hero of A Dog Named Christmas , is now twenty-four years old and working at a local animal shelter, where he meets and quickly becomes best friends with Laura, a young volunteer. Laura, like Todd, has disabilities of her own, but her struggles are more physical than developmental. Their friendship is sealed when Todd—with the help of his trusted companion, the tenacious Labrador retriever named Christmas—trains a beautiful dog named Gracie to help Laura with the day-to-day life tasks that are difficult for her.

Life seems good for Todd, but all is not well in his hometown. Struggling families unable to make ends meet are abandoning more and more dogs, and the shelter is swelling to capacity.  The local government is struggling to meet its obligations too, and in early December, on the cusp of another holiday season, Todd’s boss delivers the bad news.  Due to funding problems, the shelter will close its doors before the end of the year.  But what will happen to all the animals?

As the Christmas holiday approaches, Todd has limited time to find homes for all the dogs. Not to mention that he needs to secure a new job and figure out what to do when his friendship with Laura takes an unexpected romantic turn. All this seems overwhelming unless you’ve got a loving family, dedicated friends, and a couple of very special dogs behind you. In which case, nothing is impossible.

I confess, I like sappy Christmas movies and that’s how I was first introduced to Todd and his family and friends, especially  the Labrador retriever that came to mean so much to him. The Hallmark movie was ” A Dog Named Christmas” and I have enjoyed it several times since it first came out in 2009. What I didn’t know until I received this ARC is that the movie was based on a novel of the same name. A Christmas Home is the third of a trilogy, following Christmas with Tucker.

The storyline of A Christmas Home follows that of the first book, concentrating on Crossing Trails’ animal shelter and, in this volume, its loss of public funding at a time when communities across the nation are struggling economically. At its heart, though, is the tale of two people with disabilities and how they learn to “fly”, to move on and to dare to do the impossible because they believe they can do so. It is also the tale of the families and friends who care so deeply for them and must find the courage let go, to have faith that they have instilled the strength and confidence needed for these two young people to live full lives despite their disabilities.

Such a storyline can hardly hope to be anything other than ultra-sweet but author Greg Kincaid handles it well and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a fine example of what “comfort fiction” really is. I took a good deal of pleasure in spending a little time with folks—and animals—I would be happy to call friends and to experience, if only for a little while, the humanity and caring of Todd’s community.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2012.

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The Morphine Murders
LJ King
First Edition Design, May 2012
ISBN 9781937520885
Trade paperback
Also available in Hardcover

From the publisher—

Raina Prentiss never imagined that she would investigate a homicide beyond the comfort of her couch, armed with a remote, but that’s exactly what happens when she inadvertently finds circumstantial evidence connecting her boss to not one, but two local murders. With the reluctant approval of her police lieutenant boyfriend, Danny, she launches Mission Bottle to obtain her boss’ DNA.

She recruits her co-worker, Tyler, to divert their boss’ attention while Raina sneaks around and swipes his water bottle. But a simple waft of Tyler’s scent, or the heat from his body, transports her back to the feeling of the feather-light pressure of his mouth on hers, teasing her, taunting her, during the passionate kiss she found herself entwined in a few weeks prior.

With no DNA found at the crime scenes to match to their sample, Raina together with Tyler, and Danny and his detectives, continue to investigate. Because of her easy access to her boss, Raina is convinced that she is the key to obtaining proof and solving the case. Determination blinds the risks incurred by hunting a killer, as Raina uses inside information from Danny to plan her next mission. Having jeopardized her relationship, her job, a friendship, and maybe her life, Raina goes full force into the investigation without a badge, superpowers, or a vampire boyfriend.

Sometimes, I come across a book that baffles me a bit and this is one of them. Every single review I can find is a 5-star, some complete with exclamation points, and I just don’t get it. There’s much to be liked about this book but there are also some noticeable flaws, at least to my way of thinking. Let’s get those flaws out of the way first.

Plot and narration inconsistencies are a problem and, in this book, they are much too frequent. As an example, “Through the blaring siren and the barking dog, they saw the call indicator…”. That first phrase should lead to them hearing rather than seeing something. In another scene, the lead detective carries on a conversation with his captain after storming out of his office. In a third, a member of the police knows a particular individual had possession of an item missing from a victim’s home but doesn’t think that individual would hurt anyone so she doesn’t stop Raina from going to talk to him. In another instance, the main character informs her detective boyfriend that there have been serial killers in New York, as though the police would be surprised by this. The list goes on.

Far more importantly, though, is the fact that I found the main character, Raina, to be remarkably unlikeable and she takes narcissism to a new high. Raina is absolutely sure she knows everything there is to know about criminal investigations because she watches all the shows on TV and she doesn’t care that her behavior is making things a lot more difficult for the police, including her boyfriend, when she withholds evidence from them. After all, she must use that evidence first! Even worse than her bullheaded meddling in the investigation is her complete disregard for loyalty and fidelity and her very obvious belief that her own happiness and satisfaction take precedence over that of her boyfriend and a co-worker for whom she has the hots, never mind the fact that the co-worker’s wife has been in a  coma for all of a week. Her behavior in a certain scene is inexplicable and totally reprehensible and, for me, was the last straw. Unfortunately, other characters fare a little better only because Raina leaves such a negative impression. Some of the police are nearly incompetent and a pair of university students are just silly.

On the positive side, and this is what makes the negative aspects so disappointing, is that the author has crafted a very good mystery. I did identify the killer too early but that didn’t matter because the suspense of what would happen next and how the killer would be stopped carried the story. There were a number of red herrings that were not at all obvious and I found myself frequently wondering if one lead or another would take the police in the right direction.

When all is said and done, this author clearly has the ability to create a nice puzzle and really just needs an effective content editor.  I hope that all the rave reviews will not prevent her from taking advantage of what could turn her future work into something quite admirable.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2012.

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Drop Dead on Recall
Sheila Webster Boneham
Midnight Ink, October 2012
ISBN 978-0-7387-3306-7
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

When a top-ranked competitor keels over at a dog obedience trial, photographer Janet MacPhail is swept up in a maelstrom of suspicion, jealousy, cut-throat competition, death threats, pet-napping, and murder. She becomes a “person of interest” to the police, and apparently to major hunk Tom Saunders as well. As if murder and the threat of impending romance aren’t enough to drive her bonkers, Janet has to move her mother into a nursing home, and the old lady isn’t going quietly. Janet finds solace in her Australian Shepherd, Jay, her tabby cat, Leo, and her eccentric neighbor, Goldie Sunshine. Then two other “persons of interest” die, Jay’s life is threatened, Leo disappears, and Janet’s search for the truth threatens to leave her own life underdeveloped – for good.

I’ve never been to a dog show, although I’ve often thought I’d like to do so (or perhaps a cat show). In the meantime, I enjoy the various shows on TV and can easily imagine the drama and shenanigans that must go on behind the scenes. I don’t usually imagine murder but I also don’t think such a thing is impossible, especially when the desire to win runs high.

Drop Dead on Recall is a delight, a good mystery with characters I came to like very much. I can relate to Janet having to balance work with concern for her mother’s failing health and, in this particular case, her sleuthing actually makes some sense. While most mystery novels offer some information on topics tangentially involved with the crime, Ms.  Boneham provides all kinds of interesting tidbits on pet care, poisons, photography, dog training, etc.,  and she does so very well, giving just enough to let the reader understand what’s going on but not so much that it seems like lecturing.

I also completely fell in love with the pets in the story, especially Jay and Leo (Australian Shepherd and tabby cat, respectively). These two are actively part of the tale (but not in human-like ways) and they add immeasurably to Janet’s appeal. So, a good mystery with plenty of diversions, likeable human and animal characters, a little knowledge I didn’t have before—what more could I want?

Well, how about good writing? Sheila Webster Boneham has experience writing nonfiction but that background doesn’t necessarily translate into being able to write a novel. Happily, in her case, it did and the result is smooth prose that flows easily with a distinct lack of construction errors such as grammar and  plot cohesion.

All in all, this author is a welcome addition to those who write pet mysteries and I’m looking forward eagerly to her next book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2012.