Book Review: Have You Seen Me? by Alexandrea Weis @alexandreaweis @VesuvianMedia

Have You Seen Me?
Alexandrea Weis
Vesuvian Books, 8/21
ISBN 978-1-64548-075-4
Hardcover

Aubrey LaRoux knew she’d stand out at the prestigious Waverly Prep School. Land, rumored to be cursed when it belonged to the Chitimacha, developed a darker history as a sugar mill plantation. Indisputably responsible for the dismal lives and deaths of countless slaves, the historical remains on site presented an unwelcoming atmosphere.

Although she’d be one of only a few Black students, the fact that she was there on a Creole scholarship would be well-known and was more concerning. Aubrey had no hopes of making friends, only securing a solid education.

As predicted, popular student, Marjorie made sure Aubrey bore the brunt of bullying. Then, Marjorie went missing. The majority of the student body expressed shock and sadness. Aubrey, in her infinite teen-aged wisdom, angrily and emphatically stated delight in Marjorie’s absence, changing her status from student to suspect.

Returning to Waverly as a history teacher seemed surreal as Aubrey stepped back onto campus. Unease turned to trepidation when she noticed a Missing poster featuring a face remarkably similar to her own tormentor. Marjorie’s little sister, Lindsey, followed too closely in her sibling’s footsteps. She is missing from Waverly.

Insisting that teen-aged girls create drama and run away, Probst, the apathetic headmistress, was determined to run the school “business-as-usual”. Just like when Marjorie disappeared. They all did nothing.

But students are bolder and Ms. LaRoux is staff now. Lindsey’s disappearance will not be ignored. It doesn’t hurt that the calm and capable sheriff is quite handsome and intriguing. Even if he seems to be always holding something back.

Ms. LaRoux and students are pretty stellar sleuths. They are connecting dots and most assuredly assembling a big picture. Until the first in their group is brutally murdered. The pace of the investigation picks up and becomes a race to solve the mystery before any more lives are lost.

Have You Seen Me? grabbed my attention immediately. I stayed totally engaged, sometimes turning pages fast enough for paper-cuts. The timing is impeccable, I just met with “my” students for the first time this school year and this spot-on, YA-mind-boggling-mystery wherein every character could be a killer is exactly what they were asking for.

This review was written by jv poore for Buried Under
Books, with huge thanks for the Advance Review
Copy to donate to my favorite classroom library.

Reviewed by jv poore, October 2021.

Book Review: Dear Justyce by Nic Stone @getnicced @CrownPublishing

Dear Justyce
Nic Stone
Crown Books for Young Readers, September 2020
ISBN ‎ 978-1-9848-2966-5
Hardcover

Dear Justyce by Nic Stone is the Young Adult, Realistic Fiction companion to Dear Martin. But, please do not pass it by if you’ve not yet met these characters. Dear Justyce does just fine on its own.

Quan is, once again, in Juvenile Detention. The difference: this time…he actually may not have committed the crime for which he is accused. Yeah, he panicked when the very officer that killed Manny swung his weapon toward Quan and his crew. He even pulled his nasty little .22. And brilliantly, he left it behind. Along with the cop’s body.

Hell, he even confessed…sort of.

Quan knew his rights and stated that he chose to remain silent. Several times. But the police had kept talking. And moving Quan from his holding cell to the tiny room with two-way mirror. And back.

Meanwhile, his friend from play-ground-days, Justyce, is working through his first year at Yale. They’re too tight for Quan to feel (much) bitterness. Plus, Justyce had given Quan his notebook filled with the letters he wrote to the late Dr. King, in lieu of a diary. The letters revealed issues that Quan hadn’t known his friend struggled with. Quan takes to writing to Justyce.

Turns out, the writing is therapeutic for Quan and intriguing to Justyce. He senses issues and injustices in Quan’s arrest and processing. The more he listens, the more Justyce believes that Quan’s case is not being taken seriously. Justyce makes it his personal goal to right this wrong.

While the story is as hopeful as it is heart-breaking, the hard truths are going to haunt me. I am so appreciative that Ms. Stone told Quan’s story and I’m pleased that I pre-ordered several copies. Now I can keep one for myself and still add this gem to some of my favorite high-school classroom libraries.

Reviewed by jv poore, December 2020.

Book Review: Mercury Boys by Chandra Prasad @chandrabooks @soho_teen

Mercury Boys
Chandra Prasad
Soho Teen, August 2021
ISBN 978-1-64129-265-8
Hardcover

Saskia is angry about her abrupt exit from Arizona. It’s where she became the content, confident and not-too-terrible teenager her parents could trust. It is also where Mom openly hooked up with the (very young) man students had dubbed “the hot substitute”.

Moving with just Dad was depressing. As a suddenly-single parent and nurse with a bonkers schedule, he may not notice her mood. It’s fine. Saskia is making friends.

Lila certainly seems responsible. She’s a good student and holds a part-time job on the Western Connecticut State campus. To be fair, any work would be way better than baby-sitting her squad of younger siblings; but Lila genuinely enjoys the opportunity to study the origins of processing photographs.

When Saskia is assigned to study Robert Cornelius (chemist, considered pioneer of photography), Lila is quite happy to show Saskia the daguerreotypes so meticulously maintained in the school’s library. She’s less comfortable when her new friend is so fixated on the likeness of Cornelius that she insists on “borrowing” it.

Saskia meant to keep it overnight only, but she hadn’t realized it was a portal. Or, that when she closed her eyes to sleep, she would meet Cornelius. Face-to-face. In his time. Too real to be a dream, time-travel was the only explanation. Unless it was mercury poisoning. Probably should not have handled that.

In an enthusiastic effort to share her discovery and befriend the oh-so-popular Paige, Saskia loses sight of that-which-is-important. Including Lila.

Mercury Boys is the archetypal YA narrative. Actual issues that can, and often do, affect adolescents today, are addressed. The eye-on-the-prize type of tunnel-vision that can lead a typically reasonable teen astray, aptly portrayed. Ms. Prasad’s antagonist employs peer-pressure in its most passive-aggressive form and the girls’ summer “fun” has very real, adverse repercussions.

I’ll be excitedly introducing Mercury Boys to “my” students. I think the combination of fact and fantasy creates a captivating story.

This review was written by jv poore for Buried Under Books, with huge thanks for the Advance Review Copy to donate to my favorite classroom library.

Reviewed by jv poore, September 2021.

Book Review: This Is My Brain in Love by I. W. Gregorio @IWGregorio @LittleBrownYR

This Is My Brain In Love
I. W. Gregorio
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, April 2020
ISBN 978-0-316-42382-3
Hardcover

Jocelyn isn’t truly bitter. She is just very busy. Like most teens, she’d rather be doing just about anything aside from spending every available moment working for the family restaurant, A Plus. Until she hears her father talk of moving back into the city.

She did love New York, of course. But she had just started to love living here. She found bubble tea and Priya. Jocelyn will not go without a fight. She will save the business. And she will get help.

William saw the Help Wanted sign. Spending a summer as an intern-manager of a restaurant was not at all what we wanted, but exactly what he needed. Life is tough enough simply breathing-while-Black; suffering from anxiety on top of that sometimes felt crippling. He’d heard a hard truth. To be the reporter he wanted to be, even if it was just for his private-school newspaper, Will is going to have to ‘get out there’ and get into things.

It would be almost easy to say This Is My Brain In Love is about mental illness, but it really is not. The story is about how, as an individual, we are so many things. Jocelyn is the responsible grandchild, offspring, elder sibling and master-of-every-task in the family’s Chinese restaurant. In her spare time, she works with Priya, creating short films. And she still manages to squeeze in time with William—who wears a few hats of his own.

And, yes, some characters may deal with mental illness—whether they acknowledge it or not. It is an invisible weight, but just like in real life, it is but a small part of a greater whole. I’m so pleased to see a story show that students’ stresses do not start and stop at school. Many high-schoolers have heavy responsibilities outside of classes and grades. So many families count on their contributions.

Ms. Gregorio marvelously manages to cover and convey so much in an engaging and oh-so-easy-to-read way. It will not surprise you to know that I’m looking forward to giving away many, many copies of this YA wonder.

Reviewed by jv poore, June 2020.

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 Review: A Deadly Inside Scoop by Abby Collette @AbbyVandiver @BerkleyMystery

 

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A Deadly Inside Scoop
An Ice Cream Parlor Mystery Book 1
by Abby Collette
Genre: Cozy Mystery
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A Deadly Inside Scoop
An Ice Cream Parlor Mystery #1
Abby Collette
Berkley Prime Crime, May 2020
ISBN 978-0-593-09966-7
Trade Paperback
From the publisher—
This book kicks off a charming cozy mystery series set in an ice cream shop—with a fabulous cast of quirky characters.
Recent MBA grad Bronwyn Crewse has just taken over her family’s ice cream shop in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and she’s going back to basics. Win is renovating Crewse Creamery to restore its former glory, and filling the menu with delicious, homemade ice cream flavors—many from her grandmother’s original recipes. But unexpected construction delays mean she misses the summer season, and the shop has a literal cold opening: the day she opens her doors an early first snow descends on the village and keeps the customers away.
To make matters worse, that evening, Win finds a body in the snow, and it turns out the dead man was a grifter with an old feud with the Crewse family. Soon, Win’s father is implicated in his death. It’s not easy to juggle a new-to-her business while solving a crime, but Win is determined to do it. With the help of her quirky best friends and her tight-knit family, she’ll catch the ice cold killer before she has a meltdown…
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There’s something about A Deadly Inside Scoop that lifts it a little above the masses of culinary cozies and I’m not sure just what it is. Maybe I was swayed by the premise of an ice cream parlor (1) because I remember the oldfashioned kind from my younger, much younger days or (2) by the thought that it’s going to get up to 90°+ “feels like” here in my part of Florida today and all week. Whatever the reason, I really enjoyed this series debut.

***

Win is a smart cookie and she has good plans for her family’s ice cream shop but she can’t prevent the delays that lead to a post-summer opening. Still, she certainly never expects to find a body when she goes looking for fresh snow for a recipe. When her dad is pegged as a prime suspect, Win sets her logical mind to figuring out what really happened with help of a lot of family and friends. Perhaps my favorite thing about Win is that she bases her sleuthing on all the tips she’s learned by reading and watching mysteries, just like all of us readers 🙂 She also avoids the TSTL syndrome which cannot be said for her friend, Maisie.
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Apparently, more than a few townspeople had reason to wish the dead man, a con artist, hadn’t come back and this leads to a lot of red herrings and possibilities. Detective Beverly must have his reasons for focusing on Win’s dad so she has her amateur investigative work cut out for her, all while she’s trying to make a success of the shop in the off-season. Getting to the real truth takes us all down a twisted path and I recommend this witty, charming puzzle.
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Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2020.
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About the Author

I write as Abby L. Vandiver and Abby Collette but you can just call me Abby . . .
I love mysteries! Whatever I write, I put a little mystery into it.
Now I’ve got a new cozy mystery coming out May 12, 2020. A Deadly Inside Scoop, is part of my new series, An Ice Cream Parlor Mystery from Penguin Berkley. I’m so excited for its release.
Stay tuned as I gear up for Release Day with giveaways, interviews and of course. ice cream. (Okay, I won’t actually have ice cream on my page, but I’ll talk about it. A lot.) Pre-Order here!
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Follow the tour HERE for special
content and a giveaway!

 

An ice cream maker and one-time ice cream delivery and scooper

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Book Reviews: Spin by Lamar Giles and Sideline Pressure by Kyle Jackson @LRGiles @Scholastic @JollyFishPress

Spin
Lamar Giles
Scholastic Press, January 2019
ISBN 978-1-338-21921-0
Hardcover

Mr. GilesSpin is a suck-you-in-so-fast YA suspense novel centered around teen-aged rising star, DJ ParSec. Or maybe more honestly, her murder.

Childhood friend and confidante, Kya, is incredibly proud of Paris’ success. Not just because of her own countless contributions in creating ParSec’s first set up. Kya has always been her biggest fan, staunchest supporter and most fierce defender. But, when one event shatters a huge part of Kya’s life and she desperately needs her best bud, she gets the persona, ParSec, and a cold shoulder instead.

That isn’t the only relationship crumbling for the frustrated DJ. She and fan-turned-friend, Fuse, had been spatting more than planning lately. Creative differences, nothing to do with the boy who may or may not have caused this wedge.

Oh, and the boy—well, his motives have been questionable since he’s come onto the scene.

From the outside looking in, it seems that there was a riff with Paris and three of the most important people in her life. But when delving deeper, the reader is reminded that things are not always as they appear and sometimes, the very real danger is cleverly disguised.

Spin epitomizes the stories I love to share with “my” students. Realistic, relatable characters with actual issues, sometimes solved by the very real strength of friendship.

Reviewed by jv poore, March 2020.

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Sideline Pressure
Mac’s Sports Report
Kyle Jackson
Jolly Fish Press, September 2018
ISBN 978-1-63163-236-5
Trade Paperback

It takes a responsible, disciplined person to make a reliable reporter. One who will remember his role. For example, a sports reporter provides a recap of the game. Sure, it can be colorful and somewhat opinionated, but it needs to stay on topic.

And that’s why Mac had to delete his original draft. While well-written, it had not exactly centered on the dismal performance of the Predators. But, by the last buzzer, none of the fans could concentrate on the middle-graders playing their hearts out on the court, either. The eruption of the anger-ball in the audience far overshadowed the basketball game.

I first ‘met’ Mac and his stellar statistician sidekick when I read Mr. Jackson’s Concussion Comeback. I adore the free-wheelin’ sports reporter, and I’m equally enamored with Samira. No surprise that I was super excited to start Sideline Pressure. Tackling yet another tough topic, this fast-paced Juvenile Fiction sports story shines a light on parents behaving badly and the rippling adverse effects.

Drew Borders is a strong starter for Coyote Canyon Middle School. Not good enough for the high-powered, ever-so-important attorney that is, unfortunately, his father. Stalking the sidelines, fired-up like a college coach during March Madness, Mr. Borders begins to angrily bark ‘advice’; but by game’s end and in-spite of the win, he’s just being nasty. Mac wants to do something and when Drew comes to him for help, of course he’s willing. If he can only figure out how.

I really enjoyed watching Mac work through the problem. When he made a mistake, or did not get the result he was going for, he tried a new tactic. And when he made up his mind, he stood his ground. Even after Mr. Borders threatened legal action.

If you’ve not recently had the pleasure of participation in youth sports, the irrational actions of this basketball-dad may seem a bit over the top. Sadly, speaking from (what feels like) extensive experience, this portrayal is particularly precise. I’m looking forward to sharing my new favorite sports story with my younger reader-friends. It’s a special kind of awesome to handily have something that makes the boys’ eyes light up.

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2019.