Book Reviews: Last Call by Elon Green and Thirteen Chairs by Dave Shelton @elongreen @CeladonBooks @DaveShelton @DFB_storyhouse

Last Call
A True Story of Love, Lust and Murder in Queer New York
Elon Green
Celadon Books, March 2021
ISBN 978-1-250-22435-4
Hardcover

The world was not warm or welcoming for gay men in the 1980s. Discrimination, bias and inexplicable hate made for an uncomfortable existence, at best. Not only was homosexuality grossly misunderstood; but AIDS was becoming a familiar fear for everyone.

Repercussions could be very real for any openly-gay man. Life turned from unpleasant to terrifying with the discovery of a dismembered male body. And later, another grisly, heart-wrenching find. More would follow.

Law enforcement was not convinced that the scarily-similar manner of disposal connected the crimes. Faint lines leading to New York City piano bars— where gay men felt somewhat safe—seemed more than a stretch.  Prejudices towards the victims’ “life-styles” and the lack of a crime scene, coupled with “dump sites” in different jurisdictions, meant that these crimes were not priorities.

Family members, friends, Lesbian and Gay Advocate Groups would not allow these deaths to be ignored, though. Patrons, pianists, and bartenders all mentioned one man, in particular. The suspect was a nurse at a NYC hospital, but no one knew more than that.

In the same way that stellar wait-staff are inconspicuous when their service is spot-on, Mr. Green simply sets everything up, almost allowing each man to tell his own story.

This review was written by jv poore for Buried Under Books, with a huge “Thank You!” to Celadon Books for the Advance Review Copy, which I will donate to my favorite high-school classroom library.

Reviewed by jv poore, February 2021.

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Thirteen Chairs
Dave Shelton
David Fickling Books, September 2015
ISBN 978-1-910-20044-5
Trade Paperback

Inside of a dilapidated, abandoned home— that is most assuredly haunted, per the neighborhood children—one room appears to be in use. A long table is set with flickering candles, casting strange rays on the oddly assembled group gathered around.

Jack had heard the wicked rumors; but standing outside and seeing a soft light within, his curiosity has passed piqued. Compelled, he enters the house and follows the glow. He is welcomed to the table, where there is, uncannily, one empty chair.

Each person has a story to share and every one of the scary shorts could stand alone. Some of the narrators appear to know one another quite well, while others seem less comfortable with the eclectic individuals sharing their space. Jack is clearly the freshest face to the table, and perhaps, he has the most to fear.

Reviewed by jv poore, July 2019.

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

Goodreads
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: Runaway Train by Lee Matthew Goldberg @LeeMatthewG @WiseWolfBooks @YABoundToursPR

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Book Tour! 

Runaway Train
(Runaway Train #1)
by: Lee Matthew Goldberg
Release Date: April 29, 2021
Genre: YA

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // The Book Depository // Amazon
Books-A-Million // Alibris // Indiebound

At turns heartbreaking, inspiring, and
laugh out loud funny, Runaway Train is a wild journey of a bygone era and a
portrait of a one-of-a-kind teenage girl trying to find herself again the only
way she knows how.

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Runaway Train
Runaway Train #1
Lee Matthew Goldberg
Wise Wolf Books, April 2021
ISBN 978-1953944030
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

They told me I was an out-of-control train about to crash…

Everything changed when the police officer knocked on the door to tell me – a 16-year-old – that my older sister Kristen had died of a brain aneurysm. Cue the start of my parents neglecting me and my whole life spiraling out of control.

I decided now was the perfect time to skip town. It’s the early 90’s, Kurt Cobain runs the grunge music scene and I just experienced some serious trauma. What’s a girl supposed to do? I didn’t want to end up like Kristen, so I grabbed my bucket list, turned up my mixtape of the greatest 90’s hits and fled L.A.. The goal was to end up at Kurt Cobain’s house in Seattle, but I never could have guessed what would happen along the way.

The 90’s are not my era, not by a long shot, but I think every teen at one time or another, has wanted to take that magic road trip that lets us escape from the hard days of life. Do you remember? My low point came in the 60’s when my best friend was diagnosed with a brain tumor but, being raised during the Leave It to Beaver generation, such was not really an option for the likes of me. A girl heading out alone like that would have garnered heavy frowns at the very least. All of which is to say I kind of envy Nico and her “throw caution to the winds” attitude.

What I don’t envy is the way Nico is treated by her own parents after Kristen’s sudden death. We’ve seen it before, the parents who are obsessed with the golden child who’s gone and who seem to forget that there’s another child (or more), one who is hurting just as badly as they are. No wonder she runs.

Nico’s journey does satisfy some of her most pressing needs but it’s no joyful lark and we’re given a raw look into this girl’s mental and emotional pain, not to mention how it all can be so exacerbated by substance abuse and the latter is even more poignant considering what eventually happened to her idol, Kurt Cobain. This story is tragic and filled with grief but there’s also a sense of redemption and, although I found it difficult to read at times, It’s a worthwhile coming of age tale.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2021.

About the Author

Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of the novels THE ANCESTOR, THE MENTOR, THE DESIRE CARD and SLOW DOWN. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the Prix du Polar. His first YA series RUNAWAY TRAIN is forthcoming in 2021 along with a sci-fi novel ORANGE CITY. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in The Millions, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, LitReactor, Monkeybicycle, Fiction Writers Review, Cagibi, Necessary Fiction, the anthology Dirty Boulevard, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, The New Plains Review, Underwood Press and others. He is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Fringe, dedicated to publishing fiction that’s outside-of-the-box. His pilots and screenplays have been finalists in Script Pipeline, Book Pipeline, Stage 32, We Screenplay, the New York Screenplay, Screencraft, and the Hollywood Screenplay contests. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series and lives in New York City. Follow him at LeeMatthewGoldberg.com

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads // Instagram

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Giveaway! 

Grand Prize: Signed paperback copy
of Runaway Train! (US only)

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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 Review: Canopy by D.M. Darroch @YABoundToursPR

 

Canopy Book Tour! 
Feb. 1-5
Canopy
The Silvanus Saga Book One

by: D.M. Darroch
Sleepy Cat Press, January 2021

Genre: YA, Post-Apocalyptic,
Dystopian, Science Fiction
 
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See the girl in the trees. Catch her if you can.

 

Several centuries ago, a group of ecologists escaped the breakdown of a society ravaged by climate change by vanishing into giant, genetically engineered forests in the North American west. Dwelling among vast canopies that hover several thousand feet above the earth, their descendants fear the cannibals roaming far beneath them and cling to the teachings of their sacred text, The Book of Silvanus. 

 

Sixteen year-old Ostrya considers it a burden to train as the canopy’s next doctor. But her life’s work has been preordained—and she’s desperate to reclaim her mother’s love. When a cataclysmic storm wracks the canopy, Ostrya begins to face her doubts about the teachings of the book and the laws of the canopy. If she is to survive, she will have to decide if her destiny is in the treetops or on the forest floor…

Although Canopy is billed as dystopian, it’s also post-apocalyptic and the combination is one  of my favorite kinds  of science fiction. With both, the most crucial element is worldbuilding; it not only should be complex and thorough enough so the reader really understands this very different way of life but also entertaining enough to make the reader want to learn more. In my opinion, Ms. Darroch has let her imagination run and created one of the best settings I’ve read.
*
The author’s opening paragraph—having to do with spiders, of all things—let me know right away that I was in for an intriguing journey and, with each page, I was drawn in further. Imagine a world in which you never touch the ground, shoes are outlawed and genetic engineering has caused trees to become gigantic beings with the resulting increased oxygen production leading to the growth of lesser creatures that are six times the size of the same creatures generations earlier, before the devastating climate and health changes confronting humanity.
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Of course, all is not perfect for the tree dwellers and there are people still living on the ground with all its challenges The teen-aged Ostrya, pre-ordained to become a doctor because it’s expected of her, is restless and insecure about her future, wanting to know about the world below…and so begins a most interesting and fascinating tale, one I raced through but didn’t really want to finish. This will go on my list of best books read in 2021 and Book 2 can’t come fast enough 😉
*
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2021.
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Buy Links: 

B & N // Amazon // Apple Books 

Rakuten/Kobo // Angus & Robertson // Thalia

bol.de // Indigo // Mondadori // Indiebound 

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Canopy Book Tour Giveaway Contest!

Giveaway Prizes: 

Grand Prize: Hammock! (US and Canada)

First Prize: $30 Amazon Gift Card! (International)

Second Prize: Hand-signed copy of paperback (US and
Canada) 

Third Prize: Ebook (International) 

To enter, please visit: 

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(Giveaway runs Feb 1-19, 2021) 

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Author Bio:

D.M. Darroch is the author of the Inventor-in-Training series as well as other speculative fiction stories. Her books weave together nature and science with adventure and often a touch of humor. Danelle lives in Washington State, USA and enjoys long walks in the forest. Her website is: https://www.dmdarroch.com.

Website  // Goodreads // Amazon Author Page

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Tour created by YA Bound Book Tours 

Book Review: For Better or Cursed by Kate Williams @DelacortePress @favouritepages

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Title: For Better or Cursed
Series: The Babysitters Coven #2
Author: Kate Williams
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: December 15, 2020
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Google Play
Amazon // Book Depository // Indiebound

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For Better or Cursed
The Babysitters Coven # 2
Kate Williams
Delacorte Press, December 2020
ISBN 978-0-525-70741-7
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Adventures in Babysitting meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer in this funny, action-packed sequel about a coven of witchy babysitters who realize their calling to protect the innocent and save the world from an onslaught of evil.

Esme Pearl’s life used to be all about bumming rides and babysitting. Sure, it wasn’t glamorous, but it was predictable. All that changed when Cassandra Heaven came to town, and they discovered their complicated, and connected, legacy: Esme and Cassandra are Sitters, supernaturally-gifted teens armed with an ever-changing grimoire of Sitter witchcraft to help them protect the innocent and keep evil demons at bay. You know, the typical teenage stuff.

But just as Esme is starting to adjust to–and maybe even like–her new normal, life lobs another glitter bomb her way. The Synod–the Sitterhood’s governing circle–has called a Summit, a once-in-a-generation gathering that promises training, education, and whole lot of ice-breakers.

Esme should be excited–a Summit might mean she can finally get the answers she desperately wants–but she can’t shake a building sense of panic. Especially since Cassandra’s not acting like herself; Esme’s dad is MIA; Pig is out of dog food; Janis is scared to be alone; and there’s a guy who seems too good to be true, again. Worst of all, it soon becomes clear, there’s no one watching the kids. It’s obvious the Summit is a haute mess, but will it be a deadly one, too?

You know the TV commercial for Geico that shows a group of teens trying to escape from a Michael Myers-esque killer and they choose to get behind the chainsaws instead of getting in the running car? I must have seen it a gazillion times and I still always chuckle, point being, this book’s description somehow made me think of that commercial. I was primed for some good, snarky laughs and Ms. Williams did not disappoint. Now, granted, some of the language is a bit rough but not excessively so especially when you consider that this is teens defending humanity from demons.

As you might expect when it comes to fighting evil, things don’t always go well and Cassandra is suffering some pretty important amnesia, leaving Esme not exactly on her own but definitely with a partner who’s not on top of her game. The timing for that isn’t great since their coven has to host the upcoming Summit and we all know that trouble is likely to ensue. It does, of course, but this is a fun read although I wish Esme were more aware of behavior that’s somewhat dismissive of Cassandra’s LGBTQ concerns; still, I have to remind myself that, as unenlightened as we might be today, it was worse in the 1990’s when this is set. Having said that, Cassandra has developed her own unpleasant ways so neither girl is entirely likeable. The pacing in this book is also a little slower than I like and, in fact, I think the plot takes a back seat to the characters.

Although I’m rarely bothered by not reading books in order, I do think it probably would have been best in this case and I recommend that anyone wanting to try this series start with the first one, The Babysitters Coven, to have a better understanding of how Esme and Cassandra came to be Sitters. After all, being a witch, even a good one, isn’t exactly “typical teenage stuff” 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2020.

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An Excerpt from For Better or Cursed

Chapter 1

The sun was setting, and up and down the street, I could see Christmas lights flicker on and blow-up snowmen fill with air. It was supposed to be festive, but I found it ominous, the snowmen especially. I’d seen demons that looked almost exactly like them, and now anything white and puffy automatically put me on guard. My breath billowed in front of me, and I pulled up the collar of my shearling-lined jacket, accidentally tugging it too close to my nose. I stifled a gag and immediately folded it back down.

The jacket was killer. It was pale-peach suede, had a ’70s Foxy Brown cut, and was about the warmest thing I owned. I’d found it at a thrift store the night before, and it was a serious score except it was dry-clean only. I thought I could get away with wearing it without spending more to have it cleaned than it actually cost, but nope. Breathe too deeply and I definitely got a whiff of weed, BO, and a third note I couldn’t identify. Maybe canned corn? I tried breathing through my mouth.

Cassandra wasn’t wearing a coat. Of course. Even in December. She sat next to me on the wooden bench, in just one of her brother’s hoodies over a flannel, her hair pulled back into a ponytail and anchored with a plain old rubber band. Cassandra doesn’t worry about split ends. She was gnawing on her thumbnail, making really gross sounds that were at odds with her I-sell-detox-tea-on-my-Instagram kind of beauty. Her right leg bounced at 180 bpm, and she spit a piece of nail onto the ground.

There were only three kids left on the playground, all bundled up like little marshmallows. Their shouts echoed off the school’s brick walls, and the swings made a metallic creak in the wind. The kids were taking turns throwing a red rubber ball at a basketball hoop, and one of the boys hurled the ball at the girl. She caught it and immediately turned and drop-kicked the ball away from him, sending it flying out into the playground. I stifled an urge to cheer her on.

“What do you think?” I asked.

“I swear it’s here,” Cassandra said. “It’s just weird that it’s waiting so long.”

Cassandra was right. It was here. I could tell by the sadness that tickled the edges of my mind, and the way I shivered more from disgust than the cold every time the air moved around me. It was the reason Cassandra was so nervous, even though we were about to do something that, in the past month, had become as routine to us as going to school or not doing homework. We’d been in its presence for a while now, and exposure to a Negative demon always brings nerves and despair. Even to Sitters.

On the basketball court, one of the little boys was on the ground crying, while the little girl stood over him doing some sort of dance and kicking at his shins, her dangling mittens giving her the appearance of having four hands. I was trying to decide whether I was still on her side when Cassandra jumped up and started running across the playground. I was right behind her, my eyes straining in the crepuscular light, to make out what she saw.

There. By the monkey bars. A Shimmer. Barely visible, but I saw it nonetheless, like a glitch in reality. I detoured to the basketball court and held up my hands, palms facing the kids. “Mnemokinesis!” I shouted at them. They stopped fighting and turned to look at me with blank stares, arms hanging limply at their sides. Cass and I now had five minutes to do what we needed to do before the spell wore off and the kids would remember everything they saw.

Except Cassandra had stopped, and she was bent over, staring at the ground. I caught up to her, my heart pounding. “Cass! Are you okay? What’s wrong?”

She looked up at me and smiled. Her pupils were huge, which made her dark eyes look like deep black holes. Her expression was peaceful. More than peaceful–euphoric. “Esme,” she said, her voice an excited hush. “Have you ever noticed there’s glitter in the concrete? Look at how it sparkles.” She reached down and ran a hand over the dirty ground. “We are literally walking on rainbows. A million tiny rainbows.”

What the?

“Are you serious?” I looked away from her as something flickered in the corner of my eye. Now that we were stationary, the Shimmer thought it was stalking us, and not the other way around. I looked back at Cassandra, and her expression shifted in a split second, like she’d just been snapped by a rubber band. She gave her head a quick shake and broke into a run again, jumping a merry-go-round in two strides. She collided with something midair and went pixelated as she crashed to the ground. Shoot. The Shimmer was on top of Cassandra, and her limbs were going in and out of focus as she thrashed. My breath caught in my throat as the Shimmer surrounded her head, lifting it like it was about to smash her skull against the teeter-totter.

I held out my palm and wedged my powers between Cassandra and the ground so the Shimmer was just pounding her into the air. The sensation disoriented the Shimmer enough that it loosened its grip for a second, and a second was all Cassandra needed to wrench free. She rolled away and pushed herself up to her knees, her palms held out in front of her. Instantly, the Shimmer erupted in a blaze. With it outlined in flames, I could see that it was as big as at least two jungle gyms. It let out a piercing hiss, and I clamped my hands over my ears.

Her fire bathed Cassandra in flickering orange light for an instant. Just as quickly as the flames appeared, they were out again. She’d put them out. She had one palm extended and was gripping something tightly in her other fist. She raised it, but in a split second the Shimmer swung and connected with her, knocking her through the air. I winced as she smacked against the monkey bars and she fell to the ground in a heap.

“Cassandra!” I yelled. “What are you doing?”

She was back up in no time, her fist raised again, and now I could see what she was holding: a rope I didn’t know she’d had. She unfurled a length of it behind her and started to swing it over her head. I was so confused that I stopped for a second. Was she trying to lasso this thing?

“Pin it!” she yelled back at me. “Don’t let it go!”

I glanced up. The Portal was here, swirling over the playground like a curdled latte, which meant we only had a few seconds to flush the Shimmer before the Portal closed again. Pinning the Shimmer and not letting it go was not part of the plan. “What?” I screamed back, but before I could do anything, Cassandra had swung the lasso. Only, instead of being pinned, the Shimmer caught the rope and gave it a hard yank, pulling Cass off her feet and toward it.

“What are you waiting for?” I screamed. “Torch it!” That was how we usually did this: she set something on fire, which disabled it just long enough for me to grab it and flush it into oblivion. But she was over there playing tug-of-war like we were at a barbecue, and the Shimmer seemed to be having a grand old time.

I glanced up. The Portal was already starting to shrink, and Cassandra was still cowgirling. I had to act. I held up a hand and took hold of the demon, then focused my energy and gave it the biggest, hardest yank I’ve ever given anything. And, crap, it weighed as much as a baby elephant. Who’d been snacking on Kälteen bars. I held out my other palm, as this was a two-powered-hands job. Cassandra was yelling something at me, but I couldn’t make it out. I sucked a breath in through my nose, and yanked.

I felt the Shimmer’s energy course through me. It was hot and angry and still writhing in pain, and I didn’t care one bit. I started to swing it around in a circle, gathering speed. With each swing, I grew more powerful and it got lighter. I looked back at the Portal, still burbling above us, and took aim. With a final swing, I let go of the Shimmer. It hurtled toward the swirl and sailed right through the middle. As it always did, the Portal flushed, a sound that never failed to send a rush through my body, from my eyebrows down to the tips of my toes.

Then I turned to Cassandra. “What the crap was that? Did you want it to stick around and hang out?” She wouldn’t meet my eyes as she stood there, dirty from the scuffle and trying to catch her breath. “And that whole walking-on-rainbows thing? When did you become a flower child?”

Her eyes locked on mine. “What are you talking about?” she said. She seemed genuinely confused, but I was not going to let her put me on the defensive.

“You were wasting all sorts of time out there!” I snapped. “And you got distracted by the concrete! Of all things.”

She was coiling the rope back up. “I just wanted to do it a bit differently this time.”

“And you didn’t think that this was something you should tell me?”

“It’s no big deal,” she said.

“Yes, it is, Cassandra,” I said. “It could have gotten loose. What were you trying to do, anyway? Tie it up?”

She turned and started to walk away from me. “I wanted to interrogate it,” she said. Which made such little sense that I needed her to repeat it.

“You wanted to do what to it?”

“Interrogate it,” she said. “You know, ask it some questions.”

I still didn’t get it. “I know what interrogate means, Cassandra,” I said. “But it’s a Shimmer. It doesn’t even have a mouth.” We passed a trash can and she tossed the rope in it. It landed on a bag of dog poop and a Wendy’s box. A bigger question hit me, and I stopped. “Wait, you wanted to talk to it?”

I stared at the back of her head as she kept walking. She reached up to redo her ponytail as she nodded, and I winced when she ripped the rubber band out of her hair, taking several strands with it. “What did you think it would say?” I asked, catching up to her. But she picked up her pace and I could tell she was starting to get annoyed with me.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I thought maybe we could learn something. Let’s drop it, okay? I won’t do it again.” Then she said something that really blew my mind. “I’m sorry.”

Wow. I had to play my cards right with this one. What she had just done was weird, there was no doubt about it, but it was also clear that she didn’t want to discuss it. She so seriously didn’t want to talk about it that she’d even apologized, which she never did. I wasn’t going to get anything more out of her, so sure, I’d drop it. For now, at least. It was hard to tell when Cassandra was being weird and when she was just being Cassandra. I did know that she kept her word, though, so if she said she wouldn’t do something again, she wouldn’t. But interrogate a demon? Maybe she’d been watching too many cop shows? “What about the sidewalk rainbows, though?” I asked, figuring that was at least a different subject.

“Huh?” she asked, looking over at me like I was the one not making any sense.

“Do you not remember that? Your pupils were huge. It looked like you were on a different planet.” Something flickered across her face, too fast for me to decipher it.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said, looking away from me and down the street. “I got really light-headed there for a minute. I didn’t really eat anything today.”

“Oh,” I said. “You should eat lunch. And breakfast.” She nodded. “Something with protein, like yogurt, or an egg . . .” Cassandra smirked.

“What’d you have for breakfast today?” she asked. I knew exactly what I’d had for breakfast: six Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and a venti iced coffee.

“Irrelevant,” I said, “as I’m not the one who had a . . .” I wasn’t sure what to call what had just happened to Cassandra. “Tripping balls” seemed most apt. “Episode,” I said finally. “In the middle of a Return. It did not seem like you were okay.”

“Thank you for your concern, Nutritionist Esme,” she said, reaching out to squeeze my shoulder. “I will make sure it doesn’t happen again.” Before either of us could say anything else about the subject, my phone started ringing. An incoming call from Jim Halpert, which is how I had Brian Davis–Cassandra’s and my Counsel, and also my dad’s best friend, hence the code name–saved in my phone. Brian always called me because he knew that Cassandra’s phone was usually broken, missing, or dead, and sometimes all three.

I answered and put him on speaker so Cassandra could hear too. “Hey,” I said. “What’s up?”

“Where are you?” he asked, his voice sounding more clipped and businesslike than usual.

“At the playground by Woodland Elementary,” I answered. “We just Returned a Shimmer.”

“Stay there,” he said. “I’m coming to get you.”

“It went well!” Cassandra called out. “Thanks for asking.” But Brian had already hung up.

“What do you think this is gonna be about?” I asked her.

She shrugged. “Something to do with his balls, probably.”

I nodded. She was probably right. Brian’s true passion was interior design, and he had a flair for mixing boho patterns and textiles with mid-century silhouettes. Overall, his style was very sophisticated and clean, yet it still felt cozy. But I digress, because Brian’s day job was as the football coach at our high school, and “his balls,” as Cassandra fittingly called them, stressed him out to no end. So much so that he neglected our training, which resulted in serious disaster. In the month or so since then, even though the Spring River Bog Lemmings (yep, the lemming is our school mascot) managed to close out the season and take home a trophy that they all spit in, or whatever it was you did with a trophy, Brian had been working overtime to get us up to speed. Which meant that Cassandra and I were working overtime too. We hadn’t planned to meet up to train tonight, so Brian’s urgent call was kind of a bummer. I was looking forward to a night off. I had plans. I mean, I was going to put a blackhead mask on my nose and watch the Versace American Crime Story for the fourth time. Those were plans, right?

Excerpted from For Better or Cursed by Kate M. Williams. Copyright © 2020 by Kate M. Williams. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Original Link: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/592191/for-better-or-cursed-by-kate-williams/

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About the Author

I’m the author of the YA novel The Babysitters Coven.

I also write for magazines, including Cosmopolitan, NYLON, Elle, Women’s Health, Shape, Time Out New York, Monster Children, Russh, Oyster, The Fader, NME, H&M, Smith Journal, Gather Journal, KnitWit, Popular, Style.com and more.

I have ghostwritten New York Times bestsellers, celebrity tell-alls, memoirs, how-tos, and beauty bibles (Shh…. I was never here, and you haven’t seen me.)

And, just ‘cause we’re still talking about me, I’ve also written windows, billboards, emails and captions, captions, captions for brands such as Urban Outfitters, Nasty Gal, Vans, Calvin Klein, Nike, Lively, BAGGU and more.

I love to write about witches, teenagers, girls behaving badly, palm trees, and other forms of magic. Teenage girl witches behaving badly under the palm trees is my penultimate subject.

AUTHOR LINKS

Website | Goodreads | Instagram

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

Win a physical copy of FOR BETTER OR CURSED
by Kate Williams (INT)

Starts: 23rd November 2020
Ends: 14th December 2020

Enter here.

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Book Review: Endangered by Lamar Giles @LRGiles @harperteen

Endangered
Lamar Giles
HarperTeen, November 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-229757-0
Trade Paperback

Once again, I’ve found a book that ‘my’ students will want to read. I know this because I borrowed Endangered by Lamar Giles from their classroom library. This copy is clearly well-read.

Panda (it makes me so happy when a name and title go together better than peanut-butter and chocolate) has mastered the art of blending-in-until-invisible. A skill she’s particularly proud of. Imperative for tailing someone and snapping a series of not-so-secret photos. Handy for hiding in the hallways between classes.

What began as one, well-deserved, public humiliation has taken on a life of its own. Panda anonymously prowls to expose the not-so-great traits of seemingly superb human beings. Her photo-blog, Gray Scales, is incredibly popular. Her best friend, Mei, is a true fan. But even Mei has no idea that Panda is the person purportedly balancing the scales.

Things change the night that Panda sees so much more than she ever expected. Which happens to be the very night she, the original school-spy, was spotted. And photographed. Sadly, Panda remains unaware of her shadow until her latest sordid shots are available for all eyes on Gray Scales.

While disconcerting, Panda did not find it to be particularly worrisome. At first. She was absolutely not prepared for the murderous rage that soon follows. She’ll need to do her very best detective working to identify the culprit. Her life, and Mei’s, depend on it.

Endangered by Lamar Giles is a YA Suspense novel, in that the main characters are in high-school; but the plot pulled me in entirely. I stayed up stupid-late one night just because I had to know how it ended.

Oh-and when I later read a nature article that referenced a “camera trap”, I knew what that was because I’d read this book.

Reviewed by jv poore, August 2020.