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.

Book Review: Lazarus by Maryanne Melloan Woods @maryannemwoods @owlhollowpress @RockstarBkTours

 

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I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the LAZARUS by
Maryanne Melloan Woods Blog Tour hosted by
Rockstar Book Tours.
Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

 About The Book:

Title: LAZARUS

Author: Maryanne Melloan Woods

Pub. Date: September 8, 2020

Publisher: Owl Hollow Press

Formats: Paperback, eBook

Pages: 230

Find it: GoodreadsAmazon, Kindle, B&N, Kobo, TBD, Bookshop.org

 

Margo and Hank are two teens in tiny, god-forsaken Lazarus, Nebraska. They have a profoundly deep relationship; the only hitch is that Hank has been dead for two months. Somehow he has remained in limbo— no doubt due to the sheer force of their love, and unfinished work to be done.

 

When the pair get tangled up investigating the latest local murder— with Margo doing the everyday detective work and the late Hank spying on suspects unseen—they discover nothing and no one in Lazarus are as they seem. The investigation becomes more dangerous, and it’s up to Hank to protect Margo—as much as a ghost-bodyguard boyfriend can. While clinging to each other, the teens uncover the sinister secrets of the people they’ve known all their lives, reopen the cold case of Margo’s mother’s death, and learn how to face their past—and how to move on.

 

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A teenager and her ghostly boyfriend solving crimes is an appealing premise and, with dollops of humor and a whodunnit atmosphere, Ms. Woods makes it work. Margo and Hank can’t help being a bit mired in sadness since Hank isn’t really alive and well but the two work well in tandem, perhaps even more efficiently than other detecting duos. After all, a ghost can go places and hear things that a living person can’t, right?

It’s not Hank’s death that they need to investigate but there’s a lot going on in Lazarus including a very unexpected murder and perhaps another one in the planning stage. Also, Margo has dealt with death before, seven years ago when her mother was murdered and her killer was never caught. Hank and Margo have their work cut out for them to discover some hard truths while trying to find their way back to a semblance of normalcy even if that means another loss.

Lazarus is a fun, quick read and is a nice way to while away a few hours; there’s nothing like a good ghost story when Halloween is just around the corner 🙂

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2020.

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About Maryanne:

Maryanne Melloan Woods is a novelist/ screenwriter/
playwright currently living in the New York area. She received a B.A. in Theatre Arts from Drew University and an M.F.A. in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles.

As a TV writer/producer, Maryanne has written shows for
networks including Showtime, NBC, ABC, Fox, the WB, Nickelodeon and ABC Family.

 

Maryanne’s plays have been produced by HBO’s New Writers Project, the Mark Taper Forum, and many theatres around the country. Maryanne has won the New England Theatre Conference’s John Gassner Playwriting Contest and the Venice (CA) Playwrights’ Festival. She also received a playwriting grant from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Her play, Smells Like Gin, was the first play produced by Writers Theatre of New Jersey, and she recently won “Best Comedy Script” in the Nashville Film Festival’s screenwriting competition for her screenplay Steve.

 

She has taught screenwriting at the Gotham Writers Workshop in New York, UCLA and the American Film Institute, and served as a panelist for TV writing seminars at NYU and the University of Wisconsin. Maryanne was also a
mentor/teacher for The Unusual Suspects, a playwriting workshop for at-risk teens in L.A.

 

Maryanne is represented by Liza Fleissig of Liza Royce Agency.

 

Website| Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

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Giveaway Details:

2 winners will receive a Finished Copy
of LAZARUS, US Only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Tour Schedule

Week One:

9/21/2020

BookHounds Ya

Excerpt

9/22/2020

YA Books Central

Excerpt

9/23/2020

Oh Hey! Books

Excerpt

9/24/2020

Lifestyle
of Me

Review

9/25/2020

The Phantom Paragrapher

Review

 

Week Two:

9/28/2020

Infinite Lives, Infinite Stories

Review

9/29/2020

Smada’s
Book Smack

Review

9/30/2020

Buried Under Books

Review

10/1/2020

A
Gingerly Review

Review

10/2/2020

Rajiv’s Reviews

Review

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Book Review: The Bonnet Book by Nancy Menees Hardesty @YABoundToursPR

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Check out my stop on the blog tour for
The Bonnet Book by Nancy Menees Hardesty!

Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // iBooks //
Smashwords // Amazon // Indiebound

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The Bonnet Book
Diary of an Orphan Train Hatmaker
Nancy Menees Hardesty
Solificatio, August 2020
ISBN 978-0-9977619-4-8
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Sent away on an orphan train at fourteen, smart and lovely Blanche Spencer lands in St. Louis, Missouri as a nursemaid, wearing rags and sleeping in a pantry. To rise above her servitude, she begins a self-education program. A trade booth at the 1904 World’s Fair and a Cobden, Illinois apprenticeship launch her into a hat-making career, which she documents in a tiny diary, The Bonnet Book.

An early example of self-determination and girl power, Blanche—now Bonnie—travels alone to the Wild West, where she’s presented with the chance of a lifetime and the possibility of love—both rife with challenges that test her drive, purpose in life, and sense of self.

The Bonnet Book diary and other historical items in the novel are real-life touchstones in this gripping, inspiring story based on the life of the author’s grandmother.

Imagine being a 14-year-old girl living a simple life in a family much too large for the very limited income her father earns as a teacher. It’s the turn of the 20th century and these conditions are not terribly unusual but things are getting worse, economically, and hard choices need to be made.

Blanche is a very intelligent girl growing up in a family that loves her, especially her father, but that same father makes a life-altering decision with no warning, a decision that sends Blanche into a future bereft of everything and everyone she’s known her entire life. Did he know what was in store for her, the years of servitude, or did he really believe she would be placed in a loving home full of opportunities she would never have if she remained in Oraville, Illinois? That’s something we can only guess at but, by setting Blanche on this path, he certainly changed her future dramatically.

The Bonnet Book is the tale of how this very resilient girl rose above her travails through her own efforts, determined to educate herself and develop a worthy trade, that of hatmaking, and learned to cope with the pain of abandonment. Along the way, I discovered how Blanche became Bonnie and shared in her adventures in the Wild West of Oklahoma. Based on the life of the author’s grandmother, it’s a fascinating story and I was completely captured by the way Blanche responded to her new life and was honored to see bits and pieces of her Bonnet Book diary.

Ms. Hardesty’s notes at the end and the photographs scattered throughout the book are equally fascinating and bring a vibrancy to this tale of a most uncommon girl. This is the best kind of historical fiction, a foray into a “real” person’s life in times very different from our own.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2020.

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An Excerpt from The Bonnet Book

Vinegar Dreams

Robey Household  •  St. Louis, Missouri

September 1902

A uniformed driver with a top hat steered the stylish carriage up Market Street, en route to the Robey household on West Bell Place.

Blanche watched her first city unfold before her blue eyes—tightly spaced buildings with unusual details; advertising services; a store with a carved fish over the entrance; a red-white-and-blue-striped pole at a barber shop; a ten-foot-high beer mug at a tavern. Their swift carriage followed other horse-drawn ones up the wide and busy boulevard. Sometimes they passed a double train car on a track in the center of the street. A city train, Blanche thought. None of what she saw seemed intimidating to her. It was just the first colorful page of her big-city adventure.

After twenty minutes, the carriage stopped at a three-story red-brick building with a glass vestibule. The building was much larger than a house, and it was in a cluster of eight similar buildings.

Blanche followed Mrs. Robey to the bathroom and closed the door. Just a few hours ago, she had seen a flush toilet and porcelain sinks for the first time. It was amazing how quickly one got used to these things! She came out feeling much refreshed.

“Blanche, Greta is cleaning the pantry for you. You can sleep there. You will have your own room for privacy, with a door and a light.” Mr. Robey closed the pocket watch and returned it to his vest pocket.

“Come, Blanche,” said Mrs. Robey. “Greta will walk you to the girls’ room to get your belongings. I have put your white dress in their closet. You can use your shawl as a bed cover.”

The two walked down the dark hallway, Blanche a few feet behind Greta.

As they returned to the kitchen, Blanche smelled the strong odor of vinegar coming from the pantry. Greta stepped aside as Mrs. Robey approached.

The pantry was only six feet wide, with floor-to-ceiling shelves and cupboards on both sides. It had no window and seemed airless. Opposite the pantry door was a built-in cabinet with a pull-out enamel surface for mixing dough. Below that were bins for flour and onions. Beyond the tall cabinet were two more cupboards containing baking supplies and bins of potatoes. The wall that backed the kitchen contained narrow shelves and was generously stacked with jars of jam, preserved vegetables, nuts, coffee, and spices. At the back wall were cleaning supplies, all stored neatly on old newspapers. This left a mere thirty-inch by six-foot space, with a floor drain in the middle. A single gas light hung by a bare cord from the ceiling.

“Well, here we are,” said Mrs. Robey.

Blanche saw a folded tarp with an old feather mattress over it. There was also a ragged pillow covered in purple floral fabric at the far end of the pallet, next to damp mops.

“You will be warm and dry here—much better than at the train depot. Greta will walk you to the bathroom, and then you can find your way back here on your own.”

“Yes, ma’am,” said a very tired Blanche.

Blanche finished her bathroom chores and found her way back to her bedroom, which she knew was really a kitchen pantry, not a bedroom. But on this first night, she was grateful for any safe place to sleep. She turned on the single dim light, closed the door, and took off her gingham dress, hanging it over the aprons. She got the pillow next to the wet mops and brought it over to the pantry door. The smell of vinegar and onions filled her nostrils. She turned out the light, leaned against the pantry door, and wiped a single tear from her cheek.

She thought about the day. She thought about the two sweet girls to whom she was assigned and their very reserved parents. She was in a home with nice furniture, lovely music, and good food. Maybe this was the beginning of “sweet hope” and new things to learn. But then here she was, about to sleep in an airless pantry.

It was not a happy space, but it was safe.

A sob came out as a choke.

Tonight I will have vinegar dreams, she thought. Sour and scary dreams.

She tumbled over and wrapped herself in the blue shawl.

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About the Author

Nancy Menees Hardesty, born in Illinois and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, moved to San Francisco, California in 1969. Nancy spent six years researching and writing her debut novel, The Bonnet Book. She had various family journals and artifacts and the extensive help of her mother, Mary Kay Menees, who was the daughter-in-law of the book’s protagonist, Bonnie Spencer. The tiny “Bonnet Book” of hat sketches and the wooden hat-supply trunk featured in the book are still in the author’s possession.

Facebook // Website 

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

One print copy of The Bonnet Book

Enter here.

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Book Review: Lovestruck by Kate Watson @katew223 @fluxbooks

Lovestruck
Kate Watson
Flux, April 2019
ISBN 978-1-63583-030-9
Trade Paperback

Picture Cupid.

Now, destroy that image and any other preconceived notions that accompany it. Apparently, we are wrong and it is the Romans’ fault.

Of course, Kali does seem quick to blame the Romans for most misunderstandings of Greek gods and goddesses; but the image of a chubby cherub with an illogically-sized bow, well that one certainly chaps her ass. Then again, she is the crankiest Erote anyone could fathom. Traits that tend to be exhausting and annoying when exhibited by a mere human are like an adorable child venting frustration when this present-day deity pitches a fit. It should not be amusing and delightful, but it actually is.

Which is not to say that Kali should be dismissed or even taken lightly. Like all great goddesses, she is terrifying and revels in vengeance. Plus, she hasn’t always been a bitter anger-ball. At a time when she was happy in life and love, Kali took her matchmaking training very seriously. She stayed sharp and constantly competed with her cousin, Deya, to be the best student.

Until she abruptly ascertained that the Fates have already paved our paths and nothing she does truly matters. At that Kali, becomes the most cynical, careless matchmaker to ever come out of Olympus. And she just completed her fourth mismatch.

Not good for any student, it is entirely unacceptable for the very daughter of Eros to perform so poorly. Consequences for continuing in this fashion will be dire at best, so it is almost implausible that she should so royally ruin her last chance.

I love this modern-day myth and I believe Ms. Watson’s writing may have a bit of a goddesses’ blessing as she magnificently manages to share a fun story with some intriguing food-for-thought undertones. Yet another treasure that I am super-excited to take to “my” students.

Reviewed by jv poore, April 2019.

Book Review: Impact by K. Maze @KMazeauthor @AureliaLeoCo @YABoundToursPR

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Title: Impact
Author: K. Maze
Publication Date: June 25, 2020
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Aurelia Leo // Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon

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Impact
K. Maze
Aurelia Leo, June 2020
ISBN 978-1-946024-81-7
Trade Paperback

From the publisher:

Trapped underground with a mysterious scientist named Edison and his chess master AI, can Nala Nightingale find the will to live and to love in a dystopian future?

Set in post-pandemic Wind City, a young journalist races time against a certain natural destruction. Nala must decide between broadcasting the news of a lifetime or discovering keys to her orphaned past.

As an intern, Nala wants badly to prove her self as a real journalist, not just a broadcaster of fluffy pieces and, on a seemingly normal day, she heads for Intercambio 7 to make her pitch for an important story but she never gets to tell her boss about it. That seemingly normal day is anything but as she soon learns when it becomes apparent that people in the building are rushing out the doors in a panic.

Downtown Girl, as the viewing public knows Nala, is an orphan whose mother died mysteriously after engaging in food production for the Resistance and, although Nala has no leanings towards the rebels’ activities, she does want to know more about how and why her mother died. It’s been ten years since the Bovine Flu pandemic and now the world is about to experience an apocalyptic event that could literally destroy the planet.

While there are aspects of the story that I really liked, especially Nala and Edison as well as other characters, I had trouble truly connecting and the somewhat muddy worldbuilding was the main cause. Part of my confusion stemmed from the somewhat erratic introduction of futuristic technology without clear explanations. For example, the VID messages that pop up but are apparently controlled by the recipient..pop up where? And what exactly is the H-Lens that allows people to see virtual files in one’s mind, I think, while no one else can see them? Why would her boyfriend, who knew about the coming disaster at least the day before, pre-program a destination for her but not warn her? Most important, though, is my inability to suspend disbelief enough to accept that the coming asteroid impact could possibly have been hidden from the public, deliberately or otherwise, until just over five hours before the event. Even today, in 2020, that couldn’t be kept entirely secret from the nerdiest high school student and I can’t imagine that it could happen in 2098.

Despite those difficulties, I did enjoy this tale of survivors attempting to bring order to what’s left of society and of Nala’s self-discovery and understanding of her place in this brave new world. There is hope for the future.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2020.

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An Excerpt from Impact

Book excerpt (first page):

Chapter One

-05:11:08 (311 Before Impact-BI minutes)

Nala Nightingale pressed her way into the large rotating door of Intercambio 7, rushed because the tram was down. I hope the old goat Marcus won’t change his mind and not listen to my pitch. She hadn’t been late in two years interning, but the always-early Mimi was also presenting her idea today. She suggested a piece on robotic make-up art, but Nala’s interviews regarding the orphans of the Bovine Flu had more sustenance in her opinion. But her opinion didn’t matter. Only Marcus decided which pieces went on the broadcast; and the young interns were supposed to inform Wind City of the hottest trends. That usually meant fashion news and how to bypass dance club lines, but Nala insisted the youth were concerned about social issues, too.

Marcus loved Mimi’s ideas as well as her sleek hair and how perfectly it splayed to her clavicle. He commented often on how well the camera captured her presence. Nala struggled to keep her silver-streaked wanton curls in submission and often tied them into a loose bun. Marcus appreciated her offbeat style and perspectives on issues that mattered, but she couldn’t chance losing the broadcast to Mimi today. She had to talk to him first.

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About the Author

Kris Maze writes empowering, twisty stories and also teaches Spanish. After years of reading classic literature, mysteries, and legal thrillers, she sought to publish her own books. Her first Science Fiction novella, IMPACT, published through Aurelia Leo, is now available!

Kris Maze is fascinated with strong characters like her protagonist Nala, a teen journalist who reluctantly works with a crazed scientist Edison to survive an incoming asteroid implosion. For more information on her book, look here.

Check out her newly revised website and say hi! While you are there sign up for her newsletter to get freebies and updates on blog tours and media takeovers during the next couple months.

For Subscribers during August there will be Writer Wellness Tips and Tools, (also good for anyone working or studying from home) so now is a fantastic time to visit her website.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kmazeauthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/KMazeauthor
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kmazeauthor/

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

One paperback copy of Impact

Enter here.

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Book Review: Heart Sister by Michael F. Stewart @MichaelFStewart @orcabook @XpressoTours

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Title: Heart Sister
Author: Michael F. Stewart
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Publication Date: September 22, 2020
Genres: Contemporary/General Fiction, Young Adult

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

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Heart Sister
Michael F. Stewart
Orca Book Publishers, September 2020
ISBN 978-1-4598-2487-4
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

After his twin sister, Minnie, dies in an accident, Emmitt’s world goes sideways. He’s lost his best friend and it feels like the family is falling apart without her. But Minnie was an organ donor and Emmitt soon receives an anonymous thank you letter from one of the transplant recipients. Inspiration strikes, and he decides to try and put his sister back together, in spirit. He’s going to track down each organ recipient and film them to show his parents the results of Minnie’s selfless act and help them move on. But when each recipient falls short of his expectations and the star of his film, the girl who received his sister’s heart, refuses to meet him, Emmitt has to turn to extreme measures to find her. What he doesn’t know is that his “heart sister” is hiding an agonizing secret, one that could push Emmitt to the breaking point.

There’s very little one can do to ease the pain when a person you love passes away but how much harder must it be for a teen when that person is his twin. Emmitt is having a hard time dealing with this but he really worries that his mom can’t seem to recover even a bit. Perhaps finding and filming each person who received an organ from Minnie will help, maybe even make his dad speak Minnie’s name again.

Emmitt’s quest starts out well when he tracks down the man who got Minnie’s corneas and, as he continues on, I became more and more invested in what he was trying to do and the reactions of these lucky people, some not so positive as others. Can this bring Minnie back? No, of course not, but each “piece” he finds takes him closer to healing, to feeling as though it’s okay for him to still be living. That might be hard to do with a mother who wishes she’d  never had Minnie…and, by extension, him.

This story is full to the brim with seemingly endless pain and, yet, Emmitt shows us that there is always reason for hope that all is not lost when death crushes those left behind. This is a boy with strength and a dream that he might be able to help his parents through their grief while coping with his own and the people he meets are just what he needs to understand how his sister’s generosity keeps her alive. Despite the sorrow that is at the crux of the story, Emmitt finds healing for himself and a lasting memorial for Minnie, the girl who created her own notion of life from her love of taxidermy.

As for the ethics of finding organ recipients and the methods Emmitt uses to do so, that’s a question that won’t ever be completely reconciled and each reader will reach their own conclusion. Emmitt is not always the nicest guy and neither are some of the recipients but, in the end, we’re all just people with hopes and dreams.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2020.

About the Author

Michael F. Stewart is an award-winning author of many books for young people in various genres, including Ray Vs. the Meaning of Life, which earned a Kirkus Star and won the Publishers Weekly’s Booklife Grand Prize. and Heart Sister (Summer/Fall 2020, Orca Books). Michael lives in Ottawa.
Author links: 

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

1 print copy of Heart Sister

10 ebook copies of
Ray Vs the Meaning of Life

Enter the drawing here.

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Book Review: Jackpot by Nic Stone @getnicced @penguinrandom

Jackpot
Nic Stone
Crown Books for Young Readers, October 2019
ISBN 978-1-9848-2962-7
Hardcover

Jackpot by Nic Stone is the YA jewel I didn’t know I needed. Rico is tough and serious, in her determinedly matter-of-fact way. She knows all she will ever need to know about each of her classmates. Without having an actual conversation, Rico knows what their home lives must be. She can tell what type of people they are. Rico is so grown, she even knows exactly how each of her peers sees her.

So, it’s not such a big deal for Rico to stay out of that basic, high-school drama; she’s truly got no time for it, anyway. Mama is hounding her to pick up extra shifts at the gas station. The purest person on the planet, her little brother, Jax, seems to stay sick. And she does still need to graduate.

Zan, rich-boy-because-of-daddy’s-toilet-paper, is not someone Rico ever envisioned approaching. Truth be told, she hid when he popped into her Gas ’n’ Go on Christmas Eve, just so she wouldn’t have to be polite to him. But now, his mad-hacker-skills may be exactly what Rico needs.

Something else happened that night-before-Christmas. Rico sold a winning lotto ticket, but the prize has not been claimed. Rico vividly recalls chatting with the sweet little lady who mentioned being forgetful. She will do everything possible to track this woman down in time to claim the jackpot.

While the sullen Rico is stuck with the inexplicably cheerful Zan, she grows annoyed by his habit of asking the questions that most folks would just mull over, silently. Replying to his sneaky, probing, seemingly-innocent queries got Rico thinking.

More time together meant more self-realization and Rico began to wonder if her earlier assumptions were not entirely accurate. Maybe, being part of a family that is financially well-off does not necessarily mean having whatever you want. Perhaps someone can be decked out in all-Nike-attire and still legitimately need food stamps. Maybe money is a blessing. Or, it could be a curse.

Ms. Stone’s characters are authentic enough to feel familiar, but fresh enough to be invigorating. Day-to-day life, even when infused with Something Different, is realistic and relatable. The occasional appearance of unexpected and unlikely narrators elevates the entire book in a way that I find intensely delightful.

Reviewed by jv poore, June 2020.