Armstrong and Charlie by Steven B. Frank


I loved this thoughtful kids’ book about two boys in 6th grade and their friendship. Sensitively covering issues of race, grief, class, and peer relationships, this little book has a lot of punch packed between its pages. Highly recommended for middle grades – I’d love to use it with my own students next year!

Thank you for my e-copy which  I got through Net Galley.



Review: LIAR’S BENCH by Kim Michele Richardson


Coming of age stories set in the South always appeal to me, so I chose this book from Net Galley.

LIAR’S BENCH is the story of Mudas Summers, a teenage girl living in Kentucky in the 1970’s. Her mother is found dead and suicide is the ruling. Muddy, however, believes her mother was hiding something, and perhaps was killed. Part flashback, part coming of age, and part mystery, LIAR’S BENCH chronicles Muddy’s attempts to find her mother’s story and in essence find herself.

While I liked this story, and found it to be well-written, it was fairly raw and gritty. Muddy’s existence was not an easy one, and the depiction of abuse and neglect was disturbing to me. Just about everyone in her family seemed dysfunctional, and a whole crew of townspeople were hardly more than criminals. I spent a lot of reading time anxious that Muddy and her boyfriend would be harmed or even killed.

I’d be curious what others think of this story. It was quite honestly portrayed and the writing was great. I found it a bit depressing, though I did like the uplifting ending.

Thank you for my review copy, Kensington Press!


Just published this past week, I received THE LONGINGS OF WAYWARD GIRLS as an ARC through Net Galley last month. I really enjoyed this book, in part for the nostalgia I felt for the lazy summer childhood days of the 70’s that are so aptly depicted in this intriguing and sometimes disturbing story within a story.

As the novel starts, Sadie is an adult and trying to regroup after the losing her baby. She lives in the town where she grew up and where, twenty years earlier, two girls disappeared. One girl had been in Sadie’s class, and she was never found again. The other girl was a sometimes friend of Sadie, and she still harbors guilt for her disappearance. Through flashback, we learn of Sadies’ childhood in her dysfunctional family, with an alcoholic actress mother and often absent father. Sadie is somewhat of a ringleader amongst her friends, and they spend their days in complex imaginary dramas, dressing up in the basement or creating forts in the woods surrounding the Connecticut neighborhood (I loved this depiction of childhood before everyone became “plugged in”!). The lost girl, assumed abducted, hangs as a specter over them all. Then Sadie and her friend play a trick on another (unpopular) girl, and she goes missing, too.

Back in the present day, Sadie is just trying to get by when a man who was a childhood friend returns to the neighborhood, setting into motion a chain of events that bring the past and present together in a tumultuous crash.

I really enjoyed reading this book and couldn’t put it down! I wanted to know what would happen, would the mystery be solved, and what would become of Sadie. I can’t say I loved Sadie as a character, but I did feel sympathy for her. And I really liked the depiction of pre-adolescent Sadie. I enjoyed Ms. Brown’s writing and will look for her other works – which are short story collections.

Highly recommended as a summer read!

Thank you, Net Galley and Washington Square Press, for my copy!