The Benevolent Lords of Sometimes Island, by Scott Semegran

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Scott Semegran for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Have read another of Scott Semegran’s novels, I was eager when he approached me to read an ARC of this one as well. A tale loosely in line with Lord of the Flies and Stephen King’s The Body, Semegran makes this his own as he presents a handful of young boys and their quick maturity in the face of trouble. William (Billy), Brian, Randy, and Miguel are the best of friends. These four middle-schoolers have been through a great deal, including being the targets of a high school gang with nothing to do. When, during a skirmish, Billy takes one of the gang member’s backpacks and discovers it is filled with money, the boys all know that the target on their backs just grew exponentially. As the 1985-86 school year is coming to a close, Brian’s parents take the boys camping one weekend. There, they meet Tony, an older boy who shows them around, including an abandoned house that has the boys quite excited. It holds all the mystery they could want and fuels their imaginations like nothing else. If that were not enough, there’s Sometimes Island, a local attraction across the water that is almost inaccessible. After their brief weekend away, the boys are itching to get back and concoct a plan to deceive their parents—in an era before social media and smartphones. Paying Tony to take them back to the campground, the boys decide to make their way to the abandoned house, where they stay the night. However, some trouble ensues and they are forced to flee, barely making it into a boat. With Sometimes Island in front of them, the boys attempt to make it, only to be shipwrecked and clamber ashore. Stuck on the island with no food and no way of communicating with others, they will have to use all of their intuitiveness to make things work. As the days pass, things become a little bleaker, and the lustre of this summer adventure is soon tarnished. Someone will have to take drastic measures, or all will be lost! A gripping story that pulls the reader into the middle of quite the adventure. Recommended to those who loved Lord of the Flies and seek a modern take, as well as the reader who needs a fast-paced story about coming of age.

When Scott Semegran approached me with the idea that this was a modern version of Lord of the Flies, I was intrigued, but admitted to myself that I had never read the novel. While I have a general understanding of the premise, I went into this read blind to some of the nuances. Semegran guides the reader effectively through the story, with William as narrator, and keeps the action coming throughout. I would not want to choose one of the four boys as the protagonist, as all of their experiences work well together and mesh into a comprehensive storyline. Each receives some backstory in the early parts of the book and their character development is like no other, as William tells updated pieces about what happened to them and how it relates to the summer of 1986. The narrative mixes a 1986 and 2020 feel to it, with William delivering all the news necessary to better understand the story. Pop culture references pepper the narrative and keep the reader feeling as though they were right there. Even with a comparison to Lord of the Flies, Semegran keeps the story uniquely his and captives the reader with a great set of events. The description was perfect, as were some of the struggles these boys faced, compacted into a few days on Sometimes Island. I cannot say enough about this book, which is also quite easy to read, with quick chapters that propel the plot forward. Semegran is sure to find many fans with this book and it might even be the perfect modern contrast to William Golding’s classic piece.

Kudos, Mr. Semegran, for lighting a fire under me to read the classic, so that I might better compare your novel to Golding’s. Your writing is so very inviting, something I am sure many others will discover when they take the time with this piece.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

To Squeeze a Prairie Dog: An American Novel, by Scott Semegran

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Scott Semegran and Mutt Press for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

After being asked by the author to read and review this piece, I was eager to see what he had to present. Set in Texas, Semegran’s storytelling was sure to mix nicely with the Southern flavour of this book. J.D. Wiswall is a pie-eyed young man from a small Texas town. When he arrives in Austin, he’s secured a government job at the Texas Department of Unemployment and Benefits. While a clerk job, J.D. finds it rewarding to help those in need. Working alongside a number of quirky individuals, J.D. soon learns of a contest being launched to help create cost-saving measures within government departments, with a prize of $10K to the winner. While J.D. is quite eager to win the prize, he learns that his Unit 3 colleagues have a pact whereby they will all share in the spoils. As the novel progresses, J.D. and his colleagues each receive time in the narrative to show their personal struggles, all aimed at accentuating how they could use the money for themselves. An accidental ‘epiphany’ by the drunken unit manager appears to solve the problem, which could ensure the Unit 3 team is that much richer. During a visit to the Governor’s Office, the chance for significant publicity trumps anything else, perpetuating a misleading set of facts spread at the hastily arranged press conference. Amongst the reporters on scene is one with a penchant for investigative work, who sees an opening that could blow the entire set of jaded facts out of the water, as well as reveal a long-held secret the governor has been keeping. An interesting novel that is sure to keep the reader forging ahead until the final revelations come to pass.

I was quite pleased to have Scott Semegran reach out and ask that I partake in reviewing this piece. While not weighed down with a great deal of drama or monumental character development, it does offer the reader something significant into which they can sink their teeth. J.D. Wiswall proves to be an interesting protagonist, whose blissful ignorance works well as he makes his way to the big city. He fits in nicely with his handful of fellow clerks in Unit 3, all of whom have their own backstories. In fact, it is Semegran’s ability to present these backstories and build on them through subsequent chapters focused away from the office that makes the story interesting for all. From a matriarch who tries to keep her sizeable brood in order, to single mother whose son is anything but angelic, and even a street-racing giant who enjoys being mute when it serves him well, Semegran flavours the story effectively with these individuals. The ‘dysfunctional family’ of Unit 3 promises to keep the reader wondering and eager to learn more. Toss in some political corruption and a journalists who refuses to accept anything for what it appears to be, and Semegran has woven together a novel that reads as easily as the curious reader could like. The format of the piece works well, choosing to entertain the reader from the get-go, and does not steer away from humorous antics. Those looking for something a little lighter need cast their sights no further than Scott Semegran’s latest piece. And what a curious title, which will lure in another pack of curious readers as well.

Kudos, Mr. Semegran, for permitting me the chance to read this piece. I may have a peek to see what else you’ve published, as I am sure to be just as entertained.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: