The Meteoric Rise of Simon Burchwood, by Scott Semegran is a completely different style book. It has a unique voice and I gave it 4 1/2 stars on my review.
Plot/Storyline: 4 1/2 Stars
This novel tells the story of a man on a trip to New York to promote his soon to be published first novel. He takes a small detour to visit an old Junior High friend. The entire story is about this trip and the people he meets on the way.
The book is told entirely from Simon’s viewpoint. Simon is not a very likeable guy; as a matter of fact, he is a self-centered, pompous jerk. But for some reason, it’s pretty fun to be inside his head, mainly because he is an inadvertent, oblivious jerk.
The storyline does go off on tangents now and then, but they are fairly short ones. In these, you will learn Simon’s views on smoking, cleanliness and going to the bathroom, just to name a few. There were times that I laughed out loud.
Simon has an opinion of each and every person that he runs across, even tangentially. Even when he kind of likes someone, he finds reasons to dislike them. His opinions are mercurial depending on events in a particular moment.
The ending was not well told. I would have rather had more explanation. Although, you can extrapolate what happened, I like my ends tied up a little more neatly. It was almost more like you would end a short story rather than a long novel.
Character Development: 5 Stars
Simon’s character was the only well developed personality in the book. That’s as it should be as it was told solely from his viewpoint. The author never ‘cheated’ so that Simon or the reader knew more than what Simon should have. The author did a terrific job of painting Simon. He was predictable only in that the reader gets to know him so well.
Writing Style: 4 1/2 Stars
This author has an interesting voice in that you feel like you are listening to Simon’s every thought. Even though he’s mostly just a regular guy, his thoughts run rampant in all directions, never leaving the reader bored.
There was a particular quirk that was annoying: the repeated usage of “what” surrounded by commas. Sentences like the following were scattered throughout:
I enjoyed this book, what, like you’ve never enjoyed a book?
I don’t know if the issue was the punctuation or just the interjection, but it was distracting.
Editing/Formatting: 4 1/2 Stars
The editing could have been better as there were a few instances of missing punctuation and a missing article, like ‘the’ or ‘an’. However, they were not so numerous as to spoil the reading experience.
The Kindle formatting also suffered a bit with no line or page breaks between chapters. You might see a number at the end of a sentence, with the next line being the beginning of the next chapter.
Overall: A very good novel that was humorous throughout.
Rating: R for language. This book is filled with bad language. I seriously doubt there are many pages without at least one cuss word.
I have noticed on Amazon many reviewers who give very harsh reviews for books that have bad language in them. I generally disagree with them. Personally, I do not cuss very much at all, and, when I do, it is very mild. However, I do not mind it in books and movies when it is necessary for honesty in the tale.
This book is mostly comprised of the thoughts of a grown man. I think that many, many people cuss in their thoughts, even if they don’t say the words out loud. As a matter of fact, Simon actually avoids cussing out loud. He also espouses the viewpoint that people shouldn’t cuss in front of their children. Like all of us, though, his thoughts are very different from what comes out of his mouth.
Could the writer have left out all of the bad language? Possibly. But the integrity of the work would have been lost. The voice would not have been nearly as powerful.
Originally posted by Red Adept Reviews on August 20, 2009
The Meteoric Rise of Simon Burchwood - 5 Stars
Why anyone would care about Simon Burchwood’s meteoric rise I’m not sure, but I certainly did. I couldn’t stop turning the pages to find out what amazing, stupid, or appalling thing Simon might do next. It’s true, as Simon, our narrator, says time after time in his memoir, The Meteoric Rise of Simon Burchwood.
Simon has always wanted to be a famous writer – not just a writer, but a famous one – yet fate has him working a dull job at TechForce, in Austin, Texas. Actually, he does as little for his employer as possible, preferring to use his company computer to work on his great novel, It’s true.
Simon is not an appealing man—not in appearance as he describes himself, not in his personality, and not in his behavior. Yet we are hooked on his adventures and what comes out of his mouth.
He is supposed to be flying to New York to read a passage from his soon-to-be-published novel, The Rise and Fall of a Titan, at Barnes & Noble’s flagship store, but he stops off in his hometown of Montgomery, Alabama, to visit his best friend, Jason, whom he hasn’t seen since he was 16. They have stayed in touch through, amazingly enough, letters.
Some of the best scenes in the book come when Simon interacts with strangers. He inevitably starts out thinking a person is nice, clever, a genius even, then ends up hating them—all in one short encounter.
As an example, here’s part of his encounter with an airport bartender:
Bartender: “That drink’s on the house," he said, pointing to my cocktail.
Simon: “Thank you for your generosity." Can you fucking believe it? Wow, he was a professional, a real topnotch bartender. I have known many bartenders in my time but he was one of the slickest.”
And later in the conversation:
Bartender: “Being that I work in an airport, I meet lots of famous types. Singers, actors, politicians, reporters, disc jockeys, athletes, porn stars, you name it. But I ain't never met no writer before. Come to think of it, I don't even know what writers look like.”
Simon: "That's a shame. Writers should be like rock stars in our society. They should be revered," I said. And I meant it too.
Bartender: "That's funny. That's like saying everyone should recognize chess masters or cyclists or physicists or inventors. Nobody cares about writers just like nobody cares about those other types. No offense."
Simon: "None taken." Actually, that really pissed me off. I mean, who the fuck did he think he was anyway? I was the one with a publishing deal. He was stuck in an airport bar serving swill to his high-class clientele, the nose-picking barflies.”
And his encounters continue with his about-faces: the ticket agent, the flight attendant, a friend from high school, Jason’s wife, the girl he had a crush on in high school; not even Jason escapes his excoriation. It’s true.
And did I mention that he was cheap and a shameless self-promoter? For example, he passes out his business card to just about everyone he runs into and tells them: " . . . you can leave me a tip by going to my web site at www.simonburchwood.com and clicking the Submit button on the gratuity web page." He takes all major credit cards. It’s true.
Simon is such a character that I couldn’t wait to find what he did next.
But I wasn’t at all prepared for the surprising conclusion.
Click here to link to The Meteoric Rise of Simon Burchwood.
Originally posted by Great Books for Under $5 on March 21, 2011
The Meteoric Rise of Simon Burchwood- 4 Stars
This book cracked me up! Simon Burchwood is the author of the soon to be published novel THE RISE AND FALL OF A TITAN. He's crude, arrogant, and well just a jerk. He loves to shamelessly self promote and hands anyone, and I mean anyone, his flashy business card. While traveling to New York to do a reading of his new novel at a Barnes and Noble, he decides to take a quick stop in good ole' Montgomery, Alabama. The town of his childhood. Simon quickly realizes that this may not have been the best idea, and that his literary success may be in jeopardy.
Overall a very good and funny read. The only draw back I had was the over usage of vulgarities.
A nice birthday cake (4 Stars)
Originally posted by Ashton the Book Blogger April 25, 2011
Amusing, psychological ride into Simon's head! 5 Stars
This review is from: The Meteoric Rise of Simon Burchwood (Paperback)
This book cracked me up. I would think about Simon during the day and wonder what was WRONG with him, or ...was I like that !?..., or was he just one of those slightly paranoid, brilliant types. The main character (Simon) grew on me by the second chapter. Very entertaining to read. You won't be disappointed! I wish the book was longer.
By N. Rocz - Amazon Book Review
Originally posted June 25, 2009
Review: The Meteoric Rise of Simon Burchwood by Scott Semegran - 3 Stars
Simon Burchwood is a narcissistic, wannabe writer. He arrogantly flashes his business cards, and tactlessly navigates through life thinking only of his own comfort, and self promotion. Simon meets many interesting characters along his way, and finds himself in various uncomfortable encounters. None of these situations lends to him breaking from his self-centered ways.
The actual story was humorous, and the character of Simon, while not especially likable, drew you like a car accident might. You just could not help but wonder what he would do next. Mr. Semegran treats you to a surreal journey that doesn't quite end up where you might think.
Unfortunately, what seemed to stand out most to me from this book was the excessive use of vulgarities. Not a paragraph seemed to pass that did not contain profanity. I did not find it enjoyable to stumble repeatedly over this language, and it cheapened the entire reading experience for me. I would only recommend this book to those who are not easily offended by profanity.
Originally posted by Literary R&R April 18, 2011
Review: The Meteoric Rise of Simon Burchwood - 4 Stars
On his way to New York to celebrate his impending literary success, Simon Burchwood is the prototypical American careerist. But a quick detour to Montgomery, Alabama to visit a childhood friend sends Simon on a bizarre journey, challenging his hopes and dreams of becoming a famous writer. This is a character study that delves into the psyche of a man who desperately tries to redefine himself. Is Simon pompous? Yes. A jerk? Yes. Will you like him? Absolutely!
Review: Simon is like most of us, he wants to be someone someday. Also like most of us, he can't help but constantly judge, assume, hypothesize, condemn, envy and pity (just to list a few) people of the world. You're probably judging me right now thinking who does she think she is accusing me of such things? I think I am the all seeing, all knowing writer of this review! Forgive me I digress! Simon Burchwood is a reflective character that forces a reader to look at the shameful, dirty parts of our humanity. Can he help who he is? No more than any of us can. His perception is comical and ironic as well as sadly maddening because of its truth. Perhaps, not our truth, but nevertheless the truth according to Simon Burchwood's world and just in case you doubt what he says, he'll kindly punctuate the wisdom he shares with a 'it's true.' This is key because near the beginning the reader is told this is a dream and that we're not to forget – but you can't help but forget. It's debatable and when the 'dream' plot is used well (which it is) it can be thematically complicated in a mind melt sort of way. In addition, there is plenty of evidence peppered throughout the story to support one way of thinking or another. I particularly zoned in on the possibility of dream symbolism and how it could be analyzed and applied to what was happening in Simon's life. Is any of it real or is Simon's journey to the Barnes & Noble flagship store in New York just a really messed up fantasy?
Originally posted by Bitsy Bling Books May 5, 2011
Review: The Meteoric Rise of Simon Burchwood - 3 1/2 Stars
Verdict: An ambitious, enjoyable read with a superb ending that changed my interpretation of the entire text.
Simon Burchwood is a hard-bitten, wannabe novelist teetering on the brink of literary stardom. Yet a brief sojourn in Montgomery, Alabama challenges his haughty façade–and the "meteoric rise" that has continually eluded him.
Sure, Burchwood is egocentric–despicable, even. Admittedly, his lengthy monologues often irritate more than intrigue, crippling the novel's weightier themes. Yet his ill-fated journey, while occasionally long-winded, is strangely captivating.
Semegran's tragic cast of characters struggle to confront disappointing realities: the impossibly optimistic Jason fights to salvage what's left of his disintegrating marriage, while Patty Green–Burchwood's childhood flame– scrambles to make ends meet as a stripper at "Cinnamon's Big Boobie Bonanza." Even Burchwood himself–trekking from Montgomery, Alabama to New York, New York–ultimately discards his delusions of grandeur to find his dreams in shambles.
"The Meteoric Rise of Simon Burchwood" weaves a heartrending portrait of lowered expectation: of a man eschewing, and ultimately embracing, mediocrity. Semegran deftly unmasks the divide between adolescent expectations and adult realities, and does so using Burchwood's crass, profanity-laden commentary–though at times readers will crave a little less Simon, and a little more everyone else.
Reviewed by Sonia Tsuruoka
Originally posted by IndieReader.com May 26, 2011
Review: The Meteoric Rise of Simon Burchwood - 4 Stars
This funny picaresque novel features the insight-challenged Simon Burchwood, off on a quest for fame and fortune as a great writer, making his journey from Texas to a reading of his début novel at the flagship Barnes and Noble store in New York City by way of Montgomery AL, where his boyhood friend Jason signs on as his Sancho Panza. Simon is a fine example of a "you spot it, you got it" personality type, exceedingly critical of everyone he meets, tilting at windmills that have his own name painted on them. Semegran manages a first-person narrative that is simultaneously derogatory, clueless, and energetic. Simon is constantly launching into little asides, some of which make one want to scream "TMI!" His meanderings will remind birders of the song of the house finch, which emits a long trail of descending, insistent-sounding notes, finishing with a querulous, whiny three-note ascending and descending phrase at the end; Simon's songs always end with the assertion "It's true!" He's a stingy tipper to boot; this is tolerated somewhat better in Montgomery than in NYC.
The action picks up substantially during his time in Montgomery, where he runs into old acquaintances and revives his assorted petty grudges against them that had been dormant for years, refreshing his relationships with people as what I think people nowadays call their "frenemy." He disparages Jason's slovenly lifestyle and makes fun of his old car, calling it a "turd-on wheels." The reader will tightly grip an imaginary steering wheel while Simon, often half in the bag, rides around the dark Alabama streets in Jason's other car, his father's lovingly restored 1967 Mustang.
As Simon readies for the New York leg of his trip, the cracks in Jason's marriage become visible to him, and, at Simon's insistence, Jason comes along for the ride, even though he has declared to Simon that "Everything was fine until you came into town. That's when everything started to fall apart."
The New York segment is played for slightly more broad comedy, a two-hicks-in-the-big-city farce. The two men arrange with a sleazy bellman to stage a "practice" reading of Simon's book (always referred to in caps: "THE RISE AND FALL OF A TITAN," based on the illegal shenanigans of Simon's detested boss), inviting off-duty hotel employees and sending up a keg. Simon clutches and manages to read the first paragraph only; then the drinking and partying begin. Our hero does manage a few moments of empathy, both in dealing with Jason and with a menacing breakfast chef. Does this suggest that, all other evidence aside, his book may be good? Is he capable of change, or will he remain a legend in his own mind?
The writing is very clever. The only problem I had was with Semegran's usage of "low and behold," instead of "lo and behold," and a few typos. Read this book, and feel yourself clutching the wheel of the Mustang as Simon careens through the streets and reaching for your wallet as he prepares to dole out another miserly tip.
Review by Libby Cone
Originally posted by The New Podler Review of Books June 29, 2011
Review: Modicum - 5 Stars
Hold on let me clean my pants...Ok Ok now on with the review. This is going to be about the funniest book you shall read in a long time. I warn you do not drink, eat or wait to relieve you bladder prior to reading. You will walk through the hilarity that is Modicum. So click the buy now and prepare to laugh all the way to the last page!
Review by Albert Robbins
Originally posted by Free Book Reviews on July 2, 2011
Review: The Meteoric Rise of Simon Burchwood - 5 Stars
In the mind of the main character you get to experience the laughable side of a jerk. This book will have you rolling in laughter at a man who can not or will not realize who and what he is. Non stop laugh beginning to end.
Review by Albert Robbins
Originally posted by Free Book Reviews on July 2, 2011
Review: The Meteoric Rise of Simon Burchwood
Simon Burchwood is a character that I feel everyone can relate to. He just wants to be somebody and is envious of other people when they get to be somebody. He is also a reflective character that allows the reader to look at the darker aspects of humanity that is within us all. I think this will help all kinds of readers to relate to the character of Simon.
The novel was well thought out and all the characters that came into contact with Simon all have a role to play. This novel did have me in fits of laughter at times and this is something I haven't experiences in a while with a novel.
Overall a funny read and I would recommend this book.
Originally posted by Every Book Has a Soul on July 6, 2011
Review: The Meteoric Rise of Simon Burchwood - 4 Stars
Simon Burchwood is unlikable but unfailingly honest. He will reflect all of our very worst moments and make you cringe to admit the creeping familiarity. His journey from Austin to New York via a visit to his old friend in Montgomery is full of bizarre happenings that make you question your narrator until giving up and just going with it.
Why you'll like it: Strong, funny, and very well executed.
Why you won't: The knowing voice of the author can come through a little too much at times. The irritating ticks of Simon Burchwood will drive you mad but that's a testament to the good writing. "It's true."
Originally posted by Book Stack Reviews on Oct 30, 2011
Review: The Spectacular Simon Burchwood - 3 Stars
This is my first encounter with Scott Semegran and the second book in the series about Simon Burchwood (although this book can be read as a stand alone which is what I have done). Simon is going through a tough time, working in a job to get by whilst struggling to become Americas next big thing in the author world, his personal life doesn't seem to be able to get any worse. However his ex wife drops a bombshell on him sparking off a roadtrip with an unlikely companion and with life changing consequences.
For the first part of this book I totally loved it and after reading the cat scene (I had tears pouring down my face with laughter), I was set to give a 5 star rating. The author is quite funny and some of the quips are great (although there is a bit of swearing so not for the easily offended!). Simon can be hillarious and great to read about in his recaps and memories. However the massive over use at the end of every handful of sentences of "its true" and the word goddam appearing so many times and in such repartition really did put me off.
The story itself is quite entertaining (and in some places laugh out loud) and like I said I really had enjoyed it but even in really popular reads, words or phrases being repeated that often will detract my enjoyment so much that it does effect the overall rating and reading experience.
Thank you to the author for sending me this book and introducing me to his work, I may well try one of his other books. 3/5 this time for me.
Originally posted by So Many Books, So Little Time on 11/1/2011
Review: The Spectacular Simon Burchwood - 4 Stars
Simon Burchwood raises his balding pate again in another picaresque tale by Scott Semegran. This time, he is unemployed and newly divorced. After landing a job as a help-desk guy in a government office, he finds out that his ex-wife has abruptly moved with the kids from Austin, where Simon lives, to Dallas, several hundred miles away. Our hero is devastated; he truly loves his kids, and will do anything to get them back so that he can at least see them according to the custody schedule. As in Semegran's previous book, The Meteoric Rise of Simon Burchwood, he cannot do this alone. Rather, he accepts the help of a guy he barely knows from his brand new job, a guy with horrible teeth and questionable personal hygiene, whom Simon calls Snaggle. They set off in a rented Caddy. Snaggle wants to play Slug Bug as they drive, while Simon wants to do MadLibs, so they agree on silence. Is it my imagination, or am I detecting tiny infrequent bursts of empathy on Simon's part, feeling sorry for the socially inept Snaggle, being a bit more understanding of the various transportation and lodging personnel they encounter? Although Simon's pretensions to being a writer are relatively ludicrous, his pretensions toward being a better communicator and accepting quirks in others, which on the surface may just seem part of the writerly image to him, are actually becoming part of him in a deeper way. He and his aromatic acquaintance barrel along the highway, soon picking up more assistance in the guise of Gina, a multi-pierced Goth student from Oklahoma, looking for a lift to Norman. Of course, Simon had given his new boss, as well as Snaggle and Gina, the explanation that his grandmother had just died, and they are going to her funeral. He ruminates from time to time about this fib. Complications ensue, and they eventually go through Dallas and on to Oklahoma, where more complications ensue. But Simon is starting to understand something, and his luck literally changes. Semegran handles this quite deftly; even though Simon keeps warbling his “It's true!” declarations at a great rate, the reader does not tire of them, because, well, some of them ARE true, and we see the progress he is making in getting a grasp of what life is about, albeit in his own ham-fisted way.
Originally posted by The New Podler Review of Books November 27, 2011
Review: Boys - 3 Stars
The collection opens with Wiliam's story, "The Great and Powerful, Brave Raideen". It's a short story with a predictable plot element, but it's nicely done. The characters are honestly portrayed; the dialogue genuine. It demonstrates the dual fickle-forgiving nature of children and the power of play.
Sam's story, "Good Night, Jerk Face", comes next. It's a novelette that ends rather abruptly. Semegran builds up the tension between Sam and his parents over Sam's desire to buy the car of his dreams, but it just fizzles out. There's also the potential for conflict between Sam and his boss over the restaurant's delivery van, but that too gets shrugged off. The title of this story implies some kind of confrontation. While Semegran explains who says it, we never find out why. To his credit, Semegran does a good job at capturing adolescent anxiety—learning how to drive, talking to girls, working menial jobs.
The remainder and bulk of the book is "The Discarded Feast". Seff and his roommate, Alfonso, work at a chain restaurant barely getting by on their meager earnings. The story covers their adventures at work and outside of it. A good deal of their free time is spent smoking cigarettes, drinking cheap beer, and wondering if they'll be able to come up with the money for next month's rent. If it were a movie, it could serve in a double feature with Waiting, but the characters are far more realistic.
This isn't so much a story you get wrapped up in for plot; the events pertaining to the story's title make up a fraction of the content. Rather, you tune in for the characters. Everyone has a story, and the people that Seff meets tell him their stories. Some are more interesting than others. I get the feeling that these are people that Semegran met when he was Seff's age, and he felt compelled to honor them by relating their stories here.
Boys is a collection of stories that reads more like a fictionalized memoir. It would've benefited from a run through by an editor to draw a bit more focus in content and to clean up the grammatical mistakes (mostly comma usage). Semegran gets points for realistic characters even if the book falls short on the storytelling.
Originally posted by The New Podler Review of Books September 28, 2015
Review: The Meteoric Rise of Simon Burchwood
An author bathing in the glory of publishing his debut novel heads to New York for his first book signing.
Simon Burchwood considers himself to be a writer at the pinnacle of his art. He believes that he has achieved recognition and fame, which, for him, are the most important accolades a man in his profession could think to achieve. Semegran’s (The Discarded Feast, 2017, etc.) novel opens with a boast: “I have become wildly more successful than I ever could have dreamed.” Simon is keen to share this assertion, and does so with everyone he meets. The truth is Simon appears to be a small-time author with a massively overinflated sense of self-importance who is on the cusp of publishing his first novel. The story charts his journey to New York, where he is to give a reading at a flagship bookstore, but first he will pay a visit to his hometown of Montgomery, Alabama, in a bid to catch up with his childhood friend Jason. Seeing the streets where he grew up stirs up a cocktail of emotions, from mawkishness to disgust. Simon encounters his childhood sweetheart working in a strip joint, and realizes he still bears a resentment toward the kid who stole his prized Spider-Man comic. Yet he also knows that as a writer he is above small-town life, heading to New York with Jason, despite the fact he views him disparagingly as a “goddamn pig.” In Simon, the author has created a psychologically complex character that is difficult to like or tolerate. Written in the first person, Simon’s narrative is consistently abrasive and repetitive: “I gobbled up my second omelet as quickly as the first, and found myself licking my goddamn fingers and smacking my goddamn lips and scraping the edge of my goddamn plate with my fork like a goddamn heathen.” Semegran seems to channel Charles Bukowski’s muscular style but delivers a tired, ersatz version. Ironic or not, it becomes wearing after several pages. Nevertheless, the close-to-the-bone novel captures perfectly the intensely solipsistic nature of a certain type of author—one who arrogantly lauds the importance of his craft over others, yet ultimately favors public adoration over creative endeavor. But a clever and surprising twist fails to rescue what is often a tiresome read.
A flawed tale, despite some cutting observations of the writerly demeanor.
Originally posted by Kirkus Reviews June 21, 2017
3.5/5 - This anthology, which is overall fairly compact, features two short stories and one longer.
The author does a nice job of crafting a well defined sense of place (mostly Texas) and carving out believable, relatable male characters, which populate the stories.
The main piece is about two young guys who develop a close friendship whilst trying to break the cycle of working in a restaurant, solely for tips. I was hoping for a clearer outcome at the end but the time with the characters feels well spent.
The book is an unusual size, more akin to a small graphic novel (A5), than the usual standard or maxi paperback formats - but the upside is that it's particularly thin, making it easier to throw in a bag than a bulky paperback.⠀
Short stories aren't always my favourite form, so I'm looking forward to reading the next one, which is a longer piece.
Originally posted by Pete Goold May 10, 2017
Two short stories and a novella about youngsters growing up in Texas.
Author Semegran (The Discarded Feast, 2017, etc.) assembles three pieces of fiction; each chronicles the struggles of a boy in Texas—a second-grader, a teenager, and a recent college graduate. In the first story, “The Great and Powerful, Brave Raideen,” a quirky grade schooler, William, plays solitarily with his toys, which function as surrogate friends. He’s terrorized daily by Randy, a relentless bully, and conspires with his toys to fill his tormenter with fear, pilfering a gun from his parents’ room. Later, a repentant Randy apologizes and reveals that his father is his own oppressor. The boys make amends and become friends, but that doesn’t mean all ends well. In “Good Night, Jerk Face,” Sam obsessively pines for a 1980 Mazda RX7 and takes a job at a local Greek restaurant to save up for it. He makes deliveries in the owner’s truck, though he doesn’t have a driver’s license and doesn’t know how to drive. He starts to put his preoccupation into context, however, when he begins spending time with his crush. In the longest piece, The Discarded Feast, Seff, an aspiring writer, barely makes ends meet working at a restaurant. He starts stealing the food that’s headed for the dumpster but is eventually caught and fired. Along the way, though, he begins a potentially promising relationship with co-worker Laura Ann. Semegran artfully weaves together lighthearted comedy and emotional turbulence in each of the stories, and in the last one, Seff practically sustains his meager survival with jocose banter. The writing is sharp and unpretentiously thoughtful, and since each of the main characters finds solace in companionship, this is an affecting literary depiction of the comforting power of friendship. Each of the stories can be read on its own, but taken together, they make a coherent, thematic whole, skillfully produced.
An endearing collection that deftly captures the need for youthful fellowship.
Originally posted by Kirkus Reviews August 1, 2017
Three clever and captivating stories weave in themes of companionship and friendship in BOYS
Verdict: With nary a dull moment, Scott Semegran's BOYS features short stories filled with unexpected nuances that draws readers right into the heart of his well-developed characters.
IR Rating: 5 Stars, IR Approved
Congeniality reigns among action figures (i.e., Star Wars, Micronauts, Shogun Warriors) within William’s fictional and solitary realm in “The Great and Powerful, Brave Raideen.” Through an imaginary conversation with William, Brave Raideen—a Shogun Warrior action figure—comes up with a solution to scare Randy, the bully at William’s school, “real good.” What follows is entirely unexpected.
During the summer of 1986 in “Good Night, Jerk Face,” Sam wants a 1980 Mazda RX7 for his 16th birthday, even though he has no cash and doesn’t know how to drive. Taking a job working at a Greek restaurant appears to be a good thing until his boss asks him to make deliveries.
In “The Discarded Feast,” Seff and his friend Alfonso make piddly as restaurant servers. Barely making ends meet, the two friends have no idea how they’ll be able to bring in enough money to pay the monthly rent. When the restaurant’s corporate headquarters introduce some changes, Seff and Alfonso end up making their own decisions, which eventually lead them onto different paths.
Semegran adds verisimilitude to his latest collection of stories by employing very relatable human-interest scenarios. In “The Great and Powerful, Brave Raideen,” both William and Randy seek love, acceptance, and friendship amid undesirable circumstances. Sam represents the stereotypical teen in “Good Night, Jerk Face” who is aching to spread his wings a bit. The longest story—a novella—will most likely speak the loudest to those readers who have struggled with higher education, student loans, and finding a decent-paying job.
Uniting and enriching Semegran’s human-interest stories is his writing style. Semegran weaves in familiar and even expected dialogue scenes while carefully crafting unexpected nuances to his plots. He also has an ability to draw his readers right into the heart of his well-developed underdog characters and their emotional well being. Amid subtle and not so subtle twists and turns, Semegran leaves his audiences ruminating on his surprising story closures.
With nary a dull moment, Scott Semegran’s BOYS features short stories filled with unexpected nuances which draw readers right into the heart of his well-developed characters.
~Anita Lock for IndieReader
Originally posted by IndieReader August 25, 2017
Review: Sammie & Budgie
A father suspects his young son may hold the power to see the future in this novel.
Simon Burchwood is a tender father of two with a difficult life. A computer networking specialist who dreams of becoming an author, he spends an inordinate amount of time reflecting on his inadequacies and failures. Following the death of his ex-wife in a motor vehicle accident, Simon must raise Sammie, a bright as a button little boy with special needs, and his elder sister, Jessie, a competitive young girl with a ferocious love of taekwondo. Sammie wants a pet budgerigar (an Australian parakeet), which he plans to name Budgie. Simon begins to suspect that Sammie has unusual abilities when the child foresees his after-school counselor seriously injuring herself. Intrigue builds as Sammie’s apparent mysticism allows him to select a winning lottery ticket at a convenience store. Surprised and alarmed by his son, Simon takes Sammie to a physician but is met initially with skepticism. Yet when Sammie envisions that all is not well with his grandfather, whom he refers to as PeePaw, the clan sets off on a road trip posthaste. The result is a sensitively told story about family bonds and individual dreams. This is the third installment in the life of the fictional wannabe author. Semegran’s (The Meteoric Rise of Simon Burchwood, 2012, etc.) fan base will recognize Simon’s rambling, often crude confessional inner monologue: “Sometimes, kids say the weirdest things at the weirdest times and there really is no rhyme or reason to why they say these things. They just do, and what they say is like an involuntary burp that escapes your mouth an hour after lunch or a silent yet stinky fart that slips out while you’re in an important meeting.” Some readers may quickly dismiss this approach as overly wordy and tiresome, yet Semegran is a persuasive writer, and in this particular story, Simon’s self-doubting verbosity becomes oddly endearing. Sammie is the true star, however—a sparklingly intuitive young character whose few words make the tale truly tick. Simple lines such as “Sorry I told you the truth, Daddy” are not only heart-melting, but also succeed in puncturing the hubris of adult life with the innocence of childhood. Illustrated throughout by Semegran, this book is the author’s best. In these pages, his steadfastly idiosyncratic style really begins to click.
An unconventional, beguiling, and endearing family tale.
Originally posted by Kirkus Reviews September 21, 2017
Featured in Kirkus Reviews print magazine November 1, 2017
Review: Sammie & Budgie
Verdict: The thread of Scott Semegran’s fun-filled SAMMIE & BUDGIE takes a meandering course, but ultimately wraps itself up in a satisfying narrative bow.
IR Rating: 3.5 Stars
SAMMIE & BUDGIE follows Simon Burchwood and his two children, Sammie and Jessie, through their daily lives in Austin, Texas. They are in many ways your typical family, except for that fact that Simon is pretty darn sure his son Sammie can see the future. Semegran’s novel opens with this bold reveal, immediately engaging the reader. When Simon picks him up from elementary school, Sammie tells him he thinks his school counselor is going to get seriously hurt. Shortly after, Sammie’s counselor is lying on the ground, unconscious. Simon is taken aback by Sammie’s ability to predict the future and stresses over whether or not he should tell anyone else about it.
After a strong first chapter and an undeniable hook, however, the story trails off and loses its momentum. Though there are other instances of Sammie being able to tell the future, none of them hit like the initial reveal. This is most likely due to a lack of character objective and stakes for much of the novel. Though it is entertaining to be inside Simon Burchwood’s head, it doesn’t do much to advance the story or keep the reader engaged. Though authentic, he is not particularly likable. His two children, on the other hand, are fascinating. His daughter Jessie is strong, snappy, great at Taekwondo, and though she teases him from time to time, really loves her brother. Sammie is inquisitive and charming, and his obsession with budgerigars (or budgies) acts as a powerful narrative glue.
The concept was great, but the execution could use a little work. Certain passages felt awkwardly placed, as if the author was trying to hit a word count rather than tell the most absorbing story possible. Chapters often started with anecdotes that only indirectly related to the narrative. Shifting these anecdotes to another part of the chapter, or getting rid of some altogether, would have helped with the pacing issue. A little more than half way into SAMMIE & BUDGIE, Simon receives a phone call that shifts the story into literal motion, and the family goes on a road trip as a result. This shift is smart, and its movement breathes life back into the story.
Though Simon’s love for his children shines through as one of the novel’s biggest strengths, its illustrations are perhaps the the best part. Expressive, adorable, and adding a fun surprise, they are a welcome addition to the reading experience. You may need to take a breather in between chapters, but you’ll still enjoy your time with the Burchwood family.
~Christine J. Schmidt for IndieReader
Originally posted by IndieReader September 22, 2017
Review: Sammie & Budgie
* Starred Review
In the amusing and at times mystical third book of Scott Semegran’s Simon Adventures series, single parent Simon Burchwood is back, this time with a story centering on his 6-year-old son, Sammie.
After Sammie spectacularly predicts an accident early in the novel, Simon realizes his son has a special ability that allows him to see into the future. The novel traces Simon’s journey of discovering his son’s ability and his attempts to have that ability recognized.
Readers also get to know his daughter Jessie, their nanny Nat, and Simon’s challenging past (including a cheating wife who was killed with her lover in a car crash).
When Simon learns his father is ailing, the four of them take a short road trip to visit him, and along the way, they meet the parakeet in the title, whom Sammie begs for.
The story is narrated by Simon, and admittedly his “voice”—meandering and expletive-filled—isn’t for everyone. That said, the novel’s delights abound. They include endearing illustrations: cartoons drawn by “Sammie” and realistic portrayals of objects Sammie finds. Even more compelling is Simon’s storytelling, which deftly pulls readers into his idiosyncratic world.
Simon directly addresses readers, and his narration is filled with delicious descriptions of life’s minutia: “I thought it weird that one of my prized possessions, which hid in the garage from my failed marriage and made it out the other side of a hectic move to a new home, was a rusty coffee can full of stinky, cigarette butts and ashes…What did it mean that something most people would consider a piece of trash held so much significance to me?” Semegran is a gifted writer, with a wry sense of humor.
Poignant, yet never maudlin, this novel will appeal to literary-minded readers and fans of magical realism. Although the Simon Adventures trilogy is already out, the ending suggests we’ll see more of Simon, Sammie and even the parakeet. That’s a happy possibility indeed.
Originally posted by Blueink Review January 2, 2018
Review: Sammie & Budgie
Clarion Rating: 4 out of 5
More than a story of a gifted child learning to hone his talents, Sammie and Budgie is an exposé on the inner lives of children and their parents.
A widower and single father discovers, by chance, that his young son has developed clairvoyant abilities in Scott Semegran’s humorous Sammie and Budgie.
As they are leaving school one day, young Sammie tells his father, Simon, that the school aide will injure herself. Simon is shocked when it actually happens—and then he becomes curious. He works to learn more about premonitions following a few additional minor incidents.
The titular “Budgie” is a bird that Sammie yearns to adopt as a pet. Cute childlike illustrations throughout the text depict Sammie and Budgie, as well as other scenes in the story.
Simon, the narrator, speaks with a conversational voice that is consistent throughout the entire novel. He goes into great depth concerning his son’s newfound ability, as well as when describing his own day-to-day experiences, career, and personal life.
While the tone is entertaining and lighthearted, especially given the subject matter, the use of the phrase “it’s true” after paragraphs of exposition becomes repetitive after just a few chapters, and it is featured on nearly every other page. The consistency of Simon’s voice is admirable, though as character, and in his casualness, he is not always likable, to the extent that his narration becomes a point of frustration.
Much of the text consists of exposition and dialogue. While the writing quality is excellent and the dialogue between Simon and Sammie is immersive, there is little action to drive the plot forward. Much narrative propulsion involves Simon taking Sammie to doctor’s office and to and from school. Most of the book takes place at the family home, with Simon, Sammie, and Jessie, Simon’s older daughter, conversing about childhood topics—incidents that happened at school, children’s jokes, and the intricacies of children’s personalities.
More than a story of a gifted child learning to hone his talents, Sammie and Budgie is an exposé on the inner lives of children and their parents. The relationships between Simon and his children are thoroughly detailed, and much of the narration involves Simon thinking deeply about the development of Sammie’s and Jessie’s personalities. The outer life of the narrator may not make for a compelling plot, but his inner life is fascinating and superbly wrought.
Those interested in child psychology or clairvoyance will enjoy reading about Simon’s relationship with his children and will find plenty of laughs along the way.
Reviewed by Aimee Jodoin
Originally posted by Foreword Clarion Reviews January 9, 2018
In this collection of two short stories and novella by Scott Semegran, the male characters—boys and young men—pursue their dreams as they struggle with life's difficulties.
The two stories, "The Great and Powerful, Brave Raideen," and "Good Night, Jerk Face" stand alone. The former features a boy who nearly makes a grave mistake after he tires of being bullied. "Good Night, Jerk Face" follows a teen boy on the cusp of 16 who wants nothing so much as a particular model of car. When he takes a job at a restaurant to earn money to buy the car, he soon finds himself in all sorts of humorous, albeit potentially troubling, predicaments, such as his efforts to drive a manual stick shift delivery truck with no prior experience.
Sixteen other pieces make up the novella "The Discarded Feast." These entries follow young roommates Seff and Alfonso, two 20-somethings eking out an existence from their earnings at the Pasta Warehouse as they fantasize about a better life and ponder their futures.
Semegran's work is evocative and replete with relatable, recognizable characters (Sam's doting grandparents; Sarah, the aging eternal hippy who regales others with tales from her youth) who find comfort in friendship. The narratives offer spot-on description delivered in a voice with a natural flair for scene and story. For example, in "Good Night, Jerk Face," Sam describes his grandmother as "thin as a stalk of wheat, her left hand gripping a highball glass of scotch on the rocks, her right hand pinching a Virginia Slims 120 cigarette with an ash two inches long."
A certain innocent hopefulness winds its way through each of these stories in which the characters want something, both tangible (money) and intangible (to understand where they are headed in life and how they will get there). With its descriptive flair and flashes of humor, Boys offers an engaging read—one short fiction fans are sure to enjoy.
Originally posted by BlueInk Review February 12, 2018
Clarion Rating: 4 out of 5
Raising difficult questions of morality, this slice-of-life narrative is as heartfelt as it is entertaining.
Scott Semegran’s Boys collects trio of fascinating stories that follow a young man in three very different stages of his life: childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. Raising difficult questions of morality, this slice-of-life narrative is as heartfelt as it is entertaining.
First, Billy deals with the typical trials and tribulations of childhood, particularly playground bullies. As an adolescent, he is determined to buy his dream car for his sixteenth birthday; to do so, he gets a job at a Greek restaurant. However, as with most teenagers, he comes to realize that money doesn’t come easily even as he learns much about the world beyond the confines of the restaurant. As an adult called Seff, Billy works a dead-end job at the Pasta Warehouse with his best friend Alfonso.
The book is interesting in its construction. The first two stories, “The Great and Powerful, Brave Raideen” and “Good Night, Jerk Face,” are relatively short; they function as introductions to the third story, “The Discarded Feast,” which takes up the bulk of the narrative. This structure works with rare skill to establish how Billy arrives into adulthood as he does.
The stories ably navigate ethical questions in a way that feels true to life. Is it okay to steal if what you’re taking would otherwise just go to waste? Is it okay to physically harm someone who has hurt you? Answers remain oblique as Billy’s choices play out on the pages.
Moments of magical realism come through, as when young Billy interacts with his action figures and they seem to speak back to him. Such departures from more straightforward stories inject appealing whimsy into an otherwise realistic narrative.
The narrative voice is distinct, enlivened by personality and humor. Lines like “Alfonso chuckled in a way that a big brother chuckles at a little brother’s misfortune, knowing that I was going through something that would build character, or some stupid shit like that” are funny and serve to break up sometimes heavy descriptions of actions and places.
Educational moments unexpectedly enrich the reading experience, such as information about the civil unrest of Jamaica and Haiti in the 1960s.
The story sometimes feels like it’s taking on too much. Many interesting plotlines arise only to be abandoned without resolution to begin new scenes.
An interesting cast of unique characters inhabits Billy’s world; each has their own worldview, and their voices are easily distinguishable from one another. However, they do not develop across the work. The book’s resolution is abrupt, and many narrative arcs go unresolved.
Boys is compellingly realistic fiction. Its fantastic details, interesting construction, and humor make it worth the read.
Reviewed by Gregory A. Lowe
Originally posted by Foreword Clarion Reviews February 20, 2018