It’s an important time in every young adult’s life: the final summer before post-secondary school and after high school. It’s a transitional period where one goes from being a teenager towards becoming an adult. For a young man who lost his parents before he could tie his own shoes, this final summer holds more than just pre-school anxieties. Wil Carter is preparing to head off to school in Just Shut Up and Drive by Chynna Laird but his grandfather, Gramps, has other ideas in mind. While Wil just wants to work and hang out with his friends, Gramps prefers to toss his charge into a classic truck and head on a road trip. This is a coming of age story where the bond between a young man and the only father he has ever known is tested, strengthened and celebrated. This is a journey across the prairies of Canada that will touch your heart and possibly make you cry.
Our tale starts with Wil and Gramps arguing about a road trip that the senior has pushed on his grandson. The dynamic relationship between Wil and Gramps is funny, heart-breaking and above all else: realistic. This is a delicate and interesting relationship that is being described. We have an eighteen-year-old boy and a ninety-five-year-old man with more than a ‘generation gap’ between. Gramps is the one who raised Wil after the untimely death of his parents in an automotive accident. While each gives as good as he gets there is a nostalgic respect that Wil holds for his grandfather. You can hear the irritation in his voice as he deals with the elder man’s stubborn personality but you can also hear the respect he has for him as well. Wil was not a golden child while growing up and as he is aging and moving forward with his life he is beginning to understand everything his grandfather has done for him. The description of the relationship between the two and the dynamic in action seems like something out of a movie.
Laird knows what Manitoba, Canada looks like and appears to have at least visited the cities, villages and towns described in the book. For readers who live near or in a location used in any story faithfulness to the recreation is paramount. Laird uses local vernacular when referring to some of the locations and even though the story takes place in modern times, Gramps’ relaxed and sentimental accent rubs off on Wil. While it could be said that Laird sometimes tries a bit too hard to make Gramps really sound like a stereotypical old man, it doesn’t detract from the story.
While a road trip before heading off to university or college is an idea that has been done before, Just Shut Up and Drive by Chynna Laird brings more than just self-discovery to the tale. Wil not only learns about himself on his journey with his grandfather. He also learns about the parents he can barely remember. He learns about what he is capable of when a small child stows away in his truck, begging for help. He learns what it takes to be a man to the standards of what his grandfather has wanted for him. This book is a delightful short read that will tug at your heart strings while making you laugh at the same time.
Pages: 166 | ASIN: B00DGJK3B8
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Lydia is a sixteen-year-old girl living at a boarding school. Her mother died when she was young and her grandmother Maria raised her. On her sixth birthday, Maria gave Lydia a bronze mirror and told her to treat it like she would treat herself. She grew up on the run, moving at a moment’s notice, trying to stay one step ahead of a killer with a scarred face. Maria thinks Lydia will be safe at the school, so she leaves her there, then disappears. The boarding school is reserved for students with mirrors like Lydia’s. Unlike regular mirrors, these show the reflection of a spirit. Lydia learns to talk to the reflection that she calls Phoebus. She has a few friends, but she’s obsessed with finding her grandmother.
When the headmaster of the school forces Lydia to compete in a mirror contest, Lydia and Phoebus hatch a plan to run away and find her grandmother. They escape after the contest, and a helpful stranger sets them on the trail of a conspiracy that goes back centuries. But the Managers of the reflections are in pursuit, and Lydia becomes a fugitive. She and Mario—a friend of her grandmother—chase clues all over Europe. They discover the truth of Lydia’s past, and uncover a hidden power that could change the world.
There are some good things to like about this book. Lydia is a strong-willed, independent teen who takes matters into her own hands. Growing up like a fugitive has taught her to be resilient and resourceful, the same skills she needs to uncover the secret of the mirrors. It’s not hard to understand Lydia’s plight or her determination to get to the truth. Many of the people she meets are also in hiding, traumatized by the past, or possibly lying to her to keep her from the truth.
The story is wonderfully original, a unique take on magic mirrors that’s vastly different from the fairy tale version. I also enjoyed that friendship plays such a big role in the story. Calypso, her dearest friend at school, helps her understand her own mysterious mirror, and they become as close as sisters. Mario is the son of a man who died to keep Maria and Lydia safe. Together, Calypso and Mario give Lydia the knowledge, strength, and courage that keep her going. There’s a nice glimmer of budding romance with Mario, and that was fun to read as well.
The biggest problem with this novel is the translation. The translator has done the author a great disservice, and my poor reading experience was in no way Ms. Musewald’s fault. She has written an original, exciting story that is completely overshadowed by the translator’s errors. There are multiple problems on nearly every page, with bad spelling, punctuation errors, missing words and confusing sentences. The novel was a chore to read, but I stuck with it because Lydia is such a strong young woman and her story is so compelling that I had to see it through to the end.
Pages: 231 | ASIN: B06XFM4N9H
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Return to Babylon is the fifth installment of the Orfeo saga and begins with Orfeo and Clarice returning from the New World and their battle with the Spartans to settle into a somewhat peaceful life in Pylos. However with the battles still fresh in their mind and the nightmares still haunting their sleep, Orfeo knew evil would eventually reappear- it was just a matter of when and where. An assassination attempt on Orfeo’s life leads him to leave with Clarice to venture to the city of Mesopotamia in hopes they will keep their beloved city of Pylos safe.
Meanwhile, kings begin to drop like flies with the kingdom of Mursillius the Hittite becoming the first to fall. Zinaida wants vengeance upon the coalition who put her on the throne and sends spies to find Zurga. What price will be paid for those who fight for justice and freedom?
Return to Babylon, written by Murray Lee Eiland Jr, continues the adventures of Orfeo who begins the heroic tale in the city of Pylos. Prepare for an action-packed story line that explores the dynamics between different kingdoms and the blood thirst for those who want to save the world.
Assassination attempts and secret spies lead the characters to question whether the events taking place are purely coincidental or is there a more sinister evil at work. As the reader explores the different kingdoms, you soon learn who is trustworthy and who hides behind closed doors, plotting their evil revenge. Networks of spies will reveal information that will mean our favourite characters will have to risk it all for the price of glory.
Murray Lee Eiland Jr. has an impeccable flair to paint the scenes of his story with such conviction that the reader will feel emotionally involved with the main characters and their harrowing tales. At times the novel has moments of historical accountability, giving readers a front row seat into the secrecy of life and lies within kingdoms. Once you add in the brave and fierce heroes, Return to Babylon, has an epic story line that will leave you on the edge of your seat and eager to read all installments. My favourite character was Cyrus, a young and eager apprentice who begins to learn the ins and outs of spy craft. I particularly enjoyed the character development and surprise turns that each character entails throughout the story.
This book in the series delves deeper into the world of mystery, intrigue and espionage. I particular like how Murray Lee Eiland Jr adds a light-hearted touch to scenes in order to create a memorable and powerful story line. It is a cool reminder that some of our biggest threats are being spun together behind the closed doors within the most powerful people in the city.
Return to Babylon is brilliantly written. I would recommend this novel for anyone who loves an action-packed novel filled with twists and turns that will leave you on the edge of your seat, and eager for more!
Pages: 217 | ASIN: B01KEDH2CG
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Set in a futuristic world with air-bikes and credits for cash, we come across one of Danny Estes’ lovely worlds. The Paranoid Thief is a lovely addition to Estes’ roster of exciting and fun to read books. It opens with our poor protagonist, Randolph, in the midst of a very bad day. As the paranoid thief from the title, he has just botched a job and has the unfortunate job of reporting to his client. In a whirlwind of intrigue peppered with sheer ignorance our Randolph finds himself slammed into a strange cell after being tried and convicted for an atrocious murder he did not commit. Randolph isn’t alone in this prison and soon finds himself in the company of Jill, a secretary who has just lost her job and been thrown in the cell beside him. There’s more to Jill than meets the eye and Randolph begins plotting his revenge.
If there’s one thing Estes is good at, it’s writing an interesting and slightly humorous story. He’s very good at writing from the point of view of the protagonist in such a way that the reader can immediately identify with them. As with most of his books, there is a sexual component that isn’t too over the top. The stories are told from a male point of view and that is just what readers get: an unfiltered look at this world through the eyes of a man. Expect physical descriptions of female characters and which body parts the protagonist enjoys the most.
For The Paranoid Thief there were some disappointing spelling mistakes and some incomplete sentences. Having read other works by this author, it was a surprise to see them. Normally his works are clean with very few mistakes. The incomplete sentence in an early section of the book was the most disheartening as the reader is left to figure out what Estes meant. While it is still pretty easy to finish it in the readers mind, that’s not what people are looking for. Estes makes up for this with his exceptional story-telling skills and his excellent descriptions. There are times when the book feels like a narration of a movie. The action certainly does not disappoint and the way Estes is able to lead his readers by the nose and keep them wanting more is excellent.
As a short read, The Paranoid Thief by Danny Estes is a highly recommended addition to any library. As soon as you start reading about our hapless protagonist Randolph and his really bad day, you’ll want to continue reading to find out how it all gets resolved. Short, without leaving out any important information, this fun read feels like an author’s careful first step into the literary world. It’s a good first step and it reminds us all that perhaps we should pay more attention to those around us. Especially their eyes.
Page: 276 | ASIN: B009Q1I6SM
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Defiance on Indian Creek is a quiet, but enthralling read by Phyllis A. Still. We follow a smart, courageous thirteen-year-old girl, Mary on the frontier in West Virginia on the eve of the Revolutionary war. Her father comes home with news that disrupts Mary’s world; talk of loyalty to the unfair King and moving to far off Kentucky. The relationship with her father is stretched as she finds him mired in plots and implications of possibly being a traitor or even a spy. Mary is forced of her own loyalties to her father, family and country as the weeks go on until she is asked to make an impossible choice.
Overall, Still has clearly done her research in this fine YA novel. In the tradition of historical fiction before it, Defiance on Indian Creek takes a quiet frontier family and throws them in the forefront against an increasingly dangerous time. Reading these pages gave me the feeling I was actually there in the reeds of Indian Creek alongside Mary and her Papa. The maps included at the front of the book were helpful in understanding the setting and getting even more of a feel of what this era felt to those early colonists.
It isn’t often such a tale is spun on the frontier, but also invokes the greater happenings on the east coast. Mary is a fun protagonist to follow as the story progresses, because Still is able to give the reader the feeling of anguish from the girl and her struggles over choosing to place trust in her father and the lack thereof.
Being a YA novel the story itself is pretty straightforward and does not beat around the bush when it comes to finding out certain things. Mary herself seems to grasp things beyond her years, but her parents are not the usual inept adults that are so often present in YA novels. And being a young girl, who genuinely wants her father to be okay and her family to be safe, the reader can only root for her.
There are few books that I could remember for the relationships it creates between characters, but Still has managed to make the daughter-father relationship in this book a special one. Especially, since the tension between them is so palpable as the book goes on.
If there is any criticism for the book that can be offered it would be for something that is almost uncontrollable. It concerns the background conflict between the Colonies and the Crown. This is what gives historical fiction its flavor, but it does overshadow the very personal, family struggle between Mary and her father. This is the only real issue with the storyline, beyond this Defiance on Indian Creek will be a pleasurable read to any person who enjoys YA and a painstakingly researched historical fiction.
Pages: 212 | ASIN: B01HBV3VOW
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A Tangled Web is set against the backdrop of one of the most devastating tsunamis in Japan and follows three children as they navigate their new lives. Why was this an important story for you to write?
When I first heard about the tsunami in 2011, it was a huge thing and I remember being really intrigued by it, however, I was only a teenager and newspapers didn’t particularly interest me, though I loved reading. For some reason, what I head heard about the events stayed with me for years and when I traveled to Japan for the first time several years ago I started developing a story line – though I didn’t start writing it until my second visit at the beginning of 2016. It was important for me to write because, although there are many factual sources and several non-fiction books, in all my research I only found one fiction story about the Japan tsunami in 2011 which I think is a shame because I believe most people prefer fiction and can learn so much through it, yet it is a relatively unexplored subject. Therefore, my aim was to provide a book for YA which is both interesting and explores what happened in 2011 and afterwards, hopefully encouraging people to then go and do their own research.
The three children in this beautiful coming of age story have a lot of depth. What were some obstacles you felt were important to develop the characters?
I think it was important that at the beginning Taiyo was quite naive and selfish, a little unlikable if I’m being honest, but that gave her the opportunity to grow and develop as a character so that in the end she had the strength to deal with the catastrophe that happens. To me it was also important that Ryuu and Kairi be total opposites and yet both be likeable and relatable characters.
What were some themes you felt were important to highlight in this story?
I think friendship is a very important theme in this book; before Ryuu and Taiyo develop feelings for each other, they are first and foremost friends, as are she and Kairi. Another important theme is the value of telling the truth. Taiyo tells a lot of lies in this story and ends up so tangled in them that she can’t see a way out, hence the title. Though told for good reasons, those little lies mount up and ultimately lead to her and Ryuu being at the coast when the tsunami hits, while their friends and family are completely unaware of the peril they’re in.
What is the next story that you’re working on and when will it be available?
I’m currently working on another novella set in Japan, however, this one follows the Taiji dolphin hunt. Starting in 2009 when the documentary The Cove was released and ending in future 2018, Red Days follows and English reporter with Japanese roots who finds herself drawn to the cause and ends up fighting to save them.
Red Days is still a work in progress; I recently finished the first draft, however, it needs to undergo several rounds of editing before it will be ready for release, which will hopefully be around September this year.
Taiyo is a normal high-school girl living with her Grandmother in Sendai. She goes to school, partakes in club activities and hangs out with her two best friends, twin brothers Ryuu and Kairi. However, her perfect world is shattered when she begins dating Kairi but quickly discovers she’s already in love with Ryuu.
A tangled web of lies surrounds the pair, but everything is suddenly knocked into perspective on March 11th when they are caught up in a natural disaster that devastates the country and robs thousands of their homes, their possessions and their lives…”
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The Genocide Gene is the third book in the thrilling Onryo Saga and continues the adventures of the teenage superheroes in their fight to save humanity. Chikara, Renka and Gen are the superhero trio with mystical powers that they inherited from a ring with a mysterious black rock. The trio is on a crime fighting spree when Chikara receives a message from her late mother that takes the superheroes on an adventure to Sierra Leone. Meanwhile, a team of brothers are planning to eradicate tribes in a deadly attack and soon enough the teenagers are caught up in a whirlwind of African supremacists, terrorists and evil politicians. Friendships and alliances will be put to the test as they battle their way through a storm of evil extremists. Will their friendships survive this heroic escapade or will it finally be the end of the Japanese crime fighters?
The Genocide Gene, written by Rocco Ryg, is the third edition of the Onryo Saga and as always he delivers an exceptional story line packed with action and charm. The story begins back in 1985, with a cover-up involving a mysterious black stone which gives people ungodly powers. This powerful stone forges the path to a catastrophe that will echo its effects in years to come.
It then flashes forward to the year 2012 where everyone’s favourite Japanese super heroes have banded together with their mystical powers to clean up the streets of drug crimes, child trafficking and murdering of innocent souls.
Like a voice beyond the grave, Chikara is contacted with a message left by her late mother where she requests that Chikara, Renka and Gen venture to the deep throes of Africa. Friendships will be tested and lines crossed as you delve deeper into the twisted underground world of Sierra Leone, forcing the reader to confront terrorists, gangsters and teenagers with magical abilities. You will reminisce with old friends and be left with a bitter taste as they dance with old enemies and form unlikely alliances in a bid to do what they do best- saving lives.
Prepare to be on the edge of your seat as you follow extremists on the hunt for those who can heal, and feel the terror as enemies are enveloped with an evil presence. My favourite part of Rocco Ryg’s novels is that he is able to intricately weave multiple story lines together in such a way that the reader will be engrossed from start to finish. I love seeing how the characters grow and how they challenge themselves in situations using their individual powers. The Genocide Gene also explores a rich diversity of cultural differences and gives you a taste of gangster life across different nations.
Staying true to the themes of action crossed with a dash of politics and mystical powers, The Genocide Gene will be sure to satisfy your need for a superhero tale. I would recommend this for all who are in need of an adventure. Will they be successful in Chikaras mission from the grave or have the superheroes finally met their match?
Pages: 268 | ASIN: B01M0KF137
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In The Bug Boys Alex and Ian accidentally ingest tiny nanobots created by an alien race called the Secti. This lets them transform their bodies into human-insect hybrids with superpowers. This seems to be my exact dream as a kid. How did this idea come to you and develop into a novel?
I originally thought I’d go the ‘exposure to radiation’ route to superpowers. It was going to be a radioactive peanut butter sandwich, and only one hero. But, as I started organising the novel, I hated that I wasn’t pushing for something more interesting, so I decided to switch from nuclear to coal, and from radiation to atom sized robots! This opened up new opportunities and ultimately enabled me to create something fresh and new.
I felt that the characters were intriguing and well developed. What were some of the trials that you felt were important to highlight the character’s development?
I think it’s important to let characters grow in a story. Alex and Ian learn not to judge a book by its cover, and that having superpowers isn’t all comic book heroics and fame.
I thought the alien Secti race was well crafted. What themes did you want to incorporate into this race?
I asked myself. What if insects were left alone to evolve on a planet of their own? The result was the Secti. A perfect society, and perfectly boring! So they tweak their social order to shake things up a bit, and employ special Secti called Instigation Officers to travel the planet and cause trouble.
Please tell me that you’re writing a second book?
Book 2 is nearly done! Title: The Bug Boys vs Professor Blake Blackhart
This will probably be available sometime August, 2017. The story catches up with The Bug Boys one month after the events in the first book. In the sequel, they have to tackle an evil professor and his cyborg kitten called, Willoughby!
“Who would have thought that eating a peanut butter sandwich and an apple would change your life? Let alone get you mixed up with an old alien research project, and transform you into the superheroes your village never needed.
For two young South Yorkshire lads, Alex Adams and Ian Harris, it was a geeky comic book dream come true, but it wasn’t everything it was cracked up to be in the real world. They discover there are many layers between good and evil, and with great power, comes an embarrassing amount of gas!”
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Goo of the Gods centers around the life of teen prodigy Jonah and his traumatic past involving suspicious accidents and missing people. This is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a science fiction, horror, and fantasy as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
A little of both. I’m a nurse whose also worked in the manufacturing and customer service industries while I was in college, so science, horror, and fantasy will continue to blend in my writing. Missing people, accidents, these are things that I’ve witnessed, so I knew what elements I had to have in the book. I began with a timeline, but, like life, the timeline continually grew as my characters took on lives of their own. Although, I should mention that not everything came from my own personal experiences. Changes to the timeline and character encounters were drastic when I chose to use my teenagers living at home as a resource.
Jonahs friends in science club form a group called Sci-6. I felt the supporting characters were well developed and intriguing. Who was your favorite character to write for?
I love all of my characters, including the creepy evil ones. I chose a male protagonist over a female one because I love writing about villainous women. Turning them into demons and putting them up against a wiz kid was a bonus, but, ultimately, that wiz kid has my heart. Jonah has a horrible past because, in truth, he has horrible parents whom he just can’t avoid even when they are missing from his life. His identity is important to him, but he’s still trying to figure out who he is. As he’s growing up, he has to learn to find confidence in the presence of self doubt and what’s expected of him. Most teens, I believe would relate to the struggle of figuring out what you want versus what others want of you.
Sci-6 embark on a mission to conduct risky experiments in order to uncover the truth and defeat demons. This sets up the novel to deliver some very entertaining scenes. What was the funnest thing about writing this novel?
I think you said it! Some of the scenes are definitely “risky.” There is some genuine physical and medical science I used to formulate speculative fiction. The most fun was throwing the teenagers into these crazy experiments and seeing how they’d manage to get through it. I love the bickering and arguing when you have no clue what to do-that’s the most fun.
This book is part of the Rising Saints High series. When will the next book be available and where will that take the characters?
Blade of the Crones is the second installment of the RSH series and will be available at the end of 2017. Raz, Jonah’s ex-girlfriend mentioned briefly in Book 1, will make an appearance causing more teen drama. But Sci-6 has a job to do. One of their own needs rescuing, so they’re going to have to put their heads together and formulate a rescue plan. I also have a companion novella coming out next month in March, entitled Hella. Same school with a separate cast of characters in a plot involving time travel and a few friendly visitors from Book 1.
Memories of madness torment him…
And a voice, trapped in sixteen-year-old Jonah’s head, will reveal something not of this world…
Teen science prodigy, Jonah, doesn’t know if he’s seeing ghosts or if he’s inherited a mental illness. Either way, he wants the voice out. He wants to free the speaker from his mind and put her into flesh of her own. But he’s going to need more than his father’s old laboratory to do it. He’s going to need the help of his ingenious new friends.
CRASH! BOOM! KAPOW! There’s a new breed of superheroes at Rising Saints High and they’re not your typical teenagers. They’re nerds, but dark creatures are lurking among them—waiting to exploit the innovative young team for their collective intelligence.
In this action adventure, geeks will battle gods to piece together mysteries of science. But beware—Jonah and his friends will soon discover that science cannot always explain everything and that somethings are better left unknown.”
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This God, I, is a novel based around a group of teenagers turned Japanese superheroes as they band together in a battle against evil. Where did the inspiration for the thrilling action come from and how did it develop as you were writing?
I’ve always been a fan of comic books, anime and the action genre, so I’ve had ideas brewing in my head on how to construct a story full of car chases, paranormal battles and science fiction. For the scenes with domestic terrorists, I read about the history of nationalist extremism in the United States, such as Ruby Ridge, Waco and the Oklahoma City bombing, and tried to emulate what I learned. For super-powered fights, I had to come up with creative ways the heroes and villains could use their surroundings.
Japanese anime styled characters cross political extremists which sets the tone for this action packed adventure. What were some ideals you hoped would drive the narrative of the story?
Every character needs a believable motivation, and a political agenda can provide just that. Our cultural backgrounds and political views are a reflection of who we are as people, and I sought to create characters that would embody their various ideals and principles. While the extreme villains use their powers to force their ideas onto the world, the heroes have to be open-minded, consider all sides and work together to come to a reasonable conclusion. It was important for the heroes to put their values above the need to win at all costs, lest they end up just as bad as the people they’re fighting.
The superheroes come from a range of backgrounds and have a varied mix of super powers. How did you balance the characters powers to keep them interesting yet believable?
Every superpower has been thought of before, so it was important that my characters would utilize them in different ways, such as turning a roller coaster into a giant robot or controlling a crowd’s emotions to ignite a protest. It was also essential for every ability to serve a purpose, either to move the plot forward, reveal more information and create an action-packed spectacle.
This God, I is book 2 in the series. Where will book 3 take the characters?
In “The Genocide Gene,” Chikara and her friends travel to Africa to stop two demented brothers from starting a civil war and committing genocide. Along the way, they have to save hundreds of kidnapped schoolgirls and take on merciless rebel groups.
“Japanese superhero Chikara Kaminari has accepted her destiny: to save mankind from powerful political extremists. Joined by her friends, the empathic Renka and the shadow-controlling Gen, Chikara journeys to America to rescue her friend Michiko from the Ayn Rand- obsessed billionaire, Chillingworth.
As they search for their adversaries, Chikara and her friends encounter a murderous cell of homegrown terrorists called RAMPAGE (Revolutionary American Militant Patriots Against Government Enslavement). This militia of neo-nazis, white supremacists and anti-government extremists will stop at nothing to bring down the public sector, and only the three heroes can stop them before their war on the state claims innocent lives.
The future hangs in the balance as Chillingworth lures the world’s most powerful leaders to the United Nations. Using Michiko’s mind-controlling voice, he seeks to lead the Earth into a new era of selfishness and Anarchy. The heroes have to stop him, but the conservative Chikara and the socialist Gen have different definitions of the term “save the world.” While one wants to stop the plot, the other wants to control the politicians his own way. The three must put aside their disagreements and work together before America’s most extreme ideologues tear the world apart.”
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