Restart by Drew Samuelsen is a dystopian tale of thirteen-year-old Ulysses, who finds himself alone after a strange event has killed most of the world’s population. Fearing for his Mother, who never came home from work, he sets out to find her. Along the way, he acquires a group of friends and learns the world’s own technology was used to decimate the population. They also soon know not all humans hit by this technological-based attack were killed; some were changed into deadly, almost animal-like killing machines. Can Ulysses and his friends avoid technology and murderous humans while looking for their loved ones?
I like that the vessel to bring about the apocalypse is technology. This also turns the book into a fear-inducing one; I kept thinking about all the tech around me that could be used against me. It leads to a bit of a chilling reading experience. The action was well-paced, and the story kept me intrigued. I also liked this book because it provided light moments in this dark situation. The tone was really a fun one. The fault I’ve found with other dystopian novels is that they are too heavy, with no moments to break up the bleakness; thankfully, this one suffered from no such problems.
I found the book’s frequent foreshadowing took away from many surprise twists in the story that I’d liked to have been able to have gone in unwarned for. I also felt too many things just got handed to the characters. It was like everything they needed fell right into their laps. I am glad they managed to have what they needed to survive, but I would have liked them to work a little harder for it in some cases.
Restart: Book 1 (The Restart Series) is a captivating young adult dystopian story. It had the right amount of chilling and humor that balanced it well. In addition, it gave some unique ideas about how an apocalypse might go. I highly recommend this to any dystopian and science fiction fans.
Pages: 160 | ASIN : B0BJYD1KWW
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Freeze Frame follows a teen with PTSD who struggles to separate film and reality at times as he works through his trauma and makes new friends. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
“When quarantine started, I was living in a room with no windows. It definitely psyched me out at times, not knowing if it was light or dark, rainy or sunny. The mind can sort of wander in a place like that. I remember having these vivid daydreams after a while, and after one of them, it took me a minute or two to figure out if the daydream had actually happened. That’s when this image appeared of a boy who was constantly jumping in and out of reality. I had spent a lot of time working at a Free Mental Health Clinic in medical school, and that paired with my own mental health battles helped shape the boy’s story. Almost instantly, I knew I wanted to tell a story about a vulnerable boy overcoming trauma while highlighting key issues of youth mental illness today (social media, peer pressures, anxiety/depression).”
Will wants to be like the other teens at his high school but knows he is different and struggles to battle his mental illness while moving forward. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?
“Certainly Will’s battle between passion and personal guilt drives the story and his development as a young man. When the thing that makes you happy is the same thing that’s tied to your worst memory…it can weigh heavily on your mind and how you move from the past. Ultimately, I chose to make the Coreless his saving grace because I believe it can take a village to help someone work on their own mental health. We may not be able to directly heal others who are struggling, but we can certainly offer support and love to help them get to where they wish to be. As a society, we’ve made incredible strides at de-stigmatizing mental illness, but we still have a ways to go. People often feel they must carry their burdens on their own, and my hope was through Will readers might feel more open to sharing their struggles and leaning on others for help.”
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
“In my opinion, children are the most vulnerable members of our society, a society by the way that runs at a sprint driven by social media. Children are surrounded by social pressures very few of us can even fathom. And I really don’t mean to say social media is bad. In fact, when used properly, I think it has the power to be our saving grace. But anything powerful can be destructive. I think sometimes we don’t think about just how much power a child with a phone wields, and neither do they. We don’t just need to teach children how to use these tools responsibly, but there needs to be better guidance behind the tools themselves to protect kids. Like I said, the tools aren’t bad inherently. A hammer isn’t bad. It can build a house. But it can also end a life. So that’s where the antagonist was born to combat these counterculture kids. I thought it would be really fascinating for a group of kids with today’s technology and interests to choose to make a movie in a more classic fashion. Setting their work as a competition against social media platformers just made the story more intriguing. It definitely gets meta at times, with a filmmaker losing his grip on reality and seeing films play out before his eyes. But writing the story from Will’s perspective in that way really allowed me to highlight how everyone lives out their own trauma in a unique way, and hopefully readers will see that.”
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
“I am currently working on a new children’s series that is sort of a “Magic Tree House” meets “Medicine.” More to come on this later, but each book will focus on a new bacteria or virus the way Magic Tree House focused on a new time period for each story. I’ve currently written a good portion of Book 1 with a few others outlined. It may take some time until it is available as I am finishing up medical school at the moment, but I hope for the first book to drop in the next year or two.”
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Tags: author, book, book recommendations, book review, book reviews, book shelf, bookblogger, books, books to read, coming of age, dystopia, dystopian, ebook, fantasy, fiction, Freeze Frame, goodreads, indie author, kindle, kobo, literature, nook, novel, read, reader, reading, science fiction, scifi, story, Tyler Beauchamp, writer, writing, ya books, young adult
In an America divided by race and religion, Colton Jenkins must simultaneously navigate the new war-like world as a young adult and a victim of oppression. He and his family found themselves in a community ruled by a heavy hand, where every form of treason, with or without evidence, leads to another head cut from a body stuck on a pike. With no one to trust and turn to, may it be the government, the religious, and even your neighbors, Colton must find a way to keep himself and his loved ones alive, all while finding ways to regain freedom and liberty for everyone.
New America Awakenings, by Tyler Davis, is a gripping story that depicts what our future might look like without democracy and the role the youth play in societal changes. From the beginning of the novel, the author makes sure to spare no details about the apocalyptic setting, from its origin and history to its ongoing severe, sadistic practices. With every page, readers anticipate and dread what is coming, for there seem to be no limits regarding the horrifying reality the characters experience, regardless of race, religion, and age. Yet, in the doom of it all, there are moments where one can see hope, whether in the scenes focused on family, the camaraderie between friends, and even times when authorities are defied and challenged. Because of these, readers are inspired to continue despite the cruelty to see if these moments can lead to somewhere positive.
Personally, the book was a page-turner due to the constant presence of crisis, intriguing me to wait and see if there is anything that will happen that is more cynical than the previous. Unfortunately, the book did not disappoint in that area, and I was left hanging by its ending because I was expecting more to happen. Still, the ending placement was clever, for it keeps readers on their toes and hungry for the sequel to come out. I have always been interested in dystopian novels, and this one earned its rightful place in my top ten. As for the characters, each one’s contribution to the story was highlighted, making it easier to remember them and either love or hate them. The author also made sure to keep all characters real, in the sense that they are all flawed, one way or another, which is integral to point out in a dystopian setting that calls people to act based on survival rather than morals.
New America Awakenings will keep its readers interested with the constant action, all while compelling them to reflect on what they are reading in terms of their ethics. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in books such as The Hunger Games and Divergent, which are famous for their young adult heroines and post-apocalyptic setting. I also recommend this to anyone who would like to ponder on the humanities, for the novel shows a different take on culture and society as we know it.
Pages: 322 | ASIN : B0BDBLJ9JZ
Tags: author, book, book recommendations, book review, book reviews, book shelf, bookblogger, books, books to read, dystopian, ebook, fiction, goodreads, indie author, kindle, kobo, literature, New America Awakenings, nook, novel, read, reader, reading, sci fi, science fiction, story, teen, Tyler Davis, writer, writing, YA Fiction, YA Novel, young adult
Will Horner, a sixteen-year-old boy who loves filmmaking, is beginning a new year at a new school. His parents are anxious for him to settle in and make friends at Pinehurst Academy, an art school. The warm-hearted ‘coreless’ take him under their wing, and Will feels happier at Pinehurst than he has in a while. Working on an end-of-year movie with his friends, he feels more himself when he’s able to film with his camera. However, he hides parts of his life from his understanding friends and takes on the responsibility of working on his mental health by himself.
Freeze Frame by Tyler Beauchamp is a story of teenagers struggling with trauma, mental health, and with the stigma of it all. Beauchamp has perfectly captured the overwhelmingness that is attached to social life as a teenager and how situations can magnify in our heads, as it does in Will when he fears his past at Redboro School coming to light. It’s also a story of lighthearted moments, friendships, belief, and creative passion, and of navigating these along with parental love and concern that manifests as anger.
Beauchamp skillfully weaves in relevant arguments about creativity, social media, mental health, and reality in a world filled with media and camera lenses. Will loves to make films and loves the power they have to make people feel, but also believes in experiencing the moment. Will is in therapy for PTSD and is making progress with his dissociations between reality and film-like scenes.
Freeze Frame by Tyler Beauchamp is a coming-of-age fictional novel that also explores the psychological mindset of teenage life. It is excellent for talking to teenagers about issues they face and about understanding their points of view. I especially liked the list of mental health resources given at the end of the book. Having understanding people and a good support system along with therapy can truly go a long way in helping mental health, and this book shows that in a very relatable way.
Pages: 258 | ASIN : B0BG6DC9D9
Tags: Alternative History, author, book, book recommendations, book review, book reviews, book shelf, bookblogger, books, books to read, coming of age, dystopian, dystopian science fiction, ebook, fiction, Freeze Frame, goodreads, indie author, kindle, kobo, literature, nook, novel, psychological fiction, read, reader, reading, sci fi, story, Tyler Beauchamp, writer, writing
In the year 2045, mankind has depleted the resources of Earth, and humans are looking to move off the planet in hopes of a fresh start. This is the setting for this thrilling young adult novel. The chosen five are Brian, Jamal, Alex, Kev, and Cecilia in Janet Kravetz’s titular series. Cecilia Miller is a teenage female protagonist in this dystopian future book. Titan is regarded as humanity’s last hope, but everyone can’t afford to travel there. Even more so, not everyone desires to. Duncan Macdougall, a Localist, wants Cecilia and the other four chosen candidates to stop the fulfillment of an old Mayan prophecy and save Earth and its inhabitants. Five Mayan crystals that contain the technology to save the planet are sought after by the chosen five who journey to Mexico in their search.
Sky Curse has a slow-burn beginning, but that gave me time to adjust to the world-building presented by Kravetz. It is futuristic hard science fiction, but it also contains aspects of fantasy and has a measure of reality mixed in. This teen novel is an exceptionally well-written, imaginative, and wholly original work. Along with Cecilia, I was transported to an unfortunate Earth. Cecilia is portrayed as a blonde with blue eyes, which is a little cliché. However, she still has her imperfections and is intelligent, and contributes well to the authenticity needed to make a protagonist come to life. And not to forget, Tony provides the humor and is Cecilia’s go-to companion.
The thought-provoking plot lines will get readers to consider climate change from beginning to end. Although it is hypothetical, nothing seems out of the ordinary or overly complicated. The reader starts to believe that what they are reading might very well be the kind of world we are leaving for future generations, which has a dramatic effect. The novel is written for older teens and younger adults, but Kravetz’s insightful developments and topics are broad enough to appeal to readers with more demanding tastes in literary nuances.
Sky Curse is the exciting start of a new young adult science fiction series, The Chosen Five. Filled with action, drama, paranormal, and fantasy elements there is something for all readers in this novel. Follow the chosen five as they try to save Earth and prevent the apocalyptic destruction of humanity. I can’t wait to see what the series has in store!
Pages: 395 | ASIN : B0B9638NC7
Tags: apocalyptic, author, book, book recommendations, book review, book reviews, book shelf, bookblogger, books, books to read, dystopian, ebook, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, indie author, inspirational fiction, Janet Kravetz, kindle, kobo, literature, mystery, nook, novel, paranormal, read, reader, reading, sci fi, science fiction, Sky Curse, story, teen, urban fantasy, writer, writing, YA mystery, YA Novel, YA Sci Fi, young adult
Midgard follows a brilliant scientist as he looks for a way to prevent the downfall of humanity and keep humans alive. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
The world of Midgard, which is set in the not-so-distant future—came almost naturally after I decided to try my hand at writing fiction. The breadcrumbs were there and had been there since I was young– I just needed a medium in which to bring them all together. The first “crumb” was in second grade, when my teacher told me that there was a hole in the sky, and, that if that hole continued to grow, my family and I would never be able to live outside again. That notion was terrifying to me, but I later learned that people had decided to stop using the pollutants that made the hole and that it had healed. Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, I encountered 60s and 70s-era science fiction stories about the bad things that could happen if humans didn’t stop abusing the planet, and I was one of the first of my friends and family to see “An Inconvenient Truth” in the early 2000s. In 2017, I was reading Let my People Go Surfing (Yvon Chouinard) during a trip to Sonoma, California, when Robert Kamen himself joined us in his vineyard and put a word to what I had been thinking about “stewardship.” In the next couple of years, I read a lot more about climate change and global warming, including The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells, which was dense but fascinating. By then, however, I was tired of academic writing and lacked the energy and interest to explore yet another policy problem through non-fiction. A more fun read, however, was The Future We Choose, by two architects of the Paris 2015 agreement – Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnett. They present two fictional futures for the earth – one in which humanity bonds together to save the environment, and another in which it fails to do so – and the spark was lit for a different kind of idea. After the “closeted novelist” announcement, I put the pieces together and realized that I could learn and explore the consequences of overconsumption and poor stewardship through fiction, and have way more fun doing it.
Sam is brilliant and perhaps too trusting at the start, but he soon learns not to trust anyone. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?
There were a couple of things that drove his character development. I knew I wanted his “superpower” to be his intelligence, and that his weakness was going to be a combination of social awkwardness and claustrophobia. One my editors early on suggested that the story read like a mystery, which is how I decided to make Sam a sci-fi “detective” of sorts. As I continued with my revisions, however, my revisions editor pointed out that Sam, my main character, was far too reactive, and that he needed more depth. Personality tests are a hobby of mine, and I happened to be reading about the enneagram test, I decided to assign him a “Type” – the best fit for what I was looking at was a “Type 5” or the “Investigators” – that type tends to be brilliant and inquisitive, but also a little too trusting or naive, and they tend to be more cerebral than physical. Using the enneagram really helped me understand how Sam would react or the types of actions he would take.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
There are three things I hope readers will take away from this book:
1) That we need to be better stewards of our habitat or we will fall victim to the worst aspects of human nature. (Note: I deliberately avoid the use of the worlds “climate change” or “global warming” in the book itself as well as during discussions I’ve had about it – those terms are politically and emotionally charged in current debate). I want to re-frame the topic as “environmental stewardship” and better stewardship of resources more generally – getting away from consumption culture and back to things that matter…before we lose all of it as a species.
2) That “talent” comes in many forms and that yours / theirs deserves to see the light of day, no matter what the rest of one’s family, society, or culture values
3) Writing a book is like having children – there’s never a good time! (e.g. I want to inspire others who, like me, wanted to write fiction but didn’t think they could!).
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am already working on the sequel to Midgard (which ends on a bit of a cliffhanger). The original ugly draft was about 80,000 words – as I went through the revisions process, my editor made me realize that writing the WHOLE story would make the book too long (and I would never get it finished before the final “pens down” deadline). I plan to publish the second book in early 2024 and, if all goes well, the third and final book in this series in sometime in 2026. (Ultimately, I would like to be able to become a full-time writer).
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Antunites Unite follows different ants who are trying to prevent their colonies from being enslaved by cyborg insects. What was the inspiration for the setup of your story?
The first two novels in my trilogy, The Antunite Chronicles, were the backstory of my wife’s children’s book Black Hole Radio-Bilaluna. They explained how Earth insects were transported to a planet in a far-off galaxy, transformed into cyborg insects, decimated their world, and nearly destroyed their moon. The third novel of the trilogy is much more open-ended since it occurs long after the period described in the children’s book. Yet the characters are still cyborg insects that have returned to their rejuvenated planet. So, although the plotline was less constrained, I again drew the world-building and character archetypes from my wife’s story. The premise for the plot, however, was heavily inspired by the dystopian novels Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and 1984 by George Orwell. As in book 2 of my trilogy, an authoritarian dictator seizes control of the planet, but this draconian leader takes it to an entirely different level. Rather than the environmental crisis of book 2, the leader thrusts the citizens of book 3 into a dystopian world where all aspects of their lives are controlled. Unlike Brave New World and 1984, which have very depressing endings, in Antunites Unite, spies from the planet’s moon implement actions that result in a positive conclusion for the planet’s residents.
What themes were important for you to explore in this book?
The trilogy’s primary focus is on the struggle between altruism and aggression, two characteristics that are critical to insect social interactions but equally important to human civilization. These two motivations underlie the conflict between authoritarianism and social control versus freedom and insectism that is prominent in Antunites Unite.
Insectism is a political philosophy on Poo-ponic and Bilaluna that stresses benevolence and treating others how you wish they would treat you. This ideal reflects my views on the importance of humanism in our society and across cultures worldwide. The opposing view to insectism stressed in Antalonia is the sentiment that ants are better than other insects. This xenophobic attitude also causes red ANTs to feel they are superior to black and brown ANTs. Thus, the book represents an allegory for the racism and speciesism that permeates our world.
I selected red ANTs as the oppressors in this story because red ants on Earth are usually more aggressive and are most often the species of ants that exhibit hostile behaviors that justify their label as slave-maker ants. They earned the name because of their efforts to subjugate other species of ants (often black ants) into sustaining their colony.
All three books of my trilogy highlight the similarities between ants and humans. Through my research, I discovered that despite their vast differences in size and appearance, ants share a third of their genes with humans. Like humans, ants work together and understand the division of labor. Like humans, ants can be aggressive toward other species, as well as with other ants they consider ‘others’ because they have different genes, smell different, or come from distant nests.
The main points of this story are timely, with the horrors and atrocities taking place in Ukraine and elsewhere, failing democracies, and the growing acceptance of authoritarianism worldwide. Ants in Antalonia, like humans on Earth, need to learn how to squelch basic aggressive instincts and xenophobia that drive a lust for power and to conquer one’s perceived enemies. Instead, they must strive for altruistic enlightenment that inspires compassion for those like us and those who are different, allowing for inclusiveness as we work towards common goals that elevate all in our world, insect or human.
What drew you to writing young adult and teen science fiction novels?
My wife, Ann Birdgenaw, started the second book in her children’s chapter book series, Black Hole Radio, where her young heroes travel through wormholes to distant planets. Initially, she was undecided about what type of aliens her protagonists would meet, and I helped her decide and gave her some ideas about the alien world. As she progressed in her book, I continued to give her input. However, at some point, she felt the plotlines were getting too complex for the target age of her readers. She suggested I write a backstory about the planet in a book targeted at older kids, and I took her up on it and started my fiction writing adventure.
As the original storyline was quite juvenile, yet the themes and messages were more mature, I targeted young adults. As an allegory of human nature taking place on another planet with displaced insects, I have difficulty choosing the genre for the resulting novels. One could call the story a beast fable, yet as an allegory, it also has elements of satire. The idea that insects could evolve to become highly intelligent is unbelievable, so that one could see it as a fantasy. Still, the story contains many scientific facts about insects. It also takes place within a far-off galaxy, so I felt it best fit within the science fiction genre or perhaps within the speculative fiction category. I say speculative fiction because of the narrative’s robust post-apocalyptic and dystopian themes, which bring the novels into the realm of what if.
Will there be a book 4 in the Antunite Chronicles? If so, when will it be available?
Not for now. However, my trilogy originally started as a novella that expanded into three novels. The novella was a historical account written as a satire of former President Donald Trump and his administration. It had little dialogue, primarily written as fictitious historical quotes. I was fortunate to have an early draft read by a fellow scientist, Sci-Fi author, and book coach, Nina Munteanu. Nina inspired me to expand my story to include more dialogue and action scenes, and my novella grew first into a novel and eventually into a trilogy, The Antunite Chronicles.
The novella was initially entitled Poo-ponic Plague, with plague referring to the toxic environment caused by ignoring a rapidly developing climate crisis on Poo-ponic. Yet, as the novella grew into a novel and the novel into a trilogy, it became apparent the efforts of the trilogy’s first character, Antuna, would have a lasting impact on the insect civilization of Poo-ponic throughout its history. Thus, the first book, which centers on Antuna and her friends and their struggles, understandably became Antuna’s Story. Antuna’s descendants, and later followers of her philosophy, became known as Antunites, explaining the trilogy’s title.
I wrote the original title before Covid-19 started and changed it to avoid referencing a pandemic like the one that has tired all of us. I split the book in two when the story got too long. Then I changed the title for book 2 (The Rise and Fall of Antocracy) to reflect the creation and failure of the democracy dominated by the cyborg ants on Poo-ponic. Given the vast amount of time between the two historical periods for this story, there was a natural break that justified splitting the story into two books.
I wrote the first draft of Antunites Unite (book 3) in November 2021 as part of National November Writer’s Month. NaNoWriMo is a challenge to write a 50,000-word book during the 30 days of November. I only considered entering NaNoWriMo during the last week of October 2021 and had no plan or outline for the story. Yet I met the challenge with a 53,000-word first draft of book 3 completed during the month. Still, I knew this was a rough draft that would expand. Following comments from my developmental editor and a series of beta readers between December 2021 and Spring 2022, and after considerable editing, my second draft topped out at around 85,000 words. Still not completely satisfied, I sent this draft to another beta reader and a line editor. After subsequent revisions, copy editing, and proofreading by my reading-partner wife, I completed the final draft at 95,000 words or about 400 formatted pages after ten months.
As for book 4? Who knows, November is looming!
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Broken follows a young woman in a dystopian future who finds fate placing her on a dangerous path toward freedom. What were some sources that informed the development of this novel?
I watched a lot of films that covered dystopian fiction as inspiration for world-building. These include Mad Max, Terminator, Bladerunner, a little touch of The Walking Dead, and Divergent. My fascination with dystopian fiction started with Farhenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. The idea of a world turned upside down, and the separation for survival by the main characters really thrilled me and piqued my interest.
What scene in the book did you have the most fun writing?
The escape from the Horder village. it occurs right toward the end, and the weight of the escape and the things the stakes that were raised by the time Kessa and her friends reach this critical moment of the story was so heavy. I wanted to capture the sense of urgency in the narrative and hopefully keep the readers on the edge of their seats, guessing what will happen next or who might make it out alive.
Was there anything from your own life that you put into Keesa’s character?
The absence of both parents in her life was something I wanted to pull from my own experience of living in a one-parent home. How that experience shaped her character and what pieces or components of her personality could’ve or should’ve been different because it was a focal point.
What can readers expect in book two in The Young Hellions series?
The comic is a blast and was very exhilarating to script out because it allowed me to finally introduce more of the Ashers into the story-telling. So yes, readers will see zombies front and center here.
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