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R.L. Tran Author Interview

R.L. Tran Author Interview

A Guardian Falls starts soon after the events of the first novel, with Mara’s betrothed recovering from his injuries after she rescued him from her father’s killer. What direction did you want to take this novel that was different from book 1 in the series?

I wanted Mara to grow as a character into the heroine everyone needs her to be. In the first book she started off as an immature teen and at the beginning of this book there are notes of that too. I had a reader tell me recently she really didn’t like Mara at the beginning of this book because she was so unsure of herself and treated Kess poorly. But as more responsibility is placed on her Mara rises to the occasion.

At the time this book was written I also did not intend to write another book in this series so I wanted to end the story. Magical artifacts and other races gave me the perfect opportunity for all out war instead of single combat between Mara and Laran. Finally, and this is a spoiler alert, I was able to take Mara’s relationship with Kess to a whole new level.

Mara doubts herself and her destiny throughout the novel, but this makes for a more realistic character. Can you relate to Mara? Was there anything taken from your life that you put into your characters?

I wrote the first draft of this novel when I was a teenager myself. I was young and awkward and I had just lost my dad. Everything I knew was changing around me. Mara mirrors all my insecurities as I navigated the end of high school, a relationship with my boyfriend (who is now my husband) and starting college. She shows my triumphs at those times as well. When you read Mara’s life in a way you are reading mine.

One thing I thought you did well was writing both in-depth dialogue scenes and epic battle sequences. How do you balance both to create an engaging narrative?

I always think of my books like movies. I see the scenes in my head and try to write them that way. For me words should never be static, they should have a life of their own. When done properly you really aren’t reading at all; you’re watching a movie in your head. I’m sure it seems crazy to some but it’s how I read books as well.

I always try to write something I would like to read and aspire to have a great fantasy series. I keep those books and movies in mind when writing and try to emulate those writers. I don’t have a formula on how I write a novel simply because I hate formulas. When I’m writing I try to keep myself intersted in a project. If I’m getting bored so is my reader. I like plot twists and action so whenever I feel the momentum in the book slow it’s time to spice it up. I always have a general plan for a novel. The question is always how I get there.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

The next novel I am working on is the next book in this series with a working title of Descendants Rising: Chronicles of the Coranydas Vol 3. I am aiming for a February 2018 release date and the fourth book should be released later in 2018. I am also writing a short story that will be featured in HallowErotica 2017 due out this Halloween. It is a first person narrative of Nisha Patel’s life before she met Alexandria Diego in For Their Sins.

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A Guardian FallsAll looks bleak when Mara is forced to return home after her love’s brush with death. She only has one magical artifact and the army seems out of reach. The consequences should she fail or even succeed finally set in and Mara has doubts about everything. There will be a war of blades and magic with Mara at the center, but Mara wonders if she has the strength to survive.

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Completely Absurd and Fantastical

Ulises Silva Author Interview

Ulises Silva Author Interview

The Perfect Teresa follows a 43 year old woman that has hit rock bottom and is given a 2nd chance at high school by an ancient Aztec deity. What was the inspiration for the setup to this imaginative story?

I think we all have those moments we wish we could go back and re-do for whatever reason, whether it be an embarrassing childhood experience or something you wish you’d done differently as an adult. Of course, none of us can go back and do anything over, at least not without something completely absurd and fantastical happening. That’s really how this story came about. The “what if” question was, “What if there was some way, some kind of cosmic intervention that would allow someone to go back in time and re-do an experience?” And, yes, I’ve thought of what I’d do in a situation like that! So little by little, the pieces began to fall into place, and authors like Christopher Moore and Jenny Lawson really helped me to see that sometimes the most absurd things made the most sense. So, yes, an unemployed Aztec deity sending a woman back in time to do a talent show over again? Makes perfect sense to me!

Authors can often fudge the details in time traveling stories, but I felt that the 80’s was captured perfectly in The Perfect Teresa. What kind of research did you do to get it right or did you pull from experience?

So I guess I’ll date myself and say that a lot of the stuff in this novel is from experience and memory because I did attend high school in the late 80s! It was a fun process to re-discover 1988 New York City, and it involved everything from getting back in touch with childhood friends through Facebook, to doing lots of searches on Google Images and Google Maps. My old buddies really helped me piece together our old neighborhood (like remembering the Susan Terry store on the corner of Ditmars and 31st Street), while Google Maps helped me walk through some old haunts and rediscover old landmarks. The other big part of this process was music. I love music, and in 1988 I was really big into the underground metal scene. So just being able to put these playlists together and listen to these old metal and 80s pop songs really helped me situate the story. You can find a YouTube link to this unofficial soundtrack for the story on my website!

Teresa’s character is intriguing and well developed. She can’t move forward and is trapped in this sad, drunken life where happiness eludes her. What was your inspiration for her character?

Thank you! In some ways, Teresa embodies a lot of the self doubt and self sabotage that I’ve had to overcome throughout my life. But in many ways, her character was inspired by Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day, which I think is the one of the great stories about personal redemption through service to others. Like his character, Teresa starts off very unlikeable, very self-centered, and, as you said in your review, unwilling to take accountability for her actions. She’s got a long history of dumb, self-destructive tendencies, and she never wants to acknowledge that this is why her life is in ruins. But I wanted her story to be about self-discovery, and about realizing that her selfish actions have real consequences for others. So like Murray’s character, she has to learn through this new experience that there are things more important than a silly talent show, and that there’s real happiness in providing help and happiness to others. I hope that by the story’s end, we find her journey plausible and redeeming.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I’m working on two projects. One is a new time-travel sci-fi series tentatively called Quality Jones and the Time Keepers. But I’ve also started work on the sequel to The Perfect Teresa, titled The Perfect Vicente. I’m hoping to publish one of the other by the end of the year!

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Perfect TeresaTeresa’s gotten over the embarrassment of a humiliating high school talent show performance. After all, she’s now 43 and only thinks about the experience once or twice a day.

Lucky for her, an unemployed Aztec deity applying for Quetzalcoatl’s Trickster Department offers to grant Teresa her wish. He’ll send her back to 1988 to re-do the talent show! Catch? There’s no catch! After all, he’s a fully licensed deity with a Masters in Temporal Displacement Theory and a bachelors in Trickster Sciences and Cosmic Mischief. Besides, a talking coyote can be trusted, right?

For Teresa, it seems like the chance of a lifetime. But she soon finds that changing the past won’t be as easy as she thought, especially without Wikipedia. And that in a desperate effort to make her life better, she might end up making things much, much worse.

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What is Reality?

M. Thomas Apple Author Interview

M. Thomas Apple Author Interview

Adam’s Stepsons follows Dr. Heimann as he designs the perfect soldiers for the United America’s in their war against the Martian colonies. What was your inspiration for the setup to this interesting science fiction story?

At the time I wrote the kernel of the story, I was working in a used bookstore and devouring all the short stories and novels by Phillip K Dick and Robert Heinlein that I could lay hands on. I was (and still am) fascinated by questions of “what is reality?” but I was (and still am) also intrigued by the question “who am I?” not only in terms of shared realities and perceptions but also ethnicities, religions, and personal relationships within the family. The sense of self is inextricably bound with community and history; my own family history, for example, is filled with generation after generation of soldier in nearly every major conflict since the 1680s. So I knew that I wanted the story of Dr. Heimann and his clones to take place during a military conflict of some sort. The US made it to the Moon first, so I figured any Moon Base would be set up by a future version of the US. But the rising powers of India and China would necessarily lead to competition and colonial expansion elsewhere in space. So I based the UAAF on the Moon, India on the ISS, and China (basically) on Mars. But something has gone wrong, as it usually does, and that sets off the conflict.

I should point out that, when I initially plotted the story and sketched out the characters, Dolly the Sheep hadn’t been announced, Battlestar Galactica was a late ’70s TV show starring Lorne Greene, and “The Clone Wars” still consisted of a single line spoken by Obi-Wan Kenobi. So as much as I’d love to say that I got the idea for soldier clones from the current zeitgeist, the underlying premise of Adam’s Stepsons actually predates the trend. My high school library had beat-up copies of Nancy Freedman’s Joshua, Son of None, and Ben Bova’s The Multiple Man, so it’s likely I internalized elements from those stories and subconsciously reproduced them in my own story.

Dr. Heimann and one of his cloned soldiers, Seth, have an intriguing relationship that becomes very deep. What were the driving ideals that drove the characters development throughout the story?

Dr. Heimann prides himself on his scientific bent of mind, but he struggles to cope to grips with the fact that he basically has no family left, and as Seth grows and begins to develop a real emotional attachment, the doctor desperately tries to push away the feelings he had for the person Seth is clone of. Meanwhile Seth has been trained (“brainwashed,” as the doctor puts it) to be an efficient killing machine, and his need for order compels him to seek out and eliminate anything unknown or unreasonable. Yet he, himself, can’t help feeling strong conflicting emotions, first toward the doctor and then toward his fellow clones. Both characters are driven to discover, deep down, who they really are as people, outside their rigid societal roles as scientist and soldier. Dr. Heimann knows that Seth is not his real son, but can’t help treating his stepson’s clone familiarly because it reminds him of what he has lost. Seth has been “programmed” not to think of anything other than army orders, but he can’t shake the sense that there is more to who he is as a person. Finding out he is a clone, and who his “brothers” are, is the trigger for the final confrontation.

Science fiction has always asked the ‘what if’ questions, but I feel that your novel went a step further. What were some ideals you used in building your story?

My original intention was to investigate not just the “what if” of human cloning (i.e., how would this be done? how would the clones grow physically and mentally?) but also the “what is self?” to a cloned human being. The scientists argue that personality is partly inherited and partly environmental; so if you were to make several different clones of one person and then controlled the information input,  they would all become the same person. But personality also consists of emotional attachments made with other human beings on a deeper social level. Human beings are social animals; we need other humans to survive and thrive, and without others we have no clear sense of who we are and what our purpose is. So in order to examine this in a futuristic setting like a clone facility on the Moon, I needed to have a reason for making clones in the first place, plus other people who would provide the clones with that social environment. Once that was established, the real question became “Is what we’re doing morally ethical?” The military paying for the clones display classic cognitive dissonance, by using people they claim are not really people but know they actually are, in order to win what they call a morally righteous war but actually is destroying their entire society. Yet the General clearly also feels a sense of internal conflict, feeling obligated to protect every member under his command, including the clones, and also knowing through his friendship with Dr. Heimann who the clone really is and how this might affect his friend. Ultimately, I was interested in making sure none of the characters were typical “scifi” stereotypes, that they had ideals but were deeply flawed people, and ultimately would find themselves trying to make the best of what basically could turn out to be a lose-lose situation in the end.

What is the next book that you’re working on and when will it be available?

Right now I have a couple of projects I’m working on in various stages, but the one most closely related to Adam’s Stepsons is a metaphysical science fiction series set mostly on Mars. The first book is called Bringer of Light; a crew of ethnically diverse and somewhat misfit asteroid hunters recovers an extra solar object from beyond the solar system, experiences physical and spiritual changes, and ultimately becomes the new leaders of the united Mars colonies as they break away from the old political chaos of Earth and form a new society. The story combines hard science with various mystical systems of belief, ethnic and religious sense of self and identity, and international/interspacial political intrigue. I’m about a third the way through the initial draft; the aim is to finish writing by the end of summer 2017, and have an edited, polished manuscript done by spring 2018. The next two books (Defenders of Aeropagus and Return to Omphales) have already been outlined and plotted.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Adam's StepsonsDr. Johann Heimann designed the perfect soldiers: superhuman in strength and intelligence, immune to sickness and disease, programmed to lead the United Americas to a quick victory in the Mars Colony War. But Heimann didn’t anticipate the military’s unrealistic demands, or his own emotional responses to his creations. And now Number Six is calling him “Father”! What exactly is going on during the clones’ personality imprinting cycle? As Heimann starts his investigation, Number Six grows in confidence and self-awareness…and both discover the project hides a secret even Heimann, himself, doesn’t suspect…

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The Perfect Teresa

The Perfect Teresa

Take a moment and remember what happened to you in high school. For some people, this was a den of depression, oppression and pain. As teenagers, we’re severely lacking in skill and experience, yet we need to navigate a world that expects us to act like grown ups. Many a poor decision has been made in high school that can go on to affect our lives for decades afterwards. In The Perfect Teresa by Ulises Silva we have an example of just that. Our protagonist is a jaded 43-year old woman working in corporate America. She surely hasn’t had it easy and while not everything can be blamed on her high school experience, what she clings to from that time is definitely ruling her life. Teresa can’t move forward and she’s trapped in this sad, drunken life where happiness eludes her. It’s not until she crashes hard into rock bottom that she is given a chance for a do-over, thanks to a talking coyote.

Our protagonist isn’t all quite there. It’s clear that she’s broken and she’d rather blame everyone else than accept any sort of responsibility for it. This tale is told in the first person and is showcased in such a way that it feels like the reader is Teresa herself. We’re privy to her thoughts, her neurosis and her desperate attempt at avoiding herself. She’s miserable and her life sucks. There is no denying that. Silva does an excellent job with the imagery and how the story jumps around Teresa’s mind. It’s hard to do that and keep the story on track. Silva is clearly talented in this realm.

Even the time skip is well done. It’s hard to shift from present day to the past and keep in mind how things have changed: technology, manner of speech, what is and isn’t popular with teenagers. Silva either did some great research or potentially tapped into their own past in order to recreate what it was like in the late ‘80’s for teenagers. This isn’t easily done, and the book is better for it.

Using deities from various mythologies can be a bit messy, but Silva focuses on what would suit our protagonist. She is of Latin-American descent and the use of Quetzalcoatl and our friendly talking-coyote Piltzintecuhtli, or Pill for short, makes sense. For an Aztec deity, Pill dislikes the use of profanity and seems to have an attachment to Teresa. It is well known that the gods will favour a mortal here and there for their own amusement. Is Pill the same?

Combining a slice-of-life with a timeslip can bring about a unique experience. Instead of the washed-up twenty-something that usually happens in stories like this we have a woman who has really lived her life and come to regret it. The Perfect Teresa by Ulises Silva is a story about self-search, self-love and acceptance. What Teresa accomplishes through her foray through time is a lesson to be learned by all. This is a must read for anyone looking for excitement, adventure and even just that gentle reminder that things will be okay.

Pages: 421 | ASIN: B06XG2GT22

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Goo of the Gods

Goo of the Gods: Rising Saints High4 StarsP. Joynes’s novel Goo of the Gods, part of the Rising Saints High series, centers around the life of teen prodigy Jonah Polopolus and his traumatic past. Under pressure to live up to his famous father’s reputation, Jonah joins the Sci-6 team and learns that Science Club is so much more than an after-school activity. Jonah must balance his “normal” teen responsibilities (if you call dangerous science projects normal) while also befriending a beautiful ghost who haunts him and seeks his help. Once Science Club turns into a battle of good versus evil, Jonah and Sci-6 must use their unique traits and scientific prowess to defeat demons, save their school, and solve the mysteries behind their hometown’s tragic history.

There’s something suspicious about the tragic accidents and missing people in Jonah Polopolus’s hometown, and Sci-6 plans to figure it out. D. P. Joynes’s Goo of the Gods, part of the Rising Saints High series, is a suspenseful YA science fiction novel with twists that keep you on your toes. With a dynamic plot and an intriguing protagonist, I found this novel quite compelling and hard to put down.

Jonah, a brilliant science student, returns to his hometown five years after the death of his parents and begins his junior year of high school. He’s constantly reminded of his famous father, Dr. Jeremiah Polopolus, and his brilliant discoveries. I loved how the novel jumps between flashbacks to Jonah’s childhood trauma and his present reality, while also interweaving Dr. Polopolus’s journal entries. While there were a few moments that needed more development, I thought that Joynes did an excellent job with transitioning between the past and the present. I liked that this format let me piece together Jonah’s puzzling life.

Even though the novel jumped between time periods, there was a consistent motif of good versus evil throughout the novel, like when Jonah faced situations where people’s actions didn’t easily fit into one idea. Urged by the suspicious, yet charming Dr. Ug, Jonah joins Science Club and is thrown into a competition against a team whose members have a demonic appearance. Jonah and his friends call themselves Sci-6, and they bond over their project on gray “goo.” I feel like the goo becomes a metaphor for something much deeper than its modest appearance, as Jonah is constantly trying to understand the “gray” areas of life.

While working on their “goo” project, Sci-6 encounters many strange occurrences and dangerous situations at CorPP, Dr. Ug’s laboratory. Jonah also faces a unique problem: he’s haunted by a ghost, named Ambriel, who seeks his help. These supernatural situations show how Joynes masterfully blurs the lines of science and faith. Major plot events combine these two typically opposing concepts, which is quite unique for a novel in this genre.

Ultimately, the discovery of old journals inspires them to figure out what, or who, is truly behind the tragedies in their lives. Sci-6 embarks on a mission to conduct risky experiments in order to uncover the truth, help Ambriel, and defeat demons. Even though I wished that Jonah’s friends, Gia and Naomi, had more consistent character development, Jonah’s dynamic characterization made the story that much more enjoyable. It was great to see how Jonah learns to think about the world in both scientific and supernatural ways. The novel ends on a captivating note, and I can’t wait to see what Jonah and his friends do next.

Pages: 183 | ASIN: B01NCNCL4M

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The Heart to Kill

5 Stars

Sarah Wesser, a high achiever in the middle of her law degree, decides to return home for the summer after two life-changing phone calls. One phone call is a rejection from an internship and the other is the terrible news the children of her high school friend JoBeth have been kidnapped. Sarah returns to her hometown of Eight Mile Junction to be involved in a law case that will shock the county. Between trying to please her father who is determined to mould Sarah into an image of perfection and working with lawyers to save the fate of JoBeth, Sarah learns that the people and life she left behind may not be what it seems.

The Heart to Kill, written by Dorothy Place, is an edge of your seat crime novel based around Sarah, a high-flying law student, who returns to her hometown of Eight Mile Junction- a place where red clay is born under your nails and will stain your hands, no matter how far or wide you travel. The reader will be kept on their toes as Sarah dives in to assist lawyers who are trying to save her friend JoBeth from the wrath of small town mentality.

An emotive story line will leave the reader feeling mixed emotions of empathy and horror whilst determining whether JoBeth is innocent or guilty of such a horrific crime. At times, you feel as though you are part of the jury as the story delves into the intricate details that have lead to the terrible tragedy involving the two children.

JoBeth seemingly had it all. Married within months of leaving high school, to her sweetheart Phillip, she soon follows the small town trend by having two beautiful children. However, this soon falls apart and JoBeth is left divorced, lonely and obsessed with chasing a Cinderella fantasy. When Sarah returns home, she discovers there is more to JoBeth then the sweet, lovable high school girl she left behind. JoBeth appears as a broken shadow of herself which leaves the reader to wonder- what events impacted JoBeth severely enough to break her soul?

Meet the lawyers- a group of men who are banding together to try and save the fate of JoBeth.

The lawyers are built around a “boys club” mentality, meeting for golf and chortling with the DA before heading to the courtrooms. Suave but mysterious, one of the lawyers is Al Westfall whom is a private man that many find difficult to read or engage with. He can appear callous and cold however catches the eye of someone you would least expect.

Meanwhile, Sam Wesser, (Sarah’s father) is a powerful, dominant character who controls the family in the same way a conductor controls an orchestra. Desperate to seek his approval, Sarah and her mother bend and heed to his every demand. His methods of parenting and his relationship with his wife teeter on the edge of emotional abuse and leave the reader feeling empathetic to Sarah’s desire to rebel.

I would recommend The Heart to Kill to anyone who enjoys a court/crime style novel. My only qualm was that I wished the novel was longer!

Pages: 200 | ISBN: 162288129X

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Slippery Things

Slippery Things4 Stars

Slippery Things by Lane Baker is a short novel about the things that go bump in the night, alien invasions, and a fight to save humanity. Larissa Locke is your typical teenager that has an attitude and objects to parents and other authority figures.  Her mom is in a mental hospital, her little brother is “Mr. Perfect” her boyfriend cheats on her, and her best friend is too wrapped up in her own love life to see what is going on anymore. While she comes across as a trouble maker she soon turns out to be the only one that understands what is lurking in their small town and she alone must figure out how to save everyone.

The novel starts out with Larissa explaining why she filled the head cheerleader’s locker with manure. While this is interesting and sets up some of the teen drama for the characters, it set’s the tone and pace for the rest of the novel which is fun and engaging. The story takes place in a small town where everyone knows everyone. The general feel is one of your small town high school where the kids form cliques and stereotypes are the norm. Overall a very relatable setting for any reader.

The first night Larissa she wakes up thinking she is dreaming that aliens are performing tests on her. You get the standard amber light filled room, fuzzy feelings and mysterious instruments. The night time encounters continue and they start talking to Larissa. There are four of them that she has named Dark Eyes, Scarface, Curly Locks, and Sunspots. These aliens claim to be harvesting her blood to cure a disease in their world. At first she is okay but realized they are taking more blood and more often and when she tried to avoid them they went after her brother Carter and father Gary. At this point Larissa’s only thoughts are to protect her family and start sending the aliens to other homes. After one victim ends up in the hospital Larissa decides she needs to stop them. This begins the battle.

Larissa makes a trip to the hospital to visit her mom. She finds out her mom is there because of these aliens and everyone thinking she is crazy. She also gives Larissa a tip to help fight them off. From here we get Larissa planning out her attack on the aliens and her capture by them. She is taken to their world where she must escape and save her own family and town.

Aside from teen banter with cheerleaders and the cheating boyfriend stories, the overall plot of this novel is entertaining. It takes the alien abduction story in a different direction and has a few surprises for the reader. This is a great quick read for anyone looking for a quirky young adult novel in the science fiction genre.

Pages: 156 | ASIN: B00WOXCYYQ

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Paradise City: The Mire Man Trilogy

Paradise City (The Mire Man Trilogy, #2)4 StarsParadise City by Dave Matthes is the second book in his Mire Man Trilogy. The story goes back twenty years to Arlo Smith’s teens, a time of many firsts for him. The story opens with Arlo and his best friend, James Landon, skulking through the woods in order to peep into a local stripper’s window, trying to see what any puberty-addled boy hopes to see. What they see and experience there is a first that changes them, their friendship and perhaps, their lives.

High school isn’t fun for everyone. Arlo and James’ freshman year pulls them apart, and while they remain friends, they meet new people, experience first love, infatuation, and learn the pleasure and pain of drinking and smoking weed. Arlo’s mother introduces him to a parade of boyfriends who drag him into a world of alcoholism, and abuse. Through it all, Arlo learns that he can write, his teachers think he’s good at it, but it isn’t enough to keep him from the lure of drinking and brawling.

If you’re going into this book expecting an uplifting coming-of-age story, you will be sadly disappointed. Paradise City is a dark, no-bull look into the brutal world that Arlo grew up in. His mother’s boyfriend uses him as a punching bag, his best buddy is a drug dealer, and he has nowhere to turn to except for the booze he steals from home or gets at parties every chance he gets.

Interludes from Arlo’s adult life are interspersed within the novel. He’s getting treatment at the Moriarty Institute, where he admitted himself for psychiatric care. This adds insight and ties Arlo’s past and present together. Whatever confession his doctor hopes to get out of him might be something from his past, or it could just be the ramblings of a man with mental illness.

The author really nails the emotions and reasoning of a teenaged boy. Arlo’s thoughts and decisions are spot-on for a teen. No one but his guidance counselor seems to care one way or another about his future. The counselor has good intentions and Arlo is infatuated with her; she speaks to him like he’s an adult, but she’s not that much older than he is. Their relationship skirts the line between propriety and danger more than once.

One of the problems I had with the book was placing it in a time period. I’m not sure if it’s inconsistency, or if it’s intentional. Music has a role in the story, and all of the songs and bands mentioned are from the late 1970’s. In one scene, there’s a reference to a flat-screen monitor for a computer playing music, but later, in the same office, the music is playing on a record player. The students at the school don’t mention cell phones or social media, yet Arlo has a cell phone. The pop culture references are from late twentieth century, yet the few mentions of technology feel like the twenty-first.

Though it’s second in a series, Paradise City holds up on its own. While you don’t need to have read the first book, if you start with this one, you’ll certainly want to go back to book one and catch up before the final installment of the trilogy.

Pages: 250 | ISBN: 1512223530

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