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The Bug Boys vs. Professor Blake Blackhart

The Bug Boys vs. Professor Blake Blackhart by [Hoffman, Stewart]

Alex and Ian return in the sequel to The Bug Boys, back to the town of Rossolington after the collapse of the mine. The boys still have the nanobots inside them and retain the ability to take on the different aspects of live bugs they swallow.  They are still working with the Secti to bring new insects back to the Nest planet, but the Secti are impatient and want a better selection of insects so they start to create their own portal outside the boys. Meanwhile, bugs start showing up from a forth portal that no one knew existed. Professor Blake Blackhart, has also ingested nanobots and tapped into their abilities, as well as improved upon them. Professor Blake however, does not have good intentions and becomes the book’s super villain to the boy’s superhero personas. Add into the story a new student Linda and her mom, the new PE teacher that takes an unhealthy interest in Alex and Ian and things get very interesting in the declining mining town of Rossolington.

The Bug Boys vs Professor Blake Blackhart is an engaging and fun novel for young adult readers and adults alike. You have your classic good vs evil theme, and kids’ vs adults. A group of four kids taking on the super villain and his sidekick kitten. Yes, a kitten. A kitten that is also infected by nanobots and has been surgically altered to be a weapon. Hoffman uses humor that draws kids in, lots of detailed descriptions about farts, the noise, the smell, the way it makes them feel. All humor that appeals to typical young adult boys. Eating bugs, but needing to keep them alive, entertaining and gross. The awkward time of puberty where boys suddenly discover girls and those awkward moments are brought out in the interactions with Linda.

Hoffman also manages to address some serious topics through this adolescent humor. Alex has to come to terms with the fact his dad is not infallible. This realization, that his father has fears, is not perfect and can make poor choices is one that hits him hard. Alex must learn to accept his father and his short comings if he can. After almost losing his father in the mine to be dealt another blow is difficult. This is relatable to young readers as they are hitting the age where they might start seeing the childhood hearos for who they really are and realizing they are not the perfect examples of humans they originally thought them to be. These can be hard times for a young teen to experience, seeing characters in a book they like can help them come to terms with reality, and give them a laugh along the way.

While Alex and Ian want to be superhero’s, they learn there is more to being a superhero than just putting on a costume and having super powers. They learn limits, asking for help, working as a team and reaching out to others when they realize they can’t do it all on their own. There are a lot of good lessons for young adults packed into this short novel. There is enough action to keep kids interested and wanting to read more. Hoffman even at the end gives readers a cryptic scene that leads us to believe we can expect more from the Bug Boys.

Pages: 154 | ASIN: B076737HRN

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Spinner

Spinner

Spinner is a refreshing addition to the science fiction and horror genres. The book gives readers a new perspective as the main characters are not your usual shiny protagonists, but rather a group of boys, all of whom have some form of disability or handicap. The main character, Alex, is both impaired mentally as well as physically, bound to a wheelchair. This is not the only thing that sets Alex apart, though. Alex is a spinner, capable of taking on others emotions, physical ailments, and pains before they disappear entirely. A trait that finds him unknowingly being watched by those with ulterior motives and a far more sinister entity as well.

Spinner definitely brings something new and refreshing to the table with its focal characters being those typically dismissed and often belittled in our society. Bring in the science -fiction/horror vibe and Michael J. Bowler definitely writes to catch your interest. The story is original and cut from a different cloth which is refreshing. Although sometimes sentences can run on or become focused on small details, almost Charles Dickens-esque. It leaves little to the imagination as each character and scene is described in detail.

The author does a wonderful job of presenting the main characters with disabilities as people, not just a subset of society to be catered to. Each character, though their disabilities are mentioned and made apparent through their interactions, are easily seen as teenagers with their own opinions, personalities, and mindsets. The fact that they’re disabled rarely comes to mind throughout unless the story itself points to it, giving a refreshing and normalized perspective. Bowler uses a lot of different aspects and mannerisms stereotypical of a screen-teen. There are many dramatizations and immature reactions that detract from the characters otherwise superb development and depth.

I found this contemporary story easy to relate to and understand. Spinner has a lot of interesting and refreshing concepts that I felt kept the story thrilling and suspenseful.

Pages: 445 | ASIN: B075VCQ5F9

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Spinner

Fifteen-year-old Alex is a “spinner.” His friends are “dummies.” Two clandestine groups of humans want his power. And an ancient evil is stalking him. If people weren’t being murdered, Alex might laugh at how his life turned into a horror movie overnight.

In a wheelchair since birth, his freakish ability has gotten him kicked out of ten foster homes since the age of four. Now saddled with a sadistic housemother who uses his spinning to heal the kids she physically abuses, Alex and his misfit group of learning disabled classmates are the only ones who can solve the mystery of his birth before more people meet a gruesome end.

They need to find out who murdered their beloved teacher, and why the hot young substitute acts like she’s flirting with them. Then there’s the mysterious medallion that seems to have unleashed something malevolent, and an ancient prophecy suggesting Alex has the power to destroy humanity.

The boys break into homes, dig up graves, elude kidnappers, fight for their lives against feral cats, and ultimately confront an evil as old as humanity. Friendships are tested, secrets uncovered, love spoken, and destiny revealed.

The kid who’s always been a loner will finally learn the value of friends, family, and loyalty.

If he survives…

Finalist in the 2015 Wishing Shelf Book Awards
Honorable Mention in the 2015 Halloween Book Festival
Runner-Up in the 2015 Southern California Book Festival
Literary Classics Seal of Approval 2015
Bronze Medal in the 2015 Readers’ Favorite Awards
Honorable Mention in the 2015 San Francisco Book Festival
Winner in the 2015 Hollywood Book Festival

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Blow Out Summer

Surf, party, and romance take center stage in the breezy novel Blow Out Summer, as a group of local surfers in Huntington Beach, California, enjoy a summertime of hanging out and having fun.

Their story takes place in the mid 1970s, when no one was paying much attention to the drugs being brought into California at an alarming rate. But Dee Dee’s eyes are about to be opened.

Dee Dee lives in a very well-to-do area and is introduced to social drug experimentation and drug trafficking while maintaining a normal family life. She and her friends enjoy the surf up and down the coast of California.

Her friends run the gamut from the very wealthy to beach bums she met at the pier. Dee Dee’s lazy summer is spent under beautiful sunny days with slow drifting clouds and perfect barrel waves. But the ups and downs in her relationships and the dangers of dabbling in drugs ultimately force her a decision that will change her life.

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H.A.L.F. Origins

H.A.L.F.: ORIGINS (H.A.L.F., #3)

H.A.L.F Origins written by Natalie Wright is the third book in the H.A.L.F series. This book will please fans of the series, which is aimed at young adults. It takes a look at the characters that fans know and love, Tex, Erika and Jack Wilson. Tex and Erika are on their own adventures, running for their lives against the deadly alien virus that is spawning an epidemic around the globe. As well as predators attacking Europe and an organization whose conspiring to profit from chaos and forge a New World Order. It seems like these two have their hands full.

Tex and Erika need help from a Navajo healer when Tex falls gravely ill  The healer is their only chance at helping Tex live. Thankfully, Tex emerges from the experience with vital information which will help stop the predatory M’Uktah from overtaking the human population. Sounds crazy, hey! Very intense.

I really enjoyed that this book had a pronunciation and definition guide at the start of the book otherwise I would’ve had trouble keeping up with whose who.

Another thing I really enjoyed was the sweet acknowledgment at the start of the book, as many acknowledgments are at the back and I didn’t realize that she had written so many words (300,000 to be exact).

The story is really fast paced and throws you immediately into the deep end of the action. The writing is really clever and immerses the reader immediately into the world of the characters. You can really tell that the author has crafted these characters with care, as they’re all very different and have a different tone. I’ve noticed with some of the other books that I’ve read, authors tend to just reuse personality traits, but that was not the case with this book at all.

With The Makers and predatory creatures who want to enslave the human race, I found this book to be very enjoyable and action-packed. It was very sweet to read Erika and Tex’s budding romance, as he’s half-human and she’s into someone else. That was relatable as hell, I mean, apart from the fact he’s half human. These two broke my heart again and again. Why did they make everything so complicated!?

The complexity of the characters within this story is what kept me on the edge of my seat. Although I generally like it when characters are undoubtedly good or bad, it’s refreshing for me to read characters that aren’t always like this. This was the case with the main characters within this book, as you learn more and more about them as time goes on.

I really enjoyed this book. Is it the last one in the series? I hope not.

Pages: 377 | ASIN: B07263P84J

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An Irresponsible Teenage Scamp

Iolanthe Woulff Author Interview

Iolanthe Woulff Author Interview

STAINER follows Ben Steiner, a Jewish Columbia undergrad who is a decent person but wishes to be “in” with the “in crowd.” What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?

Since I wrote the book forty years ago, I must confess that I cannot precisely recollect what the initial idea was. I just sat down and started scribbling (longhand, on legal yellow sheets) and eventually the novel emerged. However, as I explain in my Author’s Preface, the manuscript was an overwritten mess. I was a complete amateur, and made every mistake in the book… (okay, that was a truly cringe-worthy pun.) But now that I think of it, I did have a vague notion that I wanted to somehow skewer an acquaintance of mine, and decided that the cleverest way to accomplish that would be to turn them into a rotten character in a book. Which I did… and no, I won’t tell you which character, but suffice it to say that nowadays my intended skeweree is rich, fulfilled, aging much better than I am, and utterly unaware of my –or my novel’s– existence. Which, all things considered, is exactly as it should be.

Of course, at a distance of four decades, I am now able to perceive things in the novel that weren’t apparent to me at the time I wrote it; by which I mean that there’s more than a trace of autobiographical heartbreak in the story. And I think we’ll leave it at that.

Ben goes through some strikingly personal conflicts throughout the book and his character is meticulously developed. How did you capture the thoughts and emotions of a 70’s Jewish teen?

Easy… I was a 70’s Jewish teen. Well, not technically… even though I was already in my mid-twenties when I wrote STAINER, my mindset remained that of an irresponsible teenage scamp, and I simply wrote prose in the same the way I spoke/ thought/lived; in other words, from the viewpoint of extremely arrested adolescence (ahem.) Luckily for me, it turned out that I had a knack for accurately capturing the mood and lingo of the times in my writing… who knew?

Ben meets P.T. Deighland, a wiseass from Princeton, who is clearly up to no good. What were the driving ideals behind the characters relationship throughout the story?

“Driving ideals”? Hmm… I have no clue, other than to suspect that the relationship between ‘bad-boy’ P.T. and ‘good-boy’ Ben somewhat reflected the two sides of my own slightly schizophrenic persona; which, in those days, remained more-or-less in a constant state of conflict. To all outward appearances I was definitely a good boy, but like many such young fellows, secretly wished that I had the nerve and coolness to behave like one of the bad boys. Because, after all, the bad boys always got the girls… didn’t they? But, like Ben, my efforts to attain bad-boy status were ultimately doomed to failure, and came at a heavy cost.

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

I have a new novel under way, and it’s as different from STAINER as STAINER is from SHE’S MY DAD. I can only write stand-alone novels; the mere thought of doing sequels or a series is a stupefying bore. For me, once a story is wrapped up, that’s the end of it, and then I’m off to build a new world, with new characters, new problems, new everything. It’s the only way I can stay interested enough to keep going.

As to when the new book will be available, who knows? All I can say is, stay tuned… I do believe it’s a pretty good yarn.

Author Links: GoodReads | FacebookWebsite

StainerNew York City, 1975: Decent-hearted but spoiled Jewish college kid Ben Steiner is naively possessed by an overwhelming desire to be cool. At a springtime party on the night of his twenty-first birthday, he meets two people: Rebecca Glaser, the longed-for sweet girl of his dreams, and P.T. Deighland, a beguilingly knavish wiseacre from Princeton. Seduced by Deighland’s bold irreverence while simultaneously succumbing to his own temptations, Ben makes a cascading series of unfortunate choices which not only threaten his budding relationship with Rebecca, but expose him to ruin at the hands of a ravishing but ruthless fashion model named Anthea Montague. 

Against the background of a vanished period in American history, STAINER offers a bittersweet nostalgic trip back to a less complex world, during a time of incautious excesses that, while deceptively fun and carefree, in due course forced many unwary youngsters like Benjamin Steiner to learn some necessary –albeit painful– lessons about growing up. 

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Black Box

Black Box

Amaris Jensen is a regular 17 year old college girl when she gets the earth-shattering news of her father’s tragic death. Ever since the mysterious disappearance of her mother, Amaris’s father was all she had. Now she’s sent to live her life with her cousin Sandon, who is a lab scientist and a self-defense trainer for 7 other girls at Amaris’s new school. Amaris eventually grows close to them and starts to find her when she begins uncovering strange secrets about the girls and her cousin. Amaris finds herself pulled into a vortex of myths, magic, precious stones, secrets and danger.

What starts off simple and straightforward, quickly escalates to a new and exciting level in the first few chapters. Her father’s sudden death due to a sickness Amaris never knew about, shatters her idea of normalcy and routine. She is then forced to live with an estranged cousin Sandon, who Amaris expects the worst of, but the new father figure in her life takes her by surprise.

Sandon and Amaris’s relationship develops and grows effortlessly. You can really feel Amaris’s pain and longing for normalcy, and when things start to go awry you are just as confused as she is. Which makes the mystery, and the big reveal, so much better. For Sandon, Amaris is much more than a cousin, she is like a daughter. Amaris struggles with leaving her old life behind, but she finds friends in unlikely people. I really appreciated that, while the novel was easy to read, I never really knew what was coming. The protagonist’s strength of character and depth of thoughts is very well portrayed by the author and the range of moods that Amaris wanders through is deftly characterized. This is a highly emotional novel. Amaris goes from crisis to mystery and back all the while trying to cope with the loss of her family. Emotion can be a hard thing to capture in novels, but Casey Hansen does a fantastic job of showing not telling. A few editorial errors exist but they are easy to overlook when all you want is to find out what happens next.

Black Box is a clever title for this thriller novel from Casey J. Hansen and perfectly suits the mood and unexpected ending of the story. This is not a Scooby-Doo mystery; their are layers here that you must peel back slowly. When Amaris finds out that there were initially 10 girls to begin with and now 3 of them have mysteriously disappeared, just like her mother, the book really finds legs and you’re carried along for a thrilling ride. The number of ways in which Amaris’s world crumbles throughout the story is something well worth reading. This thriller is exciting, addictive and is highly recommended.

Pages: 225 | ASIN: B01MQGCJ4J

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Black Ink Pearl – Screenplay

Based on the Multi Prize-Winning Novel, Black Inked Pearl

Based on the Multi Prize-Winning Novel, Black Inked Pearl

Love can be a complicated emotion. While a person may want to love, they may not be ready to love. And those who want nothing more than to be loved may have the hardest time accepting that others aren’t ready. Black Ink Pearl by Ruth Finnegan explores these ideas of love and connection. Our protagonist, Kate, has been connected to a young man since her youth. He wants nothing more than to love her. She is not ready to love him in return. So begins their rift and the frantic journey to reconnect. They’ve got obstacles ahead of them, of course, thanks in part to the godly beings who observe our daily lives. The question becomes then, if Kate will ever be ready to love Christy. The question is not, ‘will she finally be ready’, but ‘will he still be waiting for her’.

This is a screenplay of the fantastic novel, Black Inked Pearl A Girl’s Quest. The synopsis at the beginning does a wonderful job clarifying the content of the novel.

Like a novel, the screenplay does a good job of conveying the emotions that the characters are supposed to be feeling. By having those few cues give context, it makes it easier to get absorbed in the passion and the panic that this story evokes. Kate is our leading lady and her emotions are powerful, if not overwhelming. There are even cues for which music is desired to accompany the scene. You may find yourself hearing some in your mind as you read along. There is a heavy reliance on the supernatural as the story nears the middle and the ending. It’s alluded to and briefly exposed in what some would consider the first act, but it comes on much thicker closer to the end.

Reading a screenplay is very different from reading a novel. Black Ink Pearl by Ruth Finnegan is based on her novel, Black Inked Pearl A Girl’s Quest so some readers may think that it is just a rehashing of the novel. While there are parts that are like that, having reviewed both pieces I can confirm that the screenplay does a better job at getting the story across. The text is not as fragmented and dream-like as it is in the novel, so the screenplay is much easier to read and digest the content. This fantastical journey is for those who are suckers for a love story.

 

There Really Are Human-Alien Hybrids?

Natalie Wright Author Interview

Natalie Wright Author Interview

H.A.L.F. tells the story of H.A.L.F 9, a Human-Alien Life Form that escapes from the military facility where he was created. What was your inspiration for this imaginative and thrilling novel?

The original idea and plot for this story came to me one day as I was driving in my hometown of Tucson, Arizona, listening to a techno-rap song called “Cowboys and Aliens”. What can I say – it was a hot day in the desert! I’ve long been fascinated by the remote area in southern Arizona, the borderlands between Mexico and the U.S. There’s a military testing range out there and not much else. That song on that day got me thinking about how alien conspiracy theorists talk about a secret underground base. And I thought what if such a base is under the missile testing range? And what if there really are human-alien hybrids? And why would a shadow government want to create such a being? The series has been great fun for me, a huge X-Files, Twilight Zone and Star Trek fan. Fun to create my own alien worlds and adventures!

H.A.L.F. 9 forms a bond with other teens that he comes across and their relationships are dynamic and deep as well. What themes did you try to capture when you were creating the relationships the characters had?

When I write a first draft, I generally don’t think about themes. I also don’t spend time outlining relationships before I write. I try my best to let the characters “speak” and for the relationships to evolve organically.

But once the first draft is written, with the assistance of my content editor, I fine tune. In The Deep Beneath, I had not originally intended for H.A.L.F. 9 to become romantically interested in Erika. But he’s a 17 year old guy who’s never been around girls his own age! Of course he’s interested in her!

As for the three human teens, I spent a lot of pre-first draft planning time creating a relationship backstory for them. On the advice of an early editor, I decided to have Erika and Jack having problems in their boyfriend/girlfriend relationship right off the bat. That’s not a typical starting point in a YA book and I think it was good advice. Over the three books, readers get to see complex relationships play out. And I think that’s more like what life is really like. Even with people we love deeply, we don’t always get along. There are ups and downs. But will we stick with someone through thick and thin? Or bail on them when the going gets tough?

Ian and Erika are best friends. Like many best friends in coming of age stories, their relationship is tested by the difficult circumstances they’re thrust into. The circumstances of the story force them to journey beyond their small town and into the wider world. And oh what a world they step into! They each are confronted with moral dilemmas and the choices they make affects their relationship.

What emerges is a story that over the 3-book series is about loyalty, trust, and having each other’s backs. Not only do we see this in how the three older teens deal with each other, but also through how Erika is teaching H.A.L.F. 9 about living in the human world.

As I’m just finishing up revisions on the third and final book in the series, ORIGINS, I’m going to miss these characters! I’ve enjoyed writing their relationships and watching them grow.

H.A.L.F 9 has telekinetic and telepathic powers which make him a valuable asset to the government. These powers are used in unique and interesting ways. How did you handle the use of these powers in the novel where they were believable yet useful?

I was inspired to give H.A.L.F. 9 the powers that he has from my research into a real top secret military project called Project Stargate. It was started in the 1970’s and the purpose was to research the potential of “psychic warfare.” This was during the cold war and they were seeking to create a “remote viewing” spy network but there was also this idea that enemies could potentially be taken out from thousands of miles away using only the mind.

Of course they didn’t produce much in the way of results. The funding dried up and the program ended (allegedly ;-).

These sorts of top secret programs inspired the story. What if aliens had stronger psychic abilities than humans, and if a human-alien hybrid was engineered to have the stronger alien psychic abilities, what could it do? Media often portrays aliens as having much more developed psychic abilities than humans, so I thought it would be believable for a human-alien hybrid to have these sorts of powers.

Giving the hybrid being these abilities was like creating superpowers or a magic system. So I had to think of its limits. That led to a rather unique problem for the hybrid beings that acts as a limit on their “magic” and is, I think, one of the more unique aspects of the series.

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

H.A.L.F.: ORIGINS (H.A.L.F. 3) will be available August 24, 2017! I’m so excited for it! It has been a super difficult book to write due to all the threads that spread out in book 2. But I think that readers will find the wrap up exciting and satisfying – and all questions will be answered!

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook | Website | GoodReads

H.A.L.F. 9 has taken his first breath of desert air and his first steps in the human world. Created to be a weapon, he proved too powerful for his makers and has lived a sedated life hidden from humans. But H.A.L.F. 9 has escaped the underground lab he called home, and the sedation has worn off. He has never been more alive. More powerful. Or more deadly.

Erika Holt longs to ride her motorcycle east until pavement meets shore. She bides her time until graduation when she’ll say adios to the trailer she shares with her alcoholic mother and memories of her dead father. But a typical night in the desert with friends thrusts Erika into a situation more dangerous than she ever imagined.

Circumstances push the two together, and each must make a fateful choice. Will Erika help H.A.L.F. 9 despite her “don’t get involved” rule? And will H.A.L.F. 9 let Erika live even though he was trained to kill?

The two may need to forget their rules and training and if either is to survive the dangers of the deep beneath them.

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H.A.L.F.

The Deep Beneath (H.A.L.F., #1)

H.A.L.F by Natalie Wright tells the story of H.A.L.F 9, a Human-Alien Life Form that escapes from the military facility where he was created. During the course of his escape, H.A.L.F 9 meets teenagers, Erika, Jack and Ian, with whom he strikes up a friendship. Among other abilities, H.A.L.F 9 has extreme telekinetic and telepathic powers which make him a valuable asset to the government and one that they are not willing to lose. The government, claiming ownership of H.A.L.F 9’s life, sets out to retrieve him. Having no human technology that can match H.A.L.F 9’s power, they have to enlist a force stronger and more cunning than even H.A.L.F 9 is prepared to face.

Right from the start of the book the characters are likable and relatable. Even though the first couple of chapters were a bit confusing, each one was intriguing enough to make me want to keep reading. It isn’t immediately obvious how the characters in the first chapters are related to one another, but once you do discover the connection the direction of the story makes perfect sense. The writing is actually done very well for a Young Adult novel; which the book appears to be, as all the main characters are teenagers. I was very surprised at how each chapter really kept me on the edge of my seat; my interest in finishing the book never waned. Most books have at least a few chapters that are somewhat slow but I didn’t find this to be the case with H.A.L.F., it kept a great pace and remained interesting throughout. I think the struggle within H.A.L.F 9 between his alien and human personalities were done incredibly well. Having spent hardly any time at all actually interacting with humans on a personal level, he isn’t quite sure what to make of the new feelings that he experiences outside of the facility. For instance, there is a moment at which he finds himself wanting Jack to feel pain, even though he can acknowledge that Jack has never done anything to deserve his ill will. H.A.L.F 9 isn’t able to recognize that he feels this way toward Jack because of Jack’s romantic involvement with Erika, whom H.A.L.F 9 is also developing romantic feelings towards. I also appreciated how this aspect of the characters relationships is subtle and not the focus of any particular chapter in the story. Sometimes Young Adult fiction does not have a good balance of romance to substance but this book does not have that problem.

Natalie Wright does an excellent job with the element of surprise. I don’t want to give any spoilers so I will just say that in several places throughout the book the outcome that I was imagining is not at all what came to pass. I eagerly await the next installment of this series.

Pages: 293 | ASIN: B00R6U32CA

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