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The Lost Planet by Rachel Searles

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The Lost Planet by Rachel Searles, Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, 2014.

The Lost Planet (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, $15.99, Ages 9-13 ) is the first novel in a series by Venice, CA author Rachel Searles. I met this friendly and imaginative debut fiction author earlier in the year at a local event sponsored by Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse where Searles read from her book and explained its premise.

Readers will be introduced to Chase Garrety, a 13-year-old boy who wakes up on another planet with a head wound. Chase soon meets Parker and though they start off fighting, the boys realize they need to take care of each other. Together Chase and Parker meet an android named Mia who becomes a huge help to them in this fast-paced, sci-fi adventure.  The story unfolds in the course of a week in which Chase, without giving any spoilers, learns some unusual stuff about himself. So, if you’ve got a child who thrives on the science fiction genre that’s packed with action and adventure as well as interesting characters such as assorted aliens, a mysterious benefactor, and a Federation-like organization, then this is the book for them.

I asked Searles about when she began writing. She told me that she’s been writing since she was six years old. The Lost Planet actually took her four years to write, but the good news is that the second book in this series has already been written! “Writing a book,” according to Searles, “is like putting lots of puzzle pieces into the right spot, with lots of re-writing.” In fact she said her original outline for the novel changed so much since she had her first idea for the story. That’s not hard to imagine when you learn that the idea for a space story was first planted in her mind in 2006. It then took her two years to write the first 100 pages. In 2008 Searles came up with The Lost Planet concept, and in 2010 she tried to write 1000 words a day. She then spent a year and a half revising. And which character, I wondered, did Searles most relate to? Parker. Now you’ll just have to read it for yourself to understand why.

– Ronna Mandel

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SMASHER by Scott Bly

Twenty Days to Stop The Future!

Today Ronna Mandel reviews Scott Bly’s debut middle grade novel, SMASHER (Scholastic/Blue Sky Press, $16.99, Ages 10-14).

I met Scott Bly at the L.A. Times Festival of Books several weekends ago. There I had a chance to watch a video of his book launch at Skylight Books in March. He played guitar and sang. Yes, sang, and what a terrific voice! And speaking of voice, middle graders are going to really enjoy the voice in Bly’s sci-fi page turner, SMASHER.

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Scott Bly at L.A. Times Festival of Books April 2014, © 2014 Ronna Mandel

Set in the not too distant future of a city called LAanges (Los Angeles), SMASHER is full of plot twists, dark secrets, inventions, good versus evil and most of all, loads of high-tech talk tweens and teens love, along with a mix of magic thrown in. The book is divided into five parts and each short chapter keeps moving the story forward at a fast, action-filled pace that is certain to pull in even the most reluctant of readers.

In this sci-fi adventure, a robotic girl named Geneva travels back to the year 1542 in an attempt to recruit a bullied and friendless 12-year-old boy named Charles to join her on an urgent mission. If Geneva can convince Charles to return with her via time travel (SMASHER) to a futuristic city called LAanges, together they might be able to thwart a world takeover by an egotistical and cunning villain named Gramercy Foxx. Despite living in a remote mountain village near the town of Eamsford, Charles, or Charlie as Geneva calls him, has a penchant for puzzle-solving and is also gifted. Somehow Geneva also knows that Charlie can perform feats of magic and I’m not talking pulling rabbits out of a hat. This ability will serve the kids well when they try to outwit and out-tech the wily Foxx.

smasher-smallOnce back in LAanges, Charlie and Geneva must move quickly to solve the mind-control menace that Gramercy Foxx plans to unleash via computer software called The Future. As the team tackle obstacle upon obstacle to breach the multi-layers of security Foxx has installed to keep enemies at bay while keeping his devious plan on track, they soon realize there is something much more sinister behind Foxx’s efforts to takeover the planet. Promising a world of peaceful coexistence and well-being, Foxx’s goal is anything but harmonious. Time, however, is not on Charlie and Geneva’s side as they use every means possible to stop Foxx. It’s not until Charlie, with the help of his new trusted canine companion, confronts some long hidden secrets that he’s able to face some startling facts and go head to head with Foxx.

With SMASHER, Bly’s created a couple of characters kids will care about and a wicked nemesis they’ll want to see made powerless. So now you may wonder, does The Future look bright for Foxx anymore? Can humanity be saved? Travel through time courtesy of SMASHER to find out who will ultimately win control of our world and enjoy your journey!

Parents – if you want to find out more about SMASHER, visit SMASHEROnline.com for a peak into The Future!

 

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A World Above The Sea

Continuing my summary of books by authors I met at the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffehouse’s recent Mother Daughter Book Party, I’d like to tell you about an intriguing, engaging sci-fi trilogy by San Fernando Valley author Jenn Reese.

AboveWorldjacket-198x300A year ago Reese’s middle grade novel, Above World ($16.99, also available in paperback, Candlewick, ages 10 and up), was released and next month you can pick up the second in the trilogy called Mirage.

If the cover alone doesn’t pull you into Above World, the plucky main character Aluna certainly will. Aluna is a girl who lives underwater in a colony of mermaids.  Mermaids? I was hooked already. All around, in what had been a safe, thriving environment, her fellow citizens’ breathing shells are beginning to fail and Aluna, is determined to discover why. So, despite many obstacles that make this an action-packed adventure tale as well as a sci-fi story, Aluna is going to find a way to save her people. Her best friend, Hoku, a boy one year her junior and a “techie” will join Aluna on her quest Above World, or the land above the sea. The pairing of female and male protagonists make this an ideal read for both girls and boys.

What’s fascinating about this novel’s premise is that the Kampii (Mer people) were all once humans now living in the ocean because the population Above World was getting too high. Reese has cleverly imagined a water world that seems to make sense. Plus the book is filled with so many other types of interesting people, animals and fish such as the Shark people whose habitat is lower depths than Fish. Reese described them as “less cultured,” so they have more adaptations and are a danger to the Kampii. Because I attended the special bookstore event, I was thrilled to learn a little bit about what new characters will be introduced in Book 3, hint: think Greek mythological creature. I am confident readers will agree that here is so much to like and enjoy about Above World that thankfully the story does not end with Book 1!

-Ronna Mandel

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