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Review: Gideon Lee, by Lisa Orchard

Gideon LeeAmazon US

Amazon UK

What a wonderful breath of fresh air from the author of the Super Spies! I’ve read other books of Lisa Orchard’s, so I feel confident in saying this is by far the best piece of writing I’ve read from her. The quality and strength of this new voice is such a great leap forward, I forgot all about the author and concentrated solely on the story. This is talent. This is an author who has fallen into the right groove.

Gideon Lee is a mystery, just like other stories by this author, and in this this first book of the series we don’t figure out the puzzle, not entirely. Lark, the protagonist, is a character with whom I could identify easily, someone who felt every knock of her hard life, someone whose existence could be real. She has been beautifully portrayed. Lark’s struggle to understand the world around her, her anger at the realities of life, and general treatment of teenage angst are done with a light hand, intuitive appreciation, and high mastery of the writing craft. To me, Lisa Orchard has arrived.

Just like other commenters, I did find the ending of this instalment a little abrupt, but I don’t mind it, somehow. I do feel the hope that’s filling Lark’s heart fill mine too. I can wait – just about – for the next one in the series.

So difficult to find, these days, a no-nonsense book for teens, about teens, written in their language, and one that doesn’t sugar-coat the more offensive aspects of life. There’s no profanity in these pages, and yet the message is clear-cut and positive. I wholeheartedly recommend this book for teens and those who love them. Unquestionably, a five-star performance.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on November 24, 2014 in Book Reviews

 

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Review: The Super Spies and the Pied Piper, by Lisa Orchard

TheSuperSpiesandthePiedPiper 500x750Amazon US

Amazon UK

The Super Spies’ latest adventure is the third in the series. It centres around Sarah’s need to find her parents, and the dangers of a large corporation whose main focus is not ethics.

As a concept, it was very good. A great lesson in life for the teens, with emphasis on being self-reliant, yet unafraid to rally friends around them when the need arises, with an additional helping of watching out of ulterior motives in the corporate world, where money is paramount in 99% of cases.

I liked the descriptions and the pace was astounding. Far more adventurous, and much faster-flowing action than in the first two books.

The characters were as good as we were accustomed to, and Sarah develops an interest in newcomer Alex, whose presence warms her heart. I can see how the next book might shift into preparing our Super Spy to cope with relationships in a more mature way.

Dialogue flows naturally, people’s reactions are true to form, and the storyline pulls almost perfectly together. I would have liked to see more about Sara’s mother, for example – who features, but isn’t accorded much input – and I would have liked to see a few loose threads tidied up at the end. But I’m sure the Super Spies’ story is not yet complete, and I am looking forward to reading their next adventure.

Like books one and two in the series, I genuinely enjoyed reading The Super Spies and the Pied Piper. I think it makes excellent reading for young adults and even younger teens. A good buy, recommended. 4.5 stars for an almost perfect novel with high educational value and good moral standards.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on August 12, 2013 in Book Reviews

 

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Spotlight on Lisa Orchard – Part V

Welcome to part five of my series of posts on Lisa Orchard. Today I finally manage to pin her down and ask her about her writing – no mean feat, as Lisa is a very busy woman. There’s a warmth of character coming through in her answers. It’s this kindness and caring nature that make her such an amazing author, and such a perfect fit for the young adult audience.

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20111210_ABS_1296[1]Lisa Orchard grew up loving books. She was hooked on mysteries by the fifth grade and even wrote a few of her own. She knew she wanted to be a writer even then.  “The Super Spies and the High School Bomber” is the second book in the “Super Spies” series. Her first book was published in March of 2012 and it has received rave reviews.

After graduating from Central Michigan University with a Marketing Degree she spent many years in the insurance industry, pining to express her creative side.  The decision to stay home with her children gave her the opportunity to follow her dream and become a writer. She currently resides in Rockford Michigan with her husband, Steve, and two wonderful boys. Currently, she’s working on the third novel that stars the same quirky teens. When she’s not writing she enjoys spending time with her family, running, hiking, and reading.

~

I have read and reviewed the first two books in the Super Spies series. Book three was released last week. Click on the relevant links below to read more.

The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer 500x750The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer 

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Barnes & Noble

Astraea Press

Review

TheSuperSpiesandtheHighSchoolBomber 500x750The Super Spies and the High School Bomber

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Barnes & Noble

Astraea Press

Review

TheSuperSpiesandthePiedPiper 500x750The Super Spies and the Pied Piper

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Astraea Press

~

And now, on with the interview.

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Lisa, you’ve mentioned being hooked on mysteries from an early age. A lot of authors begin their careers gradually. Was it the same in your case? Or was there a definite point when you said ‘that’s it, I’m going to be a writer now’?

Well, I’ve been writing on and off since fifth grade. But I didn’t pursue publication until I was home with my kids and could devote some time to my writing.

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How did you work out in what genre and what audience you wanted to write for? Did you try other genres?

The mystery/thriller genre was a natural one for me because that’s what I love reading. I chose the Middle Grade/Young Adult age group because I had some of my best memories during those years. You see, I wanted to be a detective like Nancy Drew when I was growing up and my friends and I even formed our own detective squad. J For one whole summer we were investigating an act of vandalism that occurred in our neighborhood. We had a blast even though we didn’t solve the crime. And that summer is one of my best memories of my childhood. I wanted to bring that kind of joy and anticipation to other teens through my stories.

Right now I’m working on a Coming of Age Young Adult Novel and I’m really enjoying how the story is coming together. I can’t wait to get it done. 🙂

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Tell me about your audience, because they are the most important element in your writing life. How did you research their wants, their needs? Do your fans get in contact? Do they ask for specific things from you?

My audience is young boys and girls between the ages of 9-16.  During my research I found that this age group is looking for role models to emulate. I wanted to provide realistic role models which means they sometimes make mistakes. I did this on purpose to illustrate to this age group that a mistake is actually a valuable learning experience. And I wanted them to learn that it’s okay to make mistakes because we survive them. They need to learn this so they’ll have confidence in their decision making abilities.

I do interact with my fans usually during writing workshops that I organize or speaking engagements. They’re a lot of fun! I love the enthusiasm these young people have and it’s quite contagious. They don’t really ask for anything specific…usually just when my next book is coming out…that type of thing.

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So, let’s take it from the beginning. How would one of your writing days go? You wake up… and then what?

I wake up and get the kids off to school. After that I do some promoting via social media. From there I write until I get so hungry that I have to eat. After I’m done with lunch I’ll either write some more or go for a run or a walk (depends on my mood). When I’m done with that I’ll clean up and do some more writing. Then pick the kids up at the bus stop. After that I get them something to eat and race around the house like a mad woman trying to get some housework done so I can write some more. (I hate housework.)

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Do you work from a well-defined plan? Do you outline? I suppose mysteries can’t be just left to chance, can they?

I am a pantser so I don’t work from an outline. That being said though, I usually know the beginning of a story and its ending. But the middle is where I let the characters take the wheel. I put them in situations and see how they get themselves out. It’s a lot of fun to write this way and it leads to interesting twists and turns in my stories.

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I could tell from the quality of your writing that you absolutely love your characters. How do you make your characters so real? Do you model them on real people?

My characters appear so real because I do model them after real people to a certain degree. During my teen years, I had some great friends and I have very fond memories of them. So, I used those memories and created characters based on some of those friends. 🙂 And that’s why Sarah and Jackie’s friendship seems so natural and effortless because back in those days friendships were like that.

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Writing for a young audience carries a whole lot of responsibility, and you’ve certainly shown them great understanding and respect. What are the most important things to bear in mind when writing for young adults?

I think the most important thing to bear in mind is that you don’t want to condone negative behavior such as bullying. Remember, this age group is looking for someone to emulate and that’s another reason I chose a strong female lead that fights for victims who can’t fight for themselves.

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How do you get the ideas for your books? What inspires you?

The inspiration behind my books is usually a certain message that I want to communicate. To communicate that message I create a story that’s compelling so that the reader will continue reading and will learn the life lesson right along with the characters. That’s what inspires me.

I recently had a mother tell me that she read my first book right along with her daughter, and it sparked a conversation on “What would you do if you were in a similar situation.” That really made my day because my book helped strengthen the mother/ daughter bond.

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All writers face challenges in their careers. Would you mind telling us what was the one obstacle you’ve really had to work hard to overcome, so you could follow your dream?

I would have to say dealing with the rejection that is inevitable in this business. What I did when I received a rejection from an agent or a publisher is that I would respond back and ask them why they didn’t like the story. Most of them ignored my question but one agent did respond back and she gave me that “golden nugget” I needed to change my story and make it better. I followed her advice and was offered a contract by the first publisher that read the story.

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You’ve recently released the third in the Super Spies series. Is this the end of the line for them? If no, what are you planning for them next? If yes, what are you planning to write next?

No, this is not the end of the line for the Super Spies. I’ve got an idea for a fourth story that I’m going to start fleshing out soon and I’m also working on a coming of age young adult story.

~

10 Quick-fire Questions with Lisa Orchard

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1) Bikini – stripes or polka dot?

Stripes

2) Holiday – mountain or seaside?

Seaside

3) Time off – solitude or a houseful?

Solitude

4) Children – individuals or carbon copies of yourself?

Definitely individuals

5) Fears – shark or spider?

Shark

6) Entertainment – book or movie?

It depends on my mood. I love to read, but I also love a great movie.

7) Food – steak or salad?

Steak

 8) Best day – relaxed or busy?

 Relaxed

9) Best feature – speed or wisdom?

 Well I’d love to say I have wisdom…but I’m not sure everyone would agree! LOL

10) Best pick-me-up – chocolate or ice-cream?

 Again I’d have to say it depends on my mood. I love chocolate and I love ice cream…maybe the best answer is chocolate ice cream! 🙂

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Get in contact with Lisa Orchard by clicking on the links below:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lisa-Orchard/328536613877060?ref=hl

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lisaorchard1

Website:  http://www.lisaorchard.com/

 
17 Comments

Posted by on June 5, 2013 in Author Interviews, Guest Posts

 

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Spotlight on Lisa Orchard – Part IV and a New Release!

 

20111210_ABS_1296[1]

Welcome to part four of my series of posts on Lisa Orchard. Today I was supposed to sit down with Lisa and ask her around a million questions. I’ll still do that, but not until next week. Why? Because we have a surprise for you. The release of book three in the Super Spies series has been brought forward, so I can’t skip over the opportunity to have a nice good look at it. I’ll be sharing. Read on.

Lisa Orchard grew up loving books. She was hooked on mysteries by the fifth grade and even wrote a few of her own. She knew she wanted to be a writer even then.  “The Super Spies and the High School Bomber” is the second book in the “Super Spies” series. Her first book was published in March of 2012 and it has received rave reviews.

 

After graduating from Central Michigan University with a Marketing Degree she spent many years in the insurance industry, pining to express her creative side.  The decision to stay home with her children gave her the opportunity to follow her dream and become a writer. She currently resides in Rockford Michigan with her husband, Steve, and two wonderful boys. Currently, she’s working on the third novel that stars the same quirky teens. When she’s not writing she enjoys spending time with her family, running, hiking, and reading.

~~~

TheSuperSpiesandthePiedPiper 500x750The Super Spies and the Pied Piper

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Astraea Press

Description: Sarah Cole and her sister Lacey are at it once again when they learn their missing parents’ cell phone has been traced to Alden, Michigan. When the FBI declines to continue the investigation, Sarah takes matters into her own hands. She calls upon the Super Spies and they delve into the situation.
Suddenly, the teens find themselves immersed in small town intrigue and mystery involving a menacing stranger, who Sarah dubs “The Stalker.” But when Sarah learns he’s connected to her parents’ disappearance, she’s determined to find out what that connection is. The Super Spies embark on a journey that leads them into a web of corporate corruption at its highest level that leaves innocent victims in its wake. Can they find the proof they need to stop the greedy corporation before it’s too late?

~

Excerpt:

Chapter One 

“What do you mean you lost them?” Sarah Cole fidgeted as she waited for Agent Gray to answer. I can’t believe it! He lost the only clue to our parents’ location. What is wrong with this picture? Agitated, Sarah shifted in her seat and chewed on her lip. She was uncomfortable in the folding chair and rearranged her petite frame so she wouldn’t feel the cold metal against her bare legs. Shivering, she glanced around the all-too-familiar room.

The gray cement block walls no longer gave her that creepy, closed-in feeling she’d used to get when she first came to the interrogation rooms. She remembered the first time she’d been in that tiny space. It had been the day she’d discovered the Cat Lady’s dead body. Sarah shuddered at the memory and then smiled when she remembered forming the Super Spies and bringing the Cat Lady Killer to justice. Glancing around the room again, she realized she’d been in this room quite a bit these last few weeks, not only during the Cat Lady investigation, but the High School Bomber investigation as well. Shivering again, Sarah rubbed her arms but she really wasn’t cold. Her mind filled with the image of the bomber the Super Spies had helped apprehend just a week earlier.

Wow! Was it just last week?

She tugged at a lock of her honey colored hair, then brushed it away with an impatient hand. She sighed and glanced at her younger sister. Lacey sat beside her with her legs crossed, jiggling her foot at such a rapid rate it seemed like her whole body was electrified. She caught Sarah’s eye and for a moment her eyes glittered like emeralds before she shifted her gaze to Aunt June, who had placed her hand on Lacey’s leg in what appeared to be an attempt to quiet her. Sarah shifted in her chair and sighed again. Are we ever going to find Mom and Dad?

A commotion out in the hall drew everyone’s attention. Sarah leaned forward and craned her neck to see what was happening.

“Chief, we’ve got an OD!” An officer yelled.

“What?” Chief Johnson yelled as he rushed by. “An OD on what? Give me the details.”

“The parents found their son unconscious in his room this morning, and an empty bottle of prescription medication on his bedside table.”

“What was it?” Chief Johnson asked.

“It’s Myodine.”

“Who makes it?”

“Ah… Piper Drugs.”

“Call Poison Control with the name and manufacturer and ask them what to do about an overdose. Instruct the parents to get their son to the hospital pronto,” Chief Johnson ordered.

“They’ve brought him here.”

“What?” Chief Johnson exclaimed.

The sound of policemen rushing through the hall pulled Sarah and her sister out of their seats. They hurried to the door, unable to stifle their curiosity. Peering down the corridor, Sarah caught a glimpse of a young man sagging between two officers as they desperately tried to keep him on his feet. One officer gently slapped his face while the other officers held him up. The young man blinked and then gagged, puking on the officer in front of him.

The rancid stench of fresh vomit filled the air. While plugging her nose, Sarah ducked back inside the interrogation room, followed by her sister. Sarah closed the door, hoping it would keep the smell from penetrating the room.

“Did you hear that, Lace? Piper Drugs! That’s the company Dad works for,” Sarah whispered in her sister’s ear before proceeding back to her seat.

Lacey opened her mouth to speak, but closed it when Agent Gray cleared his throat and motioned for them to sit down.

He continued his conversation as if they hadn’t been interrupted. We were on our way to the location of the ping… but before we got there it disappeared.”

“So, what does that mean? Did you find our parents or what?” Sarah blurted out as she sat down. She stared into Agent Gray’s icy blue eyes, trying to read his mind.

~~~

Oh, I so want to read the rest! I also heard the prices of the first two books have been dropped to celebrate the release of book three. Buy links and reviews here:

The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer 500x750

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The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer.

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Barnes & Noble

Astraea Press

TheSuperSpiesandtheHighSchoolBomber 500x750

Review

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The Super Spies and the High School Bomber

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Barnes & Noble

Astraea Press

Review

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Make sure to tune in next week, when I’ll be interviewing Lisa about her writing and exactly how good it feels to inspire a generation of teen readers. Those who know me and my habits will also know there are no standards questions in my interviews. Each one is different, and Lisa’s will be the best yet. There are so many things I want to know!

And if you’d like to get in touch before then, this is where you can find her:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lisa-Orchard/328536613877060?ref=hl

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lisaorchard1

Website:  http://www.lisaorchard.com/

 
 

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Spotlight on Lisa Orchard – Part III

Good morning, my dear friends. Welcome to the third part of my series of posts on my wonderful author friend, Lisa Orchard.

So far, I’ve introduced you to the two books in the Super Spies series, a cleverly-written adventure for young teens. Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but I think book three will be out soon!

In case you missed the first two posts, here are the books, complete with buy links and also links to my reviews.

The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer 500x750The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Barnes & Noble

Astraea Press

TheSuperSpiesandtheHighSchoolBomber 500x750

Review

 

 

 

The Super Spies and the High School Bomber

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Barnes & Noble

Astraea Press

Review

~~~

And now, I’ll pass the microphone over to Lisa, who has asked her characters to explain exactly what it takes to be a Super Spy.

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Hello Everyone! I hope all is well with you! I’m Lisa Orchard and I’m a guest here at Ella’s today. I’m the Middle Grade/Young Adult Author of the Super Spies series and I’ve got my main character Sarah and her sidekick Jackie here to explain the ten things you need to know in order to be a Super Spy. Take it away Sarah and Jackie!

 

“Hello! My name is Sarah Cole. My BFF Jackie and I have written down the ten things you need in order to be a Super Spy. Let me know if you agree, I’d love to hear from you.”

Number One:

Sarah:  “The first thing you need to know is; Super Spies need to keep a low profile. They must blend in…they can’t stand out or draw attention to themselves. That means we don’t wear flashy clothes or gaudy jewelry.”

Jackie: “I totally disagree with this, Sarah. I am a strong believer that being stylish is an asset for everyone, including Super Spies.  In fact, I do believe that it was my fashion sense that has saved us on a number of occasions.”

Sarah:  Rolls her eyes and shakes her head.

spy3

 

Number Two:

Sarah:  “The next skill you need is strong powers of deduction. A Super Spy must be able to look at clues and draw conclusions from them. This is important because the answer to the identity of your villain is in the clues he leaves behind.”

Jackie: “I think a strong sense of fashion is a girl’s most valuable asset. J Sarah’s too cerebral sometimes!”

Sarah: “As if!”

 

Number Three:

Sarah:  “The third item on our list is that a Super Spy must possess the desire to get justice at all costs.  Most of the time the victim’s in a situation where she can’t fight for herself so we must take up the battle for her. The whole Super Spies gang feels this way…”

Jackie:  “I totally agree with Sarah on this one. We fight for victims who can’t fight for themselves.”

 

Number Four:

Sarah:  “Another trait a Spy must have is bravery. We have to put ourselves in dangerous situations in order to find the truth. We feel fear, but our sense of justice prevails and we do what we need to do in spite of it. Lacey, my sister usually has to be convinced…she’s kind of a wimp!”

Jackie:  “I’m going to have to agree with Sarah on this one too. Although, I must say, that Sarah can be kind of impulsive and doesn’t always look at the consequences of her actions.”

Sarah: “What?”  (She looks at Jackie with a puzzled look and shakes her head in disbelief.)

spy1

 

Number Five:

Sarah:  “A Super Spy must also have an inquisitive nature. They must want to know why something happened. This is important because a spy needs to understand the motives of the villain in order to catch him.  I have the most inquisitive nature…it drives Jackie and my sister crazy sometimes but hey what can I say? It’s just the way I am!”

Jackie: “This is totally true. Sarah’s inquisitive nature does drive Lacey and I crazy.”

 

Number Six:

Sarah:  “A Super Spy must also be resourceful. For example, when we were going after the Cat Lady Killer we had to use Jackie’s perfume as a weapon in order to get away. Of course, she never lets me hear the end of it! How her fashion sense saved us. J  This is the reason she’s convinced detectives can be fashionable.”

Jackie: (With a confident nod of her head.)  “Yes, I rest my case. Being fashionable is an asset.”

Sarah: (Shakes her head and rolls her eyes.) “See what I mean?”

 

Number Seven:

Sarah:  “The next item on the list is sneakiness. That’s right; a Super Spy needs to be sneaky in order to spy without getting caught. This is very important, otherwise how would a sleuth be able to overhear private conversations? Sneakiness is one of the most important traits of a spy.  And I must confess I’m pretty sneaky…Jackie and Lacey are learning.”

Jackie:  “I’ll have to agree with Sarah on this one too. Although, I have a suspicion that Sarah’s sneakiness gets us into more trouble than it gets us out of trouble.”

 

spy2Number Eight:

Sarah:  “A Super Spy must also be able to think on her feet. For example, when we were almost caught by the bombers in “The Super Spies and the High School Bomber” Jackie and I were able to think quickly and find a hiding place.  We remained undetected and were able to escape.”

Jackie: (Laughs wryly) “Yeah, I’ll agree with Sarah on this one. Though, I feel that some of the sticky situations we’ve gotten into could have been avoided.”

 

Number Nine:

Sarah:  “Super Spies must also be able to work as a team. When we had to set a trap for the Cat Lady Killer, it took all of us working together to set it. Unfortunately, it backfired. That’s where being able to think on my feet came in handy.”

Jackie: “This is so true. You have to work together to solve the crime. Otherwise, the bad guys win.”

 

Number Ten:

Sarah:  “The last and most important trait a Super Spy must possess is empathy for the victim.  If we can’t empathize with our victims we wouldn’t have the motivation to solve the crime. Luckily, all of the Super Spies have this trait.”

Jackie:  “I totally agree with Sarah on this one. Empathizing with the victim is totally cool beans!”

Sarah: (Deep sigh with an eye roll) “Oh, Jackie. You need to step out of the nineties.”

Jackie: “No way. I like the phrase and I’m sticking with it!”

So there you have it, the top ten traits all Super Spies must possess in order to catch the criminals. How do you think I did? What traits do you think spies should have?  Let me know your thoughts! I’d love to hear from you!

And check out my books! It’s a great series for your tween/teen!

~~~

Well, I certainly learned things I didn’t know before! I’ll be ready, if ever the opportunity arises for me to become a Super Spy.

Make sure to tune in next week, when you’ll be able to learn more about Lisa Orchard’s writing process and get closer to her. Hmm, I wonder if she’ll spill some of the secrets of her third Super Spies book…

And if you’d like to get in touch before then, this is where you can find her:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lisa-Orchard/328536613877060?ref=hl

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lisaorchard1

Website:  http://www.lisaorchard.com/

 

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Spotlight on Lisa Orchard – Part II

20111210_ABS_1296[1]Welcome to Part Two of a series of features on Lisa Orchard.

Last week, I’ve introduced Lisa Orchard, and one of her books, The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer. You’ve read and excerpt and my review of the book. Here’s the link, in case you missed it.

This week I’m going to show you why I loved even more the second book in the series, The Super Spies and the High School Bomber.

~~~

TheSuperSpiesandtheHighSchoolBomber 500x750

The Super Spies and the High School Bomber

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Barnes & Noble

Astraea Press

Description: This book opens in a small town in Michigan where Sarah and her sister Lacey are now living with their Aunt and Uncle. Still reeling from the fact her parents have disappeared, Sarah starts the school year with her new friend Jackie Jenkins. When Sarah learns the school has been bombed, she’s filled with dread. Uncle Walt is a teacher, and he was in the school when the bomb exploded.

Taking matters into her own hands, Sarah decides to search for him. The rest of the Super Spies are right behind her. When a fireman chases them away from the school, Sarah becomes suspicious. She decides to investigate. The FBI arrives on the scene. Sarah realizes this bombing could have even bigger implications. Searching for the bombers, Sarah is introduced to the world of terrorism. She fears that the bombing and her parents’ disappearance are connected and terrorists are involved. To make matters worse, the bombers are determined to finish the job. Can the Super Spies find the bombers before it’s too late?

~~~

Excerpt:

A whoosh of roiling hot air lifted Sarah Cole and flung her against the kitchen wall like a fumbled football. At the same time, the windows burst into millions of pieces, showering everything with tiny shards of glass. Sarah crumpled to the floor, still clutching the phone. She lay there stunned, unable to inhale or exhale.

“Sarah! Sarah!” her younger sister, Lacey, screamed from the bathroom, where she’d been drying her hair.

The ringing in her ears was so intense, Sarah could barely hear her. Groaning, she opened her eyes and saw only red through her right one. Dread rippled through her body.

“Sarah! Sarah!” Lacey cried again.

Sarah dropped the phone, and put her hand up to her eye. She fingered the area gently before pulling her hand away. Blood. “Lacey,” she croaked, unable to manage more than that.

“Sarah! Where are you?”

“The kitchen,” Sarah said, finally able to breathe. She blinked her eyes twice and her vision cleared. Relief flooded her body and she wilted against the floor.

“Holy Moley!” Lacey shrieked.

Sarah jumped at the sound of her voice. She didn’t realize Lacey had come up the stairs and into the kitchen. The ringing in her ears was almost gone.

“You’re bleeding!”

“No kidding,” Sarah said, covering her right eye with her hand and glaring at Lacey with her uncovered one. She brushed her shoulder length blonde hair away from her face and gasped at the blood running down her arm.

“We’ve got to get you to the hospital!” Lacey screamed in a voice edged with hysteria.

“Stop freaking out!” Sarah gave Lacey the old one-eyed glare again.

“Sarah, there’s blood everywhere,” her sister whimpered as she wrung her hands. She gazed around her. “What happened? Did our furnace blow up or something?”

“I don’t think so.” Sarah shook her head, dust particles and slivers of glass cascaded to the floor. She furrowed her brow and absentmindedly brushed off her clothes. “I think something exploded outside. Help me up.”

Lacey held out her hand to Sarah and pulled her into a sitting position.

Blinking, Sarah gazed around the kitchen. On most days it was a sunny room with pineapple wallpaper and pine cabinets. It was the most popular room in the house—everyone congregated there during the holidays. Sarah blinked again. Dust floated through the air and glass littered the yellow linoleum floor. She groaned and turned her attention to her arm.

As she examined the blood running down it, another wave of panic flooded through her body. Sarah’s legs wobbled when she stood and she stumbled as she reached for a kitchen towel that lay on the counter. She used the soft cloth to blot her eye. When she pulled the towel away, she was shocked to see the amount of blood that had soaked into it. Sarah gulped, trying to swallow her fear as beads of sweat broke out on her forehead.

With unsteady feet, Sarah stumbled into the hall where a mirror hung.

She was afraid to look. Taking some deep breaths, she stared into the cracked mirror and noticed a cut in her eyebrow. The amount of blood that seeped from the cut was enormous compared to its small size.

Lacey walked past Sarah on her way to the den. The crunch of glass under her sister’s feet caught Sarah’s attention, and she sighed. Thank goodness we had our shoes on. A wave of relief washed over her body and she exhaled another deep sigh. The girls had been getting ready for school when the windows exploded and covered everything with glass.

“Sarah, come here! You’ve got to see this!” Lacey yelled.

Sarah whirled around and spotted her sister walking from the den—her eyes were round and full of shock.

“I think all the windows have been smashed. Come and look.”

Holding the towel against her cut, Sarah followed her into the den. “Holy crap!”

She gazed into the room. Shards of glass covered the furniture and the floor. The sun streamed through the window, shining on the jagged bits embedded in the carpet. It appeared as if tiny diamonds were buried within the fibers.

“What in the world happened?”

Sarah shook her head. “I have no idea.”

The shrill ring of the phone made Sarah jump. She dashed back to the kitchen and found the phone where she had dropped it earlier.

“Hello?”

“Sarah?”

“Jackie?”

“Yeah, it’s me.” Jackie’s voice eased some of the tension in Sarah’s body. Jackie Jenkins was her best friend. They had met when Sarah and her sister moved in with their aunt and uncle three months earlier.

Sarah glanced down at her legs and for the first time saw tiny nicks where she had been hit by flying glass. She bent down and examined the cuts further. They were not deep, and were already clotting.

“All of our windows exploded! Do you know what’s going on?” Sarah asked.

“There was an explosion at the high school.”

~~~

Review:

If you thought The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer was a lovely read, wait until you read The Super Spies and the High School Bomber. As YA mysteries go, you can’t do much better.

In this new instalment of the Spies’ adventures, things are a bit darker and much more serious. Sarah and Lacey’s parents seem to have disappeared in mysterious circumstances, so they’re stuck at their aunt and uncle’s for the time being. When a bomb explodes during a teachers’ meeting at the high school, of course our heroes feel compelled to investigate.

In a way, the plot splits into two possible mysteries, only one of which is solved in this book. I have a feeling the other will form the subject of a future book, and yes, I am resigned to waiting patiently until I can read that one, too. Hurry up and write, Lisa Orchard, I need to find out what happened there.

The writing style is just as easy to follow, and the dialogues are so much fun. Because of the seriousness of the crime, the FBI gets involved in the investigation, and Sarah puts her newly acquired negotiating and people skills to the test by forging a relationship with the fibbies.

There’s more action, more danger and more pressure for the Spies to get to the end of this mystery. The pacing is brilliant. The only thing that I would have expected was to find out what happened with the missing parents, but that would have made this book way too long. I like the way the Spies are being introduced to other people’s emotions and the knowledge and understanding that comes from being aware of a different perspective on life. That is a part of every person’s development at some point in their existence, and it’s beautifully done here.

A very good choice for young adults, even for those not in their teens yet. There’s enough variety in vocabulary use to encourage a young person’s development without making the story hard to understand. The overall package is a very well put-together novel, full of action and adventure, and modern enough to be appealing to young readers. A very well-deserved five stars from me, and a wholehearted recommendation.

~~~

If you’d like to get in touch with Lisa Orchard, here’s how to do it:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lisa-Orchard/328536613877060?ref=hl

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lisaorchard1

Website:  http://www.lisaorchard.com/

Don’t forget to return next week, when the Super Spies themselves will be explaining exactly what it takes to be a Super Spy.

 

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Spotlight on Lisa Orchard – Part I

Welcome to Part One of a series of features on Lisa Orchard.

I met Lisa through social media, and read two of her books. I have to tell you right here and now, after the first I couldn’t wait to read the second. I should have sorted out some work issues, but everything got dumped as unimportant whilst I pursued my need to read some more. And here’s the funny thing: both books are YA. And not just YA, but young-young. I’m not sure of the exact ‘audience’ in the US, but in the UK children as young as nine would happily read and enjoy them. I did, too. What does that say about me? Yes, I’m a child at heart.

Ok, I know your time is precious, so I won’t keep you waiting one second longer. Read on to learn more about Lisa Orchard, The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer, read an excerpt and my review. I’ve tacked some links to the end of the post, too, and please come back next week for the second instalment on Lisa Orchard.

20111210_ABS_1296[1]Lisa Orchard grew up loving books. She was hooked on mysteries by the fifth grade and even wrote a few of her own. She knew she wanted to be a writer even then.  “The Super Spies and the High School Bomber” is the second book in the “Super Spies” series. Her first book was published in March of 2012 and it has received rave reviews.

After graduating from Central Michigan University with a Marketing Degree she spent many years in the insurance industry, pining to express her creative side.  The decision to stay home with her children gave her the opportunity to follow her dream and become a writer. She currently resides in Rockford Michigan with her husband, Steve, and two wonderful boys. Currently, she’s working on the third novel that stars the same quirky teens. When she’s not writing she enjoys spending time with her family, running, hiking, and reading.

The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer 500x750

The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Barnes & Noble

Astraea Press

Description: This book opens in a small town in Michigan where fifteen-year-old Sarah Cole is stuck spending the summer at her Aunt and Uncle’s with her sister, Lacey. She’s not happy with the situation until she befriends a girl named Jackie. The three girls stumble upon the ruthless murder of a reclusive neighborhood woman.

One of the officers investigating the crime believes the girls are responsible for her death. Fearing that this officer will frame them for the murder, the girls organize their own detective squad. They become the Super Spies and start their own fact-finding mission.

The Super Spies can’t understand why anyone would want to murder the “Cat Lady” until they start digging into her past and discover a horrible crime that happened thirty years ago. They uncover a connection between the two crimes and attempt to bring this information to the police, only to be reprimanded for meddling in the inquest. Not only are the girls upset by the admonition, but they also struggle with the fact that their exuberant investigating could provide a legal loophole allowing the killer to go free. To make matters worse, the police don’t even believe them. Frustrated by this turn of events, the Super Spies realize it’s up to them to snare the Cat Lady killer, or die trying…

~~~

Excerpt

The house sat hunkered down as if it were tensed to spring like a cat stalking a mouse. Sarah shuddered at the thought of going up on the porch and she chewed on her thumbnail.

Looking behind her, Sarah studied the church facing the Cat Lady’s home. It was a strong structure built of huge stones. She could tell it was as old as the town itself and its presence made her feel safe. Motioning for Jackie and Lacey to follow her, she moved from the sidewalk to the huge oak tree growing on the church’s lawn. The girls hid behind it, peeking out at the witch’s home.

“Are you still going to do it?” Jackie teased.

“Yep.”

“Do you think she’s inside?” Lacey asked wide-eyed.

Sarah smirked at her. “Where else would she be? I hear she never leaves her house.”

“Be nice.” Jackie smacked Sarah’s arm.

“What are you waiting for? Are you afraid of the witch?” Lacey asked as she stared at the house.

“She’s not a witch. She’s just a freak, that’s all.”

“Well, if she’s not …then what are you waiting for?” Jackie snickered.

“I just want to make sure the coast is clear.”

“Hey, you guys, look at all the cats,” Lacey whispered. She pointed at the clusters of felines lolling about on the porch and walking in the yard. “There has to be at least twenty of them.”

“Yeah, that’s why she’s called the Cat Lady.” Sarah rolled her eyes and then felt the sting from Jackie’s slap.

“Do you think she put a spell on those cats?” Lacey asked with a wide-eyed expression, twirling her hair with her finger.

“Could be,” Sarah snickered. “Or maybe she just…you know…gives them food.”

“Knock it off, Sarah,” Lacey glared at her sister.

Sarah stuck her tongue out at her. “Okay, I’m going for it. I’ll meet you back here.”

“Cool beans,” Jackie said.

“Cool beans? Is this town still in the nineties?” Sarah teased.

“Shut up.” Jackie smacked her arm again.

“This is physical abuse.” Sarah rubbed her arm, trying to appear injured.

Jackie laughed. “Be thankful I like hanging out with you.”

“All I have to do is ring her doorbell, right?” Sarah poked her head out from behind the tree. She noticed the tomato pulp still clinging to the siding and peered up and down the street for the notorious Wykowski boys.

“That’s right,” Jackie chuckled.

Sarah took a deep breath and sprinted across the street. She stopped at the porch stairs. A group of cats were sunning themselves on the steps—they meowed at her as if they were hungry. Jumping when one of them rubbed against her legs, she bent down and stroked its back, never taking her eyes off of the house.

Sarah petted the cat, while she worked up the courage to climb the stairs. She heard the loud purr of the contented feline and it eased her anxiety. All of a sudden, she felt a hand squeeze her arm. Her heart leapt in her chest and she let out a yelp.

Turning, she spied Jackie. “I almost peed my pants!”

Jackie giggled.

“What are you doing here?” Sarah muttered and gave Jackie the evil eye.

“I couldn’t stay behind the tree and miss all the action.”

Sarah glanced around her and pointed to some overgrown bushes in front of the porch. “You can hide over there.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Sarah spied her sister running toward them and stifled a groan.

“I didn’t want to stand by myself,” Lacey whimpered, slightly out of breath. She tugged nervously on the hem of her T-shirt as she eyed the house.

Sarah groaned and her shoulders slumped as if she carried a heavy burden. She sighed and pointed at the bushes again. “You hide over there with Jackie and be quiet.”

Sarah waited until the other girls were out of sight, and then climbed the stairs. Stopping when she reached the porch, Sarah took some deep breaths before stepping onto the sagging stoop. Stepping gingerly, she hoped the porch would support her.  Her stomach clenched when it groaned. She took another step and then another, the porch complaining with every footfall. Halfway across the stoop, she heard the girls behind the bushes.

“She’s almost to the door.” Lacey said in a low voice.

Sarah bit her lip, stifling the disapproving remark dancing on the tip of her tongue. Instead, she turned and glared at the bushes, willing its occupants to shut up. She made eye contact with Jackie, who quickly ducked behind the shrubs, pulling Lacey with her.

What in the world is she doing?” Lacey asked.

“Shhh,” Jackie responded.

Sarah shook her head and continued her journey. She felt Jackie and Lacey watching her as she crept toward the door. Reaching the entryway, she was surprised to find the storm door wide open. The only barrier between the Cat Lady and the rest of the world was a flimsy screen door hanging askew on its hinges.

Alarm bells rang in Sarah’s head—this has got to be out of character for someone who never leaves their home. She turned back and whispered to the other girls. “Hey!”

Jackie poked her head out. “What?”

“The storm door’s open.”

“So?”

“So…what do I do?”

“Duh…Ring the door bell.”

Sarah shrugged and pushed the doorbell. It let out an irritating buzz and she had the feeling it had been broken long ago and never fixed. She dashed down the stairs.  The cats scattered, alarmed by the sudden activity. Reaching the shrubs, Sarah hid with her sister and Jackie.

Gasping for breath, Sarah waited for a reaction from the old woman. Her heart pummeled her ribs and she pressed her hand to her chest to calm it.

After a few minutes, Sarah started to pace. “Well…nothing’s happened.” She peeked out from behind the shrub and saw the screen door hanging ajar. “I bet she’s not even home. I’m going to try again.”

Jackie shrugged. “Be careful, remember she’s a witch.”

Sarah shook her head, and then peered out from behind the shrubs. Once again, she climbed the stairs. She was braver this time and it didn’t take her as long to make it to the door.

She looked inside, her heart lurching in her chest. She tiptoed to the picture window and peered through it. Gasping, she ran back to the entryway. Pulling it open, she lunged inside.

Sarah stared, unable to tear herself away.  Shock ran through her body like an electrical current as she eyed the scene before her. The crumpled form of the Cat Lady lay on the living room floor, just inside the door. No life flickered in the old woman’s staring eyes. Her mouth gaped open in a silent scream and her hands were up around her head as if she were warding off blows. Turning away, Sarah gagged as the coppery scent of blood assaulted her. There was blood splattered everywhere, on the wall, on the carpet and under the Cat Lady’s body.

Suddenly, Sarah’s throat constricted and she gasped for breath. Fearing she would faint, she stumbled back out the door and collided with Jackie and Lacey on the porch.

Jackie grabbed Sarah’s arm and shook her. “What are you doing? Are you crazy? I never said to go inside!”

Sarah didn’t speak—she just stared blankly at the porch.

Jackie shook her again. “Are you under the Cat Lady’s spell?”

Lacey whimpered. “Hey, Sarah….can you hear me? Sarah?”

“She’s under the Cat Lady’s spell,” Jackie said waving her hand in front of Sarah’s eyes.

“Oh my—,” Sarah moaned and clutched Jackie’s arm.

“What is it?” Jackie shook her again. “Speak…say something!”

“Th-th-the C-C-Cat Lady, sh-sh-she’s,” Sarah stuttered.

“She’s what?” Jackie demanded.

“Sh-she’s dead.”

~~~

Review

The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer is a delightful YA mystery which has kept me entranced right from the very beginning. Yes, I know I hardly qualify as the target audience for this novel, but I forget my age when I read books. In many ways, The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer is like Harry Potter without wands.

The descriptions were perfect – not too much, but good enough to form a clear picture. I could see the ugly ‘face’ of the Cat Lady’s house, the willow with its drooping branches and the creek flowing nearby. The action moved smoothly on, increasing in pace again and again. Very good voice and clear narrative make this a clever choice for young readers.

Characterization was brilliant. I could picture Sarah and her younger sister – their voices distinct, despite their closeness – and Jackie, Sarah’s fashion-conscious friend. I’m not aware exactly how the details of their appearance came to settle in my brain, but I feel confident I could sketch them, if I could sketch at all. The ‘baddies’ were well described, too, and Sarah’s aunt and uncle were exactly what one would expect a protective aunt and uncle to be like.

I enjoyed the dialogues – clear, flowing, intelligent, and with a sprinkling of humour. This is the sort of book that would encourage any reluctant teen reader to pick up a book again. It’s engaging and fun. The protagonists don’t always follow the rules – what teen ever does? – but their moral compass is solid, and their intentions are always good. They are role models worth following, clever and resourceful, even when their knees shake in fright.

A delectable YA novel, full of fun and adventure, The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer fully deserves five shiny stars. Loved reading it. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

~~~

If you’d like to get in touch with Lisa Orchard, here’s how to do it:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lisa-Orchard/328536613877060?ref=hl

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lisaorchard1

Website:  http://www.lisaorchard.com/

Don’t forget to return next week, when I’ll be revealing all about the Super Spies’ next adventure.

 

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