Cover Reveal: The Bug Boys by Stewart Hoffman


Up next is a middle-grade science fiction novel called The Bug Boys by Stewart Hoffman. It can be found on Book Club Reading List.

A quiet South Yorkshire village called Rossolington becomes the origin point for the world’s latest superheroes, The Bug Boys! Two regular kids, Alex Adams and Ian Harris, get embroiled in an ancient alien research project and become the heroes their village never needed.

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Book review: The House of Baric Part One: Shields Down

Shields Down Digital Front-smallerI have finally finished The House of Baric Part One: Shields Down! This historical fiction novel by Jillian Bald can be found on Book Club Reading List. Now, I say “finally” because I have been diligently working on it for the better part of a month. It is quite long, but very entertaining!


Resi is a girl from Greece whose father arranges her marriage to a Croatian baron’s son to keep the peace after a trading deal goes awry. Betrothed from a young age, Resi is unsure of her future. She doesn’t want to marry a stranger and live far from her family in a foreign land. When she is finally sent for to fulfill the marriage contract, she moves to Croatia with her best friend Ruby to keep her company. Her new husband, Baron Mauro Baric, is not what she expected. The House of Baric: Shields Down explores their first two years of marriage, getting to know each other and discovering they might actually like each other. The reader gets to know a colorful cast of characters and becomes immersed in 17th-century life in Croatia.


If you love historical fiction, this book is for you! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Historical fiction is my favorite way to learn history. I cannot get through dry history books; I literally fall asleep every time. But historical fiction? Sign me up! I love learning about the past, what life was like, how things were different from the world I live in today, and historical fiction teaches history by immersing the reader in that period. The House of Baric did a great job at fully depicting its world, 17th-century Croatia, a time and place I have never learned much about. Bravo to Jillian Bald for the sheer amount of research I’m sure she did to accurately write in such a setting.

The writing is very strong, descriptive and sophisticated. It was long, but easy to read.

I very much enjoyed the characters and getting in each of their heads. I loved Resi and thought she was very brave in accepting the terms of her marriage and making the best of it. She is a very intelligent woman with a strong spine who isn’t afraid to stand up for herself or others she thinks are being mistreated.


The main problem I had with this book is that I didn’t feel like as much was accomplished during the story as should have been, given how long it was. It is definitely a slow-moving, descriptive book, which is fine, but there were events that I kept expecting to get to only to have the plot derailed by something else. For example, we learn early on that Resi has been communicating with her favorite brother, a mercenary who has not gotten along well with Mauro in past years. Her brother will be in the area and wants to come for a visit. Naturally, I expected this highly anticipated event would cover at least a portion of the rest of the book. Instead, unexpected visitors show up at the Baric household, then Mauro’s ship is confiscated by the government, there’s a ball and a camp out on the beach… All entertaining parts of the book, but then Part One ends just as Resi’s brother shows up. I guess that’s meant to be motivation to read the next book in the series, but I’m a little annoyed that I was waiting for the confrontation with the brother for so long and didn’t even get to read it.


This is definitely a book for all historical fiction lovers! I wish I could go on a Mediterranean cruise or something now. Lounge on the beach, gaze into crystal clear waters, and curl up with a good book. Doesn’t that sound amazing? This book put me in that mood! It is a little on the long side and definitely has passages that could be trimmed down, but The House of Baric Part One: Shields Down is a quality, worthwhile read. Be prepared to take your time to savor all it has to offer.

4 out of 5 stars

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Author Interview: Jillian Bald

Jillian BaldHere’s my interview with Jillian Bald, author of The House of Baric Part One: Shields Down. I found this good tale on Book Club Reading List.

How did you come up with the idea for this book?

In the beginning, it was a simpler story about a girl sent away to a new land for an arranged marriage. I had planned to tell the story from her perspective. The ideas that I began outlining were more back stories of her husband, Mauro Baric, and from there, the stories about those living at the Baric castle. Resi and her journey are still prominent, but I ended up focusing on the men in the books more than I originally thought I would. I am happy with this choice, though.

Who is your favorite character?

All of my characters are dear to me in their own way, but I have taken special care of Jero in the books. His role will grow as the trilogy progresses, and I have had fun with his struggles. You might expect me to say Mauro or Resi, but Jero is my number one.

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

I hope I did not base any of my characters on real people. We have all had a friend like Fabian or Isabella at some point in our lives (maybe we are like them ourselves, and not like the more serious Mauro). I decided on a few personality and physical traits for each of my characters, and, weirdly, the people in my book sort of took on their own voices.

Describe your writing process.

I write notes down on my tablet in chucks of ideas, always out of sequence, but I organize these pieces of the story into a storyboard on my computer. I save every idea, even if it is just a sentence at a time. In the end, half are thrown away, but the other half is in the book. Before I wrote the first draft, I did a lot of research for The House of Baric for the setting and culture. When it comes to actual writing, I begin at chapter one and take the story in its order. I am always ready to move little plotlines around and edit, edit, edit.

Who are some authors who have influenced you?Shields Down Digital Front-smaller

I have been influenced by many writers. For entertaining romances, I have a lot of books by Julie Garwood in my collection. I have read a lot of early John Irving novels. He has something to say with his storytelling, and I like that in a book. I am a fan of Hugh Howey. He is a newer author, and I like his writing style and his story choices. I do like the classics. I am a bit old-school in my preference for formal punctuation, semi-colons, and long sentences in the writing of Tolkien or Jane Austen. Their original readers had not traveled far from home, and they had to create the world for their audience in pages of descriptive writing that must have taken great patience to perfect.

What made you want to become an author?

I have some flexibility in my schedule at this point in my life, and I had some stories twirling in my head. I am not a full-time author yet, but that is my goal. I have been writing for several years now, and it is a wonderful, creative outlet that gives me a lot of satisfaction.

What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

“Unplug” from the distractions of your electronic world and listen to the “voices” in your head. Write down what they say at the time, or you will never remember that brilliant thought. Trust your instincts. Read your dialogue out loud, like a play, to be sure the conversation is natural and you are keeping true to the different voices. Be prepared that it takes a long time to write and edit a decent story, but even longer to publish and market a book.

Thank you, Jillian!! I’m also a bit old-school in my preference for semi-colons and the classics. Readers, watch for my review of The House of Baric Part One: Shields Down, coming soon!

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Cover Reveal: The House of Baric Part One: Shields Down

Shields Down Digital Front-smallerThe House of Baric Part One: Shields Down is a historical fiction novel by Jillian Bald. I found this tale on Book Club Reading List.

Set in the Venetian Empire’s colony of Croatia at the end of the Thirty Years’ War, “Shields Down” introduces you to the young nobleman Mauro Baric. Mauro was the last of his family bloodline. With the sudden death of his father, Mauro unhappily took his title as the baron of the House of Baric. His first duty to his family in this new role was to marry and make an heir.

Resi Kokkinos was not interested in marrying an aristocrat any more than Mauro wanted a common, Ottoman Greek girl as his bride. Betrothed as children to repay Resi’s father’s debt to the Barics, the two had no choice in their paired future together.

Life for Resi and her Greek companion, Ruby Spiros, was dull while her soldiering husband and his small army were often away protecting the Venetian Empire’s borders. Even while home, Mauro found little time for his new bride. Disappointed in each other, they questioned just who they had been matched with. Resi’s servants Verica, Jero, Idita, and Nela tried to make her feel at home as the new mistress of the House of Baric.

The Baric’s story takes flight after the young couple’s first wedding anniversary. Unexpected visitors arrive at the castle and add a new dimension to their predictable lives in Solgrad. Mishaps and adventures are a part of living, and Resi and her husband will have their share. After some time and togetherness, the two could no longer deny that their arrangement was more than tolerable.

You are a fly-on- the-wall following Mauro and Resi, their soldiers, servants, and friends of the House of Baric during one pivotal summer in 1649. All are destined for arranged marriages and fixed stations in life. Is there room for happiness? Hiding behind the high Baric castle walls, can they avoid their allotted fates? In book one of this engaging trilogy, you will discover, as they do, that it is not so easy.

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Book Review: Waterwight by Laurel McHargue

waterwightI’ve finished Laurel McHargue’s Waterwight. What a fun read!! I found this gem on Book Club Reading List.


After a catastrophe only known as “the Event”, Celeste escapes from a home for orphans with little to no memory of what happened to her parents. Determined to learn the truth, Celeste embarks on an adventure to save what’s left of the world from an ever-growing ocean of toxic ooze. Guided by a mountain spirit and befriended by a giant, flying frog, Celeste must learn how to live in this changed world devoid of adults where children have started getting supernatural powers. Hunted by a murderous shape-shifter, will Celeste uncover the mystery behind the ooze before the rest of the world is overcome?


I thought this was such a creative take on a post-apocalyptic world. I’m not sure I’ve ever read one where the children were the only survivors. Throw in supernatural powers and you’ve got a really interesting story. I think the characters were well-developed; my favorite is Orville, the French, flying frog. Who knew a frog could be so overwhelmingly charming?? I am dying to know how his story continues in the next book!

The supernatural powers that start manifesting in the children are so cool and varied. Mind reading, flying, invisibility, time-stopping, visions, super-strength…I could go on.

A huge strength to this book is the driving mystery. Where did this ooze come from? What exactly happened during the Event and what caused it? There’s a dreamlike quality throughout that makes the book feel very magical.


There were times when the traveling of various characters got a bit tedious. Celeste has to fly across the ocean a couple of times and I think those parts could have been sped up or condensed further. But otherwise there weren’t many weaknesses!


This is a definite must read! Especially for the YA or middle school audience. Fun characters with superpowers and fast-moving, interesting plot, this is a book you won’t want to miss!

5 stars

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Laurel loves to hear from her readers! Contact her on Book Club Reading List or on Facebook

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Author Interview: Laurel McHargue

Laurel McHargue

Laurel is the author of Waterwight (review coming soon) and “Miss?”. Both titles can be found on Book Club Reading List.

How did you come up with the idea for Waterwight? 

I woke from a dream (on my Mum’s 86th birthday) in which I was running away from bad guys and had to fly across a large body of water. Halfway across, I started to fall. A flying frog came out of nowhere and said, “Grab hold!” I did, and he got me safely to the other side of the water and then died in my arms! I shared that dream with a friend and she said, “Oh my gosh! You HAVE to write a story about that!” The rest poured out of me!

Who is your favorite character? Why?

I’d have to say Orville is my favorite character because not only is “he” the one who inspired the whole story, his evolution in the story continues to fascinate me. I’m not done with him yet! There will be more challenges for him in the rest of the series. I can’t give away any more!

Did you base any of your characters on real people? 

I used the names of real people (mostly children) I know or met while writing Book I, and in most cases, I used the superpowers they told me they’d want as inspiration for scenes.

What made you want to write in this genre?

I coached high school writing groups for several years while I was teaching English and after I left teaching, several of my students were writing fantasy adventure. I thought I might try the genre “someday,” but it was the dream and my friend’s suggestion that pushed the “DO IT NOW” button in my brain! I plan to write in as many genres as possible over the course of my lifetime because each one presents a unique challenge, and I do love challenges!

Did you have to do any research for Waterwight? What kind?

I did some basic research on the characteristics of the different animals you’ll encounter in Waterwight because I didn’t want anyone to say, “They don’t do that!” Of course, I didn’t find any evidence that frogs fly, but the stuff I DID find out about frogs really helped me to describe many of the scenes in which Orville plays a key role.

What can you tell us about your plans for the sequel? How long until book 2?

I’m working on the sequel now and have told people it will be done by the end of this year. YIKES! I have a lot of work to do, especially since I’m working on several other books at the same time. By the time you publish this interview, “Haikus Can Amuse! 366 Haiku Starters” should be available! But I’m really excited about the new world the Waterwight characters will have to explore in books II and III, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to deliver on my due date.

Tell us about your journey to becoming an author. Where have you found the most success or difficulty?

I’ve been our family storyteller since I was a youngster, and my friends would tell me I should write books. I journaled through my high school years, but didn’t keep it up regularly while I was in the Army and raising children. I started journaling again during my first year of teaching 7th grade English in a difficult school because I couldn’t believe what I was experiencing each day, and those journals provided the details for my first novel—“Miss?”—which is a loosely fictionalized account of that year.

I’m still working on the “success” aspect of writing (in terms of being able to make a living), but I do believe I’ve been greatly successful because of the feedback I get from my readers! There’s nothing more rewarding (well, I suppose money would add to the “reward”!) than having total strangers tell you they couldn’t put your book down.

The difficult part is in establishing the workday routine. As an Indie author, you’ve got to make writing your full time job. If I didn’t have a spouse with a job that paid the bills, I don’t believe I’d make that time for myself, so I consider myself to be very fortunate. My dream is to tell him someday, “You can retire now, darlin’! I’ll pay the bills!” (At least I have a pretty good record of crazy dreams!)

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

Make writing your full time job. And don’t wait to find an agent! Publish yourself, and get your work out there!

Thank you, Laurel! Readers, watch for my review of Waterwight coming soon!

Laurel loves to hear from her readers! Contact her on Book Club Reading List

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Cover reveal: Waterwight by Laurel McHargue


I’m so excited for my next book! I’ve read Laurel McHargue’s work before and I love her writing style. I know Waterwight is going to be a winner! Waterwight can be found on Book Club Reading List.

“Mustn’t. Just mustn’t. Now run along and be a good girl like the others . . .”

But the protagonist in Waterwight isn’t like the others. She’s done with being shunned by those who refuse to discuss “The Event,” the global catastrophe that changed the planet, left them orphans, and continues to pose a threat to frightened survivors.

Celeste has been troubled by bizarre dreams and nightmares while living in the children’s home, and shortly after running away one night in search of answers, she questions her sanity when it appears she can communicate with animals. Delighted in other evolving powers, especially her ability to fly, she nevertheless questions a mysterious mountain spirit’s challenge that she must find the key to stopping the water–a silvery-pink, stinking ooze that destroys everything in its path.

But Celeste has no idea how to do it or why she’s the one who must find the answer.

She also doesn’t know why a wicked shapeshifter wants to kill her.

A flying frog, Orville, saves her from certain death and becomes her guardian as she navigates to a village of superstitious survivors on the other side of “the big water.” There, she finds other young people with emerging superpowers; they are kept isolated and in fear, though, by one old lady who disciplines the survivors.

Meanwhile, the planet continues to change in horrible ways.

Although Old Man Massive tells her she must hide her true identity, he also reminds her to “never forget who you are.” Celeste must discover who she is to save the planet.

Waterwight: Book I of the Waterwight Series is the first book in a new fantasy adventure series. If you’re looking for a fantastical escape from reality, a fun, fast read for vacation, a new novel for advanced grade school readers, a little mystery and a lot of suspense—then Waterwight just might be for you! The novel is complete with an extensive synonym glossary, foreign language translations (there’s some French, Spanish, and one Japanese word) and questions for discussion.

KIRKUS REVIEWS calls Waterwight “. . . powerfully spooky, reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. . . . ”

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