Meet Ryan Southwick


Ryan Southwick decided to dabble at writing late in life, and quickly became obsessed with the craft. His technical skills as a software developer, healthcare experience, and life‑long fascination for science fiction became the ingredients for his book series, The Z-Tech Chronicles.

Ryan also has a story in the recent anthology from Paper Angel Press, Corporate Catharsis. His story is titled “Once Upon a Nightwalker.”

Angels in the Mist (Z-Tech Chronicles Book 1), is 462 pages long and will be available June 16, 2020.

Angels in the Mist (front cover)

“…an epic urban fantasy blended with science fiction that will capture readers’ imaginations!”
-InD’Tale Magazine

In the heart of modern-day San Francisco, Anne Perrin becomes the target of an ancient evil. Her only chance—and perhaps the City’s—rests in the hands of a secretive, high-tech organization known as Z-Tech.

​Anne Perrin is resigned to a life driven by an adolescent trauma: a strict routine, no socializing (outside of the safety of her waitressing job), and no romantic relationships. When her cautious lifestyle lets the perfect partner slip through her fingers, Anne vows she won’t let it happen again and ventures into San Francisco to find happiness.

Her first night out in a decade becomes a nightmare when her date turns on her with sadistic intent. But his nefarious plans for Anne are unexpectedly interrupted by a mysterious savior. Valiant, smart, compassionate … Charlie is exactly the partner Anne has been looking for. And best of all, he likes her too.

Things go well between her and Charlie until an assailant with unexpected strength plunges Anne into a world she didn’t know existed — nor could have imagined — where super-science and an eclectic group of extraordinary individuals may be the solution to Anne’s lifelong loneliness … and humanity’s only hope against an ancient threat.

How did you come to write this book?

Even when I was younger, I was surprised how many stories (books, movies, or otherwise) featuring bigger-than-life characters relied solely on action or the characters’ unique abilities to carry the audience’s interest. Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, to have extraordinary/gifted characters that were interesting even without their abilities, and a plot that would draw the audience forward even if “normal” people were involved? The Marvel Cinematic Universe didn’t exist back then, which has provided some of that much-needed relief, but my first inspiration came from George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. I’m an epic fantasy fan, and I remember being disappointed—disappointed!—when he introduced dragons because the characters were so well written and the plot so intriguing that dragons felt unnecessary, a cheap trick that would water down an already fantastic series.

That was how I wanted to write. I’d had a cast of heroic characters bouncing around in my head for years along with a cheesy vampire plot. But what if… what if I could do what Martin did? Could I make those characters so interesting that you hardly cared they were superhuman? Could vampires be introduced gently enough—plausibly enough—that even non-vampire fans would nod along because it just made sense?

Five years ago, I decided to find out, and Angels in the Mist was born, followed closely by Angels Fall and Wrath of Angels. I’d love to know from anyone who’s read the first book if I succeeded.

What genre is your series?

Urban Fantasy / Science Fiction. It’s a modern-day adventure in San Francisco. Vampires are the only fantasy element, really. The rest is more science fiction.

Do you consider your series character-driven or plot-driven?

Plot-driven, though all of the major characters (and especially the protagonist on her journey to heroism and healing) have significant problems holding them back and evolve through the series.

What makes your series unique?

A few things. The protagonist, Anne, is a 36-year-old waitress with chronic, debilitating PTSD who has a hard-enough time making it through the day as it is. Then someone tries to kill her. Then vampires attack. Then she discovers her new boyfriend is one of the most influential people in the world, has some super-tech secrets, and isn’t even human. Then she’s hit on by a girl she thought hated her and could at any moment accidentally kill her, introducing an LGBTQ quandary. Anne must figure out how to cope with things that would drive a normal person insane and keep her PTSD from going completely out of control. And that’s just the first book. My guess is you won’t find many stories with that combination.

Another is realism. Yes, it’s fantasy, but I’ve tried to lay it out believably, offering plausible explanations wherever possible, and tying it into extraordinary characters who have real problems and are dealing with them as anyone would.

Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?

Both. I start with scene cards so I have a general idea where I’m going (Scrivener is my writing weapon of choice), but if something cool happens in the story that doesn’t fit with the rest of the cards, I won’t hesitate to throw them away and see where the new direction takes me. Plot is driven by characters, and my characters tend to take on a life of their own. I can try to predict what they’re going to do and plot around it, but when I write the scene, the characters often surprise me and do something I didn’t expect, and I’m loathe to change that just because their behaviors didn’t fit what I’d scribbled on an index card. For me, the adventure of writing isn’t sculpting the words to fit the story but putting interesting characters in strange situation and seeing how they react. In many ways, I’m just as excited to find out what’s going to happen as the reader is.

How do you develop the names for your characters?

Going with the idea of realism, I like to pick ordinary names that resonate with me. Common names are easier to remember. Anne and Charlie are two main characters in the book. William is the bad guy. Why not? For more exotic names, like Zima and Cappa, I reach out to friends or use random name generators on the internet. For the latter, I’ll sift through a hundred or so choices, pull out a dozen that I like, then stare at the list until one floats to the top.

How do you decide on the setting?

For Angels in the Mist, San Francisco was an easy choice. I’ve lived in the Bay Area for… well, for many years. The book has a technology theme, and much of it takes place in a tech factory, which also made Silicon Valley’s heart a natural. Having a vampire outbreak in a densely populated city that’s only nine-by-nine miles also felt like it would be challenging to write. San Francisco also has a rich culture, especially in the LGBTQ community, which worked well with the protagonist’s character arc.

In general, though, I like to pick settings that are interesting to me. A portion of Angels Fall takes place in China. I’ve always been fascinated with that part of the world, so it was an excellent opportunity to do some research and put the characters somewhere picturesque. Some of Wrath of Angels is on an Arleigh-Burke-class missile destroyer, which took weeks of fascinating research to properly portray. Another portion is in an abandoned missile complex, which I’ve always wanted to see, and prompted me to visit an old Nike missile site that was practically in my backyard.

Do you have a writing mentor?

Unfortunately, no. I learn best by studying, doing, failing, and trying again until I get it right. That said, I would love to have started this journey with an experienced author as a guide, but I didn’t know any. I’m starting to meet more, thanks to my editors at Paper Angel Press and Water Dragon Publishing, and am looking forward to learning from them, if they’re willing to share.

What’s your writing schedule? Do you have a favorite place to write?

I wake up early just so I can do some writing before work, and I’ll write all weekend if my schedule allows. The only time I won’t write is after about 9 pm, when my brain shuts off. It’s the same rule I apply to programming. A friend of mine once said that late at night was when he wrote all his bugs. I find the same is true with writing, so no matter how much I want to continue, I close Scrivener when my concentration starts to wane and save it for the next day.

My favorite place to write is in my comfy chair in front of my computer desk. It’s in the dining room where everyone else hangs out, which is great. I love writing, but I love my family, too. Plus it’s near the snack cupboard.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Only what an incredible journey writing a series has been. It’s brought me closer to my mother, who’s also my alpha reader, as well as my friends who’ve graciously offered their encouragement and feedback. I’ve lost track of the number of hours I’ve spent at the keyboard, writing and re-writing, and I wouldn’t trade a single minute.

You can find out more about my current and upcoming books on my website,

Thank you, Nancy, for giving me this opportunity!

You can find Ryan online here:







Book Links for The Z-Tech Chronicles

Angels in the Mist:

Zima: Origins:

Angels Fall:

Graven Angels:

Wrath of Angels:


Book Review: All That Was Asked

Hey everyone,

Well, it’s crazy times out there and I hope anyone reading this is staying sane and healthy. It’s hard not to be completely obsessed with the news–one thing I’m doing to keep my mind off of it is reading. Through my publisher, Paper Angel Press, I’ve been introduced to all kinds of fun books, so my plan is to read and review, read and review! Hope you enjoy.

Today, I’m reviewing a new book from Paper Angel Press, All That Was Asked by Vanessa MacLaren-Wray. The book blurb caught my eye:

It was supposed to be an easy jaunt to observe the stick-like aliens of Deep Valley Universe.

But Ansegwe — perpetual student, aspiring poet, and scion of the (allegedly criminal) Varayla Syndicate — well, he just has to ruin everything. As everyone knows, Ansegwe may have sensibility, but he’s not long on sense.

When a weird, twitchy little creature attaches itself to him, Ansegwe violates every protocol in the handbook to save its life. Finding himself in all kinds of trouble, Ansegwe needs to make some serious life changes, starting with that complicated family of his.

Ansegwe may just have to grow up … now that he’s adopted an alien.

As did the cover:


And I loved the book; it captivated me from the first page! Here’s my review:

This small gem of a book read like a classic ethnographic text, from the cool, detached language to the detailed observations and the skillful rendering of alien speech. The story starts with a mapping expedition to a place called the Deep Valley, located in a parallel universe. Ansegwe, a poet and nephew to the financiers of this grand exploratory trip, has finagled his way onto the team, intent on capturing everything he sees in verse. 

Near the end of the expedition, as Ansegwe is straggling at the end of the group, aliens chasing another alien burst out of the forest. First contact! But it’s haphazard and chaotic, and something the expedition brass wants to pretend never happened. Unbeknownst to those at the top, against all protocol and common sense, Ansegwe has saved the life of the alien creature who was being hunted and smuggled it onto the ship.

The author, Vanessa MacLaren-Wray, is truly a master of showing, not telling. She effortlessly crafts sentences that describe creatures, feature by feature, without giving it all away in one fell swoop. For example, Ansegwe, the narrator, laments the agonies of the expedition: “…the incessant rubbing of my inexpertly-adjusted pack grated the flesh on my back until a broad, thick callus decorated the crest of my hind end–that part of my anatomy that had formerly been deemed so attractive to he opposite sex. Their spring-muscles exhausted by endless startle responses, my spines ached ferociously.” Spines, plural, really?! I really appreciated how Ms. MacLaren-Wray was able to emphasize physical characteristics without spelling it out. As a reader, we can all draw our own pictures.

Another deft touch in this book was the practice of including quotes from other characters in the story  at the beginning of each chapter. The quotes rounded out the actions and character of Ansegwe, shedding light on the storyline and the characters, without being heavy-handed or obvious. Some of the quotes were humorous, others more serious, but all contributed to the depth of the story. 

This is a billed as sci-fi, but it’s more. It’s a story of wonder and friendship, loyalty and bravery, and  ultimately, love. Time and time again, Ansegwe risks everything to save the life of his alien creature. A highly recommended read.

Give this one a try!

Until next time,


The Stork is available!

Hey everyone,

I’m happy to say that The Stork, book 2 in the Shelby McDougall mystery series, is now officially available from Paper Angel Press. I’m very happy with this edition of the book, and so excited to see it in print.

My books arrived last week, and in all the excitement, I forgot to post a few photos of unpacking the boxes, so here you go:


IMG_20190824_150632805 (1)

There is something incredibly satisfying about opening a box and seeing a pile of books with my name on it. All those hours at the computer finally coalesced into a story. Wow. It’s surprising and humbling.

I am so grateful to Paper Angel Press for picking up the series and doing such an amazing job on all fronts: editing, cover design, book design, book promotion. I’m so pleased.

If you want to learn more about the book, check it out on the Paper Angel Press website. You can download a sample there, as well as download my free short story, Treasure Hunt, that features Shelby and her brother, Dexter.

Here’s the book blurb:

Shelby McDougall’s past is behind her. Almost.

It’s been five and a half years since Shelby put her infant twins up for adoption, and she’s finally on track. Back in Santa Cruz, California, she’s sharing an apartment with her brother, Dexter, and in her second year of criminal justice studies. She’s landed her dream job as an intern to local P.I. Kathleen Bennett. And her stone-cold love life is heating up.

Then a late-night phone call puts Shelby’s perfectly ordered life into a tailspin.

One of the twins has been kidnapped, snatched from home in the middle of the night. There are no witnesses — no clues, no trails to follow. After meeting the family, Shelby knows something is off. The adoptive parents tell her the children don’t sleep, they eat constantly, and their IQs are off the charts. Against her better judgment, Shelby agrees to help.

By the time she realizes she’s up against something powerful, something evil, it’s almost too late. As Shelby fights for her life, and that of the kidnapped child, she discovers shocking truths about herself and the children.



Meet Andrea Monticue

Hi everyone,


Today I’m interviewing Andrea Monticue. Andrea is published by Paper Angel Press, and I was able to meet her during BayCon in May.  It was fun hanging out!

Andrea is an aircraft technician who has crawled around inside of the B2, corporate jets, and puddle jumpers. She figures this makes her an expert on starships.

She and her wife live on the west coast of the North American Continent, enjoying redwoods, scuba, archery, bicycling, skateboarding, coffee, reading, and dogs.

Andrea can be found at Memoirs of an Earthling.

Her book is called Memory and Metaphor.  It’s 372 pages and was published on January 31, 2019.  Great cover!


Civilization fell. It rose. At some point, people built starships.

A millennium after the Earth was abandoned to climate change and resource depletion, Sharon Manders wakes up in a body that used to belong to somebody else, and some say she was a terrorist. She has no idea how she could be digging for Pleistocene bones in Africa one day, and crewing on a starship the next. That was just before she met the wolfman, the elf, and the sex robot.

Struggling with distressingly unreliable memories, the expectations of her host body’s family and crewmates, future shock, and accusations of treason, Sharon goes on the lam to come face to face with terrorists, giant bugs, drug cartels, AIs, and lawyers.

All things considered, she’d rather be back in 21st Century California.

I love the blurb and I’m looking forward to reading the book. I’ll be reviewing it in a future blog post.

Here’s my interview with Andrea.

Why did you decide to write this book?

This question relates to the one below, How do you decide on the setting? I wrote this book largely because I already had a lot of the background material. 

What genre is your book?

Science Fiction/Space Opera

Do you consider your book character-driven or plot-driven?

There are parallel story lines in this book. One, following the protagonist, is character driven. The other part is about society’s reaction to the character and the events that brought her into existence, and that is plot driven. 

What makes your book unique?

Well, that’s a loaded question, eh? I don’t believe there’s anything in this book that can’t be found in other books. I mean, spaceships, robots, lycanthropes, and elves can all be found across multiple genres, though there probably aren’t very many that bring that combination together under one cover. I’d like to think that I put them all together in a unique story.  

Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?

Both. I start out with an overall outline of the story, but often change it up as I write. In the case of Memory and Metaphor, I had some very solid ideas about where the plot was going to go and what bases we were going to touch on the way. Seeing the story fleshed out, though, made me realize that some of those goals weren’t realistic and needed overhauls. 

That being said, the very first thing I wrote in the story were the first two paragraphs of chapter three, and everything else evolved from that.

How do you develop the names for your characters?

I sometimes already have a name ready to go. Other times I use various websites designed for developing character names. I use those primarily for minor characters. Since my the story takes place a thousand years from now, in some cases I have taken contemporary names and asked myself how they might evolve over the centuries.  For instance, I might take Jennifer and change it to Jéehnufair.

The name of the protagonist in Memory and Metaphor had to be one that remained static over the centuries. 

How do you decide on the setting?

A long time ago, maybe ten or fifteen years, I read an article in a magazine. I think it was Sky and Telescope but it might have been a similar publication. The article discussed the possibilities of planets in the Alpha Centauri system, and how stable the orbits might be. I ended up writing several programs to simulate the gravitational environment of the system. None of them could be considered quality programs, and even the smallest errors tended to multiply horrendously when extrapolated over mere centuries, let alone billions of years. I didn’t learn anything definitive other than I would never be a good programmer.  In the process, I did a lot of reading on current theories of planetary system formation (I think all of them have become obsolete in the meantime), and ended up creating what I thought was a perfectly reasonable, though entirely fictional, interplanetary society.

The biggest question, of course, was how did humans end up on a planet that looked so Earth-like orbiting Alpha Centauri A? 

Do you have a writing mentor?

Not officially. I try to learn from other writers whose work I admire, but I don’t ask their permission first. 

What’s your writing schedule? Do you have a favorite place to write?

While I try to stick to a schedule, I’m not very successful at it. I generally do my best writing when I’m supposed to be doing something else – like math homework.

My favorite place to write used to be at a hometown place called Chit Chat Café.  I’ve recently moved, though, and I’m looking for a new favorite place. 

Anything else you’d like to add?

I read a long time ago that Ernest Hemingway wrote the last page of Farewell to Arms thirty-nine times. This is apocryphal, as near as I can tell. Still, it keeps me going when I’m in that slogging stage of writing books.

How can readers connect with you?

Through my website at Memoirs of an Earthling and also on my Paper Angel Press author page: Andrea Monticue

Meet Steven Radecki

Hey everyone,

Steven headshotEarlier this month, you met Steven Radecki in his role as managing editor of Paper Angel Press. (See Meet Paper Angel Press, Part 1 and Part 2.) Did you also know he was an author? Today, I’m talking to him about his book, Building Baby Brother. I remember when he was writing this story, ten or so years ago. It’s great to see it in book form! I really enjoyed it and think it will appeal to readers of diverse genres: YA, family drama, sci-fi. You can find my review at the end of the interview.

Building Baby Brother was published in August 2016. It’s 120 pages long.


You can find it here:

Paper Angel Press

And now, the interview.

Why did you decide to write this book?

It actually started as what was intended to be a 2,000-word short story for a family event at the school my son was attending at the time. The event, unfortunately, got cancelled, but my mind couldn’t let go of the story … and it kept growing … and growing … and growing – and eventually became the 29,000-word novella that it is today.

What genre is your book?

Building Baby Brother would definitely be considered science fiction. Had it been told from the point-of-view of the son rather than the father, it could also have been YA (Young Adult). Hmm … excuse me, I need to get back to the keyboard right now.

Do you consider Building Baby Brother character-driven or plot-driven?

Originally, I think the story started out to be plot-driven, but I think it turned out to be far more character-driven.

What makes your book unique?

That’s a good question – and one an author should be able to answer when promoting their book. I’d have to say that it might be unique because it’s approachable science fiction that anyone with children could relate to because it doesn’t get bogged down in the “science” part, but themes are relatable to anyone with children or who has been a parent.

Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?

This may come as quite a shock to people who know me, but I rarely plot out the entire story before I begin. I tried outlining my stories first, but once the characters develop lives and voices of their own, they rarely want to follow the script I originally laid out for them. (I do occasionally create pseudo-outlines when I’m in the midst of creating a story to make sure that I remember to hit some key points or events along the way to the end. I guess I’m a big believer in “No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.” I do like being surprised when I read a story. I don’t always know how the story will end when I start it (as problematic as that might sound), but I always know how it must end when I get about a third of the way through writing it.

How do you develop the names for your characters?

Most of the time, they name themselves. As I’m writing, there’s usually a name that feels right. If that doesn’t work, I check name lists on the Internet, like lists of baby names or random names in directory listings and then often combine names from two different sources together.

How do you decide on the setting?

Well, for Building Baby Brother, it was set in an imaginary home and an neighborhood that resembled the one where I grew up in Southern California when I was the same age that the boy was in the story.

Do you have a writing mentor?

I don’t know that I have a specific writing mentor, per se. There are authors who I admire and look to for inspiration. Some of the key influences would be Robert A. Heinlein, Spider Robinson, Tom Robbins, and Harlan Ellison.

What’s your writing schedule? Do you have a favorite place to write?

If I could hold to an actual writing schedule, then the sequel(s) to Building Baby Brother would be published, as would books in my various space opera series. I don’t know that I have a particularly favorite place to write, as most of my writing tends to get squeezed in wherever I happen to be. I do, however, have a fondness for a local coffee place where they roast their own beans. I would try to get one of the tall bar tables next to the roaster and write away on my netbook to the aroma of roasting coffee. I may need to put that place in a story someday.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’d like to encourage our writers to submit their stories – particularly to smaller presses who might appreciate them. Feedback – even less than positive – is a gift that can help you grow as a writer. And, please, stop giving your work away for free. Your time, effort, and vision are worth more than that.

Where can readers find you?

Check out my page on the Paper Angel Press website: Steven Radecki 

Also check out my website: A Work in Progress

Nancy’s review of Building Baby Brother:

Building Baby Brother is a fascinating book, with themes on multiple levels, from the impacts of AI to what it means to be a parent. A dad wants to do the best for his son and uses his engineering skills to ‘create’ a baby brother. And, just like a person, baby brother grows in unexpected ways. The story is touching, funny, and wise, and will appeal to sci-fi fans, as well as to fans of family drama and YA.

Meet Michael Thal

Smaller SearsI’m happy today to host Michael Thal. His book Koolura and the Mayans won the Gold at the 2018 eLit Awards in the Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction category. Wow! For more information on this amazing award, see Koolura and the Mayans Wins Gold at the eLit Book Awards.

Michael Thal is the author of five published novels—Goodbye Tchaikovsky, The Abduction of Joshua Bloom, and The Koolura Series—The Legend of Koolura, Koolura and The Mystery at Camp Saddleback, and Koolura and the Mayans.

Moving from the frigid Northeast to comfy Southern California in 1973, Michael taught elementary and middle school for 28 years until a freak virus left him deafened at the age of 50. He reinvented himself as a writer composing over 80 published articles in print magazines as well as novels for middle grade and high school aged students.

You can learn more about Michael Thal on his website and blog at His books can be purchased on and Barnes & Noble in print and as e-books.

Today, he’s talking about Koolura and the Mayans. As a bonus, I’ve read the book and loved it! See my review at the bottom of the post.

About the book:

Koolura, a girl with extraordinary psychic powers, is back again with pal Leila. The duo is off to Mexico for Koolura’s father’s wedding. When touring a Mayan archaeological dig, the girls uncover a mysterious device that hurtles them 2000 years back in time. They soon discover aliens from the planet Aquari living amongst Mayan natives. Are these Aquarians planning to take over Earth? And can Koolura and Leila stop them in time?


Koolura and the Mayans was published in 2016 by Solstice Publishing and is 131 pages.

Why did you decide to write this book?

Koolura and the Mayans is the third installment to the Koolura Series. Each book can be read independently without pressure of reading the other books in the series. I got the idea for Koolura and the Mayans when I traveled with my daughter to Oaxaca, Mexico for my cousin Adam’s wedding. We took a day trip to Monte Alban, an archeological site of Mayan civilization. That’s when I got the idea that perhaps Koolura could visit this site and be plunged back in time to the age of the Maya.

What genre is your book?

Koolura and the Mayans is historical fiction and science fiction.

Do you consider your book character-driven or plot-driven?

The book is plot driven.

What makes your book unique?

Koolura and the Mayans won Second Place in the 2016 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards. One of its main characters, Leila, is deaf. Koolura met her in book two of the series, Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback, and learned American Sign Language from her friend. Readers will see that deaf people are smart and resourceful. I think exposing young readers to characters with disabilities is important in broadening their horizons.

Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?

The book I’m writing now, The Lip Reader, is a novel in which I’m letting the novel emerge as I write. However, I plotted each chapter of Koolura and the Mayans before I started writing. Of course things changed as the novel evolved and I had to add chapters and throw out others that didn’t seem to work.

How do you develop the names for your characters?

That’s a great question. I gave Koolura her name because she’s very cool. She can read minds, lift objects with a thought, and even fly. Now that’s cool. Leila got her name in memory of my Aunt Lilly.

How do you decide on the setting?

My visit to Monte Alban forced an obvious setting on me. In Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback I visited a lake in the Santa Ynez Mountains outside of Santa Barbara when my wife and I visited our daughter Koren at college. I thought that would be a perfect site for a summer sleep-away camp, and I was right. There was such a camp nearby, which I toured and took copious notes for Camp Saddleback.

Do you have a writing mentor?

Yes, I have two. Anne McGee, the author of Anni’s Attic and the Cedar Creek Mystery series, looks over my chapters giving me ideas for improvement. Susan Schader, a professional editor, is a huge help in pointing out my errors. Thanks to them, I feel my writing has improved tremendously over the past few years.

What’s your writing schedule? Do you have a favorite place to write?

I make it a point to write one chapter per month. I usually write the rough draft in pencil at my desk, then type it up on my computer as I make changes.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I was a teacher for 28 years until a virus robbed me of my hearing. Getting a good education is extremely important. We never know what life will throw at us and it’s important to be prepared. Not able to understand my students any longer, I took disability and taught myself how to write. Readers can visit my website at where they can learn about my five YA novels and read my blog.

Other books by this author:

The Legend of Koolura:

Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback:

The Abduction of Joshua Bloom:

Goodbye Tchaikovsky:

Nancy’s review:

Michael Thal has written a marvelous story. Koolura is off to her father’s wedding in Oaxaca, Mexico. To get there, she uses her superpowers to pick up her BFF, Leila, and magically transport both of them to the Oaxacan airport. Once there, on a harmless tourist trip to Monte Alban, the ruins in the Valley of Oaxaca, the girls stumble into a pyramid and are whisked back in time. They find the ancient Mayans are under the thumb of alien invaders. In order to return to modern-day Oaxaca, the girls have to help.

Both of these girls are great role models. They’re good friends, they’re brave and strong, and they do what’s right even though it’s dangerous. Leila is hard of hearing, and the girls communicate using American Sign Language, adding another dimension to their friendship.

This is the third book in the series. I’ve read the other two, and was glad to discover this one. It’s educational, with the history of the Mayan civilization woven in. In addition, it’s also got a sci-fi element. Michael Thal gives us a glimpse of the society of the alien invaders; not somewhere you’d want to live. But Koolara must travel there in order to save the Mayans, and the arc of human civilization.

This book is one that can be enjoyed by adults as well as tweens. You don’t have to have read the other books in the series to enjoy this one. But warning: once you pick it up, set aside the afternoon, sit back, and hold on for the ride!