Thursday, May 15, 2014

Book Review: Disruption (The Cambridge Files, Book 1)

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest and totally unbiased review.

Author: Steven Whibley

At fourteen, Matt Cambridge has executed so many pranks-the latest nearly destroying his school-that his parents are out of discipline options. So his father pulls a few questionable strings to get his son into Camp Friendship: a camp that promises to strengthen the moral compass of today's youth. With a name like Camp Friendship Matt imagines three punishing weeks of daisy chains and Kumbayas. Within minutes of arriving at the camp, however, Matt's nearly killed-twice. It doesn't take long for him to realize there's more to this picture-perfect place than meets the eye. What sort of summer camp has classes in forging passports? Why do they have endless fight training, and weapons drills, and what is with the hidden rooms? Matt wonders if his parents realize they've enrolled him in what seems to be some kind of freakish, elite spy school. What Matt doesn't yet know is that Camp Friendship's ultimate purpose is far more sinister than he could possibly have imagined. With each dot he connects, he begins to understand that in the end he'll be left with two choices: pull the prank of a lifetime to escape this place . . . or die trying.


Disruption is about a boy named Matt who was sent to Camp Friendship by his father as a form of punishment. His dad supposedly pulled some strings in order for him to get there and warned him to stay low. Shortly after arriving, he had met two of the camp authorities and unwittingly helped them. He also got involved in a fight that made him the target of the camp's resident bully. After that, he was designated as one of the team leaders and completed dangerous tasks along with his weird and deadly set of team mates. So much for staying low!

This book reminded me of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series because of the camp setting. Let me tell you, I had never been in a camp before so I have no idea what a real camp looks like or how it operates. Therefore, whenever I hear about summer camps, I immediately thought of Percy Jackson which I know is weird but that's how it is for me.

Okay, so going back to Whibley's book. The main character Matt is really clever and a breath of fresh air from the books that I normally read. Before I started reading it, I was fully aware of who the target audience are, so in short, I knew what I was getting myself into!

The main character is not TSTL, which is always good! I like that Matt can adapt well to his environment without giving away his own secrets. And like I said before, he is really clever for a fourteen-year old kid which brings us to the issue that I had with this book...

The way the plot was written and how the characters responded to the situation that were given did not exactly give me the impression that they are around 13 to 15 year old kids. I find it hard to believe that a fourteen year old could pull off such an elaborate prank or even think about it. It could also be due to the fact that I am used to well-behaved teenagers, but still!

You might be thinking, "But Vanessa, it's just a story! A make-believe."

Um, NO. You see, I find it difficult to imagine a kid who just graduated from middle school firing a gun in a target range or almost getting blown to bits by a bomb. I'm all in for violence in a book or movie (this is coming from the girl who enjoys katana-wielding vampire and horrific zombie kills), so don't get me wrong. I mean, okay, so it's all make-believe and who doesn't like a fun action-packed read every once in a while? Right? But if I am a parent, it will bother me to have my middle-schooler read this, so proper guidance is a MUST.

Now, overcoming that age issue, I have to admit that I absolutely liked this book and would recommend it.

The team's ensemble is interesting! Rylee was the perfect partner-in-crime for Matt. I know this is really bad and stereotypical of me to say, but she is like the Hermione/Annabeth of the story.  Afterall, she brought the whole team together and gave valued advices to Matt. Then there is the computer nerd - why do they always make them geeky and defenseless? I don't know. Can't they be at least hot for a change? *winks

Despite of my earlier aversion to the plot, I have to say, it is like ice cream on a hot, sweaty summer day. It can't be good for you all the time but you crave it like, well... like ice cream! Duh. And the writing? OH WOW. Steven Whimbley was able to capture my attention with his detailed and chair-gripping action scenes.


BONUS STUFF (because we're awesome like that)

About the author:

Steve believes in pixies and fairy dust, and the healing power of unicorns. When he’s not writing epic tales of horned beasties, he’s working as a look-a-like for Brad Pitt, Ryan Reynolds, Zac Efron, and Seal. He spends his free time training hairless mole rats to be service animals for the colorblind, and dreams of one day inventing a Thanksgiving dish that will rival the infamous turducken.

Steve also believes most readers do not read author biographies. Author's website.


Upon nosing around, I found out the inspiration for your first novel is about a daydream. Can you tell us about Disruption's? 

Several years ago I watched a movie featuring a kid spy. The main character was sent to a training camp where he and other kids learned how to be one of the good guys. There are dozens of such films and I honestly can’t remember the name of the one I’d been watching. But I remember thinking that if I was a criminal, and I saw how effective these kid spies were at thwarting our heists, I’d create a camp for kid criminals.

That idea stuck with me, but it was years later that I started writing.

If you're on a Delta team, what would your role be?

I’d like to think I’d be like Rylee: A watcher and reader of people. She put together a great team because she paid attention and saw the strengths each teammate brought to the table. Writers are notorious people-watchers, and I’m no exception.

How did you conduct research about a spy book? Do you have any spy friends that traded in secrets with you or had spy training yourself?

I suspect I write books about underground camps because I know it’s the only way I’ll ever get to experience such places. Alas, none of my friends are spies, or at least they’re good enough spies that I haven’t discovered their alternate life just yet. The only real research I did was to look up the prevailing criminal elements in various countries around the world so I could thread them into my plot. I did, however, work as a lifeguard at a couple summer camps when I was younger and I remember thinking how one of the camps had kids and counselors who seemed overly enthusiastic about camp life. I distinctly remember thinking they were all probably hiding some dark secret.

Tell us one interesting thing about yourself that is not included in your bio.

Once, while living overseas, I had my apartment broken into. . .while I was home. When I came back (having jumped out a window and run away like a frightened squirrel) my door was damaged (it had been kicked open) but nothing was missing. Why the man entered my apartment and what he was after is something I’ll never know.

Oh my goodness. That sounds terrifying! I bet you were super shocked and confused at the same time. What did you do after that happened?

I was in a small city in Japan at the time, and didn't have the first clue where the police station was. I waited until morning before going back to my place--when I knew there would be people heading to work from the other units in the building. When I saw that nothing was taken, I closed the door the best I could and went to work. I was an English teacher and I mentioned what happened to a group of adult students. Theories about what happened ranged from, a drunken business man who had mistaken my house for his own, and had kicked open the door out of frustration that his key wouldn't work, all the way to, a Yakuza hit-man who'd come to deal with me after I had visited (and photographed) a local pachinko parlor. I had been to a pachinko parlor hours before the break-in, and had indeed taken pictures. I was told by my students that it's a well known, albeit unwritten, rule that photos are not permitted at such establishments. Ultimately I decided the drunk business-man theory was much more probable than the Yakuza hit-man.

So for our readers visiting or living in a foreign country, we should all be very cautious. *nods sagely

What is the best part of being a writer for you? What about the most challenging part?

The best part of being a writer is the feeling when you complete a manuscript and you finally see the world you imagined lied out before you. It’s a satisfying experience made all the more satisfying when someone tells you they read and enjoyed the world you created. The hardest part is perhaps the fact that, with few exceptions, it’s only other writers who can really relate to struggling with a story element. Things like plot arcs and motivations don’t tend to interest many non-writers.

Speaking of motivations, how do you overcome writer's block? Any special rituals?

Ah, writer's block. Although I have, on occasion, burned out from writing too much, I am a firm believer that writer's block is not a real thing (at least that's what I tell myself). Or, I should say, it's no more real than firefighter's block, or school teacher block or a 'block' in any other career. It's my opinion that if you think of writing as an occupation, and you do it everyday (may need to force yourself at first), you soon realize that while you can have good and bad days, you generally can produce something every day. Some days, like any job, you may need to force yourself to get up and go to work, but you can still be productive--you can still get words down. I worry about polishing those words after the fact. Step one of writing, for me, is just getting words down.

Thank you Steve for sharing your experiences and knowledge!!!


Join the giveaway and get a chance to win a copy of Disruption! 
We will be giving away 3 ebook and 2 paperback copies!!!

The 5 winners will be announced on May 31, 2014 EST. Open internationally. You must be of legal age (18 and above) in order to join.

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Disruption Promo Giveaway

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Good luck!


  1. Sounds like a great book, that's what I think. I'm really into adventurous and action packed books lately. Think this one fits in that alley just fine :)

    1. Thank you so much for joining! Feel free to add more entries for more chances of winning. Good luck!

  2. I don't read a lot of action packed/adventurous books, but I'd like to give this a try :-)

    1. Thanks for joining, Roanne. Always glad to see someone expanding their book genre preference. Best of luck!