Sunday, September 4, 2011

GIVEAWAY WINNER: Guardians Inc.: The Cypher

The gods behind have spoken, and the winner of a signed copy of The Cypher is...

(a.k.a. blissfulrains)

The winner has already been contacted and will receive their book in the mail shortly. Thanks to everyone who participated, and look for more giveaways in the future!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Wayfinder by Darcy Pattison

Title: The Wayfinder
Author: Darcy Pattinson
Series: ???
Published: March 1st, 2011
Publisher: Mims House
Pages: 212 (paperback)
I received this book from the author in excange for an honest review.

Young Winchal Eldras is a Wayfinder, one of the gifted few of G'il Rim who have the ability to locate anything: a lost ring, the way home, a blue dress in the marketplace, a lost child. "Finding" is a valuable talent in this city that sits dangerously close to the Rift, a mysterious, unexplored chasm. When the Rift claims his little sister in a bizarre accident, though, Win is reduced to a Wayfinder who's lost his way.

But suddenly there's no time for grief--the plague has come to the Heartland. And only healing water from the Well of Life, on the other side of the Rift, can stop it. A prophecy commands that Win must make the terrible journey to seek the Well. But no one has ever braved the dangers of the Rift and returned to tell about it! To make matters worse, Win suddenly has a traveling companion in Lady Kala, a prized-and royally stubborn--Tazi hound with a few gifts of her own. A Wayfinder with no direction can't possibly manage this imperious creature from the King's kennels, much less save a civilization on the edge of destruction.

Or can he? --Goodreads


The Wayfinder is a fast-paced high fantasy novel, written in the tradition of journey-based fantasy classics like Lord of the Rings. I was surprised how quickly I was able to accept the world and the type of magic it supports. Though the concept of guiding magic is simple, the world building is so convincing (without pages and pages of boring description) that I wonder why no one has done it before. Win himself was an unusual sort of hero, weighed down by loss and guilt with a perspective that I could understand and sympathize with.

Despite the grief, Win’s adventure of self-discovery to overcome said burden is action packed and exciting all the way up until the very end (in between one-eyed giant eagles, killer crocodiles, and killer wolf tribes, how could it not be?). It was the story about a boy and his companion, learning to trust themselves and each other. Even though it was over sooner than I had hoped for (I easily finished it one sitting), it felt completed, with an ending that left me satisfied, morally uplifted, and ready for a sequel. The Wayfinder is one of those books that shouldn’t be overlooked!


Monday, August 29, 2011

Lost Voices by Sarah Porter

Title: Lost Voices
Author: Sarah Porter
Series: Lost Voices #1
Published: July 4th, 2011
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Pages: 304 (hardcover)
I purchased this book.

What happens to the girls nobody sees—the ones who are ignored, mistreated, hidden away? The girls nobody hears when they cry for help?

Fourteen-year-old Luce is one of those lost girls. After her father vanishes in a storm at sea, she is stuck in a grim, gray Alaskan fishing village with her alcoholic uncle. When her uncle crosses an unspeakable line, Luce reaches the depths of despair. Abandoned on the cliffs near her home, she expects to die when she tumbles to the icy, churning waves below. Instead, she undergoes an astonishing transformation and becomes a mermaid.

A tribe of mermaids finds Luce and welcomes her in—all of them, like her, lost girls who surrendered their humanity in the darkest moments of their lives. The mermaids are beautiful, free, and ageless, and Luce is thrilled with her new life until she discovers the catch: they feel an uncontrollable desire to drown seafarers, using their enchanted voices to lure ships into the rocks.

Luce’s own talent at singing captures the attention of the tribe’s queen, the fierce and elegant Catarina, and Luce soon finds herself pressured to join in committing mass murder. Luce’s struggle to retain her inner humanity puts her at odds with her friends; even worse, Catarina seems to regard Luce as a potential rival. But the appearance of a devious new mermaid brings a real threat to Catarina’s leadership and endangers the very existence of the tribe. Can Luce find the courage to challenge the newcomer, even at the risk of becoming rejected and alone once again?

Lost Voices is a captivating and wildly original tale about finding a voice, the healing power of friendship, and the strength it takes to forgive
. --Goodreads


I picked up Lost Voices for two reasons: the first was that I have never read a novel about mermaids, and the second was that plot actually interested me. I mean, a pack of mermaids murdering people at sea? Sounds dark. And the first forty pages of the book were great. Luce seemed like a nice girl and was one that I could sympathize with, even though I’ve never been in her position before. But after she turned into a mermaid, I felt like the novel lost its steam. Not only were action sequences sort of choppy, but Luce became a…dare I say it? A…a…Mary Sue.

As soon as Luce turns into a mermaid and joins her tribe, she becomes close to perfect. She’s good at being a mermaid, even without any training. Her voice is so beautiful that it challenges the skill of her tribe’s leader. The other girls (who sort of blend together as one catty voice) love her and fuss over her and make excuses for her mistakes without even getting to know her­. It was like she could do no wrong.

Now, all these details would be fine and dandy, except that Luce handles them a lot like a pancake; that’s to say, she does a lot of flipping. Honestly, I could never tell if she was happy to be a mermaid or not. In one paragraph, she’s thrilled to have the freedom to swim with baby seals and to have the power to lure boats of people to their death. I found this insanely disturbing because, oh, I dunno, I guess I would have figured that a girl in her position would have more sympathy for an entire boat of people that she accidently murdered. But in the next paragraph (literally), she’d brood over the fact that she becomes excited by the thought of killing people even though she wants to do it again and won’t fight it when the urge comes on. These conflicting emotions prevented me from really getting a lock on who she was after her transformation, at least up until the very end. And even though I understand that some characters need to work out their emotional ambiguity as part of the plot, I just didn’t believe that Luce knew she was conflicted when I was sensing her inner conflict.

Aside from the mixed messages Luce was sending throughout the story, there were elements of the plot that were quite disturbing. The mermaid lore is never really explained, except that young girls turn into mermaids as the result of abuse from other people in their lives. Serious topics when you consider them, except that the ideas are not fully explored in Lost Voices, just skimmed over in casual conversation never to be addressed again. Overall, these topics seemed out of place and sort of inappropriate, especially since the characters didn’t strike me as a group of girls that I should care about since most of them enjoyed their dark power and wanted to abuse it

Would I recommend this book to others? To be honest, no. While the idea has potential, and the writing in certain places is quite poetic, the characters are not fleshed out enough to send a solid message to the reader. Even though a sequel is scheduled to come out next year, I don’t think it’s one that I’ll pick up, unless I hear very, very good things about it.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Author Interview with Julian Rosado-Machain + GIVEAWAY

Hidy-ho there, faeries and gargoyles! Please join me in giving a warm welcome to Julian Rosado-Machain, author of the Guardians Inc. series. Today, Julian is stopping by Oktopus Ink to talk about The Cypher, the first book in the series, and share some stories about his writing. Alrighty, let's get this interview started, shall we? (warning: here there be spoilers.)

Thank you very much Emi, for your review and this interview, two firsts for me!

No problem, Julian, and thanks for joining us. What inspired the Guardian series?

Oh wow, everything and anything that has ever caught my attention. I have ADD… So you can guess that a lot of things have caught my attention through the years. Conspiracy theories, History, Religion, Mythology, Sci-fi, Horror and Fantasy. The real world too. Engineering, Marketing, Biology, Archaeology and I’m especially attracted to Theoretical Physics. (Don’t know why because I understand very little.)

When I began the story it was more of a religious conspiracy theory theme for adults, but it just didn’t ring true to what I wanted to do with the Guardians which, in the end, is just to have fun and explore all those things that caught my attention and that are just floating around in my head.

I know… I sound like a crazy person… I get that a lot.

Haha, I get that a lot too. Is there a reason why you decided to have Thomas work in the Guardian headquarters library? (Which is awesome, by the way.)

Thank you! I think Pervagus Library is awesome too!

Because of his Cypher powers, Thomas can read any language and crack any code. The Pervagus Library is the heart of Guardians Inc. It is the depository of almost the sum total of human knowledge through history so it is the perfect place for a Cypher to work. He has access to everything and is exposed to all the knowledge that will help him make decisions on how to steer humanity once he finds The Book of Concord.That is the Guardians Inc. plan, at least, and they have to keep him close by.

I also find Libraries to be some of the most under appreciated buildings ever. A trip to the library is most of the time equated to boredom, and it is quite the opposite! There’s a reason why libraries were at the heart of all ancient civilizations. In the end, knowledge is the most important legacy we can leave to the next generation.

What would you do if you had access to some of the books that Thomas finds for clients at his job?

I would go crazy! Definitely nuts! Imagine getting to read Shakespeare’s first drafts, or Lord Byron’s love letters. You only need to do a quick “Lost books” search on the internet to check out all that has been lost, and not only in ancient times but also as recently as with Phillip K. Dick, Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce. And there’s more than just literature!

What artist wouldn't study Mozart’s tuning exercises or Van Gogh’s dabbles? Notes passed between Napoleon and his generals during Waterloo? Einstein’s musings? Area 51’s diagrams and inventory lists?

Go a step further: I love Jules Verne works, especially Capt. Nemo. Well, Pervagus Library has the “unpublished” adventures there, along with four more musketeer books by Alexander Dumas.

You can imagine that it also contains all the things you would love to read. It’s all there, in Pervagus Library, along with your blogs and interviews and my outlines and grocery lists. Don’t worry though; Mrs. Pianova keeps all prying eyes away from those really personal and sensitive things.

EPIC. I wish I had access to Pervagus’ catalogue. I don’t think I’d ever leave. Anyway, how long have you been writing, and what is like writing in a language that isn’t your first?

I’ve been writing since I was 13. But in Mexico, Sci-fi and Fantasy weren’t really viable for new writers so I had to learn English in order to write to an audience. I’m 41. It took me long enough.

The actual writing process for me is very draining. I write down the first words that come to mind and then double check the meaning to see that what I wrote down makes sense. Then I use a dictionary, and then a thesaurus. Then I have very good friends that read and re-read the first, second and third drafts and point out the mistakes, especially in descriptions and meaning of the paragraphs. A single word sometimes changes what I wanted to say in a paragraph! It is frustrating sometimes.

After that, I send the best draft I believe I have to my editor Allison Itterly. You should see the notes she sends back! Even after all drafts, friends, and word processors, the corrections she sends me back almost require a complete rewrite.

Wow, sounds like a long process! You mentioned a few books already, but when you’re not writing what do you like to read?

Any and all from Jules Verne and Alexander Dumas. Les Pardaillan by Michel de Zevaco, Lord of the Rings, Dune, Harry Potter, Ender’s Game, Sherlock Holmes and H.P. Lovecraft stories.

I also read a lot of Mythology and History. The Story of Civilization by Will and Ariel Durant is one of the most entertaining series of books I’ve ever read. It was a great source of inspiration.

The Guardians website is just as entertaining to browse as it is to read the book. The artwork is gorgeous. How did you set that up? How long did it take?

I own a restaurant in San Diego, and if you allow a little cross marketing right here check it out at: But I also have a degree in graphic design. I left Mexico and all my friends back there 11 years ago, then Facebook came and I re-connected with my good friend, Francisco Trueba who owns a graphic design agency. He read the draft I had locked in a drawer and loved it, so he took over the image for Guardians Inc. and we are now partners in other upcoming books. For example, The Man in the Trench Coat is a character from Guardians Inc. that inspired an interactive children’s book for the Ipad, which is going to be released, hopefully, in the next few months.

Francisco’s website is should anyone want to check him out. All in all it took us about 8 months to plan the images and the website from mock-ups and sketches.

Did you do any research to support your story?

Tons and tons, because the nature of Guardians Inc. is about a company and secret society weaving itself through history. I made the decision to have as much of the story line, places, and characters based on real historical, geographical locales and figures as possible, and to make the effort of supporting it with as much technical and scientific fact as I could. Even the little details, for example: Jean Luc the grotesque tells Thomas that the Mage that created them was Phillibert Le Roy.Well, Phillibert Le Roy was an architect that lived in the 17th century and helped design Versailles. The book is full of details and allusions like that. Little tips of the hat to writers, artists and historical figures I admire. Another example: Tony is a descendant of Piero della Francesca, one of the great painters of the Renaissance, Doctor Franco is… someone that will be revealed in another book. Also, The Great A’tuin from Terry Pratchett’s wonderful Discworld series makes a little appearance in The Cypher, although not by name.

What are you working on right now?

Because of all the things I want to write about, like you’ve pointed out, a dash of science fiction, a dash of fantasy, I knew Guardians Inc. couldn’t be just one book. So I wrote an outline covering 7 years from beginning to end of the Guardians Inc. story.
The Cypher is roughly the first year. There are things in it that set up the second and the third book of the series and so on.

At this moment, I’m fleshing out the second book (Guardians Inc.: Thundersword), and working on chapters of the third and fourth. I’m also finishing both The Man in the Trench Coat and Book of Beasts while grilling some beef fajitas and warming up tortillas for table 122.


Wonderful answers, Julian! Very entertaining. :) Thanks again for joining us here on Oktopus Ink.

In addition to stopping by the blog, Julian has given me an extra *signed* copy of his book, Guardians Inc.: The Cypher. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends September 4th. On Sunday, I'll pick the winners using and announce them here on my blog. Open to US residents only. (sorry international readers!)

For those of you who are interested in learning more about The Cypher and the Guardians Inc. series, please check out Julian's website at It's epic!

The Bronze and the Brimstone by Lory S. Kaufman

Title: The Bronze and the Brimstone
Series: The Verona Trilogy
Published: June 7th, 2011
Publisher: The Fiction Studio
Pages: 336 (paperback)
I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

What could go wrong in the 14th-century
for three time-traveling teens?
How about – EVERYTHING!

Hansum, Shamira and Lincoln, three teens from the 24th-century, are trapped in 14th-century Verona, Italy. They’ve survived many deadly experiences by keeping their wits about them and by introducing futuristic technology into the past. Principal among these inventions is the telescope, which brought them to the attention to the rich and powerful.

But standing out can get you into unexpected and dangerous situations. The nobles of Verona now believe Hansum is a savant, a genius inventor, especially after he brings them plans for advanced cannons and black powder. Being the center of attention is great, but the potential for trouble is now exponentially greater because people are watching Hansum’s every move.

Meanwhile, artistic genius Shamira has fallen for a Florentine artist with bloody and disasterous consequences. Lincoln, considered an incompetent back home in the 24th-century, has blossomed – at least until he’s shot in the head with an arrow. And Hansum, after secretly marrying his new master’s beautiful daughter, Guilietta, is offered the hand in marriage of lady Beatrice, daughter of the ruler of Verona. To refuse could mean calamity for all the teens.

Amazingly, none of this is their biggest challenge. Because a rash illness is spreading across Verona – and it is threatening to consume everyone.

Do they have a future in this past?

As far as sequels go, The Bronze and the Brimstone was a solid A. After a somewhat misleading dream sequence, the story picks up right where The Lens and the Looker left off. Hansum and the gang are still working in the shop, living the good life (or as good as life can get for three teenagers trapped in the past), making lookers for their reigning lord. But when Hansum is asked to move into the palace, he’s thrown into a world governed by political relationships, religious loyalty, and lies. While we don’t learn much more about the gang’s past lives in the future, it was nice to see them mature in the past as they work towards maintaining a comfortable lifestyle with their new family. Again, we see them accomplish this by bringing in new technology—this time, a deadly cannon with the ability to rewrite the history of war.

A good chunk of the book is dedicated to experimenting and constructing the cannon. Though it sounds like the reading could get tedious, the plot moves along smoothly, with enough fiction and drama to balance the historic/scientific details. I think the majority of the credit for this can be given to Hansum’s and Gui’s clandestine relationship. Even though I still didn’t see the chemistry between them (they don’t spend a lot of time together, despite the fact that they are *spoiler alert* married), the risk of exposure increased the complexity of the relationships in the plot, and Hansum’s family was forced to constantly act like they were walking on glass.

Overall, The Bronze and the Brimstone was a much better sequel than I could have hoped for. It was complex, thrilling, educational, with a cast of characters that just continues to grow on the reader until the very end. My only complaint is that the tagline on the cover of the book (“Can he get back IN TIME to save her?”) is sort of misleading…It feels like more of a spoiler for book three, not what book two is really about.


P.S. For my review of The Lens and the Looker, click HERE!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

OI Updates: Button, Tumblr, and More!

Hidy-ho thar, readers! I hope everyone has had a good summer so far (despite the hurricane and earthquakes and stuff). I know I have, which is why things have been sort of slow around DA BLOG for the last few months. In between travelling to Italy, taking summer school Italian 101 (which was much harder than any 101 class should ever be), going to Harry Potter World (pics below), selling my house and moving into a new one on campus, I haven’t had time to read much of anything, let alone write reviews (sadly). But now that I’m settled in, things will return to normal and I'll be updating more frequently with reviews, giveaways, and interviews. In fact, there'll be a few giveaways announced this week, and an interview or two to boot. So, with that said, onto some news.


So I realized roughly an hour ago that I’ve been blogging for more than a year now. The realization came two months too late, but hey, better late than never, right? So to celebrate, I’m going to arrange an extra super special cotton candy filled giveaway. Details to come soon, and no, there won’t actually be cotton candy, but the prizes should be epic anyway. SO STAY TUNED.


OmgIfinallyhaveabutton. Can you believe it? I’ve only been talking about making a button since…er…New Year’s. It can be found in the sidebar, towards the bottom of the blog. So feel free to link me! I’d really appreciate it if you did.


I jumped on the bandwagon and made a tumblr. There isn’t much on it now, just some Harry Potter pictures and nerd stuff, but I plan on using it more often from now on. The link can also be found on the sidebar, but if you’re lazy and don’t want to find the button, you can click this LINK instead. Follow me and I'll follow you! I could always use more posts in my Dashboard. Tumblr is an amazing time waster. It's the new Facebook!

Anyway, that’s all the news I have for now, so have some pictures of my friends and I at Harry Potter World. Oh, wait, one last thing: did anyone else get into Pottermore? I can't wait until they start letting us Beta test stuff!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

In My Mailbox Jul. 24


Oh my oh my, it's been such a long time since I've done one of these. But I got a ton of really awesome books this week, ones that I thought needed sharing. In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

(and this isn't even all of them)

(mostly from Borders' closing sale...I'm still depressed about that)
The Secret Prince by Violet Haberdasher
Supernaturally by Kiersten White
Rip Tide by Kat Falls
Taking Off by Jenny Moss
The Magicians' Guild by Trudi Canavan
The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge
Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton

The Space Between by Alexandra Sokoloff
Haunt by Amber Delaine
Jonathan Rush and the Star Academy by Gregory Blackman

Chime by Franny Billingsley
City of Fire by Laurence Yep
The Hunt of the Unicorn by C.C. Humphreys
The Farwalker's Quest by Joni Sensel
The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith
Shield of Stars by Hillari Bell

So what did you get this week? Did you get a chance to take advantage of the Borders closing sales?

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Necromancer's Apprentice by R.M. Prioleau

Title: The Necromancer's Apprentice
Author: R.M. Prioleau
Series: -
Published: April 1, 2011
Publisher: R.M. Prioleau
Pages: 114 (paperback)
I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Jasmine Na’Darod lived a simple life with her parents and older sister on the family’s farm. She never strayed far from home until the ill-fated Blood Moon arose, basking the country of Caristan with a terrible, sickening drought.

When her mother falls ill, Jasmine and her family are forced to leave home in desperate search of a cure. During their journey, a series of tragic events will change Jasmine’s life forever.

With her former life shrouded and forgotten, Jasmine embraces a new path granted by an unlikely stranger, who, ironically, practices the Art of death and undeath.

As Jasmine is drawn to this enigma of a man, she soon realizes there is more to him than what she initially perceived — his true motives are beyond anything she could ever imagine…

Deeply compelling and morbidly intriguing, The Necromancer’s Apprentice is a beautifully-narrated gothic fantasy with memorable characters. --


Even after finishing the book, I’m not sure how I feel about it. I don’t think I really liked it, but at the same time, I didn’t hate it, even though at first I know I didn't like it. Jasmine was very apathetic towards everything, which for me was a problem. I have difficulty liking characters that feel like that don’t have anything to live for and are at peace with that, particularly when said character announces this detail about themself at the beginning of the book. In my mind, I immediately question, “Ok, well then where’s the room for growth?” Even if a character finds something to live for, the fact that they don’t even want to try looking to begin with is a sign that I’m not going to like who I’m reading about. But as the story developed, Jasmine’s apathetic nature made it possible for the story to focus on the mystery behind Master Dagg, and more importantly, focus on the nature of death and loyalty. The whole thing kind of reminded me of Rick Yancey’s The Monstrumologist (which I absolutely loved), and appealed to my fascination with the dark and macabre.

However, there were lots of plot holes, unclear character motivations, and lack of developed relationships. I know this was a novella (just a little over 110 pages), and in a novella there’s not a lot of room for long periods of description or investigation, but some more explanation would have been nice. Jasmine goes through a kind of transformation that would have taken years to accomplish, but is accomplished in less than six months. It was unsettling, especially after the horrific events that happen to her and her family in the beginning of the book. I also wanted to know more about the Necromancer, and what kind of magic he was working on down in his tunnels. While the story questions him and his practices, it doesn’t fully explore what exactly was going on and why in a greater context.

But, even with that said, I think that The Necromancer's Apprentice has potential. It was a quick read, it was a dark read, it was a gruesome read, with poetic writing, interesting fantasy elements and a twist at the end I didn’t see coming. But it also needs a good editor and another draft.


My Sparkling Misfortune by Laura Lond

Title: My Sparkling Misfortune
Author: Laura Lond
Series: -
Published: April 28, 2010
Publisher: Dream Books, LLC
Pages: 164 (paperback)
I received this book from the author in return for an honest review.

Lord Arkus of Blackriver Castle readily admits that he is a villain and sees no reason why it should stop him from being the protagonist of this book. After all, Prince Kellemar, an aspiring hero, has defeated him in a rather questionable way. Bent on revenge, Arkus attempts to capture a powerful evil spirit who would make him nearly invincible, but a last-minute mistake leaves him with a sparkling instead a goody-goody spirit that helps heroes, watches over little children, and messes up villains plans. Bound to Lord Arkus for five years of service and sworn to act in his best interests, the sparkling is not easy to get rid of, and of course his understanding of best interests is quite different from what Lord Arkus has in mind. --Goodreads

My Sparkling Misfortune offers a twist on the traditional fantasy fairy tale stories that lovers of the movie Megamind will enjoy. I can’t help but make that comparison, since both stories feature bad guys who want nothing more than to be known as the most devious and evil person on the planet. Lord Arkus begins his tale by bragging about how evil he is. But when the pompous Prince Kellemar tricks him into running from the kingdom, he goes hunting for a Gormak, an evil spirit to help with his evil plans. Much to his dismay, Lord Arkus winds up catching a Sparkling, a good spirit. And while Lord Arkus realizes that he can use the Sparkling’s powers to protect him from forces hunting him, he can’t directly use the spirit’s powers for anything evil. Being a bad guy is hard enough as it is without a good spirit breathing down your neck, but the Sparkling (named Jarvis) is intent on turning Arkus into a good guy. Talk about pressure!

My Sparkling Misfortune is one of those books that readers of all ages will be able to appreciate and enjoy. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that had me giggling on just about every page, but My Sparkling Misfortune broke that streak. With such a snarky and hypocritical protagonist who refuses to admit that he actually has a heart of gold…well, how can you blame me? I was sold after the very first paragraph. Lord Arkus’ voice is strong, clear, and the irony and hypocrisy in his actions was hilarious. I could easily read 600 more pages of his story and not get bored. For as evil as he said he was, I just couldn’t bring myself to hate him, especially after he starts working with Jarvis. Jarvis was a wonderful supporting character, able to hold his own against Arkus’ volatile personality. The way the two of them bickered had me thinking that they were a married couple, rather than a master and servant.

Even though the book is short (just over 160 pages), it doesn’t lack in plot, detail, or positive morals. Lond’s world building is top notch, with just enough description for the reader to understand the magic of Arkus’ world and its culture. Even those who are not used to reading fantasy or those who are intimidated by it will find that My Sparkling Misfortune is easy to slip into. Like I said before, I’m positive all who pick up this book will have a fun time reading it! I hope that Lond writes a sequel sometime in the near future.


Guardians Inc.: The Cypher by Julian Rosado-Machain

Title: Guardians Inc.: The Cypher
Author: Julian Rosado-Machain
Series: Guardians Incorporated
Published: Feb. 26th, 2011
Publisher: Julian Rosado-Machain
I received this book from the author in exchange for an exchange for an honest review.

GUARDIANS INC.: THE CYPHER is two stories in one. A glimpse into a multinational company that is in reality the oldest of secret societies, one that spans close to seven thousand years of existence, weaving in and out of history, guiding and protecting humanity from creatures and forces that most of us believe are only mythology and fairy tales.

The other is the story of Thomas Byrne, a young man thrust into secrets he shouldn’t be aware of and dangers he shouldn’t face but, that he ultimately will, for he is a Cypher. The only one who can steer humanity’s future.

The ultimate conspiracy theory is that Magic is real. Kept in check by technology but, every five hundred years the balance can shift and, if it does, technology will fail and those creatures we’ve driven into myth will come back with a vengeance.

To protect the present, Guardians Incorporated needs to know the future. --

A dash of science fiction, a dash of fantasy…Guardians Inc.: The Cypher was a story that was oh so familiar and oh so original at the same time. It’s like Julian Rosado-Machain took everything that I love about middle grade children’s fiction and slammed it into one awesome, well-paced fantasy. It had a mysterious society, good guys, bad guys, in between guys, gargoyles, elves, principals that are skilled at every form of martial arts (and then some), and a mysterious book of prophecies that could determine the fate of the world, among other things.

The story focuses on fifteen year old Thomas and his grandfather, Morgan. After responding to an ad in the paper, he and his grandfather are hired to work for Guardians Incorporated, a business that Thomas quickly discovers is much more than it seems. Guardians Inc. not only has their hand in economics, marketing, medical research, historical restoration and international relations, but they’re also responsible for maintaining the balance between technology and magic. When it’s discovered that Thomas and Morgan are Cyphers, people with the power to translate any written language, Thomas’ grandfather is kidnapped by an opposing society. An interesting and practical power to have, all things considered, and we get to see Thomas put his skills to good use as he explores the underground magical culture and discovers that with his newfound gift, the fate of the world rests in his hands.

While Thomas was most definitely the main character, the relationship with his grandfather was one that felt genuine and loving. Morgan was very much a conscious presence throughout the book, even when he wasn’t even there. Julian Rosado-Machain definitely has a talent for writing characters, and even alone, Thomas was very likable. For a fifteen-year-old, he was surprisingly flexible, and eager to do what needed to be done in order to save the world. He had a good heart and a passion for learning and reading classics such as 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. The supporting characters were just as strong, and colorful. There’s Henri, a gigantic stone gargoyle and the muscle of the group, Bolswaithe the robotic butler, Tony, a former leader of Guardian Watchman team, Vice Princepal “Killjoy”, who is far from what she appears to be, and Tasha, a beautiful elf who may or may not have a thing for Thomas. Together, they provided an even balance of skills and dialogue needed to move the story along at a fun and interesting pace.

So when it comes down to it…Do you like Percy Jackson? Fablehaven? Harry Potter? Guardians Inc.: The Cypher shares a little from each of these middle-grade favorites, but spins them into a brand new and exciting adventure. Check it out, if you like what you see! You won’t be disappointed. Oh, and I also recommend that you check out the website. It’s just as entertaining to browse through as reading the book! You can find more information at the Guardians Incorporated homepage.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Solstice by P.J. Hoover

Title: Solstice
Author: P.J. Hoover
Series: ???
Published: May 4th, 2011
Publisher: Andrea Brown Literary Agency
Pages: 378 (ebook)
I recieved this book as part of the Solstice Blog Tour.

Piper’s world is dying. Global warming kills every living thing on Earth, and each day brings hotter temperatures and heat bubbles which threaten to destroy humanity. Amid this Global Heating Crisis, Piper lives with her mother who suffocates her more than the chaotic climate. When her mother is called away to meet the father Piper has been running from her entire life, Piper seizes an opportunity for freedom.

But when Piper discovers a world of mythology she never knew existed, she realizes her world is not the only one in crisis. While Gods battle for control of the Underworld, Piper's life spirals into turmoil, and she struggles to find answers to secrets kept from her since birth. And though she’s drawn to her classmate Shayne, he may be more than he claims. Piper has to choose whom she can trust and how she can save the people she loves even if it means the end of everything she’s ever known. --


P.J. Hoover has created a kind of book I've never seen before, blending dystopian, fantasy, and historical themes together to create the world of Solstice. Set in Austin, Texas, in a futuristic world where 99 degrees is considered cool, the world, having been reshaped by the devastating effects of global warming, is now struggling to survive. Heat bubbles are becoming more frequent, and if something isn’t done soon, everything will burn up. But that’s not all; hiding among the ever-dwindling population are the Greek gods, who seem to have had a role in all of this. Mythological mystery set aside, I felt like the setting was very well developed, and even by the end of chapter one I understood the emergency and seriousness of everyone’s predicament. It had the kind of easy to understand world building I hope to see in a novel, and even if Hoover didn’t include mythology in her plotline, I would have enjoyed reading about about how society was going to deal with the increasing temperature.

I really, really, REALLY appreciated the fact that the gods in this novel aren’t represented like you’d expect them to be, with the obvious physical and emotional characteristics. For example, whenever I think of Ares I have a tendency to imagine a character that is always angry and looks similar to Disney’s version in the movie Hercules. But Hoover wrote her characters in a way that prevented me from falling back on my imaginative stereotypes, even though they are recognizable if you are familiar with Greek mythology. They are more human than you'd expect, and getting to know them like they were humans was actually my favorite part of the book.

Piper was a fairly steady and stable heroine, but it irritated me when she succumbed to what I now refer to in YA novels as “Instalove Syndrome”—where the main character immediately falls in love with one (or even two) mysteriously hot guy who mysteriously shows up in her school and mysteriously announces that they belong together (mysteriously). Those relationships don’t make sense to me, and I think I’m just tired of seeing them show up in fiction. But after Piper actually got to know her love interest I felt like they had chemistry together, so in the end it was all good. For those of you who are more into paranormal fiction than dystopian, you'll be pleased to hear that the book actually becomes less about the dystopian aspects of the world and more about the mythological/paranormal as the story progresses. The elements that provided suspense in Solstice were well done, and had me guessing the truth until it was actually revealed.

Solstice was a book that was easy to slip into, and hard to put down. With a dying world, mythological characters, and steamy romance—not to mention the fact that it crosses between genres, I see Solstice appealing to a wide variety of people. If you’re intrigued by the book’s synopsis, then chances are you’ll end up liking it! If a sequel is every written, I'm definitely going to pick it up.

For more information you can check out P.J. Hoover's website HERE!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

OI News: Solstice Blog Tour

Hi there everybody! I have some exciting news. This week, I'll be participating in a blog tour for the book, Solstice by P.J. Hoover. On Saturday, I'll post a review of the novel, but until then, you can read a description of the book below, and learn a bit about the author! Enjoy!



Where Mythology and Dystopia meet…

Piper’s world is dying. Global warming kills every living thing on Earth, and each day brings hotter temperatures and heat bubbles which threaten to destroy humanity. Amid this Global Heating Crisis, Piper lives with her mother who suffocates her more than the chaotic climate. When her mother is called away to meet the father Piper has been running from her entire life, Piper seizes an opportunity for freedom.

But when Piper discovers a world of mythology she never knew existed, she realizes her world is not the only one in crisis. While Gods battle for control of the Underworld, Piper’s life spirals into turmoil, and she struggles to find answers to secrets kept from her since birth. And though she’s drawn to her classmate Shayne, he may be more than he claims. Piper has to choose whom she can trust and how she can save the people she loves even if it means the end of everything she’s ever known.


P. J. Hoover first fell in love with Greek mythology in sixth grade thanks to the book Mythology by Edith Hamilton. After a fifteen year bout as an electrical engineer designing computer chips for a living, P. J. decided to take her own stab at mythology and started writing books for kids and teens. P. J. is a member of THE TEXAS SWEETHEARTS & SCOUNDRELS. When not writing, P. J. spends time with her husband and two kids and enjoys practicing Kung Fu, solving Rubik’s cubes, and watching Star Trek.

Her first novel for teens, Solstice, takes place in a Global Warming future and explores the parallel world of mythology beside our own. Her middle grade fantasy novels, The Emerald Tablet, The Navel of the World, and The Necropolis, chronicle the adventures of a boy who discovers he’s part of two feuding worlds hidden beneath the sea.

You can visit her website at

Thursday, June 23, 2011

GIVEAWAY WINNER: The Door to Canellin

WOW-ZAH! This was a fun giveaway to host! Over 200 people entered to win one of two copies of The Door to Canellin by E.H. Jones, and now it's time to report the winners. Drum roll please...

And the winners (according to are:




Congrats! The winners have already been contacted and will receive their books shortly! Thanks to everyone who participated, and keep your eyes peeled for more giveaways in the future!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Interview with E.H. Jones + GIVEAWAY

Hidy-ho there, warriors! Please join me in giving a warm welcome to Eric Jones, author of the Gatehouse series. Today, Eric is stopping by Oktopus Ink to talk about The Door to Canellin, the first book in the series, and share some stories about his writing. Alrighty, let's get this interview started, shall we? (warning: here there be spoilers.)

Hi Eric! Welcome to Oktopus Ink. What was your inspiration for writing the Gatehouse series?

My son. I began the Gatehouse series as a simple short story for my son, who was 11 years old at the time. He was having problems in school, and some behavior issues, as well as difficulty with socialization. The Gatehouse began as a short story with him as the protagonist, and me as the father desperate to save his child. As I began to outline the story, it grew from there into a book, and then into a series of books, and the characters drifted from being us, to being a father and son with a lot in common with us. And as my son got older, so did Wes, maturing as time went on.

Was it difficult to write from the perspective of two main characters who belong to different age groups?

It was difficult in the beginning, at the outline stages. But that was actually one of the major reasons to write the book! I wanted to get into the head of a young hero, and I wanted to give my son a glimpse of what it might feel like to be a father who cares deeply for his child, and wants more than anything to relate to him. As I wrote, though, I found that it became easier and easier to slip into the mind of each character. I got to know them both so well, and the supporting cast too, that writing them became second nature. And in the end, the book accomplished its original goal of bringing us closer.

How did you come up with the idea to make Wes' language (English), the language of magic in Canellin?

That was actually one of the first things that came to me. I just had this humorous bit running through my head of an ancient, wise mage who was unable to read this incredibly powerful spellbook, only to find that the title was Magic 101, and it was written like a chemistry textbook. After coming up with the idea, it was much more difficult to find a reason for it! But as I wrote, the reason became clear to me, and is even worked into the story as an important plot point later. I won’t spoil it! But the book of magic that Wes found in Canellin comes up again later, and we do eventually learn where it came from and how it ended up there.

Wes is naturally gifted at playing music. Are a musician yourself?

I am indeed! I play saxophone, fiddle around on guitar, plunk on the piano occasionally, and I sing. I have a background (from college) in vocal music performance. My son also plays trumpet, and yes, he’s quite probably as good as Wes. He’s certainly better than me!

Gatehouse is sort of similar in concept to The Chronicles of Narnia. Were you a fan of the books when you were younger? If not, what are your favorite sci-fi/fantasy novels?

I had read the Narnia books when I was younger, and yes, I did enjoy them. But I actually think the concept of The Gatehouse is more of a traditional fantasy device. Charles deLint, Jack Chalker, Piers Anthony, Raymond Feist, and countless others have used the plot device of a portal to another world in which the rules are different than our own. I like to think the Gatehouse is a little different than most, since there are infinite possibilities as to what might be found behind a doorway. It gives me, as an author, a chance to explore many different genres with the same characters! Super-heroes, war stories, science fiction, horror… who knows, maybe even a western!

As far as some of my personal favorite sci-fi and fantasy novels, the list is staggering! The Incarnations of Immortality by Piers Anthony… the Soul Rider books by Jack Chalker… the Magician series by Raymond Feist… the Ender books by Orson Scott Card… the Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey… and of course, the old standards: Elfquest by Wendy and Richard Pini, and the Belgariad by David Eddings.

Did you do any research when writing Door to Canellin?

I’m actually glad you asked that. It’s not something I’ve really had a chance to talk about, but yes, I did quite a bit of research on one particular subject, and I’m still not 100% certain that I got it right! The channel crossing scene, when Trigg teaches Wes how to use a sextant. It actually turned out to be very difficult to find reference material on the use of a sextant in navigation! But it was something that was very important to the story, in regard to theme, and so I pieced together all the bits of information I could find until I was confident that my descriptions were close enough to the mark that they made sense.

The overall theme of the Gatehouse series is finding your way. Whether it’s finding your way home, or finding your way in life, or simply finding your way to the next town. Wes is trying to find his way to adulthood and independence, and Ryan is trying to find his way as a single father. Jiane, Luther, Elarie, and Gideon all have something they are seeking, something that motivates them, even if it’s not readily apparent. That scene was sort of my amateurish, ham-fisted way of showing that theme of a journey, of seeking, and how complicated and simple it can be at the same time.

Tell us a little bit about your writing process. Do you write everyday? In a specific spot? With a specific drink? Food?

I write or edit every day. My process is simple, but possibly a little too structured for some people. I write from outline. I do a detailed, chapter by chapter outline of my story, maybe even tossing in a line of dialog here and there if it occurs to me, or making notes on some important event that is supposed to happen. I then translate that into prose.

As far as writing in a specific spot, or with specific drinks or food… I’m far too busy! I have a day job, I’m a single father, and both my son and I are heavily involved in the instrumental music program at his high school (him playing, me as a member of the booster club that organizes their events and raises money). I catch my writing time when and where I can! My lunch breaks at work are handy moments, or late at night when I should be sleeping. But really, to answer the question, I don’t have any specific rituals, except for one. The outline and the majority of the first draft of anything I write are written in pen, longhand, in countless composition notebooks.

What was your favorite part to write? Least favorite part?

My favorite part would have to be a tie. I really love the scene where Gideon tells Wes about his sons, and the dragonwar. To this day, I look at that, and I feel it is probably the most well-written part of the book. But tied with that is the climactic battle scene. Come on, who doesn’t enjoy a battle??

My least favorite, you probably can’t pick out of the book. They’re what I call the “connecting” scenes. Some of them even have important events in them! But they’re the scenes that come in between all of the big, major events of the story. And they’re complicated to write! Keeping continuity, timelines, and characterization consistent between the scenes is a chore in and of itself, and I’d never be able to manage it without my outlines, and without my first readers… the people who keep me on track, reading the story as I’m going along.

What are you working on now?

  • The Door to Justice (sequel to The Door to Canellin… do you like super-heroes?)
  • Rocket Girl (a comic book project)
  • Two short story collections related to Rocket Girl
  • Mark Thyme: Immortal Investigator (working title, a noir/pulp novel following the exploits of a private investigator in the gumshoe era, who just happens to be thousands of years old and immortal)

Is there a specific message that you wanted readers to take away when finishing the first book of the Gatehouse series?

Honestly, there are any number of messages that were intended with the first book, but none of them are overly deep or profound. Just that life is a journey, and the journey never ends. There’s always something new to discover, just over the next rise. But when it comes right down to it, I’ll be happy if readers step away from The Door to Canellin feeling as if they’ve just enjoyed a fun, adventurous romp through a believable fantasy world, with real people, and real magic, and of course, real dragons!


Woah, great answers, Eric! Thanks again for joining us here on Oktopus Ink.

In addition to stopping by the blog, Eric is offering up not one, but TWO copies of his book. To enter, fill out the form below. Contest ends Saturday, June 18th. On Saturday, I'll pick the winners using and announce them here on my blog. Contest is open to US residents only. Sorry international readers! I promise to host an international giveaway soon.

For those of you who are interested in learning more about The Door to Canellin and the Gatehouse series, please check out Eric's website at There you can get the latest information about the series, and find links to purchase it if you dying to read it asap. (Which you totally should be. The book is awesome!)


Friday, June 10, 2011

The Door to Canellin by E.H. Jones

Title: The Door to Canellin
Author: E.H. Jones
Series: Gatehouse #1
Published: April 29, 2011
Publisher: OnMyOwn Publishing
Pages: 300 (paperback)
I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Wes is a teenager, with teenage troubles, who feels as if his world is crashing down around him. But when he discovers the house in the woods that wasn't there before, he finds himself thrust into Canellin, a world of dragons, monsters, magic, and mayhem. What's more, he discovers that his own unique talents may be the key to Canellin's salvation, and his own. Unfortunately, his only way home is halfway around the known world, in the lands controlled by an evil dragon bent on the eradication of all human life! Wes' father, however, has his own plan: find his wayward son, and bring him home safely no matter the cost! --Goodreads


As a reviewer of indie books, I come across a lot of…well, let’s just call it not-so-stellar fiction. However, on occasion I’m lucky enough to be introduced to a book that makes me stop and say, “I could totally see this in Borders. Wait a sec...why ISN’T this in Borders?!” The Door to Canellin is one of these books. Well written and fast-paced, Jones has expertly crafted a world of magic, monsters, and modern heroes that even those who are not a fan of the fantasy genre will be able to appreciate and enjoy.

At face value, The Door to Canellin’s plot isn’t anything brand-spankin’ new—a boy and his father enter through a magical Gatehouse and are transported into a medieval-like fantasy world in order to save it—but everything about this novel is so well done that it stands out among the books that I’ve read. In spirit, the concept sort of reminded me of a combination of The Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit. But instead of a wardrobe and a ring you get a lovable thief, double crossing dragon warriors, and a father-son relationship that’s worthy of a Disney channel movie (I say that as a compliment, mind you).

Learning about the characters was probably my favorite part of the book. The cast is large, but Jones handled all of them with love and I finished the book without feeling like anyone got left behind. Split into two parties, the different perspectives give the reader the chance to get to know everyone and relate to each individual’s life story, especially Wes and his father, Ryan. Right from the beginning, the reader can see that Ryan loves his son despite his flaws, and is willing to chase after Wes in order to make sure he's safe. Wes, in turn, learns that his father will love him no matter what, and realizes that he should work harder to reach his full potential. For a “problem child,” Wes wasn’t that annoying—a little self important and lazy, sure, but find me a teenager that isn’t before standing up to a dragon. Really though, his heart was always in the right place, and more often than not Wes was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Wes and Ryan walk away with new found love and respect, which will obviously go a long way in the sequel.

The Door to Canellin is one of those books that I could totally see sitting on the shelf next to Percy Jackson and the Olympians or the Fablehaven series. Seriously. It’s a fast read, it’s a fun read, it was well written, and it was the perfect way to kick off a fantasy series. Though the ending provides the reader with a solid conclusion (no cliffhanger, YAY!), there lingers a promise for future excitement. I honestly can’t wait to see where the Gatehouse takes Wes and Ryan next!