Sunday, February 20, 2011

Goin' on a Bloggin' Break

Phew! This week has been quite the emotional rollercoaster. In between finding out about the Borders closings (one is in my area...sad...) and the "Kill the Bill" protests taking place in Wisconsin's capital (don't know what I'm talking about? Google it! It's pretty crazy what Governor Scott Walker is trying to do) it's hard not to feel drained...and it's made me realize that I need a break. So I've decided to take a vacation from blogging. Not that I don't love it and all, but I need more time to work on school and a different sort of writing. So for the next few weeks, instead of drafting up reviews, I'll be writing and illustrating a children's book for an independent study I was able to create through my school's library studies department. "What's your book about?" you might ask. Well, I can't give you the details yet, but it might feature a certain octopus with a certain top hat. ;D

To all of you authors out there that have requested reviews, don't worry; I'll still write those up and post them, but they may come a little later than I had originally promised. My apologies if this causes any problems. If there is a serious issue, feel free to send me an email and I will do my best to catch up. I'll be back by the end of March at the latest.

So with that said, see ya'll in a few weeks! Have fun with posting your reviews, blog hopping, and sharing your IMMs! I look forward to catching up with you when I get back. Now, as we part ways, I shall leave you with this important message:


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Angel Burn by L.A. Weatherly

Title: Angel Burn (originally published as Angel)
Author: L.A. Weatherly
Series: Angel Trilogy #1
Release Date (in the US): May 24, 2011 (originally published Oct. 1, 2010)
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Pages: 403 (hardcover)
Obtained from: NetGalley for early review (thanks!)

Willow knows she’s different from other girls, and not just because she loves tinkering with cars. Willow has a gift. She can look into the future and know people’s dreams and hopes, their sorrows and regrets, just by touching them. She has no idea where this power comes from. But the assassin, Alex, does. Gorgeous, mysterious Alex knows more about Willow than Willow herself. He knows that her powers link to dark and dangerous forces, and that he’s one of the few humans left who can fight them. When Alex finds himself falling in love with his sworn enemy, he discovers that nothing is as it seems, least of all good and evil. In the first book in an action-packed, romantic trilogy, L..A. Weatherly sends readers on a thrill-ride of a road trip — and depicts the human race at the brink of a future as catastrophic as it is deceptively beautiful. –Goodreads


Now, I know what you're thinking: "What is this, Emi? ANOTHER angel book? Come on." I know, I know, I get it. But don't jump to conclusions just yet! Though Angel Burn is most definitely ANOTHER angel book, it manages to flip the entire concept of angels on its head. In this book, the angels are the bad guys and humans are the ones in danger of their powers. "How so?" you might ask. Well, in Angel Burn, the angels' world is deteriorating. With no energy source to sustain themselves, the angels have traveled to earth and turned to sucking the life force out of humans in order to survive. If that alone doesn't sound bad enough, like a deer tick with lymes disease, they leave their hosts sick and unhealthy. To me, this entire concept was bone-chilling, especially when the angels began using religion to their advangage, herding thousands of people to their churches to create a kind of feeding ground for one or more angels in an area. I loved the way that Weatherly constructed this secret world, and it only made the danger seem greater because there were only a select few who realized the truth about what was going on.

The main characters of this story were really well rounded, for they most part. Willow was a strong and confident girl straight from the beginning, with unusual hobbies that I appreciated because they set her apart from the thousands of other female protagonists out there (she’s a foturne teller and an automechanic!). Alex was also a confident and smart guy, with an unexpected soft side that revealed itself naturally. Seeing the two grow close was a very enjoyable process—and believable to boot. Yeah, there was a bit of the “lust at first sight,” thing going on, and their relationship towards the end of the book was borderline co-dependent/obsessive, but still, they actually hung out and got to know each other before they declaired that they were inseperable, so I felt that it was excusable. Or maybe I’ve finally developed a tolerance for those kinds of teenage relationships. Who knows? Eitherway, I’ve seen needier characters, and I’m confident that Willow and Alex will be strong in the sequel, as they find themselves facing a gigantic war with little hope of surviving.

Overall, the book was a great alternative to those interested in YA angel books but would prefer to stay away from the ones that focus entirely on romance. Though there are some parts of the story that lag, the ones that don’t are full of action and danger. It was this aspect of the book that hooked me right away and made me say, “Now this, is an angel book.” I’ll most definitely be picking up the sequel when it comes to the US!


Friday, February 18, 2011

Interview with Jim Mastro

Hi there, space cadets! Please join me in giving a warm welcome to fiction and nonfiction author, Jim Mastro! Jim is the author of several books about his experiences in Antarctica, as well as The Talisman of Elam, the first book in the Children of Hathor series. He's stopped by today to talk a bit about his experiences with writing The Talisman of Elam.

What was your inspiration for writing the Children of Hathor?

Actually, when I started out I did not intend for the story to be a trilogy. Only after I began developing it did I realize I couldn't possibly fit the whole story in one book. So I expanded it to the Children of Hathor trilogy and set about writing the first book, The Talisman of Elam.

I had originally intended to write a fantasy novel. But when I went to the bookstore to see what was out there, fantasy was all I saw. So I changed direction and decided to write a science fiction nov
el instead. (I've always had a tendency to buck the prevailing trend and sail against the wind.)

Anyway, to answer the question more directly: at the outset, I had no idea what I was going to write about, until I remembered a fantasy I had when I was in middle school. We lived next to some woods, and I used to spend a lot of time in there exploring. At the time, UFOs were all the rage, and I thought it would be so cool to find a hidden flying saucer. I imagined myself going inside and learning how to fly it. It was from that germ of an idea that I began to develop the story for The Talisman of Elam.

Jason, Kevin, and Amelia each have their own individual talents that contribute to their journey across the universe. How did you decide who knew what?

I'm not sure "decide" is the right word. Kevin's skill with computer gaming fell into place very early, but I did not know what Amelia's skill would be until she "revealed" it to me. I can't explain it any other way. And then, of course, her skill with language became critical to their success.

How did you come up with the structure of the universe?

I am going to assume that this question refers to the history and political structure of galactic civilization. Coming up with that was some of the most fun I've had in years!

In order for there to be a story, there has to be a backstory. In order for Jason's quest to make sense, there had to be a story behind the Talic. So, begin
ning with the premise that all humanoid civilization in the galaxy descended from one progenitor race (the Hathor), I began to develop a history of the galaxy, from when the Hathor first appeared to the present. I drew upon the intriguing evidence that Earth has been visited in the past, and expanded that to include the many "gods" in mythology (who I assumed were merely highly technological space travelers). I tried to imagine what galactic culture would be like, and just let my imagination go wild. It wasn't all smooth; I hit a few snags here and there and changed my mind a few times. But overall, the history of the galaxy just sort of spilled out of my head. Sometimes it felt like I was merely transcribing something that actually exists. It was really fun to think about civilizations and histories covering hundreds of thousands or millions of years. It's very mind-bending to work with those immense time scales.

And as for the way the physical universe is structured... I based that on my knowledge of astrophysics. Some physicists actually do believe there might be macro-scale cosmic strings left over from the Big Bang. And others theorize about dark matter, as well.

What was your favorite planet to write about?

All the planets were fun to write about, but I'd say my favorite was Sussoo. Which is funny, because originally Sussoo was inhabited by a race of rock-like creatures that survived on nuclear energy. During the final stages of revision, though, I came to realize that those Sussoo creatures were the only ones in the book that didn't make biological sense. It was just too hard to suspend disbelief about them, compared to the other races and ecosystems. So I threw them out and started over. I wanted to
go in a completely different direction, with a completely different kind of planet, one that was not supportive of human life but could support another kind of life. And I needed those other life forms and their ecosystem to be plausible (or at least internally consistent!). The idea for the conjoined symbionts just came out of the blue, but the rest of the Sussoo ecosystem is based on my knowledge of marine ecosystems.

As for the native, sentient species, long ago two species began to work together, much as symbiotic animals do here on Earth. But in this case, the two animals evolved to become one animal. They sort of grew together, as it were. So we have the giant, sauropod dinosaur-like part and the daintier, semi-humanoid part that lives in a hollow in the back of the giant's skull. The second part acts as the brains and voice, while the first part acts as the legs and mouth. I loved coming up with these guys and developing the ecosystem they'd need to survive.

If you were kidnapped by aliens and forced to live on their
planet for a year, what five items would you bring with you? Would you be excited?

Yes, I would be excited! (As long as I wasn't going to be locked up in a cage or something!) Of course, I'd miss my family and other things about Earth, but what an experience! I'd take some photos of my family, a camera, my guitar, plenty of pens and paper, and my toothbrush. (And a jackknife, if I could have six things.)

What was your favorite part to write in the Talisman of Elam?

The whole book was fun! But I think my favorite part was the climax (SPOILER ALERT), where Jason learns how the Talic can transport him, and they escape the Urian ship and end up in the Council Chamber. I couldn't type the words fast enough! (Second favorite part: Amunis and Takkadian Pheno!)

How was it different writing fiction vs. nonfiction? Did you face any unexpected challenges?

It was different writing fiction because I had to make everything up! And that was the challenge. At first, it was like pulling teeth. I did not expect it to be so difficult. But after writing non-fiction for so long, I felt like I had no imagination anymore. However, as I worked at it and worked at it, my imagination "muscle" got stronger and pretty soon the ideas were pouring out.

Tell us a bit about your writing process. Do you have a favorite spot to sit and write? Do you have a favorite drink to drink while you're writing?

My process for writing a novel is multifaceted. First I have to come up with the story arc and develop the plot and characters. That "discovery" process is something I do in a number of places. Sometimes I just sit on my couch with classical music in the background and a yellow, lined pad on my lap. If I get stuck, I lay down and let my mind wander. Sometimes I doze in and out, but invariably when my mind is in this free-floating state ideas come to me. My unconscious mind cuts loose. It amazes me how effectively this works. Then I snap to and get back to jotting notes.

Sometimes I go down to a local cafe and sit in the corner, jotting notes. This is a good place to establish the different sections of the story and fill out my section sheets. If I need to see the big picture, I'll go home and spread out the section sheets on my living room floor, so the whole book is laid out before me.

When it's time to actually start writing, I'm in my office at my computer, again with classical music in the background and a cup of green tea beside me. For editing, I listen to jazz. Don't ask me why I use classical music for creating and jazz for revising! It just seems to work.

Did you learn anything while writing the Talisman of Elam?

Absolutely! I always learn from writing. Mostly (I hope) I learn to be a better writer. The cool thing about writing is that you never stop learning about it. Ask any writer and he or she will tell you that you could live to be 300 and still not know everything there is to know about writing. It's a very complex activity! And every genre, every story, is different.

In this case, I also learned a lot about book layout, publishing, and marketing!

Did you have a favorite sci-fi series or movie as a kid? Do you have a favorite sci-fi series now (TV or book)?

My favorite sci-fi series as a kid was Star Trek. I still love it, in a nostalgic sort of way. But at the time, it really opened up my horizons. Later, I really enjoyed The Next Generation series. I loved the first three Star Wars movies, too. I don't watch TV any more (no time!), and I don't really have a favorite sci-fi book series, but I do really enjoy Vernor Vinge's books.

If you could go back and change anything about your book, what would you go back and change?

At this point, I would change nothing. That's not to say that the story couldn't be made better by some changes. I'm sure it could. Any story can be improved, but at some point you just have to let it be finished. In this case, I revised the whole book over 50 times, and the first chapter over 100 times. Time to move on!

What are you working on now?

Right now I'm writing the second Book in the series, The Hand of Osiris. It took me a couple of years to develop the plot and story arc. I had no idea that the middle volume of a trilogy would be so much harder to plot out than the first! But fortunately, it is much easier to write (probably because I know the characters so well now), and the story is just pouring out of me. Sometimes it just seems like I'm serving as a secretary for the characters, who have completely taken over and are running the show. It's incredibly good fun!


Great answers, Jim! Thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to join us here on Oktopus Ink.

For those of you unfamiliar with Jim's work, you can check out my review of the Children of Hathor, HERE (it was an awesome book) and visit his website HERE. You can even read chapters of the book for free!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Title: Across the Universe
Author: Beth Revis
Series: Across the Universe #1
Published: Jan. 11, 2011
Publisher: Razorbill
Pages: 398 (hardcover)
Purchased at Borders

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming. –Goodreads


I’m not ashamed to admit that I was hesitant to read this book even after I bought it. Over the last few months I’ve read countless reviews praising it…and countless reviews dishing it. The mixed messages left me unsure of what to expect. This, now that I think about it, was probably for the best. If I had approached this book thinking it was going to be my favorite read of the year I would have been left crying in disappointment. That’s not to say that Across the Universe was terrible, but it had its issues.

First, a bit about what I actually liked: what engaged me most about this book was the world Revis created. The thought of living on a ship filled with incest, lies, mind-dulling drugs and murderous dictators chilled me to the core, and there were quite a few scenes where I had to pause and remind myself that I wasn’t reading a psychological thriller. I genuinely felt bad for Amy and the life she had to look forward to after she was unfrozen, especially since she was such a stubborn and outspoken character. It was easy to feel her pain—like a bird trapped in a cage with nowhere to go. This injustice kept me engaged and eager to turn the page.

However, that was basically the extent of my care for the characters. Amy bothered me because she never grew. The Amy at the beginning of the book is the same as the Amy at the end of the book, despite everything that she goes through. Elder, on the other hand, progressed nicely as a character, but was always second guessing himself and was constantly missing opportunities to stick up for Amy. His actions (or lack of, really) made finding romantic chemistry between the two difficult...which was strange because many sources claimed that this book would be the romance of the year. In addition, Elder’s half of the narrative was super verbose, which caused parts of the book to lag. Time spent whining about the difference between fake and real stars could have been time spent solving the Mystery of the Defrosted Ice People, since it took them nearly 350 pages to get anywhere close to discovering the truth. And on that note--

The mystery of “whodunit?” was super easy to guess. Like, it was so easy I was second guessing myself because it was too easy. It makes me wonder why the characters took so long to reach the same conclusions I did, especially since they had all of this cool space tracking technology to use at their disposal. You cannot tell me that a ship has scanners and records for everyone on board and then tell me you have no idea who it is. That doesn't fly with me, even if the door locks are trashed and the wires are ripped out. Get creative! I'm sure that there's something you can do besides posting a guard every few hours to watch the frozen people. If you're that confused, then go into the ship's historical records and watch CSI, for Speed's sake! Gil Grissom could teach you a thing or two about catching a killer.

Ah, I could go on and on, but I think I'm going to stop for now. You guys get the idea. Anyway, I can see this book being a nice gateway read for readers who are not used to the genre, but for those who are sci-fi geeks and desire the other elements of a good book, I’d recommend waiting a while to read this. Like I said, I didn’t think Across the Universe was a bad book per say, but it certainly wasn’t gush-worthy. The setting was great, the history was great, and science behind the fantasy was great, but the characters lacked depth and chemistry. Important factors to consider, especially if you're dealing with a subject as wide as the universe.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Feb. 11th Follow Friday & Book Blogger Hop

Follow Friday is a meme hosted by Rachel at Parajunkee's View. Every week, book bloggers have a chance to connect and check out each other's blogs. Check it out to sign up and participate, or just check it out to check out some great blogs! This is my eighth week participating. This week's question:

What is your favorite romance-hero type? Stereotype wise. Do you like the strong silent type or the brute macho man?

Oooh, tough question. If I can help it, I like to avoid both. I prefer characters who are nice with decent social skills and a normal physique. Sorry, but bulging, lumpy muscles creep me out, and I get frustrated when somebody doesn't speak their mind. But I guess if I had to choose one or the other, I'd go with the brute macho man. From what I've seen in the books I've read, the brute macho guys are cocky and at least have a sense of humor.

And if you do one Follow Meme, why not do two? The more the merrier! The Book Blogger Hop is a meme hosted by Jennifer at Crazy for Books. Like Follow Friday, It's a place for book bloggers to connect, and "hop" from one another's blogs to get to know each other. Jennifer also asks a question to kick off the conversations. This is my ninth Book Blogger Hop. This week's question:

Tell us about one of your posts from this week and give us a link so we can read it (review or otherwise)!

This week I participated in my first ever guest post over at Alice's The Reader Room. Every week she hosts her own meme called Read, Review, Recommended, where she invites other bloggers to recommend a book to her readers. I read and reviewed StarCrossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce. Even though I didn't really like the book at first (it was difficult to get into), by the end I was crazy about it. I can't wait for the sequel. You can check out the review HERE if your curious!

To all of you returning visitors, thanks again for stopping by my blog, and to all you new visitors, welcome! If you leave a link to your website I'll be sure to check it out over the weekend. Until then, happy Friday!

Guest Post At The Reader Room

Hi there everybody! I hope you're all doing swell. Though...there's lots of new books out this week, so how could you not be?! (I already picked up The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier)
Today I'm participating in my first ever guest post over at Alice's blog, The Reader Room. I read and reviewed StarCrossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce, so if you're curious, head on over there and check it out!

Click HERE to read my review.

*Thanks so much for inviting me to guest post on your blog, Alice! It's an honor. :P

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

100 Follower Contest WINNERS!

Hellooooooooo everybody! It's finally that time...that time to announce the winners of my 100 follower contest! Over forty people participated with a total of 194 entries. Winners were chosen using (the God of contests), and will be contacted by email in the order that they appear below. If you are a winner, you'll have 48 hours to respond before I choose a new winner. So now...without further adieu...

A super duper epically awesome thank you so much to all who participated by commenting, following, and spreading the word. Before this contest started, I had 95 followers, and now I have 148! Crazy! I think my favorite part of this contest was hearing what everyone's favorite sci-fi or fantasy book was. You guys have great tastes. ;P

If you didn't win this time, have no fear! There will be other contests in the future. If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to email me. Again, thanks everybody!

Museum of Thieves by Lian Tanner

Title: Museum of Thieves
Author: Lian Tanner
Series: The Keepers #1
Published: Sept. 28, 2010 by Delacorte Books
Pages: 256 (hardcover)
Obtained from: CCBC book sale

Welcome to the tyrannical city of Jewel, where impatience is a sin and boldness is a crime.

Goldie Roth has lived in Jewel all her life. Like every child in the city, she wears a silver guardchain and is forced to obey the dreaded Blessed Guardians. She has never done anything by herself and won’t be allowed out on the streets unchained until Separation Day.

When Separation Day is canceled, Goldie, who has always been both impatient and bold, runs away, risking not only her own life but also the lives of those she has left behind. In the chaos that follows, she is lured to the mysterious Museum of Dunt, where she meets the boy Toadspit and discovers terrible secrets. Only the cunning mind of a thief can understand the museum’s strange, shifting rooms. Fortunately, Goldie has a talent for thieving.

Which is just as well, because the leader of the Blessed Guardians has his own plans for the museum—plans that threaten the lives of everyone Goldie loves. And it will take a daring thief to stop him. . . .

Museum of Thieves is a thrilling tale of destiny and danger, and of a courageous girl who has never been allowed to grow up—until now


For the first 50 pages or so I was scratching my head, trying to figure out which genre this book belonged to. Was it fantasy? Sci-fi? Steampunk? Dystopian? Well, the answered turned out to be none of the above…and at the same time, all of the above. Museum of Thieves was one of those rare books that spice up the genre by creating its own—and by doing it well. Tanner does a nice job constructing Goldie’s world without screaming “THIS IS HOW THINGS ARE,” at the reader. Instead, we get to figure things out by running away from a tyrannical government, exploring a shape-shifting museum, and chatting with the last brizzle hound—a kind of dog that can change its size depending on the situation. There is wonder on every page of this book, and Goldie was the kind of character you want to see discovering it for herself.

However, even though I LOVED the world that Tanner created, I never became emotionally invested in the book. The supporting cast of characters were flat, and some of Goldie's moments of self-discovery felt forced. We aren’t given much back story on anybody--even when the opportunity presented itself--and as a result, characters who should have come alive in my mind were just names on a page. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I spent more time wondering, "What did [insert name of a character] do to get here?" than paying attention to the life lessons they were trying to teach Goldie (which were a little obvious, I might add).

Despite this, I plan on reading the next book in the series since Museum of Thieves was so different than anything else I've read before. Young fans of fantasy will be able to enjoy this book easily, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for something totally original. Plus, the idea of exploring an endless LIVING museum is pure, unfiltered awesome. I mean, come on, think about it: with the world's history at your fingertips, who needs school?


Monday, February 7, 2011

Kevin's Point of View by Del Shannon

Title: Kevin’s Point of View
Author: Del Shannon
Series: ???
Release Date: Oct. 26, 2010
Pages: 400 (paperback)
Obtained from: Author in exchange for an honest review (Thanks Del!)

To escape the emotional turmoil of his father’s death 12-year-old Kevin Tobin has retreated inside himself, developing his imagination into a dangerous foil and a powerful ally. While he antagonizes everyone with his superhero antics, his ability to escape inside himself becomes critical to his survival after his life is once-again turned upside down a year after his father’s death. When a mysterious package arrives in the mail, Kevin and his best friend are hunted by a ruthless villain who is determined to retrieve the package, which holds the key to his plans for world domination. After enlisting Kevin’s teenage sister and her pizza-delivery boyfriend in a battle for control over time itself, the group escapes into the mountains west of Boulder, Colorado and eventually discover that Kevin’s entire existence is because of the love of someone we never expected. –Goodreads


Kevin's Point of View was a strange book. Yes, a strange--but humorous--book that grabbed my attention right from page one. Shannon did a wonderful job capturing the personality and imagination of a twelve-year-old, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching Kevin's mind switch from reality to role-playing mode as he battled the bad guys throughout this story. Watching him escape his troubles by retreating into his imagination took me back to my own days as a twelve-year-old, playing Pretend on the playground with my friends...except that when we did it, our lives weren't in danger. (We liked to pretend that we were Pokémon trainers training to defeat the Elite Four.) It was cool to see that whenever Kevin started to play pretend, he managed to find the courage to face whatever danger lay before him. Eccentric characters are always fun to read about, but they're even better when they use their unusual quirks to accomplish great feats. It's the kind of thing you hope to admire in a person, fictional or not. And boy, it's a good thing that Kevin had a way to handle all of the crazy that was buzzing about him, because Kevin's Point of View was one of those stories that just continued to get more and more outrageous as the plot went on--like each chapter was trying to outdo itself. It was just a roller coaster of crazy event after crazy event, and it was hard to stop myself from yelling things like, "WHY WON'T YOU DIE?!" at the book when the bad guys managed to show up yet again after falling off of a train or getting crushed by an avalanche. It was actually, really, really funny. The only beef I had with Kevin's Point of View was that even though the book begins with Kevin as the main character, towards the end it splits and becomes more about the group of characters that Kevin hooks up with. This wasn't a big deal since each character contributed to the ending in his or her own way, but since I grew so attached to Kevin's imagination in the first half of the book I wanted to see him use more of it to be the hero in the end.

In a way, the style of this story reminded me of The 39 Clues series, both in tone and structure. The sci-fi element in this book is light and fairly easy to understand, even though some sequences of events were confusing. However, Shannon manages to pull it all together at the end with a well-constructed plot twist. The fast-paced, cliffhanger like chapters will encourage even the most reluctant readers to keep reading, and the bizarre events will have everyone laughing about something. All-in-all, Kevin's Point of View was just plain old, good clean fun with something new on every page. A goofy read for all ages!