Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Interview with Melissa Crandall

G'day lords and ladies! Today, Melissa Crandall, author of numerous works including the award-winning short story, "Darling Wendy," has stopped by to talk about her experiences with writing her latest novel, Weathercock.

What was your inspiration for writing Weathercock?

It was the random confluence of two separate things -- the playing of Jethro Tull's song "Weathercock" on the car radio as I drove past a billboard with some liquor ad that showed (if I remember correctly) some half-clad, big-boobed, red-haired hottie chick riding a....polar bear? Can that be right? Anyway, that's what I recall. The song was at the part where there's this sort of martial beat and the two jived in my head and gave me the germ of an idea that bears absolutely NO resemblance to how Weathercock eventually turned out. (Thank God.)

Weathercock takes place in a completely female-dominated society, which is very unusual for

fantasy books. Was it strange writing female characters who acted like men and took on masculine roles/jobs? Was it strange writing men who were thought of as "frail?"

When I began Weathercock, it was a very traditional fantasy. Rai and Banya were men and Kinner was a girl. I got about two or three chapters into it and the story dive-bombed nose first into the dirt and lay there whimpering and rolling its eyes at me. I shot it in the head, buried the corpse where no one will ever find it, and changed the gender on everyone. From that point, the story took off.

Writing the female characters with what we consider male characteristics wasn't difficult because those are only male characteristics based upon OUR society. In Weathercock's world, that behavior is perfectly normal. Most of the woman I know and like best are a bit on the rough-and-tumble, irreverent side, so it was easy to write the women in the story. Kinner and the other men were a bit more difficult as I had to keep reminding myself how he has been raised -- to be quiet and subservient and weak. I might write him doing something and then think "Oh, wait, he wouldn't do that." After awhile, though, it became second nature. I like to think that his personal growth in the course of the book seems very natural.

Kinner, Rai, and Banya are three entirely different people with their own strengths, attitudes, and weaknesses. Even though they made a good team, were you ever afraid that they wouldn't cooperate when you were working on a scene?

I never thought about it consciously and -- lucky for me -- it never happened. Kinner (as is his way) stayed pretty quiet throughout. Rai and Banya were fairly verbal in the back of my head, with Banya saying "Do what you have to do," and Rai countering with something rude.

Weathercock takes place in a medi

eval-based fantasy world (or at least, I like to think so). Is there something specific you enjoy writing about the time period?

I'm not sure why I'm drawn to that period. Could be the false romance we tend to imbue it with, when it really wasn't that way at all. (I've heard women say, "Oh, I'd love to have lived back then!" Really? With all the pestilence and war and no sanitary napkins? No thanks.) I knew I wanted swords and not a lot of technology and it sort of grew from that all on its own. In fact, I had a few people badgering me as to "when" the story took place and I was really resistant to nailing it down to a specific era. In my head, it takes place whenever it needs to.

Would you ever want to try your hand at blacksmithing, and if you do, what would you


What a totally cool question! I would LOVE to try my hand at blacksmithing. I'd probably try something small first -- maybe a plant hanger or a lucky horseshoe? I once worked at a place that had horses and I loved watching the farrier. In Terry Pratchett's "Discworld" series he talks about a secret word that blacksmiths use to control horses so they can shoe them. I believe that's true.

Why did you choose a rooster to symbolize the legend?
Actually, because of the Jethro Tull song. (And it's the reason I dedicated the book to Ian Anderson.) It worked out well because it's such a masculine image and I liked the idea of a weathercock pointing the way to better days (as it says in the song).

How was writing Weathercock different than any other project you've worked on in the past?

It was more time consuming and, in its way, harder to write. I lost count of the number of drafts I did of this story. Six? Seven? It was worth it in the end, but there were times when I got mighty tired of those people. ("You're not the only one, lady!" sez Rai.)

Weathercock has quite a bit of salty language in it. How did you come up with some of the character's phrases and insults?

As a writer, I love words and language, so I always have an ear out (as it were) for the unusual. I collect dictionaries from other languages so I can use them when I'm hunting for names for a story. Some of the phrases in the book I've overheard or they sprang from conversations with friends. Others came courtesy of my husband's days in the Navy. I pilfered quite a bit of "salty language" from him, much to his consternation.

I tried very hard, though, to not use the insults in a gratuitous manner. Many of the women you meet in the story are soldiers -- they have that mentality, that culture and, to a degree, that rawness. But they also have that loyalty.

Was the legend of the Weathercock inspired by a real legend?

Not with any awareness on my part. He just erupted full-blown from my head (not unlike Athena from the brow of Zeus, although in no way am I equating myself with a Greek God).

What w
as your favorite part of the book to write?

The end! Hah! (Well, there is some truth to that.) I don't know that I had one favorite part. I really had so much fun with so many aspects of the book -- Carraidland, the sealfolk, Banya and Rai. Hard to choose.

Least favorite part?

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!! The hardest part for me to write was undoubtedly Banya's death. I vacillated on that for a long time. I kept trying to find a way around it, because I didn't want to do it. It was Banya herself who talked me into it. "Look," she said. "Rai won't get the emotional growth she needs if I'm around picking up her shit all the time." And she was right.

Did you do any research in order to help create the world of Weathercock? (For example, did you have to research horses or sword fighting techniques)

Research is a wonderful thing and I recommend it to every writer. Don't stint. Don't try to take the easy way out thinking no one will notice, because SOMEONE will and that someone will know you're full of tripe and they won't recommend the book to other readers. Research takes time but it's worth doing. So, yes, I did research. Some of the horse stuff I already knew (although I found the term 'grulla' online and loved it so much that I had to use it). I researched how swords are made and used and carried and wielded, yeah. I've yet to wield one myself, but if I could do that (preferably without an audience so there's no one to laugh when I lop off an ear), I'd love to give it a try.

How long have you been writing, and how long did it take you finish this book?

I've been writing since I was five or six years old. I've been writing professionally since 1992. The original version of Weathercock took me about eight months to a year to write. But, as I said earlier, it's gone through several rewrites.

Do you have a
favorite fantasy novel or series?

Let's see....in series, I'd say Terry Pratchett's "Discworld" (I am particularly enamored of Granny Weatherwax, Sam Vimes, and Death); Susan Cooper's "The Dark is Rising;" Barbara Hambly's "Sun Wolf and Starhawk" books. In stand-alone books, probably my all-time favorite is J.M. Barrie's "Peter Pan." I've also read Walter Wangerin's "Book of the Dun Cow" a million times and never get tired of it.

Tell us a bit about your writing process. Do you have a specific time that you write? A specific place? A drink that you drink?

I am undoubtedly a morning writer. I do my best stuff early in the day, and try to get to the computer between 5 and 7 in the morning, work for 3-4 hours, take a break, and do the business end of the writing gig in the afternoon. Although I can write just about anywhere, I like having a specific place. Right now, that's my office at home. The cats come in and keep me company and it's quite pleasant. I certainly don't drink alcohol while I work (or nothing would get done). I'm a huge fan of really good black tea (Barry's, P.G. Tips) and have that in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon. I drink a lot of water. No soda. Occasionally, I'll reward myself with a glass of wine or a beer at the end of the day.

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

Other than a turn of phrase here and there, I don't think I'd change anything. I'm pretty happy with that story, which is why I refused to accept the rejections I was receiving from the standard publishing route and chose to self-publish. I believe in this story. I believe in the characters and what they have to say. Now their story is told and it's time to move on.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a YA/Adult crossover fantasy novel called "Call of Blood," about a pair of twins separated nine months after birth. I also have a slew of short stories to work on. Percolating in the back of my mind is a pirate novel ("A Woman Scorned") and a possible sequel to Weathercock ("Cockscomb").

At its heart, Weathercock is a book about oppression and equality. Is there a specific message or lesson you want your readers to take away from your book, especially about gender?

I see the heart of Weathercock as being about the choices we make. Do we stick with the old regime or try something new? I'm not sure I wrote the story with a particular 'lesson' in mind. I prefer each individual reader takes from the story what works best for them. But if they take anything, I would like it to be Holan's words: There are always choices. There are people in the world who would like to steal your choices or make you think you don't have any or make you afraid of possibilities or of trying to achieve what you really want in life. There are people who want you to follow THEIR route through life, rather than your own. I dealt with a lot of that as a child and it look me a long, long time to work to the other side of it. (Sometimes I still am.) There is much to be gained in being open-minded, in trying a particular route and, if it doesn't work, trying something else. Of working (and it is work) to find your place in the world where you can be yourself. It's hard to be brave sometimes, but it's worth it. Some of the best moments in my life have been when I faced up to a fear and walked through it. (Spitting in its eye on the way past doesn't hurt either!)


What awesome answers! Melissa, you are definitely one funny and talented lady. Thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to chat with me (and by association, the rest of the world) here on Oktopus Ink.

For those of you interested in Melissa's work, you can check out my review of Weathercock HERE, and visit her webpage HERE. I highly recommend it!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Title: Little Brother
Author: Cory Doctorow
Series: -
Published: April 29, 2008
Publisher: Tor Books
Pages: 382 (hardcover)
This book was purchased.

Marcus, aka “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works—and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.

But his whole world changes when, having skipped school, he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison, where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days.

When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state, where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself.

Can one teenage hacker fight back against a government out of control? Maybe, but only if he’s really careful…and very, very, smart. –Little Brother dust jacket


I think there is a hands-down consensus that books have power. The ones worth reading entertain you. The ones really worth reading force you to think not only about the lives of the characters, but about your own life and the conditions of which you live it. They have the power to move generations, to start revolutions. That's why parents challenge them. That's why governments ban them. That's exactly why they're timeless. To me, Little Brother was one of those books. Cory Doctorow has followed in the footsteps of the greatest dystopian writers to bring us the contemporary version of 1984, but with a lesson that all of those growing up in this day and age can take to heart.

At its core, Little Brother is a book about defining yourself and finding the strength to stand up for up for what you believe in. Marcus, the main character, believes in the freedoms of the United States' Constitution. He believes that giving up one's rights to ensure the "security of our safety" is wrong, especially when the government uses those rights to punish those that it's trying to protect. He was an incredibly intelligent young man, with a sort of paranoid optimism that I quickly came to admire. I never stopped to think, "Hey, wait a sec...how does he know all this stuff about hacking?" I just accepted it without a second thought because even though Marcus is smart, there were parts in the book where he really lacked perspective. These parts reminded me that Marcus isn't uncharacteristically mature for his age, making him more believable. Overall, I think Doctorow did a great job accurately portraying a teenager without patronizing the age group, and was one of the reasons why I believed everything about the world of Little Brother.

However, even though the plot and characters were great, I think the most interesting aspect about this book was the amount of technical jargon in it. It had a lot, and even though I wasn't familiar with all of it, it didn't bother me because Doctorow explained everything even remotely scientific with simple, easy to understand descriptions and current references (for example, Xbox comes up a lot). I think that was part of the reason why it was so easy to see this story taking place now, even though a specific date isn’t mentioned (we only know that it takes place after 9/11). To be honest, I came away from this book a hellufalot smarter than I was before. I think classes dealing with the future of technology, media, security systems, or communications would do well by making this book part of their reading curriculum. I mean, really--who ever said textbooks can’t be fun? I’d certainly prefer to read this than any manual, especially when I can get the same information. Doctorow even takes his lessons one step further by providing a list of books that the reader can pick up if they want to explore the topics of hacking and civil rights.

Though this book may come off as a little preachy or heavy handed in it's political agenda, it's still worth giving a shot--especially if you're into digital dystopias or literature saturated with tech-geek speak. In fact, if you are interested in reading it, you can visit Doctorow's website to download a copy for free. I highly recommend it. Little Brother has changed the way I think (especially when it comes to the ways that things don't work) and as a result, is probably one of the best books I've read, ever.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

GIVEAWAY: The Dragon of Trelian

Hi everybody! It's time for free stuff. This week I'm giving away my extra copy of The Dragon of Trelian by Michelle Knudsen.

  1. You must be a GFC follower.
  2. To enter, post a comment with your email address.
  3. Open to US and Canada residents only.
  4. You must be at least 13 years old to enter.
  5. Giveaway ends in one week. I'll pick the winner using Random.org and will make the announcement on April 1st. (And don't worry, I won't try to trick you.) The winner will be contacted by email.
Gooooooooood luck!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Weathercock by Melissa Crandall

Title: Weathercock
Author: Melissa Crandall
Series: ??? (has yet to be determined)
Release Date: Jan. 31, 2011
Publisher: Tortuga Press
Pages: 277 (paperback)
Received from Melissa for review.

Weathercock. The name evokes flames and chaos, and a mythic hero who will one day change the world. Young Kinner - betrayed by those he loves and sentenced to die - knows only one thing: in a world where women hold all the power and men are nothing but property, heroes are hard to come by.

Determined to find a life on his own terms, he flees execution only to discover he knows nothing about survival. Used to relying on others, he dreams of rescue. Instead of the Weathercock, what he gets is Rai and Bayna, mercenary soldiers on the run from the determined (and increasingly psychotic) Commander Remeg.

The last thing they need is to play nursemaid to a half-grown whelp, but a madwoman's dark secret soon ties their fates. For a while, things actually go their way until further treachery casts a dark wing over the travelers. Alone once more, Kinner must discover within the bravery and skill to save not only himself, but also his friends.

And what of Weathercock? Can someone who doesn't even exist appear when Kinner needs him most? -Goodreads


It's not very often that I find myself at a loss for words when starting a review. Normally, I have some sort of witty comment or cute exclamation to describe what I thought of a book. But this time, I got nothing. Zip, zilch, nada. Why? Because Melissa Crandall’s Weathercock has, in a way, left me too stunned for words. So I’ll just jump into the review.

Weathercock takes place in a fantasy world similar to our own. Even though I would like to classify it as a medieval-based fantasy, it’s is not entirely so. Yes, people ride around on horses; yes, they shoot arrows instead of guns; and yes, the land is ruled by a queen, but that’s about as far as it goes. The world stands by itself, timeless in its efforts. And even though I’ve come to expect this sort of thing in good fantasy, what really made this setting unique was the fact that women, not men, are the dominating gender. While men are basically kept at home for reproductive purposes, women are ruling, fighting, and conspiring in roles that are traditionally handed to men in fantasy. Even though at first I found the idea a little jarring, I quickly realized that Crandall is in no way trying to say that women are better than men or vice versa. She isn’t even trying to say, “Imagine, what if?” It is just the culture of the book—the way that things are—and her characters' personalities reflect this. They behaved just like I would expect them to behave when conditioned in this kind of environment, regardless of their gender-specific body parts. This fact--this recognition of the characters' reality and it's feeling of completeness--gave it the extra 'oomf' I always look for when reading fantasy.

Even stronger than the effort that Crandall puts into creating her world was the effort she put into creating her characters. Kinner, a young man believed to be sterile, undergoes a quest with his companions—runaway soldiers Rai and Banya—to deliver a sword believed to one day be wielded by the legendary hero who will rise and right the wrongs of the world. Even though the quest sounds traditional, the adventure and its characters are not. Kinner was a quiet boy, unfamiliar to the world and its ways. Rai and Banya were witty, loud--and often hilariously foul--mouthed soldiers. Together, they made an unlikely team, but each one of them pulled their weight to succeed in the end. I think I found Rai and Banya’s relationship the most enjoyable to watch. Despite their age difference (more than 10 years apart), they tease, mock, and threaten each other with respect. The love and loyalty between them felt so solid it was difficult not to laugh out loud when they laughed or cry when they cried. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a friendship in a book as powerful or as realistic as theirs. The villain, Commander Remeg, was also a character I liked. Wait, no, I mean, I hated her. I mean, er....I loved hating her! She was probably the most important element in driving this story forward. A person fighting in the name of love is a powerful opponent, but Crandall shows us exactly how powerful—and how frightening—it can be. Now, I’m not saying what Remeg did was justified, but I understood her reasons and watching her lose her grip on reality made much more an impact on me than any villain seeking world domination ever has. It was like watching a train wreck, and there were points in the story where I actually feared for the safety of Kinner’s world.

I could go on an on, but to do so would just turn this review into spiral of gushing comments and praise. To put it simply, the book was amazing. The plot and setting? Original to the fantasy genre. The characters? Complex and alive. The writing? I savored every word. Weathercock is one of those books that I wouldn’t mind going back and rereading, even though I just finished it a week ago. It was exciting, it was hilarious, it was romantic, it was inspiring, it was gritty, it had thrills and it had chills. It was just a plain ol’ good book, and one certainly worthy of discussion beyond a simple review. Even though a sequel hasn't been officially planned, I’ll be bugging the author about it after she finishes her current novel, “Call of Blood.” This was an all around fantastic book for high fantasy lovers out there, and one of the few that I’ll make an effort to reread again and again and again and again. I’m sure once you get your hands on it you will too.


NOTE: because my blog is advertised as being dedicated to YA and MG fiction, I should warn you that Weathercock is actually a YA/Adult fantasy crossover. There is some sexual content and lots of colorful language, but nothing outrageously gory, violent, or erotic.

A SECOND NOTE: For those of you looking for more information, or for where to purchase Weathercock, you can visit Melissa's website or find it on Smashwords.

Mar. 25th 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 ninth week participating. This week's question:

Inspired by the Twitter trend of #100factsaboutme, give us 5 book related silly facts about yourself.

Oooh, fun! Okay, here it goes:
  1. I make faces when I read. If I'm reading a funny scene, I'll grin. If I'm reading a scene where the character is getting the crap kicked out of them, I wince like I was the one getting punched.
  2. I have more books on my shelf that I haven't read than I have, and yet I still continue to buy more.
  3. Even though I've read a bunch of angel books in the past few months that I've enjoyed, I can't bring myself to admit that I like the genre.
  4. I've become very picky about my book covers. If I have multiple books in a series, then they have to match.
  5. My favorite place to read is in the bathtub.

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 tenth Book Blogger Hop. This week's question:

If you could physically put yourself into a book or series...which one would it be and why?
Ahhh...this is a tough one. Even though it's tempting to say The Tortall books by Tamora Pierce, I think I'm going to have to go with Harry Potter on this one. Since I was 11, I've dreamed of going to Hogwarts. Seriously, I was actually disappointed when my birthday came and went and I didn't receive a letter. I think it would be amazing to explore the castle, learn magic, and hang out with Harry, Ron and Hermione. Oh, and have a pet owl. I like owls. Especially barn owls.
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!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Initiate by Tara Maya

Title: Initiate
Author: Tara Maya
Series: The Unfinished Song
Release Date: Dec. 22, 2010
Publisher: Misque Press
Pages: 185
Received from Tara for review.

Dindi can't do anything right, maybe because she spends more time dancing with pixies than doing her chores. Her clan hopes to marry her off and settle her down, but she dreams of becoming a Tavaedi, one of the powerful warrior-dancers whose secret magics are revealed only to those who can pass a mysterious Test during the Initiation ceremony. The problem? No one in Dindi's clan has ever passed the Test. Her grandmother died trying. But Dindi has a plan.

Kavio is the most powerful warrior0dancer in Faearth, but when he exiled from the tribehold for a crime he didn't commit, he decides to she his old life. If roving cannibals and hexers don't kill him first, this is his chance to escape the shadow of his father's wars and his mother's curse. But when he rescues a young Initiate girl, he finds himself drawn into as deadly a plot as any he left behind. He must decide whether to walk away or fight for her...assuming she would even accept the help of an exile.


Wow. Holy smoking wow. This is one of the few books I've read that I can honestly say was totally, 100% original. I've never, and I mean have NEVER come across anything like it. Initiate, the first installment in Tara Maya's The Unfinished Song series, is set in the neolithic-like fantasy world of Faearth. Maya has done a fantastic job seamlessly blending tribal cultures, traditions, and fairy tales from across the world to bring the reader a completely unique experience. However, as unique as it is, it was insanely easy to slip into the story because I was familiar with the bits and pieces of our world that Maya took to create hers. It's always nice to be able to recognize where inspiration comes from, and the result creates a sort of "home away from home" feeling in fiction. That's not to say that I feel at home running around with spears and stuff, but the fantasy was grounded enough in reality that it was easy to imagine.

As I said before, the setting of this novel is a sort of neolithic stone-age kind of world. Seven tribes roam the land, living at odds among faeiries, elves, brownies and the like even though not all humans can "see" them. Though there were many characters that played an important role in the story, my favorite was Dindi, a young girl from the Lost Swan Tribe anxious to pass Initiation and become a Taevaedi, a member of a secret society of revered magical dancers whose powers can make it rain or even heal injuries. Though I felt like she acted a little young for a girl of fourteen, I still found her an extremely enjoyable character to watch develop throughout the story--especially since Initiate has a sort of fairy tale-like quality to it. She was one of those characters who always tried to do right but then ended up doing wrong (mostly because her actions were sabotaged by pixies). You can't help but want her to succeed. Her story parallels Kavio's, a young warrior and powerful Taevaedi exiled from his tribe for a crime that he didn't commit. He too, was likable--the strong, brave, and compassionate type we always love to see in fantasy novels. Though the two come from different worlds (Kavio is basically royalty where he comes from, and Dindi is an awkward outcast) what I found most compelling about the two of them together was that they share a strong heart. Yes, this is the part where you say "Awww," 'cause really, even though Kavio and Dindi only interact for a short period of time, you don't need a book description to tell you that their destinies are intertwined.

The book was a short read and felt even shorter than the 185 pages it actually was since the plot moved at a fast pace and was the perfect balance of background information and action. I felt like I really knew the world and all of it's characters (even the minor ones) by the time I reached the end, and was upset when the ending actually showed up. The cliffhanger is a bad one--like the kind that shows up at the end of your favorite show and makes you wish that it next week so you could get on with the next episode. Thankfully, I heard that the second book comes out this month, which means that for those of you interested in picking it up, you won't have to wait long to see what happens next. This is one that I highly recommend to all you epic fantasy lovers out there. Even though the writing isn't as academic as an epic like Tolkien's (and really, thank god), it's just as rich and detailed with deep characters in a world that's easy to care about since it's so similar to our own. Pick it up if you're looking for something totally different!


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Virals by Kathy Reichs

Title: Virals
Author: Kathy Reichs
Series: Virals #1
Published: Nov. 2, 2010
Publisher: Razorbill
Pages: 464 (hardcover)
I purchased this book at Half-Priced Books.

Tory Brennan, niece of acclaimed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan (of the Bones novels and hit TV show), is the leader of a ragtag band of teenage "sci-philes" who live on a secluded island off the coast of South Carolina. When a group rescues a dog caged for medical testing on a nearby island, they are exposed to an experimental strain of canine parvovirus that changes their lives forever.

As the friends discover their heightened senses and animal-quick reflexes, they must combine their scientific curiosity with their newfound physical gifts to solve a cold-case murder that has suddenly become very hot if they can stay alive long enough to catch the killer's scent.

Fortunately, they are now more than friends. They're a pack. They are Virals. --Goodreads


As a die-hard fan of the show, Bones, I'm sort of ashamed to admit that this is my first Kathy Reichs book. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the Bones universe, the TV show is loosely based off of a series of books written by Kathy Reichs. The main character, Temperance Brennan, is a world renowned anthropologist who uses her talents to solve murder mysteries. Virals is a spin off series of that world and the first YA novel that Reichs has written. Though, to be perfectly honest, I never would have guessed that it was her first. Not only did it have an intriguing plot with great characters, but the writing was fast-paced, quick to the point, and easy to get swept up in, like any YA novel should be.

The book stars Tory, Temperance Brennan's niece. Like her aunt, she has a thing for anthropology/biology and was a totally delightful character to follow. I cannot stress enough how much of a relief it was not to have a main character who was insecure, boy crazy, or totally dependent upon the other people around her. Instead, Tory is strong, confident, wicked smart (after all, she is Temperance Brennan's niece), and a bit of a tomboy. As a fellow science geek, I had oodles of fun watching her and her friends, Hi, Ben, and Shelton, break into places and use their brains to solve the problems at hand. In addition, even though Tory was the only girl in their posse, her friendship with the boys felt genuine. It was easy to see why the pack of them were so close even before they actually became a pack. Though there wasn't much hot and steamy action on the romance front, Reichs has laid hints for future relationships which will probably be explored in the second book.

The plot itself was great--a perfect blend of mystery and action. Even though paranormal books are far from rare in the YA world, finding paranormal books that actually explain the science behind the paranormal activity are. Reichs puts her anthropological expertise to work and logically explains why the kids have transformed the way that they have after they contract the genetically engineered K-9 parvovirus. It was nice to see them transform into creatures less like wolves and more like humans with super powers, which they used to solve the previously cold-case at the end.

This was one of those books that I devoured in a day. Every second was exciting, mysterious, and intelligent. By the end, I was sad that it was over. I cannot wait to get my hands on the sequel when it finally comes out (which, according to Goodreads, is in October). In addition, rumor has it that Virals might be made into a TV series. Here's crossing my fingers that it comes true! I would love to see Tory in Booth and Brennan's world. Who knows? Maybe her and her friends will be contracted with the FBI/Jeffersonian to help solve crimes! Anyway, the bottom line is that the book was awesome, and you should pick it up now if you're into superhero paranormal murder mysteries with awesome characters, lots of science, and lots of action. You won't be disappointed!


Friday, March 11, 2011

Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler

Title: Rage (ARC)
Author: Jackie Morse Kessler
Series: Horseman of the Apocalypse #2
Expected date of publication: April 8, 2011
Publisher: Harcourt Graphia
Pages: 288 (paperback)
I received a copy from NetGalley for early review.

Missy didn’t mean to cut so deep. But after the party where she was humiliated in front of practically everyone in school, who could blame her for wanting some comfort? Sure, most people don’t find comfort in the touch of a razor blade, but Missy always was . . . different.

That’s why she was chosen to become one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War. Now Missy wields a new kind of blade—a big, brutal sword that can cut down anyone and anything in her path. But it’s with this weapon in her hand that Missy learns something that could help her triumph over her own pain: control.

A unique approach to the topic of self-mutilation, Rage is the story of a young woman who discovers her own power and refuses to be defeated by the world. –Goodreads


Even though I didn't think that Hunger, the first book in the Horseman of the Apocalypse series was AH-mazing, it was still good enough to give the sequel a try. And I'm glad; Kessler has significantly stepped up her game for this book. Not only did Missy turn out to be totally different that I had predicted, but the internal struggle she faces to remain herself and stay strong when ridiculed by her peers was inspiring. Again, a difficult subject for teens is approached in a unique way, granting a new perspective to those who are and aren't familiar with the topic of self mutilation.

Though this book begins the exact same way that Hunger did, it can stand alone. Kessler restates the rules of her fantasy world and uses the opportunity to build on what she has already created. Readers who enjoyed Hunger will rejoice in knowing that Pestilence, Death, and Famine show up more frequently in Rage, and play a larger role than they did before. Missy's sharp perceptions solve many of the unanswered questions about the Horseman from book one, and are able to bring depth to the group's problems. This time around the other characters actually felt like characters, instead of shallow pawns written in just to move the plot along.

At first, Missy kind of pissed me off. A few pages into the book I ran across the line, "Missy wore black because it was the color of her soul," and immediately assumed I would have problems with her as the main character. I loathe characters who whine and act emo without real reason to, and for a while I couldn't figure out why Missy was so melodramatic all the time. Her life seemed okay. But as the story progressed I realized that her situation was...complicated. After a horrible (and I mean horrible) prank is pulled on her, she changed and began to grow on me. In the face of total humiliation, she showed incredible passion, courage, and weakness which rounded out to create a realistic and flawed character worth cheering for. Watching her struggle with the people in school while waging war against herself was an incredible journey, one that concludes with a satisfying ending. Seriously, the ending was phenomenal. One of my biggest complaints about Hunger was that it ended just as the story started. But in Rage, the story ends exactly when it should and Missy has the kind of revelation you want every main character to have in order to change their life for the better.

This was one of those rare times that I’m glad that my first impression of a book was totally and completely wrong. Rage made me want to cry, laugh, cheer, curse, cry some more and then hug somebody. I can honestly say that not too many books have that effect on me these days. Even if you haven't read Hunger, I highly suggest that you get your hands on a copy of Rage when it comes out. You won't find a book that talks about war (the ones within and without) quite the same way.


P.S. For my review of Hunger, click HERE.

I'm Baaack!

Hi guys! As the title of this post suggests, I'm back! I'm officially done with my blogging break and ready to hop back on the blogging train. CHOO CHOO!

...Okay, I know that was lame. Really lame. But I can't help it; even though I enjoyed my break, I've missed chatting about books. Now, with that having been said, I have a couple of announcements to make regarding Oktopus Ink.

I've made some changes to my blog. First, you'll notice that the Inky Awards Page is gone. As of today, Oktopus Ink is no longer accepting awards unless they're from an official contest or institution, like the Teen Choice Awards (a girl can dream). Nothing personal or anything, but some of the awards have gotten spammish and I don't really want to encourage that. Also, even though I loved receiving the awards (the positive feedback and support made me all gooey inside), I don't want people to think that that's the only reason why I blog.

Second, I've added a Books To Trade page. My shelves are starting to overflow and I need to get rid of some of the books that I have. There are lots of new books on the list, like Firelight, Torment, and Dash & Lily's Book of Dares, so check it out! Send me an email if you're interested. Even if you don't have one of the books that I'm looking for, I'm open to offers.

Third, I've updated The Rating System and the About and Contact pages. Nothing major, but I did add a picture of me in Disney World to the About page. Now you can see my pasty white Midwestern legs in all of their glory. (I don't tan easily. And by easily, I mean at all...even when I try.) :P

And last, but not least, I'll be adding some new, interactive features to my blog. So far I have two planned: a weekly discussion about something related to book or publishing culture, and a "Who Would Win?" discussion, where I'll put two characters against each other and you guys can tell me who would win and why. Other features might be added if I have the time, but we'll see how the bookish discussion and Who Would Win questions go. I'll post the first ones sometime next week.

So that sums it up for now. Thanks for your patience and support everyone! I look forward to catching up with the blog-o-sphere. :) *flies off to go sift through the hundreds of posts in Google Reader*