Thursday, June 24, 2010

Blade: Out of the Shadows: By Tim Bowler



Bleeding and dizzy, Blade wakes up to find himself in the hospital. But how did he get there? With enemies coming at him from all sides, it’s hard to know who attacked him. But he knows that whoever it was will be back to finish him off. And quick. So he’s gotta go. He’s gotta break outta there. Not only to save his own life, but there’s kindly old Mary and little Jaz to think about. Who’s looking out for them? On the run, with grinks hot on his tail and gravely injured, Blade will have to gather all his strength just to survive. And with nowhere to hide, he needs to run. Because this time, if he plays dead, that’s exactly how he’ll end up.


Blade is unlike anything you’ve ever read before.

Blade is written in a manner that will thrill even the most experienced mystery books, turning the usual monotonous plots and twists seen in mystery and action books into something new and creative.

To describe Blade you must stop thinking of it as a single category. Instead think of it as part action adventure, part an old build your own adventure novel where you’re part of the story, and part young adult (mostly because of the targeted audience and age of the protagonist, not the subject matter.)

It really is an odd reading experience. And is certainly not for everyone, but for those readers looking for something with a new twist. The Blade series certainly has it.

Blade: Out of the Shadows is the second in the Blade series and starts up directly after the first. It is enthralling, engaging, and an all about good read. Fans of the first Blade book will enjoy the twists and turns as new secrets are revealed and you learn more about Blade’s past and the secretive old woman who helped him the beginning of the series.

A fun summer read especially for middle to high schoolers.


6 out of 10


Publisher: Philomel

Published: June 24, 2010

Price: $16.99

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Will Grayson, Will Grayson: By John Green and David Levithan



One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.

Everyone knows there are others who share their names. It’s not something you think about that much. But because of the basic law of averages, these people do exist.

No matter its title Will Grayson, Will Grayson is not about those people. Instead it uses these name doppelgangers (in this case Will Graysons) as a sort of leaping board for the plot, giving Will Grayson, Will Grayson the room it needs to become the truly fantastic young adult book that could only be possible from the creative minds of John Green and David Levithan.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is instead about relationships. It is not some corny young adult book where everyone gets with their soul mates and they all live happily ever after. And it is not a sad depressing lifetime movie type of book where everyone discovers their love only to die tragically before they can profess it. Instead this book is about all the different forms of relationships; from straight, to gay, to friendships, and how everything may not work out perfectly but it’s about having the person you love along with you for the ride, no matter who they might be.

Now the characters were all incredible, but the one character they truly stood out in my mind was Tiny Cooper. Tiny, like in his play, is truly the star of this book. And whether you like one Will Grayson, or one relationship, no matter what you will love Tiny.

In fact it is because of Tiny alone that readers should read this book. He and thus the book, are funny, endearing, exciting, and all around fabulous. And while there are some controversial topics in Will Grayson, Will Grayson, it is a book that everyone who enjoys young adult fiction, or even just good books should try.


9 out of 10


Publisher: Dutton Juvenile

Published: April 6, 2010

Price: $17.99

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Glimmerglass: By Jenna Black



It’s all she’s ever wanted to be, but it couldn’t be further from her grasp…

Dana Hathaway doesn’t know it yet, but she’s in big trouble. When her alcoholic mom shows up at her voice recital drunk, again, Dana decides she’s had enough and runs away to find her mysterious father in Avalon: the only place on Earth where the regular, everyday world and the captivating, magical world of Faerie intersect. But from the moment Dana sets foot in Avalon, everything goes wrong, for it turns out she isn't just an ordinary teenage girl—she's a Faeriewalker, a rare individual who can travel between both worlds, and the only person who can bring magic into the human world and technology into Faerie.

Soon, Dana finds herself tangled up in a cutthroat game of Fae politics. Someone's trying to kill her, and everyone seems to want something from her, from her newfound friends and family to Ethan, the hot Fae guy Dana figures she’ll never have a chance with… until she does. Caught between two worlds, Dana isn’t sure where she’ll ever fit in and who can be trusted, not to mention if her world will ever be normal again…


First the sexy thing was vampires.

Then it turned into angels.

Now authors are trying to make it the Fae, with books like Glimmerglass.

Glimmerglass takes place in a world almost exactly like our own, except for one small difference, there is magic. Not everywhere mind you only in a small area in England called Avalon where the land of Faerie and the mortal world overlap. It is here that both the Fae and humans can coexist together. And it is here where the story begins.

The story revolves around Dana and her parents and relatives attempts to win her over, as Dana is a rare Faeriewalker, someone who is able to bring magic into the mortal world and technology into Faerie. While this plot sounds interesting enough, Glimmerglass acts as more of a prequel to the series than a real first book. It sets up the struggles, introduces the characters, and explains what the conflict is about. And while it does all that it includes very little magic or action.

In fact while I liked the idea for this book and can see the potential the series holds, I felt a little disappointed with this first book. I liked the protagonist but wasn’t connected to any of the other characters good or bad. Not only that but the way the Fae acted bothered me. In all other books I’ve read that include Fae, the characters from Faerie have been much more conniving and much less human. Not only that but they’ve been unable to tell lies, and so they bend the truth to no end. And while I understand its every authors right to remodel their characters as they like, these small details bothered me like a pebble in a shoe.

That said, this book and this series will make a great addition to any teen girls bookshelf. It is ripe with teen sexual tension, the beginnings of adventure, and teen drama, as well as the hope of more magic in future books. And it is because of this promise of more to come that will have even a more skeptical reader waiting to give the second book in the series a shot as well.


7 out of 10


Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Published: May 25, 2010

Price: $9.99

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Game of Sunken Places: By M.T. Anderson



When Brian and Gregory receive an invitation to stay at a distant relative's strange manse . . . well, they should know better than to go, but since this is a middle-grade adventure novel, they go anyway. Why not? Once there, they stumble upon The Game of Sunken Places, a board game that mirrors a greater game for which they have suddenly became players. Soon the boys are dealing with attitudinal trolls, warring kingdoms, and some very starchy britches. Luckily, they have wit, deadpan observation, and a keen sense of adventure on their side.


The Game of Sunken Places truly surprised me. When you look at it, it doesn’t really look like a book that would captivate anyone above the age of 12, and through the first few chapters it continues this perception.

But then somewhere around a third of the way through the book, it changes. The plot became more intricate, the action more exciting, and the story all the more inviting.

I was surprised at this change but not disappointed. After the first third The Game of Sunken Places became a great fantasy mystery that should entertain and please readers of many ages. And while I never truly loved the protagonists I didn’t feel as if their lack of depth detracted from the story or the targeted audience. Because of this and it’s interesting plot I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone in late elementary to middle school (grades 3 through 8) and feel this book would make a great summer read.


8 out of 10


Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks

Published: May 1, 2010

Price: $6.99

The Red Pyramid: By Rick Riordan



Since their mother’s death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them--Set--has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe--a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family, and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.


I should start this review out by saying I’ve been waiting for The Red Pyramid since it was first announced. I’ve read and loved almost everything Rick Riordan has written; from his mystery series, to his Percy Jackson series, and I must say this book didn’t disappointed.

The Red Pyramid takes place in the same universe as the Percy Jackson series and as such is arranged in a very similar fashion. That said, fans of the Percy Jackson series should know that, at least in this book, no character from Riordan’s other series makes an appearance in The Red Pyramid. Instead The Red Pyramid focuses on protagonists Carter and Sadie Kane, decedents of the ancient pharaohs, as they learn to accept the roles of the gods in their lives and battle the god of chaos, Set.

Riordan is likely to impress even the most skeptical fantasy reader with this young adult blockbuster. It is filled with exciting action, relatable characters, and enough mythology and imagination to make even Percy Jackson jealous. But what makes The Red Pyramid so amazing is the way the book just catches your attention and never lets go. I personally picked up the book and couldn’t put it down, finishing it in a matter of hours.

The Red Pyramid is an exciting and invigorating novel that anyone, no matter their age will love. It is written well and with an incredible amount of zest, making The Red Pyramid, in my opinion a perfect summer read.


10 out of 10


Publisher: Hyperion Children

Published: May 4, 2010

Price: $17.99

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Deathday Letter: By Shaun David Hutchinson



The clock is ticking?

Ollie can't be bothered to care about anything but girls until he gets his Deathday Letter and learns he's going to die in twenty-four hours. Bummer.

Ollie does what he does best: nothing. Then his best friend convinces him to live a little, and go after Ronnie, the girl who recently trampled his about-to-expire heart. Ollie turns to carloads of pudding and over-the-top declarations, but even playing the death card doesn't work. All he wants is to set things right with the girl of his dreams. It's now or never?.


Imagine a world where you received a letter 24 hours before you die.

What would you do? Who would you see? How would you spend your last day?

This is the world according to Shaun David Hutchinson’s The Deathday Letter.

The Deathday Letter is one of the best young adult books I’ve read in a while. It has relatable characters, a fascinating story, and is just incredibly well written. I was particularly impressed with the way Hutchinson was able to accurately convey the thought process a teenage boy. He didn’t have the protagonist Ollie try to be more than he was, instead he was just an average kid trying to live out his last day doing things he’d never done with his best friends.

In fact The Deathday Letter also is a surprisingly well thought out combination of the philosophy surrounding the world of The Deathday Letter and the hijinks and turmoil that accompany a horny teenage boy with one day left to live.

All in all Hutchinson’s really outdid himself with his debut novel. It is exciting, entertaining, and thought provoking, a perfect combination for a young adult novel that both boys and girls of any age will love.


9 out of 10


Publisher: Simon Pulse

Published: June 15, 2010

Price: $9.99

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ari Marmell Interview


Writing is portrayed in movies and television shows as an exhilarating a highly coveted career in America. Yet, in reality, it requires hard work, constant scrutinizing by editors, and most importantly an amazing idea. Local Austinite, Ari Marmell, had that idea, put in the hard work, and after ten hard years of rewriting, published his first wholly original book, "The Conqueror’s Shadow". Whatchamacallit Reviews sat down with Marmell and got a glimpse of what it took to write "The Conqueror’s Shadow", how he got started, and what’s next for the up and coming Austin writer.

BL31: How did you first decide to become a writer?

Ari Marmell: I made the decision in my second year in college. I’d been writing things informally, mostly characters from “Dungeons and Dragons”, and that sort of thing. But I decided it was something I liked doing, and more to the point there was nothing else I didn’t hate the idea of doing more. So as a sophomore in college I changed my major to creative writing, which thrilled my parents to no end.

BL31: I’m sure they loved that.

AM: Don’t get me wrong they were incredibly supportive of what I do, they were just a little scared I wouldn’t be able to make a go out of it. Since most people can’t. But that was a pretty long time ago now.

BL31: Now what inspired you to write “The Conqueror’s Shadow”?

AM: It was one of those things, you know writers always talk about things hitting them out of the blue, and this was one of them.

In retrospect I know part of included a lot of my interests at the time, the more informal writing style, a sarcastic tone, and dark or conflicted characters.

But the idea actually first came to me while I was having lunch with my wife back in 99’ or 00’. It started out as the idea of a retired warlord coming back into the public eye to deal with someone who was even worse than he was. And everything else just sprang from that one idea. So there wasn’t one specific thing that caused it.

BL31: Wow, so how long did the whole process take to write the book?

AM: The first draft of the book took about two and half to three months, but there’s been so much rewriting done on it, that I think I spent a total of six or seven months writing on it over the course of years. In fact the very first draft of the book was written over 10 years ago. But it’s really changed so much since then, through everything from my writing improving, to my ideas changing, to the editorial feedback.

BL31: What was one of the hardest parts in the editorial process for you?

AM: Letting go of certain scenes or certain details. You know there’s an old cliché to authors “be ready to kill your babies”. I don’t’ mind editorial feedback, but every so often they’d point out a particular scene or detail that I really liked doesn’t actually serve the narrative, and forcing myself to cut those parts was always really difficult.

BL31: Can you tell me a little about the sequel to “The Conqueror’s Shadow”?

AM: It’s called “The Warlords Legacy”, but it used to be entitled “The Warlords Lament”, but we changed that. It's coming out in January and it takes place roughly six years after “The Conqueror’s Shadow”, and I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone who hasn’t read either book, but it’s fairly obvious that what Corvis thought he was achieving at the end of “The Conqueror’s Shadow” actually has not worked out at all the way he thought it would.

BL31: Really?

AM: Yeah, he’s actually in a worse place personally, emotionally, relationship wise at the start of “Warlords Legacy” than he was at the end of “The Conqueror’s Shadow”.

BL31: Will we get to see any of the other supporting characters in “The Warlords Legacy”?

AM: Absolutely! Some more than others, Davro the ogre makes only a brief appearance for instance, but some of the characters that were only minor supporting characters in the first book are actually quite important in the second. If you remember Corvis's brother-in-law, Baron Jassion, he actually has a much larger part, and while he’s still pretty much pure anger and frustration he has quite a bit of character growth.

BL31: Did you have a favorite character while writing “The Conqueror’s Shadow”?

AM: Yeah, I have to say at least being the most fun to write, I have to go with Khanda. It will come as a surprise to no one that I’m a fairly sarcastic person in real life, but I’m usually fairly polite about it. Just being able to cut loose and be able to be vicious and nasty while still being sarcastic and funny just made Kanda a blast to write. There are characters with similar traits, hopefully not to similar, in “The Warlords Legacy”, that hopefully readers will enjoy.

BL31: Going back a little, how did you originally get an agent?

AM: Well getting an agent is kind of one of those weird stories that’s different for everyone. I tried for quite some time to get one through the traditional routs and applied to a number of agencies, and was rejected. Probably rightfully so as my writing wasn’t what it needed to be at the time. But I actually got my agent in a backwards sort of way. What happened was Wizards of the Coast was going to do a line of non-gaming related fiction, and I’d originally done “The Conqueror’s Shadow” for them. An agent who was handling both novels and studio rights saw it in one of their catalogs and came to me to see if I had management. And it was while I was talking to him that Wizards of the Coast ended up canceling that line, so “The Conqueror’s Shadow” reverted back to me. From there he turned around and sold it to Random House and the rest is history.

BL31: You live in Austin correct? Has Austin impacted your writing?

AM: I don’t know if there’s been a huge amount of impact, as when I’m writing I tend to be some what of a hermit. But that being said I certainly like the city and have some great friends here that I bounce ideas off of.

BL31: What can we expect from you in the future?

AM: I just finished what is supposed to be the final draft of “The Conqueror’s Legacy”. I have two books with the editor at Pyre books that are expected to be out in the next year or so, and I expect to be doing editing for those soon. As well as a new urban fantasy book that I’m working on. And then after that some of the books have sequel potential but really it depends on what each publisher likes.

BL31: So where can we find you online?

AM: You can find me at, but you can also find me by typing in Ari Marmell on Google.

BL31: Well thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us.

AM: No thank you! Thanks for the time and thanks for reading the book.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Blonde Bombshell: By Tom Holt



The year is 2017. Lucy Pavlov is the CEO of PavSoft Industries, home of a revolutionary operating system that every computer in the world runs on. Her personal wealth is immeasurable, her intelligence is unfathomable, and she's been voted World's Most Beautiful Woman for three years running. To put it simply - she has it all.

But not everything is quite right in Lucy's life. For starters, she has no memories prior to 2015. She also keeps having run-ins with a unicorn. And to make matters even worse, a bomb is hurtling through interstellar space, headed straight for Lucy - and the planet known as Earth.


What can you say about an author like Tom Holt?

His books are creative, odd, hilarious, and great reads, and Blonde Bombshell is no exception.

Blonde Bombshell takes place in the near future and revolves around computer genius Lucy Pavlov and intergalactic bomb, Mark Two (who takes a body and calls himself Mark Twain), and their efforts to stop the Ostar (an intergalactic race driven mad by the radio music signals humans sent through space) from blowing up Earth.

While at some points Blonde Bombshell is a little hard to follow, its off the wall humor more than makes up for it. Blonde Bombshell jokes about everything from corporate stooges, to the misuse of common expressions, to the idiocy of popular culture, hitting the mark on most of these jokes. But besides the humor, Holt demonstrates his ability as a talented writer in this novel, placing himself in the company of the irreverent Douglas Adams.

All in all readers should read Blonde Bombshell for the humor, and those that give this rip-roarious novel a chance will not be disappointed. An excellent read for fans of A. Lee Martinez, Christopher Moore, Terry Pratchett, and Douglas Adams, as this humorous fantasy novel provides exactly what it promises, a great summer read.


8.5 out of 10


Publisher: Orbit

Published: June 18, 2010

Price: $13.99

The Innocent Mage: by Karen Miller



Being a fisherman like his father isn't a bad life, but it's not the one that Asher wants. Despite his humble roots, Asher has grand dreams. And they call him to Dorana, home of princes, beggars?and the warrior mages who have protected the kingdom for generations.

Little does Asher know, however, that his arrival in the city is being closely watched by members of the Circle, people dedicated to preserving an ancient magic.

Asher might have come to the city to make his fortune, but he will find his destiny.


The Innocent Mage is not what appears to be.

It is filled with excellent characters, interesting dialog, and the potential for a great story, but it has almost no magic in the entire book. This is incredibly disappointing to any reader who sees the title of this and assumes this book is about well … a mage or magic of some kind. In fact this deception of magic in the story goes as far as to have the summary on the back of the book which both mentions and essentially promises magic.

That said The Innocent Mage is a very well written book. It doesn’t meet expectations but any fan of Arthurian type royalty and politics will certainly find a great book here. As mentioned the characters are well developed, most specifically Price Gar and Asher, and the dialog interesting.

But even with these interesting characters Miller needed to step up the action in the book. The entire book acts as a tease for action, prophesizing something huge and exciting will happen and the falling down on this promise. In fact there is almost no action until the very last pages of the book where instead of some exciting fight scene it is a trap gone out of control that leaves the book in the throws of a cliffhanger, forcing readers to continue with this slow series.

All in all while this book didn’t meet expectations I do think the second in the series may be able to recover where the first left off. And because the essential writing is strong I would recommend readers to give it a try if they have time on their hands.


7 out of 10


Publisher: Orbit

Published: September 1, 2007

Price: $7.99