Interview: Gina Damico on Croak

I am so pleased to be welcoming Gina Damico to Magic Bean Review to answer my questions on the first book in the Croak series!

Croak Book Cover

The premise of the book is so original and unique, what inspired you to write about a town
full of Grim Reapers?

It really just popped into my head one day. Lex and Uncle Mort sprang forth from my creative
subconscious or whatever, and they were Grims from the start. Once I realized how much fun it
was to write for characters in that profession, I just started filling the town with more people, and
the Grimsphere was born.

Uncle Mort’s name made me chuckle a little when I read it, were you simply aiming for a
link to the plot, or is there more to the special name? (Mort means death in French)

Oh, I just thought I was being clever. He’s not secretly Mortimer von Mortimer, secret dethroned
king of Deathylvania.

There’s mystery aplenty in Croak – did you aim to keep this deliberately or are you keeping
more information for the series?

There is MUCH more to this story than just the information presented in Croak. Lots more
Grimsphere history to be unearthed, shocking character secrets to be revealed, and a truckload of
twists and turns along the way. Who knows how it’ll all end? (Well, I do. I think.)

Which character is your favourite, and why?

I’m not sure I can pick a favorite, but I really enjoy writing Pandora. She’s so cranky and ancient,
and uses all sorts of old-timey phrases. I get a lot of mileage out of my thesaurus with her.

Can you explain your version of the afterlife, and why did you want to modify it?

I thought it might be nice to make the atrium of the Afterlife fairly stereotypical, so that souls
would feel safe. They expect white and fluffy, so they get white and fluffy. From there, though,
anything is possible, which is sort of like how most people see death. Depending on what you
believe, you think you know what you’re going to get…but you never know.

Thanks for having me, and happy reaping reading!

Croak by Gina Damico

Title: Croak
Author: Gina Damico
Published: 20th March 2012 (paperback)
Format: E-reader
Pages: 320
RRP: £5.74
Rating: 13/14+

Sixteen-year-old Lex Bartleby has sucker-punched her last classmate. Fed up with her punkish, wild behavior, her parents ship her off to upstate New York to live with her Uncle Mort for the summer, hoping that a few months of dirty farm work will whip her back into shape. But Uncle Mort’s true occupation is much dirtier than that of shoveling manure.

He’s a Grim Reaper. And he’s going to teach her the family business.

Lex quickly assimilates into the peculiar world of Croak, a town populated entirely by reapers who deliver souls from this life to the next. Along with her infuriating yet intriguing partner Driggs and a rockstar crew of fellow Grim apprentices, Lex is soon zapping her targets like a natural born Killer.

Yet her innate ability morphs into an unchecked desire for justice—or is it vengeance?—whenever she’s forced to Kill a murder victim, craving to stop the attackers before they can strike again. So when people start to die—that is, people who aren’t supposed to be dying, people who have committed grievous crimes against the innocent—Lex’s curiosity is piqued. Her obsession grows as the bodies pile up, and a troubling question begins to swirl through her mind: if she succeeds in tracking down the murderer, will she stop the carnage—or will she ditch Croak and join in?

The premise of this book really caught me eye so I just had to join in the book tour! I was not let down. This book is very fun to read and provided me with a lot of enjoyment.

Uncle Mort was, at first, pretty scary but I think he was one of my favourite characters because he was both mysterious and hilarious. When I first read his name I thought of the French word mort which means death… the upcoming interview with Gina Damico shows it was unintentional, though!

The entire idea behind this new way of death and the subsequent afterlife is completely new and different from what has been portrayed in books and TV before… so at first it was all a bit confusing with new vocabulary but like in other fantasy books it becomes easy to pick up on.

Many other reviewers felt the same as me about Lex at the beginning. Being a juvenile delinquent means she is pretty hard to like but she grows and finds out answers throughout the book.

The book was written in third person so I felt that it was slightly more difficult to relate to Lex, since we did not get to delve completely into her mind. Other people’s opinions and thoughts were not usually looked at so a better choice would have been first person, so as to fully enjoy Lex’s character.

The overall writing quality however was really slick and I just plain enjoyed this book. I am glad this is a series because I would like some more answers!! I am sure there is more to some characters than meets the eye…

A fun, slightly mysterious and dark book with a good helping of comedic banter and romance. A great blend!

Rating
Plot: 8/10
There was a lot of action and events and that kept it thrilling.
Writing Quality: 9/10
Gina Damico has a lovely, in-depth writing style and the quality is great.
Originality: 9/10
Personally, I have not encountered a paranormal book about grim reapers…!
Characters: 6/10
The characters were developed and fun to read about.
Descriptions: 7/10
The descriptions provided were great.

39/50 = 80%

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Thank you so much to Teen Book Scene/Netgalley for the copy of the book.

Beat the Band by Don Calame

Title: Beat the Band
Author: Don Calame
Published: 1st February 2012 (UK)
Format: Finished Paperback
Pages: 422
RRP: £6.99
Rating: 13+

Who gets more girls than a rock god? No one.

When Coop finds himself partnered with social outcast ‘Hot Dog’ Helen for a class project on safe sex, he knows he needs a way of saving his rep. Winning the school Battle of the Bands seems like the perfect solution. There’s just one small problem: neither he nor his two best friends, Sean and Matt, can actually play an instrument…

Well, I was really looking forward to this, and had high expectations and it definitely met it! Following Swim the Fly, Beat the Band follows Coop as the protagonist, instead of Matt.

Beat the Band is the school year after the summer in Swim the Fly, and Coop’s dream this year is to score with the hotties like Prudence and her entourage (he frequently has fantasies…). Although this time his friends, Sean and Matt, are a lot more preoccupied, much to Coop’s chagrin. Sean is lamenting the loss of his girlfriend Tianna, while Matt is preoccupied with his French girlfriend Valerie.

At the start of the book I just grimaced at how Coop thought about girls in his class. His attempts at flirting were hilarious, but his thoughts are… well, very close to what most boys at that age think about! Despite this set back, Coop quickly regains himself as you start to realise, as a reader, that he is very determined and ambitious, and throughout the book he develops a certain level of maturity (wait, did I really just say that? About Coop? Huh!), and you can see that he grows up – just a little bit!

Once again Don Calame has written a cracker of a book – perfect for teen boys – and further develops the characters. It was really interesting delving more into Coop’s life as he was so bold in the last book. Not only that, but his father was so well written too!

His writing style is very easy to relax into, it’s very professionally written. The language used by the kids in the book is also realistic and depict what boys are really like, very, very well!

What I really loved about Swim the Fly was the numerous times the three got into excruciatingly embarrassing situations. For me, I think there was a slight lack in them in this book, and when there were it seemed to be only Coop experiencing it. I guess it was just a bit different having it from someone else’s (particularly Coop’s) point of view. Anyway, it did not make me enjoy it less, as the style itself is just to fun to read!

I will definitely continue reading Don Calame’s work – it might not be aimed at girls but it sure is the book to perk you up and entertain you… exactly what a book is meant to do! Don Calame can easily weave humour into his stories. Humour is so difficult to get right in novels, and even harder to actually make people laugh. Kudos to you!

A hilarious novel which makes you love the time of your life when everything seems possible.

Here’s a little sample of the disgustingness (and hiiiiilariousness) that is in Beat the Band!

I shove a heaping forkful of coleslaw into my mouth. When you’re on a mission to save yourself, you’d be surprised how much raw broccoli, raw cauliflower, cold baked beans, prunes, celery, radishes and cabbagey coleslaw you can choke down.

“I’m glad I’m not going to be in that library,” Sean says, pulling the leaves off the celery for me. “Your regular H-bombs could clear a circus tent. I hate to think what kind of stench all this fuel is going to create.”

“You want me to crack you off a taster?” I say.

“Hell no!”

“Too late.” I smile, popping a cauliflower floret.

And even better, the next book in the series will be from Sean’s point of view (entitled CALL THE SHOTS)… I can’t wait!

Rating
Plot: 9/10
Not a particular plot, per se, but things keep happening that make you keep turning the page!
Writing Quality: 10/10
Definitely improved since the last book.
Originality: 9/10
Very unique.
Characters: 10/10
They continue to be very likeable and true to life!
Descriptions: 9/10
It’s not a particularly descriptive book (nothing like Twilight and Edward’s pecs kind of thing) but it is still very easy to imagine the setting, characters and such. Interwoven into the writing.

47/50 = 94% (same as last time!)

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Thank you to Templar Publishing for providing the review copy.

Check out the interview with Don Calame about Beat the Band!