Category Archives: Magic Bean Review

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!

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%


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


Interview: Beat the Band by Don Calame

Welcome Don Calame to Magic Bean Review, once again! On a scale of 1 to 10, how rubbish is Coop, Matt and Sean’s band? Why is that?

One being the best and ten being the worst, I’d say that the boys’ band is a 9.6. While they can play a few chords and can stumble through a song or two, it’s nothing you’d want to listen to. I think the reason for that is because they’ve only practiced a couple of times before. Their band—Arnold Murphy’s Bologna Dare—is more of a rock band in theory. They’ve thought a lot about being a band but haven’t really put the effort in.

Your idea for the naked girl goal in the first book, Swim the Fly, was based on a personal experience – is there any you have used in the second book, Beat the Band?

Oh my God, yes. I mined quite a lot of personal experience for this book. The main one being that I was in a rock band in high school. And we basically formed the band so we could play in the school’s Battle of the Bands competition. You know, so we could get girls (because that always works out so well). Also, we were pretty awful when we started out. By the time of the show we were much better. So much so, that we won. Although, to be fair, I think we were the second best band that played. I’m pretty sure we got top honours simply for the fact that we played songs the teachers enjoyed rather than the heavy metal of the more competent band.

Do the characters have as much bad luck as in the last novel?

Hah! Of course. Some might say even worse. It wouldn’t be fun if the characters weren’t getting themselves into all sorts of trouble.

Was it more interesting to write the book from a different characters point of view (instead of from Matt’s perspective, the second is from Coop’s perspective)?

I found it a bit more challenging. Matt was easier because he was basically me as a fifteen year old boy. Not exactly me. But there was a good helping of me in there. Of course, there’s a bit of Coop in me as well, but far less, I think.

The thing with Coop is, he’s quite a bit more brash than Matt. But he has a really good heart once you get past all of the false bravado. And he’s incredibly loyal to his friends. It was fun writing on that edge. Writing a character that I knew some people might not like at first, but who—if you stick with him—you might learn to love.

I’m really glad I made the choice to write this book from a different point of view, though. I didn’t actually want to write a sequel. But doing it this way didn’t feel like a sequel. And in many respects it’s more of a companion novel than a true sequel. Yes, it takes place right after the last book ends but you don’t have to have read Swim the Fly to know what’s going on in Beat the Band.

Do you find it particularly difficult to ‘get in the mind’ of teenage boys, such as what sort of language they use and such? I thought in the first book their dialogue was spot on, even though they were boys in a different country (and that can change the way they speak quite a lot!)

Scary as this might be, I don’t find it difficult at all. I think it’s because I remember that time of life so well. A lot of hard things were going on in my life at the time. With my parents, with friends, girlfriends (or the lack thereof), siblings, feelings, emotions, and on and on. And so, it’s very easy for me to drop back into that awkward, emotionally-heightened, mixed-up time.

And while the words sometimes change (and sometimes don’t) the feelings stay constant. Basically, it’s never easy trying to talk to a girl when you’re a fifteen year old boy. It’s never easy trying to negotiate the world of friends and school and home life. Especially when everything feels so intensified and massively important. I think if you stay true to those feelings and emotions, the actual slang or language used is not as important. (Though, it’s still nice to try to get it as accurate as you can for the time period and place you’re writing about).

It also helped me to have two teenage step-sons living in the house at the time that I wrote the first two books. Eavesdropping on their conversations with friends was a great way to remind myself of the rhythm of the language.

Is there going to be a third book, from Sean’s point of view?

Yes. I just finished it up. It’s going to be titled Call the Shots. In this one the boys try to film an ultra-low budget horror film—like The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity—in the hopes to sell it for millions of dollars. I had a lot of fun getting Sean into all sorts of humiliating situations. He’s the most gullible of the three so he was not hard to lead astray.

How on earth do you come up with so many unfortunate events to happen to them? It must take a lot of time, I loved all of the embarrassing events from the first book – so many of them you really, really can’t predict.

It was a process, for sure. The book started out very short. Eighty pages, I think. Then I added another hundred. And for the next round, a further hundred. I kept going back to my own experiences, trying to remember the embarrassing things that happened to me throughout my life (and there are a lot of those instances). And if I couldn’t come up with something, I just asked myself, “What’s the worst possible thing that could happen to Matt at this point in time?” And I just went with that.

How did you first get the idea to write a humorous novel, from the perspective of young boys? The young adult market is predominantly wailing teenage girls with supernatural abilities – did you know you would stand out from the crowd?

To be perfectly honest, it was my wife’s idea. She’s a writer as well (Meg Tilly). While she was touring her amazing YA novel Porcupine she kept hearing from teachers and librarians that there were not very many good books out there for teenage boys.

So, it was her encouragement that lead me to writing Swim the Fly. I was resistant at first. I’ve been a screenwriter for the last fifteen years and was working on a new script when she sprung the idea on me. I put her off for several weeks but my wife was very persistent and persuasive. And thank God for that. Because I’ve never had so much fun writing anything in my entire life.

Thanks Don, your answers were so detailed – it is so true how there are hardly any YA books for boys!

You can read my review of Swim the Fly here!

Read the review of Beat the Band.

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…

Author Interview with Lee Nichols

I am very pleased to welcome the wonderful author of the Haunting Emma trilogy, Lee Nichols! The first ghostly paranormal book I had read, the first Deception really took my breath away. It is fantastically written and rather unique in the paranormal genre, I think.

The last in the series, Surrender, is out in the USA on the 6th of December, and  in line with that is a blog tour. I asked Lee five questions in general about the trilogy (seeing as I have only read the first one);

1) Why did you choose to write in the paranormal genre, specifically ghosts? Were you inclined towards it because of an event or are you particularly interested in ghosts?

I had this idea for an adult novel that was this sort of contemporary gothic mystery and as I started working on it, I thought wouldn’t it be much cooler if she could actually talk to ghosts. I think I chose ghosts because I love history and old houses.

2) The concept of the ghosts and how Emma and other ghost keepers is a bit different than the majority of otherworldly novels – and especially the large number of powers Emma has compared to Bennett, for example – what inspired you to create this concept, and why?

I didn’t want it to be the stereotypical ghost-whisperer kind of theme, where she helps someone right a wrong and they’re able to move on. So the whole world of ghost keepers stemmed from trying to create something fresh. I liked the idea that she was pulled into this whole new plane of existence, and that her parents had been masquerading the truth to protect her. And the villain, Neos, came from the idea that some ghosts don’t want to move on, they just want to become more powerful ghosts.

3) Who is your favorite character to write about and why?

I love Emma. She’s the kind of girl I’d want as a best friend. But the most fun is probably writing the ghost jocks who mercilessly tease her.

4) In Book One, the strange “moments” Emma has to an older era as a different person is very intriguing – why did you choose to include these moments to be (around) the 19th century?

It just kind of fit into the Colonial history of Massachusetts where the book is set. Plus I wanted to create this idea that ghosts and ghostkeepers had been around for centuries.

5) The “will they or won’t they” relationship between Emma and Bennett is so intense to read in Book One! Do you like them as a couple, and was it fun to write their interactions with each other?

I very much do believe they belong together. They were tricky to write as a couple. In some ways, I think she’s a much better match with Coby, but one of the themes throughout the series is that you can’t always control who you’re attracted to, who you’re going to fall in love with. It’s part of what makes love so magical. I hope readers will be as happy with the conclusion in Surrender as I am.

Thanks Lee!

When Emma Vaile’s parents leave on a mysterious business trip, it gives her the perfect excuse to be a rebellious teen. But then her best friend stops talking to her, the police crash her party and Emma finds herself in the hands of a new guardian, Bennett Stern, and on a plane to his museum-like mansion in New England. After enrolling at Thatcher Academy, Emma settles in by making friends with the popular crowd. She has memories of Thatcher she can’t explain and strange visions are haunting her. Emma doesn’t trust anyone any more – except maybe Bennett. But he’s about to reveal a ghostly secret to her. One that will explain the visions …and make Emma fear for her life.

Emma Vaile is the most powerful ghostkeeper in centuries. Which is great when she’s battling the wraith-master Neos, but terrible when she’s flirting with fellow ghostkeeper (and love interest) Bennett. When ghostkeepers fall in love, the weaker one loses all power, and that’s something Bennett is not willing to accept. Heartbroken and alone, Emma tries to lose herself in school. A new team of ghostkeepers has arrived – one a snarky teen boy, the other a visiting scholar – and Emma finds solace in training for the battle against Neos. But as the team grows stronger, they are threatened by an unknown force. As chilling and page-turning as Deception, this sequel will grab readers and hold them to the last page. No one is safe from suspicion as Emma closes in on the traitor.

After a devastating battle at headquarters in New York, the ghostkeeping world is in shambles. When Emma and Bennett return home, they are determined to defeat the wraithmaster, Neos, forever. But it’s not going to be easy. Bennett’s parents kick him out when they realize he is still using drugs to enhance his powers. Emma is convinced her aunt has come back from the dead to warn her of a new threat. And worst of all, Neos is using wraiths to possess the students at Thatcher Academy. If the ghosts manage to take over the entire school, even Emma won’t be strong enough to stop them. But if either she or Bennett sacrifice his or her powers, they might be able to save the ghostkeeping world once and for all-and break the “ghostkeepers lose their powers when they fall in love” curse. The question is: who will be the one to surrender all power?