Tag Archives: teen

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.


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!

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!)


Thank you to Templar Publishing for providing the review copy.

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

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…