Friday, August 31, 2012

Review: Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

Sarah Rees Brennan
Series: The Lynburn Legacy, #1
Production date: September 11th 2012
by Random House Books for Young Readers

Kami Glass is in love with someone she's never met—a boy she's talked to in her head since she was born. This has made her an outsider in the sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale, but she has learned ways to turn that to her advantage. Her life seems to be in order, until disturbing events begin to occur. There has been screaming in the woods and the manor overlooking the town has lit up for the first time in 10 years. . . . The Lynburn family, who ruled the town a generation ago and who all left without warning, have returned. Now Kami can see that the town she has known and loved all her life is hiding a multitude of secrets—and a murderer. The key to it all just might be the boy in her head. The boy she thought was imaginary is real, and definitely and deliciously dangerous.
*A copy was provided by Random House Children's Books for review purposes*

A tale filled with magic, thrill, romance, and charm, Unspoken is a unique Gothic mystery that, if only I could have clicked with its characters, I might have greatly enjoyed. And as I seem to be in the minority on this one, I think fans of Gothic novels should definitely give it a try as it does have good writing and a very creative concept.

While most of the Gothic novels I have come to love have been fairly slow paced - ie. The Book of Blood and Shadow and Long Lankin - I found that Unspoken did not convey quite enough of a Gothic atmosphere or creepy factor to make up for the slower development. It does start out with a very decent pace, but I found the first three quarters of the book is spent with Kami while she goes around gathering clues to find a killer, yet she's too occupied with her complicated feelings towards Jared, sometimes Ash, to focus on finding answers. I'm sure if I would have been completely immersed in these characters and their unusual connection I would have found this a lot more compelling. Sadly none of these people really spoke to me, making the book feel very long winded. The off-putting dialogue, or maybe their bland personalities, halted me from developing any sort of connection with them.

With a British setting, we get interactions that are a little different than what you would expect in North America - or at least I was told lots of it were a part of the British culture. I could deal with the humor and wit - I actually quite enjoyed that aspect - but I could not get used to the flow of their conversations or the way they sometimes interacted with each other. Kami has an awkward personality, she talks very formally at times, making bizarre comments with strange conversational shifts that comes off as unnatural. For example, during a casual conversation she asks her date: "So… tell me about the difficulties in your family". Who talks like this? I was hoping it would grow on me, but unfortunately it never did and I kept cringing whenever these people started conversing.

Even though the characters failed to entice me, the plot did give me a few chills and saved it from being a complete loss. We have a freaky manor, a strange family who everyone seems to be terrified of, and a town full of secrets. Plus, Kami has been talking to a voice in her head her whole life. Is he real? Or is she crazy? Being right up my alley, this setting easily grabbed me from the first page. If it wasn't for the slow, romantically inclined telling, it could have easily become a 5-star favorite. When we do get some answers there are a lot of unexpected turns that I would not have predicted. However, when it came to the big climactic ending - the reveal of the killer - I had already been suspecting this person for a while so it came as no surprise for me, thus negatively affecting the intended impact. The events following this up to the ending were at least a little more unforeseeable, closing on a surprising note that makes me curious for book 2 regardless of my qualms.

Unspoken is a creepy and quirky read that has a lot of potential to garner fans who will absolutely fall for it. Unfortunately I wasn't quite as impressed as many others; when I don't care about the characters, it's hard to care for the rest, but I still found it to be an OK read.

2 Espressos

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Review: Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Ann Aguirre
Series: Razorland, #1
Publication date: April 12th 2011
by Feiwel & Friends

New York City has been decimated by war and plague, and most of civilization has migrated to underground enclaves, where life expectancy is no more than the early 20s. When Deuce turns 15, she takes on her role as a Huntress, and is paired with Fade, a teenage Hunter who lived Topside as a young boy. When she and Fade discover that the neighboring enclave has been decimated by the tunnel monsters—or Freaks—who seem to be growing more organized, the elders refuse to listen to warnings. And when Deuce and Fade are exiled from the enclave, the girl born in darkness must survive in daylight, in the ruins of a city whose population has dwindled to a few dangerous gangs. As the two are guided by Fade’s long-ago memories, they face dangers, and feelings, unlike any they’ve ever known.
*A copy was provided by Raincoast Books for review purposes*

This book, you love it, or you hate it. And then there's me.

Enclave starts out as a very captivating, very exciting read. The world building is terrifying; we've got society living underground, talk of barren wastelands and acid rain "Topside", beasts are roaming the tunnels which, let's face it, are zombies. These "Freaks" eat human flesh, they smell and look like death, and they are taking over! I was lost and absorbed by this dreary desolation. Though what makes it the most compelling is the plausibility of this post-apocalyptic world. Society would separate, and there are apparently already people living in the underground NYC tunnels (as per the author's notes). These types of post-apocalyptic settings are my favorites, the possibility makes it horrifying, and you all know by now that I'm a masochist. In the big picture, the world is brilliantly imagined, sharply described, and I loved it. I also loved the slow telling of its history. We don't know what happened to bring about this future from page one, we learn it as our characters do. When you look at the world closer, however, mostly in regards to the underground living, I was a bit less convinced. How have they been getting drinkable running water for a century? Or I guess the best question to ask would be: How exactly have they survived? If you tell me you lived under the earth for over a century, you will need to give me the full lowdown to make me believe it. I wanted it to be more fleshed out.

The transition from underground to Topside is also a part I wish would have been done differently. Someone who has never been exposed to the sun would not so easily adapt to it. Sunglasses, conveniently found might I add, would not nearly be enough protection. I was expecting a bigger reaction overall, not just physically, but mentally as well. Nonetheless, I will say that the world we do get Topside is very well described in all its ravaged glory. The planet is destroyed and the author depicts its bleak nature very vividly.

On to the most controversial aspect of the novel. The characters in Enclave are very particular. They have an extremely different upbringing; Deuce was brought up as a fighter, a warrior, with "the strong survive" as her biggest value, so she lacks social skills including, and especially, empathy. The way she reacts to situations and other people's distress is a source of complaint from many other reviewers and I can easily understand these reactions. Personally, I was able to do away with my own values to understand a culture that is completely unlike my own, but it does bring about harsh topics, such as rapes, that could very well leave a bad taste in your mouth. What I certainly could not stomach was when the arrow started pointing at an nauseating future love triangle - which I was confirmed does come about in the sequel. It's not the triangle that I have the problem with, but the love interest involved in it. This is a guy who let his people gang-rape a girl continually, and who most probably raped girls himself even though it's not specifically mentioned. He is a sick, vile man. While I understand the reasoning behind wanting him on board to help them survive until they reach their intended destination, I do not see myself garner anything but disgust in the possibility of a romance between our protagonist and this dirty, rotten fella. I just can't. Will I still read the sequel knowing this? Certainly. The world building and overall premise is very enticing and I was thoroughly entertained from page 1. But I will also likely be annoyed and disgusted. I guess we can't win em all.

3 Hot Espressos

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Waiting of Wednesday (51)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. 

My pick this week:
Dr. Frankenstein's Daughters
Suzanne Weyn
Release date: January 2013
by Scholastic Press

A new generation is creating a monster....

Doctor Victor Frankenstein's previously unacknowledged beautiful, intelligent twin daughters (from an early marriage when he was a student) have come to Frankenstein's Castle to claim it as their inheritance.

Shortly thereafter they learn that a serial killer is on the loose. They try to ignore this -- Gretchen takes up her father's work, while Ingrid throws lavish parties. Gretchen and Ingrid form a love triangle with a young naval officer with a debilitating disease. Though he loves Ingrid, he agrees to work with Gretchen on a series of body transplants that improve his condition. Before long he is even walking without his cane. He does not know that the science that is helping him is the science of death itself . . .

A twisted, macabre journey of romance and horror

I love this creepy premise! I love this cover! I love this!! EEP!

What did you pick this week?
Link me up! :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Review: Undead by Kirsty McKay

Kirsty McKay
Series: Undead, #1
Publication date: September 1st 2012
by The Chicken House

Out of sight, out of their minds: It's a school-trip splatter fest and completely not cool when the other kids in her class go all braindead on new girl Bobby.

The day of the ski trip, when the bus comes to a stop at a roadside restaurant, everyone gets off and heads in for lunch. Everyone, that is, except Bobby, the new girl, who stays behind with rebel-without-a-clue Smitty.

Then hours pass. Snow piles up. Sun goes down. Bobby and Smitty start to flirt. Start to stress. Till finally they see the other kids stumbling back.

But they've changed. And not in a good way. Straight up, they're zombies. So the wheels on the bus better go round and round freakin' fast, because that's the only thing keeping Bobby and Smitty from becoming their classmates' next meal. It's kill or be killed in these hunger games, heads are gonna roll, and homework is most definitely gonna be late.
*A copy was provided by Scholastic Inc. for review purposes*

What started off as a laugh-out-loud funny zombie book/parody, ends up losing its flair about half way through, when the humor turns from funny to exhausting. I can see this book garnering a certain fan base, especially those who get a kick out of B-rated horror films and parodies. To me it was just too… dumb. This book was dumb. I can't lie.

When a school-trip zombifies, Bobby and a couple other fortunate classmates who are still alive, are trying to escape their friends who suddenly want to eat their faces. This book is definitely meant to be funny, even bizarre, and I did laugh quite a bit, especially at the beginning when Bobby's sense of humor makes the best of things. I knew before going in that it wasn't a serious zombie novel, I mean, just look at this cover, what I didn't expect was the extent to which it would get ridiculous. I wanted to lay off the funny just a notch, and get some good story building at the very least to give the humor something to hang on to. For the most part, we go back and forth with no real goal or significance in the story, causing me to get restless and jittery, and eventually lethargic. The book zombiefied me! Bravo! Finally, when the plot got some traction, I was too anxious to get the book over with to enjoy the story developments that followed.

There are a lot of characters that come into play in this novel. Bobby being the narrator, we obviously get to know her the most. I did like her, but I also got irritated by her more than I can count, mostly because of her annoyingly flippant attitude about the situation. What I did like was her determination and take-charge attitude. She's not one that needs a hand to hold. Along with Bobby, we meet a slew of "survivors" that I can't say are very memorable. When a name was mentioned, I kept having to do a mental-check to recall who they were. This is the type of characterization that you come to expect from horror films, but in a book I like to get distinct personalities that I can get to know and care about, at least to some extent.

Also, for the love of god, zombies are called zombies, not zoms. *cries*

Will I tell you not to read this book? Not at all. It has tons of humor that ranges from hilarious to stupid to just plain ridiculous that I'm sure some people will enjoy. It will probably even gain its own cult following. But if you're looking for any type of substance other than mindless entertainment, walk away, and let us never speak of this again.

2 Espressos

Monday, August 27, 2012

Review: Origin by Jessica Khoury

Jessica Khoury
Publication date: September 4th 2012
by Razorbill

Pia has grown up in a secret laboratory hidden deep in the Amazon rain forest. She was raised by a team of scientists who have created her to be the start of a new immortal race. But on the night of her seventeenth birthday, Pia discovers a hole in the electric fence that surrounds her sterile home—and sneaks outside the compound for the first time in her life.

Free in the jungle, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Together, they embark on a race against time to discover the truth about Pia’s origin—a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever.
*A copy was provided by Penguin Canada for review purposes*

Reminiscent of Lost, Origin takes place in the Amazon Rainforest where scientists are experimenting, and Pia is their most prized subject. Born and raised in a small secret village, Pia has never left the compound, has never seen anything other than the same old faces, the same old sterile labs and homes... until now.

Fascinating in itself, this story is told in a wonderfully vivid setting that sets the perfect mood for the reclusiveness of this secret scientific project. I can't say that I'm very familiar with that part of the world, and I think this fact played a large part in how mesmerizing it was for me. Exotic animals, plants, and cultures create an atmosphere that is both unique and enchanting. The jungle is not just the setting, it's an ambiance with sounds, smells, visualizations that come alive when you're reading this book. Then, when you add hidden laboratories and secret experiments, it compels you even further. When I wasn't immersed in the beauty of the Rainforest, I was contemplating the secrets and lies that run rampant within it. This encompasses immortality, science, magic, forbidden romance, betrayals, conspiracies, and evil plans, which are sure ways to create an exciting plot; Origin is definitely no exception.

Fast paced and energetic, the plot in Origin is set at just the right pace to keep you vigilant, while letting you absorb and savor the atmosphere. Pia, our protagonist, is a very peculiar character; her evident naiveté, lack of experience, and -- surprisingly for someone immortal -- vulnerability, would usually make for an unlikeable character, but because of her circumstance I found her quite compelling. Although I won't admit to being completely in tune with her, she provoked a lot of wonderment and thought about her situation and what it would be like to know you will outlive everyone you love. Soon, she meets a native outside the fence - a boy named Eio (do not ask me to pronounce this, it sounds like I stubbed my toe O_O). Raised in the jungle, Eio is much more suited for the outdoors than Pia; he's resourceful and strong. I liked him as a character. I didn't find he and Pia had a whole lot of chemistry flowing between them, though. They develop a relationship that progresses fairly quickly; before I had time to register their attraction for each other, they were already falling in love. I never felt it, this alleged burning affection. Still, it was cute, it was definitely cute, maybe even sweet.

Overall, with an incredibly beautiful and imaginative setting, Origin's enticing premise is sure to captivate fans of science fiction/fantasy. Plus, it's all in a fabulous standalone self! 

4 Hot Espressos

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Xpresso Weekly: Stacking the Shelves (18)

Xpresso Weekly is my edition of Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews featuring the books I got this week, and I also mention blog news/happenings of the past week.

This week at Xpresso Reads
Hi lovely people! So school is almost here again. For me, that means the end of summer which is depressing so we won't talk about it, k? I had a super busy week on the blog here so let's see if you missed something. The Defiance Blog Tour made a stop on Tuesday, you can check my review and CJ's favorite movies. And on Friday I had the Authors Are Rockstars tour stop by, find out who my rockstar is! ;) I also posted the cover reveal for Timeless by Michelle Madow which includes an epic giveaway so make sure to check that out. There is another giveaway I posted this week: win a copy of Yesterday by CK Kelley Martin which sounds and looks great!

Did you miss any new covers this week? Have a look!  Like my page to keep up with my regular cover reveals!

Bloggy Awards
The voting starts today (Sunday) for the Bloggy Awards! 
You might see yours truly in the polls! ;)

Reviews on the blog this week:

Stacking the Shelves

As some of you can't or don't like to watch vlogs, the pictures are below! 

Click on title links below for Goodreads


Sorry, this one has no cover yet:
 -Violet Midnight by Lynn Rush (From publisher)

*Big thanks to Crescent Moon Press and Beth McDowell for these pretties!*

Peace out, lovelies!
Link me up to your book haul post! :) 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Review: Spark by Brigid Kemmerer

Brigid Kemmerer
Series: Elemental, #2
Publication date: August 28th 2012
by K-Teen

Gabriel Merrick plays with fire. Literally.

Sometimes he can even control it. And sometimes he can’t. Like the fire that killed his parents.

Gabriel has always had his brothers to rely on, especially his twin, Nick. But when an arsonist starts wreaking havoc on their town, all the signs point to Gabriel. Only he’s not doing it.

More than Gabriel’s pride is at stake -- this could cost him his family, maybe his life. And no one seems to hear him. Except a shy sophomore named Layne, a brainiac who dresses in turtlenecks and jeans and keeps him totally off balance. Layne understands family problems, and she understands secrets. She has a few of her own.

Gabriel can’t let her guess about his brothers, about his abilities, about the danger that’s right at his heels. But there are some risks he can’t help taking.

The fuse is lit…
*A copy was provided by Kensington for review purposes*

In Storm we met four brothers, one friend, and a girl stuck dealing with them. In Spark, we get into the mind of one of these brothers: the reckless and unpredictable Gabriel. Hot like the fire that he's learning to control, we delve deeper into this rough-edged character who shows us the depth and insecurities inside his tough shell.

It took only a couple of sentences before I knew I was going to completely adore Gabriel. He was one character that we didn't get to know a whole lot in Storm, but I immediately felt like I understood him through and through. His character is incredibly complex, filled with grief and self doubt. Besides blaming himself for his parent's death, he's very self conscious of his lack of control on his element. I found him to be an extremely well-rounded and likeable character. His flaws make him who he is; a broken, yet kind and loving guy. I was happy to welcome his brothers back into my life, as well. The family dynamic is, again, one of the best traits of this series. They banter and fight, they disagree but ultimately stay loyal to each other. Each and every one of these guys are so particular with memorable personalities that mesh perfectly together. Even though we only get to see Gabriel's perspective out of all the brothers in this sequel, I still feel like I got to know each of them a bit more. Especially Michael who I'm hoping will get his very own POV in the future as he has quite the fascinating character arc - being the oldest sets him apart some. What we don't get in this installment is more on Chris and Becca. They are present, of course, but this book enters a completely different chapter where they're not front players.

A new character comes into play in Spark. Her name is Layne, and she's a bit... quirky. She's got secrets of her own to go with her inherent unconventional family. She gets her small share of perspective in this novel, letting us into her life and mind. I was attuned to her right away, curious about her hesitations while she's trying to figure Gabriel out. Together, they build a relationship that is true and profound. They seem to fit with each other perfectly; they simply make sense. It's not forced or hasty, it just is. Layne also introduces a whole new family dynamic where Brigid proves again her talent for building strong and true relationships, especially among siblings.

While getting to know Gabriel, we, in turn, get to concentrate on his element - Fire. Therefore, you will see a lot of heat, a lot of destruction, and a whole lot of intense moments. From heartwarming, to gut-wrenching, the emotions flowing from certain scenes in this book really emphasize the art that went into writing it. Not only is it extremely memorable, it shows us how invested we are in not just the main characters, not even just the side characters, but the story "extras" and all. This is how you bring a story to life.

Original, immensely character driven, and absolutely exciting, the Elemental series continues to wow me with the amount of life that shines through it. I strongly urge you to start this series STAT if you haven't already!

5 Hot Espressos

The Elemental series so far (excludes novellas):

Fresh Batch (August 26th - September 1st)

Exclusively titled for Xpresso Reads, Fresh Batch features the hottest releases of this upcoming week.

Flavor of the week:

The Lost Girl
Sangu Mandanna
Release date: August 28th 2012
by HarperCollins Publishers

Eva’s life is not her own. She is a creation, an abomination—an echo. Made by the Weavers as a copy of someone else, she is expected to replace a girl named Amarra, her “other”, if she ever died. Eva studies what Amarra does, what she eats, what it’s like to kiss her boyfriend, Ray. So when Amarra is killed in a car crash, Eva should be ready.

But fifteen years of studying never prepared her for this.

Now she must abandon everything she’s ever known—the guardians who raised her, the boy she’s forbidden to love—to move to India and convince the world that Amarra is still alive.

What Eva finds is a grief-stricken family; parents unsure how to handle this echo they thought they wanted; and Ray, who knew every detail, every contour of Amarra. And when Eva is unexpectedly dealt a fatal blow that will change her existence forever, she is forced to choose: Stay and live out her years as a copy or leave and risk it all for the freedom to be an original. To be Eva.
Read the first chapter here!

UK & GER covers:

The Lost Girl book trailer:

Sangu Mandanna was four years old when she was chased by an elephant and wrote her first story about it and decided that this was what she wanted to do with her life. Seventeen years later, she read Frankenstein. It sent her into a writing frenzy that became THE LOST GIRL, a novel about death and love and the tie that binds the two together. Sangu now lives in England with her husband and son.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Authors Are Rockstars Tour Stop

I'm stoked to be a part of this fabulous tour that Fiktshun and Two Chicks On Books have put together. Today, I'm hosting one of my most favorite authors who wrote a book that is in at least one of my top 10 book ever. If you haven't read it, do so! It's fantastic. So let's go meet this incredible mastermind!

Mike's Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter
Mike Mullin’s first job was scraping the gum off the undersides of desks at his high school. From there, things went steadily downhill. He almost got fired by the owner of a bookstore due to his poor taste in earrings. He worked at a place that showed slides of poopy diapers during lunch (it did cut down on the cafeteria budget). The hazing process at the next company included eating live termites raised by the resident entomologist, so that didn’t last long either. For a while Mike juggled bottles at a wine shop, sometimes to disastrous effect. Oh, and then there was the job where swarms of wasps occasionally tried to chase him off ladders. So he’s really hoping this writing thing works out.
Mike holds a black belt in Songahm Taekwondo. He lives in Indianapolis, Indiana with his wife and her three cats. ASHFALL is his first novel.

Mike Mullin
Series: Ashfall, #1
Publication date: October 11th 2011 
 by Tanglewood Press

Many visitors to Yellowstone National Park don’t realize that the boiling hot springs and spraying geysers are caused by an underlying supervolcano, so large that the caldera can only be seen by plane or satellite. And by some scientific measurements, it could be overdue for an eruption.

For Alex, being left alone for the weekend means having the freedom to play computer games and hang out with his friends without hassle from his mother. Then the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, plunging his hometown into a nightmare of darkness, ash, and violence. Alex begins a harrowing trek to seach for his family and finds help in Darla, a travel partner he meets along the way. Together they must find the strength and skills to survive and outlast an epic disaster.
Interview with Mike Mullin
Q. Let's begin with telling us how the idea for Ashfall came to you?

The idea for Ashfall started with another book—Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. I found it on a display at Central Library in downtown Indianapolis. Dozens of novel ideas lurk within its pages, but the one that stuck with me was the idea of a supervolcano eruption at Yellowstone. A few weeks after I read it, I woke at 3:30 am with a scene occupying my head so completely I was afraid it would start spilling out my nostrils and ears. I typed 5,500 words, finishing just before dawn. Then I put the project away and let it gestate for eight months. When I returned to it after researching volcanoes and volcanic ash, I realized the inspired scene I wrote in the middle of the night wouldn’t work, and ultimately that whole section had to be scrapped. The only word that remains from that draft? Ashfall.

Q. Tell us about Captain Poopy’s Sewer Adventures? Yes, I stalked read your bio!

Until I was eleven, I attended a brick box of a school, antiseptically clean and emotionally sterile. The children marched in files down the halls, mumbled math facts in unison, and occasionally did a craft project about a book.

When I turned twelve, I escaped from that intellectual prison camp and went to a noisy, dirty, chaotic school where I was—gasp—expected to write. Every day. And—double gasp—read. I wrote my first novel in sixth grade—Captain Poopy’s Sewer Adventures. Sadly, Dav Pilkey beat me to publication with Captain Underpants, although I still spell better than he does. (You don’t see me typing Mik Mullin, do you?) I’ve been writing ever since.

Q. Ashfall deals with the Yellowstone supervolcano and an incredibly realistic aftermath of its eruption - what kind of research did you have to do on the subject? Is it likely to happen anytime soon? *Looks at you in fear*

No, the Yellowstone supervolcano is extremely unlikely to erupt during our lifetime. So you can stop looking at me like that. It will erupt again, but nobody knows when. Occasionally you hear someone claim that since the last three eruptions were 2.1 million, 1.3 million, and 640,000 years ago, it’s “overdue” for another eruption. That’s bunk—the eruption preceding the last three was 4.2 million years ago, and the average interval of the volcano’s caldera-forming eruptions over the last 17 million years has been closer to 120,000 years. The good news is that even 120,000 years is such a long time in comparison to a human lifespan that you’ll probably be long dead when Yellowstone erupts again.

I had an interest in volcanoes before I started writing ASHFALL, but it was the sort of ‘look, shiny!’ kind of interest lots of people have in Mother Nature’s most impressive temper tantrums. I definitely didn’t know enough to write ASHFALL without a ton of research.

I started by reading all the books I could find on the subject. Greg Breining’s Supervolcano: The Ticking Time Bomb beneath Yellowstone National Park was particularly useful as was Savino and Jones’s Supervolcano: The Catastrophic Event that Changed the Course of Human History. You can find many of the sources I used on my website. Online resources like the United States Geological Survey and Wikipedia were helpful as well.  

From there, I delved into primary sources, reading many of the scholarly articles cited in the secondary sources I read. I found several relevant articles in The Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research. I visited the Indiana University Geology Library in Bloomington during this phase, passing myself off as Margaret Mullin (my wife, who is a doctoral student) so I could check out books.

I got stuck at one point during the writing process. The solution: road trip! My wife and I took off for a week in romantic Iowa. We drove every step of the route Alex takes through northern Iowa and Illinois. Many of the scenes in ASHFALL were created as a direct result of our trip. Later, I flew to Portland to relearn cross-country skiing and visit Mt. St. Helens.

Finally, I sent a manuscript to two geologists and made numerous changes based on their suggestions. 

There’s a more detailed discussion of the science behind ASHFALL on the Our Time in Juvie blog.

Q. If it were to erupt tomorrow, would you survive? What's your survival plan?

No, I wouldn’t survive. And I live in Indiana, where things would initially be much better than in Iowa, where Alex starts.

The super volcano I depict in ASHFALL would directly kill hundreds of thousands, maybe millions. But the bigger death toll would be from global starvation and disease in its wake. Twenty percent of the world’s grain supply is produced in the United States, primarily in areas that would be buried in ash. Globally, we have less than a 60-day supply of stored grain. Starvation would reach epidemic levels very quickly following a supervolcano eruption.

In thinking about who would survive and how, I found this research on the Donner party very useful. I have two strikes against me: I’m too old, and I’m male. Being female roughly doubles your odds of survival in a starvation situation. Women start out with an average of a third less muscle mass and higher body fat than men. So they both need fewer calories to survive and have a greater reserve.
Being between the ages of 6 and 35 also roughly doubles your odds, and I’m past that. (Only by a day or two . . . maybe. Ha!) The other thing that roughly doubles your odds is having family close. While my wife and I are lucky enough to have both sets of parents in town, they’re obviously even older than we are.

My odds aren’t good. So I don’t spend any time preparing for a global-scale disaster. My wife and I do have a plan about where to meet if we’re separated, but that’s about it. If the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts tomorrow, my goal will be to try to live the short remainder of my life in a way that helps the younger generation survive and rebuild.

Q. Like Alex, you're leaving in this ashfall, and you can only bring a backpack worth of supplies. What's in it?

I don’t think about this much—if an ashfall is bad enough to hit Indiana, I’m not likely to survive it anyway. I’d rather spend my time writing than prepping for a disaster that’s extremely unlikely to happen.

But, just for fun, here’s how I’d think about what to pack. I’d prioritize the things that could kill me fastest. So my first worry is protecting myself from exposure. Hypothermia can kill you in less than an hour. Hyperthermia is equally dangerous, if a little slower to kill. To prevent hyperthermia, you need a lot of water, which brings me to the next potential killer—thirst. Lack of potable water can kill within a week while dying of starvation normally takes at least a month. For an ashfall, you need to protect your eyes and lungs. Ash is microscopically fine and sharp, so it can scratch your corneas, and, if inhaled in sufficient quantity, cause silicosis, a deadly lung disease. Next I would prioritize medical supplies, and then, finally, food. If I have a choice, I’d pack dried foods—rice, beans, and such. They pack a lot more calories per pound than canned or fresh food.

So here’s a rough list off the top of my head. I’m limiting myself to stuff I know I have on hand and putting it in approximate priority order.

2 sets of weather-appropriate clothing, including a hat.
All the N-95 dust masks in the house.
Ski or swim goggles (whichever I can find first—I’m not sure where they are)
Heavy-duty plastic tarp
Hatchet (for cutting wood and self-defense)
Plumber’s spark lighter (for starting fires)
Every plastic water-bottle in the house
Pan for boiling water and cooking
Bleach for water purification
All the aspirin, antiseptic ointment, vitamins, and other medicine in my cabinet
Backpacking tent
Sleeping bag
All the rice, beans, nuts, pasta, and dried fruit in the house.
Coil of ¼ nylon rope
Thread and sewing needle
Blade for a bow saw

I probably missed something crucial, so please don’t rely on this list in a real disaster.

Q. Except for the Ashfall series, do you have plans/ideas for future books you can tell us about?

I can hardly sit down to write without having a colorful new idea butterfly flutter by and try to distract me. I deal with these butterflies by opening a new file, typing everything I know about the new idea, and then returning to the work I’m supposed to be doing. As a consequence, I have two or three dozen ideas for new books stored on my computer. When I finish the final book in the ASHFALL trilogy, I’ll write whichever of those ideas seems most worthy of a year of my time. Some of them are science fiction, others fantasy, realistic fiction, thrillers, or mysteries. The one thing they all have in common is that they have the potential to be really exciting young adult novels.

Q. What's on your reading this this fall?

I’ve scored ARCs of several of the fall books I’ve been looking forward to and read them already. Rae Carson’s Crown of Embers and Antony John’s Elemental are both incredible. It’ll be hard for the fall season to top this spring, though. It seems to be the year of fabulous books with blue covers: The Fault in Our Stars, Bitterblue, and Wonder all made my all-time favorites list. 2012 was the first year I’ve ever added three new books to that list.

Thanks for inviting me to participate in your Authors Are Rockstars Tour. Rock on! 

Thanks SO much for dropping by, Mike! This was incredibly interesting, and as I've feared the volcano's wrath since I read Ashfall I can finally cure my insomnia. 

Drop by Xpresso Reads on October 5th for the Ashen Winter blog tour!

Thanks to Fiktshun and Two Chicks on Books for hosting this fabulous tour!
Click on banner below for the full tour schedule 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Timeless Cover Reveal + Giveaway

I'm excited to be part of the Timeless cover reveal as I've gotten to know Michelle over my blogging "career" and she was actually my first review request where I ended up loving the book - Remembrance. This is the third and final part of the Transcend Time Saga.

Michelle Madow
Publication date: November 20th 2012
by Dreamscape Publishing

The final novel in the Transcend Time Saga.

To make things right, they must go back to when it all began ...

The Transcend Time Saga.:

 If you haven’t started the Transcend Time Saga yet, the e-version of Remembrance is only $2.99 and can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.

Michelle's Blog / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter
 Michelle Madow was inspired to write Remembrance after seeing Taylor Swift's "Love Story" music video while a junior at Rollins College in Winter Park, FL. The song and video gave her the idea about a high school girl reincarnated from Regency Era, England. She handed in the first chapter as a homework assignment for class, and when her teacher and classmates wanted her to continue writing, she decided to go for it. By the end of the school year, her first novel was completed! Along with the Transcend Time Saga, Michelle Madow has written two other young adult novels, both which will be developed into series’.

Michelle Madow graduated from the Park School of Baltimore in 2005, where she always took two English classes each semester. She graduated from Rollins College in 2010, cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in English. At Rollins she was a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and a member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta. She received the Charles Hyde Pratt Award for Excellence in Creative Writing in 2010. Michelle lives in Florida, where she is hard at work writing more novels for young adults. She is represented by literary agent Molly Ker Hawn at The Bent Agency.