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Author Interview: McKenna Reubush

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McKenna Ruebush

 

I’m so happy to be able to bring to you an interview with McKenna Reubush, author of Enter a Glossy WebShe was a fantastic guest and has released her debut novel recently, a beautiful and interesting children’s book. You can find her on her website or on twitter (@McKennaRuebush).

Watch my review of Enter a Glossy Web: 

So let’s start with the basics. Can you give a quick summary of Enter a Glossy Web?

Oh that’s actually a hard one, I’ve always had trouble with being brief as I’m somewhat relentlessly thorough. 

Enter a Glossy Web is about three kids who come together when they most need each other, and then set out to save the worlds, as there‘s nobody else but them to do it.

The story follows George, a girl who’s moved in with her aunt and uncle. Is George based on anyone in particular?
Not at all.  George developed independently of any external influences I think.  I can’t say the same about other characters, like Nero, who is partially based on my cats.

No, that’s not correct exactly.  She developed independently of any living external influences, but she was of course influenced strongly by other books I’ve read I’m sure. I’ve never personally known anyone like George, but she’s probably a conglomeration of different traits that I’ve admired in other characters.

What authors do you consider influential to your reading and writing life?
Piers Anthony was one of the first fantasy authors I read, and as a result I’ve developed a weakness for puns. 
That’s a difficult question because whereas certain authors inspire me greatly, such as J. R. R. Tolkien, William Goldman, Patrick Rothfuss, and so on, I can’t say that I am anywhere near that level of creativity and writing.

Though I suppose they count, as they do influence and inspire me.

Do you mind telling me more about Nero and your cats?
smiling-newt
Snoot wearing a mischievous smile.

When I first began truly developing Nero as a character and a person, rather than a catch-all villain, I remember writing a note down about the behavior of my cats and how it might apply to Nero.

“A character who does something just to see how it turns out, just to see if the same awful thing happens every time.”

Which is how my cat, Snoot, operates in general. 

So Nero was inspired partially by my cats in that he has a truly scholarly and curious purpose behind some of his misdeeds. There’s actually a scene near the beginning of Enter a Glossy Web where Nero knocks some things over just to see them fall, which is a direct homage to Snoot.

Ha! That’s really funny
 

I think one of the really interesting things is that Nero should in theory be a good guy. He’s fundamentally a Judge. But you go into giving more complexity to that role. Were you doing this on purpose? How did you imagine that playing with kids?

Nero is a person who has been influenced by his past and the things that have happened to him, often due to his own decisions.  Nero has been good in the past, and part of him is still good, I’m sure, as few people (I hope) are ever 100% truly evil.  Having a character like that was important to me because any of us at any time could be a single decision away from being somebody else’s villain.  I think kids know that.  Being on the playground someone can be your best friend one day, and the next day they can be your worst bully.  Sometimes you can be the best friend/worst bully combination.  It all depends on how you decide to proceed.
I really loved George’s friends in the story, especially Caleb and Mikal. The three of them all work together to make one another stronger and do it very consciously. Did you mean to target this? and what kind of “weaknesses” did you want to draw on?
I wanted them to be a team, and I wanted each of them to be important and to bring something unique to the group.  I think the main “weakness”, the one that all three experience, is fearfulness.  George is afraid of messing up, of the consequences of messing up; Caleb is afraid of not being loved; Mikal is afraid of most things.  Of course, fear isn’t a weakness, but it’s dangerous to let fear make your decisions for you.
How old were you when you started to write? 

 

The answer I always give is eleven.  I have a bad memory, but I think that’s about right as it was in between living with my father in Illinois and my mother in California.
My grandmother told me I was writing stories as young as four, but I have no memory of that.
So eleven is the safe and most honest answer in my opinion.
I told you I was ridiculously thorough!
This is your debut novel, though. But you’re contracted for more. How many books are planned? And are you using the same artist for the next book?
Only one more book is planned to follow Enter a Glossy Web.  As far as I know we are using Jaime Zollars again.  I absolutely love what she did with Enter a Glossy Web, and can’t wait to see what she does with the next book.
I’m so excite for the sequel. I’m glad that Zollars will be working with it again. It must have been so exciting. 
It was incredible.  I think I actually cried when I saw the first mock-ups.  I don’t have kids, but seeing that first picture of George, in black and white, was like seeing my own children for the first time. I had been working with these characters for almost fifteen years, and had never seen them.
Oh, and the way Jaime imagined George was more perfect than I could have dreamed.  She took everything that had been happening in my head and made it real and better.  She’s amazing.
Where are you in the process of book 2?
I’m about 1/3rd of the way through the first draft. I should be finished with the first draft in about three months, and then we’ll move on to revisions. 
Awesome! So, the last thing I always ask is what you’re reading at the moment. 
I’m currently in the middle of The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, and about to start The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett, though my inner perfectionist is insisting I start properly at the beginning of DiscWorld with The Colour of Magic. 
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Review | The Vegetarian by Han King

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Han King’s The Vegetarian has been awarded the Man Booker Prize and while I can see the appeal, it left me wanting, not in a good way.

The story revolves around a family in which the daughter becomes a vegetarian after a nightmare. She’s compulsive about it, not eating anything that came from animals and getting to the point where instead of avoiding touching meat, she avoids touching people as well. The smell of sweat bothers her.

The story is short, with three different perspectives: the woman’s husband, her sister, and her brother-in-law.

To be honest, it’s pretty manic pixie dream girl. There’s some hand waving at magical realism, but it doesn’t follow through and the story’s structure feels stunted. The characters are mysoginists and flat. The pacing is meandering, and I didn’t find the story compelling. If it had followed through on some of its more magical and dream-related elements I would have found it more interesting.

Overall, it wasn’t for me. Maybe my tastes just aren’t literary enough.

 

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review | Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal

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Mary Robinette Kowal’s Forest of Memory is a new Tor.com novella that (according to my .pdf reader) is about 50 pages. It also happens to be great to read while you soak your feet (which may or may not be how I read it). It chronicles the mysterious and unconfirmed week of a young woman who had gone missing.

The story is told from a first person perspective. The narrator, Katya, is a young woman who deals in antiquities, artifacts from previous years that show their wear. She goes up to look at a fairly rare find, a manual typewriter and dictionary, and is waylaid on her way home by a stranger who appears to be shooting—poaching? meddling with?— deer in the forest. She almost runs into the deer, but when the stranger notices her, he kidnaps her.

The story is fun for a number of reasons. The narrator is unreliable; it’s filled with intrigue; and you find yourself just wanting to know what in the world is going on.

It’s set in a future where people are constantly in touch with one another. People live stream everything. The narrator is particularly well known for this, because the authenticity and story that goes along with the items is as valuable, if not more, than the item itself. The very idea that someone could go missing and show up on the other side of the country without anyone knowing is basically unfathomable.

This brings into question a lot of different topics, like whether you can count on an individual’s memory, how interconnected we are, whether you can really have something be valid and authentic without “proof.” Kowal takes an, at times, round about way of talking about these issues, but the overall impact is no less effective.

The story is suspenseful and entertaining. There are moments where it can be slow, but this is often a good change of pace from the more tense moments of the book. The narrator is likeable, if unbelievable.

This was a pretty perfect evening-in book. Kowal managed to make an interesting world with a captivating plot that leaves you just wanting more. Better yet, she did it all in a story you can read in a sitting.

A big thanks to Tor.com for providing me with a copy of Forest of Memories in exchange for an honest review.

You can now follow me on Bloglovin

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Someone pointed Bloglovin’ out to me! I had seen it before but hadn’t really explored it as a platform. I have now claimed my blog there, so those of you who use it can follow me there as well. Cheers!

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DNF’ed | Thief’s Magic by Trudi Canavan

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I received Thief’s Magic for review about a month ago and hadn’t picked it up. When I did, it seemed like the kind of story I’d like, but it had some unfortunate aspects that didn’t appeal to me. The first part, a story about a boy training in archaeology who uncovers a magical book, was interesting, with a lot of details about the character and the world that I liked. But all of a sudden it shifted. It was as though I’d picked up a totally different book. The parts switched to a story about a girl who falls in love practically overnight. She’s convinced that the use of magic destroys one’s soul, but then goes ahead and almost unthinkingly uses it. The lack of appeal post-shift and the romance wasn’t for me and it was dragging. I put it down. Maybe I’ll pick it up again later, but for now, I’m classifying it as a DNF.

Spotlight on Graphic Novels: The New Suicide Squad vol. 1

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* I received a copy of The New Suicide Squad, vol 1, Pure Insanity for free in exchange for an honest review via Netgalley.


Honesty moment, while I love DC Comics, and am a big fan of their imprints like Vertigo, I’m not always up to date on all of the newest superhero plot lines. They often times just don’t do it for me and the thought of delving into the superhero universes that are already long-established, like Marvel or DC, is overwhelming to say the least.

I wanted to read The New Suicide Squad, vol 1, Pure Insanity for a couple of reasons. (1) It seemed like a reasonable jumping-on point for the storyline; (2) The concept of the Suicide Squad is intriguing; and (3) There’s a new movie coming out for the Suicide Squad and I wanted to know a bit more about the story before jumping into the theater (a typical thing for me).

The Suicide Squad is one of the more inadvisable ideas to ever plague Gotham’s leadership. After arresting or otherwise detaining a number of Gotham’s big bad villains, chips are implanted into the villains’ necks which will explode if the villains do not comply with commands given them. Under the supervision of Agent Waller and the U.S. government, the villains are forced to team up and take on existential threats to the U.S.

The chaos and misadventures of the Suicide Squad is pretty expected. In the New Suicide Squad, vol. 1, there are a number of notable villains, including Deadshot, Manta, Harley Quinn, and The Joker’s Daughter. The trade paperback includes two plot arcs, one involving Russia, the other China.

I had a mixed reaction to the bind up.

The story is fun. It’s action-packed with some fast-paced battles and interesting conflicts. The entire concept is interesting.

The art is a dramatic stylized style with odd angles and proportions. The pallet is dark, understandably so. Everything seems swathed in shadow. Granted, there were a lot of panels where a punch seems to land on someone’s crotch, even though it seems more likely that the target was the stomach. I don’t know, maybe crotch punching is all the rage.

I was, however, left a bit underwhelmed by the character dynamics, which seemed forced, and by the lack of cohesion in the plots. While Manta serves as a kind of binding agent, consistent throughout the story, the other characters are overly-volatile, inconsistent, and oddly positioned. There isn’t a lot of backstory built into the book. This is not the volume to pick up if you want to know how and why the Suicide Squad exists.

It was a fine comic, just not quite smooth enough storytelling for my tastes.

Quick Review: Countdown to Zero Day by Kim Zetter

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An advanced virus, Iran nuclear weapons, and espionage, Countdown to Zero Day has a lot of story going on. It’s one of the more interesting modern day hacking tales. The real-life creation of the Stuxnet virus and its infiltration and discovery in Iran, along with the heightened suspicions of the Iranian nuclear weapons program are interesting subject matter.

I only wish that the story didn’t read like a technical report.

My background is, by and large, in social science and academia. I love everything about international relations and Middle East politics. So, I was intrigued by the story offered in Zetter’s book. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t read as a compelling narrative. Instead, it’s got the slow drag that tends to haunt academic reports.

That being said, the story is extremely well researched with helpful footnotes and clearly the intended audience is supposed to be well-informed, but not experts. It’s not overly technical, but just technical enough to make the reading drag.

2.5/5