Friday, June 29, 2012

Tessa Masterson WILL Go to Prom by Emily Franklin & Brendan Halpin

Publisher: Walker Children’s
Pages: 257
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Summary: Lucas and Tessa’s friendship is the stuff of legend in their small Midwestern town. So it’s no surprise when Lucas finally realizes his feelings for Tessa are more than friendship and he asks her to prom. What no one expected, especially Lucas, was for Tessa to come out as a lesbian instead of accepting his heartfelt invitation. Humiliated and confused, Lucas also feels betrayed that his best friend kept such an important secret from him.
What’s worse is Tessa’s decision to wear a tastefully tailored tuxedo to escort her female crush, sparking a firestorm of controversy. Lucas must decide if he should stand on the sidelines or if he should stand by his friend to make sure that Tessa Masterson will go to prom.
Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin tackle both sides of a ripped-from-the headlines story to show that true friendship will triumph after all.

I’ve heard bits and pieces about the Constance McMillen prom fiasco that occurred in the very recent past and wanted to check out a fictionalized story based on it. I found this one particularly intriguing because it flipped points of view between the girl at hand and her best male friend.
Lucas finally decides to let his best friend know that he’s in love with her and wants to take her to prom in a very public way--just in time for her to admit to him that she is gay and wants to take her secret girlfriend to prom. Lucas is enraged and embarrassed that his best friend wouldn’t confide something like that to him and accidentally sets off a media fiasco in the town. Lucas and Tessa must figure out how to fix their friendship in the midst of prejudice, boycotts, and other ridiculous behavior their small-minded town feels the need to act on in order to prove that they’re traditional or something.
Tessa Masterson WILL Go to Prom follows a storyline similar to the real life Constance McMillen case, only it’s directly from the girl’s point of view. We also get the point of view of Lucas, her best friend, who has some choices of his own to make in regards to Tessa’s situation.
I loved that Lucas and Tessa were very believable teenage characters. The problems and emotional reactions to things within the story made complete sense--Lucas was angry that his best friend kept a secret that resulted in his embarrassment. Tessa worked really hard to fade into the background to keep her secret, but once she was out she didn’t feel as if she needed to entirely fade out. She felt like she could finally be herself and enjoy life the same way everyone else did.
I found the story to be well-developed, but the characters aside from Tessa and Lucas were not so developed. The plot didn’t really require the other characters to be developed, but I thought it would flesh out the story just a little bit. I also wanted to see more of Tessa’s family--I knew that they supported their daughter and how the town’s behavior affected their business, but I would have liked to see how they dealt with it at home and away from the public eye.
While I would have liked to see more about some of the characters in Franklin and Halpin’s collaboration, I thought they did a great job with their subject matter. They told a fictionalized account of the story that everyone should know about. Franklin and Halpin work well together to create a seamless joint effort--I’ll definitely be checking out their other book, Jenna and Jonah’s Fauxmance.

Rating: 3.5 - good

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Key to the Golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson

Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 304
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Summary: The funny thing about stop signs is that they're also start signs.
Mayzie is the middle sister, sent to private school because of her brains. Brooks, the oldest, is a beautiful athlete who's conflicted about her two loves: softball and Dave. Palmer is the youngest, tentative in all but her blistering pitches as the only freshman on varsity softball. Though very different, the Golds are sisters through and through.
When the unthinkable happens -- the death of their father -- a year passes in shattered silence. Brooks begins drinking, Palm withdraws, and May is left to fend for herself. She gets a job at a coffee spot, and hits the books. But the one thing she can't do alone is learn to drive. That's when Peter, her lifelong nemesis and all around thorn-in-side, assumes a surprising new role in May's life: he teaches her to drive, and the connection between them changes from childhood animosity to one that May can't understand, or doesn't yet want to.
As May slowly starts to pick up the pieces of her life, her sisters struggle with their own demons. The Gold sisters have been changed irrevocably, and they are all but lost to one another, until the key is found. The key to their father's Pontiac Firebird.

I have wanted to read this book since I heard Maureen Johnson’s name back in high school--probably circa 2006. I finally took it out from the library like three months ago. Of course, I waited as long as possible before I actually read it. I don’t get my deal sometimes. Whatever!
May’s father died while she and her sisters were out pulling a prank on their neighbor, Pete. After his death, May’s older sister Brooks turned to partying with a bad boyfriend, her younger sister Palm threw herself into softball and an empty television, and May completely committed herself to succeeding in school and work. Since it seems the only thing she can’t do is learn to drive, formerly-annoying neighbor boy Pete is around to help her out. When May realizes that she can’t hold their family together alone, the three girls come back together with the help of their father’s Firebird.
The Key to the Golden Firebird is very character-driven, so if you’re a plot person I wouldn’t completely recommend this one. Johnson’s story explores how three daughters, along with their mother, deal with the aftermath of their father’s death in entirely normal ways. While Johnson’s early novel isn’t the most memorable of stories, it’s a well written exploration of teenage loss.
I really loved May as a protagonist. With the protagonists I’ve previously read about in Johnson’s books (13 Little Blue Envelopes and The Name of the Star) I didn’t entirely connect with them. Straight up personality-wise, May and I were similar, both being Type-A academically minded with a tendency to be prickly rather than overtly friendly. Her bitchy attitude made it so she wasn’t just a martyr figure, attempting to take care of the family whilst no one else cared. Even when her father was alive, she felt that she didn’t fit in their athletically inclined family. She was entirely relatable and awesome.
I loved the relationship between Pete and May. I found it to be fascinatingly normal--they grew up as family friends and enemies until Pete starts showing up more to help their family out after May’s father died. They had good, subtle chemistry and I wanted to see them work it out!
The Key to the Golden Firebird is a great read about grief and coming together as a family. Johnson created a great protagonist in May, along with a believably flawed/entertaining cast of characters surrounding her.

Rating: 4 - good!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf

Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Pages: 354
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Summary: Allie lost everything the night her boyfriend, Trip, died in a horrible car accident—including her memory of the event. As their small town mourns his death, Allie is afraid to remember because doing so means delving into what she’s kept hidden for so long: the horrible reality of their abusive relationship.
When the police reopen the investigation, it casts suspicion on Allie and her best friend, Blake, especially as their budding romance raises eyebrows around town. Allie knows she must tell the truth. Can she reach deep enough to remember that night so she can finally break free? Debut writer Jennifer Shaw Wolf takes readers on an emotional ride through the murky waters of love, shame, and, ultimately, forgiveness.

Jennifer Shaw Wolf’s debut novel was on my Spring TBR list! Since I had only read two books on that list (I have trouble when my reading habits are expected to follow some sort of structure) I decided to revisit it before summer made itself known.
Allie is broken after a car accident scarred her and killed her boyfriend, Trip. What’s worse is that Allie isn’t entirely sorry Trip is gone--their abusive, controlling relationship was wearing on her life. The new investigator in town begins to suspect that something is up with the accident when Allie begins seeing her best friend and the town delinquent, Blake. Allie has to work through her hidden memories in order to solve the mystery of why Trip is dead and who she can truly trust in her life.
Breaking Beautiful falls under the increasingly popular “amnesia girl” books, in which the protagonist cannot remember past events that affect her current situation. Throughout the book, she must attempt to remember, usually resulting in bits and pieces of the whole story being unraveled to the reader. This was perfect for the mystery of Breaking Beautiful. Allie has little idea as to where Trip’s body is and why he’s missing/presumed dead. I read through this one really fast because I wanted to figure out who was responsible for the couple’s accident. Even though I didn’t buy into the misdirection (or red herring, if we’re going with true mystery speak), I couldn’t figure out who was responsible until I was told. Well done, JSW!
My issue with this one is that the drama stretched a tiny bit too far. The antagonistic characters were too one-dimensional-evil for my taste. There was absolutely nothing redeemable about Trip or his father to make them well rounded characters. They seemed like soap opera and silent film villains--not really humanized at all. The bad was very black and white when it comes to these people. While abuse is a very black and white issue--it’s straight up bad and shouldn’t be happening--people in real life are rarely so. For this reason, I found the mystery to be a stronger aspect in the story than the character study.
Jennifer Shaw Wolf’s Breaking Beautiful is a mystery-driven story with a darkly human twist. While I thought that the characterization needed some work, the mystery was well-plotted and kept me reading quickly!

Rating: 3.5 - fair/good.

Waiting On Wednesday (21)

Venom by Fiona Paul

Cassandra Caravello is one of Renaissance Venice’s lucky elite: with elegant gowns, sparkling jewels, her own lady’s maid, and a wealthy fiancĂ©, she has everything a girl could desire. Yet ever since her parents’ death, Cassandra has felt trapped, alone in a city of water, where the dark and labyrinthine canals whisper of escape.
When Cass stumbles upon a murdered woman—practically in her own backyard—she’s drawn into a dangerous world of courtesans, killers, and secret societies. Soon, she finds herself falling for Falco, a mysterious artist with a mischievous grin... and a spectacular skill for trouble. Can Cassandra find the murderer, before he finds her? And will she stay true to her fiancĂ©, or succumb to her uncontrollable feelings for Falco?
Beauty, love, romance, and mystery weave together in a stunning novel that’s as seductive and surprising as the city of Venice itself.

Release date: October 30, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

This is SO Not Happening by Kieran Scott


Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Pages: 320
Series or Stand Alone: Book 3 in the She’s So/He’s So trilogy
Summary: After their long summer apart, Ally and Jake were hoping for a drama free senior year. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like things will work out that way...again. — It turns out that Chloe is pregnant and says that Jake is the father. Hammond is pissed at his best friend, but mostly can't believe that Ally would stay with Jake. But Ally is tired of being apart from Jake and is willing to make it work. But that is easier said than done when Jake starts blowing Ally off to go to doctor's appointments with Chloe and Ally joins the school play and meets a new cute guy.
But as graduation approaches, things get more complicated as new secrets come out and Ally realizes maybe Jake isn't the guy she thought he was. After everything they've been through can Ally and Jake get out of Orchard Hill with their relationship intact?

I’ve been waiting for the conclusion to Kieran Scott’s contemporary teen drama series since I read them last October/November! I ordered it as soon as it was listed in the library system.
This is SO Not Happening starts where the last one left off--Jake in the midst of getting the crap beat out of him by Hammond, who just told Jake that he knocked up Chloe. HIGH DRAMA! The gist of the book is that Jake has to deal with the whole Chloe-having-a-baby thing, while Ally has to deal with sharing Jake with the mother of his baby--if it’s actually his baby (dun dun DUUUUUN). It sounds ver soap opera-y, and I suppose it is, only in a teenager-y way.
This is SO Not Happening provides the closing chapter in the story of the Cresties and the Norms. I enjoyed seeing how the friendships came full circle from Ally’s less than welcome return in the first book. Reading about when all the girls come together, then everyone comes back together by the end was reminiscent of the end of a Gossip Girl season, when the original four best friends work together to help someone or pull a scam over on the villain of the moment. Kieran Scott really captured the comings and goings of tumultuous friendships that can occur during high school well with this series.
I would have liked to see a bit more about the other characters not directly involved in the Chloe-Jake-Ally-Hammond drama. Shannen, who is probably my favorite character in these stories, was demoted to a plot device rather than a character that has her own storyline going on. She became the friend that shed light on the situation for Jake. In the first two, Shannen was a decently big character, but by the third the pregnancy storyline and Jake and Ally’s relationship overtook other issues previously involved in the story.
Kieran Scott’s This is SO Not Happening was a satisfying conclusion to the She’s So/He’s So trilogy. I enjoyed these contemporary teen dramas, but I’m happy that their stories have come to a close. I like that she had them conclude with high school graduations and not go into an unrealistic vision of a communal college experience (ah, the downfall of a lot of teen television shows).

Rating: 3.5/4 - good

Monday, June 25, 2012

In My Mailbox (25)

Underworld by Meg Cabot
My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Fallen Grace by Mary Hooper
The Demon Trapper's Daughter by Jana Oliver
Evermore by Alyson Noel
Hereafter by Tara Hudson

IMM is hosted by The Story Siren

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti

Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Pages: 268
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Summary: Best friends Lani and Erin couldn't be more different. Lani's reserved and thoughtful; Erin's bubbly and outgoing. Lani likes to do her own thing; Erin prefers an entourage. There's no possible way they could be interested in the same guy.
So when Erin starts dating Jason, Lani can't believe she feels such a deep connection with him--and it may be mutual. The more Lani fights it, the more certain she feels that it's her fate to be with Jason. But what do you do when the love of your life is the one person you can't have?

I used to think that I wouldn’t enjoy a book about someone who goes after their best friend’s boyfriend. I assumed that any character in that position would try to justify it with lame excuses and half-apologies. After I read Lauren Barnholdt’s Sometimes It Happens, I saw that this wasn’t true--Hannah was a great character and the story was crafted so that the situation was complicated. She never provided a lame excuse. She knew what she did and she knew it was wrong--but she also stuck to her convictions. Anyway, since I enjoyed that book and am interested in reading Melissa Walker’s Unbreak My Heart, I figured I’d give this one a try, despite my loathing of the cover.
Lani and Erin are best friends that are clearly growing apart. Erin spends her time with a big group of friends doing service projects, whereas Lani spends all of her time with either Erin or her in-the-closet friend Blake. When Erin starts dating Jason, Lani suddenly begins thinking they might have more in common.
Unfortunately, I do not have the same good feelings for this book as I did for Sometimes It Happens. I prefer these types of books to know what they are. This one started off with Lani claiming that she could NEVER even like the same person as Erin, a conviction which falls to pieces as soon as Blake tells her she should be interested in Jason. I need my book to be more self-actualized than that.
There was not all that much to the plot of this one, but it’s clearly more of a character study so that’s fine. However, I couldn’t stand Lani. Lani was a judgmental environmental activist with an obsession with fate and astrology. I felt like she explained her incredibly selfish behavior by invoking fate, which is crap. I don’t care what you think your cosmic plan is, your actions are your own and you have to take responsibility for them.
While I didn’t really enjoy Lani from the beginning, I knew that I was done with her when she said the following quote: “This is too much. It’s like we don’t even have a choice about being together. Fate decided this for us a long time ago.” (139) Ahem, no. If it’s one thing I cannot abide by, it is people and characters that claim they have no choice in their behavior. If a friend said this to me, I’d tell her that she was full of it.
The good thing about this book was that it did attempt to have more than one plot thread--the B-plot involving Blake and his verbally abusive dad was far more interesting and tolerable than Lani’s woes over dating her best friend’s ex-boyfriend. Blake, you should have been the narrator of this book. You’re a better character than Lani was and I’d like to hear about this from your point of view.

Rating: 2 - meh.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (20)

Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr

(from goodreads)
In a city of daimons, the Carnival of Souls hosts a deadly competition. Once in a generation, every citizen can fight to join the ruling elite. Without the competition, Aya and Kaleb would both face bleak futures—if for different reasons. For each of them, fighting to the death is the only way to try to live.
In our own world, Mallory knows that her father—and every other witch—fled the daimons’ city long ago. She trains to be lethal because it’s only a matter of time until the daimons catch up with them.
While Mallory possesses little knowledge of The City, every inhabitant of The City knows of her. There are plans there for Mallory, and soon she, too, will be drawn into the decadence that is the Carnival of Souls.
From Melissa Marr, bestselling author of the Wicked Lovely series, comes a brand-new tale of secrets, love, and the struggle to forge one’s own destiny.

Release date: September 4, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (23)

Top Ten Books on My Summer To Be Read List!
Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
Two Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt
My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker
Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
In Honor by Jessi Kirby
Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown
A Midsummer's Nightmare by Kody Keplinger
Ferocity Summer by Alissa Grosso

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Monday, June 18, 2012

In My Mailbox (24)

Frostbite by Richelle Mead

Eve by Anna Carey

The Girl is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines
In Too Deep by Mandy Hubbard
Daimon by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Half-Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout

IMM is hosted by The Story Siren

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (19)

The Archived by Victoria Schwab

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books. 
Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.
Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive. 
Being a Keeper isn't just dangerous—it's a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da's death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall. 
In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.

Release date: January 22, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (22)

Top Ten Beach Reads:

Since I am not a beach person AT ALL (I wish I was! I really wish I was!) I had to imagine what others might want to read on a beach...which turned into me creating a list of beach-set or summer-centered books I have enjoyed over the years. People want to read books about beaches while they’re on them, right?

1. Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen
2. Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
3. Pants on Fire by Meg Cabot
4. The Au Pairs by Melissa de la Cruz
5. Summer Boys by Hailey Abbott
6. He’s SO Not Worth It by Kieran Scott (okay, so maybe this is the second book in a trilogy. It takes place at the beach and would be an awesome vacation book!)
7. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
8. Sometimes it Happens by Lauren Barnholdt
9. Pieces of Us by Margie Gelbwasser
10. Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Enjoy your beach books! For now, I’ll just be reading in my backyard.
Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Monday, June 11, 2012

In My Mailbox: BEA Edition

The City's Son by Tom Pollock (signed!)
Zom-B by Darren Shan
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang (signed!)
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (signed!)
Because It is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin (signed!)
Glass Heart by Amy Garvey (signed!)
When It Happens to You by Molly Ringwald (signed!)
Black City by Elizabeth Richards
Sun of Apollo by Darab Lawyer and Clinton Libbey
Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans (signed!)
The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver (signed!)
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles (signed!)
Origin by Jessica Khoury
Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger
Feedback by Robinson Wells (signed!)
Partials by Dan Wells (signed!)
The Diviners by Libba Bray
Confessions of a Murder Suspect by James Patterson

The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer
The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison (signed!)
The Demon Catchers of Milan by Kat Beyer
Every Day by David Levithan
The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa (signed!)
The Daughter of Smoke and Bone (+Days of Blood and Starlight preview) by Laini Taylor
Fathomless by Jackson Pearce
Altered by Jennifer Rush
In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz
Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes
Chanel Bonfire by Wendy Lawless
Shadows by Ilsa Bick
The Diviners by Libba Bray (signed!)
Bootlicker by Steve Piacente (signed!)
Beta by Rachel Cohn (signed!)
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund (signed!)
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (signed!)
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (signed!)
Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas (signed!)

Also, that postcard holds Holly Black's autograph! She ran out of books, but I really didn't care about the book at that point.

The Theory of Everything by JJ Johnson(signed!)
Ferocity Summer by Alissa Grasso (signed!)
Fathomless by Jackson Pearce (signed!)
Entice by Jessica Shirvington
Bzrk by Michael Grant
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Cursed by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Jepp Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh
Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin
Every Day by David Levithan (signed!)
Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian (signed!)
Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken (signed!)
Skylark by Megan Spooner (signed!)
The Hollow City by Dan Wells
The Curiosities by Maggie Stiefvater, Brenna Yovanoff, Tessa Gratton (signed!)

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

IMM is hosted by The Story Siren

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Black Heart by Holly Black

DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW WITHOUT FIRST READING WHITE CAT AND RED GLOVE. I do not want to spoil the magic that is reading Holly Black’s Curseworkers series for anyone.

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon and Schuster)
Pages: 296
Series or Stand Alone: Book Three in Holly Black’s FLAWLESS Curseworkers trilogy
Summary: Cassel Sharpe knows he’s been used as an assassin, but he’s trying to put all that behind him. He’s trying to be good, even though he grew up in a family of con artists and cheating comes as easily as breathing to him. He’s trying to do the right thing, even though the girl he loves is inextricably connected with crime. And he’s trying to convince himself that working for the Feds is smart, even though he’s been raised to believe the government is the enemy.
But with a mother on the lam, the girl he loves about to take her place in the Mob, and new secrets coming to light, the line between what’s right and what’s wrong becomes increasingly blurred. When the Feds ask Cassel to do the one thing he said he would never do again, he needs to sort out what’s a con and what’s truth. In a dangerous game and with his life on the line, Cassel may have to make his biggest gamble yet—this time on love.

I have been looking forward to this book since the first time I read the last page of Red Glove. That is all.
Despite a remarkable criminal history as both a con artist and an assassin, Cassel Sharpe is attempting to turn his life around. Going against the community he grew up in, the girl he loves, and his own intuition, Cassel trains with the Feds in order to find a different use for his dangerous transformation powers. Only, it turns out that the Feds want exactly the same things from Cassel that the Mob did. With the help of Lila and his unreliable brother Barron, Cassel has to figure out who’s playing him and how he can possibly live free from ties to people who want to use him.
Just when you thought that the Curseworkers books couldn’t get any better, Holly Black slapped you in the face with the “gosh you’re wrong” stick and handed you a copy of Black Heart. Her characterization is flawless. Cassel continues being plagued by internal conflicts, with his crime upbringing battling with his desire to be a good person and help the Feds. This, of course, becomes even more complicated when the Feds begin to manipulate him and he no longer knows who is in the right. Does Cassel ever just sit around and brood about how difficult his life is, even though is one of the few characters I think might just deserve to? NO! He is constantly thinking about his situations, the people he cares about around him, and acting in order to preserve their safety (though not usually his own, as can definitely be evidenced by some of his choices). That’s why he’s so wonderful.
Then we have Lila. Fierce, used-to-be-a-cat-for-awhile-but-is-better-now Lila, who is now officially a part of the Zacharov crime family with a second smile to prove it. Now that she’s come out of her emotion working (thanks to Cassel’s mother) she’s pretty pissed, making her even more of a force to be reckoned with. But Lila also has a well expressed vulnerability that doesn’t get in the way of her totally kicking ass and taking names.
I was stressed out throughout a significant portion of this book. I find a high literary stress level to be a wonderful sign for a book--if I’m stressed out about a character, it means that I care immensely about them. It means I’ve forgotten that a character, say Cassel Sharpe, is entirely the figment of someone’s imagination and therefore has a future already outlined for him. With his situation with the Feds and his familial ties to organized crime, I could not figure out how Cassel was going to avoid being used as a transformation working pawn for the rest of his life. The story that results from this is a fantastic, action/mystery/magic-driven tale that made me hurt every time I had to put the book down.
With Black Heart, Holly Black proves that there’s a damn good way to create the perfect end to a trilogy. The entirety of Cassel Sharpe’s story is brilliantly executed with a well-imagined alternate world, awesomely grey characters (meaning not black and white-nothing is simple in these books), and plots that just don’t quit. In case you haven’t noticed, I would recommend this series to anyone and everyone.

Rating: 5 - woo!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Red Glove by Holly Black


Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry (Simon and Schuster)
Pages: 325Series or Stand Alone: Book Two in Holly Black’s AMAZING Curseworkers trilogy
Summary: Curses and cons. Magic and the mob. In Cassel Sharpe's world, they go together. Cassel always thought he was an ordinary guy, until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers. Now he knows the truth—he’s the most powerful curse worker around. A touch of his hand can transform anything—or anyone—into something else.
That was how Lila, the girl he loved, became a white cat. Cassel was tricked into thinking he killed her, when actually he tried to save her. Now that she’s human again, he should be overjoyed. Trouble is, Lila’s been cursed to love him, a little gift from his emotion worker mom. And if Lila’s love is as phony as Cassel’s made-up memories, then he can’t believe anything she says or does.
When Cassel’s oldest brother is murdered, the Feds recruit Cassel to help make sense of the only clue—crime-scene images of a woman in red gloves. But the mob is after Cassel too—they know how valuable he could be to them. Cassel is going to have to stay one step ahead of both sides just to survive. But where can he turn when he can’t trust anyone—least of all, himself?
Love is a curse and the con is the only answer in a game too dangerous to lose.

I continue my reread of the Curseworkers series in preparation for reading Black Heart. I also continue to gush about how much I adore these books in an embarrassing fashion. Just kidding, you have to have book shame in order to be embarrassed about something like that. I support these books 100% and will continue shouting it from the rooftops in a shameless fashion.
Life just isn’t going Cassel Sharpe’s way. You think it would--he finally found out that he’s an incredibly transformation powerful worker, one of the rarest worker types that exists. Lila, the girl he previously thought dead, is very much alive and completely in love with him. Only the reason for Lila’s feelings is the magical touch Cassel’s mother gave her making her hopelessly devoted to him--and making it so Cassel now has to stay away from her. When Cassel finds out that his oldest brother Phillip has been murdered, he knows he has to find the killer. Problem is, both the Feds and various crime families want to recruit him for his extraordinary abilities. Cassel has to try to work outside of both in order to find out the truth--before more people are hurt in the process.
They just. Keep. Getting. BETTER. This was another re-read for me, but it was like I was reading the book for the first time. If I thought I really needed to know what happened at the end of White Cat, it was nothing compared to needing to know the answers to the questions in Red Glove. Who is Phillip’s killer? What does Cassel choose, helping the Feds or joining the Zacharovs in a life of crime (this time one he actually chose?)? All right, I knew the answer to these questions, but I raced through it to figure out how Cassel managed to get there.
While I’m here, bonus points for a murder mystery! Holly Black did the whole mystery thing right when Cassel tried to figure out his missing memories and what happened to Lila in the first book, but took it to a new level when Cassel had to figure out who killed his mob worker brother. SO GREAT!
Obviously, the characters are still amazing. I adore Cassel, who is still discovering pieces of missing memories (for instance, where his least favorite chair came from...) and dealing with staying away from Lila when all she wants to do is be near him for all the wrong reasons. Their relationship is painful and amazing. Lila is a strong female character despite being cursed into devotion to Cassel. I was happy to see more of Sam and Daneca, especially since more backstory and depth was given to Daneca.
Red Glove is the perfect continuation of the Curseworkers series by Holly Black. This is one series that I was happy knowing it was going to be a trilogy--one or two books with Cassel, Lila, and their companions is certainly not enough. I’m going to doubt that three will be enough for me, but I’m looking forward to reading the conclusion to Cassel’s story.

Rating: 5 - shelf of favorites

Thursday, June 7, 2012

White Cat by Holly Black

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon and Schuster)
Pages: 310
Series or Stand Alone: Book One in Holly Black’s FABULOUS Curseworkers Series
Summary: (from The first in a trilogy, this gritty, fast-paced fantasy is rife with the unexpected. Cassel comes from a shady, magical family of con artists and grifters. He doesn’t fit in at home or at school, so he’s used to feeling like an outsider. He’s also used to feeling guilty—he killed his best friend, Lila, years ago.
But when Cassel begins to have strange dreams about a white cat, and people around him are losing their memories, he starts to wonder what really happened to Lila. In his search for answers, he discovers a wicked plot for power that seems certain to succeed. But Cassel has other ideas—and a plan to con the conmen.

I re-read White Cat so that all the details were fresh in my mind so I could properly enjoy the third book, Black Heart, when it was released. Also, I loved this book so much that I really couldn’t wait to re-read it. I have it on my kindle (thanks to its $2.99 sale price) and I recently bought a copy in a store at a low bargain price in the event that I need to lend it to someone.
In a world in which working magic is known and outlawed, Cassel Sharpe is a liar and a con artist. Skills like his were learned from childhood while surrounded by magical organized crime and his emotion-manipulating con artist of a mother. Cassel’s entire life is spent pretending to be something he’s not--pretending it doesn’t matter that he’s not a curseworker like the rest of his family, pretending he’s a normal teenager at his boarding school, pretending not to be bothered by the memory of the last time he saw his childhood friend and love Lila--dead, with him standing above her, holding a knife. Cassel starts sleepwalking and having dreams about a white cat. Once he notices that people around him are being memory-worked. Cassel knows he must find out the truth about what happened to Lila--and what’s been happening to him before more people get hurt.
We all know I adore this book, so I’ll just cut to the chase. The storyline is fantastic. I’m a fan of urban fantasy. I love seeing the world we know tweaked by magic and supernatural beings. In Cassel’s world, curseworking is outlawed. Everyone, worker or not, must wear gloves in order to prevent bare hand contact. Organized crime plays a major role in this book, with many of the characters involved with the Zacharov family. The government is attempting to make it so that everyone must be tested for abilities, causing worker rights advocacy groups to fight for privacy. Holly Black’s worldbuilding, though built into a recognizable reality for us, is fantastic. Politics and crime are just like they are in our world--except that magic plays a major role.
I know I’ve spoken about my love for Cassel in Top Ten All Time Favorite Characters and Top Ten Favorite Narrators, but I can’t let this review go without shouting it from the rooftops again: I LOVE CASSEL SHARPE’S CHARACTER. Holly Black created an incredibly believable male voice and a perfect unreliable narrator to boot. Cassel lies and cons people, all while carrying a huge burden and a tangle of internal conflicts. All he wants is to be a normal teenage guy, not just act like one. Oh, Cassel. Good luck with that one.
Even though I had already read this book, I had to race through the end to find out what happened again (and maybe I finished it while I was supposed to be working, what of it?). Holly Black’s White Cat is a great start to the Curseworkers trilogy and a brilliant urban fantasy novel. I’d recommend it to anyone who might listen to me. Now, ON TO Red Glove!

Rating: 5 - whoever thought this didn’t end up on my shelf of favorites clearly hasn’t listened to me speak

NOTE: I was able to meet Holly Black at BEA yesterday and it was the BEST THING EVER!!! She was absolutely fantastic and I was able to talk to her about how much I adore these books. Woo!