Book Review: Red Glove by Holly Black

I can’t tell you how much I am enjoying this series. Oh wait. Yes I can. That’s what these reviews are for!

Sorry. Stupid joke. Had to get it out of my system.

So here’s my first review for 2014, which is actually the last book I read for 2013. This is book two in the series, so there are spoilers there for book one (you can see my review of book one, White Cat, here). Here is my review of Red Glove by Holly Black, book two in the Curse Workers series.

red glove

I’m really digging this combination of urban fantasy and mobster story. We left Cassel at the end of the last book reeling because he found out that he’s not just a worker (since he always believed he wasn’t) but a transformation worker, one of the rarest and most powerful of their kind. After realizing that his brothers have been using him and altering his memories, Cassel just wants to go back to somewhat of a normal life. But of course, he can’t. Why? His mother is out of jail and insists that he help her run cons in Atlantic City.

Let me tell you, his mother (an emotion worker) has some serious crazy issues. She’s manipulative as all get out. For example, in order to make Cassel feel better/forget what his brothers did to him, she works Lila, the girl Cassel has been in love with since he was a kid, into believing that she is in love with Cassel. It’s a relief when Cassel is able to get back to school, but that’s when it happens. His older brother Philip is killed.

Who did it? No one is sure, but they think it’s a woman, given the security footage. A woman wearing a dark coat and a red glove. Cassel is given two very different offers. Offer #1 comes from the feds – join our team and help us find out who killed your brother. Offer #2 comes from Zacharov, head of the largest crime family of workers (and Lila’s father) – come work for us and take your brother’s place.

I’ve never read a book like this, where pretty much everything is uncertain, every relationship, every task to accomplish. Cassel never knows if he’s going to go to jail or get shot in the head. In the meantime, he’s still trying to go to school and have the opportunity to escape this life, or at least try to. He’s a fun character to read because he does have a criminal mind, yet he also has a strong conscience.

I can’t wait to read book three and, thanks to Amazon, it should arrive sometime today.

 

Book Review: White Cat by Holly Black

Sunday bonus post!  This week will have lots of random posts here and there as I wrap up things for 2013. For starters, here’s a review of White Cat by Holly Black.

white cat

To be honest, I had very few expectations going in to reading this book, which I don’t think was a bad thing. In fact, it was kind of nice. I’ve only read one other book by Holly Black, Tithe, which was very good, but it was clear that this book was going to be completely different.

Our main character is Cassel Sharpe, the youngest of three brothers. Most of Cassel’s family are “workers,” or basically, people who can use magic to affect people in different ways. There are many different types of workers: death workers, who can kill you, emotion workers, who play with your emotions, luck workers, who can change circumstances in your favor (or against your favor), and so on.

The problem with Cassel – he’s not a worker at all.

In this world (which is basically our world, just with magic), workers are generally seen as criminals, since the things they can do can be used to take advantage of people. Cassel’s mother is actually in jail because of this. Most people wear gloves, since curse work can only be done if your bare hand touches skin, and since people are wary about being around people without gloves, everyone wears them, even if they aren’t workers. The thing is, many workers are pretty much part of large Mafia-like crime families, including Cassel’s family.

Poor Cassel just wants to have a normal life, but he’s also sleepwalking and having visions of this white cat all the time. He is also haunted by the knowledge that he killed a girl that he had a crush on, although he doesn’t remember how.

This book was twisty and turny and a lot of fun to read. My only complaint (and it’s fairly minor) is that I wish some of the explanation about curse work could have come out sooner. Authors do this all the time and it does get on my nerves – they expect me to understand things they haven’t told me yet. It pulled me out of the story a bit at the beginning, but the rest of the story pulled me back in. It’s a tale of magic and lies, about the exhilaration that comes with running a con, and most importantly, the very complicated relationships within families.

The second book in the Curse Worker series is at my library. I shall get it tomorrow. 🙂

Book Review: The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

girl in the steel corset

For some reason, I’ve started reading a fair amount of steampunk lately. Not sure why exactly. It was never anything I was interested in before, but I’m really enjoying it now. And what’s not to like? Victorian clothing styles. Corsets. Crazy steam powered technology that pretty much kicks the butt of stuff we have today.

I read this book for two reasons. One, the podcast will be reviewing it this weekend. And two, look at that cover! It’s gorgeous!

The story is about Finley Jayne, a young girl working for a nobleman named Lord Felix. He’s known for basically assaulting his female staff, but when he makes advances on Finley, he’s in for a surprise. Basically, this girl is crazy, abnormally strong, as if another person has taken over her body. It scares her, this dark alternate personality, and she flees the house. As she is running away, she is hit by a velocycle (which is similar to a motorcycle, I think) and knocked unconscious.

The driver of that velocycle is Griffin King, a duke. He is surprised that Finley is still alive, expecting the impact to have killed her. But she’s tougher than we realize, our Finley is. Griffin takes her back to his house, against the advice of his friend Sam, who is also there, to figure out exactly who Finley is.

Here’s the part that I love. Griffin’s house is a collection of people with some sort of supernatural powers. There’s Sam, who is also incredibly strong. Emily, who can communicate with machines. Jasper, their American friend, who has super speed. And Griffin, who can work with the Aether, a sort of spirit plane that gives him power. I love these characters, even Sam, who can be a bit of a whiner. They all fit together so well and their friendship was the best part of the book, especially how Finley falls right in with them.

There’s also Jack Dandy, a roguish semi-noble who leads an underground group of troublemakers. Finley needs his help and can’t help but feel attracted to him, despite her growing feelings for Griffin. Dandy is probably one of my favorite characters in the book, just because he can be so snarky. Y’all know how much I love my snark!

But it’s not all fun and games. There is an evil man, known only as the Machinist, who has done something to the automatons around London, making them turn on their owners and killing them. Sam was attacked by one and barely survives. It’s up to Griffin and his friends, Finley included, to try and find out who the Machinist and stop him before he can carry out his evil plan.

It was a good book, a fun story. The main complaint I had was that there came  a point where it was blindingly obvious who the bad guy was. I would have liked it to be a bit more mysterious. The story definitely kept me interested though and had enough twists and turns that I couldn’t put it down. The ending is really suspenseful and at times disturbing, which is always good too.

I’m going to start giving my rating from GoodReads, just because it’s a good comparison. I gave this book four stars. It was a fun, enjoyable adventure, with interesting characters and a touch of humor. I will definitely continue reading the series, just as soon as we get the episode recorded.

Book Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

anna dressed in blood

 

First off, I have to say that this is not my usual read. While I love YA and fantasy, this definitely falls more into the horror genre. I was expecting a ghost story, to be sure, but this was a bit more. And I have to say, it’s what made me really like it.

The story is about Cas Lowood, a young man who is following in his father’s footsteps as a ghost hunter. Armed with the athame that has been passed down in his family for generations, Cas heads to fight a legendary ghost – Anna Korlov, also known as “Anna Dressed in Blood” due to the large slash across her throat which stained her white dress blood read. As Cas keeps going to Anna’s house, he soon realizes that she is different from the other ghosts that he has dealt with, much stronger and vicious. She also doesn’t seem to want to attack him for some reason.

This was a very interesting story. I really enjoyed the characters and the ghost mythology. While some of the scenes were gruesome, it added to the creepy atmosphere and lent itself to the story. Cas has to solve the mystery of Anna, but also figure out how his father died and what killed him. It’s a strong mystery, with an ending that I did not see coming. I am definitely going to read the second book as soon as I have a chance.

Something worse than death?

It’s strange how I come across books these days. You all know what a fan I am of Maureen Johnson (I may have mentioned her a time or two – or ten). Well, one of her friends, who happens to be an author, is Robin Wasserman. I found that out through Twitter and also seeing posts on sites like Tumblr and YouTube. So while browsing at my favorite used bookstore, I came across a book by Robin Wasserman and thought to myself, “I started following this person on Twitter. I should probably read some of her stuff.” The cover looked interesting, the premise a little strange. Everything that I like, right? So I bought it.

skinnedSkinned tells the story of Lia, a teenage girl growing up in the far future. I never did figure out how far, but with the technology they have, it’s pretty distant. Lia is in a car accident, something nearly unheard of in a time of automatic everything, and she nearly dies. I say “nearly” because her family chose to bring her back. In this future, there is a way that they can basically take the brain and download it into a computer. When Lia comes back, she is a machine. A robot, a cyborg, whatever you want to call it. Yet, she still has all the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and memories of her life. And because they have all these thoughts and memories in a computer, it means that she will literally never die. If something happens to her near indestructible new body, they will just build a new one.

This raises all kinds of problems, of course. For starters, there is a huge stigma against people like this. They are called “mech-heads” or “skinners,” and most people hate them. The religious call them an abomination. Other people just find them distasteful and call them freaks. Lia no longer fits in with her family, even though they were the ones who made the decision to do this to her, and one by one, her friends desert her. She eventually finds other “skinners” living on the fringe of society, and their leader, Jude. Jude and his followers agree that the skinners are not human – they are better than human, and the sooner Lia accepts who she is, the better off she will be.

I liked this story because of all the different dimensions it had. It really makes you think about what being “alive” really means. Lia has no heartbeat, doesn’t need to breathe, and doesn’t need sustenance. Most people might think that means that she isn’t a living being, yet she believes that she is. It’s very complex. It’s the meaning of life question turned on it’s head. The book was uncomfortable to read at times, but that was also what made it good.

This is also the first book in a series. I will most likely be looking for the next books soon.

She did it again . . .

And I seriously didn’t think she could. But it’s official: Mira Grant has totally blown my mind.

It all started with a little book (okay, not so little) about zombies, a book that I would never have picked up if it hadn’t been for the folks over at Mark Reads. You may remember this post a while ago where I described the first book in the Newsflesh series, Feed. You may remember how I was so anxious to review it because the ending had left me completely bewildered (in a good way). I wanted to read the next book, to immerse myself in this post-zombie-apocalyptic world, but at the same time, I was worried. Grant had built my expectations so high, I didn’t believe that this second book would affect me the way that the first one did.

Boy, was I wrong.

deadlineDeadline continues the story of Shaun Mason, who is starting to loose his grip on sanity. He is left at the helm of the “After the End Times” news site, still going through the motions of being in charge, but truly unable to find something to live for (and if you’ve read Feed, you know why). And then, a dead doctor shows up on his doorstep. Okay, the doctor isn’t dead, but has instead faked her own death in order to find Shaun and ask for his help. Remember that big conspiracy I mentioned in my other review? It’s even bigger than they thought, and they are right in the middle of it. They can literally trust no one and have to spend the entire book on the run.

Add to that Grant’s amazing world building skills, even more information about the zombies and how life is now lived after the Rising, and then make everything even worse. Sudden changes to the Kellis-Amberlee virus (which may have been done intentionally, we’re still not sure) has lead to a Second Rising, but even that catastrophe doesn’t hold a candle to the last chapter. I will not say what happens in that last chapter, but it will pick you up and drop you on your head. That last sentence . . . I’m still not over it. And I’ve already started the third book!

What I love about Grant is that she certainly isn’t afraid to take chances. Everything about this story proves that, and makes this series amazingly powerful. I’m only in chapter 3 of Blackout (why am I torturing myself with Mark’s reading schedule?? why??), but so far, so good. You’ll get another rave review once that one is done, I’m sure.

I just want to know his name . . .

This past weekend, I recorded a podcast episode discussing the book Sabriel by Garth Nix. I thought it only fitting that I talk about it here as well.

This book was recommended to me by the book club over at the Mallorean Tavern (which I moderate, by the way – come see us!). I’m so glad it was nominated, otherwise I probably would have never picked this book up. I had never heard of it before, and I had never heard of the author either. Now, I feel obliged to go find the other books in this series immediately.

Well, not immediately. The library isn’t open yet. But I’m stopping there after work!

SabrielThe story follows a young girl named Sabriel, who was rescued from death as a baby by a strange man called Abhorsen. He says that he saved her because she is his daughter. It’s all very mysterious, right at the beginning, and you do wonder who this man is and whether or not he is truly her father. But that turns out to be the case. It also turns out that Abhorsen is a necromancer, charged with keeping the land of Ancelstierre free from the spirits of the Dead who wander over the Wall from the Old Kingdom.

When Sabriel is in her last year of school, she receives a messenger who delivers to her Abhorsen’s sword and his bandolier, which holds the different bells that are used in necromancy. Sabriel realizes that he has been captured and imprisoned in Death and sets out to travel to the Old Kingdom to find out what happened. Thus begins the big journey, where she learns many things, not just about the Old Kingdom, but about herself.

For starters, her father’s name is not Abhorsen. Abhorsen is his title. Several times, Sabriel is referred to as “the Abhorsen,” which she hates. For some reason, this bothered me. It’s a small detail, but I wanted to know what her father’s name was. You know, before he became “the Abhorsen.” I suppose it doesn’t matter in the long run, but I still want to know!

While traveling through the Old Kingdom, Sabriel discovers that the great Charter Stones, set in place to regulate magic, have been damaged. At one of these broken stones, Sabriel finds that she is being pursued by a being called a Mordicant, sent from Death to stop her. She rushes to her father’s house in the Old Kingdom, where she is safe, and where she meets one of my favorite parts of the book – Mogget. Mogget is a cat. Except that he’s not. He wears a collar which keeps him nice and subservient, but Sabriel learns his true feelings once the collar is taken off. Mogget is no ordinary housecat, but a strange being made of pure Free Magic. And he’s none too happy about being chained and serving generations of Abhorsens. Once Sabriel gets the collar back on, he’s a perfectly calm housecat again, but it was very tense having this quiet kitty along, knowing full well that all he wanted to do was rip Sabriel’s head off. As they escape the Abhorsen’s house, they discover Touchstone, a young man who was trapped half in life, half in death for 200 years. I won’t give anything away about his story, but together with Sabriel (and reluctantly, Mogget), they go forth to find Sabriel’s father and try to defeat a Greater Dead by the name of Kerrigor.

There were so many cool things about this book. I loved the way they did the necromancy, with several bells of varying size and sound. The magic system was very interesting, with the variations between Charter Magic and Free Magic. There was also the contrast between the modern Ancelstierre, with it’s electricity and automobiles, and the Old Kingdom, with it’s castles and magic stones. My library has the next two books, Lirael and Abhorsen, and I will be picking them up this afternoon if at all possible. This was a very exciting read and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.