Tuesday, May 17, 2011

White Cat by Holly Black

Title: White Cat
Author: Holly Black
Series: The Curse Workers #1
Published: May 4th, 2010
Publisher: McElderry
Pages: 310 (hardcover)
I purchased this book.

Cassel comes from a family of curse workers — people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they're all mobsters, or con artists. Except for Cassel. He hasn't got the magic touch, so he's an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail — he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.

Ever since, Cassel has carefully built up a façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts crumbling when he starts sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He's noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him, caught up in a mysterious plot. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen. --Goodreads


Ok, so my first thought after I finished this book was, “Da-yum, Holly Black wrote this?” Not that I have anything against Holly or anything, but White Cat wasn’t like any of her other work. Though it was dark and charming, it lacked the sort of gritty, under your skin PNR plot that she’s most well known for (think of the Modern Faerie series). But honestly, this feels like her best series yet. Black has created a completely unique magic system that fits into a slightly altered version of our world, with characters that simply thrive in the deception that accompanies it. As a result, most of this book is shrouded in mystery. Awesome, original mystery, like Mafia meets wizarding world kind of mystery. But don’t let the Sopranos vibe scare you off—White Cat is really a story about uncovering the secrets in one’s own family, and having the strength to define yourself even when you don’t fit in.

What I enjoyed the most about the book was Cassel's character. It was a really nice change of pace to read a PNR book (if you would even categorize White Cat as such) with a male main character. Cassel is thoughtful, dark, lonely, loyal, caring, strong—but not in the macho, bad-boy kind of way. I know many authors these days choose to create male leads who have pectorals made of flawless marble with eyes that change color every time they blink, and as a result, we’ve come to expect the bad boy with a heart of gold sort of character in this kind of fiction…which is why I’m happy Holly decided to keep Cassel the way that she did. He felt very real to me. He’s flawed yet likable at the same time, and it made his struggles much more emotionally gripping. It was fun watching him discover what was really happening behind closed doors.

Even though I really enjoyed the book, I wasn't entirely invested in Cassel's story until page 120 or so. There’s lots of back story and explanation about the status of the country with relation to how they deal with Workers. But I can deal, since it all paid off: all of the information that gets fed to the reader paints a very sad backdrop for Cassel (being the only member of his family that isn’t a worker) and the result is you immediately begin to suspect that things aren’t exactly as they seem. Anyway, if you haven’t had a chance to pick up the book, do so. The Curse Workers series is off to an awesome start!


Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Sea of Storms by Mark Whiteway

Title: The Sea of Storms
Author: Mark Whiteway
Series: Lodestone #1
Published: April 12, 2010
Publisher: Virtualbookworm.com
Pages: 290 (paperback)
I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Alli-Kar, a white-hole portal from another universe, rains meteoroids onto the surface of the planet Kelanni. But the so-called "lodestones" behave according to different physical laws, transforming Kelanni's society.

With the aid of the fearsome Keltar in their flying cloaks, the Kelanni are being put to forced labor to mine the lodestones.

Shann, an orphan with a fiery disposition, witnesses a battle between a Keltar and a stranger bearing a similar flying cloak. She tracks down the stranger, learning of the technology behind the Keltars' power and joining him on a mission to free the slaves and cut off their supply of lodestones.

Meanwhile Keris, a Keltar, is sent on a mission to track down the rebels. She is attacked by a flying creature and saved by the enigmatic Chandara. At their Great Tree, she learns that a mysterious "Prophet" is out to destroy the Kelanni people. Their only hope is a powerful instrument hidden in the distant past.

Pursued by Keltar, the party will encounter bizarre creatures, ancient technologies and terrifying dangers. Finally, they must seek to cross a massive storm barrier in order to reach the other side of their world, where a world-shaking revelation awaits
. --Goodreads


One of my favorite things about books is that they have the power to transport the reader anywhere in the world, even if that means transporting them to a different world. Whiteway capitalizes on this power, and uses it to his advantage to bring the reader a creative story filled with crazy animals, gliding cloaks, and star-crossed destiny.

At first, the the book appears to be strictly science fiction. The story takes place in the world of Kelanni--a planet devoid of human life, yet incredibly human at the same time. Its inhabitants are being oppressed by the Keltar, guardians of the Prophet who have abused their power in the name of their savior. But when one of the characters receives an important message from the past, an epic journey begins and the characters embark on a quest to travel beyond the Sea of Storms. In the tradition of J.R.R’s Lord of the Rings, after the quest is received, the plot becomes fast paced and action filed. There is little down time to become bored, especially in between events like escaping a slave camp or rescuing a comrade from a giant lava snake’s den. The world was rich with its own customs, natural laws, crazy creatures and landscapes that, when combined, had me wishing that my jacket was filled with lodestones.

However, despite the exciting pacing of the plot and the amazing amount of easy-to-understand detail that Whiteway puts into the more alien aspects of his novel, reading the first 100 pages or so was difficult for me. Not because I didn’t like was I was reading, but because I couldn’t connect to the characters. There wasn’t enough background information given about most of the main characters to make me identify what drove them to embark on the dangerous quest, other than the reason that the world depended on it. I needed that emotional connection, the one that makes me go, “Aww…she has no other choice,” or “Oh snap, he’s going for revenge!” and really believe it. Regardless, Shann, Alando, Lyall, and Keris provided an even balance of skills to the group, and their personalities played well off of each other--especially towards the end. It was hard to choose a favorite, but if I had to, it would probably be Alando. His light-hearted comments relieved some of the tension of the story, and I enjoyed listening to his well placed words of wisdom.

Overall, the novel was very well done, and the end had me sitting on the edge of my seat. Even though the beginning was a little slow, once the edges of the plot were outlined it became a roller coaster of action and adventure. If you're into books that blend science fiction and fantasy (and blend it extremely well), then I highly recommend you pick up the first book in the Lodestone series. A fair warning, though: The end is a cliffhanger, and a seriously painful one! I know I’ll have to get my hands on the sequel as soon as I get the chance.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Am I A Wuss?

Am I a wuss for getting all misty-eyed whenever I see this?

*wipes a tear away* Ah, it gets me every time, especially when they reach the, "When everyone is happy, and there's nothing more to say" part.

What are your thoughts about the new Barnes & Noble "Read Forever" campaign? Do you like it? Hate it? Prefer Borders or Amazon to Barnes & Nobel? I'm just curious to hear what you think. Personally, I love the new campaign, and feel like it really captures the essence of reading. :) Share your thoughts in the comments!

(lol, random post is random, I know)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

GIVEAWAY WINNER: Hex, a Witch and Angel Tale

And the winner is...


The winner* has been notified and will receive their copy of Hex, a Witch and Angel Tale from Ramona. :) Thanks to everybody who participated!

*Jinky was chosen using Random.org