Red Glove

redgloveRed Glove by Holly Black
Curse Workers # 2
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Number of pages: 325
My copy: hardbound, gift from Maria

The cons get craftier and the stakes rise ever higher in the riveting sequel to White Cat.

After rescuing his brothers from Zacharov’s retribution, Cassel is trying to reestablish some kind of normalcy in his life.

That was never going to be easy for someone from a worker family that’s tied to one of the big crime families—and whose mother’s cons get more reckless by the day. But Cassel is coming to terms with what it means to be a worker, and he’s figuring out how to have friends.

Except normal doesn’t last very long. Soon Cassel is being courted by both sides of the law and is forced to confront his past—a past he remembers only in scattered fragments, and one that could destroy his family and his future. Cassel will have to decide whose side he wants to be on, because neutrality is not an option. And then he will have to pull off his biggest con ever to survive….

I read the first book in the Curse Workers series more than a year ago, so it took me a while to get into Red Glove. I had to resist the urge to browse through the first book because I was under time pressure to read this, and also because I want to see if I would be smart enough to figure out all the cons since the Curse Worker novels are essentially con novels. :P

I’m not going to talk about the story in this review to avoid the spoilers for the first book (and it’s more fun to see it unfold on your own). Red Glove was darker compared to White Cat. It feels less YA than the first book, with all the killing and mystery murder, and death. Cassel is less of an unreliable narrator here, because he has his memory back, but there’s still a lot of confusion with what exactly was happening. Even so, it was fun to read, and I easily got into Cassel and the Curse Worker world despite having read the first novel years back. I enjoyed Cassel and his interaction with his friends, and the FBI agents, and his family – and I felt really sympathetic about the mess that he gets himself into.

The cons here felt more elaborate and as I said, darker, but later we get reminded that Cassel was still a kid, and there’s still a chance for him to be not like the bad guys who desperately try to recruit him. Red Glove is a mafia x urban fantasy x murder mystery x con YA novel all rolled into one, and if you’re a fan of any of these (or if you just want to read something out of your comfort zone) then you will definitely enjoy this. (But read White Cat first. :D)

But of course, since this novel is the second book in a trilogy, the ending left me wanting for more. I really enjoyed Red Glove (despite the time I had to speed-read it! Hihi), and I’m really looking forward to reading Black Heart. :)

Number of dog-eared pages: 5

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

Power does not consist in striking hard or often, but striking true.

Life’s full of opportunities to make crappy decisions that feel good. And after the first one, the rest get a whole lot easier.

“No trouble ever got fixed late at night,” he said. “Midnight is for regrets.”

Rating: 

Reviews of other Curse Workers books:
#1 White Cat

Other reviews:
The Readventurer
The Nocturnal Library

Minis: 2015 reads, so far

So in an effort to revive this blog out of silence, here’s another post! I thought I’d write about the books I read in the first months of 2015, just so I could catch up. Consider this a Minis post, although mini-er, because I’m going to try to sum  up my thoughts for each book I’ve read in 5 sentences, or less. :)

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins
St. Martin’s Griffin | 320 pages | Ebook

Cute collection of holiday love stories, and it was a very good companion for the Christmas season. Not a super fan of all stories, though,  but I didn’t expect I’ll love all anyway. Favorite stories: Midnights by Rainbow Rowell, Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me by Jenny Han, Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White (loved the small town setting), and Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter. :) Best paired with a mug of hot chocolate (as long as the weather is cool enough). :)

I sang because that is what I do when I am happy and when I’m sad. I sang because it is who I am when I am being the best possible version of me. I sang because I wasn’t alone as I held Aunt Mary’s hand. I sang because it was Christmas. (Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter)

Rating:

* * *

Navigating EarlyNavigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
Delacorte Books for Young Readers | 306 pages | Ebook

TFG’s F2F book for the month for January. Lots of suspension of disbelief in this one, with their adventures. It’s a good read about family and grief and friendship, but

“I got lost.”
“I know, but you found your way back. Finding your way back doesn’t mean you always know where you’re going. It’s knowing how to find your way back home that’s important.”

Rating: 

* * *

Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
Dutton | 307 pages | Hardbound

A reread of one of my favorites for TFG’s February discussion. I still loved this as much as I did before, even if I knew what was going to happen. The other opinions of my book club friends did remind me of how some things happened conveniently for Cornelia’s sake. But even so, I loved the writing, and I still have a huge crush on Teo Sandoval. I think the sequel, Belong to Me, is still better than this. :)

Watching Teo ahead of her carrying the bag and turning around to smile, she understood what the difference was, such a simple change: She’d been alone for a long time; she wasn’t alone anymore.

Rating: 

* * *

Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg 
Point | 276 pages | Paperback, borrowed

Read this as a reference for a writing project, borrowed from my friend Kai. This was cute, in so many ways. Slow in some parts, but still rewarding in the end. :)

Rating: 

* * *

painteddesertsThrough Painted Deserts: Light, God, and Beauty on the Open Road by Donald Miller
Thomas Nelson | 272 pages | Ebook/Audio

I’ve had this on hold for a year, and finally read it again this  year because of some life changes that happened to me. In signature Don Miller style, he talked about a road trip and all the little things that he learned from this, and somehow made it relevant to everyone. I really liked this, and while it didn’t make me want to sell everything and pack up to go to a road trip, it made me more excited to set off on little adventures, figuratively and literally. :)

I think we are supposed to stand in deserts and marvel at how the sun rises. I think we are supposed to sleep in meadows and watch stars dart across space and time. I think we are supposed to love our friends and introduce people to the story, to the peaceful, calming why of life. I think life is spirituality.

Rating: 

* * *

Shine by Candy Gourlay
Anvil | 232 pages | Paperback

This was magical and a bit dark, almost like a Tall Story  grew older and tackled a few more issues. I liked how Candy wrote it all, though, and I was truly invested in Rosa and her family, and I wanted to them to get their happy ending. I really liked the setting, too – always raining? That’s us during July to September. ;)

Rating: 

* * *

tgostThe God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Random House | 333 pages | Paperback

This is one of those books that I have on my “I-should-read-this-sometime-in-my-lifetime” list, and I’m glad I finally had the chance to read it. This is a story about a family, and Love Laws, and India. Beautifully written, it examines what happens to families who try not to fall apart but still do. It’s a little bit sad, though, but still beautiful, and it helped that we had a really great discussion about this after in the book club. :)

…the secret of Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen….In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again.

Rating: 

* * *

Aaand there! Whew. All of them are 4-star books, huh. Interesting. I hope I can write a full review on my next post.  :)

Champions

championsChampions by Karren Renz Sena
The Lost Chronicles of Eden # 1
Publisher: Shepherd’s Voice Publications
Number of pages: 212
My copy: paperback, bought

IN WAR, HEROES ARE MADE. LEGENDS ARE BORN. CHAMPIONS WILL RISE.

Present day, Cielos, the city closest to heaven. The Sword of Sargatanas has been stolen from the most powerful stronghold in Cielterra. When used at a time when the planets align, the sword has the power to open Gate Pandora and unleash unto the Worlds legions upon legions of monsters and beasts from hell.

Present day, location undisclosed. One clueless Human acquaints himself with the barrel of a gun—belonging to the woman he almost fell in love with, no less—and finds himself kidnapped and whisked to a world standing on the brink of war.

The Worlds—both visible and invisible to us—are in danger. The Towers that guard the Flaming Sword of Eden have chosen the heroes. It just so happened that the heroes aren’t really… hero-material. Not at all.

Seven angry, sarcastic, violent, belligerent, uncaring and uncompassionate young men and women were forced to team up to stop a possible apocalypse from happening. As they journey towards the Far West to retrieve the stolen sword, the seven Champions brave one trial after another (including, but not limited to, falling in love with ill-tempered bullies) and ultimately find out what it means to become a true hero.

* * *

(Well, would you look at that, an actual review from me. At the start of the year. Good job, self!)

I heard of Champions by Karren Renz Sena from a fellow book blogger who was tweeting about the book when she was reading it. I noted it, seeing as it was published by Shepherd’s Voice Publications, a local Catholic publishing house that I used to write for, and it was fiction – something new from them. It took me until after Christmas to get myself a copy, and I decided to read it while I was in the jeepney on the way home, and then I couldn’t stop.

Champions is a story of seven men and women who were put together in a team to help retrieve the Sword of Sargatanas, a powerful weapon that is locked up in Cielterra, the stronghold of Cielos, the city closest to Heaven. This sword, when used on the day that the planets aligned, has the capacity to tear open the boundaries between dimensions, and when used on Gate Pandora, will unleash demons  and monsters from Hell. These seven men and women – called Champions – are the only hope for this to be stopped, and to retrieve the Sword. One of these Champions is a Human called Gabriel, kidnapped from his life in Earth and brought to a battle that he didn’t ask for, but even so, he felt that he somehow belonged. Perhaps this was the link to his past that he has been looking for all along?

Champions was fun. This is your good old fantasy novel with Christian references that is so well-written that I think anyone who just likes fantasy and action will just really sink their teeth into this. Though there were times when it felt like there were too many switches in the POVs as I was placed in the heads of almost all the characters, it was still quite fun, and I think the author did that to lay the foundation for the series. It gave me a bit of insight in every character, but I hope the next books in the series will focus on say, one or two instead of all of them so I’ll be able to understand what makes these characters tick. If I were to pick a favorite, I really like the human Gabriel, followed by Solenn who seemed all fire at first but had a big heart inside of her. I would also love to learn more about Matteo, as I always felt affectionate to any group’s tech guy. Oh, and I loved the judges – Samson, Gideon, and Deborah. Their banter was so fun. :D

As I said, the world building here was good, and I really liked the idea of how Eden was set to be the most protected place, and how Cielos being the city closest to Heaven, is the one in charge of its protection. This book makes the Bible seem more alive, and I love how the names used here were from the Bible – Samson, Gideon, Deborah, Memorare, Ark of the Covenant, Passover, etc etc. The names don’t feel out of place, and even the things that they do – rallying aka worship, prayer and meditation – felt like they just fit right into the story, and not a bit preachy.

I wanted more at the end, especially after the revelations about some characters. I am really glad this is a series, so the next question is: when will the next book be out? Please let it be soon!

Number of dog-eared pages: 5

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

Someday, you kids will realize that heroes  do not need elaborate costumes or superpowers. Sometimes all it takes is a good heart and a strong faith. (p. 38)

“Samson, you are the murderer of my joy,” Gideon said. “I’m severing our friendship as of this moment. May your heart break at the loss of my friendship, and may you live a sad, lonely life for the rest of your days.”

“You have severed it repeatedly over the years,” Samson said. “Forgive me if my heart is used to the loss of your friendship.” (p. 72)

Rating:

Other reviews:
My Book Musings

Filipino Friday 2014 – Week 1 and 2

Oh there, I see cobwebs on this blog. *brushes them off*

Hello, everyone! It’s been months since I blogged, and as always, I meant to blog, but life took over and well, there you go. In a way, it was coming, because even my reading life was affected, which led to some pretty drastic changes with how I read and what I read, and what I blog about.

But that is another discussion post altogether, which I don’t know if I’ll ever write about in detail because let’s be honest: if my life was a bus, book blogging is all the way there at the back row.

So sorry, book blog.

But I’m breaking that silence right now because hey look, it’s Filipino Friday again! It’s that time of the year! I missed last week’s post because my sister-in-law gave birth, and we all know what happens when there’s a baby at home, right? (If you don’t, well, here it is: you just want to look at the baby. All day. :P) I’m going to make a catch up post right now, though,  because I can, and because I like today’s topic. :D

Filipino Friday

Week 1!

Surprise, Reader! Hello, it’s the first week of Filipino Fridays 2014! Whether it’s your first time to participate or not, tell us a bit about yourself. More specifically, tell us about your favorite book discoveries for this year. Any author you started reading this year that you can’t get enough of? A book you didn’t think you’d like, but you ended up liking/loving? Any book series that you just have to get your hands on? Have you discovered anything new from Filipino authors this year?

Favorite discoveries:

  • Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed – I love this for all its raw honesty, and because I read it near my birthday. :)
  • The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jesse Rothenberg – I think I heard of this through Kai, and I really, really enjoyed reading this one. The 5 stages of grief, and the poem at the end, and how it all tied up together was heartwarming and it all felt right.
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – I know Neil Gaiman is good, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this one! Thanks to my new manager for pushing this to unearth this from my shelf.
  • Lumen Fidei, Evangelii Gaudium by Pope Francis – This is the first time I tried reading something that the church wrote, and I was surprised with how much I enjoyed it. These two encyclicals are not boring at all, and I realized that if there’s another place where I can get spiritual nourishment other than the Bible and the mass, reading what the Pope wrote would be a good place to start.

Favorite new series:

  • The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater – !!! I haven’t read a lot of YA recently, and I wasn’t particularly fond of The Scorpio Races. Then I picked up The Raven Boys one day and I. Am. Hooked. I love Blue and the Aglionby boys now, and it’s just such a mystical world. I love it so much that I bought the third book in the series, Blue Lily, Lily Blue on its release day. Now get me home so I can continue reading!

Books I wanted to like but didn’t like felt lukewarm about:

  • The Woman Who Died a Lot by Jasper Fforde – Okay, it’s not that I didn’t like it, but more of I didn’t feel too excited about it after. I like Thursday Next, and I didn’t really believe people have been saying the latter books weren’t up to par as the first four. This one kind of felt like it proved their point. I will still read the next ones, and I hope it gets better.
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – I found this very readable and I enjoyed the voices of the characters…but that ending, though! So many mixed feelings about it!

New Filipino authors:

  • Some are not necessarily new to me since they’re classmates in #romanceclass. I finished reading The Boyfriend Backtrack by Dawn Lanuza and I was surprised with how much I liked it. (Also, Chase ♥)

Week 2!

As a reader, have you ever thought about writing a book? What kind of books/stories do you want to write? Or are you now a published author, and what compelled you to go fulfill this dream? How was your journey from reader to writer? How did you go about getting your book out there?

Here’s what I would have answered, if this question was asked two years ago:

Yes, I’ve always wanted to write and publish a book – a chick lit/romance/fluffy book – but I don’t have the guts because I’m scared of being edited or reviewed.

If you asked me last year:

Yes, I’ve always wanted to write a book, and I’m writing one now, but I have no idea when I’ll finish and have it edited.

But I suppose this question was asked this year, and I am both thrilled and nervous to say that I can actually answer the latter questions because I self-published my first book last month(Yay!)

The journey from reader to writer is not necessarily hard, because I’ve been writing for so long. But it was hard work, because I had to get myself writing (and the #romanceclass deadlines and structure really helped!), and then I actually had to work on getting beta readers, revising, looking for an editor, revising, and then finally taking that plunge to put my book up in Amazon and market myself as an author.

It’s not necessarily hard, but it’s not easy either, because you need to work. Especially if you decide to self-publish, and I’m learning that I have to really start being shameless if I want people to read my book. Also, I have to learn to have thick skin for comments and reviews that’s not really as desirable for me. I haven’t gotten them yet, but who knows, right?

It does feel surreal, though, to know that I have a book out there. Finally. 

And since I did mention shameless:

 

Fall Like Rain by Ana Tejano :)

Fall Like Rain by Ana Tejano :)

Yes, that’s me, and yes, I’m using a pen name. I wrote a post about why I did that, and why I am revealing who Ana is left and right on my personal blog. Let this post be a plug, because like I said, I must be shameless. :D

Summary:

Rain De Castro has been in love with her best friend, Mark Velasco, for almost the entire time she has known him, but she’s clearly in the friend zone because he’s happily in a relationship. Or so she thought, until the news of his break-up reaches her. Now that Mark’s single again, she decides that it’s time to get out of the zone. But when her cousin Lissa comes into the picture and sets her eyes on Mark, Rain feels troubled when he gets a little too friendly with her. Rain is determined to fight for what she feels this time, but is it worth the effort if it’s a losing battle from the start? Will she back off to give way for her best friend’s happiness, even if it means losing him to someone else again?

Preview the book: first five chapters on Wattpad!

Where to get the ebook: Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Scribd | Smashwords

Where to order the print book (Philippines only): Click!

Follow my author accounts: (Hee, still can’t believe I can say that now :D)

And no, this story is not about me. :)

There you go. Happy Friday, everyone! :) Hope to see you at the Filipino ReaderCon 2014! :)

The Dream Thieves

The Dream Thieves by Maggie StiefvaterThe Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
The Raven Cycle # 2
Publisher: Scholastic
Number of pages: 439
My copy: paperback ARC, gift from Scholastic Philippines

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same.

Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life.

Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after…

* * *

So soon after I finished reading The Raven Boys, I grabbed The Dream Thieves from my shelf and started reading, so, so thankful that Scholastic sent me a review copy of this last Christmas. I really enjoyed the first book so much that I just have to read the next one. I couldn’t get enough of Blue and Gansey and Adam and Ronan and Noah, and I needed to know what was going to happen next.

The Dream Thieves started with an even more whimsical tone than its predecessor – now with Ronan as the focus. Ronan dropped a bombshell in the last book, which followed that this book would be mostly Ronan’s story. But there’s more than Ronan’s strangeness — there’s Adam dealing with what he did at the end of the first book, and Noah, still silent but moreso than usual. Then there’s Gansey, still with his relentless search for Glendower the sleeping King, and Blue, who finds herself getting more and more entangled with these Aglionby boys.

There are more characters in this book, and all of them somehow shone on their own right. I loved how Maggie Stiefvater characterized Ronan’s siblings, and the villains, particularly the Gray Man. I really love how his story developed, and in the end, I was kind of sure that he’s one of my favorite villains now. Then there’s more of Blue’s family – all the psychic fun stuff, but also her loving relationship with her mom, Maura, who also played a bigger role in the story.

I think I kind of fell in love with Gansey here, but more because of him and Blue. While I was reading the first book, I wasn’t sure which side to pick for Blue, but after this, I am pretty sure I am on Team Gansey. ♥ (I like him so much that I named my phone after him. Heh)

The Dream Thieves start out really slow, probably even slower than The Raven Boys, and I admit that I stopped reading it for a while because real life got in the way. But when I went back to reading, it was easy to slip back into the world of ley lines and sleeping kings, and you have to trust me on this – the build up is so worth it. :)

How soon till the next book comes out?

Number of dog-eared pages: 20

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

In that moment, Blue was a little in love with all of them. Their magic. Their quest. Their awfulness and strangeness. Her raven boys.

Rating:

Other reviews:
The Midnight Garden
The Nocturnal Library