White Cat

White Cat by Holly BlackWhite Cat by Holly Black
Curse Workers # 1
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Number of pages: 320
My copy: hardbound, bought from Fully Booked

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 criminals. Many become mobsters and con artists. But not Cassel. He hasn’t got magic, 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.

Cassel has carefully built up a facade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his facade starts to crumble when he finds himself 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. As Cassel begins to suspect he’s part of a huge con game, he must unravel his past and his memories. To find out the truth, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.

* * *

I’ve had White Cat on my TBR shelf for more than a year now, but since it’s hidden somewhere behind some of my figurines on my shelf, I forgot it existed until I was looking for something light but not quite fluffy to cleanse the reading palate and hopefully pull me out of a slump. And then I found this and realized how long it has been languishing on my shelf, so I brought it on my trip with some colleagues to the beach for some light reading.

In some ways, White Cat fulfilled that “light” read because it’s YA urban fantasy so it was quite easy to dive into the story. The hard part is that it’s all about con families that it’s kind of hard to figure out the twists in the story while I was enjoying my time at the beach.

But anyway. Cassel Sharpe comes from a family of Curse Workers — people who can do certain things to certain people by a slight touch of a hand. Cassel doesn’t have much to worry about though, since he’s the only non-Worker in the family. He seems the weirdest, though, with his strange dreams and sleepwalking, and oh, the fact that he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago. Cassel tried to live as normally as he can — going to school, talking to his mom who’s in jail, helping out at his grandfather’s home by doing all sorts of chores — but things are getting stranger and stranger not just with him but around him, and he starts suspecting that he’s caught in a con game, and the only way to get out is to out-con the conmen.

White Cat was fun. It was easy enough to get into but not too easy to lose its substance and my interest in the world that Holly Black created. I liked the entire concept of Curse Workers, about how people can have certain abilities that can be used for good or bad, and how they’re all oppressed because of these abilities. It’s almost like they’re mutants or something, but I guess with more control? I also liked Cassel’s family, and how I was never really quite sure about which was real in the story. Were his brothers good or bad? Can he trust his grandfather? Is Cassel even trustworthy after everything? White Cat keeps the readers thinking, and I liked how it unfolded in the end.

While there’s romance in the story, there’s not too much romantic angst in it. There’s more teenage angst, but the characters are teenagers anyway, so it’s not a surprise. I liked the entire “mafia” feel of the book, about how family members stick together and basically the entire idea of a con. I loved how Cassel introduced how a con should be made and laughed at how they got through that particular scene to get the cat! White Cat is a smart YA urban fantasy novel with a very engaging unreliable narrator that would keep the readers guessing up until the satisfying end. While it’s not exactly a favorite read this year, I enjoyed reading it and I am willing to see it through the next two books in the series to know how Cassel’s story would play out. :)

Rating:

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Janicu’s Book Blog

Raw Blue

Raw Blue by Kirsty EagarRaw Blue by Kirsty Eagar
Publisher: Catnip
Number of pages:  288
My copy:  paperback, from Book Depository

Carly has dropped out of uni to spend her days surfing and her nights working as a cook in a Manly café. Surfing is the one thing she loves doing … and the only thing that helps her stop thinking about what happened two years ago at schoolies week.

And then Carly meets Ryan, a local at the break, fresh out of jail. When Ryan learns the truth, Carly has to decide. Will she let the past bury her? Or can she let go of her anger and shame, and find the courage to be happy?

* * *

I’ve heard of Raw Blue several times from friends who raved about it, and said it was exceptionally good Aussie fiction. Of course, as with most of these good Aussie fiction, it was kind of hard to acquire a copy, so I was really, really glad when this was picked up by a UK publisher so it was available via Book Depository. I picked up Raw Blue because I was headed for a trip to the beach with my colleagues, where there were chances to surf (which we didn’t really do). Plus I have been craving for some good contemporary YA book from all the serious, adult books I’ve been reading back then.

Carly quit university to spend her days surfing in the morning and working as a cook in a cafe in the evening. She keeps to herself, and to her surfing, because it was the only thing that could help her forget about what happened two years ago in school. Then Carly meets Ryan, who seems to be attracted to her. She finds herself drawn to him, but her past is stopping her. Can she let go of all the pain from what happened to her and move forward, if it means being truly happy?

Carly was kind of hard to get into because she’s so…rough. So angry. So alone. For all the good reasons, too, because of what happened to her. But that’s it, she’s so rough. And in pain. I think in the course of Raw Blue , I felt more sympathy for the people around her who tried to reach out to her – Danny, Hannah and Ryan. They seem like truly good people, and the ones that you would want to have when you’re stuck in darkness and would bring you out only if you let them. I thought Danny was especially endearing, with his synesthesia and how he just assumed he was friends with Carly from the start.

Ryan was just as rough around the edges, and it took me a while to figure out if I liked him or not. I thought Janice‘s description about hm and his relationship with Carly was described perfectly: “…and then there’s Ryan, who looks at Carly and thinks she’s a good thing.” I think that’s what we need sometimes — someone who looks at us and sees us as something good, even if we cannot see it for ourselves.

There were some stellar lines in the book, too. Some of my favorites:

My happiness is crunchy. Snapping, crackling and popping in the sun. (p. 143)

I didn’t pick them, they just turned up in my life, and I’m really glad. I think this and I’m suddenly struck down with gratitude for all the things this place has given me. The break, the ever-changing moods of the ocean and the best surfs I’ve ever had. Tonight my world is a bubble. Clear, round, perfect and fragile. (p. 154)

You just have to see those times for what they have – a chance to look down at your life. And when you do, you see it’s a skin made up of shiny little moments. (p. 288)

I liked Raw Blue. Perhaps not with the same intensity as other readers did, but I liked it. When I finished reading this, I was a bit “meh”, but now that I revisited it to write this review, I realized that I did like it more than I thought I did. :) This is good contemporary YA (or really, not so much YA since the characters are a bit older), and I’m really, really glad this is easier to get now than before. I look forward to reading more of Kirsty Eagar’s books. :)

Rating:

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Janicu’s Book Blog

 

Required Reading: December

Well November was quite a dismal reading month. Not because I was having a slump, but because I was just so, so, so busy. :/ Ugh. Most of the time, I just wanted to go home and sleep, instead of stay up and read. And did you see how many times I blogged last month? Even more sad.

I only finished one book for my November reading list, and it was a spillover from October. (Speaking of, can you believe I still have a spillover from my October reading list? I’m so sorry Will Henry!)

  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (3/5) – I liked it, but perhaps not enough. I will write a review. Someday.

But it’s a new month, and while I can’t guarantee that I would not be busy, I will promise to catch up with stuff before 2012 ends. I will find a way to get rid of all the review backlogs even if it’s been months since I read them. Good luck to me.

On to December! Can you believe it’s the last month of the 2012?!

Required Reading: December

I will take it easy for December, because I don’t want anything too heavy, and because I did say I was going to catch up on my backlog, right? I don’t want to pressure myself with all the reading, so I will just stick to these two light ones. :)

Required Reading: December 2012

  1. Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle – I’ve been wanting to get this book for ages, but I never got around to it because it doesn’t feel right if I get it when it’s not December. Plus I always seem to run out. Thank goodness they came out with this pretty copy, so now is the time to read it! :)
  2. The Complete Adventures of Charlie and Mr. Willy Wonka by Roald Dahl – This is a spillover from last month, and I’m really just supposed to read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but I got the book with the two stories anyway. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is our book club’s December book, and we’re discussing it on the day of our Christmas party too. I’m so excited! Our moderator asked us to choose a name for our discussion, and I am Tinaweena Peanutbutterina, the girl who makes magic with peanut butter. :)

There you go. If I don’t get to read these books, I don’t know what’s up with me. o_o If only it’s possible to go on vacation and read while I bundle up patagonia downtown loft somewhere cold this month…but alas. I cannot. I might squeeze The Hobbit in since the movie is showing soon, but I really hope I find the time. Hee. Or maybe I should just watch the movie without reading the book first, since I did do it for the three LotR books, anyway. :)

And that’s it! Again, can you believe that it’s the last month of 2012? Wow. Happy December, everyone! :)

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel PitcherMy Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher
Audiobook, read by David Tennant

My sister Rose lives on the mantelpiece.
Well, some of her does.
A collarbone, two ribs, a bit of skull, and a little toe.

To ten-year-old Jamie, his family has fallen apart because of the loss of someone he barely remembers: his sister Rose, who died five years ago in a terrorist bombing. To his father, life is impossible to make sense of when he lives in a world that could so cruelly take away a ten-year-old girl. To Rose’s surviving fifteen year old twin, Jas, everyday she lives in Rose’s ever present shadow, forever feeling the loss like a limb, but unable to be seen for herself alone.

Told with warmth and humor, this powerful novel is a sophisticated take on one family’s struggle to make sense of the loss that’s torn them apart… and their discovery of what it means to stay together.

* * *

I listened to this book months ago, but you know how I have that backlog in reviewing books? Yeah, this is one of them.

I was on the search for an audiobook to listen to after I realized I wanted to listen to more audiobooks because it helps me multitask. I know audiobooks are dependent on the narrator, too, so I didn’t want just any audiobook, but something that I would enjoy. And then Aaron told me about My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher, narrated by David Tennant. Oh, I am so in. :)

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece is the story of ten-year-old Jamie as he tries to live in the aftermath of his older sister, Rose, dying in a terrorist attack. It has been five years since Rose died and Jamie could hardly remember her, but he could see the effect that this had on his family. This novel deals about loss, grief, hate, family and religion, all told in the eyes of a ten-year-old boy.

It was a pleasure listening to this book, not only because it was narrated by David Tennant, but because it was actually quite charming despite the serious topics it dealt with. The main character, Jamie, reminded me a bit of Auggie from Wonder, and I was immediately drawn to his story. Somehow, this gave the book a more honest point of view, and it gives us a different insight on grieving, especially for someone who you barely know but you should still grieve for.

I really liked Sunya, Jamie’s Muslim friend, too. I liked how smart and resilient and friendly she was, and how she changed Jamie’s perception of something that his father really hated and blamed for the loss of Rose. Jamie and Sunya’s friendship was cute and funny and heartwarming, and that little hint of a young romance was done quite well. But more than this friendship, I really liked Jamie’s relationship with his older sister, Jasmine. In a way, Jas lost more than anyone did, because Rose is her twin sister. Their sibling relationship made my heart hurt several times, and I liked how protective Jas was of Jamie even to the point of keeping something from him so he won’t get hurt.

This book made me laugh and tear up several times, and when it left me with a nice and hopeful feeling in the end. It’s not an easy novel to read, I think, but the author handled all the difficult issues very well. :) I liked My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece a lot, and I also need to say that I think I liked it more because David Tennant narrated it to me. <3

P.S. I can’t help but smile every time David Tennant says “Rose” in the audiobook. He turns into the the Doctor for a few seconds in my head before turning back into just the audiobook’s narrator again. :D

Rating:

Other reviews:
Young Adult Anonymous

Mythspace Lift Off

Mythspace Lift OffMythspace Lift Off by Paolo Chikiamco, illustrated by various artists
Mythspace # 0
Rocket Kapre

Kapre. Nuno. Manananggal.

They are monsters of the past, remnants of primitive fantasies.

UFOs. Aliens. Extraterrestrials.

They are hallucinations, creations of modern science fiction.

Or are they?

Evidence unearth is debunked…or disappears. Witnesses who speak are ridiculed…or silenced.

We are alone, say our leaders.

There are no Manananggal that consume our children. There are no Kapres who watch in the night.

There are no aliens that abduct our neighbors. There are no UFOs with dazzling lights.

We were never alone.

These are not your Lola’s monsters.

These are not your children’s aliens.

They are one and the same. They are here.

You know how I said that I probably would not drop by Komikon if the Trese 5 release wasn’t announced? I take it back — I realize that I would have probably gone there anyway, just to support Paolo‘s newest release, Mythspace. It’s not that I did not know about his newest project. I heard of it, but I was too busy in the past weeks before Komikon to check the Mythspace Monday posts he had up on his blog leading to the release. In a way that is a blessing in disguise, because now that I’ve read the sampler they released last Komikon, I’m catching up on the posts which I hope will tide me over until Mythspace fully launches.

What is Mythspace, anyway? Pao talks about it in detail in this post, but if you want the quick, one-line summary: Mythspace is what happens when Philippine folklore meets science fiction, specifically aliens. This new series plays on the idea that the creatures we know from folk tales and movies not simply monsters from our grandparents’ stories, but you know, creatures from outer space. Sounds crazy, yes?

But you know what? It actually works.

Mythspace #0 is the preview issue for the science fiction anthology. Here we can read a bit of two stories from the anthology, as well as preview of the art from the different illustrators: Koi Carreon, Borg Sinaban, Jules Gregorio, Mico Dimagiba, Cristina Rose Chua, Paul Quiroga. I’m not a good judge of art, but I liked that each story seemed to have its own personality because of the artist. I also liked reading the previews for the two longest stories there, with Liftoff having that mystery-in-space type of story with a somewhat angst-ridden hero, and Unfurling of Wings reminding me so much of the chimaera world in Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. There’s also a bit of information on the aliens we will meet in the issues. My favorites are the Kapre and the Manananggal – somehow, these versions are less scary than what I heard from stories growing up.

Overall, I loved this preview. The booklet is short, so everything ends before you feel like you really know things, but it’s a good thing because I am totally looking forward to the release of the first installment of the anthology in 2013. Now I’m pretty sure that the world will not (and cannot!) end on December 2012 — after all, we still need to have the rest of the Mythspace anthology in our grubby little hands. :)

Rating:

My copy: signed, bought from Komikon

Other reviews:
Jumper Cable
Hawkers Magazine
Crime-Fighting Call Center Agents