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

The Raven Boys

The Raven Boys by Maggie StiefvaterThe Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
The Raven Cycle # 1
Publisher: Scholastic
Number of pages: 409
My copy: paperback, gift from Scholastic Philippines

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

* * *

The first time I heard about The Raven Boys, I wasn’t really that curious. I read some of Maggie Stiefvater’s books, but I wasn’t a super duper fan unlike others. I received the book as a gift, but I let it sit in my TBR for a long time, and every time I see it (just like when I see other books on my TBR, actually), I tell myself that I will read it, one day. One day. That day finally came when I realized that I’ve been reading too much on Hannah the Kindle and I wanted to feel pages in my fingers, so I picked a book randomly from my TBR pile. I picked The Raven Boys, scanned through the first chapter and decided to read it.

Blue Sargeant belongs to a family of psychics, but she’s not one. She couldn’t see or hear or predict anything, but she comes along with them because she could amplify their powers. Every year, on St. Mark’s Eve, Blue goes with her mother in the church yard where they watch and get the names of all the soon-to-be-dead as they walk along the corpse road. That night, instead of Blue’s mother, her aunt Neeve comes in her stead, and for the first time ever, Blue sees someone, and this soon-to-be-dead boy speaks to her. The thing is, Blue has always been told that she would kill her true love with a kiss, so seeing this boy and speaking to him made her even more determined to stay far away from him. But her path crosses with this boy, Gansey, warm and alive and also an Aglionby boy, one of the rich ones from the private school nearby. Even if she vowed to stay away, she finds herself drawn to him, and to his three friends Adam, Ronan, and Noah, in their quest to find a magical line and a supposedly long-dead Welsh king.

People told me that the book starts out slow, and I need to be patient, so I thought it was going to be a slow read. Lo and behold, I was finished after two days. It was that good, my friends. (Or, I just really needed a breather from all the “heavier” books I’ve been reading.)

One thing I really loved about Maggie Stiefvater’s books is the writing, in all her beautifully descriptive, mood-setting prose. That is still present in The Raven Boys,but instead of it setting the scene like in The Scorpio Races, most of the words were used to describe the characters, the real stars of the book. I loved how each character came alive soon after they were introduced in the book. Their voices were clear and unique, and you knew exactly who she was referring to and who was speaking in the entire text. I loved how there were more points of view here, and I read how one character saw another — even if most of the POVs switch from Blue to Gansey to Adam. I didn’t exactly feel like I was one of them when I read this; it was more like I was given a chance to see and observe them privately, hovering around the corners and seeing how they interact with one another.

And I loved it. I loved all the characters, from Blue to her family and to the boys and their own complicated lives. I remember not being able to choose between Gansey and Adam, and hardly paying attention to the other two boys but later they grew on me, and I loved them fiercely as Blue did (although she wouldn’t really admit that yet). I liked their friendship – how the boys all look out for each other and are solidly on each other’s side especially when others threatened one of them. I think everyone’s made this comparison already, but the boys really reminded me of the boys in the movie The Covenant, and my friend Kai and I even tried to match each of the Raven Boys to the Witches of Ipswich. :D

I was surprised at how fast I read The Raven Boys, but I wasn’t really surprised with how much I liked it. I think halfway through the book, I was already convinced that I would like it, anyway. And I was so, so glad that I had its sequel, The Dream Thieves, on my TBR when I was done reading. Gimme more, please. :)

Number of dog-eared pages: 16

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

The key, Gansey found, was that you had to believe that they existed; you had to realize that they were a part of something bigger. Some secrets only gave themselves up to those who’d proven themselves worthy.

When Gansey was polite, it made him powerful. When Adam was polite, he was giving power away.

“You’re the table everyone wants at Starbucks,” Gansey mused as he began to walk again.
Blue blinked. “What?”
Over his shoulder, Gansey said, “Next to the wall plug.”

My words are unerring tools of destruction and I’ve come unequipped with the ability to disarm them.

Rating: 

Other reviews:
Angieville
Book Harbinger
Amaterasu Reads

Too Good to Be True

Too Good to Be TrueToo Good to Be True by Kristan Higgins
Publisher: HQN
Number of pages: 383
My copy: Kindle edition

When Grace Emerson’s ex-fiancé starts dating her younger sister, extreme measures are called for. To keep everyone from obsessing about her love life, Grace announces that she’s seeing someone. Someone wonderful. Someone handsome. Someone completely made up. Who is this Mr. Right? Someone…exactly unlike her renegade neighbor Callahan O’Shea. Well, someone with his looks, maybe. His hot body. His knife-sharp sense of humor. His smarts and big heart.

Whoa. No. Callahan O’Shea is not her perfect man! Not with his unsavory past. So why does Mr. Wrong feel so…right?

* * *

Grace Emerson has a little bit of a problem. Or, a big problem, but one of them was something she can’t really do anything about because it involves her younger sister dating her ex-fiancé. Grace is supposed to be all okay about it except she wasn’t, but she didn’t want her sister to feel bad about it, so she did what she does best: invent a boyfriend. She tells her family that she’s dating a Dr. Wyatt, just to get them out of her face, but it does exactly the opposite. Then enter her new neighbor, Callahan O’Shea – he’s hot, for sure, but he has a bad past, and Grace just couldn’t be involved with him. Never mind that he was funny, and smart, and he has a big heart. Never mind all that. Besides, how would he like her, even, when she literally clobbered him with a stick when they first met, and that she is dating a nonexistent doctor?

So I didn’t really plan on reading Too Good to Be True by Kristan Higgins that day I opened it. I only meant to scan it, you know. Read a little, then decide if I should read it again later on. But lo and behold, soon, I was already 25% in, and I decided that I should just go and read it because I couldn’t put it down. True to form, this Kristan Higgins novel had all the things that a Kristan Higgins novel has: a strong woman with a lot of dating mishaps, a guy she’s currently getting over, a smoldering hot guy that you just know is for her all along, a wacky family (with issues to boot), and finally a dog. Of course there’s a dog, and the dog pretty much steals the show for most part.

This was really, really fun, and I remember being enamored by Callahan O’Shea the moment he and Grace had their meet-cute. I loved Grace for all she is – history buff, sometimes klutzy, but with a huge huge heart for the people she loves. I felt really, really irked for her when she dealt with her sister, but I also understand where she’s coming from even if I don’t have a sister. I have friends who are exactly like Natalie, and you just love them but sometimes you feel really frustrated that they get everything, even the things that were supposed to be yours. Unfair, right? But in this case, this was really a good thing for Grace, because obviously things worked out for her in the end.

I love the romance here, too — Callahan wasn’t the kind of lead interest I thought he was. I love it when the Significant Development finally happened, and I couldn’t stop smiling about it. Granted, there could have been more tension in the meltdown of the two leads, but there were too many things happening around them already so adding more might be overkill. And again, Callahan O’Shea was just a really surprising lead. Seemingly bad boy with a good heart, definitely. :)

I liked Too Good to Be True so much that I actually finished it in two days. I think this will be in my Kristan Higgins favorites list (together with All I Ever Wanted and Somebody to Love). More, please!

Number of dog-eared pages: 6

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

God must’ve had single women in mind when he invented dogs.

“I need to run next door, and then head to the hardware store, Grace. Anything you need?” Cal said, turning to me.
I need to be kissed. “Um, nope. No that I can think of,” I said, blushing again.

Why couldn’t people be happy alone? Love took your heart hostage.

Holding hands had to be one of the most wonderful things God ever invented, I thought as we went into the restaurant. A small but undeniable claim on someone, holding hands.

Rating:

Other reviews:
Steph Su Reads