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

Magic Slays

Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews

Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews
Kate Daniels # 5

Publisher: Ace Books
Number of pages: 308
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

Plagued by a war between magic and technology, Atlanta has never been so deadly. Good thing Kate Daniels is on the job.

Kate Daniels may have quit the Order of Merciful Aid, but she’s still knee-deep in paranormal problems. Or she would be if she could get someone to hire her. Starting her own business has been more challenging than she thought it would be—now that the Order is disparaging her good name, and many potential clients are afraid of getting on the bad side of the Beast Lord, who just happens to be Kate’s mate.

So when Atlanta’s premier Master of the Dead calls to ask for help with a vampire on the loose, Kate leaps at the chance of some paying work. Turns out this is not an isolated incident, and Kate needs to get to the bottom of it—fast, or the city and everyone dear to her might pay the ultimate price . . .

* * *

We experienced heavy rains last weekend, which got me stuck at home with no Internet to boot. Having no Internet is not fun, but my annoyance was alleviated with the fact that I had good books waiting for me on my shelf. So, instead of being frustrated at our non connection, I decided to sink back on the cold, cold sheets, and plunge into the world of Ilona Andrews in the fifth installment in the Kate Daniels series, Magic Slays.

Spoiler warning: Inevitable spoilers for the first four books in the series in this review.

In Magic Slays, Kate is no longer working for the Order and she is also no longer living in her old apartment. After a particularly big fight with her seemingly immortal now dead Aunt Erra, she has not only quit the Order, but started her own independent paranormal clean-up business, Cutting Edge. But wait, there’s more! She has no house to speak of because she now lives in the Pack’s Keep, because she’s mated to the Pack’s alpha, Beast Lord Curran. After all the tension in the past four books, Kate and Curran had finally admitted their feelings to one another. Even so, Kate still insists on doing things on her own, worried that her past would catch up with her and kill everyone she loves. However, business for Cutting Edge is kind of bad, until the People asks Kate for help to secure a loose vampire. Things go south quickly and soon Kate is faced with a more serious mission that could wipe away the magic community of Atlanta in a snap.

It’s been almost a year since I last read Magic Bleeds, and I was kind of worried that I would be a bit lost when I started reading the newest book. I considered rereading the fourth for a while, but sheer laziness told me I can just try to Google if I can’t remember. (Then I remembered I had no Internet after that, haha) But I was glad that it didn’t take me long to sink back into Kate’s world. The magical Atlanta is still as vivid as ever, and I felt like I never left at all. The characters were quite easy to remember, too, and I was very glad to see so many familiar faces again — Dr. Doolittle, Julie, Aunt B, Derek, Andrea and Grendel the attack poodle! I loved how every character had their role, and they all fit neatly into the world that the authors built.

I also really liked how the authors really do their mythology research in every book in this series. I was one of those people who concentrated on Greek and Roman mythology when I was younger, so discovering other myths is always a treat. I liked the Russian element in this story, and it’s worth to mention that despite the gloom and doom prediction of the story, they always manage to insert crazy funny things, such as the volhvs and the witches. That truly cracked me up. More magical communities were brought in the story, too, and it made for an awesome (albeit short) showdown at the end. See, this is how you bring in the troops to fight a common enemy — you build it up really good and end with with an actual fight, not just a conversation and the main character casting an unbreakable shield around everyone (yes, Breaking Dawn, I’m looking at you).

Kate and Curran’s relationship were also nicely done here, and I really like how the authors treat it. It’s never going to be always rainbows and butterflies for both of them, but their relationship is very fun to read because it’s grounded. It’s healthy, despite it being a bit violent, and it never really takes center stage so much that it becomes the main point of the story. It’s just there, and it’s a part of Kate and it gives so much to her character development.

The book’s conclusion is also nicely done, and I am truly, truly excited for the next book. Kate’s past life is slowly unraveling, and I can’t help but wonder what she will do next in order to fulfill the “mission” she has grown up believing in. Magic Slays is a solid installment in this already awesome series. I never expected anything less, really, and I bet it can only go better from here.

Rating:

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Angieville

Reviews for other Kate Daniels books:
#1 Magic Bites
#2 Magic Burns
#3 Magic Strikes
#4 Magic Bleeds

On the Edge

On the Edge by Ilona AndrewsOn the Edge by Ilona Andrews
The Edge # 1

Publisher: Ace Books
Number of pages: 309
My copy: paperback, won from Dee’s 100+ follower giveaway

The Broken is a place where people shop at Wal-Mart and magic is nothing more than a fairy tale.

The Weird is a realm where blueblood aristocrats rule and the strength of your magic can change your destiny.

Rose Drayton lives on the Edge, the place between both worlds. A perilous existence indeed, made even more so by a flood of magic-hungry creatures bent on absolute destruction.

* * *

I pretty much became a squealing fan of Ilona Andrews after I finished the first four books of their Kate Daniels series. Who wouldn’t? By the time I finished the fourth book, there was a long lull before the fifth book comes out but I wanted more Ilona Andrews. Good thing they also had another series going set in an entirely different world and I won the first two books of that series in a giveaway, so I had more Ilona Andrews in stock. Of course, I took my own sweet time before reading it…but that’s really expected of me.

Rose Drayton lives on the Edge, the land between the magical Weird and the normal Broken. She lives and is fiercely protective with her two younger brothers, necromancer Georgie and changeling Jack. Rose is somewhat of a social pariah among the Edge because of her unusual power: the ability to flash white, something that no Edger has ever done. This has made her a target for bluebloods from the Weird, if not as a wife to produce white-flashing powerful babies, but for slave merchants to sell to the highest bid. It’s no surprise that Rose is closed off to anyone, and it doesn’t help that her family is also very poor that she can’t afford many of the luxuries in life, including motor home repair. Rose works in the Broken everyday to make ends meet, so she’s very determined to keep her routine and live her life inconspicuously. Then comes Declan Camarine, an Earl from the Weird, who is intent at having her. Rose is not about to let anyone get her and leave her brothers behind. When weird things start showing up in the Edge and threatens everyone she knows, she had to team up with Declan to find a way to destroy it and keep the Edge safe.

On the Edge is very different from the Kate Daniels series. It’s more romance than urban fantasy, but the world is grittier and somewhat more primitive than what Kate lives in. By primitive, I don’t mean it’s less powerful, but just different. Most of the magic discussed in this book was elemental, back to the basics, unlike in Kate where there is more of the weird and seemingly more complex magic all around. Not that I know much, of course, but this one had a different feel from the other, which I kind of had to get used to first before I fully immersed.

But as always, the world building in this book is flawless. That’s one of the many things I admire with Ilona Andrews novels — the world seemed so real with all its quirks and intricate rules and details. Even if everything is highly unbelievable, I couldn’t help but accept that what was written in the book was real, and that the world is divided in three. This alone could make the book a pleasure to read already, and I think that’s really want I’m looking for in fantasy novels: good world building. I know I can’t write a good fantasy world (not yet, anyway), so I’ll stick to reading them instead.

And like with Kate, Rose is also as fierce as her. I liked Rose because of her strong attachment to her family. Sometimes she gets too attached, but as the story went on, she grew to understand that she can’t baby her brothers all the time. Rose is strong and admirable, and it makes one understand why Declan would like her. I like Declan too, but I did get kind of annoyed at how many times he was described as “perfect” in the book. Too many mentions of his well-defined muscles, glittery eyes and skin is a bit too much. My favorite characters in the book, however, are Jack and Georgie — gotta love those two boys. They captured my heart from the start. I also liked Declan’s family, but too bad they didn’t have much exposure time.

Since this is more of a romance novel, there was more focus on the relationship than in the action in the book, so the climax part was kind of expected. I wasn’t as invested in Rose and Declan’s relationship as I was in Kate and Curran, but the latter had more build up than this one, so I guess that’s a normal reaction. I guess the key here is to really stop comparing from the other series because they fall on sort of different sub-genres.

On the Edge is a good, fun and sizzling (yes, I actually used that term) fantasy/romance novel from Ilona Andrews, and it’s a good read whether you’re new to them or you’re a fan. While I’m not about to declare my love for this series yet, I am looking forward to read the other books about The Edge. :)

Rating:

Other Reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Angieville
Book Harbinger
Attack of the Book

Storm Front

Storm Front (Dreden Files #1) by Jim ButcherStorm Front by Jim Butcher
Dresden Files # 1
Publisher: ROC Fantasy, Penguin Group
Number of pages:  322
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

Harry Dresden–Wizard
Lost items found. Paranormal investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties, or Other Entertainment.

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he’s the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things–and most of them don’t play too well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a–well, whatever.

There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get… interesting.

Magic. It can get a guy killed.

* * *

Harry Dresden is a wizard for hire, and you’d think that people would start to take him seriously with all the weird things happening. But no. He gets more prank calls than jobs, and he needs money to pay the bills, fast. It was just timely that he got called to the Chicago Police Department to help with a gruesome double murder case that reeks of black magic, and a woman comes to him to ask his help to find her missing husband. As Harry works on the cases, he encounters the city mafia, bribes a fairy to give information, battles an acid-spitting demon and run around with zero sleep, all the while rushing to catch the culprit before someone else — including him — gets killed.

You know, all in a day’s work.

Storm Front is one of those books that I would never have noticed or ever picked up, if not for some bookish friends who featured it on their blogs or talked about them because it was their favorite series. I hardly peruse the science fiction/adult fantasy shelves in the bookstores because frankly, the covers intimidate me and I wasn’t one to do an impulse buy on a genre that I still don’t know well. So I really wouldn’t have discovered Jim Butcher if it weren’t for these friends who posted about him online (and they say book blogs don’t help book sales — huh?). It took me a while before I finally found a copy of the first book in Fully Booked, but when I finally did, I used it as a bribe so I can reach a specific word count in my NaNoWriMo 2010 novel. It worked, but obviously, it took me a while to finally get to it.

Storm Front is fun. Most of the fun comes from Harry Dresden himself. Jadedness and grumpiness aside, Harry’s sarcastic quips were laugh out loud funny, and I found myself chuckling at his lines in the book. Most of Harry’s bluffs were really just that — bluffs. This self-preservation act makes him seem like a total jerk sometimes, but in truth, he was an old-fashioned guy who just wants to do the right thing. I think I liked him the moment he said this:

I enjoy treating a woman like a lady, opening doors for her, paying for shared meals, giving flowers – all that sort of thing. (p.12)

I’m an old-fashioned girl, what can I say.

The story is very straightforward murder mystery. While it wasn’t absolutely obvious from the start who did it and why they did it, I eventually figured it out, sometimes even a step ahead of Harry. Not that that is bad — I liked that it wasn’t hard to put things together and it was more exciting to see everything unfold when you know you’ve figured out whodunnit. I liked how everything unfolded in Storm Front, big bugs and crazy drugs and all. It’s not really groundbreaking as far as I’m concerned, but it’s fun and fun reading is always good. :)

I really enjoyed reading Storm Front.  I’m not sure if I am willing to invest on the next books yet (since there are 10 other books, and there’s no sign of it ending anytime soon), but I know I can always borrow if I feel like continuing Harry Dresden’s adventures. ;) Besides, I want to know what happens to Dresden and his female cop friend Murphy. Hee. :P So if you’re in the mood for some fun murder mystery with a dash of fantasy (or if you think some of the popular urban fantasy books — ex. Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews — seem a little intimidating), go pick up the Dresden Files.

And speaking of other urban fantasy novels…Harry Dresden is often likened as the male Kate Daniels, and we all know how much I love that character. It may be too early to say for me since I’ve only read the first book, but I don’t see much resemblance yet, as far as being awesomely kick-ass is concerned. I am curious to how they’d fare if they get into a crossover, though. ;) Hm, I wonder.

Rating:

Other reviews:
A Dribble of Ink
Walk Into Mordor
That’s What She Read (audiobook review)

Required Reading: March

Hello March! :) March is my favorite month of the year — can you guess why?

I started Required Reading last February in an attempt to tackle my Mt. TBR into (semi) submission. This is a small reading challenge were I pick four books as priority books to be read within the month. They should follow some sort of theme if I can find one, but there could also be no reason for that. The only rules for this mini-challenge are:

  • The books should be read within the specified month
  • These books should be in my TBR and not yet to be acquired
  • These books cannot be used for any other reading challenges I am participating in.

So how did I do last February?

The truth? Some kind of miserable. I may have had encountered some sort of reading slump right after I finished reading Emma and my brain refused to read at its normal speed. Out of the four books I listed last month, I only finished two on time:

  • Delirium by Lauren Oliver
  • Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly (review to be posted later this week)

I’m still reading Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis and there’s no hope for me starting Something Borrowed yet. So…in terms of quantity, I kind of passed, but it was such slow reading that it nearly drove me out of my mind. This makes me wonder if setting specific required books to read is more detrimental than just reading whatever comes to mind first.

Ah well. But I’m not one to back out from a challenge I set for myself, and I still want to conquer my Mt. TBR somewhat. So even if February’s challenge results weren’t really that good (hey, February was a short month!), I’m still doing this mini challenge.

Yeah, I can be a bit masochistic sometimes. That doesn’t mean I won’t ever read Something Borrowed anyway — the movie is coming soon, and what better time to read the book than before watching the movie, right?

But I digress. It’s a new month, so it’s time to move on! It’s time for Required Reading for March!

Required Reading: March

Truth be told, I am not entirely sure what theme I’m going for this month. The ones on my list don’t really have a central theme to it, except that two books I got there are for free (one won and one gift) and the two others I got for myself as rewards. I was thinking of making the theme about “heroes”, but I’m not sure if one book fit that theme. So…let’s go back to the gift theme instead. This is my birth month, after all. :)

thanks, weheartit

And there you go. I don’t know if I’ll be able to make the challenge this month. Let’s see if my birth month will be favorable for my required reading. Maybe I should give myself a reward if I read all four…like disney jewelry perhaps? …Nah.

So, how about you? Any books you want to bump up your TBR this month? Books you must read, no matter what? Do share! :)