Tag Archives: Book 1

White Cat

Black, Holly. White Cat (2010).  336 Pages. Margaret K. McElderry. $7.99

The Curse Workers | Book One

The lovely ladies of Reading In Skirts and I have a pseudo-bookclub. Pseudo because we live very far apart, and because we don’t meet as consistently as we like. (Mostly it’s my fault for having two part-time retail jobs.) Recently we tackled White Cat, (and then agreed to read Red Glove) and this is what I’ve managed to decide, as far as this book is concerned.

From Goodreads

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 con men.

First Lines

I wake up barefoot, standing on cold slate tiles. Looking dizzily down. I suck in a breath of icy air.

Above me are stars. Below me, the bronze statue of Colonel Wallingford makes me realize I’m seeing the quad from the peak of Smythe Hall, my dorm.

I have no memory of climbing the stairs up to the roof. I don’t even know how to get where I am, which is a problem since I’m going to have to get down, ideally in a way that doesn’t involve dying.

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The Girl in the Steel Corset

Cross, Kady.The Girl in the Steel Corset (2011). 480 Pages. Harlequin Teen. $10.58

Steampunk Chronicles: Book One

This review is pre-release: It comes out May 24th, 2011.

From Amazon:

In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one…except the “thing” inside her.

When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch….

Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she’s special, says she’s one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits: Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret.

Griffin’s investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help—and finally be a part of something, finally fit in.

But The Machinist wants to tear Griff’s little company of strays apart, and it isn’t long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she’s on—even if it seems no one believes her.

First Lines

London, 1897

The moment she saw the young man walking down the darkened hall toward her, twirling his walking stick, Finley Jayne knew she’d be unemployed before the sun rose. Her third dismissal in as many months.

She tensed and slowed her steps, but she did not stop. She kept her head down, but was smart enough not to take her gaze off him. Perhaps he would walk right by her, as though she were as invisible as servants were supposed to be.

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Blood Red Road

Young, Moira. Blood Red Road (2011). 464 Pages. Simon & Schuster. $17.99

Dustlands: Book One

This review is pre-release: It comes out June 7, 2011.

From Goodreads:

Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That’s fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba’s world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back.

Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she’s a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.

First Lines*:

The day’s hot. So hot an so dry that all I can taste in my mouth is dust. The kinda white heat day when you can hear th’earth crack.

We ain’t had a drop of rain fer near six months now. Even the spring that feeds the lake’s startin to run dry. You gotta walk some ways now to fill a bucket. Pretty soon, there won’t be no point in callin it by its name.

Silverlake.

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A Tale of Two Castles

Levine, Gail Carson. A Tale of Two Castles (2011).336 Pages. Harper Collins. $16.99*

This review is pre-release: It comes out May 10, 2011

Ella Enchanted was one of my favorite childhood books. My mom gave it to me for Christmas in 1998– she’s big on writing dates in books which are gifts– and I’ve read it so many times that a few pages are loose, the spine is falling to pieces, and it’s stained all over. I’ve got an abiding love for Gail Carson Levine, in part because of Ella Enchanted, and in part because she’s got a knack for writing magical stories which children are guaranteed to love.

Synopsis

Twelve year-old Elodie has just set out on her first adventure, and her first step toward adulthood. It is time for her to head to Two Castles and become an apprentice, though she cannot afford a short apprenticeship, so she must commit to the 10-year “free” term. Despite her parent’s wishes– that she apprentice to a weaver, Elodie seeks out an apprenticeship with the Two Castles mansioners.

Things don’t go according to plan, and Elodie soon finds herself working for the dragon Meenore and brushing up on her skills of “deduction, induction, and common sense.” But something is wrong in Two Castles, and Elodie’s job will not be as easy as it first seemed.

First Lines

Mother wiped her eyes on her sleeve and held me tight. I wept onto her shoulder. She released me while I went on weeping. A tear slipped into the strait through a crack in the wooden dock. Salt water to salt water, a drop of me in the brine that would separate me from home.

Father’s eyes were red. He pulled me into a hug, too. Albin stood to the side a few feet and blew his nose with a honk. He could blow his nose a dozen ways. A hong was the saddest.

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Filed under Book Review, Children's Fiction, Fairy Tales Retold, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense, Young Adult Fiction

Maids of Misfortune

Locke, M. Louisa. Maids of Misfortune: A Victorian San Francsico Mystery (2009). 336 Pages*. $2.99**

From the Author’s Site

It’s the summer of 1879, and Annie Fuller, a young San Francisco widow, is in trouble. Annie’s husband squandered her fortune before committing suicide five years earlier, and one of his creditors is now threatening to take the boardinghouse she owns to pay off a debt.

Annie Fuller also has a secret. She supplements her income by giving domestic and business advice as Madam Sibyl, one of San Francisco’s most exclusive clairvoyants, and one of Madam Sibyl’s clients, Matthew Voss, has died. The police believe it is suicide brought upon by bankruptcy, but Annie believes Voss has been murdered and that his assets have been stolen.

Nate Dawson has a problem. As the Voss family lawyer, he would love to believe that Matthew Voss didn’t leave his grieving family destitute. But that would mean working with Annie Fuller, a woman who alternatively attracts and infuriates him as she shatters every notion he ever had of proper ladylike behavior.

Sparks fly as Anne and Nate pursue the truth about the murder of Matthew Voss in this light-hearted historical mystery set in the foggy gas-lit world of Victorian San Francisco.

First Lines

The bastard!

Annie Fuller gasped, shocked at even allowing such an unladylike expression to enter her mind. She had been enjoying her tea and toast while sorting through her mail in splendid solitude.

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Book Review, Historical Romance, Mystery & Suspense, Realistic Fiction

Patient Zero

Maberry, Jonathan. Patient Zero (2009). 419 Pages. St Martin’s Griffin. $14.95

Joe Ledger: Book One

This post is long-overdue. When I read Rot & Ruin, I was thrilled. I’d found a zombie book which was also about humanity. I had to find out if the author had more in him, so I went out of my way to pick up Patient Zero from the library. I devoured it in a little under a day, and spent a little over an hour gushing about the pair of them to my mother, who has now decided that she needs to read it. And then, life happened.

I got sucked-in to a writing project– yes, I also do creative writing– and a few old forums that I haven’t been on in ages. I got extra hours at work, I’ve been on a fierce job-hunt, and reading has really fallen by the wayside. I am attempting to get myself back on track, which will likely happen as a direct result of me setting myself a posting-schedule.

Synopsis (via Goodreads)

When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week there’s either something wrong with your world or something wrong with your skills… and there’s nothing wrong with Joe Ledger’s skills.  And that’s both a good, and a bad thing.  It’s good because he’s a Baltimore detective that has just been secretly recruited by the government to lead a new taskforce created to deal with the problems that Homeland Security can’t handle. This rapid response group is called the Department of Military Sciences or the DMS for short. It’s bad because his first mission is to help stop a group of terrorists from releasing a dreadful bio-weapon that can turn ordinary people into zombies. The fate of the world hangs in the balance…

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Rot & Ruin

Maberry, Jonathan. Rot & Ruin (2010). 458 Pages. Simon & Schuster. $17.99

Don’t let the cover put you off. It’s a creepy book, at times, but not as creepy as the eyeball seems to suggest.

Synopsis

Benny Imura has only vague memories of the night his parents died. What he does remember paints a bleak picture; his father was a zombie, his mother facing imminent death, and his brother was the coward who took him and ran, leaving their parents behind. Despite what everyone seems to think about Tom Imura, Benny knows the truth; his brother is a coward.

On Benny’s fifteenth birthday, he becomes an “adult,” and has six weeks to find a job, or his rations will be cut in half. With hunger looming, and the best jobs long gone, Benny turns to his brother, Tom the Bounty Hunter– zombie killer for hire– to ask for a job. He doesn’t want to join the “family business” but doesn’t see any alternatives.

What he learns about the world outside his town’s fences– the Rot & Ruin– and about his brother will change Benny’s life forever.

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Filed under Book Review, Fantasy, Horror, Realistic Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Stork

Delsol, Wendy. Stork (2010). 357 Pages. Candlewick. $15.99

I was seriously impressed by this book. It manages to simultaneously be about a stereotypical fashion-obsessed California girl, a small Minnesota town, and old Icelandic mythology. Not a lot of books can pull that off, especially not debut novels. If you liked Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver, I think it’s likely you’ll also like Stork.

From the Cover

Moving from LA to nowhere Minnesota, sixteen-year-old Katla Leblanc expected the local fashion scene to be frozen in time. What she didn’t expect was induction into the Icelandic Stork Society, an ancient order of women charged with a unique mystical duty. Not only is Katla the youngest member, but Hulda, the society’s omen-guided leader, immediately bestows the coveted Second Chair on her– a decision that ruffles a few feathers.

As if that weren’t enough, Katla also has to deal with her parent’s divorce and the social aftermath of a bad date with popular but creepy Wade. Katla, however, isn’t one to sit on her designer-jean-clad behind, and soon she’s assigned the fashion column for the school paper and making new friends.

Things would be looking up if it weren’t for editor in chief Jack. Even though they argue every time they meet, Katla is inexplicably drawn to him. Juggling her home life, school, and Stork duties, will Katla be able to unravel the mystery surrounding Jack? More importantly, will she find a dress in time for Homecoming?

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The Summoner

Green, Layton. The Summoner (2010). Digital only. GryphonWorks. $2.99*

I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I started poking at this book; it seemed interesting enough, but not my usual read. It’s fairly apparent from my choice of books that I like young adult and romance novels– both genres known for being rather easy reads**. But I figured “why not” and found myself quickly engaged.

Synopsis

Dominic Grey is world-worn and jaded,  stuck in a dead-end government job in Zimbabwe. When a diplomat– and friend of the Ambassador– goes missing in the middle of nowhere during a Juju ceremony, Dominic is told to investigate. He won’t be alone, however; Nya Mashumba– local government official– will be escorting him and keeping an eye on his progress, and Viktor Radek– cult expert– will be helping out.

Things aren’t as straightforward as anyone hoped, and Grey is in deeper trouble than he could have imagined. Someone has sent him a message– back off– and he needs to find out who before anyone else disappears.

First Lines

The only thing Dominic Grey knew for certain about the disappearance of William Addison was that it was the strangest case to which he had ever been assigned.

Thoughts

It’s not often that I read a book cold, without knowing anything about it. I often pick books up because I know the author, or I liked the cover/blurb or I saw a good review. I usually have some idea what I’m getting into before I decide “sure, why not?” but in this case, at least, the results weren’t bad.

I found myself pleasantly surprised, for the most part. Dominic Grey is an interesting protagonist with an imperfect past. He’s really good at a couple things, and has a few character flaws which keep him interesting. He apparently speaks three languages– which are never listed– and is very well traveled. He’s a fairly accepting character, who doesn’t make snap-judgements. On the whole, while not an every-man, he is a bit of an ideal-man.

The writing is good, if not spectacular; descriptions were vivid, and most of the dialog was relatively natural. There were moments where characters were overly-expository in their speech, but with a topic/setting most people don’t know a lot about, it’s a damned-if-you-do/don’t balancing act. I feel like for the most part it is alright, though it does get a little bogged down in the second chapter.

The plot is really what makes this book interesting; there is an evil Juju man sacrificing humans to an evil spirit, and Grey, Nya, and Viktor are entangled in the puzzle. There are parts that are surprising, and parts that are not, but on the whole it’s intriguing enough to keep you reading (and good enough that I actually enjoyed reading it; I didn’t want to put it down.) It manages to move along quickly enough that you don’t get bored, without rushing along so fast that you get lost, either. At no point did I have to go “wait, what just happened?,” which is a good sign.

With good writing, solid pacing, an interesting plot, and good characters, this book is worth reading. It gets a 3.5/5*** — I liked it, but I didn’t love it. (Though I wouldn’t have felt upset at having paid $2.99 for it, either.) If it survives and becomes a series, I’ll probably check out the next book.

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* Disclosure; I received a free copy of the book for review.

** There are always exceptions to the “easy reads,” The Hunger Games, for example, is not “easy” in any way. (But it’s well worth it.)

*** I am not the sort to read mystery/thrillers often, and I do not enjoy them as much as I enjoy sci-fi/fantasy/romance plots. I think if I were more of a mystery/thriller type this could easily have been a 4/5 or higher.

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Devil’s Bride

Laurens, Stephanie. Devil’s Bride (1998). 416 Pages. Avon. $7.99

Cynster Novels | Book One*

Sharing books with friends and roommates can be problematic; it seems silly to each have your own copies of all the books in a series, so while one of you may own the first volume, another may own the second. This works in practice until one of you moves out, or away. This is how I ended up getting Devil’s Bride for my shiny new kindle despite the fact that I own the rest of the series in print**.

Synopsis

Honoria Wetherby never intended to marry. “Devil” Cynster felt much the same way. When a series of unfortunate circumstances find them trapped in a woodsman’s cottage unchaperoned, Devil does the only thing he can think of to protect Honoria’s reputation; he declares their engagement.

Unfortunately for Devil, Honoria is determined to hold out, and rejects him at every turn. Unfortunately for Honoria, Devil sees her challenge as an invitation, and intends to convince her in any way he can.

First Lines***

Somersham, Cambridgeshire

August 1818

“The duchess is so very… very… well, really, most charming. So…” With an angelic smile, Mr. Postlethwaite, the vicar of Somarsham, gestured airily. “Continental, if you take my meaning.”

Standing by the vicarage gate while she waited for the gig to be brought around, Honoria Wetherby only wished she could. Wringing information from the local vicar was always one of her first actions on taking up a new position; unfortunately, while her need for information was more acute than usual, Mr. Postlethwatie’s comments were unhelpfully vague.

Thoughts

It is not often that romance novels stand up to re-reading; often, they are a nice enough story the first time, but approaching them again is considerably less enjoyable. Fortunately, Stephanie Laurens manges to write romance in such a way that it can be read more than once.

I vividly remember reading Devil’s Bride for the first time my sophomore year of college. I think I may have been avoiding The Aeneid, but I can’t be sure. I blame my roommates for getting me hooked on romance novels; the ultimate escapist books. Even when things are tense and stressful, you know the characters will end up together, and they will be happy.

There are some things which, depending upon taste, can be construed as positive or negative. For example, the precept is that the Cynster clan is full of handsome men who have an innate urge to conquer. They have money, power, and land. The latest generation, the “Bar Cynster,” have lived lives of relative ease, sleeping around, and enjoying rake-dom. But each of them has their meeting with “fate” in the form of a woman– typically “strong willed”– who makes them realize that they want to marry her. They then spend most of the book heading for that goal.

There are quite a few sex scenes, which are full of the classic cliches; he is experienced, she is innocent. He is “hard,” and she is “soft.” He is in control, and she is overwhelmed by the experiences. Generally your classic romance stuff.

Overall, it’s a fun book with a reasonable story– a murder mystery of sorts– though there’s not much mystery (I, at least, felt the villain was glaringly obvious from the beginning) there is quite a bit of fluffy, happy romance. It gets a 4/5– well worth the time to read it.

Also, check out the pretty covers. (Too bad the US editions aren’t like these.)

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* Strictly speaking, by publishing order, this is book one, and The Promise in a Kiss came out three years later. As far as interior chronology, it is preceded by a prequel which I will choose to address as book zero, because it is not necessary to read it first, as it was published later.

** On the bright side, knowing that my old roommate lacked volume two because she’d read my copy meant that choosing her Christmas present this year was very simple.

*** I often judge a book by its first lines (I’m sure my review format shows this habit). I find that you can tell a lot about an author by the way they open; do they throw you into the action, or spend time setting up the scene? Is it speech, or description, or some combination? How they set up says a lot about what you can expect later in the book. If this series hadn’t come highly recommended, I may not have read it.

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