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What did I miss? {7/15 – 7/22}

Jul
22

4 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Memes, What did I miss?

What did I miss? is a feature here at The Grammarian’s Reviews showcasing weekly updates and highlights from both here and other bloggers. So let’s get on with the recap!

Cover talk: The Casual Vacancy — I discuss what I like/dislike about the cover of J.K. Rowling’s upcoming release.

[review] Black Heart by Holly Black — An amazing end to an extremely gripping series. I’m sad to see it end!

Charging for reviews? — I discuss what I think is the unreasonable act of bloggers charging authors for reviews.

Dante’s Girl by Courtney Cole — A release note, part of the Kismet blog tour.

Whip it Up Mondays — Truffles! (No, not the chocolate kind.)

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Where do I begin? This week sucked, to be honest. A lot of work drama really had me wanting  to spend time by myself. And spending time by myself resulted in extra reading time! I plowed through Black Heart, the last installment in the Curse Workers series by Holly Black. And then I spent time wishing it hadn’t ended. The Curse Workers series is the first series in a while that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. It’s hard to find a series in which you enjoy each and every book – especially when it’s a genre you don’t typically read.

Because I enjoyed them so much, I decided to take a chance and go for another popular series that’s not typically a genre I read: The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare. I’m currently finishing up City of Bones and OMG IT IS AMAZING AND WHY DIDN’T ANY OF YOU MAKE ME READ THIS SOONER?!

Oh, and there’s still nothing planned regarding my two-year blog birthday this week. Yep. I’m slacking.

Road Trip Playlist — Liz shares some perfect road trip songs, in honor of YA road trips.

Blogger ethics — Nafiza addresses some of the issues making their rounds through the blogosphere.

Ash teaser! — I think a lot of us were upset that Ash didn’t win in his round of the YA Crush Tourney, but Kagawa treated us all to a cute little teaser anyway!

Social media — Kat discusses the pros and cons of social media and the appropriate etiquette.

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REVIEW! Black Heart by Holly Black.

Jul
20

14 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Book reviews, Four Stars

Black Heart by Holly Black

Cassel Sharpe knows he’s been used as an assassin, but he’s trying to put all that behind him. He’s trying to be good, even though he grew up in a family of con artists and cheating comes as easily as breathing to him. He’s trying to do the right thing, even though the girl he loves is inextricably connected with crime. And he’s trying to convince himself that working for the Feds is smart, even though he’s been raised to believe the government is the enemy.

But with a mother on the lam, the girl he loves about to take her place in the Mob, and new secrets coming to light, the line between what’s right and what’s wrong becomes increasingly blurred. When the Feds ask Cassel to do the one thing he said he would never do again, he needs to sort out what’s a con and what’s truth. In a dangerous game and with his life on the line, Cassel may have to make his biggest gamble yet—this time on love.

296 pages | Published: April 3, 2012 | Margaret K. McElderry Books

MY THOUGHTS:

I need this series to not be over. Partly because it’s so good, and partly because I still need answers. At the same time I understand that there could never be enough answers to Cassel’s life. Black could keep writing this series and it would result in me craving more, more, more.

Point blank: Black Heart – and, generally speaking, the Curse Workers series – is addictive.

This book was the one that had me on the edge of my seat the most. I really, really feared for Cassel and wanted everything to work out for him. He took hold of my feelings like no male character has been able to do in a while. He’s not the nicest or brightest kid. I mean, let’s just say it: he’s done many illegal things. And yet I still wanted things to work in his favor. He proved he could change; he proved it to me and himself. And the greatest thing is that his growth is taken yet another step further than seen in Red Glove. I won’t spoil anything, but he shares quite a touching moment with Sam. (I went and re-read it. It’s that cute.)

I think the only disappointment with Black Heart is its predictability, which I’d learned to spot in the past two books. The denouement is thrilling and gripping, but it didn’t leave me in the dark. I think, this time, Cassel’s story is missing that extra oomph, that extra con magic. (I say con “magic” because this time the cons seem sloppy.) If the cons matched the personal elements, it would’ve been absolutely perfect.

But this doesn’t change the fact that Cassel Sharpe stole my heart. (Or that I’m letting him keep it.)

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What did I miss? {7/8 – 7/15}

Jul
15

4 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Memes, What did I miss?

What did I miss? is a feature here at The Grammarian’s Reviews showcasing weekly updates and highlights from both here and other bloggers. So let’s get on with the recap!

Commenting: it’s important — Why I think leaving and replying to comments is a vital part of blogging.

How to overcome a reading slump — Not enjoying reading as much as you were? Here are 20 steps to help get you back on track.

[review] Red Glove by Holly Black — An awesome, surprising sequel to White Cat.

Contemporary Summer Event — My guest post over at Planet Print, in which I share new and old contemp favorites.

Whip it Up Mondays — Blueberry streusel muffins. (I took a break from making cupcakes!)

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What an eventful week! My internship ended a week early, so I was able to come home. And that means I can cook all I want and drink all the coffee I want. But what I’m most looking forward to is sleeping in. I’m excited to have more reading time, too. ‘Cause let’s be honest: sometimes after a day of work I didn’t feel like reading. This past week was proof of that. I spent a lot of time holing up in my room and doing absolutely nothing.

And because I did absolutely nothing, I still haven’t planned anything for my upcoming blog birthday. I’m going to have to make it my mission to plan something this week.

Say hi to me! — I stopped by Creativity’s Corner for a brief interview in celebration of Anne’s blog birthday!

Like a film — Novel Sounds introduced this awesome new feature in which they pair books to movies. First up? Anna and the French Kiss!

Favorite covers — Liz shared her favorite contemporary YA covers.

Donate your books — If you have any spare books, Cialina can help you send them off to a good cause: the Reading Club.

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REVIEW! Red Glove by Holly Black.

Jul
11

12 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Book reviews, Four Stars

Red Glove by Holly Black

Curses and cons. Magic and the mob. In Cassel Sharpe’s world, they go together. Cassel always thought he was an ordinary guy, until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers. Now he knows the truth—he’s the most powerful curse worker around. A touch of his hand can transform anything—or anyone—into something else.

That was how Lila, the girl he loved, became a white cat. Cassel was tricked into thinking he killed her, when actually he tried to save her. Now that she’s human again, he should be overjoyed. Trouble is, Lila’s been cursed to love him, a little gift from his emotion worker mom. And if Lila’s love is as phony as Cassel’s made-up memories, then he can’t believe anything she says or does.

When Cassel’s oldest brother is murdered, the Feds recruit Cassel to help make sense of the only clue—crime-scene images of a woman in red gloves. But the mob is after Cassel too—they know how valuable he could be to them. Cassel is going to have to stay one step ahead of both sides just to survive. But where can he turn when he can’t trust anyone—least of all, himself?

Love is a curse and the con is the only answer in a game too dangerous to lose.

MY THOUGHTS:

You know when you love the first book of a series so much and then the sequel lets you down? Forget that notion. It does not apply to Red Glove. Holly Black is one talented lady. The Curse Workers story remains just as captivating, if not more than, in Red Glove as it did in White Cat.

Red Glove is all about taking Cassel’s story one step further. There’s more Lila, more Daneca, more Sam, more mom, more Barron. The change is imminent, but good. Cassel shows growth; he’s not the same boy doing the same things and getting the same results. He’s learning, and you can see that through his actions. I love that about his character, because just when you think you can predict what he’ll do next, he surprises you.

Red Glove, as a whole, surprises you. It combines all the elements of a mystery and scatters them as minute details. Each character has a story that contributes to the whole.  Sounds like nothing special, but Black seamlessly weaves them together, which allows for a few surprises along the way – like the Feds. Really, the contrast is great: mobsters versus a government agency. As if there weren’t already enough tension, Black throws more into the pot. But they are both neither predictable nor stereotypical. They’re these two outer forces that are always present, but do not dictate the entire story. Which is good, because if they did, then it wouldn’t be Cassel’s story to tell. I like that even though Cassel is presented with so many options, he ultimately is the one to choose his own path.

Of course, not everything’s picture perfect. I felt the Fed/Mob troubles overshadowed the real issue at hand: Cassel’s brother’s murder. Regarding that, new characters were introduced that we know little of, and I’m hoping they don’t vanish in Black Heart.

This is a very fluid sequel that has a complete beginning, middle and end. And the great thing is that while you’re satisfied with the story thus far, you’re also left unsatisfied just enough to pull you to the next book. Holly Black truly works wonders with her readers’ emotions.

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What did I miss? {7/1 – 7/8}

Jul
08

8 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Memes, What did I miss?

What did I miss? is a feature here at The Grammarian’s Reviews showcasing weekly updates and highlights from both here and other bloggers. So let’s get on with the recap!

My reading comfort zone — Sometimes expanding your reading tastes can backfire.

Book sessions: a reminder — Just a quick reminder that there’s still time to join the first session! Come read and chat without worrying about reviewing!

Authors: the Twitter experience — Authors aren’t always what we hoped they’d be.

Book jewelry — I found the cutest little book charms on etsy and had to share them!

Whip it Up Mondays — The many uses of Greek Yogurt.

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I got to work from home this week, and aside from some work hiccups, it was really nice getting to sleep in a little later and being surrounded by family and hanging with friends. Also, internship is almost over! Coming into the home stretch right now. Couldn’t be more excited at the thought of getting to finally settle at home for a month. Commuting almost two hours is such a pain. (Yet, the work and experience is well worth it.)

Far as reading goes this week, I finished the last of Beauty Queens by Libba Bray and am about to begin Red Glove by Holly Black. I also bought Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson. So, basically,  I’ve very excited about my upcoming reads!

…Oh! And my blog birthday is less than three weeks away and I’ve got nothing planned! Time really did fly away from me. TGR will be two. TWO! My little site is almost a toddler! …Anyway, have any ideas for a birthday bonanza?

Review Requests — Amanda discusses what should be proper etiquette used for sending review requests to bloggers.

Need a good contemp? — Then check out Liz’s Top 10 favorite YA contemps!

Tea, anyone? — Guiltless Reading found the cutest Alice in Wonderland teas, cookies and cupcakes.

Revisiting the 90s — Tara has a great nostalgic post about 90s teen mags, like YM and Teen Beat. (Man, I miss the 90s.)

Pocket Princesses — Because they’re cute.

Having it All — Author Jennifer Hubbard talks feminism.

Tiger Lily, a review — Nafiza’s powerful review only fueled my need for this book even more.

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What did I miss? {6/3 – 6/10}

Jun
10

10 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Memes, What did I miss?

What did I miss? is a new feature here at The Grammarian’s Reviews. I thought it was about time I feature weekly updates and highlights from both here and other bloggers. So let’s get on with the recap!

Grammar: a love/hate relationship — My thoughts on being a grammar lover, and grammar nazis.

[review] White Cat by Holly Black — The first book in the Curse Workers series. Highly recommended!

My “real life” experience with reading and books — Part of Armchair BEA week, in which I discuss how my family came together through their love for reading and Harry Potter.

The Best of 2012 — Part of Armchair BEA week, in which I single out my favorite book of 2012, and list some upcoming hopefuls.

An Introduction — My kickoff post for Armchair BEA week, in which I interview myself.

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In other news, I acquired Red Glove AND Black Heart by Holly Black – the next two books in the Curse Workers series! I’m soooo excited to begin reading Red Glove, especially because I’ll be reading along with Amanda. Book buddies ftw!

I also participated in Armchair BEA this week (for a second year), and while it was fun at first, the fun quickly tapered off halfway through, which was a bit of a bummer. I really enjoyed it last year. This year just didn’t click with me. Too much focus on Beyond the Blog stuff left me unable to participate, which ultimately just sucked all the fun out of it. However, I ended up meeting some pretty cool people that I now enjoy talking to on Twitter. So yay!

I’ve also gotten better at scheduling posts! Just about all of this week’s posts I’d scheduled in advance! It made me feel so… productive. So I’m definitely trying to get posts finished ahead of time. It’s a time saver and means I don’t have to scramble around after working all day, trying to put something together. I’d rather take my time with my posts and provide better content. I think it’s been going well. I’ve been getting a lot more feedback on posts and seen a tiny increase in traffic to the site. Whether there’s a correlation between these things or not, I don’t know for sure, but I’m going to take it that way.

Got a Kindle, or thinking of getting one? — Amanda talks about the pros and cons she’s discovered over the course of a year with her own Kindle.

Cialina reviewed Red Glove just after I happened to finish White Cat — Her review made me super pumped and hopeful to continue the series!

Online book clubs — Amanda at LIO, while talking about how she goes Beyond the Blog, mentioned her online book club. I had no idea such things actually existed. Sure, I’d heard of them before, but for older people. But what really caught my attention was that Amanda’s club employs Skype for communication. How frickin’ awesome is that? Reading and talking about books? Online? I’d love to organize something like that, if it were possible and garnered enough interest/availability.

Sarah posted some beautiful shots of NYC — With this past week being BEA week, I was hardcore longing to be in the city; these pictures helped to make me feel like I was there, if only for a few seconds.

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REVIEW! White Cat by Holly Black.

Jun
07

5 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Book reviews, Four Stars

White Cat by Holly Black

Cassel comes from a family of curse workers—people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, all by the slightest touch of their hands. Since curse work is illegal, they’re all criminals. But not Cassel. He hasn’t got the magic touch, so he’s an outsider—the straight kid in a crooked family—as long as you ignore one small detail: He killed his best friend, Lila. Now he is sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat. He also notices that his brothers are keeping secrets from him. As Cassel begins to suspect he’s part of one huge con game, he must unravel his past and his memories. To find out the truth, Cassel will have to outcon the conmen.

MY THOUGHTS:

GO BUY THIS BOOK.

…Okay, let me start over.

White Cat‘s got it all – thrill, suspense, mystery, romance, and even familial relationships. Normally families take a backseat in YA thrillers, but such is not the case in this story. Cassel and his family are special – a new kind of special. Black makes you put together the pieces to figure it out. A glove here, a bare hand there, a little political unrest. You know it’s a big deal, but you don’t know why. So right from the beginning you’re hooked, wanting to know more.

Don’t even get me started on Cassel. First, cheers for a male protagonist. Second, he rocks. He’s not the smartest or greatest character out there, but he’s intriguing. As the reader, you’re not even sure you can trust him. But he’s such a relaxed narrator, that despite all of the misfortune happening around him, you’re coaxed to coast with him. Cassel’s the guy you haven’t quite figured out yet.

I’m going to lump Cassel’s friends and grandfather into their own group. They’re each quirky, but rather underdeveloped. However, their quirks are just enough to be able to discern them from each other. Plus, their lack of development acts as a pull to keep you invested in the story. Not knowing enough about them only adds to the already present tension.

Admittedly, I hoped to see more of his brothers, after realizing they’re valuable pieces in this story, but it didn’t happen to the extent I would’ve liked it to. One brother appears more than the other, and this sets off the balance that’s established at the beginning of the novel. At times I’d be like, What happened to him?  Black provides glimpses, but not a full explanation.

The good thing is that all of these broken pieces form a story. Granted, a story that’s choppy, but choppy in the best possible way. Black successfully evokes a dreamlike state of narrative, emphasizing her characters’ strengths and weaknesses. It’s as if her characters aren’t bound to one set track – they have choices. So, as the reader, you cannot fully predict the story’s outcome. What’s surprising to you is just as surprising to the characters, and I love that aspect of White Cat. The story is full of just enough holes to keep everyone – characters included – on their toes.

What Cat is not about giving answers to its readers. It’s about taking you on a scary, wild ride and then hitting you over the head with OMG moments. And at the end all you want to do is ride again.

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