09 August 2011

My Entry for the Merry Fates Prompt Contest

This is just a short piece I wrote for the contest the Merry Fates are having, which you can learn more about here. The prompt is the picture below, "The Turret Stairs" by Frederic Burton. This isn't my best work, but I hope you like it, and maybe enter the contest yourself!

 A Different Future

They say you always want what you can't have. But standing with him in the low light of the tower, his face turning to shadows in the half-light of dawn, the problem is that I can have him. He is close, close enough to reach out and touch; if I asked him to ride with me somewhere far, far away, he would say yes in a heartbeat. But I know my duty. And so does he. A soldier and a princess could never have a future together. In a few hours, he will be off to fight, and I will be off to stand by my mother's side while she maneuvers armies and concocts plans to bring this war to an end. The Queen has been criticized for many things, many of them having to do with her being the first female ruler in a century, but no once can deny her skill as a strategist. As her only heir, I have a duty to be a leader and act in the best interest of what will one day be my people - a duty not well-served by running off with a soldier. I need to distance myself from those feelings, but when I hear him calling outside my bedroom window, when I see his good-natured smile and his wholehearted understanding of me, how can I not meet him in the dead of night?

Hearing the larks beginning to take up their morning song, I snap my mind away from the chasing of insubstantial dreams and turn to look at him. It's time to part; the short hours we stole together under the cover of night are ticking away as the sun continues to rise. I open my mouth to wish him good luck, a safe return, but he speaks first, jamming my words in my throat.

"I might not come back," he says. I want to tell him not to speak of such things, that there's no need to be so worried, that there's no way he could not come back. But he forges on, imploring me to agree to his plan. "We could still run away. Just leave together. No war, no - "

"Stop," I tell him. "It'll be fine. You'll come home. We'll figure something out."

Almost absently, he shakes his head. "No," he says. "I have a...a feeling. Like maybe, this is our last chance. We don't know what could happen."

Unease fills me at his words - we really don't know, do we? I see the life we could have together - one free from the heavy weights that burden both of our shoulders. I am tempted, so tempted - but what we want is second to our duties. In the instant when I shake my head and tell him no, I am giving up a whole life that could have been mine. I'll never know what could have happened if I'd said yes, but I do know that when he nods, he is unsurprised at my decision. "Goodbye," he tells me, and smiles the smile that almost makes me change my mind. "Goodbye," I whisper. I take a last look at him, then turn to leave up the stairs. Before I can do so, he catches my arm and presses it to his face, breathing in deeply. He sighs once, then leaves, and I am left alone with the ghost of a different future.

08 August 2011

And I Thought My Sibling Relationship Was Rocky

Circle of Fire

Michelle Zink

5 Stars

With time dwindling, Lia sets out on a journey to locate the missing pages of the prophecy and persuade her sister, Alice, to help—or risk her life trying. Lia has Dimitri by her side, but Alice has James. James doesn’t know the truth about either sister, or about the prophecy. And Alice intends to keep it that way. There are some secrets sisters aren't meant to share. Because when they do, it can destroy them both.

First Sentence:
"The gowns are heavy in my arms as I leave my chamber."

This book is one that I've been eagerly anticipating for some time now, and believe me, I was not let down! Circle of Fire had the same mysterious, romantic, haunting quality as Prophecy of the Sisters and Guardian of the Gate. I really admire Lia's character for her ability to be strong and keep forging on, despite all her doubts and all the obstacles she faces. She does her best to unravel the prophecy and fight Samael and the Souls, all the while realizing that maybe she herself is the worst enemy she could have. I also adore how she is breaking free of the constraints of 'proper' society and doing what she feels is comfortable and important, rather than worrying about those who will gossip about her. She has Dimitri by her side, who continues to make girls everywhere swoon with his amazing love and loyalty for Lia. However, the character who really stood out for me in this book was Alice. I've always been fascinated by her "lovely darkness", as Lia puts it, and I really enjoyed seeing different sides of her. Alice isn't just reduced to a role as a flat, unquestionably evil character; she has depth and desires and feelings as well. She made me tear up more than once. The loose ends of several minor characters were also tied up in this book.

Michelle Zink has a real talent for capturing the subtle feelings and nuances in relationships. She portrays Lia's relationships masterfully - Lia and Alice, Lia and Dimitri, Lia and her family, yes, but the most realistic of all was that of Lia and the keys. The bonds and emotions of young girls trying to overcome the betrayals of the past and the uncertainty of the future are perfectly done. You can really understand all of their confusion and anger, and you support them as they try and make their friendship stronger.

The plot continued to be filled with mystery and suspense, as well as some truly terrifying and emotional moments. One thing I love about this series is that the language used isn't overly stylized and complicated in an effort to make it sound like the story is really set in the late 1800's. The language is simple and still perfect for the time period.

I don't want to give anything away, but Circle of Fire really was the exact ending the series deserved. It is an addictive read that is really impossible to put down, and while I am sad that the series is over, I'm also eagerly anticipating A Temptation of Angels!

11 July 2011

Tassels Are Bad


Meg Cabot

2 Stars

Seventeen-year-old Pierce knows what happens to us when we die. That's how she met John Hayden, the mysterious stranger who's made returning to normal life - or at least life as Pierce knew it before the accident - next to impossible. Though she thought she escaped him - starting a new school in a whole new place - it turns out she was wrong. He finds her. What does John want from her? Pierce thinks she knows... just like she knows he's no guardian angel, and his dark world isn't exactly heaven. But she can't stay away from him, either, especially since he's always there when she least expects it, but exactly when she needs him most. But if she lets herself fall any further, she might find herself back in the place she fears the most. And when Pierce discovers the shocking truth, that's exactly where John sweeps her: The Underworld.

I had such high expectations for this book, but I was totally disappointed. I'd read only one of Meg Cabot's books before, but it was excellent - the protagonist was strong and funny, the plot was interesting, and the characters were realistic and charming. And on top of that, I am a huge Greek mythology lover. So I was excited - a new retelling of the Hades and Persephone myth? Bring it on. However, the protagonist in Abandon, Pierce, annoyed me from the start. She spends 2/3 of the book referring to "the accident" and "the incident" without telling us what happened, and instead of creating suspense, this technique just results in irritation. I found myself wishing she would get on with it and tell an actual story already. And nothing actually happens until the last 1/3 of the book - and even then, there aren't many answers, just questions. The whole book felt like nothing but a setup for the future books in the series - one big long prologue to the story.

The love interest, John Hayden, was a stereotype. He's tall, dark, handsome, possibly unbalanced, and a flat character. He basically shows up in Pierce's life whenever she needs him, causes some mayhem, and then disappears. They don't seem to have much chemistry and there isn't much relationship-building, but all the same, there's the typical scene where "his lips came down over mine" and suddenly she's so in love and can't live without him, etc.

However, the history of Isla Huesos and the tradition of Coffin Night were intriguing to learn about, and I do give the book props for characters who were diverse in race, class, and background. The ties to Greek mythology were also interesting when they appeared - the little things, like Pierce's father being powerful like Zeus, and Pierce's mother caring for the environment like Demeter.

I think that my overall impression of this book is that it had a lot of potential, but never lived up to it. Possibly the most I got out of it is the idea that tasseled shoes are very, very bad. While I didn't like Abandon much, I do have hopes that the sequel, Underworld, will be more satisfying.

10 June 2011

My Letter to Sarah Rees Brennan

It is no secret that Sarah Rees Brennan's The Demon's Lexicon trilogy is one of my obsessions. I've forced everyone I know into reading it, I spend hours debating different couples and scenes, and when The Demon's Surrender finally shows up at my door, I may just burst into song and run around my house screaming "SURRENDER!". But, it's not just her books - I think SRB herself is pretty darn awesome. And she recently tweeted that there is apparently a website dedicated to "calling [her] a b*tch". So, what to do? Tell her how much I adore her, of course!

WARNING: Lots and lots of excessive gushing and fangirling below!

Dear Sarah,

You know that question about the ten people you'd most like to have dinner with, living or dead? You would be on my list (and I'm sure dinner would be a very interesting event). Because, Sarah, I love you. Not in the romantic sense, but in the sense that if I ever met you, I might spontaneously combust with joy. I don't love you just because you wrote The Demon's Lexicon trilogy, although those are some amazing books. But aside from your mad writing skills, you seem to be a genuinely nice person. You reply to your fans on Twitter and have discussions with us. You are witty and absolutely hilarious. Your comments on TV shows and movies are better than watching them myself. You fight passionately for feminism, equality, and YA. In fact, this awesome blog post you wrote is something that I go and read when I'm feeling kind of unmotivated and tired of all the sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. in the world. Your essays are well thought-out and interesting. You bring up important issues and defend reading, diversity, girl power, and lots more. You inspire me to be a better writer, and frankly, a better and more accepting person. Plus, we share a love of evil guys (Barron!), kick-a** girls, and families in YA.

So, thank you for writing such wonderful books and for being an all-around awesome person. I hope I didn't creep you out too much, and that I get to meet you one day and tell you all this in person! ;-)


A Marmalade Fish

09 June 2011

Killer Unicorns


Diana Peterfreund

4 Stars
Forget everything you ever knew about unicorns . . . Astrid Llewelyn has always scoffed at her eccentric mother's stories about killer unicorns. But when one attacks her boyfriend—ruining any chance of him taking her to prom—Astrid finds herself headed to Rome to train as a unicorn hunter at the ancient Cloisters the hunters have used for centuries. However, all is not what it seems at the Cloisters. Outside, unicorns wait to attack. And within, Astrid faces other, unexpected threats: from bone-covered walls that vibrate with terrible power to the hidden agendas of her fellow hunters to her growing attraction to a handsome art student . . . an attraction that could jeopardize everything.

 First Sentence:
"I will never really leave," said the unicorn.

Rampant is a very unique read. I must say, I've never been particularly predisposed towards unicorns, but the ones in this book...well, they definitely held my interest. Because these unicorns are not sparkly, rainbow-farting, sunshine-and-joy forces of good. They are deadly. And the only people able to hunt them are virgin descendants of Alexander the Great (who, by the way, rode a unicorn). So the premise of Rampant was what drew me in, but the protagonist, Astrid, is what kept me devouring the book. Astrid's perspective is refreshing; she's realistic and relatable and not at all eager to go to Italy and learn how to kill unicorns. But her mother is of a different opinion, and so she is shipped off and, along with a band of other girls who have been found eligible, she starts lessons in unicorn-hunting. While I liked how each of the girls were from different countries and backgrounds, I often got confused about their personalities and mixed them up, which was very irritating. I feel like their characters should have been more distinct and developed better.

The girls' encounters with the unicorns were fascinating, suspenseful, and at times, downright terrifying. This book has plenty of action and I really admired how the girls are strong and totally kick-a**. Not all of it was fighting and gore, though; I loved Astrid's relationship with her cousin Phil, as well as her romance with Giovanni. Rampant dealt very well with ethical issues, both in the real world and in the story world. Are all unicorns bad? Should they be preserved instead of killed, seeing as they're an endangered species? What about medicinal uses? In addition to these questions, topics like choice and feminism are also explored.

While the world created in Rampant is fascinating, sometimes the world building felt excessive. There was all this information and history that was being given to us in large loads, and it got to the point where it sometimes became dull.

However, Rampant is still a unique, fascinating read, and I look forward to reading Ascendant.

08 June 2011

2 A.M. Musings on Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska

John Green

5 Stars

Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words–and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

First Sentence:
The week before I left my family and Florida and the rest of my minor life to go to boarding school in Alabama, my mother insisted on throwing me a going-away party.


I am writing this at 2 a.m. Why? Because I've been lying awake in bed for hours, unable to sleep, thinking about Looking for Alaska. I finished reading it earlier today (well, yesterday, technically), but even now, every time I remember certain quotes and certain moments, I either cry or I laugh (mostly cry), because this is a deeply emotional book. I've never sobbed so much while reading, and yet at the end of it, I felt hopeful.

I think part of the reason Looking for Alaska has struck me so profoundly is that it's heartbreakingly real. I know how Miles (Pudge) feels when he looks at his life and feels a need for something more, something beyond the ordinary and mundane - the Great Perhaps. And then Alaska sweeps into his life and shows him the Great Perhaps, changing him forever. But then, what do you do when someone who has altered you like that is suddenly gone? Alaska is messed-up and gorgeous and moody and funny and mysterious and smart and self-destructive and it's impossible not to both love and hate her. And to think that someone like her is just gone - poof - is unthinkable. I've never had a friend of mine die, but reading this book, I was crying and I was angry and I felt that bittersweet ache of remembrance. I was there, right along with Pudge and the Colonel and Takumi and Lara as they laughed with Alaska and played pranks with her and started to understand her and got annoyed at her and then they were left reeling, because she simply wasn't there anymore, and the pain and frustration of that, of not even knowing if she meant to die but knowing that you could have stopped it, is all too real. But there is still hope. They can piece things together again; there will always be an Alaska-shaped hole in each of them, but they can learn to live with it. Forgiveness can happen. They can remember her and learn from her and never completely lose her. As Pudge says, "We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken."

This novel deals beautifully with themes of grief, loss, love, longing, guilt, regret, and moving on. I know that I won't ever forget it, and just like Pudge, I won't ever forget Alaska. And we can all make our way out of this labyrinth.

07 June 2011

What I Learned from Miss Teen Dream

Beauty Queens

Libba Bray

5 Stars

Printz Award winner Libba Bray is back with a tale that involves a plane crash, national beauty pageant contestants, a secret militaristic corporation, and desert island survival. It’s irreverent and thought provoking, and laugh-out-loud funny. When the Miss Teen Dream Pageant plane goes down over the ocean, there are only a handful of pageant contestant survivors. The girls are divided – should they keep practicing their routines and wait for rescue? Or should they buckle down and try to survive in the tropical jungle they’ve been dropped down in? And what will they do when a band of sexy pirates show up? Or when they find the secret headquarters of The Corporation – sponsor of The Miss Teen Dream Pageant? And what exactly will happen now that they are separated from everything they’ve ever known including eyeliner, high heels, and parents with high expectations? Not to mention lack of food and water. Libba Bray takes readers on an adventure that will make you laugh, make you think, and make sure you never see beauty the same way again.
This book...wow. Just plain wow. I knew it was going to be hilarious and quirky and thought-provoking, because all Libba Bray's other books are, but I had no idea it would impact me so strongly! I mean, this was probably the funniest book I've read all year - Libba Bray is a master of satire. Our beauty-and-perfection-obsessed-society is parodied and mocked in such a way that you read a section, immediately laugh out loud, re-read it, and then fall into deep thought, because, hey, it was undeniably amusing, but it sounds awfully, uncomfortably close to real life. I would think about how ridiculous something sounded and then realize that the exact same thing happens in our society all the time. A lot of this clever satire shows up in the form of commercial breaks - yes, commercial breaks - which are quite possibly the best literary device ever. However, even without the comments on society, there were so many snarky, laugh-out-loud moments that I swear I spent half the book in stitches. I loved how each of the characters was unique and had their own story, which made it really interesting to follow their different story arcs and feel for them when they went through ups and downs. I didn't cry for any of the characters, but I felt something that might be better - I felt empowered and I felt proud. Every time one of the girls were discovered their own strength, cast off a label, took control of their own future, or learned to love themselves, I cheered for them and I realized that if they could accept themselves, why couldn't I accept myself? I also adored how the characters were so very diverse. Different races, different backgrounds, different sexual orientations, different genders, different abilities, different hopes, and different views - all of them reflected reality.

It would be so easy for me to make a list of things I learned from Beauty Queens with items like "how to survive on a desert island", "not to make deals with crazy dictators", and "the evil villain's lair is always inside the volcano" - and I did, in fact, learn plenty about those things. But one of the things I adore about Libba Bray's writing is that it's layered. There is something more meaningful under the surface, which is not to say that what's on the surface isn't entertaining and fabulous, but the emotions and themes and significance underneath are so important. So, below is my 'real' list of what Beauty Queens really taught me about myself, about other people, about guys, about feminism, and about society:
  • I don't need to be so obsessed with how I look and what other people think of me. What matters is that I accept myself - fat, skinny, tall, short, smart, slow, any race, any gender, any disability, any sexual orientation. I deserve to be confident in myself.
  • I don't need to apologize when I express my opinions or talk about how I feel. My thoughts are just as important as anyone else's, so why should I say sorry?
  • Society does a lot to objectify females and undermine their self-esteem. Actually, people in general, not just girls. We need to stop letting harmful messages in the media and ridiculous standards define us.
  • You don't have to be a female to be a feminist.
  • There are guys out there who are jerks, yes. The ones who will objectify girls and disrespect them and then come back and beg for forgiveness. But there are also the guys who will accept girls for who they are.
  • People are complicated (I know, you had no idea). But seriously - we're all patchwork quilts of sorrows and joys and hopes and dreams and pains and cruelty and kindness and confidence and self-deprecation. And that means we're all different, and that means that we need to accept each other.
  • It's okay to be confused about who I am and what I want - I'll figure it out in the end, and yes, I will make mistakes along the way.
Clearly, I love this book, and it's definitely made a difference in my life and my viewpoint. Go read it! May your nails be perfectly manicured and your catapults well-stocked with stilettos for ammunition.

26 May 2011

Winners of City of Fallen Angels and Red Glove!

Thank you so much to everyone who entered the giveaways, and congratulations to the winners below! Enjoy your books.

Signed City of Fallen Angels :
Erica East

Signed Red Glove :

Both of these winners have been sent e-mails by me (from arshdeep.27@gmail.com) and have 48 hours to respond and claim their prizes, or a new winner will be chosen.

08 May 2011

Giveaway of SIGNED Red Glove by Holly Black!

So, back in April, I had the amazing experience of attending a signing by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black! Both ladies were incredibly funny and sweet, and I honestly was awed to be in their presence. It was a fantastic event - readings from the authors' books, a great question-answer session, and of course, getting books signed. However, I know that most people didn't have the opportunity to go to one of the signings, so I am giving away a signed copy of Red Glove! You can read my review of the book here.

Giveaway Info:
  • You must be 13 years or older to enter.
  • The giveaway is open only to residents of the U.S. (sorry to international residents!).
  • The winner will be chosen using random.org.
  • The giveaway is open until 11:59 p.m. PST on May 25, 2011.
  • The winner will be contacted by me through their e-mail and will have 48 hours to respond.
To enter, just fill out the form here. Good luck!

07 May 2011

Holly Black Would So Be an Emotion Worker.

Red Glove

Holly Black

5 Stars

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.

First Sentence:
I don't know whether it's day or night when the girl gets up to leave.

This book is absolute, concrete proof that if Holly Black was a curse worker, she would work emotions. She already has the part about wreaking total havoc on people's minds and feelings down - Red Glove left me not knowing whether to laugh, gasp, or cry (all three of which happened frequently throughout the entire novel). The plot has so many intricate twists and turns; you think you know what's going to happen, you are absolutely sure that you're correct, and then Holly Black springs something new on you and you're left reeling, utterly shocked - and then the process starts all over again.

The mystery is complex, and it clearly has personal consequences for Cassel. I honestly admit that my own guess for the killer turned out to be way off, and that's really what makes the mystery so good - you spend most of the book guessing different people and being stymied by obstacles and distractions, and then when you get to the part where you discover the identity of the murderer, you feel like you should have known the whole time, like "Why didn't I suspect that person? Seems like such a natural candidate now!" The last chapter - well, all but the last few pages - left me feeling satisfied and rather proud of Cassel, which is why I really shouldn't be so shocked that those final four pages were totally heartwrenching. I mean, did I really expect that Holly Black - Holly Black - was just going to leave me feeling all content and relaxed? The last few pages are just as torturous as the end of White Cat. However, I actually really liked it, because I have a feeling that the revelation at the end is going to make for some very, very interesting events in Black Heart.

The world that's created in the Curse Workers series is definitely one of my favorites. It's very complex and realistic, and I honestly have never encountered such a unique system of magic. The curse workers can do different things to people with a single touch, depending on what type of worker they are - luck, dream, physical, emotion, memory, death, or transformation. However, the awesome part is that they don't just get to go around cursing people with no consequences. There's something called blowback, which is kind of like karma - what goes around comes around, and when you work someone, you're affected too (for example, a memory worker works someone and then loses some of their own memories). I love how there are real issues presented; it's not like all the magic and cons are taking place and there's no retaliation from the government or the 'normal' people. In fact, a big part of the novel is about the protests taking place for curse worker rights, and the legal and social repercussions of forcibly testing people to see if they are workers are not. There are people like Governor Patton, who is completely against rights for workers, and people like Mrs.Wasserman, who is a leader in the fight against Proposition 2 (which proposes that everyone be tested). A teacher at Cassel's school is fired for assisting the kids in attending a protest for worker rights. Reality is definitely taken into account here, and I really admire Holly Black for addressing things like political issues and the morality of certain rights for people.

Cassel had to make a lot of decisions in Red Glove, and while not all of them were good ones, they were all incredibly tough to make. There's just so much bearing down on him - the Feds, Zacharov, and Lila, not to mention his own family - that it would be unrealistic if he made the 'good' decision all the time and stayed on high moral ground. Honestly, he's a pretty screwed-up person - I mean, with his upbringing and what his family put him through, how could he not be? However, it's impossible not to sympathize with him, even if he is scamming people left and right. And so when he does something that isn't 'good', I support him, because he shows that it's not always easy to distinguish between good and bad, and he's just a kid trying to figure it all out. You root for him every step of the way, emotionally messed-up con artist or not.

The characters in the Curse Worker series are fantastic. They seem very real, as if they could be your closest friends and your worst enemies. They're all well-constructed and have depth; you understand their conflicts and the motivations behind their decisions. You love them and hate them and yell at them for doing stupid things, but you never feel like they're unnatural or unrealistic. I adore Cassel. He's tortured and having a pretty rough time - he faces all of these crazy problems that most people will never have to deal with (like being coerced into becoming a murderer by his family), and yet he also has to figure out high school and friendships. There's this dark, bad-boy demeanor to him, this dangerous aura, that scares some people and makes others fall for him, but that's not the reason the reader is on his side - it's the fact that he's just as confused as the rest of us, just trying to figure things out. It's hard not to root for him, no matter what kind of murky moral future he faces. Then, there's Lila. Lila is possibly my favorite mobster ever. She's the daughter of crime boss Zacharov, and she knows she's got power. However, she does love Cassel (or does she?) and that means we also get to see a more vulnerable side of her. She's adventurous and beautiful and smart and conflicted and has serious problems, but there's no doubt that I love her anyway. Sam and Daneca were fairly minor characters in White Cat, but they're more important in Red Glove, and I really liked getting to know them better. I found myself anticipating seeing more of Sam's humor and Daneca's passion about her beliefs, and watching their relationship grow was sweet and later, heartwrenching. I also really like how Holly Black's cast of characters is diverse (and the Jace shoutout was great).

I love how the themes in Red Glove are so well-addressed. There are definitely some really powerful ideas in there, including messages about consent, family loyalties, and the thin line between right and wrong. While all of those ideas were really fascinating, the family issues are something I really enjoy discussing, because after all, these people are your family, your flesh and blood. They're supposed to be the ones you trust and love, and no matter what, they're supposed to be there for you. But what about when your family is completely crazy, in the illegal sense, and they've done so many things to you - forced you to become a murderer, stolen your memories, cursed the girl you love to love you back - what happens then? They're still your family, right? Or do you refuse to stand by them? Do you even have a choice when it comes to your family? These are all prickly issues, and they have only served to strengthen my insane love for families in YA (see: my obsession with Sarah Rees Brennan's The Demon's Lexicon series).

The crime in this series...well, I'm a sucker for the mob and for con artists, and when this awesome magic system comes into the picture, there's no way I can resist. The scams are very realistically done - I was actually rather tempted to try some of them, just to see if they would work. Cassel uses his smarts just as much as he uses his working ability to get away with things and con people, as do all the other workers, his mom especially. It's obvious that working people is an art, as is conning them, and it takes time and practice to develop it. It's not just about magic, it's also about influencing people and using sleight of hand.

The phrase 'emotional roller coaster' is used a lot, but I truly think that this book embodies it. I was deeply invested in the characters and in the story; I found myself gasping at each new twist in the plot and sighing at emotional encounters and bad turns for characters. I laughed at the witty banter, and towards the end, when Cassel had a rather difficult talk with Daneca concerning Lila, I realized that there were tears sliding down my face as I came to fully understand the decision that was being made. I was truly drawn into the dark, dangerous world from the very beginning, and the novel kept me in its grip until the very last page. There was amusement and shock and anguish and pain, all written so artfully that you felt these things just as strongly as Cassel himself.

There is no doubt that Red Glove was amazing. After finishing White Cat, I seriously doubted that Holly Black could outdo herself with the sequel, but here, she definitely has. If you haven't picked up this series yet, do yourself a favor and read it now - you won't regret it!