Doll Bones

cover artI’m a big Holly Black fan so it came as no surprise that I enjoyed this book. Doll Bones is an interesting story on several levels. Black is one of the few tween/teen authors who writes really compelling, believable male characters. Her male protagonists are not stereotypes or shallow, there is a depth to them that is unfortunately rare in contemporary literature. I like that Zach’s desire to play “the game” is not portrayed as overly childish or feminine even though it is noted some people in his life perceive it that way. He plays because he is a creative storyteller with a vivid imagination and he has an appreciation for the fierce and thoughtful nature of his playmates. The story is spooky, creepy, and yet heart-warming. Great for 11-13 year-olds with a sense of adventure and mixed feelings about growing up.

 

Black Heart Blog Tour- Interview With Holly Black

Iholly-blackf you haven’t read anything by Holly Black you need to correct this! She’s perhaps most well-known for the Spiderwick Chronicles and her dark faerie series that begins with Tithe, but has also been involved with some kick ass anthologies like Geektastic and Zombies vs. Unicorns. If my Twitter feed doesn’t lead me astray Holly hangs out with some of the coolest authors in YA, including Cassandra Clare and Scott Westerfeld.

What really got me into her writing is the Curse Worker series. You can read my reviews of all three books on this blog.

I had the honour of asking her a few questions as part of the Black Heart Blog Tour.

1.Cassel is my favourite male character in YA fiction, partly because the details make him feel real. Where do you get your inspiration for him?

“Thank you so much!  That really means a lot to me.

 My initial inspiration for Cassel came from a true crime book called SON OF A GRIFTER, about a kid who’d been raised (by his mother) to be a con artist and to sneer at people who obeyed laws.  When he got to be an adult, he had to basically invent a moral system for himself, because he’d never had one.  I was fascinated with a character who was torn between what he knew was possible to get away with and what he thought was right.

Cassel is also inspired by the classic noir hero who was damaged by something in his past (usually by WWI), who believes that he’s completely jaded — until a lady walks in.  He knows she’s no good, but he burns down what’s left of his world to help her, even though she often turns out to be even worse than he thought.  It’s an incredibly romantic shape for a book — and I wanted to tell my own version of it.”

2.  In Cassel’s world being a worker is hereditary but there doesn’t seem to be a pattern in families regarding what type of worker an individual is. When writing the series did you shape characters around their power or did you provide a power you thought suited their personality?

 “Being a worker is more prevalent in some families, but some workers are born into non-worker families, so it’s not purely genetic.

I chose the type of worker sometimes to parallel the character’s personality (Barron) and sometimes to contrast with it (Daneca), but I always knew the character before I decided on the power.  When I first started writing WHITE CAT, I wasn’t sure which of the two brothers would wind up being the memory worker, but once I knew more about them, it was easy to choose.”

3. The worker Mafia continues to play a role in the third book. Did you research any crime families to help you write about the Zacharovs?

 “I did a lot of research on crime families — on the East Coast, on the West Coast, in Japan, and in Russia.  I wanted to create a worker world that felt both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, which meant cherry picking from research and also making up things.  In different times and places, organizations did things differently, but there is often an element of giving up one’s old life, being loyal first and foremost to the organization and some form of marking oneself.

From there, I came up with the idea of the light cutting of the throat — to mark the death of the old life — and the rubbing ash in the wound to create keloid scars, for the permanent commitment that the marks would create.  I love the idea of it and I loved the idea of how scary it would be to see someone with those marks and know what it meant.”

4. What do you hope readers will get out of reading Black Heart?

” I hope that it will be satisfying, fun, and full of surprises.  This is the end of what we see of Cassel’s journey, but there’s still a lot ahead of him.  He has to make some big, final choices — about love, about family, and ultimately about who he wants to be.”

5.   Can we expect any more from the Curse Workers series, or at least something set in that world?

“Right now, I’m not planning any more in the series, but I will never say never.   This is a good stopping place, though.  It feels like the right ending — at least for now.

Next year, I have two stand alone books coming out, both very different from the Curse Workers series: a middle grade (my first since Spiderwick!) called DOLL BONES and a teen book called THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN.”

Thank you to Holly Black for answering my questions! Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour.

Black Heart

*I received the ARC of Black Heart by Holly Black courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada

This book was AMAZING. I was dying to read it because I loved the first two but had to read my award books first. Normally if I’m this excited for a book I’m disappointed. I wasn’t. If you haven’t read White Cat or Red Glove go read those first.

The plot is great, and has some sneaky twists I didn’t expect. There are scary parts that make your heart race, there are sexy parts that do the same. Romance is not a big part of the story but the glimpses of it we see through the male perspective are pretty awesome. The action comes in powerful waves. I wasn’t sure what could happen in this novel that could live up to the rest of the series, but I was impressed.

The best part is the way the writing flows. I can never put down these books. After dredging through a bunch of books lately that were not really my thing this novel was like cheesecake- smooth, sweet, and gone before you know it.

Cassel is one of my all-time favourite fictional characters. He’s brave, strong, intelligent, loyal, mischievous and handsome. He’s a criminal who wants to be good. I love him for his vulnerability more than his strength. Black’s writing is at it’s best when he is questioning himself. His relationships with his family, crime family, friends, and Federal Agent colleagues are very complex. He isn’t sure who he is or who he wants to be, which influences who’s side he can be on and who he trusts at any given moment.I’m not doing him justice at all.

The secondary characters feel almost as real as Cassel. Barron is a sociopath who someone manages to earn some sympathy from the reader. Lila is a mobster princess who you can’t help but love. Daneca is brilliant but has terrible taste in men. Sam is a nerdy sweetheart who proves himself to be pretty bad ass. They are all so much more than this, and you can’t help but feel like you know them.

My only complaint is I don’t like the new covers because I think they are too girly for a series that is very guy friendly. This is a common problem in YA publishing that irks me.

City of Bones

I was fortunate enough to get City of Bones at a library book sale for criminally cheap.

I can see why Cassandra Clare and Holly Black are friends (or at least seem like they are, I don’t know them personally – unfortunately!) because they have the same wonderful dark, sarcastic humour. The tone of their books are similar, with that edgy-funny feel to an action/adventure story with magic.

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1)The dialogue (especially in the first half) felt incredibly real; unlike the last couple of books I’ve been reading. These were more believable young characters in a fantasy than the characters in realistic fiction. I love that, when the magic and mythology doesn’t take away from the humanity of characters.

The mythology of this series is certainly ambitious. So intricate! I don’t think I would want to take on so many types of supernatural beings in one novel, I’d spend half the time on exposition and bore the reader. Clare never bored me though, she wove the world around the story seamlessly. I had a hard time putting the book down, because I was so immersed in the world.

This is a series I’ve been meaning to read for what seems like ages, and part of me regrets waiting so long to discover it’s level of awesome- but another part of me is glad because YIPEE I already own the next book and have the 3rd waiting for me at the library. That’s the beauty of being a latecomer to a book, you don’t have a long wait for sequels.

I didn’t like the last fourth of the book nearly as much as the beginning. This was largely because I predicted what would happen and was disappointed to be right. I wanted so badly to be wrong about a certain plot twist!! I find it to be icky and reminiscent of the worst part about Star Wars (which I love anyway) and a lot of soap operas. However, the plot twist I’m not a fan of was handled very nicely, and I’m still eager to dig into City of Ashes.

Red Glove

*I received this ARC from Simon & Schuster Canada

* If you haven’t read White Cat, there are spoilers here, so go read that first.

Holly Black is one of the few authors who can make me fall in love with a killer. This book had a fast pace, characters with depth, a plot with surprising twists and all around awesome writing.

Red Glove picks up not too long after White Cat left off, and Cassel is still trying to wrap his head around everything that happened. He was betrayed and used by his brothers, the girl he loves was cursed to love him so he can’t in good conscience be with her, and he discovered he has a rare power that will make everyone want to use or kill him. That’s a lot to swallow, so even if he was only trying to survive school I would feel for him. Of course it’s not that easy; he is approached by federal agents and pressured into helping solve murders and disappearances he suspects he knows too much about.

This is a book that will appeal to both boys and girls. The paranormal mob families make for an interesting backdrop, and the plot is a mystery with lots of twists.

What I really love about this book:

  • The little things about Cassel that make him seem so real!
    • When people ask him how he is he automatically says “good” because that’s the response strangers and acquaintances normally expect. He doesn’t think about how he really feels before responding, but feels guilty when he realizes this is a funeral and he shouldn’t be good.
    • When he naps or sleeps late the way Black describes his sluggishness is dead on
    • he’s afraid of what his nightmares say about him
    • The way he feels in rich people’s houses rings true. Class divide is always awkward when visiting friends.
  • His extreme temptation to be with Lila despite her curse, and all the conflicting feelings of guilt and longing are convincing. The sexual tension and chemistry between them is phenomenally written.
  • The funny moments. When the fire alarm goes off and Sam’s reaction is “The Playstation!” unhooking it while everyone else scrambles out… I laughed so hard, because my boyfriend would do the same.
  • The worker rights movement, and the paranoia of the public. The thing is, at least this is a prejudice I can somewhat understand, people having powers that could hurt you. I’d be on the worker rights side of the debate, but I get where the other side is coming from. People in our society flip out over differences like sexual orientation and race, so I don’t think Black is being unrealistic about the mistreatment of the workers. If anything I think they’d probably be treated worse.
  • The pressures of joining the family business (crime)

I’ve never been disappointed by Holly Black’s writing, I always fly through her books and want more. Red Glove never dragged for me, I had to force myself to put it down, and it surprised me at a few points. I can’t wait for Black Heart!

End of 2010 Survey!

The Perpetual Page Turner is hosting this survey. Go to her blog to link to the responses by tons of bloggers.

White Cat (Curse Workers, #1)1. Best book of 2010? This is hard! Since there are so many great books I’m going to interpret this as: best YA book published in 2010 to narrow it down. Holly Black’s White Cat was pretty incredible. It has action, mystery and suspense, not to mention character depth and all around awesomeness. I’m picking this book because it’s not just something I loved myself, it’s one that I confidently recommended to my younger brother, my mother and my friends. It is very rare that I think a book would appeal to all of them but Holly Black’s writing will be appreciated by a variety of audiences.

Dateable Rules, The: A Guide to the Sexes2. Worst book of 2010? I’m not usually a book basher, but there was this really terrible book I picked up at work. Dateable Rules, The: A Guide to the Sexes was really awful. At first I thought it looked pretty cool, but um no on closer inspection it’s incredibly sexist and makes me angry. According to this book men need to “conquer” and be in power in the relationship, and women need to “learn to shut up”. The fact that I disagreed with the religious nonsense just added to my general dislike of the book.

linger cover art3. Most Disappointing Book of 2010?  I was most disappointed with Linger by Maggie Stiefvater. I loved Shiver so much that I over-anticipated the sequel. It’s not that it was terrible, it just didn’t live up to the hype in my mind. I’ll still read the next book in the series but my expectations have gone down a few notches.

Generation Dead (Generation Dead, #1)4. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2010? I was most surprised by Generation Dead. I forced myself to read a zombie book (I’m quite squeamish) because I was TRYING to have a zombie night at the library for teens (no one showed up but that’s a different story). I was pleasantly surprised by Daniel Waters! His book is a beautiful social commentary about discrimination, and I found myself loving the zombies and their friends. The book I was dreading turned out to my one of my favourites, and I’ve been recommending it a lot.

5. Book you recommended to people most in 2010? I have a hard time answering this because I recommend things every day, at work, to friends, on the blog…I’be probably promoted Scaredy Squirrel the most but that’s not YA. My recommendations really depend on how I’m recommending it to.

The Hunger Games Trilogy Boxset
6. Best series you discovered in 2010? The Hunger Games trilogy! I can’t believe I resisted reading it for so long. Everyone kept telling me to read it and I was like “kids killing each other? Ick!”  because I thought it was just violence for violence’s sake. Once I realized that Collins is critiquing violence, reality tv, and oppressive governments, I was all in. I love dystopia and social commentary. Plus there’s tons of suspenseful action, Katniss kicks butt and Peeta is a sweetie, how could you not love the series?

7. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2010? Suzanne Collins, Daniel Waters, Gemma Malley, Kelley Armstrong, Holly Black, Kim Harrison, Simone Elkeles….

8. Most hilarious read of 2010?  The Feegles in The Wintersmith had me laughing pretty hard.

9. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2010?  The Hunger Games trilogy. I read it in 4 days and it would have been less if I didn’t have to wait to get the next book.

10. Book you most anticipated in 2010? I think it was Linger but I mentioned earlier how that worked out.

11. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2010?


nightshade cover links to reviewRules of Attraction (Perfect Chemistry, #2)Sisters Red cover art

12. Most memorable character in 2010?  I was most struck by Cassel from White Cat, Chloe from the Summoning and Haymitch from Hunger Games but so many more characters touched me this year

 13. Most beautifully written book in 2010? I love the Scottish and formal language of The Forest Laird. Laini Taylor’s Lips Touch Three Times was pretty poetic.

14. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2010? Most books have a pretty big impact on me, I don’t think I can choose.

 
15. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2010 to finally read?  The Hunger GamesI’ve already explained why

 Book Blogging in 2010 (optional)

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2010? To be honest I just started really following any blogs in 2010. Jan 2010 my friend Erin opened my eyes to book blogs and I’ve been eating them up ever since. Some of my favourites are The Green Bean Teen Queen, Forever Young Adult, The Story Siren, Pure Imagination, and YA Bliss. I’ve also been reading Mark Reads  every day and he’s a good one to follow for a specific book but he has less variety.

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2010?  I liked reviewing The Resistance, Generation Dead, and Sisters Red (I have a lot of trouble deciding)

3. Best discussion you had on your blog?  I wrote a post about why sometimes reading formulaic books is reassuring. I unfortunately haven’t had enough people commenting to work up a good discussion between people. It’s something I’d like to have next year.

 4. Most thought-provoking review or discussion you read on somebody else’s blog? I really enjoy the discussions on the Forever Young Adult blog. They manage to be hilarious but bring up serious issues at the same time. For example their post about resolutions that makes some good points about changes I’d like to see in YA writing/publishing but is laugh out loud funny.

 

5. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)? The Ontario Library Association Super Conference was amazing. It was my first conference and I was thrilled just to be on the expo floor getting autographed books, fighting stormtroopers and learning about new technology. That I got to go to informative sessions beyond that blew my mind. I can’t wait for more conferences.

6. Best moment of book blogging in 2010? This is all really new to me and I’m pretty easily excited, so I have trouble picking a specific moment.

7. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)? Um I’m gonna go with book trailers, I don’t think I knew about them in 2009 and they are a great way to promote books. I also love my new Kobo.

Awesome Author Tour

Have you heard about the Smart Chicks Kick It author tour? It looks incredible!

Kelley Armstrong and Holly Black are two of my favourite YA authors (authors in general really…) and to hear about events with both of them warms my booklover heart.

Melissa Marr and Alyson Noel, the other two headliners for the tour have been on my to-read list for quite some time.

Other big names like Melissa De La Cruz and Jackson Pearce will be at select events.

The downside is there is only one Canadian stop and I can’t make it 😦

September 25th, 2010 2 PM @ CHAPTERS BRAMPTON (52 Quarry Edge Drive) Brampton, ON
Alyson Noel, Kelley Armstrong, Melissa Marr, Melissa de la Cruz, Jeri Smith-Ready, Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl