Monday, April 26, 2010

Los Angeles Festival of Books

On Sunday, I went to the annual Festival of Books held at UCLA. My family and I make it an annual excursion and always buy copious amounts of books. This year was one of the best years, in my opinion. We arrived before anything opened so we could get a good parking spot. It's usually really sunny and really hot. Every year I get sunburnt, but this year I remembered to bring a hat and wear sunscreen. Plus, there was a nice breeze all day, so it wasn't as insufferably hot as years past.

I only saw one panel, but it was a great one. It was called Fiction, Bloody Fiction, and featured Seth Grahame-Smith (author of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter), Christopher Farnsworth (author of the upcoming novel Blood Oath which looks awesome!), and Micheal Shea (author of The Extra), moderated by Tod Goldberg. These four authors are so funny all together. Seth Grahame-Smith was the undisputed star, provoking the most questions and the longest signing lines. His new novel, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, looks amazing! I've heard so many good things about it from history and horror buffs alike. His next novel will be getting away from the mash-up genre, but there's no specifics on what it is yet. Christopher Farnsworth's debut novelalso looks very good. It doesn't come out until May, so he didn't stay for the signing. I was hoping his book would be on sale at the festival, but no luck. Blood Oath is about a vampire secret agent working for the president. It's going to be a series and he has been contracted to write 10 books! Michael Shea was probably the most well read and seasoned of the panel. He has written a great many books. The Extra, is a dystopian novel about humans being pitted against giant spider robots for money and the amusement of millions of viewers.

After the panel, I got my copies of How to Survive a Horror Movie and The Extra signed. My sister ran over to a different area to get my copy of American Psycho signed, since Bret Easton Ellis was there. His panel was at the same time as the one I went to, but it turned out ok since my sister got in line for me early. I didn't get to meet him myself since the line was super long, but I still have my signed book. I bought a grand total of 8 books. (yay!) It's been a while since I have bought any books, so I went a little crazy. I got a signed copy of The Kindly Ones by Neil Gaiman. The proceeds went to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which fights against censorship and for first amendment rights of comic book professionals. Then I bought Feed by Mira Grant, Hourglass by Claudia Gray, Zombie Tales 3 and 4, The Extra by Michael Shea,Rosemary and Rue by Seanan Mcguire, and Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter.

One of my favorite parts of the festival was the literary characters walking around. It's a great way to engage children in reading when they can meet the people they read about in books. This is the hungry, hungry caterpillar. Isn't it the cutest? I had loads of fun, but I don't have any pictures because I forgot my camera. :(

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Curse Workers: White Cat

Cassel Sharpe comes from a family of curse workers. These people can manipulate people or things, such as luck, emotion, death, transformation, among others. Only a fraction of a percent of people in America has these abilities. Using their powers is illegal, so most of these workers are either con artists or in the mafia. This includes all of Cassel's immediately family, except for him. He has no powers, the odd one out in his family. He is still involved in crime, including killing his best friend (and mafia princess) Lila three years ago. While his mother is in jail, he tries to lead a relatively normal life and create an identity for himself separate from his family. Until he has a dream that a white cat ate his tongue and he chases it down, only to wake up on the roof of his dorm with no way of getting down. He is temporarily kicked out of school only to be plunged into the craziness that is his family once more. He knows that his brothers are keeping things from him. How can he figure out anything when he doesn't even know if his own memories are real?

I have never read a book by Holly Black because her books just never appealed to me for some reason. Now I'm kicking myself because White Cat is so good that it is easily one of my favorite young adult books. Cassel Sharpe is a great protagonist. He's smart, clever, and cynical, but at his core, he's a good person. Although the reader knows at the outset that he has committed a horrible crime, Holly Black manages to make him a sympathetic and relatable character. I really feel for him and the hard situation with his family. It's a horrible thing when you don't belong anywhere and you can't even trust the people closest to you. Cassel is a very different main character than is typical than most young adult novels.

The alternate universe in this book is utterly unique and detailed. I've never read another book quite like it. I really liked that the reader is just thrown into a world almost like the one we live, but slightly different, without any initial explanations. Then things begin to unfold and make sense as you go along. This device is very similar to many adult science fiction books. If you're looking for a paranormal romance story, you won't find it here. This world is flawed and gritty. It's a place where the endings aren't happy and the people are definitely not perfect. The stark realism makes this story hit me harder than most young adult novels out there. The story is suspenseful, breathtaking, and infuriating at points. Some plot twists were predictable, but others seemed to slap me across the face out of being so very unexpected. I really enjoyed trying to sort out the truth alongside Cassel.

I highly recommend White Cat to just about everyone and I am going to be one of the first to buy the next in the series. Before that, I need to go out and read the rest of her books as soon as possible.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Still Sucks to Be Me: The All-true Confessions of Mina Smith

Still Sucks to Be Me picks up just after the first book ends. Mina Hamilton is now a vampire. She's just getting used to her new abilities, but her life/undeath is complete. She has her best friend, Serena, and her wonderful boyfriend, George. What more could a person ask for? It would have been perfect if the Vampire Relocation Agency hadn't forced her family to fake their deaths and relocate to a teeny tiny city named Cartville in the middle of nowhere (also known as Louisiana). Now Mina is thrown into a completely different environment, without any support. Serena, while she knows Mina is alive, has to stay in California and George goes to reconnect with his parents in Brazil. (Gorgeous beach babes may or may not be involved.) At her new school, she's popular because she's from California, but that comes with a whole set of new problems, including a raging jealous rival and Cameron, a mysterious and sexy vampire. Plus a goth vampire wannabe is trying to kill her best friend. Can Mina's life suck any more?

Kimberly Pauley's Still Sucks to Be Me is just as charming, light hearted, and funny as its predecessor. It's completely different from most of the other vampire teen lit out there that focuses on forbidden relationships, tortured souls, and general gloom and doom. Stuff like that doesn't happen in real teens' lives. Mina is just a regular teenager, who now needs to drink blood and is pretty much immortal. But don't think that being a vampire is a picnic. You have to make sure not to get photographed, keep your strength in check, and keep your diet a secret. Mina is one of my favorite vampire heroines. Her observations and insights are funny as well as intelligent. I could never get bored reading from her point of view. I also really enjoyed her journey entries and the truth (or untruth) of vampire myths on the header of each chapter complete with cute drawings.

I love the new setting in Louisiana. It allows Mina to get used to a small town, where everyone knows everyone else's business. Louisiana also has a rich vampire history. In the novel, vampires dress in the goth style and sell vampire souvenirs because of that history. I like when vampire novels pay homage instead of ignoring the vast history of vampire literature. The new cast of characters is also enjoyable to read. Cameron is my favorite new character. He is mysterious and attractive, but not tortured and whiny like Angel or Edward. Throughout most of the story, the reader doesn't know what side he is on, lending to his complexity as a character. I almost hoped that George wouldn't come back to see where the relationship with Cameron would lead.
Still Sucks to Be Me is a unique teen vampire read for those that are sick and tired of the unrealistic drama of those typical vampire books. If there is going to be another book in the series, I hope it gets published faster because I can't wait!
*****My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins*****
**This book comes out on May 11! Pre-order here.**
**Check out Kimberly Pauley's awesome site for goodies and cool stuff!**
**Read my review on the first book here.**