White Cat Written by: Holly Brook Hardcover: 320 pages Publisher: Margaret K McElderry Books Language: English May 2010, $17.99 Genre: Young Adult/Urban Fantasy
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 conmen.
Holly Black has created a gripping tale of mobsters and dark magic where a single touch can bring love — or death — and your dreams might be more real than your memories.
I love books I can relate to. Sometimes it is a character, a plot point, a way of speaking or acting, or even a setting. I first discovered Holly Black when a friend gave me Tithe for my birthday. I loved it because it was set in New Jersey and South Jersey is where I graduated high school many moons ago. The Pine Barrens was where I spent my teenage years and frequent visits to the Popcorn Zoo down the road made my summers enjoyable. So I will always have a fondness for Holly Black because of where her Modern Faerie Tale series took place. Not only was it a great series but I could imagine her world full of A&Ps and Wawas just with some fey mixed in. It made the stories that more real and of course my imagination was a very happy camper.
I had been eyeing White Cat for a while now after YA Book Club is over and we browse the shelves for our next pick. It was my turn again to pick and I prayed it would be better than Eyes Like Stars which was just bad. The cover was meh, but I liked the back blurb. Like Leverage but with Hands of Power. I think I was drawn to it because there weren’t your average urban fantasy staples. There are no werewolves, vampires, or zombies. There is magic, in a sense, but a whole new alternative history to go with it.
Holly Black colors a world where a small portion of the population is a bit special. They are gifted with certain abilities that are transferred by touch. Some can give you luck or take it away, others involve emotions, physical which involves pain or healing, dreams, memory, death and the most rare of all transmutation. While Curse Work is banned in the USA, curse workers are mostly involved within the Mafia as muscle, as con artists, etc. After all when who you are is essentially illegal it is not hard to imagine that you go underground and begin to hang with everything else that no one talks about but still exists. Outfits like the Mafia have turned curse workers into something to be feared and why wouldn’t you be when a single brush of a finger could turn your heart into stone or make you forget your life. There are protections such as gloves, gloves, gloves or charms and amulets made of stone that become null once you have been worked.
Cassel Sharpe grew up in this world. He’s a con artist like the rest of his family, a bookie by trade at his posh boarding school. But Cass isn’t like the rest of the family. He isn’t a curse worker. But he does have secrets of his own, like the fact that he killed his best friend when he was fourteen and that not only did his family cover up the murder but that she was the daughter of the head of the Zacharov family. When Cassel wakes up from a nearly suicidal bout of sleepwalking he is sent home, but he can’t get a dream out of his head, one where he was chasing a white cat but said cat may want to kill him or tell him something important. Life at home is interesting. His mom is still in jail for having worked an influential person, his father is dead, his grandfather seems a bit crazy and his two brothers are acting odd around him. Something isn’t right. As Cassel’s world begins to both crumble and be far more illuminated than he ever thought, Cass discovers that sometimes the worst con of all is the one that is being played on you.
Things I loved: As always, spoilers ahead so be wary if you have not yet read the book. One thing I really like about Holly Black is I think that she times and effort into thinking about the world she creates and how things work in that world. For example though magic is called curse work there are rules to it. Not only is magic uncommon, but it has its price when used. Think you can just make someone forget their life without a bit of blowback forcing you into early Alzheimer’s? There are also ways to tell whether you will be a curse worker, something scientific in fact and once you are known to be a worker, the fact that you have to register. The charms, which may give some protection, only work once and specific charms only work against specific curses. Once you’ve been worked, they break and you are off to find another charm. I like all of these because it keeps her world balanced. So even if you do have the power to transform anything and anyone, it is not without some pretty severe consequences.
But I absolutely love the idea that a touch could be so dangerous. And how that simple fact affects your world as well. I am a toucher. When I talk to someone I usually touch them. For me it forms a connection, the I’m talking to you’ not ‘At you’ sort of thing. Plus it calms me. Touch is taboo in this world. It has to be when a simple brush of someone’s fingertips could make you fall in love or kill you. Imagine how deadly an assassin could be by just brushing a stranger in a crowded street. Scary. Awesome.
Holly Black does well with a male protagonist and his wife. Sometimes it is glaringly obvious when a writer tries to write a character of the opposite sex. They do or say things that aren’t quite right. I never felt that way with Cassel or even his brothers. In fact I loved the relationship dynamics between Cass and both his brothers and the rest of his family. Family can be quite complicated and like all relationships whether family or otherwise there is definitely some manipulations that occur. How twisted those manipulations may be remains to be seen. But back to Cass. I loved that Cass is a flawed character. After all, he is a con man. But at the core he is a good person and one that you root for in the end. As a teen he makes mistakes. He can be selfish, says and does things without thinking and of course he tries to do everything himself without the aid of others even if it is dangerous. That makes him human and all the more real.
Of course anyone who is into fairytales, legends, folklore and such will see the White Cat connections, but I love how Holly Black made it her own. I also really loved some of the small little things in the book that were just memorable: a house that was obviously that of a hoarder, Sam’s biodiesel hearse (may I have this please?), Cassel’s thoughts sometimes, etc. Also I kind of want to hug Barron a lot. Once you’ve read it, you’ll understand. Plus Cass’s grandfather is just cool. Hitman by night, cranky old grandpa who makes you mow the lawn and take out the trash when you spend summers with him by day.
Things I didn't love so much: I did have a few problems with this book, but they are minor enough that it didn’t make me obsess or dislike the book. I was disappointed in how clueless Cass was because as a reader I think we see the plot twists coming a mile away. In fact the moment you bring up transmutation, I knew. But then I remember that I have not been manipulated like Cass has. We rely so much on our memories to tell us how the world works, on our relationships, on our lives as a whole. However, if someone tampered with those precious things are you really to blame to not see things the way the rest of the world may see it. Especially when it comes from family, the one place where you should feel absolutely safe? I think I let these little things slide because the story and Cassel’s character as a whole is so engaging that you scoff and move on. There were still some turns I didn’t see coming though.
Yet, I really would love for there to be a normal character who excels in a world where everyone is paranormal. I would have loved for Cass to just be the norm he wanted to be. Perhaps that is why the reader sees something from a mile away because we know that there has to be something extraordinary about Cassel. We know that he isn’t just a normal and because that is stuck in our heads we see the twists and turns even if our protagonist doesn’t. It’s a minor gripe though, but in YA urban fantasy I really just want to be surprised by author’s choices, to be different in small subtle ways. Meh.
And of course you cannot help but not like the majority of the characters. They are not nice people. Hard to root for a family who is willing to prey on their own.
Buy or Borrow: Buy if you like Holly Black and her other titles. I enjoyed it and its staying in the Smirking library.
Part of: A series. Book One: White Cat Book Two: Red Glove Book Three: Black Heart
Also Recommended: If you liked this please read Holly Blacks Modern Faerie Tale series beginning with Tithe. There is also a great anthology of her short stories called The Poison Eaters.
I love books. As I am sure most of you do as well. So there have been two major events this year which have made my to be read pile grow exponentially. One of them was the closing down of my local Borders. The other one was Sunday in which the local library had a fill your own bag with as many books as you can carry and all for a mere $2. I filled three bags. The books were:
01. The Secrets of the Fire King by Kim Edwards 02. Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff 03. Kindred by Octavia E Butler 04. Are You There Vodka? Its Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler 05. Blue Bloods by Melissa De La Cruz 06. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde 07. The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory 08. Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith 09. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See 10. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi 11. The Most Beautiful Book in the World by Eric Emmanuel Schmitt 12. Artemisia by Alexandra LaPierre 13. The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore 14. Dexter in the Dark by Jeff Lindsay 15. Return of the Bunny Suicides by Andy Riley 16. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris 17. Innocent in Death by JD Robb 18. Barrel Fever by David Sedaris 19. A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan 20. One Day by David Nicholls 21. X-Files – Ruins by Kevin J Anderson 22. The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd 23. Size 12 is Not Fat by Meg Cabot 24. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 25. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 26. Every Boy’s Got One by Meg Cabot 27. The Alien Invasion Survival Handbook by WH Mumfrey 28. Coyote Blue by Christopher Moore 29. Blameless by Gail Carriger 30. Born Standing Up by Steve Martin 31. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn 32. Bone by Fae Myenne Ng 33. Monster Island by Christopher Golden and Thomas Sniegoski 34. Revelations by Melissa De La Cruz 35. Devil Bones by Kathy Reichs 36. Bloodline by F Paul Wilson 37. Origin in Death by JD Robb 38. Revolt of the Dwarves by Rose Estes
Total Books: 38 List Price on Books: $550.27 Total Spent: $6 Hells yeah!
The Muppets (2011) Directed By: James Bobin Written By: Jason Segel, Nicholas Stoller Genre: FAMILY Time: 1 hr 43 min Starring: Amy Adams, Jason Segel, Chris Cooper, Jack Black, and of course the Muppets Plot: With the help of three fans, The Muppets must reunite to save their old theater from a greedy oil tycoon.
Comments: It’s time to play the music, it’s time to light the lights. I am a child of the eighties and so I grew up on the Muppets and all things Jim Henson. I would have been Jareth’s bride in a second especially if Ludo could be my friend within the Labyrinth and I loved the Mythology brought to life in the Storyteller. Of course Fizgig should have been my own little terrifying puppy creature from The Dark Crystal though please let there not be any Skeksis. Sesame Street taught me a variety of things as a child. And finally Kermit and friends made me laugh, made me dream, and let my imagination soar. Jim Henson’s Muppets have always been there even into modern day with my beloved Farscape. But there has always been a very special place for Kermit, Beaker, Animal and even Miss Piggy. They are the Muppets after all. How can you not just love them all to pieces?
I remember watching The Muppet Show with my mom, singing to the opening theme grinning like a small idiot. I may not have recognized all of the superstar hosts, but it didn’t matter. I have the first two seasons of the Muppet Show on DVD, along with the movies save for Treasure Island and Muppets from Space. The Bohemian Rhapsody cover is watched whenever I am in a bad mood and now I cannot sing it without doing Animals part (Maaamaaa! Mama?) and I bought the Green Album last month with all of its covers of classic Muppet songs. And let’s face it Emmett Otter is kind of a Christmas staple in my house. There is something about the Muppets. It’s the happy feeling you get after watching. With the Muppets there is hope. And one thing that is great is that the Muppets haven’t changed. Statler and Waldorf are still cantankerous, Fozzie still tells horrible jokes and Miss Piggy still loves Kermie. Even though this film was probably to introduce a whole new generation to the Disney channel generation of the wonder that is the Muppets, I think it was really for kids like me who still refuse to grow up and know all of the lyrics to the Rainbow Connection. The movie is a giant trip through nostalgia and it certainly jerks on the heart strings a bit (especially when Kermit is going through his rolodex and trying to get a guest star only realizing that many of his old human friends have moved on, forgotten about them, or simply passed away). I love Jason Segal for being such a Muppets fan and bringing them back to me and not just because he is Marshall on HIMYM.
While the film is a little slow to get going, it is a fun roller coaster ride of nostalgia after that. I like Walter and even in the opening scenes when he quickly discovers, as he grows up, that he is not quite like his brother I kind of dig him. The songs that are thrown in throughout the film are fun as well and while Muppet or a Man doesn’t really hold a candle to Its Not Easy Being Green, I found myself singing along with the chorus. Then again I am one of those odd sing in the shower, in my car, and whenever else I can types. Just kooky that way.
Like many my age who have seen this film and loved it to pieces it was everything I was hoping it to be and a little more that I didn’t realized I needed or wanted. I left the theatre with a giant smile on my face singing Mahna Mahna. My day was complete. I left a happy lady. I think you will too if you love the Muppets still. It was great to see the gang again. Lets hope it wont be another decade before we see them again.
Rent/Cinema?: Go see it on the big screen. Worth the money. Definitely worth owning as far as I am concerned.
Immortals (2011) Directed By: Tarsem Singh Written By: Charley Palapanides, Vlas Parlapanides Genre: ACTION/FANTASY/DRAMA Time: 1 hr 49 min Starring: Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke, Stephen Dorff, Freida Pinto and Luke Evans Plot: Eons after the Gods won their mythic struggle against the Titans, a new evil threatens the land. Mad with power, King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) has declared war against humanity. Amassing a bloodthirsty army of soldiers disfigured by his own hand, Hyperion has scorched Greece in search of the legendary Epirus Bow, a weapon of unimaginable power forged in the heavens by Ares. Only he who possesses this bow can unleash the Titans, who have been imprisoned deep within the walls of Mount Tartaros since the dawn of time and thirst for revenge. In the king's hands, the bow would rain destruction upon mankind and annihilate the Gods. But ancient law dictates the Gods must not intervene in man's conflict. They remain powerless to stop Hyperion...until a peasant named Theseus (Henry Cavill) comes forth as their only hope. Secretly chosen by Zeus, Theseus must save his people from Hyperion and his hordes. Rallying a band of fellow outsiders-including visionary priestess Phaedra (Freida Pinto) and cunning slave Stavros (Stephen Dorff)-one hero will lead the uprising, or watch his homeland fall into ruin and his Gods vanish into legend.
Comments: There were a few things I had a grasp on before going into this film. One: Tarsem Singh makes pretty movies and his costumes are lovely which is evident if you have seen either The Fall or The Cell. And Two: Knowing your Greek myths are about as relevant as they were with the Clash of the Titans remake. My expectations were fairly low. I expected to ogle Henry Cavill’s abs, wonder why they let Mickey Rourke be in films, and completely understand why Zeus got so much play if he looked like Luke Evans. Basically I expected to be disappointed about the whole 3D thing and spending far too much money on something that really doesn’t occur and to be entertained by pretty people and pretty art direction. But I also expected the plot to be either convoluted or confusing, a lot of the whole slow-mo gore and again asking myself what Hollywood sees in Mickey Rourke.
I was entertained. I liked it. Call me weird. I am probably a small handful of people that would probably see it again. For those who do not know their Greek mythos this is probably a good thing. If it weren’t for a trident, you never would have been able to tell Kellan Lutz was Poseidon. And they definitely play it fast and loose with Theseus’s tale and yet I kinda dug it. It’s amazing how stories in just a few decades can grow and expand and grow into something legendary, let alone Greek mythos. So a Minotaur in the maze was a crazed bad guy with a bull’s head helmet. When Theseus brings out the head most would not see the human face beneath it even if they knew it to be true. Over time, you just leave out the human bits. It was a nice take on mythology, but maybe that is just me. I will say I love the costumes, which I know for some is going to be a big giant turnoff. Its Tarsem Singh style and I completely dug the Oracle costumes. I think probably the only distracting thing were the damn helmets for some of the Gods. Other than that they are just part of how visual Tarsem Singhs films are. Speaking of visuals…Henry Cavil is pretty. Had to say it.
The film does have its flaws, but not so many that I hated it. The casting is okay. As much as I love Stephen Dorff, his lines were laughable and I don’t think to the extent expected. Now let’s talk Mr. Rourke. Sure I am a fan of 9 ½ weeks and the Wrestler was okay, but the man phoned this one in. Hyperion lacks any depth to his character. He’s a bad guy. Whoopie. I don’t understand why? Mostly I see a lot of bigger bad asses as his henchmen while Hyperion does vaguely evil things and Mickey Rourke delivers flat dialogue. But Hyperion isn’t the only one who doesn’t make sense. We have oracles, but then we have a King who doesn’t believe in the Gods to such a point that I just rolled my eyes. I am not saying there aren’t some bad characterizations or glaring plot holes, but maybe there was enough to keep my senses happy campers.
I know this film won’t be for everyone, but for me it was a guilty pleasure. I kinda dug it in the way that I dig Queen of the Damned or the Fright Night remake. Maybe I am just easily entertained.
Rent/Cinema?: if you are a fan of Tarsem Singh’s films it is worth a matinee. Otherwise wait to see it when it comes to Redbox.
30 something. female. gemini (which explains a lot). pop-culture junkie. voracious reader and girl gamer. addicted to music and podcasts. unabashed film junkie. fascinated by the arts, mythology, traveling, languages (speaks french, spanish and gaelic) and obsessed with anything even remotely Joss Whedon related. hearts kara 'starbuck' thrace, nathan fillion and cookies. die hard romantic. ravenclaw. browncoat. crafter. hates closed minds & closed hearts. sweet, quirky, loving, snarky Celt. loves to dance, hates being cold. sings in the shower and in the car. procrastinator. nice girl.