Sunday, May 15, 2011

White Cat by Holly Black



From the back page:

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.

My review:

Whenever someone tries to tell me I won't figure out what it is they're lying about or hiding, I have to try to think about all the things they could possibly be talking about. So when I read the above description of Holly Black's new book "White Cat," (book 1 in what may turn into a series) I had to try guessing what would happen. She tricked me a few times--but I figured out one deceit a few chapters before I think she'd have liked. This is a book for mystery fanatics and Young Adults alike--it's got plenty of action, with calm points, as well as some healthy suspense.

The characters are fun and untrustworthy and you won't know whether or not you should like Cassel--I wasn't sure either when I began the book. Give it a chance and read this excellent new book by Holly Black. I don't want to say too much or I might give something away. It's also difficult for me to write a long review of a book I have few problems with.

Holly Black has written children's books ("The Spiderwick Chronicles"), graphic novels ("The Good Neighbors"), and Young Adult books (three book about faeries: "Tithe," "Valient," and "Ironside"). The sequel to White Cat is out and a third is on the way. If you haven't read anything by Black, now is your chance--she has a number of short stories published in anthologies as well. Find one!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Letter to Massachusetts

Dear Massachusetts,

Not only have I left your salty beaches for your Berkshire Mountains, but soon, I will be leaving all of you--friends, school, and liberalites alike--for the great variation of the old west. I imagine ghost towns and long, endless highways with not a house in sight. I imagine Kansas. I drove through Kansas last summer; I'm sure it really is one of the circles of hell, not a thing in sight for hundreds of miles.

This summer, though, I will be packing my car and driving the some 2,666 miles through Pennsylvania and Ohio, Illinois and Indiana, Wyoming and past Yellowstone, into the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. There the mountains are ten times the height of our measly Berkshire peaks, which run around only 1,000 feet or so.

I'll be working a job I never thought I would: waiting. The one job my family never thought I could handle will be my summer work in a world of strangers. I expect to learn some new accents and meet people who are thoroughly different from my own, out here in good old Massachusetts, where drivers are promptly labeled assholes and most states know us only for the city and the seafood.

All anyone around here knows about Idaho is potatoes.

I close my eyes and imagine neck-straining mountains that end in sharp points like a monster's jagged teeth (hence "Sawtooth"). I imagine a beautiful dinnerhouse with seating for 50 and a modern kitchen. I imagine hustling from table-to-table in the early breakfast-rush, trying to take orders and remember places and questions and drink requests. I practice smiling, since I've not seen many waitresses who don't practice this. I imagine a small room, maybe the size of my bedroom in Sunderland, two twin beds, two small closets; my roommate a blonde or dark-haired girl, friendly and interested in rock-climbing with the gear I bought especially for this trip. I imagine assembling a small desk out of books and a piece of plywood in the corner of the room, where I can do my writing.

And then I open my eyes, and see that I'm in my father's house, and I have no real work other than delivering and driving back and forth across the state--mountains to ocean, ocean to mountains--in an endless pattern like a restless cat.

The mantra begins anew: "Less than a month left, less than a month left..." and I smile, returning to my rough imaginings. But I won't really know what it's like until I get out there. You can be sure I'll be taking notes like a mad scientist. Lines will run together and keys will fall out of my keyboard because I'll be typing so fast. But for now it continues, this run from Mountains to Ocean and back again. For now I am yours, Massachusetts.

-Restless Adventurer