Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends for ever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining a magical world of adventure and heroism. But disaster strikes when, without warning, Zach’s father throws out all his toys, declaring he’s too old for them. Zach is furious, confused and embarrassed, deciding that the only way to cope is to stop playing . . . and stop being friends with Poppy and Alice. But one night the girls pay Zach a visit, and tell him about a series of mysterious occurrences. Poppy swears that she is now being haunted by a china doll – who claims that it is made from the ground-up bones of a murdered girl. They must return the doll to where the girl lived, and bury it. Otherwise the three children will be cursed for eternity . . . – Goodreads
Holly Black is one of my favorite YA/MG authors ever. I’ve loved everything I’ve read of hers, from the Modern Faerie Tales to the Curse Workers to the Spiderwick Chronicles, and I’ve had this one on my list since it came out. I love how Black blends the creepy and the funny. She’s a master at that kind of thing. I mean, there’s a cat named “The Party.” Come on! So we start with Alice, Poppy, and Zach. Alice lives with her overprotective grandmother, Alice lives with her seemingly neglectful parents and wild siblings, and Zach lives with his parents, though his father has just moved back home after three years away. Each of these environments offers problems and hardships for the kids, but their friendship is strong and based on a love of make believe and play. Until Zach’s father throws away all his action figures, sending Zach into a spiral of rage and despair. He can’t think of any other way to deal with it than to stop playing with Alice and Poppy. Since Zach is only twelve, he can be forgiven these terrible coping skills. Soon, though, he’s pulled back in when something happens with the china doll they call The Queen.
The ghost of a little girl named Eleanor visits Poppy, imploring her to bury the girl’s bones, threatening her with a curse if she doesn’t. The kids decide to travel to Ohio to do so. As a mom, this would freak me the hell out. No kid of mine is traveling to another state on a bus by themselves. Of course, they don’t tell anyone where they’re going.
This book, despite being superficially about a quest and spooky dolls, is really a coming of age story. Alice is the most mature of the three and has gone through the most. She is the most aware of her feelings, actions, and intentions. Poppy is the most immature. She isn’t good with change and she’s easily angered. Zach falls somewhere in between them. These kids are learning about life and hardship and love and death. That’s what the story is about, not some doll or some ghost. Holly Black is SO GOOD at incorporating these elements into her stories, and the flow is just so smooth and normal. It feels like you’re watching it happen in real-time. This is why I love her so much and have read literally everything she’s written.
Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.
One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black. – Goodreads
If there was to be an IT-Book of ALA 2013 for Tina and me, it would be this book. Tina and I spent months discussing this book and the fact that Holly Black would be there. Heck we even got to the line early to be turned away because “guys, really, you’re that early.”
I’m telling you all of this because I actually DNF (Did Not Finish) this book. In this blogging duo, it is known I finish books, Tina is the one who has no problem letting books go. Which is why it came as a shock to both Tina and I went I sent Tina an email going “TINA I DNF ANOTHER BOOK” and then we were both disappointed when it was this one.
While the writing is solid, the story bored me to pieces. I got to chapter 9, or through 84 pages. Those 84 pages took me about three months. No book ever takes me three months. I heard rumors that the book gets better about half way through, but my TBR list is already too long and the line has been drawn.
It’s upsetting because Black’s writing is as solid as ever, but the story was just..boring. There is no other way for me to put that. I was so bored. The world building, the info dump, I was just sick of it. I wanted more of the actual story and that never happened.
Did this book work for you? Please tell me, what did I miss?!
Top Ten Tuesday is a new thing we are trying at yAdultReview, because, well why not? Plus, we know Ashley loves her some lists, and Tina just likes Ashley being happy, so ta-da! For our blog generally Ashley will be number 1-5, and Tina will be 6-10. This week was a rewind that allowed us to go back and pick a topic we weren’t able to touch on.
In the words of The Broke and the Bookish who host the feature:
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We’d love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!
- Kendare Blake. Hands down didn’t even need to think twice about this. Tina and I joke that she is one of the patron saints of this blog. Ignore the fact that Tina and I are lapsed Catholics. But Kendare and I talk a lot on twitter and livejournal and I actually feel like she’s a friend of mine. Mostly because we harass each other about baseball teams.
- Nora Roberts. Be still my romance heart. I would love to meet Nora Roberts.
- Michelle Gagnon, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.
- Kasie West, who I told when she comes to Arizona I’m stalking her. But it’s cool, she’s okay with it because she’s awesome like that and jokes right back with me!
- Erin Bowman, who I bonded with on twitter with my brilliant use of amazeballs and bothering her on a daily basis. Thanks Erin!
- Lisa McMann. Yeah. Do I need to explain this one? Just look at her tag on this blog. Enough said. (Ashley note: The other patron saint of our blog. Yes, we have two.)
- Kendare Blake. As Ash mentioned above, Kendare is the patron saint of yAR. Even though she’s a Twins fan. She did write Cas Lowood, so she gets a break for her terrible taste in baseball teams.
- Robin LaFevers. She writes the most beautiful prose, and I would love to talk to her about medieval Brittany.
- Holly Black. HOLLY BLACK IS MY FAVORITE. I mean, one of them. I love her. Her Modern Faerie Tales novels were one of the first paranormal YA series I’ve ever read, which led me to Curse Workers, which I loved like crazy. Another male narrator! I actually think we’re meeting her at ALA this year, and I told Ash I will not be responsible for my actions.
- Sarah Rees Brennan. Sarah is hilarious on twitter, and she loves to make fun of us poor fans heartbroken over Unspoken. She claims she talks like her characters, which means she is witty and funny in real life, and I have a feeling she would be a lot of fun to drink wine with.
Cassel Sharpe knows he’s been used as an assassin, but he’s trying to put all that behind him. He’s trying to be good, even though he grew up in a family of con artists and cheating comes as easily as breathing to him. He’s trying to do the right thing, even though the girl he loves is inextricably connected with crime. And he’s trying to convince himself that working for the Feds is smart, even though he’s been raised to believe the government is the enemy. But with a mother on the lam, the girl he loves about to take her place in the Mob, and new secrets coming to light, the line between what’s right and what’s wrong becomes increasingly blurred. When the Feds ask Cassel to do the one thing he said he would never do again, he needs to sort out what’s a con and what’s truth. In a dangerous game and with his life on the line, Cassel may have to make his biggest gamble yet—this time on love.
It took me forever to find this one in a library in my area, but I hunted for it for a few weeks and now I’ve got it! We’re back with poor, lovestruck Cassel, and Lila, in training for her father, with a just lovely new necklace of scars. Gross. What’s more important is that Cassel’s mom has gotten in trouble again, and Cassel feels the need to save her (which I find annoying but I suspect that has to do with my own issues). We spend a good majority of the first quarter of the book with Cassel and Barron, who is in training as an FBI agent, remember. I was sort of bored with this part, the initial setting up of the rest of the novel, but it was still a really quick read. I think I read about a third in maybe two hours? I tweeted this, but I’ll say it again: Holly Black has yet to disappoint me.
Let me tell you though, Barron Sharpe is infuriating and sounds like the scariest brother you could possibly have. He is basically dating Daneca to both piss off Cassel and con Daneca’s mom. He’s horrible. If it was me, I would transform him into a ferret and just let him chill for a few years, but Cassel’s all sentimental about family, psh. He’s got Stockholm Syndrome in the worst way. Lila is pretty much absent for the first half of the book, which made me sad, but I like Sam a lot too. I was just really frustrated during the first half of this book, because I think Cassel’s devotion to his horrible family is a weakness, and everyone around him exploits it. He knows he’s being exploited and manipulated, but he just can’t fight back. I thought his loyalty was misplaced. Barron doesn’t deserve it, and neither does his mother. The only sane person in this novel is Cassel’s grandfather, who repeatedly tells Cassel that his mother’s legal woes are her problem and no one else’s.
Cassel is like the ultimate thick-headed male in this one, because come on, of course Lila has always loved him, right? He’s busy doing the Edward Cullen, feeling like the world rests on his shoulders, like he did everything wrong, hurt everyone, and now he has to pay penance FOREVER. Relax, Cassel. Unclench a little, huh? Seriously, it’s guys like him that made me really forward when it comes to dating. Ask my boyfriend. The first thing I ever said to him was “wow, you’re cute.” So. Take that in any way you’d like. I am also amused and sold by the idea of taking off gloves as erotica, PLUS Lila asks if he has a condom! Love it! Get your safer sex on, girlfriend!
I am slightly disappointed in how this one ended. It just seemed a little “happily ever after” to me. I think Black was also trying to make Barron more relatable and sympathetic, but it was lost on me. I will never have sympathy for that guy, or for Cassel’s mom. However, I was very happy to get more Sam and Daneca, and I’m glad this series ended on a high note. I can’t wait for the next series effort by Holly Black!
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.
The monthlong wait for Black Heart is going to kill me after I finish this one, isn’t it? I just know it is. Red Glove is everything I could ever ask for in a sequel. I liked it better that White Cat, which is sort of amazing considering how much I loved WC. Cassel thought going back to Wallingford would solve everything, but it appears life, and the mob, go on without him. Cassel’s mom is completely insane, either due to her emotion work or just being a sociopath, but she’s ruthless in a bad way. I like her. She’s mean. I usually end up liking antagonists though. As for Lila… I feel so sorry for them both. Cassel, because he’s in love with Lila and he’s hurting and she can’t be herself and he knows it. Lila, because I’m not sure how much she realizes about her curse, and I don’t think she knows how she feels about Cassel.
What I really loved about this book is how workers are treated. It’s such an awesome parallel to the way immigrants or even gay men and women are treated in this country. No hiring workers, gloves always need to be worn, and that law they’re trying to pass is so skewed toward non-workers, it’s sick. I love the politics of the novel. Worker panic is rising up at Wallingford, and there’s nothing anyone seems to be able to do. During the protest scene, the slogan BARE HANDS; FULL HEARTS made me laugh out loud. (Think Holly Black likes Friday Night Lights?) Lila and Cassel are dating now, but Cassel has his reservations. I kind of miss the old, cruel Lila, but the awesomeness of another girl, Daneca, makes up for all that.
Suddenly, those politics I mentioned earlier are everywhere, and not only is the anti-worker sentiment at Wallingford affecting Cassel, the FBI and the Mob are pressing down on him as well. Things with Barron aren’t going so well, and more secrets about both Lila and Philip emerge. Sam and Daneca play bigger roles in this novel and I love that, but I was concerned for them the whole time! Lila and Cassel grew up in mob families, but Sam and Daneca are different. I love how differently Cassel interacts with his family, with his friends, with Lila. He’s really a somewhat badass teenage conman. It’s sort of sexy, but he is about a decade too young for me. Le sigh.
I loved this one so much. I love the intrigue, the mystery, the world, the society, the sadness, everything. This series is so worth your time, and Black Heart comes out next month!
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 criminals. Many become mobsters and con artists. But not Cassel. He hasn’t got magic, 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.
Cassel has carefully built up a facade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his facade starts to crumble when he finds himself 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. As Cassel begins to suspect he’s part of a huge con game, he must unravel his past and his memories. To find out the truth, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.
I don’t know why it took me so long to read this one. I loved The Modern Faerie Tales, and my mom actually bought this one for me for Christmas 2010. And, just as I knew would happen, I blew through this one in three days. The only reason it wasn’t one day is because I had to work and go to class on Thursday. Cassel intrigues me, and absolutely none of you are surprised by that, given my male narrator fetish. Cassel is good in a sea of bad, or if not bad then surely corrupt, and he harbors that huge guilt about Lila. He’s the only member of his family who isn’t a “worker.” Cassel doesn’t seem to have any magic. He also has a sweet last name: Sharpe. As we learn about him in the first quarter, we learn his mother is in prison, his grandfather is a “deathworker,” Cassel grew up in a house that belongs in an episode of Hoarders, and, oh yeah, he killed his best friend, Lila. (There are also feral cats in his barn, and nothing catches my attention faster than CATS.) I have to admit to one tiny quibble: Cassel doesn’t sound like a guy to me. His inner voice sounds a lot like Val from The Modern Faerie Tales for whatever reason. That won’t really stop or even impede me, however.
The first half of this novel is basically setting up the Worker world. We learn about different workers, different curses, charms, even the illegality of some things workers can do. We learn Cassel’s mother is in prison for working someone. We learn no one tells Cassle anything because he has no worker skills. He could easily report his family’s mob-like goings on with the police, but he doesn’t. We also learn that his family has been lying to him, and one discovery changes everything he thought was true about himself and his life. One thing I noticed is that Cassel is like most of his YA peers in that he constantly interrupts older and wiser people (who could give him solid information he needs) to ask dumb crap that will mean nothing in the end. I don’t hold this against him though. He’s just following the formula. I was also half nervous, half amused by this cat Cassel thinks is Lila. I felt really sorry for the kitty when we found out Barron had been keeping her in a tiny, dirty cage, but I was highly amused that Cassel kept her around.
I, for one, was not expecting the twist, but then again, most foreshadowing goes over my head. I felt like there were at least three big reveals and I only saw one coming. I liked this one, with it’s alternate universe and history, and its different morality and conflicts. I like how Black draws parallels between worker prejudice and racism today. I’m sort of horrified by all that’s happened, especially at the end of the book, but that just means I need to get on to reading Red Glove immediately! It looks as though my love affair with Holly Black will continue going strong!