Tag Archives: holly black

The Poison Eaters by Holly Black

Obviously, if you’ve followed my blog long enough you’ve heard my sing my girl-crush love about Holly Black many times before. I totally adore her and she’s one of my all-time favorite authors (which is really saying something!)

Holly–if you’re reading this–let’s hang out!

The Poison Eaters has been on my list for over a year now, and I’ve finally gotten around to reading it. It’s a collection of Mrs. Black’s own fantastical short stories with her signature dark twist.

And, as usual, she’s done a good job with them. She’s managed quite a few anthologies over the years and so I had no doubt she’d be able to seamlessly blend her own tales together.

We got to sample stories about vampires, secret cults, faeries, werewolves, unicorns, and a bunch of other things you’ve never even heard of. And we got to revisit Kay, Roiben, Corny, and Val from her beloved Ironside trilogy.

As with most collections, there will always be stories that rise above the others and The Poison Eaters was no exception. Some of my favorites included:

  • A Reversal of Fortune: kind of like the short story version of the old folk song “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Crazy, and you’ll never look at gummy frogs the same way again.
  • The Dog King: werewolves surround a medieval castle, but the real danger may lurk inside its walls.
  • In Vodka Vertias: a school prank gets way out of hand and ample doses of sex are involved…
  • Paper Cuts Scissors: a lonely geek’s girlfriend has willingly trapped herself inside a novel and he’s desperately searching for a way to get her out again.
  • The Poison Eaters: told in the classic rule of three format many fairy tales lay claim to, three sickly girls must follow their destiny.

The aforementioned really stood out to me, but they each had their own little crisp ending that made you pause for a minute after reading. The Poison Eaters is the perfect book to curl up with this fall after your house has fallen asleep and you’ve got a steaming mug of tea in your hands…

4 virgin boys of 5

Geektastic edited by Holly Black & Cecil Castellucci

Now, you might be thinking, Chelsea? A geek? A nerd? She’s tall and blonde and looks like everything geeks stand against.  

And you would be wrong.

I am a geek because I read everything I can get my hands on. I attend every Renaissance Festival I can, and have even been known to dress up on occasion. I own a mermaid tail that I actually swim in. I played World of Warcraft for three years straight (for the Horde!) and a small part of my heart will be forever dedicated to Tauren hunters. I can recite full passages from Harry Potter, gone to Platform 9 3/4, and visited HP World at Islands of Adventures.  And I have a Quidditch jersey and a Gryffindor scarf–even though Pottermore has sorted me into the Ravenclaw House. I have seen all the Star Wars AND all the Lord of the Rings–not to mention read all the way from The Hobbit to The Return of the King. I own a pair of vampire fangs and a set of elf ears. Thanks to my dear friends (who are very far away from me at the moment, but not forgotten) Wendy, Bret, Annie, Stephan, and Mike–I know the difference between chaotic neutral and chaotic good. (And thanks to Wendy especially, I know which qualities make a great Dungeon Master).

In short, I am a geek.

And proudly so.

Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd is definitely one of the more entertaining anthologies I’ve read in awhile. I’ve been busy touring around the Pip Pip Cheerio countryside, so it was nice to be able to pick up short stories and put them down just as quickly. I really liked that all types of geeks were represented within the stories. Trekkies, Hans Solo-Wannabes, Elvish Linguists, Gamer Geeks, Sci-Fi Nerds, Comic Book fans, Super Hero Worshippers, D&D Villians, Video Game Addicts, Old Horror Film Buffs and all their ilk. Basically all of my friends are well-represented.

As in all anthologies, there are some stories that are the cornerstones of the book, while the others sag a little in the middle. This is no exception to that rule, but still definitely worth it to those of us who can finish the phrase, “You remind me of the babe…”

3 of 5 mint-condition comics

Black Heart by Holly Black

In the third and final installment in her Curse Workers trilogy–Black Heart–Holly Black spins another tale of intrigue, lies, and curses that her bad-boy-gone-good protagonist, Cassel Sharpe must unravel. As he so recently learned in Red Glove, things around him aren’t always as they seem and the world of good and evil isn’t always so cut and dry. When you come from a family of hardened criminals, liars, and con artists–and the girl you love is next in line to rule the biggest crime cartel in the city–it’s difficult to make the right decisions. Especially when those decisions lead you to work as an undercover government agent, a betrayal so great that any one of your own family members would be willing to kill you for it. But when Cassel gets an assignment from the government that’s a bit too much like the assassinations his brothers made him participate in as a child (using his powers to transform living people into inanimate objects, thus killing them) it makes him question whether he’s finally gotten in over his head.

How can you stay true to yourself when your hand is forced?

loved this series, but I especially loved Black Heart. Black had so many twisted strands of problems and cons threaded together, that only an author of her caliber would’ve been able to pull it off in such a short book. She is one of my favorite authors because of these threads she weaves, as well as the fact that all of her characters (even the “good guys”) are more than a little bit dark. It’s the flaws in people that make them interesting, after all.

Cassel’s world makes me imagine what life would be like if the cops weren’t on your side. Most people are raised to believe that if they’re ever in trouble, help is only a three digit phone call away. But what if that wasn’t true? How would you deal with danger if there were no one to turn to, magic (and guns!) were involved, and even your closest surviving relatives couldn’t be trusted? Phew. I get upset enough about rush hour traffic in the morning…I don’t know how I would deal with that!

Black also did a great job comparing the prejudice against curse workers to the prejudice against blacks in the 50’s and gays in today’s world. Picket marches, soap-box politicians, new dangerous laws, mandatory testing, and discrimination on the job. Pretty heavy stuff. She used great imagery when conjuring these scenes and Cassel’s world really echoes the shortcomings of our own.

The only thing that bothering me within the story was at the end how Cassel handled Daneca’s new relationship (I won’t spoil it!) and his tempestuous relationship with Lila. We can tell you guys want each other, just do it for crissakes! I’m an impatient person and it was hard for me to wait to see what would happen between them next. Especially when Cassel learns that Lila’s father is holding his mother captive in his high rise apartment, either until he gets tired of her or until Cassel finds the Resurrection Diamond. (And you thought your in-laws were tough!)

4 leather gloves of 5

(The Boy <3) Quote of the Day: Holly Black

“A girl like that, Grandad said, perfumes herself with ozone and metal filings. She wears trouble like a crown. If she ever falls in love, she’ll fall like a comet, burning the sky as she goes.”

-Holly Black, from Black Heart

Quote of the Day: Holly Black

“Girls like her, my grandfather once warned me, girls like her turn into women with eyes like bullet holes and mouths made of knives. They are always restless. They are always hungry. They are bad news. They will drink you down like a shot of whiskey. Falling in love with them is like falling down a flight of stairs.
What no one told me, with all those warnings, is that even after you’ve fallen, even after you know how painful it is, you’d still get in line to do it again.”

-Holly Black, from Black Heart

Zombies vs Unicorns edt. by Holly Black & Justine Larbalestier

Since the dawn of time there have been intense (and often violent) rivalries between opposing factions. Vampires vs Werewolves. Bloods vs Crips. KKK vs Black Panthers. Humans vs…. Well, everything really…  But never before has there been a rivalry as blood thirsty and cutthroat as ZOMBIES VS UNICORNS. Holly Black (Team Unicorn) and Justine Larbalestier (Team Zombie) have compiled an anthology of stories about zombies and unicorns to end all anthologies. No, they’ve really outdone themselves. They got the likes of Garth Nix, Scott Westerfield, and Meg Cabot to contribute–just to name a few. There’s seriously not a dud in the bunch. 

I LOVED this book. I really do like anthologies. They give you brief snippets of an author’s work and it’s a great way to discover new talent without the time commitment that a whole book demands. That being said, however, usually there are a few that just plain suck. There are no two ways around it. The editors draw you in with a few big names on the cover, and the rest are just lifeless page-fillers. Not so with Zombies vs Unicorns. I absolutely loved/appreciated all the stories compiled and gained a new respect for all the writers involved. I also really liked the commentary between Black and Larbalestier–although I wish Holly had stood up for Team Unicorn a bit more! I know the whole thing is a running joke between the two of them, but she totally let Justine run all over her!

The variety of the stories was also great. We saw killer unicorns, zombies in love, unicorns with suicidal tendencies, gay zombies… Need I go on? These are not your typical Lisa Frank unicorns or your 28 Days Later zombies. You will experience something brand new and freaking awesome with this collection. I would especially recommend:

  • The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn by Diana Peterfreund
  • Cold Hands by Cassandra Clare
  • The Third Virgin by Kathleen Duey

Love love loved it.

2.5 rotting body parts + 2.5 unicorn farts = one 5 star anthology

The Red Glove by Holly Black

The Red Glove by Holly Black is her second installment in her Curse Workers series. I read The White Cat cover to cover a few years ago on a long flight to California, so I wanted to follow up with the second book. The third book, Black Heart isn’t released until April of this year.

The series follow Cassel Sharpe, a curse worker in a world much like our own. Except bare hands are dangerous weapons because you never know who is a “worker”–someone who can lay a curse on you with a mere brush of their hand–and who isn’t. Everyone is forced to wear gloves in public places at all times. Workers are fighting for equal treatment, and the prejudices that non-workers had for workers are very similar to those between the whites and the blacks during the Civil Rights Movement in the 60’s.

Of course, the curse workers’ case isn’t helped by the fact that many of them are members of organized crime families–exactly like the mafia, but with magic. Cassel is a con artist, and comes from a worker family that are all con artists. His mother is an emotion worker, his brother Barron is memory worker, his oldest brother Phillip is a physical worker, and his grandfather is one of the scariest assassins of all–a death worker. But what is Cassel?

The second installment of the book focuses on Phillip’s death and the horrific realization Cassel comes to when it dawns on him that his brothers were making him commit atrocious crimes (and subsequently forget about them). And, does Lila really love him or is it just emotion work? Her mob boss father wants him as an assassin and the Feds are on his trail. What decision do you make when each one means hurting someone you love?

I love all things Holly Black. I’ve been following her since her Livejournal days. Her Modern Faerie Tales series was amazing and remains one of my favorites to this day. Curse Workers definitely has a different feel to it (with a male protagonist) but Black captures Cassel’s voice well. Her language is not quite as lyrical in this series, but you wouldn’t expect poetry from a mob boss or a con artist, would you? Her idea for this story was great, hands as weapons…excellent. While her MFT series entralled me, the CW series simply entertained me. I will read the third book but I’m not dying for it to come out the way I was for Valiant and Ironside. I do appreciate her ability to tell an unpredictable story, because usually it’s too easy for me to predict “whodunit” and that ruins the fun, doesn’t it?

I would recommend the Curse Workers series to Black’s male audience, simply because the story seemed geared more for teen guys then her previous works. Anyone looking for “fantasy-lite” may also be served well by this. In my opinion, Black is a master of the urban fantasy genre and I will continue to read whatever she produces.

3 of 5 stars