Catherine Morland’s Reading List: Cat Burglar Black

I was reorganizing the library’s young adult graphic novels and came across this book. It has a gothic and spooky old house, a secret society, a mysteriously hidden treasure, and teens being trained to be a part of a thieving ring.

Of course it sounded right up my alley.

And not just perfect for me, but for someone else…Catherine Morland. Yep, another book for Catherine Morland’s Reading List.

What is Catherine Morland’s Reading List? The idea came mostly from the fact that I am a huge Gothic fiction/mystery fan. Before I met Jane Austen, (and I still do), I devoured books that I know, if Catherine Morland was real and alive, she would have been reading.

It started with reading one, and then before I knew it I had a list of thirty I was planning on reviewing. What can I say, other than:

Cat Burglar Black by Richard Sala

We start off with Katherine “K” Westree dressed in all black with a mask, running at night from a wild boar.

We then go back three weeks earlier…K is a orphan who was placed in an orphanage run by a woman called Mother Claude, who was using the orphanage to create a ring of cat burglars, thieves, and pickpockets.

She forced the kids to do it, threatening and abusing them if they didn’t. If they tried to run away, she would hunt them down and force them back.

The were eventually found out and all the children sent to reform school. After K served her time she stayed on as a live-in counselor for the younger children. She was then located by her aunt who had been searching for her, and her aunt invited her to live with her at Bellsong Academy, a spooky gothic mansion.

Haunted house!

When she arrives at the Academy things are not as she expected. Apparently the school has lost funding and there are only three students there at this time, orphans who have nowhere else to go: Dory, Morrow and Zel. And it turns out that she can’t see her aunt as she is deathly ill and fully covered in bandages.

Now this made my radar go off. Anytime people are all covered up in bandages like that, it means they aren’t who they really say they are. That’s not her aunt, something must have happened to her.

Hmm…

The people running the academy are  the headmistress Mrs. Turtledove, teacher Dr. Kuvac, teacher Mr. Dell, and teacher Mr. Fahr. There also is a very creepy handyman who goes by Stump and the housekeeper Ms. Mund.

Everything seems off with the other girls and the faculty. And then K hears a voice in the wall warning her that she is being watched. Definitely creepy!

SUPER creeped

That night K sneaks out of her room ad uses all her training to try to get in her Aunt’s room, but is caught by the other girls as they have been watching her. It turns out the school is another thief ring,  but an “old, established” one called The Obtainers. Her mother and father were a part of it, and her aunt as well.

K’s father chose to leave the group when she was little and took K with him, that’s why she was never a part of it until now. The rest of the ring are glad she is here as she is incredibly talented and they need her help. Bellsong Academy originally belonged to the Quinn family. When Anodyne Quinn inherited the house she discovered that her family fortune came from pirating, she was deeply ashamed she had been benefiting from stealing from others. She decided to give back by opening the Bellsong Academy, the first woman’s college west of the Rockies. After she passed she left provisions so that it would continue on. There is a rumor of treasure hidden somewhere on campus and no on has ever found it.

Hmm…treasure?

The other thing she left behind was three paintings-one in her youth, one in middle age, and the third as an older woman posing with the graduation class. Each painting was given to a separate family in the neighboring village, they were given a large sum every year-and all they have to do is put their painting on display. The map to the treasure is rumored to be found within those three paintings.

Rebecca (1940)

K finds this extremely odd that they need her to “borrow” them, and I agree. Like if they are this all important and amazing league of thieves why haven’t they done it already?

I mean for real!

K isn’t interested but they insist they need it to keep the academy going and to pay for her aunt’s care. The other girls try to convince her as they give her the grand tour of the property-old time fountains, a sun dial, a “haunted cabin”, a prehistoric sinkhole, and share the stories of the serial killer, “The Moon Killer”, who was rumored to run around the woods.

Spooky…

K decides to train with them, as why not what else has she to do, and they have a practice room right out of a superhero comic. K outshines them all and that night joins them as they break into the first house.

Each house is eccentric and when they leave they are missing a girl. Did they decide to take off and get their freedom? Were they captured? Is The Moon Killer back? Is there something nefarious going on in those houses?

Hmm…

K manages to score every painting and starts putting the clues together. But finding hidden treasure isn’t the only surprise she will discover.

This was really interesting mystery/gothic tale and I liked the character K and the twist ending at the end. I had figured out half of it, but the other half surprised me.

Wow!

The only thing I don’t like is that we never find out what happened to the other girls. I searched but it doesn’t appear that Sala wrote a sequel. I guess it will be an unsolved mystery.

We’ll never know.

I really enjoyed the the style of it too, it has an Edward Gorey feel to it, and I just love Edward Gorey. I recommend reading it even if it has a few loose ends.

For more from Catherine Morland’s Reading List, go to Catherine Morland’s Reading List: The Poison Diaries

For more mysteries, go to Creepy Demon Mask & Haunted Hampstead Heath House of Horrors!

For more Gothic fiction, go to Catherine Morland’s Reading List: House of Salt and Sorrows

Jane Austen: Her Heart Did Whisper

Jane Austen: Her Heart Did Whisper by Manuela Santoni

So we added this at the library and I was jazzed for it-Jane Austen biography? In graphic novel?

It seems like a win win to me!

But it wasn’t-I did not like it.

I’ve read several Jane Austen biographies, books and online, and I really enjoyed read Just Jane last year. I do not know everything about Jane, but I feel enough to know that this had quite a bit of historical inaccuracies it.

Hmmm

It also felt like they wanted to make her “ahead of her times” but it just feels like something we have seen before and not as if the author really was trying to show Jane, who this book is supposed to be about. Like how Nostalgia Critic words it in the Alice in Wonderland review.

It starts off with Jane sick at the end of her life writing a letter and thinking back on her life.

Hmm…

We go back to them as girls and Jane hates the piano playing:

But in reality, she enjoyed piano playing. From The Jane Austen Centre:

“Jane, studied with the respected composer and organist, William Chard well into her twenties, long after most girls would have given up their lessons. After that point, it was up to the student to progress if she wished, on her own. Jane owned a small piano at various times during her life and, when this was not an option, rented one. She played for her own enjoyment and would rise an hour before the rest of the family in order to get her practicing done.”

And Santoni has her hate doing embroidery:

But she was extremely talented at it, most likely loved it. From Jane Austen’s House Museum:

“Like all women of her time and class, Jane Austen learnt to sew in childhood and gained a life-long skill. Sewing was something she was particularly good at. In 1796 Austen wrote in a letter that she was “the neatest worker” of a group making shirts for one of her brothers. Edward Austen-Knight remembered of his aunt that “Her needlework both plain and ornamental was excellent, and might almost have put a sewing machine to shame. She was considered especially great in satin stitch.”

And I am currently reading Praying With Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen by Rachel Dodge and she shares this in Day 5:

“From this description, we see that while Jane sat and worked (needlework) quietly, lines, descriptions, and plot ideas for her novels came to her in delightful bursts.”

“She [Jane Austen] could have declared needlework a boring, repetitive task and herself too intelligent for such menial jobs. Instead she appears to have spent the time in happy reflection.”

I am so sick and tired of authors being like, oh I want my historical character to be modern and powerful so she will hate embroidery. Why? Why is music revered, painting treated as a superpower, sewing something to be proud of-but embroidery is treated like dirt. Embroidery is a lot of hard work, amazing art, and takes blood, sweat, and sometimes tears to create.

Santoni gives Jane unruly curled hair that just seems to show again that she is “modern” eschewing society’s idea of how women should be.

So the story has Jane proposed to twice and she turns them both down, but in real life she only officially ever received one formal proposal, when she was 27, from Harris Bigg-Wither-but the next day refuses him.

Santoni also has Jane fall in love with Tom Lefoy, he propose, she accepts, and then turn him down as she can’t be a wife and mother but has decided to be a writer. Now there is a bit of leeway here as Cassandra Austen destroyed a lot of Jane’s letters, but she seems to ignore what history we do know.

Thats not right!

It even says at the end of the book “many suitors asked for my hand…” I found this hard to believe as there is no historical proof to confirm this, along with the fact that she had no dowry and very little to entice someone to marriage. I felt like did Santoni do any research? She says she is a Jane Austen fan, but it seems she was making up her own story and characters.

Yeah, not as good as Just Jane

For more Jane Austen biographies, go to Just Jane

For more Jane Austen inspired books, go to Rational Creatures: Catherine Morland, Eleanor Tilney, & Lady Susan

For more Jane Austen inspired work, go to Northanger Soapworks Review