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Ramblings by Year

The Virgin Cure

The Virgin Cure
by Ami McKay

“I am Moth, a girl from the lowest part of Chrystie Street, born to a slum-house mystic and the man who broke her heart.” So begins The Virgin Cure, a novel set in the tenements of lower Manhattan in the year 1871. As a young child, Moth’s father smiled, tipped his hat and walked away from his wife and daughter forever, and Moth has never stopped imagining that one day they may be reunited – despite knowing in her heart what he chose over them. Her hard mother is barely making a living with her fortune-telling, sometimes for well-heeled clients, yet Moth is all too aware of how she really pays the rent. // Through the friendship of Dr. Sadie, a female physician who works to help young women like her, Moth learns to question and observe the world around her. Moth’s new friends are falling prey to fates both expected and forced upon them, yet she knows the law will not protect her, and that polite society ignores her. Still she dreams of answering to no one but herself. There’s a high price for such independence, though, and no one knows that better than a girl from Chrystie Street. (goodreads.com) (snipped for length)

Oh, hello! Welcome to, “Cat Backdates All of Her July Posts as She Writes Them in August”. Today’s backdated post is all about my absolute LOVE of this novel by Ami McKay.

As you may (or may not) know, I consider historical fiction to be way outside my comfort zone. I have been very surprised in the last year by the historical novels I have picked up though so I think I might be getting over my fear of reading Outside the Box in this case. I tend to like my novels with some sort of magical, fantastical element…or serial killers. What can I say? 😉

Something about The Virgin Cure was haunting me since I first saw it in stores. When I read a post about the book on my good friend Monkey’s blog (ages ago), I was even more curious about it.  So it took me almost 2 years to take the plunge and get the book but I am extremely happy that I did take this plunge.

Over Canada Day weekend, Kobo was having a mega sale of Canadian authored books. As soon as I saw this one I knew I was going to get it. No hesitation. I just went for it.

I then read it cover to cover (er, metaphorically since this was an ebook and everything) in almost one sitting. I started it way too late at night and had to sleep before I could finish it. Alas.

There are books that just completely consume me as I read and Ami McKay’s The Virgin Cure is one of them. The narration, the characters, the descriptions… everything wrapped me up in a cocoon and took me away from real life for the entire reading of the novel. I lost track of time and sounds in the house, nothing could distract me from the words in front of me. I felt like I’d been whisked away to the 1870s in New York City and I could almost taste the sounds and sights as I read. (Trust me, that makes sense to me, if not to you.)

There was something truly wonderful in this novel that filled me up to the brim and overflowed over my body. I was so worried about not liking this book and having made a bad decision in my purchase but that all went away by the end of the second chapter. I loved so much about this book I will have to buy the physical book because I want to read it again and enjoy the physical book as I read – with it’s deckled pages and floppy cover. I almost think I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I would have if I could have been holding it in my hands and not reading it on a screen. Reading a book is an extremely physical experience for me and that part is removed when I read it on my kobo. This is a book I want to completely immerse myself in – from touch to the smell of the paper.

It’s a keeper. And now I need to read The Birth House  by Ami McKay because her words are like magic in my head. (Again, that makes sense to me, if not you.)

Mini Reviews (2): The Evolution of Mara Dyer, Everneath & Etiquette & Espionage

Because I am so behind in writing up posts for the entire month of June, I am breaking down and writing another Mini Review post to get caught up. I have not read much this month, and I am hoping to at least break LAST June’s pathetic 5 book record. I am up to 4 this month. It’s not looking good to get much more read since I just can’t get into anything I start reading! But enough about my reading misery – on to the mini reviews!

The Evolution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer, #2)
by Michelle Hodkin

Mara Dyer knows she isn’t crazy. She knows that she can kill with her mind, and that Noah can heal with his. Mara also knows that somehow, Jude is not a hallucination. He is alive. Unfortunately, convincing her family and doctors that she’s not unstable and doesn’t need to be hospitalised isn’t easy. The only person who actually believes her is Noah. But being with Noah is dangerous and Mara is in constant fear that she might hurt him. She needs to learn how to control her power, and fast! Together, Mara and Noah must try and figure out exactly how Jude survived when the asylum collapsed, and how he knows so much about her strange ability…before anyone else ends up dead! (goodreads.com)

Last year I was wowed by The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and eagerly awaited the sequel. Unfortunately the sequel came out while I was in the middle of NOT reading and doing a lot more studying and work stuff so it took me a while to pick this book up. I was not disappointed when I finally did buy and read it. This book was part of my awesome book groove that started in May, except I just didn’t have time to finish it before the end of the month. I could not put the book down and I was on the edge of my seat and holding my breath almost all the way through it. The fact that Mara was being stalked by a dead person was so creepy and made me suspicious of everyone in the story – except for Noah. I still hold fast to my swooning reaction to Noah from the first book. I am not one to get gooey over fictional characters but every once in a while there’s a male protagonist who floats my boat, or is my cup of tea or some other odd clich?d thing. Noah is one of them. Sigh. (Although I will admit to feeling a little creepy crushing on a teen character. Please do not send me to jail. I help myself feel better about this realizing that if this were a TV show, he’d probably be played by some guy in his mid-to-late 20s and then it’s not so bad. *cough*) I didn’t realize this was a trilogy (no idea why) so I was completely stunned by the ending. Bottom line? I WOULD LIKE BOOK THREE NOW, PLEASE!

Everneath (Everneath, #1)
by Brodi Ashton

Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath. Now she’s returned—to her old life, her family, her boyfriend—before she’s banished back to the underworld . . . this time forever. She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can’t find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these precious months forgetting the Everneath and trying to reconnect with her boyfriend, Jack, the person most devastated by her disappearance—and the one person she loves more than anything. But there’s just one problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who enticed her to the Everneath in the first place, has followed Nikki home. Cole wants to take over the throne in the underworld and is convinced Nikki is the key to making it happen. And he’ll do whatever it takes to bring her back, this time as his queen. As Nikki’s time on the Surface draws to a close and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she is forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole’s queen. (goodreads.com)

Everneath is a sort of modern-day retelling of Persephone and Hades and I am not entirely sure what I thought of it. I read it pretty quickly and I didn’t dislike it, but I wasn’t WOWed by it either. I think I liked it enough to want to read the next books though. It took me a while to warm up to the characters and I really didn’t like Cole. The relationships in this story were walking the edge of the All Consuming Teen Infatuation line that insta-love falls into. Of course Nikki and Jack have a relationship before you meet her and it’s nothing at all like insta-love but I am just not fan of stories where the characters’ every waking and breathing moments are consumed with each other. On one hand, I get that Nikki’s anchor is Jake and this is what helps her live, but I’m just a cranky old lady and I don’t LIKE romance novels. 😉 It became way more interesting once we learned about the Daughters of Persephone and that’s when I decided I wanted to read the other books in the series. Eventually.

Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School, #1)
by Gail Carriger

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners—and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage—in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education. (goodreads.com)

I am a huge fan of the Parasol Protectorate series, so of course I was excited about this debut YA series set in the same world. Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy this book at all. It was difficult for me to get through but I did because I was hoping at some point it would start to appeal to me. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. One of the things I loved about the adult series were the little bits of ridiculousness scattered throughout the normal (or what went for normal in that world). The main problem I had with this YA series was that EVERYTHING was ridiculous. Almost as if it was in there because that’s what people loved about the original series. You take the one thing that people loved and just over-saturate the next thing with it, making it not enjoyable and not funny at all. Comedy movies do the same thing all the time and I think that’s where they go wrong. You need the balance of normal and silly to make the silly work properly. Every single character name in this book was strange and silly. I just gave up on trying to pronounce the names because it was getting on my nerves. Everything had a silly name for it and with the exception of Bumbersnoot the mechanimal (I liked THAT!) I felt it was just way too over the top. It was almost like every little aspect of this book had to be some sort of gag. It made me cranky more than amused me and I didn’t laugh out loud once, I just sighed in exasperation many times. I really, truly wanted to love this book but I didn’t and I don’t think I will be continuing with the series at all. This makes me very sad. 🙁

The Crimson Crown

The Crimson Crown (Seven Realms, #4)
by Cinda Williams Chima

A thousand years ago, two young lovers were betrayed — Alger Waterlow to his death, and Hanalea, Queen of the Fells, to a life without love.

Now, once again, the queendom of the Fells seems likely to shatter apart. For young queen Raisa ana’Marianna, maintaining peace even within her own castle walls is nearly impossible. Tension between wizards and Clan has reached a fevered pitch. With surrounding kingdoms seeking to prey on the Fells’ inner turmoil, Raisa’s best hope is to unite her people against a common enemy. But that enemy might be the person with whom she’s falling in love.

Navigating the cutthroat world of blueblood politics has never been more dangerous, and former streetlord Han Alister seems to inspire hostility among Clan and wizards alike. His only ally is the queen, and despite the perils involved, Han finds it impossible to ignore his feelings for Raisa. Before long, Han finds himself in possession of a secret believed to be lost to history, a discovery powerful enough to unite the people of the Fells. But will the secret die with him before he can use it?

A simple, devastating truth concealed by a thousand-year-old lie at last comes to light in this stunning conclusion to the Seven Realms series. (goodreads.com)

The conclusion to the Seven Realms series sees a war brought to Raisa’s front door and all sorts of deception and bad guys abound. Thankfully, there are also an abundance of secret tunnels and passageways for our heroes to travel through. Brilliant planning on their ancestors’ parts, I say!

The Crimson Crown helped me pinpoint something that had been bugging me throughout the series. I was so mad and annoyed by the Clans’ complete dislike and hatred towards Dancer and Han. Dancer, especially, since his mother was Clan and he was Clan-born. As soon as they found out he was a wizard they wanted to put him to death and they exiled him. This boy grew up with them and showed no signs of being evil, but then they all turn on him just because of what he can DO. Clans have their own magic but apparently the kind of magic Charmcasters (or, jinxfingers, as they call them) can do is evil and never done for good. These Clan people just can’t give up on their past. A THOUSAND years go by and they still mistrust and hate the wizards. I’d have thought that maybe since one of their own flesh and blood showed signs of magic that they’d try and see if he could do good for them. But no. And the hypocrisy with which they treat Han is just infuriating. Not once did I warm up to anyone – other than Willow – in the Clans. I couldn’t stand Raisa’s father or grandmother. I hated Nightwalker and Bird wasn’t really that interesting to me until she sort of started to think for herself – but I still didn’t like her much. I mean, even some of the WIZARDS were willing to listen to reason and see that things needed to change. Not all of them, but some.

I could see how the new generation would be forming together to rule with more mixing of the people in the Queendom and around. It made more sense how they should work together and not against each other and because of Raisa and Han they were brought together. Few of the older generations wanted Raisa’s plans to work, but it was time for the younger ones to take up the leadership roles and start to breakdown the walls that had been built between people and races if they were to stand strong as a country.

Raisa surprised me throughout the series with the head she seemed to have for getting things to work out, even if she did make mistakes. She is certainly a strong female protagonist and I truly enjoyed reading her.

Another thing that stuck out to me in this series is the characters’ – both male AND female – reference to how much they like kissing and kissing before getting married. Raisa surprised me by how many kisses she shared with the boys in the book. It’s rare you read a fantasy book and have the female character be as much of a, um, player? as the male. Sure all the girls loooooved Han and looooooved Nightwalker and loooooved Malfoy Malik, but also Raisa looooooved the boys and she managed to get what she wanted and have little flings with them. She wasn’t a damsel in distress and she wasn’t a floozy, she was totally in control of her romances and I’m not sure if this stood out to me BECAUSE it’s so rare to have a female character act like a typical male character in a book or if because it bothered me. I don’t think it bothered me to be honest, but I assure you it made me think about why I noticed it so much. Why it seemed so odd in a book. I can only conclude it’s because she was a girl. Because every time Han’s dalliances were referenced I hardly blinked an eye! So, points to Ms. Cinda Williams Chima for treating her boys and girls equally in this series. And I’d like to see more stories like this – where the girl can kiss boys and not be called a slut or a harlot or be thought of any less because she just likes kissing boys. Han liked kissing girls and no one cared about that, either. 😉

Ultimately, the Seven Realms series was exactly what I needed in a fantasy series. I loved it to pieces and I am so happy that I went on this ebook buying binge even though I wasn’t supposed to be spending money at the time. It has been a long time since I have been so immersed in a series that I don’t want to put it down and just read four books back-to-back without coming up for air. I should have looked into this series earlier – BUT! – the bright side is that all 4 books were published by the time I did so I had zero wait time between instalments. HA!

Seven Realms

1)    The Demon King
2)    The Exiled Queen
3)    The Gray Wolf Throne
4)    The Crimson Crown

 

The Gray Wolf Throne

The Gray Wolf Throne (Seven Realms, #3)
by Cinda Williams Chima

Han Alister thought he had already lost everyone he loved. But when he finds his friend Rebecca Morley near death in the Spirit Mountains, Han knows that nothing matters more than saving her. The costs of his efforts are steep, but nothing can prepare him for what he soon discovers: the beautiful, mysterious girl he knew as Rebecca is none other than Raisa ana”‘Marianna, heir to the Queendom of the Fells. Han is hurt and betrayed. He knows he has no future with a blueblood. And, as far as he’s concerned, the princess’s family killed his own mother and sister. But if Han is to fulfill his end of an old bargain, he must do everything in his power to see Raisa crowned queen.
Meanwhile, some people will stop at nothing to prevent Raisa from ascending. With each attempt on her life, she wonders how long it will be before her enemies succeed. Her heart tells her that the thief-turned-wizard Han Alister can be trusted. She wants to believe it–he’s saved her life more than once. But with danger coming at her from every direction, Raisa can only rely on her wits and her iron-hard will to survive–and even that might not be enough.
The Gray Wolf Throne is an epic tale of fierce loyalty, unbearable sacrifice, and the heartless hand of fate. (goodreads.com)

That’s a much better summary length. Was worried they were all going to get longer and longer until I didn’t need to write anything myself! 😉

The number of people trying to kill Han and Raisa throughout this and the next book, sort of amuse me. These two crazy kids seem to have their days numbered. It’s hard to live in a fantasy novel you know.

I really liked how smart Raisa could be while handling situations. Sure, she doesn’t have Han’s street smarts, but she comes pretty close to being able to best her enemies and keep the situation somewhat under control. I like that she and Han have the arrangement to have him take the rooms next to hers, all the while convincing the court and everyone else that she feels nothing for him. (Although I found that one a little hard to swallow, because they kept getting caught talking together and stuff so I think the court must be pretty dim to have not clued into their ruse earlier.)

The series is so totally addictive and because of that I read these all one after the other and they are all blurred together in my head now. The sad part is I don’t know what else to say about this book that I haven’t said about the first two – it is that amazing. The world, the characters, the political plots, the deception, the pending war. This series is pretty much everything you want out of a fantasy series. I’m sort of sorry that I waited so long to read it BUT I’m also happy that I did because this meant I could read all four books in a week. HA!

Seven Realms

1)    The Demon King
2)    The Exiled Queen
3)    The Gray Wolf Throne
4)    The Crimson Crown

 

The Exiled Queen

The Exiled Queen (Seven Realms, #2)
by Cinda Williams Chima

Haunted by the loss of his mother and sister, hunted by the powerful Bayar family, Han Alister makes a devil’s bargain with the clans. If they sponsor his schooling at Mystwerk Academy at Oden’s Ford, he will become their magical sell-sword against the power-hungry Wizard Council.

Han and his clan friend Fire Dancer undertake the dangerous journey south through war-torn Arden. Once in Oden’s Ford, it doesn’t take long for the smoldering feud between Han and Micah Bayar to kindle into flame. After several attempts on his life, Han knows he has to find a way to defend himself.

In the magical dream world of Aediion, Han meets the mysterious Crow, a wizard with a long-standing grudge against the Bayars. Crow offers to tutor Han in wizardry in exchange for his help. Han agrees, once again forced into a bargain he hopes he won’t regret.

Meanwhile, Han’s friends Fire Dancer and Cat Tyburn struggle with their own demons. Dancer is determined to become a clan flashcrafter, despite his charmcaster status. Cat carries a load of guilt, as the only survivor of the slaughter of the gangs in Ragmarket and Southbridge.

Resuming her disguise as gently-born Rebecca Morley, Princess Raisa ana’Marianna travels with her friend Amon Byrne and his triple of cadets to Wien House, the military academy at Oden’s Ford. There she hopes she will find both temporary sanctuary from a forced marriage and the education she needs to succeed as the next Gray Wolf queen.

Much of Raisa’s education takes place outside of the classroom. As she mingles with students of all classes from throughout the Seven Realms, she forges the kind of friendships that don’t happen amid the cut-throat politics of the Gray Wolf Court. She also struggles to deal with her attraction to Amon—an attraction he seems determined to discourage.

When Han Alister asks the girl he knows as Rebecca to tutor him, she agrees. The streetlord turned wizard with the complicated past fascinates her, and he makes it clear the interest is mutual. But Han blames Queen Marianna and the Bayars for the loss of his family. As their relationship deepens, Raisa suspects that if Han knew her true identity, he wouldn’t want anything to do with her. (goodreads.com)

Ok, so I think this summary was longer than the one for book 1. What the heck, people!?

Hands down, this was my favourite of all four books. 🙂 I loved following Raisa’s storyline and her travel to the military academy at Oden’s Ford. I loved all of the different, um, factions? (arts, military, wizardry) all in one location to learn about their crafts and whatnot. I just loved everything about this book!

My one issue was that of Fire Dancer’s story as he tried to come to terms with his charmcaster status. I would have felt more involved in his woes if there had been a better focus on his story. I almost felt that he was just tossed in as an afterthought and not given nearly enough depth to make his issues matter. Even though we’d only just met Cat Tyburn in this book I felt more connected to her own struggles with being a street rat to a (more or less) upstanding citizen than I did about Dancer. Dancer’s plot was watered down and vague at times and I never once felt any emotion for him whatsoever. Poor Dancer.

Heck, I felt more sympathy for Amon Byrne’s conflict about his role as protector of the Queen line and his feelings about Raisa than I did about anything Dancer was up to.

Much of the book focused on the trip TO Oden’s Ford and then a few months there before everyone up and left to return to the Queendom for various reasons (oddly all at the same time. Oh, Fantasy books, you are your clever coincidences!) and I just loved every single second of those travel and schooling days. Hunks of cheese and bread and dried meat were eaten! Stew! Ale! Cider! Ahhh, questing food!

I don’t really know what else to say about this second book that wasn’t already said in the epically long summary, but I feel compelled to write more in the body of my post than was in that stupid blockquote. Um….

Micah still reminds me of Malfoy – regardless of how different he actually is. I think once I got that idea stuck in my head in the first book, it was pretty much a given that I wouldn’t be able to shake it. heh

This series has an odd mix of very strong female characters and oddly weak and not very bright ones. I did love how quick and smart Raisa was about things, despite her age. She was always aware of the politics going on, even if she would act contrary to how things should be at times. I think this made her a stronger leader because she didn’t just follow the rules, she broke some for the good of the Queendom and her own people.

Right now the story is blurring into one big book in mu memory.  Guess that’s what happens when you read all 4 books in 9 days and don’t stop to write blog posts in-between. 😉

Seven Realms

1)    The Demon King
2)    The Exiled Queen
3)    The Gray Wolf Throne
4)    The Crimson Crown