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Hidden

Hidden
by Catherine McKenzie

When a married man suffers a sudden fatal accident, two women are shattered—his wife and someone else’s—and past secrets, desires and regrets are brought to light

While walking home from work one evening, Jeff Manning is struck by a car and killed. Not one but two women fall to pieces at the news: his wife, Claire, and his co-worker Tish. Reeling from her loss, Claire must comfort her grieving son and contend with funeral arrangements, well-meaning family members and the arrival of Jeff’s estranged brother—her ex-boyfriend—Tim.

With Tish’s co-workers in the dark about her connection to Jeff outside the workplace, she volunteers to attend the funeral on the company’s behalf, but only she knows the true risk of inserting herself into the wreckage of Jeff’s life. Told through the three voices of Jeff, Tish and Claire, Hidden explores the complexity of relationships, our personal choices and the responsibilities we have to the ones we love. (goodreads.com)

I have professed my love for Catherine McKenzie’s novels many times on this blog. (Spin; Arranged; Forgotten – with Spin being my all time favourite!)  I was surprised – and disappointed in myself for not knowing about this – that her new novel was released this summer. Hidden hit the stores in July and although I happened to physically be in a store when the book should have been on the shelf, it wasn’t there. Don’t you just hate that?

Imagine my delight when I received an email from HarperCollins Canada about an actual, honest to goodness BOOK EVENT in Montreal. In Montreal! Yay! The event was for the Summer Escapes event which featured many great summer reads, two of which were written by Montreal authors – Catherine herself and Isabelle Laflèche (J’Adore Paris). I was excited for many reasons – we were finally having a pretty decent book event in Montreal, I would get to meet Catherine McKenzie in person (finally) and I would get to meet Shannon from HCC and The Savvy Reader who has been such a great person to get to know as I have been blogging.

Left: Shannon & I // Right: Catherine & I

Now! About Hidden!

Told from three points of view – some in the present and some in the past, this book is the story of a man who is killed in a car accident and leaves behind two grieving women – his wife and his (married) girlfriend. I am not a huge fan of cheating stories, but I was compelled to read this one only because it brought up a question that I always wondered about. Ever since those miners were trapped in a mine in… Spain (?) and one man’s wife and girlfriend found out about each other while he was trapped (lucky him, probably safer that way)… I have always thought, “Wow, it must be insane to find something like that out in the middle of a trauma. Who would do such a thing!?”

Obviously Catherine McKenzie wondered this too, because she wrote a book about it. 😉

I couldn’t tell you what character I liked throughout the story. I didn’t think much of Jeff – I’m just not someone who can justify or tolerate cheating. I didn’t much care for Tish, the girlfriend, either. She just didn’t click with me. Not that Claire, the wife, was all that great of a person either. Hmm, if I am being honest, I didn’t really connect with ANY of the characters but oddly, I didn’t dislike the story.

I know! It does happen occasionally where I’m not all that into the characters but I enjoy the story. Sometimes a good story doesn’t need you to want to be BFFs with the people in it. It can happen. Trust me. 😉

There is something about Catherine McKenzie’s writing that connects with me though. Deeply. It’s almost as if she writes the way I talk to myself. (OK, that sounds odd but I don’t know how else to explain it!) Her words are…familiar? Comfortable? Her writing makes me happy – regardless of the subject matter and the sense of humour in the books seems to be similar to mine.

ANYHOW… Hidden is yet another wonderful novel from Catherine McKenzie and although probably the most dark and emotional of her novels, it still managed to tug at my heart-strings and make me think about things. (Like, if I ever find out my husband has a girlfriend if something happens to him, I will be VERY, VERY cross with him. *glare*)

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.)

The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow

The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow
by Rita Leganski

Conceived in love and possibility, Bonaventure Arrow didn’t make a peep when he was born, and the doctor nearly took him for dead. No one knows Bonaventure’s silence is filled with resonance – a miraculous gift of rarified hearing that encompasses the Universe of Every Single Sound. Growing up in the big house on Christopher Street in Bayou Cymbaline, Bonaventure can hear flowers grow, a thousand shades of blue, and the miniature tempests that rage inside raindrops. He can also hear the gentle voice of his father, William Arrow, shot dead before Bonaventure was born by a mysterious stranger known only as the Wanderer.

Bonaventure’s remarkable gift of listening promises salvation to the souls who love him: his beautiful young mother, Dancy, haunted by the death of her husband; his Grand-mere Letice, plagued by grief and long-buried guilt she locks away in a chapel; and his father, William, whose roaming spirit must fix the wreckage of the past. With the help of Trinidad Prefontaine, a Creole housekeeper endowed with her own special gifts, Bonaventure will find the key to long-buried mysteries and soothe a chorus of family secrets clamoring to be healed. (goodreads.com)

I am a failure at blogging lately. I’m still here, just seem to have other priorities and am enjoying reading more than writing lately. That being said, I haven’t read much in June at all (what’s that? Oh, yes, I will be back-dating this post. ;)) May was an epic reading streak for me this year and I also have to say that HarperCollins has been on an epic streak of publishing AMAZING literature in 2013.  The last bunch of books I have been reading have been from HarperCollins and I have BOUGHT them all.

The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow is a book you want to savour as you read it. Much like The Golem and the Jinni this is a book you want to spend quality time with – just you and the book. I actually read this book in 5 hours from start to finish and carried my eReader around the house with me and read as I did various things that day. I was completely captivated by the story-telling in this novel. I felt cocooned by the warmth and magic of Bonaventure Arrow’s life and story. I felt warm and safe and content all through reading this book and the feeling stayed with me long after I was done.

I loved the idea of a Bonaventure in the world. A being who never speaks but can experience life in a magical way through sound and feelings. The mystery of Bonaventure Arrow’s father’s death was also completely enthralling and the ending of the novel took me by surprise. Not once did I make a connection as to how the events would unfold.

Every single character in this story is so rich and full you think they might be people you know in your every-day life. You know them, you can almost touch them. They are tangible beings whom you miss deeply the second the story ends.

My one regret about this novel is that I don’t own a hard-copy edition of it. I bought it on my Kobo and I think that having read it being able to touch and smell the paper it’s written on would have added so much more to my experience. I have a habit of loving the experience of a book from story to physical object. Those elements always come together and make my love of a good book even stronger. I am pretty sure I will eventually have to buy a copy of the physical book to have in my collection because I will certainly read this story again and I now need to experience it on paper.

However you experience this book, I truly encourage you to experience it. It will make your insides all warm and fuzzy and you’ll be happy knowing you have witnessed an extraordinary piece of art.

Astonishing Splashes of Colour

Astonishing Splashes of Colour
by Clare Morrall

“When is the right time to tell someone they’re not who they think they are?” Caught in an over-vivid world as a result of synaesthesia (a condition in which emotions are seen as colours), Kitty Wellington is tipped off-centre by the loss of a child. And as children all around become emblems of hope and longing and grief, she’s made shockingly aware of the real reasons for her pervasive sense of her own “non-existence.”

What mystery at the heart of Kitty’s family makes her four older brothers so vague about her mother’s life? And why does her artist father splash paint on canvas rather than answer his daughter’s questions? On the edges of her dreams, Kitty glimpses the kaleidoscope hippie van that took her sister Dinah away and wonders how this event may link to the dim corridors of her own childhood, a childhood in which she had no tangible sense of her mother. (goodreads.com)

I bought this book from Monkey’s library when I went to visit her last December. In Canada, there’s this amazing thing where you can get English books in your library. It’s amazing. Wish I had that here in Quebec. Alas. But political snarking aside, there was this little section in the library where you could buy used books! Imagine! For like, no money. So I picked up this book – because it had been sitting on a wishlist for EVER when I saw it and was surprised to see it. It cost me all of $2 or something.

I have been interested in this novel for some time because it has to do with synaesthesia and I’m of course fascinated by that because I have a form of it. Now, the story wasn’t what I was expecting at all, though to be honest I didn’t really know what to expect. There was very little in the way of synaesthesia and a lot in the way of a really messed up family and a protagonist who just tugged at my heart strings.

Kitty’s family is certainly messed up and she’s an odd duck herself. There was sort of a thriller-like feeling throughout the novel, even though it wasn’t a thriller. It had a sort of Gillian Flynn Dark Places sort of feel to the story. Certainly a similarly strange family, that’s for sure. But it’s not a thriller at all, it’s just really strong fiction.

There was something lulling about this book. As in, I was lulled into some state, not quite a comforting one, but a foggy, dense sort of white noise kind of state. I read the book like I needed to get it finished lest I bust into flames or suffocate or something. I can’t explain it really, but it’s like I was surrounded by… cotton? This is one of those times I experience a book in terms of sensation and images and not words that I can use. Fitting that a book about synaesthesia would have that reaction. I TOTALLY got when Kitty explained at the start of the story about the Yellow Time. I got it 100%.

And, I know this is likely waaaaay off, but for some reason I could not shake off the idea that James, Kitty’s husband and neighbour, looked like Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones. I don’t think he was supposed to be as short as Peter Dinklage but something in a description that I think I mis-read had me thinking of James and Tyrion as the same person. (Pre-scar, of course). So of course, I loved that character dearly because I am a total fangirl for Tyrion!

Er..where was I? I totally just distracted myself by reading up on Mr Dinklage on IMDB and then looking to see if he had a twitter account, which lead me to finding twitter accounts for other GoT cast members. *ahem*

ADD much?

ANYWAYS… Astonishing Splashes of Colour was a rather lovely read and very British and even though it’s totally not something I’d normally read, I am very happy that my obsession with synaesthesia made me look twice at this book and then pick it up when I saw it. I am very happy that I read the book and can now add this story and these feelings to my mental memory box.

Survive

Survive
by Alex Morel

Hatchet meets Lost in this modern-day adventure tale of one girl’s reawakening

Jane is on a plane on her way home to Montclair, New Jersey, from a mental hospital. She is about to kill herself. Just before she can swallow a lethal dose of pills, the plane hits turbulence and everything goes black. Jane wakes up amidst piles of wreckage and charred bodies on a snowy mountaintop. There is only one other survivor: a boy named Paul, who inspires Jane to want to fight for her life for the first time.

Jane and Paul scale icy slopes and huddle together for warmth at night, forging an intense emotional bond. But the wilderness is a vast and lethal force, and only one of them will survive. (goodreads.com)

This was an odd sort of book. It’s one part issue novel dealing with depression and suicide and another part thriller when you add in the plane crash and survival stuff. It was easy for me to relate to the depression aspects of the story and then I felt like I was thrown into Alive the move from my teen years where people are trying to survive in the freezing cold mountains after their plane goes down.

It’s not a bad book, though, it’s just… different. My emotions were confused about when and what to feel but I couldn’t stop turning the pages. The book is an easy and quick read and really it is FULL of emotion, they just all flicker so quickly it’s hard to keep up. To be honest, I can imagine that’s how emotions would be happening if this were a real story and I was the person dealing with everything from depression to suicidal thoughts to being terrified about the situation AND changing your mind about wanting to die and instead being determined to STAY ALIVE.

I found the romance idea sort of jarring as well, but I can see how a relationship could and would blossom between people who are relying on each other to survive  It wasn’t your regular run-of-the-mill romance that you’ll get in other YA novels, this one was very clearly defined by the situation and although I felt like romance seemed out of place in my already confused emotional war, it was more that I was jarred by the GOOD in a BAD situation.

Like I said, so many confused emotions when reading the book and then the ending just about pushed me over the edge (so to speak). It ends abruptly and with such an intake of breath you have to remember to breathe after you’ve closed up the book and walked away.

I won this book from Kristi’s blog a long time ago, and then I forgot all about it until I noticed it this month. Oops. 🙂