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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 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.

The Golem and the Jinni

The Golem and the Jinni
by Helene Wecker

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master-the husband who commissioned her-dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899.

Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free-an unbreakable band of iron around his wrist binds him to the physical world.

Overwhelmed by the incessant longing and fears of the humans around her, the cautious and tentative Chava-imbued with extraordinary physical strength-fears losing control and inflicting harm. Baptized by the tinsmith who makes him his apprentice, the handsome and capricious Ahmad-an entity of inquisitive intelligence and carefree pleasure-chafes at monotony and human dullness. Like their immigrant neighbors, the Golem and the Jinni struggle to make their way in this strange new place while masking the supernatural origins that could destroy them. (snipped for length)(goodreads.com)

This was not a book I was able to read quickly. That isn’t a bad thing, just a weird one for me. I am so used to just skipping through books like they are candy. I tried to read this book in small bursts and on the train ride to Toronto, but I just couldn’t focus on it. There was an entire middle-grade class AND a screaming baby on the 4.5 hour trip and even with my headphones on I could not find the brain space to focus on this book.

The Golem and the Jinni is a beautiful book. The writing, the mood the characters are all so dense. This is real literature and therefore I have trouble reading it at my regular pace. I needed to savour every word and sentence. I was lost in the many side stories for each of the characters we met. I loved the Rabbi who ends up caring for Chava. I loved Chava. The Jinni grew on me because at first I didn’t care much for him.

The way all of these stories are woven together was just magic. Think of liquid gold swirling through the night sky. Fire and fog mixing together. There was a hushed sort of feeling surrounding me as I read. I was comforted and disturbed at the same time. Curious and calm. And then, with the last quarter of the book, a sense of urgency as things started to come together.

I felt like I was reading forever when I really only read about 20 pages in a sitting at the start. The story wasn’t boring in any way, it was just a story you cannot rush through. You really have to wade through each page in order to digest and savour it. It’s such a dense and meaty book that you need to devote the time to spend with it, lest you be robbed of the magic it holds.

I first heard about this novel from The Savvy Reader back in the fall. She tweeted that she couldn’t wait for spring and the release of this book into the world. Once she linked to the summary I knew I had to obtain this book. The title, the cover and the summary just ate at my soul until everything ached for this book. The only way I could stop thinking about it was to go out to the store and buy it and that’s what I did, the day before it was actually due out. However, because I couldn’t find the time to devote to the novel, I ended up reading it slower than I wanted to. In the end, I am happy I spent a day, once I was home from my trip and off from work, to finish this story. I read outside in the sun on the back deck in my rocking chair. I read in the shade. I read in the house. I read all over the place that one day until every last drop of story was done and I could close the book with a contented sigh.

The Golem and the Jinni truly is an amazing, beautiful book and I am so happy it came into my life.

Picture the Dead

Picture the Dead
by Adele Griffin & Lisa Brown

A ghost will find his way home.

Jennie Lovell’s life is the very picture of love and loss. First she is orphaned and forced to live at the mercy of her stingy, indifferent relatives. Then her fiancé falls on the battlefield, leaving her heartbroken and alone. Jennie struggles to pick up the pieces of her shattered life, but is haunted by a mysterious figure that refuses to let her bury the past. (goodreads.com)

Due to my personal life having been invaded by my silly notion to go back to school and learn something new, I became very behind on reading books that were sent to me for review. (Which is why I stopped accepting books late last year.) I received Picture the Dead from Sourcebooks last fall as part of the Halloween give-away I held for them. It was an awesome-looking book that I was VERY eager to read, but just couldn’t find the time or headspace to devote to it.

Well, after months of sitting on my dresser, taunting me with it’s potential awesomeness, I finally picked up this book and…

holy wow!

Not only is the writing wonderful, this whole book is like a piece of art that has come to life. Between each chapter you get a glimpse into Jennie’s scrapbook and journal. All the photos, letters, paper she mentions in the story come to life in these little scrap booky pages and I absolutely adored this about the book!

There’s a supernatural feel to the story, although I can’t say for sure that the ghosts and spirits were real or just tricks of the imagination. Just the whole historical, ghost story, love story feel to the book made me so happy. This book is simple and complex at the same time. The entire book is part of the experience from the book binding, to the words, to the artwork and even most especially – the SMELL. I don’t know if all copies of Picture the Dead smelled as great as mine did, but my copy had the BEST book smell! It made me think I was reading an old, historical book that I’d perhaps found in my grandparents’ basement. It wasn’t mildew or gross-smelling, it just had the best BOOK smell. Even my husband agreed. (And yes, I did make him smell the book while I was reading it. Ours is a true love. He GETS me.)

There really wasn’t anything I didn’t like with this book. Perhaps I’d have liked the other cover I have seen on Goodreads than the one I had (which is included in this post). The other cover I have seen has scrapbook-type photo art and I think that makes the book look even more like it does inside.

I am so happy I got a chance to discover this story because it was fabulous and imaginative and haunting and so wonderful. This is a book I will be keeping in my house no matter how many times I (attempt to) trim down my book collection. 😉