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Ramblings by Category

Ramblings by Year

The Prairie Bridesmaid

The Prairie Bridesmaid
by Daria Salamon

Just cresting her thirties, Anna Lasko is a frustrated high school teacher whose almost ex-boyfriend, Adam, is away on temporary assignment in Europe. She finds herself tricked into a break-up-with-the-bad-boyfriend intervention by her supportive but meddling girlfriends. To cope with it all, Anna starts smoking again, keeps nightly counsel with her backyard squirrel, Buddy, and starts sessions with a caring but fashion-challenged therapist. Her well-intentioned family adds to the emotional workload when her beautiful and free-spirited sister decides to move to the Middle East with her boyfriend. Luckily, Anna has her gun-toting grandmother who constantly says it like it is, refuses to conform to anyone’s requests, and continues to live on her prairie farm half-blind, happy, and alone. (goodreads.com)

This book belongs to a friend of mine and if she hadn’t shoved it at me last summer and said, “You have to read this. It’s great and now that I know the background behind it, it’s even better.” There are reasons my friend has this book and met the author. It all happened on her summer vacation last year. But this post isn’t about that. It’s about how I forgot that I had the book in my overhead bin at work and only saw it when I was on a cleaning binge in July. Oops.

So before my friend went on her vacation this year, I took the book home and started to read it. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I did enjoy the book. It’s been so difficult for me to read lately. Nothing holds my attention and even though I have mountains of books to be read in my own home, they are all annoying me at present. I start one and get about 5 pages, or maybe an entire chapter in, and then I am tossing the book aside in a huff thinking, “GAH! This is so STUPID! Why are all books the SAME?!” So, right now? Right now a book will only capture my attention if it’s original enough and had compelling characters and is written in a voice I can tolerate in my curmudgeonly phase.

I don’t really want to categorize this book as “Chick Lit” because of many reasons – the first one being that I hate that term. The second one being that most people seem to associate Chick Lit with Romantic Comedy and this isn’t either of those things. Sure the book has its humourous moments, but it’s not a book about romance.

It’s a book about a woman living her life and trying to escape a very bad relationship. It’s about friendship between women who love each other dearly and all have their own paths in life.

This sort of reminded me of Janet Evanovich crossed with Sara Addison Allen. Anna’s grandmother certainly has Grandma Mazur vibes (I think they’d be friends) and the characters are real and raw as in Sara Addison Allen novels.

And it all takes place in Winnipeg, Manitoba. So, there’s that. Very rare to have a Canadian location in a book that isn’t Toronto or Vancouver. 😉 There ARE other places in my country. They are just quieter.

This isn’t a new book. This is a book you may happen across when you browse – really browse – the shelves in your local (Canadian) bookstore. But I’d give it a chance if you come across it because it’s quite charming and emotional and it will make you laugh out loud once in a while.


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.)


Quicksilver (Ultraviolet, #2)
by R.J. Anderson

Back in her hometown, Tori Beaugrand had everything a teenaged girl could want—popularity, money, beauty. But she also had a secret. A secret that could change her life in an instant, or destroy it.

Now she’s left everything from her old life behind, including her real name and Alison, the one friend who truly understood her. She can’t escape who and what she is. But if she wants to have anything like a normal life, she has to blend in and hide her unusual… talents.

Plans change when the enigmatic Sebastian Faraday reappears and gives Tori some bad news: she hasn’t escaped her past. In fact, she’s attracted new interest in the form of an obsessed ex-cop turned investigator for a genetics lab.

She has one last shot at getting her enemies off her trail and winning the security and independence she’s always longed for. But saving herself will take every ounce of Tori’s incredible electronics and engineering skills—and even then, she may need to sacrifice more than she could possibly imagine if she wants to be free. (goodreads.com)

Just when I was almost caught up with posts on the books I’d read, I went and read another 5 or so and am behind again. Go, me. Really, I just keep this blog as my own personal book journal so I don’t feel guilty about not updating it, BUT I do feel out of whack when I don’t because I’m OCD like that and I want to have a written record of what I have read in the year. Each time I think, “Maybe I’ll combine the posts into multi-mini-reviews” I realize that the books I want to write about are too amazing to not have their own posts. Yes, my life is tragically difficult. I know.

SO! Quicksilver! I have been waiting forever for this book since I read Ultraviolet many moons ago. I love R.J. Anderson’s books and she always gets published in the UK first and I loooove the UK editions of her books. This one was supposed to come out earlier, but it got pushed back and ended up coming out in the US first (weird). But I’d had it on pre-order for so long, I just impatiently awaited it’s arrival. (I did actually get approved for a PDF file off Netgalley, but the font was so tiny on my ereader that I couldn’t enjoy the story, so I didn’t really read much that way.)

I remember being thrown for a loop at the end of Ultraviolet and I know I was unsure of whether or not I wanted a sequel to the story because I liked the loopy, open ending of the first book. However, as soon as I got three pages into Quicksliver I knew I wasn’t going to be disappointed. We follow a different character this time, Tori, as she and her family move far, far away (from one part of Ontario to another!) to try and escape what happened back in the first book. Tori is different and somehow her DNA was discovered in the first book as the investigation progressed. Now, a lab and an obsessed cop are after her to find out more and what REALLY happened.

I don’t recall liking Tori much in the first book, though I will admit my memory is a little foggy when it comes to her. But I honestly loved her in Quicksiver and her reluctant growing friendship with Milo. I really liked Milo, too. He was pretty chill and a good friend, who stood by Tori because he could see she was going through some stuff and rather than force her to tell him, he just stood by her when she needed someone there. Even if she didn’t think she did.  Sure, he likely had ulterior, romantic motives, but ultimately he was just a really good friend. I like books where friendship just happens and just IS, without it being a huge deal. I don’t know how to explain it better than that but it was a subtle friendship and not a bells and whistles one?

R.J. Anderson tells a story very well. I can be annoyed by characters (though not so much in this series. In the faerie series I used to get so annoyed by some of those characters!) and love characters and have my opinions of characters completely change through the course of a story. I love when characters noticeably evolve in a story (in a good way, not in a WTF just happened to this character development, sort of way) and Anderson has a knack for evolving the people within the pages of her stories. Not everyone can do that. At least not effectively that I have read.

The action in the book moves swiftly and I was glued to the book for an entire afternoon. Yes, I read this in one day. I was on a reading roll this month. 🙂 It was a truly enjoyable read and I am looking forward to anything else R.J. Anderson publishes in the future. I am never disappointed by her novels – even if they have an unlikable character or two in them. 😉 If you have not yet read anything by this lovely, Canadian author, I don’t know what you’re waiting for. Her books are out in the UK and (eventually) out in our own country and the US. Middle Grade, Young Adult, Faeries, Sci-Fi (because that’s sort of what this series is) and interesting characters surrounded by excellent writing – what more can you ask for?

Ultraviolet series

  1. Ultraviolet
  2. Quicksilver

The Runaway King

The Runaway King (The Ascendance Trilogy, #2)
by Jennifer A Nielsen

Just weeks after Jaron has taken the throne, an assassination attempt forces him into a deadly situation. Rumors of a coming war are winding their way between the castle walls, and Jaron feels the pressure quietly mounting within Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting the kingdom may be his only hope of saving it. But the further Jaron is forced to run from his identity, the more he wonders if it is possible to go too far. Will he ever be able to return home again? Or will he have to sacrifice his own life in order to save his kingdom? (goodreads.com)

Since I was in such a Fantasy mindset on the train home from Toronto last week, I decided to start The Runaway King after I finished with Poison. (Yes, I read 2 books on the 7 hour train ride with a couple-hour break to surf the web…I couldn’t sleep.) The lovely Melissa from YA Bookshelf picked up a copy of this book for me at a book launch and got it signed by the author. So I met up with Melissa when in Toronto to pick up the book. I was so excited to start it since I had loved The False Prince a year before.

For those who loved Cinda Williams Chima’s Seven Realms series, I would highly recommend that you pick up the Ascendance Trilogy right away – at least the first two books, anyhow. Book three is out next year some time. Woe!

Jaron is a different boy than he was in the first book under his assumed disguise as Sage. Even though he’s still pretty street smart and able to charm most anyone into accepting him and doing what he wants, I found him to be a lot less cheeky and smug and more of a mature personality. I don’t know if it’s just because his character of Sage  was just that – a character, or if it’s because he grew up and matured a little between being disguised as a thief and revealed as the rightful heir to the thrown.

I sort of sensed who the bad guy would be right from the start and when all was revealed in the end, I wasn’t surprised. But I did enjoy getting from point A to point B even if I had predicted who the baddie was. I liked the new characters, both the Lord and his niece and the thieves Jaron had to “befriend” to get into the Pirates’ camp. The Pirates themselves were sort of bland and I wasn’t entirely certain why they would be the one way for Jaron to foil a war and the plot against him. Well, it all worked out in the end, so I guess there’s that. 😉

Once more I am torn between considering this Middle Grade and Young Adult. It’s more on the advanced level for MG and it’s a little violent as well, but if you can handle Harry Potter as he grows up, I guess this is similar. Maybe they just consider it MG because there’s no mushy, gushy kissing and romance. Which, to be honest, I am more than happy about. If this was intended for YA there would probably be some sort of love triangle and insta-love. Whereas there is a hint of romance between Jaron and Imogen that’s totally not where the focus of the story lies at all.

And now comes the year-long wait for the conclusion to this trilogy and war has come to Jaron’s doorstep, er, castle gate? I am eager to see how King Mischiefpants gets his country out of this one. 😉

The Ascendance Trilogy

  1. The False Prince
  2. The Runaway King
  3. Untitled – 2014