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Ramblings by Year

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*)

Ever After

Ever After (The Hollows/Rachel Morgan, #11)
by Kim Harrison

The ever after, the demonic realm that parallels the human world, is shrinking. If it disappears completely, so does all magic. It’s up to witch-turned-daywalking-demon Rachel Morgan to avert catastrophe and keep life from changing… for the worse.

While saving the world is important, it isn’t Rachel’s only motivation. There’s also the small fact that she caused the ley line to rip in the first place, setting off a chain reaction of unfortunate events. That little mistake has made her life forfeit unless she can fix it. It’s also made her more than a few enemies, including the most powerful demon in the ever after—a terrifying entity who eats souls and now has an insatiable appetite for her. He’s already kidnapped her friend and goddaughter to lure her out, and if Rachel doesn’t give herself up soon, they’ll die.

But Rachel has more than a few impressive and frightening skills of her own, and she isn’t going to hand over her soul and her life without one hell of a fight. She’s also got a surprise: elven tycoon Trent Kalamack. With this unlikely ally beside her—a prospect both thrilling and unnerving—she’s going to return to the ever after, kick some demon butt, rescue her loved ones… and prevent an apocalypse before it’s too late. Or, at least that’s the plan… (goodreads.com)

Oh, this series, why do you do what you do to me? It’s been such a roller coaster relationship for the last few books and I am starting to think perhaps the series should come to an end soon. That being said I did love the previous two books, even if I wasn’t really sure about books 7 and 8. I don’t know…

This book was Al and Trent-centric and really, I should have been ALL OVER THAT – but I wasn’t. I will be honest with you, I struggled through most of this book and was going to write it off completely until the ending. THAT ENDING! Ooooo!

When I think about what I didn’t like about the story (I think I just found it sort of boring), I realized that this is one of the few books where Rachel isn’t completely inept at something – even if she is still being blamed for something that wasn’t her fault, but if she couldn’t fix it she’d be killed, AGAIN. Rachel was strong and in control in Ever After and I should be jumping for joy about this, but I just couldn’t bring myself to care.

The book wasn’t horrible, but I found it sort of flat in comparison to the rest of the series. I will say this yet again – I miss Ivy. Why is Ivy always AWAY? Is it just me? It’s like Ivy has tiny cameos in the stories now and they can’t afford to hire the actress full time or something. I loved the start of this series with Rachel, Ivy and Jenks against the world. Now? If Ivy has anything to do with the story it’s all about her brooding over being a vampire, getting angry at Rachel for no reason and Rachel trying not to emote and arouse Ivy’s vampire senses…then? Ivy vanishes and it’s all Rachel all the time.

I want my urban fantastical trio back together.

I want Al to not be BFFs with Rachel and be a badass demon once again.

I did get a death in there I had wanted! But one I didn’t want happened, too. It made me sad.

I feel like I am reading this series out of loyalty to the first few books. Yes, there are some gems along the way, but I don’t feel like there is any progression to the characters anymore. I am super curious about how the ending of Ever After will come into play in the next book. If it’s just ignored completely I think I might give up and go on a break from this Rachel Morgan series because I can’t take it anymore. The ending of this book needs to be explored (and ooooo, hotness!)

I’m worried this series is becoming stale, and since it’s a series I have loved for so long, this makes me sad. I hope that there’s more awesome to come, but I also think it might be time to wrap things up sooner than later. What do you guys think?

The Rachel Morgan/The Hollows series

  1. Dead Witch Walking
  2. The Good, The Bad & the Undead
  3. Every Which Way But Dead
  4. A Fistful of Charms
  5. For a Few Demons More
  6. The Outlaw Demon Wails
  7. White Witch, Black Curse
  8. Black Magic Sanction
  9. Pale Demon
  10. A Perfect Blood
  11. Ever After

The Painted Girls – Blog Tour (Review)

The Painted Girls
by Cathy Marie Buchanan

Paris. 1878. Following their father’s sudden death, the van Goethem sisters find their lives upended. Without his wages, and with the small amount their laundress mother earns disappearing into the absinthe bottle, eviction from their lodgings seems imminent. With few options for work, Marie is dispatched to the Paris Opéra, where for a scant seventy francs a month, she will be trained to enter the famous ballet. Her older sister, Antoinette, finds work—and the love of a dangerous
young man—as an extra in a stage adaptation of Émile Zola’s naturalist masterpiece L’Assommoir.

Marie throws herself into dance and is soon modelling in the studio of Edgar Degas, where her image will forever be immortalized as Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. Antoinette, meanwhile, descends lower and lower in society, and must make the choice between a life of honest labor and the more profitable avenues open to a young woman of the Parisian demimonde—that is, unless her love affair derails her completely. (goodreads.com)

If you’ve been reading my blog for some time, you know I rarely – if ever – participate in Blog Tours. Therefore you know that when and if I do, it’s because I am SUPER into the book and author I am promoting. And, Internet, I am so all over this author and book.

Waaaaay back in 2010, I had a torrid love affair with Cathy’s first book, The Day the Falls Stood Still. Since then I knew that whatever other book Cathy Marie Buchanan put out, I would be all over. She was kind enough to make sure I received an ARC of her latest release (and it came so prettily wrapped!) and it was sheer torture waiting to read it. I could have read it right then and there, but I was swamped with so much other stuff and I hate reading a book months in advance of when it comes out – especially since I write my blog posts as I read books. So I treated myself to this book over my Christmas holiday, when I knew I would have down time and really be able to focus on the book.

The Painted Girls is told from two points of view. Sisters Marie and Antoinette take you through their stories in Paris 1878 and the world behind Degas’ art comes to life through these two very different, yet so similar, sisters.

I will tell you right off the bat I didn’t like Antoinette one bit. I thought she was selfish and rude and throwing her life away for nothing. I didn’t like how she seemed to abandon her sisters and responsibilities. OOOHHHH she made me SO MAD! I didn’t even want to read the Antoinette chapters! Gah!

But I loved reading the Marie chapters and her dancer life and all her hopes and promises… and then it got downright creepy and uncomfortable and all I could think was, “Antoinette! You louse! How can you be leaving your sister to suffer so! You are a useless deadbeat!” *shakes fist at book*

I was not disappointed in this book at all, the writing style I loved in The Day the Falls Stood Still is even more amazing in The Painted Girls. The characters just as emotionally compelling. I might have felt annoyance and dislike about Antoinette, but the fact that I felt these emotions so strongly is only because of how well she was written.

The thing I loved most about this book though was something that I can’t really tell you about lest I spoil it for you and I don’t want to do that.  So I’ll provide these handy-dandy explanation graphics for you…

fig. 1

fig. 2

fig. 3

 

That cryptic enough for ya? Can you figure it out? These are my mad artistic skillz here. I am certain I am using Gimp to its full potential. =P

So, yes, I loved The Painted Girls so very much (except for the times I was hating on Antoinette and the various creeptastic scenes with Marie which made me want to close the book, walk away and take a shower with all my clothes on. *shudder*) Cathy Marie Buchanan has written yet another book that I think should be on English lit curriculum in high school (the higher end) or even in college lit. She writes about history well and makes the make -believe parts seem believable.

This might be a little ambitious, but I can’t wait for her next novel!

And as a super exciting bonus on this blog tour, I got to have some interview questions answered. You can find that post here!

 

The Painted Girls – Blog Tour (Author Q&A)

As part of the blog tour for The Painted Girls, I was lucky enough to have Cathy answer some questions for me! If you love historical fiction, I would highly recommend that you pick up one or both of her books. They are fabulous! If you want to read about my feelings on this book, you can click here!

 

1. Both The Day the Falls Stood Still and The Painted Girls are historical novels. What do you think interests you so much in the past? Do you see yourself writing anything set in present time in the future (Well, that came out oddly phrased…)?

I think I’ve written novels set in the past (so far) because it’s where I’ve found inspiration. For The Painted Girls the inspiration came from a television documentary on Degas’s sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. I was fascinated to learn that, on its unveiling in 1881, the public linked Little Dancer with a life of vice and young girls for sale. She was called a “flower of the gutter,” and they said her face was “imprinted with the detestable promise of every vice.” The notion was underpinned by a long history of less than noble liaisons between the wealthy men who held season tickets and the young ballet girls. For The Day the Falls Stood Still, the riverman at the heart of the story, with his uncanny ability to predict the whims of the Niagara river and falls, was inspired by the tales of real life riverman William “Red” Hill I’d heard growing up in Niagara Falls.

I can imagine writing a novel set in the future. Same as for historical fiction, I’d be creating another time and place, which seems to interest me. Never say never, but writing a contemporary novel holds less appeal.

2. What is your most favourite subject in the world to write about?

Hmm. I think it changes with each book. For The Painted Girls I loved writing about the relationship between sisters Marie and Antoinette—both the rivalry and the love. With three beloved sisters of my own (and plenty of alarming teenage rows), it was a natural place for me to mine my own experience. For The Day the Falls Stood Still, my favourite part was trying to capture the mystery and majesty of Niagara Falls.

3. How do you come up with your characters and turn them from thoughts in your head to real-life people on a page?

I spent a lot of time gazing at Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, imagining a life for Marie van Goethem, who modelled for the work and who, in part, narrates The Painted Girls. Before I put fingertips to keyboard, I make lists of each character’s personality traits and physical attributes. By the time I reach the end of the first draft, these traits have evolved. I’ve gotten to know my characters through the act of writing and can easily decide how they would react to a situation. Not so at the beginning. The beginning is a slog (and particularly so because I keep comparing my work to the highly polished novel I’ve recently completed). To get the voice right, I read literature of my time period. For The Painted Girls, I am indebted to Émile Zola whose fiction largely focuses on the Parisian underclass of my time period.

4. How excited were you to travel to France while researching this book? And when you go on your next super, exciting research trip, can I come? 😉

Yes, Cat, pack your bags.

I was crazy excited to visit Paris, particularly since I’d learned so much about the city through my research. Highlights of the visit included visiting Marie van Goethem’s apartment and Degas’s studio, researching in the Paris Opera’s museum, and touring the Paris Opera and taking in a ballet there. Best of all, though, was attending a class of fourteen-year-old girls at the Paris Opera Ballet School. Though thirty years and a continent away from my own days at the barre, I was struck by how familiar the exercises, the corrections and the music were to me. It made me think how similar my training must have been to Marie’s.

5. Random question: What is your favourite time of day?

I like dinnertime because it’s when my family is generally together. I also enjoy reading aloud to my sons. Though this has dwindled as my boys have grown up, I’m reading The Chrysalides to my fourteen-year-old now and I look forward to it each day.

 

Thanks so much to Cathy and to HarperCollins Canada for this amazing opportunity. I was so excited to be a part of this tour and to help promote another fabulous book from a wonderful author!

A Perfect Blood

A Perfect Blood (Rachel Morgan/The Hollows, #10)
by ? Kim Harrison ?

Yeah, baby! You have no idea how I actually squealed when I opened an email from my Harper Collins rep and she mentioned they’d be getting a few copies of the latest Kim Harrison book and would it be ok if she sent me one. I also laughed at the “would it be ok” part. You see, she was quite aware of my extreme love of all things Kim Harrison and therefore the question she asked me wasn’t really a question.

I am currently in the process of building a lovely shrine to my HC rep and once it is finished I shall post a photo. I had hoped to have it ready for this post but life is busy and I have little free time. Boo!

Since we’re at the 10th book in the Rachel Morgan series (Happy 10th anniversary, Kim Harrison! *throws confetti*) I shall try not to spoil much for those who are still reading, have not yet read, etc. etc. I don’t even post the summaries of these books anymore since just those alone can spoil the behind reader.

I was rather disappointed when I started reading though, since the book didn’t really pick up for me until about a third of the way in. I was actually annoyed with Rachel in this book, more so than usual, but this had more to do with the way she was written. I don’t know if it was just me or if anyone else picked up on this, but by golly! When did Rachel become so bloody sex obsessed? It’s like all of a sudden you couldn’t be a male OR female (human, vamp, were OR PIXIE!) within her line of sight because she’d be getting all hot and bothered and be feeling things in her nether regions. THIS IS NOT THE RACHEL MORGAN THAT I HAVE LOVED FOR 9 BOOKS!

What the hell?! I was almost ready to just toss the book aside and mourn the loss of a series that I have loved since it’s inception. Thankfully all the libido thoughts were quelled once Rachel was kidnapped and tortured. I have never been so thankful for violence in a book. Jeez.

Once the action (of the non-sexual kind) started, I was quite hooked on the story and much more eager to continue reading. The HAPA group was an interesting idea, though I am sort of sad that it took 10 books for this group to be mentioned, as well as the slurs they have for the Inderlanders, which I don’t ever recall hearing before. I feel like this part of the backstory should have come up before now. Oh, well. It’s not the end of the world, because it’s giving us a lot of loose threads to follow in future books. Yay!

My favourite addition to the world in which Rachel Morgan ineptly bumbles around in was Winona. I completely ADORED her, especially after the, er, change. I certainly hope she remains a recurring character in future books. In fact I’d like to see more of her than say, Pierce (whom I cannot stand). Would be nice if she became a nanny for Trent and Ceri.

That being said, I sort of miss the days when the books were just Rachel, Ivy and Jenks against the world. It’s well and nice that they have friends and allies now, but I sort of miss the three of them together. Ivy has been in the background of the stories for too long now. Jenks often gets way more “screen” time than Ivy does and that makes me sad. I have said this for the last few books now, too. We need more Ivy! *waves banners and signs*

I am happy that I was not disappointed by A Perfect Blood in the end. Yay! I hate that I have to wait an entire year for each book, though. Boo! I can’t wait to see where Kim Harrison is taking us with HAPA and Rachel and how suddenly I am a lot more suspicious of people I hadn’t been suspicious of before. Hmm. Can’t wait to get my Hollows fix next year!

The Rachel Morgan/The Hollows series

  1. Dead Witch Walking
  2. The Good, The Bad & the Undead
  3. Every Which Way But Dead
  4. A Fistful of Charms
  5. For a Few Demons More
  6. The Outlaw Demon Wails
  7. White Witch, Black Curse
  8. Black Magic Sanction
  9. Pale Demon
  10. A Perfect Blood
  11. Ever After