2015 Book 326: SMOKE by Catherine McKenzie

Smoke by Catherine McKenzie
ISBN: 9781503947214 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781503945654 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781501277764 (audiobook)
ASIN: B00VOLHKJ8 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: October 20, 2015 
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

From the internationally bestselling author Catherine McKenzie comes an evocative tale of two women navigating the secrets and lies at the heart of a wildfire threatening their town.

After a decade-long career combating wildfires, Elizabeth has traded in for a quieter life with her husband. Now she works as the local arson investigator in a beautiful, quaint town in the Rockies. But that tranquil life vanishes when she and her husband agree to divorce, and when a fire started in nearby Cooper Basin begins to spread rapidly. For Elizabeth, containing a raging wildfire is easier than accepting that her marriage has failed.

For Elizabeth’s ex-friend Mindy, who feels disconnected from her husband and teenage children, the fire represents a chance to find a new purpose: helping a man who lost his home to the blaze. But her faith is shattered by a shocking accusation. 

As the encroaching inferno threatens the town’s residents, Elizabeth and Mindy must discover what will be lost in the fire, and what will be saved.

Elizabeth Martin thought her life would get better when she became an investigator with the local prosecuting attorney’s office. The slower pace, she presumed, would reduce stress and be more conducive to finally starting a family with her husband. Mindy Mitchell’s family has already been through the ringer when her infant daughter had a brush with death due to an undiagnosed hole in her heart. Now both Elizabeth and Mindy must deal with unforeseen life changes and major complications after a local fire wreaks havoc in their small town in the latest Catherine McKenzie novel, Smoke.

Elizabeth and Ben have been married for ten years but together a total of sixteen years. Elizabeth has worked as a fire spotter, fighting wildfires, and an arson investigator; Ben works as a teacher at the local private school. For the past few years, she and Ben have been trying to start a family. Elizabeth presumed it was the stress of her job that was a contributing factor to their inability to get pregnant, so she took the job at the local prosecuting attorney’s office. Regrettably, things haven’t worked out the way she expected and she’s asked Ben for a divorce. Then a local house burns down and a wildfire threatens their neighborhood and town. Will this investigation and fire be the final blow to their marriage or can it bring them closer together?

Mindy Mitchell’s family relocated to the Rockies after her daughter’s brush with death. Her daughter Carrie is now a healthy thirteen-year-old focused on ballet. Mindy’s son, Angus, is no longer the talkative and energetic boy she once knew. He’s quiet and secretive and Mindy fears the worse. After a local house fire, she’s sure her son is hiding something from her but isn’t sure she really wants to know the truth.

Smoke is another amazing story by Ms. McKenzie. Both Elizabeth and Mindy, along with their families, are at crossroads in their lives. Elizabeth is investigating the fire and wants nothing more than to save her home and possibly her marriage. Mindy is dealing with bullying. She knows firsthand the harmful effects of bullying in her own dealings with the town’s affluent popular mothers. Now, she realizes that her son is dealing with bullying at the hands of the children of those bullying mothers. Elizabeth and Mindy are forced to face the real problems in their lives rather than running away from them. Ms. McKenzie provides characters that are realistic and action that is wholly plausible. Needless to say, there’s a lot more going on in this story than I’ve mentioned (read it to find out for yourself). I found Smoke to be a fast-paced and engrossing read about friendship, love, loss, second chances, secrets, privilege, and bullying (without being preachy in tone). If you’ve read books by Ms. McKenzie in the past you’ll want to add Smoke to your TBR list. If you’ve never read anything by Ms. McKenzie and enjoy fiction about friends and family, then Smoke may be the perfect place to start (trust me, after reading it you’ll want to go back and read her other books).

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book 151: SPUN Review

SPUN by Catherine McKenzie
ISBN: 9780692025161 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781443436472 (ebook)
ASIN: B00I7WV51Q (Kindle edition)
Publication date: April 29, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins Canada

In this funny and touching novella, bestselling author Catherine McKenzie returns to the story of Amber Sheppard, It Girl and celebrity train wreck from McKenzie’s reader-favorite novel, Spin.

Life has been rough for starlet Amber since leaving rehab. She’s been two years sober, but no one seems to believe her — not the gossip media, not casting agents, and most certainly not her spotlight-loving parents. With her friendships ruined by betrayal and her career at a standstill, Amber’s just trying to get her life back on track. It doesn’t help that her former love, movie star Connor Parks, keeps trying to draw Amber back in, not just to their relationship but to his hard-partying ways. One fateful night, Amber breaks down and agrees to join him on board his private jet as it readies for take-off — a decision that will change her life forever and expose her to a whole new level of scrutiny and heartbreak.

Amber Sheppard has lived her life in the public eye since she became the “It Girl” following her smash television show The Girl Next Door when she was only fifteen years old. She became emancipated at age sixteen and involved with her co-star, Connor Parks. It didn’t help that Conner was eight years older than Amber or that they had a toxic and enabling relationship. They were in love. For a while Amber was able to move on after her television show and made several movies. She was even nominated for an Academy Award…but all that is in past, along with Connor. And to think it only took three tries at sobriety and rehab before she realized her life was quickly circling the drain. Unfortunately no one in the business is willing to give Amber another try and it seems like every stumble she makes is blamed on drugs or alcohol. Just when Amber doesn’t think she can survive another blow, she is dealt the hardest blow of all. Is it possible to move forward when the media and even your parents don’t believe in you or your sobriety? This is something Amber will have to discover an answer for in Catherine McKenzie’s follow-up to SPIN, the novella SPUN.

First, if you haven’t read SPIN grab a copy today. Although reading it isn’t necessary to enjoy SPUN, it does help to provide some background on Amber and her relationship with the media, friends, and family. Second, I found SPUN to be a very fast-paced and touching read. Ms. McKenzie does an excellent job of portraying the difficulties of remaining sober, as well as the attempt to rebuild broken relationships. In this day and age when it seems like we’re hearing about some celebrity mishap and rehab failure every day, the character of Amber Sheppard was all too realistic. It was easy to empathize with Amber although it was apparent that her pre-sobriety behavior was beyond outrageous. I even cheered her on as she continued to fight for her continued sobriety and to earn back the respect of friends, family, and peers. Although SPUN is a quick read, it isn’t a lighthearted story as it deals with the struggles of sobriety, addiction, and even grief in a realistic yet respectable manner. I’ve read most of Ms. McKenzie’s writings and enjoyed them all. If you’re looking for a quick read with a little bit of grit and realism, then you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of SPUN to read.

Catherine McKenzie has generously offered to give away one digital copy of SPIN to a lucky The Book Diva’s Reads follower. To enter please use the Rafflecopter form below.

Katie Sandford has just gotten an interview at her favourite music magazine, The Line. It’s the chance of a lifetime. So what does she do? Goes out to celebrate – and shows up still drunk at the interview. No surprise, she doesn’t get the job, but the folks at The Line think she might be perfect for another assignment for their sister gossip rag. All Katie has to do is follow It Girl Amber Sheppard into rehab. If she can get the inside scoop (and complete the 30-day program without getting kicked out), they’ll reconsider her for the job at The Line.

Katie takes the job. But things get complicated when real friendships develop, a cute celebrity handler named Henry gets involved, and Katie begins to realize she may be in rehab for a reason. Katie has to make a decision — is publishing the article worth everything she has to lose?

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the author. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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