Review of The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters

SteepandThornyWayThe Steep and Thorny Way
By: Cat Winters
Release Date: March 8th 2016
Publisher: Amulet Books
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
1920s Oregon is not a welcoming place for Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a white woman and an African-American man. She has almost no rights by law, and the Ku Klux Klan breeds fear and hatred in even Hanalee’s oldest friendships. Plus, her father, Hank Denney, died a year ago, hit by a drunk-driving teenager. Now her father’s killer is out of jail and back in town, and he claims that Hanalee’s father wasn’t killed by the accident at all but, instead, was poisoned by the doctor who looked after him—who happens to be Hanalee’s new stepfather.

The only way for Hanalee to get the answers she needs is to ask Hank himself, a “haint” wandering the roads at night.

My Thoughts:
If you’ve followed my blog for a while you’ll know that I adore Cat Winters’ writing style and each of her books really resonates and impacts me emotionally. This one was no different.

I wasn’t all that sure what to expect about this book going in because I honestly didn’t read the summary prior to requesting it. All I needed to know was that Winters wrote it. I was surprised and impressed with the social issues that were looked into and the way that, though immense emotion was present, the novel didn’t feel like it was telling me how to believe. It was an honest character study in a period of time rife with prejudice and judgment.

My heart ached for the struggles these characters had to deal with and the amount of hate directed at them. Though the setting was historical I think we can draw comparisons to our current day. The way Winters approached her characters was so refreshing and lent itself to honest understanding and empathy from the reader.

My favorite aspect of this novel was how strong Hanalee was. And, though I really don’t have an exhaustive knowledge of the time period or what Hanalee was going through, I was able to relate on a deep level.

Winters always impresses me with her ability to delve into a setting, time period and her characters. You can always tell that there has been a lot of research and study going into these books. I felt that Winters portrayed these characters beautifully and really gave them a voice.

Beyond the amazing characters, most of which were truly well rounded, the elements that mirrored Hamlet were very well done. I had to brush up on Hamlet since it had been ages since I’d read it but once I sparked  my memories I was easily able to see how TSaTW took some of these elements and twisted them into the book. Such as, a lonely ghost seeking to explain his death, mixed up identities and motives, and the journey of a child trying to understand her father’s demise.

As with all of Winters’ books the writing was impeccable though I found the pacing in this one to be a tad slower than her other novels. The paranormal elements were also less pronounce but still very present and integral to the storyline.

Final Thoughts:
Once again Cat Winters has written a book that had me thinking about its message long after finishing the novel. The writing, characters and research of the time period and people was impeccable-as always.

Extras:

  • Review of The Uninvited by Cat Winters
  • Review of The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters
  • Interview with Cat Winters author of In the Shadow of Blackbirds
  • Review of In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

Review of The Uninvited by Cat Winters

TheUninvitedThe Uninvited
By: Cat Winters
Release Date: August 11th 2015
Publisher: William Morrow
Format: Print ARC

A copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Twenty-five year old Ivy Rowan rises from her bed after being struck by the flu, only to discover the world has been torn apart in just a few short days.

But Ivy’s life-long gift—or curse—remains. For she sees the uninvited ones—ghosts of loved ones who appear to her, unasked, unwelcomed, for they always herald impending death. On that October evening in 1918 she sees the spirit of her grandmother, rocking in her mother’s chair. An hour later, she learns her younger brother and father have killed a young German out of retaliation for the death of Ivy’s older brother Billy in the Great War.

Horrified, she leaves home, to discover the flu has caused utter panic and the rules governing society have broken down. Ivy is drawn into this new world of jazz, passion, and freedom, where people live for the day, because they could be stricken by nightfall. But as her ‘uninvited guests’ begin to appear to her more often, she knows her life will be torn apart once more, but Ivy has no inkling of the other-worldly revelations about to unfold.

My Thoughts:
Cat Winters will never fail to amaze me with how beautifully she melds historical elements into her stories. As with  In the Shadow of Blackbirds Winters ventures back into 1918 and the horrible flu outbreak with her newest novel, The Uninvited. This time she also adds in the panic surrounding World War I and the push to show patriotism and to fear/hate anyone with ties to Germany. Winters was able to create such vivid scenery and describe the time period in such detail that I was easily transported and could feel the despair and fear.

Be aware, the other books from Cat Winters are geared towards (or at least classified) as young adult. The Uninvited had a bit more sexuality and the characters are in their twenties. In this novel we follow from the point of view of Ivy- a woman in her twenties (young to me but nearing old maid status back then). Ivy had the ability, like others in her family, to see spirits. These guests turning up always indicated something awful happening in the very near future. What a creepy and fantastic ability- especially during a time of war and illness.

I really can’t tell you how wonderful this novel was. I adored the writing (of course) and the story was able to keep me in its grips as well as spin me for a couple of surprises. Each of Winters’ books are rich in historical depth and touched upon the social problems of the time period This blend mixed with an eerie aura was absolutely delightful.  The Uninvited didn’t disappoint in this regard but was able to add in a few new touches.

There was a romance that I was fully behind- and as always I could use a bit more. I completely felt the chemistry between the couple though some of their relationship felt rushed. Because of the time period this novel was set in and the elements the characters are experiencing it fit within their story-lines to rush things but for me, personally, I would have enjoyed a slower progression.

Even the characters that rarely graced the page managed to feel developed and complex in their own right. I felt a connection to so many aspects of this book and the people’s plights- it was an emotional read for me.

Final Thoughts:
Seriously, if you’ve not read anything by Cat Winters you need to do so immediately. If you are already a fan then you know that this should be on your to be read list. The Uninvited was fast paced, creepy but also very enlightening about the time period it was set. There’s no question Winters has done her research about the time period surrounding the 1918 flu outbreak and is incredibly knowledgeable. In short- get thee to a book store.

Extras:

Giveaway- The Uninvited by Cat Winters (INT)

UninvitedYou might have seen on Twitter or IG that I received a few copies of Cat Winters’ latest book, The Uninvited. Today I’ll be sharing one copy with you in a giveaway. I haven’t read this one yet but I’ve loved both of Winters’ other two books, In the Shadows of Blackbirds and The Cure for Dreaming. I ran across her first book right when I started blogging and fell in love. I also grew to respect and adore Cat because she is incredibly talented as well as so nice. She agreed to do an interview about Blackbirds way back in those first months of blogging and it has continued to be one of my favorite interviews I’ve conducted.

When it was announced that she was writing an adult novel I was beyond thrilled and it was quickly added to my most anticipated list. If you’ve not read any of her work I hope that you will especially if you enjoy historical fiction with a touch of paranormal (haunted historical fiction in my world).

About the Book

TheUninvitedCoverTwenty-five year old Ivy Rowan rises from her bed after being struck by the flu, only to discover the world has been torn apart in just a few short days.

But Ivy’s life-long gift—or curse—remains. For she sees the uninvited ones—ghosts of loved ones who appear to her, unasked, unwelcomed, for they always herald impending death. On that October evening in 1918 she sees the spirit of her grandmother, rocking in her mother’s chair. An hour later, she learns her younger brother and father have killed a young German out of retaliation for the death of Ivy’s older brother Billy in the Great War.

Horrified, she leaves home, to discover the flu has caused utter panic and the rules governing society have broken down. Ivy is drawn into this new world of jazz, passion, and freedom, where people live for the day, because they could be stricken by nightfall. But as her ‘uninvited guests’ begin to appear to her more often, she knows her life will be torn apart once more, but Ivy has no inkling of the other-worldly revelations about to unfold.

Releases August 11th 2015 by William Morrow

The Giveaway

This giveaway is for an ARC of The Uninvited by Cat Winters. This is an international giveaway. I will be checking entries for anything fishy so play by the rules. The winner will have 48 hours to respond via email or another winner will be selected.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review of The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters + International Giveaway

The Cure for DreamingThe Cure for Dreaming
By: Cat Winters
Release Date: October 14th 2014
Publisher: Amulet Books
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl—a suffragist—in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. Winters breathes new life into history once again with an atmospheric, vividly real story, including archival photos and art from the period throughout.

The Story:
Well, this cements it, Cat Winters is one of my favorite authors (really there was no question) and I’ll read anything she writes. The pacing was incredibly fast and I was riveted from the very start. I dropped the other books I was reading and became solely immersed in this one. I wanted nothing more than to have my nose stuck in this book until I finished. Really, that’s what I did.

I wasn’t as drawn to the summary for The Cure for Dreaming as I was her first novel, In the Shadow of Blackbirds, but as soon as I began reading I knew I’d fall in love with this book. Winters’ writing was incredibly powerful, emotional and engaging. There are never slow moments. I was swept into 1900 Oregon and Olivia’s life. Actually, upon finishing I feel that dreaded book hangover. I zipped through the book and now wish I could go back and read it again for the first time.

I’ve not read much about the suffragist movement and had very little to go on but I felt that Winters was able to express the time period and how it felt to be a woman beautifully. I am ashamed that I’ve not spent more time understanding where my right to vote began and feel that I will be looking deeper into it now. This book was encouraging and opened my eyes to how much things have changed in a short amount of time.

Not only does this novel touch upon a historically significant time but we are also introduced to hypnosis. Magic, the occult and hypnosis was very much in style early in American history and I adore that Winters brings up the subjects and incorporates them into her novels. I loved the other worldly quality of this book and felt that though it was fantastical it still felt incredibly realistic and even plausible to some degree. I for one have never encountered a hypnotist so have no experience with the art but I am thoroughly intrigued to learn more.

As with In the Shadow of Blackbirds, photographs either from the time or portraying this time period are scattered throughout. This provides the reader a visual peek into the 1900’s and adds so much to the experience. If anyone can create a historical atmosphere it’s Cat Winters.

The Characters:
Olivia was immediately relatable and likeable. Winters gave her character a beautiful progression from slightly unsure of herself to realizing her inner bravery and strength. Not only was her character outstanding, attention was paid to each of the secondary characters. The interactions and dialog between characters were impeccable.

I especially loved Olivia and Henri’s relationship. I felt that they both brought out the strength in one another and I yearned for them to share scenes together. Truth be told, I could have done with many more moments between the two. Let it be known that I am crossing my fingers for a Cat Winters book that focuses on romance a tad bit heavier than the last two (update– Cat told me that an adult book coming out next year called The Uninvited will have a bit more romance in it!).

Back to Henri, our hypnotist, I adored that he began as a magical being that seemed far removed from Olivia and the reader. As the story progressed we learn about Henri as Olivia does and find that he was flawed and real. I thought that he was a very complex character that I’d love to read more about. I could see so many more stories concerning him and his sister.

Winters excels at creating and breathing life into her cast of characters. Even Olivia’s father, who was despicable and frightening, pulled at my empathy a time or two. I’m somewhat appalled at myself, but I felt for the man in one particular scene.

Final Thoughts:
I think you can tell that I adored this book as well as everything Cat Winters writes. I can’t think of another author that so seamlessly incorporates complex characters, a spooky atmosphere with historical elements. Though this story took place in 1900-elements are still applicable to our current world and resonates with readers today.

The Cure for Dreaming Book Trailer:

Extras:

Giveaway:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Interview with Cat Winters author of In the Shadow of Blackbirds

Today I have Cat Winters, author of In the Shadow of Blackbirds, here on my blog. In the Shadow of Blackbirds is one of the most beautiful yet tragic books I’ve ever read. I know for a fact that the characters and story that you share in your debut novel will never leave me. I am beyond thrilled and honored to have you here.

Thank you, Kristen! I’m pleased to hear the book moved you so much, and I’m excited to be here as your guest.

In the Shadow of BlackbirdsI love that your main character is named after Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein. What inspired your Mary Shelley’s story and character?
I’m glad you enjoyed her name. She originally showed up in my head as Mary Shelley Black and refused to be named anything else. I worried a little how readers might respond to me calling her that.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds first started off with the setting. For a long while, I’d been trying to write a book that involved the collision of WWI, the Spanish influenza, and the Spiritualist movement in the fall of 1918. Sometime later, Mary Shelley Black started showing up in other, unrelated book ideas of mine, but I hadn’t yet written her into a manuscript. After I spoke to my agent about what type of novel I wanted to write and how it seemed to be heading into the direction of YA fiction, it struck me that my bright, scientific, logical character-in-progress would be the perfect narrator for a time period that defies logic.

Have you always had an interest in history?
Yes, I’ve always been drawn to historical locales, fashions, and novels. I grew up in a Southern California suburb that was brand new when I was kid, so I think historical sites and stories intrigued me because they were the complete opposite of my own surroundings. My parents also raised me on old movies, from silent films to Hitchcock thrillers, so I’ve been particularly fond of twentieth-century history for as long as I can remember.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds touches on séances and ghosts and their popularity during the 1918’s. Do you personally believe in ghosts? Have you had an encounter?
I’ve heard about enough real-life ghostly encounters to believe they might really exist. My own paranormal experiences are limited to spooky images that appeared in photos I took during a trip to Maine, as well as a frighteningly vivid dream that could be explained away as a fever hallucination. I love visiting haunted historic homes and ghost tours, and I enjoy the tingly sensation that runs down my spine when I’m potentially in the company of spirits. I’m not sure why, but ghosts have fascinated me since childhood.

Photography takes an important role in your novel and you include very accurate and descriptive scenes centered on early 20th century photography methods. Are you a photographer?
Photography is a profession I admire and adore, but I’ve never taken a single photography class myself. I personally love taking pictures and wouldn’t say I’m terrible at it, yet I’m far from being an expert. Therefore, I spent a great deal of time researching early-twentieth-century photography techniques while writing In the Shadow of Blackbirds. Whenever I couldn’t find an answer on my own, I reached out to historical camera experts, photographers, and photo collectors.

At the beginning of every chapter period photography is featured; giving the reader a firsthand glimpse of what we are reading, such an amazing touch. Can you tell us anything about their inclusion in your book?
That was my idea. I decided to include the period photos for a few reasons. (1) As you already mentioned, photography plays a pivotal role in the plot. (2) Some early readers believed I was writing alternate history and thought I had made up some of the events, such as the 1918 Spanish influenza. I felt compelled to prove that this history actually occurred, and photos seemed an ideal way to do so. (3) I had been struggling to get my historical fiction manuscripts published for well over a decade, but publishers kept saying that historicals are too risky. I really wanted this book to stand out, so I tried to give it a little extra oomph by making it visually haunting.

Will we ever see any of the characters from In the Shadow of Blackbirds appear again in novellas or future novels?
I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a book from the perspective of Mary Shelley Black’s mother when she was a teen, but I haven’t gone any farther than the initial concept stage. Some readers have asked to see more of Jones and Carlos, two young WWI veterans who make a brief appearance in the novel. I may explore their stories sometime, but at this point I’m not actively writing any companion novels or novellas. The plots would have to be just right for me to want to mess around with the world and characters I’ve already established.

Speaking of future books, The Cure for Dreaming was just announced, congratulations! Can you tell us anything about it?
Thank you! I’m really excited about this second novel, which is scheduled to be released Fall 2014. The Cure for Dreaming takes place in 1900 America and involves a man who pays an up-and-coming young hypnotist to cure his seventeen-year-old daughter of rebellious thoughts. The cure, however, doesn’t go quite as planned.

Now to some more random questions:
What are you presently reading?
I’m focusing on nonfiction at the moment as I continue to work on The Cure for Dreaming. Currently, I’m reading Wicked Portland: The Wild and Lusty Underworld of a Frontier Seaport Town, by Finn J.D. John.

Is there a book or a character you wish you had written?
One of my all-time favorite characters is Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. I love how he’s wise and just and good, yet he’s struggling to make things work as an older, single dad. Many YA and children’s books are missing parental figures who play an active role in the young protagonists’ lives, and I feel Atticus proves that kids can still go out and have their adventures, even when a loving adult is waiting for them at home.

Cat WintersAbout the author:
Cat Winters was born and raised in Southern California, near Disneyland, which may explain her love of haunted mansions, bygone eras, and fantasylands.

Her critically acclaimed debut novel, In the Shadow of Blackbirds (Amulet Books), is the story of a sixteen-year-old girl who faces WWI, the Spanish influenza, and a ghost.

Cat currently lives outside of Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two kids.

Find her online:
Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook her website

In the Shadow of Blackbirds is available now
The Cure for Dreaming will be released fall 2014

Related Posts:
Review of In the Shadow of Blackbirds