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review 2019-10-20 20:26
Out on the 29
The Art of Looking Up - Catherine McCormack

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

My favorite church in Montreal, if not the whole world, is Norte-Dame-de-Bon-Secours. In part, it is because of the life of its founder, but there is a simplicity in the chapel as well that makes the faith more secure, solid, physical. It’s true that it lacks something that the grand Notre Dame of Montreal has – the stunning ceiling. The Notre Dame ceiling is like a night sky, and it helps to make the interior of the building stunning. One does wonder, periodically, how many people actually notice it.

Luckily, we have Catherine McCormack’s excellent book to make up the difference. This beautiful edition contains stunning photographs as well as brief history and information about the various places included in the book. The longest section of text is the introduction, which includes a discussion of the absence of women artists.

The book is divided into different sections based on the purpose of the various buildings. The sections are Religion, Culture, Power, and Politics. The power section is primary royal residences, and culture includes theaters and museums

It is to McCormack’s credit that the book is varied in the various places. While some might quibble about the various choices, McCormack choses a good variety of places that are from far more than Europe. The religion section in particular includes far more than Christianity, which is nice. But I think the best inclusion was the Metro Stations of Sweden, a nice choice of something that many people would have totally ignored.

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review 2019-08-24 12:38
"The Undefeated" by Una McCormack - an excellent Science Fiction novella
The Undefeated - Una McCormack
"The Undefeated" is a beautifully crafted novella about unconscious privilege, ubiquitous slavery and their consequences, seen through the eyes of a memorable, if not always reliable, narrator.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the way Una McCormack slowly built up my understanding of the central character, Monica Greatorex, both by showing me how she sees her current and past self and by letting me see the things about her to which she is mostly blind.


Monica, in her sixties, is returning for the first time as an adult, to her childhood home on Savanah, a periphery world, once proudly independent and now part of the Commonwealth. She is travelling with a Jenjer companion that she paid a great deal for. She is travelling against the flow, with most people fleeing (although they would deny that description) to the core worlds.


Much of the novella is spent understanding Jenjers, why people are fleeing, and why Monica is heading in the opposite direction. Much of this is revealed in the childhood memories Monica immerses herself in,, often recalling with shame the thoughts and actions of her childhood self.


The novella seems to me to be about the corrupting effects of slavery on a society whose wealth depends on the work of slaves but whose sense of worth is maintained only by denying the humanity of those slaves. It looks at how blind the wealthy and powerful become to the reality of their situation, how hatred and the need not just for justice but for vengeance builds in the enslaved and how neither side will willing acknowledge this.


Although the story is set in a far future in which humanity has expanded its reach to many planets, the tone of the story seems to me to be Edwardian. This unusual juxtaposition of setting and tone made me look harder at what was going on.


From the beginning, I saw Monica Greatorex as one of those wealthy, independent, Edwardian women who travelled the world on a bicycle, absorbed in collecting butterflies, eschewing the conventions of Society but still benefitting from the protection of wealth and privilege that they so took for granted that they were unaware of it. I think this is clear from the first sentence of the novella:


MONICA GREATOREX HAD, in her sixtieth year, resisted acquiring dependents but had (in that easy way we may observe in the rich wherever and whenever we are) accrued considerable wealth without particular effort on her part. Money begot money, and this miraculous alchemy had eased Monica’s passage through life, a life which she would be the first to admit had been blessed—with adventure, travel, lovers of all persuasions, and, above all, the liberty to do whatever she chose. Looking back over her six decades, she was satisfied that she had not, on the whole, squandered either her talents or her resources.


As we can see, Monica thinks well of herself. She sees herself as a warrior with words whose writings from the frontlines of Commonwealth expansion have helped to awaken a social conscience in Society and shape policy. She is alone and likes her solitude, provided her comforts are arranged for her by her Jenjer.


As she stands in the what's left of the town she was raised in and confronts childhood memories through an adult's eyes, she readjusts her picture of herself and her situation, finally allowing herself to acknowledge what is going on, how she has contributed to it and what it is going to mean.


I ended the book liking her a little more and admiring her courage and her dignity.


I was very impressed with this novella. I hope that it does well and the Una McCormack gifts us with more work like it.


As an aside, this novella is one of those where I'm left wondering if the publisher didn't understand what they were publishing or didn't have the courage to market it for what it is. Here's the publisher's summary:


Una McCormack's The Undefeated is a thrilling space opera adventure featuring a no holds barred heroine on the front lines of an intergalactic war...
She was a warrior of words.
As a journalist she exposed corruption across the Interstellar Commonwealth, shifting public opinion and destroying careers in the process. 
Long-since retired, she travels back to the planet of her childhood, partly through a sense of nostalgia, partly to avoid running from humanity’s newest—and self-created—enemy, the jenjer.
Because the enemy is coming, and nothing can stand in its way.


This isn't a space opera. Monica is not a "no holds barred heroine". She's a grown woman finally coming to understand that she was once a privileged little princess and to understand and be ashamed of the sources of that privilege. To me, that makes "The Undefeated" much more interesting than a pocket-sized space opera.



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review 2019-01-16 23:01
Book Blitz: Wishes in a Bottle by Allie McCormack with Giveaway

Wishes in a Bottle
Allie McCormack

(Wishes & Dreams, #1)

Publication date: January 15th 2019
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Romance

Centuries ago in plague-struck Italy, Julian DiConti cast a powerful spell in desperation to have the magical power to be able to help his people who were dying in horrific conditions. The spell goes spectacularly awry, leaving Julian enslaved to a Djinn bottle, bound to grant three wishes to each Master of the bottle until the spell can be broken. More than anything, Julian longs for a normal life – for a home, and a family. After six hundred years, however, he has begun to despair of ever being freed from the spell.

Enter Alessandra Taylor, a young woman who has followed her calling to help others, in the face of vociferous disapproval from her family, particularly her controlling father. Working at a shelter for battered women, she’s thrilled to meet the reclusive Julian DiConti, whose collection of garments from third world countries has provided funding for shelters across the country. When Julian turns out to be a Djinn from the old bottle she found in her attic, she hears his story and empathizes with his despair. Although she’s willing to free him, he can’t tell her how. As time goes by, their initial attraction blossoms into a love that both realize is doomed. Once she has made her third wish, the magic of the bottle will whisk Julian away and out of her life forever… unless she can somehow figure out how to free him. But one by one, she’s forced to use the precious wishes to help others.

Alessandra burst into the supervisor’s office, bursting with excitement. It was her first day back at work after everything that had happened. Betty looked up from her computer monitor, peering at Alessandra over the top of her reading glasses.
“Welcome back. What’s got you in such a tweak?”
“You’ll never guess who I’ve met.” Alessandra came to perch on the corner of Betty’s desk, nudging a stack of official-looking papers aside with her hip, anticipating Betty’s response.
“Whom,” Betty corrected automatically, taking her glasses off and leaning forward, slender brows raised over grey-blue eyes sparkling with interest. “Don’t keep me in suspense. Tell me.”
Alessandra leaned forward. “Julian,” she spoke the name slowly, enunciating each syllable, “DiConti.”
She enjoyed seeing Betty’s eyes widen, hearing her audible gasp.
Alessandra just smiled and nodded.
“Oh my God, Alessandra. How did you meet him? Where? Is he here, in New York?”
“Yes, he’s here. In fact, it turns out he lives here, in the city.”
Alessandra paused for effect, grinning at the growing anticipation on her boss’ face. A thought struck her, and she pondered. Julian’s face arose in her mind’s eye, the clear pleasure on his face when he’d learned that she worked at one of the shelters that had received donations from the fund he’d set up. He would never ask, she thought, to visit the shelter to see for himself. He’d be well aware of the security and anonymity they required. But she would bet her bottom dollar he would love to actually see for himself the difference his Foundation had made for some.
“I wonder,” she said slowly. “I wonder if we might invite him to visit, and see what improvements his donations have made possible.”
“Yes!” Betty shot out of her chair. “Alessandra, this could be wonderful for us.”
“I’ve told him a bit about what we’ve been able to do with the funds we’ve gotten from Uncommon Threads. It turns out that he’s never seen a safe house, and has only the most basic knowledge of what we do here. He told me that he’d never met anyone who’d benefited directly from his Foundation, not here in the States, I mean. I think he’d very much like to see the place, what we’ve been able to do with the extra funding.”
Betty sank back into her chair, staring at Alessandra.
“I can’t believe it. You have met Julian DiConti. You’ve actually spoken to him. Do you know he has only appeared in public once? Once! And that was at the opening of his Uncommon Threads exhibit last year. He’d never been seen before then, has never been seen since. He travels a lot, the papers say,”
Betty seemed to be still lost in amazement. She lowered her voice, leaning forward conspiratorially, “Do you know, no one has ever been able to get a picture of him? He’s never been in the paper or in a magazine, not on the Internet… nothing! Even the paparazzi can’t seem to snap a shot of him.”
Alessandra tucked that away in the back of her mind to ponder. She’d ask Julian about it later. It seemed impossible that journalists, as persistent as they were annoying, would not have gotten some shots of him. A person as wealthy and reclusive as Julian DiConti would draw paparazzi attention like bees to honey. Maybe it was something to do with the Djinn magic. Certainly one could not live for so many hundreds of years and leave a record, something by which one could be recognized, especially now with photography. How embarrassing to have a photograph of one resurface half a century later and you haven’t changed by a whisker.
Betty’s mind was already darting ahead.
“We can invite the Board of Directors, and maybe some of the…”
“No, absolutely not,” Alessandra interrupted hastily. She didn’t have to ask Julian to know what his feelings about that would be. “He wouldn’t like that at all. He’s a very private person. Really, Betty. I think he’d appreciate seeing the positive results of his efforts, to see for himself the difference that is being made. He wouldn’t want publicity, or any grand fuss made, and you know it would be bound to get out, if we told the Board. And, too, you know,” she pressed on, “the residents here wouldn’t like it, either. It would make them uncomfortable. Just being here is hard enough for most of them.”
“Yes,” Betty admitted. “But, at the same time… Mr. DiConti is such a huge contributor. More than half a million dollars, just to us! It seems almost rude not to do everything we can to welcome him.
“Bring out the red carpet and brass band?” Alessandra suggested with a laugh. “Betty, I assure you he would neither expect that, nor want it.”
Betty pursed her lips, thinking this over. “You’re sure?”
“I am.” Alessandra made her answer as firm and authoritative as she could. “I’m very sure, Betty. And I was thinking, you know. We might ask some of the women if they would be willing to talk with him, tell him their stories. He knows the stories of the women he has helped in India, why shouldn’t he hear the stories of the women here? We can let the residents know exactly when he would be here, let them choose to come out to meet him, or not.”
“He’s worth millions, you know. Billions.” Betty’s eyes held a dreamy, far-away expression. “Mostly inherited, but he’s made a pile on his own. That antique shop has been around forever. There was an article on him in People magazine when he first opened Uncommon Threads, and then when it did so well and he sent the collection on tour across America. There was an article on Whimsies, too, in that artsy magazine from the Village. No one really knows much about Julian himself, though.”
“Except that he’s worth a lot of money.” Alessandra laughed, but inside she cringed. Billionaire? Of course, six hundred years was plenty of time for financial planning, but still… It was almost impossible to comprehend. Billions of dollars? And he was living in a little glass bottle on her dresser!
It would have been funny, if it weren’t so sad. Alessandra’s heart ached for Julian. If only there were something she could do for him, some way that she could release him from the spell so that he could really live, could have a real life. She would gladly give all three of her wishes… well, the two she had left… but she would have given all of them to free him.
That spell seemed more like a curse to her. Julian was so desperately unhappy. He never said so, but she could see it in his dark azure eyes, the brooding sadness that never quite left, that lurked behind the charming smile. So many times she had caught the quiet lapses, when he retreated inside himself when he thought she was unaware. It seemed an awful punishment, no matter what he had done. She just wished she could find a way to help him.
Author Bio:
A career medical transcriptionist, Allie McCormack is now writing from home full-time. Allie has traveled quite a bit and lived many places all over the U.S., and also a year in Cairo, Egypt as an exchange student, and a year in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia under contract to a hospital there, plus a short stint with NATO while she was in the Army. As a single mom, she raised a wonderful daughter who's recently married and there are plans afoot for grandchildren. A disabled veteran, Allie now lives in the beautiful Sorona Desert in southern Arizona with her two rescue cats and writes full-time.

Allie says: "A writer is who and what I am... a romance writer. I write what I know, and what I know is romance. Dozens of story lines and literally hundreds of characters live and breathe within the not-so-narrow confines of my imagination, and it is my joy and privilege to bring them to life, to share them with others by writing their stories."



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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-03-08 09:08
Star Trek: Typhon Pact: Brinkmanship by Una McCormack
Brinkmanship (Star Trek: Typhon Pack, #8) - Una McCormack

While Crusher and Picard attend a conference over the offer by the Venetans to the Tzenkethi to use some of their starbases (those close to Federation, Cardassian and Ferengi space respectively), Dax is joined by SI commander Peter Alden, visiting one of the starbases in question and trying to determine the Tzenkethi motive.


I think the red thread holding this book together is distrust - distrust of enemies in a cold war, distrust of old friends who might have changed too far, distrust of new allies etc. And in the end, a part of the solution which returns a threatening outbreak of open warfare to the cold war situation, is to sow distrust into a people who are blunt and not used to subterfuge and lies. The Tzenkethi are a fascinating people and McCormack spends some time introducing their culture and the makeup of their society. And quite frankly, open slavery and subjugation is one thing, but genetic engineering and "(re)conditioning" so that everybody is happy with the small place that they're granted and not willing and/or able to look beyond is quite the devious scheme.


This book also introduces Peter Alden, a high-strung intelligence officer on the verge of a breakdown, and Corazame, one of said naive Tzenkethi who gets pulled into a spy-extraction plot. We'll see both of them again in "The Missing" and "Enigma Tales" (only Alden).


Overall, an entertaining novel, which unfortunately takes a bit of time to really get going. But once it does, it's hard to put it down... And I said it before: I like Alden, he's an interesting, multi-layered character that I wouldn't mind reading much more of.

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review 2018-02-26 00:23
Working It (Metropolis Book 2) by Riley Hart and Devon McCormack Review
Working It (Metropolis) - Devon McCormack,Riley Hart

After his boyfriend dumps him, Hayden is in need of a place to live. Thanks to his buddies, he has a great lead to room with a guy named Cody in Metropolis, the hottest condominium in town. But things get a little uncomfortable when Hayden shows up for the interview and discovers he and Cody share an awkward up close and personal experience from their past.

Cody doesn't have a problem living with Hayden. He's had his share of help when he was down and out, and he wants to do the same for this guy. It's not long until Cody realizes how great it is having someone around. Sometimes, they watch movies together...and other times, they help get each other off--one of the perks of living with a guy who's as laid back about sex as he is. They hit off so well Cody even decides to act as wingman for Hayden while he gets used to hitting the town again.

Before they know it, they're spending more time with each other than with anyone else. But Hayden just got out of a relationship and should be spending his nights having fun and working it around town, not jumping into something serious again. Cody's always just gone with the flow, believing if it's meant to happen, it will. But life doesn't always work that way, and if they don't fight for what's right in front of them, Hayden and Cody might be over before they have the chance to even get started.





My least favorite of the series so far but it is still a good read and a must read if you are enjoying the series!


Hayden and Cody fall in deep like and then love. They both have interesting backstories which I don't want to spoil for you.


Cody is really well defined as person.


Hayden has a lot of traits like backing, loving math, and having a bad break up but a lot of this seems surface level and he never feels as developed as a character.


I wanted him to be way more nerdy than he is or at least that to come out more.


The circle of friends aspect remains great. There are some sexual escapades that might make you google to see that is possible but overall it is a sweet romance.

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