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Covers are hard for me. I know I’m not supposed to use them as part of my “will I buy this book” test (jacket copy, first page skim, skim of two random paragraphs later in novel, put book down, pick book up, rinse, repeat) but I make my living as a graphic designer. And, let’s face it, a few of the books I’ve picked up based on their cover design (Microserfs, I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed,Jennifer Government) have turned out to be pretty brilliant. And it must be said that Spin by Catherine McKenzie has one of the best covers I’ve seen this year. Maybe in the past few years.

That being said, as much as I loved the cover design, I held off on buying the book. Partly because I wasn’t sure if I would like it, but mostly because I was knee deep in my own writing and the amount of reading I got to do for fun was limited to what I could squeeze in while eating lunch or waiting in line at Starbucks.

I finally picked it up last week and it’s been a total time sucker. In the best possible way.

Synopsis (from Catherine McKenzie’s website):

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?

Other than sharing a nickname, I have absolutely nothing in common with Kate Sanford. In fact, I’m pretty sure Kate would hate me. I’d be a hipper version of her roommate, Joanne, the square. In fact, in real life, I might really want to hate Kate. I kept trying to hate her in the book (a few times I actually managed it) but she’s weirdly likable. Even when I sorta wanted to throttle her, I couldn’t help but grin and mutter, “Oh Kate.” I guess that’s part of the point.

Also, in Henry, Mackenzie has created one of the most crush-worth characters in fiction since Mark Darcy.

Spin was a great, fun read. In 432 pages, the only thing I can fault is some of Kate’s taste in music and, even there, I’m willing to make allowances–when you’re trashed and on the way to rehab, even “Hey There Delilah” probably sounds half decent.

MirrorThe Mirror of Her Dreams and its other half, A Man Rides Through, are two of my comfort books. If you see me reading them, it means one of two things: I am down in the dumps or I am feeling nostalgic. I first picked up the books when I was fourteen. Between fourteen and twenty, I read the books about ten times (yes, I am a re-reader).

As a girl who always felt rather invisible, I can’t deny that the character of Teresa Morgan held considerable appeal—despite her passivity. The “only daughter of wealth and power” , Teresa is living a lonely existence in Manhattan—half convinced she doesn’t actually exist—when a man crashes through one of her mirrors and into her apartment. Without undue fuss, she’s whisked off to Mordant where mirrors are gateways to other worlds and (what seems like) an entire court is plotting against its king.

The world building is solid, the political intrigue is entertaining, and the romance is present but nicely understated. It’s one of those books that I find myself going back to when I need a bit of an escape.

(It’s really better than the cover art in the newer releases—which is not featured—would lead one to believe.)