Locke & Key: Vol 1 – Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez

3217221Locke & Key was my first experience reading a graphic novel. A really good friend of mine has been steadily working her way through a plethora of graphic novels in recent months and after having read a few of her glowing reviews I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

I was warned that Locke & Key was a bit gruesome and some of the images violently depicted. Going in, I really didn’t think the violence would be that much of an issue for me, I’m still not sure if it was or not…

The plot revolves around the Locke family, comprised of the mum and dad and three kids. After a tragic event sends the family spiraling, they move into Keyhouse, an old New England mansion set on Lovecraft Island. Somewhat isolated with a definite small town vibe, Lovecraft is a sort of haven from the demons the Locke family is trying to outrun, but their troubles are far from over.

Youngest son Bode, a curious fella finds a secret door that essentially kills you when you walk through it, leaving your ghost to roam undetected wherever you will it to go. Bode finds it fascinating and wants to share it with his grieving family but no one will believe him, they all chalk it up to figments of his imagination, or his way of dealing with the tragedy. Bode goes on to learn about Keyhouse and the hidden keys that can open special doors through out the house that have magical powers.

The basic set up of the story is intriguing and well done. Although, I did find some of the finer points of the story and the magic of keyhouse a bit glossed over. Not everything was as clear as I would have liked considering how much there is to keep up with in this story.

I really did like the characters and the sense I got of how each was dealing with loss and death in their own way.

The art work was really vivid and brought the story to life, as I’m sure it’s meant to do in a graphic novel. Although I did find some of the scenes quite violent, I’m still undecided as to whether I mind the violence or not. I think in this story it was necessary. It’s a dark somewhat Gothic tale. Yet, to have the gruesome bits all laid out there in stark colours was sometimes a bit much. Also, I think because of all the hype, I was hoping for just a bit more from the story as a whole. It was good, but not great. Maybe I was just expecting too much or maybe the story just doesn’t jive with me as well as it has with others. I think there were a few too many things unexplained or skipped over, some inconsistencies that stood out to me while reading that became distracting because I needed answers.

I’m intrigued enough to say I want to keep reading. The promise of more magic and paranormal happenings is captivating and yet at the price for the beautifully bound hardback, in full colour volumes, I think I’ll wait a while before picking up the next one.

Liebster Award!

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Yay! I’ve been nominated for a Liebster Award, aimed at helping bloggers promote and share their favourite blogs. I was nominated by the lovely Chelsey at ChelsandaBook (thanks Chels!) the award nomination consists of 4 parts:

1. state 11 random facts about yourself 2. answer 11 questions which were given to you by your nominator 3. nominate 5-11 people/blogs yourself 4. list the questions that your nominees will answer.

11 Random Facts About Me:

  1. I really like astrology. It’s something my mum and I have always been into and a fun way we try to understand more about people’s personalities. I’m an Aries but don’t always act like one!
  2. I’m lactose intolerant but don’t care. I love love love cheese and have it on most food I eat which can sometimes be a regretful decision when I later get a bad tummy ache and start cursing the god of dairy!
  3. I’m a half and half baby as my mum likes to joke. I’m half Pakistani (mum) and half Irish (dad) and am constantly mistaken for Spanish, Italian, Lebanese, even got Tunisian once…basically everything but what I am.
  4. I love ‘Friends’. It remains my favourite sitcom and will never be replaced. I can relate any situation back to ‘Friends’ and do so on a regular basis.
  5. I used to have birds as a kid. I owned 2 budgies. I also had two cats which made for a bad mix.
  6. You can usually count on me to cry during any and (mostly) all movies. When I was little and my mum took me to see The Secret Garden I cried so bad at the end that a concerned older woman came up to us when the lights went up to ask if I was okay…and did I understand the film ended happily?!
  7. I’m really careful with my books. I sometimes think it would be so nice to have well loved and tattered books but I can’t ever bring myself to crease the pages or spine. My OCD means my books stay pristine.
  8. Although my grandparents could speak perfect English, they sometimes spoke Urdu at home to my mum and aunts, or to friends on the phone. Because I grew up hearing the language all the time, I can understand it, but can’t speak a word.
  9. I love Prince Edward Island. I used to go once every summer as a child from the time I was a baby and still adore it to this day. Every time I go, I visit the Anne of Green Gables house.
  10. Growing up, my favourite number used to be 25. Now it’s 4.
  11. I crack my knuckles when I get nervous.

Answer’s to Chelsey’s Questions:

  1. What is you favourite childhood book, favourite read from the last year, and most anticipated future read? My favourite childhood book would have to be Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. Favourite read from last year (oof Chels, you make it tough!) probably, The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen. Most anticipated future read would have to be either Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins or Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead. I’ve gone off reading YA lately, but these two I’ve been waiting for.
  2. If you had the choice to create your last meal (appetizer, main course, dessert and beverage), what would it be? I’d start with a bowl of my grandmas dhal, a lentil soup that has always been a favourite of mine (I could make a whole meal of just my grandma’s food). I’d then have a really juicy steak with creamy potatoes and some broccoli and creamed spinach. For dessert, either an apple crumble and vanilla ice cream, or cream brulee.
  3. What would your ideal bookshelf/library look like? My library would look like something out of Beauty & The Beast. Wall to wall bookshelves made of old, dark wood with a lovely fireplace in the room. Lovely leather club chairs I can cozy up in next to the fire while I read. And of course I have to have a shelf ladder that moves across the room! No need for the library to be huge and open, I prefer cozy.
  4. If you were to get a tattoo tomorrow, what would it be and where? I’ve only ever considered getting a tattoo once and that was a fleeting idea. Just don’t think it’s for me, but I did have an idea. I asked my grandpa to right my name in Urdu (obviously didn’t tell him it was for a tattoo!) and I loved the script, I would have gotten my name or the old version of it written in the Qur’an tattooed in script on the inside of my wrist.
  5. Do you anticipate your birthday, wish it was over fast or remain indifferent? My birthday was always made a big deal when I was younger. I was an only child and my mum always went out of her way to make my birthday special for me. I used to get the day off from school and spend it with my dad and then have a party with family on the weekend and a party with friends. It didn’t have to be a huge to-do, but I always felt special and really loved. So yes, I anticipate my birthdays. The hurrah has gotten less as I’ve gotten older but it’s still a special day.
  6. What is you ideal smoothie? Anything with raspberries and yogurt.
  7. If you were to go to a ball (Disney Princess style), what would your dress look like? Something sleek and silky with a touch of embellishment. Open back, long and flowy, something that seems to float when I walk.
  8. Do you have a favourite mug? Where is it from, how long have you had it and what does it look like? I’ve had a few over the years. My favourite tea mugs are always big and have a funny saying or cool design. Currently it would be the mug my boyfriend bought my for Christmas. It’s cream and big (lots of tea!) and has a ‘Y’ on it in two different fonts.
  9. What is your favourite thing about your blog? I recently revamped by blog, gave it a makeover. What I really like about the change is the airiness of it. It’s more colourful and light than it was before and I like the blog sections, everything is neat and tidy.
  10. Who is your favourite man or woman in literature and why? This is a tough one! I’d most likely have quite a few if I thought about it, but the first name that came to mind would be John Thornton from Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South. I first read the book as part of a class in university and loved it. It remains one of my top 5 favourites. John Thornton is a great anti-hero/hero. He’s stubborn and arrogant and has a rough exterior, he seems proud and fierce and yet he’s kind, and tender hearted and really just wants to feel loved. He’s loyal and practical in a difficult world.
  11. If you were to adopt a dog or a cat today, what would one of your name considerations be? Maisie. (although that’ll be the name of the cow I one day own. The sheep’s name will be Bo.)

I’ll be posting my nominations and questions later this week!

Thanks again, Chels!

The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

18186807The One Plus One focuses heavily on Jess Thomas, hardworking mum to her ten year older daughter Tanzie and stepson Nicky. Jess wants to make a better life for her kids, she wants them to have all the things they should have and don’t, and more over, would like them to have the basics of life without having to stress and worry about counting her last pennies.

Jess’s ex-husband left his family claiming depression, basically he couldn’t cope and has left Jess to raise their daughter and his son from another relationship. She struggles and tries her best, but Nicky is being badly bullied in the neighbourhood and her math genius daughter desperately wants to go to a special academy for kids like her but they just can’t afford the payments.

Enter Ed, hardworking but complacent Ed who, too much of a coward to end a relationship with a woman, gives her private info into his firm which basically amounts to insider trading. He’s is deep shit now.

While I liked this book and enjoyed my time reading it, I also know that it is not a book I would want to go back and read again, or remember all that well months down the road. The story itself is compelling and I felt for Jess and her kids. While I really liked Nicky and Tanzie I had a hard time liking Jess and Ed.

I understood why the characters were the way they were, and I felt like it made sense of for the book, the seemed real in their decision making, and yet I didn’t like either Jess or Ed. While Jess is judgmental, quick to anger and quick to dismiss, Ed is cowardly and complacent. Ed runs a huge million dollar company and gets himself into trouble, Jess makes little money but tries really hard to do right by her family. She’s very judgy of Ed’s success at first and I found her quick to belittle or lecture him. Yes, she’s had a hard time of it, but that’s not Ed’s fault. And Ed was hard to like mostly because he’d built himself up and found success but didn’t necessarily see people all that well. He was just, I don’t know exactly, blah…

Anyway, the story is set across a type of road trip, the reasons for which I’ll let you read yourself. I enjoyed the trip and enjoyed reading the story but nearing the end I found the book dragged a bit but also wrapped up too quickly after the climax. Things between Jess and Ed were resolved too quick and after all the shit Jess and her kids had been through, the mess ups piling on, I found the resolution too all their problems just a bit too quick and easy.

I’m glad I read this book, had a good time with it and kept reading along, interested, but ultimately, I’m glad I got this one from the library.

 

Getting Through a Series (1,2,3…)

The way for books to go these days, especially YA books it seems is the way of a series. You get a large scale story told over several books and story arcs and sometimes, have to wait months before getting your hands on the next bit of the story.

I don’t mind reading series’, in fact I quite enjoy them. The only issue is that as time has passed and my reading interests go from book to book I’ve realised that some of the stories I’ve started along the way have fallen by the wayside.

In some cases my interest in the series wasn’t that great to begin with. I think we’ve all been there, you start on book one and realise it just isn’t for you. You may like a few things here and there so you might try the second book, but ultimately it’s just not your cup of tea. In other cases, the time it’s taken for book 2 or 3 or 4 etc has just been too long, and by the time the next book has come out, I’ve kind of outgrown the story, or forgotten the story and characters enough to not really want to pick the series back up. Sometimes it’s just that I’ve outgrown the series completely, I’m not a teen and although I have really enjoyed quite a number of YA books, when I look back at my shelf and the books I loved so much, I know I wouldn’t get that same feeling reading them now, just a few years later.

I’ve come to realise recently that my enjoyment of YA is slowly dissipating. When I started reading YA again in university it was because there seemed to be such diversity, such great and unique stories that just weren’t around when I was actually a teen. I devoured YA books, whether contemporary or paranormal. But I’ve stalled somewhere along the way. With some series I fully intended to pick up where I left off…with others…not so much.

Let me explain these books quickly. So, I’ve started and am half way through each of these series’. The Mortal Instruments series was a favourite of mine when I first read it! I thought it was great. When I finished the first three in the series I was happy with the ending and didn’t think there necessarily needed to be more, but I was excited by the prospect of a continuation in the story and getting more of the characters. I bought the next two, book 4 and 5 but haven’t cracked either one yet. I don’t know if it’s reluctance to ruin what I already enjoyed or if I’ve just grown past the books themselves. Part of me thinks it’s option 2. My reading interests have changed since I finished the first part of this series. Mockingjay and The Prophet are books I most likely will never pick up. I loved the beginning of Amanda Stevens’s series, The Restorer  felt fresh and was creeping and exciting. I really enjoyed it. I got an ARC copy of book two but it fell flat for me. Was so different in tone from book 1 and I was ultimately disappointed and then lost interest. I enjoyed The Hunger Games series, but didn’t love it. I think it was interesting and at the time was the thing to read, but it wasn’t super great writing aside from the excitement of the games themselves. I tried to read book 3 a few times but only got so far before realising I just wasn’t going to enjoy it. Now, Alligiant I really enjoy this series. It was fast paced and had likable characters I could identify with, I loved the first book, liked the second, but after all the mixed reviews of the third, I’m scared to read it. I may pick it up just to put a period on the series, but it may take me a while.

These book are the ones I intended to finish! Three of them are already sitting on my bookshelves. I’ve been looking forward to reading The Fiery Heartthe third in Richelle Mead’s Bloodlines series for ages. I whipped through the first books in the series back to back over a period of a week or so and loved them all! I ordered The Fiery Heart when it first came out and then left it sitting in a pile of other books I’d ordered. I have yet to pick it up, but fully intend on it soon!

Siege and Storm and Breaking Point are both the second books in series’ I will pick up eventually and get back into. I enjoyed both first books in the series but they aren’t necessarily top of my reading list. Finally, Shadowfever, the last book in Karen Marie Monning’s Fever series, is a book I’ve been meaning to pick up and finish for ages. I’ve gotten about 1/2 way through a few times and then pick up something else. I really enjoyed reading this series, although the main character Mac bugged me the entire way through! She’s an annoying character, but the story is good.

So, after all that, what are some of the series’ you’ve been meaning to finish? Or have decided you’ll just never get to?

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

17281240This book has so much to love and gush about. My best friend had been raving about this book for ages since she read it, singing its praises and recommending I read it. I have to admit I was intrigued, but wasn’t convinced I’d love it as much as she did.

Boy was I wrong! And so glad for it. The Rosie Project is such a lovely, heartfelt, endearing book with equally heartfelt and endearing characters. I absolutely loved Don Tillman and Rosie! They were such unique characters. Graeme Simsion wrote with such intelligence and affection for his characters you couldn’t help but fall for this book.

Don especially stole the show on this one. I’d never read a character like him, as I’m sure is true for most people. He’s routine oriented, really socially inept, emotionally numb and very science focused. He sees everything as an equation, a puzzle to be organised. He’s attractive and intelligent, but very socially inexperienced. Don has never had a second date but really wants to find a partner to spend his life with. Enter The Wife Project. Don writes up a questionnaire extraordinaire full of questions used to eliminate and find the perfect mate. Needless to say his project doesn’t go as planned. Enter Rosie.

She’s feisty and fierce, vulnerable and charismatic. She’s a smoker! Horror! for Don, she needs his help to track down her biological father. Enter, The Father Project, that which brings Rosie and Don into the realm of each others lives.

Okay, enough summarising. Seriously, all I can say over and over is how lovely this book is. Full of wit and heart, moments to ponder, moments to laugh at, moments that kinda hurt your heart a little.

I loved the dynamic between Rosie and Don, the vulnerability each exhibited, the clueless wonder Don experienced, the surprising affection Rosie felt. Talk about opposites attract, Don was convinced from the first moment that Rosie was an ‘unfit partner’ but boy do people and feelings surprise you. This book was the perfect example of not judging a book by its cover, of not letting life pass you by. I know I sound sappy but this book really was something special.

I don’t what else to say without just gushing all over this post, so I’ll end it here and say if you haven’t read The Rosie Project do it. You won’t be sorry! I sure wasn’t.

**Side note: two thumbs up for that cute little cover as well.

Spring has (almost, kinda, sorta) Sprung

In Ireland, spring is an elusive season. It comes in on a whim and out on a freezing cold rainstorm. Lately, the weather has been pretty nice though. Although the nights have been cool, the days have been sunny and warmer than they have been in months. Between 5 and 8 degrees. When the sun shines in Ireland, it’s not like back home at all. In Canada you expect the warm weather, you know it’ll be the reprieve at the end of a long cold winter. In Ireland, Belfast, specifically where I live, it rains for the majority of the time and on those special days where the sun is out and you can feel the heat of the sun on your face, it immediately feels like a gift. You want to stop everything you’re doing, cancel everything you had planned for the day and just enjoy the moment, enjoy the sun and the heat, because you know it will probably rain down heavy again tomorrow.

We’ve had a few magical days in Belfast over the past few weeks, one really nice one this past Sunday. My boyfriend was itching to take his motorbike on a proper ride so we decided to go up along the north coast to one of our favourite wee towns, Portstewart, nestled against the ocean. The idea that spring could be right around the corner pushed me to look around my room and decide it was about time I did some spring cleaning!

I want to start getting rid of old clothes I haven’t worn in months…or years…I have things I’ve stored at the back of my closet for ages because I have no where else to put them. I’m an organised person and I like having a place for everything, the fact that there are things clinging to any inch of space in drawers or cupboards bothers me and I want to make everything nice and neat as we travel into the warmer months.

I started my spring cleaning by tackling my bookshelf. It is no where near as crowded as the ones I have back home in Canada, I’ve been good at keeping my book buying to a limit, and yet I ran out of room to store new books. So, with the idea that I was going to go out and purchase some more, I took stock of my old library and got rid of a bag full of old novels. The giveaways were mostly books I’d read and knew I wouldn’t read again because I really hadn’t liked them much the first go around. There were also a few romances books I had shoved to the bottom of my bookshelf and knew I wasn’t going to read. The simple act of cleaning and reorganising my bookshelf made me feel better.

Today, there are painters at my house redoing the bathroom and my bedroom and I know I’ll go home and have to clean up behind them. This is a good thing though, I’m going to reorganise, purge old belongings and make my room my happy place again 🙂 First time I think I’ve looked forward to spring cleaning! And at the end of it all, as a wee treat to myself, I may just have to pick up another new book or two!

The Unpredictable Consequences of Love by Jill Mansell

18240500Right, so, Josh likes Sophie but Sophie isn’t interested and he can’t figure out why. Riley likes Tula who in turn likes Josh but the feelings aren’t mutual. Lawrence can’t get over his ex-wife Dot, but Dot’s seeing a new man, meanwhile, Riley’s aunt Marguerite likes Lawrence.

This is the romantic set-up/entanglements that make up Jill Mansell’s latest novel.

In her trademark style, The Unpredictable Consequences of Love is a fun, fast-paced and an easily likeable read, perfect for a beach side or cottage getaway.

Set in the seaside town of St. Carys in Cornwall, Sophie is the protagonist of this story if there was to be just one. Although the book gives the readers glimpses into the lives of many of the St. Carys residents, the love story between Sophie and Josh is meant to be at the centre. I have to say it took me just a little bit to get into this one. I liked the premise but for some reason I had my doubts that the characters and story would grab me. I liked Sophie’s character in the beginning, she was fun and carefree and spoke her mind. Although I didn’t come to dislike her, there were moments when I thought her game-playing with Josh – pretending she might go out with various other men, but wouldn’t explain why she wouldn’t go out with him –  was a bit irritating. She knew rightly how he felt about her and used it against him a bit. Josh as well was meant to be likable, but there were moments at the beginning where his treatment of Tula made me question whether I did indeed like him. These weren’t by any means detriments to the overall story, just feelings I had while reading.

I think the thing about this book was that although I liked many of the characters, I never really felt like I got to the point where I knew them. I never really felt them as characters if that makes sense. In some other of Mansell’s novels, the thing that made the story so enjoyable were the characters and their relationships with each other. In this one, it felt like everyone was floating around just a little bit.

The love story I enjoyed the most would have to be that of Riley and Tula. I felt for Tula and really thought she was a sweet girl, overlooked and unappreciated. Riley ‘saw’ her right from the word ‘go’ and wouldn’t give up. I thought it was cute.

I would have liked to see the friendship between Tula and Sophie expanded, because while they were meant to be best friends, there weren’t many moments of the two just hanging out, talking, doing as friends do…I think that could have added a bit to the story in general.

Anyway, overall I enjoyed this one, but it isn’t one of my favourite’s by Mansell. I love when her books are set in small villages with old cobblestone streets and quaint cafes. St. Carys painted a pretty picture and made me want to go to the beach, and although I wouldn’t count this as one of my favourites, The Unpredictable Consequences of Love was a good, summertime beach read.

BOOKS! BOOKS! Lovely, Lovely BOOKS!

So, last week I wrote a post about how there was never enough time in a day for all the reading I wanted to do! I also recalled how much I used to love going to the bookshop to sift through shelves and pull out some great finds. How long it had been since I’d done any book buying or felt that lovely happy feeling after I’ve bought myself some new books, bringing them home to set on my shelves to admire and read.

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I wish this was a sign outside my local bookshop 😛

Well, ladies and gents, yesterday I decided that I would finally get myself in the groove and go find myself some books to devour. I had a plan to hit the local Oxfam Books near my house to see if there were any books in there I could buy at a discount, then I planned to pick up a book I’d reserved at the library that had finally come in, then head into the city centre to hit the bookshops for anything I’d missed.

I went to the library first and the woman at the desk retrieved another book I’d placed on hold, not the one I saw had come in! Bonus! So now I had two books with me. I skipped Oxfam and went right into town because I decided since I already had two books with me, I was only going to buy 1.

Well, when I got to Waterstones and saw they had a Buy 1 get 1 Half Off sale, and loads of tables included in the deal, that 1 book rule went out the window. I bought three, and happily.

Below are my purchases and library finds.

Library Finds:

The Unpredictable Consequences of Love by Jill Mansel

Winter Wonderland by Belinda Jones

I started reading Jill Mansel’s books last summer and have really enjoyed them. They’re light romances/family dramas usually set in small town England. Easy reads and escapist stories. Can’t say I love the title of this book, her newest, but I hope the story will hit the spot. Winter Wonderland is a book I heard about from fellow Canadian bloggers and as it is set in Quebec City, a city I love, especially in winter time, I thought what better way to remind myself of home than read a book set in a city I know and the country I come from. Bonus that it’s set during winter and the annual Carnival.

Bookshop Purchases:

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Red House by Mark Haddon

The first two on the list are books my best friend Chelsey couldn’t stop raving about. I hadn’t planned on getting The Rosie Project but the book just stood out to me when I saw it in the shop and I thought ‘why not?’, plus the cover art is really cute. Reminds me of the ‘See? He’s her lobster!’ scene from Friends. 🙂 The Red House by Mark Haddon was an impulse buy. I saw it on the shelf, picked it up, read the back and decided I liked the premise. I haven’t done that in a while, what with Goodreads and Blogs always making me aware of books well before they’re even out on the shelves. It was fun to pick one up with no back history whatsoever.

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Think I’ll pick up the library read first as they’re due back in a few weeks, but can’t wait to get to the others!

Happy Panda I am.

Never Enough Time in a Day

I am an avid reader. I carry a book everywhere I go, whether I know I’ll have a chance to pull it out or not. I pick purses based on whether I think I could fit a paperback inside, I read before I go to sleep at night and every free moment I have during the day. But lately, sadly, the time I am able to devote to reading has dwindled steadily.

My lack of reading time is due to many things, work, social life, general exhaustion on a daily basis…Also, I’ve come to realise that because I am now working hard to refocus and devote all the free time I have to editing my novel and getting it finally (for the 4th time) into that final stage before I can send it out to agents, I now feel guilty if in my down moments I choose to read when I could be writing. Its become a vicious cycle and one I feel sad about.

I look at the bookshelf in my room, look at the books I have yet to read and wish I had more time in the day. I read posts from fellow bloggers about the great books they’ve been reading and want immediately to experience that rush of feeling I used to have whenever I was sunk in the middle of a great book. I want to get those chills when I connect with a character or moment in a story and I want the satisfaction of closing the cover on that last page.

I used to read books easily within a few days, now it’s taken me almost a month to get through my latest read and I only ever pick it up in spurts rather than turn page after page for hours like I used to. There were times in university when I had more than one book on the go, flipping between books for school and books of my own choosing, and although I know I could pick up more than one now, with the way things have been going, it’s become hard enough getting through one book, let alone two…or three. But I get that itch, I tend to get a bit bored if I stretch the reading of a book on for weeks, mostly because I yearn to get started on another story.

Also, because I haven’t had as much time to read, I’ve let go of buying new books. I used to love going to the bookshop and picking out a few good reads, bringing them home and setting them out on my shelf, the proud new owner of endless enjoyment and new stories. I think it’s actually been a few good months since I last bought a book, so unusual for me!

So, I want to change my current habits, get back into my habit of reading before bed, of devoting time during the day to my love of reading. The change will probably have to come slowly. I still have to work and devote the majority of my time to writing, but I think if I start by returning to my ritual of reading before bed, of using that time to unwind and let my mind sink into another time and place, I’ll be a lot happier.

I’m almost done my current read and then have a choice to make – read a book I pull from my shelf, or treat myself to a few new reads and pick one from them! hehe

The books above are ones that are currently collecting dust on my bookshelf and ones i keep looking at wondering which I’m in the mood to read. The books below are those I’m longing to buy 🙂

I’ve never read any graphic novels before but since my best bud Chelsey from Chelsandabook got hooked on them a while back, I’ve been wanting to pick a few of her recommendations up. I love branching out and trying new genres and given the way Chelsey has described some of the storylines, I think reading graphic novels could be my new favourite thing!

What about you guys? Any recommendations to kick start my reading frenzy once again? Any books you guys have been waiting to pick up or desperate to read?

A Sense of Place

I’ve been working on the fourth round of edits for my novel and among other things have been trying time and again to center the book with a really clear and evocative sense of place. While doing my masters degree and having bits and pieces of this novel critiqued by my classmates, a continual positive comment I received was about the setting and the images I was able to bring to life in some of the scenes I’d written. So, I’m trying to confirm in my head while I do these edits and drive myself crazy for the 4th time, that I do have a good grasp of setting, that my characters are grounded in a concrete world, that I haven’t left them to drift unknowingly in and fend for themselves!

I write about small town life. I’m from Ottawa, Ontario in Canada and although it’s a city, it’s by no means a very big one. In fact, for much of my growing up years, before Ottawa expanded to include whats now deemed the ‘Ottawa Valley’, I felt like I was growing up in a small town. I lived in a neighbourhood that felt very much like a small community. My dad is from a small town just beyond the borders of Ottawa and I grew up listening avidly to his many stories about small town life. Those stories have influenced and inspired my writing, and Avonmore, the town I’ve created in my novel is actually based in part, on two towns I visited frequently as a child. One town in particular was where my great-grandparents settled when they came over to Canada from Ireland.

I think at heart, I’m very much a small town girl and it shows in my writing. I’ve never once written in either short stories or novel format, a story set anywhere but in a small town. It’s where I’m comfortable, it’s what I know and what I love. The chaos of city life has always overwhelmed me. Books set in small towns are also what I gravitate towards while reading. Go figure!

So, while I chisel away at my own work, while I picture the small town I’ve created in my head and try to imagine where everything is, where everyone lives and how the town is mapped, I go back to the books that evoked a very strong sense of place in my head. The authors wrote towns that are sharp in my mind, that give me a good strong picture of where the characters are living, loving and losing. It’s harder than people might first think, to make up a world in your head and then try to accurately translate that world onto the page so readers get the same feeling you had. Setting has always been something I pick out in books I read and something I focus my mind on first in my own writing, it’s a talent I haven’t quite mastered yet, but something I’ll be working on in all my stories to come.

The books below are examples of stories and authors I think did a great job of wrapping me up in a distinct and wonderfully imagined place.

Five of these authors are Canadian and have set their stories in Canada. Crow Lake in particular, set in small town Ontario, was the book that partially inspired my novel. It was one of the first books I’d read as an adult reader that was set in a place I knew and loved. The story I remember in bits and pieces, a family saga that spans years, and yet there was something about the lake, the farm land, the desolate nature of the setting that had me hooked.

The other three books, The Restorer and the two books by Sarah Addison Allen are all set in the deep south of the States. I’ve never been to the South myself, but these books made me want to go! They had such a way about them, a quiet grandeur, a richness to the heat and history that made me yearn to visit the towns mentioned. Sarah Addison Allen is great at making up a small town setting and bringing it to life and she’s a master at making the setting a character in itself, something I’d like to achieve myself one day.

So, what are some of the books you guys love for setting alone?