Books Inspiring Design

When school let out for summer, I had a great big to-do list of home improvement. I also had a stack of really good books. For the first week of vacation, when all of the kids were in camp, I read The Night Circus by Amy Morgenstern and redecorated my laundry room.

It’s interesting to me, the way that my mood is so affected by what I’m reading. I had found this great wallpaper with images of Paris and London on it and needed to choose a paint colour to go with it. When I got to the card in the fan deck filled with magical names, I choose Para’s “Shape Shifter”. How could I not?

The Night Circus-Inspired laundry room
The Night Circus-Inspired laundry room

So I spent the week painting, reading The Night Circus (while the paint was drying), and hanging wallpaper (thanks Dad!) Now I have a laundry room that I actually like to be in, and I even leave the door open so that everyone can see it.

The Night Circus-Inspired laundry room
Even the clothes are from the closet of a Reveur.

The Curiosity

The Curiosity, by Stephen P Kiernan, is an amazing book. It’s right up there with The Time Traveller’s Wife and The Night Circus. You haven’t read The Night Circus yet? Go read it. Now. Then we can talk.


In The Curiosity, a dedicated geneticist has her morals challenged by a scientific discovery. She knows that reanimation of tiny creatures is possible, if only for a very short time. But when this science is applied to a human, when does science end and humanity begin?



YA Fiction–Moving Away From the Post-Apocalyptic Themes

It has been a heavy few years in the world of YA fiction. Vampires, werewolves, and the end of the world as we know it have flooded the market.

I do appreciate the portrayal of strong female characters in some of these books. Katniss in The Hunger Games Trilogy is a good example. While Sarah Dessen writes a great love story, her novels don’t typically have a lot of substance.

That said, here are some of my recommendations for YA novels that are real, thoughtful, and do not have any vampires in them.

Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Junior’s decision to go to an all-white high school off-reservation has his on-reservation friends and family criticizing him for his choice. Filled with serious topics and a lot of humour to offset them, this is one of my favourite YA books. This one is my 14 year old’s favourite.

The Path of Names by Ari Goelman

Reluctant Dahlia goes to sleep-away camp and finds herself caught up in a mystery surrounding the camp.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

A story about young women pilots in WWII, the plot is complex with amazing twists. A great choice for older teens (and parents), especially those who like spy novels.

Hoot by Carl Hiassen

Kids standing up for what they believe in, and encouraging adults to do the right thing.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

My 12 year old son recommends this one. Artemis is a millionaire, genius, and a criminal mastermind.

Great Reads for 2013

I’ve read some great books in the past few months, and I want to share them with you.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein is about women pilots in WWII. But it’s also about spies, espionage, and has an amazing plot that will keep you guessing.

Barbara Kingsolver’s latest novel, Flight Behavior, is set where butterfly migration is affected by climate change. It’s a wonderful story about a young wife and mother who learns her own value, and takes control of her future.

Ranger or Morelli? Stephanie Plum is still deciding in Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich.

Erin Morgenstern’s debt novel, The Night Circus, is a fantastical love story. If you enjoyed The Time Traveler’s Wife or The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, you’ll like this.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. When I recommend this book to friends, I tell them not to read the cover, to just dive in. And to make sure they have some free time–you won’t want to put this down.

In 2010, I read The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian. An amazing novel in itself, with and ending that will leave you reeling, it also references events from The Great Gatsby as though they are historical.  I had to read Gatsby right after (Well before the movie hype made the book popular.)  ps–We’re planning a bookclub fieldtrip to see The Great Gatsby this weekend!



I have a turtle

I Have a TurtleWhen I was four I had a favourite book, I Have a Turtle. What I loved most about this book was that I only had to memorize half of the book to be able to “know” it all. I still have it memorized, “I have a turtle. In my mother’s hatbox. Under my bed. In the corner of my room. In my house. Surrounded by trees. with all the people passing by. I have a turtle.” Then it went in reverse order.

While it did nothing to teach me proper sentence stucture, I remember realizing that the words in this book were the same as some of the words in my abc books–I ran to get them–and I could read!

Some of my Favourite books I’ve read this year–great summer reads.

My Name is Memory by Anne Brashares is about love through centuries, reincarnation, and one man’s ability to remember past lives while seeking out his love. (Brashares wrote The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants Trilogy, this is a great break from the teen genre.)

Also very good are The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley and The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. Lemon Cake is a little like Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveller’s Wife, very well writtten, and I kept checking the author’s name to see if it was written by the same woman.

Leah’s summer reads for 2011, and One Day

I was a little taken aback last week when I spotted my most memorable 2010 summer read in Chapters sporting a new cover – turns out One Day is about the be released as a film starring Anne Hathaway. My stomach dropped, and I was rooted to the spot. It took me months to get over this book, now I am about to be reminded of it constantly. Would I feel obliged to see the movie? Could I sit through 90 minutes, knowing the punch that would be heading in my direction at the climax?

Sometimes a book or story just won’t let go of you. You try and live your life as normal, but you continue to have conversations with the characters, dream of new endings, sketch out conflict resolutions. One Day was like that, I kept rereading the same page, hoping the words would change. But I think that’s what made it such a great book, these characters could be someone you know, went to school with, or live with. How would you deal with their circumstances?

Two days after seeing the book in Chapters, I picked up the latest edition of Chatelaine. This month’s author interview? David Nicholls discussing his book and new screenplay for One Day. I think I need a book club intervention, I need to discuss this book!

So what will be a memorable read for Summer 2011? Librarians at Vancouver’s Public Library recently reviewed their top choices and I plan to try the following:

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoft

Jane by April Linder

Cleopatra, A Life by Stacy Schiff

Truth to Tell by Mavis Cheek

What’s best for summer reading these days? A good old fashioned book, a Kindle, a Kobo, an Ipad, or ?? How do those e-readers handle the sand and a little suntan lotion?

Rediscovering a great author

The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan BradleyI had completely forgotten about looking for the next book in Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce Mysteries until Leah posted an article on fb featuring  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. I went right to my library’s website and reserved the next two books and, because I’m not known for my patience, I went to the village library (actually a reading room) to look for them there. Success! I came home with the second book, The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag. I just have to finish the book I’m on now (no, I’m not saying what it is, everyone reads “candy” books sometimes!) and then I can dig in. Hopefully the third book, A Red Herring Without Mustard, comes in soon.

Books: a Love Story

I just don’t seem to have much time to read right now. It’s frustrating, but it’s true.  I work six day a week and have kids and writing projects and household stuff to do, and reading has become a luxury reserved for those rare moments when I feel like I have “spare” time. Tonight, for instance, it’s 9:45, my kids have just gone to bed and I have a small writing contract to get done, I’m supposed to write five pages of my novel, and it’s my turn to write a blog post. In reality, I figure I have about 15 minutes left before I fall asleep at my desk.  Maybe ten…

But despite the fact that I don’t have much time to read them, books are strewn everywhere in my house. My favourites are usually in my bedroom, either in a precariously leaning stack beside my bed or actually IN my bed, buried somewhere under the covers.

My favourite books have always been well-loved. My definition of this is that I’m not exactly careful about keeping them pristine. They become bent and dog-eared, I open them and lay them flat, things get piled on top of them, tea gets spilled on them, they get dropped in baths.

If I feel especially attached to a book I don’t let it out of my sight until it’s been read. It bangs around in my purse by day, rattling around with the mints and lip gloss and pens. At night it’s pressed under my pillow while I sleep, or sometimes I fall asleep with it still in my hand.

If you see a book at my house that looks battered and worn, creased, and stained with red wine, it’s not  a lack of respect for the author or the book. Quite the opposite. It’s the books on my shelf that look like they’ve never been cracked open that, well…probably haven’t.

Books that are on my bedside table right now:

Small Mechanics by Lorna Crozier

The Blue Light Project by Timothy Taylor

Light Lifting by Alexander MacLeod

Firestarter by Stephen King

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell ( I heart David Mitchell. Have I mentioned that before?)

Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton (This one isn’t mine…)

Who are your favourite moms in literature?

favourite moms in literatureI loved Koree’s recent post about Tabitha, the idealized mom in A Prayer for Owen Meany. Keeping in the theme, and in honour of Mother’s Day, I thought I’d ask: who are your favourite moms in literature?

Off the top of my head I’d have to go with…

  • Mrs. Weasley in the Harry Potter series
  • Mrs. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice
  • Marmee in Little Women (though I always hated that she was called “Marmee”)
  • Ma Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie
  • Good old Mrs. Darling in Peter Pan

Can you think of any to add to the list?