March Book List

As each month flies by I am constantly sure that I will not achieve the book challenge, rushed for time to fit in everything that a busy life appears to demand. And then without warning, at the end of the month I discover that I have more than met the five books for the month challenge, having read double the number once again.

Ten fabulous books for the month of March, and as I write this in April (still searching for a good computer;  code for struggling to find a good computer within my price range!) its not before time that I revealed my list.

 

 

 

 

The first of two mystery novel from Phil Rickman  for the month, and thoroughly enjoyable.   This story has paganism at its central core, and  I like that the character Merrily Watkins seems terribly human in her struggle to keep the faith in the midst of things that might persuade others that there is no God, or that He is of no significance. Having said that, I’m still not entirely sure (nor do I have the inkling to spend the time researching) whether Phil Rickman is a Christian or not. That’s how well written the books are. No overbearing  preachy messages… just mysteries that look at issues that arise from real day life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the first of two” Irish Country” books that I read this month – the library delivers and I read! Its the continuing story of newly minted Dr Barry Laverty working as the assistant to Dr. Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly (now there is an Irish sounding name!)  in the make believe village of Ballybucklebo. Simple story written by the Irish-Canadian author Patrick Taylor. That’s one thing I find terribly interesting in this Canadian country. Very few people will claim to be only Canadian if they can thrown another country along side of it… French Canadian, Irish Canadian – well  here’s hoping that I might be the first Australian Canadians to write a great story!

 

Santa Montefiore is the kind of writer that I read and weep over; wishing and hoping that I might one day be as glorious a weaver of words as she is.  The past with the present written together to unfold the truth behind the garden. Lovely. Visual. Stimulating.   Oh, this book was bliss. Blissful enough that I researched more of Montefiore’s works and added them to my wish list at the library. Oh who am I kidding…? I’ve read another of her books already for April and it was just as lovely.  I have officially discovered another new author that I adore.

 

 

Second dose of single mother, Anglican priest Merrily Watkins for the month.  Possession, murder, Romany gypsy folklore and a stubbornly unbelieving daughter… its all there for the enjoyment of a few hours.  Really enjoyed the book.

 

 

I found this book particularly painful to read as I dealt with the memories of my own ten year battle with infertility and the painful decisions surrounds the reality of frozen embryos  lost in the misery of divorce. Lest you think there is nothing more to this story,  add in a mix of one member of the former marriage discovering their homosexuality and the other finding Jesus in a super fanatical demonimation and let the battle for human rights begin.

UPDATE April 14th 2011 : looky looky!  The Herald Sun newspaper back home has an article about the story online.

 

I read this book on my beloved hot pink e-reader (and if any book publishers out there want to send me e-books to read and review – send them to me electronically… really!) and I have to say I loved it. Glorious story. Powerful mystery woven around another mystery. Enthralling.  I read The ‘Weight of Silence” at the same time as I was reading ‘Sing You Home’ and it was only at the end of both books (finished on the same day I might add!) that I realised that both books had been broken into chapters written from different characters points of view. And that I loved both books for it.   Heather Gudenkuaf is a new author that I hadn’t discovered earlier, but one that I would be more than willing to pick up another book to loose myself in. Strong characters written so well that I could identify with and feel repelled by. Characters that I could marvel at and find myself crying for. One of my favourites for the month.

 

A rather dull little book that I read in my quest to learn about Enid Blyton. Not worth the time to be honest. One can’t help but feel that Gillian was trying to erase the story that younger sister Imogen had published,  in which she went about describing her mother in less than glowing terms. Not much to say really.

 

I had a lot of expectations of Rhoda Janzen’s book – I’ve had a long term love affair with the Amish and by proxy the Mennonites -  but this book was disappointing.  Reviews stated  that it was funny, witty, clever. I didn’t see anything that could be described in this book with those words in the whole novel. I found the story line confusing and I never really connected with the author. It doesn’t appear that she had learned anything about herself in the journey of recovery from her  (oft explained)  car accident and divorce from an abusive husband who went and left her for another man. Although ironically enough, I found myself at one with the author when she wrote this….

age 260

But I made my peace with the loons. I am the type of person who invariable finishes a book, no matter how much I have grown to hate it, or who stays seated right through the worst movie of all time. I always think, Eh, its not so bad. I can stand it!
I understand you totally Rhoda… I understand.

Second book by  Patrick Taylor for the month, and I can’t help but envy him the time he gets to spend in Irish pubs dreaming up new story lines for his ongoing series as he undoubtedly enjoys a Guinness or two. Interesting to see the crabby, wont let the wool be pulled over his eyes Dr  O’Reilly start to fall in love.   Its a look back in time to the 1960′s in a country still tormented by sectarian differences and divided loyalties.  It’s a simple story to be read and enjoyed.

 

As part of my challenge (an extra brownie points bonus you might say) I have decided that each month I need to read at least one author I’ve not read before. Expand my literary horizons so to speak.  Hence Brooklyn by Colm Toibin.  I enjoyed the way he described the level of homesickness an immigrant feels when they are living life in a new country. How home looks so inviting, and then when going back, the new parameters of life that have been forced upon the immigrant in the new homeland (that they often struggled against and resented) suddenly seem so much wider, stronger and sometimes more inviting when the reality of being back home sets in. An interesting  story. Didn’t fill my heart with joy like discovering Santa Montefiore did, but I’m glad to say I’ve added Toibin to my list of authors.

 

So there you have it.. ten books for the month of March and I’m well on my way to ten books for the month of April. Lord willing I will have my own computer again by the time that particular review goes up.

Now… go and open a book, turn on an e-reader and loose yourself in someone’s imagination.

 

 

February Book List

After almost four years and 100+ books, Canadian writer Yann Martel has given up his self appointed role of literary mentor to the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper.

                                    

For years Martel has been sending books every two weeks to the Prime Minister in the hopes of getting him interested in great literature. And not just picking up any old book on sale at the local ChaptersIndigo book store…. noNoNO. Martel has taken the time to write about why and how the particular pick for the fortnight has impacted the world, readers and brought new ideas to the fore.

Unfortunately, I do not have the luxury of more time than I am giving towards the Random House Inc reading challenge than I am already giving. Indeed, I may end up with less time if I manage to score a job in the next little while. For what its worth I am applying for a job in a bookstore – does the proverb letting a child loose in a candy store spring to mind anyone?

So here are the lucky nine books that I’ve managed to read in the month of February.

Read the first Merrily Watkins book last month and couldn’t wait to start another one. The book I read was out of order of the series, so this one is heading back as far at the Ottawa Public Library will allow me to go.  Easy to read mystery book that mixes faith with mystical and comes out with an enjoyable read for this bookworm.

This book was easy to read. It was enjoyable and I did finish it (I often give up on a book if there are no redeeming features at all) but I wouldn’t go out of my way to read anymore by Susan Lewis. Quite honestly, it felt too obvious.
 

I recall seeing the launch of this series (‘Extraordinary Canadians’) on television a while ago, so I was excited to read  the book written about Lucy Maud Montgomery.  I liked that it wasn’t a ‘she was born on a cold winters day… she lived and died eventually’ kind of  outline for the book, but rather Jane Urquhart took different themes on L.M.’s life and wrote about it in its entirety, and then moved onto the next big theme.  Interesting, thought provoking and a good read.

I read “Moral Disorder” a year or so ago and hated it! Swore up and down to my writing group that I would never read another of her books. But then I read about Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban using a gestational carrier to have their second daughter, and over the course of a few weeks, a furore broke out about the use of women to carry a baby for another couple in this manner. How access to a surrogate of any kind is really the privilege of the rich. That it demoralises poorer women who tend to be viewed as doing it because their uterus the only thing of value to society. And the reference to ‘The Handmaids Tale’ was made. I had to read it, and will be eating humble pie. At least this slice of the Atwood pie was tasty.

I read this on my e-reader. I love my e-reader. I hate how expensive e-books are when they are not tangible objects. I cant wait for e-books to become cheaper. But I love J.K. Rowling and I can’t help but love that my daughter was telling me on Saturday night that Harry Potter was calling her on her (broken) mobile phone, and that Voldermort had managed to get into her phone and wipe out all her messages!  Yeah for characters that become real things to children.

OK. So I read yet another of the Merrily Watkins books. And I have two more sitting on my shelves right now for the March book list. I’m hooked.  Any author who can wrap Prince Charles, The Knights Templar and gruesome murders together in a story that moves along at a decent pace deserves to be read.  

I decided to read this book on the strength of the David Nicholls book ‘One Day’ which I  loved. I didn’t love this one quite as much. I didn’t feel the attachment to the characters who were self absorbed, boring twits and were, in a manner, repulsive. An interesting idea of  ’behind the scenes’ of fame and what it takes to get there (and are you willing to do it), with some humorous points, but on the whole, no, it really didn’t grab me the way ‘One Day’ did.

I really enjoyed this book…. until the end. The end was so abrupt I actually checked for the telltale signs of jaggered paper to make sure nobody had ripped out the last chapter of the book. They hadn’t. It was just a strange place to end. Very ‘European film-ish’ in that there is no nice wrap up at the end. No comeuppance for the jerk, no happily every after for everyone…. just… life goes on. Still, I liked the characters and wanted them to get their happy endings, so I can imagine it for them – right?

Amy Bourret – Mothers and Other Liars

There was one book that I read in January that affected me emotionally enough that I did something that I have never, in all my years of being a book lover, ever done. I sat down and wrote an email to the author telling her how her novel impacted me. Oh yeah… I really did.

How far will a mother go to save her child?
Ten years ago, Ruby Leander was a drifting nineteen-year-old who made a split-second decision at an Oklahoma rest stop. Fast forward nine years: Ruby and her daughter Lark live in New Mexico. Lark is a precocious, animal loving imp, and Ruby has built a family for them with a wonderful community of friends and her boyfriend of three years. Life is good. Until the day Ruby reads a magazine article about parents searching for an infant kidnapped by car-jackers. Then Ruby faces a choice no mother should have to make. A choice that will change both her and Lark’s lives forever.

January 28th 2011

Dear Amy,
I feel like I can call you by your first name because I assume I already know you, having just finished reading “Mothers and Other Liars.”  Authors always give away a part of themselves when they tell a story; they reveal a part of who they are.  Open themselves up to outsiders who assume to see a glimpse of the author from what they write.  It’s impossible, I think, to not do so.  Otherwise, how can an author write a story that has any emotional power?   But that means you get emails from complete strangers who seem to think they can call you by your first name.
I started your novel last night and finished it not long after 2pm.  The power of your work has actually brought me to my computer to write to you; something I never do.  But I knew as the image of Ruby watching Lark and Charlie at the beach danced in my imagination I was going to have to write to you.
Because you managed to make me cry, not once, but twice.
Last night I cried as I read of the separation of mother and daughter when Lark was to be ‘returned’ to the Tinsdales care.  Lark’s mouth opens, forms one silent word, “Mama!” Then she disappears behind the shutting door.  I think that maybe my heart split in two at that scene.   And today, as I was looking after my own daughter (who turns six next month and is home sick from school,) I cried once again as I read the baptism/goodbye ceremony for Charlie before the social worked pried Ruby’s fingers one by one off her son to take him away.  Cried perhaps isn’t strong enough a word. Maybe sobbed would be a better, more honest description of my reaction. The tears rolled down my cheeks and no matter how many times I reminded myself “it’s only a story” like I do when my daughter gets upset over things in books or on television, the pain I felt for the situation was real. And that, Amy, is when I knew you were a story teller with a rare but precious skill.
So I just wanted to write and say thank you for sharing your story with me.  Truly it was a lucky last minute grab off the bookshelf.  I loved it so much and can’t wait to read your next novel!
Courtney

I didn’t stop to edit what I wrote three or four times like I normally would. Because I knew that if I took too long contemplating about what I was writing I would have contemplated myself right out of writing to Amy Bourret at all. And I must confess that as a wannabe writer, I like the idea of telling someone else when they had got it right by me. Of telling someone that the hard work of sitting behind a desk, or in front of a blank piece of paper had been worth it, because someone else saw and valued the vision. So imagine my surprise when I received this back the very next day….

 

Thank you so much Courtney! Writing happens in such a vacuum that feedback like yours really means a lot to me.
 
always,
Amy

Obviously I’m so inspired by this success ( getting a reply) that I may very well take the risk of writing to another author whose book I truly adore again because WOW. A real life published author who writes back to fan mail.  Cool.

January Book List

 Guess the fact I’ve had my nose stuck in one book or another, the result  from accepting the challenge from Facebook - Random House Inc to read five books a month for a year has meant a lack of blog posts. Opps.  Being the book worm that I am, and despite my misgivings, I also added new twist to the goal – why make it easy on myself?! I want to use this challenge to take some time to read outside of my usual comfort zone. Generally I am pulled to what is (depending upon the company you keep) called either sneeringly called ‘chick lit’ or contemporary women’s literature.  So this month I added a mystery novel into the mix, just to see how authors approach other genres. 

I decided to read a mystery by Phil Rickman based solely on a review I read about ‘Merrily Watkins’, the central character of the series and I was not disappointed. Actually, I loved the book so much I have read another of the series already this month and have ordered a couple more from the library. Who would have though I could end up enjoying mystery novels?  It was a trip down secondary school memory lane that lead me to read Playing Beatie Bow in honour of Ruth Park, who died late last year.  I wanted to see if her book stood the test of time.  And whilst it wasn’t as brilliant as I remembered it, I still love the idea of being lost in history and how that affects the future and the way timelines can blend together.

I think the only book I felt was formulaic and a touch trite was the last one I read by Carly Phillips. It may have felt pedestrian because I have read so many versions of this style of novel (let the sneering begin – chick lit!), not necessarily because it was badly written.  As a reader I didn’t understand the choice of artwork on the front cover of House Rules - it didn’t respond to the story within the cover at all.  I always enjoy a novel by Nora Roberts, and this is a good stand alone read if you don’t want to get suckered into one of her series.  My favourite novel of the month was Mothers and Other Liars, but that had such a profound effect upon my heart that I believe it best to save that for another post. Finally, I have been slowly working my way through the whole Harry Potter series since last year, fully reveling in the ‘magic’ of J.K.’s writing style. Although I feel duty bound to admit that I read this on my beloved Sony e-reader and I didnt hold the ink infused paper bound book from the library!

In the end, I must confess that I am somewhat shocked that I managed to read ten novels in the course of one month. Perhaps I am/was still, despite my non-television watching habits during the daytime, wasting much too much time. Whatever the truth, I am eager to see how many books I can enjoy in the month of February.

  

(

Geek Dad – Book Review

I’m a geek.

There. I said it.

I am.  I have a yearly pass to the Art Gallery.  I think it’s cool to a book store or the library and take an hour to pick a new book to read.  I’ve taught myself to embroider though the step by step picture guidance of how to books.  I get excited when I find new foodie haunts. I will happily go through every single page of your photo album of your world trip and thrill at each story you tell.  I’m the artistic kind of geek.

But I wasn’t the kind of geek that was able to make the most out of the ideas from the book “Geek Dad – Awesomely Geeky Projects and Activities for Dads and Kids to Share”    I think it may be that it’s a quirk of genetics than anything else. But hold your horses. Just because the book wasn’t a perfect fit for me doesn’t mean I’m going to write a negative review.

Ken Denmead has produced a book that bends creative ideas so that they become truly twisted – and what kid doesn’t enjoy that from their parents?

This book has been entertaining reading and has certainly challenged me to think of new activities to do with my girl child, and for that alone, the book gets a brownie point.  It is written in an lively, engaging manner and it certainly made me laugh out aloud. It isn’t difficult to imagine a truly geeky parent getting very excited and investing time over the projects in this book.

I was first drawn to the activity of creating my very own colouring book for Bronwen who has a rather artist bent of character. But I confess that I couldn’t work my way through the instructions, as logically as they appear to be written. Take it to be a personality flaw within me; ask me to read anything vaguely related to technical jargon and my eyes glaze over and my brain slows to the speed of molasses on a winter day in Ottawa.  Suffice to say, the idea will have to remain as such until a tech geek can help explain the ‘techno-babble’.

As a confirmed foodie with a daughter who occasionally enjoys playing with Lego blocks the next activity I attempted from this book was creating a model building out of cake.  What’s not to love in that twisted idea?  Of course, I didn’t attempt to recreate the Eiffel tower (maybe that’s where I went wrong?), but creating a 1960’s concrete tower with Bronwen was fun. One point that Denmead neglected to mention was how incredibly easy clean up of cake crumbs and icing splotches are when you are the proud owner of not one, but two daschund dogs. An important omission you would agree.

One issue I would have with book is that it is touted as being a low cost book of fun. However, spending $25 to over $100 to complete some of the projects did not sit well with a parent living on a single wage.   Even $25 can be a lot for a family to spare and unless you are friends with similarly minded geeks, borrowing tools and equipment really isn’t an option.  But it’s my only quibble.

Don’t let the name of the book “Geek Dad” and the obvious gender bias of this book turn you away. If you have a techno speaking, ‘eyes light up at the idea of going to a tech store’ person in your life who enjoys playing with the kids…. then unreservedly I would say this is the book for you!

This book was sent to me by Jessica Chun from the Penguin group to review.

Geek Dad: Awesome Geeky Projects for Dads and Kids to Share
Gotham paperback original 2010
Pages: 222
ISBN- 9781592405527
Language: English

Cassandra and Jane (A Jane Austen Novel) -Jill Pitkeathley

I am a history buff from way back, even studying it at university level.  I confess to a strange little quirk in that I hold onto objects from times past and think about all the people during history who have held the very same object before me. What were their lives like? Where did they live and what did they do? What was their favourite colour and did they live lives that allowed them to have such an extravagance of choice?

So it seemed like the right thing to do in starting the Everything Austen Challenge by reading something of the history of Jane.  Of course, trying to discover the truth of the historical figure that is Miss Jane Austen is hampered somewhat by the lack of primary evidence available to the serious student of history now. According to reliable secondary records, her sister Cassandra destroyed a great deal of the written correspondence between the two of them from the course of their lives so that only the right kind of image of her sister would be portrayed after her death.

The fire is burning well now. I fed the letters on to the flames in small amounts to be sure they would catch   …. As I threw each bundle into the fire, I kissed it.

Enough remain to give me and others pleasure, not none I hope which show Jane as she once described herself, “If I am a wild beast, I cannot help it. It is not my own fault.”

Indeed it was not her fault and no one will ever be allowed to think so. No one will ever be allowed either to see anything other than the perfection of our relationship as sisters. I am seventy years old now and my life may not be very much longer. I should not like to be suddenly taken ill and unable to make the arrangements for the disposal of Jane’s personal effects.   Page 253

Jill Pitkeathley has written a biography of Jane Austen through the eyes of her sister Cassandra in her book “Cassandra and Jane – A Jane Austen Novel”, a clever twist.  It is obvious that Pitkeathley has done her homework. She has read widely, searched for the truth and used it well in this ‘fictional memoir’.  The historical accuracy of the story is as close as we can be sure of, as has been documented from her family’s telling of her life.

Our brothers have an image of our dear sister which is of someone clever, quick witted, a little sharp in her tone sometimes but loving, warm, daughter and aunt who was in the whole content with her life. If they sometimes saw, as I did, the low spirits, the anger, even the bitterness in her, they have forgotten it now in revering her memory. I am content with that.  – page 84

I very much wanted to rave how much I adored this book. But perhaps the book fell flat because I didn’t set aside a whole day to read it from cover to cover; instead I broke my reading up into chunks to fit around the daily reality of life with a five year old on summer holidays which could have been an impediment to my enjoyment.

Yes, it was clever in execution and true to historical fact, but something holds me back from gushing. Personally I felt it hard to connect with Cassandra and Jane. They lacked warmth, which may actually be tribute to Pitkeathley’s ability to write so convincingly in the voice of the era, where there was little openness to strangers, and a certain aloofness and restraint.  I admired the writing of this book, but I did not adore it. In my opinion it’s not a ‘not to be missed’ read.   I will say it is worth the read to gain a better understanding of the reality of Jane’s life, because it makes her ability to write such timeless works all the more remarkable.

The copy of this book came from my local library

Publisher: Harper
Pages: 270
ISBN: 9780061446399
Language: English
Notes: First published in Great Britain in 2004

Luna – Julie Anne Peters

One of the main characters within the novel “Luna” by Julie Anne Peters reminded me in some ways of Sidney Poitier’s portrayal of the character Dr. John Wade Prentice in the 1967 movie “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” 

 Dr. Prentice was the perfect man in every way but one. Well educated, compassionate, hard working, funny and successful, the only thing that gave Joey Drayton’s parents any reservations about their daughter marrying him was that he had black skin.  Similarly, Liam/Luna is a straight A’s high school student with a job on the side testing games which earns him mega money.  Good looking (even if in a feminine manner) the world appeared to be at his feet.  He was perfect.

Except for one, minor fly in the ointment.

When I sat down and first opened the cover to the book, I desperately wanted to like the character ‘Luna’, and such was the thrill of finishing university and having the freedom to read for pleasure rather than academic research, I read the whole book over the course of one day. Zoom.

Done.

Immediately when I closed the book I couldn’t make up my mind about Luna.  Sure, I could feel sympathy for the plight of a person who feels like a female inside and has a male body outside – the reality in which Peters writes about transgendered people is stark, strong and insightful. The pain that Luna lived through is hard to comprehend. And yes, we can give lip service to the idea of a person being trapped in the body of the wrong sex, but really understanding it is way beyond most people’s day to day comprehension.

Once when I was little Dad let me try on his hunting jacket. It was huge; it hung to the floor, and it stank.  But what I remember  most was the weight. As if that coat would break my knees and drag me down and trap me inside and smother me. That’s how it felt with Liam. Like I was trapped. Suffocating. Was that fair? No. Life wasn’t fair. Liam proved that.    pp. 180

But after a couple of hours I found myself actually angry with her.  In fact, if I tell the truth and Luna had been a real person, I would have wanted to shake her until her teeth rattled around in her head. Because despite the flicker of understanding that other people were involved in her life that her choices would have an impact upon:
“Yes,” she insisted, squeezing my forearm.

 “Yes Re. I’m always in here crying on your shoulder, asking your advice, taking up your time. It isn’t fair to you. All these years, I haven’t been fair to you.” She sat back on her haunches.  “I’ve been so self-centred, so self-absorbed. I haven’t taken your feelings into consideration. I’ve leaned on you too hard. Depended on you too much.”  pp.212

 
My conclusion was that Luna didn’t care about anyone but Luna and her problems, and in the end she ran away to did what was best for her and didn’t think about the repercussions for anyone else left behind in her wake. Ironically, several days later I’m back to feeling a sort of sympathy for her, understanding why she thought  there was no other option and that she had to do the things she did.
“I was only doing what needs to be done. This is life or death for me, Re. If I don’t transition, I don’t want to live.”
All the blood drained from my face. How could she say that? She couldn’t mean it.
Our eyes met and understanding flowed between us. Total comprehension.
Life or death.
I got it. I finally got it. The change had to come in me. My acceptance of Luna, my support of her transition, my seeing her as a real person.  pp.213

Regan, Luna’s long suffering sister however, I wanted to throw my arms around, tell her how incredible she was. I wanted to tell her that she needed to be able to live her own life and not worry about everyone else’s needs all the time.  The times she allowed Luna’s needs to over ride her own happiness spoke to me on a very personal level.

The basement lights were out, which spooked me. Liam wouldn’t be in bed already. Chris reached over and took my hand. “It’s just family stuff,” I mumbled. “It’s not you.”
“Hey,” he said. “Family shit can wear you down.”
That was an understatement. I was suddenly angry. Here I was with this incredible guy who made me feel special and bought me dinner and took me to a move and wanted to spend time with me and all I could think about was what my brother was doing, what he was thinking and feeling. How I should have left him alone on his birthday, not tonight. Not the way he was acting.  pp.233

But maybe that’s the magic and the true power of Peters writing. That she could take such a difficult, almost forbidden  subject and infuse such humanity and emotions into the characters is quite a feat.  A book dealing with an area of sexuality that on the whole is still very much shrouded in mystery and misunderstanding by mainstream society could have veered off into a nasty example of cheap titillation. Instead, Peters has written about the issue of being transgendered with dignity and respect. 

I really enjoyed this book. But because I’m not sure that there are perfectly happy endings in this kind of situation for a family, I found myself hoping that Luna would find peace eventually and that Regan would find the freedom to be herself.

The copy of this book came from my local library.

• Paperback: 248 pages
• Publisher: Little, Brown
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 0316733695

Write a Draft in a Month?

30_Days book cover

I’m really very proud of the fact after years of procrastination and doubt, I got my first rough draft done before my official deadline of December 31st. But that still means that I was working on the draft for a full nine months (talk about it being my baby!) And people like Nora Roberts seem to churn out new books every six months or so, which got me wondering: how?

How does Nora get her ideas, transfer them to paper, write, revise, adjust, and get through the official editing process so quickly?  I’ve read that she is a much disciplined writer, spending eight hours a day in her office writing, which would be helpful.  And I would love to be able to write at such a speed and for such extended periods of time in the day. Of course, I don’t think Nora Roberts wrote so prolifically when she had young children (although I truly have no idea as I haven’t followed her career all that long) and until Bronwen is in school full time and has the ability to understand what “Pleeeeeeease… leave me alone” really means when Mummah is sitting at her writing desk, I’m not going to be getting eight hour writing days anytime soon.

But I do have a book on my bookshelf that suggests it’s possible to pull a first draft together in 30 days. I’m only glancing through the introduction where is fully exposes that really, the first draft is actually a very detailed outline that is about a quarter of the whole books length, but that according to the author, having completed such a detailed outline means that writing the missing bits will be easy.

I like the idea of having such a complete outline in a month. I’ve used an outline for my first novel (that is still –  *STILL* nameless!) and found it really helpful to make sure  correct seasons were described at the right time of the year and that the flow of the story happened over the same passage of time. There is nothing worse than an author who writes about a winter Christmas in Australia for one character and how delightful dying Easter eggs is in what would be August for another! Details people – details. I like the idea of being so clear about what will happen in the story that you can see the strengths and weakness’ at a glance, making revision somewhat easier.

So I’m going to read the book this week and see if I can start learning the art of  the whole ‘outline/draft in a month’ skill set. Because the idea of whipping out books at such a speed sounds like a wonderful thing to impress an agent or publisher with – don’t you think?

First Draft in 30 days; a novel writers system for building a complete and cohesive manuscript.

Karen S. Wiesner, Writers Digest Books, 2005

ISBN: 13: 978-1-58297-296-1

ISBN: 10: 1-58297-296-6

PS.

There are 137 (!!) copies of Twilight in the Ottawa library. I’m number 30 on the waiting list but the notice says it’s in transit which means I will get it in about two weeks (this Friday is New Years Day, so no library time). Reviews from other readers on the library website either love it or hate it. Wonder what camp I will fall into?

The Secret Life of Bees

As seems usual for me, I am so far behind in the ‘cool list’ of books to read that it really isn’t funny. Its not that I’m not interested in the latest novels; I always get to them… eventually.It’s just in the last several years (since I had Bronwen come to think of it) I haven’t really been on top of the whole sitting down and reading deal.I can, finally, take ‘The Secret Life of Bees’ off from my Must Read list.Which is good seeing as the book was published in 2002.

For the longest time I haven’t been able to work out why it takes me so long to get to all the wonderful books I already own, lined up on my book shelves, or the books that taunting me with their dazzling covers in the bookshops. I’m a committed book worm… just watch me walk past a display of books and you will audibly hear me sigh with longing. I read Harry Potter – Order of the Phoenix in just over 28 hours – sleep included. I’m not sure what my husband did whilst I was at Hogwarts; he’s still around so I’m guessing he survived! I’m the type of person who wants to grab armfuls of books, race home and become a hermit, reading for hours at a time.

And there it is.

It is near impossible to spend hours reading when you have a three (“four in February?”) little girl who is a time heavy investment snuggle muffin running around the house. She requires attention on an almost incessant level, or so it seems when I am deep in a story line and have to drag myself out of my imagination and take care of her needs. Because her needs are so completely outrageous: like occasionally wanting food. Or water. Sporadically I even have to help her wipe her butt because she has done “poo-poo Mummah, poo-poo!”

When I am in the throes of a wonderful story, I don’t want to have to break it up into small, bite size portions. No. I want to wolf the whole book down in one loud, satisfying feeding frenzy and only come up for air when I absolutely have to. I cannot for the life of me understand the people I see sitting on the bus or train, reading a scant few pages of a story, close the cover and move onto another activity. Don’t they want to know what happens next? How can they just blithely put the book away and proceed to ignore it for several hours? That would send me loopy.

So I don’t tend to read as many books as I would like now days, because I don’t have the time to really loose myself in the book. I wait until I think there is going to be a stretch of time in which I can devote to the story and enjoy it from go to woe; its due respect for the author in my mind.

Sue Monk Kidd has written a beautiful book. I was lost in the descriptiveness that she weaves into the story so effortlessly. It was so easy to read, even with a three (“four in February?”) year old running around the house, and I’m so glad I read the book before the movie is released on DVD.

Let me share with you my favourite quote from the book:

“I had come barefoot, collecting dew on the soles of my feet. Sitting on the toilet, trying to pee very quietly, I could see crepe myrtle petals stuck to my toes. Over my head, Rosaleen’s snores sifted through the ceiling. It is always a relief to empty your bladder. Better than sex, that’s what Rosaleen said. As good as it felt, though, I sincerely hoped she was wrong.”

I really love the sense of humour written into that small paragraph.

So what books have you read lately that you would recommend to me as I attempt to catch up on all the great literature from the last few years? Leave me a note so that I can write a Wish List as long as my arm to drool over. Meanwhile I am going to rearrange my kitchen cupboards so as Bronwen grows taller she can reach the cupboards where the peanut butter and bread is kept so that she can at least feed herself the next time I lose myself in a good book.