Category Archives: Great reads

Ms. Bishop. In the Library. With the Coffee Mug.

Photo by Ev Bishop

Photo by Ev Bishop

I started to spring clean. I got as far as my library shelves and office cabinet.

I’m prone to flights of daydreaming and distraction at the best of times, but when I’m supposed to be tidying books? Heaven help me! All those ideas, all those adventures, all those life-changing worlds and words . . .

I’ve been known to box up books, only to go back and rescue select titles. I keep doubles of some novels—because they’re that good and because it is a truth universally acknowledged that if you loan books, you rarely get them back. (Of course that fact means I rarely lend in the first place, but I like doubles in case, you know, I start.)

Anyway, armed with fresh coffee, a multitude of multi-sized cardboard boxes, and a belly full of steely resolve, I headed to my miniature library.

I’d just gotten through my writing-related books (mostly keepers), when the biggest killer of productivity, house-cleaning wishes, and de-junking desires hit me: an interesting thought. My brother had been sorting my Dad’s books and commented that you can learn a lot about people from their bookcases.

I found his theory interesting. So interesting that I lost several hours to perusing titles with an eye to what secrets my books might tell about my psyche, obsessions, and beliefs, instead of focussing on whether or not I would ever actually read or refer to them again.

A deer skull (complete with lower jaw and teeth) sits atop one row of books (Christianity and other faith and religion texts). I’m not sure what that says.

A bottle of wine lounges on its side, coming of age in the lofty company of modern literary fiction greats like Joy Kogawa, Barbara Gowdy, Wally Lamb, and Eden Robinson. Why am I storing a bottle of wine there? To make the classic authors a shelf above and a shelf below jealous? Perhaps. Also, it looks kind of pretty.

I have a lot of science fiction—Orwell, Bradbury, H.G.Wells, Asimov and Silverman, Heinlein, Robert J Sawyer. . . .

A full shelf homes titles by authors who are also personal friends. And another carries autographed works. And I have a small (but growing!) section with books that carry stories by me.

I have gads of Stephen King, almost the full Merrily Watkins series by Phil Rickman (highly recommended, by the way), Diana Gabaldon’s wonderful genre-bending Outlander series, and a myriad of other scary or scintillating tales. They hulk in the shadows, balancing the sweetness and light of my Jan Karon and Maeve Binchy books.

As my children grew, I parted with any kids’ books that were lame—but as children and YA writers are top storytellers in my books (Ha ha, pun intended!), I still have one full five-shelf case of “must keeps.”

My collection is roughly 1/5 non-fiction (but within that, a full shelf is devoted to poetry), with a higher concentration of writing craft and religious texts—but lots of history, social sciences, and philosophy, too

What fascinated me most circles back to my original goal of pruning my collection. Weirdly, it’s not the best books I have the hardest time parting with. The story between the covers isn’t my only consideration—nor the information relayed, nor the style, humour, or power with which the author writes. Not even my firm “Will you ever read this again?” question actually determines whether I cull or not. No, what really hampers my ability to part with a book is the story within the story.

I bought this for Marriah and Christopher at that little bookstore when we were on holidays on the Island.

My aunt and I spotted this book at the same time. She let me have it, but I “owed” her.

This was the first book I read after my mom died.

Aw, this is the one Chris read to Christopher all the time!

Breaking Smith’s Quarter Horse! My dad was obsessed with this forever.

And that—the notion that the story within a book is only part of the reason it keeps its spot when another, arguably far superior, might be pulled—was eye opening. I’ve long fought junk collecting because I know what a trap it can become. I had no idea that the psychology behind why I hold onto some books is similar to why some people can’t get rid of broken toys, old clothes, or boxes of knick-knacks they haven’t looked at in years.

I’m happy to say I did complete my library/office weed through. I now have space to justify new books.

The shoe closet and the kitchen cupboards are next. I’m a little scared. If you think I build sentimental, unrelated attachments to books easily, you should see what I can associate with old mixing bowls or a pair of satin slippers!

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“Ms. Bishop. In the Library. With the Coffee Mug” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, March 27, 2013 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”


Annual Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day!


I just learned about this new “annual” day and I’m stoked! As my own kids are getting to the age where they’re often busy (though my daughter at least would never say no to a trip to the bookstore with me), I’m using it as a great excuse to hang out with my two of my sweet little nieces. We’ll each buy a book, then go for a coffee shop treat—and after that, I think we’re heading to my sister’s to make Christmas cards all afternoon. They’re almost as excited as I am!

How about you? Had you heard of this day before and are you planning to celebrate it? I’m definitely planning to make it an annual tradition (because I don’t go to bookstores enough, lol) because it’s fun, yes, to have a special day, but also because bookstores are important and I don’t want them to disappear from our towns and cities. Buying books online is great, but you tend to shop already knowing what you’re looking for. Browsing bookstores (and libraries), you discover stories and authors absolutely brand new to you. If going to bookstores isn’t something our kids do now, it’s not something they’ll do as adults—and the chances that they’ll only read what’s “popular” will be all the greater. And did I say it was fun?! ;)

Find out more about Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day at http://www.takeyourchildtoabookstore.org/


Your Package Will Arrive in the Mail

When I was a kid I was addicted to Scholastic Book Orders. Remember when your teacher would walk desk row to desk row, peeling off six or seven brightly-coloured multiple-page flyers at a time, handing each set to the person at the head of the row, instructing them to please take one and pass the rest back?

I was tall for my age Grades 3 through 7 so inevitably I was near the back and had to wait, wait, wait as head of the row enjoyed the power of having all the book orders, person number 2 had the co-ordination of a stone and fumbled trying to separate just one order from the next, person number 3 or 4 was somewhere else entirely and had to be yelled at ten times before finally—FINALLY!—saying, “Huh? What? Oh!” and passing the remainders on.

I don’t know what I enjoyed more: the hours (literally) scanning and rescanning each offering, then carefully checking off the appropriate boxes and tallying the price making sure it fit the amount my mom had given me permission to spend or the weeks of heady anticipation. Someday not soon enough the teacher would walk in with a large box and distribute plastic bags with the books each student had ordered!

I tried book clubs for adults as I got older, but they weren’t the same (I don’t like being automatically sent selections of anything. I like to choose, darn it!). But hello—then came Amazon and the like. Ordering books online is pretty fantastic. I love, love, love having books on order and checking the mailbox all too frequently for my latest parcel.

In the quest for perfect summer reads, I’m currently I’m waiting for two short story collections, 100 Stories for Queensland and Nothing But Flowers: tales of post-apocalyptic love  and Leigh Russell’s latest novel Dead End.

I’ve yammered on about Leigh (and her previous novels, Cut Short and Road Closed) and interviewed her before, so imagine my extreme delight when she contacted me and asked if I wanted a review copy of Dead End. Did I!

Dead End has been receiving rave reviews, as evidenced here, and her publisher (No Exit Press) sums the story up, thus: “When the corpse of Abigail Kirby is discovered, police are shocked to learn that the victim’s tongue was cut out while she lay dying. Shortly after coming forward, a witness is blinded and murdered. Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel’s flirtation with the pathologist on the case helps her to cope with the distress of finding out she was adopted at birth. Abigail Kirby’s teenage daughter runs away from home to meet a girl who befriended her online. Too late, she realises she has made a dreadful mistake – a mistake that may cost her life. Detective Sergeant Ian Peterson uncovers a shocking secret about the serial killer who has been mutilating his murder victims. Does the sergeant’s discovery come too late to save Geraldine Steel from a similar dreadful fate?”

I’ll give my thoughts on Dead End, especially whether I feel it lives up to all the high praises (heh heh), once I’ve read it, but if you want to beat me to the punch and read it first, you can snap it up for your e-reader. For Kindle readers in the States and the UK, it’s part of a summer promotion, selling so inexpensively you should grab it now, even if you plan to read Cut Short and Road Closed first. For us Canadians, it still hasn’t been officially released so pre-order it or put it on your wish list and get cracking on the first two novels (that’s if you’re a crime fiction fan, of course).

I love bookstores, but I’m stoked to have two parcels to fanatically watch for in the mail. What about you? Do you buy primarily through shops or online? What are you waiting for in the book department for this summer’s reading?

p.s. And for all you blossoming Leigh Russell fans and/or writers who adore listening to other authors talk about writing, check out Leigh’s author channel on youtube. She has about five posts up now, sharing on topics like the inspiration for the Geraldine Steel series, the importance of research, and how to get published, with more to come.


Dark Corners by Liz Schulte

One of my favourite things happened yesterday! An author friend of mine, Liz Schulte, celebrated the launch of her new novel, Dark Corners, a mystery-suspense with paranormal elements that keeps you turning pages and constantly second-guessing who the villain is (or are!).

Ella Reynolds knew from the first moment she walked into the old house that someone or something was watching her. Waiting. Her husband’s violent murder sent her spiraling into a world of grief and isolation, but Ella isn’t alone. Who or what is responsible for her husband’s death is still with her. Every day reality slips a little more between her fingers as she struggles to break free from her memories. A string of uncanny events takes place and practical explanations run thin as Ella follows the terrifying road to closure. As the past and present come to a head, Ella must decipher who or what the murderer is before it takes her as well.

Watch the trailer!

Dark Corners is available through Smashwords and on Amazon.

If you’d like to read Liz Schulte’s own words about Dark Corners’ launch, or just want to congratulate her, pop by her blog, http://enteringbatcountry.blogspot.com/, or click here. Liz is also a friendly, fun person to follow on Twitter: @LizSchulte

HUGE congratulations, Liz! Dark Corners is great and I’m already looking forward to your next novel. Write fast.

And same to all of you: happy, prolific writing this week!


The Pedastal Magazine

I was checking out the latest issue (61/Ten-Year Anniversary) of an e-zine I read in regular binges, The Pedestal Magazine, and I had to bring the editor’s letter to his readers to your attention.

I’ve written before about why I write, why I read and the value of the Arts to me, personally, and to Society as a whole. John Amen’s articulations on the subject so closely mirror my own, I confess I got a little misty: “. . . art saves lives. It saved mine when I was a teenager. If I had not somehow believed in the importance of creative expression, I would not have had anything tethering me to life itself. That I could write (or paint or make music) was paramount to me; it was everything, in a way. It was a redemption.”

I want to quote his next paragraph too–and the next. Instead, however, I refer you to the Readers’ Message in its entirety. I hope you find it as inspiring, affirming, and challenging as I did.


Happy Valentine’s Day — pre or post apocalypse!

Dear All:

Happy Valentine’s Day! I’ve had a love-themed blog post in mind for February 14 for quite some time, but (wail!), it just hasn’t reached the on-the-page-stage yet. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, I have have some other themed reading to recommend in the form of a quirky, great anthology: Nothing But Flowers ~ Tales of Post-apocalyptic Love – you definitely should.

All of its stories are available for free on the blog (linked from the title above) for 48 hours or so, and then it will be available as an e-reader download. I particularly recommend Jen Brubacher’s tale is called “I Dream of Cherry Pies” because . . . well, actually, no spoilers, but I loved it even though it made me sad (isn’t that what most great love stories do?) even while I smiled . . .

If you get a chance to read Nothing But Flowers, I’d love to hear about your favourite stories.


E-reading + Ether Books + short stories by me!

So how many of you found an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or some other e-reader wrapped in pretty packaging this year? I sort of did. My mother-in-law spoiled my hubby and me with a very generous gift and I decided to dedicate my half to my craft: an online writing class and an iPhone (Yay! I knew there was a reason I was still using my old flip-talk even though Bell has been telling me for almost five years that I’m “entitled” to a new phone). I’m completely excited, primarily because of the phone’s e-reading possibilities.

As a reader and a writer, I have always adored the short story form, but it’s become harder and harder to find short stories to read (and short story markets to submit to).

The boom of e-zines has been good for us short story lovers, however (especially the story-a-day sites like Every Day Fiction Magazine and Daily Science Fiction, but perhaps the saviour of the short story will be electronic readers, including the new generations of phones with their lovely do-everything-but-the-dishes apps and gorgeous screens. Perfect for packing lightly in your bag or pocket, you have a variety of reads available wherever you go. And what better read could a person have in transit or when waiting for a meeting than a short story?

Ether Books, a UK publisher, agrees with me so much that its whole focus is publishing “the very best short stories and essays from today’s literary stars and up-and-coming writers directly to your own phone.”

And, I’m ecstatic to say, Ether Books has acquired three of my short stories–all speculative in some way or another–for your reading pleasure (er, well, I hope it’s pleasure!): “HVS,” “Red Bird,” and “Wishful.”

I’d love for you to read them and share the word with any one you know who likes a weird little story–and don’t stop with my works. Ether’s “shelves” are full with a great collection of short stories and essays in every genre you can imagine.

Ether Books’ app is available for free here or by searching for Ether Books with your iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad.

You can find “HVS,” “Red Bird,” and “Wishful” by selecting New Releases (green button) or New Authors (orange button).

Just for fun, see if you can spot me in Ether Books’ “Our Authors” page. ;)

If you read my stories, let me know what you think. I’d love feedback.

Happy reading and readying yourself for the new year!

p.s. If you’d like a more detailed description of Ether Books, visit this post at BubbleCow (a great blog that you should be visiting regularly, anyway!).


Leigh Russell Interview

A couple of days ago I connected with Leigh Russell—a UK thriller writer with two titles fresh on the shelves (CUT SHORT and ROAD CLOSED), another soon to be published (DEAD END) and a fourth and fifth title for the series in the works. The fan girl part of my personality was jumping up and down and I won’t pretend I managed to be cool when she volunteered to be interviewed here.

It’s always wonderful to find a new author—and even more wonderful if you discover them early on and they’re prolific. I hope the writer in you enjoys Leigh’s comments, that the reader in you seeks out her books, and that the Christmas shopper we’re all called to be these days is relieved with a great idea about how to make a reader on your list very happy (or, at least, held in chilling suspense for 350 pages!).

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1. CUT SHORT, your first novel, introduces D.I. Geraldine Steel as she relocates to a small village (that’s right, guys, village, not town—we’re in the UK in this book), expecting peace, quiet and safety—a sheltered place to deal with the damage of her past. Instead she’s ensnared in a brutal serial murder investigation with herself as the killer’s next intended victim.

How did this story occur to you? Did the idea come fully formed? Did it originate with a character popping into your head?

Leigh: I was walking through my local park one day. It was raining and the park was deserted. As I approached a bend in the path beside a tangled copse of trees and shrubs a man suddenly appeared on the path, walking towards me. I’ve no idea where the idea came from but I wondered what I would do if I saw a body in the bushes and so became involved in a terrible crime, as a witness. I walked on and of course there was no body in the bushes, but the idea stayed with me and when I reached home I began to write it down. Who was the dead girl? Why was she killed? Who killed her? I became so engrossed in the narrative that I completed the first draft of my debut thriller in six weeks.

2. I understand that you broke into print in a way that most authors only dream about, receiving a three book deal just months into your writing life. Can you describe your personal journey from first deciding you wanted to write through to publication for us?

Leigh: F Scott Fitzgerald said, ‘You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.’ That was certainly my experience. There was no deliberate decision to write, I simply had an idea, started writing – and haven’t been able to stop since. I’m absolutely addicted! When I finished my manuscript I decided I might as well send it to a publisher who specialises in crime fiction, although I never really expected to hear back from them. You can imagine my surprise when two weeks later they called me for a meeting and soon after that signed me up for three books. I wrote somewhere that I fell into writing like Alice down the rabbit hole.

3. And now that you’ve “arrived,” how is publishing what you envisioned it to be? How is it not?

Leigh: We hear a lot about publishers who are distant and unhelpful but that hasn’t been my experience because my publishers are lovely people to work with. What I hadn’t realised was how much time I would spend promoting my books. I enjoy getting out and about meeting people and am passionate about supporting bookshops and libraries so most weeks I devote time to signing in bookshops. Just this week I signed in three bookshops and judged a short story competition for a writers group, and that’s fairly typical. I give talks at literary festivals, visit book groups and colleges, and give interviews to newspapers, on the radio and online – like this one! It’s all great fun but more time consuming than I’d anticipated.

4. Discovering that a book you enjoy is only the first in a series is a delight for any reader, and I was particularly excited to find out you’d done more with Geraldine. She’s a bit of tough character—very enigmatic—and by the end of CUT SHORT, though the ending was fantastic, there was still a lot I wanted to know about her.

Then I found out she had a series and I was excited because you’d left so much room to continue developing her (some series’ authors tell all, show all in Book 1 and don’t leave space for natural character growth and change).

Had you intended all the way along to write a series for D.I. Geraldine Steel or was it just good luck that you set your novel up to perfectly lead into one?

Leigh: Most authors plot the arc of their main character before they write the first book in a series, planning out the character’s journey throughout. I had no idea my initial manuscript would become a series so didn’t plan ahead in that way. As it turns out it was lucky I didn’t reveal too much about Geraldine in Cut Short. In Road Closed she sets out on a personal journey that is developed in Dead End in a plotline that will continue through quite a few books. I also have another idea for her, picking up on a character who is only mentioned briefly in Cut Short. Now I have a clear idea where Geraldine’s heading in her life, I have the end of the 20th book in the series in my mind and I know exactly how she is going to end up – although I might change my mind and come up with something entirely different.

5. What do you enjoy about writing a series? What are the challenges?

Leigh: I am enjoying developing my main character more and more as I get to know her better, but what I appreciate most about writing a series is that whenever I finish writing one book, the next one is waiting to be written. It means I haven’t had time to worry too much about how my books will be received, as I am constantly moving on the next story. One challenge is whether to write specifically for my growing fan base who are getting to know Geraldine, or for readers who are picking up one of my books for the first time. Another challenge for me is setting. In Cut Short and Road Closed I was rather vague about location, as I’m not very good with places. In Dead End I begin to tackle this, setting one scene in a real seaside town. In the following book Geraldine relocates to a real place.

6. Give us the blurb version of the plots for ROAD CLOSED and DEAD END. Please. ;)

ROAD CLOSED. When a man dies in a gas explosion, the police suspect arson. The Murder Investigation Team are called in to investigate. The case takes on a new and terrible twist when a local villain is viciously attacked. As the police enquiries lead from the expensive Harchester Hill estate to the local brothel, a witness dies in a hit-and-run. Was it coincidence – or cold-blooded murder? The Murder Investigation Team has problems of its own – and so does Geraldine Steel. A shocking revelation threatens her peace of mind as the investigation races towards its dramatic climax.

DEAD END. When the corpse of Abigail Kirby is discovered, police are shocked to learn that the victim’s tongue was cut out while she lay dying. Shortly after coming forward, a witness is blinded and murdered. Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel’s flirtation with the pathologist on the case helps her to cope with the distress of finding out she was adopted at birth. Abigail Kirby’s teenage daughter runs away from home to meet a girl who befriended her online. Too late, she realises she has made a dreadful mistake – a mistake that may cost her life. Detective Sergeant Ian Peterson uncovers a shocking secret about the serial killer who has been mutilating his murder victims. Does the sergeant’s discovery come too late to save Geraldine Steel from a similar dreadful fate?

7. To date, all your books (published and in the works) are thrillers of a dark variety. Did you set out to write creepy stuff or did it find you? Do you write in other genres as well, or do you hope to?

Leigh: You’ve probably realised by now that my stories found me, as I never set out to write a series of crime thrillers. I had an idea and ran with it and here I am. As for other genres, I might want to expand my range one day, but I have no time to explore other genres at the moment. If anyone had told me two years ago that I’d have written two bestsellers by now, I would have laughed, so I try not to predict what might happen next. The future is mysterious, doubtless peppered with surprises, and I’m just hoping for the best.

8. My kids are pretty blasé about “Mom” being a writer. Not that I don’t share details about my day or projects occasionally, but for them, it’s a lot like anecdotes about dishes or gardening—occasionally interesting, but not at all focus worthy.

You have two young daughters. What is their take on your career? How does (or does) writing about and investigating the topics that you explore in your books colour or affect your parenting?

Leigh: My daughters are not that young! I only started writing when they had both grown up and left home. They are members of my small and select group of readers and their comments are always very helpful. They love reading proof copies of my books, although they aren’t always happy with my behaviour. Last summer I was doing some research in London where Geraldine Steel will be relocating in my fourth book. I discovered a great location for a scene in the book and told my daughter excitedly, ‘I’ve found a perfect place to dump a dead body!’ She had quite a startled look on her face as she told me to ‘shhh’, while looking nervously over her shoulder.

9. What’s your favourite part of being a writer for a living? What do you like least about it?

Leigh: I love everything about writing.

10. What book(s) are you reading right now and what’s on your to read-list?

Leigh: Since I started writing I have very little time to read and when I do have any free time I tend to be writing. Authors I enjoy reading are Jeffery Deaver (who is a fan of my own books), Mark Billingham, Ian Rankin, Val Mcdiarmid, Sam Millar (another fan of my work)… the list is too long to include them all. I also admire many authors outside of crime fiction, Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, as well as less contemporary authors like Dickens, Edith Wharton, Hardy, Steinbeck, Harper Lee – again, the list is a long one.

11. What would constitute a perfect day for Leigh Russell?

Leigh: I would get up late, write all morning, write all afternoon, and then spend the evening with my family. After that I would stay up half the night writing when everyone else was asleep.

12. Last but not least, do you have any word of advice, wisdom, or encouragement for aspiring novelists?

Leigh: I always give the same three pieces of advice to aspiring authors: Work hard, be brave, and be lucky.

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I don’t know about you, but I found that pretty darn inspiring. It’s fantastic to hear an author who’s doing it for a living still be so excited about the whole process. I love that she loves writing—and her books sound great, right?

If you’d like to read more about Leigh Russell in her own words, visit her online at No Exit Press or on her blog at
http://leighrussell.blogspot.com . You can buy her books (the first two anyway—DEAD END comes out early in 2011) in all major book stores. For your convenience, I hyperlinked the book covers to Amazon.ca for you. And if you’re interested in the kind of work Geraldine Steel does, check out this link: How to become forensic scientist

Happy reading and writing this month, all!

~Ev


Recommended Reads

My latest November column for The Terrace Standard, was called ‘Tis the Season, but I wasn’t referring to Christmas–oh no. I was referring to it being the exact right time of year for books, for reading. (And of course, I admitted that really books aren’t limited to one season, they’re a year around pleasure, need, addiction, love–you get the picture.

Anyway as is becoming a November tradition for me (November Nesting, Good Reads), just in time for people’s Christmas shopping, I mentioned books that I particularly loved in 2010–or that I’m planning to read/hoping to love in 2011.

I thought it might be fun if I added to that list here a bit, and even more fun if you helped out and added to the list too. It will help us all. Readers will have that many more choices for their next picks, shoppers will have that many more options, and more importantly (hee hee), I will have recommendations that I can take with me on my next trip to the library, Misty River Books or Coles . . . .

I’ll add mine below (please forgive my sparse synopses–I really hate giving spoilers). Please load your responses with lots of titles! :)

For mystery or fiction enthusiasts in general:

The Likeness and Faithful Place by Tana French. I love her first novel, In the Woods, too, though some people might find the ending, well, different.

Any of Louise Penny‘s mystery novels, starring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec, though I’d read them in order if possible: The Brutal Telling, The Murder Stone (also titled A Rule Against Murder), The Cruelest Month, A Fatal Grace (also titled Dead Cold), Still Life, and Bury Your Dead.

Novels, novel, novels:

I feel safe recommending any title by Elizabeth Berg, though the ones I’ve read and loved are: The Year of Pleasures, The Art of Mending, Ordinary Life, Open House, Range of Motion, What We Keep, Durable Goods, and her book on writing, Escaping Into the Open.

And you already read Jodi Picoult right? I just finished her latest (or near to latest–she’s prolific. It’s hard to keep up!), House Rules, about a teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome who’s charged with murder. As always, her characters were fascinating and easy to relate to (even when you didn’t want to), as were the issues she raised.

Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden is a fictional work, inspired by a real-life WW1 Ojibwa soldier. A haunting read, it isn’t for the faint of heart or for those who can’t abide war stories. Boyden is merciless as he shows the horror and damage inflicted on a generation of young men. However, the book is not without hope and there is beauty in both the character of the protagonist and in the way Boyden explores the power of relationships to soothe and heal.

For younger readers (and for those of us who just love a good story and could care less about the “target market”):

Bitter, Sweet by Laura Best (Yes, I’ve mentioned her before), a historical YA novel set in rural Nova Scotia in the ’40s about a young girl, deserted by her father, then orphaned by the loss of her mother, who struggles to keep her family together.

Ms. Zephyr’s Notebook by kc dyer features Logan Kemp, a rugby freak who’s athletic life is interrupted when he ends up in a hospital fighting for his life, and a girl he befriends (sort of). I read this story with an ESL student (male, age 15, reluctant reader). We both really enjoyed it. Great, believable characters in situations that make you think. Dyer’s writing style in the books is unique too–it sort of feels like a mystery.

kc dyer also just had a new book come out, Facing Fire–another time-travel adventure to join it’s prequel A Walk Through the Window.

Cleavage – Breakaway Fiction for Real Girls, an anthology of short stories that are “hilarious, edgy, comforting, intense” about girls and their relationships with their mothers, their culture, themselves, edited by Deb Loughead & Jocelyn Shipley. Maybe it’s tacky to recommend a book that I have a story in (“My Mom is a Freak”), but I recently reread the collection and was hit again by how fun it is and how important a lot of the issues the stories touch on are. It’s available on Amazon, in bookstores, or, if you want a signed copy for someone’s stocking, through me: ev_bishopATSIGNyahooDOT.com

Non-fiction:

Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath: explore “why some ideas thrive while others die.” (I said a bit more about this one in my column, linked to above.)

Firstlight by Sue Monk Kidd, a collection of stories and essays from her early writing life, covering all sorts of topics that never stop throwing us for loops regardless of how we age and “mature”: motherhood, childhood, marriage, spirituality (as it’s mixed into regular life–and as it sometimes transcends regular life).

I first discovered Kidd through her novels, The Mermaid Chair and The Secret Life of Bees. They are amazing, completely engrossing and wonderful–read them first, actually, then when you’re a fan, pick up Firstlight.

The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30) by Mark Bauerlein. I confess I’m only recommending this book, because my 23-year-old brother loved it so much. I found it preachy, poorly written and, well, completely unconvincing. Bauerlien’s problem is not with the intellect of today’s young people (he admits, in fact, that they’re just as intelligent, if not more intelligent, than youth from days gone by), it’s with their failure to be where he feels they should be (in terms of success, motivation in the workplace, interest in politics, etc)—

GAH! I will break off here, before I start a full on rant, but not before I say I guess I do recommend the book on my own behalf. It’s good to argue, to have to think through what you really believe, to confront attitudes you feel are at best, illogically founded, at worst, detrimental to society. Let me know if you read it–especially if you agree with it. I’d love to argue about it. ;-)

Okay, that’s it for now. I will be back when I have more time–to see what you all say to put on the shelf and to add more titles myself.


Bitter, Sweet by Laura Best

Okay, I really am going to stop posting new posts today–but after just one more happy blurt.

My friend and fellow writer (who I admit I only know online, through her great blog, but she lives in the province second only to mine–and yours if you’re a fellow Canadian, lol), Laura Best just had her novel Bitter, Sweet make it onto the CBC Canada Reads list. See what the reviewer had to say about Bitter, Sweet here. (And omigoodness, Laura, you must’ve been so excited. What a great, deserved compliment!)

Bitter, Sweet also shortlisted for the Geoffrey Bilson Award For Historical Fiction For Young People. If you’re buying books for Christmas presents (and of course you are), you should seriously consider adding this to the pile. :)

Is it tacky to promote your friend’s books? Absolutely not. How else do you figure out what a next read should be? ;)

Congratulations again, Laura. Though I didn’t comment on your blog, I was really thrilled by your news!


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