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Reading and writing have literally saved my life on an occasion or two. I was fortunate that my Mom encouraged both…except when she would catch me with a flashlight in my little space under the covers in the middle of the night.

I have always been an avid reader and often escaped into a story or two, or three, or…you get the idea…when things got ugly in my real world. Always, in search of a safe space.

Writing became more important to me in those first years after my Mom passed. I slept little for fear of the nightmares that became my reality whenever I laid my head down. Luckily, a remarkable teacher became very attuned to my struggling and suggested I write about these things. I feared my horrors would become public knowledge, but he offered to accept my writing as his assignments. He would make corrections, add comments and grade them. He gave me space and promised to never make me read them aloud in class. Everyone should have at least one teacher like him. Writing about those dark things released me from the power they held over me. In later years (much later) I would find that same release (good and bad) by writing in my own space on my blog. Unfortunately, #wordpress in their infinite wisdom and like every other social media program changed their writing platform beyond my recognition again! It feels heavy and cumbersome and very awkward to navigate. So, during this past year, when pretty much everyone  on the planet is struggling to stay sane, (thank you COVID) every time I try to write something, it becomes a huge ordeal — so there hasn’t been a lot of writing. Kudos to my comrades who have turned this time into a cornucopia of literary creativity! I know a lot of you left this platform in favour of another space. Don’t worry, people will follow.

Not writing, however, leaves me time to read.  A lot of time.

Books…like magic, can transport you through time both backward and forward. You can visit any space in the world. And out of this world. Fantasies become reality. And you can learn anything from a book. Books are like family and best friends. They’re always there for you. I love this list of reading benefits of reading that showed up on Facebook recently.

The worst thing about reading a book is finishing a book. I have always dreamed of having a home library that’s the biggest space in the house, packed to the brim so that you had to slide back and forth on a ladder to retrieve the next offering. That never happened. (Probably for the best as I can’t even climb a ladder now.)

This Never Happened

However, the first time He-Who and I downsized from a house to a condo the reality of our book collection was overwhelming. Yes, He-Who is a reader/writer too. We were forced to cull the books. He-Who’s entire Stephen King collection went to one of his grandchildren. Others were shared, donated and passed on. Each one was a heartache to say goodbye to. Three moves and three downsizings later has left us with very few actual physical books in our household. Judging from the number of boxes of books I just packed (no I am not getting rid of them. I am just negotiating for space) our definitions of “few” may not align. We have been confined to quarters for over a year now and any illusion of having more space is welcome.

I have always been one of those people who thinks books need to be held, smelled, felt and you absolutely had to be able to turn the pages. That has not changed. A few years back we decided to try a Kindle. It was handy when a book was too bulky to bring along. It also beat the heck out of reading magazines that were six years out of date and covered in germs in a waiting room. We both still prefer a “real” book, but with space and shopping restrictions our Kindles have become our best friends. Reading has definitely prevented any phone calls to lawyers or coroners…so far. Really, all we need is a little more space.

 

 

 

 

 

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We are fast approaching my favourite time of year.
No, not Christmas (although I am a huge fan).
No, not New Years (although I appreciate getting to start another one).

My favourite time of year is that time right in between Christmas and New Years, after all the chaos and madness that Christmas can bring and before the excitement of ringing in the New Year. This is my time. I get to snuggle up with my books and read to my heart’s content. Now I am not talking about the latest on social media, running your own business or how to make a ton of money. All of those are worthy reads throughout the year as a matter of course. Those are the books I have to read to stay on top of things. I’m talking nothing but pleasure reading. A novel, a story, an adventure.  You aren’t going to solve any mysteries of the world, cure cancer or strike it rich.  You are going to read just for the pure pleasure of reading the written word.

So, I thought I would share a bit of my Christmas Library with you.  To be honest, I do start before Christmas with two very special books. First is Williams – Sonoma Christmas, the book I can plan all my meals and entertaining with. The second is Joy to the World  – A Family Christmas Treasury which has something for everyone. There are stories, songs and poems from all around the world and as the name implies is a family tradition and treasure.

Then it’s time to get cozy with the rest of my favourite Christmas reading.
Richard Paul Evans has a wonderful collection starting with his well known The Christmas Box, then Finding Noel and finally The Gift. Evans’ style is warm and intimate and makes you feel like you are getting a personal glimpse into his characters’ lives. 
The Last Holiday Concert by the author of Frindle, Andrew Clements, is fun for young readers and adults alike. One to share with your kids. 

One of my favourite authors, Frank McCourt, whose memoir Angela’s Ashes won him a Pulitzer Prize wrote a captivating children’s storybook shortly before his death. Angela and the Baby Jesus is a lovely story, elegantly illustrated and the perfect Christmas story for all ages. 

Another Irish author I read a lot is Andrew M. Greely. He takes me on adventures and makes me laugh out loud and quite often I find myself double checking that yes indeed this man is a Catholic Priest. In Home For Christmas he “weaves a moving tale of redemption in the grand Holiday tradition of It’s A Wonderful Life.


Perhaps my most loved book to read this time of year is White Christmas:The Story Of An American Song by Jody Rosen. This vividly written historical tale tells the story of how one of the most famous Christmas songs came to be.
With any luck there will be a new book to add to my Christmas Library this year. Either way, I will be quite content to put my feet up, snuggle under a throw and read to my hearts content. By the way, I will also be sipping my favourite Holiday beverage, a Chai Alexander which I thought I would share with you too.

Chai Alexander 
1 oz Brandy
1/2 oz Voyant Chai Liquer
1/2 oz Dark Creme De Cacao
1 oz milk or cream
Shake in a cocktail shaker until frothy & strain into a cocktail glass. Sprinkle with ground nutmeg.

Cheers and Merry Christmas!
M

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There is nothing so delectable as curling up with a good book. I can think of no better way to wind up a long weekend than to leisurely finish off a good book. He-Who and I are readers. We love books. We have bookcases full of them. They are piled up in corners throughout the house. I confess a Kindle has invaded our home but there is still nothing to compare with the feel, smell or excitement of flipping the page on a real page-turner. We share books…swapping them back and forth, then forward them to my niece who in turn passes them to her friend who reads it and hands it off to her sister and so on. This is something you can’t do with a Kindle.

So, when a recent run into Bowmanville had us parked out front of 185 Church St. we leapt at the chance to walk through the violet-coloured door of the 140 year-old former church. As it says on their website, “Violet Door Books is home to a most eclectic and spirited collection of books, curios and gifts that will fire your imagination and nourish your soul.” The experience actually begins before you even enter the building. To the left of the door are bins with a generous selection of $1 books. To the right of the door are bins with books that are …wait for it…free! It can be quite a while before you finally enter the building, already laden with books.

185 Church St., Bowmanville

When you eventually make it inside, either Bryan or Joanne (sometimes both) will be there to welcome you warmly and help you empty your arms so you can continue on your treasure hunt. Don’t be surprised if this delightful couple (the owners) offer you a cup of tea while you browse.

Books, books and more books take up the right half of the store. These are previously enjoyed books and can be yours for the princely sum of $2.

The left side of the store is quite eclectic. Here you will find bright, shiny new books, jewelry, dolls, boxes, music, candles, crystals, wind chimes, soaps, instruments, bags, clothing, ornaments, baby items and even juggling equipment — and that’s just at first glance! The second look reveals even more. A word of advice: plan for enough time to explore. There are handmade items from Canada, India, Africa and Indonesia. Local authors and creations are featured throughout. My favourite section is the one that holds the children’s books. These are no ordinary children’s books. These are adventures you will want to share with the wee ones in your life. They are books full of learning and magic and fantasy and imagination that your children will treasure all their lives and go on to share with their children.

A few other things you may find interesting…Bryan and Joanne will special-order a book for you…They have an up to date calendar of events on their website…They have created a space that can be made available for meetings or workshops…They have special “Save the Tax” days.

Why are you still reading this? You should be on your way to the “Violet Door” 185 Church Street, Bowmanville, ON, L1C 1T8.

As for me, I am off to finish my book.


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While waiting for a box of books to be delivered, I stumbled across a hidden treasure.

Books are among my favourite things. I love the feel of books. I love the smell of books. Most of all I love to get lost in a good book. From my childhood, I can remember reading The Bobbsey Twins with a flashlight under the covers until I was caught and the books would be pried out of my hands.

Over the years I have shared my love of books with friends and family. In particular, my nieces and nephews. I have more than once received a phone call from my niece in Florida that goes something like this…”Auntie M, I’m in Books A Million, have we read [insert name of book here]? What about [insert name of author here], do we like her?”. These were never short conversation, as she would scour the shelves and read the back flaps of books to me so we could choose the next books we would share.

My taste in books is much the same as my taste in music, quite eclectic. My favourite book is a classic, Trinity, written by Leon Uris who also wrote Exodus and QB VII. Over the years I read that book so many times it finally fell apart and I had to buy a new one. My first born child was destined to be named after the hero of the piece, Conor Larkin. I was that taken with him.

A just-for-fun series that was shared a lot was Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels. I don’t think there is a better “beach” read.

Perhaps my favourite series of novels are the Nuala Anne McGrail novels (Irish Tweed, Irish Tiger, Irish Crème … you get the idea) written by Andrew M. Greeley.  The books are a treat that cleverly entwine two mysteries, one from the past and one from the present, so I always feel like I am getting two for the price of one. Here is the thing about Andrew M. Greeley … I defy you to ever figure out he is “Father Andrew Greeley” from his writing.

There are no children in my house, but the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling have a shelf of their own. Believe me when I tell you that He who shall not be named and I had a great time reading them.

Stephen King is probably the most dominant author in our collection. I think we have every book he ever wrote. We felt very lucky to be in the audience when he made a rare Canadian appearance a couple of years ago. He who shall not be named has demanded that we tell you we also have Terry Goodkind’s entire Sword of Truth series and many fabulous fantasies by Guy Gavriel Kay, none of which will he part with.  And now you know.

Of course, the collection includes those must-have books to survive in the age of social media, Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, Get Seen by Steve Garfield and Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel.

The book most recently consumed was Zig Zag Paz by Pamela Anne Zolkov .  A true story, written in a rhythm that gets in your head like a tune you sing without really realizing it.

We seldom buy one book at a time. Usually we make a list and order them by the box load. My timing was off recently and when I finished Zig Zag Paz I found I had nothing waiting for me to read (OK, except for the multitudes of blogs I read every day).

I scoured the book shelves. They are packed solid. Yes, we lend, give, share, donate our books as we go along, but we do find it hard to part with some of our favourites. There are a lot of favourites. After much digging, a total mess of books all over the place, and some convenient cleaning of the book shelves, I stumbled across a book I didn’t recognize. Upon opening the book, I immediately knew where it came from. There was a time I would be invited by a publisher to an annual book exhibit in Toronto. Each year I was able to meet authors (some known, some not so much) and get copies of their latest books, some yet to be released. If you were able to attend when the author was there they would also sign it for you. Believe me, a pre-release, signed copy of a book is very hard to part with. Hence, the “treasure” hunt. The book I held in my hand was one of those books. It was a signed copy of the not-yet-released Into The Ravine by Richard Scrimger. According to the back cover, it was to be released in August 2007, and was for ages 11+.  As I have said before, if it is a good story, I will read it. I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised. It was hilarious, exciting and filled with adventure and memorable characters. There were lots of twists and turns in the clever plot and quite frankly, I had a hard time putting it down. Scrimger is a Canadian author and set the adventure in Scarborough and various parts of Toronto that were familiar but that I had never looked at in quite the same way. A little research brought me to an extensive list of Scrimger’s books and other writings including his blog which I am now addicted to.

My box of books did finally arrive but they had to wait until I finished Into the Ravine. If you have teens in the house, or are brave enough yourself, definitely search out the books of Richard Scrimger. I am off to choose from the new arrivals but I would love to hear what your favourite books are.

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