The Read List: Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, by Paul Tremblay

disappearance at devils rock

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, by Paul Tremblay:

Late one summer night, Elizabeth Sanderson receives the devastating news that every mother fears: her thirteen-year-old son, Tommy, has vanished without a trace in the woods of a local park.

The search isn’t yielding any answers, and Elizabeth and her young daughter, Kate, struggle to comprehend Tommy’s disappearance. Feeling helpless and alone, their sorrow is compounded by anger and frustration: the local and state police have uncovered no leads. Josh and Luis, the friends who were the last to see Tommy before he vanished, may not be telling the whole truth about that night in Borderland State Park, when they were supposedly hanging out a landmark the local teens have renamed Devil’s Rock.

Living in an all-too-real nightmare, riddled with worry, pain, and guilt, Elizabeth is wholly unprepared for the strange series of events that follow. She believes a ghostly shadow of Tommy materializes in her bedroom, while Kate and other local residents claim to see a shadow peering through their windows in the dead of night. Then, random pages torn from Tommy’s journal begin to mysteriously appear—entries that reveal an introverted teenager obsessed with the phantasmagoric; the loss of his father, killed in a drunk-driving accident a decade earlier; a folktale involving the devil and the woods of Borderland; and a horrific incident that Tommy believed connects them.

As the search grows more desperate, and the implications of what happened become more haunting and sinister, no one is prepared for the shocking truth about that night and Tommy’s disappearance at Devil’s Rock.

I have a hard time writing about books I really enjoyed, because I usually find myself reduced to wanting to say stuff like, “Read this already, okay?” and “Oh, wow” and “This was good. Really good. I mean it. This was good.”

Which is not particularly helpful. And, since I really enjoyed Disappearance at Devil’s Rock and find myself wanting to say, Just pick this one up and read it! I’ve been trying hard to figure out exactly what I should write (other than “You really should read this”).

So to make it easier on both me and you, I thought I’d do this in a list. That way, I can be incoherent and ramble on a bit, which is probably a lot more helpful than waving the book in the air and saying to everyone and anyone near enough to hear, “You need to read this!” (which is what I actually did say when I finished reading it).

  1. Disappearance at Devil’s Rock is billed as a horror, and yes, it is an eerie read, with lots of atmosphere and I think you’ll like it if you like horror … BUT this isn’t really a horror novel. At its heart, it’s about love and it’s about loss.
  2. So if you were thinking, this read isn’t for me, because I don’t like horror novels, I think you should still give this a try.
  3. It made me cry. I read this nearly a month ago, and even now, thinking back to that last scene, I can still remember why it made me cry.
  4. I read this in one long gulp. I literally couldn’t put it down, so it ended up being one of those books where you read the last words with a deep sigh and then realize, oh, crap, it’s 3 in the morning. I’m getting kind of old for this kind of thing, but at the same time, I’m very happy when I stumble across a book that keeps me reading deep into the night.
  5. Even though I couldn’t put the book down, this wasn’t a purely plot-driven novel, the kind that keeps you madly flipping the pages quickly, sort-of-kind-of taking in the words because really, you’re just hell-bent on getting to the end and finding out WHAT HAPPENED. Sure, there was plot, a good one at that, but  for me, it was the characters that really made this book work.
  6. I liked the way the narrative went back and forth between the present and the past. It worked well. And I was never confused about when in time I was. Always a really good thing.
  7. I think it could have used a better title. Disappearance at Devil’s Rock doesn’t really work for me. Actually, it makes me think of the Hardy Boys, so maybe it would work for me if I’m feeling like reading the Hardy Boys. Which I used to do all the time, back when I was 13. But not so much now. (Don’t ask me what would be a good title, though, because I’m not good at stuff like that.)
  8. I really enjoyed this book.

So a huge thanks to TLC Book Tours for sending me a review copy. And of course a huge thanks to Paul Tremblay for penning this one. And did I mention, you should read this already, okay?

 

The Read List: Hex, by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

hex

Hex, by Thomas Olde Heuvelt:

Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay ’til death. Whoever settles, never leaves.

Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children’s bed for nights on end. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened or the consequences will be too terrible to bear.

The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break their strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into dark, medieval practices of the distant past.

One of the most impressive things about Hex is that the original version was written in Dutch, and for the North American/UK release of the novel, author Thomas Olde Heuvelt decided to revise the novel and Americanize it—and while I haven’t read the Dutch version (I don’t, unfortunately, have any familiarity with the language), I can say that this version of Hex worked for me.

In this interview from Rue Morgue, the author had this to say about both versions of Hex:

The original Dutch edition was set in an existing small town in The Netherlands. It’s the town of Beek, in the east of the country, in the hills near the German border. My grandmother used to live there, and I always thought: if there’s any place in a country so densely populated and neatly cultivated as The Netherlands where something like this could happen, it’s here. Even more so: Beek has a history of witchcraft persecutions and hangings that goes back to the middle ages and is still visible today. The woods around the town are gloomy. There are witch-references in the naming of places and streams. They even have an annual ritual at Carnival, where they hang a big straw witch doll from the town hall, and after the festivities, they burn it. (And believe it or not: I did *not* know that when I wrote the wicker burning scene in HEX, which was a perfect and very creepy coincidence). The English edition, however, is set in Black Spring, New York. You could say it’s a remake from the Dutch original, and Black Spring is based on the town of Beek (the early settlers called it “New Beeck” for obvious reasons). For me as a writer, it was a fantastic challenge to see if I could pull it off to make the book work in a totally new, culturally different environment. Plus, it was an excuse to revisit the town, the characters and the storylines that I loved so much, and spend some more time with them without having to fall in the trap of a sequel. The Dutch ‘soul’ of the book I kept very much alive during the process.

I enjoyed Hex. While this is a horror, there were also several humorous passages that made me laugh, and the horror deepened in intensity in a way that really worked for me. Aside from one scene of extreme violence (which I flipped over, as I don’t like reading stuff like that—lucky for me I wasn’t listening to the audio version—and which was necessary for the narrative rather than gratuitous) the violence was more muted than anything, which is another thing I appreciate in a horror novel. It seems to me it takes far more skill to build that horror feeling in a novel without using a lot of graphic violence, and that’s something the author does well.

The Dutch version has a different ending, and I’m rather curious about the difference, although I did enjoy the ending of the version I read: it was rather bittersweet, which is unexpected in a horror novel.

 

 

The Read List: Death at Breakfast, by Beth Gutcheon

deathatbreakfastI hate to say this, but Death at Breakfast just didn’t work for me. When TLC Book Tours sent me their list of upcoming books going on tour, I read the synopsis for this book and loved the sound of the two main protagonists:

Indulging their pleasure in travel and new experiences, recently retired private school head Maggie Detweiler and her old friend, socialite Hope Babbin, are heading to Maine. The trip—to attend a weeklong master cooking class at the picturesque Victorian-era Oquossoc Mountain Inn—is an experiment to test their compatibility for future expeditions.

Hope and Maggie have barely finished their first aperitifs when the inn’s tranquility is shattered by the arrival of Alexander and Lisa Antippas and Lisa’s actress sister, Glory. Imperious and rude, these Hollywood one-percenters quickly turn the inn upside-down with their demanding behavior, igniting a flurry of speculation and gossip among staff and guests alike.

But the disruption soon turns deadly. After a suspicious late-night fire is brought under control, Alex’s charred body is found in the ashes. Enter the town’s deputy sheriff, Buster Babbin, Hope’s long-estranged son and Maggie’s former student. A man who’s finally found his footing in life, Buster needs a win. But he’s quickly pushed aside by the “big boys,” senior law enforcement and high-powered state’s attorneys who swoop in to make a quick arrest.

Maggie knows that Buster has his deficits and his strengths. She also knows that justice does not always prevail—and that the difference between conviction and exoneration too often depends on lazy police work and the ambitions of prosecutors. She knows too, after a lifetime of observing human nature, that you have a great advantage in doing the right thing if you don’t care who gets the credit or whom you annoy.

Feeling that justice could use a helping hand–as could the deputy sheriff—Maggie and Hope decide that two women of experience equipped with healthy curiosity, plenty of common sense, and a cheerfully cynical sense of humor have a useful role to play in uncovering the truth.

Don’t Maggie and Hope sound just lovely? I think the mystery world is really really ready for a pair of middle aged sleuths like them. So as I settled in to read, I was all set to cheer for Maggie and Hope, and ride along as they set out on their first mysterious adventure. Only … it didn’t turn out that way, because I didn’t really get a chance to get a sense of who Maggie and Hope are.

Unfortunately, it takes a good long while before the murder in this murder mystery actually happens, and in the scenes leading up to it, we get into Maggie’s or Hope’s POV just a few times. Now, the murder itself doesn’t have to happen quickly in order for a murder mystery to be good; Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley mysteries come to mind as an example of long build-ups to the murders themselves that work well. But George is also a master of characterization, and good characterization is something I found Death at Breakfast lacked.

A lot of the scenes in the book are scattered among an astonishing number of secondary characters. At first I’d start reading a new scene, be confused about who this particular character was, flip back to find out, then start back on the scene again. After a while, though, I got tired of doing that, so I just kept plodding on, on the assumption that sooner or later it would dawn on me who this person was. But having to do that just doesn’t add up to very enjoyable reading for me.

The writing itself is fine, with a nice turn of phrase here and there. But without solidly fleshed out characters and a better developed plot, I wasn’t really drawn into the story itself. It’s a little bizarre, but I found the character I liked best, in that I was intrigued by her and actually wanted to learn more about her, was Artemis, a celebrity pop star who never physically shows up in the book.

When I finished reading, I headed over to Amazon and Goodreads to see some of its reviews; I like to do this when a book doesn’t work for me because there’s always the chance I missed something that could have made a difference. But after reading through the reviews, it occurred to me that Death at Breakfast would probably be enjoyed by the reader of general fiction, but perhaps not so much by mystery aficionados.

And on a side note, it was interesting to see one reviewer had actually counted the number of secondary characters who make an appearance in the book: there were twenty-three of them! That’s a lot of secondary characters, and with several of them getting their own scenes in the book, it was all too confusing and unwieldy for me.

Depending on your reading tastes, your mileage with this one may be different, though.

 

The Read List: Witches of Lychford, by Paul Cornell

Witches of Lychford

What it’s about:

Traveler, Cleric, Witch.

The villagers in the sleepy hamlet of Lychford are divided. A supermarket wants to build a major branch on their border. Some welcome the employment opportunities, while some object to the modernization of the local environment.

Judith Mawson (local crank) knows the truth — that Lychford lies on the boundary between two worlds, and that the destruction of the border will open wide the gateways to malevolent beings beyond imagination.

But if she is to have her voice heard, she’s going to need the assistance of some unlikely allies…

I picked up Paul Cornell’s Witches of Lychford after I read an excerpt of it on the Tor website (actually, I pre-ordered it right after reading it, as it wasn’t released yet — and I don’t normally place pre-orders, so the excerpt definitely grabbed me). 

Then the ebook was released and sent to my Kindle … and like lots of other ebooks on my Kindle (and my Kobo), it ended up sitting on my Kindle for a while. But then I remembered it, and decided to pick up where I’d left off.

And I’m really glad I did. Even though this is a short book (it’s novella-length), Cornell has no problems building a believable world where magic is worked within the nicks and corners of the normal, magic-less every day.

Set in a small English village, the story pulls in the workings of local politics and is quite epic in scope. The rest of the story turned out to be just as good as the excerpt that had pulled me in, and when I finished, I found myself hoping Cornell would continue to set more stories in this world he’s created.

I had read Cornell’s London Falling a while back and enjoyed it, so reading the Witches of Lychford has reminded me how much I wanted to read his The Severed Streets, too.

 

The Read List: Die Again, by Tess Gerritsen

die again

So … I figured out “whodunnit”. Not until close to the end, but definitely before the big reveal.

Sigh.

It’s never nice when that happens. Still, this was an okay read. I particularly liked the parts of the narrative that took place in Botswana, and I enjoyed the mystery of how those parts fit in with the rest of the story. Unfortunately, once I found out exactly how those bits fit in, the rest of the puzzle pieces slipped into place–just a little bit too early.

Botswana? you say. But I thought Die Again was a Rizzoli and Isles mystery … And so it is. Here’s the synopsis:

When Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles are summoned to a crime scene, they find a killing worthy of the most ferocious beast—right down to the claw marks on the corpse. But only the most sinister human hands could have left renowned big-game hunter and taxidermist Leon Gott gruesomely displayed like the once-proud animals whose heads adorn his walls. Did Gott unwittingly awaken a predator more dangerous than any he’s ever hunted?

Maura fears that this isn’t the killer’s first slaughter, and that it won’t be the last. After linking the crime to a series of unsolved homicides in wilderness areas across the country, she wonders if the answers might actually be found in a remote corner of Africa.

Six years earlier, a group of tourists on safari fell prey to a killer in their midst. Marooned deep in the bush of Botswana, with no means of communication and nothing but a rifle-toting guide for protection, the terrified tourists desperately hoped for rescue before their worst instincts—or the wild animals prowling in the shadows—could tear them apart. But the deadliest predator was already among them, and within a week, he walked away with the blood of all but one of them on his hands.

Now this killer has chosen Boston as his new hunting ground, and Rizzoli and Isles must find a way to lure him out of the shadows and into a cage. Even if it means dangling the bait no hunter can resist: the one victim who got away.

So yes, the Botswana parts were good. Figuring it out early? Not so good. Still, it was nice to meet with Rizzoli and Isles again.

But I have to say, I’ve not been all that interested in the story arcs of a number of continuing series characters for a while now, this one included. I don’t mind the conflict going on at Rizzoli’s parents’ house (although someone really really needs to sit Angela down and talk some sense into her) but the whole thing with Isles and her sociopathic mother? It’s like, the priest thing didn’t work out (both literally and also as the continuing story arc) so we have to have something just as dramatic going on. We share DNA so we have a bond … I mean, really. Isles is supposed to be a scientist.

And while I’m not one to rip covers apart, and I love the woman’s eyes in the cover of the hardcover version (which is the version I read), I really don’t get the connection between that cover and the story.  I think the paperback cover provides a much better connection to the story:

die again v2

 

If you’ve read the book, you’ll know what I mean.

If you’re a Rizzoli and Isles fan, you’ll probably enjoy this one.

 

The Read List: Fiction Unboxed by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant

fiction unboxed

Why yes! I am determined to keep my Read List up-to-date (once this post publishes, I’ll be two for two – yay!).

So I just finished Fiction Unboxed by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant. I’d missed all the hoopla around the Kickstarter that began this project a couple of years ago, so I’m glad I discovered it the other day when I was bored and clicking around Amazon.

As I always do when I’m deciding whether to buy a book, after reading a handful of the five and four star reviews, I then read all the three, two and one star reviews. I find that these lower-starred reviews often help me to gauge whether a book is a right fit for me. If I don’t agree with what these ” this book was meh” reviewers are saying, or if they point out the reasons why the book isn’t for them and these reasons don’t affect me (or, as is sometimes the case, these reasons actually make me want to read the book), I often will end up getting the book.

(So to all you authors out there despairing about mediocre or downright bad reviews, take heart! There are readers like me who actually find these kinds of reviews helpful in making the “purchase” (rather than the “don’t purchase”) decision.)

After reading the “this didn’t work for me” reviews, I decided to take a shot with this one, because:

In the meh reviews, this sounded like the main problem–that if you’ve done all of these things, there’s nothing fresh in Fiction Unboxed for you (although many of the five star reviewers had done all these things, and still really liked the book).

Luckily, that wasn’t me. So I plunged in. And i’m glad I did.

What I liked about this book is how Truant takes everything that happened during the course of the 30 days it took for them to write, produce and publish The Dream Engineplus all the Kickstarter days preceding it, and puts it into a narrative first-person tale that’s engrossing enough to keep you reading. I mean, seriously, you’re reading about two authors writing a book–that’s something that could get quite boring.

As they indicate at the beginning of the book, Fiction Unboxed is all about their process, and it’s a very intriguing process. They use story beats rather than a set outline, and I was fascinated by how the story beats enabled them to continue to write organically, with all the spontaneous surprises that entails, while at the same time providing them with a series of guideposts so they always knew in what direction they were headed.

My problem with all of my fiction WIPs has always been finishing the projects. I write by the seat of my pants, and often find myself backed into a corner at around 50,000-60,000 words. I’ve tried to outline projects several times before, and it’s never worked for me. There’s something about the word “outline” that makes me feel confined within the plot points I’ve put down, and I find myself just plugging away at my writing, bored stiff–and trust me, this shows in the resulting work.

But I also know that when I sit down to write and I know where my scene needs to end up, the writing is almost always fun and effortless. I just haven’t done this that often, so I can’t say for certain I still get those delightful surprises which, for me, are one of the main reasons I like to write–I want to discover the story as I go.

So I think I’ve discovered a process that I can tweak to my needs. For that alone, Fiction Unboxed was worth the price.

But it’s also a good look behind the scenes at how a couple of full-time fiction writers actually do their stuff. And judging from the excerpts in the finished book, writing at that speed doesn’t affect the quality of their writing – Truant seems to have a real knack for painting a scene and quite a lovely way with words. In fact, their production process seems quite rigorous, and while I haven’t read any of their novels yet, I suspect none of them are rife with the kind of grammatical errors I’ve been seeing in a lot of books lately (both self-published AND traditionally published, sadly).

The Read List: Summer at Castle Stone, by Lynn Marie Hulsman

summer at castle stone

Have you ever had those reading moments when you know you really need something light and funny? That’s how Summer at Castle Stoneby Lynn Marie Hulsman fell into my Read List. Something about the synopsis caught my eye, and next thing you know I had it on my ereader.

This summer, lose your heart in Ireland…

Shayla Sheridan’s a New York native born into big city luxury, but she’s never really fitted in with the “it” crowd. Desperate to make it as a writer and to finally step out from her famous father’s shadow, Shayla decides to take on a tricky assignment across the pond…

Swapping skyscrapers and heels for wellies and the heart of the Irish countryside, Shayla must go about ghost-writing a book of recipes by the notoriously reclusive and attractive head chef of Castle Stone, Tom O’Grady.

The only problem? He has no idea that she’s writing it.

Shayla Sheridan is eking out a living as a ghostwriter. She has her principles, though, and refuses to make use of her father’s literary fame to get her the writing stardom she craves. So she ends up undercover in Ireland, trying to get on the good side of dishy chef Tom O’Grady.

A ghostwriter! And there’s food and cooking! Not to mention the lushness that is Ireland! Some really good combinations here.

This was a fun, entertaining read. And when I got to the last third of the book, I couldn’t put it down—which I found interesting, because I usually associate “can’t put this down”-itis with thrillers and mysteries and such.

Shayla gets into a lot of scrapes, most of them of her own doing, but it didn’t hit the type of silliness that made me want to put the book down. And there was, of course, the classic moment of miscommunication thing (in this case, it was the “I should really tell him, I really should, oh, here’s a good moment to tell him, oh, but I really can’t now … yikes, it’s TOO LATE, the damage is done” thing—I trust this isn’t spoilerish because of course it’s the expected narrative arc in this type of plot, right?). But Lynn Marie Hulsman pulled it all off quite well, I thought.

So, yes, a fun read. One caveat, though: this book could have used a lot more editing than it got. And I mean A LOT more. Which was surprising, considering this one comes from HarperCollins, a major publisher. So if things like that take you majorly out of a book, this might not be a great read for you.

Let’s Celebrate: I’m Reading Again!

I’ve been feeling rather self-congratulatory lately, because YES! I’ve started reading again! And by reading, I don’t mean my comfort listens of Agatha Christie mysteries. I mean new-to-me novels.

Yes, I’m back in my reading seat. Which alternates right now between my sofa and my bed. Neither feels ideal, so I have a feeling I’ll be spending a bit of time rearranging things furniture-wise.

But still—I’m reading!

Here’s what I recently finished:

The House on Cold Hill

The House on Cold Hill by Peter James. Peter James writes mostly mysteries, none of which I’d read before (I rectified that after I finished The House on Cold Hill by putting a hold on some of his previous books). The House on Cold Hill is a standalone, and as you might be able to tell from the cover, it’s a haunted house book.

I like a good haunted house book, although I haven’t read that many in this genre. I definitely enjoyed this one. I read the occasional horror, and one thing I find is that often, what’s labelled as “horror” is really all about the gore. I prefer horror stories that scare the crap out of me without diving into too much gore. The House on Cold Hill is that kind of book. It has a slow, almost soothing build-up and of course I ended up finishing it late at night, which increased the scary quotient quite a bit.

Opening Belle

Opening Belle by Maureen Sherry. Yes, I’ve actually managed to read a fairly new book for once! Not only that, but it’s apparently already been optioned by Reese Witherspoon …

But really, how could I resist? It’s not that often I get to read a book where the protagonist bears my name (well, okay, so she’s “Isabelle” but people often call her Belle, which works for me). Plus there were certain things about her life that really resonated with me (not, however, her salary—to that, I can only say “if only!”)

It was a thoroughly enjoyable read. I particularly liked learning about women on Wall Street—and it’s amazing how caveman-like the environment continues to be. I think this will make a good movie, although there were a couple of things about the ending that didn’t particularly thrill me. I won’t say anymore, though, because they’re definitely on the spoiler side.

I’m looking forward to settling back into reading again. Here’s what I might (or might not, because I’m persnickety that way) be reading in the next few days/weeks:

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald. I was at the library a few weeks ago picking up some holds so I decided to browse the New Books section. I came across the trade paperback copy of The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. I’m not sure what prompted me to pick it up—it’s not in my usual genres of mystery, horror, fantasy or science fiction. But the cover was so obviously of a bookish nature. And then there’s the “Readers” in the title.

So I flipped it open and began reading, and I liked what I read.  Such a quirky bookish book! Hopefully I’ll get to it before I have to return it (I’ve already renewed it once).

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams: Stories by Stephen King. I’m looking forward to dipping into this one, especially since I’ve started a re-listen of King’s On Writing in the hopes of getting myself back on the writing track, so dear Uncle Stevie has been on my mind a fair bit. (I love listening to On Writing, partly for the inspiration and partly because King narrates it himself, and he does some great voices). And maybe the best part of The Bazaar of Bad Dreams will be the forward King’s written for each of the stories that are included in the collection, which details why he came to write that particular story. I love stuff like that—it’s like getting a lovely peak straight into an author’s “writing mind”.

The Virgin of the Wind Rose by Glen Craney. This was sent to me by the author; I don’t normally accept a lot of review books that come my way, but the storyline for this one was very intriguing:

While investigating the murder of an American missionary in Ethiopia, rookie State Department lawyer Jaqueline Quartermane stumbles upon a Latin palindrome embedded with a cryptographic time bomb. Separated by half a millennium, two global conspiracies dovetail to expose the world’s most explosive secret: The real identity of Christopher Columbus.

Glen Craney also sent me a link to an instant preview of the book, which was great, as I always like to read the first chapter or two before saying yes to a review book. I took a look, and liked what I read. And while I’m not big on historical fiction, things change when you throw in a modern-day component, plus mystery and a great deal of suspense.

So this is what’s (tentatively) on my reading agenda right now. But no matter what, I know I’m back on the reading track, and that’s definitely something this particular writer is celebrating!

Settling In

I am finally—FINALLY!—feeling settled in. I moved into my new place at the end of January, and since then it’s been a madhouse of unpacking and keeping on top of my work deadlines, which have not slowed down at all. They’ve actually expanded, because on top of everything else I’ve been branching out and diversifying my services.

The first few days after the move were more on the depressing side—lack of sleep, coupled with the mess of tons of boxes. My new place is much smaller compared to my past homes, and with the clutter of so many boxes (because … books, right?) it was tough to even find a pathway from the living room to the kitchen!

But I persevered, and unpacked. And unpacked some more. And then some more.

The end result? I’ve decided a minimalist lifestyle is very much to my liking. I ended up giving away boxes and boxes of books, and I’ve also come up with a couple of new rules for myself:

  1. For every print book I buy, I must giveaway TWO from my shelves.
  2. Every month I will go through my bookshelves and pick books to donate or give away.

I ended up getting my living/dining room (it’s all one and the same, rather small, space) cleaned up, and I love it! But I will need to keep my eye on clutter, because I’ve noticed the moment I start heaping books and papers on my coffee table or the dining room table, the place doesn’t feel quite so cozy any more.

On top of that, I managed the feat of clearing/unpacking the living room by lugging all unpacked boxes up to my bedroom/office. These are the “difficult” boxes, filled with papers and miscellaneous things for which I have absolutely no room, so the plan is to slowly go through them one by one, while at the same time brainstorming and implementing some sort of filing system that will accommodate what I need it to accommodate. Plus there will be a whole lot of shredding going on …

And what I am I looking forward to?

  • The implementation of new habits and routines
  • Getting back to reading
  • Getting back to writing
  • Getting back to blogging

Most of all, I’m eager to start blogging about my reading again. And to kick things off, here’s what’s on my currently reading list right now:

Elegance

Elegance, by Kathleen Tessaro. This is a reread for me, one of the books on my comfort reading list. This may seem like a strange choice for those of you who know me and my reading tastes, as it’s neither mystery, sci-fi or fantasy, but aside from these genres, I also adore transformation/Cinderella stories. Since there is, unfortunately, no readily available genre of “transformation/Cinderella stories”, when I do find one I love, it usually ends up in my comfort reading list.

life-changing magic of tidying-up

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. According to my Kobo, I’ve read about 60% of this book. It’s been helping me a lot. Not that I’ve actually been holding things in my hands and asking myself, “Does this spark joy?” (I find this doesn’t work very well with books, because I tend to say, “Yes!” to each one, read or unread). But somehow, just reading this book has made it easier for me to declutter. Things don’t feel as precious anymore, and I’m finding there’s nothing like that feeling of “letting one more thing go”.

Have any of you read Kondo’s latest, Spark Joy? I’m on hold for this one at the library, and I’m expecting great things from it.

miracle morning

The Miracle Morning, by Hal Elrod. I haven’t started this one yet, but I’ve heard so many good things about it. And I’m definitely in need of a new morning routine, one that will help me build fun, happy and productive days.

Really, truly: A room of my own

I couldn’t title this post “A Room of One’s Own” because I’d already written a previous post with that same title. That post had been about getting an actual room of my own, but this post? It’s all about a place of my own – because the apartment hunt has ended and I will truly have a “room of one’s own” soon!

This week has been one dramatic ride, that’s for sure. The week began with my real estate agent calling me to let me know that the unit my ex- had lost out on just before the new year was now back on the market because the deal they’d signed with the competing bidder had fallen through, and the other agent had actually called Jay, my agent, to see if my ex was still interested.

Yes, he still was.

So the race to find a place for me was on, since Ward couldn’t sign the lease unless I was also getting a unit in the same building–we’d decided that, since living “together but separate” wasn’t working for us, the next best thing for coparenting would be to have units in the same building, so Dylan could go back and forth without going outside. Ward was getting a really good deal on his new place, so everyone knew it would be ideal if I could land a unit in the same building.

I’d already put in two offers just prior to the new year, and had them both defeated by competing offers (I tell you, the rental market in Toronto is HOT, that’s for sure). But Jay had another unit to show me. The next day I met with him, saw the unit, and put in my offer.

And then …

NOTHING.

We didn’t hear a peep out of the other agent. Since the unit was up for lease and also for sale, we figured either the owner or the agent was holding out for a sale and reluctant to lease, despite having listed it as being available to lease. And the time was ticking on Ward’s offer–his potential landlord really wanted to rent out the place, and if Ward didn’t get his deposit in soon, he might lose it.

The next day, I was scheduled to see another potential unit in the same complex. But Jay had a surprise up his sleeve. Another unit in the complex, a really gorgeous unit, had just come on the market. It was priced a tiny bit above my maximum, but even then, it was a real steal. He’d made arrangements for me to take a look at it. He was so quick to make the appointment, we were the first ones to view it.

(He’s an absolutely fabulous real estate agent, by the way. One of the rare ones who are as committed to closing rental deals for their clients as they are to closing sales (real estate agents make far more on sales than they do on rentals–something like ten to 20 times more) so I really lucked out when I found him.)

I honestly did not think I had a chance at this place. I walked through it without really comprehending all the details–I didn’t want to start really liking it, because I just knew I wouldn’t get it. I actually pointed out all the flaws to myself (there isn’t enough closet space; the master bedroom is a loft so there’s no privacy, etc etc) so I wouldn’t be disappointed when I didn’t get it. I just knew there would be competing offers by the zillion, and I wasn’t willing to get into a bidding war  Also, it wasn’t a good day for me. I’d had less than five hours of sleep and I was feeling like a zombie.

But we put the offer in anyway. Jay said it wouldn’t hurt to try, and if I didn’t get it, there was the backup unit, which I’d also viewed while in my zombie-like state.

And … I got it! 

So Ward and I both get the keys to our separate units the end of next week. Neither of us are ready to move, so we’ll probably each be moving closer to the end of the month. After I gave my deposit to Jay, he took me through my place again (it feels so weird to be saying my place!)  so I could take proper measurements. This time around, I was fully awake and alert and aware. And I had to keep pinching myself. Because the place was even better than I remembered!

You mean this place is mine?!

I still can’t believe it. But it must be true. I have a call in to the movers we used the last time (who are absolutely fabulous–if you live in Toronto and you need movers, they’re called Wild West and they’ve moved my stuff three times now, and hopefully if I can book them again, it will be four times–tell them Belle sent you. They are extraordinary people and do an amazing job), I have Internet service installation booked, and I have tenant insurance in place to start on the day I pick up my keys.

So … yes, it’s real!

A place of my own.

I can hardly wait!