Reading: ‘Bones Never Lie’ by Kathy Reichs

Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reichs

Earlier this year I played “catch-up” with Kathy Reich’s Temperance Brennan series. I read several of the books in the series that I’d missed, ending with Bones of the Lost … and decided I wouldn’t read another book in the series again.

Maybe it was the effect of reading so many of the books back to back, but I just felt so tired of Reich’s Tempe rushing into danger in much the same way the heroines in old Victorian novels did. There’s smart and impulsive and then there’s smart but impulsively dumb. When a smart main character like Temperance Brennan deliberately rushes into danger without any sort of preparation (you know, little things like making sure you have your cell phone with you, or letting someone know where you’re going), it just doesn’t sit well with me, even if things do turn out fine in the end. So I kind of said to myself, “never again.”

And then, a couple of months ago, a copy  of Bones Never Lie showed up in my mailbox, courtesy of Simon and Schuster Canada.

For weeks it sat on my desk. Eventually, the temptation proved to be too much. The thing with Reichs is, her plots tend to be good, solid plots. Interesting plots, in that page-turning kind of way. So I picked the book up and began to read it – and I’m glad I did.

in Bones Never Lie, Tempe discovers a link between two child murders, a link which digs up a part of her past. The new evidence from the new murders suggests that serial killer Anique Pomerleau, whom readers first met in Monday Mourning, has relocated to the States and is on another killing rampage.

Aside from the obligatory “protagonist looks in the mirror and describes herself” scene that tends to find its way into Reich’s novels, I enjoyed Bones Never Lie. Admittedly, I kept waiting for that scene where Tempe recklessly dashes into a danger hot zone with no preparation and no backup in order to somehow end up saving the day, but this time around, while she did dash, she did it with foresight. She did it smartly. Yes, she was smartly impulsive!

So despite my initial reluctance to read this book, I ended up gulping it down late into the night, turning page after page as quickly as I could. The entire story, from beginning to end, was more than satisfactory, and I’m looking forward to the next instalment in the Temperance Brennan series.

Art Journal Art Journey: Collage and Storytelling for Honoring Your Creative Process

art journal art journey nichole rae

I love art journaling, although I don’t have as much time (read: almost never) for it as I’d like. But while I may not bring out the acrylic paints and paintbrushes as often as I should, I do find myself devouring lots and lots of books about art journaling.

My main complaint about many of the art journaling and mixed media books I’ve read over the years is that there’s often a feeling of sameness to them. The color palettes, the basic styles, the overall look – often one book will mesh into another and in my memory they become one long book, the pages virtually indistinguishable from each other.

Not so with Nichole Rae’s Art Journal Art Journey: Collage and Storytelling for Honoring Your Creative Process. I opened this book and was engrossed from page one. Unlike most other books on art journaling or mixed media, Nichole begins by plunging us right into her journaling process, and it’s a great process on its own, whether or not you decide to take what you’ve written and create an art journal out of it.

Her method of art journaling begins with her journaling process, which she does on the computer. She works with a list-style format of journaling which in her case reads beautifully, like poetry. It’s a very original, organic process, and just reading about it gave me lots of ideas for journaling different themes, which is something else she talks about. I always have so many ideas about various projects I want to work on, and I love how Nichole’s journaling process gives you permission to work on many themes at any given time:

“I often start multiple journal documents on my computer to set the writing process in motion. I save them to my desktop and am able to work on them little by little. Over time I will have a collection to use for my projects. Once I begin these journaling documents, my heart feels content to know they are created and will evolve with time. The simple joy of having them started provides comfort, knowing they are there to visit at any time.”

Once you feel you’re ready to print out one of your journal projects, it’s time to get into the creative process of putting all the pieces into a book. Nichole uses old, hardbound books for this process, and one thing I love is how she also incorporates pages from old books into her journals, in a method that’s a little similar to Austin Kleon’s blackout poetry, but with colour and without having to black most things out.

If you’re not a fan of working with altered books her techniques can definitely be applied to any blank sketchbook. I’ve made a few altered books before but have never really enjoyed the process. I don’t like having to glue pages together, or gesso them either, and I often lost the inspiration while I had to wait for the pages to dry. What I like about Nichole’s method is she doesn’t gesso the pages to give herself a blank canvas. Instead, she covers the page with a page from her printed journal and, in some cases, uses part of the page as her background or as part of the focus of the page.

While the discussion about laying out and assembling the pages is interesting, probably my second favourite part of the book, after the section on the journaling process, is the section on the creative mini projects.

“Working on a mini project while you are in the process of collecting and gathering supplies for your main project is a great way to be creative during this process. … I use mini projects to inspire my creativity and to help jumpstart the creative process.”

The mini project that appeals to me the most is the Inspirational Card Deck. There are just SO many possibilities for this one project. Not just from an art perspective, either. From a writer’s point of view, I can see myself creating writing prompts, mini character sketches, setting cards .. the possibilities are so exciting.

In fact, much of the process Nichole describes will help me with several of my writing projects. I’ve always loved combining my words with art, and Art Journal Art Journey gives me a process I can use without having to worry about my quite amateurish drawing skills.

There is an originality and freshness to Art Journal Art Journey that I really enjoyed. I finished reading it feeling very inspired, and the fact that her journaling process is one I can use for my writing was a huge, unexpected and very wonderful bonus.

“The Lottery”, by Shirley Jackson, and”Biography of a Story”

It was late – 10:30 pm. I had to wake up early the next morning, as it was observation day in the ballet program my son’s been in for all of July.

But I hadn’t read my short story of the day yet. In the week since I started this short story of the day ritual, I’ve come to anticipate it, delight in it.

In a word, short stories, I have found, are addictive.

So even though it was late, I pulled a story from my story box, which has been getting fuller on a nearly daily basis as I continue to add more and more short stories to it.

The story I pulled? “The Lottery”, by Shirley Jackson.

I’m a bit incredulous myself that I have never before read this famous, classic short story. Written back in 1948, I’ll tell you this: it still packs a punch.

But perhaps the most delightful part? I finished the story and decided to read Jackson’s essay about “The Lottery”, a piece called “Biography of a Story”. Both pieces are in the collection, Come Along With Me.

“Biography of a Story” talks about people’s reactions to the publication of “The Lottery” in the New Yorker back on June 28, 1948. It’s a great read.

One of the most terrifying aspects of publishing stories and books is the realization that they are going to be read, and read by strangers. I had never fully realized this before, although I had of course in my imagination dwelt lovingly upon the thought of the millions and millions of people who were going to be uplifted and enriched and delighted by the stories I wrote. It had simply never occurred to me that these millions and millions of people might be so far from being uplifted that they would sit down and write me letters I was downright scared to open; of the three-hundred-odd letters that I received that summer I can count only thirteen that spoke kindly to me, and they were mostly from friends. Even my mother scolded me: “Dad and I did not care at all for your story in The New Yorker,” she wrote sternly; “it does seem, dear, that this gloomy kind of story is what all you young people think about these days. Why don’t you write something to cheer people up?”

Jackson then shares snippets of letters she’s received from people from all over the world in response to her story. First, there are the ones who appear to think the story is non-fiction, or based on fact:

Will you please tell me the locale and the year of the custom?

And then there’s this one:

I think your story is based on fact. Am I right? As a psychiatrist I am fascinated by the psychodynamic possibilities suggested by this anachronistic ritual.

And then there were the letters which tried to explain the meaning of it all. I thought this one was the funniest:

The only thing that occurs to me is that perhaps the author meant we should not be too hard on our presidential nominees.

Several people seemed to think the magazine deliberately left out a few much-needed paragraphs:

What happened to the paragraph that tells what the devil is going on?

And:

The printers left out three lines of type somewhere.

As for the third category of letters, here’s what Jackson had to say:

Far and away the most emphatic letter writers were those who took this opportunity of indulging themselves in good old-fashioned name-calling. Since I am making no attempt whatsoever to interpret the motives of my correspondents, and would not if I could, I will not try now to say what I think of people who write nasty letters to other people who just write stories.

Ah. Human nature (or should I say, “troll-la-la-la-la”?) It appears some things never change.

Here are my thoughts, on reading the story for the first time 66 years after it’s initial publication. It’s a good story. I kind of knew where things were headed, since it has, after all, been 66 years and in that time, writers have continued to push boundaries. But it’s still a good read after all these years. And “Biography of a Story”? Delightful. Such fun to read about the reactions of those readers who felt compelled to write letters to the New Yorker, letters which ended up in the author’s hands (the New Yorker faithfully sent her all letters, except for anonymous ones, which went into the garbage). Jackson herself takes it all in with a nice, practical grain of salt.

I have all the letters still, and if they could be considered to give any accurate cross section of the reading public, or the reading public of The New Yorker, or even the reading public of one issue of The New Yorker, I would stop writing now.

The Short Story Box: A Short Story A Day, Randomized

When I was in my early twenties, I read a lot of short stories, but then somewhere between then and now, I fell out of the habit.

Last year, I picked up Neil Gaiman’s short story collection, Smoke and Mirrors, and remembered how much pleasure a well-crafted short story can bring to me as a reader. I decided back then that I wanted to read more short stories (yes, it was about a year ago – I procrastinate quite well).

Fast forward to now. Since that time last year, I have, rather unconsciously, been collecting short story collections and anthologies. Last week, I took a look around at my bookshelves, both physical and digital, and realized I’d amassed quite the collection.

I also realized something else. I don’t reach for a book of short stories the way I reach for a novel.  With a novel, I get these squiggly bookish feelings of anticipation and when these come, I naturally reach for whichever novel it is, and start reading.

This doesn’t happen with short stories. Have you noticed how short story collections are often great big thick books? I find they make me feel a little wary.

But I still have this desire to start reading more short stories.

So I decided, if the idea of a big collection of short stories is off-putting, why not have some fun with things instead?

Fun, as in surprising myself with a different short story every day!

Here is my Short Story box:

short story box

I made up a list in my Bullet Journal, giving each short story collection or anthology a letter. Then I cut up a bunch of paper from the paper recycling box. I began going through each of the books, jotting down the title of the short story (and the page number, for print books) on a small slip of paper, which I then tossed into my Short Story box.

My plan is to pick a short story from the box every day. No more resistance to those thick short story anthologies. No more trying to decide what genre I want to read. It will always be a surprise!

If this works out, I’ll simply keep adding more books to my collection, and more short story titles to my Short Story box. If this doesn’t work out, well, I’ve been having a great time writing down titles, and marvelling at how imaginative some of them are are.

Here are the short story collections/anthologies I’ve gone through so far (I have many more, plus ones I’ve saved to Pocket from various places like the New Yorker magazine):

Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury

The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Eighth Annual Collection

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (Haruki Murakami)

he Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 2007: 20th Annual Collection

M is for Magic (Neil Gaiman)

Mammoth Book of Best British Mysteries, vol. 9

The O’Henry Prize Stories, 2013

Best American Mystery Stories, 2011

Come Along with Me (Shirley Jackson)

Best Horror of the Year, vol 6

Best Horror of the Year, vol. 5

Fragile Things (Neil Gaiman)

The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 24

Others still to be added include short story collections from Flannery O’Connor and Ray Bradbury, as well as a lot more anthologies in the mystery, horror, thriller, science fiction and fantasy genres. I’m going for an eclectic mix, and will be keeping my eye out for new anthologies to add to my collection.

It feels like a lot of fun to me, and if I can stick with a short story a day, by this time next year I will have read 365 short stories! I like the sound of that.

Do you like to read short stories? If yes, do you have a collection/anthology that you would highly recommend? A favourite short story author?

Dreambook

I have a lot of dreams, which I usually remember for a little while after I wake up – and then they start fading away. Many mornings I wake up pulled from a really good dream, and then spend some time trying to fall back asleep so I can get back into my dream.

Not that this usually works. But it’s worth a try, and on the odd occasion I do manage to find my way back to the dream, it’s so good.

But one thing I’ve never really done consistently is write down my dreams. I’ve had dreams that were just so epic (and I really mean “epic”, not as in “awesome” but an actual epic) I absolutely had to write them down. But those have been far and few in between.

All this changed early last week, when The Art of Neil Gaiman inspired me to start a dreambook.

I’m nearing the end of this book, a biography of Neil by Hayley Campbell. It’s really good, because it’s based not only on interviews with Neil but also on the trunkloads of papers and notebooks he keeps up in the attic of his house. A real treasure trove for fans (although I must admit to finding his handwriting difficult to decipher!).

And in one section of the book, there is a spread from a few of his dream diaries:

neil gaiman dream diariesFrom The Art of Neil Gaiman by Hayley Campbell

A few pages later, Neil had this to say about his dream diaries:

When I was writing Sandman I would occasionally steal imagery from my dreams, almost never got plots, but occasionally images were incredibly useful. And to this day if there’s a dream that’s just sort of affecting emotionally, I’ll write it down. Which was something I learned to do while I was doing Sandman.

… I would write them down partly because you’d never know what was going to be useful in retrospect, or what might be important in retrospect. Which isn’t to say that I ever went back and reread them, but it is to say some of the time the action of writing stuff down moves it from this weird box in your head of stuff that will evaporate … it moves it from being written in melting snow, to being written onto paper. In terms of the boxes of your mind things are in, it’s changed. (emphasis added)

This really called out to me.  … some of the time the action of writing stuff down moves it from this weird box in your head of stuff that will evaporate it. I’ve experienced that fading of a really good dream so many times, and I really liked the idea of moving my dreams out of that weird box in my head where stuff evaporates.

So the next morning, I woke up from a good dream, and thought to myself, no time like now to start, right? So I popped into my office and grabbed a blank notebook, then sat up in bed and jotted down all the bits of the dream I wanted to remember. I don’t have the book in front of me right now, and despite my writing it down, I couldn’t tell you at all what it was about. But it’s there now, on paper, and if I ever get a moment when I get curious about the first dream I wrote down in my dreambook, I’ll be able to go back and read it.

Not to say the whole writing-down-your-dreams-in-the-morning thing has been going smoothly since I started. For the three or four mornings after I jotted down that first dream, I had such mundane dreams. One of them was about going to a BBQ at my sister’s place (and coincidentally, I was going to a BBQ at my sister’s place later that day). I did jot down a dream in which I was merely an observer, although it wasn’t particularly exciting. It was basically an Anne of Green Gables scene, plotted from beginning to end, set in modern times with a totally different but still sufficiently Anne-ish girl.

And then I had a night when insomnia hit me, and there were no dreams the morning after that!

Still, this feels like a good habit to me, so I’ll keep on doing it for the fun of it.

How about you? Do you remember your dreams? Do you write them down in a dream journal or a notebook?

Listening: ‘Mr. Mercedes’ and ‘The Supernaturals’

I’ve got a couple of new-to-me audiobooks on the go right now (I say “new-to-me” because when I’m working, I like to listen to an audiobook but usually have to listen to something I’ve read before – like an Agatha Christie or a Nero Wolfe – because I do end up missing huge chunks of scenes if something takes over all of my focus).

mr mercedes by stephen king

I’m in the last half of Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King right now. It’s an interesting read, and very character-driven. Unlike what you might expect, it’s not a horror story. It’s actually a thriller, with some police procedural aspects thrown in. Lots of humour in the dialogue, too. I’ve really been enjoying it.

the supernaturals david golemon

I also just started The Supernaturals: A Ghost Story, by David L. Golemon. This one is, as its title implies, a horror novel. I’m only at the beginning, but the tone has already been set. (Actually, it was set in the author’s foreword.) It’s been good so far, and I have high expectations of it. Based on the reviews at Audible, it’s quite the spooky tale.

What about you? What good audiobooks have you been listening to lately?

I’m Working On … (A Creative Blog Tour)

on my table rounded

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Adriane Giberson invited me to participate in a blog tour of creators (writers, artists and poets). I was a little hesitant at first. I’ve been busy with work and all the other must-do’s of life, and my creativity has really taken a backseat lately. But I’ve just finished a couple of big deadlines (like indexing an 1100 page AND a 1500 page book back to back – ouch!) and what better way to help myself dive back into more creative work than blogging about it, right?

What am I working on?

The big project on my desk right now is an urban fantasy with the working title “Sweetness and Dank” (the names of two of my main characters – very creative of me, I know). I’ve already written a chunk of this novel by hand in a Moleskine, and started transcribing it (and rewriting as I went) into Scrivener last week.

I’d started a writing challenge recently – 15 minutes of writing a day, which you’d think would be immensely do-able – so this seemed like the perfect thing for me to tackle. Unfortunately, the deadlines got to me, so my plan is to start anew on my writing challenge today. I have high hopes. We shall see.

I also want to start the edits on “Waverley”, which I’d completed for Nanowrimo a couple of years ago. There are massive changes that need to be made, because I kind of wrote two books in one, and need to separate out the story that I’m really trying to tell from the story that belongs in a book of its own. But look what I recently picked up from the library!

Blueprint Your Bestseller

That’s right: Blueprint Your Bestseller, by Stuart Horwitz, which promises to help me “organize and revise any manuscript with the book architecture method”. I don’t know if it will help, but I do have a completed, in-need-of-revision children’s fantasy in “Waverley” and I’ve got really high hopes for this book architecture method, whatever it might turn out to be.

creative lettering

In the artsy department, after working this past year on several doodle quotes, I’ve been really wanting to practice my lettering. I recently had a look at Creative Lettering, by Jenny Doh, and was just so inspired! I’m not going for a calligraphic look – what I want is to develop a whimsical, slightly quirky, not-quite straight lettering style (I’ve already got the not-quite-straight angle covered, by the way) that will work well with my doodle quotes. The artists featured in Creative Lettering (who all, thankfully, seem to have blogs) are incredibly motivational. So motivational, I decided to pick up some unlined Moleskines the other day when I was at the book store getting a Father’s Day cookbook for my husband. My plan is to start practicing my lettering on a daily basis. Another one of those “we shall see” things.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

That’s a tough one to answer. For one thing, when it comes to writing, I tend to write what I like to read, and I’m an eclectic reader, so I’m kind of all over the map when it comes to my writing. But I find that magic does show up in a lot of my writing, even when I’m not writing fantasy. In the past, I’ve clamped down on that (there’s not much place for magic in a murder mystery, right?) but lately I’ve been thinking maybe I should just let the magic show up wherever it wants to.

Why do I write/create what I do?

Ah, an easy question! Because of the ideas I get! I’m not very disciplined about my writing (YET– I’m hoping to change that) but I get ideas all the time and most of them are the germs of stories. I like finding out where each one leads me, although I’m learning that it’s good to let the end point of each one come to me before I sit down to write. I seem to be very good at the whole “two stories in one” thing, and what I need to do is write down one story at a time – mainly, the story that wants to be told in that particular work.

As for the artsy stuff, I’m not very good at it, but it’s very good for my soul, and that’s a good enough reason for me.

How does your writing/creating process work?

I’m just starting to figure this out. Earlier this year, I tried to outline with index cards, and I did get an entire murder mystery down on the cards, but when I sat down to write, I was … bored! So for me, the best way to write is the way E.L. Doctorow described it:

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Except that I need to know where I’m headed, as Neil Gaiman recently said:

“Mostly, the creative process is really, really fast. And when it happens, I have a pretty good idea of what something is. I am much more like somebody driving in the dark. My headlights will illuminate a little bit ahead of me, and I know where I’m going. I’m not just driving randomly. I know if I keep down this road, I will get to New York. But what happens on the way, I will find out.”

You see, when I don’t have a clear idea of how things end, I tend to write two or three stories in one. And then it’s a real mess to pull the real story out, and stash all the bits of the other stories away, for when it’s their turn to be told.

And now, please meet …

I’ve asked two fellow writers to play with me on this blog tour. They’ll both be posting their answers to these very same questions a week from today, on June 23:

Suey J of It’s All About Books. Most of you know Suey – she’s incredibly active in the book blogging community (she cohosts Bloggiesta). She’s also a writer, and the leader of a small, extremely motivating writing group that I’m very proud to be a member of. I’ve had the privilege of reading the YA novel she’s working on right now, and it is so good!

Janel Gradowski. Janel is a writer and an artist, and one of my best writer friends. Janel specializes in foodie fiction, and she’s motivated and inspired me over the past several years with her dedication and commitment to the writing craft, Next month sees the release of her culinary mystery, Pies & Peril.

My Reading Notes: London Falling, by Paul Cornell

I recently downloaded this very handy little iPhone app called Drafts, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover how much use I’m able to get out of it. The feature that appeals to me the most is the app’s ability to append text to plain text documents I’ve got uploaded on Dropbox.

I decided to give the app a try by using it to document all the thoughts running through my head as I’m reading a novel. It worked like a charm, and now I’ll be able to post these thoughts as “My Reading Notes”!

Here are my first set of reading notes, on London Falling by Paul Cornell. This is the first in a series featuring four London police officers who develop “the Sight” after touching a supernatural artifact. I admit, the main reason I wanted to read this book was because I wanted to be familiar with the characters so I could read the second book in the series, The Severed Streets, in which the team tackles a killer who appears to be imitating Jack the Ripper.

london falling by paul cornell

My initial thoughts, on beginning the book:

The beginning is a bit of a challenge for me, but knowing all the supernatural stuff that’s to come is getting me through it. I’m on page 12 now and things are starting to settle with me as I get to know the characters better.

And then things started clicking:

On pg 38: Interview with Toshack. Wow. Okay, now we ‘re rolling.

But I’m still a little confused:

On pg 51: There’s still a lot of things referred to in the text that I don’t understand …

Despite the confusion …

On pg 65: This is getting good!

On pg 98: I love this. No denial crap going on for pages. Thank goodness! I’m hooked now.

On pg 106: I’m starting to see now, a good urban fantasy has a strong element of horror to it. At least, this one does.

Still confusing sometimes as to who’s speaking. Some great lines. Pg 133 “He never told jokes; it had just slipped out and made a change in the world.”

On pg 196: So inventive! Enjoying this thoroughly.

On pg 251: Love the technology they use. Hurray for Google Street View!

On pg 272: Waiting for significance of five over four. Wonder who it will be?

Then, WHOA!

On pg 304: !!! As in, OMG

A good quote:

On pg 327: “It is time that defines whether something is real or not. Time is what makes what people experience a tragedy or a love story or a triumph. Hell is where time has stopped, where there’s no more innovation. No horizon. No change.”

And finally, on finishing the book:

Final thoughts: so much imagination here. Amazing how many different aspects of how the Sight shows you he’s come up with. Think it could have used some tighter editing in parts but overall it was all so inventive and I really enjoyed it. Stayed up till 2:30 am to finish it, which says a lot.

So there you have it. My thoughts on London Falling, in real time, so to speak. I am really looking forward to reading The Severed Streets now!

Book Cravings: Salem’s Lot

Have you ever had a book craving? Where you find yourself really wanting to reread a book, usually one you haven’t read for quite a while?

I have book cravings occasionally, and the past couple of weeks, another one crept up on me.

salems lot

It’s been quite a while since I read Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. I’m pretty sure I was still in my teens, during a period when I was reading a lot of horror novels. I’d been reading King’s Danse Macabre recently, and that might explain the craving.

So it’s loaded up on my iPod now. I’m on Chapter 5, and yes, it’s really as creepy as I remember it to be.

“…old horrors colliding with modern technology and investigative techniques.”

- Stephen King on Dracula in the Introduction to Salem’s Lot

Do you ever have book cravings? What was the latest reread you absolutely craved?

Armchair BEA: Exploring Middle-Grade Novels

ArmchairBEAI’ve never stopped loving children’s books, and have reread my childhood favourites many many times despite having become an adult many many years ago (lots of many’s there!).

Whenever I’m in the library, I always like to include the children’s section in my meanderings through the shelves, and always find at least a handful of middle-grade books to take home with me.

This Armchair BEA topic got me thinking about some of my recent favourites, the middle-grade novels I didn’t grow up with, the ones I discovered when I was already all grown up. And I also realize I’d like to explore the middle-grade range more than I have been – not just being content with whatever I might stumble upon when I have a chance to browse at the library (although that makes me quite contented!) but also searching out the latest middle-grade books, following more middle-grade book bloggers and reading more than just the most recent award winners.

I’ve only just embarked on this new exploration, and expect many delightful finds to come as a result, so my choices below aren’t particularly recent books, although none of them go as far back as my own childhood.

Mysteries

I love a good mystery, and as an adult reading middle-grade novels, it’s not that easy to find a really good middle-grade mystery. Unlike adult mysteries, middle-grade mysteries don’t tackle murder that often. As you expand out into the young adult book world, this changes, but generally speaking the middle-grade mysteries I’ve read have been mostly about robberies, burglaries, and bad guys up to no-good schemes involving burglary and robbery.

A good middle-grade author can, however, take these themes and make them as exciting as the latest Harry Hole mystery by Jo Nesbo. Yes, without any serial killers or deranged murderers. My favourites include the Herculeah Jones mysteries by Betsy Byars and Blue Balliett’s art-themed mysteries (I rave about Balliett’s The Calder Game here.)

Dead Letter

Calder Game

Fantasies

When it comes to fantasies, the middle-grade range continues to offer a fabulous selection. This was true when I was growing up, and the whole fantasy area has exploded since then, with many thanks to JK Rowling and Harry Potter. Two recent favourites of mine are Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and Jinx by Sage Blackwood (I reviewed Jinx here). Book 2 of the Jinx series, Jinx’s Magic came out earlier this year, and it’s definitely on my to-read list.

Graveyard Book

Jinx Sage Blackwood

These are my two favourite genres in general, so it’s no surprise I tend to be drawn to middle-grade novels in these genres as well. I am, however, currently reading Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen, a contemporary middle-grade, and I’m enjoying it (it’s on my son’s upcoming Battle of the Books list, and we’re reading it together. It’s not really the type of book I should be reading with my eleven-year-old son, but we’re having fun with it.)

What about you? Do you read a lot of middle-grade novels? Have any must-read titles to recommend to me? I’m looking to add to my middle-grade to-read list, so any help would be appreciated!