I am ready for our summer trip to PEI. I’ve got my packing list, my annotated maps and guides, my camera gear and sunscreen. What else do you really need for an awesome, epic beach vacation? Reading material, of course!

My dilemma is a wealth of riches. I’m at a literary crossroads, and want to make sure I pick the very best beachy book to bring with me.

Down one road lies Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I’d read a bit of Neil Gaiman last summer and quite liked his style, but really fell head over heels earlier this year when I read Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. That book rocked me back on my heels: how had I missed it before now?

And then, and THEN, I stumbled onto Neil Gaiman’s beautiful Stardust, an absolutely exquisite fable that entranced Tristan and Simon and me in equal measures as we read it aloud. How I missed a rollicking fantasy on par with the Princess Bride with a hero named Tristran shall remain forever a mystery. And even more delightful, we found the movie to be as fully exquisite as the book – that never happens!

The other literary road under consideration itself has two forks. Down this road lies Discworld, the sprawling epic fantasy series by Good Omens co-author Terry Pratchett. I’m just coming to the end of The Light Fantastic, the second book in the Discworld series, and finding it even more delightfully subversive, wry, smart and delicious than The Colour of Magic. (I’ve also just started reading the first book in the Tiffany Aching subset of Discworld books, The Wee Free Men, aloud to Tristan and Simon.)

I am completely enchanted by the Discworld books, but in a different way that I’ve loved previous epic series. When I think of Stephen King’s Dark Tower oeuvre, for example, I think of how I became immersed in the world of the books, churning through them to find out what would happen next. The characters and world were rich, tangible, and lived fully in my imagination. It’s not so much the story that I’m in love with in Discworld, but the telling of it. Terry Pratchett’s prose is peppered with delightful puns and wordplay and cheeky asides that make every paragraph and page a delight of discovery. The puns pop up in the most unexpected places, often moving me to laugh out loud, and then compelling me to share the funny bits aloud to the nearest warm body. (And thanks to Kindle’s quote-sharing feature, I can share them with the Internet, too!) They’re often as simple and silly and unexpected as this:

‘Rincewind, all the shops have been smashed open. There was a whole bunch of people across the street helping themselves to musical instruments, can you believe that?’

‘Yeah,’ said Rincewind, picking up a knife and testing its blade thoughtfully. ‘Luters, I expect.’

So I can choose to read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, which I understand to be sprawling, creepy, thoughtful and excellent, or I can choose to continue to explore the quirky Discworld. I think I’m leaning toward Discworld but alas, another decision: follow the books by chronology, in the order they were written, or by character? Beloved stumbled upon this most excellent reference chart that offers a reading hierarchy of the Discworld:

terry pratchett reading order

Image courtesy of Krzysztof Kietzman /

Shall I continue to follow the adventures of Rincewind, Twoflower and the Luggage and move on to Sourcery, which is actually the fifth book in the Discworld series, or move chronologically to Discworld #3, Equal Rites? Oh happy dilemma, to know that it will take me years yet to work my way through 39 more books in the Discworld series, with the last and posthumous book pending publication later this year.

There is nothing more exquisite than discovering a literary treasure trove, especially one that will keep you reading for years yet to come – especially without having to wait for that pesky intermission between publication dates. What books or series have lit you up with the excitement of discovery? Have you read any Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett, and which were your favourites? If you’ve read the whole of the Discworld series, how would you recommend they be read?

Oh, books!


I have always liked this quote, and when I heard that it was coined by Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin, I liked it even more. It seems to fit the dandelion well: the fragility, but the ubiquity. (And, truth be told, I feared maybe you were getting sick of dandelions, so I thought I’d kick it up a notch.)

The days are long, but the years are short.

The Happiness Project has been on my “to read” list forever. I love the concept – you make your own happy, something I truly believe. Have you read it? What did you think?

And don’t you find with every passing year that those years seem shorter and shorter?


10-pages-in: Imaginary Things

by DaniGirl on May 14, 2015 · 0 comments

in 10-pages-in, Books

I really need to stop accepting books for review, because when I don’t love them I feel horribly conflicted. They gave me a free book, I should give it a nice review! But when it’s a struggle to find nice things to say, I find myself in an awkward position.

Such is the case with Andrea Lochen’s Imaginary Things. I was intrigued by the synopsis:

Watching children play and invent whimsical games of fantasy is one of life’s great joys. But what if you could actually see your child’s imagination as it unfolded? And what would you do if your child’s imagination suddenly became dark and threatening?

Burned-out and broke, twenty-two-year-old single mother Anna Jennings moves to her grandparents’ rural home for the summer with her four-year-old son, David. The sudden appearance of shadowy dinosaurs forces Anna to admit that either she’s lost her mind or she can actually see her son’s active imagination. Frightened for David’s safety, Anna struggles to learn the rules of this bizarre phenomenon and how best to protect him. But what she uncovers along the way is completely unexpected: revelations about what her son’s imaginary friends truly represent and dark secrets about her own childhood imaginary friend.

Living next door is Jamie Presswood, Anna’s childhood friend who’s grown much more handsome and hardened than the boy she once knew. But past regrets and their messy lives are making the rekindling of their complex friendship prove easier said than done. Between imaginary creatures stalking her son and a tumultuous relationship with David’s biological father, Anna may find it impossible to have room in her life or her heart for another man. But as David’s visions become more threatening, Anna must learn to differentiate between which dangers are real and which are imagined, and whom she can truly trust.

Sounds fun, right? Mothering, magic realism, maybe a little love story on the side – sounds like a great formula for a light summer read. It had great potential, but I just could not warm up to this one. To the author’s credit, I was intrigued enough by David’s experiences with the dinosaurs that I kept reading all the way through to the end to find out how it all turned out.

It was, however, a bit of a chore to endure the protagonist throughout the story. Young, self-centred and vapid, I was surprised to find myself actively disliking her, and found it nearly impossible to relate to her or her choices. When she called her son “whiny” instead of describing him as “whining” I may have actually cringed. I get that she’s supposed to be a young mother and clearly from a different generation than me, but even as a mother to a seven year old with an incredibly active imagination, I just couldn’t find anything in Anna to like. In fact, none of the characters resonated with me, not Anna’s kindly grandparents nor the imaginative little boy at the centre of the story. Only the hunky boy next door who’s “grown much more handsome and hardened” seemed to have much depth at all, and that wasn’t nearly enough to carry the story.

It’s a really neat, imaginative idea for a story, and the end was satisfying enough to make it worth the time to read, but any time I find myself actually rolling my eyes at the conventions in a story, I can’t help but give it a less-than-stellar review.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book to review. It might be the last!


How, I keep asking myself, have I missed this book for my entire adult life? It is everything I love in a book – it’s clever, witty, cheeky and just the tiniest bit sacrilegious. It’s irreverent, intelligent and laugh-out-loud funny. It seems like every one of my friends has not only read it but loved it. I feel like a science fiction fan who has somehow missed the entire enterprise that is Star Trek.

This book is Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. I at least been aware of Neil Gaiman for years, and have been quite enjoying a few of his books for kids and for grownups over the last year or so. From Fortunately the Milk for the kids to The Ocean at the End of the Lane for me, I was happy to discover a quirky author whose work I had previously overlooked. I was a little less aware of Terry Pratchett – I knew his name, and loosely his genre, but thought he was more straight fantasy in the lines of George R R Martin or David Eddings. In fact, I think I had been confusing him with Terry Brooks, now that I think about it.

As the boys and I started casting about for something to read after we finish the Anne of Green Gables series, Discworld tripped my radar and I realized that Terry Pratchett was revered on par with Douglas Adams for his witty irreverence. And to complete the mental loop, I had just last summer read Neil Gaiman’s biography of Douglas Adams called Don’t Panic. And so, I picked up Good Omens on a lark.

I don’t often literally laugh out loud when I’m reading by myself, but this book had me doing just that. The book is, to do it complete injustice in the summary, loosely the story of an angel, a demon and the coming of Armageddon to a sleepy little English hamlet called Lower Tadfield.

I have to admit, there was a bit early in the novel when I scratched my head and wondered where the hell all the various plot lines were going, but the humour kept me hooked. There was an early and ongoing bit of schtick about how “all tapes left in a car for more than about a fortnight metamorphose into ‘Best of Queen’ albums” that had me sniggering, and at least once a chapter I was laughing out loud and thinking to myself, “Self, you have really GOT to figure out how to turn on the highlighting and underlining thingee on the Kindle so you can mark some of these quotes for future reference.

Some of my favourite bits:

Crowley had always known that he would be around when the world ended, because he was immortal and wouldn’t have any alternative. But he hoped it was a long way off. Because he rather liked people. It was major failing in a demon. Oh, he did his best to make their short lives miserable, because that was his job, but nothing he could think up was half as bad as the stuff they thought up themselves. They seemed to have a talent for it. It was built into the design, somehow. They were born into a world that was against them in a thousand little ways, and then devoted most of their energies to making it worse. Over the years Crowley had found it increasingly difficult to find anything demonic to do which showed up against the natural background of generalized nastiness. There had been times, over the past millennium, when he’d felt like sending a message back Below saying, Look we may as well give up right now, we might as well shut down Dis and Pandemonium and everywhere and move up here, there’s nothing we can do to them that they don’t do to themselves and they do things we’ve never even thought of, often involving electrodes. They’ve got what we lack. They’ve got imagination. And electricity, of course. One of them had written it, hadn’t he…”Hell is empty, and all the devils are here.” Crowley got a commendation for the Spanish Inquisition. He had been in Spain then, mainly hanging around cantinas in the nicer parts, and hadn’t even known about it until the commendation arrived. He’d gone to have a look, and come back and got drunk for a week.

And this:

“Anyway, it’s like with bikes,’ said the first speaker authoritatively. ‘I thought I was going to get this bike with seven gears and one of them razorblade saddles and purple paint and everything, and they gave me this light blue one. With a basket. A girl’s bike.’
‘Well. You’re a girl,’ said one of the others.
‘That’s sexism, that is. Going around giving people girly presents just because they’re a girl.”

And this:

“I don’t see what’s so triffic about creating people as people and then gettin’ upset cos’ they act like people”, said Adam severely. “Anyway, if you stopped tellin’ people it’s all sorted out after they’re dead, they might try sorting it all out while they’re alive.”

And this:

“In every big-budget science fiction movie there’s the moment when a spaceship as large as New York suddenly goes to light speed. A twanging noise like a wooden ruler being plucked over the edge of a desk, a dazzling refraction of light, and suddenly the stars have all been stretched out thin and it’s gone. This was exactly like that, except that instead of a gleaming twelve-mile-long spaceship, it was an off-white twenty-year-old motor scooter. And you didn’t have the special rainbow effects. And it probably wasn’t going at more than two hundred miles an hour. And instead of a pulsing whine sliding up the octaves, it just went putputputputput …
But it was exactly like that anyway.”

I could really just go on and on pulling quotes from this book. Seriously, HOW did I miss this treasure of a book for my entire adult life? The more I read, the more the stories started to come together, the funnier the lines got and the more I wanted to read. By the half-way point, I had tripped that magic spot where you start thinking about the book even when you’re not reading it, and by three-quarters of the way done, I knew it was going to end up on my top ten faves of all time list. I cannot remember the last time I finished a book and immediately started thinking about reading it all over again. (Oops, did I say “10 pages in” book review? Sorry, I’m a little late on this one!)

You might have heard that Sir Terry Pratchett died this past March, just a few weeks after I realized he was an author whose works I should have been reading since I was a teenager. We were discussing my late-to-the-party adoration of this book on Facebook and a friend shared this list of 50 great quotes from Terry Pratchett. I discovered one that has to be the new motto of anyone who works in social media for the government: “It’s not worth doing something unless someone, somewhere would much rather you weren’t doing it.” And this one, which came >this< close to being the new tag line for the blog: "If you don't turn your life into a story, you just become part of someone else's story" As another wise friend said, "Lucky for you, there's only about 50 more Pratchett books for you to discover. Sad for all of us, there will never be any more than that." I am still perplexed as to how I so utterly failed to notice this book before now. I'm delighted, though, that we have just a few chapters left to read in Anne of Ingleside, and then I can start reading The Colour of Money (aka Discworld #1) by Terry Pratchett with the boys. I think I may cue up a little Neil Gaiman for my own reading next. Where should I go? American Gods? Neverwhere? The Graveyard Book? Clearly I can no longer be left to my own devices when choosing books, or I would have read Good Omens 20+ years ago!

Enlighten me, bloggy peeps – what ELSE have I been missing?


10-pages-in book review: Sweetland

by DaniGirl on February 17, 2015 · 2 comments

in 10-pages-in, Books

Waaaaay back in the day, I used to write what I called “10-pages-in” book reviews. The idea behind the 10-pages-in review is that early in a book there’s often a tipping point where you decide whether a book is worth the effort. At 10 or 20 pages in, you can still comfortably walk away and not feel like you’ve invested too much to quit. Or, you know you’re so hooked that you start canceling playdates and dental appointments just to make more time to read.

I’m more than 10 pages in to Michael Crummey’s Sweetland, but by the time I’d hit the 10th page I was in love. It’s one of those books where you keep checking to see how much is left so you don’t gorge yourself and read it too quickly – you want to slow down and savour it, but you also want to gobble it up in one big feast.

The Goodreads synopsis for Sweetland sums it up well:

For twelve generations, when the fish were plentiful and when they all-but disappeared, the inhabitants of this remote island in Newfoundland have lived and died together. Now, in the second decade of the 21st century, they are facing resettlement, and each has been offered a generous compensation package to leave. But the money is offered with a proviso: everyone has to go; the government won’t be responsible for one crazy coot who chooses to stay alone on an island.

That coot is Moses Sweetland. Motivated in part by a sense of history and belonging, haunted by memories of the short and lonely time he spent away from his home as a younger man, and concerned that his somewhat eccentric great-nephew will wilt on the mainland, Moses refuses to leave. But in the face of determined, sometimes violent, opposition from his family and his friends, Sweetland is eventually swayed to sign on to the government’s plan. Then a tragic accident prompts him to fake his own death and stay on the deserted island. As he manages a desperately diminishing food supply, and battles against the ravages of weather, Sweetland finds himself in the company of the vibrant ghosts of the former islanders, whose porch lights still seem to turn on at night.

I am utterly enchanted by this book. I love the way the dialogue perfectly captures the rural Newfoundland idioms without reducing them to caricature. I love the gentle quirkiness of the characters. I love the way past and present are layered so they bleed through each other. I love the protagonist and his obstinate ways. I want to crawl inside this book and live there.

It’s more than a little ironic that given the book is about relocating people off the tiny rural island, a huge part of my heart yearns to move to just such a place. Between reading Anne’s House of Dreams to the boys and this book, I’ve practically packed our bags and moved us to Canada’s easternmost coastline. I’m not sure why PEI and Newfoundland suddenly call to me so strongly, but they do, and these wonderful books with their roots deep in a sense of place are only throwing gasoline on the fires of my imagination.

I’m already dreading the ‘tragic accident’ that’s mentioned in the synopsis, but even more I’m dreading the end of this book. I don’t want it to be done, and have already lined up Michael Crummey’s previous novel, Galore, as my next book.

Have you ever read a book that made you want to crawl inside and live there? What books have captured your imagination like this? To be reading two at the same time is rather dizzying. It also means I’m spending a rather alarming amount of time casually perusing real estate listings on PEI…


It wasn’t so much that I was resisting getting an e-reader of my own up until now. Beloved got a Kindle way back in the day when they first came out, and I’d use his every now and then, but it was attached to his credit card and it was always a bit of an inconvenience to get him to buy books for me. Besides, I’ve always been loathe to pay for books when the library has stacks of them for free. Then, my mom upgraded to a Kindle Fire and I inherited her old Kindle loaded with hundreds of books, and that kept me busy for a while.

Still, while there is a lot of overlap between what my mom likes to read (Stephen King, John Sandford, Janet Evanovich, John Grisham, Kathy Reichs, just about any of the good mystery series out there) and what Beloved likes to read (everything from classics to comic books), it just seemed easier to get a Kindle of my own so I could cater to my own eclectic tastes without having to be 357th on the waiting list for interesting new books that come out.

So that’s what Santa, erm, I mean Beloved, got me for Christmas. Hello 2008, I have a Kindle of my own! Of course, now I have to fill it up, which is where you come in.

Thanks to Goodreads, here’s what I’ve been reading lately – although it’s not incredibly accurate. For one thing, it’s got all the books I’ve read out loud to the boys. For another, it’s missed a few that I’ve tagged as read. I know for a fact we read Anne of Green Gables last year as well as at least one or two others in the Hitchhikers trilogy, and I’m sure I read at least one more Neil Gaiman and Gillian Flynn – and yet they’re not showing up here even though they’re on my Goodreads shelves. Who knows with my Swiss-cheese memory what else could be missing? Weird thing is they show up individually, just not in this list. *shrug*

Covers of books I have read recently

I’ve just started reading The Rosie Project, which seems cute but I’m having a hard time not hearing Sheldon Cooper as the narrator. People have raved about it, though, so I’m curious to see where it goes. I’ve been meaning to read Terry Fallis’s The High Road for quite a while now, so that might be next in the queue.

What say ye, bloggy peeps? What do I need to read in 2015?

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Book review with a twist: Take This Man, by Brando Skyhorse

28 May 2014 Books

Remember when I found out my photo of Lucas playing hopscotch had been turned into a book cover? I’ve already told you a little bit about how I found the book and started a casual correspondence with the author, and what a truly kind and interesting person he seems to be. But just as the […]

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A tale of three books

26 April 2014 Books

Once upon a time, and for quite a long time, I harboured secret dreams of being a writer. When I was in school, I wanted to be a journalist and even applied to the journalism program at Carleton. Over the years, though, I discovered blogging, and developed a little bit more self-awareness, and fell in […]

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Do you restrict what your kids can read?

23 March 2014 Books

Had you told me before I had kids that I’d be reading aloud each night to my kids beyond the age of ten, I’d have laughed. I mean, sure, we’re a bookish family, and reading is sacred – but I would not have imagined that they would still not only enjoy but actively request out-loud […]

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Alice Munro wins the Nobel Prize for literature

10 October 2013 Books

I have two blog posts I’ve been noodling away at in stolen moments this week, one on skating lessons and one on Instagram. So it makes perfect sense that I drop everything and write a post about Alice Munro, right? Well, it does because I just heard the lovely news that she has won the […]

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