Here we are again … it’s Summer reading time. Whatever that means! I know you enthusiastic readers read all year long but there’s something about the permission we give ourselves to sink into a book on a summer day that feels different. We seem to plan and think about our reading more in the warm months. Only so much room in a beach bag so we need to be efficient. Great big classic? Light and frolicky? What’s your leaning? Let us know if you have a list of your own going and if you have any interesting titles bookmarked.

Amy Mair and I met up again virtually for another fun blog/podcast tie-in chat about books on her Podcast, Red Fern Book Review. Tune in here to listen to us talk about summer reading and the background to these first six titles. Selections were narrowed down from a list of fifty-three! Finalists were chosen for the ability to broaden our horizons in a well-written, entertaining way. Hope you enjoy any and all journeys you choose!

Finding Freedom – A Cook’s Story: Remaking a Life from Scratch by Erin French

Just to be clear, this is not the Royal tell-all featuring Harry and Meghan. While they may also be Finding Freedom, this is not that. This is a memoir by the admirably successful Chef, Erin French of The Lost Kitchen fame. The Lost Kitchen is a renowned farm-to-table restaurant in the tiny town of Freedom, Maine and the inspiration for the cookbook, The Lost Kitchen – Recipes and A Good Life Found in Freedom, Maine: A Cookbook. While the restaurant itself could fill pages with it’s own iconic story, Chef Erin’s personal story is where this memoir focuses. Raised on a Maine farm, Erin spent her youth working in her Dad’s diner, developing a proficiency and love for making special meals. She set off for Medical school and then was faced with the reality of an unexpected pregnancy. This change in plans brought her back to the kitchen and then an unpleasant marriage and divorce, addiction to prescription drugs, loss of her first restaurant and just generally rock bottom. This is Erin’s story of finding her passion and courage to overcome while discovering success and happiness again. Lots of warm hearted reviews for this one and it will likely to appeal to lovers of Tembi Locke’s “From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home” which I adored and Jackie Kai Ellis’ “The Measure of my Powers: A Memoir of Food, Misery and Paris” Also good and a little grittier.

Hot Stew by Fiona Mozley

Here’s a glimpse into the fraught world of real estate development, set in London’s old SoHo district. This apparently reads like “a great night out in a city that never sleeps” and features an array of strong characters: a real estate maven who wasn’t expecting the strength of conviction and solidarity among the sex trade worker, drug addict and alcoholic residents of the building she’s seeking to turn into condos. While a strong message about the spirit and heart of a city being compromised by development exists in the story, with an air of Dickens, it also manages to keep an “ambitious, clever, brilliant, very funny” tone. Author Fiona Mozley was on the Booker Prize shortlist with her first book, Elmet, so is considered an accomplished writer.

Under the Wave at Waimea by Paul Theroux

Author Paul Theroux has been a resident of Hawaii for some 30 years so it can be assumed he knows the world he writes about in this new novel. He is, of course, known for his earlier works, The Mosquito Coast (soon to be a new movie, again) and Riding the Iron Rooster along with a great number of other significant travel stories. Under the Wave at Waimea follows the story of an aging surfer, who’s “a man who’s come undone” and is struggling with his lost step in the surfing scene he previously dominated and with the tragic results of a drunk driving incident. His girlfriend, who happens to be a nurse, makes it her mission to try to set him right again. The story does follow along on some travels to the mainland but also delves into the sub-culture of the homeless in Hawaii. This is not a superficial travelogue but rather a dive into the deep essence of Hawaii and its social cultures. “A dramatic, affecting commentary on privilege, mortality, and the lives we choose to remember. It is a masterstroke by one of the greatest writers of our time.”(HMH)

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara

“Unpredictable, cheeky and moving” ” Endearing and engaging” Those reviews sound like the types of reads we like! Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line follows the story of a young boy, living in an unnamed slum in a large Indian city. He loves the Police reality shows he watches on his family’s prized television and fancies himself a bit of a detective. When a child goes missing in the slum, our narrator sets off to solve the mystery but this isn’t Harriet the Spy, the crimes become greater in scope and more grim. It’s a detective story, a coming of age story and a social commentary. Writer Deepa Anappara is an award-winning Indian journalist who has extensively covered the impact of poverty in her country. In every review I’ve read, her incredible ability to capture and convey the very essence of the world in which her novel takes place is commented upon with admiration. I, personally, am not drawn to the new paperback cover but will not judge a book. I will however, take into account that the New York Times, Washington Post, and Time Magazine all deem this read one of the best books of the year.

The Music of the Bees by Eileen Garvin

This debut novel takes us to rural Oregon where three lonely souls find one another and a common love for beekeeping. A unique friendship forms and the likeable characters learn to overcome their grief and losses to become a sort of family to one another. The bees feature prominently and when their existence comes under threat, the friends strive to take a stand. “Eileen Garvin’s beautiful descriptions throughout this lovely novel immerse the reader in the seasons, the weather, the trees and the flowers, the river and the land and the rhythms of small-town life, but it’s the bees, with all their wonder and intricacy and intrigue, that make this story sing.”(Laurie Frankel) Eileen Garvin is a beekeeper herself in rural Oregon and has managed to share a “moving, warm and uplifting” story from her world. So looking forward to this. So many sources have named this as a “Favourite” for the season and beyond. Note that Eileen Garvin is scheduled to appear on an upcoming episode of Red Fern Book Review podcast.

The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams

Author Sara Nisha Adams is a mere 26 years old, lives in England, and is no doubt enjoying the release of her debut novel. The Reading List created a feeding frenzy among International publishers and is said to be “emotional and uplifting” as well as “an absolute joy” and “will make you fall in love with reading” The main character is a quiet widower who makes his way to Temple and to the shops in the west London suburb of Wembley and spends a great deal of time worrying about his bookworm granddaughter. Seeking a way to connect with her, the grandfather makes his way to the library where he finds guidance from another teen, a young girl working there. She has discovered a crumpled up list of novels tucked in the back of a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird and has found great solace in exploring the books. She suggests the grandfather tackle the list as well and they begin to forge a special friendship around their reading. This book is a five-star-worthy read on almost every reviewing platform. Wonderful to see a young author achieve such great success. Can’t wait to join the legion of fans! (Releasing June 8th, 2021)

Fifty-three titles and a still growing list – it doesn’t seem fair not to share at least a few more titles with you. Stay tuned for an addition to Summer Reading 2021 in a separate post coming soon!

Meanwhile, tune in to Red Fern Book Review!

These are beautiful coffee table books through the pages of which we can vicariously travel to traditionally dreamy domains of Summer. Coffee Table Books are not easy on the wallet, unless you compare them to the cost of the tickets to travel, yet they are a wonderful way to savour beautiful photography and design. I have a healthy little collection focused on travel and design and art and I enjoy visiting the titles often. They are indeed “trippy”! I don’t put them on my coffee table, however, lest someone spill the coffee.

Summer to Summer: Houses by the Sea is a new one, being released today in fact. It features the stories and photos of a selection of gorgeous homes along the North East Coast of the United States. The area really is a mecca for stunning Summer home architecture. Even if you are lucky enough to visit the region, you can’t always get inside the homes – through these pages you can! “All we need to do is settle back, kick off our shoes, and let the sun-kissed pages of Summer to Summer wash over us.” (publisher)

Summertime is colourfully filled with images that represent the epitome of an ideal summer; 46 different photographers share places that are lodged in their summer memories. Evocative quotes and summery reflections by literary icons are sprinkled among the photographs and there is true sense of nostalgia throughout. Joanne Dugan, the editor of this lovely book, writes: “It turns out that my first summer love was not a person but a place.” Read a mood-setting excerpt here.

Summer Houses by the Sea: The Shingle Style focuses on perhaps the most iconic design of a traditional summer home. Shingled summer homes “are an expression of the romantic longing for the sea.” (publisher) While this one may be more of an architectural study than a seasonal celebration, its photographic pages will still give you a sense of summer days spent in some treasured historic homes as well as in some newer shingled havens. You’ll learn a little in this one but the dreamy summer journey will be there too.

 

illustration by Charlie Mackesy

This blog began February 9, 2010 (see the very first post here) The Help by Kathryn Stockett was #1 on the bestseller list, The Hurt Locker was about to win the Oscar, Vancouver was embracing Winter Olympic Fever, and the H1N1 Flu pandemic was winding down (say what?!!!) After a pretty reliable first few years, Bedside Table Books began to waver and then revive and then wilt again … poor thing. All along, whenever its writer was not actually writing, she’s continued to maintain regular blog conversations in her head. Worrisome, I know. Now, prompted by a pandemic, I, the Writer, have been propelled back to the blog page with burbling bookish thoughts I am irresistibly inclined to share. Not sure you’re still out there … anyone out there? … but stand by for a few of the most recent compelling, and propelling, thoughts!

To quote the character Babe in the TV show, Grace & Frankie, it’s time to “Get Crackin’ Toots!” 

 

 

 

 

Bella Grace

August 2, 2018

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Is it a magazine? Is it a workbook? Is it a journal? Is it a treasure? Yes, yes, yes and yes!

Whatever you label it, Bella Grace is an absolutely beautiful publication.  Issued quarterly by Stampington & Company, its content is driven wholly by reader-submissions thereby striking a personal and intimate tone without any intrusion by garish advertising. You will find food for thought and inspiration in quotes, stories, lists, writing prompts, random reflections, and photography. Oh, the photography! The quality of the paper alone will have you sighing deeply. I promise.

Bella Grace really defies categorization because you will find yourself gazing at it and pondering new ideas like you would with a book or magazine but then you’ll also be sketching and scribbling in its pages as if it’s a workbook or journal. At first I was reluctant to scar the pretty pages but its messaging will convince you that you’re actually adding to the beauty.

As for that “message”, Bella Grace describes its aim: “to touch the souls of our readers through beautifully penned stories and striking photographs that capture life’s beautiful adventure.” The Bella Grace manifesto reads:

  • Every cloud has a silver lining.
  • An ordinary life can be an extraordinary life.
  • There is beauty and magic to be found everywhere.
  • It’s OK to embrace imperfection.
  • Life should be lived with a full heart and open eyes.

Hopelessly romantic? This one’s for you!

My favourite article in the latest issue (#16 Summer ’18) if I was forced to choose just one, is written by Holly Clark and called Beyond the Cutting Room Floor. Holly points out that those photos we eliminate because we deem them not quite “perfect” may in fact capture the real gold, the real essence of a person or a memory. I completely agree.

Locally, Bella Grace can be found at Chapters and Michael’s (of all places). Subscriptions and back-issues can be ordered on-line here.

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Art work by Tricia Robinson

Just a quick note to say thanks for all the lovely Comments and personal notes to welcome this negligent blogger back to work. Happy to be here and grateful for the kindness. xo

Back to the Books!

June 26, 2018

It may be the most likely of scenarios but alas, no. Still here! And now, actually here again. One of the most challenging elements of blogging is keeping it all rolling even when Life intervenes. In my case, the dog ran away. Looking back, that seems to have been the kicker. Just enough drama for me to lose the plot. For the record, she was located safely after an impressive mobilization of devoted and caring neighbours and friends. It’s been three (3!!!) years but who’s counting … Let’s roll!

Many years ago, I spent a summer working in a shop. During the inevitable quiet times, my co-workers and I needed to get innovative in order to avoid debilitating boredom. (It only took so many minutes to tidy the shelves. Clearly it wasn’t a book shop or boredom would NEVER have set in!)  One of our preferred pastimes was to entertain one another by making up stories about the people walking by the window; the more outlandish the tale we could muster, the better! It was clear to us everyone had a unique story. Now imagine collecting images of the people who pass and learning their real stories. Brandon Stanton is a photographer who began a project whereby he intended to simply archive 10,000 photos of people in the city of New York. After a period of time he began to also record the brief conversations he shared with his subjects. Brandon’s gentle kindness and the way he clearly relishes the time he spends with each subject creates lovely moments. And stories … such stories! Poignant, funny, thought-provoking, disturbing, romantic, cheeky … all united in their human-ness. Brandon uploaded the images and, understandably, an enormous following gathered. His blog can be found here at Humans of New York.

The blog beget the book, such a beautiful book …

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For a glimpse into Brandon’s story, here’s a clip:

Spring with Mary Oliver

March 20, 2014

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Mary Oliver simply writes the most beautiful, evocative poetry. The first day of Spring seemed like the ideal time to draw your attention to her spunky spirit and love of Nature. Gosh it was hard to narrow down the quotes from her poems – I have collected so many. You may recall her Peonies poem being featured here a few years ago. I encourage you to take a Spring stroll through the pages of any one of her books, savouring the images she paints with her words as you go. She has won many awards (a little one called the Pulitzer among them) and she is widely cherished though rarely appears in the media. Fortunately, she has made good use of her quiet time and has many volumes available, the most recent being these two:

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“Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.

Hello, you who made the morning

and spread it over the fields

and into the faces of the tulips

and the nodding morning glories,

and into the windows of, even, the

miserable and the crotchety –

best preacher that ever was,

dear star, that just happens

to be where you are in the universe

to keep us from ever-darkness,

to ease us with warm touching,

to hold us in the great hands of light –

good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day

in happiness, in kindness.”

― Mary Oliver

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Happy Spring to you!

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I’m so giddy about this discovery that I am pirouetting about in search of where to even begin (I am actually ‘pivoting’ but pirouetting sounds more like what a Parisienne would do!)  I recently discovered the engaging work of Canadian-living-in-Paris, Janice MacLeod, and couldn’t wait to tell you all about her and her art, and her letters, and her book … As I sit here playing with phrases to aptly capture her charming allure, I am realizing her very own words will best give you a sense of her playfulness and the guaranteed fun ahead when you read her letters and book. I just know you are going to be reading her letters and book!

From Janice’s website:

“After a childhood in Canada that was just dysfunctional enough to make me funny, I became an advertising copywriter and eventually an associate creative director. Most of my time was spent in top agencies throughout the USA and Canada, because I’m kinda into fame. And modesty. I’m humble, too. And perfect.

After 110 years of writing junk mail in advertising, I devised an exit strategy to finance my own sabbatical. My Shawshank Redemption, if you will. When I met my financial goal, I skipped town and traveled with nothing more than my suitcase and a small set of watercolors. Along the way, I painted letters about my travels and mailed them to friends. Enamored with this unique medium, I opened an online shop. Each month I create one painted letter, copy it, personalize it and mail it to hundreds of subscribers who are hungry for fun mail.”

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“I am the artist behind Paris Letters, a painted letter series sent out via snail mail to those who crave getting fun snail mail from the land of fromage, rosé and lippy waiters.”

So, you can enrol to receive a single masterpiece, or a 6-month subscription, or a full year of 12 treasures! (I  know, I know, my mental math is mind blowing) To do so, visit Janice’s Etsy shop, as above, or by clicking here. Just imagine the delight of finding Paris in your postbox and what an impressive wall display you could have! Hooked already? Wait! There’s more.

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Now for the booky bit …  Run, not walk, to your nearest bookshop and snag yourself a copy of this (if you can find one!):

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You see, there’s a love story afoot too. (Mais bien surParis Letters – One Woman’s Journey from the Fast lane to a Slow Stroll in Paris is Janice’s story behind how she came to start her letter writing endeavour and the Amour who motivated her to find a way to stay in Paris. It’s an inspiring tale of making dreams come true. So if you’re not packing up for a trip to Paris over Spring Break, and heck, even if you are, this enchanting read will bring you joy.

Wherever you are, I hope your day looks something like one of these images. Happy reading and Happy Canada Day!tumblr_mogcjz8kwC1rrqsx6o1_1280

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16 DeWit, Deborah (1956-...) Casting, 2001

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