"There's no point in spending your life in the pursuit of something that's easy." - Alice Kuipers

Monday, April 29, 2013

Monday Book Review - Think of a Number

This week's book recommendation really lines up well with Mondays. What day of the week do you feel more homicidal than Monday? It's the perfect day to start a really good murder mystery, and not to worry because I have just the thing.

THINK OF A NUMBER by John Verdon

Can you ever really retire from being a homicide detective? It doesn't look that way for Dave Gurney, who's have a hard time adjusting to life without murder. Which might explain why, despite his reluctance and his wife's dismay, he can't turn away an old acquaintance from college that's requested a meeting. It seems he's getting threatening letters, from someone he doesn't know but seems to know him a little too well. Well enough to read his mind...

Are you intrigued yet? Pick it up and you will be within a few pages. The mystery is just too irresistible, the clues like puzzle pieces waiting to be put together. Not only is it well written, but it's well thought out. The mystery is elaborate and elegantly simple at the same time. Believe me, there's no guessing this ending but you'll have a wonderful time trying to figure it out. 

I think my favourite thing about this book (aside from the perfectly thought out mystery) was the main character. I found him especially sympathetic and his relationship with his wife provided a fascinating dynamic to the story. This book has layers upon layers of puzzles, complexities and secrets, all propelling the story forward, keeping your eyes glued to the page. It's one of those books that make you go into work the next day looking like death because you had to stay up all night reading it. A truly wonderful read. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Shadows

Welcome to Friday! It's time for this week's edition of Five Sentence Fiction, so I hope you're ready. If you'd like to learn more about Five Sentence Fiction, or give it a try yourself, just visit Lillie McFerrin Writes. This week's prompt is shadows. Enjoy!

Once upon a time, there was a playful little shadow. He wasn't like the other shadows, who mind their business and spend their days mirroring the actions of their owner. He preferred to be more original... more truthful. He didn't mirror his owner's actions, but he did mirror his thoughts. They were far more fun anyhow, and really, it wasn't his fault those thoughts were rather sinister...

I hope you enjoyed this little story because I have to tell you, I really enjoyed writing it. This might turn into something else... that was just too much fun to end there. In any case, if you did like it, then I hope you'll share it with friends. Perhaps you'll even decide to make my day and follow this blog or come find me on twitter @MelanieKCole. If you're still hungry for more Five Sentence Fiction, just follow the links below to read past editions. And remember, your thoughts and comments are always welcome below in the comments section. Have a great weekend!

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Angles
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Edge
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Words
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Flame

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Spring is Coming

Spring is ever so slowly and quietly creeping up on us. It's like a wild animal that runs away whenever you make eye contact. Instead, you have to pretend not to notice it, and watch it from your peripheral vision. There's still far too much snow on the ground and the temperatures are well below seasonal averages, but it's there. I can feel it.

It's a big relief to feel winter's grasp start to slip away. I think we were only another week or so away from mass murder in my office. I love my job and the people I work with, but it's a small office and there's only a few of us. The unending winter with its dismal grey days and mind-numbing cold has slowly eaten away at our patience, leaving us passive-aggressive, bitter and on edge.

But with every puddle of melted snow, every beam of sunshine, equilibrium is returning. Soon, we will be plunged into our busy season and with the hum of activity comes an office wide comradery. Frankly, I'm just excited for being warm again, for the sweet smell of fresh cut grass, for being able to walk the dog without layers upon layers of coats, mittens, touques and scarves. There are a lot of things to be excited for when it comes to summer, not just a lapse in office murders.

What are you looking forward to this summer? Has spring finally started to peak its head around the corner in your neighbourhood? Or are you one of those jerks who've had spring for months now? (Don't answer that).

Monday, April 22, 2013

Monday Book Review - The Snow Child

Welcome to Monday and this week's book recommendation. I'm excited to share this one with you. I read it in under twelve hours because I simply could not put it down. Yep, it's that good.

THE SNOW CHILD by Eowyn Ivey

To put it simply, THE SNOW CHILD is a fairy tale. A really, really well done fairy tale. It's the story of Mabel and Jack, who have moved to Alaska to make a fresh start and put their grief stricken past behind them. About to enter their second winter, the move doesn't seem to have worked and the two are more miserable than ever. That is, until a flight of whimsy causes them to build a snowman... or more precisely, a snow child...

I can't think of a more beautifully told fairy tale. Eowyn leaps effortlessly from character to character, telling the story from each character's perspective and giving a very rich voice to the story. The flow is perfect, the pacing so well done it seems like a sin to put the book down for even a moment. At the same time, she's made it so digestible, the story given in such perfect bite sized pieces that time flows by like water and suddenly you realize you've read half the book without ever thinking of stopping.

More than the expert story telling, it's whimsical, effervescent and just a tad bittersweet. It's a beautiful story, as mysterious as the snow and landscape within. This one is a definite must-read.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Angles

Words cannot express my gratitude for Friday. This week my boss took unilateral control of the thermostat, and although I love her dearly we disagree greatly on what is an appropriate temperature. She has the office so cold I'm pretty sure there are ice crystals in my veins. And before any of you cold lovers go lecturing that I "could always put on more layers" I'd like to point out that I'm wearing four and still freezing, so there are limits. But onto more pleasant topics. Not only does today mark my freedom from frigid office temperatures, it's also time for this week's Five Sentence Fiction. If you'd like to learn more about it, or give it a try yourself, just visit Lillie McFerrin Writes. This week's prompt is angles. Enjoy!

Sometimes the most difficult answers were the easiest to find. Stewart had been staring at the coded message for hours, unable to break it, when a passing student had brushed the thick paper as he squeezed past. The paper had turned, pirouetting on the desk and suddenly the puzzle was solved. The message could only be read when the paper was stood on its corner, when the angles of the letters lined up to reveal its hidden message. 
Now, as for the content of the message, and the adventure it took him on, well that's another story entirely.

Voila! I hope you enjoyed this week's little story. If you did, then I hope you'll share it with friends, and perhaps even follow this blog and come find me on twitter @MelanieKCole. If you're still hungry for more Five Sentence Fiction, just check out the links below for past editions. Don't forget to share your thoughts below in the comments section, I love hearing from you! And, most importantly, have a great weekend!

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Edge
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Words
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Flame
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Conquer

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Barrage of Updates

I will admit that I'm phoning it in a bit this morning. Last night, my sister and I were at my mother's house making perogies. We made A LOT of perogies, had a lot of laughs and now my freezer is full and I'm exhausted. It's all worth it though. If you've never enjoyed the difference of real perogies versus those awful store bought ones, you really should. It's ridiculous.

I've actually been pretty busy on the home front these days. Aside from epic perogy making, I've been doing a lot of editing on the manuscript, trying to whip into reasonable shape before the current Writer in Residence, David A. Poulsen, finishes his residency. There's nothing like a deadline hanging over your head to get you to work hard. Although, honestly, I think a bigger reason for my current work ethic is turning off the TV. No, I haven't done the official turn off for the summer (I feel like there should be some kind of ribbon cutting ceremony or something), but I have been cutting way back, getting myself used to the abundance of free time it provides. I think the official turn off will come in May when the snow will finally be gone (I'm hoping!) and it's not so depressing to look out my window.

I know some of you have been wondering if I've been keeping up with my French lessons in preparation for my upcoming trip to Paris, and the answer is: yes! I try to make sure I do at least one lesson every day (although preferably more). Could I carry on a conversation in French? Not on your life. But, when I see French signs, or see French phrases in the books I've been reading on Paris, I actually understand a lot of them, which is very exciting. I can speak a few phrases, and there's a slight possibility I might be able to manage ordering in a restaurant, so I'm pretty excited. I still have two and a half months to go, so I'm kicking it into high gear. And I have to admit, I'm loving it. I've never been very good at learning different languages (and that hasn't changed), but my progress is encouraging and I'm having a lot of fun.

Thus concludes this random post of updates. Hopefully everything is going well on your end, as we slowly (oh ever so slowly!) creep into spring. What new happenings has the change of seasons brought into your life?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Monday Book Review - Fooling Houdini

It's Monday, time to shake off the weekend and begin a new work week. It's not all bad though, it's also time for this week's book recommendation. And this week it happens to be very magical.


This week's book recommendation is a little different from previous weeks. First of all, it's not fiction. It's a memoir, and a fascinating one at that. It takes us inside the world of magic, magicians and their obsession with this rather underrated art. I'll admit, I've never been a big fan of magic. Honestly, I find magicians just a little too corny to bear. But Alex gives a fresh look inside their world from his own perspective, that of an emerging magician with an equally emerging obsession. 

What makes this book so great is its duality. First you have the story of Alex and his journey deeper into the world of magic as he attempts to master its secrets. That, in itself is a pretty good story. But, then he adds a whole new level, looking at magic through the guise of psychology, neuroscience, physics, history and crime. Magic becomes an onion, with layer after layer adding to the illusions you or I would take for granted. Instead of just being another book that reveals a magician's secrets, it elevates them to something more profound than a simple card trick.

This is one of those books that gets your brain buzzing. You'll find yourself reading passages out loud to family, friends and complete strangers, just because they're so utterly fascinating. It's a great read, one that will leave you dizzy with possibilities.

If you've already read it, or have other books you'd like to recommend, make sure to let us know in the comments section!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Edge

Welcome to Friday and this week's edition of Five Sentence Fiction. If you'd like to learn more about what it's all about, or give it a try yourself, just visit Lillie McFerrin Writes. This week's prompt is edge. Enjoy!

 "The edge. The edge of what?" 
She scrambled through her grandmother's house, pulling out drawers and slamming cabinet doors, struggling to remember what her grandmother had told her, but none of it had made any sense. 
If she hadn't been so distracted, she probably would have seen the edge before she fell over it, but that wasn't what her grandmother intended. 
She knew the only way to get her granddaughter across the barrier was to have her trip right over it, and then the rest would be up to her. 

Yes, this one is a little cryptic, but I do like to leave the endings up to your imagination. Where did her grandmother send her? Into the future? The past? Another universe? That's for you to decide, as is the reason she sent her there. I think it's more fun that way (although you're welcome to disagree), and I hope you'll leave your own thoughts and theories below in the comments section. If you'd like to read more of my Five Sentence Fiction, just follow the links below. If you've enjoyed this piece and would like to follow this blog or be notified by email of new blog posts, just sign up using the tab on the right hand side. Have a great weekend!

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Words
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Flame
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Conquer
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Paradise

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Summer Without Television

Can I tell you something crazy that I'm considering? You've probably already guessed it from the title (at least I'd hope so), but I'm thinking about going the entire summer without television. I know, it's crazy. Especially when you're as poor as I am. Why would I throw away such an affordable source of entertainment, and for an entire summer no less? A week, sure. But the entire summer? Now, that's crazy. But hear me out.

TV has always had the absurdly cliche zombifying effect on me. As soon as my eyes lock on to the screen, I'm dead to the world, focused wholly on whatever program is playing. Forgetting eating brains, mine drops out of my head the second that flickering box turns on. Even when I try to avoid it I can't seem to break away. My husband watches several programs I'm not interested in, so I will purposely leave the room and attempt to entertain myself elsewhere. And yet, some problem will require me to enter the living room, pass by that flickering screen and BOOM! I'm stuck like a fly to molasses. Even though it's a show I don't even want to watch.

It's not just that TV turns me into a mindless zombie, it's also a huge time suck. I'll sit down to watch one show, just one I promise myself, then I'll look up and realize it's getting dark out. An entire day will have passed me by and I'll have nothing to show for it. Books lie unread on my night table, edits remain untouched on my desk. And all just to watch shows I've already seen.

So, that brings me to the logical conclusion. Just turn it off and don't turn it back on again until fall, when winter is bearing down on us and I'll need the escape of TV. Think of how much I could accomplish if I just shut the damn thing off. Not to mention, all those summer shows I love. I could watch them in the fall when there would be no horrible, week to week waiting. It would be my reward for a well used summer.

What do you think? Do you have a zombifying time suck making off with the better part of your days and evenings? How do you make the best use of your time?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Monday Book Review - State of Wonder

Ugh, Mondays. I once saw a poster that read: "You don't hate Mondays. You just hate your job." Although I actually really like my job and the people I work for, it's definitely true. Given the option of going to work or staying at home to nap and do whatever I please, the decision is pretty easy. But there is one good thing about Mondays. It's time for this week's book recommendation.

STATE OF WONDER by Ann Patchett

To put a rather complex book quite simply, this is the story of a woman's journey into the amazon to discover the circumstances of a coworker's death for his wife. It's definitely not the kind of book I would normally read, I tend to shy away from books like these as though they actually carried the malaria they talk about. So, what made me pick up this one? That's easy. I didn't know what it was about. It was recommended, so I just picked it up and started reading. By the time I knew what it was about, it was too late. I was too intrigued to put it down.

I don't even know how to describe why it was good. It was just so... fascinating. Everything around me dulled in comparison. A large part of it was due to the main character, Marina. She was so brilliantly complex. Her reactions to her circumstances, her surroundings, made the book come alive. She was as intriguing as the amazon around her, full of secrets, hidden truths. 

This is a book that will hold your attention to the end. You'll never have trouble picking it up, but you'll always have trouble putting it down, even when its over. It sits with you, pushes its way into your thoughts even when you're trying to focus on something else. It's a brilliantly written story.

I'm glad I was pushed out of my comfort zone for this one. Definitely give it a try, and let me know what you think in the comments section. Make sure you leave your own book recommendations as well!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Words

Is it just me or does the Friday after a long weekend always seem to take longer to get here? Nevertheless, it is finally here, which means it's also time for Five Sentence Fiction. If you'd like to find out what it's all about, or give it a try yourself, just visit Lillie McFerrin Writes. This week's prompt is words. Enjoy!

She watched her brother's mouth move up and down, the sound of his words cascading from his open lips, where they fell unheard to the floor. She couldn't understand what he was saying, could only stare in bewilderment at his puzzled expression, blood surging to her face, panic rising in her gut. 
The old man at the market had told her to only eat one, that one was all she would need. Why hadn't she believed him? He'd made her promise to listen to him but she didn't, and now she couldn't listen to anyone. 

 There you have it! Hopefully you enjoyed my little story, and if you did I hope you'll share it with friends. If you really liked it (and would also like to make my day) then please free to follow this blog and come find me on twitter @MelanieKCole. If you're still hungry for more Five Sentence Fiction, then I invite you to follow the links below and read past editions. But most importantly, make sure you have a great weekend!

Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Flame
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Conquer
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Paradise
Five Sentence Fiction Friday - Whisper

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Boredom - A Writer's Best Friend

The advent of today's post was triggered by two short quotations I came across over the past couple of weeks. The first was a quote by an author, whom I'm ashamed to say I can't remember his name. Basically, he lamented the fact that his parents gave him a wonderful childhood, therefore he could never be a writer. The second, was from an article my sister read, proclaiming that it was good and in fact quite healthy, for kids to be bored once in a while.

Now, I know you're wondering how I'm going to connect these two thoughts, but don't worry, I shall. My first reaction when I read the first quote was an internal, "oh no! I had a great childhood. I'm screwed!" Then, of course I realized that the author in question was being funny. Being a writer doesn't mean you need to have had a horrible childhood. It's perfectly acceptable to have grown up in a loving home with great parents. Your success as a writer does not depend on misery, but sometimes, it can depend on boredom.

(You see? I didn't lie. There is a connection). I have to admit, if it weren't for boredom, most of my writing wouldn't exist. The book I'm currently editing started life as a short story. But it didn't end there. At the end of the day, when my husband was fast asleep beside me in bed, I would turn over the plot in my mind. Cut off from my phone, the computer, the television, even a good book because noise or light of any kind drives my husband crazy when he's trying to sleep, I would have nothing to do while I waited for my own sandman to visit. So, to pass the time I told myself stories, visualized scenes and kept building on the plot of the short story until I had an idea that was novel length and begging to be written.

I'm not saying that if you deprive your kids (or yourself) of all forms of entertainment they'll become writers. Nor am I saying that you should give them a miserable childhood so they'll be artistic. But I am saying that boredom can be useful. Just like a wonderful childhood can be useful. It shapes us and informs our imagination. Not to mention, boredom seems to be the magic elixir to getting things done. Who's ever heard of someone tackling a brutal, tedious project without boredom being a key factor in the inspiration? All I'm saying is that if you give yourself room to be bored once in a while, you might be surprised what you come up with.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Monday Book Review - Horns

Welcome to Monday and this week's book recommendation. I hope you've got your reading goggles at the ready, because this one is going to knock your socks off! And no, in answer to your question, there is no such thing as reading goggles. I made them up. You're welcome.

HORNS by Joe Hill


After a truly horrible night Iggy can barely remember, he wakes up with more than a hangover. He has horns growing from his forehead. It seems fitting, given that the love of his life was raped and murdered a year ago that he should have a breakdown, or at least that's what he assumes is happening. But the horns are not a hallucination, and they come with very strange powers he can't explain. Powers that could be put to use...

I can't say enough good things about this book. It's like hands reached out from between the pages and grabbed me, pulling me in and refusing to let me go. It was one of those books that make you cancel plans, because the thought of having to put it down, even for an hour or two is more than you can bear. Of course it was brilliantly written, that's a given, but I'm not lying when I say it had me captive from the first paragraph. 

What was my favourite part about this book? I think the originality of the plot for one, the idea of waking up with horns on your head is just too intriguing to ignore, but more than that, it was the way the plot was structured. The flow of the story was perfect, so well paced, the flashbacks and character reveals so cleverly done. I also enjoyed the fresh take on the idea of the devil and the role he plays on each of our shoulders.

Definitely pick this one up, it's a devilishly good read. (I know. I couldn't help myself).

Don't forget to leave your own book recommendations and comments in the comments section below!