beloved bookshop

I read something the other morning which triggered a memory of my favorite bookstore. The memory came with a longing and a deep sense of nostalgia. How I love my bookstore.

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But wait.

I realized, with some surprise, that this bookstore exists in my dreams, and that I have visited this bookstore many, many times over the years. It is possible that this blog post marks the first time I’ve considered it in my waking life.

There are clues pointing to it as a dream, if my dreaming self cared to know. The bookstore is set in a far corner of an empty, or abandoned but well-maintained, shopping complex. It takes a few specific twists and turns to find the bookstore.

Once there, the bookstore is well-lit by floor to second story ceiling windows along one exterior wall. The windows look out upon an ocean grey enough to be mistaken for a parking lot with a careless glance.

My section, where I know all my favorite books are yet to be discovered, is set upon a raised, rounded stage that looks over the rest of the bookstore. All the shelves in this section are wooden and black, in contrast to the beige metal shelves below. The flooring of each matches the shelves.

There is a large cabinet against the wall with glass doors. Inside this cabinet are second-hand, out-of-print books, all of which I know I’ll love. I handle them like fragile treasures.

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The employees know me by name, and spend their shifts behind counters, usually nose-deep inside a book. There is a swirl of magic in the air and the scent of cinnamon mingles with the book smell. The air is heavy, like it’s raining outside, but cozy, as if the atmosphere is carefully curated to make it easy to slip inside a story and read and read and read.

I’m half-sad to discover this beloved bookshop exists in my subconscious, but the feeling is mixed with a curious sense of pride and protectiveness. Do you ever dream of a place that seems more real than the waking world?

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My Top 5 Books of 2017

Looking back over the book lives I lived this year, five particular books stood out (note: they weren’t necessarily published in 2017, just read by me in 2017). Here they are, in no particular order:

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The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

I’m a sucker for books about books. Books about bookstores are a special treat. This one is about a bookstore on a barge whose owner faces a personal crisis that sends him, his bookstore, and a young writer down the river in search of the owner’s lost love. Full of book nostalgia, hope, and deep thoughts, this was a treat to read.

Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction by Benjamin Percy

Thrill Me is a craft book on writing speculative fiction. As a writer, I consume a lot of craft books … and most of them get left unfinished, because they’re as dry as my ninth grade math text. My personal philosophy about craft books is if they aren’t written well enough to keep my interest, I shouldn’t be letting them teach me how to write. This is where Thrill Me shines: it grabbed me in the beginning and thrilled me to the end. I devoured it, yearning to get back to it each time I put it down. It reminded me why I love speculative fiction and why I write it. An inspiring book for all writers in the genre.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls is a powerful middle grade fantasy about grief. As he sorrows and rages against his mother’s imminent death and all the changes this brings, Conor’s grief is physically manifested in a terrifying, Ent-like monster. It is a beacon to the genre in that it never preaches, it never sugarcoats, and it never holds back. The raw power of Conor’s grief is a punch to the gut the reader won’t soon forget. I’ve rarely been so moved.

 

 

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

This middle grade fantasy is a beautifully written, fantastical romp into the bog home of a repressed people forced to sacrifice the youngest child in their village every few years to a mysterious witch. The witch, on the other hand, cannot figure out why these silly folk keep regularly abandoning infants in the forest. She rescues them, feeding them starlight and finding them homes beyond the bog, past the sleeping volcano that seethes beneath the story. Then one night, the witch accidentally feeds one of the foundlings moonlight instead of starlight and enmagicks the child, whom she names Luna and raises as her own. As Luna grows, the real evil demanding the babies be sacrificed becomes clear as Luna, the witch, a dragon, a swamp monster, a desperate new father, and a mad woman embark on a journey that will bring them together and change their world forever. This adventure is a wonderful romp I never wanted to end. I’ll be reading this one again soon.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

This one makes it to the list because of its originality. A prequel to Every Heart a Doorway, this novella in the Wayward Children series follows Jack and Jill through their portal into a dark and frightening world. One of the twin sisters is adopted by the local vampire to a life of luxury and blood, while her sister Jack is apprenticed by the vampire’s nemesis, a mad scientist. They come of age beneath the burgeoning knowledge that they are destined to become the next generation of an ancient rivalry, and on opposing sides. But deep within Jack’s heart stirs an impossible loyalty to her sister. It’s a heck of a story that brings the mad scientist of old spooky movies into the new millennium.

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That finishes my list and as the old year closes I’m excited to see what books 2018 will bring … in January alone I’m counting down to the release of Seanan McGuire’s Beneath the Sugar Sky (the third in her Wayward Children series mentioned above) and the English translation of Ahmed Saddwi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad.

What were some of your favourite books this year? Any you’re looking forward to?

the guild of forbidden fables

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She is the guardian of this forest. She carries its stories in her belly where she will not forget them. Ask her of the tree who walked away, the stream that went to college, and the ogre who wove a cloak of fireweed wool. She will bring them up for you.

Run screaming in fear of her slithering scales and you’ll be none the richer for her stories. Show her disrespect and she’ll introduce you to her fangs. Tell her stories, on the other hand, and she’ll invite you to join her guild of forbidden fables, of which she claims to be treasurer. To enter the secret libraries of the guild, you must first step through her unhinged jaw and descend a spiral staircase deep into her belly. Be prepared, for she will be offended if you hesitate.

You will be rewarded for your bravery. Within you’ll find all the stories never told. The stories have grown lonely to be read within this secret place. They will spoil any reader with mugs of hot, delicious drinks, comfy pillows, and rainy windows to ease their reading. Take heed, for you may never wish to leave again.

the luck of a four leaf clover

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At her foot lay a four leaf clover, colored purple so she couldn’t miss it. It looked ragged and strange, but she didn’t mind. She considered luck to be a rather tricky thing, so she hid the four leaf clover away in a book about folklore.

Inside, the clover pressed between the pages of a story about trolls and used up its luck burrowing into the story. She still has the book, so if you’d like to crawl inside a story and meet a troll or two, just ask. She’ll show you the page, pack you a lunch, and send you along the clover’s trail.

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