A Good Home, Book Reviews, Books, Maya and the Book of Everything, New Books

Un-Put-Downable: Maya

You know when you’re reading a book – even a mostly interesting book — but you reach a paragraph or page that’s over-written, over-described, over-dense, confusing or just plain boring?

Yes?

Me too.

So I can’t praise highly enough the novel that I finished reading last week. “Maya and the Book of Everything” kept me glued to its pages right to the end.

Blog Photo - Maya and the book of everything

This shouldn’t be. There are many different characters, the book skips from one time and place to another and takes fantastical twists. And yet, the storytelling is seamless, the characters compelling, the dialogue convincing, the quest believably and skilfully portrayed. It was a pure pleasure to read this book.

What makes me even more pleased? This book about a teenaged girl who takes on a seemingly impossible mission is from a small press, and authored by Laurie Graves, a blogger you may know.

With this book, Laurie demonstrates formidable gifts and skill as a novelist.

“How did you make the characters so believable?” I asked Laurie.

“I originally envisioned Maya as more timid, but when I thought of all she’d have to face, I knew she couldn’t have a timid character. Maya wouldn’t have survived her adventures. So then I reimagined her as a fiery young woman, a girl of action—unlike me!—and I immediately knew this was the right way to think about Maya.

“Somehow the characters just came, and it wasn’t all that hard to keep track of them. For me each character has a vivid voice and a distinctive way of speaking.”  

 

Blog Photo - Laurie Graves MCU

Where did the idea for the book originate? I asked.

Laurie got the idea for the book while editing a small literary magazine that she and her husband published.

“I used the Chicago Manual Style, not always an easy book to use. One day, I was tackling a knotty grammatical problem, and I said to myself, ‘I wish I had a book of everything.’  Then came the question: What if there were a book of everything? Where would it come from? What would it do? What kind of danger would it be in? Obviously, many people would covet a true book of everything. From this question came Maya and the rest of the story.”

Blog Photo - Laurie reading VasselboroMaya170604

Laurie is Franco-American. Her ancestors came to Maine from Canada. It was important to her that Maya and several other characters share that background.

“It is the place from which Maya springs, and her heritage, along with place, is one of the things that ground her.”

There is a  real place in both Maya’s and Laurie’s stories.

“The street shot (below) is of East Vassalboro, a classic New England village where my mother lived for many, many years and one I came to cherish. It is also where Maya’s grandparents live, and East Vassalboro and its library are essential to the story.”

Blog Photo - Laurie Vasselboro main street

There are subtle but impactful messages woven through this book. Good leadership is one.

“The big messages are that facts do matter and that a place will suffer under a bad leader. The corollary is that good leaders are essential. On a more personal level, I wanted young girls to read about a plucky heroine who turned her face to the wind and faced difficult challenges.”

It’s a great read.

Look out for Book 2: Library Lost, coming next fall.

 

 

A Good Home, Book Stores, Friendship, Galilee, Great Prices on Books, Kindness, Kitchens, Landscape Art, Nature, Uncategorized, Valentine's Day, Words

Colin and Justin in Cottage Country

Cottage country will never be the same.

Those talented, funny and likable designers – Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan  (the duo who gave my book such a good review last fall) – have bought into the Canadian dream: owning a cottage.   It’s on a lake in Muskoka, three hours north of Toronto, and every time I look at the photo below, I burst out laughing.

Blog Photo - Colin and Justin in the WoodsColin and Justin, “Cabin Pressure”, Cottage Life TV

As usual, they’ve gone whole hog.  No modern Muskoka Mansion for these two.  They’ve bought the quintessential Canadian pioneer dwelling:  a log cabin.

A log cabin, you might ask? Are we talking about the same Colin and Justin? The famously jet-setting designers known for creating glamorous interiors and sporting oversized flowers in their lapels on their previous TV series, Colin and Justin’s Home Heist?

Blog Photo - Colin and Justin Design

Yes.   They co-purchased the log house with two friends.  And they’ve made a TV show about their adventures, called “Cabin Pressure”, (Tuesday nights in Canada on Cottage Life TV).

Of course, no matter where they go, they’re still Colin and Justin, after all.   The same witty Scottish-accented pair who live in Scotland, England and Canada and make us laugh while sharing their clever design skills.

So, as they told the Canadian Press:  “I think we scared the living bejesus out of a lot of people. Because we arrived in fake-fur, floor-length coats and trailed around the lake in the middle of summer like the Kardashians on crack.”

Oh, dear.

Colin and Justin Cabin Pressure
“Cabin Pressure”

But if there’s one thing I know about these two, it’s that they’re very talented. And another: they’re smart.  They’re also very knowledgeable about the deep feelings people have for their homes. (See Colin and Justin’s review of my book, A Good Home.)

So what can we expect? You’ll have to watch the series to find out.  But I’m betting you’ll learn a few things about log homes, cottage life, and a lot about interior design. After all, many of us would find decorating a log home very challenging.  As did Colin and Justin.

They visited a dozen cottages before settling on this one.  It passed inspection.  But when the renovation was starting, they encountered a rotting deck, dangerous wiring, and several other problems.  Their new purchase seemed to be “a pig in lipstick”.

Still, they describe the experience as “brilliant. It’s made us better people.  We’ve learned such a lot about ourselves.”

Cabin Pressure on Cottage Life TV
“Cabin Pressure” on Cottage Life TV

So cottage country may never be the same, but it appears that our famous designer duo will never be quite the same, either.

Get ready for a new take on “Canadiana” – Colin and Justin style.

Book Reviews, Interior Design

The Review That Left My Husband Speechless

If you look at the back of almost any book these days, you’ll see glowing recommendations from big name authors or other celebrities.  You know: a fancy version of “This book is the best thing since sliced bread!

 Writing ‘book blurbs’ has become such a going concern that some well-known authors make a good chunk of change off it.

 But when my manuscript was complete, I wasn’t looking for big name celebrities to lend their names. I wanted people who genuinely “got” my book. And I wanted individuals whose own writing reflects a passion for the thing we call “home”.

I asked only a few people and was very lucky: they all said yes. You’ll see their kind comments on the back cover of A Good Home.

Book back coverOne response stood out. It wasn’t just a sentence: it was a whole review. To have two strangers agree to read the book was remarkable. But what they wrote was even more moving.

The review came by email from Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan, interior designers who live in Scotland, England and Canada, and whose TV shows and columns about home design are well known internationally.

colin and justin room design

I never miss their newspaper columns. They combine a passion for home design, insights into the deep connection between people and their homes, and a great sense of fun at the same time.

colin and justin

But when Colin and Justin both read my book and sent their review, it surprised me. I read it, got up from the computer, drank a glass of cold water, dabbed my eyes, and immediately forwarded the review to my husband.  Here’s what Colin and Justin wrote:

“When Cynthia Reyes dips her pen in ink (for this is how we imagine her, immersed in traditional techniques and devoid of modern day conveniences like laptop or iPad) she creates magic; captivating, heavenly prose falls from her quill. 

She’s indeed a gifted scribe and, leafing the pages of A Good Home (gripped, as we were, from the opening paragraphs) we hung on her every, emotive word.

 Cynthia, bereft at her cruelly adjusted physicality following a car crash, somehow – against all the odds – learns a new sense of positivity. A new sense of order. Recounting her past becomes the key to unlocking a better future; a future she thought might never properly unravel.

 Using a sequence of recollections from previous homes – homes where her life was shaped and her character built – Cynthia discovers how to live again in the face of cramped, cruel adversity.

Her fear she’ll never write again, post trauma, is terrifying enough, but it’s her fear she’ll never again be the wife her husband once loved that is truly heart rending. Around her carefully arranged words we crawled nervously with her in unstinting ambition for recovery… and, page by page our hopes and dreams for Cynthia were fortified.

 Towards the end of the book, to illustrate her newly found sense of perspective, Cynthia quotes Wordsworth’s poem of consolation over the loss of the meadows and fields in which he played as a child.

‘Though the radiance which was once so bright

Be now forever taken from my sight

Though nothing can bring back the hour

Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower

We will grieve not, rather find

Strength in what remains behind.’

This is what Cynthia does so perfectly. So adeptly. She learns to embrace that which she still has, rather than that which was lost when her injury happened.  And she learns to understand she’s still the wife she always wanted to be.

Cynthia Reyes’ glass is always half full. Rarely half empty.  But ours, as we read her uplifting story, brimmed over….”

Well, my tough guy husband rarely cries. As in – almost never.  But he’s been by my side through the toughest period of my life, and this book is as important to him as to me. When he read Colin and Justin’s review of my book, he couldn’t speak, and when he did, about all he could say was: “They got it.”

Thank you, Colin and Justin, for taking the time to read my book. And for loving it.

Long may you continue to give us new thoughts and ideas  about that precious thing we call “home”.