I've lucked out and been hitting home runs with the books I've been reading lately. The Girl Before, by J.P. Delaney, is a heart-pounding read. A psychological thriller, the author does an amazing job of keeping the tension humming. It follows the lives of two people--a woman in the past and one in present day, who move into a "Smart House" (yes, this is a real thing and apparently the wave of the future). Strange things begin happening and someone ends up dead . . .
I've also been enjoying My Cousin Rachel, by Daphne Du Maurier. I'm embarrassed to admit that this is my first of this legend's novels. Her writing is beautiful, so voluptuous and pleasurable to read. She does an amazing job with the setting, too. I feel like I can really see the farmlands and the ocean that surround the manor house.
I do though, find myself wishing that the mystery part would pick up a bit. Still, it's a very well-written book and one which you might enjoy if you're a lover of Gothic-mystery like I am. Oh, by the way, I have a new Gothic Gorgeousness board on Pinterest that you might enjoy. And also a board dedicated to home libraries that I've been drooling over . . .
What have you been reading lately? Please let me know in the comments section. I'm always looking for another good book to add to my list!
Do you love to be out in nature? Do you come back from a long walk or a weekend of camping refreshed and renewed?
Being in the woods does something to me. It brings me a sense of peacefulness and energy at the same time. Did you know that being in nature is a medically-proven treatment? It’s one that is much more easily embraced by our friends on the other side of the pond. (In my opinion, most of the world has a more intuitive approach to healthcare than we do in America.)
Ecotherapy, which is featured in Shadow in the Woods, is a real mental health therapy. I wrote an article about it for Urban Farm magazine several years ago, and the research and interviews were fascinating. Treatment can mean different things, depending on how a mental health counselor or doctor views it. One might prescribe an hour’s walk in the park daily, while another may encourage a client to add more plants to his or her office, or stare at a nature picture for a few minutes when feeling stressed.
Study after study has proven how beneficial it is for us to be out in nature or to view images of nature if we’re unable to get outdoors. A walk outside offers so many benefits though, if we’re able to get out there. Fresh air, sunshine (even on cloudy days, we’re still drawing in some of that beneficial sunlight), the sound of birds and the greenness (or other colors depending on the season) that greets us, along with awareness of being connected to a system greater than ourselves—all of it is healing.
Is being out in nature a part of your everyday routine? If so, please leave a comment and tell me more about what you enjoy doing outdoors.
The orange sign flapping in the breeze doesn’t surprise me. When the building you grow up in resembles a ball of unraveling twine, it’s expected. Obvious. I stand in the driveway which is cracked and sprouting grass. The house looks worse than I remember.
And that’s pretty bad.
The porch is trying to make an escape. The gables, painted hot pink, plum and lime green teeter precariously. Piles of rusted metal and broken plastic furniture pieces lie near the lilac bushes. The window panes, what’s left of them, are opaque.
“Aunt” Claudine took in children like stray cats, nourishing us with garden vegetables and stale bread. She made sure we had clothes that fit, and most important, time to “experience creativity.” We shared things that shouldn’t be shared, like toothbrushes. But each of us was kept well-supplied with pristine pots of paints, pointed drawing tools, clay, crayons and markers. The only thing lacking was paper.
“Who needs paper? This is your home,” Aunt Claudine sang out when the newest arrival asked where he or she could find something to draw on. “Make it beautiful!”
And we did. Or at least, we tried. We painted interior walls with hieroglyphic-type images, made sculptures of broken pottery and china cups and doll heads. Once, we dyed one of the many mangy dogs’ pink. Another time we sewed tattered curtains into turbans and held court in a grove of trees. The gables had been painted shortly before I left, at age of 17, to discover myself.
I walk now behind the ramshackle building, following the overgrowth by memory. The gardens are long gone, but I remember them. Aunt Claudine insisted that they be aesthetically pleasing. Cherry tomato plants pirouetted around snarls of zucchini vines. Corn stalks, with their knife-like emerald leaves, were deposited among mounds of plump carrots and caterpillar-chewed Swiss chard. The potatoes—sweet, Russet and purple (our favorite)—always ran in tidy rows in front of the garden shed. I don’t know why it was the only well-ordered row in the entire garden.
The potatoes were fun to harvest. It was like a search for lost treasure. Under the heavy, dark soil the smooth, skin of the potato would practically glow in the humus. It was magic. One half of a potato could make a plant that would produce eight or ten or twelve whole potatoes. How did it work?
I walk back to the front of the house, inspect the Condemned sign more closely. I pull another tattered sign from my pocket, smooth it out against the sagging front step. It was once white, now pale yellow, the photo faded with age. “Missing” it screams in bold letters across the top. The photo of a small boy, aged 27 months stares back at me. I remember the first time I saw it.
I was 17 and hitchhiking across country. In my backpack was an extra set of clothes, a toothbrush, a single faded photo and a sketchbook: my essentials. I was waiting for a trucker named Oscar to finish cleaning up in one of the truck stop bathrooms. The sign, hanging on the overcrowded bulletin board, called to me. There must have been two hundred Missing posters on that board; I was drawn to that one. Drawn to that poster’s picture because it identically matched the one in my backpack.
I don’t remember much about my life up until the time the photo was taken, but I remember sitting for it. The smell of perfume (my mother’s?) a musky vanilla scent. The scratchy blue blanket that covered the photography pedestal I sat on. The photographer had a strange, squeaky voice and floppy clown that popped up above the camera. I cried the first time I saw the hat explode upward from behind the camera, terrified. A woman’s voice comforted me. I don’t remember anything else from the time before Claudine took me.
I stared at the poster in the entryway for a long time, memorizing the curve of my rounded cheek, the perfect line of tiny white teeth. I was still staring, immobilized, when Oscar emerged from the bathroom. His slap on my back jolted me to the present. I waited until he headed for the truck to snatch the poster from the board and stuff it into my pocket.
I hold it now in one hand, fish out a push pin with the other. I stab the pin through the picture and into the rotting wood of the house. Across the bottom of the poster, my hand scrawled note: “It’s me, Andy. Were you one of the others?” Below this, my cell phone number and email address.
Maybe one of the other kids will come back here, like me. Maybe we can finally piece together life before and after Claudine, why she did what she did.
Or maybe we’ll just sit and sketch.
Copyright 2017, J.P. Choquette
The light has started to change here in northwestern Vermont. Instead of sunlight sneaking in under the curtains at 5:00 a.m., it's staying dark until closer to 5:30 or even 6:00 on a gray morning. I like to sit on the back deck and watch the pattern that the leaves make in shadow on the grass. Lately though, I've noticed that the patterns are changing which signals that autumn will soon arrive.
Before it does, there are still many good summer reading days left to enjoy. Whether your favorite place to curl up and read is a hammock or a beach chair, I think you'll enjoy these books that I've read or listened to lately.
I picked up a copy of this book, The Humbug Murders, while on vacation in Newport, Rhode Island. It's a fun read, too grisly to be a cozy mystery, but with the atmospheric aspect that I love in good suspense and mystery books. Unfortunately, it also has some pretty disturbing situations, especially toward the end, having to do with sex slaves/kidnapping. More sensitive readers may want to move on to the next selection.
Because I spend a lot of time in the car (commuting to work), I'm often looking for good audio books to pass the time. The Girl with a Clock for a Heart, by Peter Swanson, is thoroughly engaging and makes the miles speed by. It's a nail-biting, psychological thriller--some of my very favorite suspense to read--and his writing is strong and believable and beautiful. I started summer with another of this author's books, The Kind Worth Killing, and enjoyed it immensely.
One on my reading list:
I really love everything I've read so far by author, Lisa Unger. Many of her stories take place in a sleepy little town in upstate New York called, The Hollows. While this book doesn't appear to be set in that fictional town, the story line and characters sound like they will immediately draw you in.
My one regret this summer ...
... is that I haven't had more time to read. But we're only in August and summer isn't officially over until September 21st. What recommendations do you have for me or other readers? Please share in the comments.
It's finally here and I couldn't be more pleased ... the extra months of work on this one helped to make it a more polished work.
Here's the blurb about this, the second book in the Tayt Waters Mystery series:
Tayt Waters doesn’t try to get herself into hair-raising predicaments, it just happens. Returning to work at her security firm following an unexpected medical leave, Tayt finds herself starring in a whole new round of adventures.
I refuse to believe that summer is nearly over. Forget the back-to-school sales, yellow buses dotting the landscape and cooler air.
Nevertheless, September always marks a month of new beginnings. If you're a writer looking for some inspiration, tips and tools, be sure to read my guest post over at Pen, Ink and Crimes, the blog run by Sisters in Crime New England.
Looking for a great summer read? Me too. I write about that and a recent excellent book I've read over at Pen, Ink and Crimes today. Join me?
How to get to September without saying, “Oh, crap, I never got a chance to _____”
Don’t worry, I'm not going to guilt you into doing extra writing this summer, taking on yet another book club or making a promise to finish your manuscript before September.
By "count" what I really mean is "live."
I was listening to an interesting podcast the other day on Hopologie and the topic was none other than changing one's rhythm for summer.
This got me thinking: how can I make sure that I don't miss out on the things I love most about summer, while still producing well-written articles for clients and work on my next novel?
I thought about this as I kneaded a batch of bread dough. I love making bread for my family--a recipe and skill learned at my mother's elbow when I was five. But I haven't made any in months. Why? Because it's "too much work," and I'm "too busy," and besides, isn't it easier to just toss a loaf into the cart every week while getting the other groceries?
But here's an important lesson that this particular warm, yeasty ball of dough taught me: sometimes it’s worth the extra time and effort to do something that brings you joy.
Is it easier to grab a loaf of bread at the store? Yes. But I miss out on the creative magic of putting together five simple ingredients and watching them transform into crusted, golden loaves.
5 gentle suggestions to make your summer count
What did I miss? What items are “must do’s” on your summer list?
I have a love-hate relationship with imperfection. I know that "perfect" isn't possible, or do-able, at least not most of the time and not for me. But my OCD-side struggles despite my best attempts to ignore or even (gasp!) embrace imperfection.
While logically I KNOW that imperfect is perfectly fine, and that accepting imperfection is often a lot more fun and adventurous than seeking perfection, it's still hard to let go.
That's the topic I'm exploring today over at the Pen, Ink and Crimes blog. Join me?
Today I am writing over at Pen, Ink and Crimes, a guest post for the Sisters In Crime New England blog. I'm talking about what a capsule wardrobe taught me about writing (huh?!). Please head over and have a read!
Also, exciting news: Subversion is now on sale for $.99 at Amazon and is FREE on Smashwords! This is in preparation for the sequel coming out next month (fingers crossed). Please grab a copy and leave an honest review--I'd be very grateful.
Welcome to the website of author J.P. Choquette (pronounced, "show-kett").
Are you a reader and new to J.P.'s writing? You might want to try a short story for free.
Already read a book? Have you checked out her other suspense novels?
*10% of ALL BOOK proceeds go to :