For those who don’t know me, I love books, a lot! I love reading for a lot of reasons, but mostly it’s to be immersed into another world. I also enjoy reading because it expands my horizons and opens my mind, I acquire knowledge, wisdom, empathy, and learn about history or certain events from people who lived during a certain time/witnessed an event. And I think it’s just so fun!
The series that really got me into reading was Trixie Belden, when I was about 12 or 13. I had heard of Nancy Drew, but I felt closer to Trixie because she was this younger girl sleuth, not as rich or sophisticated as Nancy, and she was kind of a gentle rebel with a big heart. She was a lot more wholesome too, and she loved her family, homestead, and neighbours so much. I read all 39 books in the series.
I have a lot of favourite books, but there are a few books that stand out for me, and I’m happy I got to read them when I was growing up. Trixie Belden was the first series, and there was Millennium series, by Stieg Larsson, which I started in grade 11. I also read quite a few of Jodie Picoult’s books. I wouldn’t really categorize her work as prosy or literary, and some people don’t like her generalizations or misrepresentations, but I think she tells good stories, and when I started reading her books in high school, I began to realize how much research can go into writing a novel.
One doesn’t always need to do research to write a book, obviously. Some novels can be pure introspection, and only about what the author has experienced (like first person accounts from the Holocaust), but a bit of research is good sometimes, especially if you want to have a more factual context. Think of Andy Weir’s The Martian! He actually started posting chapters of his manuscript on his website, where scientists of all kinds from NASA and universities gave him feedback on how to make his story as real and plausible as possible. Then it just, you know, became one of the most popular books in the last couple of years, and became a hit movie.
There’s an article that I took out of our Maclean’s Magazine in November (2016), and it was an interview with author Emma Donoghue, where she shares her thoughts on ideas and inspiration. I really like what she says here:
“Historical fiction is a way of dealing with a situation where a historian has to say some of the facts are known but we’ll never know the rest. And when you tell an individual a story, you don’t have to search, like a historian, for a conclusion that speaks for all.”
So, all you need is just one thing. In this case, Donoghue was talking about the premise for her Giller Prize-nominated book, The Wonder. But you can take any piece of information, from the past, present, or a prediction for the future, and turn it into a story. If I read about, let’s say, all the ice caps on the planet melting, that is obviously horrifying news, but man, would that make a great synopsis or setting for a novel! More on that later…
Now, I want to tell you some of my favourite genres: historical fiction, anything from Europe during World War II (the perpetrators, victims, and bystanders), romance, action, science fiction, fairytales and folklore, mild science fiction, mild fantasy, and my favourite ones of all, dystopian, ecocriticism, and climate fiction.
I adore fairytales and children’s stories as well, and always will. My favourite fairytales are those by the Brothers Grimm (yay, dark and educational German folklore!), but anything by Andrew Lang, Jack Zipes, or Maria Tatar will do. I also love Peter Pan, Winnie The Pooh stories, Hans Christian Andersen stories (especially The Snow Queen), and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E. T. A. Hoffmann.
What I loved best about my time at UNB were all my literature courses that made up my honours in World Literature and Culture Studies. My favourites were The Holocaust: Eastern European Representations and Responses, German History from 1900 to today, Sagas and Legends (a German fairytale course), Dark Futures: Visions of Dystopia, Literature of the Holocaust, Literature of the Acadian Renaissance, North American Environmental History, and of course, my Honours Thesis. My love for reading and exploring new worlds was really fostered during my four years at UNB, and having the most amazing teachers who dedicate their life to researching, reading, and studying various literatures and cultures made it more worthwhile. I loved it all!
Dear readers: What are your favourite books/genres? What do you love about reading? What book could you read over and over again and never get tired of? (My answer to the last question would be The Great Gatsby. Oh Jay!)
Picture it: Montreal, fall 2016.
Ah, good old Sophia Petrillo. I couldn’t resist!
Anyway, I want to write about a particular series right now. It’s not a particularly deep, philosophical, or literary series. Academic Nikki might have scoffed at this, but the Nikki who just moved to Montreal with her boyfriend, got a new job, and had a bit of a hard time adjusting to life outside of the comforting family home, this timid and scared Nikki loved the appeal of this series.
It’s the Canadian West series, by Janette Oke. It may be more known by its TV show, When Calls The Heart. It’s made by the Hallmark (I know, that kind of says it all, but give it a chance!), and clips are available on CBC, but full episodes can be found on iTunes and Netflix.
Oke is a Canadian author, and a pioneer in the genre called inspirational fiction, which is another name used for Christian fiction. I just want to say that I’m not religious, but of course, I do believe in something bigger than me. I found that having some kind of spiritual beliefs is important during recovery because believing in a higher power, something bigger than our little lives and problems, does help put things in perspective. I’ve been drawn to astronomy and studying the universe, stars, and other galaxies, and that really helps my put my food worries into perspective.
But so did this book series. First, there are a lot of things I immediately loved about it. Disclosure: I started by watching season 1 on Netflix, then got the books from Owl’s Nest in Fredericton.) The series is set in the Canadian West in the early 1900s, when western provinces like Alberta were still being explored and settled in by white people, and protagonist is a female character, Elizabeth Thatcher. Yay, a female lead!
Elizabeth is used to her a comfy upper-middle class lifestyle in Toronto, and, in the book, she moves to the Prairies because her mother wanted her to visit her step-brother who lives in Calgary whom she hasn’t seen in years. (I’m shortening this, obviously, but you get the idea.) Brave Elizabeth does so, and as you can imagine, has a lot to adjust to. In the TV series, Elizabeth chooses to go out on her own, and still has a lot to adjust to. Back to the book.
She gets a job as a teacher, which she grows to love, and eventually marries a dashing RCMP officer, Wynn Delaney – or as he’s called in the TV series, Jack Wagner. The first book is all about her adjustments, and I’m sorry I’m going to spoil it, but it happily ends with Wynn proposing to her. Oh, the happy feelings! The second book, When Comes the Spring, is about Elizabeth and Wynn’s first year together in a remote aboriginal village in northern Alberta, where Wynn is posted, and I found that I could identify with a lot of Elizabeth’s personal struggles and thoughts. In a way, being in Montreal and adjusting to my new life, I completely understood what she meant. Elizabeth was quite homesick for her family back east, she had (obviously) never lived on her own before, let alone with a man, and had to learn all about keeping a home and cooking. Like me!
This show actually has quite the following, like any other series. Not to the extent of Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, or anything like that, but there’s still a strong and dedicated fanbase nonetheless. And I love it because it’s very positive, uplifting, and community-oriented, like Oke’s books. I got a lot of strength from Elizabeth, and I’ll turn back to this book series and TV show whenever I feel down. It always makes me feel better.
It’s kind of simplistic, but I don’t mind. We need simple and comforting things in our life, and I think that this book and TV series makes a peaceful contrast to the dystopian and climate fiction books I also love to read. I mean, what is not to love about a little romance and story of spirit, set in a simpler time 100 some years ago, woven in the beautiful Canadian landscape?
Remember when I was talking about how melting ice caps would make a great context for a story? I did want to give you a little something more to look at for the week. Yes, the week. I’m sorry, but I’ve decided that I’m only going to post on here once a week (Monday nights) instead of twice. I really want to work on my first novellas because that’s the reason I created this blog. I have two that I want to release this year, and I’ll give you more details and insight later. For now, you can look at my updated Books & Links page, and check out my Pinterest page, notably the first board, called “Novel Inspo,” which is a work in progress for one of the novellas I’ll be releasing in 2017. Stay tuned…
Thanks for reading, and until next Monday!
Lots of love,