Good Reads
Good Reads

A Few Good Reads

1. Year of Yes – Shonda Rhimes

My favorite book on this list. I consumed this as an audiobook, narrated by Shonda herself, and man, she can tell a story. (The creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal has clearly found her calling.) Everything she has to say about life, happiness, hard work, motherhood, and dreams, is badassery stuff. Read it.

“There is no list of rules. There is one rule. The rule is: there are no rules. Happiness comes from living as you need to, as you want to. As your inner voice tells you to. Happiness comes from being who you actually are instead of who you think you are supposed to be. Being traditional is not traditional anymore. It’s funny that we still think of it that way. Normalize your lives, people. You don’t want a baby? Don’t have one. I don’t want to get married? I won’t. You want to live alone? Enjoy it. You want to love someone? Love someone. Don’t apologize. Don’t explain. Don’t ever feel less than. When you feel the need to apologize or explain who you are, it means the voice in your head is telling you the wrong story. Wipe the slate clean. And rewrite it. No fairy tales. Be your own narrator. And go for a happy ending. One foot in front of the other. You will make it.”

2. The Boys in the Boat – Daniel James Brown

No need for me to summarize what the book is about when this video does it best (spoiler alert). But it’s a fascinating read into a piece of history I knew nothing about. A page-turner for those who like true stories of heroism and succeeding against all odds.

3. Find a Way – Diana Nyad

Diana is one of my heroes and I’ve written before about how she inspires me. But while I thought I knew her story, her determination to never give up and to swim from Cuba to Florida, I really didn’t. And after reading this, I’m in even more awe at how she overcame all the suffering that life handed her and chose to transcend it.

“Yes, it’s true. At age sixty, I’ve let go of the rage. At sixty, in every way, including as an athlete. I am at the prime of my life.”

4. Rivers of London – Ben Aaronovitch

The first in the Peter Grant series, it’s a detective story with some fantasy, magic, and British humour mixed in. So if you like your crime novels and a bit of the supernatural, this one is for you.

“You put a spell on the dog,” I said as we left the house.
“Just a small one,” said Nightingale.
“So magic is real,” I said. “Which makes you a…what?”
“A wizard.”
“Like Harry Potter?”
Nightingale sighed. “No,” he said. “Not like Harry Potter.”
“In what way?”
“I’m not a fictional character,” said Nightingale.”

5. The Secret Keeper – Kate Morton

A book full of mysteries and secrets that alternate between the 1930s, 1960s, and present day. It reminds me somewhat of Elizabeth is Missing in that the past and present must come together in order to solve a crime.

“It suddenly seemed to Laurel that all the absences in her own life, every loss and sadness, every nightmare in the dark, every unexplained melancholy, took the shadowy form of the same unanswered question, something that had been there since she was sixteen years old— her mother’s unspoken secret.”

6. The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

Well I do love my mysterious thrillers and this book felt like a homage to Hitchcock and Rear Window, a girl watches the lives of strangers unfold as she peers into their windows from her passing train. But like Jimmy Stewart, she can’t help but dig deeper and becomes part of the story. (Read it before the movie comes out.)

“There’s something comforting about the sight of strangers safe at home.”


Birthday Cake

Admiring Austin Kleon, Blackout Poetry & Birthday Cake

“All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original.”

In his bestselling book, Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon posits that all creative work is derivative. We all learn about the creative process and about finding our own voice by copying, copying the work of those who inspire us. I’ve done this before in portraiture. I’m doing this now as I learn to draw. My son does this in his art, learning to draw by copying images of any number of sea creatures, robots, goblins, or aliens. In school, he creates art that mimics a certain style or genre. But our creations are still uniquely ours.

And so I’m copying again, this time, from Austin Kleon himself. As part of my “Read More, Stare at Screens Less” mission for 2016, I’m creating a little piece of art, a blackout poem, from each book I read. Kleon is the master of the blackout poem and he’s inspired me not just to put black Sharpie to paper and give it a go but also to Show Your Work.

My first poem, Birthday Cake, from a page out of The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Inspiration also clearly came from the spate of children’s birthday parties I’ve attended in recent weeks.


Read a Book Instead


Artist at Work

Artist at Work

He loves drawing and I love to watch his process as he finds inspiration and puts a pencil to paper. Sometimes he draws completely from memory, drawing something he’s seen before, sometimes he likes to look at pictures and copy them. Other times he creates things completely from his imagination.

He holds his mouth a certain way as he focuses with intense concentration. Drawing is a serious business and he’s quick to discard images that don’t quite turn out the way he planned. But sometimes he’ll turn a “mistake” into something more interesting, creating a bigger story around his pictures. He didn’t draw that lionfish eye too big, an angry starfish gave it a big black eye.

And as the one in our household who usually loses all our drawing contests, he’s even inspiring me to put pen to paper and learn to draw right along with him. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

Artist at WorkArtist at Work Artist at Work

Watergate Bay

Memories of Watergate Bay

After a delightful couple of holiday weeks where I never woke up with an alarm and occasionally never got out of my pajamas, it’s back to battle stations this week. Back to work, back to school. Back to life, back to reality.

A bunch of New Year’s resolutions aren’t really my thing. Why is January the only month you can commit to positive change? It’s a year-long, life long process.

But there is at least one thing that I do know. I want more of this. More sunshine on my face, more sand in my toes and, more time with good friends.

More jumping for joy.

Watergate Bay
Watergate Bay
Watergate Bay
Watergate Bay
Watergate Bay
Watergate Bay
Watergate Bay
Watergate Bay

Star Wars Christmas

The Season of Star Wars

We might be celebrating the season of Star Wars here even more than we’re celebrating the season of Santa.

We’ve introduced the little man to the original movies and watched our favourites repeatedly (his, Return of the Jedi). We’ve read Star Wars books and character encyclopaedias, becoming attached to curious and lesser known characters like Poggle the Lesser. We’ve built a mountain of Star Wars Lego and created our own collection of fan art (below, Kylo Ren). We’ve watched the new Force Awakens movie trailers hundreds of times, eagerly anticipating the next chapter in the stories that captured our childhood imaginations.

And, now, we’ve finally seen The Force Awakens.

For us, it lived up to every bit of hype and was the best movie experience we’ve had at the cinema in years. It’s unlikely to win a Best Picture Oscar, but then there are plenty of recent winners that I found unwatchable. In contrast, The Force Awakens is a movie that I will happily watch over and over and have already seen twice. It entertained me, it made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me leave the cinema feeling emotionally invested in the story and its characters. And, it set right the wrongs of Episodes 1-3.

I want more. They cleverly left enough loose ends and unanswered questions, setting the scene for the next installments. But, unfortunately, I can’t binge watch this on Netflix like a season of House of Cards. So, I’ll be eagerly waiting around until 2017 before I can find out what happens next.

Happy holidays everyone. And, May the Force be With You!

Kylo Ren