Friday, November 17, 2017

How ASL Changed My Life, Part 2

Today, after three posts expounding on the benefits of reading, I’m back to recommending books that have meant a lot to me, and books you may enjoy. I begin with Train Go Sorry: Inside a Deaf World by Leah Hager Cohen.


If you wish to learn why I am so interested in all things ASL, I would refer you to my earlier blog post - How ASL Changed my Life. I guess today’s post could be called Part 2 of my relationship with ASL, a language which I am trying my darnedest to learn.

Train Go Sorry is an ASL idiom which roughly means - “You Missed the boat,” and recognizes the struggles that the deaf community has had in maintaining their culture and thriving in a largely hearing world.

Even though Train Go Sorry is more than twenty years old, it is a classic on deaf culture, and all of the deaf tutors and teachers and interpreters I know, recommend it and have it on their shelves.


This beautifully written book which is part memoir, part history, part story and part call-to-arms, drew me in right from the start. The author who can hear, grew up in the Lexington School for the Deaf in NYC. Her grandfather was deaf, Her childhood friends were deaf, and her father was the school’s superintendent.

Here’s the way the book begins:

That our family’s home was a school for the deaf did not seem in any way extraordinary to Reba, Andy and me. Lexington School for the Deaf was simply where we came from. Our apartment was on the third floor of the southern wing of the building, above the nursery school and adjacent to the boys’ dormitory. The walls and doors, incidental separations between our living space and the rest of the building, were routinely disregarded. We children often played down the hall with the kids from the dorm. It wasn’t until Reba, my older sister, proved at age six to be a sleepwalker—discovered one night riding the elevator in her pajamas‚ that our parents even thought to install a proper lock on the front door.

Twenty years ago, when this book was released, the deaf community was on the cusp of change. Up until then, being deaf was considered being “hearing impaired,” a label the deaf community fought against. (And still fight against.) Their teachers were all hearing, and routinely taught English and lip reading, and made the children speak and use their voices. Sometimes signing was even forbidden and Cohen recounts that in those early days, children who signed had their hands struck with rulers, or tied behind their backs. 


In her beautiful book, Cohen recounts the personal stories of deaf students one at a time, one per chapter. I fell in love with the students she wrote about. I met James and Sofia and Oscar. I read about meetings where the students demanded that at least one person on the school's board be deaf. I read about the time they set up the chairs so that they all could see the interpreter. The staff, all hearing, had not even thought of that. There was so much that I learned. 


To give you a bit more of an understanding of the time, this is from Wikipedia:


In 1994, Lexington School for the deaf was subject to a community protest following the appointment of a hearing chairman of the board without what protesters felt was adequate representation of the deaf community in the selection process. Following picket lines and other protest measures, Phil Bravin was placed in the position; Bravin had become the first deaf chair of the Gallaudet University Board following a similar protest in 1988.



If you are interested in this piece of our history, I highly recommend Train Go Sorry.

Next Time: Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Friday, November 3, 2017

We Need to Read Fiction Now More Than Ever

You’ve met them, I’ve met them, people who simply don’t read novels. They “don’t have time,” they say. Or, “Reading fiction is a waste of time," or “There are enough real problems in the world without having to concentrate something that’s not true.”

This kind of thinking shows a real misunderstanding of what fiction is and even who we are as human beings. It is precisely because there are so many problems in the real world that we need fiction now more than ever.

Imagine, if you will, a world without fiction, a world with no stories. The vast shelves of novels in bookstores and libraries would sit there  empty. When you sat down to read your child a book at bedtime, it would be a science book, or a self-help book about why we shouldn’t bully, or how to get better grades, for example. The only movies we would watch would be documentaries or science movies, and maybe the odd cooking or reality show.

There would be no Dr. Seuss, no Harry Potter, no Narnia, no Handmaid’s Tale, no IT, no Hercule Poirot, no James Bond. In other words, if we rid our world of fiction, we would rid ourselves of one of the very thing that makes us human—our love of story.

What makes us who we are is our ability to create and make things beautiful. We have the ability to make beauty out of ashes. Art out of nothing. We do that through art and design and story—made-up fiction stories.

If you google “the importance of reading fiction,” you will be rewarded with many, many links. 
Reading fiction is not a waste of time. It’s never a waste of time. It can turn us into healthier and better people according to many scientific studies.

If you are interested in scientific studies about what fiction reading does to the brain, here are a few important links to click on:

 - Why You Should Read Every Day

 - The Benefits of Reading Fiction 


 - The Benefits of Reading Novels 

Here are several of the points I gleaned:

• I was surprised to learn that reading fiction reduces stress. I had to read this several times. Really? But, apparently sitting back in your easy chair with a good novel reduces stress more than even going outside for a walk.

• Fiction gives us an understanding of others.


CS Lewis who wrote prolifically on the subject of creativity and fiction said:

We seek an enlargement of our being. We want to be more than ourselves. Each of us by nature sees the whole world from one point of view with a perspective and a selectiveness peculiar to himself. We want to see with other eyes, to imagine with other imaginations, to feel with other hearts, as well as with our own…We demand windows…


And boy, don’t we need this today! As I write this seven people have died in NYC in a Halloween terrorist attack. This comes on the heels of the recent terrorist attack in Las Vegas in which 58 people died, and many more are still in hospital, which comes on the heels of 500 in a bomb attack in Somali. It goes on and on.


So, yes, “seeing through other eyes” would be of great benefit! One way of doing that is through fiction. Currently I’m reading Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue. Through that novel I am gaining a new understanding of what it’s like to be an illegal immigrant from Limbe, Cameroon in the city of New York during the fall of the stock market in 2009. Walking in another's shoes—even through the pages of a novel—can turn us into more understanding people.


• Reading novels before bed improves sleep. Sleep is important to me. It’s something I crave, and yet so often it eludes me. Some studies say that immersing yourself in a bit of fiction for 15 minutes before you nod off can help. 


• It improves memory. Several studies suggest that novel reading has been proved to decline Alzeimers and memory problems. Novel readers have less mental decline as they age.

• It improves our understanding of difficult concepts—scientific and otherwise. Yes, fiction does this. Ten non-fiction books on the subject of hell, have not had the impression on me as CS Lewis’s short novel, The Great Divorce has had. It caused me to rethink just about everything I ever thought or believed or was taught about the subject of hell. It sent me on a faith journey that I still am on to this day.

What about television?


I need to mention here that I’m talking about reading novels and not “watching” novels on TV. No, I’m not one of those avid anti-TV watchers. I enjoy Netflix binging with the best of them, but I also know in my heart that better things happen to me when I’m reading a novel as opposed to watching one on television. It looks like scientific studies bear me out.

Here’s a fascinating link on the difference. It turns out that 
long hours in front of the television can decrease verbal IQ whereas reading a novel can increase brain activity and function. in other words, watching television is a passive activity and reading novels is an active activity. (Maybe it even burns more calories. Someone should do a study on that!)

And about fiction not being the truth? 


I’ve learned in my 25 years as a fiction author that fiction often has to be more truthful than nonfiction. 

One example: when I wrote Sadie’s Song, about a woman who was physically and emotionally abused by her up-standing, church-going Christian husband, my editors wanted the two to work out their differences, get counselling and get together at the end in a happily ever after. I said no. Yes, that sometimes happens. But more often than not, wives leave, and must leave, and should leave. I needed to write that story, the real story. I needed to make it truthful.

Should you read just any old novel?

No. Not really. Not unless you want to be bored out of your head. Yes, there are some pretty crappy novels out there. Picking up a novel that is boring or not well-written, or doesn't capture you from beginning to end, isn't going to provide all of those benefits. More than two years ago 
I started this blog because I was sick of crappy books. I wanted to make a list of all the good books I could recommend. Scroll back through more than two years of book recommends here to find a novel you might enjoy. And, how to tell if a novel is going to do you any good? It's the one you can't put down. If the novel isn't "grabbing" you after three chapters, put it down.

Author Densi Donaghue in The Practice of Reading writes:


The purpose of reading literature is to exercise or incite ones imagination: specifically one’s ability to imagine being different.

Oh man, would that we could have a day where everyone in the entire world would stay home from work and read a novel. 


Next time: a look at deaf culture in Train Go Sorry by Leah Hager Cohen

Friday, October 6, 2017

We Need to Read Even More Now

Today I continue my thoughts on reading and how today, in light of every sad and scary and awful thing going on in the world, we need to be reading more, not less. We need to be reading critically and thoughtfully. We need to be reading widely. We need to read for escape and we need to read for knowledge. We need to read to keep our minds sharp and focused. We need to read so we can decipher the truth from the lies (without anyone calling certain things ‘fake news’ and thus putting a kind of censorship on the written word.) If we’re smart, critical thinkers we can figure out “fake news” for ourselves. We need this today, even more.

I am devoting today’s column to the importance of nonfiction in our daily reading. Nonfiction is a broad category which includes everything from magazines and news articles, to books about travel, politics, memoirs, biography, self-help, history, cooking, gardening and on and on the category goes. It includes the large majority of magazines (There are very few fiction magazines these days.) and newspapers (I can only think of a few fiction newspapers.).

A daily dose of nonfiction improves critical thinking, increases your vocabulary, improves your focus, makes you smarter and some studies have even shown it can stave off Alzheimers.

If you study this linked article I’m sure, like me, you will set aside some time to read every day. It will be as important to you as getting in your physical exercise. (Or maybe you could combine the two, by listening to an audio book while you get in that constitutional.)

If you want actual proof - here’s a peer-reviewed scientific study. 

Back in 1990, I was the International Literacy Year coordinator for the province of Alberta. The motto we adopted and printed on coffee mugs and tee-shirts and bookmarks and bags was “We Need to Read.” 
The photo at the lower right is a large poster of the International Literacy Year stamp which I was privileged to receive from Canada Post, who was a major sponsor that year. (Remember when people used to write letters?) 

 Yes, We Need to Read, but twenty-seven years later, I might change it to, “We Need to Read Even More Now.”


Why now? Well, social media is making it so that we can streamline our feeds to only include our own narrow political views. This is called Confirmation Bias and it is very real and it is crippling us and contributing to what divides us.

This didn’t use to exist when we all got our basically non-partisan news from the same two or three television or radio stations at the same time every day. I was a journalist back in the 1980s and my editor was very strict about getting  “both sides” of the story. If I didn’t, if I couldn’t get the other side of the story, he wouldn’t run it. It was as simple as that.

I fear those days are long gone. I was casually looking through a friend’s Facebook postings where she had expressed an opinion about President Trump. The arguments went on and on, maybe 40 comments of people chiming in until finally someone simply wrote, “You’re an idiot.”

Really? That’s what we’ve come to? Calling people idiots and morons who happen to disagree with us?

Today with confirmation bias all around us, it becomes ever more important to read widely. When someone tells you not to read something, calling it “fake news,” that is when you need to challenge that statement with your own critical reading of the issue. Figure out these things for yourself. In the age of Google and Youtube, it’s really not that hard.

As most of you who know me know, I lean a certain way politically, and yet, I try to read smart articles from both sides of the spectrum. I read the articles in Slate and listen to their many podcasts, as well as NPR. Both of these might lean a bit to the left. I listen to CBC on a pretty regular basis (even though here in Canada I don’t find that partisan divide as heated as it is in the US). I try to balance that with news from The Nation, The National Post and I’m a regular listener to The Daily Standard which is a conservative podcast from The Weekly Standard.

I also need to mention The Politics Guys, one of my favorite "both sides" podcasts. Everyone should try to emulate these guys, two long time friends on opposite sides of the political spectrum discuss the news in detail, without resorting to the “You’re a moron” type of discourse.

Short articles are one thing, but longer nonfiction can be quite informative and interesting. Bookmark these sites: Longform and Longreads.

I have both these on my regular reading rotation and have gotten in-depth looks at the latest in nutrition, a question and answer with Stephen King, and the newest science on brain concussions and the NFL.

I mentioned my love for my Kobo eReader in my last column, and especially my new Kobo Aura H20. I can add these articles to my Kobo with an app called Pocket.  Again, I love that I’m not trying to read on my phone. And if you have children? 
Here’s an article on the importance of reading nonfiction to them. 

Don't forget the many nonfiction books out there. Here’s a list of the nonfiction books I am currently reading and which will be reviewed here in the coming months: The Day the Revolution Began by NT Wright, Train Go Sorry by Leah Hager Cohen and Does Jesus Really Love me? By Jeff Chu.

What nonfiction are you reading?


NEXT TIME: Part three - The importance of daily—and I do mean daily—fiction reading (Yes, in case you’re wondering. I have saved the best for last)

Friday, September 22, 2017

How to Read More in an Age of Technology: Part One

Reading less these days? 

The impetus for this blog comes from a recent post by author Philip Yancey, that went pretty much much viral. This once prolifically reading author has bookshelves that are now languishing as he finds his brain becoming re-wired by technology. The comments are telling, too, as many share their own stories and most agree. 


Smartphones, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, games, Pinterest and iPads are demanding our attention. Walk through any mall and three-quarters of the shoppers will be staring down at phones. And okay, I'm not anti-technology. I’m just as guilty. I mean I even sleep with my iPhone right beside me. (I know I know. Shoot me now!) But when insomnia hits, what better way to fall asleep than to listen to some droning book being read to me, or some podcast, or some soothing music? (I’m even thinking of getting a pair of those sleeping type headphones. (Okay, now you can really shoot me.)

But, as I was reading Yancey’s post it came to me that probably a lot of people are finding that their reading is diminishing these days. How can we get it back? How can we become absorbed in a novel once again? There should be a Fitbit for reading, I'm thinking, something that will keep track of how many pages we have read that day, and remind us when our reading is falling off.


To counteract this - here are a few of my own random thoughts and ideas:

1. You can’t read a book on a phone or an iPad or a tablet. Please bear with me one this one, don’t put your hands over your eyes just yet. To read a novel, I think you need a real book or a dedicated eReader. 

Here’s my story: I had one of the original Kobo eReaders. It was light. I could adjust the font to suit my old eyes, and I didn’t have that weird page turning balance thing that I have when I'm lying on my side in bed and trying to read a hard-back book. I loved it, but then after seven years the battery didn’t hold a charge. But surely I didn’t need another one, right? I have one of those big-screen iPhones. I’ll just use it. It’s got a reading app, right?

Well, I couldn’t. First of all, the screen was too bright. Even after dimming the light, it was too shiny. I couldn’t read it out in the sunshine, and what’s the point of a book that you can’t read on the beach?

But, the main thing was that I was distracted by it. I would be reading along and—oh wait! A new Facebook message! Oh wait! I got a new email! Oh wait! A text message just came in! So, I went in turned off all of those notifications. Now, I’ll just settle back and read. And yet in the back of my mind there was this little ping—Hey, maybe I should check Instagram. See if there are any new pics of the grandkids. It won’t take two seconds. Or, I’ll just zip over here and play a quick game of solitaire before I get into chapter four.

Nope, maybe it works for you, but the iPhone simply didn’t work for me as a reading device.

So, I bought another dedicated eReader, and I love, love my new Kobo Aura H2O.

I know that there are also Kindles that compare.

All I can do is read on it. It looks like a book, and it's gently front lit, so, I can read it in bed at night. I can take it out in the sunshine. It's completely waterproof so I can even read it out on the water. Or in the rain, if I wanted to.

Studies say these e-ink screens are better for the brain at night than shiny, backlit screens.

If your reading has fallen off, put away the phone and the brightly lit tablet and get either a real book, or invest in an eReader. They’re not very expensive.

2. Blame the book, not yourself. I can’t tell you how many times I have opened up a novel to read, even a beloved mystery novel, and then after about four pages my mind is wandering. After chapter two I’m blaming myself—it must be happening—I’m getting too old—I can’t concentrate—I can’t read books anymore—There's something wrong with my brain.

No. There’s nothing wrong with you. It’s the book.

That's why I began this blog. Maybe it was a survival thing. I wanted to prove that there are still books out there which are unputdownable. If you find your mind wandering, keep looking. Feel free to scroll back and use this blog as a guide. I have more than two and a half years worth of books that my mind didn't wander inside of.

3. Join a book club. Not only is this fun, but you will end up reading completely out of your comfort zone. It might just be wonderful. Left to my own devices I would end up with nothing but mystery fiction on my Kobo. My book club expands me. I’m devouring and discussing books I never would have chosen. 

If you don’t know where to find a club, go and ask at your local library. If they don’t have one, give them your name and offer to start one. Another place to look is your local independent bookstore. Many have bookclubs. Also, you might want to try meetup.com and do a search for “bookclubs.”

4. Talk about books with your friends. I know, you might get some strange looks when the first thing you say when you sit down for coffee is, “Read any good books lately?” But you might come away with some good and interesting suggestions. And a reading partner.

5. Write book reviews. Recommend a good book on your Facebook page. Do a search for book review blogs. Many are joint efforts and are always wanting new book reviewers. (I know. I've been asked.) This blog of mine, this labor of love, has forced me to read, even when I wanted to zip over and play solitaire.

6. Devote an hour a day to reading. Really? Is that too much? You’ll go for a walk for an hour, or spend an hour at the gym, or watch TV for an hour. Make it a priority to read every single day. Okay, half an hour. But schedule it in.

7. I mentioned how cool it would be to have a Fitbit for reading, well, there sort of is one. It’s called the Goodreads reading challenge. I do this every year. Here is my own link. 


When 2017 began I decided that I would read 30 books this year. In past years I’ve aimed for 24. Because I easily managed that, I decided that this year I would up it to 30. Not sure I'm going to make it. While you’re at it, have a look around Goodreads which is like a Facebook for readers. I find book recommendations there and often find myself scouring the book reviews for books I might like.

How do you keep reading when bright screens, click bait and five second sound bites keep tempting you? I'd love for you to share your ideas in the comments.  

NEXT TIME: Part two: More on reading books in an age of technology.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Can you hear the dueling banjos?

As the summer nears its end, so does my list of thriller-suspense-novel-beach-read recommendations. Today I’d like to end this summer series by recommending The River at Night by Erica Ferencik. This is one I could not put down.

The novel begins: 


Early one morning in late March, Pia forced my hand.

And, we’re off. Four old friends; Pia, Rachel, Winifred, and Sandra get together every year for some sort of vacation or "adventure.” Most of the time their idea of "adventure” has the four of them sitting on a beach somewhere and sipping wine. Except this year. 

Pia, the definite leader in the group, has determined that they’re all going to do something different and exciting. And what's more exciting than white water rafting in Maine? Well, fine, except, the only one who really wants to go is Pia. The rest shift between not wanting to go somewhere where they have to camp outside at night, to being outright afraid of fast moving water. She allays their fears. They have a great guide, the very capable Rory. Nothing to worry about. It'll be fun. So, okay, they all give each other pep talks. How bad could it be?

Well, bad, as it turns out.

Their adventure begins on a unfortunate footing—literally—when the jeep their guide, Rory is using to take them to the raft, sinks in the mud and they are up to their knees as they attempt to push it free. He tells them that this neck of the woods is usually dry. That this has never happened before. By this time I can almost hear the dueling banjoes in the distance. That should have been a clue to turn around now. Except, they don’t. 

Good suspense is when you want to yell to the characters in the novel you are reading, "Don’t go there! Turn back now! Don't go down the basement without a flashlight! Don't go out on that river! Are you crazy?"

But, they don't turn around. The five clean up and then head out on a raft with the very hunky easy-on-the-eyes Rory as their guide. Maybe this won’t be so bad.

The author has an amazing way of describing the water, from the calm, meandering blue river, an easy to paddle and pleasant to be on, to the crazy rapids and currents and places that these four women, even with their experienced guide, are not prepared to tackle. The river is a character in this book.

No more spoilers, but there are definite parallels between this book and Deliverance. Remember that movie? Remember that book? Only this time it’s females who are on a river adventure.

As you know, if you follow my blog, a good story draws me in, believable characters make me want to read on, but if a book isn’t well-written, it’s only half a book. If the language isn't beautiful and imaginative, I'll put it down.

Here’s one example of the excellent description:

Nests of hair twined with bites of bone and tiny pinecones snarled from under the orange ski cap.

Who is that person with the bones tied in her wild hair? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out.


The theme of human vs nature is a common one in books, and always remains popular. Goodreads has a list of these kinds of adventure books which includes the aforementioned Deliverance by James Dickey. The list also includes The Old Man and the Sea 
and Life of Pi 

Here's the list that Goodreads has compiled. Can you think of others that are favourites of yours?

Next time: Reading less? Here are my thoughts.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

A Most Disorienting Read

The cat under the front porch was at it again. Scratching at the slab of wood that echoes through the hardwood floors of my bedroom. Sharpening its claws, marking its territory—relentless in the dead of night.

That is how The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda,
today’s recommended summer-reading-super-suspense-novel begins. This story, with its many facets, its many faces, was immensely satisfying. First, there are the two friends (Leah and Emmy) who move to a new town and decide to room together. Then, there is the reason Leah is here in the first place (What was that horrible thing that happened in her old job?). Then, there is the colleague who Leah is sure is harassing her. And more. There is much more which is revealed as the story unfolds slowly.


In a nutshell, Leah had to leave Boston and her career as journalist after an article she wrote goes horribly wrong. She calls on an old friend Emmy, to come be her roommate in a rural Pennsylvania town where she has secured a teaching job. She needs someone to help her get her life back from that horrendous experience, and what better person than her strange friend, Emmy?

Here is where the whole thing gets disorienting in a way that makes you stop, blink, and shake your head as you read it. A woman who looks a lot like Leah is assaulted and left for dead down by the river. Shortly after, her roommate Emmy disappears. Leah and police investigator Kyle become close, as he helps her unravel what happened. It's all pretty straightforward. Or is it?

A large part of the novel becomes a case of, who do you believe? Even Kyle has doubts. He wants to believe her, but who is this supposedly good friend Emmy? There is no record of her anywhere—in any police data base that Kyle can locate. Emmy didn’t even have a cell phone. What young woman doesn’t carry a cell phone these days?

Why was Leah forced to leave her previous employment? Why is she accusing a fellow teacher of harassing her? Is Leah the problem? What’s with her former best friend and boyfriend? Why the restraining order? All of these questions are answered very, very slowly, very deliciously as the story progresses.

The unfolding of the story is almost disorienting. It got to the point that I would have to stop, think. WHAT did I just read? What is happening? No spoilers here, but the book is a very satisfying summer read.

Also—and this is important to me—the writing is excellent. Here are a few examples:

And then Emmy came along while I was this stripped away version of a person. So was it strange that I felt her in my skin? She was there when it re-formed. She existed inside the sharper edges I erected.

And, you can almost feel this version of winter:

The chapped lips, the red noses, the dry skin around our knuckles, and the way the sweaters itch across our collarbones. How you want nothing more than to stay in. The things you do to stay warm.

I began this blog with the first lines of The Perfect Stranger, the lines after which, I knew I would enjoy this book.

If you are a reader of I Like It, you know that first lines matter to me. First lines draw me in. First chapters draw me in. Just out of curiosity and because I’m a writer myself, I Googled “How not to begin a story.” The first thing that popped up was this Writer’s Digest article.

It suggests not beginning with a dream, an alarm clock buzzing, too little dialogue, or opening with dialogue. Pretty good advice, I would say. I Googled further to read that a whole lot of literary agents and writing instructors suggest not using a prologue. Hmm. The Perfect Stranger begins with a prologue. 


As a writer, I sort of pay attention to this advice, but as a reader it flits off me like fine fine feathers in the wind. If the word “prologue” disgruntles you, just put a sticky note over the word “Prologue” and pretend it’s "Chapter One," and then proceed.

So yes, put this book high on your summer reading list.

Next time: The River at Night by Erica Ferencik

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Invited to a Party? Beware!

Another Thursday morning, another great summer suspense recommendation. Today, the novel I am recommending is In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. I read this book in the space of a couple of days, so enthralled was I.

Here is how the story begins:

I am running.

I am running through the moonlit woods, with branches ripping at my clothes and my feet catching in the snow-bowed bracken. Brambles slash at my hands,. My breath tears in my throat, It hurts, Everything hurts.


So begins the journey of Leonora who casually accepts the invitation to a “hen party.” An old friend she hasn’t seen in years is getting married. Why is she invited? She parted company with this “friend” many years ago, and it wasn't under the greatest of circumstances. Why is she being called now? Should she leave her comfortable but solitary existence in London to go to this party way out in the countryside? But her curiosity is piqued. The party is being held in a huge, modern glass-windowed house. Who wouldn’t be intrigued?

Persuaded by a mutual friend, she packs up and they drive there together.

After that, of course, the strange things start happening.

Two days later, she wakes up in a hospital bed with no memory of the entire weekend. She can only piece together bits and pieces. The book deftly moves from past to present as Leonora puts together what happened to her.

Yes, I suppose these are pretty timeworn conventions in the psychological suspense genre—amnesia, old secrets, isolation (in this case, a deserted house in the woods), “ghosts” in the woods (whether real ghosts in the form of a horror novel, or in this case, the “ghosts” of past secrets), a storm, and of course a murder. The book is replete with quirky characters—the quirkiest is the friend who wants everything to be “perfect” and even when things are falling apart will go to to any lengths to make sure this is so.

These “conventions” are used over and over, and yet for beach reads, we never tire of them. Or, at least I never do. Bring on the amnesia and the Stephen King-like quirky characters!

Here’s a fascinating article in Psychology Today about why we enjoy reading suspense novels so much.

The author suggests that we like the intellectual challenge—the old “figuring out the mystery puzzle” but in a psychological suspense it’s more than just figuring out “whodunnit”, it’s coming up with why. It’s connecting past "ghosts" to present reality.

The article also suggests that these kinds of novels are usually so engrossing, so captivating, that “nothing else has a chance of sneaking into our minds, thus giving us a break from everyday worries.”

And with things the way they are in the world, I think we DO need this break. Agreed?

So, take the suggestions that I’ve offered over these past number of months, and enjoy your thrillers.



NEXT TIME: The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda