Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Saint John has a literary festival!! That’s right, our own lovely city has a literary festival every fall and last night was the launch!
This past early spring, I was contacted by a friend, whose sister is on the board of the festival, to see if I would be okay with being put in contact. Of course, I said! So about two weeks later, Andrea and I sat down at the starbucks in Indigo (how appropriate) and discussed the festival, the events and whether or not I would be interested in participating. It had been a long time since I had been a part of an event that wasn’t a book signing, and of course I agreed.
Last night the launch was held in the restaurant at the Delta hotel in uptown Saint John and it was wonderful! What local talent, what support for the arts. I was the last of the night to get up and read and I have to say, I had forgotten how much I enjoy doing that. After the main event we all stayed and mingled and talked and bought each other’s work. I spoke at length with the other artist of the night and had a lovely conversation with another Irish transplant from Co.Meath.
In gearing up for the event, I reached out to a certain well-known Canadian author with whom I’ve had the good fortune to be somewhat friendly with over twitter and I asked him if he would be willing to come out and be a part of the festival, give a reading? He was touched that I asked, and happy to do so, unfortunately the timing did not work out with his already booked events. So, I’ve asked his agent to please put a pin in it for next year. If/when he does come out, the festival has graciously allowed me to be the one to introduce him, which, to be honest, would be an enormous highlight of my writing life.

Earlier that day, I had thrown my back out helping some strangers put a mattress in their car, I had gone with my daughter to look at apartments as she is gearing up to move out, and I had enjoyed a glass of wine with my husband as we talked about life and next steps. It just goes to show that I really need to remind myself on darker days that my life it pretty damn fantastic. And that I’m one of the luckiest people I know.

If you aren’t a native Saint John-er, and haven’t done so, I urge you to head on over to Fog Lit’s webpage and check it out. And, if you’re in another city, find out how YOUR town is supporting its local artist and go out to some events. You never know how it will impact your life.

Happy reading, everyone!


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I was 14, he was 15. The very first day we met, he kissed my hand, very Cinderella style. Little did he know he was kissing the hand of a hopeless dreamer. An incurable romantic. A girl who, even at 14, had learned how to exit the world of her reality and dwell in the world of books, movies, plays and music. My fantasy world was the real one in which I dwelt and the reality of school and homework and parents and such were just the nuisance that had to be endured between escapisms.
Our first date. How ironic it was to a movie. Escapism please!
We went to see The Little Mermaid. When it was first released to theatres (am I dating myself, much?). The song “kiss the girl” was the backdrop to our first kiss. He with his towering height and me with my fantasies and already I had us married off with kids and living in a far away land.
Cut to now, and we’re married with kids and moved provinces, so in a way, my 14 year old dream came true.
My number is inverted now. I’m 41. I still use books and movies and plays and music as a way to leave the trappings of the adult world, a world VASTLY more disappointing than I was led to believe as a child. Sure, I can eat what I want and go to bed when I want, but I also pay taxes and clean and raise children and have a job. But I have my dreams. Tucked away where I can call upon them when needed. I still read books and fall in love with the mythical worlds weaved for me. I even write books where I can bend the fantasy to my own will and whimsy. Songs still transport me and movies are where I give over my heart and soul to be drawn into another place and time.
So, it’s no surprise that when the live action Beauty and the Beast was announced that I immediately professed that I would not only see this in theatre, but that we would all go, husband, wife and the three children still remaining at home. No one minded. When your mother is a dreamer, she tends to influence her children.
The day approached and the closer we got, the more excited we became. The kids would frequently play the trailers on the internet and I, the eternal crier, would more often than not, feel my eyes growing hot with anticipation.

On Sunday we crammed our five adult forms into the car and drove to the theatre where Belle awaited. As we sat in a row at the back of the theatre, I leaned over to my husband and whispered “I love that 22 years of marriage later, you’re still taking me to Disney movies. Only now we bring our children.” He tried to pretend like that didn’t make him “catch the feels” too, but I know it did. He has been much more sentimental since his heart attacks.
The show started and transported is exactly what we were. My youngest, the 15 year old, 6’2 man-child sitting beside me, spent the entire show holding my hand, or laying his head on my shoulder, or hugging me. My girls sat at the end silently letting tears fall. The movie was perfection. It should be held up as an example of how to bring a beloved animation to live action. I won`t go into the details of the myriad of ways I loved it, because this post would simply be too long.
It was beautiful visually, artistically, musically and in it`s composition. The casting was perfect and I truly wanted to step through that screen and into Belle`s world.
We left the theatre that evening to go home to the world that we built. It`s warm, inviting and loving. It`s full of laughter, and yes, sometimes tears. Usually mine. It`s teenagers and adult children who still hug their parents. It`s kids who were brought up to love and to treat people with kindness and dignity and inclusion. With all the mistakes and pitfalls I’ve taken in my life, it`s my deepest source of pride to see the family that we built and what we`ve built it into. Even with my love for escaping through books and music and movies and plays, it’s still that Prince Charming of mine that I come back to.

And he still kisses my hand.

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I have a hard core love of reading. It’s been going on now for 36 years, since I first consciously remember picking up and pouring over picture books lying on my tummy in the living room of my house. I can even remember which books were my favourites then. Because books leave imprints on me. And the ones I love, I love forever.

The same can be said for all of the things I’m passionate about in my life. I love music, but some musicians imprinted me and I will always love them over others. Pink. The Beatles. Mozart. Harry Chapin.

Just like I have my go-to songs to listen to depending on a mood I want to indulge, so too do I have go-to authors and even go-to books. I read Tigana at least once a year. I’ve read some of my Maeve Binchy’s so often I’ve had to replace copies. I’ve read Jodi Picoult’s Lone Wolf about a dozen times. I could go on.

Many years ago, before she was on my radar as a writer, I saw the movie In Her Shoes. 2005 to be exact. I love Toni Collette. I love Shirley Maclaine. The movie is funny and poignant and lovely and then I saw the best thing to see when I like a movie. Based on the book by

Who was this Jennifer Weiner? I went to the library and took out a copy of In Her Shoes. It’s different than the movie, as most books are, but much better. I knew that had I read the book first, I would not have enjoyed the movie the way I did. I am usually suspect of adaptations anyway, they tend to ruin the ‘meat’ of the book, with very few exceptions. (John Green’s Fault in our Stars is an exception. They barely changed a thing.)

Anyway, as tends to happen with me, once I read one book I like from an author, I tend to seek out all of their work. And I did. In the ten years since that moment I have read every book of Jennifer’s and I now own most of them. (I am also a bit of a book hoarder. If I like the author, I will ‘collect’ as many of their books as possible)

I fell deeply in love with her last book, All Fall Down. It was a bit of a departure from her normal but, as I understand, it was also a personal story for her, as her estranged father died from a drug overdose. Stories that in some way connect personally resonate with a rhythm all their own and this one spoke to me on levels that I didn’t even understand well at the time. I’m not a drug addict, don’t get me wrong, but the feelings of being a woman and feeling like you are the only one holding the world together is not an alien concept to me. Probably not to most women, and my love was deeply cemented. Even more so than before.

Three days ago I got my hands on a copy of her newest book Who Do You Love. A bit of a throwback to her previous writing it’s about a couple who are each others soul mates. But, it’s not so straightforward. They lose and find one another over and over again through their lives and what started out for me as a bit of a fluffy summer read by mid point of the book had me sinking deeper into the inner workings of these characters yet again. That’s the thing about Weiner’s writing that I love so much. You think you’re getting a great summer “beach read” kind of book, but then she sneaks in and speaks to your soul and forces you to examine things in your own mind through the minds of her characters. She is brilliant in this.

Rachel and Andy meet as children in a hospital. It’s a chance meeting, she is escaping the boredom of her room where she is a long term patient for cardiac care and he is a scared kid with a broken arm in the ER, alone and waiting for his mom. Their meet-cute is truly adorable and we get to watch them unexpectedly touch lives again and again.
While we wait for Rachel and Andy to grow up and get together, Jennifer weaves us through the tales of their lives and who they are. Andy is that kid with the hard hand dealt to him who rises to the world’s stage and Rachel is that well off, popular girl who realizes one day that her rose coloured glasses have been doing her no favours. As they come to love one another, hurt one another, leave one another, we are left questioning our own ‘what might have beens’ and taking a hard look at the consequence of actions. The fallout of the choices we make. We see Andy’s mighty star rise and then plummet to the earth. We watch Rachel go from protected and pampered girl, to finally a woman who can stand proudly on her own. It’s a beautiful journey.

In my own life, if I love something, like an author, or a musician. A friend or a family member, I love them fiercely and completely. Sometimes wearing my own rose coloured glasses. Sometimes, to my own fall from grace.
In this case though, I know my love is not misplaced or misguided. Jennifer Weiner’s books keep on getting better. She both challenges me and delights me and Who Do You Love is no exception.

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When I was a kid I was presented with a four-pack of Judy Blume’s books. Otherwise known as Sheila the Great, Are you there God, it’s me, Margaret, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Blubber. Already a bit of a book worm, I was hooked. Instantly. I read and re-read those books over and over again. They spoke to me in a way that even my most previously loved books had yet to do. The characters in them became my best friends. I suppose you can say that Judy is directly responsible for my love of a character driven novel. Paint me a character that leaps off the page, and I’m devoted to your writing like a slave. Like a lover.
But I digress.
I read every single Judy Blume book at my school library, and then I went to the library in town to get more. I devoured them. I poured through book piles at our local book sale twice yearly and snatched up my own copies.

At fifteen, in my high school library, I found a copy of Letters to Judy and my love for her grew. I read all the letters that kids like me and kids not like me had written and her responses to them and I knew, I just knew, that she “got it”.

Years went by and I grew older and got married and had some babies and one day a friend of mine gave me a copy of Wifey. Colour me gobsmacked. Judy writing about very, very dirty things?? And yet, in her adult character voices, that same realism, that same truth poured out from the page. Once again, I could relate in ways she never could have known.

Fast forward to now. I’m having a rough year, it’s no secret. There is much good to be found within the hard and for me, writing and reading are still very much high on my list of relaxing and calming activities. Yesterday I had to do a Costco run. It happens more often than my pocketbook would like some weeks, but in a large family, we run out of stuff…a lot. So there I was armed with my list, my practical child and my sweet baby boy (13) who still holds my hand sometimes in public. And there was the book aisle. Gleaming, beautiful stacks of books. I usually meander down the aisle, running my hand over the titles, occasionally recommending books to confused looking shoppers (I have excellent taste) and sometimes, buying one. My daughter shot me a look. We weren’t here for books today. But, I noticed her eye wandering to the movies (her weakness) so I took advantage and shot over to the novels. Right at the front, Judy Blume and Sophie Kinsella. My heart and guaranteed laughter. What to do? I can’t get both. I picked up one and then the other and then I put Sophie down. She could wait. My love affair with Judy was far more established and had been in my heart much longer. Judy must come home with me. My daughter looked at me and shrug-smiled. She knows.

I picked up Judy late in the afternoon as the kids played a game of risk with Shawn, a game I REFUSE to play with them, and they know it. But, it was Father’s Day, so it was wonderful to hear them all bonding together in the other room. I, on the other hand, snuggled under a blanket and cracked the spine of my new friend.

In the Unlikely Event is a triumph. I can see why it took her so long to write about something that actually happened to her in her life and must have been hugely traumatic. Three plane crashes in such a short span of time. Insanity. But, I love the way, once again, she weaves her character stories. I could picture the faces of the folk of Elizabeth as plane after plane ripped into their town and I could feel their pain. The agony of lives cut short, the slow rebuilding of life only to be torn away again with another crash. Exquisite.

You can’t help but fall in love with the main family of the story and you can’t help but be terrified for Miri’s best friend, who is obviously suffering in more ways that anyone around her except for Miri realizes.
It’s a story that weaves the fragile beauty of family in with the precariousness of first loves and the absolute unpredictability of life and death.
In short, it’s beautiful.

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As promised, here we go!

So, first of all, my great Uncle Eldon passed away yesterday and although it is definitely sad, he is truly one of the most incredible men I have ever had the pleasure of knowing let along being related to. He was 103 years old, a veteran, an activist, an advocate and an avid lover of limericks. He died peacefully and with his family.
I loved him very much and although we were all happy to hear that he went very peacefully, it was sad and we all took a few minutes last night to hug one another and tell each other that we loved each other.

I woke up this morning still sad and even concerned for my Grandpa who just lost his last living sibling and I kind of spent a bit of time wallowing, as I am wont to do probably more than is healthy, when I came downstairs and saw the pile of books I had left out and remembered, hey, I promised to get some books to some new readers. If I know anything about my family, extended and immediate, it is how much we all treasure reading. A lot of us are also writers including Uncle Eldon. So, here we go.

The Contest:

For the month of June I’m going to be giving away several copies of all four of my current books. Autumn Violets, Winter Jasmine, Spring Daisies and Keeping the Women.

I have 2 copies of Autumn Violets with the original artwork cover, as released by Crackjaw Publishing. I have 1 copy of Autumn Violets with the full picture cover and 4 copies with its current cover.

I have 1 copy of Winter Jasmine with its full picture cover and 4 copies of it with the current cover art.

I have 1 proof copy, large size, of Spring Daisies. It should be noted that this is a proof copy and therefore may contain some errors.

I have 1 copy of Keeping the Women.

What do you have to do to get them??


Leave me a comment here. What book would you like and why?
Comment on your Facebook page which book you would like and why. Tag me in your comment so I can see it.
Comment on Twitter and tag me in that comment. @NualaAReilly and use the hashtag #BookGiveaway
Nominate a friend to receive a book using any of these means.

Already read one of my books and want another?? Leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads and tag me on either Facebook or Twitter with the link.

I will do draws at the end of every week and will announce all winners here.








Good luck, everyone!

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Yes, I have been talking a lot about Tigana, but, I could honestly talk about that book forever.  Shawn Micheal and I are getting close to the end.  I know what’s coming up for him and I know that he is going to have some major reactions.  I can’t wait.

After I wrote my last post about my boy and Tigana, two awesome things happened.  First, Guy Gavriel himself read the post and tweeted it. I, obviously, fan-girled out like a little geek with the news.  I have had interactions of varying kinds with favourite authors over the years but this one ranked up pretty damn high.  The second thing was that my longest-known dearest friend in the world Sarah sent me a text message.  It seems in our 20 years of friendship, we had never really talked about (or, we’re so old now we don’t remember) the fact that we BOTH love GGK.  Where my favourite book is Tigana, hers is The Lions of Al-Rassan, a book I have on my bookshelf (okay, I have ALL his books on my bookshelf) but have not picked up in a long time.  A really long time.  I had forgotten everything about it.  The last book of his I read was Under Heaven and even that was about three years ago.  Tigana I read at least once a year and I am immersed in it at the moment but, Shawn and I read right after school.  I write during the day and I needed something new to read at night.

What’s the point of having all these books by your favourite (tied for fav with Maeve Binchy) author if you don’t read them?  Books need to be loved.  They need to be lifted down from the shelves every so often and have their pages lovingly touched and turned.  So, I grabbed Al-Rassan and put it on my night stand for bedtime reading.

Now, updates and context.

Yesterday I got back from Halifax.  I had been working on “Room 15”, the book I’m writing about Shawn and I and his heart attack.  This book has become something of a ‘here is your life’ moment since you can’t really talk about the impact a massive health issue has without first talking about the relationship.  You can’t talk about how much stress is a factor without showing where all the stress was.  I have been getting massive blocks of work done but it has been emotional.  I haven’t even gotten to the actual cardiac arrest yet and so I’m sure there is more emotion to come.  Point one: emotions already on the surface….more so than usual.

Point two: when I got home, as promised, I took the kids out and we picked up two movies.  The final Hobbit movie for Shawn Micheal, and Into the Woods.  Last night after dinner we watched Into the Woods.  Towards the end of that movie there are a few scenes that hit kind of close to home.

“Sometimes people leave you…..”

I started to cry.  Of course I did.  I cry over everything and that’s okay.  I had just about managed to let it all get out of my system, and the kids and I watched Survivor and I went up to bed.

I had left Al-Rassan here while I was away because I was down to the very end of the book, right before the last battle.  I knew it would be a big distraction and I wanted to be able to focus on what I had to do so the book remained on my bedside.  Last night I picked it up to finish it.

Sarah said something to me in text when we were discussing our love for GGK’s writing, she said:

“That is what I can’t figure out.  Each word he writes is normal and common…how does he put them together so that I question the moral fabric of our species and feel as though a portion of my soul has been ripped?”  “There is an aching desperation in each novel, I usually find myself holding my breath and scrambling to fit someone or something into a mould that is ‘neat and tidy’, I always fail because that is not truth.”

And she summed it up perfectly.  As I read those last pages last night, knowing that something horrible and awful was going to happen, knowing that he would take me on this journey with the characters and I would feel raw and exposed after reading it, I let the tears fall again from my face.

Shawn always knows when I’m having an emotional moment with a book.  He says he can hear my breathing change.  I try to control the reactions I’m going to have so that I just cry and don’t outright sob.  It’s not always a battle I can win.  Especially after everything we’ve been through.

So I was thinking as I fell asleep last night about all the books I’ve read over time and the ones that have stood out to me the most and the ones that have affected me the deepest.  I thought about snippets of writing that I’ve read from various sources, whether it be short, two paragraph pieces that a friend has emailed me, or four pages hand written by my daughter, or huge epic novels by beloved authors.  I thought about times when my own writing has caused me to either bounce in my seat at the computer with sheer joy or weep and let my tears fall as I type.  I realized Sarah has it completely right.  They are just normal, common words.  It’s what we do with them that has the ability to impact.

I’m back to my own writing today.  More blood on the page, as I was once counselled.

I don’t think I will ever stop loving books.  The ones I read, the ones I write.

Because we all know, words are power.  And power can be a beautiful, terrible thing.

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I still remember exactly how I learned about my favourite book of all time. It wasw 14 and a half years ago. At the time I was working with an agent and was doing extra work in film and television. Sound glamorous? It wasn’t. On call all the time and days went from 6 hours to sometimes up to 16 and you never knew which it was going to be. Which probably would have been fine for me but I had a small baby and three other kids at home, so after about 9 months of working, I stopped.
However, on the first of a long, three day shoot of “Hardwood: The Hoop Life”, I met a guy from Kitchener named David. There were long breaks between takes and so we got to talking. He was about ten years younger than me and was learning to be an illusionist. Eventually our heritages came up and I mentioned that I was Irish. We had previously talked about favourite books and reading and when I had said I was Irish he got all excited and told me that there was a book I simply HAD to read.
If you are Irish, or know anything about Irish history, you will know that the English took over the country a LONG time ago and the Irish fought for many years to get it back. During English rule, at the peak of its constraints, the Irish were forbidden to celebrate their country in ways of song, music, dancing and the written word. Which is why so many Irish songs are about women….in a lot of cases, it’s a feint for the Island itself and the love the people have for it. It’s also why traditional Irish dancing requires hands at the side. When villagers circled around to hide the intricate foot movements, to an outsider, it looked only like someone was jumping up and down.
Basically, they had to be crafty and sneaky to keep their culture.

Anyway, this book, David told me, had such a deep similarity that he knew I would like it. A sorcerer comes to conquer a land and he takes three provinces but the fourth, (he has become slightly cocky) he sends his most beloved son to take. Well, the son was killed and in retribution, the sorcerer puts a spell on the land that strips its identity from all who live in every other province, and from all born from that day forward. He destroys their cities and makes it so that no-one not born in that province before that day can even hear and remember its name. In this way, the survivors of the battle would know until their own deaths one day, that they had had this done to them.
Of course there is a secret uprising but I was already sold. I went to the bookstore that night and bought 800+ page long Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay.
I read it, and fell in love, and the next time I saw David we spent every second when the camera was not rolling discussing the book.

Since then I have owned four copies of this book. Because I tell EVERY book lover I know that it is a must read (which it is) and three times I have lent it out and not gotten it back. I don’t lend it out anymore.

Of my five children, two of them are big book lovers and one of them is kind of lukewarm. The other two are movie hounds, which, I can absolutely appreciate, but they don’t generally read for pleasure. I know, I don’t understand it either, but, to each his or her own.
My youngest is the ‘meh’ child when it comes to reading. He won’t automatically grab a book for entertainment, but he has been known to love a few books in his day. So, after years of futility trying to get my kids and even my husband to read this book so that I would at least have someonein the house to discuss it with, I offered to read it to my youngest. A way for us to bond and have something that is just for he and I. He agreed.
From the first moment I started to read to him, he was hooked. I knew he would be. Tigana is an epic, much like The Lord of the Rings (which he is obsessed over). The characters are thrown at you quickly, as is the pacing of the action, and you have no choice but to either be overwhelmed by it, or completely drawn in. He’s in.
We’re 136 pages into the book right now (that’s about 1/8th) and today when I read we’re both going to cry.

There is a scene early on in the book. A death. It makes me cry every time I read it. We are getting to it today. Guy Gavriel Kay describes not so much a beautiful death scene, but a reconciliation between a very hard father and a very soft son that is both poignant and moving and achingly beautiful. Knowing we were coming to it today, I re-read it to myself last night hoping that if I got through it, maybe I could read it without the tears today but it’s no use. I cried again last night and I know I will today as well.

But this boy, my baby, I raised him with the truth that it is NOT going to make him less of a man to express his emotions. My boy isn’t afraid to show his feelings and this is going to be one of those moments for him.

Having a book that moves you in this way is a very special thing. Sharing that love with others and knowing that they too are moved makes you feel like you have had a hand in something bigger. Watching my son fall in love with this book and reliving it again through his eyes is truly priceless.

I’d love to hear about some of your favourite books. Which authors inspire you? Which characters do you love?

Happy reading, all.

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