We’re in the depths of winter here in eastern Ontario, my friends. As I guess many of you are. Winter can be a difficult season in the north. And Hubby and I find we need several crucial things to help us survive. Or at least to stay healthy and happy. Snow for skiing, of course. Good food and wine. Great books. And a big crackling fire in the evening. Because after the skiing and the eating, comes the reading by the fire.
We haven’t had quite enough snow yet to make the cross-country skiing wonderful. There has been enough to cover the trail near us, so we have been skiing. Hubby many more times than me. He gets restless and cranky if he can’t get outside and ski in the winter. So he has been skiing in all kinds of conditions: sometimes on hard-packed crust, sometimes in wet snow or even slush and ice, and sometimes when there’s just enough of a dusting to barely cover the ground. Me, if the conditions are too bad, I’m quite contented to take my book downstairs and read (or listen to an audio book) while I’m pedaling my exercise bike.
But we have had a fire in our woodstove every evening. And lots of good food. The odd bottle of red wine. And lots and lots of reading by the fire.
Hubby and I both have been devouring the Sally Spencer Chief Inspector Woodend series. We’ve read most of them now. They are not great literary texts. But the plots do gallop along. And I like the characters. As I’ve said before, Spencer (the pseudonym for British writer Alan Rustage) is no Kate Atkinson (if you haven’t read Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie mysteries you should) or Reginald Hill (the best mystery writer ever, IMO.) Spencer’s books are a bit formulaic, and sometimes I can pick out exact phrases used from one book to the next. But oddly, I still enjoy reading them. I say oddly because it’s often the style of a book that will turn me off of a writer.
Hubby has been continuing his reading of Robert Galbraith’s (aka J.K. Rowling) Cormoran Strike series. And I’ve been listening to the audiobook versions. We both find the books compelling. Hubby finds them a bit long. But I love a good long book that draws me in and keeps me interested. I love the characters of Strike and his assistant/business partner Robin. They are both interesting, endearing, and just flawed enough to be believable. There’s no doubt that Rowling/Galbraith is a wonderful writer. I find, though, that she can be harsh in her depiction of certain sorts of people she obviously doesn’t like. Especially the secondary characters. In particular the idle rich, middle-aged (but trying to be young) women depicted in the first book The Cuckoo’s Calling. As I said to Hubby, she doesn’t pull her punches. Still, we are both enjoying the books. I’m listening to The Silkworm now.
I also listened to the most recent in the Joy Ellis, Nikki Galena series, Fear on the Fens. I like Joy Ellis as a writer very much. She has several other series that I’ve written about before.
And a week or so ago, I finished the latest book by Peter Grainger, Missing Pieces. I’ve not read such an engaging character as Grainger’s D.C. Smith in a long time. In the last couple of books though, the D.C. Smith series has moved onto the next generation, so to speak, now that Smith has retired. But I’m finding that I’m still really enjoying the series even after Smith’s exit. Grainger’s books are only available in e-book form. I’m not sure if he is self-published. But if he is, he is certainly a testament to the fact that not all good writers are picked up by traditional publishing houses. If you haven’t read his very competent and satisfying mysteries, give him a try.
Hubby and I have been watching, as well as reading, by the fire this winter. We’ve become addicted to The Repair Shop. I think it was Wendy from York who first mentioned that we might like that show. And when it was finally available on our cable network, we were excited. We’ve been taping the shows and watching one, and sometimes if we feel particularly indulgent, even two a night. It’s so satisfying to watch the craftspeople on that show repair much loved heirlooms.
The other show we’ve been captivated by is called A Stitch in Time. Thankfully a friend alerted me to the fact that all six episodes would be shown on TVOntario in a single night. We taped them and have been rationing them so we don’t finish too soon. The show is all about researching and reconstructing historical clothing, based on famous portraits. The social history as well as the skills used to make these garments is fascinating to me. And Hubby loves it too. Which surprised both of us.
Continuing on our theme of reading about murder and mayhem and watching calm, almost nourishing shows on TV, I discovered a YouTube channel the other night and Hubby and I have been watching it together. In the series, Martijn Doolaard, a Dutch graphic artist and YouTuber, has bought a derelict property in the Dolomite mountains of Italy and is setting about making it habitable. The property consists of two ancient stone buildings and several acres in the mountains. The scenery is stunning, and the pace of the videos is slow and deliberate. In some episodes we see work on the cottages, and in others Doolaard visits the two other inhabitants who live on the mountain. Sometimes we see him just walking. Or admiring the view. I can’t explain why we love this series. We just do. You can check it out for yourself here.
You know, I’m finding that my book posts are not very inspiring lately. I’m a bit impatient with writing about books. I just want to be reading, and then maybe talking about them. Not in the structured way of a book club where everyone reads the same book and then each person expresses their opinion about the book in turn. No, I’m thinking of a much more free-flowing discussion. Not even an actual discussion. More of an “oh my god you won’t believe the great book I’m reading” kind of thing.
So, I have a dream. A dream inspired by a recent Facebook post I read.
I dream of myself in a cabin in the mountains. See the first picture in this post for an example. I’m accompanied by all my reading friends, real and virtual.
We’ve descended on this cabin for a week. We’ve brought our skis and our skates and our warmest walking gear. There are ski trails and walking trails nearby, and skating on the lake. There is a wonderful restaurant ten minutes walk from the cabin, where we have dinner reservations each evening. Groceries for lunches and breakfasts have been delivered. As well as enough wine to fuel many round the fire after dinner discussions. If we decide to stay in for dinner the restaurant delivers.
We have each packed enough books to keep us happily reading by the fire for seven days.
Seven days of reading. With a bit of walking, skiing, or skating. Good food. Good wine. Crackling fires. And every evening while we sip our wine or coffee round the fire, we’ll talk about what we’ve been reading.
Seriously. That sounds like heaven to me.
So. My book-loving buddies… are you in? What books will you pack?
P.S. The book links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking my link I will earn a commission which helps to pay for the blog.