Best Books of 2020

This year was a difficult year for many reasons.

Normally I find comfort in reading, in the words and stories written by others. To me, reading and writing are like breathing to me. Which is why it was terrible that I had trouble losing myself in the written word. I just couldn’t concentrate enough to let a story take me away. There was too much on my mind, too many thoughts that wouldn’t quiet themselves, so that I could concentrate enough to read a book.

Thankfully, there were books that were able to cut through the fog and they were able to take me on journey’s that I needed to go on. Each of the books on this list healed me in some way and they were able to take me away from myself and the thoughts that were swirling around in my head. I normally read between sixty and seventy books in a year. I was only able to read fifty or so books this year and each book seemed to take an eternity.

These are the books that stood out from the crowd and were books that filled me with joy in 2020.

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V. E. Schwab

I have rarely read such book that is both awe inspiring and moving. Have you ever read a book so wonderful that it consumed your every thought? That you were thinking of it even when you weren’t reading it? A book so good that you wished you could peel back the cover and live within the pages? The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue was like that for me. It just reached in and grabbed hold and didn’t let go. Even when I wasn’t reading the book, I was thinking of it and the story that it was weaving. It will be a favourite for years to come.

Home Body by Rupi Kaur

I finished this book over the course of one day. Throughout reading the poems contained in this collection, I had several aha moments and I actually felt seen. Rupi Kaur writes openly about abuse, feminism, self-love, personal acceptance. I just loved everything about this book and was moved many times while I was reading it. It felt like Kaur was reaching into m head an putting my thoughts down on paper. I love poetry, the ability to move someone and make them feel emotions with only a handful of words. I was moved again and again while reading Home Body. It will be a journey that I will take again and again with Rupi Kaur. I heart this book so much. It was like I was reading music instead of mere words.

Blossoms and Bones by Kim Krans

Kim Krans is the creator of The Wild Unknown Tarot turns to personal truths and the journey she went on. Blossoms and Bones is a memoir of loss, change and it’s a thing of beauty. It’s a hand drawn memoir told through words and pictures. I really took my time reading this and savoured every word, every illustration. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read and it left me changed. The emotions on the pages within this book are so real, so absolutely raw. I am a different person for reading it. It’s a thing of beauty and a completely moving story. After reading it, I thought about what really matters in my life and my journey to find myself that has taken me to so many different places. This book will stay with me for a long time and I think ot it often.

The Unwrapping of Theodora Quirke by Caroline Smailes

a wonderfully gorgeous book! It’s so absolutely perfect! I laughed, shed a tear and followed Theodora on her amazing journey. There is so much heart in The Unwrapping of Theodora Quirke and it filled me with hope. What more do you need than a fowl mouthed St. Nick who takes Theodora on a journey through her past in order to show her what she is really made of? Why not add magic, unexpected twists and turns, characters that are so real you could swear that you know them. I will be reading this book every year from now on to get myself into the holiday spirit!

Hell Bent by Marie Bilodeau

I love books that can make me laugh, especially during a pandemic. Hell Bent is the second book featuring Tira Misu and I just love her so much. In this book, she is on a journey to protect the traded, those like her with special abilities. This book has everything! Fighting, magic, shape shifters, great characters, fabulous world building. It is such a great read and it’s so damn funny! Tira is a fantastic protagonist with a quick mouth and a quick shot. It’s not necessary to read the first book in the series, but it does help you get to know Tira better. Read this book and prepare to have  a fabulous time!

Heart Minded by Sarah Blondin

Sarah Blondin is one of my favourite meditation teachers on Insight Timer and I was keen to find out what she had to say in this book. It took me on a journey within myself and it left me changed. Each chapter helped me to look deeper into my relationship with my heart and with myself and almost all the chapters included a meditation that led me further on that path. It was a beautiful and incredible book that helped me examine my relationship with myself and healed me along the way. I’ve read this book three times already!

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

This was the prequel that I didn’t know I needed. When The Hunger Games Trilogy ended, I was left desperate for another novel by Suzanne Collins. I was surprised to hear that she was writing a prequel and about Coriolanus Snow. Was a prequel novel about the evillest person in The Hunger Games trilogy even necessary? Turns out that yes, it was. The whole novel was gripping and it was so good to be back in the world of the Games. Moreover, it was fascinating to see how the whole thing began and how it became the Games that we read about in the original trilogy. It was amazing to see Coriolanus become the person we knew him as and to watch as his character changed and developed. It was amazing and I loved every word!

Death by Association by Madona Skaff-Koren

This book is a thrilling whodunnit of the highest order. The pages flipped by quickly for me and I was desperate to figure out the mystery. Thankfully Skaff-Koren’s writing is so good that every guess I had about the who did what and why was wrong. I love when that happens! I love the minutiae that Skaff-Koren works into the novel. Every small detail is full of red herrings and the plot is full of twists and turns. Madona’s power is in her characters and the strength of her storytelling. Naya is a diverse and amazing character and she propels the story along as you are drawn along with her to discover everything right alongside her.

Zee by Su J. Sokol

Zee was an amazing novel all about the nature of gender and family. It made me examine my own notion of what makes up a family and what gender really is. Its poetic writing took me right into Zee’s world and I wanted to hug them tightly and let them know everything would be okay. I *heart* this book and will now look at the alphabet in a different way. I loved the books structure, the characters and the writing. Zee is an incredible character and one that will live on within my mind for a long time to come.

Scorpion Scheme by Melissa Yi

Scorpion Scheme was flat out incredible. Set against the sands of Egypt, Dr. Hope Sze and her fiancé Dr. John Tucker go to Egypt and hope to see the sights, but they are drawn into a fight for their lives and a mysterious treasure. I loved this book so much! I was drawn into Hope’s adventure and taken on a thrill ride that came to an explosive conclusion. This is a fantastic book and really made me take a deeper look into the idea of justice, what is right and what is wrong. I loved every minute and every page. It’s a thrilling whodunnit that had me stumped until the end. Egypt came alive in this book. What a privilege to read it!

I implore you to read any or all of the books on this list. They are truly amazing and incredible reads!

Covid Fears – A Poem

It is the unknown I’m afraid of.

The force of it wipes all rational thought

from within me and I am left

with the tangles of what remains,

mere ribbons that flit and flap in the wind

where rational thought used to reside.

It is the uncertainty I’m afraid of.

I no longer know the face of my enemy.

Instead, it could reside within in all of us,

an unseen force that terrorizes

even though we cannot see its true shape

or know its intent.

It is the anxiety that I’m afraid of.

It beats inside of me like another heart,

causing me to jump whenever I hear it.

I want to hide even from myself,

but when I go within seeking shelter,

it is to find that I have forgotten how to breathe.

It is the worry that I’m afraid of.

It fills my dreams and my waking hours,

a constant companion that whispers things in my ears.

I’ve come to realize that my home,

once my sanctuary and my escape,

has now become my prison and my defense.

It is fear itself that I’m afraid of.

I am tired of mistrusting the steps

that I’ve taken to protect myself and those I love,

of looking at my friends and neighbours

with suspicion and wondering if any of them

carries the unseen foe within.

I don’t want to be afraid anymore.

FREE HOLIDAY NOVELLA: A Very Tarot Christmas

Hey Everyone!

I’m so excited for you all to read my new holiday novella A Very Tarot Christmas! I write one every year as a gift to all of you for following me along on my journey and as a thank you for reading my work. Writing can be a very lonely profession and because of all of you, I don’t feel so alone.

When I sat down to write this year’s novella, I knew that I wanted to write about the pandemic in some way. The only worry was, how did I write a pandemic Christmas story? One of my friends gave me the idea to write about something that had the feel of the pandemic and the story took off from there.

Here’s a bit about A Very Tarot Christmas:

It doesn’t feel like Christmas, even with all the snow.

It has been snowing for three years and the snow-demic shows no signs of stopping. Joyce would feel totally alone if it weren’t for her best friend Bruno, her cat Anna and her clients. She works as an online Tarot reader, trying to provide guidance to those that need it. The only thing she won’t answer questions on are health issues and how long the snow-demic will last. No one knows the answer to that, not even Spirit.

When one of Joyce’s Tarot clients turns out to be her mother, Joyce’s world is thrown into disbelief. Her mother died when she was a teenager. What could her mother possibly have to say to her now? She turns to Bruno for help. He tells her that she will have to open her mind and listen to what Spirit has to say.

Things are about to change for Joyce and she realizes that, though she often feels alone, there are ways to come together. With a little bit of magic, Tarot cards and cats, it might finally feel like Christmas after all.

You can get your copy here:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1059007

I’ve chosen to give it away through Smashwords because you can download the book in all the different formats for the different types of eReader. It’s free for you to download!

Out of all the holiday stories that I’ve written, this one is my favourite. It has everything you could need for your holiday: Tarot cards, magic, cats and a little love thrown into the mix. I really hope you enjoy Joyce’s story and that it brings the magic of the holiday alive for you.

Happy Holidays!

The Forest Again – A Poem

The leaves have been whispering again.

They have led me to the edge

of the trees and I try to look in,

to see past the dark foliage

but I cannot.

I look at my hands,

at the scars that still remain

from the last time I was lost

within the trees.

I look back at the path I took

to get here and I can see

what looks like stars,

sparkling every few feet.

They glow in the shadows around me.

I wonder if the starts were part of me

that found their way out,

pieces of my light

that broke away from my chalice.

I lean into the leaves,

feel their coolness on my cheek

then a bright spot of fire clouds my vision.

I touch my cheek to find blood

dripping from a new wound.

The blood shines like rubies

in the half light from the moon.

The whispering around me increases,

as if the forest is laughing at my misfortune.

I remember now: the forest has a price.

It likes to take but doesn’t give,

the shadows it holds are not solace,

but a place where there are horrors hidden.

I look back at the stars that line my path

and I wonder how I got here again,

the pull that the forest has upon me.

Why do I come here when I lose my way?

I stand listening to the sounds of the forest,

the whispering of the leaves

and the cawing of the dark birds within,

when I hear something else that

is louder than the noises of the forest.

I watch as the stars start to flash in tune

to the new music that I can hear.

I begin to follow that path home,

collecting the stars as I go.

They dissolve into my hand and I feel brighter.

The shadows from the forest begin to fade

and I realize where that music is coming from:

it is coming from within.

The stars are the notes of the song

and they are leading me back to myself.

As I gather the stars,

I walk further and further away

from the forest.

When it calls again,

as I know it will,

I will think of the stars and

the song that they sing.

I will be ready.

International Persons With Disabilities Day – Visible Invisible

I was asked to write an article for work for International Person’s With Disabilities Day. I wrote the following and called it Visible Invisible. It was put on the web site at work in a permanent place along with other people’s stories about living with disabilities. I’m very proud of the piece and it got a lot of great reactions. Even better, it got people talking. The theme for this year was invisible disabilities. I didn’t know that when I wrote the article.

I hope you enjoy it.

I often feel as if I am living on an island.

I live with spastic Cerebral Palsy and relapse remitting Multiple Sclerosis. They are both invisible disabilities. They do show themselves from time to time when I have difficulty walking or speaking or trouble with balance and dexterity. On top of the physical ones, I deal with invisible symptoms like brain fog, crushing fatigue, tremors, spasms, blindness and others.

It is like there are two other people living inside my body and I am in a constant battle to gain control of myself. I feel that I’m both seen and not seen. I feel like I’m on an island within myself, that though people see me, they can’t see what I’m going through. Both the Cerebral Palsy and the Multiple Sclerosis come with their own individual challenges and there are many obstacles that I have to overcome in a day. Sometimes, even the most simple of tasks can get the best of me.

It’s one of the reasons I’m so open about living with my disabilities and what I go through on a daily basis. My frame of mind is that knowledge is power. If I’m able to help people understand what I live with, to help them see what it’s like to live with in maybe it will help them to learn something about themselves.

I’m fortunate that within the government, there are so many resources for people who live with disabilities and that most people have been open and accepting of my disabilities. It’s wonderful to work in an atmosphere where I feel seen, where there is little to no judgement. It makes such a huge difference and I don’t feel alone on my island.

However, there were times while working in the government that made me want to retreat to my island sanctuary. There was one instance where a colleague said that I couldn’t possibly have Multiple Sclerosis because I didn’t look sick. I tried to explain to her about some disabilities being invisible, that not everything made its presence known to others, but she kept saying I didn’t look sick. She just didn’t understand no matter what I told her. She shunned me afterwards because she thought I was faking it. When I went to my supervisor and talked to them about it, I was told I was making a big deal out of nothing. I felt dismissed.

When the Multiple Sclerosis first made itself known, I lost the ability to walk, speak or type. I couldn’t see very well either. I was bedridden for a month and a half. I was working for a director at the time. She was understanding at first, but then grew impatient at the amount of time that I was taking off, telling me that I was leaving her in a real bind. I worked hard to get to the point where I was able to walk with a cane so that I could return to work. I tried to do my work to the same standard, but was having difficulty. She told me that if I didn’t improve that she would have to let me go. Thankfully, I was able to find another position and left with my dignity in tact.

I’ve often struggled to be physically accommodated within the government. In one position, I was in a meeting on the sixteenth floor of a building when the fire alarm went off. With my balance and dexterity issues, stairs are my literal downfall. I can go up stairs with no issue but can’t go down. That day, I was told that I was not disabled enough to use the emergency elevator. My supervisor at the time said that I was perfectly capable of walking, so I would take the stairs with everyone else. I’m not sure how I managed it, but I am thankful that one I had three coworkers looking after me, one in front of me, one behind me and one to left of me. I held on to the railing for dear life, my cane tucked under my arm. When I got to the main floor, my body was completely shot.

Yet, for all of those difficulties being disabled in the government, I’ve experienced kindness too. The kindness of people has astounded me, time and time again. I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I’m capable of but especially when to use my voice and when to offer counsel. Most of all, even though my island still sits within me, surrounded by water and the whisper of leaves, I don’t spend nearly as much time there as I used to.

Working in the government while living with a disability can be challenging. However I’m accommodated now in such a way that makes my working life manageable. In the government, I feel seen. Though my disabilities are invisible, I am not.

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