musings from Canadian author Cheryl Cooke Harrington ... home of The Write Spot

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Books of 2016

Welcome to my surprisingly fulsome sixth annual New Year's Book List! I read a lot in 2016, surpassing my original goal of 60 books in early summer when I upped my goal to 100. I blew past that in autumn and kept right on reading. Grand total: 134 books. I'm honestly not sure where I found the time… but I know I've enjoyed myself (and Sam has enjoyed the lap time).

Here's the breakdown of how I read: 85 library books (Overdrive e-books); 34 audiobooks (about half with an Audible subscription and the rest Overdrive Listens); 8 Kindle editions; 6 paperbacks; and 1 hardcover. Included in those totals are 5 advance reading copies – thank you, NetGalley!

As predicted, I listen to fewer audiobooks now that I'm not commuting to work every day. I was surprised by how quickly e-books on my iPad have taken over as my preferred way to read. The Toronto Public Library at my fingertips without ever leaving the house. I still seek out my favourites in hard copy for the keeper shelf, though.

And speaking of favourites, here are my five-star reads of 2016, listed alphabetically by author's last name:

The Corpse with the Garnet Face (Cait Morgan #7) by Cathy Ace
The Woman on the Orient Express by Lindsay Jayne Ashford (review)
Kaleidoscope (Joanne Kilbourne #13) by Gail Bowen
A Dark and Stormy Murder (Writer's Apprentice #1) by Julia Buckley
A Cast of Falcons (Birder Murder #3) by Steve Burrows (review)
The Chemistry of Death (Joe Tesla #3) by Rebecca Cantrell
Murder in Containment (New Scotland Yard #4) by Anne Cleeland (review)
We Wish You a Murderous Christmas (Year-Round Christmas #2) by Vicki Delany
Negative Image (Constable Molly Smith #4) by Vicki Delany
Unreasonable Doubt (Constable Molly Smith #8) by Vicki Delany
Fire in the Stars (Amanda Doucette #1) by Barbara Fradkin (review)
Do or Die (Inspector Green #1) by Barbara Fradkin
Reading up a Storm (Lighthouse Library #3) by Eva Gates (review)
On the Head of a Pin (Thaddeus Lewis #1) by Janet Kellough
The Murder of Mary Russel (Russell and Holmes #14) by Laurie R. King
The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett
The Queen's Accomplice (Maggie Hope #6) by Susan Elia MacNeal (review)
A Great Reckoning (Gamache #12) by Louise Penny
Moonlight Over Paris by Jennifer Robson
Strange Things Done by Elle Wild (review)

Here's my complete 2016 reading list in order of reading with most recent pictured at the top. Click on any group for larger image.

I know I say this every year but please don't ask me to choose a favourite – it would be impossible to pick just one from so many wonderful stories – but do come find me at Goodreads where we can compare book lists. 

Currently reading: Shallow End (Stonechild and Rouleau #4) by Brenda Chapman (NetGalley ARC)

Next up: Letters from Paris by Juliet Blackwell

Impatiently awaited library holds: Buried in the Country (Cornish Mystery #4) by Carola Dunn, and The Echo of Twilight by Judith Kinghorn.

What are you looking forward to reading in 2017? Recommendations are always welcome because there's no such thing as too many books.

Happy New Year, all ... and happy reading!

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stillpoint is the blog of Canadian author Cheryl Cooke Harrington

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Wednesday, December 07, 2016


The things I love best about this time of year are simple traditions that fill me with joy and put smiles on the faces of the people I love. Unpacking my snowman collection or wearing a pair (or two) of festive earrings is sure to kindle my Christmas spirit. My son J (that's him in the Santa hat) loves taking part in a local Santa Claus parade. He's been riding, walking and now rolling for over ten years.

Choosing the perfect Christmas tree is a tradition J and I share. This year our "perfect" turned out to be decidedly quirky ... but it makes us smile and we love it.

We had a few minutes of concern when Sam the Cat first noticed that shiny red ball, but after studying it thoroughly, he seems to have decided it's not worth his time. Unless there's turkey and giblet gravy involved, Sam is not exactly full of the joy of the season. Or maybe he just doesn't appreciate hats...

(If you're a fan of the wonderful Clement Clark Moore Christmas poem, click through to read last year's epic tribute, The Sam Before Christmas.)

This week I'm looking forward to the second year of a new tradition - candlelit Christmas tea at a lovely local tea room with my daughter-in-law, my best friend, and her daughter. Next week, brings a reunion lunch with some old friends and a ramble through the Christmas displays in the conservatory at Centennial Park. 

And then comes the big day! Our traditional family-all-together celebration happens Christmas morning over brunch. This year everyone will be coming to my place and I'm so excited I'm practically bouncing. The menu is planned and just as soon as I stop tweaking it, adding "just one more thing", I'll go shopping for ingredients and get started on my baking. Meanwhile, I'm savoring every minute of anticipation and making memories along the way.

Whatever your traditions, whatever you celebrate at this time of year, I wish peace and happiness for you and yours. See you in January with a record-breaking books of the year post!

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What are your favourite traditions? Share them in a comment!

stillpoint is the blog of Canadian author Cheryl Cooke Harrington

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

being thankful...

Thanksgiving comes early in Canada, celebrated on the second Monday in October. But there can never be too many reminders to be thankful, especially now when good news seems hard to find.

I am thankful for my family, for friends I love and who love me. 

I'm thankful for quiet mornings with my cat, for the sometimes hectic busyness of life, and for the freedom to write and speak what I believe. 

I'm thankful for the struggles of life, past and present. They make me stronger. 

I'm thankful for the chance to understand in some small way the hopes and fears of other people, other cultures, and for those shining moments of connection that sometimes happen. 

I am thankful to have enough; thankful for opportunities to share; and thankful for so much more.

Poet e.e. cummings wrote, "i thank You God for most this amazing day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes"


Last but definitely not least, I am thankful for you. 

No matter when you celebrate, Happy Thanksgiving! Better still... celebrate thanksgiving, no matter when.

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stillpoint is the blog of Canadian author Cheryl Cooke Harrington

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

five sisters, four seasons...

My window overlooks a park and junior school, meaning my quiet writing time is often punctuated by the sounds of children at play or by rowdy summer soccer games. I welcome those noisy moments, reminding me to get up, move around, breathe the fresh air! At quieter times, I often catch myself staring out the window, lost in thoughts about the little grove of trees across the park. Do trees have personalities? I'm sure these do. I've watched them through the changing seasons of more than a decade and have come to think of them as my friends, The Five Sisters.

Surprisingly, this photo is the sisters in springtime. The tips of their branches were swollen and ready to burst with new green life when this April snow shower passed through. To me, they seemed to shiver and huddle a bit closer.

The Five Sisters, April 2016

In summer, the sisters close ranks, holding branch-hands to form a dense green canopy. They seem to welcome visitors, both human and animal, to stop and rest for a while in their shade.

July, 2016

A golden glow surrounds the grove in autumn. This might be my favourite sister-watching time. They seem so joyously alive.

October, 2016

In mid-November, chill winds have blown away the last of the golden leaves. Soon, the sisters will be snug in a blanket of snow, asleep until spring. For now... they wait.

November 16, 2016

stillpoint is the blog of Canadian author Cheryl Cooke Harrington

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Thursday, November 10, 2016


As always in the lead-up to Remembrance Day, I find myself thinking about my Dad, about the brave and honourable man he was, about the sacrifices he made for Canada, and about the wonderful, loving father he became. I think, too, about my Mom, the separation and uncertainty she endured during the six long years of World War II, and the overwhelming relief and joy she must have felt when her soldier, the love of her life, came marching home.

At the end of 1939, Dad enlisted in the Irish Regiment of Canada. He trained at Camp Borden, north of Toronto, and was based there until his deployment to Europe in 1941. Here's a photo of Mom and Dad, taken on his last leave. Mom found his midnight pass with its poignant and hopeful "keep this for me" note, tucked into her pocket after they'd kissed goodbye.

Dad and The Irish served briefly as the Queen's Guard at Sandringham. Here he is, standing proudly at attention with the Queen and Princesses Elizabeth and Anne. If you follow stillpoint, you'll have seen this image before. It's one of my favourites. This was a proud moment for Dad, a bright spot in the darkness of war.

Dad's platoon was shelled while on a midnight reconnaissance mission in Italy and he was wounded by shrapnel. As a teenager, twenty years later, I began having nightmares about darkness, explosions, and pain. Only then did Dad share the story of that terrifying night. I can't explain it but we both believed I was somehow reliving his experience in that field in Italy. I described things he'd never shared, not even with Mom. After we talked it out, my nightmares stopped. I'd like to believe Dad's did, too. We never spoke of it again.

After a short stay in a field hospital, Dad returned to active duty and served in Italy until the end of the war. It was a snowy, mid-winter day in Toronto when the Irish Regiment came home. This was my grandparents' house on Norway Avenue, all decked out with flags and bunting. (You can't see it in the picture  and no other photo exists  but Dad was sporting a carefully cultivated strawberry blond handlebar mustache. Mom told him it would have to go if he ever wanted another kiss. Dad claims he'd never shaved so fast in his life!) 

Thank you Dad, for all you did and for all you were. And thanks to all the brave men and women who have served and sacrificed for Canada and for peace. 

On November 11th, remember them.

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stillpoint is the blog of Canadian author Cheryl Cooke Harrington

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