Friday, November 28, 2014

A few Quick Reviews





Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

Spicy, fun and anecdotal, the comedienne intermingles biography with humours vignettes and her own brand of eccentric, frenetic wisdom in this somewhat disjointed by thoroughly amusing read.

I read it on the plane back from Boston. It's lively, but kind of all over the place.






A Cliche Christmas by Nicole Deese
Adorable, spirited, snarky and sweet: A Cliche Christmas is perfect fare for those of you who, like me, love to fall into the endless supply of Hallmark and Lifetime seasonal movies. What happens when the script writer for a dozen of these cheesy cliche movies: complete with staged kisses and last minute holiday miracles, is confronted with a Christmas that looks straight out of the Snow Globed worlds she constructs? Georgia may be able to turn a Christmas trick on a dime with her words, but her heart has never been in it. Unfortunately, Lenox needs her: her Nan, a dish named Weston from her past and a town with a sick little girl who needs a revival of spirit. The faith elements are light, the dialogue is cute and snappy and the setting is perfect. At times sarcastic and subversive and always living up to the playful irony of its title, A Cliche Christmas is egg nogged bliss. A lesser writer may not have been able to pull of a sly wink, instead opting for purely saccharine fare; but Deese is a good wordsmith and expert craftsperson. This story put me in the holiday mood...and then some.




Brentwood's Ward by Michelle Griep

Michelle Griep excels at painting a well-rounded Regency world complete with rakes, mystery, wit and deceptive charm. Brentwood is a dishy rake of a hero, complete with a sardonic edge and a protective manner; whereas his lady fair is of equal footing and provides a nice counterpart to rapier wit and a marriage of minds. I have often wondered why the CBA didn't produce more regencies with a Bow Street Runner flare and the tidbits about the runners, early detection and suspense were an added dash to this perfectly-crafted romance. Griep not only excels at offering an acute verisimilitude of London society, she also paints it through conversation and the vernacular is completely believable. This is a smart and sassy suspenseful read that kept me wanting more and kept the reading light on way too late into the night.


Shades of Surrender by Lynne Gentry

Brilliant. Full of life, love and colour I find it hard to believe that an author can pack such a punch in such a short allotment of words. Part fairytale and parable and chockful of glorious attributes to Divine Design, not to mention symbolism aplenty, I was whisked into an ancient world to revel in its smells and taste its dust, to experience its flits of colour and fall hard for a man and a woman destined to be together. I really am marvelling at Gentry's wordsmithery in this. She does a lot with very little. She dives right in and develops characters and a well-realized setting and I was sorry when it was over.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Because Sometimes Fictional Characters Need Twitter Accounts

Happy Friday,

For fun and giggles, I have given my lady detective Merinda Herringford her own twitter account.

She will probably speak to things indigenous to her Edwardian Torontonian world as well as quote her heroes MC Wheaton and Sherlock Holmes

She is a bachelor girl, a cracker jacks sleuth and an all around hoot ( at least I think so )

and she wears trousers a lot. And bobs her hair. In 1910.

Silly girl!



FOLLOW HER @herringfordm

Monday, November 17, 2014

"Esther" by Angela Elwell Hunt

Bold brilliant and gorgeous, Angela Hunt has long been one of the most talented pens in the industry. With her revitalization of the Esther story she couples her prominent research with her keen understanding of the time’s customs and culture to weave a redefining and definitive fictional account of the Biblical tale.
 
Hunt’s Esther is unlike any you have ever read: edgy, violent, gritty, visceral, lustful and romantic, it is a tale of perverse anxiety and fettered hope. Its characters are as colourful as the kohl-eyed virgins in the King’s harem, while the battlefields are awash with the blood of men fighting for a cause they may not wholly understand.  Xerxes himself is not tamed to fit the ideal romanticism of a sentimental fairytale; rather he is a brutal warrior, insecure and horrible: impaling men and tossing women aside like a half-drunk goblet of wine.

But, the triumph of the novel rests with the two narrators: Esther (Hadassah), she who would be queen and Harbonah, the Eunuch who has the king’s ear.

You will live in Esther’s world as it rounds out in coloured glory. You will taste and smell and feel it. You will be revolted by lavish, wonton parties and chilled by the brutal execution methods. More still, you will be beguiled by a young woman who does not believe in her blossoming beauty as much as she believes in her well-trained mind. Her cousin Mordecai has offered her liberties unknown to women of her age and she is well versed in the scholarship of her people.

Her tale is one of heartbreak and despair, of promise and loneliness and of a woman burdened with the weight of the survival of her people.  You will recognize that Esther didn’t adorn her head with the crown easily and that the choices she made were often ones made on tinterhooks. 


Harbonah is one of the most unique and interesting narrators I have ever met and his sad plight is an interesting juxtaposition with his fierce loyalty to the King.  Having been raised alongside Xerxes, he understands the king’s heart in a way few do. His connection with Mordecai and his immediate sense of Esther’s indelible spirit are interesting.
Harbonah  was also of interest to me because his life was so hopeless and yet he was able to appropriate other people’s happiness to make up for the want of his own. Denied his own family, love and children, he was forced to watch all of these natural parts of life take place around him, thus, supplanting his own repressed and vanquished desires on those he cared about.   As the king’s ally, his promotion of the young Esther is one of the most pivotal moments of the tale.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Bethany (which often stays within safe zones) published a book so sensual, so  intellectually visceral and so brilliantly chock full of Biblical verisimilitude.  It is gritty, disturbing, lustful and not without its brand of sexual connotation; but it is realistic.   Hunt’s previous biblical fiction was devoured by me when I was a kid ( JOSEPH!) and it is just wonderful that this, one of the most well-rounded authors alive, has returned to a calling.  You will close the book empowered, hopeful and changed.


Its usage of consonance, alliteration and daring innuendo is brilliant.

Quote time:

“by the time the first citizen of Susa arrived on the inaugural day of the king’s banquet, fresh white cotton curtains canopied the garden”  (consonance)

“the choppy waters outside Salamis churned with bloated bodies, planks, flaccid sails and so many overturned ships that a man could almost travel from ship to shore by stepping on battle debris” (vivid)

“My heart constricted at being called a possession. The children of Israel had been slaves in Egypt and Babylon and Moredcai would not want to know that I had stumbled into slavery, as well. He taught me to be an independent thinker, restraining my thoughts only where the Law of Moses demanded that I rein them in.”

“Before I knew it, my pliant tongue spilled my secrets into the room. Like irretrievable feathers flying from a ripped pillowcase, they fluttered throughout the chamber and made the king smile…when I had hoped to please him in a far different way.”

“I met the king’s ardor with an inquisitive passion of my own.”

book provided by Bethany House for review through Netgalley. Publishes January 2015



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Remembering Remembrance Day by Guest Blogger Kat Chin

image smartcanucks


The Canadian government, in a fit of stoic solidarity and patriotism - in the aftermath of the tragic shooting of Corporal Nathan Cirillo in Ottawa at the National War Memorial earlier this month - is moving to make Remembrance Day, November 11, a national statutory holiday. (Alberta already recognizes November 11 as a stat holiday, but many provinces, Ontario included, do not.)


The bill was submitted by NDP MP Dan Harris in the wake of the shooting. An almost unanimous vote followed (only two MPs voted against).


I am a proud Canadian, and have a great interest in our country's military history. I have been to Vimy and Theipval, Beaumont-Hamel and am a staunch supporter of our troops and veterans. I whole heartedly thank those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we have the freedom we have today, and encourage others to do the same. Because I have such a profound respect for our armed forces, I admit I am at times envious of those who have a relative who fought in service of our country - whether it be in World War One, World War Two, Afghanistan or any other conflict in our history.


When I visited Vimy Ridge in 2007, it was an overwhelming experience to stand where so much Canadian blood was shed, and to feel the cold wind blow over the green grass that seemed so peaceful, but hid so much suffering. I ran my fingers over the names engraved in the Memorial, and I shed tears at the thought of so many young men dying far from home, for a cause they firmly believed in, regardless of age or creed. They believed in fighting for their country, for their families, for the land they called home, and many died scared on the ridge I stood upon, wishing only to stop the pain or see their mothers one last time.


I've visited the Canadian War Museum, and spent a whole day learning about people and places that are long gone or are far away. I have a very active interest in learning about World War One and World War Two, and our country's role in both wars. I think it's important to honour and commemorate those who served. I think it's important to educate young people about the way Canadians fought for their country, and the sacrifices that were made, especially as we are losing our veterans too quickly.


And that is why I feel trepidation with regards to making Remembrance Day a statutory holiday. Right now, in most schools, the days leading up to November 11 are filled with lesson plans styled around Remembrance Day, field trips to the War Museum and cenotaphs and other memorial sites, stories of those who served in the wars, and a general discussion about the purpose of remembrance. And then on November 11, most schools hold their own Remembrance Day service, bringing their school community together, or the teachers take their classes to a municipal service. This is so important.

And I fear that if Remembrance Day became a statutory holiday, these lessons would fall to the side. Yes, adults have the capability to play hooky and take an hour off work and attend a memorial service, but school children would no longer have to participate in their school's service and pay their respects as a community. Instead, they'd sleep in, or play video games, and the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month would pass by unobserved. Now, that's not to say that many parents would take their children to a service, many already do - they pull their kids out of school in order to observe two minutes of silence together as a family, and to bear witness to the ever dwindling number of veterans who stand in the cold, honouring their fallen friends and comrades from so long ago. And still, I think that those parents are the ones who would continue to encourage education and research into Remembrance Day in their children. It's all the rest who I'm concerned about. Would they see this new statutory holiday as an opportunity to show their children why November 11 is important? Would they begin taking them to memorial services? Would they stand in the cold November chill for over an hour and watch the laying of the wreaths? Or would they all cuddle in front of the television and watch various ceremonies, and discuss what was happening and why?


Or, would they take the new free time to catch up on the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory, or Survivor, or finish the laundry or dishes, or sleep in and make a lesiurely breakfast? Would they even remember Remembrance Day? I know that this is possibly "worst-case scenario", but if you read the comments section (and that's not something I generally advocate doing) of many articles about making Remembrance Day a stat holiday, you'll notice that most of those who disagree with this bill are TEACHERS, PRINCIPALS, EDUCATORS. They realize the importance of teaching new generations about the sacrifice that was paid for us.


Yes, Dan Harris, your fervour is appreciated and understood, we share it as a country, but I think it is misplaced. We should be striving to increase care for our veterans and those who return home from active duty. We should be providing more help to those with PTSD and those confined to hospital due to injuries. We should be supporting the families of those who are lost to us, or need help being reintegrated into society. Leave Remembrance Day alone and instead use this new patriotic zeal to further awareness of the support our troops need.


Supporting our troops does not mean supporting war, it means supporting those who are brave enough to put their lives on the line for ours. Supporting our troops means supporting their families and loved ones. Supporting our troops means remembering what they do and have done for our country. Supporting our troops means making an effort, not making a holiday. Lest We Forget.


Kat Chin is a stage manager and war historian in Toronto. Find her on twitter 

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Giveaway: Heirs and Spares by J L Spohr

from author's website 


One of my favourite reads this year was by FAR Heirs and Spares by the inimitable J L Spohr.

Such zest! such humour! such warm romance! such political intrigue. (read my review)

I have been waiting on pins and needles for the next book God and King which is available for pre-order right now!


J L Spohr is kinda one of 2014's best writing discoveries for me and I want to share the love.  She has been kind enough to offer a hardback copy of Heirs and Spares.


You can win it!

All I need you to do is share in the comments below why you want to read this fab book and promise (on good faith ) that you will tweet, facebook, tell a friend, tell a library about Heirs and Spares and God and King and you will have a good shot at winning.


There are fabulous religious and political tenets to the book and it is surged with the most perfect historical nuances.  I really believe all my kindred spirits will find something perfect therein.

It will for you become, as it was for me, the best of new book friends.


buy Heirs and Spares




pre-order God and King 





Visit J L Spohr online 

on twitter 

Facebook



Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Cheesy Christmas Movies: Christmas Belle



YAY !! TIS THE SEASON FOR CHRISTMAS MOVIES which show constantly on several stations. It’s fine, keep rolling them

Christmas Belle (Sometimes known as A Fairy Tale Christmas ) is one of the worst (by that I mean best) of the made-for-TV Christmas fare. Deck the halls with terrible synthesizer music, this retelling of Beauty and the Beast finds Belle appraising a gorgeous California estate in wine country.


Guys, there is so much wrong with this film I don’t even know where to start.  The saddest being that Christmas is an after-thought. But, whatever.

Okay, so Belle and her father run a joint business with something to do with selling and distributing stuff from Real Estate or something.  Belle’s longtime suitor keeps asking her out and bringing her roses.  He’s the guy who plays the Prof Bhaer counterpart in the equally terrible “The March Sisters at Christmastime”  I wish dude could get a better gig. And a better haircut.

Belle goes out to the Lowell estate and meets Hunter who is a grade A jerkasaurus rex and yells at everything for no reason.  He sets her up in the library (which is rather underwhelming) and she runs her fingers over eight billion year old first editions and he yells some more. Also, he has a dog named Beast. He also has a housekeeper named Angie and a proprietor at the town diner who might be Lumiere.

Every morning in the molten mellow California sun, Hunter runs amidst the vineyards, shirtless, his torso glistening like the tinsel on a tree. Every morning.  Every morning—but they only filled like maybe 8 minutes of running footage tops, so just be prepared to re-watch the  same reel.

Belle: Wow. You run shirtless a lot
Hunter: A lot of people run shirtless. It’s Christmas
Belle: I am going to make these flowers pretty in the solarium which is obviously a throwback to the West Wing in the Disney Beauty and the Beast
Hunter: *knocks vase over* HOW DARE YOU WRECK MY FLOWERS
Housekeeper: BE NICER
Hunter: oh fine. Let’s not fight anymore


I don’t even…. I can’t….  So, it turns out Hunter’s fiancĂ©e died which is why he wants to sell his estate and everything in it and why his dog is named beast and he doesn’t like roses. But Belle changes everything and they walk together in the setting sun drinking a bottle of wine.

Meanwhile, Belle’s father and Prof Bhaer from March Sisters plot their own wedding plan and Prof Bhaer from March Sisters turns into a bit of a Gaston figure.  But, there isn’t really any conflict, despite what the synthesizer soundtrack would have you believe.


At the token Christmas ball in the barn, Belle is able to tell Hunter she loves him while wearing a flowy dress procured by the housekeeper.

Prof Bhaer from March Sisters tries to ruin their happiness.  He doesn’t succeed


Everyone lives happily ever after. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

In Which I am....

over at brilliant author Melanie Fishbane's ( Melanie's first novel will publish with Razorbill, a division of Penguin Random House next year) blog today talking Almanzo Wilder.

light language warning


ALMANZO! 

don't forget to read my ultra-condensed LONG WINTER post

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Highlights of My Writing Life or Rachel's Embarrassing "Juvenalia"


Ever read the Bronte's juvenalia or Jane Austen's juvenalia? Or Lost Laysen by Margaret Mitchell? These stories actually pull back a curtain on eventual talent.

Notebooks of Rachel McMillan's juvenalia should probably never see the light of day.

I woke up in the wee small hours and my mind traced back to some of the highlights of stories I have written since I began scribbling at around age 8. It was since about then that I wanted to be a writer. In the throes of this memory spree, I gave up on sleep altogether because I was laughing too hard:


Grades 4-6


1.) Switzerland East. Titled thusly because I wanted to set it in Switzerland and I looked at a map of Canada (Never Eat Shredded Wheat) and saw that Switzerland was East of us.


Lanya? Lula? Lorraine? Luella? Lanyard? Lahna? LAHNA Yes. Lahna is a scullery maid in the castle who lives in the dungeon with her non-animorphic mouse Burley and falls in love with the prince Christopher who helps her escape from her life. He sets her up in a new castle (!!!????!!) wherein she falls in love with his brother Bradley who is EVIL and wanting to marry the ebony-haired Victoria. I am not sure what else there is to the plot. But it filled an entire dollar-store notebook and was going to be a movie wherein the soundtrack would feature this:



Also, there were trains in it even though, supposedly, everything else ( including the clothes) were decidedly Medieval). 


2.) Carousel

There is a time in every Canadian Girl's grade 6 year that she falls hardcore for The Diary of Anne Frank and becomes utterly fascinated with anything to do with the Holocaust. If you're me, you even sign out The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich from the library even though it is a billion pages and bigger than you are.  You maybe get past the maps and read about Goebbels. 
Anyways, this is the diary of a girl who is in a nameless concentration camp and a nice young Nazi guard (think Rolf the Hitler Youth from S of M and think: yes this could actually happen Summer of my German Soldier) gives her a carousel music box.  There is a mean guard who looks like Tommy Lee Jones.   I am not sure if/how this plot is resolved.  Then I read Vienna Prelude and everything moved to Austria.


3.) Untitled Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter Epic:

I don't remember the hero in this one ( who am I kidding, it's probably "Gus" a la Pike )but he washes  up on shore and is discovered by the lighthouse keeper's daughter who was at first named Felicity because everything was Road to Avonlea but then was Yvonne and I settled on Yvonne, who takes him back to the lighthouse and gives him tea and lets him borrow her collection of the Strand magazines so he can read the latest Sherlock Holmes stories ( I actually, in the spirit of fictional verisimilitude, set this book at the exact time that The Five Orange Pips came out because I really wanted to feature Sherlock Holmes). He plays the fiddle. 

He leaves for Halifax and her father dies. She follows him and is intercepted by a Rake (god knows what his name was...actually it's bothering me I don't remember what his name is). Anyways, Yvonne (seriously, named thus because it is french and there was nothing in my world but ideas of Acadian ancestry) falls for this Rake and ends up in a brothel (!!!!!) only to be discovered by nice guy "Gus" who whisks her away. Rake follows. I don't think I finished this one. A pity because it was obviously a groundbreaking effort of staggering genius.



'sup Gus?


Probably around grade 8:

4.) The Music of the Night:
Ten guesses what fangirl phase this was written in.  Actually, blog, I'm gonna give myself this one because I still think the premise is kinda neat and workable, despite my penchant for absolutely horrible literal character names (Jennifer Rosemary: rosemary is the flower of remembrance. She needs to remember her dead father).  Set in Toronto. Everything in my life was me wanting to go to Toronto at this point because Toronto was where Theatre was and Due South was filmed.  Basically a useless 20-something inherits a dilapidated theatre ( think the Royal Alex, cause I did)  and has to put on a show to save it.   His best friend is playing Chris in Miss Saigon on broadway ( oh yah he is!) his other best friend is a German director named Timothy ( I love my cousin) and his other best friend is an Italian conductor named Newton.  I loved Newton. I still do, actually. I have a thing for culturally eccentric italians of my fictional making. 

As for the show they put on, I probably created the jukebox musical a la Glee before it was a thing. Because the soundtrack was every.frakking.song. I loved from the eight billion cast recordings I listened to.  I'm also gonna give myself this one because looking back I see how it informed how I like to shift viewpoints and work with ensemble casts on page. 

Highschool:

5.) Analyzing Literature: this was a writer's craft project for William Bell's class at high school in Orillia. Basically two roommates go to McGill and talk about literature all of the time.  It never occurred to me that this is not a plot. And also pretentious. Also, for some reason they never had dates and it was bothersome for them (probably because they were Analyzing Literature all of the time pretentiously and also probably because they were gay). Also, I fit in the brilliant description of the condensation on a milk carton perspiring onto an open palm.


6.) A Scandal in Bohemia and Vienna Prelude and John Grisham's The Rainmaker, the screenplays.  Yep. I adapted these three for the screen. Scandal was re-set in modern times ( darn you, Steven Moffatt! stealing my idea ;) 

7.) Untitled Acadian Girl falls for British Redcoat Book

I don't remember a time I wasn't writing this book. There is a scene in a hayloft. I have worked it into something kinda respectable but I just love how much this premise keeps popping up in my brain.

When I was in University, stuff got a little more legit:

8.) Persephone Winteringham, teen detective.
This is a series of three I may just self pub sometime because I do actually like it.  When her aged guardian dies, Percy is sent from Toronto to Champlain, Ontario (here's looking at you, thinly veiled Orillia) to live with her writer Uncle who is disinterested in her but has an amazing house. * insert every LM Montgomery Trope Here  *   Champlain is supposedly a town without crime. The only one in North America.  If you call 9-1-1 you get an answering service. But Percy stumbles upon a corpse and it's no longer Stepford.   I like Percy a lot and I actually have written a ton of these books.  Like, they are pretty finished. 


9.)Shipwreck book

this one is legit, y'all.  I'll finish it someday. I started it in University.

Since a tragic accident which resulted in his sister’s passing and left him less than whole, Ephram Talbot has lived with his brother-in-law, Jake in a small fishing community ridging Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. The cove is small and Ephram’s damaged life within it smaller still. When his repression leads to an act of vandalism, he is doled an unusual punishment. Twice weekly he'll meet with weathered seaman Silas Reed: a sage who feels kinship to all with saltwater in their blood, a reticent Ephram included.
As well as repairing the property destroyed, Ephram must transcribe to Silas’ doses of an old tale set amidst the turmoil of the Napoleonic Wars- in Halifax’s glory days as a thriving, mercantile seaport. Ephram listens complacently, unaware that Silas, the past and a fateful ship capsized off Herring Cove, and likewise immortalized on canvas by an Acadian artist, thread together to tell the ultimate tale of adventure, grace and one heroic act of self -sacrifice.
Little by little, connecting the dots, Ephram learns that all humankind bears more than one commonality, that grace transcends time and circumstance and that one forgotten act of courage can inspire change 200 years in the future.



Monday, October 27, 2014

An Open Post to Carol Kent re: The Golden Castle

Dear Carol Kent,

I love the Blue Castle to distraction and as such have always been interested in how it is infused in other works and how people who are so in love with it and its formative impact on their lives have somehow looked to it as the pinnacle of romantic comedy.


I have also been fascinated with more prominent works which draw from it.   Moments in Margaret Atwood's Lady Oracle ( a la heroine Joan Foster) and, more sadly, the legal ramifications of Colleen McCullough's The Ladies of Missalonghi which was tried as a plagiarized version of The Blue Castle; but even that novel has some work original to its author and while the plagiarism claims cited plot and character liberties, the technically written aspects of the book are indigenous to McCullough's work. Indeed, you get a sense of McCullough's pen in its interpretation.

Your book, however, is not just pilfering a few plot points so much as retelling the book word for word with a time change and a few character and place changes.  You also transpose the book to America.  Reading it, I found myself wondering if there was a game such as Blue Castle MadLibs which informed the way that you would sometimes use a sentence directly plucked from Montgomery, and in other times, would borrow from the rhetoric, stylization, rhythm, stanzaic style and timbre of the original novel.

For me, I was baffled at apparent imaginative laziness.  What author does not want an opportunity to release work that is indelibly thumbprinted by their own originality? What author does not want inimitable  moments singular to their work?  You have done nothing in The Golden Castle to prove differentiation.  Indeed, the whole of the novel reads as a line by line copy of the original text down to where the paragraphs end on the page and begin on the next.

I write this not to condemn nor condone, rather to understand what must have been a time consuming but, to me, senseless project.  Fanfiction and adaptations ( please see the Austen Project currently undergoing or Death Comes to Pemberley) and pastiches work within a canonical sphere while offering unique interpretation or posing a question that will entice readers familiar with the original work.   The one major differentiation between the aforementioned  and the The Golden Castle is that they possess some originality, some different approach or slant and some thumbprint (to use that term again) of the author's creative imprint.  They add to the work.  The Golden Castle with a few circumstantial changes (I did enjoy your realization of Brigid as a cloistered artist) did not add something unique to the Blue Castle rather just reset it and shifted names.


I write this before I write a review of the book because  would love to hear (as would so many die-hard fans of The Blue Castle) the intention behind the creation of The Golden Castle. Perhaps the most unique contribution is not in the work itself, but in your perambulatory explanation and your citing of the Laws of Attraction.  This is an interesting reading into the blue castle metaphor and one that is very timeless.  I  wondered why, if this book and its message so finely correlate to the work I have found you do (I did a pretty decent Google search), you did not instead choose to write something of your own idea and creation and merely recommend The Blue Castle as a thesis on your ideas and your work.  The book is not so dated that it doesn't find brand new die-hard readers every day.   I also wonder if you can, in good conscience, accept a five star amazon review which sighs: "Such a sweet love story, thank you Carol for writing it" and not feel a strange twitch.  This is not your love story.  You did not write it.  You did something that, for me, has been an as-of-yet anomalous experience: Madlibs is the best way I  can describe it.


I am eager to hear your side, of course, but am also eager to implore you to go a little further in your beginning note.  "Inspired by Lucy Maud Montgomery" is not enough. I would like to see you asserting that the work is far more than that.  You borrow more than liberally.   In one advertisement for the book, it lists a subtitle as "an Adaptation" of The Blue Castle." This too, for me, a lifelong scholar and enthusiast of The Blue Castle does not go far enough.   I have several textual examples of this more-than-liberal borrowing and I have several instances wherein  I draw on the absolutely similar cadence and tone of the work....scenes wherein it appears that you have taken a few of Maud's words out and implanted your own.

Sincerely,

Rachel McMillan





Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Book Giveaway: The Covered Deep by Brandy Vallance




Easily one of my favourite books of the year. Told expertly in a voice recalling the romances of the 19th Century, I was immediately hooked by Bianca's search for love an adventure beyond her humble background. Indeed, there is no better character with whom an armchair bookish traveler can identify than this spunky, spirited woman and her quest for love and happiness. The love and happiness part stumbles and hiccups in London and beyond to Palestine as Bianca joins an unusual group of eccentric contest winners. Among these is the dashing Paul Emerson who is the perfect Rochester-Darcy hybrid and the ultimate thinking girl's dream man. Tangible, sensory experiences in the creaking, dim museum in London, over the ocean and to the Holy Land beyond, the Covered Deep is an intelligent and spirited romp. Part Count of Monte Cristo, part Jane Eyre and remnant of Deanna Raybourn and Jane Orcutt, the Covered Deep is a rollicking delight. Its spry sense of humour, breathtaking descriptions and winning heroine are the ultimate in pitch-perfect craft. Transport yourself! It's easy--- just buy this book.


 Along with Brandy and Worthy Publishing, I want to give two lucky readers the opportunity to visit one of my favourite worlds of the year and meet Bianca, one of my recent best book friends. 

It's rare that I book crush as hard on a book as I did on this; but I know that hopeless, daydreamy romantics with a penchant for BBC miniseries and things-that-go-bump-in-the-night, not to mention stalwart, swoon-worthy heroes and a taste of intrigue, will love this unique book as I did.


Simply tell me who your most dashing, swoon-worthy literary hero is and you could have a chance to meet Paul Emerson!


Explore the world of The Covered Deep on Pinterest


Monday, October 20, 2014

Books that were Just "Meh" for Me....( no plots, just thoughts)


The Secrets of Sloane House by Shelly Gray

I have to admit to being disappointed by a book that seemed to pale in comparison with its premise. Wanting a little more oomph, edge and feeling of suspense to the story, I was disappointed that, instead, it played out in a light and almost saccharine manner.

Secrets of Sloane House does well at capitalizing on a gorgeous part of American history and setting it one of the most intriguing American cities. Further, the Upstairs/Downstairs feel to the story---and the cross-social-barrier love story-- all play into popular tropes of our day. While Gray holds a competent pen and can easily (if someone straightforwardly ) usher us from A to B, I found this read to lack passion, the aforementioned suspense, and the "things that go bump in the night" prickles I wanted from a mystery. Great concept... not so great final product

To add, the evangelical themes are a little heavy-handed with the author relying on italicized prayers and moments of blatant conversation and spiritual understanding.

I encourage this author to take a chance, fling open the door, colour outside the lines. There is a rigidity to the structure of this mystery that is just a little too careful. With more edge and more suspense, it is a great idea.....

(copy provided by the BookLook Program via Zondervan





The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

There is no doubt that Graeme Simsion excels at voice and world. He is more than true and faithful to his unique and eccentric construct and he inhabits it with a quirky narrative and sly, shy sense of humour that is at times awkward and beguiling.  Like the greatest fictional puzzles of our day---like Sherlock Holmes and Sheldon Cooper-- I remain excited that I can want to hug Don Tillman and punch him at the same time.

A few missteps in humour and a lot of perambulatory information kept this from flowing as smoothly and conversationally as the first in what I anticipate will be a series.  

A few cute quotes:

"My love for Rosie was so powerful that it had caused my brain to make a grammatical error."

"I had also, at various times, been labelled schizophrenic, bipolar, an OCD sufferer and a typical gemini."

" I was seeing variations of the world's most beautiful woman. It was like listening to a new version of a favourite song."

"Sex was absolutely not allowed to be scheduled, at least not by explicit discussion, but I had become familiar with the sequence of events likely to precipitate it, a blueberry muffin from Blue Sky Bakery, a triple shot of espresso from Otha's, removal of my shirt, and my impersonation of Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird. I had learned not to do all four in the same sequence on every occasion, as my intention would then be obvious."




Why the Sky is Blue by Susan Meissner

Obviously Meissner is a skilled writer and yet I find every time I pick up one of her novels I am expecting more than what I am given.  Perhaps this is because she is long toted and praised and my expectations are just too high  (my fault, not hers).   Why the Sky is Blue does well at asking interesting questions and flashing from familial relationship to dysfunctional familial relationship, but at a cost.  I found the overt-evangelical threads to this novel to be a little heavy-hitting.  Indeed, there were moments where I waded out of transformative fiction to agenda and propaganda.  This is one of Meissner's earlier works and I can whole-heartedly say she has evened out the balance and now paints faith with a more subtle, deft stroke of brush, but it did mar my taste of the story.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Here's an ACTUAL "Things About Me" post


I filled out a questionnaire on things about me the other day.... but the more I thought about it ... the more I realized that if I were to ACTUALLY fill out a things about me survey I would have to be more honest, the more it would look like this:


I don't like entertaining people

The first thing I notice about the opposite sex is their smile

I write. ALL THE TIME. that's all I do. I write and write and write.  I write when I am writing. I write when I am walking. I write when I am working.


I love wine and books and tea.  And I go to the gym regularly; but will always feel like I need to lose ten pounds.

I think about my weight all of the time.

I sometimes look at girls on the subway and think "she must have a boyfriend because she's thin"

Happiness is being able to eat ice cream without worrying about how to work it off

I always sneeze in threes

I hate night clubs

My first drink was when I was 21 years old

I never believed in Santa Claus

I wrote a secret note addressed to no one---rather like a time capsule---that I slid into a loose board at in the Bethel Pentecostal Sanctuary in Goderich, Ontario ( where my dad was pastoring at the time)

I will ( and can) walk for hours on end

I have S Club 7 on my ipod

I cannot cook.

I hate untidy spaces.

I don't eat red meat.

I sometimes don't pay my phone bill on time

I don't know how to talk on dates, so I giggle.

I once went to speed-dating and it was the worst night of my life (only SLIGHT hyperbole)

My confident exterior is a ruse for the fact that I am shaking inside.

I am a natural introvert, conditioned to act like an extrovert.

I was terrible in French at school

I still sometimes have to look up what the word "complacency" means

I am actually quite shy in person. Social media is a godsend.

I love going to the movies by myself

I am rarely lonely: except when I'm in crowds

I dread small talk

I wish I didn't impulse-buy clothes, shoes, and scarves

I keep a bar of chocolate at my desk when I am writing

People often tell me they think I'm a snob when they first meet me. Little do they realize it is because I am more nervous than they are.

I sometimes eat microwave popcorn for dinner

I have never wanted kids; but I have always wanted to be married.

I am a ridiculously hopeless romantic and imagine myself in love all of the time. ( Do colours seem different? Are sounds more acute?  Do things really blur into rose-coloured wonder? Does everything but the person to whom you are attached fade ?)

I hate the words "stake" and "steak"

I cried in Kindergarten when the copy of The Sleep Book by Dr. Seuss that my dad read to me aloud every night had to be returned to the library ( don't worry: it was then I learned I could sign it out again)

I want strawberries at my wedding because Emma Woodhouse mentioned them.  But, I dread the fact  that I might never marry and that the hours of imaginative planning for my wedding will go unrealized

I sometimes sleep with a book under my pillow in hopes that I'll dream about it

I can remember dreams I had as a child

I love my city.

I wear second-hand clothes prowled from thrift shops ( I hate things w labels and I never want anyone to recognize where I purchased a piece of clothing)

I often prefer my own company to being with others, though most people think me an extrovert

I walked out of The Notebook

I wanted Rose to end up with Mr. Andrews in Titanic.

I love visiting my parents in their small town and watching BBC miniseries in their rec room

I should make my lunch more often

I try to read five books a week ( mostly on the subway)

I keep waiting for life to happen

I often wake up with panic attacks in the middle of the night  and am thankful that iCarly is on television in re-runs. That show has seen me through some of the roughest nights of my life

I love classical music and treasure going to the symphony by myself.

My greatest fear is dying alone.

I am allergic to lilacs.

I cannot remember a time I didn't want to have a book published.

I measure things in hurdles I have to jump

I am a life-long day dreamer

I cannot drive  as I don't have my license

I love Christmas

I'm scared of spiders

I fill silences immediately, thinking they'll eventually become awkward

I'd rather anticipate failure than revel in hope

I read The Blue Castle more than once a month

I have a Rubbermaid container full of long-hand scribbles under my childhood bed in my parent's house and I rarely look at it when I visit




Friday, October 17, 2014

20 Random Things Meme


I was tagged by the adorable, illustrious and uber-talented Jessica R Patch! 


1.How tall are you?:
5"9

2.Do you have a hidden talent? If so, what is it? I'm a classically trained singer who studied opera.


3. What’s your biggest blog-related pet peeve?
Tell the truth. I can tell from a mile away if someone is doing lip-service to a book just because they don't wanna step on someone's toes.

4. What’s your biggest non blog-related pet peeve?  small talk. inauthenticity. crowds.


5. What’s your favorite song?  whoa! I have a billion.  I like James Morrison's "You Give Me Something" a lot.




7. What’s your favorite way to spend your free time when you’re alone?
reading.

8. What’s your favorite junk food?

POPCORN

9. Do you have a pet or pets? If so, what kind and what are their names? no. *sniff*  Someday I shall have a Basset Hound.



10. What are your #1 favorite fiction and nonfiction books?
Here's 3: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.  For non fiction? I love That Summer in Paris by Morley Callaghan



11. What’s your favorite beauty product?  Red Lipstick. Revlon 740 Certainly Red
.


12. When were you last embarrassed? What happened?
Talking to an author I like and completely forgot the name of her book.

13. If you could drink one beverage (besides water) for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I love Santa's Secret tea from David's Tea. I also LOVE pinot grigio.


14. What’s your favorite movie?
 Master and Commander.





15. What were you in high school: prom queen, nerd, cheerleader, jock, valedictorian, band geek, loner, artist, prep?   student council president, part of every remotely artistic thing there was to be involved in. headed the school radio.


16. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
 where I live now, Toronto. But I'd love to have a place to escape to in Vienna and one in England and one in Halifax ;)


17. PC or Mac?  
 at work, I have a PC, but my personal life I am Lady Apple: ipod, ipad, Mac, iphone. LOVE apple.


18. Last romantic gesture from a crush, date, boy/girlfriend, spouse?  I got a card from a secret admirer.


19. Favorite celebrity?

 Benedict Cumberbatch

20. What blogger do you secretly want to be best friends with?
Not a blogger so much as a Social Media presence, but I wanna be friends with Mindy Kaling.

Short Gush: Storm Siren by Mary Weber

I am currently finishing a detailed official review for Breakpoint's Youth Reads, but in the meantime, I would be remiss if I didn't let you know the book I am crushing on hard this week:  Storm Siren by the delightful Mary Weber


Review snippet:

Ridiculously beautiful prose, reminiscent of the pre-evangelism of Tolkien and chockful of hope, deft symbols and the clash of good and evil,. Storm Siren is smart and snappy. The dialogue is hilarious, the themes of self-harm, penance, power and control are expertly interwoven and the world is crafted perfectly. Stronger for me than the Hunger Games, the first whisper of romance atop a raging war, the clash of elementals, terrenes and vicious villainy were ingenious. This is expertly rendered crossover fiction that is destined to hit the right chord with teens and adults alike. If you like Dystopian works with a gorgeous fantastical twist told with a bitingly perfect sense of humour, look no further

Nym is a sarcastic and whip-smart thing and Eogan is to die for.  Their banter? The stuff that dreams are made of.


This book was provided by the BookLook program at Harper Collins Christian. 

Just because it is a Christian publication doesn't mean it was written JUST for religious folks: if you like fantasy with strong religious emblems like Lewis and Tolkien and even Rowling, then make sure you check this out. 

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Blog Tour: Sharyn McCrumb Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past and GIVEAWAY

Popular author Sharyn McCrumb returns with a story in time for Christmas shopping




Read the first Chapter here 

www.noraisback.com

To win a copy of the book, just tweet at me citing that you found this on the blog and using the hashtag #NoraIsBack

Book giveaway open to Canadian and US residents :)

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

In Which....OMG DEANNA RAYBOURN IS ON MY BLOG


Hello Chickens!

(stealing a few Deanna-isms)

Deanna Raybourn (the radiant and glorious and wonderful and snarky and deliciously funny and intelligent and witty and...GAH!.... and.... *sentence truncated due to too many appropriate complimentary adjectives and not enough time* ) is on the blog today.

I bookcrush SO hard on her books which are like a knowing, wily and sly wink to we readers who know exactly what she is doing and live on her fare as if it our sustenance, our oasis at the brim of desert barren Damascus (or, you, know Victorian England).

Read my review (actually, loquaciously rambly rave of love ) for City of Jasmine
Now, we return to 1920s Damascus in Night of a Thousand Stars which I bought on release day and stare at lovingly because I am too afraid to start it, lest I read it too fast and finish it.... ahhhh l'amour!


1) We’re writing a Hallmark Christmas movie. Who is the hero? He’s a businessman who decides to play Santa for a group of orphans and gets stuck in the chimney. The fireman who pulls him out just happens to be a woman…

2) You can transpose Sir Percy (the Scarlet Pimpernel) into any era. Where does he end up? NOW. Can you imagine the horror of Percy Blakeney trying to load apps onto his iPhone? Or manage an infinity scarf? He’d be traumatized, staring at hipsters through his quizzing glass as he waits for the barista to finish making his caramel macchiato. It would be delicious.

3) In a battle of wits a la The Princess Bride (okay. Maybe not). Who wins: Gabriel (City of Jasmine) or Sebastian (Night of A Thousand Stars)? Trying to referee that particular smackdown would be as ill-advised as starting a land war in Asia. No way am I going there.

4) Can I marry Gabriel, please? If you can take Evie, he’s yours. But remember—she shot the man she loved. IN THE CHEST. Come prepared is all I’m saying.

5) I felt that there were hints of The Scarlet Pimpernel informing City of Jasmine. Is there a wisp of a classic romance in Night of a Thousand Stars? Oh, bless you! I adore The Scarlet Pimpernel, and yes, Gabriel is a definite homage to Percy. My first true “character crush” was Percy, and it never really ended. I blame Anthony Andrews. Although I love the Leslie Howard version, Anthony Andrews is still the definitive Percy.

6) Who would play Sebastian in the movie? Adam Rayner. Or any other charming Brit with a winsome smile and dark hair. I’m pretty flexible on that point.
This was a fun google search 


7) What is your writing process? Do you write chronologically? Do you outline? How does the brilliance come together? I write chronologically from a vague outline. I know how I’m beginning and how I’m ending; I also know the main points I’m going to hit in the plot, but I don’t know the fine details at the start. That part of the process is organic. I am lucky because I write books that are almost always mysteries in structure, and you really can’t tinker with that too much. If my main character is solving a puzzle, she has to have pieces and she has to collect them in a certain order, fitting them together as she goes. I get more and more of the details as I go along, packing them in where they work best.

8) You are an expert at period authentic dialogue. Indeed, if we were to strip back to the prose so that only the dialogue remains, I think any of your books would suit the stage well. What goes into crafting fresh, sprightly and, most of all, realistic dialogue infused with the idiosyncrasies of the eras you write in? What a lovely compliment! The trick with period dialogue is that you have to strike a careful balance between “historical-sounding” exchanges—which are often quite stilted—and discussions that sound too modern but are more relatable for readers. In my experience, Victorian novels are more formal in their construction than a lot of the letters and journals written at the same time, which makes perfect sense as letters and journals are a more casual form of communication. To me that’s a hint that conversation was probably more relaxed than we think. It’s often down to some really basic techniques too, like removing contractions. I leave some in to give a bit of realism to the dialogue, but I always find myself pulling out a LOT of them when I revise. It does help that I tend to think in fairly florid language…


9) You are adept at the Victorian era, obviously, and I have quite enjoyed your foray into the 20s. Is there a period of history you have, as of yet, not tackled but are dying to? Revolutionary France! But that’s the Pimpernel talking. I do have an idea for a novel that begins in 1789, but it would be a very long time before I’m able to write it—if ever. I am collecting a nice shelf full of reference books just in case. For now I’m pretty smitten with late Victorian, and that’s where my new series is set.

10) What is your favourite publishing memory thus far?
I’m lucky enough to have a few pretty great ones, but the day I hit the New York Times bestseller list is at the top. I happened to be in New York for a conference and the entire day was a whirlwind of congratulations from my publisher, editor, writer pals. But around midnight I happened to be in the middle of Times Square with my agent, wearing an evening gown and tipsy on a bottle and a half of champagne. And as we stood right in the center of all that neon and noise and craziness, the Black Eyed Peas’ song “I Gotta Feeling” came on. And we just stood there, hugging each other and taking in the moment and it was pretty damned spectacular.

                                                      Visit Deanna on her blog ( witticism galore)  

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Behind the French Executioner by CC Humphreys




note: we like CC Humphreys and we like this book which has long been available in Canada but is finally available in the American marketplace.

example:
talking about "Plague" which is freaking AWESOME over a pint at the Dora Keogh 


and we love Jack Absolute 

We also like The French Executioner! You will, too,


**********


WHY WRITE A NOVEL ABOUT THE MAN WHO KILLED ANNE BOLEYN?

Where do the ideas for novels come from?


I remember exactly what I was doing when the idea for The French Executioner hit me like a bolt of lightning. I was working out.


I was living in Vancouver at the time. Making my living as an actor. I’d written a couple of plays. But my dream from childhood had always been to write historical fiction.

I wasn’t thinking of any of that, on that day in a gym in 1993. I was thinking about shoulder presses. Checking my form in the mirror.

This is what happened. (It also shows you the rather strange associations in my brain!)

I lift the weight bar.

Me, in my head. ‘God, I’ve got a long neck.’

Lower bar.

‘If I was ever executed,’ - Raise bar - ‘it would be a really easy shot for the ax.’

Lower bar.

‘Or the sword. Because, of course, Anne Boleyn was executed with a sword.’

Raise bar. Stop half way.

‘Anne Boleyn had six fingers on one hand.’
Flash! Boom! Put down bar before I drop it. It came together in my head, as one thing: the executioner, brought from France to do the deed, (I remembered that from school). Not just taking her head. Taking her hand as well, that infamous hand – and then the question all writers have to ask: what happened next?

I scurried to the library. Took out books. I knew it had to be a novel. I did some research, sketched a few ideas. But the problem was, I wasn’t a novelist. A play had seemed like a hill. A novel – well, it was a mountain, and I wasn’t ready to climb it. So I dreamed a while, then quietly put all my research, sketches, notes away.
But I never stopped thinking about it. The story kept coming and whenever I was in a second hand bookstore I’d study the history shelves and think: if ever I write that novel – which I probably never will – I’ll want… a battle at sea between slave galleys. So I’d buy a book on that subject, read it. Buy another, read it.

November 1999. Six years after being struck by lightning. I’m living back in England and I find a book on sixteenth century mercenaries - and I knew the novel I was never going to write would have mercenaries. Twenty pages in, I turn to my wife and say: “You know, I think I’m going to write that book.” And she replies, “It’s about bloody time.”



I wrote. The story, all that research, had stewed in my head for so long, it just poured out. Ten months and I was done. I wondered if it was any good. I sent it to an agent. She took me on and had it sold three months later.
I was a novelist after all.


visit CC Humphreys on the web


Friday, October 03, 2014

Candace Calvert Giveaway c/o Crazy 4 Fiction

Last week at ACFW I went to this amazing party that Crazy 4 You Fiction (Tyndale) threw, intermingling industry professionals with their amazing authors.

While brushing shoulders with Rene Gutteridge, Carre Armstrong Gardiner and Lisa Wingate, among others,I learned a lot about Tyndale's amazing upcoming lineup and even some fun facts about the authors.

Free books abounded, so did cheesecake and coffee and prizes for the authors and the participants.

Today, I'd like to offer a giveaway of one such prize pack to one lucky American book enthusiast.

Rachel with Jan Stob, Fiction Acquisitions Editor, and Shaina Turner, Acquisitions Editor and Crazy4Fiction mastermind
It's easy, all you have to do is leave your name in the comment below and your email and follow me on twitter. That's right, you have to follow me on twitter. I am AMAZINGLY fun on twitter so you won't regret it ;)  @rachkmc

I will be cross referencing the comments here so leave your twitter handle, your email and your thoughts on Tyndale's awesome fiction line. Can't wait to get the discussion going.

One lucky winner will receive A Candace Calvert prize pack with goodies handpicked by the popular medical romance author herself!



  • Autographed book bag

  • 3 signed books (the Grace Medical series), signed bookmarks

  • Cute cupcake design band aids

  • “Medicinal” chocolate

  • And an assortment of hot beverage mixes: Starbucks coffee and cocoa, tea bags





Crazy 4 Fiction is on Facebook and on twitter and the site is always chockful of fabulous new information

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Arms of Love by Kelly Long


From the PublisherThe year is 1777. America is in turmoil. And Amish life is far different than today.

Pennsylvania in the late 18th century, once called William Penn's Woods, was an assortment of different faiths living together for the first time in American history. Included in this tapestry was a small and struggling population called Amish.

Surrounding this peaceful people were unavoidable threats: both Patriots and the British were pillaging land and goods for the sake of the war, young Amishmen were leaving the faith to take up arms and defend freedom. A simple walk in the untamed forests could result in death, if not from bullet or arrow, then from an encounter with a wild animal.

Amid this time of tumult, Adam Wyse is fighting a personal battle. To possibly join the war efforts and leave his faith, which would mean walking away from the only woman he's ever loved: Lena Yoder. But for that love he's made a promise that may keep them apart permanently.

When Adam withdraws from Lena, she's forced to turn to his brother, Isaac, for support. Must Lena deny her heart's desire to save Adam's soul? And will life in this feral and primitive New World be more than this peace-keeping people can withstand?


Amish Fiction is not usually my cup of tea; but the historical resonance set this book apart for me. Obviously Kelly Long is a trusted name in this submarket of the CBA and her storytelling prowess, here, is strong and coupled with a great knack for interweaving historical detail. if Amish is for you, like me, not your first go-to, then I would recommend a book that takes a slightly different approach. The 18th Century is one not always utilized as well as it should be in the Christian marketplace. Moreover, if you are a die-hard Amish reader, then it will be interesting for you to dive into this origin story: entrenched in verisimilitude and sprinkled with romance, embedded with hardship and spun in a reverent tone.


A Loquacious Love Letter to "Lizzy and Jane" and why we, dear reader, are deserving of this book. [Complete with a sprinkling of quotes]


“Because for the first time in months, maybe years, a person, a food, a need, an answer and an inspiration had melted together and become whole. This is what I was after and it felt close. I simmered with giddiness.”

Lizzy and Jane is an effortlessly told story of illness, grief, familial relations and the frayed ties that bind.  Two sisters separated by distance and wedged by loss rediscover what connected them in the first place as Lizzy learns to relinquish control, find love and adventure and give her heart completely.

I wrote this fangirlish squee to Reay on facebook as soon as I turned the last page:

"It's literature ! And you never talk down the reader. You expect them to have a working knowledge of Dickens and Hemingway among others. And the themes are so subtle and resonant. And the dialogue just sparkles. It's edgy and sardonic and bitter and buoyant and sparkly and all good things ! The setting of Seattle just permeates the page. And I can see its colours and smell what Lizzy is cooking and it is remarkable. The whole thing. Just perfect"

With a coy nod to Austen and a breathtaking voice that never takes the reader’s working knowledge of classics for granted ( indeed, expects the reader to rise to the whipsmart level), Lizzy and Jane is the benchmark for cross-over fiction sprinkled with inspirational themes yet woven in a unique and literary voice.

“Suddenly I knew two things: Nick couldn’t leave and winks were better than chocolate.”

“Great writers and my mom never used food as an object. Instead it was a medium, a catalyst to mend hearts, to break down barriers, to build relationships"

“I tapped Emma, resting on Jane’s lap: You see it in Austen. She only mentions food as a means to bring characters together, reveal aspects of their nature and their moral fiber. Hemingway does the same, though he skews more towards the drinks. Nevertheless, it’s never about the food---it’s about what the food becomes in the hands of the giver and the recipient.”


Reay has constructed a sub-genre of literary love letter infused with enough favourite reads to peak the interest of those familiar while weaving the same themes in an accessible way for her readership at large.

And the tenets of Grace are so smart and delicate. As smart and delicate as the reference she makes to Babette's Feast: that gorgeous movie shaped by the Isak Denisen book and appropriated by Philip Yancey for What's So Amazing About Grace:

“It’s a movie-," a sleepy Lizzy informs Nick, " a Danish movie about a small remote village that gets caught up in petty squabbles. Then Babette, a formerly famous Parisian chef, comes to work for the two main characters. It’s about a glorious meal that brings forgiveness and….love.. It brings love.”
Grace is never so greatly epitomized than in communal feasting and that motif stretches lyrically strong through the work without bludgeoning the reader with the obvious stick. We deserve this novel, reader, you and I.  We are WORTHY of this novel, you and I. Reay writes for the thinking person.

“It’s never too late to learn that the love needs to be greater than the like.”

“She had collected herself and somehow it made me feel like I’d reached the end of a good book –or a lovely movie—a soft sadness crept over me.”

“She never goes for the obvious. Her hero puts you in a carriage because that’s what we want---someone to love us like that, to woo us even if our egos or our fear makes us resist…”

She understands Austen, yes, but she also understands the internal structure of the reader and a reader’s connection to sense, place, time and food.  Lizzy and Jane’s past experiences are imprinted by Austen and the tireless mechanizations of chemo and loss cannot separate them from that indelible stamp.

 Lizzy and Jane may have a beguiling plot with a very Captain Wentworthian undertone ( readers, get thee to a swooning couch near the end) and it may present the lovely idea of crafting culinary experiences specifically for those ravaged by the horrors of chemo, but it is not the plot or the characters that I want to focus on. Rather, I want to say that we are worthy of this book. 
Yes we need to thank Katherine Reay; but we also need to thank Thomas Nelson.   Readers deserve this fiction.

You can talk all you want about the “state” of Christian fiction, how it “dumbs things down” or crosses lines of accessibility sacrificing its literary intent; but you are wrong when you pit yourself against an artist like Reay.


She is not in the business of writing books. She is in the business of crafting experiences and forcing you to remember, to revel in and to relish the first moment you creaked the spine of a favourite tome and fell into its world. 



Author Interview: Anne Mateer

From the Publisher:

Lula Bowman has finally achieved her dream: a teaching position and a scholarship to continue her college education in mathematics. But then a shocking phone call from her sister, Jewel, changes everything.
With a heavy heart, Lula returns to her Oklahoma hometown to do right by her sister, but the only teaching job available in Dunn is combination music instructor/basketball coach. Lula doesn't even consider those real subjects!

Determined to prove herself, Lula commits to covering the job for the rest of the school year. Reluctantly, she turns to the boys' coach, Chet, to learn the newfangled game of basketball. Chet is handsome and single, but Lula has no plans to fall for a local boy. She's returning to college and her scholarship as soon as she gets Jewel back on her feet.

However, the more time she spends around Jewel's family, the girls' basketball team, music classes, and Chet, the more Lula comes to realize what she's given up in her single-minded pursuit of degree after degree. God is working on her heart, and her future is starting to look a lot different than she'd expected.


1.) Chet’s guilt at not fighting overseas is palpable throughout the story. What did you draw on to make this struggle so believable?


I think we all tend to feel guilt—right or wrong—over some situation in our lives. Although I didn’t really think about it until you asked this question, I guess I would say I (unconsciously!) drew on the guilt I felt when my kids were small. Every other mommy I knew loved their babies. I just wanted them to hurry and grow up! I later figured out that just when I really started to feel good about being a mom—as my kids approached middle school and beyond—many of those moms who doted on their babies were floundering. I felt so guilty as a young mom, but I needn’t have. I just thrived in a different phase of motherhood. But of course I didn’t know that at the time!


2.) You wrote alternating first person viewpoints for both Chet and Lula and convincingly so. Was it difficult to switch from one to the other?


Yes and no. I was very nervous to try my hand at the male point of view, but as to two different characters narrating, that wasn’t so difficult. Because I have some background in acting it seems quite natural to me to “become” another person, which is why I enjoy the first person point of view. But I’d never been a guy before! I’m not sure I really got it right, but I liked trying. Who knows? I might attempt it again one day.



3.) There is a sweet, wistful and nostalgic sense of Americana in your books, especially in this one. What are some of your favourite aspects of this period?



I love hearing that, Rachel. Thank you! On of my favorite things about this time period is that it allows for so much flexibility. There was so much going on that was “new” and yet so many people continued on in the “old” ways—even until after World War II. It’s fun to explore the latest craze in a story or to think about how life was different then from even my grandparents’ lives. I loved bringing the music in various forms into this book because we often forget that in the years before the Great War there still was no radio and there were very few films. For me, it all comes down to researching enough to be able to imagine what a “normal” person would be doing with their days even while living through “extraordinary” times.



4.) You recently wrote a contemporary story. How did the writing process change between it and your historical novels, if at all?

I did! It’s a Christmas story that will appear in this year’s Cup of Christmas Cheer from Guideposts. It’s funny, but as much as I love historical fiction, I actually have three completed contemporary manuscripts in my computer, too! For me, the storytelling process is essentially the same, but it does require a huge shift in thinking about the characters—how they move, how they talk, how they think, how they relate to one another—which of course greatly affects the story itself. I love both historical and contemporary, but I can’t immerse myself in both worlds in one writing day. At least not yet! :)



5.) What other projects are bubbling in that creative brain of yours?


I’m currently researching a Civil War era story and can’t wait to start writing it. I have no idea when or how it will be published, but I hope you’ll see it in 2015. I also have a contemporary cast of characters that are screaming to be let out, so we’ll see what happens with them, too! And I’d love to try my hand at a novella soon. So many ideas. Not enough hours in the day.