Monday, August 24, 2015
Guys! Guys! I am not a huge Agatha Christie fan across the board, but I love these two. Unlike the 1980s series which was totally 1920s flapper glam, this reboot is set in the 1950s and it makes it even more wonderful when Tuppence thwarts domesticity for a life of crime-solving. I love the chemistry between Tommy and Tuppence who are a settled married couple but have such a penchant for thrill-seeking it jolts something back into their obvious chemistry. I also enjoy how their little boy is always conveniently away and how they sneak into people's things in pursuit of their mysteries and get caught and have lame cover stories and no one cares. Love.
I saw this touring production in Boston and then twice now in Toronto and Dan DeLuca( as well as having a favourite close-to-my-heart surname) is just astounding as the leader of the strike, Jack Kelly. I went with some people yesterday and told them that Newsies excels at revitalizing the old fashioned type of broadway that is reliant on singing and dancing and not on special effects and rock ballads. The kids are amazing on stage, there is a fabulous feminist lead and the voices are exceptional. The choreography incorporates every type of dance from acrobatic to ballet to tap. I am just thrilled at how much verve it has. See it if it is coming to your city ( don't worry, it is much better than the film. It works better on stage)
I also think if people have kids this is a great way to introduce them to a major point in children's justice and history but also to ignite a discussion on social justice.
I could talk about the Shaw Festival's production forever and wanted to do a full blown review but realized I don't have the time this week what with edits and my real job. So, here you are going to get the overview. Settled in gorgeous Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Shaw Festival is a favourite summer stop about two hours out of Toronto. My friend Mel and I went and had a blast. Here, they have kept the dialogue the same and stayed cherished and true to the original work but transposed it to the 21st Century. All the way through, I was delightedly thinking: How Does Pymalion Work Now? But it does. Save for when Eliza complains about not being able to find a role outside of marriage as Higgin has made her fit for nothing.
Speaking of Higgins, Patrick McManus made it his own. I have seen several incarnations of Pygmalion and My Fair Lady and a lot of it is the same old, same old ( the delightfully same old because I friggin' love it). But, McManus updated the character, made him boyish and infused quite a lot of physicality. The sets were amazing. Eliza was amazing. It just worked very well. There is an entire re-invention fashion motif, there is a set-change video from the BBC talking about the new class ( which blends well with Alfie Doolittle's long -drawn-out treatises on Middle Class Morality). It proves that Shaw's humour and relevance are century agnostic.
After a long week at a work conference, I vegged out Friday night and binge-watched this youtube serial. I have never seen Lizzie Bennett Diaries but I really enjoyed this. It worked well. The Knightley was adorable and it is cozy marshmallow-hot-chocolate viewing.
Thursday, August 13, 2015
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Grace Burrowes gives us insight into Tremaine's True Love as well as an excerpt from the book
What makes a man a gentleman?
For a romance writer, this question has to be answered in every book, because implicit in the term “hero” is something of the gentleman. Heroes need not be charming, handsome or wealthy, and they might not even be obviously heroic, at least at the start of the book, but they have to be worthy of our loyalty for the duration of an entire book.
In the True Gentlemen series, I took three men who’d wandered across my pages in previous stories—Tremaine St. Michael, Daniel Banks, and Willow Dorning—and found them each a happily ever after. Tremaine is a flinty business man, Daniel is poor and pious, Willow finds polite society an enormous trial and would far rather be with his dogs. These fellows were not obvious choices as romance heroes, but they each hadsomething that tempted me to write stories for them.
When we met Tremaine in an earlier book (Gabriel: Lord of Regrets), Tremaine was convinced that he’d found a good candidate for the position of wife. He offered marriage, listing all the practical advantages to both parties, and he congratulated himself on how much sense his proposed union would make.
The lady turned him down flat, and as a gentleman is bound to do, he graciously ceded the field. He didn’t like it, he didn’t entirely understand how or what he’d lost, but he wished the happy couple well.
Daniel’s role in David: Lord of Honor was to charge to London with sermons at the ready in an attempt to restore his sister’s honor. The very man Daniel accused of wronging that sister had already set her back on the path to respectability.
Oops. But again, being a gentleman, Daniel wishes the couple every happiness, even if doing so costs him the future he’d envisioned for himself and his loved ones. Like Tremaine, he’s a gracious and even dignified loser.
Willow’s appearance in Worth: Lord of Reckoning is brief, but he too is determined to see a sister rescued from a possibly compromising position, and again, rescue is simply not on the heroine’s agenda.
In all three cases, the true gentleman acts in the best interests of those he loves and is responsible for, regardless of the inconvenience or cost to himself. Because Tremaine, Daniel, and Willow were honorable, I liked them. I trusted them, I wanted them to have the happiness they clearly already deserved.
In the Nicholas Haddonfield’s sisters—Nita, Kirsten, and Susannah—I found ladies willing to oblige my ambitions for these men. In each case, our hero has lessons yet to learn, and in each case, his inherent honor wins the day. He might not be handsome, wealthy, or charming in the eyes of the world, but because he’s a true gentleman in the eyes of his lady, he wins her true love.
I hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as I enjoyed writing them!
Excerpt – Tremaine’s True Love
Wealthy businessman Tremaine St. Michael has concluded that marriage to Lady Nita Haddonfield would be a prudent merger of complimentary interests for the mutual benefit and enjoyment of both parties… or some such blather.
Tremaine rapped on Lady Nita’s door, quietly, despite a light shining from beneath it. Somebody murmured something which he took for permission to enter.
“Mr. St. Michael?”
Tremaine stepped into her ladyship’s room, closed the door behind him and locked it, which brought the total of his impossibly forward behaviors to several thousand.
“Your ladyship expected a sister, or a maid with a pail of coal?”
“I wasn’t expecting you.” Lady Nita sat near the hearth in a blue velvet dressing gown. The wool stockings on her feet were thick enough to make a drover covetous. “Are you unwell, Mr. St. Michael?”
“You are not pleased to see me.” Did she think illness the only reason somebody would seek her out?
She set aside some pamphlet, a medical treatise, no doubt. No vapid novels for Lady Nita.
“I was not expecting you, sir.”
“You were not expecting me to discuss marriage with you earlier. I wasn’t expecting the topic to come up in a casual fashion either. May I sit?”
She waved an elegant hand at the other chair flanking the hearth. Tremaine settled in, trying to gather his thoughts while the firelight turned Lady Nita’s braid into a rope of burnished gold.
“You are pretty.” Brilliant place to start. The words had come out, heavily burred, something of an ongoing revelation.
“I am tall and blond,” she retorted, twitching the folds her of her robe. “I have the usual assortment of parts. What did you come here to discuss?”
Lady Nita was right, in a sense. Her beauty was not of the ballroom variety, but rather, an illumination of her features by characteristics unseen. She fretted over new babies, cut up potatoes like any crofter’s wife, and worried for her sisters. These attributes interested Tremaine. Her madonna-with-a-secret smile, keen intellect, and longing for laughter attracted him.
Even her medical pre-occupation, in its place, had some utility as well.
“Will you marry me, my lady?”
More brilliance. Where had his wits gone? George Haddonfield had graciously pointed out that Nita needed repose and laughter, and Tremaine was offering her the hand of the most restless and un-silly man in the realm.
The lady somehow contained her incredulity, staring at her hands. “You want to discuss marriage?”
“I believe I did just open that topic. Allow me to elaborate on my thesis: Lady Bernita Haddonfield, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife? I think we would suit, and I can promise you would know no want in my care.”
A proper swain would have been on his damn bended knee, the lady’s hand in his. Lady Nita would probably laugh herself to tears if Tremaine attempted that nonsense. Lady Nita picked up her pamphlet, which Tremaine could now see was written in German.
“Why, Mr. St. Michael?”
“I beg your pardon?” Tremaine was about to pitch the damned pamphlet in the fire, until he recalled that Nita Haddonfield excelled at obscuring her stronger emotions.
“Why should you marry me, Tremaine St. Michael? Why should I marry you? I’ve had other offers, you’ve made other offers. You haven’t known me long enough to form an opinion of my character beyond the superficial.”
This ability to take a situation apart, into causes, effects, symptoms, and prognosis was part of the reason she was successful as a healer. Tremaine applied the same tendencies to commercial situations, so he didn’t dismiss her questions as coyness or manipulation.
She wasn’t rejecting him either. She most assuredly was not rejecting him.
Tuesday, August 04, 2015
GUYS I LOVE DEANNA RAYBOURN!
Not only is she one of the best authors to follow on social media and blog, she is a prime example of how to connect and engage with one's readership.
Oh! And she writes the sexiest most intelligent books in the stratosphere.
( read my Q and A with Deanna here )
I fell head over heels over her Lady Julia books and then, most recently, with her triad of adorable adventure romances that recalled Out of Africa, The Scarlet Pimpernel and, well, everything good thing (my book gush of City of Jasmine is here ) And now we have a new series to tempt readers of Julia and Brisbane who want something that stretches over books and allows us to settle in to a flint and tinder romance. Beginning with A Curious Beginning (releasing September)
Raybourn writes with a knowing wink and a smile and, here, she is back in Victorian London featuring the darling and bright Veronica Speedwell, a Victorian lady reminiscent of Amelia Peabody who loves to chase butterfly specimens across the exotic corners of several continents and can stay off any untoward advances with her hat pin. She keeps a small mouse named Chester tucked tightly to her as a mascot and she is brave and wonderful with an athletic form, a manner too bold for a spinster, and a life stretched with possibility when her guardian "aunt" passes away.
But there is intrigue! Mystery! Murder! Stolen identities! and even a Royal tinge of excitement and Veronica, alongside the growly and perfect Emerson-like Stoker (there's a lot of Elizabeth Peters in this series) into a whirlwind of corruption, danger and near death.
No one writes quite like Deanna Raybourn: pairing a whip-smart sense of humour, paragraphs and conversations replete with verisimilitude with sensuality and intelligence. Obviously, the sparks between our unlikely pair: Stoker the taxidermist with a high falutin' past and Veronica with the unintentional web of intrigue entrapping her corsets, bloomers and fashionable clothes, is palpable. But Raybourn leads them through several verbal waltzes, heated breaths and close quarters, without ever quite throwing them in each other's arms. This is what kept me reading at a harried pace through hilarious scenes with a travelling circus ( seems like Stoker is also an expert knife thrower, amongst other things) to the alleys of London and the docks and filmy murk of the Thames.
The connection between the two is something that will clutch at your heart and catch in your throat, but Raybourn knows how to play her cards and keep you wanting just a little more. This is chemistry and sexual tension at its finest: a marriage of minds, joining equals who keep the banter flying.
Hilarious and romantic and breathtaking at the same time.
An unconventional symphony that twists and sizzles in flying colours. I cannot WAIT for the next Veronica Speedwell.
My thanks to the publisher for an e-galley.
Thursday, July 30, 2015
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
It's been awhile!
It is becoming increasingly difficult for me to review every single book I read ( what with working on my second novel and all ) but I try to do a good job of keeping my Goodreads up to date! Often with little comments or squeals of glee. I encourage you to check out my reading log there.
And while you are there, feel free to add my first Herringford and Watts novella "A Singular and Whimsical Problem" to your shelf.
AND! you can also add the second full-length H and W novel "A Lesson in Love and Murder" to your shelf because my publisher was nice enough to put this on there ( even though I haven't quite written it all yet ;) )
(and seriously: I am working on Lesson in Love and Murder right now and you will all love Benfield Citrone --- my MOUNTIE! yes, I have a mountie.Also, a cameo by Emma Goldman. Also, a cameo by Teddy Roosevelt. Part of it is set in Chicago where my trouser-wearing lady detectives pit against anarchists ---with explosives! La! )
In other places:
On Novel Crossing, I wrote about reporters in CBA fiction ( something dear to my heart as I have one in my own special Ray)
I also interviewed Kate Breslin whose Not By Sight was fantabulous
For Breakpoint, I was able to write about the fab new film Testament of Youth as well as review Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Readers, I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to gulp down The Watchmaker of Filigree Street over the course of Saturday. That's right, I read all day. This is a keeper book. It is funny and fresh and wonderful. I laughed aloud and often when I wasn't sinking into its gorgeous language.
I was thrilled, too, when Natasha Pulley agreed to do a Q and A here! Her voice is so special and she is an author that came out of nowhere for me and one that I will follow forever. I loved her characters immediately!
[[A few snippets of imagery made me trip over how gorgeous they were:
"....the dark corridor to a door the far end under which firelight bled."
"Under the gas lamps mist pawed at the windows of the closed shops"
"The gold caught the ember-light and shone the colour of a human voice."
"Today the silence had a silver hem."
"...water mumbled in the pipes and there were steps and sudden bright thumps..."
"A prickling terseness started about halfway down his spine as if somebody had rested their fingertips gunshaped between the vertebrae there."
"...still dense over the river where it made skeleton ghosts of ships' masts and trapped the stale smell of the water"
"your science can save a man's life, but imagination makes it worth living."
(I could go on forever! But, I won't) ]]
R: I lost my taste for every other book after reading Watchmaker. Your voice was something I had never encountered before. Do you just sit and write? Or are you a plotter?
I just sit and write. The book didn’t really have a plot at first, but then my editor sort of nudged me and said it might be a good idea if something actually happened.
R:There’s a lot going on in the story---some of it quite dark--- what with nationalism, racism and even terrorism! At times, it seemed to parallel our own world—even though set well over a century ago. How do you think the Victorian age and the “Steampunk” genre best help us confront some of the limitations and darkness of our contemporary time?
Historical fiction is a lot like a telescope. We learn history as a series of facts, unemotionally, and so we tend to think of it in a fairly detached, distant way. Fiction brings everything near again. But if you turn it round the other way and look through it backward, you can make very near things look distant. Very few modern problems are new — they just look new, because they’re closer than we usually see things. Putting them into historical fiction, and making them distant, can sometimes make it clearer what they actually are.
R: My head hurt just thinking of how brilliantly mapped out the entire plot was…not to mention the research from botany to science to watchmaking! The different timelines, the dates, the happenstances, and the events perfectly constructed by Keita Mori. How did you keep track and juggle all of this?
I should probably have kept a big chart, but I’m not that efficient; when I wrote, I tended to have bullet points at the start of new sections to remind me what had to go in and what it had to match up to later, but that’s quite an easy thing to do. A book looks like a linear document when you read it, but writing one, you can skip about from chapter three to chapter twenty without all the intervening stuff to make you forget.
R:I must tell you—I cannot remember highlighting a book so enthusiastically as I did The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. It was at times heartbreaking and tense, yes, but also extremely funny. Do you have a personal favourite moment?
Yes. The moment Thaniel forget the music from the Foreign Office Ball, and the moment Mori forgets how to play it, is probably one of the oldest and most redrafted in the whole thing. I think I spent more time trying to get that right than I did on all the parts set in Japan.
R: absolutely adored the relationships between your characters. Sure, the development of Grace and Matsumoto and Mori and Thaniel could set us in mind of Philip Pullman and Doyle ( as two examples). Yet, they were all so unique and so organic. Were there concrete inspirations for your characters? Or, did they just develop naturally on their own?
Definitely there were concrete foundations for everything, only some of which I can remember. I watched a Japanese sci fi movie called Moon Child (it’s about vampires) in which one of the actors looks very like Mori, so I started blurring the two in my mind after that. I was also reading lots of Sherlock Holmes when I started writing it, and it always struck me as strange that although Watson is yanked always between his wife and Holmes at any given time, nobody ever really seems to get properly upset by any of it. I also read everything by Robin Hobb, who has a marvellous character called the Fool who knows the future. He’s a prophet in a far grander sense than Mori is, and he’s much stranger, but a lot of her stories hinge on how what he can do affects his relationships. That said, concrete foundations only go so far and I think the point at which a story really becomes yours is when you start building your own structure rather than looking at other people’s architecture; after point, the characters did develop by themselves.
R:Another note on character: I loved how there was no distinct line between good and bad and each character had moments where the reader questioned or even misunderstood. Here, I think of Grace. While I found it difficult reading about her reactive response to Mori, I empathized with my belief that she was doing what she thought was right. How did you set to achieve this balance?
Nineteenth century novels are full of total candlewasters who wouldn’t react to a slap in the face; I hate The Portrait of a Lady, because the heroine of it goes back to an awful man at the end for a lifetime of rubbish rather than murder him like you want her to. It’s righteous but annoying. With Grace and Mori, I didn’t want either of them to be a coward, and I didn’t want either of them to be a saint. It felt much more human for them to be afraid of each other and to fight and to come away less than shiny.
R:Finally, what has been your favourite part of your journey to publication thus far?
The book cover, definitely the book cover. I owe the Bloomsbury design team a very big round of drinks.
Natasha Pulley studied English Literature at Oxford University and earned a creative writing MA at the University of East Anglia. Pulley lives near Ely in Cambridgeshire, England. This is her first novel.
Find Natasha Pulley on the web
Follow her on Twitter
Add Watchmaker to Goodreads
Friday, July 17, 2015
Just letting you know that you can pre-order the first full-length Herringford and Watts adventure (a novella entitled A Singular and Whimsical Problem will introduce you to the characters in December!) is now available for pre-order
Go to Amazon!
Also, Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder is on Goodreads --- so please feel free to go and add it to your TBR account because I think you will want to read it!
Also, I have been working on the second novel in the series A Lesson in Love and Murder and you can check out my pinterest page
My reading world lately has been this:
Friday, July 03, 2015
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
I spent six days wandering the city as well as taking advantage of the amazing and quick commuter rail to head out to Concord to visit Orchard House (Louisa May Alcott's often homebase and the inspiration for Little Women) and to visit Walden Pond, Thoreau's homestead and Ralph Waldo Emerson's house.
I love Boston.
Some of the reasons I love it:
Boston proper is a relatively small city (especially compared to Toronto) so it is so easy to walk around in.
The Common: Reading in the Common with an iced coffee while watching those Swan boats? Love
The cobblestoned Freedom Trail.
Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall
The accents! To Canadian Rachel, most Americans have accents: but the Boston dialect is so distinctive and regionally specific----
THE NORTH END! Oh my goodness, I love the North End: site of Paul Revere's house and the Old North Church but also Boston's Little Italy---home to amazon cannoli and all manner of delicious Italian food at restaurants people line up for hours to get in.
Back Bay and Beacon Hill: the rows of red-bricked ornate architecture, the public alleys and Boulevards
THE PEOPLE: the people in Boston are so friendly. When I was there last autumn, stepping out of the airport, a woman used her Charlie Card to get me on the subway and rode past her stop to make sure I found the Back Bay station
The Green Dragon Tavern: I love the ambience and the ghosts of the rebel Sons of Liberty plotting their revolution
The Harbour: gorgeous! I mean, one moment you are remembering a ton of darjeeling was tipped over the side, the next you are gazing over at New England lighthouses
The people ( I think I mentioned this )
The Old State House and the Old South Meeting House: just walking Boston gives you a sense that you have peeled back a few hundred years
And SO MANY MORE THINGS
pictures! ( ever so craftily stolen from instagram)
I read great books in Boston
Finally finished Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah Henstra
American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White, the Birth of the 'It' Girl and the Crime of the Century by Paula Uruburu ( note: this non-fiction is UNPUTFRIGGINDOWNABLE )
Popular by Maya van Wagenen
The Daring Exploits of a Runaway Heiress which was adorable and snarky
I was at opening night of Newsies on its Boston tour stop and it was my first time seeing the highly anticipated Broadway show ( I have been stoked about it ). Ironically, I am seeing it opening night here in Toronto. Lots of Newsies for me!
Friday, June 19, 2015
|You two shouldn't be together. The cat deserves more happiness|
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
"She did want that, there was no denying it. For years, all she'd ever dreamed of was growing up and becoming a wife and mother, but that was before women had any choices. Now they were earning degrees. They were asking for the vote. They were even securing jobs in professions never before accessible to them."
"Managing comes naturally to a woman. She has been managing homes since the beginning of time. But the quality we, of the stronger sex, assume she lacks is business ability. Yet this writer had an opportunity to sit with the head of the only shop of woman glasscutters in the world. She and the dozen young women who work under her direction made--without any assistance from men---the award-winning windows of the Tiffany's chapel.
"Their eggs are all in one basket, and when you've only one basket, it stands to reason that it had better be a good one."