Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas Reading

So,  during my two week holiday from my real job I have been

a.) writing up a storm on A Lesson in Love and Murder 

b.) hanging out with my splendid family and my adorable 7 month old niece and aunts and cousins and doing family Christmas stuff in my little hometown of Orillia

c.) working through Endeavour with my parents


Only fun books ( although that's a bit of a lie because I have been doing a lot of research on the history of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police for Lesson in Love and Murder 

A few highlights:

I finally finished Clockwork Prince and Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare and I love Jem but I am #TeamWill but mostly I love Henry and Charlotte

I read  A Week to be Wicked and When A Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare.  (note:mature subject in these ones, so be ye aware)
Tessa Dare's books are consistent in making me laugh (lobsters in When A Scot Ties the Knot) but there was some magic about Week to be Wicked. To be honest, I cannot remember the last time I stayed up til 3:30 in the morning finishing a book.  The magic of holidays.  

[from When A Scot Ties the Knot: Sometimes a woman doesn't quite fit in with her expected role. We do what we can to make our own way, carve out a space for ourselves."

And I laughed through every page.  This is an arresting book that will validate anyone who has felt out of place.  There are almost picaresque elements to Colin's ability to charm his way across the country: amidst gaming halls and brothels and highway robbers in order to transport Minerva across the border to Scotland and a Geology Society in Edinburgh.

A few quotes:

"When Minerva lost herself in a book, her late father had once remarked, a man needed hounds and a search party to pull her back out."

"Did I say disgusting? I meant enchanting. I've always wanted to go to bed with a primeval sea snail."

"Her eyes always caught that wild, desperate spark just before she did something extraordinary."

"Men never hesitated to declare their presence. They were permitted to live aloud, in reverberating thuds and clunks, while ladies were always schooled to abide in hushed whispers."

"You didn't destroy my dreams. You broke me out of my shell. There was bound to be a bit of a mess."

I also read a fun book called Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey because I love re-tellings of this fairytale. Also, there were some very hilarious lines in this book:


"Eat your soup and stop feeling sorry for yourself."
"I wasn't just being gallant. I already knew you were brave."

Another enchanting read was The Witches of Cambridge by Menna van Praag. I read and loved and raved about The Dress Shop of Dreams around the same time last year so I was delighted when Random House sent me an ARC of this new tale.   If you love Alice Hoffman and Sarah Addison Allen then this is the author for you.

A thread of magical realism is subtly weaved into women's fic with a splash of romance, familial relationships, bittersweet introspection on love and loss and a perfectly gothic setting of Cambridge and its university: home to several witches!

Luscious recipes with herbs to infuse delectable spells,  The Witches of Cambridge is a retrospective on art,food, love, romance and loss.  Love in its many facets of light and dark.

"It's as if his heart doesn't reside in his chest but sits,waiting and open wide, just beneath his eyes. And you believe that if you look long enough you'll fall right in."

There is such simple wisdom and universal truth in what Van Praag serves here and she does so with such a sly wink that you are lost in her languid prose, awed at how easy she makes it seem whereas really she is a master wordsmith.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Ultimate Christmas Q and A with Melissa Tagg

1.)   Favourite Christmas Carol
Good King Wenceslas!
J/K I just wanted to see if I could spell Wenceslas correctly on the first try and weirdly, I totally did. My true favorite is probably Hark, The Herald Angels Sing. Or Joy to the World. Or, ooh, O Holy Night.
2.)   Earliest christmas memory
I’m honestly not sure which Christmas this is from, but I know I was super young (like, probably three or four, maybe five) and I have this memory of getting purple footie pajamas with a little embroidered Winnie the Pooh up near the top. My sister got matching ones. And I remember putting them on and rubbing my hands up and down the sleeves…so soft! Kind of a weird memory, but it’s the earliest Christmas one I’ve got!
3.)   Toy you remember wanting really badly and why
Oh my gosh! I was obsessed with wanting a white popple for several years. I had a purple one—a mini one. But I wanted the full-size white one. I don’t even know why because I look back now and think other colors are cooler. But whatevs. The childish heart wants what the childish heart wants.
4.)   Did you ever write a letter to Santa?
Possibly? I mean, I wrote a ton as a kid, so it’s very possible. But I don’t remember ever truly believing in Santa. (Which I suppose might sound sad, but believe me, I had plenty of imagination and whimsy as a kid.) So I’m not sure I ever wrote one seriously. If I did, it was probably a school assignment. And I probably asked for a white popple!
5.)   You can choose only one movie to watch every Christmas for the rest of your life, what is it ?
Easiest question ever! It’s a Wonderful Life. Hands-down.
6.)   Egg nog or cider?
Cider! Cider! Cider! Truthfully egg nog kinda grosses me out.
7.)   What is your favourite moment in One Enchanted Christmas?
Awww fun question. I have several but probably one of my favorites is this moment in chapter seven or eight, I think, where Drew is in the kitchen looking for an extension cord in a junk drawer and Maren comes in and is sliding over the hard floor in her socks (something I do everyday in my place) and she’s got tinsel in her hair and Drew just has this moment where he looks at her and for once, just does exactly what he wants…stops thinking about everyone and everything else and impulsively asks her out. Just like that. And then he accidentally pulls the drawer off its hinges and everything spills out. And I don’t know, something about that little moment felt real life-ish to me as I wrote it.
8.)   You can invite FIVE people from Stars Hollow for your Christmas party. Who do you choose?
LOVE! Honestly, I’m waffling on Lorelai because in many ways, I feel very similar to her and do we really need both of us there? So no one get mad at me, but I’m gonna nix her. And I’m gonna go with:

Luke (obvs)
Jess (OBVS)
Sookie (‘cause she’s hilarious)
Michel (also ‘cause he’s hilarious)
And the town troubadour
(Also, I really kind of wanted to say Max because the older I get, the more he appeals to me. But I don’t think he’s from Stars Hollow. I also waffled on Miss Patty in place of the town troubadour because, hello, amusement factor. But the town troubadour can provide entertainment, so he won out.)

9.)   Pick a reindeer.
Can I choose Buddy the Elf instead? J/K I think I’ll go with Cupid because to me Christmas is kinda romancey, so I don’t know, it feels fitting.

10.)Best TV Christmas special of all time

What if I told you I’m woefully under-qualified to answer this? I don’t watch very many Hallmark Christmas movies, for instance. I’m more of a classic Christmas movie girl. But oh, oh, wait! In the 80s there was a Muppet’s Family Christmas TV special. Loved it! And check it out…you can watch the whole thing on YouTube! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojtGHXsTXmU 

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Theatre! Mini-Reviews: 'Cinderella' and 'Anne and Gilbert'

toronto theatre.com

The revival of this lesser known Rodgers and Hammerstein piece opened last week here on its National Tour after mixed reviews ( though a few Tonys!) on Broadway.

I knew nothing about the music or the adaptation of the story before I went .  I confess that I was disappointed with the book to the musical : some of the lyrics being forced to rhyme together while the secondary plots weren’t really developed at all.  While the orchestration was a dream, the lyrics were stilted and too often expected without the turn of nuanced phrase that contributes to the lasting impressions of other musicals by the pair like Sound of Music and The King and I.

That being said every single actor on the stage was top-notch, the voices soared through the beautiful Edwardian Mirvish theatre and the dancing was divine.  The costumes were slight of hand and really quite as magical as the subject matter and the sets of enchanted forest and glistening palace alike.    

An opulent musical with expert staging that just suffers from some lukewarm storytelling.  Cast and crew  nor composer to blame.

p.s. how does she do that dress change before the ball? I have no clue. Youtube has been no help.


We went off to Ottawa for this one! 

This is a musical that has become a staple in Charlottetown and Summerside during the summer: a sort of continuation of the favourite Anne of GG Musical which I am not afraid to admit I loathe.    This is a far more mature piece and actually a pretty close adaptation of Anne of the Island. Unlike other adaptations, and indeed the book itself, it really excels at digging a little deeper into Gilbert’s perspective.  While the first act was a bit scattered, I found things really tightened in the second when Anne and Gil, Moody and Josie end up at Redmond.  Here, Anne meets the equally luminous and flirtatious Philippa and her upper class beau Royal Gardner. All while Gil sits on the sidelines, hoping Anne finally catches up to him.

The staging was great: a sort of an elaborate puzzle with pieces that interlocked and spread apart. The costumes, too, were first rate and the choreography was great.   Musically, I was impressed at how the score was infused with the flavour of Maritime music.  This is not big, robust orchestra musical music: this is sweet and chime-like, making great use of the fiddle and, in some cases, crystalline voices.  The two strongest voices in the cast belonged to Anne (thank goodness) and Roy.  Though the actresses playing Marilla and Rachel Lynde both had fine voices and a marvelous duet. 

Apparently, on the Island ( where I will probably see it next summer) the auditorium at the Guild theatre is quite intimate.  The National Arts centre is a mid-sized theatre with great acoustics and allowed the production to breathe a little. It makes great use of its space.

Finally, if you’ve spent your life pining for boy-next-door Gil Blythe, this musical was written for you. It self-consciously parades the idealization of Gilbert, every school girl swoons for him and, obviously, even the stubborn Anne is not immune to his charms. 

But, without doubt, the price of admission was worth it for Ellen Denny whose Anne is at times heart-breaking and winsome who is never less than luminous and intelligent and who sings like an angel. 

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Giveaway and Cover Reveal: Of Dubious and Questionable Memory

Hey all!

Head on over to our friend Rissi's blog for a neat giveaway ( a copy of A Singular and Whimsical Problem and Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder upon its release) and to learn more about Of Dubious and Questionable Memory: the first time we send Herringford and Watts state-side!

They go to Boston and Concord, Mass --- 2 of my favourite places in the world.

Also, how cute are these covers all in a chronological row?

Monday, December 07, 2015

What is Rachel Reading?: The Thomas Nelson edition

If you can crush on a publisher, I crush hardcore on Thomas Nelson.  They have brilliant marketing, gorgeous covers and some of my favourite voices. To add, they are taking wonderful risks and bringing out faith fiction with soft thematic resonance that is accessible across the markets.

A Respectable Actress by Dorothy Love 

Isn't this cover gorgeous? I cannot even handle it. Sheesh.  

When India Hartley is accused of murder, she must uncover the deceptions of others to save herself.
India Hartley, a famous and beautiful actress, is now alone after her father’s death and embarks upon a tour of theaters across the South. Her first stop is Savannah’s Southern Palace. On the eve of the second night’s performance, something goes horribly wrong. Her co-star, Arthur Sterling, is shot dead on stage in front of a packed house, and India is arrested and accused of the crime.
A benefactor hires Philip Sinclair, the best—and handsomest—lawyer in Savannah to defend India. A widower, Philip is struggling to reinvent his worn-out plantation on St. Simons Island. He needs to increase his income from his law practice in order to restore Indigo Point, and hardly anything will bring him more new clients than successfully defending a famous actress on a murder charge.
Because India can’t go anywhere in town without being mobbed, Philip persuades the judge handling her case to let him take her to Indigo Point until her trial date. India is charmed by the beauty of the Georgia lowcountry and is increasingly drawn to Philip. But a locked room that appears to be a shrine to Philip’s dead wife and the unsolved disappearance of a former slave girl raise troubling questions. Piecing together clues in an abandoned boat and a burned-out chapel, India discovers a trail of dark secrets that lead back to Philip, secrets that ultimately may hold the key to her freedom. If only he will believe her.

Quick take: I sometimes find that Love's narrative is at odds with the time period she writes in but I love the unique setting and characterization. A really clever and taut mystery lies at the heart of this book

Lydia’s job at the library is her world—until a mysterious patron catches her eye . . . and perhaps her heart.
Just months after the closure of the Chicago World’s Fair, librarian Lydia Bancroft finds herself fascinated by a mysterious dark-haired and dark-eyed patron. He has never given her his name; he actually never speaks to a single person. All she knows about him is that he loves books as much as she does.
Only when he rescues her in the lobby of the Hartman Hotel does she discover that his name is Sebastian Marks. She also discovers that he lives at the top of the prestigious hotel and that most everyone in Chicago is intrigued by him.
Lydia and Sebastian form a fragile friendship, but when she discovers that Mr. Marks isn’t merely a very wealthy gentleman, but also the proprietor of an infamous saloon and gambling club, she is shocked.
Lydia insists on visiting the club one fateful night and suddenly is a suspect to a murder. She must determine who she can trust, who is innocent, and if Sebastian Marks—the man so many people fear—is actually everything her heart believes him to be.

Quick Take: I was looking forward to this, especially because I enjoyed the characters in Deception at Sable Hill so much.  I also love a cozy mystery ---and a cozy mystery punctuated with books? the best.

Before he became a father of the Christian Church, Augustine of Hippo loved a woman whose name has been lost to history. This is her story.
She met Augustine in Carthage when she was seventeen. She was the poor daughter of a mosaic-layer; he was a promising student and with a great career in the Roman Empire ahead of him. His brilliance and passion intoxicated her, but his social class would be forever beyond her reach.  She became his concubine, and by the time he was forced to leave her, she was thirty years old and the mother of his son. And his Confessions show us that he never forgot her. She was the only woman he ever loved.
In a society in which classes rarely mingled on equal terms, and an unwed mother could lose her son to the burgeoning career of her ambitious lover, this anonymous woman was a first-hand witness to Augustine of Hippos’s anguished spiritual journey from religious cultist to the celebrated Christian saint and thinker.
Giving voice to one of history’s most mysterious women, The Confessions of X tells the story of Augustine of Hippo’s nameless lover, their relationship before his famous conversion, and her life after his rise to fame. A tale of womanhood, faith, and class at the end of antiquity, The Confessions of X is more than historical fiction . . . it is a timeless story of love and loss in the shadow of a theological giant.
She met Augustine in Carthage when she was just seventeen years old. She was the daughter of a mosaic-layer. He was a student and the heir to a fortune. They fell in love, despite her lower station and Augustine’s dreams of greatness. Their passion was strong, but the only position in his life that was available to her was as his concubine. When Augustine’s ambition and family compelled him to disown his relationship with the her, X was thrust into a devastating reality as she was torn from her son and sent away to her native Africa.
A reflection of what it means to love and lose, this novel paints a gripping and raw portrait of ancient culture, appealing to historical fiction fans while deftly exploring one woman’s search for identity and happiness within very limited circumstances.

Quick Take: this is literary historical fiction at its best. A deft and nuanced look at women's roles in ancient times as well as a gorgeous tapestry of philosophy and love.  This was a surprising voice for me and a brilliant addition to Nelson's growing and varied book program. 

“Why won’t you just tell me what’s in that cake?” I’d been trying to get Laine’s recipe for years. We all had.
When all else fails, turn to the divine taste of hummingbird cake.
In the South you always say “yes, ma’am” and “no, ma’am.” You know everybody’s business. Football is a lifestyle not a pastime. Food—especially dessert—is almost a religious experience. And you protect your friends as fiercely as you protect your family—even if the threat is something you cannot see.
In this spot-on Southern novel brimming with wit and authenticity, you’ll laugh alongside lifelong friends, navigate the sometimes rocky path of marriage, and roll through the outrageous curveballs that life sometimes throws . . . from devastating pain to absolute joy. And if you’re lucky, you just may discover the secret to hummingbird cake along the way.

Quick Take: if you like Fannie Flagg, Billie Letts or The Divine Sisters of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, you will enjoy this winsome Southern novel which paints with talented aplomb a pitch-perfect women's sphere.  The voice is refreshing, the characters buoyant and believable: why, you feel like you will look up from the pages and see them there across from you! 

Note: I received all of the above with compliments from the publisher.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Happy Book Birthday A Singular and Whimsical Problem

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I am ALL over the place this week promoting  A Singular and Whimsical Problem and it is so much fun to have a book out in the world.

release dates mean your sister and brother-in-law
send you a poinsettia bouquet + a balloon to your
Please go to iBooks, Kobo, Kindle or Nook and pick up a copy!  It's less than the price of a gingerbread latte at Starbies and the size of one of the original Sherlock Holmes adventures in the Strand!

you can read my 2 part interview on Novel PASTimes (includes giveaway)

you can learn about my favourite Christmas reads (Sherlockian and otherwise) on Thinking Thoughts as part of the Spread The Christmas Joy series (includes giveaway)

you can see who I would choose in a game of Date, Marry, Kill featuring Lestrade, Sherlock and Watson at Melissa Tagg's blog (again with the giveaway)

over at Christen Krumm's blog I am talking about the 6 authors I would most like to have dinner with (among other things) BONUS: see who would play Merinda in a movie! (whoa! another giveaway)

I rank the 5 best (and worst) made-for-tv Christmas movies at Deanna Raybourn's blog

Learn about my inspiration for Herringford and Watts at Breakpoint

Learn about my insane publication schedule at ICFW

At Coffee Cups and Camisoles, I tell you all about my leading man Ray DeLuca 

And don't forget to enter my giveaway! It's so easy! you just have to leave an online review. ANY ONLINE REVIEW

release dates also mean your parents come all the way to Toronto and take you to dinner at a fav italian place and give you a bouquet of holly 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

GIVEAWAY: Very Merry Torontonian Sherlockian Murdoch Tea-filled Christmas

*Contest runs Dec 1-6*
heart emoticon read a Singular and Whimsical Problem (available at all online major retailers) or pretend to read it. Whatever. You are still eligible as LONG AS YOU LEAVE AN ONLINE REVIEW
heart emoticon leave a review on Amazon, Nook, Kobo, iBooks (through Apple iTunes) ... the retailer of your choice between Dec 1-6
heart emoticon take a screenshot or capture of said review (it doesn't have to be a good review or a deep review. It could be "The Chipmunks are better sleuths")
heart emoticon send proof of your review to getrachel [at] gmail [dot] com
heart emoticon be entered in a DRAW!
heart emoticon WIN:
-a signed copy of The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder upon its release in March 2016
-The David's Tea Christmas Collection 2015
-a replica print of a Sidney Paget illustration from the original Sherlock Holmes serials in the The Strand Magazine
-a TV tie-in copy of "Night's Child" by Maureen Jennings featuring Toronto's best and brightest Victorian detective
-my undying love ( oh heck, kids, you had that anyways!)

Contest open to residents of Canada and the U.S. only
Winner will be announced December 8

A Singular and Whimsical Problem releases Dec 1 


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Spotlight: A Talent for Trickery

I have been insanely busy of late. It's the whole "you're a writer and a career girl thing" and my reading has been sliding. As such, I haven't even finished this delightful book but I am loving it so far and I know you will, too!

Indeed, our friend Serena Chase ( who has impeccable taste) listed it as one of her must-reads on USA Today's HEA 

The Lady is a Thief

Years ago, Owen Renderwell earned acclaim-and a title-for the dashing rescue of a kidnapped duchess. But only a select few knew that Scotland Yard's most famous detective was working alongside London's most infamous thief...and his criminally brilliant daughter, Charlotte Walker.

Lottie was like no other woman in Victorian England. She challenged him. She dazzled him. She questioned everything he believed and everything he was, and he has never wanted anyone more. And then he lost her.

Now a private detective on the trail of a murderer, Owen has stormed back into Lottie's life. She knows that no matter what they may pretend, he will always be a man of the law and she a criminal. Yet whenever he's near, Owen has a way of making things complicated...and long for a future that can never be theirs.

There's also a sneak peek of the book ( and its sparkling narrative) on Harlequin Junkie 

Please visit Alissa Johnson

While I received a copy for review purposes from Sourcebooks, the book itself is less than the price of a gingerbread latte on kindle so snap it up.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Christmas Giveaway and a chance to win 'A Singular and Whimsical Problem'

First off,  excited that A Singular and Whimsical Problem is up for pre-order on Amazon!  It is e-only with links for kobo, nook and ibooks coming shortly. It will show up on your kindle Dec 1

it's super cheap so go forth and get it. It's just a slight little novella-sized Christmas confection but you do get to meet Jem and Merinda and Jasper and Ray!

Secondly, a bunch of awesome authors have pooled together for a cool Christmas Giveaway. You could win all of the books listed below (for me: a digital copy of Singular and Whimsical Problem and a print copy of Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder upon its release) as well as a cozy fireplace heater. I have one in my little apartment and there is nothing better in the world!

Sending you over to Amanda Dykes' website to enter so you can check out her awesome blog and learn more about Bespoke: A Tiny Christmas Tale--- one of my favourite reads of last year )

Cynthia Ruchti (novella, An Endless Christmas), Katie Ganshert (Amish Christmas at North Star), Michelle Ule (The 12 Brides of Christmas), Kathy Ide (21 Days of Christmas)Rachel McMillan (A Singular and Whimsical Problem), Melissa Tagg (One Enchanted Christmas), and Amanda Dykes (Bespoke: a Tiny Christmas Tale). 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Theatre Thursday: 3 Reasons why 'The Proposal/The Night Was Alive' from 'Titanic' is the smartest duet in the Broadway canon

Last night, Kat sent me this amazing youtube performance ( I mean everything is perfect: the piano accompaniment, the voices, the duet)  and it had me (again) thinking about how much I love the musical 'Titanic.'   I repeat, this show has nothing to do with the stupid movie and it has one of the most moving and ingenious broadway scores I have ever heard.

I saw it 3 times in Toronto this past Spring and saw James Hume ( one of the fellows here, singing the part of Bride) as Etches. His voice is magnificent.

You also really need to hear the song with full orchestration, 

Here's why this song leapt into my top 3 broadway songs of all time when I first heard it:

1   1.) It is an interesting and unexpected duet: composer and lyricist  Maury Yeston said that he divided the story into groups of three ---2.) three love stories from across the classes b.) the builder, the owner and the captain of the ship c.) three men who knew that something was amiss:   Barrett the stoker knows that the speed they are going is ridiculous, Fleet, the lookout, has no binoculars and no moon to guide him, Bride cannot get ahold of anyone when he sends his SOS signal.   Unlike other popular male duets in the Broadway canon (think of Confrontation in Les Miserables), this doesn’t drive the plot forward in a blatant way, rather serves as a portentous moment threaded with melancholic music and positioned in a somewhat humorous moment.

     2.)The tune is at once wistful and whimsical( an almost impossible counterbalance) and excessively listenable: layering an interesting counterpart of foreshadow and temporary bond.   It uses its funny onomatopoeia but its undercut by a severe melancholy: most apparent in the orchestration which occasionally sits high and yearning octave above the musical line Bride is singing. The telegram that Barrett sends to his love ( inspired by a real one ) will be his last connection to her while the thousand voices that Bride relies on to assuage his feelings of loneliness will be silent when he needs them most and then transposed, at the end, to exemplify the football stadium of wails as passengers drowned.  

            3.) It follows a song of major exposition ( a dinner table sequence that posits information on the date and the speed of the ship )where most people might put a love duet:  Any other composer would have used this moment, I think, to focus on young Katie and Jim Farrell: a typical musical theatre love story. Instead, Yeston gives the second class married couple a duet ( in another interview he said that this is merely because the spoken dialogue he had for them was not loud enough to cover the sound of a mechanical elevator needed in the original stage production) and the Isidor and Ida Strauss a duet. Neither is predictable. In this moment, he tells a different love story: Bride loves his friggin telegraph and Barrett years for Darlene.  Most of the romance duets are interspersed into large, layered chorus numbers

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Theatre Weekend in NYC !

Oh fair blog, I have deserted you.

A rachel in times square 

But, I did want to touch base about my amazing Broadway weekend.  What is a broadway weekend, you might ask?  Well, it’s when you go to New York City ,stay at a hotel just off Times Square and see a bunch of theatre.

My friends and I met in NYC on a Friday morning. Went to the Strand bookstore and then commenced a theatre weekend.

I saw Amazing Grace Friday Night

Tosca at the MET on Saturday afternoon, the King and I at the Lincoln Centre Saturday night

Daddy Long Legs Sunday afternoon

The Fantasticks Sunday night .

L: Lincoln Centre R: The STRAND BOOKSTORE

The great thing about this weekend was that the theatre was varied!  An opera, 2 off-broadway shows presented in intimate spaces and two big budget musicals.   

And what about these shows?

Amazing Grace is a passion project  and as a long time student of hymnody and the history of the great hymnists it was a must see for me. It was closing weekend for the show and the cast was had some of the best voices I have ever heard on stage.   While the story of John Newton is a fabulous subject, I couldn’t help but think that the musical would’ve been even better had it had a more competent score and stronger lyrics.  The staging ( including one impressive shipwreck scene ) transported you back to 18th Century England.   A nod to the musical’s focus on Mary Catlett who really is in a wonderful and unexpected way, the heart of the story.
Broadway night L: with Sonja at AG!

Tosca was an exercise in marathon singing featuring some of the world’s most renowned operatic voices.  Puccini is all romance: swooping and sighing and long recitatives and the MET auditorium and its almost ethereal acoustics was the perfect house for this epic exercise in song.  While opera is not my favourite medium, I loved the experience.

The King and I had some of the best staging I have ever seen for a musical.  As Anna and her young son arrive in 19th Century Siam, their boat steers a clear path, overtaking the stage and covering the orchestra pit underneath. The dancing, singing, choreography and magnificently buoyant and intelligent Kelli O’Hara gave this classic musical a modern and feminist slant.  I really appreciated seeing it anew.

Daddy Long Legs was my favourite show of the weekend.  It is a chamber musical playing off-broadway and based very closely on the epistolary novel by Jean Webster. I was familiar with the concept recording which I have been listening to non-stop and was delighted to hear that most of the music had been preserved in the broadway production.  A cast recording featuring the actor and actress we saw will release next week.   It is just a perfect musical. Basically tailor-made for Rachel.  Sweet and scholarly with dollops of literary infusion and a really careful and smart romance. I loved the writer heroine and the kuntsleroman sentiments and I loved the clever way they interwove Jervis’ reactions to her beguiling letters.   This musical is a kind, small world of its own with fantastic singing, perfect staging, a charming book-filled set and nuanced humour.  It really is the coziest cashmere way to spend an afternoon at the theatre.
a rachel at lincoln centre

The Fantasticks was a show that everyone knows and it is a staple of musical theatre but that I was pretty much unfamiliar with. A sparkling, well-sung allegory, it reminded me of the vaudevillian tropes of old: paper moons and streamers, hats and a mime, a magical trunk that provided all of the props and costumes needed to collectively imagine the myth of Pyramis and Thisbe with a sometimes mournful, always light and airy musical score.

A perfect little confection with plenty laugh-out-loud moments

Friday, October 16, 2015


Guys my reading life right now is basically confined to my subway commute to work and lunch breaks.

I have a deadline November 1 and 1 on Dec 1 so my entire life is writing. Well, also it was thanksgiving last weekend and also the Blue Jays are doing really well. So there *is* some baseball in it.

A man should know when there's a woman in the room

I have never met a girl (including myself) who did not long to be beautiful, who did not pray for her potential to reveal itself. When a girl is beautiful she gets to pick--- she never has to wait for someone to choose her. There is so much power in doing the choosing

Time stops when we get what we want

"Somebody! Wake up, Buster, I'm not the type of woman for a "somebody"

I am watching something perfect and beautiful and I am not a part of it 

Women love with their ears and men with their eyes

I don't know what Jack is seeing when he looks at me. I'm not particularly special and to me lucky is special.

It isn't funny to play on a woman's station in life. As though she is somehow responsible for being married or being alone! Sometimes things happen in life, the pieces move around so that the game can't go your way

Getting married--is that happiness? Or is it just a container to keep happiness in?

When all is said and done he is still a man and men just don't understand.

This week at the recommendation of a friend who saw the film ( that is NOT playing ANYWHERE in Canada. weird) I read Adriana Trigiani's Big Stone Gap.  It immediately reminded me of Billie Letts and I quite enjoyed the quirky characters inhabiting the eponymous town in the late 70s.

I very much identified with our narrator and local pharmacist Ave Maria Mulligan who feels that something is about to happen before her 36 birthday.  Ave Maria is very much the town spinster but also very much torn between her past and her identity as a foreigner (her mother emigrated from Italy and worked as the town seamstress for years) and her identity as a woman who just cannot seem to speak the language of men.

The men in her life include the charming and gentlemanly town residents: the brothers who run her odd jobs, Spec who works Red Cross duty, a reverend who preaches fire and brimstone with the aid of threatening live snakes and her best friend Theodore Tipton.

There is also Jack Mac, a local miner who is exactly Ave Maria's age and just as single.  

This is a quiet book. A book to sink into . Luckily for me, there are several sequels.  

Why must I still see myself in competition with him? Shouldn't I be content to be a wife and mother? (No, Molly, blame Daniel)

Why couldn't a woman likewise do what she loved and had a talent for? Why did we all have to accept that our lot was to be wives and mothers and to want nothing more?
I also read The Edge of Dreams, the most recent Molly Murphy mystery. I love Molly Murphy and I am especially interested in how Bowen toys with the powerplay between the smart and feisty Molly now that she is a wife and mother in a time where women were shrouded in domestic expectations.   Daniel Sullivan, her husband,  Police Captain and staunch traditionalist is problematic for me.... but realistically so.  Let's face it, Daniel hasn't been a swoon worthy hero from the start and that is part of why I like this series.  If he were dashing and perfect the series would experience a different timbre, Molly would not be able to assert herself as the more intelligent of the two and things would wade deep in cliches.   As per always, Molly's lesbian neighbours Sid and Gus are delightfully suffragette and Bohemian and she sneaks over the street in Patchen Place, baby in tow despite the raised eyebrows of Daniel and her mother in law.

Daniel needs to get it together though. He wants so much for Molly to fit the bill as an officer's wife and a champion of the society he is a part of but he clearly didn't marry a woman who fit that mold.  And why would he? It was always Molly's spark and spirit that allured him.  Right now, the reader has to muddle through a Daniel in transition realizing that while surfacely he wants a pitch perfect Molly,a part deep down inside of him desperately wanted to marry the smart fiery investigator who can match his wits and beat him at his own game.  Hurry up, Daniel. You're starting to make me yell at you.

A gentleman must always be so well dressed that his clothes are never observed at all.

I then read House of Thieves by Charles Balfour which was a fast historical fiction about an architect who is pulled into organized crime to pay off his son's gambling debts. While I felt the prose a tad too light and breezy for the subject matter and historical setting, I much appreciated stealing into New York on the brink: a shrine of rich and affluent people, the gangs interwoven, tightening like tangled wires and slowly undercutting the wealthy class.

The Necropolis Railway, railway of the dead. Surely, Florence McCleland thought, there was no better place to plant a bomb.

I also read the Insanity of Murder: the most recent installment in the Dody McCleland series by Felicity Young. I love powerful women doing men's jobs and of course Dody fits the bill.    Dody is a doctor with a penchant for being able to stomach gruesome medical crises. In this case, crime hits close to home as she worries for her suffragette sister.  She also confronts her palpable attraction and love for Investigator Matthew Pike.

I love mysteries with strong women and an undercurrent of romance and I confess that this was the first in the series I had read ( thanks, Netgalley and Harper Collins). I look forward to going back and reading the others that I purchased after my enjoyment of this one :)