Friday, September 25, 2015


you guys have to forgive me

1.) I had an editorial deadline
2.) during the busiest few weeks of my work year
3.) then I went to San Antonio!  and Dallas!

But I have also been reading! mostly on the subway and at lunch breaks


The Martian by Andy Weir:  this book was fast-paced, hilarious and something I wouldn't usually read. But, I saw the film at TIFF and the narrative was so warm and engaging and I read that it was a close adaptation of the novel.  Really engaging and one of the most unique narrative journeys I have had.  Regardless of setting or world, that is really something that every author strives for.

Season of Salt and Honey Hannah Tunnicliffe This is a quiet, ruminative piece laced with recipes and melancholy.  The prose is lyrical and slow moving but very atmospheric.  A touch of Sarah Addison Allen with the careful plotting of De Los Santos, this is a trajectory of grief with just the right amount of hope  (Thanks, Netgalley)

The Mistress of Tall Acre: Laura Frantz creates a compelling world set in post-revolutionary America with a gorgeous love story borne of convenience and riddled with the past.   Frantz is in her niche here, exploring the fortitude of the early country and drawing on her vast historical knowledge.   I invested in this relationship 110% (Thanks, Netgalley)

What to Do with a Duke: Sally Mackenzie  This was a clever, crafty regency with a spirited heroine and a dishy hero both blessed with the gift of banter. There is a fairytale element to it which really captured me and there is a hefty bit of the spirit of Heyer's Venetia (thanks, Netgalley)

White Collar Girl: Renee Rosen   Did you like The Best of Everything? you're welcome
(thanks, Netgalley)

The Replacement Wife: Rowena Wiseman   Did you like The Rosie Project? You're welcome.

i had always wanted to go to the ALAMO! and here i am! 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Truth Be Told

Let's get one thing out of the way, I don't care about the plot of Signed, Sealed, Delivered. The POstables could be returning a stuffed kitten to a toddler and the biggest mystery could be regarding loss of lunch money and I wouldn't care.

SSD works because it recognizes what it is: a heart-felt and genuine character-driven show.  I am a character-driven person. It's how I choose what books to read, it's how I choose what books to write.  Thus, I will never pitch this cozy Hallmark series to anyone for its fast-plot or intricate mysteries.

SSD is a well-painted world crafted with an ensemble of the most likeable people you will find on television.

Here, two mysteries occupy the characters at the Dead Letter Office.  First, a burned and nearly unrecognizable letter that could be from anyone addressed to anywhere ( it ends up having to do with a now-teenaged daughter of an Iraqi war heroine). The second, the re-appearance of Oliver O'Toole's estranged father and his very-near-after reported death.

The central characters meet each mystery head-on while grappling with their personal feelings.  There are lovely moments between Norman and Rita who, if you remember, finally had a first kiss and finally revealed their feelings for each other in SSD: From Paris with Love.  There are heart-wrenchingly fuzzy and warm scenes between gorgeous Shane and Oliver.  We last left them on a porch swing at her house and lovely old-fashioned Oliver just can't get around to throwing his arms around her and finally telling her she makes his world orbit!

GAH! So wonderful.

copyright : hallmark 

Signed Sealed Delivered  is my happy place. I literally cannot have a bad thought or worry running through my head as I step into its world for a well-deserved hour and a half.  It is expert characterization with solid morality and is underpinned by a strong Christian worldview that is quite blatant by today's standards.

And I am going to marry Oliver O'Toole. He is my perfect man.  I have said it before, I have said it again, he basically waltzed--suspenders, arm-bands and all, into my life with his antique letter openers and old-fashioned chivalry.

be mine, Oliver

My thanks to our friends at Grace Hill Media for providing this Canadian with a screening copy ( because they don't show them here! BUT I WILL ALWAYS BUY THE DVDS) :)

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Film Review: the Martian

I had the opportunity to attend a screening of the new Ridley Scott film The Martian at TIFF today.

Apparently, they made Roy Thomson Hall 3D compatible especially for this film and I am glad they did! The usual acoustics at the home of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra were, as per usual astounding, and the 3D experience was thrilling.

Based on the bestselling ( and originally self-published ) book by Andy Weir, The Martian tells the story of astronaut Mark Watney who is accidentally left behind on Mars during an emergency evacuation.

Fortunately, he is very, very smart and turns the crew's Hab into a fortress of solitude and survival.

Now, I should begin by saying this is not really my type of film. I am not huge into Science Fiction and Space freaks me out so much I haven't watched Gravity yet. But, this was a light and compelling narrative and Damon's amiable presence and near-daily video log entries are peppered with warmth and humour.

I told my friend as the credits rolled that very few actors could pull this off: make 75% of alone screen time bearable with a genius that never borders on cocky, a staid and salt-of-the-earth manner and a good sense of humour. To add, resourcefulness.

For the first several of Mark's sols ( Mars days) he is alone figuring out how to survive: counting out the rations he has, learning how to cultivate land in an infertile ground so he can grow potatoes and secure food while he waits for the next Mars mission four years ahead.

Fortunately, back at NASA control, life on Mars is detected and some neat science-y stuff allows Mark to touch base with their headquarters.  He literally has the smartest people in the world using their gizmos and gadgets and astro-physics and nerdy aplomb to figure out how to either get supplies to him or re-route the craft, the Hermes, with the crew that unintentionally left him behind, to swoosh past Mars and pick him up and bring him home.

This is a film populated with really likeable people. To add, it is a film that never really relies on the BIG EVERYTHING THAT MUST GO WRONG WILL moments. It chooses its tension wisely and I have to confess to experience some genuine white-knuckle moments.  This is all thanks to Damon's performance, though. He is such a likeable figure you cannot help but wish him home safe and sound.

A unique and ultra-compelling narrative driven by a stellar lead performance (and backed by a soundtrack of disco, of all things), The Martian is a survival film that never borders on existential brooding. Instead, it is full of heart and humour, light and the human will to survive.

I loved this popcorn thriller and think you all will, too! The cinematography is amazing!  And while I thoroughly don't Speak Science, I was pretty impressed at how Mark and his astronaut friends on earth and in space figured out how to launch a one-man-rescue amidst the stars.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Book Gush: The Work Boyfriend by Deanna McFadden

“The work boyfriend. A curious relationship somewhere between pal and crush.”

Imagine a chicklit novel where you legitimately cannot predict what will happen at the end.    Even the most intelligent and edgy ones, at core, follow a pretty concrete pattern.

What set The Work Boyfriend by Deanna McFadden apart for me was having absolutely no clue what the ultimate relationship end for our narrator Kelly was going to be.

A love letter to Toronto, the midpoint in the previous decade and to the crazy over-thinking lengths we go to to evaluate our love lives, McFadden paints a vulnerable and at times bleak portrait of a young woman, good at heart, who would rather crumble her world of her own volition than let anyone else take control.

Kelly and Rob have been together for years. Rob is pretty much the perfect solid boyfriend, if somewhat boring.  The sex is boring, his parents’ rich holiday soirees are boring and their relationship is like a comfy pair of sweatpants: you super want to crawl into them at the end of the day but sometimes you just want to pull on that new pair of skinny jeans, no matter how restrictive.

At work, Kelly is drawn to Garrett: earbuds draped around his neck, a rainbow of eclectic t-shirts, a smile and floppy hair that cause her stomach to flip each time he passes her cubicle.  Garrett and Kelly are good friends—within the sphere of work--- and both have a sizzling chemistry that the reader knows should probably stay bottled at the office or the neighbourhood pub when surrounded by other coworkers.

The timespan of the novel is tight: two weeks give or take around the Christmas Holidays.  But, Kelly’s mental span is quite realistically elastic: a trampoline that bounces back and forth from College and the Bad Boy Christian to the present where she thinks.about.Garrett.all.the.time.

I wanted to not relate to Kelly as much as I did.  She screws up. She throws in the towel in moments she could fight and she seems to think that there is some virtue in making poor decisions or not letting good things happen to her.  Her decisions have consequences and not once is she clutzy in the typical chicklit fashion. She’s messed up while navigating a realm of romantic possibility.  This is what separates McFadden from the pastel-coloured fun of Sophie Kinsella, her narrative voice and warmth what keep her from falling into the trying-too-hard-to-be-edgy work of Catherine McKenzie.   A bit Nick Hornby, a bit Rainbow Rowell,  McFadden has an inimitable voice that is rambly and believable, full of stream of consciousness backstory that remarkably doesn’t make you want to throw things.   The thinking person’s chicklit. And you will relate.  You will relate to Kelly expressing, frustrated: “ I want to want to marry him. I want to want to have kids. I want to want all of it, deep down, there’s a quagmire of doubt about everything. I can’t put my finger on it.”

It’s like Kelly is inviting you to move in her brain for a stint in a sort of Pixar Inside Out  way.

There are some truly beautiful moments in the book.  This lyrical and brave book that is deceptively readable but really super thought-provoking.

“A stillness descended upon the table, like how a snowfall quiets a forest.”

And, one of my favourite sequences from any book of the past year. Because this *gets* me

That feeling you get when you’re in the airport limo driving back down into  the city and you see the skyline—the CN Tower, the condos that litter the lakeshore, the familiar bumps of the Gardiner Expressway—and then, no matter how much fun you had while you were away[ …] that warmth spreads through in the back of the car ---that was what I imagined being married, living with someone for eternity, felt like.

“Winter allowed the city a moment to hold still for the holidays and let people tuck in nice and warm. The streets were quiet, dampened by the snow. Before the snowplows, before anyone shoveled, before pets had to be walked, the sidewalks were crisp, crunchy even.”

“The air might stop at nothing to freeze your lungs mid-breath, but I’d never wanted to live anywhere else.

The CN Tower refused to blink. The stars paused. The air dropped even lower in temperature.”

“Love is tricky. But now that I know I can stand on my own two feet….”

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Hamlet: The Ultra-Condensed Version

Mel and I went to Stratford on Saturday for a fun double-header of Hamlet and Taming of the Shrew.

I give you, for your enjoyment, Hamlet: Abridged

Guards: GHOST!

Horatio:  How now, guards! Was that a ghost I saw?


Guards and Horatio: Good Lord this is terrifying

[meanwhile at a wedding party]

Claudius: blah blah blah royal duty blah blah
Gertrude: giggle
Hamlet:  I am going to stand here like a statue and curse all women for being as fickle as my mother who but a month after the death of my father is marrying this lout.
Claudius: come Hamlet! Stop standing all aloof like Darcy at a country dance, join us and we shall all kiss
Hamlet: *rolls eyes*

[First of many existential soliloquies]
[amidst the growing tension of a faraway random geographically-implausible war between England, Poland, Norway and Denmark]

Polonius: now Laertes, before you off for France, let me tell you and your fair virginal sister Ophelia some nuggets of wisdom.
*does so, loquaciously*

Ophelia: I think I am in love with Lord Hamlet
*twists daisy chain*

So you see, Ophelia, I thought we had a future; but it turns out I prefer Horatio and also I am playing mad.

Horatio: Hamlet, you gotta come see this ghost who looks like your dead dad
Hamlet: *existential moanings of woe*

*Hamlet, Horatio and Guards chase ghost*

Ghost: Hamlet, my son, I have not come to weird you out. Rather, to tell you your douchebag uncle Claudius put poison in my ear and killed me to get your mom.  Please avenge my death.

*Hamlet wallows loquaciously in a  murky haze of indecision, fake madness and existential soliloquies of which here are some highlights*:

Polonius: I know what is troubling you, young man. Love for my daughter.
Hamlet: words words words. Buzz buzz buzz

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern : you be a little weird, yo
Hamlet: Hawk and a handsaw!

Ophelia: oh lord Hamlet, I do take your madness harshly; perchance because we have done the deed and according to my later suicidal presentation of flowers, many symbolizing abortive powers, you may have knocked me up
Hamlet: Get thee to a nunnery

PLAYERS: we have come to play! And entertain!  Perchance to help you forget the looming English-Polish-Norwegian-Danish conflict that plays off stage left throughout this whole thing.
Hamlet: Can you guys do Murder of Gonzago? Except, I will totally write a few extra lines?
PLAYERS: we see nothing odd about this at all. Totally fine with this.

[more existential Hamlet soliloquies]

PLAYERS: *reenact death of Hamlet’s father what with poison and such*
Claudius: I’ll be damned. They're on to me

[Hamlet: more existential soliloquies and indecision and inaction]

Gertrude: son Hamlet, why do you hate me so?
Hamlet: You’re totally shacking up with my murderous uncle.  *Kills Polonius accidentally*

Claudius: we shall send Hamlet away to England hope he dies
Audience: but isn't England one of the countries in this implausible war?
Shakespeare:  the political and military stuff isn't supposed to make sense here, you guys. If you want all that, go see one of the Henrys. 

Ophelia: woe! My father is dead. I have lost my mind. I might be pregnant. In fact, in this Stratford production I am!

Laertes: Behold! I return from France.  WTF! My dad’s dead and my sister is looney. What did you guys do?

Claudius *cough* Hamlet *cough*

[Ophelia:drowns herself after talking a lot about flowers ]

Gertrude: *proceeds to describe in great detail how Ophelia died leaving everyone to ponder why no one inevitably watching this slow and easy to recount in great detail death, didn’t go and save her*

Laertes: REVENGE!!!!

[Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead]

Hamlet: Horatio! LOOK! I am back from England! I was almost killed and drowned and stuff. Let’s take a detour by the graveyard

[gravedigger. Skull. Yorick.]
[Ophelia funeral]

Claudius: I have an idea, Laertes.  Let’s poison Hamlet in a made-up fencing tournament.  You will nick him with your sword. And if that doesn’t kill him we’ll have a goblet of poisoned wine as a backup.
Laertes: sure!

Hamlet: the readiness is all!
Audience: can you please die so we don't have to have another soliloquy?

Hamlet and Laertes *fence fence fence*
 Cladius: drink from this goblet, Hamlet, you look thirsty.
Hamlet: meh!
Gertrude: mmm wine. Gimme *drinks and dies*
Claudius: *dies*
Laertes: *dies*
Hamlet *dies*
Fortinbras: Ummm, okay. I think I showed up at the wrong time! I am part of the plot involving the English-Polish-Norwegian-Danish war.
Horatio: *sniffing* I forgot about that
Fortinbras: No worries. I think everyone did. Hamlet looks like a nice guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. LET US BURY HIM AS A SOLDIER

The end.

this is basically a love story between these two 

Thursday, September 03, 2015


The Life of Rachel:

Day job: insane
After-school job (the writing novels thing): insane with edits

but !   Look! We have pretty covers.

The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder releases March 2016

A Singular and Whimsical Problem Dec 2015 (it's an e-only novella introducing you to Jem and Merinda and crew)