Gosh, it was lovely to get away and focus entirely on writing! The companionship was excellent, too. The abbey is basically in the country, outside of the (very) small town of Muenster and close to the larger town of Humboldt.
The accommodations are simple. We stayed in St. Scholastica, a former nuns’ residence, not the main college building. No air conditioning. Common washrooms. We ate in the cafeteria. Simple food found on many a prairie table. No distractions. We met for meals and in the evening in the common room. It was delightful.
And, I got a lot done. Now it’s back to reality. We’re doing things like cleaning out our garage and basement. There’s a big disposal bin on our driveway and we are getting things done! We might fit in a game of golf or a barbecue, too.
Until next time…
It’s the long weekend here in Canada! What’s everyone else doing?
Technically it’s spring but still very much winter. As in there is still a lot of snow here. But spring is coming! That’s why when we went to buy furnace filters I also bought gladioli bulbs and dahlia tubers.
The Round Up
March saw us through Pi Day, the Ides of March and St. Patrick’s Day. Also, International Women’s Day, World Poetry Day and International Transgender Day of Visibility.
In fact, today is Transgender Day of Visibility, so here are some things to be aware of:
1. Trans people are valid. 2. Trans people are not a threat. 3. Trans rights are under attack. 4. Trans people need active allyship now more than ever.
I read some books this month. You can find my thoughts on The Bodyguard by Katherine Center here.
I also read Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade and I really enjoyed it. Plus size heroines for the win! Heroines who identify as fat, even better. We need more positive representation for fat people. Can you tell I’ve been listening to the Maintenance Phase podcast? But also just yes to love stories for all of us.
We went to see Sir John A: Acts of a Gentrified Ojibway Rebellion at Globe Theatre this month, too. It was written by the very talented Drew Hayden Taylor, a leading Indigenous playwright, and the Globe’s performances were directed by Erin Goodpipe and Jayden Pfeifer.
About Sir John A: Acts of a Gentrified Ojibway Rebellion:
A ‘buddy’ adventure that is part road trip – part grand heist – this story follows two Ojibway men, Bobby Rabbit, and his wannabe rock star friend Hugh, who leave their reserve and head out on the TransCanada highway to right a cultural wrong. To retrieve his grandfather’s medicine pouch from the British museum, Bobby and Hugh will steal precious relics to hold as ransom – Sir John A. MacDonald’s bones. Along the way they pick up, Anja a white student from a prestigious university with opinions on absolutely everything. These three sort historical fact from fiction to chart their own terms for reconciliation. First premiering at The National Arts Centre, this is a funny and inquisitive piece of theatre that invites us all to brush off the cobwebs of history with grace, courage and a few laughs along the road.
All the performances were so good. We have such talent in our small city. It was funnier than I expected it would be, but with a hard look at the past and present damage inflicted by colonialism. I learned a few things about Sir John A Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, that I didn’t know. And I will never again listen to The Romantics song, What I Like About You without substituting What I Like About Hugh.
Busy taking in the last of the summer days. The first day of fall is September, 22nd. After which, those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, will start to see more darkness than daylight. Evenings outside will require more blankets and hot beverages. And after the toasty stretch of 30+ days we’ve had this summer, I’m looking forward these nights. More stargazing. More sitting by the fire table. Now that’s it’s darker earlier, we’re planning an outdoor movie night tonight.
What I’m reading:
eBook: To Love and to Loathe by Martha Waters
Audiobook: The Evil Inside by Heather Graham (The Krewe Hunters Series)
What I’m Watching:
The Great British Baking Show (Cable Television)
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (Amazon Prime)
Sadly, racist LOTR fans are busy protesting the inclusion of actors of colour.
The show’s stars released a statement to the official “Rings” Twitter account Wednesday, strongly denouncing the racism and harassment.
The cast stands “together in absolute solidarity and agains the relentless racism, threats, harassment and abuse some of our castmates of color are being subjected to on a daily basis. We refuse to ignore it or tolerate it.”
“Our world has never been all white, fantasy has never been all white, Middle-earth is not all white,” the statement says. Black people, Indigenous people and people of color “belong in Middle-earth and they are here to stay.”
Who else loves biscotti? And dipping in a steaming cup of something? I didn’t do a lot of baking this year, but managed to make cranberry nut biscotti and gingerbread men.
Dabbing in watercolours is soothing for the soul, at lease for me. This month is was all about gift tags.
My husband had last week off and we indulged in a Harry Potter marathon. I recently read an article that explained why some of us love to rewatch or reread old favourites, especially when times are stressful.
I miss my office space. I’m currently writing at the kitchen table and sharing space with a puzzle.
Although, I’m not a huge fan of Christmas movies, The Muppet Christmas Carol is my favourite.
We are facing an upside down Christmas here. Omicron is spreading, and once again Christmas celebrations will be smaller. But we’ve got a roof over our head, food to eat, and we’re looking toward the future. Lots of exciting things happening in 2022. We move back into our house in February and I have plans to release the first book of a new contemporary series. More about those things in the new year.
A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.
Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.
They’re polar opposites.
In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.
Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.SEE LESS
January Andrews is suffering from writer’s block. She’s also broke. Grieving the loss of the father she thought she knew, she ends up in the last place she wants to be, the beach house her father left her. Even worse, she finds herself living next door to her college nemesis, Augustus Everett. Turns out he’s also suffering from writer’s block. When avoiding each other doesn’t work, they strike a deal. She’ll write a literary novel. And he’ll write a romance. And they’ll help each other through the process.
I worry when writers, who are not romance writers, write romance. I worry it won’t be a romance at all but an attempt to ‘elevate’ the genre. I also shy away from romances written in 1st person perspective. Just not my favourite perspective when it comes to romance. So, why did this book work for me? The chemistry between January and Gus is immediate. The dialogue is witty and funny and surprising. The writing is clever. January’s grief and sense of betrayal is heart wrenching. So, is Gus’s. Gus is delightfully swoon worthy in a guy-next-door kind of way. And January is quirky and real and just the right amount of over the top.
Also, this was an audio read for me and I have to say the narrator is amazing. Julia Whelan does a fantastic job. I can’t say enough about the great job she does. It’s the first time I’ve haven’t cringed when a narrator switches from a female to male character or vice a versa. I enjoyed her narration as much as I enjoyed Emily Henry’s writing.
This book is a great look at what happens when our egos fail us and the necessity of grieving. And what it looks like to find your way back and forward. Definitely recommend.
Until next time…
What beach reads have you savoured so far this summer? Any recommendations?
Sundays seem like a good time to talk about the books I’ve read! I don’t give ratings, or stars, or gold crowns. Just offering a few of my thoughts. This week I’m taking An Image in the Lake by Gail Bowen, which is an ARC (Advance Reader’s Copy).
An Image in the Lake: A Joanne Kilbourn Mystery by Gail Bowen
Published: ECW Press, September 7, 2021
Length: 350 pages
Categories: Mystery / Cozy Mystery / Women Sleuths / Amateur Sleuths / Canadian Setting
A dark secret threatens the future of the Shreve family
It’s August 24 and Joanne Shreve and her husband, Zack, are savoring the last lazy days of summer and looking forward to the birth of a new grandchild; involvement in the campaign of Ali Janvier, a gifted politician with a solid chance of becoming the province’s next premier; and the debut of Sisters and Strangers, the six-part series Joanne co-wrote that focuses on her early life. The series is the flagship of a new slate of programming, and MediaNation is counting on a big return. Joanne and Zack’s stake in the series’s success is personal. Their daughter, Taylor, is in a relationship with one of the show’s stars, and Vale Frazier is already like family to them.
It seems the “season of mist and mellow fruitfulness” will be a bountiful one for the Shreves. But when a charismatic young woman wearing a grief amulet that contains a lock of her dead brother’s hair and a dark secret becomes part of their lives, the success of Sisters and Strangers and the future of Taylor and Vale’s relationship are jeopardized, and only Joanne and Zack can put an end to the threat.
Joanne Shreve and her husband Zack are enjoying the last days of summer, determined to spend more time together and less time at work. But strange things are happening at MediaNation. They are about to air the line-up of fall programs which includes Sisters and Strangers, a six-part series co-written by Joanne about her early life. Then people start to disappear. Joanne and Zack are drawn into the search for answers when information comes to light about a group of four young people who are prepared to break the law in their quest to get to the top.
An Image in the Lake is classic Gail Bowen. Plenty of colourful and familiar faces show up, and we catch up with Joanne’s children and grandchildren. The meandering twists and turns that make Bowen one of Canada’s best mystery writers lead us on a slow but dark and entertaining path to the truth. Joanne (Kilbourn) Shreve is one of my favourite fictional characters. There is a calmness and a self-assuredness about her that is immensely appealing. After reading this book, I can tell you she is a lot for forgiving then I am. She’s also a wonderful example of a woman in her fifties who lives life to the fullest. Her life is never perfect but it’s always compelling.
I really enjoyed this book. And always love a Canadian setting. We need more of those. I would definitely recommend it.
An Image in the Lake is set in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada! My home city. I love reading books set in Regina. Regina is also a great city to visit with lots of fun activities and opportunities to offer visitors!
Sundays seem like a good time to talk about the books I’ve read! I’m not going to give ratings, or stars, or gold crowns. I’m just going to offer a few of my thoughts.
Burnout: The Secret of Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski, PhD, and Amelia Nagoski, DMA
Published: Ballantine Books, 2020
Length: 304 pages
Categories: Self Help / Personal Development / Non Fiction / Psychology / Feminism
Burnout. Many women in America have experienced it. What’s expected of women and what it’s really like to be a woman in today’s world are two very different things—and women exhaust themselves trying to close the gap between them. Sisters Emily Nagoski, PhD, and Amelia Nagoski, DMA, are here to help end the cycle of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Instead of asking us to ignore the very real obstacles and societal pressures that stand between women and well-being, they explain with compassion and optimism what we’re up against—and show us how to fight back. In these pages you’ll learn
• what you can do to complete the biological stress cycle—and return your body to a state of relaxation • how to manage the “monitor” in your brain that regulates the emotion of frustration • how the Bikini Industrial Complex makes it difficult for women to love their bodies—and how to defend yourself against it • why rest, human connection, and befriending your inner critic are keys to recovering and preventing burnout
With the help of eye-opening science, prescriptive advice, and helpful worksheets and exercises, all women will find something transformative in these pages—and will be empowered to create positive change. Emily and Amelia aren’t here to preach the broad platitudes of expensive self-care or insist that we strive for the impossible goal of “having it all.” Instead, they tell us that we are enough, just as we are—and that wellness, true wellness, is within our reach.
Who couldn’t use some help dealing with burnout and stress? Life can elevate stress levels at the best of times. Add in a global pandemic and…yikes. Our lives have changed, and continue to change. This book was written in the Before Times, but it’s definitely worth reading in the Now Times. It’s the first self-help book I’ve ever managed to read all the way through to the end.
I learned human Giver Syndrome is a thing and what it means, and things make so much sense now.
Human givers must, at all times, be pretty, happy, calm, generous, and attentive to the needs of others, which means they must never be ugly, angry, upset, ambitious, or attentive to their own needs
emily nagoski and amelia nagoski, burnout
By understanding societal norms and living with the daily expectations of what it means to be female, we can avoid disappearing beneath the weight of those expectations. Recovering from the weight of being everything to every one before looking after ourselves can be a daunting task and I was happy to find practical advice.
I wanted a book about stress that centred on the female experience. I wanted relatable content and practical advice. I feel like I got both those things with this book. I feel like I have a better understanding of how necessary it is to acknowledge feeling burnt out, and how to develop strategies to deal with both stress and with stressors.
I felt seen reading this book. I found resources. I found strategies. I would definitely recommend it.
Until next time…
Anyone else feeling stressed these days? Have you read Burnout? What did you think?
I don’t think I’m ready to delve into what I’ve learned about myself and life in 2020 yet. That will come in time. Now, when the days are short and the nights are long and times are uncertain, I do know that I am thankful.
Thankful for healthcare workers, all hospital staff, those caring for our elderly and all other caregivers, first responders, those who serve and protect, the cashiers and cleaners and all others dealing with the public. To all of you who will continue to battle this pandemic while those of us who celebrate Christmas pause for the holidays, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
“I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”
When I put together my reading plans for 2020, I had no idea that the world was going to implode because of a virus. You would have thought that would have made reading lots of books easier. Nowhere to go, no place to be. But, as many of us have experienced, maintaining focus long enough to finish a book has sometimes proven a struggle.
2020 and COVID 19 has also changed my reading habits. My book club, which had run for almost 20 years (there’s always a debate over our start date), decided not to meet until things settled down. Of course, that hasn’t happened. No one suggested we meet online. I don’t think any of us had the energy, or the desire, to figure out how to make it happen.
I’m finding that’s okay with me. I’m enjoying reading what I want at my own pace without stressing over having to read a book I don’t want to read or choosing one that no one else would find interesting. A break from reading a book club pick each month has allowed me to focus on reading more Canadian fiction with a focus on Indigenous, Black and writers of colour as a way to diversify my reading.
You can read the results of my 2019 Reading Challenge here.
A Classic: My thought was to listen to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier on audiobook. Then the Netflix adaptation came out and, well…I watched it instead.
A Historical: Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekback. You can read my review here.
A Cookbook: Didn’t happen. But I have one in mind for 2021.
An Indigenous Author: I read several great books. My favourite was Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline. You can read my review here. Followed closely by Moon Of The Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice (Dystopian/Horror) which I really liked but which freaked me out. Followed closely by Maggie Blackbird, Indigenous Canadian romance writer.
A Romance: I read several, because…pandemic. A lot of old school Sandra Brown and Nora Roberts because those books are my jam. But I also read The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang and loved it.
A Graphic Novel: I bought one, but I haven’t read it. Yet!
A Science Fiction Novel: Also, didn’t happen. Don’t even have one in mind. Definitely could use some recommendations as I don’t even know where to really start.
A Book of Poetry: I have one…will read it in 2021.
A Non-Fiction Book: Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans. I can’t say enough good things about her writing and how it speaks to me. I’m still crushed by her sudden passing in 2019.
A Canada Reads Book: So…I picked Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward’s Gun Club by Megan Gail Coles. Then the pandemic hit and I could tell by page ten it wasn’t going to happen. Not that it wasn’t a fabulously written book but I knew it was going to be intense and I just didn’t have it in me. Luckily, I’d already read Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson, which I loved.
A Memoir: Mistakes to Run With by Yasuko Thanh. It was raw, honest and articulate. Highly recommend.
A Young Adult: I know I’m late to the party, but I finally read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and wished I’d read it sooner because it’s such a great book.
There you have it. I think I had a pretty successful reading year, despite finding it difficult to focus at times.
I’d love to hear about other reading challenges you did this year. Or if you have any reading recommendations, I’d love to hear those too.
It’s October and the temperatures and cooling down. I’m enjoying the moment and the last of the fall days. Being able to be outside these last four months has been a lifesaver. Hopefully, October will see lots of backyard fires, blankets and cups of tea under the Big Dipper and the North Star.
Fall is raking leaves, blowing out sprinklers, cleaning out flower pots. I love fall, but it can be short in this part of the world. Winter is on the horizon. I even ordered a new winter coat yesterday. I’m determined to spend more time outside this winter.
Somehow fall also means organizing to me. Watching The Home Edit on Netflix was timely incentive. I’ve tackled the storage area in the basement and gotten rid of the first of the things that need to be recycled or taken to the dump and put together a donation pile.
Just when you think you have nothing left to lose, they come for your dreams.
Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. In this dark world, Frenchie and his companions struggle to survive as they make their way up north to the old lands. For now, survival means staying hidden – but what they don’t know is that one of them holds the secret to defeating the marrow thieves.
I’m one of those people that love to read dystopian books, even in the midst of a pandemic. I LOVED this book. There is a reason this book has won or been shortlisted for many awards. Though The Marrow Thieves is a young adult book, it’s also a book for all ages. Set in a near future ravaged by pollution and climate change. it’s the story of group of Indigenous companions who struggle to make their way north while being hunted for their marrow, their very essence, by white people who have lost the ability to dream and their humanity.
Each member of the tight knit group of characters has a coming-to story, a harrowing tale of what they survived before they found the group. By witnessing their stories, we learn how the destruction of the world began and what lengths people will go to save their way of life. Both the hunted and the hunter. A talented writer, Cherie Dimaline has a way with words. With storytelling. With craft.
It is gripping, and bleak, and enlightening. But hopeful. Dark, but somehow full of colour.
“‘Dreams get caught in the webs woven in your bones. That’s where they live, in that marrow there.’”
Miig, The Marrow Thieves
Until next time…
Do you like to organize your spaces? Have you watched The Home Edit? Or read The Marrow Thieves? What did you think?