I don’t know about you but I love The Sound Of Music movie. It’s one of my favourites to watch at Christmastime, along with Die Hard and The Muppet Christmas Carol. My tastes are eclectic if nothing else. But when Julie Andrews sings, Bruce Willis kicks butt, and/or Gonzo and Rizzo tell the tale of Scrooge, it starts to feel like a lot like Christmas.
Since I’ve watched two out of those three movies, and I talk about books all the time, and I’m definitely in a holiday mood, here are some of my other favourite things to give and to receive for Christmas.
Experiences! In my city, like all places, there are places to go to have fun, try something new, or do the same thing again and again, whatever you like. Like a public art gallery! My local art gallery, The MacKenzie Art Gallery, is a delightful place to spend time, get inspired, or search out calm and serenity. And in winter, a place to go to where you can stretch your legs. A yearly membership costs only $30. That quite the deal. Or your local science centre, like our Saskatchewan Science Centre! Perhaps tickets to a festival, like the Saskatchewan Festival of Words, or concert. An art class at Cathedral Art School.
Going For Coffee! Or tea, in my case. And maybe some dessert! There are coffee shops everywhere! One of my personal favourites is Stone’s Throw Coffee Collective where the vibe is somehow energetic but also laid back flavoured with a comforting sense of community. Don’t their coffee mugs look like you need to fill them with something warm! Another one is the patisserie Le Macaron, which is cozy and where we have our writing group meetings. I can vouch for the decadent goodies!
Local Handmade Crafts. You can find creative people everywhere, so while you may not have an art gallery in your small town, I one hundred percent guarantee you have artisans. Like the talented people behind Marilynn’s Quirky Quilts or Make it Cozy blankets, or Sew and Tell Handmade essential oil storage bags, baskets and tons of other things.
Supporting Local businesses! With doors and personal service and everything nice. In my neck of the woods it might mean visits to shops like Zippity Zoom Toys. Or check out Mortise and Tenon, a modern day general store. Visit the Paper Umbrella for all your stationery and writing implements and Handmade Saskatchewan with it’s incredible variety.
There you have it! A few of my favourite places and things.
Until next time…
Where are some of your favourite gifts to give and receive?
Since the weather has turned chillier, I’ve been on a reading binge. I’ve also been lucky enough to have been approved to read some Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) of book I’d requested on Netgalley. Netgalley helps out authors by offering ARCs to approved reviewers. And by approved reviewer, I mean someone who talks about books on social media. And there is little I like to talk about more than books.
First up is Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn! Available December 31, 2019 from Kensington Books.
Meg Mackworth’s hand-lettering skill has made her famous as the Planner of Park Slope, designing custom journals for New York City’s elite. She has another skill too: reading signs that other people miss. Knowing the upcoming marriage of Reid Sutherland and his gorgeous fiancée was doomed to fail is one thing, but weaving a secret word of warning into their wedding program is another. Meg may have thought no one would spot it, but she hadn’t counted on sharp-eyed, pattern-obsessed Reid . . .
A year later, Reid has tracked Meg down to find out how she knew that his meticulously planned future was about to implode. But with a looming deadline and a bad case of creative block, Meg doesn’t have time for Reid’s questions—unless he can help her find her missing inspiration. As they gradually open up to each other, both try to ignore deepening connection between them. But the signs are there—irresistible, indisputable, urging Meg to heed the messages Reid is sending her, before it’s too late . . .
If you love a slow, sweet burn, you’ll love this book. If you love talk of fonts, and scripts, and signs, you’ll LOVE this book. If you love New York as a setting, you’ll love this book. There’s also more to love because there is meat to this story. The characters work through some real life issues and face serious obstacles, make hard decisions. If you give this one a try, I don’t think you’ll regret it!
Second is Whiteout by Adriana Anders. Available January 28, 2019 from Sourcebooks.
Survival Instincts #1 With a storm coming and a killer on the loose, every step could be their last… Angel Smith is finally ready to leave Antarctica for a second chance at life. But on what was meant to be her final day, the remote research station she’s been calling home is attacked. Hunted and scared, she and irritatingly gorgeous glaciologist Ford Cooper barely make it out with their lives…only to realize that in a place this remote, there’s nowhere left to run.
Isolated with no power, no way to contact the outside world, and a madman on their heels, Angel and Ford must fight to survive in the most inhospitable―and beautiful―place on earth. But what starts as a partnership born of necessity quickly turns into an urgent connection that burns bright and hot. They both know there’s little chance of making it out alive, and yet they are determined to weather the coming storm―no matter the cost.
The action never stops. It’s a nail biter right to the very end. And I don’t know what it is about reading books that have snowstorms in winter when it’s winter for real, but I love them! This book has plenty of thrill and spills, well fleshed out characters and a remote research station in Antarctica. It doesn’t get better than that for this romantic suspense fan!
And third is The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner. Coming Out on May 26, 2020 from St. Martin’s Press
Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.
One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people―a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others―could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.
I loved this book! And if you are a Jane Austen fan, you’ll want to mark down the release date, or better yet pre-order it because it is full of Austen goodness in the best way possible. It takes place immediately following the end of World War Two and the characters are all suffering from their own traumas. Through a love of reading, particularly Jane Austen, an unlikely group of people come together to preserve history and form lifelong friendships, heal wounded hearts…and more. It’s a gem of a novel that breaks your heart and then puts it back together. Definitely recommend it!
And there you have it! Three very different books but something for everyone. I would happily recommend all three of these books.
Tomorrow marks the end of another month and 2020 is a mere two months away! Autumn in Saskatchewan never lasts long enough to suit me and this year winter has arrived way too early. Tonight we’ll be carving pumpkins and tomorrow we’ll be setting them out on frozen steps or snowy driveways to attract trick-or-treaters. Well, hopefully not the tricksters…
Speaking of tricksters. I read a couple of great books in October written by a new-to-me author, Eden Robinson, who I met at The Saskatchewan Festival of Words this summer. Below is a photo of her interview with Jael Richardson. And let me tell you, she was has the best laugh! It fills a room and you can’t help but join in.
I started with Son Of A Trickster, Book 1 in The Trickster Trilogy, and finalist for The Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2017. I quickly moved onto Book 2, Trickster Drift, winner of the 2019 Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. I loved these books and I can’t wait to read the third one when it comes out.
But for those who steer clear of books with serious accolades to their name, don’t worry.The beautiful thing about these two books is how very readable they are. If you like edgy coming of age stories with a paranormal bent to them, these books might just be the thing for you. Robinson deals with some heavy, tense issues in an authentic way and works at dismantling a lot of old and tired Indigenous stereotypes, and these books will have you smiling in places you least expect to. Add to that, Robinson’s way with dialogue is magic! Click here to read an excerpt! CBC (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) is adapting a TV series from her books called The Trickster, set to air in 2020.
Meet Jared Martin: sixteen-year-old pot cookie dealer, smoker, drinker and son with the scariest mom ever. But Jared’s the pot dealer with a heart of gold–really. Compassionate, caring, and nurturing by nature, Jared’s determined to help hold his family together–whether that means supporting his dad’s new family with the proceeds from his baking or caring for his elderly neighbours. But when it comes to being cared and loved, Jared knows he can’t rely on his family. His only source of love and support was his flatulent pit bull Baby, but she’s dead. And then there’s the talking ravens and the black outs and his grandmother’s perpetual suspicion that he is not human, but the son of a trickster.
As my October recommendation, I urge you to go out and get the two books from The Trickster Series. Tomorrow night I’ll be handing out candy and sending out thoughts to keep all the little (and big) trick-or-treaters warm and safe. Happy Halloween to those of you who enjoy the shenanigans!
Until next time…
What book(s) did you read in October? Inquiring minds want to know!
Did you know that a trip to the art gallery can improve your health? Viewing art relieves stress and anxiety. It improves your critical thinking skills. It encourages empathy. Going to an art gallery is as good for your mental health as making art.
I recently spent an afternoon at the MacKenzie Art Gallery, the oldest public gallery in my province of Saskatchewan. Until October 23rd, they presenting a retrospective on the work of Victor Cicansky, an award winning local artist. I really wanted to take this one in, as I’ve long been a fan of Cicansky’s. It was wonderful. And inspiring. And educating.
His sense of humour comes through in his both his ceramics and his bronze works. The pieces are fun and whimsical and take you back to a time when we were connected to the earth’s heartbeat.
And let’s face it, the winter months are fast approaching, and I don’t know about you but those long dark months do a number on my mental health. Visiting an art gallery not only helps me battle against winter woes, it’s a way to get some exercise, to be out and about, and to get inspired about my own projects.
And it’s cheap entertainment. The cost of visiting the MacKenzie and taking in the different exhibits comes at a cost of $10 a ticket. $10! A membership is $30. Often public galleries have free times. It doesn’t get any better than free.
Until next time…
Do you love art? Have a favourite gallery? Artist? Inquiring minds want to know!
I don’t know who Kate Ashfield is but I feel like we could be friends. But the younger me did watch scary movies like The Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Poltergeist, The Shining. To this day the smell of oranges makes me think of having premonitions. I read Flowers In The Attic by V.C. Andrews and am now scarred for life by thoughts of children trapped in attics and…worse. I also thought it was a good idea to watch The Cabin In The Woods. By. Myself. Spoiler Alert – nothing good EVER happens in dilapidated cabins in the woods.
But I love thrillers.There’s a fine line that separates the two for me. But what’s the difference? I found a great article that quoted Stephen King from Danse Macabre that shed some light.
“novels dealing with horror always do their work on two levels. On top is the ‘gross-out’ level […] the gross-out can be done with varying degrees of artistic finesse, but it’s always there. But on another, more potent level, the work of horror really is a dance — a moving, rhythmic search. And what it’s looking for is the place where you, the viewer or the reader, live at your most primitive level”
Horror stories go to those deepest and darkest of places. The things that happen seem both impossible and all too real. They’re a person’s worst nightmare.
Until next time…
What about you? Who watches scary movies? And what’s your favourite?
One of the great things about September is lots of book clubs are starting up again after a summer hiatus. The Sanity Seekers, my book club, will be meeting this Friday. Yay!
We’re starting this season off with Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer.
The 2:00 a.m. call is the first time Lexie Vidler has heard her sister’s voice in years. Annie is a drug addict, a thief, a liar—and in trouble, again. Lexie has always bailed Annie out, given her money, a place to sleep, sent her to every kind of rehab. But this time, she’s not just strung out—she’s pregnant and in premature labor. If she goes to the hospital, she’ll lose custody of her baby—maybe even go to prison. But the alternative is unthinkable.
As the weeks unfold, Lexie finds herself caring for her fragile newborn niece while her carefully ordered life is collapsing around her. She’s in danger of losing her job, and her fiancé only has so much patience for Annie’s drama. In court-ordered rehab, Annie attempts to halt her downward spiral by confronting long-buried secrets from the sisters’ childhoods, ghosts that Lexie doesn’t want to face. But will the journey heal Annie, or lead her down a darker path?
Oh my gosh, you guys! This book broke my heart, but don’t let that deter you from reading it. It was also SO good. It’s a heart wrenching look at addiction and relationships and loss. One of the discussion questions at the back of the book ask which sister you relate to most? The answer for me is Lexie. I’m a control freak. And a fixer. I’m more than willing to step in and ‘help’. But this book makes clear, for me at least, that is not always what is needed.
I love books that make me think or that leave me with a sense of having learned something about myself. And that is pretty much any book. I’m always stepping into the shoes of the main characters when I pick up a book.
Or listen to a book. I’m very much enjoying For My Lady’s Heart by Laura Kinsale. It’s narrated by Nicholas Boulton, who is so, so very good! In fact, I picked the book because of the narrator, as Laura Kinsale is a new-to-me author. But enjoying the medieval romances right now. I’m loving the heroine in this book because she’s not always likeable. Who else is a fan of unlikeable heroines? But she’s definitely a survivor. And she’s wicked smart.
With Princess Melanthe di Monteverde widowed, a political marriage would tip the balance of power to any kingdom that possessed her. Determined to return to England alive and unwed, she hides behind a mask of witchery.
Protecting her is Ruck d’Angleterre, a chivalrous knight who never wavers—and the only man Melanthe wishes could lift the veil of her disguise. He once desired her, but now his gaze reveals distrust. As they flee her enemies, Melanthe’s impossible love for the Green Knight grows.
Ruck has remained chaste for thirteen miserable years, since his wife entered a nunnery, continuing to honor their marital vows. In that dark hour, when the church stripped him of his spouse and his possessions, the princess secretly came to his aid with two emeralds. Her safety is his duty, yet his heart is not pure. Each time he gazes upon Melanthe’s sable hair and twilight eyes, he wants more.
Until next time…
Whatever September is bringing you, I hope it involves a good book or two! What is everyone else reading?
Cozy sweaters, tea in the evening, cool walks, and falling leaves. Just a short note to ask who else loves fall? Being a writer is a weird thing. Outside the leaves are turning colour and the air is cooler, but the story I’m writing takes place in springtime. Both are transition seasons. Spring is bright and loud and hopeful. Autumn is quiet and contemplative, fostering a sense of gathering up what we started in spring. One is a time to recover from the winter and the other is a time to prepare for the harsher weather to come. At least, on the Canadian prairies that’s the case.
Summer has flown by and I’m busy enjoying the last days of summer while embracing the cool evenings and the crisp promise of fall in the air. The harvest is coming in, the leaves are starting to change, and we had our first hummingbird at our feeder, not doubt preparing for the long trip south. The long weekend is this weekend and once that’s over it’s back to a regular schedule. Thank goodness.
The approach of fall always comes with a need to organize, to prepare, to wrap some things up and get ready to start different ones. I’ve finished the first draft of first book in my Whisper Creek series. The name of this series has changed yet again. The characters’ names have changed so often that I’m not sure who’s called what anymore. I love revising and can’t wait to really get started, I’ve puttered a bit in August, but now that my office has been reorganized and tidied up I’m really ready to tackle this draft into a story.
Speaking of stories, here are the ones I read or listened to in August!
The Break by Katherena Vermette
Omgosh, this book. It was heartbreaking and beautiful all at once and an ode to strong women. I loved the matriarchal feel to this book. It warms the heart and gives you a sense of hope, even in those dark moments that come to us all.
Brazen and the Beast by Sarah MacLean
Sarah MacLean is one of my go-to authors and I’m loving her Bareknuckle Bastard Series. Brazen and the Beast, Book 2, didn’t disappoint. In fact, I think it’s her best one yet. I loved Hattie! It’s witty, and clever, and rich in detail.
The House Of Shadows by Nicola Cornick
I love time slip novels! The House of Shadows not only time slips back to one time period (the early 1880s) but two – all the way back to the middle of the 15th century. And just like that, my love of medieval romances has resumed. Elizabeth and Craven’s part of the story was my favourite. I listened to this book on Audible and it took awhile for me to get into this story but I really enjoyed the second half.
The King’s Man: Welsh Blades, Book 1 by Elizabeth Kingston
I enjoyed the medieval part of The House of Shadows so much I went looking for a medieval romance. I didn’t always like the characters, particularly the hero. I wouldn’t call him an anti hero, which I generally don’t care to read about, but he wasn’t always kind with his words. I can’t decide if that should bother me or not. Neither the heroine or hero were soft or cuddling in any way. I enjoyed this book and will definitely check out others by the author. *The narrator, Nicholas Boulton, was very good.
What books did you read this summer? Did you have a favourite? Go ahead and recommend away!
Last weekend was the annual Saskatchewan Festival of Words held in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and it was my first time attending and I can’t figure out why. It was an awesome experience. I met so many wonderful people and fellow reading enthusiasts.
There were interviews, author readings, and panel discussions. I attended my first ever poetry slam competition. In this photo author, and sometimes guest host on CBC’s q, Jael Richardson is interviewing award winning author, Eden Robinson, who is also the owner of the best laugh around.
One of my favourite functions was the Dinner with Renee Kohlman, a Saskatchewan chef and food blogger from Saskatoon. If you get a chance, check out her wonderful blog, Sweetsugarbean. Also, Renee’s cookbook, All The Sweet Things, is a delightful mix of heartwarming stories, soft, bright colours, and beautiful recipes. We also dined with a delightful couple of ladies whose husbands had been RCMP officers (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) stationed in rural British Columbia. Talk about natural born storytellers, they regaled us with story after story.
I think the best surprise about attending the Festival Of Words was the connection I made with people from across Western Canada. People from places like Red Deer, Alberta; Swift Current, Saskatchewan; Edmonton, Alberta; Winnipeg, Manitoba; and the list goes on. People were more than welcoming and happy to include you in their group. Next year we’re going to win Trivia Night.
Until next time…
Are you big on summer festivals? What festivals are popular in your area?
I’m sitting outside, laptop…well, on my lap, listening to the birds chirp and working on getting my word count done for the day. For my writing group’s July writing challenge, I’ve decided on a goal of 500 words a day. I’m so close to finishing the first draft of my current work-in-progress, this first book of a series, but July also encourages the notion of holiday mode. 500 words a day makes me feel like I’m achieving some kind of life / writing balance.
I’m happy to say, I’ve mostly managed to meet that challenge for the first half of July even though my sister and nephews visited for ten days.
A trip to our local Science Centre, where their summer exhibit is all about JOY was an excellent way to have fun and find inspiration. The JoyLab is a collection of experiences designed to provide Instagram-ready moments while discovering how simple things like bubbles in a bathtub or a wall of purple flowers could bring about a feeling of joy. For the record, as someone who loves to take photographs, the experience was a whole lot of fun.
I’m also stretching my creative muscles with markers and watercolour paints. I love to doodle and my daughter-in-law created a lovely July Instagram list of bullet journal art prompts. Here’s my Lichtenstein inspired self-portrait for Day 7. Creating a self-portrait was an interesting exercise that can bring out your inner self using many mediums. If you’ve got children at home, or grandchildren to entertain this summer, here are some excellent ideas for unleashing their (and your) creativity with self-portraits.
If I could spend the summer playing Scrabble, I would. It is by far, my favourite game. Having said that, you’d think I’d be better at it. We also set up the cotton candy machine and as a result our home smelled like the fair grounds at a summer festival. We also played Bird Bingo and Bug Bingo. The boys played marbles and Battleship. We swam in the pool. They hiked trails and played in parks.
And what’s summer without a little indulgence, which we have embraced wholeheartedly. I’m so full of food, drinks, and snacks, I don’t feel like I fit inside my skin. Getting back to normal is gonna be hard.
Cheers! I’m not sure how July came to be half over but I do know that this weekend I’ll be attending The Saskatchewan Festival of Words in Moose Jaw, hanging out and having more fun. And food. And drinks. But more on this next week.
Until next time…
I hope you are finding inspiration all around you. Let me know how and where you’ve found it? Or what your summer plans are?