We like to keep things interesting. So, this spring and summer season, we decided Friday nights will dinner (in the form of appetizers) followed by an 80s movie.
We started with Flashdance. And a charcuterie board. Yummy!
Believe it or not, this 80s girl had never watched Flashdance. But like every other 80s girl, I owned a version of the grey iconic oversized, falling-off-the-shoulder sweatshirt. You know the one.
Spoiler Alerts Head.
So the plot.
This movie is an 80s era Cinderella tale. Parentless, eighteen year old Alex lives on her own, works two jobs, and dreams of being a prima ballerina. She has no formal training but she’s incredibly talented and dances at night as an exotic dancer at a bar/nightclub. When she’s not dancing, she working her day job as a welder. She also rides her bike all over Pittsburgh. Of course, she falls for her divorced boss, who’s also somewhat young, and very handsome. And successful. Most of the non-dancing scenes follow their budding relationship.
Does it stand the test of time?
The music is awesome. The cinematography is fantastic. The dancing is fabulous. Kind of like a music video. Because, hello, 80s. Other than that, it’s what happens when a man tries to write a romance headlining a strong female character. We end up with a teenager sleeping with her boss. Said boss also secures her the coveted dance audition behind her back. Takes his ex-wife to a function instead of her. But don’t worry it didn’t mean anything, please don’t be mad at me. Here, look, we’ll have more sex and everything will be okay.
Warning; Also includes racial slurs and exploitation of women.
This whole idea of watching retro movies, besides loving the 80s, was inspired by one of my favourite podcasts.
I love talking about books and I love sharing books with you that I’ve loved reading. Genevieve Graham is a favourite author of mine and I would be delighted to recommend Letters Across the Sea to anyone who is looking for a read this cloudy Friday.
Categories: Fiction / Romance / Historical / Strong Romantic Elements / Canadian History / 20th Century / Canadian Author
If you’re reading this letter, that means I’m dead. I had obviously hoped to see you again, to explain in person, but fate had other plans.
At eighteen years old, Molly Ryan dreams of becoming a journalist, but instead she spends her days working any job she can to help her family through the Depression crippling her city. The one bright spot in her life is watching baseball with her best friend, Hannah Dreyfus, and sneaking glances at Hannah’s handsome older brother, Max.
But as the summer unfolds, more and more of Hitler’s hateful ideas cross the sea and “Swastika Clubs” and “No Jews Allowed” signs spring up around Toronto, a city already simmering with mass unemployment, protests, and unrest. When tensions between the Irish and Jewish communities erupt in a riot one smouldering day in August, Molly and Max are caught in the middle, with devastating consequences for both their families.
Six years later, the Depression has eased and Molly is a reporter at her local paper. But a new war is on the horizon, putting everyone she cares about most in peril. As letters trickle in from overseas, Molly is forced to confront what happened all those years ago, but is it too late to make things right?
From the desperate streets of Toronto to the embattled shores of Hong Kong, Letters Across the Sea is a poignant novel about the enduring power of love to cross dangerous divides even in the darkest of times—from the #1 bestselling author of The Forgotten Home Child.
Genevieve Graham’s books are always the perfect combination of character and plot tied to true historical events. Letters Across the Sea gives us a glimpse of life in Toronto in 1933. The Depression has devastated the economy. In the years leading up to World War II poverty, discontent and racism are rampant. Molly Ryan’s life is forever changed on the night of the Christie Pits Riot in August of 1933.
Molly Ryan possesses some the qualities I admire most. She is steadfast, resilient and loyal. She survives with her ideals intact while doing what she needs to do to feed her family and help her community. As Depression begins to ease, Molly leaves behind what might have been and lands her dream job as a reporter. Then war breaks out and Molly is once again on the brink of loosing those closest to her.
As a Jewish man, Max Dreyfus is well acquainted with racism. As Hitler’s hateful fanaticism reaches Canadian shores, he can’t stay silent, he must step up and do something. After the Christie Pits Riot, Max leaves Toronto and Molly behind to become a doctor. Max is as steadfast and loyal as Molly. He’s also a kind, compassionate, and strives to do the right thing. Which I think are admirable qualities in a hero.
When Max returns home, his experience in the horrific Battle of Hong Kong and as a returning prisoner of war brings him into contact with Molly, who is determined to tell the stories of returning prisoners of war from Hong Kong. The past catches up with both of them and they are forced to confront it.
Letters Across the Sea is emotional and compelling. The characters are strong and well-developed. The plot grabs your attention and keeps it. The pacing is perfect. The romance sweet. Highly recommend.
Genevieve Graham has a new book out this April.
Until next time…
Who else enjoys Genevieve Graham’s books? Or drop a note in the comments and tell me what you’re reading?
Escaping our daily worries can be a challenge, especially these days, and it is no secret that reading can be a powerful tool in balancing our mental health. So, don’t let anyone tell you it’s not reading. Listening to audiobooks provides the same benefits as reading print or ebooks. Each of them is a different experience, but each are valuable. Audiobooks are simply a different way to consume content. They offer us an opportunity to fit books into our day in a new way.
Ways I Listen to Audiobooks and Some Suggestions:
I don’t know about you, but I get tired of listening to the latest hit single on the radio for the 100th time, so instead I might listen to something like Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, narrated by Rosamund Pike. Hopefully we’ll be out in our yards and gardens soon. This is one of my favourite times to listen to audiobooks. What better way to pass the time pulling weeds, then listening to something by Nora Roberts, like Northern Lights, narrated by Gary Littman. I’m also clumsy. But I can walk and listen without the fear of getting a concussion. Maybe try a Susanna Kearsley book, like her latest The Winter Sea, narrated by Rosalind Landor. And, these days, when keeping our distance is essential, why not try listening to Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert, narrated by Adjoa Andoh, while shopping for groceries and take the boring out of picking out fruit.
The popularity of audiobooks show there is a real thirst for audio content. And as much as audiobooks are for those of us who love reading, they are also popular who people who don’t love books. Not everyone consumes content in the same way. As much as they are a boon to those of us who can’t read enough, they are essential to people who can’t read print or ebooks.
The video below has some great tips on how to get started with audiobooks!
I’m always about romance novel recommendations! Check out Audiofile Magazine’s Listen To These Five Scandalous Romances. “Judge for yourself if these couples are outrageous, skirting propriety, or simply falling in love on their own terms.” With audiobooks by Mary Balogh, Olivia Dade, Rosie Danan, Carly Phillips, and Hadley Beckett.
If you love unreliable narrators, you’ll love Sadie. The trouble starts immediately after Sadie and her family move to a new town for a fresh start. Mary Kubica is very skilled at creating atmosphere and she doesn’t exactly this with the Fousts’ new home, and the small island off the coast of Maine. It’s dark and claustrophobic and creepy. Soon Sadie is suspected of murder and the more she tries to unravel the reasons why her neighbour died the less she understands. The characters are well developed, the setting is excellently drawn, and the plot is twisty. Definitely recommend.
Sadie and Will Foust have only just moved their family from bustling Chicago to small-town Maine when their neighbor Morgan Baines is found dead in her home. The murder rocks their tiny coastal island, but no one is more shaken than Sadie.
But it’s not just Morgan’s death that has Sadie on edge. And as the eyes of suspicion turn toward the new family in town, Sadie is drawn deeper into the mystery of what really happened that dark and deadly night. But Sadie must be careful, for the more she discovers about Mrs. Baines, the more she begins to realize just how much she has to lose if the truth ever comes to light.
Success doesn’t protect people from the worst happening. Enter Marin and Derek, successful entrepreneurs with nowhere to go but up, until their son is kidnapped from a busy, local market. Sixteen months later Marin is still searching for answers when she gets more bad news. Her husband is having an affair. Encouraged by her best friend, and long ago ex-boyfriend, her anger and grief have her poised on the brink of a catastrophic decision from which there is no turning back. Marin’s grief is so real, it made me uncomfortable at times. There is nothing anyone can do to help or make things better for her, or is there… I didn’t always like her. In fact, there aren’t any likeable characters in this book. Then again, you shouldn’t have to bother with likability when you’re grief-stricken. But I admired Marin and there was never a moment I didn’t root for her. Definitely recommend.
All it takes to unravel a life is one little secret…
Marin had the perfect life. Married to her college sweetheart, she owns a chain of upscale hair salons, and Derek runs his own company. They’re admired in their community and are a loving family—until their world falls apart the day their son Sebastian is taken.
A year later, Marin is a shadow of herself. The FBI search has gone cold. The publicity has faded. She and her husband rarely speak. She hires a P.I. to pick up where the police left off, but instead of finding Sebastian, she learns that Derek is having an affair with a younger woman. This discovery sparks Marin back to life. She’s lost her son; she’s not about to lose her husband, too. Kenzie is an enemy with a face, which means this is a problem Marin can fix.
Billed as a cross between a historical psychological thriller and a Swedish gothic, this book was intense and beautifully written. Wolf Winter follows the journey of Maija and her family from Finland to Blackasen, where they hope for a fresh start. Then a man is found dead and Maija is certain it is not animal related, but murder. Compelled to investigate, she learns more about the history of the people living in the shadow of the mountain, and the mountain itself, which is brooding and menacing. Winter comes and it is one of the worst in memory. I loved Maija. She is a strong, stoic, take charge type of character who battles the elements, the residents, and her station in life in order to solve a mystery. She unearths long buried menacing secrets that threaten to destroy her and her daughters. At times, it’s a bit disjointed and a bit wandering, but overall I loved it. Highly recommend.
Swedish Lapland, 1717. Maija, her husband Paavo and her daughters Frederika and Dorotea arrive from their native Finland, hoping to forget the traumas of their past and put down new roots in this harsh but beautiful land. Above them looms Blackåsen, a mountain whose foreboding presence looms over the valley and whose dark history seems to haunt the lives of those who live in its shadow.
While herding the family’s goats on the mountain, Frederika happens upon the mutilated body of one of their neighbors, Eriksson. The death is dismissed as a wolf attack, but Maija feels certain that the wounds could only have been inflicted by another man. Compelled to investigate despite her neighbors’ strange disinterest in the death and the fate of Eriksson’s widow, Maija is drawn into the dark history of tragedies and betrayals that have taken place on Blackåsen. Young Frederika finds herself pulled towards the mountain as well, feeling something none of the adults around her seem to notice.
As the seasons change, and the “wolf winter,” the harshest winter in memory, descends upon the settlers, Paavo travels to find work, and Maija finds herself struggling for her family’s survival in this land of winter-long darkness. As the snow gathers, the settlers’ secrets are increasingly laid bare. Scarce resources and the never-ending darkness force them to come together, but Maija, not knowing who to trust and who may betray her, is determined to find the answers for herself. Soon, Maija discovers the true cost of survival under the mountain, and what it will take to make it to spring.
Good Lord, this book is twisted. But somehow not violent. Which is weird considering the nature of the book and the characters’ extracurricular activities. But the actual violence exists in the background, which is somehow both a relief and disturbing. Because isn’t this what happens in real life? Our fascination with the perpetrators of violence far outlasts our concern and sympathy for the victims. But this book doesn’t pretend to be about the victims. It’s about the killers, a married couple who become serial killers to spice up their fifteen year marriage. Sounds horrifying, doesn’t it? Told in first person by a husband who is charming, likeable and straddles a fine line. He loves his wife and is trying to do what’s best for his family. I found myself oddly charmed by him and having to remind myself he’s one of the bad guys. Like he’s a REALLY bad guy. One of the worst. Then things start to unravel and he wonders how well he knows his wife…Recommend.
A couple’s fifteen-year marriage has finally gotten too interesting...
Our love story is simple. I met a gorgeous woman. We fell in love. We had kids. We moved to the suburbs. We told each other our biggest dreams, and our darkest secrets. And then we got bored.
We look like a normal couple. We’re your neighbors, the parents of your kid’s friend, the acquaintances you keep meaning to get dinner with.
We all have secrets to keeping a marriage alive.
Ours just happens to be getting away with murder.
There you have it! Four books with varying degrees of suspense and intensity. Perfect for any night.
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!
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.
If you’re here looking for the answer to my multiple choice Q&A (June 8th) for The Romance Reviews Sizzling Summer Reads Party contest you are in the right place. I’m sure you know the drill, but here goes – The Romance Review will random choose the winner for my offered $10.00 Amazon Gift Card and they will notify me after which I will contact you. Please know that you need to register and be logged into TRR before you can play the game. Registration is free and easy and there is a variety of prizes to be won!
Gosh, I love a good villain, don’t you? A well rounded character who believes she or he is the hero of his or her own story and is wholeheartedly invested in their purpose. But at the same time has doubts about their mission and their abilities or exhibits a certain amount of vulnerability. I can’t help but think of the late Heath Ledger as the Joker. What an extraordinary bit of acting!
I have to admit that I don’t read many sweet books. I’m more of a psychological suspense/thriller, there-is-going-to-be-blood-spilled reader at the moment. The Good Girl by Mary Kubica. S.J. Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep. Another book that comes to mind is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Let me tell you, they all contain some interesting villains!
Last Wednesday night I went to see Globe Theatre’s Disney version of The Little Mermaid and it was utterly delightful. So colourful and energetic with many wonderful performances. But guess who stole the show for me? Ursula! The victim of patriarchal legacy in which the family trident was passed down to the male heir she’s out for revenge. Also, she’s a bit of a psychopath.
Neither is my writing sweet. There are sweet moments but overall mine is a grittier take on characters and what’s happening to them. I have Raphael Tessier, brutal Enforcer for the Prairie Brotherhood, in BACKLASH. Jason Drummond, twisted elitist, in OFF THE GRID. EXPOSED has Matthew Parsons, Shepard of the Valley Church and martyr with an agenda.
A Real Life Villain
But the real villain in my life right now is sugar! One might argue that it’s not the actual product that is evil, but the real life problems that arise from the amount one consumes. Like the best villains, sugar is SO seductive! It makes things taste better. And some days we just need that, you know? It’s a heck of a lot more appealing to me to eat a chocolate bar then figure out why I’m feeling down in the dumps. But that sweet yummy goodness is a crappy kind of catharsis and last only as long as it takes to eat that Dairy Milk bar (my favourite) and then I’m back to square one.
I’m gearing up to do a sugar-free challenge in June. I’ve done versions of one before so the challenge isn’t as daunting to me as it was in the past.
Here are four things I’m doing to reduce my sugar intake:
I cut out soda pop. Which means only rare indulgences of the Pepsi I love. You’d think that after not drinking it for months I’d be repulsed by the sweet taste. Eight teaspoons in one can. Unfortunately. I still love an ice cold glass of cola but only as a treat.
I switched to a sugar-free natural peanut butter. Basically, it’s ground peanuts. But now I like it better than the other stuff. I’ve also experimented with other natural nut butters. Especially, in my smoothies. So yummy!
I make my own salad dressings and my own mayonnaise. I try to avoid commercially prepared sauces, dressings, marinades and such as they usually contain a scary amount of sugar disguised as other names. I just need to find a recipe for sugar-free ketchup and I’m home free.
As embarrassing as it is to admit, I think I saved myself about 50 calories a day by adding cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger to my oatmeal instead of a sweetener.
What I’m reading:
Along Came A Spider by James Patterson. I know he’s written a gazillion books but this is only the 3rd one I’ve read and…eeps! Last night I had the first nightmare I’ve had in a LONG time. Can’t wait to finish it!
Have a favourite villain? Or a delicious sugar-free ketchup recipe? Tips on reducing sugar intake? Please, share!
“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.” Joyce Carol Oates
May 1st to 7th is Mental Health Week here in Canada, not sure that holds for the rest of the world but it doesn’t really matter. Mental health is a subject for all 52 weeks of the year anywhere on the planet. I’m only just realizing how important a well rounded self-care regimen really is to one’s continued mental wellbeing. And seeing as my mental health isn’t always within the optimal range you could be fair to say I’m a slow learner. Good thing it’s never too late to start taking care of yourself.
Three websites listing MANY resources for those who are suffering or who know someone that is:
Information and Resources (United Kingdom, with links to their efforts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland): Mental Health Foundation
I wish I could list links for the planet, but hopefully the links above give you an idea of what information and resources you can search out in your own country or region.
But most importantly: Ask for help or seek advice from a professional – give your mental health the attention it needs and deserves.
I can say from personal experience, you won’t regret it. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy gave me important tools to manage my symptoms of depression and anxiety. But in reality it’s of benefit to everyone as we all have to deal with life’s challenges, stresses, and demands. Learn how to manage negative thinking or inaccurate thoughts. Learn the difference between positive thinking and realistic thinking. Make your mental health a priority!
We all need and deserve breaks. But we can’t all jump on a plane or boat and spend a month in Bora Bora. There are numerous ways to relieve stress that won’t put you in the poor house.
One of my favourite ways to relieve stress? Reading. Of course, reading has many benefits, but it’s also a way to reset and recharge. Six minutes of reading can reduce your stress levels by 68%. In the last few months I’ve taken to reading print books again, after having all but given them up. It was a craving really, a desire to hold a print book in my hands. There’s a term for this – slow reading. I guess it’s no surprise that I’m back to reading print (I haven’t given up ebooks!) as I’ve embraced a more mindful life style. Science has proven slow reading reduces stress, increases your ability to concentrate, and improves your sleep.
I’ve just started a wonderful (so far) book: The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware! Good thing because this month promises to be a busy one.
When travel journalist Lo Blacklock is invited on a boutique luxury cruise around the Norwegian fjords, it seems like a dream career opportunity.
But the trip takes a nightmarish turn when she wakes in the middle of the night to hear a body being thrown overboard – only to discover that no-one has been reported missing from the boat.
How do you stop a killer, when no-one believes they exist?
Funny how reading about murder allows me to relax! What do you do to relieve stress? And please, offer book recommendations! I’m always in need of a great book to read.
It’s a steal of a deal for 99 cents until January 22nd! Set in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, British Columbia, Off The Grid is the story of two people snared in the net cast by one man in a quest for power and dominance.
I think this book weighs in higher on the suspense side. Bad things happen in this book. Just so you know. It’s honest, emotional, and fast paced. If you love gritty romantic suspense, this is the book for you!
Poverty, Privilege and Power
Off The Grid by Karyn Good 99c until January 22nd
A committed doctor to Vancouver’s inner city, nothing fazes Sophie Monroe—until a pregnant teenager shows up at her clinic on Christmas Eve requesting sanctuary and claiming the baby’s father is one of the city’s most influential businessmen. Sophie is in over her head and thankful when aid shows up in the form of an attorney who’s a little too confident and a lot too sexy.
Family Law expert Caleb Quinn just wants a date, a chance to prove he isn’t the elitist jerk Sophie assumes. Helping deliver a baby is not what he has in mind. But before long protecting a traumatized teenager and her son become his first priority. Even if saving them pits him against the baby’s father, a childhood friend. A man who will do anything to keep his dark side private.
But justice never comes cheap. Will doing the right thing cost Sophie and Caleb their reputations? Or their lives?
The first time I heard about the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, famously dubbed Canada’s poorest postal code, I knew I wanted to set a story there. In a tough environment where I could explore the incredibly difficult choices some women are forced to make in order to survive. Not pretty ones, but real ones. I wanted a heroine who was compassionate, smart, and driven and a hero who was the product of privilege, ambition, and character. Two protagonists caught up in something bigger than themselves who must decide on which side of the line they are going to stand.
“These people, they aren’t invisible, and acknowledging that is worth something.” Eastside Stories
The video below is a powerful reminder that we’re all equal, that poverty isn’t catching, and that how we care for each other matters.