Friday, May 28, 2010


DOORS OPEN TORONTO is this weekend.

I live in the best city in the world: rich in history and tradition and I am SUPER STOKED that once a year the city's most historic buildings fling open their doors to welcome in the fresh spring air and hundreds of eager visitors ---for FREE.

I have been to DOORS OPEN in other Canadian Cities --like Ottawa ( I think it is a fabulous ritual and everyone should adopt something similar to inspire engagement with home and surrounding and a sense of pride ) but never EVER have I been in Toronto during Doors Open here.

Luckily, being the obsessed Torontonian I am, I have spent hundreds of hours rambling throughout some of the city's best neighbourhoods ( Cabbagetown; Liberty Village; Roncesvalles; Swansea (where LM Montgomery lived in Journey's End during the last years of her life); Bloor West Village and the Distillery District ( the largest collection of Victorian Era Architecture in Canada, if not North America and you've seen it in the film Cinderella Man where it was shot).

It is nice, however, to go back to some great haunts and peek at them again.

I intend to visit the following sites this weekend:

Toronto is full of diverse literary stories. From world-famous authors visiting our city ( Twain and Dickens descended upon Toronto) to stories of our own best and brightest ( think Morley Callaghan working alongside Ernest Hemingway at the Toronto Daily Star ), Toronto is world-class.

If you want to learn more about my city's literary connections, read Greg Gatenby's excellent map of all things Literary Toronto in Toronto: A Literary Guide

St. James, Corktown and the St.Lawrence sections of the city are widely represented in Victorian-Era Toronto in Maureen Jennings' bestselling Murdoch Mysteries

I hope you have something similar in your town or city. If not, map out a historic or literary walk of your own!

I often pick a neighbourhood or popular walk, research popular buildings and then try to track them down--- take lots of photos--- drink lots of water and walk for miles. I'll even stop and try a pint at a pub I may never have stumbled upon before.

Next month I leave for a grand vacation in Austria and Switzerland. For now, I am more than happy to be a tourist ( yet again ) in my own town.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

In which I am famous ( again)


I am SO THRILLED because I got another chance to fulfill my life's destiny.

Sadly(?), it seems my life's destiny is to tell (make) people read the Blue Castle.

So, our fabulous book-blogging friend Aarti KINDLY allowed me to take up space on her snazzy blog by RAMBLING about The Blue Castle.

I had PREVIOUSLY usurped space at said blog to RAMBLE about Irene Adler.

Aha! Feel so famous!


Read With Reverent Hands --just read the whole series, it is better than Jelly Bellys ( which is NOT a meme, people, but a bona fide, brilliant series by one of the bookishphere's best blogs) and my GUEST POST:

( I feel so famous! )

The Blue Castle

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon Movie Review

How to Train Your Dragon ( loosely based on a series of novels for children by Cressida Cowell ) is one of the most clever and engaging films I have seen in ages. The story arch: brilliant, wordplay: brilliant, Hiccup’s sophisticated outsider view of his Viking world: brilliant; the message of the story; brilliant I haven’t been overly impressed with Hollywood in the past couple of years, so I was delighted to discover this.

The film is surprisingly empowering: Hiccup, the burly Viking chief’s son, is the scrawniest Viking in his clan. Apprenticed to the local blacksmith, Gobber the Belch, Hiccup is more than resourceful, but his physiognomy and disposition hinder him from excelling at the most prized Viking trade: killing the dragons that plague the morose village of Berk. The dragons are pests: they fly in, scoop up the sheep, set things on fire and fly out again. The Viking chief, aptly called Stoick the Vast, and many of the brawniest of the clan’s teenagers have no trouble fist fighting the large reptiles.

Hiccup, however, is clumsy and kept from dragon training and forced to stay in the forge and belch out weapons to help his kinsmen defeat the monsters. Stealing a catapult one fateful eve, Hiccup downs a Night Fury: the most dangerously elusive dragon of all. Called a hybrid of lightning and death, Hiccup knows that proof of the dragon’s demise would win him the regard of his father and his townspeople. On finding the dragon alive, however, and looking straight into his cat-like eye, Hiccup is unable to perform the task and thus begins what is the most charming and giddy and wonderful plot I have seen unravel before me in a long time. The movement and curiosity of Hiccup’s new dragon friend ( named Toothless for his ability to reign in his large teeth) as well as his facial expressions make me want a dragon as a pet.

Kids will be delighted! In fact, in my audience, many audibly were! Hiccup becomes an unlikely hero merely by challenging the norm of his Viking society and characteristics. Moreover, it is Hiccup’s lack of physical strength and his brains and compassion ( and not, as is customary, what he calls his “raw vikingness” that ultimately saves the day). A lesson on ignorance and prejudice is indeed blatent here. But, so is a lesson on actions and consequences. Not everything ties up neatly and Hiccup has a large price to pay for standing up for what he knows is right. This may sound odd ( seeing as we are talking about a film centered on a boy and his dragon) but this film had an emotional resonance that stayed with me a long time.

I am sick of kids’ flicks wherein heroism is drawn by some supernatural or fantastical power ( Yawn, Harry Potter, Twilight and the lot). Hiccup is smart, mortal, resourceful, self-deprecating and very, very perceptive and funny. I guarantee any one who has ever felt that their giftings were different than the rest of their clan, so to speak, will find ultimate validation here. Also, there are some FANTASTIC lines including the following: “Trolls exist. They steal your socks. But only the left ones. What is with that?” Adorable.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson

rating: ***
publisher: Bethany House

Fans of Deanne Gist and Janette Oke will rejoice!

I really enjoyed Sixteen Brides. Like the Victorian novels I so greatly love, it had several strands of stories all taking place at the same time. Some subplots captivated me more than others; as did some characters and their plight for a happy ending.

Sixteen widows are deposited in Plum Grove, Nebraska. Each following Hamilton Drake's promise of land and freedom. Unbeknownst to them, Drake has marketed them as potential brides and their arrival sparks the interest of many bachelor settlers.

The toughest of the lot break with Drake and decide to forge their own path and destiny. Together in a sort of planned commune, they learn the hardships of uncharted territory and each work relentlessly at their new concept of home.

I really enjoyed the varying strengths of each women and the vital characteristics each embodied. Those seemingly feminine ( like the southern belle Caroline) had hidden reserves of strength; while the tenacious medical woman of the crew, Hettie, had a tender and heartbreaking past.

I must admit it was a little jumbled at the beginning as Whitson tried to set up each individual character; but as soon as I was lost in the story each thread was seen with more clarity.

My favourite story involved the stalwart widow Ruth ( as many recall my favourite Biblical character shares the same name ) and Lucas: a thick-skinned cowboy who is not what he seems. Their smart and sassy banter was one of the highlights of the novel.... as was Ruth's relationship with her teenage son.

A very breezy spring read with some interesting historical context and some literate moments involving a burly settler and a woman who never thought she would be find true love beyond her own faults and shortcomings.

My thanks to Bethany House for the review copy.

Visit Stephanie Grace Whitson at her website

Order Sixteen Brides at amazon

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Dark Deeps

Hey blogiverse!

New Arthur Slade out super soon! ( how lucky are we seeing as Hunchback was just released in September!... not even a year! )

.....and it's called The Dark Deeps ( How Jules Verne-y is that? )

Yah. Neat-o.

What's even neater is that you can BROWSE INSIDE IT!!! A SNEAK PEEK thanks to our friends at Harper Collins.

Expect a review as soon as I get my hands on a shiny copy.

So, to summarize:

a.) go pre-order The Dark Deeps ( and while you're at it buy out Slade's backlist)

b.) go see How To Train Your Dragon (o.k. slightly unrelated but my favourite movie by far this year)