Friday, December 30, 2011

War Horse

Based on a novel by Michael Morpurgo, War Horse  traces the remarkable friendship between a horse named Joey and a young man called Albert, played by Jeremy Irvine. After taming and training Joey, Albert watches helplessly as the horse is sold to the British cavalry. The film follows the horse's extraordinary journey from the Devon countryside to the battlefields of France during World War I. Along the way, Joey changes and inspires the lives of British and German soldiers and a French farmer and his granddaughter. The story reaches its emotional climax in the heart of No Man's Land.

The cinematography is outstanding and definitely Oscar-worthy. Great family entertainment with many tear-jerking moments.

Watch the trailer.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Rooney Mara delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as Lisbeth Salander, the troubled young computer hacker in Stieg Larsson's trilogy. She combines forces with journalist Mikael Blomkvist, played by Daniel Craig, to investigate the forty-year old murder of Harriet, the niece of a frail and wealthy octogenarian played by Christopher Plummer.

Filled with action, violence and brutal sex scenes, this movie is not my usual fare. But the storyline is a compelling one and kept me enthralled for almost three hours.

Watch the trailer.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Christmas Poem

We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Nonbelievers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves,
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation:
Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.

This is excerpt from the poem, Amazing Peace, that was read by Maya Angelou at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree (2005).

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


My article, "Do-It-Yourself Career Counseling," appeared in yesterday's edition of The Dollar Stretcher.

The Dollar Stretcher is a group of publications dedicated to helping readers save time and money.

Read the article.

Monday, December 12, 2011


Based on Brian Selznick's best-selling novel, The Invention of Hugo Carbret, this movie tells the tale of an orphan boy who lives in the rafters of a Parisian train station. The boy played by Asa Butterfield spends his time winding clocks and working on reanimating an automaton he inherited from his late father. He steals spare parts from a shop run in the station by a stern older gentleman. Ben Kingsley delivers an excellent performance as Georges Melies, film magician turned shopkeeper. Sacha Baron Cohen adds humour with his performance as an socially awkward guard.

Director Martin Scorsese has skillfully used 3-D to provide us with an sense of being present in each of the scenes, especially those involving fantasy and magical elements. While I tend to stay away from 3-D movies, especially those involving action and violence, I appreciated Scorsese's use of the technology to create this film.  

A  wonderful family film, Hugo could easily become a holiday classic.

Watch the trailer.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

New Year's Eve

While this movie only got 1.5 stars in the Toronto Star, I enjoyed watching it yesterday. It stars everybody you can think of, including Ryan Seacrest and New York's Mayor Bloomberg.

Gary Marshall, who also directed Valentine's Day in 2010, provides us with a collection of vignettes in this light, entertaining movie. Hilary Swank oversees the ball drop on New Year's Eve in New York. Michelle Pfeiffer plays an uptight woman who has just quit her job and has an unique May-December relationship with Zac Efron. Ashton Kutcher and Lea Michele are stuck in an elevator for several hours. Sarah Jessica Parker deals with a rebellious daughter played by Abigail Breslin. Katherine Heigl is a bitter chef who reconnects with her ex-boyfriend played by Jon Bon Jovi.

Other actors and actresses include Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Matthew Broderick, Penny Marshall and Robert DeNiro.

A great holiday choice if you are looking for light fare sprinkled with feel-good moments.

Watch the trailer.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Celebrating Advent

My friend, Magda, sent me the link to this two-minute video that describes why we celebrate Advent.

I love watching it and rethinking the holiday season.


Thursday, December 8, 2011


My article "In the Thick of It" appears on the Canadian Newcomer website.

Read the article.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dinner with Writers Ink

Last night, I joined four other members of Writers Ink for our monthly dinner meeting at Symposium Restaurant.

Dennis Fitter shared his experiences at the Backspace Agent-Author Seminar in New York City. I appreciate the handouts and information he passed on to us. I found the following advice from best-selling author, John Gilstrap very helpful:

I would say my success at getting an agent to ask for a partial manuscript was approximately 1000% better when I pitched my book in person than by query letter. I would strongly advise anyone looking for an agent to pitch them in person at a conference. Putting a face to a book gets the partial through much faster than if it's a query letter from someone the agent has never met.

I also enjoyed listening to Patricia Anderson talk about her misadventures in the Dominican Republic.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


 Last night, I met with The Bookshelf  Book Club to discuss Kathleen Winter's first novel, Annabel. We all enjoyed reading the book and agree that it should have won the Giller Prize last year.

Set in Labrador, Annabel is the story of a couple--Treadway and Jacinta-- who are not suited to each other and their child, Wayne, who is a a hermaphrodite. When Wayne was born, Jacinta  was tempted to do nothing and let child develop as both sexes, but she gave in to her husband's desire to raise a son. As Wayne matures, he shows more feminine tendencies and struggles with the female identity inside of him known as Annabel.

All of the characters in this book, including the minor ones outside the family, are well developed. Wayne is not the only character who struggles with identity issues. His best friend, Wally,struggles with her identity as a singer and Thomasina, his confidant, searches for her place in the world.

There are no easy answers or tidy solutions in this book. "Everyone is a snake shedding its skin," Thomasina tells Wayne. "We are different people through all our lives."

An excellent read, especially on cold, wintry days.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Forgotten Garden

Wednesday evening, a group of us gathered at the East Side branch of the Guelph Public Library to talk about Kate Norton's book, The Forgotten Garden.

Most of us enjoyed the book, while a few ladies had issues regarding the changing POV and time line. It was challenging to keep track of the three generations, but I liked the intricate layering of different times and places.

Norton skillfully weaves the theme of abandonment into the lives of Nell, Eliza and Cassandra. Easily classified as a love story with elements of mystery, The Forgotten Garden unwinds much like the fairy tales in Eliza's books.

An abandoned child on a ship bound to Australia...An orphan who is welcomed back into her mother's affluent family...Two cousins torn apart by a shocking secret. These are the elements of this enchanting and unforgettable book.