Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Still Waiting for Bunn & Gunn, but this will do

A couple of years ago, Robin Jones Gunn told me that she'd most like to co-author a book with Davis Bunn so that the spine would read "BUNN & GUNN". I'm still waiting for that book, but in the meanwhile, I'll keep reading!

Canadian author Janette Oke has partnered with one of my favorite fiction authors, Davis Bunn. I like his writing, but I also think he's possibly the nicest people I've ever met!

So, I was pleased to receive the advance reader copy of "The Centurion's Wife" - a swift departure from Oke's typical writing style, but not such a departure from Bunn's historical fiction. Leah, the niece of Pontius Pilate, is caught up in a scheme to find out who exactly this prophet whom Pilate executed really was - and whether the Jews who followed Jesus are planning a large-scale rebellion. Her husband-to-be, Alban, happens to be the Roman Centurion whose young servant was healed by Jesus (recorded in Matthew, chapter 8).

Separately, these two lead characters are assigned to to find out the truth about Jesus identity, and what happened after His crucifixion. While the dialog can tend to be a little lacking, the story itself is very enjoyable. I liked considering what Pilate, his wife, the disciples, the Centurion at Jesus' crucifixion, the women at Jesus' tomb, etc. all experienced after His death and resurrection. Putting things into context is always very helpful for me, and this story did just that. The Centurion's Wife is much shorter than a Brock & Bodie Thoene or Francine Rivers historical, biblical fiction title, and I wish that this book had been more fleshed out and made into a meatier story, but it was still satisfying. I will look forward to reading the next in the series.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Review: The Apothecary's Daughter

I am an unashamed Jane Austen / Regency Era addict. So, when I read Lady of Milkweed Manor by Julie Klassen a number of months ago, I brought a discerning Regency eye to the writing. And I was definitely not unhappy with what my Regency-trained eye found. In fact, I was addicted. When the advanced reader copy of Klassen's forthcoming title arrived on my desk then, I picked it up immediately.

Julie Klassen's second "Riveting Regency", The Apothecary's Daughter, continues on her exploration of working-class 19th Century England. Lilly Haswell is a thoroughly likeable character, understandably torn between the life she knows with her tradesman father and developmentally delayed brother and her aspirations to find a life of something more, as offered to her by a wealthy aunt and uncle.

The unique glimpse provided into the 19th century world of medicine and the life of a working class family is well done. Klassen has obviously thoroughly studied her subject (and acknowledges this in the Author's Note), and uses detail to create a great sense of authenticity. Of course, a number of twists and turns in Lilly's complicated love-life ensue, and an enjoyable romance is woven throughout the larger story. However, the full story line intimates that Regency life was not all balls and gowns and garden parties, but full of the same life choice issues common to all people of all generations.

The cover copy tells us that The Apothecary's Daughter is a story with 'fascinating historical detail and vivid characters' and I would happily agree. I was not disappointed.
*Note: there were a few titles called "Apothecary's Daughter" when I searched - this review references only the title authored by Julie Klassen.

I'm Coming Back

Okay, so it's been waaay too long since I last posted. So much has happened! I got married, lost my job (RG Mitchell went bankrupt - NOT the result of my work, FYI), started a new company (check out http://www.grafmartin.com/ soon!) and did all the other life-adjusting stuff that comes along with major changes.

However, I want to start blogging again. In fact, I'm hoping to make my blog an integrated part of my new website, so thought I should get started right now. So there you go - it's a small start, but it's a start. First thing I'm going to do is publish my reviews for a couple of fiction titles I've just read and thoroughly enjoyed!

It's good to be back - now, we'll see if anyone even notices!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What Does Bridezilla Look Like?

Apparently, this is what Bridezilla looks like...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Avoiding Bridezilla

Dan proposed on Christmas Eve, and we're getting married on February 16th. And no, it's not a 'shotgun wedding'. While some people think we're crazy, we've had a lot of confirmation from friends saying that a short engagement is definitely the way to go (although all the bridal magazines are telling me I need at MINIMUM a year to plan!) So, recently a friend asked what my tips would be for getting married quickly.

Here they are, for what they're worth:

1. Work on your guest list now, and compile all their addresses into a spreadsheet so that it's really easy to make them into address labels or print them on your invitation labels. This saved us tons of time, since I had them already in a spreadsheet for my Christmas card list!

2. If you find a dress you like now, buy it! I'm wearing bridal separates that I love, and i'm happy because I didn't care about having a big frou-frou princess wedding dress since we're having a small ceremony, larger reception.

3. Get married where you live, and not necessarily where your family lives. They'll travel if they want to be there, and you can handle the details a LOT easier. If i'd gotten married in Nanaimo it would have been a lot more stressful.

4. When you register, don't be picky. You can always exchange / return things. Find things you like, but don't agonize over them being perfect. They'll probably be just fine. Of course, all the magazines and websites, etc. tell you that this is your dream list and it has to be perfect, but see how everything looks when you get it and if it doesn't work, then exchange it!

5. Let your friends help you. They are going to be part of your marriage - not just your wedding. This is a big one! I've been absolutely AMAZED at how people are helping and supporting me, knowing that I have a short time frame, my mom and family aren't here, etc. They've been incredible. I'm totally blessed. My matron of honor did a lot of calling around and checking out halls for us - and we found one we LOVE - St. George Hall. I've been given the wedding cake by my friend Michelle and her pastry chef sister, the wedding decorations by various people, an amazing price on my flowers (Rebecca is a talented florist), a sister-in-law to take engagement photos, a sister to host the rehearsal dinner and people are popping out all over the place to offer things. It's amazing what happens when you don't hold your own wedding plans so tightly. And you know what, it's so incredible that it's become not just my event, or Dan and mine, but it's become a community event.

6. Set yourself aside and see what God will do. The best thing about a short engagement has been that we don't have the luxury of arguing over things. It's been more like "this is a great hall - do you like it?", "yup","okay - done". We have to be partners and work as a team. Also, it allows us to let God in on the details. We need him to intervene! I'm pretty organized, which helps, but I can only do so much. God has provided so much for us - from great deals on the things we need for the wedding, to people to purchase things we need to get rid of in the combining of two households. And yes - this was all basically organized within 3 1/2 weeks. Not 12 months.

So there you go. I don't have time to go all bridezilla! I don't want to be bridezilla, because frankly Dan doesn't like me so much when i'm stressed, and I don't like myself so much when i'm stressed!

Thursday, December 27, 2007



Ontario Man to Wed Island Girl – She Said Yes!

Waterloo, ON — Dec. 24, 2007 — Christmas came a few hours early for Ellen R. Graf this year. Dan J. Martin of Elmira, Ontario presented a sparkling diamond ring to Ms. Graf (formerly of Nanaimo, BC) while on a snowy Christmas Eve walk to admire the Christmas light sculptures in Waterloo Park. While the Bride-to-be looked on agog (slightly resembling a fish out of water) the Groom-to-be knelt and pulled out a ring box and asked her to marry him. Although Ms. Graf had stopped breathing temporarily, his repeated asking prompted a response of “uhuh, yes, mmhmm, yes” accompanied by strong nodding of the head. She is currently being treated for shock. Mr. Martin is being treated for compulsive grinning.

Friends and family are thrilled for the couple and have offered their heartfelt blessing. Said the Father of the Bride, “At last!” The Bride’s mother advised “You make a great couple (keep him, he does dishes!)”. Other reactions have included “Yahoo”, “YAY!” and high pitched loud squealing noises. Ms. Graf and Mr. Martin are sincerely grateful for the prayers that have been offered on their behalf, and are so honored to have friends and family who have encouraged and loved them while their relationship has developed.

While a date has not yet been set, the couple will be married in the New Year. When asked about the date, the groom advised “Sooner than later!” After the wedding, they will reside in Waterloo, Ontario. The bride’s process of ‘clutter reduction’ has already begun so that her husband-to-be might have at least one shelf in the closet to call his own.

Mr. Martin hails from Ontario, while Ms. Graf was raised on Vancouver Island, BC. They realize that this is a cross-cultural relationship and have enjoyed learning about each other’s respective backgrounds – especially the foods.

Both the bride and groom are available for interview (they’re regaining their coherency by the day) and the ring is available for viewing. Photos available upon request.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Un-Fortune Cookies

Okay - I confess. I love fortune cookies.

I can't eat them, but I can't wait to break open the crispy little creatures and see what they're going to tell me. But really, the fortunes are dumb, aren't they?

Today's fortunes:

"We would often be sorry if our wishes came true."
"It is quality rather than quantity that matters. Do a good job."

I feel ripped off! Those aren't fortunes at all! Grrr... Wings 'unfortune' cookies! Who thinks of these things?!

According to Wikipedia: The Fortune Cookie is a crisp cookie made from flour, sugar, butter, vanilla, and milk which is baked around a fortune, a piece of paper with words of faux wisdom or vague prophecy. ... Despite conventional wisdom, the cookies were invented in California.
Ahhh... they're from California. No wonder they're bizarre and don't make too much sense! :)

Monday, December 10, 2007

My Own Personal Ice-Capade

This weekend will go down in Danellen (our celebrity nickname) history. After finishing up a bunch of Christmas shopping and enjoying a wonderful meal at Milestones, Dan had the fabulous idea to go skating in the outdoor rink at Nathan Phillips Square in Downtown Toronto, which was really fun. My skates were sharp, my spirits bright, and we were bundled up like Ralphie in A Christmas Story.

It was kind of like the movie Serendipity, but not quite.

So, it's been a few years since I've skated, and it wasn't the best conditions to practice on for the first time again. There were hundreds of people on the ice, and it was totally chopped up.

Although I had a fairly tenuous start, I was doing good, but getting tired. And, I guess I wasn't picking up my feet enough because I was getting lazy and my pick caught, and I did a HUGE belly flop on the ice. No normal falling for me. None of the falling on your butt, side, etc. I fel directly on my stomach and arms. Flat. On. My. Face. I slid a little ways, and was absolutely covered in snow when I stood up.

Dan was in so much shock, and I was in shock (and I knocked the wind out of myself) but all I could do was laugh hysterically. I could hardly skate back to the bench because I was laughing so hard. I bruised a rib, my shoulder is hurt, and I'm still laughing (although it hurts because of my rib). Seriously, I'm still aching all over.

Poor Dan, planning a romantic winter evening and I'm just... typical Ellen. I think I get it from Grandma Ellen. She had a rather miserable track record of broken arms and legs from roller skating and water skiing.

Fortunately, I also got her sense of humor, which came in handy when we got back to the car and realized I had forgotten to take the tag off of the top of my toque and had worn it all over Toronto that night. Sigh. Some things never change.