Book Review: Saint Etienne

must reads
Saint Etienne 
Hardcover, 326 pages
Published October 28th 2014 by Bantam

ISBN 978-0-9926578-2-6


Saint Etienne has produced a much-loved and adored catalogue of work over the years. Their eclectic individuality has gained them a devoted fan base following all of their movement. Inspired by sixties pop culture, electronica, trance and folk—their groundbreaking use of samples and early sounds merge together creating a fresh and innovative sound as invigorating as it was twenty-years ago. From their roots in the indie dance scene to their recently film work, Saint Etienne are still turning heads and generating new fans. 


First Third Books has created a shrine of Saint Etienne that will appease all bibliophiles and fans. The rich photographic monograph contains over 150 images of Saint Etienne with full annotation. The book notes complete discography and includes commentary by Sarah, Pete and Bob. 

Elusive friend and fellow musician, Lawrence (Felt, Denim, Go-Kart Mozart) has contributed an eloquent foreword, and conversations with each member uncover individual memories that make up the group’s history.

saint etienne

With a tonal green linen cover in homage to much of Saint Etienne’s artwork this individually numbered and limited 2,000-run ‘volume contains both celebrated and previously unpublished photos of the group by some of the world’s best known music and fashion photographers, as well as many previously unseen images from the group’s personal archives taken by close friend and film-maker Paul Kelly’.

This collection will attract long time fans, and certainly acquire new ones along the way. It is a beautiful collection that, to truly be appreciated must be read in a few sittings. The photos tell such stories, and it is a privilege to observe such beautiful pieces of Saint Etienne’S history. For those that tend to flip through books/magazines and only scour through the lines, please take your time with this collection. The notes and annotations need to be read for the photos to be fully understood and appreciated. 

Available on the First Third Books website at

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Book Review: The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

must readsThe Lying Game by Ruth Ware


Published: June 15th 2017 by Simon & Schuster


The text message is just three words: I need you.

Isa drops everything, takes her baby daughter and heads straight to Salten. She spent the most significant days of her life at boarding school on the marshes there, days which still cast their shadow over her now.

Something terrible has been found on the beach. Something which will force Isa to confront her past, together with the three best friends she hasn’t seen for years, but has never forgotten. Theirs is no cosy reunion: Salten isn’t a safe place for them, after what they did.

At school the girls used to play the Lying Game. They competed to convince people of the most outrageous stories. But for some, did the boundary between fact and fantasy become too blurred?

And how much can you really trust your friends?


Ruth Ware hooked me in earlier this year with her psychological thriller, The Woman In Cabin 10. I was a bit skeptic that she could push out another fantastic mystery so soon.

She crafted a dynamic female gang. Each character was deeply flawed and intriguing. Much like the protagonist in ‘Cabin 10’

I loved the Pretty Little Liars series by Sara Shepard and this was a very adult story dealing with similar tones. Yes – of course, lies – but much deeper than that. Ware has such a way with words. Her style is smart, fun and witty.  She sure can craft a world!

I loved being transported to England in this atmospheric story, diving into the past and back to the present.

I can’t say anything else – no one likes spoilers!


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Poetry: Set The World On Fire

Set The World On Fire



















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Book Review: The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones by George R.R Martin

must reads

The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones by George R.R Martin

The World of Ice and Fire

Hardcover, 326 pages
Published October 28th 2014 by Bantam
If the past is prologue, then George R. R. Martin’s masterwork—the most inventive and entertaining fantasy saga of our time—warrants one hell of an introduction. At long last, it has arrived with The World of Ice and Fire.

This lavishly illustrated volume is a comprehensive history of the Seven Kingdoms, providing vividly constructed accounts of the epic battles, bitter rivalries, and daring rebellions that lead to the events of A Song of Ice and Fire and HBO’s Game of Thrones. In a collaboration that’s been years in the making, Martin has teamed with Elio M. García, Jr., and Linda Antonsson, the founders of the renowned fan site—perhaps the only people who know this world almost as well as its visionary creator.

Collected here is all the accumulated knowledge, scholarly speculation, and inherited folk tales of maesters and septons, maegi and singers. It is a chronicle which stretches from the Dawn Age to the Age of Heroes; from the Coming of the First Men to the arrival of Aegon the Conqueror; from Aegon’s establishment of the Iron Throne to Robert’s Rebellion and the fall of the Mad King, Aerys II Targaryen, which has set into motion the “present-day” struggles of the Starks, Lannisters, Baratheons, and Targaryens. The definitive companion piece to George R. R. Martin’s dazzlingly conceived universe, The World of Ice and Fire is indeed proof that the pen is mightier than a storm of swords.



To the dismay of A Song of Ice and Fire fans, this wasn’t the highly anticipated Winds of Winter. However, it certainly proved to be a great gift to fans of both the books and HBO television series. 

This book explores the history, a very well-developed history, of the fantasy universe of Westeros. There is an abundance of new material about Westeros to emerge for the first time in this book. It informs, and entertains—exactly what readers of R.R Martin can expect from his work. The true king of Westeros is a master wordsmith, and this book doesn’t disappoint. 

The history of Westeros unfolds with support of beautiful artwork, often exclusive to this collection. This isn’t some measly addition to the Game of Thrones book series in an attempt to market on the popularity of the show. This book is huge and essential to understanding the history of A Song of Ice and Fire as the series progresses towards it’s inevitable conclusion.  The events showcased happen before the events of A Song of Ice and Fire. This book is a companion to the series. The depth of the history helps the reader understand, completely how the seven kingdoms came about.

This history feels very authentic, it is written as if by a Maester of the Citadel. At times it feels as if you are in Westeros and you have picked this up off some lording’s bookshelf. The pages are tarnished, covered with stains and patches appropriate to that type of parchment. The reference to other history books, of Westeros, also adds to this glorious affect. R.R Martin is very particular with details, and this anthology clearly shows that.

This is a full history of Westeros. Everything you could dream of, is covered. T he book begins with a focus on ancient history. It then goes on to give a detailed account of Aegon the Conqueror’s conquests along with his reign. We learn in explicit detail of each Targaryen King, ending in Robert’s rebellion. We then see how the historical events affected each major house and some of their major happenings. The book ends with a history of the lands beyond the sunset kingdom: the free cities and other lands. 

No matter what house you find yourself supporting, this book has something to offer to appease your appetite for Game of Thrones until the next entry is released. 

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Book Review: The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa

must readsThe German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa


Published October 18th 2016


Berlin, 1939. Before everything changed, Hannah Rosenthal lived a charmed life. But now the streets of Berlin are draped in ominous flags; her family’s fine possessions are hauled away; and they are no longer welcome in the places they once considered home. A glimmer of hope appears in the shape of the St. Louis, a transatlantic ocean liner promising Jews safe passage to Cuba. At first, the liner feels like a luxury, but as they travel, the circumstances of war change, and the ship that was to be their salvation seems likely to become their doom.

New York, 2014. On her twelfth birthday, Anna Rosen receives a mysterious package from an unknown relative in Cuba, her great-aunt Hannah. Its contents inspire Anna and her mother to travel to Havana to learn the truth about their family’s mysterious and tragic past.

Weaving dual time frames, and based on a true story, The German Girl is a beautifully written and deeply poignant story about generations of exiles seeking a place to call home.

reviewEntering this novel, I was bit scared as to how dark the content may be. History can be ugly, and this novel explores some of the worst times of humanity. I was shockingly surprised by how beautifully executed this story was. Armando Lucas Correa takes on an extremely ambitious genre—historical fiction, notoriously known for being difficult to master even for seasoned writers—and explores the past with a eloquence I didn’t know was possible.

The reader journeys back into the life of fictional protagonist, Hannah Rosenthal in 1939 before the entire world changed. Her family are among the elite social circles in Berlin and are in constant admiration by friends and family. Eleven-year-old Hannah, leads a charmed life filled with high tea in the finest clothes and possessions others only dream of.  Her days are spent happy and carefree, accompanied by friends of family. 

Then, the world as she once knew it is gone. Seemingly overnight, in a simple blink of an eye. Instead of fanciful views, Berlin is now draped with red, white and black flags; fine possessions are taken and home is a place of distant memories. 

The book is told in dual narrative, alternating between the aforementioned Hannah and 12-year-old Anna, Hannah’s great niece, living in New York 70 years later. The story connects the two women in a grandeurs way that really makes the reader think. Their connection cannot be elaborated on without dreaded ‘spoilers’, which I will certainly avoid, and instead focus on other great aspects of the book. 

Many of us believe we know the details of the horrors endured in WW2 from studies in school, documentaries and social media—this book certainly proves us wrong.  Very few people are familiar with the safe passage of Jews from Europe to Cuba under the reign of Hitler. I thought it was impossible to learn anything more horrendous about Hitler, once again, proven wrong. 

This is a great read to get in touch with your humanity. To feel inspired to do good for others. Take the time to read, and learn about history so it never repeats itself. We all know the terrors of Auschwitz, now it is time to explore St. Louis, the transatlantic liner that took Jewish people to Cuba at the beginning of the war. The ship itself was seen as a beacon of hope, if one achieved passage, safety seemed real.

History tells a different story that begs to be repeated. 

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Book Review: The Haunting of Sunshine Girl By Paige McKenzie Review

BookReviewsThe Haunting of Sunshine Girl by Paige McKenzie & Alyssa. B Sheinmel


Published: March 24th 2015 by Weinstein Books


Based on the wildly popular YouTube channel, The Haunting of Sunshine Girl has been described as “ Gilmore Girls meets Paranormal Activity for the new media age.” YA fans new and old will learn the secrets behind Sunshine—the adorkable girl living in a haunted house—a story that is much bigger, and runs much deeper, than even the most devoted viewer can imagine…


This will be short and sweet because I figure this is a book readers must experience for themselves.

It is one of the best, conventionally perfect horror stories I have read in years. I love that the girls utilized one of my favorite conventions of horror novels: making the antagonist, the sole villain or spirit of the story a house. Bringing life to the mundane. Absolute magic. Paying homage to the greats like hill house

The story transcends through time, flashes between past and present a journey through time. A story that intertwined relationships and tragedies from a hundred years ago, t0 the present.

The house is a life force and cannot be harmed. Add in some terrifying scenes, a bit of black magic…and yep, you must read it!

I unfortunately haven’t seen the YouTube channel the coincides with the story. I will definitely be checking it out! If it is true to the book, it will be fantastic.

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Alberta Ballet: The Tragically Hip Portrait Ballet Canada Tour

59079212_812579152455741_5909621351412400128_nNo Dress Rehearsal, This Was My Life

Alberta Ballet artistic director Jean Grand-Maître’s Tragically Hip ballet ‘All of Us’ – Honours Gord Downie

The Tragically Hip Live in Windsor

Alberta Ballet artistic director Jean Grand-Maître has made a reputation for himself with his inventive choreography and signature portrait ballets. 2017 the Alberta Ballet did Gordon Lightfoot (Our Canada), which was a birthday ballet for Canada. Prior to that; K.D Lang, Elton John and Sarah Mclachlan. The goal for AlI Of Us was to create something different, shared Grand-Maître to a sold-out audience, I didn’t want to go back to creating another ballet of 20 songs and 20 different tableaus again. I wanted to find a story ballet.

His mission to find a narrative meant finding lyrics to fit the dystopian vision he had for this performance. The music of The Hip, and of Gord Downie goes from beautiful acoustics, stunning poetry to raw violence. Everything packs a cathartic punch, a ballet paired to these sounds had to hit the emotional marks. His selection of 20 songs included noticeably obscure tracks. Those expecting all the Top 40 Hits were certainly surprised. That’s what makes his portrait pieces so powerful- the careful thought and selection of each song included. If it was simply to please fans and not tell a story, the soundtrack would be easy. To effectively tell a story true to The Hip – that’s a difficult feat that was conquered with grace. On his selection process – I try to have music from their entire catalogue. I go from their first album to their last album—depending on how many albums they have, Elton would’ve been a nine-hour ballet. It’s really trying to capture their music throughout their career.

The last years of frontman Good Downie’s life were a whirlwind, creating a powerful narrative of their own. He fought cancer, he toured for his fans and it was a huge-Canadian love affair. It felt like the whole heart of Canada was beating for this brilliant poet. This compassionate embrace occurred within Canada whilst South of the Border all was going to hell. 


It was this contrast between what Gord Downie sings about, which is what’s the best about our humanity and the hope he has for our species and this way he has of capturing the worst of our species and the best. Hope and light seems to win in this artist, and in the band’s music. Many of the Hip’s songs are bleak, discussing metaphorical shipwrecks which sparked the idea of an Armageddon, apocalyptic themed story. A wasteland of a world with two clans remaining: one is the Clan of Hannibal, descendants of love and passion that are caretakers of the planet, living in harmony and community and equality; the other Clan of Hadrien are the descendants of greed and hate and intolerance. 

It doesn’t take long to settle in after the opening’s shrieking destruction of the world (Man Machine Poem) with a lyrical back-and-forth between young lovers Abraham and Cordelia against The Hip’s acoustically warm Scared. A second duet immediately follows in different technique to As I Wind Down the Pines, danced eloquently by the Clan of Hadrien. As ballet develops, darkness invades and the clan of Hannibal is shown in its depraved rawness (So Hard Done By, Little Bones, Vapour Trails) and the broadly drawn oppositions between the two groups are masterful at all levels of the production, hewing to clear oppositions of good versus evil, acoustic versus electric, light versus dark.

The dancing is often overwhelmingly powerful and so abundantly energetic, it makes one wonder where they are getting their energy. This is one of the most demanding, technically difficult, detailed choreography in company history that expects so much of the ensembles, the audience was left in awe at their technical proficiency and abilities, whether in solo work such as Yoshiya Sakurai’s beautiful Wheat Kings or the second act’s It’s a Good Life if You Don’t Weaken.


Some bits will shock you—”Locked in the Trunk of a Car,” some sections of “Cordelia,” “Fully Completely,” “At the Hundredth Merdian”—and others will soothe your soul —”As I Wind Down the Pines,” “Scared”.

Every second of the performance is so calculated and clever. With a set that looks like a map of Western Canada cast in futuristic distortion, there is so much well-considered, good art jammed into this production that you need to go more than once to appreciate it all. Add to all that seven designers, including weapons, props, martial arts and fight consultants and four indispensable production, costume and stagecraft partners

The ballet matched both music and words to dance with unerring artistic accuracy all night. Even in this destroyed world, the best elements of humanity, such as love and group bonding, shine through in beautiful duets, rhapsodic solos, symmetrical passage work and stamina-defying energy, all to show that even in the worst of times, we overcome our worst tendencies.


If you’re Canadian it’s hard not to be touched by the songs of The Tragically Hip and Gord Downie’s unmistakeable voice. When he left us, Canada mourned as a country. We are better for the voice of The Hip – What The Hip has done for us and continues to do for all of us. This is a band that made us fall in love with music again. The simple act of musicians picking up instruments and making sense of our world again. Their music is so iconic and essential to the Canadian music scene.

Grand-Maître has created a worthy tribute to Canada’s archetypal musicians, a powerful post-Apocalyptic story with tremendous kinetic, balletic power suitably matched to The Hip’s legendary energetic performances and uniquely powerful songs. All of Us is often the most elemental dance set to the most elemental music Canadians have ever known. This is by far Grand-Maitre’s strongest portrait ballet.

Join Alberta Ballet in celebration of The Hip, this spring in the Canadian tour. All of Us will come to life for new audiences across Canada, including multiple performances starting in May in Hamilton, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. 


***originally posted to Gigcity 2018 by Lisa Lunney

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