Movie Review: Five Feet Apart

A romantic drama, Five Feet Apart follows two teens with cystic fibrosis—Stella Grant (Haley Lu Richardson) and Will Newman (Cole Sprause)—as they deal with a budding but forbidden relationship.

CF patients must maintain at least six feet of distance to reduce any risk of cross-infection, a rule strictly upheld by Nurse Barbara (Kimberly Hebert Grégory) and the hospital staff.

A determined rule follower, Stella has organized her life around her treatments and harbors the hope that she will someday receive a lung transplant. Cynical Will, on the other hand, likes to flaunt the rules and take risks.

Stella initially dislikes Will and admonishes him to follow his prescribed regimen. In exchange for sketching her, Will agrees to take more responsibility for his treatments.

As they grow closer, Stella decides to bend the hospital rule and “take one foot back.” Using a billiards cue, she keeps five feet away from Will during their encounters and secret dates.

The storyline is an engaging one, with many tender and bittersweet moments. My favorites include the scavenger hunt that Stella sets up for Will, the surprise dinner party hosted by best friend Poe (Moises Arias), and the sharing of their scars.

Intertwined are the crushing blows that many CF patients and their families must endure: the sudden death of a close friend and ally (Poe), the realization that a drug trial isn’t working (Will), and the final parting of the ways.

Bring lots of tissue and prepare yourself for an emotional rollercoaster.


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Movie Review: Breakthrough

From start to finish, I found myself on an emotional roller coaster. Goosebumps rose, and tears fell as this incredible story unfolded on the big screen.

It is not surprising that faith leader DeVon Franklin decided to produce the film version of Joyce Smith’s book after only a brief encounter with Joyce, John, and Pastor Jason. Intrigued by Joyce’s account that she went into that emergency room and prayed her son John back to life, DeVon knew the film needed to be made.

The Smith family was involved at all stages of production from script development to meet-and-greets with the cast and crew. During the initial screening, Joyce commented, “You got it right.”

Chrissie Metz delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as Joyce Smith, the proud mother of adopted son John (Marcel Ruiz). Metz captures the intensity of Joyce’s faith but still manages to make her vulnerable and likeable.

When the film opens, mother and son are dealing with pubescent angst. Overprotective Joyce likes to smother her son with hugs while John tests his freedom and questions his roots.

The narrative takes an abrupt turn when John falls through an icy Missouri lake and remains submerged for fifteen minutes. On the verge of giving up, an emergency responder (Mike Colter) hears a voice that compels him to keep sweeping the lake floor. Within minutes, John is found and rushed to the ER.

Despite their best efforts, the health-care team is unable to resuscitate John. At the 45-minute mark, Joyce arrives and delivers an anguished plea, begging God to spare her son. Suddenly, John develops a pulse.

Dr. Garrett, a world-renowned specialist, expertly played by Dennis Haysbert, steps in. Compassionate but realistic, Dr. Garrett tries to prepare Joyce and her husband Brian (Josh Lucas) for less-than-ideal scenarios.

Joyce cuts him off with the most poignant lines in the film: “Go and be the best for John. Nothing less. And you just let God do the rest.”

Throughout the film, Joyce remains steadfast in her trust of God while most of the other characters believe she is in denial. A meltdown occurs, and Joyce surrenders to God's will. The morning after, John awakens with all his faculties intact. Two months later, John returns to playing basketball.

Topher Grace delivers an excellent performance as Pastor Jason, the hip young minister with a trendy haircut and wardrobe. Critical of his appearance and radical ideas, Joyce does little to welcome Pastor Jason to her faith community. But that doesn’t stop the pastor from joining Joyce at John’s bedside. Slowly, a bond slowly develops between mother and pastor. In a moving scene at the end of the film, Pastor Jason recognizes everyone who worked on John’s rescue and recovery and all who offered prayers on his behalf.

A must-see film that could reinforce or challenge your beliefs.


Spotlight on Lion Dancing for Love

I’m happy to welcome Wild Rose Press author Laura Boon. Today, Laura shares her book besties and latest release, Lion Dancing for Love.

Previously on this tour, I talked about my favourite book boyfriends. In Romancelandia, authors and readers spend a lot of time talking about (and drooling over) heroes. However, we don’t talk about heroines nearly as much. We’re hard on heroines. Historical romance author Anne Gracie said once that a romance reader is a bit like a mother-in-law; she’ll forgive her son (the hero) just about anything, but the smallest defect can sink the girlfriend (heroine) in her eyes.

Outside the romance genre, heroine not a word that’s used much. Like actress it has fallen into disuse. We talk about men and women as actors and heroes. Is this an advancement, the creation of a level playing field? I’m not convinced. It seems to me that changing the language and dropping the feminine words from the lexicon elevates the masculine qualities of hero and actor above those of heroine and actress. And that annoys me.

Heroes are admired for doing – ‘acting’ if you like – for being great warriors and leaders on the battlefield, in the boardroom, on the sports field and in the bedroom. Heroines in real life and on the page have shown themselves perfectly capable of leading and kicking ass; think Joan of Arc, Boadicea, Wonder Woman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Serena Williams, and Katniss. However, the real power of women lies in their emotional and mental strength. In their resilience and ability to endure. In their capacity to laugh in the face of adversity, find joy in everyday tasks, give birth and protect their brood. To smile when they would rather stamp their feet and scream like banshees. You underestimate the actress at your peril.

So, in honour of heroines quiet and loud, kickass and diplomatic, here in alphabetical order are fifteen of my besties from Romancelandia, none of them perfect, all of them great dinner companions.

1. Annabel Peyton, Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas – the sharks are circling but Annabel holds on to her dreams even as she alters clothes she can’t afford to replace.

2. Annique Villiers, The SpyMaster’s Lady by Joanna Bourne – brave, funny, honorable and a spy who gets herself into trouble because she can’t bring herself to kill.

3. Chase/ Lady Georgiana, Never Judge a Lady by her Cover by Sarah MacLean – ruined by a scoundrel, she remakes herself as the most powerful man in London.

4. Finley Cartwright, One Night Wife by Ainslie Paton – she’s feisty and stood on a bar top and did a karaoke impersonation of Marilyn to raise money.

5. Jane Chance, The Spring Bride by Anne Gracie – Jane is the bratty younger sister who grew up to be courageous and empathetic.

6. Jane Eyre, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – a creative and imaginative girl branded ‘sullen’. She was never very obedient and I always loved her rebelliousness.

7. Janie Morris, Neanderthal Meets Human by Penny Reid – shy, forthright, witty and not above ‘stalking’ the object of her desire.

8. Lily Chadwick, Three Nights With A Scoundrel by Tessa Dare – a good girl who gets creative and daring to get the man of her dreams and solve her brother’s murder.

9. Lily Lamprey, Pretty Face by Lucy Parker – a lovely woman who looks like a goddess, she won’t let other people’s opinions of her intelligence and talent (based on her looks) dictate her future.

10. Lydia Green, Dirty by Kylie Scott – she ran out on her wedding to face the unknown when she realised her husband-to-be was not what he seemed.

11. Lydia Grenville, The Last Hellion by Loretta Chase – commanding, tall, a scribbler and an advocate for social justice. I want to be Lydia Grenville. I really want her height!

12. Mary Challoner, Devil’s Cub by Georgette Heyer – she shot Vidal when he kidnapped and threatened her. Go Mary!

13. Roberta (Bertie) Fraser, Rules for a Proper Governess by Jennifer Ashley – kind and compassionate despite her circumstances, using her wits to keep herself and others alive.

14. Sal Kennedy, Ask Me Nicely by Amy Andrews – kind, compassionate and resilient, she survived a tragedy that would turn most people into bitter cynics.

15. Sophie Ross, Moonshadow by Thea Harrison – an LAPD Witch Consultant who can stand up to a warrior and rushes headlong into danger in defence of others.

What about you? Do you have a book bestie?

Blurb

Licking her wounds after a bad relationship, San Diego accountant Caitlyn Summers travels to Willow Springs to help her friend gear up for the annual Maple Sugar Ball. She isn’t planning on staying long, but one encounter with the delicious Corey Duncan has her re-evaluating her plans.

Corey swore off love when his wife Annie died from breast cancer. Caitlyn is too young, too citified, and vibrates with a passion and energy that will upend the safe, comfortable rhythm of his life. Corey has to choose between playing it safe and taking a risk on love. Caitlyn needs to find the patience to let Corey lead. If not, the Maple Sugar Ball might end in a sticky mess, instead of a slow dance with the man who has captured her heart.

Will their fire burn hot enough to erase doubts and past hurts?

Excerpt

“You don’t have to be good at it. You have to be able to follow and count to three.”

She put her hands on her hips. It was his turn to raise a brow. “I can follow—if I choose to.”

He chuckled. “Such sass. Prove it.”

He held out his left hand, and she moved forward and placed her right inside it. He twined their fingers and pulled her into position. A heady combination of scents rose from her, vanilla and pheromones and something uniquely Caitlin. Her skin was slick against his. “Rest your head against my chest,” he murmured.

“I don’t recall that as an official position.”

“It’s the one I favor. Stand on my feet. That’s it.” He adjusted her arm, so she had a good hold around his neck and drew her even closer. “Step with your right foot first…back across, together. Forward, across, together. Back, across, together. Forward, across, together.”

Halfway through the song, he let her feet slip to the ground. At the end he kept a firm grip on her waist while he hit replay, then led her through a series of fast twirls, their bodies so close they were almost one. When the song ended, they collapsed in a heap against the wall. She was giggling.

“What?”

“I get why it was considered scandalous when it was first introduced.”

He smiled and tipped her chin toward him with a finger. “It’s only scandalous if you do it properly.”

He brushed his lips softly across hers, then claimed her mouth as she breathed into him.

Buy Links

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | The Wild Rose Press | iTunes | Kobo | Google

Author Bio

Laura Boon stole her first romance from her father’s bookshelves as a teenager, The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss, and was immediately captivated. After holding a variety of positions in publishing, from bookseller to sales rep and publicist, she eventually found the courage to write her own stories. She was born in Zambia, grew up in South Africa, and went to university in America. She now lives in Australia with her husband and their adorable dogs Beau and Arro. When she is not reading or writing, she enjoys sleuthing for artisan chocolate and beautiful stationery, watching tennis, and walking alongside Sydney’s beautiful harbor.

Where to find Laura…

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | BookBub

Giveaway

Laura Boon will be awarding a $50 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Enter here.

Follow Laura on the rest of her Goddess Fish tour here.


Movie Review: Gloria Bell

A long-time fan of Julianne Moore, I looked forward to seeing the Oscar-winning actress take on the role of a fifty-something divorcée who is still hopeful about finding love.

Ms. Moore does not disappoint.

She delivers an understated but effective performance as Gloria Bell, an insurance agent who struggles with work difficulties and an empty nest. A warm-hearted person, she acts as a listening post for her friends and colleagues and tries to connect with her adult children (Michael Cera and Cassi Thomson). She tends to give more than she receives.

Gloria loves to dance at her favorite bar, a ‘70s throwback disco. It took several minutes for me to realize that the story takes place in the present. Many of the scenes involve Gloria driving alone in her car, singing to hits from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. She appears nostalgic for a kinder, gentler era where she was happier and less alone.

One evening, Gloria catches the eye of Arnold, a recently divorced ex-military man who owns and operates a popular paintball range. They connect and begin a passionate romance. They even share a dinner with her children and her ex-husband (Brad Garrett). An uncomfortable situation for Arnold who suddenly takes flight.

As the storyline progresses, we learn that Arnold has boatloads of baggage. Hounded by his adult daughters, Arnold alternates between stalking Gloria and erecting emotional walls.

While Gloria carries her baggage with more grace, she is affected by her daughter’s unexpected pregnancy and move to Norway, her son’s estrangement from his wife, a loud upstairs neighbor with anger management issues, and a potentially troublesome health issue. On a more humorous note, a hairless cat mysteriously visits Gloria’s apartment on a regular basis.

Gloria and Arnold escape to Las Vegas for a weekend, hoping to rekindle their relationship. A frantic call from Arnold’s daughters puts an end to that fantasy. A series of plot twists—one especially bizarre—follows.

I had mixed feelings throughout the film. I enjoyed watching Ms. Moore embrace the nuances of Gloria Bell, and I have a particular fondness for the music, especially Laura Branigan’s “Gloria.” But there doesn’t appear to be much personal growth on Gloria’s part.

Part entertainment, part cautionary tale.


Listen to the Whisper

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

In her latest book, The Path Made Clear, Oprah Winfrey opens each chapter by sharing key lessons and personal stories. In Chapter 3, she shares the following spiritual principle.

Your life is always speaking to you. It speaks in whispers, guiding you to your next right step. And in many situations, the whisper is also the first warning. It’s a quiet nudge from deep within saying, Hmm, something feels off. A small voice that tells you, This is no longer your place of belonging. It’s the pit in your stomach, or the pause before you speak. It’s the shiver, the goosebumps that raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

Whatever form the whisper takes, it’s not a coincidence. Your life is trying to tell you something.

Heeding these signs can open the doors to your personal evolution, pushing you toward your life’s purpose. Ignoring them–sleepwalking through your life–is an invitation to chaos.

Life is about growth and change, and when you are no longer doing either, you’ve received your first whisper.

Pay attention to what makes you feel energized, connected, and stimulated. Follow your intuition, do what you love, and you will do more than succeed.

You will soar.

Source: The Path Made Clear, pp. 44-45


Inspired by Dr. Ross Pennie

This past Saturday, I attended the “Writing Your Life & Other Personal Stories” workshop facilitated by Brian Henry in Guelph. A book editor and professor, Brian teaches creative writing at Ryerson University in Toronto and has led workshops everywhere from Boston to Buffalo and from Sarnia to Saint John. You can find out more about Brian here.

In the morning session, Brian shared tips and techniques for writing creative non-fiction. In the afternoon, one of his star students—Dr. Ross Pennie—shared his fascinating writing journey.

A bit of history…

In 1977, at the age of twenty-five, Dr. Pennie set off for a two-year posting at a Catholic Mission on a remote island in the South Pacific. He spent his days dealing with tuberculosis, malaria and other infectious diseases. Evenings, he would read, write letters and update his diary.

At the end of his posting, he returned to Canada and spent the next twenty years working as an infectious-disease specialist and daydreaming about writing his memoirs.

Finally, he took action and signed up for creative writing courses and workshops. He also analyzed other memoirs, read books on writers’ craft, and joined a writing group. It took him two and a half years to complete The Unforgiving Tides, which was released in 2004.

The logline is a tantalizing one: A young doctor encounters mud, medicine, and magic on a remote South Pacific Island.

He then tried his hand at fiction and wrote the well-received Dr. Zol Szabo medical mysteries. The first of these, Tainted, came out in 2010 and won the Arts Hamilton Literary Award for Fiction. He followed up with three more medical mysteries: Tampered, Up in Smoke, and Beneath the Wake.

After 39 years of working as an intensive-care pediatrician and infectious-diseases specialist at McMaster and Brantford General Hospital, Ross retired.

But he is not retired from writing.

In a 2017 interview with Hamilton News, he shared his love of the creative process: “I love spending time with the characters. They seem very real … it’s almost as though they live with us. I also find writing meditative. I enjoy being on my own, so there is a meditative and reflective aspect to it.”

At Saturday’s workshop, Ross shared practical advice about the memoir process.

Here are ten nuggets that resonated with me:

• Dribble the dry facts gradually into your story so that any one page is not filled with a laundry list of details. Do not confuse the reader with too many characters and too much technical jargon.

• Keep the narrator humble, vulnerable, embarrassed, noble, quirky, smart, but never arrogant.

• Leave yourself open to memories that bubble up unexpectedly.

• Exaggerate your deficiencies. (You will probably be telling it like it is!)

• Imagine that your mother and Grade 8 teacher are never going to read your memoir. This leaves you free to add healthy naughtiness. Some examples of healthy naughtiness include embarrassing situations, swear words, family secrets, petty criminal acts, and sexual encounters.

• Break grammar rules with pizzaz. But first, learn the grammar rules.

• Show the action and dialogue up close. Don’t just talk about it from a distance.

• Punctuate your stories with newsworthy events. Make a dated list of earth-shattering events that occurred during the period of the memoir such as wars, elections, assassinations, and natural disasters. Include some of these events in the memoir.

• Write frankly without bitterness.

• And most important of all … Persistence Writes the Memoir.

Find more about Dr. Ross Pennie here.


Top 10 Favorite Movies

I’m happy to welcome Soul Mate author Barbara Nolan. Today, Barbara shares her favorite movies and debut novel, Beyond Paradise.

Here’s Barbara!

Here are my top 10 favorite movies and why they are my favorites:



Father of the Bride

Father of the Bride 2—Watch both of these with my daughters and we laugh in the same places—every time.

The Holiday—Definitely a movie about second acts.

White Christmas—Watched this holiday classic every year with my mother until she passed in 2018.

Miracle on 42nd Street—Another holiday classic that is so sweet and nostalgic.

The Great Escape—Had a huge crush on Steve McQueen. Even had his poster in my room as a teen.

West Side Story—The first play I ever saw on Broadway and of course loved the movie.

Jurassic Park—Love Jeff Goldblum’s understated humor.

Sand Pebbles—Again Steve McQueen.

Airport—Still remember seeing it for the first time on the big screen at Radio City in New York.

Blurb

Jonny Vallone, the dark, brooding owner of Manhattan nightclub, Beyond Paradise, doesn’t need any more complications in his life, or women. Then savvy con artist Cheryl Benson, barges into his office and spits out a confession that would make most men run for cover.

Cheryl’s fast-paced, out-of-control life is closing in, and her only hope against a ruthless crime boss is bad boy Jonny and his powerful connections. Her knight in black Brioni has a body made for sin with enough baggage to fill a 747, but when a near-fatal attack throws the two together, they implode in a night of steamy, sheet-gripping passion.

Jonny can’t resist the beautiful blonde with the pleading green eyes plus he has his own agenda with the underworld thug who owns a piece of his soul.

Their wild ride whisks them from the high-powered glitz of Manhattan to the sultry beaches of Miami in a desperate attempt to break free of their shady pasts while trying to tame their fiery passion and the dangerous deceptions swirling around them.

Excerpt

“I’ve got you.” He pushed a stray hair away from her face and kissed her, wanting to taste more of her, be part of her, sink into her sweetness and make all her fears go away.

His eager hands roamed up her back. A decent man would’ve paced himself, given her space, but he’d never been a decent man when desire overwhelmed him. He nipped his way down her slender neck, loving the feel of her skin against his lips. He knew what he wanted. He’d wanted it ever since he’d seen her at the Oasis.

He fumbled with the hem of her T-shirt, and she covered his hand with hers.

“You want me to stop?” His words caught between a sigh and a gasp.

She pushed his hands away, tugged her shirt over her head and flung it onto the couch.

For one tantalizing second her eyes dared him with desires as overpowering and primal as his. Standing, he snatched her hand, jerked her up, and pulled her toward the bedroom, nudged the door open with his foot, then kicked it closed.

A heat boiled in the pit of his stomach and shot through his veins, melting him from the inside out. One part of him wanted to take time and explore every inch of her, while the part that controlled him wanted to tumble her to the bed.

“This isn’t a game.” He meant it as a warning, but the lust in his voice made it sound more like a challenge.

“I know.” She gasped as he snaked his hands around her waist. “‘Cause games have rules.”

buynow

Bio

Barbara Nolan has enjoyed writing most of her life. She became serious about her craft over the last five years.

Coming a bit late to the game, Barbara made up for lost time by acquiring her Certificate in Creative Writing from NYU and devouring any and all webinars and online courses available.

She’s also had the help and influence of many talented professors and editors along the way.

Her passion for reading and words, in general, make this a journey of love. There is nothing she would rather be doing than reading or sitting at the computer writing and editing.

She considers reading a luxury and writing a necessity.

Where to find Barbara…

Website | Amazon | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | BookBub | Facebook