History has never been sexier

Book cover for Kit Brennan’s Whip Smart: Lola Montez Conquers the Spaniards

When browsing for the perfect book, many favour a specific genre. Some like mysteries, while others prefer romance novels or biographies and, once in a blue moon, someone will get their kicks cracking open a history textbook.

Kit Brennan’s Whip Smart: Lola Montez Conquers the Spaniards, encompasses a little bit of everything. The novel recounts the many adventures of a passionate, sometimes reckless 22-year-old named Lola Montez as she travels throughout England, France and Spain during the year 1842.

The book combines the perfect amount of fiction and reality, telling the story of what could have happened during a trip the real-life Montez made to Spain that summer. Montez was a dancer in the 19th century, and travelled everywhere from the United States to Australia. To this day, no one knows what really happened during her voyage.

The journey starts off in England, in 1843, where Lola is being interrogated about her true identity. She then shares memories of the past year, inviting the reader into her captivating tale of adventure and romance. It’s impossible not to be intrigued as she relates how it is she became a spy for the exiled Queen of Spain and planned to seduce the repugnant man tutoring the two Spanish princesses. While on her mission, she meets the captivating General Diego de Léon, also working for the Queen. Lola rapidly and dangerously falls in love with him. Her mission soon takes a drastic turn, and she and her team decide to plan a kidnapping. Things take a turn for the worst, when Diego is captured and Lola is chased across Spain by an unknown enemy.

This novel is the perfect blend of history, romance, action and mystery. The intriguing characters, many of which really existed, like Alexandre Dumas, for example, add even more life to the book. The story is written from Lola’s point of view, but her thoughts are written in a very modern fashion. This makes the text, written in a more time-appropriate way, easier to read. The dialogue is also full of expressions in different languages, including French, English and, of course, Spanish.

All of the characters are seen through Lola’s passionate and witty eyes, which makes the descriptions sensational. The tutor she must seduce, for example, is described as having “fur which extended all the way up the backs of his hands, fluffing out around his cuffs, and no doubt getting thicker and hairier all the way up (and down, ¡mierda!).”

Unlike most romance novels, the characters in this book are not perfect. Lola, for example, is rather vain, impulsive and has a weakness for men. Diego is not the classic love interest either, for he is actually shorter than Lola, and has a small, lithe build. This makes the story more believable, and the characters that much more endearing.

Brennan’s novel shows a woman’s transformation from the lost and regretful Eliza Rosanna Gilbert to the courageous and reckless Lola Montez. This page-turner, full of mysterious attacks and assassinations, will keep you guessing until the very end.

The author, Kit Brennan, currently teaches writing and storytelling at Concordia and is a nationally produced, award-winning playwright. Lola Montez Conquers the Spaniards, which was released on Feb. 1, is her first novel, but there will soon be a second book in the Whip Smart series entitled Lola Montez and the Poisoned Nom de Plume.

Student Life

Take your taste buds abroad

Drogheria Fine, a tiny, tasty-smelling Italian store, is the pride and joy of its owner, Franco Gattuso who opened up the shop 18 months ago.

The second you walk in, the scrumptious aroma of tomatoes, caramelized onion and garlic welcomes you into the 300 square foot store

Drogheria Fine is located on 68 Fairmount St. W. Photo by Leslie.

filled with mason jars of tomato sauce and Italian olive oil which he bottles in recycled glass jars. The olive oil is nothing but the best, and imported from Oliveto in the Calabria region, a small village where Gattuso’s mother was born. The tomato sauce labeled as “La Salsa Della Nonna,” which translates to “Grandmother’s Sauce,” is Gattuso’s homemade concoction are what he built his business around. He also offers canned goods containing the mouth-watering sauce with gnocchi, a soft, thick dumpling.

Before opening up Drogheria, Gattuso had worked in the restoration industry for more than 15 years, but decided to leave the field because of all the new rules and regulations that were being implemented. That is when he remembered the idea for Drogheria Fine, one he had put on hold for years.

“It all started with a trip to Italy, to the town where my mother was born,” said Gattuso. “All of a sudden, I remembered that I had already planned something that I could now do. Everything was already done, even the labels had already been designed.”

Although selling his products was not always easy, Gattuso always knew that his store would be a success.

“I always believed in this product. At first, it was difficult, because we were selling one pot at a time. Now though, people know who we are, and, because of its classic recipe, it has everything it needs to succeed,” Gattuso said.

The products found at Drogheria Fine are all cooked and canned on the spot. The tomatoes are imported from Italy, but the sauce is made in the store. Gattuso was proud to say that he was not afraid of sharing the ingredients he uses for the sauce. With no preservatives or artificial flavours, Gattuso simply uses tomato pulp, olive oil, caramelized onions and garlic, fresh basil, and sea salt. The sauce is good for up to one year if it is kept unopened and in the pantry, but only six weeks once it’s used.

Gattuso’s products are of excellent quality, but do not cost that much more than similar products that you would buy at a grocery store. He sells one litre of his homemade tomato sauce at $10, imported olive oils at $15, and does custom orders as well.

After my visit to the store, I just had to bring home some sauce and try it for myself. I was not disappointed. Gattuso’s sauce turns a mediocre meal into something divine. The ingredients may seem simple, but the sauce is nothing but ordinary and is definitely worth a trip to the Plateau.

In the near future, Gattuso hopes to open a second store, which will sell both his canned goods as well as products like fresh pasta that will compliment his merchandise.

“I am really confident right now, and I think that we can take the next step, which would be to open a second store,” Gattuso said. “The goal is for my products to be sold in grocery stores.”

Gattuso’s Salsa Della Nonna products are also available at many stores, such as Fromagerie Hamel, La Boucherie du Marché, La Boucherie Chez Vito, Marché du Village, La Baie des Fromages, and le Marché Soupson.


Drogheria Fine is located on 68 Fairmount St. W.


Quickspins: Brian Eno, Charli XCX, One Direction, Aerosmith

Brian Eno – Lux (2012; Warp)

The Latin word for “Light,” Lux is a return to Brian Eno’s ambient roots and a continuation of his ‘Music For Thinking’ project. This 75-minute, 12-part, four-movement ambient composition was commissioned as a sound art installation for the Great Gallery of the Palace of Venaria in Turin, Italy.

Much like the experience of entering a gallery and immersing yourself in art, Lux transports the listener to a contemplative mindspace that continuously shifts and morphs in on itself, changing yet remaining constant. Relaxing, all while being compelling, Lux creates a soundscape of delicate synthesizers, strings and light piano notes that does not demand your attention, but lures you into a half-lucid state like the whisper of a dream.

Eno is also releasing an app to accompany his new album. “Bloom” is an interactive composition program that allows the user to create a Eno-esque sound art installation of his or her own.

Trial track: “LUX 1/2/3/4”

Rating: 8/10

– Paul Traunero


Charli XCX – Super Ultra – Free Mixtape (2012)

The 20-year-old British singer-songwriter Charli XCX is back with a crazier-than-usual mixtape, Super Ultra. The mix, which includes both original music and covers, is a strange blend of pop, rap, hip hop, indie and a touch of techno, all somehow coming together into what the singer calls “Angel Pop.” The intros are inventive, one of which even includes a dialog from Cruel Intentions.

With their perverted lyrics and strange beats, her tracks are incredibly catchy. Lyrics go from angst to rebellious teenager. In “2 Moments in Love” she is a rebel, saying “I just want to get high with my best friend/kiss her on the tongue just like I’m your boyfriend.” But other tracks, like “Forgiveness,” have a little more depth.

Although it is clear that Charli XCX is still trying to find her voice, she seems to be on to something. It’s a sugarcoated mess, but still worth a listen.

Trial track: “Cloud Aura” ft. Brooke Candy

Rating: 6.3/10

– Nathalie Laflamme


One Direction – Take Me Home (2012; Syco Records)

Despite being trite and formulaic, One Direction’s second album Take Me Home is painfully addictive. The tried and tested formula of cheeky guitar riffs, crowd-pleasing choruses and five-part harmonies creates an album that is essentially identical to their first one, except for deeper voices and riskier lyrics.

The album’s strengths lie in irresistibly cheesy pop tracks like “Kiss You” and “Heart Attack,” which are the musical equivalent of over-indulging in sugary junk food. Meanwhile, most of the ballads feel out of place, including British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran originals “Over Again” and “Little Things.” Although they are the best-written songs on the whole album, they are awkwardly dissonant with the rest of the tracks.

There are no surprises on this boy band’s latest effort. It is neither musically nor lyrically creative, but it is undeniably enjoyable if you don’t let your pretensions get in the way.

Trial track: “I Would”

Rating: 6/10

– Suzanne Lafontaine


Aerosmith – Music from Another Dimension! (2012; Columbia)

After an eight year hiatus, Aerosmith is back with their 15th studio album, Music From Another Dimension! In a year filled with comebacks from the likes of Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith has managed to maintain its signature sound thanks to Steven Tyler’s energetic and unmistakable vocals, paired perfectly with Joe Perry’s stellar guitar riffs.

The first track, entitled “LUV XXX,” leads us to believe that the band is opting for a younger, more modern sound. Despite the tacky title, Aerosmith still possesses the same great energy and musicality that made them famous back in the ‘70s. Tracks like “Legendary Child” could easily be off of their classic album Toys in the Attic alongside the anthems “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion.” From the opening track to the closing track, Music From Another Dimension! will not disappoint diehard fans or even new listeners.

Trial track: “Legendary Child”

Rating: 8/10

-Jessica Romera

Student Life

The perfect pumpkin pie

It’s that time of year again. As we get closer and closer to Halloween, people are decorating their homes, picking out costumes, stocking up on tons of candy and, of course, carving pumpkins.

So, what better way to get into the Halloween mood than by making a pie with the holiday’s official vegetable? Here is a simple recipe for pumpkin pie, made from scratch.

Instead of simply buying my pumpkin at the nearest market, I decided to go to Quinn Farm, located on l’Ile Perrot. They had a huge selection of pumpkins; from small ones, to flat ones, some with a wart-like texture. If you are making a pie, the best kind is a sugar pumpkin, but a regular one will do the trick too (that’s what I used).

At Quinn Farm, pumpkins cost $0.40 per pound for pumpkins and $1.00 per pound for squash. You must also pay an admission fee, which is $2 a person between October 15th and 31st. It’s a really fun way to spend the day, especially with your family.

Pumpkin pie is a great way to eat dessert without feeling guilty. You are just getting your portion of veggies! According to the Huffington Post, the bright orange color is a sign that the vegetable is full of beta-carotene, an antioxidant which helps the body retain vitamin A. Current research shows that a diet containing high amounts of beta-carotene can help reduce someone’s chance of having certain types of cancer, and also helps protect from heart disease. So don’t be shy, help yourself to another serving!

Here are the steps to making the pie. This recipe was inspired by Mark Bittman, the author of “How to Cook Everything: The Basics.”


Pie crust ingredients

One packet of Graham crackers, crushed

3/4 cup of melted butter

Filling ingredients

2 eggs

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 1/2 cups fresh pumpkin purée (made from a fresh pumpkin, not the can!)

3/4 cup of cooking cream

Whipped cream (for topping)

Baking the pumpkin will take about an hour, so make sure to start with that. Cut off the top of the pumpkin and empty out the seeds (but keep them for later!) Once the pumpkin is empty, cut it in quarters. Place them with the flesh side up on baking sheets. Cook the pumpkin in the oven at 350°F for about an hour, or until the pumpkin is soft. Once the pieces are cooked, take of the skin and make the purée with your food processor, or with a potato masher.

While the pumpkin is cooking, you can start making the crust. Crush the Graham cookies until they make a powder; a few chunks here and there is fine. Slowly add the butter and mix with a food processor or electric mixer. The dough should be moist, add more butter if needed. Remember that it has to stick to the plate. Then, flatten out the dough on your pie plate with your hands or a fork. Make sure that there is a lot of dough on the sides of the pie plate, because it will shrink the first time you put it in the oven.

Put the dough in the oven at 350°F for about 5-10 minutes, then let it out to cool.

Now for the filling. Beat the eggs, then add all the dry ingredients. Add the pumpkin purée, then the cream. Once the mixture is homogenous, pour it into the crust. Cook for 30-40 minutes at 350°F, until the filling is a jello-like consistency. It is best to refrigerate the pie overnight, but you can eat it once it has cooled. Throw some whipped cream on there and you will be in for a treat!

Overall, it took me about two hours to make the pie, from cutting up the pumpkin to taking my first bite. It is totally worth it; the pie was incredibly tasty, and nutritious too!







Sometimes there are no words, sometimes there is only art

Photo by Madelayne Hajek

Before speech, humans communicated through symbols, drawings, and their body movements.

However in this age of words, there is still a lot that can be gained from our previous methods of communicating.

Drawing, using our bodies and making sounds are tools that are useful in expressing what we can’t or don’t know how to express verbally.

These tools are especially useful in therapeutic settings and are employed by creative arts therapists to help patients express their needs, resolve issues or come to terms with trauma.

Therapists can use a number of different media in their sessions, including art, music, drama, and dance. In the case of art therapy, the client is invited to create something in front of the therapist. The therapist and client will look over the image together and reflect on what they have created.

As an image speaks louder than words, it is sometimes easier for people to express their inner world through art. The art created by the client is an opening for dialogue and in some cases, such as traumatic experiences, the issue can be worked out through symbolically using what the client has drawn or painted.

“I’m really into abstract impressionist [art], so I just take the paints and try to blend all the different colors and after I’m done doing that [my therapist] looks at my artwork and says, Rachel* is this what you’re feeling inside?” says Rachel, an art therapy client at CSSS Cavendish.

There is no dictionary of symbols in art therapy, what a person draws is symbolically significant to them and therefore only has meaning in relation to that particular individual.

“The art is a way for them to symbolically explore their issues. After that, we look at the images and see if we can find a solution,” explains Julia L. Olivier, art therapist and president of Expression LaSalle.

Most of the people who take part in art therapy at Expression Lasalle are people who have had to deal with trauma and things that they are ashamed to talk about. It is much easier for them to express it through art or by acting it out with theatre.

“At first, patients will come in contact with a lot of emotions, like anxiety, but after awhile they will feel joy, and remember what is was like to do art when they were children,” says Sarah Brodie, an art therapist at the Montreal Therapy Centre. “You can make links between the shapes on the page and your inner world…it all leads to who we are and where we want to be.”

Sometimes, art therapy can help people discover passions they never would have discovered ordinarily. For example, Olivier had a patient who was a single mother of three children and was dealing with the fact that they were growing up. She had to find out who she was as a person, as an adult without children. Her artwork was filled with jewelry, so Olivier suggested that she should try taking a jewelry-making class.

With drama therapy, patients must act and watch others act in order to solve their problems. This technique, like art therapy, is great for people who have suffered traumas, as well as people who have trouble understanding the problems they are living with; they can understand it better by seeing other people act it out, or by acting it out themselves.

“With drama therapy, you can act out memories or fantasies, and this helps you better understand them,” says Brodie.

Patients will often set goals for themselves on their first session. This becomes the theme that they will explore during their individual or group sessions.

“We try to work on a series of goals that we need to overcome in three years time. So I have three goals that I need to overcome in the next three years. So every week we try to work towards that,” says Rachel. “One of my goals is to be more comfortable in my own skin, another one is to stop being overly stressed.”

According the Canadian Association for Music Therapy: “Music therapy is the skillful use of music and musical elements by an accredited music therapist to promote, maintain, and restore mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Music has nonverbal, creative, structural, and emotional qualities. These are used in the therapeutic relationship to facilitate contact, interaction, self-awareness, learning, self-expression, communication, and personal development.”

Music therapists work mostly with children with special needs or developmental disabilities, hospitals’ patients, and elderly populations. They also work with people who are in comas, or premature babies.

“We once had a little boy who spoke in gibberish. With music therapy he was able to make words by following the rhythm, he started saying short sentences, to say his name,” explains Guylaine Vaillancourt, assistant professor of music therapy at Concordia. Music therapy allowed the little boy to make friends, and Vaillancourt even noticed a change in the boy’s mother, who seemed to realize that her boy was smart.

Vaillancourt told another story of a patient in palliative care who was very tense and who was dealing with a lot of pain. She also had trouble talking about her disease. Vaillancourt played songs that she chose on the piano, songs that meant a lot to her. With the use of instruments and song, the patient became much calmer, and even felt less pain and slept more soundly.

With premature babies, music therapists use techniques like recording the mother’s voice and playing it to the baby. They may also record the mother’s heartbeat and play soft, soothing music for the baby. By playing these sounds, the baby is helped to feel more secure while in the incubator, and this helps the baby gain weight much faster, according to Vaillancourt.

Words are a difficult mode of communication, we can’t always find the right ones to express how we’re feeling, but with the tools used in creative arts therapies there is another avenue to which we can turn.

*The name has been changed due to the personal nature of the topic.

Expression Lasalle is located at 405 Terrasse Newman. The CSSS is part of the CLSC’s network of mental health services, for more information visit


“Forgiveness is a long hard road.”

“‘All you hear here are tales of lust, hate and despair,’ she continued. Every word she spoke was said slowly, weighted by her heart and soul. ‘You know what they say? Shit flows downhill and well, there’s the hill up there.’ She pointed at the antenna at the top of Mount Royal.”

Ian Truman, a graduate of Concordia’s creative writing program, released his second novel, Tales of Lust, Hate and Despair, this past summer, about a man from Montreal named Samuel Lee who is serving a life sentence in prison.

The story is a long letter to his 18-year-old daughter, Melody, detailing how he became a murderer back in 1996.

Samuel relates how he first went to prison for two years for beating up a police officer who was attacking a friend of his. His stint in prison means leaving his pregnant girlfriend Alice behind, who — having no money — finds an infamous coke dealer to support her and her daughter.

Samuel learns all of this after leaving prison, and decides that he must do everything in his power to be with his daughter. With the help of his only loyal friend, Mikey, he comes up with a plan to get his daughter and girlfriend back.

This violent story shows us a side of Montreal few have seen before; one that is filled with poverty, drugs, and street gangs. The descriptive tale paints a new picture in our minds of places we thought we knew, places like Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and St-Michel, and even the downtown Concordia University campus.

This story of friendship, love and, most of all, revenge proves captivating.

The book is written in the first person point of view, and reminiscent of the style of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye with more swearing and much, much more blood. It takes a few pages to get used to the style, but once you do, it becomes almost impossible to stop reading. Samuel’s voice is raw, angry and emotional. It feels like he’s speaking directly to the reader rather than his daughter, using flashbacks to explain how he got to be where he is today. He also sometimes imagines what life would be like if he had a house, a wife and children; a life far away from his current life of crime.

The story did have a few typos and grammar issues, as well as some awkward sentence structure at times. A quick edit would definitely make this novel a much smoother read.

Overall, this action-packed and heartbreaking novel was a page-turner. Although we know that Samuel will become a murderer from the start, the story keeps us on our toes the entire time wondering who he will kill, how he will do it, and why. This story is definitely unique and while not for the faint of heart, this noir-style tale definitely deserves a read.

Tales of Lust, Hate and Despair is available on Amazon for $2.99 in electronic format.

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