Wednesday, May 4, 2016

"Made With Love" by Kelly Childs and Erinn Weatherbie

Vegans and vegetarians rejoice! Gone are the days of missing out and forgetting about delicious treats just because you follow a plant-based diet. The mother-daughter duo behind Kelly’s Bake Shoppe and Lettuce Love Café have a new cookbook with over 100 plant-based, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and peanut-free recipes. And meat-eaters take note - you won’t even realize there is anything missing from these sweet treats.

Made With Love: More Than 100 Sweet and Savory Plant-Based Recipes for Every Moment in Life, by Kelly Childs and Erinn Weatherbie, is a beautiful cookbook packed full of delicious foods, easy recipes, and detailed information about vegan cooking and baking. This book is perfect for both the vegan and the meat-eater in your life.

I adhere to a mostly plant-based diet but one thing that I tend not to do myself is baking. I leave that to the experts. But this book changed my mind on that. The recipes in this book are easy to follow as well as shop for, which is very important for me. I don’t have the time or the money for specialty stores and with this book there is absolutely no need for them. While there is a wide variety of recipes in this book and lots of meal ideas, the baking section is the strength of this book.

So far I have tried two recipes however my copy of the book has a ton of sticky notes sticking out of it of recipes I am definitely going to try. Because who can resist dishes like Easy Sunday Morning French Toast, Sweet Potato and Quinoa Burgers, Delectable Donuts, Pina Colada Smoothies, and Grandma’s Apple Crumble. I love the Carrot Cake Smoothie, and really does that need an explanation? It’s a super healthy, drinkable carrot cake people. I also enjoyed the Tomato Protein Soup, and for me it was wonderful not even as a soup but a lovely dish of tomatoes, chickpeas, croutons, and lots of delicious spices.

For Kelly and Erinn, the food that is found in this cookbook is a way of life. Kelly is the co-founder of Canada’s first gluten-free and vegan eating establishment. Erinn herself struggles with food sensitivities which is why they founded Kelly’s Bake Shoppe which is 100 per cent organic and gluten, dairy, egg, and peanut free. In everything they do their focus is on health and kindness.

There are a lot of plant-based cookbooks on the market so it’s understandable if one is wondering why they need another one. But this one is a must-have for your cookbook collection. As I mentioned already, it’s baking section is its biggest strength. Even meat-eaters won’t be able to resist Dulce de Leche cupcakes. And this book also sets itself apart from the rest with its gorgeous photos. This would make a wonderful gift for its beauty alone. Plus, readers will want to try every single thing they see in this book. This book is one that will definitely be getting a lot of use in my house.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of Penguin Random House of Canada. The opinions expressed above are my own.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Month In Review

So April was a great month for me when it came to reading, but when it came to blogging, it wasn't great. Things were very busy for me balancing family and work (again, work in a bookshop, not complaining at all) so while I was getting a lot of reading done on the run, I was having a hard time just sitting down and that is where my blog became neglected. So I'm hoping to turn things around on that front in May.

Here are the books I read in April with my GoodReads ratings:

Eligible - Curtis Sittenfeld ****
Beware That Girl - Teresa Toten ****
Me Before You - JoJo Moyes *****
The Regional Office is Under Attack - Manuel Gonzales ****
The Nest - Cynthia D'Aprix-Sweeney ****
I Almost Forgot About You - Terry McMillan ****
Making It Up As I Go Along - Marian Keyes ***

With one exception, every book I read this month was a 4 star read for me. It was just a month of good reads. My favourite was Eligible. I'm recommending this modern adaptation of Pride & Prejudice to everyone. The Regional Office is Under Attack is a lot of fun to read. I Almost Forgot About You is classic Terry McMillan. And I was pleasantly surprised that I liked Me Before You so much!

Non-Book Stuff
It's officially Spring when Canada's Wonderland opens for business and we were at the park for sneak preview night. I love that my 9 year old wants to go on every roller coaster over and over, we had a great time. My husband and I saw Jimmy Carr's stand-up show and it was hilarious. Gotta love a comedian who can take on, and encourages, hecklers.

What I'm Looking Forward to in May
My TBR list for May is so long and looking so good! I'm still working through The Passage, though my husband chose it as his commute audiobook so I'm reading more now so we can read it together. I managed to get my hands on an ARC of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and I can't wait to get started on that. A few others on my pile - Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien, The Assistants by Camille Perri and The Couple Next Door by Shari LaPena.

Monday, April 18, 2016

"Eligible" by Curtis Sittenfeld

What would the Bennet family from Pride and Prejudice be like if they lived in the twenty-first century? In this imagining, so much is different and yet so much has stayed the same. To start with, the Bennet family are from Cincinnati in this version. Liz is a magazine writer living in New York City, as is yoga instructor Jane. Kitty and Lydia are focused less on careers and more on CrossFit. Mary is in the process of getting her third Master’s degree online and barely leaves the house except for a mysterious outing every Tuesday. But as some things simply don't change as Mrs. Bennet is focused solely on marrying off her daughters, especially Jane who is quickly approaching forty.

And who has Mrs. Bennet set her eyes on for Jane? That would be Chip Bingley, the handsome doctor and recent star of the reality dating show "Eligible." When Mrs. Bennet wrangles an invitation to a Fourth of July barbecue, Jane and Chip hit it off. But Liz is less than impressed with Chip’s friend Fitzwilliam Darcy, a neurosurgeon from California who has no problems keeping his thoughts on Cincinnati and the Bennet family to himself.

Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld, is a fun and fresh retelling of Jane Austen’s classic masterpiece Pride and Prejudice. Just as Austen tackled the social issues of her time, this book takes a look at gender, race, class, family, and marriage in a very entertaining way.

This is an absolutely charming and enjoyable novel. I breezed through the book, which at over 500 pages long doesn’t seem like it would be an easy feat, because I was having so much fun and did not want to put it down.

I read Pride and Prejudice for the first time only a few yeas ago and while I enjoyed it, I wasn’t as charmed by it as many people are. I can see why people love it and how it would be such an important book of its time though it just wasn’t the same experience for me. However, this modern re-telling - this is my cup of tea. The Bennet family are from Cincinnati, the daughters are into things like yoga and CrossFit, and Mr. Bingley has starred on a reality dating show. And Darcy, well he’s the same no matter where is living or what time period he lives in.

There is so much going on in this book and it is all so much fun. I really appreciated how it wasn’t so much of just picking up the Bennet family and placing them in a new time period while keeping the same old problems. Sittenfeld takes the big issues of today and sees how the Bennet’s would react to it. This book has characters who are people of colour and who are transgender and it doesn’t shy away from examining how people in the Bennet’s social circle would treat them. The Bennet sisters are recognizable and relatable.

I will definitely be recommending this book to many people (I actually have already been recommending it at work even though it isn’t released until the 19th of April.) I think many classic books deserve modern re-tellings and this one is leading the way. This is a great summer book and one that you will be seeing everywhere so pick it up.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada. The opinions expressed above are my own.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Kid Lit

A quick post sharing what my kids, ages 9 and 6, have been reading lately.

A1, Age 9

Camping Aux Chutes du Niagara - Geronimo Stilton (Field Trip to Niagara Falls)
Shannon the Ocean Fairy - Daisy Meadows
Diary of a Wimpy Kid - Jeff Kinney

A2, Age 6

Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets - Dav Pilkey
Galaxy Zack, Hello Nebulon! - Ray O'Ryan

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

"Making It Up As I Go Along" by Marian Keyes

Welcome to the fun and delightful world of Marian Keyes. It’s a lot like the rest of the world but with keen insight into the everyday issues we all face. Not sure how to break up with your hairdresser? Don’t like answering the “what do you do for a living?” question while on vacation? Fake tan not working out for you? Marian has all of the answers to the dilemmas you face.

Making It Up As I Go Along is a collection of essays, articles, and blog posts written by bestselling author Marian Keyes. Fans of her writing, or her Twitter account, will find themselves laughing their way through the book as Keyes recaps the memorable moments of her life.

This is a cute book. It is divided into subjects - Health and Beauty, Travels, Friends and Family, A Year in the Life - which then include previously published articles as well as some unpublished work by the stellar Irish writer.  Most of the essays are only a few pages long so it is an easy book to pick up when you don’t have a lot of time to read.

I have read a few of Marian Keyes’ books and I’ve always enjoyed every single one of them. I also enjoy her tweets and while I hadn’t read her other non-fiction books (Under the Duvet and Further Under the Duvet) I thought I would give this one a try, hoping for something along the same lines as her Twitter account. Unfortunately, the book wasn’t as funny as I was hoping it would be. In fact, I didn’t laugh out loud until around the 400th page when the book was almost finished. 

There were some giggles along the way though and it was an enjoyable read overall, a quick one as well. There is a lot of warmth to it and Keyes is a very down to earth person, even if she is meeting all sorts of famous people and getting free Chanel make-up products delivered to her home! But it just wasn’t the hilarious I was hoping for. 

I think this is a great book for the fans of Marian Keyes who have read everything (or most of what) she has written, but the casual or non-reader of her work may not be as taken by it. The stories are nice, I especially enjoyed the travel section, but for me there wasn’t a whole lot that made the book stand out from the crowd.

Monday, April 11, 2016

"Exit, Pursued By a Bear" by E.K. Johnston

Hermione Winters is really looking forward to her senior year. She’s the captain of her schools championship cheerleading team and one of the most popular girls in school. She has a bright future ahead of her and she plans to make the most of her last days of high school.

But just before the school year begins her future is changed in an instant when someone spikes her drink at a party. Everyone at school knows about it and now she is being talked about for all the wrong reasons.

But Hermione isn’t going to be “that girl.” She doesn’t want to be known by what happened to her. And with the support of her best friend Polly, her parents, and her cheerleading team, she is determined to defy all of the labels being placed on her.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear, by E.K. Johnston, is a touching and poignant story about a young, determined woman and her journey to recovery and acceptance after a terrible crime.

I was pretty impressed by this book. Hermione is a young woman who has been raped (which she cannot remember because she was drugged) and this is the story of how she faces life afterward. For Hermione, it was the support system that she had in her parents, her cheerleading team, and especially her best friend Polly that was able to make her so strong. 

Johnston’s writing is so well-crafted that it is easy to imagine the surroundings and circumstances of this book. The subject matter is deep and intense but the entire time it remains a young adult book and deals with it as such. And yet, as the reader, you don’t have to be a part of that age group to relate to or be impacted by this book.

The important thing to know about this book is that for many people it will seem unrealistic. Some will have issues with the way the book deals with a sensitive topic. But for others this will be its strength. I don’t think it would be fair at all to criticize the book for its handling of the issue because what it is doing is presenting one aspect of the story and one that does exist. How we experience and respond to things in life are never the same and that is what this book shows.

This book is more than just a story, it offers hope and guidance. As Johnston writes in a note at the end, there is a support system out there for you and that is the shining message throughout this book. There were quite a few moments in this book that were extremely emotional for me. It was a quick read for me but it definitely wasn’t short on story.

Monday, April 4, 2016

"Until We Are Free" by Shirin Ebadi

Shirin Ebadi’s work as a human rights lawyer has inspired millions of people around the world and earned her the distinction of being the first Muslim woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. But it also attracted unwanted attention for her in her own county of Iran. A brutal regime that controlled the country for decades tried to intimidate her but it was in 2005 when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rose to power that the persecution intensified, culminating in the need to leave her home and never able to return.

Until We Are Free: My Fight for Human Rights in Iran is Shirin Ebadi’s story of how she fought for the voiceless in her country for decades, remaining defiant in the face of persecution.

Wow. Talk about bravery, determination, and commitment. When I picked this book up I knew that I would be inspired but I didn’t know just how much. This is an incredible story, one that shows both the beauty and brutality that exists within the country of Iran. It is Ebadi’s tribute to her country despite her censorship and persecution at the hands of her government.

In 1975, Ebadi became the first woman to preside over a legislative court in Iran but following the revolution of 1979 women were prohibited from being judges. She was unable to practice law and instead turned her attention to the fight for democracy and human rights. As her work became celebrated throughout the world the Islamic Republic tried to intimidate her. But it was under the Ahmadinejad government that it became much, much worse. Wiretapping her phones, harassing colleagues, arresting family members, spying on her, sending mobs to her home, breaking up her marriage, sending death threats - all this and more was directed at Ebadi. It got to the point where in order to keep the safety of herself and her loved ones she had to leave Iran, knowing she would never be able to return. And yet, she pressed forward with her fight in circumstances many others would have given up in.

Shirin Ebadi is an amazing woman and it shows throughout the book. Her book gave me new insight into what life in Iran is like, something completely different than what we see in the media. What I loved most is how her love for her country continues to shine through despite what has been done to her. I love the way she wrote about the countryside, her descriptions of the landscape were so beautiful. 

This book is an eye-opening look at life in Iran especially for those who, like Ebadi, are fighting for human rights. She is a tremendously brave woman for standing up for her beliefs in the face of imprisonment and continuing to after she has been exiled from her country. What she is doing takes courage and conviction and she is not the only one who is doing this, every day there are people of all walks of life who are fighting to make Iran a better country for everyone. This book is a well-written and insightful love letter to the country that she is fighting so hard to reform.