Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happy Canada Day

Oh Canada! Happy 144th Birthday! I'll be out celebrating all day, but I thought I would celebrate here by sharing some of my favourite Canadian books. We're a diverse, fantastic, and sometimes strange people and our literature here encompasses all that is amazing about being Canadian. Here is my list of must-read Canadian books.

The Book of Negroes - Lawrence Hill
In the Skin of a Lion - Michael Ondaatje
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
Cool Water - Dianne Warren
How to Be A Canadian - Will Ferguson
Room - Emma Donoghue
Life of Pi - Yann Martel
A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

and of course...

The Hockey Sweater - Roch Carrier

Friday, June 24, 2011

Book Blogger Hop!

In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word! This weeklyBOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs to read!

This week’s question comes from Elena who blogs at Books and Reviews! Thanks for submitting a question for our Hoppers, Elena! Be sure to visit her blog and tell her thank you!

“When did you realize reading was your passion and a truly important part of your life?”

My answer: Very, very, early on. Both of my parents were teachers, my mom a Kindergarten teacher, and they were big on early literacy. They made sure that from the beginning they read books to us each night before bed. My mom says that at the age of 3 I picked up a book and started reading it. I don't remember that, but I remember always reading.

There was no one moment that made me realize reading was my passion, it has always been. As a kid my favourite thing to do was go to the mall and get the next book in the series' I loved. Reading was just a natural thing. But when I did realize the importance of it when I had kids. Whenever I would be reading a book, my daughter would pick up one of hers and sit next to me and "read." I knew it was important for their literacy not only to read to them but to have them see me read. If I love it, they'll love it.

Thanks for hopping by. Leave a comment and let me know when you realized reading was your passion!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A break...sort of

With only a week left of school to go we've been looking ahead at our summer plans and we are so excited because we have a busy summer planned - amusement parks, baseball games, barbecues, and a couple of trips. Add to that trips to the park, three birthdays in July and my first ever 30 day Bikram Yoga challenge and it's going be one fun-filled summer.

So I think my blogging is going to be slowing down a bit. I appreciate everyone who reads my blogs and my reviews and I love being a part of the book blogging community so I won't be completely gone, I just won't be around as much. I still plan to hop around a bit on Fridays and I plan to post one review a week, and I will be posting reviews at Faith Filled Reading, but that will be all.

I will still be reading throughout the summer though, so when things go full swing again in September expect tons of reviews, especially if you love chick lit!

Have a great summer!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"Miss New India" by Bharati Mukherjee

Nineteen-year-old Anjali Bose is an ambitious girl born into a traditional lower-middle class family in tiny Gauripaur, India. Successful in school with an aptitude for languages, especially English, Anjali is facing what she has been dreading for a while - an arranged marriage. But Anjali's expat teacher, Peter Champion, sees a spark in Anjali that needs to be nurtured and he encourages her to set off for Bangalore, India's fastest-growing major metropolis.

In Bangalore, Anjali quickly falls into the huge, highly ambitious crowd of other young men and women who have come from all over the country to get jobs as call-centre agents. They spend their time immersing themselves in American culture, shopping and partying, learning the right accents from television shows so they can pass themselves off as American on the phones, meanwhile earning more than their parents could ever have dreamed of.

Anjali sees her opportunity to Bangalore to leave her past behind and reinvent herself, breaking free from the traditions of class, caste and gender. But she quickly discovers that modernity has its dark side and if she isn't careful, it will pull her under.

Miss New India, by Bharati Mukherjee, is a fascinating look at contemporary India, it's place in the world and the young people who are behind it's growth. Bangalore is known as the Silicon Valley of India, a place where many American companies are outsourcing their customer service jobs and because of that is experiencing rapid growth and an influx of people from all over the country in hopes of benefitting from the growth.

The main character, Anjali Bose, is so simple she's complex. Inexperienced and naive, the reader will find her frustrating and fascinating. She's an intelligent girl in book smarts but not in street smarts. She has ambitions but doesn't know how to achieve them. As you discover Bangalore along with her, you'll find yourself wondering why she is making the decisions she does. She quickly makes some interesting and powerful friends in Bangalore and you'll wonder what it is that has attracted them to her. She seems to lack all the qualities that these people would be looking for.

I was expecting this book to be more about the world of call-centre agents, these "Miss New India's." While the contrasts between the old and new India are fascinating, a lot of it seems rushed. Anjali finds herself in some pretty tough situations that seem to be wrapped up rather neatly given their extreme nature.

The book definitely takes a turn I wasn't expecting and veers away from what I thought it would be about. But it is still a fascinating look at a world we know of (don't we all assume that when we call a customer support line, we're calling India?) but don't really know much about. Mukherjee is a fantastic writer and makes India jump off the page.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Half Year in Review

The warm weather is (finally) here and school is only a couple of weeks from letting out. We are halfway through 2011 and the summer is here!

At the beginning of the year I set myself some new goals and challenges for reading. I think it's time to check in and see how I'm doing (and if I need to get my butt in gear.)

Read 100 books
I tried this last year but due to illness at the end of the year I only made it to 99. So this year, I'm determined to read that one extra book. So far, I'm at 44. Not bad. My reading should hopefully pick up over the summer which keeps me on track to make it to 100.

POC (Persons of Colour) Reading Challenge
My goal is to read 10-15 books written by or featuring main characters of colour. I have already read 13 so I hit my goal and it will be interesting to see how many I do actually read this year.

Canadian Book Challenge
This challenge actually starts in July, so it is wrapping up at the end of this month (and a new one is beginning on Canada Day.) The goal is to read 13 books written by Canadians in one year. I have read 28! I absolutely loved this challenge and can't wait for CBC 5 to start and see if I can improve.

Christian Fiction Challenge
The goal is to read 12 books. So far I am at 8. This challenge is pretty easy for me as I love reading Urban Christian fiction. But I did challenge myself to read outside that genre and expand my Christian fiction choices. So far most of the books I have read are Urban, but I do have a mix of genres on hold at the library. Don't forget to check out my Christian reviews atFaith Filled Reading.

Non-Fiction Challenge
Easy-peasy. The goal is to read 7 and I'm already at 13 with many more planned!

How is your reading year turning out? Do you find you read more or less in the summer?

Monday, June 20, 2011

"Branded" by Tim Sinclair

According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, the church spends $1,551,466 for each new follower of Jesus. With that kind of statistic it would seem that the church's outreach efforts aren't the most effective. What is the church doing wrong, and what would be a better way to share our faith?

In Branded, Christian radio personality Tim Sinclair explores the ways in which the church has been essentially "mass-marketing" Jesus in the last few decades and how in many cases, it has failed to excite newcomers to the church and faith. Using examples of successful businesses, Sinclair looks at the consumer culture of today and posits that if we were to stop turning Jesus into a brand and instead market our faith relationally, person to person, honestly and authentically, that we would be more successful in our outreach efforts.

Branded is a fantastic book. What I enjoyed most about the book was how well-researched it is, how Sinclair really understands his audience and today's culture and link them together with the church, a link that is often missing. Sinclair is the perfect person to write this book, as a marketer he has helped to brand many companies.

This book isn't a call to "brand" Jesus, rather it points out that many of our outreach efforts have already done this, but in a manner that isn't working. If we are going to market Jesus, then Sinclair says we need to do it in a different manner.

Sinclair includes a chapter in the book with ways to re-market Jesus. A word of warning, this chapter will be convicting and for many it may feel like an attack on their church's current practices. However, that is not the intent of the chapter and Sinclair doesn't expect every church to follow all of his suggestions. Rather, he is challenging you to take a look at what you and your church are currently doing, decide if it has been effective and decide if maybe there is a better way for you. The inclusion of discussion questions make this book a great resources for churches and small groups.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It is well-written, clear and concise. It doesn't hit you over the head with statistics or boring business principles. It presents a great message that gets right to the point. I think this is a book that all churches should, not because I think that all churches are failing at outreach, but because I think it will challenge churches to look at their methods and in the end become more effective at sharing Jesus with others.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Summer Reading List

I never really noticed before but my reading is very seasonal. I like deeper topics and real-life stories in the winter and fluffy chick lit in the summer! And with the summer here I have drawn up what I think is a great list for my summer reading:

The Baby Planner - Josie Brown
Summer and the City - Candace Bushnell
The Beach Cafe - Lucy Diamond
Celebrity Shopper - Carmen Reid
New York Valentine - Carmen Reid
The Girl in the Mirror - Cecelia Ahern
Spa Wars - Chrissie Manby
Tales from the Yoga Studio - Rain Mitchell
Mum on the Run - Fiona Gibson
My Single Friend - Jane Costello
Something From Tiffany's - Melissa Hill
The Single Girls To Do List - Lindsay Kelk
The Wedding Writer - Susan Schneider

But it won't be all fluffy chick lit all summer, I need to give my brain some sort of workout by switching things up. So I also plan to read:

Escape - Barbara Delinsky
It's Not Really About the Hair - Tabatha Coffey
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky - Heidi Durrow
The Kid - Sapphire
On the Outside Looking Indian - Rupinder Gill

I personally feel that is a much better list than any school could come up with! Do you have a summer reading list?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

"If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won't)" by Betty White

Starring in Hot in Cleveland, hosting SNL, stealing the scene in a Snickers Commercial - who isn't loving Betty White these days? Whether you are a fan of hers from back in the day onThe Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls (I still love watching the re-runs) or know her from her more recent appearances, you can't help but be in love with Betty White. She's witty, smart, kind and always current. At the age of 89 she is still charming people of all ages.

If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won't) is Betty White's fifth book and is a sweet, humble and thankful look at her life and the wisdom it has given her in the last couple of decades. As you read this book you will feel as though Betty is sitting next to you on the couch sharing all the little gems and insights she has about life.

The book is divided into short sections on different topics such as love, her career, animals and aging. Each is full of insight and humour, and is written in such a personal and warm manner that you won't want to put it down. I certainly didn't and I ended up reading the book in one sitting. The book is also full of photos, both of Betty's private and public life which, if it was possible, make her even more endearing.

This is a wonderful book and would make the perfect summer read. Fix yourself a cool drink, grab a seat somewhere outside in the shade and sit back and enjoy this gem. Then tell all of your friends to do the same. You'll probably want to pick up The Golden Girls on dvd afterward too.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"The Guardian Angel's Journal" by Carolyn Jess-Cooke

Imagine that when your life ends you are sent back to Earth as a guardian angel. And not for just anyone but a guardian angel for yourself. Imagine you had the opportunity to observe and alter the life you have already lived.

This is what happens to Margot Delacroix when her tragic life comes to an end at the age of forty. Renamed Ruth, she is sent back to Earth to encourage Margot to make the right decisions, in the hopes of making her life a little easier. Not only does Ruth now have the opportunity to fix the wrongs of her life, but she also is able to understand why her life turned out the way it did. Will Ruth be able to give Margot the life she truly deserves, or will Margot continue to do things her own way and leave Ruth to be a witness to her own self-destruction?

The Guardian Angel's Journal by Carolyn Jess-Cooke is not the type of novel I would usually read. I tend to stay away from novels about angels and the spiritual realm that don't line up with my faith, and because of that I did hesitate for a second when contacted by the author to review this novel. But the premise of the book sounded so interesting, being ones own guardian angel, so I decided to give it a read. And I am so glad that I did.

This is a fantastic book. Right from the first page the reader is drawn into the book and captivated by Margot's story. Her life was full of tragedy, and as you read about her experiences you ache and hurt for the little girl, wishing that you could be her guardian angel to try and save her from these terrible things.

And as Margot grows older you feel for Ruth as she has to watch herself make difficult and terrible decisions, now having the wisdom to know better, but unable to convince herself to make a change.

There is so much wrapped up in this novel - death, abuse, addiction, angels and demons, tragedy, forgiveness, redemption - and yet it is a beautiful page-turner. This is a book that you will not be able to put down. I've read that Carolyn Jess-Cooke has been compared with Audrey Niffenegger and I can see why. The feeling I was left with after reading this book is the same great feeling I had after reading The Time Traveller's Wife. The Guardian Angel's Journal is an original and fresh take on the story of guardian angels and well worth a read.

I would like to thank the author, Carolyn Jess-Cooke, for providing me with a copy of this book to review. The opinions expressed above are purely my own, and I received no compensation for my review.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Whole Foods To Thrive Giveaway Winner

After drawing a number through, the winner of the Vega Smoothie Mix prize pack is Elizabeth!!! I will contact you soon via email to get your details.

Thanks everyone for entering, and I hope you'll all pick up a copy of Whole Foods To Thrive.

It's Monday What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is an awesome meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. It's a great way to get your reading plans organized for the week and find great reads from other book bloggers.

What I Read Last Week:
The Guardian Angels Journal by Carolyn Jess-Cooke
Losing It by Zaria Garrison

What I'm Reading Now:
The Blueprint by Kirk Franklin
Miss New India by Bharati Mukherjee

What I Plan to Read Next:
Branded by Tim Sinclair

Friday, June 10, 2011

Book Blogger Hop!

Happy Friday! It's time for the Book Blogger Hop! Usually hosted by Jennifer at Crazy For Books, this week it is hosted by Lori at Lori's Reading Corner. Hop on over, check out the rules, and link up!

This week's question is: Who is the one author that you are dying to meet?

My answer: Only one? Really? Well, I've never been one to follow the rules, so I've picked two.

Alexander McCall Smith. I love the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and I would love to discuss the series with him. Also, he was born in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and taught at the University of Botswana and I would love to hear about his experience living in Africa and how it influenced him to write the series.
Sophie Kinsella. I just love her books and think she would be so much fun to hang out with and talk chick lit with.

Which author would you like to meet? Have you met any authors before?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Canadian Book Challenge 5

Canada Day (July 1) is almost here! It's one of my favourite holidays full of parades, barbecues, fireworks, and of course the red maple leaf flying everywhere. If you are a Canadian reader, why not celebrate Canada Day this year by signing up for the Canadian Book Challenge (CBC...get it?) If you're not Canadian, why not sign up and discover some of the amazing books our country has to offer. We're a strange people, very polite, apologetic and we know how to brew a good beer. We're diverse, talented and have an interesting sense of humour. We like u's in our words (see humour) and pronounce z "zed" not "zee" (the way it's supposed to be!) We occupy a vast, spacious piece of land that has only two seasons - winter and construction. And because of all that, we tell great stories.

The Canadian Book Challenge begins on July 1 2011 and the goal is to read 13 Canadian books in a year. You can sign up by heading over to The Book Mine Set. If you need help finding some great Canadian reads you can check out my tab "Oh Canada" for a linked list of Canadian books I have read and reviewed.

So sign up for the challenge, grab yourself a two-four and some poutine, get settled into your chesterfield and get reading. When you're done we'll meet up at Timmy's for a double-double eh?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"Whole Foods to Thrive" by Brendan Brazier + Giveaway

Brendan Brazier is a former professional Ironman triathlete, and a two-time Canadian 50 km Ultra Marathon champion. And would you believe he is a vegan?

Many people may find it hard to believe that a vegan diet would be compatible with being a high-performance athlete, but in Whole Foods to Thrive Brazier shows just how easy it can be. Brazier explains why he believes a nutrient-dense, plant-based foods are the best choice for both your health and the health of the planet.

The book is packed full of information on topics such as how our health is dependent upon nutrition, the environmental toll of food production and the eight key components of good nutrition. It also includes 200 plants based recipes that are allergen-free and contain no wheat, yeast, gluten, soy, dairy or corn.

Whole Foods to Thrive is not a book aimed only at vegans, it is a nutritional resource for everyone. Even if you are a meat lover, this book will help you integrate more whole foods into your diet and make sure that you are getting the necessary nutrients for optimal health. In the last few years, my diet has made major transitions. I eat less meat and dairy and a lot more whole foods. My love for sugar-packed and processed food and drinks is gone and I have seen major health benefits because of it. I don't ever see myself going vegan, but this book has shown me that I can still make more easy changes in my diet. And with recipes such as Garlic Thyme Sweet Potato Oven Fries, Spicy Black Bean Chili and White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake with Chocolate-Almond Crust, who wouldn't want to give it a try?

About the Author

Brendan Brazier is the bestselling author of The Thrive Diet (2007) and Thrive Fitness (2009), as well as the creator of an award-winning line of whole food nutritional products called Vega. He has been nominated three times for the prestigious Manning Innovation Award for the creation of the Vega Formula.

The Giveaway

One lucky reader can win one prize pack containing six Vega smoothie mixes in an assortment of flavours like Vanilla Chai, Bodacious Berry, and Choc-a-Lot. For a chance to win leave a comment below and include your email address. The giveaway will end at 11:59 PM on Sunday June 12. This giveaway is open to Canadian residents only.

I would like to thank Penguin Group for providing me with a copy of this book as well as the giveaway prize pack.

Monday, June 6, 2011

"It's Monday, What Are You Reading?"

It's Monday! And all I can say this Monday is wow, my reading has been suffering. But I'm blaming it on this beautiful weather we're having, and that's not a bad thing at all. Yesterday I took the kids to the park and I was able to sit under a tree and read while they played, I certainly look forward to more of that in the weeks to come.

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. It is a fun meme that will help get your reading organized for the week to come.

What I Read Last Week:

What I'm Reading Now:

The Guardian Angel's Journal by Carolyn Jess-Cooke

What I'm Reading Next:

Losing It by Zaria Garrison

I can really only plan for one book a week right now, and hope for more. Do you find you read less, more or the same when the summer weather arrives?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

"Daughters-in-law" by Joanna Trollope

Anthony and Rachel have lived a quaint, artistic life near the Suffolk coast raising their three sons. Their family has always been close knit and as the boys grow older and begin families of their own, their home continues to be the centre of their successful family.

But when Anthony and Rachel's youngest son marries and a third daughter-in-law enters the picture, the family dynamic begins to change. The children begin to develop lives independent of their parents and Rachel responds to her empty nest by alienating everyone in the family. As the family deals with a major crisis each characters' true self begins to emerge and the fragility of the family begins to show.

Daugthers-in-law is Joanna Trollope's 16th novel and a fine one. It explores the rocky relationship that often occurs between mothers and daughter-in-laws, showing that even those that look perfect are not what they seem. But this story isn't just about the women, it includes the role of the sons and husbands as well.

At first glance it may seem that there isn't much depth to the story but as it pulls you in you begin to see the layers to each character, the story and the complexity of the familial relationship. Trollope writes the quirks and intricacies of the relationship with knowledge and sympathy while at the same time allowing the reader to make the decisions and take sides as to who is in the right and who is in the wrong.

Daughters-in-law is a beautiful novel that explores the fragility of relationships within the large family dynamic. Women of all walks of life will appreciate Trollope's depth and understanding, and will find themselves wrapped up in this fresh story.