Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"The Butler Speaks" by Charles MacPherson

Whether you live in a stately country home or a downtown condo (or anything in between), household management is one of your priorities.  But sometimes it all can seem like it's too much or you just don't know the best way to do things.  Now, everything you need to know is in one easy place.  The Butler Speaks: A Return to Proper Etiquette, Stylish Entertaining, and the Art of Good Housekeeping by Charles MacPherson includes everything you need to know about household management and etiquette.  With over 24 years of experience as a butler and owner of North America's only registered school for butlers and household managers, MacPherson is the ultimate authority.  

I try to tune in to the Marilyn Denis Show whenever I see Charles the Butler (as he is known) is on.  He always has great tips for making things easier around the house (he gave a great tip for cleaning the oven that I use, a task I seriously hate.)  So I was thrilled to see that he has put his best information into a book.  There is an entire chapter dedicated to good housekeeping, showing you how to clean your entire home, room by room.  He also teaches the correct way to do typical tasks such as making the bed and ironing a shirt (yes, there are correct ways.)

I'm also a lover of etiquette books, especially old ones.  In our day of smartphones and headphones, it often feels like etiquette has been thrown right out the window.  Watchers of television shows like Downton Abbey may wonder what ever happened to things such as high tea, proper table settings, and how to make a proper introduction.  But those things don't have to be put by the wayside and MacPherson covers these and more.  

I was fascinated learning things such as the different types of place settings, napkin folding, and table serving styles.  I greatly appreciated explanations of dress codes (white tie and black tie?), the cleaning calendar, and the descriptions of every piece of cutlery you will ever find on the table.

Whether you love entertaining in your home or are looking for helpful cleaning tips, you'll find tons of useful information in this book.  There is nothing snooty in this book, nothing to be intimidated by.  It doesn't look down on anyone or anything  It's just a great, handy book that will help bring manners back to the table.

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

Monday, April 29, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Saturday was Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon and I had fully prepared to have this massive post today highlighting all the fantastic books I read during that period.  Then the day actually came and well, all the plans flew right out the window.  It's okay though, I did get opportunities to come online, see how others were doing, and check out a whole bunch of tweets making it feel like I was right there in the trenches with everyone else.  And I did manage to get one book finished!

What I Read Last Week
The Juggler's Children by Carolyn Abraham is the writer's story of using DNA tests to find out the truth behind her family's legends and stories and find out where they really come from.  Friends & Foes by ReShonda Tate Billingsley and Victoria  Christopher Murray is the second book in the series where Billingsley's Rachel Adams and Murray's Lady Jasmine meet up and cause trouble.  Struggles of a Dreamer by Yahaya Baruwa is an inspirational novel about choosing between dreams and traditions.  In Calamity's Wake by Natalee Caple is a fictionalized version of Calamity Jane's life.

What I'm Reading Now
The Sailmaker's Daughter by Stephanie Johnson

What I Plan to Read Next
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

What are you reading this week?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

"What's For Dinner" by Curtis Stone

Life is busy and sometimes it's hard to decide what to make for dinner.  Many people don't have much time after coming home from work or between shuttling kids to and from activities.  We all want delicious, fresh, easy-to-make meals and that is the aim of Curtis Stone's newest cookbook What's For Dinner? Delicious Recipes For a Busy Life.

This book is organized into seven sections: Motivating Mondays, Time-Saving Tuesdays, One-Pot Wednesdays, Thrifty Thursdays, Five-Ingredient Fridays, Dinner Party Saturdays, and Family Supper Sundays.  Each section comes with beautiful colour photos of each dish as well as explanations and tips for easy cooking.  This book has something for everyone.  There are dishes from many different cultures, a wide variety of ingredients, and something for both meat-eaters and vegetarians.  

My first read-through of the book had me wondering if these recipes are really as simple as they are supposed to be.  As someone who isn't a fantastic cook, there were a lot of recipes that I would probably pass over just from looking at the ingredient list and cooking instructions.  Anyone more experienced than me in the kitchen (and let's be honest, that's probably all of you) will probably find these to be great, easy recipes.  

The recipes I did pick out as at my level turned out wonderful.  I tried the Tomato-Salami pizza, though I changed it to suit my eating preferences by using Turkey Kielbasa instead of Salami.  This still ended up being fantastic and I loved the idea of using olive oil and garlic instead of tomato sauce.  I also tried the Whole Roasted Chicken with Tomato-Basil Butter, using chicken legs instead of a whole chicken.  This was great, and got a thumbs up from my hard to please (or possibly scared of my cooking) husband.  And the Olive Oil Cake with Rhubarb-Strawberry Compote? Yum.   That's all that needs to be said about that one.

Last, but not least, there are some fun photos of Curtis and his beautiful family.  This is a great cookbook with food the whole family will enjoy, that suits a variety of cooks, and will definitely help you keep time in the kitchen down. 

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

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon

It's that time again, it's Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon!  This event was started in 2007 with 37 people participating.  After Dewey passed away in November of 2008, it was taken on by other book bloggers in her memory and it now has over 400 participants!  The idea? Simple, read as much as you can for 24 hours while connecting with other book bloggers and readers around the world.

End of Event Questionnaire
1.  Which hour was the most daunting for you?
Umm...hours 5-24?

2.  Could you list a few high-interest books that could keep a reader engaged for next year?
I started reading The Best Place on Earth by Ayelet Tsabari which is a collection of short stories set in Israel.  Very good and I really like short stories for a readathon.

3.  Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the readathon next year?

4.  What do you think worked really well in this years readathon?
I loved the Twitter involvement on everyone's part!

5.  How many books did you read?
1 fully read book.  A few short stories.  Another book started.

6.  What were the names of the books you read?
In Calamity's Wake by Natalee Caple, The Best Place on Earth by Ayelet Tsabari, Struggles of a Dreamer by Yahaya Baruwa.

7.  Which book did you enjoy most?
In Calamity's Wake is a really good book about the story of Calamity Jane.

8.  Which did you enjoy the least?
I didn't get far enough into the other ones to dislike them.

9.  N/A for me.

10.  How likely are you to participate in next year's readathon?  What role would you like to play?
Highly likely.  After this ones fiasco of not getting much done, I'm coming back to the next one with a vengeance!

Update #3
Note to self: Next readathon, when husband says "let's go out for a bit," say no.  Visiting the inlaws lead to the kids staying over at their cousins house which led to us catching up on Walking Dead Season 3.  Which of course, led to very little reading.  I have managed to read a few short stories and start a new novel, but nothing much.  It's off to bed soon, so hopefully a little more reading before I end my readathon for good.  Because when the kids aren't home, I sleep in!

Total Pages Read: 352
Total Books Read: 1
(Still more than I would read on a Saturday so I guess it hasn't been a complete bust for me.)

Update #2
It's 6pm EST and this day is definitely not going how I had thought it would.  An impromptu visit to the inlaws has turned into running a whole bunch of errands for quite a few people.  That's ok though, there's still a lot of time to go!

Total Pages Read: 313
Total Books Read: 1
Recently Finished: In Calamity's Wake by Natalee Caple

Update #1
Four hours in I'm not where I had hoped to be but that's okay.  I had planned to get in a solid 1.5 hours reading at the library while my daughter was at her art class but we got there and it was cancelled.  So my reading has been scattered all over the place, but now that the kids have been given their lunch, I should be able to get down to some serious reading.

Total Pages Read: 193
Total Books Read: 0

Introductory Questionnaire
1.  What fine part of the world are you reading in today?
I am in beautiful Toronto, Canada.  The sun is shining bright today and the temperature is getting up to 19C today.  It's been a painful spring so this is very welcome!

2.  Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
I picked a bunch of Canadian books and I'm really looking forward to that however I'm really looking forward to Fahrenheit 451.

3.  What snack are you most looking forward to?
We often order in on Friday nights but last night I cooked so tonight could be our take-away night, so I'm really looking forward to pizza and wings tonight.  I don't have any snacks actually planned.

4.  Tell us a little something about yourself.
I'm a wife and mother who loves Jesus, books, and yoga.

5.  If you participated in the last readathon, what is one thing you'll do different today?
This year I picked a couple of collections of short stories to intersperse among the novels.  I think this will give me a greater sense of achievement and keep my attention span on track.

The Plan

I have chosen five books from my to read pile that I hope to get to today.  They are:

In Calamity's Wake by Natalee Caple
Struggles of a Dreamer by Yahaya Baruwa
The Best Place on Earth by Ayelet Tsabari
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Most of my success in the last readathon came from shorter books.  So this time around I've chosen two collections of short stories (Clear Skies and The Best Place on Earth) and three other novels that are short in page length.  Four of my novels are by Canadian writers, so I'm really looking forward to that. 

The readathon starts at 8am EST, so I'll be setting my alarm early.  I'll be checking in here throughout the day for updates and mini challenges.  Hope to see you all tomorrow!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

"Wedding Night" by Sophie Kinsella

When Lottie's boyfriends big proposal involves air miles and not a diamond ring, she decides it's time to break free.  She is tired of long-term relationships that seem perfect but end up nowhere.  So when her old boyfriend Ben arrives out of nowhere and reminds her of their pact to get married if they're both still single at thirty, Lottie thinks "why not?"  No dating, no engagement, and no sex, just straight to the altar and on to a honeymoon on the Greek Island they first met.

But Ben and Lottie seem to be the only ones who think that this is a good idea.  Ben's best man Lorcan thinks this is the worst decision he could make business-wise and is trying to convince him of it.  Lottie's sister Fliss thinks this is the worst decision she could make period and is prepared to pull out everything out of her arsenal to stop the marriage from being consummated.  Will Lottie and Ben get the honeymoon they want or will it be the wedding night from hell?

Wedding Night is Sophie Kinsella's latest stand-alone novel.  Every time I finish reading one of her books, the anticipation for the next one builds and this one did not disappoint me.

It's hard for a Sophie Kinsella book to let me down.  For me, they are the epitome of the fun, light, crazy chick lit novel that is about spending a few hours with a smile on your face, immersed in a book.  I will admit that the Shopaholic series is beginning to let me down a bit, but that can be expected when you get this far into a series (and did anyone really see this many books coming in the beginning?)  But her stand-alone novels continue to be, for me, the most consistently funny and charming that the chick lit genre has to offer.

Is it my favourite?  Maybe not, but close to it.  I love the concept and I absolutely adore the lengths to which people went to stop Ben and Lottie from making a commitment to each other.  The plot moved along well, the setting was wonderful, and the hijinks just kept coming.  My only critique is in the development of some of the characters.  I personally found Lottie just a little too annoying.  I like a flighty character in chick lit but she was just a little too much for me.  I may even go so far as to say there were moments of wanting to reach into the book and give her a good shake (or slap.)  As well, I felt that Lorcan was a little underdeveloped.  I just couldn't figure out who he was as a person.  

Like Sophie Kinsella?  Of course you're going to pick this one up.  Looking for a fun novel to escape with?  This one will certainly allow you to.  New to the chick lit genre?  Go for it.  This is a fun novel all-around, and now the anticipation is building for me for Kinsella's next offering.

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

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"A Tale for the Time Being" by Ruth Ozeki

On a remote island in British Columbia, a Hello Kitty lunchbox has washed up on shore.  Ruth, a writer who lives on the island, thinks it could be debris from the 2011 tsunami.  As Ruth examines the contents she is pulled into a mystery, and a life that has unfolded in the past on the other side of the world, one that she may still have the power to save.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki is an enthralling, beautiful novel about relationships, time, history, and culture.  Right from the beginning it draws you in, slowly unfolding and just when you think it can't, it pulls you in ever further.  

Nao is the sixteen-year-old author of the diary found Ruth finds in the lunchbox.  Living in Tokyo, she is an outcast at her school and she decides to take her own life.  But first, she wants to document the life of her 104-year-old great-grandmother, a feminist crusader and Buddhist nun.  As Nao writes, her own life unfolds before Ruth's eyes and Ruth soon realizes that she needs to dig deeper and find Nao, to find out what happened to her and see if she can stop her life from ending.

You know how when you find a food you like, you savour it?  You eat it slowly, enjoying each and every morsel, drawing it out to the end.  That is how you read this book.  I usually read a book in a couple of days but this one took the majority of my week.  

This book exposes you to Japanese and Buddhist cultures, taking you on a journey through time.  I loved how it explored so many different aspects of the culture, from a group of Buddhist nuns to the pop culture of today's teenagers.   Readers with very little knowledge of these cultures will still find themselves whisked away to another place.

Ozeki confidently writes the voice of teenage Nao.  Though we only know her through her writing, she stands out.  Her thoughtfulness and her outlook on life, both good and bad are well developed.  Often, teenagers don't come across as teenagers or as too young, but in this case Ozeki captures everything perfectly.  In the beginning I questioned the use of footnotes (the book is Ruth telling us about Nao's diary, the footnotes are Ruth explaining words and phrases from Japanese) but as the book went on, I thought it was a great effect.

A Tale for the Time Being is a book that keeps you right there in the moment, which is understandable due to the fact that Ozeki is an ordained Buddhist priest.  It is thought-provoking and wide in nature, a standout book.

Monday, April 22, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Last week I didn't read as many books as I had hoped to but there's a good reason behind that.  I read one book that was so rich and so good, it required of me to take my time and read it slow.  It can be frustrating when you have a whole pile of books due back at the library soon (or if that particular book was due back at the library a few days ago) but it's such a wonderful experience to read those kind of books.

What I Read Last Week:

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki is the novel that demanded my time, Wedding Night is Sophie Kinsella's latest novel and all-around fun, and Tales of the Defended Ones by Beth Gluckenberger tells the stories of young children facing difficult situations and their rescue from them.

What I Cooked From Last Week:

Yum!  Tomato-Salami Pizza, Mango Pineapple Smoothies, Olive Oil Cake with Strawberry Compote, Roasted Chicken with Tomato-Basil Butter, we had some good eating thanks to Curtis Stone's latest cookbook What's For Dinner?

What I'm Reading Now:
The Juggler's Children by Carolyn Abraham

What I Plan to Read Next:
The Smart One by Jennifer Close 
Friends & Foes by ReShonda Tate Billingsley and Victoria Christopher Murray

What are you reading this week?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

"A Beautiful Truth" by Colin McAdam

Walt and Judy are a married couple who are deeply in love with each other and with life.  But there is one thing missing for Judy, a child.  Walt desperately wants to make Judy happy and when they realize that they may never have their own child, he goes to extreme lengths to give her what she wants.  

Looee was born in Sierra Leone and is now being raised by Walt and Judy in Vermont.  His arrival turns their lives upside down.  He tears up the house, doesn't understand boundaries, and his presence brings about the judgment of friends and strangers.  That is because Looee is a chimpanzee.  It may be different, but the three of them form a family.  

At the Girdish Institute in Florida, a decades long study of chimpanzees is being done to determine whether they can learn language.  Mr. Ghoul is one of the chimps being studied and his life is one marked by love, anger, forgiveness and violence.  The paths of Mr. Ghoul and Looee will cross, providing a touching tale of family, friendship, community, and the ways in which humans are linked to nature.

A Beautiful Truth is the new novel from Colin McAdam, written from the point of view of both humans and chimpanzees.  The stories of Looee and Mr. Ghoul unfold side by side, sharing the different, but parallel, lives they live.

This was a very interesting book for me.  I wasn't sure what to expect and it did take me a little while to get into the flow of the book.  For the first half I was more intrigued by the story of Walt, Judy, and Looee than I was of the chimpanzees at the institute.  There felt to be a bit of a lull in building up the story to me.  But as it unfolded, I was drawn into the chimpanzee's world and their interactions.  

This is the first book by McAdam that I have read, but his past novels have received award nods.  I wouldn't be surprised to see this one as a part of the conversation when the literary season hits Canada this year.  McAdam takes us into the animal kingdom without getting cheesy or annoying, and as you read you find yourself experiencing the same emotions as the animals, making for a truly interesting reading experience.

It may be what everyone says, but I love to watch the chimpanzees and other primates at the zoo.  Their behaviour and the relationship dynamics are just so fascinating to sit back and watch.  For anyone who has ever stood at the glass and just watched, this book will interest you.  

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"Wave" by Sonali Deraniyagala

On December 26, 2004, the Indian Ocean earthquake sent a tsunami wave onto the southern coast of Sri Lanka.  Sonali Deraniyagala, a Sri Lankan woman living in England was vacationing with her family at a resort on the coast.  As they tried to escape, the wave overtook their jeep.  Sonali miraculously survived but her husband, two young sons, and parents did not.

Wave is Sonali's memoir of the tsunami, the days after, and her attempts to rebuild her life in the years to come.  Honest, emotional, and horrifying, this is an engrossing account of her life and the difficulties of moving on from the most traumatic of experiences.

Given the nature of the book it feels weird saying that this is an incredible, must-read book.  We all watched for days as the people of Southern Asia experienced the horrific force of nature and years later, it is something that has not escaped our minds.  But as we watched from the safety and comfort of our homes, millions of people were left displaced, injured, missing, or dead.

While Deraniyagala starts her book with the day of the tsunami, she takes on a journey through her life, from her childhood in Sri Lanka, to her years at an English university where she met her husband, and to the joys of everyday life in London raising her family.  As she does this, she goes back and forth with her life in the months afterward, recovering at a family home in Sri Lanka, and finally to her return home years later.

This is a haunting memoir that will stay with you long after the final page.  What struck me most was Deraniyagala's brutal honesty, especially in the moment after the tsunami when she just wants a crying child separated from his parents to shut up and stop crying.  Ordinarily, she would have compassion for the child, but in the moments of shock and confusion, we aren't capable of those responses.  And that is not something to be ashamed of.

In the years that followed, Deraniyagala thought often of suicide, she lashed out at people around her, and it took years for her to return to the family home.  To read about this behaviour gives the reader an understanding of what she was going through but really drives home that we as outside observers will never truly understand how terrifying and destructive this event was.  It was very emotional for me to watch the footage of the tsunami on television and its aftermath but this book really pressed upon me what it was like for people.  There were no warnings, people had only a few seconds from when they saw the wave coming to decide what to do.  And even after the wave subsided, no one knew what caused it or if it would happen again or how soon.  I can't wrap my head around what must have been running through their minds.

I thank Sonali Deraniyagala for sharing her story.  With every page you can tell how difficult it was for her to put into words what she experienced.  But this is a story for all of us, one that will teach you to hold your family members and loved ones closer, one that will teach you embrace the cliché of living each day to it's fullest because we just don't know what lies ahead of us.

Monday, April 15, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Happy Monday!  After a very busy weekend, it's tough for me to get going this morning.  I think I'll just brew another cup of tea and stay curled up on the couch with my book.

What I Read Last Week:

A Beautiful Truth by Colin McAdam
Taylor's Gift by Todd and Tara Storch
The Stop by Nick Saul and Andrea Curtis
Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

What I'm Reading Now

Lead Your Family Like Jesus by Ken Blanchard, Phil Hodges and Tricia Goyer

What I Plan to Read Next

I'm not really sure what I plan to read next but I know for sure one book will be Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella.

What are you reading this week?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

"Family Pictures" by Jane Green

Sylvie and Maggie are total strangers, living on opposite sides of the country, but their lives are connected in a way they could never imagine.  They're both in their forties, mothers to teenagers, and have husbands who spend half of their time travelling.  But they have one thing in common that will shatter their lives forever.  When a secret is exposed, both women feel the pain and must learn to how to forgive, move forward, and love again.

Family Pictures is Jane Green's latest novel about two lives that intersect when one persons secret is exposed.  If you're looking for a book that you want to be able to spend the day with, this is it.

It's hard to write a review for a book like this without giving away too much of the plot and the secret behind it.  I found this book to be pretty typical of what Jane Green writes, which isn't a bad thing.  It's nice to know what you're going to get when you pick up a book.

Sylvie suffered loss in her first marriage but found love again in a second marriage.  Though she struggles to help her teenaged daughter who is hiding an eating disorder, she leads a charmed life.  Maggie has worked hard to redefine herself and achieve her dreams.  Living a life of luxury, she is raising her three teenage children while maintaining her elite status in her well-to-do neighbourhood.  Both women are unprepared for what is about to come.

I'll admit, I figured out what the secret was going to be well before it was revealed.  It's not that I'm a super sleuth but it does become pretty apparent what it's going to be early on.  That doesn't take away from the book however, as the real story is in how the women recover from it and move on with their lives.

I definitely appreciated the character of Sylvie more than Maggie which would seem kind of obvious given their personalities.  But even as the book went on and her nature changed, I didn't feel very connected to her.  But that's a personal thing up to the reader, not something everyone who reads the books will feel.  As well, I sometimes feel as though Green's books could end about 50 pages earlier and I felt that this time, but again, that's really one of those personal reading quirks.

I think I'm having a hard time writing this review without giving away too much!  If you're a fan of Jane Green, you'll be picking up this book.  If you're looking for a chick lit book that goes a little deeper, then this, or any of her other books, would be a very good choice.  Secrets, lies, love, and starting over, this is a tender drama that you won't want to put down.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

"Ghana Must Go" by Taiye Selasi

In the field of medicine Kweku Sai was a renowned surgeon, considered one of the best.  But at home, he was a failed husband and runaway father.  When Kweku passes away at his home in suburban Accra, the children he abandoned in America many years ago, gather at their mother's home in Ghana, their first time in a country where they can trace their blood, but not much connection.  And as they journey to this homeland, they face the pain, lies, and turmoil they kept hidden for years, forging a new family dynamic and a new way forward.

Ghana Must Go is the debut novel from Taiye Selasi, and what an incredibly moving debut it is.  I rarely comment on the writing of a book through the lens of it being a debut novel but I have to do so this time.  The writing is so beautifully crafted, the story so delicate and heartbreaking, the entire book just eloquent and poetic.  If this is her first book, I can't imagine what Selasi has in store for us in the future.

The Sai family that Kweku left behind suddenly when problems at work arose struggles to move forward in the absence.  His wife, Fola, had given up her full scholarship to law school to support her husbands dream.  Twins Kehinde and Taiwo, were sent to live with family they had never met in Nigeria while oldest son Olu and youngest daughter Sadie were able to stay in America with their mother.  As we watch the children grow into adults, their success and their failures, we see them whole family struggle with the concepts of race and class in both America and Africa, as well as the notions of love and self-awareness.

The story of Kehinde and Taiwo drew me in the most.  Throughout the whole book you are given the feeling of something greater, something secret, between the two of them that has shaped their lives.  To find out what it was put a greater sense of urgency in me to take in every piece of this book, the fragmented relationships and the lessons Selasi wants us to draw from this book.

There is a lot of set-up in this book, much of the first half is spent introducing the characters, their surroundings, and the circumstances that brought Kweku and Fola together and what brought them to America.  The term "Ghana Must Go" was used in Nigeria when many Ghanians arrived in their country due to the political unrest in their own country.  The themes of displacement, belonging, and finding love that run through the book open the eyes of the reader to an experience that is foreign to them, not just on a map.  As the book moves into the second half, the family gathers together in Ghana to find healing and the story moves forward at a much quicker pace.

The writing style of this book may not be for everyone but there is no denying that this one of the big debut novels of 2013.  I think there would be no shame in saying that the style isn't for you, but there would be shame in saying you didn't pick up this book and give it a try.   In a March 27, 2013 article on NPR.org, Selasi is quoted as saying, "As a novelist, I ask of myself only that I tell the truth and that I tell it beautifully."  Mission accomplished.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

It finally feels like Spring!!!  Sort of.  We're getting there.  My reading slump is officially gone and I'm having a great time with so many fantastic books being released recently or in the next few weeks.  April is definitely a busy month for me.  And impromptu trips to the bookstore never help!

What I Read Last Week

Captive In Iran by Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh
Family Pictures by Jane Green
Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi
The Gospel Centered Woman by Wendy Alsup

What I'm Reading Now
A Beautiful Truth by Colin McAdam
Taylor's Gift by Todd and Tara Storch

What I Plan to Read Next

What are you reading this week?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

"Better Than Good Hair: The Curly Girl Guide to Healthy, Gorgeous Natural Hair" by Nikki Walton

When you need to know anything about caring for natural hair, Nikki Walton is the woman you want to go to.  Known in the natural hair care world as Curly Nikki, she has spent years dishing out advice, tips, and humour and now she is bringing it all to your bookshelf.

Better Than Good Hair: The Curly Girl Guide to Healthy Gorgeous Natural Hair! is all of Nikki's wisdom packed into one easy to use book.  Whether you've been natural for years, about to undergo the big chop, or just interested, this book has it all.

The book starts right from the beginning with how to transition to natural hair, how to care for your Teeny Weeny Afro (TWA), through the growing stages, and finally how to care for your long natural hair.  It also has a chapter dedicated to caring for the natural hair of your young ones.

My daughter has gorgeous, super tight and super coiled 4a/4b curls.  Considering that I have stick straight hair and my husband shaves his not as tight and not as coiled curls, caring for her hair was not something we were prepared for.  Curly Nikki is the girl that I learned it all from.  From how to establish a hair-care routine to how to pick the right products for her curls (not all curly hair products work on all curls I've learned), she helped me cover all of the bases.  And I'm going to count it all as a success when I consider the compliments I get about my daughter's hair.  It is so nice to see all of her hard work and advice in one place.  

If you've been natural for years, you're probably well-acquainted with Curly Nikki.  You may find this book might not have any new information, but it's still a great book to have.  If you're new to being natural or thinking about it, this would be the first book I recommend.  My only criticism of this book is that the pictures could be of better quality.  Photos are black and white and the drawings could be clearer but other than that, this is a fantastic book.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"Mount Pleasant" by Don Gillmor

Harry Salter is a middle-aged man in an unhappy marriage and drowning in debt.  But he has a plan.  As he sits at his dying father's bedside, he realizes that his inheritance is the one thing that will save him.  A million dollars from his father will wipe out his debt and let him start over in life.

But when the will is read, Harry finds out that all he has been left is $4200.  His father's millions are gone.  As he tries to find the money he uncovers family secrets and unsavoury business decisions as he navigates a world where the thirst for money drives people to do things you wouldn't expect.

Mount Pleasant by Don Gillmor is a novel about money, debt, life, death and love.  A dark comedy, it takes these themes and put them into a context I haven't before read in a novel, your average middle aged man who you probably pass on the streets many times a day but don't know what turmoil lurks inside.

I have mixed reactions to this book.  There is much that I liked and much that I didn't leaving me with an average feeling toward the book.  I love that it's set in Toronto and how the city comes across vividly.  It's set in the upper-class neighbourhoods of the city that many people only dream of and is seen through the eyes of someone who is desperate to maintain his financial stature.  I also like how the Occupy Toronto movement was woven into the story, a recent event that was the talk of the city for many months.  

On the other side though, I just couldn't relate to the character of Harry.  Which is strange for me because I've seen quite a few people in this same situation, in debt to maintain a certain lifestyle and falling deeper and deeper into it trying to get out.  Maybe this is because I just couldn't put myself into his shoes.  I also found the book a little slow for the first half.  This was remedied in the second half and I found myself reading with much more interest.  I think I was looking for more of the investigation into what happened to the money, and this picked up in the second half.

This isn't just a novel about debt and trying to find missing money, it's a book about relationships, of observations about how we view money in today's society, and how life is viewed as we get older.  While this book may have not been the best fit for me, I think this is a Canadian novel you will be hearing a lot about this year.  Be warned though, the book comes along with many "oh man, I need to get my stuff in order so I don't end up like this" moments.

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

Monday, April 1, 2013

Month In Review

We made it through March!  It's a tough month, where you can see Spring in the distance but the cold weather and snow is still trying to stick around.  Thankfully, it looks now like we can put winter behind us!

I fell into a bit of a reading slump during this month but thankfully I was able to finish with a bang and I feel very content with the reading I did in March.  I'm hoping to keep up this run, as there are so many fantastic books I want to read this month.

Books read in March (with GoodReads ratings)

Get You Good by Rhonda Bowen *****

Hell-Bent by Benjamin Lorr *****

Ascent of Women by Sally Armstrong *****

Persecuted by Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert, and Nina Shea ****

The World is Moving Around Me by Dany Laferrière ****

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen ****

The Doctor's Lady by Jody Hedlund ****

Beautiful Battlefields by Bo Stern ****

The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker ***

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe ***

Eighty Days by Matthew Goodman ***

Mount Pleasant by Don Gillmor***

Harvest by Jim Crace **

See Now Then by Jamaica Kincaid DNF


Historical Fiction Challenge (1), Canadian Reading Challenge (4), Ik Lees Nederlands/I Read Dutch (1), The Classics Club (1), Around the World in 80 Books (1), Back to Classics (2).


This month there are a lot of great books coming out that I'm looking forward to reading.  I'm very excited for Sophie Kinsella's new book Wedding Night.  I will also be reading Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 as it was picked for the Toronto Public Library's One Book for the Keep Toronto Reading Festival.

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

It's Monday! What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

This past week was an exceptional reading week for me, one where I burst out of a reading slump, got a bunch of books read and was all caught up on reading and reviewing for the end of the month.  I'm hoping I can continue this energy into April as there is a lot I want to read this month!

What I Read Last Week

Persecuted by Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert, and Nina Shea
Mount Pleasant by Don Gillmor
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (review coming soon)
The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker
The World is Moving Around Me by Dany Laferrière

What I'm Reading Now
Captive in Iran by Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh is the true story of the women's imprisonment in Iran's notorious Evin prison for their Christian faith.  Ghana Must Go is a debut novel by Taiye Selasi about the gathering of family members following the patriarch's death and their journey to finding a new way forward.

What I Plan to Read Next
Family Pictures by Jane Green
A Beautiful Truth by Colin McAdam

What Are You Reading This Week?