Monday, June 30, 2014

"Rawlicious at Home" by Angus Crawford & Chelsea Clark

When it comes to food, there are two words that often intimidate people - vegan and raw.  Most people who eat these diets are often met with the phrase “well what do you eat?”  Angus Crawford and Chelsea Clark are about to answer that question with their new cookbook Rawlicious At Home: More than 100 Raw, Vegan, and Gluten-Free Recipes to Make you Feel Great.

Vegan means that one does not eat any products from an animal, including dairy, eggs, and even honey.  Raw means that nothing is heated above 118F to retain enzymes, vitamins, and minerals.  This is what drives the kitchens of the successful Rawlicious restaurants, eight in Canada and one in the United States.  In addition to this, all of their food is free from gluten and refined sugar.  In other words, it’s food in its most basic state and contrary to what people may think, it’s delicious.

I’ll admit that even as a vegetarian, I’m unsure about raw food.  Vegan I can handle, most of my meals are vegan, but raw?  I’m not sure.  But this cookbook has shown me that there is something that everyone will like and while I may not become a full-fledged raw foodie, there is definitely a place for a lot of it in my diet.  Even if you’re the most dedicated carnivore, you’ll find great things in this book.

The book begins with a primer on raw eating and why it is good for your health.  They explain what equipment you need as well as how to stock the optimal pantry for eating vegan and raw.  A very useful tool for people new to this way of eating is the five-day challenge, a sample menu to help you cleanse and discover how varied and easy raw eating can be.  At the back of the book there are resources, as well as a section on raising a dog that eats raw.

The book is divided into nine sections: Drinks and Smoothies, Breakfasts, Appetizers and Snacks, Soups, Salads, Sandwiches, EntrĂ©es, Desserts and Treats, and Staples.  Anyone who thinks that a raw, vegan diet doesn’t offer much to eat obviously hasn’t seen the recipes for Thai Burgers, Rosemary Red Pepper Soup, Mexican Pizza, or Chocolate Banana Cheesecake.

As soon as I got this book, I tried three recipes that I knew I would enjoy and like to make myself.  The first is the Tropical Green Smoothie.  Green smoothies have never been something I could get behind.  I love my greens and my smoothies but I’ve never found the right combination.  This one was perfect.  The addition of mango, pineapple, and banana made it lovely and balanced with the taste of the greens.  

I also tried the Salsa recipe which isn’t anything new but is something that I absolutely love to eat and usually just buy in a jar.  This salsa is light and wonderful and doesn’t take long to prepare at all.  Anyone who is used to buying salsa would find this recipe easy and delicious.

The third recipe I tried was the Coconut Cinnamon Snowballs.  I’m not a baker but these were fantastically simple and quick to make and everyone in the family loved them.  These were perfect to have with a cup of tea.

It goes without saying that if you have any interest in vegetarian, vegan, or raw eating, this is an excellent cookbook to pick up.  But if you’ve ever looked at these eating choices and dismissed them as not for you, I challenge you to pick this up.  There is something in here that you will like, even if it’s just from the drinks and smoothies section.  Or if you’re unsure and you live in the Greater Toronto Area, get yourself to one of the Rawlicious restaurants and see just how great this food can be.

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

Friday, June 27, 2014

"A Proper Family Holiday" by Chrissie Manby

Growing up, sisters Chelsea and Ronnie Benson were always close.  But they drifted apart and it’s been two years since they’ve spoken to each other.  So when their mother surprises them with a week-long family holiday in Lanzarote to celebrate her sixtieth birthday, they both dread being in the others company.

Chelsea is a sophisticated single-girl living in London and working as a fashion journalist.  She spends her days surrounded by socialites and designer clothing and dreads spending the week with her less than desirable family.  Ronnie is a mother of two who feels like her best years are behind her and she’s not looking forward to spending the week with her ultra-thin, ultra-fabulous sister who looks down on them.  

The trip gets off to a rocky start and it doesn’t get any better from there.  But as tensions begin to bubble over, Chelsea and Ronnie are forced to confront their feelings toward each other.  When a family secret is exposed, will they give each other a shoulder to lean on or will this holiday tear the family apart?

A Proper Family Holiday is the latest novel by chick-lit writer Chrissie Manby.  This is the fifth novel by Manby that I have read and I have to say that this is my favourite.  I started it early one morning while the rest of the house slept and I found it so hard to put down that I went to bed early just so I could make sure I finished it that day.

Four generations of one family on a holiday together can be very daunting for even the closest of families and you know for sure that hijinks will ensue.  This is exactly the type of book you want to take with you for when you’re sipping on a cold drink poolside.  The characters are loveable even if they’re not the most sophisticated of people and all of the side stories weave well into the main story.  

Told from the perspectives of both sisters, this book has elements of comedy, romance, and heartbreak all wrapped up into one story.  The plot line could have been predictable and parts may be but there is enough going on in this book to keep it interesting with every turn of the page.  I loved the character of Chelsea.  Even though I could relate more to Ronnie and what it’s like to vacation with your children, I liked who she started out as and who she became during the vacation.  The relationship between Chelsea and her nephew Jack was the highlight of the book.

For me, this is chick lit at its finest and I give this book five stars.  From the first page I was swept up in it and didn’t want it to end.  Which is why I’m so happy to see that there is a sequel coming at out at Christmas.  That book will definitely be going on my wish list!

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley.  The opinions expressed above are my own.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

"Forty Things to do Before You're Forty" by Alice Ross

#2 - Learn the merengue. #5 - Stand on your head. #15 - Run a marathon.  

Those are things from her list of things to do before she's forty that Annie Richards can handle.  But #38 - Fall madly in love?  She’s too busy to do that.  Besides, that’s the last thing she needs.

As the single mother of a feisty five-year-old daughter, owner of a successful cake-making business, and caretaker for a grand country house, Annie O’Donnell is one busy woman.  So she didn’t need her best friend to add to it with a Forty Things to do Before You’re Forty list.  She’s up for a challenge so the first thing she takes on is the marathon.  But the arrival of a new man in the small town of Buttersley may just throw her busy life into a tailspin.

Jake Sinclair is a crime writer who has taken up his friends offer of residence while he writes his next novel.  Buttersley should be the perfect place for him to get away from it all and concentrate on writing.  A recluse since a tragedy that occurred years earlier, he’s looking forward to the anonymity.  But he isn’t expecting to cross paths with a woman like Annie.  

Annie and Jake can’t resist each other but when the past comes back to visit, things get shaken up.  Will their past hurts keep them apart or will Annie get to cross #38 off her list?  Forty Things to do Before You’re Forty by Alice Ross is a fun, romantic novel that reminds readers to take the time to see what is around them, no matter how busy they get.

This is such a light-hearted, enjoyable read, perfect for the summer weather when you just want to relax and unwind with a book.  It is one of those books that just fly by because you’re enjoying it so much.

I thought that the book was going to be about a woman trying to tick a whole bunch of things off of a bucket list but it’s not like that at all.  Which for me was a good thing.  I probably would have read and enjoyed that kind of novel as well, but this book isn’t just about completing a list, it’s about the things that you learn and discover about yourself along the way.  It’s about what happens when you open yourself up to new things.

I love books set in small, countryside towns and Buttersley was a fantastic place to visit.  Oh how I wish I could have a little cottage to live in like Annie and her daughter Sophie!  Both Annie and Jake are very enjoyable characters.  The supporting characters are wonderful and eclectic, especially ex-footballer’s wife Lydia.

This is the perfect novel to spend the day with.  Easy to read and very enjoyable, I recommend this book to anyone looking for a sweet, romantic chick-lit story.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley.  The opinions expressed above are my own.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

"The Travelling Tea Shop" by Belinda Jones

Get ready for the sweetest and most delectable road trip of all time.

Laurie has just landed her dream job with a woman she has always admired, well-known British baker Pamela Lambert-Leigh.  As a travel specialist, Laurie is up for anything but this job may be the hardest of all.  Along with Pamela’s mother and sullen teenage daughter, Laurie and Pamela are setting out in a London bus to travel the East Coast of the United States.  Their mission is to bring classic British baking to the US and bring American goodies back home.  But as the women travel the country, family secrets and past heartbreak come to the surface.  Will the English tea shop make it to its final destination, and will romance pop up along the way?

The Travelling Tea Shop by Belinda Jones is a mouth-watering tour of the United States combined with the fun and love of a chick lit novel.  Whether you’re a baker or a snacker, you’ll find true enjoyment in this book.

Lately it seems as though books with baking/bakery themes are flooding the market and usually when something like this happens I wonder just how much a new book can add to that.  But this book is unique in its plot and setting which makes it stand out from the rest.   This is part travel guide, part history of baked goods, and all chick lit.

One thing you can definitely say about this book is that it is well-researched (and what fun that research must have been!)  What I liked most about this book was how much it uses real places and people in the story.  Anyone who is familiar with this part of the United States will enjoy travelling along with the book. As well, anyone who is a baker will enjoy the history of some of England’s and America’s favourite desserts.  

Which brings me to what I didn’t like about the book.  For me, as someone who loves to eat desserts but isn’t exactly into making them, there was a lot of descriptions about food that were a bit too lengthy to me.  The desserts overtook the stories.  Now I know I hear a lot of people saying “and what’s the big deal with that?” So it’s just a warning that at times it may come across as more of a cookbook or travel book than a novel.

I enjoyed all of the characters in this book and I thought that their stories were great.  There could have been more development of them, especially the romances that bloom throughout the book, but they seem to have been sacrificed a bit for the other parts.  I definitely wanted to spend more time with these characters and learn more about them.

This is the first book I have read by Belinda Jones and it seems from looking around that most of her books have travel elements.  I love a good chick lit novel set against a foreign backdrop so after reading this book I will definitely give some of her other books a read.  This one definitely made me want to jump on a London bus and travel the United States in search of cake.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher through NetGalley.  The opinions expressed above are my own.

Friday, June 6, 2014

"The One and Only" by Emily Giffin

Thirty-three-year-old Shea Rigsby has dedicated her entire life to her hometown and its college football team.  In Walker, Texas, the team is everything and it is no different to Shea.  Her best friend is the daughter of Walker’s legendary head coach, Clive Carr, and she works in the university athletic department, ensuring her life revolves around football.

But when Walker loses its matriarch, Clive’s wife Connie, the upcoming season takes on greater meaning.  As Shea’s comfortable world is changed forever, she begins to explore if there is more for her beyond Walker.  But she soon discovers that the people and things she has placed her trust in aren’t what they seem.  And when feelings surface that she knows will change things forever, she has to decide if she will finally follow her heart.

The One and Only is Emily Giffin’s latest novel, a story about finding your passion and what means the most to you in life.  

I have been such a fan of Giffin’s ever since my sister gave me her copy of Something Borrowed and since then I have read every book she has written.  So of course, I had to pick this one up as soon as it came out.  

The book blends football and romance into one, giving readers a glimpse into what life is like in a small-town that revolves around football.  I imagine that fans of Friday Night Lights will see it as the show on paper (I didn’t watch the show but from seeing commercials this is how I imagine it.)  The book is a little heavy on the sports so if you’re not a fan, you may find it a little much, however it does serve the purpose of showing just what the culture of a sports town is.

I really liked the character of Shea.  It was very easy to see why she was so in love with football and why she dedicated her life to it.  She is a character that is completely relatable, someone that you can actually see knowing in real life.  And it is her journey of self-discovery that keeps this book plugging forward.  

Unfortunately, the rest of the book was a bit bland for me.  It took a while for the story to get going and I felt like there was a very slow build up to not much.  There is nothing jaw-dropping or shocking, though it feels as though that was attempted and just didn't work out that way.  My excitement to read the book dropped significantly as time went on, which is upsetting considering how good her other books have been.

Unfortunately, I have to say that this is not one of my favourite books by Giffin.  Which doesn’t make it a terrible novel.  It just seems like such a departure from what she usually writes.  If you are a fan of Emily Giffin’s, I would say that you should still give it a read, you may enjoy it more than I did.  If you’re not familiar with her work, I wouldn’t start here unless you are a big college football fan.

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

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

"Deathbed Dimes" by Naomi Elana Zener

Joely Zeller is the beautiful 32-year-old daughter of Hollywood film royalty who is determined to make her own way in life without help.  But after sacrificing her personal life to put in eight years of hard work at Wall Street law firm only to be foiled by her incompetent male counterpart AND being dumped by her fiancĂ© for his best man, she finds herself heading home to Los Angeles.

After only a few days at home with her mother, whose only efforts are to get Joely all the therapy and plastic surgery she could ever need, she realizes that she is sitting on a potential gold mine - her years of experience as an Estates and Trust lawyer combined with the impending demise of aging baby boomers and vast amount of wealth ready to be inherited.  With her two best friends, Joely opens her own law firm and instantly has clients knocking at her door.  But when one case brings her up against her counterpart from New York, her career and personal life may once again be on the rocks.

Deathbed Dimes is the debut novel from Naomi Elana Zener, a satire and fiction writer behind the blog Satirical Mama. This book is fun and witty from beginning to end, taking you into a hilarious and wacky world you won’t want to leave.

When I first read the synopsis of this book, I wasn’t sure what kind of book it would be.  Would it be serious with some humour or would it be light fun chick lit?  Turns out, it’s both and that’s a good thing.  The book has a chick lit feel the whole way through but the addition of the legal side makes it balanced.  Zener is herself a lawyer so she knows her stuff and it shows in this book.  But, unlike other books I have read this year, the legal parts don’t overshadow the story.  I found it all very interesting and never felt like it was hindering the plot.

Joely is a fantastic main character, flawed but loving and loveable.  The character I loved the most though, was Joely’s mother Sylvia.  That woman is a piece of work and one of those characters that everybody will get a kick out of, no matter how infuriating she is.  And the whole cast of characters at the law firm are the people every main character should be surrounded by.  Even Chip, Joely’s nemesis from her former law firm, is the perfect character for the storyline.

I really enjoyed this book.  The pace changed and slowed a bit around the time they were setting up the law firm, and I didn’t care much for the storyline with Joely’s law professor, but that didn’t ruin the book for me.  If you’re looking for a main character to cheer for, Joely is the one you want.  Zener writes with humour and warmth, is a fresh new voice, and I look forward to reading more from her.

About the Author
Naomi Elana Zener is a new writer with a fresh satirical voice.

Naomi writes satire and fiction on her blog, Satirical Mama ( Her vociferous blogging has been read and appreciated by industry bigwigs such as Giller Prize winner Dr. Vincent Lam and New York Times best-selling author and journalist Paula Froelich. Naomi’s articles have also been published by Erica Ehm’s Yummy Mummy Club. Naomi is also a practicing entertainment attorney and lives with her husband and two children in Toronto. She’s currently working on her sophomore novel

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the author.  The opinions expressed above are my own.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Month In Review

After a fantastic month of reading in April, May wasn't so good for me.  I had a very busy month working on a community project (creating community gardens) and there was very little time left for reading and blogging.  But now things are slowing down, the weather is beautiful and my balcony is full of gorgeous plants so I think I will be getting a lot of reading down as I enjoy the outdoors.

Here is what I read in May with my GoodReads ratings:

Mansfield Lark by Katie Oliver *****
The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed ****
The Beauty of Broken by Elisa Morgan ****
Love and Liability by Katie Oliver ****
Balancing It All by Candace Cameron Bure ***
Strangers At My Door by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove ***
Lost and Found by Sarah Jakes **


Diversity on the Shelf (2), Canadian Book Challenge (0), TBR Pile (0), Classics Club (0)

What I'm Looking Forward to in June