Thursday, 30 April 2015

April Book Haul!

Hi everyone! I've got my April Book Haul for you today. I'm going to start including library books in my hauls, since those are books I acquire too!

1. Free Days with George by Colin Campbell

2. The Wrong Cat by Lorna Crozier
Read my review here!

3. Seven Spoons by Tara O'Brady
Read my review here!

4. The Girls by Lori Lansens

5. Nothing Like Love by Sabrina Ramnanan

6. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

7. Dark Company by Natale Ghent

8. Sweet Tooth: Out of the Deep Woods by Jeff Lemire
(my library acquisition for the month)

9. My New Roots by Sarah Britton

10. Harmless by James Grainger

11. Spinster by Kate Bolick

12. His Whole Life by Elizabeth Hay

13. Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

What books did you get this month?

Monday, 27 April 2015

I'm participating in Bout of Books 13!

Hi friends! It's that time of year again...Bout of Books 13 is upon us! As you might've guessed, I'll be participating. Here is the official blurb:

"The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 11th and runs through Sunday, May 17th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 13 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. -From the Bout of Books team"

As always, I'm excited for this read-a-thon to begin. I can't wait to get reading and meet more fellow book lovers!

Bout of Books

Thursday, 23 April 2015

"The Mountain Story" by Lori Lansens | Book Review

The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens
"Five days. Four hikers. Three survivors."

Wow. That's the first thing I want to say about this story! I just finished reading it and I'm a ball of emotions right now. But before we go any further, I should probably tell you what The Mountain Story is about.

On his eighteenth birthday, Wolf Truly made his way to the top of a mountain with every intention of jumping to his death. But when he encounters the three Devine women wandering off-trail, he feel like he has to help them. After a series of events, the four become lost on the mountain with no way down. What follows is an epic tale of survival and love.

The Mountain Story is told from Wolf's perspective; he is now a grown man, relaying the story to his college-age son, whom he feels is now ready to know what happened those fateful five days.

This story shows you how fates become entangled when you're lost in the wilderness. I've heard that when you're with someone (or in this case, someones) in the wilderness (Bear Grylls shows, anyone?), you quickly develop a deep sense of intimacy because your survival is tied to the people you're with. That's very much what happens to Wolf and the Devines - during their many trying times, they draw strength from each other and form a lasting bond.

The characters are wonderfully written and I came to really care for each of them, flaws and all. I found myself rooting for all of them, even though I knew it wouldn't end well for one person.

The way Lori Lansens describes the wonder of the Mountain (and I capitalize it because the Mountain is very much a character in the novel), the imagery of the expanse of wilderness surrounding the characters, is wonderful. She captures how simultaneously dangerous and beautiful nature is. The Mountain could easily have been their undoing but instead, each of the characters becomes stronger.

It sounds strange, but this book has made me want to climb a mountain. I hope it's obvious that I don't want to go through what Wolf and the Devines experienced, but the way Lansens describes not only the view, but the emotional and spiritual aspect of being at the top of a's made me want to feel that wonder and awe as well.

The ending wrapped things up beautifully. I love how every hint that was dropped throughout the story tied up; it's easily one of my favourite endings that I've read in the past year. It's bittersweet, but you really get the sense that the outcome of their time on the Mountain has made Wolf and the Devines appreciate the beauty and potential in their lives.

If you find nature and survival stories interesting, or if you like to read about human reactions and interactions in the face of danger, this novel will blow you away.

The Mountain Story is now available in hardcover (see Chapters/Indigo) and as an eBook (see Kobo).

*This book was sent to me by Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

2015 Reading Challenge | Progress Post

A book by an author you've never read before - The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens

And what a great book to introduce me to this author. To see my review click here.

Photo Credit: I added text to the original "book sale loot" by Ginny via flickr in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

"Seven Spoons" by Tara O'Brady | Book Review

Seven Spoons by Tara O'Brady
When I heard this book was coming out, I was excited. Really excited. To me, it's so cool to know that a fellow blogger is having a book published!

Tara O'Brady has been blogging over at for years now, providing us with delicious recipes to try, and gorgeous photography to ogle.

In Seven Spoons: My Favorite Recipes for Any and Every Day, Tara describes the culinary diversity she grew up with, and how that still expanded when she started to make a life of her own.

This book is a collection of her favourite recipes, ones that have become staples with her family and friends. There are simple recipes and more complicated ones, recipes with a handful of ingredients and ones with a long list, recipes for everyday food and ones for special occasions. Tara's aforementioned culinary diversity is very present in Seven Spoons - from Pakora (Indian Vegetable Fritters; p.131) to Vietnamese-Inspired Sausage Rolls (p.135) to Dog in a Bog (a twist on the classic British Toad in the Hole; p.157). There's something here for everyone to try!

Tara writes at the beginning of each recipe, telling stories of how each came to be and imparting cooking knowledge. The layout of the book makes it easy to plan your day's meals, as it is divided into sections: Breads & Breakfasts; Lunches; Soups, Starters & Snacks; Suppers; Vegetables & Sides; Sweets, Treats & Sips; Staples.

Chocolate Olive Oil Zucchini Muffins, pp.57-58
I've said it once and I'll say it again: the photography is absolutely beautiful. The colours, patterns, arrangements, lighting - they're all a pleasure to look at. You need only look at the front cover to know the quality of photography within!

Now - on to the recipes I tried!

The first recipe I made out of Seven Spoons was the Chocolate Olive Oil Zucchini Bread. The recipe gives the option of making muffins, so I elected to make them that way.

It started off with my mom wanting to make zucchini bread. Hoping to sway the recipe in my taste buds' favour, I said, "There's a chocolate version in Seven Spoons." I needed say no more, that was that! Chocolate always wins.

They were delicious. Fun fact: zucchini pretty much takes on the flavour of whatever you put it with, so this was like having a chocolate muffin that's good for you. My sister hates zucchini and she didn't know there was any in these until I told her - after she'd had several.

I also did a cooking day with Christine and Michelle, where we each chose a recipe we wanted to try, and then we made them together! Two out of the three recipes were pretty simple; I, as usual, managed to pick a more complicated recipe.

I've always loved the aesthetics of Salad Rolls, and so I've wanted to make them for a long time - and when I saw the recipe in Seven Spoons, I figured it was my perfect opportunity! Let's just say, I'm glad Christine was there to do the rolling, because rice paper is difficult to work with if you don't know what you're doing.

The rolls themselves were yummy - the sauces are what really make it. You have an option of two different sauces, and though they were both great, I prefer the milder sesame dressing. And you can adapt the salad rolls and put whatever you want in them, it's really a matter of what you like.

Next up: Mushrooms and Greens with Toast. So good!! Of the three things we made that day, this was definitely my favourite. You get lots of nutrients from the mushrooms and spinach, with all the comfort of that melted cheese. And it was so easy!

Last but not least, the Roasted Red Pepper, Almond, and Feta Salad. I loved this recipe too! I love the taste of roasted red peppers straight out of the oily jar, and to add feta cheese (mmm...) and almonds to that is genius to me.

I know I was in the minority that day in terms of liking the amount of lemon juice in the salad, but part of the beauty of this book is that with a lot of the recipes, you can adapt the ingredients according to your palette preferences or even just what you have on hand!

Tara's passion for food shines through in her debut cookbook, and her photography and words will make you feel that passion too. Whether you're a beginner or a pro in the kitchen, there are many delicious recipes in Seven Spoons for you to try!

To see my recap of last night's book launch, click here!

Seven Spoons is now available in hardcover (see Chapters/Indigo and Amazon) and as an eBook (see Amazon Kindle and Kobo).

*This book was sent to me by Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Tara O'Brady's "Seven Spoons" Book Launch at Ben McNally Books | Event Recap

Hi friends! I was very lucky tonight - I got to attend the book launch for Tara O'Brady's Seven Spoons cookbook!

The Ben McNally Books storefront

Tara started off as a blogger and with the publication of this book, she has come so far. As a blogger myself, it's inspirational to see the possibilities that can come from such a thing.

The beautiful bookstore

The event was held in Ben McNally Books, a beautiful little shop on Bay St. I'd never been there before, so it was really cool to see the ceiling-high bookshelves - they're basically my (and every other book lover's) dream come true.

The snack table - mmm...cookies

There was a really nice array of cheese, crackers, wine...oh, and cookies!! The recipe for these beauties is in the cookbook. I ate the big ole one on the left and enjoyed every moment.

Tara O'Brady says a few heartfelt words

During the launch, Tara gave a lovely speech, thanking many of the people who've helped her along the way in getting Seven Spoons published - she seemed so humbled by all the support she has been and is getting!

My signed copy of Seven Spoons!

What was also really cool for me is that Tara actually recognized Christine and I from Instagram! She even remembered my name and which sauce I preferred with my Salad Rolls (more to come on that tomorrow!). Tara took the time to chat with everyone and was just so sweet - I'm glad I got to show my support for her and her book.

Seven Spoons will be available in stores and online tomorrow.

To read my review, click here!

Photos by nikkitheknack

Friday, 17 April 2015

2015 Reading Challenge | Progress Post

A graphic novel - Sweet Tooth: Out of the Deep Woods by Jeff Lemire

A little bit Bambi, a little bit The Road - an interesting read with beautiful artwork!

Photo Credit: I added text to the original "book sale loot" by Ginny via flickr in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Sabrina Ramnanan's "Nothing Like Love" Book Launch at Rhum Corner | Event Recap

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the book launch for Sabrina Ramnanan's Nothing Like Love at Rhum Corner!

Nothing Like Love by Sabrina Ramnanan

Nothing Like Love is a hilarious novel with vivid imagery and a spectacular cast of characters. It's 1974 in Chance, Trinidad, and 18-year-old Vimla Narine has a great job lined up at Saraswati Hindu School. But one night, she's caught holding hands with Krishna Govind, the village pundit's son. Her job offer is rescinded, shame brought upon her family, Krishna forced to move away - everything seems to fall apart. Together with her best friend, Minty, Vimla devises a plan to get Krishna back.

Rhum Corner

The launch took place at Rhum Corner, a cool little place with a great ambiance. We sat in brightly coloured chairs while we ate fried plantains and spicy fish patties; behind the bar we could see a wall lined with alcohol labeled according to its country of origin.

Sabrina Ramnanan
Sabrina gave a lovely, heartfelt speech to kick off the launch - she said that when people ask how long it took her to write Nothing Like Love, she usually says "four years", but she believes it really began in Grade 1 when she wrote the sentence "I want to be a writer". It was very clear how happy and humbled she was by the publication of her book.

It was a fun, lively night spent with my friends, fellow bloggers and the lovely ladies over at Random House, in a venue packed to the brim with supporters!

I'm excited to bring you my full review soon, so be sure to keep an eye out for that!

Nothing Like Love is available for purchase in hardcover (see Chapters/Indigo and Amazon) and as an ebook (see Kobo).

Photos by nikkitheknack

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

"The Sweetapolita Bakebook" by Rosie Alyea | Book Review

The Sweetapolita Bakebook by Rosie Alyea
I absolutely love decorating cakes and desserts, so I was very excited to hear about this, The Sweetapolita Bakebook: 75 Fanciful Cakes, Cookies, and More to Decorate, written by Rosie Alyea.

Rosie has loved cakes for a long time, but she fell in love with designing them when she attended the acclaimed Bonnie Gordon School in Toronto. She started the Sweetapolita blog in 2010, and it has been gaining in popularity ever since.

Many of the recipes in this book are interactive, meaning if you make a cake or some cookies for a kids' party, they can decorate the desserts however they want to. This encourages creativity which I think is so important, valuable, and thrilling for children big and small (I'm included in that statement!).

I can't comment too much on the colour photography because I have an uncorrected proof that's mostly black and white, but the few colour photos at the front are stunning - there's so much colour involved in these recipes, it makes me happy just to look at them!

As you may know, I like to make a few recipes out of the cook/bakebooks I review, and this time was no different. I made three recipes in one day, with the help of my best friend Christine over at Padfoot's Library, and we were exhausted by the end of it. Making these pretty things gives you an appreciation for what professional bakers do!

No exaggeration, this is probably the best chocolate cake I've ever had. The icing involves a lot of steps, but it's absolutely worth it in my opinion. I like the nearly-naked look of the cake too! The cake itself is so moist (it's an icky word, but it's a great thing when you're talking about cake) and together with the icing, it's a rich and decadent cake.

Sugar cookies are always complicated, but they're also delicious. The watercolour painting requires some artistic skill to achieve the loveliness pictured in the book, but I imagine it would be a great and fun thing to have kids do at a party - they'd love the opportunity to decorate their own cookies! And that's part of the draw of this book - the interactive nature.

In my opinion, the two baked goods recipes I made are geared toward people with some home baking experience, as opposed to novice bakers: the cake icing is complicated because it begins as a meringue, which is easy to mess up, so thankfully my mom (who bakes up a delicious storm) was around to answer my questions and help out; and sugar cookies always involve a lot of steps, so that's no fault of this recipe.

Rest assured, there are some simple recipes in this book, it's just that my eyes were immediately drawn to the more complicated ones because of how pretty they are.

If you don't have a pantry stocked with a lot of cake decorating things, it might be a little pricey for you at first because food colouring and cake decorating tools can be expensive - so stock up on coupons. For me, it pretty much always ends up being worth buying the tools because I love seeing people's reactions to nicely-decorated baked goodies - in fact, I'm planning on making another cake from Sweetapolita this weekend for a family friend's birthday!

If you love making unique desserts or are interested in learning, this is a great book for you. It'll give you an appreciation for the hard work that goes into these beautiful creations, and you'll end up with pretty, delicious treats you'll love!

The Sweetapolita Bakebook is now available in paperback (see Chapters/Indigo and Amazon) and eBook (see Kobo and Amazon Kindle) formats.

*This book was sent to me by Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review.
1 and 2. Photos by nikkitheknack. 3. Photo courtesy Penguin Random House Canada.

Monday, 6 April 2015

"The Wrong Cat" by Lorna Crozier | Book Review

The Wrong Cat by Lorna Crozier
In honour of April being National Poetry Month, I thought I'd come to you today with a review of a book of poems!

I was initially drawn to this because of its title (I'm definitely a cat lady), and once I read the description, which told of sad, irreverent poetry and lyrical lines, I knew I needed to read it.

"Lyrical" really is a great word to describe Lorna Crozier's poems in this collection. Whether you like to read poetry in your head, or you're like me and you prefer reading it out loud, it's a pleasure to read the beautifully flowing words.

Nature (human and otherwise) seems to be a common theme in this collection. There are many poems involving animals, whether they be about them or from their perspective. Crozier also writes about relationships and the emotions that come with different kinds and stages of relationships.

She manages to create a real sense of character in such a short space, from the lovers who have grown apart but never really left each other in "A Common Life", to a scene where angels - and even God himself - marvel at the joy a dog brings them in "Tobias's Dog and the Angel".

One series in particular struck a chord in me, and that is the series where animals describe their perspectives on mankind: "Owl's Take on Man", "Deer's Take on Man" (and more). I find it so interesting to look at a situation from a different perspective; it was delightful to read such a take, and also quite sad to think about the way we treat some animals.

These poems are written in such a way that they evoke emotions: sometimes sadness, sometimes compassion, sometimes curiosity. If you like sad poems and thinking about nature of all kinds, this collection is for you.

The Wrong Cat is now available in paperback (see Chapters/Indigo and Amazon) and eBook (Amazon Kindle and Kobo) formats.

*This book was sent to me by Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review.
1. Photo by nikkitheknack. 2. Photo courtesy Random House Canada.