Saturday, July 30, 2016

Tea Time with the Petit Four

As some of my readers may know, I've tried to follow along with The Morning Show Book Club lead by Janet Joy Wilson over the past year. Janet Joy's recommendations have never let me down and Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah Henstra was another hit in my books. You can read my full review and check out the book trailer here.

As part of the March selection, The Old Mill also graciously sponsored the perfect contest to along with the book. The grand prize was tea for two with Janet Joy and Sarah Henstra.

I'll give you one guess as to who won the contest...

It took a few months to co-ordinate schedules, but we finally made it happen last Sunday. There was so much for me to be excited for: an outing with a friend I rarely get to see, a person I've never met but often connect with via social media, the author of a book I still can't stop raving about and tea time at one of my favourite places in Toronto.

The tea and all of its accompaniments were delicious. My favourite items were the scones with Devonshire cream and the lemon meringue tartlet. Unfortunately, I didn't bring my phone so you'll just have to imagine how beautiful each of the little items were. Or, you can just check out the Old Mill's Afternoon Tea menu here.

The four of us shared in some really great conversations about life, new adventures and parenthood. We also managed to reign our conversation into official book club business and discussed Leo's adventure with Sarah.

One of the burning questions that we all had for Sarah was how she decided on using mimicry as Leo's distinguishing feature. Sarah responded by telling us that her original idea for Leonora was for her to have been a forgery master. Having the ability to copy documents to a tee. However and thankfully... Sarah decided that forgery would be hard to explain and visualize in the book.

Another item that came up during our conversations was the Author's Note at the back. It explains some of the history behind the opium problem in the 1870's and leaves readers with her sources for additional reading.

Sarah also revealed some news on her latest book and a couple new skills that she's working on. But I'll leave that for you to discover on your own.

Overall, a fantastic afternoon with great food and even better company.

Of course, the day would not be complete without a group selfie...

Both Sarah and Janet Joy can be found on various places online. Feel free to click around to learn more about them and the amazing work that they do.

Sarah Henstra: Instagram | Twitter
Janet Joy Wilson: | Instagram | Twitter
The Morning Show Book Club:

Friday, July 29, 2016

Guess who's back?

My unplanned blogging vacation is finally coming to a close. It's been almost three months since my last post. I'm happy to finally be back.

Some of you may be wondering where I've been. So, here's a quick run down. In May, we took the kids to Orlando for a fun filled week of Disney & Universal Studios. It was an amazing and extremely expensive tiring fun trip. There's no better feeling than seeing your daughter battle her arch nemesis. Or seeing the face of your two year old when he sees Mickey Mouse for the first time. After the kids had their fill, we came home, dropped off the kids and mom and dad were off to Boston. JG was down there for work leaving me to explore one of my favourite cities on my own.

Over the course of two days, I visited the usual landmarks and came across my new favourite place: Brattle Book Shop. The store is a narrow three story book shop filled new, used and rare books. Outdoors, they have their clearance section which floods an ally way with bookshelves. I really recommend this place for anyone who enjoys getting lost in a book store. I spent half of my time on the third floor where they keep their rare book collection. After all the browsing I did, I left with just one book. A copy of Alice In Wonderland that I brought home to read to my kids.

By the time we got home from Boston, it was June. I barely remember what happened that month as work life kicked into overdrive. At the beginning of July, I decided to make a change and left the company I had worked at, for over 12 years, for a new and exciting opportunity. And now, here we are in the final days of the month leading into August.

I'm hoping this new role will be less hectic and will leave me some time to pick up where I left off. I've got some really amazing books that I want to share with you all so, I hope you'll join me on the continuation of this adventure.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Shelfie Bomb! #2: Splitopia: Dispatches from Today’s Good Divorce and How to Part Well by Wendy Paris

Title: Splitopia: Dispatches from Today’s Good Divorce and How to Part Well
Author: Wendy Paris
Publisher: Atria Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: From the publisher
On Sale Date: March 15, 2016

Author Synopsis:
When my husband and I announced our intention to split, I was surprised by the doom-and-gloom forecasts of some of our friends.  I set out to discover the truth about today’s divorce, and to separate the myths from the facts.  The resulting book, Splitopia challenges the negative assumptions and biased reporting about divorce.  It shows how to get through this tough transition, protect everyone involved, and find yourself stable and happy on the other side.
Divorce remains hard, but while there are unavoidable challenges, there are also veryavoidable pains. It’s time to shuck off the judgment and misinformation and recognize that we have far more control than we may realize over our attitude, our actions and the type of legal help we seek.

We can create:
A cooperative un-marrying or ongoing fights.
Happy, healthy children or kids sucked under by conflict.
A fair separation agreement and parenting plan or hundreds of thousands of dollars wasted on a destructive legal battle.

Splitopia proposes an updated, practical, empowering mindset about divorce, and provides concrete steps to support ourselves and our families during what may be the most difficult time in our lives.  It shares the encouraging conclusions of hundreds of studies on child development, resilience after loss, growth, happiness, savoring, and more.  It also showcases former couples in happy, healthy, post-married families, and tracks my own separation-to-divorce.
Two million people divorce in the United States each year, and the numbers are growing around the world. Three-quarters of Americans are part of a step-family. Yes, we should work hard at marriage. But when marriage ends, we also need to work hard to have a good divorce.

I was asked to review this book by a good friend and having been through divorce and remarriage I was able to immerse myself into the book with an “experienced” eye.  Divorce is a tough road regardless of how amicable the parties are, especially when there are children involved.  This book is an essential read for anyone going through or thinking about divorce.  What a refreshing take on a subject that is often spoken about in the negative and allows you to take a step back and see things holistically.

Splitopia helps take you down the road to healing and opens the reader up to great resolutions that may take some work but will help to minimize the pain and hurt for both the couple and any children involved.

Wendy Paris engages the reader with a rare combination of research and personal stories to both explain and validate her theories on how to have a “good” divorce.  I would recommend this book to people going through or even those that have been through divorce for some time.  This is a great reference and even a good reminder that there are positive approaches to divorce.

Shelfie Bomb posts are written by guest reviewer J.M. Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for providing a review copy of Splitopia for review.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

TMS Book Club April Pick - Life From Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness by Sasha Martin

Title: Glory Over Everything
Author: Sasha Martin
Publisher: National Geographic
Format:  Trade Paperback
Source: From the publisher
On Sale Date: March 1, 2016 (Originally published in hardcover on March 3, 2015

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada

Witty, warm, and poignant, food blogger Sasha Martin's memoir about cooking her way to happiness and self-acceptance is a culinary journey like no other.

Over the course of 195 weeks, food writer and blogger Sasha Martin set out to cook—and eat—a meal from every country in the world. As cooking unlocked the memories of her rough-and-tumble childhood and the loss and heartbreak that came with it, Martin became more determined than ever to find peace and elevate her life through the prism of food and world cultures. From the tiny, makeshift kitchen of her eccentric, creative mother, to a string of foster homes, to the house from which she launched her own cooking adventure, Martin's heartfelt, brutally honest memoir reveals the power of cooking to bond, to empower, and to heal—and celebrates the simple truth that happiness is created from within.


A memoir and cookbook rolled into a beautiful package.

Life From Scratch gives readers a sense of how a simple connection with food can mean so much to one person. Sasha and her brother Michael were raised in a single parent home. With only their mother to care for them, they had very little. However, the trio managed to make the best of the moments they had together gathering around central structure in their tiny apartment that acted as their dining table, kitchen island, and sewing table. It was here that Sasha's fascination and relationship with food began. Her mother baked birthday apple pies, crepes and her beloved German Tree Cake. Each one of these items eliciting a memory from her past and has made their way, recipe and all into this book.

I enjoyed Life From Scratch. I had never thought about picking up a memoir/cookbook before, in fact, I didn't even know they existed. This was a nice surprise. It was an engaging read and I loved how the book bounced back and forth between the memoir and the associated recipe. It gave me time to process my thoughts about what I had read and reflect on my own past. I still have to attempt the recipes and have marked a couple of my favourites for future experimentation. IF they turn out, perhaps you'll see an update to this post...

Sasha Martin's story is inspiring. Whether it was having to settle in a in a new country, learn a new language or start a new relationship with her estranged mother, Sasha managed to find it within herself to begin again and move on. I would recommend this book to those who enjoy reading memoirs. I think readers will find the incorporation of the recipes between the pages refreshing and don't take away from the highs and lows that memoirs normally contain. If you still need a bit more convincing, check out the Life From Scratch book trailer below and hear about it from the author herself:

For more information on Sasha Martin and her Global Table Adventure where she has "cooked the world", visit her website here.

TMS Book Club:
I discovered Life From Scratch via The Morning Show Book Club. Each month, Janet Joy Wilson (@jsquaredink) selects a book and is discussed on the air with the Global Morning Show team at the end of the month. Janet Joy has yet to steer me wrong!

Past book club picks include: The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō and Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah Henstra, Learn more about the book club and past/future selections here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Teaser Tuesday #26: Life From Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness by Sasha Martin

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by Jenn at Books and a Beat. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page (some times you need more than two for it to make sense).
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers

This week's teaser comes from Life From Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness by Sasha Martin 

Life From Scratch is a memoir and cookbook rolled into one. A touching story of one woman's struggle and reconnection with her roots. Here are a couple teasers from the book:

"The better part of wisdom is turning failure into victory. You have to complete the transition."

"Feeling different does not guarantee a different result; one has to act to invite change."

Come back tomorrow to read my full review of the book!

Life From Scratch is The Morning Show Book Club pick for April. Those who read the book have the opportunity to win a meal for two at Ro House, an authentic Vietnamese restaurant in Toronto, Ontario. All you have to do is share your thoughts on the book with @jsquaredink on Twitter or Instagram using the following hastag: #TMSLifeFromScratch by April 22. Details on the contest and TMS Book Club here.

What are you reading this week? Leave me your TT in the comments below and I'll be sure to check it out!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Blog Tour: Glory Over Everything by Kathleen Grissom

Title: Glory Over Everything
Author: Kathleen Grissom
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: Paperback ARC / Digital Galley
Source: From the publisher
On Sale Date: April 5, 2016

A novel of family and long-buried secrets along the treacherous Underground Railroad.

The author of the New York Times bestseller and beloved book club favorite The Kitchen House continues the story of Jamie Pyke, son of both a slave and master of Tall Oakes, whose deadly secret compels him to take a treacherous journey through the Underground Railroad.

Published in 2010, The Kitchen House became a grassroots bestseller. Fans connected so deeply to the book’s characters that the author, Kathleen Grissom, found herself being asked over and over “what happens next?” The wait is finally over.

This new, stand-alone novel opens in 1830, and Jamie, who fled from the Virginian plantation he once called home, is passing in Philadelphia society as a wealthy white silversmith. After many years of striving, Jamie has achieved acclaim and security, only to discover that his aristocratic lover Caroline is pregnant. Before he can reveal his real identity to her, he learns that his beloved servant Pan has been captured and sold into slavery in the South. Pan’s father, to whom Jamie owes a great debt, pleads for Jamie’s help, and Jamie agrees, knowing the journey will take him perilously close to Tall Oakes and the ruthless slave hunter who is still searching for him. Meanwhile, Caroline’s father learns and exposes Jamie’s secret, and Jamie loses his home, his business, and finally Caroline.

Heartbroken and with nothing to lose, Jamie embarks on a trip to a North Carolina plantation where Pan is being held with a former Tall Oakes slave named Sukey, who is intent on getting Pan to the Underground Railroad. Soon the three of them are running through the Great Dismal Swamp, the notoriously deadly hiding place for escaped slaves. Though they have help from those in the Underground Railroad, not all of them will make it out alive


Kathleen Grissom's follow up to the Kitchen House is a very riveting page turner and (lucky for me) a great standalone novel. When Glory Over Everything was first pitched to my by Simon & Schuster I was a bit intimidated about reviewing it since I haven't read The Kitchen House. Thankfully, I took the chance because I really enjoyed this one.

The book begins with a quote from Harriet Tubman and is also its namesake:
I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person now I was free. There was such a glory over everything. The sun came up like gold through the trees, and I felt like I was in heaven.
Inspiring words from a true heroine in a time where human rights and equality were in a very dismal state.

Glory Over Everything is a beautifully written novel that shines a different light on the topic of slavery. We meet the lead character, Jamie Pyke, who was born to a mulatto slave and a white master. Jamie was raised by his paternal grandmother and was raised "white" - wealthy and privileged. After a turn of events that leave him banished from his home, he escapes to Philadelphia where he builds a new life and persona for himself. Thirty years later, now living as wealthy aristocrat, James Burton. James continues to run from his past. It eventually catches up with him as he heads back to his roots in order to save a friend and in turn, himself.

I truly enjoyed Glory Over Everything. What I enjoyed most was Jamie's character. Jamie was constantly on guard and riddled with fear that his past would catch up to him. It took him many years to reveal his secrets, even to those that were close to him. There was also his ability to love. His relationship with Caroline unravelled his passion and vulnerability. Finally, there was his fighting spirit that emerged in the latter half of the book as he re-entered territories where slavery had not been abolished. Being given the opportunity to see the world from Jamie's eyes was an emotional and exhilarating roller coaster ride.

I would recommend Glory Over Everything to readers who enjoy historical fiction novels and of course to anyone who read and enjoyed The Kitchen House. You can hear more about Kathleen Grissom's inspiration and writing methodologies in the video below.

Blog Tour

Let's Take a Shelfie is the final stop for Simon & Schuster Canada's Glory Over Everything Blog Tour. The image to the left lists the previous blog tour stops. Check them out as each blogger has some very interesting takes on the contents of this riveting novel.

I received an advanced reader copy of Glory Over Everything from Simon & Schuster Canada for review purposes. I also obtained a digital galley of the book from Simon & Schuster via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday #9: Books every (soon to be) parent should read

This week's Top Ten Five Tuesday focus on books that I enjoyed reading while I was expecting my first child. Let's be honest, by the time the second came along, I was a pro. (Not really, but I like to pretend).

When I was browsing through the vast ocean of parenting books, I found them to be quite serious, not that having a child isn't, but I definitely preferred ones that were fun. It wasn't until after I collected a few titles that I realized a majority of my parenting reading materials were published by Quirk Books - Publishers of all things awesome. We even used them to decorate the cake table at my baby shower featuring another favourite of mine, The Hungry Caterpillar.

Here are a list of my favourites:

1. The Pregnancy Instruction Manual: Essential Information, Troubleshooting Tips, and Advice for Parents-to-Be by Sarah Jordan

Reading this book made some of my parent-to-be jitters go away. Unlike some of the other parenting books out there, this one didn't scare the living daylights out of you. There was a lot of humour and real life examples. There's even a section for dad's. 

2. The Pregnancy Test by Melissa Heckscher, Emily Sikking

Being pregnant is a scary thing. Everyone tells you what you can/can't, should/shouldn't do. The mixed signals don't really help. This book has answers to a variety of questions such as:
    •  Can I ride a rollercoaster in my first trimester?
     •  Is it safe to pump my own gas?
     •  Why is hair growing around my belly button?

     •  Can I get pregnant when I’m already pregnant?

And as funny as some of these may sound, they go a long way to ease a new mom's mind and make you feel just a bit less crazy.

3. The Baby Owner's Manual: Operating Instructions, Trouble-Shooting Tips & Advice on First-Year Maintenance by Louis Borgenicht, Joe Borgenicht, Paul Kepple (Illustrator)

4. The Toddler Owner's Manual by Brett Kuhn, Paul Kepple (illustrator), Joe Borgenicht, D.A.D., Jude Buffum (Illustrator)

These two books were written very similarly. And like their titles hint at, rather than long winded paragraphs of what to expect, these books are written like user guides. With useful (and funny) tips on how to raise your kids from birth right through the terrible two's. 

5. I Heart My Little A-Holes: A bunch of holy-crap moments no one ever told you about parenting by Karen Alpert

I can't even express how much I adore this book. When I was pregnant with my second child, I wanted a fresh outlook on parenting and really some sense of what it would be like to have two. This book nailed it on the head. You can check out of review of I Heart My Little A-Holes here.

Top Ten Tuesday is an original bookish meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. For the list of future top ten topics or details on how to participate, click here.
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