Sunday, 11 August 2019

The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan - Book Review


Jenny Colgan is a go to for charming, heartwarming stories. I enjoyed The Bookshop on the Corner when it came out a few years ago, and dare I say I loved this one even more?

In The Bookshop on the Shore, you'll see some familiar faces from The Bookshop on the Corner (Nina, Lennox, and Surinder); however, this is a story about Zoe. Zoe is a single mom, struggling to make ends meet in London, England. When presented with the opportunity to move to Scotland and help out with Nina's travelling bookstore during the day, as well as work as a nanny in the evenings, she jumps at this opportunity. However, when she and her son Hari move into the old, majestic-but-falling-apart home where she will work, she realizes that she has her work cut out for her. Their mother disappeared, and they live with their father, who has no idea how to best manage their out of control behaviours. Additionally, she just doesn't have the same knack for selling books as Nina does.

That is the backdrop for a delightful story about the value of books. It's about how we find ourselves in books, about how books can protect us, and maybe even how books can help us heal.

Without spoiling anything, The Bookshop on the Shore has a lot to say about mental health, and especially children's mental health. I love that. I know there are challenges presented in this book that are very real dilemmas for many parents, and I think the messages delivered are important and wise.

The romance in this book is quite light, which I felt matched the story well. I was happy for the main focus to be elsewhere.

The Bookshop on the Shore is already available, and I highly recommend you pick up a copy at your favourite bookstore or library!

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of this novel from Harper Collins Canada. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

The Chocolate Maker's Wife by Karen Brooks - Book Review




The Chocolate Maker's Wife is the newest novel from Karen Brooks. Rosamund is sold into a sudden marriage by her mother and stepfather. Through this bargain, she is able to leave her abusive home, but what awaits her next? While she tries to navigate her new role as Lady Blithman, she is also given the opportunity to learn and work in her husband's new and exclusive chocolate house. However, she is quickly enmeshed into the Blithman family drama. Set in 1660s London, England, Rosamund is not only fighting for her future, but also her life.

I had such high hopes for this one, but The Chocolate Maker's Wife left me feeling conflicted. I liked it, but I didn't love it, and some things I didn't like at all.

What I liked:
  • I loved learning about the history of chocolate.
  • I always enjoy novels that have a romantic thread woven into the story.
  • There are some timely viewpoints in here on religious tolerance, race, and the role of women.
  • For me, what truly rescues this book is its historical setting. The second half of the 1600s was a tumultuous time in London as it overcomes the plague and the Great Fire, and it was interesting to read a novel set during these catastrophic events.

What I didn't like so much:

  • I wasn't overly in love with any of the characters.
  • The writing. Mark Twain has a great quote, "Don't use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do." and I think the author could have used that advice on multiple occasions in this book. I understand that part of it is that language evolves over time, but there were many phrases where the word choice felt distracting, unnecessary, and, at times, jarring, rather than authentic.

If you think the writing wouldn't bother you, then I'd say this is a book to pick up at the library rather than purchase to keep. It's available later this month.

But that cover and title though...😍😍

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of this book courtesy of Harper Collins Canada for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Monday, 29 July 2019

The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams - Book Review



It's official. Romances about couples who are already married but working through their crap are my new favourite.

Whitney at @theunreadshelf got me thinking about this with her review of Voyager by Diana Gabeldon, and I completely agree. I want to see more stories about couples who are already together, still having sex, and overcoming obstacles because that's real life, friends. Interesting love stories begin when two people commit to each other forever. More of this please!

The Bromance Book Club is a new novel from Lyssa Kay Adams. Gavin and Thea Scott have been married for three years, are parents to adorable twin girls, and are also going through a pretty rough patch in their marriage. While it's not their only problem, Thea has been faking it in bed for awhile, and let's just say that Gavin doesn't take the news particularly well...

To help him save his marriage, Gavin's friends introduce him to a secret book club where the men read romance novels to help them learn how to be better partners. (Note - this is actually a genius idea, and men should legitimately try it now and then.)

I really liked Gavin, and his renewed energy to keep their family together was so sweet. What I most adored about Gavin was his stutter. My own son has a great vocabulary, but we work on articulation because his speech isn't always clear. On the very day I read this book, my son came home from daycamp and told me someone had made fun of his voice. I loved seeing a hero in a novel with a similar challenge. Thea loves Gavin and his stutter, and it is such an important reminder that our imperfections make us perfect to others.

The Bromance Book Club comes out in November which is perfect timing because, while I wouldn't call this a Christmas romance novel, it is set in the 5 weeks leading up to Christmas. If, like me, you adore romance novels and books about books, The Bromance Book Club will be such a treat to read.

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of his novel from Penguin Random House Canada for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Monday, 22 July 2019

I Love Indigo For Their Books But Also For Another Reason

I love Indigo. I'm a bookworm, so it makes a certain degree of sense that I love a store full of knowledge and stories, but there's another reason I love this store. I rarely walk into an Indigo without thinking of one, special memory.




Picture a tired, nervous mama. Her new baby is exactly two-weeks-old. She is faced with a full year ahead at home caring for this baby, and she has made herself a vow, "We must leave the house once a day."

That was me. I loved our little baby, but it was spring and sunny and warm and, most importantly, I knew I'd go crazy if we stayed inside all day.

Before my son was born, I knew I wanted to breastfeed if I could, but the thought of balancing both a physical book along with a baby while nursing felt comically dangerous to me, so, shortly before Sebastian was born, I asked my husband to pick me up a Kobo on his way home from work. Perfect.

When our son was born, my mom stayed with us for a week or so to help us get settled, but eventually she left and Rob went back to the office. It was just me and a baby. And 8 hours to kill before my husband would be home from work.

I had two goals that day:
1. Keep the baby alive.
2. Get a cover for my Kobo.

I didn't want to take the subway with a newborn, so I clicked Sebastian up in his carseat, and we drove to Indigo (the Bay/Bloor location in Toronto to be exact.) I parked in the underground parking, put Sebastian in his baby wrap, grabbed the diaper bag, and we went into the store.

We didn't stay long, but as I was walking to look at the Kobo covers, I was stopped by another customer. A sweet, elderly woman who asked to peek at Sebastian. She was kind and warm, and made me feel like such a proud mama as she gushed over my baby. (I mean, she was in a bookstore, and book people really are the best people.)

Anyways, we chatted for just a minute, then she went her way, and I went mine. I picked out my Kobo cover, paid for it, and Sebastian and I went home.

Part of me can see how this whole story is a non-event, but it's special to me. It's the first time I ever drove Sebastian anywhere on my own. We got there and back without any disasters which was a huge confidence boost for me as a new mom.

Now, I'm fortunate that my son is just as much of a bookworm as I am. He loves Indigo. To be fair, he loves it for the toys just as much as the books, but still, he is a reader. And he has no idea that our favourite store also represents such a big milestone in my early motherhood days.

xo
Jenn

PS - This is not an ad for Indigo or anything. It's simply a bookish memory that means a lot to me, and I wanted to share it here with you.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Oven To Table by Jan Scott - Cookbook Review


I am not enormously talented when it comes to the kitchen. One of the things I find most difficult about cooking is getting all of the different parts of your meal to be finished and still warm at the same time. However, I can follow a recipe pretty well. Last year, I started scouring Pinterest for sheet pan dinner ideas, and it quickly became a "go to" dinner solution.

When Penguin Random House Canada asked me to check out their cookbook, Oven to Table, by Jan Scott, I was excited to add new recipes to my rotation. It includes over 100 one-pot/one-pan recipe ideas.

I assumed Oven to Table would be full of main courses and dinner ideas, but this cookbook is so much more than that. There are plenty of breakfast/brunch ideas, dessert ideas, and even a few drink ideas as well! My family loved the Ham and Cheese Croissant Casserole, as well as the Spicy Corn Bacon Frittata, and our most recent breakfast recipe was the Golden Apricot Granola pictured above.

My son isn't a big fish eater, but other recipes Rob and I tried and enjoyed are:
Brown Sugar and Chili-Rubbed Salmon Sheet Pan Dinner
Muffin Pan Tuna Melts

Next, I can't wait to make the Grilled Apple and Brie Sandwiches.

Not all of the recipes are super quick "30 mins or less" type recipes, though some definitely are, but every single recipe I've tried so far has been delicious and healthy.

There is a picture for nearly every recipe in Oven to Table, which is a must for any cookbook I own and actually use. I also enjoy this cookbook because I find flipping through it to be faster than getting lost down a Pinterest rabbit hole. It's out now, so look for it at your local bookstore!

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of this book for review purposes courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Romantic Armchair Travel to London With Jacquelyn Middleton



If a trip to England isn't in your plans this year, add these two books to your summer TBR instead. London Belongs to Me and London, Can You Wait are the first two books by Canadian author, Jacquelyn Middleton.

Both of these books chronicle the relationship of Alex Sinclair and Mark Keegan. When London Belongs to Me begins, Alex has just moved to London to jump into the world of theatre as a playwright. While she works at finding her feet within the drama of cutthroat show business, she reconnects with old friends and eventually meets Mark. A lengthly will-they-won't-they follows; however, it's easy to cheer for Mark and Alex 💗, and Middleton's vivid description of London will make you feel like you are truly there, even if, in reality, you're simply curled up on your sofa with a warm cup of tea.




London, Can You Wait? takes place about a year later. Mark has become an "in demand" actor for hit television shows and movies. Consequently, he and Alex are apart more often then they are together, and this takes its toll on them both. They love each other, but while they also battle through anxiety and grief, is it possible that love simply isn't enough? At once romantic and heartwarming, Middleton's romances always show that the path to our happily ever afters is never straightfoward, but it is worth fighting for.

While London Belongs to Me doesn't end on a cliffhanger, I highly recommend reading both books together as a duology. Not only does Jacquelyn Middleton's writing improve quite a bit with her second book, but reading both novels will give you the fulsome story of Mark and Alex and introduce you to characters that will appear in Middleton's later works.

My favourite Jacquelyn Middleton book is still Until the Last Star Fades (in which Alex and Mark make a little cameo); yet, these two books are delightful contemporary romances that anglophiles will adore. I'm more of a francophile myself, but since my dad was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, and I have felt a small kinship with England throughout my life, and it always feels special to go back and visit whether it's in person or in literature.

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of London, Can You Wait from Jacquelyn Middleton to review. Thank you, Jacquelyn! All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Monday, 8 July 2019

A Peek Inside Mary Poppins, the Illustrated Edition



Sebastian and I enjoy having a 'read together' book on the go, and his favourites are illustrated chapter books. We devoured the first three illustrated Harry Potter books and while we wait (not so patiently) for the fourth to be published this fall, I thought Mary Poppins would be a good one to try next. His class went to see a play production of Mary Poppins during the school year and has seen the film, so he was open to reading this story in book form.

This particular edition includes the complete, revised text by P. L. Travers. The illustrations by Júlia Sardà are charming, and this may be one of my favourite book covers for a children's book I've ever seen. (That teacup in the top corner? Swoon!)




We're about two thirds of the way through, and we have noticed that this is a case where the book and the movie are quite different! Definitely watch the movie before or after you read this so you and your little one can talk about the similarities and differences.

The illustrated edition of Mary Poppins makes a gorgeous addition to a classic children's library. We've already gifted a copy as a birthday gift to one of Seb's friends :)

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of this book from Raincoast Books for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

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