Sunday, 31 December 2017

Reader Favourites of 2017

Every year I like to see which were the most popular posts I put together. Here's the top ten list for 2017!

#9 and #8  - Book Review and Chapter 1 Excerpt for The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

As always, thank you for your continued support with my blog. I appreciate each and every one of you.


If you're interested, here are my top 10 posts for 2016, 2015, and 2014.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

10 Excellent Books I Read This Year

Tis the season for "Top 10" book posts, and it's. so. hard! I give you top five in different genres...or my top ten that weren't actually published in 2017....or here are a few I didn't get a chance to read yet but I know are's all just too much pressure!!!

So, I've played around with this list for weeks. Books have been added, removed, added back again, and combined so I can cheat and add more books.

Are these my top ten best, favourite, most fantastic books I read this year? I honestly don't know. Are these ten amazing books I read this year? Absolutely.

Here we go!

Beartown by Fredrick Backman - A powerful novel about how a horrific event in a small town changes a hockey team forever. It's a departure in genre from Backman's other work, but still an absolute winner.

Goodnight From London by Jennifer Robson - Jennifer Robson is one of my favourite authors. Her 2017 release was about a female journalist during WWII. You can read my full review here.

A Court of Thorns and Roses Trilogy by Sarah J. Maas - I'm including all three books because I read this whole trilogy this year and loved it. This trilogy of books begins as a beauty and the beast retelling but then ventures off with the very best world-building and the most swoon-worthy characters. Also, can I include Sarah J. Maas' Throne of Glass series? I know that's super cheating, but they were also some of my favourite reads this year :)

Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter and Me by Lorilee Craker - This is a charming true story that weaves together the author's passion for Anne of Green Gables, her own adoption story, and the adoption story of her daughter. You can read my full review here.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid - This was a captivating story of life a glamours Hollywood actress and her seven husbands. The writing was so good, it almost felt like a true story!

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - A quick and powerful read about being and raising strong women.

Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi Laditan - A hilarious take on the outrageous expectations put on new moms. Laugh out loud funny!

A Newfoundlander in Canada by Alan Doyle - Doyle's second memoir is full of stories from the early days of his band, Great Big Sea, as they toured throughout Canada. I'm a huge fan of his music, so this was a really amazing read for me. You can see my full review here.

Cuffed by K. Bromberg - I read a lot of romance, so I wanted to include one on this list. Cuffed was super sexy and had a plot line with substance, so it wasn't just a simple/fluffy read.

The Unofficial Guide to Surviving Life With Boys  - I know this is probably also cheating, since I'm one of the authors in this book, but I love this anthology with all my heart, and I think any mama will enjoy these stories from the trenches. Read more about this book here.

Did you read anything outstanding this year? Let me know!


Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Miss You by Kate Eberlen - Book Review

I'm squeezing one last book review in for 2017! Miss You is the debut novel from Kate Eberlen. It tells the story of Tess and Gus. They initially meet briefly when they are 18 years old and on holidays in Florence with friends and family. Then, over the next 16 years, their lives indirectly intersect many times.

At first glance, Tess and Gus are each in a tough spot. Gus is living in the shadow of his perfect older brother's death, and Tess is raising her 5 year old sister almost entirely on her own.

Will fate allow these start-crossed lovers to ever properly meet? And if they do, will they actually live happily ever after?

I've said this before, but I really enjoy stories that are told from dual points of view. That structure in a novel really keeps me interested.

There is much tragedy that befalls both Tess and Gus, and at times it was actually hard for my mama-heart to read. That being said, I just had to know how their story would come together. Wondering how their paths would cross next kept me engaged and reading.

If I had any critique at all, it is that I wanted more in the end. I wasn't finished with these characters. Maybe I just want a sequel??

I loved Kate Eberlen's clever and witty writing, and I look forward to reading more from this author. You can connect with Kate Eberlen on Facebook, Twitter, or her website.

Anyone who loved the movies Serendipity or Sliding Doors will absolutely enjoy reading Miss You.


Disclaimer - I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher, HarperCollins Canada. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Monday, 18 December 2017

5 Wonderful Authors I Discovered in 2017

One of my favourite things about reading and book blogging is discovering new authors. Sometimes they are debut authors, but more often than not I'm late to the party, and I'm just now learning about authors that have already published many great novels.

Here are five authors I discovered this year, a bit about them, what books I've read so far, and what I hope to read next.

K. Bromberg - K. Bromberg writes steamy contemporary romance novels. I discovered her when I picked up Sweet Cheeks at Turn the Page Bookstore (heaven for romance readers). I also just finished Cuffed, and I loved them both so much! Next, I'm planning on reading her Driven series.

Hazel Gaynor - Hazel Gaynor writes beautiful historical fiction. I discovered her when I reviewed The Cottingley Secret this summer. I loved this magical story, and I loved her writing. Next I'm planning on reading The Girl Who Came Home.

Sarah J. Maas - Sarah J. Maas writes teen (but it's really adult) fantasy. I read both her Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses series this year. They were so much fun! Sarah J. Maas has four books being published next year, including the DC Icons Catwoman retelling. I can't wait to read them all!

Liv Constantine - Liv Constantine is a debut author (actually two authors, sisters Lynne and Valerie), and I discovered them when I reviewed their book The Last Mrs. Parrish. I loved this take on the domestic psychological triller genre. Plus, The Last Mrs. Parrish was just selected as Reese Witherspoon's latest book club pick! I don't know what they're planning next, but I would totally read another book by these two.

Maisey Yates - Maisey Yates writes funny and swoon-worthy romance. The ones I've read so far have all be set in small towns, which I love. This year I read and reviewed both Slow Burn Cowboy and Christmastime Cowboy. Currently sitting next to read on my bookshelf from her are Part Time Cowboy, The Prince's Pregnant Mistress, and The Last Di Sione Claims His Prize.

And while I didn't write a post about it, I'd say my favourite authors I discovered in 2016 were Sarah Addison Allen, Bella Andre, Sarah Morgan, Eleanor Brown, and Neil Gaiman.

Did you discover any new-to-you authors this year?


Monday, 4 December 2017

12 Christmas Books to Read in December

Last year I really got into seasonal reading, so I thought it would be fun to share some of my favourite Christmas novels. Many of these I've read and loved while others are on my TBR pile, but they will each be sure to get you into the holiday spirit!

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak - A family is quarantined together over Christmas. Secrets are revealed. Drama and hilarity ensue.

The Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb - A couple separated by war in 1914 write letters to each other. How will fate treat them as the war comes to an end?

Christmastime Cowboy by Maisey Yates - A second-chance holiday romance set in a small town winery at Christmas. Read my full review here.

The Christmas Bridge by Elyse Douglas - A young widow travels to NYC near Christmas. She wonders about meeting up with a lover from 20 years ago, but a chance encounter changes everything. Read my full review here.

The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman - A poignant novella about the broken relationship between a father and his son. (I haven't read this yet, but I love Fredrik Backman.)

Miracle on 5th Avenue, Sleigh Bells in the Snow, and Maybe This Christmas by Sarah Morgan - Sarah Morgan is my favourite Christmas romance author. Her books are the perfect amount of sexy and sweet. I couldn't just pick one of her books, so I'm including all three! See my review of Miracle on 5th Avenue here.

Christmas at Tiffany's by Karen Swan - A young woman coming out of a disastrous marriage travels to London, Paris, and NYC to find her feet again and discover what's next for her in life...and in love.

A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig - Sebastian and I are currently reading this together.  A humorous and heartfelt tale about the original story of Santa. Perfect for fans of Roald Dahl.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson - I grew up reading this short novel with my mom, and it is hilarious! Imagine "Children Gone Wild" mixed with organizing a Christmas pageant. A very fun read!

Dashing Through the Stars by Celia Kyle - A fantasy/sci-fi romance novella that is part of the Ujal series. I got this as a bit of a gag gift, but it is a quick, fun, festive read!


Friday, 1 December 2017

The Paris Secret by Karen Swan - Book Review

I judged this book entirely by its title. I have a weakness for all things French, and love books set in France. Other than a Paris setting, I knew nothing about The Paris Secret before beginning it.

I loved the concept of a secret apartment that hadn't been entered in 75 years. What mysteries would it hold? How would they matter today?

The Paris Secret was inspired by the true story of a Paris apartment that remained untouched and unknown for 70 years. It was rediscovered in 2013 full of art and artifacts frozen in time.
In Karen Swan's fictionalized account of this event, high-flying Fine Art Agent Flora from London, more comfortable with the tension of a million-pound auction than a cosy candlelit dinner for two, is called in to asses these suddenly discovered treasures. As an expert in her field, she must trace the history of each painting and just who has concealed them for so long.
Thrown in amongst the glamorous Vermeil family as they move between Paris and Antibes, Flora begins to discover that things aren't all that they seem, while back at home her own family is recoiling from a seismic shock. The terse and brooding Xavier Vermeil seems intent on forcing Flora out of his family's affairs - but just what is he hiding? (via Goodreads)

This was the perfect novel to escape with for an afternoon while enjoying a glass of red wine. Flora was an excellent no-nonsense character who had to navigate the intense family drama surrounding the apartment she was brought in to inventory. It was easy to be on her side throughout the novel.

This was my first novel by Karen Swan, and I truly loved her writing. She blended the elements of history, art, mystery, French culture, and even romance, into one interesting story.

The Paris Secret is available on Amazon or wherever books are sold. You can connect with Karen Swan on Facebook and Twitter.


Monday, 20 November 2017

Christmastime Cowboy by Maisey Yates - Book Review + Giveaway

A couple of years ago, I started adding romance novels into the mix of what I read. When Christmas came around, my mom told me how my late grandmother loved Christmas romance novels. Apparently she would read them all year long. I learned about this after my grandmother passed away, but I'm so glad to have found out when I did. Now whenever I pick up a holiday romance, it makes me think of my grandmother and how much fun it would have been to chat with her about these books together.

I prefer to save my seasonal reads for November and December, and to kick of my own personal holiday reading season, I read Christmastime Cowboy by Maisey Yates.

Chistmastime Cowboy
 is my second Maisey Yates novel and the tenth novel in the Copper Ridge Series. Don't worry about diving into this series ten books deep though! Each one is a standalone and there is enough backstory provided to help the reader along.

Christmastime Cowboy is about Sabrina Leighton and Liam Donnelly:

Falling for a bad boy once is forgivable. Twice would just be foolish. When Sabrina Leighton first offered her teenage innocence to gorgeous, tattooed Liam Donnelly, he humiliated her, then left town. The hurt still lingers. But so does that crazy spark. And if they have to work together to set up her family winery's new tasting room by Christmas, why not work him out of her system with a sizzling affair? 

Thirteen years ago, Liam's boss at the winery offered him a bribe—leave his teenage daughter alone and get a full ride at college. Convinced he wasn't good enough for Sabrina, Liam took it. Now he's back, as wealthy as sin and with a heart as cold as the Oregon snow. Or so he keeps telling himself. Because the girl he vowed to stay away from has become the only woman he needs, and this Christmas could be just the beginning of a lifetime together… (via Goodreads)

I thought the setting of the winery and the tasting room was perfect for a contemporary Christmas romance, and I loved both Sabrina and Liam as characters. They were great together; however, my favourite scene from the book came near the end when Sabrina and Liam have their inevitable breakup/will-they-wont-they moment. Liam's younger brother, Alex, gives him a lecture and an earful that was just perfect!

I previously read Slow Burn Cowboy and one thing I love about this author is that she keeps her novels fresh and fun, sweet and sexy. This is the perfect novel to read with a glass of wine beside the fireplace or Christmas tree this winter, and then pass along to a girlfriend so you can gush about sexy cowboys together!

I'm giving a paperback copy of Christmastime Cowboy over on Instagram this week! Head over @jennbairos to check it out.

Christmastime Cowboy is available for purchase on or wherever books are sold. You can connect with Maisey Yates for more on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.


Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of this novel courtesy of TLC Book Tours and Harlequin Books. All thoughts and opinions are true and entirely my own.

Monday, 13 November 2017

My 6 Favourite Instagram Accounts

The most used app on my phone is probably Instagram. I love sharing photos and I get so much inspiration from others. Here are my 6 favourite accounts!

Emily McDowell Studio
Emily McDowell's tell it like it is products are the best!

I follow a lot of bookish Instagram accounts. This one is my favourite.

The Blonde Bookworm
Another account to follow for bookish inspiration and great reads.

Hot Dudes Reading
This account is basically just secret snaps of hot guys reading. Probably the yummiest account I follow ;)

Notes 2 My Selfie
Notes 2 My Selfie never fails to make me laugh. A real life perspective on the struggle of adulting. It's so good.

Obvious State
I love anything French-inspired. This account combines my love for books with my passion for French culture all in one.

Do you have any favourite Instagram accounts that I should know about? Leave me their link! You can find me @jennbairos.


Monday, 30 October 2017

My Favourite October 2017 Releases

October was a banner month for book releases! Not only was it my own personal publishing debut, The Unofficial Guide to Surviving Life With Boys was released during the same month as some of my other favourites for the year.

A Newfoundlander in Canada by Alan Doyle - Alan Doyle (frontman from Great Big Sea) is back with a second memoir about his first experiences off the island of Newfoundland as he travelled in the early days of Great Big Sea. You can see my full review here.

The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine - An engaging thriller about a girl who manipulates to get the life she's always dreamed of...with a twist. Check out my review here and read chapter one here.

The Unofficial Guide to Surviving Life With Boys by Various Authors - 35 mom bloggers have gotten together to each tell you a hilarious and/or heartwarming story about being a boy mom. You can read more about it here. Plus I'm one of the contributors!

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by JK Rowling (Illustrated Edition) - I love these illustrated editions of the Harry Potter series. The art and beauty in these books are second to none. Jim Kay's art is such a gift to the Harry Potter world.

Brooding YA Hero by Broody McHottiepants (Carrie DiRisio) - This is a satire novel that lovingly pokes fun at the young adult hero in the very best way. A hilarious look at the YA tropes that we equally cringe at and love.

The Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb - Earlier this year I read my first Hazel Gaynor novel, The Cottingley Secret, and loved it. I have a soft spot for historical fiction, Paris, and romance, so a book with all three is bound to make it to my TBR pile.

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak - An eclectic family is stuck in quarantine over Christmas. Tensions rises and secrets are revealed. This is on my TBR list for December!

Everything is Awful by Matt Bellassai - I love Matt Bellassai's "To Be Honest" video series, so I can't wait to read his book. I'm sure it will be just as hilarious!


Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Little Red Canoe - October 2017 Review

Little Red Canoe is a new Canadian children's book subscription box designed to "create reading adventures to engage kids and get them excited about spending time outside."

Sebastian just joined Beaver Scouts, and I thought that, continuing along that theme, he may really love the Little Red Canoe box and the inspiration it has to offer.

He was so excited to receive this box, most especially because the box itself was so decorated!!

Little Red Canoe has three age groups to choose from for their subscription boxes: 0-2 (Happy Wanderers), 3-5 (Little Explorers), and 6-8 (Young Adventurers). Here is what was included in his Little Explorers box:

* a copy of "In the Red Canoe" by Leslie Davidson (illustrated by Laura Bifano)
* an "In the Red Canoe" bookmark
* a note from the author
* a letter from the illustrator
* a Colour-Me nature postcard
* five twig pencil crayons (sustainably crafted) in a canvas bag
* a children's book quote card
* a "So Many Books So Little Time" postcard
* PLUS an additional surprise (just for fun!)  - Sebastian's surprise was a notebook.

My five-year-old LOVED the pencil crayons and colouring postcard. I couldn't even take any pictures before he got down quickly to work. "Read me the book while I colour, Mommy!"

The boxes are personalized to the children receiving them, and the hardcover books are such a special touch to this book box. 

A new book box theme is released for each age group every two months. The cost is $29.99 for one box. Then there is a 10% discount for 3 months, and a 15% discount when you subscribe for 6 months. Shipping is extra. 

I'm sure I got more out of the author and illustrator letters than my little guy did, but overall the value is pretty close to the cost of the box. If you have a little one that loves being outside, Little Red Canoe is the perfect gift!

Visit their website to see their November and December themes! They are currently offering a 10% Halloween discount on all orders placed before October 31st.


Disclaimer - We received a complementary Little Red Canoe box for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are true and entirely my own.

Monday, 23 October 2017

The Unofficial Guide To Surviving Life With Boys

Sometimes our dreams whisper to us so quietly we pretend not to hear them because we think they can never possibly come true. That is exactly how I feel about having been invited to participate in this project. Earlier this year, the amazing bloggers from #LifeWithBoys reached out to see if I'd like to contribute a story to their anthology about boy moms. Honestly, I actually thought it was an accident and they had meant to message someone else. After my initial shock, I was so delighted to become part of this fantastic book.

The Unofficial Guide to Surviving Life with Boys is a collection of hilarious and heartwarming stories about what it's like to be a boy mom written by a group of fabulous bloggers. From injuries to sweet cuddles and everything in between, you will love this book about being in the boy mom trenches.

It will make you laugh, maybe make you cry, and certainly give you all sorts of good feels about the special bond that exists between a mom and her son.

Plus, my story is about the time Sebastian asked what a vagina looks like, so......there's that :)

I sincerely hope you read and love this book. I know for me, there are certainly stories in here that spoke straight to my experiences as a boy mom. The ones that leave you saying to yourself, "Yes! That's exactly how I feel."

The stories are the perfect length to read between handing out bandaids and reading about dragons. I would even say you don't have to be a boy mom to enjoy the stories of motherhood in this book. The experiences shared are relatable for any mama.

Plus, if we ever meet up in real life, I can even sign it for you (‘cause now I’m famous lol.)


Sunday, 15 October 2017

Beautiful Bookmarks

This bookmark I received in a previous Novel Editions box, and it's one of my favourites! It's the perfect size for mass market paperback novels.

A beautiful wooden bookmark. The quality is excellent. I use this one often. It's a book blogger favourite:)

A beautiful peach and pink bookmark with hand drawn calligraphy.

Jane Austen quote bookmark ($6.47)
A beautiful letterpress bookmark with a Jane Austen quotation. Both sides of this bookmark are so lovely.

Marilyn Monroe ($10.32)
A beautiful silhouette bookmark from the classic Marilyn Monroe film The Seven Year Itch. Perfect for any film lover!

100% Merino wool. The softest bookmark you'll ever see!

I'm cheating here because this bookmark isn't for sale, but you can get something even better -  Brooding YA Hero is an entire book that you can order for tons of gems like this one. For anyone who loves young adult literature, Brooding YA Hero is a must read.


Monday, 9 October 2017

The Questions Google Thinks My Blog Can Answer

This month my little blog turns 4! One of my favourite curiosities with blogging are the Google search terms that have led people to my little corner of the internet. Some make sense, and some I'm still trying to figure out. Take a look:

naked at the wedding day
I can't possibly imagine (or I can, but's pretty strange) what someone was looking for with this search term. I can assure you, I haven't written any blog posts about being naked at weddings. I did once put together a post with my favourite pictures from my own wedding day. I'm naked in exactly 0 of them.

seraphine maternity canada
This one was easier to figure out. A few years ago, a friend of mine asked me my favourite places to buy maternity clothes in Canada. Séraphine does ship to Canada, and their clothes are beautiful, so I included them in my list.

abm happy life
#abmhappylife is a commonly used hashtag on Instagram for A Beautiful Mess whenever you want to share something joyful from your day. The one thing I've blogged about from A Beautiful Mess is a review of their Happy Mail subscription box. It's perfect for stationery lovers and reasonably priced (though it temporarily paused for rebranding until 2018).

non cheesy anniversary gift
My list of non-cheesy anniversary gifts for anniversaries 1-5 is probably one of my most viewed blog posts of all time. I still stand by every single one of these ideas.

oh my gauze
This was a search term I noticed recently, and I am stumped. I have no idea which post of mine would have popped up in this search result. The Internet is weird.

spiderman birthday party on a budget
Yup. We did this. For Sebastian's second birthday we did the Spiderman thing. I'm pretty proud of our crafty spider web ceiling if I do say so myself :)

when i'm gone: a novel
I do a lot of book reviews, but for some reason or another, my review of When I'm Gone by Emily Bleeker seems to be the most searched.

chemo angels program
Chemo Angels is a fantastic free organization, that I'm so proud to be a part of. They pair chemo patients with "angels" or "buddies" and the angels mail encouraging notes and gifts to the patient throughout their treatment. Read more about it here.

books for babies 0-12 months
I love a good round up post, and I do have quite a few of them on my blog. The one I made with my favourite books for babies is visited often.

breastfeeding fanfiction age play 5h
Oh man...I have no idea on this one. Is it a book idea? I'm so curious. What were they looking for? Did they find it? I do have a post about breastfeeding here. I'm not a huge fanfiction reader so, I'm really not sure about that one, but I'm a book blog, so it's not entirely a stretch I suppose. As for the end, I'm still not sure...I have a post about toys for babies, and another about toys for toddlers. Nonetheless, this one leaves me scratching my head.

a splendid messy life baby list
Once upon a time I did put together an enormous list of what to buy for baby. I suspect someone I know personally must have been having a baby to google both my blog name and "baby list" together in the same search term :)

splendid nait
A close friend of mine had a rare condition called NAIT, and so it made her pregnancy very challenging. She put together a guest post for my blog to share her experiences and offer hope to any other mama out there that may be experiencing the same struggle.

Well, that's it for now! Thanks for all of your continued support with A Splendid Messy Life!

PS - I totally stole this post idea from Unremarkable Files. You should absolutely see what kind of weird questions Google thinks her blog can answer. She has some gems over there!

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

A Newfoundlander In Canada by Alan Doyle - Book Review

While Alan Doyle's first book, Where I Belong, was set primarily in Petty Harbour and St. John's, Newfoundland, his newest release spans from one Canadian coast to the other.

Beginning in Newfoundland, the chapters of A Newfoundlander in Canada are divided into different Canadian provinces. The reader travels with Doyle as he shares stories and anecdotes from his first experiences off the island on the road with Great Big Sea.

Many of the stories are laugh out loud funny and woven among them all is the theme of home and identity. Doyle presents a kind of birds eye view of how the vastly different parts of Canada are still very clearly still part of the same family. It was beautiful to read.

One thing I have loved about both of Alan Doyle's books is that he easily develops a connection with his readers. You get the sense that he is right beside you with a pint of beer telling you about his amazing adventures on the "mainland". On the back of Doyle's first book, actor Russell Crowe is quoted saying, "I feel like I've lived another's life." This holds true for A Newfoundlander in Canada as well.

I have been fortunate enough to have travelled quite a bit in Canada, and I have been to many of the places, and even some of the specific bars, Doyle mentions. That definitely made this book feel extra special to me. Newfoundland itself, however, remains on my bucket list.

A Newfoundlander in Canada is certainly a must read for any Great Big Sea fan, though you do not need to be familiar with their work to enjoy this book, most especially if you are Canadian. It is available for preorder now and comes out on October 17th.


Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of A Newfoundlander In Canada from Penguin Random House Canada. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Monday, 25 September 2017

5 Picture Books For Teaching Children About Compassion

As parents, every single one of us wants to raise our tiny humans with a concrete understanding of both empathy and compassion. Here are my five favourite books to help with this enormous task.

Red by Michael Hall - In this book a blue crayon is mislabeled as a red crayon. Everyone tries to get him to be a red crayon, and he tries his hardest to be a red crayon as well, but he is miserable. Eventually he meets a new friend who helps him learn to be true to his inner self. Red is such a beautiful story about acceptance and courage.

Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox by Danielle Daniel - This book is an introduction to Indigenous totem animals. On each page children can identify with the masks of different creatures such as deer, foxes, beavers, etc. I love this book because the short descriptions of the animals act as a guide for young children learning to understand their own feelings and the feelings of others.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein - This is a classic, but if you don't know this story, it's about the relationship between a young boy and a tree. This book is perfect for discussions about the give and take balance in friendships.

Have You Filled A Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud - My 4 year-old read this book in his Junior Kindergarten class, and it was a game changer. Both at school and at home we now use the language of "filling someone's bucket" to show kindness or we talk about "dipping into someone's bucket" with a negative action. Readers even learn that it's possible to fill or dip into your own bucket. Have You Filled A Bucket Today? is one of my favourites.

My Friend Maggie by Hannah E. Harrison - This book is about friendship, bullying, and fitting in. Paula and Maggie have been friends forever, but when some students start picking on Maggie, Paula starts to notice all of Maggie's faults as well and stops playing with her. When the mean girls eventually start to pick on Paula, Maggie steps in to defend her friend. My Friend Maggie is a heartfelt story that packs the same emotional punch as The Giving Tree.


Monday, 18 September 2017

The Last Mrs. Parrish - Excerpt

I'm so excited to share with you an excerpt from The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine. I loved this book, and you can find my review here. It's a psychological thriller that has a very unique twist on the "manipulative woman trying to improve her status in life" plot line. Get a sneak peek below....

Excerpt - Chapter 1

Amber Patterson was tired of being invisible. She'd been coming to this gym every day for three months - three long months of watching these women of leisure working at the only thing they cared about. They were so self-absorbed; she would have bet her last dollar that not one of them would recognize her on the street even though she was five feet away from them every single day. She was a fixture to them - unimportant, not worthy of being noticed. But she didn't care - not about any of them. There was one reason and one reason alone that she dragged herself here every day, to this machine, at the precise stroke of eight.

She was sick to death of the routine - day after day, working her ass off, waiting for the moment to make her move. From the corner of her eye, she saw the signature gold Nikes step onto the machine next to her. Amber straightened her shoulders and pretended to be immersed in the magazine strategically placed on the rack of her own machine. She turned and gave the exquisite blond woman a shy smile, which garnered a polite nod in her direction. Amber reached for her water bottle, deliberately moving her foot to the edge of the machine, and slipped, knocking the magazine to the floor, where it landed beneath the pedal of her neighbor's equipment.

"Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry," she said, reddening.

Before she could step off, the woman stopped her pedaling and retrieved it for her. Amber watched the woman's brow knit together.

"You're reading is magazine?" the woman said, handing it back to her?

"Yes, it's the Cystic Fibrosis Trust's magazine. Comes out twice a year. Do you know it?"

"I do, yes. Are you in the medical field?" the woman asked.

Amber cast her eyes to the floor, then back to the woman. "No, I'm not. My younger sister had CF." She let the words sit in the space between them.

"I'm sorry. That was rude of me. It's none of my business," the woman said, and stepped back onto the elliptical.

Amber shook her head. "No, it's okay. Do you know someone with cystic fibrosis?"

There was pain in the woman's eyes as she stared back at Amber. "My sister. I lost her twenty years ago."

"I'm so sorry. How old was she?"

"Only sixteen. We were two years apart."

"Charlene was just fourteen." Slowing her pace, Amber wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. It took a lot of acting skills to cry about a sister who ever existed. The three sisters she did have were alive and well, although she hadn't spoken to them for two years.

The woman's machine ground to a halt. "Are you okay?" she asked.

Amber sniffed and shrugged. "It's still so hard, even after all these years."

The woman gave her a long look, as if trying to make a decision, then extended her hand.

"I'm Daphne Parrish. What do you say we get out of here and have a nice chat over a cup of coffee?"

"Are you sure? I don't want to interrupt your workout."

Daphne nodded. "Yes, I'd really like to talk to you."

Amber gave her what she hoped looked like a grateful smile and stepped own. "That sounds great." Taking her hand, she said, "I'm Amber Patterson. Pleasure to meet you."


Later that evening Amber lay in a bubble bath, sipping a glass of merlot and staring at the photo in Entrepreneur magazine. Smiling, she put it down, closed her eyes, and rested her head on the edge of the tub. She was feeling very satisfied about how well things had gone that day. She'd been prepared for it to drag out even longer, but Daphne made it easy for her. After they dispensed with the small talk over coffee, they'd gotten down to the real reason she'd elicited Daphne's interest.

"It's impossible for someone who hasn't experienced CF to understand," Daphne said, her blue eyes alive with passion. "Julie was never a burden to me, but in high school my friends were always pushing me to leave her behind, not to let her tag along. They didn't understand that I never knew when she's be hospitalized or if she'd even make it out again. Every moment was precious."

Amber leaned forward and did her best to look interested while she calculated the total worth of the diamonds on Daphne's ears, the tennis bracelet on her wrist, and the huge diamond on her tanned and perfectly manicured finger. She must have had at least a hundred grand walking around on her size-four body, and all she could do was whine about her sad childhood. Amber suppressed a yawn and gave Daphne a tight smile.

"I know. I used to stay home from school to be with my sister so that my mom could go to work. She almost lost her job from taking so much time off, and the last thing we could afford was for her to lose our health insurance." She was pleased with how easily the lie came to her lips.

"Oh, that's terrible," Daphne clucked. "That's another reason my foundation is so important to me. We provide financial assistance to families who aren't able to afford the care they need. It's a big part of the mission of Julie's Smile for as long as I can remember."

Amber feigned shock. "Julie's Smile is your foundation? It's the same Julie? I know all about Julie's Smile, been reading about all you do for years. I'm so in awe."

Daphne nodded. "I started it right after grad school. In fact, my husband was my first benefactor." Here she'd smiled, perhaps a bit embarrassed. "That's how we met."

"Aren't you preparing for a big fund-raiser right now?"

"As a matter of fact we are. It's a few months away, but still lots to do. Say...oh, never mind."

"No, what?" Amber pressed.

"Well, I was just going to see if maybe you'd like to help. It would be nice to have someone who understands--"

"I'd love to help in any way," Amber interrupted. "I don't make a lot of money, but I definitely have time to donate. What you're doing is so important. When I think of the difference it makes---" She bit her lip and blinked back tears.

Daphne smiled. "Wonderful." She pulled out a card engraved with her name and address. "Here you are. Committee is meeting at my house Thursday morning at ten. Can you make it?"

Amber had given her a wide smile, still trying to look as though the disease was first in her mind. "I wouldn't miss it."

Copyright HarperCollins 2017

The Last Mrs. Parrish is out October 17th. You can also connect with Liv Constantine (the pen name for sisters Lynne and Valerie Constantine) on Facebook, Twitter, and their website.


Tuesday, 12 September 2017

It Takes A Tribe by Will Dean - Book Review

In August, I completed my first Tough Mudder Half event. I have completed a few of their, now retired, Mudderella events, but the actual Tough Mudder Half was a whole other ball game. The course was a whole ton harder and a whole lot more fun because of it.

I was on such a high after the event that once I found out CEO and founder Will Dean had a book coming out about the origins of Tough Mudder, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy.

It Takes a Tribe is as much about the history, path, and growth of Tough Mudder as it is about resilience. About leadership. About dealing with your crap and moving on to what's next.

I love Tough Mudder, so I really enjoyed reading about how Tough Mudder came to be and the journey the company has been on. I especially loved learning the process for creating and testing new obstacles. The list of "crazy obstacle ideas" that they've passed on was fascinating, and I immediately shared them with my Tough Mudder team. We were all grateful those particular ideas didn't make it through the planning phases :)

Dean also talks about being an entrepreneur and the lessons he's learned starting his own business. He's open about his failures and discusses not only how he started his own company, but also how he was able to set the scene for the birth of a tribal culture among the 3 million Tough Mudder participants. Every person who completes a Tough Mudder event becomes part of "Muddernation". Many Tough Mudder obstacles are designed so that they must be completed with a team. Even for the strongest athlete, it would be impossible to complete 100% of Tough Mudder alone. One of the participants is quoted in the book saying, "there is that human touch point. You don't get held up that much in life, but it's an important thing."

Between each chapter are inspirational stories of individuals and teams who have run Tough Mudder for very special reasons. People who have overcome the worst parts of life: cancer, child loss, blindness, and more waking up and saying "I'm going to do something hard today." It is impossible not to be moved by their stories.

I found It Takes a Tribe to be very encouraging and many sentences of my copy are underlined. It's a quick read, and if you are a Tough Mudder fan, a young entrepreneur, or just interested reading more about the importance of persistence, I recommend you pick up a copy of this book. Mainly, Dean wants you to remember that the obstacle is the point. Whether on a Tough Mudder course or somewhere else in your life, the hurdle in front of you is not "not supposed to happen." You will find your way through, and you will come out stronger on the other side.

And to illustrate the point, Tough Mudder snapped this amazing shot of me slaying the Berlin Walls.
"No matter what place you come in ... 
no one is better than your best, and your best will make you better." 
- Sean Corvelle, Tough Mudder MC

It Takes a Tribe is out today. You can connect with Will Dean on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To just check out more about Tough Mudder in general and find events near you, you can visit their website.


Disclaimer - I received an advance copy of It Takes a Tribe courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada. All thoughts and opinions are genuine and entirely my own. 

Monday, 28 August 2017

Mini Golf In And Around The Greater Toronto Area

Sebastian and I wrote a post together! His latest favourite activity is mini golf, so we have played a ton of mini golf this summer. I thought it may be helpful to put together a list of the mini golf courses we've tried along with Sebastian's thoughts of each.


Scarborough Family Golf Centre
18 holes, outdoor
Cost - $6.00 for children, $7.50 for adults

My thoughts - I'm starting with my favourite. This medieval-themed course is well-maintained, and each hole has unique challenges to work through. The staff is also super nice. We were there on a day when the course was busy with a children's camp and though Seb and I didn't mind at all, they offered us a complementary game because of the crowds. The ball is not "collected" at hole 18, so you can play through the course multiple times if you want.

Sebastian's thoughts - I loved hole 18 because it goes up, and I loved seeing the ball go down the squiggle paths.

Putting Edge
18 holes, indoor
Cost - $9.50 for children, $11.50 for ages 13+

My thoughts - This one is fun for a rainy day. I'm sure we'll be back in the winter sometime as well. If you've never been to a Putting Edge, it's glow in the dark mini golf, which is pretty fun for kids. There is also a small children's arcade. The balls are collected in the last hole, so you can only play through the course once.

Sebastian's thoughts - I loved it because my shirt glowed white and blue. I also loved the arcade where I won jackpot.

18 holes, outdoor
Cost - 5 tickets for 9 holes, 9 tickets for 18 holes, free with a season pass. 

My thoughts - I was super annoyed that we had to use tickets for Sebastian to play mini golf here after we bought him the children's day pass. The course is pretty minimal and not worth the cost. We only paid for 9 holes, and thankfully they let Rob and I just walk the the course while Seb played.

Sebastian's thoughts - "I was sad I only could play 9 holes, and it was too easy."


Farmer's Pantry
10 holes, outdoor
Cost - $7 per person (gives you access to all of the grounds of the farm)

My thoughts - Farmer's Pantry is a family-run orchard with children's activites in the summer. In addition to mini golf there is a cedar hedge maze, animal petting area, and u-pick fruits. We gathered up some delicious raspberries the day we were there. The mini putt holes are spread out throughout the orchard for you to find. You can play the holes as many times as you'd like.

Sebastian's thoughts - I liked number 10 because it goes onto the grass if you don't golf it the right way.

Georgian Bowl
18 holes, outdoor
Cost - $2 per person 

My thoughts - This course is perfect if you have a little one who doesn't care about keeping score or fancy courses. It's not particularly well-maintained, but it's two dollars, and you can go around as many times as you'd like.

Sebastian's thoughts - I liked it because it of the last level where you had to get it up high on number 18. 

Niagara Falls

Dinosaur Adventure Golf
36 holes, outdoor
Cost - $6.99 for children, $9.99 for adults

My thoughts - This was a fun course right on Clifton Hill. There were water obstacles, caves, and sand traps on some of the holes which made this course stand out from the others. Dinosaur Adventure Golf has two 18-hole courses, and you choose one to play. The ball is collected at the end, so you can only play the course through once.

Sebastian's thoughts - I love that I got a hole in one. I liked when daddy got a hole in one in the rock. I got past the sand trap in my first shot.

Next up, I'm hoping to try out the mini putt at Playdium, and we'll also probably try out the course at Blue Mountain sometime soon. I'll update this post when we do!