Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Literary Matchmaking With My Parents

I'm a big fan of Anne Bogel and the podcast What Should I Read Next?. My friend, Sara, and I even did a little literary matchmaking for each other here and here.

I thought it would be fun to try this with my parents as well.



My Mom
Books I have loved:
1. The Immigrants by Howard Fast
2. A Nurse's Story by Tilda Shalof
3. For Better or For Worse by Lynn Johnston

A Book I Didn't Like:
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Currently Reading:
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

My mom likes happy endings. She wants a "feel good" story that isn't going to break her heart to pieces. She also likes books that tell someone's story, especially strong women. My mom prefers novels that are set within the last century. She likes historical fiction, but not too far back.

For my mom, I recommend:
1. Garden Spells, Sarah Addison Allen
2. Love and Ruin, Paula McLain
3. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Taylor Jenkins Reid

Bonus suggestions: The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton and Where I Belong by Alan Doyle


My Dad
My three favorite books:
1)  Aztec by Gary Jennings
2)  The Memory Illusion by Dr. Julia Shaw. It sheds a whole new light on how well we think our memories are.
3)  Foundation trilogy by Issac Assimov

A Book I Disliked:
Camino Island by John Grisham. This started out as a page turner but after the first chapter, it turned into something completely different with a very lame ending.  Definitely a waste of time and money.

Currently Reading:
I'm halfway through the first book of Sapiens. I'm enjoying it but it is not something you can spend more than 1 hr at a time on it.

My dad reads both fiction and non-fiction. He likes books that offer glimpses into different cultures and eras, and he likes learning what makes people tick. He loves a compelling story and doesn't want to be bored.

For my dad, I recommend:
1. Blink, Malcolm Gladwell
2. Station Eleven by Emily St. Jean Mandel
3. Indian Horse, Richard Wagamese

Bonus Suggestions: Midnight Light by Dave Bidini, and if he was feeling really brave, Red Leopard Black Wolf by Marlon James.

Happy reading!
xo
Jenn

Monday, 11 February 2019

On Boards by Lisa Dawn Bolton - My New Favourite Cookbook



The kitchen is not my favourite room in the house. In fact, it scares me. I can cook *just* enough to feel that I put together quasi-healthy meals for my family, but I am not a confident chef by any means.

When I discovered On Boards by Lisa Dawn Bolton, I immediately knew this cookbook would be perfect for me. I related to her entirely on page one when she described, "following the recipe to the letter, closing the oven door, and just praying it works." That is exactly how I feel in the kitchen. Her alternative is a cookbook with very little actually cooking. Sign me up!

On Boards is a collection of 50 different meals to serve on a charcuterie board. Her hope is to share ideas for us to plan gorgeous meals that you can prepare in advance for your family or your guests. You can say goodbye to living in the kitchen when your friends are over or stressing about timing for each part of the meal!


Over the past month, I've made four of the boards in this book (Vegan Vibes - pictured above, Eggs & Soldiers Brunch Board - pictured below, Something Sweet, and Date Night In.) Each board comes with a list of "components" (rather than ingredients) and an image to give you inspiration when arranging your own.



Creating these boards has been wicked easy and so much fun. Chop, arrange, snap an photo for Instagram, and serve! I've been inspired to purchase foods I might not have otherwise picked up on my own. One example is the burrata cheese that was a huge hit with our guests recently. No one around the table had even heard of this delicious, fresh-tasting cheese beforehand.

I can also attest that these boards are kid-friendly. There are some boards especially for playdates and littles, but so far my six-year-old has devoured each board I've put in front of him.

I can't recommend this cookbook highly enough. Anyone, no matter your confidence level dans la cuisine, will love it.

On Boards is available anywhere books are sold. For further inspiration, follow @lisadawnbolton on Instagram!

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a complementary copy of On Boards to review. It is getting a lot of love in our house!

Monday, 4 February 2019

17 Non-Fiction Books on my TBR

I'm a huge fiction lover. The past few years, I've read 100 books a year and over 80% of them have been fiction. I love getting lost in stories and escaping real life.

This year, I'm again focusing quite a bit on my unread shelf (which has some non-fiction in it), while I'm completing two different reading challenges:

1. #theunreadshelfproject2019
2. The Toronto Library 2019 Reading Challenge

As I planned out how to meet these challenges, work through my unread books, and tackle a few others I've heard are excellent, I *think* these are going to be 17 non-fiction books I read this year.


Books I own already

We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - I've read three other books by this author, and they've all been excellent. I'm looking forward to this one as well. Her words are alway so powerful.

Midnight Light, Dave Bidini - I saw Dave Bidini speak in the fall, and though Midnight Light is not a book I would ever pick up on my own, he was such a compelling speaker that I am looking forward to reading this book about his time in Yellowknife.

I'd Rather Be Reading, Anne Bogel - I'm probably the only blogger left that hasn't read Anne Bogel's newest book which is essentially a love letter to readers everywhere.

The Orchid and the Dandelion, W. Thomas Bryce - Both the teacher and the parent in me are intrigued in this book about why some children succeed and how all children can thrive.

Daring Greatly, Brené Brown - This will be my first Brené Brown book, I am pretty certain I will love every word.

There Are No Grown Ups, Pamela Drukerman - I often feel like I'm too young to be an adult. I suspect this book will show me I'm not alone!

Expecting Sunshine, Alexis Marie Chute - A friend gifted me this book last year after knowing the struggle we went through with pregnancy loss before Sebastian was born. I don't expect it will be an easy read, but I always say that the more we can tell our stories if we are able, the less we all feel alone.

Howards End is on the Landing, Susan Hill - A book about reading your unread books!

Girl, Stop Apologizing, Rachel Hollis - The more I think about Rachel Hollis, the more skeptical I feel. I was totally drinking the Girl, Wash Your Face juice when her first book came out, but there are a few things I've reflected on that make me wary about some of her messages moving forward. We'll see how this one goes...

Final Report, Rick Mercer - I love Rick Mercer, and I can't wait to read this collection of some of his best rants. And I know my parents want me to read it soon, so they can get their hands on my copy!

I'll Be There For You, Kelsey Miller - Any other Friends fans in the house? This book is a behind the scenes look at the iconic show.

Well-Read Black Girl, Glory Edim - I've been seeing this book all over Instagram lately. It's a collection of essays by black women writers on the importance of literature.

On Boards, Lisa Dawn Bolton - Can I count a cookbook? I'm doing it anyways. I'm reading though this book right now, and, even as a non-chef, I love every page.


Books I'll Get From The Library

Adulthood is a Myth, Sarah Anderson - This graphic novel looks super relatable.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou - One of the topics for the Toronto Library Reading Challenge is to read a book recommended by a librarian. I told my friend I liked memoirs, and this was at the top of her list.

The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown - This book about the about the American rowing team that stunned everyone in the 1936 Olympics is supposed to be extraordinary.

Seven Fallen Feathers, Tanya Talaga - Another challenge from the Toronto Library is to read a book from their Read Indigenous list. I'm thinking of reading this one about residential schools.


What non-fiction books are you hoping to read this year?
xo
Jenn

Thursday, 31 January 2019

A Peek Inside The Matchmaker's List by Sonya Lalli

Sonya Lalli's new novel, The Matchmaker's List, is set in Toronto, Canada. I don't often come across novels that take place in my own hometown, so it was fun to read a novel and be able to visualize the city so well.



Raina is the main character in The Matchmaker's List, and her grandmother owns a restaurant called Saffron. Read on to hear Sonya Lalli describe this restaurant in more detail (a peek not available inside the final book itself!)

My favourite place in The Matchmaker's List is actually somewhere the characters never visit on page: Saffron, Nani's restaurant in Roncevalles.

There used to be a scene featuring Raina and her Nani at Saffron in an earlier draft of the book, so I have the whole thing mapped out in my mind. It’s right on Roncesvalles Avenue, probably sandwiched between a wine bar and a yoga studio, and tastefully decorated. There would be low light, only have about a dozen tables, and the food would be incredible but not too expensive. (Reasonable for downtown Toronto, at least!) It would be the type of Indian restaurant where you could go with coworkers for lunch on a weekday, or after work on a date, or even with your family and kids on a Sunday afternoon. It would be personal, and friendly and vibrant — just like Raina’s Nani. Cooking plays such a big role in Raina’s and Nani’s relationship, and I think Nani’s restaurant is somewhere Raina would feel very at home. In the deleted scene, Raina picks up Nani from Saffron after work because of bad weather, and she doesn’t want her Nani to drive. Going inside to fetch her, Raina looks around and smiles, and thinks back at all the other restaurants her grandparents had run over the years. How they started as immigrants with not very much, and worked hard to gradually grow their business. Two fun facts. One: my real-life Nani is an excellent cook. Two: I named Saffron after a fantastic Indian restaurant that was across the street.

Thanks, Sonya!
xo
Jenn

Monday, 28 January 2019

Until The Last Star Fades by Jacquelyn Middleton - Book Review


Until The Last Star Fades is the newest release from Canadian author Jacquelyn Middleton. If you've read her previous two books, London Belongs to Me and London, Can You Wait?, her new novel takes place in the same world with a few of the same characters popping by; however, it can be read as a standalone. That's what I did!

In this book, we meet Riley and Ben. NYW student Riley is looking for a distraction from some heavy challenges in her life. Here on a temporary visa, British Ben is looking for maximum fun with minimum commitment. They seem like a perfect match. However, Until The Last Star Fades is so much more than a simple love story.

It's difficult to review this book without giving anything away, because there are a lot of layers to this novel, but I want you to know that if you are in the mood for a book that is fun but has substance, you will not be disappointed.

This book tackles both mental and physical health in an emotional and touching way. Life is messy, and it's nice to read a romance that feels real. Even though it's not easy, I like to believe that it's okay to feel hope and fear at the same time. I could tell that Riley and Ben were struggling with that too.

What made me tear up the most when reading this book; however, is that Until The Last Star Fades is, unexpectedly, also a love letter to mothers everywhere. Because moms really are the best.

I hope you pick up Ben and Riley's story, and I sincerely can't wait to read more Jacquelyn Middleton books in the future!

xo
Jenn

PS - One thing that Riley and Ben love to do is send each other songs. To bring Until The Last Star Fades to life, you can listen to the 4 Riles/ 4 Benjamin playlists from the book directly on Spotify. Check out the link here on Jacquelyn Middleton's webpage to listen.

Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of this book courtesy of the author. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Monday, 21 January 2019

Callisto Crate Review - Inaugural Box + promo code



Callisto Crate is a monthly Canadian book box that launched last year. Their mission is to create book boxes that feature strong women and their compelling stories. #shereadsfiercely The novels selected span a variety of genres. Some examples so far have been historical fiction, women's fiction, and fantasy. In addition to the book, the box includes items inspired by the novel and its characters.

I love that this company was started by two moms who met at the playground. I love their efforts to include local vendors, and I especially their commitment to donate 1% of all profits and products to the Kamloops Y Women's Emergency Shelter to support women and children seeking safety from violent situations.

Cost: $49.95 + shipping. There is a discount when you sign up for a 3-month subscription. You can also take 10% off your order with the promo code messy10.
*Also - be sure to check out their sale on past boxes. The shipping is currently free!

Let's peek inside!

 

To begin, there is an art print from one of the founders, Tara Pastro. This watercolour is connected to the story because the protagonist of the novel hates tulips. On the back of the print is a summary of the box theme and contents. This theme is The Elephant in the Room.


The debut Callisto Crate featured a debut author: Gail Honeyman and her novel Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I haven't read this book yet, and I've heard nothing but good things. Such a wonderful selection! Plus, this bookmark with a quote from the book is such a nice touch.


Next is an elephant tea strainer and Darjeeling tea (Eleanor's favourite!) from Teaberry's. I was pleasantly surprised with how much tea was included. It will last me a long while.



Eleanor always has a shopping bag with her and has frog pouf at home, so those two traits where represented together with this frog shopping bag.


Eleanor has pesto pasta every day, so this box includes pesto mix from Made With Love.


To celebrate their inaugural box, Callisto Crate also included a small candle with a quotation from the book.



Finally, a crossword puzzle about the novel because Eleanor loves crossword puzzles!

The products selected really bring the theme together nicely. Many of the items are custom-made, so it's not easy to give exact values for each item; however, I really love this box and the vision of this company.

To sign up for future Callisto Crates, or get your hands on a past box like this one, visit their website. And remember to use the code messy10 for 10% off!

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I was sent a complementary book box from Callisto Crate for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

2019 Reading Goals

I love lists, and I find writing down my goals very helpful. Even if I don't meet every single one; it gives me a direction, and I feel great when I can check some of them off!



Here's what I'm hoping to read in 2019:

1. The 12 challenges for #theunreadshelfproject2019 
My current unread shelf count is 252. I'd like this number to be closer to 200 by December.

▪️January - any unread book
▪️February - a book gifted to you
▪️March - the book that’s been on your shelf the longest
▪️April - the book you most recently acquired
▪️May - a book you bought because of the movie/TV/theater adaptation
▪️June - a book about travel or set in a country you’ve never been to
▪️July - a book from a series on your shelf
▪️August - a book voted for you to read by Bookstagram
▪️September - a book you can buddy read with someone
▪️October - a book that scares you, whether because of length, content, or actual horror level!
▪️November - a book from your favorite genre
▪️December - the shortest book on your shelf


2. Get caught up with the books I've been sent for review (about 25 books)
Sometimes I am sent book for promotional purposes on Instagram (which I don't stress about reading right away), and there are other times I am sent books for review purposes. The publishers and authors I work with are amazing and never pressure me about my reviews; however, this pile is starting to grow taller than I'd like, and I want to get caught up in a serious way. My dream is that every book I was sent for review in 2018 and every book I receive for review in 2019 is reviewed before the end of the year.

3. Read or donate the misc unread books I have by authors with the last name A-I (about 50 books)
I've been reading my unread shelves in alphabetical chunks, and as I work my way through new letters, I always end up acquiring new books from past groups! I've been working on H since August, but I got distracted by a million other books. I'm still working my way through this tower and then will move onto I.


Other soft goals for the year...
  • Read 6 books in French (one every other month or so)
  • Read 100 books for my Goodreads Challenge
  • Read more Canadian authors
  • Read more authors of colour

Here's to some excellent reading in 2019!
xo
Jenn

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

2018 Reading Reflections



Was #theunreadshelfproject2018 successful for me? I mean, I started out with 233 unread books in my house, read 100 books, and ended up with 247 unread books in my house sooo 🙈. On the surface it looks like a hard no, but I still think it was.



A few things happened in my reading life this year:

1. I completed every single challenge put out by @theunreadshelf.

2. I reread three different book series in anticipation of their 2018 new releases.

3. I joined a new in real life book club.

4. I developed both stronger and new relationships with publishers and authors. (Perhaps too strong given the increase in my unread shelf number.)

5. I purged my books hard. Dozens of unread books were either deleted from my Kobo or dropped into our local little free library.

6. I became much more thoughtful about the books I buy and add to our permanent home library.


Overall, I'm happy with how things went with my reading in 2018. I don't plan to reread nearly as much in 2019 (or even at all), so I expect to make a much larger dent into my unread shelf. I'll be sharing more about my 2019 reading goals soon!

Here are a few other book stats I tracked. In brackets are my 2017 numbers to compare.

29 were published in 2018 (31)
21 were ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  reads for me (26)
12 were rereads (4)
12 were nonfiction (17)
3 were novellas (+ 1 book collection of novellas) (same last year!)
92 were by female authors (88)
7 were by authors of colour (I didn't track this last year)
10 were by Canadian authors (9)
1 Seb and I read together (2)
1 book in French (0)

xo
Jenn

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