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.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Under Pressure by Dr. Lisa Damour - Book Review



I have been a middle school teacher for nearly 15 years, and I can confidently say that some of the most significant shifts in education have aligned with the awareness of mental health challenges taxing our teens and how to support them. Under Pressure by Dr. Lisa Damour is a refreshing look at stress and anxiety, and explores how we as parents and educators can help our girls during their tumultuous teenage years. I was fortunate enough to see Dr. Damour speak a few months ago on her book tour. I took pages of notes during her presentation with ideas of how I can best support my students, and I couldn't wait to read her book for more. While Dr. Damour focuses her work on girls, I found so much in her speech, and in her book, helpful for both boys and girls.

Dr. Damour begins her book by sharing the framework through which we should look at stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety have a bad reputation, and it's important to remember that stress and anxiety are often healthy for us. She says, "Stress is what happens when we operate at the edge of our capacities, and when we operate in this arena, we stretch ourselves and grow." Anxiety is closely connected. She describes anxiety as, "the gift that keeps us safe." (She also acknowledges that chronic or traumatic stress and anxiety are real, though different than everyday/healthy stress and anxiety.)

Secondly, we have good kids. Our teens (boys and girls) are the best generation on record. They drink less, smoke less, have less sexual partners, and are doing the most interesting things. This is a hopeful book. Technology has changed the landscape of youth, but it has not made it worse as we may be quick to believe.

With all of that in mind, Dr. Damour explores five areas where girls experience stress and anxiety: at home, with their friendships with other girls, with boys, at school, and as part of the culture society builds for women.

In each chapter, she shares specific examples of girls she has worked with and her advice for coaching them through stressful periods of their lives. Rather than taking a negative view on stress and anxiety, she offers specific language to help girls manage tricky situations in a thoughtful way, so they do not get overwhelmed or scared by their emotions. For example, when a student says she's feeling really nervous about a test, you can reply, "Good! I'm glad you're worried. That's the ideal reaction, because right now you know you're not ready. As soon as you start studying, your nerves will calm down."

Under Pressure is a helpful book for parents, educators, counsellors or anyone else who finds themselves in coaching situations with teens. Through my teacher lens, it gave me much to draw on the next time I need to help one of my students who is feeling stressed or anxious. Through my parenting lens (even as a boy mom), I found much of the book transferrable to how my son may encounter stress and anxiety, and it made me think about how I want to talk to him about his relationships with girls as he grows.

Jenn

Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of Under Pressure from Penguin Random House Canada for review purposes, and my school covered the cost of my ticket to see Dr. Damour speak. All thoughts and opinions are still entirely my own.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Wreck A Journal With Your Little One This Summer

I love the idea of journaling, but blank pages scare me. I think scrapbooking looks like fun, but also, an enormous amount of work. Ages ago, pre-children, I bought a copy of Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith.



I think I did a few pages in it, but it eventually got stuck on my bookshelf beside all of my other unused notebooks.

Enter Sebastian.

This kid loves any and all things ridiculous, so Wreck This Journal is totally his jam. Here are a few examples of the pages inside:

Tie a string to the journal. Go for a walk, drag it.



Infuse this page with a smell of your choosing.
(He chose chocolate, so he's rubbing a piece of chocolate on the page!)



Close your eyes. Connect the dots from memory.



Draw with glue.



Wreck This Journal is an excellent book to have at home and for your little ones. I guarantee they will love it!

xo
Jenn

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