Tuesday, 31 May 2016

May Book Haul!

It's that time of the month again...time for book hauls! I'm looking forward to reading these stories soon - they all sound awesome. What's one book that you picked up this month?

1. The Boy at the Top of the Mountain by John Boyne      3. The Girls by Emma Cline
2. We're All in This Together by Amy Jones                      4. The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine

"You, Me and the Rest of Us: #NewYorkStories" by Alex Clermont | Book Review

You, Me and the Rest of Us:
by Alex Clermont
Publishing Date: March 31, 2016
Pages: 123 (eBook)
Publisher: See The Sun
Links: Goodreads | IndigoAmazon | Kobo

New York City: the Big Apple, the City that Never Sleeps...whatever you call it, chances are you know it by name, and even if you've never been there, you can probably picture the hustle and bustle in your head. You, Me and the Rest of Us: #NewYorkStories is a collection of short stories that brings the people of NYC to life.

Something I look for a lot in books is character diversity - and this book has it in spades. There are so many different people in this collection, and I really do mean different: there are a variety of races, genders, ages, sexualities...it really reflects the cultures present in the city.

This collection is very much about the "human experience". Everyone deals with different issues in their lives, and with these characters we see everyone from a young man from a small town moving to the big city, to a pair of immigrants envisioning their newborn's future, to a group of vigilantes tired of seeing their friends get killed by cops. We really get to know and feel for people from all walks of life.

The writing in this collection makes the characters so vivid, and it makes me care about them and become invested in their stories. Whether or not I could see myself in each character's situation, I was always able to empathize with them easily and understand why they felt the way they did or why they were reacting the way they were.

I've mentioned before that correct grammar is important to me, and there were quite a few errors in this book, but it didn't take away from my enjoyment of the stories. In fact, out of the 14 stories, there was only one I didn't really identify with. In a collection of stories, I'd say that's a pretty good ratio!

If you love New York City (or the idea of it), I definitely recommend giving this collection of short stories a read.

*This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, 30 May 2016

"Joy" Movie Review & Giveaway! | Movie Monday

Joy (2015)
DVD Release Date: May 3, 2016
Run Time: 2h 4min.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: History/Biography
Links: Best Buy | Amazon | iTunes | Google Play

"Joy is one of those people who rejoiced in making things."

Joy is the true story of a young woman with an entrepreneurial spirit. She was creative from a young age and loved making things, particularly those that solved a problem. When she comes up with an idea for a new mop, she's thrown into the cut-throat world of business and quickly realizes she faces more obstacles than she thought possible.

Joy's story is told to us in a voice-over by her grandmother, which is rather appropriate since she was the one who instilled in Joy that she could do whatever she dreamed of.

Joy's family plays a big, albeit complicated, role in her business journey. We see how her friends and family can make all the difference when they're trying to help each other out. She cares for and houses her whole immediate family and they are ever-present. Her home is chaotic and she's constantly running around trying to keep everyone in line while also fixing everything herself. As a viewer, it's kind of funny to see how hectic everything is in her household because you'd think she wouldn't be able to get anything done with all the things that go wrong. And yet, Joy manages to think up a game-changing invention.

What started as a great idea being manufactured out of her father's garage, turned into a business empire. In order to get there though, Joy had to endure a whole lot of hardships. She faced the trials of starting a business, the frustration and heartbreak that come with the unsuccessful days and the failures, and the disappointment that comes when people give up on you.

Through it all, she comes up with creative ways of getting the word out about her business and she perseveres because she believes in her product. She grows a lot in the business world - she learns the ins and outs and never lets anyone walk all over her, taking matters into her own hands when things go wrong. No matter how many setbacks she faces, she keeps going. She finds a way.

Jennifer Lawrence, as always, gives a great performance as Joy, and she has an Oscar nomination to show for it.

My one complaint about this movie is that it was very long, and did drag on at times. Overall though, I really enjoyed it.

Joy is a film with a lot of heart. It's an inspirational, endearing, and often funny tale about creativity, hard work, brains, and a whole lot of perseverance.

Joy is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD. Check out the trailer below:


And now for the giveaway! ThinkJam and Fox Home Entertainment very kindly provided me with a Blu-Ray & Digital HD copy of Joy to give away.

Rules for this giveaway:

1. You must be following my blog - this giveaway is for my readers!

2. It is open to residents of Canada (Sorry to readers everywhere else, shipping from Canada is extortionate!)

3. If selected as the winner, you must be willing to provide me with your address so I can send you your prize.

4. I will email you if you are selected as the winner, and you must respond within 48 hours, otherwise another winner will be chosen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*A review copy was sent to me by ThinkJam and Fox Home Entertainment in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, 27 May 2016

"The Voodoo Killings" by Kristi Charish | Book Review

The Voodoo Killings by Kristi Charish
Publishing Date: May 10, 2016
Pages: 352
Publisher: Vintage Canada
Links: Goodreads | Indigo | Book Depository | Amazon | Kobo

In a world where zombies and ghosts are publicly accepted as real, and where (before it was outlawed) zombies were raised to help solve their own murders, Kincaid Strange is a badass "practitioner" - essentially a necromancer, though she prefers not to be associated with dead people sex stuff - just trying to pay her rent. But things take a twisted turn when she gets a call about a new zombie - one unlike any she's seen before.

When I first heard the plot of this story, I was completely intrigued. I love books with supernatural elements and I don't know that I've ever read an urban fantasy novel before - certainly not like this one, anyway. It uses tropes we know well - zombies, ghosts, necromancy - and spins a page-turning tale of mystery, betrayal, and an underground city.

As I started the novel, I was instantly drawn to Kincaid Stange's (can we just take a moment to appreciate how cool that name is?) snark. I find snarky and sarcastic characters very entertaining, and Kincaid is all of these things. Also badass, she's a complete badass.

The story is set in Seattle, where the Otherside is stronger due to the city's proximity to water. Kincaid "pulls a globe" every time she needs to examine a zombie's bindings, a habit that's taking its toll on her health, and calls on her ghost roommate, Nate, by writing on mirrors. "Ghost" as in actual ghost, not as in rarely there. Nate, a now-deceased 90's grunge rock star, is one of my favourite characters as he provides a lot of comic relief.

I got a lot of iZombie vibes from this story which, for me, is a really great thing because it's one of my favourite TV shows (and the comics are great, too). We've got zombies, a Seattle setting, and there's even a brief mention of someone getting their brains from a morgue!

The Voodoo Killings is the first in a new series and personally, I cannot wait for the next novel. This is definitely one of my favourite books of the year, if not ever. The story will thrill you and the ending will leave you itching for the next one!

*This book was sent to me by Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Neil Pasricha at the Appel Salon! | Event Recap

Yesterday I attended an event at the Toronto Public Library's Appel Salon featuring Neil Pasricha, author of The Book of Awesome and most recently, The Happiness Equation.

Rachel Giese interviews Neil Pasricha

He talked about what it means to be happy and discussed several different ways we can try to improve our happiness, including the formula he presents in his newest book:

"Want nothing + Do anything = Have everything"

Neil is such a great speaker and it was absolutely fascinating to listen to this discussion on happiness! I've been to quite a few of these events and this was definitely one of my favourite talks. I highly recommend watching the interview on the Toronto Public Library's YouTube channel once it's uploaded!

Me and Neil Pasricha

After the event, Neil did a signing and he was so friendly, taking the time to talk to everyone - and check out the awesome signed book!

My signed copy of The Book of Awesome

I haven't read The Happiness Equation yet, although I'll certainly be picking it up soon. In the meantime, I recommend checking out Michelle's review over at Musings of a Writer!

If you live in the Toronto area or are interested in attending, you can check out a list of upcoming events at the Appel Salon here.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Day 2 Progress | Bout of Books 16

Number of books I'm reading: 1

Title: The Voodoo Killings by Kristi Charish

Pages read today: 21

How did you do on Day 2? Feel free to let me know in a comment below and remember to have fun during the read-a-thon! :)

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Day 1 Progress | Bout of Books 16

I didn't read very much on day 1, but you know what? That's ok because I'm going to do better for the rest of Bout of Books!

Number of Books I'm Reading: 1

Title: The Voodoo Killings by Kristi Charish

Pages Read Today: 13

How did you do on Day 1? Feel free to let me know in a comment below and remember to have fun during the read-a-thon! :)

Monday, 9 May 2016

"The Choice" Review | Movie Monday

The Choice (2015)
DVD Release Date: May 3, 2016
Run Time: 111 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Romance, Drama
Links: Best BuyAmazon |  iTunes | Google Play

Travis (Benjamin Walker, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) and Gabby (Teresa Palmer, Warm Bodies) start off as neighbours and quickly fall in love. But will they be able to weather the hardships life throws at them?

This film is based on the book by Nicholas Sparks, and I have a feeling that if you've ever read or seen anything that Nicholas Sparks has had a hand in, you pretty much know what to expect: the couple gets off to a rocky start but realize they're in love, and then tragedy strikes.

Travis is a fun-loving, cocky guy, while Gabby is studious, and struck by Travis' quips. They meet when Gabby (wrongly) accuses Travis' dog of getting her own dog pregnant. Their personalities often clash and they seem like they might not work, but for some reason, they just fit together.

Some of the writing and acting were a little awkward at times, but I like to kind of suspend my disbelief for this kind of movie and accept that I'm in a soppy romantic drama.

Being the sap that I am, I cried tears happy and sad. It's a typical Nicholas Sparks story that gets you invested in the couple and then makes something bad happen to them, with you hoping all the while that things work out happily. This one will make you laugh and pull at your heartstrings, especially if you're a hopeless romantic.

The Choice is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD. Check out the trailer below:

*A review copy was sent to me by Lionsgate in exchange for an honest review.

"Batch" by Joel MacCharles & Dana Harrison | Book Review

Batch by Joel MacCharles & Dana Harrison
Publishing Date: May 3, 2016
Pages: 352
Publisher: Appetite by Random House
Links: Goodreads | Indigo | Book Depository | Amazon

It all started with a blog. In 2008, the food blog "WellPreserved.ca" was created; it now holds more than 700 recipes and has inspired a food festival, pop-up events, and even a graphic design company.

The first part of the book gives you instructions on seven different styles of preserving, including fermenting, cellaring, and infusing, which are the methods I used in the recipes I'll talk about at the end of this post. For complete beginners like me, these chapters will basically be your preserving Bible because they give you the basic knowledge you need to get started.

The recipes are organized by ingredient, which makes grocery store trips a dream when you're making things from this book. In each chapter, you'll learn a few different ways to preserve an ingredient, such as peaches, peppers, and meat. At the end of each chapter, there are recipes that show you the delicious ways you can use the preserves you've just made.

Along with each recipe, you can see the level of difficulty which, as a complete newcomer to preserving, I really valued. I wanted to start off easy so I could learn along the way and work up to some harder recipes.

Clockwise from left: Penne a la Chili-Infused Vodka (p. 178);
Fermented Pancakes with Maple Syrup with Dried Blueberries
(pp. 140 & 132); Fridge Pickles (p. 194)
The first things I made were Fermented Pancakes with Maple Syrup with Dried Blueberries. The maple syrup was easy to make, but you need to be very careful not to burn the syrup because that can happen in an instant. The pancakes were time-consuming (as pancakes generally are) but completely worth it because in all honesty, they are the best pancakes I've ever had - and my whole family was in agreement! My only problem was that there seems to be a missing step in the recipe - it never tells you what to do with the egg yolk mixture. Basically though, you just have to combine everything.

The pickles were by far the easiest recipe I made, and they were such a yummy snack.

Being the pasta freak I am, the penne recipe was definitely my favourite out of all the things I made. The recipe calls for chilies, but I went a step down in heat and used jalapenos instead. This recipe is SO delicious, I can't recommend it enough. It was my first time eating and making penne a la vodka, but it certainly won't be the last time!

I'm really pleased with how all the recipes I tried turned out, and I'm looking forward to trying more of these recipes and methods this summer when there are more foods in season!

*This book was sent to me by Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

My Goals and TBR List! | Bout of Books 16

Hey guys! A few days ago I announced that I'm once again participating in Bout of Books. I'm very excited to say that I'm a Bout of Books "expert" this time around, which means I'll be visiting lots of blogs and cheering people on (which I encourage everyone to do anyway)!

Over the course of the week, I'd like to read:

1. The Voodoo Killings by Kristi Charish
2. You, Me and the Rest of Us: #NewYorkStories by Alex Clermont
3. In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware


  • Read 2 novels
  • Read 1 short story collection
  • Participate in at least 1 Twitter chat
  • Participate in at least 3 challenges
  • Make daily progress posts
  • Read for at least 1 hour per day

What do you want to read during Bout of Books?

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

"Sirocco" by Sabrina Ghayour | Book Review

Sirocco by Sabrina Ghayour
Publishing Date: May 3, 2016
Pages: 240
Publisher: Appetite by Random House
Links: Goodreads | Indigo | Book Depository | Amazon

The word "sirocco" means "a hot, dry wind blowing from East to West, often carrying with it flavours of the Mediterranean". And this cookbook is exactly that.

Sabrina Ghayour is back with her second cookbook, full of delicious recipes from the Middle East and the Mediterranean. The recipes are inspired by the flavours of the East, but use the ingredients and cooking styles of the West. From snacks to main dishes to desserts, Ghayour uses simple, everyday ingredients to make wonderfully flavourful food.

As I flipped through this book looking for recipes I wanted to try, I found myself flagging practically everything - the recipes just sound (and the photography looks) that good!

As the introduction suggests, it's easy to find most of the ingredients required in this cookbook. For the recipes I decided to make, all the ingredients were either things I had at home, or things that we regularly buy for our household anyway. It was convenient to not have to look for "special" ingredients!

Clockwise from left: Dark Chocolate & Pistachio Cookies (p. 219);
Kofta Burgers (p. 181); Two-Cheese Melts with Thyme-Roasted
Onions (p. 30); Grape Leaf-Baked Feta (p. 81)
I ended up making two appetizer/snack recipes, one main dish, and a dessert. All of them were delicious. I think my personal favourite was either the Kofta Burgers or the Two-Cheese Melts with Thyme-Roasted Onions, but it's a tough competition.

Everything was pretty simple/easy to make and didn't require a whole lot of effort, which is a plus. I think people of most skill levels in the kitchen would be able to make these recipes with no problems.

To top it all off, these recipes are approved by everyone in my family who tried them, which means that in some cases, they're even picky-people-approved!

Sirocco is full of simple, delicious recipes and it has quickly become my favourite cookbook!

*This book was sent to me by Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, 2 May 2016

May TBR Pile!

This month my aim is to read four books: the three pictured, plus an ebook.

1. The Voodoo Killings by Kristi Charish
2. The Hatching by Ezekiel Boone
3. In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

March/April Book Haul!

Hi everyone! I hope you're all well. Today I come to you with my March/April Book Haul. There was no haul last month because I had something major happen at the end of March and just did not feel up to writing anything for a while. But here we are now - on to the haul!

1. In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware                       12. Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley
2. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo                                    13. Binge by Tyler Oakley
3. The Voodoo Killings by Kristi Charish                     14. This is Happy by Camilla Gibb
4. Let's Get Lost by Adi Alsaid                                  15. Until We Meet Again by Renee Collins
5. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld                                  16. Bream Gives Me Hiccups by Jesse Eisenberg
6. I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh                          17. The Searcher by Simon Toyne
7. The Hatching by Ezekiel Boone                             18. Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn
8. Night Film by Marisha Pessl                                   19. Blown Red by Susan Philpott
9. Sirocco by Sabrina Ghayour                                   20. Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash
10. Batch by Joel MacCharles & Dana Harrison           21. Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray
11. Spark Joy by Marie Kondo