Review: Tanya Bakes

Tanya Bakes Book ReviewTitle: Tanya Bakes
Author: Tanya Burr
Publisher: Penguin Random House UK
Publication Date: June 30, 2016
Genre: Cookbook

About Tanya Bakes: Following the phenomenally successful Love, Tanya, Tanya Burr is back with her very first cookbook. In Tanya Bakes, she shares her passion for baking along with all her favourite recipes. As well as cakes and bakes, readers will love Tanya’s delicious and simple puddings, loaves and pastries.

From everyday staple bakes to sweet treats for special occasions, Tanya’s got the perfect recipe, every time:
– Tanya’s Ultimate Celebration Cake
– Banoffee Pie
– Salted Caramel Cheesecake
– Rhubarb and Custard Muffins
– Earl Grey Tea Loaf
– Tanya’s Nanny’s Apple Pie
– Smarties Flapjacks

So make yourself at home in the kitchen with Tanya and treat yourself, your friends and family to something delicious!

Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Review: I have a slight addiction to reading cookbooks and eating good food so when PRHC asked me if I wanted to review Tanya Bakes I was more than happy to oblige. First, I want to talk about this book cover.  It might be the most beautiful cookbook I’ve laid my eyes on.  From the bright and festive background to the gorgeous birthday cake and the text flanked by tiny gold stars. The goodness doesn’t stop with the cover.  The recipes inside are divine.

I’m a mom of three girls so there’s a lot of food talk in my house. One of my daughter’s has an affinity for baking so when Tanya Bakes cookbook showed up at our house she squealed with delight. A few recipes she and I earmarked for weekend baking include Salted Nutella Cookies – six ingredients to what sounds like the best cookie ever. Peaches & Cream Muffins – we are saving this one up for August when fresh, local peaches are abundant and sure to take these muffins over the top. Lemon Drizzle Loaf – I cannot pass up a slice of lemon loaf and will always choose it over chocolate.  Pineapple Upside Down Cake – this is the quintessential dessert of the 1970’s and still going strong in 2018. And finally, Birthday Cake (pictured on the cover) – my little baker requested this one for her birthday next week, surely because it’s decorated with ten million candy sprinkles and a fistful of birthday candles!

If you love cakes, loaves, puddings, and breads, which I think just about everyone does, then you need this cookbook!

 

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Book Review: Need to Know

A5B73AE4-B856-422A-91DC-D34D777BD440Title: Need to Know
Author: Karen Cleveland
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: January 23, 2018

From Doubleday: Vivian and Matt are a seemingly normal suburban couple, experiencing the same struggles as many North American families: juggling work and children, budgeting for a house in a decent school district. They’re in love and life is good. Though Vivian can’t share much about her CIA assignment with him, Matt has always been supportive, and his job as a software engineer allows him the flexibility needed to raise their four kids. But when she makes a startling discovery researching the CIA’s Russian account, everything about her life and her marriage is cast in a new light–forcing her to make impossible and dangerous choices before she loses her job, her family and her life.

I received a free advanced copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my own review. #partner #penguincanada

My Review: NEED TO KNOW has high ratings and top author accolades so I’m in the minority with my review. This is a super-charged CIA / espionage read with an intense premise. When Vivian uncovers a Russian spy ring on U.S. soil she’s on the precipice of danger and losing her career and family.

The good: I love a good CIA spy novel. This one is plot driven with a female lead who I can relate to as a wife and mom. Cleveland cleverly delivers a major wallop in Chapter 2 and I absolutely needed to know more!

The bad: The characters were thinly developed. Vivian has a kick-ass career. It’s not every day I meet a CIA analyst, especially one uncovering Russian sleeper cells so I think Cleveland missed the mark on the main character and narrator of the story. Also, Vivian is ridiculously naive in her personal life yet incredibly savvy professionally which didn’t add up for me.

It was an entertaining enough read and paced quickly enough with short chapters to keep me engaged. The ending was a cliffhanger and left me wondering if there will be a sequel.

 

 

Book Review: The Silent Corner

BBCFD661-661A-40FD-BA56-4740AAB4D2BBTitle: The Silent Corner
Author: Dean Koontz
Publisher: Bantam
Publication Date: June 20, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

From Bantam: “I very much need to be dead.” These are the chilling words left behind by a man who had everything to live for—but took his own life. In the aftermath, his widow, Jane Hawk, does what all her grief, fear, and fury demand: find the truth, no matter what.

People of talent and accomplishment, people admired and happy and sound of mind, have been committing suicide in surprising numbers. When Jane seeks to learn why, she becomes the most-wanted fugitive in America. Her powerful enemies are protecting a secret so important—so terrifying—that they will exterminate anyone in their way.

But all their power and viciousness may not be enough to stop a woman as clever as they are cold-blooded, as relentless as they are ruthless—and who is driven by a righteous rage they can never comprehend. Because it is born of love.

My Review: The first installment of Koontz’s brand new series, Jane Hawk, THE SILENT CORNER is a brilliant cross-genre book, labeled as fiction but ever so gently traverses soft science fiction. This book explores nanotech brain implants and living off the grid. If Dark Matter and The Manchurian Candidate gripped you then this book will consume you – The the storyline is that good!

At 434 pages this book is no small undertaking. It took me a week to read but it never felt arduous with short, insanely intense chapters. This book is a page-turner!

Jane Hawk is an intelligent, bad-ass heroine that dispels any narrowness in thinking women can’t be everything. THE SILENT CORNER is addictive, empowering and belongs on everyone’s reading list!

Book Review: Genuine Fraud

4D5A81DF-071A-4C42-9B9E-AAEC2533CAACTitle: Genuine Fraud
Author: E. Lockhart
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

From Delacorte: Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.

Thank you to PRHC for sending me this finished copy in exchange for my own review.

My Review: GENUINE FRAUD is an engrossing story told in reverse chronological order about a bizarre friendship of two orphans gone wrong. Immie was adopted by a wealthy couple, a globetrotter worth millions she cycles thru relationships. Jule, raised by her aunt, barely scrapes by and is a mastermind proud of her physical strength and street smarts.

Opening up at Chapter 18 Jule West Williams is living a first class lifestyle in a posh Cabo San Lucas hotel pretending to be her best friend Imogen Sokoloff.  A cop catches up with her and Jule pays the bartender to help her leave town. Outside of the confines of the hotel the bartender extorts more money from her and Jule physically assaults him and runs. From here the story is told in flashbacks spanning the past year of Jule and Immie’s friendship jetsetting across Martha’s Vineyard, Puerto Rico, New York, London, California and Mexico.

I can’t tell you anymore without spoiling the plot but I can tell you this book is twisty, gripping and a total thriller! I was left wide-eyed wondering ‘wtf’ just happened?!

What I Liked:

  • Twisted plot
  • Murder. And more murder.
  • Strong women.
  • World travel.
  • Living the high life and not having to work!

What I Didn’t Like:

  • The reverse chronological order was confusing at times.
  • This read more like new adult rather than YA.
  • Unlikeable characters – all of them.
  • Dim-witted cops – if I ever go missing I hope the intelligent ones are assigned my case!

Overall: GENUINE FRAUD is unique and really well written. Lockhart spares no detail in her richly developed characters and plot that packs a punch!

Book Review: The Hopefuls

img_2062Title: The Hopefuls
Author: Jennifer Close
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: July 19, 2016
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 / 5

From Knopf: When Beth arrives in D.C., she hates everything about it: the confusing traffic circles, the ubiquitous Ann Taylor suits, the humidity that descends each summer. At dinner parties, guests compare their security clearance levels. They leave their BlackBerrys on the table. They speak in acronyms. And once they realize Beth doesn’t work in politics, they smile blandly and turn away. Soon Beth and her husband, Matt, meet a charismatic White House staffer named Jimmy, and his wife, Ashleigh, and the four become inseparable, coordinating brunches, birthdays, and long weekends away. But as Jimmy’s star rises higher and higher, the couples’ friendship—and Beth’s relationship with Matt—is threatened by jealousy, competition, and rumors. A glorious send-up of young D.C. and a blazingly honest portrait of a marriage, this is the finest work yet by one of our most beloved writers.

My Review: THE HOPEFULS delivers a fun and engaging insight into political campaign life. The who’s who of Washington, D.C. flashing their security clearances and acronym employers. I’ve always found the whole D.C. political scene intriguing and glamorizing thanks to shows like Scandal and The West Wing. Close superbly blends a double narrative together about the campaign trail and it’s effect on personal relationships.

Beth and Matt trade in their posh NYC lifestyle for D.C. so Matt can join President Obama’s Inauguration Committee. Beth doesn’t fit the culture and never really acclimates and having Matt’s family close by (with a mother-in-law who treats her like an outsider) gives Beth more reason to hate D.C. When they meet Texans Jimmy and Ashleigh (Ash), the four of them hit it off. Matt’s career slows down while Jimmy’s takes off and Matt finds himself running Jimmy’s Texas Railroad Commissioner campaign. The two couples forge a close relationship and move in together during the campaign but friendships and marriages with the best intentions are tough to maintain with the strains of jealousy, tension and temptation.

I listened to the audiobook and really enjoyed the narration, especially the Texas accents. I liked the characters despite Beth being a bit too negative and complain-y in the beginning, overall I think this is a worthy read.

Book Review: Brother

IMG_0911Title: Brother
Author: David Chariandy
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Publication Date: September 26, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 / 5

From McClelland & Stewart: An intensely beautiful, searingly powerful, tightly constructed novel, Brother explores questions of masculinity, family, race, and identity as they are played out in a Scarborough housing complex during the sweltering heat and simmering violence of the summer of 1991.
With shimmering prose and mesmerizing precision, David Chariandy takes us inside the lives of Michael and Francis. They are the sons of Trinidadian immigrants, their father has disappeared and their mother works double, sometimes triple shifts so her boys might fulfill the elusive promise of their adopted home.
Coming of age in The Park, a cluster of town houses and leaning concrete towers in the disparaged outskirts of a sprawling city, Michael and Francis battle against the careless prejudices and low expectations that confront them as young men of black and brown ancestry — teachers stream them into general classes; shopkeepers see them only as thieves; and strangers quicken their pace when the brothers are behind them. Always Michael and Francis escape into the cool air of the Rouge Valley, a scar of green wilderness that cuts through their neighbourhood, where they are free to imagine better lives for themselves.
Propelled by the pulsing beats and styles of hip hop, Francis, the older of the two brothers, dreams of a future in music. Michael’s dreams are of Aisha, the smartest girl in their high school whose own eyes are firmly set on a life elsewhere. But the bright hopes of all three are violently, irrevocably thwarted by a tragic shooting, and the police crackdown and suffocating suspicion that follow.

Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for providing me a free arc in exchange for my honest review. 

My Review: BROTHER is a timely short story and exploration of racism, poverty, and police brutality. This book will strike a chord with humankind. Chariandy doesn’t mince words as this story quickly unfolds about an immigrant Trinidadian family who moved to Canada to find the American Dream.

Brothers, Francis and Michael come of age during the late 80’s / early 90’s. Immigrants were not welcomed and received backlash to go back where they came from. Their mother works long days and wants better for her sons. Food is scarce and racism prevalent. The boys love hip hop music and Francis has high hopes the music scene will get him out of their rundown Scarborough neighbourhood. The brothers are close and do everything together but Michael has a hard time fitting in and navigating the tough crowd Francis befriends. Francis is the older brother and in the absence of a father falls in line as protector and shoulders the responsibility of income also leaving little in the way of being a child. Their mother has one expectation of them and that’s not to screw up this opportunity.

This is not a feel-good story. The narrative intensifies and the final scene is numbing. This book is about brotherly love, social injustice and survival. It felt cold and distant but it’s an important story that’s timely and appropriate for diverse reading.

Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere

IMG_0895Title: Little Fires Everywhere
Author: Celeste NG
Publisher: Penguin Press
Publication Date: September 12, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Penguin: In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

My Review: Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a finished copy of Little Fires Everywhere in exchange for my honest review.

LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE exceeded my expectations in every possible way! Ng’s narrative and plot are top notch and the characters are heroic in their own right. I was 100% invested in this book from page one! I was every bit a part of Shaker Heights community as this brilliant cast of characters and personally woven into the family complexities brimming with every happy and heart breaking moment as I turned each page eager for more.

This is a story about family and community. Shaker Heights, Ohio is proud of its rules, lifelong residents and ordinariness. The Richardson’s are an upper class family who from the outside appear to have it all. Elena is a reporter and her husband an attorney. Their four children are typical, likeable kids. When newcomers Mia and Pearl Warren move into the Richardson’s rental house the family is instantly drawn to the mother and daughter. Mia is an artist who holds down a number of odd jobs to provide for Pearl. She is mysterious and wise and exudes compassion, empathy, courage – I completely and utterly adored her!

Elena and Mia find themselves on opposite sides of a custody battle involving Elena’s longtime friend and a poor immigrant mother. Shaker Heights is divided, damaging secrets are revealed and relationships strained. There are so many complexities woven into this story – an analysis of motherhood and family, vengeance, looking at a family through rose coloured glasses – so, so much intrigue!

I cannot recommend this book enough. It’s beautifully written and one I will hold onto forever and read again.