Friday, November 30, 2018

Review: Modern Baking

Summary: Donna Hay, Australia's bestselling, favourite and most trusted cook, brings you one of her most beautiful books yet: Modern Baking, with over 250 mouthwatering recipes for cakes,biscuits and all kinds of divinely delicious sweet treats. I find there's something truly enchanting about baking. From the way ingredients change as they're whisked and whipped, to the joy that a warm slice of cake can bring - it's always been my first love in the kitchen. Even though I'm a classics girl at heart, I'm forever adding on-trend twists to my sweet recipes and I want to share them with you. This book is what I like to think of as my modern baking bible. Inside are more than 250 recipes - my all-time favourite essentials, plus some super-smart shortcuts for when life gets crazy busy. I've also included plenty of better-for-you treats, made with wholesome raw ingredients, for a touch of balance. Be it chewy cookies, the fudgiest brownies, dreamy meringue or creamy iced desserts, let these modern sweets bring a little magic into your kitchen. -- 4th Estate/Harper 360

It's that time of year when I love to bake cookies and other holiday treats! So it was perfect timing when the new cookbook MODERN BAKING: CAKES, COOKIES AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN by Donna Hay arrived on my doorstep. Granted my arm almost fell off when I picked up this sturdy book. It's huge in the very best way, about 400 pages; and it looks like a coffee table book. This is one amazing cookbook for bakers!

MODERN BAKING is absolutely beautiful! The photographs are even swoon-worthy. I swear I gained a pound or two just drooling over them. Donna Hay, author of twenty cookbooks, has definitely outdone herself with this one. There are more than 250 recipes; and, as the author states, "this book is what I like to think of as my modern baking bible."

MODERN BAKING is even organized extremely well. The chapters are: Chocolate; Caramel, Toffee, and Coffee; Sugar and Spice; Fruit and Berries; and Milk and Cream. Now that I have your attention...! Just kidding, but I thought it was funny that she began this book with Chocolate! As someone who has less time than ever to bake this holiday season, I absolutely love that each chapter has a "Quick Fix" section. There is also a section in each chapter called "Fresh and Light" which definitely appeals to me too!

I could write pages just listing the incredible recipes... and I'd still be leaving some out. Suffice it to say, that I am not a huge chocolate lover, so the caramel and fruit sections were my favorites. What I really appreciated is that there are traditional favorites in this book, but there are also twists on classics and entirely new (and interesting) recipes.

I can't wait to add a few of these recipes to my routine Christmas baking. There is a Choc-Toffee Pretzel Bark that's screaming out to me as well as a Peanut Butter Fudge that looks amazing. And don't even get me started on the White Chocolate and Rhubarb Jam Drops! My husband grows rhubarb for me, and that recipe looks delicious.

There really is something for everyone in MODERN BAKING from the wide variety of recipes, to the quick ones, to the healthy ones. As a result, I think it's a perfect Christmas gift for the baker in your life!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this cookbook.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Mailbox Monday

If it's Monday, it's Mailbox Monday! It's ironic that I've had absolutely no time to read the past week, yet I received so many books. Good thing most of them are picture books for Kid Konnection.

HUG ME LITTLE BEAR Finger Puppet Book came from Chronicle Books

HUG  ME LITTLE BUNNY Finger Puppet Book came from Chronicle Books

LITTLE PLANE by Taro Gomi came from Chronicle Books

IT'S UP TO YOU, ABE LINCOLN: HOW I MADE THE BIGGEST DECISIONS OF MY LIFE by Tom & Leila Hirschfeld came from Crown Books

SAVING MEGHAN by D.J. Palmer came from St. Martin's Press

MOM AND ME, ME AND MOM by Miguel Tanco came from Chronicle Books

CATCH ME: A SEEK-AND-FIND Book by Anders Arhoj came from Chronicle Books

What was in your mailbox?

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Kid Konnection: Mrs. Claus Takes the Reins

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you a picture book that's perfect for Christmas!

Summary: It’s Christmas Eve morning, and Santa Claus is still in bed! He’s feeling stuffy and sneezy and slow as a yeti. Will Christmas have to be canceled? Not this year! Because Mrs. Claus is ready to take the reins in Santa’s place. With a plan in mind, Mrs. Claus assembles the crew, maps out the route, and preps the sleigh. Then, with a snap of the reins, she shoots off into the night. Delivering gifts all over the world without Santa’s magic won’t be easy, but Mrs. Claus proves she has some holiday sparkle of her own…

With lively rhyming text and adorable artwork, this delightful Christmas adventure will get kids into the holiday spirit. -- Two Lions

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, it's time to focus on Christmas! And I have an adorable picture book to share with you -- it's MRS. CLAUS TAKES THE REINS by Sue Fliess and illustrated by Mark Chambers. This book is so darn cute, and it shows that sometimes it takes a woman to save the day!

When Santa oversleeps and wakes up feeling stuffy, Mrs. Claus decides that she will take his place. She organizes the trip including assembling the crew and mapping the route. And then she's off. There are a few bumps along the way, but Mrs. Claus is ever so resourceful and fills in for Santa despite missing that old Santa magic!

I absolutely loved this cute book. The text is rhyming and so fun to read, and the illustrations are whimsical and perfect for this story. I especially appreciated how the illustrator drew a plaid pattern on Mrs. Claus' green jacket! Some of the pictures were so darn funny. For example, the last page of the book when the elves hoist Mrs. Claus into the air is hilarious!

I think MRS. CLAUS TAKES THE REINS is a terrific book for this holiday season. Highly recommended!

Thanks to Blue Slip Media for providing a review copy of this picture book.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Review: Goodbye, Paris

Summary: Jojo Moyes meets Eleanor Oliphant in Goodbye, Paris, an utterly charming novel that proves that sometimes you have to break your heart to make it whole.

Grace once had the beginnings of a promising musical career, but she hasn’t been able to play her cello publicly since a traumatic event at music college years ago. Since then, she’s built a quiet life for herself in her small English village, repairing instruments and nurturing her long- distance affair with David, the man who has helped her rebuild her life even as she puts her dreams of a family on hold until his children are old enough for him to leave his loveless marriage. -- Touchstone

Both my college-age daughter and I read GOODBYE, PARIS by Anstey Harris, and not surprisingly, we had different opinions of this novel. I enjoyed it quite a bit thought it was a heartwarming story, while my daughter thought it was just okay... and very predictable! I'm sure there are readers who will agree with each of us.

GOODBYE, PARIS tells the story of Grace, a woman who owns an instrument shop where she makes and repairs violins. She once had a promising music career, but she can't even pick up her cello without having a panic attack. She leads a pretty quiet life with her only friends being a charming older man and an angst-ridden teenage girl She also happens to have a long-distance romantic relationship with David, a married man. Grace has agreed to put her life on hold, including have a child of her own, until David's children are old enough for him to leave his wife. (See why my daughter found parts of this novel to be predictable?)

Grace eventually realizes the bitter truth about David, and it sends her reeling. However, with the help of her friends, Grace discovers that she's much stronger than she ever thought; and she even manages to overcome her past fears and truly blossom!

I found GOODBYE, PARIS to be a charming book that definitely warmed my heart. I loved Grace (even though she was a little obtuse at times), and I really appreciated her friendship with Mr. Williams and Nadia. I will admit that the book was a little predictable, but that didn't bother me at all. I especially enjoyed seeing how Grace bounced back despite numerous setbacks.

In addition to the great characters, I really was impressed with Ms. Harris' writing. Her character development was delightful, and her prose was beautiful. I loved how she revealed Grace's troubled past and the way she showed how Grace overcame this. It really was a story about redemption and second chances, and who doesn't love a story with those messages?

GOODBYE, PARIS would make a great book club selection. The story is guaranteed to entertain, but I also think there's plenty to discuss about Grace. She makes some very questionable choices that are certain to stimulate discussion. In addition, there are also some serious topics which many readers will want to talk about. Some of the themes you might want to discuss include loss, fear, forgiveness, second chances, and anxiety. Check out the reading guide for more topics.

I definitely enjoyed GOODBYE, PARIS and highly recommend it to fans of charming stories about women and friendship.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Mailbox Monday

If it's Monday, it's Mailbox Monday! Last week I had an abundance of books. This week is much more in line with what I've been getting the past few months.

It was only one book but isn't the cover gorgeous?
THE SONGBIRD by Marcia Willett came from Thomas Dunne Books

What was in your mailbox?

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Kid Konnection: Duck and Hippo Give Thanks

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you a picture book that celebrates Thanksgiving!

Summary: It’s the day before Thanksgiving, and Hippo has his heart set on having a good old-fashioned feast with Duck and their friends. Together, Duck and Hippo go shopping for food and invite Turtle, Elephant, and Pig to share the special day with them. Then they get everything ready. But while Hippo goes to bed dreaming of his good old-fashioned Thanksgiving, Duck is busy making her own plans. There’s going to be a BIG surprise—one that will remind Hippo of all he has to be thankful for. Join Duck and Hippo for a memorable celebration! -- Two Lions

DUCK AND HIPPO GIVE THANKS by Jonathan London and illustrated by Andrew Joyner is really the perfect way to get in the mood for Thanksgiving! This adorable picture book about two unlikely friends, Duck and Hippo, celebrates the excitement surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday while also celebrating the true meaning of friendship.

Duck and Hippo decide to throw a traditional Thanksgiving with all of their friends. These two friends couldn't be more different (think the Odd Couple) with Duck's happy-go-lucky attitude and Hippo's more serious tone. Duck and Hippo work mightily hard to plan for their Thanksgiving dinner including a hilarious trip to the grocery store.

Hippo has everything ready to go -- the old-fashioned apple pie, the old-fashioned pumpkin pie, the old-fashioned acorn squash, and even table decorations. Everything looks perfect and Hippo is so excited; however, none of his friends show up! When they finally arrive, Hippo is shocked to find that they were late because they had a surprise planned for him... except that Hippo wasn't so sure that he appreciated their surprise. That is until he saw his friends' smiling faces and realized the true meaning of friendship!

I love Duck and Hippo! These two friends couldn't be more different, but they both have huge hearts and are great to each other. DUCK AND HIPPO GIVE THANKS recognizes their differences, while also showing children that people don't have to be the same to be good friends. In addition, I appreciated that the book celebrates Thanksgiving, both in the traditional way and the "Friendsgiving" way.

To get a better idea of these adorable characters and DUCK AND HIPPO GIVE THANKS, check out this book trailer:
If you want even more Duck and Hippo, check out the free downloadable activity pages.

Thanks to Blue Slip Media for providing a review copy of this picture book.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Review: Marilla of Green Gables

Summary: A bold, heartfelt tale of life at Green Gables . . . before Anne: A marvelously entertaining and moving historical novel, set in rural Prince Edward Island in the nineteenth century, that imagines the young life of spinster Marilla Cuthbert, and the choices that will open her life to the possibility of heartbreak—and unimaginable greatness.

Plucky and ambitious, Marilla Cuthbert is thirteen years old when her world is turned upside down. Her beloved mother dies in childbirth, and Marilla suddenly must bear the responsibilities of a farm wife: cooking, sewing, keeping house, and overseeing the day-to-day life of Green Gables with her brother, Matthew and father, Hugh.

In Avonlea—a small, tight-knit farming town on a remote island—life holds few options for farm girls. Her one connection to the wider world is Aunt Elizabeth "Izzy" Johnson, her mother’s sister, who managed to escape from Avonlea to the bustling city of St. Catharines. An opinionated spinster, Aunt Izzy’s talent as a seamstress has allowed her to build a thriving business and make her own way in the world. 

Emboldened by her aunt, Marilla dares to venture beyond the safety of Green Gables and discovers new friends and new opportunities. Joining the Ladies Aid Society, she raises funds for an orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity in nearby Nova Scotia that secretly serves as a way station for runaway slaves from America. Her budding romance with John Blythe, the charming son of a neighbor, offers her a possibility of future happiness—Marilla is in no rush to trade one farm life for another. She soon finds herself caught up in the dangerous work of politics, and abolition—jeopardizing all she cherishes, including her bond with her dearest John Blythe. Now Marilla must face a reckoning between her dreams of making a difference in the wider world and the small-town reality of life at Green Gables. -- William Morrow

There was quite a bit of buzz at this year's Book Expo for MARILLA OF GREEN GABLES by Sarah McCoy. I met Sarah a few years ago and I am a huge fan of her books (and basically Sarah too -- she's delightful!) But I admit that I was a bit hesitant to read a prequel to ANNE OF GREEN GABLES. I read ANNE for the first time earlier this year ( I know - it's hard to believe), and I absolutely loved the book. So it begged the question, "Would a prequel live up to this classic novel?"

I am happy to say that it did. I loved MARILLA OF GREEN GABLES! I never should have doubted Sarah -- she's a terrific writer, and her novel is definitely "ANNE - worthy." This book had the same feel as ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, and I fell in love with Marilla, Green Gables, and the other characters. It was absolutely charming and heartwarming and all those other words that basically mean I just loved this book!

MARILLA OF GREEN GABLES tells the story of Marilla Cuthbert. The novel begins when Marilla was thirteen years old and living in Avonlea. She meets her Aunt Izzy, who is quite a character and definitely a woman ahead of her time; and she gives Marilla an idea of what life can be outside of her small world!

Despite losing her mother at any early age, Marilla makes the best of her situation. She ventures outside of her farm life (making new friends and falling for a guy), and and begins doing charitable works for others. She even becomes involved in an orphanage that acts as a station for runaway slaves from America. Marilla is selfless and kind, and her involvement in politics and abolition help to create the woman we meet in ANNE OF GREEN GABLES.

I found MARILLA OF GREEN GABLES to be such a beautiful work of fiction. The author brought Green Gables and its characters to life, and it was so fun to see who they were before Anne changed their lives forever (in the very best way!) I especially appreciated Marilla's romance with John Blythe. While it didn't end exactly the way I wanted (no surprise there!), it really helped explain how Marilla turned out to be a spinster and living with her brother.

Fans of ANNE OF GREEN GABLES will love this book -- I promise! However, I also think anyone who loves a heartwarming story about a woman discovering herself will enjoy it too. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy at this year's Book Expo.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Mailbox Monday

It's been quite a few years since I've participated in Mailbox Monday, but I've been blogging less since I started working full-time, and I still want to share with you the great books that are on my radar!

I had a fantastic week of book goodies -- I can't remember the last time I received so many books! So many of them look terrific -- what stands out to you?
THE DUKE THAT I MARRY by Cathy Maxwell came from Avon Books

THE OTHER MISS BRIDGERTON by Julia Quinn came from Avon Books

SAVE ME FROM DANGEROUS MEN by S.A. Lelchuk came from Flatiron Books

THE MOTHER-IN-LAW by Sally Hepworth came from St. Martin's Press

EGGS ON ICE by Laura Childs came from Berkley

THE BEAUTIFUL STRANGERS by Camille De Maio came from Lake Union

DRAGONSHADOW by Elle Katharine White came from Harper Voyager

MRS. CLAUS TAKES THE REINS by Sue Fliess and illustrated by Mark Chambers came from Two Lions

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Kid Konnection: First Snow

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you a picture book that celebrates kids' favorite part of winter -- snow!

Summary: Snowflakes falling! What a treat! Friends gather outside to celebrate the first snowfall of the season with snowball fights, sledding, building igloos, drinking hot chocolate, and making the most of a windy, wintry day. With rhyming text and cheerful illustrations, this is a charming celebration of the winter season. -- Albert Whitman & Co.

I'm certainly not looking forward to the first snow of the year, but FIRST SNOW by Nancy Viau and illustrated by Talitha Shipman is cute enough that maybe, just maybe, I'll crack a smile when I see those white flakes falling!

FIRST SNOW is an adorable picture book about two kids (and their friends) and their excitement for the first snow. The text in the book is short and sweet.. and perfect for toddlers; and the rhyming cadence of the words makes it fun to read aloud. I think this book captures the essence of children's joy surrounding snow absolutely perfectly.

In addition to the little story, the illustrations are precious. I love the bright colors set against the white snowy background, and the kids (and dog) in the story are too cute. Even the endpaper is fun with its collection of colorful winter hats and mittens.

FIRST SNOW is a beautiful and fun book that kids will love. Highly recommended!

Thanks to Blue Slip Media for providing a review copy of this picture book.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!