Month: August 2020

The Whale Child Book Review

“You have family on land as you do in the sea. . . being a caretaker of the earth begins with taking care of the water that all life depends on.”

About The Whale Child

Shiny is a whale child. One day his mother teaches him about the harm the world’s oceans are facing because of ourcarelessness. Shiny agrees to be turned into a boy by the ocean’s water spirit so that he can visit the land and alert people to the dangers.

He meets Alex, a young Coast Salish girl, who learns from him that the living spirit of water exists in everything – glaciers, rivers, oceans, rain, plants, and all living creatures. Together the two travel the world, confronting the realities of a planet threatened by an uncertain future.

Inspired by Shiny, Alex makes the promise to become a teacher for future generations. She realizes that the timeless Indigenous value of environmental stewardship is needed now more than ever and that we must all stand up on behalf of Mother Earth.

Our Thoughts

“The spirit of the ocean moves within every drop of water, traveling the globe within the bubbling, rolling waves, within the seafoam on the still surface and down into the deepest trenches carved in the ocean floor…It has chosen you to share this wisdom with the humans, who will be responsible for what happens to the earth” – The Whale Child

The Whale Child is a powerful, beautifully written story that challenges you to examine your community and the impact that you are having on the environment and our oceans with a message that touches both adults and children.

Shiny is born a very special whale, full of kindness, curiosity and an understanding of the world around him. His Mother teaches him not only how to survive but also the importance of the ocean, and how water is the source of life. He is chosen for a very special mission – to turn into a human boy and remind the humans of the impact they are having on the oceans and the consequences this can bring.

Alex is a bright young girl from the Coast Salish people who are indigenous to the Pacific Northwest Coast. Shiny is her brother from the water and he will guide and teach her to remember all of the things that they may have been forgotten.

“Seeing what is bad will make you realize the good you can do. Take one smart step in the right direction and the next will come much easier” – The Whale Child

Shiny and Alex set off on a special journey to see the impact that humans have had on Alex’s home. We see the impact that plastic, pollution, over harvesting has had on Alex’s home and the bigger picture that this has on our earth. The experience is difficult for Alex (and readers!) but so important, and like Shiny tells us, we need to see the bad in order to see all of the good that we can do. Their journey together is short but makes a great impact on young Alex. She is determined to be a champion of the water and share the knowledge that she was shown.

The Whale Child is beautifully written and powerful, I enjoyed reading the book with my son. The story gives you a greater understanding of the world around us, the importance of our oceans and our place in protecting the waters. The book contains beautiful illustrations at key points during the story that help readers understand the messaging of the story. I loved that the authors included at the end of the story the following resources: glossary, student resources (which included information on the indigenous tribes in this region as well as projects that students can complete to enhance their learning) and classroom discussions. The Whale Child is a powerful, beautiful story that all young children (and adults too) should be encouraged to read and discuss both in the classroom and at home. Our youth play an important role in protecting the environment, and this should be encouraged. A definite must read story for youth and adults.

You can purchase a copy of this book on Penguin, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Rating: 5/5

About the Authors

KEITH T. A. EGAWA is a novelist who focuses on both adult and children’s literature. He is a Washington native and a member of the Lummi Indian Nation. Egawa’s extensive experience in the field of child welfare has provided him with both inspiration and insight into his subject matter.

CHENOA T. Y. EGAWA is Coast Salish of the Lummi and S’Klallam Nations of Washington State. She is a medicine woman, singer, writer, illustrator, photographer, and teacher dedicated to bringing healing to our Mother Earth and to people of all origins. She is a voice to bring Native wisdom and perspectives to the world when these teachings are particularly poignant reminders of our shared responsibility to live with respect for ourselves, one another, and all that gives us life.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Life in the Camel Lane: Embrace the Adventure

iRead Book Tours

Life in the Camel Lane: Embrace the Adventure is what Doreen Cumberford, a Scottish author, calls her learnoire! It is a combination of her story and the stories of other expats learned while living in Saudi Arabia for 15 years as expat employees or spouses.

About Life in the Camel Lane: Embrace the Adventure

Life in the Camel Lane: Embrace the Adventure is what Doreen Cumberford, a Scottish author, calls her learnoire! It is a combination of her story and the stories of other expats learned while living in Saudi Arabia for 15 years as expat employees or spouses. The book takes the reader through the four stages of culture shock: arrival, honeymoon, frustration and adjustment stages to final acceptance followed by the return journey back to their home country – mostly the USA. From Saudi weddings, to falconry, to the inability of women to drive at that time, the book seeks to familiarize us with the Saudi culture, lifestyle, and deep traditions of hospitality, generosity and tolerance from an insider’s perspective. There are also chapters on the experiences of 9/11 in the terrorists’ home country and the “Terror Years” of internal terror tactics from inside Saudi Arabia designed to drive the expats out of the country and destroy the Saudi government. Full of examples, stories and compelling honesty the author describes their most challenging journey and many of the lessons learned in the process together. Designed to provide useful insights and inspiration to anyone considering living abroad, Life in the Camel Lane shines the light on the subject of building a new identity and home while abroad, and the difficulties of the journey home.

My Thoughts

Life in the Camel Lane shares Doreen’s (and many other women just like her) story about life abroad in the Middle East – adjusting to a new environment, culture, way of life while still trying to maintain a little bit of their own culture and sense of ‘home’.

Doreen embraced change and adventure (not for the first time) when she decided to move with her husband to Saudi Arabia. I love how she breaks down her choice and how she tackled it head on. I can’t even begin to imagine the preparation and planning that went in to this move (the items to move with them, to stay in the US, etc..). I found it really interesting how she broke up the different stages of this type of life event: arrival, honeymoon, frustration, adjustment. She also includes many stories of other women in the same position as her which gives an even greater appreciation of the culture, the experience and what these families go through. I always pictured in my mind this glamorous experience but many times throughout the book you realized this was not so (the trailers leaking, shared phones, booking phone times!). I have such great respect for the families that work abroad, I always thought I could do this but now reading this, I am not sure I am quite brave enough! These moments spent abroad would definitely give you a greater appreciation of family, life and culture.

I loved the way she wrote the most – she shared her experiences for what they were. There was no judgement, nor criticism of any part of the culture, people or experiences she had in Saudi Arabia. She shared them exactly as they happened and what she and others experienced. Some of the scariest parts were just after 9/11 and still she approached them with respect and compassion.

This is a well written book that covers Doreen’s time spent in Saudi Arabia, sharing not only her story but the stories of many women just like her who chose adventure. It is full of appreciation, understanding and bravery. I enjoyed every moment reading about her experiences.

You can purchase a copy of this book here.

Rating: 4.5/5

About the Author

Doreen Cumberford is a Scottish expat author who has been global traveler for more than four decades. In her 20s Doreen left her home in Scotland and drove down to London to become a member of Her Majesty’s Diplomatic Service, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Her first posting was as the youngest and most junior British Embassy staffer in Cameroon, West Africa. Later she moved back to London and took a position with an American oil-field construction company based in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. After moving to America, living in Louisiana then California, two extremely different cultures in the USofA, Doreen and family moved overseas to Japan then spent the following 15 years in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. With 13 major moves under her belt, she understands the value of moving, building a new life and handling inter-cultural hurdles. One constant has been her ability to explore through the lens of adventure. Her stories are full of multi-cultural intelligence, messy multilingual communications and multi-global perspectives. Doreen is currently based on Denver, Colorado although spends most of the year living adventurously in the Housesitting Lane, which takes her around the globe. Currently she is doing her best to install Spanish in her brain which previously had French and smatterings of Japanese and Arabic. She is passionate about cultural intelligence, global heartedness and life on the road. Featured in the Anthology: Empowering Women, and a co-author in 2018 of Arriving Well: Stories About Identity, Belonging and Rediscovering Home After Living Abroad. 2020 sees the publication of Life in the Camel Lane: Embrace the Adventure. Honest, compassionate, full of wisdom and inspiration, Life in the Camel Lane comprises stories mostly from women and men who lived in Saudi Arabia from 1950s onward. This memoir contains expert advice sage wisdom and stories that all globally mobile families can use to navigate their international journey. The principles in this book will also encourage anyone who is embracing a more adventurous life, or considering taking the leap to move overseas.

You can connect with her on her website, Twitter and Facebook.

The Giveaway!

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Nutrition Hacks to Get Back on Track #HamiltonBeach

I have a strong suspicion that I am not alone with getting off track when COVID-19 hit back in March. All of our routine, normalcy and good habits went flying out the window when we originally thought we would be home for only a few short weeks. It has now been almost six months since we left the office and have not been back, and many of those bad habits have caught up with me.

I let the majority of my fitness and nutrition goals go these last few months and it has taken a toll on my body. I was becoming a workaholic, constantly at my laptop working without getting up and moving around for breaks. My final wake up call was not fitting into my favourite pants, which prompted me to go old school and take my body measurements with a measuring tape. Needless to say, this sprung me into action – I needed to get back to the gym and fighting my weight gain in the kitchen.

Having faced the struggles of losing weight in the past, being both successful and unsuccessful over the years, I knew that half (or even more) of the battle is done in the kitchen. Eating proper balanced meals, enough protein and increasing vegetables is key to losing weight and gaining muscle mass. But I was struggling to balance work at home with my actual home life with two kids. I was (and still am at times) losing this struggle – I am not ashamed to admit that many times I caved and gave in to snacks that were not healthy for me and my kids to try to save my sanity (not to mention to ensure I joined Zoom meetings on time). I needed something to help me prepare easy, healthy snacks that would support my goals but that did not make my life harder and more complex.

Being prepared with ready made (or easy to make) snacks and meals was key for me when I lost just over one hundred pounds. This time around I am missing the actual time and energy to put into preparing meals (odd to say when I am at home all the time!). I love eggs – they are the perfect protein to me. Easy on the stomach, healthy, filling and you can add veggies to make it the perfect snack.

Hamilton Beach has developed the perfect portion sized Egg Bites maker! It is compact, easy to use and clean. I was able to easily prepare the ingredients for the egg bites, set the machine up to cook while I continued to work, teach my kids or just take a break with my coffee. I prepared several different variations of the egg bites – plain ones with just cheese, egg bites with peppers and mushrooms (I don’t use milk and found that these took on the colour of the mushrooms so my kids refused to eat them) and my personal favourite egg bites with collared greens and cheese (see below for this recipe). I would make bulk egg bites so that I could keep them in the fridge to munch on in the afternoon instead of the Oreos and sweets that I was turning to.

As a side note – I prepared the egg mixture in a large measuring cup as I just found that it was easier to mix up the ingredients and to pour into the egg bites maker.

Here is my recipe for the egg bites with collared greens which ended up being my favourite way to have them. I use water in my egg bites to save some calories but if you prefer milk in your eggs go for it. The only difference I noticed was that when I made the egg bites with water they were smaller in size.

Egg Bite Recipes


  • 2 to 3 large eggs
  • 1 slice of cheese (or shredded cheese)
  • 2 to 3 leaves of collard greens, chopped finely
  • half of a small onion


  1. Crack the eggs into a large measuring cup. Beat the eggs and add in a little bit of water (I used water for less calories but you can add milk if you prefer).
  2. Add the collared greens and onions into the measuring cup and mix.
  3. Pour the mixture into the Egg Bites Maker to just below the max line.
  4. Rip apart pieces of the slice of cheese and add into the mixture (it was just easier for me to use the sliced cheese that I always have on hand but if you shred cheese, add this too).
  5. Turn on the machine and allow them to cook.
  6. Enjoy!

Interested in learning more about this Hamilton Beach product? Check them out here. Make sure to follow Hamilton Beach on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for recipes, products and more.

What is your favourite way to have eggs?

Disclosure: I received the above mentioned product in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Grinza’s Orchard: An Enchanted Tale

Grinza’s Orchard is the story of a Gypsy girl growing up in the early 1900’s in Romania.

About Grinza’s Orchard: An Enchanted Tale

At five years old she is gifted her own cherry tree and it becomes the centerpiece of the story as she grows up dreaming of one day having her own full-blown cherry orchard. To deal with some of the problems that she faces such as an unwanted boy who is attracted to her, a terribly hard decision she has to make to save her parents from illness during the coldest winter on record in their village, achieving her life’s dream of having her own cherry orchard and then suddenly losing it, she seeks help with visits to the witch Auntie Angelina and the Guru Sylvanus, who lives in a cave atop a nearby mountain. The story follows Grinza, her husband Clopin, and their children’s lives in the small gypsy village of Cojasca.

Our Thoughts

Grinza’s Orchard follows the story of Grinza – a lovely, gifted young woman with the kindest of hearts. Grinza belongs to a Romanian gypsy family – we learn about their culture and a little bit about their past. I found this quite interesting as I had no idea how poorly they were treated, including the fact that many were slaves until the mid 1800s.

Grinza loves her family and would do anything for them, and this love and compassion is recognized by the elders (and magical) of her community. She is blessed with a cherry tree and this tree becomes a very special part of her life as she builds her life around it. As she becomes a young woman, she looks to build her life with a husband – and when she finds the man that makes her happy almost every one is happy for her. Except for another young man with a cruel heart who wanted Grinza for himself. When she turns him down, this marks the start of many trials for Grinza and Clopin (and their children in the future) as he does anything that he can to hurt Grinza. Despite this, Grinza faces each obstacle with faith and kindness.

This was a beautiful, short story for young adults and readers. It had an easy pace to the story, which may make it easier for younger readers to follow along with. I really enjoyed the splashes of culture and beliefs we were exposed to during the story (during the wedding ceremony, the passing down of readings between women, etc..) as I find that they encourage me to do additional research to learn more. Grinza is a beautiful soul whom you just can’t help but love and root for throughout the story. It was a heart warming story from start to finish, providing fantastic lessons around friendship, family and life in an age appropriate manner for young adults.

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.

Rating: 4/5

About the Author

Leonard Eckhaus is the founder of AFCOM, the leading association in the world for data center managers.His comments and opinions have appeared in such publications as The New York Times, U.S. News & World Report, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.Mr. Eckhaus is also one of the founders of LL MUSIC LLC. The first album he produced, “Rendezvous”, received two Grammy nominations in 2018.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Gaijin Book Review

The Japanese word gaijin means “unwelcome foreigner.” It’s not profanity, but is sometimes a slur directed at non-Japanese people in Japan.

About Gaijin

Lucy is a budding journalist at Northwestern University and she’s obsessed with an exotic new student, Owen Ota, who becomes her lover and her sensei. When he disappears without explanation, she’s devastated and sets out to find him. On her three-month quest across Japan she finds only snippets of the elegant culture Owen had described. Instead she faces anti-U.S. protests, menacing street thugs and sexist treatment, and she winds up at the base of Mt. Fuji, in the terrifying Suicide Forest. Will she ever find Owen? Will she be driven back to the U.S.? Gaijin is a coming-of-age story about a woman who solves a heartbreaking mystery that alters the trajectory of her life.

My Thoughts

I had never heard the term, gaijin, before and it is used in two different ways in this story. By Owen, the mysterious boy that our story is centred around, who feels like a gaijin with his family and not really fitting in with society and family standards, and by the people that Lucy meets that describes the way they feel against the Americans (and any foreigners that live in Okinawa).

Lucy seems to be a cautious, reserved person who loves her studies. She falls hard for Owen – who seems full of life, with a kind heart and a beautiful smile. She imagines her whole life with this young man and you can imagine how devastated she was when he just up and leaves her with no explanation. Lucy struggles with this lack of closure, something that her friends and Mother does not understand. She makes a huge decision to travel as close to Japan and Owen as she could get – Okinawa. She is desperate for answers and closure.

I was not familiar with the history of Okinawa, which we are exposed to in this story. I did look up myself some of the history while reading this story as I had no idea how many American soldiers call this ‘home’ and the struggles the people have had that we are introduced into the novel. Lucy is exposed to rape, sexism, protests and anger against the Americans as she begins her career in journalism. Lucy arrives in Okinawa as a naive, innocent young woman who is determined to find Owen. She quickly grows emotionally, mentally as she is exposed to the culture and politics of Okinawa and the impact that the army has had on these people.

This was an excellent story from start to finish. While I had my suspicions of why Owen left, it was the growth of Lucy that I loved the most. She first left for superficial reasons (finding her lost love) but instead we see this great growth in her character. I loved every moment!

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.

Rating: 4/5

About the Author

Sarah Z. Sleeper is an ex-journalist with an MFA in creative writing. This is her first novel. Her short story, “A Few Innocuous Lines,” won an award from Writer’s Digest. Her non-fiction essay, “On Getting Vivian,” was published in The Shanghai Literary Review. Her poetry was published in A Year in Ink, San Diego Poetry Annual and Painters & Poets, and exhibited at the Bellarmine Museum. In the recent past she was an editor at New Rivers Press, and editor-in-chief of the literary journal Mason’s Road. She completed her MFA at Fairfield University in 2012. Prior to that she had a twenty-five-year career as a business writer and technology reporter and won three journalism awards and a fellowship at the National Press Foundation.

Disclosure: I received a digital copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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