Category: Penguin Canada

The Woman who Stole my Life by Marian Keyes #review

It is finally here! The new novel, The Woman who Stole my Life, by incredible author Marian Keyes hit stores November 6th, 2014!

About The Woman Who Stole My Life

Stella Sweeney is an ordinary woman living an ordinary life with her husband Ryan and their two teenage children in Dublin. She works with (or really for) her ambitious sister, Karen, in a beauty salon. None of this makes her unhappy but none of it really makes her happy. But then things start to change.

One day, Stella, attempting to do a good deed causes a car accident and faces down a bad tempered, handsome stranger. She hardly thinks twice on this incident. But karma is hovering over her and ready to change Stella’s life forever. She becomes ill and the stranger she hit enters into her life again. Stella’s world is thrown upside down – for better or worse, Stella has a new life. A thrilling, glamorous life – a life that others may covet.

My Thoughts

I fell in love with this novel within the first two chapters. Marian Keyes has the most fantastic writing style where each sentence feels like a conversation with the character – as if you are right there beside her experiencing each and every moment. Marian’s characters become a best friend – one that you can find yourself laughing with as well as crying with as you relate to the personal experiences that Stella is going through.

The story is told in the beginning in glimpses of present and past giving a very unique perspective into Stella’s life and how her mind works. Stella is just an ordinary mother and wife. She wants her children to exceed and puts the needs of her family before her own. She loves her snacks, her humour and the comfort of it all. She just does not realize how much happier she could be. When she realizes this and acts on her decision (an extremely brave act!) her whole world changes – the once selfless mother realizes in order to be happy she needs to follow her own heart. Without giving too much away, it is her own act of moving away from the wife role to follow her own dreams that we see the title of the book come in to play.

I loved this novel from start to finish. It was a novel that I lost myself in (literally – I did not put it down until 3am and I was suffering for it the next day at work!). At so many times I felt like I could relate to Stella and wanted to reach out and hug her (maybe have that glass of wine or two with her!).

Marian Keyes went above and beyond in her new novel, The Woman who Stole my Life, is one of her best pieces of work that you will fall in love and will want to read over and over again.

Rating: 5/5 

If you are not following yet, make sure to check Penguin Canada on Twitter as well as Marian Keyes!! 

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

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Claudine by Barbara Palmer

Suspense and erotica combine to create one of the best novels I have read in a long time in Claudine by Barbara Palmer. Claudine is a sexy and thrilling escape that you will not be able to put down!

I love my books – they take me to a far away place, removing stress and connecting me to the characters that I grow to love. This was my first erotica novel and I was thrilled that I was given the chance to read and review this novel!


Our main character, Maria Lantos is a post graduate student who is writing her thesis on erotic literature at Yale. Maria also goes by the stage name, Claudine. Maria has learned to balance the life of a top class courtesan and a graduate student. Claudine is a high demand escort who specializes in sexual role play for the elite and rich.She maintains this top spot with her anonymity, discretion and strict rules.

Slowly the separate worlds she has created begins to crack and blend. It begins with the murder of a stranger and leads to two men who test Maria’s limits of control and awaken her own sexual desires that she has always hidden.

Her private and secret nights begin to clash into her days and Maria discovers that the dangerous places that extend beyond the imagination and secrets are no longer consigned to the dark. 

My Thoughts

From the first glance that I took at the cover I knew I was going to love this book. It was sexy, exotic and yet dangerous all at the same time. Barbara Palmer delivers all of this and more. 
Claudine brings out the confident and powerful woman that so many of us want to be. She commands attention, trusts in herself and knows what she wants and how to get it. She is fun, sexy and full of life. At the same as Maria she is more vulnerable and open. Maria is not as trusting and has had a difficult history. Her childhood was marked with death and pain. While she was adopted and saved from the horror that surrounded her, her relationships with her adopted mother never seemed to really work. Maria has worked hard to be where she is at Yale and wants to trust and let go but finds it hard.
Maria has two men in her life that love her or appear to. As the book progresses you witness these relationships develop and you want Maria to find happiness but at the same time not let go of the Claudine in her. When the threats on her life start you begin to wonder about the true affections these men hold for her. Barbara spins this web that includes Claudine and the men in both her personal and professional life and leaves you guessing, wondering and clueless as to who could possibly want to harm her. 
The best part of Claudine? I love the way Barbara blends the erotica with the mystery so neither part took over the novel. It was exciting, thrilling and kept me reading right through the night. I literally started reading the book after I received it in the mail in the afternoon and could not put it down until 2 in the morning! It was that good! 
You will not be disappointed with Claudine. It definitely pays to reach out of your comfort level and find a novel that will truly blow you away. This is a definite must read! 
Rating: 5/5 

You can check out Claudine on the Penguin Canada website or on Amazon.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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Michael Smith’s Family Meals #review

The process of preparing a meal and eating it is very important in our home. Cooking together helps us bond, laugh and share stories. I still remember as a child helping my Dad prepare dishes and helping myself to his cannelloni stuffing at the same time! Good food has a special way of bringing families together. Michael Smith’s Family Meals is the ultimate family cook book with healthy recipes, life hacks and so much more.

I am not a huge fan of the typical organization of cook books – you know the ones that list recipe after recipe with few pictures, complicated ingredients and no tips. As soon as I start flipping a cook book open to find that back on the shelf it goes. What I like about Michael Smith’s recipe books is that he shares his recipes as a story. You are part of his adventure in the kitchen and it is like he is there teaching you each step. He has a down to earth approach that even the most novice of cooks can appreciate.

The photographs in this book are incredible. Not even going to lie some are down right drool worthy. The type that make you want to drop everything and have that meal right that very second. Michael also features his family in this book which truly touched home for me. Michael is a Father who loves to cook for his family and provide them with nourishment. His children share that passion and it is lovely to see them helping out with their special roles of cracking eggs, stirring and so much more.

In Family Meals, Michael places a strong emphasis on fresh foods – and fresh foods has always been a secret ingredient of mine. I love the taste of fresh picked tomatoes in my sauces. It really gives that extra special touch to any dish. Meals made from local and unprocessed ingredients is very important to me as a Mother.

The book is divided into several sections for breakfast, lunch, salads, desserts and so much more. In between each section you can find life hacks for cooking, snack ideas and so much more. These were honestly some of my favourite sections. So many fantastic ideas in just a couple of pages – who says eating healthy takes too much time? Not anymore – apple peanut butter sandwiches anyone?

One of the first recipes we tried? Nacho burgers. Yup you heard that right – nacho burgers. What a great twist on a family favourite. I am able to share his recipe with you courtesy of Michael Smith and Penguin Canada!

Makes 6 large or 8 smaller burgers

For the burgers
  • 2 pounds (900g) of ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons (30mL) of ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons (30mL) of dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon (15mL) of salt
  • Lots of freshly ground pepper
  • 1 onion, minced

For the burger buns
  • 1 teaspoon (5mL) of chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons (30mL) of butter, melted
  • 6 or 8 of your favorite burger buns

To garnish the burgers
  • 1 heaping tablespoon (20mL) of your favorite salsa per burger
  • ¼ cup (60mL) of any shredded cheese per burger
  • 3 or 4 tortilla chips, crushed, per burger

Build a hardwood fire and ultimately a bed of glowing coals. Or prepare and preheat your grill or stove top griddle to high.
To make the burgers, have a clean plate on the counter and a few sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap nearby. Place the ground beef in a large bowl. Break it up a bit and spread it out evenly. Sprinkle the meat as evenly as you can with the cumin, oregano, salt, pepper and onions. Using your hands, thoroughly and evenly mix the works together. Form the proceeds into 6 or 8 evenly shaped thin burgers and place them on the plate, with the wax paper in between layers.
To ready the buns for the grill, stir the chili powder into the melted butter and brush the fragrant fat onto the cut sides of the buns. Just before grilling the burgers, toast the buns until lightly browned and delicious.

Grill the burgers until browned, 4 or 5 minutes a side. Move the finished burgers straight from the grill to their toasted buns so the juices soak into the bread. Top with the salsa, cheese, tortilla chips and bun tops. Serve and share!

Rating: 5/5

Michael Smith’s Family Meals is a cook book for you and your family to share, love, cook and have fun with. Is cooking important to your family? How do you encourage your children to help out in the kitchen?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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The Dolphin Way by Dr. Shimi Kang #Review

Parenting is hard. We always want the best for our children but how do you define what is the best? How do you encourage your children to succeed without pushing too hard?

Dr. Shimi Kang has written for parents The Dolphin Way – A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy and Motivated Kids, Without Turning Into a Tiger.

Dr. Shimi Kang is a Harvard trained child and youth psychiatrist. She is currently in the role of Medical Director for Child and Youth Mental Health Programs in British Columbia. It is within this background that she has developed this guide based on current behaviour research and first hand experience. She is also the  mother of three children and the daughter of immigrant parents so she definitely knows a thing or two!

The Dolphin Way explores the Tiger Parent model and explains (with statistics and real life examples) why this model does not work. She uses the tiger parenting model to illustrate a better parenting approach that follows the intelligent, playful, joyful and social nature of the dolphin. Parents using the dolphin model focus on maintaining balance in the home and in their children’s lives to gently (yet authoritatively) guide them towards lasting health, happiness and success. She encourages parents to trust their intuitions about what is best for our children and that this will help them in turn to obtain the traits needed in today’s modern world : adaptability, community, creativity and critical thinking.

She uses a four part approach and I honestly believe each part is needed to fully understand and appreciate her approach to parenting skills. She breaks down current parenting models (some which I have seen but never knew the names of!) especially Tiger parenting (but also looks at Jellyfish parenting). I had to admit to myself that I have been guilty of both while trying to do what I honestly believe is in the best interest for my children. We live in such a competitive environment that it is important to take a step back and look at the effects of this aggressive and competitive culture that we are fostering especially in our children. She presents all of her findings with some eye opening statistics on child and youth depression, anxiety and suicide. At times I wanted to cry reading these statistics – it is terrifying, shocking and upsetting to see how much our youth is hurting.

On a personal level this book hit close to home. Growing up I was not raised by Tiger parents. They never forced me to participate in sports, excel at school or volunteer. But I was constantly pushing myself. All around me were people telling you what career paths were the best choices for you, what good paying jobs should be, what you had to do in order to get there, what marks you need to get in to school and not to mention supplementary applications that you need! I would get up at six every morning, sometimes have a swim practice, go to school, come home, do some homework, off to soccer or to teach swimming lessons, make it home for nine and then more studying into the wee hours of the morning. It was a vicious cycle. But to my credit I also managed to do a lot too. I achieved fifth place in the Aventis Biotechnology Challenge, I earned my Canada Cord from the Girl Guides of Canada, Citizenship award, Art and Religion awards at school, my average was always above 92%, I taught Red Cross and Lifesaving programs as well as life guarding. I also volunteered twice a week in the hospital and my local church. I also made the choice to move away from my art (my one and true passion) and pursue Kinesiology. I burnt myself out in my first semester of university. I literally broke down, cried and could not continue. Like Dr. Shimi Kang mentions so many times once you achieve the main goal of getting into university all goals are done and you are lost. And this is how I felt.

I have since then graduated, matured and although still have growing pains I have adjusted and have begun to really enjoy life. My only concern now is in how I raise my children. I want them to know I love them, that I support them and want for them to be happy. I do not want them to think I want them to be machines, memorizing every fact and note for school.  But it is the how that I find so difficult. How do you empower them? How do you encourage them to strive to be their personal best without pushing too hard? How do you ensure they will be ready for the real world when what will their world look like in fifteen years from now?

Dr. Shimi Kang breaks down her tools and then hands out “prescriptions” on how to approach parenting – from the simple get more sleep, drink more water to how to talk to our children (using questions versus telling). She gave such clear examples of what may not have been the best approach and the WHY and then goes on to show how that parent could have changed their wording. It actually has me focusing more on the language I am using with my own children and rephrasing sentences to ensure I am supporting and guiding my children instead of lecturing.

The Dolphin Way is an excellent parenting tool to implement in our daily life to help guide our children to be happy and healthy. She focus on adaptability and uses fantastic resources and examples from her own experience to solidify her case. An excellent read through and through. The Dolphin Way is a parenting guide that every home should own. It is essential not only for parents but also for many adults to understand the culture we are being raised in, how it is affecting us and how we can change our own behaviours for our own personal health and well being.

Rating: 5/5

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

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Traitor’s Blade #Review #PenguinCanada

Adventure, magic and mystery at every turn. The Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien De Castell is a fantastic read that will have you unable to put it down!

The Traitor’s Blade is based on the story of Falcio, the First Cantor of the Greatcoats. They are trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia – the Greatcoats are travelling Magistrates upholding the King’s law. They were known everywhere as heroes until they stood aside while the Dukes took over the Kingdom and impaled their King’s head on a spike.

Now their once fair land is on the verge of collapse and barbarians are at the borders. The Dukes are bringing chaos to the land while the Greatcoats are scattered and fear for their lives.

The only thing that the Greatcoats have left are the promises they had made to King Paelis to carry out his one final mission. To do this they must reunite or all will fall.

I absolutely, 100% LOVED this story! I fell in love with the plot from the get go and kept the candles burning late so I could finish (won’t even mention the heart failure I had when my Kindle died and I had to read with my Kindle plugged into the wall – desperate times call for desperate measures!).

Traitor’s Blade is full of adventure and kept me constantly guessing about what will happen next. I was constantly shocked with the actions of the Dukes. They are unjust but because everyone lives in fear of them they still rule. Every turn of the page came a new surprise and shocking turn to the story.

This is a definite must read! You will be on the edge of your seats the whole time.

Rating: 5/5

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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