Call Me, Maybe

I’ve been a regular reader of ARC’s for a bit now. My hope when I get a new book is similar to going on a first date–is this THE one? Will I find my new favorite author? I’m pretty firm with new (to me) authors, so if they can’t convince me to stay within the first 20 pages, we are done. So when I saw that this particular book by Ellie Cahill was a popular ARC, I was a little skeptical. But my need to find something wonderful to read (and perhaps my optimism, too) made me take a chance on this book.

To be fair, the very beginning was a bit slow for me. As I get older, my attention span gets shorter and my patience wanes. But I persevered–and boy was I glad I did! This was truly one of those books that makes you remember why you love Romance. There really are no other words to describe how I felt when I read this book, except for happy. I smiled as our two main characters met by chance, and smiled more as their relationship bloomed.

In many ways, this book was a refreshing new take on Romance. We have a heroine, Clementine, who is wealthy, despite the fact that she’s made a few mistakes that have caused her family some grief. We have a hero , Justin, who is by all accounts a very normal guy. Our peek at their affair starts via text message and phone calls separated by the continent, which I adored because I felt it gave each of them a boost of self-confidence.

When I say this book made me smile, I think a big reason that happened was because it all felt very genuine. Other reviewers have commented on how the second half of the book seemed to create characters who were vastly different from the first half, but I have to say I disagree. I think the sides of the characters we see at the end are the deeper versions of Clementine and Justin. We see their deep-seated insecurities, their trust issues, their shock.

In a very unusual move for me, I actually re-read the entire book after I finished it. Yes, it was THAT good. I simply could not help smiling, even when I reached the conflict. What a fresh story and what a fresh voice! If you need a book to help you remember why you love Romance, give this New Adult Romance a try. It was fantastic.

If You Only Knew

Ever since I first picked up a copy of Fools Rush In a million years ago, I’ve loved Kristan Higgins’s books. Her characters have consistently made me laugh, cry, and have a made even the toughest day more manageable. This is one of the great things about Romance and why I keep coming back to the same authors over and over again.

In this book, we enter the lives of two sisters and their complicated relationships with each other, other family members, and the men in their lives. It’s written in the first person, which is never a favorite method for me to read, but I always give Higgins a pass on this because she’s just that good. It’s more Women’s Fiction than Romance, too, which I also let pass because she’s that good.

I don’t want to give any spoilers, so I’ll sum up my review by saying that I want to reread the last four chapters a few times to let the book sink in even more. It was so hard to put down and the ending was so perfect for the story. When I needed a true escape, this was the perfect book for that escape. Just the right amount of laughs, tears, heartache, and love. And the triplets–oh the triplets!–will have your heart right from page one!

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

There are only a few books that I’ve read over the course of my life that have truly had a big impact on me in every way possible. Some novels I have read have stayed with me, some non-fiction books have continued to offer guidance over the years. But few books have had the impact that this book has had, because it is so much farther reaching that your typical book.

When you think about self-help style books, I’m sure  you have a very clear picture of a “do this, then this will happen” style prose. But that’s not what this book is like at all, and that is one of the main reasons that I think this book is so powerful. Marie Kondo is asking you to truly think about what makes you happy–what brings you joy–and to only keep that which does. That is such a powerful thing to say. And profoundly scary. Because now you have no reason to keep things you don’t love.

I found as I KM’d my house that I was liberated. I no longer had to keep things because they were given to me by someone, or because they were important to someone else. I only chose to keep things that mattered–and brought joy–to me.

If you are looking to downsize or purge your home, this is the book to start with. Kondo gives wonderful guidance as to how to handle going through your things and the most effective ways to do it so you won’t be stuck with the same problem 2 years from now. This is also an excellent book to read if you generally don’t want to consume as much “stuff.” I only kept my copy briefly, because it gave me more joy to give it to someone I know would enjoy it.

Oh She Glows

As I have mentioned in previous posts, my family is moving toward a more plant-based diet, so we are testing out all sorts of cookbooks and other resources catering to vegans. In my searches for things like realistic chocolate chip cookies and other cravings, I have come across Angela Liddon’s Oh She Glows website over and over again. Since some of the recipes sounded pretty good, I thought I’d check out her cookbook.

While I think the recipes sound very good, I have to admit this book did not knock me out. Liddon is clearly an excellent cook, and these recipes look fantastic, but from my years of experience cooking I can tell you this is a more advanced cookbook than I would recommend to those not clearly versed in either vegan cooking or cooking in general. It’s more along the lines of Martha Stewart in both obscure ingredients and fancy recipes. As I was saying to my husband, it’s more like a cookbook that someone without kids and tons of free time to cook would like. So if that’s you, check this out. For me, whom a family and budget are serious considerations, I’d skip it.

Vegan With A Vengeance

Vegan with a vengeance
Isa Chandra Moskowitz; Marlowe & Co. 2005

Isa Chandra Moskowitz is a vegan chef that I’ve been checking out recently. Her recipes combine a clear understanding of not only healthy vegan cooking, but the realities of cooking on a budget and within a short amount of time. This appears to be one of her early cookbooks, so it’s still a little vegan preachy, if that makes sense. I’m attempting to eat a more plant-based diet, so for me this diet is less about a political position and more about health. Needless to say, there are excellent recipes in this book that will definitely keep all the members of my family happy.

If you haven’t checked out her cookbooks before, they are very well-written and easily understood. She knows her audience well and doesn’t rely on weird ingredients or overly complicated instructions. If I could relate this cookbook to one that might make sense to non-vegans, she’s more along the lines of the Joy of Cooking, but for vegans.

Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week

Isa Chandra Moskowitz is a vegan chef that I’ve been following of late. Her cookbooks on the subject are fantastic. This particular one is fast becoming a go-to resource not only on vegan cooking, but cooking in general.

This book contains a recipe of one of my all-time favorite foods: Malai Kofta. Prior to this book, I had only had this dish at Indian restaurants, but it was always something I was on the lookout for. When I first read through this book that was one of the recipes that really caught my attention. It’s a relatively complicated recipe (more in time than actually difficult–lots of moving parts) compared to some, but it was SO delicious. It was one of those dishes that I’d make for someone and not tell them it was vegan–that’s how good it was. One of the other things I appreciate about Moskowitz’s books is that she often doesn’t rely on packaged vegan stuff (other than tofu). You won’t see recipes with vegan cream in them. Instead, you will make things like cashew cream.

I cannot say enough good things about this book. If I didn’t think my friends and family would have kittens seeing the word “vegan” on the cover of a cookbook, I’d give this to all of them for the holidays. Truly, this is a wonderful cookbook for anyone interested in eating good food. Period.

Appetite For Reduction: 125 Fast and Filling Low-Fat Vegan Recipes

Isa Chandra Moskowitz; Da Capo Lifelong Books 2010

I should begin this post by disclosing that I am attempting to begin eating primarily (but not totally) vegan. In my quest to find decent recipes that satisfy my tastebuds, time, and wallet, I have come up on a number of books by  Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Apparently she is the real deal when it comes not only to vegan cooking, but also quality cookbooks on the subject. Her blog, Post Punk Kitchen, is a great resource on the subject and helps to give a little background on her story and general vegan-ness.

To be honest, this book did not knock me out. While I’m sure it’s a good resource for vegans, it’s definitely not a good book to start with on the subject. In another one of her books she talks about introducing people to vegan food, but being careful what you make. Don’t make the steamed kale, make the full-fat vegan lasagna or something more along those lines. This book is more the steamed kale side, but don’t get me wrong. There are definitely some gems in here. It’s just not the book for me right now as I begin this journey.

If you are looking for quality vegan cookbooks in general, Moskowitz is definitely the author to seek out. Her cookbooks use normal ingredients, cooking/prep times are realistic, and many of her recipes are vegan takes on familiar dishes. You will be introduced to things like seitan, but nothing that’s going to turn you off from eating a plant-based diet.


Amy Krouse Rosenthal; Hyperion 2009

I’m always on the lookout for new and funny children’s books. I came across two Amy Krouse Rosenthal books recently, this being the first. I really enjoyed this story. It’s a good introduction for kids about why being different isn’t a bad thing. Perhaps when one is upset they don’t really see the issue from the other side’s perspective. Great illustrations by Scott Magoon really make this story come alive. Excellent picture book for toddlers getting to know some new people in their lives.

Little Pea

Little Pea
Amy Krouse Rosenthal; Chronicle Books 2005

A super quick read by Amy Krouse Rosenthal that the toddler in my life thoroughly enjoyed. It’s a twist on eating your dinner, but from a little pea’s perspective. Very cute and the illustrations by Jen Corace were priceless.

Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook

I’m always on the look out for new cookbooks, especially cookbooks that promote a plant-based diet. I’m not a vegan, and have no plans to become one, but I recognize the importance of eating more plants and less meat. That’s what this book, and the Thug Kitchen blog, is all about. It’s not about weird ingredients, or making you feel bad about your craving for a big ‘ol burger. It’s about eating realistic veggie-based goodness and not missing out on flavor or having to go to a million different stores to find odd ingredients. This book uses stuff that you can find in traditional grocery stores and even gives you tips on how to cut up/prepare stuff for some of the more difficult recipes. For example, if you’ve never soaked your own beans before or have never picked up a knife, Thug Kitchen walks you through all that. Just as their blog did, they use a lot of language, but you seriously need to get beyond that because this book is awesome. Don’t let it turn you off from what could possibly be one of my favorite cookbooks of all time. If you buy no other cookbook this year, make it this one. It’s good even for the carnivore in your life.