ARC Book Review: Napoleon’s Last Island by Thomas Keneally


veronica | When Simon & Schuster offered me an advanced copy of Napoleon’s Last Island by Thomas Keneally, I jumped all over it. It is no secret I love historical fictions that are rich in detail and tellsa compelling story using people who actually existed then. And really, who can resist a historical figure like THE Emperor?

This coming of age novel written from the view point of a pre-pubescent Betsy Balcombe in the style more reminiscent of a child’s journal was really tough to get through. Though I understood what Keneally was going for, I admit it was not particularly easy to get past the long chapters or little to no dialogue.

We meet Betsy and her family on St. Helena, where Billy, her father, is the purveyor to Napoleon. For the next years, we learn how close the Balcombe are with Napoleon (though we never really are told years have passed aside from holidays and the almost in passing mentions of how old a character is) particularly Betsy, whom he has the closest relationship with.

What I really enjoyed was the glimpse of the infamous “ogre” not on the battlefield, but his softer side whose delight in children is evident and whose love for his own child and Josephine were not what we’re used to hearing.

If it weren’t for the feisty and often defiant Betsy, I would’ve bailed on this book long ago instead finishing. While the premise was interesting, I felt as though a lot of the novel was unnecessary to the overall work.


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amazongoodreads simonschuster

october 4, 2016

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Book Review: Americosis Vol. 3 by Haydn Wilks


ashley | I devoured the Americosis Volume 1 and Volume 2 novellas by Hadyn Wilks in single sittings. They were wild and action packed, with quite a punch to leave you breathless, but not enough to keep you fully satisfied for a long period of time. That’s why I jump on each volume as soon as Wilks reaches out to me, and Volume 3 was no different. I read this in one sitting as well and I’m ready for more.

This is probably the most action-packed of the three novellas and we are finally starting to see some things come together. People are starting to cross paths, we are starting to get an idea of the bigger picture. Though there’s still so much happening that my mind is still spinning. As always, there’s a lot of clever and humorous and often times vulgar writing, but it fits in really well with the overall tone and feeling of this series.

I keep saying I have a hard time reviewing these short novellas, that reading these snippets into a bigger and ongoing story in small chunks is difficult. But something occurred to me as I read through this volume; writing short novellas allows Wilks to stay very present with his writing. Americosis Volume 3 is very political and much of it mirrors what is happening in US politics right now. It’s scary how accurately predicted Wilks’ writing is, how his over exaggerated chaos is actually really close to being something that I could actually see happening.

There is a part in this volume that mentions authors who wrote books and the plots of those books were pretty much coming true in real life. That is what I feel like when I’m reading these novellas, that Wilks is somehow predicting a very scary future for us with his words and I for one am going to keep reading so I can be prepared for the worst.


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september 21, 2016

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author haydn wilks

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City Adventure: Eat to the Beat at Roy Thomson Hall – November 1, 2016

ettbashley | It’s my favourite time of year again! Yes, fall, but also, Eat to the Beat! A mecca for urban foodies to experience the best Ontario’s culinary scene has to offer, the 21st annual Eat to the Beat presented by KitchenAid®, is a fundraiser for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF) and features 60 female chefs supporting people living with breast cancer on Tuesday, November 1 from 7 pm – 10 pm at Roy Thomson Hall.

General Admission Tickets are $189 (a tax receipt will be issued for the maximum allowable amount). For tickets or to see the line-up of chefs and beverage participants, please visit or call 1 (800) 387-9816.

Guests have the opportunity to enjoy specially prepared savoury and sweet dishes at 60 stations, along with wine, beer and a selection of non alcoholic beverages set up around Roy Thomson Hall’s outer lobby.

In addition to food and drink, colourful and whimsical one-of-a-kind corsets, inspired by food and created and modelled by breast cancer survivors, have become an integral part of Eat to the Beat.

Started 21 years ago by sisters Lisa and Abby Slater, Eat to the Beat has raised more than $3.9 million since its inception. Funds raised at Eat to the Beat will support the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation – dedicated to funding relevant and innovative research, supporting and advocating for the breast cancer community, and providing credible, unbiased information to help empower those affected by breast cancer or at increased genetic risk of developing the disease.

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 Eat to the Beat at a Glance:

DATE:              Tuesday, November 1, 2016

TIME:                7 pm – 10 pm

VENUE:            Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe Street, Toronto (St. Andrew subway station) 

COST:              Tickets include savoury and sweet dishes at 60 stations along with wine, beer and a selection of non-alcoholic beverages.

General Admission Ticket: $189 (a tax receipt will be issued for the maximum allowable amount)

DRESS:            Smart Casual

CONTACT: or call 1 (800) 387-9816


TWITTER:          @EattotheBeat_TO

HASHTAG:        #EattotheBeat

Participating chefs and select menu items that will be featured at this year’s Eat to the Beat include:

·         Sandra Abballe, Succulent Chocolates and Sweets

·         Vanessa Baudanza and Isabelle Loiacono, The Rolling Pin

·         Wanda Beaver, Wanda’s Pie in the Sky – Grand Marnier Nanaimo bars

·         Renee Bellefeuille, Art Gallery of Ontario – cured whitefish, rye toast, tarragon crème fraiche and pickled caperberry goat cheese and artichoke puff

·         Cathy Beneway, Creative Catering by Cathy

·         Emma Beqaj, Emma’s Eatery Catering – lobster grilled cheese

·         Arvinda Chauhan and Preena Chauhan, Arvinda’s – spicy curry leaf infused chick pea dip with tomato purée served on cucumber and zucchini rounds and garnished with savoury noodles and curry leaf

·         Tiiu Christie and Tysa Christie, Marigolds and Onions

·         Felicia Derose Colette Grand Café

·         Donna Dooher and Michael Leary, Mildred’s Temple Kitchen

·         Kyla Eaglesham, Madeleines

·         Rossy Earle, SupiCucu

·         Michelle Edgar, The Sweet Escape Patisserie

·         Alison Ferland, Byblos

·         Mali Fernandez, Xola Mexican Food

·         Alexandra Feswick, The Drake Hotel – Adobo pulled pork steam buns with daikon pickle

·         Trish Gill, The Emmet Ray

·         Bonnie Gordon, Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts – Macaron in a variety of flavours, homemade chocolates, and langues de chat

·         Tamara Green, The Living Kitchen

·         Kimberly Humby, East & Main Bistro

·         Anna Janes, Cocomira Confections

·         Vanessa Le Page, Cake Lady – Edible Art – The Shortbread 

·         Tara Lee, Bar Hop – mini pork and ricotta meatballs with a tomato cream sauce

·         Jacqueline Lo, Ruelo Patisserie

·         Erin Marcus, Ace Bakery

·         Lynn Mendelson, Lynn Mendelson Catering – million $ bars

·         Joan Monfaredi, Park Hyatt Hotel – tuna tartar wonton tacos with pea shoots, chili rice vinegar and scallion

·         Jennifer Mooers and Chris Brown, Citizen Catering

·         Lauren Mozer, Elle Cuisine

·         Catherine O’Donnell, Willow Cakes and Pastries

·         Christine Ostiguy, Yorkshire Pudding Catering

·         Angela Panigas, The Sultan’s Tent & Café Moroc

·         Chef Véronique Perez, Crêpes à GoGo Spadina and Limonana

·         Jennifer Perusini, BerBer Social

·         Andrea Poirier, Inn on the Twenty

·         Karen Rachlin, Bite Catering

·         Regular Nuit, Pai Northern Thai Kitchen, Sabai Sabai Kitchen and Bar and Sukhothai Restaurant – “Mee kra ti” – stir fried rice vermicelli with coconut milk and tofu

·         Caroline Reid, Scaramouche – house-cured duck pastrami with celery root salad, hazelnut purée and vincotto

·         Emily Richards, Professional Home Economist – balsamic roasted pear wedges wrapped in prosciutto with gorgonzola dip

·         Dufflet Rosenberg, Dufflet Pastries – cookie bar

·         Barbara Rotberg, Lollicakes 

·         Gauravi Shah, Tilde – chorizo meatballs with lime aioli and grilled pineapple salsa, bean vegballs with roasted tomato salsa and cilantro gremolata

·         Trista Sheen, Bar Begonia

·         Alida Solomon, Tutti Matti

·         Lili Sullivan, Waupoos Winery – cider braised lamb in a filo cup with spiked apple

·         Meghan Van Horne, Public Schoolhouse @ Jackson’s Falls – polenta crisp with smoked trout, chèvre, wild spinach and walnut pesto

·         Karen Viva-Haynes, Viva Tastings

·         Elaine Wong, The Omni King Edward Hotel

·         Winlai Wong, The Badminton and Racquet Club of Toronto

·         Jeanne Da Silva, George Brown College Chef School – edamame falafels with a cultured vegetable slaw on whole wheat tortilla cups and vegetarian BLT with coconut bacon, roasted tomatoes and a spicy avocado purée on whole grain baguette

·         Vanessa Yeung, Aphrodite Cooks

·         Eden Hertzog, New Moon Kitchen

·         Leyla Kizilirmak, Art Square Gallery and Café – organic and fair trade dark chocolate boobs

·         Carmen Jeffrey, President’s Choice Cooking School

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ARC Book Review: The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa


veronica | The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa was everything I hoped it would be. Correa wrote an exceptional novel, telling the story of a family torn asunder by fascism, horror and hatred for those who are different. I’m always wary when I pick a book based on the events leading up to the Holocaust, but this was a great read.

The German Girl starts out with Hannah, a 12 year old at the beginning of Hitler’s rise to power, when being Jewish was, well, against the law. They were unwanted, dirty, sullied and out to dilute and take from the Germans what was rightfully theirs. But being affluent meant that they were allowed to leave Germany, but without their money, dignity or anything that made them Germans.

Along with Hannah is her best friend Leo and his dad who, with the Rosenthal’s help, have gotten passage on the St. Louis, a luxury liner taken those unwanted from Europe to Cuba, the only country who would take them in.

As with most novels that capture my attention, this story is intertwined with that of Hannah’s great niece, Anna. Despite the fact that Anna herself is wrapped in the tragedy of losing her father during the 9/11 attacks in New York City, she shows great maturity and finds her own way to connect to the father that she never knew.

This story, like many written of the Holocaust, is one of great sadness, even in their little joys, the sadness is very real, prevalent and really shakes you to the core. Even to this day it baffles me that as humans, we can be so disgusting to each other.

This debut novel makes a lasting impression for all the right reasons.


more information
amazongoodreads simonschuster website

today! october 18, 2016

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Book Review: The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter


ashley  | I’ve recently become Karin Slaughter’s biggest fan. I read Pretty Girls sometime last year and she totally won me over, so when I saw she had a new book, The Kept Woman, I immediately requested it without looking into it. That was a mistake; I didn’t realize this was the 8th book in an already existing series about Special Agent Will Trent, a name and character who is totally unknown to me. When I finally did read the plot, it sounded like this could sort of stand on its own, so I decided to just give it a go and see where it took me.

I’m reviewing this solely as a one-off book and even without the previous context of seven other books I really, really enjoyed this. Granted, I didn’t have any character growth in Will Trent, I hadn’t grown to love him or know him and as a result, he actually fell kind of flat for me, he didn’t shine for me here at all. But the supporting women in his life – his girlfriend Sara, his ex wife Angie, his partner Faith and their boss Amanda – they stole the show. These were some fierce, and sometimes crazy, women and they rounded out all the rough edges this book had.

Not to mention the plot. This was a very solid suspenseful police case that had all these players crossing paths and weaved into a strange web of past and present. I couldn’t put it down.  I have nothing to compare this to, but I want to say that this 8th book started off SUPER strong for my Will Trent introduction.  Even though I was meeting everyone for the first time, this didn’t once feel overwhelming or overly complicated just to keep things difficult. It was a multi-layered story, but Slaughter has such a talent for this kind of thing, it was pretty much flawless.

Of course, there were things that were likely lost on me. There’s obviously a much deeper bond between Will and his boss Amanda that was referenced, but not knowing anything from the previous books, I missed all of this. I’m sure there were a few other things as well that I totally missed, but overall, this was a great book and I’m glad I jumped in, even it if was the middle of a series, because now I can’t wait to keep reading.


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amazon goodreads  website

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july 14, 2016

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