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Showing posts from 2019

Kim Thuy's new cookbook celebrates mothers, food and love.

Stories unite us. There is no doubt about that. And finding great storytellers is akin to searching for a needle in a haystack. Without question, Kim Thúy is a great storyteller. I can vouch for that personally, as I have seen her speak at Bram & Bluma Appel Salon, on the top floor of Toronto Reference Library. While her smile lights up a room, her stories evoke a visceral connection to the audience, ninety percent of whom aren’t even Vietnamese, or French Canadian. 

As I was face-to-face with her getting my book signed, I happen to mention that I used to know French, but unfortunately now because of not using it as much, have forgotten most of it. Well, she said, “The best way to learn French is to get a French boyfriend.” I mentioned that it probably was not possible as I have a husband. She looked at me with a serious expression and asked if that was really a problem. I couldn’t help laugh at this frankness.

I don’t know why I didn’t know this before, but between her career as a …

It's never too late to seriously start thinking about your health...

When you are young, you don't think about immortality much. But when suddenly life catches up to you, and a blood test indicates something off in your body, you start to seriously consider what you put in your body. 

So, here's a start. Three books from DK to start getting your life back on track; believe me your body will thank you.

Healing Foods 
Eat your way to a healthier life with 175 ingredients. 

What you'll learn: Benefits of each food, how to gain the maximum benefit from it, and ideas for simple tasty preparation. 
Did you know that Figs are a great source of potassium, which helps regulate heart rate and reduce blood pressure? And when it's in a dried fruit format, figs also contain pectin, which helps reduce blood sugar. 
Thinking of discarding the leaves of raspberry plants? Think again. The astringent leaves of red raspberries are traditionally taken as a tea in late pregnancy. I don't recall Handmaid's Tale educating me about this fact. I guess, you ca…

Professor Chandra follows his bliss

Everyone has a turning point, and Professor Chandra has just had his. Narrowly losing out on winning the novel peace prize for economics (again), he finds himself at a loss for what to do with his life.

His wife left him for a shrink in Colarado. Their youngest daughter lives with her, and this teenager is going through quite a phase, perhaps exasperated by her parents’ divorce. Professor Chandra is estranged from his eldest daughter Radha. His other son, Sunny, lives in Hong Kong and is some sort of a wellness, spiritual guru whose primary uniform is a Nehru suit. (If you are Indian in origin, you will understand that context.)

A bicycle accident leaves Professor Chandra with a renewed perspective on life. For the first time, he has time to think about the course his life. He wonders if there was a time when he was really happy. Was he ever present in his every day? Everything he has devoted his life to – work and family – seems to have alluded him. Life is transient.

So, instigated by …

The Parade by David Eggers

Coming full circle, Dave Eggers brings his fans another literary tale that oozes of cynicism, questioning whether it’s all worth it.

The story centres around two characters, referred to as Four and Nine, who find themselves on an assignment in an unnamed developing country. Their mission: to help unify the country by paving a new road.

The two characters couldn’t be more polar opposites. Four is a by-the-book kind of guy, who follows the rules. He has no time for the flippant nature of Nine’s character, who goes with his whim and has a zest for life. It is their dynamic, chaotic, and sometimes amusing relationship, which is the glue that keeps the plot development moving forward.

The other thing that keeps the plot moving, is the hope that one day this road will eventually be built and the parade requested by the president will take place. There is a greater grandeur hope that the country that was recently torn apart by civil war will finally be united. Is building a road the solution to…

Tales of India

Folktales from Bengal, Punjab and Tamil Nadu. 
Illustrations by Svabhu Kohli & Viplov Singh. 

"Delightful creature and most charming princess," said she,
'you have regaled me with an excellent story.
But the night is long and tedious. Pray tell me another.'"

Tales of India by Svabhu Kohli & Viplov Singh, is a collection of short folktales that will excite inquisitive and curious minds. Some of the stories include a shape-shifting tiger and a pretentious rat; and a clever princess and a prince who returns from the dead. 

Goddesses, royalty, and characters full of humour and adventure. Take a magical journey to India with these tales that have lived and been told for thousands of years. Full of history, these stories should never be forgotten, and with this book by Svabhu Kohli and Viplov Singh, they will continue to live on.

To vegan or not to vegan

Let me preface by saying, "I am not vegan." 
And, until now, I've really been opposed to the idea of becoming vegan. The word "vegan" itself evokes a sense of abstinence to me. Abstinence from meat, being the obvious. But also, an abstinence from the delicious scrumptiousness of meals, that the foodie in me has come to expect. 

I have a few millennial colleagues who are either vegan or vegetarian. I also worked with a designer who lives in the burbs raising chickens, and whose immediate family is vegetarian. These are the influences in my life who converted my thinking (if only to try out some vegan food). So, yeah I was partly convinced when I tried foods like vegan Caesar's salad, and A&W's Beyond Meat Burger. I asked my vegan-devoted colleague about recipes, and it just sounded like I'd have to rejig my grocery plans to find some of the ingredient substitutes. So even though I wanted to find alternatives to foods that would not screw up my dige…

Let's go swimming on doomsday

Choice is something we take for granted here in the western world. We may complain of growing pains, but our challenges are nothing compared to sixteen-year-old Abdi. 

He's a Somali refugee, who is forced to join a jihadi group called Al Shabaab as a child soldier. His brother Dahir is supposedly also in this group and Abdi's capturers want him to work as a spy and gather intel about the group's activities. Can he infiltrate the group and get to his brother? Will his entire family be killed if he fails?

It was three years ago when he last saw his brother being led away at the back of one of Al Shabaab's battle trucks. Abdi always assumed that he was dead. 

Al Shabaab welcomes him because of his link to Dahir, who's one of the high ranking leaders in the group. But it's clear that his brother has changed. Dahir seems to have been brainwashed and now he only sees things one way...the Al Shabaab way. 

Let's Go Swimming On Doomsday by Natalie C. Anderson is an imme…

The Hug by Eoin McLaughlin & Polly Dunbar

Who doesn't need a hug from time to time? 

That's all tortoise and hedgehog really want. Easier said than done, they find out. Because everyone they ask for a hug, has an excuse. 

This wonderfully imagined double-sided book, tells a story grounded in wit and compassion. The character illustrations effortlessly connect with kids to evoke a natural emotion, while the clean background composed of white space gives this picture book that uncluttered feel that works brilliantly for picture books. Polly Dunbar uses great vibrant colours, that bring all the characters to life. 

So, do Tortoise and Hedgehog finally get what they wish for? You guessed it. Dreams do come true!

Absolutely adorable. 

-------------------- Blog Post by Shilpa Raikar, who believes in the power of storytelling to connect readers, and strives for diversity and inclusivity. THE HUG by Eoin McLaughlin & Polly Dunbar is published by Faber & Faber. Copy provided by Publishers Group Canada.

Review by @SukasaReads …

How to think like an inventor

Temple Grandin has one message to all the want-to-be inventors out there: Make Things. 

If there's anything that this world-renowned scientist, inventor, and expert of visual thinking believes in, it's this: If you can dream it, you can make it. 

Filled with interesting facts about inventors and inventions, Temple Grandin's CALLING ALL MINDS is a blueprint for different ways to look at the world.

And women have made so many contributions to making this world a better place. Temple Grandin highlights some of these in her book. For example, did you know that women hold at least thirteen patents for improvements on the typewriter, including a typewriter for the blind, an uppercase attachment, and a reverse-movement attachment so you can go back spaces? 

In 1936, Beulah Louise Henry receive a patent for her machine called the "protograph," which was an attachment to the typewriter that could produce four copies without the use of carbon paper. She also made improvements …

Plant-forward recipes that are spouse approved

That's how Jeanine Donofrio refers to the recipes in her new cookbook LOVE & LEMONS EVERY DAY.

How do you get your whole family on board to try a plant-based lifestyle? There's no secret ingredient, but there are recipes that just may help convert those hard-to-please skeptics. 

You can't go anywhere these days and not be bombarded by advertising about plant-based foods. Most big chain grocery stores have vegan sections.
Even fast-food restaurants are introducing vegetarian and vegan food choices, like A&W's Beyond Meat Burger

This plant-based food trend has also reached some fine-dining establishments like Chef David Lee's Nota Bene. Lee opted to shut down the successful restaurant, and rebrand into a new incarnation: Planta Queen.

It's clear that people's love for plant-forward recipes is gaining momentum, and this fad will soon become a fact of life with ever growing focus on the (lack of) sustainability and carbon footprints from the traditional fo…

Find a good place to hide, because you're going to want to escape with C.J. Tudor's The Hiding Place

Growing up is challenging in the best of situations, but growing up in the isolated, small community of Arnhill, seems to take the Pulitzer. 

C.J. Tudor is back with another gripping, dark tale that will literally make you question the ground you stand on. Joe Thorne never wanted to return home. But sometimes you just can't run away from your past. So twenty-five years later, Joe returns, as an English teacher at his former school, Arnhill Academy. He's got plan to erase all his debts. But, he's also got a past that's quickly catching up with him.

"Arnhill is not a welcoming village. It is bitter and brooding and sour. It keeps to itself and view visitors with distrust. It is stoic and steadfast and weary all at the same time. It is the sort of village that glowers at you when you arrive and spits on the ground in disgust as you leave."

Joe settles in a decrepit cottage in an abandoned part of town, which has recently experienced a gruesome murder-suicide, one o…

Lock up your grief in The Yellow Suitcase

Inspired by the author's own family experience, The Yellow Suitcase is a young girl's journey to accepting the loss of her grandmother. It's reminiscent of a thirty-two hour journey from California to India, when Meera Sriram's children lost their grandmother. 

There's a mixed bag of emotions in this book, reflected in a simplicity and naïveté of child's perspective. 

In The Yellow Suitcase, Asha has travelled with her parents from California to India. She's done this journey before, with her yellow suitcase in tow, usually filled with presents for her grandmother; but this time, it's evident to the little one that things are not quite the same. For one, Grandma isn't waiting on the front porch like she usually did.

She wheels her tiny, yellow suitcase into her grandma's house, the same way that she has every time she's come to visit. This time, she's greeted with a sea of faces: some familiar, others strange. 

You can't have a book abou…

Canada Reads Day 3 - Tweets that moved

"In the end you can't help but question the absurdity of hate. You can't help but remember that the only thing that makes sense is kindness." defending by Max Eisen.

"What we do with the cards that we are dealt with is the ultimate test of the human spirit."

This remarkable memoir will make you proud to be from Canada, a country that welcomed Bakr and his family with open arms. on HOMES

I was a fan of the band before, but now I'm even a bigger fan of drummer -- he delivers his passion for the book HOMES by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah, with such heart.

More Racism is a huge issue we have to tackle today. The books at

In their own words: Brother by David Chariandy

Brother is about two siblings growing up in a tough surburban context. Michael the younger brother is sensitive, needs protecting. Frances, the older brother is tougher, a black boy who understands what it means to be seen as a threat. Their mom, a single immigrant parent who works long hours to raise her sons. It's Scarborough of the 1990s, a landscape of high rises and hiphop. But then violence changes everything. It's a story about grief and loss, but also love and beauty and joy.
~ David Charindy

Dreams die. Sometimes naturally. Sometimes tragically. But what happens then. How do you keep living? And what if? What if it was your brother, your life, your dreams dying? Brother asks a lot of questions, but never preaches. Rather it illuminates lives that are seen, but never heard. We've all heard the headlines, but Brother takes you beyond. Into the struggle of single mothers, into systemic racism that occurs right here in Canada, into loss, grief, kinship. All the books th…

In their own words: Homes by Abu Bakr Al Rabeeah with Winnie Yeung

Abu Bakr Al Rabeeah: My story Homes about my life from Iraq to Syria, escaping the civil war in Syria. And from Syria all the way to Canada. 

In their own words: A Chance Alone by Max Eisen

A Chance Alone is about terrible destruction; entire Jewish communities were totally destroyed, including my family. We wound up being transported out to the death camps. My family was selected out, and my mother with her baby in her arms and my grandparents were simply walked into a gas chamber. My father had only seconds to give me a blessing and he told me that if I managed to survive that I must tell the world what happened. 
~ Max Eisen 

I don't have to remind anyone here what happened in New Zealand just 10 days ago. Hate crimes are surging around the world. Nazi salutes, swastikas, signs that were once unthinkable are being repeated like Kill All Muslims and Kill All Jews. And this isn't happening anywhere else; this is happening right here in Canada. A recent survey found that one in every five Canadian young people don't even know what the Holocaust is. At the very same time, in our very own country, hate crimes have skyrocketed. by up to 47%. If hate spreads like a…

In their own words: Suzanne by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, translated by Rhonda Mullins

Suzanneis about my grandmother who left her two kids for a life. I was angry about this woman because she hurt my mother so much. I didn't want to know much about her. But then she died, and I felt I needed to know about who was the woman before my mother. Who was that ghost? I went to her apartment and found that she was a lot more complex. She was a free woman, an independent thinker, who tried to paint, to be a poet, who had a lot of lovers and who went to the revolution in the US. Who was totally free, but she was yet not happy. I discovered that she was really more than the one who left. 
~ Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, translated by Rhonda Mullins

Suzanne is a fascinating character study that makes us realize that we are not solely defined by our actions. 
 The book written in the second person, starts as a hatred letter towards Suzanne, and ends up being an homage to a unique woman who had the courage to go beyond the norm of her times. This is the poignant story of a mother who fe…

The Woo Woo by Lindsay Wong

"Sometimes the things we must talk about are the most uncomfortable," @mrjoezee said on the first day of #CanadaReads debates.