March Wrap-up

It’s a little late, but here is my March wrap-up! Hopefully, I’ll post my April wrap-up less than a month after April ends but it doesn’t look like things will be slowing down for me in April at all so maybe not. Without further ado:

1. Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead

Trigger Warnings: child abuse, homophobia, alcoholism, death, racism, body shaming, miscarriage

Source: Purchased, Shelf Life Books

4.5 Stars

Jonny Appleseed, championed by Devery Jacobs, won Canada Reads 2021. As per Arsenal Pulp press: “A tour-de-force novel about a Two-Spirit Indigiqueer young man and proud NDN glitter princess who must reckon with his past when he returns home to his reserve.”

This is a primarily character-driven novel that flips back and forth between present and past in the lead-up to Jonny’s return home to Peguis First Nation. It is simultaneously, sad and uplifting. It reads like many stories woven together through different spaces and times to tell the story of who Jonny is and how he came to be. This was a wonderful book and every person should read it.

2. Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots

Trigger Warnings: Violence, body horror, gore, death, medical trauma, kidnapping and confinement, torture, murder.

Source: Purchased, Shelf Life Books

Challenges: Calgary Expo Reading Challenge, Leading Lady Badge

4.5/5 Stars

Another Canada Reads contender, Hench is much more lighthearted than the other contenders. It was championed by Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, most recently known as an actor from the comedy Kim’s Convenience.

Summary from Goodreads: “Anna does boring things for terrible people because even criminals need office help and she needs a job. Working for a monster lurking beneath the surface of the world isn’t glamorous. But is it really worse than working for an oil conglomerate or an insurance company? In this economy? As a temp, she’s just a cog in the machine. But when she finally gets a promising assignment, everything goes very wrong, and an encounter with the so-called “hero” leaves her badly injured. And, to her horror, compared to the other bodies strewn about, she’s the lucky one.”

I felt Hench really stood out from the rest of the Canada Reads Books (although, full disclosure, I still have not read Two Trees Make a Forest). Hench is full of dark humour and sarcasm, and a page-turning adventure from start to finish. My husband, who basically never reads, asked to borrow the book when I was done because he overhead it being discussed on Canada Reads. I think this book will attract a wider audience than some of the other contenders, yet it still had a meaningful plot, or maybe I’m the only one reading a workers’ rights and health rights narrative into the storyline? It is also full of diverse characters, in a way that fully takes advantage of the alternate superhero/villain universe.

Quotes: “I wouldn’t have time to shower. I decided showing up in dry shampoo and desperation was better than missing a chance to pick up a contract. It had been a few weeks since I last worked; the villain I was semi-regularly hunching for had their largest aquatic base raided, and almost all of the hunches working off-site had our contracts cancelled to cover the rebuild.”

3. The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Trigger Warnings: Violence, death, blood, torture, misogyny, physical abuse, sexual abuse, racism.

Source: Library

Challenges: Calgary Expo Reading Challenge, Magic Badge

4/5 Stars

I picked this up based solely on cover and have no regrets. From Storygraph:

“In this world, girls are outcasts by blood and warriors by choice. Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of her ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity – and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki-near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.”

I could not put this book down! Although the storyline was very different, this reminded me of The Midnight Bargain, which I read last month. The broad similarity is that these are both fantasy books with magical elements that centre around misogynistic societies. I would read this again and would definitely read a sequel.

4. Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers

Trigger Warnings: Self-harm, mental illness, anxiety, medical content

Source: Library

Challenges: Popsugar Reading Challenge, a past prompt: two-word title

4/5 Stars

What is not to love about a story full of love, growth and self-reflection?

Honey Girl begins with the main character Grace Porter drunkenly getting married in Vegas, which is very out of character for Grace, who recently completed her Ph.D. in astronomy with a military-like zeal passed down from her Father the “colonel”. Thus begins a journey of self-reflection and discovery for Grace who is struggling with the weight of burnout, and job and life expectations.

The best part of this book is the relationship between Grace and her friends, both new and old. The romantic storyline between Grace and Yuki, her new wife, is also fantastic, particularly because while it starts with a wild beginning, it quickly feels realistic and romantic.

5. The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

Trigger Warnings: Death, murder, infidelity, miscarriage, suicidal thoughts, pedophilia

Source: Library

Challenges: Calgary Expo Reading Challenge, Time Travel Badge; Popsugar Reading Challenge, a book your best friend would love

4/5 Stars

I picked this book for the Popsugar Reading Challenge, a book your best friend will love, because the modern character Caroline Parcewell becomes an amateur historian when she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames. I know my best friend would love the adventure that Caroline then goes on to learn more about the story behind the vial.

From Storygraph: “In this addictive and spectacularly imagined debut, a female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them – setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course.”

This story made me want to go “mudlarking” on the banks of the Thames. Apparently, this is a real-life thing where you scavenge in river mud for items, in the case of this book items of historical significance or value. Although, I didn’t really care for the storyline involving Caroline and her husband’s infidelity (not a spoiler, known from the outset), I loved the historical narrative and the parts about Caroline searching for information about the apothecary.

6. Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite

Trigger Warnings: Illness, death, trauma, miscarriage

Source: Purchased, E-book

Challenges: Popsugar Reading Challenge, a book about forgetting

3/5 Stars

I’m really drawn to books with this cover style! I think I purchased this as an e-book when it went on sale based solely on the cover.

From Goodreads: “when a school presentation goes very wrong, Alaine Beauparlant finds herself suspended, shipped off to Haiti and writing the report of a lifetime…”

This book was cute and I learned some interesting facts about the history of Haiti. I also really enjoyed that it was written in the epistolary style, with emails, articles, diary entries and letters scattered throughout.

The biggest struggle I had with Dear Haiti, Love Alaine is that the voice of the main character Alaine is very juvenile. I don’t think I talked like this even when I was a teenager myself. I can hear the uptilt at the end of every sentence and feel the “I’m cooler than everyone else” attitude seeping through the pages bringing me PTSD from everything I tried to avoid in high school. I often enjoy YA books, and while I enjoyed the story itself, the first-person, bubbly teen voice was not for me.

Did Not Finish

I had lots of books at the end of March that weren’t finished but I planned to still continue. The only DNF that I put down was Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler.


Cooking Out of My Comfort Zone

Bet you thought I gave up on my goal of cooking every recipe in one cookbook? Wrong!

Well, I have thought about it. I just don’t have the energy to cook real food all the time. I basically live off of greek yogurt, bananas and babybel. The other night for dinner I ate a bag of chips with dill pickle dip. It is what it is.

I did actually cook three more recipes from Half Baked Harvest since I last updated the “cook” portion of this site. All three were a bit outside of my comfort zone in different ways. Out of these recipes, I think I would only make one again.

Apple Ricotta Pancakes with Bacon Butter

Difficulty Level: 4/5

Yumminess: 2/5

Would I make it again? Probably not. Too much work for the end result.

This recipe was a lot of work. It took me roughly two hours to make. First, you make the soufflé pancake batter, which involves using a mixer two times with two clean bowls. I only have one mixer bowl, so I had to transfer the first set of ingredients to a new bowl and then wash the mixer bowl to use again. Ultimately, not that much work but I found it incredibly annoying.

This also involved whipping egg whites into peaks, which I have no idea how to do. Then you fold the egg white into the batter. This is where I started to maniacally laugh.

The one thing I did not learn from this episode of Schitt’s Creek is how to actually fold ingredients in. At this point I was starving though, so rather than search online I just made it up.

Then, you cook thinly sliced apples side-by-side about the size of a pancake. When the apples are partially cooked you pour the pancake batter on top. This was a frickin mess. The photo above is probably the closest to actual pancakes I was able to cook. Most of the pancakes fell apart.

This recipe also involved making whipped ricotta with lemon. That part was easy and pretty delicious. The bacon butter was the redeeming part of the whole show. I ate that shit for the rest of the week. It was particularly delicious on banana bread my Mom made.

My husband cooked the bacon by roasting it in the oven and caramelizing the bacon with sugar. Rather than use the recipe for bacon butter, I just blended the butter and chopped caramelized bacon together. It was fantastic. Maybe I’ll post that recipe later?

Soy Marinated Flank Steak with Potatoes

Difficulty Level: 2/5

Yumminess: 5/5

Would I make it again? Definitely! This was surprisingly easy to make and tasted great. We gobbled up the leftovers in record time!

Once again, I had some ingredient issues: no fresh oregano! No sesame seeds! Ran out of soy sauce! The ingredient list also called for lime juice but the recipe itself says lemon juice? I used lime but it seemed like either would work.

Otherwise, this was a shockingly easy recipe to follow and it turned out amazing. The one thing it could have used was temperature guides for the meat. We like our steak medium-rare and cooked it until it reached an internal temperature of 130-135 degrees. Use a thermometer!

Easy Coq au Vin

Difficulty Level: 3/5

Yumminess: 2/5

Would i make it again? No, it’s not really my jam.

This recipe was less out of my comfort zone than the others. I do make a fair amount of soups and stews because they make such delicious leftovers. The part that was difficult for me was cooking with chicken. It is my least favourite ingredient.

Chicken is kind of gross, takes so much effort to cook properly and rarely tastes that good? I’m just not a fan. And this recipe did not make me feel differently about that. The chicken ended up kind of dry and flavourless, which is crazy because there is so much fat in this recipe! You cook the chicken in bacon fat and a ton of olive oil. Plus you cook the whole thing in a mixture of wine and broth. Yet I still felt really underwhelmed.

My husband liked it though, so if you’re a fan of chicken then you might like this as well. Although, I can tell it wasn’t his favourite because he hasn’t eaten a single container of leftovers.

Also, was not a fan of serving this over butter noodles. It felt really unnecessary and kind of heavy. That said, I couldn’t find any fresh sage, so our butter noodles were just plain butter noodles.

And that is my cooking update. I need to find something that will get me back into the cooking groove! Any suggestions?


Virtually Explore Calgary’s Literary Scene

Hi there, it’s been a while!

I have been a bit behind with my posting because (1) I’ve been very busy with work; and (2) it’s super nice outside, which you have to take advantage of in this city where it could blizzard at any second!

I needed to take time out of my sunny weather schedule to highlight a very cool new digital literary map made by Shaun Hunter, 2020 Historian in Residence for Heritage Calgary.

This map is so easy to use and fun to explore! Hunter explains that “each pin [on the map] tells the story of a literary connection to a specific site in the city”. There are more than 500 pins. Who knew Calgary had so many literary sites?

Exploring these pins has given me lots of new ideas for my TBR list and inspired me to go check out some of these sites in person. Here is a very brief list of some of my favourite sites. Leave me your favourite sites in the comments so I can continue to explore!

1. Weeds Café

Weeds Café is in my neck of the woods, so it seemed like a great place to start. I learned from the map that it was featured in Rae Spoon’s 2012 autobiographical novel First Spring Fire Water.

2. Anderson Apartments

Image from Calgary’s Inventory of Evaluated Historic Resources

This is one of my favourite historical landmarks in Calgary. It is used all the time for filming movies. Including Fargo!

Apparently, in 1912 the apartment block made a cameo in Eileen Coughlan’s Calgary mystery novel Dying by Degrees.

You can read more about the Anderson Apartments on the City of Calgary’s Heritage Planning website.

3. Norman Block

Image from City’s Inventory of Evaluated Historic Resources (see link below)

The Norman Block was built in 1904 and was once the Lyric Theatre, a vaudeville stage. Marina Endicott features the Vaudeville era in her 2012 novel The Little Shadows.

I loved The Little Shadows when it came out but the entry in the literary map was unclear about whether the theatre is specifically featured in the book or just the vaudeville era generally. Since it has been a while I can’t remember either! I may need to do a re-read and find out.

More on the Norman Block can be found here.

4. Central Memorial Park Library

Central Memorial Park Library (1910), c1930-37 photo, Glenbow Archives nd-24-88

This is my favourite library in the city for many reasons. It’s beautiful, tends to be a bit quieter than other libraries and Wordfest events take place on the second floor!

The map uses stars to show significant places (or so I gather) and the Central Memorial Park Library has 6 stars!!! I’ll leave it to you to figure out what each star says.

For more on the building see here.


January and February Monthly Wrap-up!!!

I didn’t do a January round-up (heck I wasn’t even fully a bookstagrammer/blogger in January!), so I figured I would do a January & February monthly round-up all at once! It also makes me feel a bit better because I finished way less books than normal per month and DNFed waaaaaaay more.

Did anyone else have a slow start to their reading year? Last year it felt like I was reading at the speed of light, but for the first two months of 2021, I have not been able to concentrate on anything! Send me good vibes for March!

Without further ado:

January Wrap-up

1. Crosshairs by Catherine Hernandez

Trigger Warnings: All the triggers in this one. Racism, homophobia, transphobia, child abuse, suicide, sexual violence and general violence.

Source: Library

Challenges: Popsugar Reading Challenge (a book about social justice issues)

5/5 Stars

I am on a Canadian fiction bender in 2021 and started the year off strong with Crosshairs. This is a blood-pumping dystopian tale set in Canada (Toronto mainly) in the near-future where “Others” are placed into work-camps and otherwise horrifically discriminated against. I think you can guess who the “Others” are – that’s right, communities of colour, the disabled, elderly and LGBTQ+. There is a reason the book blurb calls it the “terrifyingly familiar near-future”.

This was a five-star read for me (I meant it when I said I started out strong!) I could not put this book down….or stop crying. It was emotional.

2. Punching the Air by Yusuf Salaam and Ibi Zoboi

Trigger Warnings: racism, violence, imprisonment

Source: Library

Challenges: Popsugar Reading Challenge (a book found on a BLM reading list)

5/5 Stars

Another five-star read! In some ways, I started out the year very strong. On the other hand, I picked up quite a few books only to put them down one or two chapters in.

Punching the Air is a young-adult novel published in verse. I’m really into this right now. Last year I read Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson, a middle-grade book published in verse, and also loved it.

Punching the Air is written by Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five and Ibi Zoboi a prison reform activist. This is a must read, particularly for social workers, teachers and other people working with youth. It is about a sixteen-year-old boy who is wrongfully convicted and sent to prison. It is about his experience in prison, as well as his memories of his life before. The overarching storyline is about the main character fighting institutional bias by searching for truth and finding himself through his art.

3. Betty by Tiffany McDaniel

Trigger Warnings: racism, sexual abuse, child abuse, self-harm

Source: Library

Challenges: Popsugar Reading Challenge (a book that has the same title as a song)

4/5 Stars

Betty by Tiffany McDaniel was a four-star read. It is a biography written by the protagonist’s Daughter. Betty is half Cherokee and grew up in a racist/impoverished environment, and most of the storyline is about her coming of age in this context. Although Betty faces many struggles, she is curious, imaginative and loving. She is also a prolific writer.

This was four stars because while I really enjoyed the book overall, there were a few times it just a bit long and I found myself skimming through parts.

4. Tilly and the Crazy Eights by Monique Gray Smith

Trigger Warnings: racism, residential school trauma, cancer/sickness

Source: Library

Challenges: Popsugar Reading Challenge (a book by an Indigenous author)

4/5 Stars

Four stars, and thoroughly enjoyable. This was the lightest read of the past two months. It was filled with joy and adventure. Tilly and the Crazy Eights is about a road trip taken by Tilly and eight Elders to Albuquerque for the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow. There are stories of friendship, love and adventure along the way.  

While there are definitely a few trigger warnings in this book (hopefully I didn’t forget any, because I didn’t write them down as I went like I usually do!), ultimately the story is more about healing and love. There is some content about past trauma, particularly residential school trauma, but I found the narrative mostly focused on how those characters moved past the trauma to become who they are today. Although sometimes I felt the characters were a bit simplistic, ultimately I found them loveable with interesting storylines.

After I read this book, I read an article in the Toronto Star that talks about how author Monica Gray Smith received a grant to take a road trip and follow the same route as her characters. I think you can really see the product of that in the detail of the road trip in the novel.

A quote to remember: “Seems to me, Miss Tilly, that everybody’s so busy worrying about themselves. You know always looking at their phones and other gadgets. Few seem to remember that everything we do affects the next generations. Everything belongs to those not yet born.” He looked up to the sky. “The ones that are still the stars”

5. Break Your Glass Slippers by Amanda Lovelace

Trigger Warnings: disordered eating, fatphobia

Source: Purchased, Paperback

4/5 Stars

Break Your Glass Slippers is part of a poetry series called “you are your own fairytale”. I haven’t read any of the other books in the series but will likely pick them up at some point. I have to admit I have very little educational knowledge about poetry. I just read what I enjoy and I don’t think about it much beyond that.

I rated this four stars. It is a book of poetry about female empowerment, which is right up my alley. The theme of Break Your Glass Slippers is that you are the most important character in your fairytale. Seems simple but easy to forget! I wish I had this to read when I was younger and really needed to internalize some of these lessons.

There are a few narrators in the book, but my favourite and the one I really remember is the fairy godmother.  Sometimes it seemed a bit simple and direct but this translates to a quick read that is easy to understand.

A quote to remember: despite what you may have heard, being alone is not this great tragedy everyone makes it out to be. if nothing else, see it as an opportunity to reintroduce yourself to yourself. to relearn who you are today. to dream up all the people you would like to be for every tomorrow to come. above all, find the value that lies in becoming your own best friend.

6. Eat a Peach by David Chang

Trigger Warnings: suicide, depression, drug use/abuse, anger, racism

Source: Library


My recent policy is not to rate memoirs so I will not give a star rating for this one. I will say that I really enjoyed Eat a Peach and was surprised by how much more there was to it than simply a food memoir.

This memoir is by David Chang who is most well-known for his restaurant Momofuku in New York. According to one blurb, he now owns 15 restaurants! The memoir starts out reflecting on Chang’s early childhood and adolescent years before getting into the story of how he became a chef and opened up his own restaurant. I would recommend this memoir to anyone who enjoys Anthony Bourdain’s writing. It is gritty and seemed brutally honest at times. I was pulled in from page one and never lost interest.

A quote to remember: “…it’s really a privilege to expect people to let us fail over and over again.

February Wrap-up!

1. Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekuyasi

Trigger Warnings: suicide, sexual abuse, pedophilia, drug use, miscarriage and homophobia

Source: Library

Challenges: Popsugar Reading Challenge (a book set in multiple countries); Calgary Expo Reading Challenge (Canadian Badge)

5/5 Stars

I love Canada Reads season! This was five stars, so good! I love emotional books from the view-point of multiple complex characters. See my full review here.

2. The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk

Trigger Warnings: domestic abuse, misogyny and sexism

Source: Library and purchased

Challenges: Calgary Expo Reading Challenge (fantasy badge)

4/5 Stars

The Midnight Bargain is another Canada Reads pick. I rated it a 4 out of 5 stars.

It tells the story of Beatrice Clayborn who is a sorceress in a place where women are not allowed to practice magic. When women get married they get locked into a marital collar that cuts off their powers because of the negative effect a pregnant woman’s magic has on their fetus.

The story starts with the beginning of Bargaining Season, a time where young men and women attend events so that their families can negotiate the best marriages for them. Beatrice is valued at Bargaining season because she has strong magic, which is desired by sorcerers so that they can have sorcerer sons. The bulk of the story is about Beatrice attempting to move away from her fate as a collared housewife and includes a romantic storyline for her as well.

Feminism + sorcery + historical fiction/romance vibes made this such an exciting read. I especially loved the underlying commentary about those in power or with privilege (men in this book) grasping on to that power with an iron grip for fear that letting others in (women) will diminish their own privilege.

3. Luster by Raven Leilani

Trigger Warnings: abortion, miscarriage, racism, violence

Source: Library

Challenges: Popsugar Reading Challenge (a book about art or an artist) Calgary Expo Reading Challenge (art badge)

3/5 Stars

This was an interesting read and I had a difficult time deciding what I thought about it. I think it is a 3 out of 5 for me. Luster is about Edie, a young Black woman, and her relationships with Eric, an older white man in an open marriage, and his wife and young adopted daughter.

Luster is told from one perspective with stream of consciousness style writing, which is usually not my favourite style. I sometimes found myself skimming parts for that reason. Luster is a really great read for the direct and subtle commentary about race issues at a personal and institutional level.

Quote to remember: racism is often so mundane it leaves your head spinning, the hand of the ordinary in your slow, psychic death so sly and absurd you begin to distrust your own eyes.

4. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

Trigger Warnings: homophobia, heteronormativity, incest, sexual and physical assault, racism

Source: Purchased, e-book


Doesn’t this book have the prettiest cover? All Boys Aren’t Blue is a memoir by George M. Johnson, a journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist. I posted about this book on Instagram previously, stating that I didn’t realize this was a book geared toward young adults. It doesn’t read like a young adult book and I think it would be great for a wider audience.

All Boys Aren’t Blue is a powerful and very honest book about the author’s experience growing up Black and queer in an environment with few similar role models.

Quote to Remember: Gender-reveal parties have become a trendy way to celebrate the child’s fate, steering them down a life of masculine or feminine ideals before ever meeting them. It’s as if the more visible LGBTQIAP+ people become, the harder the heterosexual community attempts to apply new norms. I think the majority fear becoming the minority, and so they will do anything and everything to protect their power.


Butter Honey Pig Bread

Trigger Warnings: This book contains references to suicide, sexual abuse/pedophilia, drug use, miscarriage and homophobia.

Source: Library E-Book

Reading Challenges/Lists: Canada Reads contender, Popsugar 2021 Reading Challenge (a book set in multiple countries), Calgary Expo Reading Challenge (Read Canadian!)

About Canada Reads

I chose Butter Honey Pig Bread because it is a Canada Reads Contender. It is my first read of the Canada Reads 2021 season. For those who don’t know, Canada Reads is a survivor-style show put on by the CBC where well-known Canadians each pick a book and champion it to win. This year’s theme is “One Book to Transport Us“. The Canada Reads show takes place from March 8 to 11, 2021.

Roger Mooking picked Butter Honey Big Bread for his Canada Reads choice and says: “[this book] treads verses, continents, time, the bonds of family. It explores Nigerian culture, folklore. It takes place in Halifax, Montreal, London and various parts of Nigeria. There is repetitive familial traumas…and it challenges the notion of kin.

I was unfamiliar with Roger Mooking before he was chosen as a Canada Reads champion, but now know that he is a chef and restaurateur among other things.

About the Author

Author Francesca Ekwuyasi is originally from Lagos, Nigeria but now lives in Halifax. I believe this is her debut novel, and what an amazing first it is!

My Review

As Roger Mooking said, Butter Honey Pig Bread takes place in multiple countries, including Canada. It starts out with the story of Kambirinachi and then moves on to tell the interconnected stories of her twin daughters Kehinde and Taiye, moving back and forth between the stories of each character – past and present.

It is no spoiler (basically this is in every description of the book) that a traumatic event Kehinde experiences in childhood splinters the relationship between all three characters and serves as the catalyst for Kehinde and Taiye finding their own path and leaving Kambirinachi behind in Lagos.

This was a five-star read for me! It was at times funny, sad, inspiring and has complex characters that I can imagine returning to and rediscovering in the future.

I loved the weaving of the story and timeline between each character, although I most enjoyed Taiye’s character. I felt she was the most well-developed and interesting. As I read, I placed Taiye in my mind as the main character, although I’m not sure if that was the author’s intent or just my own reading.

As the story delves into the past and present it provides the reader with a taste of the underlying issues and relationships between Mother and each twin, pushing you on to discover more.

One of my favourite parts of Butter Honey Pig Bread, although not a major storyline by any means, is the author’s commentary on colonialism and Indigenous issues in Canada. It is written from the perspective of an “outsider” (Taiye) who has only recently arrived in Canada for the first time to attend culinary school.

Food Themes

Food plays a huge role in Butter Honey Pig Bread, which should come as no surprise given Taiye’s cooking/chef background. Perhaps this is why I focused on Taiye’s character so much because I love books with lots of food descriptions and cooking!

Francesca Ekwuyasi masterly entwines food descriptions with Taiye’s feelings and circumstances:

salted caramel chocolate cake for your twin sister who you haven’t seen in…God, a long time.

Former lovers aside, this how you make native jollof rice, or, in Effik, iwuk edesi.

This is how you make mosa with your sister on the day she returns home.

Read Alikes

You will probably like Butter Honey Pig Bread if you are a fan of Chimanda Ngozi Adichie or Yaa Gyasi.


No-Guilt Broccoli Fettuccine Alfredo

Recipe No. 2 from the Half Baked Harvest Cookbook was another success!

I will say, I am still picking the easy ones but don’t yell at me yet, I promise the next two recipe reviews will be more out of my comfort zone.

The No-Guilt Broccoli Fettuccine Alfredo was quick to put together and addictively delicious. Bonus: it sneaks some greens in (if it’s not obvious from the title I am referring to broccoli).

Ingredient Notes

Yes, this is a giant serving of parmesan cheese. It is possibly more than the recipe calls for. I didn’t measure. I don’t want to know.

The reason this is called “no-guilt” is that the creaminess in the pasta comes from hummus. This is not the first time I have made pasta with a hummus sauce. Sometimes I just make noodles and toss them with hummus. I highly recommend it if you like hummus.

You may notice a common theme in my reviews, the inability to find fresh ingredients! As with the Caprese quinoa, I had to use a tube of basil from the fresh section of the store in place of fresh basil. It was probably fine.

The recipe calls for fresh parsley garnish. Since this is recipe no. 2 for me, I actually bought the garnish and used it. Does anyone else usually skip the garnish? I usually skip the parsley because it doesn’t seem to add that much to me (#notachef). I used it this time, I would probably skip it next time. It didn’t really make a difference to me.

The pasta is measure in pounds, but in Canada, our noodles come measured in grams. As a result, I had no idea how many noodles to cook. I went with about half-ish a 900-gram package of fettuccine noodles. It seemed to work.

Notes from the Recipe

I measured nothing from this recipe. I cooked it on Superbowl Sunday and was itching to join the husband on the couch with a glass of wine for some Sunday lazing. It turned out great! Fully recommend this recipe when you are in a rush or feeling lazy.

One note in that vein though, make sure to remember to reserve the pasta water to thin out the sauce. This is another thing I always forget to do. When you’re in a rush it’s easy to just dump the water when you are draining the pasta. Don’t do it!!

This recipe was a tinch spicy. I loved it! It comes from a small amount of cayenne pepper. If you don’t like spice, you could omit the cayenne and it would still be delicious.


Not the prettiest (my bad – not a great photographer) but I promise you it was delicious!

The end result was a lemony, garlicky bowl of comfort! The leftovers were devoured.

The broccoli is roasted before you add it to the pasta, and it is amazing!!! I can’t believe I haven’t done this before and will definitely be trying this again with other recipes.

Does it taste like fettuccine alfredo? I have no idea. I don’t think I have ever had fettuccine alfredo (#team marinara).

All-in, this was quick and easy with minimal clean-up. You could add protein or meat if you wanted, but it was filling on its own and a great way to get more greens in.

Husband’s review: delicious but would be better with bacon (he will be pleased with the next recipe).

Next up: Apple Ricotta Pancakes with Bacon Butter.


Caprese Quinoa Bake

The first recipe I tried from the Half Baked Harvest Cookbook is the Caprese Quinoa Bake. A similar but slightly different recipe can be found on the Half Baked Harvest website for a Creamy Caprese Quinoa bake.

I thought I would start simple, and this recipe has everything I am drawn to: limited dishes, pretty quick looking and lots of cheese! I was not disappointed!

The Caprese Quinoa Bake is essentially a one-dish quinoa casserole that mixes together the flavours of Caprese salad (mozzarella, tomato and basil) with hearty quinoa. I used tri-colour quinoa and it tasted and looked great!

Ingredient Notes

The recipe calls for heirloom tomatoes but it’s winter in Calgary, so I used Roma, which is what I could find at the store. I also could not find any fresh basil so I used basil in a tube from the fresh section of the grocery store. It was probably fine?

The recipe calls for using 1 cup of pasta sauce, which did not use the whole jar. One of my pet peeves is having a partial jar of pasta sauce in the fridge. I never know what to do with it, and it almost always ends up going bad and being discarded. What are your tips for using up extra pasta sauce? Do you just put it on noodles and call it a day?

Notes from the Recipe

I did not read the recipe very closely in advance, and silly me, did not realize that the recipe called for cooked quinoa. It ultimately was not a problem because the quinoa cooked while I prepped the vegetables.

Whenever a recipe calls for cheese I almost always put more in than the recipe suggests. I have yet to be disappointed with the results. Load up the mozza!!!!

Similar to the Creamy Caprese Quinoa, you put the casserole in the broiler at the end of the recipe to crisp it up. I am scared of the broiler because it is so easy to burn your dish. It was fine, I watched it through the oven glass and it didn’t burn but maybe should have been left in a tad longer.


This is prior to baking – I love the bright tomatoes!

I think this turned out fantastic! We gobbled it up and the leftovers went quickly. This made fantastic leftovers and would be a great dish to meal prep for weekday lunches. It is filling because of the quinoa but has a light fresh taste from all of the fresh tomatoes.

I am not going to lie, more mozzarella would have worked but otherwise, I would not have changed a thing. This was a great success and I can definitely see cooking it again.

It took about 30 minutes all-in and I would give it five stars for the easy clean-up alone. You can literally make this with nothing more than a cutting board, knife, bowl, pot and measuring cups. I was able to do all of the prep dishes while the casserole baked.

Husband’s review: yum, yum!


2020 – The Full List

I thought I would start out by writing the list of what I read in 2020. It’s a lot!!!

But First, the Stats!

Books Finished: 120

Pages Read: Approximately 39,726

Longest Book: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (771 pages)

Shortest: The Sun on My Head by Geovani Martins, translated by Julia Sanches (128 pages)

Most Surprising Standout: The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Most Underrated: Molly of the Mall by Heidi L.M. Jacobs OR The Mother Code by Carole Stivers

Five Star Reads of 2020

Four Star Reads

3-Star Reads

2 Star Reads


That’s the 2020 list! Are there any books you would like to see reviews of? What did you read in 2020?

A House Full of Windsor

Trigger Warnings: mental health/hoarding; divorce

Source: NetGalley ARC

Challenges: Popsugar Reading Challenge (A book that has fewer than 1000 reviews on Goodreads)

3.5/5 Stars

**I received this e-book advance reader copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I have been feeling a bit slumpish lately with my reading, and this was the perfect light read to help me pull out of it. It helps that I was very much in a British mood after watching Bridgerton again!

A House Full of Windsor by Kristin Contino follows a family of characters but is told from the alternating perspectives of Mother, Debbie Windsor (no relation to “those” Windsors), and daughter, Sarah Percy. Although the family lives in American, Debbie met her ex-husband in Britain and her kids grew up there.

Sarah is a “household advice” guru, known for her “Sarah Says” television segment and social media posts, for example, “Sarah Says, Tackle Stains the Right Way” where she instructs viewers on how to create their own cleaning spray. Sarah is a somewhat uptight, younger Martha Stewart-like character that has even reinvented her accent to be more “proper”.

Debbie, on the other hand, is a hoarder who is obsessed with the royal family. What is very unique, is that Debbie is not the kind of hoarder you would think of when you hear that term. Her collection is all royal themed, and categorized and organized in bins. Debbie is obsessed with keeping her items intact but has so little space in her house that she has to sleep on the sofa and can barely navigate her way to the front door.

The story revolves around Sarah’s brother getting a job on a television show, Stuff, about compulsive hoarding. He has Debbie accepted on to the show but promises Sarah’s participation. Ultimately, Sarah and Debbie agree and hijinks ensue. Add to this, a romantic storyline for both Debbie and Sarah, as well as glimpses into Sarah’s quirky, prosperous Father’s family in Britain, and this is an entertaining and interesting romp.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book was that it is told in alternating timelines. The story flashes back in time at various points to Debbie’s life, starting in the 1980s when she is a student in the UK. What is really clever, is that the flashback will be triggered by Debbie’s memories of a specific object in her collection of Royal memorabilia and the historical storyline will show you how she came to collect it. It also shows how Debbie came to relate so strongly to the royal family.

I felt that the story was a bit slow to start, and as a result, I had trouble getting into it. I’m really glad I stuck with it though because it eventually picksup. I wish we could have learned more about some of the side-characters like Debbie’s ex-husband’s family (and her children’s Dad). The glimpses into Debbie’s and her children’s lives in Britain left me wanting more, while I was not as interested in the storyline following Sarah’s Television career in the modern storyline.

Overall, I would recommend this for anyone who loves gossip magazines, royal spotting, reality television and storylines where objects take on a life of their own, to the extent that the objects are almost characters.

Quote to leave you with: “Since I moved back to America, I’ve had the kids, my lovely things, and they all filled my house. Then the kids grew up and left, and all I’ve got here is…stuff. And memories. And when they’re gone, what will I do?

Cooking Through the Book

The Cook Life part of this website serves as a platform for sharing my love of cooking and cookbooks. The Cook Life will mostly consist of posts related to my 2021 goal of cooking every recipe in the Half Baked Harvest Cookbook.

Why Cook Through the Book?

I have a confession to make. I am a cookbook hoarder. It brings me immense joy to buy cookbooks and spend endless hours flipping through them and planning future meals. The only problem is that those future meals rarely end up happening. I tend to go back to the old tried and true/quick meal plans or ordering take-out. (Photo of some of my cookbooks follows)

Sometimes I am also intimidated by the recipes in my books, which seem like they are going to take a super long time, have multiple steps or involve touching raw meat, which kind of freaks me out. I want to step out of my comfort zone and try some new things!

A few months ago I stumbled across an awesome Instagram profile where Babe with a Book and Beer was cooking through Cravings (the cookbook by Chrissy Teigen). I was so inspired! When I finally decided to start my own website I knew immediately that I wanted to try something similar and exactly which book to try and cook through.

I received a gift card to a local bookstore at Christmas and purchased the Half Baked Harvest Cookbook. I have wanted this book for a while but was hesitant to purchase given my tendency to not actually try the recipes from my cookbooks!

Half Baked Harvest Cookbook

The Half Baked Harvest Cookbook is a beautiful book from the blog of the same name. I have tried a few recipes from the blog with great results. There also seems to be a good variety of difficulty levels in the book. Meaning, the recipes range from fairly simple looking to more complicated.

Most Excited / Least Excited

I am most excited to try the Harvest Cheeseboard. What can I say? I am kind of lazy and I love cheese. Cheeseboards are the grown-up version of Lunchables and I will never turn one down. I am also most excited about all the pasta! Pasta is my go to meal because it is quick, usually pretty cheap, very delicious and makes great leftovers.

I am least excited about Let’s Salsa (four different salsa recipes). My knife skills are poor and I like salsa but don’t love it.

I am most intimidated by the recipes for Garlic and Herb Marscapone Roasted Chicken and Beer Can Chicken. I have never in my life roasted a whole animal. It seems difficult? Plus it involves raw chicken, which generally intimidates me.

I am also intimidated by any fish recipe. I almost considered excluding the fish recipes as well, but felt it would be a bit of a cop-out. I don’t mind fish now but hated it from the time I was a child until roughly five years ago. Now I don’t hate it but I also don’t love it. Except for opening a tuna can, I haven’t attempted to make any fish recipes.


My goal is to cook every recipe in the Half Baked Harvest Cookbook except for the ones I know I won’t eat. There is no point in cooking something that won’t get eaten! For me, that is any recipe that stars shellfish. I can’t stand shellfish and after many attempts at liking it I just give up! I dare you to change my mind!

I also will not re-print recipes, because if you are interested in cooking from this book, you should go borrow it from the library or purchase it from your local bookstore!

I will give you an honest review of the recipe and what it was like to cook from it. I will try to indicate how long it took to cook, difficulty level and anything else I feel would be of interest! I am a solidly average to below-average cook so this should be interesting!

What am I Missing?

What am I missing in my review ideas? Let me know in the comments or send me an email! I would love to know what you would like to read about!