Friday, 31 July 2015

The Best Natural Homemade Skin & Haircare Products

The Best Natural Homemade
Skin & Haircare Products
175 Recipes for Creams, Balms, Shampoos & More
by Mar Gómez
Paperback, 224 pages

There are a few concerns about store-bought beauty products: Where they were made and what they were made of. How they were tested. How they may affect us. And how much money they cost.

All equally troublesome if you think about them, and in this day and age of going back to basics and making things for ourselves, it's high time we start looking at making our own lotions and potions and whatnot.

With this book you learn how to source ingredients, prepare products and store them effectively.

Learn about all the different kinds of oils that are available from all over the world and which part of the body and beauty treatment they are best for. 

Take care of your lips, hair, feet, body, remove make-up, deal with sun and scars and more!

Become the natural beauty you were always meant to be.  

From the Back Flap:

Formulas for all types of skin, from dry to oily and from young to old.

Health-enhancing oils from around the world form the base for natural cosmetics. With these easy-to-follow recipes and widely available natural ingredients, you’ll be able to create effective, soothing and, above all, natural creams, balms, face and body oils, exfoliating scrubs, shampoos, shower and bath gels and lip balms.

The recipes in this book feature really lovely oils, including monoi oil (a coconut and flower oil that is a staple in beauty and skin regimens in Tahiti), soy oil, nut oils (such as macadamia, almond and peanut), seed oils (such as sesame, hemp, pumpkin seed and flax) and some beautiful exotic natural oils, such as piqui, andiroba, prickly pear seed, tamanu and argan.

All of these oils have wonderful skin-care properties, and there are formulas for all types of skin, from dry to oily, acne-prone to wrinkled, young to old.

The formulas are very easy to follow and require only regular kitchen equipment and a good kitchen scale. 
There are formulas for anti-aging creams,firming recipes to fight cellulite, Freckle-and-Spot Removing Oil, Moisturizing Facial Wrinkle Cream, anti-dandruff shampoos and so much more!

Making luxurious, heavenly scented homemade cosmetics is both surprisingly simple and incredibly satisfying.

Mar Gómez has a diploma in naturopathy, dietetics and nutrition and collaborates with a variety of media outlets. She also leads workshops on making natural products and has written several books. Mar resides in Madrid.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Broken Promise: A Thriller by Linwood Barclay

A Thriller
by Linwood Barclay

Hardcover, 512 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Linwood Barclay's thrillers just keep getting better and better. Tight, complex, human, and realistic. Not a word is wasted in this gripping novel.

He draws you in with the first page and you are hooked until the end. Actually, past the end. Now I have to wait for the next one.

The novels are not serial, but there are links between them. Familiar names and faces and stories that progress as time goes on. I love it. I absolutely love it.

*Update! I have since learned that Broken Promise is part of a trilogy that he wrote in one amazing marathon because he was committed to keeping the threads straight. (And likely terrified to fuck up!)

Broken Promise delivers. A double entendre, Promise Falls is the name of a town that is failing, and the effects of promises broken are myriad.

A great summer read. Or fall read. Just a great book.

From the Back Flap:

From the New York Times--bestselling author of No Safe House comes the first novel in an explosive trilogy about the disturbing secrets of a quiet small town.

     After his wife's death and the collapse of his newspaper, David Harwood has no choice but to uproot his nine-year-old son and move back into his childhood home in Promise Falls, New York. David believes his life is in free fall, and he can't find a way to stop his descent.

     Then he comes across a family secret of epic proportions. A year after a devastating miscarriage, David's cousin Marla has continued to struggle. But when David's mother asks him to check on her, he's horrified to discover that she's been secretly raising a child who is not her own--a baby she claims was a gift from an "angel" left on her porch.

     When the baby's real mother is found murdered, David can't help wanting to piece together what happened--even if it means proving his own cousin's guilt. But as he uncovers each piece of evidence, David realizes that Marla's mysterious child is just the tip of the iceberg.

     Other strange things are happening. Animals are found ritually slaughtered. An ominous abandoned Ferris wheel seems to stand as a warning that something dark has infected Promise Falls. And someone has decided that the entire town must pay for the sins of its past . . . in blood.

LINWOOD BARCLAY is the New York Times and #1 international bestselling author of twelve critically acclaimed novels, including No Safe House, A Tap on the Window, Trust Your Eyes, which has been optioned for film, and No Time for Goodbye. Visit him at

Monday, 20 July 2015

Mãn: A Novel by Kim Thuy

A Novel
by Kim Thuy
Trade Paperback, 160 pages
Publisher: Vintage Canada

Looks can be deceiving.

From such a slim book, so much. I was about to say what the so much is - but I cannot narrow it down to words. Magic. Simplicity. History. Honour. Tradition. Strength. Perseverance. Trust. And love.

And food! Let's not forget the food. For a while, one of the safest ways Mãn could feel and express emotion.

A tapestry of life. An opening to love.

A delicious book.

It changed me. In the short time it took to read it.

My texts became more poetic. I became more patient.

I loved this book.

From the Back Flap:

A triumph of poetic beauty and a moving meditation on how love and food are inextricably entwined, Mãn is a seductive and luminous work of literature from Kim Thúy, whose first book, Ru, was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, received a Governor General's Literary Award and won the nationwide book competition Canada Reads.

     Mãn has three mothers: the one who gives birth to her in wartime, the nun who plucks her from a vegetable garden, and her beloved Maman, who becomes a spy to survive. Seeking security for her grown daughter, Maman finds Mãn a husband--a lonely Vietnamese restaurateur who lives in Montreal. Thrown into a new world, Mãn discovers her natural talent as a chef. Gracefully she practices her art, with food as her medium. She creates dishes that are much more than sustenance for the body: they evoke memory and emotion, time and place, and even bring her customers to tears. Mãn is a mystery--her name means "perfect fulfillment," yet she and her husband seem to drift along, respectfully and dutifully. But when she encounters a married chef in Paris, everything changes in the instant of a fleeting touch, and Mãn discovers the all-encompassing obsession and ever-present dangers of a love affair. Full of indelible images of beauty, delicacy and quiet power, Mãn is a novel that begs to be savoured for its language, its sensuousness and its love of life.

KIM THÚY has worked as a seamstress, interpreter, lawyer and restaurant owner. She currently lives in Montreal where she devotes herself to writing.

SHEILA FISCHMAN is the award-winning translator of some 150 contemporary novels from Quebec. In 2008 she was awarded the Molson Prize in the Arts. She is a Member of the Order of Canada and a chevalier of the Ordre national du Québec. She lives in Montreal.


Excerpt from the Hardcover Edition:

Thursday, 16 July 2015

The Name of The Devil: A Jessica Blackwood Novel by Andrew Mayne

Name of the Devil (430x648)
The Name of The Devil
A Jessica Blackwood Novel
by Andrew Mayne
• Paperback: 432 pages 
• Publisher: Bourbon Street Books

Absolutely incredible! Even better than his first novel, Angel Killer - which I loved.

You know how procedural crime novels can sometimes take too much of the magic out of the story by the end? Magic is part and parcel of his novels, as well as complex mystery and crime. And elements of magic remain throughout.

One of those books where you ask yourself how they kept all those elements going.

Andrew Mayne is rocketing to the top of my favourite authors to read.

Do yourself a favour - read The Name of The Devil.

From the Back Flap: 

In this electrifying sequel to Angel Killer, magician-turned-FBI-agent Jessica Blackwood must channel her past to catch a killer consumed by a desire for revenge.

When a church combusts in rural Appalachia, the bizarre trail of carnage suggests diabolical forces are at work. Charged with explaining the inexplicable, the FBI's Dr. Ailes and Agent Knoll once again turn to the ace up their sleeve: Agent Jessica Blackwood, a former prodigy from a family dynasty of illusionists. After playing a pivotal role in the capture of the Warlock, a seemingly supernatural serial killer, Jessica can no longer ignore the world, and the skills, she left behind. Her talent and experience endow her with a knack for knowing when things are not always as they appear to be, and she soon realizes this explosion is just the first of many crimes.

As the death toll mounts, Jessica discovers the victims share a troubling secret with far-reaching implications that stretch from the hills of West Virginia to cartel-corrupted Mexico to the hallowed halls of the Vatican. Everyone involved in what happened on that horrible night so long ago has tried to bury it—except for one person, who believes that the past can be hidden, but never forgiven. Can Jessica draw on her unique understanding of the power and potential of deception to thwart a murderer determined to avenge the past?

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42108About Andrew Mayne

Andrew Mayne is the star of A&E's magic reality show Don't Trust Andrew Mayne, and has worked with David Copperfield, Penn & Teller, and David Blaine. He lives in Los Angeles. Connect with him through his websiteFacebook, or follow him on Twitter.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

The New World: A Novel by Andrew Motion

The New World
by Andrew Motion

Hardcover, 368 pages
Doubleday Canada

A leap from my usual fare - that seems to be my theme this summer, expanding my horizons. And how better to expand my horizons than with an adventure book?

The New World is the second in a series of post-Treasure Island books by the renowned writer, Andrew Motion. 

It's been a while since I read Treasure Island, if I ever did. And I didn't read the first of this series, Silver. I was afraid I might not be able to follow as easily but that was not an issue at all.

Adventures are meant to be taken for what they are. An adventure! When Jim and Natty found themselves shipwrecked in the New World, a new adventure began. We see the cultures through their eyes. The differences between tribes and cultures. The effects of colonization. The wild-west feeling of building new nations, the hardship of foraging anew.

They come across a variety of outlandish characters in the book and we are around for the ride.

I can definitely see these books becoming a movie or two. 

Let the adventure begin!

From the Back Flap:

The breathtaking new novel about unexpected adventure from Andrew Motion, internationally acclaimed author of Silver.
     Washed ashore after a harrowing shipwreck, English seafarers Jim and Natty find themselves stranded on the Gulf Coast in Texas. Their ship, the Nightingale, has been destroyed, and to Jim and Natty's horror, only one other survivor remains. But the shocked and grief-stricken duo soon realizes they're not all alone on the beach. When a band of Native Americans approaches the shore in a threatening fury, they brutally kill Jim and Natty's last shipmate, rob their dead crew and take the two desperate survivors hostage.

     Suddenly, Jim and Natty are thrust into an Old West adventure unlike anything they've ever experienced. Starting with a desperate escape from a violent Chief, who obsessively keeps close on their trail, they join up with a troupe of entertainers who take them to a thriving and dangerous New Orleans, and finally, head back to the high seas where Jim and Natty hope to seek passage home.

     In magnificent, free-wheeling prose and in a high-flying style, Andrew Motion has spun a fantastic yarn that will win the hearts of adventure lovers everywhere.

ANDREW MOTION is a poet, critic, novelist, biographer, and, for many years, a professor and poetry editor. He served as Poet Laureate of the UK for ten years and was knighted for his services to literature in 2009. He is now a professor of creative writing at the University of London and a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He lives in London.

Monday, 6 July 2015

The Festival of Insignificance by Milan Kundera

The Festival of Insignificance (429x648)
The Festival of Insignificance
by Milan Kundera
• Hardcover: 128 pages 
• Publisher: Harper (June 23, 2015)

I don't even know where to start with this review. The book is short and quirky and not exactly linear. I
would say it is meant to be read slowly and just taken for what you take in. Don't expect a story, really. This is a somewhat dreamy, disconnected book of absurdity and philosophy. From navels to Stalin to angels. 

Abstract at times, sad, lonely, absurd. Truths, lies, life, mediocrity and banality with occasional narrator voice jumping in to the mix.

It explores our inability to live in the same world as others. To experience in the same way. To truly understand another. That recognizing the banality of life is important, even (or especially) during major events in our lives.

"No one is here by their own wish."
"Hold on to the illusion of your own individuality."

Read it and think. The book will take you a couple of hours. The thinking may take more. 

From the Back Flap:

Casting light on the most serious of problems and at the same time saying not one serious sentence; being fascinated by the reality of the contemporary world and at the same time completely avoiding realism—that's The Festival of Insignificance. Readers who know Kundera's earlier books know that the wish to incorporate an element of the "unserious" in a novel is not at all unexpected of him. In Immortality, Goethe and Hemingway stroll through several chapters together, talking and laughing. And in Slowness, Vera, the author's wife, says to her husband, "You've often told me you meant to write a book one day that would have not a single serious word in it . . . I warn you: watch out. Your enemies are lying in wait."
Now, far from watching out, Kundera is finally and fully realizing his old aesthetic dream in this novel, which we may easily view as a summation of his whole work. A strange sort of summation. Strange sort of epilogue. Strange sort of laughter, inspired by our time, which is comical because it has lost all sense of humor. What more can we say? Nothing. Just read.

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Milan KunderaAbout the Author

The Franco-Czech novelist Milan Kundera was born in Brno and has lived in France, his second homeland, since 1975. He is the author of the novels The Joke, Farewell Waltz, Life Is Elsewhere, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Immortality, and the short-story collection Laughable Loves—all originally written in Czech. His most recent novels Slowness, Identity, and Ignorance, as well as his nonfiction works The Art of the Novel, Testaments Betrayed, The Curtain, and Encounter, were originally written in French.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Vegan Everyday: 500 Delicious Recipes

Vegan Everyday
500 Delicious Recipes
by Douglas McNish

Paperback, 480 pages

It's a good time to be vegan. So much information is out there now, and many mainstream grocers and restaurants are recognizing the need to accommodate for specific diets and sensitivities. Same goes with being gluten-free. When we found out my daughter couldn't digest gluten several years ago - it was a lot more difficult to find options for her. 

But there is still the pervading concept that vegan and gluten-free diets can be onerous to cook for on a regular basis. You fell that you can't exactly cook on the fly like you used to. It requires some thinking and planning.

Vegan Everyday teaches you how to stock a vegan, gluten-free pantry - I like that the book really goes to town with herbs, spices, and assorted exciting flavourings. Something we should all be using.

With a well-stocked pantry and this collection of 500 simple and healthy recipes, you will be well on the way to healthier living. 

(I am a part-time vegan myself - whether you live it full time or just for a well-balanced lifestyle, this book will take the fear out and put the fun in!)  

Chapters Include:

The Vegan Gluten-Free Pantry
Juices, Smoothies and Non-dairy Milks
Sauces, Butters and Spreads
Snacks and Sides
Beans and Grains
Pasta and Noodles
Sautes and Stir-Fries
Soups, Stews, Chilies and More
Baked Goods 
Vegan Basics

Vanilla Chai Power Bars

Energy bars are a great item to keep on hand for snacking on the go, or enjoy them as a quick breakfast with a cold glass of Almond Milk.

•    8-inch (20 cm) square glass baking dish, lined with parchment

3 cups    puffed quinoa cereal     750 mL (see Tips)
1 cup    puffed millet    250 mL
2 tbsp    chia seeds    30 mL
1 tbsp    raw shelled hemp seeds    15 mL
1 cup    brown rice syrup    250 mL
1⁄4 cup    raw agave nectar    60 mL
1⁄2 tsp    ground cinnamon    2 mL
1⁄4 tsp    ground cardamom    1 mL
1⁄4 tsp    ground ginger    1 mL
1⁄4 tsp    ground allspice    1 mL
1⁄4 tsp    organic vanilla powder     1 mL
1⁄8 tsp    ground cloves    0.5 mL

1.    In a large bowl, toss together quinoa, millet, chia seeds and hemp seeds. Add brown rice syrup and agave nectar and stir well. Stir in cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, allspice, vanilla and cloves.
2.    Spread mixture evenly in prepared baking dish. Cover and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.
3.    Using parchment liner, lift from pan. With a sharp knife, cut into 8 equal bars. Serve immediately or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Puffed quinoa and millet are available in most well?stocked supermarkets and natural food stores.
This recipe can easily be doubled, tripled or quadrupled. Just adjust the size of the baking dish or use multiple dishes. You can freeze extra bars for up to 2 months.


Courtesy of Vegan Everyday by Doug McNish, 2015 © Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold.

Singapore Summer Rolls

These simple fresh rolls are perfect for summertime entertaining.

4 cups    hot water    1 L
8    10-inch (25 cm) rice-paper wrappers (see Tips)  8
4 cups    shredded carrots    1 L
2 cups    finely sliced red bell peppers    500 mL
2 cups    finely sliced cucumbers (see Tips) 500 mL
1    bunch fresh mint leaves (see Tips)    1

1.    Place hot water in a heatproof bowl. Working with one wrapper at a time, submerge wrapper in hot water until pliable, about 30 seconds. Remove and pat dry. Lay wrapper flat on a clean work surface.
2.    In the middle of wrapper, place 1⁄2 cup (125 mL) carrot, 1⁄4 cup (60 mL) red pepper, 1⁄4 cup (60 mL) cucumber and 5 or 6 mint leaves.
3.    Carefully fold bottom edge of wrapper over filling. Fold in sides and continue rolling up from the bottom, gently packing roll as you go. Press down firmly to ensure that roll holds together. Repeat with remaining wrappers and fillings. Serve immediately or cover with a damp paper towel, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.


Rice-paper wrappers are available in most well-stocked supermarkets and natural food stores.
Substitute an equal amount of finely sliced mango for the cucumbers, and fresh basil leaves for the mint.

Courtesy of Vegan Everyday by Doug McNish, 2015 © Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold

Chipotle Walnut Mushroom and Rice Burgers

These burgers are perfect for summer barbecues or get-togethers. I love serving them on a crusty bun with lettuce, tomato and pickles.

•    Food processor

5 cups    water    1.25 L
2 cups    short-grain brown rice, rinsed and drained    500 mL
1⁄4 cup    nutritional yeast (see Tips)    60 mL
1⁄2 tsp    fine sea salt, divided    2 mL
6 tbsp    grapeseed oil, divided    90 mL
1 cup    finely chopped onion    250 mL
6 to 8    cloves garlic, minced    6 to 8
3 cups    thinly sliced mushrooms (see Tips) 750 mL
2 tsp    chipotle powder    10 mL
1⁄2 cup    tomato purée    125 mL
4 cups    raw walnuts    1 L
1⁄4 cup    ground raw golden flax seeds    60 mL
    Burger trimmings, such as sliced tomato, onion, lettuce, optional
    Gluten-free hamburger buns, Optional

1.    In a saucepan over medium heat, combine water, rice, nutritional yeast and 1⁄4 tsp (1 mL) salt. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and bring to a rapid boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for about 50 minutes, until rice is tender and almost all of the liquid has been absorbed. Using a fork, fluff rice, then cover and set aside for 10 minutes to absorb any remaining liquid.
2.    In a skillet over medium heat, heat 3 tbsp (45 mL) oil. Add onion and remaining salt and sauté for about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add mushrooms and chipotle powder and cook, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Stir in tomato purée and simmer until mixture is slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.
3.    In food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine cooked rice, mushroom mixture and walnuts. Process until mostly smooth (small pieces of rice and walnut are fine).
4.    Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in ground flax seeds until well incorporated. Using a 1⁄2-cup (125 mL) measuring cup, divide mixture into 8 equal portions. With your hands, form into desired burger shape.
5.    In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tbsp (30 mL) grapeseed oil. Cook burgers in batches, adding more oil as necessary, for about 3 minutes per side, until golden brown. Alternatively, cook on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper in a preheated 400°F (200°C) oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden brown, turning halfway through.
6.    Serve immediately, on buns with trimmings if desired, or transfer to an airtight container and let cool. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 2 months.

Nutritional yeast is an inactive yeast that has been grown on beet molasses and then pasteurized. It provides a rich, cheesy flavor in sauces, stews, soups and dips. Look for it in well?stocked supermarkets and natural food stores.
The quantity of garlic depends on the size of the cloves. If large, use the smaller number. If small, more may be required.
Choose portobello, cremini or white button mushrooms for this recipe. Their dense texture will give the burgers body.


Courtesy of Vegan Everyday by Doug McNish, 2015 © Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold.