Book Blogger Spotlight: Purple Jelly Bean Reviews

We’re excited to bring you our November Book Blogger Spotlight! This is where we chat with one of our bloggers, ask them to share some of their favorite authors, the books they can’t live without, and find out how they came to book blogging.

This month, we bring you our chat with the delightful Natalie from Purple Jelly Bean Reviews. You can follow her on Twitter @nattiejean1969.

What made you want to start a book blog?

I have always been a very passionate reader, it wasn’t until I had been given an ereader that I discoverd reviews for books, I followed the trail to the Goodreads website and started checking out everyone’s book blogs, I asked a few questions to friends who added me and as they say “Bob’s your Uncle” my blog was born!

What’s your favourite reading spot?

My favorite color is purple (like I’m not obvious about that lol) and I found a huge purple leather chair that just happened to look like a jelly bean. Curled up in that reading is where you will most of the time find me.

Your favourite book in the last year?

My favorite in the last year is a series by Patti Roberts called Paradox The Angels Are Here. It is so far a 3 book series and I think 1-2 more coming out. I am on #3 right now. It is a must read series, Patti is from Australia and she is an indie author published through Smaswords.com and Amazon.

Favourite book of all time?

Oh wow that is a tough question, with all of the books I read it is really hard to narrow down which has become my favorite of all time. I think I will answer this question with a favorite book/series I have read many times if that’s ok lol. V.C. Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic I would say is one of my favorites to date, I’ve read that series probably 20 times now.

Favourite author?

I have a few of those, Stephen King, Sandra Brown, Christine Feehan, Beatrice Small and Philippa Gregory are my favorites that I just have to have their new books, incredible authors.

Favourite movie adaptation of a book?

The Green Mile, I have to say is my favorite adaptation of a book, I think I have watched that as many times as I have read V.C. Andrews!

What do you do when you’re not working on your blog?

I work in Health Care, I am a secretary for Seniors Mental Health and also for Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment Program in Nova Scotia. I have 2 children 17 & 21 but they still keep me very busy lol an amazing boyfriend and 2 cats Bubba and Missy and 1 dog, a Boston Terrier named Jack who I think has been sent to drive us all crazy lol, he is very entertaining though and a joy to be with (espically when he’s sleeping)!! The rest of my time is spent reading, and I love chatting with all my blogger/author friends on facebook or through email.

Bubba and Missy

Jack

Do you seek reader engagement on your blog? If so, how does this affect your ideas about books and authors?

Oh yes, I love getting others opinions of what I have read, my opinion is only 1 of many and it is nice to see how everyone elses perspective is different from my own, it lets you see things in many different ways wether I agree or not. It is a big part of why I blog I love the interaction with those who follow me.

Do you read other blogs? Which ones?

I have over 400 that I try to follow as best as I can, I always start with Simon & Schuster I review a lot for them, Cambria Hebert, Jason McIntyre, Patti Roberts, Rachel Firasek, Christine Feehan, simonreads.ca, harpercollinscanada, Dani Harper oh her blog is so awesome, they all are but there is so many to list.

How has your blog developed or changed since you first started?

Oh when I first started lol it was a mess, I had no idea what I was doing, I didn’t know HTML coding, trying to figure out what a gadget and a widget was almost gave me a nervous breakdown lol, but slowly and with the help of some amazing bloggers I had made friends with my blog has developed better than I had thought it would, which to me is amazing, I love blogging and reviewing for authors if I hadn’t of gotten an ereader for christmas one year I wouldn’t be talking with you today which I am so grateful that I am!

Cookbook Review: Fire in My Belly

We’re delighted to introduce Sarah Ramsey, a longtime bookseller in Toronto, to our blog.  Sarah will be sifting and blogging her way through some of our cookbooks – and we can hardly wait.   When she’s not cooking or reading, you can find her volunteering with Farmers Feed Cities (farmersfeedcities.com) or crafting in her favourite materials – butter, sugar, flour, and eggs.  You can follow her at @juliaschild.

***

Kevin Gillespie was raised in Locust Grove, Georgia and is executive chef at Woodfire Grill in Atlanta, although he is probably best known for having appeared on the sixth season of Top Chef, where he cooked with quiet confidence and heart that demonstrated his simple approach to food. He, rather shamefully, I think, didn’t win the title of Top Chef, but won the coveted ‘Fan Favourite’ distinction.

His approach to food is simple, seasonal and sustainable and his enthusiasm is evident in Fire In My Belly. In it, Kevin crafts the story of his culinary awakening as a child and his play with the traditional Southern dishes he lovingly remembers. He states  “…I read a review of my cooking that described it as ‘modern Southern food’. It’s true that I was cooking sophisticated food with a distinctly Southern feel. But in my mind, I was just exploring the food that I really cared about. I wasn’t ‘modernizing’. My dishes were springing from food memories, often from my childhood.” That idea really resonated with me. My best memories in childhood are those spent watching my grandmothers (and great-grandmother) cook and bake; food, to me, is a gift and an expression of love.

I read the book from cover to cover, and loved that I felt I was having a passionate conversation about food with the author (and shared this sentiment to my Twitter followers. @topchefkevin replied with his thanks and “That is exactly what I hoped for.”) Kevin starts the book with his belief that “good cooking starts with good ingredients” and argues that “cooking is, at its root, figuring out the great qualities of any food and then making those qualities shine”. He primes us for cooking with an introduction to some ingredients, techniques and equipment he frequently uses. My favourite is his use of the word plucky, meant to describe bright acidity, something sharp or piercing but not unpleasant.

The well-constructed (and beautifully photographed) recipes start with Foods You Thought You Hated, including asparagus, beets, broccoli, mushrooms, and salmon (things I have always enjoyed) and oysters and sweetbreads (which I think I may never enjoy). Next, Kevin shares his Southern dishes (such as boiled peanuts and cornbread pancakes with sliced brandywine tomatoes and bacon mayonnaise) and revisited world classics (including salad Lyonnaise and eggs Benedict), as well as recipes for grilled foods, spicy foods and junk foods (hooray!).

I was drawn to the One-Pot Hog Supper on page 83 for a few reasons. First, it has a wonderful story: as Kevin’s Granny first prepared it from a jumble of ingredients on hand, her brothers teased her, saying, “What’s this? Some slop you feed the hogs?” I think some of the best cooking has sprung from using one’s imagination with a handful of ingredients at the ready. And in my experience, a grandmother’s recipe will never fail. Never. Secondly, the meal is slow cooked, and I really enjoy slow cooking. It’s deeply satisfying and I get a lot of pleasure from it. And lastly, how can one go wrong with fatback?

I was late coming home from the shop, frazzled by my frustratingly long commute and hungry. Ravenous, actually. But, I had committed to trying this recipe. I was excited and had been thinking about it all day. I walked in the door, greeted my husband with a kiss and pulled out my mandoline. I washed up the potatoes and peeled the onion and garlic, then sliced them thinly. I sliced my fatback and laid it in my Dutch oven, then tore up some cabbage and sliced some fat, fragrant heirloom tomatoes. When crispy and golden, I removed the crackling from the pot and drained some of the fat, then carefully layered the potatoes, onions and garlic, cabbage and tomatoes in the pot, seasoning each vegetable generously with salt and pepper. Then I covered the pot and waited for the magic. Our little kitchen was aromatic and warm. My tummy was rumbling.

After forty-five minutes, as per the recipe, I uncovered the pot and allowed the dish to simmer. I tore up some fresh celery leaves, tarragon, chives and parsley and tossed them with some fresh lemon juice and a sweet, fruity olive oil and dressed this herb salad with the crunchy crackling. I also toasted a few slices of a fresh boule.

Although it was past nine o’clock when the supper was finished simmering, I took a photo or two of the dish after I spooned it on to my plate and nested the herb salad atop it. I had hoped my patience was about to be rewarded. I dove into the dish; the vegetables were soft and rich and seasoned simply and perfectly. The accompanying herb salad added balance and texture and I used the toasted bread to clean my plate. I took a moment to post to Twitter to say, “It is late. It is rainy. But I am eating @topchefkevin’s delicious One-Pot Hog Supper & I am SO happy.”  I attached one of the photos. (Kevin responded to my Tweet: “I love it! What a wonderful picture. So glad you are enjoying one of my cherished family recipes.” I was thrilled.) . The dish was wonderful and I have been recalling the experience of cooking it fondly to friends and family; they tell me I have a twinkle in my eye when I describe the construction of the dish and the taste and the simple joy I derived from eating it.

I plan to try many more recipes from Fire In My Belly. I’m terribly impressed by Kevin Gillespie’s food philosophy, his flavours and rich and personal culinary history. It’s a beautiful book and one of my new favourites.

 

Book Blogger Spotlight: Just a Lil’ Lost

We’re excited to bring you our October Book Blogger Spotlight! This is where we chat with one of our bloggers, ask them to share some of their favorite authors, the books they can’t live without, and find out how they came to book blogging.

This month, we bring you our chat with the wonderful Michele from Just a Lil’ Lost. You can follow her on Twitter @JustaLilLost.

What made you want to start a book blog?

I have always loved blogging, and used the Post a Day Challenge on WordPress last year to get back into the swing of things. A friend noticed that I often wrote about books that I was reading so she suggested I look into book blogging! I’m surprised I didn’t immediately think of doing that to begin with, since I always wanted my blog to have a main topic… this was really just inevitable!

What’s your favourite reading spot?

Anywhere! I will always have a book with me so anywhere I can get a chance to read is a favourite spot. I actually enjoy reading while commuting. It makes the trek go by faster, and if it’s somewhere further I have to go, I just figure it’s more reading time for me!

Your favourite book in the last year?

My favourite book of last year was The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I absolutely loved that book, and quite enjoyed the movie as well.

Favourite book of all time?

Favourite book of all time would have to be the Harry Potter series. I know, I know… it’s not ONE book but those really are my favourite. I don’t re-read books except for this series. But, if I absolutely had to pick a favourite from the series, I’d say it’s #6 – Half Blood Prince.

Favourite author?

Going along with my previous answer, it would have to be J.K. Rowling – for sure. It’s so inspirational how she started writing, while sitting in a coffee shop and having publishers turn down her manuscript before it finally got published. Rags to riches… it’s amazing.

Favourite movie adaptation of a book?

That’s a tough one… at the risk of sounding repetitive and saying Harry Potter again (even though they are my fave) I’ll say The Notebook. I thought the book was okay but I absolutely loved the movie. I joke that I tend to have a cold heart towards sappy movies or books but this film had me bawling!

What do you do when you’re not working on your blog?

When I’m not downing Starbucks’ caramel macchiatos at my day job in marketing or out with friends for brunch, I can be found with a book and my laptop, near a TV. Besides reading, I am also a bit of a TV junkie and, like I am with books, there are way too many good shows that I don’t get a chance to check out. There is just not enough time in a day to read all the books, and watch all the shows, that I’d like to!

Do you seek reader engagement on your blog? If so, how does this affect your ideas about books and authors?

Hmm yes and no.. I welcome comments and thoughts on reviews or other posts that I may have up on the blog. It’s more when I’m reading reviews that I tend to be more selective. There was a highly-anticipated book last year that I was very excited about. In passing, accidentally, came across someone’s thoughts on it and the one thing they had a problem with it. The entire time I was reading the book, I couldn’t get that issue out of my head because the seed had been planted. I hate spoilers, so I tend to stay away from reviews on books that I plan on reading soon, just so it won’t taint or bias my own view of it.

Do you read other blogs? Which ones?

I read many other book blogs – which would be too numerous to list. Other than that, I frequent Entertainment Weekly‘s site, and sometimes Wired, Gizmodo and Jezebel.

How has your blog developed or changed since you first started?

When I first started it, it was a blog about anything of interest that came to mind. It developed into what it is now, a “mostly-book blog” where I still can use it to discuss particular topics that I find interesting, share my photographs and – of course – discuss all things book related

Indie Bookstore Spotlight: Bryan Prince Bookseller

The independent bookstore is a cultural and community hub – authors are introduced, works read aloud to an audience and ideas are shared.

Each month, we will be featuring an independent bookstore from across Canada, proving what a special role these shops play in fostering authors, community and a love of reading. For October, we are featuring Bryan Prince Bookseller in Hamilton, Ontario. We got to speak with the lovely co-owners Kerry and Tracey. You can follow them on Twitter and Facebook!

  1. Tell us a little bit about the history of Bryan Prince Booksellers
    Bryan Prince Bookseller was established in 1989 by Bryan Prince who had been partner, for many years, in the Dundas bookstore Chapman & Prince. The store has always maintained a strong community focus, participating in countless events, fundraisers and programs in the greater Hamilton area.

    Tracey Higgins joined the staff as a bookseller in 1990 and Kerry Cranston began her bookselling career in 1994. In 2011 Bryan Prince retired from bookselling and sold the store to Kerry & Tracey, who do their utmost to continue the traditions of the store while adapting to current trends and technology.
  2. What made you want to open a bookstore?
    We love books in all their manifestations. We believe that literacy, creativity and a critical mind are so important in developing a thoughtful, engaged citizenry. Whether it is fiction or nonfiction, we are exposing our minds to new ideas and new ways of communication those ideas – we can’t think of many more satisfying careers than fostering and encouraging that process.
  3. What do you like best about your career in books?
    The most satisfying part of being a bookseller is connecting a reader with their new favourite author, or the perfect book to suit their needs.
  4. What does the book-buying public understand least about independent bookstores?
    Most of our customers understand how difficult it can be for independent booksellers to compete with huge corporations and online retailers who are able to greatly discount books. It is very comforting to know that so many of our customers are very loyal to independents and understand the importance of our existence to ensure diversity and local community in the marketplace.
  5. What is the hardest part about being a bookstore owner in 2012?
    The hardest part of being a bookseller right now is the uncertainty of so many things that are completely outside our control: technology trends, the state of the economy and how that effects the average person; fuel & transportation costs, etc.
  6. What types of books does your store stock and/or specialize in?
    Bryan Prince Bookseller is a general bookstore, stocking fiction, nonfiction and children’s books. We have a very good special order service and have recently started to stock French titles.
  7. What are some of your favorite titles? Titles coming out this year?
    Tracey: I have the lost generation classic and am enamoured of the beautiful editions of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. In terms of new books coming our this year, I adored the debut mystery by Deryn Collier, Confined Space, and throughly enjoyed Jian Ghomeshi’s memoir, 1982. I am also very excited to read (when the time presents itself, Salman Rushdie’s memoir, Joseph Anton.)
  8. What are you reading right now?
    Tracey: Right now I’m reading the Booker longlisted novel, Garden of Evening Mists, by Tan Twan Eng and the new Massey lecture by Neil Turok, The Universe Within.
  9. What is your most current best seller? Classic?
    Our current bestseller is Joseph Anton, by Salman Rushdie. In terms of a classic bestseller, it would be a toss-up between Ernest Hemingway and Jane Austen.
  10. What have been some of your favorite (or most memorable) author events?
    One of our most memorable author events was the evening with Robertson Davies and Shyam Selvadurai. It was Shyam’s first reading and Robertson Davies was so kind and gracious with both Shyam Selvadurai and the booksellers from the store. That evening resonated with Tracey every time she rereads one of Robertson Davies’ novels. Aside from that one, the Harry Potter midnight parties were great. They entailed a ridiculous amount of planning and preparation, but worth is all when we saw the hordes of enthusiastic children.
  11. Any strange, wild or crazy-but-true stories?
    It’s an unusual day when we don’t have anyone ask a strange question that has nothing to do with bookselling. One of the more difficult conversations I’ve had, though, was trying to convince a customer that the complete Oxford English Dictionary was not available on audio cassette.
  12. What book are you, or will you, hand-sell with a vengeance?
    This fall there is a wealth of great books to recommend. As the weather cools off, though, mystery lovers are on the hunt for something new & exciting. This fall I will be handselling Confined Space, by Deryn Collier & Crow’s Landing, by Brad Smith.
  13. Is there anything else you would like to tell our blog readers?
    There are lots of things we want people to know about booksellers, but there is one opinion that we encounter that we find disturbing. There seems to be an impression that booksellers are ignoring developments in technology, that we are passionate about books because we aren’t facing up to the future, or somehow defying the inevitable. We are all for reading. We wish everyone would read voraciously in whatever medium best suits their needs. But we also believe that physical books and digital books will find their balance and that we’ll get past this almost desperate frenzy to eliminate every alternative to the digital world.

Book Blogger Spotlight: Moonlight Gleam’s Bookshelf

We’re excited to bring you our September Book Blogger Spotlight! This is where we chat with one of our bloggers, ask them to share some of their favorite authors, the books they can’t live without, and find out how they came to book blogging.

This month, we bring you our chat with the lovely Lucy from Moonlight Gleam’s Bookshelf. You can follow her on Twitter @MoonlightGleams.

Lucy: Before getting into the interview, I would like to thank the wonderful people at Simon & Schuster for extending this wonderful opportunity to me. If I could, I would give you all a group hug! *virtual group hug!*

Let’s get started!

 What made you want to start a book blog?

Reading has always been a passion of mine and is a big part of who I am.

Prior to blogging, I was reviewing books on my Indigo Community page for quite a few years. This was a great start for me, however, I was wanting for a more personal way to review novels and connect with other book lovers around the world.

With the encouragement and support of the great friendships I acquired within the blogging community, I was finally brave enough to pursue my desire of creating my very own book blog.

I created Moonlight Gleam’s Bookshelf on November 28th, 2010, nearly two years ago, and I feel fortunate to be part of a wonderful community that welcomed me with wide open arms.

What’s your favourite reading spot?

My favorite reading spot at the moment is at the corner of my room, right by my bookshelves. Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by books while reading?

 Your favourite book in the last year?

There were so many titles that I really enjoyed over the last year! I can’t seem to pick only one, so I’d like to share my top four picks if you don’t mind!

–      Triangles by Ellen Hopkins
–       Unraveling Isobel by Eileen Cook
–       Lucy In The Sky by Anonymous
–       The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Favourite book of all time?

Go Ask Alice is definitely my favorite book of all time. It’s an emotional read that addresses strong subject matters and will change the reader’s perspective on life. I’ve read it four times over the years and I recommend it wholeheartedly to everyone that hasn’t read it yet.

Favourite author? 

Kelley Armstrong and Cassandra Clare are my favorite authors within the paranormal genre for both Adult and YA Fiction. Ellen Hopkins is also tied in at first place as I really enjoy her prose poetry writing style and how she incorporates relatable characters and important everyday issues within her novels.

Favourite movie adaptation of a book?

What immediately comes to mind is a classic called To Kill a Mockingbird written by Harper Lee. It’s a great movie and an even better novel that I believe everyone should read.

I also really enjoyed movie adaptations of Gone With The Wind, Little Women, and Wuthering Heights. My most recent movie releases that are among my favorites include Shutter Island, The Timetraveler’s Wife, My Sister’s Keeper, The Lovely Bones, and The Golden Compass.

 What do you do when you’re not working on your blog?

I’m currently a full-time university student at Concordia University in Montreal, at which I’m pursuing a Chartered Accountancy designation. I also work part-time in retail and as a marker for one of my professors.

My other hobbies, apart reading, include creating natural mineral eyeshadows, photography, and coin collecting, just to name a few.

Do you seek reader engagement on your blog? If so, how does this affect your ideas about books and authors?

Connecting with my readers is very important to me as I believe in developing great relationships with them.

While keeping in mind that my readers include people of all ages, other bloggers, and authors, I do my best to create and share quality posts that will interest them all. That being said, honesty is my top priority when I’m creating my posts and typing up my reviews.

I am really fortunate to have acquired such a great follower base in so little time. My readers are very supportive and frequently give me great feedback by commenting on my reviews, and sending me private messages.

I can also say with confidence that many of the friendships I’ve acquired throughout the last two years of blogging will last for years to come.

Do you read other blogs? Which ones?

There are quite a few blogs that I’ve subscribed to and I wish that I could list them all; however, I’ll list some of those that I visit most often:

Tynga’s Reviews

Rabid Reads

fiktshun

Books of Love

Cindy’s Love Of Books

Lost at Midnight Reviews

Midnight Bloom Reads

Bookshipper

Parajunkee’s View

Kristina’s World of Books

Dazzling Reads

Once upon a quote …

How has your blog developed or changed since you first started?

With the exception of the appearance of my blog, I’m always looking to improve my reviews and step out of my comfort zone.

I have also recently recruited a co-blogger, Crimson! She’s awesome and I couldn’t have asked a better person to take on the task. I’ve created an About Us page so that my readers can learn more about her and I.
Ways to contact Lucy:
Email
Goodreads
Facebook
Youtube
Amazon