Sunday, 17 November 2019

Rosemary Balsamic Pork Tenderloin

I have an on-going, almost salacious obsession with garlic. It is the PB to my J. The Rachel to my Ross. I do so love it. 

My family? They are under the impression that I go overboard with it.  Pfft!

  • Have I been bitten by a vampire? No.
  • Am I planning to kiss anyone who is not dining with me tonight? No, so who cares if I have garlic breath?
  • It's a culinary superhero - it helps battle sickness, reduces blood pressure and risk of heart disease.
  • It tastes deeelicious and is just plain awesome (and apparently addicting).

As you may guess, this recipe has garlic. Since one cannot live on garlic alone (can they?), the rub includes a few of my other favourite flavours - balsamic vinegar, fresh rosemary and sun-dried tomatoes. So many delicious flavours in a rub that takes plain 'ol pork tenderloin (or chicken breasts) to a whole new level. 

What are some foods that make you ga-ga?

1 pork tenderloin
2 tbsp grapeseed oil (or oil of your choice)
1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 1/2 tbsp garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh rosemary - finely chopped
to taste - salt and pepper
2 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes in oil - drained and chopped finely

Mix oil, vinegar, garlic, spices and sun-dried tomatoes well in a small bowl. 

Preheat oven to 450F.

Grease a baking pan (or line it with foil and lightly grease for easier clean-up).  Place pork tenderloin in the prepared pan.  Spoon herb mixture (it'll be pretty chunky) on meat, patting it in place. Roast for 10 minutes.

Reduce heat to 350F.  Cook for 45 minutes or until pork reaches an internal temperature of 145-160F.  Remove from oven.  Tent meat and allow it to sit for 10 minutes (don't skip this step).  Cut into medallions and serve immediately.

Great side dishes that go with this dish:

Creamy Rosemary Mashed Potatoes
Lemon Rosemary Orzo
Parmesan, Sage and Butternut Squash Risotto

Saturday, 16 November 2019

The Secrets He Kept

Author: Jackie Walsh
Genre: Suspense
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Hera Books
First Published: November 6, 2019
Opening Lines: Smiles, tears, love, lies, deception. It all ends now. Blood flows from the wound, forming a warm blanket for me to lie in. The room blurs, my eyes flicker to a close.

Book Description from GoodReads: You know everything about your husband. Don’t you?

He loves you. He loves your children. He’d never put his family in danger.

One of these is a lie.

It started like any other day at the hairdressers where Sally works as a stylist… until her first client innocently shows her a family photograph; a photograph that causes Sally to collapse in shock.
In one moment, Sally discovers that Tom has been hiding an explosive secret – one that could tear apart the life they’ve built together. Faced with an impossible dilemma - search for the truth, or keep her contented life? – Sally is about to discover that even those closest to us have secrets… and that sometimes the truth is the last thing we want to hear.
My Rating: 4 stars

My Review: When Sally discovers her husband has been keeping a big secret from her, she begins to question how well she knows her spouse of 16 years. As her unease and questions mount, Sally attempts to get to the bottom of his increasing deceit. This is the premise behind The Secrets He Kept, an impressive and compulsive domestic thriller.

I found this to be a quick read and interesting in a 'rubbernecker' kind of way as the reader witnesses the implosion of a family that once had strong ties. Sally is the main character who is trying to make sense of her husband's deceit and keep her family together. Readers will sympathize with her but may feel frustrated at her initial naïveté as she tries to explain away her husband's growing lies until she can not longer ignore the truth. 

As the lies increase, so does the tension making this a hard to put down book. As an avid reader of this genre, I had a few suspicions but soon guessed the big secret. Even so, the journey to the end of this thriller was enjoyable and I was impressed by its twists, growing tension and satisfying ending.

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to the publisher for providing me with a complimentary digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

To Brew or Not to Brew

Author: Joyce Tremel
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Type: Mass Market Paperback
Pages: 304
Series: #1 in the Brewing Trouble series
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: Berkley
First Published: December 1, 2015
Opening Lines: If looks could kill, the plumbing inspector giving me the bad news would have been in big trouble. "What do you mean there's a crack in the water line?" I said. "That's just not possible."

Book Description from GoodReadsAn all-new mystery series set in a Pittsburgh craft brew pub, featuring a brewmaster with a head for sleuthing.

The Allegheny Brew House is a dream come true for Maxine “Max” O’Hara, who went all the way to Germany for her brewmaster certification, and is now preparing to open her own craft brew pub in a newly revitalized section of Pittsburgh. But before she can start pouring stouts and lagers to thirsty throngs, there’s trouble on tap. Suspicious acts of sabotage culminate in Max finding her assistant brewmaster and chef Kurt Schmidt strangled in one of the vats.

Between rescuing a stray gray tabby she names Hops and considering a handsome ex-hockey player as her new chef, Max doesn’t have a lot of time to solve a murder. But with a homicide detective for a dad, she comes to criminal investigation naturally. And if someone is desperate enough to kill to stop her from opening, Max needs to act fast—before her brand-new brew biz totally tanks.

My Rating: 2 stars

My Review: Knowing that my husband and I were heading to Montreal for a few days to explore its history, food and craft breweries, I decided to bring this book to read on the trip. I figured it would be a light mystery with a focus on craft beer and a quirky group of characters (similar to Ellie Alexander's Sloan Krause series which I enjoyed recently).

Unfortunately, this was very simplistic mystery that needed a growler of oomph in a few areas. First, I didn't learn much about craft beer which isn't a big deal, but the mystery was weak considering the culprit is obvious early on and his/her motive was feeble at best. 

There's also a romance but it was just kind of there. No steam, no romance, just Max being naïve and awkward (which is apparently a total turn on for an ex-hockey player from her past).  Max spends much of her time running around town accusing people of being the murderer which results in confrontations (obviously) and over-the-top reactions that felt frustratingly melodramatic.   

This is a quick read, but it felt like this cozy was just trying too hard. It needed some major tweaking but didn't have enough substance to make me want to read more in the series.

Sunday, 10 November 2019


Author: Karin Slaughter
Genre: Suspense
Type: Hardcover
Series: #2 in the Grant County series
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: William Morrow
First Published: 2002
Opening Lines: "Dancing Queen," Sara Linton mumbled with the music as she made her way around the skating rink. "Young and sweet, only seventeen."

Book Description from GoodReadsSaturday night dates at the skating rink have been a tradition in the small southern town of Heartsdale for as long as anyone can remember, but when a teenage quarrel explodes into a deadly shoot-out, Sara Linton -- the town's pediatrician and medical examiner-- finds herself entangled in a terrible tragedy.

What seemed at first to be a horrific but individual catastrophe proves to have wider implications. The autopsy reveals evidence of long-term abuse, of ritualistic self-mutilation, but when Sara and police chief Jeffrey Tolliver start to investigate, they are frustrated at every turn.

The children surrounding the victim close ranks. The families turn their backs. Then a young girl is abducted, and it becomes clear that the first death is linked to an even more brutal crime, one far more shocking than anyone could have imagined. Meanwhile, detective Lena Adams, still recovering from her sister's death and her own brutal attack, finds herself drawn to a young man who might hold the answers. But unless Lena, Sara, and Jeffrey can uncover the deadly secrets the children hide, it's going to happen again ….

My Rating: 3 stars

My Review: After reading and loving Blindsighted a couple of weeks ago, I eagerly picked up this second installment of the series asap. This is definitely not a series for squeamish people and Slaughter wastes no time describing, in graphic detail, several disturbing and even depraved situations. 

These violent situations put me wellllll outside my comfort zone and, unfortunately, they seemed to be the focus of the book. It took me almost 100 pages before I felt invested in the plot because it felt like more time was spent trying to shock the reader instead of developing the characters. 

The story is intriguing and twisty, but I can't say I liked Sara, Jeffrey or Lena as main characters. Sara and Jeffrey's relationship has a lot of baggage and they always seemed petty and mean towards each other making me wonder why they even wanted to try to be together again. I was also hoping Lena's character would have been fleshed out more but perhaps that will be addressed in the next book (?).   

Overall, this is an edgy, graphic addition to this series and while not my favourite, I'll continue with it (mainly because I liked Blindsighted so much). I want to see if this style of suspense is for me and I'm hopeful that the focus will be less on shocking, icky situations and more on the suspense and characters.

Friday, 8 November 2019

Healthy As F*ck: The Habits You Need to Get Lean, Stay Healthy, and Kick Ass at Life

Author: Oonagh Duncan
Genre: Self-Help, Health and Wellness, Canadian
Type: Trade Paperback
Pages: 269
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Penguin Random House Canada
First Published: September 17, 2019
Opening Lines: Have you ever heard of gluten? It's this protein that's found in wheat that … just kidding! It's the 2020's, and even your weird survivalist uncle is gluten free. I bet you can name three people off the top of your head who would rather eat nuclear waste than gluten.

Book Description from GoodReadsJoin the Movement. Ditch the Diet.

Who's ready to stop thinking about weight loss? To free their brain from thoughts about ketones, calories, and fasting? Who wants life to be more effortless, energetic, and empowered?

Welcome to a refreshing and gloriously unapologetic conversation about health, fitness and habits. Award-winning trainer Oonagh Duncan cuts through the wellness clutter to drop some truth bombs: it might not be six-pack abs you're looking for - it might be happiness, confidence, and acceptance. But if losing your belly is what you want, don't let anyone - including yourself - stop you from going after it. And she'll show you how to make it happen.

There's only one major difference between those rare unicorns who have managed to lose weight and the rest of us: their habits. When you acknowledge that following a diet is not getting you anywhere, and you make a few small changes to your everyday routine, you'll find yourself happier and healthy as f*ck.

My Rating: 5 stars

My Review: I'm not a big Self-Help kind of reader but I am a woman in her mid-40's whose high metabolism left skid marks as it screeched to a halt a few years ago. This change left me with 25lbs of extra weight and, while I wanted to be healthier, I clearly lacked the chutzpah needed to actually accomplish my goals.

Enter Oonagh Duncan. 

Oonagh is a Canadian fitness expert and the author of
Healthy as F*ck, a refreshing, entertaining and inspiring book that helps readers figure out their motivations and establish long-lasting habits, leading to a healthier life. By following her 7 Keystone habits and making small changes to your daily routine, you can build permanent, daily patterns to help you achieve your goals whether that involves weight loss or just living healthier. With her sense of humour, Oonagh motivates you, backs up her info with sciencey-stuff and speaks from a position of empathy since she has struggled with her own weight and making healthier choices herself. Duncan's sass, straightforwardness and humour spoke directly to the BS I've been slinging at myself for years.

"It's about doing your best absolutely every single day without letting your Bullshit suck 
you back into a relationship (with old patterns) that you've outgrown."

If you're not averse to cursing and a wicked sense humour (*hand held up hiiigh*) and want a book that's an encouraging conversation with a sassy friend, then this is the book for you. It is a no holds barred, honest approach that focuses on small successes, being healthy (physically and mentally) instead of being sucked into the shame spiral that never did anyone any good, evah. It's making the occasional concession (aka half-assed attempt) while keeping your eye (and self love) firmly on the prize - a healthier you.

"If you can't do something right, do it totally half-assed."

If you want a quick fix, this book isn't for you. But if you're willing to do the work, Duncan's hi-larious humour and common sense approach will help you develop a long-lasting, habit-based method that will help you ignore that negative talk in your head and focus on being a healthier version of the awesomeness that is already YOU! 

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Penguin Random House Canada for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Sick Kids in Love

Author: Hannah Moskowitz
Genre: Teen
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
First Published: November 5, 2019
Opening Lines: What is your favorite place in New York?

Book Description from GoodReads
Isabel has one rule: no dating.
It's easier--
It's safer--
It's better--
--for the other person.
She's got issues. She's got secrets. She's got rheumatoid arthritis.
But then she meets another sick kid.
He's got a chronic illness Isabel's never heard of, something she can't even pronounce. He understands what it means to be sick. He understands her more than her healthy friends. He understands her more than her own father who's a doctor.
He's gorgeous, fun, and foul-mouthed. And totally into her.
Isabel has one rule: no dating.
It's complicated--
It's dangerous--
It's never felt better--
--to consider breaking that rule for him.

My Rating: 4 stars

My Review: From the title you may expect a The Fault Our the Stars kind of tear-jerker but this is not that kind of read. Told with some humour and an interesting, diverse cast of characters, this is a sweet romance between two teens who live with chronic illnesses. 

This story has many poignant scenes that often occur within life's smaller moments. It's within these moments that Moskowitz enlightens readers about what it's like to live with a chronic, and often invisible disease. We see how their families and friends interact with them and how the two families handle the illnesses differently. There's a lot of love but there are also misunderstandings and assumptions and Moskowitz gets to the heart of these issues.  

You either have to be overcoming [your illness] or you have to be completely disconnected from it. God forbid it be an important part of your identity 
that you’re just living with.

While I loved the issues Moskowitz raises, there were some aspects that didn't sit well with me. I wanted more closure with Isabel's relationship with her mom and unfortunately, I wasn't a big fan of Isabel. Sasha? He was awesome but she grated on me a bit. But I appreciate how Isabel's character was used to raise issues related to living with an invisible illness: the fear of people thinking she's 'faking' her illness, not being 'sick enough' to be considered ill and society's view of ill people in general. 

While at first glance this seems like a heavy read, this is more of a feel good story that will give readers a lot to think about and hopefully a better understanding and awareness of what it's like to live with a chronic illness. Written with humour and heart, Sick Kids in Love will educate readers instead of making them grab the Kleenex box.  

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Entangled Publishing for my complimentary digital copy of this title, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Lake in the Clouds

Author: Sara Donati
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: e-audiobook
Series: #3 in the Into The Wilderness series
Publisher: Random House Audio
First Published: August 13, 2009
Opening Lines: "Runaway from the Subscriber, William Braun, and indented apprentice, uncommon tall and fair, speaks a broken English. All persons, especially masters of vessels bound for German-speaking ports, are forbid harboring said William upon penalty of law."

Book Description from GoodReadsIn her extraordinary novels Into the Wilderness and Dawn on a Distant Shore, award-winning writer Sara Donati deftly captured the vast, untamed wilderness of late-eighteenth-century New York and the trials and triumphs of the Bonner family. Now Donati takes on a new and often overlooked chapter in our nation’s past--and in the life of the spirited Bonners--as their oldest daughter, the brave and beautiful Hannah, comes of age with a challenge that will change her forever. Masterfully told, this passionate story is a moving tribute to a resilient, adventurous family and a people poised at the brink of a new century.

My Rating: 4 stars

My Review: I've said it before and I'll say it again, Sara Donati's Into the Wilderness series is one of my all-time favourite Historical Fiction series. Period. The end. I have read all six books in the past but recently have been buying the digital audiobooks through Audible and slowing listening to them.

In this third book of the series, and it's a biggie at 24 hours long, Kate Reading (one of my favourite narrators) gives the multiple characters their own tone and voices which only enhance the story. Readers, who have hopefully read the first two books in the series already, quickly become embroiled in the lives, loves and losses of the Bonner family and the residents of the small town of Paradise. I enjoyed how Hannah/Walks Ahead is more of the focus of this book and how the residents, like Jemima Southern, are incorporated into the bigger story lines. 

While this book isn't my favourite in the series, it was still a great read/listen. I continue to enjoy seeing the challenges and adventures of the Bonner clan. It has wonderful characters, adventure and drama and I eagerly look forward to listening to the next book in the series, Fire Along the Sky, soon. 

Tuesday, 29 October 2019


Author: Karin Slaughter
Genre: Suspense, Thriller
Series: #1 in the Grant County series
Type: Trade Paperback
Pages: 452
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: Harper Collins
First Published: May 1, 2001
Opening Lines: Sara Linton leaned back in her chair, mumbling a soft "Yes, Mama" into the telephone. She wondered briefly if there would ever come a point in time when she would be too old to be taken over her mother's knee.

Book Description from  From New York Times bestselling author Karin Slaughter, the first novel in her acclaimed Grant County Series.

Interweaving knife-edge tension, superb characterization, and an evocative milieu, this thrilling novel of dark suspense, set in rural Grant County, Georgia, introduces engaging pediatrician and coroner, Dr. Sara Linton.
A sadistic rapist turned killer is terrorizing Grant County, and the chief of police, Sara’s ex-husband Jeffrey Tolliver, must find him. But he’s not alone. Lena Adams―the county’s sole female detective―wants to see justice done, since her sister was the first victim. Sara, too, cannot escape the terror. A secret from her past could hold the key to finding the killer―unless he finds her first.

My Rating: 5 stars

My Review: Even though I read a LOT, there are still authors who I haven’t read yet and I’ve made it a personal goal to introduce myself to their work. Karin Slaughter is one of those authors. I decided to start at the beginning of her Grant County series with Blindsighted. I figured I’d get a good thriller and hopefully a main character I could get behind for the seven books in this series that began back in 2001.

Oh boy, did I get a good read! I was immediately drawn into this thriller with its fast-paced mystery and enjoyed reading the details of the police investigation. But it was the in-depth look at some of the characters' lives, particularly Sara's, that brought this thriller to a whole new level for me. There are shocking and disturbing descriptions of violent murders of women and they aren’t for the faint of heart. While I didn’t feel Slaughter's descriptions were gratuitous, I make note of them in case they are a trigger for some readers.

Overall, this is an engaging, multi-layered, dark thriller that is so suspenseful you may be like me and finish it within a day or two. Laundry will wait, but my impatience to know the killer’s identity will not. I'm excited to have found a new-to-me suspense series/author and already have the second book, Kisscut, in my eager little hands.

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Flowers in the Attic

Author: V.C Andrews
Genre: Gothic
Type: Trade Paperback
Pages: 400
Source: Local Public Library
Series: #1 in the Dollanganger series
Publisher: Gallery Books
First Published: 1979
Opening Lines: It is so appropriate to color hope yellow, like that the sun we seldom saw. And as I bein to copy from the old memorandum journals that I kept for so long, a title comes as if inspired. Open the Window and Stand in the Sunshine.

Book Description from GoodReadsAt the top of the stairs there are four secrets hidden. Blond, beautiful, innocent, and struggling to stay alive…

They were a perfect family, golden and carefree—until a heartbreaking tragedy shattered their happiness. Now, for the sake of an inheritance that will ensure their future, the children must be hidden away out of sight, as if they never existed. Kept on the top floor of their grandmother’s vast mansion, their loving mother assures them it will be just for a little while. But as brutal days swell into agonizing months and years, Cathy, Chris, and twins Cory and Carrie realize their survival is at the mercy of their cruel and superstitious grandmother…and this cramped and helpless world may be the only one they ever know.

Book One of the Dollanganger series, followed by Petals in the Wind, If There be Thorns, Seeds of Yesterday, and Garden of Shadows.

My Rating: 2 stars

My Review: I initially read (much to my mother's chagrin and clear disapproval), Flowers in the Attic and the other four books in the series when I was about 13 years old. I remember loving this book with its eerie Gothic vibe and disturbing topics featuring a messed up family, four children who were locked away and a Grandma who was clearly Satan's handmaiden in another life.

After re-reading this book, I came to one conclusion. My 13-year old self and my current self have very different views of what makes a good read. 'Bless your heart,13-year-old self!'  

I thank the book gods that this was an easy book to skim because it was just ... not ... good. The writing is overly descriptive, repetitive and although it has a creepy edge to it, it is quite juvenile and regularly cringeworthy. The plot has its shocking themes (torture, psychotic adults, illicit love - the trashy trifecta!) but the pacing is frustratingly slow. Honestly, not a lot happens unless you enjoy pages upon pages of descriptions of bored kids stuck in an attic for years and icky 'romantic' connections. Me at 13? Sadly, yes. Me in my 40's? Umm, not s'much. 

This was a nostalgic, but not enjoyable, re-read for me. It's fast food for bookworms - not really satisfying or good for you but it'll do in a pinch and probably make you wish you had skipped it. Part of me wishes that I hadn't re-read it but at least I've confirmed that I require more substance to my books as I age. Can I get a hallelujah! 

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