Thursday, December 22, 2011

Book Review: The Royal Sheikh

Title:  The Royal Sheikh
Author:  Katheryn Lane
Publication Year:  2011
This book was received free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Description from
Clare McKay is a dedicated architect with no time for womanising men. That is, until she accidentally meets Sheikh Rafiq Al Kahil, an Arabian prince, known in the international press as the Playboy Prince. Clare is intent on not falling for his seductive charm, but when he asks her to design a mansion, he presents her with an offer that she can’t refuse. Once she finds herself alone with him in the Arabian desert, how long will she be able to hold out against his advances? And will he be able to cast aside his womanising past for her, as well as a secret engagement to an Arabian Princess?

I Gave It:  4 stars

I have to admit, my idea of romance novels stems from some pretty racy items I read in high school that I have sworn myself off.  I wasn't sure what to expect when a hardworking and passionate architect met a charming Middle Eastern prince but I was very pleasantly surprised!  I found myself thinking about this book when I wasn't reading it and looked forward to turning on my Kindle to read some more.  It is easy to discern that Lane is connected to the characters and the setting; her plot moves along effortlessly and carries the reader throughout this romantic journey.  The characters in this story could be people you know; the Sheikh is portrayed as a regular person even against the rich, jewel-studded backdrop of his home country, Bahir.

There are a few spelling issues that tripped me up a bit in my reading but the story made this a little more forgivable.    

This is a sweet love story, pure and simple, with some unexpected but very believable twists.  In fact, this book may leave some readers wondering if perhaps one day something similar may happen to them!  I recommend this book to you if you are looking for something light but captivating - a quick read that I can easily picture as a made for T.V. film.   

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Book Review: Megan's Way

Title:  Megan's Way
Author:  Melissa Foster
Publication Year:  2009

Description from
What would you give up for the people you love?

When Megan Taylor, a single mother and artist, receives the shocking news that her cancer has returned, she'll be faced with the most difficult decision she's ever had to make. She'll endure an emotional journey, questioning her own moral and ethical values, and the decisions she'd made long ago. The love she has for her daughter, Olivia, and her closest friends, will be stretched and frayed.

Meanwhile, fourteen-year-old Olivia's world is falling apart right before her eyes, and there's nothing she can do about it. She finds herself acting in ways she cannot even begin to understand. When her internal struggles turn to dangerous behavior, her life will hang in the balance.

Megan's closest friends are caught in a tangled web of deceit. Each must figure out how, and if, they can expose their secrets, or forever be haunted by their pasts.

I Gave It:  3 Stars 

Megan’s Way started off with an intriguing scene at a carnival; it was a believable introduction with all the sights and smells of a carnival and an ominous visit to the tent we are all inexplicably drawn to:  the psychic card-reader.  The intrigue continues through the first quarter of the book and then it just kind of fizzles away throughout the remainder of the book.  The overall plot was a journey of twists and turns, heartaches and few resolutions.  There was one particular twist that left me rather disappointed.  It added an element of flakiness that I couldn’t appreciate.  I wish that the author had made room for more character development.  I didn’t connect with the characters as much as I wanted to.  They were a neat group of people but they didn’t really have much depth and they each had way too many issues for one book.  For example, Megan and her daughter, Olivia, are supposed to have this wonderful relationship but it does not come through at all except in this talked-about way.  It is not shown at all.  Megan’s actions were not very believable considering her stage in life.  That’s not to say I didn’t cry a lot – Megan’s journey with end-stages of cancer and her daughter Olivia’s sense of loss are hard to read through dry-eyed.

This book has won awards and the making of its film is underway so I was really excited to read it but it didn't live up to the hype for me.

Overall, if you’re looking for something to read that you won’t be too invested in it’s a pretty quick read – but keep those tissues handy!              


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Book Review: Momma Zen Walking The Crooked Path Of Motherhood

Title:  Momma Zen Walking The Crooked Path of Motherhood
Publication Year:  2007

Description from
Combining humor, honesty, and plainspoken advice, Momma Zen distills the doubts and frustrations of parenting into vignettes of Zen wisdom.

Drawing on her experience as a first-time mother, and on her years of Zen meditation and study, Miller explores how the daily challenges of parenthood can become the most profound spiritual journey of our lives.

This compelling and wise memoir follows the timeline of early motherhood from pregnancy through toddlerhood. Momma Zen takes readers on a transformative journey, charting a mother’s growth beyond naive expectations and disorientation to finding fulfillment in ordinary tasks, developing greater self-awareness and acceptance—to the gradual discovery of “maternal bliss,” a state of abiding happiness and ease that is available to us all.

In her gentle and reassuring voice, Karen Miller convinces us that ancient and authentic spiritual lessons can be as familiar as a lullaby, as ordinary as pureed peas, and as frequent as a sleepless night. She offers encouragement for the hard days, consolation for the long haul, and the lightheartedness every new mom needs to face the crooked path of motherhood straight on.

I Gave It:  5 Stars

Each time I held Karen’s book in my hands, it was like holding up a mirror that reflected my own journey.  At times I wanted to hide the mirror, cover it up with a cloth, and not let the words get too deep – there was that much truth in it.  There was no such luck.  Karen’s honesty, humour and poetic writing kept me riveted.  At the closing of the last chapter I felt lucky, grateful and humbled in my ego’s chipped away state.  Karen’s gift to her readers is the ability to enjoy all of the moments of motherhood – from the sleep deprivation to the tantrums to the great deterioration in maternal personal hygiene.  I can now find Zen in my son’s need to be held way past his bedtime when I had planned on relaxing on the couch with the TV and my husband.  Impossible?  Read for yourself.  You will want to read it on repeat.  I highly recommend this book to you and every mother. 


Friday, December 9, 2011

I'd Like To Thank The Academy!

Actually, I'd like to thank Tia Bach from Mom in Love with Fiction for the honour of my very first blogger award ever!!  I am truly humbled that Tia - blogger extraordinaire and co-author of Depression Cookies - thought this blog deserving of The Versatile Blogger Award.  Please do visit her and read her words.  I'm looking forward to reading Depression Cookies and sharing my thoughts on it here.  

And here's the beautiful badge I will proudly display forevermore!  


1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them in your post.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass this Award along to 5 recently discovered blogs and let them know about it. 

OK, so 7 things about myself:

  1. I am quite green at this blogging thing - although I have been sharing my thoughts on The Artist's Loft for almost 3 years, I didn't know what the blogosphere was really about until this summer when I started my creative life coach blog, Let ME Out!!  I'm both fascinated and frightened (more fascinated) by all the contests, giveaways, guest posts, and cyber-connections out there!
  2. I started my first journal on July 1, 1988 when I was 10 years old.  I still have it and all its descendents...even the ones full of boy-crazy evidence.  
  3. I have a 4.5 year old girl and an almost 2 year old boy.  They drive me nuts and I love them to bits all at the same time.
  4. English teachers used to tell me to consider a career in writing.  I laughed it off thinking they may as well have told me to grow up and be a princess.  Doh!
  5. Speaking of careers, I have a B.A. in Psych and a M.A. in Speech-Language Pathology and am now a life coach.  Figure that one out!
  6. I want to write a book for my daughter that would probably read more like one long letter - telling her everything in my heart.
  7. I am married to a man who, at the age of 8, claimed he would marry me.  I laughed it off and then 17 years later the joke was on me!
And now I get to pass on the award to 5 blogs I have recently discovered who I think totally deserve this awesome badge!  Please click on each of them and take a look around!

  1. Book Briefs
  2. By Word Of Beth
  3. Girl With A New Life
  4. Renaissance Moms
  5. Katheryn Lane
Hope everyone has a great weekend! 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I'm Joining My First Cyber-Challenge: The 2012 To Be Read (TBR) Pile Challenge

Have you checked out my "to be read" pile yet?  I invite you to do so if you aren't susceptible to feeling overwhelmed by osmosis.  I am so relieved to have come across this challenge on an awesome review blog by Tia Bach, Mom in Love with Fiction.  Basically, the point of this challenge is to knock 12 books off your list that you have been meaning to read for at least a year.  Check out the rules and my list below.  My list can also be found on my page 2012 TBR Pile Challenge. 

Here are the rules:

1. Each of these 12 books must have been on your bookshelf or “To Be Read” list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2011 or later (any book published in the year 2010 or earlier qualifies, as long as it has been on your TBR pile – I WILL be checking publication dates). Caveat: Two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the “can’t get through” pile.

2. You must write an original review/response (it doesn’t have to be anything fancy) for each book, to help us ensure you are actually completing the books you say you are.

3. The link you post in the Mr. Linky AT ADAM’S SIGN-UP POST must be to your “master list.” This is where you will keep track of your books completed, crossing them out and/or dating them as you go along, and updating the list with the links to each review (so there’s one easy, convenient way to find your list and all your reviews for the challenge).


And here's my list!

  1. The In-Between World of Vikram Lal by M.G. Vassanji
  2. Rush Home Road by Lori Lansens
  3. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
  4. Before I Die by Jenny Downham
  5. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  6. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  7. Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
  8. The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold
  9. The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan
  10. The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews
  11. 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
  12. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
The 2 alternative books I have chosen lest I am unable to get through 1 or 2 of the above:
  1. Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy
  2. White Oleander by Janet Fitch

Monday, September 12, 2011

Let Them Have Sushi - A Review Of Two Restaurants Plus A Great Cupcake Find!

In August, friends of ours visited from Ottawa, Ontario; it seems that whenever people come to this part of the country, they have to go for sushi! I don't blame them, of course and I'm always happy to oblige. When our friends said they were coming for a week we knew that we would have just enough time to check out two restaurants: a tried and true favourite (Ichiro Japanese Restaurant in Richmond) and an all-you-can-eat place we'd never been to before (Tan Popo in Vancouver).
We decided to do Ichiro on a Friday night, after a stroll to Garry Point Park and through Steveston Village. It was a gorgeous day for it. The fishing boats were well stocked, interested seafood-lovers milled about on the boardwalk and we got more hungry as we anticipated that night's dinner. OK, so first of all, 2 things to remember about Ichiro: 1. They're very busy because they're very good! So, especially on a Friday night when you have a large group, you should make reservations. And 2. They are closed between the hours of 2 and 5 pm. Luckily, we were planning on an early dinner and thankfully they had room for us! The food, as always, was fabulous. Fresh, amazing quality served with a smile in a super-clean restaurant. Can you tell I love this place? My favourite rolls would have to be dynamite, california and avocado. I know - I'm not very adventurous! But Ichiro has a way of presenting even the simplest of rolls in an upscale kind of way. The price kind of reflects that. It's probably on the higher end, but it's a nice treat and one I'm willing to splurge on. Our friends were crazy about the salmon sashimi which they said was superior to anything they've tasted. I'll have to take their word for it! If you love sushi and you want to impress people with your impeccable taste in venues - check them out! Earlier that afternoon as we strolled about Steveston waiting for Ichiro to open for dinner, we stumbled upon a cute little cupcake shop on First Ave. The sign caught our attention right away! We walked in to a sweet little space with charming seating and an impressive display of treats. Needless to say, for dessert we headed straight to Bell's Bake Shop. I try and eat gluten-free when presented with an option, particularly a yummy-looking option such as the cupcakes in a special display on the counter. Coconut, no less! I love coconut! We bought 6 to go and devoured them when we got home. I really enjoyed the gluten-free coconut cupcake and the cookies 'n cream NOT gluten-free cupcake I sampled. Jennifer Bell, the owner, also told me that there were vegan options available for pre-order. Good to know for next time! Mmmmm...wish it was closer to where I live. I think I'd get to know all their flavours fairly well! Always nice to support a small business, especially one that caters to a variety of dietary needs. Yum.
A few days and several meals later, we spent a day at Stanley Park. A glorious summer Tuesday - picnic lunch at Lumberman's Arch and a walk along parts of the seawall. We were even lucky enough to spot a seal just off the shore. Tired and, of course, hungry we headed over to Tan Popo on Denman St. which was a convenient location as we left the Park. I was really excited to try this all-you-can-eat sushi place that came recommended by a friend who definitely knows her way around downtown sushi restaurants! The website really intrigued me. I made reservations given our experience at Ichiro but I really didn't need to. Probably because it was early on a weeknight, about 5 pm. Anyway, somehow I misinterpreted the website's claim "with its view of English Bay" to mean that you could actually see a lot of English Bay. I mean, you could if you sat in one particular area of the restaurant and craned your neck. But we weren't too disappointed since we had just spent a couple hours walking along the ocean. We were mostly there for the all-you-can-eat-ness of it. We did it, we ate it all, and we ate it well. The price was very reasonable for the amount that we ate but in comparing quality with Ichiro, I'd have to say Ichiro won hands-down. Plus, they didn't have a dynamite roll anywhere on their extensive menu. Uh-oh. That was a little upsetting.
I know, I know, how do you compare all-you-can-eat with a la carte? Well, I just did. I'm not giving Tan Popo a bad rating, but Ichiro comes out ahead for me in so many ways. But really, the fact that people plan their trip around West Coast sushi tells you that you can't go wrong when sampling our local delicacies Japanese-style. All in all it was a delicious visit for us and we hope to have more friends visit soon!

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Bollywood film Iqbal, written by Vipul K Rawal and directed by Ragesh Kukunoor, was showcased this month at the Indian Summer Festival in Vancouver. It was just one event of a 10-day program that offered plenty to please lovers of the arts and health/wellness.

Iqbal (debuting Shreyas Talpade) is a farmer’s son who lives with his parents and younger sister, and who is obsessed with becoming a cricketer. Gifted with the athletic talent and skill of a bowler, Iqbal demonstrates how passions must be pursued despite the odds; in Iqbal’s case, he is not only deaf and mute, his father is dead-set against anything relating to the sport. The theme of the film centred on the Universe’s role as enabler when one works hard at achieving their dreams.

Iqbal’s adorable and wise-beyond-her-years sister Khadija (Shweta Prasad) adds humour and warmth to the set as only a pig-tailed, spectacled girl can. Her relationship with her brother is sincere and her support of his dream is unquestionable. Award-wining Naseerudin Shah plays the unlikely coach, Mohit, whose character adds tremendous depth to the plot with a story of his own.

Iqbal defied every stereotype attached to the words “Bollywood film” beginning with the fact that there was not a single dance number! The theme song and its accompanying training scenes were incredibly powerful; despite the fact that I only understood a few words, its theme of hope and courage transcended this barrier. I do wish that the song had subtitles as I would have loved to understand its full meaning. Unlike other Bollywood films, there were no star-crossed lovers (unless you suggest that Iqbal’s forbidden love of cricket fits the bill) and no major fight scenes – just some rivalry that was bound to arise between a farm boy who trained his game in the fields and a rich student of the cricket academy. However, like the Hindi films I grew up on, my heartstrings were tugged a number of times! How could I forget to bring tissues?

My advice – see the movie with a friend and at least a couple of tissues; prepare to let Iqbal’s story move and inspire you!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda: A Review

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda offers a fly-on-the-wall perspective of one girl's struggle to discover herself given the fragmented clues she possesses of her past. Adopted from a Mumbai orphanage by a biracial couple living in California, Asha returns to her birthplace to further her journalism career and acquaint herself with her extended adopted family. The conflict she endures throughout her upbringing in California follows her to Mumbai and leads her to the truths about her birth city, motherhood and herself. Those of us growing up in two cultures will find solace and comraderie in the familiar elements. This tapestry of stories is as rich and flavourful as a steaming cup of masala chai.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Man's Best Friend: Art Exhibit

CityScape Community Art Space is currently exhibiting Man's Best Friend, presented by The North Vancouver Community Arts Council, until May 28, 2011. I attended the opening reception on Thursday April 28 at the invitation of local artist Zahida Jaffer, one of the 11 artists showcased.

The name of the exhibit brings to mind images of our canine companions so walking into the space you may be caught off guard by the polar bear, orca, giraffes, cheetahs and sea turtle making their way along the walls. Artist interpretations of "the ideal of peaceful coexistence rather than the need to dominate and control, between humans and creatures that may otherwise be thought of as a threat, a product or insignificant" were depicted in oils, acrylics, ink and photography. These interpretations were as varied and unique as the media.

The focus of this exhibit is, of course, significant to our time. My favourite pieces were the ones that blatantly ridiculed human actions in the name of fashion and convenience. David Camisa, the local artist who initiated this particular exhibit, painted a trendy woman walking an alligator on a leash, almost flaunting it like an accessory. It made me smirk until I realized it's not so far from the truth. I commend Camisa for accomplishing what I believe he set out to do; I felt like a heel in my leather jacket.

Zahida Jaffer's spin on the call for Man's Best Friend evokes a different kind of awareness. Baula (top right) calls attention to the beautiful sea turtle who, though able to withstand its environment since the dinosaur ages, is likely to be extinct within the next few years. Her thoughtful creation of this image is described in her blog . It really made me think about this admirable creature that thrilled my daughter at the Vancouver Aquarium last month - will photos and paintings really be all we have left to pass on to the next generation?

That was a lovely trip to the North Shore; I will be on a look-out for more artist events happening in that area - watching the mountains get bigger and bigger as I drove closer put a smile on my face and I thought how lucky I am to be blessed with Nature's exhibit whenever I remember to open my eyes to it!

Monday, April 4, 2011


On March 29, 2011 a typically dull auditorium at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) was transformed to a platform of amazing literary talent, transporting us from the blueberry farms of Abbotsford to the wheat fields of the Punjab.

In its 6th year, hosted and presented by The Centre for Indo Canadian Studies and the Department of English at UFV, Ehsaas South Asian Readers and Writers Festival highlighted three published authors and three emerging writers; all six writers have roots entrenched in Indian soil.

I took my seat halfway up the theatre style seating with a quick glance at the other attendees – a nice representation of local ethnic groups among the crowd of about 55 men and women.

Our literary journey began just outside Bombay. The first reader of the evening, Anosh Irani, read from his third and most recent novel, Dahanu Road, where we meet Zairos, a young landowner’s son who falls in love with Kusum, a former servant’s daughter. With a provocative writing style and a talent for exposing the taboos of such a relationship, Irani held the audience captive; we nodded, “mmmm”d and giggled in response. During the question and answer period of the event, Irani recounted an exchange he once had with a listener at one of his readings who told Irani he was not comfortable with what Irani wrote. Irani skilfully and truthfully replied that he did not write in order to make anyone feel comfortable. Kudos to him for speaking the unspeakable and daring his audience to come to grips with different realities! Readers around the world are all the better for it!

Irani turned the stage over to Tariq Malik whose recently released book, Chanting Denied Shores, pins down a shameful event in BC history – have you heard of the Komagata Maru? If not, sadly, you are not alone. As I remarked to Malik at the end of the evening, my grade 12 socials studies teacher spent about ten minutes on this tragedy. Malik’s emotional reading from this book prompted me to pick up a copy on the spot in the hopes that I can brush up on this piece of BC history that took Malik 4 years to have someone publish. After all, most small publishing houses in BC are funded by the provincial government. Thankfully someone was brave enough to publish it.

And finally, we reached our Canadian destination with Gurjinder Basran’s book, Everything Was Goodbye, set in her home town of North Delta, BC. Basran dives right in to the heart of the issues facing the Punjabi community, particularly its younger female population. From arranged marriages to abuse to societal pressures, no topic is left untouched. Basran read the first few pages of her poetically written narrative – and I was glad for it. Her first sentence had all of my senses engaged with each word – read it and you’ll see why! Basran advises other female South Asian writers to keep their work safe and precious while gaining the support of a larger literary community. When you are ready to “come out as a writer” you will already have the confidence in your gift and the support of enough people to see you through. Well said!

As Trevor Carolan, professor of English at UFV, remarked “Every literary community needs its well-known writers, newly published writers and emerging writers.” It was a real pleasure to hear the raw talent of 3 local emerging writers: Kusum Soni, Mandeep Wirk and Ramandeep Jenny Ahuja.

I don’t think anyone in the audience could hold in their laughter when a very humourous Soni admitted with a twinkle in her eye that writing is like an orgasm for her – when the time comes, it has to be done! I certainly cannot argue with that as I have been known to creep downstairs to my computer at 3 am or retreat to my closet for a pre-dawn writing session. Soni’s poetry bursts with the beauty of Nature and her obvious devotion to the Sacred. The first poem she read was in Punjabi and so I understood about 2 words, but I hung on to each utterance, enjoying the rhythm and Soni’s undeniable joy.

The stage turned over to Ahuja – an up and coming writer to watch for! A fourth year English student at UFV, you’ll know her one day as the Punjabi Girl Growing up in Abbotsford, the title of her recently completed manuscript. That night she read her review of Gurjinder Basran’s aforementioned book focusing on the topic of family honour. It was insightful, blatant and oh so close to my heart. With just the right combination of references to Basran’s work, and observations of the South Asian community, Ahuja demonstrated skill, courage and the promise of great work in the future.

And who knew I’d meet a well-traveled non-fiction writer of Punjabi origin born in the same city as me – Mombasa, Kenya? Mandeep Wirk, a freelance writer and journalist, was born in this port town on the East Coast of Africa, moved to England, then Canada and then worked in Japan for five years. She read an article she had written for an art magazine with the underlying theme of the East-West relationship. Wirk also reminded us that this year’s South Asian Readers and Writers Festival was in honour of the centenary of the National Historic Site Gur Sikh Temple in Abbotsford.

And what a celebration it was! When the readings concluded, we feasted on Indian treats, mingled with the authors and had our books signed. There was a buzz of excitement in the air that I don’t think was entirely attributable to the sugary barfi! I’m definitely looking forward to the 7th South Asian Readers and Writers Festival!

If you’d like more information about this annual festival, or the Centre for Indo-Canadian Studies at UFV, leave a comment here. Also, I’d love to know which arts festival you most recently attended!