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Interview with Kristen Ma – Author of Beauty: Pure and Simple

May 4, 2012

Entrepreneur seeks balance of fitness and calm

Kristen Ma is co-owner of Pure + Simple and author of the book Beauty, Pure and Simple.

For Kristen Ma, 28, co-owner of the spa and organic skincare line Pure + Simple, health is less about looking like an invincible powerhouse and more about feeling grounded. Varying exercises serve to keep the 28-year-old Toronto-based entrepreneur’s high-energy but anxious personality under control. But are calming workouts best if she feels out of sync and suffers from digestive issues?

My goal

“I’m an advocate of Eastern medicine, so my goal is to attain balance and maintain a strong body.”

My workout

“I’m running four times a week, indoors for 25 minutes in spurts like eight kilometres an hour and then 12K an hour, and stretching. I rented a treadmill in mid-January.

“In September for three months I was doing karate. I was hoping to incorporate the peacefulness that martial arts advocate. I liked that the teachers explained the theory when showing you blocks and sequences.

“Before that I had a fitness trainer.

“I went through a phase of hot yoga three times a week.

“Running is prepping me for spring and heading outdoors.”

My lifestyle

“Years ago I was exhausted, frustrated, and overworked, so I went to Montreal for a break. In a moment of reflection I thought, ‘I don’t want to feel this way’ and I remembered going to Ayurvedic medicine workshops and seeing others content and grounded. I was inspired to be that way. The solution was about commitment to health.

“I cater my diet to the environment, the seasons, and what’s happening in my life. I‘m prone to inflammation and eczema and used to have acne, so I eat an anti-inflammation diet, which means I cut out hot, spicy, and overcooked foods or barbecue or deep-fried foods.

“Breakfast is quinoa porridge and almond milk.

“Lunch is salad with avocado and chopped chicken, celery, fennel, and cherry tomatoes.

“Dinner is baked white fish with lemon, steamed veggies with a spoon of olive or argon oil, which has a toasted nutty taste, leafy greens and grains.”

My motivation

“Vasant Lad was the first Ayurvedic doctor I learned from. I like his philosophy on radiating health and his persona.

“In terms of staying grounded, my fiancé encourages me to be calm; I can be high strung.

“I keep a blog and post about beauty and Ayurvedic wellness. Through that I got a deeper understanding about my philosophy on wellness. Before it was intuitive, and now my approach is more concrete.”

My anthem

“I like electro stuff like Yeasayer and Kool and the Gang’s Get Down On It – it’s the perfect balance of feeling invigorated without being overwhelming.”

My challenge

“I easily get wrapped up in things that don’t go to plan, so that’s probably why my embodiment of health is about being grounded.”

The critique

Sammie Kennedy, Canfitpro certified trainer, says Ms. Ma’s balanced diet suits her goal, yet a strength workout may better suit Ms. Ma’s personality as it will increase lean muscle mass.

Indulge in excitement

“One suggestion is for Kirsten to allow herself to be that ADD exerciser for an hour a few days a week and get that out of her system with workouts that incorporate variety, like Crossfit, in which she’s challenging her muscles and allowing her body to indulge in that excitement that she seems to be trying to work out of her system and personality.”

Charge brain to calm down

Ms. Kennedy, who is the creator and CEO of Toronto-based Booty Camp Fitness and Femme Fitale, says the intense mental and physical involvement required to participate in vigorous activities can help parts of the brain responsible for balancing body chemicals, thinking well, and feeling grounded.

“It may take Kirsten a month to see results from exercise because in the first month her body adjusts to the movement pathways between brain and muscles. If she starts doing one push-up and then at the end of six weeks she can do 20, that’s a measurable accomplishment, which lends itself to calmness because of that confidence.”

MONIQUE SAVIN – The Globe and Mail


Stephen Clarke’s Paris Revealed Reviewed in Zoomer Magazine

May 3, 2012

I am glad to see that Zoomer Magazine loved this book as much as we do!  

Emily St. John Mandel in The Globe and Mail

May 2, 2012

Emily St. John Mandel and her book The Lola Quartet has another great review to put under her belt.

The Globe and Mail


Where has all the music gone?


Ever play that game, where will I be in 10 years? The drama in Emily St. John Mandel’s noir thriller hinges on what becomes of four teens who form a jazz quartet in high school, when their lives collide a decade later.

Gavin (trumpet) is a sensitive fabulist who wears fedoras, certain he was born in the wrong era. Jack (piano/saxophone) has a touch of synesthesia and sees light when he plays, music being “the brightest thing in the room.” Daniel (bass), the skinny kid with an afro, wears T-shirts for bands no one has ever heard of. Sasha (drums) is feisty and bookish.

The suspense in The Lola Quartet revolves around Gavin, as his life splinters into shards and he tries to track down his high-school girlfriend, Anna, whom he believes was pregnant when she vanished during the quartet’s last gig. Mandel sets up a rhythm between 1999 and deepest, darkest 2009, during the recent economic crash.

Gavin lands his first job at The New York Star. Daydreaming of changing the world, he invents sources and quotes for his stories, “because real people are so goddamn disappointing.”

Fired and disgraced in a Jayson Blair-like scandal, Gavin returns home to South Florida to work for his sister, a real-estate broker of foreclosed homes. After glimpsing a photo of a girl he assumes is his lost daughter, he becomes obsessed with finding Anna and their child, contacting their old crowd for help.

Mandel can be a spare, graceful writer. She brings music alive. Gavin and his sister, Eilo, are finely wrought, layered characters. The South Florida landscape is evoked in all of its hot-house horror, as suburban sprawl encroaches on natural swampland and nervous residents encounter unsuspecting reptiles. Small, glittering lizards grow into seven-foot-long, 200-pound monsters “with eerily intelligent eyes and extravagantly pebbled skin, perfectly capable of eating a small dog.” (Not to mention a small child.)

The narrative has a hurtling pace, with swift shifts in time, place and perspective. On page one, we meet 17-year-old Anna, transient, hiding out in Virginia. She is drinking her morning coffee in a park, as her daughter Chloe sleeps in the stroller. Mandel peppers this quotidian scene with a little static shock: Duct-taped to the underside of the stroller is more than $100,000 in cash. A few pages and a decade later, Gavin glimpses a photograph of a little girl who resembles him and has Anna’s last name. She’s 10. With this whomping coincidence – within the first 10 pages – we hear the clanking machinery of plot. Mandel strains too hard, too fast.

This adrenaline-fuelled tale is hard to put down, though details are not subtle or well thought out. If Anna’s raison d’être is to protect her baby, is taping stolen money under the stroller a good idea? Mind you, she’s ripped off a homicidal drug dealer. Granted, Anna is not a rocket scientist, but need she be that dim?

Anna is a problem. Central to the story, her character is not deeply imagined. After we meet her briefly on page one, she does not reappear until nearly halfway through the novel. A runaway from a troubled home with a fat file at Family Services, she is a good bad girl, unformed, a type.

The novel dramatizes the painful gap between a teenager’s idealized future and a young adult’s reality. Jack, the one they all thought would make it, is good, just not good enough. He’s sunk into despair and Vicodin addiction, living in a tent. Daniel is barely recognizable as a stoop-shouldered cop, bald and overweight, with two failed marriages behind him. Sasha, who studied English literature, now works the graveyard shift in a roadside diner. Rode hard and put away wet, she spends her free time at Gamblers Anonymous.

Though The Lola Quartet is uneven, it has unsuspected depth. How do you help a friend who’s drowning without going under? How do you reconcile the young dream of self with the later limits of life? These are timely and timeless themes that burrow under the skin.

Emily St. John Mandel Interview on the Tattered Cover Book Blog

May 1, 2012

Dispatch from the Field: Joe Leaves the Field for a Chat With Author Emily St. John Mandel

Emily St. John Mandel is the author of three books: Last Night in Montreal,  The Singer’s Gun and most recentlyThe Lola Quartet She is a staff writer for The Millions as well as a contributor to The Great American Novel: Writer’s on the Future of the Book and the upcoming Venice Noir.

The Interview:

JoeFirst off: How does it feel to have a second #1 Indie Next pick?

Emily: I feel extraordinarily lucky. It’s a tremendous honor.

Joe: When you think of a bookstore, what do you think of?

Emily: I think of that feeling you get when you discover something new. I feel it when I come across great music by an artist I’ve never heard of, or a beautiful painting, or in the case of bookstores, a book I hadn’t considered buying and hadn’t known existed until I saw it in the store and decided I couldn’t possibly leave without it. One can of course discover and buy a great new book online, but I’m awfully distracted when I’m online, and I find buying books online to be less satisfying than discovering them in person.

Joe: What’s a typical day of writing look like for you?

Emily: There isn’t really a typical day. I have a day job, like most writers I know, but fortunately it’s part-time and very flexible. I have to go in five days a week for three and a half hours or so. So sometimes I write in the morning and go into work in the afternoon, or sometimes I go to work early and then come home and write in the afternoon. There are unfortunate days where the entire day gets eaten up by the day job and whatever tedious errands happen to come up, and I end up writing at night. On weekends I write and do career-related housekeeping things (updating my website, answering email, etc.) all day.

JoeArtistically, who are your influences?

Emily: Among contemporary writers, I think I’ve been influenced heavily by Dan Chaon and Jennifer Egan. I’ve been influenced by Norman Mailer (I’ve only read a few of his books, but The Executioner’s Song changed the way I write), Michael Ondaatje, J.D. Salinger, and Roberto Bolano, whose 2666 is one of my favorite books. I also think I’ve been influenced by a few musicians, especially Leonard Cohen and Michael Stipe, and by Quentin Tarantino.

JoeYour last two novels have featured music in a predominate role… what is it about music that so compels your storytelling?

Emily: I’m careful never to write about anyone I know and my work is rarely autobiographical, but in some less obvious ways I find that my life seeps into my fiction. Things that interest me in real life tend to find their way into the work; I think there’s so much music in my books simply because music has always been extremely important to me. I’ve found that when I’m interested in a given topic — dead languages, say, or the music of Django Reinhardt, or Florida’s exotic wildlife problem, or human trafficking — it seems to end up in whatever book I’m writing at the time. It sometimes goes further than that: inThe Singer’s Gun, I somehow ended up including my cat.

Joe: When I think of your novels, I think of them as having intricate, webbed storylines that let the reader think they know where you’re taking them, but you always manage to surprise. When you start writing, do you have the whole story available to you, or are you surprised by the twists it may take?

Emily: It’s always a surprise. I never know how my books are going to end. I just start writing and see what happens. Eventually I’ll figure out what the plot is, and then I go back and revise to make it all work. The revisions are endless; my experience has been that when I finish a first draft, I’m only about halfway through the process of writing the book. It’s probably not the most efficient way to write a novel, but I don’t know how to do it differently, and I’ve always thought I’d get bored if I were writing from an outline.

JoeWhat are you waiting to happen in the world of literature/writing?

Emily: I’m waiting for the barriers between literary and genre fiction to fall. I think those walls are already crumbling; in the recent past we’ve had Colson Whitehead’s literary zombie novel Zone One, and Dan Chaon’s literary/horror short story collection Stay Awake, and Patrick DeWitt’s literary shoot-’em-up The Sisters Brothers. I loved all those books. Those recent examples aside, I can’t help but notice that some of the works we categorize as genre (John Le Carre’s The Russia House, for instance) are as beautifully written and have as much to say about the human condition as any of the books that we categorize as literary fiction. I think the distinction between “literary” and “genre” works is increasingly meaningless.

JoeWhat do you think of ebooks? Do you read real books or ebooks?

Emily: I only read print. I’m not opposed to ebooks, but I spend so much of my life staring at screens that it’s a pleasure to take a break from the digital world and read words printed on paper. I also love books as objects, and like having them around me. There’s something soothing about being in a room full of books.

JoeAll of your novels have a definite sense of place, and often of more than one place. And you’ve lived in multiple cities. How do you translate the world you see into a world we can see as well?

Emily: I’m flattered to think I’ve succeeded in translating some of those places into a world you can see. Thank you. As a reader, I find that if descriptions of place go on too long, I’ll start skimming. It’s a weird paradox, but I feel like the key to creating a believable place is to just give a few relevant details, and otherwise not tell the reader too much about it; you don’t want anyone either skimming over the prose in search of action or straining to visualize an endless list of details. So I try to keep descriptions of place to a minimum, on the theory that keeping it minimal forces readers to engage their imaginations and thus hopefully draws them in further. Hopefully.

JoeWhat is the first book you recall reading?

Emily: I have some vague recollections of the primary readers (“See Spot run!”) but the first real book I remember clearly is Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

JoeYour novels are often described as thrillers? Do you consider them thrillers or something else?

Emily: I don’t really think of them as thrillers, although I’m very conscious when I’m writing of trying to maintain the tension of the plot. I’m never sure what to call my books (are they literary fiction? Crime fiction? Both?) but lately I’ve been telling people I write contemporary noir.

JoeDo you think books will continue to have an influential role in our culture, and if so, how?

EmilyI think books will always have an influential role in our culture. As a species, we’ve always been fascinated by stories, and books have a relatively low barrier for entry as a story-telling medium, by which I mean that they don’t require special equipment in the way that movies or audio recordings do. I spend a lot of time on the New York City subway going to and from my day job, and everyone on my subway line reads. You’ll see a line of people sitting or standing there on the train, reading books either in print or on ereaders, or reading newspapers or The New Yorker. It’s a heartening sight.

Joe:Your novels are a joy to handsell to customers. If you were working in a bookstore today, what books would you want to handsell to customers?

Emily: Thank you! I’m reading a book right now called The Mirage, by Matt Ruff. I think it would be fun to handsell; it’s wildly original, the plot and structure are well-executed, and the writing is very good. A few of my favorite books of the last year or two have been Christopher Boucher’s How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive, Kira Henehan’s Orion You Came And You Took All My Marbles, Patrick DeWitt’s The Sisters Brothers, and Irmgard Keun’s After Midnight (which was originally published in the late ’30s, but was just reissued by Melville House.)

JoeThank you, Emily, for answering my questions, and for writing such amazing novels!

EmilyThanks for interviewing me.

(Taken from the Tattered Cover Book Blog)

BookFest on Breakaway: Paul Almond

April 30, 2012

BookFest events celebrate reading along the Gaspé Coast and the Magdalen Islands, and this year, Breakaway is taking part by hosting our own on-air activity. Every afternoon this week, guests with a connection to that part of the province will join us to share some of their favourite books and to talk about why they love to read.

Paul Almond  After a 40-year career in television and film, Paul Almond is now novelist, and he spends summers writing and reading at the family homestead in Shigawake. Paul Almond shares “The Blooding of Jack Absolute” by Chris Humphreys.

Listen here –>  BookFest on Breakaway: Paul Almond

Bite Me Too by Julie Albert and Lisa Gnat – Press Release

April 25, 2012

“With amazing and kitschy food styling and photography and energetic writing, this is one cookbook I’ll be consulting over and over again.” Today’s Parent


Another stomach-satisfying, visually gratifying,

fresh-mouthed cookbook

Julie Albert and Lisa Gnat

Following the success of their first cookbook, the bestselling BITE ME, sisters Julie Albert and Lisa Gnat are back with another stomach-satisfying, visually gratifying, fresh-mouthed cookbook BITE ME TOO.

Packed with 176 foolproof and user-friendly recipes, inspiring photography, pop culture crack-ups and budget-friendly bashes, this follow-up to the bestselling BITE ME is a celebration of  sisterhood and motherhood; a marriage of cooking and art;  and a multi-sensory and fulfilling feast.

BITE ME TOO answers the question ‘What’s for Dinner Tonight’ without sending busy cooks out to the specialty store. This is food the whole family will love that is easy to cook and delicious. Lisa and Julie offer a tongue-in-cheek approach to mom’s home cooking and sister rivalry– whether it’s creating the ultimate burger or baking perfect lemon meringue cupcakes.

NEW features include:

RSVP me, a “how-to” chapter on throwing exciting, easy and original parties. Julie and Lisa believe in making entertaining accessible and have turned the fantasy of putting together a fresh and fun dinner party into a reality.

12 QR Codes accompany recipes and drive readers toward added video content.  Watch Julie and Lisa throw 6 parties in 7 hours, get a behind the scenes look at the cover shoot, check out the world`s best corn shucker in action AND MORE.

BITE ME TOO is the first QR cookbook for the masses!


BITE ME TOO is the result of the collaboration between sisters JULIE ALBERT and LISA GNAT. Between them they have six kids. Sharing a deep love of food, family, and fun, Julie and Lisa have created a cookbook that marries food and culture, and also makes eating, feeding, and entertaining a piece of cake. 

Here are a few menu ideas to help you start planning meals for those special occasions or for pulling a fast one for a quick dinner for the family on the run.


  • Mini Zucchini and Provolone Frittatas pg 214
  • Orange, Jicama and Spinach Salad pg 62
  • Lemonade Layer Cake (back cover picture) pg 241
  • Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberry Sauce pg 210
  • Cinnamon Buns pg 208

‘Thrill Your Grill’ SUMMER PARTY!

  •  Roasted Red Pepper Hummus with Pita Chips, pg 14
  • Grilled Corn, Tomato and Avocado Salad, pg 61
  • Fiery Chipotle Grilled Chicken, pg 151
  • S’mores Bread Pudding, pg 251


  •  Caramelized Onion & Gruyere Pizza, pg 18: Dough and toppings prepared ahead and refrigerated, bake for 10 minutes, serve with a green salad
  • Mini Meatball Subs, pg 33: Double the recipe and serve the next night as spaghetti and meatballs-1 meal, 2 dinners
  • Vietnamese Vegetable & Tofu Pho, pg 51: Healthy vegetarian meal in a bowl
  • Hoisin Chicken Tortilla Wraps, pg 157: Healthy and quick– all wrapped together



BITE ME TOO                                                                           MCARTHUR & CO.

Facebook: Bite Me Too                                                               Twitter: @McArthurCo

Tumblr                                                                                              Facebook: McArthurCO

Bite Me Too Website                                                                    McArthur Website

Watch the BiteME Youtube Videos


“Entertaining . . . fun-loving ladle-wielding ones will enjoy this title’s light-heartedness.” Publishers Weekly

“[Julie] Albert and her sister Lisa Gnat take the term ‘culinary art’ literally in their witty and whimsical cookbook.”  ELLE Canada

“…the sisters’ version of sugar cookies has ended my annual search for the perfect holiday specimen.” The Washington Post

“Every time you turn the page you’re not sure quite what to expect…unlike so many comedy-infused cookbooks, the recipes here are meant to be made, not just talked about…Gnat offers up plenty of culinary fodder.”   LA Weekly

“…makes it the perfect present for the girl or guy who likes their kitchen with a side of caustic wit.”  Lifestyle Magazine           

“Bite Me…offers great new recipes and a laid-back style to liven up your kitchen adventures…you and your mister are bound to find some new favorites in this not-so-ordinary cookbook.”  Wedding Bells

“…a cook and coffee-table book in one, Martha Stewart meets British Vogue…”  Home & Décor

“…two sassy sisters, a love of good food and a wicked sense of humor.”  Canadian Family

“This unusual book combines straightforward recipes with quirky photos and quotable ‘bites.’” Canadian House and Home                                                                                                              

“…the Toronto-based siblings have cooked up a collection of 175 recipes that will make anyone look like a star in the kitchen.”  Where Magazine           

“The sister’s credit their mother with teaching them the art of entertaining…a similar blend of stratospheric elegance and whimsy.” Toronto Life

Press Release for Secrets of the Dunes by Julianna Kozma

April 23, 2012


A Hannah and Emily Morgan Mystery 2

Julianna Kozma

Evidence of the lost city of Atlantis has been found in tiny Prince Edward Island, of all places! Amateur detectives Hannah and her younger sister Emily are intent upon unravelling the historical puzzle that has stumped experts for millennia: Where exactly is Atlantis hidden? Along with friends Jack and Lucy, the four investigators help a team of professional archaeologists dig for clues to unearth the mystery behind Atlantis’ sudden disappearance 9000 years ago.

The sleuths soon discover a dazzling artifact buried deep in the island’s famous red soil, and expert analysis reveals the object originated in Atlantis! Just as their dreams of fame begin to blossom, they are crushed as heartless thieves threaten to destroy the evidence of the lost city. It’s up to Hannah and her gang to solve the mystery with their usual flair.

JULIANNA KOZMA’s debut novel, Mosquitoes of Summer, was the 2009 winner of Book Idol. “Beautiful Insanity” has just been accepted into the very first issue of Warpaint, a prestigious short story anthology. Julianna worked as a financial journalist before becoming a teacher. She divides her time between the Laurentians in Quebec and Prince Edward Island with her husband, their two children, and their pet parrots, Mr. Bean and Pickles.

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