Audiobook · Blog · Book Reviews · Jane Austen

Book Review: Emma by Jane Austen, Read by Juliet Stevenson

Note: this review is of the narration for this novel, rather than the content of the novel because I believe that all of Jane Austen’s oeuvre is perfect.

I, like millions of other people, love Jane Austen. She’s witty, smart, and her characters are so full of life and real, their conversations and mannerisms reminiscent of people we’ve all met in our daily lives. I do, however, find it difficult to read some of her books in paper format. I stopped and started a51Z6zgc9KPL._SL500__AC_PIAdblRomanceBadge88px,TopRight,0,0_US500_QL100_ paper version of Emma at least twice, and only found myself truly drawn in by the story when I began listening to it on audiobook.

The benefit of listening to classic novels on audiobook is that hearing the lines acted out helps me navigate the antiquated language and visualise the scenes, something I have trouble doing with older novels in paper format. Juliet Stevenson does a masterful job of giving each character in this book their own particular voice, bringing the book to life in a magnificent way that had me finding every opportunity possible to keep listening. Her rendition of Ms Bates, in particular, is hilarious and spot-on, exactly how I would imagine she would speak. The characters of Mr Woodhouse and Mrs Elton come to life as well, and her narration makes the story so much richer and deeper, and so much more enjoyable than it already was, which is saying quite a lot! Thankfully she also narrates Mansfield Park, Persuasion, and Sense and Sensibility, as well as North and South, and Wuthering Heights, all on my TBR list for this year.

If, like me, you are an Austen fan but struggle to bring that world to life when reading, let Juliet Stevenson take you a journey of jealousy, misapprehension, and, of course, love.

Baking · Recipes

Easy Orange Drizzle Cake

Sunday night I riffled through the equipment in my new, unexplored kitchen and made a classic bake, the drizzle cake. I was a bit nervous about making it, as my house’s gas oven is slightly hotter on the right and I had nightmarish visions of a cake only baked on one side, but turning these cakes periodically produced a beautiful loaf and 9-inch cake (I couldn’t find another loaf pan) that were moist and moreish, with a subtle citrus flavour.  I took both cakes into work this week and they were demolished by 13:00pm each day, and no one even knew it was vegan! This recipe is quick, easy to make, and requires only a few bowls. You don’t even need a whisk, as a fork will do just fine. This cake was inspired by the recipe for Key Lime Cake from the Everything Vegan Baking Cookbook.

-2 cups oat milk
-juice of half an orange
-2.5 cups plain/ all-purpose flour
-2 cups caster sugar
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1 teaspoon salt
-2/3 cup sunflower oil or other vegetable oil
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-2 tablespoons orange zest (zest from one whole orange)

1. Heat the oven to 350F/170C.
2. Combine the oat milk and orange juice in a medium-sized bowl and set aside.
3. With a fork, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
4. Add to the bowl of oat milk and orange juice the vegetable oil, vanilla, and orange zest, using the fork to stir. Then, add the contents of this bowl to the larger bowl and use a small spatula to mix until combined.
5. Bake the cakes for 35-50 minutes, checking at 35 minutes to see if a knife inserted into the middle of the cake comes out with just moist crumbs attached. Keep checking every 5 to 7 minutes until the cake is done. This took closer to 50 minutes for my cake on the lower shelf of my oven, but it’ll be a bit different for everyone, as no two ovens bake quite the same!
6. When the cakes are close to done, squeeze the juice of one whole orange into a medium-sized bowl with one cup of icing sugar and mix until a thin icing forms. When the cake is out of the oven, use a fork or knife to poke holes in each cake down to the lower middle of the cake and drizzle the icing over the cake.




What is this place?

Welcome to my new blog! After getting a lot of positive feedback from my Instagram, smooches_and_seitan, I decided it was finally time to make a blog where I can share my favourite romance novels, vegan recipes, tips for vegan travel, and reviews of all the cookbooks and novels I read and cook from. This blog also includes content from my old reviewing site, Xo Editing and Writing. Thank you for joining me. I’ll be posting weekly, so tune in for my adventures as I navigate plant-based cooking, baking, and how to eat well in European countries everyone describes as “hell for vegans.” It’s going to be an adventure!


Blog · Reading

My Journey to Reading Romance

I credit my love of romance novels for a lot of things, among them, my ardent feminist views, my decision to pursue a career in publishing, and my optimism and belief in a happily ever after, but before 2014, they weren’t even on my radar. I’d read plenty of Sophie Kinsella and Meg Cabot in high school and loved those books for their spunky characters and happy endings, but at the time, I didn’t realise that many of those books fell under the romance genre. I didn’t even really know about literary genres, full stop.


I didn’t start using Goodreads until 2014, so before then, the way I picked out books went: walk into the library, go to fiction, non-fiction, and teen sections, choose books with nice covers and interesting plots, check out, go home. Sometimes I’d peruse the library’s online catalogue, looking for books similar to those I’d read before, but I generally preferred my more serendipitous way of finding reading material. I had no idea how to articulate what exactly I wanted to read; I just hoped that luck would lead me to some books that I would enjoy. I never even asked the librarians for help, something I cringe about now that I myself am a certified librarian and geek out when my friends ask me for book recommendations. 110391

I started using Goodreads at the suggestion of my brother, a wonderful person and an attentive listener who is always looking for ways to make my life easier. When I lamented that I had no way of tracking all the books I was reading, he told me to sign up for a Goodreads account, and oh, am I glad I did! Soon after that, I read what I consider to be my come-to-Jesus book: Nocturne by Syrie James. I devoured this book one cold, wintry morning, and after finishing it, immediately logged on to Goodreads to find other books like it. Somehow, I found my way to a page of Eloisa James books, and from then, I was hooked on romance. After Eloisa’s Desperate Duchesses series, I found Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series, which I know now is the gateway series to regency romance. Since then, I’ve devoured hundreds of romance novels from all sorts of sub-genres, and in the process, found a community of like-minded book-devourers on Twitter, Instagram, SmartBitchesTrashyBooks, All About Romance, and Love in a Time of Feminism. Reading romance is absolutely the best decision I have ever made.


Blog · Book Reviews · Contemporary Romance

Book Review: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

This book. THIS BOOK. I flew through this book earlier this week, ignoring work and staying up way too late to get through chapter after chapter, and nearly cried out “YES!!!” at the HEA. Things I love about it:

-the setting is subtle; I normally love world-building even in my contemporaries so I can really sink my teeth into the story, but this book’s lack of a clear setting makes it so much easier to focus on the relationship between the characters25883848

-Lucy is a confident, driven, badass heroine who takes no shade from her arch nemesis-turned-true-love, Josh

-Lucy’s boss, Helene, is incredibly supportive and the complete opposite of the Dragon Lady archetype I so often see in books set in/around workplaces with female bosses

-Lucy is the seducer in this book, making her feelings towards Josh clearly known, and mostly unabashedly so

-Josh is a vulnerable, shy, self-conscious supportive hero

-Josh loves Lucy’s ambition

-the sexual buildup is INSANE

-this book combines two of my favourite tropes: enemies-to-lovers and forced proximity

This is probably one of the best contemporaries I’ve ever read. I love how openly feminist it is, I love that Josh is an atypical beta hero, and I love that Lucy loves her body and eats donuts and cheese with abandon.  I can’t wait to read Sally Thorne’s other works, and I now completely get why everyone has been freaking out about this book. GO READ THIS RIGHT NOW.


Blog · Book Reviews · General Fiction

Book Review: Losing It by Emma Rathbone

I read this book cover-to-cover in one evening, and spent a good amount of time after finishing it wondering, “did I like it?” After mulling it over, the best I can say is “meh”.


Losing It is about Julia Greenfield, a 26 year-old virgin desperate to have sex, so much so that it populates all of her thoughts and dictates a good portion of her decisions. I found Julia to be an unlikeable heroine; she’s selfish, lazy, immature, and has no regard for the feelings of those around her. She actually reminded me a bit of Carrie Bradshaw in that she was so focused on her own life that she barely heard what her best friend said in their phone conversations, and didn’t seem to find issue with the fact that she basically ruins the biggest break in her aunt’s career so that she can have a very awkward car ride with a guy she *might* have sex with.

Julia reminds me of how so much of society views millennials; she’s not ambitious or creative and thinks that the world revolves around her. She’s made it to 26 with no career plan, she can’t cook, she can’t focus, she has few friends, and all of her social interactions revolve around her accomplishing what she deems to be the most important goal in her life: having sex.

I was gripped by this book mostly because I wanted to see if in the end she somehow, some way, redeemed herself. Spoilers: she didn’t. Yes, she learns that there is more to life than sex, but this is only after she’s had sex! I also hated that in order for her to figure to plot out her next steps, she has to be engaging in post-coital conversation, as though her life couldn’t start until she’d finally accomplished her “goal” of losing her virginity, and as though it isn’t until she’s had some sort of relationship with a man that she can come into maturity.

This book reinforces all the hangups around virginity and sex that make society so complicated and, at times, dangerous, and I so wish that Julia had managed to become a more understanding, more knowledgable person without those traits somehow being tied to her sex life.