Sunday, May 31, 2015

Cookie Love by Mindy Segal with Kathy Leahy

Yum!  That is the first word that comes to mind when opening up this gorgeous cookie recipe book!  The descriptions leave your mouth watering.  The bright, beautiful photographs make you feel like you could just reach out and take a cookie off the plate.  Mindy is a creative genius not just in the writing of this recipe book but in the layout of it and her incredibly helpful hints.

The book is laid out in sections according to types of cookies.  These include:  drop, shortbread, sandwich, egg white, spritz, thumbprints, twice-baked, ruglelach/kolachkes, and bars. 

The author also has a section for measurement conversions.  She tells you how to stock your pantry with the basics for cookie baking ease. She devotes a chapter to various “tools” one would use most often and for speciality cookies.  One of the amazing sections I found most interesting and useful was the section called:  Tricks of the trade. This details how to best to store each type of cookie, how to measure certain types of ingredients, how to treat various types of dough, what types of heat sources work best for the cookie you’re creating, how to mix and combine ingredients, shaping and decorating and dipping cookies.  Mindy Segal has thought of everything to make cookie making a delight!

I received this book free from the publishers and was not required to write a positive review.  

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Love Arrives in Pieces by Betsy St. Amant

The best part of this book was the dedication page.  You'll have to pick up the book to read it for yourself!

The story is about two sisters with a domineering mother.  Both sisters have suffered from deep hurts due to breakups with the men they loved.  Now Kat is happily married awaiting the arrival of her first child.  Meanwhile Stella is thrust into a business working relationship with Kat's ex.  But it's a bit more twisted than that as the story reveals that Stella and Kat were both involved with Chase, the ex, at the same time and that he drove the sisters apart.  The story goes on to develop the relationship between Chase and Stella and Kat's acceptance of them as a couple at the end.

This book bothered me from the start but I kept questioning myself saying:  Who I am to question what could happen?  At first I felt the way the events happened in this book were really far fetched.  I don't mean in a fairytale, happily-ever-after way.  We all like a bit of romantic perfection at times.  But the emotions of the characters I had a hard time relating to.  It felt like they went from one extreme to another.  From out right disgust to calm acceptance and even joyful affirmation.

However, the story was interesting and had some excellent points of working through grief issues in connection with painful breakups.  So if you can get past the sisters sharing an ex it's worth a read.

I received this book free from the publishers in exchange for my honest review and was not required to write a positive review.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy

Fascinating tale of the daughter of John Brown who is infamous for the Harper's Ferry massacre legended to have sparked the Civil War.

The author goes back and both between the 1860's with Sarah Brown's first person account mixed with letters between herself and a beloved friend and a modern day woman living in a house that once was a safe house for slaves.

Sarah Brown's story takes us through emotional and moral dilemmas from her father's martyrdom for the cause he believed in, to Quaker non-violent beliefs, to the underground railroad, sacrificial love and how far does one go for the sake of another's life and happiness.  Historical facts are brought to light through the voice of this young woman caught up in a time of turmoil for our country.

As the Andersons uncover different artifacts in their home they realize it may indeed be a historical house linked to slavery times.  In the discovery of the story behind the items found they discover things about themselves as individuals and as a couple.

I absolutely loved the Sarah Brown portion of the story.  The Anderson's story took a while to grow on me and felt slightly slow paced but the ending of their portion of the story is well worth the wait and is fabulously satisfying!

I received this book free from the publishers and was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

In Firefly Valley by Amanda Cabot

To say I have a new favorite author is an understatement!  This book was absolutely fantastic on so many levels!  First of all it brought deep spiritual truths into the story naturally and realistically.  The love story was the sweetest one I’ve read in a long time, but it was not a predictable love story at all.  It had twists and turns, and nail biting episodes that had me guessing till the end.  I was impressed with the mature way love was displayed in this story on all fronts with the various characters.  This book is not some fairytale romance but rather a tale of characters with real issues, fears, heartaches and hang-ups.  The author deals with each issue in a detailed, emotionally healthy and spiritual rich way.  The description of landscape, cabins, cooking and friendships will make you wish you could take a little trip to Dupree and visit Firefly Valley yourself!

I received this book free from Revell in exchange for my honest review and was not required to write a positive review.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Art of Losing Yourself by Katie Ganshert

I devoured this book!  I got home to find it waiting for me on my doorstep and began to read it and continued nonstop!  If you're a Katie Ganshert fan I have to tell you this is her best book ever and I've loved all of them.  If you're never read one of Katie's books before you will be more than pleasantly surprised by her wit and wisdom.

Ms. Ganshert takes some very tough topics and deals with them beautifully and sensitively in this story.  You'll find characters dealing with infertility, marital discord, teenage angst, broken homes, alcoholic parents, racial discrimination, bi-racial marriages and more.  And while it may seem that is is multitude of issues to deal with in one book Ms Ganshert weaves it all together in a smooth and yet fascinating fashion.

The reader hears the voice of teen Gracie with equal authenticity as her young adult half sister Carmin.  Ms. Ganshert has a definite gift for first person story telling.  In the words and thoughts of each character we are led into examining ideas of part-time Christians versus living a life for Christ in every aspect of our lives.  And as the characters question where is God in their pain and how does God fit into romance and family and fun the reader sees God as One who could be the friend you've longed for.

A gritty book that when you're done reading it your own heart will have been touched and changed by God' grace.

I received this book free from the publisher for my honest review and I was not required to write a positive review.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

To Win Her Favor by Tamera Alexander

This story takes place in the time immediately after the civil war ends.  While slaves are free there is still a lot of hostility and cruelty dealt to the people of African descent.  Along with this long standing prejudice there is also restrictions to Irish immigrants and to women brought out in this book.  Many unknown facts regarding this are dealt with in story filled with romance, mystery and high suspense.

Ms Alexander is a master story teller.  You feel what the characters are feeling.  It is as if you're with them in their angst, joy and confusion.  She makes you see the beauty of the land, the magnificence of the thoroughbred, the details of the lace on a jacket.  She has magic with her use of words that helps the reader see the individual characters' flaws and strengths and emotions.  She makes them real.

I find Tamera Alexander's books to be filled with many social and moral dilemmas that she addresses with solid facts and spiritual insight.

This book was different from others I have read of hers in that in the marriage of the two main characters she has several love scenes.  I felt uncomfortable with these as they had details that led the mind to imagine intimate physical love.  While I believe this is a God given gift for married couples I do not think that Christians need to read about this in detail.

Aside from that one note that I feel needs to be said - this is an excellent historical novel.

I received this book free from the publisher and was not required to write a positive review.

Friday, May 8, 2015

No Place to Hide by Lynette Eason

When I picked up this book I realized it was called a romantic suspense book but it was also listed as a Christian book.  I was shocked at how much violence was in this book.  True it was tuned down, not a lot of gory detail but still violent.  People get shot in the eye, a whole family with mother, father and teenage children are killed point blank.  Even that bit of detail for me is too much violent detail for a faith based book.  The murders kept coming in this book. 

My other bone to pick with this book is that God is not brought into the picture until near the end of the book.  And even at that point the references to Him are not fully developed.  For example one character asks, “Why did you hold on to your faith and I didn’t?”  I found the response rather flippant:  I guess it’s just different personalities.

I felt this book was an exciting thrill ride but lacked  the moral fiber to hold it together as a spiritually uplifting book.  The main character asks some good questions about faith and trusting God and who God is.  But I found the answers given to her lacked conviction and substance.  In real life if I were given those answers I probably would not pursue looking into Christianity.

It was also unfathomable to me how the one character was portrayed as having a strong faith and walk with God and yet he proposes to someone who still barely offered a prayer.  And her prayer was offered during a life threatening experience.  Prior to that prayer she was still bitter, doubting God, had not surrendered her heart to God or begun a relationship with him. The Bible speaks of being unequally yoked and this book just moved too quickly and unrealistically from point A to point B. 

In short: Yes an enticing, entertaining read but don’t expect deep spiritual truths or “aha” moments in this story.

I received this book free from the publishers and was required to write a positive review.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Reservations for Two by Hillary Manton Lodge

Drawn in from the first paragraph - I couldn’t put this book down and that is how I was with the first book in this series.  I can’t wait for the third book to come out!  This is book two in the Two Blue Doors series by Hillary Manton Lodge.

There are many reasons that I enjoyed this book and its predecessor.  One reason is that each story has twists and turns that don’t always come to a clean conclusion – just like real life.  Juliette faces challenges on multi-levels of her life from career to romance to family relationships.  An added bonus is recipes described in the story are given in the book.  

While the story takes us through Juliette’s current life experiences it also shows us glimpses into her grandmother’s life and the time period of WWII as Juliette discovers and reads letter between her grandmother and his great aunt.  Through the letters between the sisters a lot of wisdom is imparted to Juliette about facing tribulations, grief, shunning and starting over with God’s grace and help.

I received this book free from the publishers and was not required to write a positive review.