Saturday, July 30, 2011

Always The Baker, Never The Bride by Sandra D. Bricker

Emma Rae Travis is an amazing baker, but she is a diabetic, so she has never had more than a taste of her wonderful creations. She is offered the position of pastry chef at the new Tanglewood Inn, in Atlanta. It is destined to be the hottest wedding destination hotel in the area. The Tanglewood is owned by Jackson Drake, who bought the place to fulfill his deceased’s wife’s dream. While Jackson is still mourning his wife’s death, Emma finds herself falling in love with him. Jackson is trying to honor his wife’s memory and feels he can never love another person again.

Bricker’s novel is great. I loved the recipes and tips at the end of each chapter. It was a refreshing and fun read. Emma, Jackson, and the rest of the staff are so lovable. Jackson’s sisters are such southern ladies, that you can’t help but fall in love with them.

Four Kitchens by Lauren Shockey

 Four Kitchens: My Life Behind The Burner in New York, Hanoi, Tel Aviv and Paris by Lauren Shockey recounts her year apprenticing at four different restaurants around the world. She started in New York at wd-50, then she went to Hanoi, Vietnam at La Verticale, then Tel Aviv at Carmella Bistro, and finally to Paris at Senderens. While Lauren studied in culinary school, her real training came through the experiences she gained in these kitchens.
The end of each chapter included recipes adapted from the various restaurants. Several of these recipes are only good if one has specialty stores nearby for some of the more unusual ingredients and may be a little too high brow for the average good. Regardless this book is a great read for food lovers around the world. Shockey explains a lot of the terms she uses so the reader will understand both the structure of a professional kitchen and some of the basics of professional cooking.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares

I had read the Sisterhood books in college and was pleased to see them come out with another book. The girls are on the verge of turning 30. Tibby has been living in Australia, Carmen is a TV star, Lena is an artist and teaching art, and Bridget is still the free spirit she has always been. They all have been fairly out of touch with each other and not the sisters that we remember. Tibby surprises the girls with invitations and tickets to meet back at Lena’s family home in Greece. However, soon after the girls arrive, tragedy strikes and the girls each have to figure out how to deal with it and move on. Each girl was such a part of the other’s lives that they are lost as they each go back to their separate lives still dealing with this tragedy.
Part of me was angry or diappointed in the book because of the tragedy, but at the same time, I enjoyed revisiting the sisterhood and seeing how things had changed for them and where their lives had taken them.

Violette Between by Alison Strobel

Artist Violette, falls when trying to paint a mural. When her boyfriend Christian finds her a short time later, she is rushed to the hospital. Violette, while in a coma, goes back to relive a previous relationship, while Christian thinks back to his first wife, trying to get past her death and his distrust of God for taking his first wife before he can truly dive into a relationship with Violette.
I found this book was interesting right up until the end. In general, it was a good read but then it ended so abruptly that it became a disappointment. Strobel did a great job getting into the mind of the characters and telling the back story.

While We’re Far Apart by Lynn Austin

Young Esther Shaffer recently lost her mother and now her father is enlisting in the army to fight in WWII. Feeling like she has been abandoned Esther and her brother basically ignore their nanny Penny. Penny volunteered to watch the kids while Eddie Shaffer is overseas as she has had a crush on Mr. Shaffer since she was a child and hopes that her volunteering will cause Eddie to fall in love with her. A second story line introduces us to Jacob Mendel, a Jewish widower who has lost faith in Hashem (God) after loosing his wife and after not having heard from his son in war-torn Hungary for many months. Jacob is the Shaffer’s landlord, and the children go to his apartment to get away from Penny and all begin to find faith and hope in the midst of helping each other.
I have always enjoyed reading books set in WWII, and Austin’s book was no disappointment. I have read one other of her books set during WWII and the both give a unique perspective on civilian life during the war, one that is often forgotten.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard & Florence Atwater

Mr. Popper, a painter, spends in his evenings reading about explorations to the North and South Poles. In response to a letter he sent to Admiral Drake, Drake sent Mr. Popper a penguin. What an adventure the penguin turned out to be. However, after some time, the penguin, named Captain Cook, got lonely. Mr. Popper wrote another letter to an aquarium in order to find out what might be the problem. In response, he received another penguin, which they named, Greta. That solved the problem, however, it created a new problem...Soon there were 10 little penguins. Soon, Mr. Popper, who was in need of money in order to buy food for his family, trained the penguins to perform a little show and was able to take them on the road for 10 weeks.
This was such a cute story and an easy read. I really enjoyed it. I recommend that any kid wanting to watch the movie also read the book. This is sure to be a classic that will be in my children’s personal library.

Indelible by Kristen Heitzmann

Trevor MacDaniel, a former Olympian skier  running an outdoor sports shop, complete with climbing wall, rescues a little boy from the mouth of a mountain lion. Natalie Reeve's, the little boy's aunt, is an artist with a great gift, or disability, depending on which way you look at it. The rescue forces their lives to intertwine, and not just for a moment. Natalie has just moved to town, having bought the space next to Trevor's shop for her art gallery. Natalie's disability is unique. It was originally thought to be a form of autism, but is not. Instead, Natalie's mind takes in details and imprints faces on her mind so deeply that only sculpting them gets them out of her mind enough to function. She has an eidetic memory imprisons Natalie until she can get the face out of her mind through sculpting it. Strange things start happening, Trevor begins receiving envelopes with pictures. Natalie sees a face that terrifies her. A young girl goes missing. Who is behind this? Can Trevor and the local authorities figure out what is happening before anyone else gets hurt?

I will admit right away that this was a book I didn't expect to like. While it certainly is not going on my list of favorite books, I was surprised by it. It was definitely a page turner. At the beginning of every chapter there was a quote from Paradise Lost and then a story line that didn't begin to make sense until about 1/3 of the way into the book when it began to intersect with the main story line. This is not a traditional good versus evil story. Instead it takes good versus evil to a new level with complications from Natalie's disability and Trevor's own past and intersects them with a crazy person attracted by Trevor's hero status.

I received this book free from Waterbrook Multnomah for the purpose of this review.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Thor Ramsey's Total Money Meltdown

Thor Ramsey’s Total Money Meltdown is a great book of one couple’s financial mistakes and a humorous look at how they worked towards getting on the right track. Having read Dave Ramsey’s (no relation to Thor Ramsey) Total Money Makeover, I knew the gist of Thor’s book, or at least the principles behind it. But it was enjoyable to read about a couple who made a lot of mistakes along the way and realized that we all are not perfect in handling money. We all make stupid mistakes with money.
This was a refreshing read! It is not a get rich quick story, rather it is a humorous account of a struggle to financial freedom. Fans of Dave Ramsey will enjoy this book, but anyone who thinks they have done stupid things will money will realize they are not alone and that there is a way out.
I received the galley's of this book from for the purpose of this review.

The Lightkeeper's Ball by Colleen Coble

The Lightkeeper’s Ball by Colleen Coble is a story of how bitterness and greed can consume people so much that they do unthinkable things. Olivia Stewart finds out that her sister has died and she travels from NY to California to find out what happened and to see if her sister’s fiance will be suitable for her, so she can save her family. However, she gets caught up in a mystery surrounding her sisters death and several attempts of murder on her own life. Pride, jealousy, greed and bitterness left to let grow in a person’s life turn into an all consuming power. But love and truth can set a person free.
This was a great mystery that I fell in love with. While it is part of The Mercy Falls Series, it can be read as a stand alone novel as it doesn’t need the others to make sense. 
I received the galley's of this book from for the purpose of this review.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Love Me Back To Life by Missy Horsfall & Susan Stevens

While our bodies’ defense systems are uniquely designed to protect and shield from intense hurts, sometimes the unlikeliest things can bring up feeling or fears without the person even understanding why. This is especially true if a person has lived with a fear for many years or has blocked out memories. Our bodies can become so programmed to react to something that the reaction becomes normal, even without the original stressor.
Mallory and Jake’s marriage is falling apart. Jake is constantly traveling and when he is home, Mallory is set off by the littlest things; it seems she is even repulsed by his touch. Neither Jake nor Mallory seem to care enough about their marriage or each other to take the time to figure out what is really going on, or what the root of the problem is. That is, until Mallory has a breakdown. Then the truth begins to set both of them free. The road to recovery and freedom isn’t easy, but it is worth the time and effort!
While it was a little hard to tell where the book was going, as it jumped between Mallory’s thoughts and then her and Jake’s lives both together and apart, the book really came together and made for a good read. It gave an insight that is often lacking into the world of abuse.

June Bug by Chris Fabry

For as far back and she can remember, June has lived in an RV traveling around the USA with her father. Because this is all she has known, June doesn’t think to question it until she sees an artists rendition of herself on a missing child poster in Walmart. The poster give’s June’s real name, birthday and when she went missing. Seeing the poster makes June begin to question her father about where they came from, if they will ever stop traveling and live in a real house, and where her mother is.
June Bug is a modern retelling of Victor Hug’s Les Miserables. The story, told from June’s perspective, is a tale of the sacrifice one man makes to save a child.

Amish Midwife by Mindy Starns Clark & Leslie Gould

Lexie Jaeger lost her mother several years earlier, and just before her father dies, he tells her about a wooden box that was given to her by her birth family when she was given up for adoption. Desiring to learn more about where she came from, Lexie leavers her midwife practice in Oregon, gets a liscence to practice in Pennsylvania. A friend puts her in contact with a midwife, Marta,  who may have had some connection to Lexie’s adoption in the heart of Amish Country. Marta needs someone to take on her patients while she is in the middle of a legal battle.
This is a beautiful story of one woman’s search for her identity while learning to trust God.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Taste of What is To Come

I am working on writing reviews for about 20 more books that I have been reading recently that are not for any specific blog review for a publisher. So keep checking...

Also, one of my next books to arrive in the mail for a blog review is.....
Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber.  I am a bit on an England kick as I am planning on going to England next year with my parents church for a mission trip.

Product Description (From

A "girl-meets-God" style memoir of an agnostic who, through her surprising opportunity to study at Oxford, comes to a dynamic personal faith in God.
Carolyn Weber arrives for graduate study at Oxford University a feminist from a loving but broken family, suspicious of men and intellectually hostile to all things religious. As she grapples with her God-shaped void alongside the friends, classmates, and professors she meets, she tackles big questions in search of love and a life that matters.
This savvy, beautifully written, credible account of Christian conversion follows the calendar and events of the school year as it entertains, informs, and promises to engage even the most skeptical and unlikely reader.

J.R.R. Tolkien by Mark Horne (Christian Encounters Series)

J.R.R. Tolkien was born in South Africa and raised in England. He lost both his parents as a child, his father when Tolkien was 3, and his mother when he was 12. Tolkien grew up loving being able to explore around his home in South Africa and the countryside in England. However, every time he had to move to a city or suburb, he felt imprisoned. This love for the countryside and his distain for the city and suburbs later translated to the settings in his writings with the Shire and Mordor. Even though he was poor, having lost his father at such a young age, his father’s family helped pay for his education for a time, and his grades got him scholarships. So he was able to attend one of the best schools in England, foster his love for languages that helped him eventually work as a don at Oxford. Tolkien’s love for languages and literature along with some of his childhood experiences, fostered the environment to write short stories and novels, the most famous of which are The Lord of The Rings series.
While, sadly, I have not read more than excerpts of Tolkien’s writings, this biography was a great look into Tolkien’s life and the influences that shaped his writing. I knew about Tolkien and his wife, as well as work and writings. I knew that Tolkien was a part of the Inklings along with C.S. Lewis and they had an influence on each other in their writings of Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. But I learned so much more about Tolkien, his life and struggles, and how they influenced his writing! This is a great biography of J.R.R. Tolkien! I highly recommend it to anyone who is even remotely curious about Tolkien, especially since the release of The Lord of the Rings movies in recent years.
BookSneeze® has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of this review.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Daughter's Walk

The Daughter’s Walk by Jane Kirkpatrick
In 1896, two women, Helga and Clara Etsby, a mother and daughter, walked across the United States from Spokane, Washington to New York City wearing new reform dresses. They had accepted a wager and were to make the trip on foot in 7 months. Their reward was to be ten thousand dollars if they made it on time.
A year after their return to Washington, Clara sets off on her own, determined to start life again, without her family. Separated from her family for more than 20 years, Clara discovers determination and risk and independence at a time when women were fighting for the chance to vote and have a say.
Jane Kirkpatrick’s story about the Etsby’s walk is real. While little had been said about their walk across the country until recent years, Kirkpatrick has done her research to bring the facts of the walk and the family separation to light and to discover what hardships Clara may have faced during those many years of separation.
This was a great read about a little know historical event at the turn of the last century.
I received this book free from Waterbrook Multnomah for the purpose of this review.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Just Tacos cookbook

Just Tacos
The Taunton Press
Easy to find Ingredients: While many of the ingredients are fairly easy to find, the authors include hints of how to find those that aren’t easy to find. The hints also include what the ingredients are, what they taste like, how to choose them, and what else they are used for.
Easy To Understand Directions: The directions are very easy to understand.
Lots of Pictures: There are a fair amount of pictures, but there could be more.
Extras: There are tips on making tortilla, and various tools needed, and where to find them. Some recipes have notes to try them with another similar recipes or contrast them with other recipes when making them for a group.
I received the galleys of this book from Net Galley for the purpose of this review.
This book comes out October 18, 2011

Junior's Dessert Cookbook

Junior’s Dessert Cookbook by Alan Rosen & Beth Allen
The Taunton Press

Easy to find Ingredients: A lot of the recipes require specialty ingredients or mixes which are recipes on other pages, but you have to go back to that page to make that recipe. So you really have to read the recipe before you go shopping and before you make it.

Easy To Understand Directions: Good job!

Lots of Pictures: Poor job here. Wish there were more pictures, whether on every page, or every few pages with labeled pictures.

Extras: History of Enduro which was reinvented as Junior’s.

Final Comments: I love that their philosophy was not to try to replicate great desserts, but to improve on them. They also included a section for sugar free desserts. Finally, there is a chart of common problems, causes and solutions for imperfect desserts.
This is a good cookbook for 50’s style ice cream shop desserts or for fans of Junior’s.
I received the galleys of this book from Net Galley for the purpose of this review.
This book comes out October 18, 2011

Fine Cooking Cookies Cookbook

Fine Cooking Cookies from the Editors and Contributors of Fine Cooking
The Taunton Press
Easy to find Ingredients: Very easy to find
Easy To Understand Directions: Great step-by-step directions
Lots of Pictures: Pictures of just about every recipe and several step by step pictures
Extras: Great tips on baking!
These recipes will help you look like an expert in the kitchen! This is any dessert or chocolate lovers dream cookbook! I was drooling over it as I was looking at each page! I can’t wait to own my own copy of it!

I received the galleys of this book from Net Galley for the purpose of this review.
This book comes out Oct 4, 2011

Fine Cooking Comfort Food Cookbook

Fine Cooking Comfort Food from the Editors and Contributors of Fine Cooking
The Taunton Press
Easy to find Ingredients: Generally easy to find ingredients
Easy To Understand Directions: The directions were straight forward, easy to understand!
Lots of Pictures: Beautiful pictures for every recipe! I love seeing what I am going to make before I make it!
Extras: There were several extras, tips to add to the meal, general cooking tips for storing and freezing food or specific ingredients. The cookbook even had a list of pantry items that would be needed to make many different soups. Other tips explained what specific ingredients that are not well known are, how to choose them, how to prep or store them, and some substitutes for those ingredients. All of the recipes included nutritional information.
Final Comments: The recipes included in the Fine Cooking Comfort Food cookbook cover all types of food (main dishes, appetizers, sides and desserts) and are a mix of basic, familiar comfort foods as well as new and popular foods that are sure to become favorites. The recipes come from every region and area around the world. When specialty ingredients are needed, the recipe for that is on the same page, not somewhere else in the cookbook.
While this is not a good cookbook for someone who is just learning the basics of cooking, it is great for those who have a little knowledge and want to improve their kitchen skills and those who are avid watchers of cooking shows and have seen the various techniques but need an avenue to practice them. 

I received the galleys of this book from Net Galley for the purpose of this review.

This book comes out November 8, 2001

The Constantine Codex by Paul L. Maier

What would happen if an early Biblical manuscript was found that contained more than what is in our 66 books of the Bible? What if there was more to the book of Mark, or a third letter by Luke recounting the rest of Paul’s life? Paul Maier tackles these questions by showing one possible outcome in his book, The Constantine Codex.
Jon and Shannon Weber are interested in early church manuscripts. Shannon, an archeologist, comes across a manuscript possibly written by an early church father. After photographing and testing the document, it was discovered to indeed be an early church document from the 4th century. Jon and Shannon seek permission, along with a team of specialists, to photograph other early church documents in an effort to preserve those documents. Simultaneously, one of Jon’s books has been translated and is being released in the Middle East. However, because there is a mistranslated word, riots break out in the Muslim world! After the book is corrected, Jon is invited to debate Islam and Christianity with a leading Muslim leader. After the debate, Jon and Shannon discover and photograph a manuscript that could change the world!
Maier’s book started out slow but then became an interesting read. The debate between Islam and Christianity really brought out the points of each side that are barriers to the other. The idea of ancient manuscripts being found is not unlikely. But the question is raised, what would happen if something was there in addition to what we already have, not that contradicts the Bible, but that supplements and adds to it?

I received the galleys of this book from Net Galley for this review.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Scars of a Chef by Rick Tramonto with Lisa Jackson

Growing up, I think everyone thinks how they were raised is normal and just like how everyone else was raised, until they find out differently. Growing up, I thought every married couple had a water bed and that every family ate the same things we did, until I started seeing how other people lived. Rick Tramonto thought that everyone’s parents fought like his did. He thought that every family was like his big Italian extended family always eating together, until he saw differently.
Scars of a Chef is the memoirs of Chef Rick Tramonto. Growing up in an Italian family, experiencing the death of his grandfather at a young age, getting into drugs, seeing his father jailed for several offenses, being kicked out of schools and eventually dropping out of school all lead Tramonto down the unlikely path of becoming a chef. Having gained his culinary knowledge from experience, not from the classroom, but from the kitchen. He started working at Wendy’s in Rochester, NY and moved up from there, gaining more experience first in Rochester, then in NYC, Chicago, and England.
THis memoir is an easy read that is real, honest, and refreshing. Any food lover will enjoy reading about Tramonto’s experiences in the various kitchens as well as learn a few things themselves. As a bonus, the end of each chapter contains a mouth-watering recipe. The culinary world is a high stress and high energy environment, but just because you are a Christian, that does not mean your troubles stop. You do, however, have a different resource to handle them.

I received the galley of this book to review from Net Galley.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

God's Love Letters To You by Dr. Larry Crabb

Dr. Crabb’s book is a devotional based on his previous book, 66 Love Letters. He takes 40 of the books of the Bible and writes a letter of what God would say to the reader based on that book. Each day is very short and can be quickly read. Crabb tries to share how and how much God loves His children.
This book was a disappointment for me. I was expecting it to be more of a letter taken straight out of Scripture using and referencing Scripture. However, it seriously failed all of my expectations. Each day had one verse on the title page for each day, but then rarely mentioned Scripture in the next two pages for each day. I had hoped to see the book filled with Scriptures both quoted and referenced, even it if was just in footnotes or endnotes. I know this was not meant to be an in-depth Bible study, but I believe any good devotional should point back to the Bible. For someone who is not a believer, it can be an opportunity to begin looking into the truths of the Bible. And for believers, it can be an opportunity to both dig deeper and to see God for who he really is. While this book may appeal to a romantic, it certainly is not a book for those who are more intellectually or academically minded.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookSneeze®.

Bound by Guilt by C.J. Darlington

Guilt can eat you alive! In Bound by Guilt, two of the characters have to deal with guilt in their life. Roxi is traveling the country with her aunt and cousin, the only family she has left. Starved for approval from adults, she will do anything, even if it is illegal. Roxi, her aunt, and cousin travel around the country stealing rare books from various bookstore and try to sell them. Entering one bookstore, they see several rare books and decided to go back after hours to rob the store. In doing so, they kill the manager who hears them in the store. Abby, the manager’s sister, a police office, along with the manager’s fiance seek out the killers by trying to hunt down the missing books. Both Abby and Roxi have the choice to be destroyed by guilt or set free by forgiveness.
This book has been one of my favorite reads so far this summer! I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good read.

Her Daughter's Dream by Francine Rivers

While many sequels aren’t as good as the original, this book is just as good or even better as the first book (Her Mother’s Hope) in Marta’s Legacy. Picking up right where Her Mother’s Hope left off, Her Daughter’s Dream follows Hildemara and her family. Hildemara is in the hospital with tuberculosis. Because of this, Marta moves in to care for Hildemara’s children. Carolyn, Hildemara’s daughter, feels rejected because she can’t see her mother because of the tuberculosis which she doesn’t understand. So Carolyn connects with Marta. As Carolyn grows up, she tries to find herself in college, but only finds more problems. Returning home pregnant, Carolyn relives her childhood in that her daughter, May Flower Dawn, connects more with her grandmother, Hildemara, rather than with her mother, Carolyn. As Dawn discovers more about her family, she struggles to avoid the mistakes of the women in her life and seeks to be teh peacemaker in her family.
Her Daughter’s Dream is a very satisfying sequel to Her Mother’s Hope. It is a book you will want to read again and again!

Her Mother's Hope by Francine Rivers

Francine Rivers has done it again! She has written another book that will become a classic! When I got this book, I read the whole thing in less than 24 hours! What a great read! Her Mother’s Hope and its sequel, Her Daughter’s Dream cover five generations of a family from their start in Switzerland at the beginning of the 20th century to life in the western USA in the present day.
Her Mother’s Hope opens with Marta, a young woman with an abusive father and a weak mother, leaving her home to work in a hotel, then traveling to England and later to Canada. Marta meets and marries her husband Niclas and they move to California and raise their 4 children between the two world wars. While Niclas lives to work the land, Marta must raise their children. Because she has learned only the strong survive, she parents with tough love. Her daughter Hildemara is very different from Marta and constantly seeks but doesn’t feel she’s getting Marta’s approval. Thus there is a great conflict and constant misunderstanding between these two.
Rivers’ book captures the reader and leaves the reader wanting more, but she delivers in the sequel, Her Daughter’s Dream. Both of these books in Marta’s Legacy series are amazing books that are sure to please!