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Friday, July 31, 2009

The Unveiling: An American Teacher in a Saudi Palace...Review

About the book:
My husband and I eagerly accepted positions as private tutors for a visionary princess in Saudi Arabia. She dreamed of providing the best education possible for her children and secretly opened a private school. We championed her dreams as if they were our own. However, a year later, we encountered a medieval system of palace intrigue and subterfuge. Under threat of imprisonment, we were detained and coerced into signing false statements. Would God's deliverance come in time or would we be forgotten and imprisoned in a foreign land? Journey with us to the center of the human heart and to the mysterious Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where the shifting sands are full of dreams, intrigue and revenge.

I find books about the Middle East and about Islam, in general, to be fascinating. When a book speaks of both Islam and Christianity, it really intrigues me. Believing that God was leading them, Kristin and Randy Decker went to Saudi Arabia for what seemed to be a wonderful teaching opportunity. They would be private tutors to a young Saudi prince and princess. Their experiences with the young royals was positive and fulfilling. Their experiences with those in leadership positions, however, was much different. As they watched friends being evicted from the country because of false accusations and lies, they never dreamed their Saudi friends would turn on them as well. But, even as they are forced to leave the country, they know that they touched the lives of the young prince and princess and that experience was for their own good as well.

Kristin and Randy's Christian beliefs are strong and very much a part of this book. Kristin recounts conversations between them and other Americans living in Saudi Arabia. The differences between Christianity and Islam are discussed, and as far as I could tell, are discussed realistically, without a complete negativity toward Islam. The cultural differences between the East and West continue to astound me, especially in regards to the treatment and degradation of women. Quite a bit of Middle Eastern history in sprinkled throughout the book and I found it fascinating.

An interesting and enlightening book. One I enjoyed and can easily recommend.

Thanks to Scott Lorenz at Westwind Communications for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Kristin Decker and purchase the book here or here.

Read 7/09

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Innocent War...Review

About the book:
It is 1940. The dawn of Italy’s WWII for the Italian colonies of Libya has arrived. Young Nino woke up to his regular routine; but by the end of the day, his life would have changed into a nightmare – but through Nino’s eyes, it was an adventure. Follow a boy’s exploits, through a child’s innocent view of the war’s hardships, dangers, and tragedies. Accompany him as he shares his growing up years, spiced up with Nino’s humor, innocence, and awakening. And more experiences are about to be unraveled as he continues his story…

Personal histories have always been compelling to me. There is no need to fictionalize anything: the drama of real life experiences is enough. Nino Assenza's story is told as his daughter listens to his life history, as he has recorded it on audio tapes. His story begins as Italy enters World War 2 and Nino is a young boy living in the Italian colonies in Libya.

Nino tells how the excitement of war turns to the fear for survival: seeing his father called to the front lines, daily bombings, losing his childhood friends to death, seeing the Jewish families taken away and scavenging for food. Through it all, his mother's faith and determination to persevere keeps her family safe and together. Like all curious young boys, Nino finds adventures, even as the world is changing around him.

Fascinating and compelling. I read it in a couple of hours. The opening prologue is a bit awkward to read because of its mixture of tenses, but the story really moves once we begin reading Nino's first person narrative. I learned a great deal about the history of the time, from a perspective most Americans don't ever hear. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and can easily recommend it.

From my understanding, this is the first in a fictionalized series written by Nino's daughter Susan and is based on his historical experiences. I look forward to learning the rest of Nino's story.

Thanks to Elizabeth McCurry of Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Susan Violante here and you can learn more about the book and purchase it here. You can also purchase the book here.

Read 7/09

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Sugar Queen...Review

About the book:
Twenty-seven-year-old Josey Cirrini is sure of three things: winter in her North Carolina hometown is her favorite season, she’s a sorry excuse for a Southern belle, and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her hidden closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother’s house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night…. Until she finds it harboring none other than local waitress Della Lee Baker, a tough-talking, tenderhearted woman who is one part nemesis—and two parts fairy godmother…

Fleeing a life of bad luck and big mistakes, Della Lee has decided Josey’s clandestine closet is the safest place to crash. In return she’s going to change Josey’s life—because, clearly, it is not the closet of a happy woman. With Della Lee’s tough love, Josey is soon forgoing pecan rolls and caramels, tapping into her startlingly keen feminine instincts, and finding her narrow existence quickly expanding.

Before long, Josey bonds with Chloe Finley, a young woman who makes the best sandwiches in town, is hounded by books that inexplicably appear whenever she needs them, and—most amazing of all—has a close connection to Josey’s longtime crush.

As little by little Josey dares to step outside herself, she discovers a world where the color red has astonishing power, passion can make eggs fry in their cartons, and romance can blossom at any time—even for her. It seems that Della Lee’s work is done, and it’s time for her to move on. But the truth about where she’s going, why she showed up in the first place—and what Chloe has to do with it all—is about to add one more unexpected chapter to Josey’s fast-changing life.

Brimming with warmth, wit, and a sprinkling of magic, here is a spellbinding tale of friendship, love—and the enchanting possibilities of every new day.

Delightful. Enchanting.

Josey Cirrini, at 27, has lived her entire life under her mother's critical thumb. She's in love the mailman who delivers their mail, she has a secret closet filled with forbidden sweets and romance novels, and she swears that her favorite red cardigan has magical qualities.

Set in a quirky, North Carolina ski resort Josey's story is terrific. One morning, Della Lee Baker shows up in Josey's closet, needing a place to hide out, and she won't leave. Della Lee is a bit of a mystery herself, and although Josey can't admit it, is a bit of a fairy godmother too. Through their conversations and arguments, Della Lee slowly helps Josey come out of her shell, make new friends, stand up to her mother and, most importantly, find herself. Secrets are revealed, friendships are formed and relationships strengthened.

I loved Josey and Chloe. I loved Chloe's relationship with books. How cool would it be for the book that you need in your life to suddenly appear? I enjoyed watching Josey blossom and become comfortable and happy with herself. Like Sarah Addison Allen's previous book Garden Spells, this one has a dusting of magic. I love the concept that ordinary people have extraordinary gifts.

There is mild, disappointing use of the "F" word. Most people would say it is used in context, but I just find it vulgar and unnecessary. So many other words could be used. Still, I loved the book. I can easily recommend it. Absolutely charming.

You can purchase your own copy of this charming book here.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.

Read 7/09

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society...Review

About the book:
Sometimes life has to unravel before you can knit it together…

On the third Friday of each month, Eugenie, Ruth, Esther, Merry, and Camille meet at the Sweetgum Christian Church to enjoy the two things that connect them: a love of knitting and a passion for books. Their camaraderie remains unthreatened until Eugenie, the town librarian, introduces an angry teenager into their midst. Eugenie also gives them a new reading list: the classic novels of girlhood that young Hannah has never read. Little Women. Pollyanna. Heidi. Books that remind the women of the hopes and dreams they have lost along the way.

With each click of their needles, the ladies of the Knit Lit Society unravel their secrets: A shadow from Eugenie’s past haunts the controlled order of her life. Merry’s perfect little family is growing again–but will she continue to feel her identity slip away? Camille dreams of leaving town but is bound by ties of love. And the sisters, Ruth and Esther, must confront a lie they have lived with for over thirty years.

As Hannah is reluctantly stitched into their lives, the women discover the possibility that even in sleepy Sweetgum, Tennessee, they can still be the heroines of their own stories.

I've seen many good reviews of this book, and nearly every one praises it. I received the second book as an ARC and figured I should read this one first. It's a nice story: a group of women get together once a month to talk about the latest book and knit. Sounds lovely. Predictably, each woman has a crisis of some sort in her life and by the end of the story, everything has worked out.

While the characters are probably true to life, I didn't really find them likeable: Esther and Eugenie are downright prickly. There wasn't really anything that drew me to any one of them. The chapters alternate telling each story and showing what happens at the latest meeting. The friendship aspect was really lacking. Other than getting together once a month, these women really had nothing in common and little contact outside the Knit Lit Society.

I did appreciate how the author tried to tie in each month's book with what was going on in these women's lives: especially choosing childhood classics to help Hannah, the young teenager they reluctantly all adopt into their circle.

I'll read the sequel and hope I find it more enjoyable than this one. Light Christian, but unfortunately there was nothing stellar about it. A promising story that fell flat. Many other people enjoyed it more than I did, so you will find a lot of good reviews out there, too.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 7/09

* *
2/5 Stars

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mailbox Monday 7/27

It's time for another Mailbox Monday, hosted by Marcia at the Printed Page.

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks & audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

This last week I received quite a stash. It even surprised me:

Leadville by James Best
Passeggiata, by G.G. Husak
The Lacemakers of Glenmara, by Heather Barbieri

Live Relationally: Lessons from the Women of Genesis and Live Deeply: A Study of the Parables of Jesus, by Lenya Heitzig and Penny Pierce Rose

God Has Never Failed Me, But He's Sure Scared Me to Death a Few Times, by Stan Toler
The Buzzards are Circling, But God's Not Finished With Me Yet, by Stan Toler
Not So Fast, Slow-Down Solutions For Busy Families, by Ann Kroeker

When the Good News Gets Even Better: Rediscovering the Gospels through First-Century Jewish Eyes, by Neb Hayden
The Blue Enchantress by M.L. Tyndall
What new books did you receive last week?
For more Mailbox Monday posts, check out The Printed Page.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Receive Me Falling...Review

About the book:
Every slave story is a ghost story. The haunting words of an historian and former cane worker on the Caribbean island of Nevis launch Meghan Owen on her quest to unlock the secrets of an abandoned sugar plantation and its ghosts. After Meg's parents die in a car accident on the night of her engagement party, she calls off her wedding, takes leave of her job in Annapolis, and travels to land she's inherited on Nevis. A series of discoveries in an old plantation house on the property, Eden, set her on a search for the truth surrounding the shameful past of her ancestors, their slaves, and the tragedy that resulted in the fall of the plantation and its inhabitants. 

Through a crushing phone call with her lawyer, Meg learns that her father's estate was built on stolen money, and is being sued by multiple sources. She is faced with having to sell the land and plantation home, and deal with the betrayal she feels from her deceased father. In alternating chapters, the historical drama of the Dall family unfolds. Upon the arrival of British abolitionists to the hedonistic 19th century plantation society, Catherine Dall is forced to choose between her lifestyle and the scandal of deserting her family. An angry confrontation with Catherine's slave, Leah, results in the girl's death, but was it murder or suicide? Hidden texts, scandalous diaries, antique paintings, and confessional letters help Meghan Owen uncover the secrets of Eden and put the ghosts to rest. 

An enthralling and captivating read.

After her parents die in a car accident, Meghan Owen postpones her wedding, takes a leave of absence from her job and heads to the Caribbean. Among the inheritances from her parents is a property in Nevis: a former sugar plantation called Eden. Needing to get away, Meg decides to take a vacation and check out her new acquisition.

As Meg begins learning about Eden and the sugar industry of Nevis, she makes some interesting discoveries, including unearthing a previously unknown painting by a famous artist. But, disturbed at the thought that her family were slave owners, Meghan dives into research to find out all she can. During her adventure, she also learns that her father embezzled from his clients, and that she will probably be sued for the money. Before she can sell the property, however, she must find the answers she searches for: what happened to the original owners of Eden and their slaves.

The story is told in alternating chapters between Meg's experiences in the present day, and the drama of the Dall family in the 19th century. Catherine Dall and her father Cecil were the original owners of Eden. After slavery was outlawed in England, British abolitionists journeyed to the sugar plantations of the Caribbean to do what they could to overturn slavery there.

The historical aspect of the novel was astounding: well researched, with fascinating accounts about the lives of the plantation owners and their slaves. The harsh realities aren't glossed over. The brutalities that these people were forced to endure is tragic, and Erika does a great job of portraying it in a realistic yet, sympathetic way.

A terrific debut novel filled with intrigue and romance, friendship and love, scandal and confessions and the occasional ghost.

Thanks to the author for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Erika Robuck here. You can purchase the book here.

Read 7/09

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Garden Spells...Review

About the book:
In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, is an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit. In this luminous debut novel, Sarah Addison Allen tells the story of that enchanted tree, and the extraordinary people who tend it.

The Waverleys have always been a curious family, endowed with peculiar gifts that make them outsiders even in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has a reputation, famous for its feisty apple tree that bears prophetic fruit, and its edible flowers, imbued with special powers. Generations of Waverleys tended this garden. Their history was in the soil. But so were their futures.

A successful caterer, Claire Waverley prepares dishes made with her mystical plants--from the nasturtiums that aid in keeping secrets and the pansies that make children thoughtful, to the snapdragons intended to discourage the attentions of her amorous neighbor. Meanwhile, her elderly cousin, Evanelle, is known for distributing unexpected gifts whose uses become uncannily clear. They are the last of the Waverleys--except for Claire's rebellious sister, Sydney, who fled Bascom the moment she could, abandoning Claire, as their own mother had years before.

When Sydney suddenly returns home with a young daughter of her own, Claire's quiet life is turned upside down--along with the protective boundary she has so carefully constructed around her heart. Together again in the house they grew up in, Sydney takes stock of all she left behind, as Claire struggles to heal the wounds of the past. And soon the sisters realize they must deal with their common legacy if they are ever to feel at home in Bascom or with each other.

Enchanting and heartfelt, this captivating novel is sure to cast a spell with a style all its own.

Enchanting and a bit magical.

For multiple generations, the Waverley family has always been the odd family out in Bascom, North Carolina. The Waverley women all have unique, somewhat peculiar and intuitive gifts. Their garden is rumored to have magical properties and the apple tree has a personality of its own. They each have their own personal issues too.

Abandoned by their mother, Waverley sisters Claire and Sydney have forged their own lives. Sydney rebelled and left Bascom as soon as she could. Claire, in need of roots and stability, stayed. As a successful caterer, Claire has found her place in Bascom: the dishes she prepares with her mystical plants are in demand for their special properties. When an unwanted suitor moves in next door, she prepares meals for him in the hopes of discouraging his amorous intentions.

When Sydney returns home with her young daughter, the two sisters are able to reconnect as Sydney finally accepts her legacy of being a Waverley.

A charming book about life and relationships and family. I loved the characters, I loved the dialogue. There is mild, but disappointing and unnecessary, use of the "F" word and a brief rape scene (somewhat necessary to the story). Some readers also might want to be aware that a theme of using s*x to trap and keep a husband runs through the book due to another Bascom family. If not for these issues, I would have given it 4 stars, instead of 3 on Goodreads.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.

Read 7/09

* * *
3/5 Stars

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Worth a Thousand Words...Review

About the book:
Her future was just coming into focus. But what will she do when everything becomes a blur? Indigo Burns's life is going according to plan. She possesses the ambition and talent to be a professional photographer, and she thanks God for all the blessings that surround her. Now, all at once, Indigo's family life, love life, and hopes for success have flipped upside down. Indigo loves the Lord, but can she trust him to work his plan in her life? Worth a Thousand Words dramatically explores the tough decisions one woman must make in the world of love, relationships, and career. Will Indigo find the courage to face her own truths--and accept those being harbored by the people she loves most? Either way, she risks losing everything she's ever wanted.

When Indigo's boyfriend, Brian, proposes marriage, she's not sure she's ready for it and knows it will interfere with her graduate school plans. His own life isn't as steady and sure as he would like, with uncertainty in his own future as he struggles with secrets of his own.

Indigo's desire has always been to become a professional photographer. When her life's plans seem derailed, she learns that she must let go and let God guide her life. Always easier said than done, Indigo finds the courage to face her uncertain future. I liked Indigo and her family. They are close and as they deal with some difficult issues, they do so together. Definitely Christian fiction as there are lots of life lessons and discussions about listening to God and trusting him guide one's life.

While it's the second book in the Jubilant Souls series, the book stands alone. You will find at least one unexpected twist, but as Stacy Hawkins Adams explores some difficult topics, she does so in a realistic, straight forward and non-offensive manner.

Thanks to Donna Hausler at Baker Publishing Group for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Stacy Hawkins Adams here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 7/09

* * *
3/5 Stars

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Sword and The Flute...Review

About the book:
The first book in the Matterhorn the Brave series finds Matthew Horn summoned to First Realm by the Sword of Truth. In the process, his trip through a portal instantly matures him to adulthood. He will need all of his new muscles to stay alive when he goes with veteran Traveler Aaron the Baron to medieval Ireland.

Their mission? To find Ian’s Flute, one of the Ten Talis hidden on Earth by the king of First Realm. But the Flute has been stolen from the leprechauns and sold to a treacherous pirate. In their pursuit of the sacred object, Matterhorn and the Baron come up against kidnappers, arsonists, bounty hunters, wraiths and the shadowy Bonehand. The only thing more exciting than the quest is what it leads to next!

Fantastic! The first in the Matterhorn the Brave series, The Sword and the Flute introduces us to Matthew Horn, a typical daydreaming 12-year old who imagines himself on many grand adventures. Matt loves to read and one day, finds an unusual book in his school library. As he leafs through the pages, a portal opens up and Matt finds himself traveling through time on a new adventure in medieval Ireland. Armed with the Sword of Truth and alongside his new friend, Aaron the Baron, Matterhorn must find a missing magical flute.

Matt and Aaron are normal boys who rise to the occasion and find strength and courage to accomplish the tasks set before them. Filled with adventure and danger, this is a terrific, fun book. I found it clever, well-written and exciting.

My 11-year old son is currently reading The Sword and The Flute and has decreed that we need to acquire the sequels as soon as possible! I agree wholeheartedly.

Thanks to First Wildcard for the opportunity to read this book. You can read the first chapter here. You can learn more about Mike Hamel here and here.

Read 7/09

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mailbox Monday 7/20

I decided it was time to participate in a Mailbox Monday. I never really keep track of what arrives, I just check my calendar for scheduled blog tours and add it all to my TBR stack. But, I enjoy reading other Mailbox Monday posts and figured I'd add my own!

This last week I received:

Sweetwater Run, by Jan Watson for FIRST Wildcard
The G-Free Diet, by Elisabeth Hasselbeck
Things Left Unspoken, by Eva Marie Everson from Baker Publishing Group

The Believer, by Ann Gabhart from Baker Publishing Group
Lizzi & Fredl, by Dr. William R. Stanford from Bostick Communications.
Everyday Greatness, by Stephen R. Covey from Thomas Nelson Publishers

What new books did you receive last week?
For more Mailbox Monday posts, check out The Printed Page.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Confessions of a Trauma Junkie: My Life as a Nurse Paramedic...Review

About the book:
Share the innermost feelings of emergency services workers as they encounter trauma, tragedy, redemption, and even a little humor. Sherry Jones Mayo has been an Emergency Medical Technician, Emergency Room Nurse, and an on-scene critical incident debriefer for Hurricane Katrina. Most people who have observed or experienced physical, mental or emotional crisis have single perspectives. This book allows readers to stand on both sides of the gurney; it details a progression from innocence to enlightened caregiver to burnout, glimpsing into each stage personally and professionally.

Honest and engrossing. I enjoyed this first responder perspective. Sherry Jones Mayo has been an EMT, Emergency Room Nurse and a Critical Incident counselor. She brings the reader into the ER and into the ambulance. So much of our medical experience is from television shows like ER and House, and Grey's Anatomy. But, unless you're a medical professional, you have no way of understanding the experience and pressure Emergency Service Personnel face on a daily basis. These people choose these professions; they choose to be on the front lines of emergency care and saving lives.

Sherry's book is a series of vignettes, some her own experiences, some from other EMS personnel. Many are hysterically funny and irreverent about those strange and obnoxious patients. Others are tender, recounting an EMTs first patient loss, or the aftermath of a traumatic experience and the importance of crisis counseling for care givers.

It's a rare look into the healing profession. As I read, I came away with a greater appreciation for those who save lives daily.

Thanks to Sherry for sending me her book. You can learn more about Sherry Jones Mayo here. You can purchase the book here.

Read 7/09

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Shopkeeper...Review

About the book:
In 1879, Steve Dancy sells his New York shop and ventures west to explore and write a journal about his adventures. Though he's not looking for trouble, Dancy's infatuation with another man's wife soon embroils him in a deadly feud with Sean Washburn, a Nevada silver baron.

Infuriated by the outrages of two hired thugs, the shopkeeper kills both men in an impulsive street fight. Dancy believes this barbarian act has closed the episode. He is wrong. He has interfered with Washburn's ambitions, and this is something the mining tycoon will not allow.

Pinkertons, hired assassins, and aggrieved bystanders escalate the feud until it pulls in all the moneyed interests and power brokers in Nevada. Can the former city slicker settle accounts without losing his life in the process?

A fun western. I haven't read a lot of westerns, but this one was enjoyable. New York shopkeeper Steve Dancy sells his shop and travels west, looking for adventure. His travels take him to the silver mines of Nevada. A gentleman who prefers books and cards with friends, Steve inadvertently finds himself a gunslinger embroiled in a feud with a silver baron. Add a beautiful woman, hired killers and some early Nevada history and you have The Shopkeeper.

The story was fast paced and entertaining. The hero isn't the most upstanding guy: he'll lie and cheat to get what he wants, but he's clever enough to manage it all, and take a few of the bad guys out along the way.

I liked the characters, and the portrayal of friendship. I liked the strength of Jenny, the main female character, and I cheered when her mother-in-law received her own just rewards. My main complaint is the moderate profanity, which I found annoying and unnecessary. I think there are plenty of other words one can use instead of the ubiquitous "F" word.

This is obviously the first in a series about Steve Dancy and I look forward to more.

Thanks to
Paula Krapf of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about James D. Best here and his Steve Dancy character here. You can purchase the book here.

Read 7/09

* * *
3/5 Stars

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ransome's Honor...Review

About the book:
When young Julia Witherington doesn’t receive the proposal for marriage she expects from William Ransome, she determines to never forgive him. They go their separate ways—she returns to her family’s Caribbean plantation, and he returns to the Royal Navy.

Now, twelve years later, Julia is about to receive a substantial inheritance, including her beloved plantation. When unscrupulous relatives try to gain the inheritance by forcing her into a marriage, she turns to the only eligible man to whom her father, Admiral Sir Edward Witherington, will not object—his most trusted captain and the man who broke Julia’s heart, William Ransome. Julia offers William her thirty-thousand-pound dowry to feign marriage for one year, but then something she never imagined happens: She starts to fall in love with him again.

Can two people overcome their hurt, reconcile their conflicting desires, and find a way to be happy together? Duty and honor, faith and love are intertwined in this intriguing tale from the Regency era.

A charming, easy read. Light Christian with no preaching. A predictable, but sweet story about love and friendship. I enjoyed that the perspective was the from those in the Royal Navy, not from the pillars of society. The villains are annoying, and I found myself frustrated that Julia allowed herself to be taken in by them as much as she did. But, she finds her backbone and true love conquers all. I loved that Julia was an older heroine. At 29, she was considered an old maid, but she was a strong, independent thinking woman: very refreshing in a Regency heroine, where most are young debutantes. This is the first in the Ransome trilogy and I look forward to the next books.

Thanks to First Wildcard and Harvest House Publishers for the opportunity to review this book. You can read the first chapter here. You can find out more about Kaye Dacus here. You can get your own copy here.

Read 7/09

* * *
3/5 Stars

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Secret Recipes for the Modern Wife: All the Dishes You'll Need to Make from the Day You Say "I Do" Until Death (or Divorce) Do You Part...Review

About the book:
Flavored with frustration, simmering with rage, and iced with affection, these recipes will make you laugh as you multitask your way through the challenges and joys of matrimony.

Whether you're a new bride or an old hand at marriage, it's always handy to find fresh and fascinating recipes to add to your repertoire. And the recipes in this collection are perfect for you, the busy, overextended, and occasionally conflicted modern wife. Enveloped in them are the secrets -- delicious, distressing, and everything in between -- that accompany women on their marital journeys. Here are recipes you won't find in just any cookbook:
  • Beans 'n' Weenies of Sexual Tension
  • Midlife Stress-Stuffed Cabbage
  • Control-Freak Cookies
  • Soufflé of Fallen Expectations
  • A Fairly Satisfactory Family Stew
Though she grills societal norms with gleeful relish, Nava Atlas never loses sight of marriage's simple, loving rewards. The result is a feast of retro art, sly wit, and cultural commentary. No woman will be able to read this without thinking of five friends she must share it with!

When the opportunity to review this little gem came, I wasn't sure what to expect. Was it really a recipe book? Was it a bash on marriage? I'm pleased to say it was, for the most part, a delight.

The subtitle says, "All the Dishes You'll Need to Make from the Day You Say 'I Do' Until Death (or Divorce) Do You Part". With recipes like, "Sweethearts Engagement Buffet" and "Way Too Much on Your Plate", Nava has a fun take on marriage. There was a bit more criticism of husbands than I like, but hidden in the snark and sarcasm are also little tidbits about the rewards of a good marriage.

The book is full of great retro 50s art and advertising. There is something in it for everyone: whether you're a newlywed, a tired mommy, heading for divorce, or married to a good man who is like corn and has traits like these--maturity, tenderness, consistency and endurance. A light, easy read, and while I have nothing to complain about in my marriage, or about my husband, I laughed my way through it.

My favorite recipe? "Happily-Ever-After Ambrosia".

Thanks to Nava Atlas for sending me a copy of her book to review. You can learn more about Nava here. You can purchase the book here.

Want to know what other reviewers think? Check out: Moms Without Blogs, The Zen of Motherhood, Nicola Knits.

Read 7/09

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Independence Day, 2009

And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.
And I won't forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up, next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land, God bless the USA.

Have a safe and happy 4th!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Everything I Needed to Know about Women I Learned by Reading Twilight: A Vampire's Guide to Eternal Love

Apparently this is a real book. (Snicker!)
No, I haven't read it. (Giggle! Cough! Snicker!)
I might...just to see what could possibly be said about Twilight that could possibly help men understand women. (Giggle! Snort! Snicker!)
Because we all want insular, broody men who stalk us and can't live without us. Because Edward's relationship with Bella was so "healthy". (Cackle! Laugh! Giggle!)
Sure, I might read it...after I stop laughing, of course! (Snicker! Snort! Loud Guffaw! Snicker!)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Surviving High Society: Lots of Love Trumps Lots of Money...Review

About the book:
To the outside world, Elizabeth Marvin Mulholland had it all. Adopted into a wealthy New England family, the young Elizabeth was afforded the luxury many people only realize in their dreams. She joined her family on lavish European vacations, lived in a finely decorated home, grew up in a world heavily infiltrated by power and money, and hob-knobbed with celebrities. As a close friend of Katharine Hepburn's niece, she gained an inside look into Katharine Hepburn's guarded inner life, which she details in Surviving High Society.

Her real life, however, was not the fantasy it seemed to others. Elizabeth grew up in a volatile household. Her adopted brother attempted to murder her mother and remained estranged in the decades to follow. Her father, who was her strongest ally, died suddenly when she was twenty-two. And, until her death, Elizabeth's mother used all means possible to exert control over her life. Her mother bounced Elizabeth in and out of psychiatric facilities and used her wealth to persuade doctors to keep Elizabeth locked up and medicated. Throughout, Elizabeth struggled to keep the pieces of her life together.

After her mother disinherits Elizabeth, she successfully seeks to find freedom and a life of her own away from her mother s ever-watchful gaze. Her life becomes a life without fantastic riches, filled with its own obstacles and triumphs. But it is now her life.

I found this to be a fascinating memoir. More a series of vignettes, rather than a straight-forward autobiography, Elizabeth's story captivates. After her beloved father died, her adoptive mother was the one with the mental issues, but managed to get Elizabeth committed to the psychiatric hospital. I was appalled at the control her mother was able to exert over the doctors and the hospital: the falsification of medical records and the unnecessary, non-therapeutic medication.

Elizabeth managed to leave the hospital and have a life in and around her visits back. There were even times of happiness and enjoyment: good friends with welcoming families, trips and cruises, brushes with fame and royalty. However, her controlling mother was always difficult. Once Elizabeth cut the apron strings and left home, even at the risk of disinheritance, she still struggled with finding herself and overcoming adversity.

This could be a depressing book, but it wasn't. It was an enthralling glimpse into the wealthy WASP world, especially in the 50s and 60s. The adage that money can't buy love or happiness is well represented here. Elizabeth is to be commended for her ability to rise above a difficult upbringing.

Thanks to Elizabeth Marvin Mulholland and Bostick Communications for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Elizabeth Marvin Mulholland here. You can purchase the book here and here.

Read 6/09

* * *
3/5 Stars

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Critical Care...Review

About the book:
After her brother dies in a trauma room, nurse Claire Avery can no longer face the ER. She's determined to make a fresh start--new hospital, new career in nursing education--move forward, no turning back. But her plans fall apart when she's called to offer stress counseling for medical staff after a heartbreaking day care center explosion. Worse, she's forced back to the ER, where she clashes with Logan Caldwell, a doctor who believes touchy-feely counseling is a waste of time. He demands his staff be as tough as he is. Yet he finds himself drawn to this nurse educator . . . who just might teach him the true meaning of healing.

Christian ER/Grey's Anatomy, without the s*x and with McSnarly instead of McDreamy.

Claire Avery leaves ER nursing after her brother dies in the trauma room, on her watch. Wanting to make a fresh start she finds a position in a small hospital, focusing on nursing education and stress counseling, rather than ER nursing. As she works to find her place among the staff, she finds herself clashing with Logan Caldwell, the ER doctor. Logan doesn't like counseling or soft staff. He's tough and focused and expects the same from his nursing staff. When staffing issues force Claire back into the ER, she finds herself both at odds with Logan and drawn to him at the same time.

From my limited medical understanding, I found the ER setting realistic and believable. The story shifts between Claire and Logan and two other nurses on the ER staff. Predictably, all of their stories wrap up neatly at the end. As with most Christian fiction, at least one person must reestablish their faith in God before the anticipated happy ending. Themes of abortion and SIDS are explored, as well as divorce and forgiveness.

An easy, light read. Perfect for an afternoon of escape. A terrific debut novel. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Thanks to First Wild Card and Tyndale House Publishers for the opportunity to review this book. You can read the first chapter here. You can find out more about Candace Calvert here. You can get your own copy here.

Read 6/09

* * *
3/5 Stars