Everyday Tidbits...

Be Kind. Do Good. Love is a Verb.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Totaled Woman...Review

About the book:
We all know that day-to-day living can be difficult or, at times, decorated with unexpected joys. But, life also throws out the unthinkable and unimaginable. When life comes at you, who needs fiction? The Totaled Woman proves that real life is much stranger than any fiction you’ll ever read!

Comprising individual true stories, The Totaled Woman shares the challenges and joys from a mother’s perspective in a home with five precocious children and a brilliant (if impractical) scientist husband. Marcia Veldhuis lays the reality of motherhood and life on the line in the individual events she shares with the reader. From chasing owls out of the house and setting shoes on fire, to donning goggles to peel onions and finding a dead husband, Veldhuis invites the reader into the joy, sorrow, hilarity and difficulty of each unbelievable situation. In The Totaled Woman, Veldhuis looks beyond the crisis of the moment and finds the lessons that God would have.

Veldhuis says, “These stories are true, totally true. There are perhaps some writers who would feel the need to pad truth with fiction or put several stories together to make that one seem more fantastical. This has never been needed in our home! Day-to-day living has always been stranger than fiction.”

Readers of all ages will enjoy this book, which includes simple artwork by the author that adds to the humor and personality of the overall work. You will clearly see that joy in the Lord is the strength of families and thereby, nations.

A book of vignettes about the the ups and downs and challenges of motherhood. Each story seems to have been written as it happened. Some are funny, some are poignant. My main complaint is that there are a mixture of tenses not only throughout the book, but also within each story. This was distracting to me as I read. However, this is a short, easy book to read, and many women will find inspiration within its pages.

There are daily joys in motherhood and sometimes it's hard to look beyond the frustrations to find those joyful moments. I can completely agree with the author when she says, "Day-to-day living has always been stranger than fiction." That is certainly the case at our house.

Thank to Arielle at Bring it On! Communications for the opportunity to review this book. You can read additional reviews here and here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 5/10

* * *
3/5 Stars

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Morning for Dove...Review

About the book:
When Luke Anderson falls in love with Dove Morris, he is aware of her Native American heritage. What he is not prepared for is the prejudice suddenly exhibited by his parents against Dove. Luke struggles with the feelings until a wildfire on the prairie threatens Morris Ranch.

As Luke joins the battle to stave off the fire as it approaches and risks his life to save Dove. Will his parents see that love knows no boundaries of race or culture when it is rooted in God's love for His people?

Book 2 of the Winds Across the Prairie series, I enjoyed this one much more than I did the first book, Becoming Lucy. Dove and Luke were introduced in the first novel and their story continues here. Dove and her family are no strangers to prejudice and judgments because of their Cherokee heritage. While most people in the town of Barton Creek accept them, Luke's mother, Bea Anderson cannot because her past experience with raiding Indians has closed her heart to acceptance and forgiveness.

The road to true love is never easy and as Luke and Dove deal with the different obstacles put in their path, their love grows stronger. The Haynes family, Aunt Clara, and Jake and Lucy Starnes make an appearance here, as do the evil Fowlers who bring trouble at every turn. With themes of love, faith and forgiveness, this is a compelling story and one I thoroughly enjoyed. I am looking forward to the next book in the series.

Thanks to First Wildcard and LeAnn Hamby of Strang Book Group for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Martha Rogers here. You can read the first chapter here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It Had to be You...Review

About the book:
Bella couldn't be happier that her long-feuding Aunt Rosa and Uncle Lazarro have finally admitted their love for one another and are getting married. Their forties-style wedding is sure to be a night to remember. But when the Rossi house begins to fill up with family from Italy--and an old mobster from New Jersey--life starts to get complicated. Will Lazarro's friend from the past drive the happy couple apart once more? And will Bella ever have time to think of her own rapidly-approaching wedding amidst the chaos? Full of laugh-out-loud humor, plenty of Italian passion, and a bit of Texas gumption, It Had to Be You is the satisfying conclusion to an entertaining series.

Third in the Weddings by Bella series, this one is full of even more quirky, Italian Rossi family members, as the Napoli Rossi's descend upon Texas for Rosa and Laz's wedding. Bella finds herself stressed beyond belief as wedding after wedding is scheduled and she hopes she can enjoy planning her own.

The humor is there, just as it is in the previous books, but there's more of a poignancy here as Bella finds herself and her strength and learns to rely on her family and God. D. J. is truly too perfect for words, but every girl wants a prince charming!

An entertaining, enjoyable read. I think the second book was actually my favorite, but this one is a fitting end to the trilogy. I'd love to see more of the Rossi family at some point and I could completely envision these books as films. They'd be wonderful chick flicks!

Available May 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Donna Hausler of Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Janice Thompson here. You can purchase your own copy here and here.

Read 4/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Finding Jeena...Review

About the book:
Jeena Gregory thought she'd made it. She has everything a woman could ask for and a budding career promises more. But when rumors around town cast her boss into a shady light, Jeena starts to question her employer's integrity. Was she wrong to trust this man and this job?

When the boss disappears, salaries go unpaid, and Jeena overhears several hush-hush phone calls, she realizes her carefully crafted world is crumbling. Shaken to the core at the threat of losing everything, Jeena is suddenly confronted with her prejudices--and with a God she had long forgotten.

This is a sequel to The Other Daughter, which I haven't read. Jeena was first introduced in that book and several other characters make an appearance in this book. I think that it is in a reader's best interest to have read the The Other Daughter first because then the significance of some of Jeena's behavior in this book might be better understood.

Jeena is incredibly unlikeable and I never really cared about what happened to her. Yes, her abusive childhood is revealed, which is supposed to make her more human and help us to understand her. Yes, she loses all her material possessions and ends up in a shelter where she, predictably, finds her faith and humility again. It all sounds good on paper, but really didn't affect me at all. Even her conversion isn't really enough to redeem her. I finished the book, but could have easily just set it aside.

The book has other great reviews and will appeal to many, especially those who enjoy contemporary Christian fiction. It just wasn't for me.

Thanks to First Wildcard and Cat Hoort from Kregel for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Miralee Ferrell here. You can read the first chapter hereYou can purchase your own copy here.
Read 4/10

1/5 Stars

Monday, May 10, 2010

Unwilling Warrior...Review

About the book:
The War Between the States has Valerie Fontaine frightened about her future. And when her wealthy father is charged with supplying Federal gunboats in order to save his shipping business, Valerie is suspected of conspiracy. Suddenly she's forced to flee her upscale New Orleans home or be taken into custody by Confederate troops.

Benjamin McCabe has a noble dream to make his mark on the world and has decided that photographing the Civil War is the way to accomplish it. But since the Battle of Bull Run, his brother Luke has been missing, and Ben is determined to find him. Hos stop in New Orleans is supposed to be a temporary one--until he meets and falls in love with Miss Valerie Fontaine.

When Valerie's father is arrested, Ben secures a way for her to leave the city and travel to his family's home where she'll be safe. He promised that as soon as he finds Luke, he'll be home and they can begin their life together. But once Valerie steps off the train she finds herself caught up in a web of lies that threaten to imprison her more than Yankee steel bars ever could.

Book 1 in the Seasons of Redemption series, this was not quite the traditional historical romance I was expecting. For the most part, I enjoyed the story. Valerie and Ben are terrific characters. James is a cad and Catherine is horrible, almost to the point of being a caricature. I kept waiting for her family members to call her on her abysmal treatment of Valerie and no one ever did.

My assumption is that since this is the first in the series, none of these characters have appeared in other Boeshaar books. At times it felt like I was missing some details about secondary characters, but hopefully as the series progresses, more information will be revealed.

Somewhat predictable the story, nevertheless, is compelling. The viewpoint of Ben, being a neutral photographer is certainly an unusual, yet very real historical viewpoint of the Civil War.

I look forward to the next book in the series. Easily recommended for those who enjoy historical, Christian fiction.

Thanks to First Wildcard and LeAnn Hamby of Strang Book Group for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar here. You can read the first chapter here. You can purchase your own copy here.
Read 5/10

* * *
3/5 Stars

Friday, May 7, 2010

Tuesday Tells It Slant...Review...DNF

About the book:
Tuesday Morning has always been a little different. She's kept a diary since 1989 and while researching for her English Lit thesis in 2003 on Emily Dickinson's transcendental tendencies, finds a poem that will change her life.

Haunted by a past that she considers less than desirable, Tuesday recreates her history with the stroke of a pen. Page by page, year by year, she rewrites her painful memories as she has always fantasized. Bullied and discontented with her body before, she now becomes popular, thin and desired.

Throughout this cleansing process, she consciously decides what to keep and what to toss. She scans her old diary entries for words that trigger painful and unpleasant thoughts: Fat Tuesday (her nickname in high school), Katie (her childhood neighbor turned bully), Writer (her dream of becoming) and Monday (her identical twin sister). Tuesday finds herself in an odd place six years later, unknowingly spending each day of her life as someone that she was never meant to become. With each breath of her new life, Tuesday obliviously loses more of herself.

When a special person of her past returns to her present, Tuesday is forced to choose between the life that she had once desired and her true self. We all have deep secrets and skeletons in our closets. Imagine having the ability to not only change the past, but also completely alter the present and future. How far will Tuesday go to erase her past? And how much of herself will she lose in the process?

I wanted to like this book so much. The premise sounds terrific. Who wouldn't want to go back and change things about their life? Especially some of those painful junior high and high school memories. I cringe at remembering some of mine!

Tuesday's story is told through narration and diary entries. There was some confusion to me though, as the diary entries jumped around in time and it was hard for me to follow. One minute you're in 1998, the next it's 2003 or 2009 and this was distracting to me. I did like Monday and Tuesday Morning, the twin sisters, and I found the play on their names to be clever. Tuesday's voice is one that I think a lot of people will relate to and understand.

Perhaps, if I'd been able to stick it out, the story would have grown on me, but after 70-some pages, I finally had to put it down. Overall, while not a story that I enjoyed, I think that many others will, young adults especially. You can check out Goodreads or Amazon for other, more positive reviews. There is moderate profanity which most people would probably say is realistic to the story and the character.

Thanks to the author for sending me a copy of her book to review. I love meeting fellow Hollys! You can learn more about Holly Christine here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 5/10

1/5 Stars

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Bridegrooms...Review

About the book:
Tragedy hits the Allenhouse family on a hot summer night in Ohio when a mother of four vanishes. Eight-year-old Vada virtually grows up overnight and raises her three younger sisters while her father loses himself in his medical practice in the basement of their home.

Now, Vada is a grown woman, still making her home with her father and sisters. Her days are spent serving as an errand girl for Cleveland’s fledgling amateur orchestra; her evenings with Garrison Walker, her devoted, if passionless, beau.

Dizzying change occurs the day the Brooklyn Bridegrooms come to town to play the Cleveland Spiders and a line drive wallops the head of a spectator. The fan is whisked to the Allenhouse parlor, and questions swirl about the anonymous, unconscious man.

Suddenly, the subdued house is filled with visitors, from a flirtatious, would-be sports writer to the Bridegrooms’ handsome star hitter to the guilt-ridden ballplayer who should have caught the stray shot. The medical case brings Dr. Allenhouse a frustration and helplessness he hasn’t felt since his wife’s disappearance. Vada’s sisters are giddy at the bevy of possible suitors. And Vada’s life is awakened amid the super-charged atmosphere of romantic opportunity.

A book with so much potential. All the parts are here, but the sum of all those parts misses the mark. Oh, I enjoyed it; it's a lovely, light diversion. Vada and her sisters all have so much potential, but the story seemed rushed to me and there were many missing elements.

The entire story takes place over the course of one week, and we don't have time to see the sisters' character development. Each girl's situation is briefly touched upon and all too rapidly and happily concluded. I wanted more background on their mother and her situation, and their father was a secondary, often shadowy character. We never find out anything significant about Althea and that was so disappointing to me.

Each sister has the potential for her own story and I was sorry to see that this wasn't the beginning of a series. I think the Allenhouse sisters would make a terrific series about strong women.

Fans of historical fiction and fans of Allison Pittman will no doubt enjoy this. And, I liked it, but I didn't love it. It seemed more like a missed opportunity than a satisfying novel.

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. You can learn more about Alison Pittman here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 5/10

* * 
2/5 Stars

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Pioneer Woman Cooks...Review

About the book:
My name is Ree.
Some folks know me as The Pioneer Woman.

After years of living in Los Angeles, I made a pit stop in my hometown in Oklahoma on the way to a new, exciting life in Chicago. It was during my stay at home that I met Marlboro Man, a mysterious cowboy with steely blue eyes and a muscular, work-honed body. A strict vegetarian, I fell hard and fast, and before I knew it we were married and living on his ranch in the middle of nowhere, taking care of animals, and managing a brood of four young children. I had no idea how I'd wound up there, but I knew it was exactly where I belonged.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks is a homespun collection of photography, rural stories, and scrumptious recipes that have defined my experience in the country. I share many of the delicious cowboy-tested recipes I've learned to make during my years as an accidental ranch wife—including Rib-Eye Steak with Whiskey Cream Sauce, Lasagna, Fried Chicken, Patsy's Blackberry Cobbler, and Cinnamon Rolls—not to mention several "cowgirl-friendly" dishes, such as Sherried Tomato Soup, Olive Cheese Bread, and Creme Brulee. I show my recipes in full color, step-by-step detail, so it's as easy as pie to follow along.

You'll also find colorful images of rural life: cows, horses, country kids, and plenty of chaps-wearing cowboys.

I hope you get a kick out of this book of mine. I hope it makes you smile. I hope the recipes bring you recognition, accolades, and marriage proposals. And I hope it encourages even the most harried urban cook to slow down, relish the joys of family, nature, and great food, and enjoy life.

Like many others, I enjoy Ree's website, The Pioneer Woman. And to say she has a cult following is an understatement. When she said she was coming out with a cookbook, I really debated about whether or not to get it. I did receive it as a birthday present and, for the most part, I like it.

As far as I can tell, all of these recipes are repeats from her blog. There doesn't seem to be anything new. She follows the same format here with pictures of each step in the cooking process. Since most cookbooks don't even include photos of the finished product, this is refreshing.

I've found a few recipes that I like, but what I enjoyed the most was her commentary. She includes many, many photos of life on the ranch, the punks, the cows and Marlboro Man. Her commentary is funny and entertaining. This is as much a book to simply read, as it is a cook book.

Bottom line: if you enjoy the Pioneer Woman, you'll enjoy this. If you're not sure about the recipes, stand in a bookstore and read through it first. Ree does like cooking with alcohol and none of these recipes are in any way low fat.

You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 4/10

* * *
3/5 Stars

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Telling...Review

About the book:
Grace Byler leaves Bird-in Hand in a fancy car to search for her mother in Ohio. But what if Lettie Byler doesn't wish to be found? Meanwhile, Lettie continues her private quest to find the missing piece of her life. As clues take her from state to state, she is increasingly torn between the family she has left behind and the yearning for her long-lost child. Struggling to come to terms with a grave medical diagnosis, Heather Nelson is determined to forgo traditional medicine-to her father's chagrin-in hopes of finding answers and healing in Amish country. But first, she offers to drive her Amish friend, Grace Byler, to Ohio. Will mother and daughter, and one seriously ill graduate student, find the answers they long for? Or will "the telling" cause them all further pain?

The third and final book in the Seasons of Grace series. Like the previous two, this one picks up right at the end of the second book. Grace searches for her mother as Lettie searches for the child she gave up for adoption and Heather searches for her own answers. When Lettie returns home from her trip empty-handed, she must confess her past to her husband Judah and her church, a telling that could ruin her life forever, but one she must fulfill in order to heal.

As answers do finally come for everyone, hearts and relationships are healed.

I enjoy Beverly Lewis and I really liked this series. It was easy in the second book to see where things were going, and those suspicions were confirmed early in this book for me. But, I wouldn't call it completely predictable. It was an enjoyable novel and one I read in an afternoon. Easily recommended, especially for those who like Amish-themed stories, and certainly Beverly Lewis fans.

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

Read 4/10

* * *
3/5 Stars

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Swinging on a Star...Review

About the book:
Bella Rossi's life is nearing perfection. She's got the perfect guy, she's running a successful business, and she's about to plan her most ambitious wedding yet, a Renaissance-themed fairy tale come true, complete with period costumes and foods, horse-drawn carriages, and even a castle. There's just one hitch. The best man just happens to be Brock Benson, Hollywood's hottest and most eligible bachelor. Oh, and did we mention he's staying at the Rossi house to avoid the paparazzi? With all the pressure surrounding this wedding, Bella's not sure she's going to make it through. Add her starstruck sister, her feuding aunt and uncle, and a trio of large, sequined church ladies with even bigger personalities, and you've got a recipe for disaster--and a lot of laughs. This hilarious romantic comedy is sure to delight both fans and new readers alike.

A sequel to Fools Rush In in the Weddings by Bella series, and just as delightful. This is laugh-out loud funny and a perfect escape novel. The Rossi family is back in force and just as fiery and just as funny. Bella is in love with D.J. and planning a Renaissance wedding, which brings enough stress in her life. Add to the mix a Hollywood hunk best man and paparazzi hiding in the bushes, the spunky church ladies, the Food Network and an obnoxious teenage neighbor and you've got a engaging story.

Like the first one, when you've got the Rossi's and God on your side, you might get a few bumps and bruises along the way, but you always come out a winner. Absolutely charming.

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

Read 4/10

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Easy as Pi...Review

About the book:
Count the ways . . .

Have you ever stopped to think how many countless ways we use numbers? From the ring of the alarm clock in the morning to the numbers triggering our cell phones, our world is designed with numbers in mind. With
Easy as Pi, you'll get the 4-1-1 on the fascinating origin of many of the numbers we use or read about every day.

What makes "cloud nine" and "seventh heaven" so blissful?
Why is number 7 so lucky and 13 so unlucky?
Is "fourth-dimensional thinking" really out of this world?
What prompted Ray Bradbury to call his novel Fahrenheit 451?
How did 007 become James Bond's number?

For the math averse: Be not afraid.
Easy as Pi is not a textbook but rather a lively look at the derivation of numerical expressions and their inescapable influence on our culture -- from book titles to bus schedules. To sum it up, Easy as Pi equals one clever and often hilarious collection.

I like words and I have a real aversion to math. There's a reason I received an English degree in college. I wasn't sure about reading Easy as Pi, but I do enjoy books that show the origins of words and ideas, so I figured numbers couldn't be that bad!

This did not disappoint. I learned that paper burns at 451 degrees, which is why Ray Bradbury titled his book Fahrenheit 451; appropriate because the book is about a society where all books are burned. And Jean Valjean's prisoner number in Les Miserables--24601? It's apparently the date of Victor Hugo's conception. Weird!

With categories such as Numbers in Culture, Numbers in Mythology and Religion, Numbers in Language and more, this is a little book that has something for everyone. This would be a great gift book for someone more math- or science-oriented.

Thanks to Julie Harabedian of FSB Associates for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about the book here. You can purchase your own copy here.
Read 4/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars