Everyday Tidbits...

Be Kind. Do Good. Love is a Verb.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


About the book:
First-time author Shelley Malcolm announces the Second Edition of her non-fiction book, Real, now available in hardcover. Malcolm delivers a remarkable work of inspiration with 60 biographical stories, each illustrated by a captivating photo by professional photographer Terilee Dawn Ouimette. The stories are deeply revealing, while the photos are anonymous, focusing only on each subject’s hands. Research for the coffee table-style book was accomplished through a series of interviews and photo shoots, with subjects ranging from adolescent to elderly, from former gangster to humble homeless, international refugee to hero-housewife, from pro athlete to Hollywood celebrity.

Focusing on her subjects’ hands instead of their faces allows Malcolm’s subjects to share more freely about their lives, tragedies, hopes, dreams, loves, and toils. Ouimette displays an uncanny ability to capture each character’s essence on film by depicting one of more sets of hands at work, at play, giving or receiving help. The result shows the genius of the project, the use of anonymity displaying a greater level of intimacy and vulnerability than might have been possible by any other means.

Malcolm states that her inspiration for the book came from a dream with similar images, revealing the beauty in imperfections in a person’s hands. “The hand image is made beautiful by the life behind it,” she explains. “More anonymous than a face or even eyes which show identity and emotion, our hands portray our work, our affection, scars…even our mistakes.”

According to photographer Ouimette, “People can feel even more connected to photographs of hands than faces. There is a little bit of mystery to each one – allowing the reader to visually connect with the inspiring story.”

Confronting the importance of status and beauty in our society, Real honestly unveils the life stories of remarkable individuals through moving images and stories that range from tragic to hopeful to triumphant.

Originally published in March 2011, the book has been popular among widely diverse groups including youth and teens, women, parents and grandparents, men between the ages of 35 – 65, craftsmen, surgeons, hand, massage and physical therapists and many others.

People say that faces are the most telling, but I think a person's hands are even more so.  In a person's hands, we see experiences and skills, strength and warmth.  We feel comforted when hands are placed on our heads or shoulders.  We feel loved when that special someone takes us by the hand or when a small child grasps it and looks up trustingly.   Shelley Malcolm and Terilee Ouimette have created a lovely tribute to people in their book, Real.  They showcase ordinary, every day people who have amazing stories to share and they do it with first names, honest text and photographs of each person's hands.

This is, quite simply, a gorgeous, thoughtful book.  The photographs alone are beautiful, but when coupled with moving, often poignant text, the book becomes heartfelt and extraordinary.  This is a book that would make a wonderful gift.

One of the best things about this book, as well, is that 100% of the proceeds from book sales go to support the work of several charities. It is a gift that gives a gift.  You can learn more about that here.

Thanks to Christen at Litfuse Publicity for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Shelley Malcolm here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Read 12/12

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

CHICKtionary: From A-Line to Z-Snap, the Words Every Woman Should Know...Review

Your bestie, biffle, and GMF rolled into one!

You’re all over the definitions of “low lights,” “ruching,” and a “tankini.” But can you spot a “Mrs. Potato Head” when you see one?

That’s where The CHICKtionary comes in. The CHICKtionary is a humorous dictionary of the words and phrases women use—and what they really mean when they use them. The book corrals more than 450 terms, including some you know (uterus) and some you might not (flexting), and defines each from the perspective of a typical contemporary woman—a woman who avoids accidental pageant hair, is frenemies with her robotic vacuum and only occasionally relies on her high-waisted jeans to hold up her strapless bra.

Ask any man and he will tell you that women have a language all their own.  It's true.  There are issues related to being female that are universal and understood by women of all ages, nationalities, creeds, races, whatever.  You don't have to be bosom friends or even speak the same language to understand when another woman says to you, "Does this make me look fat?".  This was probably my most favorite definition:

Does This Make Me Look Fat? (phrase)
A seemingly straightforward yet treacherous question that requires different responses depending on the gender of the person to whom it is addressed. When asked of a male, the reply must be a swift and emphatic, “No!” Ideally, this will be followed immediately with glowing modifiers such as, “You look hot!” and “Are you kidding? You need to gain a few pounds, hon!” When asked of a female, an honest response is acceptable, provided it is couched in camouflage comments that blame the unflattering appearance on the hateful designer, lousy dressing room lighting, and/or cheap construction of the offending garment.

Seriously a funny book.  I don't know that it's one you'd sit down and read cover to cover, but it's one that is hysterically funny to read in snatches.  It would make a terrific gift for the girlfriend with a healthy sense of humor.

Many of the topics and definitions are mature (definitely a PG-13+ rating), but I found nothing profane or inappropriately vulgar. Rather, many definitions were straightforward. I found myself educated and enlightened at times as there were many words that I didn't know.  This is just a funny book and one that will have you nodding in understanding and laughing out loud.

Thanks to Lisa at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Anna Lefler here and here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here:

Monday, November 14th:  Life in Review
Tuesday, November 15th:  Amused by Books
Thursday, November 17th:  Reviews from the Heart
Friday, November 18th:  Chick Lit Reviews
Monday, November 21st:  I Am A Reader, Not A Writer – author Q&A
Wednesday, November 23rd:  The Betty and Boo Chronicles
Friday, November 25th:  Melody & Words
Monday, November 28th:  Silver and Grace
Thursday, December 1st:  Chick Lit is Not Dead
Friday, December 2nd:  Overstuffed
Monday, December 5th:  Silver and Grace – author guest post
Monday, December 5th:  A Musing Reviews
Tuesday, December 6th:  Peeking Between the Pages
Wednesday, December 7th:  Peeking Between the Pages - author guest post
Thursday, December 8th:  Sara’s Organized Chaos
Monday, December 12th:  Write Meg!
Tuesday, December 13th:  Suko’s Notebook
Wednesday, December 14th:  She is Too Fond of Books - Spotlight on Bookstores
Thursday, December 15th:  Life… with Books
Friday, December 16th:  Colloquium - author guest post
Monday, December 19th:  A Chick Who Reads
Tuesday, December 20th:  2 Kids and Tired

Read 12/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cold River...Review

About the book:
Mandy Steenburg thinks her doctorate in education has prepared her to run any school district - until she tangles with the moonshine-making, coon-dog-owning denizens of a tiny district in Pacific Northwest timber country. She's determined to make a difference, but the local populace still looks to the former superintendent for leadership. When Mandy lands in the middle of an old feud and someone keeps trying to kill her, instinct tells her to run. And though she has to literally swim through perilous waters, she finds a reason to stay and chance the odds.

Mandy leaves Albuquerque for the Pacific Northwest and a school superintendent position.  When she arrives, she finds a classic small town with southern roots and a tight community that doesn't welcome outsiders and doesn't welcome her.  As she discovers the reasons why her arrival was not eagerly anticipated, she wonders how she'll ever break through the barriers. Determined, she decides to stay and finds unexpected friendship and romance, even as an unknown assailant wants her dead.

Cold River was an entertaining read, but something was just missing for me and I had a hard time taking the premise seriously.  I liked it, I didn't love it. There are some great, quirky characters, but I would have liked to see more depth and back story.  Liz Adair has created some terrific characters and they deserved to have more fleshed out details in their stories.

I haven't read Liz Adair before, but I would definitely read more of her books in the future.  Even with my frustrations with the story, this is a light, entertaining, wholesome read and a nice diversion and one I can easily recommend.

Thanks to Tristi Pinkston Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Liz Adair here. You can see other reviews and tour stops below:

December 1:

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Read 12/11

* * *
3/5 Stars

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Wedding Invitation...Review...DNF

About the book:
After returning home from teaching English at a refugee camp in the Philippines, Samantha Bravencourt enjoys her quiet life working at her mother's clothing boutique in Falls Church, Virginia. When she receives an invitation to a wedding in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, she looks forward to reconnecting with her college friend. Instead her life collides with Carson, a fellow teacher and the man who broke her heart, and a young Amerasian refugee named Lien who needs Samantha and Carson's help to find her mother before Lien's own wedding. When the search for Lien's mother reveals surprising secrets from the past, Samantha must reevaluate her own memories and decide whether to continue to play it safe or take a risk that could change her life.

I really don't like first person and I really don't like first person present tense.  I know there are some who think it more dramatic or real, but it annoys me.  I can often look past it, but not here.  Part of that, too, was that I just couldn't find a reason to keep reading.  I didn't like Samantha, I couldn't believe her relationship with Carson.  There was nothing in this story that compelled me to keep reading.  Fans of Alice J. Wisler will love it, but it wasn't for me.  This is the second of her books that I've tried to read and I think it will be the last.  There are authors you connect with and authors you don't and this is one that just doesn't work for me.

Thanks to Bethany House for the opportunity to review this.  You can learn more about Alice J. Wisler here.

Read 12/11

1/5 Stars

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pumpkin Roll...Review

About the book:
Sadie Hoffmiller is looking forward to spending her favorite baking season of the year making delicious New England recipes in Boston, Massachusetts, with her favorite leading man, Pete Cunningham, as they babysit his three young grandsons. But when the boys insist that Mrs. Wapple, the woman who lives across the street, is a witch, Sadie and Pete are anxious to distract the boys from such Halloween-induced ideas. However, it gets harder and harder to explain the strange things that keep happening, particularly after Sadie learns the eccentric Mrs. Wapple has been attacked in her home.

As the unexplained occurrences escalate, Sadie finds herself embroiled in yet another mystery with life-or-death consequences. Can Sadie discover whoever—or whatever—is behind the mystery before anyone else gets hurt? Or will this be Sadie’s last case?

Sadie's back!  She has accompanied Pete to Boston where they are caring for his grandsons while his son and daughter in law are away.  Sadie relishes the role of pseudo-grandma and having new people to cook for.  When the boys start talking about their weird neighbor and are convinced she's a witch, Sadie sets out to take her some cookies and prove them wrong.  Faster than she can say "Whoopie Pie", Sadie finds herself once again involved in an investigation.

This installment of Josi's culinary mystery series is more Halloween themed with potential ghosts and unexplained events. I loved learning more about Pete and his history and I wish Shawn would play a more major role in these books.  He's such a great character.   I also must say that I don't like Jane at all. I'm getting tired of her antics and I hope that she can finally be finished and put away.

While I didn't like this one quite as much as the others in the series, I still love Sadie and enjoyed her latest adventure.  I can't wait for the next one.

Thanks to my local bookstore that had a copy I could purchase.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 11/11

* * *
3/5 Stars

Monday, December 5, 2011

Wonderland Creek...Review

About the book:
Alice Grace Ripley lives in a dream world, her nose stuck in a book. But the happily-ever-after life she's planned on suddenly falls apart when her boyfriend, Gordon, breaks up with her, accusing her of living in a world of fiction instead of the real world. Then to top it off, Alice loses her beloved job at the library because of cutbacks due to the Great Depression.

Fleeing small-town gossip, Alice heads to the mountains of eastern Kentucky to deliver five boxes of donated books to a library in the tiny coal-mining village of Acorn. Dropped off by her relatives, Alice volunteers to stay for two weeks to help the librarian, Leslie McDougal.

But the librarian turns out to be far different than she anticipated--not to mention the four lady librarians who travel to the remote homes to deliver the much-desired books. When Alice is trapped in Acorn against her will, she soon finds that real-life adventure and mystery--and especially romance--are far better than her humble dreams could have imagined.

I like Lynn Austin and I love stories about bookish women.  Wonderland Creek sounded fantastic and I was excited to read it.  And while I did enjoy the story, it didn't quite live up to my expectation.  I liked Alice for the most part, but I couldn't quite believe she was as clueless as she was made out to be.  Reading a book during a funeral, simply because it was dull?  I'm sorry.  I love books, and I can guarantee that I usually have a book in my bag at all times.  However, I would never, ever, pull it out during a funeral and read.

Alice's adventure in Acorn, Kentucky brings many quirky characters into her life and I loved Mac and Lillie.  She also finds herself having experiences she could never have imagined.  Overall, the premise is a bit implausible, but it's also compelling and you want to finish the book to find out what really happens.

I found the historical aspect of packhorse librarians fascinating.  To make books available to those who lived away from town or in the back hollows of America is a relief program I could support.

Thanks to Bethany House for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Lynn Austin here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 11/11

* * *
3/5 Stars

Friday, December 2, 2011

Merry Christmas Stories...Review

About the book:
Merry Christmas Stories is a collection of 25 Christmas tales that emphasize the value of Christmas love and laughter. These short stories will make you laugh, smile and just feel good about this magical time of year. These delightful stories, written in a variety of genres, all reflect Christmas love, hope and charity.

A firm believer in the power and importance of laughter, Spalsbury employs humor in his books and hopes the stories will provide some Christmas cheer for all who read them. The stories represent a variety of genres ranging from the traditional to romance to science fiction.

There are stories of adventure along with humor, unexpected surprises, romance and poignant moments. These are feel-good stories, to uplift your spirit and to leave you with a smile or a warm feeling. Just the way Christmas should feel.

Merry Christmas Stories is a delightful compilation of short Christmas vignettes.  It can easily be read in a couple of sittings or you can just sit down and read one or two at a time. These stories span a broad range of genres and a variety of settings.  Most are about every day people who have remarkable experiences and learn valuable lessons.  I loved the story of Tiny and the Bear.  Such a sweet tale and one that I wish was longer.  And Nick Tracer?  What a great character.  I loved his story and I'd love to see Jeff write a book just about and his detective adventures.

I love Christmas and I love Christmas stories.  I have collected Christmas books for years and I love bringing them out and re-reading my favorite stories year after year.  Merry Christmas Stories is a book that will become one of those that I re-read each year.

Thanks to Lisa at TLC Book Tours.  You can learn more about Jeff Spalsbury here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Monday, November 21st:  The Road to Here
Tuesday, November 22nd:  Reviews from the Heart
Friday, November 25th:  A Chick Who Reads
Monday, November 28th:  I Am A Reader, Not A Writer - Q&A/giveaway
Wednesday, November 30th:  Cheryl’s Book Nook
Thursday, December 1st:  Life in Review
Friday, December 2nd:  2 Kids and Tired
Monday, December 5th:  Laura’s Reviews
Tuesday, December 6th:  Book Maven’s Blog
Wednesday, December 7th:  My Bookshelf
Thursday, December 8th:  Deb’s Book Bag
Friday, December 9th:  Living Outside the Stacks
Monday, December 12th:  Along the Way
Tuesday, December 13th:  By the Book
Wednesday, December 14th:  Nailing Jello to a Tree
Thursday, December 15th:  Book Reviews by Molly

Read 12/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Remembering You...Review

About the book:
Television producer Ava Ellington cannot refuse her grandfather's last wish--that she accompany him to Europe on a tour of World War II battle sites. Ava has little interest in historical battles, but this may be her last chance to break down the barriers that have grown up between them, and she sets off, camera in hand, ready to record and report on their journey. She and Grandpa Jack are greeted in Paris by Paul, her grandpa's best friend, and his grandson Dennis. The Dennis who just happens to be Ava's first love. 

History comes alive as the group travels across Europe--from the romantic sights of Paris to the bleak battlefields of Belgium to the Austrian labor camp these men liberated so many years before--and Ava sees a side of her grandfather she's never known before. As he shares his memories of those bitter days on the battlefield, she begins to understand how his experiences in the war made him the man he is today. Throughout the journey, Ava and Dennis are drawn together in ways neither of them expected. Can their memories of the past lead to a bright new future?

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book.  I say that because I haven't completely enjoyed Tricia Goyer's books in the past, but the topic of World War 2 is one that fascinates me and I was game to give Tricia another chance.  I'm so glad I did.

Ava loves her job as a television producer, but a broken engagement has wreaked havoc with her life and purpose.  When her mother asks that Ava accompany her beloved grandfather on a trip to Europe to revisit areas that he was instrumental in liberating during the war, she can't refuse.  Once in Europe, and after meeting her grandfather's best friend, Ava discovers that her first love, Dennis, is also accompanying his grandfather.  Excited at the chance to document the trip and use the footage to boost her show's ratings, Ava steps on a lot of toes before she learns her lesson about what is truly important in life and relationships.

I enjoyed the historical aspect of the novel and the reminiscing that the two grandfathers share.  And, although a bit prickly to begin with, Ava grew on me and I enjoyed discovering what would happen with her relationship with Dennis.

Tricia includes an extensive author's note where she documents and shares her research and information.  First-hand interviews with WW2 veterans are the best way to learn about what really happened in the trenches and front lines of Germany, France and Belgium.

An enthralling, enjoyable historical read and one I easily recommend.

Thanks to Christen at Litfuse Publicity for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Tricia Goyer here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Read 11/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Doctor's Lady...Review

About the book:
Priscilla White knows she'll never be a wife or mother and feels God's call to the mission field in India. Dr. Eli Ernest is back from Oregon Country only long enough to raise awareness of missions to the natives before heading out West once more. But then Priscilla and Eli both receive news from the mission board: No longer will they send unmarried men and women into the field.

Left scrambling for options, the two realize the other might be the answer to their needs. Priscilla and Eli agree to a partnership, a marriage in name only that will allow them to follow God's leading into the mission field. But as they journey west, this decision will be tested by the hardships of the trip and by the unexpected turnings of their hearts.

Eli and Priscilla want to be missionaries.  He wants to go to the frontiers of Oregon and she to India.  When the missionary board rejects their applications, they reluctantly marry in order to serve and Priscilla agrees to give up her quest for India and travel to Oregon with Eli.

I will admit to finding the premise a bit implausible: that this man and woman who barely knew each other, would marry for convenience simply so they could be missionaries.  But, the story was compelling and quickly drew me in.  Priscilla and Eli were characters I grew to care about.  Their travels from New York to Oregon by wagon train were difficult and arduous, but very true to life.  Yet, as they journey, faith in God and a growing love and faith in each other shows them that anything is possible.  I enjoyed reading their story and seeing the growth in themselves and their relationship.

I also enjoyed the author's note that shared the true life inspiration for the novel.  I liked, but didn't love Jody's first novel, The Preacher's Bride, but I thoroughly enjoyed The Doctor's Lady.

Thanks to Bethany House for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Jody Hedlund here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 11/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Remembering Christmas...Review

About the book:
Rick Denton lives his life on his terms. He works hard, plays hard, and answers to no one. So when his mother calls on Thanksgiving weekend begging him to come home after his stepfather has a stroke, Rick is more than a little reluctant. He's never liked Art and resents the man's presence in his life, despite the fact that his own father abandoned the family when Rick was just twelve. When what was supposed to be just a couple days helping out at the family bookstore turns into weeks of cashing out old ladies and running off the homeless man who keep hanging about, Rick's attitude sours even more.

Still, slowly but surely, the little bookstore and its quirky patrons--as well as the lovely young woman who works at his side each day--work their magic on him, revealing to Rick the truth about his family, his own life, and the true meaning of Christmas. With skillful storytelling, Dan Walsh creates a Christmas story will have readers remembering every good and perfect gift of Christmas.

Rick Denton is a fairly selfish man.  He's pulled away from his family and from God.  When his step-father suffers an aneurysm and his mother asks him to come home to tend their little bookstore, Rick is unenthusiastic and more than a bit resentful.  Yet, he comes and he finds himself drawn to Andrea, the other store employee and her young daughter.  And, as he comes to know his mother and step-father again, he begins to see not only them, but mostly himself, in a very different light.  As he discovers secrets from his past and learns answers to questions he wasn't sure he had, Rick discovers that God does know who he is and what he needs in his life.

Christmas is magic and it's often a time when hearts soften and forgiveness is given.  People are more likely to be in a giving mood and when you give, you receive so much more in return and I think you're more susceptible to true reason for the Christmas season, that of celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Dan Walsh is a terrific storyteller and he's captured that magic and written a warm, captivating, comfortable Christmas novel.

I love Christmas.  I love Christmas stories and collect them, so I'm always excited to find new ones each year. Remembering Christmas is one that I will gladly add to my ever growing collection.

Available September 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Donna Hausler of Baker Publishing Group for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Dan Walsh here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 11/11

* * * * *
4/5 Stars

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hope Underground: The Chilean Miners and Their Story of Faith and Miracles...Review

About the book:
"God has never left us down here"
Thirty–three miners – trapped beneath the Chilean desert. _their situation, at first, seemed hopeless. Yet instead of abandoning hope, the miners, their families, communities of faith, the Chilean government and rescue workers united in an effort to achieve the impossible. What drove these people to defy failure and persevere against all odds? How did a small, white butterfly, a wayward probe, and a '34th miner' all play a significant role in the unfolding of this incredible story? While most reports of this stirring drama focus on what human effort can achieve, Hope Underground reveals the spiritual nature of the miners' experience, highlighting amazing details of how God's providence turned a potential tragedy into the most successful mining rescue of all time.

I don't think there are many people who didn't follow the saga of the miners trapped in a Chilean mine, and there are even fewer who didn't watch their miraculous rescue.  But, what happened to them while they were in the mine, and what happened to their families and the community who held a vigil outside the mine entrance?

Carlos Parra Diaz, a pastor who became the Chaplain of Camp Hope, shares his story of what happened.  Pastor Diaz went to the mine to help the people, to pray for them.  He soon found himself in the unofficial position of camp chaplain.  He came to know the families of the miners and the politicians who came and went from Camp Hope.  Once communication with the miners was established, Pastor Diaz was instrumental in sending 33 tiny Bibles down to the miners, to help sustain their faith.

There were some language and sentence structure issues that were simply due to differences in translation and were fairly easy to overlook.  The book is a terrific account of an amazing 10 weeks.  The Camp Hope community was a community in every sense of the word.  People who came together during a crisis to sustain and help one another.  Truly amazing.  Pastor Diaz shares a straight-forward, honest narrative, and shows us that God is indeed aware of His children and hears our prayers.

Thanks to Audra Jennings of the B&B Media Group for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Carlos Parra Diaz here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 11/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Lasting Impression...Review

A fake. A forger. More than anything, Claire Laurent longs for the chance to live an authentic life, to become the woman she wants to be. And she'll be given that choice. But will it come at too costly a price?

Claire Laurent's greatest aspiration is to paint something that will bring her acclaim. Yet her father insists she work as a copyist. A forger. When she's forced to flee from New Orleans to Nashville only a year after the War Between the States has ended, her path collides with attorney Sutton Monroe. She considers him a godsend for not turning her in to the authorities. But after he later refuses to come to her aid, Claire fears she's sorely misjudged the man. Finding herself among the elite of Nashville's society, Claire believes her dream to create a lasting impression in the world of art is within reach--but only if her fraudulent past remains hidden.

The Federal Army has destroyed Sutton's home and confiscated his land, and threatens to destroy his family's honor. His determination to reclaim what belongs to him and to right a grievous wrong reveals a truth that may cost him more than he ever imagined--as well as the woman he loves.Set at Nashville's historic Belmont Mansion, a stunning antebellum manor built by Mrs. Adelicia Acklen, A Lasting Impression is a sweeping love story about a nation mending after war, the redemption of those wounded, and the courage of a man and woman to see themselves--and each other--for who they really are.

A talented artist, Claire Laurent is forced to work as a copyist who forges famous paintings, when she only desires to paint her own work.  When her father's illicit occupation forces her to flee her New Orleans home, she finds herself adrift in post-Civil War Nashville.  A chance encounter with Sutton Monroe leads her to a position in the home of the city's most prominent women.

Claire adapts to her new role and her new life and as she finds herself falling in love with Sutton, she worries that her past will come between them.  I loved the setting:  post-Civil War Nashville, the world of art and the Belmont Mansion.  Claire's story is both richly elegant and humbly redeeming and Sutton is a dashing, yet very mortal hero.  This is a charming, engaging novel and one I was sad to see end.

I've read Tamera Alexander before and didn't completely love what I read then.  But, A Lasting Impression sounded terrific and the cover was gorgeous.  I had to read it simply for that.  I'm so pleased that the book lived up to my expectations.  It appears to be the first in a series and I look forward to more Belmont Mansion stories.

Thanks to Amy at Litfuse Publicity for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Tamera Alexander here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Read 11/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Three Trees...Review

About the book:
Three forest trees dream of what they will one day become. One dreams of becoming a royal throne; one of being a ship that can withstand any storm; and one longs to stay in the forest and grow as tall as tall can be. When they are felled, it seems their dreams are over. But as each tree is crafted into a new item - a manger, a fishing boat, and a rugged cross - it becomes clear that through the role they play in one important life their hopes are more than fulfilled. This traditional folktale is accompanied by stylish artwork from a highly sought-after children's book illustrator, and will help set the Christmas and Easter stories into the overall context of the Christian faith.

This is one of my favorite stories and one I always read at Christmas.  This retelling is illustrated in a rich folk style. While not my most favorite style of art, it's still a gorgeous book. The story is short and concise and perfect to share with any age.

I collect Christmas books and we read them all season long. Our family tradition, dating back to when I was a girl, is to read our favorite stories on Christmas Eve.  We each choose a story and read it aloud and then we finish with reading the birth of Jesus from the Bible.  It's one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season and is the perfect way to usher in Christmas.  This little book will go into my collection, to be read each Christmas season.

I think it would make a lovely gift as well.

Thanks to Kregel Publications for the opportunity to review this book.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 11/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

The Christmas Shoppe...Review

About the book:
The small town of Parrish Springs is not quite ready for Matilda Honeycutt. A strange woman with scraggly hair and jewelry that jangles as she walks, Matilda keeps busy stocking and arranging her new shop on the town's quaint and lovely Main Street. When rumors start to fly about what might be going on behind the papered-up windows and the locked door, the image-conscious residents start looking for a way to get this woman and her wares out of their town before Christmas.

But Matilda Honeycutt has a little something for each one of them sitting on those cluttered shelves, just waiting to be discovered.

Last year, I really enjoyed Melody Carlson's Christmas novella, Christmas at Harrington's and so I was excited to see a new one from her this year.  The Christmas Shoppe was just as charming.

New city manager Susanna Elton is still trying to get her bearings when Matilda Honeycutt shows up and purchases a prime storefront.  An angry councilman wanted the building and is determined to see Matilda run out of town.  As Susanna and Tommy Thompson, newspaper editor, try to uncover Matilda's secrets, they discover much more than a store full of odds and ends.  It's not long before Matilda's magic manages to touch the entire town in one way or another.

A charming Christmas novella about finding oneself and purpose in life.  With subtle Christian themes of forgiveness and love, this is a sweet Christmas story.  It's short and easily read in one or two sittings, perfect for relaxing by the fire.

Thanks to Donna Hausler of Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Melody Carlson here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Monday, October 31, 2011

Maman's Homesick Pie...Review

About the book:
For Donia Bijan’s family, food has been the language they use to tell their stories and to communicate their love. In 1978, when the Islamic revolution in Iran threatened their safety, they fled to California’s Bay Area, where the familiar flavors of Bijan’s mother’s cooking formed a bridge to the life they left behind. Now, through the prism of food, award-winning chef Donia Bijan unwinds her own story, finding that at the heart of it all is her mother, whose love and support enabled Bijan to realize her dreams.

From the Persian world of her youth to the American life she embraced as a teenager to her years at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris (studying under the infamous Madame Brassart) to apprenticeships in France’s three-star kitchens and finally back to San Francisco, where she opened her own celebrated bistro, Bijan evokes a vibrant kaleidoscope of cultures and cuisines. And she shares thirty inspired recipes from her childhood (Saffron Yogurt Rice with Chicken and Eggplant and Orange Cardamom Cookies), her French training (Ratatouille with Black Olives and Fried Bread and Purple Plum Skillet Tart), and her cooking career (Roast Duck Legs with Dates and Warm Lentil Salad and Rose Petal Ice Cream).

An exhilarating, heartfelt memoir, Maman’s Homesick Pie is also a reminder of the women who encourage us to shine.

I had no idea who Donia Bijan was before I read her memoir, but I certainly loved her story.  After the death of her mother, Donia reflects on her life as she begins the task of sorting through her mother's things.  Those reflections take us to her childhood in Iran, her family's subsequent exile to America and their new life here and Donia's own experience opening her own restaurant.

Relationships and memories often involve food: the preparing, the eating and the sharing of it.  Maman's Homesick Pie is a heartwarming journey through one family's memories and recipes.  Donia's reflections and narrative are warm, eloquent and vibrant.  Donia's love for her family is tangible, as is her love of good food and cooking. Her mother's influence on her life and the lessons she learned at her mother's table are inspiring.

The book also includes family recipes; exotic Persian dishes that sound delicious.

Thanks to Lisa at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Dona Bijan here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Monday, October 10th:  Books, Movies, and Chinese Food
Monday, October 17th:  girlichef
Wednesday, October 19th:  Melody & Words
Thursday, October 20th:  Unabridged Chick
Monday, October 24th:  Luxury Reading
Monday, October 24th:  Unabridged Chick – author interview
Wednesday, October 26th:  Chocolate and Croissants
Thursday, October 27th:  Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity
Friday, October 28th:  Peeking Between the Pages
Monday, October 31st:  2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews
Tuesday, November 1st:  A Bookish Libraria
Thursday, November 3rd:  Mockingbird Hill Cottage
TBD:  Chick Lit Reviews


Read 10/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I Am In Here...Review by the Doctor

About the book:
Elizabeth Bonker is profoundly affected by autism and can’t speak, yet she illuminates the inner world of autism through poems that she types one finger at a time. I Am in Here: The Journey of a Child with Autism Who Cannot Speak but Finds Her Voice by Elizabeth Bonker and her mother Virginia Breen is the story of Elizabeth’s courage, determination, and optimism, and the relentless love of a mom who knew her daughter was "in there."

Over many years, Elizabeth learned to type independently on a letterboard and computer. Because the process is tedious, she began to write poetry, and has since written more than 100 poems. This child, who had been diagnosed as mentally retarded, is at last able to reveal her gifted mind in I Am in Here. The book is about:

Faith: Elizabeth’s poetry reveals a deep spiritual life, "contemplating God in a way that went beyond what she learned in Sunday School," Virginia says. "The burden of autism has helped us both understand one of life’s great mysteries. The most tangible way we experience God is through the presence of the people God has placed in our lives."

Clinging to Hope: "Autism Moms must find a way to cling to hope with a tenacity that is stronger than autism’s grip on our children," Virginia says. "My answer is finding the joy in the smallest of moments…a conscious choice to seek these small flowers of joy in the crannied wall."

Drawing Inspiration from 'How' People: 'How' people ask, 'how can I move forward?' rather than 'why me?' Elizabeth, with her overwhelming challenges, is the ultimate 'How' Person. The book also includes a gallery of the 'How' people whose inspiring stories are told in the book. "Elizabeth is my little flower, relentlessly breaking through autism with her poetry," Virginia writes. "Like the flowers in the sidewalk cracks, she is a quiet miracle."

There are some books that you read that you can't put down. You race from page to page desperate to know the ending. These books are the best sellers, because they give us a chance to escape reality for a while, to forget the trials and tribulations of our everyday lives as we drown our sorrows in the magic of a mythical happy ending.

However, sometimes you read a book that deserves to be a bestseller because it's not about a happy ending, and it's not a chance to escape reality, but an understanding of how to live your life better.

As a father of a boy with an autism spectrum disorder, I didn't think reading this book would be easy. And in large measure it isn't, not because it is a well-written (because it is) and not because it isn't heartwarming (because it is).

At its heart, this is a book about the harsh realities of life, and the struggles of a mother and a daughter to rise above diagnoses and despairs, and transform their lives into something wonderful, meaningful and illuminating.

Elizabeth Bonker is a young woman who cannot speak, but her words speak volumes of the power of the human spirit. Her mother, Virginia, redefines the role of what it means to be a mother, a friend, and a fierce champion for her daughter in the face of daunting and difficult odds.

As we are led through Elizabeth's life, Virginia gives us a side-by-side comparison of her works on behalf of Elizabeth, and on behalf of autistic children everywhere.

This book will move you to both tears and laughter, joy and sadness. Rarely does a book come along that reflects the humanity of our struggles everyday, and gives us hope that we too can rise above our own limitations, and become something more in the lives of others.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book. It will change how you feel about those with autism, and it'll give you hope for the struggles you have to fight every day.

Available October 2011 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 Elizabeth and Virginia here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 10/11

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Friday, October 28, 2011

Don't Sing at the Table: Life Lessons from My Grandmothers...Review

About the book:
New York Times bestselling author Adriana Trigiani’s gift for illuminating the profound challenges and issues defining women’s lives has propelled her novels to the top of bestseller lists and earned her a wide, devoted readership. Now, she shares the roots of those insights—the wisdom handed down to her from her unforgettable grandmothers, Lucia and Viola, which she began collecting for her own daughter—with readers everywhere.

Filled with practical, sage advice, and infused with Trigiani’s trademark warmth, love, and humor, Don’t Sing at the Table introduces a pair of feisty, intelligent, and strong forces of nature whose lives embody the story of 20th-century America itself. Between them, the extraordinary Lucia and Viola lived through the century from beginning to end, surviving immigration, young widowhood, single motherhood, four wars, and the Great Depression. Culled from their remarkable experiences, this heartfelt guide, at turns hilarious and poignant, offers answers to the seminal questions in a woman’s life, from getting married to saving money, nurturing the soul to keeping calm in a crisis, raising children to finding private comfort.

This is a warm, poignant tribute to the author's grandmothers.  That Adriana loved and admired her grandmothers is very apparent.  The life lessons learned are relevant to us today.  I have not read anything by Adriana Trigiani and wasn't familiar with her at all before I read this book and so to me, this was simply a lovely accolade to two women who lived normal, ordinary lives but who, to one woman, were exceptional.  I love memoirs and family histories and this tribute was poignant and thoughtful.  I have a great deal of love and respect for my grandmothers, I learned many life lessons from them and I miss them.

Many of the life lessons in this book are simply rooted in common sense, but Adriana shares stories and anecdotes that emphasize and enrich them.

I have two complaints about the book. First, for a book that is so vividly rich and descriptive, there were annoying grammatical issues.  I just have a thing with verbs and tenses agreeing. Second, towards the last part of the book, the author became preachy on her views and ideas of religion and raising children.  That tone really disappointed me. Overall though, this is a sweet tribute by a granddaughter to her grandmothers.  The inclusion of some favorite recipes is a bonus.

Thanks to Trish at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Adriana Trigiani here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Tuesday, October 4th: Books Like Breathing
Wednesday, October 5th: Life In Review
Thursday, October 6th: Write Meg!
Tuesday, October 11th: Bookstack
Wednesday, October 12th: The Bodacious Pen
Thursday, October 13th: Book Hooked Blog
Monday, October 17th: Among Stories
Tuesday, October 18th: Good Girl Gone Redneck
Wednesday, October 19th: A Bookish Libraria
Thursday, October 20th: Laura’s Reviews
Monday, October 24th: Alison’s Book Marks
Wednesday, October 26th: The Road to Here
Thursday, October 27th: Amusing Reviews
Friday, October 28th: 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews
Monday, October 31st: Redlady’s Reading Room
Tuesday, November 1st: Chocolate & Croissants
TBD: StephTheBookworm


Read 10/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wings: A Novel of World War II Flygirls...Review

About the book:
Sally Ketchum comes from dirt-poor farm folk. She has little chance of bettering her life until a mysterious barnstormer named Tex teaches her to fly—and becomes the first person worthy of her love. But Tex dies in a freak accident, leaving Sally to make her own way in the world. She enrolls in the U.S. military’s Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program, and in a special school located in West Texas begins learning to fly the biggest, fastest, meanest airplanes the military has to offer. She also reluctantly becomes involved with Beau Bayard, a flight instructor and aspiring writer, who seems to offer her everything she could want. But many people see no place for a “skirt” in the cockpit, and Sally soon finds herself pitted against a high-powered Washington lawyer who wants to disband the WASP once and for all. Their battle is a story of extraordinary women who broke society’s rules and became heroes, and of men who stood in their way.

Sally's life is inherently unhappy, except for her brief time with Tex, the man who taught her to fly and the man with whom she fell in love.  After his death, she learns about the WASP program and enrolls to become a female military pilot.  Once at school, however, she learns that there are those who want the program disbanded and of one individual, in particular, who has a personal vendetta against her.

While historically, this is a very rich novel, it's not a particularly happy story.  Sally's life is hard and it never gets easier, although she's tough and plucky and manages to overcome obstacles and adversity.  She meets an a assortment of young women in the WASP program, all of whom have their own secrets and reasons for joining up.  Their collective story is fascinating.  Moderate profanity and innuendo is noted.

I think Karl Friedrich has done a terrific job of portraying a time in our history that was difficult for all: those who went to war and those who were left behind. Women rose to the occasion and took on many jobs that until the war came, had been male only jobs, including flying military jets.  I'm appalled at the treatment these women received at the hand of our government and I'm proud of them for the pathway they paved for future women.

Thanks to Lisa at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book. You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Monday, October 3rd:  A Bookish Librarian
Tuesday, October 4th:  Life in Review
Wednesday, October 5th:  Acting Balanced
Monday, October 10th:  The Life (and lies) of an inanimate flying object - guest post
Tuesday, October 11th:  Diary of an Eccentric
Wednesday, October 12th:  “That’s Swell!”
Thursday, October 13th:  Man of La Book
Saturday, October 15th:  Man of La Book - author Q&A
Tuesday, October 18th:  Reviews from the Heart
Wednesday, October 19th:  A Bookish Affair
Thursday, October 20th:  Bags, Books & Bon Jovi
Friday, October 21st:  Flight to Success
Monday, October 24th:  Melody & Words
Tuesday, October 25th:  Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, October 26th:  Staircase Wit
Thursday, October 27th:  2 Kids and Tired Books
Tuesday, November 1st:  Joyfully Retired
Wednesday, November 2nd:  The House of the Seven Tails
Thursday, November 3rd: Life on the Road as a Pilot
Date TBD:  A Cozy Reader’s Corner

Read 10/11

* * *
3/5 Stars