Everyday Tidbits...

Be Kind. Do Good. Love is a Verb.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Creative Slow-Cooker Meals...Review

About the book:
From the celebrated coauthor of
The Marriage Miracle comes a new kind of cookbook and a new attitude toward planning meals. With an eye toward the whole menu, not just part of it, columnist Cheryl Moeller teaches cooks to use two crockpots to easily create healthy, homemade dinners.

Don’t worry about your dinner being reduced to a mushy stew. Each of the more than 200 recipes has been taste-tested at Cheryl’s table. Join the Moeller family as you dig into:

Harvest-time Halibut Chowder
Salmon and Gingered Carrots
Mediterranean Rice Pilaf
Indian Chicken Curry
Apricot-Pistachio Bread
Shrimp Creole
Rhubarb Crisp

... and many more! Perfect for the frazzled mom who never has enough time in the day,
Creative Slow-Cooker Meals gives readers more time around the table with delicious, healthy, frugal, and easy meals!

This was a cookbook that I was excited to review, but one that I ultimately have mixed feelings about.  I love the spiral binding which makes it so easy for the book to stay open. I also love the idea of using two slow cooker to prepare a meal.   I own two slow cookers and it seems so logical to use both, yet I've never considered it.  Cheryl Moeller also covers Gluten-Free, Dairy Free and Vegan recipes, which will be a big plus for many people.

Unfortunately, there were no recipes that appealed to me although I gained some ideas for meals I could fix in a slow cooker that I hadn't considered before.  The index is very general.  I wanted to find the recipe for Chicken Manicotti that I remembered looking at, but there wasn't a category for pasta or chicken and the chapter where I ultimately found the recipe was called, "For the Kitchen with the Revolving Door" which isn't very specific as far as it being about dinner or main dishes.  I hadn't remembered the recipe as being chicken anyway, just that it was a stuffed manicotti, so it took some thumbing to find it.  I do like the idea of cooking stuffed pasta in the slow-cooker, but I will probably use my own stuffed shell recipe instead of this one.

The book doesn't give sizes or servings.  I have two different sized crock pots and it would be nice if the recipes stated the appropriate size slow cooker to use.  Also, and this is a big one for me: none of the recipes gave serving sizes.  I like knowing that I'm going to have lots of leftovers or that I should double a recipe.  Obviously you can infer sizes or amounts, but it takes away a lot of guesswork to look at a recipe and see the words, "Serves 4" or "Serves 8".

While this isn't one that will get much use at my house, it is one that will appeal to many people, especially those looking to save time and use their crock pots a lot more.

Thanks to First Wildcard and Harvest House Publishers for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Cheryl Moeller here.  You can read one of the chapters here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 2/12

* *
2/5 Stars

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall...Review

About the book:
Pampered Margaret Macy flees London in disguise to escape pressure to marry a dishonorable man. With no money and nowhere else to go, she takes a position as a housemaid in the home of Nathaniel Upchurch, a suitor she once rejected in hopes of winning his dashing brother. Praying no one will recognize her, Margaret fumbles through the first real work of her life. If she can last until her next birthday, she will gain an inheritance from a spinster aunt--and sweet independence. But can she remain hidden as a servant even when prying eyes visit Fairbourne Hall?

Observing both brothers as an "invisible" servant, Margaret learns she may have misjudged Nathaniel. Is it too late to rekindle his admiration? And when one of the family is nearly killed, Margaret alone discovers who was responsible. Should she come forward, even at the risk of her reputation and perhaps her life? And can she avoid an obvious trap meant to force her from hiding?

On her journey from wellborn lady to servant to uncertain future, Margaret must learn to look past appearances and find the true meaning of "serve one another in love."

Being pushed into marriage by her unscrupulous step-father, Margaret decides she's had enough and flees her home with the maid who was dismissed after being wrongly accused of theft.  With no idea of where to go and what to do, Margaret follows Joan and finds herself employed as a housemaid in the country home of a former suitor.  Unprepared for service, Margaret nevertheless fumbles her way into the position and learns what really goes on behind the scenes in an upper class home.

As her family searches for her, Margaret attempts to remain invisible and is able to observe Nathaniel Upchurch, her former suitor, and realizes that she misjudged him years previously.  As she learns what it is that God wants her to do with her life, she wonders if she could ever have another chance with Nathaniel.

While perhaps not completely plausible, this was a thoroughly enjoyable novel.  I enjoyed the peek into the world downstairs and what life was like for those in service.  It seems well researched and I loved the chapter headings which were actual quotes from books written about and for servants in the 19th century. I do wish there had been an epilogue or something that would have given us a little more detail, especially with what happened to Joan.

Julie Klassen has written a charming novel full of romance and a bit of intrigue.  The Christian elements are strong, but the story is not at all preachy.  It's a delightful read and a book that I didn't want to put down.

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

Read 2/12

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Words Spoken True...Review

About the book:
Adriane Darcy was practically raised in her father's newspaper offices. She can't imagine life without the clatter of the press and the push to be first to write the news that matters. Their Tribune is the leading paper in Louisville in 1855. Then Blake Garrett, a brash young editor from the North with a controversial new style of reporting, takes over failing competitor the Herald, and the battle for readers gets fierce.

When Adriane and Blake meet at a benefit tea, their surprising mutual attraction is hard to ignore. Still, Blake is the enemy, and Adriane is engaged to the son of a powerful businessman who holds the keys to the Tribune's future. Blake will stop at almost nothing to get the story—and the girl. Can he do both before it's too late?

Set against the volatile backdrop of political and civil unrest in 1850s Louisville, this exciting story of love and loyalty will hold readers in its grip until the very last page. Bestselling author Ann H. Gabhart once again delivers an enthralling and enduring tale for her loyal and ever-expanding fan base.

Raised by a newspaper editor father, Adriane knows her own mind and struggles with a world that relegates women to the the society pages and not the editorial ones.  Spunky and feisty, Adriane will do whatever it takes to get the story and get it ahead of the rival paper, even if that means dressing like a man and visiting the site of a serial killer's latest crime.

When her path crosses that of Blake Garrett, new editor of that rival newspaper, sparks fly.  Adriane is being forced to wed the son of a politician, and a man to whom her father is indebted.  Attracted to Blake, Adriane must do what is right for her peace of mind as well as what may save her father's paper.

Historically, this is a richly detailed account of life in pre-Civil War Kentucky with the clash of the immigrant Irish Catholics and the American Protestants. This was a period of history that I was unaware of before reading Words Spoken True and it fascinated me.  Ann Gabhart has done her research well and the story is enthralling and well written with well developed characters. Adriane and Blake are terrific and I love the supporting cast as well: Duff and Beck were wonderful.    

I have enjoyed every Ann H. Gabhart book I've read, but this one is definitely my favorite so far.  I'm glad to see her moving beyond the Shaker books.

Available February 2012 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 Ann H. Gabhart here. You can purchase your own copy here.


* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Monday, February 20, 2012

Pictures of the Past...Review

About the book:
Pictures of the Past is a compelling saga sweeping through Chicago, Paris and Berlin, reliving events from pre-World War II Europe, but beginning in contemporary times. An Impressionist painting, hanging for decades in the Art Institute of Chicago and donated by the charismatic philanthropist Taylor Woodmere, is challenged by an elderly woman as a Nazi theft. 

Taylor's gripping and passionate story takes us back to 1937. Sent to Paris on family business, he reluctantly leaves his girlfriend Emily, a spoiled debutante from Newport, Rhode Island. But once in Europe, he immediately falls in love, first with an Henri Lebasque painting, and then with the enchanting Sarah Berger of Berlin. After Taylor returns home, the Berger family becomes trapped in the Nazi web, and any attempts for the new lovers to be reunited are thwarted.

Interwoven with this narrative is the story of Rachel Gold, a beautiful and bright Chicago girl caught up in the times of the late 1960's. Pregnant and abandoned by her boyfriend Court Woodmere, Taylor's son, she moves to New York to live with her aunt, a Holocaust survivor. Years later, as the controversy surrounding the provenance of the painting becomes public, Rachel's grown son is disturbed by his inexplicable familiarity with the work of art. And it is only Taylor Woodmere who can unravel the complicated puzzle of their lives. 

With a heart-grabbing ending, Pictures of the Past is historical fiction, giving a personalized window to the powerful events and intriguing venues of the eras. From a world torn by the horrors of war, a love story emerges that endures through years of separation.

I enjoy historical novels.  The World War II years are a time that fascinate me.  I love art.  Package all three of those together in one novel and I'm hooked.  That the story is compelling is even better.

Taylor Woodmere's story begins in 1937 when he travels to France and Germany on business.  He leaves behind a girlfriend and doesn't anticipate falling in love with the daughter of his German associate or a painting.    What follows is a story I was quickly drawn into and one that spans oceans and generations.

Deby Eisenberg has crafted a terrific debut novel that has not only captured the essence of pre- and post-war Germany and the hate and fear that was so prevalent, but also the strength and resilience of the Jewish people.  Often books with chapters that alternate between characters and even past and present can be confusing.  However, here,  the alternating chapters and time periods merge together smoothly and the reader discovers a rich, heartwarming story of love lost and love found and family secrets. 

Thanks to Dorothy at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Deby Eisenberg here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other tour stops and reviews here.

Monday, February 6
Book reviewed at Year of Jubilee Reviews

Tuesday, February 7
Book reviewed at Book Nook Club

Wednesday, February 8
Book reviewed at Acting Balanced

Thursday, February 9
Guest blogging at Acting Balanced

Friday, February 10
Book reviewed at Moonlight, Lace & Mayhem

Monday, February 13
Book reviewed at True Media Solutions

Tuesday, February 14
Book reviewed at Bookworm Lisa

Wednesday, February 15
Book reviewed at Books in the Burbs

Thursday, February 16
Book reviewed at Hands and Home

Friday, February 17
Book reviewed at Everyday Is An Adventure

Monday, February 20
Book reviewed at 2 Kids and Tired Books

Tuesday, February 21
Book reviewed at Library of Clean Reads

Wednesday, February 22
Book reviewed at Bags, Books & Bon Jovi

Thursday, February 23
Book reviewed at Hey, I Wanna Read That

Friday, February 24
Book reviewed at Celtic Lady’s Reviews

Monday, February 27
Book review & interview at S.O.S. Aloha

Interviewed at Literarily Speaking

Tuesday, February 28
Book reviewed at Broken Teepee

Wednesday, February 29
Book reviewed at The Bookish Dame

Read 2/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, February 16, 2012

When the Smoke Clears...Review

About the book:
As a member of the North Cascades Smokejumpers, Alexia Allen always takes care of the equipment that keeps her safe. So when she nearly dies in a fire due to equipment failure, she knows something is up. Ordered to take time off while the investigation continues, Alexia makes a last-minute decision to recuperate at her mother's home and attend her high school reunion. Yet trouble seems to be following her, and within hours of arriving home she's involved with murder, arson--and a handsome detective. But the conflicts ahead are nothing compared to the ghosts of her past. As she strives to remember and forgive her family history, she must also decide if the secret she's been guarding for the last ten years must finally come to light.

Chock-full of the suspense and romantic tension readers have come to expect from Lynette Eason, When the Smoke Clears is the explosive first book in the Deadly Reunions series.

Growing up in a dysfunctional, abusive family, Alexia left home the day she graduated from high school.  Ten years later, after an accident at work, she somewhat reluctantly takes some time off to see her mother and attend her high school reunion.  Yet, once she arrives home, murder and mayhem follow her.  Reunited with old friends,she finds herself attracted to the detective handling her case, a man she knew in high school.

As she gets reacquainted with her mother, Alexia begins discovering answers to life long questions and learns that God does have a plan for her.   And, as she realizes that the incident with her equipment failure might not be a complete accident and is related to the new events surrounding her arrival at home, Alexia must face the fact that someone is trying to kill her.

I haven't read Lynette Eason before, but what a roller coaster.  From beginning to end, this is one wild ride.  I loved these characters.  I enjoyed the tension and suspense and was surprised at the ending.  The growth in Alexia from beginning to end as she comes to understand her mother and her childhood is touching.  I am anxious for the next novel in the series and discovering the senator and how his life relates to Alexia and Serena.

Available February 2012 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 Lynette Eason here. You can purchase your own copy here.

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Amelia's Journey...Review

About the book:
For Ben Haynes it is love at first sight, but can a Boston socialite find true happiness with a cowboy from Kansas?

Once childhood friends, Ben Haynes is taken with Amelia Carlyle when he runs into her at her sister’s wedding. Although he will be returning to Kansas and life on his father’s ranch, Ben calls on Amelia several times, and they find they have more in common than they first realized. As he leaves for Kansas, they promise to write.

Back in Kansas, Ben begins to save money toward a home for Amelia even though he has not made his intentions known. He’s relying on God to make a way. Meanwhile, Amelia is presented to society and has several young men vying for her attention.

Although Ben has captured Amelia’s heart, her parents make every effort to discourage the relationship, even forbidding Amelia to correspond with him. Amelia tells Ben that she will wait for him as long as it takes, but will the love and loss they experience along the way bring them closer or drive them apart forever?

When Ben Haynes is reunited with his childhood friend, Amelia, it's love at first sight for both.  Ben is a rancher in Kansas and Amelia is a socialite in Boston with a father who refuses to even entertain the idea of his daughter living elsewhere.  But, even as Ben must return to Kansas and Amelia is presented to society, they are determined to be together and must learn to rely on faith and God to make it happen.

I really enjoyed Martha's Winds Across the Prairie series and loved getting to know the Haynes' in it.  I was thrilled to learn that Martha had written a prequel that shared Ben's and Mellie's story and it didn't disappoint.  We meet those who will become Lucy's parents (Becoming Lucy) and learn how Ben and Mellie met and we see shades of the strong matriarch that Amelia will become in future books.  Another delightful novel from Martha Rogers and one that made me want to go back and re-read the rest of the series!

Thanks to First Wildcard and Charisma Media 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.

Read 2/12

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sonoma Rose...Review

About the book:
As the nation grapples with the strictures of Prohibition, Rosa Barclay lives on a Southern California rye farm with her volatile husband, John, who has lately found another source of income far outside the federal purview.

Mother to eight children, Rosa mourns the loss of four who succumbed to the mysterious wasting disease that is now afflicting young Ana and Miguel. Two daughters born of another father are in perfect health. When an act of violence shatters Rosa’s resolve to maintain her increasingly dangerous existence, she flees with the children and her precious heirloom quilts to the mesa where she last saw her beloved mother alive.

As a flash flood traps them in a treacherous canyon, only one man is brave—or foolhardy—enough to come to their rescue: Lars Jorgenson, Rosa’s first love and the father of her healthy daughters. Together they escape to Berkeley, where a leading specialist offers their only hope of saving Ana and Miguel. Here in northern California, they create new identities to protect themselves from Rosa’s vengeful husband, the police who seek her for questioning, and the gangsters Lars reported to Prohibition agents—officers representing a department often as corrupt as the Mob itself. Ever mindful that his youthful alcoholism provoked Rosa to spurn him, Lars nevertheless supports Rosa’s daring plan to stake their futures on a struggling Sonoma Valley vineyard—despite the recent hardships of local winemakers whose honest labors at viticulture have, through no fault of their own, become illegal.

Trapped in a loveless, abusive marriage, Rosa discovers that her husband is a bootlegger.  After one last beating, Rosa and her children finally leave with the help of Rosa's first love Lars.  Several of Rosa's children suffer from an unknown disease and after escaping John, Rosa and Lars learn that there is a specialist at Stanford hospital who can treat the children.  Eager for the chance to escape John's abuse and on the run from gangsters, they travel to San Francisco and a new life and new identities.

Looking for work while the children are being treated at Stanford, Lars and Rosa find themselves in the Sonoma Valley working for a vineyard struggling against prohibition.  Rosa discovers that she has an affinity for wine making and they take the chance on purchasing a vineyard of their own.

I always love Northern California settings as I am from the San Francisco Bay Area.  I enjoyed the historical aspect and the vintner's view of prohibition.

As I first started reading, much of the story sounded familiar and I realized that Rosa, Lars and Elizabeth were all characters from Chiaverini's novel The Quilter's Homecoming and it was nice to get some closure for Elizabeth and Henry's story as well as learn what happened to Rosa.  I think what I liked most is that while the novel is billed as an Elm Creek book (Jennifer Chiaverini hasn't written anything that isn't Elm Creek related), it can stand alone and doesn't have all the past Elm Creek characters in it.  I found that refreshing.

Thanks to Lisa at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Jennifer Chiaverini here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other review here.

Monday, February 13th:  Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, February 14th:  2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews
Wednesday, February 15th:  Unabridged Chick
Thursday, February 16th:  Christian Historical Fiction
Monday, February 20th:  Angler’s Rest
Wednesday, February 22nd:  All Grown Up?
Thursday, February 23rd:  Brimful Curiosities
Friday, February 24th:  Amused by Books
Monday, February 27th:  Col Reads
Tuesday, February 28th:  Life in Review
Wednesday, February 29th:  Reflections of a Bookaholic
Thursday, March 1st:  Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Monday, March 5th:  A Chick Who Reads
Tuesday, March 6th:  Joyfully Retired
Wednesday, March 7th:  Colloquium 
Monday, March 12th:  Book Dilettante
Wednesday, March 14th:  A Cozy Reader’s Corner

Read 2/12

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Decision Points...Review by the Doctor

About the book:
In this candid and gripping account, President George W. Bush describes the critical decisions that shaped his presidency and personal life.

George W. Bush served as president of the United States during eight of the most consequential years in American history. The decisions that reached his desk impacted people around the world and defined the times in which we live.

Decision Points brings readers inside the Texas governor’s mansion on the night of the 2000 election, aboard Air Force One during the harrowing hours after the attacks of September 11, 2001, into the Situation Room moments before the start of the war in Iraq, and behind the scenes at the White House for many other historic presidential decisions.

For the first time, we learn President Bush’s perspective and insights on:

His decision to quit drinking and the journey that led him to his Christian faith

The selection of the vice president, secretary of defense, secretary of state, Supreme Court justices, and other key officials

His relationships with his wife, daughters, and parents, including heartfelt letters between the president and his father on the eve of the Iraq War

His administration’s counterterrorism programs, including the CIA’s enhanced interrogations and the Terrorist Surveillance Program

Why the worst moment of the presidency was hearing accusations that race played a role in the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, and a critical assessment of what he would have done differently during the crisis

His deep concern that Iraq could turn into a defeat costlier than Vietnam, and how he decided to defy public opinion by ordering the troop surge

His legislative achievements, including tax cuts and reforming education and Medicare, as well as his setbacks, including Social Security and immigration reform

The relationships he forged with other world leaders, including an honest assessment of those he did and didn’t trust

Why the failure to bring Osama bin Laden to justice ranks as his biggest disappointment and why his success in denying the terrorists their fondest wish—attacking America again—is among his proudest achievements

A groundbreaking new brand of presidential memoir, Decision Points will captivate supporters, surprise critics, and change perspectives on eight remarkable years in American history—and on the man at the center of events.

American presidents are often polarizing figures.  After the fight of the primary, where usually half of the people who will end up voting for you do not like you, and the general election, where usually somewhere around half of the country does not vote for you, we end up with the president who, at some point, has had 75% of the people not like him.

Tell me again why somebody wants to take this job?  The pay is relatively pathetic given alternative options, their private life is scrutinized more thoroughly than a new medication that could kill you, or help you lose 5 pounds, and they are subjected to death threats, hate mail and scorn/ridicule every single day.  On top of this, they get to make heart-wrenching life and death decisions every day, which can affect the outcome of the world.  Again, tell me why somebody wants this job?

Few of these figures has been more polarizing than George W. Bush.  After the 2000 election fight in Florida, the horror and atrocity of 9/11, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the economic meltdown of the latter end of his second term, it is surprising that anybody likes this man.  Hard-core conservatives will point to the Medicare Part-D prescription legislation as a sign that Bush is not a conservative and should have been run out of office after his first term.  Hard-core liberals and 9/11 "truthers” will contend that Bush was behind the terrorist attacks as a way to further his goals of world domination and total enslavement of humanity.  Even moderate conservatives and liberals will find something to look at from his record and say "See, I told you I did not like the guy".

In the midst of all of these attacks, a sitting American president rarely fires back in his own words, in a calm manner.  Most of the time the decisions of a president are extolled or eviscerated in a vacuum, and rarely does the president have the chance to explain slowly, calmly and methodically what led to the particular decision being made.

Finally, after the eight grueling years of his presidency, President George W. Bush is able to give his side of the story on some of the decisions that he made.  He explains some of the background environments and events that were occurring, as well as those in the foreground as the actual decision was being made.  His arguments are not apologetic, but they are humble, without the rhetoric and positioning that is requisite as a president.

After reading this book, I can tell you that those of you who hated him before, will probably still hate him as vehemently as you did.  Those of you who love him will find reasons to continue your admiration and affection toward the man.

In the final say, all of us make decisions that we are proud of, decisions that we regret and decisions that we question many years in the future.  The majority of us will never have to make the monumental decisions made by President Bush, nor do we have to live with the consequences.

I thoroughly recommend this book.  It gives you a chance to see the thought processes behind some of his decisions in the White House.  Whilst I do not agree with everything he did, I also do not believe him to be the man vilified and excoriated in the media.  None of us are perfect, all of us are human, and we all make our decisions.  This book will explain to you some of the reasons why he made his.

Thanks to Waterbrook Multnomah for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about President George W. Bush here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 1/12

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sweeter than Birdsong...Review

About the book:
Music offers Kate sweet refuge from her troubles...but real freedom is sweeter.

In Westerville, Ohio, 1855, Kate Winter's dreams are almost within reach. As the first woman to graduate from Otterbein College, she'll be guaranteed her deepest wish: escape from the dark secret haunting her family. But with her mother determined to marry her off to a wealthy man, Kate must face reality. She has to run. Now. And she has the perfect plan. Join the upcoming musical performance--and use it to mask her flight.

Ben Hanby, Otterbein College's musical genius, sees Kate Winter as an enigmatic creature, notable for her beauty, yet painfully shy. Then he hears her sing-and the glory of her voice moves him as never before. He determines to cast her in his musical and uncover the mystery that is Kate. Still, he must keep his own secret to himself. Not even this intriguing woman can know that his passionate faith is driving him to aid fugitives on the Underground Railroad.

A terrifying accident brings Kate and Ben together, but threatens to shatter both their secrets and their dreams. Kate can no longer deny the need to find her courage-and her voice-if she is to sing a new song for their future.

Sweeter than Birdsong is a stirring novel of hope and faith inspired by real historical people and events.

Painfully shy, Kate Winter not only loves music but she is about to become the first woman to graduate from Otterbein College and wants nothing more than to escape her negative abusive family.  Ben Hanby has a passion for music that matches his passion for helping people which is why he aids fugitives on the Underground Railroad.  Kate's family wants her to marry well and a music teacher who yearns to be a minister, isn't high on their list of possible suitors.  Having grown up helping his parents work the Underground Railroad, Ben is driven by a mission to find a particular slave who was once left behind.  At first drawn to each other through their mutual love of music, Ben and Kate must learn God's plan for them. When Kate is thrown into a dangerous situation involving the Railroad, she discovers that she shares Ben's passion for helping others and must decide if she can defy her parents wishes.

Second in the Saddler's Legacy series, the book stands alone well, but Fairer than Morning is the delightful story about Ben's parents Will and Ann, who return here.  I have loved getting to know the Hanby family in these books.  These stories are fictionalized accounts based on real life people and Rosslyn Elliot has not only created engaging, likeable characters, she has also captured the essence of humanity, where good men and women are able to rise above their own adversity to help others in need.

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

Read 2/12

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Not in the Heart...Review

About the book:
Not in the Heart explores the life of Truman Wiley. Wiley once reported news stories from around the world, but now the only troubling headlines are his own. He’s out of work, separated from his family and buried in debt. His gambling addiction is out of control, but, above all else, his son needs a heart. When his estranged wife presents the opportunity to write the story of a death row inmate willing to donate his heart to Truman’s son, he takes the bait. And as the execution clock ticks, he will uncover disturbing evidence that may point to a different killer. For his son to live, will an innocent man die? As the investigation escalates, Truman will be forced to face his failures and make a choice that will change his life, his family and the destinies of two men forever.

Not in the Heart is a story of redemption—the story of two men’s lives who bear the consequences of their addictions and receive a second chance. Unfortunately, addiction has become commonplace in our culture, with the effects not only impacting the individuals but also those around them. This story will encourage anyone who has a loved one battling addiction.

Wow.  Simply, wow.  I have loved everything I've read by Chris Fabry.  Seriously.  But, Not in the Heart has to be the best.  Truman is a fantastic, real, flawed character.  He loves his family, but struggles with his demons and his addiction to gambling has led him away from those he loves.  His family loves him, but doesn't know how to help him.  As his life spirals away, he is given one last chance at redemption:  the chance to write the story of the man on death row. A man destined to die.  A man who wishes to donate his heart to Truman's son.  As Truman returns and tries to reconnect with his family, he discovers that his wife is exhausted from caring for their son and dealing with it all on her own.  He learns that his daughter is bright and an able assistant in his writing.  And he learns that his son is patient and long-suffering and simply wants to know his dad.

As Truman and his daughter begin writing Terrelle Conley's story, they uncover evidence that may prove Terrelle's innocence.  Evidence that also puts their lives in danger.  As Terrelle's execution date draws near, Truman's investigation also begins to show him that God indeed has a plan and knows who he is.

This isn't necessarily an easy story to read, but it is a story that has the power to touch the reader on so many levels.  Perhaps you know someone who struggles or who has struggled with addiction.  Perhaps you know someone who has needed or received an organ transplant.  Our personal experiences color our perspectives and how we interpret what we read.  I think we all know a Truman.

I, on the other hand, know what it's like to have a son with a heart condition.  I know what it's like to wonder if my son will live or die.  Fortunately, his congenital heart defect was correctable with surgery that was performed when he was 6 days old.  His future is bright and we don't anticipate any further problems.  However, because of that, my husband and I and most members of our extended family are organ donors.  And, before we knew whether our son would live or die, we determined that, if it were possible, we would donate any of his other healthy organs that we could, if we knew he wouldn't live.  That another child could have lived, because of our son, was very important to us.  It still is.  That another life could be saved from our own organ donation upon our own deaths, is very important to us.

I would hope that if you have not considered organ donation before, that you do so now.  Life is too precious.

Thanks to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Chris Fabry here.  You can learn more about National Organ Donor Day on February 14th and becoming an organ donor here. You can learn about Problem Gambling Awareness Week which is March 4-10, 2012 here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 2/12

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Ruins of Us...Review

About the book:
More than two decades after moving to Saudi Arabia and marrying powerful Abdullah Baylani, American-born Rosalie learns that her husband has taken a second wife. That discovery plunges their family into chaos as Rosalie grapples with leaving Saudi Arabia, her life, and her family behind. Meanwhile, Abdullah and Rosalie's consuming personal entanglements blind them to the crisis approaching their sixteen-year-old son, Faisal, whose deepening resentment toward their lifestyle has led to his involvement with a controversial sheikh. When Faisal makes a choice that could destroy everything his embattled family holds dear, all must confront difficult truths as they fight to preserve what remains of their world.

The Ruins of Us is a timely story about intolerance, family, and the injustices we endure for love that heralds the arrival of an extraordinary new voice in contemporary fiction.

Compelling, but not particularly happy.  After living in Saudi Arabia with her Arabian husband, American-born Rosalie learns that Abdullah has taken a second, younger wife.  While permitted by his religion, Rosalie sees it as a betrayal to her marriage vows.  As she is trying to come to terms with her life and what she wants to do, they discover that their son is also having troubles.

This was just not a book I could get into.  I didn't like these characters.  I couldn't connect to them or relate to them.   The book itself is beautifully written with rich descriptions that bring the feel and taste of Saudi Arabia through the pages.  I do think it would provide great discussion for a book group.  But, it just wasn't for me. My review seems to be in the minority though and you can find other, more positive reviews through the links below.

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

Tuesday, January 17th: Book Hooked Blog
Wednesday, January 18th: Take Me Away
Thursday, January 19th: Broken Teepee
Friday, January 20th: Bibliosue
Monday, January 23rd: Book Club Classics!
Tuesday, January 24th: Wandering Thoughts of a Scientific Housewife
Thursday, January 26th: Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, January 31st: Col Reads
Wednesday, February 1st: The House of the Seven Tails
Thursday, February 2nd: Raging Bibliomania
Monday, February 6th: Library of Clean Reads
Tuesday, February 7th: Man of La Book
Wednesday, February 8th: 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews

Read 2/12

* *
2/5 Stars

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Amish Family Reunion...DNF...Review

About the book:
During a rumschpringe visit to Niagara Falls, Phoebe Miller meets Eli Riehl, a young man who charms her--and everyone else--with his exceptional storytelling ability. When Phoebe sketches scenes to illustrate one of his tales, Eli encourages her incredible talent, and together they embark on a lofty and unlikely business venture for two young Amish people--writing and illustrating a children's book.

Eli's kindness and appeal extend beyond his knack for words to reach inside Phoebe's heart. But he is an only son with five sisters, and when his father suffers a heart attack, Eli gives up his writing to assume responsibility on the farm. Though willing to abandon his dream of becoming an author, he won't give up his beloved Phoebe.

Can their love for a good story develop into something that lasts forever, or will Phoebe's deep-seated fear of desertion stand in their way?

This is one of those times where I wish there had been a disclaimer when the book was offered for review.  Had I known it was part of a series (which I hadn't read) with many, many characters, I would have passed on reading it.  I haven't read Mary Ellis before and I think that had I read the earlier books, I would have enjoyed this one.  Characters from Mary's previous books come together in a family reunion and a young niece/granddaughter finds her own way.  I believe this was written to stand alone as the author makes an attempt to give some back story, but there were just so many characters that it was hard to keep them straight, especially because I had no connection to them.  It proved to be too much effort and I finally just skimmed the rest of the book.

Fans of Mary Ellis will undoubtedly enjoy it, especially those who have read previous books about the Miller family.  I'm sorry it just wasn't for me.

Thanks to First Wildcard for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Mary Ellis here. you can read the first chapter here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other, more positive reviews at Abbie's Reading Corner, Carlybird's Home, For the Love of Reading, and Christian Fiction Addiction, .

Read 2/12

* *
2/5 Stars

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Ultimate Prescription: What the Medical Profession isn't Telling You...Review by the Doctor

About the book:
Would you like to discover the powerful ways God is part of the healing process? Do you think the media, the government, or your doctor is telling you the whole truth when it comes to health care? Are you tired of taking medications that really don't fix the problem? In "The Ultimate Prescription," Dr. James Marcum, a board-certified cardiologist, in-demand speaker, and radio host, discusses these questions and many more from a biblical point of view. He encourages you to find the real answers about your health--and the health of your loved ones. Dr. Marcum explains what he believes is wrong with our current health care system, how to get back on track, and how the spiritual dimension of our health is often being ignored. Discover today the true path to healthy living in
The Ultimate Prescription.

Oh, my gosh. Somebody call the American Medical Association. Here is a doctor, a cardiologist, who is openly advocating a lifestyle based on the Commandments of God? Quick somebody lock this guy up. At least, take away his license to practice so that he cannot spew anymore of his hateful, non-scientific, bigoted rhetoric into the lives of humble, quiet and happy people who are just waiting to die at the end of a prescription.

In case you cannot tell, I feel a little strongly about this book. As a practicing physician myself, I get to see the damage done every day by medications. It is absolute truth to tell you that I have some patients come into my office who are taking upwards of 20+ medications per day, and they seem to be hating life. Dr. Markham obviously feels secure enough in his position that he can be honest about what he thinks. That might not sound particularly daring, except that I can tell you that we routinely have patients referred to our office for a therapy modality that we perform, because the medical doctor who is referring them cannot perform it himself for fear of "losing his credibility".

In The Ultimate Prescription, Dr. Markham not only outlines a way to live, but the reasons behind it, and he makes no apology for the fact that his spiritual beliefs match up with those that science is now beginning to become aware of.

Do not read this book if you are happy living a drug filled, pain filled mundane existence. Put it back on the shelf, and go take your Prozac. However, if you want to learn what health is actually about, and how happiness can only be achieved by living in harmony with what you are, and what you were created to be, then read this book. It will change your life.

Thank to Tyndale House Publishers for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Dr. James L. Marcum here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 1/12

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Winter Promise...Review

About the book:
A painful past has left Doctor Elliot Jensen uninterested in love. Until he meets Abigail. Single, educated, and looking for a new start, Abigail Monroe decides to join her brother and his wife in Portersville, Texas. Near her twenty-fifth birthday and without a suitor, she fears she will become a spinster if she stays in Briar Ridge, Connecticut. A sprained ankle sends Abigail to the new doctor in town, Elliot Jensen. He is smitten, but tragedy in his past has left him bitter, guilt ridden, and afraid to fall in love again. When the town’s deputy sheriff rescues Abigail after a robbery, Elliot’s feelings for her get stronger. He is jealous of the attention Abigail is getting, but he fears he can’t compete with the handsome deputy sheriff and his heroic deeds. Has he waited too long to share his feelings for her? Or will Christmas bring them both the gift they seek? Set in the late 1800s, the Seasons of the Heart series follows the lives of four women and their families, weaving together their stories of faith, life, and love as they bond in friendship only God could orchestrate.

Not wanting to stay in Connecticut, Abigail travels to Texas to join her brother Daniel and his wife Kate and start a library.  She has no intention of falling in love, but soon finds herself attracted to two very different men.  Cory Muldoon, the charming deputy sheriff and the quiet town doctor.  As Abigail is prone to trouble, she finds herself in Doc Elliot's office time and again.  Shy and reticent from past tragedy, Elliot falls in love, but struggles with allowing his feelings to be known.  As Abigail discovers what her path is and the direction God wants her take, she must decide which man she truly loves. When Abigail finds herself kidnapped after a bank robbery, both men work to rescue her.

I was happy to learn Elliot's story and his romance with Abigail is so sweet.  I love the Muldoon and Monroe families and everyone returns in this story.  The book stands alone well, but it's always nice to read a series in order.

Third in the Seasons of the Heart series, you can click the links for my reviews for Summer Dream and Autumn Song and the fourth novel Spring Hope will be out in May.  I think Winter Promise is my favorite so far.

Thanks to First Wildcard and Charisma Media for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more abut Martha Rogers here. You can read the first chapter here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 1/12

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Accidental Bride...Review

About the book:
When a wedding reenactment turns real, this cowgirl suddenly finds she's an accidental bride.

Shay Brandenberger is raising her daughter in Moose Creek, Montana on her childhood ranch, nestled against the Yellowstone River. Despite her hard work, she can't seem to keep her head above water-and now the bank is threatening to foreclose. She prays for a miracle, but the answer she receives is anything but.

Having agreed to play the bride in the Founders Day wedding reenactment, Shay is mortified to be greeted at the end of the aisle by none other than Travis McCoy, her high school sweetheart-the man who left her high and dry for fame and fortune on the Texas rodeo circuit.

Then the unthinkable happens. Thanks to a well-meaning busy body and an absent minded preacher, the wedding reenactment results in a legal marriage. But before Shay can say "annulment," Travis comes up with a crazy proposal. If she refuses his offer, she'll lose her home. But if she accepts, she may lose her heart.

Shay isn't sure if the recent events are God's will or just a preacher's blunder. Will trusting her heart to the man who once shattered it be the worst mistake of her life? Or could their marriage be the best accident that ever happened?

After being left at the altar by her childhood sweetheart, Shay moves on with her life.  When Travis McCoy comes back into it however, that life is turned upside down.  When a wedding reenactment turns real, Shay wants nothing more than an annulment, but Travis has other ideas. Unable to convince Shay that he loves her, he instead convinces her to stay married, simply so she can keep her ranch.  Agreeing despite her misgivings, Shay must discover if Travis' intentions are honest and if this marriage is something she really wants.

A completely implausible premise, but a delightful heroine and a charming hero.  This was just one of those fun books.  Given the unbelievable premise, I fully expected to simply be entertained, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

The Christian elements are present, but light, just like the story.  This is one of those escape books that you can read without much effort, but still enjoy. The romantic elements were a bit more descriptive than one might find in Christian romance, but not necessarily inappropriate as they were between a married couple.  I actually found them refreshing.  Second in the Big Sky Romance series, the book stands alone well, but characters from A Cowboy's Touch return.

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

Read 2/12

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Everything Romance...Review

About the book:
Romance is always in season when you’re in love.

Ready to create romantic memories? If you’re looking for new and unique ways to celebrate love, captivate the heart of your true love, or simply enjoy each other’s company, Everything Romance offers all of this and much more.

Inside you’ll find…

Ways to engage your loved one with conversation starters for couples; Fun and creative date and gift ideas for any budget; Heartwarming love stories and poems; Love busters and love boosters to add fun, zing, and zest; Trivia about the history of love and romance; Recipes to fan the heartflames.

Why wait for a special occasion to share the joy of being in love? Opening Everything Romance is like opening a door to romantic adventure—any day, any time!

Any moment is the perfect time for you as a couple to celebrate the beauty and wonder of love, especially when you’re equipped with a treasure trove of creative ways to do so. With a rich array of romantic gems, Everything Romance abounds with all you need to show your adoration, revel in your relationship, and create a legacy of romance to last a lifetime.

This is a fun book about romance.  I don't know that it's one I would sit down with my husband and read together, but it was entertaining to read on my own.  I wouldn't call it a relationship book either, but more a place to get some cute ideas for dates or anniversaries, to read stories and anecdotes about love and romance and to find some potential recipes.

This would make a cute gift book for a newlywed couple or a new bride-to-be.  A bit sappy, but sweet.

Thanks to Ashley at WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group and First Wildcard for the opportunity to review this book. You can read the first chapter here. You can learn purchase your own copy here.

Read 1/12

* * *
3/5 Stars