Everyday Tidbits...

Be Kind. Do Good. Love is a Verb.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mother of Pearl...Review

About the book:
Barrie Graeber has two great kids, a loving husband, and a respected job as the high school counselor in her close-knit community. Without warning, everything unravels when her teenage daughter, Pearl, is betrayed by friends and lashes out.

Nothing prepares this mother for the helplessness that follows when her attempts to steer her daughter back on course fail and Pearl shuts her out . . . or when she discovers the unthinkable about her nemesis, the football coach. Emotionally riveting and profoundly moving, Mother of Pearl brings us into the heart of a mother bound by an incredible burden, who ultimately finds she must recognize her own vulnerability and learn to trust in something much bigger.

The premise of this book is compelling.  A mother who grieves over her daughter and fights to right the wrongs committed against her.  The story seemed well researched and there was a fair amount of suspense and tension, but  I just couldn't get into it.  Mine is only one of many other reviews, most of which I've found are positive.

Thanks to Rebeca at Glass Road for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Kellie Coates Gilbert here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/12

* *
2/5 Stars

Monday, September 24, 2012

With Every Letter...Review...DNF

About the book:
Lt. Mellie Blake is looking forward to beginning her training as a flight nurse. She is not looking forward to writing a letter to a man she’s never met–even if it is anonymous and part of a morale-building program. Lt. Tom MacGilliver, an officer stationed in North Africa, welcomes the idea of an anonymous correspondence–he’s been trying to escape his infamous name for years.

As their letters crisscross the Atlantic, Tom and Mellie develop a unique friendship despite not knowing the other’s true identity. When both are transferred to Algeria, the two are poised to meet face-to-face for the first time. Will they overcome their fears and reveal who they are, or will their future be held hostage by their pasts? Combining a flair for romance with excellent research and attention to detail, Sarah Sundin vividly brings to life the perilous challenges of WWII aviation, nursing–and true love.

I adored Sarah Sundin's Wings of Glory series and I was anxious for her new Wings of the Nightingale series.  I've had a hard time getting into With Every Letter though and I finally just had to set it aside.  Like all of Sarah's books, the setting and descriptions are vivid and her message of faith and hope is strong.   However, this time around, the characters just didn't click for me and I thought the story line was a bit contrived and hard to believe.  I hope that if I go back to this story sometime in the future, it will resonate a bit more for me.  But right now, it's not one I can get into and finish.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Sarah Sundin here. You can see other, positive reviews and tour stops here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/12

* *
2/5 Stars

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Reunion...Review

About the book:
There are people in this world we pass right by without giving a second thought. They are almost invisible. Yet some of them have amazing stories to tell, if we’d only take the time to listen . . .Aaron Miller was an old, worn-out Vietnam vet, a handyman in a trailer park. Forty years prior, he saved the lives of three young men in the field only to come home from the war and lose everything. But God is a master at finding and redeeming the lost things of life. Aaron is about to be found. And the one who finds him just might find the love of his life as well.

Expert storyteller Dan Walsh pens a new tale filled with the things his fans have come to love–forgiveness, redemption, love, and that certain bittersweet quality that few authors ever truly master. Fans old and new will find themselves drawn into this latest story about how God cares for everyone.

Like many Vietnam Veterans, Aaron Miller had suffered hardship and loss after returning home from a war that many felt was unnecessary.  After losing his faith, his family and his dignity,  Aaron pulls himself up from rock bottom to live a quiet, unassuming life in a small trailer park in Florida. Rarely thinking of himself, and never thinking about his Medal of Honor, Aaron nevertheless touches many lives in his quiet, giving way.  When Dave Russo, a reporter looking to interview Vietnam heroes, shows up at Aaron's home one day, Aaron wants to send him on his way.  But when Dave reveals who sent him on the search to find him, Aaron reconsiders and finds himself reunited with friends and family and his life changed in ways he never dreamed possible.

Dan Walsh has an extraordinary ability to capture the human spirit.  In this thought-provoking, tender story, he has also penned a beautiful tribute to those veterans who are overlooked and forgotten.  Aaron's story will tug at your heartstrings and have you cheering for the underdog well before the book ends.

While The Discovery is my favorite Dan Walsh book, The Reunion comes in a close second.

Available September 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 Dan Walsh here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/12

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Monday, September 10, 2012

Taste of Home Cooking School Cookbook...Review

About the book:
No matter what you crave, cook it with confidence with Taste of Home Cooking School Cookbook! Whatever your skill level in the kitchen, you will learn step-by-step techniques and discover new favorites with more than 400 best loved recipes and over 600 full-color photos from our expert instructors. Create a memorable game-day-get-together with nacho dip, hot wings and yummy pizza. Master the grill with succulent ribeyes, monster stuffed burgers and a whole salmon fillet that’s a real showstopper. Whip up sumptuous holiday meals with all of the trimmings from citrus-rosemary rubbed turkey with artichoke stuffing to chipotle sweet potatoes and caramel apple trifle. The Taste of Home Cooking School Cookbook features delicious dishes from breakfast to lunch to dinner and including dessert, of course.Sample recipes include:

Eggs Benedict Casserole
Brie Phyllo Cups
Sweet-Tangy Wings
French Onion Soup
Lemon Chicken Tortellini
Taco Lasagna
Roasted Chicken with Oyster Stuffing
Sizzling Ancho Ribeyes
Creamy Parmesan Spinach
Chocolate Mousse with Cranberry Sauce
Easy Grasshopper Ice Cream Pie

Contemporary topics are comprehensively explored with techniques ranging from simple basics to true wow-factor recipes. Each recipe has been tasted and reviewed in the Taste of Home test kitchen, plus there are over 140 practical, proven tips from our Cooking School experts—so you’ll enjoy perfect results every time.

One of the things I really like about the Taste of Home cooking magazines is the pictures.  And, this cookbook is full of them.  As near as I can tell, there is a picture for every recipe.  There is also an introduction which has some basic how to's, kitchen stocking and cookware helps and the occasional recipe also has how to photos along with the finished product.  Like most Taste of Home recipes, these are fairly easy and most can be prepared with what you already have in your pantry.

One of my favorites from this new cookbook is Cashew Chicken (page 71).  Easy and yummy.

This would be a great gift for a new bride or college student.

Thanks to Leyane at FSB Associates for the opportunity to review this cookbook.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 8/11

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Romulan War: To Brave the Storm...Review

About the book:
Earth Stands Alone

The Coalition of Planets has shattered, with Vulcan, Andor, and Tellar abrogating the treaty. Their pledge to come to the mutual defense of any power that is attacked has been shunted aside. Horrified by how easily the Romulans can seize control of their advanced starships, turning them into weapons, Andor and Tellar have joined Vulcan on the sidelines. Humanity is now the only thing that stands between the Romulan Star Empire and total domination of the galaxy.

To drive humans from the stars, the Romulans employ ruthless and murderous tactics... and even dare to strike on the Vulcan homeworld with the hopes of demoralizing their Vulcan brethren. Heartened by their victories, the Romulans carry their all-out war assault closer to the heart of humanity—Earth.

But the tattered remains of Starfleet stand unwavering, with the resolution that never again would any enemy strike ever reach Earth. On the front lines of the Earth- Romulan War is the United Earth flagship, the Starship Enterprise. Her captain, Jonathan Archer, has seen his vessel of exploration become a battleship. Once hailed for his work bringing the Coalition of Planets into existence, Archer is now a pariah. Undaunted, the captain keeps fighting, searching for allies and determined to do his duty: to save Earth and forge a new federation of planets.

The last book of the Romulan War series.  The story wraps up with the formation of the Neutral Zone and the creation of the Federation of Planets both of which are very familiar to fans of the Star Trek universe.  How that plays out and the role that Trip Tucker and Jonathan Archer play is what drives this fourth and final book.  I've read better Star Trek fan fiction, but I thought the story was clever and interesting and it wrapped up fairly well, if not a bit rushed.

In regards to Trip and T'Pol, I found the ending disappointingly vague and the epilogue mildly satisfying although speculative.  I would have rather had a definitive conclusion, but I realize that written the way it was, it fulfills the mystery that began in The Good That Men Do surrounding Trip Tucker's death and the rumored role he played in the ending of the Romulan War.

Personal copy
Read 8/12

* * *
3/5 Stars

Friday, September 7, 2012

Unending Devotion...Review

About the book:
Michigan, 1883

In Her Darkest Hours, Is He the Man She Needs?

Lily Young longs to find her lost sister or will die trying. Heedless of any danger, she searches logging camps and towns, posing as a photographer’s assistant. And then she arrives in Harrison, Michigan–and the sights of Connell McCormick.

Connell is determined to increase the fortune of his lumber-baron father and figures as long as he’s living an upright life, that’s what matters. But when Lily arrives in town she upends his world, forcing him to confront the truth that dangerous men have gained too much power while good men turn a blind eye.

Vexing but persuasive, Lily soon secures Connell’s help, drawing them ever closer to each other. Will standing for what’s right cost them both everything?

I really enjoyed Jody Hedlund's second novel The Doctor's Lady and looked forward to this one.  While I liked Lily and Connell well enough, this wasn't a story that truly resonated with me.  Although noble, Lily was little too good to be true.  The logging aspect was fascinating.  The descriptions were vivid and the story had compelling aspects. Fans of historical fiction and Jody Hedlund especially will enjoy it.  I found it a nice diversion and an easy, comfortable read.

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

Read 8/12

* * *
3/5 Stars

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor's Wing...Review

About the book:
At the start of the twenty-first century unconditional war swept across the Earth. A war that engulfed the great and the small, the rich and the poor, giving no quarter. Each side strove for unconditional victory, and as battle built upon battle the living began to envy the dead.

Chastised by the cataclysm that they had unleashed, the governments of Earth banded together. Humanity vowed to put an end to war, and to strive for the betterment of every living creature. A united Earth created Starfleet, an interstellar agency, whose mission was to explore the cosmos, to come in peace for all mankind. A naïve wish, yet man persists in the belief that peace is the way. Banding together with other powers to form a Coalition of Planets, humanity hopes that the strength each can offer the other, will allow for peaceful exploration.

The rise of the Coalition strikes dread within the Romulan Star Empire. They feel the growing reach will cut them off from what is rightfully theirs. But, the Romulans know that the alliance is fragile, that the correct strategy could turn allies into foes. Perfecting a way of remotely controlling Coalition ships and using them as weapons against each other, the Romulans hope to driving a wedge of suspicion and mistrust between these new allies.

One ship, one Starfleet captain uncovers this insidious plot, Jonathan Archer of the Enterprise. Determined not to lose what they have gained, out manned and out gunned, the captains of Starfleet stand tall vowing to defend every inch of Coalition space. The tide begins to turn. The Romulans now plan to strike at what they see as the heart of their problem. With nothing left to lose the Romulan Star Empire engages in all out war against humanity, determined once and for all to stop the human menace from spreading across the galaxy.

Picking up after Kobayashi Maru, the Romulan War continues and with the help of Commander Trip Tucker, still undercover in Romulus and Vulcan, Jonathan Archer learns of the Romulans plans to destroy the fledging Coalition of Planets.  T'Pol must return to Vulcan in hopes of persuading Minister T'Pau to enter the war.

Like the first two books in the series, this continues the adventures of Trip Tucker, once a Starfleet commander, now a Romulan spy.  There are a lot of foreign Romulan and Vulcan words and no glossary which gets annoying, but is easily overlooked.

Being a Trip and T'Pol fan, I loved their interactions. The story is rather fascinating, but it was sometimes difficult to keep track of all the non-Enterprise crew characters.  The fall out from Captain Archer's decision regarding the Kobayashi Maru resonates through out the story.

Personal copy

* * *
3/5 Stars

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Kobayashi Maru...Review

About the book:
To protect the cargo ships essential to the continuing existence of the fledgling Coalition of Planets, the captains of the United Earth's Starfleet are ordered to interstellar picket duty, with little more to do than ask "Who goes there?" into the darkness of space.

Captain Jonathan Archer of the Enterprise™ seethes with frustration, wondering if anyone else can see what he sees. A secret, closed, militaristic society, convinced that their survival hangs by a thread, who view their neighbors as a threat to their very existence -- the Spartans of ancient Greece, the Russians of the old Soviet Union, the Koreans under Kim Il-sung -- with only one goal: attain ultimate power, no matter the cost. The little-known, never-seen Romulans seem to live by these same principles.

The captain realizes that the bond between the signers of the Coalition charter is fragile and likely to snap if pushed. But he knows that the Romulans are hostile, and he believes they are the force behind the cargo ship attacks. If asked, Archer can offer no proof without endangering his friend's life.

To whom does he owe his loyalty: his friend, his world, the Coalition? And by choosing one, does he not risk losing all of them? What is the solution to a no-win scenario?

Continuing where The Good That Men Do left off, Kobayashi Maru furthers the story of Commander Trip Tucker's adventures deep undercover in Romulan space.

With the cancellation of the show Enterprise, right after the events of Terra Prime and the death of Trip and T'Pol's daughter, their story was never fully realized. This book series lets us see that relationship more fully realized.  Because of the bond they shared, T'Pol had never truly believed Trip was gone.  When he made contact with her towards the end of The Good That Men Do, she realizes that they are forever bonded and will always be connected.  As his mission and the mission of Enterprise continue, T'Pol finds that she is aware of Trip and when he is in trouble.

Like in The Good That Men Do, the story has some holes and loose ends that aren't completely wrapped up, but I loved seeing Trip and T'Pol together again and T'Pol taking risks that are ruled by emotion and not logic.

One of the things I enjoyed best about this novel is that it gives an explanation of the origins of the Kobayashi Maru test that all Starfleet cadets participate in.  A test that is referenced by Captain Kirk in the original series and a test that is witnessed in the new Star Trek film and a reference that all Star Trek fans recognize as the epitome of a no-win scenario.  How Captain Archer deals with the Kobayshi Maru situation will impact more than just Enterprise.

Personal copy
Read 8/12

* * *
3 Stars


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Good That Men Do...Review

About the book:
Pax Galactica. Enemies become allies. Old secrets are at last revealed. Long-held beliefs and widely accepted truths are challenged. Man turns to leisurely pursuits. In this golden age, two old friends are drawn together. They seek to understand, and wonder how what they have long believed, what they have been taught, was never so.

Over two hundred years ago, the life of one of Starfleet's earliest pioneers came to a tragic end, and Captain Jonathan Archer, the legendary commander of Earth's first warp-five starship, lost a close friend. Or so it seemed for many years. But with the passage of time, and the declassification of certain crucial files, the truth about that fateful day -- the day that Commander Charles "Trip" Tucker III didn't die -- could finally be revealed.

Why did Starfleet feel it was necessary to rewrite history? And why only now can the truth be told?

I love Star Trek.  I grew up watching the Original Series and have watched all the other incarnations of the show.  Star Trek Enterprise is my favorite and Commander Trip Tucker is one of my favorite Star Trek characters.  The Enterprise series finale These are the Voyages was a travesty as far as Trip's story was concerned. I didn't necessarily mind the inclusion of Riker and Troi and the holodeck recreation, but I refuse to the end of Trip's story as Star Trek canon.

When I discovered a book that rewrote Trip's history, I jumped at reading it and I wasn't disappointed.  The book picks up after the events of Terra Prime and the death of Trip and T'Pol's cloned daughter, Elizabeth.  Overcome with grief, Trip finds it hard to move on and accepts a deep cover assignment as a spy sent deep into Romulan space.  Captain Archer, Lieutenant Reed and Dr. Phlox are the only ones to know and they help Trip stage his death.

The story follows Trip as he is undercover on Romulus and the crew of the Enterprise and the Coalition of Planets as they face a threat from an as yet unknown enemy.

The story has some plot holes and continuity issues and in all honesty I think there are fan fictions that capture Enterprise better, but this continues the story of Commander Tucker and for that reason, I enjoyed it.  Fans of Enterprise will like it and a general knowledge of Star Trek history is helpful.

This is the first of a four book series, the next one being the Kobayashi Maru.

Personal copy
Read 8/12

* * *
3/5 Stars

Monday, September 3, 2012

Love's Reckoning...Review

About the book:
On a bitter December day in 1784, Silas Ballantyne arrives at the door of blacksmith Liege Lee in York County, Pennsylvania. Silas is determined to finish his apprenticeship quickly and move west. But because he is a fast worker and a superb craftsman, Liege endeavors to keep him in York by appealing to an old tradition: the apprentice shall marry one of his master's beautiful daughters.

Eden is as gentle and fresh as Elspeth is high-spirited and cunning. But are they truly who they appear to be? In a house laced with secrets, each sister seeks to secure her future. Which one will claim Silas's heart--and will he agree to Liege's arrangement?

In this sweeping family saga, one man's choices in love and work, in friends and enemies, set the stage for generations to come. This is the Ballantyne Legacy.

When Silas Ballantyne shows up on her family's doorstep, Eden is immediately intrigued by her father's young apprentice. He's a kind, god-fearing man and so completely out of place next to her father's angry, stern personality.  When Eden's father tries to persuade Silas to marry his daughter Elspeth, Eden wonders if she will ever find happiness of her own.

I have loved all of Laura Frantz's books and I was anxious for her new Ballantyne series.  And while I liked the book, I didn't love it and it won't become my favorite.  I don't know how you can follow Courting Morrow Little or The Colonel's Lady because the bar was set so high with those books and those wonderful heroines.

Eden isn't as strong a character as Morrow or Roxanne, but she is sweet and kind with a strong desire to help others.  However, growing up as she did in a home without faith or a belief in God and with an overbearing father and a jealous sister, it was easy to see why she was more meek. Even so, I found myself frustrated with Eden's actions at times and I wanted her to show more backbone than she did.  I truly hated her father and her sister who are two of the most odious characters I've ever read.

All of Laura's books have vivid descriptions and are rich in historical detail and while I missed her Kentucky setting, I enjoyed learning about 18th century Pennsylvania and the art of blacksmithing.  In Love's Reckoning, Laura also tackles the sober details of assault and unwed pregnancy, but it is all handled well.  Eden and Silas are characters you do come care about and cheer for as the progress along their rocky path toward love.

The teaser for the second book intrigued me as to what might happen next and I am curious to finish the Ballantyne series.

Available September 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Donna Hausler from Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Laura Frantz here. You can purchase your own copy home.

Read 8/12

* * * 3/5 Stars