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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fabio's Italian Kitchen...Review

About the book:
When Fabio Viviani was growing up in a housing project in Florence, Italy, the center of his world was the kitchen, where his mother, grandmother, and especially his great-grandmother instilled in him a love for cooking and good food.

Now he shares the best of Italian home cooking while telling the story of his hardscrabble childhood, his success as a chef in the United States, and the women in his family who inspired him. In more than 150 delicious recipes, Viviani takes us from his family home, where his great-grandmother taught him to make staples like Italian Apple Cake and Homemade Ricotta, to the kitchen of a local trattoria, where he honed his craft cooking restaurant favorites like Gnocchi and the Perfect Tiramisu, and then across Italy where he studied each region’s finest recipes, from Piedmont’s Braised Ossobuco to Emilia Romagna’s Perfect Meat Sauce.

A gorgeously illustrated cookbook, Fabio’s Italian Kitchen is a celebration of food and family that brings all the joy, fun, and flair that Fabio Viviani embodies to your kitchen.

Fabio Viviani was born in Florence, Italy, and became a sous chef at Il Pallaio, a trattoria in Firenze, at the age of sixteen. He now works as the owner and executive chef of Cafe Firenze, a renowned Italian restaurant in Ventura County, California, and Osteria Firenze, a Los Angeles Italian eatery. He has appeared on Top Chef (season five), Top Chef All Stars, and Life After Top Chef.

I can't say that I'm all that familiar with Fabio Viviani.  I don't have satellite or cable so I don't watch television and I've never seen him cook on television. I did, however, enjoy his cookbook. The book is full of history, explanations and anecdotes.  The recipes range from preparing basic pasta and sauces to more involved recipes.  I have quite a few marked to try.  I have always wanted to make my own pastas.

I loved his narration.  Food is to be enjoyed, it is not meant to impress.  Family dinners are important.

Very authentic.  Very Italian.

Thanks to Kristina Miller of Hyperion for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Fabio Viviani here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 6/13

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Monday, June 24, 2013

Mailbox Monday 6/24

It's time for another Mailbox Monday which was created by Marcia at The Printed Page, and this month is hosted by Bellezza of Dolce Bellezza.

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week... Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish list

This is what showed up at my house over the past couple of weeks.  Things are crazy around here and I haven't posted the bounty for awhile.

Small Town Girl  by Ann H. Gabhart (for review, from Baker Publishing)
Together Tea  by Marjam Kamali (for review, from TLC Book Tours)
A Most Peculiar Circumstance  by Jen Turano (for review, from Bethany House)

Born of Persuasion by Jessica Dotta (for review, from the author)
Stargazey Point by Shelley Noble (for review, from TLC Book Tours)
City of Hope Kate Kerrigan (for review, from TLC Book Tours)

 Godiva  by Nicole Galland (for review, from TLC Book Tours)
The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau (for review, from TLC Book Tours)
The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau (for review, from TLC Book Tours)


What new books did you receive?  For more Mailbox Monday posts, check out Dolce Bellezza.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Quarryman's Bride...Review

About the book:
Emmalyne Knox and Tavin MacLachlan were destined to be together...until the tragic deaths of Emmalyne's youngest sisters. Family tradition mandates that the youngest daughter should remain single to care for her parents in their old age, and now that daughter is Emmalyne. Her father unyielding, Emmalyne surrenders to her duty, heartbroken. Tavin leaves town, equally devastated.

Years later, Emmalyne's family moves, and she and Tavin meet again. Their feelings for each other are as strong as ever, but their painful past and Emmalyne's father still stand between them. Soon both families are in the midst of the growing conflict rising between the workers at the granite quarry that Tavin's father owns and operates. When a series of near-fatal accidents occur, Tavin must figure out who is behind the attacks before someone gets killed.

Bound by obligation, yet yearning for a future together, can Emmalyne and Tavin dare to dream that God could heal a decade-long wound and change the hearts of those who would stand in the way of true love?

Engaged to be married, Emmalyne and Tavin are torn apart when Emmalyne's youngest sisters are killed.  Tradition in the Knox family says that the youngest daughter must care for her parents and so bound by duty to her domineering father, Emmalyne leaves Tavin to be with her family.  Tavin, his heart equally broken, leaves as well to find his own way in the world, away from stonecutting.

When Emmalyne's family returns to the quarry years later, she learns that Tavin is back as well and together they discover that their love is still strong.  But Emmalyne's father is unyielding and she wonders if they will ever be able to be together.

I despised Emmalyne's domineering father, but I appreciated that he finally came around.  I found the exploration of the early formation of unions interesting.  The story is a romance, but it's not warm and fluffy.  Rather, like the granite cut from the quarry, it has its rough, raw moments.  But, it's a story of love and loyalty and one I enjoyed.

This is second in The Land of Shining Water series, but it is not a true sequel to The Icecutter's Daughter and the books stand alone.

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

Read 6/13

* * *
3/5 Stars

Friday, June 21, 2013

Red Dawn Rising...Review

About the book:
Twenty-seven-year-old Cass Rodino is a hardworking, dedicated set designer on Broadway. But, like the actors who take the stage every night, she is masking a different reality. Her secrets lie deep within past wounds too severe to expose to anyone.

Evgeny Kozlov has secrets of his own. A former KGB assassin, he is trying to outrun the underground revolution he once served. Trying to right his wrongs, he's in a race against time and against a former colleague, Ivan, who has sinister plans to bring down the United States, including an assassination attempt on famed pianist Liesl Bower.

As Cass and Evgeny separately set out to save Liesl from an impending doom, both are hurled into a fierce CIA/FBI dragnet, not knowing that their formidable opponent--a most unlikely predator--is already closing in on them.

Book 2 of the Red Returning Trilogy, Red Dawn Rising mixes suspense, action, and romance in a tale of personal tragedy and triumph that will keep readers pivoting between the evil desires of world powers and the redeeming powers of personal faith, life, and love.

I really enjoyed The Sound of Red Returning and was thrilled to see that the sequel had been published.  All my favorite characters returned and a not so favorite character ends up being a hero in this novel.  Evgeny Kozlov was the assassin sent to kill Liesl Bower in The Sound of Red Returning.

Red Dawn Rising returns us to a world where many in Russia aren't content in its place on the world stage and want to see the USSR rise again as a world power.  A mastermind, known only as The Architect is pursuing his plan to terrorize America and plant seeds of doubt and mistrust among its people to bring America down from within and further his cause of a reborn Soviet Union.

Evgeny has escaped his homeland and pursues the Architect and once he learns that Liesl is still a target, he goes to her aid.  At the same time, a young Broadway set designer inadvertently discovers a terrorist plot and finds herself on the run with Evgeny and Liesl.

The intrigue and suspense are fast paced.  The characters are likeable, believable and well developed.
I do recommend reading The Sound of Red Returning first as it lays the groundwork for the story and introduces these fantastic characters.

Thanks to Kregel Publications for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Sue Duffy here. You can see other reviews here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 6/13

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Pennsylvania Patchwork...Review

About the book:
Meeting the family that her mother had kept hidden from her, Holly comes face to face with her real life and blood legacy. She also falls for the charming Zach, a handsome Mennonite veterinarian who is everything she's ever wanted in a husband: confident, kind, successful, and authentic. And Zach proposes marriage. Is this too soon? Is this the right choice?

Mother and Amish grandmother think she's rushing into too much of a lifestyle change. Holly is in love with Zach and that precludes everything. Until she meets an attractive Amish man. And an old suitor shows up.

Pennyslvania Patchwork is the moving, richly told story of one woman's heart, her faith and trust, and the choices she makes. Never easy, but one choice can change your destiny.

The original review invitation for this book listed it as the first in a series.  However, it is the second in a series and that is a big issue as you really needed to read this first one.  Had I known it was part of a series I hadn't read, I probably wouldn't have requested it.  I felt like I was missing out by not reading the books in order.

While I love the heroine's name, I did not care for her or any of these characters.  Had I gotten to know them in the first book and been able to understand the history and relationships, I might have enjoyed them better. There is a lot of meddling and a lot of criticism.  Holly's grandmother is a right piece of work.

Bottom line is that fans of Kate Lloyd will probably love it and those who appreciate Amish fiction should read this series in order.  I believe the first book is called Leaving Lancaster.  This just wasn't for me which is a bummer because I like Amish books with characters who return to the fold as well as those Englisch who join.

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

Read 6/13

* *
2/5 Stars

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Deadly Devotion...Review...DNF

About the book:
Research scientist Kate Adams and her colleague Daisy are on the brink of a breakthrough for treating depression with herbal medicine when Daisy suddenly dies. Kate knows that if it hadn’t been for Daisy’s mentorship, she wouldn’t have the job she loves or the faith she clings to. So when police rule Daisy’s death a suicide, Kate is determined to unearth the truth.

Former FBI agent Tom Parker finds it hard to adjust to life back in his hometown of Port Aster. Though an old buddy gives him a job as a detective on the local police force, not everyone approves. Tom’s just trying to keep a low profile, so when Kate Adams demands he reopen the investigation of her friend’s death, he knows his job is at stake. In fact, despite his attraction to her, Tom thinks Kate looks a bit suspicious herself.

As evidence mounts, a web of intrigue is woven around the sleepy town of Port Aster. Can Kate uncover the truth? Or will Tom stand in her way?

Suspense and romance is usually a combination that works for me.  Add in herbal and homeopathic subjects and it's good.  I just couldn't get into this one.  The characters were annoying rather than engaging.  The whole thing was just too much of a stretch. I finally just skimmed it and really didn't miss anything, which is a bummer because I was looking forward to this one.  It's the first in a series and often subsequent books outshine the initial ones, so I am hopeful for the next one.

Available June 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.  You can learn more about Sandra Orchard here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 5/13

* *
2/5 Stars

Friday, June 7, 2013

That Certain Summer...Review

About the book:
Karen and Val are family-yet they’re anything but close. Karen has carried the burden of responsibility for her aging mother ever since her gorgeous sister left town years ago to pursue a career in theater. But Val had darker reasons for leaving town-as well as a secret to keep-and coming home has never been an option . . . until their mother suffers a stroke.

Reunited in their hometown, Karen and Val must grapple with their past mistakes, their relationship with each other, and their issues with a mother who is far from ideal. When a physical therapist raising his daughter alone and a handsome but hurting musician enter the picture, the summer takes on a whole new dimension. As their lives intersect and entwine, can each learn how to forgive, how to let go, and how to move on? And strengthened by the healing power of faith, might they also find the courage to love?

With her trademark compelling characters and heartwarming hope, fan favorite Irene Hannon offers her readers an inspiring true-to-life tale of complex family relationships, transgressions revealed and forgiven, and the complicated process of finding love.

I have enjoyed everything I've read by Irene Hannon.  Her way with suspense is fantastic.  Her newest story however, isn't suspenseful.  Instead, it's a thoughtful, family-themed romance novel.  I loved these characters, I loved seeing them grow and change.  Being one of 4 daughters in my family, I can relate to Karen and Val in many ways.  Some of us aren't as close as we are with the others and we've had our share of sibling conflicts, but we love each other.  Fortunately we don't have a mother like Margaret who was cold and withdrawn and pitted one daughter against the other.  Margaret never redeemed herself to me, even when I learned her history, but she certainly softened a bit toward her daughters which was nice.

The story is richest with Karen and Val's interactions and I loved how their relationship changed and how they came to understand one another.  There really is nothing like a sister to talk to and confide in and I loved the sisters' relationship.

Irene touches on themes of divorce, infidelity and abortion and does so in a remarkably sensitive manner.  The Christian elements are strong and there is much talk of faith and forgiveness.  Everything wraps up neatly but in a heart-warming way that just makes you smile.

Available June 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Donna at Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this novel.  You can learn more about Irene Hannon here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 6/13

* * * *
4 Stars

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Booking Through Thursday...Choosing

What makes you choose the books you read? Genre? Reviews? Certain authors? Covers? Recommendations?

It's a combination of factors, really.

I have favorite authors whom I will always read.  I have genres I avoid in general. I rely a lot on recommendations and reviews.  I have my reading lists where I keep track of the books I want to read.

I will admit that covers have a big play in that.  Namely because it's so easy to spot a self-published book just by the cover and self-published books are usually not well edited and frustrate me more than entertain me.  Covers that are attractive will pull me in and then a really well written blurb helps.

What about you?

Go here for more BTT posts.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Simply Delicious Amish Cooking...Review

About the book:
Unbeknownst to many folks outside the Amish Mennonite population in America, Pinecraft, Florida---a village tucked away in the heart of Sarasota---is the vacation paradise of the Plain People. Unlike any other Plain community in the world, this village is a virtual melting pot of Amish and Mennonites from around the world, intermingled with people, like author Sherry Gore's family, who live there year-round. Gore has put together a cookbook that represents the people who make Pinecraft unique.

With hundreds of easy-to-prepare recipes, 16 full-color photographs and black-and-white photographs throughout, this cookbook includes traditional favorites such as Sweet Potato Sweet Mash and Mrs. Byler's Glazed Donuts, as well as Florida favorites including Fried Alligator Nuggets, Grilled Lime Fish Fillets, and Strawberry Mango Smoothies. Interspersed with the recipes are true-life stories about births, engagements, weddings, deaths, funerals, celebrations, wildlife encounters, and accidents told through years of Sherry's Letters from Home column published in The Budget, the Amish newspaper. This delightful cookbook offers readers a faith-based, family-focused perspective of the simple way of life of the Plain People. It is truly a breath of fresh air from Sarasota, Florida!

Simply Delicious Amish Cooking is as interesting a book to read as it is a cookbook. Sherry Gore of Pinecraft, Florida has compiled a wonderful, easy to use cookbook with recipes gleaned from family and friends.  It's very much like an old-time church or community cookbook.  Interspersed with the recipes are thoughts and anecdotes and true life tidbits from those who have shared recipes.

I love the spiral binding that allows the book to truly lay flat, but also has ease of turning.

Some recipes, not all, have serving sizes. I wish every recipe did. There are no photos for each recipe although there are a couple of color plates with selected recipe photos.  The index is nice with categories for meals: Appetizers, Main Dish, Desserts, etc.  It is also indexed by main ingredients: poultry, beef, pasta, etc.

This is isn't a cookbook for healthy or clean eaters, but it is a down home cookbook.  Chances are most ingredients are already in your pantry.  The recipes aren't fancy and they're written by experienced cooks, so some instructions may seem lacking in detail.

I baked Lisa's Brown Bread which was fantastic and makes the most delicious toast.  I also made the Hand-Breaded Pork Chops and Creamy Country Gravy, which also received rave reviews from my husband.  You can see those recipes on my cooking blog.

Thanks to BookSneeze for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Sherry Gore here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 5/13

* * * *
5/5 Stars

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Season of Mysteries...Review

About the book:
Some may think the ability to recall entire conversations verbatim is a remarkable gift. But to fifty-year-old Dr. Richard Powell, it is a disruptive burden. He is being haunted by words. The words take him back to 1976, to the unforgettable summer when he and his friends of Boy Scout Troup 44 first witness an epic conflict between good and evil.

Faith was relatively new to Zack, Donnie, Skeeter, and the other boys who had played together on the 1971 champion Little League team. That baseball season was forever imprinted on their souls, due in large part to the life-changing actions of a boy named Rafer. But this summer, they would discover the real depth of their souls and the dangerous influences battling for control of their lives.

A follow-up to Whitener's acclaimed debut novel, A Season of Mysteries takes readers back to a time between the innocence of childhood and the uncertainty of teenage years; where girls, studies, and life's bigger issues become a reality. With the same gripping prose that made Whitener an award-winning screenplay writer, A Season of Mysteries explores the seen and unseen spiritual powers at work and the Ultimate Power who controls it all.

I loved Rusty Whitener's debut novel, A Season of Miracles.  I loved it.  It was heartwarming and inspiring. When I learned he'd written a sequel, I was excited to read it.

The book takes place about 40 years after the first one.  And nearly all of my favorite characters from Miracles return as well as some new ones. Now a professor, a chance encounter with another scholar causes Richard Powell to flash back to 1976 and remember the summer he and his friends discovered that evil really does exist in the world.

The author has taken a scriptural premise for the book: that demons, or fallen angels live among us and their only desire is to destroy you. Whether that interpretation is accurate or not has long been a topic for religious discussion and argument. In A Season of Mysteries however, Richard and his friends discover this spiritual warfare in a very real way.  As teenage boys, they are impressionable in many ways, good and bad.  Their interests are sports and girls and for some, new found faith in Christ. New friends test that belief and the boys come away stronger.

I can't pinpoint what it is about this novel that was so unsettling to me.  It just wasn't one I particularly enjoyed although the writing is fantastic.  Rusty Whitener has a way with words that is lyrical and almost magical.  The characters were memorable and likeable.  They still play baseball.  It's a great coming of age novel.  But, it's one that just didn't sit well with me.

Thanks to Kregel Publications for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Rusty Whitener here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 6/13

* *
2/5 Stars