Monday, June 27, 2016

America's Best Breakfasts by Lee Brian Schrager and Adeena Sussman (Cookbook Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the book-

Rise and dine! If there’s one meal of the day to get passionate about—no matter where you’re from in this great land—it’s breakfast with all the fixings. Featuring down-home diners, iconic establishments, and the newest local hot spots, America’s Best Breakfasts is a celebration of two of this nation’s honored traditions: hitting the open road and enjoying an endless variety of breakfasts. Even without a road trip, you can re-create favorites that will satisfy any time of day:
 
Shrimp and Grits, Hominy Grill, Charleston 
Croque Monsieur Sandwiches, Tartine, San Francisco 
Kimchi Pancakes, Sunshine Tavern, Portland
Filipino Steak with Garlic Fried Rice, Uncle Mike’s, Chicago
Cannoli French Toast, Café Lift, Philadelphia
Brioche Cinnamon Buns, Honey Bee, Oxford
Morning Glory Muffins, Panther Coffee, Miami


My thoughts-

 I am 100% a foodie. I love trying new things, I enjoy cooking. I love learning about other cultures through their cuisines. Breakfast may not seem like a foodie go-to type food, but I am also a southern girl and I appreciate a good buttered biscuit! There aren't many breakfasts foods that I don't like and it is a rarity to see an entire book devoted to the most important meal of the day so I was over the moon to discover America's Best Breakfasts. Not only does it spotlight my favorite meal of the day, it combines that with something else I enjoy, travel. I love that there are different sections devoted to different regions of the United States and that each section highlights some of the best restaurants of that region. There are so many mouth watering pictures of what look like delicious recipes. If you are looking to take your breakfast game to the next step or to get out of that eggs and bacon rut, America's Best Breakfast would be a great cookbook to have in your collection.  

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Amour Provence by Constance Leisure (Book Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

My thoughts-

A lush, evocative, debut novel set in Provence about the people who grow up and live and remain in two tiny neighboring villages—from the Nazi occupation to the present day—in particular, one man and one woman who have yet to find love.

In the south of France farm life unfolds with the rhythm of the seasons. But the lives of these villagers in Amour Provence reflect the reality that themidi is a place of extremes, the summers of unbearable heat and the winters that are often rude and harsh. Like the climate, the characters find themselves swept away by storms of unannounced and devastating intensity. A vintner’s adolescent son has a passionate romance with his schoolmate’s mother and they suffer different and enduring consequences. A young Arab woman forced into an arranged marriage, learns that life in the land of Liberté and Egalité can be just as confining as in her own country. A French woman who has lived abroad for many years returns home and discovers that certain members of her family are not pleased to have her back. An unexpected encounter with his past brings new sparks of life to a man who believed he had lost everything, including the only woman he ever loved.

In these two small adjacent villages in the South of France, characters lead lives that overlap and intertwine. Many are close neighbors who have known each other from childhood, linked by ancestors who clung for centuries to their patrimony, the land, which had always been poor, but is now a source of wealth drawn from wine, olives, and tourists. They know a great deal about each other’s hidden passions and weaknesses. Age-old resentments and closely guarded secrets retain their hold but are never to be discussed. Amour Provence is a portrait of lives deeply lived, shadowed by the past, against the backdrop of a region and a nation gripped by change.


My thoughts-

If anything French is involved, it is pretty much a given that I will be attracted to it. Lately I have been particularly drawn to Provence, so even the title of this novel alone drew me in. This book was part romantic (the descriptions of the beautiful vineyards and the thought of living in a small village in France) and many parts drama and tragedy. There were times were it was difficult to follow along because there is no clear indication of era changes or points of view changing until you read the new chapter and realize that each new chapter is a different time or person narrating. Once I got the flow of the way the book was written, I couldn't put it down. I found Didier, Bertie, and Euphemie particularly interesting and definitely got through the parts of the book about them much faster than the rest. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a challenging, yet poignant book to read. 

Amour Provence will be available for purchase July 5, 2016. You can pre-order your copy on Amazon.com. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Taste of Persia by Naomi Duguid (Cookbook Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the book-

Following up on Burma, her stunningly well-received exploration of another fascinating cultural crossroads, Duguid introduces us to the next place we want to visit with recipes for food we can't wait to make, and with tales that are memorable and moving. In the way that the Mediterranean has a common palate, so too do these nations: one centered on a love for the fresh and the green (beginning with the piles of fresh herbs that accompany every dish with abandon) and also the tart, as revealed in the ingenious use of sour plums, sour cherries, pomegranates, and limes. There are the delectable filled dumplings, flatbreads, and stuffed vegetables; plus gorgeous Persian rice dishes, grilled meats, and skewered kebabs. There are fresh cheeses, sparkly salads, spice blends, and spectacular sauces based on walnuts ground to a paste.

Taste of Persia is an adventure of discovery—not only of a fascinating region, rich with history and variety, but of a wealth of culinary traditions and innovations as well.

My thoughts-

My husband's parents were both born in Tehran and grew up in Iran until they were older (one a teenager and one a young 20-something) when the moved to the United States. The second that I started dating their soon I became enamored with Persian food. The food is aromatic and flavorful and different from anything I have tasted, even 13 years later. I have one Persian cookbook and it is well worn but I have always wanted more than what that particularly book had to offer. Taste of Persia drew my attention because of the beautiful cover, that evokes a very Iranian feel for me with it's use of color, particularly the saffron water. The cover is only the beginning of an entire book of beautiful photography. I like that the book is full of great photos of different markets around the regions, gorgeous pictures of vibrantly colored foods, and, of course, pictures of people from this region.  I also enjoyed that this book wasn't just about Iranian food, but about the history of Persia and Persian food and the surrounding regions with equally as interesting cuisine. This cookbook was well researched and I appreciate that. Now, on to the food. I am only familiar with Iranian food so the other countries in the region showcased in the book were all new to me and I could pretty much try anything in this book and guarantee I would like it. My only complaint is that a couple of my favorite Iranian recipes, recipes that would be very popular in the region, aren't included in the book and that is a shame for people who are new to this type of food. However, the rest of the book more than makes up for these omissions. I look forward to experimenting in my kitchen with Taste of Persia on my cookbook stand guiding me along. 

Taste of Persia will be available on September 20, 2016. You can pre-order your copy on Amazon.com.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Chasing Grace (Movie Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the dvd via Edify Media in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the movie-

A tragic accident threatens to destroy a pastor’s family and sets into motion a complex betrayal between two brothers, while exposing secrets no one wants to face.

Pastor Jonathan Matheson lives in a world of black and white, yet finds a way to navigate the “grey in-between” to work to his advantage, while facing one of the most tragic moments of his life. Set in small-town America and woven inside a tale of redemption, “Chasing Grace” is a story of how one family takes on the burden of guilt in order to make sense of their loss. While pointing the finger of blame at his brother, Pastor Jonathan also chooses to hide from the truth while trying to escape his own personal demons. “Chasing Grace” is loosely based upon true events and provides a powerful story about the redeeming power of forgiveness.


My thoughts-

Tragedies have a way of bringing out some pretty heavy emotions in the affected people, especially when it is unexpected and even more so when it involves a child. The Matheson family exemplifies this statement. They are all spiraling out of control in their own ways after the death of the youngest child (and only girl) in the house after a traumatic accident one of her brothers witnessed. It is a hard movie to watch. It starts with the funeral of the young Matheson daughter and then shows us in bits and pieces what really happened to her. It was really heavy stuff and at times it was hard to stay sympathetic to some of these characters, but in the end I think redemption and forgiveness are the main themes. There are some pretty difficult scenes and themes (a suicide attempt, alchoholism), but movies like this are a good way to broach these kinds of subjects with kids that might not have otherwise have come up organically during a conversation.  I would recommend this movie for adults and older kids and teenagers. 

http://chasinggracemovie.com/

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Awakened (Movie Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the movie via Edify Media in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

About the movie-

Newspaper reporter Jacob Harker (Rob Boltin) loses his job, forcing he and his wife, Haley (Gwendolyn Edwards), to move into a small rental house owned by Webster Cain (Michael Monks). In the process of moving in, Jacob discovers a discarded audio recording of 60’s blues singer Carol James (Hannah Hughes). Captivated by the voice on the recording, Jacob conducts an investigation into Carol James’ life and death.  Through his pursuit, Jacob becomes haunted by an evil spirit. While the spirit seductively persuades Jacob, drawing him deeper and deeper into its own malicious plot, the spirit attacks and terrorizes Haley, creating both fear and distrust in the Harker’s home. Haley sees her husband turning into someone less recognizable each day.
How can a marriage survive such attack, deception, and evil?
Can the faith of one help restore the condition of another?

My thoughts-

This was the first movie I have ever heard of in the Christian movie world that is a suspense movie. I thought it was an interesting story line and thought the movie did a good job of keeping the story moving and interesting. It was fun trying to figure out what exactly the spirit was after through Jacob. I enjoyed the beautiful singing of Hannah Hughes as Carol James and seeing how this obsession of with Carol James does to the Harker's marriage. I hope to see more movies along similar lines as "Awakened". This was a great suspense movie for fans of this genre who are looking for something that will keep you on your toes and guessing, but without the gore and violence of other typical horror movies. I recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys a good mystery. 

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Watch the "Awakened" trailer below-

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The World In My Kitchen by Sally Brown and Kate Morris (Cookbook Review)

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the book-

Imagine a book that transports kids thousands of miles away with the fresh, healthy dishes of different lands. This book leads little people to explore countries and cuisines to try themselves. Simple recipes, using fresh, healthy and easy-to-source ingredients, with suggested substitutions, will open up different tastes, aromas and cuisines.

My thoughts-

The World in My Kitchen is the perfect cookbook to introduce kids to other cultures and the wide array of food choices available from around the world. I love that this book is written to the children and not the parents and I like how it is written in subsections of each continent. My favorite thing about this book is that it is multi-faceted. Yes, there are delicious recipes from different regions of the world, but there is also information about where the food comes from, why it is called what it is and in the top corner of the book there is a cool feature on each recipe that says the recipe name in English, and it's native language. The World in My Kitchen is a great tool to have in your kitchen for your budding chef or travel enthusiasts sure to help you create some beautiful and tasty family memories. 

The World in My Kitchen will be available July 26. You can pre-order your copy on Amazon.com.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Ringmaster's Wife by Kristy Cambron (Book Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions are 100% my own. 

About the book-

What is revealed when you pull back the curtain of the greatest show on earth?
Rosamund Easling is no stranger to opulence. As the daughter of an earl, she's grown up with all the comforts money can buy. But when hard times befall the family's Yorkshire estate in the aftermath of the Great War, the stage is set for a series of events that change her world beyond even her wildest dreams.
Though expected to marry for a title instead of love, Rosamund feels called to a different life—one of adventure outside the confines of a ladies' parlor. When her father sells her beloved horse, she abandons all she's known and follows in pursuit as her horse is shipped to the new owner—an American entertainer by the name of John Ringling. Knowing she has much to learn, Rosamund agrees to a bareback riding apprenticeship in the shadow of the Ringlings' home—the Ca'D'Zan. In what would become the last days of the enigmatic Mable Ringling's life, Rosamund finds a deeper sense of purpose in her new life and begins to experience the awakening of faith.
With a mysterious and dazzling supporting cast of characters, Rosamund journeys far from the traditions of the English countryside to the last days of the Roaring Twenties—a journey that forever changes what her life might have been.

My thoughts-

I have been waiting patiently for Kristy Cambron's newest book to come out. I love WWII fiction so her first two novels are favorites of mine. When I heard her newest book was going to be about the circus, I was interested to see what this new novel, so different from her previous two, would be like. It is still historical fiction and that will be the genre I reach from 9 times out of 10. If you have ever been captivated by the splendor of the circus, you will appreciate Cambron's imagining of Ringling Bros. Circus in the early days. Complete with a English lady who runs away to join the circus, her horse, and of course, a little romance, Kristy Cambron has vividly brought to life what it might be like to be a part of the Greatest Show on Earth. I absolutely recommend The Ringmaster's Wife to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or romance.