Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Witches of Cambridge by Menna Van Praag (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 thoughts stated are 100% My own. 

About the book-

Be careful what you wish for. If you're a witch, you might just get it.

Amandine Bisset has always had the power to feel the emotions of those around her. It's a secret she can share only with her friends—all professors, all witches—when they gather for the Cambridge University Society of Literature and Witchcraft. Amandine treasures these meetings but lately senses the ties among her colleagues beginning to unravel. If only she had her student Noa's power to hear the innermost thoughts of others, she might know how to patch things up. Unfortunately, Noa regards her gift as a curse. So when a seductive artist claims he can cure her, Noa jumps at the chance, no matter the cost.

Noa's not the only witch in over her head. Mathematics professor Kat has a serious case of unrequited love but refuses to cast spells to win anyone's heart. Her sister, Cosima, is not above using magic to get what she wants, sprinkling pastries in her bakery with equal parts sugar and enchantment. But when Cosima sets her sights on Kat's crush, she conjures up a dangerous love triangle.

As romance and longing swirl through every picturesque side street, the witches of Cambridge find their lives unexpectedly upended and changed in ways sometimes extraordinary, sometimes heartbreaking, but always enchanting.

My thoughts-

The Witches of Cambridge was such a magical book! I enjoyed getting to know all of the
witches and how their powers played into their lives. It was fun imagining how I might 
feel or what I might do (or not do) if I had the gifts that they each did. I always enjoy
books with several characters and seeing how they all tie together in the end. There was
humor and sadness and a good dose of magic, but it wasn't so out there that the characters
were not easy to relate to. There were plot points to keep the pages turning and a little
romance  (complete with love spell shenanigans along the way) and that is the way I like my books.
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys contemporary fiction with a twist of fantasy.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Meet Me in My Cape Cod Kitchen by Linda Marie Steele (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-

With more than 60 delicious recipes, this book celebrates sharing good food with family and friends, inspired by the sweetness of living by the beach. Accompanied by food photography and beautiful Cape Cod landscapes, chapters focus on baked goods such as cakes, cookies, quick breads, cheesecake and biscotti, as well as appetizers, entrees, and salads and even summertime-perfect drinks. Many of the easy-to-follow recipes rely on seasonal and regional ingredients, such as Linda’s Supreme Lemon Cake, Cape Cod Cranberry Loaf, Turkey and Cranberry Empanadas, Linda’s Simple Lobster Salad, and Bella’s Raspberry Tea. Children will enjoy helping with treats such as Nana’s No-Fail Sugar Cookie Recipe, which the author makes with lobster-shaped cookie cutters. This celebration of Cape Cod focuses on gratitude for simple pleasures and includes reflections on life in a seaside community.

My thoughts- 

Last summer my family and I had the immeasurable pleasure of  vacationing on Cape Cod. Ever since, each of us has expressed in interest in going back, it was one of the most pleasurable experiences of my life. Meet Me in My Cape Cod Kitchen brought me back to being surrounded by the water, the friendly locals. and gave me the opportunity to imagine living in such a magical place. I enjoyed all of Lina Marie Steele's recipes, but what I loved more were here snippets at the beginning of each recipe connecting them to her experiences living on the Cape. I did expect there to be more savory dishes indigenous to the Cape Cod area, but as soon as I read Ms. Steele got her start blogging about her baking, it made sense that a lot of the book was baked goods. Still, there were some fantastic recipes to be found, including a quintessential Cape Cod recipe for Clam Chowder (my 8 year old will be ecstatic that we can try to re-create her favorite dish from our trip at home!). There were also drink recipes and enough dessert recipes to keep you busy for a long while. I can flip through this book and dream about being back in Cape Cod until we can find our way back to Massachusetts. I recommend this book to anyone interested in cooking or travel.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Anne Frank in the Secret Annex by The Anne Frank House (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. 

About the book-

An extraordinary story of Anne Frank and the Secret Annex

For two years during the Second World War, young, Jewish Anne Frank lived in hiding from the Nazis. Everything she experienced, thought, and felt, she confided in her diary. She was just as frank in her descriptions of the seven other people in the Annex and of the five helpers who endangered their own lives to look after them. Years later, Anne Frank’s diary became world famous. The Secret Annex was so well set up that the hiders survived there for over two years. Who were these people, how did they meet, and what happened to them?

This book shows the background and organization of the Annex and the personal stories of all involved, as well as their relationships and their fates. It also offers many never-before-published photographs. The result is an extraordinary group portrait that stays with the reader long after the last page is turned.

My thoughts- 

By 8th grade, I am pretty sure almost everyone has read The Dairy of Anne Frank. It is a heartbreaking account of  a young teenage girl and her family forced to go into hiding to avoid being sent to the notorious concentration camps set up for citizens to be sent to for no other reason than that they were Jewish. It is a terrible mark on our world history, proof that mankind can be beyond evil, but Anne's account is well written and even optimistic. No one could possibly imagine being hidden in a tiny room with 7 other people in fear for their lives other than someone who has lived through it, so I think Anne's Diary is so fascinating to us because it is the closest glimpse we can get to understanding what the Jewish people went through during WWII.

The Franks and the other people hiding in the Annex building were not able to successfully hide for two years on their own, they had the help of several people who worked for Otto Frank, Anne's dad, help with food and other things they needed as well as keeping their location a secret. Anne Frank in the Secret Annex is kind of a profile on each person, the ones hiding in the annex, and the ones helping with hiding, both before, during, and after the war. Many of us are familiar with Miep Gies from The Diary of Anne Frank, but in this book we learn more not only about all of the people in the annex, but the people who helped keep them safe for as long as they could. There are profiles of each of these people with facts I have never previously seen before and more importantly tons of photographs of all of their lives so we can put names to faces and that really drives home the fact that these events actually happened to these real people. It is still unfathomable to me that there could be such hatred in the world, but it warms my heart that the friends of those in trouble would do whatever they could to keep their friends safe. I absolutely recommend this book to anyone interested in Anne Frank or WWII. As much as I would like to visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam someday, I am not sure when that may happen, so these pictures and these facts provided by the house itself definitely give me a feel for what the house hold in the meantime.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

When Calls the Heart: Complete Season 2

Disclosure of material connection- I received the dvd set 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 show-

From celebrated author Janette Oke (The Loves Comes Softly series) comes a rigorous and romantic adventure as epic as the wide frontier. Erink Krakow (Army Wives), Daniel Lissing (Eye Candy), Jack Wagner (Melrose Place) and Lori Loughlin (Full House, 90210) star in When Calls he Heart, "a beautiful story with roots in relationships, self-empowerment, and the enduring power of love" (Common Sense Media).

Elizabeth thatcher (Krakow) is a strong-willed teacher who has foregone the life of the big city and found a job, a home- and a bit of unexpected romance with a handsome Mountie named Jack- in the small frontier town of Hope Valley. But life on the frontier can hand you many tough turns, and so it is for Jack and Elizabeth as they face their very different upbringings, the pressures put upon them by family, rival suitors and even various criminal counterfeiters and kidnappers in their quest to find their place in this remote and rugged land.

My thoughts-

I absolutely adore When Calls The Heart. There is nothing else on television even remotely like it. I love getting lost in the old Canadian west, with it's cute sets and eccentric townspeople and, of course, the great romance. I love that there is a show on the air full of drama, humor and romance that I can watch while my kids are in the room. When Calls the Heart is based on a book series by Janette Oke about a woman from a wealthy family who leaves it all behind to be a school teacher in a tiny little town. She comes to love Hope Valley and finds romance with the handsome Mountie Jack. The first season introduced us to these characters and Hope Valley and set a great foundation. Season 2 was full of drama and several twists and turns. We even get to see Elizabeth go back home and live in her other fancier world for a while. There is also another romantic interest introduced for Elizabeth and we get to meet her sisters as well as Jack's brother. I love this box set because it is great to have all of the episodes in one place. There are also a couple of bonus discs with this set including behind the scenes footage with a cast and a short film inspired by a true story about two young children in Africa who lose their parents to the AIDS virus. It is a special bonus to get this short film in edition to this great show, prepare to be inspired! When Calls The Heart is one of my favorite shows on tv right now and I am counting down the days until season three continues in February. I can not wait! I recommend When Calls The Heart if you enjoy historical fiction or want a family friendly show.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth (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. 

About the book-

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Painter's Daughter by Julie Klassen (Book Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from Bethany House Publishers 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-

Sophie Dupont assists her father in his studio, keeping her own artwork out of sight. In private, she paints the picturesque north Devon coast, popular with artists--including handsome Wesley Overtree, who seems more interested in Sophie than the landscape.

Captain Stephen Overtree is accustomed to taking on his brother Wesley's responsibilities. Near the end of his leave, he is sent to find his brother and bring him home. Upon reaching Devonshire, however, Stephen is stunned to learn that Wesley has sailed for Italy and left his host's daughter in serious trouble.

Stephen feels duty-bound to act, and strangely protective of the young lady, who somehow seems familiar. Wanting to make some recompense for his own past failings as well as his brother's, Stephen proposes to Miss Dupont. He does not offer love, but marriage "in name only" to save her from scandal. If he dies in battle, as he fears, she will at least be a respectable widow.

Desperate for a way to escape her predicament, Sophie finds herself torn between her first love and this brooding man she barely knows. Dare she wait for Wesley to return? Or should she elope with the captain and pray she doesn't come to regret it?

My thoughts-

I don't even know where to begin with this story. I loved every single second of every single page, just as I have become accustomed to with each new Julie Klassen novel that comes out. This one is still her usual regency era fare, and it still has a very Jane Austen-esque feel which I love, but this book had the added element of scandal which was new and I quite enjoyed. Life isn't usually cookie cutter clean, even back in the day, so I appreciated a look into what might have happened in a scandalous situation in that time period.  I was immediately sympathetic for Sophie's character and enthralled with Stephen Overtree from their first meeting. He had a little bit of Mr. Darcy's brood going on, but right away we are shown he has a soft and caring heart, regardless of how it seems on the outside. I am glad that there was an opportunity to get to know Stephen as he and Sophie get to know each other before he went off to war. I enjoyed the entire cast of characters that live at or visit Overtree Hall. Klassen does a wonderful job of really making you feel like you understand the characters and the descriptions of the settings are amazing too. I absolutely recommend The Painter's Daughter (and all of Julie Klassen's novels) to anyone who enjoys regency era romances. She is, in my eyes, our current day Jane Austen and for that I am grateful.

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Friday, December 18, 2015

Maple Syrup Cookbook by Ken Haedrich (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-

Maple Syrup Cookbook has convinced thousands of readers that maple syrup makes just about everything taste better. Now, the revised third edition of this classic cookbook features full-color photographs and a dozen of the author's favorite new recipes. In all, the book now offers more than 100 ways to enjoy maple syrup at every meal, including Buttermik Corn Cakes, Banana Crepes with Maple Rum Sauce (perfect for an elegant brunch), Maple Cream Scones, Lacy Sweet-Potato Patties, Maple Bacon Strata, Curried Pumpkin-Apple Soup, Creamy Maple Fondue, Maple-Glazed Brussels Sprouts, Orange-Maple Wings, Beet and Pear Relish, Maple-Roasted Root Vegetables, Steamed Brown Bread, Maple Onion Marmalade, Hot & Spicy Shrimp Kabobs, Chicken with Maple-Mustard Glaze, and Crispy Maple Spareribs. There are barbecue sauces and salad dressings and dozens of tempting desserts, from Almond Bars and Coffee Chip Cookies to Maple Apple Pie, Maple Pecan Pie, Maple-Ginger Ice Cream, and much more. There's even a recipe for Maple Bread-and-Butter Pickles. This is a treasure chest of delightful recipes you'll turn to again and again.

My thoughts-  

Maple syrup is one of my favorite ingredients in food. I love a great quality maple syrup to top my waffles or pancakes or to use in place of white sugar in recipes. My absolute favorite meal of the day is breakfast. If I could get away with eating breakfast for every single meal, I totally would. Ken Haedrich's Maply Syrup Cookbook offers a wide variety of breakfast recipes so I my mouth was watering just flipping through the pages. I was happy to also see the inclusion of other meal types that use maple syrup including sides and entrees. One of my favorite parts of the cookbook were the recipes for sauces, jams and dressings. There are 100 recipes in the book, so plenty of ways to utilize your maple syrup! I recommend Maple Syrup Cookbook to the breakfast or brunch lover, or someone looking to use less white sugar in their recipes.