Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Awakening by K.E. Ganshert (Book Review)

*This is book 2 in a trilogy. Be sure to read The Gifting prior to picking up The Awakening. 

About the book-

"I can't go home. It's not safe. Nowhere is." 

Tess Eckhart isn’t crazy. She’s not suffering from psychosis. She and Luka Williams are part of The Gifting. Before they can find out what that means, the man with all the answers turns up dead. The only thing he left behind? A few patient files that lead to the nation’s most lawless city. 

With authorities chasing them, Luka and Tess escape into the very heart of peril and against all odds, find an underground community of people just like them. They aren’t gathered together for the sole purpose of survival, either. They have a plan and a purpose–to awaken as many people with The Gifting as possible. It’s dangerous and deadly work. Tess wants to help. Luka is desperate to keep her safe–a task that proves increasingly difficult as Tess’s gifting comes to light. 

Is Tess Eckhart the One they’ve been waiting for? The One with the power to save them all?

My thoughts-

I flew through The Gifting in a few short days and I am so happy that The Awakening, the second book in the trilogy, was released just a few months later or I would be dying from anticipation!I bought it the day it came out and it didn't take long to be hooked.  It is a rarity that the middle book in a trilogy is much more than filler to hold us over until the third book and conclusion of the series, but that is not the case with The Awakening. I would even venture to say I enjoyed this one more than the first. There was so much action and so much suspense, I once again read through the entire book in just a few days...I couldn't put it down. I am so excited to read the conclusion in the final book, until then I will be on edge wondering what will happen to our hero Tess, her guy Luka, and all of the people with "the gifting".

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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Everything You and I Could Have Been if We Weren't You and I by Albert Espinosa (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-

Can you imagine a future where everyone has given up sleeping?
From the creator of the television series Red Band Society and author of the international bestseller The Yellow World comes this uniquely special novel.
What if I could reveal your secrets with just a glance? And what if I could feel with your heart just by looking at you? And what if --in a single moment-- I could know that we were made for each other? Marcos has just lost his mother, a famous dancer who taught him everything, and he decides that his world can never be the same without her. Just as he is about to make a radical change, a phone call turns his world upside down.

Albert Espinosa has a peculiar talent for generating immediate congeniality around him, for shifting people's moods toward the positive and for reconciling them with themselves and the world, when needed.

My thoughts-

I was one of the many heartbroken fans that was disappointed when Red Band Society was canceled after one short season. The show had so much potential and was cute short way before it's prime. When I saw that the creator decided to delve into the world of YA fiction, I was definitely on board to give the book a try. Espinosa writes in a consistently fluid way that keeps you turning the pages. Before I knew it, I was already 50% in. I felt that the world that he has created  in Everything You and I Could Have Been if We Weren't You and I was intriguing and I would like to know more about it. The protagonist has a serious Oedipus complex which may frighten some readers away, but I think it is important to his story. The book ended on a note which I feel sets it up for a sequel. I would like to know what happens next, so I hope that I am correct. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy a fantasy or dystopian (although this story isn't really overtly dystopian) element to their YA books.

**For more conservative readers, this book tackles some mature themes that might be off putting to some. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

99 Favorite Amish Recipes by Georgia Varozza (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-

I am always game to thumb through a book full of Amish recipes. I have looked through plenty over the years and sometimes I am thoroughly disappointed in the overuse of convenience items.  When I think of the Amish, I think of times gone by where people made real food and those are the types of recipes I want to find in Amish cookbooks. There are a couple of recipes in 99 Favorite Amish Recipes that use convenience foods (it seems that in almost every Amish cookbook I have read there is at least one recipe featuring Velveeta, so I guess we "English" people do not have a monopoly on the addicting fake cheese!) but overall I was very satisfied by the recipes. There are very few recipes in this book that I wouldn't try and I think my entire family would happily devour each and every recipe happily. Many of these recipes could utilize leftovers from a previous meal, which just screams "Amish" to me- how resourceful! If you like comfort food and easy, wholesome meals you can effortlessly make at home, this is definitely a cookbook that you will want to check out!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Miracles From Heaven by Christy Wilson Beam (Book Reviews)

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-

In a remarkable true story of faith and blessings, a mother tells of her sickly young daughter, how she survived a dangerous accident, her visit to Heaven and the inexplicable disappearance of the symptoms of her chronic disease.

Annabel Beam spent most of her childhood in and out of hospitals with a rare and incurable digestive disorder that prevented her from ever living a normal, healthy life. One sunny day when she was able to go outside and play with her sisters, she fell three stories headfirst inside an old, hollowed-out tree, a fall that may well have caused death or paralysis. Implausibly, she survived without a scratch. While unconscious inside the tree, with rescue workers struggling to get to her, she visited heaven. After being released from the hospital, she defied science and was inexplicably cured of her chronic ailment. 
Miracles From Heaven will change how we look at the world around us and reinforce our belief in God and the afterlife.

My thoughts-

The last few years have seen an influx of stories about people having near death experiences and their stories of visiting Heaven and coming back. I have read several of them and they are always captivating. Miracles From Heaven was enthralling as well, but for other reasons. Beam's young daughter Annabel also had a near death experience, but her story is  little different. There are mentions of her seeing Heaven, but it is a very small part of her story. This story is more about miracles here on Earth. Beam takes us through their story by interweaving the day of a freak accident with the many years of dealing with a chronic illness. It is crazy to read exactly the Beams went through prior to the accident and what happens afterwards. Miracles From Heaven is a captivating and heartwarming story on a family's journey to healing. I recommend this story to anyone who enjoys reading uplifting memoirs. 

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Million Miles Away by Lara Avery (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-

When high school senior Kelsey's identical twin sister, Michelle, dies in a car crash, Kelsey is left without her other half. The only person who doesn't know about the tragedy is Michelle's boyfriend, Peter, recently deployed to Afghanistan. But when Kelsey finally connects with Peter online, she can't bear to tell him the truth. Active duty has taken its toll, and Peter, thinking that Kelsey is Michelle, says that seeing her is the one thing keeping him alive. Caught up in the moment, Kelsey has no choice: She lets Peter believe that she is her sister.

As Kelsey keeps up the act, she crosses the line from pretend to real. Soon, Kelsey can't deny that she's falling, hard, for the one boy she shouldn't want.

Lara Avery delivers a breathtaking story of love and loss that is guaranteed to break your heart and sweep you off your feet.

My thoughts-

The premise of A Million Ways was just so interesting, I absolutely had to know what happened. I am a mother of twins, although they are many years younger,  so stories about twins are intriguing to me. I liked the aspect about Peter being in the military and deployed to Afghanistan as well and kind of wanted to see how the thing with Kelsey would play out. I couldn't put the book down and read it in just a couple of days. It is a very quick read and I can empathize with Kelsey to some extent, but the deeper in she got, the more I didn't understand why she would let it get that far. Grief does crazy things to people though, and I imagine especially to an identical twin. Overall, I thought it was a good story, but I thought it wrapped up a little too neatly to be believable. It wasn't at all what I would have expected to happen.  I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Young Adult fiction.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Franklin Barbecue- A Meat-Smoking Manifesto

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 are 100% my own. 

About the book-

A complete meat- and brisket-cooking education from the country's most celebrated pitmaster and owner of the wildly popular Austin restaurant Franklin Barbecue--winner of Texas Monthly's coveted Best Barbecue Joint in Texas award.

When Aaron Franklin and his wife, Stacy, opened up a small barbecue trailer on the side of an Austin, Texas, interstate in 2009, they had no idea what they’d gotten themselves into. Today, Franklin Barbecue has grown into the most popular, critically lauded, and obsessed-over barbecue joint in the country (if not the world)—and Franklin is the winner of every major barbecue award there is.
In this much-anticipated debut, Franklin and coauthor Jordan Mackay unlock the secrets behind truly great barbecue, and share years’ worth of hard-won knowledge. Franklin Barbecue is a definitive resource for the backyard pitmaster, with chapters dedicated to building or customizing your own smoker; finding and curing the right wood; creating and tending perfect fires; sourcing top-quality meat; and of course, cooking mind-blowing, ridiculously delicious barbecue, better than you ever thought possible.

My thoughts-

If you live in the south, chances are you take your barbeque very seriously! If you live in Texas, Franklin Barbecue is likely your mecca of barbecue establishments. People line up in the early morning to eat this guys stuff, that is how good it is! Those of us that don't live nearby in Austin, but like to visit the city, will make it a point to include Frankllin Barbeque as a food stop on their trip. As you can imagine, my husband and I were stoked when we saw that Aaron Franklin decided to share his bbq secrets in a book! This is not a book full of typical backyard bbq recipes, although there are absolutely plenty of recipes to be found here- Franklin Barbeque- A Meat-Smoking Manifesto is a book full of thorough information for someone who has mastered typical backyard barbequing and is ready to perfect their barbeque game. There are tips for what kind of equipment you need, as well as the best way to smoke your meat and instructions (pictures included) on how to cut and season everything. There is also some back story on the king himself, Aaron Franklin. This book would make a fantastic gift for the man in your life who loves to grill. If you aren't able to make a trip to Texas to taste Franklin's barbeque (although I highly recommend you do!) then you can make it in your own backyard!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook

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

About the book-


Dine like Draper and Drink like Sterling with More Than 70 Recipes from the Kitchens, Bars, and Restaurants Seen on Mad Men
Ever wish you could mix an Old Fashioned just the way Don Draper likes it? Or prepare Oysters Rockefeller and a martini the way they did fifty years ago at one of Roger Sterling’s favorite haunts, The Grand Central Oyster Bar? Ever wonder how Joan Harris manages to prepare a perfect crown roast in her tiny apartment kitchen? Or about the connection between Jackie Kennedy’s 1962 White House tour and Betty Draper’s Valentine’s Day room service order?

The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook serves up more than 70 recipes to satisfy a Mad Men appetite! From the tables of Manhattan’s most legendary restaurants and bars to the Drapers’ Around the World dinner, this book is your entree to the culinary world of Man Men-era New York.

Packed with period detail, The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook provides invaluable historical and cultural context for the food and drink featured in the show, tips on throwing a successful ’60s cocktail party, and even a guide to favored Mad Men hangouts. Every recipe inside is authentic to the time.

Whether you’re planning a Mad Men-themed dinner party, need to mix up some authentic Mad Men cocktails, or just can’t get enough of the show itself, this is your essential resource, a guide to all foods and drinks Mad Men. So hang up your coat, pour yourself a cocktail, and get ready to dine like Draper and drink like Sterling with The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook.

Includes a color photo insert of 16 dishes, plus additional black and white photos and other images of bars, restaurants, and food advertisements from the 1960s.

Sample Recipes:

* Playboy Whiskey Sour
* Sardi’s Steak Tartar
* Connie’s Waldorf Salad
* Sal’s Spaghetti and Meatballs
* Pat Nixon’s Date Nut Bread
* Lindy’s Cherry Cheesecake

My thoughts- 

When Mad Men first aired, I was so excited that there was a show set in a really cool time period. I enjoy historical settings and the 50's and 60's are a little under-represented in contemporary television. Mad Men made a huge impact on people and i think that is part of the reason. Many of our grandparents grew up during this time period and, for me, that makes this cookbook even cooler. I could imagine my grandma making some of these recipes in her youth. The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook if full of great recipes that might have been mentioned on the show or that could have been consumed by the Draper family. There is also a great section at the beginning full of classic cocktails with tons of information on what kind of glasses you would need and how to mix drinks. This cookbook is full of everything you need to through a Mad Men themed party or even just a 50/60's themed dinner party. Even if you are not a fan of the show, if you have any interest in cooking or cocktail making or just the time period in general, you will enjoy The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook