Thursday, July 30, 2015

Made with Love by Tricia Goyer & Sherry Gore (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-

A Dash of Love, a Pinch of Hope, and a Whole Lot of Good Cooking

Lovina Miller should be thrilled. Pinecraft, Florida, has everything a young Amish woman could ask for: sun, sand, volleyball games, and evening singings in the park. But Pinecraft lacks the one thing Lovina desperately wants—a pie shop of her own. She longs for a place to gather with the community and serve the treat she loves.
A young carpenter named Noah Yoder strolls into her life and offers a way to make her dream come true. But before Noah and Lovina can build a shop—and a life—together, they must each face heartaches from the past. Is their new love stronger than their regrets?

Find inspiration, romance, and authentic Amish recipes for everyone’s favorite food—pie!

My thoughts-

Not long ago I read Sherry Gore's book about how she has been one of the few people from the outside to join the Amish church. She lives in Pinecraft and I know this book would have a very personal touch to it because of that. My absolute favorite author of Amish fiction is Tricia Goyer. This book to me sounded like a match made in heaven. Made with Love was a cute love story that gives us the opportunity to learn a bit about a different kind of Amish community. Pinecraft residents don't seem to follow the same stringent rules as many of the other Amish communities. This books serves as a reminder that there are Amish communities all over the United States and that each one is unique. In other words, there are Amish people outside of Pennsylvania and Ohio. Anyway, I loved the story! I found Lavina to be an interesting and likeable character. Who can not like someone who's nickname is Love? Lovina and Noah working on her pie shop and learning more about each other was a great story to watch unfold. I also enjoyed the parts of the book where Lovina's mom Ann and her best friend Regina write letters back and forth. There is just something about the written word that gets to me, it's such a personal glimpse into someone's life. As always, my favorite thing about this type of Amish fiction is that at the end of nearly every chapter there is a fantastic Amish recipe just waiting to be cooked! I can't wait to try them all! I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Amish Fiction or has ever dared to dream big!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Just Add Water by Clay Marzo & Robert Yehling (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-

From the best freestyle surfer in the world, an inspiring and moving memoir about his ascendance to the top of the surfing world while struggling for most of his young life with undiagnosed Asperger's syndrome

Clay Marzo has an almost preternatural gift with a surfboard. From his first moments underwater (he learned to swim at two months old) to his first ventures atop his father's surfboard as a toddler, it was obvious that Marzo's single-minded focus on all things surfing was unique. But not until late in his teens, when this surfing phenom was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, did the deeper reasons for his obsession—and his astonishing gift for surfing—become clear.

Just Add Water is the remarkable story of Marzo's rise to the top of the pro surfing world—and the personal trials he overcame in making it there. Marzo endured a difficult childhood. He was a colicky baby who his mother found could be soothed only with water. Later, as he entered school, his undiagnosed Asperger's made it tough for him to relate to his peers and fit in, but his relationship with the wave was elemental. Marzo could always turn to surfing, the only place where he truly felt at peace.

Unflinching and inspiring, Just Add Water is a brave memoir from a one-of-a-kind surfing savant who has electrified fans around the world with his gift and whose story speaks boldly to the hope and ultimate triumph of the human spirit.

My thoughts-

Savants are intriguing to me and I have never heard of a surfing savant so I was really interested in reading Clay's story. Most people on the spectrum are awkward and clumsy so you might not think it even possible for someone that falls on it to surf at all, let alone be one of the best professional surfers of his generation. Clay Marzo has been in the water practically his whole life. He comes from a family of established surfers and pretty much learned to surf by doing the mirror image of what he saw his older brother Cheyne do on his board. Just Add Water is about Clay's surfing career and his struggles to deal with his talent and love of surfing while struggling with being in the limelight and having to interact with so many people. The book discusses pretty much Clay's whole life. How he struggled in school and was misdiagnosed so many times, but through all of the struggles all he wanted to do was get out and catch a wave. The story also discusses his relationship with his family. It reminds me of other families I know dealing with something like Asperger's or Autism, with one parent wanting to get the kid help and the other parent worried about labels or convinced nothing is wrong and the kid is just lazy. There is also a great amount of information on the surfing world to be found in this book. I don't know a ton about surfing, but reading this book definitely made me want to go out and watch Clay and his friends compete. Just Add Water is a great book for anyone touched by Asperger's to read. I think it would be especially beneficial to parent's of children with Asperger's as well as Aspies themselves. This book will give them hope that they can be successful if they work hard on their special interest. I definitely think that people who have never had an experience with people on the spectrum would benefit from this book as well. It is a mountain of knowledge. It shows of the struggle families can go through to get a diagnosis and how several people in one family can react totally differently, but most of all it could introduce the mind and world of someone with Asperger's. It may help someone better understand the mind of someone with Asperger's and with a higher diagnosis rate of Autism Spectrum Disorders that still seems to be on the rise, I think that is important.

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Modern Way to Eat by Anna Jones (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-

A beautifully photographed and modern vegetarian cookbook packed with quick, healthy, and fresh recipes that explore the full breadth of vegetarian ingredients--grains, nuts, seeds, and seasonal vegetables--from Jamie Oliver's London-based food stylist and writer Anna Jones.

How we want to eat is changing. More and more people cook without meat several nights a week and are constantly seeking to push the boundaries of their own vegetarian repertoire. At the same time, people want food that is a little lighter, healthier, and easier on our wallets, and that relies less on dairy and gluten. Based on how Anna likes to eat day to day--from a blueberry and amaranth porridge, to a quick autumn root panzanella, to a pistachio and squash galette--A Modern Way to Eat is a cookbook for how we want to eat now.

My thoughts-

I like to have an eclectic mix of cookbooks in my walk in pantry, but I would definitely say that I lean vegetarian where I can. My family are all meat eaters and I do eat meat as well, but I know that it is healthier (and more cost efficient) to eat a primarily vegetarian diet. Sometimes that can get mundane, until you discover the wide array of vegetables and fruits that are actually available and find wonderful cookbooks like A Modern Way To Eat that present them so beautifully. ;The food pictures contained in this book are gorgeous! The recipes represented are delightful. I honestly forgot that this was a vegetarian cookbook while reading through it the first time because the recipes sounds so tasty and so filling. I love that there are several pages that present one recipes in many ways or offer you the ability to customize it to your liking or to be able to switch things up if like my family you like a huge variety in your food repertoire. I recommend this book to anyone who eats a vegetarian based diet, but I also recommend A Modern Way to Eat to anyone looking for exciting yet healthy dishes that will please everyone in the family.

Uncommon (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-

When the students of Rosewood High lose their drama department due to budget cuts, they decide to create their own! Equipped with unique talents, they bond together to prepare the perfect production with a modern take on the Bible's parables. Fighting overwhelming challenges, the teens defend their privilege to worship, meet and perform. Armed with expert legal counsel and unexpected help from Christian music's finest, these teens realize what it means to be...Uncommon!

My thoughts-

At the beginning of the movie main character Aaron has lost his brother and is switching schools. He becomes a student at Rosewood High with his cousin only to find out that the administration has made budget cuts affecting the arts program at his school. He and his new friends find a way to continue the production of a play they had already started on, but many obstacles get in their way along the way. Still, they want to stand for something, so they persevere. The first thing I thought when watching this movie is how tough it is to lose anyone close to you when you are still young. I couldn't imagine losing a sibling. I had a friend who lost a sibling very young and I know it was tough on him pretty much the rest of our school days. Aaron wants to do something good, so he starts a student led Bible study. An anti-Christianity teacher finds out about it and berates him. I know that this is probably a real occurrence in schools these days and it makes me sad for my children. I know things were already starting to get this way when I was still in school 15+ years ago, but I was blessed to live in a small community that was not this way. My friends and I had a Bible study right at the front doors of our school every week. We were not once told we couldn't hold it in the school, let alone right at the front door. I would like to think if we were we would react the same way as Aaron and his friends, by fighting. Religious freedom for Christians seems to be obsolete these days. I enjoyed the movie and particularly loved Eric Estrada's character. He brought a great father figure and ally to these kids and helped them fight for what was right. I recommend watching this movie if you have ever felt like you wanted to do something important, but were scared. I also recommend watching this with your kids. They could learn a great deal from this group of kids!

Watch the Uncommon trailer below!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Letters From My Father's Murderer by Laurie A. Coombs Blog Tour + Book Review

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Litfuse Group 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-

When her father was murdered, Laurie Coombs sought justice and found it.

His murderer now serves two life sentences with no possibility of parole. Yet, despite the swift punishment of the killer, Laurie found herself increasingly full of pain, bitterness, and anger she couldn't control. After coming to faith, she realized she was being called to seek something infinitely more difficult than justice: forgiveness.

This is an extraordinary true story of grace, mercy, and the redemptive power of God to change lives. The reader is swept along with Laurie as she undergoes the life-changing transformation of becoming a Christian. As she studies Scripture, seeing God redeeming losses and healing deep wounds time and time again, she starts to understand that her own healing would require her to love her enemy in a real, practical way.

Using her incredible correspondence with the man who killed her father, Laurie reveals a compelling journey of transformation, not only in her life, but in the lives of those whom many would call irredeemable.

Letters from My Father's Murderer is for any audience Christian or secular who

-Craves freedom from the inability to forgive those who've caused them harm 
-Wants to hear testimony of God's power in our obedience 
-Has experienced pain through other's sin against them 
-Needs to know healing is always possible
The real story here is not primarily about murder and its fallout, but rather about redemption and how far it can reach.
My thoughts-
When I read the premise of this book, I knew I had to read it and saw how this letter writing business with a murderer, the murderer of Ms. Coombs father no less, went. I couldn't imagine wanting to be face to face with someone that hurt someone so close to me, but I applaud Laurie Coombs for doing what she felt God led her to do.  The book takes us through her feelings right after the murder occurred, through the trial, and then when she felt led to give this man a Bible. That is what led to these letters and this journey that she goes on working through her feelings about this man and also getting to know him. It was a heartbreaking story to read, but at the same time. a truly touching story to see what these two people meeting did in both of their lives. If you have ever been in the position of holding a grudge over something much smaller than this, I highly recommend reading Letters From My Father's Murderer. This book just might change the way you feel about forgiveness and redemption. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

In Good Company by Jen Turano (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 stated are 100% my own. 

About the book-

After spending her childhood in an orphanage, Millie Longfellow is determined to become the best nanny the East Coast has ever seen. Unfortunately, her enthusiasm for her job tends to bring about situations that have employers looking askance at her methods. After her most recent dismissal, Millie is forced to return yet again to an employment agency.

Everett Mulberry has suddenly and quite unexpectedly found himself responsible for three children he barely knows. Attempting fatherhood while also pacifying the less-than-thrilled socialite he intends to marry is made even more complicated when the children scare off every nanny he hires. About to depart for Newport, Rhode Island, for the summer, he’s desperate for competent childcare.

At wit’s end with both Millie and Everett, the employment agency gives them one last chance—with each other. Everett is wary of Millie’s penchant for disaster, and she’s not entirely keen on another snobby, grumpy employer, but they’re both out of options. As Millie falls in love with her mischievous charges and tries to stay one step ahead of them, Everett is more focused on achieving the coveted status of society’s upper echelons. As he investigates the suspicious circumstances surrounding the children’s parents’ death, will it take the loss of those he loves to learn whose company he truly wants for the rest of his life?

My thoughts-

I love a good Cinderella story and the above description of In Good Company sounded like just that so I really wanted to see where the story went. As I started reading the book I realized it was something totally different. This is a book full of great shenanigans, usually with Millie right in the thick of things. I love her fun personality and how stubborn she can be. I also loved how her relationship with Everett started off pretty tense and enjoyed watching it evolve the further into the book I got. There is a character that you will love to hate, Caroline, she may well be the worst person every written into the pages of a book, but she absolutely adds an interesting dimension to the story. In Good Company is a great mix of romance, society life, and mystery. I laughed out loud so many times and couldn't stop turning the pages at the end when things become quite tense and crazy! This was my first Jen Turano book, but definitely won't be my last. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, especially of the historical romance persuasion. You will laugh, you will cringe, you'll be swept off of your feet. You will not want to put the book down until you have reached the last page.

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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.