Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Gospel According to Ruth: A Season of Harvest 121 Days of Devotions by Kevin Foster (Book Review)

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher 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-

The Gospel According to Ruth: A Season of Harvest is an inspiring devotional that draws out many metaphors found in the story of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz. Leaving Moab to return to Bethlehem was not a journey made with much hope but God drew them to Bethlehem His house of bread to provide for them and all the world. Filled with Scriptural applications, this harvest-themed devotional will guide your soul on a 121-day passage. 

There are four major divisions within this devotional that explores the Christian calling, the Christian labor, the Christian rest and finally, Christian marriage in the Lord.

This devotional study in the book of Ruth has over 1000 related bible verses. The seven major feast of Israel are surveyed along with the Promised Land from Bethlehem, Jericho, the Jordan River, the Dead Sea and the wilderness crossing.

Both Old and New Testament stories intersect the cross of Christ and come alive on the pages of this book.

This devotional also has a companion 58-page pocket book titled, Poems from The Gospel According to Ruth, along with an unabridged audiobook.

My thoughts-

When I reach for my Bible for encouragement often times I turn straight to Ruth. The book of Ruth has always brought me comfort, and Ruth has always been a role model for me to look up to for as long as I can remember. I have never seen a devotional quite like The Gospel According to Ruth. This book contains 121 days of Devotions all derived from the book of Ruth. I thought that I already had got all I ever could get out of Ruth, but this extensive study proved me wrong. I like that the devotional is meaty and not fluffy and light like many other devotionals tend to be. I also liked that at the end of each devotional there was a tie in to the lesson in Ruth, many times from another book of the Bible. I think Kevin Foster took the idea of a devotional on a specific book of the Bible and truly included every lesson to be learned. I enjoyed The Gospel According to Ruth and would recommend this book to anyone looking to be encouraged and strengthened. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride & Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld (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 “wickedly entertaining” (USA Today) Curtis Sittenfeld, New York Times bestselling author of Prep and American Wife, comes a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Equal parts homage to Jane Austen and bold literary experiment, Eligible is a brilliant, playful, and delicious saga for the twenty-first century.
This version of the Bennet family—and Mr. Darcy—is one that you have and haven't met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help—and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray.
Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master's degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won't discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane's fortieth birthday fast approaches.
Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip's friend neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . . 
And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.
Wonderfully tender and hilariously funny, Eligible both honors and updates Austen's beloved tale. Tackling gender, class, courtship, and family, Sittenfeld reaffirms herself as one of the most dazzling authors writing today.

My thoughts- 

I am definitely your typical literary geek obsessed with all things Jane Austen, particular things Pride & Prejudice related, more particularly things Mr. Darcy related. I will literally read any take on my absolute favorite classic romance. It is fun to see it re-imagined with a fresh voice, and in Eligible it is interesting to see it through a modern tale. I couldn't believe how witty and fun this book was, while still catching the essence of all of the characters from the original novel. I liked that to modernize the story there were some necessary changes made to the characters and interesting new plot points that still manage to fit into the parameter of Austen's novel. My only complaint is regarding Liz and Darcy's relationship. There just isn't the right amount of romance for my taste. Their story was still told well and built up in the right way, but I found the book lacking in this department. I still enjoyed the book and thought Curtis Sittenfeld did an excellent job re-telling the story. I would recommend this book to Jane Austen lovers, obviously, but I would also recommend it to anyone who enjoys contemporary romance stories. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Simple Pleasures by Marianne Jantzie Blog Tour + Book Review

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Litfuse Publicity 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: 
Simple Pleasures: Stories from My Life as an Amish Mother (MennoMedia, March 2016)

Young Amish homemaker Marianne Jantzi invites readers into her family's life on the snowy plains of Ontario.

The mother of four young children and wife of a storekeeper, Jantzi writes about her daily routines and heartfelt faith with equal measures of wit and warmth. Sewing, cleaning, cooking, gardening, and helping to manage the store take up most hours in her day, but Jantzi finds time to pen columns for the Connection, a magazine beloved by Amish and Mennonite readers across the United States and Canada. Never sugarcoating the frustrations of motherhood, Jantzi tells it like it is, broken washing machine and bickering children and all. But through her busy days, Jantzi finds strength in simple pleasures of family, fellowship with her Amish community, and quiet time with God. 

My thoughts-

I am intrigued by the Amish community. I read a lot of Amish fiction novels and I know a lot of them are not completely based in reality so it is nice to be able to have books like Simple Pleasures to really get a good look into the lives of these fascinating people. What I learned from Simple Pleasures is that the Amish are not all that different from us. Sure they don't use electronics or cars or other modern day conveniences, but they do have many of the same challenges as your average parent. Kids will be kids no matter how they are brought up and everyone is entitled to a bad mood or two. What I took away from the book was that the Amish are not perfect, nobody is. What I enjoyed most about this book was just reading about Marianne's life. About her kids helping her in the kitchen and wanting a dairy farm, about buying random chickens, and getting a pet and all of the many other adventures with her family. 

About the author

Marianne Jantzi is an Amish write and homemaker in Ontario, Canada. Jantzi, a former teacher in an Amish school, is now writes her own column"Northern Reflections" for The Connection, a publication read mainly by Amish and other plain communities in the United States and Canada. Jantzi, her husband and four children run a shoe store in the Milverton Amish settlement of Ontario.

Friday, April 15, 2016

200 Best Sheet Pan Meals by Camilla V. Salsbury (Cookbook Review)

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

I think when most people think of one dish meals they would automatically think of slow cooking or even casseroles. There is a new (at least new to me) way of cooking one and done meals- sheet pan cooking. Developed by British cooks, the idea of sheet pan cooking is that you take a fairly inexpensive piece of kitchen equipment, grab some delicious ingredients, and come out on the other end with an easy yet tasty meal in no time. Camilla V. Salsbury has come up with a wonderful collection of healthy yet gratifying recipes. Salsbury is a busy mother herself who like me, and many other mothers, want to provide healthy food that our kids will eat that won't take all night in the kitchen to make. One of the coolest things about sheet pan cooking is that you get a great roast on meats and veggies that would otherwise take a lot more work. Not only is roasting on a sheet pan super easy, but cooking your food this way is one of the healthiest methods you can utilize. I have made several meals out of the cookbook already and I have already had to repeat them because my family enjoyed them so much. Our go to favorite right now is a delightful mix of turkey sausage, potatoes, and green beans tossed with olive oil and thyme- pure deliciousness that only takes a few minutes to throw together. There are wonderful options for breakfast and brunch, lunch, and dinner, an entire section devoted to meatless meals, and even a dedicated desserts section. I will probably go through 200 Best Sheet Pan Meals from cover to cover because I truly think they all sound delicious. Here is just a peek at some of the delectable recipes covered in the book-

Lamb Meatballs w/Zucchini, Tomatoes &
Yogurt Tahini Sauce
Roast Chicken Quarters with Lemon-
Dill Spring Vegetables

Decadent Carrot Cake with Cream
Cheese Frosting

Just writing this review and seeing the vibrant pictures
of these meals makes me super hungry. Look at all of those
bright colors and healthy vegetables included in the recipes. And that carrot cake looks awesome! I would have never in
a million years thought to make a cake in a sheet pan! It is definitely something I will be doing very soon now! There are plenty more recipes as appealing as these all throughout the cookbook! 200 Best Sheet Pan Meals is *the PERFECT* cookbook for a busy mother (or just busy person in general) who is looking for a quick way to make healthy meals! This is one that you need to have on your book shelves!

Camilla S. Salsbury is a freelance food writier, recipe developer and cooking instructor. She has been involved in the culinary world for over 16 years and has won many of our country's top food competitions including the $100,000 National Chicken Cook-Off, the $50,000 Build a Better Burger Contest, and the Food Network's $25,000 Ultimate Recipe Showdown. In addition to her culinary expertise, Salsbury is also a fitness junkie. She holds certifications in personal training and fitness instruction. Her passion for healthy food and fitness combine to fuel her passion for helping other people lead happy & healthy lives.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Alice and the Fly by James Rice (Book Review)

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-

Greg is cripplingly shy, afraid of spiders, and obsessed with Breakfast at Tiffany's. He's not exactly the most popular kid at his high school. In fact, he pretty much goes out of his way to avoid talking to anybody he doesn't have to. And it doesn't help that he has a severe lisp.

But Greg's English teacher, Miss Hayes, can see that there's something different about him. He's insightful and sensitive beyond his years, and maybe--just maybe--he'll use these strengths to break out of his shell someday. Miss Hayes urges Greg to keep a journal. "This isn't an assignment," she tells him, "just write down your thoughts."

Greg begins to write about everything from his mother's ill-conceived interior decorating ideas to his job at the local butcher's shop. When Greg begins to take an interest in a girl at his school named Alice, he realizes that he will have to face his most paralyzing anxieties if he wants to befriend Alice and help her escape from her violent family life.

My thoughts-

The plot synopsis on the book doesn't begin to do the actual book justice. It sounds like a a light hearted young adult novel about a boy who may have some mental issues. The actual book was a deep look into Greg's thoughts and life. It is written in a journal type of prose and I liked that the author kept the writing authentic to how Greg would be feeling depending on when it was being written. The book starts off in almost a lighthearted way and builds and builds until it is nail bitingly intense. I like books that have more than one point of view. I think it gives the story more depth than it could have only hearing one side of the story. It definitely was true in Alice and the Fly to have this narrative by this guy who at sometimes is almost manic and then other entries by other people. It is hard to explain without giving away the plot so which will be way more fun to read than have spoiled so I will say I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys young adult fiction and doesn't mind a little twist of psychological thriller.

Alice and the Fly by James Rice will be available on May 3. You can pre-order your copy on

Make It Easy by Stacie Billis (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 are 100% my own.

About the book-

As a home cook, you may want to create every dish from scratch. But let's face it: sometimes life gets in the way and you just need a 20-minute meal that will taste great and nourish your family. Stacie Billis knows the challenges home chefs face—and now, she shares her tools and tips for meals that are high-quality and low-stress. Want to make tacos using scratch tortillas? It's in here! Need to make a meal quickly? No worries: Billis gives suggestions for the healthiest store-bought tortillas. Her mix-and-match recipes help you cook efficiently with minimal effort, making the most of go-to dishes without getting bored. Why make it hard on your-self to make good, delicious food your family will love? Make it easy.

My thoughts-

I love cooking from scratch for my family. I enjoy the seeing my family and friends enjoy food that I have worked hard to construct. A lot of times when I am looking for a cookbook about cooking from scratch the section containing those books are either dedicated to desserts or other carb heavy meals. I was so excited to come across Make It Easy. What initially drew me to the book is the vibrant cover with the delicious yet healthy looking food on the cover. I couldn't wait to see what other recipes the book held. Since I already have a good knowledge of eating well and stocking my pantry I found the introduction with this type of information a little long and overbearing, but it is great information from someone who is knew to healthy cooking. I was happy to get to the recipes section and really enjoyed the set up of the book. I like that each recipe kind of builds on the last so you can mix and match your creations and have an entirely from scratch meal. This is exactly the type of cookbook I need in my kitchen and I am so glad it found it's way to me. I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking to eat healthier or who enjoys cooking from scratch meals in their home. 

Make It Easy will be available for purchase on May 10. You can pre-order your copy on

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Tender Romance by Ralph Lauren

Disclosure of material connection- I received a sample of Tender Romance from Influenster in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

I don't think there has ever been a Ralph Lauren fragrance (for women or men) that I haven't liked, but I think Tender Romance will definitely shoot near the top of the list. The bottle is simple yet elegant so I am left with a good impression even before I open it up and smell the scent. I love that Tender Romance is subtle enough to be used as a daily perfume, but has a romantic yet innocent air about it that makes it perfect for a night out with my husband. I have always loved the sweet, romantic smell of cashmere and I love that it combines well here with another favorite scent of mine- magnolia, a light floral scent. Bringing the two fragrances together is a hint of ginger that gives it the perfect finish. I would recommend this fragrance to anyone who who likes a light floral scent.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Life Without a Recipe by Diana Abu-Jaber (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% m own. 

About the book- 

On one side, there is Grace: prize-winning author Diana Abu-Jaber’s tough, independent sugar-fiend of a German grandmother, wielding a suitcase full of holiday cookies. On the other, Bud: a flamboyant, spice-obsessed Arab father, full of passionate argument. The two could not agree on anything: not about food, work, or especially about what Diana should do with her life. Grace warned her away from children. Bud wanted her married above all—even if he had to provide the ring. Caught between cultures and lavished with contradictory “advice” from both sides of her family, Diana spent years learning how to ignore others’ well-intentioned prescriptions.

Hilarious, gorgeously written, poignant, and wise, Life Without a Recipe is Diana’s celebration of journeying without a map, of learning to ignore the script and improvise, of escaping family and making family on one’s own terms. As Diana discovers, however, building confidence in one’s own path sometimes takes a mistaken marriage or two—or in her case, three: to a long-haired boy-poet, to a dashing deconstructionist literary scholar, and finally to her steadfast, outdoors-loving Scott. It also takes a good deal of angst (was it possible to have a serious writing career and be a mother?) and, even when she knew what she wanted (the craziest thing, in one’s late forties: a baby!), the nerve to pursue it.

Finally, fearlessly independent like the Grace she’s named after, Diana and Scott’s daughter Gracie will heal all the old battles with Bud and, like her writer-mom, learn to cook up a life without a recipe.

Diana Abu-Jaber is the award-winning author of four novels, including Crescent, and a previous memoir, The Language of Baklava.

My thoughts-

The description for Life Without a Recipe really drew me in. It sounded similar to my life in some ways. Although it was my great grandmother who was German and was actually really sweet and never met anyone she didn't treat kindly and it was my step-dad who was Middle Eastern (hailing from Pakistan not Jordan), I felt a connection to this story before I even opened the book because of the similarity in backgrounds of our two families. I was expecting the story to be more about the author's father and grandmother but it seemed to be more a sprinkling here and there of their anecdotes or battle of the wills. I still enjoyed reading about Diana Abu-Jaber's life, particularly her foray into parenthood when she adopts a little girl. I appreciated being taken on the journey, and the worry and waiting that comes with the journey, that she and her husband went on to adopt their little girl.  I also enjoyed reading about after the baby came home and the things she went through as a new mother, a few were laugh out loud and funny and others earned a head nod in sympathy. Life Without a Recipe is a hodge podge of the author's many life adventures with an interesting cast of characters. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading memoirs or who enjoy stories about families. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Crossroads by Tal Ronnen (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 states are 100% my own. 

About the book-

Reinventing plant-based eating is what Tal Ronnen is all about. At his Los Angeles restaurant, Crossroads, vegans, vegetarians, and carnivores sit side by side and eat dishes that satisfy each of them. Ronnen's cooking is Mediterranean first—think warm bowls of tomato-sauced pappardelle, plates of spicy carrot salad, and crunchy flatbreads piled high with roasted vegetables—and vegan second. Ronnen proves that the flavors we crave are easily replicated in dishes made without animal products. With accessible, unfussy recipes, Crossroads stresses simple preparations and fresh ingredients, and takes plant-based eating firmly out of the realm of hippie health food and into a cuisine that fits perfectly with today's modern palate. After all, the backbones of Ronnen's food—seasonal vegetables, beans, nuts, and grains—are what many of us are already eating daily. The recipes are photographed in sumptuous detail, and with more than 100 of them, this book is an indispensable resource for healthy, mindful eaters everywhere.

My thoughts-

Although I am not vegan or even a full time vegetarian, I find it important to have a wide array of cooking styles to pull from, and I also think it is important to get your veggies in and skip the meat when you can. A lot of vegan cookbooks can be a little too out there for me as far as the ingredients called for. I am pretty adventurous for the most part, but I want to be able to find the ingredients I am looking for. Crossroads has recipes that would be easy to find the ingredients at your local grocery store, but also look beautiful and taste delicious. I was especially intrigued by the flat bread recipes and the sides. I am always looking for new side dishes and it can be difficult to find appealing ones that don't involve potatoes but all of the ones in Crossroads sound delicious to me and I can't wait to give them a try. I think this cookbook would make a beautiful display book or coffee table book, but I also think it is a great book for anyone looking to cut down on their meat intake and try something new, and of course I think vegetarians and vegans alike will enjoy the opportunity to make gourmet restaurant quality food at home. 

The ABC's of Yoga for Kids by Teresa Anne Power (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-

My thoughts-

One of the biggest resolutions I set for myself this year was to keep my whole 
family fit and more active. I love yoga so it is only natural that I seek out yoga
 for kids for my children so they can join in on the fun. The ABC's of YOGA for Kids
 is the perfect book for my 8 year old daughter and 6 year old twin boys. I love
that these are traditional yoga poses but given a "kid" spin on things by the
 renaming of poses to fit the alphabet format. There are several fun games and
 activities to keep being active a fun practice for kids. My only complaint is that 
the book is a little short, otherwise I would rate it 5 stars instead of 4, but this 
will be a good start! I recommend this book to parents of children ages 4-8.