Thursday, June 27, 2013

What's (collecting dust) in my stack?

Sometimes I find it amusing that I write (every now and then) for a book review blog because I don't read a lot of books. I love to read and used to be quite a bookworm, but other interests have taken precedence over recreational reading for the past few years. Unless it's a cookbook, chances are slim that I'll actually read it cover to cover.

That being said, I actually do have a list of books that I intend to read at one point or another. Most of them have a book mark at Chapter 2.

Let me wipe the dust from my stack and show you what I may or may not finish reading before the end of the year. 

(Review of Austrian Desserts coming in August!)

(I actually finished this one. It's fantastic.)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

It's All Good - Gwyneth Paltrow

Summary: "I decided that we needed to create this book, not only for my family, byt also for anyone out there who struggles with finding truly delicious food to feed their family when health issues need to be addressed. So no matter if you are doing an elimination diet; a lean-protein-based weight-loss diet; a food allergy program that steers you away from gluten and dairy; or if you just want to focus a bit more on nutritious food -- there are recipes and weekly menus here for you. 

Most importantly, not matter what you want or need to cut out, for whatever reason, mealtimes should always feel happy  not like a punishment. If I've learned anything, it's that it's all a process. 'Falling off' your plan is part of it, not a reason to beat yourself up. It takes time to make these changes. It's all good." -- Gwyneth Paltrow Image from, summary from book.

My Review: Despite all of the harsh reviews this book has gotten, I will come right out and say, unabashedly, that I really enjoyed it. Ms. Paltrow (I'd call her "Gwyneth," but I don't think we're on a first-name basis yet.) recently went through an elimination diet prescribed by her doctor to help resolve some heath issues. The diet worked, and thus her book was born, filled with healthy recipes, gorgeous photos, and a section describing the ins and outs of her restrictive diet.

I have to say that I don't agree with all of her nutrition advice, but then again, I don't agree with 100% of the nutrition advice in any of my other cookbooks. When I read a cookbook, I look at the recipes. And the ingredients. Then I adapt them to my liking. Her recipes are filled with fresh, nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, clean meats, VERY little gluten and dairy, and some alternative grains. That's a diet I can be excited about.

I wrote a review of It's All Good over at Food Fanatic where I shared some of the beautiful images from the book as well as a recipe for homemade Hoisin Sauce.

My Rating: 4 stars

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Revisiting Favorite Titles

I absolutely adore summer. Leisurely days reserved for lounging by the pool, backyard barbeques with friends, and road trips to visit family. Summer is a time of nostalgia and thus provides the perfect opportunity to revisit favorite titles, once again connecting with beloved characters and exploring sentiments missed in previous readings. Jetta Carleton’s rediscovered classic The Moonflower Vine is my definition of a perfect summer read. Each time I open this title I uncover another reason to love it more. I find myself drawn to this title every year or two and therefore have decided to once again review it here.

The story begins in the mid-twentieth century on a small rural Missouri farm owed by the Soames family. Three of Matthew and Callie’s four grown daughters have returned home for their annual summer visit. The day has been carefully planned and is centered around the blooming of the moonflower vine. Yet even the most carefully laid plans have a way of going askew. As the day goes amiss the story travels half a century back in time beginning with a young Callie and Matthew falling in love. The family’s history is recounted through the various perspectives of the individual members. Each tale is merely one piece of the puzzle and it takes them all to form a complete picture.

Through mere words Jetta Carleton is able to breathe life into both the setting and her characters. Her familiarity with the area is demonstrated through vivid descriptions that capture the beauty of the scenery. The strong, yet fallible, characters are authentic and immediately come across as acquaintances.  Each character is carrying some secret which are revealed at a leisurely pace. Through these secrets and the accompanied choices and consequences the complexity of human emotion is explored. As the story progresses the impact of each individual’s actions, both for better and for worse,  play a role in the shaping the lives of those surrounding them and we begin to see how the decisions of one impact the entire family.

This story can be enjoyed as a deceptively simple family saga or one can choose to peel back the layers to reveal the complex dynamics of family life.  This title covers the timeless themes of woman’s suffrage, religion, and small-town living. This is a tale of love and loss. It captures both absolute joy and complete and utter sadness. It is a deeply intimate and moving story that lingers long after the cover is closed.

Here are a few other favorite titles (along with links to the reviews) I would love to revisit:

Historical fiction: The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Nonfiction: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Newly released Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
No Review yet but look for one next month!

Gothic fiction: TheThirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Realistic fiction: StillAlice by Lisa Genova

Have a favorite title you could read time and time again? Please do share!!!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Lake House - Marci Nault

Summary: Achingly tender, yet filled with laughter, The Lake House brings to life the wide range of human emotions and the difficult journey from heartbreak to healing.

VICTORIA ROSE. Fifty years before, a group of teenage friends promised each other never to leave their idyllic lakeside town. But the call of Hollywood and a bigger life was too strong for Victoria . . . and she alone broke that pledge. Now she has come home, intent on making peace with her demons, even if her former friends shut her out. Haunted by tragedy, she longs to find solace with her childhood sweetheart, but even this tender man may be unable to forgive and forget.

HEATHER BREGMAN. At twenty-eight, after years as a globe-trotting columnist, she’s abandoned her controlling fiancé and their glamorous city life to build one on her own terms. Lulled by a Victorian house and a gorgeous locale, she’s determined to make the little community her home. But the residents, fearful of change and outsiders, will stop at nothing to sabotage her dreams of lakeside tranquility.

As Victoria and Heather become unlikely friends, their mutual struggle to find acceptance—with their neighbors and in their own hearts—explores the chance events that shape a community and offer the opportunity to start again.
Summary and cover art from author's website, Book given free for an honest review.

My Review: Victoria Rose and Heather Bregman seem to be destined for each other. These are two very different woman generations apart. This isn't your typical friendship. Yet when Heather moves into the quite lakeside community and the two meet, they soon discover that they have more in common than what meets the eye. Both long to find themselves and gain acceptance among the close knit community. Victoria strives to help Heather avoid the same mistakes that she made as a young woman while Heather teaches Victoria to forgive herself and live in the present rather than the past. Together they are able to begin to rebuild their lives.

The Lake House is akin to any decent chick flick or lit. The plot is somewhat predictable, yet entertaining. Vivid descriptions of the setting bring the community of Nagog to life. The characters are somewhat stereotypical but their emotions carry an authentic air that leaves the tell believable. The dialog is cheesy at times and there seems to be an underlying obsession with body image. The genuine relationships that are built or mended redeem the story. Victoria's past is allowed to unwind at a leisurely pace over the course of the book, adding some mystic to the tale. In the end the story weaves itself together seamlessly and allows the reader to close the cover with a smile.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

To Sum it up: A feel-good read perfect for those lazy days of summer.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Looking for Some Great Summer Reads?

I'm always on the lookout for good books, especially fun summer reads!  LDSLiving has put together an awesome list ... check it out and see if there are any you'll be adding to your list!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

With a Name Like Love - Tess Hilmo

Please welcome Guest Reviewer, Cayenne DaBell!

Summary:  When Ollie’s daddy, the Reverend Everlasting Love, pulls their travel trailer into Binder to lead a three-day revival, Ollie knows that this town will be like all the others they visit— it is exactly the kind of nothing Ollie has come to expect. But on their first day in town, Ollie meets Jimmy Koppel, whose mother is in jail for murdering his father. Jimmy insists that his mother is innocent, and Ollie believes him. Still, even if Ollie convinces her daddy to stay in town, how can two kids free a grown woman who has signed a confession? Ollie’s longing for a friend and her daddy’s penchant for searching out lost souls prove to be a formidable force in this tiny town where everyone seems bent on judging and jailing without a trial. From

My review: This was a well-written, beautiful story about how doing the right thing takes courage, thought, and a lot of love. The 13-year-old protagonist is endearing, intelligent, and believable. I cared about her and her family. Even though Ollie is always trying to do the right thing, she still has a jealous younger sister and her own unhappiness with her family's unsettled way of life to face. When she finally makes a friend she finds that his trust will require all her faith and ingenuity to gain. In the process she and her family are able to solve a murder and help a whole town find healing. 

My rating: 4.5 stars

For sensitive readers: There's some animal mutilation and a description of a gruesome murder.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

WARNING: Bursts Expected

Just a quick reminder for those of you who may be reading in a public place:

When I was thirteen, my German class was given free time while we waited to take an oral exam.  I made the mistake of finishing Of Mice and Men during that time ... I don't think I passed.  I was crying too hard to speak any language, let alone a foreign one!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Happy Summer!

Break out the popsicles, the sunscreen, and the deliciously decadent books - it's summer time!

We're excited to read with you this summer.  There's so much going on this summer, but I have a feeling book time will get snuck into the schedule.

You'll be seeing some changes this summer - we'll be posting two times a week, and giving you a variety of different book-related posts.  Never fear, I'm positive some reviews will surface throughout the summer.

We want to hear about your reading plans this summer as well.  Keep in touch with us on our Facebook Page or our Twitter feed.  We're also on Pinterest - join us!

We'll return to our regular schedule in the fall - but until then, grab a book and enjoy the summer!


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