Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Like the Most Roller Coaster-y Book to ever Roller Coaster

The Memory Weaver

Jane Kirkpatrick

     Eliza Spalding Warren was just a child when she was taken hostage by the Cayuse Indians during a massacre in 1847. Now a mother of two, Eliza faces a new kind of dislocation; her impulsive husband wants to make a new start in another territory, which will mean leaving her beloved home and her mother's grave--and returning to the land of her captivity. 

     Haunted by memories and hounded by struggle, Eliza longs to know how her mother dealt with the trauma of their ordeal. As she searches the pages of her mother's diary, Eliza is stunned to find that her own recollections tell only part of the story.

     The Memory Weaver is based heavily on a true story. The story that this book captures is beautiful and less detailed and a heck of a lot longer than this book. This book is so beautiful. 

     I find that in most books what is happening is very clear, people talk their actions through logically and are grounded. I know that most people, including my roommate, would look at me like I was crazy and be like "No not all characters are logical" but they are compared to the rationalizations in this book where there aren't any. The characters, the people, are unabashedly themselves. They don't try to rationalize their behavior or pretend that everything on the journey is going to turn out OK. They are damaged and beautiful and I love them. 

     They were so broken and beautiful that I just wanted to give up on them and the journey that they went on. I am so glad I didn't, because staying out until the end was what gave me the time to appreciate the art that was right in front of my face. Jane Kirkpatrick is a master, and this her greatest gift. 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Maybe I Got A Little Too Excited

A Jewish Baker's Pastry Secrets

George Greenstein, Elaine Greenstein, Julia Greenstein, and Issac Bleicher

George Greenstein has a gift for teaching home bakers to think, work, and bake like the pros with his evocative and tactile descriptions of baking. In A Jewish Baker's Pastry Secrets, he crafts master dough recipes for Jewish holiday baking and European classics, creating a comprehensive set of building blocks for both beginners and baking enthusiasts. Greenstein's expert guidance for making doughs like bundt, babka, strudel, gugelhopf, stollen, pressburger, puff pastry, and Danish create a jumping-off point for more than 200 variations of classic pastries, including napoleons, coffee cakes, and sweet buns. The book also offers an in-depth guide to ingredients and equipment, including both professional and home ovens, as well as 40 basic recipes for fillings, icings, and glazes. With Greenstein's steady guidance and familiar voice, home bakers and professionals alike will be encouraged to turn out flawless pastry creations for any occasion.

     I was really excited to get this cookbook. I love pastries of all sorts, and particularly ones from eastern europe. This book combines jewish pastries with eastern european ones to make a party for your tongue. The book opens with Rugelach and goes upward from there. 

     Each recipe is accompanied by a small story. This story drags you in and sits you at their kitchen table. It is very hard not to imagine sitting in a warm delicious smelling kitchen with everyone chatting around you. It brings their home to yours. The recipes are all very easy to understand and of course delicious. 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

History Brought To Life

Luther and Katharina
Jody Hedlund
A Novel of Love and Rebellion

Katharina von Bora has seen nothing but the inside of cloister walls since she was five. In a daring escape, Katharina finds refuge with Martin Luther and seeks his help to pair her with the noble, wealthy husband she desires.

As class tensions and religious conflicts escalate toward the brink of war, Martin Luther believes that each day could be his last and determines he will never take a wife.

As the horrors of the bloody Peasant War break out around them, the proud Katharina and headstrong Martin Luther fight their own battle for true love, in one of the greatest love stories of history.


In the 16th century, nun Katharina von Bora’s fate fell no further than the Abbey. Until she read the writings of Martin Luther.

His sweeping Catholic church reformation—condemning a cloistered life and promoting the goodness of marriage—awakened her desire for everything she’d been forbidden. Including Martin Luther himself.

Despite the fact that the attraction and tension between them is undeniable, Luther holds fast to his convictions and remains isolated, refusing to risk anyone’s life but his own. And Katharina longs for love, but is strong-willed. She clings proudly to her class distinction, pining for nobility over the heart of a reformer. They couldn’t be more different.

But as the world comes tumbling down around them, and with Luther’s threatened life a constant strain, these unlikely allies forge an unexpected bond of understanding, support and love. 

     I love when I'm able to find two synopses on the internet! We get to look at two different summaries that reveal two different things about the story without spoiling. I look at being like two different trailers for a movie. You just want more where you can get it!

     Jody Hedlund brought the first tale of Protestantism to life. So often we romanticize what these protesters had to suffered through, with history softened by fading memories and time. She brings a dose of heavy hitting reality back onto the scene with amazing artistry.

     The book reveals things about the church at that time that absolutely disgusted me and sent me into bursts of tears. The control exerted over what emotions the reader felt was simply inspiring. For example, have you ever thought about what nuns were subjected to? These women were under the control of basically a corrupt government. Think about how the church acted at that point. 

     I don't recommend that you read this book if things like that will set you on the offense. But if you are willing to face the facts surrounding people who weren't exactly a beacon of light, it truly is an amazing eye opening story. It blew my mind (and also made me want to beat a few people), and that is totally what we want from the books that we read. The information we put in is important.

     Martin Luther and Katharina's story is a true one, and their love was even more so. Their relationship, perseverance, devotion and faith remind us that God makes everything work towards our good.

     I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review! Happy Reading! 

Paintings Were Lost, Never to Be Found

Where Treasures Hide

Johnnie Alexander

     Artist Alison Schuyler spends her time working in her family’s renowned art gallery, determined to avoid the curse that has followed the Schuyler clan from the Netherlands to America and back again. She’s certain that true love will only lead to tragedy—that is, until a chance meeting at Waterloo station brings Ian Devlin into her life.

       Drawn to the bold and compassionate British Army captain, Alison begins to question her fear of love as World War II breaks out, separating the two and drawing each into their own battles. While Ian fights for freedom on the battlefield, Alison works with the Dutch Underground to find a safe haven for Jewish children and priceless pieces of art alike. But safety is a luxury war does not allow. 

      With the relatively recent release and promotion of The Monument's Men, interest in Nazi art thievery during World War Two has gone way up. This book isn't so much about American involvement in the war or about Jewish suffering, which tend to be the two things that World War Two fiction focus on, but instead about Dutch Europeans who had to deal with Nazis in power before the war started. The focus is on the art, and the smuggling and preservation of it.

     The love story between Alison and Ian is absolutely adorable! The relationship has a element of realism that a lot of romance oriented stories lack. Because the book takes place over the course of six years (1939-1945 ish) we get to see a more realistic time line for feelings to manifest as actual promises to one another. With the six years being covered there are quite a few time jumps. All the time jumps are surrounded by great context and detail, so we don't feel left out.

     I absolutely adored reading this book! I sped through the pages because it was just so important that I knew the ending. And now that I do, I have decided that a sequel is totally in order. Happy Reading! Don't forget to click on the cover to read an excerpt!

     If/When you finish the book, leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail and we can talk about it! I love to hear what everyone else thinks too!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Thank Goodness - Getting a Bride the Old Fashioned Way

A Bride at Last

Melissa Jagears 

Unexpected Brides #3

Abandoned by his mail-order bride, Silas Jonesey has fought an uphill battle to recover from a pattern of poor choices. Now his prayers for reconciliation have finally come true and his estranged wife has contacted him with her whereabouts.

Kate Dawson was supposed to be a mail-order bride, but upon realizing she'd been deceived about her intended groom, she's now settled into life as a schoolteacher. When the mother of a student passes away, Kate assumes she'll take on care of nine-year-old Anthony--until two men suddenly show up in town, claiming to be the boy's father.

Silas can see Anthony loves Kate, so he enlists her help in reaching out to the boy and attempting to prove his paternity to the court. When a common interest in Anthony leads to an interest in each other and Silas and Kate begin to think they can overcome their rocky start, neither is prepared for the secrets and past hurts that have yet to come to light. Can Silas, Kate, and Anthony's wounded souls bind them together or will all that stands between them leave them lonely forever?

      The third book in the Unexpected Brides series, A Bride at Last is the conclusion of a story line that was hinted at in the first novel, A Bride for Keeps.

Silas and Kate both have to deal with the various problems associated with a recovering alcoholic. The subject wasn’t particularly sensitive, but forced the characters to consider forgiveness as it applies to themselves and those around them.

            The first two books in the series are set primarily in the town, with little to no movement from it and the surrounding area. This one takes place primarily in a very different little town. Ultimately we are not quite as close to the other characters that popped up in the other books. They do interact a bit, and you have to prepare yourself so that you aren’t overwhelmed because it has been a couple of years since the plot of the other two. I personally love this because it feels like an extended epilogue.

            Kate is a teacher, so she has to deal with the expectations of proper manners that come out because of that. It is REALLY annoying, so I would recommend having some kind of stress releases nearby. Throwing the book across the room imagining certain characters bloated heads being slammed into the wall while losing your page isn’t really a good option.

            I really loved this book, and I hope that more will come out of this series. I have a few guesses about what the next plotline could be. I can’t wait to see who comes next!

            I received a copy of this book from the amazing author, Melissa Jagears, in exchange for telling people about it if I like it (which I do – I LOVE it!!). Enjoy reading and don’t forget to click on the cover to read an excerpt. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Shakers or Quakers? More like Shaking Quakers

The Innocent

Ann H. Gabhart

Carlyn Kearney has spent two lonely years not knowing whether to mourn or to hope after she receives word from the Union Army that her husband is missing. When the war ends without further word, Carlyn finds herself penniless, in debt, and forced from her home. With nowhere else to go, she seeks refuge at the Shaker village of Harmony Hill.

The Shakers profess peace through simple living, but to Carlyn, the Shaker life seems anything but simple. When mysterious deaths disturb the peace of the village, Carlyn falls under intense scrutiny. Can a kind sheriff help her expose the true culprit?

    When I finished the book I learned that the Innocent is actually one of those sequel-ish kind of books that occur when the book is set in the same place as earlier ones, but perhaps with slightly different driving characters. I didn't feel like I was missing anything, but if you really have to read in order...

     When I started the book I didn't really know what Shakers were. I assumed (incorrectly) that Shaker was just another term for Quaker. In reality the Shakers were a group that splintered off of the Quakers and earned their name because of all the movement they did while worshiping. This background information is really everything you need because you experience all of the different eccentricities with newcomer Carlyn Kearney. The author does a fantastic job teaching about the Shakers without feeling preachy (except for intended).

     The suspense of the action didn't really kick in until the latter half of the book when things really started going wrong and all emotions were being pumped up. The first half isn't slow, and is very interesting, but the book (and you heartrate) really pick up near the end. 

    There is only one really sensitive topic in the book: a nasty man who owns Carlyn's  home tries to recruit her as his mistress in exchange for payment of her debt. He pursues her, begins attacking her, but is ultimately thwarted before he can do any harm. 

     I really enjoyed reading about the Shakers and Carlyn and would happily read more by Ann H. Gabhart. I highly recommend it!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. Enjoy Reading! Don't forget to click on the cover to read an excerpt. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Squeal Worthy Returns of Squeal Worthy Heroes

A Love Like Ours

Becky Wade

Porter Family #3

Former Marine Jake Porter has far deeper scars than the one that marks his face. He struggles with symptoms of PTSD, lives a solitary life, and avoids relationships.

When Lyndie James, Jake's childhood best friend, lands back in Holley, Texas, Jake cautiously hires her to exercise his Thoroughbreds. Lyndie is tender-hearted, fiercely determined, and afraid of nothing, just like she was as a child. Jake pairs her with Silver Leaf, a horse full of promise but lacking in results, hoping she can solve the mystery of the stallion's reluctance to run.

Though Jake and Lyndie have grown into very different adults, the bond that existed during their childhood still ties them together. Against Jake's will, Lyndie's sparkling, optimistic personality begins to tear down the walls he's built around his heart. A glimmer of the hope he'd thought he'd lost returns, but fears and regrets still plague him. Will Jake ever be able to love Lyndie like she deserves, or is his heart too shattered to mend?

     Becky Wade's Porter Family is extremely hunky and a pleasure to visit. Jake Porter's struggles throughout the book are every day and relatable. I've never been in the sort of situation that would result in PTSD, but the portrayal of his struggles and the terrible things he had to live through made him feel like a person. Once in a while, probably a total of six or seven times in the book, a new chapter is started in italics. These tiny sections are Jake's memories from his traumatic experience. They will make you cry, but they are not explicitly violent. Not gory, just sad. 

    In addition you really feel sympathy for Jake's character as well as Lyndie's family when it comes to Lyndie's younger sister Mollie. Mollie is a young woman who has a crippling disease, she can't communicate/move/fend for herself. It makes you identify with the uncomfortable feelings that you would feel around someone who couldn't speak with you. Lyndie's attitude puts into perspective what those families have to face, and the love of the Lord for people who happen to touch people in special ways because they can't in normal ones. 

     I really loved the double romance. Remember Amber from the first book with Meg? She comes back. For Amber it is several years later and she has a fulfilling and satisfying relationship with the Lord. Her romance doesn't take over Lyndie and Jake's story line, but adds to it and makes it richer. 

     Becky Wade really set up the forth book by introducing more of Dru into this particular one. I can't wait to see more of Dru's take-down kind of personality. 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. Enjoy Reading! Click on the link to read an excerpt. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Easily Understood with all the Depth

Draven's Light

Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Tales of Goldstone Wood Novella

Drums summon the chieftain’s powerful son to slay a man in cold blood and thereby earn his place among the warriors. But instead of glory, he earns the name Draven, “Coward.” When the men of his tribe march off to war, Draven remains behind with the women and his shame. Only fearless but crippled Ita values her brother’s honor.

The warriors return from battle victorious yet trailing a curse in their wake. One by one the strong and the weak of the tribe fall prey to an illness of supernatural power. The secret source of this evil can be found and destroyed by only the bravest heart.

But when the curse attacks the one Draven loves most, can this coward find the courage he needs to face the darkness?

     This is the perfect novella for the Tales of Goldstone Wood. Less complicated then literally every other book in the series, it delivers the same delightful story on a quick and less intensive time span. The need to be in  an environment where you can focus, and leave off at specific points so you won't forget what is going on isn't present. 

     This novella delivers the style, and the environment, in a friendly for beginners fashion. I would even go so far as to say this novella is perfect for those just starting on these intense books, and also good for those who are looking for a light beach read. 

     Not to say that it doesn't deliver the emotional plot, or the touching and deep plot. Because it does. It is just less characters. Less people who with their own individual story lines can gunk up the basics with incredible tangents. 

     It is a perfect compliment to the rest of the series and I highly recommend reading it any way you can. 

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my review. Enjoy Reading!