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Friday, September 12, 2014

Book Review: Conrad and the Cowgirl Next Door

It's always fun to review kids books!  And my kids and I loved this book from Zonderkidz.  Its a fun cowboy story about Conrad, a well prepared boy (with a gigantic first aid kit he knows how to use!) who goes to learn how to be a cowboy on his Uncle Clint's ranch.  When he arrives, he meets the know-it-all cowgirl next door, Imogene.  Conrad sets a wonderful example throughout the book as he responds to her annoying comments and especially at the end as he shows her kindness despite the fact that she has just bought the horse he was bidding on! The book feels like a very well made hard back, and has adorable illustrations throughout.  At the back of the book there is a spread of cute cowboy poems, as well as a letter from the author to parents explaining the theme, the reason behind the story, and includes discussion starters to help kids understand being kind to one's enemies. This is a great storybook with a great message that I know my kids will read over and over!


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

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Book ReviewL NIV Essentials Study Bible

I was able to snag an ebook review copy of this study bible, the NIV Essentials Study Bible. As an ebook, this has a really nice layout.  There are many menus in the front, including lists of links to the different kinds of helps and devotionals. The books of the Bible are linked as well as each chapter for easy access, which makes using this as your only Bible during sermons much more possible. This would be a good Bible for beginners to ebook Bibles as well, as the introduction includes a brief tutorial on how to navigate to specific passages and supplementary materials. One thing I really like about this version is that the supplementary materials are not interspersed throughout the chapter as they are in a typical printed Bible.  Rather, they are in a section at the end of each book of the Bible and hyperlinks are included in the readings.  So one can easily read their chosen passage without distractions, and then go back and use the hyperlinks to see applicable supplemental materials.  Or if you prefer, you can jump to them during your reading.

There is an excellent introduction to each book of the Bible as well, and I appreciate the simple layout.  Rather than one long introduction of several pages of info, which can sometimes be hard to follow and read, this Bible's introductions are short and simple, with various sections such as Key Concepts, About the book, Key Verses, Key Teachings, Key Terms, and People to Know. These sections are often simple bulleted points or short descriptions of key terms or people. The supplemental helps seem to be explanations and devotionals to really help one understand the text and explain common questions and cultural differences the text might bring up.

I'd definitely recommend this Bible for those seeking to deepen their faith and study of the Bible. The helpful commentaries and easy to navigate layout make it an excellent choice for an e-Bible.

I recieved an e-copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Tried and True

Tried and True (Wild at Heart, #1)Tried and True by Mary Connealy
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really was interested in reading this book after reading the promo. Kylie, who is honorably discharged from service in the Civil War where she enlisted disguised  as a man, is now homesteading also disguised as a man. The land surveyor, Aaron, quickly realizes she is far from a man when he inspects her property and meets her. He gets caught up in investigating and protecting her when someone tries to scare her off her property.

Most of the novel was interesting, and enjoyable to read. Its a easy, noncomplicated adventure of sorts. The main part of the mystery is wrapped up easily and that is where it was kind of ruined for me... the rest of the novel seems like they just tacked on the there to round out the story, and that part of the storyline comes out of nowhere. There were several inconsistencies, such as the fact that their indian friend Sunrise, first touted as the best tracker there is, doesn't hear someone sneaking up on them yet the entire group quickly finds them for the rescue. There is hardly any talk of faith throughout the book, yet at the end they are suddenly extremely spiritual.  The entire ending was odd to me and didn't fit the book well at all.
I imagine readers of Christian fiction would enjoy this book, however the ending section really spoiled it for me.

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


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Thursday, July 17, 2014

book review: the Loving Kitchen

This book by LeAnn Rice was a nice cookbook. I recieved it as an ebook, and it is easy to navigate as the index contains links to the pages, and you can navigate by chapter as well.  The recipes are good basic recipes with normal every day ingredients.  The recipes aren't new and inventive so much, but I like having nice basic cookbooks as well.  I wish there were a few more pictures, but the instructions are good. There are lots of great breakfast recipes, some that can be made ahead to simplify the morning's rush. Breads, Starters and Salads, Soups and Sandwiches, Entrees, Vegetables and Sides, and Desserts are the remaining chapters. I love that the final chapters are called Reaching out and Gathering In, where the author relates her experience briefly of dealing with her husband's death from cancer, and realizing the importance of reaching out to others and helping as we can, in her case, through sharing gifts of food. In Gathering In, she talks about the importance of meals as a family and includes conversational games to get everyone interacting.

I recommend this book to all cooks who enjoy good, solid recipes with everyday ingredients.  It would be especially good I think, for beginning cooks as things are basic and clear and not overwhelming with odd, difficult ingredients and techniques.

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

Book Review: Murder at the Mikado

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the third book in the series (don't worry, I think you can read them on their own, I read 2 and 3 without ever reading 1). I enjoy what I've read of this series so far, this mystery was no exception. The mystery is intriguing and keeps me guessing. I enjoy the characters as well; Drew, the wealthy gallant young man especially. He's not your typical heir, instead genuinely cares about people, like his estate manager who is a good friend, and treats those of all stations with respect and kindness. Madeline is Drew's American fiancĂ©, and while I enjoyed her character in the previous book, I found myself quite annoyed with her in this book as she seemed to flip flop between being whiny about wanting Drew to drop the detective case of investigating a murder in which his ex-girlfriend is. A suspect, and understanding why he felt the need to investigate. Even when another person of interest offers him information about the birth mother he has been searching for in exchange for clearing her name, Madeline gets upset and says that she doesn't understand why it can't be left in the past (though previously in this book and the previous one she is in full agreement with his desire to find his birth mother,  Her immaturity and poor attitude throughout the book did detract from the story for me. The mystery was great though and perhaps I'm just terrible with figuring out the who-dun-it, but it was not who I thought it might be!

This is labeled Christian fiction, but it honestly is very sparing in that area. A few of the characters mention God rather vaguely and Drew prays several times, especially towards the end about his Spiritual life, but I don't think it would be overwhelming for non-Christian readers looking for a clean mystery/romance. I enjoy this series and would definitely read more!

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


Monday, July 14, 2014

Book Review: The Homesick Texan's Family Table

This cookbook, The Homesick Texan's Family Table, is a beautiful book filled with gorgeous pictures of food and the Texas countryside. 



I wasn't sure how much I'd find that I actually wanted to try, but actually have many that I'd love to try first!  It seemed that everytime I turned the page, I'd change my mind about which was first on the list!  I am dying to try the buttermilk bacon-fat flour tortillas, since I've been trying to become better at my own!  I love breads so obviously the Oatmeal Bread, Buttermilk Dinner Rolls and Angel biscuits are also on my list!  The rest of the breakfast dishes sound delicious as well, and I may even have to venture into making my own sausage, because the Bacon-Molasses Breakfast Sausage sounds so good! And this is all just from chapter 1, the Breakfast and Breads chapter!

Every section and recipe start with a anecdote about the origin, or some memory of the recipe with relation to the author's family, and her writing adds so much to the book. It feels like you are sitting down with her as she shares her family with you. I love how she takes family recipes and gives them (sometimes) a new twist, such as with the simple Chipotle Ranch-Spiced Oyster Crackers. j

The recipes are not filled with wild and crazy ingredients or tools, but really seemed to use ingredients that could be found anywhere.  The author lives in NY and notes and the beginning that she cooks in a tiny kitchen.  It's refreshing (and helpful) to read a cookbook where the cooking feels attainable- I don't have to have a restaurant style kitchen to succeed!  Throughout the recipes, especially in the main section, she notes about how while Texans may do it a certain way (grill, smoker etc), she uses the oven/broiler etc due to her circumstances and I love that  the recipes are written this way for the ordinary home cook. 

The recipes do include a lot of peppers and other spicy-er ingredients, but if you like Texan and Mexican style food, then you'll love this cookbook.  Even if you don't, there are definitely recipes for you as well (the dessert section is amazing... Fresh Peach Ice Cream, Molasses and Spiced Pecan Ice Cream, Strawberry Shortcake, Gingerbread, Pecan Pie... mmmm..... And there are other recipes too without too much kick, like the Shrimp Boil, and Catfish Tacos.

I'm so happy to have this cookbook on my shelf and can't wait to cook from it!

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

Book Review: All for a Sister

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This novel was the third in a series apparently, but don't let that scare you away. in guessing they are not really interrelated as I never once felt like I had missed something.  The premise of this novel was so intriguing. when the DuFrane family's baby daughter dies from what is labeled an accidental death, the mother Marguerite cannot believe this and begins her crusade against 12 year old Dana Lundgren who ends up spending 20 years of her young life locked away in prison. The story begins with and being returned to the DuFrane family residence as coheir with young Celeste and is revealed through Dana's telling of the story, flashbacks of Celeste childhood, and the confessional writing of Marguerite DuFrane. The story was engaging as Celeste learns that things were not as she thought, and struggles with reentry into a completely new lifestyle from the one she left at twelve, and the mystery of what happened to the family is revealed. This is an excellent novel for those looking for clean engaging mysteries. While it is a Christian novel, I don't find it overwhelmingly so, and actually found myself wondering for most of the novel where the faith aspect was. It wasn't quite as inspiring with regards to faith as other Christian novels but does lend itself to a wider audience as I don't think nonchristian readers will be so overwhelmed. A excellent read, and I definitely wouldn't mind reading the others in the series or other by this author.

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