Tuesday, May 22, 2018

"Playing By Heart" Review

After many years of hard work, Lula Bowman has finally landed a collegiate teaching position and a prestigious scholarship in mathematics. As a woman, neither of those were easy to come by, but Lula has proven herself to be worthy of such an endeavor.

But when she receives a frantic phone call from her sister, Lula reluctantly returns to her hometown of Dunn, Oklahoma.

Giving up her scholarship and her teaching position at the university, she agrees to the only position she can find – high school music teacher and girls’ basketball coach. The music side of things Lula can handle. She has a talent for playing the piano, and she had a real passion for music when she was younger. But she knows nothing about basketball and has to turn to the boys’ coach for help.

Chet Vaughn currently teaches math at the high school as well as serves as coach for the boys’ basketball team. With his brother away fighting in the Great War, Chet is left to care for their widowed mother. The new music teacher should have been the last person to turn his head. After all, he had fended off every other eligible girl trying to get his attention in the last few years. But something about Lula catches Chet off guard, and he doesn’t really know what to expect.

As Chet and Lula spend more and more time together, they each try to combat their growing feelings. God is working in the hearts of both of them, and He might just be leading them in a direction hey never would have expected.

Set during World War One in a small Oklahoma town, Playing By Heart is a novel filled with warmth, hope, and faith in a God who gives us the desires of our hearts – even if those desires were not what we thought they would be.

I was really excited to pick up this book and read it since I have enjoyed several of Anne Mateer’s novels in the past. I was also excited about reading this book because the book I read previous to this one was so depressing and so terrible (not by Anne Mateer and not Christian fiction) I couldn’t even finish it. I was craving something nice and fun and uplifting to drown out the awfulness that had saturated my brain. (The awful book was not a review book, and it’s not even worth mentioning the title!).

So it was with great joy that I dove right into Playing By Heart, and it met almost all of my expectations.

One of my favorite things about the book was how well I got to know the characters of Lula and Chet. The novel alternates between the viewpoints of the two, and each is written in first person. At first I thought this might be a bit awkward, but it actually wasn’t, and it helped me to really identify with the main characters well. I guess I identified with Lula the most since she had a passion for music – piano specifically – as well as an interest in academics. Her struggle to achieve what the world sees as success (college, math) rather than allowing her identity to be rooted in Christ was something that hit close to home for me. Lula and Chet were both intelligent characters that were strong without being overbearing.

I also thought the secondary characters were fleshed out very well in this novel. The boys and girls on the basketball teams were so fun, and the characters of Lula’s sister and Chet’s mother were so real. The other characters in the book really gave it a balance that was appropriate and refreshing.

The setting in this book was unique, which kept the plotlines from being completely cliché. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of a book set during World War One that focused mainly on a love interest that revolved around high school basketball. I’m a huge sports fan and this part of the story really sold the plotlines overall for me.

While the plot was interesting – mostly because of the secondary characters and the basketball angle – there were things about the romantic plotline that were somewhat disappointing. There were some external factors and situations that kept Lula and Chet from discovering/declaring their interest in each other too early in the book, but most of what kept them apart was the much-used transgression of just not sitting down and talking to each other like adults. Their conversations were sometimes stilted and just downright frustrating.

Even though the romantic angle wasn’t quite to my liking, the rest of the book was. The message of faith was not extremely deep, but it was clear and woven throughout the novel and into the hearts and lives of the people in this small Oklahoma town.

And in case you're wondering, Playing By Heart was just the thing I needed to rid my mind of that previous atrocity of a book!


I will give Playing By Heart … 4 BookWorms.











Playing By Heart
by Anne Mateer
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: September 16, 2014
320 pages






Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, May 18, 2018

"Amish Cooks Across America" Review

The popular columnist and cookbook author The Amish Cook explores the traditions of Amish settlements across America, with more than 100 new recipes from Amish and Mennonite communities, as well as profiles of the communities themselves.

In Amish Cooks Across America: Recipes and Traditions from Maine to Montana, the celebrated columnist and cookbook author known as The Amish Cook explores why one Amish community in the Northeast makes Shoofly Pie while another settlement in the South favors Muscadine Pie.
   
Divided into chapters highlighting Amish groups in the North, South, East, West, and Midwest, with side trips to Canada and Central America, this recipe book doubles as a travelogue, sampling the cultural and culinary differences among Amish and Mennonite communities across the nation.
   
The Amish are the original locavores. In this collection of fascinating recipes, you'll find favorites from middle America, such as Scalloped Corn, alongside coastal specialties such as Grilled Lime Fish Fillets and Avocado Egg Scramble, as well as Western staples such as Elk Stew and Huckleberry Pancakes, and Southern classics such as Sweet Potato Surprise Cake.
     
This more-than-a-cookbook is filled with full-color photographs of food and the places visited, along with profiles that explore the origins and cooking traditions of each community. This is a book like no other--a delicious melting pot and a fascinating armchair tour of Amish America.


Amish Cooks Across America
Lovina Eicher & Kevin Williams
Andrews McMeel Publishing
Publication date: May 28, 2013
192 pages


My Take:

I love cookbooks.  And I love home-style food.

So I really enjoyed this Amish cookbook. Not only does it have good recipes but it has neat photographs and interesting insights into the places where these recipes were produced.

Most of the recipes in this cookbook were simple to prepare and used easy-to-find ingredients. There were a few that were not to our liking - we don't have elk where we live, and I'm not sure I would want to eat it even if we did - but most of the recipes I would try.

Some of my favorites were the Potato Chowder, the Homemade Baking Mix, and the Cheesy Enchiladas. My husband really liked the Broccoli Salad and the Apple Cake.

For some tasty recipes and a good look into the lives of the Amish in America, this might be one cookbook to pick up.






Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Andrews McMeel Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


Friday, May 11, 2018

"The Pelican Bride" Blog Tour

Genevieve Gaillain and her sister are headed to the New World on the journey of their lives. To escape religious persecution in France, the sisters find themselves on board the Pelican to become wives to the French Canadian men who are settling in the colony of Louisiana.

Tristan Lanier just wants to be able to live peacefully and work his land. Even though he is French Canadian, he is currently at odds with the French leaders in the Louisiana area due to his stance on the native people and his opinions on where the French people should be settling.

When Genevieve and the other Pelican Brides arrive on the shores of Louisiana, they are shocked at what they discover. The men in the colony are nothing like what was advertised, and the unrest in the area is a real concern. But when Genevieve and Tristan meet, there is an instant connection.

As the days go by, the political struggles in the area intensify, and everyone is affected. After leaving her native France in the midst of similar circumstances, Genevieve wonders if there is anywhere that she might be able to find the peace and love she longs for.

Set in 1704, The Pelican Bride is the first book in the Gulf Coast Chronicles series by Beth White.

For more information, click here.


About the Author: Beth White's day job is teaching music at an inner-city high school in historic Mobile, Alabama. A native Mississippian, her passion is writing historical romance with a southern drawl. Her novels have won the American Christian Fiction Writers' Carol Award, the RT Book Club Reviewers' Choice Award, and the Inspirational Reader's Choice Award. Learn more at www.bethwhite.net.



My Take:

Admittedly, this time period and setting is not one that I read often. I was intrigued, though, by the story of women coming to the New World as brides and not necessarily getting what they bargained for. As far as that plotline goes, this book was really interesting. It was neat to see early America through the eyes of the newcomers and to experience what life was like in the colonies at that time, especially since there were so many people vying for the land.

I have to say, however, that this novel was very heavy on the historical side of things. I like historical fiction, of course – it is my favorite genre to read. But this one had so many historical facts and details that the fiction part of it often got lost. The author actually admits in her note at the end of the book that this might be the case: “I’m pretty much the ultimate history geek, so I found myself loading the story with way too much information for the average fiction reader (I suspect I’ll have critics on both ends of the spectrum). At my editor’s suggestion, I decided to put some of that information here, to keep from bogging down the action in the novel.” (White, Kindle location 4241)

Unfortunately, that is exactly what I thought happened in this novel. Actually, it wasn’t always the strict history lesson that got in the way of the action of the story but the descriptions of the setting and time period. There were so many times when something exciting would be happening, and right in the middle of it there would be a description of how bread was being made or how a character’s office looked. I am really torn about this style of writing, though. I really liked getting the complete picture of what life was like for people during this time. It was very interesting and made the novel have so much more depth, but sometimes it did slow the action down. I also thought that this novel was too gritty overall, but that’s just a personal preference.

As I began reading this book, I have to say that I was swept up in the story right away. The plotlines are complex and overlap with each other very well. Once the Pelican brides arrived in the settlement, things started getting even more intriguing. I was kept from completely enjoying the main plots of the story, however, because of the sheer number of characters in this book. It doesn’t help that the names of the characters are mostly French. I realize that to remain authentic, this needed to be the case. I just wish I had started keeping a list of who was who at the beginning of the book!

The part of the story that was most interesting to me was the Protestant/Catholic storyline. It was interesting to learn how there was so much persecution of those who were part of the Reformation and that this persecution extended even to the New World. I wish there had been a bit more depth to the matter of faith in the other characters’ lives, not just Genevieve’s. I also liked the story between Genevieve and Tristan. It was a quick romance, but, considering their circumstances, it was believable. 

This is the first book in the Gulf Coast Chronicles by this author, and I believe the next one will be out sometime next year.

I will give The Pelican Bride ... 3 BookWorms.










The Pelican Bride
by Beth White
Gulf Coast Chronicles #1
Revell Publishing
Publication date: April 15, 2014






Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, May 4, 2018

"The Brickmaker's Bride" Review

Soon after the Civil War, Ewan McKay ventures to West Virginia to help his uncle purchase and run a brickmaking business. The one they decide to purchase is currently owned by a war widow and her daughter who are forced to sell. Ewan is soon drawn to the intelligent daughter of the former owner, Laura, whose knowledge of business and brickmaking certainly impresses him. But Laura has been courted for years by a successful lawyer from the area – one who is an aspiring politician and who already knows the secret she holds.

When Ewan’s uncle makes a deal that puts the brickworks in jeopardy, his future seems hopeless. With Laura’s help, will Ewan be able to save the brickworks? And will he also be able to win Laura’s heart?

The Brickmaker’s Bride is the first in the “Refined by Love” series by Judith Miller.

For a small change of pace, I decided to put a post-Civil War-era book into my repertoire. I tend to shy away from Civil War-era books for some reason, but this one caught my eye.

Usually I am very interested in discovering different eras in history and the processes and things that go along with them, especially things that I don’t know much about. I definitely know nothing about brickmaking, but I was less than thrilled with the descriptions of making bricks in this book. It was sometimes tedious and didn’t always flow well with the rest of the story. The tension over the bad deal that Ewan’s uncle made kept the plot going, but it sometimes seemed as if it was just all too much. I just kept wanting poor Ewan to catch a break.

The romance between Laura and Ewan was sweet, but the main characters themselves seemed to lack a depth that would have made them more endearing to the reader. I’m not sure what more could have been done to achieve this depth. The dialogue for the most part was good, but I felt as if the main characters didn’t experience too much growth overall. I just didn’t feel connected to Laura or Ewan, and most of the minor characters were over-the-top and annoying. I was at least satisfied with the end of the book and how Laura and Ewan’s story was wrapped up.

Even though I didn’t feel as if Laura and Ewan grew too much in this novel, there were still some important spiritual themes that were explored. Some of these were leaning on God during difficult times, not compromising your integrity (especially in business), and knowing that no one is too far gone to be redeemed. Although I felt as if these themes sometimes didn’t go quite deep enough and sometimes left Christ out of the picture, they still redeemed the book a bit for me.

Overall, The Brickmaker’s Bride seemed to have two different personalities. It wanted to be a sweet romantic story, but too many historical details and annoying minor characters got in the way. On the other hand, it wanted to be a fiction novel pertaining to the business of brickmaking in the second half of the 1800s, but the romance seemed to be just tacked on for good measure. Maybe it was just me, but for some reason, the two didn’t seem to click together very well.

Even though there were some bumps along the way, The Brickmaker’s Bride is a sweet romantic story that takes place during an especially hard time in our nation’s history.

I will give The Brickmaker's Bride ... 3 BookWorms.








The Brickmaker's Bride
by Judith Miller
"Refined by Love" #1
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: October 7, 2014
352 pages






Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, April 27, 2018

"Steadfast Heart" Review

Lenore Fulcher wasn’t particularly looking for a suitor the day her father suggested she begin courting one of his business partners. But she does know that a friend of her father’s – especially one who is 17 years older than she – is not exactly what she desires in a mate. Fortunately Lenore meets Kolbein before her father can pledge her to another.

Kolbein Booth was definitely not looking for a bride when he arrived on the West Coast. After learning that his sister, who had run from their home in Chicago, might have come to Seattle to the Madison Bridal School, he is determined to find her. What awaits Kolbein at that school is not his sister but Lenore Fulcher, and for some reason he is completely captivated by her.

As Kolbein searches for his sister with the help of Lenore’s friends, he realizes that he does not want to leave Lenore and the city of Seattle to go back to Chicago. Will his sister be found safe and sound, and is Lenore the one who God has put in his life to be his bride?


Steadfast Heart is book one in the “Brides of Seattle” series by Tracie Peterson.

I wrote an article for Straight off the Page last month about How I Fell in Love with Historical Romance. In it I declared that the first author who caused me to fall in love with the genre was Janette Oke. While this is true, one of the authors who helped this love for Christian historical romance blossom was definitely Tracie Peterson.

Because of this I kind of have a soft spot for her and authors like her, and I tend to be a little more accepting of the genre pet peeves that sometimes come up in their novels (the Big Misunderstanding, love-at-first-sight, and the like). Their novels are “comfort food” for me, and I can overlook some things more easily.

Unfortunately I cannot do that with Steadfast Heart. The novel got off to a rocky start with the story being told from no fewer than five points of view within the first few chapters. This way of telling the story introduced the characters well, I guess, but it made the book very hard to get into. Plus, Lenore (the main female character from the back of the book) goes off to San Francisco very early on in the book and doesn’t return until almost the halfway point. This leaves the story to be told mostly through Abrianna, Lenore’s very high-strung, albeit well-meaning, best friend.

I actually think that Abrianna is more of the main character in this story instead of Lenore. It was fairly confusing to have so much of the story told through Abrianna’s eyes when I kept thinking that Lenore was the main character. I even had a hard time writing the summary above for this book since Lenore and Kolbein seem to barely be in it! What’s worse is that Abrianna, to me, was such an annoying character. I found myself skimming her ramblings, and I kept wanting Marilla Cuthbert to come along and say, “Abrianna! Hold your tongue!” Unfortunately Abrianna was not anywhere close to being as endearing as Anne Shirley, despite the surface similarities.

Despite these awkward occurrences, there were a few things about the novel that I liked. The concept of the Bridal School was interesting, especially since it had a good reputation and wasn’t considered a place of “ill repute.” I also liked the character of Wade – a life-long friend of Abrianna’s – and I would even go so far as to say that he was my favorite character of the book. There were also some good spiritual aspects to the novel. I liked how Wade was able to reach out to Kolbein during his time of spiritual doubt. I thought this was a good example of how to be compassionate and how to be available to those who need a listening ear.

As for the romance between Kolbein and Lenore, I’ve already mentioned that they didn’t seem to be the focal point of the book. Their shallow whirlwind of a romance – with the love-at-first-sight and the never seeming to spend any time together – was the epitome of a pet peeve for this genre. However, since they didn’t quite seem to be the main characters, it didn’t bother me as much. They did seem to be right for each other, and at least they did freely admit that they hadn’t known each other long and that it seemed to be strange that they should fall so madly in love so quickly. As I said, I can overlook these sorts of tropes with my favorite authors more easily.

Ultimately I just found this novel to be all over the place. It’s like it couldn’t decide which story it wanted to tell – Lenore and Kolbein, Abrianna and Wade, the Bridal School, social disparity, discrimination towards the Chinese on the West Coast at this time, drug and human trafficking – and most of these stories were just touched upon and left to hang until (hopefully) the next book in the series. It’s not easy for me to say, but I almost feel as if this book wasn’t even written by Tracie Peterson. That’s how far out in left field it felt. It’s really hard to admit that you didn’t care for a novel from one of your favorite authors, and I hope this feeling of disjointedness doesn’t continue in the series.

Overall, Steadfast Heart was a nice diversion but was far from what this author has produced in the past.

Reluctantly (because this was one of my first favorite authors when I began reading Christian historical fiction), I will give Steadfast Heart ... 2 BookWorms.








Steadfast Heart
by Tracie Peterson
"Brides of Seattle" #1
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: January 6, 2015
336 pages




Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, April 20, 2018

"With Every Breath" Review


Kate Livingston is working as a government statistician in Washington, D.C., when she is surprisingly contacted by a former classmate and offered a new job. Trevor McDonough, a Harvard-educated doctor, is working in a tuberculosis wing at a local hospital and is determined to rid the world of this terrible disease. Kate is reluctant to accept Trevor’s proposal as the two were always such fierce academic rivals during their school days, but she is curious as to why Trevor would want her for the position.

As Kate and Trevor begin to work together, more and more of Trevor’s past comes to light. Kate realizes that she may have misjudged this intense, passionate man. But someone is determined to discredit Trevor and all that he has accomplished, and that might not be the only thing standing in their way.

Set in 1891 with the nation’s capital as a backdrop, With Every Breath is a novel based on the messages of overcoming fears and embracing life and joy.

I really like it when books really grab me from the start, and With Every Breath definitely did that. I absolutely loved how this novel began with the scholarship competition between Kate and Trevor. It was unique and was a great jumping off point for the eventual relationship between the two main characters.

I also really enjoyed the beginning of Kate and Trevor’s relationship – both their friendship and their romance. Their witty banter was fantastic, and I absolutely adored how Trevor was attracted to Kate as more than just a pretty face. He was attracted to her attitude and her intelligence as well. At one point, Trevor thinks to himself, “By heaven, was there anything more attractive than watching a pretty woman tackle a thorny mathematical equation?” That’s just awesome.

As their relationship developed, however, I kind of got bored with that part of the story, and it’s hard to explain why. I was glad that the reasons that kept them apart were valid and that those reasons didn’t feel contrived, but I guess I just felt as if there was too much back-and-forth – will they get together or won’t they? – and it became tiring. The mystery part of the story, however, was appealing and made up for some of the things lacking in the romance.

While the romance might not have been as interesting as I had hoped, the historical and medical aspects of this novel were fascinating. The author pays such attention to detail when it comes to the setting and to the feeling of being right there with the characters. I have read other historical novels where a character has tuberculosis, but I had never understood what a toll it takes and the medical history behind it. The medical aspects were a bit grisly at times, so if you are at all squeamish, be forewarned.


Although this book had a great story and an interesting historical setting, the Christian aspect of this book just didn’t go far enough for me. Kate did experience some spiritual growth in the fact that she ultimately had to come to terms with her fears and to trust God. This was one of the biggest messages that came through in this story - that constantly succumbing to her fears was also keeping her from experiencing great joy. But apart from that, it felt as if the book came from the vantage point that everyone who dies will go to heaven. Jesus coming to die for our sins, our admission of that sin, and our acceptance of His righteousness as our own did not come into play whatsoever.  Since the main focus of the book was tuberculosis, death was a major theme, but what happens after death was not. It just seemed very vague to me, and since death was at the forefront of the subject of this novel, I expected more.
While there were some aspects that kept me from liking it fully, it was still an enjoyable novel overall.

I will give With Every Breath ... 3.5 BookWorms.











With Every Breath
by Elizabeth Camden
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: August 5, 2014






Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, April 13, 2018

"The Secret of Pembrooke Park" Review

Abigail Foster always assumed that she would marry her childhood friend, Gilbert Scott. But with her father in financial ruin and Gilbert seeming to be more attracted to her younger sister, Abigail’s life has been thrown into upheaval.

When a distant relation’s long-empty manor house suddenly becomes available, Abigail’s father makes the decision to move the family to Easton. Abigail and her father journey to Pembrooke Park to get the house in order while her mother and sister enjoy the London season. What awaits them at Pembrooke Park is definitely more than Abigail bargained for: an overprotective steward, a house in shambles that looks as if the inhabitants left in a great hurry, a rumor of hidden treasure, and an interesting local curate.

As Abigail spends more and more time at Pembrooke Park, the deeper she gets into its secrets and mysteries. And the more time she spends with the curate, William Chapman, and his family, the more she realizes how much she longs for a family of her own.

Is there truth to the rumor of hidden treasure at Pembrooke Park? And what will some people do in order to find it…or to keep it safe?

I have enjoyed previous novels by Julie Klassen for their engaging and harder-to-figure-out mystery plots and their historical accuracy. With The Secret of Pembrooke Park, I feel as if I at least got half of what I usually bargain for.

The mystery and secrets surrounding Pembrooke Park stayed true to what I expect from Julie Klassen. There are many layers to the mysteries that Abigail is trying to solve, and even though I figured out the big one early on, it was still enjoyable to see how everything unfolded. The danger towards the end is very exciting, and I thought things wrapped up nicely.

What I didn’t think came off as clearly was the historical accuracy part of the novel. The descriptions of the manor house and the dances and such were fine; it just seemed as if something about the relationship between Abigail and William was a bit off. I can’t quite put my finger on what it was except that their romance seemed somewhat too modern for some reason. Maybe it was because they seemed to spend a lot of time alone together without any serious consequences. Maybe it was that the “inner voices” of the characters seemed too modern. I don't know. Whatever it was, the setting just felt misplaced.

I also thought the spiritual aspect of the novel could have been developed more, especially since the main male character is a pastor. The best spiritual aspect of the novel was William’s sermons. They were fantastic! I just wish Abigail’s faith had been clearer.

The main plot of this novel is very similar to one of my favorite books of all time, Jane Eyre. When Abigail arrives at Pembrooke Park with its strange nighttime noise and many secrets, it was very reminiscent of Jane’s arrival at Thornfield Hall. I usually would begrudge a novel for being so similar to one of my favorites, but I actually liked that aspect in this one. It was familiar and comfortable, and it definitely held my interest. At 464 pages, this novel is quite a long read, and if it hadn’t been for the interesting mysteries, I might have given up halfway through.

Even though the setting was a little out of place, readers of Regency-era mysteries should still enjoy this lengthy but engaging novel.

I will give The Secret of Pembrooke Park ... 3.5 BookWorms.








The Secret of Pembrooke Park
by Julie Klassen
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: December 2, 2014
464 pages






Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, April 6, 2018

"One Pot" Review (Martha Stewart Cookbook)

Using just one pan, you can stew, steam, sauté, simmer, braise, or roast your way to a fuss-free meal—and minimal cleanup to boot.
At the end of a busy day, you want to serve a delicious home-cooked dinner, a complete, all-in-one meal that can be prepared with little effort and few pans to wash. The editors of Martha Stewart Living present a brand-new collection of 120 recipes—organized by vessel—to help you do just that, all while adding savory new dishes to your weekly rotation.

One Pot is an exciting new way to approach everyday cooking: Imagine perfect pasta dishes for which everything goes in the pot at once (yes, that’s pasta, tomato, garlic, basil, and water all cooked together), dinner-party ready roasts with tender vegetables, and down-home casseroles, along with wholesome fish, chicken, and vegetarian dishes. You’ll get incredible flavor payoff from dishes such as comforting Chicken and Dumplings, easy Baked Risotto with Carrots and Squash, healthy Broiled Striped Bass with Tomatoes, hearty Pork Chops with Bacon and Cabbage, and the delectable Skillet Chocolate-Chip Cookie—each of which takes less than an hour from start to finish. Here, too, are a dozen outstanding recipes for surprising and simple desserts that can be ready when you are.

With chapters devoted to your essential cooking vessels—stockpot, skillet, slow cooker, and more—this book is sure to streamline your meals and to satisfy the people you share them with. Recipes include:

DUTCH OVEN: Beef Stew with Noodles, Chicken and Dumplings, Baked Risotto, Texas Red Chili, Cajun Stew

SLOW COOKER: Pulled Pork, Corned Beef and Cabbage, Classic Pot Roast, Lamb Shanks and Potatoes, Garlic Chicken with Barley

SKILLET & SAUTÉ PAN: Spinach Pie, Poached Cod with Tomatoes, Three-Cheese Lasagna, Macaroni and Cheese, Stir-Fried Chicken with Bok Choy

ROASTING PAN & BAKING DISH: Rib-Eye with Root Vegetables, Roast Chicken with Herb Butter, Salmon with Kale, Roast Beef with Acorn Squash, Tuscan Pork Roast

PRESSURE COOKER: Short Ribs with Potato-Carrot Mash, Kale and White Bean Soup, Chicken Cacciatore; Easy Chickpea Curry, Beef Stroganoff

STOCKPOT: Classic Chicken Soup, Split Pea Soup, Gemelli with Pesto and Potatoes, Corn and Shrimp Chowder, Pasta with Farm-Stand Vegetables

DESSERTS: Peach Crumble, Skillet Chocolate-Chip Cookie, Baked Blackberry Custard, Raspberry Sorbet, Molten Chocolate Cupcakes


My Take:

I have kind of a problem when it comes to cookbooks. I love them. I would get a new one every day if  could.

The big problem is that most of the time the recipes in these cookbooks never get around to getting made in our house. We just fall back on the same old recipes. And with tons of recipes out there on the internet, I don't really need to keep cookbooks around as much anymore.

But this cookbook intrigued me. I love one-pot dishes. Not as much clean-up, and the recipes tend to be a bit easier.

As far as the "one-pot" aspect goes in this cookbook by Martha Stewart, they really are one-pot dishes.

As for the preparation and the taste - most of these seemed easy to prepare. However, most of these dishes are just way to fancy for us. Many of the flavors are just not ones that we like. It also seemed as if a lot of the recipes were very similar. We did like the Beef Stew and Noodles, and the desserts were really good - especially the peach crumble and the skillet chocolate-chip cookie!

Overall, this is a nice cookbook even if it was a bit too fancy for our tastes.


One Pot: 120+ Easy Meals from Your Skillet, Slow Cooker, Stockpot, and More.
by the editors of Martha Stewart Living
Clarkson Potter Publishing
Publication date: September 23, 2014
256 pages




Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Clarkson Potter Publishers through Blogging for Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


Friday, March 30, 2018

"Israel's Mission" Blog Tour

About the DVD:

What's your mission?

God gave the assignment to His people thousands of years ago: to bring "lost sheep" back into the love and safety of His kingdom. He said to become a "Kingdom of Priests," and put God on display to show the world what He is like.
It's still our task today.
In this thirteenth volume of the That the World May Know ® film series, you'll glimpse the urgency and rewards of welcoming the strangers and prodigals the Lord longs to embrace. Discover the mission that can give your life - and the lives of those around you - greater meaning than you ever imagined.

Join renowned teacher and historian Ray Vander Laan as he guides you through the lands of the Bible. In each lesson, Vander Laan illuminates the historical, geographical, and cultural context of the sacred Scriptures. Filmed on location in the Middle East and elsewhere, the That the World May Know ® film series will transform your understanding of God and challenge you to be a true follower of Jesus.

Designed for use with That the World May Know: Israel's Mission Discovery Guide.

Filmed on location at these biblically significant sites in Israel and Jordan:
-Back to the Father's House - Negev Desert
-Show Them the Way - Timnah
-Prodigal Sons and Daughters - Qatzrin
-Return from the Far Off Country - Jerash
-Welcome Home - Qatzrin

Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/1KsCFRr









About the author:

Ray Vander Laan is the founder of That the World May Know Ministries and creator of the Faith Lessons video series with Focus on the Family. An ordained minister, he holds the chair of biblical cultural studies as a religion instructor at Holland Christian Schools in Holland, Michigan. He and his wife, Esther, have four children and fifteen grandchildren.

Find Ray online:
website
See what other reviewers are saying here: http://litfusegroup.com/author/RVanderLaan




My Take:

My husband regularly teaches a class at our church called "Overview of the Bible." In it he spends six weekly sessions going through every section of the Bible and talking about how God's plan of redemption is seen throughout and how we can apply the Bible to our everyday lives.

This DVD series reminded me a lot of that class. The emphases are a bit different - this series is more specific than my husband's class - but the way it looks at the "big picture" of God's plan is very similar.

I really didn't know what to expect when I started this series - I'm not a huge history/geography buff - but I was blown away by the use of the historically significant sights in this series. It was fascinating to see where these events in the Bible took place, and it was neat to kind of take a tour along with the people in the video.

The teacher - Ray Vander Laan - was a dynamic speaker who did an excellent job of relating the messages of the lessons to everyday life. He was very passionate about the topic, and it was very easy to listen to him.

There is a study guide/book that goes along with this DVD series. The discussion questions and notes in it that relate to the DVD lesson are very good. There are also additional pages that provide an in-depth personal study for each of the five lessons. While the personal study is very good, I think it might be difficult for some people to fit that part of the study into a busy schedule, especially if this was a weekly series. The personal study section for Lesson One is 30 pages, and the one for Lesson Three is about 33. I would love to have an hour or two every day to devote to studying the Bible! But that just isn't able to happen many days.

That being said, this series is meant to be an in-depth series. I did appreciate the thoroughness of the study guide and the videos. If I was doing this with a small group, I would probably stretch it out over 8-10 weeks and really dig into it.

I would also like to add a comment about the camera operation of the videos. At times the videos were very dizzying. This was especially true when Mr. Vander Laan would walk back and forth while he was teaching. Now I don't have a problem with teachers walking back and forth. My husband does it all the time! But when the camera would be zoomed in on him and would try to follow him back and forth rather than using a wider-angle shot, it became very, very dizzying. I realize that this is the new normal for movies and such these days. My eyes/brain/inner ear just can't always keep up!

Overall, I think this DVD series is excellent, and I am looking forward to maybe being able to experience others of this type in the future.




Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan Publishing and Focus on the Family through Litfuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."







Friday, March 23, 2018

"Your New Money Mindset" Blog Tour

About the book:

Your New Money Mindset: Create a Healthy Relationship with Money (Tyndale, October 2015)

Have you ever thought: If I just had a little more money I would be happy? Research has shown this belief to be false.
Through personal experience, Biblical passages and timely research, coauthors Brad Hewitt, CEO of Thrivent Financial, and Dr. Jim Moline, consulting psychologist, reveal that financial happiness and security have little to do with how much money you have, and a lot to do with the role money plays in your life.

Your New Money Mindset isn't just another book about managing finances. It's a book about reshaping your relationship with money by examining your attitudes and beliefs around money.

Your New Money Mindset:

-Defies the consumerism that infects our culture and sickens our hearts.
-Shows us how to replace the tension and fear we feel about money with contentment and peace.
-Guides us to live open-heartedly with our time, energy and money.
-Provides an online New Money Mindset Assessment™, which will help you pinpoint what attitudes about money you could work on in order to develop an openhearted attitude to life.
Regardless of your financial situation, we invite you to journey with us to discover how to transform your relationship with money by remaking your heart.
Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/1IN4NP7
About the author: 
Brad Hewitt is president and CEO of Thrivent Financial, a not-for-profit Fortune 500 organization dedicated to helping Christians be wise with money and live generously. He speaks regularly on how a redefined relationship with money can help us find and live out our call in life. He and his wife live in Minnesota.

Connect with Brad:
website, Twitter, Facebook



My Take:

When I first picked up this book, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Is this a devotional book? Is it a self-help thing? Is it an inspirational piece?

What I found was that, in a way, it was kind of all three of these things.

What I like about this book was that it was easy to read, and for the most part, it kept my attention. Since I read a large chunk of it in one sitting, I felt as if some things were repeated quite a bit. But this is true of any book that focus on one thing.

What was the one thing this book focused on? To me it seemed as if the big takeaway was that in order to "get control" over your money (which is what so many people are looking to do), you need to change your thinking about money. When you think differently about your money, you will feel differently about your money and ultimately act differently with your money. This overall idea was so very similar to what our church does every year during our Stewardship month.

I thought that this book got that point across very well. However, if you are looking for more of a step-by-step, practical budgeting, how-to book, this is not your answer. The book seems to take on the "pre" aspect of getting your financial ducks in a row by focusing on the big picture - the "why" of things - rather than the nitty-gritty.

Overall, I thought this was a good book to get your head in the game when it comes to financial thinking. I wouldn't recommend it as a practical how-to, but if you need some help getting your thoughts in line when it comes to money, it would be a help.


See what other reviewers are saying about this book here -

Landing page:






Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale Publishing through Litfuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."