Monday, April 28, 2014

For Such A Time, by Kate Breslin

From the publisher:

Powerful Retelling of the Story of Esther

In 1944, blond and blue-eyed Jewess Hadassah Benjamin feels abandoned by God when she is saved from a firing squad only to be handed over to a new enemy. Pressed into service by SS-Kommandant Colonel Aric von Schmidt at the transit camp of Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, she is able to hide behind the false identity of Stella Muller. However, in order to survive and maintain her cover as Aric's secretary, she is forced to stand by as her own people are sent to Auschwitz.

Suspecting her employer is a man of hidden depths and sympathies, Stella cautiously appeals to him on behalf of those in the camp. Aric's compassion gives her hope, and she finds herself battling a growing attraction for this man she knows she should despise as an enemy.

Stella pours herself into her efforts to keep even some of the camp's prisoners safe, but she risks the revelation of her true identity with every attempt. When her bravery brings her to the point of the ultimate sacrifice, she has only her faith to lean upon. Perhaps God has placed her there for such a time as this, but how can she save her people when she is unable to save herself?

My review:

I really liked this book!! I enjoy long books if they're good ones, and this was a good one. It had a lot of twists and turns and suspense but was easy to follow. The only part that was challenging to follow was the SS this and SS that of various rankings when they were all having a conversation. I had to re-read those sections a few times to figure out who was talking.

This book was a retelling of the story of Esther set during WWII. I really like retellings of Bible stories. This one worked out, except for trying to make it Christian fiction. Since the author was staying true to Stella's Jewish faith, her awkward attempts at turning this into christian fiction were, well, awkward. If you are an avid historian, please keep in mind that this is fiction and not intended to be accurate in every part. While, in many ways, the author was true to history, she also takes some creative liberty when needed.

The characters were wonderful! You will fall in love with Stella's compassion and you will ache as you feel the weight of the baggage Aric carries. Some of the secondary characters will win your heart and others will evoke emotions of anger (exactly the intent).

There are just a couple of insignificant loose ends. They don't take away from the story, but rather lend an air of mystery that hangs around... however, my curiosity and need for closure wants all the little ends tied up!

This is the second WWII setting book that I've read this year and it has really increased an awareness in me of the horrors of the Holocaust. Being born in the late 80s, WWII always seemed so long ago to me until recently due to it being brought to my attention from these books that I've read. In reality, WWII wasn't that long ago and there are still people who lived through the horrific events that unfolded during the Holocaust. Reading the fictional depictions is heartbreaking, but to know that they mirror reality is awful. I appreciate this book for raising awareness and remembrance of those horrible events and the incredible strength and faith of people who endured that great trial.

Pros: Great story, interesting characters, couldn't put it down!
Cons: Difficult to separate SS rankings at times, awkward trying to make it Christian fiction, a couple of loose ends.
Summary: Buy this book and read it. You won't regret it!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Nesting Place, by Myquillin Smith

From the Publisher:

This (in)courage Dayspring writer, with a strong endorsement from Ann Voskamp, will appeal to women who love God and want their home to be a place of welcome to all.

Popular blogger and self-taught decorator Myquillyn Smith realized years ago that although immaculate-looking homes are pretty in pictures, when she's actually in one, she's not comfortable. Instead, she's worried that she'll spill her drink on the rug, or she's wondering if it's okay to move the pillow out of the way to sit down.

This stay-at-home mom in stretchy yoga pants with expired milk in her refrigerator has stumbled upon the secret to decorating for real people, and it has nothing to do with trying to convince others of our perfection. Myquillyn believes that there is beauty in imperfection, in the lived-in and loved-on and used-just-about-up. Imperfections put people at ease and free us to take risks and create the home-and the life-we've always wanted.

Myquillyn's warm and insightful words are paired with her own gorgeous four-color photos and creative, easy ideas for arranging, decorating, and building a home that welcomes everyone. Readers will learn how to create their own style-without breaking the bank or stressing over comparisons.

My Review:

I was trying to choose between a couple of books that were offered through BookLook (I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review) and decided to get this one first since it was an ebook, that way I could skim through it enough to write a review, and then request my other book to read. Well... I didn't skim. I read.

I have referred to The Nester's blog a few times while decorating... to see how window "mis"treatments are done or just to get ideas. I love the way she decorates but I've never actually read the stuff she writes unless it's a how-to. I made the mistake of thinking that this book would just be about decorating, and it was just about decorating on the surface, but it spoke to me so much deeper than that.

In this book, you will find decorating tips and a lot of encouragement to overlook imperfections and rather than trying to make your home a magazine cover, instead turn it into a beautiful dwelling place that suits the purpose you have for it. Myquillin will advise you to go to thrift stores and not expect to find something every time, to re-purpose old pieces, to take a risk, to rearrange furniture not just within a room but from other rooms, etc. She will reassure you that paint is just paint and if you hate it, it's a small risk and can be fixed/ redone. And a nail hole is just a nail hole... they're easily fillable, so don't be afraid to hang pictures on walls, to work with opposites,

Myquillin will also tell you to quit looking for the perfection in your home and to embrace the imperfections, to prioritize and gain a little perspective, to be grateful for what you have rather than longing for what you lack.

"Allowing things in our homes and in our lives to be incomplete, imperfect, and undone in some ways is a form of trust. an you give up and allow some imperfections in your life?"

"You don't have to get perfect to have a pretty house. Most of us simply need to learn to see the beauty in the imperfect. Because life is gloriously messy. We can find rest in our less than perfect circumstances when we igre out that no amount of striving can create the perfect life we think we are looking for. Trust rest comes when we realize that we can't get it from trying extra hard. We find rest when we give up."

Is it me, or is she talking about a lot more than a house? :)

"A home's greatest purpose is to serve people, not the other way around."

"All my life I thought my dream was a pretty house, but really, my dream was to create a home.... Home. A place of rest while we are on this earth. A safe place for our children. A place to love and be loved. A place that is beautiful. A haven.... I decided to trust that the God who is in charge of my eternal life could also be trusted with my everyday life."

3 words: Read this book.

Purchase The Nesting Place
The Nesting Place Blog

Friday, April 25, 2014

Moon Over Edisto by Beth Hart

From the Publisher:

Edisto Island was where it all came apart. Can the Bennett girls ever be whole again?

Once, they were the happiest family under the sun, crabbing and fishing and painting on beautiful Edisto Island in South Carolina’s lowcountry.

Then everything went wrong, and twenty years later the Bennett family is still in pieces. Mary Ellen still struggles to understand why her picture-perfect marriage came apart. Daughter Meg keeps a death grip on her own family, controlling her relationships at a distance. And eldest daughter, Julia, left it all behind years ago, forging a whole new life as an artist and academic in Manhattan. She’s engaged to an art dealer and has no intentions of returning to Edisto. Ever.

Then an emergency forces Julia back to Edisto to care for her three young half-siblings. She grudgingly agrees to stay a week. But there’s something about Edisto that changes people. Can Julia and her fractured family somehow manage to come together again under that low-hanging Edisto moon?

My Review:

I picked this book up to read because it was set on Edisto Island and at the time I was living in South Carolina (though a different part of the state) and was somewhat familiar with Edisto.

I enjoyed this book. The story was heart breaking and touching. I liked the main character, Julia, and it was nice to read along as she won the kids over and they won her heart as well. I couldn't stand Julia's sister, Meg. Her attitude annoyed me. I appreciated how gracious Julia's mother was despite her own heartache.

The setting was wonderful. I liked the author's descriptions of Edisto Island and Charleston and could almost picture myself there. Based on what I remember from those places, they were pretty accurage descriptions.

The story was good and I wasn't left with a ton of unanswered questions. I liked the way things unfolded.

I recommend this book and would be interested in reading more by this author.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review through the BookLook Bloggers program.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Caught in the Middle, by Regina Jennings

 From the Publisher:

She Wants the Freedom of the Open Plains.
He Wants the Prestige of a Successful Career.
Neither is Ready for What Comes Instead.

The train to Garber, Texas, is supposed to bring life's next victory to Nicholas Lovelace. Instead, it gets held up by robbers who are thwarted by the last person Nick ever expected--Anne Tillerton from back home in Prairie Lea.

Anne's been hiding away as a buffalo hunter. She's only in town to find their runaway cook, but the woman flees--leaving Anne with her infant son. With Nick the only person Anne knows in town, the two form an unlikely team as they try to figure out what to do with the child.

But being in town means acting and dressing for polite society--and it's not going well for Anne. Meanwhile, Nick's work is bringing new pressures, and being seen with a rough-around-the-edges woman isn't helping his reputation. Caught between their own dreams, a deepening relationship, and others' expectations, can the pair find their way to love?

My Review:

A friend of mine recently read this book and said that it got off to a slow start for her. She was still in the process of reading it when we last spoke, so I wasn't sure what I would find when I read the book for myself.

I had only read a few pages but fell asleep... this has nothing to do with the quality of a book for me. I just have a problem with reading in bed at night. LOL Anyway, a few days later, I finally had time to pick it back up and once I did, I could not put it down! I read until I finished, which happened to be 1:30 AM.

I really liked Nick's character... eventually. He annoyed me at first with his single-mindedness toward success. Nick has little bits of faith, but his faith in God is based on the fact that he and God have a "deal" worked out that if Nick obeys, God blesses. Nick comes from a great family and has had a great life without his faith ever really being tested. Circumstances change and he reaches a point where his faith is tested and he chooses to trust God rather than go his own way. Nick is kind and thoughtful, but struggles with peer pressure.

I didn't connect with Anne at first, but she won me over as she started to soften around the edges. I feel like her character wasn't entirely believable or realistic. Her stubborn refusal to bend to polite society's rules was a little forced. Overall, I really enjoyed her and watching her grow and change. Anne has had a rough life and is angry at God, but she comes around and learns to surrender and give up control which is very difficult for her.

The story was really good. Some of the railroad details were a little boring to me, but it wasn't bad enough to make me skim through those parts. I really like how things played out and how the characters struggled when their faith was tested and had to work out their faith.

The author tied up loose ends nicely. The story sort of ended, and then skipped ahead a little bit to show how things turned out. I like that. It could have ended a chapter before it did, but the last chapter gave you that little "extra" to satisfy curiosity.

I would love to read more books by Regina Jennings and I highly recommend Caught in the Middle.

I received this book for free from Bethany House through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Sensible Arrangement, by Tracie Peterson

From the Publisher:
Marty Dandridge Olson is ready to leave behind the pain of the past.Answering an advertisement for a "Lone Star bride," she leaves her Texas ranch and heads to Denver to marry a man she doesn't know.

Jake Wythe is the man waiting for her.Burned by love, he marries now simply to satisfy the board of Morgan Bank, which believes a man of his standing in society should be wed. Together Jake and Marty agree they are done with romance and love and will make this nothing more than a marriage of convenience.

When missing money and a collapsing economy threaten his job, Jake's yearning to return to ranching grows ever stronger, much to Marty's dismay. But a fondness has grown between them, as well, further complicating matters.

What will happen when their relationship shifts in unexpected ways...
and dreams and secrets collide?
My Review:
I think that this is my first book written, and not co-authored, by Tracie Peterson. I have read several that she has co-authored and have either strongly disliked them, or had very mixed feelings about them. With that in mind, I was unsure of what I would find when I read this book.
The characters were somewhat flat. I felt like I knew enough about the main character's backgrounds to understand who they were in the present time. I liked Jake; he was sweet and kind and humble. I also liked Marty, but not quite as much. Jake seemed to be a stronger character. Marty was sweet and kind and strong. I finally connected with her when she **minor spoiler alert** told off the high society women. That may have been the most passionate part of the whole book. I would have liked to have seen that same passion put into Marty and Jake's relationship.
There is very little interaction between Jake and Marty. He broods over things (but why? and what?) and she notices and tries to ease his stress. She's bored. They go out a few times, but we're not really told what happens on those dates and how they connect and communicate and how they start falling in love. In short -- He's handsome, she's pretty, they have a lot in common, though they tend to find this out through other people.

Jake is constantly talking about wanting a ranch, but he becomes more like a broken record than a man with a dream. I want a ranch. I want a ranch. I want a ranch. I'm saving money for my ranch. I want a ranch.

Marty is always thinking about the fact that she has a ranch and needs to get rid of it because she doesn't want to go back to Texas. Keep the ranch a secret. Tell him. Keep the ranch a secret. Tell him. Also a broken record.

One thing that would have made their differing ideas about ranching/ Texas better is for some drama to have happened regarding the ranch or regarding Texas. I felt like there needed to be a pivotal moment in the book that was about something other than to tell him about the ranch or not.

Alice, a supporting character, was probably my favorite. I am glad to see that the next book in the series is her story.

This book was full of spiritual truths such as the age-old question of, "If God is good, why is the world so bad? How can a God of love let bad things happen to good people?" That was the major spiritual theme of the book. The secondary spiritual theme was about deceit. It also subtly addressed growing one's trust in God through personal Bible study and prayer time. I appreciated these spiritual truths.

There was a lot of blah blah blah in this book. The changing of clothes, talk about boredom, going from one high society event to another... If the author had just chosen one major part to write about and write it REALLY REALLY well, and then throw in tiny bits and pieces about other things, it would have been a much better book. As it is, too many stories were being told halfway and without enough detail.

I'm not that fond of the cover. What's the look on Marty's face about? Where is this scene? What story is the cover telling? The background scene that it portrays is only a very small part of the story, almost insignificant in the big picture.
I feel like Tracie wrapped things up in this one slightly more than in the others that I've read, but just like with all the others, I feel like there were too many loose ends. I wish that she would tie up all the loose ends of the main characters, and leave one or two loose ends on the supporting characters, since her books do tend to be series and the sequel usually makes a supporting character, the main character. If you're looking for a good book worth your time, then I recommend going with another author.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A weekly reminder of our creation and redemption

Exodus 20:8 (NIV, emphasis mine) says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

The Lord rested from His work of creation, not because He was tired, but because he wanted to spend time with those that He created. On the previous 6 days, God created visible and tangible things, but on the 7th, He created a special day and set it aside for a holy purpose. His crowning act of creation was the gift of Himself.

Throughout his life, and even in His death, we can see that Jesus observed the seventh-day Sabbath. See here in Mark 15:42-16:7(NIV, emphasis mine), 42 It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45 When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid. 1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. 6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

If the One who created us, set aside the seventh day of the week to rest and spend time with us, observed that day throughout his life, and even in death, rested from his work of redemption on the Sabbath day and then rose on the first day of the week... who are we to do any less than to honor the seventh-day Sabbath that God hallowed, or in other words, set aside for a holy purpose?

Happy Sabbath friends! May you remember God's great love and mercy as you use this Sabbath day to reflect on God's creative and redemptive power. I'm so thankful for this weekly reminder of Who we came from, and where we're going... and all because of a God who loves us so much He chose to make us, to save us, and to set aside time to spend with us.

(If you would like to know more about the seventh-day Sabbath, as taught in the Bible, you can purchase a little book called When God said Remember by Mark Finley. Or, send me an email at or contact your local Seventh-day Adventist church.)

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Chase: A Novel (Fox and O'Hare), by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

 From the publisher:

Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg, bestselling authors of The Heist, return in this action-packed, exciting adventure featuring master con artist Nicolas Fox and die-hard FBI agent Kate O’Hare. And this time around, things go from hot to nuclear when government secrets are on the line.

Internationally renowned thief and con artist Nicolas Fox is famous for running elaborate and daring scams. His greatest con of all: convincing the FBI to team him up with the only person who has ever caught him, and the only woman to ever capture his attention, Special Agent Kate O’Hare. Together they’ll go undercover to swindle and catch the world’s most wanted—and untouchable—criminals.

Their newest target is Carter Grove, a former White House chief of staff and the ruthless leader of a private security agency. Grove has stolen a rare Chinese artifact from the Smithsonian, a crime that will torpedo U.S. relations with China if it ever becomes public. Nick and Kate must work under the radar—and against the clock—to devise a plan to steal the piece back. Confronting Grove’s elite assassins, Nick and Kate rely on the skills of their ragtag crew, including a flamboyant actor, a Geek Squad techie, and a band of AARP-card-carrying mercenaries led by none other than Kate’s dad.

A daring heist and a deadly chase lead Nick and Kate from Washington, D.C., to Shanghai, from the highlands of Scotland to the underbelly of Montreal. But it’ll take more than death threats, trained henchmen, sleepless nights, and the fate of a dynasty’s priceless heirloom to outsmart Fox and O’Hare.

My Review:

This book has been pushed aside in favor of other books for quite some time. I'm not sure why I hadn't read it yet; I guess I just wasn't in the mood for a crime novel. I enjoyed reading this book and wish that I would have read it sooner!

I like crime novels and FBI and forensic stuff. In fact, one of my favorite TV shows is White Collar... that's also exactly where this book went wrong. Nick Fox might as well be renamed Neil Caffrey. World renowned art thief who spouts historical facts about pieces of art work? Neil Caffrey. A character who has a friend with access to all sorts of gadgets and gizmos to get through security, break into things, etc... Neil Caffrey. Taken out of prison by the same FBI agent who put him there? The only one who knew him well enough to catch him, and liked him well enough to enlist his help and friendship? Neil Caffrey. This book is completely unoriginal. You could swap Kate out and make her male and she'd be Peter Burke. Instead of having her father to help her out every now and then, it would just be Elizabeth, Peter's wife. Instead of the quirky old guy who owns a haberdashery, it might as well be Mozzie. And replace Nick with Neil... Then what do you have? White Collar.

The characters are White Collar characters, renamed and regendered.

The plot is something straight out of an episode of White Collar, just in a different setting, with a different piece of art work.

This would have been a great book if there would have been anything about it that was original. I enjoyed reading the book, but throughout the entire book all I could think was "I'm reading an episode of White Collar."

The plot also had a few holes in it, but it's possible that there were things explained in the first book of the series that I would have known had I read it. I felt like it was never really explained how or why Kate and Nick are working together secretly... this was a fact that was hidden from the FBI, yet it was an FBI operation. I am still confused about how Nick landed this sweet deal, what connection there is to the FBI, other than the fact that his handler is an FBI agent.

I think the characters were probably well-developed, but it could have just been me assigning everything I know about Neil Caffrey to Nicholas Fox.

Plagiarism is defined by the google dictionary as "the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own." By that definition, I feel like this entire book was plagiarized. It may have been a good book, but if it's not original, then it's worthless.

*Disclaimer* I received a free copy of this book from Random House via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Lessons on motherhood, from my 3 year old dog

This little cutie is my 5.5 lb Yorkie-mix, Kirby. She is 1/2 Yorkie, 1/4 Maltese, and 1/4 Pomeranian, and she is totally and completely spoiled rotten. Kirby answers to many names --  Kirbles, Kirbles and Bits, Bee, Bee Bear, Kirb-Kirb, busy bee, Bee Bee, Bee Boo... to list a few. She actually answers to just about "bee"-anything. Kirby just turned 3 and I think she's out of the puppy stage... finally. Most of the time, I just want to hit the pause button so she'll stay at this age and never grow old, but on the rare occasion that she tries to recapture her puppyhood and misbehaves, I'm ready for her to be at least 10 years old.

Kirby is the best thing that has ever been mine. She has taught me so many lessons about motherhood that will come in handy when the day comes that I become a mother. She has taught me that God has a sense of humor and will give you a child just like you as payback for what you put your parents through. For example, we're both strong-willed (she's worse), opinionated, overreact, and are usually really sweet until we're tired or having a bad day... and then you should probably just let us stay in bed where we belong.

Kirby has taught me that children (and dogs) are who they are, not necessarily who you want them to
be. They each come with their own unique personality, likes and dislikes, and talents and interests. I might have wanted a sweet little lap dog who I could dress in cute clothes and put bows in her hair while she would follow me around and never leave my side and always come when called (on the rare occasion that she actually stepped away from me), and who would have a favorite little stuffed animal/ baby that they drag around and sleep with, but that's not what I got. Instead, I got a dog who wants to play all the time (although she does snuggle with mommy sometimes!) and will pout if I put her in clothes (and will not get over it until I take them off) and who pulls out the bows I put in her hair. I got a dog who definitely follows me around and wants to know where I am at all times, but is independent enough to leave my side... and not always come when called. She is obsessed with balls instead of a baby doll and she doesn't want to snuggle with it... she wants to chase it and toss it in the air and catch it.

Kirby has taught me that while children (and dogs) can be taught to be respectful and obedient and polite, knowing the "right" things doesn't always translate to doing the right things. Some children need more reminders than others and require an abundance of patience.

Kirby has taught me that there isn't one single discipline method that works for all children (or dogs). They are all individuals. While positive reinforcement may be a great motivator for one, another may need to feel your disappointment in them. While some respond the first time you tell them something, you will feel like a broken record with others.

Kirby has taught me that children (and dogs) do not know what "sleeping in" means.

Kirby has taught me that children (and dogs) really will still love you after they get over the fact that they just got in trouble and may not exactly like you.

Kirby has taught me that a person really can be woken up 3-4 times a night and manage to feel like they've gotten a full night's rest.

Kirby has taught me that you can have a love far greater than imaginable for something far smaller than you thought capable of containing that love.

Kirby has taught me that your children (or dogs) WILL embarrass you when company is over by misbehaving much more than normal right after you've bragged on their good behavior... or by completely inappropriate behavior... or by pulling your underwear out into the middle of the living room floor.... or worse, your guest's underwear.

I obviously know that having a dog isn't exactly like having a child... but if you pay enough attention, they'll sure teach you a lot about raising one!

I love my little Bee Bear. <3


Hey y'all!

I have a few new blog followers (thank you!) so I thought that I would introduce myself and tell y'all a few things.

My name is Amber and I'm a dental hygienist for a small start-up practice in Chattanooga, TN. I recently moved here (to the Chattanooga area) after living in the Carolinas (Spartanburg, SC; Gastonia, NC; Statesville, NC) for almost 13 years. Prior to that, I lived in Florida (Pensacola and Jacksonville), Alabama (middle of nowhere), and here (as a child). I have always lived in the southeast, but have moved quite a bit. I hope to be here for a good, long time!

Since you are most likely here because you are a fellow bibliophile, I thought I would list a few of my favorite books and/ or authors:

  • To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. This is, without a doubt, my absolute favorite novel of all time.
  • The Bible. This should really be at the top of the list. I haven't read it all the way through, but I can quote it better than any other book I own! :) And it's definitely the book that has impacted my life the most and that has something new for me each and every time I read it.
  • Conflict of the Ages series by Ellen G. White; specifically, my favorites are Patriarchs and Prophets and Desire of Ages. The Desire of Ages is absolutely one of the best books on the life of Christ and follows right along with the gospels. It is my one of my favorites because it allows me to see Jesus in all his majesty and humanity and how he relates personally to me. Jesus, God the Son/ Son of God... and Jesus, son of man. Patriarchs and Prophets takes you on a journey through the Old Testament from Creation through the Exodus, the Israelites wilderness wanderings and journey to the Promised land, and continues on through the life and reign and death of King David. It is my favorite book to read to see the omnipotence and mercy of God as He works out His plans in the lives of those He loves despite our shortcomings and sinfulness. He works with us and for us to fulfill the plans that he has to bring us "hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11). These books, and others, are available for free (to read from your computer) at the White Estate.
  • James Patterson -- Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas, the Alex Cross books, and many of his others.
  • Sue Grafton
  • The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton. This is a new release! Be sure to check out my review, read the first chapter, and purchase the book for yourself.
  • A Beauty so Rare by Tamera Alexander. You can read my review as well as additional (very interesting) information regarding the photoshoot for the cover, recipes from the book, read a couple of chapters, etc. Purchase the book for yourself!
  • A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert. I loved this book! It's also a new release. You can read my review and purchase it for yourself. Try before you buy with this sneak peek!
I obviously love many other books: Goodnight Moon, Knuffle Bunny, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, Old Mother Hubbard, etc., but since I don't have children, I'm not sure they count. ;) I do enjoy a lot of other books. The books listed above that are new releases are current favorites that are fresh on my mind.

I actually do have interests beyond just reading and cleaning teeth. While I love to read, my absolute favorite thing to do in the whole entire world is to cook. I love love love love looooove cooking. I actually have a cooking blog, but I haven't updated it recently because I'm one of those cooks who doesn't measure. So if there is a recipe that I plan to post to the blog, I have to pay attention to what I add and how much. Then, there is the minor detail of the fact that while I can cook delicious food and write decently (when I feel inspired/ rarely) and play piano and decorate and do other creative things, I am not a photographer. Food blogs need pictures of the food and those pictures should make the food look appetizing or else you're not likely to make it!! When I get to Heaven, I will be a good photographer.

Thanks for following my blog! Hope you find some books you will want to read!


Monday, April 14, 2014

The Here and Now, by Ann Brashares


In The Here and Now Prenna and her mother, along with almost 1000 others, leave the future (2098) to be placed in the present-time. They travel backward in time to escape worldwide economic failure and a pandemic disease carried by mosquitoes.

She arrives, after assimilation training, she enters highschool and falls in love with a boy named Ethan. This breaks one of the 12 “rules” that they are given.

Together, she and Ethan attempt to change the future by stopping certain events.


I think this is what would be considered young adult fiction. It has a bit of sci-fi to it, without being overkill. It wasn’t so far out there that my mind could not wrap around what was going on.

The characters lacked complexity, but were likeable. Ethan was a good guy, Prenna was generally pretty good too. They were typical lust-filled teenagers who fell in “love”. The setting was forgettable, at best. The bit of suspense in the book is really what helped me finish it… well, that and the fact that it was short and I had committed to reviewing it.

I typically don’t read these types of books, and I requested a copy on NetGalley before realizing what it was. It has been pushed aside on my Kindle for many months now in favor of other books.

I don’t remember if I’ve read The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but I know I’ve seen the movie. If I haven’t already read the book, I would be willing to, even though it is by the same author. I would hope and think that I would probably enjoy that book more than The Here and Now. I can’t say that I would never read another book by this author; however, I do not recommend The Here and Now.

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Through the Deep Waters, by Kim Vogel Sawyer

From the publisher:

A past filled with shame can be washed away with a love that conquers all

Born to an unloving prostitute in a popular Chicago brothel, timid seventeen-year-old Dinah Hubley was raised amidst the secrets held in every dark, grimy room of her home. Anxious to escape, Dinah pursues her dream of becoming a Harvey Girl, waiting tables along the railroad in an upscale hotel. But when she finds out she isn’t old enough, her only option is to accept a job as a chambermaid at the Clifton Hotel in Florence, Kansas. Eager to put everything behind her, Dinah feels more worthless than ever, based on a single horrible decision she made to survive.

The Clifton offers a life Dinah has never known, but blinded to the love around her, Dinah remains buried in the shame of her past. When a handsome chicken farmer named Amos Ackerman starts to show interest, Dinah withdraws further, convinced no one could want a sullied woman like her.  Despite his self-consciousness about his handicapped leg and her strange behavior, Amos resolves to show Dinah Christ’s love. But can she ever accept a gift she so desperately needs?

My review:

I enjoyed this story and it was a nice book, but when I finished it, I was done with it. It was a good book, just not an amazing book.

I feel like the characters lacked complexity and rather than being “shown” their inner struggles, the author “tells”. I prefer to be shown.

I liked Dinah. I could related to her fairly easily and really appreciated her for her effort to overcome her past and press forward toward her future, whether it was one of her own plans and determination, or one in which she was resting in God’s plans for her life. Her strength and determination to move forward are inspiring.

The secondary character, Ruthie, really annoyed me. She was petty and childish. I really just wanted to slap her and tell her to get over herself. She did redeem herself, but only at the very end…

I like Amos too, but I didn’t really fall in love with him. I want to fall in love alongside the main character.
The author has a very simple way of writing. Some authors will write in flowery language that makes you linger over a sentence and others write in a more straight-forward manner that makes you just skim the pages rather than immerse yourself in the story… KVS writes more in the latter style rather than the former. I prefer the really beautiful writing style that makes me appreciate each sentence for it’s beauty and structure. I’m not just a lover of books; I’m a lover of words.

I do appreciate that the author addressed the topic of prostitution, sex, rape, etc, in a manner that allowed you to understand what was happening, while not explicitly stating the details.

Overall, the book is worth your time. Like I said, it’s a good book, just not an amazing one. I have read several books by Kim Vogel Sawyer and, while she isn’t my first choice, I will definitely read more books by her.

I received a free advanced reader copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

An Eleanor Braddock original recipe from A Beauty So Rare

Eleanor Braddock’s Savory Custard
(or Ham and Cheddar Quiche)
From the novel A Beauty So Rare
by Tamera Alexander

Most people think quiche or
iginated in France. Not so. It’s originally a German dish and people referred to them as "savory custards" in the 19th century. Which is accurate since the egg-based mixture forms a luscious-like custard as it bakes.

In my novel, A Beauty So Rare, the second standalone novel in the Belmont Mansion series, the heroine, Eleanor Braddock, is "a cook with a dream." But her dreams don’t quite turn out like she thinks they will. However, her savories always do!

I hope you enjoy this recipe (or "receipt" as recipes were called in the 1800s) from A Beauty So Rare. For more about A Beauty So Rare and for recipes from all my novels, visit

1 old-fashioned unbaked pie crust (recipe below)
1 large onion, diced (or sliced if you like larger pieces of onion in your savory)
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound cooked ham diced into cubes (if using bacon, use 8 slices, fried chewy, not too crisp)
8 large eggs
1-1/2 cups heavy cream or half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper, or to taste (I always go heavier on the pepper, personal preference)
1 3/4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Sauté onion in the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden brown. Set aside to cool.

Chop the ham into bite-sized pieces (or fry your bacon until chewy, then chop). Set aside to cool. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll out pie crust and press into a deep dish pie plate. A medium-sized iron skillet works wonderfully for making a savory custard (and is what Eleanor used). The crust comes out divine. I just happened to use a pie plate this time.

Whip the eggs, cream, salt and pepper in a large bowl, then mix in the onions, ham (or bacon), and cheese. Pour the mixture into the pie crust. Cover the pie plate (or skillet) lightly with aluminum foil and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the quiche is set and the crust is golden brown. QUICK BAKING TIPS: The quiche may still seem a little loose when you first remove it from the oven, but it will firm up nicely once removed from the heat. Also, watch that lovely crust so the edges don’t get overly brown. I use a silicone pie crust shield if that starts to happen. Those are a fabulous invention (but foil crimped around the edges works just as well).

Remove from the oven and allow the savory custard to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before diving in. It’s so good, and just like Eleanor Braddock would make. It’s also delicious left over and warmed up the next day.

Eleanor Braddock’s Old-Fashioned Pie Crust
(makes two large crusts)
From the novel A Beauty So Rare
by Tamera Alexander

This is a wonderful crust that I’ve been using for years. Eleanor would likely have used lard in place of Crisco (since lard was cheaper than butter in her day), and you may too, if you prefer. Yes, lard is still available on most grocery shelves, although I’m pretty sure I just felt you shudder!

This pie crust "freezes beautifully " as they say in Steel Magnolias (instructions on freezing below), so even though I may need only one pie crust at the moment, I always use this recipe and make a second, and freeze it for later. Makes that next pie (or savory custard) go twice as fast!

1 ½ cups Crisco (or lard)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg
5 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, using a pastry cutter (or two knives will do the job), gradually work the Crisco into the flour for 3 to 4 minutes until it resembles coarse meal. In a smaller bowl, whip the egg and then pour it into the flour/shortening mixture. Add 5 tablespoons of ice-cold water, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir gently until all ingredients are blended well.

Halve the dough. Form 2 evenly-sized balls of dough and place each into large sealable plastic bags. Using a rolling pin, slightly flatten each to about 1/2 inch thickness to make rolling easier later. Seal the bags and place them in the freezer until you need them. (If you’re using the crusts immediately, it’s still a good idea to let them chill in the freezer for about 15- 20 minutes. They’ll be much easier to work with.)

When you’re ready to roll the dough for your crust, remove from the freezer and allow to thaw for 15 minutes (if it’s frozen). On a well-floured surface, roll the dough, starting at the center and working your way out. Sprinkle flour over the top of the dough if it’s too moist. If the dough starts to stick to the countertop, use a metal spatula and gently scrape it up and flip it over and continue rolling until it’s about ½ inch larger in diameter than your pie plate (or iron skillet).

Using a spatula, carefully lift the dough from the surface of the counter into the pie pan. (I sometimes fold my well-floured dough in half and then "unfold" it onto iron skillet. Or you can lop it over your rolling pin. That works well, too.) Gently press the dough against the sides of the pan or skillet, getting it all tucked in. Then crimp the edges in whatever way you prefer. And now, you’re ready for that yummy savory custard filling above, or maybe for a fruit pie.

If you make this recipe (or if you’ve read A Beauty So Rare), I’d love to hear from you. You can write me through my website at

Review: A Beauty So Rare, by Tamera Alexander

You may have watched the trailer that I posted a couple of weeks ago, or read the first little bit of ABeauty so Rare that followed it. I trust that those whetted your appetite for this book as they did mine. I just finished reading A Beauty So Rare, and let me tell you… the book completely lived up to its promise.

The setting of the book was absolutely perfect; a war-torn  South recovering from the devastation of the War Between the States (aka the War of Northern Aggression, aka the Civil War) and coming back to life. The setting highlights the strength Americans, both natural-born and immigrants and the blending of the two that comprises our country then and now. Tamera also highlights the strength of the Southern Americans who worked to rebuild their cities and lives torn apart by war.

Tamera paints a beautiful word picture when she describes the beautiful (and very real) Belmont Mansion. Tamera’s descriptions of the buildings, whether historical and stately, dilapidated, or progressive architectural works of art, never fail to take you on a journey into that place. Through her words, the author guides you into the room, to stand in the corner, and watch as the lives of these characters unfold.

I thoroughly enjoyed the unfolding of each character’s story, but I especially liked the main characters, Eleanor and Marcus. Their personal issues, responsibilities, insecurities, struggles, burdens, talents, passion, compassion, and interests… it all really shines through. Not only does Tamera create a word picture of the things you can see, but she also creates a word picture of the unseen… of the hearts and characters of each person in the book. You can sense Marcus’s inner struggle between duty and purpose, between what he was born to do and what he has been called to do. You want to believe that Eleanor really is beautiful, but you also feel her insecurity and you wonder… is she? You know that her beauty comes from within, but as you fall in love with her through Marcus’s eyes, you see that beauty shine through.

One of the secondary characters that I really enjoyed was Naomi. She has a quiet strength about her, and a grace and generous spirit that is displayed in all she does. Throughout the book, she is quietly standing by in the background, supporting Eleanor, in her actions and words, but also in her silence.

I highly recommend A Beauty so Rare and place it solidly on my top 10 list for this year.

You can purchase the book on Amazon. In celebration of the release of A Beauty So Rare, for a limited time, Book #1 in the Belmont Mansion series, A Lasting Impression, is available as an e-book at a discounted price.