Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Review of A Promise to Protect by Patricia Bradley

Nutshell: A dead brother, a missing mysterious flash drive, a sheriff haunted by his past, and a sister whose life is at stake. This sums up the main characters in this fast paced story of danger and thrills. Mix in a little romance and you have book 2 in the Logan Point Series. Old memories come to the surface for Sheriff Ben Logan as he fights to save his long-ago girlfriend and her son from being killed. Someone is after the flash drive that his old girlfriend's dead brother had and the killer won't be stopped.

Pro's: A good, quick read that will keep you in suspense until the end. This can be a stand-alone book easily with not requiring a lot of back story to understand what is going on.

Con's: The romance got a bit mushy at times.

Recommendation: If you enjoy romance suspense novels, this is the one for you. Enjoy suspense novels? You'll more than likely like this. Don't enjoy suspense novels? You may yet still like this book.

Revell Books sent me this complimentary copy to review for them. Opinions are my own.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Review of The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate

Nutshell: A southern girl transplants herself to the big city of New York to make her way in the publishing business. She lands a job at a prominent book publisher and within a week finds a manuscript mysteriously placed on her desk. The only place it could have come from was the oversized "slush pile" in the board room that no one was allowed to touch. She is gripped by the story  before her and it leads her on a journey back to her home city where she has to deal with the family she left and a very abrasive, popular author who wants nothing to do with this story she says he wrote.

Pro's: I loved, loved, loved this book. Two stories in one. I literally could not put this one down. Not a suspense novel by any means, but the way Lisa writes, it grabs you and you feel like you can smell the mountains as the main character drives through them. Lisa has a way of storytelling that is like no other.

Con's: The first page threw me for a loop, but in a way that I felt like I needed to figure out what in the world was going on. Otherwise, a fantastic book.

Recommendation: A great story. Forgiveness, family messes, understanding others, God's love and just a great story line. This book will have you hooked too.

Tyndale House Publishing sent me this complimentary book to review for them.

Review of Miracle in a Dry Season by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Nutshell: A new lady in town with her daughter stirs up a lot of conversation of her past life. A wood working mandolin player man who's interest is peaked by this newcomer. A drought reveals the newcomers gift of the biblical story of five fish and two loaves that keep multiplying. She is blessed with the gift of making food stretch and keeps the town alive through the drought. A story of forgiveness of the past, understanding of God's love and a sweet love that brings the entire town together.

Pro's: A quick read. A sweet filled story of love that makes you feel good after reading it.

Con's: Not a deep story and seemed a bit choppy in parts of the story that took a bit to figure out what was going on.

Recommendation: If you'd like an easy read, then you'll like this. Not a lot of depth, but a good story for the heart.

Bethany House Publishers sent me this complimentary book to review for them.

Review of Deceived by Irene Hannon

Nutshell: Kate Marshall's husband and four year old son disappear on a summer fishing trip. Her husband's body was found, but her son's body was never recovered. Fast forward three years, a move to a new city and a new life. But one moment, one voice, of her thought-to-be-dead son changed the trajectory of her life forever. Ride along side Kate, and her hired PI, as she seeks to find her son.

Pro's: Even though this is book three in the Private Justice Series, this is easily a stand-alone novel that will suck you in. Irene does a fantastic job weaving suspense and softness into this story.

Con's: None. I love Irene's books!

Recommendation: If you like suspense and a good page-flipping book, this is the one for you!!!

Revell Books sent me a complimentary copy of this book to review for them.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Review of Murder at the Mikado by Julianna Deering

Nutshell: This is book 3 in the Drew Farthering Mystery Series. Super sleuth Drew and his new fiancé Madeline are on the hunt for a murderer who keeps eliminating people at the local theater. Narrowing down the suspects list becomes quite the challenge until the killer is caught.

Pro's: You really don't know the killer until the end and it's a twist!

Con's: I had a very hard time getting into this book. Without having read the previous two books, I had no backstory to rely upon and not much was given. It took awhile to piece together why people knew each other and who went with who. Maybe if I had read the first two, I would have a different outlook on this book. 

Recommendation: If you enjoy mysteries, you may enjoy this series, but I would suggest starting with the first book and not the 3rd like I did.

Bethany House Publishers sent me this complimentary book to review for them. Opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Review of Nowhere to Turn by Lynette Eason

The Nutshell: A mom and son running from the shadows of her husband's grave. A rescuer comes along side as protection. Twists and turns take them on a dangerous adventure where they come face to face with life and death. All because of one dead man's decisions.

Pro's: This book moved fast! An easy one day read that keeps you searching for one more clue to solve the mysterious puzzle. This is book two in the Hidden Identity Series but can very easily read as a stand-alone. And I honestly think it's better than the first book.

Con's: It moved so fast! I just wanted it to keep going and not stop, but unfortunately, it did.

Recommendation: Read this book! Read this series for that matter! There is a bit of violence and semi-graphic scenes. If you're looking for light and fluffy, this is not that book. Suspenseful and faced-paced? This is it!

Revell Books sent me this complimentary copy to review for them. Opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Review of The Chopped Cookbook by Food Network

Nutshell: Have you ever seen Chopped on the Food Network? This book revolves around the show, pairing items together to make a meal. Items that you will most likely find in your pantry. But think of your pantry like the baskets the chef's open on the tv show. Sometimes quirky items, like on the show, but mostly normal, every day items.

Pro's: I loved this cookbook. Many pages are ear-marked of recipes I would like to try. Each chapter also has pages of suggestions of quick put-together's, based on the subject of the chapter. Like different pan sauces, playing with pasta, and different types of grains and how to cook them, just to give a few examples. I also really liked the bright, colorful pictures and easy to follow steps.

Con's: Some recipes were a bit "out there" and I wouldn't necessarily make for my family. Some items I can't find here in Michigan (like flat iron steak), so learning what to substitute made it a bit challenging, but a good learning experience.

Here are two recipes I tried from this book:

Shrimp Ramen 

8 ounces bacon, chopped
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 cups slices stemmed shiitake mushrooms (about 6 ounces)
7 cups chicken broth
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 (3 ounce) packages ramen noodles, flavor packets discarded
12 ounces peeled and deveined medium shrimp halved lengthwise (about 20)
2 Tbs 1-inch-long pieces chives

Cook the aromatics: Put the bacon in a cold medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 6 minutes. Remove all but 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the pan. Stir in the garlic and cook until golden, about 3 minutes. Stir in the shiitakes and cook until well browned, about 6 minutes more.

Make the broth: Stir in the chicken broth, soy sauce, and Worcestershire and bring to a boil. Stir in the ramen noodles and boil until tender, about 2 minutes.

Add the shrimp and serve: Remove the broth from the heat and stir in the shrimp. Let stand until the shrimp are cooked, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve topped with chives.

Serves 4

What I did different: I halved the recipe and it made one bowl for each of us, which turned out to be enough (as the kids were not huge fans of this). I also used white mushrooms as the store didn't have shiitake mushrooms. Still tasted pretty good.

Butter Basted Flat Iron Steak with 
Tomato Butter Sauce and Parsley Noodles

Kosher salt
2 Tbs vegetable oil
4 (1/2 inch thick) top blade chuck steaks (flat iron steaks), 1 1/2 pounds total *
Freshly ground black pepper
6 Tbs (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
6 ounces egg noodles
2 Tbs chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Start the water: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Sear the steaks: Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, pour in the oil. Sprinkle the steaks with salt and pepper and sear 2 steaks until browned on one side, about 4 minutes. Remove the steaks from the skillet. Add the other 2 steaks and sear until browned on one side, about 4 minutes. Flip these steaks and return the first 2 steaks to the skillet, raw-side down. Add 2 Tbs of the butter and the thyme. Once the butter melts, tilt the skillet slightly to pool the liquid, then constantly spoon the butter over the steaks until the meat is medium-rare, about 4 minutes more. Transfer the steaks to a rimmed plate to rest. Keep the skillet handy.

Cook the noodles: Add the noodles to the boiling water and cook according to package directions. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water and drain. Return the noodles to the pot and toss with 2 Tbs of the butter and parsley.

Blister the tomatoes (I did this while the noodles were cooking): Put the tomatoes in the same skillet and blister over medium heat until blackened in spots and softened, about 4 minutes. When the tomatoes are very soft, remove the thyme sprigs and carefully mash the tomatoes with a slotted spoon or potato masher. Stir in the remaining 2 Tbs of butter and the vinegar until incorporated, thinning out with the reserved cooking water if necessary to make a smooth sauce. Season with 1/2 tsp salt.

Serve: Slice the steaks thinly against the grain and add any juices that accumulate to the tomato sauce. Divide the noodles among 4 plates, set the sliced steak on top, and finish with the tomato butter sauce.

Serves 4

Vegify It: Instead of egg noodles, use strips of raw zucchini (shave them with a vegetable peeler) to get a double dose of veggies in.

*I could not find flat iron steak, but the butcher suggester sizzler steaks. I used 2 thicker ones and they turned out amazing.

All of us were huge fans of this recipe (my kids love steak), so I will definitely be making this one again! The sauce was delish and this was a fast meal to make!

Waterbrook Multnomah sent me this complimentary copy to review for them. All opinions are my own, as are the food pictures used in this post.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Review of Blind Trust by Sandra Orchard

Nutshell: Kate Adams is back in the spotlight as her trouble continues. Someone seems to be out to still keep her silent with new accusations and behind the scenes secrecy to take her down. Another who-dun-it in the Port Aster Secrets Series.

Pro's: This book keeps you guessing! With every turn of the page you still don't know who's out to get the main character.

Con's: If you pick this up without reading the first book, it may be a bit more difficult to understand what is going on. It can be a stand-alone fiction, but better to go in reading book #1. The "what-ifs" got a bit weary to keep reading throughout the book. The characters coming up with different scenarios as to why someone said one thing, or why another person came from the basement, or why another's wallet was empty at one time of day and bulging later in the day. I understand it goes along with the detective work, but it seemed to be in abundance in this book.

Recommendation: Read book #1 first. If you like mystery, you may like this book. It wasn't my favorite, but also, that's my opinion.

Revell Books sent me this complimentary book to review for them. Opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Review of All Right Here by Carre Armstrong Gardner

The Nutshell: Family. Ivy Darling is the main character. This book is centered around her. Her struggling relationship with her husband, her foster kids, her family, her in-laws and finding her voice amidst all of them.

The pro's: I loved this book. It wasn't suspenseful in the least, but you wanted everything to turn out for the best by the end. And it doesn't wrap up with a nice bow. The word that kept floating through my head while reading this was: messy. Messy relationships with family. Messy results of choices made that weren't the best. But very real messiness. This book exposed, I think, how the majority of families and marriages are. Messy. It was very down to earth and real.

The con's: None.

Recommendation: This book would be great for anyone who enjoys reading. A light read for more in-depth readers. A book full of emotions and real-world scenarios for the realistic reader and for the reader who likes a good story.

Tyndale Publishers sent me this complimentary copy to review for them. Opinions expressed are my own.

Review of A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert

The nutshell: A famous model reluctantly returns home after her fast-paced, soul-sucking career runs dry. A photographer who wants to forget his past mistakes. An aunt/step-mom who brings them together which starts the healing process for the two wandering souls. 

The pro's: What a great story! Full of redemption, whole acceptance of God's love, and understanding true friendship and forgiveness. 

The con's: It took a bit to figure out who all the characters were and how they fit into the story. Some relationships took a good chunk of time to figure out, and how specific people fit with others. 

Recommendation: I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a book that is chalk full of redemption and how God cleans up some very messy lives.

Click here for the synopsis of the book.
Interested in reading chapter one? Click here.
Want to learn more about the author? Go here.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review of Fatal Exchange by Lisa Harris

The nutshell: Meet Mason, an undercover cop, who is on limited time in trying to find Emily Hunt's niece who was kidnapped by the drug cartel which has dirty cop's working for them. Join their journey in relying on God during a stand-off, a kidnapping and just trying to stay alive long enough to rescue a family member.

The pro's: Quick paced, action packed and keeps you flipping the pages. Not graphic by any means.

The con's: A bit heavy on the romance, of which I can leave behind. It may be a bit harder reading as a stand-alone as this is the 2nd book in the series.

Suggestion: Like suspense and action packed pages? Then you'll like this book.

Revell Books sent me this complimentary copy to review for them. All opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Review of One Perfect Spring by Irene Hannon

The nutshell: A single mom with an 11 year old daughter, a neighbor diagnosed with cancer, and a letter that changed the trajectory of their lives forever. A die-hard, workaholic single guy with a boss whose life became more clear after the passing of his wife and the same letter that intercepted into their lives and collided these four people together.

The pro's: What a sweet story of forgiveness, choosing to move forward and living life to its fullest no matter the past. This is a feel-good story that leaves you wanting to live life better, to not miss the little things that God has placed in your path and to love others despite their flaws.

The con's: Not much to say against this book. It felt like the relationships moved pretty quick-like, but overall, a great read.

Suggestion: If you like books with more depth and meat on them, this is not for you. If you like books with a light, sweet storyline...then this is your gig.

Revell Books sent me this complimentary book to review for them. The opinions expressed above are my own.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Review of A Table by the Window by Hillary Manton Lodge

The nutshell: Juliette is the youngest in her Italian/French crazy family and is in love with food. She is a food critic, which she loves, but she feels like there is more out there for her to conquer. Her life begins to turn upside down when her close-knit family enters a tumultuous time, she is offered a position at her brother's new restaurant and is also trying to keep up a long-distant relationship that is going much faster than she expected. Journey along with Juliette as she navigates through life's ups and downs.

Pro's: The center of this book is around family. I love this. It all comes back to family, no matter how quirky, dysfunctional, stress-laden and messy. This family is always there for each other, and in the Italian way, honest and very open with each other. It was a light read laced with a rich love woven through the storyline. You felt a part of the family, sitting at their table, conversing and eating with them. And the recipes! I'm a sucker for them! A bonus at the end of most chapters was a recipe that correlated with the chapter. A cookbook AND great novel in one? It's a win - win!

Con's: The ending. It came up so fast and ended so abruptly that it left me a bit perplexed as to what to think. Seeing that there is a 2nd book coming helped, but if this was a stand alone novel, I would leave feeling disappointed.

Suggestion: If you enjoy recipes and good light read, this a book worth picking up!

Would you like to learn more about Hillary Manton Lodge? Check out her website here.
Interested in reading the first chapter in this book? Click here.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review. Opinions expressed are my own.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Review of The One Year: Did You Know Devotional 2

The Nutshell: A devotional with lots of trivia and stories to make each day's devotional come a bit more to life.

Pro's: Easy for kids to read and understand. Geared more for elementary age kids.

Con's: There didn't seem to be much guided discussion for each day. Also, I think more delving into scripture would be beneficial, like offering more verses to look up after each devotional. Of course, parents can guide this and take it much further than what is on the page.

Tyndale House Publishers sent me this complimentary copy to review for them. Opinions are my own.

Review of A Stillness of Chimes by Meg Moseley

Meg Moseley is a new author to me and she did not disappoint.

The Nutshell: Laura Gantt heads back to her hometown to settle the household of her recently deceased mother. Memories swirl around her as well as rumors that her father, who drowned years before, has been seen around town. With the help of her high school sweetheart, Sean and her best friend Cassie, her heart and life intertwine her past and present in the town she just can't shake. Filled with heartache, compassion and a melodic lilt, Meg Moseley weaves a sweet story of friendship, forgiveness and moving forward in life.

Pro's: When I think of the South, I think of warm, cricket sounding, hazy days. Swinging slowly on a porch swing with a cold glass of ice tea that has condensation dripping down it. And I think, now, of this book. While reading it, it was the South. Just the right amount of pace, not too fast, not too slow. It had a lilt to it of crickets that keep you going. Page after page after page. Meg Moseley not only wrote a sweet filled story of friendship and forgiveness, but a story that came to life and took you along side the characters. Their heart aches. Their deeply rooted history in a little town that was dredged in tradition.

Con's: None.

Suggestion: If you like light hearted, but yet full of sweetness and southern charm books, this one is for you!

Want to learn more about Meg Mosesly? Visit her website.
Want to get a little taste of A Stillness of Chimes? Go here to read the first chapter.

WaterBrook Multnomah sent me this complimentary copy to review for them. Opinions are my own.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Review of Shadows of the Past by Patricia Bradley

This is a new author that I took the chance of reading and was not disappointed. Shadows of the Past is a criminal suspense book, the first in the series by Patricia Bradley.

The Nutshell: The main character, Taylor, a professor and criminal profiler, is fighting to find the person who is trying to kill her, while also working on solving her fathers disappearance and ends up with the help from a famous writer whom she falls for along the way.

Pro's: Good story line and development of characters. The pace kicked in to high gear towards the end and I just had to see how it concluded. It provided an interesting look into profiling and the minds of criminals.

Con's: I pegged the killer half way through the book, but I was still interested in how he was caught. It was slow in parts, but the interest was still there to find how everything connected. A bit mushy, which I could do without. A bit gory and graphic in spots.

If you like suspense books, you may be interested in picking this one up. I look forward to reading book 2 in Patricia Bradley's series!

Revell Books sent me this complimentary book to review for them. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Review of Chasing Hope by Kathryn Cushman

This book was different than ones I usually read. Going in with an open mind, it turned out that I liked this style of writing. It was a slower, more reflective story based around the subject of running. One runner who had to quit her dream, and one who didn't have any dreams, but could run. The story revolved around these two characters who were put together and how each grew because of the other person. I liked the flavor of the story, the underlying plot of forgiveness of one self and learning about the forgiveness of God.

Bethany House sent me this complimentary copy to review for them. Opinions expressed are my own.

Review of No One to Trust by Lynette Eason

This is book one in a new series by Lynette Eason called Hidden Identity. This first book had a different flavor than her past books. The romance element was taken out and it was purely suspense. I loved it! It was super fast paced, character twists that you didn't see coming and full of redemption. Ms. Eason did a great job keeping the reader captivated, kept the plot plugging along at a fast clip and did it all without a love-blossoming sub-plot.

If you enjoy clean suspenseful books, you will enjoy this one. The one part I don't like is that the next book in the series doesn't come out until the fall of 2014!

Revell Books sent me this complimentary copy to review for them. Opinions expressed are my own.