Thursday, January 29, 2015

Still Life

When I first saw the cover of Still Life by Christa Parrish, it immediately caught my eye. The cover is absolutely gorgeous and made me want to pick it up and see what the story inside was about. The description was so compelling, that I knew it was a book I wanted to read. The description reads:

"Ada escaped her family’s self-enclosed world to elope with a mysterious stranger. Five months later, she’s a widow in a strange new world.

Ada was born into a fringe religious sect named for her father, The Prophet. But her lifelong habit of absolute obedience was shattered when she fled the family compound to elope with photographer Julian Goetz.

Katherine Walker’s marriage was a sham. She and Will rarely spoke without yelling—and never touched. Her affair brings her both escape and guilt.

When a tragic plane crash takes Julian from Ada and exacerbates Katherine’s sense of shame, both women become desperately unsure of where they belong in the world—until the devotion of an artistic young boy conspires to bring them together.

From award-winning novelist Christa Parrish, Still Life is a cunningly complex work that captures themes of abusive religion, supernatural love, and merciful escape. It will resonate with anyone who has ever felt called to a drastic change—or tried to hear the small whisper of God’s voice."

I'd never heard of Christa Parrish before this book so I wasn't sure what to expect, but I certainly wasn't disappointed. I love a Christian book that isn't afraid to shy away from difficult or controversial subjects such as this one. The language is both compelling and haunting, and I had trouble putting it down. In a way, this book almost reminded me of a Christian version of Random Hearts (which is a favorite book and movie of mine). I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys some good, realistic Christian contemporary fiction. I can't wait to pick up another one of Christa's books. I'm glad I've discovered this author and am looking forward to reading more of her work.

I received a copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Supermarket Healthy

Supermarket Healthy: Recipes and Know-How for Eating Well Without Spending a Lot by Melissa D'Arabian promises to help you eat healthy on a budget - and without all those weird ingredients you can never find on your local supermarket shelves. The description reads:

Food Network star and New York Times bestselling author Melissa d'Arabian proves that healthy eating at home is easy, achievable, and affordable.

Everyone wants to feel good about what they are eating, serving guests, and feeding their families, but most of us don't do our weekly shopping at pricey specialty stores-- we do it at the local supermarket and we don't want it to break the bank. In her second book, Melissa demystifies the task of preparing nutritious and delicious food by showing exactly how you can make your grocery store work for you. She offers helpful strategies for shopping, cooking, and entertaining, as well as meal blueprints and nutritional information throughout. This book will make you confident about the food you're buying, preparing, and eating. Delicious recipes like Almond Waffles with Raspberry-Basil Sauce, Kale and White Bean Caesar Salad in a Jar, Slow-Roasted Tomato Spaghettini, Flatiron Steaks with Quick Cauliflower Kimchi, and Flourless Fudgy Dream Cookies have something for every type of eater at every meal of the day. No matter your favorite flavors or dietary needs, cooking on a budget is empowering-- and now you can learn how to make every bite count. If cooking at home is the key to healthy living, Supermarket Healthy is the only tool you'll need.

I was really excited to get this book because I try to eat healthy, but I don't like having to go to special stores to track down ingredients I've never heard of and my family might not enjoy or eat. In addition, we're on a very tight budget and can't afford to spend a ton of extra money on groceries. I did like this cookbook, but it wasn't exactly what I expected. Many of the recipes are extremely time consuming or difficult to make, and I'm looking to get dinner on the table quickly on weeknights. Also, a lot of ingredients are used that are on the weird side, such as kale, kelp noodles, Japanese eggplant, saffron threads,cotija cheese, canned sardines, and miso paste. Also, there are nowhere near enough pictures. I like to see a recipe before I make it and that is severely lacking with this cookbook.

However, with all that said, I did see a handful of recipes I'd like to make from this book. I appreciated Melissa's easy writing style, clear instructions, and hints and tips throughout the book. While it's not quite what I personally expected, I imagine that others who have a larger budget and/or are more into eating different types of foods will like this cookbook much more than me. I'm excited to try some new foods and recipes!

I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Paper Hearts

Paper Hearts by Courtney Walsh is a delightful contemporary romance. The back cover reads:

"Could the loss of her dream lead to her happily ever after?
Abigail Pressman never would have guessed that love notes penned on paper hearts by an anonymous couple could challenge her doubts about romance. A business owner in a quaint tourist town, she dreams of expanding. But lately, she’s more focused on resisting the matchmaking efforts of the Valentine Volunteers, who gather in her store to continue Loves Park’s tradition of stamping mail with the city’s romantic postmark.

When Abigail is unwillingly drafted into the Volunteers, she encounters the hearts, a distraction that couldn’t come at a worse time. A hard-to-read doctor has become Abigail’s new landlord, and he’s threatening to end her lease.

As she fights a growing attraction to this man intent on crushing her dreams, Abigail is inspired to string the hearts in her store, sparking a citywide infatuation with the artsy trend. But when a new batch of hearts arrives, it appears something tragic has happened to the couple. Will uncovering their story confirm Abigail’s doubts, or could it rescue her dreams . . . and her heart?"

Now, I'll be honest - I'm not usually a big contemporary romance novel fan. However, I just had to pick up Paper Hearts because the cover was so gorgeous and compelling and the story sounded intriguing - so I figured I'd give it a shot. I'm so glad I did! Just in time for Valentine's Day, here is the perfect book to cozy up with. Grab a cup of coffee, some fuzzy socks, a blanket, and some chocolates and lose yourself in the fabulously quirky world of Loves Park, where every day is Valentine's Day. I was drawn in from the very first page and just couldn't put this one down. The dialogue is witty and brilliant, and the descriptions vivid. Not your typical cheesy romance novel at all - sweet as sugar, but with enough plot twists and quirky characters to keep those pages turning - and to keep it from becoming predictable and boring. This book is anything but the formulaic romance novel This is a must read. I was sad to leave Abigail's world, Loves Park, and the Book Nook - I'll definitely be looking for more books from Courtney Walsh!

I received a copy of this book from Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Fifty-Year Silence

A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War, and a Ruined House in France by Miranda Richmond Mouillot sounded so intriguing that I just couldn't help but pick it up. It sounded like half memoir and half mystery, and those are two of my favorite genres, so I had to give it a shot. The book description reads:

"A young woman moves across an ocean to uncover the truth about her grandparents' mysterious estrangement and pieces together the extraordinary story of their wartime experiences

In 1948, after surviving World War II by escaping Nazi-occupied France for refugee camps in Switzerland, the author's grandparents, Anna and Armand, bought an old stone house in a remote, picturesque village in the South of France. Five years later, Anna packed her bags and walked out on Armand, taking the typewriter and their children. Aside from one brief encounter, the two never saw or spoke to each other again, never remarried, and never revealed what had divided them forever.

A Fifty-Year Silence is the deeply involving account of Miranda Richmond Mouillot's journey to find out what happened between her grandmother, a physician, and her grandfather, an interpreter at the Nuremberg Trials, who refused to utter his wife's name aloud after she left him. To discover the roots of their embittered and entrenched silence, Miranda abandons her plans for the future and moves to their stone house, now a crumbling ruin; immerses herself in letters, archival materials, and secondary sources; and teases stories out of her reticent, and declining, grandparents. As she reconstructs how Anna and Armand braved overwhelming odds and how the knowledge her grandfather acquired at Nuremberg destroyed their relationship, Miranda wrestles with the legacy of trauma, the burden of history, and the complexities of memory. She also finds herself learning how not only to survive but to thrive – making a home in the village and falling in love.

With warmth, humor, and rich, evocative details that bring her grandparents' outsize characters and their daily struggles vividly to life, A Fifty-Year Silence is a heartbreaking, uplifting love story spanning two continents and three generations.

Sounds utterly amazing, right? Well, I was left slightly disappointed. I'd give it 3.5 stars. While it was very interesting learning about Miranda's grandparents, exploring the French countryside, and revisiting World War II, I felt this book focused a bit too much on Miranda and not quite enough on her grandparents. Also, I was rather disappointed that there was no "big reveal" at the end like the promotional materials imply. There is no big secret or big reveal regarding why Anna and Armand split up abruptly and never spoke again. Rather, it's the mundane and obvious - trauma from the war, etc. However, this book is worth a read if you enjoy memoirs, France, and World War II literature. I enjoyed it, it just wasn't quite what I expected.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Keep It Shut

Keep It Shut: What To Say, How To Say It, And When To Say Nothing At All by Karen Ehman is one of those books that I thought, the second I saw it, "I need to read this book immediately!". I have major issues with the tongue - I feel like I'm always putting my foot in my mouth! I haven't seen a good book about speech in a really long time, so I immediately snatched this one up, because I can use all the help I can get! The book description reads:

"Keep It Shut by Karen Ehman explores how to better control your tongue, knowing what to say and how to say it, and realizing when it is best to say nothing at all.

From Bible times to modern times women have struggled with their words. What to say and how to say it. What not to say. When it is best to remain silent. And what to do when you’ve said something you wish you could now take back. In this book a woman whose mouth has gotten her into loads of trouble shares the hows (and how-not-tos) of dealing with the tongue.

Beyond just a “how not to gossip” book, this book explores what the Bible says about the many ways we are to use our words and the times when we are to remain silent. Karen will cover using our speech to interact with friends, co-workers, family, and strangers as well as in the many places we use our words in private, in public, online, and in prayer. Even the words we say silently to ourselves. She will address unsolicited opinion-slinging, speaking the truth in love, not saying words just to people-please, and dealing with our verbal anger.

Christian women struggle with their mouths. Even though we know that Scripture has much to say about how we are—and are not—to use our words, this is still an immense issue, causing heartache and strain not only in family relationships, but also in friendships, work, and church settings."

This book went above and beyond all of my expectations. Written in an easy-to-read, accessible, and humorous style, this book was a quick and simple read, but packed with practical advice and solutions. Karen has a way of writing in such a way that you can't put the book down, yet imparts so many spiritual truths and down-to-earth advice and help. It's a wonderful combination that ensures you will not just put the book down and think "that was a nice book", but rather walk away from the book with many practical things to apply to your own life. I highly recommend this book to every woman who has problems with issues of the tongue and speech.

I received a copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Own Your Life

Own Your Life: Living with Deep Intention, Bold Faith, and Generous Love by Sally Clarkson is a great book for the new year. Many people are looking for a fresh start in the new year, and reading this book is a good place to start. The description reads:

"Do you ever long for days full of joy and energy—days that bring out the best version of you rather than leave you exhausted? Do you sometimes catch yourself wishing life was more impactful and fulfilling? In a world that’s moving so fast, it’s easy to lose your sense of purpose. So now is the time to make each moment of your ordinary, everyday, beautiful existence count. It’s time to own your life.

Sally Clarkson’s Own Your Life is a breath of fresh air into the life and soul of a busy woman. Like a faithful friend, Sally journeys with you to explore what it means to live meaningfully, follow God truly, and bring much-needed order to your chaos. Each page offers deeply personal, authentic, and practical guidance to help you build an intentional life. Discover what it means to own your life, and dare to trust God’s hands as He richly shapes your character, family, work, and soul."

Own Your Life is the latest in a line of books designed for soul-weary and work-weary women. I'm enjoying this trend of books that are designed not to give women a list of tasks to do, but give them permission to just "be" in the presence of the Savior. Clarkson's book is easily read and full of rich wisdom drawn from many years as a Christian. I enjoyed soaking in the information and advice given in this book, and recommend it to every Christian woman.

I received a copy of this book from Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

The Expats

The Expats by Chris Pavone is an exciting espionage thriller. I was immediately drawn in by the description:

"Can we ever escape our secrets?

In the cobblestoned streets of Luxembourg, Kate Moore's days are filled with playdates and coffee mornings, her weekends spent in Paris and skiing in the Alps. But Kate is also guarding a tremendous, life-defining secret—one that's become so unbearable that it begins to unravel her newly established expat life. She suspects that another American couple are not who they claim to be; her husband is acting suspiciously; and as she travels around Europe, she finds herself looking over her shoulder, increasingly terrified that her own past is catching up with her. As Kate begins to dig, to uncover the secrets of the people around her, she finds herself buried in layers of deceit so thick they threaten her family, her marriage, and her life. Stylish and sophisticated, fiercely intelligent, and expertly crafted, The Expats proves Chris Pavone to be a writer of tremendous talent."

This book is full of lush, detailed writing and exotic scenery. The dichotomy between Kate's mommy days of playdates and coffee and her secret past is perfect. I loved the unraveling of all of the mysteries surrounding Kate, her husband Dexter, and the other expat American couple. It was packed with suspense and was very difficult to put down. The author does a great job of weaving together a tale of secrets and lies within a marriage. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good thriller/suspense novel.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.