Monday, February 23, 2015

Lighten Up, Y'all!

Lighten Up, Y'all: Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy and Wholesome by Virginia Willis promises that amazing Southern cooking taste we all love, but instead of deep fried, soaked in grease, whole sticks of butter, and pounds of sugar; healthy and wholesome. The book description reads:

"A collection of classic Southern comfort food recipes--including seven-layer dip, chicken and gravy, and mudslide cookies--made lighter, healthier, and completely guilt-free.

Virginia Willis is not only an authority on Southern cooking, a French-trained chef, and a veteran cookbook author; she is also a proud Southerner who adores eating and cooking for family and friends. So when she needed to drop a few pounds and generally lighten up her diet, the most important criterion for her new lifestyle was that all the food had to taste delicious.

The result is Lighten Up, Y’all, a soul-satisfying and deeply personal collection of Virginia’s new favorite recipes. All the classics are covered—from a comforting Southern Style Shepherd’s Pie with Grits to warm, melting Broccoli Mac and Cheese to Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Pie. Each dish is packed with real Southern flavor, but made with healthier, more wholesome ingredients and techniques. Wherever you are on your health and wellness journey, Lighten Up, Y’all has the recipes, tools, and inspiration you need to make the nourishing, down-home Southern food you love."

I was super excited to receive this book, because I love Southern food and cooking, but am also always counting my calories and trying to make healthier choices. This cookbook didn't completely measure up to my expectations, but I did like it quite a bit and am looking forward to trying out many of the recipes. My main complaint about this book is that I wish it included some more pictures. I like to see a picture of every recipe before I make it, but I understand this isn't always possible due to size limits of the book. The pictures that were included were appealing and appetizing, though, so that was a plus.

Some recipes included are: Sinless Seven-Layer Dip, Hot Mess Spinach and Feta Dip, Barbecue Meatballs, Summer Squash Casserole, Red Beans and Greens, Southern Style Shepherd's Pie with Grits, Makeover Broccoli Mac and Cheese, Gulf Coast Seafood Stew, Smothered and Covered Chicken and Gravy, Slow-Cooked Barbecue Pulled Chicken, Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup, Buttermilk Biscuits with Turkey Sausage Gravy, Baked Apple Hand Pies with Salted Caramel Sauce, and Big Rich Texas Sheet Cake.

I enjoyed reading Virginia's stories and insights, and the recipes are carefully and thoughtfully written and easy to follow. I recommend this cookbook to anyone who enjoys Southern food!

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

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Unveiled Wife

The Unveiled Wife: Embracing Intimacy with God and Your Husband by Jennifer Smith is a gem of a book. I'd never heard of Jennifer before seeing this book, so I was a bit hesitant to pick it up, not knowing what to expect, but it was far above my expectations. The description so intrigued me that I just had to read it:

"As a young bride, Jennifer Smith couldn't wait to build her life with the man she adored. She dreamed of closeness, of being fully known and loved by her husband. But the first years of marriage were nothing like she'd imagined. Instead, they were marked by disappointment and pain, as Jennifer and her husband struggled to become physically intimate. Trapped by fear and insecurity, and feeling totally alone, Jennifer cried out to God: "What am I doing wrong? Why is this happening to us?" It was as if a veil had descended between her and her husband, and between her and God--one that kept her from experiencing the fullness of love.How did Jennifer and her husband survive the painful times? What did they do when they were tempted to call it quits? How did God miraculously step in during the darkest hour to rescue and redeem them, tearing down the veil once and for all? "The Unveiled Wife" is a real-life love story; one couple's refreshingly raw, transparent journey touching the deep places in a marriage that only God can reach. If you are feeling disappointment or even despair about your marriage, the heart-cry of this book is: "You are not alone." Discover through Jennifer's story how God can bring you through it all to a place of transformation."

This is probably one of the most honest books I've ever read. Jennifer doesn't shy away from any topic, no matter how sensitive. That's the biggest thing I loved about this book. So many marriage and relationship books skirt around the edges of issues rather than just addressing them directly and head on. The Unveiled Wife is written in a chatty, blog style feel with reflection questions at the end of each chapter. It was a very easy read and difficult to put down - I wanted to see how the story would end! I think every woman can relate to this book, because no one has "the perfect marriage". I highly recommend this to every Christian woman. You don't have to be teetering on the edge of divorce to glean important truths from this book! Excellent and highly recommended.

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

Twisted Innocence

Twisted Innocence is the third (and I believe final) book in Terri Blackstock's new Moonlighters series. I've loved the first two books in the series, and book three was no exception! It did not disappoint. The book description reads:

"Holly Cramer’s past choices have finally caught up to her, but she never expected them to endanger her baby.

Though Holly’s stumbled through most of her adult life as a party girl, she longs to live a more stable life for her daughter. Then police show up to question her about the whereabouts of Creed Kershaw, Lily’s father. She has kept his identity a secret from friends and family—she never even told him about the pregnancy. Now he’s a person of interest in a drug-related murder case.

Determined to keep him out of their lives and turn him over to police, Holly uses her private investigating skills to search for him. But her bravado backfires when he turns the tables and takes her and the baby hostage. As desperate hours tick by, Holly realizes his connection to Leonard Miller—the man who has gunned down several members of her family. Creed claims he’s innocent and that Miller is after him too. His gentleness with Lily moves her, but she can’t trust a man who has held her at gunpoint . . . even if he reminds her so much of herself.

Dangers old and new threaten Holly and her baby, and lives are demanded as sacrifices for love. Through a complex web of mistakes and regret, redemption is the one hope Holly has left to hold on to."

Twisted Innocence was everything the first two books were - suspenseful page turners. I couldn't put this one down, and I really enjoyed getting a closer look into Holly's life (the previous books followed Cathy and Juliet more closely). I enjoyed the blend of seeing Holly's redemption mixed with finally getting closure on Leonard Miller's terrorism of their family. This was a quick and easy read that I picked up and read in about 24 hours, but it was still very satisfying. I absolutely love Terri Blackstock's writing, and I can't wait to see what she comes up with next!

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

Friday, February 13, 2015

Love Without Limits

I've read Nick Vujicic's previous book, Unstoppable, and was inspired by his positive and encouraging outlook on life in the face of such hardships. Unstoppable touched briefly on him meeting his wife, Kanae, their courtship, and wedding, but after I read that book I was left wanting to know more. Living a life without limbs is such a challenge that I was curious to learn more about how these disabilities and challenges translated into married life. Therefore, I was excited when I saw Love Without Limits by Nick Vujicic (with input from his wife, Kanae), and knew I wanted to read it right away. The description reads:

"It Doesn’t Take a Perfect Person to Find a Perfect Love

Even though he was born without arms or legs, Nick Vujicic created a “ridiculously good life.” But after dating disappointments and a failed relationship, he reached his mid-twenties worried that he would never find a woman to love him and share his life.

Then Nick met Kanae and everything changed. But even with undeniable chemistry, they would have to navigate twists and turns worthy of a romantic comedy before becoming "one" in marriage.

In Love Without Limits Nick and Kanae tell how they improbably found each other, fell in love, and then fought to overcome skepticism from others about their relationship. Filled with practical insights that will benefit any couple, this inspiring book describes a godly courtship and the early years of the Vujicics’ marriage and parenting journey.

Above all, Love Without Limits is an inspiring reminder that when Christ is at the center of a relationship--even with serious challenges--true love will triumph."

I was definitely not disappointed by this book - it was truly inspiring. Ideal for married people and singles/dating couples, this book discusses many subjects other books shy away from - how to stay pure while dating, the benefits of saving yourself for marriage, the realities of married life once you do get married, and much more. Nick and Kanae open up their lives to discuss not only the great times, but the challenging times, too. Always honest and often funny, this book is a great peek into their life. I highly recommend it to any Christian looking for a little inspiration.

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

Saturday, February 7, 2015

River's Edge

River's Edge is book three in Terri Blackstock's popular Cape Refuge series. The other books are Cape Refuge (#1), Southern Storm (#2), and Breaker's Reef (#4). Cape Refuge is a classic Blackstock mystery series that's now being repackaged with new, updated covers. The book description reads:

"The man Lisa Jackson loved most may have betrayed her. Another used deception to manipulate her. But did one of them kill her? Ben Jackson is sure to defeat Jonathan Cleary in Cape Refuge’s mayoral race, until his wife turns up missing the day before a major debate. Suspecting foul play, Police Chief Cade launches an island-wide search. But it takes a psychic’s “vision” to point police to the riverside—and Lisa’s body. The evidence implicating Ben in his wife’s murder is convincing. But as a local scandal escalates into a national media circus, Cade’s instincts tell him to dig deeper. And he’s not the only one. Blair Owens of the Cape Refuge Journal is using her investigative skills to uncover a rat’s nest of dirty secrets—and more than one person with a motive for murder. But Blair’s methods are jeopardizing her relationship with Cade, and an unsolicited prediction from the psychic only adds to her troubles. Is the man’s so-called gift truly from God, as he claims? Did Lisa’s murder have anything to do with the mayoral race, her husband’s alleged affair, or her decade-long struggle with infertility? Whoever the killer is, he’s about to take his evasion of justice to the next, lethal level. And someone else is going to die."

I loved this book. It's fast-paced and exciting, without being overly graphic. It's the perfect blend of suspense, mystery and Christian values. I love how Terri can write a great mystery while weaving in Christian beliefs and values. A word of caution, though: I highly recommend reading books one and two before reading this installment. These books are definitely not meant to be stand-alone novels in my opinion. They all build on each other and carry over the storyline from the previous book. Definitely pick up the first two books before reading this one! I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good Christian suspense book. You won't be disappointed!

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

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.