Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Grandma's Guest Review: Finding Me

Finding Me by Kathryn Cushman is a contemporary novel from Bethany House about a woman who discovers that the life she thought was hers has actually been a lie. As she uncovers the truth about her life, her life is forever changed.

Grandma's Review

This novel begins when Kelli Huddleson loses her job for being an honest person who tries to help someone. She uses this time to try to reconstruct her past, because her parents had been killed in an accident and left her with many debts to handle. 

While cleaning out the homeplace, she finds clues and begins a journey to discover who she really is. There are many twists and turns as Kelli uncovers her past and plans for her future.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and its many twists and turns. I especially enjoyed the way family love is stressed and how faith plays such an important role in life. I would recommend this to anyone wishing a good Christian novel with a little suspense.

The publisher provided a review copy of Finding Me.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Grandma's Guest Review: A Harvest of Hope

Grandma just finished the second Loraine Snelling book from the Song of Blessing series, and it sounds like she loved it. Read on for more:

This book is a wonderful follow up to the book To Everything a Season. Miriam returns to Blessing Hospital to complete her training after her Mother's death. While she was away, she thought often about Trygve Knutson and kept him in her mind.

When returning to Blessing, she realized he kept her in his thoughts also. What will develop? Is there a chance for them and what will become of her siblings? I couldn't wait to dig in and discover more!

The themes in this book show the many ways of caring for others and how with God's help this is what is important.

A Harvest of Hope is one of the most caring books I have read recently. The way the community helps look after each other is a lesson we all should pay attention to. I enjoyed the suspense that was present regarding day to day happenings. I found A Harvest of Hope to be a hard to put down book and would highly recommend it to others

(The publisher provided a review copy of A Harvest of Hope.)

Friday, April 3, 2015

Mastering Pasta

Mastering Pasta: The Art and Practice of Handmade Pasta, Gnocchi, and Risotto by Marc Vetri is for the serious cook who wishes to master the art of scratch-made pasta dishes. It is a compendium of all things pasta, from the flour to the dough to the meal. Highly recommended by chefs like Jamie Oliver and Mario Batali, Mastering Pasta teaches the techniques for pasta making and shows you how to make more than 30 types of dough. In addition, he includes recipes for sauces, baked pasta dishes, and more.

While I don't consider myself to be anywhere near an expert cook, there are many things about this cookbook that I like. At first glance, I was intimidated by Mastering Pasta, because I didn't know if I could understand how to even begin. However, I find it to be a wonderful, inspiring primer that has already taught me a lot and given me confidence to try some of the techniques.

Vetri explains things in an engaging way that makes this book just as enjoyable to read as it is to cook from. He gets into the basics of wheat and flour, detailing the actual anatomy of wheat so you understand how to begin by choosing the proper flour for different types of pasta dough. He also explains things like the correct pasta-to-filling ratio and how to properly cook fillings so they turn out right.

This gorgeous collection of recipes is lavishly photographed, and I feel immersed in Italian culture as I read through it. The photographs help clarify the techniques and give cooks an idea of the finished dishes.

I like how Vetri describes the importance of recognizing the variables involved in cooking:

" ...the difference between a recipe and a gorgeous plate of food is you. Think of it this way: cooking from a recipe is sort of like driving from a GPS. Follow the directions and you get to your destination. But you still have to drive the car. You still have to cook the dish. And cooking means responding to your environment, tasting the ingredients to see how much seasoning the need, observing the texture of pasta dough to see if it needs more flour or water, and feeling the thickness of the noodles to decide whether it's right for the dish you are making" (p. 6).
This section alone inspired me not to be afraid to experiment and have fun with the experience of cooking. Though I might not try to tackle Pappardelle with Rabbit Ragu and Peaches, there are many recipes in Mastering Pasta that will become staples in my house.

The publisher provided a review copy of Mastering Pasta.

Devotions from the Garden

Finding Peace and Rest from Your Hurried Life

Nature's miracles and their impact on our lives are celebrated in the ninety devotions in Devotions from the Garden: Finding Peace and Rest from Your Hurried Life. Spending time outdoors, whether in the garden or simply just enjoying natural surroundings, is restorative and transforming. 

Some of the topics include:
  • Living Among Weeds
  • When Roots Go Haywire
  • Untapped Harvest
  • Container Gardening
  • Pallet Gardening

When you slow down and listen to the voice of God as you're getting dirt under your finger nails, the stresses of life lessen and a feeling of peace settles in. There's more to gardening than planting and picking, as anyone who cultivates a crop will tell you. Devotions from the Garden is written especially for those who understand this truth:

"Bottom Line, we need the Lord. Every morning of our life--no matter the season--we are wise to commit the day to Him. When this becomes a life giving habit, we may find ourselves better weather in the winter storms and summer time droughts. We may also find it easier to believe that although our cooler dormant seasons may not look as vibrant as our springs and summers, the spiritual harvest will still come" (p. 203).

Each reflection in this book is short enough to read in a few minutes, but they are written in a way that stay with you. They include Scripture verses, along with prayers at the end of each devotion. The book is gorgeously presented, with color photographs of garden scenes, a ribbon bookmark, and a presentation page.

About the Author
Miriam Drennan is the author of Devotions for the Beach and the Days You Wish You Were There and Soar Above the Madness: Surviving Office Politics Without Losing Your Mind, Your Job, or Your Lunch. She currently lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she enjoys gardening and playing with words. Drop her a line at www.that-writer.com.
The publisher has provided an advanced reading copy through BookLook Bloggers.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Easter Stories

Easter Stories: Classic Tales for the Holy Season is a collection of classic stories, ideal for reading aloud during the Easter season, compiled by Miriam Le Blanc and illustrated by Lisa Toth. Authors include C. S. Lewis, Leo Tolstoy, Oscar Wilde, Anton Chekhov, Alan Paton, Ruth Sawyer, The Brothers Grimm, and more, and each story is accompanied by a woodcut print.

During the season leading up to Easter, it is nice to have a resource that helps us meditate on the true meaning of the season. Bunnies, Easter eggs, and baskets of treats are fun, but we should also remember the reason we celebrate Easter in the first place. Sharing stories like the selections in Easter Stories in our family is a great way to focus on the spiritual side of Easter.

One of our favorite selections in this anthology is "Stories from the Cotton Patch Gospel" by Clarence Jordan, a retelling of the New Testament in the idiom of the American South:

"And while they were busting out all over with joy, and wondering if they could believe their own eyes, he asked, 'Have you got anything around here to eat?'

Somebody brought him a piece of fried fish. He took it and ate it right there in front of them.

He said to them, 'All this is what I was talking about while I was still with you--how everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the Prophets and Psalms had to take place'" (p. 52).

Similar is style to Home for Christmas, the stories in Easter Stories: Classic Tales for the Holy Season are just the right length to read in one or two sittings, especially as a read aloud for older kids. My kids anticipate the fun each year as we plan to spend time with family and hunt eggs in the yard, and Easter is a favorite holiday in my home. Easter Stories is adding another dimension to our Easter season by providing material we are spending time reflecting on. I like the fact that these stories are of high literary quality, and I have incorporated this book into our homeschool literature curriculum for the spring.

The publisher provided a review copy for my honest opinions. Learn more here.