Monday, February 9, 2015

Get Ready for Our New Look!

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Winner of The Best of 2014 Giveaway!

Congrats to Alisha S! You have won one copy of the book Delicious! Thanks to all who entered the giveaway. Check back soon for future giveaways!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Best of 2014 Giveaway Hop

                                  I am excited to be participating in the 

Best of 2014 Hop!

This hop runs from 
December 11th-18th

I will be giving away a copy of the book 'Delicious!' by Ruth Reichl

'Delicious!' is one of my favorite books of 2014. The tagline of this book is "A tale of love, war, and cake". I can't give this book enough praise. Food, libraries, recipes, books, and hidden letters--what more can you ask for in a book?! To read my review, click here

  • Giveaway valid December 11-18
  • This giveaway is open to the US only
  • Giveaway is for a copy of the book 'Delicious!' by Ruth Reichl
  • Please fill out the rafflecopter to be entered into giveaway
  • Winner will have 48hrs. to respond to winning e-mail
  • Good Luck! Thanks for entering!

Just enter the rafflecopter for your chance to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out these amazing blogs for other giveaways!

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Friday, December 5, 2014

The Mistletoe Promise by Richard Paul Evans

from goodreads: Elise Dutton dreads the arrival of another holiday season. Three years earlier, her husband cheated on her with her best friend, resulting in a bitter divorce that left her alone, broken, and distrustful. Then, one November day, a stranger approaches Elise in the mall food court. Though she recognizes the man from her building, Elise has never formally met him. Tired of spending the holidays alone, the man offers her a proposition. For the next eight weeks—until the evening of December 24—he suggests that they pretend to be a couple. The lonely Elise surprises herself by agreeing to the idea. As the charade progresses, the safety of her fake relationship begins to mend her badly broken heart. But just as she begins to find joy again, her long-held secret threatens to unravel the emerging relationship. But she might not be the only one with secrets. 

 I loved the premise of this book. Elise and Nicholas, tired of being alone for the holidays, draw up a contract for an eight week relationship. Elise doesn't like the formality of the word contract, so it becomes 'The Mistletoe Promise'. They bring out their calendars and schedule the next eight weeks together, both attending the others' family and work Christmas events. Nicholas is the perfect love interest. He organizes daily lunches, creative dates,  and has expensive gifts delivered to her office each day. His attention and positive attitude help to bring Elise out of a dark place she has been in for some time. 

This is a bittersweet story to read. Through flashbacks, the reader is able to piece together the events that brought Elise's life to a standstill. I'm not going to lie, it was hard to read those chapters and still continuing reading the book. Elise experienced one of my worst nightmares. It quickly became clear that this wasn't the light holiday story I pictured when I began it. However, through Elise and Nicholas, Evans was able to deliver a story full of the true meaning of Christmas. These characters experienced hardships I pray I will never have to endure, but still demonstrate love, acceptance, and the healing power of forgiveness. I appreciated that the story showed that sometimes the hardest person to forgive is yourself. 

Evans is one of my favorite writers. His writing is beautiful, almost poetic. Something in his books always touches me. In this book, it is this quote: "It's been said that the Magi, wise men, gazed up into the night skies, following a star. But they were not looking for a star. They were looking for hope. Hope of a new world. Hope of redemption. Light is not found in dark places, and hope is not found looking down or looking back." 

Rating: 3.5
Published: 11.2014

Monday, December 1, 2014

Against all Grain: Meals Made Simple by Danielle Walker

from goodreads: With recipes that make cooking for the grain-free family both easy and enjoyable, Danielle Walker takes the guesswork out of meal planning with eight weeks' worth of dinner ideas, complete with full shopping lists and recipes for using up leftovers. Whether we're moms, students, or business owners, at the end of the day we all want fresh, home-cooked meals that are easy to prepare. And we want lots of variety. 

Preparing real foods can be time-consuming and monotonous, but Danielle brings both simplicity and creativity to the everyday meal with an enthusiasm for flavors and textures that are often lacking in easy weeknight dishes. Meals Made Simple includes a variety of slow cooker, one-pot, and thirty-minute meals, as well as ways to create entirely new dishes from leftovers.

This is my new favorite cookbook. I brought it home from the library just to look it over, and fell in love with it. My story mimics Danielle Walker's, where I needed to change my cooking and eating habits after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. Switching to a gluten and dairy free diet has been at times overwhelming and frustrating, but this book actually makes it simple. Included in this book is an eight week menu plan with a shopping list. I am no longer spending hours searching for recipes and creating menu plans--this book takes the guesswork out of cooking! The recipes have all been fairly simple to make. I really appreciate not having to slave my day away in the kitchen. It has been so fun trying all these new recipes, and my family has loved each one.

Besides the menu plan, there are two other things about this book that I really appreciate. First, I love that I recognize ALL of the ingredients listed in her recipes. So often, I'll find a recipe I really want to try, but have to drive all over town just to find specific ingredients. So I really appreciate that I can buy all my ingredients in one place. Second, I really appreciate the way she has her menus organized. For example, the menus are set up in a way that the extra ingredients left over from meal one are used in meal three. I am saving money by not wasting any ingredients, and having my menus all planned out.

The design and pictures of this book are beautiful. Walker has done an amazing job putting all these recipes together, and I have learned so many new ways to cook food that will benefit my family. Over the weekend, I purchased two copies of this book--one for me, and one to give my mom for Christmas. I know she'll love it, too!

Rating: 5
Published: 9.2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

Delicious by Ruth Reichl

from goodreads: Billie Breslin has traveled far from her California home to take a job at Delicious, the most iconic food magazine in New York and, thus, the world. When the publication is summarily shut down, the colorful staff, who have become an extended family for Billie, must pick up their lives and move on. Not Billie, though. She is offered a new job: staying behind in the magazine's deserted downtown mansion offices to uphold the "Delicious Guarantee"-a public relations hotline for complaints and recipe inquiries-until further notice. What she doesn't know is that this boring, lonely job will be the portal to a life-changing discovery.

Delicious! carries the reader to the colorful world of downtown New York restaurateurs and artisanal purveyors, and from the lively food shop in Little Italy where Billie works on weekends to a hidden room in the magazine's library where she discovers the letters of Lulu Swan, a plucky twelve-year-old, who wrote to the legendary chef James Beard during World War II. Lulu's letters lead Billie to a deeper understanding of history (and the history of food), but most important, Lulu's courage in the face of loss inspires Billie to come to terms with her own issues-the panic attacks that occur every time she even thinks about cooking, the truth about the big sister she adored, and her ability to open her heart to love.

This book seemed appropriate to review the week of Thanksgiving. I think food is brought up in every chapter. This is probably my favorite read of 2014! It was such a well-written book, with a setting and characters I adored. Billie is such a relatable character. I loved watching her grow and become a little more daring. Without revealing any spoilers, throughout this book Billie is trying to overcome a traumatic event in her life. But the story is so expertly written that the event isn't revealed until later in the book. We all deal with grief in our own way--Billie just buried it deep inside, while trying to make herself invisible. After a makeover, she feels different. I loved her observation, "I decided that it wasn't pretty that I felt, but confident. If I saw this girl walking down the street, I'd think she was cool, that she led a fascinating life. She looked nothing like the real me. But maybe most people were crouching behind a facade. Maybe inside the sleek Joan-Mary was a frightened little person. Was that why Sammy had adopted his uniform of tweeds? Did they give him courage? Maybe that was why her talked the way he did. Maybe everyone was scared." I love that this book shows that everyone has their own insecurities and ways to mask them.

I also loved the story within a story--the history of food during WWII. It was so interesting to see up close what foods were rationed, and to see how creative people had to get with the little they had. It was fascinating to read small samples of life in the states during the war. Lulu's determination to make the best of every situation was admirable. She saw past prejudices and really cared for all those around her.  I loved that Lulu inspired Billie to put her fears aside and become more confident. The best stories do that!

I can't give this book enough praise. Food, libraries, recipes, books, and hidden letters--what more can you ask for in a book?!

Rating: 5
Published: 5.2014

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman

from amazon: Shawn McDaniel's life is not what it may seem to anyone looking at him. He is glued to his wheelchair, unable to voluntarily move a muscle—he can't even move his eyes. For all Shawn's father knows, his son may be suffering. Shawn may want a release. And as long as he is unable to communicate his true feelings to his father, Shawn's life is in danger.
To the world, Shawn's senses seem dead. Within these pages, however, we meet a side of him that no one else has seen—a spirit that is rich beyond imagining, breathing life.

My book choice for Throwback Thursday is Stuck in Neutral, a book I read several years ago for a YA Lit class. This is a very appropriate book in helping kids understand that every person is so much more than what they first appear to be, but I had a love/hate relationship with this book. I loved the possibility that the book presented that people are more than they seem. But I hated the fact that with this possibility, there was no resolution. I’m not necessarily one who has to have every story tied up at the end with a big red bow, but this book left me with nothing. I felt frustrated through the entire book that there was absolutely nothing Shawn could do to show his family his thoughts, feelings, and intellect. However, I deeply admired Shawn’s attitude through his ordeal, and liked this quote: “Is it frustrating, being trapped inside a useless body? Hell yes! But what am I supposed to do? Getting crazy doesn’t help. In fact, I figured out a long time ago that the crazier I get, the worse it feels.”
I have a friend with a son who has disabilities similar to Shawn’s. He is confined to a wheelchair, and can’t move or express emotion. So, I pictured him while I read this book, and wondered how much he could really understand or feel. I thought how much his mom would love it if he could smile at her, or communicate with her just a little bit. I think this book covered disabilities from a unique angle—that of a teenage disabled boy. But, I think it also conveyed a parent’s nightmare. What if your child could think and feel, but was trapped—stuck in neutral?
I liked this quote: “I don’t want to feel sorry for myself. Negativity and self-pity are useless. Mostly, all my life, I’ve relied on humor and remembering good stuff to get me through each day. To me laughter and memory have always been the best things to fight off worry. A major theme I saw throughout the book was having a positive outlook on life, no matter what you have to go through.

Rating: 3
Published: 6.2000
Age: 13+

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