Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Favorite Reads of 2014

I'm currently in two books that would most likely be on this list if I could finish them in the next few hours, but since that isn't going to happen, I'm going to make my list now. (Curious which two books? To Kill a Mockingbird by Lee and The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Klassen.)

I didn't put them in any specific order this year. It proved to be too hard of a task.

In the Non-Fiction world, my favorites were:

Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms by Gloria Furman

Chasing God by Angie Smith

My "hugworthy" books of the year:

The Yeti Files #1: Meet the Bigfeet by Kevin Sherry

I almost didn't get this one due to the negativity that I had saw concerning it, but I adored it.

The Cats of Tanglewood Forest by Charles de Lint

Such a treasure!

A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander


It seems as though fantasy remains my favorite.

Shadow Hand by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

All of Stengl's books are favorites of mine.

A Plague of Bogles (How to Catch a Bogle) by Catherine Jinks

I just finished this one, so I haven't wrote a review yet, but I loved it just as much as, if not more than, the first.

The Zoo at the Edge of the World by Eric Kahn Gale

Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull

Grave Mercy by Robin Lafevers

Friday, December 26, 2014

A Little Catch-Up in My World of Reading

I've been horrible at posting about the books I've been reading lately. Knowing that I'm about to pick my top favorite reads of the year in a few days has me motivated to post about some that I've enjoyed from the past couple of months. Some are favorites, but some have just been fun to read. (Since I started this blog out as a "clean read" place, feel free to friend me at Goodreads! When a book isn't clean, I mark it as "didn't finish" and say why. I also have several books that I didn't overly like, and I won't post about over here.)

Knowing I still need to write reviews for 6 read books and read 3 more books to call my Goodreads challenge of 100 read books this year a success also has me motivated to read and write. At the moment, I'm reading A Plague of Bogles (arc from Amazon Vine) for my "real" book and Illusionarium(e-arc from Edelweiss) as my kindle read. Next up, is To Kill a Mockingbird. I should be able to meet my goal. Hopefully! I'm hoping I can get a couple of these posts up in the next few days to catch up, but this is part 1.

His Fair Assassin Trilogy by Robin Lafevers

I've been devouring my way through the His Fair Assassin Trilogy lately, and it has turned into one of my favorites! I highly recommend reading them in order. By not doing so, you will miss out on a great deal of history and character growth. Grave Mercy is the first book, and covers Ismae's story. (It's currently 1.99 on kindle.) Dark Triumph is the second, and covers Sybella's story. It is by far the most violent and disturbing of the 3. Mortal Heart is the third, and covers Annith's story. Dark Triumph shows Sybella's side of Grave Mercy's ending, but otherwise picks right up where it left off. Mortal Heart goes back in time to show us Annith's side of the story all the way to Grave Mercy. It does eventually pick up to a new time, and somewhat ties up all 3 of their lives.

Although very different, this series has somewhat reminded me of The Three Musketeers(the newest movie, which is one of my favorites, not the book, which I haven't read yet). There's lots of politics and fighting, but also loyalty and friendships. Also, it takes a definite turn for fantasy, with the "gods" within the story. I like that the series has been molded around real events and people, although with liberties taken. (This is why I enjoy authors' notes at the end of books!)

Grave Mercy was my favorite book of the series. I think Ismae was probably my favorite character, though I liked Sybella and Annith, too. All 3 girls have had rough childhoods, and dealt with lots of pain. Sybella's backstory was the most horrifying, I believe, but they were all sad. I liked that one of the romances involved the ugliest man there ever was, because it's what's on the inside that counts. Two thumbs up to the author for proving looks aren't the most important thing! (I wish his love didn't feel the need to throw his ugliness in his face a few times through the story, though, even if it didn't seem to bother him at all.) I loved Mortal Heart, too, but I wasn't overly fond of the ending. There were too many loose strings for my tastes, and I just didn't overly like the way the romance was finalized for Annith. I can't say what I'd have preferred to have happened, because I don't know, but I wasn't satisfied with it. As far as I know Mortal Heart is the final book in the series, but I'm still curious if there will be more, in some way or another.

Overall, I'd say that this is a clean series, but there is plenty that might keep some from reading it. I read the "content" ratings at Compass Book Ratings in order to help me decide if I wanted to read it or not. I'd highly recommend reading their list of "content" before deciding, if you prefer clean reads. There's mild profanity, but for the most part it seems to be scientifically used(though not always). There's a sex scene in each of the books. Though not detailed at all, I wish they had been left out, because they really seemed to be thrown in just for the sake of it. The whole series is very violent, and sometimes disturbing, especially within Dark Triumph. Compass gives way more details, though!

*Thanks to my local library for lending me e-copies of Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph, and to amazon vine for providing me an arc of Mortal Heart, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

I read this book for the Reading to Know Bookclub. I actually read it ahead of time, and then never posted about it. :P I'm keeping this one short and sweet.

When it comes to books about WWII, I typically avoid them. I find them disturbing to the point of nightmares, and they're just hard to read. With this book, I loved the fact that it covered such a difficult topic, with hope. It gave me a *tiny* peek at how scary things must have been for Jews in Denmark during 1943. I'm definitely keeping a copy of this one on my shelves for my boys to read when we get to learning about WWII.

*Thanks to my local library for lending me an e-copy, though I do have a paperback copy. :)

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

A couple of years ago, I read The Girl Who Chased the Moon, and while I enjoyed it, I didn't see what all the fuss was about. Determined to give Allen's books another chance, I grabbed this book. Discovering it was a sequel to Garden Spells, I bought that book for my kindle, only to have to mark it as a "didn't finish". It was with a bit of trepidation that I made my way in to this story.

I was pleasantly surprised! Maybe was the fact that I need a quick, super sweet story to read on Christmas Eve, but I really enjoyed this particular story. It's considered "magical realism", and I've learned that if done well, I'm fond of these kinds of books, especially when it involves a house with a bit of personality. This one was done well, in my opinion.

If you like magical realism stories that are short and sweet, give this one a try! Though it's a sequel to Garden Spells and contains some of the same characters, it can be read perfectly fine as a standalone.

Content: Mild profanity and one sex scene that doesn't go into detail at all. (Garden Spells does contain f-bombs.)

*Thanks to Amazon vine for providing me with an arc, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Torn Asunder by Alana Terry (Book Spotlight and GIVEAWAY!!!)

Torn Asunder by Alana Terry 

Torn Asunder is the newest suspense novel from award-winning author Alana Terry. Torn Asunder is the story of Hannah and Simon, two North Korean refugees who sneak back into their country to serve as underground missionaries. In this world of spies, secret police, and informants, Simon and Hannah learn that staying together won't just compromise their ministry. It could cost them both their lives.

Torn Asunder launches today for just 99 cents, and all book sale proceeds today support the work of Liberty in North Korea, an organization that runs an underground railroad for North Korean refugees. You can get the paperback or the ebook for 99 cents for a limited time only. And remember the best news ~ Your purchase will help save a North Korean refugee!

Excerpt from Torn Asunder:

Simon gritted his teeth. His head felt like it was sinking. The general kept his voice level and pleasant as he slipped the device over Simon’s pinky. “Now, you just tell me who you delivered your Bibles to, and I’ll let you leave here with everything intact.”

Simon tried to swallow. His whole jaw was swollen from his scuffle in the woods. He shut his eyes and hoped the general couldn’t feel him tremble.

General Sin chuckled to himself. “Silly me. I forgot.” He slid the device off Simon’s finger. “This kind of tool won’t work on a big, strong man like you.” He strode over to Hannah and yanked her hand before Simon could even cry out. He jammed her ring finger into the opening.

Simon struggled against his iron restraints. “Let her go!”

Hannah sucked in her breath. General Sin still glared at Simon. “This is your last chance. Give me the names, and I'll release her unharmed.”

Simon’s field of vision blurred over. He wanted to scream. The metal from his handcuffs sliced open his wrists. He pictured himself breaking free and tackling the general to the ground.

“Better talk.” General Sin yawned. “I hate getting my uniform messy.”

Hannah’s hand trembled, but she didn’t make a noise.

“Three …”

Simon clenched his jaw, unable to tear his face away from Hannah’s wide, terrified eyes.

“Two …”

Want more? Buy Torn Asunder on amazon now. And remember, all book sales today will be donated directly to Liberty in North Korea, a group committed to seeing North Koreans achieve their freedom in THIS GENERATION.

Want to help spread the word? See below to click and tweet, or share this image on your timeline. Then be sure to scroll down to enter the giveaway for a chance to win a $100 gift card, surprise grab bag ($60 retail), great CD from Cherie Norquay, and free prizes to everyone who enters! And don't forget to leave a comment and tell us what you think of Hannah and Simon and those like them who sneak into hostile mission fields to share the gospel.

Are you on twitter? Just click to tweet ~

Tweet: Buy a book. Save a refugee. Torn Asunder by Alana Terry. All proceeds today to @libertyinNK. #99cents #suspense

Tweet: New release Torn Asunder, Christian #suspense set in #NorthKorea. All proceeds today donated to @libertyinNK #99cents

Or copy and paste into an email or Facebook status: Torn Asunder is a new Christian suspense novel by Alana Terry about two North Koreans who serve as undercover missionaries. It's on sale for only 99 cents, and all book proceeds today will be donated to Liberty in North Korea's underground railroad for North Korean refugees.

Did you help spread the word? Click below to claim your prizes!

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Moosewood Cookbook: 40th Anniversary Edition by Mollie Katzen

Ten Speed Press; The 40th Anniversary edition (October 28, 2014) 248 pages

My Thoughts:

At some point in my time of blogging, I reviewed a vegetarian cookbook that I didn't like. It was full of ingredients that required me to visit a specialty store, and most likely shell out special amounts of money at the same time. A sweet lady commented at Amazon, and recommended Mollie's cookbooks. I made my way to Abebooks, and ordered two of them. I soon learned why she had recommended them. I was trilled to check out this 40th anniversary edition!

This is a super sweet cookbook, and if you have a vegetarian in your life, I assure you this would make an awesome gift. I very much wish I'd known of this book when I first became a vegetarian 16(ish) years ago. It might have turned me into a healthier vegetarian! ;)

There are precious doodles and drawings all over the pages. They're simple, so they don't overwhelm or take away from the recipes. They give the book an old fashioned and personal feel. Between the doodles and the font, one could easily imagine it was written just for them from a friend or grandmother. It's super sweet! Other than these doodles, there are no pictures. I'll be the first to admit that I like pictures in cookbooks, but with this one it doesn't bother me at all.

Even better, though, is the fact that all the recipes include normal ingredients that most people already have in their kitchen or could easily get without breaking the bank(any more than food, in general, will, anyway). Flipping through, the only thing I didn't recognize was caraway seeds. (I realize that confession might have some eyes rolling.) There are recipes for basic things, like cornbread, but there's also lots of different food combinations to try, like Spicy Eggplant Relish and Asparagus-Mushroom Sauce. There are also little recommendations for what recipes will go best with. For example, the Asparagus-Mushroom Sauce will go great with pasta, crepes, rice, and even inside an omelette. I appreciate these recommendations, because otherwise, I wouldn't know what to do with it!

The only negative thing I have to say about the book, and I won't hold it against anyone too much, is the fact that there isn't a bookcover, and it's super textured. Sometimes I wonder whether to mention things like this, but there has to be others like me! (Who knows. Maybe someone can finally recommend something to help it. :D) There are certain textures that hurt me terribly to touch or hear. It's gotten worse with age, and I've considered wearing gloves! It feels as though my insides are being twisted together, and it's hard to deal with and hard to get over in some cases. When this book arrived, I was horribly disappointed to see the texture. It sat on my counter too long, with me looking at it out of the corner of my eyes with fear. I finally realized I could buy a book cover. I made my way to Wal-Mart and grabbed a few from the school supply section that were on clearance for a quarter. Much better! ;) I still wish it came with a book cover, but not having one DOES give it a more old fashioned feel, which I could appreciate more if not for my issues.

Overall, I highly recommend this book, whether you're vegetarian or not!

*I was provided a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Purchase Link:

The Moosewood Cookbook: 40th Anniversary Edition

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Child Feel Special Every Day by Susan Newman (With Giveaway!!!)

About the Book:

As digital devices take over family life in subtle and seductive ways, what will happen to child development and family bonding when children spend more time with screens than they do at school or with their parents?

Life swirls at a hectic pace in most families today. That reality places a high premium on finding family time. Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day, is updated for today's digitally driven and time-strapped families, offering hundreds of easy ways to create treasured childhood rituals that your children will look back on fondly.

The book hinges on 10 Cardinal Rules designed to help parents let go of work or social obligations and commit to spending time with their children. Rules include:

At home, focus as much as possible on your kids.
Put away electronic devices so you can really ‘be’ with them
Choose activities you like; children can tell when you are not having fun and are ‘faking it.’

Little Things Long Remembered is designed to help maximize parents and children’s available time. Slow down to grab pockets of time—even a few minutes here and there.

Establishing Ties (gestures that take seconds or a minute or two to strengthen parent-child bonds)
Five Minutes More or Less
Half and Hour to an Hour or So
Weekend Fun
Special Circumstances — When You Travel
Special Circumstances — Sick Days
Special Days — Happy Holidays
Special Days — Memorable Birthdays

Readers are encouraged to pick and choose to match their needs and their children’s ages and personalities. The time you spend with children and what readers choose to embrace from within these pages will become as memorable and meaningful to parents as they will be to children.

My Thoughts:

I like this book! It doesn't focus on BIG things, but instead offers lots of little things that would be easy(ish) to incorporate into our days, and make more special moments. I always hope that my boys are tucking away special, happy memories to think about, but I like the "tradition" value of many of the suggestions in here. Just to give you an idea, there's a suggestion to hide gifts around the house on a child's birthday. I'd never thought of doing that, but I like it. How could that not make special memories?! I like the idea of making/buying little stocking stuffer type gifts or treats to hide.

This book is divided into different sections, like holidays and weekend fun. There's even a section for sick days. Grasshopper and Firefly are suffering through flu right now(even with a vaccination!), so there's been lots of couch time and Christmas movies. Of course, there are some things suggested that won't apply to you/me right now, if ever. These little suggestions are set up so that it's easy to pick and choose the ones that fit our current lifestyles. There's some that we already do, but I'm excited to try many of the others.

This is a sweet book! If you're like me, you can get easily overwhelmed browsing Pinterest for ideas. This book is a great, *simple* way to get more ideas to make special memories with your little ones.

*I was provided a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Purchase Link:

Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day

(The kindle version is only $1.99!)

About the Author:

Susan Newman, a social psychologist, specializes in child development and family dynamics and has been named one of the 100 Top Psychologists to Follow on Twitter as well as one of 25 Parenting Educators to follow. She has been blogging for Psychology Today magazine about parenting and issues related to raising children for over six years:

She has appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, MSNBC, and her work has been feature on NPR and major leading newspapers and magazines.

Connect with Susan: Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter


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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Messy Beautiful Love by Darlene Schacht

Thomas Nelson (September 16, 2014) 240 pages

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Thoughts:

When I first discovered there was a whole new world of blogging encouragement, Darlene's blog, Time Warp Wife, was one of the very first blogs to enter my feed. Several years later, and I still find encouragement there. When I learned she was writing a book, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it!

I think most of us know the general rules when it comes to marriage. Putting them into practice is the hard part! Books like this one is the extra boost of guidance I need sometimes(always!). Messy Beautiful Love is a large part memoir, but there are many pages of encouragement for married ladies, too. There's also a few question and answer sessions, consisting of letters from readers and answers from Darlene. She makes it very clear that there is no such thing as a perfect marriage, and things get messy. She tells of her affair at the start of the book. This took me by surprise, but I appreciate her honesty! Sometimes it's too easy for bloggers to hide behind an image of perfection, and I appreciate the ones that step out of hiding.

I really DO think this is a great book for marriage encouragement. I can almost guarantee you will get a boost of marriage encouragement by reading it. But, there were a couple of things I wasn't so fond of. When an author proclaims that God told them to write something in their book(spoke, not led), a big giant flag starts waving in my mind. As with everything on my blog, you're free to take or leave that, since something like that may or may not bother you. It's at the beginning of the book, and honestly after reading it, I put the book down for a good long while. Also, there was a comment concerning divorce(in a round about way) that I wish was expanded on a bit more. *Ultimately*, I think I agree with her, to an extent, but I believe that women will read her advice and possibly make an un-Biblical choice, since it wasn't expanded on, nor do I know exactly where the author stands on the issue. Based on the letters within this book, it proves that women highly value her opinion and advice. God's Word is always the most important, though. (I say that kindly! :) *I* have gleaned lots of encouragement from her myself, especially with this book.)

Other than my couple of issues, I greatly enjoyed reading Messy Beautiful Love! Also, it's a quick read, which is just what I needed right now.

*I was provided a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Purchase Link:

Messy Beautiful Love: Hope and Redemption for Real-Life Marriages