Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest


The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest
Melanie Dickerson
Thomas Nelson

"Swan Lake" meets Robin Hood when the beautiful daughter of a wealthy merchant by day becomes the region's most notorious poacher by night, and falls in love with the forester.

Jorgen is the forester for the wealthy margrave, and must find and capture the poacher who has been killing and stealing the margrave's game. When he meets the lovely and refined Odette at the festival and shares a connection during a dance, he has no idea she is the one who has been poaching the margrave's game.

Odette justifies her crime of poaching because she thinks the game is going to feed the poor, who are all but starving, both in the city and just outside its walls. But will the discovery of a local poaching ring reveal a terrible secret? Has the meat she thought she was providing for the poor actually been sold on the black market, profiting no one except the ring of black market sellers?

The one person Odette knows can help her could also find out her own secret and turn her over to the margrave, but she has no choice. Jorgen and Odette will band together to stop the dangerous poaching ring . . . and fall in love. But what will the margrave do when he discovers his forester is protecting a notorious poacher?

   This book took me a good long while to really "get into." While I can't exactly say that it's boring, it does move very slowly, and most of the plot revolves around whether or not Jorgen is going to find out who Odette is.

   That being said, there were things I liked about this book. My favorite character was actually Odette's uncle, Rutger, despite a certain remark he said early on in the book. I guess I maybe found him a bit more of a complex character, and it was an nice change to have a supportive guardian character, since most of Melanie Dickerson's books seem to have unlikable ones (mostly due to the source material of the fairy tales, I'll admit). I also liked the Margrave- I'm pretty sure it's my lot in life to prefer the secondary characters over the main ones. Also, one thing that I love about Melanie Dickerson's books is that they give me such an appreciation for the Bible. The Word of God isn't something her medieval characters take for granted, and I'm reminded of how blessed I am to have such easy access to it in this day and age.

   However, I found the main characters to be, while not unlikable, rather one-dimensional, and the writing itself is so very...straightforward.  Of course, I suppose I should be used to that by now, having read so many of this author's books, but I do wish that the writing itself was a little more imaginative and descriptive. I found it especially distracting in The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest.

   Unlike Melanie Dickerson's other books, this one isn't actually labelled YA, although I wouldn't have guessed that from reading it, as it's very similar in style and content to her other books (although Odette and Jorgen do rescue a young girl from a brothel, which is probably more "adult" content than that which would be found in Christian YA)

   And I will say that while I usually prefer seeing the whole person on a cover, this is actually my favorite of Melanie Dickerson's covers. I love it :)

Rating: 7

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

No Place to Hide


No Place to Hide
Lynette Eason

She’ll defend her friend until the bitter end—but is she in over her head?

     It’s not every day you see your childhood friend and onetime crush on national news. Jackie Sellers just wishes it were under different circumstances. She can’t believe that Ian Lockwood is wanted in connection with a terrorist plot, and she’s determined to find him and help him clear his name. Unfortunately, she’s not the only one looking for him. The FBI wants him captured. The bad guys want him dead. Ian just wants to stay alive long enough to prove his innocence and prevent a catastrophe. 

     Lynette Eason delivers nonstop action as Jackie and Ian travel a dangerous road—one that may lead straight to destruction.

     This might be my first time reading Lynette Eason, but I doubt it will be the last! No Place to Hide was definitely one of the better Christian Suspense books that I've read- it had a lot of plot elements that I really like in my suspense novels, and I had a hard time putting it down.

     Also, one thing I really appreciated was that the romance really took a back seat to the suspense; I've read several suspense novels that are filled with so much romance that you honestly start to wonder why these people are still alive when they can't take their off eyes each other for five minutes straight. There were definitely hints of romance in No Place to Hide, but they didn't distract from the plot and added to the story rather than competed with it.

Though this is the third book in the Hidden Identities series, I never felt lost and I'm sure this book can stand on its own.

Rating: 8

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Reservations for Two


Reservations for Two
Hillary Manton Lodge

Food writer-turned-restaurateur Juliette D’Alisa has more than enough on her plate. While her trip to Provence might have unlocked new answers to her grandmother’s past, it’s also provided new complications in the form of Neil McLaren, the man she can’t give up. 

Juliette and Neil find romance simple as they travel through Provence and Tuscany together, but life back home presents a different set of challenges. Juliette has a restaurant to open, a mother combating serious illness, and a family legacy of secrets to untangle – how does Neil, living so far away in Memphis, fit into to her life? 

As she confronts an uncertain future, Juliette can’t help but wish that life could be as straightforward as her chocolate chip cookie recipe. Can her French grandmother’s letters from the 1940’s provide wisdom to guide her present? Or will every new insight create a fresh batch of mysteries?

     I really, really wanted to like this book. in fact, I was pretty sure that I was going to like it, simply because I enjoyed the first book in this series a lot. However, I mentioned in my review of the previous book (A Table by the Window) that though the characters were Christians, I didn't always agree on what they seemed to think a Christian walk looks like. However, it didn't overpower the book, and A Table by the Window received a high rating from me.

     But this book...*winces* I have a very strong conviction that you should save your kisses for the person that you're going to marry, so the fact that this book had so many kisses between people who really weren't sure that they were going to end up together really bothered me. It always drives me nuts when two people kiss and then get offended by other people who bring up marriage because it's "too soon." Sorry, guys. But if it's too soon to be talking marriage, than it's doubly too soon to be kissing. *SPOILER* and then when Juliette let Adrian kiss her RIGHT AFTER she broke up with Neil? "Emotionally vulnerable" or not, I thought that was terrible and my respect for both of those characters dropped to zero *END OF SPOILER* Granted, the kisses weren't "steamy" or overly descriptive, but the idea of them doing it annoyed me greatly.

     There were several other things in this book that irked me as well. For instance, Juliette and her family seemed to view Neil as selfish because he wasn't jumping up and moving to Portland to be with her...basically implying that if he didn't move across country for her, he didn't love her enough. But doesn't that go both ways? How could he be "selfish" by not moving when she wasn't willing to move for him, either? *SPOILER* Also, Juliette seemed kind of high strung to me and unlikable at times. For instance, when she broke up with Neil it was because he told her to prepare for the worst in regards to her mom's cancer and she got upset. was a really serious case of cancer. Why shouldn't she prepare herself in case the worst happened? He didn't do it in an unfeeling, callous way. He was just telling the truth! And while I understand that there were other reasons that also played into the decision, that catalyst for the break-up bothered me. *END OF SPOILER* And while I don't like listing a huge gigantic list of reasons why I didn't like a book, I also have to say that the characters didn't really seemed concerned with their faith; in many ways, this book would have bothered me less if it had been a secular book. I expect non-Christians to have different morals and beliefs. But it bothers me when people who call themselves Christians act in this way.

     I did like reading the the letters by Juliette's grandmother, and I'm still curious about the story behind them. The recipes included sounded delicious, and there were several funny lines that made me smile. But.....the rest of the story was definitely a miss for me.

Rating: 6

I received this book for free  from in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Sweetapolita Bakebook

The Sweetapolita Bakebook
Rosie Alyea
Clarkson Potter

Paint, doodle, and sprinkle your way to stunning one-of-a-kind sweets. 
   The world of Sweetapolita is sparkly and sprinkly and charming as can be, with 75 recipes for everything from pretty homemade cookies to decadent layer cakes. But what really sets these treats apart are interactive designs that let everyone in on the fun of decorating: Painted Mini Cakes are served with edible "paint" for guests to personalize at the table, the fondant-covered tiered Chalk-a-Lot cake is paired with homemade edible "chalk," and Rainbow Doodle cookies are made for kids to go to town on with edible markers. 
   Rosie Alyea, the creator of the Sweetapolita blog, frolics in flour and frosting, and she loves to get her two young daughters involved, too. The pages of her debut book are full of playful ideas that will inspire creativity in bakers of all levels—including a recipe for making sprinkles at home and numerous ways to showcase them, such as the Sprinkle-Me-Silly Pizza with rainbow jimmies and nonpareils galore. 
   With 75 full-color photographs of cookies, cakes, and more plus step-by-step technique tutorials, The Sweetapolita Bakebook will change the way bakers decorate, while entertaining every kid—and kid-at-heart.

   I have a major sweet tooth, and books with pretty desserts are one of my weaknesses. Still, I've seen a lot of dessert cookbooks, so I admit I wondered if this one could stand out. Well, it did!

   This book was basically filled with sparkles, sprinkles, and sunshine. Many of the recipes were perfect for kids to either help make or help decorate, and it even had a recipe for ICED ANIMAL CRACKER COOKIES. My childhood self was jumping up and down in glee.

   Can I just talk about the chalkboard cookies? My word, that is BRILLIANT. The Coney Island Cheesecake had me drooling, and the colorful cake layers and interiors of the many cake recipes made me want to run up to the store and snatch all the ingredients to make them!

   Unfortunately, so far I've only been able to tackle one recipe in this book, the basic sugar cookie. Now, this wouldn't have been my first choice simply because many of the other recipes were much more appealing, but this was the only recipe for which I had all the ingredients on hand, so I went for it. I have rather mediocre track record when it comes to sugar cookies, so I was really impressed with the way these turned out. Refrigerating/freezing the dough not just once, but three times, really does make a difference, even if you're tempted to be impatient and skip those steps.

    I will say that several of the recipes might be a little complicated for those unfamiliar with baking, and a few were downright overwhelming in the number of steps. Still, if the finished product looks (and tastes!) as good as those in the pictures, they seem pretty worth it :)

   Anyway, this book was fun and filled with imaginative, appealing (and girly!) recipes that I know I'll be using in the future. I was unfamiliar with the author before this book, but her treats are so adorable that I think I'm going to start stalking her blog...

Rating: 9

I received this book for free from in exchange for my honest review.

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