Saturday, May 27, 2017

Ice Cream and Friends

Food52 Ice Cream and Friends: 60 Recipes and Riffs for Sorbets, Sandwiches, No-Churn Ice Creams, and More

Ice Cream and Friends
Editors at Food52
Ten Speed Press

     Seriously, who doesn't like ice cream? It's one of my favorites, and since my family owns an ice cream maker, I've been interested in trying out more recipes.

     Ice Cream and Friends is, visually, a beautiful book, and there are several recipes that look delicious. There are also some that look weird (will I ever hazard spending money on the ingredients for Burnt Toast Ice Cream? I don't know) and some that just aren't to my taste (fruit is not my thing). The only recipe I've tried so far has been the honeyed walnut ice cream: it was okay, although the cream-to-milk ratio was a little different than I prefer, and gave the finished product more of a whipped cream taste than a true ice cream one. In addition, while I'm sure I'll be trying more recipes from this book, there aren't too many that really made me go, "wow, I HAVE to try this!" My flavor preferences tend more towards chocolate chip cookie dough or caramel and pecan or birthday cake; perhaps not quite as "sophisticated" as basil dark chocolate or earl grey ice cream, but to my mind, a lot more tasty. However, if you are into more gourmet, unusual flavors, you may want to try this one. I might even try a few of the stranger ones every once in a while. (I mean, who knows but that basil and dark chocolate really is good?)

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

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Bread of Angels


Bread of Angels
Tessa Afshar

Purple. The foundation of an influential trade in a Roman world dominated by men. One woman rises up to take the reins of success in an incredible journey of courage, grit, and friendship. And along the way, she changes the world.

But before she was Lydia, the seller of purple, she was simply a merchant's daughter who loved three things: her father, her ancestral home, and making dye. Then unbearable betrayal robs her of nearly everything.

With only her father's secret formulas left, Lydia flees to Philippi and struggles to establish her business on her own. Determination and serendipitous acquaintances--along with her father's precious dye--help her become one of the city's preeminent merchants. But fear lingers in every shadow, until Lydia meets the apostle Paul and hears his message of hope, becoming his first European convert. Still, Lydia can't outrun her secrets forever, and when past and present collide, she must either stand firm and trust in her fledgling faith or succumb to the fear that has ruled her life.

     I almost didn't review this book.

     I had requested it from Tyndale a couple months ago (they usually have you put in your requests relatively early before the book comes out) but the thing about book reviewing is that sometimes there are dry spells, and sometimes you are swamped. This past week has been the latter. I had five books come in the mail at once and, unsure if I would be able to commit, I tried to remove my request for Bread of Angels...only to find out the book had already been sent.

     I'm glad it was.

     This book was pleasant and heartwarming. It doesn't follow the pattern of most Christian fiction plots, and in some ways felt more like a fictional biography (in a good way) of Lydia's life, and how she came to a place where she was open to Paul's message about Jesus. It's was definitely more character-driven than plot driven, but it was a good change of pace for me, and I love all of the connections and friendships Lydia made along the way, both Christian and pagan, in her journey. SPOILER (This was wrapped up wonderfully in the end when they all stood by her!) END OF SPOILER.

     Overall, I really liked this one, and I think a part of it was because how many likable characters there were who I just wanted to be friends with! It was one of those books that had the unpredictable fortune of "clicking" with me, and I couldn't help but close the book with a smile on my face.

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

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow


The Evaporation of Sofi Snow
Mary Weber
Thomas Nelson

Ever since the Delonese ice-planet arrived eleven years ago, Sofi's dreams have been vivid. Alien. In a system where Earth's corporations rule in place of governments and the humanoid race orbiting the moon are allies, her only constant has been her younger brother, Shilo. As an online gamer, Sofi battles behind the scenes of Earth's Fantasy Fighting arena where Shilo is forced to compete in a mix of real and virtual blood sport. But when a bomb takes out a quarter of the arena, Sofi's the only one who believes Shilo survived. She has dreams of him. And she's convinced he's been taken to the ice-planet.

Except no one but ambassadors are allowed there.

For Miguel, Earth's charming young playboy, the games are of a different sort. As Ambassador to the Delonese, his career has been built on trading secrets and seduction. Until the Fantasy Fight's bomb goes off. Now the tables have turned and he's a target for blackmail. The game is simple: Help the blackmailers, or lose more than anyone can fathom, or Earth can afford.



     I have some mixed feelings with this one, and some problems with it that I'm not sure I'll be able to fully articulate, but I'll try. I guess...I can start with what I liked about this book?  First off: I liked Sofi Snow better than Storm Siren. This was partly because I have the suspicion that I prefer sci-fi over fantasy, and partly because this one wasn't written in the first person/present tense style. (When I realized that, I celebrated, very glad that the author didn't stick with that for this book as she had done in the Storm Siren trilogy). I enjoyed what she was doing with the alien element, and I generally enjoyed the last 1/3 of the book when the climax picked up.

     Now, my problems: this book felt strangely bare, like a skeleton of a story that wasn't fully fleshed out. Perhaps because it felt like different stories at once that didn't quite fit together-especially the romance, which didn't work for me and felt more stiff and awkward than anything else. It was difficult for me to connect to the characters, and the only distinct ones to me were Sofi and Miguel (and maybe Heller). And while this book is clean by secular standards, it definitely includes content (mainly innuendos and mentions of sex) that you don't usually find in novels considered Christian fiction. I applaud Thomas Nelson for branching our genre-wise, but I have noticed that the characters in them-including the main ones-make choices that I far from agree with and find disappointing when considered "normal" in those we are supposed to be rooting for.

     Will I read the next book? To be honest, I think I might. This one ended on a cliff-hanger (and it's a duology, so not as much of a commitment.) It did have some interesting aspects, and I'm open to more on the story- I'm just keeping a skeptical mind about it.

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Wings of the Wind


Wings of the Wind
Connilyn Cossette
Bethany House

Alanah, a Canaanite, is no stranger to fighting and survival. When her family is killed in battle with the Hebrews, she disguises herself and sneaks onto the battlefield to avenge her family. The one thing she never counted on was surviving.
Tobiah, a Hebrew warrior, is shocked to find an unconscious, wounded woman among the Canaanite casualties. Compelled to bring her to a Hebrew healer back at their camp, he is soon confronted with a truth he can’t ignore: the only way to protect this enemy is to marry her.
Unused to being weak and vulnerable, Alanah submits to the marriage—for now. As she comes to know and respect Tobiah and his people, however, she begins to second-guess her plans of escape. But when her past has painfully unanticipated consequences, the tentative peace she’s found with Tobiah, the Hebrews, and Yahweh is shaken to the core. Can Alanah’s fierce heart and strength withstand the ensuing threats to her life and all she’s come to love?

     I was actually surprised by how "into" this book I got! Lately it seems like it's taken me a few chapters before I really get interested in a novel, but I couldn't put this one down after the first page. I loved the plot, and enjoyed the characters, too. One thing I've really loved about this series is how it focuses on original characters and storylines in Biblical settings. It seems most Biblical fiction tries to novelize real Biblical figures, and besides the fact that that makes me a little uncomfortable, I also think that it hinders telling an original story. (and for people familiar with their Bibles, makes it a little predictable) So I love, love, love the fact that this is basically historical fiction that takes place in a too-oft forgotten time period.

     Now, I do have a few nit-picky things to complain about. I did think that the latter half was weaker than the first; though I understand a part of it was to show God's sovereign hand, it did feel too coincidental to me, and also a little rushed (and the Rahab aspect definitely didn't work for me). However, besides this, I think this was an excellent conclusion to the Out From Egypt series, and possibly the best of the three novels.

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

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Maggie Bright


The Maggie Bright
Tracy Groot

England, 1940.
Clare Childs knew life would change when she unexpectedly inherited the "Maggie Bright"--a noble fifty-two-foot yacht. In fact, she's counting on it. But the boat harbors secrets. When a stranger arrives, searching for documents hidden onboard, Clare is pulled into a Scotland Yard investigation that could shed light on Hitler's darkest schemes and prompt America to action.Across the Channel, Hitler's "Blitzkrieg" has the entire British army in retreat with little hope for rescue at the shallow beaches of Dunkirk. With time running out, Churchill recruits civilian watercraft to help. Hitler is attacking from land, air, and sea, and any boat that goes might not return. Yet Clare knows "Maggie Bright" must answer the call--piloted by an American who has refused to join the war effort until now and a detective with a very personal motive for exposing the truth.The fate of the war hinges on this rescue. While two men join the desperate fight, a nation prays for a miracle.

     From the beginning of The Maggie Bright I couldn't decide whether I loved or hated the writing style of it. On one hand, the dialogue was snappy and the plot intriguing, but the book was also scattered and confusing. I really wanted to love it, because there was so much potential, but ultimately I just had to accept that the writing style of this novel and I were not compatible. Like many novels written about WW2, I felt like I would have enjoyed this one better as a movie. While I liked the characters and found their personalities distinct and original, I never felt fully connected to them and their thoughts (and since there is so much dialogue, I feel like the entire story would have actually worked better as a movie) and there were so many characters, especially when they were thrown at us in the beginning, that it took the first half of the novel just  for me to get them all straight.

     So while I like the premise of this one, sadly, this wasn't the book for me.

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

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A Stranger At Fellsworth

A Stranger at Fellsworth
Sarah E. Ladd
Thomas Nelson

Could losing everything be the best thing to happen to Annabelle Thorley? 

In the fallout of her deceased father’s financial ruin, Annabelle’s prospects are looking bleak. Her fiancé has called off their betrothal, and now she remains at the mercy of her controlling and often cruel brother. Annabelle soon faces the fact that her only hope for a better life is to do the unthinkable and run away to Fellsworth, the home of her long-estranged aunt and uncle, where a teaching position awaits her. Working for a wage for the first time in her life forces Annabelle to adapt to often unpleasant situations as friendships and roles she’s taken for granted are called into question. 

Owen Locke is unswerving in his commitments. As a widower and father, he is fiercely protective of his only daughter. As an industrious gamekeeper, he is intent on keeping poachers at bay even though his ambition has always been to eventually purchase land that he can call his own. When a chance encounter introduces him to the lovely Annabelle Thorley, his steady life is shaken. For the first time since his wife’s tragic death, Owen begins to dream of a second chance at love. 

As Owen and Annabelle grow closer, ominous forces threaten the peace they thought they’d found. Poachers, mysterious strangers, and murderers converge at Fellsworth, forcing Annabelle and Owen to a test of fortitude and bravery to stop the shadow of the past from ruining their hopes for the future.

     The best description I can come up for this book is nice. That's a terribly vague word and not one I like to use to describe anything, but it's closest to what I feel about this book. The characters are likable, the plot decent, and the writing elegant, but it lacked the oomph factor that would nudge it into "favorite" territory. I think perhaps that it didn't seem different enough from this author's other books (or romance fiction in general) for me; if I haven't read those, I might have liked this one more. Yet on its own, I think this is a read most Christian romance fans will enjoy. It's sweet and clean, with endearing characters. I just had a difficult time really connecting to it.

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