Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Covenant Child by Terri Blackstock

Originally released in 2002, Covenant Child by Terri Blackstock has been repackaged and updated and somehow it's even better the second time around. I vaguely remember reading this ten years ago but it still ached my heart and had me in tears time and again. Master storyteller Blackstock never disappoints and I'm so glad for the chance to read this version. I could not put it down and read it in less than a day. An important book that clearly portrays the love of Jesus, in a modern parable.

Twins Lizzie and Kara, known as the Billion Dollar Babies, are heirs to a fantastic fortune after the death of their father and grandparents. When they're torn from the hands of their stepmother and taken to live in squalor with the grandparents they've never known life is anything but special for the two girls. The lies they're told over the next fifteen years turn them against their stepmother, but on their eighteenth birthday she is there, waiting for them with arms wide open. Who will they trust? The "parents" they've known, the friends they've made, the men in their lives, or this unwelcome stranger?

I only wish their story went on longer. The ending was too abrupt for my taste. It's my hope that Blackstock continues the story of the twins.

Please, do yourself a favor and read this book. 

From the back cover:
Kara and Lizzie are heiresses to one of the largest fortunes in the country. But when their father dies suddenly, the toddlers are taken away from the arms of Amanda, their loving stepmother, and given to relatives who only want the children's fortunes for themselves.
Kara and Lizzie grow up questioning their worth...until the day when they learn the truth.
Intensely involving, emotionally charged, and infused with hope. Covenant Child is an inspiring story that challenges us to embrace the life God holds out to us.

This book was provided for review by Booksneeze.

Wildflowers from Winter by Katie Ganshert

Wildflowers from Winter is the debut novel from author Katie Ganshert and what a welcome addition it is to the world of Christian fiction. Bethany Quinn escapes life and scrutiny in the small town she grew up in and begins to build the life she always wanted in Chicago. After a series of kinks in her plans she ends up back in the place she swore she'd never return to. Well written and thought provoking, this novel deals with hurts and heartache and points the reader to the healer of hearts. Very good book, one that anyone who's ever been hurt by a church or ministry leader should read.

From the back cover:
A young architect at a prestigious Chicago firm, Bethany Quinn has built the life she dreamed of during her trailer park teen years. An unexpected call from her estranged mother reveals that tragedy has struck in her hometown and a reluctant Bethany is called back to rural Iowa.

Determined to pay her respects to her past while avoiding any emotional entanglements, she vows not to stay long. The unexpected inheritance of five hundred acres of farmland and a startling turn of events in Chicago forces Bethany to come up with a new plan.

Handsome farmhand Evan Price has taken care of the Quinn farm for years. When Bethany is left the land, Evan must fight her decisions to realize his own dreams. But even as he disagrees with Bethany's vision, Evan feels drawn to her and the pain she keep so carefully locked away.

For Bethany, making peace with her past and the God of her childhood doesn't seem like the path to freedom. Is letting go the only way to new life, love, and a peace that she's not even sure exists?

This book was provided for review by Blogging for Books (Waterbrook/Multnomah).

Monday, April 23, 2012

Don't Panic Quick, Easy, and Delicious Meals for Your Family cookbook

What a fun cookbook! Packed full of tempting meals (and desserts!) for the family without a lot of time. I made four of the recipes in the book, three for my family and one for company. All three were very good.
Susie Martinez, Vanda Howell and Bonnie Garcia are back with a new collection of recipes in their Don't Panic Quick, Easy, and Delicious Means for Your Family book. And they truly are quick, easy and delicious.
I started with the Slow Cooker Coq au Vin from the Crockpot Collection. It came together very quickly and then cooked in the crockpot for several hours, filling the house with the best aroma! There's nothing like a slow-cooked meal after a long day. I'd never used pearl onions before so that was an added bonus for me.
I've got permission to share one recipe with you and this is the one I've chosen to share.

Slow Cooker Coq au Vin (page 125) serves 4-6

8 boneless, skinless chicken pieces (thighs and breasts) *I used only thighs
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
4-5 slices bacon, cut into 1" pieces *I used beef bacon
10 oz whole mushrooms, quartered
2 cups pearl onions, frozen
2 medium onions, diced *I only used one
1 large carrot, sliced
olive oil for sauteing
3 cloves garlic, diced
2 bay leavees
2 tbsp tomato paste
1.5-2 cups dry red wine *one bottle of cooking wine
1 cup chicken broth

 Season chicken pieces with salt & pepper; set aside. In a large nonstick skillet, cook bacon pieces over medium heat until browned and crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Set aside until serving time.

In the same skillet, brown chicken over medium heat, about 5 minutes per side (this may take two batches). While chicken is cooking, place mushrooms and pearl onions in crock pot. Layer browned chicken on top of onions and mushrooms. 

In the same pan, saute diced onions and carrots over medium heat, stirring frequently. Add olive oil as needed and cook until onions are soft, about 2 minutes; add garlic and saute for one minute more. To this mixture add bay leaves, tomato paste, wine and chicken broth. Heat to boiling, stiffing, until tomato paste dissolves. Carefully pour this mixture over the chicken pieces. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours.

To serve, discard bay leaves. Crumble bacon into small pieces. Place chicken and sauce in large serving bowl and cover with bacon pieces. This is wonderful served with mashed potatoes.

Nutritional information: per serving, calories 285, fat 21.4 g. Cholesterol 31.9mg; sodium 429mg; total carbs 9.4g (dietary fiber 1.8g); protein 14.1g

The second recipe I tried was the Spicy Black Bean Soup from the Soups, Salads, and Sides section. It was so easy to make! I kinda felt like I was cheating after I made it because it came together in just minutes. My husband and I enjoyed it for lunch and it made enough so that I could enjoy it for a couple of days.

The third one I tried was the Chicken Piccata from the Savory Skillets and Quick Saute's. Chicken Piccata has long been one of my favorites but it always takes so long to prepare. Not anymore! This recipe came together in a little under half an hour, and I got to use another ingredient I'd not used before, capers! This was automatically a family favorite.

I do have to admit though that I tweaked each recipe a bit, making it my own, but I think that's what's cooking is all about. Making it your own.

I was really happy to see that the nutritional information for each dish was included at the end of the recipe.

The only thing I came across in this book that I didn't like was the spelling of the Grate Grills and Marinades section title. I get the play on words, but every time I see it it annoys me. Other than that I love this book! Can't wait to make more from it and I'm already planning my next grocery list!

Available April 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Secret Life of a Fool by Andrew Palau

Andrew Palau's Secret Life
From getting wasted to getting saved by God's grace, son of popular evangelist shares his incredible journey with raw honesty

(NASHVILLE) Andrew Palau's story is not unlike the stereotypical Preacher's Kid.

Son of international evangelist Luis Palau, he had it all: a loving home, two role-model parents, and a strong church that provided a faith foundation.

Yet for reasons inexplicable to everyone, Andrew included, he turned his back on it all.

"People seem to want guys like me – son of a preacher man – to have some scandalous reason for all my 'mistakes,'" he says. "But my scandal is less of what you might expect, and more like something we all deal with."

Andrew lived up to Jay-Z's lyric, "Life begins when the church ends." He craved social acceptance and popularity, and pushed the absolute limits in everything he did. He dropped gallons of gasoline from highway overpasses, made Molotov cocktails, drank, and did drugs. He was cruel. One night, after being kicked out of a Red Sox game drunk, he convinced his buddies to kick a homeless man "for fun."

In his first book, The Secret Life of a Fool: One Man's Raw Journey from Shame to Grace Andrew describes his dark days of rebellion and the moment that turned it all around.

"God revealed himself to me in that time, and that place—and my life has never been the same," he says, speaking of a profound trip to Jamaica with his father. Originally intending to go for just one reason (partying), he instead experienced a life-altering encounter with God.

The Secret Life of a Fool is Andrew’s gritty story of running from God and the unforgettable, heart-healing grace that turned him back to God.

Today Andrew is an international evangelist in his own right, organizing outreach events worldwide for the Palau Association and regularly sharing the gospel with tens of thousands. Andrew can be heard on the daily radio program Reaching Your World, which is on more than 850 radio stations in 27 countries. Together, the Palau team has been featured in some of the world’s leading media outlets: the Associated Press, Forbes Online, The Washington Post, CNBC Asia and USA Today. He lives in Portland with his wife and three children. Lean more at Andrew.palau.org.

This book was provided for review by Worthy Publishing, a division of Worthy Media, Inc., is a privately held company whose mission is helping people experience the heart of God. Worthy is an independent voice in Christian publishing, managing editorial, marketing, publicity, sales, and distribution from its home offices in Brentwood, TN. Worthy focuses on a boutique list of new books each year, crossing a broad spectrum of genres, including fiction, Bible study, current events, devotionals, biography, leadership, specialized Bibles, as well as spiritual and personal growth.

My thoughts:

Very real and vulnerable. That describes this book. If you think you've messed up too many times and are far too gone for God to remember you, read this book. If you don't think that God cares about you, read this book. If you think Christianity is for the weak, read this book. There is so much more in life than what you're currently living.

I'm so glad I had the opportunity to read The Secret Life of a Fool. It's an amazing testimony of one man and how his life was changed by a God who never gave up on him. By parents who never stopped praying. By a special woman who saw beyond the mistakes and realized that God had a plan that was bigger than she could imagine.

While I wouldn't be as open about my own mistakes, on paper-for the world to read, Andrew's courage is to be commended. He shares openly about his past and even about the bridges he burned and relationships he ruined by living life carelessly. His experiences remind us that grace is for everyone.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Trauma Plan by Candace Calvert

Trauma Plan by Candace Calvert sweeps you away with action from the very beginning and doesn't let up until the end. This book is a quick paced look inside a busy hospital emergency room and nearby clinic. Toss in two attractive single people and the chemistry that, while doesn't initially happen-you know it's going to and in addition the the regular medical drama that's also some mysterious happenings which add suspense and thrills to the book. While this wasn't my favorite book I do feel comfortable recommending to fans of medical drama. I did find Riley's suffering to beat her injuries relatable, she proved to be stronger than her weakness.

From the back cover:
Sidelined by injuries from a vicious assault, chaplain Riley Hale is eager to return to her former duties as an ER nurse. But how can she show she's competent when the hospital won't let her attempt even simple tasks? Determined to prove herself, Riley volunteers at a controversial urban free clinic despite her fears about the maverick doctor in charge.
Dr. Jack Travis defends his clinic like he's commander of the Alamo. He'll fight the community's efforts to shut its doors, even if he must use Riley Hale's influential family name to make it happen.
As Riley struggles to regain her skills, Jack finds that she shares his compassion-and stirs his lonely heart. Riley senses that beneath Jack's rough exterior is a man she can believe in. But when clinic protests escalate and questions surface about his past, Jack goes into battle mode, and Riley wonders if it's dangerous to trust him with her heart.

This book was provided for review by Tyndale.

The Five Love Languages for Children by Gary Chapman & Ross Campbell

I'd never before realized that there were co-authors on this book. I read it several years ago and tried to figure out what my kids were (I think I pegged them both pretty well!) and then shared it with a friend. When I was offered a chance to review this I jumped at it because I think the message is really important.
The 5 Love Languages for Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell will help you identify how your child receives love, how they personally feel loved by you and others. It might even let you know what your own love language is. In theory there are several ways that people feel loved (physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of service). This updated volume even includes a Love Language Mystery Game so you can get a good idea of what your child's language is just by answering a few simple questions.
There's also help for the single parent and a special section for married couples. This is a book that all parents should read!

From the back cover:
You know you love your child. But how can you show it so they feel really loved?
The #1 New York Times bestselling The 5 Love Languages has helped millions of couples learn the secret to building a love that lasts. Now discover how to speak your child's love language-and make them feel loved in a way they understand. Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Ross Campbell help you:
  • Discover your child's love language
  • Understand the link between successful learning and the love languages
  • See how the love languages can help you discipline more effectively
  • Build a foundation of unconditional love for your child

Plus: find dozens of tips for practical ways to speak your child's love language!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the product mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

Leave a comment below to be entered to win a copy of The 5 Love Languages for Children. Winner drawn Wednesday April 11th.

I Blame Eve by Susanna Foth Aughtmon

I Blame Eve by Susanna Foth Aughtmon was such fun to read. There are a lot of lessons to be learned in this book that addresses issues with chapter titles as: I Would Listen to a Talking Snake, I Have at Least One Enemy, I Get Discouraged, I Don't Like Waiting, and more. This is one woman's take on what went down in the Garden of Eden and why she'd most likely would have done the same thing that Eve did. If we all look inside I'm sure we'd feel the same way. Susanna gets her points across with scripture and humor, some of this stuff is seriously funny! I love learning from teachers who aren't afraid to show real life and the humor that goes along with it. To me, there's nothing worse than a stuffy Christian. Bleh. Susanna is a breath of fresh air.

About the book:

When our great-to-the-nth-degree grandmother Eve ate the fruit, we lost out on the perfect life. But that doesn’t stop us from trying, does it? In fact, we make trying to be perfect the focus of our entire lives! But what would happen if we stopped trying to be perfect and started trying to be his?

In this fantastically witty book, Susanna Foth Aughtmon helps women find out what it means to be honest about what we crave in life and let go of our deep need to be in control. Using Scripture and amusing personal stories, she shows women the freedom of embracing the unique path God lays out for each of us. Includes study questions to facilitate group or individual use.

When Eve ate the fruit, we lost out on the perfect life. But that doesn't stop us from trying, does it? What would happen if we stopped trying to be perfect and started trying to be his?

In this encouraging book, Susanna Foth Aughtmon helps you find out what it means to be honest about what you crave in life and let go of your deep need to be in control. With a skillful blend of Scripture, insight, and humor, she shows you the freedom of embracing the unique path God has laid out for you. The study questions included will help you or your small group make the most of this fun and fascinating book.

Susanna Foth Aughtmon is the author of All I Need Is Jesus and a Good Pair of Jeans and My Bangs Look Good and Other Lies I Tell Myself. After pursuing various careers, including her own interior decorating business, she decided to stay home as a full-time mom. A pastor’s wife and mother of three, Susanna assists her husband, Scott, in various ministries at the church they planted in California.

Available April 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
This book was provided for review by Revell.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Perfect Pet for Peyton by Rick Osborne & Gary Chapman

A Perfect Pet for Peyton by Rick Osborne & Gary Chapman is not only a sweet story about finding the perfect pet for Peyton at his birthday party with his twin sister Penny and all of their friends, but scattered throughout the boos are little games (find an insect on each big picture page, find birds, etc). Included in all of the fun is a lesson on the five love languages that Gary Chapman is famous for. While the children each get a pet that matches their own love language, Peyton finds himself sulking because each one is one that he wanted. Finally Peyton gets the perfect pet and all's well.
A touching story that you'll want to read to your little ones. One that they'll choose over and over because of all the fun scattered throughout.

There is also an App in the works to go along with this book. Click here for more information. Find out more about the Five Love Languages at their Facebook page.

Want to win a copy for your favorite little one?
Enter below by telling me what your love language is.

Review copy provided by Propeller.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Stand by Me by Neta Jackson

Stand by Me by Neta Jackson is the first in her latest Yada Yada Prayer Group series spinoff SouledOut Sisters. I truly enjoyed this book. I'd quit reading the Yada Yada series several years ago when minor obscenities started to appear in the books. This one is back to the way Christian fiction should be, clean and uplifting. The characters annoyed me so much that I realized the author made them do exactly what she wanted them to. I wanted to grab Kat by the shoulders and shake her, tell her to get off her "green-eco-chick" stuff and to be grateful. I wanted to tell Avis that there were more people in the world with problems than her and that it wouldn't hurt her to show some kindness to the students in the apartment below her own.

But they each got there on their own. They allowed themselves to be vulnerable and in turn ended up with a relationship with each other that they never would have imagined.

Excellent writing, compelling novel. Highly recommend and can't wait for more from this series.

About the book:
Avis Douglas and her husband, Peter, have dreamed of selling his software business to finance a two year mission effort in South Africa. But when the economy crashes, they're suddenly faced with the real possibility of bankruptcy.
When one of the co-pastors of SouledOut Community Church passes away suddenly, Avis and Peter are asked to step in and assist with the leadership of the church in the interim. but that creates an all-black leadership, fanning some subtle racial issues in their multi-cultural church. As tensions mount, they wrestle with returning to a traditional church where things would be easier.
Meanwhile, Kate Blanchard arrives in urban Chicago with three friends. Their vision of radically following Jesus--from dressing in second-hand clothes to trying to live green--only adds to the unrest at SouledOut Community Church. When Kate attaches herself to Avis as a mentor, Kate's good heart but lack of wisdom drives Avis nuts. Before long they realize that the body of Christ needs all parts--and Avis will see that she needs Kate's joy in following Jesus as much as Kate needs Avis' wisdom.

This book was provided for review by BookSneeze.