Tuesday, November 30, 2010

what i've been reading

What better way to kick off December than with a giveaway (keep reading for details)? This year marked my first year as a book reviewer and it's allowed me to read books that I would've passed by in the store just beause I wasn't familiar with the author or the title didn't sell me enough to pick it up (I've learned not to judge a book by it's cover - literally :-). Some of the ones I've read I did actually purchase but the majority have been freebies (who doesn't love free stuff?). I decided to keep a list of all the books I've read, just for curiousity sake. Let's take a look...

1. "Beautiful" - Cindy Coloma
2. "Take Your Best Shot" - Austin Gutwein
3. "An Amish Christmas" - Beth Wiseman
4. "Engaging Father Christmas" - Robin Jones Gunn
5. "Washington's Lady" - Nancy Moser
6. "Beautiful Things Happen When a Woman Trusts God" - Sheila Walsh
7. "Twilight" - Stephanie Meyer
8. "New Moon" - Stephanie Meyer
9. "Eclipse" - Stephanie Meyer
10. "Different Eyes: the Art of Living Beautifully" - Steve Chalke
11. "Breaking Dawn" - Stephanie Meyer
12. "Escaping the Vampire" - Kimberly Powers
13. "Pure Scum" - Mike Sares
14. "Never Let You Go" - Erin Healy
15. "Caleb + Kate" - Cindy Coloma
16. "Plan B" - Pete Wilson
17. "A Bride in the Bargain" - DeAnne Gist
18. "A Day with a Perfect Stranger" - David Gregory
19. "God Never Blinks" - Regina Brett
20. That Certain Spark" - Cathy Marie Hake
21. "Happily Ever Laughter" - Ken Davis
22. "Billy Graham" - David Aikman
23. "The Short 2nd Life of Bree Tanner" - Stephanie Meyer
24. "Unburdened" - Chris Tiegreen
25. "Demon" - Tosa Lee
26. "Loving Mr. Darcy" - Sharon Lathan
27. "The Edge of the Divine" - Sandy Patty
28. "Flight to Heaven" - Dale Black
29. "The Mountain Between Us" - Charles Martin
30. "The Will of Wisteria" - Denise Hildreth
31. "Crazy Love" - Francis Chan
32. "Maid to Match" - DeAnne Gist
33. "Raising the Dead" - Chauncey Crandall
34. "Permission to Speak Freely" - Anne jackson
35. "Immanuel's Veins" - Ted Dekker
36. "Love, Charleston" - Beth Webb Hart
37. "Outlive Your Life" - Max Lucado
38. "Power Thoughts" - Joyce Meyer
39. "LOL with God" - Pam Farrel
40. "City on Our Knees" - Toby Mac
41. "The Nativity Collection" - Robert Morgan
42. "Bittersweet" - Shauna Niequist
43. "Almost Heaven" - Chris Fabry
44. "The Preacher's Bride" - Jody Hedlund
45. "Uncertain Heart" - Andrea Boeshaar
46. "Nebraska Legacy" - DiAnn Mills
47. "Nightingale" - Susan May Warren
48. "Hatteras Girl" - Alice Wisler
49. "Dining with Joy" - Rachel Hauck
50. "First Things First" - Kurt Warner
51. "Delilah" - India Edghill

Whew! Out of all these, "Plan B" by Pete Wilson is at the top of my list of favorites. I highlighted things I liked as I was reading it and I've been skimming it, letting those quotes speak to me again. So, because I liked it so much, I want to give a copy away!! All you have to do is leave a comment with your favorite book from this year (and leave a way for me to reach you). The contest will end on Friday, December 31 at 8:00 p.m. (yep, New Year's Eve).

Thursday, November 25, 2010

book review: "delilah" by india edghill

Delilah was given to the Temple of Atargatis when only a small girl. She was raised to be a priestess and had the ability to dance like only few others. It was said that Delilah not only was able to perform the ritual dances but was the dance itself. When she moved to the music she became lost in it, bringing great monetary offerings to the Temple. When she was ten, another girl was brought to the Temple. Her name was Aylah and Delilah came to love her like a sister.

When Samson happens upon the Temple of Atargatis years later, it’s Delilah he meets as she leads a procession through the streets of the city. He catches only a glimpse of her as she dances but it’s enough for him to tell his friend he wants her as his wife. Samson goes to the Temple to ask for Delilah and is told she will be given to him upon his completion of three tasks. The tasks are meant to be impossible but Samson completes them with ease. It’s only after Samson rides away with his new bride after the wedding feast that he learns the truth: he was given Aylah for a wife and not Delilah.

Delilah is heartbroken both for losing her heart-sister and for the man who has visited her dreams since their meeting. She has no idea Samson wanted to marry her but was tricked – she had been told it was Aylah he desired. Delilah is later summoned to kill Samson – the man who has instilled a sense of fear in the city. Tales of his god-like strength have caused the High Priestess of the Temple and the Prince of the City to plot his death. Delilah must choose: will she help in this plan to destroy Samson or will she conspire with him?

I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get into this book. I didn’t have an immediate connection with it but was soon pulled into the story. I loved the idea that Delilah actually loved Samson and wasn’t merely using him in order to deliver him to the Philistines. The idea that Samson wanted to be captured was intriguing. One thing I didn’t like is that while the chapters about Delilah are told from her point of view, the others are in third person. Having the constant change in who’s telling the story was a little frustrating but it didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of the story.

I received a free copy of this book from Picador and was not required to write a positive review.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

trendsday: turkey recipes

My google trending topic today is about turkey recipes. I'm excited to say that I actually have cooked a turkey before so I feel slightly qualified to tackle such a topic. The instructions were given to me by someone else but the basic jist was put the turkey in an oven bag, sticking four sticks of butter inside it. Cover the turkey with melted butter, brown sugar and honey. Cook for four hours (I think) and baste again every hour. I felt like a proud parent when I finally pulled it out of the oven and it was all golden (I usually try out recipes before making them for others - not always but I try - just in case it doesn't go well the first time. I didn't have a trial run with the turkey so I was super excited it turned out edible).

I heard someone else say to cook a turkey by cooking it for an hour at 500 degrees. You then turn the oven off and let it stay in there overnight.

A few years ago, we deep fried a turkey for our college ministry. This was the same year I learned it takes several days for a turkey to unthaw instead of overnight. I won't even tell how we unthawed it...

I'd love to pick up some new ideas so how do YOU cook a turkey? Wanna join in on Trendsday? Click here for more info.

Monday, November 22, 2010

recipe: rice and cornbread

I've said before how much I love just throwing things together when it comes to cooking. I stumbled upon another such dish today. I was in the mood for Spanish rice so I tossed the packet in the microwave for 10 minutes. While that was cooking, I decided corn bread would go along with it - I wanted something to help with the kick from the rice (I know it's not that hot but I don't do spicy). While the cornbread was baking and the rice cooling off, I shredded some cheese. After everything cooled off, I crumbled the cornbread in the bottom of the bowl, adding some rice and then the cheese. Mix it all together and you're done. It was SO yummy! You could also add other vegetables (I was thinking corn) for more flavor.

Friday, November 19, 2010

book review: "first things first" by kurt and brenda warner

Kurt and Brenda have one goal with their book “First Things First”: to let people know the “real” Kurt and Brenda and show that their life is fairly normal – or as normal as can be expected. Each chapter begins with Kurt talking about a subject and then Brenda gives her take on it. They wanted to take the time to clear up the rumors as to how they met, talk about how they run their household and how they make their marriage work. They both readily admit there’s not a perfect formula for how to be the best parents or how to have a happy marriage. But they’ve found out what works for them. Kurt and Brenda have rules for each other as well as for their children. One rule in their marriage is the importance of a weekly date nights and for Kurt spending time with his guy friends while Brenda spends time with her girl friends. Though they’ve had disagreements, their love for each other hasn’t wavered. He says when they have their date nights or take time away without the kids, he’s putting her first. “That’s what it means to love someone – it means to choose that person first over and over again.” Some of the Warner rules include sharing the favorite part of the day at dinner and having to hold hands with a sibling for ten minutes if unable to get along. Brenda shares her frustrations as a NFL wife and sharing Kurt with his fans. She talks about how when the family is out, Kurt is often approached for an autograph – it’s something she knows comes with the territory but she still struggles with. They talk about their faith and the role God plays in their lives. Kurt talks about what he’ll do after football and Brenda shares her hobbies outside of the home. Through it all, Kurt talks about how he wants Jesus’ love to shine through everything he says or does – with his family and on the field.

It was fun to take a peek into the lives of Kurt and Brenda Warner. I really liked hearing both of their sides on topics. I love how Kurt talks about Brenda – it’s so apparent how much he loves her. One thing he said stood out to me. He was talking about how he told her she was beautiful when her hair was a mess and she had on no makeup. “You’re such a freak,” she’ll say, because she’s always surprised that at the time she feels least attractive, I find her most beautiful.” It’s just so sweet to hear a guy make that effort. I also applaud his stand on his faith. He says, “I love that Jesus says we should love God so passionately. It’s not like some girly “let’s hold hands” kind of love; it’s full contact. Jesus wants us to love God with our entire being – our heart, soul and mind. That’s how I want to love him.” This was a really good read – made me laugh, made me tear up at times – definitely one I’d recommend.

I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale House and was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

book review: "nightingale" by susan may warren

It’s World War II and Esther Lange is a nurse at Roosevelt Mercy Hospital. Her fiancĂ© is a soldier and she anxiously awaits his return so they can finally be married. Esther is slightly reluctant though because she doesn’t love Linus. He proposed after finding out she was pregnant, telling her to go to his parents when hers kicked her out after hearing her news. So while Esther wants him safely home, she’s also torn at entering into a loveless marriage. Right before the war is officially declared as being over, Esther receives a letter from a man named Peter Hess. He met Linus while on the battlefield and Linus asked him to mail a letter to Esther for him. The letter begins: “If you are reading this, then I have not kept my promise and your hopes for my safe return are not to be.” He apologizes for her “wasted her wedding night” on him while he loved someone else. He says he feels no attachment for their daughter and essentially frees her from any obligations she felt towards his family, giving her the opportunity to move on. She begins corresponding with Peter, finding a sense of comfort in someone not knowing of her mistakes. It’s when she toys with the idea of visiting him that she begins to question herself. She’s yet to tell Linus’ family that he’s dead and she’s forming a friendship with another man. Things are further complicated when Linus returns from the war…

I liked this book. I’ve read other books by Susan and while this was completely different than those – both in style and it being historical. I read it in my typical two days (the norm if a book is able to pull me in and I have to constantly keep reading to see what happens next). Warren threw in several unexpected twists yet it all came together in the final pages. There were times when I felt lost in the storyline, not really sure what was happening but it didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of the book.

I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity Group and was not required to write a positive review. You can read more reviews on the book here.

The Letters From Home Giveaway!
Enter the Contest: Nightingale is about letters, the power of written correspondence to convey thoughts and emotions to those far away. And sometimes near. Letters are forever, they are something we savor and pull out to read again and again. They are often cherished and kept in a special place.

To celebrate the release of Nightingale, Susan would like you to write a letter. One grand prize winner will receive a Flip HD Camcorder.5 runner's up winners will win a signed copy of Nightingale. There are two ways to enter the contest by writing letters. 1. Write a letter to a soldier. At the end of the contest we’ll print out and mail your letter for you. 2. Write a letter to a friend, loved one, family member, enemy. Tell them something you wished you’d told them before. Tell them you love them, or maybe how they touched your life. Perhaps an apology is in order or a thank you. Or perhaps you'd like to relate a funny tale or just share life. Whatever it is, submit it here along with your email address and we’ll send it for you. Enter here or at the SHARE page on the Brothers in Arms website.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

book review: "dining with joy" by rachel hauck

Joy Ballard is the host of the popular cooking show “Dining with Joy.” She took over hosting the show after her father passed away three years ago. When the show is sold to a new production company, the new producer wants to add a co-host. Luke Redmond is immediately attracted to Joy and agrees to join the show as the new chef. Overcoming a failed restaurant, he jumps at a chance to get back on his feet. They seem to be the perfect combination. Joy is funny and charming while Luke is a very talented chef. But Joy has a secret and if Luke finds out, she fears he’ll quit. If the new producer finds out, it could be the end of Joy’s career. The closer Joy and Luke become, the harder it is for her to keep the truth buried. Can she trust him with her secret? Can she trust him with her heart?

I really, really enjoyed the book. I’ve read “Sweet Caroline” and was excited to read another of Hauck’s books. I also liked how those characters made a few appearances in this story. I loved Joy and Luke’s banter. It just seemed so real to me, making the story that much more enjoyable. Reading this makes me want to try the recipes that are mentioned in the story and conveniently located at the back of the book (especially Charles Ballard’s Banana Bread). Joy also goes through a time of wondering what it is she’s supposed to do with her life – a feeling I can identify with. At one point she tells Luke, “Haven’t made any decisions about what’s next for me. Kind of enjoying not knowing, leaping out, aiming for the hand of God…” I like the idea of that. I think the ultimate theme of this story is finding that thing that you’re passionate about – that thing God has called you to do – and chasing it with everything you have.

I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson and was not required to write a positive review.

trending topic: national unfriend day

Jimmy Kimmel is helping advocate National Unfriend Day. This is a time to go through your Facebook friends and clean out the random people you added at one time. Who does he suggest you unfriend? "A random sampling around the Web of who you should defriend: mothers, exes, the guy who keeps posting the political rantings, the woman who takes about her children's bathroom habits" ( The whole point of National Unfriend Day is to return back to a simpler time when we aren't so bogged down with what everyone else is doing...

I enjoyed this topic!! While humorous, it's also something to think about. I think some people view it as contest to see who can have the most "friends" on Facebook. To some, more friends = being more popular. Yet why would you want people you either don't know or barely know a personal glimpse into your life through your photos and status updates? Hmmm...maybe less really is more :-) Wanna join in on Trendsday? Click here for info.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

recipe: chocolate trifle

I made this last weekend and oh, it was yummy. My grandmother makes it for Christmas and gave me the recipe last year. I love recipes where you just throw ingredients together and are done - they're my favorite :-) And it leaves room for you to add your own touch to it, again, my favorite kind of recipe.

Devil's food cake mix
1 large instant chocolate pudding
16 oz. cool whip
6 Heath Bars
Bake cake as directed. Let cool. Mix pudding as directed. Crush Heath Bars. Layer half of cake in a 4 quart bowl. Add half of pudding and 8 oz. of cool whip. Top with 3 Heath Bars. Repeat layers. Cover and chill overnight.

I also added peanut butter chips to the top layer and you could also drizzle some chocolate syrup too. It turned out amazing (not to brag or anything) and I loved the lightness of it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

book review: "uncertain heart" by andrea boeshaar

Sarah McCabe is twenty years old and needing to prove to her family that she’s able to take care of herself. She leaves her hometown of Jericho Junction, Missouri and finds herself in Milwaukee, Wisconsin taking a position as a governess. She meets Richard Navis, a fellow employee and he becomes her first friend in her new home. While Sarah sees Richard as a good friend, Richard is taken with her upon their first meeting. Sarah soon finds herself trying to decide if the feelings she has for Richard are real or how she feels regarding her boss, Captain Brian Sinclair. She loves his children but does she also love him? When rumors begin circulating about Sarah and the Captain, she’s further confused as to who she can trust with her heart. Richard steps in to help but he continues to try to win her and she struggles to keep him at arms length. It’s not until tragedy strikes that she knows who she loves.

I would give this book a three out of five. I liked it but had a little difficult connecting with Sarah. I feel like Boeshaar didn’t flesh her out completely – she seemed a little wishy washy to me. The ending was slightly disappointing – everything was building up to this and it wasn’t what I expected. I feel like she hurriedly tried to tie all the loose ends together instead of continuing to develop the story. I still enjoyed the book but wasn’t completely blown away. All in all, a decent read.

I received this book free from Glass Road Public Relations and was not required to write a positive review.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

book review: "hatteras girl" by alica wisler

Jackie loves living in Nags Head, North Carolina. She loves the beach but also has a dream of one day owning the Bailey House – a bed and breakfast she visited every chance she had while growing up. It’s through her job as a magazine writer that she’s able to meet the man who currently owns the property, Davis Erickson. She’s quickly taken with his charming smile and the kisses they share. She finally feels beautiful to be dating someone so handsome and isn’t the result of a blind date set up by her well-meaning family. Yet Jackie can’t help but have moments of doubt when they’re not together. Her fears are confirmed when she interviews a local business owner – a woman who seems as perfect as she thought Davis was. The woman admits she and Davis used to date but are still on again, off again. Jackie determines to once again focus on what’s important to her – buying the Bailey House. Davis agrees to let her rent the house but has kept from her the true condition of the property. While she figures out how to fix the house and show Davis for who he really is, it’s her family and friends that help her. They put together a fundraiser to help with repairing costs. Yet it’s her childhood friend Buck who has her wondering what she saw in Davis. She’s finally seeing him as more than her brother’s best friend but does he feel the same for her?

I was surprised with how I enjoyed this book. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I liked it. I liked that Jackie is the one telling the story and I thoroughly enjoyed her sense of humor. The only thing I was disappointed with is her relationship with Buck. She admits she’s in love with him but everything that happens from that point on to him proposing isn’t mentioned. Maybe it’s the romantic in me but I wanted to read more about them. Other than that, it’s a good read and I plan on reading her other books as well.

I received this book free from Bethany House and was not required to write a positive review.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

book review: "almost heaven" by chris fabry

Billy Allman has not had an easy life. On his tenth birthday, a flood came through and washed away his home. His father was injured while trying to save two little girls and was never the same. A few years later, he gave in to his depression, committing suicide. After his father’s death, his mother was never the same, having good days and bad days. The day Billy was going to take her to a nursing home because he was unable to take care of her, she passed away, leaving him completely alone. After his mother’s death, Billy decided to start his own radio station from his home, wanting to share his love of gospel music with others. He encountered obstacle after obstacle to get the station off the ground but felt this is what God wanted him to do – that fact pushing him on.

All during his life, Billy has an angel assigned to protect him. Malachi is present during Billy’s successes and hard times. However, he is given another assignment for a brief span of Billy’s life and it’s what transpires during this time that has a lasting impact on him. Malachi must struggle to understand why he was called away during a crucial time in Billy’s life since God would be the One making the order. Ultimately he trusts God’s sovereignty, amazed that He would have such an unending love for His creations.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. I found myself unable to put this book down, constantly wanting to know what happens next. Fabry includes several twists that kept me guessing until the last page. I didn’t necessarily like the ending because it was left open but that’s my personal preference. Reading Malachi’s observations was also interesting – the spiritual perspective added a whole other element to the story.

I received this book free from Glass Road Publications and was not required to write a positive review.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

25 hours

Tomorrow we gain an extra hour - something that only happens once a year. I'm pondering how to spend this extra sixty minutes. Normally, I never get that extra hour of sleep - instead I stay up an hour longer and am still tired in the morning :-) Yet I'm thinking of doing something beyond watching tv for another hour or working on my laptop. There's a new book out (that is now at the top of my "to read" list") called "Sun Stand Still" by Steven Furtick. It's a book about having audacious faith - the kind of faith that believes in the impossible happening. The kind of faith Joshua had when asking God to make the sun stand still. I received an email from the publisher of the book, asking me to participate in something that can potentially change the world. Tomorrow, when we have that 25th hour and the sun seemingly stands still, people will be praying. It's something interesting to think about. Now, I may forget and spend that extra hour doing something else but the idea of Christians asking God for the impossible sounds very cool.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

trending topic: demi lovato

A blog I follow is encouraging others to grow in their blogging abilities by writing about one of many Google trending topics. The topic I picked is about Demi Lovato checking herself into rehab. I'll openly admit that I watch (and enjoy) Demi's show "Sonny with a Chance" -I know it's cheesy but I like the humor. So the fact that she's now in rehab has me torn. On the one hand I'm glad she's seeking help instead of letting things grow worse but I'm also slightly disappointed that someone who so many children and tweens look up to has shown just how human she is. I've found different reasons as to why she's now in rehab. Causes include she is fighting an eating disorder, she struggles with cutting, emotional issues, etc.

What seems so obvious to me is her need for Jesus. I don't know if she professes to be a Christian or not but I hope she can come to that decision during this time in her life. I'm a very strong believer in kids having positive role models and it's frustrating for me when one by one, celebrities give in to the temptations provided by their status and wealth. I applaud those who are able to withstand those temptations and ARE people kids can look up to. Hopefully Demi will receive the help she needs and will come out stronger when this is all behind her.