Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Parable Treasury by Liz Curtis Higgs

 This Parable Treasury was such a joy to read to my children! The book contains four seasonal stories.

The Parable of the Lily. a grace filled message about Easter and the joy of forgiveness.

The Sunflower Parable, a meaningful lesson about sharing God's love with our neighbors.

The Pumpkin Patch Parable, an uplifting tale of how God  can make us new inside and out.

The Pine Tree Parable, a tender story about the joy of Christmas and unselfish giving.

The stories are sweet and simple. My children were able to easily understand the underlying message of the stories without being told. I love to be able to celebrate the seasons with my children and this is such a fun way to do that.

The book is actually pretty large. The cover is lightly padded and sturdy. All the illustrations are bright and cheery. This book would make a great present!

I received this book in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Shock of Night by Patrick W. Carr

 I *might* be a major speculative fiction nerd... I just love a good fantasy book. I was already familiar with Patrick Carr from his book A Cast of Stones. I read it on a whim a year or so ago. The book was free on the Kindle (and still is). I decided to give it a go and was pleasantly surprised. Free Kindle books can be hit and miss, usually a lot of miss. This book was interesting and unique and caught my attention. I was excited to see his newest work The Shock of Night published by Bethany House.

The book centers around one man, Willet Dura. Willet is the king's Reeve and basically acts as a detective in his city Burnard. When he is called to the scene of the newest murder in town, his life gets infinitely more complicated. He is gifted a dying man's mysterious power. Willet's dark past and the complexities of the gift intertwine in an interesting and dangerous story.

The Darkwater forest is somehow infecting people who enter, making them unstable and downright evil. These people snap and kill with an unusual strength and speed. The man whose death Willet is investigating, Elwyn, belongs to The Vigil. The Vigil monitors the forest and those who become infected. Willet's new gift binds him to the Vigil. Willet himself was forced into the forest years ago, but survived. His memories of the place are locked away and his experience unclear. Will Willet become the member the Vigil desperately needs or will he too snap?

For the first half of this book I was absolutely captivated. There are so many mysteries and interesting twists, both internally for Dura and externally in the story. I found myself questioning who to trust and whether Dura himself was the real enemy.

Carr builds the city of Burnard around you; one really gets a sense for Willet's world. The reader comes in contact with every class of citizen from the king and nobility to the poorest street urchins. Willet himself is a natural detective and interesting main character. I thought all the character development was great. There were a lot of different characters in the book but Carr made them all come to life. The friendship developed between Willet and his guard Bolt was one of my favorite parts of the book.

There were so many small threads in the plot that were left unexplained. I had great anticipation for the second half of the book, believing that these things would eventually come together. There are perhaps a dozen instances left unexplained and not fully fleshed-out. To me the mark of a really good fantasy book is when you have all these dangling threads--- and then almost magically it seems the author weaves them back into the story one by one. Each one coming together to make the story more interesting and complex. Details that don't seem to have a purpose suddenly hold meaning.

My problem with this book is that these details are just not added back into the story. Obviously, this is the first book in a series. There is no need for the book to end on a complete note. However, I thought the book just left too much unsaid. More details of the story needed to come together and make sense. The end of the book felt rushed and unnatural. It felt like it was missing an ending and the reader was left with no resolution. I think at times this sort of ending can aid in a sense of anticipation for the next story, however this just annoyed me.

There were a few instances in the book where I had to re-read a section to understand what happened. One instance was a major plot-changer and I couldn't figure out what was going on. I just had to read on and try to piece what happened together.

Even though I found myself much more interested in the first part of the story than the last, I still enjoyed it. I know I will seek at out the next in the series when it becomes available. I really enjoy Carr's writing and I think he has grown into a great fantasy author. I never imagined when I read that free ebook ages ago that I would find a writer of such great depth.  

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

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Trim Healthy Mama

 I have have been meaning to review this book for a few weeks now-- I just don't know where to start! There is so much I could say about Trim Healthy Mama. I'll give you a quick rundown on what the plan is, and then my review of the cookbook itself.

Pearl and Serene are the sisters behind THM. Back in 2012 they wrote the first book Trim Healthy Mama. The book is about losing/maintaining weight and having a healthy lifestyle. There is a lot of content in that one book. It is packed with advice and recipes. The books was so helpful to me. Besides cutting sugar and most carbs I learned how to fuel my body so that it didn't store fat. The downside of the book was how confusing the format was. The layout jumped around a lot. There are no color photos of any of the recipes. While Pearl and Serene's writing is very enjoyable, the book really needed an update.

Which is just what the ladies have done. Now you can purchase the THM cookbook  and the separate THM Plan book. The cookbook doesn't go into any detail of how the diet works, so you really need the companion Plan book if you are new to this. I only have the cookbook right now, and refer to my old copy of the original book if I need help.

The THM cookbook is full of a TON of new recipes and a few old favorites. Everything is updated and the photos are gorgeous. Having pictures of all the recipes is unbelievably helpful. I am now inspired just by looking at the photos. I'll be honest, there are certain recipes that do not sound appealing to me. However, looking at the delicious photos will prompt me to give it a try.

This is this resource I have been waiting for since I got the original book years ago. I am pleased that it doesn't disappoint. The only thing I would change about the book is that many recipes are written with their specific THM products as ingredients. Pearl and Serene sell their own sweeteners, baking blend and many other THM products. The products are reasonably priced, however I prefer to by my own sweeteners/flours elsewhere. Many of the recipes call for their baking blend. This is frustrating because now I can't make these unless I purchase their specific product.

All in all, this book is a great addition to my cookbook library. I received it from Blogging for Book in exchange for my honest review.