Sunday, 31 March 2013

Book Review: Every Perfect Gift by Dorothy Love

About the Book: Ethan and Sophie long to share a future together. But the secrets they’re not sharing could tear them apart.
Sophie Caldwell has returned to Hickory Ridge, Tennessee after years away. Despite the heartaches of her childhood, Sophie is determined to make a home, and a name, for herself in the growing town. A gifted writer, she plans to resurrect the local newspaper that so enchanted her as a girl.

Ethan Heyward’s idyllic childhood was shattered by a tragedy he has spent years trying to forget. An accomplished businessman and architect, he has built a majestic resort in the mountains above Hickory Ridge, drawing wealthy tourists from all over the country.

When Sophie interviews Ethan for the paper, he is impressed with her intelligence and astounded by her beauty. She's equally intrigued with him but fears he will reject her if he learns about her shadowed past. Just as she summons the courage to tell him, Ethan’s own past unexpectedly and violently catches up with him, threatening not only his life but their budding romance.

My Thoughts: An enjoyable book that managed to be both easy to read yet deal with some difficult topics at the same time.  A book that reminds us that our past does not need to define us and in fact, can be used to shape our character for the better if we allow God to use it to refine us.
Love's ability to describe both scenery and the majestic resort transports you back in time.  Often when I read historical books it makes me thankful that I didn't live back then, but this book almost made me wish I could've been there.  Almost :)
Thank you to Booksneeze for providing me with my complimentary e-book review copy.

Book Review: Swept Away by Mary Connealy

About the Book: When a cowboy focused on revenge encounters a woman determined to distract him, there's going to be trouble in Texas!

Swept away when her wagon train attempts a difficult river crossing, Ruthy MacNeil isn't terribly upset at being separated from the family who raised her. All they've ever done is work her to the bone. Alive but disoriented, she's rescued by Luke unfortunately, there are more chances to die in her immediate future.
Luke is on a mission to reclaim the ranch stolen from his family. But the men currently on the property won't let it go without a fight. Luke plans to meet up with friends who will help him take back the land, and since he can't just leave Ruthy in the middle of nowhere, she's going to have to go with him.
But the more time Luke spends around the hardworking young woman, the more he finds himself thinking of things besides revenge. Will Ruthy convince him to give up his destructive path and be swept away by love? 

My Thoughts: I enjoyed this quick read.  Western historical romance with a bit of suspense, the storyline was entertaining and I really enjoyed the characters of Ruthy and Luke.  I liked the code of honour in the west and how good men (and women!) won't stand by when a wrong has been committed or someone has been mistreated, but will risk their own lives in order to make things right.  We could use more of that these days!  Definitely showed how tough things were back then, especially for women and children.  

Looking forward to the next book in this series.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Book Review: Grave Consequences by Lisa T Bergren

About the Book: The Powerful, Epic Romance Continues, Book 2 in Lisa T. Begren's Grand Tour series

For Cora Kensington, the journey of a lifetime takes unexpected twists. And her future-her very life-depends on the decisions she'll make at each crossroad. As her European tour with her newfound family takes her through Austria, France, and Italy, an unseen enemy trails close behind. Meanwhile, a forbidden love continues to claim her heart, putting everyone's plans in danger.
And as Cora stays one step ahead of it all, what might need the most protection is her own heart, torn between the dramatic pursuit of a dashing Frenchman and a man who has been quietly staking claim to her affections all along. Love has dangers all its own. She must escape the bonds of the past and discover the faith to make the right choices, as each one has grave consequences. 

My Thoughts: One thought that kept running through my mind as I read this book (and the first one in this series, Glamourous Illusions) was - man, this must've taken a lot of research to write this book!  Filled with amazing descriptions of the scenery and history of numerous European countries, if this doesn't make you want to visit Europe for yourself, I don't know what will!  Of course, almost none of us would be able to travel in the same high society style that this tour took, but it would have been splendid indeed!

For the most part, I am continuing to enjoy this series.  My one complaint is that it does seem to be dragging on a bit too much for me - especially since there's still at least one more book to go!  I think it's because most of the book series I read have each book in the series focusing on a different character, so that even though they're all related to each other, they are easily stand alone books and each story is resolved by the end of the book.  I don't really like this style as much as it's much more difficult to read as a stand alone book (you can, but it took me awhile to remember who was who and to remember what had happened in the previous book, and I had read it!).  There are numerous interesting characters in this series, so the books could easily have been written that way, but that obviously wasn't the writers intent, and who am I to suggest she do it differently!  Just my humble opinion.

As you can tell from my review of her previous book, I did love that story and I also loved this one.  I'm just beginning to wish this particularly storyline ended with the book.

Still definitely looking forward to book #,3 but I do hope it'll wrap up the Cora storyline.

Bergren's writing style and abilities are simply amazing and I look forward to reading her other books as well!

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Olivia's 7th Birthday Interview

I know, Olivia turned 7 LAST JUNE, but I forgot to do her birthday interview.  So, I told her to pretend it was last June and try to answer the questions like that.  Here we go...

How old are you now Olivia? 7
What grade are you in? 1
Who's your teacher? Mrs. McLure
Do you like school? a little
What's your favourite thing about school? lunchtime
What's your favourite subject? art
What's your favourite colour? purple
What’s your favourite drink? 7up
What's your favourite food? cheese, everyone knows that
What’s your favourite game? Monopoly
What’s your favourite treat? chocolate
What's your favourite snack? cheese
What's your favourite dessert? chocolate 
What's your favourite restaurant? My Mom, she's the best cook
What's your favourite place? Disney World
What's your favourite thing to do at Disney World? Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
What's your favourite toy? my Furball
What's your favourite book? Snowman at Night
What's your favourite sport? mini golf
What's your favourite movie? Brady Bunch
What's your favourite TV show? Good Luck Charlie
Who's your favourite celebrity? Taylor Swift
What's your favourite thing to do? watch TV
What's your favourite thing to wear? a dress
Who are some of your best friends? Kylie, Hannah, Leah, Liv, Arwen
Who's your favourite person? My Mom and Dad
What is your favourite song? Who Says by Selena Gomez
What's one of the best things you've done with your family? Go to Disney World
What's your favourite store? Claire's
What do you want to be when you grow up? spa person
Anything else you think we should know about you? I'm nice

At Olive Garden with Nathan and I for her special birthday dinner out.

Emma's Age 11 Birthday Interview

Yes, Emma is turning 12 today.  But I totally forgot to do her 11 yr interview.  So, here it is, with her answering questions now but pretending she was answering them last year :)

How old are you now Emma? 11
What grade are you in? 5
Who's your teacher? Mrs. Kerbrat
Do you like school? not this year
What's your favourite thing about school? recess and gym and music
What's your favourite subject? writing and art and music and gym
What's your favourite colour? aquamarine
What’s your favourite drink? cream soda
What's your favourite food? perogies
What’s your favourite game? Apples to Apples
What’s your favourite treat? doughnuts
What's your favourite snack? granola bars
What's your favourite dessert? chocolate log cake or blizzards from Dairy Queen
What's your favourite breakfast? waffles
What's your favourite lunch? ham and cheese sandwich (New Bothwell cheese only)
What's your favourite restaurant? Famous Dave's
What's your favourite place? Disney World
What's your favourite thing to do at Disney World? all of it
What's your favourite ride at Disney World? Magic Kingdom - Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, Snow White, Peter Pan
What's your favourite toy? DS
What's your favourite book? If I Die Before I Wake (from the Dear Canada series)
What's your favourite sport? to watch - hockey, to play - soccer or mini golf
What's your favourite movie? Soul Surfer
What's your favourite TV show? Full House
Who's your favourite celebrity? Selena Gomez
What's your favourite thing to do? hang out with my friends
What's your favourite thing to wear? sweater and jeans or sweat pants
Who are some of your best friends? Emily, Naomi, Elora
Who's your favourite person? me
What is your favourite song? Off the Chain by Selena Gomez
What's one of the best things you've done with your family? Gone to Disney World
What's your favourite store? Aeropostale
What do you want to be when you grow up? teacher
Anything else you think we should know about you? nah, I think that's it

Nathan and I took Emma to The Keg for her special birthday dinner and gave her her gift - I "published" a book she wrote using Blurb.  She loved it!

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Book Review: Firefly Island by Lisa Wingate

About the Book:  Sometimes love takes you on an adventure completely off the map.

Mallory Hale's life quickly veers off course when she falls hopelessly in love. After a whirlwind romance, Mallory finds herself leaving the bustle and action of Capitol Hill for the remote town of Moses Lake, Texas-with husband, stepson, and a U-Haul in tow.

A sweet, mishap-filled journey into marriage, motherhood, and ranch living ensues, and Mallory is filled with both the wonderment of love and the insecurities of change. But what she can't shake is the unease she feels around her husband's new boss, Jack West. Jack's presence-and his mysterious past-set her on edge, and when hints of a scandal emerge, Mallory finds herself seeking answers . . . and comes to realize that the middle-of-nowhere home she wasn't sure she wanted is the very place she'll risk everything to save. 

My Thoughts:  I'm a bit conflicted with this one.  I loved the storyline (though I did feel that the ending was somewhat of a let down), enjoyed all the heroines and loathed all the villains, but I didn't really enjoy Wingates style of writing. At least not always.  Sometimes I did really enjoy it, and other times I didn't.  Very helpful, right?  This is totally a personal preference so don't let that deter you.  Her style sometimes reminded me slightly of Anne Voskamp (whose writing style many people adore).  I just don't think most people in real life are that in tune with other people's emotions, thoughts or motives.  Some people might think in prose style language, but I don't, and I guess I also don't "get it" either.  Well, I get it, it just doesn't do anything for me.  I think I like that style of writing more when she was describing scenery and things like that, but not so much when it was inner dialogue.  If that makes sense.  But like I said, that's just a personal preference.  If you enjoy that style of writing, then you will love this book!

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Book Review: Shattered by Dani Pettrey

About the Book: With All the Evidence Against Him, Only a Sister's Trust Can Save Him Now
When her prodigal brother Reef's return to Yancey, Alaska, is shattered by his arrest for murder, Piper McKenna is determined to protect him.
Deputy Landon Grainger loves the McKennas like family, but he's also sworn to find the truth. And he knows those closest to you have the power to deceive you the most. With his sheriff pushing for a quick conviction, some unexpected leads complicate the investigation, and pursuing the truth puts Landon's career in jeopardy.
When Piper launches her own investigation, Landon realizes he must protect her from herself-and whatever complications await as the two follow clues deep into Canada's rugged backcountry. Not only does their long friendship seem to be turning into something more, but this dangerous case is becoming deadlier with each step. 

My Thoughts:  I loved this book!  I loved the Alaskan setting (would love to go there on a cruise someday), I loved that the book also took us into BC and California to mix it up a bit.  I loved the main characters and how well developed the minor characters were.  I loved how Landon and Piper gradually recognize their feelings for each other and begin to explore their relationship.  I loved the mystery storyline and how that all played out (and that I hadn't figured it out half way through).

This was the 2nd book in a series but I haven't read the first.  There were times when I noticed that this was a 2nd book and I had obviously missed some assumed details, but it wasn't really necessary and didn't take away from the story.  Pretty sure Kayden (Piper's sister) and Jake are going to be the main character's in the next book of the series.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Best Pizza Crust and Sauce Recipes Ever!

Back in December, 2011 I posted my recipe for pizza and pizza sauce but I had a request for it again, so I thought I'd repost, including a picture I snapped last week (for easy pinning!).   I've also modified the recipe slightly since last posting, so here it goes....

Premium Pizza Crust - adapted from
1 1/2 tsp yeast (I use quick rising)
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 1/2 cups flour (approx)
1/2 tsp salt

In your KitchenAid bowl, dissolve yeast in the water and add 3 cups of flour along with the salt. You will likely need about 3 1/2 cups flour in total (this is always different depending on the altitude and humidity of where you live). Basically continue adding flour until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. If kneeding by hand, until it is smooth and barely sticky. If you add too much flour it gets too heavy - I'd rather err on the side of too little, cause you can always add more when rolling it out later.

If you're using "slow" yeast, allow the dough to rise in a greased bowl, covered with a towel, until doubled in size (about 1 hr).

But if you're using quick rising, you can immediately turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, divide into two equal pieces and allow to rest for a couple of minutes.

Put pizza pan in the oven and preheat both to at least 450F.

Meanwhile, prepare pizza toppings and roll out dough into the size and shape of your pizza pan.

When oven and pan has finished preheating, carefully remove the pan, spray it with Pam and sprinkle with cornmeal (in my opinion, the perfect way to get a non-sticky yet non-soggy crust), carefully place dough on top of pan, spread with Exquisite Pizza Sauce and desired toppings and sprinkle with paprika (secret from working at a restaurant that served pizza). Bake at 450 (or higher) for about 15 mins (or less, if you baked it higher). Let pizza cool for a couple minutes before cutting and serving.

Exquisite Pizza Sauce - adapted from
one 6oz can tomato paste
6 fluid oz warm water
1 tsp minced garlic (or 1/4 tsp garlic powder)
1-2 tsp honey to taste (or sugar)
3/4 tsp onion powder
heaping 1/4 tsp oregano
heaping 1/4 tsp marjoram
heaping 1/4 tsp basil
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp dried red pepper flakes
salt to taste (optional)

Basically, combine all ingredients and allow to sit for about 30 minutes to blend flavours.

You can substitute one 12oz tin of tomato sauce (no salt added) instead of the paste/water if that's what you have on hand.  Whatever's on sale right?!

The original recipe called for 3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese, and though I do like it that way as well, I didn't taste a noticeable difference when I tried it again without it and it's healthier without it, so I just leave it out.

I didn't have cayenne pepper, so I doubled the red pepper flakes instead.

If you love it as much as we do, you can multiply all the dry ingredients by 8 and put in a jar labelled "Pizza Spice" and simply add 2 tsp to the sauce and honey when every time you make it. Easy as pie - pizza pie that is! ;)

What I often do is make a double batch of the pizza dough, then make 2 large pizzas (one with stuffed crust) and the use the leftovers to make pizza wheels for school lunches.

To make stuffed crust pizza:  it's very easy actually.  Just roll out the dough larger than your pan, place shredded cheese along the edge of pan and fold the extra dough over the cheese to cover it up.  Voila, stuffed crust!  (Picture at the top of this post is stuffed crust personal pan sized pizzas)

To make pizza wheels: simply roll out the dough, spread on the sauce, top with favourite toppings and cheese, roll up and cut like you're making cinnamon buns, allow to rise and then bake at 375 for about 20-25 mins.  Once cooled, you can throw them in the freezer for quick school lunches.


Book Review: Unbreakable by Nancy Mehl

About the Book: Gentle and unassuming, Hope Kauffman has never been one to question the traditions of her Mennonite upbringing. She quietly helps her father run Kingdom Quilts and has agreed to the betrothal he arranged for her with the devout but shy Ebbie Miller.

Despite the attempts of Hope and other Kingdom residents to maintain the status quo, changes have already begun to stir in the small Mennonite town. The handsome and charismatic Jonathon Wiese is the leader of the move to reform, while Ebbie insists Kingdom must remain true to its foundation. When Hope's safety is threatened by a mysterious outsider, she can't help but question what she's always been taught about the Mennonite tradition of nonviolence.
As it swiftly becomes apparent the threat Hope faced is only the beginning, the town that's always stood so strong finds itself divided. With tensions high and their lives endangered by an unknown enemy, will Hope and the people of Kingdom allow fear and division to break them or will they draw on the strength of the God they serve? 

My Thoughts: Being from a Mennonite background myself (though not as conservative as these Mennonites) I'm enjoying reading these books from the Road to Kingdom series (this is book 2). In particular, I enjoyed reading the debate about pacifism vs using violence as a last resort in order to protect the ones you love. The Mennonite faith definitely teaches pacifism, and this is one area I differ slightly from their teachings. Though I definitely think violence should be used as a last resort, I would use it in order to defend the lives of my loved ones, and I do not think it would be unbiblical to do so, nor do I think that it is showing a lack of faith in God. I do, however, have complete respect for those who have the opposing viewpoint. And that is one thing I really appreciated about this book - it allowed for both sides of the "argument" to be heard, and promoted respect to be shown from both sides to those that had the opposing viewpoint.

I liked the fact that the heroine was not sure which of the two men vying for her affections she would choose until the very end - but I guessed right on which one it would be (and was happy with the choice)!

That being said the book was a little on the slow side - despite the added mystery of the attacks and the hostile sheriff - and is not on my favourite's list.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.


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