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Thursday, June 11

Summer Reads : Book Reviews!

We love reading here, and are all huge bibliophiles!!  While I usually write about what the kids are reading, today I wanted to bring you some of the best new books for adults.  So Mom, tune in, because here are some great beach reads that you may not have discovered yet!!

Summary
When Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, realizes that her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers, taking her cues from the slave code quilts and hiding her maps within her paintings. She boldly embraces this calling after being told the shocking news that she can’t bear children, but as the country steers toward bloody civil war, Sarah faces difficult sacrifices that could put all she loves in peril.
   Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child with her husband, moves to an old house in the suburbs and discovers a porcelain head hidden in the root cellar—the remains of an Underground Railroad doll with an extraordinary past of secret messages, danger and deliverance.
   Ingeniously plotted to a riveting end, Sarah and Eden’s woven lives connect the past to the present, forcing each of them to define courage, family, love, and legacy in a new way.

Thoughts
I loved this book.  Just loved it.  :)  I love stories like this in which the novel swings between a historical time period and present day. Everything in this novel intertwines perfectly, and the characters are engaging and fascinating!  It brings to life the history of John Brown, via his daughter Sarah, in a way that educates and entertains the reader.  Both the modern day and historical stories are woven together well, albeit a little wordy at times, and it also brings to light the modern woman’s plight of where she belongs.  I don’t want to give away anymore…but five stars, and definitely worth a read!!

Reservations for Two, by Hillary Manton Lodge

Summary
Food writer-turned-restaurateur Juliette D’Alisa has more than enough on her plate. While her trip to Provence might have unlocked new answers to her grandmother’s past, it’s also provided new complications in the form of Neil McLaren, the man she can’t give up.

Juliette and Neil find romance simple as they travel through Provence and Tuscany together, but life back home presents a different set of challenges. Juliette has a restaurant to open, a mother combating serious illness, and a family legacy of secrets to untangle – how does Neil, living so far away in Memphis, fit into to her life?

As she confronts an uncertain future, Juliette can’t help but wish that life could be as straightforward as her chocolate chip cookie recipe. Can her French grandmother’s letters from the 1940’s provide wisdom to guide her present? Or will every new insight create a fresh batch of mysteries?

Thoughts
I love this series!  This book was just as good as the first one, A Table by the Window.  It is the perfect combination of food, adventure, travel, romance, and a history mystery.  Heart-wrenching at times, there were times when I was so involved in the story that I felt I was living it myself.  I couldn't wait to read each of Grand-Mere's old letters!

In the second book, Jules and Neil visit France and Italy, exploring the family history of Nazi-occupied France.  There are several recipes included in the book.....foodies will love it!  But fair warning, you'll be pressed to choose between running to the kitchen to cook, or staying on the couch to finish another chapter!

If you haven't read the first book, you'll be caught up to speed early in this second one.  However, I recommend reading it to watch as the backstory unfolds.  The final installment of the series arrives in spring 2016...and it's going to be a long year!


The Art of Losing Yourself (Katie Ganshert)

Summary

Carmen Hart is struggling. Her beloved aunt has dementia. The emotional wall between her husband, Ben and herself grows thicker while the miscarriages continue to add up. But on the outside it seems perfect. She is a beloved weather girl on channel three whose husband coaches a winning football team for the local high school.

Gracie Fisher is struggling. Her school has suspended her and her alcoholic mother wants to send her to live with a father she doesn't really know. So she runs away, to a place she had once been wanted.
Sisters, Carmen and Gracie collide and the impact will leave you breathless.

Thoughts
Katie Ganshert's books can't easily be categorized, because they are true to life stories.  They suck you into characters that are raw, real, and who impact who your own life.  It could easily be you...  She tackles difficult issues with grace through her stories, and appeals to Christians and non-Christians alike.

The story is told from the two view points of Gracie and Carmen.  It adds depth and dimension to the story to enrich it. I enjoyed seeing the variety of relationships in this book. From family love, to romantic love, to the truest love of all in God. Katie writes about all of these in a beautiful and honest way.

This is unlike any other book in the Christian Fiction genre that I have ever read.  In that sense, it was refreshing, albeit a bit shocking at times...

Along the way, Brenda finds that, although the Loveladies learned a new way of life from her, she and her family also learned many valuable lessons from them as well. I was really inspired by Brenda's spunk and tenacity. Even when she was afraid, she never doubted that she had been called to do this work. She endured the belittlement of authorities, anger from her family, fear from the neighbors and her own doubts to found the "largest faith-based transitional center for women and their children in the country." Not bad for a woman whose biggest concern not long before was where to go for her next luxury vacation!

I found the book to be very serious, yet it was also full of humorous stories and conversations between the women. It was horrible to think about the abuse that some of these women suffered as children, and interesting to see how many of those women were arrested in development at such a young age. So many of the women came to look at Brenda as their own mother because they had no relationship with their own.

Brenda's story, the ladies' stories, force the reader to delve deeper into their own empathetic selves and realize, that if not for the socioeconomic, educational, or regional differences we share with the women in this book, you yourself could have been one of the Loveladies.

**Readers should note that the text does include colorful language, adult dialogue, and behavior that is not child-appropriate due to the nature and reality of the narrative.

A Bone to Pick (Mark Bittman)

Summary
In A Bone to Pick, Mark’s most memorable and thought-provoking columns are compiled into a single volume for the first time. As abundant and safe as the American food supply appears to be, the state of our health reveals the presence of staggering deficiencies in both the system that produces food and the forces that regulate it. Bittman leaves no issue unexamined; agricultural practices, government legislation, fad diets, and corporate greed all come under scrutiny and show that the issues governing what ends up in our market basket and on our tables are both complex and often deliberately confusing. Unabashedly opinionated and invariably thought provoking, Bittman’s columns have helped readers decipher arcane policy, unpack scientific studies, and deflate affronts to common sense when it comes to determining what “eating well” truly means. As urgent as the situation is, Mark contends that we can be optimistic about the future of our food and its impact on our health, as slow-food movements, better school-lunch programs, and even “healthy fast food” become part of the norm.

Thoughts
This book is a great wealth of fact-based opinions that are guaranteed to irritate the heck out of the reader.  If has fear-mongering and is designed to get a person agitated.  But hey - for most people, that's the only way that they'll start acting, so maybe that is the author's real objection.  I'd be interested to read this book again in five or ten years and see if the information is still relevant.  It seems that our 'current' food knowledge is constantly changing...

Five Years in Heaven (John Schlimm)

Summary
What is heaven on earth? The answer lies in this true story of one young man's journey to find hope and purpose with the help of an unlikely teacher--a compassionate and wise old nun, whom the world had long-forgotten.

In Five Years in Heaven, John shares the wisdom, humor, grace, and inspiration he experienced during his hundreds of visits with Sister Augustine. Five Years in Heaven reminds us that we can find love and joy in the most unlikely of places, and that the building blocks of peace and happiness are always within our reach.

My Thoughts
First, the title gives the wrong impression…the author hasn’t actually had a ‘heavenly’ experience, where he claims to have gone to heaven and come back to tell about it.  The story is pretty good, but I almost put it in the ‘sicky-sweet’ category.  It’s nice, and sweet, but really overboard.  The insights are good, and things that we should be reminded of regularly as we plod through the drudgery of daily life, but it wasn’t my favorite read.  Tuesdays With Morrie is similar, and I liked it a lot better.
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