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Sunday, November 6

By the Fireside.......

Mostly non-fiction today....which some of you will really appreciate!   We'll kick it off with our featured book, followed by fiction, and then non-fiction...........

Black Earth (Timothy Snyder) 

In this epic history of extermination and survival, Timothy Snyder presents a new explanation of the great atrocity of the twentieth century, and reveals the risks that we face in the twenty-first. Based on new sources from eastern Europe and forgotten testimonies from Jewish survivors, Black Earthrecounts the mass murder of the Jews as an event that is still close to us, more comprehensible than we would like to think, and thus all the more terrifying.  The Holocaust began in a dark but accessible place, in Hitler's mind, with the thought that the elimination of Jews would restore balance to the planet and allow Germans to win the resources they desperately needed. Such a worldview could be realized only if Germany destroyed other states, so Hitler's aim was a colonial war in Europe itself. In the zones of statelessness, almost all Jews died. A few people, the righteous few, aided them, without support from institutions. Much of the new research in this book is devoted to understanding these extraordinary individuals. The almost insurmountable difficulties they faced only confirm the dangers of state destruction and ecological panic. These men and women should be emulated, but in similar circumstances few of us would do so.  By overlooking the lessons of the Holocaust, Snyder concludes, we have misunderstood modernity and endangered the future. The early twenty-first century is coming to resemble the early twentieth, as growing preoccupations with food and water accompany ideological challenges to global order. Our world is closer to Hitler's than we like to admit, and saving it requires us to see the Holocaust as it was -- and ourselves as we are. Groundbreaking, authoritative, and utterly absorbing, Black Earth reveals a Holocaust that is not only history but warning.

It’s not a quick book; it’s not even an easy book, but it is a timely book – as is any historical account of the Holocaust.  The author has done a fabulous job with his research, bringing it out of the collegiate realm, and putting it all together for the average reader.  The parallels between the events that are occurring today, and the events leading up to World War II are so obvious that even the most oblivious student of history should be able to point them out.  This book goes beyond the textbook you read in school, and tells the whole truth – not just the ‘good bits’ that made it into the curriculum.  It shows the good, bad, and ugly, and does so in an unbiased light.  This should be a must read for all adults as we head into the voting booths and beyond.  We must learn from history.  We must.

Where Two Hearts Meet (Liz Johnson)
In her kitchen at the Red Door Inn, executive chef Caden Holt is calm, collected, and competent. But when her boss asks her to show off their beautiful island to impress a visiting travel writer and save the inn, Caden is forced to face a world much bigger than her kitchen--and a man who makes her wish she was beautiful.  Journalist Adam Jacobs is on a forced sabbatical on Prince Edward Island. He's also on assignment to uncover a story. Instead he's falling in love with the island's red shores and Caden's sweets. When Caden discovers Adam isn't who she thought he was, she realizes that the article he's writing could do more than ruin the inn's chances for survival--it might also break her heart.  Readers will discover hope for the hurting, joy for the broken, and romance for the lonely at the enchanting Red Door Inn.

I didn’t realize this was part of a series when I picked it up, but it works well as a standalone.  That said, I loved the characters so much that I’m working on getting the first book in the series so that I can get the backstory. And, since all good things come in threes, I can’t wait for the next book! It’s a quick read, and a lot of fun. Also, the author is so detailed with the setting that it’s like taking a trip to Prince Edward Island (home of my favorite heroine, Anne of Green Gables) without leaving your couch! Both characters have some issues to overcome, but they learn to do it together, leaning on each other. They are believable and realistic characters, although some of the supporting folks were a little kooky and odd (Aretha Franklin-no-relation-to-the-singer? LOL). I suspect that some of the lingering questions I had about setting and characters are probably answered in the first book, but again, not having that information didn’t take away from this story.

Fatal Frost (Nancy Mehl)
Mercy Brennan followed in her father's footsteps in a law enforcement career, but she has no interest in any other connection to him. A U.S. Marshal in St. Louis, Missouri, she's assigned to a joint task force with the St. Louis PD that puts her back into contact with her father and in the sights of St. Louis's most powerful gang.  When the gang has reason to believe Mercy has possession of some highly sensitive and incriminating information, her boss assigns Mark St. Laurent--a Deputy U.S. Marshal and Mercy's ex-boyfriend--to get her out of town until they can guarantee her safety.  Initially unaware of the danger she's in and uncomfortable working with Mark, Mercy's frustration escalates when she discovers the extent her boss and Mark have been keeping her in the dark. It isn't until a freak ice storm hits, stranding them at a remote location and out of contact with the district office, that the full severity of their situation becomes clear. As the storm worsens, the forces of nature combine with a deadly enemy closing in to put their lives at imminent risk. Can they survive long enough for help to arrive--if help is even coming at all?

I hope you have a whole day to kill with this one, because you’re not going to want to put it down! It’s a fast-paced thriller that will keep you in suspense. While there are a lot of characters, and an interesting setting, it’s not that hard to follow. Every time you think you have it figured out, a new twist will arise that shows you were all wrong. This is a Christian-based romantic suspense story, so a little bit of everything all rolled up into one big ball of intrigue! I had never read this author before, but am already going back to check out her other stuff and looking at upcoming releases. Curl up and get lost in this one on a cold winter day!

All the Pretty Things (Edie Wadsworth)
For a long time, Edie thought she had escaped. It started in an Appalachian trailer park, where a young girl dreamed of becoming a doctor. But every day, Edie woke up to her reality:a poverty-stricken world full of alcohol and violence, where getting out seemed impossible. She taught herself to drive a stick shift truck at twelve years oldso she could get her drunk daddy home from the bar.  She spent Saturdays at Brushy Mountain prison visiting her incarcerated cousin.  She watched adults eat while her stomach gnawed and then there was torching of the family trailer, where she dug through the ashes to try to salvage her most prized possession--her Tammy Wynette album.  And at the center of it all was her charismatic daddy. She never knew when he would show up but when he did he was usually drunk; she learned the hard way that she couldn't count on him to protect her.  So she told herself it didn't matter.  All she wanted was to make him proud. Against all odds, Edie "made doctor," achieving everything that had once seemed beyond her reach. Only, it was too late, because her Daddy died a year before she graduated medical school. She split the cost of his funeral with her sister.  When her past finally caught up with her, it was all too much so she did what her Daddy would have done--she set it all on fire.   It would take her whole life burning down once again for Edie to be finally able to face the truth about herself, her family, and her relationship with God. Readers of The Glass Castle will treasure this refreshing and raw redemption story, a memoir for anyone who has ever hungered for home, forgiveness, and the safe embrace of a father's love.

Honestly, I had no idea who Edie Wadsworth was until I picked up this book.  Since then, I’ve done a little research on her, watched a few videos, and seen how amazing she is.  Having the backstory only makes her accomplishments be even more so.  This is one of those books that you’ll get engrossed in and want to finish up right away.  It’s about family, childhood, and overcoming hard times.  It’s also about healing from those disappointments and long-standing grievances.  I was able to relate to her story more than you would think, which added another layer of depth to my reading experience.  However, you don’t have to come from a harsh background to be able to gain encouragement from this book.  She’s like the phoenix rising from the ashes…

Portrait of Emily Price (Katherine Reay)
Emily Price—fix-it girl extraordinaire and would-be artist—dreams of having a
gallery show of her own. There is no time for distractions, especially not the ultimate distraction of falling in love.  But Chef Benito Vassallo’s relentless pursuit proves hard to resist. Visiting from Italy, Ben works to breathe new life into his aunt and uncle’s faded restaurant, Piccollo. Soon after their first meeting, he works to win Emily as well—inviting her into his world and into his heart.  Emily astonishes everyone when she accepts Ben’s proposal and follows him home. But instead of allowing the land, culture, and people of Monterello to transform her, Emily interferes with everyone and everything around her, alienating Ben’s tightly knit family. Only Ben’s father, Lucio, gives Emily the understanding she needs to lay down her guard. Soon, Emily’s life and art begin to blossom, and Italy’s beauty and rhythm take hold of her spirit.  Yet when she unearths long-buried family secrets, Emily wonders if she really fits into Ben’s world. Will the joys of Italy become just a memory, or will Emily share in the freedom and grace that her life with Ben has shown her are possible?

If you love Jane Austen, you’ll want to read Emily Price! The author paints beautifully descriptive settings, backgrounds, and characters that will make you feel as though you’ve always known each other. The story will take you from Atlanta to Italy, and when you put down the book, you’ll feel as though you’ve just stepped off the plane. It’s a romance, but a complicated one, and one that feels natural to the reader. Through the highs and the lows, from the times that you’re urging her to make different choices to the times that you’re right there in step with the main character, you’ll feel like you’re living the story yourself. Reader beware : you’ll need to finish this one in a single sitting…

Nourishing Meals (Alissa Segersten)
It can be daunting to live a whole foods lifestyle in today s busy world even more so to prepare plant-rich, allergen-free meals that ll get the whole family around the table. Popular blogger Ali Segersten and functional medicine expert Tom Malttere are a team devoted to teaching their children and readers the importance of living a whole foods lifestyle. Nourishing Meals makes it easy and fun with dishes that burst with flavor, such as their Cherry Pecan Salad, Butternut Squash and Pinto Bean Enchiladas, Chipotle-Lime Roasted Chicken, and Banana Coconut Cream Pie. Every recipe in the book is free of the most common allergens: gluten, soy, eggs, and dairy, as well as refined sugar. And these dishes are designed to appeal to everyone, including vegan, vegetarian, seafood, and meat-eaters. In addition to wonderful food, Ali and Tom offer easy, doable steps to help you change your family's health, tips for making the transition easier, and ways to get the kids excited about wholesome foods. They map out the best foods and recipes for every stage of having a family, from pre-conception and pregnancy through each year of a child's life. And they explain in accessible terms what makes their recipes so effective for achieving optimal health. Originally self-published with an avid following, this edition will feature more than 30 new recipes, and many of the original recipes have been updated. This new edition will also include 100 beautiful all-new food photos featured in two inserts.

From her blog to her book, the author provides us not only with recipes for our special needs eaters, but also with information and logic behind the recipes.  The book includes information about celiac and gluten-sensitivities and how gluten affects them each.  We've been trying for months to find decent gluten-free foods that don't taste like cardboard, but also aren't full of sugars.  This book will help carry us through for a while, especially through the holidays!  We've tried some of the recipes, and they taste like the 'real' thing, with good texture and flavor.  The recipes are manageable - the author is a busy mom like many of us and knows that we don't have all day to spend in the kitchen!  The recipes are also kid-friendly.  The breads are tasty, the soups taste really good, too (just don't tell the kids some of the ingredients, and they will never know - promise!!), and the directions are easy to follow.  All in all, if you're a newbie to the world of gluten-free cooking, this is a great book.

Raising an Original (Julie Lyles Carr)
In Raising an Original, Carr helps to redefine the primary purpose of Christian parenting, this raising of the next generation. God has given each of our children specific gifts, abilities and capacities for specific purposes and He can equip parents to discover and support those powerful personality traits if they know where to look and how to respond. So many kids raised in Christian homes launch into their adult lives without any sense of knowing who they are called to be or what their mission on earth is. What if parents, teachers or mentors could help them discover the wondrous, unique threads woven within them that will enable them to see their part in the fabric of God’s universe?  Readers of Raising an Original will be equipped to help their children:
  • Understand their unique strengths and the challenges associated with them
  • Discover their God-given gifts and how to use them for His glory
  • Succeed regardless of their circumstances
Unlike any other parenting book I’ve read thus far, this book is very entertaining and relevant!! The author blends scripture, history, real world examples, and modern day parenting scenarios to create a book that will leave you worried, laughing, and relating all the way through. In some ways, it reminds me of the multiple intelligences theory that was popular amongst educators in the 90’s, about teaching to each child’s unique personality and abilities. Her ROPES assessment, included in the book, is designed to help you understand your child better. While you may already know most of what you ‘learn,’ it’s still a good way to quantify and really examine your child as an individual, rather than just an extension of you, the parent. While I want my children to be a part of the family unit, and understand that we must work together as a team, it’s also important to remember that they are individuals, with their own interests, and will one day go out into the world on their own. This book will help you tailor their life skills as needed.

Join Jesus as He travels with His disciples through the Galilean countryside. Press through the throngs at the temple in Jerusalem. Marvel at the Savior’s challenging words, miraculous authority, and tender compassion. Watch as strength floods a lame man’s limbs and wonder washes over his face. And see the meaningful relationships Jesus formed with those He encountered. This compilation weaves events, emotions, and thoughts into a moving depiction of the life of Christ. A Scripture portion and prayer are included with each devotion. With moving depictions of Jesus’ humanity and divinity, Moments with the Savior: A Devotional Life of Christ invites you into a more intimate relationship with Him.

While not a year-long devotional (it only has 66 devotions in it), it could definitely take you a year to get through it! Each devotion is about eight pages long, so it’s not a bathroom book, and centers on Jesus’ life. Each begins with a scripture, followed by the devotion, and then closes with a meditation and prayer. The author works to apply Jesus’ teachings in the ancient world to today’s modern world, and you may have to read it once, think for a while, and then read it again to get the full concepts. My biggest beef with it is that, when I think devotionals, I think quick readings – but these are pretty long, and I just don’t have that much time each morning!

365 Devotions for Finding Rest (Christina Vinson)
Rest. You crave it. Your body needs it. Your tired soul longs for it. But in the madness of your day-to-day rush, how can you possibly find it? Truth be told, when life’s demands overwhelm us, the first thing we sacrifice is our own rest. But God has a different plan for us: He made us to enjoy deep, reviving refreshment in Him. 365 Devotions for Finding Rest will guide you in a yearlong journey toward embracing His rest in your life. You’ll be amazed as God’s peace and restoration transform you.

This is such a busy time of year, and a busy season of life, for many of us, and that makes this book wholly relevant and necessary. We _must_ slow down and just stop every now and again, and this is a wonderful book to help you do just that. Each day offers up a new, short (and thereby completely doable) opportunity for rest and reflection. The devotionals are calming and help the reader to reconnect with the inner spirit. If you, or someone you love, is caught up in the rat race madness that we call life today, this is a great, and economical, gift of love.

Wonders of Creation Bible (Zondervan)
The NIV Wonders of Creation Holy Bible explores the wonders of our created world though detailed black-and-white illustrations—each one ready to be filled with the hues of your imagination. From amazing Eden-esque gardens to the creatures God made, this Bible features over 50 ready-to-color pages alongside the full text of the New International Version (NIV) translation.  Features include:
  • Beautiful cover with foil makes for a stunning gift
  • Over 50 pages of black-and-white illustrations ready to be colored
  • Key verses called out on each coloring page
  • The full text of the bestselling New International Version translation
  • Presentation page for gift giving
  • Ribbon marker
I love this idea of combining hands-on creativity with daily Bible reading!  It's geared toward elementary aged children, and is a standard book size.  It's easy to read, and while the text pages are very thin, the coloring pages are thick and sturdy (no bleeding through while coloring).  The table of contents, index, and charts section (located in the back) make it easy to navigate and easy to look up questions about the text itself.  When I first saw it, I already had someone in mind, and am looking forward to gifting this next month!!!

Finding God in the Waves (Mike McHargue)

What do you do when God dies? It's a question facing millions today, as science reveals a Universe that's self-creating, as American culture departs from Christian social norms, and the idea of God begins to seem implausible at best and barbaric at worst.  Mike McHargue understands the pain of unraveling belief. In Finding God in the Waves, Mike tells the story of how his Evangelical faith dissolved into atheism as he studied the Bible, a crisis that threatened his identity, his friendships, and even his marriage. Years later, Mike was standing on the shores of the Pacific Ocean when a bewildering, seemingly mystical moment motivated him to take another look. But this time, it wasn't theology or scripture that led him back to God—it was science.  In Finding God in the Waves, "Science Mike” draws on his personal experience to tell the unlikely story of how science led him back to faith. Among other revelations, we learn what brain scans reveal about what happens when we pray; how fundamentalism affects the psyche; and how God is revealed not only in scripture, but in the night sky, in subatomic particles, and in us.  For the faithful and skeptic alike, Finding God in the Waves is a winsome, lucid, page-turning read about belonging, life’s biggest questions, and the hope of knowing God in an age of science.

This book seemed a bit misnamed, as it wasn't really a Christian book, and wasn't really about the science of it all.  The main message seemed to be one of "fake it till you make it," and it was a bit uncomfortable overall.  The first half was a nice journey, as we follow the author through his personal journey through faith.  But the second half was...strange.  The idea that we invent God in our brain by creating muscle memory was just really odd.  I would have preferred him to focus more on his personal experiences, and less on this really strange idea of God being made up and unreal, which just doesn't jive with this being a Christian book. 
I received some of these books in exchange for an honest review.
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