Archive for November 2011

Review: The Christmas Note

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Christmas Note
The Christmas Note by Donna VanLiere

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was my first book to read by Donna VanLiere. I have always heard good things about "The Christmas Shoes" so I chose to get this book when it was offered for a free review. I had high hopes but simply couldn't get into it.

This book is written in journal format yet the voice and writing completely betray the feeling of reading a journal. When the chapter opener sets up for a journal you expect first-person, past tensed writing. Instead, for example, one character explains where she works to her journal in a manner that was completely odd. I was several chapters in before I knew for sure if the main character's husband was dead or merely injured.

Aside from all of that, I must go back to the voice in which the book was written in. As it is supposed to be a note or journal, the voice simply doesn't fit that. It was two writing styles interwoven into one style and the character's lives were completely boring for most of the book.

Having said that, the ending was good but predictable. It's not the worst book I've ever read but not the best. I was actually a little disappointed and surprised given that I've heard such wonderful things about her other books. Perhaps I will read the other books and see for myself.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Potato Broccoli Casserole

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

1 1/2 lbs potatoes
1/3 c. butter
3 tbsp. flour
2 1/2 c. milk
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 bunch broccoli
1 1/2 cup grated cheese (of your preference, I prefer cheddar)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut potatoes into thin slices and layer in large greased casserole dish.

Melt butter in a saucepan. Sprinkle with flour, cook for 2 minutes. Add the milk, salt and pepper. Cook on medium-high heat until boiling. Reduce to Low,add 1 cup of the grated cheese and simmer until the cheese has melted. Remove from heat.

While the cheese sauce is thickening, steam your broccoli using your favorite method. I prefer to boil mine for 8 minutes or until tender and then simply drain it.

Layer the broccoli on top of the potatoes alternating with the sauce and broccoli. Finish with a top layer of sauce and then sprinkle with your favorite cheese.

Bake covered for 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Remove the foil and bake an additional 5 minutes uncovered.

Notes: This is my own recipe so I do have a few notes. If you're short on baking time, you CAN boil the potatoes for a bit while the sauce and broccoli is cooking. This will shorten your baking time and ensure that everything is soft.

Cheeses: I usually use cheddar for the sauce, for the top I use whatever left over cheese I have in my fridge. Mozzarella or whatever you have on hand will be equally as tasty and allows you to use up left overs :)

Review: A Sister's Test

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Sister's Test
A Sister's Test by Wanda E. Brunstetter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'A Sister's Test' is book two in the Sisters of Holmes County series
by Wanda E. Brunstetter. Given my less than steller review of book one, 'A Sister's Secret', I was a little wary about reading this. I am glad I gave it a chance, however. There are still a few qualities of the book that I find annoying, such as repetitive explanations and defining the Amish words in the text rather than utilizing a glossary.

This story follows the middle sister, Ruth and her speedy romance and marriage to Martin. When attacks against her family become serious, Ruth is left with some life changing circumstances that she must overcome. I won't spoil the story for those that haven't read it yet, but I was rather surprised at some of the twists. I think the outcome was for the better, for Ruth, although it was somewhat predictable.

We continue to see struggles between Grace and Cleon as they are working through their relationship. I must say, and I hate saying this about a fictional character, as if they're a real person, I really dislike Cleon. I'm not sure if the Author meant for people to dislike his character, but I do. He is tolerable and means well, he's just a rather annoying character.

Moving on to Martha, we see her as she continues exploring her feelings for Luke. Her Dad doesn't trust him, and frankly, I can see why. I honestly think he is innocent of all he's being accused of though, but as with book one, we're left hanging on the real culprit.

All in all, this book was much better than the first book, I still have a few complaints but overall I was pleased enough with the book to give it a high rating. I look forward to reading book three to see how everything resolves itself.

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Review: The Harvest of Grace

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Harvest of Grace
The Harvest of Grace by Cindy Woodsmall

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Harvest of Grace is the third book in the Ada's House series by Cindy Woodsmall. If you've already been reading the other books by this author, you should be getting to know the community - this is something I truly enjoy about Cindy Woodsmall. I love getting a glimpse of her characters in a book, even from outside of a series. I relished even the brief visit I got from Hannah from the "Sisters of the Quilt" trilogy, for example.

In this installment we meet Sylvia Fisher, a strong headed Amish girl with a love for farming. When her boyfriend proposes, she hesitates. Rather than giving her some much needed time, he up and marries her sister leaving Sylvia heartbroken. Due to awkward circumstances, she leaves her daed's farm and finds herself working for Michael Blank, which if you've read "A Bridge of Peace" you will recall is the father of Elsie and Aaron.

While working to help the Blank's save their farm, she meets Aaron, a recovering alcoholic who is back from rehab and working hard to get his life straight and earn the respect of his father. However, he feels as if his father sees only his faults and not how hard he is trying to earn his love.

Sylvia and Aaron are like oil and water. They don't seem to go together, and yet they are drawn to one another. Sylvia has already had her heart broken once though, and she is determined to not let a man blindside her again. She looks for trouble where there is none. Likewise, Aaron doesn't share her love for farming and wishes to sell the family farm. Their story is about love and acceptance -- and most importantly, trusting in God's forgiveness so that we can forgive ourselves.

Being that this is the last book in the series, we see the conclusion to many of our beloved characters, from Grey and Lena to 'From and Cara. The conclusion to Cara's story was beautiful. I was so touched by the powerful message of love and forgiveness that I had to brush away the tears. Cindy Woodsmall is one of the best writers in the Amish genre, her characters feel real and tug at the heartstrings and leaves you wishing for more. I can't wait to see who she introduces me to next!

Check out an excerpt of the book:
The Harvest of Grace by Cindy Woodsmall (ch. 1 excerpt)

I received Harvest of Grace as a complimentary gift in exchange for review from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers. My comments and opinions are my own.

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Review: Plain Proposal

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Plain Proposal
Plain Proposal by Beth Wiseman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Plain Proposal is the fifth book in the series "The Daughters of the Promise" by Beth Wiseman. The book follows the story of Miriam Raber, who has long been in love with Saul Fisher. However, Saul dreams of leaving the Old Order Amish community to fulfill his own dreams. Miriam must question herself if leaving with him is what she wants for herself or if she only desires to change so that she doesn't lose him. Her parents have to learn the lesson of trusting God's will for their child's life over their own desires and how they must come to depend on the hope that they have raised their daughter right and that she will not depart from God, even if she leaves the order.

The story also introduces us to Shelby, a young girl and the Raber's cousin that has been raised English but has found herself in the heart of the Amish community after making bad decisions with her life. I found myself rooting for Shelby from very early on and hoping she would find peace, perhaps even stick around for a future book. She is a good girl despite making some serious mistakes and finds herself drawn to a good Amish boy, Jesse. I have a feeling we'll be seeing more of Shelby in a future "Daughters of the Promise" installment.

We also see the human nature in these characters and how even the best of us can stumble and have our times when we need to seek help from our friends, family and God. These are characters you can get to know. If you started with book one, "Plain Perfect", you should already be familiar with the community and reading will make you feel as you've just visited with an old friend. As always, reading another installment by Beth Wiseman was a pleasure. I look forward to another book in the series.

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