Thursday, June 23, 2011

Amish Desserts

I just had a chance to preview Wanda E. Brunstetter's Amish Friends Cookbook: Desserts. a collection of dessert recipes compiled from some of her other cookbooks.

My thoughts about the book?  One word pretty well sums it up:  YUMMY!  There is a good variety of recipes -- a few that I was already familiar with and lots of new ones.  As I turned through the pages, I lost count of how many dishes I really want to try out.  And thankfully, most of the ingredients are things that I could find in my own pantry, not something so out of the ordinary that I wouldn't even know where to look for it.

A nice touch is the photography scattered throughout the book.  There are pictures of some of the desserts, as well as bright, colorful snapshots of Amish life.  Several of the pages also include a verse of scripture or a little piece of wisdom in the form of a short quote.  All in all, I think this book would make a nice gift or a nice addition to your own recipe collection.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Chasing Sunsets -- a lovely, multi-layered story

Chasing Sunsets by Eva Marie Everson is a rich, multi-layered story of love and relationships. 

Kimberly Tucker is at a very low point in her life.  Reeling from her divorce and conflict with her ex-husband over their sons, she faces the prospect of a lonely few weeks.  At her father’s insistence, she reluctantly goes to the family vacation home in Cedar Key, not looking forward to facing painful memories.  Once there, Kim connects with an elderly neighbor who helps her face with God’s grace a variety of issues as they come to the surface – including a possible second chance with the man who held her heart during a long-ago summer of love.

This book started off as a pretty straightforward story.  But as it progressed, deeper layers of the plot were uncovered, leaving me unable to put the book down.  As each new piece of the story was revealed, I was anxious to see where the story would go next. 

I don’t know how long it is before the next Cedar Key novel is due to come out – but it’s too long!  I can’t wait to learn more about the interesting characters.  I’m pretty sure I would enjoy a trip to Cedar Key, but I guess for now I’ll have to settle for visiting there vicariously.

(This book was provided free from Revell for my honest review.)

Available June 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Growing Up Amish

Growing Up Amish by Ira Wagler is a memoir by a man who grew up in an Amish family and struggled for years before finally leaving the church at the age of 26.  Ira left the Amish lifestyle multiple times over a period of about ten years, but was drawn back repeatedly because of his fear of being eternally lost if he remained outside the church.  It was only after coming to a personal relationship with Christ and gaining peace about his spiritual condition that he was able to finally give in to the yearnings he had for life outside the box he had felt confined in.

Because of my interest and enjoyment in reading Amish fiction and learning more of the plain lifestyle, I was intrigued by the details of Amish workings from a non-fiction perspective.  However, the author's story was so full of hurt and defeat -- his own and others -- that I felt almost depressed by the time I finished the book.  I did appreciate the fact that while he disagreed with much about the lifestyle of the people he left behind, Ira did not "bash" the individuals or put them down as a whole.  This is definitely not a "feel-good" story; rather it is a difficult look at a troubled season of life.

(Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Amish story full of history and suspense -- The Amish Nanny

The Amish Nanny by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould picks up where The Amish Midwife left off, continuing the story of the sister of the previous book's main character.  Mindy and Leslie have done a great job once again!

Ada Rupp's health has improved dramatically with the help of information provided by her recently discovered sister Lexie.  But the condition of Ada's heart is not so great as it appears that her plan to enjoy her long-held desire for teaching and her dream of love and marriage with Will Gundy are both hitting seemingly impenetrable obstacles.  Ada begins to wonder if she might need the rumpspringa she never really experienced -- but in a different way -- an opportunity to break free from a sheltered life and see new places.

The chance for adventure comes when Ada, Alice, and Christy are called upon to make a trip to Switzerland to handle some family business.  Ada is excited about the possibility of finally meeting her birth mother who gave her up as an infant.  Along the way Ada meets Daniel Hart, a handsome young Mennonite with a deep interest in history, and discovers there might be a chance for a different kind of future than she had imagined. 

In addition to the fictional account of the adventures of Ada and friends, this book is full of historical information about the Amish and other Anabaptist groups.  That history is intriguing in itself but does not in the least take away from the enjoyment of a great Amish story.  I hope this is not the last we'll hear of  the interesting people in The Women of Lancaster County series.

Love & War

"Marriage is fabulously hard."  Not exactly the most romantic or fairy-tale description of marriage!  But that is the premise from which John & Stasi Eldredge begin their book,  Love & War: Find Your Way to Something Beautiful in Your Marriage.  John and Stasi share very honestly (often painfully so) passages in their own twenty-five year marriage as they describe this important relationship as "a great love story, set in the midst of war."

At some points, the message of the book seems discouraging and depressing, as the authors paint the picture that the difficulties and disappointments of marriage are inevitable, that they are common to all marriages.  The Eldredges describe marriage as a love story that God is telling, but a story fiercely opposed by the Enemy.  They remind couples, though, that fighting together in God's strength against the Enemy rather than against each other is the way to win the war.  At some times, John and Stasi blend their thoughts and experiences, and at others they share from their individual male and female perspectives to give a more well-rounded view of marriage.

While it seemed that in some ways this book presented more problems than solutions, I believe it contains useful guidance and direction for married couples -- whether newly married or many years down the road. 

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(I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books program for my honest review.)

Monday, June 6, 2011


I had the opportunity to be one of the Karen Kingsbury fans chosen to receive and review an advance copy of the latest Bailey Flanigan book -- LEARNING.  Here's the review I submitted:

Learning . . .

Love well . . . laugh often . . . live for Christ.

When you can’t take another step, God will carry you.

When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and
armies bigger than yours do not be afraid.  For the Lord your God who brought
you up out of Egypt will be with you. 

Such important lessons for Bailey Flanigan and friends . . . and for all of us who have the privilege of reading this, another great story by Karen Kingsbury.

How do you shine for Christ in a place where He is not welcome?  How do you go on when health concerns threaten to destroy your family?  How do you know when you’ve found the one you’ll share a forever kind of love with?  Bailey, Cody, Brandon, and even some of the Baxters, struggle to learn answers to questions like these.

One of the things that make a KK book so special is the way the lessons come alive off the pages of fiction and hit you right where you are.  I barely had time to read this book and get my review in on time because when the book arrived I was out of state for the birth of my first grandchild.  The lessons of God’s faithfulness that Bailey and her friends learned are some of the very things I pray for my newborn grandson. 

Without giving away details, I can’t say much more – but I’ll warn you that we’ll have to keep reading to find the answer to the Cody/Brandon question.  I’m still pulling toward the Team Cody camp . . . but only time (and a couple more books) will tell!  Longing to read Longing (the next installment in this series).