Thursday, December 3, 2015

Tacos - Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothman

What a gorgeous cookbook! The pictures of food and the informative step by step pictures throughout the book are simply beautiful. 
The recipes cover more than I was  expecting to find. Everything from tradional flour tortillas, pistachio tortillas, tons of salsas, moles, delicious tacos (deviled egg taco anyone?), chorizo, burnt jalapeno powder, etc. It also covers typical ingredients with a special emphasis on all the different types of peppers. I highly recommend this beautiful, informative book for anyone interested in tacos and their accoutrements.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Underground Girls of Kabul - Jenny Nordberg

This book was a real eye-opener for me.  I've read a bit about Afghanistan, their culture, their women's rights issues, etc, but I've never heard or read anything about the bacha posh (a girl who is raised and presented to the public as a boy).  After reading this, it doesn't surprise me that this happens, given the freedom and special status that boys/men are given in their culture.

Jenny Nordberg does a really nice job of telling the story of these bacha posh's through the life experiences of several girls and women.  She does a good job of covering some of the many reasons that families come to this decision.  And I very much enjoyed the book.

I will add that I feel like she could have left out several side trails that she includes that seemed out of place such as the history of Zoroastrianism, foreign aid, etc.  It's not that they aren't important issues or worthy of discussion, just that they felt irrelevant to the main story being told and was mostly just distracting for me.

Saying that, I still highly recommend this book for anyone interested in life in Afghanistan (for girls, boys and the poor bacha posh).

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Dead Wake - Erik Larson

I love Erik Larson's books!  So, when this one was released I knew I just had to read it.  Unfortunately, it came at a time when I was in the middle of a few very, very long books.  So, it sat on my shelf for a couple months before I finally cracked it open.  Being a fan, I knew it was going to be good.  And, embarrassingly enough, I knew almost nothing about the sinking of the Lusitania before reading this book.

And of course he didn't disappoint with Dead Wake.  This is such a fascinating book!  I love how he captures the story from so many different points of view (the submarine crew of the U20, the crew and guests of the Lusitania) and weaves it with other events taking place during that time – in the U.S., Germany, and Great Britain. Everything is described so perfectly that you can almost taste the sea water! Larson takes us on the journey from New York and we get to meet and come to know so many of the guests of the Lusitania.  And like the ship guests, we (the readers) form bonds with all the people on the ship that are making the long trip from New York to Liverpool during a perilous time.  I love how the descriptions of events showed so many people helping and assisting and doing the right thing, all while fearing for their own lives.  For instance, one of my favorite quotes is from a survivor, trying to explain to a victim’s family member “when the thing really comes, God gives to each the help he needs to live or to die."

It was so interesting to learn of all the missteps, bad information, and responses and see how it affected the events of those days.  It’s interesting to ponder how even one or two changes could have had a major impact on how these things took place.  While it reads like a fast paced suspense story, I learned so much about the events, people, war, and time period.  I can’t wait to see what adventure Larson will take us on next!!

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Joy of the Gospel - Pope Francis

Amazon description This special edition of Pope Francis's popular message of hope explores themes that are important for believers in the 21st century. Examining the many obstacles to faith and what can be done to overcome those hurdles, he emphasizes the importance of service to God and all his creation. Advocating for “the homeless, the addicted, refugees, indigenous peoples, the elderly who are increasingly isolated and abandoned,” the Holy Father shows us how to respond to poverty and current economic challenges that affect us locally and globally. Ultimately, Pope Francis demonstrates how to develop a more personal relationship with Jesus Christ, “to recognize the traces of God’s Spirit in events great and small.”
Profound in its insight, yet warm and accessible in its tone, The Joy of the Gospel is a call to action to live a life motivated by divine love and, in turn, to experience heaven on earth. 
Includes a foreword by Robert Barron, author of Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith and James Martin, SJ, author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage

This book is filled with wisdom from our Pope.  He really emphasizes how important it is for all Christians to be evangelizers for the faith (and doing it with joy). He points out some of the most needy in the world are being abandoned, ignored, and shunned.  He speaks of obstacles and ways of overcoming them.  He speaks of the beauty of our faith.  

Sections in the book include:
The Church's Missionary Transformation
Amid the Crisis of Communal Commitment
The Proclamation of the Gospel
The Social Dimensions of Evangelization
Spirit-filled Evangelizers

My favorite chapter is on Social Dimensions of Evangelization.  It is so helpful!  It gives you direction on how to live the Gospels in your daily life.  There is so much good stuff packed into this chapter!  

I chose this as one of my spiritual readings for Lent.  It was a perfect choice for me - filled with beauty, wisdom, and advice. Perfect reflection during Lent!  I have probably highlighted over half the book! I thought it was really wonderful to see and meet the Pope in own words and to get to know this wonderful man, and his thoughts on God and Heaven, a little better.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for an honest review.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Gift from the Sea - Anne Morrow Lindbergh

In this inimitable, beloved classic—graceful, lucid and lyrical—Anne Morrow Lindbergh shares her meditations on youth and age; love and marriage; peace, solitude and contentment as she set them down during a brief vacation by the sea. Drawing inspiration from the shells on the shore, Lindbergh’s musings on the shape of a woman’s life bring new understanding to both men and women at any stage of life. A mother of five, an acclaimed writer and a pioneering aviator, Lindbergh casts an unsentimental eye on the trappings of modernity that threaten to overwhelm us: the time-saving gadgets that complicate rather than simplify, the multiple commitments that take us from our families. And by recording her thoughts during a brief escape from everyday demands, she helps readers find a space for contemplation and creativity within their own lives.

So, this book.  I had a love-hate relationship with it.  There are some really good points/themes in there.  I mean, really great ones.  I highlighted a lot in this book.  That said, I had a problem connecting with it.  I don't really know why.  Maybe it's because I can't imagine sitting on the beach for a week, contemplating shells.  Maybe I just got tired of the shell theme and just wanted to get the information she was presenting.   While at first I thought the shell reference was interesting, by the end it was grating on my nerves a bit.
I would almost have to force myself to open this book, but once I did, I would get sucked into it and find myself nodding in agreement and giving virtual high fives to her. I can't really put my finger on what my issue was with it but I didn't love it.  I liked it.  I liked it quite a bit but I didn't love it.  

So now let me point out some of the great things about this book and why you may want to read it. This book was written in the 50's but it is still so relevant and applicable today. The author spends time talking about the need to slow down and simply our lives. She also talks about how important it is to take time for yourself and be creative (in whatever your preferred outlet may be - cooking, painting, etc) and how this isn't something that should be ignored or compromised.  She discusses the different phases of life (through the story of shells, collected on the beach) and she does it beautifully.  She has a way with words and does a fantastic job of turning a lovely phrase. She especially relates this book to mothers but I think it is applicable to everyone.  

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Hiding Place - Corrie Ten Boom

From the Back Cover

"Every experience God gives us . . . is the perfect preparation for the future only He can see."--Corrie ten Boom
Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch watchmaker who became a heroine of the Resistance, a survivor of Hitler's concentration camps, and one of the most remarkable evangelists of the twentieth century. In World War II she and her family risked their lives to help Jews and underground workers escape from the Nazis, and for their work they were tested in the infamous Nazi death camps. Only Corrie among her family survived to tell the story of how faith ultimately triumphs over evil.

Here is the riveting account of how Corrie and her family were able to save many of God's chosen people. For 35 years millions have seen that there is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still. Now The Hiding Place, repackaged for a new generation of readers, continues to declare that God's love will overcome, heal, and restore.

Wow!!  What an amazing, inspirational book.  I'm embarrassed to say that until I picked it up to read it last week, I'd never even heard of this book.

Reading about Corrie, Betsie, and the rest of her family was such a great gift for me.  I would hope that if I were ever in any situations like the ones they faced, that I would react in a similar fashion.  It was so wonderful to see that over and over again, this family made the right decisions even when it was hard.  Even when it seemed that they would suffer terrible consequences.  They made the right decisions with total faith in God. They helped when they could have turned a blind eye.  They shared what little they had in prison knowing it may never be replenished.  Their absolute faith in God was so powerful! What absolutely amazing lessons that you can learn from this book!

One of my favorite parts of  the book is the Father and the suitcase.  He explained to Corrie that just as he wouldn't give her his heavy suitcase to carry, he couldn't share something with her yet because she wasn't ready (old/mature enough) for it yet.  He asked her to let him carry that for her a little longer, until she was ready to hear it.  It was a lesson that she carried with her throughout all of her struggles.  I need to remember this lesson in my own life - that God will give me what I need when I need it.  He won't give me more than I can handle, just as Corrie's dad didn't give her the heavy suitcase to carry because she wasn't ready for it yet.  There are so many fantastic stories and lessons in this book, this is just one that really struck me.

I've read several books about victims in Nazi concentration camps and while they have all been emotional, powerful books, this one was slightly different. It still described the dire situations and the struggle to survive but there was always this hope, this faith in God, this knowledge that it was in His hands and He would see them through. This gives me something to strive for in my own faith journey.

Oh, and a little plug for the group that helped me discover this book.  It's called Mentoring in the Classics and it is amazing! Here's the link to the program - .  I highly recommend it!!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Turn the Page: How to Read Like a Top Leader - Chris Brady

This book is fantastic! There are a lot of great ideas that I'm going to incorporate into my reading immediately (taking organized notes, keeping track of words that I need to look up,etc), some ideas that I may do down the road, several things that I already do (nice to get affirmation) and a few ideas that I can never, ever, ever do (dog earring pages, reading the last paragraph of the book first are the two main ones). 

This book tells you how to read and get more out of your reading. It covers several methods to help your reading become more active, more productive, and more useful to you. This book will help you turn passive reading into active reading.  You will learn techniques and tips on how to get so much more out of your reading.  You don't have to agree and incorporate every idea in the book to enjoy this book.  You can take what works for you and leave the rest.  But I believe that everyone that reads this book WILL learn some useful tips/ideas.

 If you hate reading, read this book. If you love reading, read this book. If you want to get more out of your reading, that's right, read this book.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Thomas Jefferson Education - Oliver DeMille

Amazon Book Description:
Is American education preparing the future leaders our nation needs, or merely struggling to teach basic literacy and job skills? Without leadership education, are we settling for an inadequate system that delivers educational, industrial, governmental and societal mediocrity?
In A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century, Oliver DeMille presents a new educational vision based on proven methods that really work! Teachers, students, parents, educators, legislators, leaders and everyone who cares about America's future must read this compelling book.

This book is so informative!  I love the concepts of a Thomas Jefferson education - reading and learning through the classics.  Not just classics in literature but in science, history, arts, math, etc. Also the approach used is much more of a mentor/coaching focus than on the traditional lecture format.  This method focuses on teaching people (of all ages) HOW to think (versus WHAT to think).

I think the ideas and plans in this book are brilliant.  I read classics with my daughter all the time (for pleasure) but will certainely implement some of the methods and ideas in this book to make the experience better for her (and me).

Also, the resources  alone(including book lists) in the back of the book are worth the purchase of the book.  If you have children or are hoping to learn more yourself, go pick this book up (borrow, buy, steal {ok, maybe not steal} now!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Joy To The World - Scott Hahn

This is a great book to read over Christmas (or during Advent).  And while I'd like to say that's what I did, it would be a lie.  It was my PLAN to read it during Christmas but well, you know what they say about plans.

So I read it after Christmas.  And it was still fantastic.  Scott Hahn is a really gifted author.  He has a way of conveying a lot of great information in a way that can be understood by the average person.  This book is no exception.  It's easy to read.  It isn't a book that feels like work or something that you have to 'get through'.  It's just a nice, easy, enjoyable read.  There is a lot of great information laid out in an understandable, logical way.  It's focus is on the first Christmas and the Holy Family and how the family is the key to Christmas.  It is a lovely book, whenever you read it.

The chapters break down like this:

A Light Goes On in Bethlehem
What Happens in Bethlehem
A New Genesis
The Counterfeit Kingdom
Mary: Cause of Our Joy
Silent, Knight, Holy Knight
Angles: Echoing Their Joyous Strains
O Little Town of Bethlehem
Do You Believe in Magi
Shepherds, Why This Jubilee?
The Glory of Your People: The Presentation
Flight Into Joy
Blessed Trinities: Heaven And The Holy Family
Joy To The World

Book Synopsis
What could be more familiar than the Christmas story -- and yet what could be more extraordinary? The cast of characters is strange and exotic: shepherds and magicians, an emperor and a despot, angels, and a baby who is Almighty God. The strangeness calls for an explanation, and this book provides it by examining the characters and the story in light of the biblical and historical context. Bestselling author Scott Hahn who has written extensively on Scripture and the early Church, brings evidence to light, dispelling some of the mystery of the story. Yet Christmas is made familiar all over again by showing it to be a family story. Christmas, as it appears in the New Testament, is the story of a father, a mother, and a child -- their relationships, their interactions, their principles, their individual lives, and their common life. To see the life of this "earthly trinity" is to gaze into heaven.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for an honest review.