Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Color Of Our Sky by Amita Trasi (Book Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.
 
About the book-
India, 1986: Mukta, a ten-year-old girl from the lower caste Yellamma cult of temple prostitutes has come of age to fulfill her destiny of becoming a temple prostitute. In an attempt to escape this legacy that binds her, Mukta is transported to a foster family in Bombay. There she discovers a friend in the high spirited eight-year-old Tara, the tomboyish daughter of the family, who helps her recover from the wounds of her past. Tara introduces Mukta to a different world—ice cream and sweets, poems and stories, and a friendship the likes of which she has never experienced before. In 1993, Mukta is kidnapped from Tara’s room.
Eleven years later, Tara who blames herself for what happened, embarks on an emotional journey to search for the kidnapped Mukta only to uncover long buried secrets in her own family.
Moving from a remote village in India to the bustling metropolis of Bombay, to Los Angeles and back again, amidst the brutal world of human trafficking, this is a heartbreaking and beautiful portrait of an unlikely friendship—a story of love, betrayal, and redemption—which ultimately withstands the true test of time.
 
My thoughts-
I can not believe The Color Of Our Sky is a debut novel. It is a beautifully written novel that tackles some hefty subject matter. It is the interwoven story of two girls, Tara and Mutka. There are two stories going on, How Mutka came to live with Tara and her family and about Tara's search to find her a decade later.   The two time periods are woven together nicely and flow very well. The novel is set in India and although Mutka and Tara are from very different social backgrounds. they very quickly form a tight friendship. This is a page turner! There are so many elements to this story that I enjoyed, but the thing that kept me intrigued was definitely trying to figure out what happened to Mutka as little pieces of information are revealed. This is a fantastic debut novel, I look forward to seeing what Amita Trasi comes up with next. I would recommend this book to fans of Khaled Hosseini.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

BriaUSA Heart Shaped Velvet Coat Hangers (Set of 10)


*Disclosure of material connection- I received one or more of the product(s) mentioned below in exchanged for my honest thoughts. All opinions stated are 100% my own.

I have never given a lot of thought to my hangers. They serve a function and that is to keep my closet neatly organized and my clothes off of the floor. When I saw the BriaUSA hangers, it was love at first sight! They are a vibrant, deep purple...which just happens to be my favorite color...and also my bathroom's color scheme. My closet is inside of my bathroom, so it is fun to have the hangers match the d├ęcor! I love how feminine they are with the heart shape and velvet look. Beyond being adorable, these hangers are also quite functional. They are skinny so they are space saving as you can see here-

As you can see, BriaUSA hangers are more
attractive and sturdy than regular wire hangers
 
I decided to hang my dresses up on these hangers because I thought the velvet would help hold them in place and nothing would slip off of the hangers and on to the floor. I also love that the hooks swivel. I like a uniform closet and if I accidentally hung up something the opposite way of the rest, it is nice to just be able to turn it around instead of having to take it off the hanger completely and turn it around. I think my dresses look lovely on the BriaUSA hangers, but they would work for any type of clothing. 


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Amish Promises by Leslie Gould (Book Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

About the book-

Journey Down a Quiet Lane in Lancaster County Where Love and Heartache and Friendship and Healing Meet When Joel and Shani Beck arrive at their new home, they're looking for peace. Shani is thrilled to have Joel back from Iraq, but he needs time to heal, and the quiet of Lancaster seems just the place. They can't imagine any trouble with their Amish neighbors, the Lehmans, but things get off to a rocky start when their son is involved in an accident that injures one of the Lehman boys. Eve Lehman has run her brother's household ever since the death of his wife, but Tim's a stern patriarch. Despite his protests, she's drawn to the new neighbor, Shani, and the two begin to form a strong friendship forged on faith and family. Things seem like they've quieted down until Joel's single and handsome army friend Charlie catches Eve's attention--a man unlike any Eve has ever met. Suddenly life for both families becomes more complicated than any of them could have ever imagined.

My thoughts-

I always love starting a new book that is the first of a series. It's like entering a new world full of new people and for me there is nothing more interesting than immersing myself in someone else's world for a while! Amish Promises had a little bit of a different premise- military family moves in next door to Amish family- can they get along? Another dimension is added by Amish woman Eve and military man Charlie's instant mutual attraction to one another. This feels like a fusion novel to me- Amish meets contemporary fiction, and I must say, I really enjoyed it. I found myself most drawn to Eve's character, she is kind of the glue that holds all of the rest of the characters together.  Just like many other people, Eve is struggling to figure out exactly what she wants and who she is. Shani and Joel move in next door to Joel, Eve's brother, and Shani and Eve are pretty much instant friends. Tim is a strict and pretty tyrannical Amish man. I feel bad for Eve much of the time because it is clear she feels trapped. I enjoyed watching all of the relationships in this book unfold and seeing each character interact with the other. there are some sweet times and some not so nice times, which I think is an accurate portrayal of life. Amish Promises is Shani and Joel's relationship and Joel's struggle with post post traumatic stress disorder from his military days. This is an interesting dynamic to add into a story set in Lancaster Pennsylvania, but I definitely enjoyed the twist. If you are a fan of Amish fiction or enjoy stories about military families, you will probably enjoy Amish Promises.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Reservations for Two by Hillary Manton Lodge (Book Review)

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the book-

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?


My thoughts-

I did not realize that Reservations for Two was the second book in a series (Two Blue Doors). but overall it didn't make too big of a difference. I definitely want to go back and read the first book in the series, but not having previously read it, did not take away from my enjoyment of this book. I am drawn mostly to historical fiction, so on the rare occasion I am drawn to a contemporary book, I am always pleasantly surprised when it is also set in another era. There is just something cool about having a book that is kind of a two for one deal where you have something that is happening in the present and a story that ties in to it is presented from the past. In this case, it was letters from Juliette's grandmother during WWII Paris. I also think letter writing is a lost art form and wish people would get back to it, so I loved reading all of the elegantly written letters between Juliette's grandmother Marielle, her sister, and her love interest. The story of Juliette and Neil was less interesting to me, but I did enjoy the present day story of Juliette opening her restaurant. I love to read foodie themed books because they usually contain some recipes and Reservations for Two is no exception. There are some wonderful recipes sprinkled throughout the book. It ended on kind of a cliff hanger, so I am excited for and will be anxiously anticipated book 3!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Called to be Amish: My Journey from Head Majorette to the Old Order by Marlene C. Miller

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Litfuse Group in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

About the book: 

Fewer than one hundred outsiders have joined the Old-Order Amish---and stayed---since 1950. Marlene C. Miller is one of them.

In this rare memoir, Marlene recounts her unhappy and abusive childhood, how she throws herself into cheerleading and marching band, and how she falls in love with Johnny, the gentle young Amish man who helps her lace her ice skates.

Against the wishes of both sets of parents, Marlene and Johnny get married and begin a family. Follow the author on this unusual journey to find out how God's love called her out of bitterness and depression and into the warm embrace of her new Amish community.

Accompany her as she dons an Amish dress and prayer covering and gets baptized. Learn how she endures the strain of ten children, a hundred-acre farm, and accidents and tragedy, and find out how she comes close to walking away from it all. Turning Amish has proven to be anything but plain and simple for this former majorette. But nearly fifty years later, Marlene is still living out God's call as an Old Order Amish woman.

My thoughts-

I have probably said on this blog countless times how fascinating I find the Amish people. I have read countless books in the Amish fiction genre, but I know that most of those can not be 100% accurate to how their daily lives are because they are written mainly by non-Amish people. It is difficult to get a glimpse into Amish life unless you happen to live somewhere like Lancaster County Pennsylvania where there is a ton of Amish land and people. It is rare that you see a book written by someone of the Amish faith, and even rarer still, to come across a book written by someone who chose the Amish faith from the outside. Just the sheer fact that Marlene C. Miller came from a traditional family drew me to this book. Called to be Amish is divided into three sections. The first section is devoted to Marelene's time before she was married, the second section is dedicated to her earlier years of marriage and committing to the Amish way of life and the last section is about her daily life on the farm and with her family. I enjoyed how neatly the book was laid out in the sections and found Marlene's story to be fascinating. I loved reading about her marriage, her kids, her faith and her life on the farm. There are several sad moments throughout the book as well that broke my heart for Marlene (specifically a very troubled relationship with her mother), but overall I found the book to be uplifting and insightful.  Bonus- Marlene has included some of her favorite Amish recipes at the end of the book! I would recommend Called to be Amish: My Journey from Head Majorette to the Old Order to anyone who is interested in the Amish way of life and of learning about one woman's journey to join the church.




Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/1ESK6eR

About the author:

Marlene C. Miller
 joined the Amish as an adult and has been a member of the Old Order Amish for almost 50 years. She and her husband of 48 years live on a farm in Ohio surrounded by their nine children, more than 40 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Getting Real by Gretchen Carlson Book Review + Enter to Win a $25 Family Christian Stores Gift Certificate

I received an advance copy of the book
from the publisher. I was not required to
write a positive review and all opinions
 are 100% my own. 

About the book-

A candid, funny memoir from the charismatic FOX News channel anchor and Miss America Pageant winner 

Celebrity news anchorwoman Gretchen Carlson shares her inspiring story and offers important takeaways for women (and men) about what it means to strive for and find success in the real world. With warmth and wit, she takes readers from her Minnesota childhood, where she became a violin prodigy, through college at Stanford and her in-the-trenches years as a cub reporter on local television stations before becoming a national news reporter. She describes her rise to anchor of The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson on FOX News channel as a testament to personal strength and perseverance.

Carlson addresses the intense competitive effort of winning the Miss America Pageant, the challenges she’s faced as a woman in broadcast television, and how she manages to balance work and family as the wife of high-profile sports agent Casey Close and devoted mother to their two children. An unceasing advocate for respect and equality for women, Carlson writes openly about her own struggles with body image, pageant stereotypes, building her career, and having the courage to speak her mind. She encourages women to strive for their goals, never give up, and always believe in themselves.

In Getting Real, Carlson emerges as a living example of a woman not afraid to chase her dreams and embrace life fully.

My thoughts-

I must confess it is a rarity for me to tune into the news at all. The constant focus on negativity is more than I can take most days. Still, you would have to live under a rock to not have heard of Gretchen Carlson. Because I haven't watched a lot of news in the last few years, I am not super familiar with her, but from reading the description of Getting Real, it sounded like she has had quite a varied and fulfilling life thus far and I wanted to know more about that. The thing I was most interested in was Gretchen's childhood, specifically her time spent as a child prodigy with perfect pitch playing the violin. She got to work with some world renowned violin teachers and play with some really good orchestras. I was surprised to learn that she was a musical prodigy because most stick to their craft and she obviously isn't focusing on violin at this time. Carlson explains in the book what it was like to be a prodigy and the struggles she went through. The middle part of the book was about her foray into the Miss America pageant. A constant theme throughout Getting Real is that once Ms. Carlson puts her mind to something, she will work her hardest to achieve that goal (and most times manages to come out on top)! I found it fascinating to learn from an insider what goes on during the Miss America pageants. I was absolutely one of those little girls that tuned in every year to see the new winner crowned. I always enjoyed the talent portion, so I loved reading that Gretchen Carlson's talent at violin is what kind of led her to enter in the first place. The final section of the book focuses on Carlson's marriage, children and career as a tv news anchor. There were some sad tales here of higher up execs doing her wrong (or at least trying to), but she shares about how she came to have a career in broadcast journalism. What I got from this book is that Ms. Carlson is a well educated woman, full of confidence who always perseveres to meet the goals she has in mind for herself. She may be one of the most interesting people I have ever read about. As I was reading this book,  I remember thinking more than once that this is the kind of woman I want my daughter to look up to.  I would recommend this book to anyone who loves learning about other people or anyone who has preconceived notions about Gretchen Carlson from the image you see on your tv, there is a lot more than meets the eye!

Getting Real will be available for purchase on June 16th. You can pre-order your copy on FamilyChristian.com.

Enter Below via the Rafflecopter for your chance to win a $25 gift certificate from Family Chrsitan Stores!
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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Heart Sisters by Natalie Chambers Snapp Blog Tour & Book Review + Win a Girls' Night Out Prize Pack!

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Litfuse Group. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

About the book-

Heart Sisters is for women who want to both be and have better friends and want a helpful guide to take them through the process.

Author Natalie Chambers Snapp uses her own and others' stories of successes and failures to illustrate what she has learned about girlfriend relationships. Healthy boundaries, honesty, tact, sharing, and agape love all play a part in being and maintaining a circle of close confidants. She also deals with the inevitable challenges that face many relationships including how to handle conflict; life changes like a new baby, move or divorce; and when it is right to "break-up" with your friend.



My thoughts-

I remember growing up, I always had trouble forging and keeping close bonds with other girls. I had a few close relationships, but I always had a desire to have more friendships with other girls. Even as an adult sometimes it can be difficult to establish (let alone keep) close friendships with other women because everyone is doing their best to keep up with appearances instead of being their authentic self. I try my best not to be this way, but I'm afraid I am even guilty of this from time to time. Heart Sisters is a book that helps us with ways to make sure we are doing our very best to hold up our end of the friendship bargain with strategies and tactics for doing so. She makes a great point in the beginning saying that many women will try to get their husbands to fill this hole where we need girlfriends. I couldn't agree more. We are wired for deep, meaningful relationships, but I think we also are so afraid of being authentic that we miss out on what could be fantastic lifelong friendship. Heart Sisters gives us some ideas we can use to break down these walls and be the best friends we can be. I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to anyone seeking to sharpen and strengthen their current friendships or who are looking to make the first step towards new friendships. This book would make a great book selection for a women's group or book club! 

Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/1GKJTIQ


About the author-


Natalie Chambers Snapp is first and foremost a follower of Jesus, then wife to Jason, and mom to one spunky daughter and two spirited sons with a crazy amount of energy. Choosing to follow Jesus at 27, Natalie is passionate about sharing the grace, mercy, and truth of God's love. She lives in the Midwest with her crew and tries to keep it simple by writing about the faith found in the everyday mundane. The outpourings of her heart can be found at nataliesnapp.com in the fleeting moments between being a wife and mother.


Connect with Natalie Chambers Snapp on Facebook
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**Enter to win a Girls' Night Out Prize Pack!**

Want to be a better friend and have better friends? Natalie Chambers Snapp wrote Heart Sisters just for you! She uses her own and others’ stories of successes and failures to illustrate what she has learned about girlfriend relationships. Discussion questions, space to journal, photos, and quick interviews of healthy female friendships are included within each chapter.

Help Natalie celebrate the release of her new book by entering to win goodies you'll need for a girls' night out with your heart sister!

heart sisters-400

One grand prize winner will receive:
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 17th. Winner will be announced May 18th on Natalie's blog.

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