Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Book Review: Starlight on Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs

Starlight on Willow Lake (Lakeshore Chronicles, #11)Starlight on Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love going back to Willow Lake, it really represents somewhere I wouldn't mind living if I was to ever leave my crazy suburban life.

I really like that we got to see some past characters, but it wasn't forced on us to make the story fit into previous books in the series. It's a small town and you can expect for the lives of people to overlap so Faith's friendships all made sense. That said, I wish there was a family tree so I could be clear on how this branch of the Bellamy family connects to the other Bellamys we've met over the series.

I enjoyed Faith and Mason's story. I like that it wasn't the typical they get together, face some hurdles, then happy ending.  There were hurdles to them even getting together and even more to face after they finally realize they belong together. It made the novel compelling and kept me hooked (but really anything set in Willow Lake has me hooked).

As much as the story was about Faith and Mason is was also really about Alice, Mason's mother, and Faith's daughters Ruby and Cara. It was about these five lost people finding what they needed with each other. It was about creating a family and how that word means more than blood connections.  Even though Alice and Mason are mother and son, they needed to create a different bond, a new bond for the new challenges they are facing in life.  Alice was in a horrible accident that has left her nearly completely paralyzed and neither of them now know how to deal with the other. Faith is brought in to care for Alice and in doing so she brings her daughters who are also kind of caretakers for Alice.  They help heal her heart and in helping her the girls are also helped by Alice.

I could really go on talking about all the little things I loved, but that would spoil the book and it is a really great book.  I personally don't like reading books out of order in a series but in all honesty this book could stand on its own. Just go back and read the rest of the books if you haven't already fallen in love with Willow Lake like I have.

I received an ebook copy from Netgalley for an honest review.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Book Review: Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome by Reb Riley

Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome: A Memoir of Humor and HealingPost-Traumatic Church Syndrome: A Memoir of Humor and Healing by Reba Riley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book! I think most people (at least in my circle) can claim a bit of post-traumatic church syndrome (PTCS). I wasn't brought up in the same manner as Reba Riley, but in my own way I started to question the church I was raised in and the beliefs I had followed since I was young. Unlike the author, my PTCS wasn't as severe and I have found my way back under my own terms.  And that I feel is the core of this book.

Reba goes on a 30 by 30 journey.  She wanted to experience or better understand 30 religions by her 30th birthday. This journey impacts her life in more than just a religious aspect. She is battling health issues and her past religious experiences in what feels sometimes like a minute by minute battle to complete this journey.  Her journey takes her to an online chapel, a synagogue, mosque, and a number of other places of worship.  She spends time with Catholics, Baptists, Mormons, Athiest, Wiccans and Amish just to name a few. Through it all Riley finds finding God is about more than religion.

I recommend this book for anyone going through any stage of PTCS. Where ever you are on your own journey, knowing you aren't alone out there is great. It's something Riley discovered along her way. Every time she brought up her project, she met people who were supportive or on their own journey.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Book Review: Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way through Great Books by Cara Nicoletti

Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way through Great BooksVoracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way through Great Books by Cara Nicoletti
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cara Nicoletti loves food, you could say it's in her blood. She comes from a family of butchers and is herself a butcher and a baker. As much as she loves food, Cara also loves books.  She's been an avid reader since childhood. As she reads, she finds that in books as in life a lot of things happen around food.  This book takes a look back at some of her favorite books and the food found between the pages.  Each book is paired with Cara's version of food based on or inspired by the book.

The books/recipes are broken up into three sections: Childhood, Adolescence and College Years, Adulthood. Since it is currently August and I participate in Austen in August (run by Roof Beam Reader) I'm going to focus on the two Jane Austen novels that appear in this book.

Pride & Prejudice White Garlic Soup
As any reader of the novel knows and as Nicoletti points out, there is a lot of talk of food, but no mention about what the food actually was that everyone was eating and enjoying.  We get one mention of a type of food when Mr. Bingley mentions white soup. Do a search and you will see some things that don't sound so appetizing. Nicoletti has tried many of them and decided she needed to come up with her own version. It's an intense recipe that starts the night before and involves soaking, blending and straining.

Emma Perfect Soft-Boiled Egg
Nicoletti didn't warm up to Emma because of the connection to Clueless. I only picked up Emma because of the movie (it started my love of Austen). Being a butcher Nicoletti found a kinship with the way Emma knows her way around the butchery of an animal. To run the household, a woman of the time would need to know the different cuts of meat from the animals in order to properly tell staff where each cut should be sent or used. While butchery may have been Nicoletti's draw to the novel is was Mr. Woodhouse's attempts to get people to eat like him that inspired this book's recipe.  Besides gruel, he attempts to persuade Mrs. Bates to join him in eating a soft boiled egg.  It seems like a simple recipe, but we're told it's not an easy task.

This book is filled with great stories about how each book came into her life and how the food connects to another aspect of her life.  I enjoyed the book because books and food play important roles in my life too and besides my obsession with cookbooks I very rarely connect the food in books to other aspects of my life.  The one yearly time I do is when I celebrate the Central NJ Region of JASNA's annual Box Hill Picnic. Based on the event in Emma all the officers bring a strawberry themed treat for everyone.  This book has opened my eyes to so many more possibilities and it has also added to my ever growing To Be Read List.