Monday, March 24, 2014

For Such a Time by Kate Breslin



ABOUT THE BOOK:
In 1944, blonde and blue-eyed Jewess Hadassah Benjamin feels abandoned by God when she is saved from a firing squad only to be handed over to a new enemy. Pressed into service by SS-Kommandant Colonel Aric von Schmidt at the transit camp of Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, she is able to hide behind the false identity of Stella Muller. However, in order to survive and maintain her cover as Aric's secretary, she is forced to stand by as her own people are sent to Auschwitz.

Suspecting her employer is a man of hidden depths and sympathies, Stella cautiously appeals to him on behalf of those in the camp. Aric's compassion gives her hope, and she finds herself battling a growing attraction for this man she knows she should despise as an enemy.

Stella pours herself into her efforts to keep even some of the camp's prisoners safe, but she risks the revelation of her true identity with every attempt. When her bravery brings her to the point of the ultimate sacrifice, she has only her faith to lean upon. Perhaps God has placed her there for such a time as this, but how can she save her people when she is unable to save herself?

MY THOUGHTS:
Wow. This was an exciting page-turner. I loved Kate's inspiration of the biblical story of Esther – a Jewess in an unexpected place with the seemingly impossible chance to save her people.

Without giving too much of the story away, I couldn't wait to read the author's note to see if the fantastic escape she penned ever happened from Theresienstadt, a ghetto established by the German SS during WWII as a transfer station to other camps. Although the biblical Esther is real, and the inhumane treatment depicted in the book is accurate, For Such a Time is definite fiction.

Still, from beginning to end, I found the read unique and exciting, hoping the journey were true...and knowing if it weren't, that there are true cases of escape and revolt of some Jews during that horrific time.

I enjoy WWII fiction, and to me, these stories never get old. So many courageous men and women with tales to be told, whether courageously saving lives...or simply and desperately surviving their own. If you enjoy the same, you'll want to pick up your own copy of For Such a Time!

AND FOR YOU, a peek into the book HERE.

Thank you to Kate and Bethany House Blogger Program for sending me a copy to read and review!

Did you find my review helpful? Please rate it on Amazon and Christianbook.

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**DISCLOSURE: I was given a free product in exchange for an honest review. Please read my full disclosure policy HERE.**

Monday, March 3, 2014

Growing Up Duggar by Jana, Jill, Jessa, and Jinger Duggar



I had the opportunity to check out this new book from Howard Books!

MY THOUGHTS:
The four oldest Duggar girls (from TLC's 19 Kids and Counting) have recently released their own book, Growing Up Duggar: It's All About Relationships.

If you're looking to see if Jana, Jill, Jessa, and Jinger will reveal shocking secrets from the mega household (they do mention their mom Michelle's battle with an eating disorder in high school which was something I didn't know), you'll be disappointed. No, I've never met them nor do I think they are perfect (as they themselves readily admit), but I believe the life you see the Duggars live on tv is pretty close to their real life. Just like their camera appearances, the girls share in their book honestly, yet humbly, the biblical convictions on the standards they have come to hold.

In this case, they've focused their book on relationships – from the Lord first and foremost, which then effects all other relationships: from yourself to parents to siblings to culture to guys.

Although written primarily to teenage girls, with personal stories from each girl of their own struggles and victories, I was challenged as a mom in my own attitudes and habits, as well as areas my husband and I can do better in the raising of our own young children.

Trying to remember my teenage days (wow, that was a long time ago!), I realize most girls will want to see what the Duggar girls have to say about guys and dating. Not everyone will hold to their idea of 'courtship,' but having safeguards for accountability for that 'dating' time of life is very important. Godliness and purity starts in your heart and mind long before a guy ever comes around...

Dad has asked us girls, “What kind of girl do you think a godly guy will be attracted to?”

The answer is, a godly girl. That's what he and Mom are continually encouraging each of us girls to become. We know that a godly girl is not someone who has lived a “perfect" life but is someone who has received God's forgiveness and is seeking to put the past behind her and choosing to live every day for Him (page 115).

It's also crucial for Christian gals to understand that we cannot conform our patterns to a thoughtless lifestyle and still expect to somehow marry a godly prince. We need to always keep in mind that if we desire to marry a godly man, then we must strive to become the kind of godly girl a godly man will be attracted to. God desires to see us grow in character and live by His principles, and for us to have a strong relationship with Him – which is the best foundation and preparation any of us can make for a future marriage relationship (page 140).
I especially liked their reasons for 'dates' at home. Never gave much thought to watching a guy react to your little sibling spilling milk in his lap or your rambunctious brother being loud and noisy... anyone can be on their best behavior during a dinner out on the town, but character is often revealed during the chaotic 'everyday' moments!

I expected Jana, Jill, Jessa, and Jinger's book to be a rehash of their parents' previous two books, just told from the kids' perspective, but I was pleasantly surprised. Although these girls' convictions may not match yours, their humility is evident and their challenge is clear: Jesus first, others second, you last.

AND FOR YOU, a peek into the book HERE.

Thank you to the Duggar girls and Chris from Howard's Blogger Review Program for sending me a copy to read and review!

Did you find my review helpful? Please rate it on Amazon and Christianbook.

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**DISCLOSURE: I was given a free product in exchange for an honest review. Please read my full disclosure policy HERE.**

Friday, February 21, 2014

I Pinned, I Made: the BEST Sweet and Sour Chicken...with fried rice!



I really do love Pinterest. It is full of great inspiration, from amazing recipes to beautiful crochet patterns to free photography tutorials to lovely wedding ideas.

When I saw this Sweet and Sour Chicken recipe from Holly over at Life in the Lofthouse, I decided to make it almost immediately.



I was not disappointed.

I have never tried making Chinese at home, aside from an occasional stir-fry, and this was absolutely fabulous! Tasted just like our favorite Chinese restaurant!

My young children called it 'China Chicken' and were cheering when we still had leftovers for a third meal!! And the leftovers tasted just as good as the first time.

My husband devoured it! He kept saying, 'Man! This is good! This is so good!' ...(and I won't embarrass anyone by saying I saw someone licking their plate after one meal... ;-)

I barely remembered to take a picture, we were so busy eating and mmm'ing. The hubs said to just take pictures of our empty plates.

The recipe takes a bit more time than I usually spend preparing a meal -- not terribly so, but you have to dredge, dip, and brown the chicken before finishing it off in the oven. I had doubled the recipe, so it took me awhile, having to pan fry in several batches.

But...it was definitely worth it, and I'd spend the time to make this again! And again...

The fam is already asking when that will be...!

So, head over to Holly's blog to find the recipe!


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**DISCLOSURE: I was given a free product in exchange for an honest review. Please read my full disclosure policy HERE.**

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Echoes of Mercy by Kim Vogel Sawyer



ABOUT THE BOOK:
Sometimes a secret must be kept for the truth to be revealed.

When a suspicious accident occurs at the famous Dinsmore Chocolate Factory in Sinclair, Kansas, Caroline Lang goes undercover as a factory worker to investigate the circumstances surrounding the event and how the factory treats its youngest employees—the child workers. Caroline’s fervent faith, her difficult childhood, and compassionate heart drove her to her job as an investigator for the Labor Commission and she is compelled to see children freed from such heavy adult responsibilities, to allow them to pursue an education.

Oliver Dinsmore, heir to the Dinsmore candy dynasty, has his own investigation to conduct. Posing as a common worker known as “Ollie Moore,” he aims to find out all he can about the family business before he takes over for his father. Caroline and Oliver become fast friends, but tension mounts when the two find themselves at odds about the roles of child workers. Hiding their identities becomes even more difficult when fate brings them together over three children in desperate need. When all is revealed, will the truth destroy the love starting to grow between them?

MY THOUGHTS:
It's another Kim Vogel Sawyer book! Kim's books have become some of my favorites in recent years. I love the 'good friend' type of books she writes. If you're a reader, you know what I mean. Those books that are warm, comfortable, cozy up under a blanket, read-again kind of stories.

Echoes of Mercy was a little different than Kim's norm. Oh, it was still a book that made me feel satisfied and comfortable at the end – but, she wrote a little more suspense into this one. I liked that! And, the chocolate factory setting was just fun and unique!

I haven't watched the show, but Kim had a little 'undercover boss' going on, which I find a fascinating concept (although I was surprised that Gordon wouldn't know the owner's son?)!

Kim's characters are always easy to relate to and love – or not! Kesia was great – loved her! I always enjoy when her type of character is added to a book! The wise, speaks-her-mind-can't-help-but love person! And then there was Mr. Dinsmore. I wanted to like him – well, I did, as he seemed a wonderful father and even a kind man; I guess I was disappointed that he didn't apologize at the end, or at least we weren't told of any change of heart after all that happens.

Still, despite the unsatisfactory conclusion with the senior Dinsmore, Echoes of Mercy was another winner by Kim.

AND FOR YOU, a peek into the book:

EXCERPT
Late September 1904—Lincoln, Nebraska

Caroline

Caroline Lang slapped the thick packet of meticulously handwritten notes onto the center of Noble’s leather desk blotter and then flopped into the nearest chair. The spindled legs slid on the glossy oak floor, raising a high-pitched complaint. Instead of apologizing for the scratches her carelessness had surely created—Noble was the most persnickety perfectionist she’d ever known—she said, “There you are. A completed report on accommodations for the sugar beet harvesters. I earned my week’s leave with that one.” She grimaced at her purple-stained fingertips. “If I never see another beet, it will be too soon.”

Noble had the gall to chuckle. “Oh, now, Caroline, you didn’t like beets before I sent you to Omaha. You’ve always said they stink when they’re cooking.”

“They do.” She nodded emphatically, causing several escaping tendrils from her simple bun to bounce on her shoulders. “And they don’t have to be cooked to stink. You ought to smell them when they’re just sitting in a bin in the sun.” Wearily she pushed to her feet. “I intend to spend my week of leave sleeping. You know where to find me if you have any questions about the report, but I’m sure you’ll find it concise. I was trained by the best, after all.” She aimed a fond grin at her friend and mentor.

Noble set the leather-bound packet aside without peeking in it. “You know I trust you, Caroline.”

His simple comment warmed her, and she gave him another smile as she turned toward the door.

“And since I trust you…”

Something in his tone stilled her hand, which hovered midway to the polished brass doorknob. She glanced over her shoulder and caught him stroking his beard, his familiar sign of worry. She returned to the chair, seating herself carefully this time. “What is it?” Fear struck, making her mouth go dry. “Has something happened to Annamarie?” She prayed Noble’s sweet, frail wife hadn’t met with harm while she’d been away on an assignment. She loved Annamarie almost as much as Noble did.“Annamarie is fine.”Relief slumped Caroline’s shoulders. “Oh, thank heaven…”“But, unfortunately, I lost an investigator.” Noble’s face pinched into creases of sorrow. “A fine man—Harmon Bratcher. He leaves behind a wife and two sons.”

“Oh no…” As an investigator for the Labor Commission, Caroline knew they could meet danger. Sometimes entering workplaces to openly explore, other times posing as workers to observe the business practices on the sly, their presence was rarely welcomed and occasionally threatened. Even the required travel held various hazards. Each time she set out, Noble prayed over her for her safety. She depended on him and Annamarie praying her through the investigations. So far she’d always come back unscathed. Tired, yes, but unscathed.

Her heart ached for poor Mr. Bratcher, for his family, and for Noble, who felt accountable for his agents.

Caroline rounded the desk and bent down to wrap her arms around Noble’s shoulders and press her cheek to his. His thick white beard tickled her jaw, but she didn’t pull away. He needed the comfort, and she needed to offer it. He patted her wrists in a silent thank-you. “It has been difficult, I confess. I considered him a good friend.”

Although Caroline couldn’t claim Bratcher as a friend, she’d met him and admired his strong stance on changing the laws concerning the age of workers in the United States. The coalition to end child labor had lost a strong proponentcwith his untimely passing. She shifted to perch on the edge of Noble’s desk, leaving one hand on his broad shoulder in a gesture of comfort. “What happened?”

“According to the ruling from law enforcement officials, he broke his neck when he fell into an elevator shaft.”

Such a horrific way to end one’s life. But mixed with the horror, she experienced a niggle of wariness. “You don’t believe the ruling, do you?”

Noble pinned her with a steady look. “I suppose it could be true. Accidents happen, especially in factories. But the week before he fell, I received a telegram from Harmon saying he intended to sneak into the factory on Sunday—the only day no workers were on duty—to retrieve questionable bookkeeping records he’d glimpsed the week before. But he died before he could submit any other information. There were no documents on his body. So I can only surmise he fell into the shaft before he laid claim to the records, or—”

“Or someone took them from him,” she finished.

Noble nodded somberly. He caught her hand. “Caroline, I know you just returned from an investigation. You’re tired and have rightfully earned your week of rest. But there’s an opening at the factory where Harmon died.”

Caroline stiffened, anticipating his next request.

“The opening is for a toter, a job generally given to women.” His fingers tightened on her hand. “You’re my only female agent. Would you go to Sinclair, apply for the position, and use it to look into Harmon’s death? I’d need to send you out on this evening’s train.”

The entire journey home she’d anticipated a lengthy soak in a hot bath followed by days of lying on her comfortable feather mattress in a state of languor. The thought of departing that evening without even a few hours of rest made her want to groan. But how could she deny Noble when he’d done so much for her? Noble went on. “Of course, we can’t make investigating Harmon’s death your official reason for being there. We’d be overstepping our bounds with the local authorities. So, as far as the commission is concerned, you’d be there to finish Harmon’s report on the factory’s safety features…or the lack thereof. Harmon sent several messages about his findings. He was especially concerned about the number of underage workers at the factory, but he died before submitting a full report.”

Caroline gave a start, her pulse speeding into a gallop. “Underage workers?”

Noble’s lips formed a grim line. “According to Harmon, this factory seems to have a disproportionate number of child workers.”

Her tiredness melted in light of this new information. The opportunity to further her personal battle to end child labor and to put Noble’s worries to rest concerning Bratcher’s death proved too tempting to resist. “I’ll go.”

The relief in Noble’s face compensated for the loss of her hot bath and days of lazy recuperation. “Bless you, Caroline. There’s no one else I would trust with this mission.”His confidence in her both touched and terrified her. After all, one investigator had already died in the factory. Go with me, dear Lord. She drew in a deep breath and vowed, “I won’t let you down, Noble. I promise.” - See more at: http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/catalog.php?work=221540#sthash.o0MxMOLX.dpuf

Thank you to Kim and Waterbrook Multnomah through Blogging for Books for sending me a copy to read and review!

Did you find my review helpful? Please rate it on Amazon and Christianbook.

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**DISCLOSURE: I was given a free product in exchange for an honest review. Please read my full disclosure policy HERE.**
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