Sunday, 8 January 2017

Book Review: The Great Good Thing A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ by Andrew Klavan

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This is the true story of Andrew Klavan's journey to faith in Christ. It starts when he's a child, tells of his dysfunctional family, how he became a writer, how he developed his views on religion and moves on to how he married and created his own dysfunctional family. Eventually Klavan realizes that the thing he's searching for as he writes his novels has been calling to him all alone, and that is not, in fact, a thing, but God.

I so desperately wanted to love this book, It should be a very interesting, the shift of a world view as an agnostic Jew comes to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, I found this book painful to finish, and in the end, know very little more about Klavan's journey. I know about his life, and the events surrounding a shift, but there really isn't any interior "path" to follow or understand. Also, Klavan's writing is very hard to follow-he rambles a lot. It's more like an unedited journal entry than a book. I suppose that could be intentional, showing his inner thoughts, interior dialogue and all that but really, it is just annoying. I wanted to be able to recommend this book because I find conversion stories so intriguing and was hoping to learn a new way to relate to those raised the way Klavan was, but, unfortunately, this book was pure torment to read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. .

Monday, 2 January 2017

Audiobook Review: The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller

The story opens with pastry chef Olivia Rawlings making a Baked Alaska to serve at the anniversary party of the hotel in which she works. That parrticular choice was the prefernce of Olivia's boss and boyfriend. Olivia parades the flaming dessert around the party room and after catching sight of her boyfriend with his wife and children, drops the dessert and lights the entire room on fire. Released from her duties, Oliva's flight instict kicks in and she drives overnight to her best friends house and indulges in a night of self-pity and binge drinking.

I'd like to know what happens next, but I could not continue listening to the audiobook any furhter. Jorjeana Marie is the narrator but perhaps she should stick with acting and comedy. Her narration is sardonic, her voice grating. Despite being intrigued by the story, I could not bear to listen past the 30 minute mark of the CD. Did noone on the procudtion team listen to this before it was released? Perhaps the protganist IS a sarcastic nitwit, but until I checkout the paperback version from my library, I will not know as I could not get past the narration. If the narrator is channeling the protganoist's personality, it is entirely too overdone.

*I received a complimentary copy of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Book Review: A Proper Drink by Robert Simsonson

A Proper Drink gives a chapter by chapter history of the craft cocktail Each chapter focuses on either a different type of cocktail or different time period. The book also includes 40 recipes of both modern and classic cocktails as well as a possible explanation of why we call cocktails, cocktails. It may have something to do with ginger and horse's bum.

Just like that interesting tidbit, I found the histories to be equally interesting. Simonson takes you through the "growth" process of what he calls the cocktail revolution. He really follows the shifts in the bar scene and food industry (at least as it relates to the bar scene). Who knew that the restaurant chain, TGIF, used to have a rigorous bartender training program? I'd imagine that now most of their drinks are "tarted up" versions of their originals, , to steal a descriptor from Simonson. 

While I found the content intriguing, I found Simonson's writing stlye a bit choppy and sometimes hard to follow. I could see someone explaining that away as a literary device mimicking the history of the revolution, but I don't buy in. I also think the book would have benefitted from a few pages of pictures, of the bars and of the drinks featured in the recipes.

Overall, I  think this book would make a great gift for a lover of history, cocktails or both, 

Try the World #4: Morroco

My mom went to Morroco when she was in high school and told me stories and showed me her photographs  from her trip when I was a child. Because of this, I've always been curious about Moroccan culture so I was delighted when I realized that my fourth Try the World box was based on Morocco!

This box contained:

  1. Moroccan Green Tea ($11-13 on other sites) IT SMELLS DIVINE.
  2. Orange Blossom Water (averages $7 on other shopping sites)
  3. Anise Cookies ($5-6 on other sites)
  4. Couscous (I couldn't find the precooked, but another site sells a box of this size Dari brand couscous for $16.95)
  5. Couscous Sauce
  6. Paprika Crackers
  7. Harissa (averages $7 on other shopping sites)
  8. Kefta Rub Spice Blend

I haven't made anything out of this box although I am planning on using the spice mix, harissa, couscous and couscous sauce to make a pot of couscous with. 

Do you have any ideas for the orange blossom water?

Also, if you'd like to give this service a try, use this link for two free boxes with the purchase of a subscription.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Cookbook Review: Cuba! Recipes and Stories From the Cuban Kitchen by Dan Goldberg, Andrea Kuhn and Jody Eddy

With the warming of  the  relationship between Cuba and the USA I find this book especially timely and interesting. Goldberg, Kuhn and Eddy actually traveled to Cuba to explore it's cuisine and culture. The recipes range from staples of the Cuban diet to updated versions of classics. The book is divided into ten main chapters. It begins with cooking the basics-beans, rice, sofrito. and them moves on to different sin categories of Cuban food- including a section for Cuban Chinese, and my favorite-desserts!

I made the Cuban fried chicken recipe  and it was fantastic. It will most likely be my "go-to" recipe for fried chicken. The one thing I didn't like about the recipe was that it didn't give a time estimate. It just assumed you knew what to do. Other recipes that have made it onto my "must make" short list include Mojito Cake,  Spicy Black Bean Soup with Lime Crema and Shredded Beef with Fried Eggs, Mojo and Yuca.

While the recipes seem like winners, this book does have a few downsides. The (stunning) photography is clearly the focus of the book and because of this the recipe text is too small, I have average eyesight and have to bring the book close to my face to read it. Also, the book tries to explore the lives of the people behind the food but falls short. The writing about the people and culture is done in a "tell" vs. "show" style and it made me not want to continue reading. I would have loved to had more background on the people the culinary trio met and had it told in a more narrative style, rather than this is what we did, this is what he said. I much preferred the writing style found in Victuals than this one.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Book Review: My Brother's Keeper by Rodd Gragg

My Brother's Keeper chronicles the actions of 30 Christians who risked everything to save others during the Holocaust. School teachers, men, women, business owners, doctors. The people profiled  ranged in profession, social class and income level yet they all chose to selflessly follow their heart. Some saved children, friends, co-workers or strangers. Others died trying.

The profiles are in narrative style and are easy to follow. The stories are woefully gripping. You want to keep reading, yet you almost cannot bear to continue. Gragg writes about a time period in history were it seemed many were faithless yet the faithful come to light in this book.

 This book is especially timely as it reminds those who do believe to stand up for what is right and to leave the consequences to God. It is a very convicting, emotional read. What would you do when faced with the decisions these 30 faced?

I highly recommend My Brother's Keeper and will be reading some of  Gragg's other works as well.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Book Review: Teaching Others to Defend Christianity by Cathryn S. Buse

Teaching Others to Defend Christianity comes from NASA engineer Cathryn Buse. Buse noticed that many of her colleagues had deep doubts and criticisms about Christianity. Searching for a way to communicate God's love to the logic minded, Buse wrote Teaching Others to Defend Christianity to fill a gap she felt lacking in most ministries. Eventually, Buse founded Defend the Faith Ministry to help others learn how to better explain their faith in Jesus.

In Teaching Others  Buse moves the critical thinking reader from a belief in an absence of any god to belief in the Christian God and the redeeming love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ in six logic based lessons. Buse expertly applies the laws of logic, philosophical principles and  scientific facts to lead the reader down a path of realizing the Christian truth. She breaks down proven or everyday sceanarios using logic principles and then applies those same principles to faith. A lesson I found particularly interesting was lesson 5 which proves the validity of the New Testament through internal evidence, external evidence and bibliographical evidence. At the conclusion of each chapter is a series of thought provoking questions designed to further reinforce the lessons learned in the chapter.

The book is designed to be a teaching tool to for those wanting to teach people how to lead their friends and colleagues logically from atheism to to belief in Jesus. However, I think it is a great tool for those wanting a better understanding of the "whys" and "how comes" behind their faith or deal with the questions and criticisms presented by the media and/or atheist friends.

*I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Book Review: Finding Father Christmas/Engaging Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn

Gunn richly paints the story of Miranda Carson's search for a father who doesn't know she exists. Miranda travels to England at Christmas time with only a photo and the name of a photography studio. She meets a cast of characters who help her along the way, one of which follows her into the next novel as a love interest. In both novels, Gunn uses delightful imagery to pain quaint and cheery Christmas scenes and lovable characters. It is easy to see why her books were chosen to become a Hallmark movie. I thought both stories were lovely and I have high hopes for Kissing Father Christmas, although it doesn't star Miranda as the protagonist.

I was glad that Finding Father Christmas and Engaging Father Christmas were bound in the same volume. It makes a lovely stocking stuffer. Also, I think I would have been disappointed if  I had to purchase the novels separately as I believe they were originally attended. Separately, I feel as they are more like novellas than novels. I think Finding and Engaging work together perfectly as one story.

*I was given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.