Saturday, July 19, 2014

Two Book Reviews: The Latest in Christian Fiction

All Right Here (The Darlings #1)All Right Here by Carre Armstrong Gardner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publisher: Tyndale House

I absolutely loved spending time with the Darling family of small-twon Maine. Even the secondary characters are believable. I've seen comparisons to the TV show Parenthood, and it was like Parenthood, in all the best ways. Plus -- and I hate to say this -- it was a Christian novel that didn't read like a Christian novel. The ending made it clear that there will be more to come about the Darling family -- and I can't wait.

Thanks to the publisher for providing an egalley through NetGalley for review.

View all my reviews Here to Stay (Where Love Begins, #2)Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publisher: Bethany House

This was my first Melissa Tagg book, and I enjoyed it very much. I'd like to read the first in the series to get more of Blake's backstory, and I'd like to spend more time in Whisper Shores, a Stars Hollow-like town in Michigan.

My only complaint: overuse of the word "dude."

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a review copy.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

More on the Nightingales

The Nightingale SistersThe Nightingale Sisters by Donna Douglas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As soon as I finished the first title in this series (see previous review), I rushed to request the next two from NetGalley. And then I did what could only be described as binge-reading -- staying up late several nights in a row to finish them. And then I did something I very rarely do: I purchased the fourth in the series for my Nook, because it's only available as an e-book. And now I have to wait (sigh) for the next one to be published. If you're interested in England, the 1930s, the history of nursing, or just strong female characters with plenty of drama and romance in their lives, then you will enjoy this series. 

You're welcome.

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(Thanks again to the publisher and NetGalley for the egalleys!)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Book Review: The Nightingale Girls

The Nightingale GirlsThe Nightingale Girls by Donna Douglas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was billed as a good choice for fans of "Call the Midwife," and since I am one, I thought I'd give it a go. And indeed, it was quite enjoyable. Set in 1930s London, it follows several girls who start their nurses' training at Nightingale Hospital through their professional and private lives. The historical setting and medical details were interesting, and the girls themselves were fun characters to get to know. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

*Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing an e-copy to review.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Book Review: Surprised by Motherhood

Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected about Being a MomSurprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected about Being a Mom by Lisa-Jo Baker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A lovely memoir of losing and becoming a mother. As I read this book, many tears were shed and much head-nodding occurred. This is a beautiful book that I will be sharing with every new mom I know from now on. As a mom and a librarian, I have read many parenting/motherhood books, and this is among the very best of them. It's not a "how-to," but a "why" -- and don't we need more of those?

*Thanks to the publisher for providing an e-galley for review through NetGalley.

P.S. For more from Lisa-Jo Baker, check out her blog.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Mommy Guilt vs. Mommy Shame

I shared this in my Real Moms group a couple of weeks ago and thought I would share it here, too.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I thought the choice to breastfeed was a no-brainer.  After all, how many times have we heard that “breast is best?”  I did everything I could to prepare  -- read books, took a class, and stocked up on all those nursing necessities (who says breastfeeding is free?).  But when Evan came along, it just didn’t work.  I got help from lactation consultants and my aunts and even La Leche League, I tried everything from herbs to prescription drugs to a hospital grade pump, but after six weeks, I gave up.  That’s how it felt, too, like giving up, like failing, like being a bad mom from the very beginning.   I think I spent those first six weeks crying.  So when I got pregnant with my second, I was determined that things would be different.  I made an appointment with a lactation consultant to find out what I could do to prepare to “succeed.”  Of course all my plans were upended when Bennett came along ten weeks early, and it was back to the pump.  This time, though, I saw the NICU lactation consultant, and she diagnosed me with what amounted to a physical inability to nurse.  Anyway, I’d spent the first two years of Evan’s life beating myself up over something I couldn’t help.  And it got me to thinking, don’t all of us do that?  Isn’t that what “mommy guilt” is all about?

Not too long ago I read an article that discussed guilt vs. shame.  I don’t remember what the article was about, and I don’t even think it was a Christian article, but it really struck me.  It said that guilt is feeling bad about something we did or didn’t do. Shame is feeling bad about who we ARE. 

Guilt isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It can be a nudge from the Holy Spirit, encouraging us to change.  But when guilt turns into shame – when a thought like “I am going to try harder to breastfeed next time” turns into the thought “I am a bad mom who can’t even breastfeed her babies” – that’s not the Holy Spirit, that’s Satan.  Shame has no place in the life of a Christian, because who I am is a forgiven child of God. 

So the next time you experience mommy guilt, whether it’s over losing your temper, or not doing enough crafts with your kids,  or letting them watch too much TV, take that guilt and use it constructively.  Don’t let Satan turn it into shame.   Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Recipe Success: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

My boys love Mimi's pumpkin chocolate chip muffins.  She uses the Trader Joe's mix, so for muffins they're relatively healthy, but I hate how crumbly they are because, well, I'm the one who cleans up the crumbs!  So I've been searching for an even healthier recipe that they will actually eat instead of whining that they want Mimi's muffins instead.  And I finally found one!

I discovered a new recipe site, the Meal Makeover Moms, when consulting Google, and adapted their recipe.  The original recipe can be found here.  My adaptation is below.  I hope your kids enjoy them just as much as mine do.

And hey, chocolate chips count as healthy in my book.  I use bittersweet (60%), so, you know, antioxidants.

1 c. all-purpose (unbleached) flour
1/2 c. white whole wheat flour
1/4 c. ground flaxseed
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 t. salt
1 c. canned pumpkin
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 c. coconut sugar (can use brown sugar)
1/2 c. unsweetened almond milk (can use other milk)
1/3 c. grapeseed oil (I'm going to try coconut next time)
1 t. vanilla extract
1 c. bittersweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350. I used paper liners in my muffin tin.
2. Whisk together the first 6 (dry) ingredients in a large bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk pumpkin, eggs, sugar, oil, milk, and vanilla until well-combined. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
4. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Bake for 20-23 minutes, or until toothpick in center comes out clean. Transfer pan to wire rack and cool 5 minutes. Remove the muffins from tins and cool on rack for another 5 minutes before serving.  (I like eating them warm, when the chocolate chips are all melty and gooey.)
5. Feel virtuous that your children are getting fiber, omega 3s, veggies, and, of course, antioxidants from something so delicious.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Book Review: Notes from a Blue Bike

Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic WorldNotes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by Tsh Oxenreider
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm a casual, occasional reader of Oxenreider's blog, and the subtitle of this book was what really drew me, since I'm trying to live more "intentionally" this year, whatever that means. And there's the rub -- it may mean a million different things to a million different people, and I found it very hard to relate to Oxenreider's lifestyle, with all of her international travel with children and online ordering from farmers' markets. I appreciated what she was trying to do in encouraging and inspiring her readers to make choices congruent with their values, but unfortunately I felt like her tone came off as a little bit superior, and many of the choices she and her family made seem completely out of my family's financial reach. (She did address the issue of finances in an afterword, and I think if that had been addressed in the forward, I would have found her advice to be a lot more relatable.) Overall, the book did offer some food for thought and might be a worthwhile read.

*Thanks to the publisher for providing an advanced e-copy for review.

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