Sunday, April 28, 2013

Book Review: Tempted by Trouble by Susan Arden

Wow - Susan Arden certainly delivers the chemistry and sizzle in this novel about rancher Matt McLemore and Veterinarian Carolina Rodriguez. You will be hooked and not able to put the steamy read down when the sparks first fly between these two in an embarrassing church parking lot encounter.

Carolina learns her acquaintance is her new client, Matt McLemore. Their initial meeting was less than professional and full of mistaken assumptions and misunderstandings. Lucky for us these two don't let any of that get in the way of their burning attraction to each other. Their chemistry is intense and explosive.

There are enough twists and turns in this story to make for a satisfying early summer read for anyone. I hope Ms Arden has more in store for us about those intriguing McLemore brothers.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Recipe: Dark Chocolate Stout Brownies

When I think about a really good brownie, I think rich, ooey gooey, butter laden, high calorie brownies.  Don’t you?  Well, you don’t have to stare at the brownie longingly anymore, you can eat it.  These brownies are  delish even with no eggs, butter or oil.  Yep, I’m serious, not one stick of butter was
harmed in the making of these moist brownies.  Don’t they look delish?

You’re probably asking yourself, “Self, how can they look so good and have none of the fattening stuff in them?”  Right?  Well, the secret is that they are made with black beans.  Wait wait wait….don’t leave!!  You can’t taste the black beans at all.  Honest!

1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and filled with new water 
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour or all purpose
2 1/4 cups raw sugar 
1 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
4 tsp instant coffee powder 
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup of stout beer, such as Guinness (or water)
1 cup nuts or chocolate chips, optional

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Drain a can of black beans and rinse thoroughly until the water runs clear.  Return the black beans back to the can and fill with water.  Puree the beans and water.  Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, cocoa powder, coffee power, salt and baking powder.  Add the black bean puree, vanilla and stout to the dry ingredients and stir just until incorporated.  Don’t over mix.
  4. Pour batter into a greased 9×13 pan.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating the pan around halfway through. They should be almost firm in the center.  
  5. Let brownies cool completely then cut into 24 squares.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Book Review: A Matter of Trust by Lis Wiehl

"When life is murder, who can you trust?"

Wow - this seems as if it is going to be a series I can really sink my teeth into. With this book, book one in this new series, we get to meet Prosecutor Mia Quinn and Detective Charlie Carlson - they seem to be the people we are going to get to know the best as this series progresses.

This book opens with Mia on the telephone with her good friend Colleen, another member of the Prosecutors office. They are chatting about life and the tag sale they are going to be having. Suddenly Mia hears a gunshot, a gurgling and Colleen doesn't speak to her again, then life goes to Hell a little more.

This is a great, well plotted mystery. It did keep me guessing throughout the novel. The characters are fleshed out well and very believable. The novel is fast paced and I didn’t want to put it down. This book kept me turning pages and on the edge of my seat. 

I love that Mia Quinn's life is full of mystery itself. Her marriage, her job, her children, her father have secrets untold. I have some of Lis Wiehl's books and this one so far is my favorite. The protagonist is a single mom (widow) with a teenage son and a preschool age daughter. Her hands are more than full as she tries to work two jobs and be a good mom. On top of that her husband left her with a boat-load of debt. Not everything was resolved in this story leaving room for sequels, which I look forward to! This book includes many aspects I love in story - mystery, law,), danger, and twists and turns. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: North of Hope by Shannon Huffman Polson

While they were rafting down a remote river in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Polson's father and stepmother were killed by a barren-ground grizzly bear. This book is Polson's attempt to make sense of the events and deal with the grief - as well as reflect on her parents' lives, and her own. It's structured around her own trip down the same river, including a visit to the fatal campsite.

She weaves several different themes together. Some parts are her own memoirs; others reflect on Dad's and Kathy's lives, individually and jointly. (Polson's mother, who divorced Dad about twenty years previously, is nearly absent from the book.) Polson explores what we find important about wilderness, though the book is more about people than about nature.

Her poetic writing weaves together her painful internal landscape of grief with the exquisite yet harsh exterior landscape of the Arctic. Like her father, Shannon's deep appreciation for the untamed and remote wilderness of the Alaskan Arctic moves her story effortlessly between adventure, natural history, sacred pilgrimage, music, nature and faith.

Polson writes beautifully and honestly. This book will appeal to those dealing with grief, those who love Alaska and wilderness, and also people who enjoy poignant well-written memoirs. 

I received an advance copy for review from Handlebar Marketing in exchange for an honest review. 

Book Review: Invisible: A Novel by Ginny L. Yttrup

Invisible is the first book I have read by Ginny Yttrup. I have to say it is one of the best books of 2013 that I have read so far. While some might be put off by the Christian Fiction label, I find her ability to write a rich, multi-layered, character driving novel to create such an emotional impact, I find myself recommending it to everyone I know. It is so powerful that I know Ginny's words will stick with me a very long time and I know it is easily a book I will come back to again and again.

This novel is for every woman out there who in some way or another has struggled with their self-image. I'm sure that many of us have viewed our image in some negative way that doesn't reflect God's view of us. Some of the characters struggle with this idea, but Ginny drives home the point so passionately that we are all made in the image of God. Through these characters stories, you can see the heart of God in Ginny's words for people who have these issues! God does not want anyone to deny Him or have unholy thoughts concerning who they are.

It's not some light-heart book that leaves you with warm fuzzy feelings afterwards, but a book that dives into the innermost thoughts of our mind and the lies, negative chatter, and pain that is there! It's such a story of healing and of growth. It is also a story of the importance of friendship and the dangers of isolating ourselves from each other. I realized through reading the book that friendship is so important and God put friends in our life to encourage us, motivate us, uplift us, and tell us the truth even when it hurts. 

I received an advance copy for review from Handlebar Marketing.