Book Review: Invitation

I typically read historical fiction, but I decided to branch out and read book one in the Harbingers series, entitled Invitation, a paranormal novel.

This series is unique in that it is written by four different authors, each writing from the perspective of one of the four main characters. The authors are well-known in the Christian novel circle: Bill Myers, Frank Peretti, Angela Hunt, and Alton Gansky. It is a sci-fi meets spiritual warfare book.

The four characters are Brenda (Bill Myers), a street smart tattoo artist who has visions of future events; The Professor (Frank Peretti), a former priest turned atheist professor who sees everything from the lens of logic; Andi (Angela Hunt), the professor’s young assistant who can see patterns in everything, and Tank (Alton Gansky), the college football player who is connected to healing powers.

The book is divided into four sections: Brenda’s point of view starts the book, and tells her how the four of them came together because of her vision. Then the group gets caught up in a school for those with “special gifts” and they get caught up with demonic powers.

The second section is about the Professor meeting up with the other three under coincidental circumstances, and a mysterious, possessed house intent on and the presence of a mysterious young boy whom Brenda had a vision about.

The third section follows Andi, and how she calls the rest of the gang together to investigate the suspicious deaths of birds and fish near her Florida home.

The fourth section trails Tank as he meets up with the others to figure out how a young girl with strange gifts plays into their destinies.

Invitation was a very interesting book. The best part about the book was the cohesiveness of the characters despite being presented by different authors. Each character stayed true to his or her self, so I felt like the authors did a good job maintaining the personality of each character throughout the entire novel.

But, I have to say, all in all, it was a very strange book. I can’t say I’m hooked, but it was pretty entertaining. I just have to warn against reading right before bed–I had nightmares!

*I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way. I was not required to write a positive review.

Cookbook Review: One Pan and Done

Is there anything better than pulling a delicious, healthy supper out of the oven knowing it was a cinch to prepare and didn’t dirty more than one pan?

Well, that’s the concept behind the newest cookbook from Molly Gilbert, One Pan & Done. Molly Gilbert’s last cookbook, the bestselling self-explanatory book Sheet Pan Suppers, gave a variety of meals that could be cooked completely on a sheet pan.

One Pan and Done is along the same lines, but Molly has gone beyond the sheet pan and has branched out to sharing recipes that are simply one pot/pan/skillet.

The recipes are divided into course: Breakfast and Brunch; Starters, Snacks, and Sides; Veggie Mains; Poultry; Fish; Meat; and Sweets. Each recipe has an icon on top designating it as a meal made from a Sheet Pan, Cast Iron Skillet, Dutch Oven, 9×13 Baking Dish, Muffin Tin, or Cake/Pie/Tart/Loaf/Bundt Pan.

Some of the recipes that really stood out to me included Portobello and Black Bean Chili cooked in a Dutch Oven, Quick Chicken Pot Pie in a Cast Iron Skillet, Warm Apple Biscuit Cake in a Bundt Pan, and Warm Buttermilk Doughnut Muffins in a Muffin Tin.

This cookbook offered a wide variety of meals, using typically fresh ingredients. There were quite a few recipes that I think even my kids would be fond of, such as Chicken Marsala and Oven Mac and Cheese. There were also “mature palate” meals such as Apricot Glazed Drumsticks with Quinoa and Baked Spring Risotto. So, I liked the variety. I also loved the concept of the book–as a busy mom, one pan dinners are a lifesaver!

*I received a copy of this cookbook from Blogging for Books and the publisher. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

Book Review: Treasured Grace

Tracie Peterson has a knack for bringing history, particularly Western History, alive in her many novels. Her newest series, Heart of the Frontier, debuted with Treasured Grace. The novel follows Grace Martindale, who is traveling west to the Oregon Territory with her marriage-of-convenience husband and two sisters, Hope and Mercy in 1847.

On the road west Reverend Martindale dies, but Grace is not upset because the marriage was only one of mutual necessity and had never been consummated. The church said the reverend needed a wife in order to go west, and Grace needed someone to care for herself and her sisters on the frontier since their parents had both passed away.

Grace is a “healer” and uses herbs and tonics to cure people. On the trail west, many people are struck with measles, and she helps save many of them. They stop at the Whitman Mission in present-day Washington State to ride out the winter, but are met with angry Cayuse Indians, set on making Dr. Marcus Whitman pay because he was unable to save many of the tribe members from the measles epidemic.

Grace meets loner trapper Alex Armistead, and begins to bond with him. But, he is distant and seems to be weighted down by his past. Soon, the Americans at the Whitman Mission are in serious danger…is there anything they can do to save their friends and family, or will the vengeful Cayuse finally get their revenge on Dr. Whitman and everyone else at the Mission?

This novel was based in part by a true story-the massacre at the Whitman Mission. Grace, Hope, and Mercy were fictional, but many of the characters were actually real people. This was an intense book, but it was well written. I liked the historical facts weaved in with the fictional accounts, and I learned quite a bit about that event in history. The only thing I would have changed would have been to develop Alex’s past a bit more. With how weighted down he was by the past, I was expecting a bit more of a story, but the explanation was quite short.

But as usual from Tracie Peterson, I enjoyed this novel and look forward to the second book in this series!

*I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

Bible Review: Precious Moments Precious Prayers Bible

I love Children’s Bibles. The often have fun and colorful features, and I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of enjoying things like that! I recently received Precious Moments Precious Prayers Bible. Precious Moments are an adorable set of illustrated characters that have been charming children (and adults) for decades.

I was excited to receive this Bible for several reasons. First of all, Precious Moments characters are just adorable, and secondly, it is a NKJV. I’m not a big fan of the children’s Bible versions, and since my oldest is almost 9, she’s ready for a more advanced version.

This Bible has a bunch of full color inserts (sets of 4 pages) that include a poem, several illustrations, a familiar Bible passage, and a prayer. The illustrations are obviously very sweet, and the page inserts are cute.

Each book of the Bible gets it’s own short introduction discussing the book’s author, timeline, key verse, and theme. It gives some good background information. There are also a couple of maps in the back as well as some resource lists.

The downside to this Bible is that, while cute, the page inserts are the only features of the Bible. I would love to see some key words, or small illustrations, or little tidbits strewn throughout the pages. I would also like to see the words of Jesus in red.

Overall, I thought this was a very cute Bible, and I know my daughter will love it, but I wish the features were more spread out throughout the Bible instead of all within the feature pages.

*I received a free copy of this Bible from the publisher and BookLook Bloggers. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way. I was not required to give a positive review.

 

Book Review: Deep Undercover

I’ve always been fascinated with the inner workings of the spy life. In fact, “spy” was often what I would say as a child when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. Movies and television have greatly romanticized the spy experience, so I was looking forward to reading the new memoir by an operative in the Cold War KGB Illegals program, in which KGB officers were embedded in the US as full fledged citizens, in an effort to gather intelligence for Moscow.

Jack Barsky was living the American Dream with a good job in the corporate world, a nice house and two beautiful children when he was detained by the FBI in 1997. To the surprise of his family and friends, he admitted to being a former KGB operative.

Jack Barsky was born as Albrecht Dittrich in East Germany right after World War II. He was brought up in an austere home with little in the way of family affection. He was raised a staunch Communist, and had dreams of becoming a chemistry professor (science was a noble effort in Communist countries.)

As Albrecht was getting ready to begin his chemistry career, he was approached by The Party (Communist officials), who attempted to recruit him. He said yes, and a new life had begun.

After several years in Moscow learning to speak English as an American native, Albrecht was sent to New York City with only a birth certificate for one Jack Barsky and money. He had to procure all his own legal documents and make his way up in the world on his own.

The book talked about Albrecht’s training, Jack’s early days in the US, and the ideological shift that Jack faced after being in the US. Albrecht had a wife and son behind the Iron Curtain, and Jack had a wife and two children in the US, and neither family were aware of the other. He also discusses how he cut ties with the KGB with a sneaky untruth. The book finishes by talking about Jack’s conversion to Christianity, and how that shaped his after-KGB life.

I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed reading about Albrecht’s childhood (thought it was sad because of the lack of love from his parents and the harshness of his country), and I also really enjoyed the making of the spy–turning Albrecht into Jack, and all the training that entailed. It was so fascinating, and sobering that the USSR was able to put agents into place in the US, posing as US citizens and speaking perfect English.

I received a copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.