Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Mini reviews of books I loved but have not yet reviewed

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Mini reviews of books I loved but have not yet reviewed

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

This week is a FREEBIE topic! I was inspired by an older TTT topic of “books you loved but haven’t written a review for”. I thought: why not talk about some favorites I haven’t reviewed AND tell you a little of why I loved them? So, this custom topic was born: 10 Mini reviews of books I loved but have not yet reviewed. 

First, a brief explanation concerning just why I haven’t reviewed these.

  • Some were read in connection with the INSPY awards so I couldn’t talk about them at the time
  • Some I’ve just never gotten around to reviewing, though I thoroughly enjoyed them
  • Some are older reads from before I started writing reviews

Whew, glad that’s off my chest. Now, on to the little reviews!

10 Mini Reviews of books I loved but have not yet reviewed

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1. Remembered by Tamera Alexander (Fountain Creek Chronicles #3)

Though it’s been a while since I’ve read this one, I do remember it was my favorite of the series. I particularly remember some interesting freight wagon rides. My favorite part of this story was Véronique because of her determination and unique immigration perspective.

2. Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz

In a style and manner only Laura Frantz can achieve, the untamed wilderness swallows you in its wonder as you experience life through Morrow’s eyes. This still remains my favorite Laura Frantz novel for its beautiful romance. Two words: Red Shirt. Fans of historical romance and the American frontier take note: this novel is not to be missed.

3. The Measure of a Lady by Deeanne Gist

I remember the setting standing out to me in this one: 1849 San Francisco, CA in the middle of the Gold Rush. And, an important bit about the Redwood forest. Besides the immersive setting, the characters left an impression, particularly the spiritual transformation of one and the coming-of-age journey, in a sense, of another.

4. A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund (Michigan Brides #2)

This story is a beautiful work of historical romance. I remember Carl, the hero, making quite the impression with his selfless (and swoony) manner. The themes of this novel include the importance of hope and forgiveness — and that family and love are worth fighting for.

5. The Breath of Dawn by Kristen Heitzmann (A Rush of Wings #3)

A story of finding hope and healing, this riveting contemporary novel remains a favorite in its genre. And, Morgan Spencer is possibly my favorite hero Kristen has penned. It exquisitely executes one of my favorite plot devices to bring the heroine and hero together, but I won’t say exactly how it happens because that would ruin the surprise! If you’re looking for a fresh take on romantic suspense with a tasteful yet passionate love story (this is still Christian fiction), I HIGHLY recommend this novel and series.

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6. The Rose Legacy by Kristen Heitzmann (Diamond of the Rockies #1)

I recall this glimpse of the west in all its ruggedness and wild beauty left an impression of me. Particularly, Carina and her feisty spirit, determined to succeed and find happiness. As with several of Kristen’s novels, a slight mysterious element is present, adding to the interest and appeal of the story (and its hero).

7. The Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen

This one is a well-crafted historical romance that reminds me of Austen or Brontë in its era, setting, and mystery. I remember the characters being well developed and “real” even amid the proper society and tradition they adhere to. Themes of mercy and forgiveness entwine this story set in the beautiful Cornwall region of England.

8. A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman (Daughters of Boston #1)

This is where it all began. The O’Conner saga that let to 6 full-length books (with the Winds of Change series following) and several novellas. Though I knew how this would end because I read the series out of order, I was still glued to the story as I witnessed the battle of will vs faith. And, Julie’s signature “passion with a purpose” romance style was an added bonus!

9. Ruby by Lauraine Snelling (Dakotah Treasures #1)

This one is special because it was my first venture into “grown-up” Christian Fiction. I can still remember specifically where I got it — shopping with my mom. Having since reread this entire series, I can say it is a great example of western romance with likable characters and connected story arcs in each book.

10. Duchess by Susan May Warren (Daughters of Fortune #3)

With this novel, I learned that Susan pens historicals in the same complex, riveting manner as her contemporary novels. This was a glimpse of “old Hollywood” with all its glamour AND problems, with a few twists involving WWII. Ultimately, a powerful story of healing, forgiveness, and hope.

Thank you to Bethany House, Tyndale, and Summerside Press for the complimentary INSPY review copies. These reviews reflect my honest opinion.


Have you read any of these books or authors? Are there any books you loved but never reviewed or blogged about?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Bookish People You Should Follow on Pinterest

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

This week’s topic is Ten Bookish People You Should Follow on _____ (Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, other social media, blogs, etc.). I’ve chosen to adapt it to Pinterest because I’m obsessed with pinning.

Pinterest

Click to follow The Green Mockingbird on Pinterest

One awesome part of the reading experience in modern times, I think, is connecting with authors via social media. The Pinterest platform allows authors to share their story’s “world” with locations, character ideas, behind-the-scenes news, quotes, etc. I’ve chosen to share 10 of my favorite pinning-authors and my favorite of their book boards! I so appreciate these authors for taking the time to compile and share their inspirations and unique worlds this way.

Top 10 Favorite Pinterest Authors & my Favorite Book Boards

  1. Amber Stokes — click here to visit her board for How a Star Falls
  2. Dawn Crandall — click here to visit her board for The Hesitant Heiress
  3. Dani Pettrey — click here to visit her board for Cold Shot
  4. Hillary Lodge — click here to visit her board for Reservations for Two
  5. Laura Frantz — click here to visit her board for The Mistress of Tall Acre
  6. Lori Benton — click here to visit her board for The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn
  7. Pepper Basham — click here to visit her board for The Thorn Keeper
  8. Rachel McMillan — click here to visit her board for The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder
  9. Rachelle Rea — click here to visit her board for the “Steadfast Love” series
  10. Tamera Alexander — click here to visit her board for A Beauty So Rare

Honorable mentions: Melissa Tagg, Kristy Cambron, Lynne Gentry, Jessica Dotta, The Silver Petticoat Review, and this book quote board “Favorite Quotes from Christian Fiction”.

Do you follow any authors via Pinterest or other social media? I welcome your comments and recommendations!

Review: “To Win Her Favor” by Tamera Alexander

Today’s book I’m reviewing is from one of my favorite historical authors, Tamera Alexander. I have liked every book of hers I’ve read, especially A Beauty So Rare (and I’ve read almost all of them!). She never fails to deliver a fascinating story, full of historical details and endearing characters. Her latest novel, To Win Her Favor, is no exception. Set in Nashville in the tumultuous aftermath of the Civil War, this story explores many themes and subjects unique to that era.To Win Her Favor Banner

Book SummaryA gifted rider in a world where ladies never race, Maggie Linden is determined that her horse will become a champion. But the one man who could help her has vowed to stay away from thoroughbred racing forever.

An Irishman far from home, Cullen McGrath left a once prosperous life in England because of a horse racing scandal that nearly ruined him. He’s come to Nashville for a fresh start, hoping to buy land and begin farming, all while determined to stay as far away from thoroughbred racing as possible. But starting over proves harder than he’d wagered, especially when Maggie Linden’s father makes him an offer he shouldn’t accept yet cannot possibly refuse.

Maggie is certain that her mare, Bourbon Belle, can take the top purse in the inaugural Peyton Stakes, the richest race ever run in America. Maggie only needs the chance to prove it. To give her that chance—and to save Linden Downs from being sold to the highest bidder—Maggie’s father, aging, yet wily as ever, makes a barter. His agreement includes one tiny, troublesome detail—Maggie must marry a man she’s never met. A man she never would have chosen for herself.

I could talk about the many beautiful layers of this book for a long time. I will *try* to restrain myself, though, so you can finish my review then find a copy for yourself 🙂

The relationship between Cullen and Maggie was developed perfectly, with some very swoon-y moments. Tamera has taken a familiar plot concept, a “marriage of convenience”, and relayed it with unexpected variations and a few twists. One example of this is Maggie’s father — he gave his blessing for their marriage, and his support is a firm starting point for their relationship.To Win Her Favor

These characters quickly worked their way into my heart: Margaret, her father Gilbert Linden, Cullen, and several of the supporting characters. Margaret and Cullen both had bright personalities. Cullen was bold, straightforward, gentle with Maggie, and not afraid to stand for what was right. Maggie was sweet, considerate, and very capable of handling tough situations. It was great to see how the two of them strengthened and learned from each other. They were a beautiful example of the closeness God intends between a husband and wife.

This book is a great picture of the south in the aftermath of the Civil War. And, a new perspective on early thoroughbred breeding, training, and racing. I wouldn’t say that horsemanship was the central plot, though. “Life” was. Through the challenges Cullen faced as an immigrant and the ramifications of the Civil War, a secondary story was intertwined, dealing with prejudices of the time. I applaud Tamera for approaching this subject in such a way. At times, stereotypes are confronted in a manner both delicate and brutally realistic. It shows the cost and consequences of war – both for families of the south and for former slaves – from a fresh perspective. One character in particular really grows from the encouragement of another to open her eyes to the reality around her.

I believe the spiritual message of the book is this: sometimes God puts us through trials so we will seek Him. And sometimes He uses people and circumstances to teach us about our purposes or shed light on an opportunity right in front of us. He also guides us through times when we try to run from Him and make our own way.

Ok, maybe I ended up talking about this a little more than I planned. But it was so good! Please, if you haven’t read anything by Tamera Alexander, you should. Go to her website to see the her latest releases or to find other ways to connect with her through social media. For more info on To Win Her Favor (and to read an excerpt!), visit this page.

A sincere thank you to Tamera Alexander, Zondervan, and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Favorite Quotes from “A Beauty So Rare”

You all already know how much I loved this bookAND you know about the fabulous recipe extras, a savory custard and buttery shortbread, I’ve shared from the book. This is all because I have participated in a special review program for the release from Bethany House Publishers (thank you, Bethany House, Amy, and Tamera!) And it’s been a blast!

Today, I’m sharing my two favorite quotes from Tamera Alexander’s A Beauty So Rare. Favorite Quote 1

This quote sums up the premise so well. Both characters are risking their livelihood and dreams for various reasons, and ultimately, risking their hearts and trusting their futures to God.

Favorite Quote 2

THIS quote just shows you how sweet and fabulous Marcus Geoffrey is. His care and concern for Eleanor is a beautiful part of the story.

Eleanor Braddock’s Shortbread Recipe -Another Extra from “A Beauty So Rare”!

Ok, ya’ll. Here’s another fabulous recipe from the oh-so-delightful Tamera Alexander, featured in her novel A Beauty So Rare!

Today, it’s character Eleanor Braddock’s Shortbread recipe. I’ve already shared her recipe for a Savory Custard (Ham & Cheese Quiche), and told you about how this book made my mouth water. I’m so glad to be sharing this recipe today. Can we all just take a moment to imagine how this shortbread must smell, warm and buttery, hot out of the oven?

While you’re snacking on this shortbread, you should also have the best reading material – so go find A Beauty So Rare!  Trust me, it’s awesome.

From Tamera:

 

Hey friends,

Is there anything that smells as good as homemade shortbread baking in your oven? Oh so scrumptious, and a time-honored recipe. Shortbread is just one of the many recipes included in A Beauty So Rare, the second stand-alone novel in the Belmont Mansion series.

Since Eleanor Braddock (the heroine in A Beauty So Rare) is practical to a fault, she makes her shortbread in a cast-iron skillet, so I did the same. Gives you the best crunchy edges and buttery middles! Wish I could share some with you. But I’ll do the next best thing––share the recipe!

Have you ever made shortbread? It’s so easy.Eleanor Braddock's Shortbread

 

Eleanor Braddock’s Shortbread

(from A Beauty So Rare)

 

3/4 cup butter at room temp (1 1/2 sticks)

1/2 cup powdered sugar*

1/3 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour (sifted)

 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees, then spray a smaller (8-9 inch) cast-iron skillet very lightly with non-stick cooking spray. You don’t need that much spray. Trust me, the butter in the recipe will take care of that.

 

Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, then the vanilla. Next, work in the flour. You can either mix the flour in with an electric mixer, or you can get into the 1860s way of doing things and knead the dough on a floured surface until it’s nice and smooth.

 

Press the dough into the iron skillet (or you can use a pretty shortbread pan too). Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown. Cool for about 10-15 minutes then flip the pan over onto a wooden cutting board. Cut the shortbread into pieces while still warm. It “sets up” as it cools. Or serve it warm. Serves 10-12. And it really does. This stuff is rich and delicious. Hope you enjoy.

 

 

And just for fun, a bit of history:

*Did you know that in 1851, Oliver Chase (of NECCO Wafer fame) developed a mill for powdering sugar which he used in his candy making process? But if a cook wanted powdered sugar back then, refined loaf sugar was pounded into a fine powder in a mortar and pestle. So much easier today, huh?

 

 

For more recipes and to watch the novel trailer

for A Beauty So Rare, visit www.TameraAlexander.com

Book Review: “A Beauty So Rare” by Tamera Alexander

I’m so happy to be sharing my review of Tamera Alexander’s latest novel, A Beauty So Rare¸ today! It is a beautiful novel that shares the hearts of the characters – and the beauty of God’s provision for us. Rich in historical details, it is set at the beautiful Belmont Mansion in Nashville (still standing today). I am privileged to be a part of a special group of reviewers who have access to extras on the novel – you can find a savory custard recipe from the novel here, and a shortbread recipe soon to come!

1920413_447912455312236_675420752_nKind, plain, and practical, Eleanor Braddock has come to Nashville for a new life after the Civil War. Facing her father’s declining health and her family’s dwindling finances, she moves to the prestigious home of her Aunt Adelicia Acklen, the famous Belmont Mansion. Hoping to achieve her independence from the benevolence and good intentions of her feisty aunt, Eleanor plans to open a restaurant to support herself and her father. Aunt Adelicia, however, disapproves of Eleanor’s premature plans to tarnish her social standing by cooking. Adelicia has other plans for Eleanor, including a potential suitor who could secure Eleanor’s future. But at what cost to her happiness?

Marcus Geoffrey, the Archduke of Austria and second in line to the throne (complete with good looks and a dreamy accent), has come to Nashville seeking to make a name for himself based on his own merits, not those of his family name. Finding solace in a new country by concealing his true heritage, he dreams of using his architect design and botany skills to achieve a lasting accomplishment of beauty and utilization. While he works at the conservatory at Belmont, he meets Eleanor and begins a friendship. As their paths cross in unexpected ways, God begins to give them a new dream and purpose in helping those less fortunate in the aftermath of war.

Both Eleanor and Marcus are enduring new seasons in their lives. Eleanor is unsure of herself, feeling somewhat out of place now as the responsible adult of the family, with her father dependent on Eleanor’s decisions. She has to learn to trust and to have a different relationship with him now. Marcus is also on his own, enjoying a unique sense of freedom – but still sensing a foreboding and pending commitment to his family and the House of Habsburg. As their relationship grows from that of friendship and confidants to something more, both must find the courage and strength to face their futures – futures that likely don’t include each other.

I really loved how Tamera showed a different side of the aftermath of the Civil War. She did so through immigrants’ experiences, specifically widows and orphans, as they struggled in that era. I also enjoyed the themes of botany and cooking featured in the novel. At times I could almost smell the fragrant peonies and roses. And the food! Let’s just say my mouth WAS watering sometimes. Doughnuts, strudel, custards, soups, shortbread….are you hungry yet?

A Beauty So Rare is a delightful story of love, trials, purpose, family, and history. Both main characters find purpose in helping others. Though neither one’s path is what they first thought it would be, God proved faithful and showed them how He is able to take mere dreams and make them much better, even if it at first seemed hopeless. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves history and romance. These characters are so dear and realistic, and the storyline perfectly complex, I feel like a simple review cannot do the story justice. You should just find a copy for yourself today – you won’t be disappointed!

 

For more fabulous book extras and information about Tamera’s other books, visit her website, her Facebook page, or find her on Twitter.

 

A huge THANK YOU to Tamera Alexander and Bethany House for the opportunity to participate in this group of blogger reviewers. I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review – I was not required to write a positive review.

"A Beauty So Rare" by Tamera Alexander, Empty Shelf 12

“A Beauty So Rare” by Tamera Alexander, Empty Shelf 12

Savory Custard (Ham & Cheddar Quiche) Recipe from Tamera Alexander’s “A Beauty So Rare”

Today, I’m so excited to share about two of my favorite things: books and baking. How could it get any better?

Here’s a recipe for a Savory Custard, or Ham & Cheddar Quiche, from Tamera Alexander’s latest book. The main character, Eleanor Braddock, makes it in A Beauty So Rare. Plus there’s a recipe for Old-Fashioned Pie Crust… I’m sure it would be great with a sweet filling, too!

I’m currently reading this novel and am happy to be a part of a blogging team that shares fun things like this recipe with you all. (Trust me, there’s more goodies to come, plus a review!) I’m enjoying Eleanor’s story so far – her hardworking and sweet spirit is coming to life on the pages.

 

Okay, let’s get on to the recipe and info from Tamera:

Savory Custard Recipe from Tamera Alexander 3
Eleanor Braddock
s Savory Custard

(or Ham and Cheddar Quiche)

From the novel A Beauty So Rare

by Tamera Alexander

www.TameraAlexander.com

 

Most people think quiche originated in France. Not so. It’s originally a German dish and people referred to them as “savory custards” in the 19th century. Which is accurate since the egg-based mixture forms a luscious-like custard as it bakes.

In my novel, A Beauty So Rare, the second standalone novel in the Belmont Mansion series, the heroine, Eleanor Braddock, is “a cook with a dream.” But her dreams don’t quite turn out like she thinks they will. However, her savories always do!

I hope you enjoy this recipe (or “receipt” as recipes were called in the 1800s) from A Beauty So Rare. For more about A Beauty So Rare and for recipes from all my novels, visit www.TameraAlexander.com.

 

Ingredients

1 old-fashioned unbaked pie crust (recipe below)

1 large onion, diced (or sliced if you like larger pieces of onion in your savory)

2 tablespoons butter

1 pound cooked ham diced into cubes (if using bacon, use 8 slices, fried chewy, not too crisp)

8 large eggs

1-1/2 cups heavy cream or half-and-half

1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper, or to taste (I always go heavier on the pepper, personal preference)

1 3/4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Instructions

Sautéonion in the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden brown. Set aside to cool.

Chop the ham into bite-sized pieces (or fry your bacon until chewy, then chop). Set aside to cool. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll out pie crust and press into a deep dish pie plate. A medium-sized iron skillet works wonderfully for making a savory custard (and is what Eleanor used). The crust comes out divine. I just happened to use a pie plate this time.

Whip the eggs, cream, salt and pepper in a large bowl, then mix in the onions, ham (or bacon), and cheese. Pour the mixture into the pie crust. Cover the pie plate (or skillet) lightly with aluminum foil and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the quiche is set and the crust is golden brown. QUICK BAKING TIPS: The quiche may still seem a little loose when you first remove it from the oven, but it will firm up nicely once removed from the heat. Also, watch that lovely crust so the edges don’t get overly brown. I use a silicone pie crust shield if that starts to happen. Those are a fabulous invention (but foil crimped around the edges works just as well).

Remove from the oven and allow the savory custard to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before diving in. It’s so good, and just like Eleanor Braddock would make. It’s also delicious left over and warmed up the next day.Savory Custard Recipe from Tamera Alexander 2

 

 

Eleanor Braddocks Old-Fashioned Pie Crust

(makes two large crusts)

From the novel A Beauty So Rare

by Tamera Alexander

www.TameraAlexander.com

 

This is a wonderful crust that I’ve been using for years. Eleanor would likely have used lard in place of Crisco (since lard was cheaper than butter in her day), and you may too, if you prefer. Yes, lard is still available on most grocery shelves, although I’m pretty sure I just felt you shudder!

This pie crust “freezes beautifully ” as they say in Steel Magnolias (instructions on freezing below), so even though I may need only one pie crust at the moment, I always use this recipe and make a second, and freeze it for later. Makes that next pie (or savory custard) go twice as fast!

Ingredients

1 ½cups Crisco (or lard)

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 egg

5 tablespoons ice water

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

Instructions

In a large bowl, using a pastry cutter (or two knives will do the job), gradually work the Crisco into the flour for 3 to 4 minutes until it resembles coarse meal. In a smaller bowl, whip the egg and then pour it into the flour/shortening mixture. Add 5 tablespoons of ice-cold water, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir gently until all ingredients are blended well.

Halve the dough. Form the 2 evenly-sized balls of dough and place each into large sealable plastic bags. Using a rolling pin, slightly flatten each to about 1/2 inch thickness to make rolling easier later. Seal the bags and place them in the freezer until you need them. (If you’re using the crusts immediately, it’s still a good idea to let them chill in the freezer for about 15- 20 minutes. They’ll be much easier to work with.)

When you’re ready to roll the dough for your crust, remove from the freezer and allow to thaw for 15 minutes (if it’s frozen). On a well-floured surface, roll the dough, starting at the center and working your way out. Sprinkle flour over the top of the dough if it’s too moist. If the dough starts to stick to the countertop, use a metal spatula and gently scrape it up and flip it over and continue rolling until it’s about ½inch larger in diameter than your pie plate (or iron skillet).

Using a spatula, carefully lift the dough from the surface of the counter into the pie pan. (I sometimes fold my well-floured dough in half and then “unfold” it onto iron skillet. Or you can lop it over your rolling pin. That works well, too.) Gently press the dough against the sides of the pan or skillet, getting it all tucked in. Then crimp the edges in whatever way you prefer. And now, you’re ready for that yummy savory custard filling above, or maybe for a fruit pie.

If you make this recipe (or if you’ve read A Beauty So Rare), I’d love to hear from you. You can write me through my website at http://www.tameraalexander.com/contact.html.