Book Review: Bon Appetit

bon appetit

Bon Appetit

French Twist Book 2

Sandra Byrd

Summary: In this second book in the French Twist series, readers join Lexi Stuart in a crème de la crème adventure!

Deciding to leave her familiar home in Seattle and her could-be boyfriend Dan, Lexi moves to a quaint village in France to pursue her dream of becoming a pastry chef. Life among the French initially proves to be less than easy as Lexi is challenged by her coworkers, missing her friends, and failing to master the perfect baguette.

Determined to find her place, Lexi settles into the culture and life becomes la perfection. She finds a church, meets a new friend, and makes the acquaintance of a child named Celine—as well as Celine’s attractive, widowed father, Philippe. Even Patricia, the gruff pastry cook, shows a softer side as she mentors Lexi in the art of baking.

Fast, fun, and packed with French culture, foodie appeal, and unique recipes readers will love accompanying Lexi on her journey in Bon Appetit as she tries to choose between two countries, two men and the faith to lean on God while savoring the surprises life brings!

After reviewing Let Them Eat Cake last year, I was looking forward to book two. And I wasn’t disappointed. Lexi is just as real and funny as she was the first time around. The story moves along quickly (it was an easy evening’s read) and if the situations and characters aren’t always exactly realistic, they are at least very believable. I am curious how Ms. Byrd is going to solve Lexi’s love dilemma, but I suppose I’ll have to wait until next year for the answer to that.

The only things I found problematic with both Let Them Eat Cake and Bon Appetit are all those loving descriptions of the sweets and pastries and other yummy yummy things that I can’t eat any more. Pout. (Refined sugar and I do not get along at all.)

So…I definitely recommend Bon Appetit (in fact I already have–my mom liked it too). Yes, it is a delightful bit of air and sweet fluff. But so are cream puffs, and I absolutely love cream puffs. (“Anybody have a good recipe for sugar-free cream puffs?” she asks plaintively.)

Book Review: Justinian’s Flea

Justinian’s Flea: The First Great Plague and the End of the Roman Empire

William Rosen

I wasn’t planning on reading this book at all. Merely saw it on a friend’s table yesterday, got curious,
and asked if I could read it before she did. Now I feel as if I’ve eaten a 10-course meal in the space of 20 minutes.

This era of history is not usually my thing. I was an International Studies major in college, so I of course covered it in my history classes, and I taught it to my world history students, but it’s not an era I would seek out books upon. However, I was fascinated by Pox Americana (I read it as research for my WIP), and the title of this book sounded like it was similar. It wasn’t really. But in this case, that isn’t a bad thing, because Rosen provided a buffet of information so well presented that you don’t need a background in history to take it in.

His bottom line is this:

” It was the golden age of Emperor Justinian, who, from his glorious capital of Constantinople, united and reigned over an empire stretching from Italy to North Africa. It was the zenith of his achievements–and the last of them.

In A.D. 542, the bubonic plague struck. In weeks, the glorious classical world of Justinian was plunged into chaos, and the beginings of a medieval Europe were born.”

However, the plague itself only occupies perhaps a quarter of the book. The rest of it is background, side-plots, and connections to other ideas and future events. Rosen follows a common thread, loops off on a connected idea, but always manages to bring the reader back the main thread before they get too lost.

In the course of the book, Rosen covers “history, microbiology, ecology, jurisprudence, theology, and epidemiology,” not to mention tidbits of architecture, art, trade, politics, medicine, and numerous other subjects. Whether he was discussing the changing tactics of warfare or the warring theologies of the early Christian Church (Arian vs. Monophysites vs. orthodoxy/Catholic), his writing went down so smoothly that I almost wasn’t aware of how much I was taking in at times. The only sections that I found hard to chew was when he went into great detail about the evolution and biology of Yersinia pestis, that is, bubonic plague.

Justinian’s Flea is heavy reading, but not overwhelmingly so. It appeals both to serious students of history as well as to the curiosity of the “layman.”

Grade: A/A+

Book Review: God Gave Us Heaven

God Gave Us Heaven

by Lisa Tawn Bergen

illustrated by Laura J. Bryant

Summary: Little Cub awakens one morning with some important questions on her mind: What is heaven like? How do we get there? Will we eat in heaven? Will we be angels?

During a delightful day spent wandering their arctic world, Papa gently answers each question, assuring Little Cub that heaven is a wonderful place, “a million times better” than she can imagine. He explains how God has made a way for those who love him to enter their heavenly home forever after their lives on earth are over.

Reuniting the best-selling author-illustrator team from God Gave Us You, this gentle story provides satisfying answers for a young child’s most difficult questions about heaven. Parents, grandparents, childcare professionals, librarians, Sunday school teachers, and others will appreciate the gentle approach to a topic that’s on the minds of so many “little cubs.”

Through captivating, full-color illustrations and tender, biblically sound storytelling, young readers and those who love them will find reasons to rejoice in knowing that God Gave Us Heaven.

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Review:

This is the last of the three children’s books I was given to review this time through, and while it is a good book, it wasn’t my favorite. It’s well-written and beautifully illustrated (except the penguins. There are no penguins at the North Pole, nor polar bears at the South. But that’s just a pet peeve of mine.). It manages to cover a very heavy topic in a way easily understandable to older younger kids (you know, 5-7 rather than 3-5).

But… (there’s always a but), it comes across as ‘preachy.’ Little Cub is just a bit too precocious in her questions, and Papa has the answers down just a bit too pat. Maybe it doesn’t come across that way to youngsters–my daughter was only interested in looking at the pictures, not listening to the story, so I don’t know what she really thought of it–but it came across that way to me.

So, a good book, but my copy will probably go to the church library instead of staying on my home bookshelf.

Book Reviews: God Loves Me More Than That and When God Created My Toes

God Loves Me More Than That

When God Created My Toes

by Dandi Daley Mackall

illustrated by David Hohn

Summary: In two new books from best-selling children’s author Dandi Daley Mackall, clever rhymes and delightful illustrations help young children, ages three and up, understand God’s huge love for them and his joy in creating them. These enchanting picture books from the writer-illustrator team of Dandi Mackall and David Hohn will instill awe in young children as they revel in each page. Parents alike will appreciate the engaging stories that communicate God’s perfect plan and his divine purpose for little hearts.

In God Loves Me More Than That, children learn that God loves them deeper than a wishing well, wider than a semi-truck, louder than thunder, and softer than a kitten’s sneeze. Each question, presented with charming child-like faith will help young ones grasp the great love of God through comparisons and descriptions they can easily understand. In short, they’ll discover that His love is bigger, wider, higher, and deeper than anything they could imagine!

In When God Made My Toes, kids are drawn into the wonder of their creation by God. Their masterful artist who fashioned them just right for amazing and delightful adventures, such as roller skating, finger-painting, doing flips, and drinking cocoa. Children will come to an understanding that God shaped each part of their amazing bodies with joy, delight, and humor.

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Review:
I’ve been reviewing for WaterBrook Press for a year now, and I must say, these two little books are the best ones I’ve done so far. I still have a smile on my face when I think of them. Written in rhyme (but not that annoyingly overdone type) and coupled with beautiful illustrations, both convey deep truths in a way kids can easily grasp (and better yet, parents can read without getting bored).

God Loves Me describes quite well “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” When God Created is based on “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” I especially love the little girl in this one. My daughter is 3 1/2, and I can just see her doing things like this in a few years (actually, she looks like this pretty often–tubbie time is not a favored time.) And at no time did these books feel preachy/too-grown up, nor too babyish (or disturbing for that matter–the illustrations some children’s Bible stories can be downright freaky sometimes).

Usually I pass the books I review on to my church library. I shall be hanging on to these two instead to read with my own little one. In short, I highly recommend both books for any one who has or works with young children, or who has the open, wide-eyed heart of a child.

Book Review: Skid

Skid (Occupational Hazard Series #3)

Rene Gutteridge

Publisher’s Summary:
Blissfully unaware that Atlantica Flight 1945 from Atlanta to Amsterdam is about to make aviation history, First Officer Danny McSweeney focuses his energies on navigating the turbulent personalities of an eccentric female captain, a co-pilot with a talent for tactless comments and conspiracy theories, and a lead flight attendant with an outsized attitude that definitely exceeds the limits for carry-on baggage.

On the other side of the cockpit door, the unscheduled in-flight entertainment includes a potbellied pig, a jittery diamond courier, and the recently jilted Lucy Meredith, whose personal mantra of “What Would Oprah Do?” will be challenged by the sudden appearance of her ex and his new traveling partner. On her left sits Hank Hazard, whose unusually polite but constant requests–prompted by his covert role as a spy for the airline–test the limits of the crew’s customer service.

But as Lucy and the rest of the crew discover, Hank’s odd behavior is linked to a quiet faith that may play a key role in the fate of everyone on board. Especially when an unexpected traveler sets this already bumpy flight on a course toward the unfriendly skies.

Author Bio:
Rene Gutteridge is the author of twelve novels, including the Boo series, the Storm series, and the novelization for The Ultimate Gift, as well as Scoop and Snitch, the first two Occupational Hazard novels. She lives with her husband, Sean, and their two children in Oklahoma City.

Review:

Okay, so I really need to read these invitation e-mails a lot closer, because again I didn’t clue into the fact that Skid too was an Occupational Hazard novel (which I found a cute series title, but I’m a sucker for that kind of name), and plunked myself into the middle of a series. Anyhow, to clear up any possible misconceptions, SKID IS BOOK THREE IN THE OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD SERIES. There.

As for the book itself…I’m coming to the conclusion that I’m not a good judge of contemporary fiction, because while I found it a nice one-evening tubbie read, I certainly didn’t find it a “fun, wild ride with devious humor” nor did it have “me smiling all the way through.” Nor did I consider it worth 5 stars like most of the reviewers on Amazon. Perhaps I’ve grown cynical in my old age. More likely it’s because the more I try to write, the more critical I’ve become of other writers. So much so that it is very difficult for me to read for pleasure anymore.

The plot was okay, if far-fetched/forced. Again, it may be me–after a stint working for the FAA I dislike most things to do with planes. I did like Hank, though he came across as naive rather than innocent. The other characters… Well, I suppose they were relatively well-developed, had decent back-stories, and I identified with nary a one. They all felt like characters rather than real people.

Truth is as Strange as Fiction Tidbit: I was reading Uncle John’s Supremely Satisfying Bathroom Reader earlier this evening (I love books with random trivia) and stumbled across this interesting little article:

On October 17, 2000, two women and their (300 pound) hog boarded a US Airways flight from Philadelphia to Seattle. They presented a note from a doctor verifying that the animal “was a ‘theraputic companion pet,’ like a guide dog for the blind,” so the airline cleared it to fly.

The hog snoozed through most of the six-hour flight, but got spooked when the plane landed. It charged up and down the aisle, squealing loudly, at one point even trying to smash into the cockpit. Then it hid in the galley until its owners lured it out with food and pushed it off the plane…at which point it fouled the jetway.

US Airways immediately revised its companion animal policy specifically to exclude hogs. “We can confirm that the pig traveled,” a spokesperson told reporters,”and we can confirm it will never happen again. Let me stress that. It will never happen again.”

At least not until Atlantica Flight 1945 takes off.

Grades:

  • Characters: B
  • Plot: B
  • Flow of Story: B
  • Writing Style: B
  • Enjoyable: C+

Overall: B