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.)

Wallet Gone Walkabout

The stress level in our house sky-rocketed yesterday when I realized somewhere between Georgetown and the Smithsonian that my wallet was AWOL. Talk about a whirlwind of activity. My wonderful hubby came home early from work (the Punkin and I were still on the train coming home) and started calling everybody. Thank God he did that, since I can’t even remember everything that was in the wallet, let alone calling up and canceling cards, reporting them missing, etc. How long will it take for this chaos to settle down to “normal’ again? And when will my brain stop pretending it’s a bowl of pudding?

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.