Pure Food

by Veronica Bosgraaf

from Goodreads
Bring more whole, real ingredients into your kitchen and replace processed foods with the 120 plant-based recipes in Pure Food.

A busy mother of three who was frustrated with trying to find healthy, organic snacks for her kids, Veronica Bosgraaf decided to make one herself, the Pure Bar. Now nationally available and widely beloved, the bar kick started a nutrition overhaul in Veronica’s home. Clean foods and a new, simple way of cooking and eating replaced anything overly processed and loaded with sugar.

Organized by month to take advantage of seasonal produce, Pure Foodshares Veronica’s easy vegetarian recipes, many of which are vegan and gluten-free, too.

With 18 color photographs and tips for "cleaning" your kitchen and lifestyle—from drying your own herbs to getting rid of chemical cleaners—Pure Food shows the simple steps you can take to make your cooking and living more healthful.

my rating

my review
This cookbook just seemed a little too complicated for me. I don't mind a good culinary challenge now and again, but I don't want to scour the grocery store for unfamiliar ingredients every week. So I've only made two or three recipes out of this book.

If you want to eat more real food and enjoy trying new foods and more challenging recipes, this book is for you. I was just a little misled by the "simple way of cooking" claim in the book summary.

The recipes I did try were delicious and pretty easy: Huevos Rancheros and Cacao Chip Banana Bread. I also really appreciate the "Pure Pantry" notes in the beginning of the book, as well as the tips sprinkled throughout (i.e. natural pest deterrents or homemade laundry detergent).

*I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.


A Dream Not Imagined {cover reveal + review}

by Shantelle Mary Hannu

about the book
A MAID, a PRINCE, and a DUKE. A GARDENER, a STEPMOTHER, and a secret...

Ellie Abbington, a beautiful yet unassuming young woman, quietly longs for her life to change. Too privileged to associate with the servants—too underprivileged to associate with her own family; she dreams a dream of a prince and a happily ever after.

But it could be that her own stepsisters, conniving Dezmarie and easily-influenced Adelaide, are dreaming the same dream...of the same prince.

In the end, are dreams even all they're made out to be? Especially with deep and long-hidden secrets about to be unearthed?

A Dream Not Imagined is a non-magical fairytale novella based loosely on the classic tale of Cinderella.

Tentative Release Date: June 2015

my rating

my review
I did not expect to enjoy a fairy-tale retelling, especially in the shape of a novella, nearly as much as I did A Dream Not Imagined. Shantelle packed so much into so few pages that despite the short amount of time it took me to read the entire thing, I almost felt like I was working my way through a full novel. And yet not once did it feel rushed.

Even though it starts out like a typical Cinderella tale, A Dream Not Imagined soon sets itself apart as entirely unique. Ellie is such a strong character -- unlike Disney's Cinderella, she has an intelligent mind and needs no rescuing. I have so many good things to say about this story, but am afraid to reveal too much; the best parts in A Dream Not Imagined are entirely unexpected.

about the author
Shantelle Mary Hannu was born in the mountainous west, spending her golden childhood years there. Since then, she has relocated time and again with her parents and seven siblings, making cherished memories in both the South and Central United States. 

A Christian homeschool graduate, Shantelle has a passion for writing and all things books. From a young age she’s been penning tales with a hope of sharing with the world adventurous and soul-stirring stories that bring glory to God.

A Dream Not Imagined, a fairytale novella, will be her first published book. She’s currently preparing a full-length fantasy novel for publication as well, and working on its sequel.

Shantelle blogs at A Writer’s Heart about her stories, favorite books and movies (with reviews), healthy wheat-free recipes, and hosts fellow authors, among other things. One of her joys is connecting with fellow writers and readers! You can also find her on: 

about the illustrator
Natasha H. is an aspiring photographer and also loves drawing and painting. A Dream Not Imagined is the first book she has drawn the cover picture for.

Learn more about her work at her blog: Through My Lens

other bloggers participating in the cover reveal
Hayden Wand at The Story Girl
Claire Banschbach at Claire M. Banschbach – Thoughts and Rants
Amber Stokes at Seasons of Humility
Ghost Ryter at Anything, Everything
Deborah O’Carroll at The Road of a Writer
E. Kaiser Writes at …The Adventure Begins
Alyssa-Faith at The American Anglophile
Hannah Williams at The Writer’s Window
Laura Pol at Crafty Booksheeps
Natasha H. at Through My Lens (+ review)
Skye Hoffert at Ink Castles (+ review)
Jaye L. Knight at Jaye L. Knight’s Blog
Jesseca Dawn at Whimsical Writings
Allison Ruvidich at The Art of Storytelling
Shannon McDermott at Shannon McDermott’s Blog
Tricia Mingerink at The Pen of a Ready Writer

Thanks to Shantelle Mary Hannu for sending me a free digital copy to beta read!


happy arbor day!

I haven't been posting enough tree photos lately (this being poetree and all, I should probably do that more often), and what better excuse than Arbor Day to throw a whole bunch up on one post?

P.S. Can't plant a tree today? You can still buy used books! They not only save trees (as opposed to buying new), but they also smell better and cost less, and little used bookshops are the most fun to wander through.

Do you have a favorite used bookshop? How about a favorite tree--either a specific one (e.g. the ash at my parents' house that I always refer to as The Climbing Tree) or a species (mine is sugar maple)?


happy earth day!

In honor of this esteemed holiday celebrating our beloved home, here are a few of my favorite environmental-themed books, both fiction and non-fiction. In no particular order. (Titles are linked to my review or Goodreads.)

by Michael Pollan

I read this long long ago during that wonderful period of my life called high school. Sadly, I don't remember much of this book, but I do know that I absolutely loved it.

Also by this author: In Defense of Food

by Wendell Berry

A wonderful collection of poetry with themes often centering around nature.

by Mary Beth Lind

My favorite cookbook ever.

by Barbara Kingsolver

An intriguing work of fiction that incorporates environmental themes.

Also by this author: The Bean Trees

by Jenna Woginrich

I have enjoyed everything I've read by Jenna Woginrich, especially Barnheart. It's real, informative, funny, and extremely relatable.

by Dr. Seuss

Because Dr. Seuss is awesome.

by Henry David Thoreau

I never actually finished this book, since my highly-distractible teenage mind decided that Thoreau's brilliant prose was too dense (who am I kidding? I still have trouble reading non-fiction). But what I did get through was really good, and I hope to finally finish Walden some day.

Holy Cows and Hog Heaven
by Joel Salatin

This is the man whose name has become synonymous with "sustainable agriculture," and he has a great sense of humor.

Summer Hawk
by Deborah Savage

Hawks, journalism, and the most adorable romance story ever. This is one of my favorite YA novels--I actually read it twice in one year.

I love this guide because it rates different companies based on their ethical and environmental practices. And it's organized into categories so everything is easy to find.

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things
by William McDonough and Michael Braungart

An eye-opening look into our waste problem and how we can drastically cut the amount of items piling up in landfills.

The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time
by Jonathan Weiner

This amazing book taught me that evolution does not have to be about monkeys becoming humans over millions of years, that it is not, in fact, in conflict with my religious beliefs. Natural selection occurs all the time and, therefore, so does evolution.

Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit
by Al Gore

This is a great overview on climate change that, believe it or not, I read cover-to-cover (yep, all 407 pages).

Any of these tickle your fancy? Do you have any favorite environmental books that I should read?


Heartless (Tales of Goldstone Wood #1)

by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

from the back cover
Princess Una of Parumvir has come of age and will soon marry. She dreams of a charming prince, but when her first suitor arrives, he's not what she'd hoped. Prince Aethelbald of mysterious Farthestshore has travelled a great distance to prove his love--and also to bring hushed warnings of danger. A dragon is rumored to be on the hunt and blazing a path of terror. 

Una, smitten instead with a more dashing prince, refuses Aethelbald's offer--and ignores his cautions with dire consequences. Soon the Dragon King himself is in Parumvir and Una, in giving her heart away unwisely, finds herself in his sights. Only those courageous enough to risk everything have a hope of fighting off this advancing evil.

my rating

my review
This book grabbed me from the very beginning and held my interest until the very end (at which point, as with all good books, I stared at the acknowledgements page in great sorrow because I did not have book two on hand).

Una is immature and selfish but fittingly so for a princess, and the suitors are all well fleshed-out. I cringed at some and laughed with others, and Prince Aethelbald kept me wondering at his true nature a good long while. I wanted to like him, but at the same time didn't trust him. Leonard, though, was my favorite, but I won't say more about either of these men for fear of giving too much away.

And, of course, you know... DRAGONS. Again, very little I can say without spoiling everything, but the dragons were so cleverly done.

One minor complaint I have is the lack of creativity in names, i.e. Farthestshore and Wilderlands. I also found it odd that Una called her nurse "Nurse" for the entire book, and we're never given any other name for her.

Finally, I don't know that I would call Heartless a Christian allegory, but there were clear Christian themes woven throughout without being blatantly obvious, which I appreciated.

Have you read Heartless? What do you think of the name Aethelbald? (I think it's a fabulous name and very much fun to say.)

Heartless (Tales of Goldstone Wood, #1)


One Woman Farm

by Jenna Woginrich

from the cover
Liberated from a Monday-to-Friday office routine that left her yearning for full days of caring for crops and animals, Jenna Woginrich settles into the rhythms and rituals of running a small farm. Her eloquent record of this time expresses deep gratitude for everything her new way of life offers, from the joy of delivering twin lambs to the intense emotions of pig harvest day.

Beginning and ending in October -- the conclusion of a successful growing season and the beginning of a long, reflective winter -- Jenna's seasonal writings reveal the daily surprises and moments of pure grace that fill a farm year.

my rating

my review
I wasn't sure at first how I would feel about this scrapbook-like journal of a memoir, but I really enjoyed it. One Woman Farm is a bit reminiscent of Jenna Woginrich's blog, but more mindfully put together and, in some ways, more personal. Because of the short, dated entries, I could read for five minutes or half an hour and feel just as satisfied when I close the book. I loved the eclecticness of it and the unashamed honesty Jenna writes with.

She hooked me in the introductory pages with an all-too familiar feeling:
"I was grateful for my full-time job, but it was still a place I could not leave until darkness fell -- a whole day lost to a computer and walls."
And somehow she comes to a point in her life where she is able to say,
"I even love the goose [poop] on my front step because a life without goose [poop] would mean a life without geese, which is beyond comprehension at this point. I mean, how do people without geese even know when their mail arrives?"
Jenna romanticizes farming, yes, but she does so honestly and doesn't gloss over the messy parts. From lambing and horseback rides to wasp stings and butchering, she stuffs an entire year almost poetically into this little 200ish-page gem. And just because I can't help myself, one more quote:
"And it has all given me the gift of purpose in the most practical sense: Do this work and it will sustain you. Do this work and you are alive."

One-Woman Farm: The Seasons of Life Shared with Sheepdogs, Goats, Woodstoves, and a Feisty Fiddle


Daffodils Soon

Daffodils soon.
Those nestled up against
the east wall of the house,
tucked between the bare cement
front porch and storm-cellar-like
basement door,
chose Holy Week a fitting time
to send up buds and Easter weekend
to rejoice with happy butter-wrapped
sunshine faces.
But those out huddled near the sidewalk
have only just begun to wave
rocket-ship buds on slender stalks
having taken longer to awaken from
months-long slumber and spear up through
slowly thawing, cold, hard earth.
Soon, daffodils.


Iscariot: A Novel of Judas

by Tosca Lee

from the cover
In Jesus, Judas believes he has found the One—a miracle-worker. The promised Messiah and future king of the Jews, destined to overthrow Roman rule. Galvanized, Judas joins the Nazarene’s followers, ready to enact the change he has waited for all his life.

But Judas’ vision of a nation free from Roman rule is crushed by the inexplicable actions of the Nazarene himself, who will not bow to social or religious convention—who seems in the end to even turn against his own people. At last, Judas must confront the fact that the master he loves is not the liberator he hoped for, but a man bent on a drastically different agenda.

my rating

my review
I was really excited to finally read this book, to gain a new perspective on the unfortunate character of Judas, but I was a bit disappointed. The most important part of the whole story felt rushed, as if Tosca Lee didn't know exactly what to do with Judas' decision to betray Jesus and wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. It was a hasty, hefty decision made contrary to the thoughts and actions of Judas since he had met Jesus.

I also didn't like the way Tosca Lee wrote young Judas as a reincarnated Job of sorts. The first few chapters were so dark and violent that I almost didn't want to pick up the book again the next day. (And I've never seen the word "bowels" so many times in one book. Apparently Judas had a weak stomach? It was a little over done, I think.)

There were a few redeeming qualities, however. For example, I had never considered the idea that Jesus may have told the same parables over and over. Perhaps he even had a favorite that he repeated everywhere he went. And the violent beginning I disliked so much really did give a good idea of the world Jesus entered.



Midnight Captive (blog tour)

Check out this debut novel by E.D. Philips! It's a fairy-tale retelling of sorts, combining several different stories including Sleeping Beauty and the Pied Piper (click here to view it on Goodreads). This blog tour is hosted by Rivershore Books, and a full schedule can be found on their website.

from the back cover
Phaedra is cursed to sleep until true love wakes her. Hermione has a dark secret. 

When Prince Sheridan discovers the two princesses wandering the woods outside the castle at night, he begins to wonder if there is more to Phaedra's curse than is readily apparent. 

With the help of a minstrel out to prove a point, they must discover the secret before the princesses are trapped forever in the night.

my rating

my review
I thought this was a decent debut novel, and an interesting take on Sleeping Beauty and the Pied Piper. Although most of the characters seemed rather flat, I really liked Alyn, the minstrel. He's exceptionally caring, having a great deal of empathy balanced with a hint of wisdom (something lacking in many of the others). His story added a small subplot to the book as well as a fresh perspective. Speaking of perspective, I also appreciated the rotating POV between Hermione, Sheridan, and Alyn.

This book could earn a higher rating from me with a bit more editing, both on the micro and macro level. I noticed a few out-of-place commas (nothing terribly distracting, though), and the language of the book could stand to be more varied. Finally, the plot had a few minor holes, but I will refrain from going into great detail for fear of spoiling the book for others.

In all honesty, I probably shouldn't have picked up a book about one of my least favorite fairy tales. I never did like the passivity of Sleeping Beauty. So take my review with a grain of salt, and if the summary interests you, then you should definitely read Midnight Captive. Don't let my bah-humbugging hold you back!

about the author
Emilie has been writing stories for the past ten years. Her love for storytelling and fairy tales began when she was a little girl and her dad would make up bedtime stories about a princess named Amichelie; a character based off the names of Emilie and her sisters.

Midnight Captive is her first novel, written during National Novel Writing Month November 2010. She participated in the writing challenge the following two years and produced two more novel rough drafts. Her plan is to work on editing one of those drafts over the summer along with continuing to write a fantasy novel set in the real world.

Emilie lives in Alberta, Canada. In her spare time she enjoys crocheting baby blankets for her nieces and nephews and creating graphic art while watching British television.

Find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/EmilieDPhillips