Book Review: The Angel of Forest Hill, by Cindy Woodsmall

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When I learned that Cindy had a new Christmas novella out (I’ve read some of her other novellas in the past), I was excited to read The Angel of Forest Hill. I loved it, and my only disappointment with it was that it wasn’t longer. I have a love/hate relationship with novellas. I love that I can finish a whole story in a couple of hours, but I hate the necessary leaps in time and super-condensed plots. This novella in particular jumps over long periods of time with only a brief synopsis of what happened during the skipped years. But it’s a forgivable annoyance.

The main character’s personality was as well-developed as is possible in a novella. The other characters are pretty flat. But if you are looking for a cozy, romantic, short read about an Amish marriage of convenience, then this is your book.

I received The Angel of Forest Hill from Blogging for Books for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review.

Book Review: The Lifegiving Home, by Sally and Sarah Clarkson

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The Lifegiving Home is a practical and inspiring collection, arranged month-by-month, of ideas which will help you to “creat[e] a place of belonging and becoming” for yourself, your family, your friends, and others with whom you share your home.

Sally Clarkson is so amazing in this book, and her other books, about helping women solidify their ideals and work toward establishing an atmosphere of safety and love where people can learn, grow, create, and build strong relationships. I am always encouraged after reading or listening to Sally (check out her “At Home With Sally” podcast; it’s great, too!).

Book Review: Felicity, by Mary Oliver

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Felicity is a collection of love poems, not just about romantic love (although the book does contain several non-mushy, non-racy romantic love poems), but also about loving the natural world, loving oneself, loving friends, and loving life in general.

If you only have half an hour, you can read this entire book and come away feeling elevated and appreciative. Of course, you will probably find a few favorite poems and want to re-read them. Personally, I am going to copy several of these poems into a notebook before I turn my copy in to the library. Among them will be: “The World I Live In,” “I Wake Close to Morning,” “Everything That Was Broken,” “Late Spring,” and “I Have Just Said.”

Book Review: Fit to Burst, by Rachel Jankovic

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In Fit to Burst: Abundance, Mayhem, and the Joys of Motherhood, Rachel Jankovic has some good, wise things to say, and it’s nice to read a book by a young mom, who is, right now, in the thick of caring for multiple little people. This tiny book has eighteen chapters, which means that each chapter is only a few pages long. The chapters are self-contained, which is helpful, I guess, if you only have time to read one, but the book is not particularly organized or unified, other than centering around the theme of “motherhood.” Maybe I would have appreciated the book more in small doses, but I had to rush through it because I borrowed it through interlibrary loan and don’t want to be hit with a steep late fee.

Jankovic’s tone bugs me a bit. Her writing is concise, blunt, and sometimes leaning toward strict or  harsh. I’m suppose I’m comparing it to another “mothering” book I am currently reading, Sally Clarkson’s The Lifegiving Home, and Clarkson’s style is so much gentler and more gracious, which I find more encouraging.

Book Review: Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell

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Outliers is informative and engaging. I genuinely enjoyed reading the profiles of various successful people and the analysis of how and why they were able to rise to the top of their professions or otherwise excel in life. The book can essentially be summed up with this statement from its next-to-last chapter: “Outliers are those who have been given opportunities–and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.”

So, to be blunt, this book is valuable and interesting in an abstract way, but if you are reading it for practical advice on how YOU can be successful, then you will be disappointed and possibly annoyed that you never experienced any of the “lucky breaks” that most of the individuals in this book were afforded.

 

 

 

Puppy Cake

My middle daughter requested a puppy cake for her sixth birthday, and this is the result:

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I got the idea from here. I made the cake and frosting from scratch, but I’m not going to link to the recipes I used, as they were both way too sweet (and that’s saying something, coming from me, because I definitely have a sweet tooth!). However, the birthday girl was very pleased, and that’s what counts.

Cake making notes, in case anyone is interested: I didn’t use food coloring; I just used varying amounts of cocoa powder to color the frosting. So the puppy turned out to be more of a chocolate labradoodle, rather than the goldendoodle on the recipe page. And I didn’t have the patience to dab the grass decorating tip (Wilton 233) over and over a gajillion times, so I sort of just squeezed the frosting out randomly like squiggly spaghetti. I actually like the way this made the “fur” turn out. The eyes are large candy eyes, Wilton brand I think, that I got at Joann’s. The other decorations I got in the bulk natural foods section at Fred Meyer. The nose is a malted milk ball, the collar is made of natural M&M-type candies, and the “pendant” on the collar is a yogurt-covered almond.

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Book Review: Three Decades of Fertility

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This is not a book for everyone. However, if you love reading birth stories, have a large family or are curious about large families and their beliefs and practices, or are an “older” (mid-thirties and up) woman who is interested in having (or continuing to have) babies, then you will probably enjoy this book. The book is written from a religious standpoint, as is obvious from the subtitle: “Ten Ordinary Women Surrender to the Creator and Embrace Life.”

Each chapter in this book is written by a different woman who holds the conviction that God is sovereign over family size. For the most part, the women eschew all forms of birth control and have large families. Each woman shares about her family, including her and her husband’s reasons for allowing God to plan their family size, birth stories, and challenges and blessings that have come their way. Then, at the end of each chapter, each woman gives her answers for the same set of survey questions that was given to all of the book’s contributors.

I appreciate that the survey questions do not shy away from hard ethical issues, such as the increased risk of miscarriage and birth defects that older mothers face. I was encouraged by the strong faith and wisdom of each of the women in this book. The tone of the book is not preachy or prescriptive; it’s more “this is why we do what we do and how it has worked out for us.”

The last two chapters of the book are full of practical advice about optimal nutrition for fertility and help for preventing and correcting physical challenges that some women experience during and after pregnancy.