Publisher: Cedar Fort

The Recipe Hacker by Diana Keuilian | Cookbook Review

Posted January 26, 2015 by Jana in Book Review / 5 Comments

The Recipe Hacker by Diana Keuilian | Cookbook ReviewThe Recipe Hacker: Comfort Foods without Soy, Dairy, Cane Sugar, Gluten, and Grain by Diana Keuilian
Published by Cedar Fort on December 9, 2014
Genres: Cookbook
Pages: 200
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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Break the recipe code for your favorite foods! Free of grains, gluten, dairy, cane sugar, and soy, The Recipe Hacker is a mouthwatering collection of your favorite comfort foods with a healthy twist. Learn to use easy ingredient substitutions to transform traditional dishes into real, healthy comfort food masterpieces, without sacrificing any of the flavor! Enjoy healthier, whole-food versions of Key Lime Pie Crispy Orange Chicken and Banana Pancakes Step-by-step photos, dozens of recipes, and delicious flavors will keep you coming back for more. Enjoy all the comfort foods you crave and keep your body (and skinny jeans) happy at the same time!

Recently I’ve started considering the fact that several of my health issues might be alleviated by giving up certain foods that typically cause allergies. I’ve got a lot of inflammation in my body, and I’ve read that food allergies can manifest themselves in less noticeable ways, or can disguise themselves as other problems. Needless to say, I was super excited to try out this cookbook because it lines up with a lot of the foods I’ve been thinking about giving up.

The contents of the cookbook include breakfasts, appetizers, main dishes, sides, and desserts. The author has come up with some very creative workarounds, and her recipes sounds amazing! Before I get into the recipes, though, I’d like to touch on the information the author provides for her readers. There’s a short note where she introduces herself and explains why she think healthy eating should be an important part of our lives, followed by a small list of healthy ingredients. She pushes organic eating and her favorite flour substitute is blanched almond flour (although people allergic to almonds can used ground sunflower seeds or gluten free oats instead). She also lists other flour, cane sugar, milk substitutes.

Now, to get into the foods! There are 100 recipes in all, most are accompanied by a sizable photo that looks so yummy I could eat it! I’m going to mention just a few that I think sounds interesting, but I’ll have to do a little more tweaking because I’m allergic to all nuts and seeds. It appears my gluten substitutes are limited!

Starting with breakfast, there’s a recipe for a donut breakfast sandwich, which sounds really yummy. It’s got a fried egg and bacon in it, and the donut is sweetened with pure maple, almond, and vanilla extracts. Sounds so good! There’s also a recipe for bagels, and I LOVE bagels. The author has included tweaks to make several different kinds, including blueberry and cinnamon (I’ll skip the raisins! Not a fan.).

Moving on to appetizers, the first recipe is onion rings–one of my guilty pleasures for sure! There’s ground almonds in them, though, so I’ll have to get a little creative. How does this sound: teriyaki spiked, tender rib eye-wrapped asparagus. Sounds crazy to me, but I’m intrigued! There’s also a recipe for pretzel bites, garnished with sea salt. Yum!

Ok, dinner time! I’m a sucker for pizza, and there’s a recipe for pizza dough made from almond flour, coconut flour, and arrowroot starch (and some other stuff) that I’d love to try. There are a few recommendations for toppings as well. Beef brisket and crispy orange chicken sound good, too! To go with dinner there’s recipes for cauliflower rice, almond bread, and egg white biscuits. I’m kind of a carb addict.

Finally, we’re on to my favorite: dessert! The chocolate fudge cake, sweetened with coconut oil and raw honey, looks amazing in the picture. Angel food cake, my favorite! And hello apple pie (topped with dairy-free vanilla ice cream, recipe included). There’s a bunch of cookie recipes, some brownies, and even cheesecake bites (no cheese included). I think the author might love dessert the most, just like I do!

All in all, I’m super excited to try some of these recipes! It seems like Keuilian is very creative, and has thought about pretty much all the comfort foods that are so hard to give up when you’re trying to avoid certain ingredients. I really appreciate that the author avoided sugar substitutes, which are so much worse for you than regular sugar is. My only qualm is that these recipes use ingredients that are higher in fat than the foods they are substituting (nuts and coconut milk are commonly used ingredients), but if you’re going for avoiding allergens over losing weight you won’t have to worry. It’s nice to have some alternatives to gluten, dairy, and sugary foods you love! The cookbook is very well-designed, of good quality, and the photography is wonderful!

What is Hidden by Lauren Skidmore | Book Review

Posted May 20, 2014 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 5 Comments

What is Hidden by Lauren Skidmore | Book ReviewWhat is Hidden by Lauren Skidmore
Published by Cedar Fort on May 13, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Suspense
Pages: 256
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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A Cinderella tale of deception and mystery.

In a land of masquerades and mystery, Evie is a mask maker in Venesia, where masks represent rank and identity. When a cryptic bandit strips away Evie's mask and destroys her home, she goes into hiding at the palace to find both a new identity and revenge.


I was very excited to be given the opportunity to read and review What is Hidden for the book’s blog tour. Due to a family emergency, I am a few days late posting my review. I appreciate the patience and understanding of Cedar Fort and Lauren Skidmore. I really enjoyed this book, and am excited to finally have some time to sit down and write out my thoughts! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. In the land of Venisia, nobody is allowed to be seen without a mask covering most of their face. Evie’s job is that of a mask maker, and she and her father make masks together in their home studio. Right at the beginning of the story, it is announced that there is a serial murderer, the Chameleon, going around killing people, stealing their masks, and assuming their identities. Nobody knows who this person is, whether they are male or female, or how to stop them. All they know is that this person has a unique brand on their face, hidden under their mask. One night the Chameleon attacks Evie’s home, burns it down, kills her father, and steals his mask and all other masks in the studio. The Chameleon also brands Evie with the same unique symbol, marking her as the Chameleon. If anyone sees her mark, she will be punished and maybe even killed for the real Chameleon’s crimes. She must go into hiding and abandon her friends, in the hopes of finding the Chameleon herself and clearing her own name. She flees to the palace and poses as a serving girl. It’s a very exciting and unique premise!

2. Evie has one link to her former life, her best friend Aiden. He has always been a master at finding people, and shows up at her bedroom door one night overjoyed that she did not die with her father. He is a noble, and has the ability to pull some strings and make her life a little less unbearable. Of course, she is delighted to have him in her life again and looks forward to their nightly visits and self defense lessons. She confides in him about everything, except for the Chameleon’s brand hiding under her mask. I LOVED Aiden. He’s so suave and cocky and snarky and caring.

3. All things considered, Evie is a pretty strong heroine. Her father has been murdered, she has been branded a criminal by the Chameleon, so can’t trust anyone, she has lost her former life, and she is dealing with the daily verbal abuse from other palace workers. Yet, she keeps her head on straight. I really liked that, instead of rolling over and accepting what has been done to her, she is making it her life’s mission to bringing the correct person to justice.

4. There is a bit of romance, which develops from a very sweet friendship. I loved it.

5. While What is Hidden is marketed as being a Cinderella tale, I also saw some of The Scarlet Pimpernel in it! I can’t tell you why because it’s a bit spoilery, but I really liked the added mystery and intrigue. Nobody is who they say they are, and their masks make things even more mysterious.

6. In case you had not guessed, Venisia is TOTALLY Venice, Italy. I’m not sure whether it’s an old Venice, a new Venice, or a Venice removed from time completely. The language is very modern, though, so it would be hard to convince me that it’s historic Venice. There are canals and water taxis, though, and any book that takes me to Venice or a Venice-like place is welcome on my shelves.

7. The writing style is very descriptive and lovely. I loved reading about the scenery and the intricate masks and costumes.

8. I’m just a little unsatisfied with the ending… There’s some loose ends and no announcement of a sequel. And seriously, these ends could have been tied up with a paragraph or a short epilogue, so a second book is extremely unnecessary. I would have liked a little more closure.

All in all, What is Hidden was a fun, slightly suspenseful story that I highly enjoyed. I loved the friendship turned love story, the Venice-like setting, and the sweet characters. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for Lauren Skidmore’s future books.

This book is a 2014 debut


Santa Maybe by Aubrey Mace (Mini Book Review)

Posted December 6, 2012 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

Santa Maybe by Aubrey Mace (Mini Book Review)Santa Maybe by Aubrey Mace
Published by Cedar Fort on September 8, 2009
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 186
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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3 Stars

With a successful bakery to run, super cute nieces and nephews to spoil, and plenty of good friends to keep her company, Abbie s not about to start crying over the fact that she s doesn't have a boyfriend to spend Christmas with. But when her sister convinces her to write a note to Santa, Abbie has no idea that a little Christmas magic is about to land her the man of her dreams. Or rather, that man is about to land smack dab on the floor in front of her Christmas tree with no memory of how he got there.

Now Abbie and Ben have to figure out where he came from, who he really is, and if he's actually available.

Aubrey Mace, the award-winning author of Spare Change, has done it again! This light-hearted holiday romance is sure to please even the most cynical scrooge. Told with humor, sweetness, and Aubrey's signature wit, this is one Christmas story that will keep you smiling all year round.

Santa Maybe is a cute, quick read with lots of adorable Christmas spirit and tradition. It all starts when Abbie writes a letter to Santa, asking for a husband. She does this as a joke, not expecting anything to happen, seeing as how she has sworn off of men. Low and behold, she is awakened by a thud in her living room. Armed with a rolling pin and lots of adrenaline, she sneaks out and finds a man asleep under her tree. I swear, I need to write my letter to Santa now. I need a man for Christmas too!

I’d been wanting to read this book for a few years, and am so glad I started my Christmas reads further in advance this time. Santa Maybe is the perfect book to get you into the Christmas spirit. Abbie owns an adorable sounding bakery, and she spends a lot of time there baking goodies as the snow falls outside. I could practically smell the cookies baking in the oven. When Ben shows up, he immediately fits into her life perfectly, and is so persistent and amazing. It was fun watching the two of them try to figure out who he was!

Oh, and boy, did Abbie end up with a winner. Ben is amazingly perfect (well, except for the amnesia), and the dream man that fills up my single girl’s mind. He’s chivalrous and handsome and thoughtful, caring, etc. He’s all the good things! He and Abbie have great chemistry, but she is convinced that he has a wife and children somewhere. This really hinders the relationship, and I wish we had been given more time to see them as a couple, rather than in this stage of limbo.

Aspects of this story are pretty unrealistic. I mean, Abbie had absolutely no problems accepting a stranger into her house. I’m a bit too paranoid to be able to do that, but he is pretty handsome, so maybe I’d bend the rules for a guy like him! Ben’s face went up on the news, and women began posing as his wife so they could have him to themselves. I found that a bit far-fetched as well. And Abbie’s sister’s reaction to all of this was also rather unrealistic. If this happened to my sister, I’d be flipping out! I certainly would not immediately start shoving her into him. I’d have to interrogate him first!

All in all, though, Christmas is a time for magic. Santa Maybe is a cute, magical story chock full of family, food, and romance. I’d recommend it to anyone who loves simple little contemporary Christmas romances.

(Disclaimer: This book was written by an LDS woman, so aspects of the LDS faith are woven into the story. Nothing is pushed on the reader, though. Ben and Abbie go to church once, so the readers are given a few churchy details during that portion of the book. Other than that, there’s nothing else.)

3 Stars

Marian’s Christmas Wish by Carla Kelly (Book Review)

Posted December 5, 2011 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 2 Comments

Marian’s Christmas Wish by Carla Kelly (Book Review)Marian's Christmas Wish by Carla Kelly
Published by Cedar Fort on October 9, 2011
Genres: Historical Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 298
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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5 Stars

Miss Marian Wynswich is a rather unconventional young lady. She plays chess, reads Greek, and is as educated as any young man. And she's certain falling in love is a ridiculous endeavor and vows never to do such a thing. But everything changes when she receives a Christmas visit from someone unexpected a young and handsome English lord.

The summary on the back of the book does not give you much info, so here’s just a little more. I’m not going to give away too many details, just because the story is so much fun to just discover on your own. So here are the bare essentials: Marian’s spunky, outspoken, and not accomplished in the ways that many young women are during her time period. She doesn’t sing or play the piano. She didn’t go through all the classes and training that one goes through to learn how to be a lady. No, she’d rather make ointments and work with medicines to heal all of her stray animal friends (and a few people, too). She doesn’t have curly hair and brown eyes. She doesn’t care, though! She can beat you at chess, and read Greek and Latin better than anyone. She speaks her mind whenever she feels so inclined, and that gets her into trouble sometimes. She’s also read every book in her father’s library. A bookish girl after my own heart. Speaking of her father, he passed away and left his family in a very dire situation. When Marian’s brother comes home with a rich, but unattractive and undesirable suitor for her older sister, Ariadne, Marian is determined to figure out a way to stop this awful courtship. She believes that people should only marry for love, and that it has to be a LOT of love or it’s not even worth it. As she and her brother play tricks on this man alongside the very handsome Gilbert Collinworth, Earl of Ingraham, she begins to question her decision to never marry. Perhaps love is better than she thinks!

This book was endearing, and oh so sweet! It’s the kind of sweet you hope to read during December, but not so over the top that you want to throw you Christmas cookies in the trash because you’ve reached your maximum sugar intake for the season. I loved Marian. She’s exactly the kind of personality-type I was/wished to be at the ripe old age of 16, so I identified a lot with her as I read her story. She doesn’t follow the normal trend, and manages to stand out in her own special way. She’s got a good head on her shoulders, is very mature, and won’t take crap from anyone. She’s so much more amazing at sticking up for herself and speaking her mind to authority figures than I was, though, and I envy that a little. She’s resilient, a tad emotional, and enjoys acting her age sometimes (when she’s not having to force herself to be a grown up). And Gilbert is amazing. Just like Marian, he was not created from the same mold most males of his time were. He’s a funny troublemaker who likes to stir the pot. He becomes quite an ally to Marian, making her be quiet when she wishes to speak her mind. Their banter back and forth is so much fun to read, not to mention his moments of being so tender and caring… oh, and those twinkling eyes. I kinda fell in love with that Gilbert Collinworth.

Marian’s brother, Alistair, is a really awesome brother. I wish I had one just like him. He teases Marian non-stop, but when she needs him to lean on, or to cry on his shoulder, he’s sensitive and very caring. I can just picture those two bantering over chess or at the breakfast table. They have one of those sweet brother/sister relationships that I hope my future son and daughter have one day (long, long into the future!). We don’t get to know the rest of her family extremely well. Her mother is pretty high maintenance and snobby, and Ariadne (seriously, how on Earth do you pronounce her name!?) is pretty spineless and quiet. She clams up and goes with the flow–a great contrast to Marian. Percy (the oldest brother) is firm, but you can tell he doesn’t want to be. He became the man of the house, and with that comes a great responsibility. He’s a softy, though, and ends up making you smile as well. You can tell that the entire family is very loving and cares about everyone deeply. Of course, I object to the arranged marriage, but that’s all part of the the time period. A poor family marrying their daughter off to an old rich man, whom she will never love is something we read a lot about in regency romance novels.

I did not mean to do such a thorough character analysis, but the characters are what make this story so enjoyable! I mean, when you come right down to it, this storyline has been done before. A little suspense and mystery is thrown in (which I loved, by the way), but for the most part it’s been done. The characters are what set this book apart from all the others, plus the fact that it’s during Christmas, so it’s much more magical already! Bottom line, when I think of the story, I think about the people before the plot. That’s a big deal. The descriptions of lovely snowy scenes and intense moments of danger also make this book something special. Oh, and the kissing scene is pretty dang cute too!

While I did see this book on a shelf at a local Christian bookstore, I would not mark this as strictly Christian fiction. The Christmas service at the church is only a few paragraphs, and there’s really no other talk of religion. So, if you’re a bit leery of this book for that reason, don’t worry! You won’t be preached to. I also wouldn’t mark this as young adult fiction. Girls during this time period were forced to grow up early, so even though Marian is only 16, she’s where many of today’s mid-twenties to even late-thirties women are.

So, I can happily add another adorable Christmas romance to my list of keepers! This December is turning out to be a month of great finds so far! Thanks again to netgalley and Cedar Fort Publishing for giving me this complimentary copy, in exchange for my honest review.

5 Stars