April Book Finds and Reviews

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Looking for reviews on some of the latest books about home, gardens, cooking, and more? Here are my reviews on some books that arrived in my mailbox during the month of April.

April Book Reviews

If you are looking for something new to read, here are my quick reviews of some new release books related to home, gardening, cooking, simplifying, or anything else that I found interesting! Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom of the post to enter to win a giveaway for some of these titles!

Growing Your Own Tea Garden – Jodi Helmer

You Love To Drink Tea. Why Not Grow Your Own? If you’ve ever considered raising your own tea, this comprehensive guide is the place to start. Growing Your Own Tea Garden is packed with inspiration and practical instructions for cultivating and enjoying delicious teas. Author Jodi Helmer helps you plan and plant a productive backyard tea garden, with sample garden designs and cultivation advice. She shows you how to choose the right crops for your soil and climate, starting with the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) and going on through a comprehensive survey of tisanes, or herbal teas.

Merissa’s Thoughts – I’m so excited to have this book in my library! I love herbal teas and growing herbs and plants. This book covers all different herbs that can be grown for use in teas, plus a lot of recipes on how to create your delicious beverages. I’m definitely making the Peppermint Raspberry Tea this summer.

The Gluten Free Instant Pot Cookbook – Jane Bonacci

For the millions of people who, by doctor’s orders or by choice, must exclude or limit gluten in their diets, finding Instant Pot recipes has been a huge challenge. This timely book solves the problem. Its recipes focus on dishes that are the most problematic for gluten-sensitive cooks, such as main-course dinners that typically have a grain component, as well as breakfasts and desserts, which also usually have wheat or gluten.

Merissa’s Thoughts – While I don’t yet have an Instant Pot, I enjoyed looking through the recipes in this book and getting ideas. Whenever I pick up a cookbook at a store, I want to make sure that the recipes are simple (not too many ingredients) and the ingredients are accessible and affordable. This book’s recipes hit all of those buckets and they appear to be very kid friendly as well.

The Field Guide to Urban Gardening – Kevin Espiritu

If you think it’s impossible to grow your own food because you don’t have a large yard or you live in the city…think again. There is a plethora of urban gardening options to create beautiful, productive edible gardens no matter where you live. The key to succeeding as an urban gardener is to choose the method(s) that make sense for your unique living situation and then give your plants what they need to thrive. Kevin helps you do just that.

Merissa’s Thoughts – This is the perfect book for those of you that don’t have a large yard or acreage to be able to grow a garden on. Kevin covers container gardening, hydroponics, raised beds gardening, verticle gardens, growing on balconies, and indoor gardening. All excellent ways to grow all kinds of delicious and beautiful things even in a small space or without a yard.

Straw Bale Gardens Complete – Joel Karsten

Whatever your gardening challenge, Straw Bale Gardening holds the solution. Have a small or unusual space? Straw Bale Gardening is perfect for urban, rooftop, and balcony gardens. Contaminated soil? Planting in straw bales eliminates the problem. Are you inundated by weeds? With straw bales, there is no weeding. The advantages of growing a Straw Bale Garden go on and on: they require 75 percent less labor, their raised height makes planting easier, they extend the growing season, prevent disease and insect issues, are portable, hold water well but are impossible to overwater, they create excellent compost, and can be grown 100 percent organically.

Merissa’s Thoughts – Growing a garden in a straw bale is something I haven’t done before but I have considered it since hay bales are readily available where we live. This book covers all of the information you would need to start a straw bale garden including how to plan your garden, how to build it, planting, issues that you might face, and how to build straw bale garden structures like a greenhouse.

Grow in the Dark – Lisa Eldred Steinkopf

Having a south-facing window doesn’t always guarantee you the best light to grow plants—especially if your window faces an alley or a tree-lined street. What’s the point of growing an urban jungle if tall buildings are blocking all your sunshine? This compact guide, designed to look as good on your shelf as it is useful, will help you learn how to make the most of your light so you can reap the physical and emotional benefits of living with plants.

Merissa’s Thoughts – I will admit, I’m TERRIBLE at growing houseplants indoors. Give me any vegetables and I can grow them, but houseplants? Nope. That’s why I was excited to get this book and see what it has to say because maybe…just maybe, it’s not totally my own fault when it comes to growing houseplants. This book covers illumination, hydration, vitamins, and maintenance. The second half of the book talks all about the best types of plants to grow inside. I’m excited to use this reference and see if I can actually keep something alive.

Memory Making Mom – Jessica Smartt

What’s the solution to gaining the balanced, meaningful life you desire with your family? Create traditions that bring joy and significance. Popular “Smartter Each Day” blogger and mom of three, Jessica Smartt explains why memory-making is the puzzle piece that today’s families are longing for. She highlights the tradition-gifts kids need most with 300+ unique traditions including:

  • Food: Memories That Stick to Your Ribs
  • Holidays: Fall Bucket Lists, Crooked Christmas Trees, and Lingering Over Lent
  • Spontaneity: Let’s Go on an Adventure
  • Faith: Why You Need the Puzzle Box
  • She also offers practical encouragement to modern parents to keep on adventuring—even when they are fighting distractions, are on a budget, and exhausted.

    Merissa’s Thoughts – I love books like this to gather special ideas on what I can do with my family. We absolutely love starting new traditions and having new adventures in our household. This book covers ideas on how to make memories and traditions while working, during holidays, on Sundays, during one on one time with the kids, and much more. The appendix also features an additional 200 simple ideas for traditions that you can work on adding in during various times of the year. I love all of the ideas and I can’t wait to jump into trying some of them.

    Want to win these books? I’m giving away a copy of

    • Grow in the Dark
    • Straw Bale Gardens Complete
    • Growing Your Own Tea Garden
    • The Gluten Free Instant Pot Cookbook
    • The Field Guide to Urban Gardening

    to one winner! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below to be entered to win all of these books to add to your personal collection. Good luck!

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    **Please note: I will email the giveaway winner as soon as the giveaway has ended. The winner has 72 hours to respond to the email and claim the prize. If there is no response, all books will be donated to my local library. Please add [email protected] to your email contacts to help ensure email delivery.**

    Have you read any of these books? Which one do you think interests you?

    Are you an author or publishing house that wants me to review your book? Send an email with the information to [email protected].

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    1. All these books will be getting a good read!!! Grow in the Dark – Lisa Eldred Steinkopf would be my first read by night light, lol. I also have a hard time keeping any houseplants alive for a decent amount of time, but would really love to have houseplants for better indoor air and (((((love)))) I grew up in a house with lots of plants, one huge elephant ear plant over taking the entry way, it was pretty cool! No plastic plants for me, thanks.

    2. I just got some straw bales to try my hand at straw bale gardening! Hopefully making use of a very sunny but gravelly spot along my driveway.

    3. Grow in the Dark sounds like it was written for me. I am a chronic houseplant killer, which is a shame because I love them.

    4. What great books. I would read the straw bale one. I tried it once and it worked out ok but I know I could do it better.

    5. I love them all. However it is between the gluten free instant pot or the garden. Thanks

    6. I would read all of the books offered and especially interested in the Tea Garden and Straw Bales books.

    7. What a great selection. The Tea Garden and Growing in the Dark would be the first two I would read.

    8. I have heard before about straw bale gardening, and would love to read a book of how-to on it. I must confess, the older I get, the idea of not having to reach down as far to tend to a garden also is very enticing! 🙂

      Thanks for the giveaway!!!

    9. Thanks for the reviews, I have been wondering about the instant pot one and the one on teas,
      I grow herbs but don’t always use them up.

    10. I have Joel Karstens book several years now..now that i be moved i plan to try it out this fall..Tea, new item to grow in my yard. Books on making traditional with family for my Son & Daughter-in – law..Glow in the Dark to share with one daughter on growing plants in her apartment