Posts Categorized: Book Review

Who Is The 4th Man + Enter to Win Phone Consult with Lisa Gardner

November 29, 2016 Book Review, Giveaway 0

 

lisa gardner phone consult

I’ve been a fan of Lisa Gardner’s since reading The Perfect Husband so many years ago. When I found out she was offering a phone consult to kick off her new book, Right Behind You, I knew I had to share the opportunity with you! Wouldn’t it be so amazing if you were chosen to consult with an author at the top of her game! Imagine all the possible ways the conversation could go “Hi this is Lisa Gardner, so you like my books?”….

“Hi, this is Lisa Gardner, you have a concept for a possible book you want to write? Let’s talk…”

“Hi this is Lisa Gardner, you’ve written a book and want to know if it’s ready for publication…”

Ok, you can probably tell I’ve been imagining all kinds of things to talk about once I got over the absolute fandom act. If you win, you’ll have to share with me all the details – inquiring minds want to know!


the 4th manIf you’ve been around The Novel Life for any length of time, you’ll know I thoroughly enjoy the book that delves into the reasons behind the action. Give me a book that digs into the behavior that led up to the crime or the climax, and I’m quite the contented reader.

Which is why I enjoy Lisa Gardner’s books so much. She not only creates unbelievable plots, but she gets at the why.

In The 4th Man we have a college student found strangled on a stairwell in the library with only her sneakers missing. Three men become possible suspects. It takes ten years and FBI profiler Pierce Quincy and his wife, former police officer, to solve the mysterious murder. There’s no motive, no sign of sexual assault and no physical evidence other than the body.

Though it is a short story, only 40 pages and therefore a quick read, The 4th Man is a great escape from politics and news. It’s the book you can enjoy while taking a long bath, waiting at the doctor office, or while in the school pickup line. A quick read with a satisfying ending only made weirder by the fact it’s based on a real case!

Are you a fan of short stories? Share your favorites in the comments.

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Questionable Women, Dirty Cops and Murder in The Kept Woman

November 18, 2016 Book Review, reviews 1

Questionable Women, Dirty Cops and Murder in The Kept WomanThe Kept Woman (Will Trent, #8) by Karin Slaughter
Published by William Morrow on September 20th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Thriller
Pages: 461
Source: purchased
AmazonBarnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-half-stars

A couple of days ago I took Karin Slaughter’s latest book, The Kept Woman, outside to read for just a bit. I only planned to read for an hour or so, but three hours later I had to finally move inside because the sun was going down so fast I couldn’t see the words to read!

Karin Slaughter is brilliant when it comes to pacing and plot. The Kept Woman is #8 in her Will Trent series based in Atlanta, Georgia. Normally I prefer to read the all the books in the series, in order. But with Karin Slaughter I will make an exception! Believe it or not, I did not start reading her books until the standalone Coptown came out. This is only my third novel by Slaughter and she’s become one of those authors I will automatically buy.

Back to Will Trent ~ oh my goodness what a flawed man he is! He grew up in the foster care system, married his teenage sweetheart, Angie Polaski, who also happened to be in foster care with him. The novel begins with a gruesome murder of a cop no one liked or respected in an abandoned club being built by a basketball star who got off on a rape charge. While investigating the crime scene they figure out Angie was involved and is critically injured. Will loses it in front of his ME girlfriend and goes on a frantic search for Angie.

[Tweet “Brilliant pacing and plot in this thriller! “]

I plan to go back and read the previous seven books in this series. If those are half as good as The Kept Woman, I may come up for air in a few weeks! Learning the background of how and why Will and Angie became the people they are is sad and realistic. Their childhood is in stark contrast with that of Sara, the Medical Examiner. I’ve noticed in the three books of Slaughter’s I’ve read so far, crimes against women and children are the focus. She does a fantastic job of bringing awareness to the pitfalls of the foster care system; the hard-to-explain cycle of abuse in domestic violence situations; the flawed police who investigate crimes and finally, the resilience of some children after surviving horrific circumstances.

The Kept Woman is one of those thrillers that you can’t put down. Every page is another revelation. There are underlying plot points that surprised me even though I figured out who the killer was early on. Karin Slaughter knows Atlanta well, writing about Buckhead and downtown with equal aplomb. Highly recommended with one caveat:

Trigger warning ~ The Kept Woman addresses crimes against women and children. Please be aware before going into this book if these types of triggers are detrimental to your well-being.

If you like The Kept Woman, you may also enjoy One Kick by Chelsea Cain or The Fixer by T.E. Woods

four-half-stars

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Racism and White Privilege in Small Great Things

November 1, 2016 Book Review, reviews 12

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Racism and White Privilege in Small Great ThingsSmall Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Published by Ballantine Books on October 11th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction
Pages: 480
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonBarnes & Noble
Goodreads

You say you don’t see color…but that’s all you see. You’re so hyperaware of it, and of trying to look like you aren’t prejudiced, you can’t even understand that when you say race doesn’t matter all I hear is you dismissing what I’ve felt, what I’ve lived, what it’s like to be put down because of the color of my skin.

Jodi Picoult never fails to deliver a novel that makes us think, makes us consider what we would do, how we would respond. It’s my favorite kind of book: the one that teaches me about myself and my community.

Small Great Things is the story of Ruth Jefferson, a labor and delivery nurse for twenty years. She’s been a stellar employee and nurse and raised an honor student alone after her husband died serving in Afghanistan. By all appearances, Ruth is a model citizen and a genuinely great nurse. She is also African American.

Why does this matter?

It doesn’t. Except to Turk and Brittany, white supremacists who object to Ruth being the nurse for their newborn baby, Davis.

When circumstances arise that leave Ruth watching over Davis, the baby stops breathing, codes and ultimately dies.

I imagine you can guess what happens next.

Ruth is charged with murdering the baby as revenge.

Small Great Things is told in three alternating voices: Ruth, Turk, father of Davis and white supremacist, and Kennedy, the white public defender assigned to represent Ruth.

Each character is fully developed with a thorough back story. Reading how Turk came to be so filled with hate was a lesson in humanity. Kennedy thought she was not racist because she “didn’t see color.”. Her passion for social justice and winning Ruth’s case was a lesson in humanity. Which was more important: winning or compassionately understanding another person?

[Tweet “Compassionate novel of white privilege and racism by @jodipicoult”]

While the book is not without flaws, a few passages and actions seemed outside of reality, but, then again, isn’t that why we read? as an escape of reality?  Ambiguous endings are not a favorite for me and Picoult has been known to have a few those. Small Great Things gives us a shocking, yet also neatly wrapped ending. I think I’ve read every Jodi Picoult book, and while Leaving Time will probably always be my favorite, Small Great Things is a close second. It is relevant, a mirror for today’s society and told with depth and compassion.

 

*Many thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for the review copy.

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CookBook Review: 100 Days of Real Food Fast and Fabulous

October 24, 2016 Book Review, reviews 4

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

CookBook Review: 100 Days of Real Food Fast and Fabulous100 Days of Real Food: Fast & Fabulous: The Easy and Delicious Way to Cut Out Processed Food by Lisa Leake
Published by William Morrow Cookbooks on October 25th 2016
Genres: Non-Fiction, Wellness
Pages: 320
Source: complimentary review copy, purchased
Amazon
Goodreads
five-stars

 

It was a blustery December afternoon on my grandparent’s farm in Tennessee. The cows had to be herded into the barn and the never-ending farm chores had to be done before the snow set in.  Herding slow-moving cows in freezing temperatures is not the most relaxing way to spend an afternoon. Especially if you’re nine years old and have the latest Trixie Belden waiting for you. Let’s just say I was not my happiest.

Trudging back to the farmhouse after falling in the creek, all I could think of was standing by the wood stove to thaw out, a hot shower, and something warm to fill my belly. My mom told me we were having chili for supper, and I’m sure she could tell by my expression I was not thrilled at the prospect. At least it wasn’t greens ~ my Granny made me sit at the kitchen table til I finished a giant helping of greens. I’m still traumatized by that event!

Once I had my shower and found a spot amongst all the relatives in the living room, my mom brought me a small bowl of my uncle’s famous chili. Whenever we had a major holiday, like Christmas, relatives came out of the woodwork to hunt and help on the farm.

I took my first hesitant bite after blowing and blowing to be sure the chili was cool enough. Then I took a second bite. Nine bowls later I became a family legend. Guess what my favorite food is, still, to this day?

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When I found out Lisa Leake, of 100 Days of Real Food blog fame, had a new cookbook coming out focused on meals 30 minutes or less, I pre-ordered immediately. Then my food idol put a call out for cookbook ambassadors, and I was over-the-moon ecstatic to be selected. The day I opened the package with the book I went through every mouth-watering recipe making lists. My goal was to spend a week cooking out of the one cookbook – both as a healthy challenge and as a way to see if I really like the recipes.

The first recipe I made was the sausage and mushroom frittata. I planned to pair it with the hash brown casserole but changed my mind at the last minute. It’s only me eating this week, my sweetheart is out of town, so making a big huge meal just didn’t make sense. As this was my first frittata ever I think I did pretty darn good….or maybe it was the recipe was so good? Either way, it didn’t feel like I was denying myself anything by having a home-made/non-processed meal. In fact, I didn’t feel weighted down or bloated after eating. Oh, and the frittata? Scrumptious! I ate it for dinner and then again for breakfast two mornings in a row.

My next recipe to try was the black bean protein bowl. Oh my goodness y’all! There’s a southwest restaurant near our apartment in Scottsdale that makes the most delicious protein bowl. One week, between lunch and supper, I had that bowl five times! Now before you go thinking me an absolute pig – three of those times was the leftovers. Suffice it to say, I am a glutton for protein bowls. So when I saw the recipe for my favorite bowl in the 100 Days of Real Food Fast and Fabulous it was meal number 2 to attempt. Yes. It was also fantastic. The only thing missing was the chipotle ranch dressing that Locos Patron doles out with their protein bowls. I haven’t had a chance to scan the 100 Days of Real Food website to see if Lisa has a dressing to experiment with but regardless, her recipe was pretty darn close to the real thing {and probably a lot less on processed food}!

[Tweet “‘Fast and Fabulous’ is understatement for new cookbook by @100daysofrealfood blogger/author!”]

Remember how I shared that chili is my favorite food ever? That’s any kind of chili – including white bean chicken chili. If you could have smelled the combination of spices with the onion and jalapeno as I cooked – absolutely divine. I cheated just a little and used a rotisserie chicken instead of cooking the chicken breasts. Lisa’s definition of real food is either whole food like fruit or vegetables, dairy products and packaged food ‘with no more than five unrefined ingredients.’  I used jalapenos out of a jar – six ingredients – all were real food except the calcium chloride.  Aargh! Aside from that, this ‘real food’ chili was delicious. Not quite spicy enough to set my mouth on fire but savory enough to have all my taste buds singing. Definitely a new favorite recipe! I’m so glad Lisa suggested we make a double-batch to freeze!

A few extras that make the cookbook even better

  • The real-food supermarket product lists: a top 10 list of real food to buy from Target, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, even Walmart!
  • The Look For/Avoid charts: Includes what to look for in added sweeteners, cooking fats, meats and more.
  • The seasonal 7-day meal plans + shopping lists
  • Recommendations for work-week/school-week meals

What I like even better about the second cookbook

In the first cookbook Lisa goes in-depth explaining how and why the 100 Days of Real Food blog and subsequent cookbook came about. I think there’s about the same number of recipes in the 1st cookbook as there are in the second one, but I feel somewhat overwhelmed by the first cookbook. Maybe just adding ‘fast and fabulous’ to the title made it more doable for me, less intimidating. All I know is as much as I liked the first cookbook, this second one is my new favorite.

While this is not my uncle’s famous chili recipe, it’s pretty darn close to 9-bowls-worthy! Try it and let me know if it’s your new favorite chicken chili!

white bean chicken chili
5 from 1 vote
white bean chicken chili
Print
White Chicken Chili
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
40 mins
 

GLUTEN-FREE

NUT-FREE

FREEZER-FRIENDLY

Servings: 4 people
Author: Lisa Leake
Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion diced
  • 1/2 jalapeño minced
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels no need to thaw
  • 2 15 oz cans of white beans, (such as Great Northern or cannellini) drained and rinsed
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
Instructions
  1. In a medium soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and jalapeño and cook, stirring, until the onion has softened, 2 to 3 minutes. 

  2. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is lightly browned on the outside and no longer pink on the inside (add more olive oil if the pot starts to dry out), 4 to 5 minutes.

  3. Toss the minced garlic and spices into the pot and turn a few times to coat the chicken evenly. Add the corn, beans, and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, about 20 minutes.

  4. Break up some of the beans with the back of a wooden spoon to help thicken the chili. Stir in the cream, garnish with the desired toppings, and serve! 

Recipe Notes
TOPPINGS: Chopped cilantro, sour cream, grated Monterey Jack cheese, diced avocado, and/or corn tortilla strips
 
LISA'S TIP: This dish is also great with leftover cooked chicken. Just skip
step 2 and add the cooked chicken with the garlic and spices in step 3
 
 

[Tweet “Best white chicken chili recipe ever!”]

five-stars

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NFBookClub: The Poisoner’s Handbook Discussion Part One

October 21, 2016 Book Review, Book Talk, reviews 2

NFBookClub: The Poisoner’s Handbook Discussion Part OneThe Poisoner's Handbook by Deborah Blum
Published by Penguin on February 18th, 2010
Genres: Narrative, Non-Fiction
Pages: 319
Source: Local Library
Amazon
Goodreads
four-stars

 

My friend, Katie, over at DoingDeweyDecimal ,hosts a nonfiction read each month. For October, she appropriately chose The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York. It reads like a modern-day thriller with a fast-pace and in-depth narrative. If you’re looking for a creepy nonfiction book you can’t go wrong with this one! Plus you learn so much about how forensic science is developed. I promise it’s not all dry!

I see poisoners—so calculating, so cold-blooded—as most like the villains of our horror stories. They’re closer to that lurking monster in the closet than some drug-impaired crazy with a gun. I don’t mean to dismiss the latter—both can achieve the same awful results. But the scarier killer is the one who thoughtfully plans his murder ahead, tricks a friend, wife, lover into swallowing something that will dissolve tissue, blister skin, twist the muscles with convulsions, knows all that will happen and does it anyway.

1. How are you liking the book (the organization by poison, the way the science is written, etc)?

This has been one of my most favorite non-fiction books to read. The personal anecdotes of the poisoners and the poisonees was fascinating. Wait, does that make me sound morbid?!?

There are a few spots where the author goes deep into the science and lost me, but those sections were few and far between. Reading The Poisoner’s Handbook inspired me to do a couple of fun experiments with my grandson, like create elephant/dinosaur toothpaste. Although the Little Monkey informed me dinosaurs do not brush their teeth – cheeky little devil, yes?

2. What’s your favorite fun fact or story so far?

Not sure I would call it a fun fact/story;  however, the ingenuity of the Medical Examiner, Charles Norris and Toxicologist, Alexander Gettler discovered the keys to unlocking this case. A large immigrant family initially presented with the mom and children with their hair falling out.  Soon, two of the children got deathly ill. Ultimately, several members of the family died.  The father was arrested and charged with murder as his mother-in-law and some of the children slowly recovered. Without Norris and Gettler’s experimentation and research, the culprit would never have been discovered. Hint: it was not the father.

3. Do you check out the citations in narrative nonfiction like this? If so, did you find the citations in this book satisfactory?

Absolutely! I’m a bit nerdy like that! The Jazz Age was such a pivotal era in history. Medical breakthroughs were happening almost daily.  Forensic science exploded during this period. Both Charles Norris and Alexander Gettler were at the forefront of forensic science, especially within the States. Once I finished the book I wanted to learn more about the men behind the book. The citations and Google helped me delve a little deeper.

4. Did you know anything about early forensic science before reading this book? Did anything surprise you?

I knew nothing at all about early forensic science. It’s fascinating to read how Norris and Gettler conducted incredible experiments to discover how someone died. Quite a few of the experiments were gross and had me cringing. The imagination of the two men at creating the tests to figure out how and which poisons affected the body were nothing short of genius.

[Tweet “Perfect Fall read with #NFBookClub and The Poisoner’s Handbook”]

To learn more about the author, Deborah Blum visit her WebsiteTwitter. Public Television did a PBS Special on The Poisoner’s Handbook along with providing an interactive comic book, teacher’s guide, and forensic science timeline. It’s a pretty cool resource for history and science buffs!

Are you interested in forensic science? A sucker for all the CSIs, Bones, Law & Order, etc? If so, then you will enjoy this book!

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four-stars

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