Book Review: The Innocents

August 29, 2016 Book Review, reviews 2

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.

Book Review: The InnocentsThe Innocents (Quinn Colson, #6) by Ace Atkins
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on July 12th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Southern
Pages: 367
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonIndieBound
Goodreads
three-half-stars

 

In December of 2014 the horrific murder of 19-year old Jessica Chambers rocked the South, especially the small town of Panola, Mississippi. This murder stood out from its lack of witnesses and evidence. And most especially by the manner in which Jessica was murdered – covered in lighter fluid and set on fire. It wasn’t until February of this year that an arrest was made.

Inspired by the horrific murder of Jessica Chambers, The Innocents tells the story of 17-year old Millie Jones from the fictional town of Jericho, Mississippi. This was my first introduction to both Ace Atkins and his Quinn Colson series. It would have been helpful to read the first 5 books in the series before reading The Innocents, Book 6. There’s a lot of back story I missed by not having read the first five!

So, what did I think?

The Innocents had enough twists and turns, red herrings and colorful characters to keep me turning the pages as fast as I could. While I suspected the murderer early on {probably from watching too much Law & Order}, I had to read through to the end to find out the why, how and all the circumstances.

Ace Atkins has a way of fleshing out his characters. The ‘bad’ characters were not completely bad just as the good characters were not all good. Atkins ability to plop the reader down in the midst of a southern town with all its intricacies, politics and local characters added to the reading experience.

As I mentioned, this is my first Ace Atkins book so I’m not familiar with his series style. There were a few threads in The Innocents that did not get played out. One such sub-plot involving a Muslim clerk, I really expected some kind of resolution, but was left dangling.

For the series to be about Quinn Colson, Quinn Colson seemed to play more of a background role in this book. Granted he’s no longer the sheriff of fictional Jericho, but I thought he would be more of a central character. On the flip side, I thoroughly enjoyed the strong female sheriff and hope Lillie continues to play a primary role.

An enjoyable read satisfying that desire for a fast-paced mystery. If you like Greg Iles, especially his early mysteries, then I imagine you’ll be right at home reading Ace Atkins.

 

 

three-half-stars

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Weekend Cooking: Herb Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

August 28, 2016 Book Talk, Life Well Lived 8

slimmer the new mediterranean way to lose weightIt’s been a while since I’ve participated in Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, and I’ve been meaning to share this recipe from a favorite cookbook, Slimmer: The New Mediterranean Way to Lose Weight {reviewed here}.

This is a wonderful recipe using fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden. Plus, it’s a one-pot wonder, my favorite kind-of dish to cook! Also, gluten-free and dairy-free.

Herb Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 2 medium skinless split chicken breasts
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 4 sprigs of marjoram or oregano {either herb adds great flavor}
  • 2 plum tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 small red or yellow potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 large zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 small carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pearl onions
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°
  2. Place the herb sprigs in a single layer in middle of medium-size casserole or large cast-iron pot. Cover the herbs with the sliced tomatoes and place the chicken breasts, already seasoned with salt and pepper, flesh side down on tomato and herb bed.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together chopped carrots, zucchini, potatoes and pearl onions with olive oil stirring well to coat.
  4. Spread vegetables in the dish surrounding the chicken and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Roast in the oven until the vegetables are tender and lightly browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the chicken breast reaches 165° F, about 30 minutes.
  6. To serve, transfer chicken to a dish, spoon the tomatoes and other vegetables over, and sprinkle with parsley.

[Tweet “Easy + Delicious One Pot Wonder: Chicken and Summer Vegetables 30 – Minute Meal”]

Side note ~ When I made this dish Friday night, I took lots of photos with the intent of sharing each step of the process here on the blog. And darn-it! wouldn’t you know, my computer is not reading the SD card!  Aargh! the frustrations of blogging and photography! Thank you for listening and allowing me a moment to “be real!”

Happy Weekend Friends!

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The Book Made Me Do It and Other Acts as a Result of Reading

August 9, 2016 Book Talk 5

the book made me do it

 

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke & the Bookish.

Reading. Such an integral part of my life. Being an escape from reality to learning new innovative ideas reading has taken me places I never could have imagined. I love the recent article about those who read live longer. If that’s the case then I should live to be about 172 by this point! Instilling a love of reading is one of the best things my parents ever taught me.

In thinking about the prompt from The Broke and Bookish “Top Ten Things Books Have Made Me Want To Do or Learn About After Reading Them” several things quickly came to mind. Yes, these are the books that made me do it.

spark the revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain1. Exercise

I admit I’ve never been a fan of exercise. Then I read Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J. Ratey. My biggest takeaway from reading that book is exercise helps your brain; is a great preventative to Alzheimer’s and dementia; and can even help with broken synapses. The major problem with multiple sclerosis has to do with synapses that don’t fire well due to scarring. If exercise will help heal my brain then I’m all down for that!

Reading The No More Excuses Diet helped me analyze and overcome the resistance I had to exercising.

As if those two books were not enough to get me moving Conquer Your Pain in 9 Steps stripped away my last bit of resistance. Now, my body informs me when I slack off the regimen I’ve created. Monday, Wednesday and Friday are walk days and Tuesday and Thursday are yoga days. Saturday and Sunday are rest days.

2. Do the Superwoman pose every morning

Presence by Amy Cuddy + her Ted Talk. Have you seen Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk? or read Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges? Wow! It’s all about how our body language shapes who we are. I knew body language was a strong indicator to others, but did not realize how much it influences our own thoughts and feelings.

Ladies, when you are getting ready in the morning, do the powerful superwoman pose: hands on hips, legs a little more than hip distance apart, tall carriage and strong gaze. Hold that pose for 30 seconds and you’ll feel more powerful and portray a confident, strong woman. I swear this works. It’s crazy but invaluable!

Carrying over Amy Cuddy’s research on body language to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear and Brene Brown’s Rising Strong is absolutely a perfect fit. Big Magic is about allowing our creativity to thrive, flourish and Rising Strong is Brene Brown’s follow up to Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection. It’s about being in the arena, falling down and rising back through the hurt and anger and terrible feelings. Rising stronger because of the hurt, because you’ve made it through to the other side.

100 days of real food3. Eat Healthy

After reading 100 Days of Real Food, following the blog and reading Slimmer: The New Mediterranean Way to Lose Weight,  I began to change my eating habits, incorporating more vegetables and fruit while eating less meat and cutting out most sugar. I’m not at 100% all healthy real foods, but I’m a whole heck of a lot closer than I was a year ago! Up until the past couple of years I wouldn’t eat a salad. “It’s green,” I would say and turn my nose up at the leaves 😉 Now, as much as possible, I try to buy local, whole foods and yes, even the makings of a salad!

4. Research the Hindenburg crash and the disappearance of a judge with mob connections

It’s not all non-fiction books that have had me doing more after reading. For example, when I read Ariel Lawhon’s The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress based on the disappearance of Justice Joseph Crater in 1930, I was researching like crazy trying to find out more. Same thing with Flight of Dreams. I looked up everything possible on the Hindenburg even while reading Flight of Dreams!

5. Visit an Elephant Sanctuary

Another fiction novel, Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult, had me researching elephant sanctuaries all over the south. I’ve picked the one I want to visit and hope to make it there soon….I’ve also donated to the nonprofit. Even thinking about the elephants in the book over two years later and I’m still ‘awww, I want to learn more. Do more.’

6. Learn the art of mosaics

This book slayed me. It’s been 4 years since I read it, and I still feel all the feels. In Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos, the main character, Wanda, almost accidentally, begins to make mosaics as she puts her life back together. I could very much relate to Wanda and have found making art through the broken pieces creates something even more beautiful.

it's never too late to begin again7. Write/journal

Ok, this one is a given. Writing has always been a dream of mine. Writing this blog for the past 7 years has been a godsend. Learning more about the art of writing through books like It’s Never too Late to Begin Again, The Artist’s Way, DIY MFA, and Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art has been a natural progression thanks to the blog. Writing is therapeutic and a way {for me} to get at the heart of the matter. I can express my feelings in writing oh so much better than I can face-to-face.  I’m beyond thankful for this blog and especially for you, dearest reader. You’re visits here, comments and encouragements through the various social media sites brings me joy beyond belief. Thank you.

Now that’s a wrap. There’s probably many more books that have made me commit some act or another. I’ll save those for another day!

I would love to know if there’s a book that has made you do something or want to do something or even followed up with more research on a subject? This is such a fascinating topic to me. Please Do Share!

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July in Review

August 2, 2016 Book Talk 4

july in review

July was another slow reading month and a very busy family month! My sweetheart ended up traveling almost the entire month, so I spent all that time with my kids and grandsons. When I’m chasing two little ones around not much reading gets accomplished, at all! But every second is worth it! Plus, my college daughter came and stayed with me which is always great. She catches me up on all the Netflix shows and we talk about international affairs {her major}, and books, lots of book talk!

What I Read

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante {translated by Ann Goldstein}

Truly, Madly, Guilty by Lianne Moriarty

Last Ride to Graceland by Kim Wright

Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger

On the Blog

Looking Forward to Reading in August

There is a Harvard Ed MOOC coming up about understanding modern China through its’ literature. Both my girls studied Chinese in high school, and my sweetheart’s new job takes him to China as well. With all that, my girls and I have decided to do a read-along of the 5 books to be discussed in the MOOC. The lineup of instructors is a who’s who of Chinese award-winning authors, including Nobel Prize winner, Mo Yan. Although we are not joining the MOOC, we are reading the books. We’d love for you to join us! The first selection is China in Ten Words by Yu Hua. We will be discussing it on September 12th! Let me know if you’re interested!

I’ve also got the new Jodi Picoult novel queued up to read next: Small Great Things. The synopsis of this book is most relevant to the racial tensions of today. Her last novel, Leaving Time, is my favorite of all her books. I haven’t ventured into her YA books written with her daughter yet ~ have you?

Last, but not least, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Oprah’s Book Club pick for August and a novel most relevant as well.

How was your July? What are you looking forward to in August?

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Let’s Talk State of Wonder

July 22, 2016 Book Review, reviews 17

Let’s Talk State of WonderState of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Published by HarperCollins Publishers on June 7th 2011
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Pages: 353
Source: purchased
AmazonIndieBound
Goodreads
five-stars

 

For the month of June I joined a casual readalong led by Care of  Care’s Books and Pie, along with Debbie, and Katie, for Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder. I thought it quite fitting to do so as I visited Parnassus Books for the first time while at a conference in Nashville. {Side note – if you ever get a chance to visit Parnassus Books created and run by Ann Patchett, be sure to do so!}.

This is not going to be a typical review post, and in fact I’m going to do something I’ve never done before and include spoilers. So if you haven’t read State of Wonder and you plan to – DON’T READ THIS POST YET. And if you are a traditionalist and simply don’t want to know spoilers, DON’T READ THIS POST. And in case you haven’t gotten get the gist yet SPOILER ALERT!!! SPOILERS UP AHEAD!!!

I’m not sure why I have never read an Ann Patchett novel because once I read the synopsis of State of Wonder it sounded like the absolutely perfect read for me – a little bit of Clive Cussler trekking through the jungle, some James Rollins and big business conspiracy all wrapped up neatly in a literary package.

Our main character, Marina, works at a large pharmaceutical company as a researcher. She’s worked closely with Anders, her co-worker until he was sent to the jungles of Brazil to track down another doctor doing research for the same pharmaceutical company. When the book opens we learn that Anders has died from an unknown fever and the doctor he had been searching for, and found, buried him in the jungle. Well Anders’ wife is not good with either the idea her husband is dead nor that he was buried thousands of miles away. The CEO of the pharmaceutical company, Mr. Fox, is not good with it either. He still had not received the information Anders went to Brazil to get. So, we have Marina coerced by both Mr. Fox and the wife of Anders to go find out what happened, bring him home, and discover what the heck is going on at the research facility in the middle of the Brazilian jungle.

So many small threads of storylines ran through State of Wonder.

  • Marina and Mr. Fox. They’ve been dating for a number of years and she thinks he’s about to propose in the car as he takes her to the airport but instead he gives her a phone?!? Talk about symbolism! Mr. Fox is her boss, CEO of the company she works for, and though he is a widower, Mr. Fox refuses to acknowledge their relationship. What is up with that! Why does Marina put up with that? They even have to go out of town to dinner where no one will recognize the two together.
  • Marina, the wife and the co-worker. Marina has to tell the wife the horrible news of Anders death while the wife comes to rely on Marina to ‘find him and bring him home.’ The pressure on Marina from both the wife and Mr. Fox is unbelievable! The wife cannot leave because of their children and Mr. Fox is only thinking of his company.
  • Marina and Dr. Swenson. Is Marina going to become a Dr. Swenson just as the good doctor anticipates? Will Marina break and tell Mr. Fox it is a cure for malaria and not the miracle pregnancy drug he’s expecting? I was surprised Marina had the strength to walk away – or maybe it wasn’t strength but more she was completely broken by the end?
  • Marina and the Lakashi people, where the research facility is located deep in the Brazilian jungle. Staying in the jungle amongst the Lakashi allows Marina space and time to focus on becoming comfortable in her own skin and to be able to shed a certain Mr. Fox. Do you think there was any attraction to Milton, the driver and Marina’s often-time rescuer?
  • And most tragic of all, Easter and his relationship with everyone in the research facility, especially Anders, Marina, and the doctor. I’m still disturbed by the ending and it’s been over a month ago I read the book. On the one hand I can understand why Anders did what he did, BUT on the other hand my heart breaks, I’m shocked and horrified. What a philosophical nightmare ~ who is most at fault here? The doctor who kept Easter? Anders that gave him away? or Marina for taking him to look for Anders when she refused to take anyone else from the camp?

This book was a wonderful escape. While there were moments I had to suspend my disbelief {like the anaconda scene}. . . . although I do know of someone who picked up a copperhead just like the local Lakashi picked up the anaconda, so suspending disbelief over that scene was not quite as difficult! I was somewhat thrown off by how proficient Easter seemed to be at most everything.  An unlikely hero yet a hero nonetheless.

Now I’m off to read everything Ann Patchett has ever written. Highly recommended for men and women! For anyone who fell in love with Indiana Jones or enjoys the adventure novels of Clive Cussler, James Rollins and Lincoln Child – with lots of fantastic descriptive writing.

Have you read State of Wonder? What are your thoughts on that ending?

five-stars

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