Source: complimentary review copy

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How the Circus Saved Innocents in The Orphan’s Tale

December 17, 2016 Book Review, reviews 6

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.

How the Circus Saved Innocents in The Orphan’s TaleThe Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff
Published by Mira on February 21st 2017
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Pages: 368
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonBarnes & Noble
Goodreads

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using the link, I will receive a small commission from the sale at no cost to you.

 

Here I am on a flight bound to Phoenix and what book do I choose to read? The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff. Oh my goodness dearest ones. If you embarrass easily, don’t read this one on the plane. I started ugly sobbing about 3/4 of the way through and didn’t stop until we landed in Arizona!

Historical fiction set during World War II is a personal favorite. There is still so much to be learned about the Holocaust and World War II. For example, did you know the circus continued to operate and perform during much of the war? And that some of the performers were Jewish, hiding in plain sight. Brilliant!

The Orphan’s Tale takes us backstage as a high-flying circus performer. The story begins with Noa, a young girl cast from her home in Holland for becoming pregnant by a German soldier. We learn Noa was accepted into a home for unwed mothers pregnant with what the Nazi’s deemed the perfect race. But something goes horribly wrong when Noa’s baby is born, and Noa is left with empty arms and a large hole in place of her heart.

As The Orphan’s Tale begins, Noa is working in a train station for scraps simply trying to survive. When she hears a strange noise from one of the train cars, 17-year-old Noa breaks every rule by opening the door. What she finds inside turns her blood cold – baby upon baby thrown on top of one another, some with tatters for clothes, some completely naked, most frozen in the bitter cold. Discovering one infant still alive, softly mewling, Noa rescues the baby bound for the gas chambers. With little thought of where to go, how to get away, what to do, Noa escapes deep into the woods running until she can run no more.

Discovered in the woods by members of the local well-known circus, Noa and the rescued infant are taken in and nursed back to health. Given the choice to depart the circus or stay and earn her keep, Noa is apprenticed to well-known lead aerialist, Astrid. Astrid hails from a neighboring circus whose business had been shut down because the family was Jewish. Astrid’s family was well-known throughout the area for their skills, especially on the flying trapeze. And all of this happens in the first few pages.

A book of unlikely friendships, the humanity of strangers and sacrifice for the greater good. Must read. Click To Tweet

I’ve read extensively books set in and around World War II. The Orphan’s Tale is the first fictional account I’m aware of to focus on the efforts of the circus during the war. The dichotomy of villagers and soldiers attending the circus as if nothing was amiss baffles me. Though I know it was so. Pam Jenoff does a superb job of creating layers of conflict. The layer upon layer of human emotion are deftly woven, believable and oh so heartbreaking. What could have easily turned into a tragic account of mankind becomes an opportunity for man to reveal his most kind nature.

My only complaint throughout the entire novel was Astrid’s secrets versus Noa’s secrets – and it’s probably that I can’t fathom being prudish about the differing secrets. One is accepting of the other when her secret is revealed, but at a later time, when the roles are reversed, there is no acceptance – only hurt, betrayal, anger.

If you are looking for a book about the love of friendship, the humanity of strangers, and sacrifice for the greater good . . .The Orphan’s Tale is for you. I was reminded of the verse Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me. Matthew 25:40 This book epitomizes loving your neighbor as yourself. Beautiful, profound, and devastating, it is a book that must be read. Just be sure to have tissues handy.

If you enjoyed

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum then you’ll love The Orphan’s Tale. {affiliate links}

Many thanks to Mira and NetGalley for the early review copy.

 

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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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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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Kidlit Review: Max at Night

September 16, 2016 Book Review, reviews 5

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.

Kidlit Review: Max at NightMax at Night by Ed Vere
Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky on September 1st 2016
Genres: Children, Picture Books
Pages: 32
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonIndieBound
Goodreads
three-half-stars

In Max at Night we find Max getting ready for bed, but he can’t find the moon to say goodnight. Like most any young child, Max will not rest until he has completed his bedtime routine. With the moon nowhere to be found Max goes in search believing the higher he gets the closer to the moon he will be and the more likely it is he will see that errant moon.

The illustrations in Max at Night are sparse yet beautiful. The colors are darker, giving the impression of night while the stars and lettering are a bright white. The combination creates a calming scene. Max at Night is a good bedtime picture book for younger children, probably from ages zero to five. The words are simple enough that an older sibling with a reading level of 2 or 3 could read the bedtime story {giving the older sibling reading practice and the younger sibling the awe of the attention of the older sibling}.

My 5-year-old grandson and I read it a couple of times. He especially liked the part where Max gets frustrated and shouts “Mooooooooon! Where are yoooouu?” Of course it may have been because I startled him with the really loud shout and sound effects!  {I wouldn’t recommend doing that if read at bedtime}. 😉

There is a definite play on the classic Goodnight Moon as the story begins, and Max is saying goodnight to everything. Overall, we enjoyed Max at Night, but we did not love it. I am quite impressed by the incredible job the author/illustrator does of giving expressions to Max that are easily distinguished. The illustrations are the best part of the book.

[Tweet “Adorable picture book that builds on the classic ‘goodnight moon'”]

Extra Credit

Download the pdf activity kit here. It is the cutest thing ever, starting off with “can you tell how Max is feeling based on his expressions?” What’s so cute about the activity is Max has no mouth, only eyes and a nose. The expressions Vere creates with just Max’s eyes are incredible. This type of activity can help build empathy and emotional intelligence in young children.

Author Links

Website: http://www.edvere.com/
Twitter: @ed_vere
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ed_vere/

Enter to Win

With thanks to Sourcebooks Jabberwocky enter to win an original sketch by author and illustrator Ed Vere
a Rafflecopter giveaway


linking to Saturday’s Kid Connection with Booking Mama

Many thanks to Sourcebooks Jabberwocky for a copy of Max at Night to review.

three-half-stars

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