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Foodie Friday Feature: Sheet Pan Suppers Vegetarian by Raquel Pelzel

Workman | ISBN: 9780761189930 | Pub Date: October 3, 2017 | 264 pages 

Netgalley Description: 
Sheet Pan Suppers is back! This time, with 100 vegetarian recipes for satisfying, sumptuous full meals—all made on a sheet pan, and all meat-free. It’s the one-pot meal reinvented with a healthy twist, and what is sure to become every busy cook’s new favorite way of getting dinner on the table. There are recipes for complete meals, snacks, brunch, and even dessert, that require nothing more than a sheet pan, your oven, and Raquel Pelzel’s inspired take on satisfying, delectable, vegetarian cooking. Recipes include Orzo with Pan-Roasted Tomatoes, Lemon, and Mozzarella; Loaded Chilaquiles with Baked Eggs; Super Creamy No-Boil Mac and Cheese; and more.

I am not a vegetarian but I do like to make vegetarian meals occasionally. I used to be pretty good about Meatless Mondays but I fell into a rut of cheese pizza or salads. Not very exciting. This cookbook had some easy ideas to inspire me and the photography was mouthwatering. I also thought that this cookbook would make a wonderful gift for a beginning cook because the recipes were pretty straightforward and there are not multiple pots and pans involved. 

My Review of SHADOW OF THE LIONS by Christopher Swann in Perimeter North Lifestyle Magazine

Page Turners for August 2017 for Perimeter North Lifestyle magazine 

I reviewed SHADOW OF THE LIONS by Christopher Swann for the August issue of Perimeter North Lifestyle magazine. Click the link and "flip" to page 34, or I've added the text below for easier reading 👇

Sandy Springs Novelist Draws on Academic Life in Twisty Thriller Debut:
Shadow of the Lions by Christopher Swann

Two massive concrete lions have guarded the front entrance to Virginia’s Blackburne School for more than a century. Respected and revered, they symbolize the school’s fiercely held traditions, especially its honor code. After Matthias Glass confesses his honor code violation to his best friend, Fritz Davenport, they briefly argue before Fritz runs into the woods—and vanishes without a trace.

In the decade following Matthias’ graduation from Blackburne, he attends college, grad school, and writes a successful first novel. When he finds himself abandoned by his writing inspiration (and his model girlfriend), he accepts a position at Blackburne teaching English. Upon his return to his alma mater, he becomes consumed with finding out what really happened to his friend all those years ago. While looking for answers, a student death on campus opens his eyes to the dark underbelly of the prestigious boys’ boarding school. Partnering with a local ex-cop to solve the mysteries, Matthias begins to suspect a campus figure may have connections to both the recent student death and Fritz’s disappearance. As he digs deeper, his search turns up much more than he bargained for, including links to the FBI, cyber surveillance, exorbitant bribes, and issues of national security. He also uncovers various Blackburne secrets as well as the dark realities of a powerful Washington, DC, family.

Sandy Springs author, Christopher Swann, creates a complex protagonist and conjures an alluring and ominous prep school setting from his firsthand academic experiences. As the English Department chair of Atlanta’s Holy Innocents' Episcopal School, Swann’s twenty-one years of teaching English are evident in Matthias Glass, a novelist turned English teacher turned amateur detective. Swann also draws on his own four years of high school at Woodberry Forest School, an all male boarding school in Virginia, to transport his readers to the insular community of Blackburne. In true Southern style, Swann also weaves the underlying theme of football into his debut novel. While the unofficial religion of the South offers many metaphors on life, Swann perfectly exemplifies the painfully tenuous transition between adolescence and adulthood with his powerfully detailed descriptions of grueling practices and an intense annual football game against their rival school.

Alternating between Matthias’ student and teacher periods and filled with literary references, Swann’s bildungsroman draws comparisons to beloved boarding school novels The Catcher in the Rye, Dead Poets Society, and A Separate Peace. Like these classics, Shadow of the Lions explores love, loyalty, loss, duty, and betrayal. It exposes burdens of privilege, the desperation to belong, the layered creation of one’s character, and the fact that intense adolescent friendships shape all of our adult lives, for better or worse.

Review: ARE YOU SLEEPING by Kathleen Barber

ARE YOU SLEEPING by Kathleen Barber
Gallery | ISBN: 9781501157660 | On sale: August 1, 2017 | 336 pages 

Josie Buhrman has spent the last ten years trying to escape her family’s reputation and with good reason. After her father's murder thirteen years prior, her mother ran away to join a cult and her twin sister Lanie, once Josie’s closest friend and confidant, betrayed her in an unimaginable way. Now, Josie has finally put down roots in New York, settling into domestic life with her partner Caleb, and that’s where she intends to stay. The only problem is that she has lied to Caleb about every detail of her past—starting with her last name.

When investigative reporter Poppy Parnell sets off a media firestorm with a mega-hit podcast that reopens the long-closed case of Josie’s father’s murder, Josie’s world begins to unravel. Meanwhile, the unexpected death of Josie’s long-absent mother forces her to return to her Midwestern hometown where she must confront the demons from her past—and the lies on which she has staked her future.

Described as "Serial meets Ruth Ware’s In A Dark, Dark Wood," when I read this novel's summary, I was intrigued. Plus, two of the main characters are twins (does everyone know my fascinations with twins, yet?) But what really caught my eye is that the author grew up in Galesburg, IL! (Galesburg is very close to the even tinier town where I grew up, I lived in Galesburg shortly as an adult, and my father still lives in Galesburg.)  

Pros: I liked the modern epistolary inclusions like Reddit threads and Twitter posts. 
Cons: I had the *twist* figured out pretty early on, but the reveal and ending were a little messy.

***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***

Review: The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman

THE LIFE SHE WAS GIVEN by Ellen Marie Wiseman
Kensington | ISBN: 9781617734496 | Pub Date: July 25, 2017 | 356 pages

Inside Front Cover: "On a summer evening in 1931, Lilly Blackwood glimpses circus lights from the grimy window of her attic bedroom. Lilly isn't allowed to explore the meadows around Blackwood Manor. She's never even ventured beyond her narrow room. Momma insists it's for Lilly's own protection, that people would be afraid if they saw her. But on this unforgettable night, Lilly is taken outside for the first time--and sold to the circus sideshow."

I love strong female characters, but I  can't stand formulaic women's fiction. That's sometimes a tall order when I'm choosing a contemporary fiction read. But I found it in The Life She Was Given. I will note that not everyone will love this story due to aspects of abuse (animal abuse, child abuse, and sexual abuse). As a matter of fact, I'm sure that some people will hate it because of these topics, but the strength of the characters in spite of their abuses and the harsh realities of humanity are what really made me love this book. I predicted this story would be Water for Elephants meets The Night Circus meets The Museum of Extraordinary Things and I was right. Plus, throw in a little Flowers in the Attic. This book is raw and different and unexpected. I loved that it wasn't "safe". If I had a complaint, I would say it is the title. It's just not the right fit. I would have liked something less passive and more attention grabbing. 

***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***

Review: HUM IF YOU DON'T KNOW THE WORDS by Bianca Marais

Hum If You Don't Know the Words by Bianca Marais
G.P. Putnam’s Sons | ISBN: 9780735218260 | July 11, 2017 | 420 pages 

I am trying to expand my reading into new genres, locations, and voices. When I received an ARC of Hum If You Don't Know the Words, I thought "whoa". This is exactly what I didn't know I was looking for. Told from the point of view of 10-year-old, white, Robin Conrad and Xhosa widow and mother, Beauty Mbali, I alternately wanted to throttle and hug little Robin, while my heart ached for Beauty. After Robin's parents are killed she is sent to live with her aunt (who's loveably conflicted herself), and Beauty is hired to care for Robin while she searches for her daughter. Set in apartheid-era 1970s South Africa, I will admit I knew close to nothing about the politics or geography of this story (Soweto Uprising, Bantu, Transkei) but  Hum If You Don't Know the Words had me thinking of The Poisonwood Bible and To Kill a Mockingbird. This is one of the best books I've read in a while, making me glad I've expanded my reading selections. 

Have you read anything lately that was outside your comfort zone? 

***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***

Review: Marlena by Julie Buntin

Marlena by Julie Buntin
Henry Holt | ISBN: 9781627797641 | April 4, 2017 | 288 pages 

Sometimes I read a book and think "I'm going to wait to write my review because I really liked this one." The problem is that life goes on and sometimes I don't get to writing my review for quite a while. That is the case with Marlena. I saw the book popping up on lots of my fellow book bloggers' pages and social media a few months ago, but wasn't initially drawn to the story. I rarely find that authors can adequately capture the unique inner world of teenage girls. When other bloggers and critics were praising Dare Me and The Fever by Megan Abbott, I was let down. There was something forced, but I think a lot of adult women wanted to love it. They wanted a verification that those early teen years weren't all boy bands and braces. They want someone to show the intensity of those friendships and the pain of those first betrayals, the sleepovers that weren't all pillow fights and popcorn. Those are the years we learned about our friends' families and inner lives. We learned of abuses, addictions, and affairs but we also learned who we could and could not trust to talk to about them. 

When a copy arrived in my mail, I decided to give it a shot and was pleasantly surprised! 

After relocating to rural Michigan with her mom and brother, Cat befriends her neighbor, Marlena. While Cat has the typical teenage "firsts" (smoke, kiss, etc.), Marlena is living in a much darker world. Like a million small towns, the drug abuse is rampant, and Cat and Marlena are touched by it in several ways. After a year of friendship, Marlena is dead and Cat is forever changed. Flashing between this pivotal year and alcoholic 30-something Cat, a reader can identify with how young relationships affect us and how they shape our adult selves.

***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***

My Best Summer Reads Selections Featured in 3 Atlanta Area Magazines

Page Turners July 2017 for Buckhaven Lifestyle, Perimeter North Lifestyle, and Alpharetta Lifestyle magazines

Before heading off to Book Expo last month, I submitted my list of Best Summer Reads 2017 for publication in several Atlanta area magazines (Buckhaven, Perimeter North, and Alpharetta Lifestyle). The issues have all been released and can be found through the links above or I've added the text below for easier reading 👇

After you’ve packed the cooler and the sunscreen, you’re probably looking for a great summer read to add to your beach bag. Whether you want lighthearted humor, heart racing thrills, or Old Hollywood glamour, we’ve got the perfect book for you. Here are six new releases that everyone will be talking about this season.

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
From the bestselling author who brought you Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend, Rich People Problems is a wickedly fun novel about the privileged Shang-Young family. As relatives descends from all corners of the globe to stake a claim on the family’s great fortune, their unique personal problems complicate matters.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Born to Cuban immigrants in Hell’s Kitchen, Evelyn Elena Herrera became Hollywood film star Evelyn Hugo through a series of gambles. Now nearing the end of her life, major publishers and media outlets beg her to share her life story. Instead, Evelyn chooses unknown magazine writer, Monique Grant. She gives every juicy detail of her ruthless ambition and, of course, about her seven husbands. She also divulges her great forbidden love and a long-held secret that reveals why Evelyn really chose Monique for the coveted job.

The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Ginder
The People We Hate at the Wedding is funny family drama at its finest. In the Chicago suburbs, widowed matriarch Donna spends her evenings drinking wine and watching her favorite television shows. Two of her children, Paul and Alice, are struggling with relationship and career issues, while her eldest daughter from a previous marriage, Eloise, lives the pampered life in London. When the dysfunctional clan gathers for Eloise’s spectacularly fancy wedding, small details like embroidered napkins stir up a handful of underlying resentments.

The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand
Identical twin sisters, Harper and Tabitha Frost look alike, but lead wildly different lives. Laid-back and easygoing Harper can’t hold down a job or a relationship on Martha’s Vineyard. On Nantucket, Tabitha has a taste for fine wine, owns a fashion boutique, and is mother to a rebellious daughter. After more than a decade apart, in an attempt to end their sibling rivalry, Harper and Tabitha swap islands and identities for an unforgettable summer that will change their lives forever.

It's Always the Husband by Michele Campbell
Twenty years after three women become college friends, one of them is standing at the edge of a bridge while someone urges her to jump. With a storyline alternating between the women’s college and adult lives, the layers are peeled back on their complex relationship. Filled with lies, betrayal, bribery, infidelity, and murder, this page turner will have you on the edge of your seat right up to the finger pointing finale.

Crimes Against a Book Club by Kathy Cooperman
Between expensive IVF treatments and a child’s therapy, best friends Annie and Sarah are both in desperate need of some fast cash. Teaming up, the two decide to sell a “luxury” anti-aging face cream to the members of Annie’s wealthy La Jolla book club. The scheme goes off without a hitch, until Annie adds an illegal ingredient.

Be sure to grab an icy drink before you escape into one of these sizzling summer reads, because the only thing hotter than these novels is an Atlanta summer!

Review:: A Paris All Your Own: Bestselling Women Writers on the City of Light edited by Eleanor Brown

This collection of 18 essays was just what I needed in terms of reading material. Since arriving back from Book Expo (a month ago!), I've not gotten much reading done. Most of my time has been spent getting my daughter ready for her study abroad trip to London and trying to keep up with the day to day mountain of daily duties in addition to working. After Kali left on her trip a few days ago, I set about to deep cleaning the house and reclaiming my office (her room when she is home from school). In between tasks, I took to reading A Paris All Your Own. I could start some laundry, read an essay, run to the store, read an essay, do a bit of work, ...you get the point. I enjoyed some essays more than others but will probably reference the book as a whole when speaking to friends about traveling. I've learned to never expected too much when traveling and you've got to be able to roll with the punches. Almost every writer in this collection talked about unmet high expectations or unexpected but highly enjoyable side tracks. I've learned, (through trial and error) that you have to let go a bit and make each journey your own. For example, back to Book Expo, my 1st trip to NYC was not filled with typical tourist destinations. Upon my return I was asked if I visited this or that attraction. When I told them "no" and the places I did visit, I was usually met with strange looks. But I had the perfect NYC trip...for me. This weekend my daughter is going to Paris, and hopefully she'll have the perfect Paris trip...all her own. 

G.P. Putnam's Sons | ISBN9780399574474 | On sale: July 4, 2017 | 304 pages

***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***