Friday, May 19, 2017

Literary Friday: Close Enough to Touch *PLUS* a Giveaway!

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  This week I read one of my favorite books of the year so far, Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley.  Y'all must add this title to your Summer Reading List: It's the *perfect* lake or beach read!

According to Goodreads:

From the author of Before I Go comes an unconventional love story perfect for fans of the emotional novels of Jodi Picoult and Jojo Moyes.

One time a boy kissed me and I almost died... 

And so begins the story of Jubilee Jenkins, a young woman with a rare and debilitating medical condition: she’s allergic to other humans. After a humiliating near-death experience in high school, Jubilee has become a recluse, living the past nine years in the confines of the small town New Jersey house her unaffectionate mother left to her when she ran off with a Long Island businessman. But now, her mother is dead, and without her financial support, Jubilee is forced to leave home and face the world—and the people in it—that she’s been hiding from.

One of those people is Eric Keegan, a man who just moved into town for work. With a daughter from his failed marriage who is no longer speaking to him, and a brilliant, if psychologically troubled, adopted son, Eric’s struggling to figure out how his life got so off-course, and how to be the dad—and man—he wants so desperately to be. Then, one day, he meets a mysterious woman named Jubilee, with a unique condition...

Close Enough to Touch is an evocative, poignant, and heartrending exploration of the power and possibilities of the human heart.

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Connect with Colleen

Website | Facebook | Twitter

My Review:  This book appeals to my inner book nerd.  Jubilee is an avid reader, and she earned her online degree in English Literature.  When she's forced to leave her home for the first time in almost a decade, she runs into Madison, one of the mean girls responsible for "humiliating near-death experience in high school," at a convenience store.  When she learns that Jubilee needs a job, Madison uses her influence as a member the local library's board of directors to secure her a one there.  I confess that I enjoyed all the book/literary references and discussions throughout the book, especially the chick lit Eric reads in order to connect with his daughter.  The book also appeals to my inner comic book nerd: There are plenty of references to the X-Men Comics, and as many of my loyal readers know I am a Marvel Girl!

I love the characters in this book.  Jubilee is so inspiring...I admire her bravery and capacity to love the people she encounters in her very small world.  Eric's world is much larger and even more complicated. He is trying very hard to connect with his wayward teenage daughter, and he's determined to help his adopted godson Aja deal with his grief over his parents' tragic deaths.  Aja is such a fun character: He is precocious and extremely intelligent.  He and Jubilee bond over many things, including the X-men, books, and trivia.  

Needless to say, I also enjoyed the story.  It's heartwarming, uplifting, and enthralling.  I read it in an afternoon: I couldn't put it down!  If you enjoy family dramas, romance, and chick lit (Madison and Jubilee form a strong friendship), you will love Close Enough to Touch.  

Disclosure:  I received a copy of Close Enough to Touch from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

And now on the the Giveaway...

Use the Rafflecopter widget below for a chance to win a copy of Close Enough to Touch.  Good luck!

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Book Review: The Plant Paradox

Happy May, My Lovelies!  I keep meaning to write a post sharing with you all the exciting things going on with me and my family.  I promise to catch you up via a longer post soon, but first I'm very happy to share with you one of the most important health books I've ever read: The Plant Paradox by Dr. Steven R. Gundry.  I am so grateful for TLC Book Tours allowing me to be a part of this tour.  (As you know, I typically review literature and historical fiction; I rarely review nonfiction.)  

Please read this review.  It will change your life!

About The Plant Paradox

• Hardcover: 416 pages

Publisher: Harper Wave; 1 edition (April 25, 2017)

“Dr. Gundry is a true trailblazer, always at the forefront of scientific knowledge. The Plant Paradox shows the world what pioneer thinking is about and is a must-read book for anyone interested in being as healthy as nature has designed them to be.” —Alejandro Junger MD, New York Times bestselling author of Clean, Clean Gut and Clean Eats

The Plant Paradox elegantly explains how plants defend themselves from being consumed by humans, and how eating the wrong ones at the wrong times immeasurably hurts our health. An eye-opening read.” —Mehmet Oz, MD, Professor of Surgery, New York Presbyterian/Columbia University

Most of us have heard of gluten—a protein found in wheat that causes widespread inflammation in the body. Americans spend billions of dollars on gluten-free diets in an effort to protect their health. But what if we’ve been missing the root of the problem? In The Plant Paradox, renowned cardiologist Dr. Steven Gundry reveals that gluten is just one variety of a common, and highly toxic, plant-based protein called lectin. Lectins are found not only in grains like wheat but also in the “gluten-free” foods most of us commonly regard as healthy, including many fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and conventional dairy products. These proteins, which are found in the seeds, grains, skins, rinds, and leaves of plants, are designed by nature to protect them from predators (including humans). Once ingested, they incite a kind of chemical warfare in our bodies, causing inflammatory reactions that can lead to weight gain and serious health conditions.

At his waitlist-only clinics in California, Dr. Gundry has successfully treated tens of thousands of patients suffering from autoimmune disorders, diabetes, leaky gut syndrome, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases with a protocol that detoxes the cells, repairs the gut, and nourishes the body.

Now, in The Plant Paradox, he shares this clinically proven program with readers around the world. The simple (and daunting) fact is, lectins are everywhere. Thankfully, Dr. Gundry offers simple hacks we easily can employ to avoid them, including: · Peel your veggies. Most of the lectins are contained in the skin and seeds of plants; simply peeling and de-seeding vegetables (like tomatoes and peppers) reduces their lectin content. · Shop for fruit in season. Fruit contain fewer lectins when ripe, so eating apples, berries, and other lectin-containing fruits at the peak of ripeness helps minimize your lectin consumption. · Swap your brown rice for white. Whole grains and seeds with hard outer coatings are designed by nature to cause digestive distress—and are full of lectins. With a full list of lectin-containing foods and simple substitutes for each, a step-by-step detox and eating plan, and delicious lectin-free recipes, The Plant Paradox illuminates the hidden dangers lurking in your salad bowl—and shows you how to eat whole foods in a whole new way.


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Photo by Drea Castro

About Steven R. Gundry, M.D.

Steven R. Gundry, MD, FACS, FACC, is the director of the International Heart and Lung Institute in Palm Springs, California, and the founder/director of The Center for Restorative Medicine in Palm Springs and Santa Barbara. Find out more about Dr. Gundry and his work at his website, and connect with him on Facebook.

My Review:

I have read many health and diet-related books over the years, but never one like The Plant Paradox. Dr. Gundry combines history, chemistry, and biology to explain why and how certain plants were never meant for us to eat.  However, don't let this dissuade you from reading the book because it does not read like a dry, academic journal piece.  I also think it's important that his research has been peer reviewed, and his endnotes are extensive.  Much of what he writes about he's known for years to be anecdotally true, but some of the science like "immune system scanners" is relatively new science: the description for these scanners won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2011 and the discovery of the receptors (G-spotters) was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2012.  These new discoveries help explain the patterns Dr. Gundry has noted in the immune systems of his patients.

What's really disconcerting is how physicians and the media have erroneously encouraged the consumption of whole grains and other "super foods" that are not healthy at all.  Gundry explains why these foods are dangerous to our immune systems, and he lists them so they can be avoided.  But the good news is he's included a list of healthy options as well as recipes to get the reader started on a path to a healthier life.  Also included in the book: anecdotes from patients who struggled with varying health issues and how changing their diet changed their health drastically for the better.

I don't mean to get off topic, but this book reminds me of my grandfather: He was one of the artists for Jenny Craig's "You Are What You Eat" campaign back during the 80s, and I can remember one of his drawings was a beautiful giraffe made entirely of leaves.  While we may not literally be like the giraffe and look like or "become" what we consume, we can certainly be constrained by eating lectins found in so-called "healthy" foods.  So instead of "You Are What You Eat," this book teaches us why "You're Sick Because of What You Eat."

I am currently purging our pantry and restocking it with the good choices found in the book.  I truly believe that it will make all of us feel better, and I will update my family's progress from time to time here on the blog.  I hope you will read this book, and I'd love for you to share your thoughts with me either below in the comments section or via email.


I received a copy of The Plant Paradox from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Friday, April 14, 2017

Literary Friday: The Forbidden Garden

Happy Good Friday, My Lovelies!  I hope that each and everyone of you has a blessed and meaningful day.

This week I read the most delightful book entitled The Forbidden Garden by Ellen Herrick.  We've been planning spring plantings all week, especially since we lost so much shrubbery during last year's drought, so the timing of reading this book couldn't be more perfect!

About The Forbidden Garden

• Hardcover: 400 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (April 4, 2017)

“Captivating [...] Herrick weaves a rich tapestry of family lore, dark secrets, and love.” —Brunonia Barry, New York Times bestselling author of The Lace Reader and The Fifth Petal

Perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Sarah Jio, comes a lush imaginative novel that takes readers into the heart of a mysterious English country garden, waiting to spring to life. Every garden is a story, waiting to be told…

At the nursery she runs with her sisters on the New England coast, Sorrel Sparrow has honed her rare gift for nurturing plants and flowers. Now that reputation, and a stroke of good timing, lands Sorrel an unexpected opportunity: reviving a long-dormant Shakespearean garden on an English country estate.

Arriving at Kirkwood Hall, ancestral home of Sir Graham Kirkwood and his wife Stella, Sorrel is shocked by the desolate state of the walled garden. Generations have tried—and failed—to bring it back to glory. Sorrel senses heartbreak and betrayal here, perhaps even enchantment. Intrigued by the house’s history—especially the haunting tapestries that grace its walls—and increasingly drawn to Stella’s enigmatic brother, Sorrel sets to work. And though she knows her true home is across the sea with her sisters, instinct tells her that the English garden’s destiny is entwined with her own, if she can only unravel its secrets…


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Ellen Herrick

Ellen Herrick was a publishing professional in New York City until she and her husband moved to London for a brief stint; they returned nearly twenty years later with three children (her own, it must be said). She now divides her time between Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a small town on Cape Cod very much like Granite Point. Find out more about Ellen at her website and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

My Review:

Nothing speaks more to my inner geek than a book about a walled Shakespeare garden.  I've been looking forward to reading The Forbidden Garden for a long time because I knew I would love the garden, magical realism, family intrigue, and romance.  I was not disappointed, and if you enjoy these genres you will love it, too.

Sorrel Sparrow is a well-drawn, unique character.  Her intrepid determination and her knowledge of medicinal plants certainly make her an asset in restoring the long-neglected garden.  But what I love more about her is her willingness to take a chance on love with Stella's brother Andrew.  I enjoyed their love story along with the family curse and suspense.  Andrew has a great personality, although it's rare that I've wanted to wash an Anglican priest's mouth out with soap. Apparently he picked up some bad habits in boarding school that never were righted, but in spite of his potty mouth, he's an endearing character, too.

The big mystery of the book is why the garden is cursed, and why it can make Kirkwoods ill. There are hints aimed at solving the mystery in the estate's beautiful tapestries.  As an artist, I love tapestries so I enjoyed reading Herrick's detailed descriptions of them.  I also enjoyed the descriptions of the garden's plants and their medicinal purposes.  Herrick makes the garden come alive with her descriptive passages of the garden's restoration.  She not only uses sight, but smell, hearing, and touch.  She also cleverly includes an illustrated map of the Shakespeare garden at the beginning of the book.  Again, the timing is perfect!  I can't wait to get my hands in the soil this weekend and plant.

NOTE:  This is a stand alone book, but Herrick wrote a previous book about the Sparrow sisters, and I'm ordering it today:

Here are just a few of the plants in Kirkwood Hall's Shakespeare Garden:




Firewitch dianthus


I hope you enjoy your Easter weekend.  Go out and plant something after reading The Forbidden Garden!

Discosure:  I received a copy of The Forbidden Garden from the publisher via TLC book tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Literary Friday: Miss You

About Miss You

• Hardcover: 448 pages
• Publisher: Harper (April 4, 2017)

"If ever a couple was ‘meant to be,’ it’s Tess and Gus. This is such a witty, poignant, and uplifting story of two lives crisscrossing over the years, with near miss after near miss. . . . I couldn’t put it down."—Sophie Kinsella

A wryly romantic debut novel with echoes of One Day that asks, what if you just walked by the love of your life, but didn’t even know it? "TODAY IS THE FIRST DAY OF THE REST OF YOUR LIFE." Tess can’t get the motto from her mother’s kitchen knickknack out of her head, even though she’s in Florence on an idyllic vacation before starting university in London. Gus is also visiting Florence, on a holiday with his parents seven months after tragedy shattered their lives. Headed to medical school in London, he’s trying to be a dutiful son but longs to escape and discover who he really is. A chance meeting brings these eighteen-year-olds together for a brief moment—the first of many times their paths will crisscross as time passes and their lives diverge from those they’d envisioned. Over the course of the next sixteen years, Tess and Gus will face very different challenges and choices. Separated by distance and circumstance, the possibility of these two connecting once more seems slight. But while fate can separate two people, it can also bring them back together again. . . .


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Photograph by Leanne Dixon

About Kate Eberlen

Kate Eberlen grew up in a small town thirty miles from London and spent her childhood reading books and longing to escape. She studied Classics at Oxford University before pursuing various jobs in publishing and the arts. Recently, Kate trained to teach English as a Foreign Language with a view to spending more time in Italy, a country she loves and has visited many times. Kate is married with one son. Find out more about Kate at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

My Review:

Miss You is excruciatingly frustrating because the reader knows that Tess and Gus belong together. Their paths cross, and either they miss each other or one of them fails to act on instinct.  Meh!  Plus the reader also knows that their relationships with other people are doomed to fail.  Fate must be one frustrated lady with these two characters!  Gus is my favorite.  His family has suffered a horrible tragedy, and he evolves from a timid, awkward young man into a confident, caring prince of a man. He is the perfect romantic hero by the end of this book.  *le sigh*

Tess and Gus both tell their stories from their points of view alternately.  It's fun to figure out all the times they miss out on finding each other.  After their initial "cute-meet" in Italy the summer before starting university, their next supposed chance is doomed as Tess's mother fights and eventually succumbs to breast cancer.  Tess stays home to care for her Kindergartner sister rather than attending university in London.  The next section told from Gus's point of view reveals that the room across from his in the dorm becomes available at the last minute according to the lucky girls who had been waitlisted for the room.  The book continues along in a similar fashion, and it truly is poignant considering all the time Gus and Tess miss being together.


One thing I loved most about the book is Tess's relationship with her sister Hope.  Hope has autism, and Tess is a fantastic parent to her.  I appreciate books that depict autism in such a positive light. Kudos to Kate Eberlen!

This book was difficult for me to read because breast cancer is a major character in Tess's narrative. My best friend is battling breast cancer currently, and she has had many unexpected complications. Unfortunately all of us know women who have fought cancer with determination, courage, strength, and grace just like Tess.


Eventually, Fate successfully pushes these two together, and the ending is fantastic, much more than satisfying.  Miss You is a fun read, and it made me wonder about chance meetings and whether or not anything in life is truly random.  I highly recommend it, and it would make a fun Spring Break or Easter Break read.


I received a copy of Miss You from the publisher via TLC book tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Friday, March 31, 2017

Literary Friday: Mississippi Blood

About Mississippi Blood

• Hardcover: 704 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (March 21, 2017)

#1 New York Times Bestselling Author The endgame is at hand for Penn Cage, his family, and the enemies bent on destroying them in this revelatory volume in the epic trilogy set in modern-day Natchez, Mississippi—Greg Iles's epic tale of love and honor, hatred and revenge that explores how the sins of the past continue to haunt the present.

Shattered by grief and dreaming of vengeance, Penn Cage sees his family and his world collapsing around him. The woman he loves is gone, his principles have been irrevocably compromised, and his father, once a paragon of the community that Penn leads as mayor, is about to be tried for the murder of a former lover. Most terrifying of all, Dr. Cage seems bent on self-destruction. Despite Penn's experience as a prosecutor in major murder trials, his father has frozen him out of the trial preparations--preferring to risk dying in prison to revealing the truth of the crime to his son.

During forty years practicing medicine, Tom Cage made himself the most respected and beloved physician in Natchez, Mississippi. But this revered Southern figure has secrets known only to himself and a handful of others. Among them, Tom has a second son, the product of an 1960s affair with his devoted African American nurse, Viola Turner. It is Viola who has been murdered, and her bitter son--Penn's half-brother--who sets in motion the murder case against his father. The resulting investigation exhumes dangerous ghosts from Mississippi's violent past. In some way that Penn cannot fathom, Viola Turner was a nexus point between his father and the Double Eagles, a savage splinter cell of the KKK. More troubling still, the long-buried secrets shared by Dr. Cage and the former Klansmen may hold the key to the most devastating assassinations of the 1960s. The surviving Double Eagles will stop at nothing to keep their past crimes buried, and with the help of some of the most influential men in the state, they seek to ensure that Dr. Cage either takes the fall for them, or takes his secrets to an early grave.

Tom Cage's murder trial sets a terrible clock in motion, and unless Penn can pierce the veil of the past and exonerate his father, his family will be destroyed. Unable to trust anyone around him--not even his own mother--Penn joins forces with Serenity Butler, a famous young black author who has come to Natchez to write about his father's case. Together, Penn and Serenity--a former soldier--battle to crack the Double Eagles and discover the secret history of the Cage family and the South itself, a desperate move that risks the only thing they have left to gamble: their lives.

Mississippi Blood is the enthralling conclusion to a breathtaking trilogy seven years in the making--one that has kept readers on the edge of their seats. With piercing insight, narrative prowess, and a masterful ability to blend history and imagination, New York Times bestselling author Greg Iles illuminates the brutal history of the American South in a highly atmospheric and suspenseful novel that delivers the shocking resolution his fans have eagerly awaited.


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Greg Iles

Greg Iles spent most of his youth in Natchez, Mississippi. His first novel, Spandau Phoenix, was the first of thirteen New York Times bestsellers, and his new trilogy continues the story of Penn Cage, protagonist of The Quiet Game, Turning Angel, and #1 New York Times bestseller The Devil’s Punchbowl. Iles’s novels have been made into films and published in more than thirty-five countries. He lives in Natchez with his wife and has two children. Find out more about Greg at his website, follow him on Twitter, and connect with him on Facebook.

My Review:

Greg Iles is one of my favorite writers, and The Quiet Game is one of my all-time favorite books. Unfortunately I was disappointed in the first two books in this trilogy, Natchez Burning and The Bone Tree.  Click on the links and read my reviews.

Finally.  Questions are answered in this final installment of the trilogy.  However after three books of overly-complicated plots and outrageous storylines that involve not only the MLK assassination, but also Kennedy's assassination, still I feel like there are plot points concerning Penn and his family still floating up in the air.

I used to like Penn.  I used to really, really like Penn.  Now? Not so much. Perhaps my biggest criticism of the novel is my disappointment in Penn's character.  I thought that Penn loved Caitlin, but apparently his grieving period of only two to three months or so is enough to get over his second love of his life as he falls into the arms of Serenity.  Also, Mia from Turning Angel makes an appearance.  She was a teenager in that novel (cheerleader from the local high school who babysits Penn's daughter).  In Turning Angel, Penn thought about seducing her until he screwed his head on straight again.  Now she's twenty, and she's certainly a distraction Penn doesn't need.  I really hate it that Penn has turned out to be such a horn dog.  All I can think is: karma. Think of your daughter, Penn.

The profanity started grating on my nerves.  Again.  Truly I got sick and tired of reading the "n" and "f" word.  Maybe it's me.  His language it cringe-worthy.  This isn't a criticism, but the title is distracting to me: I kept singing Lynyrd Skynyrd's Mississippi Blood in my head during certain parts off the novel.  It was a needed distraction.

Greg Iles is a fantastic writer, I'll give him that.  He isn't shy when writing about controversial topics like physician-assisted suicide and Southern racism.  I do think that this trilogy could have been better with some ruthless editing.  The books didn't need to be that long, and they would have been much better without the more outrageous plot points.  I am happier with the trilogy overall after this final installment, and I would give it four out of five stars.

I can't help but wonder if Penn will appear in future novels.  I have a feeling he will.

For those of you who live near Birmingham, Greg Iles will chat about and sign copies of Mississippi Blood at The Alabama Booksmith in Homewood Saturday, April 1st at 3:00 PM. 


I received a copy of Mississippi Blood from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill