NFBookClub: The Poisoner’s Handbook Discussion Part One

October 21, 2016 Book Review, Book Talk, reviews 1

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


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.

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!




#SweetGiving with Sweet Friends for OCC

October 13, 2016 Holidays, Life Well Lived 2

Operation Christmas Child

Photo Credit: Chelsea Francis

As I sit to write this, Christmas is exactly 72 days away. Ok, scary thought. Because I haven’t really started on Christmas presents yet. . .honestly, I haven’t really even thought much about Christmas, especially as we are all so intensely focused on politics at the moment. I know, I know ~ let’s simply avoid that volatile subject for now and talk about something much more necessary and even FUN!

For the past several years, I can’t remember exactly how long ago we started, but I know it’s been years and years {so sad thinking how my oldest is 24!}. Anyways, while my children were growing up each year they would pack a Christmas shoebox for a boy or girl dependent on their age at the time for Operation Christmas Child.

Last year, I started the tradition with my sweet grandsons. The youngest little monkey was 4 and the step-grandson was 7 – perfect ages to begin sharing the idea that not every child wakes to an abundance of gifts on Christmas morning. This video helped both boys understand who they were creating special gift boxes for. For about a month we collected small items that would fit in a shoebox, with the 4 year old choosing toys and gifts for a 4 year old boy and the 7 year old doing the same for his age. It was fascinating to see what they picked as gifts they would want if they had no toys at all.

This year I invite you to join us in preparing gift boxes. It is a wonderful way to teach empathy while helping children around the world.

Just in case you’ve never heard of Operation Christmas Child please allow me to share its’ mission

Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, demonstrates God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, shares the Good News of Jesus Christ. We collect and send simple shoebox gifts filled with toys, school supplies, and hygiene items to children affected by war, poverty, disaster, famine, and disease. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered gift-filled shoeboxes to over 124 million children in more than 150 countries and territories.

Who is Samaritan’s Purse?

Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ.

If you would prefer to make a donation in honor or memory of someone visit Samaritan’s Purse Gift Giving Catalog filled with specific gifts for individuals and families around the world. For example, with a $20 donation you can make it possible for a child to learn to read and write! And I know how important reading is to us book lovers, right?!?

My good friend Kirsten from Sweet Tea and Saving Grace is providing tips and resources to help create your shoeboxes. Also, Samaritan’s Purse has a Pinterest page with tons of ideas for preparing your shoebox. And, if like me, you are not a part of a church that collects the shoeboxes it is easy to find a local collection point with Shoebox Collection Point resource. Simply enter your zip code and voila, a collection point within a few miles of you will be shown.

I love this coloring page provided by Samaritan’s Purse to include in the box. It helped bring home the message of giving to my grandsons and allowed the child who received the box to ‘know’ the child giving on the other end. If you want to follow along with my grandsons and me as we prepare our shoeboxes, please do so on Facebook or Instagram.


Thank you for allowing me to share this important work with you. Please do share any tips or ideas you have for creating a shoebox in the comments. I’d love to see how we all join together to bring hope and light to children around the world.

Many blessings Dear Hearts,



You May NOT Read . . .

September 25, 2016 Book Talk, OHH! 13

Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association.

Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association.


The Fault in our Stars, The Kite Runner, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks or even For Every Child a Better World by Jim Henson {yes, THAT Jim Henson}.

Did you know that this year alone 45 books have been challenged and banned across the country from early childhood all the way through college-age children. This week we celebrate all books but especially those books which have been banned.

The rights and protections of the First Amendment extend to children and teens as well as adults. While parents have the right—and the responsibility—to guide their own children’s reading, that right does not extend to other people’s children. Similarly, each adult has the right to choose his or her own reading materials, along with the responsibility to acknowledge and respect the right of others to do the same.  When we speak up to protect the right to read, we not only defend our individual right to free expression, we demonstrate tolerance and respect for opposing points of view. -American Library Association

To give you a small taste of the literature you are being denied access, here’s a few quotes from challenged and banned books during this past year:

Challenged/Banned Meridian, Idaho; Wilmington, North Carolina and Highland Park, Texas

the absolutely true diary of a part-time indian

Challenged/Banned in Wesley Chapel, Florida

paper towns

Challenged/Banned in Cleveland, Texas


Challenged but retained in Waukesha, Wisconsin

looking for alaska


Challenged/Banned in Waukesha, Wisconsin

chinese handcuffs

Banned Wilson County, Tennessee

the curious incident of the dog in the night-time

Challenged/Banned in 2 Districts in California

the fault in our stars

Banned/Challenged in Lewes, Delaware

brave new world

Banned/Challenged in Pensacola, Florida

little brother
Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association.

Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association.


What are your thoughts on banned books? Have you ever had someone deny you access to a book you wanted to read?



A Story of Hope with The Feathered Bone

September 21, 2016 Book Review, reviews 1

A Story of Hope with The Feathered BoneThe Feathered Bone by Julie Cantrell
Published by Thomas Nelson on January 26th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Inspirational
Pages: 384
Source: purchased

So maybe a miracle is anything that gets us through another day when life gets too hard.

The Feathered Bone begins with a class field trip to the Big Easy: New Orleans on Halloween. Two best friends, Sarah and Ellie are twelve, best friends and middle schoolers. Since their moms are best friends they’ve grown up to be almost inseparable. When Ellie’s mom, Amanda, is left to chaperone the two girls so Beth, Sarah’s mom can return to her work as a pastor’s wife, the unspeakable happens. Sarah goes to the restroom but never returns to the group. With Sarah’s disappearance, Amanda and Ellie both fight the guilt demons plaguing them. The Feathered Bone is a look at how do you have faith and hope in the face of unspeakable horror? How do you survive the guilt? and as a victim, how do you get through each day, each awful happening and still remain true to yourself and your faith?

That’s what we have to remember. Light defeats darkness. Never the other way around.

The Feathered Bone is also a story of trusting our instincts and valuing our own worth. It’s a testament to *feminism, a story of hope and the power of God to carry us through. Julie Cantrell’s books tackle the worst of mankind yet reveals the hope of mankind as well. Depression, domestic violence and trafficking are all tackled with equal voracity. Honestly, I started crying half-way through and didn’t stop until I closed the book. It’s the story of your neighbor, a friend, a relative, or even one in which you see parts of yourself.

Favorite Passage

He said that the day he tried to kill himself, he sat in front of Walmart for three hours trying to talk himself out of it. He sat right there on the bench, almost in tears, and thought, If one person smiles at me, I won’t do it. That’ll be a good enough reason to live. But in those three hours, nobody did. You know how many people go in and out of Walmart in the span of three hours? But everybody walked right past him, looking down at their phones or off in the distance, pretending he wasn’t there at all. He felt invisible. As if he were already dead. So he figured, what’s the point? And he went home and he did it. And only by the grace of God did he live to tell us that story. So from that moment on, I decided I never want to be the one who walks by and doesn’t smile. I want to be the one who makes everybody feel glad to be alive. To let them know they matter.

Final Thoughts

It’s difficult to beat Julie Cantrell’s debut novel Into the Free. I fell in love with Millie’s character and strength and the Depression-era setting. When  Mountains Move carries forward Millie’s life into adulthood. Both books are historical fiction {one of my favorite genres}. The Feathered Bone is straight from the headlines of today. I could taste the gumbo, smell the wet, swampy marsh and feel the sweltering humid heat during Hurricane Katrina. The characters ring true: Amanda’s guilt, Ellie’s depression, and Beth’s faith. Once you close the pages you’ll have been rung out, but you will know the tremendous power of faith, hope and love.

*my definition: feminism is equality for men and women rather than a continued patriarchal society 

Julie CantrellAbout the Author

Julie Cantrell has got to be one of the nicest authors around! Here she is sharing a favorite recent read for the 30Authors annual event. To learn more about this lovely lady and her books visit her website | Twitter | Facebook.  If you’re a foodie like me, definitely check out some of these recipes for gumbo and jambalaya! AND, if you saw my recent post on authors who create playlists to accompany or inspire their books and characters then you may have seen The Feathered Bone and Julie Cantrell featured there as well!



25+ Mixtapes for Books

September 20, 2016 Book Talk 1

25 mixtapes for books

A few years ago I listened to Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly {review here}. Throughout the book there were numerous references to songs and bands both from the present and during the French Revolution. Of course, I had to find out if there was a list anywhere on the web with all of the titles mentioned which is when I discovered mixtapes for books! What an awesome idea!

Since that discovery about four years ago, I’ve made a habit of checking on books and authors I’m especially fond of to see if there’s a ‘mixtape.’ Below is a list of just a few I’ve been able to curate for you. I hope you enjoy!

Most of the links are to Spotify. No purchase necessary and these are not affiliate links {not even sure Spotify has those?}. You may have to open a free account if you do not have one already.

Mixtapes for Books

Carlos Ruiz Zafón The Shadow of the Wind | The Angel’s Game | The Prisoner of Heaven

Stephen King Dr. Sleep | The Dark Tower

Rainbow Rowell  Landline | Fangirl | Eleanor and Park

JoJo Moyes One Plus One | Me Before You

Deb Harkness   A Discovery of Witches | Shadow of Night | The Book of Life

Luanne Rice The Lemon Orchard | The Night Before

John Green Looking for Alaska | Paper Towns | All the Bright Places

Music for Book People created by Gayle Forman

The Feathered Bone by Julie Cantrell

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

A Little Life by Hanya

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

IQ84 by Haruki Murakami

Just Kids by Patti Smith

Sarah J. Maas has a playlist for each book written! this link takes you to her page with links to each book’s playlist {most of her books have multiple playlists}

Alexandra Bracken  also has a playlist for each book written! this link takes you to her page with links to each book’s playlist {most of her books have multiple playlists}

I’ve started a Pinterest board and would love to add any mixtape you’ve found for a book to this list. Leave me a link in the comments and I’ll put together a giant resource for us fanatical music AND book lovers 😉

*linking to The Broke and The Bookish Top Ten Tuesday