Bien Trucha: A Review

Bien Trucha has been on my radar for years.  When you move from the city and leave the lively food scene of downtown Chicago behind for the suburbs, it can be so disappointing.  But, people had described Bien Trucha with remarks similar to places we talked about when living downtown.  When told it was Mexican food, I was even more intrigued.    Marrying into a Mexican family, we eat Mexican food a lot.  Is it possible to make Mexican food new!  exciting!  fresh!?  {Does being with someone for 10 years make you an almost-expert?  (To prove my point, I make my own salsa exclusively now.)}

Up to this point, I have reviewed places while on trips, vacations or visits with friends.  Bien Trucha is in my neck of the woods.  I love the idea of finding new places that I can visit over and over.  To celebrate an anniversary and a birthday, I called just over two weeks out.  Saturday was going to work best for us and the only available reservation slots were 5pm and 9:15pm.  Checking the next weekend the time slots were the same.  This told me two things: I would probably be paying a babysitter a lot of money because our meal would take a while and dinner was going to be gooood.

Geneva has a charming downtown comprised of State Street and a handful of side streets.  You can find lots of restaurants and fun shops.  There was even an art gallery and adorable boutiques. We were hoping to walk around but unfortunately it was late and rainy.  Bien Trucha lures summer patrons in with a fantastic patio between its two structures.  We decided to arrive early and sit at the bar while we waited for our reservation.  The atmosphere is charming and welcoming (a large patio between an old home and additional dining area) and inside it is modern and has a city vibe to it.

Fresh made margarita are fantastically light.  Not overly tart or syrupy, each is made by hand.  They serve each table with hot chips and a smoky take on refried beans.  These were not your average beans on the side of a burrito.  They had a depth of flavor I had never tasted in beans before.  We also ordered the guacamole tradicional which was the best guacamole I have ever eaten (and know that I have tasted my share of guacamole!).  Cotija cheese offered a tangy salty bite on top.  They also have a guacamole of the day, which mixes in the fruit of the day (pineapple in our case, though I heard it can be other unique choices like blueberry, mango or watermelon).

The heart of their menu is the tacos, though they also have tortas (lunch only), soup, salad, a variety of sides and fresh made salsa and ceviche.  We were told plates were intended to share family style.  My husband ordered the arrachera tacos (skirt steak with caramelized onions, avocado and roasted serrano salsa).  Tacos are small, about the size of your palm so they don’t feel quite as heavy as your average taco.  Four tacos come in a serving.

My choice was tacos de pastor (ancho-guajillo marinated pork, cilantro, onion, fresh pineapple and their morita salsa).  You know I love the salty and sweet together!  As I said, the tacos are small but they pack a big flavor punch!

We arrived early, and before our appetizer even arrived, we were seated at our table.  The service was excellent and though I expected a longer wait time, everything was served very quickly.  Not wanting our date night to end, I ordered dessert (because, dessert).  I chose a small cornbread cake sitting in a rum glaze and dusted with powder sugar.  This was dense but warm and fantastic with the rum glaze cut the sweetness of the cake.

Bien Trucha was perfect for a date night.  Great food, energetic atmosphere and nothing was over $15.  If you would like to try it out for yourself, check out Bien Trucha in Geneva, IL at 410 W. State Street.  They accept reservations and call ahead to add your name to the wait list.  If Geneva isn’t convenient for you, the company also has A Toda Madre in Glen Elyn, IL (499 N. Main Street) and newly opened Quiubo in downtown Naperville, IL (120 Water Street).

Have you tried Bien Trucha or one of its sister companies?  Be sure to weigh in in the comments!

Whole30: My favorite foods and tools

Today I would love to share some of my favorite products and even a couple of very simple recipes.  When cutting out things that have been a part of your routine for a very long time, it is good to go simple.  These products cut out a few steps so that meals came together a bit quicker.  Who doesn’t love shortcuts in the kitchen!  These are my top 10 tips and tools to use during the Whole30.  {If you missed Whole30: Why I Chose to Tackle Whole30 and Why You Should Too and Whole 30: Where Do I Start? go check it out!}

Many of these items are specifically found at your local grocery store.  You’ll see here choices from my local Meijer, Target, Trader Joe’s as well as Costco.  I will specify what certain elements to look for with each item.  BUT, that doesn’t get you off the hook!  Be sure to look at every single label before you purchase (even the ones I tell you because products and their ingredients can change!).  Train yourself to start to notice the additives and extras that are in your convenience items.

ONE:  Kirkland Organic Marinara Sauce–You could use other marinara sauce, just make sure it doesn’t have any type of sugar in the ingredient list.  I often added this to Costco’s organic ground beef for meat sauce.

TWO:  Kirkland Signature Organic Ground Beef (Costco) was delicious with marinara over roasted spaghetti squash.  Cut spaghetti squash in half length-wise, brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast face down for 45 minutes at 400 degrees.  Very satisfying!
Ground beef was also great for making taco salad or tacos using Romaine leaves instead of tortillas.

THREE:  Low-sodium bacon is great with a breakfast hash, eggs or added onto salads for a salty, smoky bite.  Did you know that regular bacon has added sugar??  I didn’t.  Look for the low-sodium kind and you should have a winner.

FOUR:  Aidells Chicken and Apple Chicken Sausage was great with roasted sweet potatoes and a fried egg in the morning.  Equally fantastic for dinner with some eggs, veggies and potatoes for dinner.

Image result for trader joe's butternut squash
FIVE:  Pre-chopped and peeled organic butternut squash (Trader Joes) was nice because it eliminated those extra steps and was a nice alternative to sweet potatoes.  Great also with roasted brussell sprouts, olive oil and balsamic vinegar!


SIX:  GoodFoods or Wholly Guacamole were a necessity for me!  I used this on my bunless burgers, with my eggs in the morning and as a dip with veggie sticks as a snack.  I could NOT have done it without it!

SEVEN:  Creamy Almond Butter is delicious with a banana or apple for a snack or quick breakfast.


EIGHT:  Pre-mixed salads (use your own Whole30 approved dressing).  Sometimes it takes too long to make your own salad.  These were nice when I was starving and didn’t feel like all the chopping.  Be sure everything in the salad is approved.  I don’t believe the cranberries in this particular salad would be Whole30 approved.  It was also great to use broccoli slaw or cauliflower crumbles for quick stir-frys.


NINE:  Variety of nuts were always kept in small baggies in my car and purse.  Perfect for when you are caught out and can’t get home during mealtime hours.  Whole30 guidelines suggest choosing raw nuts to avoid being cooked in oil.  They are delicious just toasted in a fry pan over the burner for 1-2 minutes (be sure to watch them, they burn quickly!   Ask me how I know…).  When you can start to smell the nuttiness, they are done.

TEN:  My favorite fresh salsa was so delicious on tacos, scrambled eggs and steak.

These items helped make my experience a success.  If you consider doing the Whole30, try some of these items, I’m certain they will come in handy for you!  Be sure to check out my final Whole30 post where I make a few confessions and my overall opinions of the program.

Have you tried any of these food items?  What were some of your must-haves during the Whole30?

Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life

Our June book club selection was Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life by C. S. Lewis.  (If you missed last month, check it out here!)  The jacket described this as Lewis’ story of conversion to Christianity and though I see that now, it didn’t feel that way in the midst of it.  You don’t actually hear of his conversion until the last 5 pages.  So as I was reading it, I felt like it was more of a story of his childhood and the hurdles he had to overcome to find the Joy he spoke of from the beginning.

Summary: C. S. Lewis is probably best known for his children’s fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia.  In this nonfiction book, he writes about his young life.  How the loss of his mother at a very young age had such an impact on him.  His strained relationship with his father and unique bond with his brother deeply shaped who he became.  He also explored how reading and his education led him to some of the greatest realizations of his life.

This book was quite a departure for our group.  Though a shorter book than we usually pick up, the dialogue felt headier than others.  Surprised by Joy starts with Lewis explaining a couple of instances where he experienced a moment of capital-J Joy.  He said it came quickly, left very shortly after, always leaving him wanting more.   Describing it as something completely different from Pleasure or Happiness he said, “I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world.  But then Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.”

Lewis was an intellectual and struggled to fit in.  He didn’t have his mother and a self-described “awkward” relationship with his father.  However, he adored his brother and cultivated his vivid and wild imagination by dreaming up imaginary lands with him.  He was not athletic at all, though he pretended just to participate in social activities with classmates.  Struggling to find friends, the ones he did find seemed to be teachers or superiors.  His greatest solace was found among books.

Some of his greatest hangups seemed to be the “intrusion” of religion on his life.  “I was also, as you may remember, one whose negative demands were more violent than his positive, far more eager to escape pain than to achieve happiness, and feeling it something of an outrage that I had been created without my own permission…It was also perhaps not unimportant that the externals of Christianity made no appeal to my sense of beauty.  Christianity was mainly associated for me with ugly architecture, ugly music, and bad poetry.  But, of course, what mattered most of all was my deep-seated hatred of authority, my monstrous individualism, my lawlessness.  No word in my vocabulary expressed deeper hatred than the word interference.  But Christianity placed at the center what then seemed to me a transcendental Interferer.”

The most fascinating part of the whole book for me was the last two chapters.   The focus on how his life was being interrupted by the great Interferer, was truly beautiful.  His studies in philosophy made it hard for Lewis to let go of previously held beliefs.  “Even if my own philosophy were true, how could the initiative lie on my side?  My own analogy, as I now first perceived, suggested the opposite: if Shakespeare and Hamlet could ever meet, it must be Shakespeare’s doing.  Hamlet could initiate nothing.”

For those who struggle with God or Christianity, I loved what Lewis said at the very end: “The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.”  The best part of all of his story was that it was HIS story.  He didn’t say how it should be for other people or what the conversion experience should look like.  He simply shared his experience.  I believe he wanted to share the many hindrances that he had to overcome to find his true Joy.  I also believe he would be thrilled to hear if it helped others to find theirs.

What is your favorite CS Lewis work?  What hindrances have you had to overcome in your faith journey?  What books, music, art has changed how you look at your faith?  Please leave your comments below!

Raspberry Chipotle and Bacon Dip

My memory of the first time I tasted this dip is nearly perfect: I was on the deck at my parent’s house, a beautiful summer night and we had all been at the beach that day.  All of the grandkids (7 total including my kids, my niece and nephews) were running around with pink cheeks from a day building sandcastles and playing in the water.  The parents and grandparents were settled with glasses of white wine in comfy chairs when my sister walked up with Raspberry Chipotle and Bacon Dip.

Oh. My. Goodness.

Well, first I hesitated.  Bacon, with raspberry?  And chipotle?  That sounds odd.  {Based on this sandwich, you are learning I don’t shy away from odd.}  But I do love salty and sweet together.  So I gave it a shot.  Well, that shot nearly turned into me walking off with the whole platter and the bottle of wine to finish myself.

So, the best part?  It is EASY and quick!  First, line a cookie sheet with foil.  Then lay as many strips of bacon you can in a single layer on the foil  (this is just shy of one pound for me).  Put bacon in a COLD oven and set oven to bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  I like my bacon crispy so I lean more toward 30 minutes but be sure to check it near the end so it doesn’t burn.  It can happen so fast!  Drain on paper towels when done.

While bacon cooks, grab two 8 oz. bricks of cream cheese.  You can use lower fat if you like.  It helps a lot if they are room temperature.  Spread them out to cover a whole platter using the back of a spoon or spatula.  Pour a 15oz. bottle of Bronco Bob’s Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce over the cream cheese.  This may be a bit tricky to find but I found mine at World Market for around $4.  I’ve also heard you can pick it up at WalMart.  [Also, I love that I can identify every one of the ingredients in this: raspberry, sugar, jalapeno peppers, apple cider vinegar, salt, chipotle peppers, garlic powder, natural mesquite smoke flavor and pectin.]

Once your bacon has cooled, chop it up and then sprinkle all over.  Finally, chop up some green onions (green, light green and white parts, use ’em all!).  It adds great fresh color and cuts the richness of the bacon and the sweetness from the raspberry.  Spread onto crackers and serve to people you want to turn into your best friends.

Raspberry Chipotle and Bacon Dip

10 minPrep Time

25 minCook Time

35 minTotal Time

Save RecipeSave Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 pkg. (8oz each) cream cheese, room temperature (can use low fat)
  • 1 jar (15 oz) Bronco Bob's Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce
  • 1 lb. bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 1/2 c. green onions, chopped

Instructions

  1. Line cookie sheet with foil and lay slices of bacon in a single layer on the pan. Put into COLD oven and bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes. Watch carefully at the end so bacon doesn't burn. Remove from oven and drain on paper towels.
  2. Using the back of a spoon, spread softened cream cheese in an even layer on a serving platter.
  3. Pour raspberry chipotle sauce over cream cheese.
  4. Chop bacon and sprinkle over the top.
  5. Finally, sprinkle chopped green onions. Serve on crackers.

Notes

Bronco Bob's Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce can be found at World Market or WalMart.

7.6.6
5
http://www.thecomforttable.net/raspberry-chipotle-and-bacon-dip/

Pinky’s: A Review

When you are traveling, it is so easy to check out the nearest Panera or Chipotle or something else that sounds familiar.  But the next time you find yourself out of town, I challenge you to find a great restaurant that is only local.  I’ll be transparent, I was at the end of my trip and my mind was already heading home.  But my friend made the effort to seek out a funky place and Pinky’s is where we landed.  Man, am I glad we ended up there!!

Image result for pinky's restaurant charlotte north carolina

This is a highly recognized restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina.  In fact, it was highlighted on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives!  The best thing about these types of restaurants is that they are very reasonably priced, great fresh menu and relaxed atmosphere.  We were looking for casual fare and this fit the bill.

Highlights of the menu:
[Appetizers]–veggie chili, Pimp’n Fries (fries with pimento cheese), Hush puppies and Crab puppies, Greg’s pickles (fried)
[Salads]–Tahini salad with falafel, Ginger Tuna salad
[Tacos]–Buffalo Shrimp tacos, Korean Pork BBQ tacos
[Burgers}–single, double and triple patties made to order (including toppings)
[Hot Dogs]–Reuben dog, Pinky dog (pimento cheese and chili), even vegetarian dog!
[Sandwiches]–Green Chili Pork sandwich (pineapple, swiss and arugula), Falafel, Tuna Melt


Corn Dog Shrimp Basket

This sounded like it would be so heavy but the batter was so light, they were delicious!  This was the item featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.  Oh, and that coleslaw on the side?  HOMEMADE and delicious.


Kick’n Chicken Tacos

Garlic Lime marinated grilled chicken topped with queso fresco, pico de gallo and garlic-parsley dressing.  These were so fresh tasting and delicious!  The black beans on the side weren’t just your average beans either.  You could tell they made everything from scratch.


Ding Dong Chicken

Thai-inspired grilled chicken breast served with honey-cilantro slaw, sriracha and chunky peanut butter.  I know it may sound odd, but this has the same flavors as the chicken satay with peanut dip that you might have enjoyed before.  And it was FANTASTIC.

Remarkably, there isn’t a single item on their menu over $10.  The quirky atmosphere keeps things light and festive and the fabulous food tricks you into thinking you are spending way more than you are.  Only 10 minutes from the Charlotte airport, be sure to check out Pinky’s if you ever get the chance!!

Have you ever stumbled across a hidden gem in your travels?  Where were you?  What favorite local restaurant would you consider the perfect diner or dive for visitors in your town?

Favorite Fresh Salsa

Summer has certainly packed a punch around here (mid-90s already!) and when those temps start to soar, my family likes to throw on the grill (as seen here!), pour something cold to beat the heat and relax on the deck.  But, since we often start grilling later, we start getting hungry before the food is ready.  Quick, easy, fresh and authentic, this Favorite Fresh Salsa is a MUST try while you wait for dinner.

Before trying this recipe, I was one of those people who would playfully bop around the salsa section at the grocery store and try all kinds of new things: peach, black bean and corn, medium, mild, hot, name brand, generic, you name it, I’d try it.  Eating salsa out was the best but never really considered making it at home.  Then I devoured  politely tasted this at my in-laws house, I knew I had to try.  BUT do you jump in after the first taste when this is not your comfort zone?   My mother-in-law could make this in her sleep while doing taxes and speaking in a third language.  Sometimes you need to leave this up to the professionals!!  This recipe, however, is easy even for those of you who don’t feel comfortable in the kitchen.

I should be clear, this recipe is not mine, it belongs to my mother-in-law.  Oh my goodness the amount of salsa she has made just since I have been in her family is startling.  Even more terrifying, how much I have EATEN since joining her family.  But, since it is made with 6 simple ingredients (including salt!) I will tell myself that it is healthy.  And it is!!  I’m just working on getting tortilla chips to somehow fit into the veggie category.  Can anyone help me with this???

Even though this recipe is exceptionally simple, I have found a few strategies to make it work every time.  Try to think veggies: jalapeno, onion, tomato and then seasonings: fresh lime juice, cilantro, salt.  Even though the ingredients are few and simple, it is important to note certain details about each one.

Tomatoes: I almost always use Roma tomatoes because they have a lower water content.  Tomatoes on the vine were cheaper once at the grocery store and they were also delicious.  One more thing, never refrigerate your tomatoes.  They will lose their flavor.
Onions:  Onions are SO IMPORTANT.  (I just heard my husband shudder in the next room.  He HATES onions.)  However, this ingredient is not optional because it gives the needed bite to counter the sweetness of the tomato.  Couple of tips, I use one medium shallot instead of a regular onion.  Though red onion gives great color, my husband just can’t stomach them.  The shallot is more mild and the perfect amount for one batch.
Jalapeno:  Did you know that jalapenos that have ribbing are spicier??  Who knew?  Also, I DO freeze these and use as needed.  Take note, however, that they get more of a kick when you freeze them so start with small amounts and add more as needed.   Cut the tops off and I leave the seeds because I’m dangerous like that.

Image result for jalapeno

Next up, seasonings.
Limes: Make sure your they have a very *slight* give when you push on them.  Their skin should be firm but not hard.  If they are too firm, they are getting old or won’t have enough juice.  ALWAYS use fresh, never bottled.  Also, like tomatoes, keep limes out on the counter.
Cilantro:  Ok, ok there are people out there who have strong aversions to cilantro.  {Did you know if you hate it, it might be part of your genetic makeup?  Check this out!}  I think it is best with cilantro, but parsley is equally as delicious.
Salt:  Also another mandatory ingredient.  If you feel it tastes a little flat, add more salt.  Salt almost always fixes the problem.  In my case I use kosher salt, but feel free to use whatever you have on hand.

My husband’s family will probably laugh that this recipe made the blog because it is such a part of their family life and celebrations that it doesn’t feel all that “special”.  However, it is special to me and now I love that it is a part of our family traditions with my kids.  Hope you enjoy a great kickoff to summer!  Salut!

Yields About 8 oz.

Best Fresh Salsa

10 minPrep Time

10 minTotal Time

Save RecipeSave Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 Roma tomatoes, rough chopped
  • 1 shallot, peeled and halved
  • 1/2 jalapeno with seeds, use more as desired
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/4 c. cilantro
  • 1/2 t. kosher salt

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, add rough chopped tomatoes, shallot and jalapeno.
  2. Then add lime juice, cilantro and salt.
  3. Pulse until desired texture.
  4. Serve with tortilla chips.

Notes

You could do this in a food processor, blender or Bullet. I love the texture of the food processor the best, just pulsing until you receive the texture you like best.

7.6.6
4
http://www.thecomforttable.net/best-fresh-salsa/

Have you tried making your own fresh salsa recipe?  Write your review of your try at this recipe in the comments!

Grilled Vegetable Salad

I do believe my friends, it is officially GRILL SEASON!  My husband and I have decided to set the goal of grilling every single weekend and hopefully entertaining friends as well.  Even though hamburgers and hot dogs are the norm, I’m challenging you to eat your vegetables!  Enter, perfect Grilled Vegetable Salad!

As much as lettuce salads are great and refreshing, sometimes I just need something…different.  The idea of color in this salad feels perfect for summer. Wandering the produce section or farmers market is great to get inspiration until you get every color of the rainbow.  The grill adds such fantastic flavor and the variety of textures keeps it so delicious.

First, clean and chop veggies to easily lay on the grill.  Leaving peppers in big chunks and skewering (is that a word??) smaller vegetables makes the process pretty painless.  If you are worried about losing pieces through the grates, you could use aluminum foil, but I love the flavor of straight on the grill.

The opportunities to alter this salad to fit your wants are endless!  This is a fantastic healthy side for BBQs, a great lunch if you add potatoes or protein, or a fun build-your-own kabob bar!  This would also be delicious as a side to this meal!  Adding chunky feta cheese takes this side dish over the top because, well, cheese makes everything better.   (Goat cheese would also be fantastic!)

Here are some other choices for veggies to include:
Red–peppers, tomatoes, baby red potatoes (these will take longer)
Orange–peppers
Yellow–peppers, yellow squash, corn (perfect for summer!)
Green–zucchini, asparagus, peppers, brussel sprouts
Purple–red onion, eggplant, radicchio
Other–mushrooms, cauliflower

Quick assembly, quick cooking and delicious chilled, room-temperature or fresh off the grill!  Bring Grilled Vegetable Salad to your next summer cookout and you’ll be a hit.

Yields 6 hearty servings

Grilled Vegetable Salad

A fresh, healthy and delicious, Grilled Vegetable Salad is a perfect side dish at your next barbeque!

10 minPrep Time

10 minCook Time

20 minTotal Time

Save RecipeSave Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 red, yellow, and orange pepper, seeds and stem removed
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 2 small zucchini, cut in one inch rounds
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 6 oz. cremini mushrooms, stems removed
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 oz. feta cheese
  • 3-4 T. balsamic vinegar

Instructions

  1. First soak wooden skewers in water in preparation for the grill.
  2. Heat up the grill to medium heat.
  3. Begin by washing and seeding peppers. Cut onion in half and that half into thirds and separate layers. Chop zucchini into one inch rounds. Remove stems from mushrooms. Skewer all of these chopped veggies.
  4. Cut bottom 2 inches off of asparagus.
  5. Make two whole skewers with whole grape tomatoes. With remaining tomatoes, cut in half and put in serving bowl.
  6. Drizzle all vegetables with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.
  7. Place all veggies on the grill. Make sure all of them have good grill marks and they are tender, particularly peppers and onions.
  8. While the vegetables grill, chop feta cheese into cubes. Chop peppers, onions, zucchini, mushrooms and asparagus into large chunks.
  9. Add feta cheese cubes while veggies are still warm to soften slightly.
  10. Add balsamic vinegar and toss lightly. Serve warm, cold or room temperature.

Notes

I chose to grill about 2/3 of my grape tomatoes and leave the last 1/3 fresh and cut in half. I liked the idea of fresh and grilled together. You certainly could grill all of them or leave all fresh. If you don't have any balsamic (or don't care for it), consider a vinaigrette-type salad dressing and use that instead.

7.6.6
3
http://www.thecomforttable.net/grilled-vegetable-salad/

Small Great Things: A Review

Small Great Things: A Novel by Jodi Picoult

Product Details
source

Plot summary: Ruth Jefferson is a veteran labor and delivery nurse performing a routine exam on a newborn when the husband of her patient suddenly asks to see her supervisor.  Baffled, Ruth returns with her supervisor and discovers the parents are white supremacists and are requesting a new nurse.  Ruth is reassigned.
But, the next day when staff is needed in the OR, Ruth is left alone with this new baby and goes into cardiac distress.  Does Ruth ignore orders and help the baby and risk losing her job or does she abide by the parent’s wishes and not touch the child?  Her decision in that moment will have a much greater impact on her life than she ever dreams.
Told from three different perspectives, this book will challenge you to think about what you would do in that situation, but also if you ever dared to consider yourself as guilty as you really might be.

So, I have a confession.

This is the first Jodi Picoult book I have ever read.

*Gasp*

I know!  I haven’t even seen the movie “My Sister’s Keeper.”  Of course, I knew her name and saw her books all over the place.  Though I had never opened one of her books, I put her in the same category as Mitch Albom.  You know the type: perfect beach read, emotionally draining, tough topics but easy read.

A rainy, gloomy Saturday morning gave me the opportunity to fly through the first 150 pages.  In one sitting.  From that moment the story would not stop penetrating my thoughts throughout the day.  Picoult writes in a way that is fresh and engaging.  I hesitate to say too much about the plot because it truly is something that you need to wrestle with on your own.  I’ve even heard this title recommended with the suggestion that you don’t even read the summary and jump straight in.

Book clubs will have lots to discuss about Small Great Things.  Characters decisions, upbringing, career paths and even choice of spouses offer a plethora of great discussion material.  Whether you agree with the arguments made on all three sides of this story, there is much to consider.

“It was so much easier to hate them than it was to hate myself.”

Small Great Things was a fast-paced read and very engaging.  Characters were believable and though the different perspective angle is getting overdone in fiction, I found it to be particularly interesting in this book.  It made you sympathize  with characters that you normally wouldn’t sympathize with.  The tough and controversial topic kept it from being cheesy and I was surprised on more than one occasion about the turn of events in the story.  Thus, not very predictable which is a good thing!  A great read, perfect for your beach bag and for lots of great discussion.

What have been your favorite books to read about controversial topics?  Do you enjoy the heated discussion that follows or do you avoid it?  Weigh in on your thoughts about Small Great Things in the comments!