Book Review

Book Review: Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune by Roselle Lim- 5 Stars

After her mother dies, Natalie returns home to her Chinatown neighborhood. She and her mother had drifted apart over the years and Natalie left on bad terms due to disagreements they had over Natalie’s career. She yearned to be a chef, like her grandmother, but her mother discounted her dreams. When Natalie discovers she has inherited her grandmother’s restaurant, along with her special handwritten recipe book, she dreams about reopening the restaurant, but first, she has a challenge to complete. Natalie has to find three neighbors in need of something and fix three special dishes from the book to heal and help them. That’s where the magic happens. Natalie adds her own personal touches to her grandmother’s recipes but still stays true to her roots and culture, and these dishes transform those they were prepared for. I adore reading books focused around food, and bonus points if recipes are included! I’m also a huge fan of magical realism, which I was pleasantly surprised to encounter in this book as I hadn’t expected it when I read the synopsis!

Natalie has to deal with many mishaps and misunderstandings that could potentially be a threat to her restaurant’s success as well as her own happiness. This is just one of those books that, even through its sad parts, makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. It was an enjoyable debut and I look forward to more from this author in the future!

 

Book Review

Book Review: The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister- 4 Stars

Emmeline lives an enchanted childhood on a remote island with her father, who teaches her about the natural world through her senses. What he won’t explain are the mysterious scents stored in the drawers that line the walls of their cabin, or the origin of the machine that creates them. As Emmeline grows, however, so too does her curiosity, until one day the unforeseen happens, and Emmeline is vaulted out into the real world–a place of love, betrayal, ambition, and revenge. To understand her past, Emmeline must unlock the clues to her identity, a quest that challenges the limits of her heart and imagination.

Lyrical and immersive, The Scent Keeper explores the provocative beauty of scent, the way it can reveal hidden truths, lead us to the person we seek, and even help us find our way back home.

This was a jewel of a book! I enjoy reading books that have to do with magical realism but I’ve usually only read those that pertain to food/taste, whereas The Scent Keeper is all about smells. Have you ever smelled something that brought  back memories of a particular time in your life, or wished you could bottle up a special scent and keep it forever?

Emmaline has lived on a remote island with only her father since she was a baby. They live off the land, foraging for food, but occasionally what Emmaline knows as “the mermaids” will leave special gifts for them.

When something terrible happens, she begins to question everything she has ever known when thrust into a brand new life. Learning how to survive public school, bullies, and trying to figure out where she came from lends to a wonderful, beautifully written coming of age novel with a sprinkle of magic.

This book was heartbreaking but not heavy enough that you couldn’t enjoy it. It’s one of those refreshing reads you can just sit down with and breeze through. I loved every bit of this story except for the abrupt ending. It is a unique and imaginative story, and I am looking forward to checking out more titles by this author!

I received an ARC via NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for my honest review. The Scent Keeper will be published on May 21st, 2019!

 

Add it on Goodreads!
Pre-Order it on Amazon!

 

 

Book Review

Book Review: The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan-4 Stars

Goodreads Summary!

The Keeper of Lost Things is a charming and eccentric heartwarming tale of the life of Anthony Peardew and those who encounter him. After losing his love Therese, Anthony begins to collect lost things. Accumulating random bits and bobs wherever he goes, he labels them all and stores them in his home, Padua. After he passes, he tasks his assistant Laura with the challenge of locating the owners of the lost things. With the help of the handsome, frustrating gardener Freddy and a lovely neighbor girl, Sunshine, Laura sets out on a journey that takes readers through stories of loss, heartache, love, and learning.

The first half I was honestly bored and almost stopped reading but I’m glad I continued. I really loved Sunshine. She was so funny, sweet, and gave the book its magical quality with how she could sense what lost objects needed to be returned or not. I especially enjoyed Sunshine’s character and the tales sprinkled in of how certain objects became lost.

While I didn’t thoroughly enjoy the first half of this book, once I got to the end I realized what a delight this story was! This tale of love and loss complete with some magical realism will have you both laughing and crying!

Book Review

Book Review: The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig-4.5 Stars

the cake therapist

 

 

This was such a fun, heartwarming story!

Alternating between the mid 1900’s and today, The Cake Therapist tells the story of Claire “Neely” O’Neil, a baker with a penchant for sensing emotion through smells and flavors, and the Habig sisters-young, poor girls living in the 40’s. The flashbacks were confusing at times but once you saw how the two lives were connected it was perfect. Bad things happened in each of the time settings, and it was told in a way my heart ached, but the joy Neely gets from baking and “reading” people brought life and love to the novel. I love the imagery and emotions Fertig evokes with her storytelling. Neely has great friends and I loved how their relationships played out in this book. One of my favorite scenes was a cake tasting scene between a couple and the woman had a secret that Neely could sense through flavor-salt. As she added salt to each of the cupcakes, the woman finally revealed her secret.

The ending was incredible! i did not have it figured out until the last moment, but the connection between the 40’s and present day coming together was great. It was such a sweet novel  that shows how food can conjure up memories and mend friendships and relationships.

If you enjoy magical realism, I recommend this one!

Book Review

Book Review: Don’t You Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn-3.5 Stars

Paradise comes at a cost.

dyfam

 

Welcome to Gardnerville. It’s paradise! Have a disease or disability? Come to Gardnerville where you will be healed and can live well past 100! Skylar can take people’s secrets. In turn, she has gaps in her memory from all the secrets she takes. Her older sister Piper can make anyone do anything just by saying it. Together they record their days on cassette tapes. Skylar is pretty much doped up every day so she doesn’t have to remember what she dealt with the day before.

Every fourth year in Gardnerville, teens turn magical and deadly, and are committed to a reformatory. However many people die determines the number of years they are committed. This fourth year, Piper sent many to their death by leading them off the trestle bridge. Skylar can’t seem to remember Piper but she can’t seem to forget her either. Is she dead? Is she at the Reformatory?

This book messed with my mind the whole time! It was confusing to keep up with the chapters going back and forth from present day, to 8 years ago, 4 years ago, etc. The world building and character development was just rather jumbled and seemed like it was botched together. The first half of the story moved slowly but I started to become more intrigued about 3/4 of the way through. While I enjoy novels featuring magical realism/paranormal aspects, I couldn’t fall in love with this one because I kept scratching my head and feeling lost and confused. This book was seriously a mind trip with all the different secrets that are revealed, trying to keep up with what character did what…normally I would like that but I couldn’t get a grasp on what was really happening.

On a positive note, the writer’s style is unique so I do want to give some of her other novels a try.  I give it a 3.5 because it was weird and interesting enough to keep me reading, but I won’t gush over it.

Book Review

Book Review: First Frost (Waverly Family #2) by Sarah Addison Allen-5 Stars

From the New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spells comes a story of the Waverley family, in a novel as sparkling as the first dusting of frost on new-fallen leaves..

It’s October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly. As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree… and all the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store.

Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies. Though her handcrafted confections — rose to recall lost love, lavender to promote happiness and lemon verbena to soothe throats and minds — are singularly effective, the business of selling them is costing her the everyday joys of her family, and her belief in her own precious gifts.

Sydney Waverley, too, is losing her balance. With each passing day she longs more for a baby — a namesake for her wonderful Henry. Yet the longer she tries, the more her desire becomes an unquenchable thirst, stealing the pleasure out of the life she already has.

Sydney’s daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to.. if only he could see it, too. But how can he, when he is so far outside her grasp that he appears to her as little more than a puff of smoke?

When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before. And through it all, the Waverley sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost.

Lose yourself in Sarah Addison Allen’s enchanting world and fall for her charmed characters in this captivating story that proves that a happily-ever-after is never the real ending to a story. It’s where the real story begins.

 

Whimsical & magical-2 words that come to mind whenever I read a novel by Sarah Addison Allen. I first discovered Allen’s books about 7 years ago and have loved them ever since. I’m a HUGE fan of magical realism! First Frost is the sequel to Garden Spells, a book where readers are first introduced to the Waverly’s and their unique, magical qualities. Claire can change feeling and emotion with a taste of her food or candy, Sydney can take a hair-do and change someone’s day, and Bay, Sydney’s daughter, knows exactly where people and things should belong. As the Waverly ladies approach First Frost, things start to get out of whack. It isn’t until the beautiful apple tree starts blossoming will things be set straight again. With elements of magic, love, and the value of family, First Frost is sure to delight. SAA has this writing quality that is just beautiful, with it’s deeply descriptive detail and sense of magic that I love. IOne of my favorites: “It looked like the world was covered in a cobbler crust of brown sugar and cinnamon.” This novel was an enjoyable read that I didn’t want to end!  I would love another sequel that tells the story of grown-up Bay!

*I received a copy of this ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own*

Book Review

Book Review: My True Love Gave to Me (Twelve Holiday Stories) 4 Stars Total

*Thanks to Netgalley & St. Martin’s Press for this delightful read!*

I’ve missed writing on this blog!! I’ve been crazy busy, but today’s post is going to feature “My True Love Gave to Me!” This is a collection of twelve holiday stories that is simply delightful. For the book as a whole, I give it 4 stars, but I’m going to give mini reviews for each of the novellas. Of course, with every collection, there is going to be stories you absolutely love, ones you hate, and those you’re just “meh” about. Some of the short stories, I felt, ended way too abruptly. Overall though, I highly recommend this book!

 

mtlgtm

 

The stories in order:

Midnights by Rainbow Rowell
The Lady and The Fox by Kelly Link
Angels In The Snow by Matt de la Peña
Polaris Is Where You’ll Find Me by Jenny Han
It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins
Your Temporary Santa by David Levithan
Krampuslauf by Holly Black
What The Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth? by Gayle Forman
Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire
Welcome To Christmas, CA by Kiersten White
Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter
The Girl Who Woke The Dreamer by Laini Taylor

 

Midnights was a really sweet story, and perfect to set the holiday tone for this anthology! Midnights is set just before NYE of various years, with each one ending in Noel kissing any random girl, while his best friend, Mags, stands back and wishes it was her instead. Pretty much a cliche story, but cute nonetheless! 5*

The Lady and The Fox had a magical realism element going on, which I LOVEEE. I’ve seen various reviews from other readers saying they disliked this one, but it was one of my most favorites from the collection. This story focuses on Miranda, a goddaughter of a wealthy family, the Honeywells. Each year at Christmas, she sees Finnick on the outside looking in, but only on Christmas. Very mysterious 😉 This story was sooooo well written and intriguing. 5*

Angels in the Snow was another sweet story, with relatable characters. In this story, Shy is cat-sitting for his boss, during the Christmas vacation at his university. He can’t afford to go home, is broke as a joke, and hungry. OH, and it’s snowing like crazy. Enter upstairs neighbor, cute,  chatty Haley, and the story unfolds very sweetly! 5*

Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me was just no. It’s about Santa’s adopted human daughter, who is crushing hard on an Elf, but telling the other elves she likes this guy she met while delivering presents with Santa. -_- WHAT. Just no. I didn’t like this one, it was weird, and I didn’t get any real storyline from it. This was one of those that ended really randomly.  2*

It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown was my other favorite. 1 because it was set in my hometown! And the descriptions of Asheville were so accurate it’s awesome. The main characters are called Marigold and North. North’s family owns a Christmas tree lot. Marigold makes videos, and needs North’s voice in a video for her mom. Marigold is having a hard time at home as it’s just her and her mom, but North swoops in and saves the day. This story was just perfect. 5*

Your Temporary Santa seemed pointless to me. I didn’t really get anything out of this one. 2*

Krampuslauf was pretty weird, but I liked it. Had a type of magical element that really intrigued me. 4*

What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth was another winner! Sophie keeps having these WTH moments until she meets Russell. I loved the characters, and the scene in the restaurant was so sweet and perfect and ahhh I just loved Sophie and Russel!! They just meshed so well together! 5*

Beer Buckets & Baby Jesus was just lame. I hated this one. It was really cliche, about a troublemaker and a “good girl” hitting it off. Just blah. 1*

Welcome to Christmas, CA was awesome. Maria is stuck in a town called Christmas and wants nothing more than to get the heck out. Enter super cute chef at the restaurant she works at, who can read people so well, he knows just what to cook for them before they even ask, giving the book a somewhat magical element as well. (Which I obvi love LOL) 5*

Star of Bethlehem was really cute and original in this anthology! I loved it! I think I even cried… 🙂 5*

The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer…well to come in with a bang with Rainbow Rowell’s story, the book definitely fizzled out at the end with this story. I got no sense of Christmas/Holiday spirit while reading this one, and it just seemed kind of choppy. I do love the premise of this story, but maybe not in a holiday anthology. 3*

My 2 most FAVORITES of the bunch were “The Lady and The Fox” and “It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown.”

Have you read this collection of stories? What did YOU think?

I have this on my Kindle, but I really want the print version because PINK PAGE EDGES!

 

 

 

Book Review

Books I’m Most Excited About for January 2015

Today I wanted to share 3 books that I’m most excited to be released in January!

 

 

In no particular order, we have  “A Cold Legacy” by Megan Shepherd. This is book 3 of The Madman’s Daughter trilogy. I absolutely LOVE this series! It’s so creepy and is full of plot twists, so I can’t wait for the conclusion. Basically, Juliet Moreau’s father has created some peculiar creations, and Juliet is getting caught between all the evilness. It’s release date is January 27, 2015. I don’t have a review for book 1, but you can read my review on book 2 here.

Next up, I’m excited for book 3 in the Splintered trilogy, “Ensnared.” This trilogy is a crazy take on Alice in Wonderland. You can read my review on book 1, “Splintered”, here, and my review on book 2, “Unhinged”, here. I feel like “Ensnared” is going to be an epic conclusion to this magical, evil world A.G. Howard has created! It is to be released on January 6, 2015.

Lastly, we have “First Frost” by Sarah Addison Allen. I started reading her books when I was in high school, like  7 years ago! She creates a magical, sweet, believable world with her stories. This is a continuation of the Waverly family from her first book, “Garden Spells.” Each of her books contain massive amounts of magical realism which I LOVE SO MUCH. It’s release date is  January 20, 2015.

a cold legacy ensnared ff

There’s lots of great books being released in 2015! What are you most excited for in January?

Book Review

Book Review: Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker- 4 Stars

I won this through Goodreads First Reads Giveaway!

This is a difficult book to review because while I liked it, I didn’t love it. I did like the magical realism aspects tossed in, such as the healing powers of Mercy’s concoctions, which reminded me of Sarah Addison Allen’s books, but the fierceness of June  also reminded me of Ron Rash’s book Serena. June is power hungry, she is the mill owners wife, so she has to go through life in a hard shell to seem worthy of that position. Cal, June’s husband, is harboring secrets, not only his, but those of his father’s. The Snow family, who everyone in town sees as no-good trash, are caught in the middle of one of Cal’s secrets. June, even though her marriage to Cal is in shambles, sets out to make the Snow’s life a living hell and run them out of town as to protect Cal’s secret. I thought Mercy was a very strong character, being so young and forced to care for her brother and sister with no money or decent place to live. Leading up to the climax I felt the book dragged on, and then when everything culminated and the secrets were out it was so sudden and abrupt ending. I did NOT like the ending- I felt how Tiffany Baker chose to have June restart her life didn’t seem plausible for how headstrong she was. Overall this was an enjoyable, quick read and I recommend it if you enjoy mysteries, or magical realism.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17869466-mercy-snow?from_search=true

Book Review

Lost Lake- 5 Stars

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen (summary taken from Goodreads)

Suley, Georgia, is home to Lost Lake Cottages and not much else. Which is why it’s the perfect place for newly-widowed Kate and her eccentric eight-year-old daughter Devin to heal. Kate spent one memorable childhood summer at Lost Lake, had her first almost-kiss at Lost Lake, and met a boy named Wes at Lost Lake. It was a place for dreaming. But Kate doesn’t believe in dreams anymore, and her Aunt Eby, Lost Lake’s owner, wants to sell the place and move on. Lost Lake’s magic is gone. As Kate discovers that time has a way of standing still at Lost Lake can she bring the cottages—and her heart—back to life? Because sometimes the things you love have a funny way of turning up again. And sometimes you never even know they were lost . . . until they are found. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13481275-lost-lake

It’s been a couple weeks since my last book review. I’ve been thinking about my approaches to these reviews. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but I also don’t want to be too vague that the review is boring or doesn’t make anyone want to read it! That said, here is my review for Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen….

I came across Sarah’s books when I was in college. I thought it was neat we were from the same area, Asheville, NC. I also thought the descriptions of her books sounded very magical, but still believable. When I saw that she was writing a new book,  I couldn’t wait to read it! I actually received a free copy from the publisher. *Lucky ME!* With the mixture of magical realism, small southern towns like my own, and romance, Sarah’s books never let me down.

I was hooked from the first page.  The setting is Paris, 1962. Newlyweds George and Eby are celebrating their honeymoon roaming the Parisian streets at night, loving life and each other, avoiding going back home to Atlanta. One night, they witnessed a young girl jump from the Bridge of the Untrue…and then we flash to Kate in Atlanta, present day.

The idea of Kate being asleep for a whole year after her husband died was easy to understand. When you’ve experienced such a tragic loss, you essentially fall asleep to the “real world” and are stuck sleeping inside the shell of your past. What I didn’t like was that Cricket, her mother in law, was trying to dictate her entire life. I wondered why Kate would let Cricket force Devin, Kate’s daughter, into private school, and make Kate and Devin move into Cricket’s house. It’s the day Kate and Devin are supposed to move in with Cricket. Devin finds a post card from an enchanted place of Kate’s youth-Lost Lake, home to her great-aunt Eby. Kate had the best summer of her life there when she was 12 years old, and her and Devin decide to see if it’s still the magical place it once was.

Once Kate and Devin arrive in Lost Lake, Kate realizes it is run down, and Eby has decided to sell the place. We encounter a whole gaggle of  heartbroken misfits, from the elderly Bulahdeen, mute Lisette, and mysterious, quiet, Wes. Kate is searching for herself and doesn’t know what she will find now that she’s at Lost Lake. I really enjoyed the histories of Bulahdeen, Lisette, and Selma because I felt they really added to the history of Lost Lake. Bulahdeen was an orphaned, uneducated young girl who, with the help of a friend, decided she could change her ending and become something different. “You can’t change where you came from but you can change where you go from here. Just like a book. If you don’t like the ending, you make up a new one.” (p.254) Aside from Kate, Bulahdeen was my favorite character because she loved reading so much and she believed in the magic of books and Lost Lake. The imagery S.A.A creates with her beautiful choices of words is just spectacular. One of my favorite lines from the book was a description of Wes: “His hair was a russet shade, like an autumn leaf, and it was stuck to his forehead with sweat.” (p.105)  Another is when Lisette, the cook, is reminiscing about old recipes, and how they remind her of her grandmere“Lisette loved the flavors of old, simple recipes, ones made so often that their edges were worn down and they tasted soft and sure of themselves.” I can actually picture my mamaw making her old tried and true recipes, with a recipe card handed down from her grandmother, and the warmth and love that it emits.

This book is all about second chances and rediscovering the magic of your life and S.A.A did an excellent job making me feel like I was at Lost Lake with all the other quirky visitors.

http://www.amazon.com/Lost-Lake-Sarah-Addison-Allen/dp/1444787098/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=