This was a rough month for reading! I was so incredibly busy and had such a hard time getting in the right headspace to relax enough to get into a story. Kind of a first for me over such a long period of time. I did not like it! I only ended up reading ten books, and three of those are cookbooks so I feel like they barely count (though I DO read them cover to cover). I also read one great nonfiction and then what is probably a record breaking low of only six fictional titles this month. Though my numbers were down, the books themselves were almost all fantastic. I can’t wait to tell you about them!
Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson
Rating: 3 stars
This was a slow “thriller” about Hen, a woman who is fairly certain her next door neighbor Matthew is a murderer. The problem is that Hen is bipolar and has a history of being manic and accusing people of violence that was not real, so she’s not taken seriously by the police, even when she witnesses something first hand. I wrote this little review about a week and a half after I read it, and it took me quite awhile to jog my memory on what happened. Never a great sign for a book. I liked it while it was reading, but it was also somewhat predictable (if you read a lot of psychological thrillers) and ultimately, forgettable.
Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith
Rating: 4 stars
I thought this was a fairly straight forward and sweet YA love story. Hugo, a British sextuplet who just broke up with his girlfriend decides to go ahead with the train trip across America she had planned for them. The only problem? He needs to find someone with the same name to claim the tickets and travel with him. He ends up with Mae, an aspiring filmmaker who is on her way from New York to start college at USC. I think a big part of why I found this book so enjoyable was because of the unique and fun supporting characters. Hugo’s amazing set of siblings and parents and Mae’s two dads and spunky grandma. Even though none of them were on the train and in the picture for most of the book, their presence was still felt and really rounded out the characters. I liked this book a lot!
Marshmallow Madness by Shauna Sever
Rating: 3 stars
I picked up this book because I wanted a comprehensive guide (rather than searching pinterest) on making marshmallows. Last year I found a company that makes the most amazing marshmallows, but they cost a fortune and shipping is ridiculous, so like all foodie things it seemed time to take matters into my own hands and just learn how to do it for myself! I liked this one because the cover is colorful and fun and a glance at the original vanilla marshmallow recipe looked easy to do. And it was! I think if you’re interested in learning to make marshmallows and could see yourself doing it often for gifts or whatever, this would be a great guide. It’s straightforward and easy to follow. My only complaint is that there really aren’t that many recipes. There are many tips and hints for things you could change to enhance a recipe, however. I mean, it’s hard to really flush out a cookbook centered around one single thing. The recipes included looked delicious and I loved all the fun photographs. So far I’ve still only made the vanilla marshmallows, but I’m looking forward to figuring out how to recreate my favorite salted caramel version from what I learned in the cookbook.
The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves
Rating: 4.5 stars
I had a really hard time deciding what to rate this book. I felt a lot of it was somewhat mediocre as you follow the lives of Annika and Jonathan, jumping back and forth between when the met in college and when they reconnected ten years later. I was definitely interested enough to keep reading, but nothing was really gripping my attention until at least halfway through when you start to notice how much Annika, who is on the autism spectrum but doesn’t want people to realize it, is growing. The last about twenty percent of the book took such a turn that I was literally sobbing through the entire thing. I have never rooted so strongly for a character in her own personal journey. I went pretty lackadaisical to deeply emotional about everything. By the end, I have to say that I highly recommend this. And stick with it. It was so worth it.
The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
Rating: 5* stars
I loved this book! The enemies to lovers trope is one of my all time favorites in a romance, and this book did it justice! It reminded me a lot of The Hating Game, one of my all time favorites. There is so much snappy dialog, hilarious circumstances, and total delight immersed in all of the character interactions. Unlucky Olive and grumpy Ethan find themselves taking their siblings’ honeymoon package when they’re the only two people at the entire wedding who don’t come down with an immediate case of violent food poisoning. They hate each other, but after being forced to spend time together they realize how wrong they’ve judged the other. The first half of the book had me laughing out loud almost nonstop. I didn’t want to put it down. The second half got a bit more serious, but I loved it just as much. This book is definitely finding a place on my very limited shelf of books I want to re-read in the future. It was great!
The Big Bottom Biscuit by Michael Volpatt
Rating: 4.5 stars
I’ve been finding myself very drawn to specialty cookbooks lately. Can you tell?? This was another new cookbook I happened to see before it was released and thought it was definitely worth the $12 to check it out. And now that I have it in my hands I think it was definitely worth it. The original biscuit recipe was fabulous – and easy! And there are tons of variations, toppings, and recipes for related things they make at their restaurant. There’s even a chapter on how to use leftover dried out biscuits. While it was a comprehensive guide, I’d say about half the things listed did not align with my personal taste buds. Not the cookbook’s fault obviously, it’s just not the kind of book that I marked everything down as wanting to try. But there were still enough I’m definitely going to keep this cookbook around. I also found it a little odd that most of the biscuit recipes only make 6 or 9 biscuits (clearly not enough for my small family of four that would definitely want at least two each!), but the recipes for spreads and compound butters were enormous. I’ll have to wait until I actually make a few things to see if they even out a bit, but just from reading the ingredient lists, they seem very disproportionate. I took it down half a star because the writing itself was not particularly passionate, the way most cookbooks made by restaurant owners are. While the recipes looked great, the descriptions and stories just didn’t feel overly personal or interesting to me. But if you like biscuits and happened to be looking for random things to add to your meals, this would be a great book!
Hope and Other Punch Lines by Julie Buxbaum
Rating: 4 stars
To be honest, reading a YA love story centered around 9/11 did not sound that interesting to me. But Julie Buxbaum wrote one of my all time favorite books (Tell Me Three Things), so I was definitely willing to give it a shot. This is the story of Abbi, who was the focus of a famous 9/11 photograph as a baby holding a balloon on her first birthday as she’s being carried away from the towers. Now 16, she meets Noah, who had his own related 9/11 tragedy. To me their relationship was pretty boring at the beginning. It felt more juvenile than the type of YA I get the most enjoyment out of. But it really pulled through later on and had me in tears quite often. Even though I was around for 9/11 and will never forget about it, I honestly haven’t read much about people who were there and still live in New York and have to process their loses again and again. It was worth finishing and gave me a lot to think about.
Salt & Straw Ice Cream Cookbook by Tyler Malek
Rating: 4.5 stars
Now this is a cookbook written by someone who is consumed with passion for his craft! These are the specialized restaurant founded cookbooks that I adore adding to my collection. I first found out about this new release from a Tasty video I saw on facebook of the author showing off a recipe for Salted, Malted Cookie Dough Ice Cream that looked incredible. Instead of pinning the recipe, I preordered the book. I was quite disappointed to find out that the recipe isn’t actually in the cookbook! So I had to go back and find it and pin it anyway. (By the way – I made that particular recipe earlier this week and it is AMAZING.) But still – the cookbook is filled with innovative, unique, and fabulous looking ice cream recipes. In theory, the ice cream itself looks very easy to make, but it also has many different mix-ins you should/could make before you can throw them into the ice cream. I love all those included recipes, but it also makes it a lot less likely I’ll ever follow through on actually making many of them. They look like a lot of work! With a lot of forethought – which isn’t really my style when it comes to whipping up a dessert. I’d say I marked about 1/3 of the recipes as ones I wanted to try, which normally would make me feel iffy about the book as a whole. But the recipes looked so amazing I can see myself loving them and making them again and again. A lot of the flavors are just totally crazy and I’d probably never spend the time to risk something I’m fairly certain my family wouldn’t touch. It really just made me wish a Salt & Straw store was in this part of the country so I could take the easy way out and just buy some! Anyway, I’m taking off half a star for those reasons, but the cookbook itself is gorgeous and interesting and made me very excited about making my own ice cream in the very near future!
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
This is a book that will stay with me for a very long time. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started it – did I really want to read a memoir about therapy? Do I really need a nonfiction book about other people’s problems? Did I need to hear all about the merits of therapy when I’ve had such an unimpressive journey with my own bouts of therapy? It turns out that I did. Gottlieb’s writing style as she jumps back and forth between her patients and her sessions with her own therapist made the book both fascinating and useful. As nonfiction it still took me a little longer to get through than fiction would, but it certainly held my attention in ways that nonfiction almost never does. I finished this book feeling like I had a better grasp on how to live my own life and its search for meaning, rather than happiness. I would highly, highly recommend this book.
The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker
Rating: 4 stars
I almost gave up on this book. It’s the perfect example of why I’m so hesitant to DNF books too early – they really do have the potential to get so much better! Honestly, I was wavering about the first 30% of the book. The main character, Calla, was so entitled and materialistic, I had no desire to get to know her. But then it got good. Really good. I am in love with the male lead, Jonah. The rest of the Alaska characters are so sweet and supporting. The ending is bittersweet, but you’ll know that from the get go. It had me crying my eyes out at 3am last night when I finished it. If you can stick with it for that first chunk, it’s really worth reading.