What I Read October 2018

Time for book talk! So this month I fully intended on only reading thrillers, mysteries, and anything else that sounded a little bit spooky and in theme with being close to Halloween. I usually only read Christmasy books in December and often try to read romances in February around Valentine’s Day, so I figured I might as well start picking scary reads in October. However, the way my personal life has shaped up this month, I just couldn’t get into many of those seasonal choices. I started many books. I’m in the middle of many books. Books I was desperately hoping I could finish by today so I could add them to my October list and not have to wait another whole month to write about them because they’re just so fantastic! But, you’ll just have to get what I have. ūüôā It actually ended up being a month of very eclectic book choices, going back and forth between something heavier followed by a couple of much lighter topics. And with the exception of one book that I just wasn’t thrilled by, everything else was rated 4, 4.5, or 5 stars! Check them out!

Unclaimed Baggage by Jen Doll
Rating: 4 stars

Doris is a somewhat quirky and independent teenage girl that doesn’t quite fit in with her smalltown Alabama family. Nell is uprooted from her home in Chicago and is forced to leave her boyfriend when her mom takes a new job in Alabama. Grant is the high school football star who is also an alcoholic that is riddled with pain over his mistakes. Together the three of them find their way to Unclaimed Baggage, a store that is responsible for going through lost luggage and reselling anything worthwhile. As they work together they build a beautiful and endearing friendship that helps hold the trio together through everything they must endure that summer. I really enjoyed the friendship aspect of this book. It touched on racism, religion, feminism, and more, but the heart of the story was in the friendship. It made me greatly jealous for the ease and simplicity yet total loyalty that comes with a teenage friendship. I also enjoyed hearing about the things that were found – I wish there was a bit more on that! Overall, a solid YA novel.

A Sloth’s Guide to Mindfulness¬†by Ton Mak
Rating: 5 stars

I got this book as a birthday gift from my friend who understands how crazy I (and most people probably!) feel sometimes. It was so cute! I thoroughly enjoyed sitting down for the 10-15 minutes it took to read the entire thing. Each page was just a little note on how to be more mindful accompanied by adorable black and white illustrations of a chubby sloth. I don’t usually pay much attention to gift books like this, but I’m so glad it came to me and I read it right away because it was exactly what I needed. I know I’ll need to read it again many times in the future too!

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
Rating: 4.5 stars

I’ve been in the mood to read some darker books this Halloween season and this was what I picked to start me off. Emma was a 13 year old camper at an affluent summer camp when her three older roommates disappeared and were never found. She was haunted by this experience for 15 years until the camp owners decided to reopen and asked her sign on as the art instructor. Reluctantly, she agrees to go to try and find some closure. Secretly, she is on a mission to figure out what really happened that summer so she can get on with her life. Overall, the pace of this book was pretty slow. There isn’t really a whole lot that happens. But it was interesting and I was always eager to jump back into the story. I loved the ending.

Best Served Cold by Emma Hart
Rating: 4 stars

Raelynn and her ex-boyfriend Chase have competing ice cream stores right next to each other in Key West. Raelynn is furious with Chase for stealing all of her ideas and has retaliated by giving him the silent treatment for 2 straight years. At risk of losing her own shop, she decides to shut down for two weeks and do some renovations and come up with fresh ideas. Chase becomes intrigued and enters back into her life, as much as she despises it. I really enjoyed this fast and fun story. I admit that Raelynn was more than a little obnoxious at the beginning, but all of their conversations and fights felt pretty true to what would happen in real life. I loved Chase and how he was such a genuinely good guy, despite making a really stupid mistake. I always enjoy books where the main character has her own bakery/restaurant/shop and this was a really cute take on owning an ice cream parlor. My only complaint is that once again SO MUCH swearing. It’s not necessary! It drives me nuts. It’s a pretty big turn off. But overall, this was a nice book to read after my last one.

You by Caroline Kepnes
Rating: 4 stars

Joe is a stalker, psychopath, murderer. He has his sights set on Beck, a self-centered hypersexual grad student/writer. That’s basically all you need to know! I’m kind of disturbed by how much I liked this book. It’s entirely from Joe’s first person narrative, going over all of his thoughts about Beck and everyone else he interacts with. His control and ability to be both wonderful and terrible, while justifying the most horrific actions, is fascinating. Beck, though. I hated her. I couldn’t believe how much Joe loved her when I could not stand her! Overall, this made for a pretty good October/creepy read.

Heating & Cooling by Beth Ann Fennelly
Rating: 5 stars

I wanted to read this book from the first time I heard about it (green lit on The Popcast). I was, however, under the impression it was all about marriage – the heating and cooling cycle of a lifelong relationship. (Perhaps Jamie didn’t actually read it and SHE is the one who put that idea into my head!) I’m not sure if I was misinformed or I drew that conclusion on my own. So I was surprised to dive into the book and realize very little of it was about marriage – just so you know that going in! But overall, a really fast and unique book. I’ve never heard of a micro-memoir before and really enjoyed the 52 entries that ranged from one sentence to four pages each. Some of the essays were laugh out loud hilarious. Some of them were shocking. Some were sad, some were more informational. I loved the range and thoroughly enjoyed the two evenings I spent reading this book.

Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter
Rating: 4 stars

This book alternates between 31 year old Andrea who is trying to uncover some crazy mysteries about her mother’s past, and her mother 32 years earlier and what her life was like and ultimately landed her in witness protection. I was a little put off by the first chunk of the book and didn’t like any of the flashback chapters. But it definitely grew on me by the end and I really liked it how it all came together. It was a bit heavy, but a good October read.

Save the Date by Morgan Matson
Rating: 3 stars

Charlie is the youngest of five siblings and has always been enamored by her family. In one of the last weeks of living in their huge house, the Grant family is holding older sister Linnie’s wedding. This entire book takes place on the day before, day of, and day after that wedding. Basically, it’s just an insanely improbable story that felt a lot like slapstick comedy. Every single tiny thing that could go wrong for a wedding will and does. It’s slightly humorous. But it also started to really bug me after awhile. It was just pretty ridiculous. And maybe this is a weird thing to judge a book on, but it seemed like it would just be too easy to write. Give everyone crazy personalities and quirks and just have them interact under high pressure stakes with every possible thing that could go wrong. While I definitely liked the characters and did enjoy how it ended, the whole book just felt kind of meh to me. I needed something light after the last book and this fit the bill. It just wasn’t that amazing.

Perfect Harmony by Emily Albright
Rating: 4.5 stars

Pippa is an amazing 17 year old cellist with very high hopes for her future. All of that is instantly threatened when a competing cellist, Declan, joins her school in the middle of their senior year. She is immediately threatened by him, but determined to remain kind and civilized toward Declan while she starts to get cozy with her long time crush and twin brother’s best friend, Noah. As I’m sure you can imagine, things get sticky between this little love triangle. I definitely could have done without a lot of the stressful teenage angst between everyone and their friends. But overall, I really loved Pippa and Declan was a fantastic swoony character. I also just enjoy reading anything that centers around orchestra! If this book didn’t have all the annoying friendship drama, it would have definitely been a 5 star book for its sweet and touching YA romance.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Rating: 4 stars

I have a love hate relationship with poetry. I really, really want to love it. I adored poetry in high school and then it started feeling too obnoxious. More recently, I started following Rupi Kaur on instagram and have been really drawn to the short poems she posts pretty regularly. I received this book last Christmas and finally made myself pull it off the shelf and start it! I was able to read the entire book in two short sittings because almost all of the poems are less than a page long – most of them a single sentence. Part of me wonders how that really constitutes an entire collection of poetry. And yet – they really pack a punch! I’m really looking forward to reading Kaur’s second book and will definitely be on the lookout for future publications.

Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia
Rating: 4 stars

Maya is a 23 year old speech therapist who works in the same psychiatric care facility where she was a patient at age 16. Lucas is a 19 year old whose father took him to live off the grid ten years earlier after being tangled up in a questionable murder case. Presumed dead, Lucas causes quite the media stir when he’s found raiding a sports supply store which results in the death of one of the owners. Uncooperative, violent, and unresponsive with anyone else, Maya ends up being the one who takes his case, despite not actually being a psychologist. The two of them turn out to be quite the team despite the twists and professional objections that continue to separate them. Overall, I actually really enjoyed this book. The reviews were mixed, which I should never really take into account, but I hate wasting my time on something that doesn’t have a lot of solid recommendation behind it. It was the perfect slightly dark book to finish off my month of attempted spooky reads!

What I Read September 2018

September turned out to be kind of a mediocre month for reading. Only one five star hit and the rest were middle of the road. Here are the reviews!

The Wondering Years by Knox McCoy
Rating: 4.5 stars

I was greatly privileged to have been given the opportunity to be part of this book’s launch team and had a chance to read it two months before it’s release date. I was interested in reading it from the day it was announced because I’m OBSESSED with Knox’s podcast, The Popcast. I jumped at the chance to pre-order the book and was thrilled to be accepted on the launch team. Anyway – the book was fantastic! I think I might have laughed out loud at this book more than any other I have ever read. Knox has an innate talent at relating pop culture references to everyday faith and life. Each chapter has a unique look at different pop culture ideals and how they connected to his own life and helped shape his faith. What struck me most about this book was simply how much I could relate to it! I’m knocking it down half a star rating because I think if you are not in your 30’s, or you didn’t pay any attention to pop culture in the last 30 years, you probably won’t get as much out of this book. There were quite a few sports references that went over my head because I care nothing about sports, though the names of many were at least recognizable to me. But the tv and movie references? SO on point. And absolutely hilarious. Knox’s church experience was also so similar to my own growing up that it made for a supremely entertaining book and I would recommend it to anyone!

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
Rating: 5 stars

(Contains spoilers if you haven’t read the first book!) Feyre has defeated Amarantha and been given new life by all seven High Lords, remaking her body into that of a High Fae. She is taken back to the Spring Court with Tamlin, whose freedom she fought valiantly for. She struggles deeply with what she had to do to gain his freedom and becomes increasingly depressed and distraught with this new immortal life. Desperate to keep her safe at all cost, Tamlin basically keeps her locked in the house and refuses to help her learn her new gifts, insisting all she needs is his protection. Feyre begins to waste away and Tamlin is so obsessed with keeping her protected that he doesn’t SEE her anymore. On the day of their wedding, Feyre desperately cries out internally for someone to do something and stop this from happening. And surprise, surprise, SOMEONE just happens to show up. I had a hard time reconciling with this new turn of events, even though it was fairly obvious by the end of the first book that Rhysand was going to play a much more important role in Feyre’s life. I wanted to remember all the good in Tamlin and all the bad in Rhys. But as the story goes on and Feyre realizes how much more she can be, how much bigger of a role she can play in saving their people, it gets SO GOOD. And the epic romance that verrrry slowly burns through the book? Wow, just wow! I honestly don’t care much about all the battles and political stuff, which is why I rarely read fantasy like this. But the characterization is so fabulous I was melting by the end. I loved this book just about as much as the first.

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
Rating: 4 stars

(Spoilers) It¬†took me a really, really long time to get through this book. As much as I ADORED the first two books in the series, I felt like there was something left to be desired now that Rhysand and Feyre are together and most of the new love sexual tension has been dissolved. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a pretty sexy book – in between all the war talk and war planning and war fighting. This book is really mostly just about the war and getting all the high lords and their courts to gather and cooperate to try and defeat the horrible Hybern. I continued to love this entire cast of characters and was particularly happy to see how Tamlin played into the final chapters. I never would have given up on this book, but I think I did hit my fill of this series overall for awhile. Maas is such an incredible author to have woven this extensive and unique series together, though. One of my favorites!

Blankets by Craig Thompson
Rating: 3.5 stars

I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into when I started this long and incredibly detailed graphic memoir. I was under the impression that it was a great love story, but was surprised to realize how much of it was really about the author questioning and ultimately denying his faith after growing up in an extreme Christian household. I appreciate how well done it was, but found the entire book to just be very sad with little redemptive qualities. It was memoir, so I know it couldn’t exactly be changed. But I wish there had been more of a conclusion between Craig and his brother and Craig and Raina and her family. It is a remarkable book, but maybe not exactly for me.

I’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel
Rating: 4 stars

This is a fun little book that shines a light on all the joys of being a reader. It’s filled with essays on book love, reading problems, and funny book related stories. I enjoyed the book because I could relate to so many of Anne’s feelings on the reading life. There’s nothing particularly deep about the book, and there were a couple of chapters that were so specific to particular books she had read that I just wasn’t interested in, that led me to skim through. But most of the chapters were sweet, happy, and made me nostalgic for all of my own reading and book related memories.

Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren
Rating: 4 stars

This was a really sweet and simple palette cleanser type of a book. Likeable characters that treat each other with kindness and respect. A pretty straight forward love story without a ton of obstacles to weigh it down. Fast paced with lots of laughter. I liked it a lot. (And I obviously don’t have a ton to say about it!)

Evidence of the Affair by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Rating: 3.5 stars

This very short story popped up as being free for Prime members one day. Between books I decided to read it that night. It was an interesting little story that takes place entirely between the spouses of a man and woman who had an affair with each other. The woman finds the letters her husband was writing to the woman he was having an affair with and she decides to write letters to the woman’s husband so he knows what is going on. They have a unique six months or so of writing to each other while they work out their feelings and decide what to do with the affair taking place, without their spouses knowing they know about it. It sounds very convoluted to describe it! Anyway, as a short story, which I tend to never read because they don’t give me a enough satisfaction, I really liked it. But I also wonder what the point of publishing this was, other than as a quick money maker for the author. That’s what leaves me a bit confused and knocking off a star and a half. I would have loved to have read this as a full novel.

Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech
Rating: 3 stars

I was looking for books for Caden’s birthday and happened upon this one by Sharon Creech, author of my favorite childhood book, Walk Two Moons.¬†I basically had to buy it because it’s about a donkey. Actually, a MINI donkey. (My favorite animal!) It’s a very sweet and fast paced story about a boy who offers to take care of a very sickly newborn donkey whose mother couldn’t take care of it. It was pretty simplistic for an adult reader, but it was sweet. I liked it.

Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch
Rating: 3 stars

I have to start by saying that I really dislike books that bring up some sort of secret the narrator has and constantly makes references to, but takes forever to let the reader in on. That was this book. You don’t find out the big bad secret until 80% into the book. 80%! I thought the book was okay besides that. I enjoyed the fact that they were traveling through Ireland because I’m all about Ireland. I liked the character of Rowan. But the annoying fighting between Addie and Ian that never let up over the secret were not so enjoyable to read about. The whole thing was just okay.

Purple Orchids by Samantha Christy
Rating: 3.5 stars

This is the story of Gavin and Baylor and their intense yet brief college romance that was torn apart by a pretty spectacularly stupid misunderstanding, to be reunited eight years later and have to deal with the repercussions of that distance. For the most part, I liked the book. I felt like the author added a few too many crazy elements near the end that were attempting to make the story bigger than it should have been. I also really didn’t like how many times the words “my dick” were referenced. Probably hundreds of times. Men can feel with their minds too, maybe?? Anyway, I did enjoy the characters and the story, but this also wasn’t one of my favorites. I’m not sure I’ll get around to reading the other books in the series.

That’s it for September! I’m hoping to read some more creepy/mystery/thriller type seasonal books in October, so hit me up if you have any great recommendations!

Book Review: Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate
Rating: 5* stars

Jordan Sun is a first generation Asian-American girl on full scholarship at a performing arts centered boarding school. She is tall, broad bodied, and has a deep singing voice. Her concentration is in theater, but she never gets any parts because she doesn’t fit in the stereotypical female roles and her voice is too deep for even the ensemble parts. When the most prestigious of the campus male acapella groups sends out an email with word that they need to fill an open spot that just happens to fit her range, she comes up with the crazy idea to dress up as a boy and audition. And of course, she gets in. Which leads to an entire semester of desperately trying to hide her femininity, while also realizing how much more herself she feels when acting like a boy.

I expected this to be a very light-hearted and pretty straight forward YA novel. Girl dresses as boy, falls for another boy in the group, has some sort of embarrassing moment that leads to boy discovering girl is actually girl, and they eventually end up together. And in a way, that is what happens. But Jordan really has a lot of introspective moments as she starts becoming Julian, her male counterpart. She feels more comfortable in her skin, confident in who she truly is. She begins to question her own sexuality through a lot of confusing encounters. It’s interesting and heartfelt and a journey I loved being taken on.

Overall, I really loved this book. Jordan was a great character, but I really fell for all of the supporting roles – the seven other boys in the a capella group. They had such distinct and delightful personalities. And while you can assume that Jordan will eventually fall for one of them, I was really kept guessing on which one it would be because they were all so wonderful. The only thing that really bothered me is that Jordan is a female, in high school, in a boarding school. She is dressed as a boy more than half of her day. And yet nobody ever sees her going in and out of her female dorm room. We’re given an explanation why she never mixes with the guys during the day – she’s in the theater area and they’re in the music or visual arts areas. It was a minor thing, but it did seem a bit unbelievable. But besides that – I loved it! It might not be for everyone, especially if you’re not super into YA. But I highly recommend¬†Noteworthy. It was one of my favorites of the year!

Book Review: Roomies by Christina Lauren

Roomies by Christina Lauren

Roomies by Christina Lauren
Rating: 5 stars

Holland is a 23 year old living in New York with an MBA in Creative Writing that she doesn’t know what to do with. While she tries to figure out a direction for her life, she works for her uncle at a broadway theater. She has a major crush on an amazing guitar busker that she goes out of her way to watch and listen to every single time he plays in her closest subway station. Her infatuation is so deep that basically everyone she knows teases her about it. Near the end of his first run of an extremely successful musical, her uncle is suddenly in desperate need of a solo musician. Holland immediately drags him to see the busker and they officially meet Calvin, the Julliard taught Irish musician who has been living in NYC illegally for the past four years. In order to bring him into the show Holland hatches a crazy plan to marry Calvin to help both him and her uncle.

This book is definitely about the unique relationship that buds between Holland and Calvin. But it’s also about how much Holland struggles to find her own identity. She basically lives as a side character to the most important people in her life and finds that she’s pretty lost internally. From a career perspective, I felt that was incredibly relatable to both me and so many people I know. You go to school and have your dreams. And then you realize real life is pretty dang hard and you get lost on the way to making those dreams come true. Holland had so much passion for helping those she loves, but needed to learn how to also love herself.

I really enjoyed this book. I think I expected it to be more of a fluffy romance going into it, but it really had a lot of heart. Holland may have been working a dead end job that she really had no ambition for, but her priorities with putting her family first were honorable and sweet. She definitely had trust issues with Calvin’s intentions, but he was good through and through. They had a lot of ups and downs, but really learned how to communicate and fight to the end for what they both truly wanted. It was a sweet read.

Book Review: Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge
Rating: 5 stars

Barry is an American who just left his finance career to pursue his true love of painting. Sophie is a French architect who is on her honeymoon. They are both in a small plane over the South Pacific when a lightning storm and lack of fuel causes their plane to crash. They are the lone survivors and both happen to end up on the same very tiny deserted island. They have almost no salvaged supplies and the only food available to them are bananas and the occasional clam. And yet somehow they manage to survive, suffering sadness and hopelessness which turns into a rabid hatred for each other, and eventually morphs into love and respect.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s told through the eyes of both characters as well as occasional chapters by a narrator pointing out random facts about the island and how it came to be. The more I read, the more I began to love the story. Barry and Sophie do not start as very likeable characters. They both have a lot of spunk and they do not like each other. At all. But over their years on the island, they become closer and start depending on each other in ways that only two people on a deserted island can. They develop a pure and beautiful love that holds them together through every challenge they face.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book. It’s a beautiful redemptive story about being abundantly happy with what’s in front of you and what you already have, no matter how little it might be. It’s about the purity of a relationship that can bloom without outside distractions. And it’s about doing everything you can to make another person smile as you challenge them to follow their dreams. Even when you’re fighting for mere survival on a tiny island with almost no hope of rescue. I loved this book and I know it will stay with me for a very long time.

Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (audiobook version)
Rating: 4.5 stars

I decided to give fiction audiobooks another try after hearing so many rave reviews about¬†The Hate U Give.¬†I’m sure I would have eventually read it because it’s being talked about everywhere, but the audio version was definitely worth the time I put into it (over eleven hours).

That being said – this is a hard book to read. It will challenge you, the way you think about everything. It’s about Starr, a 16 year old black girl who lives in a very rough neighborhood with her parents, older half brother, and younger brother. When she’s at home she’s Garden Heights Starr, black girl with black friends and a black family. But she goes to a predominately white prep school an hour away with her white boyfriend and white friends. She constantly feels split between her two worlds. Near the beginning of the book she is the sole witness to the death of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer. Six years earlier she witnessed the death of her other best friend by a drive by shooter. This horrific event spurs everything that happens for the rest of the book.

Overall, this is a very powerful and poignant book with a very strong voice. As a white woman in an almost entirely white small town, it was pretty eye opening. And heartbreaking. It’s so easy to judge the people that live in these kinds of neighborhoods, surrounded by drugs and thugs and violence. Dismiss them, group them together, push them out of your mind if you’re not in the middle of it. But this book brings everything to the surface, really pushing you to pay attention and want to join the fight for change. I loved learning more about Starr and was so intrigued by her family dynamics. It was hard for me to¬†reconcile her loving father with the man he was before she was born. It really goes to show how powerful love and family can be, no matter what your external circumstances.

I thought this was a fantastic book. But it’s not something I necessarily enjoyed listening to. It was heavy, for sure. I had to take a day break in between huge chunks of listening. But I think it’s important and something that everybody should be required to read.

Book Review: The Ghostwriter by Alessandra Torre

The Ghostwriter by Alessandra Torre

The Ghostwriter by Alessandra Torre
Rating: 5 stars

Helena is an extremely famous, but very difficult to like, romance author. She’s written 14 bestsellers in her 32 years of life. She lives by rules and is extreme in her privacy. But she is suddenly diagnosed with brain cancer and given three months to live. She knows that before she goes she has to write a final book – the truth about the death of her husband and loss of her daughter. She needs to confess her truth to alleviate the guilt that has weighed her down so much in the last four years. She also realizes that in order to get the book written in time, she’ll need the help of a ghostwriter. Someone who can write well, match her voice, and be fast. She finds that in her writing nemesis, Marka Vanske.

Helena is not a very likeable character. She is rigid, uncompromising, condescending, angry, and driven by her characters and the worlds she creates. And yet you feel so passionately sad by how she is living and how closed off she has become from everyone. In her final months she is forced to let in Kate Рher agent, and Marka Рher sworn enemy. They help her work through her most painful years and ultimately be able to die in peace.

I decided to read this book because it pops up on amazon every single time I search a Colleen Hoover novel. Hoover is my favorite, so I figured they must be similar in style. And they are! Unfortunately, there was no romance in this book. But you don’t miss it. The little bit of friendship and trust that buds between the characters is fantastic. The book is so well written. It’s marketed as a mystery, and there is a bit of it. You’re told at the beginning that Helena has killed her husband, but it takes you until the end of the book to figure out how and why. Overall, this was really a beautiful book and well worth picking up.

Book Review: The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy Reichert

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy Reichert

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert
Rating: 4 stars

Lou is the owner of an up and coming French restaurant in Milwaukee, WI. Al is a British born food critic who is becoming well known for his scathing reviews of so many local restaurants. One day they meet by happenstance at a market, Lou later walks in on her fiance with his assistant, and goes to work a huge mess. Of course that happens to be the night Al is set to critique her restaurant – unaware that Lou is actually Elizabeth, the owner of Luella’s. They meet again after his horrendous review comes out and hit it off. Al writes under a pseudonym, so she doesn’t realize who he is either. They begin a friendship, agreeing to never discuss work. While Luella’s business is basically destroyed after the awful review, she distracts herself with touring Al around the best parts of Milwaukee in her days off. They become great friends as Al softens to life in Wisconsin and begins to enjoy many of the restaurants he frequents. But of course the truth eventually comes out and things get heated.

I liked this book because it felt very personal. I was born in Milwaukee, for one. I don’t spend a ton of time there as an adult, but many of the places they visited were also places I’ve been, which made reading about it a lot more fun. I also loved how excited all of the characters became when they were creating new meals. It’s an excitement that I can relate to and really want more of. While her business declines, Lou often talks about the restaurant choices she wished she had made. It frustrated me that instead of implementing those changes right away, she just let everything continue to fail. It felt like with some immediate changes she might have been able to turn things around. It also felt slightly unbelievable to me that two people can spend so much time together and never talk about their work. Especially since she was a chef! She spent mornings at markets picking out fresh food and all day and night at the restaurant. Al admits to being a writer, but doesn’t want anybody to make the connection that he’s also the revered, and sometimes hated, food critic.

Overall, this was a sweet book about finding the courage to own up to who you are and what you actually want out of life. I loved how vibrant the setting was and it made me want to further appreciate all the local festivals and restaurants that I visit. I was rooting for Al and Lou throughout the book and loved how their relationship developed over time. It’s a great book!

Book Review: The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld
Rating: 5 stars

Naomi is well known among parents of missing children as “the child finder.” As a lost child herself, with no memory of what happened the first nine years of her life before she was found, she has an innate ability to get into the mindsets of the children that are gone and more often than not, is able to find them. Sometimes she finds them in time, and sometimes it’s too late. But she’s incredible at what she does. She’s optimistic and full of hope when looking for the lost children, but has a deeply hard time trusting and loving people that want to be close to her.

In¬†The Child Finder,¬†Naomi is hired to look for Madison Culver, a child who mysteriously disappeared in the northern Oregon woods three years ago at age five. It seems impossible that she would have survived a day, let alone three years, but her mother refuses to believe Madison dead. Soon after the book begins, you find that Madison did indeed survive, thanks to a rescue from a deaf and mute old man named B. Mr. B nurses Madison back to life and keeps her captive for his own comfort and pleasure. Madison learns how to keep him from getting angry by being whatever he needs from her. She doesn’t talk because seeing her lips form words makes him extremely angry. She starts to call herself “The Snow Girl” and constantly makes up stories and fairy tales in her mind to separate that persona from Madison, the girl she used to be.

This book is definitely a page turner. If you’re highly sensitive, you should know that Mr. B does use Madison for sex, but it’s never described and she does not seem truly aware of it happening, thanks to the imaginative nature of her mind. I did have a little bit of a hard time believing that a five year old could be as mature and intuitive as Madison became in the three years she was held captive. If she were a few years older to begin with it wouldn’t have felt like such a stretch to me. But at any rate, it was an excellent story. It’s the first book I abandoned all else for so I could keep reading in quite awhile. I really didn’t want it to end. I highly recommend it!

Book Review: Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

Without Merit by Colleen Hoover
Rating: 5 stars

I have to preface this book review by explaining my love for Colleen Hoover. So, I don’t usually read books in the actual romance genre. They always feel so shallow and unrealistic and I’m not interested in reading about people that just jump into bed together five seconds after they meet. Colleen Hoover romances, however? They are AMAZING. I’m not even sure if her books are usually categorized as romances. A lot of them might tread into YA waters. But intense YA. Very romantic YA. But the characters are always written so well. They have flaws, they have hopes, they are fleshed out and easy to identify with, no matter their story. And when they get together with the other love interest? Actual sparks will fly. Hoover writes love scenes that are so tantalizingly delicious without being corny and cliche. Bottom line? Read her books. ALL OF THEM. I don’t think I’ve ever rated any of her books below a 4.5. And I’m pretty stingy with my 5 star ratings!¬†Slammed¬†is the first one I read and still my absolute favorite.¬†November 9 was another very memorable one. But they’re all fantastic. Read them.

Okay, all that being said –¬†Without Merit isn’t actually a romance book. I was a little thrown off by the amazon description when I realized a few weeks ago she had a new book coming out. But I was sure it would still be a hit no matter what the subject matter, and I was right. This book is about Merit, a 17 year old girl who belongs to¬†a pretty bizarre family. She lives with her dad, her step-mom who she hates, her older brother Utah, twin sister Honor, little half brother Moby, step-uncle who is only a few years older than her Luck, and Honor’s boyfriend, Sagan. Oh, and her agoraphobic mother lives in their basement. The Voss family is full of eccentricities and Merit holds a lot of judgement against all of them. As a person, she’s pretty flawed as you watch her learn to understand that she’s depressed and actually at fault for a lot of their family’s anger and drama. She’s not always a particularly likeable character, but you can also relate to how many times she says things she instantly regrets and has to live with the shame and embarrassment that comes with it.

While the main theme does not revolve around romance, it does exist! At the beginning of the book Sagan (before he lives with them and knows they are twins) mistakes Merit for being Honor and kisses her. This sparks a bit of infatuation on Merit’s part and she has to deal with wanting what she can’t have. Their relationship is one of the driving forces behind the book and what really pushes Merit to see that she needs help.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I’m never quite sure how I feel about domestic/family life books. They’re not something I’m usually drawn to initially, but I rarely regret actually reading them. I loved all of the characters. I enjoyed watching the family members interact with each other and thought Luck and Sagan’s presence was so essential to making the story great. It was a little hard to understand how a dad who is “doing his best” doesn’t actually have a problem with the way his kids are living. But I like how they begin to resolve their family craziness at the end. I’m definitely recommending this book. And all the rest of her books while you’re at it!