Book: The Secret Ingredient by Stewart Lewis, Delacorte/Random House, On Sale Now
Book Info: Young Adult Contemporary, Review copy provided by the publisher, Available in HC 256 pages
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
The Secret Ingredient is a sweet quiet read about family, love, and finding that secret ingredient that holds it all together. Olivia is a promising young chef who lives in the Silverlake district of Los Angeles with her two adoring dads. But she can’t help but wonder about her birth mom. A chance meeting with a psychic and the discovery of a vintage cookbook help bring her closer to discovering the secrets of the past.
I like to cook so I’m always intrigued when food is woven into the narrative of the story. Olivia is still in high school, but her dad Bell owns the restaurant FOOD and she gets to take over the kitchen on Saturday nights. Ollie is very creative with her recipes and has learned to put her own signature stamp on her dishes. The restaurant is in financial trouble though, so Olivia takes a job at a casting agency to help out.
Olivia loves her dad’s but at times she feels that she’s missing out by not having a mom. For instance, she reflects back on getting her first period and having her dad Enrique taking her to the neighbor lady for assistance. She wouldn’t change her situation for the world but she naturally is curious about her birth mom. Ollie’s British friend Lola is her partner in crime in this adventure, and she’s spurred on by a psychic’s uncanny reading in an elevator, and the story-within-a-story found in a used cookbook.
With the names Lola and Bell, and Ollie’s two dads I couldn’t help but think of another great read, Lola and The Boy Next Door. And in fact, I think Stephanie Perkins fans will like this one since it has a city setting, family theme, and romance. The romance doesn’t take center stage in this book, but there is a boy named Theo in Olivia’s life. The love story angle wasn’t my favorite part, though, and I think I preferred Ollie’s more introspective moments in the kitchen.
This was my first experience with Stewart Lewis’ writing. He’s also a singer-songwriter and wrote You Have Seven Messages. Lewis does a nice job with the female POV, and I forgot that the author was male actually. I liked that the characters are a little quirky and creative, and that the workplace and city settings are used to full advantage. The story is light and engaging and held my interest. Since food is such a central theme, it would be great if recipes were included too, but maybe they are in the finished copy.
The Secret Ingredient is a cute, lazy day summer coming-of-age story, and I’m interested in reading more from this author. There’s actually an indie movie in the works, and the setting was changed to Birmingham, Alabama. Read more about it here.
- The Secret Ingredient by Stewart Lewis: Review and Giveaway (Sponsored) (rainydayramblings.com)
- Review: The Secret Ingredient by Stewart Lewis (booksetceterablog.wordpress.com)
Amazon has a nice kindle book sale going on now: Summer Sun, Reading Fun. You’ve probably seen these already, but just in case these are the books that caught my eye.
Title links below take you directly to the Amazon kindle page. Prices are accurate as of today but could go up anytime so hurry to snag these deals!
Obsession by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Painted Faces by L.H. Cosway
Sanctum by Sarah Fine
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood
Mind Games by Kiersten White
The Trouble With Flirting by Claire LaZebnick
Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach
Summer of Skinny Dipping by Amanda Howells
Liar Society by Lisa Roecker and Laura Roecker
Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
Also Known As by Robin Benway
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Partials by Dan Wells
Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza
Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt
The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell
Stung by Bethany Wiggins
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles
Something Like Normal by Trish Doller
The Last Princess by Galaxy Craze
Glitch by Heather Anastasiu
Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
Summer of Fear by Lois Duncan
Beta by Rachel Cohn
False Memory by Dan Krokos
Butter by Erin Jade Lange
Me, Him, Them, and It by Caela Carter
Doomed by Tracy Deebs
Hysteria by Megan Miranda
Bad Girls Don’t Die by Katie Alender
Boy21 by Matthew Quick
In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters
Crewel by Gennifer Albin
Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe by Shelley Coriell
Bruised by Sarah Skilton
Happy summer reading!
I’m a fan of Lisa Desrochers paranormal Personal Demons series, and I was excited to hear she was branching out into New Adult. Lisa’s next book is called A Little Too Far, and the queen of romantic tension herself Jennifer L. Armentrout even wrote the blurb! Here’s what she has to say about it:
—”More than a ridiculously sexy, HOT read, Desrochers takes you on a wild ride of self-discovery and bittersweet romance.” —Jennifer L. Armentrout (J. Lynn), New York Times bestselling author of Wait for You
Without further ado, I’m thrilled to share the spicy cover of A Little Too Far:
About A Little Too Far:
Have you ever gone just a little too far?
Lexie Banks has.
Yep. She just had mind-blowing sex with her stepbrother. In her defense, she was on the rebound, and it’s more of a my-dad-happened-to-marry-a-woman-with-a-super-hot-son situation. But still, he’s been her best friend and confidant for better part of the last few years…and is so off limits. It’s a good thing she’s leaving in two days for a year abroad in Rome.
But even thousands of miles away, Lexie can’t seem to escape trouble. Raised Catholic, she goes to Confession in hopes of alleviating some of her guilt…and maybe not burning in hell. Instead, she stumbles out of the confessional right into Alessandro Moretti, a young and very easy on the eyes deacon…only eight months away from becoming a priest.
As Lexie and Alessandro grow closer, and when Alessandro’s signals start changing despite his vow of celibacy, she doesn’t know what to think. She’s torn between falling in love with the man she shouldn’t want and the man she can’t have. And she isn’t sure how she can live with herself either way.
Forbidden love and Rome – sounds like a pretty hot read, don’t you think? We have a few months to wait for the book, but to tide you over there’s a cool A Little Too Far swag pack up for grabs. Click here to access the International Rafflecopter giveaway form.
Audiobook: The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr, published by Hachette Audio, May 7, 2013
Book Info: YA contemporary, audiobook purchased via Audible and hardcover won from DEBtastic Reads. Audiobook run time: 8 hrs, 20 mins. Read by: Sara Zarr. Hardcover is 304 pages from Little, Brown
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
The Lucy Variations called out to me for a couple reasons. Obviously I share my name with the title character, but I can also relate to her struggles with her musician identity very much. I have never shared this with you guys but I played the flute for about 13 years. Orchestra, band, rehearsals, daily practices, the works. I wasn’t a famous child prodigy of course like book-Lucy but it did take up a lot of my free time, and yeah, sometimes I resented it, even though I loved the music too.
Sara Zarr’s How To Save a Life is one of my favorite books and I’m slowly making my way through her catalog. I was lucky enough to win a signed copy of The Lucy Variations from Debbi @ DEBtastic Reads, and I also have a copy of the audiobook so I alternated between reading and listening.
In The Lucy Variations, sixteen-year-old piano virtuoso Lucy walks out on an important competition in Prague and abruptly quits playing altogether. Her family keeps a family tragedy secret from her so she doesn’t lose focus on the competition, and this is the last straw for Lucy. Her grandfather and mother totally micro-manage her career and she’s had enough. Eight months later, Lucy hasn’t played a note and now she’s passed the piano bench on to her younger brother Gus. When Gus’s elderly tutor dies during a piano lesson, a new instructor named Will is brought in.
Lucy didn’t think her days of playing the piano were over exactly but since her controlling grandfather washed his hands of her she feels cut off from the piano. Now she has time to explore San Francisco with her friends, hang out with Gus, and decide what else she wants to do with her life. The new piano tutor Will is familiar with Lucy’s career and wants to help her rediscover her love for music on her own terms. And things get a little messy between them.
The Beck-Moreau family is very wealthy and Lucy has a lot of options available to her. I felt for her that it was all or nothing with the piano and I wanted her to get her mojo back. But on the other hand, she’s a little infuriating at times. She can be a pretty bad friend, and her morals are sketchy as well. I cut her some slack due to her horrible parental role models- her grandfather is truly awful and her parents don’t do anything about it. Her mother even gives her the third degree about the elderly piano teachers death as if she was somehow to blame. So in terms of the characters it wasn’t always easy to connect though the story is compelling.
The author, Sara Zarr herself, narrates the audiobook. She’s actually read a few of her books though this is the first one I’ve listened to. One thing that’s very cool about the audiobook production is that short snippets of music are included in the story. So when Lucy is talking about performing a piece of music, the piano parts are overlaid in the story. I get nervous when authors narrate their books since usually their forte is writing, not voice acting. But on the other hand, they know the story inside and out so sometimes it works out. Zarr’s reading is low-key and her voice is pleasant to listen to. She’s subtle with the character voices, but I was actually impressed with how much personality she puts into the characters without overdoing it. She makes the characters come alive but doesn’t sound unnatural doing it, so kudos to Zarr. I think I’ll check out her narration on Story of a Girl next.
The hardcover is really pretty and the different parts of the book are labeled with musical terms like Tempo Regato, and Con Brio, Con Fuoco, as well as their translations. Also, when there are flashbacks in the book they are clearly marked as Intermezzo chapters. This transition is easier to follow in the book than the audiobook. The book is also artfully decorated with musical notes to carry the theme throughout. I was glad to have the book to refer to when I was listening.
I think if you have an interest in contemporary YA with a musical theme you’ll especially appreciate this book. I didn’t love it as much as How to Save a Life, though it did help me work through my own feelings about my musician past and I could relate to Lucy’s struggle for balance.
Check out some behind-the-scenes pictures and background info on the audiobook production of The Lucy Variations from Sara Zarr here.
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature from The Broke and the Bookish. This week we’re counting down our Top Ten Beach Reads. I’d probably waterproof my kindle and bring that to the beach for the most reading options, but it’s fun to narrow it down to ten choices. Some of these are recent favorites and some I hope to read under the sun this summer.
Hit the beach with these books:
1. The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen - Sarah Dessen books and the beach go together like a lock and key (another Dessen book!) All the books take place in the beach town Colby and it’s fun to spot the characters from previous books.
2. Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland – This debut novel is about family, love and friendship and is more of a heavier summer read, but it also has a picturesque setting.
4. Faking It by Cora Carmack – This series is so witty, engaging, and romantic. I think I liked the sequel/companion book Faking It better than the first book Losing It, though both would make excellent beach reading material.
5. A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams – Shake it up with a little historical adult fiction. This book is set in 1931 and 1938 in Seaview, Rhode Island and is about friendships, secrets and love. I’m doing the audio of this one, which I guess might give you a sunburn if you fall asleep while listening in the sand.
6. Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight – This summer’s Gone Girl? If it is I need to set aside the time to read it straight through, since I couldn’t put down Gone Girl. It sounds very twisty turny and mysterious to me.
7. Down London Road by Samantha Young - Like Faking It above, I think I liked this sequel even better than the original (On Dublin Street), but both are fantastic. Well-written romances, great setting and characters, good book boyfriends, and fast reads.
8.The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp – The Spectacular Now movie is coming out in August, and I hope to sneak in the book first. Gosh, there’s so many book adaptations coming out- I hope this one is as good as it looks!
9. Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols – If you’re going through Nashville withdrawal like I am, maybe this country music- themed romance will distract you. Like Sarah Dessen, Jennifer Echols books go with the beach like the moon and the stars.
10. Tidal by Emily Snow – I read this one back when it was first self-published but now it has a shiny new Touchstone paperback release. This New Adult romance is set in Hawaii and Los Angeles and features a romance between a troubled Hollywood actress and her Australian surfing instructor. If that doesn’t scream beach read I don’t know what does.
What books will you be bringing to the beach?
I’m pretty excited about the books that made their way to me this week. I guess it’s a good thing after all that I didn’t go to BEA because then I’d really be in trouble.
A Trick Of The Light by Lois Metzger from FSB Media. I hadn’t heard of this one before, but it looks intriguing. It’s about a boy with an eating disorder, something you don’t read too much about. Can’t wait to read it.
Precious Blood by Tonya Hurley from Big Honcho Media. I’m on the blog tour for this one, and will have a fun guest post. It’s a relaunch of Blessed, with a pretty new paperback cover and title.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs from Quirk. This snazzy new paperback edition has the first chapter of the sequel Hollow City, an author Q&A, and new photographs. (I received a second copy! Giveaway time!)
Viral Nation by Shaunta Grimes from Berkley Trade. I don’t read as much YA dystopian as I used to but this looks pretty good. It’s about Clover, an autistic girl with a service dog and a brother. She gets involved with a revolution to help make a change in the world.
The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay purchased paperback. I read the self-published e-book long ago and loved it. Looking forward to experiencing it again.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple audiobook borrowed from the library. I’ve been on the waiting list for months! Hope it’s worth the wait, though it does look like a lot of fun.
The Symptoms of my Insanity by Mindy Raf hardcover borrowed from the library. I picked this up because I like funny contemporary reads. The reviews are a little iffy but I thought I’d take a chance on it.
Starry Nights by Daisy Whitney – From Bloomsbury via Netgalley. Just finished Daisy’s last book and I’m excited to check this one out. It takes place in a Paris art museum where the art is cursed and starts disappearing. One of the girls from a painting helps the museum patron boy solve the mystery. What?!
Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles – From Walker Books/Bloomsbury via Netgalley. It’s been a couple years since the last Perfect Chemistry book. Wild Cards is the first book in a new series described as “a steamy new series with a Friday Night Lights flavor.” Yes please!
Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller – From Bloomsbury via Netgalley. This author’s Something Like Normal was one of my favorite books of 2012 and the early buzz is good on this one too- I see lots of 5-star ratings in my goodreads friend feed. It’s about a girl kidnapped by her mom, then returned to her large family over ten years later.
Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas – From Bloomsbury via Netgalley. The follow-up to Throne of Glass- hurray!
One Tiny Lie by K.A. Tucker – From Atria Books via Netgalley. The companion book to Ten Tiny Breaths about Kacey’s sister, Livie.
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon – From Bloomsbury via Netgalley. The next big thing, maybe? It’s the first book in a 7-book series, and film rights have been optioned. It’s marketed as an adult title, but sounds like it has crossover appeal to me. Saw it on EW’s Summer Must List recently.
Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin – From Atria Books via Netgalley. This book is about a golden boy who is holding the secret that he is intersex. I like that there are more YA gender identity books out there and this one looks really good.
The Returned by Jason Mott – From Harlequin Mira via Netgalley. This one is also on that EW Summer Must list! And it’s going to be an ABC series called Resurrection. It sounds kind of creepy and is about long-dead loved ones turning up from the grave, looking as they were in life, not zombies. Sorry, zombie fans!
Skin by Donna Jo Napoli from Amazon Children’s via Netgalley. Skin is about a girl who develops the skin condition vitiligo, a condition that causes depigmentation of the skin. You don’t read too much about skin conditions in YA, so I’m curious to see how it’s handled.
Trophy Husband by Lauren Blakely – This was a 0.99 kindle deal. Looks like a fun romance!
Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian – This was a daily kindle deal that I’ve been meaning to check out.
Stitch by Samantha Durante – Kindle freebie (free until June 11) to support the release of the sequel Shudder. It’s a YA dystopia and the reviews are pretty good!
Let me know what you’re reading in the comments. Have a good week!
Audiobook: Out of This Place by Emma Cameron, published by Candlewick on Brilliance Audio, May 14, 2013
Book Info: YA contemporary verse novel, purchased via Audible, and received for review via NetGalley. Run time: 3 hrs, 17 mins. Read by: Candice Moll, Leonardo Nam, and David Atlas. Also available in HC from Candlewick.
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
Out of This Place was originally released last year under the title Cinnamon Rain by Australian author Emma Cameron. I’m a fan of verse novels so was so excited to see this one was getting a US release. This book is short but packs an emotional punch, and the verse format makes the story that much more meaningful. Out of This Place chronicles the tale of three high school teens: Luke, Casey, and Bongo. All three have difficulties at home and long for a better future.
The book has three parts, with Luke, Casey and Bongo sharing their stories in turn. It’s interesting reading about the characters through one person’s eyes and then gleaning more insight into the others when it’s their turn to share. The trio is in Year 10 in school, which I think is the same as sophomore year in the US. We follow them in their post high school years so you could almost consider this new adult I guess.
Luke kicks off the book and right away we learn about his crush on Casey. Casey’s father is really tough on her and Luke worries about her home situation. He also looks out for Bongo, who self-medicates to get through his difficult family life. Casey has the middle story. She thinks she was an unwanted child and that her dad still resents her. She wants something more out of life, and knows she has to make it happen for herself. Bongo also has a thing for Casey, and he wants to get his little brother back from foster care. He seems like he has the toughest uphill battle to climb.
I liked the multi POV and how it was used to get us up to speed on all the characters lives. It also goes to show that we don’t know everything there is to know about our good friends, because things are not always what they seem on the outside.
One of the messages that spoke to me was the idea of shaping your own family, letting people in, and accepting help. The friendships formed in the book really made a difference in their lives.
I picked up the audiobook of Out of This Place, which is maybe an unconventional choice for a novel in verse. I was sold on the audio though when I saw that there were three separate narrators for each character’s part. Also, the narrators are Australian and since the book is set there I thought that would give just the right flavor to the story. I also have a review copy of the book so I would refer to it as well from time to time to see the verse on the page. The narrators do a good job of making you feel the characters emotions, but perhaps some of the verse feeling wasn’t as strong as it is in print. I thought Casey’s part was where the verse shined through the most, interestingly. I did think I understood the slang a little better with Australian narrators and it did bring the setting more to life. Many verse novels are fast reads, and in fact this audiobook is just over three hours long, but it manages to convey quite a powerful story in that time.
I can see why the title was changed from Cinnamon Rain, but I think that title was kind of perfect as well. Here is a verse sample from the book that gives some context to the original (and new) title.
“I want out of this place.
With no reminders.”
“ It stings -
sulphur tears in cinnamon rain.”
This is a really fast read that I think fans of verse novels and contemporary YA will enjoy. Hope you seek this one out!