Books & Tea: The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Years ago, I read Just Listen by Sarah Dessen, and what I remember most about it is how mediocre I thought the story was, and after reading through summaries of her other novels, largely formulaic:

  • Girl experiences some kind of hardship and withdraws from the world
  • Girl falls in with a new crowd
  • Girl meets handsome teenage boy and starts to feel human again
  • Girl and boy have a misunderstanding and experience a falling out
  • Girl and boy make up at the end and live happily ever after

So, considering my previous experience with this author, it’s strange that by the end of my first library visit in months, one of the books I borrowed was The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen. And even more surprising? I devoured the book in just a few sittings.


The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen book coverThe Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Contemporary YA
374 Pages
Published May 11, 2004
Penguin Group, Inc.
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★★★☆☆

A long, hot summer…

That’s what Macy has to look forward to while her boyfriend, Jason, is away at Brain Camp. Days will be spent at a boring job in the library, evenings will be filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time will be passed with her mother, the two of them sharing a silent grief at the traumatic loss of Macy’s father.

But sometimes, unexpected things can happen—things such as the catering job at Wish, with its fun-loving, chaotic crew. Or her sister’s project of renovating the neglected beach house, awakening long-buried memories. Things such as meeting Wes, a boy with a past, a taste for Truth-telling, and an amazing artistic talent, the kind of boy who could turn any girl’s world upside down. As Macy ventures out of her shell, she begins to question her sheltered life.

Is it really always better to be safe than sorry?


My Thoughts

I appreciated reading about Macy’s journey. She is grieving the loss of her father and with the help of her boyfriend, Jason, she has established a very strict routine. One that includes working at the library information desk, studying for the SAT, and ironing and starching her clothes to perfection. It helps keep her mind from dwelling on her father’s death, and it shows people that she’s carrying on with life and everything is fine, just fine. But, her routine is threatened when her boyfriend goes away to Brain Camp. And worse, wants to take a break so he can focus on his future.

Then comes along a new job opportunity and a group of new and ragtag co-workers, who turn her life even more topsy-turvy. They draw her out of her shell, they introduce her to the chaos and imperfections of catering and of high school parties, and most importantly, they allow her the opportunity to be vulnerable without judgement— a stark contrast to her boyfriend.

But, while enjoyable, The Truth About Forever doesn’t deviate far from the plot structure outlined above. The Truth About Forever doesn’t introduce anything new to Contemporary YA. It doesn’t even attempt to put a clever twist on any of the genre tropes. But, I don’t think that’s why people reach for novels by Sarah Dessen. Dessen has been around for a while. A long while. Like, she was writing YA back when I was… YA. She’s a constant in this genre, so many people reach for her novels for the comfort of likable characters, the familiar summertime settings in North Carolina, specifically the fictional town of Colby, and a plot that is…well, predictable— one where despite all the hardships, all the characters end up okay at the end. At least, that’s why I reached for The Truth About Forever; and that’s why I’m inclined to continue picking up other books by Dessen in the future.

The Tea

The Truth About Forever takes place during the summertime in the south, and only one thing comes to mind— sweet, iced tea! Stereotypically Lipton, sweet iced tea, but I’m choosing Ceylon Sonata Cold Brew from Adagio Teas instead. Adagio’s Ceylon Sonata is a black tea that comes from the Kenilworth Estate in Sri Lanka. It is a medium bodied, black tea with bright citrus notes. 

It’s balanced and refreshing, and it’s one of those teas that makes me break my no-caffeine-after-3PM bans because it’s so, so good. This is exactly the kind of iced tea I think the characters in Dessen’s fictional town of Colby, North Carolina would sip on during summer vacations.

What is your favorite Sarah Dessen book? Do you have a favorite Contemporary YA author you reach for when you’re looking for comfort?

Murder in the Mystery Suite Book Review

There is something so delightfully tacky about the book covers for cozy mystery novels. I especially love the book covers that have a beautifully illustrated background but then have other elements from the novel (say, books, a cat, a bicycle) photoshopped in from what I assume are stock photographs. They remind me of the hidden object games I became obsessed with my final year at college when I was avoiding attending my business law lectures. The textures seem a little off, but I find the book covers endearing and comforting, and this is probably why I couldn’t resist purchasing a copy of Murder in the Mystery Suite by Ellery Adams. Either that or it was the cat on the cover. I’m 100% more likely to pick up your cozy mystery novel if there is a cat on the cover as demonstrated here, here, here, here, here, and here.


Murder in the Mystery Suite (A Book Retreat Mystery, #1) by Ellery Adams

Released: August 2014
Publisher: Berkley
★★★☆☆

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Tucked away in the rolling hills of rural western Virginia is the storybook resort of Storyton Hall, catering to book lovers who want to get away from it all. To increase her number of bookings, resort manager Jane Steward has decided to host a Murder and Mayhem week so that fans of the mystery genre can gather together for some role-playing and fantasy crime solving.

But when the winner of the scavenger hunt, Felix Hampden, is found dead in the Mystery Suite, and the valuable book he won as his prize is missing, Jane realizes one of her guests is an actual murderer. Amid a resort full of fake detectives, Jane is bound and determined to find a real-life killer. There’s no room for error as Jane tries to unlock this mystery before another vacancy opens up…


It’s easy for cozy mysteries to become formulaic. Typically, the main character is a female, who is thrown out in to the world on her own after a recent divorce/break up with her boyfriend/death of her husband. She’s still getting used to life on her own, but luckily she has been able to turn her hobby into a career, so she has a distraction as she navigates her grief. Then, someone dies in or around her business, and she’s thrust into a situation where she has to figure out whodunnit.

Also:

  • the female lead has a cat (or maybe a dog to appeal to those other readers)
  • a potential love interest is introduced
  • if the female lead is new in town, she may be a suspect in the murder mystery
  • the setting is usually a very small town, where all of the townsfolk have been able to turn their hobbies into careers too
  • the female lead probably lives in an old Victorian-style home

Murder in the Mystery Suite had several of those elements, but then Jane, our heroine, discovers a family secret hidden within the walls of Storyton Hall that sets this novel apart from the rest of the cozies. What I thought was going to be my typical cozy mystery ended up having more action and adventure than usual complete with secret agents, a little bit of espionage, hidden rooms, and blow dart guns. Murder in the Mystery Suite was probably one of the most thrilling cozies I’ve ever read!

There were some inconsistencies, like the fact that this story takes place in rural Virginia, but all of the characters seemed prim and proper; I kept thinking the story took place in England. Also, Storyton Hall is initially described as falling on hard times, and yet the resort was able to invest enough money for a week-long Murder & Mayhem themed program complete with costume parties, multi-course gourmet meals, and Rolls Royce town cars to pick up attendees. If readers can look past that, Murder in the Mystery Suite promises readers a fun and engaging whodunnit. Mystery novel nerds will especially love all of the literary references made throughout the story!

Overall, I enjoyed this novel, and I look forward to picking up the second book in this series, Murder in the Paperback Parlor, in which Jane plans a romance novel themed week for Valentine’s Day.

Book Review | Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon is one of those books that have been on my TBR list for ages, but I couldn’t remember why. That happens you know – forgetting why I put a book on my wish list? Or that I even put a book on my wish list at all. That started happening once I became a book blogger. I get bombarded with book recommendations from other bloggers that sometimes I lose track. It’s especially bad because I’ve been a part of the book blogosphere since 2011, so that’s a lot of books that have made it onto my radar. Has that happened to you?

I will even admit I forget what Everything, Everything was about– just that it was a contemporary that was supposed to be an emotional read, and it came highly recommended. I didn’t even bother to read the synopsis when I bought it! I just saw that it was on sale, so in my cart it went.


Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon


Released: 
September 2015
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
★★★☆☆

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.


The Writing

The first thing that stood out to me was the formatting of the story. I thought I was going to dive into a heavy novel with beautiful and emotional prose, but instead Everything, Everything has short, two to three page chapters, and it includes some epistolary storytelling in the form of instant messages, emails, and homework assignments. The formatting was engaging and perhaps an effective way to show how isolated Madeline was. Through her e-mails and instant messages, readers catch a glimpse of what is inside her head while also seeing how she tries to connect with the people around her though limited those opportunities they may be. The formatting also happened to be the story’s downfall. The story addressed some heavy subject matter like mental health, physical abuse, chronic illness, death, and isolation, that I wish was explored further in prose.

The Relationships

I appreciated the relationship between Madeline and her nurse, Carla, who seemed to treat Madeline as though she was a normal teenager despite growing up in a bubble. This relationship feels more like a mother/daughter relationship compared to the relationship Madeline has with her own mother. There is conflict and some bickering between Madeline and Carla as Madeline tries to push her boundaries. But of course, the two love each other, and that comes through too.

Her relationship with her mom, on the other hand, seemed sterile and a touch unrealistic. The two get along too well, and the two don’t seem to have a history of conflict despite being cooped up with each other for so long.

The fast-paced relationship between Madeline and Olly, the dreamy boy next-door, also seemed unrealistic. I liked the bond the two formed. And despite Olly’s bad-boy appearance, he was kind and gentle and fun. But, their relationship seemed to move too fast considering how limited their interactions were. And Madeline seemed incredibly mature about everything despite her lack of socialization with people her age. She would probably argue that it’s because she’s read so many books. But, I don’t care how well-read someone is– relating to other teenagers, especially when hormones are buzzing, is easier said read than done!

The Twist

The plot twist left me wanting more. Although, to call it a twist is inaccurate (for me). I wasn’t surprised the story took the turn that it did. I already had my suspicions after reading the first few pages.

After the twist was revealed, I thought “Oooh! Here is where things get juicy!” But there was no juice, and I was left feeling thirsty. The plot twist opened up more opportunity for conflict between Madeline and her mom, but the story didn’t go there. Madeline…just sort of ignores her mom and continues on with life, and the ending just sort of fizzled along.

Overall I appreciated Everything, Everything. The characters were likable, and the plot, though predictable, was new and refreshing (or, at least I haven’t read anything like it). The blend of prose and Epistolary storytelling made for an engaging and quick read– perfect for cluster feeding nursing sessions at two in the morning– but I don’t think the formatting allowed the reader to explore some of the heavier themes beyond the surface.

I would recommend this novel to anyone in a reading slump or for fans of Before I Fall, The Art of Holding On and Letting Go, and Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn’t Have).

Nope! Nope. So Much Nope. | Halo by Alexandra Adornetto

Look, I have a library to read. On top of that, it’s moving locations from its teeny, tiny 900 sq. ft. building to a sprawling 10,000 sq ft. building (that used to be a grocery store before Walmart moved to town), which means my TBR is about to get longer. That’s why, when nothing happened in ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY TWO PAGES, I decided to abandon book #3 in my READ ALL THE BOOKS challenge. To put it bluntly, I’d rather read the entire Twilight saga again than try to read Halo by Alexandra Adornetto. (I shouldn’t say nothing happened. Angels did move to the suburbs, and one of them did attend a house party and drink too many cocktails).


Halo (Halo #1) by Alexandra Adornetto

Released: August 2010 (first published January 2010)
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
DNF
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Three angels – Gabriel, the warrior; Ivy, the healer; and Bethany, the youngest and most human – are sent by Heaven to bring good to a world falling under the influence of darkness. They work hard to conceal their luminous glow, superhuman powers, and, most dangerous of all, their wings, all the while avoiding all human attachments.

Then Bethany meets Xavier Woods, and neither of them is able to resist the attraction between them. Gabriel and Ivy do everything in their power to intervene, but the bond between Xavier and Bethany seems too strong.

The angel’s mission is urgent, and dark forces are threatening. Will love ruin Bethany or save her?


Other reasons why I abandoned this book include:

  1. I couldn’t stand to read another THREE HUNDRED pages of nothing happening. Seriously, why is this book so long? (Apparently the villain the angels so urgently need to defeat isn’t even introduced until around page 250).
  2. The angel, Bethany, was the Mary Sue-iest of the Mary Sues. She was even worse than Sookie Stackhouse; at least Sookie had a distinct voice. Even worse, Bethany is supposed to be this divine creature, but she’s so…vapid and obsessed with talking about how beautiful she is.
  3. Come to think of it, Ivy and Gabriel were also Mary Sue-ish.
  4. This is basically Edward Cullen and Bella Swan part 2, except Bethany is the preternatural creature and Xavier human. Although, flipping ahead, I learned Xavier still gets to be the controlling and possessive boyfriend that YA authors are wont to romanticize.
  5. The characterization seemed inconsistent. Bethany is an angel, who has never visited earth before, so her new friends have to explain modern things to her. Yet, Bethany already uses human slang. Also, she seems really vain, which seems contrary to the message of the good book, you know?
  6. It doesn’t really make sense for a seraphim and an arch-angel, some of the highest ranks in the hierarchy of the divine, to show up in the suburbs that has been negatively affected by a fire and a car accident while famine and war exist in other parts of the world. #firstworldproblems

Beautiful Writing, Cringe-Worthy Plot | Dark Companion by Marta Acosta

Warning: this post contains spoilers.

Dark Companion by Marta Acosta is book #2 in my READ ALL THE LIBRARY BOOKS challenge, and like my initial reaction to Sign Language by Amy Ackley, when I pulled Dark Companion from the shelf, I was once again disappointed. In fact, I hadn’t even openly declared that I was trying to read all of the books in the YA section of my library at this point, so I almost gave up on the project in that moment. The book cover featured a young woman wearing a white gown in the middle of a spooky forest; between that image and the title, it screamed paranormal romance or paranormal fiction, which is a genre that has me hightailing it in the other direction faster than if it were a plate of brussel sprouts.

I chose to persevere though, and in the end…I’ll still run from PNR faster than if it were a plate of brussel sprouts.


Dark Companion by Marta Acosta

Released: July 2013
Publisher: Tor/Macmillan
★★☆☆☆
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Orphaned at the age of six, Jane Williams has grown up in a series of foster homes, learning to survive in the shadows of life. Through hard work and determination, she manages to win a scholarship to the exclusive Birch Grove Academy. There, for the first time, Jane finds herself accepted by a group of friends. She even starts tutoring the headmistress’s gorgeous son, Lucien. Things seem too good to be true.

They are.

The more she learns about Birch Grove’s recent past, the more Jane comes to suspect that there is something sinister going on. Why did the wife of a popular teacher kill herself? What happened to the former scholarship student, whose place Jane took? Why does Lucien’s brother, Jack, seem to dislike her so much?

As Jane begins to piece together the answers to the puzzle, she must find out why she was brought to Birch Grove and what she would risk to stay there..because even the brightest people make terrible decisions when they are offered the things they desire most.


Admittedly, for the first half of the novel, I thought Dark Companion was going to be a solid, four-star kind of novel. I thought it was going to be the book that changed my mind about paranormal fiction. So what if I thought the main character, Jane, was kind of uninspiring? So what if I thought Lucien and Jack, potential love interests, were worse then Edward Cullen (how?!)? It takes place at a friggin’ boarding school, which is one of my favorite settings ever! Plus, Acosta wrote one of my favorite secondary characters ever– Mary Violet (or MV). MV is hilarious and clever and vibrant, and all I wanted to do was read a book about her. Of course, there simply is no denying that Marta Acosta’s writing is beautiful either, and she captured the atmosphere of a gothic novel so perfectly.

Yet the exclusive Birch Grove Academy has a dark, cult-like secret. One that I wasn’t on board with.

I thought Dark Companion was going to be a vampire novel because there are these subtle clues that some of the characters in the novel have a certain fascination with blood. They like their steaks rare (Did I say “rare”? I mean “basically raw”), and they practically start salivating when people get paper cuts. And yet, vampirism would have been preferred to the twist that was presented (even though I can’t stand vampires. Exhibit A. Exhibit B. Exhibit C.) A genetic disorder plagues Lucien and his family (who run Birch Grove), that makes them both incredibly pale and incredibly thirsty for blood. And Jane was invited to Birch Grove Academy because her blood is exactly what Lucien needs. When it is revealed to Jane that she was selected to be Lucien’s companion, she’s both freaked out (because this means he will drink her blood), but also kind of thrilled because it means she gets to be with Lucien forever and she totally has the hots for him. Except, their relationship ends up being just as creepy as you think it will be. Lucien is overwhelmed by literal bloodlust, and he tries to seduce Jane every time he wants to feed. It boggled  my mind that this novel was marketed as a YA novel, especially considering in a previous scene, Jane returned to a friend in the slums and learned all about BDSM and “blood play”. All of this just made me feel so uncomfortable, and all I wanted to do was take a hot shower and scrub myself clean with a loofah made of steel wool. Ick.

Jane eventually comes to her senses and realizes this relationship is absolutely crazy and toxic and ends up falling for Jack, Lucien’s brother, instead. Neither of the love interests are particularly decent, but at least Jack doesn’t want to drink Jane’s bodily fluids.

Dark Companion was a disappointment, but I still find myself optimistic about this challenge. This is especially odd because the next book in line is Halo by Alexandra Adornetto, and I’ve intentionally avoided YA novels featuring angels as the main character. I’m not keen on innocent and pure main characters and forbidden love.

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This is the Book I Didn’t Know I Needed to Read | Sign Language by Amy Ackley

Sign Language by Amy Ackley is the first novel I read that is apart of the Read All the Library Books challenge I set for myself a few weeks ago. It was the novel to set the tone for this process, and the moment I plucked it from the library stack…I was disappointed. The book cover seemed to indicate that the novel I held in my hands was going to be some generic contemporary YA novel. This is a genre I tend to avoid because I have a hard time relating to the characters, and sometimes I find their actions/reactions to be unbelievable. However, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and Open Road Summer by Emery Lord are exceptions; I adored these two novels. On top of that, Sign Language dealt with a topic that I wasn’t entirely sure I was prepared to read about because I was already dealing with it in my own life– grief and a parent battling cancer. I did struggle to immerse myself into the novel at first, but by the end I found Sign Language to be wonderfully written and emotional story.


Sign Language by Amy Ackley

Released: August 2011
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Page Count: 392
★★★☆☆
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Twelve-year-old Abby North’s first hint that something is really wrong with her dad is how long it’s taking him to recover from what she thought was routine surgery. Soon, the thing she calls “It” has a real name: cancer. Before, her biggest concerns were her annoying brother, the crush unaware of her existence, and her changing feelings for her best friend, Spence, the boy across the street. Now, her mother cries in the shower, her father is exhausted, and nothing is normal anymore. Amy Ackley’s impressive debut is wrenching, heartbreaking, and utterly true.


I had a hard time getting absorbed into the story because I struggled to accept how Abby North, the main character, reacted to the news of her father’s cancer.  At first, she wouldn’t call her father’s ailment what it was– cancer. It seemed like she was ignorant and unaware of what was happening, which didn’t make sense because twelve-year-old kids know what cancer is. Then I realized. this was her “denial stage”, and the author was essentially using the 5 steps of grief as framework for the novel. The moment when Abby finally acknowledges that her father has cancer and it is terminal changed everything for me. I recall reading this novel in bed at 2AM with a flashlight tucked under my chin, and I’m fairly confident I wept through the entire second half of the novel.

Aside from coping from the loss of her father, Abby still has to deal with everything else that comes with being a teenager– falling in love, a family that feels like its falling apart, moving away, finding a place in the world. She feels lost, and she feels angry that her father is not around to guide her through adolescence. She doesn’t always make the best decisions, sometimes she pushes friends and family away, and every time, it felt like my heart was breaking for her.

Sign Language by Amy Ackley is a perfect example of why I wanted to challenge myself to READ ALL THE BOOKS. It’s a novel I would have ignored either because of something vain, like the book cover, or because I don’t often like contemporary fiction, but in a way, it’s a story that I needed to read.

(Also, fun fact, according to her bio, the author is a Michigan native, and she lives two towns over from where I live. What if I bumped into her at a restaurant and didn’t even realize?! NEAT!)Save

#NonFictionalFoods | Signs and Seasons: an Astrology Cookbook

If you asked me if I believed in astrology and horoscopes, I’d tell you I was a skeptic. But, I’d also tell you that I kind of embody many of the traits of the Leo– I’m arrogant, I’m stubborn, I’m an idealist, I’m a creative, I’m passionate, and dammit, I demand praise! (Please tell me how great I am in the comments below!) I’d also tell you that I read my 2017 forecast, and it says that I should expect travel in relation to my career in 2017, WHICH COULD TOTALLY HAPPEN BECAUSE I WILL BE TAKING ON THE ACCOUNTING AT ANOTHER FRANCHISE BASED OUT OF PASADENA, CALIFORNIA EVEN THOUGH I LIVE IN MICHIGAN. (Eh, that’s a long shot, but a girl can dream, amiright?) And now, I can tell you how a Leo cooks, eats, and entertains thanks to Signs & Seasons by Amy Zerner, Monte Farber, and Chef John Okas. I definitely do not buy the best that I can afford (because I am an accountant and therefore stingy AF), but I do have a taste for luxurious and rich foods (homemade biscuits and gravy for the win!). I also crave praise, so if I cook something that is less-than-amazing, I consider it an absolute failure and I apologize profusely to my husband for assaulting his taste buds as he starts to wander into the kitchen for seconds.


Signs and Seasons: an Astrology Cookbook by Amy Zerner, Monte Farber, and Chef John Okas.

Released: May 2017
Publisher: Harper Elixer
★★★☆☆
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Food connects us to our families, history, culture, and to the natural world itself—to the seasons and the cycle of life. Just as our path around the sun—and through the Zodiac—dictates the seasons, the seasons dictate what will flourish, from the tender greens of early spring to late summer’s lush and impossible perfect tomatoes.

In Signs and Seasons, Farber and Zerner—along with chef John Okas—take home cooks through the four seasons and each of their astrological signs in over 95 tantalizing seasonal recipes that include starters; meat, seafood, and vegetarian mains; sides; and desserts for each sign.

Inspired by the cuisine of the Mediterranean, home of the Greco-Roman cultures that named the planets after their gods, Signs and Seasons teaches you how to: feed friend and loved ones based on their signs and and seasons, deepen your understanding of nature and the universe, and discover how astrology shapes our personalities, tastes, and appetites.

Whether exploring the “Twin nature” and “Mercurial spirit” of ramps (a spring delicacy well suited Geminis) in a recipe for Ramps al Olio or the historical association of saffron with Venus in the recipe for Roasted Corn Orecchiette, Signs and Seasons is the perfect guide for eating in a way that emphasizes both sensual nourishment and psychic satisfaction. Beautifully photographed in full color by Monte Farber and illustrated by Amy Zerner, Signs and Seasons is a one-of-a-kind source of inspiration for astrology enthusiasts and home chefs alike.


My overall impression of Signs and Seasons is… it’s just okay. I don’t take astrology seriously, so to me this cookbook seems like a novelty, although it’s absolutely fun. Especially since the authors of this cookbook included a little explanation of why a particular dish would appeal to an astrological sign for each recipe. It was very insightful and I think it would appeal to those who are passionate about astrology.

This cookbook lost stars because I struggled to find a recipe that I would appreciate, and the ones that did pique my interest, I couldn’t find the ingredients at my local grocer (but, that’s my fault because I live in a literal village). Most of the recipes aimed for Leos were especially not appealing to my tastes because they included seafood or celery salt. That being said, I did test out the Kiwi Ricotta stacks because I thought it would be an excellent way to use up leftover ricotta. And, while I am inept at food styling and couldn’t make it look beautiful, it tasted pretty. freaking. awesome.

Kiwi is kiwi, and how do you go wrong with that? (Answer: you don’t!). What really impressed me was the ricotta, honey, cinnamon, and pistachio concoction that tasted just. like. baklava. All I could think about was how badly I wanted to dip apple slices into it, so I will be snacking on this again soon.

The other recipe that I wanted to cook up for this post was broccoli rabe, sausage, and white beans with penne. It sounded like the pasta equivalent to a spicy sausage lentil soup that I adore making in winter time! I unfortunately walked out of the grocer without white beans twice this week!

This novel was provided for free from the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

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This Novel Made Me Feel Squidgy in the Best Possible Way | I Found You by Lisa Jewell

I had a difficult time immersing myself in I Found You by Lisa Jewell, and I’m not entirely sure why. This novel had many characteristic that I appreciate. It was atmospheric. The writing was beautiful. It involved a mystery that I desperately wanted to solve. Yet, I started this book four separate times before finally reading all the way to the end.


I Found You by Lisa Jewell

Released: April 2017
Publisher: Atria Books
★★★☆☆
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Purchase: Amazon|BAM!|B&N

In a windswept British seaside town, single mom Alice Lake finds a man sitting on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, and no idea how he got there. Against her better judgment, she invites him inside.

Meanwhile, in a suburb of London, twenty-one-year-old Lily Monrose has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one. Then the police tell her that her husband never existed.

Twenty-three years earlier, Gray and Kirsty are teenagers on a summer holiday with their parents. Their annual trip to the quaint seaside town is passing by uneventfully, until an enigmatic young man starts paying extra attention to Kirsty. Something about him makes Gray uncomfortable—and it’s not just that he’s playing the role of protective older brother.

Two decades of secrets, a missing husband, and a man with no memory are at the heart of this brilliant new novel, filled with the “beautiful writing, believable characters, pacey narrative, and dark secrets” (London Daily Mail) that make Lisa Jewell so beloved by audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.


What Jewell successfully created in I Found You is an atmospheric novel, rich with vivid imagery and an underlying sinister feeling that both entices readers to keep turning the pages while at the same time making them feel slightly squidgy about the story that is unfolding. And, for the most part, I think that’s what I was really sticking around for– the atmosphere and, yes, the squidginess, though that seems to be the case with most of the books I’ve been reading lately. Because honestly, I found the plot line to be somewhat predictable, the characters to be kind of unrealistic, and the pacing to be somewhat slow compared to the usual thriller. And, let’s be real– if a man suffering from amnesia shows up on my property during a rainstorm, I’m not inviting him to spend the night in my detached garage (even though the previous tenants were so thoughtful to leave behind their mildewy box spring); I’m calling 9-1-1 not only to get this guy medical attention but to report a missing person. And, God forbid he enters my home uninvited to toast my hypothetical daughter a bagel and watch cartoons with her! How did protagonist, Alice Lake, find this totally acceptable and endearing when the average person would lose their mind?

Yet, despite my grief with the characters, part of what made this story so compelling is not just the alternation of narrators (between modern-day Alice Lake and Lily Monrose as well as the past’s Graham Ross), but also the alternation of timelines. While I’ve struggled with alternating timelines in the past, Jewell incorporates one that is not only intriguing but even blends the voices of the past and present together in a way that truly had me on the edge of my seat.

TLC Book Tours

This novel was provided for free from the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

I Am Going to Read Every Book in the YA Section of My Library.

In March, I had an absurd idea. I decided I should attempt to read every book available in the young adult section of my local library from A to Z. That is to say, I intend to read the books in the order they appear on the shelf from Sign Language by Amy Ackley to I Am the Messenger by Mark Zusak . The rules are simple:

  1. Read the books in the order they are shelved until I run out of books to read.
  2. To combat series fatigue, I can alternate between reading a book at the front of the stack and a book at the end of the stack. Essentially, I would be working my way to the middle of the YA section (I guess that’s not really Ackley to Zusak, is it?).
  3. This challenge will of course be punctuated by my usual cozy mysteries and the odds and ends I find in the”grown up” section such as Night Film by Marisha Pessl or Demi-Monde: Winter by Rod Rees (featured above) because I need variety in my bookish life.
  4. I am not required to read a novel I have already read.
  5. Abandoning awful books is permitted after making a real effort to read the novel. “Real effort” to be defined later. Probably once I hit Cassandra Clare or John Green novels. #unpopularopinion #sorrynotsorry

I have no idea if completing this is probable considering I’m such a slow and distracted reader. Also, I’ve never actually lived in the same place longer than three years…

But, this is it. This is me declaring that I am going to read every book in the YA section of my local library.

Godspeed!

That One Time I Reviewed a Short Story Collection |By the Wayside by Anne Leigh Parrish

I like short stories. I really do, although I don’t feature them often on Books & Tea. I have admiration for them because I think short stories require writers to have a certain talent that novel-writing doesn’t. Characterization, scene selection, and word choice become so much more important in a concise piece of writing. Short story authors have little room for error, too; in a novel, I can suffer through a dull chapter and still appreciate the story if the author manages to redeem themselves later, but I’m not as forgiving with short stories. I also tend to be more critical of short stories, and this is perhaps behavior learned from school days spent meticulously picking them apart and reading their related literary criticisms.

So, I don’t go out of my way to read short story collections, yet when approached to review a collection, called By the Wayside by Anne Leigh Parrish, I found myself tempted solely based on a story that involved a woman with a cyst in the shape of the Virgin Mary. I said yes! only to quickly find out this collection did not resonate with me.


By the Wayside by Anne Leigh Parrish

Released: February 2017
Publisher: Unsolicited Press

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Purchase: Amazon|BAM!|B&N

Marvelous. Honest. Generous. From the first story to the last, “By the Wayside” catches your attention and demands that you give into its every whirl. Each character unfolds with a precision that will have you wondering how Parrish managed to create such real-to-the-bones people within a world that captivates you with ease.


This is going to be a short review because this collection did not evoke any strong emotion or reaction from me (which I suppose doesn’t have to be a bad thing because at least this review isn’t scathing).

I appreciated that this 18 story collection focused on women confronting…well, life. For example, in “An Angel Within”, the protagonist is forced to grow up too quickly and care for her younger (hellion) sisters following the death of their parents. And in “Artichokes”, the protagonist must accept the aftermath of her mother’s infidelity. In “Bree’s Miracle”, the protagonist must stand up for herself, when her spiritual doctor refuses to perform a surgery to remove an ovarian cyst simply because the cyst resemble the Virgin Mary. The conflict felt genuine and real (Virgin Mary withstanding). Further, the characterizations of the protagonists were intriguing (although I did think their voices were too similar).

Unfortunately, the ending to each of the stories is where everything unraveled for me. The stories ended abruptly, and the author wrapped them up too nicely and too neatly with forced symbolism and trite sayings about the lessons each of the women learned. It made what could have otherwise been a strong story seem hokey.

I am apparently an odd duck on this one though. To read rave reviews for this collection, be sure to check out the other tour stops.

TLC Book Tours

This novel was provided for free from the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.