“My Secret Ingredient”—A Book Review

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“When you’re a kid everything is a fairy tale, or they lead you to believe that by the books they give you…Then you realize life is, well, screwed up beyond belief.”

 

The Secret Ingredient by Stewart Lewis is a tender coming-of-age tale amidst a very contemporary lifestyle setting.

Olivia has always been a shy, careful teenager. Her mother gave her up for adoption when she was two days old, resulting in her being raised by two amazing dads. Bell owns a restaurant and is like a pal to Olivia, Enrique has always been a very nurturing soul, and her older (also adopted) brother, Jeremy, is always getting himself into crazy messes by following very impractical dreams.

But this is a summer for taking chances and transformations. Olivia meets a psychic on an elevator, who tells her that this is a summer for change. Normally not superstitious at all, Olivia begins to take chances and make changes in her life, finding bits and pieces of herself along the way.

For some reason Olivia suddenly feels an overwhelming lack of a mother in her life and decides to seek out her birth mother at long last. She also begins to see her screwed up, unconventional, mess of a family in a brand new light, causing her appreciation for them grow exponentially. Out of nowhere, a long lost (potential) boyfriend suddenly reappears from out of nowhere, seeking Olivia’s forgiveness and attention. A dear friend is blindsided heart breaking news. And by complete happenstance, Olivia stumbles across an old cookbook from the 1960’s in which a woman co-used as a journal. While following recipes, she also catches glimpses into this woman’s life, making up the rest to fill in the gaps, leading her to make her own bold decisions.

Throughout this soul searching novel, in Olivia’s attempt to find the secret ingredient for her life (for all good cooks’ recipes contain a secret ingredient) she might just discover that it’s been there all along.

I give this heartfelt book four out of five stars.

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“Sea Change”—A Book Review

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Sea Change by Aimee Friedman is an enchanting summer tale. If you like mermaids, islands, and romance, this quick beach read is not to be missed!

Having just split with her boyfriend, and fought with her best friend, Miranda is totally fine with leaving New York for the summer. Her summer destination: Selkie Island, near the Georgia coast, to help her mother clean out and organize her late grandmother’s estate home known as The Mariner.

On the ferry ride over to the island, she hears a lot of gossip about Selkie Island, and many people warn her to beware of the mist that surrounds the isle. Upon arriving, Miranda quickly hears gossip of mermaids who can emerge from the ocean and walk on the shore.

And of course, a cute guy is involved. Miranda soon meets Leo, a mysterious islander with emerald green eyes and (naturally) she falls for him and begins meeting him on the beach, amongst the mist.

“Leo kissed languidly, a kiss like he had all the time n the world, a kiss as hot and slow as the summer itself. I understood why people sometimes went crazy, risked everything for a kiss.”

Then, as Miranda stumbles across books on selkies, mermaids, and mermen among her grandmother’s possessions, she can’t help her roaming imagination as she wonders about Leo’s amazing ocean-swimming abilities and the fact that he seems to just “appear” out of the water.

“I wanted to tell Leo that I’d imagined him as a merman so he could laugh with me too. But the mere word was too absurd to even say out loud. Merman.”

While the characters are only surface deep, this magical story gets a three out of five stars from me. If you’re looking for a light beach reach, Sea Change is the book for you!

“Twenty Boy Summer”—A Book Review

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Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler is a heart wrenchingly good summertime read.

Anna is headed to Zanzibar Bay with her best friend Frankie for the summer. The wild and daring Frankie is determined for Anna to finally have a summer romance and devises a plan that they meet and hang out with one boy each day.

Anna agrees to go along with Frankie’s crazy plan. But what she doesn’t tell her is that she’s already had a sizzling romance…with Frankie’s older brother Matt, who died a year ago. Matt promised he would tell Frankie about them, but died tragically before he had the chance. So for the past year, Anna has had to keep the dear memories of her and Matt’s steamy romance secret.

“But when you’re in the middle of being in love with someone, you just don’t stop to ask, ‘Matt, listen, if you die before you tell your sister about us, should I tell her?’”

Emotionally raw and honest, this novel deals with grief, tragedy, secrets, betrayal, family, steamy romance, and most importantly, learning how to move on and live again. I give this summer time read five out of five stars!