Book Review: My Dark Vanessa {Kate Elizabeth Russell}

Another book I read during the STUPID WORDPRESS SWITCHOVER and therefore couldn’t post my review in a timely manner. I read Kate Elizabeth Russell’s My Dark Vanessa while sitting outside on a beach chair in gorgeous weather months ago. Now I’m typing this review over the Thanksgiving holiday with Christmas music playing on Pandora on my phone next to me. Ugh! Regardless of how long it took me to actually write this review, I have so many thoughts on this book to share with you!

Goodreads Synopsis of My Dark Vanessa {Kate Elizabeth Russell}:

2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.

2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—and who professed to worship only her—may be far different from what she has always believed?

Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of Room, My Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself. 

My Review of My Dark Vanessa {Kate Elizabeth Russell}:

This book was so disturbing…and yet…so GOOD? I had heard such mixed reviews prior to reading and I totally understand how everyone feels differently about this book. The subject is…a lot.

The topic is HEAVY and icky and weird and yet this book is GREAT. How???

The writing is fantastic, the characters are interesting, and the “unputdownable” factor is most definitely there. I FLEW through this book. It grabbed my attention from page 1 allllll the way until I closed the back cover. I didn’t want it to end.

Truly so thought provoking on so many levels. I read this book from the perspective of a mother, a daughter, a former teacher, and as a college student (how has it been so many years since that was my life when I can still relate to it so easily??).

My Dark Vanessa has deservingly made it to the final round in the fiction category of the Goodreads 2020 Choice Awards. Have you voted yet? As much as I did enjoy reading about Vanessa, THIS OTHER BOOK actually received my vote 🙂 If you haven’t read THAT book yet, I clearly highly recommend it!

I was pleasantly surprised at how different My Dark Vanessa is to THIS VILE BOOK. The 2 are nothing alike. One book makes you think, the other makes you want to throw up. I HATED THAT DISGUSTING OTHER BOOK SO, SO MUCH.

My Dark Vanessa is a wonderful beautifully disturbing book.

Bottom Line:

It feels weird to say that I loved this book because the subject is just so weird and dark…but…I loved this book.

Have you read this book? What did you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Xo,

Jenny

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Book Review: Don’t Look For Me {Wendy Walker}

I read Wendy Walker’s Don’t Look for Me while on our 3rd trip to Spring Lake, MI (you can read all about our 1st and 2nd trips HERE and HERE). I still haven’t written a recap of our 3rd trip…maybe I still will even though it happened a month ago, lol? Spoiler: fall in Michigan is STUNNING.

Goodreads Synopsis of Don’t Look For Me {Wendy Walker}:

One night, Molly Clarke walked away from her life. The car abandoned miles from home. The note found at a nearby hotel. The shattered family that couldn’t be put back together. It happens all the time. Women disappear, desperate to leave their lives behind and start over. She doesn’t want to be found. Or at least, that’s the story. But is that what really happened to Molly Clarke?

The night Molly disappeared began with a storm, running out of gas, and a man in a truck offering her a ride to town. With him is a little girl who reminds her of the daughter she lost years ago. It feels like a sign. And Molly is overcome with the desire to be home, with her family—no matter how broken it is. She accepts the ride. But when the doors are locked shut, Molly begins to suspect she has made a terrible mistake.

When a new lead comes in after the search has ended, Molly’s daughter, Nicole, begins to wonder. Nothing about her mother’s disappearance makes sense.

Nicole returns to the small, desolate town where her mother was last seen to find the truth. The locals are kind and eager to help. The innkeeper. The bartender. Even the police. Until secrets begin to reveal themselves and she comes closer to the truth about that night—and the danger surrounding her. 

My Review of Don’t Look For Me {Wendy Walker}:

Such an interesting and complicated story. I loved how the characters all fit together, the story lines were all so twisted and detailed, and how intense the whole book was. My heart was POUNDING while reading this one!

My predictions while reading were all over the place which I love. Also, I did NOT see that ending coming…

I couldn’t put this book down and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I closed the back cover.

This was the first book by Wendy Walker that I’ve read…I must add more to my to read list ASAP! Love her writing style!

Bottom Line:

Loved it!

Have you read this book? What did you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Xo,

Jenny

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Book Review: 28 Summers {Elin Hilderbrand} AKA The Book I Couldn’t Put Down

I put Elin Hilderbrand’s 28 Summers on hold at my library in JULY and last week….my copy FINALLY was ready for me! I couldn’t get to the library fast enough and put all other books on the back burner for the chance to finally read this one. I have been DYING to get my hands on a copy to read and review. I pretty much knew that I would love it because evvvvveryone loves it but little did I know that this would be one of the best books I’ve EVER read. Truly couldn’t put this book down!

Goodreads Synopsis of 28 Summers {Elin Hilderbrand}:

When Mallory Blessing’s son, Link, receives deathbed instructions from his mother to call a number on a slip of paper in her desk drawer, he’s not sure what to expect. But he certainly does not expect Jake McCloud to answer. It’s the late spring of 2020 and Jake’s wife, Ursula DeGournsey, is the frontrunner in the upcoming Presidential election.

There must be a mistake, Link thinks. How do Mallory and Jake know each other?

Flash back to the sweet summer of 1993: Mallory has just inherited a beachfront cottage on Nantucket from her aunt, and she agrees to host her brother’s bachelor party. Cooper’s friend from college, Jake McCloud, attends, and Jake and Mallory form a bond that will persevere — through marriage, children, and Ursula’s stratospheric political rise — until Mallory learns she’s dying.

Based on the classic film Same Time Next Year (which Mallory and Jake watch every summer), 28 Summers explores the agony and romance of a one-weekend-per-year affair and the dramatic ways this relationship complicates and enriches their lives, and the lives of the people they love. 

My Review of 28 Summers {Elin Hilderbrand}:

EVERYONE I know loves this book and I was so curious to see what the hype was all about. Would it be worth the 4 month wait???

WORTH. THE. 4. MONTH. WAIT.

Oh this book…I absolutely DEVOURED it. Started with page 1 on Friday and finished page 414 page on Monday. I wanted to read it and yet wanted to savor it all at the same time. The writing in this book is absolutely brilliant. I couldn’t put it down.

This book takes place over the course of 28 years (and actually a bit more) and it’s such a complicated journey filled with so many characters. Having so many characters is usually a huge pet peeve of mine but it was necessary and so well written in this book! It truly added to the richness of this complicated story.

Each new chapter begins with a small recap of the most popular and newsworthy items and people of that particular year. I. LOVED. THIS. It was an instant flashback to my own life and where my own life was during that time in history. Made me feel so connected to the time frame of this story.

I absolutely loved this book. I have not stopped thinking of these characters since I finished reading.

However…

As much as I LOVED LOVED LOVED this book, I must say 2 things. 1. Infidelity is wrong and I really wish that Jake was’t married although I do understand the dimension it brought to the overall story. 2. I wish this book didn’t have a prologue.

OK, there. I said them (and neither is a spoiler). Other than those 2 details, this book is literary perfection. Moving on…

The movie “Same Time Next Year” is referenced A LOT in this book. For those interested, here is the trailer.  I think the movie actually looks…weird, lol.  Have any of you seen it?

I love Elin Hilderbrand SO MUCH! Have you read the “Winter Street” series? They are wonderful and this is the PERFECT time of year to read them as they take place during the holiday season! I loved them so much and I LOVED that she casually mentioned these beautiful characters in 28 Summers! Did anyone else catch it??? You can read my review of the “Winter Street” series HERE. Another wonderful book by Elin Hilderbrand is THIS BOOK . I read that one years ago but for some reason never reviewed it? I loved it! I have now read 6 of Elin Hilderbrand’s books and have loved them all. I must read more of them ASAP! And…I must visit Nantucket. STAT. The way she describes it throughout each of her books makes it sound absolutely magical! Although at this point in the pandemic, visiting the grocery store feels absolutely magical sooooo….???

Bottom Line:

28 Summers is truly one of the best books I’ve ever read. These characters will stay in my heart for a VERY long time…

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Xo,

Jenny

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Book Review: Playing Nice {JP Delaney}

So this is a perfect example of why sometimes you just need to browse the library shelves in person. I had never heard of JP Delaney’s Playing Nice, knew absolutely nothing about it, randomly saw it on a shelf at the library, read the back cover….and immediately knew I had to read and review this book. The synopsis GRABBED me!

Goodreads Synopsis of Playing Nice {JP Delaney}:

Pete Riley answers the door one morning and lets in a parent’s worst nightmare. On his doorstep is Miles Lambert, a stranger who breaks the devastating news that Pete’s son, Theo, isn’t actually his son–he is the Lamberts’, switched at birth by an understaffed hospital while their real son was sent home with Miles and his wife, Lucy. For Pete, his partner Maddie, and the little boy they’ve been raising for the past two years, life will never be the same again.

The two families, reeling from the shock, take comfort in shared good intentions, eagerly entwining their very different lives in the hope of becoming one unconventional modern family. But a plan to sue the hospital triggers an official investigation that unearths some disturbing questions about the night their children were switched. How much can they trust the other parents–or even each other? What secrets are hidden behind the Lamberts’ glossy front door? Stretched to the breaking point, Pete and Maddie discover they will each stop at nothing to keep their family safe.

They are done playing nice.

My Review of Playing Nice {JP Delaney}:

This book is GREAT. Omg it’s AWESOME.

Short chapters are my favorite and this book is wonderfully filled with 112 of them. Some a few pages in length, many less than 1 page. THE BEST! I wish every book could be written like this. I truly couldn’t put it down!

This story is INTENSE…it’s completely unfathomable to me how something like this could actually happen. It’s such a thought provoking scenario and truly a parent’s absolute worst nightmare. Omg.

Pro Tip: Make sure you have a nice quiet spot where you can devour the last 50ish pages because there is no way you will be able to stop reading at at point. SO. GOOD.

And yet again… I had about a million predictions and absolutely zero of them turned out to be correct. LOVE WHEN THAT HAPPENS!

Bottom Line:

Read this book. It’s fantastic.

HERE is another example of a random book that I found on the library bookshelf that tuned out to be GREAT!

Have you read this book? What unknown books have you stumbled upon which turned out to be awesome? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Xo,

Jenny

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Book Review: You Should See Me In A Crown {Leah Johnson}

I started reading Leah Johnson’s You Should See Me In A Crown while on our most recent trip to Michigan (you can read about our previous trips HERE and HERE). Having heard GREAT things about this book, I was excited to read and review it!

One of the best mornings of our trip was when we had a lazy morning. My husband drove to pick up our favorite breakfast and I slowly sipped coffee, read my book, and cuddled my kids in bed while we waited for him to return. Absolute vacation relaxation perfection.

Village Baker breakfast was ON POINT.

Take me baaaaaaaaack.

Goodreads Synopsis of You Should See Me In A Crown {Leah Johnson}:

Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?

My Review of You Should See Me In A Crown {Leah Johnson}:

Reading in front of the electric fireplace in our cottage. Heaven.

So…I loved this book. I did. There’s not much NOT to love. Liz is such a lovable, wonderful character with a heartbreaking family history. Her journey to live life as her true self is filled with determination, drive, and so much more. I laughed, I cried, I smiled, I loved it. I truly did. BUT…

What I DIDN’T love were all of the overly cliched high school personas. The jock? Check. The mean girl? Check. Plus so many more. While I DO agree that every high school has these types of people, their cliched personas aren’t quite as drawn as this book tells. It was even mentioned IN THE BOOK that when drawing these lines, that the lines aren’t so straight….and yet….so many cliches throughout this entire book completely disputed that statement.

I also wasn’t a big fan of the MULTIPLE hugely dramatic VERY public scenes where Liz found herself smack in the center. One scene like this? Awesome. Two? Ok fine. But SO MANY? Unrealistic.

I love YA books but I don’t love when authors make high schools sound like absolute battlegrounds. And yes, I understand to many that is exactly how high school feels…but…it would be so nice to read a YA book where high school is portrayed in a positive light. I’m VERY fortunate that I absolutely loved my high school experience! I can’t help but feel sad when authors make high schools sound like war zones with everyone out to get everyone else all the time.

And I’ll just say it. I didn’t like the ending.

BUT…

The actual story told was AWESOME. I loved it! It was deep and beautiful and tragic and heartwarming and happy and sad and wonderful.

So….that’s quite the mixed review, huh???

Bottom Line

Would I recommend this book? ALL DAY LONG. It’s a wonderful story filled with love, acceptance, and being true to your authentic self. However, as much as I loved the story…this clearly wasn’t a totally perfect read for me.

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This. Book. Is. AWESOME.

This book has been on my list to read FOREVER. I brought it on our first trip to Michigan, never had the chance to read it, and had to return it to the library once we got home (cue sad music). I was SO excited when I FINALLY was able to re-check it out and start reading so that I could read and review it! And I must say…totally worth the wait. It’s AWESOME.

I. Loved. This. Book.

Goodreads Synopsis of The Wife Stalker {Liv Constantine}:

Breezing into the tony seaside paradise of Westport, Connecticut, gorgeous thirtysomething Piper Reynard sets down roots, opening a rehab and wellness space and joining a local yacht club. When she meets Leo Drakos, a handsome, successful lawyer, the wedding ring on his finger is the only thing she doesn’t like about him. Yet as Piper well knows, no marriage is permanent.

Meanwhile, Joanna has been waiting patiently for Leo, the charismatic man she fell in love with all those years ago, to re-emerge from the severe depression that has engulfed him. Though she’s thankful when Leo returns to his charming, energetic self, paying attention again to Evie and Stelli, the children they both love beyond measure, Joanna is shocked to discover that it’s not her loving support that’s sparked his renewed happiness—it’s something else.

Piper. Leo has fallen head over heels for the flaky, New Age-y newcomer, and unrepentant and resolute, he’s more than willing to leave Joanna behind, along with everything they’ve built. Of course, he assures her, she can still see the children.

Joanna is devastated—and determined to find something, anything, to use against this woman who has stolen her life and her true love. As she digs deeper into Piper’s past, Joanna begins to unearth disturbing secrets . . . but when she confides to her therapist that she fears for the lives of her ex-husband and children, her concerns are dismissed as paranoia. Can she find the proof she needs in time to save them?

My Review of The Wife Stalker {Liv Constantine}:

This book is AWESOME. Actually, let me rephrase: This book is great but the ENDING is awesome.

I had been waiting for months to read this book and it was most definitely worth the wait (isn’t it the worst when a book you have been so excited to read turns out to be awful? Thankfully NOT the case here).

I was ALL IN from page 1 and I felt ALL the emotions while reading. Anger? Check. Sadness? Check. Suspicion? Check. As a mother and a wife reading this book, I was especially invested in seeing how everything was going to play out. I had SO MANY predictions while reading and exactly ZERO of them came true. I love, love, love when that happens.

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that short chapters are my absolute favorite and this book is full of them. The writing was clear, the chapters were short, the story lines were captivating, and the ending was GREAT!

Side note: Did you know that Liv Constantine isn’t an actual person? Liv Constantine is a pen name for 2 sisters who co author their books. Mind. Blown.

Bottom Line:

Read this book. If you are married and a mother, read this book….and then hug your husband and children a little tighter. Omg.

Have you read this book? What did you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Xo,

Jenny

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Book Review: The Loyal Wife {Natalie Barelli}

On our first 2020 trip to Michigan, you might remember that I found the most wonderful used bookstore. I could have spent HOURS in that store! I didn’t have much time that day to browse, but I did have time to find 1 book that I thought sounded great. I had read Natalie Barelli’s The Housekeeper earlier this year (you can read my review HERE) and was happy to find The Loyal Wife sitting on a shelf! **Random fact: My review of The Housekeeper continues to be one of the highest viewed blog posts I’ve ever written and I’m not entirely sure why, lol???** ANYWAY, I was so excited to discover another Natalie Barelli book and to read and review it on the blog.

The cover promises “a gripping psychological thriller with a twist”….Ummm YES please!

Goodreads Synopsis of The Loyal Wife {Natalie Barelli}:

She thought they had the perfect marriage…

Tamra never dreamed she would marry someone like Mike Mitchell: handsome, rich, a wonderful husband… until she finds out that Mike is having an affair.

But Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and Mike Mitchell should have remembered that before he made a fool of her.

Because Tamra knows something about Mike. Something he did. Something evil. And she was prepared to carry the secret to her grave.

Not anymore.

To make matters worse, Mike’s daughter Madison has come to visit for a few days, and Madison doesn’t like Tamra. Well, that’s too bad, because Tamra doesn’t have time to argue. She’s too busy ruining Mike’s life while remaining, on the surface at least, the perfect, loyal wife.

But when Tamra’s plan spirals out of control, she finds that things are not what they seem.

And now, it’s too late. 

My Thoughts on The Loyal Wife {Natalie Barelli}:

Do you remember a few months back when I was trying to figure out The Great WordPress Disaster (aka Block Format)?  It took me weeks to understand it enough to be able to once again write and upload blog posts, it was so frustrating.  Something else that was frustrating during that time was that I was reading LOTS of books and therefore am STILL behind on uploading my reviews to my blog from those few weeks!  Grrrr…..

The Loyal Wife is one of the books that I was reading during that stupid, crazy time. I was so excited to read it!

So here’s the thing. It wasn’t THAT long ago and yet…I can’t really remember anything about this book, this storyline, or these characters. Not great for a book review blogger, huh?!?

I remember thinking that I LIKED this book but I didn’t LOVE this book. I also remember thinking that parts were a bit too predictable.

There are books that I read YEARS ago which have left such an impression on me that I can easily tell you details on characters, storylines, etc. A few examples would be THIS BOOK, THIS BOOK, and THIS BOOK. Clearly The Loyal Wife will not be on that list for me. The storylines and characters clearly weren’t significant enough to stick with me even just a few months later. Eh.

Bottom Line:

I’m happy that I purchased this book from a used bookstore because supporting small businesses is SO important. As for the book itself…eh…clearly not my best purchase 😉

If any local friends would like my copy, I can leave it on my front porch for you! Free to a good home 🙂 First come, first served! Maybe you’ll love it (and will remember it) more than I did?

Xo,

Jenny

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This blog is my favorite hobby and I would so love your support!  Here are ways you can help my blog to GROW:

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Book Review: The Dilemma {B.A. Paris} and Zin Mignon Giveaway Winners (Video)

Have you read Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris? If not…stop reading whatever you are reading and read that book! It was AWESOME. I read it years ago so the details are a bit fuzzy but I do remember that I literally could not stop reading until I found out how it ended. I absolutely loved that book and therefore couldn’t WAIT to get my hands on B.A. Paris’s newest book, The Dilemma. I picked this one of a few weeks ago on my very first trip to the INSIDE of my library during this pandemic. I couldn’t wait to read and review it! ***Giveaway winners for Michael Daswick’s Zin Mignon and The Secret of the Pickled Pigs’ Feet video is at the bottom of this post***

Goodreads Synopsis of The Dilemma {B.A. Paris}:

It’s Livia’s fortieth birthday and tonight she’s having a party, a party she’s been planning for a long time. The only person missing will be her daughter, Marnie.

But Livia has a secret, a secret she’s been keeping from Adam, her husband, until the party is over. Because how can she tell him that although she loves Marnie, she’s glad their daughter won’t be there to celebrate with her?

Adam is determined everything will be just right for Livia and the party is going to be perfect… until he learns something that will leave him facing an unbearable decision.

My Review of The Dilemma {B.A.Paris}:

The 2 main characters just may be my most hated main characters of all time. Livia was completely immature…a child! What grown woman centers herself around her own party the way that she did? And don’t even get me started on Adam. His choices continuously went from stupid to bad to REALLY stupid to REALLY bad throughout the entire book. The marriage between them felt more like a high school relationship than a marriage. 98 percent of this book focuses around the fact that they were afraid to talk to each other? Not to mention the fact that they were awful parents who CLEARLY lacked any type of respect for their own children.

In fact, the entire group of friends in this book felt like a group of high schoolers rather than a group of adults. So much he said/she said, cattiness, gossiping, etc.

Have you ever watched Three’s Company? The famously best part of that show were the times when misunderstandings between characters led to awkward conversations and actions where only the viewer was privy to understanding both sides. This is how I felt about The Dilemma…but…where watching it play out on television was hilarious, reading it in this book was annoying.

So now that I have successfully told you all of the reasons that I really didn’t like this book, allow me to share one tidbit from the other side of the coin:

I. COULDN’T. PUT. IT. DOWN.

That’s right! For all of my complaints, this book sure had me on the edge of my seat and I couldn’t WAIT to see what was going to happen! The writing was BRILLIANT, the chapters were so short (my favorite), and all of my guesses as to how this story would play out were wrong (love when that happens). 

So, there you have it. Hated the characters, hated the story lines, loved the writing, loved the suspense. How’s THAT for a mixed review??

Bottom Line:

NOT as good as Behind Closed Doors. Not even close.

Giveaway Winners Video for Zin Mignon and the Secret of the Pickled Pigs’ Feet {Michael Daswick}:

Congratulations to the winners! Here is a video of the hard copy winners. Michael Daswick will be emailing the winners of the ebooks 🙂

Click the image below to order the book through my Amazon affiliate link. When you order through this link, I receive a tiny commission. Thank you for your support, Xo

This blog is my favorite hobby and I would so love your support!  Here are ways you can help my blog to GROW:

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GIVEAWAY (12 WINNERS)! Zin Mignon and the Secret of the Pickled Pigs’ Feet {Michael Daswick}

When Michael Daswick reached out to tell me about his Zin Mignon book series, I knew this was a book series that my entire family would love! When book #1, Zin Mignon and the Secret of The Pickled Pigs’ Feet, arrived in my mailbox…I couldn’t wait to “dig in”! I’m so excited to host this amazing giveaway today where there will be 12 WINNERS!

Photo credit: Michael Daswick

Our family LOVES watching cooking competitions, especially when they involve children chefs. Food Network’s Kids Baking Championship is our absolute favorite and we have faithfully watched every single season. Over the summer, my daughter had a chance to attend a virtual cooking lesson from Valerie Bertinelli (the host of Kids Baking Championship) and it was so cool! Total once in a lifetime opportunity for her and she loved every single second. If you haven’t watched Kids Baking Championship, it’s such a wonderful show. Our other favorite is Be Our Chef on Disney Plus. Children chefs are amazing!

Best day. Valerie taught my daughter how to make an asparagus frittata!

Synopsis from Goodreads of Zin Mignon and the Secret of The Pickled Pigs’ Feet (Michael Daswick}:

11 year old genius Chef Zin Mignon is in a horrific pickle. He’s been kidnapped from Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris by the mysterious Mustard Monks and spirited away to their ultra-remote mountaintop abbey. In time, he’ll be able to take their daunting Test. If he passes, he may join their secret Order and achieve the culinary success he’s always dreamed of. If he fails….

The tale of Zin Mignon begins at the bottom of a jar of pickled pigs’ feet in his father’s pathetic Brooklyn deli. A secret note sets him on a world-spinning adventure that takes him through the alleys of the homeless to the tables of billionaires, to discover who he really is and the greatness for which he is destined. As he sets the culinary world on fire, a mix of treacherous rivals feasts on the chance to make his dreams go up in smoke.

In the wildly appetizing first book of the Zin Mignon series, with the help of his family and friends, Zin is off to honor the solemn promise he made to his dad and to learn the incredible secret of his family legacy. With humor, amazing exploits and heartfelt compassion, Zin uses food and his kitchen to build a recipe that will lead him to his true identity. Can he cut the mustard, or is it all just pie in the sky?

My Thoughts on Zin Mignon and the Secret of the Pickled Pigs’ Feet {Michael Daswick}:

I absolutely loved this book and read it over the course of just a few days. I was completely engrossed in this story and in these characters.

This book has a bit of everything. A story of hard work, dedication, compassion, and patience? Check. A bit of mystery? Check. Most of all, this book has such beautiful themes… the importance of family, acceptance, having big dreams, and of always treating others with kindness and respect.

Warning #1: This book will make you HUNGRY. The food that Zin creates are nothing short of spectacular, and his ability to create these magnificant dishes from whatever ingredients he has available to him at the time is truly fantastic.

Warning #2: No matter how good of a cook you think you are, you will absolutely 100 percent doubt yourself when you witness the skills of this child chef. Seriously.

Zin Mignon is the type of book series that you can feel good about your child reading. I can’t wait for my daughter to read this! She is going to love the story, the characters, the food, and as a fun bonus she is going to love the celebrity names mentioned throughout! If I were still an elementary school teacher, I would so love to read this book to my class.

Thank you, Michael Daswick, for sharing Zin with me. I can’t wait to read book #2! I’ve got it sitting here on my desk and it looks wonderful 🙂

A Conversation with Michael Daswick, in His Own Words:

What ages would be the ideal readers for your book?

Zin has a wide crossover audience. The ZIN Series goes against publishing norms in that it’s not directed at a certain age group as much as it’s aimed at any reader who loves food and cooking, humor and mystery. Zin has readers who are eight years old, as well as many moms, dads and grammas who cook with their kids, or want to pass along the joys of food to their families. We have teachers reading these books to their third grade classroom. The books are crammed with pop culture, little jokes and references that only adults will ‘get’; but there’s also plot and many areas that junior readers will love. There’s something for everyone.

How did you create the idea for your book?

Many people know this story. Our daughter Sidney has special needs and uses a wheelchair. Over the years, she loved watching Emeril, Giada, and all the Food Network shows. That love for food led her to our own kitchen where she loves ‘helping’ me cook, directing traffic and making suggestions on her communication device. I’ve written stuff my entire life and one night we were all watching Food Network with Sid when it hit me: With all this interest in Food on TV, Cooking Channel, MasterChef, Chef’s Table and all that, how come there’s never been fictional Series about a 13 year genius chef? The food phenomenon is so big, how come it hasn’t spread to fiction? Well, now it has.

What audience would be most interested in your book?

Food fans, kids who cook, parents and grandparents who cook (or want to cook) with their kids. Readers who watch cooking on TV. ALSO, the books are just solid humor-filled mysteries as well. Anyone who wants a good, well-written story.

Where can your book be purchased?

Amazon, Apple, Barnes n Noble, Scrib’d, Kobo, and others. All the platforms. 

Use 3 adjectives to describe your book:

Original; Funny; Loaded with Humanity. Unexpected. 

Any additional information that you would like to provide about you or your book:


While people might think a ‘food-centric’ topic is light-hearted, these are sophisticated, detailed, very well written novels with great characters who inspire and bring out the best in each other. Family is crucial throughout ZIN. I won both of Columbia’s prestigious literary awards and take the writing business very seriously. 

***GIVEAWAY DETAILS***

Would you like to win a copy of the first book in the series? I have 12 copies (yes 12!) of Zin Mignon and the Secret of the Pickled Pigs’ Feet to give away!!!

There are 2 different ways to enter this giveaway:

  • If you would like to enter to win an ebook: Click HERE and enter your email address. EVERYONE who does this will automatically receive the first 3 chapters for FREE. From those who enter, 10 of you will randomly be chosen to receive the complete ebook sent straight to your inbox! **This option is open to US as well as international readers**
  • If you would like to enter to receive a hard copy: Leave a comment below (about anything)! I will randomly choose 2 people who will receive a signed hard copy. You must comment below to be eligible for the giveaway and you must comment here on this blog post (not on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). **This option is open to US readers only**

Both giveaway options will close tomorrow (10/20/20) at 6:00 pm CDT and all winners will be randomly chosen and announced here on my blog on Wednesday (10/21/20).

Make sure you check the blog on Wednesday to see if you’ve won (you will have 48 hours from the time I post the winners to email me your mailing address if you are receiving a hard copy.  If I don’t hear from you within 48 hours, I will pick a new winner).

Good luck!

This blog is my favorite hobby and I would so love your support!  Here are ways you can help my blog to GROW:

*Please share this page with your book and blog loving friends!*

*Subscribe with your email address to my blog (scroll all the way to the bottom of this page on mobile devices OR check the top right of this screen to enter your email address)*

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The ultimate list of my top book suggestions can be found HERE

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Book Review: If I Was Your Girl {Meredith Russo}

My cousin texted me asking if I had yet read If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo because she LOVED it (side note…follow my cousin on Instagram HERE! She’s beautiful and wonderful and awesome). After reading the book synopsis, I immediately went to put it on hold at my library and was pleasantly surprised that they had a copy in stock! Perfect.

Goodreads Synopsis of If I Was Your Girl {Meredith Russo}:

Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret, and she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself, including her past. But Amanda’s terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that at her old school, she used to be Andrew. Will the truth cost Amanda her new life, and her new love?

My Review of If I Was Your Girl {Meredith Russo}:

I absolutely love the plot idea of this YA book. Such an important topic and as I’ve mentioned before, I’m automatically a fan of ANY book which brings awareness to important topics.

(Throwback to the beautiful weather when I was reading this book a few weeks ago. Today it’s cold, raining, and I had the heat running in my car.)

However, as much as I loved the IDEA of this book, I didn’t love it’s execution…

This story goes back and forth between the present and the past which I normally love but this time it just made the story feel so disjointed. I understand that it wasn’t supposed to follow a sequential order but it was a bit too “bouncy” for me. Present day to 11 years ago to 3 years ago to 5 years ago, etc.

I also wish there was more character development. Other than Grant, I felt that each character was given such a small amount of any kind of development and as a result I kept interchanging them as I was reading (especially Amanda’s friends).

Without giving away spoilers, I will say that there was one MAJOR story line that I completely disagreed with throughout the entire book which clouded my thoughts on just about everything else…??

Random positive side note: This is one of the only books where I actually appreciated having the photo of a real person on the cover! I usually HATE when books have that as my imagination NEVER matches the photo on the front. This time, however, I appreciated having the beautiful picture on the cover as it gave me reference as to how Amanda looked. I think this gorgeous model was the perfect representation. I also appreciated how she was given a shout out in the author’s note at the end!

Bottom Line:

Loved the story, loved the beautiful cover, didn’t love the writing.

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

Xo,

Jenny

Click the image below to order the book through my Amazon affiliate link. When you order through this link, I receive a tiny commission. Thank you for your support, Xo

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

This blog is my favorite hobby and I would so love your support!  Here are ways you can help my blog to GROW:

*Please share this page with your book and blog loving friends!*

*Please share this page with your book and blog loving friends!*

*Subscribe with your email address to my blog (scroll all the way to the bottom of this page on mobile devices OR check the top right of this screen to enter your email address)*

*If you already have a blog, please “follow” mine*

*”Like” my Facebook page (and please comment on, “like”, and share my posts)*

*Follow me on Instagram*

*Follow me on Twitter*

*Subscribe to my YouTube channel*

*Clicking and buying products through my Amazon Affiliate links.  The cost to you is exactly the same and I receive a tiny commission off of your purchases.*

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The ultimate list of my top book suggestions can be found HERE

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