General Fiction (Adult)

The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister

The Scent KeeperThe Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Out May 21st! Pre-order from Amazon here!

Where are all my Crawdad lovers? Chances are if you were a fan of the smash hit Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, you are going to love The Scent Keeper by Eric Bauermeister!

It’s funny because as I was reading the book, I started making the connection, and I was curious if anybody else felt the same. Until I went onto Goodreads and saw so many reviews from readers who drew the same conclusion. The main character, Emmeline, had so many similarities to Kya from Where the Crawdads Sing and I loved it! I would also mention that there were pieces of the story that reminded me of Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone. As Hannah is my favorite author, I’d say that’s quite the compliment.

The Scent Keeper starts with Emmeline and her father, living on a remote island, living off the land, foraging for food (except for the times her father tells her mermaids have dropped off supplies), and surrounded by hundreds of glass bottles. Within the glass bottles? Scent papers that hold precious smells that invoke memories of Emmeline’s past. What follows is Emmeline’s journey from the island, the only place she has ever called home, into the modern world.

This is one of those books where I can’t give a synopsis that is very complete because it will ruin the fun. Just trust me that the story is magnificent.

My favorite part of the book was Emmeline’s warped view of the world and her subsequent enlightenment. The way Erica Bauermeister wove this tale and the way Emmeline’s character evolved as the pages advanced was nothing short of extraordinary.

If I had one complaint it would be that the ending felt somewhat abrupt. It was almost as if it was missing a last chapter or could have benefited from an epilogue, although I can appreciate that the author may have wanted to end on a thought-provoking note. That being said, although the ending was sudden, it didn’t take away from the magnificence of the preceding 300+ pages so I would still give it 5 stars overall.

Prepare to be transported to another time and place. Prepare to have the scents Bauermeister describes jump off the pages and ignite memories of your own past. Prepare to fall in love with The Scent Keeper.

Highly recommended for those who enjoyed Where the Crawdads Sing and The Great Alone.

Be sure to stop by on Saturday, May 18th for my Author Q&A with author Erica Bauermeister where she’ll answer some questions for you about her experience writing the book.

-I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, Erica Bauermeister, and St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to review.-

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Audiobook Review, General Fiction (Adult), Reese Witherspoon's Book Club

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely FineEleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yet another Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick!

Eleanor Oliphant lives a mundane life. Her activities are scheduled. Her food choices are consistent and predictable. She is perfectly put together and proper. Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine. Until she’s not….

That’s it. That’s all the description I can provide without giving away key pieces of the story.

Let me start off by saying that the first half of this book was incredibly boring. It seemed to be done on purpose to illustrate the unremarkable and routine nature of Eleanor Oliphant’s life. And while I appreciate that strategy conceptually, I’ve got to be honest. I probably would not have finishing this book if it hadn’t been a pick from Reese Witherspoon. I likely would have closed the front cover and walked away.

Now before you throw stones at me…. I did finish the book and the second half was extraordinarily better than the first half. The back end of the narrative is where we see everything unravel, getting into the meat of the story, providing some clarity into Eleanor Oliphant’s actions, and seeing her come to terms with events in her life that have led her to where she is today.

Without giving too much away, there is a large focus placed on mental health in this book. And I think that overall it was successful in painting a picture of how crippling and life altering some mental health disorders can be without proper treatment.

From an audiobook perspective, I thought the narrator was spot on in giving Eleanor Oliphant a voice that portrayed her prim and proper nature and I could envision her personality perfectly. I would recommend giving this one a listen, although I’m sure it would be just as good in print.

At the end of the day, I’m glad that I powered through. There were moments when I didn’t think that I would be able to make it, but the conclusion is worth trudging through the slow beginning.

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Audiobook Review, General Fiction (Adult), Romance

The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves

The Girl He Used to KnowThe Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I’ve seen this cover everywhere in the last 4 to 6 months with people raving about the story. I cannot even tell you how many times I entered the Goodreads giveaways for this book (and never won… haha!). So I finally gave up and requested the audiobook from the library.

This was such a fun, quirky, and beautiful love story. Tracey Garvis Graves tells the story of Annika (rhymes with Monica), a socially awkward college student who meets a boy named Jonathan in chess club. Jonathan opens her up to a world she never knew… of love… of intrigue… of acceptance. But with love comes tragedy that will rip the young lovers apart, forcing them down separate paths of independence. But fate will reunite them 10 years later and send them on a journey of rediscovery.

I thought this book was so real. Both Annika and Jonathan were perfectly developed. I could feel Annika’s awkwardness… her struggle to get by in social situations… her longing to fit in.

The beginning for me was somewhat basic. It was a basic love story. Boy meets girl. Girl is complicated. Boy and girl fall in love and boy teaches girl new things. It wasn’t anything earth shattering with the exception of Annika’s personality quirks. But the second half of the book kind of blew me away. While I saw pieces of the ending coming, the author had me on the edge of my seat waiting to see what happened next. I could feel the tension and angst and pain. I am not going to give away any secrets here because I think the end is the best part of the book and it is worth discovering on your own. Just take my word for it.

This one reminded me a lot of The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo which was a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick. If you enjoyed The Light We Lost, I would highly recommend giving this one a try. It will not disappoint.

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Audiobook Review, General Fiction (Adult), Mystery

Winter in Paradise (Paradise #1) by Elin Hilderbrand

Winter in Paradise (Paradise #1)Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh how I adore Elin Hilderbrand! If you’re looking for an author who nails the “beach read” category, this is your girl. Her covers always draw me in with their brightness, sunshine, and touch of mystery. They never show faces and leave me wondering who the people are on these beaches and what they’re doing there.

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Winter in Paradise was one of my selections from Book of the Month that I just got around to reading. I was pleasantly surprised by the change of location for Hilderbrand. Typically her stories are set in Nantucket, but the Paradise series is set in the U.S. Virgin Islands which was a nice change of scenery but still achieved Hilderbrand’s beachy signature feel.

This book has a lot going on. But at its core, it is about the death of a man and woman in a helicopter crash. After the crash, the man’s wife is notified of her husband’s death only to find out that he was living a double life in the U.S. Virgin Islands. His wife and children come down to identify his body and end up unearthing facts about their husband/father’s secret life. Meanwhile, the female victim’s friend is devastated by the news of her friend’s demise and finds herself shocked as pieces of her friend’s secret life are revealed. The family and friends of these two secret lovers will find their lives intertwined in a way they never imagined.

I loved the complexity of this story. There were a lot of relationship dynamics that gave the book a lot of depth. Mother/son. Father/son. Brother/brother. Husband/wife. Friend/friend. Just a lot of interesting character interaction and development. Since this book is the first in a series, I did feel like there was a lot of time spent building character relationships that will hopefully be expounded on in future books.

This is a great book to read poolside this summer or to save for the winter when you’re feeling tired of the snow and need to mentally escape to the beachy sands of the Caribbean. Bravo to Elin Hilderbrand. I can’t wait for the second book, What Happens in Paradise, which will be out later this year!

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General Fiction (Adult)

Go On, Girl by Hilary Grossman

Go On, GirlGo On, Girl by Hilary Grossman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First off, thank you to Hilary Grossman for reaching out to request an honest review of this book on my blog, Home Sweet Houser! If you haven’t already, check out her author page on Facebook for updates on all her books!

Go On, Girl is a book that most of us can relate to. It is the story of a mother named Sydney trying to support her young daughter in the best way she knows how. She works full time. She takes care of her household. And she has recently found herself in the role of scribe for the school’s PTA. Okay… maybe she was semi-blackmailed into that last one by the queen of the PTA Moms, Jackie. And when her and her husband get an offer to sell their house they can’t refuse, how will she break the news to Jackie? How will her daughter take the news of the move?

Hilary Grossman did such a great job creating characters that were both likable and despicable at the same time (and that’s a compliment). She struck such a nice balance that the characters felt extremely realistic. I think we all can relate to having both good and bad qualities. I found Jackie horrendously egotistical and pompous in the beginning of the book, but she ending up displaying really redeeming qualities of loyalty and friendship. Sydney in my opinion had no backbone and let people push her around and walk all over her which was infuriating, but she eventually found self respect and peace.

This book flew by in a breeze. At under 300 pages, it is a super fast read that I devoured overnight. And the conversational writing style makes reading very easy. And I really like the design of the cover. There’s something “suburban chic” about it that I love.

My biggest disappointment was that at times I felt like the story was too “surface level.” I felt like I would have liked to have gone deeper with the stories of the other PTA moms, with the relationship with Kara and the dynamic with Andrew. We got the tip of the iceberg with some of these character and I wanted more.

There were two quotes that really stuck out to me that I feel are pertinent to share in this review:

“I learned first impressions weren’t always accurate, and often it took a lot of time and effort to understand a person.”

“I’d spent so much of the past seven years living my life in a blur, trying to cram as much as humanly possible into a day. I’d missed out on so much in the process, like having dear girlfriends. It wasn’t until you knew something was about to end that you realized how fortunate you were to have had it in the first place.”

Overall, I would recommend this one to anybody looking for a lighthearted and quick read with dashes of humor.

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