Read One, Skip One: Days of Awe and Kitchens of the Great Midwest

These two books were mirror images of each other for me. One started out flat, but quickly turned things around while the other initially wowed, but ended up falling flat. 

Days of Awe, Lauren FoxDays of Awe by Lauren Fox
Fiction (Released August 4, 2015)
272 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Middle school teacher Isabel (Iz) Moore tries to recover after her life falls apart in the span of a year.

My Thoughts: I have to admit, Days of Awe did not initially grab me (possibly a bit of a letdown from Bull Mountain?). But Fox kept dropping tiny hints that the situation was more complicated than it appeared at first glance, which kept me reading. Then, Fox’s snarky writing started really flowing and I was all in! I ended up loving Iz’s voice and offbeat, salty take on life.

On a school field trip:

I climbed down the steps and scanned the crowd, beginning the first of the endless head counts we would tick off that weekend. You had to look at these events as prison outings, as chain gangs without the comforting security of the leg irons.

And, Fox’s portrayal of marriage, separation, and loss was honest and avoided going over-the-top. This book is a bit subtle and not much happens for stretches of time, but the writing and darker undertones made it a winner for me. It’s going on my 2015 Summer Reading List.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest, J. Ryan StradalKitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal
Fiction (Released July 28, 2015)
312 Pages
Bottom Line: Skip it.
Affiliate Link: Amazon

Plot Summary: The story of the rise of Eva Thorvald, a Midwestern girl with a spectacular palate who becomes the force behind The Dinner, a pop-up supper club that is the hardest reservation in the world to secure.

My Thoughts: As soon as I read the first few pages of this debut, I was sure I was going to love it. The writing had a self-deprecatingly humorous tone that made me chuckle and was peppered with delightful food anecdotes (but, Stradal didn’t beat you over the head with the food). Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be. Almost halfway through, I started to get bored and realized that the Eva-centric story that I loved so much at the beginning wasn’t the focus anymore. The story is told from numerous family members’, friends’, and passing acquaintances’ perspectives and Eva is virtually missing from large chunks of the book. The seemingly random tangents do come together at the end, but I was left feeling unfulfilled since I didn’t get to experience the nitty gritty of Eva’s rise to the top of the culinary world. 

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  1. Carmen wrote:

    I’m glad you liked Days of Awe; isn’t that the one in which someone dies in the opening scenes? I liked the quote; it’s snarky alright. Too bad the other wasn’t meant to be. The premise sounded promising.

    Posted 8.13.15 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      Yes, that’s the one. It’s a book about loss for sure, but it’s handled in a really humorous way, so it doesn’t feel overly depressing.

      Posted 8.13.15 Reply
  2. Interesting! I feel like I’m heard more good than bad re: Kitchens… It was never one at the top of my list, but I’ll theoretically get to it at some point.

    I would like to go back and read Lauren Fox’s other books, but was pretty shocked to see their lowwwww (<3) ratings on goodreads. Have you read anything else by her?

    Posted 8.13.15 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      I’ve definitely heard more good than bad on Kitchens. I was kind of surprised at how I felt.

      This was my first Lauren Fox and I just checked out her other books – wow! Sub-3 is pretty low…although I’ve learned to throw the average ratings out the window since realizing that so many of my favorite books have 3.something avg ratings on there. It also looks like she wrote a romance series? Interesting…

      Posted 8.13.15 Reply
  3. I’m so glad you enjoyed Days of Awe (because I loved it, too!), and it’s real bummer about Kitchens of the Midwest; I’m glad I didn’t waste my time on that one. I don’t like it when the story line/focus change later in a novel, unless it’s maybe a suspense/thriller; it’s too distracting and usually does not turn out well. Thanks so much for the reviews!

    Posted 8.13.15 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      I think we like the same brand of snark (Days and Summerlong)?! Ha! I don’t mind if the storyline changes and I still like it, but I was so enjoying the beginning with Eva as the focus and these tangents just made me want to get back to her!

      Posted 8.13.15 Reply
  4. Shaina wrote:

    All of the sad face emoji over your reaction to Kitchens. I’ve heard such good things thus far!

    I’m glad that Days of Awe ended up picking up for you, though.

    Posted 8.13.15 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      I know…I’ve only heard good things about it. And, I really thought it would work for me for the first third or so. I’m kind of sad it didn’t work for me.

      Posted 8.13.15 Reply
  5. I just picked up Days of Awe from the library today, so this makes me even more excited about it. I’ve gone back and forth on Kitchens, but I’m holding back for now…sorry it was a miss for you!

    Posted 8.13.15 Reply
  6. Days of Awe sounds great. I looooove some snarky writing! 😉

    Posted 8.13.15 Reply
  7. Ugh! I have a digital ARC that I completely forgot about of Kitchens and now not as eager to read it.

    Posted 8.14.15 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      I’d still give it a try because I’ve heard nothing but good things about it from others, so it may just be me 🙂

      Posted 8.14.15 Reply
  8. Catherine wrote:

    I just finished Days of Awe and you’re right about Isabel’s voice. Her description of Teacher’s Convention was hilarious and confirmation of what we all think goes on during those “work” conferences.

    Posted 8.14.15 Reply
  9. I’m glad I passed on Kitchen’s Of the Great Midwest! I sometimes like stories told from multiple perspectives, but it doesn’t sound like it worked well here.

    Posted 8.19.15 Reply

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