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The Secret Ingredient Blog Tour | Review

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Welcome to the blog tour for THE SECRET INGREDIENT by STEWART LEWIS!

A huge thanks to Random House for organizing this tour and for having me be a part of it! I’m helping kick off the blog tour with my review for THE SECRET INGREDIENT! The book releases on June 11th, 2013 and I’m really glad that Random House approached me to be a part of this blog tour. I hadn’t heard of THE SECRET INGREDIENT before and I was delighted to find that it combines a delightful mix of contemporary romance, and dash of mystery, and some culinary recipes that made my mouth water!

The Secret Ingredient Blog Tour | ReviewTitle: The Secret Ingredient by Stewart Lewis
Publishing Info: June 11, 2013 by Random House Publishing Group
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: May 19, 2013

    Olivia doesn’t believe in psychics. But the summer before her senior year of high school, she meets one in an elevator.
   This summer will be pivotal, the psychic warns. Please remember—all your choices are connected.
   Olivia loves her life in Silverlake, Los Angeles, but lately, something’s been missing. And after getting this strange advice, her world begins to change. A new job leads Olivia to a gorgeous, mysterious boy named Theo. And as Olivia cooks the recipes from a vintage cookbook she stumbles upon, she begins to wonder if the mother she’s never known might be the secret ingredient she’s been lacking. 
   But sometimes the things we search for are the things we’ve had all along.

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I’m really glad that I got to be a part of this blog tour because I hadn’t heard of THE SECRET INGREDIENT before and I devoured it (okay, pun kind of intended) in one afternoon. With a breezy California setting, I found THE SECRET INGREDIENT to be a perfect mixture of romance, mystery, and culinary expertise for a summer day. Olivia and her family run into some hardships over the summer that is chronicled in this book, but despite the hard times, I still found the book to have a lightness to it that carried me through the whole book and got me lost in Olivia’s story.

One of the main points of THE SECRET INGREDIENT is Olivia’s quest to find out about her birth mother. She was adopted and lives with her two fathers in Los Angeles and despite being teased when she was younger, she couldn’t be happier in her home with such loving parents. The real sort of mystery begins when Olivia has a nagging desire to find out who her birth mother really was and after digging up documents, she decides to finally take that leap and possibly even make contact with her… Providing she’s still alive or in the general area. I really liked this part of the storyline — I think it’s always interesting to see where the author takes an idea like this. Is Olivia’s mother a good person? Is she in prison? Did she start a new family? Is she even alive? That little spark just had me questioning every little thing until the very end!

Another huge part of the book is Olivia’s knack and passion for cooking (hence the title). When she finds an old cookbook with numerous notations and personal thoughts written in the margins from the previous owner, a whole back story begins to unravel in her head and with each recipe she tries from the cookbook, a new tale unfolds. Very Half-Blood Prince, no? 🙂 I kind of loved it! This story becomes Olivia’s other obsession over the summer, attempting all of the recipes that the previous owner had. I liked the second story line that sort of unravels here piece by piece and that these people and events that are being recorded in the cookbook are real people somewhere that Olivia may or may not be able to meet in real life, should she choose to go out and find them. The only thing I didn’t like was that Olivia jumped to her own conclusions about where the story really went because Rose (the previous cookbook owner) was very vague on many things. Olivia just assumes that “Maybe this is what happened” and then takes her own assumptions for the truth. I think I just wanted a bit more mystery there — me being a mystery person and all — and maybe a few more guesses and hypotheses instead of just assuming one story line was true. Either way, it was definitely an interesting piece to the story!!

Another thing I really enjoyed was the family dynamic of this book. I loved both of Olivia’s dads and how different they were, with Bell as the restaurant owner who seems to be the backbone of the family and Enrique as more of an artistic sort of person having formerly been part of the Mexico City Ballet. I really loved their guidance and advice for Olivia and just the way they all interacted. I could totally tell how much love was in their family and even through the hard times, they still all manage to pull it together and were so supportive of each other. Olivia also has a brother who doesn’t live at home, but she still pops out every once in a while to meet up with him. Both Olivia and her brother work their hardest over this summer to help out their fathers’ struggling business and it was just so touching to see their dedication to the family! Their family seemed so realistic and they all just felt so genuine. It was one of my favorite aspects of this book!

And of course there’s a romance! How could I forget about that!! After up and leaving with no word the previous year, Olivia’s first real crush is back in town. Theo is back after abandoning Olivia on the night of their first date and things start to heat up again… But I was always left with that idea of “Can we trust him?” He left without a word so I was very hesitant to see him back in Olivia’s life, but I definitely started seeing his appeal and he had just some of the sweetest moments with her! Theo was a bit quirky in a good way and I never knew what to expect from him. I loved the spontaneity… As long as it didn’t involve him leaving again!

THE SECRET INGREDIENT has its fair share of serious topics and hard times, but it isn’t one to bog you down — I started and finished in one afternoon and really enjoyed every high and low of the book! I was swept away by this book and just let myself get lost in Olivia’s story.

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Olivia: I loved her passion for cooking, first off. I love cooking, but I don’t have the patience for it, but she truly has a gift and loves seeing people’s reactions when they taste a culinary masterpiece! She was also a very mature character so that was really nice to see. I felt like she’s gone through a lot and with each issue in this book (finding her birth mother, a romance, her fathers’ struggling business, working), she matures just a little bit more.
Theo: Theo was cute. To be honest, I almost forgot there was a romance in this book because I was so engrossed in everything else, but really. How could I forget about the romance!? It was Olivia’s first real relationship and it was so cute to see her all excited over Theo. He had some awesome spontaneity and adorable date ideas. 

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