Book Review #6: Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander

Random Books and Coffee Reviews: Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander

 

Welcome to the latest installment of Random Books (and Coffee) Reviews.  Sorry for time gap between reviews, personal issues and having to change the book to review at the last minute due to procrastination/boredom got in the way.  But I’m back, and today I’ve got a new addition to my Book Cave I’m eager to share with my fellow Book Creatures.

Today’s book is Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander, a small-town mystery centered around murder and baking, so have food nearby or else the urge to bake will be upon you, expanding your waistline and coating your flesh in flour.  This is the first book in a series which I intend to add to my ever growing TBR pile, and not just because I want to make some of the food mentioned in this one.

The story is told in first person POV by Juliet Capshaw, a cruise ship chef who has returned to the Shakespearian tourist town Ashland, Oregon to work at the family bakery with her mother after leaving the cruise ship and her husband, in the hopes of figuring out what she should do with her life.  There have been few changes since she left, including the arrival of Nancy, the snobbish, cruel, and sadistic member of the theatre board who failed to make any friends since she arrived.  When she’s murdered inside the bakery, the suspect list is staggering.  It doesn’t take long for the murder to complicate things in Ashland, not to mention how everyone in town seems to be hiding something, including Juliet’s mother.  Discovering the killer leaves both the reader and Juliet suspecting everyone until the big reveal, suspense and sweets abound.  With the little addition of romantic complications sprinkled around the fluffy sweetness that is the story, this is a great book to read curled up with a warm blanket and spice-scented candles.

Juliet is a likable protagonist with understandable and relatable issues while still being an interesting and active main character.  The reader finds sympathy with her as she debates where she wants her life to go, feels conflicted with her feelings toward her husband and the fresh sting of his betrayal, and wanting to help the investigation and everyone who is struggling from the aftereffects of the murder.

As the story is told from Juliet’s perspective, the reader gets to know the town based on her reintroduction to familiar faces.  Her mother is as sweet as snickerdoodle, caring and considerate to every customer, guiding Juliet through her reintroduction to working in the bakery.  Juliet’s high school sweetheart is now a deputy working on the murder investigation, yet he maintains a friendly connection to her, not to mention the residual feelings that may still linger on both sides.  He wants Juliet to stay out of solving the murder on her own, but Juliet dives into the case, if only to help the bakery.  The suspect list, however, leaves many questions and very few answers from the start.  The entire theatre crew has a motive thanks to Nancy’s desire to change the way things work, resulting in many toes being stepped on thanks to her craving for power.  Nancy’s boyfriend is not much better than her, being a vain and greedy business owner wanting to buy out the homestyle family bakery to turn it into a commercial branch for his business, which includes cheap and lackluster food.  There’s a teenage girl who was recently fired by an intoxicated Nancy in a public and humiliation manner, her nervous actions failing to make her seem innocent.  All these suspects have Juliet on edge while trying to keep her life afloat.

It’s hard to pick what was my favorite part of the novel, but if I had to choose it would be the recipes at the back of the book.  Thanks to the hunger-inducing descriptions of baked goods and tasty treats, the recipes are an invaluable source of new food to try and a jumping point for experimentation.  If the recipes didn’t exist, then the skilled words weaved by an experienced cook and writer, which the author thankfully is, will leave readers analyzing the words to make the food for themselves, or scouring the internet for the closest recipe they can find.  As this is the first book in a series the ending is open enough for a sequel but contained enough for a satisfying conclusion.

As any Book Dragon will tell you, not every book is right for every reader.  As the small town is so famously known for the Shakespeare plays, I lost count of the references to the bard and his work.  While many won’t mind these quotes, it can oversaturate the wrong readers quota of Old English literature for the year.  Most of the chapters are short, which is fine for food breaks and unwanted pulls back into reality, but at times it can get more than a little irritating.  As with any mystery novel where the protagonist is not a member of law enforcement, there will be readers who are against the idea of Juliet working to solve the murder since she is a civilian, especially when she is working on her own.

The short chapters and the reveal were the only issues that I could find with the novel, but for those looking on how to improve their own writing and are using this book for inspiration, I’ll offer some advice.  While the short chapters are fine at times, for those chapters that feel cut off too soon can be lengthened by adding in details such as memories, what if thoughts, or other aspects that can add more to the tale.  Also, combining chapters or slowing down the pacing of said chapters to keep the reading from being too fast or to keep the book from feeling too short.  While the reveal of the murderer was good in my opinion, it felt like the killer came out of nowhere.  Perhaps it’s because I wasn’t paying attention to the clues or not, having non-obvious clues to the murderer’s identity could have been helpful, such as earlier mentions of the true motive, or the hints of suspicion planted by the killer towards other people and vice versa.  Still, I enjoyed the book.

To tie everything up, this book is worth reading for those looking for a cozy read.  I’ll admit that reading this alleviated the irritation at the slow grog that was the original book set up for review, but now I best work on choosing the next book.  The growing number of unread books has begun to collect dust but choosing which to review is a bit of a problem.  So, for those who want to have some say for the next review, at the end of the post is a vague idea of what I’m thinking about for next time.  Looking forward to hearing your suggestions.

 

Rating: 4 out of 5 coffee cups

Recommended Readers: lovers of cooking and baking, mystery lovers, small town tales lovers, those looking for a series to binge, those looking for food inspiration

Coffee Recommendations: Medium roast, paired with sweets, preferably like the ones in the book, rich, butterscotch or salted caramel, chocolate, café blend, pecan, Mexican Mocha, espresso, caramel macchiato, baking spice

 

List of books to review next

  • Current read,
  • Book that induces rage
  • YA novels
  • Graphic novels
  • Fantasy books
  • Collection of awesome women with artwork and research
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Book Review: The Lady and The Bandit

Book Review #5: The Lady and The Bandit by Adelina Rodriguez

Welcome to the latest Random Books and Coffee Review.  Today I’ll be reviewing The Lady and the Bandit by Adelina Rodriguez.  This is going to be a special review as I am a fan of the author’s artwork and this is her first novel.  I’m looking forward to her next endeavor in the realms of literature, but until then her artwork will have to sate my hunger for her (sometimes twisted) comedy.

The tale is set in Spain during the 1800’s, where our female lead, Pepita Worthington, is forced to wed a rich, cringey old man thanks to her shrew of an aunt, a haunting yet hilarious figure sure to instill fits of laughter just as well as shivers crawling up one’s spine.  Pepita herself wants a marriage based on love and devises ways to get out of the marriage during the journey to the chapel dressed in an abomination of a wedding dress.  Thanks to a jinx brought on by religious things such as being in a church, Pepita flees the wedding, but ends up lost, injured, and in the path of a bandit that puts romance novel covers to shame.  Said bandit, Rafael, has his own problems to deal with in the form of evading death at the hands of an old nemesis, The Mouthcutter.  The pair must deal with raging passion for each other and conflicting personalities as well as mutual stubbornness while The Mouthcutter chases after them, as the to-be husband and aunt are willing to drag Pepita down the aisle at any cost.

The story is a hilarious satire of historic bodice-ripping tales but with an adorkable, feels-filled romance that readers will adore and ship like crazy.  Several times I was out of breath from laughing so hard, unable to put the book down for very long.  Outside forces conspire to bring the pair closer as well as create chaos in the lives of everyone involved, specifically a festival that sets off Pepita’s jinx.  As a precaution, I should warn you that the book is filled with naughty scenes that should not be experienced in a public space for your emotional safety, lest you be plagued with confused stares once the scenes reveal themselves and your book or device is set ablaze as a result.  I won’t spoil the ending, but karma is delivered in wonderful fashion by the last page.

The characters in this historical romp only partially adhere to the common tropes, the rest of their personality being more human and at times relatable.  Our glorious “lady” Pepita is described as a “curvy beauty,” which is a plus in my book of positive character traits.  She’s a stubborn gal, determined to avoid marriage and get back home to England at any cost, all while holding an adoration for dirty books and dreams of true love.  Rafael, known as The Curly, probably due to his glorious hair, is a smuggler trying to survive one day at a time thanks to the resurrection of his thought-dead nemesis.  His noble character is shown in his love for his sister and her family, who he wishes to protect at all costs, resulting in limited visits with them.  His comrades are treated as brothers, his allies with respect, and his enemies as vermin.  I won’t spoil the tortures of his past, but the brooding is earned, yet it doesn’t overpower his other virtues.  Combined, the couple duel with words, their burning passion growing with each passing day, misunderstandings and awkwardness bringing up the fully feels and cries of “Kiss already!” from the reader.  The other characters are wonderfully entertaining, from the comedic like the Three Franciscos (Paco, Cisco, and my personal favorite Francisco), the ruthless sadism of The Mouthcutter, the awkwardness of the ginger muffin that is the priest dealing with feuding churches, any of which are sure to be a favorite of any reader.

As with any book, there are things about this one that will limit readership.  There are moments when modern language are used, but that is a part of the comedy, so historic fiction purist might not enjoy these moments.  There’s a chance that there will be readers that won’t at first understand that this is a comedy as well as a satire, in which case they will be frustrated with certain events, dialogue, and the overall tone of the novel.  As stated before, there are some steamy scenes, so certain readers might not appreciate the, ahem, details.

For me there was only one issue that I had while reading.  Due to the book being translated from Spanish, there are a handful of typos.  Those can be fixed in later versions, as the book is, as far as I know, self-published.

To conclude our review, this is a guaranteed recommended read for its amusing banter, adrenaline-fueled hijinks, heated romance, and side-killing comedy.  Hopefully there can be an audiobook developed, and read by someone with an attractive Spanish accent.  A specific phrase on page 303, at least of my paperback, needs to be on a shirt, or a mug, basically anything I can see or wear in my Book Cave.  I’m certain that there will be no shortage of fun to be had by new readers, and no lack of interest for the next creation by this wonderful author.

 

Rating: 5 coffee cups out of 5

Recommended for: Anyone who needs a good laugh, historic romance lovers looking for some humor, devourers of hilarious satire, romance-addicts

Coffee Recommended for Reading: Dulce de leche flavored, a dark/medium roast, cinnamon flavoring or added in, a coffee with a flowery and/or fruity scent/flavor, something with hints of wine, rich, a little bold, whatever takes you to Spain

Interested in this book? Get it here.

For anyone who wants to participate in choosing my next review, here’s a photo of some books I’ve recently acquired for my Book Cave (sorry about the surroundings), as well as some books I’ve had for a while and one in particular that I haven’t been able to finish due to…reasons.  If you want to torture me, you can choose that book.  Feedback and critiques are appreciated.

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Working on next review, curious about what you want me to review after.

Hello readers, humans, and fellow book dragons.  As the title suggests, I’m working on my next review and I’m curious about what book you want me to review after I post the next one.  I have a list of books I’ve been thinking of reading so I’ll post them here.  If you have a specific recommendation for a future review then I’d like to hear it.

Here’s the list so far:

  • Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter
  • Mentor: a Memoir by Tom Grimes
  • Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
  • 3 Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
  • Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen
  • Mercedes Lakey novels that I have in my TBR pile

Thank you for reading, my fellow book hoarders, and I wish you good coffee and great books.