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