**spoiler alert** To start, THIS ENTIRE REVIEW IS RIDDLED WITH SPOILERS that are NOT HIDDEN. So tread carefully if you plan to read this novel or have**spoiler alert** To start, THIS ENTIRE REVIEW IS RIDDLED WITH SPOILERS that are NOT HIDDEN. So tread carefully if you plan to read this novel or haven't finished it yet and don't want to know what happens. You have been warned.
No. This started off so well, and I had high hopes that it would be nice, fluffy, light fare, but there were too many elements there were utterly ridiculous and boring at the same time, leading me to give up on the book after 106 pages. I did skim the rest, only because I wanted to know all about the secrets both girls were keeping—secrets that I was annoyed were withheld amid such cliched phrases and stereotypical behavior from the beautiful, "perfect" rich girl and also beautiful, but more quirky, "independent" working class girl (both who used to be friends until the rich girl, who wanted the hot guy, who was interested in her friend, as her boyfriend, started a nasty rumor in high school that the working class girl was a thief, which resulted in the working class girl almost being expelled and not getting into college). The story takes place 10 years later in San Francisco.
The story is told in alternating chapters, one in Annie (working class girl)'s voice, the other in Julia's (rich girl), so you get both their perspectives, which was interesting to see. However, we quickly also see that both characters are kind of annoying in predictable ways. Julia—though highly successful in the financial world, as well as lucky in love (she's engaged as the novel opens)—comes off as extremely vapid, in spite of carrying a dark, depressing secret that she fears sharing with her fiance. For example, she can't fathom why her old friend, Annie (who was the daughter of her nanny, and who basically grew up with her), is still so angry with her after all these years just because she made some off-handed comment in high school that was albeit, untrue.
Annie, meanwhile, has become an accomplished baker, going off memory from her mother's old recipes and creating her own. (Annie's mother died suddenly when she and Julia were 18, and Annie has been searching for her mother's old journal/recipe book ever since.) Convinced by her good friend and roommate, Becca, Annie accepts Julia's sudden offer to open a cupcake business that the two of them would share up until Julia's wedding, but Annie is unable to bury the hatchet, (which isn't helped by Julia's constant denials that it wasn't her that started that poisonous rumor all those years ago).
On top of these two there's a character named Jake Logan. Jake was Julia's high school boyfriend, and the person Julia wanted interested in her—thus she started the rumor about Annie. In the present, Jake and Annie have started dating. However, Jake is "secretly" seeing Julia too, though most of their meetings involve getting together at a bar while Julia gets blotto drunk, (and then later wakes up with a killer hangover not knowing where she is or if she and Jake slept together). It's revealed that Jake is married, separated but married nonetheless—a fact that he keeps from Annie.
It was hard to get behind any of these characters because they all come off as such beautiful people with beautiful lives (though not perfect lives, I guess), beautiful girls who are in relationships with these dashingly handsome men. (I can't even count how many times Jake's "blue-green eyes" are mentioned.) I was tired very quickly of each girl's personality, and wanted to know what happened in the past, why Julia was so depressed (I did guess early on what it was), and who could possibly want to put the girls' combined effort of starting a cupcakery out of business.
Eventually, as mentioned, I skimmed ahead so I could find all this out. The girls do bury the hatchet and forgive each other, Annie breaks up with Jake, and Julia confesses to Annie and her fiance, Wes, that she had a miscarriage and fears she might not be able to have any more children. Annie finds her mother's recipe book and starts a relationship with an unlikely, but sweet and gorgeous, of course, guy, and, wait for it, discovers a trusted family servant (of Julia's family) may have been responsible for her mother's sudden death all those years ago. Also, Annie discovers she has a father (growing up, it had just been her and her mother, Lucia. Lucia, 16 and pregnant, had come to America alone and never spoken of her father, back in Ecuador with her estranged family). As the ex-trusted servant, Curtis, tries to put Julia and Annie out of business by threatening them, breaking into their shop and vandalizing it, and eventually, starting a fire that almost kills Annie, Annie's estranged father Miguel acts as a protector, scaring Curtis off whenever he can, and rescuing Annie from the fire. (The girls don't know who Miguel is though, and think he's a stalker. It isn't revealed until almost the end who Miguel is to Annie.) The book ends with Julia getting married, and the girls deciding to stay friends and stay in business together.
The plot really wasn't so bad but the pacing, for me, was off. It was like watching a movie or a soap opera or something where you know what's going to happen but the characters are wasting time on roundabout dialogue and there's dramatic music and cutaway and then a commercial break where you almost forget what the story was about and why you should care about the whole thing. The whole thing did have potential, and I guess if you have the constitution to slug through the whole novel, there is actual payoff to get to. As for me, skimming was the best way to go. ...more
Ugh... I really wanted to read this, but it just couldn't hold my attention. I was really trying because it wasn't that long... less than 300 pages...Ugh... I really wanted to read this, but it just couldn't hold my attention. I was really trying because it wasn't that long... less than 300 pages... but it was really depressing. People kept getting their hearts broken, there were all these confusing/ mixed feelings for everyone... It was just kind of boring. If I'm ever so inclined I may go back and finish it someday, but I just don't want to read it anymore. Reading it was becoming more like a chore than enjoyment. ...more
**spoiler alert** Very good read, well written, interesting. It's about a Vietnamese refugee girl growing up in Grand Rapids, MI in the late 1970's-19**spoiler alert** Very good read, well written, interesting. It's about a Vietnamese refugee girl growing up in Grand Rapids, MI in the late 1970's-1980's before "ethnic" was "cool". The author struggles to fit in amid of an endless sea of Christian blondes, and searches for her identity through American food, everything from white Wonder bread to all the brand name candy anyone finds scattered throughout their childhoods. The author's family dynamic is this: she lives with her Vietnamese father, 3 uncles, and grandmother, Noi, and her sister Anh. Then her Mexican-American stepmother, Rosa, and her half-white, half Mexican-American daughter, Crissy, enters their lives, followed soon by Bich's ("Bit") half-brother, Vinh. Hanging over Bich's and Anh's heads is the living "ghost" of their biological mother, left in Vietnam. ...more
Charming, delightful, enchanting. After putting some distance between trying to read this book directly after seeing the movie, I was finally able toCharming, delightful, enchanting. After putting some distance between trying to read this book directly after seeing the movie, I was finally able to get into the plot and enjoy it fully, rather than compare it constantly to the plot of the movie (which is slightly altered). Beautiful, lovely prose, human characters, hints of real-life magic as well as "otherworldly" magic too. My favorite parts were all the flashbacks with Vianne and her mother on their continuous journey, Vianne's friendship with Armande, and Vianne's deep love for her daughter, Anouk....more