Garden Spells tells the story of two gifted sisters: Claire Waverley, a successful caterer in their hometown who has a decidedly magical touch with foGarden Spells tells the story of two gifted sisters: Claire Waverley, a successful caterer in their hometown who has a decidedly magical touch with food, and Sydney, the younger sister who left town at an early age only to run into trouble forcing her to return to Bascom, North Carolina with her six year old daughter, Bay. Sydney left her hometown in an attempt to run from what it means to be a Waverley, and the magical gifts they have, as well as from the heartbreak caused by the breakup with her high school boyfriend. While Sydney bounced from city to city, Claire remained in their childhood home where their late grandmother lived and led a quiet life of solitude until Sydney came back into her life.
Garden Spells centers around the two Waverley sisters but manages to incorporate a full cast into a small amount of pages without overdoing it. My favorite character was Evanelle, a “second or third or fourteenth cousin” that also has her own unique gift: she would get sudden urges to gift individuals with certain items which they would inevitably need sooner or later. She was a complete hoot and added a distinct sense of humor to the tale. We’re also given passages told from the points of view of love interests, other townsfolk and six-year-old Bay who possesses the gift for knowing just exactly where things belong. Garden Spells is so heartwarming and realistic seeing two sisters who had grown apart over the years reintegrate one another into their lives. On top of the wonderful magical flairs, it’s also the perfect read for fans of what I like to call “foodie fiction”. Claire, being an owner of a catering business, is often cooking and her delicious sounding masterpieces are described in intricate detail.
‘Anise hyssop honey butter on toast, angelica candy, and cupcakes with crystallized pansies made children thought. Honeysuckle wine served on the Fourth of July gave you the ability to see in the dark. The nutty flavor of the dip made from hyacinth bulbs made you feel moody and think of the past, and the salads made with chicory and mint had you believing that something good was about to happen, whether it was true or not.’
Sarah Addison Allen is one of my favorite authors and I don’t say that lightly. I can always count on her books to have a whimsical tale that will put a smile on my face and lead me to hours of enjoyment. Oddly enough, I didn’t always have such a high opinion of her. Garden Spells was actually the first book of hers I read and I honestly didn’t care for it, but after going on to read all of her works and loving each and every one of them, I knew I had to revisit this and give it another shot through a different set of eyes. The second time around went much better and I enjoyed it greatly. Why the change? I remember the first time I kept comparing it to the movie/book Practical Magic without bothering to note the differences plus it was my first foray into magical realism so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. (I also read The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake around the same time and disliked it greatly so I’m thinking a re-read of that may be in order.) This is the first time I’ve gone back attempting to give a book I disliked another shot. In my mind it always seems like a waste of time because if you disliked it the first time, why would it be different the second time? Well, if I take anything from this experience it’s that it won’t be the last time....more
‘Gladys took a bite of her brownie, and a slew of flavors flooded her taste buds. The sweet, melty butterscotch offset the bitterness of the chocolat‘Gladys took a bite of her brownie, and a slew of flavors flooded her taste buds. The sweet, melty butterscotch offset the bitterness of the chocolate, and the hint of nutmeg gave the whole thing a kick.’
Gladys Gatsby is a sixth grader that loves nothing more than experimenting in the kitchen. From entrées to pastries, she loves cooking anything and everything. During her latest kitchen experiment involving crème brûlée and a blowtorch, her family’s kitchen curtains went up in smoke and her family finally put a stop to her kitchen shenanigans. When she enters a writing contest in school, her entry ends up in the hands of the Dining Editor at a prestigious New York newspaper and she’s offered a job as a food critic. Keeping it a secret from her family while still completing her assignment is starting to seem to Gladys like an impossibility.
‘...tender duck breast swimming in a lake of tea-infused gravy, with a side of slender asparagus stalks dipping their tips in at the shore.’
Readers will fall in love with precocious Gladys. Her parents prefer take out, rarely using their kitchen, so Gladys never knew what good food truly tasted like. Her eyes were opened to good food when her Aunt Lydia, visiting from France, took her into the city to show her what a real restaurant is. From that point on she started keeping track of her food experiences (including the bad ones) in a journal. The descriptions of her family’s attempts at cooking were hilarious and cringe-worthy but her descriptions at her more positive food experiences will have you salivating.
‘Their flavors will send your taste buds on a trip around the world: the Moroccan cake features pistachio and cardamom, the Chinese cake has green tea and sesame seeds, and the Belgian cake has chocolate and… well, more chocolate.’
All Four Stars was completely worth all four stars. This endearing middle grade story will have your taste buds dancing. Much of the story is spent on Gladys’ use of subterfuge in keeping her parents from finding that she’s still cooking (sans blowtorch) but the rest of the pages are full of delectable descriptions of delicious foods that will have you reaching for something tasty to munch on so having something on hand may be wise....more
My rating: 4 of 5 stars I received this book free from FSB Associates in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book orMy rating: 4 of 5 stars I received this book free from FSB Associates in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
‘So, too, have I gathered the ingredients of my life and carefully flavored them, patiently beat my whites, and lovingly folded together all the elements of my existence. Put my proverbial batter into the appropriately prepared ramekin and gently placed my world into the oven. And yet I must have done something wrong, made some false move or ignored an important step in the recipe, because my life has suddenly collapsed around me into a charred, inedible ruin.’
Ruby McMillan’s husband announces one day that he’s leaving her for another woman. Their marriage had been slowly dissolving for the past years so it’s not as devastating emotionally, but she’s left scrambling for a hold on life while managing her failing bakery and trying to figure out how to inform her children that their father has left them. Things start looking up when Ruby moves her husbands stuff out of the house, gets a makeover and decides to take a chance on the unexpected by signing up to teach a cake class. She also meets Jacob Salt, a man that makes her feel something she hasn’t in years.
This was such a fun and light-hearted read despite the serious nature of the topic. It could have easily been a sob story about trust being shattered and hearts being broken but I found myself laughing out loud at times and reading with a smile on my face. It was so refreshing to read a book about a heroine that is faced with a devastating loss but is able to overcome it all while still maintaining her sense of humor. Ruby’s character was fantastically written and was quite the inspiration.
Obviously, my favorite aspect of this book is the foodie bits. I’ll read the occasional chick lit of course but foodie books? Anytime. Ruby is a baker and ends up being a teacher of a cooking class so we’re given all kinds of fabulous baking details that made me want to hop up and bake some muffins (because I couldn’t bake half of the amazing things Ruby could so I had to settle for muffins.) Not only were the details absorbing but she was constantly coming up with new recipes as a sort of coping mechanism. Every time she’d get overwhelmed or stressed about something, her creative subconscious would come up with something amazing sounding to try.
‘Homemade marshmallow cream and roasted almonds sandwiched between bite-size graham-cracker squares, enrobed with Callebaut milk choolate.’
I pretty much loved everything about this book and I read it during a time where I needed to be reminded that despite hardships in life it’s possible to remain strong and power through. It was the perfect book for my current mood and Ruby delivered the emotional boost I needed. This is my first book read by this author but I’ll definitely be picking up her other works. Highly suggested for those looking for a fun and entertaining (and inspirational) chick-lit type read....more
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars A copy of Vanity Fare was provided to me by William Morrow for review purposes.
Molly thought she had hit rock bottom when herMy rating: 3.5 of 5 stars A copy of Vanity Fare was provided to me by William Morrow for review purposes.
Molly thought she had hit rock bottom when her husband of 10 years left her and their six year-old son for a younger woman. That wasn't rock bottom though. Rock bottom came when she finds out her soon to be ex-husband has also lost his job (and his ability to pay her child support) and also depleted their savings leaving Molly with nothing to pay the bills. She ends up being hired as a copywriter for a new up and coming bakery. But on top of finding a job she may have also found a new romance. Or two.
Anyone who knows my typical book preferences would likely find it laughable that I decided to read a book regardless of the fact that it stated in the summary that there was a love triangle. Typically? I'd be running for the hills but the concept of this story was too cute to pass up.
I am total sucker for foodie type books in general but I completely fell in love with the concept for this book. I also made full scale plans of starting my own bakery just to be able to do something like this. Molly is hired to come up with a 'hook' for potential customers and it needed to be closely related to the library (which the bakery is across the street from) and/or literature in general. She comes up with the idea to use double entendres to name menu items and the store itself (Vanity Fare). A few of my favorites? The Bun Also Rises. A Room of Ones Scone. Of Mousse and Men. Much Ado About Muffins. And the best? Tart of Darkness. There are even real recipes included at the back of the book for several of these (including Tart of Darkness which I will so be trying, it sounds delicious!)
The romance(s) played a huge part of the story (and possible more than I would have preferred) which I suppose should have been expected as this can definitely be considered a chick-lit novel. But I have a total soft spot for chick-lit and these romances were quite entertaining. The main character, Molly, truly made this book though. She was witty, had a wonderful dry sense of humor, and was such a realistic character just struggling to not give in and let life beat her down. I found the story (and Molly) to be quite inspiring.
A four star rating (and possibly more) was totally in the bag but alas, I found the ending with Nick's big "secret" to not be worth all the build up that led up to the reveal. Overall though this is a fun and delightful chick-lit novel that manages to be charming while still full of laughs....more
I was extremely interested in taking a look at this cookbook as I’m plagued by several food allergies and it can be downright difficult for me to find a recipe I can follow to a T without having to replace this and that. When I read ‘120 Gluten-Free Dairy-Free, Nut-Free, Egg-Free, and Soy-Free Recipes Everyone Will Love’ I thought I had found the cookbook of all cookbooks; however, it ended up being just like any other cookbook I’ve picked up. My interpretation of the SubTitle was that ALL of their recipes were gluten-freen, dairy-free, etc, when in reality it was a gluten free recipe and then a dairy free recipe; there were few recipes that were actually free of all the common allergens. This brought nothing new and I still found myself replacing ingredients in order for me to be able to eat it.
Another thing that I love from a good cookbook is the pictures that correspond with the recipes and I found pictures weren’t provided for all recipes. There were some interesting recipes that I did try and (after substituting) did actually enjoy, but as I said above this really didn’t bring anything new to the cookbooks I already own....more
So when I saw this cookbook being offered on Netgalley I was super excited and began having daydreams about all the beautiful macaron’s I could make since it was being displayed as being ‘gluten-free’ goodies. (The only goodies I can have so I was all over that). Unfortunately, my diet also consists of egg-free goodies. Yes, I am all kinds of broken. Now usually I’m able to use this nifty stuff I found called Energ-G Egg Replacer, but unfortunately it doesn’t work as an egg replacer in all recipes. Apparently macaron’s are one of those recipes it doesn’t work for. Eggs are a dominant ingredient in this book and from what I’ve read from various websites, the structure of the entire recipe would need to be altered in order for it to actually come out as intended.
I still give this book high marks for the beautiful pictures, the delicious sounding recipes, and the detailed step-by-step guides. ...more
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And pastries. :)
What could be better?
‘I guess it goes to show that you just never know where life will take you. You search for answers. You wonder what it all means. You stumble, and you soar. And, if you’re lucky, you make it to Paris for a while. Here’s what happened when I did.’
On top of tales of wonderful sweets, the author shares her own personal story about finding her way in a foreign place, gaining a new perspective on life and simply learning to be thankful for what life dishes out to you. It was quite a delightful surprise that I enjoyed immensely; am so glad that I requested this book.
Despite my attempts to read this only on a full stomach, I still ended up with one serious sweet tooth by the end of this book (or even by the end of each chapter…or page). The author describes in extreme detail the sweets she eats, and makes each and every one of them sound positively heavenly.
’…her signature pretzel-covered, sea-salted caramel that had crackly, salty pretzel bits coating the 66 percent cocoa shell and creamy caramel center.’
Oh… my… gosh. Who makes these and how can I buy some of these goodies? Apparently her name is Rachel Zoe Insler, owner of Bespoke Chocolates. I was drooling so heavily over the descriptions I went so far as to try and find her online… only to find that her business had actually closed earlier this year. I was one seriously sad puppy. (If I had simply kept reading I would have realized the author spoke of the business closure at the end of the chapter haha). At the end of each chapter, she also tells where to find some of the best cupcakes, macarons, truffles, etc. in New York and Paris. Definitely made me want to take note and write down more than a few for when I eventually make it to each city.
I found myself using Google Translate often and searching for Frenchie terms that I had no idea the meaning (Vélib’ is a bicycle sharing system, fish are sold at poissoneries, and there are twenty arrondissements (or districts) of Paris. I think normally this would have irritated me having to stop every few minutes to figure out what exactly I’m reading, but being that I personally have a crush on anything Paris and cannot wait to go there personally someday, having to search for unknown items and words was actually quite a fun experience for me.
This storyline certainly had the potential for being a fascinatingly original novel about a young girl, Rose, who on the eve of her 9th birthday realiThis storyline certainly had the potential for being a fascinatingly original novel about a young girl, Rose, who on the eve of her 9th birthday realizes that while eating a piece of homemade cake, that her mom is extremely sad. Confused, as a 9 year old would be, she doesn’t realize till it begins happening again and again, that by eating food prepared by someone she’s able to tell what kind of mood they are in.
I found this to be a variation of synesthesia, where individual letters of the alphabet and numbers are designated a color, where sounds can produce colors that arise around the produced sound, and where words can cause involuntary taste sensations. I first learned about synesthesia in Ultraviolet and found it to be quiet fascinating. Obviously in this story she’s not suffering from synesthesia; however, I found it to be a similar concept and was quite interested in the originality of it all.
The overall tone was quite dreary because this little girl was unable to explain to her parents why the dinner feels “empty” and why she knows that even though her mother manages to put on a happy face, it’s far from the truth. As the story progresses and Rose starts learning how to deal with her ‘gift’ she’s able to pick up more and more subtleties like why her mom is sad, why the baker who made the chocolate chip cookies is angry, and is even able to determine where the food has been and who has unknowingly passed on their emotions into it. After one particularly rough meal when her mother, for once, seems happier, Rose soon finds out the reason behind it.
”After I’d bussed the rest of the table, I wrapped up the remaining roast beef in plastic and put it in the refrigerator for some adultery sandwiches the next day.”
This was all in the first 1/3 of the book or so. Then the author decides to throw in the fact that her brother has a ‘magical ability’ as well… and suffice it to say, it was laughable. (view spoiler)[Her brother is able to transform his body into a chair. I mean… seriously? wtf does that have to do with anything anyways? (hide spoiler)] Also, the lack of quotation marks drove me absolutely batty. How hard is it to put quotes in so I know what’s being said versus what’s being thought? Very difficult to read like that. Very upsetting because I was really excited about reading this, but I was extremely disappointed with the final outcome. By the end I was ready to give this book 1 star but because I was thoroughly intrigued by the first half of the book I decided to give it 2 instead.
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The concept alone is amazing yet so simple. Not everyone reacts to the same diet the same way; that's why Atkins doesn't always work for everyone. TheThe concept alone is amazing yet so simple. Not everyone reacts to the same diet the same way; that's why Atkins doesn't always work for everyone. The concept is that your individual blood types react differently to specific foods and that by eliminating certain foods from your diet you can help your body in leading a healthier lifestyle. The one and only 'diet' book that I've found that actually works. I highly recommend this to anyone who truly strives for a healthy life. I know from personal experience that following the O Blood Type diet was a lifestyle decision that I should have made sooner. ...more