Wendy Darling's Reviews > Bittersweet

Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler
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Jan 25, 12

bookshelves: young-adult, 2012-publication, realistic-fiction, 2012-favorites, read-2012, ss, food-porn
Read on January 19, 2012

If you're about to start reading this: put everything down. Step away from the book, find yourself a good half a dozen cupcakes first, and then come back. Because if you don't, you're going to spend a couple of hours in a frenzy of longing over the incredible desserts whipped up in this book and you may end up gnawing off your own arm.

Dark chocolate cupcakes with red peppermint mascarpone icing, edged with chocolate and crushed candy canes

Miniature banana cupcakes smeared with a thin layer of honey vanilla icing

Vanilla cupcakes topped with whipped peanut butter cream cheese icing, milk chocolate chips, crushed pretzels, and a drizzle of warm caramel.


*Drool.* What was I saying? Oh, the book! Hudson Avery is a master baker at the age of seventeen. She's stuck in a dead-end job in her mom's diner, trying to help the family make ends meet after her parents' divorce, and doing her best to forget estranged friends and missed opportunities. One day, while she's on break, she puts on her skates and coasts along the edge of frozen lake. Suddenly, a boy named Josh Blackthorn literally crashes into her and Hudson's life takes a totally unexpected turn when she's asked to help coach their school's losing hockey team.

This book reminds me of a really great mash-up of the movies Waitress + The Cutting Edge + the gentle discovery of new romance in Sarah Dessen books. It's a super cute novel filled with ice skating, baby marshmallows, and all kinds of fun ideas that appeals to the curious and crafty side of me, including the intriguing thought of putting ice cream in hot chocolate, making carousel cupcakes with a straw and animal crackers, hand-tinting frosting, and that sort of thing. I had a great time with the dates-that-weren't-really-dates, the relationship between Hudson and her adorable little brother Bug, and the practice sessions with the hockey team, which the boys attend by "skipping their Guitar Hero matches or raw meat-eating contests or whatever it is that boys do in their free time." Hudson's sense of humor is absolutely infectious, and at one point, she dreamily imagines a flirty encounter with Josh as follows:

There are sparks and laughs and flirty little jokes with lots of subtext, and later, after he walks her back to work, he pulls her into a passionate kiss in the parking lot. The word "bliss" appears in a cloud over her head, surrounded by red and pink hearts, and from that moment on, the frothy feel of hot chocolate will bring her back...

Every once in awhile, it's really great to read contemporary romantic YA that's fun and fluffy but not at all shallow. In addition to the more lighthearted side of the book, however, Hudson also carries a lot of guilt over her parent's split, she's also juggling friendship problems, and she desperately wants to make it out of the small town she's lived in all her life. But is pinning all her hopes on a skating competition really the answer? As she notes sadly in French class: I don't know how to speak the language of impossible dreams en francais.

Eventually, the book did feel a bit on the long side to me, and some of the Hudson's decisions later in the story were a little maddening. She's such a likable protagonist, however, that it's easy to forgive her for her mistakes, especially when the book is chock-full of such wit and charm.

If you enjoy romantic comedies or have ever breathed in the warm, sweet scent of a fresh cupcake and thought you'd died and gone to heaven, this is totally the book for you. Hudson says she's never met a problem a proper cupcake couldn't fix, and after reading this book, it's hard not to believe that a cupcake won't help make everything a little better for you, too.

Read BITTERSWEET for Free!

If you're under 19, pop on over to The Midnight Garden, where you can learn how you can sign up for Simon & Schuster's Pulse It Community and read books in advance of their release. Right now Bittersweet and a number of other great YA titles are available to read online, so act quickly before the galleys expire!

Bonus Treat: And now it's time for a little cupcake porn. Hey, I had to suffer through this book without any cupcakes, so it's only fair you should share the pain.



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Quotes Wendy Darling Liked

Sarah Ockler
“Would 'sorry' have made any difference? Does it ever? It's just a word. One word against a thousand actions.”
Sarah Ockler, Bittersweet


Reading Progress

01/19/2012 page 69
18.0% ""The basic rule is to smile a lot...even when you feel like choking someone, keep on smilin'. The minute you show them you're pissed, you lose." <-- The lessons to be learned from YA, hah. P.S., this is adorable." 10 comments

Comments (showing 1-50 of 119) (119 new)


Wendy Darling I'm pretty sure I'm buying this at some point. It's like the movies Waitress (except with cupcakes) + The Cutting Edge (without the combat). Super cute without being shallow, and it's just putting me in a really good mood.


Melody To The Harmony It looks like a really beautiful story. I think I will add it to my TBR, and when read it as soon as possible.


Wendy Darling Ah, my mind control is working! :D

I also like that you can tell the author has done all this stuff, especially the baking. There's a certain rhythm and comfort to the way she describes baking and decorating that's very real. Love love love. :)


Sasha This is a very cute book! I really liked it. A friend described it as a "perfect wintery read" :)

As stated in my review, I would have liked the technical aspect of figure skating to better; however, I will say that the author did reach out to be in an extremely professional manner and asked if I would consider showing her the mistakes so that if she has the chance, she can fix the mistakes in re-prints/paperback. I happily obliged!

Her reaching out and being so polite and nice about my critic made her respect her so much, especially in light of all the negative author-reviewer stuff going on lately!


Wendy Darling It's already available from The Book Depository if you're interested, Melody. :) Hope you enjoy when you get around to it.

And that's great to hear, Sash! I don't know anything about figure skating except as a spectator, so I'm not noticing anything out of place. It's nice that the author responded in such a positive way to your review, however...will definitely swing by and check it out once I've had a chance to write mine!


Wendy Darling I wondered that myself, Cillian. They could've done a cupcake with a heart-shaped decoration on it...maybe that was too similar to another book cover that's already out there? She definitely has not baked any cookies yet, though, so it really doesn't fit in well with the book.


Wendy Darling I'd rather build real cupcakes, Cill. I can't lick the screen!


Wendy Darling No, no...you build them. I lick them. :D


message 9: by Sashana (new)

Sashana I just added it to my tbr!


message 10: by Bonnie (new) - added it

Bonnie Sounds super cute. I might have to give this one a shot (I've had bad luck with my YA contemporary lately!)


message 11: by Kay (new) - added it

Kay I'm already looking forward to this one! Can't wait for your review now :)


Wendy Darling I think if you like the concept, you'll like the book, ladies. :) It might be a bit too long (and slows down a bit in the middle), but overall it's still very cute and I'd recommend it as a fun and fluffy read.


Wendy Darling Okay, we'll both build and we'll both lick. I think that's a fair plan.


message 14: by Jasprit (last edited Jan 20, 2012 02:21AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jasprit So glad you enjoyed it Wendy! It certainly is a book which cheers you right up! Look forward to reading your review obviously after you've munched on some cupcakes :D


message 15: by Tara (new)

Tara Calaby I'm such a sucker for cafe/bakery related YA (you know, I think that's a Thing now), so I'll have to check this one out, even if it IS sure to make me hungry ;)


Wendy Darling I already told the husband we have to find a cupcake this weekend, Jasprit. :D Look forward to comparing notes with you when I'm done.

Which other baking YA heroines would you recommend, Tara? I really liked this one and wouldn't mind trying out some more! Although next time I will make sure I am armed with baked goods before I start reading.


message 17: by Bonnie (new) - added it

Bonnie I was just looking at that one! It looks cute. And delicious. :)


message 18: by Thalia (new) - added it

Thalia Oh, yay! This has been on my shelf for a little while and every book from this author has caught my eye, but I've never read any of it yet! I love adorable. <33 I'm happy it was good! :D


Wendy Darling You guys read the coffee one and tell me how it is. :)

And yes, this was so cute, Thalia! A very quick and entertaining romance with some depth in it. It's like a Sarah Dessen novel plus cupcakes.


message 20: by Thalia (last edited Jan 20, 2012 10:30AM) (new) - added it

Thalia Wendy Darling wrote: "And yes, this was so cute, Thalia! A very quick and entertaining romance with some depth in it. It's like a Sarah Dessen novel plus cupcakes."

Well, I do love cupcakes. How could I say no to adorable-ness AND total deliciousness? (;

Cillain wrote: "There's one negative review (a 1-star I hate this shit kind of review) buuuuuut, that person also hates Starbucks, so I ruled her out.
We can't trust her :P"


I had to laugh at this, hahha. x)


message 21: by Bonnie (new) - added it

Bonnie Who hates Starbucks? That's just... wrong.


Wendy Darling Hah.

Cillian, do you have Coffee Beans up north? I still like Starbucks every once in awhile, but I've gotten used to the milder Moroccan Mint Lattes at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.


message 23: by Thalia (new) - added it

Thalia True, true. I don't even drink coffee, but even their hot chocolate is dang delicious. <3


message 24: by Bonnie (new) - added it

Bonnie Their hot chocolate is good. I love their chai tea latte too. :)


Wendy Darling Oh, they're in Nevada too Bonnie? And...wherever you are, Thalia? Hah. Sorry, for some reason I thought they were just in California. They have this banana caramel shake thing in the summer that is really, really bad for you but really, really good, too!


message 26: by Bonnie (new) - added it

Bonnie Oh, no. They're not here. I'm still talking about Starbucks. haha


Wendy Darling Ohhh. :) Their hot chocolates and chai lattes are good!


message 28: by Bonnie (new) - added it

Bonnie That Moroccan Mint Latte you were talking about sounds delicious.


message 29: by Bonnie (new) - added it

Bonnie Peet's Coffee is HORRIBLE. That's the coffee shop they have in the Reno Airport and I tried it once and... never again.

Man all this coffee talk is going to force me to take a break for a Starbucks run. :)


message 30: by Thalia (new) - added it

Thalia Oh yeah, I was also talking about Starbucks. XD But I think there might be one of what you're talking around here, somewhere in Oregon. Google says there's something called 'Coffee Bean' in Portland, but I've never been, nor do I live in Portland, so I don't know if it's the same thing. x)

Alas, I'm a Dutch Bros. girl at heart. even though I only do drink hot chocolate, haha.


message 31: by Bonnie (new) - added it

Bonnie For the last couple of years I was going to school full time and working full time so I got addicted to coffee. I'm a big fan of caramel macchiatos.
Starbucks has this new salted caramel mocha that I have to try... This has become a dangerous conversation. hahaha


Wendy Darling Coffee Bean is very mild; the thing I have is half coffee, half mint tea, and a scoop of chocolate powder. :D Delicious! They have ice blendeds too, which are half coffee/half tea frozen drinks.

I am not a Peet's fan either...so many of my friends like it though! I bet there's probably a CB in Portland, Thalia, that's not too far from here.

I like coffee sometimes. But I love cupcakes anytime, hee hee.


message 33: by Bonnie (new) - added it

Bonnie That does sound delicious, Wendy! Unfortunately, no Coffee Bean here. Nevada doesn't get the cool places. :)


message 34: by Bonnie (new) - added it

Bonnie Thanks, Cillian! Good to know.

I LOVE their caramel brûlée lattes. That was the seasonal drink I fell in love with last year.


message 35: by Tara (new)

Tara Calaby The bakery book I read most recently was Practice Cake and cafe-wise, I enjoyed My Invisible Boyfriend (Aka Girl Meets Cake) a lot for the genre :)

Oh, and if you'd like to combine cafe and paranormal, there's always Coffeehouse Angel ;)


Laura Newcombe Looking forward to your review, Wendy! I've just started reading and the second I realized there's a different cupcake for each chapter, I thought, "This book is going to make me so hungry..."


Laura Newcombe Sam wrote: "Is it strange that I want the cupcakes, too, when I haven't even read this yet? Jasprit included a little snippet in her review that made me drool... :D"

I don't think that's strange at all, Sam. Just hearing the mere word cupca – *drools*. Mmm...


Laura Newcombe Oh, I know, right?! Sarah Ockler is going to make me so fat. But, so far, this book is definitely worth it!


Wendy Darling Ooo, thanks for that, Tara. And Laura and Sam, I quickly realized I was going to be starving reading this thing, too--I am determined to find myself a cupcake this weekend.

In the meantime, here. Cupcakes for all!




Wendy Darling Sometimes I see cupcakes that look almost too pretty to eat. But I quickly get over it. :D


Wendy Darling Good point, my friend. Good point. ;)


Laura Hi Wendy! This book is killing me with the cupcakes! :D 3 and counting since I started it! Looking forward to your review! :)


Laura Newcombe Wendy Darling wrote: "Ooo, thanks for that, Tara. And Laura and Sam, I quickly realized I was going to be starving reading this thing, too--I am determined to find myself a cupcake this weekend.

In the meantime, here. ..."


That frosting is killing me mercilessly. I can feel it's superbly iced fingers wrapping themselves around my throat, begging to be eaten. Can't...breathe...


Lindsey OMG those cupcakes look entirely too good! I just want to take a huge bite right into the middle of that frosting :)


Wendy Darling Oh, I'm glad you liked this too, Laura! I'll come check out your review once I've gotten off my butt and written mine. :)

Ooo, death by frosting would not be a bad way to go.

Cupcake photos are really frustrating when you don't have any, though, Lindsey. I never did get myself a cupcake this weekend. #cupcakerage


♥Rachel♥ This was so cute, Wendy. Glad to see you liked it too. I want to know how the author came up with so many different, delicious sounding cupcakes! :)


message 47: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 24, 2012 02:29PM) (new)

Just the premise alone sounds adorable and sweet and fun, but I'm thinking, I might gain a few pounds from devouring delicious cupcakes! I heard that the descriptions and recipes were great too. I'm a bit hesitant about picking it up..


message 48: by Sophie (new) - added it

Sophie Riggsby Looking forward to this one.


Wendy Darling I hope the author got really fat when she wrote this, Rachel, because I think I gained 10 pounds just reading it!

Do you read Sarah Dessen-type books, Leanne? I don't remember seeing many on your shelves, but if you're curious, this one is a nice one to try out. I like this sort of contemporary YA every once in awhile; uncomplicated but not shallow.

Hope you enjoy, Sophie! :)


message 50: by Claire (new)

Claire Wendy, LOL. I've not heard about this book. Looks cute.


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