Monday, April 13, 2015

The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig

After the turmoil of Hausfrau, I decided I needed to either eat cake or read about it.  I decided to go the hip-friendly route and read The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig.  I'll preface my review with two warnings:  this book will make you drool, and it doesn't come out til June. 

Neely O'Neil flees her crumbling marriage to a pro football player in New York to her hometown of Millcreek Valley, Ohio.  She comes ready to open her bakery, Rainbow Cake.  Neely is an experienced professional baker, and she's got an added bonus:  she can "read" people and match flavors to their moods.  She's a psychic with a dash of cake.  She usually blocks it out, but uses it to create a successful reputation as a delicious baker, capable of delivering just the right cake.  If you didn't know Judith Fertig has a career as a cookbook writer, you figure it out pretty quickly reading this book.  Only someone with a background in all things baking would be able to write so well about buttercream, chocolate, and flavor pairings.  I'm drooling now just thinking about chocolate and coffee entwined together in a rich swirl of frosting.  Yum.

Neely's move back to her hometown hasn't stopped her estranged husband from trying to get her back, however.  He continually bombards her with gifts, phones messages with songs, and rag magazine stories.  But Neely has too much going on at Rainbow Cake, and she's surrounded by people who all have desires and secrets of their own.  Including Mrs. Amici, the grumpiest, most sour lady walking a dog you'll ever meet.  Surprisingly, Mrs. Amici's past plays a big part in this book, and the storyline flips between present day and the mid 20th century.  You'll have to read to find the connection!

What Neely really wants is a home, a safe place to land, and someone she can trust with her heart.  Can she find it in Millcreek Valley?

This novel was just plain fun.  Perfect for what ails you.  I have to apologize for the big time gaps between reviews in the past 5 months.  I'm finishing up grad school, and I'm in my last few weeks.  It has been an intense and very crazy 2 years of my life, and it has made a huge dent in my reading time.  I never thought I'd say it, but it's true:  there aren't enough hours in the day for me to read whatever I want whenever I want.  That will change in about 30 days, and then look out!  I'll be returning to a much richer review schedule.  So until then, thank you all for following, leaving comments, and being patient.  I've got piles of books to read and review; this summer promises to be a big book summer!

Rating:  7/10 for a fun, magical story about love, cakes, and memories. 

Available in June in paperback and e-book.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

It's hard to read a book when the main character is unlikeable and unsympathetic.  Hausfrau is one of those books that sucks you in even as you wonder aloud "Why am I reading this book?!"  

Anna Benz is an American living in Switzerland with her Swiss husband Bruno and her three children:  Victor, Charlie, and baby Polly Jean.  She's lived there for 9 years, and still doesn't drive and struggles with the language.  

Anna also has lots of affairs with pretty much every man she meets, and is extremely unhappy in her life.  It's a head scratcher, to be sure.  She's got a husband who loves her, three great kids, and a pretty sweet life.  But she's not happy, and Anna really has never been happy her whole life.  A past affair looms large in her mind as her perfect love.  But was it, or is she projecting too much on a brief affair that ended years ago?  And what exactly is she so darn unhappy about?

I can tell you Anna is not someone you really care about.  She acts without thinking about the consequences, and wanders through her days in a fog.  She sees a therapist, who struggles with Anna to find a breakthrough.  And Anna plays her part, pasting a smile on her face, and going through her life unable to share any of her secrets with anyone around her.  Not even her therapist knows what Anna's been up to in her life.  

It's inevitable that Anna is on a collision course, but as the reader, you have no idea what or when.  You just know it's coming, and you can't put down the book until you find it.  And it's a doozy.  Maybe, at the end, you shut the book and think, "Well, I saw that coming from the beginning."  And maybe you won't.  I'll say the last half of the book is particularly sad as Anna deals with the inevitable crumbling of herself and her life.  I was surprised at how much the last part of Anna's story affected me emotionally.  It was, quite simply, painfully heartbreaking.  

Be prepared for an emotional roller coaster ride.  Love Anna, hate Anna, understand or not, Anna's journey as a hausfrau is one you will want to discuss with others.  It would make an excellent reading group pick.  

Rating:  8/10 for a main character that will force you to engage in her life whether you care for her or not.  Some graphic sexual language, but it fits into the scheme of this novel.  The end will haunt you.  

Available in hardcover and e-book.