Series: The Bliss Bakery, #1
Released: February 14th, 2012
Publisher: The Inkhouse
Rating: 2.5 stars
Word Rating: Pretty cute
Reviewed by: Blythe
Rosemary Bliss’s family has a secret. It’s the Bliss Cookery Booke—an ancient, leather-bound volume of enchanted recipes like Stone Sleep Snickerdoodles and Singing Gingersnaps. Rose and her siblings are supposed to keep the Cookery Booke under lock and whisk-shaped key while their parents are out of town, but then a mysterious stranger shows up. “Aunt” Lily rides a motorcycle, wears purple sequins, and whips up exotic (but delicious) dishes for dinner. Soon boring, nonmagical recipes feel like life before Aunt Lily—a lot less fun.
So Rose and her siblings experiment with just a couple of recipes from the forbidden Cookery Booke.
A few Love Muffins and a few dozen Cookies of Truth couldn’t cause too much trouble . . . could they?
Kathryn Littlewood’s culinary caper blends rich emotional flavor with truly magical wit, yielding one heaping portion of hilarious family adventure.
Bliss is a really cute book, and obviously I had to read it because hello, bliss puns. Honestly, the only reason I did get to this was because I got an unsolicited ARC of the third book in this series, and I thought it sounded like a fun read. Which it is; the plot is really strong and cute and cupcake filled (which is all kinds of yes), and the writing is just as strong. (I found its quality completely unexpected.) It had the nice and easy flow of writing in a middle grade novel yet never felt like it was too simplified so that children will have an easier time understanding the novel.
Children, of course, being the primary audience for this novel; some issues I have with this book probably won't be issues a middle schooler or child would have, but as an adult (who may or may not act like a teenager sometimes), there were just too many issues for me to pass up with Bliss.
For starters: the extreme predictability. Maybe this is the norm in MG--I really don't know--but from the moment we were introduced to a certain character, I knew that they would be the antagonist. It really is painfully obvious. I knew everything that character would do, and where the plot would go from that point on. But the weird thing is that Bliss doesn't really try to make the twist seem like it would be a blindside throughout the novel, because the MC doubts the character a lot, but then when the twist actually revealed it's made out to be this big thing like wow, what a shocker, except not really. Anyway, if you're able to pin down the antagonist, their motives, and what they will do to the characters and plot at about thirty pages in, clearly some things may not end up working for you (ie: me).
Despite the predictability, the plot did take some fun turns with the magical recipes and their side-effects, but towards the end I thought that the formula grew trite. Again, this won't be a problem for younger teenagers or children, I imagine. Whereas I grew somewhat tired of the antics--like, "Really? Again? You screwed up your recipe again?" younger readers will most likely look forward to the next recipe mishap. One of which towards the end I found pretty annoying, where it made everyone in town speak backwards and lasted quite a while.
Now, the biggest problem I have with Bliss I'm certain won't be a problem for younger readers: the characterization is just...not good. I wouldn't say any of the characters (witch the exception of the brother, Ty) are particularly unlikable, but they did bother me quite a bit. There's the MC, Rose, who is incredibly insecure--as a twelve-year-old girl would typically find herself--and although she was a good enough character I suppose, I didn't like how almost every little thing had to be drawn back to her insecurities. Yes, this is probably an authentic voice for someone her age, but it's just not enjoyable characterization for me: having an MC that constantly compares her inferiority to someone's superiority, and whatnot.
Then there's the brother, Ty, who is about sixteen in Bliss so I take no issue and have no guilt in saying he's a complete douche. Because he really is. I don't even know what there is to say about this kid, but he's just so damn annoying. He speaks Spanish because he thinks it makes him seem cultured, except it's that he doesn't really speak Spanish; he inserts a few Spanish words into daily conversations where and whenever he sees fit (which is when I'd hope no one else would see fit), calls his sister "Rosita," etc, etc. Plus there's this subplot in which he's essentially trying to seduce (well, MG-seduce) his very distant aunt, and it made me so, so uncomfortable. Basically his entire character just reeked of arrogance and doucheyness. And again, he's sixteen so I don't feel any guilt in saying that.
There's also the younger brother whom I have really no impression of (and have mostly forgotten), and the infant sister who is probably given less attention than Kevin McCallister. I literally forgot she was an actual thing. She showed up by the end and I was like, "Oh yeah, you exist."
So yeah, as a whole I'd say I did like Bliss, but a little less than what I would consider a strong three-star read. The only consistently positive thing in this book for me is the writing, which really is very good and a great surprise; the plot is also very enjoyable at times, but becomes tedious as the novel progresses. I don't know. Maybe I'm just too nitpicky to really just thoroughly enjoy a middle grade novel. Or maybe I just haven't read the right one for me yet. Anyway, I'm not sure if I'll be continuing in this series.