Posted in Books

Book Betrayal: The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig

After writing about so many disappointing books, it seems a bit dramatic to cite one as the Worst Betrayal of All.

Good thing I minored in drama. (Only metaphorically. Just go with it.)

Which book destroyed my reading freedom like a terrorist?

WELCOME, FOLKS, TO JUDITH FERTIG’S THE CAKE THERAPIST!!

The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig

If you want me to like you, buy me books.

If you want me to love you, let me buy my own.

Graduating from college netted me cash and gift cards from various relatives, including my brother’s-in-laws. Because they don’t know me well, they sent me a nice note and a Barnes and Noble gift card.

I couldn’t wait to spend it.

With celebratory spirit I entered Maplewood Mall’s giant Barnes and Noble, skirting away from my aunt’s beloved used section to ogle the New Releases.

There I saw the perfect book.

Image result for the cake therapist
Oh. My. Word.

An imaginary salesman popped up next to me as I drooled over the cover: “This book has EVERYTHING: rainbow cakes, magical realism, plot for DAYS…just LOOK at that cover!”

My aunt came over to squint at the price tag. “You could get FOUR used books for this price,” she muttered.

I ignored her and bought the book anyway.

I should have listened.

I’d purchased a similar book three years earlier called The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (and I have a great story about how that book betrayed someone else…but now is not the time.) In it, the protagonist learns she can taste others’ emotions in the food they make, something she discovers after her dissatisfied mother bakes her a  birthday cake. I read that book expecting it to lean into the magical realism and found a very different story waiting for me. Though the story’s magical elements play less of a role than I expected, they still serve a purpose in exploring the emotions of the protagonist and her outlook on the people in her life.

Long story short: the flavor ability functions as an exploratory tool rather than a gimmick.

Here’s how The Cake Therapist betrayed me:

Judith Fertig used an interesting premise to sell a boring 1940’s mystery.

This gif is perfect

Much like the character I described above, protagonist Neely can taste feelings in food. More interestingly, she can pinpoint the particular flavor someone needs to either incite or quell a specific emotion. I thought that sounded PRETTY NEAT, like this decade’s Chocolat. Right? RIGHT, JUDITH?

A look at the cover reveals specific uses for different flavors: cinnamon for remembrance, orange for wake-up calls, and plum for…pep, I guess?

Surprise! Those are the only three flavors discussed in the book!

I’d pictured Neely acting as a therapist in secret; she’d listen to her friends blab about their problems and make them a “pick-me-up” that, through unique flavor combinations and witchery, would tap into their emotions and make them feel better.

I was excited to see what flavors Fertig assigned to different personalities. DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW FASCINATING THAT PROSPECT IS TO ME, JUDITH? YOU ESSENTIALLY UNLOCKED A NEW SORTING HAT. IMAGINE THE POSSIBILITIES: VANILLA LOVERS LACK DISCIPLINE, RED VELVET EATERS NEED AFFECTION, AND SO ON AND SO FORTH.

Neely pulls the “therapist” act maybe twice, though I can’t remember in what context. She spends most of her time trying to remember a flavor she just can’t recall.

But enough of that noise; there’s a mystery afoot!

The novel kept jumping back in time to the 1940s to take a not-so-interesting look at a poor Jewish family living in Neely’s hometown. I knew the flashbacks had to have some importance, but I couldn’t figure out what this gritty historical tale was doing in a chipper magic cake novel.

At the very end, Fertig tried to tie the two stories together by having Neely solve a decades-old mystery with her magic powers. I felt gypped. Where was the cake therapy? Where were the flavor assignments? If anything, the “cake therapist” portions felt like padding for a poor man’s Brooklyn.

All along, Neely’s magical reputation was a gimmick. Fertig showed no actual interest in the idea beyond using it as a framing device for her actual plot.

How DARE you, Judith.

Oh, and the flavor Neely was trying so hard to remember? Cinnamon.

Girl, how could you not remember cinnamon!? What is wrong with you!?

cute shrug.gif

Somebody solve THAT mystery.

Posted in Movies, Theater

R.I.P. It or Ship It Round 2

For round 2, I picked:

Aaron Burr from Hamilton
and
Kylo Ren from Star Wars

Background
Most know Aaron Burr as the man who shot Alexander Hamilton. In the musical, his personality boils down to strategic passivity and resentment at playing second fiddle to the brash, inelegant Hamilton.

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Kylo Ren, the new trilogy’s polarizing villain, idolizes Darth Vader (like many Star Wars fans his age.) Vader possessed the presence, power, and certainty Ren lacks. Ren spends most of his time throwing tantrums and holding grudges. He also enjoys pointless one-on-one duels and failing to blow things up.

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The Couple
Both of these men can hold a grudge; I can see them spending many a night bemoaning their past wounds over pints of Sam Adams.

Both have wrestled with uncertainty and indecision before landing on a single course of action: attain power, no matter the cost.

Kylo Ren isn’t…the smartest of villains. His tendency to rush into situations guided by emotions leads to grand failures for the First Order.

Burr, on the other hand, has the patience to play the long game as well as the drive to take action.

Ren needs Burr standing in Hux’s usual spot at his shoulder, whispering, “Wait for it…”

Verdict: SHIP IT

Posted in Books, Theater

R.I.P. It or Ship It: Round 1

For round 1, I picked:

Daine Sarrasri from the Tortall Universe
and
Alexander Hamilton from Hamilton

Background
Daine Sarrasri, the lame follow-up protagonist to Alanna of Trebond, almost made me swear off fantasy. Daine represents everything I hate in female characters: she has the power to talk to animals, but is too incompetent to be of much use. She’s so pure and shy that the plot practically glosses over her. The Strong Female Character trope rose as a reaction to characters like Daine. Shyness, femininity, and empathy don’t have to result in bland, weak, useless characters, yet HERE WE ARE.

You either love or hate Alexander Hamilton, the fast-talking immigrant from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s magnum opus. He outwits British armies! He fights political corruption! He stands up for his ideals! He cheats on his wife! A bunch! Enough times that his murder at the hands of Aaron Burr comes as a relief!

The Couple
All arguments about his complexity aside, Alexander makes a TERRIBLE husband. He picks work over his wife every time, flirting with his sister-in-law through letters meanwhile.

Gross.

Let’s say both Schuyler sisters are out of the picture. Would this arrogant founding father enjoy being eclipsed by a woman who has supernatural abilities?

Related image
“Nope!”

“I’m a wizard with the press!”
“I’m a literal wizard.”

“I defeated the British armies with my tactical brilliance!”
“I deposed a king by storming his castle with an army of zombie dinosaurs.”

While Daine isn’t the one-upping type, no way would Alexander be cool with sharing the spotlight.

As much as I hate Daine, she deserves better.

Verdict: R.I.P. IT

Posted in Books, Movies

R.I.P. It or Ship It

It’s time to ship some characters.

love stupid ships. When writing with friends, my go-to prompt is always, “Write the most unlikely couple you can think of.” I find this exercise fascinating even if they hate doing it. Some of my favorite ships have started as a joke; the more I laugh, the more sense the pairing makes.

So I played “R.I.P. It or Ship It” and the results were intense.

I picked 30 characters from 15 of my favorite franchises. To make things interesting, I picked a character I love from each franchise alongside a character I have more complicated feelings for.

Then I made some arbitrary rules:

  1. I tried to pick only 2 characters per franchise. (I may have cheated with “Star Wars.”)
  2. Any underage characters were aged up for the purposes of this game.
  3. Because I was more interested in dynamics than in canon potential, incompatible orientation was not a dealbreaker.

Here were the players:

The Lunar Chronicles
Jacin Clay (love) and Cress Darnell (loathe)

Harry Potter
Harry Potter (love) and Remus Lupin (loathe)

Fruits Basket
Kyo Sohma (love) and Shigure Sohma (dislike)

Avatar: The Last Airbender
Prince Zuko (love) and Princess Azula (despise)

Star Wars: New Trilogy
Kylo Ren (LOVE) and Admiral Hux (dislike)

Star Wars: Prequel Trilogy
Queen Amidala (like) and Anakin Skywalker (despise)

The Raven Cycle
Ronan Lynch (LOVE) and Adam Parrish (long story)

Northanger Abbey
Henry Tilney (LOVE) and Catherine Morland (resent)

Jane Austen’s Emma
Emma Woodhouse (like) and Harriet Smith (LOATHE)

You Know Me Well
Kate (like) and Ryan (DESPISE)

BBC’s The Musketeers
Porthos (LOVE) and Athos (LOATHE)

The Princess Diaries
Mia Thermopolis (like) and Lilly Moscovitz (loathe)

Tamora Pierce’s Tortall Universe
Alanna of Trebond (like) and Daine Sarrasri (despise)

Hamilton
Aaron Burr (love) and Alexander Hamilton (hate)

RENT
Mark Cohen (like) and Roger Davis (long story)

Thus occurred 15 rounds of romances so impossible they each deserve their own post.