BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Review & Giveaway of A Batter of Life and Death by Ellie Alexander

Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Series: A Bakeshop Mystery #2
Source: the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Release Date: June 30, 2015
Challenges: COYER Summer Scavenger Hunt | Cruisin' Through the CoziesFinishing the Series | NetGalley and Edelweiss Reading Challenge
Buying Links: Amazon* | Book Depository* | OmniLit*Barnes & Noble
* affiliate links; the blog receives a small commission from purchases made through these links.

Blurb from goodreads:

Welcome to Torte-a small-town family bakeshop where the coffee is hot, the muffins are fresh, and the cakes are definitely to die for...

It's autumn in Ashland, Oregon-'tis the season for a spiced hot apple cider with a serving (or two) of Torte's famous peach cobbler. It's also the perfect time for Jules Capshaw to promote her family's beloved bake shop by competing in The Pastry Channel's reality show, Take the Cake. The prize is $25,000. But as Jules quickly learns, some people would kill for that kind of dough. Literally.

Then, just as Jules dusts off her Bavarian Chocolate Cake recipe and cinches up her apron, the corpse of a fellow contestant is discovered-death by buttercream. What began as a fun, tasteful televised adventure has morphed into something of a true-crime detective show for Jules and everybody else on set. Who could have killed Chef Marco, and why? Can Jules sift out the killer before someone else gets burned?

Bea's Thoughts:

Pasty chef Jules Capshaw is back. She's settling back into life in her hometown, working at the family bakery, with her mother. She's still separated from her husband and trying to figure what's next for her and her husband. She and her mother are also trying to make improvements to the bakery but that takes money and so Jules signs up to be part of a cooking reality TV show. Of course, events don't unfold as hoped. I am not a fan or viewer of cooking shows but I loved the idea of using one in a cozy mystery.

The Sweet:
 Ashland seems like a delightful town, with quirky yet kind people, and lots of activities. The theater in town didn't have a starring role this time but still made a guest appearance. 
Jules and her mother have a strong relationship and are close to each other; they support each other and enjoy spending time together. There's no familial angst or drama except for the day to day ripples of any relationship.  

The bakery staff are young, lively, and distinctive. They also have smaller roles than in the first book but they still contribute to the story line and round out the bakery nicely. I like that Jules' mother Helen is willing to hire college students but doesn't treat them as if they were nothing more than cheap labor. They get treated with respect and in return they give it. It seems like a good place to work, and of course, to get a bite or a drink. I found myself wishing I could pop in on my way to work or meet a friend for lunch. Of course, it is fictional and there's the not-so-minor fact of my multiple food allergies, but a girl can dream!

Oh, and speaking of dreaming, we get a few quotes from the Bard, William Shakespeare, so if you're a Shakespeare fan, you'll enjoy those. 

The story was more than just the mystery of a chef; there's a hint of romance, for several people, the story of Jules' life in Ashland, and just a cozy story that happens to include a mystery. The mystery's resolution is actually not the end of the story but occurs about 15% before the end so Alexander can address some of the other events and concerns.

Recipes! The advantage of a food based cozy mystery series is all the yummy looking recipes that get included.
The Sour:

As I mentioned, the focus was not actually on the mystery; at times it felt incidental. The story is really more a cozy little slice of life that happened to have a murder in it. If you don't mind the de-emphasis on the mystery, then this shouldn't be a problem for you.

The TV show, the people involved, the attitudes, all seemed quite cliched and stereotypical. I'd have liked more depth to them, especially the producer and the other chefs. Also, certain clues were not as subtle as they could have been, such as Nina's secret which Alexander telegraphed early on.

I mentioned that the theater and its denizens played a smaller role this time but there was one exception. Lance, who runs one of the theaters and is a family friend, would pop up at unlikely times to egg Jules on
and insist that she investigate. His only real purpose in the story seemed to be to act as troublemaker for Jules. Oh, and to be a guinea pig for Torte's budding catering sideline. I like Lance, but he just didn't seem to have a purpose.

And finally, one of my very least favorite authorial devices in a cozy mystery - the lead who protests, loudly and repeatedly, that she will never, ever, EVER again get involved with solving a murder mystery. No, no, they really really mean it this time, truly, cross their heart. I sit there, roll my eyes, and know darn that the character and author are lying to the reader because, oh look there's another book after this one! It simply isn't believable when the character says it. And speaking of believable, I am wondering how Alexander will pull off making it believable that this itty bitty town has murders on a regular basis and Jules is somehow always involved.

The Verdict:

Fluffy, sweet, a little tart, could use a little more salt but an enjoyable story with delightful characters that pulls you in until the last bite.

About Ellie Alexander ~ 

Ellie Alexander is a Pacific Northwest native who spends ample time testing pastry recipes in her home kitchen or at one of the many famed coffeehouses nearby. When she’s not coated in flour, you’ll find her outside exploring hiking trails and trying to burn off calories consumed in the name of research. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter to learn more.
Find Ellie Online:

Facebook | Twitter
Tourwide Giveaway: Signed copy of Meet Your Baker and A Batter of Life and Death, 1 pound coffee, Oregon Chai, Gourmet cupcake liners. US only, sorry. VOID where prohibited. Please read my Giveaway Policy. Ends July 21st.

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  1. I enjoyed this one as well though I don't disagree about it not focusing so much on the mystery. The whole thing with Lance and the note seemed a little out of left field.

    1. Yes! What was that bit with Lance and the note? So bizarre.

  2. This sounds like a great story you have read here. I like that it has some yummy recipes, too bad on the mystery though.

    1. I enjoyed the story and you might too.

  3. Such a fun title! I love the way you reviewed this one like you would review a dish, it's so appropriate here! I think I'd enjoy it, as long as the characters are interesting, I don't mind if the cozy focuses more on that angle than the mystery.

    1. I wasn't sure if my review set up was too hokey; I ;m glad you liked it. The characters were definitely interesting.

  4. Thank you for both the review and the giveaway.

  5. Sounds like fun! Even the "sour" don't bother me too much in a light cozy mystery, so I think I would enjoy this series. Good review and I'll be entering the giveaway - and checking my library for book one!


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