Sunday, May 9, 2010

Group Review: The Icing on the Cupcake

Summary: Ansley thought her fiancé, Parish, loved her unconditionally until he dumps her. In order to escape the subsequent gossip and pity, she heads to New York City to visit her maternal grandmother, Vivian, whom she has never met. While Vivian is delighted to have the chance to reconnect with her family, she currently has problems of her own: her recently deceased husband’s creative tax shelters have brought down the wrath of the IRS, specifically agent 1432. As a way of coping, Ansley begins baking cupcakes, and as she mixes up batches of home-baked goodness, she realizes she may have stumbled on the answer to her and her grandmother’s problems. Striking the perfect balance between tart wit and sweet romance, Ross spoons up a thoughtful blend of chick lit and women’s fiction, complete with a tempting assortment of cupcake recipes, the icing on this irresistible culinary literary creation. (booklist)

Julie's Review: "Momma, everyone likes cupcakes". I don't think more truer words could have been spoken by Ansley when she says this to her mom, Hattie. Ansley is dumped on her butt, very publicly, by her fiance Parish. You see Ansley seems nice but she's not. She's a real, big witch!! I didn't like her at all at first but a great author develops her characters and Ms. Ross did with Ansley. The transformation of Ansley was realistic and not without it's hiccups. I did at times have to remind myself that she was only 22. For all the talk of getting married and having kids, I would think that she would be in her late 20s. I honestly don't think she was in love with Parish, she was in love with what he represented to her. I'm not sure at the end of the book if she even realizes that yet. Here's hoping there's a sequel and we find her growing even more.

We also get to know her grandmother Vivian. This woman is so alive and vivacious that I wanted some of her energy. She's recently lost her husband of some 40 years, only to find out that he left her with a whopper of an IRS situation. She doesn't take the allegations laying down. She starts to tackle them hands on with some help from Ansley and her financial advisor, Thad. There are some interesting twists and turns in this plot that I don't want to say a lot about because it'll ruin the story for you.

We also get to know, albeit not as well, Ansley's mother Hattie. Hattie is a proper southern woman, who's brought up her daughter to believe in the same things she does. She is fiercely against Ansley going to NYC to stay with her grandmother, you see Hattie and Vivian haven't spoken in 40+ years, ever since Vivian moved to NYC and married Charlie. Of course, there are always misinformation in families about these circumstances and this one is no different.

The Icing on the Cupcake is about finding your way after having your heartbroken and knowing you can stand on your own two feet. More importantly, it's about family relationships, mother/daughter, granddaughter/grandmother and how we bond over similarities and differences.

There is a great cast of characters in this book; Dot, Thad, and IRS Agent #1492.

As you all know, I don't have a ton of free time to read (you know work, 2 kids, husband, house, etc) but this book I finished in 24 hours. I really couldn't put it down. I even came home to read it before I picked up the kids. I devoured it like I want to do with her cupcake recipes. I can't wait to try some of the recipes with my sister. You see she's the baker and I'm the eater. In particular, I can't wait to do the S'mores with Marshmallow frosting. Can you say yummy?

Jenn is our resident "Food-Lit" connoisseur but I think that Ms. Ross is definitely an addition to this new, emerging genre. Sarah Addison Allen is still the one to which all other food-lit authors measure up.

Final Take: 4/5

Jenn's Review: Sorry, Julie, but I'm going to have to disagree with you and Ansley. I don't like cupcakes. I don't like cake at all. *ducking incredulous looks* (Yeah, I know "and you call yourself a foodie," etc. etc. etc.)

However, even I want to try some of these cupcakes! (The Margarita, Hold the Salt one sounds divine!) There are two kinds of food-lit, the kind where food is pervasive in the stories like books from Sarah Addison Allen and Erica Bauermeister, and the kind that weaves recipes into the story, like this book from Jennifer Ross and books from Josi S. Kilpack. I love them both indiscriminately.

The main character in this book is far from likable. Actually, most of the character's in this book are unlikable. Ansley is cruel; her grandmother, Vivian walked out on her family; her mother Hattie, spoiled her daughter to excess; and then there's Thad, Vivian's haughty financial advisor. Taking all that into consideration, I would usually walk away from such a book, but Ms. Ross created such an interesting story around these characters that you can't help but get pulled into it. (Like Julie, I read this in about a day.) These character's are not just archetypal stereotypes, but have depth and grow. You may not like Ansley by the end of the book, but you sure do respect her.

The plot moves along nicely and though there is a twist that is foreshadowed early in the book, it is still well done. I also like that the story is not wrapped in a nice neat little package at the end. It is left open, but not so open that you feel cheated out of story.

I wholeheartedly agree with Julie that Ms. Ross is an excellent example of what is good in the genre of food-lit. I will certainly be seeking more from her.

Final Take: 4.25/5



Mary (Bookfan) May 9, 2010 at 7:06 AM  

It sounds like a great read. Adding it to my wish list now.

Meg May 10, 2010 at 2:26 PM  

Can't wait to read this one! Even the cover gets me salivating. I'm a huge fan of cupcakes in general -- I made some s'mores ones with marshmellow fluff topping last night! -- and have a feeling this one will quickly be devoured by yours truly!

Sheila (Bookjourney) July 26, 2010 at 5:46 PM  

Had to pop in and see your take on this book :) I too would like to try the margarita cupcakes and would have made them Friday but I was leaving town and did not have time.

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