Tuesday, August 9, 2016

ARC Review: The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller

The City Baker's Guide to Country LivingTitle:The City Baker's Guide to Country Living
Author: Louise Miller
Publisher/Publication Date: Pamela Dorman Books; August 9, 2016
Genre: Contemporary
Source/Format: First to read; eARC

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

A full-hearted novel about a big-city baker who discovers the true meaning of home—and that sometimes the best things are found when you didn’t even know you were looking...

When Olivia Rawlings—pastry chef extraordinaire for an exclusive Boston dinner club—sets not just her flambĂ©ed dessert but the entire building alight, she escapes to the most comforting place she can think of—the idyllic town of Guthrie, Vermont, home of Bag Balm, the country’s longest-running contra dance, and her best friend Hannah. But the getaway turns into something more lasting when Margaret Hurley, the cantankerous, sweater-set-wearing owner of the Sugar Maple Inn, offers Livvy a job. Broke and knowing that her days at the club are numbered, Livvy accepts. Livvy moves with her larger-than-life, uberenthusiastic dog, Salty, into a sugarhouse on the inn’s property and begins creating her mouthwatering desserts for the residents of Guthrie. She soon uncovers the real reason she has been hired—to help Margaret reclaim the inn’s blue ribbon status at the annual county fair apple pie contest.

With the joys of a fragrant kitchen, the sound of banjos and fiddles being tuned in a barn, and the crisp scent of the orchard just outside the front door, Livvy soon finds herself immersed in small town life. And when she meets Martin McCracken, the Guthrie native who has returned from Seattle to tend his ailing father, Livvy comes to understand that she may not be as alone in this world as she once thought. But then another new arrival takes the community by surprise, and Livvy must decide whether to do what she does best and flee—or stay and finally discover what it means to belong. Olivia Rawlings may finally find out that the life you want may not be the one you expected—it could be even better...

My Thoughts:

Lately, I’ve read a lot of good contemporary novels, mainly ones released in 2016 like Break in Case of Emergency by Jessica Winters and I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillan. Both were pretty great. So, I was extremely excited to read Louise Miller’s debut novel. And for a book about baking and finding out what really matters in life, The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living was one heck of a charming and engaging novel. The beginning offered a glimpse into the life of the main character. Before getting to the point of the novel, a city baker abruptly dropped into country life after a mistake that lands her in hot water.

It was a pretty good premise that had a strong opening. The first chapter alone was enough to catch my interest and hang on to it. I liked Miller’s style. Her writing had an easy kind of flow to it. She got to the point yet managed to put in enough details to develop both the characters and setting. Speaking of the setting, I really loved it. The town of Guthrie, Vermont, was idyllic, and wonderfully developed. I could get a real sense of the seasons, and the everyday life of the residents, even if the majority of them were mentioned in passing. The descriptions helped with that. I could basically picture the landscape as the main character, Livvy, was seeing it. Another thing I enjoyed was the annual events put on in Guthrie. It was a nice detail, and I liked the way it added to the development of the setting.

The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living also touched on adultery. For the most part, Miller handled that element pretty well, and framed the situations as something of a learning experience. It put the characters in situations where they really had to think about their decisions and where they were in their life.

Baking was also a large aspect of this book—it’s in the title after all. Miller demonstrated her know-how of baking, and it translated well into the story. Half the stuff Livvy baked, I wanted to try too. That’s probably the best reaction I can have to a book that features food.

For the most part, I liked Olivia (Livvy) Rawlings. She was a good narrator for the story. Her reactions to the rapidly unfolding changes in her life were as entertaining as her interactions with the secondary characters. For me, one of the best parts of this book was definitely the least expected friendships that Livvy formed. And one of my favorite characters from the story was definitely Margaret Hurley, the owner of the Sugar Maple. She was fantastic, and I liked seeing how Margaret and Livvy interacted.

So, to close out this review I’ll admit that I had no idea what to expect from this book. From the start, the synopsis sold the book as something I would enjoy. And honestly, The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living ended up being a new favorite. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. 

Rating 4.5/5

This copy of the book was provided by Penguin First to Read (publisher) for this review, thank you!

About the Author...

Louise Miller is a pastry chef who lives and works in Boston, MA. She received a scholarship to attend GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator program, a yearlong workshop for novelists. She is an art school dropout, an amateur flower gardener, an old-time banjo player, an obsessive moviegoer, and a champion of old dogs. The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living is her debut novel...

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