Saunders, Kate. The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop
March 12th 2013 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Oz and Lily are okay with their family moving to a larger home in another part of London, especially when they find out that their family had connections to not only a chocolate shop, but a magical one. With the help of Demerara, an immortal talking cat (who is named after a sort of light brown sugar because her fur is that color), the two realize several horrible family secrets. There were three brothers, but one of the uncle's, Isadore, fell in love with a woman who later married his brother. There was also an argument about whether their magic chocolate should be used for good or evil, and in the end, Isadore killed his brothers in a train wreck. The chocolate in question made people immortal, and it can only be made if the molds that the brothers' mother gave all three are brought together. MI6 is greatly interested in this, and arrange for a neighbor boy with some magical powers, Caydon, to help the twins find the third mold. While attempting to retrieve this from the bottom of the Thames, Oz is kidnapped by Isadore, who is immortal, and held in his home in an abandoned subway. Joined by the talking rat Spike, Lily tries to figure out what is the best plan to retrieve her brother and also to keep the family chocolate from ruining the world.
Strengths: Saunders' books are always a treat for me. Beswitched and Magicalamity were great fun. This one was no exception. I adored the house in London with its secret passages and chocolate making equipment; the easily distracted parents who can be persuaded that really, their son has not been kidnapped by an immortal evil great uncle but is really at a music camp; and the endless cups of tea that are consumed for every imaginable event! Add to that talking cats, immortality, chocolate-- there's just nothing that didn't make me sigh with happiness. I saved this as an incentive for making it through the week-- perfect Friday evening reading!
Weaknesses: This is too girly a cover for this book. I assumed it would be about the workings of a shop sold magic chocolate, but that was just the motivation behind all of the running about. This is a great adventure book for both genders, but I'm afraid that boys will have to be persuaded to pick this up. Now, if the talking RAT had been on the cover, that would have been better!
Littlewood, Kathryn. A Dash of Magic. (The Bliss Bakery #2)
12 February 2013, Katherine Tegen Books
Rosemary is back and determined to get the family cook book back from her evil aunt Lily, who has built an empire on her television cooking show and the sale of her "secret ingredient". On air, Rose challenges her aunt to the Gala des Gateaux Grands competition in Paris. If she wins fair and square, she gets the book back, but if she doesn't, she has to leave her aunt alone. After retrieving her ancient great (times some) grandfather Balthazar and his untranslated version of the book, the entire family takes off to Paris. Balthazar has done the competition before, so know a little about what to expect, and the group, especially Thyme, run about Paris getting the magical ingredients needed, such as lovers' whispers, a ghost's wish, secret of the Mona Lisa, and the blush of a queen. Accompanied by a talking cat and a French mouse, the group tries unsuccessfully to get the book back, but in the end, everything rests on Rosemary's ability to bake and Balthazar's help to defeat Lily.
Strengths: This went down as easily as Angel's Breath cake. Don't know why it was such fun, but it was. Glad I ordered copies. Can't say it will be wildly popular, but is a good fantasy series to have on hand. This was much more what I expected The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop to be like.
Weaknesses: I can believe the magic cakes, but not that Rosemary was suddenly able to get into an exclusive competition just because she challenged Lily to it!