Amanda Reads: Perfect Match

One of the most relatable things a character can do these days, as far as I’m concerned, is get overwhelmed by and exhausted with online dating. As someone who’s done the OKCupid rounds more times than I can count, I was completely on board with Sophia’s feelings as she enters date number 71 at the start of Zoe May’s Perfect Match. (Full disclosure: I received an advanced digital copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review).

One note before we jump in here. I generally try to avoid spoilers when I review a book, but I had a lot of opinions and feelings about this one, so I just kind of went for it. So if Perfect Match Zoe Mayyou’re a no-spoilers type of person, consider this your warning:

Here, there be spoilers.

Okay, let’s get on with it, shall we? Online dating can start to feel like a massive chore or a full time job, so I was with Sophia when she decided to give it all up after date 71 didn’t go as planned, with “noodle-nerd” Chris treating their date a little bit more like trivia hour. I was less enthused with her friend (and roommate) Kate when she insisted that Sophia try just one more site. But of course, if Kate hadn’t, we wouldn’t have plot, so… I guess I’ll allow it.

Deciding to have a laugh, Sophia makes the most ridiculous, blunt profile, which includes exact specifications as to the measurement of a certain piece of anatomy one probably shouldn’t specify preferences about online. I was a little confused at the motivation here, since the onslaught of horrific messages that come in later could only be expected, but… plot, I guess?

Enter the character who made me most uncomfortable: Daniel, aka R-Patz because he’s constantly being confused for Robert Pattinson. The moment he entered, I knew we were going to watch this whole thing blow up in Sophia’s face. As the story went on and his possessive behavior became more prominent, I got really uncomfortable with their relationship and I was glad when it became clear he wouldn’t be our HEA (happily-ever-after) focus.

While totally on board with a woman leaving a man who’s treating her like property, I was a bit miffed that nothing more came out about Daniel. Why? Because it seemed like we were being led to a more dramatic revelation, with the frequent framing of Dream Dates as a sinister site. We see the subway ad defaced with devil horns, Sophia gets a message warning about “scammers” on the site from another girl, and…. all of that leads up to a pretty normal break up? Maybe the red herrings were intentionally planted, but I couldn’t help but feel let down when the main issue with the guy was just that he wanted to date broke girls so he could experience his luxe lifestyle through them… or something?

On the other hand, the reappearance of Date 71, noodle-nerd Chris, was a surprise that I loved. When we opened there, I just assumed the date was setting the stage for why Sophia was done with online dating–but no! Chris comes back, adorably nerdy and sweet, and completely wins the reader over. I loved that surprise, and the trajectory of their whole deal felt real to me. Also, who can say no to a man who can bake cakes basically professionally? Sign me up, noodle facts and all.

All said and done, I enjoyed this book even though I was frustrated at being mislead with the Dream Dates situation. Certain aspects–like the fact that someone was going to end up dating Ted since we focused on him so much–were a little predictable, but others were a pleasant surprise. I thought the side characters were well-developed and that the way in which Sophia and Chris ended up getting together was fairly realistic, as far as love stories go. I was especially pleased to see that Sophia’s happy ending wasn’t just about dating a nice guy, but also about personal growth in terms of finding a new job and a new home–on her own. I definitely recommend this one if you like romantic comedies.

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Amanda Reads: The Art of Baking Blind

My roommate and I have been watching a lot of The Great British Bake Off recently, so when I read the synopsis for The Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughan, I knew it would be my next read. I spent this past chilly weekend of sub-zero weather tucked away reading it.

The Art of Baking Blind Sarah VaughanThe Art of Baking Blind follows five competitors as they bake for the chance to become the next Mrs. Eaden. Mrs. Eaden is a recently deceased cookbook author and figurehead for the popular Eaden grocery store chain. Woven in between the competitors’ alternating narratives is that of Kathleen Eaden herself, uncovering the personal story behind her great cookbook.

The structure of the plot, skipping from character to character, both created momentum that kept me reading and frustrated me. I’d have liked to spend more significant chunks of time with each character in their introductory sections, because it took me a while to tell the different women apart. However, leaving and popping back in to some of the stories raised the suspense, and the lengths seemed to even out as it went along.

The most compelling plot, for me, was that of Kathleen Eaden, who had a series of miscarriages in spite of her book’s emphasis on baking with–and for–children. Her sections were the ones I most enjoyed reading, drawn in by their contrast with the snippets from her book peppered at the start of chapters.

I tore through this book in eagerness to see what would happen to Kathleen and, to a lesser degree, some of the contestants of the baking competition. Ultimately, though, I didn’t feel entirely satisfied with the ending. The winner was never really in much question, and things just sort of seemed to trickle off for many of the plots. This is possibly because it took me so long to sort out the female contestants that I never really got properly invested in any of their stories.

All in all, this was a fun read for me, and certainly brought out a different perspective on shows like The Great British Bake Off. While I dislike star-rating systems generally, I think the middle-of-the-road 3-star rating I gave it on Goodreads is the best way I can describe my feelings about this book–fun, but it probably won’t stick with me.