Wednesday, March 22, 2017

REVIEW: Blueberry Cupcake Mystery

Blueberry Cupcake Mystery
Author: Naomi Miller

This book is simple, short and sweet.

I'm going to talk about the things I enjoy about this story first. Then I will delve into some constructive discussion of things I think are problematic.

First, readers should be aware that this is Christian fiction. If the Christian faith is not your belief or you are bothered by Christian themes, then avoid this book. The Christian theme is not overdone (I have read Christian fiction that just slammed you with scripture and Christian themes so much it over-powered the main plot), but presented as part of the Amish theme. The main character thanks God and talks about blessings in her life, etc. She does not sermonize and the book is not evangelistic or overly moralistic. It presents a theme of forgiveness, kindness and faith. The story is charming, not preachy.

While it did make the author's writing style seem a bit stilted at times, I enjoyed the use of Amish words (not sure if Dutch or German) in the conversation and thoughts of the Amish main character. I grew up with a German grandfather who mixed English and German as he spoke. So as I read the story I felt nostalgic for the times I spent with him as a young girl. I wish I could have my grandpa back for just one day. He used to speak to me in German and I would answer him in English. I've forgotten almost all of the German I knew as a child. This story made me smile and brought back fond memories of my Opa.

The cover of the book is gorgeous and well done. The book has an inviting appearance and the cupcake on the front looks absolutely scrumptious! Plus, there is a recipe included for blueberry cupcakes. :) mmmmmm :)

Now.....I have to also mention some disappointments with this book.

The font size is huge. This book is very short. The only way the story is extended to 91 pages was by using huge type and making the margins wide. I tried this once in school on a book report because I couldn't stretch "I didn't like this book'' to the required four pages. I got detention. So, this was a glaring no-no for me as a reader and reviewer.  It is a silly trick in elementary school...and a publisher should know better than to do this. There is very little character development, location description or details about the Amish in this book. With just a bit more detail and description added, the story could have been better and this story would have been book-length without resorting to a huge font. As it is, this is really a short story or very slim novella typed large to make it appear to be a book.

Along those same lines, throwing in some Amish language and having the main character fret about the behavior of Englishers does not make a story Amish fiction. There is just not enough detail or character development. Even if this book is classified as a children's or young adult book, there still needs to be some detail to flesh out characters and even just a little bit of background or subplot about the Amish, the town -- anything really -- to make this a flowing, interesting story. As it is, the characters are weak and undeveloped. And the only thing Amish in the story is a few foreign words and some behavior that isn't explained or detailed. While sweet, the story just lacks depth.

And my last point, the mystery is weak. I understand wanting to avoid a murder mystery in a Christian/Amish themed book. There is nothing wrong with a non-violent mystery theme. But, as with characterization and place, there is no real development or tension building. Their bakery business is broken into and items stolen and damaged. The culprit must be found. But the journey from incident to final solution is lackluster. This could be because of poor story development or the fact that the book is so short. I think maybe it's a combination of both problems.

This is the first book in this series. I haven't read the newest book, The Christmas Cookie Mystery. It could be that the writing style and story development improves with the second book. After reading only this first book, I have to say that this book might be better classified as a children's book rather than Young Adult.  I think a younger elementary age child would enjoy reading this story or having it read to them. I could see this book being used to help reading comprehension in a Christian homeschool environment. An adult or teenager might enjoy this book as a quick read. As for myself, I enjoyed its charming points, but the plot is just too simple for me. I'm going to give it a middle of the road rating because it reminded me of my Opa and made me smile. Without that nostalgia, my rating might have been lower.

I hope in the second book that the huge font becomes normal-size and the story lengthened with actual plot and character development. I'm going to read the next book and see if there are improvements. If not, I won't be reading more of this series.

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