Monday, October 9, 2017

Things I've Read Recently (58): Pizza Books!

If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason.

Yup, you read that right. Pizza. Because, hey it's Thanksgiving in Canada, so let's talk about pizza themed books. Let's do this thing.

Killer Pizza by Greg Taylor

Published: May 26th, 2009 by Feiwel and Friends
Genre: Middle Grade Horror
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 341 plus acknowledgements and a recipe and stuff.
Part of a series? Yeah, there's three of these!
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Toby McGill dreams of becoming a world-famous chef, but up until now, his only experience has been watching the Food Network. When Toby lands a summer job at Killer Pizza, where pies like The Monstrosity and The Frankensausage are on the menu, things seem perfect. His coworkers, Annabel and Strobe, are cool, and Toby loves being part of a team. But none of them are prepared for what’s really going on at Killer Pizza: It’s a front for a monster-hunting organization!

Learning to cook pizzas is one thing, but killing hideously terrifying monsters? That’s a whole other story. Still, if Toby quits Killer Pizza, will monsters take over his town?

Thoughts: Well, this was pretty fun. It's set during the summer and I kind of love reading summer books during the summer because I am a dork like that. I think the trick with this is to not take it at all seriously. It reminds me a whole lot of Goosebumps - a little scary, a lot silly, a little absurd, even. In fact, I could see this being great for kids who love Goosebumps but need something a little more challening. There's like one curse in the whole book and while some of the ideas could be a little scary, I think most kids over 10 or so could handle it just fine.

At one point, part of the town is actually called "Shadyside", which if you don't know, is the name of the town in Fear Street, further confirming my idea that you shouldn't take this too seriously. I mean. Shadyside!

One of the main characters is POC, but I think her rep might be a touch problematic at times, although she is a pretty awesome character. Nothing really stands out as super problematic, though, at least to me. Overall, this is just kind of silly and goofy and a fun read if you're in the mood for it. It's kind of obviously meant for a bit of a younger audience, and I think they must like it, because the copy I have from the library is pretty beat up even in a hardcover. It's obviously been read a lot. It also could be a pretty fun Halloween book. Not sure if I'd seek out sequels (maybe if I want to do another themed post!) but it was fun.

I will admit, though, I kind of went into it expecting the monster to be a killer slice of pizza... but um. That's more my fault than anything.

Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous by Kathryn Williams

Published: August 21st, 2012 by Henry Holt and Co
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 234 plus an interview with the author and other extras.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Can a spot on a teen reality show really lead to a scholarship at an elite cooking school AND a summer romance?

Sixteen-year-old Sophie Nicolaides was practically raised in the kitchen of her family’s Italian-Greek restaurant, Taverna Ristorante. When her best friend, Alex, tries to convince her to audition for a new reality show, Teen Test Kitchen, Sophie is reluctant. But the prize includes a full scholarship to one of America's finest culinary schools and a summer in Napa, California, not to mention fame.

Once on-set, Sophie immediately finds herself in the thick of the drama—including a secret burn book, cutthroat celebrity judges, and a very cute French chef. Sophie must figure out a way to survive all the heat and still stay true to herself. A terrific YA offering--fresh, fun, and sprinkled with romance.

Thoughts: The premise of this is great, and I think it has a decent writing style that's funny and cute, but there are so many microaggressions. Besides one major running thread that I thought was terrible, everything is just a little moment here, a little comment there. A joke about a friend being gay that wasn't funny, things being on the edge of being stereotypes, just that slight suspicion that things aren't quite kosher.

The biggest problem I had, though, is there's an ongoing thread of fatphobia throughout the book. Positive first - the book actually has a fat character, and they do manage to avoid negative connatations in having a fat character that was really passionate about food, because they're all passionate about food in the book. And I actually did think he was a charming character, and I'm down for fat queer characters having romance. But so much of the story with that character is just glaringly written by a thin person, from his first description being "well-fed" (YOU'RE IN A COOKING CONTEST, YOU'RE ALL WELL FED), to some rude comments about his body, to his final appearance after he's lost weight. I tweeted pictures of the pages as I read, and I was not pleased.

It's just very obviously a fat character written by a thin author, and it doesn't work for me.

The thing is, I actually did think this was kind of cute and funny, and I loved the idea of the recipes. (Although why is there no pizza recipe? And pizza doesn't even make her famous. Pork chops get her through, and she makes lobster ravioli as her last recipe. There's even a big gap between recipes in the books. Why not a pizza recipe?) But the microaggressions just killed me, and the fat rep did not work in my opinion. And honestly she was so close. Stan's dialogue and everything was good, and I really did like him sometimes, but then Sophie would make a comment that was gross, or the narrative would go a gross way, and it's like he could be fat, but not too fat positive before the book would remind you that being fat was bad!

Kudos for more than one queer character, and a good premise, but I wouldn't recommend this one.

Pizza is the Best Breakfast (And Other Lessons I've Learned) by Allison Gutknecht

Published: March 3rd, 2015 by Aladdin
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 140 plus a fairly long excerpt of another book in the series.
Part of a series? Yeah, there are a few of these.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Mandy Berr is super excited that her favorite cousin in the whole world, Paige, is coming to visit. After all, Mandy is usually stuck at home with the twins and annoying little brother, Timmy, so the chance for some fun girl time is definitely worthy of many “wahoos!”

But when Paige arrives, she is not the fun cousin that Mandy remembers. To start, Paige wants to call her “Manda,” with no “y.” She no longer likes Rainbow Sparkle, their favorite TV show. She doesn’t want to bounce on the bed or play dress-up. And, in the ultimate betrayal, Paige actually likes hanging out with the twins and Timmy. Mandy does not like these changes one bit.

To try and help bring the girls together, their grandma suggests the girls make some recipes out of a special cookbook—if they can work together, she will take them to a carnival at the end of the week. But having two bosses in the kitchen isn’t working out, and it looks like Mandy's visit with Paige is about to go up in smoke. Can the two cousins clear the air and whip up a fancy meal for the family?

Thoughts: This was cute. The voice reminds me a bit of Junie B. Jones or even Ramona. It's not the most unique plot ever and I almost wish there had been a little more focus on the cooking since they do most of the recipes in one night, but it's fine. It's a good chapter book and I think kids would like it. Not much more to it than that, to be honest. I think kids would like it, and it was fun.

Pizza on Saturday by Rachel Anderson

Published: February 12th, 2004 by Hodder Children's Books
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 128
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / AbeBooks

Summary (from goodreads): Until her father's death, Charlotte thought that the worst things that could happen were accidents like swallowing a paperclip and losing a pen.

While members of her family mourn the loss, no one seems to be able to help her understand what she's meant to feel. Then a new girl comes to school.

Thoughts: Well, this had absolutely nothing to do with pizza. Seriously, it's mentioned once that they usually eat pizza on Saturdays and then it pretty much never comes up again. They should have called it the Memory Box or something. Why are all the pizza books not actually about pizza?

I think I liked the idea of this more than the actual book. It's very short and frankly it's really underdeveloped. So much of the book reads like the main character is looking back on the situation instead of experiencing it, and that makes it feel really removed and not as emotional as it should be. Because of that looking back tone, the voice also doesn't read very authentically - it reads like how an adult kind of thinks a child should sound. This could have been very poignant, but it just comes off as very shallow.

The writing's just not up to parr on this one. I liked the setting, and the characters seemed cool, but they were given so little time to shine or have any development that I can't really say I even liked them. I'd pass on this one, honestly.

Well, kind of a mixed bag here! But there you go.

Happy Thankgiving if you celebrate, and happy Monday if you don't. I'm probably in a food coma right now.

Peace and cookies,

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