Dreaming in Chocolate


The Secret Ingredient of Wishes

New Release 2-6-18

One of my favorite quick bite books from last year was The Secret Ingredient of Wishes by Susan Bishop Crispell. It involved magical pies, found families, romance, and new beginnings and it was a beautiful combo of everything I love in a short and spectacular novel.

So when I saw that she had another magical food book out, I requested the ARC right away, and it was provided by St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley in return for an honest review. And you guys know that I am always honest.

Penelope and her mom run a chocolate store in the small town of Malarkey.  Turns out that an old cabinet/desk in the store gives out magical recipes that only Penelope and her mom, Sabine, can see and execute. The town believes in the magic and comes in often for the regular chocolates and the magic chocolates alike.

Penelope’s daughter Ella has an inoperable brain tumor and we are told that they have decided to stop treatment and just let Ella enjoy life since there is nothing more the doctors can do.

At the previous year’s Festival of Fate, they all drank a hot chocolate from one of the magical recipes called “Kismet Hot Chocolate” and wished for Ella to be cured. So when P&E stopped treatment, the town thought she was better, and Penelope let them believe it so they wouldn’t lose business because people would think the recipes didn’t work.

Ella is the daughter of Penelope’s high school sweetheart Noah, who the Kismet hot chocolate told Penelope that she would be together with forever. She told Noah this, and he went running for the hills. She found out she was pregnant, had the baby, and stayed in Malarkey while Noah went elsewhere to start a business and live his life.

Only now he’s back because a relative of his broke their leg and needs help running their in-town business, and so not only is Penelope trying to help Ella live out the remainder of her life in a happy way, but she is hiding Ella’s parentage from both Ella and Noah, because she doesn’t think that involving Noah at this point would be good for Ella in their current situation.

Everybody still with me? Okay.

I was with this book for a long time. The Kindle, at the time of this blog post’s composition, is reading 61%. But I just cant anymore guys, I can’t take it. Every other sentence is how Ella doesn’t have much time left, as if we had forgotten about the cancer and don’t have the mental capacity to feel that tension build as time passes. And sandwiched in between these reminders and actual storyline are reminders that Noah is her father and how she must keep the secret that Ella is his. Ella is his. Ella is his. Ella is dying. They went to the store and saw Noah. She can’t tell Noah that Ella is his. Over, and over, and fucking over.

Crispell tries to convince us that there is some kind of physical connection between Noah and Penelope but every time they brush against each other lightly Penelope cringes or flinches – nothing heats up. The only cool things about this story are Ella’s bucket list and this magical fucking table and I haven’t heard about them in what feels like a very long time.

When books get repetitive like this I lose interest in things. There isn’t anything pressing me to finish the book at this point. I’m not invested anymore. In fact, the repetition and constant nagging actually makes me feel babied, patronized, and a little intellectually insulted. THERE IS A KID. IN THIS BOOK. THAT HAS CANCER. WHO WILL DIE. IN SIX MONTHS. and I don’t care. Not even a little. No emotions.

There is a lot to be said about subtlety. You can pull my heartstrings by inserting little reminders about her cancer in Ella’s actions and health. She’s enjoying an ice cream but loses her balance. She gets lost at school because she suddenly can’t remember the route back to her classroom. It was like Crispell figured headaches must be the symptom of a brain tumor, and bad cancers only end in death, and that was the extent of her research. There was a way to handle at least the cancer in a way that made me want to see Ella’s story through to the end, even if the reappearance of the dad wasn’t that interesting.

So while I would wholeheartedly recommend The Secret Ingredient of Wishes, Dreaming in Chocolate turned out to be a boring flop for me. I’d give it a hard pass.