Uncovering the Secrets of Jellicoe Road (2006, Melina Marchetta)

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (2006)

Suggested age range: 15 and up (Harper Teen, 419 pages)

Rating: 5/5 stars

Source: Library

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

“Whatever is now covered up will be uncovered and every secret will be made known.”

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I finally read it!! During Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-Thon!! And it was amazing!!

The Book: A tragedy took place on Jellicoe Road. Friendships were forged and flowers were planted. Eighteen years later, Taylor is trying to piece together what happened, and how it relates to her own story of being abandoned by her mother on that same road. When Hannah, who is like a second mother to Taylor, disappears, Taylor does everything she can to figure out where she is. A strange recurring dream of a boy in a tree continues to haunt Taylor, and she senses someone following her. And then there’s her friendship with Jonah Griggs, leader of the Cadets–the social group in constant battle with her own.

Spirituality in Jellicoe Road: We all want to belong within our families, and form valuable connections with our parents, and this is a challenge Taylor encounters in the story. In addition to dealing with the fact that her mother abandoned her on Jellicoe Road, Taylor is navigating the significance of her recurring dream with the boy in the tree, who seems to important. What does it mean for her life, whether it’s her past, present, or future? This aspect in the story got me thinking about the notion of dreams as spiritual. Are our dreams important and how we do figure out what they mean? If you know me at all, you know I find dreams fascinating, so of course I was highly intrigued by this part of the book.

Who Should Read This Book: Whether you are a fan of Marchetta’s high fantasy, such as Finnikin of the Rock or E. Lockhart’s contemporary YA, We Were Liars, I’m pretty sure you will enjoy Jellicoe Road. Marchetta’s beautiful prose reminded me of the gorgeous imagery from Finnikin, while the mystery of the plot and its companion narrative made me think about Lockhart’s text. At first I was pretty confused, trying to figure out the connections between the two different storylines, but it gets easier as you go along, so don’t let this deter you.

The Final Word: This book was published in 2006, and it’s taken me so long to read it! Its unforgettable plot and spiritual dimensions, however, drew me to review it on the blog. I believe it is not to be missed—you just have to be ok with crying. Ok, maybe crying a lot.

Get your box of tissues, and step onto Jellicoe Road as soon as you can.

Have you read Jellicoe Road? What did you think??

 

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A Journey of the Heart: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

“He had learned that it was the smallness of people that filled him with wonder and tenderness, and the loneliness of that too. The world was made up of people putting one foot in front of the other; and a life might appear ordinary simply because the person living it had been doing so for a long time.

Harold could no longer pass a stranger without acknowledging the truth that everyone was the same, and also unique; and that this was the dilemma of being human” (p. 180-181).

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (2012)

Suggested age range: 16 and up (Black Swan, 357 pages)

Rating: 5/5 stars

Source: Personal Copy

Genre: Contemporary Realism

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The Book: Harold Fry’s life is about to change after he receives a letter from an old friend, Queenie Hennessy. This letter informs him that Queenie is dying of cancer, and she writes to say goodbye to Harold. Out he goes to post a response back, but his walk doesn’t end at the mailbox. Instead, he continues walking, intent upon completing his pilgrimage from one end of England to the next, in hopes of saving his friend. What follows is the story of Harold’s journey, but it is much more than a physical journey. As Harold meets a variety of characters and adventures along the way, he reflects on the past, and this in turn affects his present. For just as his interactions affect those he encounters, he is affected by those he meets along the way. The story is a moving narrative of Harold’s journey of the heart–a journey that ends up changing many more than just Harold.

Spirituality in Harold Fry: Harold’s decision to embark on this impossible walk from the south of England to the north certainly reflects his spirituality, for there is hope inside of Harold that one small act can have a significant effect on a situation. Harold doesn’t claim to be religious, but I think his  story is rife with spiritual moments. As he gets deeper into the pilgrimage, his perspective on the people around him becomes deeper and compassionate. Harold experiences significant connectedness with people and animals alike, and this adds another spiritual aspect to the story. There’s too much to discuss in detail here, but let’s just say the topic of spirituality in fiction would be an amazing area of discussion with this book!

Who Should Read This Book: This is a book that will appeal to a wide range of readers. Though Harold is older, he is a protagonist that even young readers would be drawn to, at least I think, from my own reading experience. I wanted to know about his friendship with Queenie—what was it that was so significant about their relationship? Also, what happened between Harold and his son? His journey, which includes flashbacks and reflections on his life, unfolds throughout the narrative, leaving clues here and there so the reader can piece together a fuller picture of the character of Harold Frye. And it’s a character the reader is certainly sad to say goodbye to after the last page is turned.

The Final Word: By all means, go and read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. This novel has received rave reviews from many sources, and I’m surprised it took me so long to read it myself. It was during a recent trip to London, while browsing in a bookstore, that I realized this book was perfect for my life in that moment. I was on a pilgrimage of sorts, of my own, so this story fell into my lap at the perfect time! I read it on planes, on trains, and while listening to live jazz one afternoon outdoors in Jerusalem. It’s a rich story, and one with loads of memorable quotes—so have a notepad ready to jot those down. You’ll definitely want to go back and read them again. Be warned–you may need tissue!

 

ALL FOUR STARS AUTHOR INTERVIEW: TARA DAIRMAN–WORLD TRAVELER

allfourstars_finalWhen I posted ALL FOUR STARS by TARA DAIRMAN as one of my top anticipated releases for 2014 at the beginning of the year, I had no idea the blog would be one of her interview stops, or that I would write a recipe-inspired post from the book. If you’ve read my review of this contemporary middle grade novel, out July 10th, you will know that it is one of my new favorites, and I absolutely fell in love with Gladys and her culinary antics!

I appreciate that Tara took the time to visit the blog and answer some questions I devised for her. I think you’ll enjoy reading her responses. And A SEQUEL!! She talked about a sequel!!

Enjoy!

Tara Dairman headshot

1. I loved All Four Stars and think the plot is fantastic. Where and when did the idea for the story start to brew?

Thank you so much, Katie! I was living in New York when I first started to write ALL FOUR STARS, and working as an editor at a small magazine. In that job, I had freelance writers who wrote stories that I edited, but I never met most of them, or even talked to them on the phone. So it occurred to me that if a kid was a good writer, she might be able to hoodwink me into publishing her. And if she could trick me, why not the biggest newspaper in New York? 

I was interested in food and cooking, too, so it made sense for me to make my young writer a wannabe restaurant critic. And I moored her out in the suburbs, where I grew up, with parents who couldn’t have been less interested in gourmet food. The rest of the plot just kind of flowed from that!

I loved the contrast of a foodie protagonist with parents who cooked using the microwave–brilliant! 

2. What’s your writing process like? Is it very structured? Do you have to write in a specific location, have a certain noise level, etc.?

These days, I tend to be more structured about my writing process than I used to be. I prefer to work in the mornings, either at home or in public. I don’t mind a low level of background noise, but I can’t listen to music while I write. A hot beverage next to the computer is nice. But really, I can write anywhere if I have to. I drafted parts of ALL FOUR STARS on the New Jersey Transit Bus during my morning commute when I was living on the east coast, and in various spots (mostly cafes) around the world while I backpacked for two years with my husband.

I love to write while traveling, and I love the idea that some of your story was written in different cafes of the world!

3. What would you say to young readers who pick up ALL FOUR STARS and then want to learn to cook or bake, but have never made anything before? What would you encourage them to start with?



That’s a terrific question! Well, first of all, I’d make sure you have permission from an adult and supervision if necessary, especially if you are going to use knives or the stove or oven. Then I would pick a recipe that has a short list of ingredients. If you’re baking, something like muffins or a quick bread can be a good place to start; for dinner, maybe pasta with a very simple sauce, like garlic and oil. And a fancy salad is easy to make and can be surprisingly delicious—baby spinach with sliced pears and blue cheese was the first salad I ever made, and I love it to this day!

That is a lovely salad combination!

4. I love Gladys’s determination to get that restaurant review completed—are there any parallels between Gladys’s antics and her experiences in the book and your own childhood?

Haha—not that I can recall. Gladys is much bolder and more adventurous than I was at that age. The only real parallel I can think of is that I eventually developed a taste for surprising people—for instance, in high school, I did Mathletes and cheerleading at the same time. But that was about as bold as things got for me. 🙂

I enjoy hearing about unique high school experiences–they definitely make for interesting plot lines…

5. These are important questions I love to ask authors who visit the blog: Favorite kind of donut, Favorite kind of pie, Favorite kind of cake?


My favorite donut is the peanut butter and jelly donut from Square Donuts from Terre Haute, Indiana! My favorite kind of pie is cherry (closely followed by rhubarb), and my favorite kind of cake is carrot. Mmm, now I’m hungry for all of these things.

Excellent choices! Cherry pie is such a perfect choice for this time of year–I have to say I wouldn’t mind a slice myself.

6. I read about your amazing two year journey around the world with your husband—could you name your top three favorite meals? (and places where you had those meals?)

Ooh, a trip down culinary memory lane! It’s almost impossible to narrow it down, but here are three amazing meals I had:

-Breakfast of pan de yuca (cheese bread) and yogurt smoothies in Quito, Ecuador (2009)

Breakfast of pan de yuca and yogurt

-Lunch of donkey meat in Beijing, China—surprisingly tasty! (2011)

Lunch of donkey meat in China

-Christmas dinner in Hyderabad, India—chicken saag, Hyderabadi biryani (a specially-prepared rice dish with beautiful, extremely long rice grains), and so many different kinds of bread that the waiter warned us that we were ordering too much (2010)

Christmas dinner in Hyderabad

These look like three amazing meals! My cousin is getting ready to visit China–I’ll have to ask her about trying donkey meat. That Indian meal is definitely making my mouth water….Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos! 

7. Will there be any future books with Gladys or do you think you will write another foodie book?



Yes—there will be a sequel to ALL FOUR STARS in summer, 2015! It’s set during the summer after sixth grade, and Gladys faces a whole new world of professional and personal challenges. I’ll hopefully be able to share more information about it soon. I’m really excited about it.

(jumps up and down) I can’t wait!

8. Is there a dessert place in NYC like Classy Cakes that you would recommend to your readers?

Classy Cakes wasn’t based on any one place, but the restaurant Serendipity 3 on the Upper East Side is pretty well-known for its pricey desserts (and its long lines and snippy attitudes!), so I may have drawn a bit of inspiration from it. 

The Internet tells me that there is also an all-dessert restaurant in Manhattan called ChikaLicious, which sounds a lot like Classy Cakes, but I’ve never been! Maybe next time I’m in town…

Yes! I’ve been to Serendipity 3–we waited a long time to get in, but we wanted to try that frozen hot chocolate. 🙂 

Thank you so much for having me, Katie! These were terrific questions!

Thank you, Tara!!

Do look up this debut author–see links below! And you can get her book, out in just TWO DAYS!

Social media links:

Website: www.taradairman.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TaraDairman

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TaraDairmanAuthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13598351-all-four-stars

Also, be sure to check out The Midnight Garden ALL FOUR STARS blog tour, if you haven’t already!

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All Four Stars by Tara Dairman Blog Tour: Caramel Walnut Brownie Recipe & Giveaway!

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Welcome to the July 4th stop of The Midnight Garden’s All Four Stars Blog Tour!

It’s time to celebrate the upcoming release of the fantastic middle grade novel, All Four Stars…with a brownie recipe.

Calling all bakers and aspiring bakers!

When I saw All Four Stars on the list of upcoming releases for 2014, I was beyond excited. Three of my passions were combined in one book: cooking, baking, and writing! What a fantastic premise—a twelve year old chef and foodie accidentally lands a job writing a restaurant review for a prestigious newspaper. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to read the book.

The meals, recipes, and cooking adventures detailed in the story made my mouth water, and led me to brainstorm a baking-related tour stop for The Midnight Garden’s Blog Tour! After much thought and deliberation, I decided to pursue the perfect recipe for the caramel walnut brownies that Gladys’s neighbor, Mrs. Anderson bakes. Mrs. Anderson is known for her “experimental brownies” and gives one to Gladys, though Gladys “never had the heart to tell Mrs. Anderson that she didn’t really like walnuts.” Gladys gives her brownie to a classmate the next day at lunch:

“You want it?” Gladys said, holding out the brownie.

Charissa took it right away, of course, without protesting, proposing a trade, or even saying thank you…Charissa held the brownie at arm’s length. She was shaking…

“Oh my God,” Charissa said, her eyes wide with disbelief.

“This brownie..this brownie…” The cafeteria table was dead silent; all eyes were on them…

“This brownie is…AMAZING!!”

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DSC_0246I decided to bake my own caramel walnut brownies, but I also made a batch without the walnuts—and hoped that Gladys would approve. For the recipe, I went straight to the professionals because there was a brownie recipe I was dying to try from an amazing cookbook: Baked Elements by Matt Lewis, Renato Poliafito (Photography by Tina Rupp).  I think Lewis & Poliafito really have the best brownie recipe, and you can actually visit their bakery in Brooklyn. Their brownie recipe doesn’t have the caramel walnut glaze or the two tablespoons of boiling water I added, but the rest of the recipe is theirs. I would strongly recommend buying their cookbook–you won’t regret it. There is an amazing recipe for Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls that you should try next!

Gladys: “I’ve made 142 recipes from twelve different cookbooks,” she cried, “and they all turned out fine!”

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(I didn’t have to use my stand mixer for this, but thought it looks lovely next to the cookbook.)

Their Spicy Brownie recipe includes ancho chile powder to deliver a gorgeous spicy dimension to a perfect fudgy brownie. Think ancho chile powder is hard to find? Not really. You can find it at World Market as well as other grocery stores. In a pinch, you could probably use cayenne pepper, but I would recommend using about half of the ancho chile powder amount.

More research found me a simple recipe for a caramel walnut glaze that I thought would be the perfect finish. These spicy brownies could certainly go without them, if you wanted to omit the caramel and walnuts. The truth is—I made these brownies once in California, and then I made them while on holiday on Cape Cod. I actually liked the once with bigger chunks of walnuts, surprisingly. I’m in love with these brownies! Look at that amazing fudgy-ness.

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These actually aren’t THAT spicy and those who are expecting more of a kick could be disappointed. What they do deliver is a smoky and warm flavor that I think pairs perfectly with the caramel and walnuts. The Baked authors had originally used a chipotle powder in these spicy brownies, but felt this was a bit much, and so opted for something a little less spicy. My taste testers were not disappointed—I received raving reviews of these brownies for days.

A few important notes on this recipe:

-Make sure your eggs are room temperature! Don’t skip this step.

-The recipe asks you to grate your cinnamon, but in a pinch, it was fine for me to use the cinnamon I already had in my spice cupboard.

-Don’t overmix the brownies!! This is crucial to their wonderful fudgy texture. Fold everything together at the end just until combined.

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Mrs. Anderson’s Aztec Brownies with Caramel Walnut Glaze

(The Baked Spicy Brownie with Caramel Walnut Glaze)

Adapted slightly from the Spicy Brownies Recipe in Baked Elements: The Importance of Being Baked in 10 Favorite Ingredients by Matt Lewis, Renato Poliafato, Tina Rupp (Photographer) [2012, by Stewart, Tabori, & Chang]

Makes: 12 large or 24 small brownies

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
2 teaspoons freshly grated cinnamon (or from your spice rack)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger OR 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
8 ounces good-quality dark chocolate (60 to 72%), coarsely chopped
2 ounces good-quality milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 tablespoons of boiling water (from bottom double boiler pan)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature (very important to have the eggs at room temperature!)

Caramel Walnut Glaze

14 unwrapped caramels

¼ cup heavy cream

1/2 to 1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (depending on how much walnut-ness you desire)

Making the Brownies

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Take a 9 by 13 inch glass or light colored metal baking pan and butter the bottom and sides. Then, line the pan with parchment paper and butter the parchment.

2. Next, get a medium bowl, and whisk the flour, cocoa powder, chile powder, cinnamon, salt, and ginger. Set that aside.

3. Now, you need to melt the butter and chocolate. You can construct your own double boiler on the stove by filling a pot about halfway with water, and then placing a glass bowl or another pot over that one. It’s really easy! Check out this link for more info. Once you get the water boiling, you can place your butter and chocolates in the top bowl. Stir occasionally until everything is melted and combined nicely! Now, turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water. **If you want to add my magic mishap [see description below] into the recipe, take two tablespoons of the boiling water and add it to the chocolate/butter mixture. Then, add both the white sugar and the brown sugar and whisk until they are combined. You need to wait a little now, while the bowl comes to room temperature, but remove it from above the water.

4. Add 3 of your room temperature eggs, and mix it until everything comes together nicely. Don’t overmix! Add the last 2 eggs and do the same–mix until just combined.

5. Now you can add the flour mixture to the batter and fold the flour mixture in with a spatula. It’s very important that you don’t overmix here—once you see the last of the flour disappear…stop!

6. Pour the brownie batter into your prepared pan with the parchment.

7. Bake for 30 minutes in your preheated oven, but set your timer for 15 minutes and rotate the pan halfway.

You’ll need to check to see that the brownies are finished by using a toothpick. You should only see a few crumbs on the toothpick to make sure the brownies are done. Let them cool now and transfer to a wire rack.

Once the brownies are cool, you can make the glaze.

8. Chop about ½ to 1 cup of walnuts—it’s up to you depending on how many walnuts you like on your brownie. You can preheat the oven to 350 degrees and toast the walnuts for about 8 minutes first, if you prefer. Or, skip this step, if you’re pressed for time.

9. Unwrap your 14 caramels and place in a bowl that you can microwave, or in a pot on the stove.

10. Add ¼ cup of the heavy cream and stir everything as it melts. I melted the caramel and cream on the stove, and this worked out just fine. You just want to make sure you keep an eye on the mixture and turn off the heat as soon as everything is combined.

11. You can drizzle some caramel on the brownies first, and then top with the walnuts. Or you can sprinkle the walnuts, and then pour the caramel over.

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Cut into squares and enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee. And be sure to read ALL FOUR STARS, out JULY 10TH from Putnam!

BONUS: *My Baking Mishap*

No, it wasn’t as destructive as Gladys’s experience making crème brulee, but since I didn’t have a double boiler to melt the butter and the chocolate, I constructed my own. My pots weren’t the right size, though, and as I was stirring my chocolate and butter for these brownies (and they were melting very nicely), my top pot slipped and tipped into the water below it! That gave me a start, but I quickly righted the pot, and surveyed the damage. Had any water gone into the chocolate and butter? How would that affect the final product? I had no choice but to press on—time was of the essence!

The fact is, that some of the water had gone into my chocolate and butter, a few tablespoons, by my estimation. But….the texture and taste of the brownies was so amazing, that I really couldn’t say if it damaged the recipe at all. In fact, I thought the finished brownie was so perfect, that I think I may have to suggest adding a tiny bit of boiling water to the chocolate and butter mixture, in case there was a bit of magic in my mishap.

Should I be berated for this? Maybe. But I think Gladys would show me grace. And I certainly hope she would appreciate the brownies, minus the walnuts, of course.

Win a copy of All Four Stars!

Thanks to Putnam, there are 8 finished copies of this lovely book to give away throughout the blog tour. Visit each stop to earn extra points, or you can also tweet, pin, etc.

Open to U.S. and Canadian residents aged 18 or older, or 13 or older with parental permission. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to visit the blog again on Monday for a special interview with author, TARA DAIRMAN!

All Four Stars Tour Schedule
Don’t forget to check out the rest of the All Four Stars Blog Tour! There are fantastic posts, excerpts, recipes, and giveaways at each stop.

Tuesday, July 1st              The Midnight Garden
Wednesday, July 2nd        The Reading Date
Thursday, July 3rd            For What It’s Worth
Friday, July 4th                 The Spirit of Children’s Literature
                                           A Baked Creation
Monday, July 7th              Xpresso Reads
Tuesday, July 8th             For the Love of Words
Wednesday, July 9th        Finding Bliss in Books
Thursday, July 10th          Candace’s Book Blog

Where to buy the book links:

BON APPETIT & HAPPY READING!

TMG blog tours

 

A True Delicacy: All Four Stars by Tara Dairman

Are you interested in a fabulous middle grade novel celebrating all things culinary?!?

Today kicks off a fabulous blog tour, hosted by The Midnight Garden, for the new middle grade book, All Four Stars by Tara Dairman!

Don’t worry—the book is out on July 10th, but between now and then, enjoy visiting all the stops on the tour. Spirit of Children’s Literature is on the schedule for this Friday, July 4th, but today I share with you my review of this wonderful story. Stay tuned, however, for a special recipe inspired by the book on Friday!

There’s even more! (That’s how much I loved this book!) An interview with the author, Tara Dairman, will be live on the blog next Monday! You won’t want to miss it—it was so much fun asking Tara about her favorite desserts, her best meals eaten around the world, and a possible sequel to All Four Stars.

The first stop on the blog tour is a Foodie Tour of NYC and giveaway for the book, so go check it out!

Bon Appetit!

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All Four Stars by Tara Dairman (2014)

Suggested age range: 8 and up (Two Lions, 294 pages)

Rating: 5/5 stars

Source: e-ARC from Netgalley

Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary Realism

The Book: Gladys Gatsby loves to cook! Her parents: not so much. Mom and Dad are terrible cooks, microwaving meatloaf and preparing gross sandwiches with too much mayonnaise. But by the 6th grade, Gladys is an amazing cook, and delights in buying special ingredients and creating gourmet dishes. Her hobby is ground to a stop, however, after a mishap with a blow torch and crème brulee. Gladys just wants to create in the kitchen—is that too much to ask? When she enters an essay contest for school, her letter accidentally lands her a position as a restaurant reviewer at the famous New York Daily Standard. She receives her first assignment: visit Classy Cakes in NYC and sample their desserts so she can complete her review. How is she going to pull it off when she’s been barred from all things culinary? Dive into All Four Stars and find out how Gladys navigates the challenges of cooking in secret, new friendships, and keeping her young identity a secret.

Spirituality in All Four Stars: Figuring out our place in the world can definitely illuminate a spiritual aspect of our lives. I thought this was an important dimension in the story—Gladys’s growing confidence in who she is. This also leads to her connecting meaningfully with other people and pursuing what she’s passionate about! A kid who visits a shop regularly for specialty ingredients and can cook far better than her parents isn’t always the norm, and Gladys certainly has her share of challenges in the story. The way she navigates them, however, makes room for meaningful discussion about what makes our hearts happy and how to approach situations that stand in the way of that.

Who Should Read This Book: I adored this book, so I’m going to go ahead and suggest that everyone read it! Young readers will love it, young adults would love it, and adults: you too! Gladys’s humorous antics and her interactions with memorable characters at school add spice to the story, resulting in a fast-paced and enjoyable read.

The Final Word: This is a delicious and delightful book that will have you cheering for Gladys as she navigates a world filled with parents who are terrible cooks, undercover baking, and a top secret job as a restaurant reviewer! I loved the way Dairman wove in delectable descriptions of food, and I enjoyed every moment of Gladys’s antics as she makes friends and strives to complete her restaurant review for The New York Standard. I closed the book with a desire to bake a dessert myself in honor of the end of All Four Stars. At the same time, I was sad the story ended. Certainly worth a re-read and strongly recommended! I’m certainly looking forward to reading more from Tara.