Friday, November 18, 2011

Practice Cake by Dalya Moon is le awesome

I read a book called Practice Cake.

I read it.

I loved it.

And now I'm telling you about it.

It's YA but it isn't paranormal.  Rather, it's very normal.  It even comes with a reality t.v. show. And despite the fact that I am nor never will be a celebrity of any kind, it struck close to heart.
The setting of Practice Cake is a wonderful bakery that instills within
me the same wonderful feeling I had when I watched Ratatouille.
Near the very end of this book, all that Maddie has gone through comes into a brilliant focus with this clear line:

"The world is full of people who are willing to use you, and they aren't always who they seem."

I barely learned this lesson only a few years ago, and I daresay that some never learn it.  What Ms. Moon has wrought with "Practice Cake" is a beautiful novel for young women everywhere by giving voice to a protagonist called Maddie who seems to meet all the wrong men.

At first, I was annoyed with Maddie. She didn't seem to have any spine at all. She was a tumbleweed, a victim that things happened to, and she rarely took charge of her life. Instead events just happened to her and she seemed entirely out of control of her own decisions even when they came to something as large as moving to Australia with a man that she hardly knew.
Maddie goes from Chaos to Order in this book. It's something every one of us must
suffer through at one point in our lives. The journey is beautiful.
But Ms. Moon also gives Maddie great strength. And this comes full circle in the end when Maddie learns to pay attention to that voice inside. The last few chapters of this book turn this novel into more than just a slice-of-life story about a girl that works in a bakery.  Ms. Moon sticks the ending as solid as a gold-medal figure skater can perform a quad. It's in this ending where she earns her five stars (out of five).
In "Practice Cake" Maddie grows as a person and the journey is filled with great lines, whimsy, and the voice of a girl that is leaving her teen years behind and becoming a young woman.  And in the end, Maddie realizes that family has got her back and that the man of her dreams is right there in front of her (and has been almost the whole time).  All she needed to do is say "I choose the car" and just like in a game show, what's behind door number 2 becomes "the road less traveled by and it makes all the difference". And to boot, he smells like sunshine. :)
This is Dalya Moon.
She wrote a wonderful book.
Q: Why did we have to wait so long for Hudson to really come into the picture? The man smells like sunshine. It's not fair that you just put him in at the very end and not let us spend a little time with him.

A: I'm so glad you liked Hudson! I agree it was cruel of me to leave him to the end.

Q: Why are Parker, Drew, and Snackboy so horrible? I can believe that there are men out there like this. But in defense of men and boys everywhere, I think that there is some literary hyperbole you are exercising in parading out the worst traits of men and throwing them at your protagonist. However, that is your right since this is your story. What I'm interested in is where all this man-bashing came from? Care to elaborate?

Do you mean ... am I exacting literary revenge on some guys who broke my heart? Like the writer of 500 Days of Summer? Nope, I'm afraid I'm not that scandalous. They're fictional people.

A: I prefer to think that the actions of a character reflect on that character alone, and not the author's opinion of an entire gender, though sometimes I've read books where all the female characters are awful, and it does give me a bad feeling. I hope that my male friends and readers will notice that there are also some terrific male characters in this book and my other stories too.

This does lead into one of the dilemmas writers face, though: is the story balanced? And does it matter, if the point is to tell a story? I remember reading an article, by a person with albinism, about his anger that persons with albinism are always the bad guys in movies, and never the hero. This led me to, years later, write a short story with a protagonist with albinism. But I could have gone the other way, and created the most deliciously evil, pale villain ever. Would that have made me a bad person? Or just an irresponsible writer? Would it make any difference if the author name on the cover were a different gender or ethnicity?

Q: When I read this book, I thought there was a clear message that you were sending out to the young girls that will read it. For me, that message is "Stop being a victim and stand up for yourself." Maddie does this in the elevator using a trope that I've never seen before anywhere...holding a hyperdermic needle to the man she potentially loves to get some answers. In the U.S., this would be considered assault. I don't know if Canada has similar laws. However, I liked it. Am I right on the message, or would you say there is another message here, and I missed it?
There is so much heart break in this book.
A: You make it sound so scandalous! In real life, I don't think people should threaten to assault each other to get to the truth, but this is why it's a novel, and not my how-to manual about how young ladies ought to behave. I'll write that one in forty years or so, once I have it all figured out.

As for a message, I have to say I'm an entertainer first. All things being equal, I think most of us prefer to read stories about protagonists who have some morals, care about others, and finish up a bit smarter than where they started. My job as a writer is to entertain the reader and to facilitate that last thing.

Q: You have an ultra-modern vocabulary and are quite inventive with "Hashtag this and hashtag that..." How do you stay so up-to-date on things young girls are talking about?

A: I have a theory that if I make characters interesting, people will want to believe they're real, so I just try to make them all interesting.

Q: Do girls really think about their boobs as much as Maddie does in this book?

A: The less you have, the more you think about them.
Love is never this simple, is it?
Q: How did you get the bakery details?

A: I would go into my local neighborhood bakeries and stare and stare like a weirdo. A friend finally got me a tour around the kitchen of Butter, a fantastic bakery in the Dunbar area of Vancouver. I asked the baker there what the plastic things covering the rolling trays were called, and he shrugged and said, "Plastic things," so that detail went into the book.

Q: How did you get the idea for this book aside from it being set in Vancouver where you live and it taking place around the time of the riots earlier this year?

A: I came up with the title first, which led naturally to the bakery setting. Then one day I was walking down the sidewalk and realized I was being filmed. I had walked past a local business that has a show on the Food network. Ahah! It all started to come together. I hadn't set a story in Vancouver yet, so I figured this was the perfect opportunity.

I started writing the book in 2010, and I really questioned whether or not to include the riots of Summer 2011, or set it back in Summer 2010. I'm usually very decisive, but I spent weeks debating that one choice. It scared me, so I decided to go for it.

Q: What advice do you have for others who want to write YA?

It's all about the characters.

If you would like a copy of Practice Cake, you can buy it for your very own on Amazon for only $2.99.

You can find Dalya Moon at her blog where she frequently blogs about her projects and the writing process.

I am going on a blog break for one week for the Thanksgiving holiday. Enjoy your turkey or whatever it is that you eat. I will pick up blogging again on Monday, November 28th, 2011. In the meantime, I will be visiting blogs and commenting on them.


  1. Sound like too much of a girly book for me, but those Oreos with the chocolate chip dough around them look delicious.

  2. Great review. I might have to pick up this book and check it out. I agree with Grumpy, those cookies at the beginning looked AMAZING. Have you read The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson? It, too, is a non-paranormal YA, and so real and vibrant. Have a good Thanksgiving!

  3. Good review, but like the other commenters I was nearly blinded by those chocolate chip oreo cookies. Should have put those at the end. Hard to concentrate on words after seeing those. :P

    How fun to use a bakery as part of the setting. That's the kind of hands on research I wouldn't mind doing.

    Have a great Thanksgiving.

  4. This book sounds right up my alley! Thanks so much for introducing me to it! I'm going to search it out for my Kindle.
    Oh, and HAPPY THANKSGIVING! See you in a week.

  5. Michael, thanks for introducing me to Dayla Moon. While I'm a fan of books with a paranormal twist, I read and love contemporary books too. I'm looking up this one.

  6. Now I'm going to have to ask my wife if the boobs thing is true.

  7. Great interview and review. Probably not my cup of tea but it makes me happy that there are so many good books out there. Enjoy your week!

  8. Dalya is so right about how it's all about the characters. An agent once summed up for me every book with the question, What does the character want and how does he/she go about getting it?
    Unfortunately Dalya is also dead right about boobs. Guess how flat I was as a teenager.

  9. I haven't read much YA contemporary, but I would try this one. On your recommendation, I'll add this to my growing list of TBR. Maybe I won't read it at this time since I'm dieting and if those pictures are teasers of what to expect in the book....I'm doomed.

  10. FANTASTIC review and interview!!!!!

    I love the pics. ;)

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  11. Sounds like the perfect holiday read! Thanks for featuring this book. I'm off to check out the author's blog now...ttfn!
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  12. Awesome book review, interview, pictures... the whole shebang! Have a Happy Thanksgiving. :)

  13. My oldest daughter had very small boobs and boys made fun of her at school; she got a boob job in her late twenties - yes, she thought about it a lot! I know this book is for young adults, but now I want to read it! Sounds really great.

  14. I love how all the guys are saying, "probably not my thing," and all the women are saying, "I'll have to look into it."
    Of course, that's really just based on 2 guys since Alex didn't really say anything one way or ther other. Just focused on the boobs.

    My daughter's probably not quite ready for this one.
    But I love the title.

  15. Excellent review. Good writing is good reading.

    Break well and fully.

  16. This sounds like something I would really love! great review and interview :)

  17. thx mike and dalya :)

    been some 15+ years since i last lived in gvrd, and miss it!

    currently in niagara area, nice, but not the same as the west coast... i may have to return... miss most? gastown and the granville market....

  18. Wait, it's YA but she moves to a new country with a guy?!?!

    This sounds good, and something I could probably relate to right now! :P

    BUt it made me want cake :(

  19. this book sounds cool - your review and interview have me eager to read it - yep characters must be interesting.

  20. Michael,
    Your book review and interview are awesome and all, but WHERE DID YOU FIND THE PICTURE WITH THE OREOS INSIDE THE CHOCO-CHIPS? I'm in college. I NEED some of those cookies!

  21. This sounds like a good book and now I'm hungry. The oreo-choc chip cookies are the most amazing looking things ever.

  22. I don't know why but I really really love the title.

    Happy Thanksgiving Michael.

  23. Sounds like an awesome read. And I'm with Ms. Moon. It's always about the characters first. :-)

  24. This book sounds wonderful. Young adults need some true life examples of how to deal with people.

    Great post as usual!

    Enjoy your Thanksgiving! :)

  25. Amazing review and it sounds like it is written very well. I remember those old days when I was young and my heart was constantly being toyed with like a cat toy. At 30 I decided that was it. No more dating, no more bars, no more letting people fix me up. I was baked. If it is meant to be then it will be. I've been married for 20 wonderful years, and now I am writing a story about heart and heart break too. I hope it comes out as nice as Practice Cake.

  26. I love this interview, especially since you tie your questions to the book. Well done. I'm adding this to my to-read list.

  27. That cookie was something! Thanks for the interview. The book look wonderful.
    Have a great Thanksgiving!

  28. What a cool book.... really like the sound of it.. thanks for sharing something new:)

  29. This is by far one of the best reviews/interviews I have ever seen. Well done. The added pictures are genius and add a touch of ambiance that would have been missed without them.

    I like girls who know what it is they want and go for it. Girls who allow others to manipulate their worlds drive me crazy. Why? I was one of those girls in high school and college who stuck by a boy who SUCKED and then went on to date more boys that SUCKED, because I didn't know I had a different choice, that I could ask for something better, and actually get it. So I don't like girls like me--but there are many out there. Another BUT here, I do like girls you get it together and figure it out and it sound like in the end it sounds like Maddie did just that (like me--I found a wonderful man who doesn't suck--my husband of 17 years).

    So, from this interview I think I would love to check this book out. Thanks, Michael.

    Consider yourself stalked! ;P

  30. Bwahahahahaha, I'm a doctor now! So now everyone has to respect me.

  31. Chalk up another good review! The book sounds like a good one for teen girls.

  32. Ha ha ha, now you really have to respect me.

  33. Great review. Sounds awesome and a book I may enjoy. Thanks for sharing about it.

  34. Sounds like a great book. You did a fine review here. And gee whiz I thought I was following you already ... well, I am now, anyway.

  35. The title would never strike me like a book a Sci- Fi person would recommend. I shall look for it in the library as well. I do have to go back and re- read a couple of pages whenever I stop reading a book at a certain point. It is taking me longer time to finish a book than it used to, a couple of years ago.
    I love the Turkey you posted. Happy Thanksgiving to you too Michael and to your folks:) This is one time I do not give a lecture on eating right.

  36. It's nice when you find a story you connect with. It sounds about my speed. I might just have to check it out. Thanks for the recommend.

  37. terffic post [envy your visuals!) break well for the holidays. JF

  38. As a contemporary YA writer and reader, this book sounds perfect for me. Thanks so much for alerting me to it. I'm off to add it to my To-Read list immediately.

    And Happy Thanksgiving. We don't celebrate it in Australia but I hope you have a good one all the same!

  39. My kids just went nuts over the cookies. Thanks for the review. I'm not a huge YA contemporary fan but I'm trying to branch out a little in my YA reading. :)

  40. Sounds like a wonderful book for my nieces. I'll make a note of it. Thanks.

    Happy Thanksgiving. I'll be taking a break this week, too. Yea!

  41. Sounds interesting. Definitely not what I usually read, but I am trying to get outside my reading comfort zone a bit. This might be just the book to get me moving. I love the cover art, too.

  42. This was a really, really well done interview! I am seriously impressed. You totally sold me on the book.

  43. This book sounds really special. And I thoroughly enjoyed the interview.

  44. Great interview and great book review! I'll check this book out! :)

  45. Happy thanksgiving!
    I like that .gif about words and feelings. I always worry that I'm using the same old words to describe all my characters' feelings. I've got to really get inside their heads and explore new ways of showing what they're thinking/feeling.

  46. Michael,
    Thanks for bringing this book to my attention. Loved the review from a male's perspective and enjoyed the author interview. This sounds like a book I need to gift to my young adult daughter. Happy Thanksgiving! - Pat

  47. Interesting way for the book to come together.

  48. It sounds like an interesting book--thanks for the review!

    Enjoyed reading the interview.

    Happy Thanksgiving. :)

  49. Enjoy your holiday! Sounds like Ms. Moon has come up with a character that does quite a bit of growing and changing. Love the pic of the cake.

  50. Her comment about going into bakeries and staring like a weirdo reminds me of the time I took a bunch of pictures in the mall food court because I was writing a scene set in a food court. My poor daughter was so embarassed!

  51. Thanks for the review and interview, Michael!

    Thanks everyone for your comments. :-) I'm hard at work at another novel, and hearing such nice things is quite encouraging.

  52. this book sounds really great! Also i'm pro bakery since my sister is a baker. Finally, you had some awesome gifs and pics in this post. Love the fire-breather heart

  53. Chocolate chip cookies stuffed with oreos? My two favorite cookies now become one? Can it be true? Christmas has indeed come early!

  54. OMG those cookies look HEAVENLY.

    In other news, great review. I agree that the quote you focussed on really does show exactly what the author was doing with this book and it all felt into place with that line.