“Sweet Revenge: Passive Aggressive Desserts for your Exes and Enemies” authored by Heather Kim
This review was made possible by NetGalley, who provided a Digital Advanced Release Copy for review (DARC); my review of the material may not wholly reflect the final product upon its official publication.
I’m not terribly good at it, but I love baking. I’m also a notorious hoarder or recipe books- a fact which my poor bookshelf, if it could talk, would attest to (and would likely have complained about up until I finally culled my collection a bit). Cookbooks about baking? Even better.
When I saw this title pop up on NetGalley, it looked unique; I liked the art style, and the cover design and title were both intriguing. It took a bit to get accepted (I actually think I was rejected the first round, but time muddies memories that aren’t important) and then life happened, so I wasn’t able to read it as quickly as I would have liked. But I finally set down to it today, and I can say that this book is just as interesting inside as it is outside.
Once you open the book, the layout is compelling. The recipes are offset with bright colors, doodle drawings, and beautiful photography; I don’t quite understand the inclusion of what is obviously a low quality selfie (obvious by the pixelation and distortion present in the digital copy I received) as a full page image… But otherwise the photography in the book is professional, bright, and really theme fits the book.
That being said, I do see some design flaws. For instance, the use of bolded text in the second chapter is off putting compared to the font choices used throughout the rest of the book. A simple, unbolded font would have been far less jarring in this area- and I do think that a new font choice would be appropriate. Likewise, there are sections in the book where a thin white text appears on sections of solid hot pink background. In these cases, the text actually does need to be bolded; the font’s so thin that the pink bleeds right into it, making the letters incredibly hard to read. And while Yellow on a Hot Pink background works in terms of color theory? In terms of readable text its an absolute monstrosity that murdered my eyes.
That being said, many of these issues I’m seeing with quality (especially as it pertains to the text) might actually be because I received a digital .PDF copy; it’s pretty customary for web-use images to be set at 75 PPI as opposed to the industry standard 300 PPI often used for print works- especially when dealing with material likely to be pirated in print format. And when you do that, pixelation like what I’m seeing in the copy I received is par for the course. So the issues with the White on Pink or the bolded font (but definitely not that yellow on pink travesty) may just be the quality of the document I have on hand; these problems very well might not exist in print at an industry standard quality print book let alone in Kindle format if it makes it there.
The book overall is nicely formatted and follows a cohesive flow. The only caveat to that is that the recipe organization is a bit strange in some areas; there are a few recipes that I think would be better placed in different chapters, but these aren’t that big of a deal. Regardless, you can still find what you’re looking for with relative ease and there’s very little bouncing around compared to some other Cookbooks that I’ve read (or owned, or reviewed).
I especially loved the the inclusion of conversion charts and all of the educational material littered throughout the book. The addition of the “doodle notes”, too, is a really nice touch- and some of the tips are incredibly useful for new bakers. Likewise, the “Difficulty Rating” key is not only unique, but adorable. My only grump is that some of the educational information (like the “Sugar Profiles”) didn’t actually offer very much in the way of the education… At least not compared to what was probably intended in some areas. But that may be a personal complaint simply because I like my information a bit more clear cut, and a little more in depth, than what this book offers.
Now here’s where I would usually complain: The gratuitous use of slang- especially internet specific text speak- in books. And yet while this book does that and I would complain about it under average circumstances? I actually kind of like the use of text-medium slang in Sweet Revenge. It sincerely fits the theme, and it doesn’t feel out of place or weird. In fact, I think it sets a tone for Sweet Revenge that the book follows through with very well, and Mrs / Ms Kim uses it with a skill that never once makes it feel unpolished or unedited. The only counter to this, I think, is the use of sections of all caps text- which I honestly hated reading.
I also really love the humor she uses; the recipe titles are funny and there are so many cooking puns littered throughout the book. It genuinely made me laugh a lot, and that isn’t something I’ve experienced with a cookbook before. I have to say that I definitely enjoyed it and wished more authors would take a less, shall we say, clinical approach to their writing when it comes to this sort of material.
Overall, my immediate thought is that this book would make an incredibly cute gift for teenager who’s just learning how to bake- or who loves to bake and is going through a hard breakup. And that sentiment seems to be what this book is striving for, from the pointed mention of teenagers in the second chapter, the internet slang, and so on. It also makes a great case for redirecting anger into productivity and skill- though I don’t necessarily like the encouragement to be two-faced. There is, after all, a large difference between being polite and being two-faced towards others. And while this is addressed immediately after it is made, it is ultimately addressed for all the wrong reasons.
Now the meat of a Cookbook is (I actually didn’t catch that pun at first and my Husband had to point it out to me. He is not amused), obviously, its recipes. So reviewing one while ignoring the recipes is a bit absurd. But like with the rest of the book, I can’t find fault with the recipes, either, outside of personal taste; all in all, most of the recipes are pretty tame and I’d likely try them. In fact, there’s more than a few that I probably will- like I Cannoli be Happy When You’re Dead, You’re a Piece of Sheet Cake, and Shut Your Stupid Cake Hole, and especially the You’re Not My Cup of Tea… But there are quite a few that, for lack of better phrasing, really need to calm tf down.
Sriracha Icing (Don’t Try to Butte Me Up) and Cool Ranch Doritos Sugar (I couldn’t Carrot All Cake) are strange, but they’re not the worst offenders; What a pizza Crap is just too much on every level. But the winner of the “weird and repulsive” challenge in this book, for me, is the Hot Cheetos Ganache and Ice Cream Sandwiches (When I think of You Ice Cream).
I mean on some level, taste wise, I wish I could say it doesn’t make sense… Do I get it? Absolutely not. However, the cook in me with the penchant of combining often odd flavors is going “yeah, ok. That would probably work”- and I can’t deny that it probably does. And yet like Yellow font on a Hot Pink background, some things should just never see the light of day. Still, the recipes are creative and many of them do sound delicious (save the incredibly strange ones). So I honestly can’t knock the book based on a few repulsive sounding recipes that made my stomach churn just reading about them. As a result, altogether, I’d say that this book is definitely a win that’s worth picking up at least once.
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