It’s time for another review roundup! All are young adult today. The first two are both rom-coms that involve food, while the second two involve magic. Interesting how there seem to be themes in my reading… All of these are by debut authors and available now!
You know I’m always up for a YA rom-com. Throw in feuding families and food? Even better!
A PHO LOVE STORY by Loan Le is the story of Bao Nguyen and Linh Mae, whose parents own competing pho restaurants. (I’ve never tried pho, but I’m adding it to my list once indoor dining is an option again!) For years, they’ve seen each other from across the street, but their only encounter was at the Buddhist temple as children, when their parents pulled them apart.
It’s sort of like Romeo and Juliet—except it’s thankfully not a tragedy! I loved how Bao and Linh bring out the best in each other. And I loved reading about their families and learning more about their history. Both of their parents had escaped from Vietnam and want the best for their children, which for Linh in particular isn’t a path she wants herself. An aspiring artist, she has to find a balance between pursuing her dream and meeting her parents’ expectations.
It’s a fantastic story about family, first love, and discovering who you are and how to pursue that.
How adorable is this cover? And then it gets even better, because it’s a PRIDE AND PREJUDICE retelling. I will basically read every P&P retelling, always.
A TASTE FOR LOVE by Jennifer Yen even starts out with a twisted P&P quote: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a mother in possession of great wisdom, must be in want—nay, in need—of a daughter who will listen.”
That quote sets the stage pretty well for the tension between Liza Yang and her mom. There are two major sources: Liza wants to attend culinary school instead of pursuing a practical degree like accounting, and she wants nothing to do with the guys her mom deems acceptable. Things get interesting when Liza and her best friend, Grace, meet Ben (Bingley) and James (Darcy). And then Liza’s mom, who owns a popular bakery, recruits Liza to help with her annual baking competition and fills it with Asian American teen boys, turning it into a bachelorette-style situation. Both Ben and James jump in, making things even more fun, especially since James does meet Liza’s mom’s requirements.
The story has all of the usual P&P hijinks, and it works so well with the tension between Liza and her mom. I really loved the romance and the family drama, and then there was the baking. I’ve already looked up where I can go try out all of the pastries described in this book. I guess Liza would recommend I try Boba too…
THE WIDE STARLIGHT by Nicole Lesperance is the story of a girl whose mother whistled to the Northern Lights and was taken away. Ten years later, Eli whistles to bring her back, but she’s not the same. The story moves forward as she tries to reclaim her mother fully, alternating with the past told in fairy tale form. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking all at once, spanning from Cape Cod to Norway.
When I reviewed this book on Instagram, I photographed it with my cat because her name is… Starlight! And it seemed appropriate, because although this book doesn’t include any cats, it’s full of animals touched by magic: Narwhals. Arctic terns. Polar bears. Reindeer. So just another selling point for the animal lovers!
Definitely check out this story of complicated family, friendship, and underlying magic.
I tend to gravitate more toward contemporary novels, but when I do read fantasy, what usually grips me are the relationships, and THE BRIGHT & THE PALE by Jessica Rubinkowski is full of complicated relationships.
It’s about 17-year-old Valeria, who as a young girl survived a magical curse that froze her family and entire village, which sits in the shadow of Knnot Mountain, the source of a valuable resource. The Czar imprisons anyone who managed to escape. To survive, Valeria works for the Thieves Guild and made herself a new sort of family with the leader, Luiza, as a surrogate mother, and Alik, Valeria’s partner and best friend. But a year ago, she watched Alik die.
Except when a mission goes wrong and she’s taken, she discovers he’s been alive all along, and everything she believed may be wrong. Now she must return to her village, braving the curse to retrieve the resource within the mountain. She also must face betrayals and deal with a crazy amount of emotions mixed up with Alik’s return to life. There are so many twists and turns in this book, and the relationship between Valeria and Alik is so well-written. This one ended on a cliffhanger, so I will definitely be picking up the sequel!
Be sure to check out these fantastic books. What are you reading? My reading list is pretty tied up with books by #the21ders right now, but I am always up for recommendations to add for later!