Let’s make this clear once and for all: I love food. I love eating it, I love cooking and baking and I love reading about it. So of course, I’m always here for stories that deal with food. And just this month, I’ve already read two books about food, one about cooking, one about baking. They were similar in some ways, yet very different in others and I will say it here: I liked both a lot. Read on to find out why.
A Taste for Love by Jennifer Yen
Razorbill | 02.02.2021 | 304 pages | contemporary YA retelling | Rep: Taiwanese, Chinese, bi | TW: racism, alcohol | Rating: ♥♥♥♥
What is it about?
To her friends, high school senior Liza Yang is nearly perfect. Smart, kind, and pretty, she dreams big and never shies away from a challenge. But to her mom, Liza is anything but. Compared to her older sister Jeannie, Liza is stubborn, rebellious, and worst of all, determined to push back against all of Mrs. Yang’s traditional values, especially when it comes to dating.
The one thing mother and daughter do agree on is their love of baking. Mrs. Yang is the owner of Houston’s popular Yin & Yang Bakery. With college just around the corner, Liza agrees to help out at the bakery’s annual junior competition to prove to her mom that she’s more than her rebellious tendencies once and for all. But when Liza arrives on the first day of the bake-off, she realizes there’s a catch: all of the contestants are young Asian American men her mother has handpicked for Liza to date.
The bachelorette situation Liza has found herself in is made even worse when she happens to be grudgingly attracted to one of the contestants; the stoic, impenetrable, annoyingly hot James Wong. As she battles against her feelings for James, and for her mother’s approval, Liza begins to realize there’s no tried and true recipe for love. (goodreads)
What did I think?
I already mentioned, that I liked it, didn’t I? Well, this Pride & Prejudice retelling set during a baking contest was so much fun, while also discussing serious topics, like racism and micro-aggressions and living in America as an immigrant family.
I absolutely loved Liza who never manages to really keep her mouth shut, who’s passionate about baking. I also liked the other characters so much, especially Ben who was just so sweet. What I liked most about this book was the descriptions of food. The taste, the looks, the feel of it, the process of baking. It made me want to create something while I also wanted to eat all that food myself. I could basically taste the cakes and the cookies, I could smell the fresh bread, feel the dough beneath my fingers. The only thing that put me off was the drama towards the end but even that was interwoven well into the whole baking scenario.
If you like Pride & Prejudice and are a foodie like me, then this book is definitely something for you!
A Phở Love Story by Loan Le
Simon & Schuster | 18.02.2021 | 416 pages | YA contemporay | Rep: Vietnamese | TW: racism, loss of loved one (in the past), grief | Rating: ♥♥♥♥
What is it about?
If Bảo Nguyễn had to describe himself, he’d say he was a rock. Steady and strong, but not particularly interesting. His grades are average, his social status unremarkable. He works at his parents’ phở restaurant, and even there, he is his parents’ fifth favorite employee. Not ideal.
If Linh Mai had to describe herself, she’d say she was a firecracker. Stable when unlit, but full of potential for joy and fire. She loves art and dreams pursuing a career in it. The only problem? Her parents rely on her in ways they’re not willing to admit, including working practically full-time at her family’s pho restaurant.
For years, the Mais and the Nguyễns have been at odds, having owned competing, neighboring phở restaurants. Bảo and Linh, who’ve avoided each other for most of their lives, both suspect that the feud stems from feelings much deeper than friendly competition.
A chance encounter brings Linh and Bảo in the same vicinity despite their best efforts and sparks fly, leading them both to wonder what took so long for them to connect. But then, of course, they immediately remember. (goodreads)
What did I think?
There was so much to like about this book. For one, there was the food. I loved the descriptions and could imagine the smells and tastes so well. While the food itself isn’t so much the focus in this book, it is still a big part of the story. The two feuding restaurants both have their specialties they know how to make better than the other, so often flavours and what differences there are are described so well.
I loved both Linh and Bảo. At first glance, they’re different. But they soon realize that both of them have their own fears and insecurities and are just trying to find their places in the world. Together, they find things they are passionate about, they try to get to the core of why their families are fighting because both Linh and Bảo are just tired of the whole situation. I think the way Vietnam and the families’ histories was brought into the story was really well written. The dynamics within the families but also with others outside of them was great to read. In the book, Linh and Bảo are often compared with Romeo and Juliet and in a sense, they are (without all the death at the end though).
If you like complicated family histories, sweet characters and food, then A Phở Love Story is definitely for you!
Have you read any of these books? What did you think?
What is your favourite book about food? (I need recommendations!)
Until next time,