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Tag: Food (Page 1 of 3)

Book Review: Tiger Daughter

Tiger Daughter – Rebecca Lim – Allen & Unwin –  Published February 2021

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Synopsis

Wen Zhou is the only child of Chinese immigrants whose move to the lucky country has proven to be not so lucky. Wen and her friend, Henry Xiao — whose mum and dad are also struggling immigrants — both dream of escape from their unhappy circumstances, and form a plan to sit an entrance exam to a selective high school far from home. But when tragedy strikes, it will take all of Wen’s resilience and resourcefulness to get herself and Henry through the storm that follows.

My thoughts

A beautiful and powerful #OwnVoices novel about abusive family relationships and the possibility of freedom offered by friendship and education.

Tiger Daughter is a book that really quick and easy to devour. It address some very serious topics – domestic abuse and control, suicide – but does so in a way that makes it accessible for young readers, compelling but also sensitive.

I love books that make me feel and Tiger Daughter had me swinging wildly from raging hot mad to sad and back again.

Wen is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Travelling to Australia didn’t bring them the new, grand life they expected. Wen is bound by the restrictions her father places on her and her mother. Honestly, her father comes across as awful, but there is more to his story, more to the relationship Wen has with him. This book in no way excuses domestic abuse and nor does Wen. She knows how her father treats her and her mother is wrong and is determined to stand up against it in the ways in which she can. She is brave and determined. Her only friend at school, Henry, understands. He too is the son of immigrants. Together, they have planned to sit an entrance exam for an elite school – a future that will give them a way out and up.

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Book Review: Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet – Laekan Zea Kemp – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – Published 6 April 2021

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Synopsis

As an aspiring pastry chef, Penelope Prado has always dreamed of opening her own pastelería next to her father’s restaurant, Nacho’s Tacos. But her mom and dad have different plans — leaving Pen to choose between disappointing her traditional Mexican-American parents or following her own path. When she confesses a secret she’s been keeping, her world is sent into a tailspin. But then she meets a cute new hire at Nacho’s who sees through her hard exterior and asks the questions she’s been too afraid to ask herself.

Xander Amaro has been searching for home since he was a little boy. For him, a job at Nacho’s is an opportunity for just that — a chance at a normal life, to settle in at his abuelo’s, and to find the father who left him behind. But when both the restaurant and Xander’s immigrant status are threatened, he will do whatever it takes to protect his new found family and himself.

Together, Pen and Xander must navigate first love and discovering where they belong — both within their families and their fiercely loyal Chicanx community — in order to save the place they all call home.

My thoughts

I love books about/that feature food. They are also slightly torturous because food and that makes me hungry. And this book had me serious hungry for Mexican flavours and culinary delights. Of course, what sits so beautifully alongside this story of passion for food and the love that goes into their cooking is a heartbreaking story of belonging.

Penelope Prado knows where she belongs. She dreams of running her own bakery, and building it right next to her family’s restaurant. Her father disagrees, and when Pen finally tells her parents she has dropped out of school and walked away from the life they wanted for her, they refuse to speak to her and her father fires her from the restaurant. Pen is an incredibly strong character – and not just because the guys in the kitchen completely and utterly fear her (which is awesome, by the way). Pen has a history of depression, anxiety and self harm. With her future so uncertainly and her risking everything to chase what feels right, but not really sure how to actually move forward, Pen finds herself wrestling with her mental demons again.

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Book Review: ‘Til I Want No More

‘Til I Want No More – Robin W. Pearson – Tyndale House Publishers – Published 2 February 2021

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Synopsis

If Maxine could put her finger on the moment when her life went into a tailspin, she would point back twenty years to the day her daddy died. She tells herself he’s the only person who ever really knew and loved her, and if he hadn’t left her behind, her future would’ve taken a different path. No absentee mother, no stepfather, no rebellious ripping and running during her teenage years. And no JD, who gave her wandering young heart a home, at least for a time.

But that’s over and done with. All grown-up now, Maxine’s heart and ring finger belong to Theodore Charles, the man she’ll pledge to love, honor, and obey in front of God and everybody. At least that’s what she’s telling anybody who will listen. The only folks buying it are the dog and the readers of her column, however. Her best friend and family aren’t having it–not even Celeste, the double bass-playing thirteen-year-old the community of Mount Laurel, North Carolina, believes is Maxine’s adopted sister. And apparently, neither is the newly returned JD, who seems intent on toppling Maxine’s reconstructed life. As her wedding day marches ever closer, Maxine confronts what it means to be really known and loved by examining what’s buried in her own heart and exposing truth that has never seen the light of day.

My thoughts

’Til I Want No More is a story to settle in with and enjoy. This is perfect for readers who like a slow read, a story that develops with care and love over time. As we learn more about these characters, especially our main character, Maxine, we learn that the secrets she is keeping run far deeper than first expected. As these secrets are slowly and agonisingly revealed, I was glued to the pages to learn how she would handle the unveiling of the things she had worked so hard to keep hidden. 

Maxine is getting married and the countdown to her big day is ever present in this book. Maxine is also a writer and her columns are included in the book, giving the reader a deeper insight into her turmoil. She carries hurt from her childhood, the death of her father and her mother leaving her in her grandparents’ care while she left to deal with her own grief. She carries hurt from her older childhood, being reunited with her mother and her new stepfather. She carries hurt from her teen years, a failed romance and a baby that she handed over to her mother and stepfather to raise. All this pain simmers below the surface, recently brought to light thanks to her engagement and dreams that are preventing her from sleeping. 

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Book Review: The Dog Runner

The Dog Runner – Bren MacDibble – Allen and Unwin Children’s – Published 4 February 2019

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Synopsis

Ella and her brother Emery are alone in a city that’s starving to death. If they are going to survive, they must get away, upcountry, to find Emery’s mum. But how can two kids travel such big distances across a dry, barren, and dangerous landscape? Well, when you’ve got five big doggos and a dry-land dogsled, the answer is you go mushing. But when Emery is injured, Ella must find a way to navigate them through rough terrain, and even rougher encounters with desperate people…

My thoughts

What a superb, beautifully written book. Thought-provoking and action filled, The Dog Runner is an Australian, middle grade novel that is dystopian fiction at its finest. This will be sure to please teen readers and make for a fantastic class novel.

I loved every page of this book. I was a little worried about the dogs. As a dog lover, I don’t usually read books about dogs – I can’t handle any injuries or death. I am very happy to say (any maybe it’s a spoiler, but I think it’s important to share) that aside from a small injury none of the dogs are harmed or die. This book has a dog-happy ending. Can’t say the same for some kangaroos, snakes, possums or other small creatures. For those who don’t like hunting or animal deaths, there are quite a few descriptions of killing and preparing animals for food. It’s done with care, but with details.

MacDibble presents a society and world in which grass crops have all failed and animal farming has been destroyed. People in the cities and suburbs are fighting for food, waiting for deliveries from the government that aren’t coming. People are looting and rioting and gangs are roaming.

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Book Review: Dating Makes Perfect

Dating Makes Perfect – Pintip Dunn – Entangled:Teen – Published 18 August 2020

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Synopsis

The Tech sisters don’t date in high school. Not because they’re not asked. Not because they’re not interested. Not even because no one can pronounce their long, Thai last name—hence the shortened, awkward moniker. But simply because they’re not allowed. Until now.

In a move that other Asian American girls know all too well, six months after the older Tech twins got to college, their parents asked, “Why aren’t you engaged yet?” The sisters retaliated by vowing that they won’t marry for ten (maybe even twenty!) years, not until they’ve had lots of the dating practice that they didn’t get in high school.

In a shocking war on the status quo, her parents now insist that their youngest daughter, Orrawin (aka “Winnie”), must practice fake dating in high school. Under their watchful eyes, of course—and organized based on their favorite rom-coms. ’Cause that won’t end in disaster.

The first candidate? The son of their longtime friends, Mat Songsomboon—arrogant, infuriating, and way too good-looking. Winnie’s known him since they were toddlers throwing sticky rice balls at each other. And her parents love him.

If only he weren’t her sworn enemy.

My thoughts

What would you do if the only way your parents would let you date in high school was to date your sworn enemy/ex-best friend. That’s what happens to Winnie in this fun and flirty YA romance. Alongside an awesome sister relationship, a series of dates that have come straight from the movies (literally) and two cute love interests, Dating Makes Perfect is #OwnVoices and lots of fun, perfect if you are in the mood for something lighthearted.

Winnie doesn’t have any intentions of dating during high school, no partner for the prom. It’s a family rule that the Tech sisters are not allowed to date in high school. But when her mother asks Winnie’s older sisters why they haven’t found partners yet now they are in college, the girls turn the tables on their parents and convince them that Winnie should be allowed to date in high school. But their parents have one condition: they will choose who Winnie dates and where they go. Winnie is horrified that, despite a perfectly handsome new boy in town, her parents decide she is to date her sworn enemy Mat Songsomboon.

I know Winnie and Mat are meant to be sworn enemies, but it’s easy to see their feelings underneath their hilarious ‘fighting’. Their insults and arguing is more like banter and flirting. But there is some hurt buried after their friendship broke down and I loved that they are able to finally talk about this and offer each other an explanation. This book is more best friends to lovers than enemies to lovers romance, simply because it’s hard not to imagine Mat and Winnie together. The other love interest just provides some motivation, shall we say.

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Book Review: More Than Just A Pretty Face

More Than Just A Pretty Face – Syed M. Masood – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – Published 4 August 2020

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Synopsis

Danyal Jilani doesn’t lack confidence. He may not be the smartest guy in the room, but he’s funny, gorgeous, and going to make a great chef one day. His father doesn’t approve of his career choice, but that hardly matters. What does matter is the opinion of Danyal’s longtime crush, the perfect-in-all-ways Kaval, and her family, who consider him a less than ideal arranged marriage prospect.

When Danyal gets selected for Renaissance Man–a school-wide academic championship–it’s the perfect opportunity to show everyone he’s smarter than they think. He recruits the brilliant, totally-uninterested-in-him Bisma to help with the competition, but the more time Danyal spends with her…the more he learns from her…the more he cooks for her…the more he realizes that happiness may be staring him right in his pretty face.

My thoughts

More Than Just A Pretty Face is an uplifting, fun book that also comes with sweet romance and a feel-good, save the world message. Diverse representation – both ethnically and faith based, #OwnVoices, this has all the boxes ticked to make it an “important” book, but basically it’s just lots of fun to read.

Danyal is going to be a chef. Sure, his teachers and classmates think he’s a joke and his father disapproves of pretty much everything he does, but Danyal isn’t fazed. His goal is to get his best-friend’s twin, Kaval to value him as he is, even if their parents might not approve an arranged marriage match. When his mother sets up a meeting with Bisma, he is shocked with her open honesty and the way she gets him, even if she says she’s not interested in him. When he is selected for a school academic championship, he asks Bisma for help researching his topic – a topic everyone else has cautioned him against. But working with Bisma makes him feel like nothing else does and it might just mean he has to reevaluate his other goals too.

More Than Just A Pretty Face is Syed M. Mason’s YA debut and I really hope he sticks with it, as I would love to read another YA contemporary novel from him. He has such a great way of capturing the characters’ voices and bringing them to life. The situations are almost ridiculous – people don’t treat their family that way, right? – but it is so ridiculous it feels entirely true and hits home. The teens in this book struggle to balance their faith and personal values with the ideals and standards of the world – something that brings conflict into their relationships with friends and family. Danyal is open about his faith, but can’t quite relate to the more devout devotion his friend is showing.

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Book Review: Stay With Me

Stay With Me – Becky Wade – A Misty River Romance #1 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 5 May 2020

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Synopsis

When acclaimed Bible study author Genevieve Woodward receives an anonymous letter referencing her parents’ past, she returns to her hometown in the Blue Ridge Mountains to chase down her family’s secret. However, it’s Genevieve’s own secret that catches up to her when Sam Turner, owner of a historic farm, uncovers the source of shame she’s worked so hard to hide.

Sam has embraced his sorrow, his isolation, and his identity as an outsider. He’s spent years carving out both career success and peace of mind. The last thing he wants is to rent the cottage on his property to a woman whose struggles stir his worst failure back to life. Yet can he bear to turn her away right when she needs him most?

My thoughts

Stay With Me is the first book in a new series by Becky Wade. As always, Becky Wade captures flawed characters in relatable situations and combines that with powerful messages of family, love and faith.

Genevieve is a popular and very successful bible study writer and speaker. But after an accident last year and a stressful schedule and deadlines, she found herself turning to prescription pain medication. When, after setting off for her parents’ house, she wakes to find herself in an empty guest cottage being regarded by the owner with some concern, she decides she finally has to kick her habit and get clean. She asks Sam, owner of the cottage, if she can rent the cottage from him as a place to hide while going through withdrawal and recovery. Sam has his own reasons for wanting to stay far away from the confusing woman he found asleep in his guest house, but he also feels a strong responsibility to help her.

I loved that this book considers a very serious topic of drug addiction. As Genevieve struggles to both admit she has a problem and faces the battle of overcoming her addiction, the very real possibility of how easy it is to fall into a prescription drug problem and the very serious fallouts are considered. But, more than that, the motivations behind Gen’s addiction are also regarded, both with understanding and grace. As a bible study presenter, Gen feels conflict over her addiction, her role as a speaker and her desire to keep everything under wraps.

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Book Review: Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish

Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish – Bethany Turner – Revell – Published 5 May 2020

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Synopsis

Celebrity chef Maxwell Cavanaugh is known for many things: his multiple Michelin stars, his top-rated Culinary Channel show To the Max, and most of all his horrible temper. Hadley Beckett, host of the Culinary Channel’s other top-rated show, At Home with Hadley, is beloved for her Southern charm and for making her viewers feel like family.

When Max experiences a very public temper tantrum, he’s sent packing to get his life in order. When he returns, career in shambles, his only chance to get back on TV and in the public’s good graces is to work alongside Hadley.

As these polar-opposite celeb chefs begin to peel away the layers of public persona and reputation, they will not only discover the key ingredients for getting along, but also learn the secret recipe for unexpected forgiveness . . . and maybe even love. In the meantime, hide the knives.

My thoughts

Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish is everything I needed from this book. It’s light and funny, but doesn’t shy away from some deeper topics. It’s relaxing to read and just so much fun. It’s sexy but clean, redemptive but not preachy, has lots of yummy food to imagine eating, and have I mentioned how fun it is to read?

Hadley Beckett is an up and coming chef. She has Michelin stars, restaurants, magazines and even her own cooking show, At Home With Hadley. Her latest accomplishment is making it through the finals of America’s Fiercest Chef. But when her competitor, the foul-mouthed and rude Max Cavanaugh, throws a temper tantrum when she wins, her moment of triumph is dampened. A few months on, Hadley is offered the chance to feature on her most favourite cooking show, the only catch is that she must work alongside Max. Max claims he has changed, but Hadley’s not sure she can trust him.

Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish had me doing a complete 180 when reading it. I went from hating Max and thinking there was no way he was good enough for Hadley (after reading the first chapter, I even went back to check the synopsis because I thought he couldn’t possibly be the love interest) to rooting so hard for the characters. Oh my gosh. I loved them both so much. You know how some books just don’t give you enough time spent between the two love interests and it’s hard to believe their relationship or growing feelings? This is not that book. The majority of the book is spend with the two characters interacting, face-to-face, texting, phone calls, while shooting on the cooking show, cooking, arguing, facing off. We get to see them in so many situations and I adored their banter, teasing, full-out fighting and every moment in between.

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Book Review: This is My Brain In Love

This is My Brain in Love – I.W. Gregorio – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – Published 14 April 2020

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Synopsis

Jocelyn Wu has just three wishes for her junior year: To make it through without dying of boredom, to direct a short film with her BFF Priya Venkatram, and to get at least two months into the year without being compared to or confused with Peggy Chang, the only other Chinese girl in her grade.

Will Domenici has two goals: to find a paying summer internship, and to prove he has what it takes to become an editor on his school paper.

Then Jocelyn’s father tells her their family restaurant may be going under, and all wishes are off. Because her dad has the marketing skills of a dumpling, it’s up to Jocelyn and her unlikely new employee, Will, to bring A-Plus Chinese Garden into the 21st century (or, at least, to Facebook).What starts off as a rocky partnership soon grows into something more. But family prejudices and the uncertain future of A-Plus threaten to keep Will and Jocelyn apart. It will take everything they have and more, to save the family restaurant and their budding romance.

My thoughts

This is My Brain in Love celebrates family and is a wonderful representation of mental health in YA. From everything from a positive experience of therapy to overcoming the stigma of a diagnosis, cultural and family expectations and denial, this is a positive and inclusive portrayal of anxiety and depression. It’s also a wonderful mix of cultures and the wonderful food that comes with those cultures. If you enjoyed The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling, this is the perfect book for you.

Jocelyn Wu is surprised to learn her family’s restaurant is facing closure. Sure, it’s old and kind of rumpled around the edges, but it’s home. To prevent having to move away from her best friend, she sets out to improve the restaurant, including adding social media pages, new features and employing someone to help out and build them a website. Enter Will Domenici. They click and working together is fun, but both Will and Jocelyn are hiding secrets and saving the family restaurant might not be enough to save their budding romance.

Whoa. That prologue kind of threw me, giving this book a sort-of trigger warning for suicide. And while the narrator tries to reassure the reader, it kind of did the opposite. It certainly had me intrigued and ready to jump straight into the book to find out more.

And, actually, things never get as serious as hinted at at the start and a few times foreshadowed in the book. It’s a light book, despite the overtones of mental health and depression, financial difficulties and the possible failure of a family business.

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Book Review: The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling

The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling – Wai Chim – Allen and Unwin – Published 5 August 2019

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Synopsis

Anna Chiu has her hands pretty full looking after her brother and sister and helping out at her dad’s restaurant, all while her mum stays in bed. Dad’s new delivery boy, Rory, is a welcome distraction and even though she knows that things aren’t right at home, she’s starting to feel like she could just be a normal teen.

But when Mum finally gets out of bed, things go from bad to worse. And as Mum’s condition worsens, Anna and her family question everything they understand about themselves and each other.

A nourishing tale about the crevices of culture, mental wellness and family, and the surprising power of a good dumpling.

My thoughts

This book caught my eye (seriously, how could I ignore that gorgeous cover), but I rushed to read it after learning I had the opportunity to meet the author. The Surprising Power of A Good Dumpling celebrates the harsh complexity of family relationships, the love and hurt shared and the determination it takes to carry on. It celebrates community and friendship, the bond between sisters, and food. This book will have you hungry, so I highly recommend you have snacks on hand. It’s a bittersweet read, and one that is as authentic as it is honest and caring.

Anna Chiu cares for her family while her mother can’t bring herself to get out of bed and her father never comes home from working at their family restaurant. It is up to Anna to make sure her little brother gets to school and her sister knows to keep quiet about what happens at home. But the chance to work with her father at the restaurant means she can finally share the cooking skills and ideas she has and gives her the opportunity to get to know the new delivery boy, Rory. But when her mother does get out of bed, things spiral into manic midnight cleaning and angry tirades that Anna feels powerless to control.

This book doesn’t shy away from the authentic, messy details of real life, mental illness or it’s effect on families. It is honest and hopeful. It’s also not an easy book to read, despite it being so readable. It is challenging in parts, confronting and sad in others. But it doesn’t judge. It leaves room for understanding and acceptance.

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