Happy Monday everyone! I hope you’ve been having a good week and great Halloween month! These are the two books I’ve finished very recently. One was an ARC from NetGalley and the other was a library book to go with the spooky season!
Title: A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow
Author: Laura Taylor Namey
Genre: YA Contemporary/Romance
Release Date: November 10th 2020 from Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster)
Format: ARC via NetGalley
Goodreads Synopsis: Love & Gelato meets Don’t Date Rosa Santos in this charming, heartfelt story following a Miami girl who unexpectedly finds love—and herself—in a small English town.
For Lila Reyes, a summer in England was never part of the plan. The plan was 1) take over her abuela’s role as head baker at their panadería, 2) move in with her best friend after graduation, and 3) live happily ever after with her boyfriend. But then the Trifecta happened, and everything—including Lila herself—fell apart.
Worried about Lila’s mental health, her parents make a new plan for her: Spend three months with family friends in Winchester, England, to relax and reset. But with the lack of sun, a grumpy inn cook, and a small town lacking Miami flavor (both in food and otherwise), what would be a dream trip for some feels more like a nightmare to Lila…until she meets Orion Maxwell.
A teashop clerk with troubles of his own, Orion is determined to help Lila out of her funk, and appoints himself as her personal tour guide. From Winchester’s drama-filled music scene to the sweeping English countryside, it isn’t long before Lila is not only charmed by Orion, but England itself. Soon a new future is beginning to form in Lila’s mind—one that would mean leaving everything she ever planned behind.
**I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own**
When I saw this cover and read the synopsis, I was excited to read it and requested an e-ARC. While I’m still a novice in YA contemporary books, I really do enjoy authors like Jenn Bennett and I liked Don’t Date Rosa Santos. So this book seemed like a lot of fun, plus with all the great food descriptions. This was originally supposed to come out in early October, but was pushed to November 10th due to printing issues. So overall, I liked this book, but I wasn’t always motivated to read it and there were times where the very slow burn romance kinda fell flat as far as it taking too long to happen. But this was a solid contemporary book that I recommend if you need a summery contemporary romance.
The best part about the book were all the food descriptions! I got SO hungry while reading this. I’ve never had a pastry with guava paste but I NEED it now after reading this book. I liked that baking/cooking was something that Lila feels comfortable doing and how it connects her to grandmother that passed away. She’s confident in her talents and seeing this confidence and how she uses baking to not only bring some Cuban flavor to England, but how she even uses it as peace offerings to different characters. This was a nice approach that Lila took to show the different sides to her character. I loved seeing the different Cuban recipes and how the author brings all the food details to life. I need more food in YA contemporary books.
The other great part was seeing how England changes Lila as a person. While she hates the idea at first, I like that being somewhere else is able to ground her, help her sift through her raw feelings and ultimately, help her see the truth. Due to the hard things that happened to her before going to Lila, she’s very angry and depressed. But I like how her new friends, proving her cooking skills to others and also the romance with Orion help her change. The author shows Lila’s natural growth as she allows herself to try and like England, be around family she doesn’t know well and allowing a guy to like her for who she is. Orion was a nice boy and a great love interest. While he does forgive a couple things with Lila’s secrets too easily and doesn’t completely state his feelings, he was still respectful and giving Lila the space she needs.
Now I’m not sure if the pacing itself was the problem, or if it was slightly too long, but I wasn’t always motivated to read this. There was something that prevented me from even wanting to read it for about a week and a half. But once I picked it back up, it was easy to finish it. But I didn’t love how slow a few parts were, as well as mentioning how very slow burn the romance is between Orion and Lila. I think he forgave a couple of her secrets too easily and he also didn’t try to explain his feelings towards her like I thought. I think the actual romance happened a bit too late; I was hoping it would happen sooner so that it could develop sooner.
Overall: This was fun and very hunger inducing. I liked seeing the Cuban culture through the recipes, clothes, Spanish and the personality of the different characters. The English setting was nice and the way she uses her baking as different peace offerings was a nice change. If you love the genre, this is a fun one. I didn’t completely love it but it’s still cute!
Rating: .75 stars
Title: The Companion
Author: Katie Alender
Genre: YA Gothic Horror/Thriller/Mystery
Release Date: August 25th 2020 from G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Format: Physical library book
Goodreads Synopsis: The other orphans say Margot is lucky. Lucky to survive the horrible accident that killed her family. Lucky to have her own room because she wakes up screaming every night.
And finally, lucky to be chosen by a prestigious family to live at their remote country estate.
But it wasn’t luck that made the Suttons rescue Margot from her bleak existence at the group home. Margot was hand-picked to be a companion to their silent, mysterious daughter, Agatha. At first, helping with Agatha – and getting to know her handsome older brother – seems much better than the group home. But soon, the isolated, gothic house begins playing tricks on Margot’s mind, making her question everything she believes about the Suttons… and herself.
Margot’s bad dreams may have stopped when she came to live with Agatha – but the real nightmare has just begun.
So originally, this book wasn’t on my TBR. But after seeing Bethany from Beautifully Bookish Bethany on Booktube give this book 5 stars, I decided to look into it. She’s a great booktuber who gives great and thorough reviews, so I saw that my library had ordered copies. I wanted a creepy book to read in October, so I was interested to read this. I ended up reading this in a couple of sittings due to the entertaining plot and relentless pacing. This is a Gothic horror book set in current times, but it is a creepy book without being bloody or very graphic and relies on tension and uncertainty to pull off the story. This was really fun and is a great, somewhat lighter Halloween read.
I will say that at first, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this book. Despite Margot suffering from a horrible family tragedy, I had a hard time warming up to the main character. I never saw a physical description of her and a lot of her dialogue is very dry and she doesn’t have much of a personality. I didn’t think she was that interesting of a character since she is a very bland protagonist to follow. But as the story went on, Margot does develop more of a personality and I ended up needing to know what happened to her and Agatha. While Margot still is forgettable protagonist for me, this was still a thrilling story. But I wanted to put that out there; I almost DNF’d this after being uncertain, but I’m glad that I kept going.
Since this is a Gothic horror novel, I’m not going to go into a lot of details to avoid spoilers. If you read this genre a lot, this story may not be new to you as well. There are plot points that aren’t really shocking; I ended up being right about most of my predictions. But I still think this was done so well. You have this uncertainty and building uneasiness as Margot tries to figure out what’s wrong with Agatha and the secrets of the wings of the house and the odd behavior she sees in the family. Plus there’s dream sequences, words written in the walls and things out of place that keep making you question what’s real or even if Agatha’s catatonic nature is real or not. I think the author balanced moments of brief peace and white knuckle thrills very well. Once you realize the truth, I couldn’t stop turning the pages to see the outcome of the story.
The couple reasons why this wasn’t a 5 star read for me were two things: one was that the romance she has with the family’s son seemed shoehorned in and also not loving Margot as a protagonist. I do think that if it was in third person POV, it would’ve been a bit better since Margot is very dry and uninteresting. But besides those two things, this was a great Gothic thriller/mystery that has a well done sense of dread and the feeling that anything could go wrong. I’m interested to see what else this author writes next. Plus, this simplistic cover sums up the story SO well and it’s a great attention getter of a cover.
Have you read these books? If so, what did you think of them? Are there any YA Gothic books or contemporary romances similar to these books that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments!