Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet | HOV Book Tour // Review + Fan Art

Greetings readers!

I am so, so pleased to bring you this post today! Thank you to Hear Our Voices Book Tours for allowing me to be a part of the tour for this amazing book coming out April 6th!

Forgive my rambling friends, but there is just so much to say about this book!

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

Publisher: Little Brown
Release Date: April 6, 2021
Genre: YA Fiction

Amazon | Barnes & Noble  | Bookshop.org

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.


~ ABOUT LAEKAN ZEA KEMP ~

Laekan Zea Kemp is a writer living in Austin, Texas. She has three objectives when it comes to storytelling: to make people laugh, cry, and crave Mexican food. Her work celebrates Chicanx grit, resilience, creativity, and joy while exploring themes of identity and mental health. Her debut novel, SOMEWHERE BETWEEN BITTER & SWEET is forthcoming from Little Brown in spring 2021.

Twitter | Instagram | Website | Goodreads


*Thank you to the publisher, HBG Canada, for an advanced copy!*

~ REVIEW ~

To put it simply, THIS BOOK IS INCREDIBLE!

Now let’s elaborate on that, shall we?

The writing is EVERYTHING! I know I talk a lot about being “immersed in an author’s writing” and well friends…I am speaking my truth! It was wonderful to be totally immersed in Kemp’s writing! That first kitchen scene! Just wow. I felt the heat and sweat building up inside of me as I read about the chaos that was cooking up. Every written word sprouted emotion within me. Every feeling that Pen and Xander felt, I felt too. It was just such incredibly engaging and heartfelt writing.

The second best thing about this novel was certainly the characters! They came for my heart! Pen was a brilliant and complex character. The ferocity in her coupled with the hardships she deals with on the inside and outside create such a well-rounded and rich personage. Her voice is so raw and relatable. Stunning. And then there is Xander! Honestly, he is perfection! Well, no he is not perfect, but close enough. He is sweet, adorable and so caring but he is also so caught up in the question of who he is and what his past is all about. He does the most for the people he loves and reading his journey to finding himself just crushed me in the best way possible. And I have to do an honorary shout out to the supporting cast! They are dubbed “the most faithful and fucked up family” and it is a very accurate description. There is so much love and loyalty within this Chicanx community and characters and they deserve your attention!

With Pen, comes the portrayal of a teen living with mental illness. Reading about her past and current battles with depression and anxiety gave readers a much deeper understanding of how Pen sees herself and why there was so much tension between her and her family, especially her father. I like how it was imagined as a cacophony of voices in her head. While I cannot comment on the accuracy of its portrayal, it was such an integral part of Pen’s journey.

As with any book that deals with cooking and food, I was a) HUNGRY ALL THE TIME and b) reminded of my absolute inadequacy in the kitchen. Remember that immersive writing? Yeah, immersive writing coupled with the theme of food makes me salivate with every turn of the page! (TMI? Maybe, but I speak my truth) Alongside food, this book covers so many incredible themes like love and loyalty for the Chicanx community, found family, lost family, fighting corruption and seeking passion. Every aspect of this book is full of life. And all of these themes come collectively under the bigger theme of dreaming! This book holds so many dreams, so many hopes. Stunning” is the only way I can put it.

THE ROMANCE HAD ME SO SOFT. I cannot explain it to you friends, you’re just going to have to read it for yourselves. I ship these two so hard, y’all don’t understand! *Breaks down into sobs*

And since I’m already sobbing, I might as well state it plain and clear: This book is very emotional. (See the exploration of depression, anxiety and self-doubt) Past mistakes whether self-made or otherwise really impact how Pen and Xander navigate their lives throughout the story. In searching for acceptance they often face the fear of never being enough and falling victim to false hope. I love how this books talks about facing fears. I love how it dissects the effects of swallowing fear. Avoiding it and thinking about fear like its a game to win will only lead us down some even darker roads. I like that the book really advocated for seeking support from others even though everyone is on their own path. Pen and Xander both have a not so easy time dealing with fear individually, but reading about how they help one another in big and small ways warmed my heart so much!

The title is BRILLIANT and we just have to contemplate it for a second. All in all, the title really encompasses the moments and spaces these characters inhabit. They are literally always somewhere between bitter fears and sweet hopes. And reading about how these characters’ move between these two emotional poles was a tender and endearing experience no matter the flavour.

I cried maybe a little at the end. It was an ending that just *phew* just brought everything together so beautifully! My heart squeezed and I loved that feeling so much!

TL;DR This book is absolutely beautiful and you need to read it.

Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

Recommend: YES, GET THIS BOOK ON YOUR TBR NOW.


~ FAN ART! ~

Please enjoy this illustration of Pen and Xander sharing a very special and sweet moment together! This is definitely one of my favourite scenes from the book! Read it to find out more!!


FOLLOW THE TOUR!

Let me know what you think! What are your favourite emotional reads? What are your favourite books about food? Are you looking forward to reading this?

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

Lunar Chronicles Character Art Reveal!

Greetings readers!

The time has come to do another fanart character reveal that I created for my favourite YA series ever!

Last time, I showed off my first piece of Cinder! You can check out that post here. And since Cinder was #1 it only makes sense that the second half of the glorious OTP be fulfilled next! Yep! Today it is all about Prince Kaito of the Eastern Common Wealth a.k.a Sassmaster KAI!!!

*lots of cheering, especially from Peony!*

Let me tell you about drawing Kai. So Cinder was done really fast. I found some great reference pictures that I wanted to use. Then came Kai and I also had a bunch of reference pictures that I wanted to use.

So I drew Kai. AND THEN I ERASED IT SO FAST BECAUSE IT WAS HORRIBLE.

Then I drew Kai again. AND I ERASED IT AGAIN, BECAUSE OMG I AM NOT DOING MY SASSY PRINCE ANY JUSTICE.

Then I drew Kai for a third time. I changed the style of his hair, the shape of his nose, his jaw line. Basically everything. And then I did the worst thing possible and outlined in black! #mistake.

So I fixed and tweaked. And fixed and tweaked. And fixed and tweaked some more…to finally be satisfied with a final product. I still think that I could have done a way better job…I might retry these characters when I’m older and have honed better proportion skills. But I am happy with it!

So without further ado…..Kai!

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*My crummy camera skills are clearly not helping, but the weather has been so gloomy so it is hard to get enough natural light*

Ahhh! There he is. Don’t ask me where I was going with the clothes. I honestly can’t remember, so I just coloured it in red! XD I tried guys. I am happy with it, though one day I will revisit drawing these characters and do a much BETTER job of my favourite sassy prince!

Let me know what you think! Do you think Kai looks decent(ish)? What character reveal are you looking forward to most? Have you ever dabbled in any fanart?

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

tlcread

Lunar Chronicles Character Art Reveal!

Greetings readers!

A while ago, I promised to show off some of my TLC fan art as a treat and today is reveal day!!

I have been working on these character portraits for almost a year now and it has been so much fun! Don’t get me wrong I don’t work on them everyday…but when I can I add a little something something here and there. So today is the day, finally. After a final count of votes three characters were tied, so I ended choosing one randomly by picking out of a hat!

And the winner is…..

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Linh Cinder

Cinder was the very first portrait that I drew, obviously! She was the first character of the series that I fell in love with (Kai being a quick second). I’m going to get a little deep here, mind you. Growing up (and today) I have been ridiculed for stating that Cinderella is my favourite Disney Princess. I have been told many times that Cindy’s story is just one that demeans a woman back down into the damsel in distress trope. Which is kind of true, until you dissect her story and realize that living with an abusive family and continuing to be compassionate and kind takes a lot of humility and courage. No, she doesn’t wield a sword. No, she doesn’t defeat the Huns. No, she doesn’t have a sassy attitude. Yeah, she waits for mice to come to her rescue. Yeah, she marries a guy she met on one night. But this is Disney, after all! (What do you expect!)

So coming across this book many years ago, I thought “Cyborg Cinderella” and responded with a big fat NO. Thus, making the worst financial decision of my life by buying Ender’s Game. Anyways, a year later I would give Cinder a try and let me tell you, I went off. Just pure gush.

Not just a Cyborg Cinderella, but a Sassy Cyborg Cinderella Mechanic.

I was in love.

So in drawing her portrait I wanted to stay true to her features, which you can find listed on Marissa’s website:  A Guide to Lunar Chronicles Character Traits! I tried to do a full body drawing too…but my proportion skills need a lot of work. (It was very, very bad)

I wouldn’t say that she came out exactly like I wanted, but I am pretty damn proud of my work!

Without further ado…I present Linh Cinder

cinder p

cinder-p1.jpg

Eep! I hope you like it! And if you don’t…I’m sorry(???)

Let me know what you think! Do you draw fanart? Should I reveal the next TLC character sometime soon? (I guess I would just go in order from here!) Take your time to just gush about TLC, please!

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

tlcread

Holiday Goals! |A Reading List & A Sneak Peek At Something *Special*

Greetings readers!

I really found no point in doing a November Wrap-Up, since I literally crossed nothing off that list and to do a December TBR was also really pointless since the month is almost over….so I created a HOLIDAY TBR! Which is a mash-up of December and January goals!

Who knows if I will actually achieve them…but I am really hoping to do a lot of reading and blogging these next two weeks!

Let’s Get Into It!

Holiday TBR

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

Renegades IG

This one is obvious. I have been waiting to pick it up since it came to my door step, but I set it aside so I could really enjoy it! I know there have been some mixed reviews around it, but I’m keeping the most open mind as possible. This is, after all, a book by my Queen.

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

A) I haven’t read it and I have had it since AUGUST! B) Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu comes out this January and even though I don’t need to read WW:W before I read this, I am a stickler for reading things in order!

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

I have had this book for too long to not pick it up…..so I really need to get to it!

Last Star Burning by Caitlin Sangster

It’s a signed ARC that I won in a Haiku contest which really had nothing to do with the book, but the synopsis sounds really cool so I want to read it. Plus the cover is winter-y and it’s winter…so it’s fitting.

The ACOTAR series by Sarah J. Maas

I’m really not in the mood to read SJM, but I should. It’s not mandatory on my list, perhaps just the first book to simply get it out of the way….because those other books take priority!

I also have some review books that I need to get through that I am super excited for!!!!

Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking

Between_the_Blade_and_the_Heart_blog_banner-

This is the first Blog Tour I will be participating in! I’m very excited. The book sounds incredible and I hope I really enjoy it! You can catch my post on January 3rd so be sure to watch this space!!!

S.T.A.G.S by M.A. Bennett

S.T.A.G.S.
via Goodreads 

This sounds incredibly intense and suspenseful and I am all for this!!!!!!

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

The Wicked Deep
via Goodreads 

Hocus Pocus meets Practical Magic meets the Salem Witch trials.
Y.E.S. I. A.M. R.E.A.D.Y. F.O.R. T.H.I.S.  I am so lucky I got my hands on an ARC, I have high hopes for this! High hopes!!

Captain Guinevere by Clara Bennet

Captain Guinevere
via Goodreads 

I have also had a hold of this one for a while. It sounds very cool, it’s short and I cannot wait to read it!

Some Other Holiday Things….

I have been up to some stuff since the summer! Some artsy stuff. That has to do with my favourite fandoms. Like The Lunar Chronicles and The Beautiful Ones. I also have some plans for Six of Crows, Tower of Dawn, The Winner’s Trilogy and An Ember in the Ashes!

I have already started some TLC and Beautiful Ones work done! I cannot wait too show you the finished products. But for now he is a little teaser….

 

Can you guess who???

And here is one for The Beautiful Ones

TBO

Eeeekk! I’m excited!

Hopefully I get a few done in these next two weeks to show them off!!

Let me know what you think? What do you have planned for this Holiday season? Any special reads? Have you ever done some special for your favourite fandoms? 

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

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