Sunday, 8 March 2020

Salty, Bitter, Sweet by Mayra Cuevas + #Giveaway


Salty, Bitter, Sweet by Mayra Cuevas
Published by Blink on the 3rd March 2020.

I am linking up this review with March 2020 Foodies Read at Based On A True Story

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A slow-burn romance in a cutthroat kitchen! There’s more to becoming a top chef for 17-year-old Isabella Fields than just not getting chopped … especially when the chances of things heating up with an intriguing boy and becoming a food star in the kitchen are both on the chopping block.

Aspiring chef Isa’s family life has fallen apart after the death of her Cuban abuela and the divorce of her parents. She moves in with her dad and her new stepmom, Margo, in Lyon, France, where Isa feels like an outsider in her father’s new life. Isa balances her time between avoiding the awkward, “why-did-you-cheat-on-Mom” conversation with figuring out how a perpetually single woman can at least be a perpetually single chef.

The upside of Isa’s world being turned upside-down?

Her father’s house is located only 30 minutes away from the restaurant of world-famous Chef Pascal Grattard, who runs a prestigiously competitive international kitchen apprenticeship. The prize job at Chef Grattard’s renowned restaurant also represents a transformative opportunity for Isa who is desperate to get her life back in order—and desperate to prove she has what it takes to work in an haute kitchen. But Isa’s stress and repressed grief begin to unravel when the attractive, enigmatic Diego shows up unannounced with his albino dog.

How can Isa expect to hold it together when she’s at the bottom of her class at the apprenticeship, her new stepmom is pregnant, she misses her abuela dearly, and things with the mysterious Diego reach a boiling point?

I picked out Salty, Bitter, Sweet by Mayra Cuevas from NetGalley because of its Own Voices authorship. Isabella's part-Latina heritage is an important aspect of this authentically complicated character's emotional makeup. Still reeling from emotional family upheavals, Isabella's need to find herself a new way to belong reminded me of similar themes in Natalie Tan's Book of Love and Fortune by Roselle Lim. Both novels are essentially foodie coming-of-age stories for which I would strongly recommend having plenty of snacks to hand whilst reading! If you love your food as much as I do Salty, Bitter, Sweet will make you hungry!

I loved how Cuevas incorporates French and Spanish locations and language into her novel. Despite Isabella being American herself, Salty, Bitter, Sweet feels like a European novel. I recognised the portrayals of Lyon and Barcelona from my own visits, and the swirl of cultural identities throughout the story reflects Isabella's own confusion about who she is and, perhaps more importantly at this stage of her life, who she wants to become. Her need to hide in a kitchen drives her culinary ambitions and she is obviously talented, however Cuevas shows how hanging our entire sense of ourselves onto one facet of our makeup is not a healthy way to live. I appreciated the correlations between Isabella's obsessive behaviour and Diego's similar situation. They are each at different stages of their emotional journeys, but this allows them to make a connection that might not otherwise have been possible - once they stop bickering that is.

Friendships, particularly female friendships, are featured prominently in Salty, Bitter, Sweet, with much of the culinary storyline taking place in an ultra masculine environment - a Michelin starred kitchen. I loved how Cuevas mutes the majority of the male characters though so, while we are always aware that the three female students are very much the minority, for us they carry the focus. Cuevas shows the dark side of what it takes to become 'the best', leaving me questioning why such hostility and angst is considered essential to creating high quality food. I, too, would rather eat imperfectly cut chips cooked with love!

And now it's time for the Giveaway!  

Win a $10 Amazon gift card (1 winner)
Open internationally from the 8th March until 23:59 (UK time) on the 22nd March.
The winner will be chosen at random via Gleam on the 23rd March and will be contacted by e-mail or Twitter. The winner must respond within 7 days or the prize will be forfeit.

Literary Flits $10 Amazon gift card giveaway



Etsy Find!
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Books by Mayra Cuevas / Contemporary fiction / Books from Puerto Rico

18 comments:

  1. That sounds like a good book. I'm curious to see if she made it to being a happy chef.

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  2. This book sounds great. I'm going to have to look for it.

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    1. I hope you can find a copy. I think you'd really enjoy this one!

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    1. Absolutely! I had a great time reading this story :-)

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  4. Replies
    1. It's a really fun story! I hope you get the chance to read it :-)

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  5. This sounds like a really good read. I am going to keep an eye out for it!

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    1. Brilliant! I hope you get to enjoy this novel :-)

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  6. Sounds like a good read! Thanks for sharing with us!

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  7. What a very generous giveaway

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  8. I can't wait to read this, it sounds like a really good read

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