Henry is a Jerk: Love a la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm

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Take two American teen chefs, add one heaping cup of Paris, toss in a pinch of romance, and stir. . . .

Rosie Radeke firmly believes that happiness can be found at the bottom of a mixing bowl. But she never expected that she, a random nobody from East Liberty, Ohio, would be accepted to celebrity chef Denis Laurent’s school in Paris, the most prestigious cooking program for teens in the entire world. Life in Paris, however, isn’t all cream puffs and crepes. Faced with a challenging curriculum and a nightmare professor, Rosie begins to doubt her dishes.

Henry Yi grew up in his dad’s restaurant in Chicago, and his lifelong love affair with food landed him a coveted spot in Chef Laurent’s school. He quickly connects with Rosie, but academic pressure from home and his jealousy over Rosie’s growing friendship with gorgeous bad-boy baker Bodie Tal makes Henry lash out and push his dream girl away.

Desperate to prove themselves, Rosie and Henry cook like never before while sparks fly between them. But as they reach their breaking points, they wonder whether they have what it takes to become real chefs.

Perfect for lovers of Chopped Teen Tournament and Kids Baking Championship, as well as anyone who dreams of a romantic trip to France, Love la Mode follows Rosie and Henry as they fall in love with food, with Paris, and ultimately, with each other.

Source: GoodReads

I really didn’t care for the love interest in this rom com.  That being said it’s not a bad book.  It’s actually quite enjoyable.  It’s warm and fluffy and reminded me of a lot like Anna and the French Kiss if it had some weird baby with Chopped or some other cooking related show.

Stephanie Kate Strohm has wrote some of my favorite books this year.  That being said while I found this book to be incredibly cute and sweet, at the same time the book was flawed in parts.

I like cooking stuff.  I have a ridiculous collection of cookbooks.  Watch a shit load of cooking shows.  And even attempt to cook when I don’t make a fool of myself by cutting myself  when chopping fennel (for this stupid sheet pan) and needing three stitches of a result (aka this is why I haven’t been blogging as of late, because typing with nine fingers is a bitch)

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So, I sort of like reading stuff about it.  And I even like reading stuff about baking even though I don’t eat a lot of bake goods because of the gluten thing.  I have even thought about doing a cooking feature on this blog before where I review cook books, but given my lack of finesse presentation wise and my tendency for getting in cooking related accidents. That being said, I found the cooking portion of this book to be very artificial in some regards.

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See I can post pictures of food.  My first attempt at fudge, don’t judge.

One of the reasons I have quit watching a lot of competitive reality cooking shows is the whole lack of heart in dishes crap that is usually used to make a chef peg themselves to a particular type of cuisine-usually this is where the chef’s from or their family’s from (i.e. your Italian you must cook Italian, you’re Southern you must cook Southern food) and that’s sort of thrown in here with Henry’s background and is a part of the story.  Never mind that his French food is just as damn good as his Chicago and Korean fusion food (which does sound pretty good now that I think about it) we’re told it doesn’t have heart.

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Okay?

Do you taste heart?  No.

In a cookbook or on a food show, I can get the argument.  Those things have narratives.  We’re just talking about the taste of the food though.  It just annoyed me…especially since Ms. Annoying (aka Rosie who I’ll get to in a minute) didn’t have any story to how she rips off Christina Tosi’s (who by the way has one of the most obnoxious wardrobe on food TV) cakes or why she’s so obsessed with lamination.  But whatever.

It’s just a pet peeve.  Besides, constant name dropping (seriously, every Food Network celeb gets a name drop).  The food stuff was interesting.  I did think though the stuff about Henry’s heritage was just pigeon toed in there at the end and was annoying.  Henry though in general was annoying and creepy.

While this was a cute book, I did not really root for this couple.  Henry is just so damn insecure and ridiculously possessive.

He and Ms. Annoying aren’t even dating yet and another guy flirts with her and he freaks out and gets all sulky.  God, what a moody character.

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Seriously, he sulks a lot.

It’s not attractive.

His moodiness also makes me realize I’m not in the targeted demographic but I digress…

I just didn’t like the way Henry acted and as much as Rosie annoyed me, she deserved better.  Guys like Henry are guys that usually become MRA fuckers.

As for Ms. Annoying…gah.  My problem with Rosie is she’s just such a stereotypical YA protagonist and her supposed improvement in cooking seemed almost miraculous.  Really, she shouldn’t have been at an elite culinary school.

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Surprisingly, I didn’t have a problem with the secondary love interest.  Yes, his backstory was a little outlandish, but Strohm didn’t result to the jerk in disguise trope and I have to give her a plus on that.

Surprisingly, while I did have a lot of nitpicking with the characters I did like this book.  It was a fun little escape.  I’m always down for a book with traveling and cooking, also I like rom coms.  So while I didn’t feel the ship it was sort of written to be an MJ book.

Overall I do recommend Love a la Mode.  There are better books out there, but it is a cute little escape from the dumpster fire that is the world.

Overall Rating: I’ll be generous and give it a B.  And now I’m going to rest my finger.

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How to DNF In 77 Pages: The Art of French Kissing by Brianna R Shrum

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Seventeen-year-old Carter Lane has wanted to be a chef since she was old enough to ignore her mom’s warnings to stay away from the hot stove. And now she has the chance of a lifetime: a prestigious scholarship competition in Savannah, where students compete all summer in Chopped style challenges for a full-ride to one of the best culinary schools in the country. The only impossible challenge ingredient in her basket: Reid Yamada.

After Reid, her cute but unbearably cocky opponent, goes out of his way to screw her over on day one, Carter vows revenge, and soon they’re involved in a full-fledged culinary war. Just as the tension between them reaches its boiling point, Carter and Reid are forced to work together if they want to win, and Carter begins to wonder if Reid’s constant presence in her brain is about more than rivalry. And if maybe her desire to smack his mouth doesn’t necessarily cancel out her desire to kiss it.

Source: GoodReads

Oh, boy.

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I’ll be fair to this one it’s shit, but not shit in the sort of way where I’m raging.  It’s just bland shit, where I can really say I hate the love to hate trope.  Especially when it involves misogynist  assholes like Reid who I still can’t understand how the blurb thought it was reasonable to describe him as cute.

Reid is pretty much the defining reason why this trope can fail so hard.  Let me be frank, the enemies to lovers trope is one of those tropes I hate an ironic love/hate relationship with.  When done correctly it works amazingly (see It Happened One Autumnwhen it fails it can be worse than the very worse Dramione fan fiction (I shouldn’t be admitting that I even ventured into reading those but whatevs).

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Reid falls into what make me get my belly full of Dramione fan fics.  He is obnoxious.  A budding “well, actually” bro on the internet.  Within ten pages of meeting our MC he tries to destroy our MC but it’s all in the name of competition ya’ll so that’s okay.

The MC’s not that much better.  I really don’t know much about her other than she has the latest Star Wars merchandise which I guess is suppose to make he relatable.  Fun, really not related to this review fact, I have never seen Star Wars which is kind of weird considering what a huge Indiana Jones nerd I am.

You really didn’t need to know that.

Overall, the set up of the book really reminded me of Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous except there was no actual TV show here.  Still though, the formula stayed eerily the same.

And quite honestly, if you’re going to write the book like an actual recap of Chopped I’d be much better off actually watching the show or going on Previously TV or some other TV recap site on the internet and read their recaps.

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Seriously, what is the point of that?  Yes, I’m sure the cooking competition was suppose to show conflict but when your just giving us a blow by blow of what happens, not giving us a culinary point of view or anything…

Holy shit, I’m starting to sound like I could be one of those obnoxious judges on The Next Food Network Star I really need to stop it.  The point I’m trying to make though, is there was a lot of telling in this book not a lot of showing.  It felt stunted and very manufactured.  It didn’t really  anything about it that made it memorable or made me excited.

Again, it’s a shame.

I like reading about food.  This book took place in Savannah.  I went to Savannah last summer, I would’ve liked to relive that.  However, the book could’ve taken place anywhere.  Never mind that Savannah actually has a pretty big foodie scene,that would’ve been fun to explore.  No this book makes its self a fucking Chopped recap with a love interest that should just go ahead and get neutered because he is an obnoxious asshole.

What do I know though, other than I DNF’d this fucker.

Overall Rating: DNF

 

What Was the Point of This?: Love, Pizza, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous by Kathryn Williams

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Can a spot on a teen reality show really lead to a scholarship at an elite cooking school AND a summer romance?

Sixteen-year-old Sophie Nicolaides was practically raised in the kitchen of her family’s Italian-Greek restaurant, Taverna Ristorante. When her best friend, Alex, tries to convince her to audition for a new reality show, Teen Test Kitchen, Sophie is reluctant. But the prize includes a full scholarship to one of America’s finest culinary schools and a summer in Napa, California, not to mention fame.

Once on-set, Sophie immediately finds herself in the thick of the drama—including a secret burn book, cutthroat celebrity judges, and a very cute French chef. Sophie must figure out a way to survive all the heat and still stay true to herself. A terrific YA offering–fresh, fun, and sprinkled with romance.

Source: GoodReads

Well, I finished this book.

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So that’s a plus.

But God, what a waste of time. I literally felt that nothing.  Oh, stuff did happen.  There was a reality TV contest with characters that were flatter than the creepy bow twins on the latest incarnation of Master Chef Junior (and yes, I know the bow twins are just kids but  their stylist really needs to be canned for making them look like they should belong on the set of The Shining), a couple of cute boys who’s main characteristics was that they were cute and either culinary institute student or the MC’s B.F.F. who makes her enter the contest.  Oh, and yes the MC was Italian and Greek and that was her big thing besides her butt which she called “the tank” but other that…

Nope nothing happened here.

I feel like I need to back up on things Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous came out a few years back and was sort of on my radar but ended up in the pits of TBR pile.  I’ll admit it, I like cooking shows.  When I was in undergradthe Food Network was pretty much on 24/7 when I was in my dorm room just because it was entertaining enough  to block out noise but not too entertaining for me to get distracted when I wrote essays about why Oprah should run for president (yeah, I actually did that-we were suppose to pick a person who we thought would likely get elected back in 2008,  this was pre-Obama’s running announcement ) and the various Shakespeare plays I was forced to read because I was delusional enough to be an English major.  I still watch cooking shows today-which mostly consist of Gordon Ramsay yelling at people because for some odd reason it is cathartic for me to listen him to yell at incompetent jackasses (probably because I can’t do that myself, even though I purposely became a lawyer to  yell at people-’cause I’m not a nice person, ya’ll).   So, seeing it in book form totally going to go for it.  And a few years back a couple of books we’re introduced this being one of them and Taste Test being another.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Taste Test either, but unlike this book there was a semblance of a plot and it didn’t feel like 250 pages had been a complete waste of time.  This book though, that’s the feeling I got.  As you probably saw from the introductory paragraphs of this review.  The book had 1D characteristics at best which is a shame.  Yes, I get the MC has Greek and Italian heritage that she lost her mother and is torn in a love triangle between the boy next door and the hot cooking whiz she shares two lines of dialogue with-but Williams never made me care about them.  Or for that matter, she never resolved that plot.

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She never resolved anything.  Okay we’re heading to major spoiler territory now.  So if you’re one of those weirdos who actually cares about things like that you probably don’t want to read the next paragraph because it’s going to be a very spoiler filled rant…

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The book just ends exactly how it starts.  The MC doesn’t win.   There’s really no explanation for her loss.   She’s just back to working at her dad’s restaurant except she’s okay with being called Sophia now (okay, I didn’t get the whole not liking Sophia thing to begin with anyway).   And she’s sort of involved with both boys at the end of it, but sort of not (just like the entire book!).  She doesn’t really learn anything about herself, he new friends problems are never explained.  And I never did find out if Phillip was related to the producers or not (I assume he was because that’s the only way someone who can’t cook a fucking egg could’ve won a cooking contest).  Not that that was ever discussed.  The book just mentioned that this random minor character named Phillip seemed to win all the time and cooked horribly and no explanation was ever made for it, so I’m saying he’s related to the producers.

Phillip’s non-existing storyline seemed to be one of many that filled this book.  From the quasi romances going on.  To the long lost aunt.  To the burn book that the producer’s started.  To the contestant with the maybe eating disorder.  To the contestant with the romance with Phillip.  To the fragmented sentences of this paragraph.  There were that many plot holes.

The book just really seems to be going nowhere and it’s a fucking shame.  There was a lot of potential with Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous, but at the end of the day the book was more than a little bit of a let down.

Overall Rating: A C.  I have read worse and at least with this one it was painless short-I read it in the span of two hours.

 

 

North of Nope: North of Happy by Adi Alsaid

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His whole life has been mapped out for him…

Carlos Portillo has always led a privileged and sheltered life. A dual citizen of Mexico and the US, he lives in Mexico City with his wealthy family, where he attends an elite international school. Always a rule follower and a parent pleaser, Carlos is more than happy to tread the well-worn path in front of him. He has always loved food and cooking, but his parents see it as just a hobby.

When his older brother, Felix—who has dropped out of college to live a life of travel—is tragically killed, Carlos begins hearing his brother’s voice, giving him advice and pushing him to rebel against his father’s plan for him. Worrying about his mental health, but knowing the voice is right, Carlos runs away to the United States and manages to secure a job with his favorite celebrity chef. As he works to improve his skills in the kitchen and pursue his dream, he begins to fall for his boss’s daughter—a fact that could end his career before it begins. Finally living for himself, Carlos must decide what’s most important to him and where his true path really lies.

Source: GoodReads

Amendment: I just noticed from the blurb that the MC is a duel citizen.  I probably skimmed over this when I read the 88 pages or it’s addressed later on.  That at least gives the book more factual credence than I previously thought it had-re the employment situation.  That’s what you get for not reading the entire thing I guess (shrugs).  

 

Another day, another DNF.  I have to tell you guys I really do hate DNF’ing books.  The thing is after reviewing books for seven years and reading bull shitty books even longer, I just don’t have the tolerance like I used to to stomach through.

And even though I know it’s better for me to stop, I keep hearing the whole quitters never win lecture my mom always spewed when I throw a book against the wall.

However, one thing I don’t think my mom ever really conceptualized is that it sometimes its better to cut your loses than to continue with something you’re going to hate and that’s sort of the situation I was in with North of Happy.

I made it through about 88 pages of this one before I threw it into the giveaway pile-and yes, I have a huge box of books in my garage that I need to get rid of.  Usually that means, giving it away to a library or maybe to a needy family or two at the holidays.  Note, I’d probably do a giveaway at some point on this blog too-only thing is I’d have to go to the post office and pay probably a ridiculous amount in shipping and I’m not that fond of doing that (sorry, not sorry).

Anyway, digression about the give away box aside, North of Happy was a book I knew I was not going to like.  The set up itself seemed interesting- it involves cooking and fish out of water tale.  BUT add seemingly pointless delusions that seem to indicate the MC has mental illness but is never addressed as such, a MPDG of a love interest, AND a suspension of lack of reality when it comes to immigrants getting a job in the US (it’s not that easy) I got annoyed fast.

I ended up giving it more of a it’s me not you DNF score.

Let’s start with what bothered me the most.  The delusions the MC has.  I think they’re meant to sort of have a magical realism quality about it, but God knows they came more or less as delusions as someone who is mentally ill and I wished that would’ve been addressed.  Maybe it was as the book progressed, but I didn’t see it happening anytime soon.  Also, I got to say the delusion of his brother annoyed me.  He was one of those characters I wanted to smack and shake.  Just so sanctimonious with his follow your dreams, screw stability in life, and I manifest myself as a random pigeon shit.

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Yeah, that probably doesn’t make sense unless you read the book.  Though, it’s probably the only time I’ll be able to use a gift of that weird Bird Lady from Home Alone 2: Trump Makes a Prequel Pee Pee Tape at the Plaza! 

But hey, my review my thoughts, and that was what I was thinking when I read this book.

Here’s the thing what really annoyed me about the Felix delusions.  If the book was going to have delusions in it, I wanted them addressed for what they are-mental illness.  Having them as a plot point or being used in this weirdo quasi magical realism thing just didn’t work.  It honestly cheapened the story more than anything else.  And honestly is kind of insulting.

The other big issue that annoyed me was Emma.  She’s your stereotypical MPDG (manic pixie dream girl) I just rolled my eyes at her entrance and could really care less about her.  Also, I really can’t see some girl suggesting some random dude to be hired for her mother’s five star restaurant.  It just seemed out of the blue, and again characterization wise it seemed just out there.   Especially since when What’s His Face-I don’t even remember his name and it’s been a little less than a day since I quit this book-shows up at Emma’s mom’s restaurant he’s acting a little less than sane.  I mean, unless Emma wants to sabotage her mom, I really don’t think asking to hire the random weirdo was a good idea.

Which brings me to concern three.  Even if I didn’t take immigration law, I have I still would’ve rolled my eyes with What’s His Face getting a job because of filling out various employment verification forms your have to fill out when you’re hired by a job.  Add the fact I did take immigration law, and know (unlike the current ignoramus who is sadly president) that low wage jobs are usually not in abundance for immigrants.  Let alone tourists like What’s His Face.

And yes, I know people could technically be paying him under the table…but Emma’s mom is a celebrity chef and I doubt she was going to be hit with a scandalous expose on Eater.com but hey what do I know…Mario Batali liked to flaunt labor laws in the past so…

Even the recipes that were introduced at the beginning of each chapter were lackluster to me.  It was more or less a list of ingredients.  Which is more less like my grocery list.  Yes tomatoes, flank steak, onion, garlic, cilantro, and corn tortillas can be appetizing but just listing the ingredients isn’t going to make me salivate.  There is an art to food writing.

Which reminds me, at some point I really do need to start reviewing my stash cookbooks.  Especially my mom’s.  She has some cookbooks published in the 80’s and 90’s that would be fun to review-though probably not very gluten free friendly.

Digression, digression.

I am doing that a lot in this review.  Which does not bode well for the book.  At the end of the day, ask me two or three weeks about North of Happy and I probably won’t be able to tell you much just that it had a lot of potential and just didn’t deliver.

Overall Rating: DNF