Friday, February 5, 2021

A Pho Love Story by Loan Le

 A Pho Love Story
Author: Loan Le
Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication date: February 9, 2021
Pages: 416
Source/format: e-ARC from publisher
Rating: ☆☆☆

Synopsis (from

If Bao Nguyen had to describe himself, he’d say he was a rock. Steady and strong, but not particularly interesting. His grades are average, his social status unremarkable. He works at his parents’ pho restaurant, and even there, he is his parents’ fifth favorite employee. Not ideal.

If Linh Mai had to describe herself, she’d say she was a firecracker. Stable when unlit, but full of potential for joy and fire. She loves art and dreams pursuing a career in it. The only problem? Her parents rely on her in ways they’re not willing to admit, including working practically full-time at her family’s pho restaurant.

For years, the Mais and the Nguyens have been at odds, having owned competing, neighboring pho restaurants. Bao and Linh, who’ve avoided each other for most of their lives, both suspect that the feud stems from feelings much deeper than friendly competition.

But then a chance encounter brings Linh and Bao in the same vicinity despite their best efforts and sparks fly, leading them both to wonder what took so long for them to connect. But then, of course, they immediately remember.

Can Linh and Bao find love in the midst of feuding families and complicated histories?

When Dimple Met Rishi meets Ugly Delicious in this funny, smart romantic comedy, in which two Vietnamese-American teens fall in love and must navigate their newfound relationship amid their families’ age-old feud about their competing, neighboring restaurants.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

A Pho Love Story is a cute contemporary romance about Linh Mai and Bao Nguyen who both have parents that run a pho restaurant on the same street. What complicates things the most is that their families are rivals. With this budding romance between the two teens, Linh and Bao must endure facing many obstacles.

Loan Le tackles some topics such as racism and immigration. The novel included a lot of descriptions regarding food that make your mouth water. The novel has dual perspectives. However, I found it hard to differentiate which character is speaking at times. Is it Linh or is it Bao that is speaking? Sometimes that have a similar voice unless I understand the context of what they are talking about. I enjoyed reading about the blossoming friendship that becomes something more between Linh and Bao. Nothing was too forced or rushed between them. Also, the pacing of the book is slow in certain sections compared too others.

Vietnamese culture incorporates the language, the food and the customs within A Pho Love Story. As with many Asian cultures, careers or interest in things like art is not praised. Linh is very passionate about art but it's hard to pursue that path when her family want something more for her. Gaining the acceptance from her family has put a damper to her confidence. Bao, on the other hand, is still in a phase where he is trying to find himself and what he wants in life. Many teenagers don't know what they want to do with their life and Bao reflects that perspective.

A Pho Love Story is modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet with a Vietnamese twist. The novel is also a discovery of one's self and a coming-of-age story.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Everything That Burns by Gita Trelease

 Everything that Burns
Author: Gita Trelease
Flatiron Books
Publication date: February 2, 2021
Pages: 448
Source/format: e-ARC//Publisher
Rating: ☆☆☆1/2

Synopsis (from

Magic. Betrayal. Sacrifice

Camille Durbonne gambled everything she had to keep her and her sister safe, and now the Vicomtesse de Seguin seeks a new life in Paris. But revolution roils the bloody streets and “aristocrat” is a dangerous word. Safety may no longer be possible.

Following in her father’s footsteps, Camille prints revolutionary pamphlets, sharing the stories of girls.

M Y  T H O U G H T S 

Camille Durbonne is back and fine as ever. Living a life of a well off young lady, she is a feminist and pushes for the rights of women in France. Because she couldn't sell her pamphlets at the local bookstore, the bookkeeper mentions the revolutionary pamphlets would not capture the interest of the masses since he cannot merely suggest women being true citizens.

During the first novel, All That Glitters (Enchantée), Camille was able to bring her sister and herself to safety from a life of poverty after the deaths of her parents. She was able to use magic and glamours to climb the ladder and to provide for her family. In Everything That Burns (Liberté), there is a bigger focus on feminism and equality. Camille wants to share her and her father's ideas through revolutionary pamphlets about girls whose stories need to be told. These are girls who live in outskirts of society; they are marginalized. These marginalized girls are the Lost Girls living in the Flotsam House are the ones Camille helps and seeks to have their voices to be heard.

And then there is Louis XVI who declares that magic a crime and all magicians are traitors. While Camille is very adept to magic, she must be careful while walking the dangerous path. She must hide her true self in order to stay safe. In Everything That Burns, the feminism takes the driver seat in the plot while the magic takes the backseat. The dazzling breath of magic fizzles out slowly in the novel since Camille cannot use her glamours and enchantments like before. It's less turning of coins and more printing of pamphlets. This novel shows humanity's true self and what issues the people suffer through everyday.

Everything That Burns shows what is underneath all the glitz and glamour of the royal courts. The nitty gritty truth of the revolution is rising to the surface. All though the magic isn't as charming, Everything that Burns has wonderful characters. I wish this is a more plot driven novel but I do enjoy the character development. Readers are reunited with familiar characters such as Camille, Sophie, Lazare, Chandon, Rosier, etc. but they also introduced to a variety of new faces of the Lost Girls such as Giselle, Odette, Henriette and Celiné. 

I recommend both All that Glitters and Everything That Burns for readers who are interested in a dark historical fiction duology.