I don’t know about you, but I grew up begging my parents to switch the channel to Food Network so I could check in with the latest rendition of Iron Chef: America or Cupcake Wars.
(Small aside: host Justin Willman once responded to my tweet and this remains my favorite random anecdote to share).
The recent trend of romances and novels based around foodie reality TV suggests it is not just me who loves these shows. You can’t look at a new release list without bumping up against some variation of two people involved in food TV falling in love.
Common theme though it may be, I’m not yet tired of reading these books. Romance, made-for-TV drama, and delicious food descriptions — what’s not to like?
Sadie on a Platetakes this formula and gives it a forbidden romance twist. Sadie works as a chef in the Seattle restaurant scene, until a breakup with her boss results in an incident that she fears may have damaged her reputation beyond repair. Thankfully, right around the same time she hears back from the producers at Chef Supreme.
She jets off to New York, hoping the competition will restart her career. On the plane, she meets a fellow chef with whom she has amazing chemistry… except things aren’t so simple as they seem, and their magical afternoon together just might have unexpected consequences on her fresh start.
(Full disclosure: This post uses Bookshop.org affiliate links, which earn me a small commission at no additional cost to you.)
What I Liked
Sadie is a Jewish woman who is passionate about her culinary lineage. I am not Jewish and haven’t eaten much Jewish food, so it was really interesting to hear Sadie describe the inspiration behind her recipes. The food descriptions were, hands down, my favorite part of this book.
I also appreciated the diversity offered by the contestants on Chef Supreme, which showcased a number of cultures and identities that I thought were, overall, handled well. It was so interesting to see the different personalities translate to the kitchen.
Even though this book has a romance element, Sadie’s journey to confidence in herself and in her dishes really takes center stage, which made the story that much more engaging.
The ending in terms of the competition itself wasn’t what you might expect, which I also enjoyed.
What I Didn’t Like
The romance, for me, was a little underdeveloped by nature of the setup. It had that flare of “insta-love” I’ve heard people complain about. Several elements of how things developed between the two also felt predictable, which left me wishing for something more from this part of the story.
At times I felt like it was kind of hard to connect with Sadie as a narrator — she had a certain distance that made it challenging for me to understand who she was. I think this is partly intentional, since she is working to understand herself after having her confidence shaken, but at times I wanted to feel closer to her as a person.
In all, I very much enjoyed Sadie on a Plate. The reality TV setting allows for so much inherit drama and intrigue in the plot, and I love the behind-the-scenes look at the process of filming. By the end I found myself wishing I could try Sadie’s food, because it all sounded amazing.
I recommend this book to Food Network fans, readers who love to cook or learn about food, and to readers who like a forbidden romance story. If you enjoyed Rosaline Palmer Takes The Cake, this feels like a readalike due to the reality TV setting and romance elements.
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Mini-reviews and recommendations to add to your TBR
I don’t know about you, but for me, May felt like the first month where time started moving forward again in a way I could at least half-recognize. I got my first shot of the COVID vaccine, embraced the longer days of sunshine, and even went on a short solo getaway.
What did I do with my night away from the dog and the man? Obviously, I read an entire book while sitting beside the campfire I built myself.
Summer to me is synonymous with reading, and so unsurprisingly I read several books in the month of May. What did surprise me was how many of them I completely adored! Allow me to expand your TBR with mini-reviews of the best books I read this month!
(Full disclosure: Book links featured below are affiliate links. Mentions of Book of the Month are referral codes.)
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
Format: Audiobook (LibroFM)
Why I Read It: As a writer of nonfiction myself, I always feel called to read any memoir or essay collection that’s popping up in list after list. I kept seeing this one, and so, I selected it for this month’s audiobook credit
Crying In H Martis an unflinching look not just at grief, but at the experience of being a caregiver and growing up as a Korean American woman.
Zauner does not shy away from her mother’s flaws or her own regrets as she explores their relationship, using food as a lens to view love and sickness and grief. Food is a powerful thing, and in Zauner’s case, a way to connect to the half of her that is Korean.
The descriptions of supermarket aisles and dishes prepared will make you hungry, and the sharp depictions of sickness and caregiving will bring you close to tears.
Zauner manages to depict the fullness of her mother and their relationship without the sugarcoating grief so often lends, bringing a woman who feels real and vibrant and flawed and human to the page.
I will say, I sometimes felt uncertain of the organizational structure of the book — some chapters/sections did not follow chronology in a way that occasionally made me feel unbalanced and even confused. This may be a product of audio, where I do sometimes have more trouble following the form of a thing, and I always found my way back to the story eventually.
I recommend this book to mothers, to the mothered, and those who have grieved, as well as anyone who loves a good, food-centric memoir.
There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura, Translated by Polly Barton
Why I Read It: To tick off the “book in translation” task from Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge
I wrote a full review for this one in Coffee Time Reviews so I’ll keep my comments here fairly brief. I feel like this book is the ideal example of what challenges like Read Harder aim to do. It’s unlikely I would’ve ended up reading There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job if not for the challenge, and that would’ve been a real shame.
I absolutely adored this book and am so glad I read it, in spite of all my hesitation when it arrived on my doorstep in all its 400 page bulk. I recommend it to… well, to anyone who’s ever worked a job and searched for the bigger meaning. Which I think is just about all of us.
How Not to Fall in Love by Jacqueline Firkins
Format: E-book (Thank you to HMH and NetGalley for this Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review)
Why I Read It: Chose it from NetGalley because the synopsis sounded good
Please excuse me while I arm flail excitedly about this book. When I grabbed it from the virtual shelves of NetGalley, I expected it might be a fun read, but I did not expect it would be one of the fun reads. The ones that keep you up late because you can’t put them down. The ones that feel like they were written for you.
I gushed for over 1,000 words over on Coffee Time Reviews, so I’ll try not to say too much more here except that I absolutely loved this book and you should probably go ahead and preorder it on Amazon or directly from the publisher, so you can read it as soon as it comes out on December 21st of this year.
I… probably am going to do that, too, if I’m honest. I want to look at this book on my shelf and remember how fun it was to read.
I won’t lie to you — I started to blurb this book, thinking it would just be a feature in this Best Books column… except then I wrote well above a short mini-review and realized that I had more to say.
What can I say? Sometimes, a book just begs for a full review.
I adored this book, as I should’ve expected after the joy that was Henry’s prior novel, Beach Read. Plus, you know I love a good book with Ohio references. Throw in the friends to lovers trope and I am so there, it’s insane.
I actually did not realize that People We Meet On Vacationwas a friends-to-lovers story until I got started, and was a little wary on overdoing the trope since I read How Not to Fall in Love directly prior. Thankfully, the two books handle their shared premise very differently, in part due to the gap in age between their respective protagonists. Since my full review is available in Coffee Time Reviews, I’ll leave it at that for now!
I recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a good summer read, who loves adventure and travel, or people who love a good friends-to-lovers romance.
Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
Format: Digital library copy
Why I read it: Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors has been on my TBR for a while now, and unlike most of the hundreds of books that languish on my Goodreads “want to read” shelf, I actually did get around to it. Shockingly, there was no wait list for this one on Libby, so I snatched it up.
This story takes the familiar plot and characters of Pride and Prejudice as its inspiration, but twists them up and mixes them around in a way that creates a fresh new story. I would call it more of an “inspired by” than an adaptation, for all that one of the characters is called Darcy.
Initially, it took me a while to get into this one because I think I expected more of a straightforward retelling. It is a truth universally acknowledged that I personally expect any and all adaptations of Pride & Prejudice to open with these words, so that was shocker number one.
I didn’t fully get that the Darcy traits would belong to our heroine rather than our hero until a few chapters in, and so it took me a bit to get into the flow and understand what Dev was doing with the story.
I also loathe a romance that alternates perspectives, so I was miffed when we jumped into DJ’s head the first time. However, Dev won me around on this structure — it was interesting to see the thoughts in the heads of our prideful, prejudiced duo and see how they each viewed their own actions in all the misunderstandings that inevitably ensued.
In all, this was a good read for me, and one of those books that I think I’d have liked all the better if it hadn’t followed such stiff competition (I read it directly after People We Meet On Vacation).
I definitely recommend this one if you enjoy a good Jane Austen adaptation that takes on a life of its own, with a diverse cast and some gender-bending of the main character types.
I’m going to round this post off with a few honorable mentions, because I read too many books this month to include them all here:
So that’s my May in books and reading! I tore through a ton of books this month and have left my 30 book Goodreads challenge in the dust. I’m still debating where to set my new bar, or if I want to put a numeric goal on my reading year at all. I’m thinking I might up it to 50 and see where that gets me, but we shall see.
Now that I’ve shared my month in reading, I’m curious to know about yours! Have you read any of these books? Do you plan to?
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