Book Reviews

Review: Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp

I had to stop myself from crying while doing the dishes while listening to Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet. It is an emotional story about vulnerability, fighting for our future, and it will seriously make your mouth water. Talk about a book you need to eat with a snack. I need a recipe book to come with this! Keep reading this book review to see what I loved most about Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet.


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.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

TW: self-harm, suicidal thoughts, racism

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet is a stunning and emotional book. It perfectly encapsulates the experiences that leave your heart tinged with bitterness. That threaten to overwhelm your entire taste palette. That you’re not sure if you’ll ever taste anything again. While also celebrating moments of sweetness. Sugar that rolls over your tongue and lulls you into a moment. A memory sweeping you away on dusted pastries. It’s a sweeping and moving book about family and future. About figuring out how to pursue our own futures in the shadows of legacies.

To try to escape the ghosts and uncertainties of haunted mistakes. It can tear an abyss in our heart when the ones we love don’t understand our dreams. When these decisions rip us apart, putting a gulf of space between us. Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet will have your mouth watering. But my favorite element of the book has to be the characters. They unfurl before us and to each other across the pages. We witness their dreams, ambitions, and hopes curl in the fire. Taking bloom, rising from the ashes, and swirling in the wind.

Characters & Narrators

Penelope always does what scares her. It turns into a feat of coping, but also a badge of honor. A piece of herself. But it really just hides her vulnerability, the reflections she doesn’t like about herself. Meanwhile Xander struggles with his origins, wondering if he was loved. Because while we can feel love from those around us, when the signs aren’t there from the one person we need it to be – it’s crushing. Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet is character driven in the best way. That’s why the audio-book is so phenomenal.

Dual POV, Andy Aragon & Arami Malaise infuse emotions and nuance into these already complex and detailed characters. Normally I don’t listen to audio-books and just sit, but I had to because I needed to find out what was going to happen. And the narrators just swept me away in a story of flames and sugar.


Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet is a story about the strength of a community. About what our gestures, actions, and words mean. The ways belonging and family twist within our heart. How we sometimes cannot see the things in front of us, the passion and the love. It’s a poignant story about acknowledging our fears. In order to move forwards, we have to see the reflection in the mirror, our doubts and insecurities. Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet swept me up in the best of ways.

Find Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound,,, Google Play Books & The Book Depository.


What is your favorite culinary story?

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2 thoughts on “Review: Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp

  1. So glad you liked this one. I’m super excited to read it and am featuring Laekan on my blog next month. Being part of a Mexican-American family, it’s so refreshing to have books to read that feature these families.

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