Saturday, March 24, 2018

Pen and Xander by Laekam Zea Kemp | A Book Review

Pen and Xander by Laekam Zea Kemp | A Book Review by iamnotabookworm!

Hey, there. March is almost ending but I have yet to write my reviews. In fact, this is going to be my first one for the month. A lot has been going on and I have been going through a lot of crazy emotions and also not just from books but from what's been happening in my life. I hope everything turns out to be how I wish them to be. I'm still waiting and it's out of my control and the only thing I can do is pray. A little bit of crazy is good sometimes and it somehow made me feel how it is to be truly alive. I just hope things will turn in my favor. Aside from some sprinkle of craziness happening in my real life, that craziness has gotten to my bookworm life as well. I signed up to be listed in the and I just got accepted this month. To my utter surprise, I've been getting a lot of review requests from authors. I've been bombarded actually, which is really nice and good for my self-esteem. I know a need a lot of boost. Anyway, I can't find it to deny anyone, so I just accepted them but setting expectations that I may not be able to review their books within the next three months but I will try. So, the rest of the year has been spelled out for me. It's going to be fun getting to meet these new authors and be introduced to new worlds and characters. I just love being a bookworm! The free books are all I live for.

So, Pen and Xander. I got this one from This site is one of my go to sites to get books for free. Giselle the owner of the site has a varied and interesting mix of books up for review. I usually check out her site if I feel like I need to find a hot new book. Pen and Xander is just one of the two that I signed up for. Then last February, the author herself reached out to me and asked me to review and do a post for her book. I don't know how she found me but she sent me a message through the contact us form of this blog. So long story short, I agreed to do a post for the giveaway blast and here comes the review.

I think I signed up for this book because of the title. Yes, titles always get to me. It's the first thing that I notice and then, that's when I read the blurbs. This one I think appealed to me because of food. There's a lot of food involved in this story and obviously, I love food. I call myself a frustrated chef. Not because I can't cook but because I'm a chef-in-progress. I would like to be a really good pastry chef without having to go to a cooking school or any formal training. So far, what I learned about cooking are from watching shows, practicing on recipes I got online, tips from friends and family. My father is a really good cook. I think I might have gotten from him the ability or skill (I'm not sure yet what to call it yet) to throw in whatever ingredients available in the pantry and make something. I'm proud to say, I have quite a few very creative and delicious adventures through that. And  basically, this story connected to that part of me, especially the part about wanting to be a pastry chef. Pastries are my weakness. A ketogenic diet would never work for me. I can't forgo pastries.

Pen and Xander are both children of immigrants. Penelope Prado loves to cook. Taking over her father's restaurant is all she ever wants in her life but her father doesn't want that. Pen could not understand why. She has done everything for the restaurant. The items she had put on the menu are bestsellers but her dad seems to not appreciate that. Xander is a teenager with a load of abandonment issues. He grew up with his grandpa and the memories of his mom and dad leaving him kept haunting him, even in his waking hours. It consumed his existence and is even the reason why he has strayed and got involved with really nasty people. His need for love and family has gotten him in really sticky situations that only few got out alive.

This is a very relatable story, for lack of a better word. I am not an immigrant but it speaks so much of the minority of the people in the US, especially the Latinos and Asians. If I were to migrate to the US, then I would be part of this minority and would definitely be part of the people in this story. So, it was so easy for me to get into their shoes and feel a connection to the characters. Pen is an exact example of what every daughter wants or longs for. A daughter who needs approval, a daughter who needs to be seen for what she can do and not for what she can't do. A person who longs to be seen as an adult and not some 6-year old who never grew up in front of her father's eyes. As it turned out, there was a reason why his dad didn't want her to take over the restaurant. But after finding out what it was, I think it was a valid reason in her father's perspective. He doesn't want that life for Pen but I think, Pen is a strong girl and is bound to be a very strong woman and adult. I think she has it in her to take on the cares, the demands and the responsibilities that came with the restaurant. I know Mr. Prado's denial of Pen's most dire wish sprung out of his great love for his daughter. But I think it was unfair of him to think that just because Pen is a girl, she would not be as strong as her brother to take on the heavy load of the restaurant. For me, not only sons can be Atlas. Daughters are Amazons and we can be anything we want to be. Our muscles may not be bigger and stronger but our hearts are and we work smarter too.

The story is a very genuine reflection of the life of some of immigrants in the US. How they survive each day in a neighborhood they try to call home. How everyday is a literal survival of the fittest and they live by each day's pay. This is a very touching glimpse of what a lot of us know but refuse to acknowledge. And how a lot of brave people like Mr. Prado have tried to do something in order to help the community. Yes, I didn't agree with Mr. Prado's decision to not let Pen take over the restaurant but Mr. Prado is every inch a very compassionate man. It's both his strength and his downfall. But I see it more of his strength. It is what makes him every bit a hero to the immigrant community in this story. I could never fault him there. 

Alejandro Amaro or Xander is a good kid who has gone astray but was fortunate enough to find angels like Officer Solis and Mr. Prado. Xander is hungry for love and attention from his parents who left him and sought it out somewhere and ended up finding it in the wrong place and in the wrong person. It took an Officer Solis to make hims see the truth and that he can live a different life. He deserves a second, third and every chance he's got because like everybody else he's a victim. Xander realized that  anyone can have a life and family that doesn't need him to prove his worth or do something to prove his loyalty in ways against his good nature. He was able to find people who were in the same dirt hole with him and have managed to change their lives. So, there's still hope for him.

Pen and Xander are two souls that needed each other. They are both imperfect people who needed each other to show that they are both strong on their own. I so love what Xander did for Pen. Yes, it is truly a grand and selfless gesture. He only wanted to show Pen how much he cares for her. Pen in turn did what she thinks could make Xander happy. His most ardent wish. Yes, a happy ending but it was even sweeter because of what each character had to go through. This isn't just some sweet and cute love story but a story of how a family had to stay together and survive the most trying of times. Even building their hopes and dreams back up from the ashes.

I just love the story. Everyone reading this story could find themselves either in Pen, Xander, Angel, or Mr. Prado. Each character could be any living person going through something right now. I could perfectly fit into Pen's apron. Just like every daughter wanting to be seen as someone capable and responsible. The reality is some parents refuse to accept that their children grow up and have to learn things on their own. They wanted to spare us from some things but then, they also deprive us of that opportunity to rise up and be the best of what we can be. We have to make our own decisions and the world now is far more different than what they have experienced. Things have changed and to keep up, we have to evolve too. How we see things and how we approach things are going to be a bit or if not totally different than how they were in their time. What's important is that our values don't change. 

I give the book 5/5 delectable and mouth-watering coconut cakes. Just like every triumph and success after every known hardship and experience, this story has all of that.  Including a mix of characters that add flavor and sweetness to it. This is a very relevant, touching, sweet and entertaining story that had squeezed and inflated my heart. Love in all its forms and that family, regardless of the fact that we share the same blood type or not, means loyalty and sometimes betraying yourself to do what's good for that family can be the best thing. 

That I could be easily manipulated into thinking that pain is some sick form of love.

The depression had wilted me like a hot flame over a flower, making me malleable, and while the medication the doctor prescribed reshaped the neurons in my brain, my father's fears reshaped the structure of my heart.
- Laekam Zea Kemp, Pen and Xander - 

Thank you again, xpressobooktours and Laekam Zea Kemp for the copy.