ARC REVIEW: The Bitter Side Of Sweet – by Tara Sullivan

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Title: The Bitter Side Of Sweet
Author: Tara Sullivan

Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
First published: February 23rd 2016
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Finished reading: October 6th 2016
Pages: 336

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“We sit like that until the sun bleeds into the night sky and the cracks in the wooden shed door glow pink. When this happens I know we’ve made it through the worst of it. Pain is like sadness; both are easier to bear in daylight.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I have a weak spot for stories set in (for me) foreign cultures, so I was sold as soon as I read the blurb of this novel by Tara Sullivan. I’m glad I decided to read it, because the story simply blew me away. Even though The Bitter Side Of Sweet is a fictional story, it’s based on actual facts and it shows the author knows a lot about the topic. The descriptions of both the general setting, the cacao farm and the characters are very well done and help you form a better picture of something that is actually happening right now in those countries. The main characters and young brothers Amadou and Seydou are fictional, but they are an example of what thousands of children have to go through while they are being forced to work at a cacao farm under difficult conditions and without pay. And I can assure you, it definitely gives you something to think about. The story itself might have a few flaws including the credibility of the young brother’s journey, but the strong message behind The Bitter Side Of Sweet makes you forget all about them. Overall it’s without doubt a brilliant read I can recommend to everyone who enjoys the genre.

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Set in modern-day Ivory Coast, two young brothers are struggling to survive on a cacao farm. Amadou and Seydou are forced to work without pay and have to chop down enough cacao pods every day to avoid punishment. The higher the number, the safer they are and the higher the chances of not getting beaten. And who knows, the bosses might let them return home again if they work hard enough… The problem is Amadou doesn’t know how high the debt to his bosses is and they won’t tell him. They were only trying to earn money during the dry season, but were tricked into forced labor instead. With no hope of escape, all they can do is try their best to stay alive; until Khadija comes into their lives. She is the first girl ever to come to camp and has a wild spirit. She doesn’t stop her attempts of escape, involving the brothers against their will. But it does remind Amadou what it means to be free…

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My intuition was right when I first saw The Bitter Side Of Sweet mentioned, because it was exactly the book I enjoy reading. It’s a well written story with a fast pace and strong message that is not easy to forget. The characters are well developed and even though their ‘adventure’ is not at all times completely credible, it is still an excellent read. Therefore I can recommend this story to anyone who enjoys the genre and/or has an interest in the topic.

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WWW Wednesdays #106 – October 12th

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WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

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I’m almost finished with Ivy Feckett Is Looking For Love by Jay Spencer Green, which is about time since it’s been too long since I first started it. I also decided to read The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, because I have been seriously neglecting my classics this year and somehow I have never read the original Tom Sawyer story?! Or at least I don’t remember. I’ve also started The Best Friend by Shalini Boland, a very fast-paced and intriguing thriller so far.

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

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* I finished reading The Bitter Side Of Sweet by Tara Sullivan first, which turned out to be a brilliant read. Even though it’s a fictional story, it’s based on actual facts and the descriptions are really well done. Two young brothers forced to work at a cacao farm under difficult conditions and without pay… It definitely gives you something to think about.
* I then finally finished Empire Of Storms by Sarah J. Maas, which has turned out to be a mayor disappointment. The story is overlong and most characters are basically horny teenagers that want to sleep with each other all the time. What’s with all the romance?!!!! I seriously hope book 6 will be better, and that cliffhanger ending made the wait for the next book even more painful. Sigh.
* The last book I read is Who We Were Before by Leah Mercer, a book I requested on a whim from Netgalley. I’m normally not really into drama, but the blurb sounded interesting enough and I’m glad I gave it a go. The ‘present/Paris’ chapters weren’t as strong as the ones set in the past, and maybe not as believable either. Still, it was interesting to learn more about how the two main characters met and how it all started to go wrong… Poor little kid.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

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I have two thriller ARCs up next: Dark Water by Robert Bryndza and Love You To Death by Caroline Mitchell. I can’t wait to start reading both; Bookouture is quickly turning into my favorite Netgalley publisher! I also still want to read The Coldest Girl In Coldtown by Holly Black to get into the Halloween mood. And since I have decided to not read ACOMAF until the third book is published (there is NO way Sarah J. Maas will have me pining over TWO unpublished sequels), I have a new TBR jar pick: The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson. I was originally going to read Since You’ve Been Gone first, but the TBR jar has spoken…

WWW Wednesdays #105 – October 5th

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WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

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Basically, I’m still reading the same books from last week plus a new one. Oops?! I guess it shows I was away for the weekend… My main focus is The Bitter Side Of Sweet by Tara Sullivan, which is turning out to be a really interesting and fast-paced read. As soon as I have finished that one, I will continue with Ivy Feckett Is Looking For Love by Jay Spencer Green. I’m only a few pages into that one, so not much to tell so far. I also still need to finish Empire Of Storms by Sarah J. Maas. I’m enjoying it better than I thought I would, but the whole Aelin-Rowan romance is really starting to get on my nerves.

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

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* The first book I finished is actually a cookbook that caught my eye at Netgalley: But My Family Would Never Eat Vegan! by Kristy Turner. Although I could never give up meat (or cheese!) completely, I always try to prepare vegetarian/vegan meals at least two or three times a week… And this cookbook is a little goldmine! The descriptions and introductions to the recipes are hilarious as well, and there is a lot of extra information ‘special’ ingredients and how to prepare them.
* The other title I managed to finish is Safe With Me by K.L. Slater. I’m having mixed thoughts about this one. When I first started reading it, I was sure I was going to give it the highest possible rating… But as the plot twists and unlikeable characters evolved, I started having second thoughts. Everything is almost too absurd (especially during the final part of the book) and it just didn’t seem believable at all. It didn’t help that I couldn’t connect to the main character either. The ending was supposed to be a mayor plot twist, but I kind of already saw part of it coming?

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

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I’m waaay behind with my ARCs, and next up are two books I’m looking forward to: The Best Friend by Shalini Boland and Dark Water by Robert Bryndza. I’ve really enjoyed reading the work of both authors in the past, so I can’t wait to start reading these new titles! I also want to read The Coldest Girl In Coldtown by Holly Black to get into the Halloween mood, and A Court Of Mist And Fury by Sarah J. Maas is still my latest TBR jar pick (and will be for a while longer I’m afraid).

Teaser Tuesdays #108 – October 4th: The Bitter Side Of Sweet

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TEASER TUESDAYS is a weekly book meme originally featured at Books And A Beat. To participate, just open the book you are currently reading to a random page, and choose two ‘teaser’ sentences from somewhere on that page. (no spoilers!)

I have only just started The Bitter Side Of Sweet by Tara Sullivan (another Netgalley read), so I can’t say that much about it yet other than that the blurb sounds really good and I’m really looking forward to it. Hopefully I’ll find time to continue reading it soon!

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My teaser (2%):

Only twenty-five pods. Our sacks need to be full, at least forty or forty-five each, so I can get Seydou out of a beating. Really full if I want to get out of one too.

What are you reading right now?

Friday Finds #101 – September 30th

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FRIDAY FINDS showcases the most interesting books I’ve encountered during the last week and have added to my neverending TBR list on Goodreads. Below a selection of my newest additions; click on the book descriptions to go to its Goodreads page! 😀

My finds:

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