Cover Image: Yerba Buena

Yerba Buena

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Member Reviews

Sara is a well-known bartender and Emilie arranges flowers at popular LA hotspot, Yerba Buena. When the two meet, there is an immediate spark. Too burdened by their pasts, they move on from one another but life keeps pulling them back together. 

I have a confession....I only requested this book on NetGalley because I loved the brightly coloured cover. My gamble paid off dearly because this book was a winner! 

Not only was Yerba Buena the name of the restaurant but it is an herb used in the restaurant's signature cocktail of the same name. Every book should have a signature cocktail, no?!

This book was beautifully written and was effortlessly descriptive. I could feel the restaurant's atmosphere and I was hit with very heavy nostalgia for my bartending days. 

While Sara and Emilie were love interests, they were not together for much of the book. Getting to know these women on their own added so much depth to both the character and plot development making this more than just a love story. The push and pull of their relationship was frustrating at times but it felt authentic.  

I learned that Nina Lacour is an award-winning YA author and that Yerba Buena is her first adult novel. Since I do not read much YA, I am not surprised that this author wasn't previously on my radar but she is now! 

I listened to this on audio. It was narrated by Julia Whelan so obviously no complaints there!
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Rating: 3.5 rounded up!

I wanted to absolutely adore this book because it's just soooo up my alley --  star crossed lesbians, Los Angeles setting, coming of age, cultural richness, not to mention the beautiful cover and lush descriptions from the author. But for some reason, I just found myself dragging my feet on this one. I'm not sure if it was just because this was my very first time trying audiobooks, or I didn't love the two different point of views in this one, or if it was just not the right time for me to read this book, but even over halfway through I was struggling to find much meaning in the story for myself. It felt like so much of it was backstory and setting up the story that I couldn't place when I should really start being gripped by the PLOT of the book. To me, the writing felt distant and almost too nostalgic to me, and I wanted more substance and connection to the characters. I did really like the two main characters, but their stories were just so... flat to me. Their emotions were withheld so much that I didn't find myself CARING that much. Of course, the tragedies, especially Sarah's in the beginning affected me greatly, but I feel like everything was glossed over to the point where nothing really... settled or felt processed. Maybe that was the point. But even so, I didn't feel the connection because so much of their stories were apart, and I wanted to feel that tragedy and heartache of love and sadness that you get from star-crossed stories.

To me, this novel was right in the center and I'm still processing my feelings about it. It was above average, but something was missing.
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Overall, I really enjoyed the story and enjoyed Nina LaCour's writing. I found the story engaging and I cared about the characters and found them they are were well rounded. I think I preferred LaCour’s writing for adults versus her YA writing but that is a personal preference.

Julia Whelan is my favorite audiobook narrator. She does a fantastic job of differentiating between characters and keeps the story engaging. She did an amazing job with this book.
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Super engaging story about the constant drive to better oneself. Sometimes with success, sometimes not so much. I found myself identifying a little bit with each of the characters, and really, isn't that about the most we can ask from fiction?
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3.5 stars.
I listened to the audio version of this novel. While I liked it, I did not like it as much as  many of the other reviewers here. Initially, I was drawn into the story of two teenagers escaping an abusive home life and trying to get to LA. Suddenly the story switched to another POV, a woman who had changed her major five times. She was interesting too. However, since the same narrator read both parts in the same voice, it became confusing at times to follow. I sometimes did not realize the author/narrator had changed to the POV of the other female character. 
I wondered what the connection would be between these two women. I had forgotten the synopsis by the time a started listening to this audiobook and decided to let the story unfold on its own. Probably not a good idea. I wondered probably for too long before the author made a connection between the characters. By this point, it was a let-down. 
Overall, the book was intelligently written, characters well developed, plot interesting, gender issues sensitively portrayed. 
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review.
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Yerba Buena tells the story Sarah, a woman followed by tragedy at every turn and Emilie, a woman who just can't seem to figure out where she belongs in life. Following separate paths, the two are tossed into each other's lives at never the best of times, and despite being drawn to one another can't quite seem to work it out.

I think it must be very difficult to create a rich and atmospheric book, but Nina LaCour seems to do that so effortlessly. This is the second book I've read by her and both immerse you in story and make you feel so present in each moment of her character's lives. In Yerba Buena, LaCour does this primarily through food and drink, more specifically tea made with yerba buena leaves and lushly crafted cocktails. Of the two characters, I liked Sarah more. Another thing LaCour does well is create such tragic characters that you just want to give them a hug. I felt this way about Sarah more than once.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this ALC. I've listened to a number of audiobooks narrated by Julia Whelan and felt she was a fine choice for Yerba Buena as well.
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Thank you Netgalley for letting me review this book. This book is the author's first book for adults and she does not disappoint. The author has a way with words. She writes  the emotions  so elegantly that the reader feels like it is them going through them and not the characters. This is one on the best books I have read so far in 2022. I listened to the book and liked the narrator.
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A beautiful, moving novel that explores how drug addiction shapes and destroys families while love triumphs as the only thing that makes survival and sobriety worthwhile.

The novel follows two women from different socioeconomic backgrounds, each of them grieving a family member who is swallowed up by heroin addiction. The first woman, already grieving after her mother's death by overdose, flees her small town after her high-school girlfriend disappears and then turns up dead in the local Russian River. The second woman follows a more traditional path, going to college and being the good girl while her older sister is lost to heroin addiction. Eventually, these two women each carve out professional paths for themselves and build whole lives before finding one another.

The fact that the characters are gay or not is never an issue for anyone, never even discussed, which is hugely refreshing. One of the women, in fact, has an affair with a man, and there is no deep soul-searching over what this means about her sexuality, either. Their families wholly and unquestioningly accept them just as they are without ever mentioning or asking about whether they are gay or not. I just really loved that aspect of the story.

The characters are richly drawn and I cared about them. The writing is beautiful. I highly recommend this book, which I am grateful to have been given a free audio copy of by Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
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“She listened for her own breath. There it was. She was still a part of the world.”

If the novel YERBA BUENA is one thing, it’s a quiet scream: a slow, meditative story about two queer girls growing into unfinished women with an intense, incessant undercurrent of loss, grief, and pain pulsing beneath the surface of every page. It’s a beautiful book, understated in the best way, romantic but not a fantasy, a story that revels in the beauty of everyday moments and incremental progress. It deeply unsettled me and I absolutely loved it.

The novel alternates between two perspectives, Sara and Emilie. Sara grows up in a small town in Northern California with parents enmeshed in substance use. After the loss of her mother and her first love, Annie, she leaves her younger brother behind and runs away to LA where she struggles to find her footing, haunted by loss and the terrible cost of her independence. Emilie is born and raised in LA, a somewhat estranged daughter to her seemingly tight-knit family, set adrift in part by her sister’s addiction and her own sense of dislocation. After many years in college with multiple almost-finished majors and an affair with a married restaurateur, the fog she’s been living through finally begins to clear as she cares for her dying grandmother and begins to connect with her Creole heritage.

They meet as adults when each has somewhat found their place in the world: Sara as a highly acclaimed cocktail maker and restaurant consultant, Emilie as a florist and later restorer of run-down homes. Though you know the two women will meet, it’s not until over halfway through the novel that they have their first connection - and even then, despite their immediate intimacy, their relationship is initially thwarted by both external and internal forces. But throughout, LaCour beautifully ties the women together, partially through parallel experiences and feelings, and also with the recurrence of yerba buena: as an herb in the garden of a family friend, as a healing tea steeped in a gas station styrofoam cup, as the name of an upscale restaurant that enters into each woman’s sphere. There’s an unexplainable spark between them, a sense of familiarity, of safety, of home, despite their lack of time together. After the pain and struggles that each of them endure, it’s a soothing balm to see them come together at last, however imperfectly. 

LaCour captures a sense of place majestically, and not just beautiful ones - redwood groves and hipster restaurants and seaside mansions - but grimy, dingy places too, truck stop hotels and musty rural houses and those dim studio apartments that are the first independent homes for many of us. What I loved most about the rootedness of the story is how LaCour connects these places with the characters’ emotional growth, how where we are in relation to ourselves changes how we feel in a space.

With observant, straight-forward prose, this story nonetheless contains multitudes. It’s about how our parents fail us, and how our siblings can rise to support us; how they inevitably fail us too, and the beauty of reconnecting, relearning each other as adults. It’s about growing up in a small, impoverished town, and what it’s like to return after disappearing. It’s about substance use and the ripple effects on those that use, on those who love them, on family units and communities. It’s about loss and grief, about finding a space inside of you for those feelings that will never leave but learning to move forward anyway. It’s about finding your home, not so much in a specific place but in people and, most importantly, within yourself. It’s about choosing each other, despite knowing that the ways each of you are wounded will continue to hurt the other, how you will continue to come together despite this, that intentionality of choosing your person, relentlessly, regardless. This is what Sara and Emilie’s story has spoken to me, and I’m eager to hear what it will say to you.

This book has sunk its teeth into me and hasn’t let go. YERBA BUENA is one to watch out for. Thanks to Flatiron Books for the review audiobook; this novel comes out in May.

Content warnings: illness and dying, death of a loved one, survival sex work, child sexual abuse, addiction, death from overdose
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Julia Whelan was the perfect narrator for this book. This should be your next audiobook- I loved it. I tend to read more pot driven books but I’m so glad I chose this one. I loved everything about it and can’t wait to read another book by Nina LaCour!
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I really enjoyed Yerba Buena by Nina LaCour and narrated by Julia Whelan. The story shifts back and forth between the 2 main characters, Sara and Emilie from the time when they were children until after they've meet in their 20s. When they do meet, they have an instant, romantic connection, but neither of them is ready for the other one. Over time, they find each other again and reconnect. Yerba Buena is about the importance  of finding yourself and healing from childhood traumas before being ready to to be part of healthy relationships.  This story was a little frustrating because much of Sara & Emilie's motivations as adults were based on experiences and family dynamics they experience as children, but which weren't revealed until the last third of the book.  Yerba Buena is a beautifully written story which kept my interest to the end.  Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of this book in return for an honest review.
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This is Nina Lacour’s first adult novel. I loved her YA novel We Are Okay, and this one did not disappoint. There is a lot of sorrow in her novels, but also hope and love. The audio was great. Julia Whelan does a great job narrating as always.
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Yerba Buena is a fantastic exploration of nostalgia and vulnerability. I found Sara and Emilie to both be poignant characters with rich histories and complex emotions. I loved their connection throughout the story, and how their pasts contributed to who they are without defining them. This whole book feels as warm and sunny as light streaming through a window, and the descriptions of food, cocktails, and plants are all so vibrant. The audiobook was fantastic and well-paced, and I know that I'd love to pick up this story as a physical book as well.
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This book is so hard to summerize in a simple blurb.  It isn't a true romance.  The two main characters don't meet up until almost sixty percent of the way through the story.  Instead we get the story of Sara Foster, the daughter of an addict.  She runs away at the age of 16 after suffering a tragic loss.  She makes her way to LA and eventually becomes a celebrated bar tender.  Emilie Dubois is the other lead character.  She is in her seventh year and fifth major in college.  She loves learning but doesn't know what she wants to do with her life.  She is the good daughter compared to her vibrant addict sister.  Her parents expect to be the care taker and the one to put her plans on hold for others. 

The story is told in alternating chapters from each viewpoint.  Each character has her own timeline until they meet.   And the written words are beautiful and carefully chosen to create moods and visuals.  The author builds each chapter to a point where it frustrates you when she cuts to the other storyline.  The title itself has multiple meanings.  It is a herb in the coastal area where they live, a special ingredient for a complex cocktail created by Sara and the name of the restaurant where Sara and Emilie first meet.  

There are a lot of side characters and some that I wanted to know more about that seem to disappear from the narrative.  Also a lot of things are alluded to but not fully explained.  Emilie seems to have depression but never seeks help for it.  I'm not sure why Emilie's parents divorce etc.  There should be content warnings for: substance abuse, overdoes, death (friends and family), infidelity, underage sexual coercion.  Sex is behind closed doors, even with the main couple.  I truly was exhausted by the time I finished.  It left me hopeful but still unsure for their future.  

Again I want to emphasize this isn't a light romance.  But if you want compelling fiction with heartbreaking realistic characters this book is for you.  It is one that will stay with me for a long time.  Julia Whelan does a beautiful job with the narration.  She keeps with the melancholy tone and didn't try to "voices" for each character.  This is the authors first adult book after previously publishing YA novels.  I will look for other books by her.  Thank you to NetGalley, Macmillan Audio and the author for an ARC-audiobook in exchange for an honest review.
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Nina LaCour is such a beloved author I wanted my first experience with her - the critically acclaimed We Are Okay - to be a fluke. To me the slow, melancholy journey to a vaguely hopeful ending didn’t feel like a satisfying use of the time I’d spent in the narrative. Nina LaCour’s writing is unquestionably beautiful. But Yerba Buena has solidified in my mind her particular brand of morose, meandering literary fiction is just not something that's every going to align with my reading tastes.

Yerba Buena tackles a gambit of existential issues - from something as simple as the dread of graduating from school and facing a world outside of the clear lines of class schedules and homework, to watching a family member suffer from debilitating drug use. At times, this book almost feels like a bingo board of trauma, and I don’t mean that in a way that diminishes the characters suffering. It is truly harrowing to read these events knowing this is some people’s reality. Yet this series of events is paired rather bizarrely with a “love-at-first sight” narrative in the form of the two POV characters Sara and Emilie. After an adolescence spent struggling to make ends meet (or just make a clear path for themselves) both women fall for each other in an instant at the titular bar Yerba Buena. The majority of the book is spent watching their lives in separate timelines, waiting for this moment to see them align.

When these paths do eventually intersect, it comes surprisingly late in the novel. The blurb fully capitalizes on this romance in a manner that feels not totally true to the spirit of the book itself. Yerba Buena is a romance in only the loosest definition of the word in that there is a marginally happy ending for the two leads. And maybe that is realistic. But romance is also not the genre for realism.

In the end, I think there is absolutely a place and a need for this novel in publishing. Unfortunately, speaking from my own personal enjoyment and connection to the narrative I don’t think I’m plagued by quite enough existential dread (or maybe too much?) to really appreciate the debilitating hopelessness that I felt while listening to this on audio. I am glad this book exists. But so long as Nina LaCour continues to write in this same vein of literary fiction, I don’t think her writing is something I’m going to connect with in either the YA or adult version of the genre.
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55% into the story and I had to step away. The story starts off strong. A 14 year old girl falls in love with a girl from town but then one day she goes missing only to be found in the river dead. 
Jump forward and this story continues with that same girl (Sarah) leaving town at just 15 but not before meeting a homeless boy with a car who offers to take her to California. In order to get there Sarah goes to ask a friend of her fathers for money who gives them a few hundred cash in exchange for sexual services. 
This book mentions prostitution, drug use, infidelity. So many triggers for some readers which don’t exactly bother me. However, this story had so many characters and bounced around so frequently that it made it hard to follow and boring. I only cared about one characters story but had to read about several others. I can see why some would like this book but it just isn’t my cup of tea (pun intended). 

Thank you to NetGalley for allowing me to listen to the audio in exchange for an honest review.
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Thank you Flatiron Books and NetGalley for these advanced copies for an honest review.
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This is a novel about Sara and Emilie and their complicated relationship from their teens into their young adult life. Sara’s girlfriend dies under suspicious circumstances and Sara runs away from home.
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Emilie feels left out in her family as her family dotes on another sibling.
Yerba Buena is a restaurant and this place is influential in their lives.
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These two young women navigate their lives, families and relationships which ultimately ties them together.
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Beautifully told as the book explores their feelings towards each other.
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This genre was very different from my norm and I was cheering these women on as they navigated their issues to find love.
#yerbabuena, #ninalacour, #flatironbooks, #netgalley, #bookstagram, #booksconnectus, #stamperlady50, #lgbt
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The narrator for this audiobook is great. I felt really immersed throughout my listening time; the narrators voice fits the melancholia as well as the hopeful vibes so well--theres something very unique about LaCour's writing style that this narrator really brought to justice. Will be recommending this to my followers!
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I enjoyed the character studies here, but found the overarching plot lacking and disjointed. Like other reviewers, I also wanted more romance here. Good engaging narration.
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I received an audio copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Nina LaCour is one of my auto buy authors, so I had high expectations for this book, and it did not disappoint. While I personally felt more drawn to Emily’s story than to Sarah’s, both stories were poignant and fascinating and I found myself eagerly awaiting when the stories would intersect. Unlike LaCour’s other books, I won’t add this one to my classroom library, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and will recommend it to other adult readers.
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