Cover Image: Yerba Buena

Yerba Buena

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Member Reviews

The book opens with a shocking and tragic experience for one of the main characters during her teen years. The traumatic intensity is maintained throughout the book—it's not a happy, light story by any stretch of the imagination. While some good things happen to the main characters eventually, the overwhelming feel of the book is heavy, difficult, and emotional.

Upon completion, I unexpectedly went breathless and sobbed. I'm not quite sure how much of that strong reaction can be assigned to the book and how much credit is due to the current state of our world on top of a week of woefully insufficient sleep. Either way, I was deeply moved by the story, and tentatively awarded it an even higher rating than the one on which I have settled after some days removed from the experience. The bottom line is that if you are interested and emotionally resilient enough to be immersed in a deeply emotional and powerful story, I would recommend this one. If you aren't up to it (or just plain aren't interested in the plot description), you won't get any shade from me.

Pro: I was cheering for Emilie and Sara throughout the story, hopeful that they would find their way to happiness and fulfillment, individually and together. Rich language, intricate backstories, and adequate character development are present. I was interested in various characters' creativity and skills. Representation includes biracial, lesbian, and bisexual main characters, as well as LGBTQ and multicultural supporting characters. The audio edition is narrated by Julia Whelan.

Con: Content warnings include (but are not necessarily limited to) drug abuse and addiction, including overdose; prostitution, including minors; child neglect (at least); and infidelity.

Thank you, NetGalley and Macmillan Audio, for the audio ARC of the book in exchange for an honest review. Publication is expected May 31.
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<b>narration:</b> I listened to the audiobook alongside the ebook and became frustrated early on that so many of the characters were voiced extremely grumbly and/or mumbly with few exceptions, like Emilie (one main) and Emilie’s Creole by way of New Orleans grandmother (minor). Worse, many passages were multiple sentences longer in the audiobook, leaving me lost when comparing to the ebook. Getting through the second half of the book expediently was the only thing keeping me listening to the audio (at 2x speed).

I wish I would have read this book closer to straight through for more emotional continuity, but the initial chapters of the main characters’ teenage lives were so heavy that I needed a break before continuing. Upon picking it back up (a week later) the first chapter back, now in their adult lives, was so long, it didn’t really grab me and had me considering DNFing the book - ARC or no. The second half was better, though I agree with other reviews that this book seemed to struggle with its identity throughout. 

Some of the relationships were extremely successful for me, while many more were not. Sara and Emilie’s chemistry was well charged and easily believable - one of the first things that felt right, flowy, and made me curious - and I enjoyed Emilie’s and Colette’s sister dynamic and growth. The connection to food also worked for me, it felt natural through both characters’ reasons and dishes and ingredients were described invitingly and organically. Over the course of the book I’d say our mains get equal story time, though the details of both parts of Sara’s life seem to outshine and take over Emilie’s, but that could be because I felt more connected to Sara. 

I was glad that the story did grow, but the constantly changing tone and focus left it just okay for me. But. It did make me want to buy a yerba buena plant. 💁🏻‍♀️

<i>Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a digital ARC of this book!</i>
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Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for the ARC provided to me in exchange for my review.

This book was truly beautiful and nuanced. It didn't try to be more than what it was, which was an artfully spun story of trauma, healing, and love. I was moved by this book from beginning to end. I would not consider this a light read, so if you are looking for light and cutesy romance I would turn the other way. But if you are looking for something real and understated that will tug at your heart strings, you have found your next read. I found myself attached to the characters and I couldn't put it down until I saw their stories through.
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I was not prepared for how this book would impact me emotionally which is the risk I always take, as someone who loves literary fiction.  When characters are well developed and the author leans into grief and loss, well, I tend to lose myself in the novel completely.  That’s exactly what happened with Yerba Buena.

The story centers on the love story between two women, Sara and Emilie, who have an instant and deep connection even though their presence in each other’s lives ebbs and flows throughout the book.  The beauty in this story, for me, is the way the author gave depth to each woman’s whole life and how their experiences shape their lives (and love lives) today.  

There’s more time spent on developing the two characters than on their time together, and as a reader it felt almost heartbreaking to see the on and off again connection. Yet, I knew that they were doing the best they could for themselves while trying to unpack and heal from their childhoods.  Without giving away the ending, I’ll simply say that it felt wistfully accurate to life, and I appreciated the author for it.

Content warnings: Death, Addiction, Drug abuse, Estranged siblings
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Another outstanding book by Nina LaCour! Yerba Buena is her debut adult fiction novel and she truly has outdone herself. 
This novel follows two women, Sarah and Emilie, from their teens into their late twenties, as they experience devastating life trauma. The women have a chance meeting at a restaurant and are instantly drawn together, but circumstances keep them apart. Yerba Buena really takes you through the trauma of drug addiction and how it's impact can be felt by so many people and throughout generations. This is not a romance novel and anyone looking for that will be disappointed. Instead this is a novel about life, grief, heartache, hope, and the bittersweet moments that keep us going on. LaCour has such a strong writing style that keeps readers engaged in these sometimes too hard to read moments. I will definitely be recommending this book, but will do so with trigger warnings. Thank you NetGalley for allowing me to preview this audiobook.
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Special thank you to MacMillian Audio and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review this audio ARC of Yerba Buena. 

This was my first Nina LaCour book and wow she is a talent (and of course with Julia Whelan narrating I had no doubt I had to listen not this audiobook.! This is her first adult novel but I look forward to going back and reading some of her YA works.

The characters are so amazing. It's romantic coming of age story (not overly romantic), of two beautiful yet broken souls  find themselves first and then each other. The character development is deep and you just can't help but have this story pull at your heart strings. Its heartbreaking and powerful - a worthwhile read (or listen)
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Yerba Buena is the first adult fiction novel from celebrated YA author Nina Lacour. The story centers on Sara and Emilie, an artisanal bartender and a flower arranger, each with a backstory.

If any of the following words relate to themes that you vibe with, this book is probably for you:
“coming-of-age story of Californian lesbian star-crossed lovers, each with their own history of trauma, try to find their way in the world and keep crashing into each other.”

The title of the book is the namesake of the restaurant where our main characters meet and the signature house cocktail that Sara develops. As a home cocktail crafter, I very much enjoyed the descriptions of yummy libations being created and poured; I could practically hear the ice clinking in the shaker.

However, I am very hard to please when it comes to listening to fiction on audio, so unfortunately this didn’t do it for me. That being said, I’ve also tried to listen to other books by Lacour on audio and I can tell that fans of hers would enjoy this. 👌🏼
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Nina LaCour's writing remains lush, atmospheric, and immersive. I love the way she writes characters who intertwines in each other's lives - they become so distinct and dependent at the same time. There was so much hope and happiness paired with grief and loss. Yerba Buena is a well balanced book that keeps you engaged from the first page.
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I’ve read a couple of Nina LaCour’s books before. I enjoyed the simplicity but the depth that comes with her novels. They are beautiful but not in an overt, flowery kind of way that some contemporary authors strive for. Her writing gives depth while still being accessible and simple. It is rather incredible to have that sort of talent.

Her newest book and first adult book, is the similar but the audience she is writing for allows her to flex her skills even more. It is still wrought with simplicity but has more moments of traditional beauty. It fits this story that she is writing of two souls finding themselves and each other at critical moments in their lives.

We follow Emilie and Sara from their beginnings, when they have found the crux of their lives changing whether due to exceedingly traumatic experiences or due to a stall in their life plans. Despite the chasm between their experiences, Emilie’s and Sara’s stories are so very intriguing. I found myself rooting for Sara, wanting to see her thoughts and life more often but Emilie was so full of a familiar ache that it hurt to look at sometimes.

Do not be deceived, this book is NOT a romance. This book has romance but the more important arcs are that of bittersweet self-discovery. Of finding yourself in a world that does not pull its punches and sometimes hides that pain around a corner, surprising you and disorienting you more than it should.

And even so, I did not fully believe in the romance. I saw people healing one another but I did not feel the love between our MCs but somehow that did not reduce my enjoyment of this book. Since I looked at this novel as one of personal journeys, the be-all-end-all romance did not need to happen.

Over a handful of years, we get to watch these two women blossom and find their spaces. I would’ve liked more time with Sara and I find myself thinking I wanted more of their lives and the characters that move in and out of them but I also know that it would’ve become such a bogged down story if that were the case.

It was truly a slice of their life. Both messy and sad but moments of brightness, clarity, and growth. Their stories are not fully resolved at the end as if they are real people who can change beyond the bounds of the story that they live in.

The audiobook version was good. I would’ve liked to have two narrators – one for each of our POVs (I found sometimes that I wasn’t 100% sure whose POV I was reading when it switched) but still I was engrossed from the moment I started the book. I did not stop — listening to it whenever I had the chance.

Final Thoughts:

If you are looking for a book that is full of both hope and loss, and feels like a warm hug and a dunk in ice cold water, pick up this one. Enjoy the highs and reflect on the lows. Realize that we are all flawed people, looking to find something that makes us feel.

Yerba Buena Release Date: May 31, 2022
Trigger Warnings for Yerba Buena: drug abuse, mentions of overdose, prostitution, underage sexual abuse (off-page), death of a relative, child neglect, cheating
Representation for Yerba Buena: biracial Black MC, lesbian MC, bi/pan MC
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Go read this one ASAP. Beautifully written story with prose that seemingly lifts off the page coming to life. From fragrant simple kitchen moments spent bonding with a new friend, to deep, searing memories rife with tragedy, this story is a rare treat meant to be savored.
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I love this writing style, sparse and clean. However the world is filled with generous people trying to find self actualization, and there is so much in their stories that might break them. I really, really liked the two point of view characters. I loved their romance and I felt swept away with them.
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How do you rate a book that is gorgeously written but is very not for you? I kept hoping that somehow the book would turn itself around and be a Jenica book in the end, but it didn't really work out that way. If you're in the mood though for a very beautifully written book that covers really dark subjects but somehow allows you to feel removed from it, pick this one up? 

Julia Whelan's narration is fantastic, as always. Although I do sort of wish there were two narrators, one for each woman. 

Yerba Buena follows two women, Sara Foster and Emilie... something. Anyway, Sara is like 16 or so when her girlfriend dies and she runs away. She has to do some unfortunate things to get the money to leave town, but she does and then we see her journey to LA. We check in briefly with Emilie, whose sister has overdosed, but then we don't see her for a bit until she's older and in her sixth or seventh year of undergrad because she can't seem to stop changing her major. So we get to see her trying to figure out what she wants out of her life. Eventually the two meet and then part ways and it's just kind of each of their stories individually, but then also them together? It's hard to explain. 

Part of me thinks that it might be hard to explain because honestly, I'm still not convinced this book does totally come together. It's got an odd out of time sense and then references a Lorde song so it really left me wondering how on earth Emilie is getting by. But whatever. Real estate prices must be manageable when your parents have money, I guess. I don't know. Anyway, this book is gorgeously written and sad and melancholic and very not for me. But I'm glad I gave it a shot!
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I requested the book because I was intrigued by the title matched contemporary feel of the cover.  I went in blind, having read no other book by this author or contents of the book - as it turned out, the illustration of a cocktail and flower arrangement indicates occupations of the two main characters, who have very different backgrounds and interests.  This is Nina LaCour's first adult targeted book, after written for YA-focused books.  It was narrated by J. Whalen who does a fantastic job.

Content warning - The story begins with a shocking chapter, and if you are a sensitive to certain topics including child and sex abuse, I would highly recommend to check out content warnings beforehand.  Then the story moves on to a benign, almost mundane description of the other main character, Emilie, for quite some time.  I am interested in her character; however, this section dragged on a bit for me.  It was so slow going that I almost put it down and DNFed it.

However, I was so glad I continued on reading the book - because the story became a lot more satisfying and intriguing as it goes on.  The last 40% of the book was difficult to put down, and I hurried to finish the book.  You get to learn deeper into each character.  While, there are a few characters which didn't develop fully, the magnetism between the two characters I feel might be something we all long for - even though our past can be vastly different and our future unknown.  
Ultimately, I ended up enjoying the book.  The rating is 3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars for me.  I would look forward to reading her next work.  

An early edition of this audiobook was provided with courtesy of NetGalley, MacMillan audio and Flatiron  Books for review purposes.  Thank you,  I truly appreciate it.
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Thank you to Netgalley for the audio version of this book.  I enjoyed listening to this book.  The name of this book intrigued me.  I had no Idea what Yerba Buena was.  It was a fascinating story about the drink and the story that the author wrote to go along with it.  I do enjoy a good heartfelt love story along with learning new and interesting things!
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I had to DNF this book because of a scene near the beginning featuring the death of a teen, then subsequent sexual abuse that occurs almost immediately after. The extremely traumatic scenes, all together, so soon after each other, was too much for me and almost triggered a panic attack. I ma very much not in the right headspace for this at the moment. 
That said, including trigger warnings for these scenes is so important as I wouldn't have picked up this book had I known these scenes were present. Nothing in the synopsis prepares the reader for the things that happen. It just states that one of the characters suffers a loss at a teen. What she goes through, and what is depicted is so much more than "a loss."
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I love everything by Nina LaCour!! Yerba Buena is fantastic and wish it were longer. Thank you for the ARC and opportunity to leave feedback. Never stop writing! You are a gift to the world.
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3.5, rounded up. This book is beautiful but subtle, and I wanted a bit more out of it. It started to pull at the heartstrings, but I wanted it to tug. It also took me a while to get into; there are a lot of names to keep up with and long chapters. But once I jumped into the audio for a bit, I wanted to see where life would take Sara and Emilie. A great audiobook; although, I think it could’ve done with dual narrators to keep things straight? Maybe?

LaCour’s writing is delicate and smooth, that feels like a weird way to describe writing but it is what it is. The topics of grief, love, friendship, family, and self discovery were prevalent but maybe not as potent as they could’ve been. I wanted to connect with the characters and the story a bit more.

Also, note that this isn’t really romance as it is contemporary fiction with some romantic elements.
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** spoiler alert ** Read the ARC of this novel and was so excited to get my hands on it.

I must say, while the end pulled everything together and finally there was a happy ending in a lesbian story (!!) there were also many times in this book where the characters truly annoyed me. Emilie needs to get a grip and stop being so flakey!! But then I would think about that and understand just how “real” that actually is and how her anxiety is so accurately depicted that the reader can feel it too.

While I really enjoyed the storyline, I was disappointed that the F F Romance didn’t happen until so late in the story. Also, while I realize this is LaCour’s first adult novel, she could definitely use to include more intimate imagery in future books for adults. I’m not suggesting anything too too strong or raunchy needs to be in there, but maybe a little more than “they took off their clothes” and “the dishes were left for the morning.” Let’s face it, sex is part of every day culture. In all movies and books and tv shows. But the majority of it is so hetero. Representation matters and while this book alone is representation, for lesbian readers (sapphic readers?) a little more detailed imagery would suffice.

I do appreciate the raw feelings this story and characters created and really felt part of the setting. LaCour writes really well when it comes to describing setting and creating emotions of characters. I greatly look forward to reading her work in the future.
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Yerba Buena is a book that caught my attention by the description. The cover is ok, but the description fascinated me. Then when I saw that Julia Whelan was narrating it, I knew I had to listen to the audio as she always captures the story and the nuances of the characters with such a finesse. Unfortunately, I sometimes would get confused whose POV we were in since it's a story told from Sara and Emilie. For that reason alone, I think 2 narrators would've worked better for my listening pleasure. But back to the story....

This is a story about 2 different women, their pasts and how the decisions they made in the pasts got them to the present. These women are literally two separate entities with 2 different lives and stories, until their worlds finally meet. We see the pain and suffering they have endured along with family hardships that shape them into who they become. For much of the story, I wasn't sure where the story was going to go and what the point of all their questioning and losses was going to be. It was painful, but I got to see the love and hope that they held out for in the middle of everything. I wish at times that I saw these two characters together or at least having them connect earlier on than they did, because I didn't really connect with them together as much as I did as totally separate characters.

Overall, this was a beautifully tragic story that didn't hit all the right notes for me, but was still a book that I enjoyed listening to and going on the journey with the two characters and their families. The narration was great, but I think it would've benefitted having 2 narrators to read the 2 characters. It may have impacted me more that way. Still enjoyed the setting and the way the characters got answers and evolved over the course of the story. An impactful, character-driven story with some hard subject matters.
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Rating: 5
Author: @nina_lacour
Publication Date: 5/31/22
 
Woah. This book was beautiful, heartbreaking, and powerful. It will leave you feeling so many different emotions. That’s all I’m going to say. Read the book and you will know exactly what I mean. Even if you end up not liking it I feel like you might still appreciate the beauty of it. I listened to the audiobook version and the narrator @justjuliawhelan did a fantastic job. 
 
This author has already been a favorite of mine but she really outdid herself with this adult novel. She’s not afraid to write realistic characters going through real life issues. Whether those issues are the good the bad or the ugly she doesn’t shy away from certain topics. Being someone who deals with some of the issues she writes about I really appreciate it. 
 
Thank you so much @macmillan.audio & @flatiron_books for providing me with a copy on #netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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