Book Review: The One by John Marrs

On social media I saw that the The One by John Marrs was an excellent read. While browsing at my local bookstore on a Saturday afternoon, I saw the novel placed in the bestsellers section and decided to pick it up. The blurb definitely intrigued me.

Genre: Thriller, Romance

Blurb:

How far would you go to find The One?

A simple DNA test is all it takes. Just a quick mouth swab and soon you’ll be matched with your perfect partner—the one you’re genetically made for.

That’s the promise made by Match Your DNA. A decade ago, the company announced that they had found the gene that pairs each of us with our soul mate. Since then, millions of people around the world have been matched. But the discovery has its downsides: test results have led to the breakup of countless relationships and upended the traditional ideas of dating, romance and love.

Now five very different people have received the notification that they’ve been “Matched.” They’re each about to meet their one true love. But “happily ever after” isn’t guaranteed for everyone. Because even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking than others…

My thoughts:

At first glance, The One may seem like a romance novel – after all, the characters are looking for the person they will spend the rest of their live with. Very quickly, however, the reader comes to the conclusion that the novel is more than a romance. The story has so many unexpected twists in it that the reader is continually surprised. Contained within these pages is murder, some emotional moments, and a glimpse at the different types of people that populate the world.

What I loved about this novel is that it is an unusual story – quite unlike any that I have read before. Marrs truly surprises one with the events that he describes; and yet the segments of human nature that he explores are spot-on. We are taken through the experience of five characters who each have their unique experience with their DNA match; and each experience has an unexpected twist in it.

I enjoyed this novel. Marrs’ writing kept me turning the pages and immersed in the story. If you decide to pick up this book, be prepared to put all else aside.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 53rd in my book pledge for 2019)

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Weekend Coffee Share: Almost There

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I am loving the warmer weather. Yes, it has finally arrived and we can step outside in our short sleeves and sandals. The temperatures have risen – but not too much – and the rain has stopped. It is perfect for the last days of school.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that things are definitely wrapping up at school. During the past week, I started sending home the children’s work and the room is already looking emptier. This week I aim to spend my time tidying my classroom and putting things away for the summer. The children are enjoying the small amount of time they spend working and I am taking them outside for more play, as well as giving them the opportunity to play with the blocks that I have in the classroom.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that on Friday we released the butterflies to go forth and pollinate. I allowed the children to take the butterflies out of the terrarium – they were thrilled to hold them in their hands. It takes a while for the insects to realise that they can fly free so they stay for quite a while on the children’s hands.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that we had a school-wide assembly on Wednesday to say goodbye to our office administrators – both of them are leaving at the end of this school year to retire. We will miss them dearly as they have been an integral part of the school for more than 20 years.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I had an unexpected treat on Tuesday – I got to have coffee with a dear friend of mine whom I don’t see too often. We intended to chat about a book we read together, but got side-tracked with catching up! 😀

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I am feeling exhausted – so much so that I fell asleep on Saturday and missed my Zumba class! 😦 It is near my summer break though and I am sure that this week will go by quickly. It will be sad to say goodbye to the students I have had for this past year but that is a part of teaching.

If we were having coffee, I would wish you a wonderful week. I know mine is going to be filled with endings and good-byes.

What would you tell me if we were having coffee?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This post is linked to Eclectic Alli and the Weekend Coffee Share)

First Line Fridays: Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

“The genius of apartheid was convincing people who were the overwhelming majority to turn on each other. Apart hate, is what it was. You separate people into groups and make them hate one another so you can rule them all.”

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (2016, Penguin Random House Canada)

The opening lines of of Trevor Noah’s memoir is a perfect introduction to the story of his childhood growing up in South Africa. The anecdotes told in this book reflect both his humour and the experience of so many South Africans during the time period described. An interesting read for both South Africans and non-South Africans alike.

What do you think of the introduction to Noah’s memoir? Would you continue reading?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This post is linked to It’s Not Hoarding If It’s Books and her One Line Friday challenge.)

A Father’s Day Gift

My husband is not easy to find gifts for – as my children agree. However, I often find an acceptable present for him while roaming the shelves at my local bookstore. My husband now knows that I do this as he always guesses what my gift is (he is, of course, aided by the shape of the offering!). He guessed correctly on Sunday that I had bought him a bibliography – though he could not guess whose. He was happy to see that I offered him one on Bruce Lee – someone whom he has admired for years. The author did his research for 10 years and it looks like he was thorough.

My husband’s guesses made me smile. After being together so long, he definitely knows many of my choices. I think now he would be disappointed if I did not find an interesting book for him to read!

What has made you to smile during the last week?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This post was inspired by Trent’s Weekly Smile, a challenge which focuses on sharing all things positive.)

Book Review: Ordinary Girls by Blair Thornburgh

At the Frenzy Presents event earlier this year, I received an ARC of Ordinary Girls by Blair Thornburgh. I was excited to read this novel as it was a retelling of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, a story that I know and love.

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Retelling

Blurb:

For two sisters as different as Plum and Ginny, getting on each other’s nerves is par for the course. But when the family’s finances hit a snag, sending chaos through the house in a way only characters from a Jane Austen novel could understand, the two drift apart like they never have before. Plum, a self-described social outcast, strikes up a secret friendship with the class jock, while Ginny’s usual high-strung nature escalates to pure hysterics.

But this has always been the sisters’ dynamic. So why does everything feel different this year? Maybe because Ginny is going to leave for college soon. Maybe because Plum finally has something that she doesn’t have to share with her self-involved older sister. Or maybe because the girls are forced to examine who they really are instead of who their late father said they were. And who each girl discovers—beneath the years of missing their dad—could either bring them closer together…or drive them further apart.

My thoughts:

I expected a retelling of Sense and Sensibility and I was a little disappointed – the connection to Austen’s novel is very slim as there is too much that has been changed. Yes, the story describes the relationship between two sisters who are trying to find themselves in the world but that is about it.

The novel, however, does stand out in its own right. My favourite character was Plum. I enjoyed her snarkiness as well as her independence. She is a girl who realises what the problems are and seeks out to solve them – even though sometimes her attempts fail. She is definitely a girl after my own heart. Unlike her sister Ginny who can be annoying (which was, I am sure, the author’s intention).

There were moments in the novel that I could not help but smile – definitely enjoyable moments. Plum grows in inner strength – a facet which I always appreciate in young adult novels. Ordinary Girls is a book that will be enjoyed by young readers; it is a story that will show them that your own inner strength can help you get by. And that even though, at times, your sibling annoys you, you will do anything for them. This novel is an easy read that focuses on the relationships between siblings and how they support one another.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 52nd in my book pledge for 2019)

Grateful for Unexpected Coffee Date

My friend texted me yesterday morning and asked whether I would have time in the evening to meet up for a quick coffee. As she lives quite a distance from me, I grabbed the opportunity to see her even for a short while.

We went to a coffee shop in my neighbourhood and enjoyed a frappuccino on the outside patio. We managed to speak about our buddy read, Women Talking by Mirian Toews, but were sidetracked by the novel we are currently reading together. As with all good books, we were able to link the issues in the novels with our own life experience. I love how books not only widen the mind, but also help you think about your own life experience.

This week I am grateful for the unexpected opportunity to meet my best friend, drink iced coffee with her, and talk bookish things.

What are you grateful for this week?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This post is part of my weekly gratitude reflection. You are welcome to join in and share your post in the comments.)

Waiting

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

The hardest part about setting out on a new adventure is the waiting. All I want to do is move, step forward, experience the new. Instead, I am forced to stay in one spot for hours and wait for a stranger to announce that the first step into my new venture is to begin. Not for the first time, I wish I had the money to bypass the regulations thus allowing me to move unfettered towards my destination. Unfortunately, I am merely a part of the herd.

“The flight to Beruit is now boarding.”

Finally! A new life awaits.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This post was inspired by Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle. The challenge asks for bloggers to write a story in 100 words or less in response to the photo prompt.)

Book Review: Women Talking by Miriam Toews

Last year I had the opportunity to hear Miriam Toews speak. I had never read any of her books but the one she was to speak about sounded interesting so I bought a copy for her recent novel, Women Talking, to sign for me. I kept shifting the book down my TBR pile as the subject matter promised to be heavy but I have finally read it as I believed myself to be in the correct head space.

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Feminism

Blurb:

Based on actual events that happened between 2005 and 2009 in a remote Mennonite community where more than 100 girls and women were drugged unconscious and assaulted in the night by what they were told (by the men of the colony) were “ghosts” or “demons,” Miriam Toews’ bold and affecting novel Women Talking is an imagined response to these real events.

The novel takes place over forty-eight hours, as eight women gather in secret in a neighbour’s barn while the men are in a nearby town posting bail for the attackers. They have come together to debate, on behalf of all the women and children in the community, whether to stay or leave before the men return. Taking minutes is the one man trusted and invited by the women to witness the conversation–a former outcast whose own surprising story is revealed as the women speak.

By turns poignant, witty, acerbic, bitter, tender, devastating, and heartbreaking, the voices in this extraordinary novel are unforgettable. Toews has chosen to focus the novel tightly on a particular time and place, and yet it contains within its 48 hours and setting inside a hayloft an entire vast universe of thinking and feeling about the experience of women (and therefore men, too) in our contemporary world. In a word: astonishing.

My thoughts:

I was right to have saved this book for a time when I could fully appreciate the content – it has so many talking points and issues for the reader to think about. The issues are raised through ordinary conversation between a group of women. At no time did I feel that Toews was pushing her beliefs onto me. Instead, the points she wanted to raise were subtly woven within a discussion on how the women would react to the rapes that had occured within their community.

Even though Women Talking is a relatively short novel at 216 pages, it is a novel filled with women’s issues. Yes, it is a book on feminism. And no, it is not one of those ‘shouty’ books that aggressively denounces men. Instead, it centres around ordinary women who come to realise that they have the power to make their own decisions and be the navigators of their own lives. The Mennonite women described in the novel live in a staunch patriarchal society in which the men have absolute power over them. It is a norm which, up until then, had been accepted by the women with no question.

I love how the women talk through their decision – each one making a valid argument. The narrator and recorder of the discussion, August Epp, is seen as being different from the other Mennonite men. Unlike them, he has lived in the outside world; and has not the strength to till the fields as the other men do. He shows respect towards the women and, as such, is trusted by them.

Reading this novel brought home to me that, even though we have progressed so far as a society with women’s rights, there are still women out there who do not have the freedom to do what I take for granted. It saddens me to think that there are still groups of people who see women as being the lesser gender and who have taken away their right to bloom. Not that the society I live in is perfect – but at least I have the opportunity to make my choices; and the freedom to read and learn.

Women Talking by Mirian Toews is a book that digs into the experience of the Mennonite women. It is an eye-opening account of a group of women living in a patriarchal society that, unfortunately, still exists in the modern world. This skillfully written discussion is one that will leave you in a thoughtful mood and reflecting on your own personal experience.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 51st in my book pledge for 2019)

Teaser Tuesdays: Double Edged by Jessie Kwak

It had been a while since I had read a good science fiction read and was thrilled when I picked up Double Edged by Jessie Kwak to discover that the good writing kept me interested and on the edge of my seat.

“Level C hits Manu like a physical thing: the scents, the din, the crush of people. Manu pauses in the entry, taking it all in. The air is heavy with fry grease and engine oil and voices echo off the high ceiling, jumbled so it’s hard to pick out anything individual. Warring news and music programs blare from the lunch stands, callers hawk wares as they wander the crowds, and the buskers and street performers only spike the chaos” (p36)

(2019, Independent Author)

The novel is gritty and realistic. And I loved it. A reader can almost forget that it is set in a futuristic environment.

Do you enjoy Science Fiction? 

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2016

(This post is linked to Ambrosia’s Teaser Tuesdays at The Purple Booker)

Book Review: The Beholder by Anna Bright

It was time for some Fantasy so I picked up the ARC I received at the Frenzy Presents event held by Harper Collins Canada. I love the cover of Anna Bright’s novel, The Beholder, and settled in for what promised to be an interesting read.

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Blurb:

Selah has waited her whole life for a happily ever after. As the only daughter of the leader of Potomac, she knows her duty is to find the perfect match, a partner who will help secure the future of her people. Now that day has finally come.

But after an excruciatingly public rejection from her closest childhood friend, Selah’s stepmother suggests an unthinkable solution: Selah must set sail across the Atlantic, where a series of potential suitors awaits—and if she doesn’t come home engaged, she shouldn’t come home at all.

From English castle gardens to the fjords of Norge, and under the eye of the dreaded Imperiya Yotne, Selah’s quest will be the journey of a lifetime. But her stepmother’s schemes aren’t the only secrets hiding belowdecks…and the stakes of her voyage may be higher than any happy ending.

My thoughts:

I enjoy reading Fantasy novels and this one promised to be a coming of age story. And it delivered on its promise. As Selah continues on her journey and meets a variety of people, the experiences she goes through help her come to certain realisations about herself and of others. The journey helps her to grow up as she is no longer sheltered from certain experiences by her upbringing.

I love that the main character in The Beholder is one that is learning and growing. The experiences she has are what one would expect of a young woman venturing out into the world. She learns to be strong, and to find the answers to her questions within herself. She slowly breaks down her fears – fears which make her a relatable character to the reader. In the novel, Selah is learning to find her own voice; and to discover what it is exactly that her journey needs to entail.

Even though I enjoyed the book and look forward to the sequel (yes, it is a duology), I did find the story hard to get into in the beginning. The Beholder is written as an alternate history to our world – and has many references to mythology. I personally found these references to be overdone at the beginning of the novel. In addition, some of the references may not be understood by many readers thus rendering the imagery less powerful than intended. As the book progresses, the mythological references become less frequent and more subtle – and I definitely preferred this.

Bright has written a story that does not contain some of the expectations of a fantasy novel: there are no dragons, magic, and mystical creatures. The novel includes a budding romance as well as disappointments that are experienced in a young life. This story is an enjoyable read for those who enjoy reading books with a sense of adventure and a protagonist who is growing into herself.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 50th in my book pledge for 2019)