Book Review: Based on Pride and Prejudice

Instagram is a wonderful place to meet like-minded book lovers. Through one of my buddy reads, I connected with someone who loves Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as much as I. She told me about a retelling that I had not yet read, Coming Up Roses by Staci Hart, and I decided I wanted to read it. The bonus was the realisation that Staci Hart is an indie author. When purchasing the novel, I decided to purchase the second in the series, Gilded Lily, as it was claimed to also have connections to Austen’s novel.

Genre of both novels: Romance, Contemporary, Retelling

Blurb for Coming Up Roses:

Everyone hates parts of their job.

Maybe it’s the paperwork. Maybe it’s the day-to-day grind. Maybe it’s that client who never knows what they want, or the guy who always cooks fish in the microwave.

But not me. I love every corner of the Longbourne Flower Shop, every flower, every petal, every stem. I love the greenhouse, and I love Mrs. Bennet, my boss. I love creating, and I love being a florist. I don’t hate anything at all.

Except for Luke Bennet.

The Bennet brothers have come home to help their mom save the flower shop, and Luke is at the helm. His smile tells a tale of lust, loose and easy. He moves with the grace of a predator, feral and wild. A thing unbridled, without rules or constraint.

When he comes home to save Longbourne, I almost can’t be mad at him.

Almost.

He doesn’t remember that night I’ll never forget. That kiss, touched with whiskey and fire. It branded me like a red-hot iron. But it meant nothing to him.

Everyone hates part of their job, and I hate Luke Bennet.
Because if I don’t, I’ll fall in love with him.

Blurb for Gilded Lily:

They say there’s no such thing as perfect.

But I’ve built my life to perfection—the perfect boyfriend, the perfect apartment, the perfect career planning celebrity weddings. My job—my only job—is to make sure every event is absolutely and completely perfect.

What’s not perfect? Kash Bennet.

And I wish I didn’t find that so appealing.

I could have told you every perfectly imperfect thing about the gardener at Longbourne. Like his hair, lush and black and far too long. Or his nose, the flat bridge of a Greek god, bent a little like it’s been broken. Or his size. Beastly. Roped and corded with muscles, gleaming with sweat and peppered with dirt.

There’s no escaping him, not if I’m going to use his family’s flower shop for my events.

But nothing is what it seems. And in the span of a heartbeat, my perfect life is turned inside out.

They say the best way to get over somebody is to get under somebody new. When Kash offers his services to the cause, it sounds like the perfect plan.

What’s not part of the plan? Falling in love with the gardener.

But they were right—there’s no such thing as perfect.
And I’m the fool who finds out the hard way. 

My Thoughts:

The stories are VERY loosely based on Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. The novels do address the theme of the original novel, and reference as well the characterisations of Elizabeth and Darcy – although the sex of the characters has been changed. What I loved was Hart’s representation of Mrs Bennett – it was spot-on and perfectly done. I loved it so much that I would love to see more of her in the stories (that seem to be a series she is currently writing).

The novels do not give an in-depth portrayal of the characters. Even though the characters do come to certain realisations, we do not see their growth and development towards these realisations and, in a way, the characterisations are superficial. Having said that, however, the format followed in general romance novels is that in-depth explorations are not expected.

I enjoyed both of Hart’s romance novels in this series. They were a perfect read for my mood – I wanted something lighthearted that did not encourage too much thought. The well written words made me chuckle and I did want to find out how the characters found their true love (after all, that is what happens in novels like these). If you enjoy romance novels as well as supporting indie authors, the series on the Bennet Brothers is worth picking up.

I give these novels ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 51st and 52nd novels in my book pledge for 2020)

Bullet Journal: May 2020

When walking in my neighbourhood during April, I saw the beginnings of spring and the unfurling of flowers. I thought to bring the beauty of flowers into my journal for the month of May.

When planning my monthly spread, I wanted something that was quick and easy to create – but still flowery.

For my mood tracker, I definitely wanted to incorporate the flower theme. I added the mood “bored” as in April I experienced boredom and did not have a colour to represent it. I am hoping that I will not use that colour too much this month!

My weekly spreads are also simple. I will not have too many events to attend, but I will use the daily squares to note down my experiences for the day.

As we are still expected to stay at home in May, I thought the quote by Jhumpa Lahiri would be perfect for my quote page:

I love the simplicity of this month’s theme and am enjoying the spring-like feel of it.

What theme are you using this month for your journal?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This post is linked to The Escapist Colouring Club. You are welcome to join us and share some colouring work)

Book Review: The Betrothed by Kiera Cass

When browsing the publishers’ booths at the OLA Super Conference earlier this year, I happened upon The Betrothed by Kiera Cass. I had not read anything written by her but I had heard readers rave about her Selection series. I picked this ARC up in curiosity as I wanted to know what her writing is like.

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, Romance

Blurb:

When King Jameson declares his love for Lady Hollis Brite, Hollis is shocked—and thrilled. After all, she’s grown up at Keresken Castle, vying for the king’s attention alongside other daughters of the nobility. Capturing his heart is a dream come true.

But Hollis soon realizes that falling in love with a king and being crowned queen may not be the happily ever after she thought it would be. And when she meets a commoner with the mysterious power to see right into her heart, she finds that the future she really wants is one that she never thought to imagine.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed the old-world setting of the novel even though it is set in an environment that is not of this world; it is a setting that young readers this would enjoy. Life at Court is described, as are beautiful dresses and manners. The main character seems to be a social butterfly and not have any substance to her. It is for this reason that my interest, at the beginning of the novel, was not securely captured.

The Hollis falls in love. From the moment she realises that she is in love, Hollis has a choice which she needs to make. An it is from this moment that I realised the protagonist does have a sense of character. From the time Hollis makes a choice, I was drawn into the story and found it to be more interesting.

The Betrothed is the first in the series – and it reads as such. The book ends on a cliffhanger and reading the next novel is essential to knowing what happens in the story. The writing style is perfect for young girls who enjoy reading romance novels. They will feel a number of emotions when reading: awe, happiness, and sadness. I suspect, too, that they will see a woman who grows strong from her experience and who will work through obstacles to do what is right.

I am curious enough to pick up the next novel in the series – I want to want to know how the story will continue. And hopefully the second novel in the series will capture my interest from the first page.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 48th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Currently Reading: Throne of Glass

On Friday I began the first novel in a series I am reading with a group of people on Instagram. The Throne of Glass series is a young adult fantasy set of books that was written by Sarah J. Maas. This series is continuously referred to in the Bookstagram community and I decided I needed to read and enjoy it as well.

The first book in the series is titled Throne of Glass.

As expected with a series, I did not get to know too much about the characters in the first novel. However by the end of the book, I did want to know more about them – so much so that even though I said I would read the series with others, I could not wait an entire week to begin the next novel in the series. Today saw me opening the pages to the next book: Crown of Midnight.

I suspect I will continue on with the series until I am done – especially as I have all the books on my shelves. My interest in the story has been peaked and I am looking forward to reading the rest. I don’t feel too guilty about not waiting for the others in my group as I know of one other who is also reading ahead.

What are you currently reading?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

Book Review: The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

When at the OLA Super Conference at the beginning of the year, I was excited to see that there were author signings of The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner. I enjoy reading any books featuring Jane Austen and went to stand in the line early on to ensure that I received a copy of the ARC. I was beaming when I walked away with a signed copy of the book.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

Blurb:

Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.

My thoughts:

I felt a connection with the characters in this novel as they all enjoy reading the novels by Jane Austen, as do I. The story is set in the place where Austen lived (Chawton) and so that added another connection for me. The story is set in the period after the World War and focuses on a group of people who have all experienced some sort of suffering. Even though the novel references the start of the Jane Austen Society, it is not a work of historical fiction.

Many references are made in the novel to Austen’s work, in particular Pride and Prejudice and Emma. I loved these references and they added another dimension to the story for me. I figuratively rubbed my hands in glee when I caught a reference.

The Jane Austen Society is not a fast-paced novel. Instead it moves at the pace of Austen’s novels as we glimpse into the lives of the characters – characters who experience ordinary lives and come to realisations that ordinary people do. This is a novel that embraces change and quiet strength. This is a novel that embraces ordinary people who get together to create a tribute to someone they admire. This is a novel that embraces healing. This is a novel that I savoured, enjoyed, and will probably re-read. The Jane Austen Society is a must-read for anyone who enjoys Austen’s books and any references to her in novels.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 47th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Weekend Coffee Share: More of the Same

If we were having coffee, I would greet you with a resigned smile. We have now passed the 2 month mark of the social distancing and stay-at-home mandate – and the ending of this seems so far away. Ontario is moving into stage 1 of loosening the noose on Tuesday 19 May, but that will not in any way alter my current lifestyle. I cannot help but sigh as I look forward to another two weeks of remote teaching. It has not yet been confirmed whether or not we will go back to school on the 31st May – I am thinking we will be told in a week or so. Somehow I don’t think we will.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that tomorrow is a public holiday in Canada – Victoria Day – and yet it will seem the same as every other day. Tuesday will be filled with meetings as we discuss where we are going to place children for next year’s classes. I think that doing this remotely may be a bit of a challenge but we will do the best for the kids in our class. I am wondering what next year is going to look like and what the impact of the COVID-19 virus will have on our practice. At least the monotony of Tuesday will be broken by our small celebration for my youngest daughter who is turning 19 years old. My plan is to buy her a cake and to cook one of her favourite meals.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the remote teaching is becoming easier – but there are times when I am out of ideas to keep my students engaged. They do love my Google MEET sessions with me and sometimes when talking with them, their chatter inspires an idea to take seed in my brain.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that not only am I uninspired to create classes, but also to write blog posts. This past week, no ideas sprang to mind but I am hoping that the upcoming week will be better. The temperatures are slowly inching up so I am thinking it is time to set up our balcony which will give us another space to work in. Luckily our wifi reaches the space so we can take our laptops outside to work. Maybe breathing in the fresh air and sitting at a different table will be inspiring.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I am reading (too much!) and am working on a crocheted afghan (while listening to audiobooks). I am also still enjoying my morning walks in the neighbourhood which have definitely become a part of my daily routine. I am looking forward to the time, though, when I can meet with friends and share a cup of tea or coffee in real time.

What would you tell me if we were having coffee?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

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

Book Review: Crescent City by Sarah J. Maas

Crescent City by Sarah J. Maas was totally a cover buy for me – isn’t the artwork on the cover gorgeous? Another reason that I picked up the novel is that I had heard that Maas is an excellent storyteller.

Genre: Adult Fantasy

Blurb:

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.

With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom—and the power of love.

My thoughts:

After reading this book, I am now a fan of Maas. Her story-building is extremely skillful as she creates characters that you grow to love. As Crescent City is an adult fantasy, there is a gritty edge to the characters as well as the author’s representation of them (be warned that there is swearing involved). Maas’ honest representation of her characters, however, make the story more believable and realistic despite it being set in a setting created in the author’s mind.

The first 200 pages of the novel is slow-going as the reader is introduced to the intricate world of this new series. However, soon the pages of this 803 page tome are quickly turned and enjoyed. Once I became invested in the story, I could not put it down. Luckily I read the major part of this novel over the weekend so I could spend hours curled up on the sofa with the images of the novel.

What I loved about this story is that it wasn’t predictable – there were times when the storyline surprised me. By the end of the novel, I was fond of many of the characters and I look forward to seeing more of them in the next book in the saga. If you enjoy fantasy, Crescent City is a must-read. I enjoyed this novel so much that I know I will reread the book.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 46th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

A Mother’s Day Drawing

Last weekend families in many parts of the world celebrated Mother’s Day. To be honest, the day was similar to what I have experienced since we were asked to stay at home. This year we could not go out, and my family could not go shopping for flowers and treats. My daughters, however, did not let the day go by without giving me the gifts that they had made for me.

My youngest drew a picture of me reading on the sofa – a sight that is frequently seen in my home. In addition, she animated it (I am unable to post the animated version here). Her digital portrait of me still makes me smile. I love it so much that it is my new profile picture for my Instagram account. 🙂

What has made you smile during the past week?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2017

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

Book Review: The Silent patient by Alex Michaelides

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides is a thriller that I picked up because of the recommendation of other bookstagrammers. I opened the novel with anticipation as I had not seen anything negative about the story.

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Blurb:

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him…

My thoughts:

I did not see the end coming of this novel – and I love that the author took me by surprise! The unexpected twist had me shaking my head in glee. The perfect ending!

Throughout the novel there are many red herrings as the author leads the reader down a certain path. I made so many guesses on what had happened; guesses which I had to re-evaluate from time to time. Slowly, Michaelides gives hints and small clues which increase an understanding of the story.

Readers are told the story from 2 POVs – that of the therapist, and that of the patient’s diary. Through the two points of view, I was introduced to how the lives of both the patient and the therapist are intertwined and how they each impact one another’s lives. The pacing of the story is perfect for this genre and the author drew me in and kept me reading.

This is definitely a thriller to pick up and enjoy. For a debut novel, it packed a punch. I look forward to reading another of this author’s novels.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 45th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Rock Art

Yesterday I chose to go another route for my morning walk and I came upon this beautiful addition to someone’s garden. The owners of the home have been working on some rock art during their time of social isolation.

The colour of the rocks and stones attracted my eye, as did the patterns and the sayings that had been painted on the larger stones.

I could not help but smile at the rhyming phrases.

What has made you smile the past week of social isolation?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2017

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