Favourite Read of the Month: December 2018

During the month of December, I read a total of 10 books for this year’s Book Pledge, bringing me to a final total of 94. I was able to read so many books during this month because I was on a two week break from work. Even though I spent time with my family during the Holiday period, I was able to spend a couple of hours each morning reading on the sofa.

The titles I read in December are listed below. To read my reviews (if you haven’t already), click on the title in the following list:

  1. Ahab’s Return by Jeffrey Ford – historical fiction ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars.
  2. Miss Marley by Vanessa Lafaye – historical fiction ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars
  3. The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton – psychological thriller ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars
  4. One Day in December by Josie Silver – contemporary romance ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars
  5. The Gown by Jennifer Robson – historical fiction ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars
  6. Christmas at the Little Clock House on the Green by Eve Devon – romance  ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars
  7. The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe – contemporary Young Adult  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars
  8. I Know You Know by Gilly Macmillan – psychological thriller ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars
  9. Bad Angels by Rebecca Chance – romance ⭐⭐ 2 stars
  10. The Woman Who Met Her Match – romance ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars

I read a nice mix of genres: romance, thrillers, and historical fiction. As you can see, my favourites were The Gown (historical), The Perfect Girlfriend (thriller), and One Day in December (romance). I loved all three of these novels and would recommend them with no hesitation. As my favourite for the month I would have to pick The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton because it was so twisty and surprised me more than once.

What was your favourite read in December? Share your choice, or the link to your post, below.

Favourite Read of the Month:

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

Book Review: Happier Thinking by Lana Grace Riva

The author Lana Grace Riva contacted me to read and review her book Happier Thinking. While catching up on my reviews in the last few days of 2018, I realised that I had not yet shared my thoughts on her work.

Genre: Non-fiction, Self Help

Blurb: 

Changing how you think is possible. I wasn’t always so sure that was true until I experienced it myself, but I know now we don’t have to just accept unhappiness. Not always anyway. This book is my collection of tips and suggestions that have helped me achieve happier thinking. It’s sort of a gym for my mind. I’d love to tell you it was easier than the real gym but well… it’s not really. It takes time, effort, and practice but it’s absolutely well worth the rewards.

My thoughts: 

The book is a short, quick read of 50 pages. Written in the first person, you get the feeling that the author is speaking directly to you. After reading the synopsis, I was hoping for a more meaty read that would go beyond what I have already read. Instead, the work reads like a summary of what has already been published and what I have already seen and thought about.

Even though Happier Thinking was a disappointing read for me personally, I can see the benefit of this book for people who have not read much on this topic. It is a good beginning read for a person working towards being more content and happier with their lives.

I give this novel ⭐⭐ 2 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 94th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: The Woman Who Met Her Match by Fiona Gibson

After my disappointment with my last read, I chose a novel by an author I had previously read and enjoyed. I grabbed The Woman Who Met Her Match  by Fiona Gibson and settled down on the sofa to read the morning after Christmas.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Blurb: 

What if your first love came back on the scene . . . 30 years later?

After yet another disaster, Lorrie is calling time on online dating. She might be single in her forties, but she’s got a good job, wonderful children and she’s happy. This, Lorrie decides, is going to have to be enough.

That is, until she receives a very unexpected request from France. Antoine Rousseau, who had once turned a lonely French exchange trip into a summer of romance, wants to see her – after thirty years.

But Lorrie is a responsible woman. She can’t exactly run off to Nice with the man who broke her teenage heart . . . can she?

My thoughts: 

This book was the perfect novel for my mood as well as for my desire to read a story that was not too taxing and which would bring a smile to my face. The tale described the life of a woman in her forties, an ordinary woman who works at the beauty counter in a department store. The description of Lorrie and her experience read true and I could connect it to the lives of many women I have spoken to: dating as an older woman, raising children, connecting with an old crush. The novel encouraged that feel-good feeling that one experiences when watching a romantic comedy. Romance is sprinkled in the story and interspersed with the main character’s realisation about her romantic experience. I have previously enjoyed Fiona Gibson’s novels, and this one did not disappoint.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 93rd in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: Bad Angels by Rebecca Chance

I was shopping for feel good Christmas reads when I came across Bad Angels by Rebecca Chance. After reading the blurb, I thought the story had potential to be a pleasant read for December before the Christmas holidays.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Blurb: 

Wharf where celebrities who have had ‘work’ done can hole up until they have healed and which is about to see its most glamorous and scandalous Christmas yet. Staying there over the festive period is Melody Down, an actress whose career is in tatters after too much plastic surgery and who has fled LA to get her body and her boyfriend back. But is a ‘well-meaning’ friend about to sabotage all of Melody’s Christmas wishes?

Meanwhile, Aniela Fatyga, the nurse in residence, finds herself falling for the unlikely Jon Jordan, an assassin for hire who is also convalescing there. Will her feelings be reciprocated or will their sizzling relationship remain purely physical? And who is he on the run from?

And then there’s oligarch Grigor Khalofsky, the owner of Kensington football team, whose legendary Christmas party is about to get a whole lot more exciting when murder, blackmail and scandalous revelations decide to pay a visit along with Santa.

My thoughts: 

I was a little disappointed with this read as it did not deliver the feel-good romance that I was expecting for the Christmas season. Three storylines crossed over in the novel and the one featuring the actress, Melody Down, was a little static and predictable. The storyline featuring Anelia and Jon was a little more interesting and my interest in them is what kept me reading. Bad Angels read a little like the novels written by Jackie Collins which feature a lot of sex, scandals, and extravagant behaviour. I was looking, instead, for a novel which focuses instead on the positive characteristics of people and therefore completed the book with a sense of dissatisfaction. This is not a story I would read again: the romance in the novel was okay, but the sex scenes appear too frequently for my taste.

I give this novel ⭐⭐ 2 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 92nd in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: I Know You Know by Gilly Macmillan

I had read a novel by Gilly Macmillan before and enjoyed it. I decided to pick up I Know You Know when I was in the mood for a psychological thriller.

Genre: Thriller, Psychological Thriller

Blurb: 

From author Gilly Macmillan comes this original, chilling and twisty mystery about two shocking murder cases twenty years apart, and the threads that bind them.

Twenty years ago, eleven-year-olds Charlie Paige and Scott Ashby were murdered in the city of Bristol, their bodies dumped near a dog racing track. A man was convicted of the brutal crime, but decades later, questions still linger.

For his whole life, filmmaker Cody Swift has been haunted by the deaths of his childhood best friends. The loose ends of the police investigation consume him so much that he decides to return to Bristol in search of answers. Hoping to uncover new evidence, and to encourage those who may be keeping long-buried secrets to speak up, Cody starts a podcast to record his findings. But there are many people who don’t want the case—along with old wounds—reopened so many years after the tragedy, especially Charlie’s mother, Jess, who decides to take matters into her own hands.

When a long-dead body is found in the same location the boys were left decades before, the disturbing discovery launches another murder investigation. Now Detective John Fletcher, the investigator on the original case, must reopen his dusty files and decide if the two murders are linked. With his career at risk, the clock is ticking and lives are in jeopardy…

My thoughts: 

Gilly Macmillan did not disappoint. The story of the cold case led me down storylines I did not think of – right up until the end when there is an unexpected twist. As with her other novels, I Know You Know was a page turner which kept me invested in the story right until the end.

What I found interesting in this work was the way in which Macmillan told her story. She invites us to ‘listen’ to the podcast of one of the characters through which we are invited to learn about the past and what had happened twenty years ago. In addition, Macmillan uses italics to show us the character’s past action. I enjoyed seeing both present and past actions of the characters juxtaposed within the same chapter and sometimes even on the same page.

If you love thrillers and page turners, this novel would be a good choice for you. You would enjoy both the twists in the story as well as the unusual way in which Gilly Macmillan takes us back to the past.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 91st in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe

My contact at Harper Collins Canada loved Ben Philippe’s The Field Guide to the North American Teenager, so much so that she could not resist sending me an advanced copy of the novel. Her enthusiasm was infectious and I knew I had to read it as soon as I had received it.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemprorary Fiction

Release Date: 8 January 2019

Blurb: 

Norris Kaplan is clever, cynical, and quite possibly too smart for his own good. A black French Canadian, he knows from watching American sitcoms that those three things don’t bode well when you are moving to Austin, Texas. Plunked into a new high school and sweating a ridiculous amount from the oppressive Texas heat, Norris finds himself cataloging everyone he meets: the Cheerleaders, the Jocks, the Loners, and even the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Making a ton of friends has never been a priority for him, and this way he can at least amuse himself until it’s time to go back to Canada, where he belongs.

Yet, against all odds, those labels soon become actual people to Norris. Be it loner Liam, who makes it his mission to befriend Norris, or Madison the beta cheerleader, who is so nice that it has to be a trap. Not to mention Aarti the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who might, in fact, be a real love interest in the making. He even starts playing actual hockey with these Texans.

But the night of the prom, Norris screws everything up royally. As he tries to pick up the pieces, he realizes it might be time to stop hiding behind his snarky opinions and start living his life—along with the people who have found their way into his heart.

My thoughts: 

I loved this novel! It was humorous as well as contemporary and is perfectly suited for its target audience. As someone who has moved to another country, I could understand some of Norris Kaplan’s experience albeit as an older person. While reading Philippe’s story, I could imagine a teenager behaving in the way described in the story – I could not help smiling at the antics as well as the adolescent experience. As I am writing this review, I cannot help but smile as I think about my favourite scenes.

The novel is a perfect read for a teenager. It describes teen relationships and reflects what the current status quo is seen as being in North America. The story has a little romance, as well as describes a young boy’s coming-of-age. The sense of humour scattered in the novel would appeal to both boys and girls. And as an older adult, I enjoyed the snapshot of the current teen experience. In addition, the story is well-written and perfectly paced.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 90th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: Christmas at the Little Clock House on the Green by Eve Devon

It was the time before Christmas and I decided to pick up a little Christmas read to get me in the mood. Christmas at the Little Clock House on the Green by Eve Devon seemed the perfect choice for me.

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Blurb: 

After giving his heart last year only to have it given away the very next day, Jake Knightley is opting out of Christmas—permanently! But then a beautiful new village arrival sets mayhem in motion, upsetting all his carefully laid plans.

Emma Danes has said goodbye to Hollywood and will do anything to help make the clock house a success, even working closely with the tempting Mr Knightley.

Now, as snow starts to fall and romance starts to bloom, Emma and Jake may just find themselves repeating Whispers Wood history beneath the mistletoe…

My thoughts: 

This book was the perfect read for the mood I was in. It is lighthearted with some romance thrown in, and helped me get into the festive mood for Christmas. As I was reading the story, I realised that there was a prequel to this tale. Not having read it, however, did not prevent me from enjoying this novel.

Devon’s story was enchanting, and caused a smile on my face as I was reading. The story also made me think of Jane Austen’s Emma with the main characters being Emma and Jake Knightley (a landowner with not much money). It was fun to read the subtle references to the an older story set in an 1800s English village. In spite of the references to an older story, Christmas at the Little Clock on the Green is a contemporary story that a modern woman can relate.

Even though it didn’t wow me, I enjoyed this novel. It is a romance story that did not disappoint.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 89th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: The Gown by Jennifer Robson

I enjoy reading historical fiction and when my request for the ARC of The Gown by Jennifer Robson was approved by Harper Collins Canada, I was ecstatic. I opened the novel eagerly and settled in to learn a little more about the period in which the novel was written.

Publication Date: 1 January 2019

Genre: Historical Fiction

Blurb: 

An enthralling historical novel about one of the most famous wedding dresses of the twentieth century—Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown—and the fascinating women who made it.

London, 1947: Besieged by the harshest winter in living memory, burdened by onerous shortages and rationing, the people of postwar Britain are enduring lives of quiet desperation despite their nation’s recent victory. Among them are Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, embroiderers at the famed Mayfair fashion house of Norman Hartnell. Together they forge an unlikely friendship, but their nascent hopes for a brighter future are tested when they are chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime honor: taking part in the creation of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown.

Toronto, 2016: More than half a century later, Heather Mackenzie seeks to unravel the mystery of a set of embroidered flowers, a legacy from her late grandmother. How did her beloved Nan, a woman who never spoke of her old life in Britain, come to possess the priceless embroideries that so closely resemble the motifs on the stunning gown worn by Queen Elizabeth II at her wedding almost seventy years before? And what was her Nan’s connection to the celebrated textile artist and holocaust survivor Miriam Dassin?

With The Gown, Jennifer Robson takes us inside the workrooms where one of the most famous wedding gowns in history was created. Balancing behind-the-scenes details with a sweeping portrait of a society left reeling by the calamitous costs of victory, she introduces readers to three unforgettable heroines, their points of view alternating and intersecting throughout its pages, whose lives are woven together by the pain of survival, the bonds of friendship, and the redemptive power of love.

My thoughts: 

There was so much to love about this novel. Robson expertly takes us to London after the Second World War and to the time when Queen Elizabeth was set to marry. We learn of the difficulties people were experiencing at that time after the war, and yet they were eagerly anticipating the royal wedding. I loved how Robson’s story weaved adroitly between the past and the present; between the hardships after the war, and the lifestyle of a modern woman who is easily able to cross the seas from Toronto to London.

I found The Gown to be an interesting read. Not only is the royal wedding referred to, but also the choices young women had after the Second World War. The experiences of Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin are explored with sensitivity and a sense of realism. I enjoyed how Heather Mackenzie’s curiosity about her grandmother brings Ann Hughes alive not only for her, but also for the readers. The novel shows us how the friendship between the two women in the past grew – a friendship that supported each woman in their time of need.

Jennifer Robson’s novel was captivating. I savoured every page and was proud of the portrait of the women portrayed – a portrait which shows how resilient a woman can be when faced with difficult choices. If you enjoy historical fiction, this novel is definitely for you. It portrays friendship and the strength of women in the face of difficulty. In addition, it gives the reader a snapshot of the life of a London embroiderer after the second world war.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 88th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: One Day in December by Josie Silver

I saw that the novel One Day in December by Josie Silver was chosen by an online book club that I follow. I decided to pick up the story as I was in the mood for something a little romantic.

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Contemporary

Blurb: 

Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist anywhere but the movies. But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic…and then her bus drives away.

Certain they’re fated to find each other again, Laurie spends a year scanning every bus stop and cafe in London for him. But she doesn’t find him, not when it matters anyway. Instead they “reunite” at a Christmas party, when her best friend Sarah giddily introduces her new boyfriend to Laurie. It’s Jack, the man from the bus. It would be.

What follows for Laurie, Sarah and Jack is ten years of friendship, heartbreak, missed opportunities, roads not taken, and destinies reconsidered. One Day in December is a joyous, heartwarming and immensely moving love story to escape into and a reminder that fate takes inexplicable turns along the route to happiness.

My thoughts: 

This romance was the perfect holiday read! It is lighthearted (though at times heartbreaking) and I savoured each page. As I read of Laurie’s love experience over a span of ten years, I saw her develop as a person while experiencing the love she has for both Jack and her best friend, Sarah. Reading the novel made me think of my favourite romantic comedies on film. It encouraged me experience that feel-good feeling when the romance is pitched perfectly and is gently woven into the story of the main character.

I loved this well-written story and will keep it on my shelf to reread when I need an uplifting romance to make gloomy winter days more bearable.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 87th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton

When I had the opportunity to attend a Harper Presents event at the Harper Collins Canada publishing houses, I received an Advanced Reading Edition of debut author Karen Hamilton’s The Perfect Girlfriend. As I enjoy reading psychological thrillers, I looked forward to reading this recommendation.

Release Date: 31 December 2018

Genre: Thriller, Psychological Thriller

Blurb: 

Juliette loves Nate. She will follow him anywhere. She’s even become a flight attendant for his airline, so she can keep a closer eye on him.

They are meant to be.

The fact that Nate broke up with her six months ago means nothing. Because Juliette has a plan to win him back. She is the perfect girlfriend. And she’ll make sure no one stops her from getting exactly what she wants.

True love hurts, but Juliette knows it’s worth all the pain…

My thoughts: 

After reading the last sentence of the novel, I could only say ‘Wow!’ This page turner is scarily good and keeps the reader invested in the story right until the last page. Juliette encapsulates everything one would expect of a stalker and of a person determined to get what she wants. I could not believe the lengths she would go to to get what she wants. One of the things I loved about this book was the unexpected turns the novel takes. If this were a movie, I would be biting my nails!

I raced through this addictive read in a day – I just could not put it down! The main character is terrifying, and I would not want to meet her at my workplace or even in a social environment. Hamilton has impressed me with her debut novel and I look forward to reading more of her work.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 86th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)