Favourite Read of the Month: November 2018

During the month of October, I read 7 books for this year’s Book Pledge, bringing my total for read books this year to 83. I am wondering whether I will be able to read 100 books this year – so near and yet so far! – but that means I will have to read 17 books total. Even though I am on break, I do not think I will manage it. Maybe 90 books.

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

  1. Beartown by Fredrik Backman – contemporary fiction ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars
  2. Us Against You by Fredrik Backman – contemporary fiction ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars
  3. The Silver Queen by Josie Jaffrey – dystopian, fantasy, vampires ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars
  4. Pride by Ibi Zoboi – young adult, contemporary ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars
  5. Damsel by Elana K. Arnold – young adult, fantasy ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars
  6. The Life Lucy Knew by Karma Brown – women’s fiction, contemporary ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars
  7. Bring Me Back by B. A. Paris – thriller, psychological thriller, suspense ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars

Reflecting on my choice of reads for the past month, I realise that I have two favourites: Beartown by Fredrik Backman as well as Damsel by Elana K. Arnold. Both novels feature the strength of women and how they find the strength within themselves to change what has been done to them by a man. Even though I love the fantasy novel Damsel, I do choose Beartown to be my book of the month. The novel focuses on so many issues, and it made me feel so many emotions while reading it.

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

Favourite Read of the Month:

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

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Book Review: Bring Me Back by B. A. Paris

I decided to dip into the third B. A. Paris novel that my colleague had given to me to read – Bring Me Back, he most recent novel.

Genre: Psychological Thriller, Thriller, Suspense

Blurb: 

Finn and Layla are young, in love, and on vacation. They’re driving along the highway when Finn decides to stop at a service station to use the restroom. He hops out of the car, locks the doors behind him, and goes inside. When he returns Layla is gone—never to be seen again. That is the story Finn told to the police. But it is not the whole story.

Ten years later Finn is engaged to Layla’s sister, Ellen. Their shared grief over what happened to Layla drew them close and now they intend to remain together. Still, there’s something about Ellen that Finn has never fully understood. His heart wants to believe that she is the one for him…even though a sixth sense tells him not to trust her.

Then, not long before he and Ellen are to be married, Finn gets a phone call. Someone from his past has seen Layla—hiding in plain sight. There are other odd occurrences: Long-lost items from Layla’s past that keep turning up around Finn and Ellen’s house. Emails from strangers who seem to know too much. Secret messages, clues, warnings. If Layla is alive—and on Finn’s trail—what does she want? And how much does she know?

A tour de force of psychological suspense, Bring Me Back will have you questioning everything and everyone until its stunning climax.

My thoughts: 

My colleague loved this title so I settled myself in for a thrilling read. B. A. Paris did not disappoint. The story was gripping, with small tidbits handed out to the reader that kept me guessing. No sooner did I think I had guessed the solution to the mystery of Layla, then the author blindsided me with another tidbit. I loved it! If this book were a film, I would have been biting on my fingernails as the tension created by her words is gripping. And the best part? The ending was not at all what a reader would expect.

Like my colleague, I am now a fan of B. A. Paris. Her fast-paced and twisty novel has convinced me that her debut novel was not a once-off thing. Instead, this is the third time that she has succeeded in causing me to leave all other things unattended and read. I am looking forward to seeing what she will bring out next.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 83rd in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: The Life Lucy Knew by Karma Brown

I attended an event at the Harper Collins Canada offices and had the opportunity to hear Karma Brown speak about her novel The Life Lucy Knew. The synopsis intrigued me and I was interested to hear what would develop in the story.

Genre: Women’s fiction, Contemporary, Romance

Blurb: 

One woman is about to discover everything she believes-knows-to be true about her life…isn’t.

After hitting her head, Lucy Sparks awakens in the hospital to a shocking revelation: the man she’s known and loved for years-the man she recently married-is not actually her husband. In fact, they haven’t even spoken since their breakup four years earlier. The happily-ever-after she remembers in vivid detail-right down to the dress she wore to their wedding-is only one example of what her doctors call a false memory: recollections Lucy’s mind made up to fill in the blanks from the coma.

Her psychologist explains the condition as honest lying, because while Lucy’s memories are false, they still feel incredibly real. Now she has no idea which memories she can trust-a devastating experience not only for Lucy, but also for her family, friends and especially her devoted boyfriend, Matt, whom Lucy remembers merely as a work colleague.

When the life Lucy believes she had slams against the reality she’s been living for the past four years, she must make a difficult choice about which life she wants to lead, and who she really is.

My thoughts: 

The synopsis of this novel intrigued me: what would happen if someone forgot moments of their life and confused their own memories with that of others? I believe that a lot of people would be upset, and that it would be a roller coaster of emotions for the person experiencing the memory loss. It is this continuous charge of emotions a person would feel that Karma Brown so aptly portrays. The reader gets to experience Lucy’s utter conviction that her false memories are real; and reads with understanding the seesaw of emotions that the protagonist feels as she tries to sift through what is real and what is not real.

While reading Lucy’s story, my heart felt for her. It wept at those moments when Lucy realised, on her own, that the memories she currently held so dear had been mixed up and were not what she believed them to be. While reading the story, I kept hoping that she would end up where she was meant to be and where she had been before her accident. It was this hope that kept me turning the pages of the novel.

The Life Lucy Knew is a romance – but a romance with a difference. Girl had already met boy – but she had forgotten what he had meant to her. The novel is about a girl following her heart and finding, once again, where she is meant to be – and with whom. Lucy’s story is written with a sensitivity that readers of emotional reads will enjoy. It is a story that will touch your heart.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 82nd in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: Damsel by Elana K. Arnold

When I attended the Frenzy Presents event in August this year at which they announced the upcoming Young Adult releases, I knew I had to read this novel. I can not resist a story that includes dragons and a strong woman character.

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Blurb: 

The rite has existed for as long as anyone can remember: when the prince-who-will-be-king comes of age, he must venture out into the gray lands, slay a fierce dragon, and rescue a damsel to be his bride. This is the way things have always been.

When Ama wakes in the arms of Prince Emory, however, she knows none of this. She has no memory of what came before she was captured by the dragon, or what horrors she has faced in its lair. She knows only this handsome prince, the story he tells of her rescue, and her destiny to sit on the throne beside him. Ama comes with Emory back to the kingdom of Harding, hailed as the new princess, welcomed to the court.

However, as soon as her first night falls, she begins to realize that not all is as it seems, that there is more to the legends of the dragons and the damsels than anyone knows–and that the greatest threats to her life may not be behind her, but here, in front of her.

My thoughts: 

I loved this new take on the old story of dragons, a damsel, and a prince who comes to rescue her. It was interesting to read what the damsel feels after her rescue – and the confusion that she experiences. The damsel (named Ama by the prince) slowly comes to an awakening and a realisation of who she is and what she wants to be in the future that has been decided for her by Emory, the man who brought her to his castle.

While reading this novel, my heart was definitely captured by Ama. In her, I could see the representation of women in society – women who are expected to fall in with the men who are in their lives. She questions the role that has been given to her – as do so many women in modern society today. Ama’s character has been written with sensitivity, and with the understanding that a woman slowly comes to a realisation of who she is. The novel may be bringing to the fore the woman’s experience, but it is subtly done within the framework of a story in which the man is seen to be the one who rescues the woman.

I enjoyed this novel for so much more than just for the story. I loved the gentle reference to a woman’s strength and her acceptance of it.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 81st in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: Pride by Ibi Zoboi

My favourite all-time classic is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice so when I heard that there was another rewrite featuring the characters of Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, I knew I had to read it. Pride by Ibi Zoboi is an original rewrite that puts the main characters in Brooklyn, New York.

Genre:  Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Blurb: 

Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.

When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.

But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.

In a timely update of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi skillfully balances cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant re-imagining of this beloved classic.

My thoughts: 

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that when rich people move into the hood, where it is a little bit broken and a little bit forgotten, the first thing that they want to do is clean it up.” (Zoboi, Ibi. Pride, 2018, p1)

The first line in the novel made me smile in glee as the beginning of this sentence echoes one of my favourite lines in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The remainder of the sentence echoes what is suggested in the rest of the novel: the gentrification of a neighbourhood that, on the outside, may look neglected.

Pride depicts a young woman’s pride in her neighbourhood and in her culture. Zuri (Zoboi’s Elizabeth Bennet) is comfortable with her culture and has no shame of her roots. She does not immediately take to Darius Darcy as he does not appear to fit in with the neighbourhood, nor does he behave in the way Zuri believes he ought to. Her prejudice reflects the prejudice of Austen’s Elizabeth albeit in different surroundings. In addition, Zoboi adeptly transforms the setting of Austen’s novel into a modern day Brooklyn while embedding the prejudices that people living in the environment may embrace.

The neighbourhood described in Pride is unknown to me; and I am not intimate with its culture. Tidbits are added to my knowledge as I read the story – tidbits that are subtly woven into the story. Yet the romance described is a well-known story of two young people who come to know one another and fall in love. This is a story that transcends time.

I love how Zoboi wove a well-loved and well-known story into a story of her own. The story that she created is a contemporary one and is well suited for a young teenager of colour.  Yet Pride is not so far from the original that the reader cannot make the connection. I enjoyed this reworking of Austen’s novel and will surely read it again in the future. If you are a fan of Austen’s novel, you will enjoy this retelling. And if you do not know Pride and Prejudice, you will enjoy this romance for being a story of our times.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 80th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: The Silver Queen by Josie Jaffrey

I loved The Guilded King by Josie Jaffrey, and was eager to read the second book in the Sovereign series, The Silver Queen.

Genre:  Young Adult Fantasy, Dystopian, Vampires

Blurb: 

The last city on Earth is contaminated. Now blood is the only thing that can wash it clean.

Julia is trapped inside the Blue as the Nobles fight over the few humans who are still alive. When the dust settles and she finds herself shackled to a new master, she knows she must escape or die.

Meanwhile, Cam has gathered a handful of comrades and is on his way into the Red to rescue his queen. But not all of his friends can be trusted, and not all of them will make it back alive.

The Silver Queen is the second book in Josie Jaffrey’s Sovereign trilogy, set in a dystopian Europe where vampiric Nobles control the last remnants of the human race.

My thoughts: 

I opened the pages of this novel eagerly as the last novel in the series had left me wanting more. Jaffrey dove right into the story, picking up where she had left off. Once again I immersed myself in the world of the Noble vampires, and in the experience of my favourite characters. The answers to my questions were weaved expertly into the tale as the experience of the vampires and humans were described. I found myself figuratively biting my nails as I read what happens to Julia; my heart beat just a little faster as I read Cam’s adventures.

The second novel in The Sovereign Series does not disappoint. I eagerly turned the pages, and I found the story difficult to put down. As I read, I could imagine the events playing in my mind. The Silver Queen is a well written and well-crafted story that deserves a place among the best of the Dystopian novels. If you have not yet given this series a try, I recommend that you do so – especially if you enjoy dystopian stories, vampires, and tales of fantasy.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 79th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

After reading Beartown by Fredrik Backman, I could not wait to read the sequel, Us Against You, and picked it up immediately.

Genre: Contemporary fiction, Sports fiction

Blurb: 

After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in Hed, take in that fact. Amidst the mounting tension between the two rivals, a surprising newcomer is handpicked to be Beartown’s new hockey coach.

Soon a new team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.

As the big match approaches, the not-so-innocent pranks and incidents between the communities pile up and their mutual contempt grows deeper. By the time the last game is finally played, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after all they’ve been through, the game they love can ever return to something simple and innocent.

My thoughts: 

This sequel resumes the story begun in Beartown and continues to explore all the emotions aroused in the first novel of this duology. In addition, Backman explores the negative aspect of competitiveness, as well as what binds people together as a team. The issues brought up in the novel are big and not all of them are resolved – and rightly so as these issues are continuously prevalent in our society. Yes, the story is about hockey – but it is so much more than about the sport. It is about competition, team spirit, and what it is that makes a team (whether it is for sport, or other aspects of life).

I love how in this this sequel to Beartown, the reader learns more about what happens to beloved characters. Their growth continues in Us Against You, suggesting that people never stop learning about themselves – no matter how old they are. While reading the novel, I cheered for my favourite people and felt the pain of those who experienced obstacles.

I loved this sequel and really enjoyed Backman’s storytelling. He is certainly talented in weaving emotions and life lessons within the fabric of his story. Us Against You is definitely a novel that will encourage you to pick up another story by this author.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 78th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: Beartown by Fredrik Backman

I won an ARC of Us Against You by Fredrik Backman. When I received the novel, I saw that it was a sequel to Beartown and decided that I needed to read the first book in order to enjoy the second.

Genre: Contemporary fiction, hockey

Blurb: 

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

My thoughts: 

I was a bit hesitant to read this book as the story suggests a tale of hockey – and I am not a sports person at all. But the book is so much more than a story about sports. It is a story about community, a story about hopes and dreams, a story about relationships and loyalty. It is a story about issues that communities keep to themselves and how that silence can affect a person.

From being hesitant about reading this story, I have become a fan of Backman’s writing. His words have caused me to feel emotion, and his descriptions of a life in a small town that breathes hockey encouraged me to love his characters. Reading the story reminded me of those family films centring on sports that always have a good moral behind it but instead this story is more adult. It is a story that shows the underbelly of humanity – and yet also shows its positive side. The statements made by the author throughout the novel are succinct, and yet get straight to the heart of the issue.

I would highly recommend this novel – even if you do not watch or play hockey. You will feel emotional, you will feel anger. And you will come to understand what being part of a sports team can be to a person.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars with no reservation.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 77th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Favourite Read of the Month: October 2018

During the month of October, I  read 8 books for this year’s Book Pledge, bringing my total for read books this year to 76 books. I may have to up my goal from 75 books this year to 100 🙂

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

  1. The Lost Queen by Signe Pike – historical fiction  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  5 stars
  2. The Wife by Meg Wolitzer – contemporary, women’s fiction  ⭐⭐⭐  3 stars
  3.  Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa – Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  5 stars
  4. When We Caught Fire by Anna Godbersen – Young Adult fiction, historical, romance ⭐⭐⭐  3 stars
  5. If Not For You by Debbie Macomber – romance, contemporary fiction ⭐⭐  2 stars
  6. Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris – thriller, psychological thriller, mystery ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  5 stars
  7.  Man of War by Sean Parnell – thriller, military thriller ⭐⭐⭐  3 stars
  8. A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi – Young Adult fiction, contemporary fiction ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  5 stars

Reflecting on my choice of reads for the past month, I would say that I have chosen well. I read so many books that I enjoyed! Two of them, The Lost Queen and Shadow of the Fox, have sequels coming out (hopefully next year). I enjoy both of these genres (historical ad fantasy) and look forward to continuing with the stories. As I have to choose one for my favourite, I would choose Shadow of the Fox. Why? For the humour. Reading the story made me smile, and made me think of the anime that I enjoyed watching with my family a few Christmases ago.

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

Favourite Read of the Month:

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

Book Review: The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris

I was curious to read The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris as I have enjoyed watching the shows he has performed in for TV.

Genre: Children’s fiction

Blurb: 

When street magician Carter runs away, he never expects to find friends and magic in a sleepy New England town. But like any good trick, things change instantly as greedy B.B. Bosso and his crew of crooked carnies arrive to steal anything and everything they can get their sticky fingers on.

After a fateful encounter with the local purveyor of illusion, Dante Vernon, Carter teams up with five other like-minded kids. Together, using both teamwork and magic, they’ll set out to save the town of Mineral Wells from Bosso’s villainous clutches. These six Magic Misfits will soon discover adventure, friendship, and their own self-worth in this delightful new series.

My thoughts: 

This is a perfect read for those tweens who love magic and adventure. The narrator speaks directly to the reader, inviting them to immerse themselves in the story – a story which is interrupted with explanations of magic tricks (which young magicians would adore). As I was reading the story, I could not help but think of some of my students who would enjoy the side narration given by the author of events and magic. Difficult words are seamlessly explained by Harris within the story and the teacher in me loves that the readers will learn new vocabulary. I could see this easily becoming a favourite of some young readers. It is fun, has humorous moments, and is a story of outcasts who become friends and save the day.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 76th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)