Book Review: I Invited Her In by Adele Parks

Over the weekend I decided to pick up one of the ARCs I had received when I attended the OLA Super Conference. I chose I Invited Her In by Adele Parks because I had seen mention of this novel on social media and I was curious about it. In addition, I always enjoy reading a good thriller.

Genre: Thriller, Suspense

Blurb: 

When Mel receives an unexpected email from her oldest friend Abi, it brings back memories she thought she had buried forever. Their friendship belonged in the past. To those carefree days at university.

But Abi is in trouble and needs Mel’s help, and she wants a place to stay. Just for a few days, while she sorts things out. It’s the least Mel can do.

After all, friends look out for each other, don’t they?

I Invited Her In is a blistering tale of wanting what you can’t have, jealousy, and revenge.

My thoughts: 

The story is told from four different points of view: Mel, Abi (Mel’s friend), Ben (Mel’s husband), and Liam (Mel’s son).As expected with so many different points of view, the background story takes a while for the reader to learn. After reading a third of the story, I do admit that my interest was lagging a little and I could not wait for something to happen. I knew there had to be a catalyst as the novel had been described as a suspense story. It just seemed to take a long time to happen.

About halfway through the novel, the change of pace occurred. From that moment on, I turned the pages quickly and became engrossed in the story. Whereas before the catalyst I was feeling some annoyance at Mel’s behaviour and a little frustration at the slow pace of the novel; after reaching the mid-point I felt an entire range of emotions: disbelief and anger being the foremost. I do not want to say what caused my anger as it will give the story away but it is enough to say that I know of two women who have experienced some of the unpleasantness of what Mel experiences in the story – and I relived the anger and disbelief that I felt on their behalf.

Even though I found the novel slow-going at first, I was later gripped by the story and could not put it down (luckily I did not have to go in to work on the day I completed it). It is a novel that reflects what happens to some women and I cannot help but wonder where the author found her inspiration I Invited Her In is a novel that may sound far-fetched to some; but it is a novel that reflects a partial truth of what may be happening in many families. If you enjoy reading suspense within a family setting, this is a perfect novel for you.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 11th in my book pledge for 2019)

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Book Review: Inkling by Kenneth Oppel

During the recent OLA (Ontario Library Association) Super Conference, I was fortunate enough to attend a book signing by Kenneth Oppel, a well-known Canadian author of middle grade literature. I got his book Inkling signed for my daughter with the proviso that I read it before she gets it.

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Children’s Fiction

Blurb: 

Ethan’s dad is a comic artist whose greatest creation, the mutant superhero Kren, brought him fame and glory. But after his dad’s string of successful books, a tragedy strikes the family and now his dad is completely stuck.

If only artistic talent were hereditary. Ethan is stuck on a graphic-novel project of his own at school and won’t own up to the fact that he can’t draw. When one night an ink-blot creation emerges from his father’s sketchbook, the family’s whole world begins to change.

Featuring artwork by the beloved, award-winning illustrator Sydney Smith, Inkling is a timeless story that speaks to the creator in us all.

My thoughts: 

I loved this book even before reading it! The illustrations are perfect for the story, and I loved the scent of the novel as I paged through it. It reminded me of the days I used to use the roneo machine to make copies of worksheets for my class.

Right from the first page, I fell in love with the story. We are introduced to an unusual character in the novel: Inkling, a blot of ink that come’s from the sketchbook of Ethan’s dad. With the advent of Inkling, a young boy (Ethan) comes to certain realisations about himself; and a dad comes to realise that he has been neglecting his family and where he should go with his art.

The story kept me engrossed and I finished it in two sittings. There was not a moment when I was bored with the story; or a time when I thought I would put the book aside. Instead as I kept flipping the pages over, I thought of how much my students would love this novel. The one character, Inkling, is unusual and yet Ethan is a normal boy living at home, going to school, and doing things young boys do. It is the type of life readers would recognise and connect with. Readers would also recognise the friendships and rivalries described in the story.

Kenneth Oppel has once again written a story that will capture the hearts and imagination of his audience. This novel is creative, has a sense of adventure, and touches on issues important to young readers. This children’s book will, I believe, keep the young child turning the page to find out what Inkling will get up to next. I highly recommend this book for the 7 – 12 year old in your life. Even a reluctant reader’s imagination will be captured by Kenneth Oppel’s Inkling.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 10th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The Huntress by Kate Quinn

I enjoy reading historical fiction as not only are you introduced to wonderful characters, but you are introduced to a segment of history. I had not read any books by Kate Quinn and was eager to read the ARC of The Huntress sent to me by Harper Collins Canada.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Blurb: 

A fascinating historical novel about a battle-haunted English journalist and a Russian female bomber pilot who join forces to track the Huntress, a Nazi war criminal gone to ground in America.

Bold, reckless Nina Markova grows up on the icy edge of Soviet Russia, dreaming of flight and fearing nothing. When the tide of war sweeps over her homeland, she gambles everything to join the infamous Night Witches, an all-female night bomber regiment wreaking havoc on Hitler’s eastern front. But when she is downed behind enemy lines and thrown across the path of a lethal Nazi murderess known as the Huntress, Nina must use all her wits to survive.

British war correspondent Ian Graham has witnessed the horrors of war from Omaha Beach to the Nuremberg Trials. He abandons journalism after the war to become a Nazi hunter, yet one target eludes him: the Huntress. Fierce, disciplined Ian must join forces with brazen, cocksure Nina, the only witness to escape the Huntress alive. But a shared secret could derail their mission, unless Ian and Nina force themselves to confront it.

Seventeen-year-old Jordan McBride grows up in post WWII Boston, determined despite family opposition to become a photographer. At first delighted when her long-widowed father brings home a fiancée, Jordan grows increasingly disquieted by the soft-spoken German widow who seems to be hiding something. Armed only with her camera and her wits, Jordan delves into her new stepmother’s past and slowly realizes there are mysteries buried deep in her family. But Jordan’s search for the truth may threaten all she holds dear.

My thoughts: 

The novel is told from three points of view: Nina, Ian, and Jordan. Their experiences and thoughts are expertly woven to create a story that I enjoyed and raced through. An added bonus of the story is that the two women (Nina and Jordan) are both shown as being courageous: Nina fearlessly flies a night bomber during the war; and Jordan begins to believe in her own courage and perception.

Even though I learned a little snippet of history in this novel, I was not bored. Instead, the history is a necessary part of the novel that sets the scene for bravery, romance, and heartache. I loved that there was a little romance in the story; and that unexpected happiness could be found in spite of the War. Quinn realistically describes her characters and their experiences and, with the descriptions given, I was able to see in my mind the scenes that she had set. I could not help but turn the pages avidly to discover the next step in the characters’ experiences.

The Huntress was an excellent read. I have enjoyed the story so much I am convinced I need to pick up Quinn’s previous novel, The Alice Network (which is still on the bestseller list). If you enjoy historical fiction, this novel needs to be added to your TBR list.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 9th in my book pledge for 2019)

Favourite Read of the Month: January 2019

During the month of January, I read 8 books towards my book pledge for 2019. According to the website I use to track my reads, I am behind on my pledge. That is understandable as I have begun work and have had not had as much time to read. What I did read, though, I mostly enjoyed.

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

  1. Policy of Truth by Scarlett Holloway – romance ⭐⭐ 2 stars
  2. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan – romance, contemporary  ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars
  3. China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan – romance, contemporary ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars
  4. Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan – romance, contemporary ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars
  5. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (illustrated edition) by J. K. Rowling – young adult, fantasy ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars
  6. Catwoman by Sarah J. Maas – young adult, fantasy ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars
  7. Geekerella by Ashley Poston – young adult, romance ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars
  8. What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera – young adult, romance ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars

There were a number of books that I enjoyed during the month of January. My favourite novel, though, was a re-read – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling. What made this re-read extra special for me were the paintings in the illustrated edition. I savoured the story, the illustrations as well as the characters and fell in love once again with the story. I plan to read again the second novel in the Harry Potter series during the month of February – the other novels I read will be up against a strong competition 🙂

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

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

Book Review: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

I was still in the mood for a little romance so I picked up What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera. I had seen so many positive comments about this novel over social media that I hoped I would not be disappointed.

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Blurb: 

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play? But what if it is?

My thoughts: 

Arthur and Ben: the encounter of two young boys who are meant to meet. The story is told from two points of view: Ben’s and Arthur’s. Ben is the New Yorker who has just come out of a broken relationship. Arthur is in New York for the summer. He is starry-eyed and never been in love. It is his determination and enthusiasm that changes a chance meeting in a post office to the chance to get to know another. I love the naivete of Arthur and how his enthusiasm makes Ben a believer in the possibilities.

This novel definitely made me smile. Who can’t but love the description of first love? And what makes this story relevant for teens today is that it is a love story between two boys who are finding their place in the world and who are learning to be comfortable with who they are. The novel fills in a gap that has existed in the reading world and shows boys that it is okay to fall in love with someone of the same sex – that it is not something to be ashamed of.

Without giving much away, I will say that I liked the ending. It is not a traditional ending for a romance; but it is an ending that is perfect for a teen novel. I started this book wondering if the social media hype was accurate; and ended it with the conclusion that What If It’s Us was well worth the read.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 8th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Geekerella by Ashley Poston

A Cinderella retell, geekiness, and fan fiction. I could not resist reading Geekerella by Ashley Poston.

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Retelling

Blurb:

Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic science-fiction series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck and her dad’s old costume, Elle’s determined to win – unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons – before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he has ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake – until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?

Part-romance, part-love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.

My thoughts: 

This was a sweet romance between two young people that reminded me of my young daughter – who  definitely has her fandoms. Not only does she have her fandoms, but as a young girl she loved the Cinderella story. I enjoyed the modern retelling of her favourite Disney princess – and loved how the aspect of fandom was woven within it. When reading the blurb, I was intrigued by the suggestion of the combination. Did the writer do a good job? Yes, I believe she did. The utter seriousness of those following fandoms is integrated with the notion of an uncaring stepmother who takes advantage of her stepchild.

Geekerella is a simple story that kept me smiling. It is a modern tale that embraces the magic of fandom, and which encouraged me to keep turning thepages. It is the perfect read for those like my daughter – a teen who will understand the seriousness of fandoms, and who wishes for a little romance. I enjoyed this lighthearted read and look forward to reading Postons upcoming book The Princess and the Fangirl. 

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 7th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas

I wanted to introduce myself to Sarah J. Maas and her writing as I had seen so much of her work on Instagram. While browsing her offerings at the bookstore, I saw that she had written a superhero story. I love superheroes, so I picked up her interpretation of Catwoman: Soulstealer.

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Superheroes

Blurb: 

When the Bat’s away, the Cat will play. It’s time to see how many lives this cat really has. . . .

Two years after escaping Gotham City’s slums, Selina Kyle returns as the mysterious and wealthy Holly Vanderhees. She quickly discovers that with Batman off on a vital mission, Batwing is left to hold back the tide of notorious criminals. Gotham City is ripe for the taking.

Meanwhile, Luke Fox wants to prove he has what it takes to help people in his role as Batwing. He targets a new thief on the prowl who seems cleverer than most. She has teamed up with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, and together they are wreaking havoc. This Catwoman may be Batwing’s undoing.

My thoughts: 

I loved this story and did not regret picking it up. Maas makes Selina’s story real and believable. Through her words we see the true person behind the mask (and no, I haven’t read the comic book so I am unable to compare). We are told of Catwoman’s background and the journey she took to become one of the masked characters in Gotham city. We learn of the obstacles she has encountered, the decisions she has had to make, and the love that she has for the most important person in her world. In the story we also learn about another superhero – Batwing – and I enjoyed reading the cat and mouse game that Catwoman plays with him.

Reading this story made me realise that I do want to read more of Sarah J. Maas. She weaves her story adroitly and sets a good pace for the story. Reading Catwoman: Soulstealer has also made me want to read the rest of the DC Iconns in the series.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 6th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

This year I plan to re-read the Harry Potter books. It has been a while since I have read them and I have forgotten many of the small details – details that the children in my class this year speak about. To begin my journey into J. K. Rowling’s magical world, I began with the illustrated version of The Philosopher’s Stone.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Blurb: 

Harry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a broom far above the ground. He knows no spells, has never helped to hatch a dragon, and has never worn a cloak of invisibility.

All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley–a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry’s room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn’t had a birthday party in eleven years.

But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry–and anyone who reads about him—will find unforgettable.

My thoughts:

I loved re-reading this story and enjoyed it as much as I did the first time. I enjoyed the wizarding world that Rowling created – and the wonderful characters that populate it. The story is so much more than a story about magic, isn’t it? it is one about acceptance, prejudices, teamwork. It is about change and new experiences, about being the best you can be.

What I loved about the illustrated edition were the paintings by Jim Kay. I admired them while I was reading the text, and would often spend some time looking at the details in the illustrations. So many beautiful pictures! I could not help thinking that more Fantasy novels should be illustrated. I love that this picture book does not stop at 20 pages – instead it continues throughout the novel. Yes, the complete novel. I was concerned that the illustrated edition may be abridged but it is not. Something I am thankful for.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is a wonderful start to the series. And the illustrated version is a perfect way to introduce Harry’s story to children.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 5th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

I looked forward to reading the third and final installment in the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy. I was nearing the end of my break when I started this novel and hoped to complete it before going back to work.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Blurb: 

When Nicholas Young hears that his grandmother, Su Yi, is on her deathbed, he rushes to be by her bedside–but he’s not alone. It seems the entire Shang-Young clan has convened from all corners of the globe, ostensibly to care for their matriarch but truly to stake claim on the massive fortune that Su Yi controls.

With each family member secretly fantasizing about getting the keys to Tyersall Park–a trophy estate on 64 prime acres in the heart of Singapore–the place becomes a hotbed of intrigue and Nicholas finds himself blocked from entering the premises.

As relatives claw over heirlooms, Astrid Leong is at the center of her own storm, desperately in love with her old sweetheart Charlie Wu, but tormented by his ex-wife–a woman hell bent on destroying Astrid’s reputation and relationship. Meanwhile Kitty Pong, married to billionaire Jack Bing, finds a formidable opponent in his fashionista daughter, Colette.

My thoughts: 

The third novel in the trilogy does neatly tie up the ends to all the characters’ stories in the series. By the end of the last page, all of the reader’s questions are answered; and all the relationships Kwan has explored are shown to have reached a positive point in the story. In order to reach the positive ending of the story, we read of more antics by the ultra rich and their progeny; and wish for an ending that would favour our favourite characters.

Kwan does satisfy a reader’s desire to know answers, but I feel that he could have done it in less pages. Even though I was enjoying the story, there were times when I felt it was repetitive (maybe because I read all three novels one after the other). Repetitive not because the same action was described; but repetitive because the same sense of entitlement and exaggeration was described. There were times when I felt that Kwan could have added a little more meat to the story, and less fluff. In addition, I did not find the third novel in the series as humorous as the first two.

Having said that, I did enjoy the novel for its conclusion to a wonderful story and I would recommend it as a light read.

Have you read the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy? What did you think of it?

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 4th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan

As soon as I finished Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, I had to move onto the second book in his trilogy: China Rich Girlfriend. I needed to find out the continuation of Rachel Chu and Nicky Young’s story. Also I had a desire to know what would happen to some of the other characters I had come to know in the story.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Blurb: 

It’s the eve of Rachel Chu’s wedding, and she should be over the moon. She has a flawless Asscher-cut diamond, a wedding dress she loves, and a fiancé willing to thwart his meddling relatives and give up one of the biggest fortunes in Asia in order to marry her. Still, Rachel mourns the fact that her birthfather, a man she never knew, won’t be there to walk her down the aisle.

Then a chance accident reveals his identity. Suddenly, Rachel is drawn into a dizzying world of Shanghai splendor, a world where people attend church in a penthouse, where exotic cars race down the boulevard, and where people aren’t just crazy rich … they’re China rich.

My thoughts: 

The second novel in the trilogy was as much fun to read as the first. I laughed at the craziness of it all, and enjoyed the extravagant nature of the new wealth in China. Once again the romance in the story is interwoven with humour and wit as Kwan describes the outrageous behaviour of those with far more money than they can spend in a lifetime.

Love, however, is not always easy and Kwan shows us this in his description of Astrid and her beau. And even though Rachel and Nicky are moving towards the altar, obstacles still stand in their way. What I enjoyed most in this novel is the continuation of the stories that began in the first. Not all problems are resolved in the end (there is a third novel in the series) but some are – and mostly to my satisfaction.

The second novel in the trilogy, China Rich Girlfriend did not disappoint me. My attention was kept throughout and I completed the story in 2 days. Definitely a perfect read for those who enjoy romance with lots of humour.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 3rd in my book pledge for 2019)