Book Review: Still Mine by Amy Stuart

A while back I read Still Water by Amy Stuart (book review here) and realised that it was the second book in a series. I enjoyed the book and decided that I wanted to read the first novel titled Still Mine.

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Blurb:

Clare is on the run.

From her past, from her ex, and from her own secrets. When she turns up alone in the remote mining town of Blackmore asking about Shayna Fowles, the local girl who disappeared, everyone wants to know who Clare really is and what she’s hiding. As it turns out, she’s hiding a lot, including what ties her to Shayna in the first place. But everyone in this place is hiding something from Jared, Shayna’s golden-haired ex-husband, to Charlie, the charming small-town drug pusher, to Derek, Shayna’s overly involved family doctor, to Louise and Wilfred, her distraught parents.

Did Shayna flee? Was she killed? Is it possible she’s still alive?

As Clare uncovers the mysteries around Shayna’s disappearance, she must confront her own demons, moving us deeper and deeper into the labyrinth of lies and making us question what it is she’s really running from. Twisting and electrifying, this is a get-under-your-skin thriller that will make you question what it means to lose yourself and find yourself in the most unlikely places.

My thoughts:

Still Mine was Amy Stuart’s debut novel and I regret not having read it before her second as some of the suspense she created In this story was ruined as I knew some of what would happen. Having said that, I still enjoyed the story between the pages.

The story is more than about a missing woman; it is also about an abused woman (Clare) who is running away from a violent husband. Throughout the novel, these two threads are interwoven as we learn about the two women. For me, Clare’s story was interesting as she attempts to make a new life for herself. I enjoyed reading her story (as I did in the second) and I look forward to reading the third book in the series (which I know the writer is currently working on). Shayna’s story seems almost to be a backdrop to Clare’s – but it is interesting as well and ends in an unexpected way.

Still Mine is not the type of psychological thriller that will have you biting your fingernails. Instead it follows more the pattern of a mystery with Clare as the character who is searching to solve the puzzle. Stuart’s novel is a well-written tale that is easy to read.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 31st in my book pledge for 2019)

Advertisements

Book Review: Love and Other Curses by Michael Thomas Ford

At the Spring event of Frenzy Presents held by Harper Collins Publishers earlier this year, I was lucky to receive an ARC of Love and Other Curses by Michael Thomas Ford. The blurb of the book suggested that the story would be fun to read as well as a little different.

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Blurb:

The Weyward family has been haunted by a curse for generations—if a Weyward falls in love before their seventeenth birthday, the person they love dies. Sam doesn’t plan to fall for anyone in the nine weeks before his birthday. He’ll spend his time working at the Eezy-Freeze with his dad; cooking up some midsummer magic with his grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother (the Grands); and experimenting with drag with the help of the queens at the Shangri-La, the local gay club. But when a new guy comes to town, Sam finds himself in trouble when they strike up a friendship that might be way more than that.

As Sam’s birthday approaches and he still hasn’t quite fallen in love, the curse seems to get more powerful and less specific about who it targets. A mysterious girl Sam talks to on the phone late at night and a woman he’s only seen in a dream might have the answers he’s been looking for—but time is running out to save the people he cares about.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed reading this light-hearted story that centres on a young man who learns about himself through his relationship with others. Not only does he comes to realises who he is, he also discovers what his drag persona is to be. The brief entry that this story gives into the world of the drag queen is a fun and enjoyable one (so much so, that I wished we saw more of this world). Sam learns what is important is his own life as well as realises who plays an important part in his life.

This contemporary young adult read is a perfect story for young teens as they will read about a character who experiences the difficulties of knowing oneself. The young reader will also explore the different aspects of the relationships we have in our lives. Ford’s story also shows the importance of family and how they can support you – even when you are unaware of it. This novel is a beautifully written story that can be enjoyed by adults and teens alike.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 30th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The Object of Your Affections by Falguni Kothari

While at the OLA Super Conference in February, I picked up an ARC of The Object of Your Affections by Falguni Kothari at the Harper Collins booth. The story intrigued me as it is a little different to what one would expect of a romance – it is definitely a story that pushes the social boundaries.

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

Paris Kahn Fraser has it all—a successful career as an assistant district attorney, a beautiful home in New York City, and a handsome, passionate husband who chose her over having a family of his own. Neal’s dream of fatherhood might have been the only shadow in their otherwise happy life…until Paris’s best friend comes to town.

Naira Dalmia never thought she’d be a widow before thirty. Left reeling in the aftermath of her husband’s death, all she wants is to start over. She trades Mumbai for New York, and rigid family expectations for the open acceptance of her best friend. After all, there isn’t anything she and Paris wouldn’t do for each other.

But when Paris asks Naira to be their surrogate, they’ll learn if their friendship has what it takes to defy society, their families and even their own biology as these two best friends embark on a journey that will change their lives forever.

My thoughts:

I liked this story because it centres around an unusual concept – the main character asks her best friend to be her surrogate even though she is able to bear children. It is interesting to see how the people in her life respond to her out-of-the-box thinking. As the reader, I was asked to think of my own prejudices and consider the unusual arrangement Paris wishes to embrace – and think about whether this sort of arrangement would actually work in reality.

Paris is a character who does not embody my favourite type of person. She is self-centred, selfish and arrogant. She focuses on what she wants and how she c attain in it. She does, however, come to a few realisations in the novel about herself. She does not, however, become a selfless woman who abandons her desires. Instead, her self-realisation softens her arrogance a little and helps her to consider other important aspects in her life. Naira, on the other hand, is a woman who allows things to be done to her and does not fight for what she wants. That is, until she is physically away from her domineering family. She, too, grows in the story and blossoms into a more modern woman.

The Object of Your Affections is a novel that show the antithesis between two types of two women. While showing a culture in which women are expected to behave in a certain way, it highlights how women are starting to find ways to achieve what it is they want in modern society. Kothari wrote a romance novel but she put a different spin on it. It is romance in modern society; romance that breaks all the expected moulds.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 29th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The Matchmaker’s List by Sonya Lalli

I was in the mood for reading a romance and while browsing the tables at my local book store, I came across The Matchmaker’s List by Sonya Lalli. The story interested me as it centres around a culture so different to mine. The bonus is that the novel was written by a Canadian.

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

One devoted modern girl + a meddlesome, traditional grandmother = a heartwarming multicultural romantic comedy about finding love where you least expect it.

Raina Anand may have finally given in to family pressure and agreed to let her grandmother play matchmaker, but that doesn’t mean she has to like it–or that she has to play by the rules. Nani always took Raina’s side when she tried to push past the traditional expectations of their tight-knit Indian-immigrant community, but now she’s ambushing Raina with a list of suitable bachelors. Is it too much to ask for a little space? Besides, what Nani doesn’t know won’t hurt her…

As Raina’s life spirals into a parade of Nani-approved bachelors and disastrous blind dates, she must find a way out of this modern-day arranged-marriage trap without shattering her beloved grandmother’s dreams.

My thoughts:

This book was so interesting to read because it is set within a culture so different to mine. I grew up knowing that the choice of my life-partner would be mine – and yet in this book I read of a community that encourages matchmaking and pseudo arranged marriages. The dates that Raina, the protagonist, goes on made me smile – as did her response. The novel definitely embraces the humour of the situation that she finds herself in. It was interesting to see how she negotiated her way around the matchmaking practices of her grandmother.

The Matchmaker’s List is not just a ‘fluffy’ read. Instead it comments on matchmaking and why it may, or may not be, suitable for a modern woman. It also suggests that the desire to match-make comes from a place of love. We see a strong relationship between Raina and her grandmother – and soon realise why she would accept to go on the dates her beloved Nani has organised.

During the novel, the reader sees a growth in the main protagonist as she comes to understand what it is that she wants in a relationship – and what type of man with whom she would like to spend the rest of her life. It is the personal growth of Raina that makes this novel more than just a forgettable story. Her struggles and her realisations are so similar to many young women dating and falling in love in the modern world. In addition, her experience is one that is not seen often in mainstream literature and film.

Lalli has written a wonderful romantic comedy that embraces the experience of a modern woman living in a modern city (Toronto) who embraces her culture. I enjoyed reading this romantic comedy and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading romance.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 28th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: All The Wrong Places by Joy Fielding

I have read Joy Fielding’s novels in the past and looked forward to reading this one. In addition, the synopsis sounded relevant as so many people try online dating.

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense

Blurb:

A husband’s death, a difficult divorce, a brutal break-up, dissatisfaction with a boring relationship: for various reasons, four women turn to online dating, hoping to right-swipe the way to love and happiness.

Paige and Heather are cousins, locked in a lifelong rivalry that recently culminated in Heather taking Paige’s boyfriend for herself, although now Heather isn’t quite sure she wants him. Paige’s mother, Joan, is trying to get back on her feet after the death of the love of her life two years ago. And Paige’s longtime friend, Chloe, is considering giving her unfaithful husband a taste of his own medicine.

Together, the women are navigating the choppy waters of online dating, until one of them unwittingly makes a date with a killer, starting the clock on a race to save her life.

New York Times bestselling author Joy Fielding has written a complex, electrifying thriller about friendship, jealousy, and passion–a deadly combination. 

My thoughts:

Online dating is now a normal part of modern dating and is often suggested to be a safe way to meet people – especially if certain rules are followed: text before meeting, let family and friends know where you will be, meet in a public place. And yet a serial killer is still able to kill the women he ‘dates’. He is still able to convince these women that he is someone to be trusted.

Even though the killer does feature in the novel, All The Wrong Places is much more than a murder story. What we read about is the rapport between four women: their support structure, their jealousies, their insecurities. I enjoyed the exploration of their relationships – relationships that I see mirrored in so many of what I have observed and experienced in my own life.

Fielding skillfully moves the reader between the experience of the four women, while inserting in the story the intentions of a killer. She scatters hints in the dialogue, suggesting who may be the next victim. I became engrossed in the tale, was surprised at some twists, and turned the pages quickly to see who would survive. I loved this novel for the fast-paced story within its pages and would recommend it to any reader who enjoys thrillers.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 27th in my book pledge for 2019)

Favourite Read of the Month: March 2019

I have been enjoying my books which is why I am a little behind on my Book Of The Month post. I am also finding it a little difficult to sit behind my computer when I get home – all I want to do is relax. It is definitely that time of year when I feel tired and wish only to rest and recuperate.

During During March, I read 9 books towards my book pledge for 2019 which brings my total to 26 books.

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

  1. Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward – Thriller ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars
  2. Be My Love by Kit Pearson – Middle grade fiction ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars
  3. Operatic by Kyo Maclear – Middle Grade fiction, Young Adult, Graphic Novels ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars
  4. Ogre Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine – Middle Grade fiction, Fantasy ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars
  5. A Justified Murder by Jude Deveraux – Mystery, Romance, Contemporary ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars
  6. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang – Romance ⭐⭐⭐⭐4 stars
  7. Remade by Danielle Novotny  – YA Fantasy, Science-Fiction ⭐⭐ 2 stars
  8. The Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds – YA Contemporary ⭐⭐ 2 stars
  9. The Rebel Mages by Laurie Forest – YA Fantasy ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars

There were a number of books that I enjoyed during March – as well as two that were disappointing reads. However my favourite was definitely The Rebel Mages by Laurie Forest. Her story has captured my attention and the collection of novellas did not disappoint me.

I hope you read as many wonderful stories as I did in March. What was your favourite read? Share your choice, or the link to your post, below.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

Book of the Month: January 2019

Book of the Month: February 2019

Book Review: The Rebel Mages by Laurie Forest

Ever since I had finished the second novel in Laurie Forest’s series of The Black Witch Chronicles, I had been waiting for The Rebel Mages to come out. I pre-ordered the novel and, as soon as I received it, I opened the pages and read it.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult Fantasy

Blurb:

The novel contains two novellas which had been previously published as e-books. The book contains the back story to the characters found in The Black Witch: Elloren Gardner and Sagellyn Gaffney.

Wandfasted

Twenty years before Elloren Gardner enrolled at the illustrious Verpax University, Erthia was rent asunder during the devastating Realm War. When Tessla Harrow is driven from her home by the fighting, she discovers a depth of power she never knew she had…and an irresistible draw toward Vale Gardner, the son of the most powerful mage her people have ever known—the Black Witch.

Light Mage

Before Elloren came to possess the White Wand of myth, the Wand was drawn to another bearer: Sagellyn Gaffney. Sage’s affinity for light magery, a rare skill among Gardnerians, makes her the perfect protector for the one tool that can combat the shadows spreading across Erthia. But in order to keep the Wand safe from the dark forces hunting for it, Sage must abandon everything she once knew and forge a new path for herself…a dangerous course that could lead to either triumph or utter ruin.

My thoughts:

I loved delving into Laurie Forest’s world again. The images that she creates in my mind with her words are so beautiful. I adore her characters and enjoyed reading the back story to The Black Witch. The characterisations are on point, and the issues that she addresses run seamlessly throughout the story. There were a number of moments in both novellas when I got goosebumps – the author’s words pulled me in and then suddenly a sentence would take me back to the first book I read in the series – or to a moment in human life that is reflected in the scene.

Reading The Rebel Mages underscored, for me, what it is I enjoy about the fantasy known as The Black Witch Chronicles. The story is more than just a Fantasy set in a world of fantastical characters. Instead it is a critique on society, on oppression, on prejudice. It is also a story of hope and the dream that all peoples, no matter what race or culture, can live together in freedom. Forest is a writer who has woven her experiences of the world into a magical tale that has certainly captured – and held – my attention.

Now I wait impatiently for the third novel in the series. These novellas have only whet my appetite for more of Elloren’s story.

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

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 26th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds

I received a copy of Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds at the Spring Frenzy Presents event held by Harper Collins Canada. I loved the cover when I received it and was told that the story would be a good one.

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Young Adult Romance

Blurb:

Jack Ellison King. King of Almost.

He almost made valedictorian.

He almost made varsity.

He almost got the girl . . . 

When Jack and Kate meet at a party, bonding until sunrise over their mutual love of Froot Loops and their favorite flicks, Jack knows he’s falling—hard. Soon she’s meeting his best friends, Jillian and Franny, and Kate wins them over as easily as she did Jack. Jack’s curse of almost is finally over.

But this love story is . . . complicated. It is an almost happily ever after. Because Kate dies. And their story should end there. Yet Kate’s death sends Jack back to the beginning, the moment they first meet, and Kate’s there again. Beautiful, radiant Kate. Healthy, happy, and charming as ever. Jack isn’t sure if he’s losing his mind. Still, if he has a chance to prevent Kate’s death, he’ll take it. Even if that means believing in time travel. However, Jack will learn that his actions are not without consequences. And when one choice turns deadly for someone else close to him, he has to figure out what he’s willing to do—and let go—to save the people he loves.

My thoughts:

I was enjoying the novel until I was asked to suspend my disbelief and to go back in the past with the protagonist and re-experience an event – more than once. Reliving the same episode was difficult for me especially when I realised that the character had actually gone back in the past with his knowledge of the future. Re-experiencing the past was not a reflection on what he could have done differently; instead it was actually reliving the events and changing the story of the characters.

The repetition of the same event with minor changes did become a bit tedious to read and I found myself skimming paragraphs (not a good sign). I was a little disappointed, too, that the story ended on a happy note. I am of the realistic bent and, even though I enjoy happy endings in stories, some tales do not merit it. And this one, I feel, should not have had it as the girl does have an illness that affects her longevity.

Having said all of the above, I did enjoy Jack, the main character. He reads like a typical teenager who is experiencing his first relationship. He falls head over heels with a girl an reacts in the way a young boy would. I believed the description of his experience easily and had no doubt of his charm. It was interesting to see how he developed as a character in the story, and how he came to certain realisations of his friendship with the girl he loved as well as his close friends and parents. The characterisation of Jack was, for me, the saving grace of this novel.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 25th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Remade by Danielle Novotny

I entered a giveaway for Remade by Danielle Novotny on Twitter as the synopsis of the novel intrigued me. I was happy to learn that I had won and looked forward to reading this beautiful looking novel when I received it.

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, Science Fiction

Blurb:

For her whole life, Aliya Rathburn thought life only existed on Earth. But after nearly dying in a car crash, Aliya wakes up on Callais – a planet that she never knew existed. In order to save her life, Doctor Gydyon Givray had to reconstruct Aliya with materials that were strange and advanced to her, and Aliya finds out that she now has strength and speed beyond her wildest imagination. Determined to hide her new abilities, Aliya tries to fly under the radar when she’s sent to the Protective Forces, the galaxy’s military. As Aliya struggles to accept herself after these incredible yet unwanted changes, a sinister force emerges to threaten the galaxy’s peace. When lives are on the line, will Aliya face her inner demons or will the rising darkness win?

My thoughts:

The synopsis to this novel promised an interesting story but, unfortunately, I was disappointed. The story I read was predictable with no surprises and, as I read the novel, I kept hoping for something new and original. The story read, instead, like an episode of Star Trek which, although I enjoyed as a teen, as an adult I find unoriginal and predictable.

The story of Remade was okay and so was the writing. Many times I wished Novotny would show me the story was instead of telling me what the character was feeling. I wanted to decipher for myself what Aliya’s emotions were, instead of being told; I wanted to get the sense of what she was thinking and not read an entire paragraph on her thought processes. Novotny is a debut author and I am sure that, with time, her writing style may evolve. But for now, the words within the pages did not grab my attention and keep it for long periods of time.

I give this novel ⭐️ ⭐️ 2 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 24th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

I was in the mood for some Romance reading and while browsing at our local bookstore, I came across a book that came highly recommended on social media: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang. They synopsis intrigued me so I picked it up.

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases — a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice — with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan — from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…

My thoughts:

I was in the mood for a feel-good romance and Hoang delivered! I love that Stella is a heroine with a difference and that she is not portrayed as perfect. She makes mistakes, mistakes that are believable as we know she has Asperger’s. As I read Stella’s story, I gained a little understanding of how someone with Asperger’s would react to changes in her life and routine. Her reactions only endeared me more to the character and made me invested in her story.

Not only does the reader get to know Stella’s side of the story, but also gains insight into Michael’s thoughts – a man who works as an escort one day a week. The reader slowly understands why he is a perfect fit for our heroine – and why she is for him. The stories of both characters are told with insight – especially the experience of Stella. The slow pace of their falling in love is exquisite and one that had me rapidly turning the pages.

The Kiss Quotient is not a cheesy romance – though it is steamy and sexy. The sex scenes are described in detail so, if these paragraphs are not for you, skip them and immerse yourself in a wonderful story that will make you smile. This novel was such a fun read for me and perfect for an afternoon of reading on the sofa. I will definitely be reading another romance by this author.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 23rd in my book pledge for 2019)