Favourite Read of the Month: December 2019

During December, I read a combination of library books as well as some books I own. The library books were books I had put on hold as I had seen recommendations on Instagram.

The other novels I read were ones that I had at home. Three of them I chose because they were Christmas-themed and I felt they would put me in the mood for the Holidays.

My total for the month was 7 novels. Even though I was on break for the last week of December, going on a family vacation meant that I did not do too much reading and instead spent the time with my family. Below is the list of books that I read. To read my reviews (if you haven’t already), click on the title and you will be able to visit my post:

  1. Joanna Goodman The Home for Unwanted Girls – Historical Fiction ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars
  2. Sarah Morgan A Wedding in December – Romance, Women’s Fiction ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars
  3. Sarah Smith Faker – Romance, Women’s Fiction ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars
  4. Melissa de la Cruz Pride, Prejudice and Mistletoe – Romance, Women’s Fiction ⭐️⭐️ stars
  5. Kristen Rockaway How To Hack A Heartbreak – Romance, Women’s Fiction ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars
  6. Karen Swan The Christmas Secret – Romance, Women’s Fiction ⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars
  7. C. J. Tudor The Taking of Annie Thorne – Thriller, Mystery, Horror ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars

Even though I read a number of enjoyable novels in December, the one that stood out for me was C. J. Tudor’s novel The Taking of Annie Thorne. Not only was the story perfectly paced, but the writing was spot on. I was really impressed.

I hope you enjoyed a number of novels in December. What was your favourite read? Share your choice, or the link to your post, in the comments below.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

Book Review: The Taking of Annie Thorne by C. J. Tudor

While vacationing in the Dominican Republic, I picked up one of the novels in the resort’s library – The Taking of Annie Thorne by C. J. Tudor.

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Horror

Blurb:

One night, Annie went missing. Disappeared from her own bed. There were searches, appeals. Everyone thought the worst. And then, miraculously, after forty-eight hours, she came back. But she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say what had happened to her. Something happened to my sister. I can’t explain what. I just know that when she came back, she wasn’t the same. She wasn’t my Annie. I didn’t want to admit, even to myself, that sometimes I was scared to death of my own little sister.

My thoughts:

When I picked up C. J. Tudor’s novel, I expected to read a thriller. A couple of chapters in, I came across a scene that reminded me a lot of Stephen King’s work. It had been a long time since I had read horror and I settled in to enjoy the story. It was not the perfect time of year to read this type of story but I had not brought any other book with me on my vacation.

Right from the start, Tudor’s writing drew me in and impressed me. I enjoyed reading the way she put words together as well as her observations of human nature and society. The story is also perfectly paced and kept me wanting to read despite the many distractions I encountered while on vacation. Despite being inspired by Stephen King, C. J. Tudor has her own voice. Her characterisation is strong, her description of human nature spot-on, her storyline believable.

If you are a fan of horror fiction and of Stephen King, you need to read The Taking of Anne Thorne. The story is chilling and compelling. It grabs your imagination and pushes you through to the basis of human nature. I am now a fan and look forward to reading both her debut novel as well as her next.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 116th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The Christmas Secret by Karen Swan

I chose The Christmas Secret by Karen Swan to be one of my Holiday reads. I had not read any of her novels but I loved the cover of the novel when I picked it up in the second-hand book store.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Blurb:

They say that behind every great man, there’s a great woman, and behind London’s most powerful leaders, there stands only one—Alex Hyde, business coach par excellence. She’s the woman they turn to for advice and strategy when the pressure gets too much. So when Alex gets a call offering an unbelievable sum to discreetly manage a family member on the board of an esteemed Scottish whisky company, it’s business as usual. She can do this in her sleep. Only, she’s never met anyone like Lochlan Farqhuar before. CEO of Kentallen Distilleries, he’s also the son and heir of the company’s founder, and a man for whom there is no “no.” He’s a maverick, and Alex needs to get inside his head before he brings the company to its knees. But as she tasks herself with finding a way in, she finds that for once, she’s not the one in control. And when she stumbles across a chance discovery that changes everything, she’s suddenly not so sure she should be.

My thoughts:

The Christmas Secret was the perfect read that put me in the mood for the Holiday season. It is a light romantic read that is set during the time before Christmas. Swan’s pacing is perfectly suited to this genre as the reader gets to know the characters in the story while has the choice to put the novel aside to tend to life responsibilities. The characters themselves are what you would expect to find in a romance novel – as is the push and pull of the attraction between Alex and Lochan, the love interest in the novel.

The story is told in the first person and in the voice of Alex. As is expected of a romance novel, the reader does not get to see too deeply into the heroine’s thought processes although I did get a glimmer of her pain and was curious as to what had caused it. The story, however, is not a typical Hallmark romance as The Christmas Secret does have more depth than the cookie-cutter romances.

I enjoyed reading Swan’s novel – it was a relaxing read that I could put aside when I needed to and then continue to enjoy with no problem. It was interesting to read a little about the Scottish setting as well as a bit about the making of whiskey. I am curious to see what her other books are like and intend to pick up another of her stories in the future.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 115th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: How To Hack A Heartbreak by Kristen Rockaway

At one of the Harper Collins events, I received an sampler containing the first few chapters of 5 romantic comedies to be released in 2019. I had not yet read How To Hack A Heartbreak by Kristen Rockaway by November so I decided to pick up a copy of the novel from the library.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Blurb:

By day, Mel Strickland is an underemployed helpdesk tech at a startup incubator, Hatch, where she helps entitled brogrammers—”Hatchlings”—who can’t even fix their own laptops, but are apparently the next wave of startup geniuses. And by night, she goes on bad dates with misbehaving dudes she’s matched with on the ubiquitous dating app, Fluttr.

But after one dick pic too many, Mel has had it. Using her brilliant coding skills, she designs an app of her own, one that allows users to log harrassers and abusers in online dating space. It’s called JerkAlert, and it goes viral overnight.

Mel is suddenly in way over her head. Worse still, her almost-boyfriend, the dreamy Alex Hernandez—the only non-douchey guy at Hatch—has no idea she’s the brains behind the app. Soon, Mel is faced with a terrible choice: one that could destroy her career, love life, and friendships, or change her life forever.

My thoughts:

The novel highlights a woman’s working experience in the male dominated world of coding. In addition, it is a commentary on the online dating experience. How To Hack A Heartbreak is the story of a woman’s journey towards self fulfilment in both the workplace and her personal life.

The novel is not a romance following the template as you would expect – instead the romantic aspect of the novel is minimal. This type of story seems to be the new template for the modern romance and I am loving it! After all, a woman’s life is not merely centred around romance; instead romance is only a part of what makes a woman happy and fulfilled.

Mel responds to an experience many women have with online dating – and her response leads her to ultimately make a change in her life. She is faced with some decisions which lead her to make choices that reflect what type of person she is. Mel is a character that grows in the story: her self-reflection does lead to a response that becomes life-changing. She grows as a person – and this growth is not dependent on the love of a man. Instead the acceptance of a man in her life is portrayed as secondary.

I enjoyed reading Rockaway’s novel: I loved the main character as well as the insight into online dating (which I personally have never experienced). The novel is well paced and kept my interest until the end. It was the perfect read for this time of year as it can be set aside for a moment and them picked up again to enjoy.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 114th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is my favourite classic novel and when I saw Melissa de la Cruz had written Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe, I knew I had to read it as I love retellings of Austen’s classic.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Blurb:

Darcy Fitzwilliam is 29, beautiful, successful, and brilliant. She dates hedge funders and basketball stars and is never without her three cellphones—one for work, one for play, and one to throw at her assistant (just kidding). Darcy’s never fallen in love, never has time for anyone else’s drama, and never goes home for Christmas if she can help it. But when her mother falls ill, she comes home to Pemberley, Ohio, to spend the season with her family.

Her parents throw their annual Christmas bash, where she meets one Luke Bennet, the smart, sardonic slacker son of their neighbor. Luke is 32-years-old and has never left home. He’s a carpenter and makes beautiful furniture, and is content with his simple life. He comes from a family of five brothers, each one less ambitious than the other. When Darcy and Luke fall into bed after too many eggnogs, Darcy thinks it’s just another one night stand. But why can’t she stop thinking of Luke? What is it about him? And can she fall in love, or will her pride and his prejudice against big-city girls stand in their way?

My thoughts:

I have read many excellent retellings of Pride and Prejudice in the past and looked forward to this one with eagerness. On the third page when I read the sentence incorporating the phrase “it is a truth universally acknowledged”, I rubbed my hands with glee. I was, however, disappointed as the novel progressed.

The original gender roles in the novel have been swapped – for example Austen’s Darcy is a female character. The gender swapping could have worked (I have seen it done in other novels) however the characters in de la Cruz’s novel fall a little flat. The actions of Darcy, Luke, and even Bingley are presented superficially. The self reflection of the main character (in this novel it is Darcy) seems forced and pedantic. Austen’s characterisation and comment on social issues is perfectly pitched and the characters in this retelling do fall flat by comparison.

Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe was a disappointing read. I felt the story was too superficial and rushed. If the author had spent more time character building and digging deeper into the issues hinted at, the novel would have been a lot meatier and a more enjoyable read.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 113th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Faker by Sarah Smith

I had seen positive comments about Faker by Sarah Smith on Instagram. When I saw the book had arrived at the library, I decided to put the novel on hold.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Blurb:

Emmie Echavarre is a professional faker. She has to be to survive as one of the few female employees at Nuts & Bolts, a power tool company staffed predominantly by gruff, burly men. From nine to five, Monday through Friday, she’s tough as nails–the complete opposite of her easy-going real self.

One thing she doesn’t have to fake? Her disdain for coworker Tate Rasmussen. Tate has been hostile to her since the day they met. Emmie’s friendly greetings and repeated attempts to get to know him failed to garner anything more than scowls and terse one-word answers. Too bad she can’t stop staring at his Thor-like biceps…

When Emmie and Tate are forced to work together on a charity construction project, things get…heated. Emmie’s beginning to see that beneath Tate’s chiseled exterior lies a soft heart, but it will take more than a few kind words to erase the past and convince her that what they have is real. 

My thoughts:

The banter between the two main characters, Emmie and Tate, reminded me so much of The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. I loved it! It made me laugh and definitely encouraged me to read more than I had intended in one sitting. I loved that the author showed the tough side of the characters as well as their gentle side – this made the characters more believable to me – and I eagerly waited for the moment things would change between them.

However, the banter and the sexual tension between Emmie and Tate did seem to end too early – I wished it could have gone on for a little longer. When the novel segued into the next step of their relationship, I was a little let down as I had been enjoying the quips between the two. The next section of the novel went on a little too long, I found, as I kept waiting for that moment when their relationship would hit an obstacle. When it did hit an obstacle, it was resolved with finesse.

Faker is a lighthearted, sexy (but not too sexy!) and humorous read that will want you craving more. I enjoyed this debut romcom by Sarah Smith and I look forward to seeing what story she comes up with next.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 112th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: A Wedding in December by Sarah Morgan

I received A Wedding in December by Sarah Morgan to read and review from Harper Collins Canada. I was excited to read this Christmas-inspired story and decided that I would enjoy it during the month of December. The cover looked like it would be perfect for this time of year.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Blurb:

In the snowy perfection of Aspen, the White family gathers for youngest daughter Rosie’s whirlwind Christmas wedding. First to arrive are the bride’s parents, Maggie and Nick. Their daughter’s marriage is a milestone they are determined to celebrate wholeheartedly, but they are hiding a huge secret of their own: they are on the brink of divorce. After living apart for the last six months, the last thing they need is to be trapped together in an irresistibly romantic winter wonderland.

Rosie’s older sister, Katie, is also dreading the wedding. Worried that impulsive, sweet-hearted Rosie is making a mistake, Katie is determined to save her sister from herself! If only the irritatingly good-looking best man, Jordan, would stop interfering with her plans…

Bride-to-be Rosie loves her fiancé but is having serious second thoughts. Except everyone has arrived—how can she tell them she’s not sure? As the big day gets closer, and emotions run even higher, this is one White family Christmas none of them will ever forget!

My thoughts:

This novel is a perfect read for this time of year. And the bonus is that it centres on three romantic relationships: that of Maggie, Rosie, and Katie. What I enjoyed especially in this novel is that one of the relationships that Morgan describes is that of an older couple. I do not see this too often in romance novels.

Even though romance is a thread throughout the novel, A Wedding in December is more than just a romance. Instead it is a novel that suggests to the reader that a woman has the ability to change her future – all it needs is for her to have the courage to take the step that will change her life. All three women in this story come to a moment of self awareness at different times in the novel that allow them to take a step forward to changing their lives.

The three women in A Wedding in December have different personalities as well as different experiences. As such, their goals and moments of self reflection are different. Personally, I connected with the older woman in the story (Maggie) because some of her experience is what I have felt in my life too. I loved that this novel compasses the experience of so many different women.

I enjoyed Sarah Morgan’s novel and have now put her other novels on my TBR list. I may even head out to pick up another one her stories to read this month! If you enjoy reading stories about women with hints of the Holiday spirit sprinkled in the pages, A Wedding in December is one novel you need to pick up.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 111th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The Home For Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman

I have had The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman for a while now – it has been buried underneath the books I had piled on top of it. I decided to liberate the novel as my first read for December.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Blurb:

In 1950s Quebec, French and English tolerate each other with precarious civility—much like Maggie Hughes’ parents. Maggie’s English-speaking father has ambitions for his daughter that don’t include marriage to the poor French boy on the next farm over. But Maggie’s heart is captured by Gabriel Phénix. When she becomes pregnant at fifteen, her parents force her to give baby Elodie up for adoption and get her life ‘back on track’.

Elodie is raised in Quebec’s impoverished orphanage system. It’s a precarious enough existence that takes a tragic turn when Elodie, along with thousands of other orphans in Quebec, is declared mentally ill as the result of a new law that provides more funding to psychiatric hospitals than to orphanages. Bright and determined, Elodie withstands abysmal treatment at the nuns’ hands, finally earning her freedom at seventeen, when she is thrust into an alien, often unnerving world.

Maggie, married to a businessman eager to start a family, cannot forget the daughter she was forced to abandon, and a chance reconnection with Gabriel spurs a wrenching choice. As time passes, the stories of Maggie and Elodie intertwine but never touch, until Maggie realizes she must take what she wants from life and go in search of her long-lost daughter, finally reclaiming the truth that has been denied them both.

My thoughts:

The first half of the novel was heartbreaking as it deals with the experience of an orphan in Quebec in the 1950s. Goodman highlights an unknown part of history and does it with emotional sensitivity. Her words encouraged me to feel anger at what had been done to the young children as well as empathy for her characters Elodie and Maggie. The subject matter does make the first half of the book difficult to read and it meant that there were times when I set it aside for a little while. I could not stop reading, however, as Goodman’s words had helped me feel a connection to both the child Elodie and her mother Maggie.

Not only did I feel empathy for Elodie and her experience in the system as an orphan, I also felt a connection to Maggie – a teenage girl who falls pregnant and who is forced to give up her baby. The Home for Unwanted Girls is told from the perspective of both characters and it is interesting to see how both of them never give up on reuniting. There are many moments in the novel which are emotional to read despite the thread of hope; moments which had me wishing desperately for a positive end to the story.

If you enjoy historical fiction, The Home for Unwanted Girls is a must-read. Not only does the novel highlight a little-known piece of history, but it is done with sensitivity and thought-provoking skill. The novel pulls at your heartstrings and satisfies a reader who enjoys reading stories of hope.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 110th in my book pledge for 2019)

Favourite Read of the Month: November 2019

During November, I read a combination of library books as well as books I own. I had put in a number of holds in at our local library and four of them arrived during the month.

In addition to the four library books, I read two ARCs I had received from Harper Collins as well as three books on my shelves:

My total for the month was therefore nine novels. Below is the list of books that I read. To read my reviews (if you haven’t already), click on the title and you will be able to visit my post:

  1. Adam Silvera Infinity Son – Young Adult Fantasy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars
  2. Jude Devereaux Met Her Match – Women’s Fiction, Romance ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars
  3. Meg Cabot No Judgements – Women’s Fiction, Romance ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars
  4. Jasmine Guillory The Wedding Party – Women’s Fiction, Romance ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars
  5. Robert Bryndza Dark Water – Mystery, Thriller, Detective ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars
  6. Poppy Alexander 25 Days ‘Til Christmas – Women’s Fiction, Romance ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars
  7. Shelby Mahurin Serpent and Dove – Young Adult Fantasy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars
  8. Sara Ella Unblemished – Young Adult Fantasy ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars
  9. Tarryn Fisher The Wives – Thriller Mystery ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars

I loved two books the most during this month – and both of them were Fantasy fiction: Adam Silvera’s Infinity Son and Shelby Mahurin’s Serpent and Dove. It is difficult to choose my favourite but I will go with Serpent and Dove as the content touched me more personally as a woman.

I hope you enjoyed a number of novels in November. What was your favourite read? Share your choice, or the link to your post, in the comments below.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

Book of the Month: January 2019

Book of the Month: February 2019

Book of the Month: March 2019

Book of the Month: April 2019

Book of the Month: May 2019

Book of the Month: June

Book of the Month: July 2019

Book of the Month: August 2019

Book of the Month: September 2019

Book of the Month: October 2019

Book Review: The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

I attended a Harper Presents event to listen to Gilly MacMillan speak as she is one of my preferred authors. Tarryn Fisher was another writer set to speak at the event and, even though I had not read any of her novels, I was curious to listen to her. After the talk, I had the opportunity to receive a signed ARC of her upcoming novel, The Wives.

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Blurb:

Thursday’s husband, Seth, has two other wives. She’s never met them, and she doesn’t know anything about them. She agreed to this unusual arrangement because she’s so crazy about him.

But one day, she finds something. Something that tells a very different—and horrifying—story about the man she married.

My thoughts:

The Wives has an unusual premise as polygamy is not a usual theme that runs in thrillers. Fisher makes it work, though, and I believed the setup that she had created. The story is told in the voice of Thursday, Seth’s second wife, and all the events described are seen through her eyes.

Near the midway of the novel, I was confused as the setup I believed to be true turned out not to be. As expected, the confusion led to a twist which then caused me to see the story with a different viewpoint and expectation. It was interesting for me to read through the thought patterns of Thursday – I questioned something when the character did, and grasped a thought when she did.

Before the midway twist, the story read like a drama in which a woman is describing her relationship with her partner and, at times, seemed a little mediocre. After the twist, the pace of the novel picked up and I became more invested in the story as the content became more interesting. My mind kept switching allegiances between Thursday herself and Seth. Which story is the truth? This is the question I kept asking myself. I enjoyed the final twist at the end of the story – part of which was unexpected.

Tarryn Fisher’s The Wives is an enjoyable psychological thriller that does not get too intense. The pace in the beginning is a bit slow and the story a little ordinary but it does pick up. The story is not too original but the way that Fisher sets it up is different to what I have read. The novel is a quick read and perfect if you are looking for a story that you can read quickly and not think too deeply about.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 109th in my book pledge for 2019)