Book Review: The One by John Marrs

On social media I saw that the The One by John Marrs was an excellent read. While browsing at my local bookstore on a Saturday afternoon, I saw the novel placed in the bestsellers section and decided to pick it up. The blurb definitely intrigued me.

Genre: Thriller, Romance

Blurb:

How far would you go to find The One?

A simple DNA test is all it takes. Just a quick mouth swab and soon you’ll be matched with your perfect partner—the one you’re genetically made for.

That’s the promise made by Match Your DNA. A decade ago, the company announced that they had found the gene that pairs each of us with our soul mate. Since then, millions of people around the world have been matched. But the discovery has its downsides: test results have led to the breakup of countless relationships and upended the traditional ideas of dating, romance and love.

Now five very different people have received the notification that they’ve been “Matched.” They’re each about to meet their one true love. But “happily ever after” isn’t guaranteed for everyone. Because even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking than others…

My thoughts:

At first glance, The One may seem like a romance novel – after all, the characters are looking for the person they will spend the rest of their live with. Very quickly, however, the reader comes to the conclusion that the novel is more than a romance. The story has so many unexpected twists in it that the reader is continually surprised. Contained within these pages is murder, some emotional moments, and a glimpse at the different types of people that populate the world.

What I loved about this novel is that it is an unusual story – quite unlike any that I have read before. Marrs truly surprises one with the events that he describes; and yet the segments of human nature that he explores are spot-on. We are taken through the experience of five characters who each have their unique experience with their DNA match; and each experience has an unexpected twist in it.

I enjoyed this novel. Marrs’ writing kept me turning the pages and immersed in the story. If you decide to pick up this book, be prepared to put all else aside.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 53rd in my book pledge for 2019)

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Book Review: Ordinary Girls by Blair Thornburgh

At the Frenzy Presents event earlier this year, I received an ARC of Ordinary Girls by Blair Thornburgh. I was excited to read this novel as it was a retelling of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, a story that I know and love.

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Retelling

Blurb:

For two sisters as different as Plum and Ginny, getting on each other’s nerves is par for the course. But when the family’s finances hit a snag, sending chaos through the house in a way only characters from a Jane Austen novel could understand, the two drift apart like they never have before. Plum, a self-described social outcast, strikes up a secret friendship with the class jock, while Ginny’s usual high-strung nature escalates to pure hysterics.

But this has always been the sisters’ dynamic. So why does everything feel different this year? Maybe because Ginny is going to leave for college soon. Maybe because Plum finally has something that she doesn’t have to share with her self-involved older sister. Or maybe because the girls are forced to examine who they really are instead of who their late father said they were. And who each girl discovers—beneath the years of missing their dad—could either bring them closer together…or drive them further apart.

My thoughts:

I expected a retelling of Sense and Sensibility and I was a little disappointed – the connection to Austen’s novel is very slim as there is too much that has been changed. Yes, the story describes the relationship between two sisters who are trying to find themselves in the world but that is about it.

The novel, however, does stand out in its own right. My favourite character was Plum. I enjoyed her snarkiness as well as her independence. She is a girl who realises what the problems are and seeks out to solve them – even though sometimes her attempts fail. She is definitely a girl after my own heart. Unlike her sister Ginny who can be annoying (which was, I am sure, the author’s intention).

There were moments in the novel that I could not help but smile – definitely enjoyable moments. Plum grows in inner strength – a facet which I always appreciate in young adult novels. Ordinary Girls is a book that will be enjoyed by young readers; it is a story that will show them that your own inner strength can help you get by. And that even though, at times, your sibling annoys you, you will do anything for them. This novel is an easy read that focuses on the relationships between siblings and how they support one another.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 52nd in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Women Talking by Miriam Toews

Last year I had the opportunity to hear Miriam Toews speak. I had never read any of her books but the one she was to speak about sounded interesting so I bought a copy for her recent novel, Women Talking, to sign for me. I kept shifting the book down my TBR pile as the subject matter promised to be heavy but I have finally read it as I believed myself to be in the correct head space.

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Feminism

Blurb:

Based on actual events that happened between 2005 and 2009 in a remote Mennonite community where more than 100 girls and women were drugged unconscious and assaulted in the night by what they were told (by the men of the colony) were “ghosts” or “demons,” Miriam Toews’ bold and affecting novel Women Talking is an imagined response to these real events.

The novel takes place over forty-eight hours, as eight women gather in secret in a neighbour’s barn while the men are in a nearby town posting bail for the attackers. They have come together to debate, on behalf of all the women and children in the community, whether to stay or leave before the men return. Taking minutes is the one man trusted and invited by the women to witness the conversation–a former outcast whose own surprising story is revealed as the women speak.

By turns poignant, witty, acerbic, bitter, tender, devastating, and heartbreaking, the voices in this extraordinary novel are unforgettable. Toews has chosen to focus the novel tightly on a particular time and place, and yet it contains within its 48 hours and setting inside a hayloft an entire vast universe of thinking and feeling about the experience of women (and therefore men, too) in our contemporary world. In a word: astonishing.

My thoughts:

I was right to have saved this book for a time when I could fully appreciate the content – it has so many talking points and issues for the reader to think about. The issues are raised through ordinary conversation between a group of women. At no time did I feel that Toews was pushing her beliefs onto me. Instead, the points she wanted to raise were subtly woven within a discussion on how the women would react to the rapes that had occured within their community.

Even though Women Talking is a relatively short novel at 216 pages, it is a novel filled with women’s issues. Yes, it is a book on feminism. And no, it is not one of those ‘shouty’ books that aggressively denounces men. Instead, it centres around ordinary women who come to realise that they have the power to make their own decisions and be the navigators of their own lives. The Mennonite women described in the novel live in a staunch patriarchal society in which the men have absolute power over them. It is a norm which, up until then, had been accepted by the women with no question.

I love how the women talk through their decision – each one making a valid argument. The narrator and recorder of the discussion, August Epp, is seen as being different from the other Mennonite men. Unlike them, he has lived in the outside world; and has not the strength to till the fields as the other men do. He shows respect towards the women and, as such, is trusted by them.

Reading this novel brought home to me that, even though we have progressed so far as a society with women’s rights, there are still women out there who do not have the freedom to do what I take for granted. It saddens me to think that there are still groups of people who see women as being the lesser gender and who have taken away their right to bloom. Not that the society I live in is perfect – but at least I have the opportunity to make my choices; and the freedom to read and learn.

Women Talking by Mirian Toews is a book that digs into the experience of the Mennonite women. It is an eye-opening account of a group of women living in a patriarchal society that, unfortunately, still exists in the modern world. This skillfully written discussion is one that will leave you in a thoughtful mood and reflecting on your own personal experience.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 51st in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The Beholder by Anna Bright

It was time for some Fantasy so I picked up the ARC I received at the Frenzy Presents event held by Harper Collins Canada. I love the cover of Anna Bright’s novel, The Beholder, and settled in for what promised to be an interesting read.

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Blurb:

Selah has waited her whole life for a happily ever after. As the only daughter of the leader of Potomac, she knows her duty is to find the perfect match, a partner who will help secure the future of her people. Now that day has finally come.

But after an excruciatingly public rejection from her closest childhood friend, Selah’s stepmother suggests an unthinkable solution: Selah must set sail across the Atlantic, where a series of potential suitors awaits—and if she doesn’t come home engaged, she shouldn’t come home at all.

From English castle gardens to the fjords of Norge, and under the eye of the dreaded Imperiya Yotne, Selah’s quest will be the journey of a lifetime. But her stepmother’s schemes aren’t the only secrets hiding belowdecks…and the stakes of her voyage may be higher than any happy ending.

My thoughts:

I enjoy reading Fantasy novels and this one promised to be a coming of age story. And it delivered on its promise. As Selah continues on her journey and meets a variety of people, the experiences she goes through help her come to certain realisations about herself and of others. The journey helps her to grow up as she is no longer sheltered from certain experiences by her upbringing.

I love that the main character in The Beholder is one that is learning and growing. The experiences she has are what one would expect of a young woman venturing out into the world. She learns to be strong, and to find the answers to her questions within herself. She slowly breaks down her fears – fears which make her a relatable character to the reader. In the novel, Selah is learning to find her own voice; and to discover what it is exactly that her journey needs to entail.

Even though I enjoyed the book and look forward to the sequel (yes, it is a duology), I did find the story hard to get into in the beginning. The Beholder is written as an alternate history to our world – and has many references to mythology. I personally found these references to be overdone at the beginning of the novel. In addition, some of the references may not be understood by many readers thus rendering the imagery less powerful than intended. As the book progresses, the mythological references become less frequent and more subtle – and I definitely preferred this.

Bright has written a story that does not contain some of the expectations of a fantasy novel: there are no dragons, magic, and mystical creatures. The novel includes a budding romance as well as disappointments that are experienced in a young life. This story is an enjoyable read for those who enjoy reading books with a sense of adventure and a protagonist who is growing into herself.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 50th in my book pledge for 2019)

Favourite Read of the Month: May 2019

I cannot believe how many books I read during May – thirteen! I did spend the long weekend sick and I had no interest in watching TV, so I guess that accounts for it.

The first books I read were the ones I had grabbed from the library. To read my reviews (if you haven’t already), click on the title in the following list:

  1. Phaedra Patrick The Library of Lost and Found – Contemporary Women’s Fiction ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars
  2. Jessica Barry Freefall – Thriller ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars
  3. Kathy Wang Family Trust – Contemporary Women’s Fiction ⭐️ 1 star

The rest of the books I read in May were either novels I had bought or ARCs I had received from Harper Collins Canada.

  1. Maya Motayne Nocturna – YA Fantasy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars
  2. Dev Sonali Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavours – Romance ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars
  3. Kaira Rouda The Favourite Daughter – Thriller ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars
  4. Erin Davis Mourning Has Broken – Memoir ⭐️ 1 star
  5. Farah Heron The Chai Factor – Romance ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars
  6. Amy Lloyd One More Lie – Thriller ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars
  7. Sophie Kinsella I Owe You One – Romance ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars
  8. Jessie Kwak Double Edged – Science Fiction ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars
  9. Anouska Knight Since You’ve Been Gone – Romance ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars
  10. Kirsty Manning The Song of the Jade Lily – Historical Fiction ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

I read so many good books during May (with a couple of disappointing ones). My favourites were The Song of the Jade Lily by Kirsty Manning, The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick, and Dev Sonali’s Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavours. Even though I loved the historical fiction and contemporary novel, my choice for the title Book of the Month has to go to Sonali’s Pride and Prejudice retelling. She did justice to Austen’s story and added her own spin to it. This is definitely a story I will re-read in the future.

I hope you read as many wonderful stories as I did in May. 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 of the Month: March 2019

Book of the Month: April 2019

Book Review: The Song of the Jade Lily by Kirsty Manning

I was in the mood for a little history so I picked up the Advanced Reading Copy of The Song of the Jade Lily by Kirsty Manning that had been sent to me by Harper Collins Canada.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Blurb:

In 2016, fleeing London with a broken heart, Alexandra returns to Australia to be with her grandparents, Romy and Wilhelm, when her grandfather is dying. With only weeks left together, her grandparents begin to reveal the family mysteries they have kept secret for more than half a century. 

In 1939, two young girls meet in Shanghai, the ‘Paris of the East’: beautiful local Li and Viennese refugee Romy form a fierce friendship. But the deepening shadows of World War Two fall over the women as Li and Romy slip between the city’s glamorous French Concession and the desperate Shanghai Ghetto. Eventually, they are forced separate ways as Romy doubts Li’s loyalties.

After Wilhelm dies, Alexandra flies to Shanghai, determined to trace her grandparents’ past. As she peels back the layers of their hidden lives, she begins to question everything she knows about her family – and herself. 

A compelling and gorgeously told tale of female friendship, the price of love, and the power of hardship and courage to shape us all.

My thoughts:

Historical fiction is a genre that I enjoy and my interest in the history of China was captured many years ago. Manning’s novel reflects a part of Chinese history that is unknown to me so I was interested in reading about something new.

The something new was what interested me in this novel was the following: Jewish refugees in China; the different quarters in Shanghai showing an interesting snapshot into life at that time; the domination and oppression of the Japanese during this period in China. My husband (who is of Chinese descent) speaks often about the oppression of the Japanese over the Chinese. It was in this novel that I came across a piece of that history.

The modern story that is woven within the fabric of the history is written with compassion and understanding. Alexandra is determined to find out the past of her grandparents as she believes it will make her whole. With each uncovering of her family’s history, however, not only does she find out about the past and find out who her true parents were, but she also discovers a bit about who she is as a person. I enjoyed reading that both women in the two storylines described (Romy and Alexandra) are people that grow from their experience. Both these women are strong women even though their life experience is different.

My favourite character in this novel is Romy. From a young age at the start of the Second World War in Europe, she had to grow up fast. In her lifetime she adapted to two countries, learning new languages and customs. In addition, she learned quickly to behave as an adult even though she was still a child. Romy experiences so much pain and heartache in her life; yet she never loses her faith in others and her courage to move forward.

The Song of the Jade Lily is a perfect example of what historical fiction should be. A snippet of history is made available to us through a well-written story that includes both life experiences and some romance. I loved reading this book and if you are a fan of historical fiction, then you will too.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 49th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Since You’ve Been Gone by Anouska Knight

I was in the mood for romance and decided to go browsing at our local book store. The cover of Since You’ve Been Gone by Anouska Knight caught my eye and the blurb made the book sound interesting. I brought the novel home with me and settled in to read it.

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Blurb:

How do you learn to love again?

In one tragic moment, Holly Jefferson s life as she knows it changes for ever. Now to the external world, at least she s finally getting back on her feet, running her business, Cake. Then she meets Ciaran Argyll.

His rich and charmed life feels a million miles from her own. However, there s more to Ciaran than the superficial world that surrounds him, and he too is wrestling with his own ghosts. Will Holly find the missing ingredient that allows her to live again and embrace an unknown and unexpected tomorrow? 

My thoughts:

I opened Since You’ve Been Gone with anticipation but was a little disappointed in the reading of it. There were moments when the story led to expected scenarios that I was able to easily predict. I know that in romance the two main characters get together – but in this story, the progress towards that ending followed an expected path. I would have enjoyed the story more if the obstacles set in the path of Holly were a little more difficult, and turned out in unexpected ways.

There were times in the story that I felt the writer rushed over an event: the jump from problem to resolution was too quick. Spending more time on the ways in which a resolution was achieved, would have helped Knight develop more the characterisation of the personalities in her story. Her characterisation of Holly at the start of the novel was good; but what is missing in the novel is the story of her growth and her success in overcoming her grief.

When I reached the end of the novel, I did feel a little cheated out of a richer story. However, Since You’ve Been Gone was a light read that kept me company while I was ill. If lighthearted, breezy romances are your type of read, then this one is for you.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 48th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Double Edged by Jessie Kwak

Jessie Kwak contacted me through the blog and offered me her latest book, Double Edged, in exchange for an honest review. After reading the blurb, I jumped at the chance as I enjoy reading Science Fiction. The bonus is that she is an independent author.

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Blurb:

Thala Coeur—Blackheart—is dead.

Willem Jaantzen has been waiting to hear those words for almost twenty years. But he was also hoping they’d hold more satisfaction. Because it turns out his arch enemy has died as she lived—sowing chaos and destruction—and when a mysterious package arrives on his doorstep, he realizes she’s sent him one last puzzle from beyond the grave. 

As Jaantzen and his crew are plunged back into a game he thought they’d left far behind, one thing becomes painfully clear: Solving Coeur’s puzzle could be key to preventing the city from crumbling back into another civil war—or it could be the thing that destroys them all. 

Because this secret isn’t just worth killing for. It’s worth coming back from the dead for.

The Bulari Saga series is part of Jessie Kwak’s Durga System universe, a fast-paced series of gangster sci-fi stories set in a far-future world where humans may have left their home planet to populate the stars, but they haven’t managed to leave behind their vices. And that’s very good for business.

My thoughts:

I love the cover art of this novel, don’t you? And while I was reading the story, I realised that the art suited the tale perfectly. The cover art and the words inside give a sense of another world – another world which is just as gritty as ours can be and which also contains people that are greedy and power seekers.

Double Edged is a story that is fast-paced – but not so fast-paced that we are not given the time to get to know the characters. We are shown an insight into the Bulari world with dialogue that is not superfluous, and with writing that cuts to the chase. Kwak has delivered the imagery of a world that reminds me so much of the science-fiction literature and film that I have enjoyed in the past. While reading her words, I could see in my mind’s eye people using technology that hasn’t been invented yet set in worlds that have yet to be discovered.

I enjoyed meeting Kwak’s characters. They have a humanity to them that breathes from the pages. They are imperfect, yet loyal. They are confident, yet uncertain. I will read the second novel in the saga when it becomes available. And in the meantime? I will consider dipping into the novellas.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 47th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella

I have enjoyed Sophie Kinsella’s novel in the pas so when I saw her latest, I Owe You One, on the library shelves I grabbed it to take home with me to read.

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Blurb:

Fixie Farr has always lived by her father’s motto: “Family first.” But since her dad passed away, leaving his charming housewares store in the hands of his wife and children, Fixie spends all her time picking up the slack from her siblings instead of striking out on her own. The way Fixie sees it, if she doesn’t take care of her father’s legacy, who will? It’s simply not in her nature to say no to people.

So when a handsome stranger in a coffee shop asks her to watch his laptop for a moment, Fixie not only agrees—she ends up saving it from certain disaster. Turns out the computer’s owner is an investment manager. To thank Fixie for her quick thinking, Sebastian scribbles an IOU on a coffee sleeve and attaches his business card. But Fixie laughs it off—she’d never actually claim an IOU from a stranger. Would she?

Then Fixie’s childhood crush, Ryan, comes back into her life and his lack of a profession pushes all of Fixie’s buttons. She wants nothing for herself—but she’d love Seb to give Ryan a job. And Seb agrees, until the tables are turned once more and a new series of IOUs between Seb and Fixie—from small favors to life-changing moments—ensues. Soon Fixie, Ms. Fixit for everyone else, is torn between her family and the life she really wants. Does she have the courage to take a stand? Will she finally grab the life, and love, she really wants?

My thoughts:

I Owe You One was a perfect mix of romance, humour, and seriousness. The story asks the age-old question: If you could be in a relationship with your childhood crush, would you? This is a question Fixie has to ask herself as she discovers the true nature of Ryan, the boy/man of her fantasies. To help her make her choice, Fixie meets a man who may lead her towards the realisation of her dreams.

Kinsella’s latest novel depicts a heroine who is not perfect – after all, she wants to constantly ‘fix’ people and situations when they are not perfect. And yet she has a charm to her which I enjoyed. As the story progresses, Fixie learns some truths about herself as well as her relationships with her siblings. She grows as a person during the novel and with her self-realisation is able to make a choice in her romantic relationship.

I love Sophie Kinsella’s stories and this novel is another one of hers that I have enjoyed. If you have read any other novels written by this author, you can be assured that you will experience pleasure reading this one. And if you enjoy reading romantic comedies, then I Owe You One will not disappoint.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 46th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: One More Lie by Amy Lloyd

I was in the mood for a thriller so I picked up the ARC of One More Lie by Amy Lloyd that my contact at Harper Collins Canada had sent me.

Genre: Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Mystery

Blurb:

Charlotte wants to start fresh. She wants to forget her past, forget prison and, most of all, forget Sean. But old habits die hard. Despite the ankle monitor she must wear as part of her parole agreement and frequent visits to her therapist, she soon finds herself sliding back toward the type of behavior that sent her to prison in the first place. The further down that path she goes, however, the closer she gets to the crime that put her in prison all those years ago. And that’s the one memory she can’t face. Until, one day, Sean tracks her down.

My thoughts:

Do you ever wonder what happens to those children who kill when they themselves are children? This book plays out a possible scenario as the writer takes us on a journey of one such person attempting to function in society.

The best thing about this story is that the reader is not told everything from the start. As I read Charlotte’s experience, I caught glimpses of her past experience and the lead up to the event that sent her to prison. I read, as well, of her relationship with Sean and how it may have affected her decision-making.

By mid-way of the novel, I began to feel empathy for Charlotte – even though I know that she killed a child when she was a child herself. Lloyd succeeds in this because of the information she gives the reader – she almost seems to suggest that it is Charlotte’s childhood experience that led her to take another person’s life. But once Charlotte had my empathy, I learned more about the events that took place and I began to doubt what I had presumed. Even my feelings towards her began to change.

One More Lie is a novel that encourages a reader to make a prediction – and then sneaks in a piece of information that changes that prediction. I enjoyed the subtle twists in the story – and appreciated, especially, the ending (which is totally what I did not expect). I enjoyed this read and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys twisty psychological thrillers.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 45th in my book pledge for 2019)