Book Review: Salvation Station by Kathryn Schleich

When I read the blurb for Salvation Station by Kathryn Schleich, I was intrigued by the mix of religion and mystery. This read looked like one that I would enjoy.

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Crime

Blurb:

When committed female police captain Linda Turner, haunted by the murders of two small children and their pastor father, becomes obsessed with solving the harrowing case, she finds herself wrapped up in a mission to expose a fraudulent religious organization and an unrepentant killer.
 
Despite her years of experience investigating homicides for the force, Captain Linda Turner is haunted by the murders of the Hansen family. The two small children, clothed in tattered Disney pajamas, were buried with their father, a pastor, in the flower garden behind a church parsonage in Lincoln, Nebraska. But Mrs. Hansen is nowhere to be found—and neither is the killer.
 
In St. Louis, the televangelist Ray Williams is about to lose his show—until one of his regular attendees approaches him with an idea that will help him save it. Despite his initial misgivings, Ray agrees to give it a try. He can’t deny his attraction to this woman, and besides, she’d assured him the plan is just—God gave her the instructions in a dream.
 
Multiple story lines entwine throughout this compelling mystery, delving into the topics of murder, religious faith, and the inherent dangers in blindly accepting faith as truth. While Reverend Williams is swept up in his newfound success and plans for his wedding, Captain Turner can only hope that she and her team will catch the Hansens’ cunning killer—before more bodies surface.

My Thoughts:

This novel did not disappoint me: it was fast-paced and held my interest during the entire story. Salvation Station was a book I could not put down – I wanted to know if the police would find the culprit in time as there were many moments when I thought they would not. The web that the murderer creates is so intricate and believable; the pacing of the author perfectly pitched.

It is not often that a novel includes the subject of religion. I could connect with the characters’ religious feelings and motives because of my own experience with the Christian sect described in the novel. The author’s descriptions of religious fervour were skillfully done – as was the description of the characters’ naivete who believe in the goodness of people.

Salvation Station is told in multiple points of view which clearly show the two crimes which intersect later on in the novel. Schleich expertly and seamlessly merges the various storylines in the novel. I thoroughly enjoyed this thriller and recommend it to those who enjoy reading murder mysteries.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 78th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Water Bears by Kim Baker

I saw this diverse read written by Kim Baker at the OLA Super Conference earlier this year. I love the cover of The Water Bears and decided to pick it up.

Genre: Middle Grade

Blurb:

A story about a boy recovering from a bear attack with the help of his friends and maybe, some magic.

All Newt Gomez wants for his thirteenth birthday is a bike. After surviving a bear attack last year, he thinks this isn’t an unreasonable request. Instead, his hardworking parents give him a former taco truck to help him get around the wacky island where they live in the Pacific Northwest. And then Newt and his best friend Ethan find a life-sized wooden bear washed up on the shore. Ethan is convinced the bear grants wishes; Newt doesn’t know what to think.

Newt also has a big decision ahead: go to middle school on the island, or to the mainland where his warm extended family lives? There, he won’t be the only Latinx kid; he doesn’t have bad dreams about the attack, and not everyone knows what happened to him. Newt secretly plots to move to his abuela’s house, but his truck is stolen with the maybe-magic bear inside. He must confront his fears and adapt to the reality of a world that’s often uncertain, but always full of salvageable wonders.

My Thoughts:

This is a wonderful and poignant story that middle grade readers will enjoy. It contains a little adventure, some facts about nature, and features a boy who learns the value of friendship and that it is okay to be a little different.

Newt has experienced a traumatic event (the bear attack) and slowly learns to accept what has happened to him. He also learns, with the help of his friends, that he can move on from his experience – and that it is okay to move on in a way of his choosing. Newt learns that despite the bear attack, he can still enjoy moments in his life – and that he can continue to do things that he enjoyed in the past.

I like the message in this story; it is a message that will sit well with preteens when they read the book. They will learn what it is to be accepted; as well as what it means to be different. The Water Bears is a well-written story that will appeal to children who enjoy reading novels that show growth in the main character.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 59th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Under Currents by Nora Roberts

My hold for the audiobook Under Currents by Nora Roberts came in and I eagerly began listening to it. This title had been on my TBR list and I thought that listening to the story instead of reading the text may help me put a dent into my list.

Format: Audiobook

Narrator: January LaVoy

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Mystery

Blurb:

Within the walls of a tasteful, perfectly kept house in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, young Zane Bigelow feels like a prisoner of war. Strangers—and even Zane’s own aunt across the lake—see his parents as a successful surgeon and his stylish wife, making appearances at their children’s ballet recitals and baseball games. Zane and his sister know the truth: There is something terribly wrong.

As his father’s violent, controlling rages—and his mother’s complicity—become more and more oppressive, Zane counts the years, months, days until he can escape. He looks out for little Britt, warning her Be smart. Be careful. In fear for his very life, he plays along with the insidious lie that everything is fine, while scribbling his real thoughts in a secret journal he must carefully hide away.

When one brutal, shattering night finally reveals cracks in the façade, Zane begins to understand that some people are willing to face the truth, even when it hurts. As he grows into manhood and builds a new kind of family, he will find that while the darkness of his past may always shadow him, it will also show him what is necessary for good to triumph—and give him strength to draw on when he once again must stand up and defend himself and the ones he loves… 

My Thoughts:

The audio version of this book was fantastic and I really enjoyed listening to LaVoy as she performed the story. The accents for the different characters were spot on and the emotions were perfectly pitched. I think the audio added another dimension to the story and increased my enjoyment of it.

Under Currents explores a sensitive topic – that of domestic violence. We see the affect of violence on both a child and a spouse. Even though the topic is a difficult one, Roberts explores it with sensitivity. I like that the story ends with a sense of hope even though I know, realistically, that domestic violence doesn’t always end happily.

Roberts is a master at creating the perfect pace to keep a reader’s interest. The story also had a good mix of serious topics, mystery, and romance. The characters are varied and true to life and I enjoyed listening to the connections that they made with one another. I always enjoy reading the contemporary fiction novels by Nora Roberts and this one did not disappoint.

I give this audio novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 58th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Grown Up Pose by Sonja Lalli

I had previously read and enjoyed a novel by Sonja Lalli so when I saw the audiobook for Grown Up Pose was available at the library, I decided to listen to the novel instead of reading the text.

Format: Audiobook

Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Blurb:

A delightfully modern look at what happens for a young woman when tradition, dating, and independence collide, from acclaimed author Sonya Lalli.

Adulting shouldn’t be this hard. Especially in your thirties. Having been pressured by her tight-knit community to get married at a young age to her first serious boyfriend, Anu Desai is now on her own again and feels like she is starting from the beginning.

But Anu doesn’t have time to start over. Telling her parents that she was separating from her husband was the hardest thing she’s ever done—and she’s still dealing with the fallout. She has her young daughter to support and when she invests all of her savings into running her own yoga studio, the feelings of irresponsibility send Anu reeling. She’ll be forced to look inside herself to learn what she truly wants.

My Thoughts:

The narration of this novel is well done and the Canadian, English, and Indian perfect. The excellent narration of the novel enhanced my enjoyment of the story.

The story is that of a woman in her early thirties who has an identity crisis – especially as she married when she was so young. She takes time out from her marriage and the presence of strong women in her life (her mother and mother-in-law). In doing so, she discovers who she is and reconnects with the dreams she had as a young woman.

The story moves between the past and the present. At times the shift did cause me confusion – a confusion, I think, which I would not have experienced had I been reading the text for myself. Looking back to past events helped me to understand, though, the actions of the character and why she made the choices that she did. There were times, though, when her reflections were a bit repetitive – and if I were reading, I would have skim read these paragraphs.

What I did enjoy in this novel was the snapshot into the Punjabi culture and the expectations of women within this culture. Reading this novel helped me to understand a little more the ways of the women within this group. I liked that the novel was unashamedly of a group of people I do not know much about.

The message I got from this story is that a woman can follow her dreams no matter what her responsibilities are. In addition, your age does not determine when it is that you can follow your dreams. Grown Up Pose is not a romance in the traditional sense. Instead, it is one that charts the story of an ordinary woman who rediscovers herself and her dreams, and finds what it is that makes her happy.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 57th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson

I thought it was time to pick up a novel that has been lingering on my bookshelf for a year now. I was in the mood for a contemporary read so I picked up The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson.

Genre: Mystery, Contemporary

Blurb:

A woman inherits a beloved bookstore and sets forth on a journey of self-discovery in this poignant debut about family, forgiveness and a love of reading.

Miranda Brooks grew up in the stacks of her eccentric Uncle Billy’s bookstore, solving the inventive scavenger hunts he created just for her. But on Miranda’s twelfth birthday, Billy has a mysterious falling-out with her mother and suddenly disappears from Miranda’s life. She doesn’t hear from him again until sixteen years later when she receives unexpected news: Billy has died and left her Prospero Books, which is teetering on bankruptcy—and one final scavenger hunt.

My Thoughts:

I picked up this book because the title had the word ‘bookshop’ in it. I enjoy reading stories that involve books and present characters who enjoy reading. I was not disappointed by the novel and enjoyed my foray into a story that embraces a love of reading.

This contemporary read was the perfect novel to spend some time with during my period of isolation. The story centres on the journey of a young woman who not only finds out about her past, but also determines what her future should be. It is a story about a young woman who discovers who she is and what it is she wants from her life. It is a story about a young woman who finds the courage to take the steps required to change her life and to take up the opportunities that have been given to her.

The Bookshop of Yesterdays is an expertly crafted novel that touches on grief, friendship, and the relationship between family members. I enjoyed reading about the main character, Miranda, and seeing how she grows in the story. I felt a connection with her as she works on figuring out her past and who she is. Her life is not perfect, and neither is the relationship she has with her parents. But she tries, and it is this that connected me to her.

If you enjoy contemporary fiction about ordinary lives, this novel is for you. As a reader, you will understand the characters’ love of the bookshop they work to save. You will finish the novel with a feeling of hope and satisfaction.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 56th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Hot and Hammered Series

I picked up the first two books in this series by Tessa Bailey as the people on Bookstagram raved about the stories. And the covers look cute! 🙂

Genre of both novels: Romance, Contemporary

Blurb for Fix Her Up:

Georgette Castle’s family runs the best home renovation business in town, but she picked balloons instead of blueprints and they haven’t taken her seriously since. Frankly, she’s over it. Georgie loves planning children’s birthday parties and making people laugh, just not at her own expense. She’s determined to fix herself up into a Woman of the World… whatever that means.

Phase one: new framework for her business (a website from this decade, perhaps?)

Phase two: a gut-reno on her wardrobe (fyi, leggings are pants.)

Phase three: updates to her exterior (do people still wax?)

Phase four: put herself on the market (and stop crushing on Travis Ford!)

Living her best life means facing the truth: Georgie hasn’t been on a date since, well, ever. Nobody’s asking the town clown out for a night of hot sex, that’s for sure. Maybe if people think she’s having a steamy love affair, they’ll acknowledge she’s not just the “little sister” who paints faces for a living. And who better to help demolish that image than the resident sports star and tabloid favorite?

Travis Ford was major league baseball’s hottest rookie when an injury ended his career. Now he’s flipping houses to keep busy and trying to forget his glory days. But he can’t even cross the street without someone recapping his greatest hits. Or making a joke about his… bat. And then there’s Georgie, his best friend’s sister, who is not a kid anymore. When she proposes a wild scheme—that they pretend to date, to shock her family and help him land a new job—he agrees. What’s the harm? It’s not like it’s real. But the girl Travis used to tease is now a funny, full-of-life woman and there’s nothing fake about how much he wants her..

Blurb for Love Her Or Lose Her:

Rosie and Dominic Vega are the perfect couple: high school sweethearts, best friends, madly in love. Well, they used to be anyway. Now Rosie’s lucky to get a caveman grunt from the ex-soldier every time she walks in the door. Dom is faithful and a great provider, but the man she fell in love with ten years ago is nowhere to be found. When her girlfriends encourage Rosie to demand more out of life and pursue her dream of opening a restaurant, she decides to demand more out of love, too. Three words: marriage boot camp.

Never in a million years did Rosie believe her stoic, too-manly-to-emote husband would actually agree to relationship rehab with a weed-smoking hippy. Dom talking about feelings? Sitting on pillows? Communing with nature? Learning love languages? Nope. But to her surprise, he’s all in, and it forces her to admit her own role in their cracked foundation. As they complete one ridiculous—yet surprisingly helpful—assignment after another, their remodeled relationship gets stronger than ever. Except just as they’re getting back on track, Rosie discovers Dom has a secret… and it could demolish everything. 

My Thoughts:

Both these novels are lighthearted reads that don’t require the reader to think too much about social or relationship issues. Like many romances of this genre, they were a little predictable and did not present any surprises. I liked the storyline of Fix Her Up especially as it is about a woman who is fighting to be taken seriously by her family. The storyline of Love Her Or Lose Her had the potential to be interesting (especially as there aren’t too many romances that deal with marriages that are facing difficulties), but the story was portrayed in a superficial way.

When reading a romance, I expect to read about kissing and sex. The sex scenes in these two novels, however, were a little overdone – and, to be honest, unrealistic. What made it even more unrealistic, to me, was that the scenes in both novels were similar. With different characters, I expect different ways of relating to one another sexually. The focus on sex unfortunately impacted the meat of the storyline and, for me, the enjoyment of the novel.

There is a third book in this series that has come out. I am not sure whether I will read it – time will tell.

I give Fix Her Up ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars and Love Her Or Lose Her ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(These novels were the 54th and 55th novels in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Friendship List by Susan Mallery

When at the OLA Super Conference earlier this year, the author Susan Mallery was recommended to me and an ARC of The Friendship List was gifted to me.

Genre: Romance, Contemporary

Blurb:

Two best friends jump-start their lives in a summer that will change them forever…

Single mom Ellen Fox couldn’t be more content—until she overhears her son saying he can’t go to his dream college because she needs him too much. If she wants him to live his best life, she has to convince him she’s living hers.

So Unity Leandre, her best friend since forever, creates a list of challenges to push Ellen out of her comfort zone. Unity will complete the list, too, but not because she needs to change. What’s wrong with a thirtysomething widow still sleeping in her late husband’s childhood bed?

The Friendship List begins as a way to make others believe they’re just fine. But somewhere between “wear three-inch heels” and “have sex with a gorgeous guy,” Ellen and Unity discover that life is meant to be lived with joy and abandon, in a story filled with humor, heartache and regrettable tattoos.

Thoughts:

This is a story about two ordinary women who find themselves living in a rut – an experience that so many women find themselves in once they have reached their thirties. Unity and Ellen make a pact with one another to make a change in their lives and therefore create a list for themselves of things they should do to make a change in their lives. In following this list, they find the courage to do things out of their comfort zone – and in doing so make a change in their lives.

The novel is written in a 4 person point of view and it is interesting to read of the different thoughts and experiences of the characters – characters that influence the lives of these two women. What I liked about the characters in Mallery’s novel is that they are ordinary women living ordinary lives and, as such, I could relate to them. The two main characters, Unity and Ellen, experience growth in the story as they change their lives through their actions, actions that take them out of their comfort zone, actions that help them to realise another part of themselves.

The Friendship List is a woman’s story that will resonate with women readers. It is a read that is perfect for a relaxing summer day while at the beach, in the park, or even on a sofa.

I give this novels ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 53rd novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Based on Pride and Prejudice

Instagram is a wonderful place to meet like-minded book lovers. Through one of my buddy reads, I connected with someone who loves Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as much as I. She told me about a retelling that I had not yet read, Coming Up Roses by Staci Hart, and I decided I wanted to read it. The bonus was the realisation that Staci Hart is an indie author. When purchasing the novel, I decided to purchase the second in the series, Gilded Lily, as it was claimed to also have connections to Austen’s novel.

Genre of both novels: Romance, Contemporary, Retelling

Blurb for Coming Up Roses:

Everyone hates parts of their job.

Maybe it’s the paperwork. Maybe it’s the day-to-day grind. Maybe it’s that client who never knows what they want, or the guy who always cooks fish in the microwave.

But not me. I love every corner of the Longbourne Flower Shop, every flower, every petal, every stem. I love the greenhouse, and I love Mrs. Bennet, my boss. I love creating, and I love being a florist. I don’t hate anything at all.

Except for Luke Bennet.

The Bennet brothers have come home to help their mom save the flower shop, and Luke is at the helm. His smile tells a tale of lust, loose and easy. He moves with the grace of a predator, feral and wild. A thing unbridled, without rules or constraint.

When he comes home to save Longbourne, I almost can’t be mad at him.

Almost.

He doesn’t remember that night I’ll never forget. That kiss, touched with whiskey and fire. It branded me like a red-hot iron. But it meant nothing to him.

Everyone hates part of their job, and I hate Luke Bennet.
Because if I don’t, I’ll fall in love with him.

Blurb for Gilded Lily:

They say there’s no such thing as perfect.

But I’ve built my life to perfection—the perfect boyfriend, the perfect apartment, the perfect career planning celebrity weddings. My job—my only job—is to make sure every event is absolutely and completely perfect.

What’s not perfect? Kash Bennet.

And I wish I didn’t find that so appealing.

I could have told you every perfectly imperfect thing about the gardener at Longbourne. Like his hair, lush and black and far too long. Or his nose, the flat bridge of a Greek god, bent a little like it’s been broken. Or his size. Beastly. Roped and corded with muscles, gleaming with sweat and peppered with dirt.

There’s no escaping him, not if I’m going to use his family’s flower shop for my events.

But nothing is what it seems. And in the span of a heartbeat, my perfect life is turned inside out.

They say the best way to get over somebody is to get under somebody new. When Kash offers his services to the cause, it sounds like the perfect plan.

What’s not part of the plan? Falling in love with the gardener.

But they were right—there’s no such thing as perfect.
And I’m the fool who finds out the hard way. 

My Thoughts:

The stories are VERY loosely based on Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. The novels do address the theme of the original novel, and reference as well the characterisations of Elizabeth and Darcy – although the sex of the characters has been changed. What I loved was Hart’s representation of Mrs Bennett – it was spot-on and perfectly done. I loved it so much that I would love to see more of her in the stories (that seem to be a series she is currently writing).

The novels do not give an in-depth portrayal of the characters. Even though the characters do come to certain realisations, we do not see their growth and development towards these realisations and, in a way, the characterisations are superficial. Having said that, however, the format followed in general romance novels is that in-depth explorations are not expected.

I enjoyed both of Hart’s romance novels in this series. They were a perfect read for my mood – I wanted something lighthearted that did not encourage too much thought. The well written words made me chuckle and I did want to find out how the characters found their true love (after all, that is what happens in novels like these). If you enjoy romance novels as well as supporting indie authors, the series on the Bennet Brothers is worth picking up.

I give these novels ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 51st and 52nd novels in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Betrothed by Kiera Cass

When browsing the publishers’ booths at the OLA Super Conference earlier this year, I happened upon The Betrothed by Kiera Cass. I had not read anything written by her but I had heard readers rave about her Selection series. I picked this ARC up in curiosity as I wanted to know what her writing is like.

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, Romance

Blurb:

When King Jameson declares his love for Lady Hollis Brite, Hollis is shocked—and thrilled. After all, she’s grown up at Keresken Castle, vying for the king’s attention alongside other daughters of the nobility. Capturing his heart is a dream come true.

But Hollis soon realizes that falling in love with a king and being crowned queen may not be the happily ever after she thought it would be. And when she meets a commoner with the mysterious power to see right into her heart, she finds that the future she really wants is one that she never thought to imagine.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed the old-world setting of the novel even though it is set in an environment that is not of this world; it is a setting that young readers this would enjoy. Life at Court is described, as are beautiful dresses and manners. The main character seems to be a social butterfly and not have any substance to her. It is for this reason that my interest, at the beginning of the novel, was not securely captured.

The Hollis falls in love. From the moment she realises that she is in love, Hollis has a choice which she needs to make. An it is from this moment that I realised the protagonist does have a sense of character. From the time Hollis makes a choice, I was drawn into the story and found it to be more interesting.

The Betrothed is the first in the series – and it reads as such. The book ends on a cliffhanger and reading the next novel is essential to knowing what happens in the story. The writing style is perfect for young girls who enjoy reading romance novels. They will feel a number of emotions when reading: awe, happiness, and sadness. I suspect, too, that they will see a woman who grows strong from her experience and who will work through obstacles to do what is right.

I am curious enough to pick up the next novel in the series – I want to want to know how the story will continue. And hopefully the second novel in the series will capture my interest from the first page.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 48th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

When at the OLA Super Conference at the beginning of the year, I was excited to see that there were author signings of The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner. I enjoy reading any books featuring Jane Austen and went to stand in the line early on to ensure that I received a copy of the ARC. I was beaming when I walked away with a signed copy of the book.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

Blurb:

Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.

My thoughts:

I felt a connection with the characters in this novel as they all enjoy reading the novels by Jane Austen, as do I. The story is set in the place where Austen lived (Chawton) and so that added another connection for me. The story is set in the period after the World War and focuses on a group of people who have all experienced some sort of suffering. Even though the novel references the start of the Jane Austen Society, it is not a work of historical fiction.

Many references are made in the novel to Austen’s work, in particular Pride and Prejudice and Emma. I loved these references and they added another dimension to the story for me. I figuratively rubbed my hands in glee when I caught a reference.

The Jane Austen Society is not a fast-paced novel. Instead it moves at the pace of Austen’s novels as we glimpse into the lives of the characters – characters who experience ordinary lives and come to realisations that ordinary people do. This is a novel that embraces change and quiet strength. This is a novel that embraces ordinary people who get together to create a tribute to someone they admire. This is a novel that embraces healing. This is a novel that I savoured, enjoyed, and will probably re-read. The Jane Austen Society is a must-read for anyone who enjoys Austen’s books and any references to her in novels.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 47th novel in my book pledge for 2020)