Book Review: Rules For Being A Girl by Candace Bushnell and Kate Cotugno

The title Rules Being A Girl enticed me and when Harper Collins Canada sent me the ARC for the recent novel by Candace Bushnell and Kate Cotugno, I was very pleased.

Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Feminism

Blurb:

It starts before you can even remember: you learn the rules for being a girl.

Marin has always been good at navigating these unspoken guidelines. A star student and editor of the school paper, she dreams of getting into Brown University. Marin’s future seems bright―and her young, charismatic English teacher, Mr. Beckett, is always quick to admire her writing and talk books with her.

But when “Bex” takes things too far and comes on to Marin, she’s shocked and horrified. Had she somehow led him on? Was it her fault?

When Marin works up the courage to tell the administration what happened, no one believes her. She’s forced to face Bex in class every day. Except now, he has an ax to grind.

But Marin isn’t about to back down. She uses the school newspaper to fight back and she starts a feminist book club at school. She finds allies in the most unexpected people, like “slutty” Gray Kendall, who she’d always dismissed as just another lacrosse bro. As things heat up at school and in her personal life, Marin must figure out how to take back the power and write her own rules. 

My thoughts:

I loved this novel right from the moment I read the first page. Rules For Being A Girl is such an important book for emerging women to read..

The story shows us the thought processes a teenage girl could go through when a male teacher makes sexual advances towards her. Marin felt in some way that the sexual advances were her fault and, because of this, she questions all of her actions from the past. It was interesting for me to compare the way Marin responds to her teacher’s advances to the way in which Vanessa in My Dark Vanessa responds to similar advances.

The novel centres on the way in which Marin processes her experience – and what she learns from it. From the responses to her teacher’s actions ( her own and others), Marin learns a lot about herself and about society. The far-reaching implications of the sexual advances are highlighted for both Marin and the teacher.

In the story, Marin learns more about herself and about the solidarity of women in society. She comes to realise that this solidarity can be shown in different ways. Rules For Being A Girl also highlights the need for women to support each other in small ways; and shows that feminism can be expressed in different ways.

Bushnell & Cotugno have written a novel that is a must-read for all teenage girls on the cusp of womanhood. It is a novel that will encourage them to think of the type of woman they want to be; as well as how they could respond to patriarchal assumptions and expectations.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 23rd novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

While at the OLA Super Conference earlier this year, I stood in line to get a signed ARC of Jennifer Hillier’s novel Little Secrets. I smiled with glee when I was able to get a copy of her latest

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Blurb:

From the author of Jar of Hearts, a mother driven to the edge by the disappearance of her son learns her husband is having an affair with the woman who might have kidnapped him. Four hundred and eighty seconds. That’s how long it took for someone to steal Marin Machado’s four-year-old son.

Marin had the perfect life. Married to her college sweetheart, she owns a chain of upscale hair salons, and Derek runs his own company. They’re admired in their community and are a loving family. Up until the day Sebastian is taken.

A year later, Marin is a shadow of herself. The FBI search has gone cold. The publicity has faded. She and her husband rarely speak. The only thing keeping her going is the unlikely chance that one day Sebastian reappears. She hires a P.I. to pick up where the police left off, but instead of finding him, she discovers that Derek is having an affair with a younger woman.

Kenzie Li is an artist and grad student—Instagram famous—and up to her eyeballs in debt. She knows Derek is married. She also knows he’s rich, and dating him comes with perks: help with bills, trips away, expensive gifts. He isn’t her first rich boyfriend, but she finds herself hoping he’ll be the last. She’s falling for him—and that was never part of the plan.

Discovery of the affair sparks Marin back to life. She’s lost her son; she’s not about to lose her husband, too. Kenzie is an enemy with a face, which means this is a problem Marin can fix. But as she sets a plan in motion, another revelation surfaces. Derek’s lover might know what happened to their son. And so might Derek.

My thoughts:

The novel deals with a scary topic – the abduction of your child. The abduction of my children was something I was always scared of when they were little and, as a result, would make sure I held their hand when in crowded places. But mistakes do happen and children do wander off with no sense of danger.

Little Secrets describes the mental state of the mom as she experiences depression after the abduction of her child. The book does have another trigger in that Marin (the main character) has continuous thoughts of suicide. When she learns that her husband is having an affair, she is pulled out of her lethargy and behaves in unexpected ways.

The pacing of the novel was a little slow in the beginning and it did not feel at all like I was reading a thriller. Halfway through the story, however, the pace did pick up which led to me turning the pages at a faster pace. The second half of the story also led to unexpected twists that I enjoyed.

The story does end with a sense of hope and an underlying truth that you need to forgive yourself for the actions you take to protect your family and loved ones. I would recommend this title for those who enjoy reading thrillers.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 22nd novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver

I enjoyed Josie Silver’s debut novel so much that when I saw an ARC of her latest, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird, at the OLA Super Conference I brought it home without reading the blurb.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

Blurb:

Lydia and Freddie. Freddie and Lydia. They’d been together for more than a decade, and Lydia thought their love was indestructible.

But she was wrong. On her twenty-eighth birthday, Freddie died in a car accident.

So now it’s just Lydia, and all she wants to do is hide indoors and sob until her eyes fall out. But Lydia knows that Freddie would want her to try to live fully, happily, even without him. So, enlisting the help of his best friend, Jonah, and her sister, Elle, she takes her first tentative steps into the world, open to life–and perhaps even love–again.

But then something inexplicable happens that gives her another chance at her old life with Freddie. A life where none of the tragic events of the past few months have happened.

Lydia is pulled again and again across the doorway of her past, living two lives, impossibly, at once. But there’s an emotional toll to returning to a world where Freddie, alive, still owns her heart. Because there’s someone in her new life, her real life, who wants her to stay.

Written with Josie Silver’s trademark warmth and wit, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird is a powerful and thrilling love story about the what-ifs that arise at life’s crossroads, and what happens when one woman is given a miraculous chance to answer them. 

My thoughts:

This is a story that describes the stages of grief. We read how Lydia learns to cope with the loss of her love, Freddie and, to a lesser degree, we read of how Jonah, Freddie’s best friend, copes with the loss of a man who was like a brother to him. Even though The Two Lives of Lydia Bird is described as a romance, the novel focuses on dealing with how two people learn to cope without the person who has been the centre of their life.

Earlier on in her grieving process, Lydia uses the alternate reality she experiences through the use of sleeping pills to help her push through her days. As time passes, she slowly comes to certain realisations about herself and about her relationship with Freddy. I enjoyed reading about the events and experiences that led to her personal growth and to the increase of her inner strength. These experiences take place in their own time and the pace of them is realistically suggested.

Silver has written this novel with sensitivity, showing an understanding of the grief process. She suggests that it is okay to move at your own pace when grieving for the loss of a loved one. The author shows that life continues despite the loss of a loved one; and that there is hope in the lives of the people left behind. Silver’s writing pulls at at the reader’s heartstrings and gives one a sense of hope that the grief will cease to be all-consuming.

If you read One Day in December and enjoyed it, you will devour this second novel in a heartbeat. Silver did not disappoint me with this book, and I loved The Two Lives of Lydia as much as I did her debut.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 21st novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: A Girl's Guide to the Outback by Jessica Kate

I had seen reviews of A Girl’s Guide to the Outback by Jessica Kate on Instagram which raised my curiosity. I decided to see whether my library had a copy of the book. They did and soon after it arrived for me to read.

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Christian Fiction

Blurb:

Samuel Payton is a passionate youth pastor in Virginia, but beneath the surface, Sam’s still recovering from a failed business. His coworker—start-up expert Kimberly Foster—is brilliant, fearless, and capable, but her mother’s rejection from a young age till now has left her defensive and longing for a family. Two people have never been more at odds—or more attracted to one another. And every day at work, the sparks are flying.

When Kimberly’s ambitious plans for Sam’s ministry butt up against his risk-averse nature, Sam decides that obligations to family trump his work for the church. He quits the ministry and flies home to Australia to help his family save their struggling farm—much to Kimberly’s chagrin. As Kimberly’s grand plans flounder, she is forced to face the truth: that no one can replace Sam. To what lengths will she go to get him back?

My thoughts:

A Girl’s Guide to the Outback is a romance written in a 3 person point of view. The pacing throughout the novel keeps the reader interested as the author shares a story about ordinary people. What was different in this romance to others I have read, is the Christian slant to it.

Not only was the story clean (no steamy sex scenes) but it also sent out a very Christian message: to trust in God and to let Him lead you to where you are to go in love and life. The growth of the characters in the story as they come to certain realisations is also linked to their belief in God and to their Christian values. They reach their full potential in the story when they realise they have to completely put their trust in God.

The pacing in the novel was good throughout and there was only one section in the story where I got a little bored: the description of when Kimberley doubted herself – it felt a little repetitive. I enjoyed reading a romance that was focused on the spiritual side of a relationship instead of a physical one and will definitely look out for more stories by this author.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 20th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Lost Scroll of the Physician by Alisha Sevigny

At the OLA Super Conference, I was able to get a signed copy of The Lost Scroll of the Physician – a middle grade book of the historical fiction genre. The synopsis intrigued me as I have always been interested by the Egyptian period.

Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction

Blurb:

In her search for answers, Sesha must find a priceless scroll for the pharaoh.

Sesha and Ky, children of the pharaoh’s royal physician, are left charming snakes and stealing food to survive after a brutal fire takes their parents and their home.

Unsure of whom to trust, the pair are found and brought back to the palace, despite misgivings that the royals are somehow involved in their parents’ deaths. Sesha is tasked with finding the rare and valuable medical document her father was transcribing for the pharaoh, who needs it urgently for his upcoming campaign.

Befriended by another scribe and a young princess, Sesha must navigate palace intrigue and temple treachery while desperately seeking the priceless scroll that not only has the power to reveal the circumstances around her parents’ death and mitigate any casualties of battle, but may also be the only thing that can save her brother’s life.

My thoughts:

I loved this middle grade book set in ancient Egypt! The language in the novel hasn’t been simplified and includes some beautiful imagery. The metaphors that were used by the author refer perfectly to the time frame of the story.

The Lost Scroll of the Physician is an adventure story and therefore the writing is paced in such a way to encourage the reader to continue reading. Even though the story is set in ancient Egypt, the characters’ experience is relatable to the modern child as they interact with others their age as well as with adults. Sesha finds herself in situations beyond her control and works at changing what she can. She is a strong character that makes the mistakes that children her age often do – but she is able to bounce back from them.

Sevigny has written the perfect adventure story that will get young readers engrossed and committed to the story. The added bonus is that those who are curious about the past will see a snapshot of life in Ancient Egypt. This novel is the first in a series and definitely encourages me to want to read more about Sesha and her sidekick Paser. I know I will be recommending this story to the 8 – 14 years in my life – especially those who enjoy adventure stories.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 19th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: All The King’s Traitors by Keylin Rivers

My final read during February was All The King’s Traitors by Keylin Rivers. The novel is a fantasy story written by an indie author who contacted me to read and review her novel. I did so with no reservation as I do like to support independent authors.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Dystopian

Blurb:

Over a thousand years have passed since the first Godstones ripped through the skies and mangled the earth. With their fall came centuries of chaos and destruction, but also immense power.

Power that separates humans from Gods.

Now, in the Kingdom of Azanthea, two adoptive brothers flee from unjust conscription.

A fugitive struggles to truly be free.

A double-crossing warrior must choose where his allegiances lie: with his wife or with his daughter.

A traitorous heir to the Kingdom’s throne roams the lands in search of an army to call his own.

A prodigy in the House of Historian competes in a grueling trial to prove her loyalty.

And one God-King rules over them all.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed reading this novel from the fist chapter as I got to know the world and the characters that inhabit it. I did wish for a map insert when I began reading but was soon able to familiarise myself with the world described without it. The story does have a dystopian feel to it as characters often refer to the life humans previously lived.

Rivers creates vivid images with her use of words which enabled me to imagine the world in which her characters live. As with all fantasy series, there are a number of characters to learn about. At no time, though, was I confused and instead grew curious as to how they would all connect. The author’s pacing is perfect as she slowly shows the connections throughout the novel. The connections make sense and left me wondering how they would all pan out.

The novel ends on a cliffhanger – and has left me wanting more! The story slowly builds towards it and leaves the reader with so many questions. These questions are generated naturally and are in no way forced.

Will I continue reading the series? Yes, I definitely will. Not only because the story has left me with unanswered questions, but also because the story is well written. I look forward to the publication of the second book in the series and to my continued enjoyed of the Highwings series. This novel is perfect for fans of Fantasy fiction and for those who enjoy reading series. In addition, you would be supporting an independent author.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 18th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Upside of Falling by Alex Light

While at the OLA conference, I passed by an ARC of The Upside of Falling by Alex Light. The cover of the novel attracted me so I decided to pick it up. Once I had read the blurb, I thought it would be a pleasant read for the month of February.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Romance

Blurb:

It’s been years since seventeen-year-old Becca Hart believed in true love. But when her former best friend teases her for not having a boyfriend, Becca impulsively pretends she’s been secretly seeing someone.

Brett Wells has it all. Being captain of the football team and one of the most popular guys in school, he should have no problem finding someone to date, but he’s always been more focused on his future than who to bring to prom. When he overhears Becca’s lie, Brett decides to step in and be her mystery guy. It’s the perfect solution: he gets people off his back for not dating and she can keep up the ruse.

Acting like the perfect couple isn’t easy though, especially when you barely know the other person. But with Becca still picking up the pieces from when her world was blown apart years ago and Brett just barely holding his together now, they begin to realize they have more in common than they ever could have imagined. When the line between real and pretend begins to blur, they are forced to answer the question: is this fake romance the realest thing in either of their lives?

My thoughts:

The Upside of Falling was the perfect lighthearted, feel good read. The story is told from two points of view – both Becca and Brett. During the story, the reader sees how both characters evolve and come to certain realisations. They learn to accept changes in their lives, and how to move on despite these changes.

The novel describes the first love of Becca, a bookish nerd. It is a love that is unexpected and sweet. In the story Becca finds her voice and learns to express her feelings. It is interesting to note that Brett, the boy she learns to love, also discovers his own voice. The Upside of Falling shows that, with a friend’s support, changes in life can be managed and you can find the courage to have your say.

I loved this novel and read it in one sitting. The characters drew me in and I became invested in their story. Alex Light has written a perfectly paced story that embraces the beauty of first love and the growth of a person into who they will become. This novel is a perfect read for a romantic and for those who enjoy reading about the experience of a first young love.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 14th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Only Child by Mi-Ae Seo

Harper Collins Canada sent me an ARC of The Only Child by Mi-Ae Seo to read and review. The blurb certainly intrigued me and I opened the novel with interest.

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Blurb:

An eerie and absorbing novel following a criminal psychologist who has discovered shocking and possibly dangerous connections between a serial killer and her stepdaughter.

Criminal psychologist Seonkyeong receives an unexpected call one day. Yi Byeongdo, a serial killer whose gruesome murders shook the world, wants to be interviewed. Yi Byeongdo, who has refused to speak to anyone until now, asks specifically for her. Seonkyeong agrees out of curiosity.

That same day Hayeong, her husband’s eleven-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, shows up at their door after her grandparents, with whom she lived after her mother passed away, die in a sudden fire. Seonkyeong wants her to feel at home, but is gradually unnerved as the young girl says very little and acts strangely.

At work and at home, Seonkyeong starts to unravel the pasts of the two new arrivals in her life and begins to see startling similarities. Hayeong looks at her the same way Yi Byeongdo does when he recounts the abuse he experienced as a child; Hayeong’s serene expression masks a temper that she can’t control. Plus, the story she tells about her grandparents’ death, and her mother’s before that, deeply troubles Seonkyeong. So much so that Yi Byeongdo picks up on it and starts giving her advice.

My thoughts:

The Only Child has been translated from the original Korean and it may be for this reason that the writing at times seemed to be a bit pedantic. The author’s style did not grab me and it was my curiosity to see how the story ended that carried me through to the last page.

The novel shows an interesting comparison between the beginning processes of a serial killer and the end of a serial killer’s killing spree when he is caught and imprisoned. This comparison is shown through the two characters: a young girl named Hayeong and Yi Byeongdo, a killer who has been captured and imprisoned. The reader is slowly introduced to the comparison and asked to make a judgement on the possibilities of what creates a serial killer. In addition to the comparison, the reader is shown the life of Yi Byeongdo and the progression which led him to the prison. His experience is different to that of Hayeong and yet similar results are predicted.

The story is told in multiple points of view. Because of the Korean names, it took me some time to figure out who was whom especially as the time frame changes as well with every chapter. However once I figured out who the characters were, I was able to switch between the characters and time frames easily.

The beginning of the novel was a bit slow for me, though the pace did pick up halfway through. I did not enjoy the writing style the author used for this novel and I was a little disappointed with the way the story was presented. I did, though, like the unexpected twist at the end of the story.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 17th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid by Kate Hattemer

I managed to pick up a copy of The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid by Kate Hattemer at the OLA conference. Both the cover and the title intrigued me.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary

Blurb:

A novel about friendship, feminism, and the knotty complications of tradition and privilege, perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli and Stephanie Perkins.

Jemima Kincaid is a feminist, and she thinks you should be one too. Her private school is laden with problematic traditions, but the worst of all is prom. The guys have all the agency; the girls have to wait around for promposals (she’s speaking heteronormatively because only the hetero kids even go). In Jemima’s (very opionated) opinion, it’s positively medieval.

Then Jemima is named to Senior Triumvirate, alongside superstar athlete Andy and popular, manicured Gennifer, and the three must organize prom. Inspired by her feminist ideals and her desire to make a mark on the school, Jemima proposes a new structure. They’ll do a Last Chance Dance: every student privately submits a list of crushes to a website that pairs them with any mutual matches.

Meanwhile, Jemima finds herself embroiled in a secret romance that she craves and hates all at once. Her best friend, Jiyoon, has found romance of her own, but Jemima starts to suspect something else has caused the sudden rift between them. And is the new prom system really enough to extinguish the school’s raging dumpster fire of toxic masculinity?

Filled with Kate Hattemer’s signature banter, this is a fast-paced and thoughtful tale about the nostalgia of senior year, the muddle of modern relationships, and how to fight the patriarchy when you just might be part of the patriarchy yourself.

My thoughts:

The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid is a novel about an emerging young woman who learns to take a look at herself and at the way other people see her. Jemima learns that she needs to take a step back and think about what – and who – is important to her and who she wants to have in her life.

As suggested in the title, the concept of feminism plays a role in the novel. Jemima comes to understand what true feminism is. It is not about being the antithesis of femininity. Instead, it is about knowing who you are, being comfortable with it, and supporting other women who express themselves in ways that are comfortable to them. She comes to realise that a woman can be feminine – and still fight the patriarchy. She also comes to the realisation that her reactions might just be supporting the patriarchal system.

Hattemer has shared with us a story that is a life story – not a love story. It is a story that centres on the message that girls can empower and support one another in subtle ways and, in so doing, work against the patriarchal system.

The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid is a coming of age novel that is a perfect read for those thinking about what type of person they want to be in our society. It is also a story which shows the importance of supporting other young women.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 16th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Sisters By Choice by Susan Mallery

While at the OLA conference, I was discussing novels with the vendor at the Harper Collins Canada booth and we looked at the stories by Susan Mallery. I enjoy novels in which women are the centre – especially ordinary women living everyday lives. The vendor recommended Sisters by Choice. I like the title as it makes me think of the friends I have who are as close to me as a sister would be.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary

Blurb:

Cousins by chance, sisters by choice

After her cat toy empire goes up in flames, Sophie Lane returns to Blackberry Island, determined to rebuild. Until small-town life reveals a big problem: she can’t grow unless she learns to let go. If Sophie relaxes her grip even a little, she might lose everything. Or she might finally be free to reach for the happiness and love that have eluded her for so long.

Kristine has become defined by her relationship to others. She’s a wife, a mom. As much as she adores her husband and sons, she wants something for herself—a sweet little bakery just off the waterfront. She knew changing the rules wouldn’t be easy, but she never imagined she might have to choose between her marriage and her dreams.

Like the mainland on the horizon, Heather’s goals seem beyond her grasp. Every time she manages to save for college, her mother has another crisis. Can she break free, or will she be trapped in this tiny life forever?

Told with Mallery’s trademark humor and charm, Sisters by Choice is a heartfelt tale of love, family and the friendships that see us through.

My thoughts:

Sisters by Choice is a story of three women with different experiences who are all at turning points in their lives. These women have choices that they need to make – choices that are important to them and that will change their lives. Through these women’s stories, Mallery shows the reader that each woman is different and will need to make choices for a different path to keep her fulfilled.

Mallery expertly intertwines the stories of the three women in the novel. The reader sees the connection between these women and is at no time confused by which story belongs to which character. By intertwining the stories, the author also shows that we are connected and that our choices do affect the lives of those around us.

I felt a connection on some level with all three women – despite their varying ages and experiences. Some experiences in life are had by most women and it is these experiences that connected me with the characters. This connection encouraged me to feel empathy for them, and to understand the motives for their choices and behaviour.

Sisters by Choice was the first novel by Mallery that I have read. I will certainly pick up another by this author.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 15th novel in my book pledge for 2020)