Book Review: Like A Love Story by Abdi Nazeman

At the Spring Frenzy Presents event that I attended, I received a copy of Like A Love Story by Abdi Nazeman. The description of the novel sounded interesting and I looked forward to going back to the time of my adolescence.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

Blurb:

It’s 1989 in New York City, and for three teens, the world is changing.

Reza is an Iranian boy who has just moved to the city with his mother to live with his stepfather and stepbrother. He’s terrified that someone will guess the truth he can barely acknowledge about himself. Reza knows he’s gay, but all he knows of gay life are the media’s images of men dying of AIDS.

Judy is an aspiring fashion designer who worships her uncle Stephen, a gay man with AIDS who devotes his time to activism as a member of ACT UP. Judy has never imagined finding romance…until she falls for Reza and they start dating.

Art is Judy’s best friend, their school’s only out and proud teen. He’ll never be who his conservative parents want him to be, so he rebels by documenting the AIDS crisis through his photographs.

As Reza and Art grow closer, Reza struggles to find a way out of his deception that won’t break Judy’s heart–and destroy the most meaningful friendship he’s ever known.

My thoughts:

Like A Love Story flashes back to the AIDS activism of the eighties and when many news items in the media were on the AIDS crisis. The novel takes us back to a time that many have forgotten: a time of fear and of uncertain knowledge; a time when people fought for the rights of those that had been struck with the disease. So many procedures and access to medication is a result of the people who boldly protested for the right (not privilege) to receive treatment.

I enjoyed the flashbacks to the music of Madonna and my love of her songs when I was a teen. As I was reading the references to the rebellious singer, the songs would play in my mind. While reading this novel, I learned how important she was in the gay community – something I had not realised before when living as a teenager in Apartheid South Africa.

Nazeman has written a beautiful story that embraces what a person is born to be. It is a story about a young man who comes to accept who he is despite the fear that surrounds him. It is a story about fighting for what you believe is right, no matter what is being reported in the media or how people treat you. It is a story that describes the fear of being different to expectations. It is a story about the courage to be yourself. It is a story about friendship and of love; and of supporting the people that you love.

Like A Love Story is one that has touched my heart. It is a read that takes you back to the past and encourages you to connect with characters that will remain with you long after you have completed the book. Be warned, though. You will feel emotional when reading this story – have a kleenex on hand!

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

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 76th in my book pledge for 2019)

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Book Review: The Little Teashop on Main by Jodi Thomas

When at the OLA Super Conference earlier this year, I picked up Jodi Thomas’ The Little Teashop on Main. The cover of the ARC attracted my gaze and, as I enjoy reading stories of this genre, I chose to bring it home with me.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

Blurb:

A rainy-day ritual—a tea party between three little girls—becomes the framework of not only their friendship, but their lives. 

Blonde, curly-haired Zoe is openhearted, kind and free-spirited, and dreams of becoming a famous actor in New York City. Shy Emily struggles with mental health but has the heart and soul of a writer. And Shannon—tall, athletic, strong—has a deep sense of loyalty that will serve her well when she heads off to military college.

As Zoe, Emily and Shannon grow into women—forging careers, following dreams and finding love—they’ll learn that life doesn’t always unfold the way they want it to, but through it all, the one constant is each other, and their regular tea parties. And when the unthinkable happens, the girls must come together to face the greatest test of all.

My thoughts:

The novel spans many years and begins when the friends were five years old. Thomas, however, does not take us through every year of their lives. Instead we learn more about Zoe, Emily and Shannon as adults. In addition, we read the thoughts of some of the people in their lives. Told from the point of view of many characters, we are able to see into the mind of each and how each person affects the life trajectory of the women.

Thomas takes us on the journey of three women’s lives. We read about their aspirations, their failures, the fulfilment of their dreams, and the love they experience in their lives. We read about a friendship that is so strong that it spans decades and even distance. I loved that this friendship was an important part of the story. The love and romance between two people and a potential partner is explored while the love between friends is not forgotten.

The Little Teashop on Main is a light read with plenty of romance (if you are looking for steamy sex scenes, however, this one will not deliver). The novel doesn’t delve too deeply into it characters – though as a reader, you will feel a connection with the main female characters. I enjoyed the story and it is perfect for a lazy and relaxing afternoon.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 75th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: I’ll Never Tell by Catherine McKenzie

I was happy when I won an Instagram giveaway the ARC of Catherine McKenzie’s latest novel I’ll Never Tell. I enjoyed her previous novel and looked forward to reading this one.

Genre: Adult Fiction, Thriller, Mystery

Blurb:

What happened to Amanda Holmes?

Twenty years ago, she washed up on shore in a rowboat with a gash to the head after an overnight at Camp Macaw. No one was ever charged with a crime.

Now, the MacAllister children are all grown up. After their parents die suddenly, they return to Camp to read the will and decide what to do with the prime real estate it’s sitting on. Ryan, the oldest, wants to sell. Margo, the family’s center, hasn’t made up her mind. Mary has her own horse farm to run, and believes in leaving well-enough alone. Kate and Liddie—the twins—have opposing views. And Sean Booth, the family groundskeeper, just hopes he still has a home when all is said and done. 

But then the will is read and they learn that it’s much more complicated than a simple vote. Until they unravel the mystery of what happened to Amanda, they can’t move forward. Any one of them could have done it, and all of them are hiding key pieces of the puzzle. Will they work together to solve the mystery, or will their suspicions and secrets finally tear the family apart?

My thoughts:

McKenzie’s storytelling did not disappoint. I enjoyed this tale as much as I had enjoyed her previous one, and her words kept me reading and invested right until the end.

The story moves between the past and the present as the reader gets to know the different personalities in the story, as well as what happened in the past. The movement between the time frames is done seamlessly and at no time was I confused. McKenzie paced the information perfectly so that I was neither bored nor disconcerted. Each bit of information that she gave, led me towards understanding the sequence of events as well as my understanding of the characters in the story.

As with all mystery stories, I tried to figure out the solution before reaching the final chapter. I’ll Never Tell is not predictable and therefore had a few surprises. These little twists in the story are believable and added to my enjoyment of the tale.

If you enjoy mystery stories, then you will enjoy this Canadian author’s novel. Unlike the modern psychological thriller, I’ll Never Tell is more a mystery story which the reader attempts to solve while reading.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 74th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The One and Only by Emily Griffin

While working in my room sorting my bookshelves and clearing out the drawers, I listened to the audio book The One and Only by Emily Griffin. The discs were ones I had picked up at a library sale and thought it would be a good opportunity to use them.

Genre: Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

Format: Audio Book

Blurb:

Thirty-three-year-old Shea Rigsby has spent her entire life in Walker, Texas—a small college town that lives and dies by football, a passion she unabashedly shares. Raised alongside her best friend, Lucy, the daughter of Walker’s legendary head coach, Clive Carr, Shea was too devoted to her hometown team to leave. Instead she stayed in Walker for college, even taking a job in the university athletic department after graduation, where she has remained for more than a decade.

But when an unexpected tragedy strikes the tight-knit Walker community, Shea’s comfortable world is upended, and she begins to wonder if the life she’s chosen is really enough for her. As she finally gives up her safety net to set out on an unexpected path, Shea discovers unsettling truths about the people and things she has always trusted most—and is forced to confront her deepest desires, fears, and secrets.

Thoughtful, funny, and brilliantly observed, The One & Only is a luminous novel about finding your passion, following your heart, and, most of all, believing in something bigger than yourself . . . the one and only thing that truly makes life worth living.

My thoughts:

I do not usually listen to audio books and it took me a while to get used to listening to the story. In addition to sorting out the characters in my mind, I had to get used to the Texan accent that the story was read in. What I enjoyed about listening to the story was that I could do things while discovering Griffin’s story. I did miss being able to flip back, however, to past pages in order to check on moments of the story.

The story centres around college football – a sport which I have no knowledge of. As a result, some of the moments when the game was discussed went by me. If I had been reading the text, I probably would have put the book down in boredom but, because the story was being read to me, I continued listening while busy with my tasks.

The blurb suggests that Shea, the main character, takes the time to re-evaluate her life after an unexpected tragedy. I was a little disappointed with the lack of growth of the main character. Even though Shea does change some parts of her life, her romantic one ends up where she began. I was a little disappointed with the final choice that she made – though it was a choice that I was easily able to predict.

In addition to there not being too much character growth in the story, Griffin makes no social commentary in her novel. She has the opportunity – twice – but decides instead to create a story without a social message. A story like this was perfect to listen to – but would have been a little tedious to read (in addition to all the football commentary).

The One and Only was an enjoyable story to listen to while working – but it is one that I will not listen to again.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 72nd in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Dear Wife by Kimberley Belle

Dear Wife by Kimberley Belle was one of the ARCs that I managed to pick up when I attended the OLA Super Conference earlier this year.

Genre: Adult Fiction, Thriller, Mystery

Blurb:

Beth Murphy is on the run…

For nearly a year, Beth has been planning for this day. A day some people might call any other Wednesday, but Beth prefers to see it as her new beginning–one with a new look, new name and new city. Beth has given her plan significant thought, because one small slip and her violent husband will find her.

Sabine Hardison is missing…

A couple hundred miles away, Jeffrey returns home from a work trip to find his wife, Sabine, is missing. Wherever she is, she’s taken almost nothing with her. Her abandoned car is the only evidence the police have, and all signs point to foul play.

As the police search for leads, the case becomes more and more convoluted. Sabine’s carefully laid plans for her future indicate trouble at home, and a husband who would be better off with her gone. The detective on the case will stop at nothing to find out what happened and bring this missing woman home. Where is Sabine? And who is Beth? The only thing that’s certain is that someone is lying and the truth won’t stay buried for long.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed my first foray into Kimberley Belle’s writing. The story begins with Beth’s point of view (POV) and, right from the start, my attention was captured. As the reader, I was introduced as well to the POV of two other characters: Jeffrey (a husband) and Marcus (the police officer).

The three POVs are intertwined and slowly give the reader a sense of what the story is. Hints are given, assumptions are made, and guesses are turned on their head. For me, this is what a good thriller should be: a novel that keeps you guessing and brings in unexpected twists.

As well as being a thriller, the novel also makes reference to domestic violence and the abuse of the woman in a marriage. Beth depicts a woman who is being abused by her husband, a woman who eventually begins to plan her escape. When reading Beth’s story, I could sense her fear and her desire to escape the physical abuse she was enduring. I sensed her bravery as well because she had the courage to leave.

While reading, I became invested in Beth’s story and I wanted to know the outcome. I enjoyed the subtle twists the author leaves the reader – and the unexpected ending. I will not say too much about the ending, but I will say that I enjoyed it. 🙂

Dear Wife is definitely an enjoyable read for those who enjoy psychological thrillers. The writing is crisp and clear with the perfect pacing for this genre.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 71st in my book pledge for 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)