Currently Listening: The Switch

Currently I am listening to The Switch by Beth O’Leary while starting a new crochet project. I am now working on an afghan for my cousin (remember my yarn haul of a few weeks ago?)

The story I am listening to centres on Leena and her grandmother Eileen. Ordered to take a two month long sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, Leena escapes to her grandmother’s house. Once there, the two women decide to switch lives for the period: Leena takes over her grandmother’s life while Eileen, a 79 year old woman, goes to London to look for love and a change of pace. Stepping into one another’s shoes proves more difficult than either of them expected – ad leads them to learning more about themselves.

I am enjoying this 2 POV narration that is spot on. The narrators of the novel are perfect for the two generations of women in the story – their voices sound their age! I cannot stop listening as the storytelling just draws me in. I loved The Flatshare and I am enjoying The Switch just as much. Beth O’Leary has done it again in that she has created a relevant story for today’s times that is so different to the other stories out there.

What are you currently listening to?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This audiobook is the 105th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: His & Hers by Alice Feeney

As you know, I have recently joined Netgalley and I was excited to learn that they have started to offer audiobooks to read and review. When I saw His & Hers by Alice Feeney on offer, I requested it – and was excited to see my request accepted. The synopsis suggested an intense story.

Format: Audiobook

Publication Date: 28 July 2020

Genre: Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Mystery

Blurb:

There are two sides to every story: yours and mine, ours and theirs, His & Hers. Which means someone is always lying.

Anna Andrews finally has what she wants. Almost. She’s worked hard to become the main TV presenter of the BBC’s lunchtime news, putting work before friends, family, and her now ex-husband. So, when someone threatens to take her dream job away, she’ll do almost anything to keep it.

When asked to cover a murder in Blackdown–the sleepy countryside village where she grew up–Anna is reluctant to go. But when the victim turns out to be one of her childhood friends, she can’t leave. It soon becomes clear that Anna isn’t just covering the story, she’s at the heart of it.

DCI Jack Harper left London for a reason, but never thought he’d end up working in a place like Blackdown. When the body of a young woman is discovered, Jack decides not to tell anyone that he knew the victim, until he begins to realise he is a suspect in his own murder investigation.

One of them knows more than they are letting on. Someone isn’t telling the truth. Alternating between Anna’s and Jack’s points of view, His & Hers is a fast-paced, complex, and dark puzzle that will keep listeners guessing until the very end.

My Thoughts:

His & Hers is a story written in a 2 person POV (point of view) and is narrated as such by two performers: Richard Armitage and Stephanie Racine. Their work is amazing and their narration encouraged me to keep listening. Their tone, pace, and pitch were perfect. Their voices drew me in and kept me engaged. The British accents suited the story as it dos take place in London and a small British village.

Not only did I enjoy the narration, the story also grabbed my attention and kept it. The author, Alice Feeney, is new to me and she definitely converted me to her work. Her story kept me interested throughout: her pacing is good and she left clues and tidbits throughout the story, encouraging me to try and solve the mystery. Often I felt I had guessed the outcome – and was confident with my thought processes. Yet she still managed to surprise me in the end! I loved that.

If you enjoy smart and twisty psychological thrillers that will keep you guessing, this novel is for you. If audiobooks are not your preference, reading the story would still be enjoyable as the images created in your mind with the author’s words would still be effective.

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

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 100th novel in my book pledge for 2020 – can you believe it?!)

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)

Re-Reading with Audiobooks

In June, Laurie Forest’s next book in The Black Witch Chronicles, The Shadow Wand, will be released. I look forward to its release and, in the meantime, decided to re-read the stories. Looking through my local library’s audiobook section, I noticed that the novels were available in mp3 format. I decided to give the performances a listen.

Listening to The Black Witch in audio format has increased the level of my appreciation for these novels. The book is expertly read and allows me to enjoy the story while working on creative projects, or while I am out walking.

I have listened to the first novel in the series as well as the two prequel novellas. The performances of all of these were excellent and I could not stop listening – the stories are just as good when reading them!

Now I am waiting for the next audiobook in the series – my hold will take a few months to get to me. The wait is tempting me to join Audible!

I give these audiobooks ⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 44th and 46th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Currently Listening: Wand Fasted

Currently I am listening to a novel I have previously enjoyed: Wand Fasted by Laurie Forest. My intention is to listen to all of the audiobooks of the series before the next book is available in June.

I am enjoying this revisit of a story and characters that I have previously enjoyed.

What are you currently listening to?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

Book Review: The Beckonng Shadow by Katharyn Blair

For my third audiobook since the stay-at-home mandate, I chose to listen to The Beckoning Shadow by Katharyn Blair. I chose the novel for a number of reasons: it is a fantasy, the cover is striking, and it was immediately available from the library.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Format: Audiobook

Blurb:

The Magicians meets Fight Club in this heart-stopping contemporary fantasy stand-alone about a teen girl with special powers who seeks redemption through a dangerous tournament that guarantees the winner a chance to undo the past. Perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare and The Young Elites, and written by debut author Katharyn Blair.

Vesper Montgomery can summon your worst fear and turn it into a reality-but she’s learned the hard way that it’s an addictive and dangerous power. One wrong move and you could hurt someone you love.

But when she earns a spot in the Tournament of the Unraveling, where competitors battle it out for a chance to rewrite the past, Vesper finally has a shot to reverse the mistakes that have changed her forever. She turns to Sam Hardy, a former MMA fighter who’s also carrying a tragedy he desperately wants to undo. However, helping heal Sam’s heart will mean breaking her own, and the competition forces her to master her powers-powers she has been terrified of since they destroyed her life.

My thoughts:

I am slowly being converted to the enjoyment of audiobooks as I can enjoy the stories that have been written by authors while being creative myself (I listened to this one while working on my bullet journal). This audiobook, however, introduced me to the fact that the narrator’s voice does have an impact on my appreciation of the story.

The voice of the narrator for this audiobook I found to be too forceful. Her tone often felt aggressive and I felt myself wondering whether I would have received the impression of aggression if I had read the text of the novel instead of listening to it. There were times, too, when I felt the narrator did not pause at the correct moments in her reading of the text.

While listening to the story, I felt the main character came off as whiny – and the storytelling to be a bit repetitive. Again I wonder if I would have felt this way if I had read the novel myself. I felt I could not connect with the main character as, on some level, I had the sense that she was immature and did not grow at all during the story.

The Beckoning Shadow was an ordinary story for me and did not capture my imagination. It is not a story I will listen to again and am not that interested in reading/listening to the sequel.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 38th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold

When I saw that Elana K. Arnold had brought out another book titled Red Hood, I purchased a copy without even looking at the blurb. I had enjoyed her previous novel and looked forward to reading this one.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Retellings

Blurb:

Since her grandmother became her caretaker when she was four years old, Bisou Martel has lived a quiet life in a little house in Seattle. She’s kept mostly to herself. She’s been good. But then comes the night of homecoming, when she finds herself running for her life over roots and between trees, a fury of claws and teeth behind her. A wolf attacks. Bisou fights back. A new moon rises. And with it, questions. About the blood in Bisou’s past and on her hands as she stumbles home. About broken boys and vicious wolves. About girls lost in the woods—frightened, but not alone.

My thoughts:

Red Hood is a fantasy retelling of the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood. The novel was the second I had read by this author and I loved it! So much so that I completed it in one sitting.

The entire story is told in the second person – as if someone is recounting the story to the main character. It is an unusual technique but one that works for the story – it is almost as if we are seeing the events through the eyes of another person (as we would if we were watching a film).

The references in the novel are symbolic: the Wolf is the symbol men who prey on women and abuse them; the Hunter is the symbol of the women who stand up for and protect these women. It is interesting to note that, unlike in the original story, the Hunter is a woman and not a man whose role it is to save the woman.

The thread running throughout the story is that women are the ones who can save women – women are the ones who have the interests of other women at heart. The story also shows that women can band together to support one another and fight against the abuse of their kind.

I loved this book for its symbolism as well as for its reflection of women’s empowerment. Red Hood is the second Young Adult novel I have read by Elana K. Arnold – and it won’t be my last.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 33rd novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich

One of the things I have discovered during the period of social distancing and staying at home is the use of audiobooks from my local library. The second title I enjoyed in March was Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich. I had previously enjoyed reading novels by this author, so I looked forward to the story.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

Format: Audiobook – read by Lorelei King

Blurb:

Life in Marblehead has had a pleasant predictability, until Diesel arrives. Rumor has it that a collection of priceless ancient relics representing the Seven Deadly Sins have made their way to Boston’s North Shore. Partnered with pastry chef Lizzie Tucker, Diesel bullies and charms his way through historic Salem to track them down—and his criminal mastermind cousin Gerewulf Grimorie. The black-haired, black-hearted Wulf is on the hunt for the relic representing gluttony. Caught in a race against time, Diesel and Lizzie soon find out that more isn’t always better, as they battle Wulf and the first of the deadly sins.With delectable characters and non-stop thrills that have made Janet Evanovich a household name, Wicked Appetite will leave you hungry for more.

My thoughts:

Wicked Appetite was a fun and hilarious story – and I often laughed out loud at the characters’ antics and at the words that came out of their mouths. This book definitely put me in a good mood – in fact, it encouraged me to continue listening even though I was done with my creative task. If you have read any of the Stephanie Plum stories by Janet Evanovich and enjoyed them, then this story is for you. The author’s effervescent humour is found in this novel too.

There is no character building and growth in this novel – but that is not the intention, I think, of the story. Instead it is a fun tale that will definitely take your mind off of the realities of the COVID-19 virus. I enjoyed the slapstick humour of witches and magic, as well as the dig at the fantasy genre.The audiobook is perfectly read by Lorelei King as her voice projects the humour expressed by the text.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 32nd novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Taken By Storm by Tami Hoag

During the first week of social isolation, I needed something more than music to ease my mind while journaling. I came up with the idea of searching the catalogues of our library for an audiobook. My thought was that the focus required to listen to a story would help focus my mind and prevent it from skittering all over the place as I thought of the CoronaVirus. I requested the first available book I saw by an author I knew: Taken by Storm by Tami Hoag.

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Format: Audiobook (narrated by Donna Rawlins)

Blurb:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Tami Hoag comes this bittersweet romance classic about a woman who’s rebuilt her life—and her heart—after the disappointments of the past, only to find her carefully laid plans shattered by a knock on the door.…

As a trauma nurse, Julia McCarver is accustomed to dealing with life-and-death emergencies. But she is the one in shock when she answers the door and finds the past standing there in the person of S. T. “Storm” Dalton. Julia had painstakingly put her life together not just once but three times in the wake of his abrupt and devastating departures, and she has no intention of doing it a fourth time. Because that’s what S.T. promises he will do—break her engagement to another man, her heart, and her future all over again. Except, of course, that’s not what he calls his plan to win her back. He gives himself two weeks to convince Julia that he’s changed, that she is still in love with him, and that—despite conventional wisdom—the fourth time lightning struck can be a charm.

My thoughts:

I did not know that Tami Hoag wrote romance as I have only read her thrillers. According to the author’s note at the beginning of the story, Hoag began her career writing romance. Taken by Storm does follow the traditional format of a romance, leaving the storyline to be a predictable one. However, many of the images used by the author were beautifully written and reminded me of why Hoag is one of my go-to novelists. In addition, the humour of the story elicited a few chuckles from me.

I enjoyed the audio version of this book especially because the reader did an excellent job. Her voice and pitch for the story was perfect. I loved, too, that she changed her voice for the various characters – even taking on a Latino accent for one of the characters. Donna Rawlins’ interpretation of the text added another level of pleasure to my enjoyment of this novel.

Taken by Storm was the perfect story to take my mind off of the COVID-19 pandemic that was encroaching our borders at that time. It is a lighthearted, humorous read that is perfectly narrated. I recommend that this novel be added to your list of books to listen to.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 27th novel in my book pledge for 2020)