Book Review: Punching The Air by Ibi Zoboi & Yusef Salaam

The cover design for Punching The Air by Ibi Zoboi & Yusef Salaam is absolutely stunning, so much so that it whet my curiosity about the book. When I read the blurb, I was intrigued enough to listen to a online presentation on the book. I loved the discussion of the two authors – so interesting – and was delighted when I was told I had won an ARC of the book.

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Blurb:

The story that I thought

was my life

didn’t start on the day

I was born

Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white.

The story that I think

will be my life

starts today

Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it?

My Thoughts:

I loved this book so much that I could not put it down and read the work in one sitting! The story is written in verse and packs quite a punch. While reading, I heard the voice of the main character, Amal, and sensed the rollercoaster of his emotions as he went through his experience – one which certainly brought up emotions in myself as I read the story. This is a book that made me feel anger against the injustices that are experienced by young people like Amal – young people who are judged not for their actions but by the colour of their skin.

Amal is a character that grows in the story and who experiences a range of emotions. Not only have Zoboi & Salaam have created a person who young men like Amal can relate to; they have also created one who represents the injustices experienced by this group of young men. What I like about this story as well is that it is a thought-provoking one: it encourages readers to think about social injustice and to become more aware of prejudices that exist in our society.

I recommend this book for any person to read – not only young adults. It is a novel that would be a perfect springboard for intense discussion on social justice; and the way in which art can be used as a way not only to express this injustice but as a vehicle to recognise it.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 134th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Athena’s Choice by Adam Boostron

On Instagram I connected with the people marketing Adam Boostron’s novel, Athena’s Choice. They reached out to me as I had shown interest in the story as the premise intrigued me – I was certainly interested in exploring the idea of women ruling the world!

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Blurb:

Athena Vosh lives just like any other teenager from the year 2099. She watches reality shows with her friends, eats well, and occasionally wonders to herself: what would life be like if men were still alive?

It has been almost 50 years since an experimental virus accidentally killed all the men on earth. However, a controversial project is currently underway to bring men back. There’s just one catch. The project has been sabotaged.

So begins Athena’s Choice. When the police of 2099 are tasked with finding the saboteur, they receive a mysterious command to investigate the otherwise innocuous Athena Vosh. After it becomes clear that the young girl might know more than she lets on, Athena is brought in to participate in the official investigation. Simultaneously, the girl begins to experience a series of cryptic dreams featuring a ruined library and an old book containing the saboteur’s true identity. As the police close in on their prize, Athena finds herself on a journey of her own. Her clue-filled dreams and incorruptible spirit bring her face-to-face with a pair of forgotten truths about happiness and gender. The world waits to see if men will return as Athena fights a separate battle, culminating in the choice that will define her and others’ lives forever. 

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed this science fiction novel written by an indie author – particularly as it explores a world ruled by women. The women-led utopia is described as being free of war and poverty – though violence does rear its head a little. It is interesting to note that even though many women are described as not missing the presence of men, others are shown as hankering for their presence – even if they are unable to explain or express the feeling of loss in their lives.

The author presents the story in an interesting way: through the use of advertisements, newspaper articles, and through the thoughts of the main character. It is in this way that the reader learns the backstory of the novel and the presentation of information in this way certainly kept me on my toes. The novel’s pacing was pitched perfectly and at no time did my interest in the story flag.

The author uses the story as a vehicle in which to guide our thoughts on a futuristic world scenario. As the reader, we are guided to question whether the world would be a better place without the dominant sex. It is a question that the author ultimately doesn’t answer and one that the reader needs to determine for themselves. I enjoyed this thought-provoking novel and would highly recommend it, especially for those who enjoy thinking on the way in which our society is runs.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 113th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Vanished Queen by Lisbeth Campbell

The Vanished Queen by Lisbeth Campbell was the second novel I had been accepted for on Netgalley. I chose to apply for this one as fantasy is my favourite genre and I was intrigued by the blurb.

Publishing Date: 1 September 2020

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, LGBT

Blurb:

When a country is held in thrall to a vicious, despotic king, it’s up to one woman to take him down.

Long ago, Queen Mirantha vanished. King Karolje claimed it was an assassination by a neighboring king, but everyone knew it was a lie. He had Disappeared her himself.

But after finding the missing queen’s diary, Anza—impassioned by her father’s unjust execution and inspired by Mirantha’s words—joins the resistance group to overthrow the king. When an encounter with Prince Esvar thrusts her into a dangerous game of court politics, one misstep could lead to a fate worse than death.

Esvar is the second son to an evil king. Trapped under his thumb and desperate for a way out, a chance meeting with Anza gives him the opportunity to join the resistance. Together, they might have the leverage to move against the king—but if they fail, their deaths could mean a total loss of freedom for generations to follow.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed the storytelling of this novel as it explores the corruption of kingship and the resistance to its corruption. Resistance as a concept is also explored and is shown to take many additional forms: resistance within the corrupt system as well as resistance against the temptation to embrace the corruption. Throughout the novel, the author is making a commentary on ruling and governance; and how easily a ruler can be swayed by the desire to hold on tightly to power.

While reading the story, I was often reminded of Mao Tse Tung’s purging of the intelligentsia and of knowledge as a way to control the populace. I hoped early on in the novel that the knowledge that had been hidden in the form of library closures and burning of texts would see the light of day.

My favourite character was definitely Anza – a woman who puts herself in danger for her beliefs. She is steadfast and loyal; and does not give up despite her personal losses. There were also other characters in the novel who grew on me; characters who played an important part in the telling of the story.

I enjoyed this novel and will now be on the lookout for other stories written by this author.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 102nd novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: How to Live on the Edge by Sarah Lynn Scheerger

I was chosen by the Booksparks team to read and review How to Live on the Edge by Sarah Lynn Scheerger for their pop-up tour.

Publication Date: 4 August 2020

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Blurb:

Eighteen-year-old Cayenne barely remembers her mother, who died of breast cancer when Cayenne was four. The women in her family have a history of dying young. Cayenne figures she’ll meet the same fate, so she might as well enjoy life now, engaging in death-defying risks like dodging trains and jumping off cliffs with her boyfriend.

When Cayenne receives a series of video messages her mother made for her before dying, she isn’t sure she wants them. Her aunt Tee has been her true mother figure. But then Aunt Tee tests positive for a BRCA gene mutation–the one that doomed Cayenne’s mom–and decides to get a mastectomy to reduce her chances of developing cancer. As Cayenne helps her aunt prepare for the surgery, she finds herself drawn to her mother’s messages, with their musings on life, love, and perseverance. For the first time, Cayenne starts to question what it truly means to live life to the fullest, even when death might be written into her DNA. 

My Thoughts:

How To Live on the Edge is a thought provoking novel that encourages the reader to think about cancer, grief, and the chance to prevent the disease. The novel references the BRCA gene mutation for cancer and explores the option of preventative surgery by having a mastectomy. The suggested surgery is controversial and the novel does acknowledge this.

When I read the first few chapters of this novel, I was reminded of the book P.S. I Love You because Cayenne and her sister watch the videos that their dying mother had left for them to view. As in Ahern’s novel, Scheerger explores the grief experienced by the loved ones who have been left behind. In How To Live On The Edge, however, the manifestation of the grief is explored many years after the actual death.

I found this novel to be an interesting read – even though I did not appreciate Cayenne’s reckless behaviour. I could understand, though, the reasons for such behaviour. During the novel, I saw a growth in Cayenne’s character as she realised some of the reasons for her behaviour and the fact that she was pushing her loved ones away. I also appreciated the topic of breast cancer – a topic that is often seen as taboo. I like that this novel tackles the subject head-on and explores the preventative treatment suggested for this type of cancer.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 103rd novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: First Sister by Linden A. Lewis

The First Sister by Linden A. Lewis was the third novel I had been accepted for on Netgalley by Simon & Schuster Canada. I chose to apply for this one as the novel is a science fiction one and I was intrigued by the blurb.

Publication Date: 4 August 2020

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction, Young Adult Fantasy, LGBT

Blurb:

First Sister has no name and no voice. As a priestess of the Sisterhood, she travels the stars alongside the soldiers of Earth and Mars—the same ones who own the rights to her body and soul. When her former captain abandons her, First Sister’s hopes for freedom are dashed when she is forced to stay on her ship with no friends, no power, and a new captain—Saito Ren—whom she knows nothing about. She is commanded to spy on Captain Ren by the Sisterhood, but soon discovers that working for the war effort is so much harder to do when you’re falling in love.

Lito val Lucius climbed his way out of the slums to become an elite soldier of Venus, but was defeated in combat by none other than Saito Ren, resulting in the disappearance of his partner, Hiro. When Lito learns that Hiro is both alive and a traitor to the cause, he now has a shot at redemption: track down and kill his former partner. But when he discovers recordings that Hiro secretly made, Lito’s own allegiances are put to the test. Ultimately, he must decide between following orders and following his heart.

My Thoughts:

I loved this diverse read and see it as a prime example not only of the fantasy genre, but also of science fiction. What I enjoy most about this genre is that often the author is expressing a commentary on the society in which we live – and Lewis is no exception. She explores how a group of people are silenced – both a race, and a gender. In the case of women, their voices are literally taken away; in the case of the marginalised group their rights and ability to speak out are taken away from them by poverty and disempowerment. The author makes references to colonisation and hints at the injustices that it brought about.

In The First Sister, Lewis explores the power the use of technology brings to a group of people; as well as how this power is abused. Linked to this exploration is the corruption of power and how those in power use it to further their own ends. I suspect this exploration will continue in the next book of the series and be expanded even further. I look forward to seeing where Lewis will take this theme.

I enjoyed getting to know Lewis’ characters; and seeing the way in which they interact with one another. I see, too, the potential for their growth which will, I am sure, be expressed more in the following novels. I appreciate the fact that the characters embrace a diverse group of people giving the novel an added richness.

The action of the story ends nicely but the reader is left with some unanswered questions – questions which certainly encourage me to be on the lookout for the next novel in the series. I enjoyed the themes explored in The First Sister as well as the characters. The novel is expertly written and I found it difficult to put aside. If you enjoy fantasy and science fiction novels, this is a novel for you. In addition to reading about a futuristic world, you will also be encouraged to think on our social practices and what is done to silence large groups of people.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 107th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

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: Shine by Jessica Jung

When my Kindle Paperwhite finally arrived (after being sent back to the factory undelivered), I had a difficult time connecting it to the WiFi. After struggling with it, I turned to help: from my daughter and some YouTube videos. Finally we got the device connected and I could read the first e-ARC that I had been approved for on Netgalley.

Publication Date: 29 September 2020

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Blurb:

What would you give for a chance to live your dreams?

For seventeen-year-old Korean American Rachel Kim, the answer is almost everything. Six years ago, she was recruited by DB Entertainment—one of Seoul’s largest K-pop labels, known for churning out some of the world’s most popular stars. The rules are simple: Train 24/7. Be perfect. Don’t date. Easy right?

Not so much. As the dark scandals of an industry bent on controlling and commodifying beautiful girls begin to bubble up, Rachel wonders if she’s strong enough to be a winner, or if she’ll end up crushed… Especially when she begins to develop feelings for K-pop star and DB golden boy Jason Lee. It’s not just that he’s charming, sexy, and ridiculously talented. He’s also the first person who really understands how badly she wants her star to rise.

Get ready as Jessica Jung, K-pop legend and former lead singer of Korea’s most famous girl group, Girls Generation, takes us inside the luxe, hyper-color world of K-pop, where the stakes are high, but for one girl, the cost of success—and love—might be even higher. It’s time for the world to see: this is what it takes to SHINE.

My Thoughts:

I chose to read this young adult novel because it features K-pop – music which often plays in our home. My daughter often shares the new music with me – and shows me the amazing dance videos. The storyline of Shine also intrigued me and I was curious to read some background to this popular music.

I loved this story: the K-pop references, the hint of romance, the family connection, and especially the growth of a young girl into a confident young woman who learns to take what she wants in the world she has chosen.

Yung paints a realistic picture of the K-pop world. She shows us what it takes to succeed; and she shows us the inequality that exists between the sexes. Her well written story grabbed my interest from the first few pages and kept it until the end.

This novel is the perfect read for those who love Korean music. It is also a suitable read for for young girls looking for a read that embraces a young woman coming into her own.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 95th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: May Day by Josie Jaffrey

I have enjoyed Josie Jaffrey’s writing in the past and when she was looking for reader’s to review her latest novel, May Day, I sent in my application. I was happy to be accepted and read the novel as soon as it had arrived.

Genre: Fantasy

Blurb:

If the murderer you’re tracking is a vampire, then you want a vampire detective. Just maybe not this one.

It’s not that Jack Valentine is bad at her job. The youngest member of Oxford’s Seekers has an impressive track record, but she also has an impressive grudge against the local baron, Killian Drake.
When a human turns up dead on May Morning, she’s determined to pin the murder on Drake. The problem is that none of the evidence points to him. Instead, it leads Jack into a web of conspiracy involving the most powerful people in the country, people to whom Jack has no access. But she knows someone who does.
To get to the truth, Jack will have to partner up with her worst enemy. As long as she can keep her cool, Drake will point her to the ringleaders, she’ll find the murderer and no one else will have to die.
Body bags on standby.

May Day is the first book in Josie Jaffrey’s Seekers series, an urban fantasy series set in Oxford, England. 

My Thoughts:

I have enjoyed Jaffrey’s vampire stories in the past and looked forward to reading this one which is a little different from her usual as it describe the case of a Seeker – otherwise known as a detective. The author blends perfectly the world of solving a mystery with that of a vampire story. The mystery part of the novel was so well done that I often forgot that I was reading a vampire story!

Jack Valentine is the star of the novel – and I love her! She is sassy, brash, and takes no nonsense. I enjoyed seeing a strong female character in the story – one who makes mistakes and does her best to fix them. Another character that I enjoyed was Killian Drake. I hope to see more of him in other stories alongside Valentine as the connection between the two of them makes for interesting reading.

As with all the other vampire novels that Jaffrey has published, May Day is a well written story with pacing that has been perfectly pitched. I was thankful that I read this one while on break as there was no need for me to begin working. Instead, I was able to sit on the sofa and complete this story in one sitting.

If you enjoy detective stories and are curious to see how vampires would fit into this scenario, pick up a copy of May Day. You may be surprised by how much you love it.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 89th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

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)