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)

Book Review: The Water Bears by Kim Baker

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

Genre: Middle Grade

Blurb:

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

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

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

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

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

Book Review: Under Currents by Nora Roberts

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

Format: Audiobook

Narrator: January LaVoy

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Mystery

Blurb:

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

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

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

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

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

Book Review: Grown Up Pose by Sonja Lalli

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

Format: Audiobook

Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Blurb:

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

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

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

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

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

Book Review: The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson

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

Genre: Mystery, Contemporary

Blurb:

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

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

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

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