Favourite Read of the Month: February 2019

I am way behind on my book reviews – which is why I am posting my favourite book for February mid-March! I am definitely in the mood for immersing myself in stories and haven’t been taking the time to write down my thoughts. During February, I read 9 books towards my book pledge for 2019 which brings my total to 17 books.

The titles I read in February are listed below. To read my reviews (if you haven’t already), click on the title in the following list:

  1. The Huntress by Kate Quinn – Historical fiction ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars
  2. Inkling by Kenneth Oppel – Middle grade fiction ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars
  3. I invited Her In by Adele Parks – Thriller ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars
  4. The Suspect by Fiona Barton – Thriller ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars
  5. 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne – Romance ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars
  6. Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner – YA Contemporary ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars
  7. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling (illustrated edition) – YA Fantasy ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars
  8. The Light Between the Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth – YA Fantasy ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars
  9. Heroine by Mindy McGinnis – YA Contemporary ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars

There were so many good books that I read during February which makes it difficult to choose a favourite! I enjoyed re-reading the second story in the Harry Potter series. Heroine and the story of a girl’s addiction is definitely contemporary and an eye opener. Fiona Barton wowed me with her latest thriller – such a good story! My absolute favourite, though, would have to be the historical fiction written by Kate Quinn. The Huntress was the first novel of her that I had read – and I loved it. Quinn is a skilled writer and her story drew me in. It was difficult for me to put the book down and go about my daily responsibilities.

I hope you read as many wonderful stories as I did in February. What was your favourite read? Share your choice, or the link to your post, below.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

Book of the month: January 2019

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Book Review: Heroine by Mindy McGinnis

The blurb of Heroine by Mindy McGinnis is definitely what encouraged me to request this ARC from Harper Collins Canada, and I was so pleased when the novel was sent on to me. I was curious to see how much in depth McGinnis would describe opioid addition.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary

Blurb: 

A captivating and powerful exploration of the opioid crisis—the deadliest drug epidemic in American history—through the eyes of a college-bound softball star. Edgar Award-winning author Mindy McGinnis delivers a visceral and necessary novel about addiction, family, friendship, and hope.

When a car crash sidelines Mickey just before softball season, she has to find a way to hold on to her spot as the catcher for a team expected to make a historic tournament run. Behind the plate is the only place she’s ever felt comfortable, and the painkillers she’s been prescribed can help her get there.

The pills do more than take away pain; they make her feel good.

With a new circle of friends—fellow injured athletes, others with just time to kill—Mickey finds peaceful acceptance, and people with whom words come easily, even if it is just the pills loosening her tongue.

But as the pressure to be Mickey Catalan heightens, her need increases, and it becomes less about pain and more about want, something that could send her spiraling out of control.

My thoughts: 

Getting addicted to opioids is a scary thing – and it is so easy when the drug is prescribed as a painkiller by your family doctor. McGinnis describes the ease with which Mickey, a successful athlete, goes down the slippery slope of drug addiction. The author describes the experience and the decisions made with honesty and forthrightness. As I was reading the novel, I could only shake my head in sadness of the path our heroine takes from using oxycontin to heroin. This novel is definitely not filled with fluff. Instead it is brutal and realistic.

Heroine was a book that I could not put down. While reading, Mickey Catalan became someone that I cared about. There were times in the novel when I hoped for a good outcome for her – and yet wasn’t sure she would get it. She is loved – by family and friends – and yet she moves freely and with conscious thought towards addition. The novel shows how easy it is for her to do so – and how she advocates for herself to go down the path she has chosen.

This novel is described as a Young Adult novel and discusses an issue that some teens are faced with. The content, however, is too mature for the younger teen – or one that would not have the ability to process such a harsh reality. However, it is a reality that needs to come out into the open; it is a reality that young people need to consider as drug addiction is so easy to fall into.

I enjoyed this well-written novel and recommend that should be read by both young and older readers as it deals with a topic that affects so many lives.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 17th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth

The synopsis for the novel The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth captured my attention because it reminded me of the Narnia series by C. S. Lewis.

Genre: Young Adult fiction, Fantasy.

Blurb:

Five years ago, Evelyn and Philippa Hapwell cowered from air strikes in a London bomb shelter. But that night took a turn when the sisters were transported to another realm called the Woodlands. In a forest kingdom populated by creatures out of myth and legend, they found temporary refuge. 

When they finally returned to London, nothing had changed at all—nothing, except themselves. 

Now, Ev spends her days sneaking into the woods outside her boarding school, wishing for the Woodlands. Overcome with longing, she is desperate to return no matter what it takes. 

Philippa, on the other hand, is determined to find a place in this world. She shields herself behind a flawless exterior and countless friends, and moves to America to escape the memory of what was. 

But when Evelyn goes missing, Philippa must confront the depth of her sister’s despair and the painful truths they’ve been running from. As the weeks unfold, Philippa wonders if Ev truly did find a way home, or if the weight of their worlds pulled her under.

My thoughts:

I was keen to read this story as I have enjoyed the Narnia series in the past – both as a teen and as an adult. I loved the fantasy world and the symbolism that C. S. Lewis had created and looked forward to reading a story that had been inspired by it.

Weymouth poses the question: what would a person feel once back in the reality of the world and far away from what was experienced in the ‘other’ world? We read of the coping mechanisms of three children who had crossed over to another world – and are introduced to the point of view of two.

The story is told with empathy, and the reader comes to understand the feelings of both Philippa and Ev. We see Philippa as the stronger, older sister; and Ev as the one who is unable to let go of the world and the people she came to love in that world when she was returned to a war-torn London. The reader learns to understand Ev’s plight and her desire to go back. There were times, however, when I felt her actions were selfish and manipulative. And so many times I wished that she would be grateful for the love and experiences of her current world. Because I felt this, I did lose a little sympathy for her and was more moved by Philippa who had always been there to support her sister.

I liked that half-way through the novel, I began to read the viewpoint of Philippa. Even though she does miss the Woodlands and the creatures she met there, her response to being back in London during the war is different to that of her sister. Through the characters of the two sisters, Weymouth shows that a person’s response to the same situation may be different.

I enjoyed the novel The Light Between Two Worlds and reading the thoughts of how a person could react to the Narnia experience. Even though there were moments when I wished the pace of the book was a little faster (when reading Ev’s experience), I did enjoy this heartbreaking story. If you enjoy fantasy novels and references to The Chronicles of Narnia, then this story would be perfect for you.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️  3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 16th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

This year I plan to re-read The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling and during February I read the second book in the series: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. This novel is available in a beautiful illustrated edition and this is the edition I read for my revisit into the Hogwarts world of magic.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy

Blurb: 

The Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike

And strike it does. For in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockhart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls’ bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley’s younger sister, Ginny.

But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone — or something — starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects . . . Harry Potter himself?

My thoughts:

I loved Harry Potter’s world the first time I read the series and my enjoyment was not diminished with a second reading. I smiled at the mischief Harry and his friend Ron got up to, and enjoyed reading about their stealthy adventures in the corridors of Hogwarts.

My enjoyment of this book was amplified by the paintings by Jim Kay in the illustrated edition. The paintings are beautiful renditions of favourite characters and he does them great justice. Like a young child, I ‘read’ the images in the book and admired the detail in Kay’s work.

I am reminded again of why children love this story so much: it is full of magic, adventure, as well as relatable characters. I look forward to reading the next installment in the story.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 15th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner

I received Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner in the Indigo Book Box with Geekerella by Ashley Postun. Gardner describes a fandom in her novel which promised to be interesting – especially as my own daughter plays Dungeons and Dragons.

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Young Adult Fiction

Blurb: 

Cameron’s cosplay–dressing like a fictional character–is finally starting to earn her attention–attention she hopes to use to get into the CalTech costume department for college. But when she wins a major competition, she inadvertently sets off a firestorm of angry comments from male fans.

When Cameron’s family moves the summer before her senior year, she hopes to complete her costume portfolio in peace and quiet away from the abuse. Unfortunately, the only comic shop in town–her main destination for character reference–is staffed by a dude bro owner who challenges every woman who comes into the shop.

At her twin brother’s suggestion, Cameron borrows a set of his clothes and uses her costuming expertise to waltz into the shop as Boy Cameron, where she’s shocked at how easily she’s accepted into the nerd inner sanctum. Soon, Cameron finds herself drafted into a D&D campaign alongside the jerky shop-owner Brody, friendly (almost flirtatiously so) clerk Wyatt, handsome Lincoln, and her bro Cooper, dragged along for good measure.

But as her “secret identity” gets more and more entrenched, Cameron’s portfolio falls by the wayside–and her feelings for Lincoln threaten to make a complicated situation even more precarious.

My thoughts:

I loved this story about fandom, cosplay, and believing in yourself enough to show the world what you love doing. Chaotic Good, however, is more than just about a fandom. It is about a young girl who comes to believe in herself and in her right to be who she is no matter who surrounds her. It is about a girl who comes to realise that it is okay to be who she is and to follow her passion.

As I was reading the story, I could not help but be reminded of the geeks playing Dungeons and Dragons in The Big Bang Theory – a true representation of geekdom and fandom. I enjoyed reading this story as much as I enjoy watching the show. I enjoyed reading about the camraderie that develops between the players of the game – and how they learn to support one another.

The story does not only encompass the camaraderie between geeks. It also references online bullying. The internet trolls do affect Cameron and for a moment she believes what they are saying about her. She has to learn that with support from her family and friends, she can overcome the negativity that the online harassment brings. So many our our teens face this problem and it is good to see this in a book.

I would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys fandoms and stories about a young person growing into the realisation that they are good enough. This is a book I will pass onto my daughter as I know she will enjoy this read.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 14th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne

I absolutely loved The Hating Game by Sally Thorne so when I saw that she had written another novel, 99 Percent Mine, I knew I had to read it.

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction

Blurb: 

Darcy Barrett has undertaken a global survey of men. She’s travelled the world, and can categorically say that no one measures up to Tom Valeska, whose only flaw is that Darcy’s twin brother Jamie saw him first and claimed him forever as his best friend. Despite Darcy’s best efforts, Tom’s off limits and loyal to her brother, 99%. That’s the problem with finding her dream man at age eight and peaking in her photography career at age twenty—ever since, she’s had to learn to settle for good enough.

When Darcy and Jamie inherit a tumble-down cottage from their grandmother, they’re left with strict instructions to bring it back to its former glory and sell the property. Darcy plans to be in an aisle seat halfway across the ocean as soon as the renovations start, but before she can cut and run, she finds a familiar face on her porch: house-flipper extraordinaire Tom’s arrived, he’s bearing power tools, and he’s single for the first time in almost a decade.

Suddenly Darcy’s considering sticking around to make sure her twin doesn’t ruin the cottage’s inherent magic with his penchant for grey and chrome. She’s definitely not staying because of her new business partner’s tight t-shirts, or that perfect face that’s inspiring her to pick up her camera again. Soon sparks are flying—and it’s not the faulty wiring. It turns out one percent of Tom’s heart might not be enough for Darcy anymore. This time around, she’s switching things up. She’s going to make Tom Valeska 99 percent hers.

My thoughts:

When I read 99 Percent Mine, I was looking for a romance and I was not disappointed. I loved this story. Maybe not as much as The Hating Game – but almost as much. I enjoyed that Darcy still loves the man she fell in love when she was younger and yet she had the chance to grow as a person through her adventures. The sparks between her and Jamie are there but not immediately acted upon which makes for a fun story.

The romantic relationship between a man and a woman is not the only relationship spoken about in this novel. We read as well about the relationship between Darcy and her twin brother. The sibling relationship is not the focus of the story but does play a part. It is a relationship that grows – as does any sibling relationship during our lifetime.

99 Percent Mine is a fun story that I curled up with on the sofa and that left me smiling. This lighthearted read is one I will easily reread in a couple of years and highly recommend it if you are looking for a satisfying story that will leave you feeling contented.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 13th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The Suspect by Fiona Barton

I had heard from various sources that Fiona Barton write excellent stories so when I had the opportunity to read The Suspect, I grabbed it.

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Blurb: 

When two eighteen-year-old girls go missing on their gap year in Thailand, their families are thrust into the international spotlight: desperate, bereft and frantic with worry.

Journalist Kate Waters always does everything she can to be first to the story, first with the exclusive, first to discover the truth – and this time is no exception. But she can’t help but think of her own son, who she hasn’t seen in two years since he left home to go traveling. This time it’s personal.

And as the case of the missing girls unfolds, they will all find that even this far away, danger can lie closer to home than you might think . . .

My thoughts: 

The story is a parent’s nightmare – your child goes missing and the search is out of your control. Even before I started the book, I knew I would be on edge and, while reading the novel I felt that I was. Fiona Barton is skilled at creating suspense and making you want to know more. I could not help but turn the pages – I needed to know what had happened.

The story is told from different points of view which seamlessly blend to create a tale that moves the reader between two countries, as well as between the past and the present. I enjoyed Barton’s storytelling which kept my interest throughout. And the best part is that she kept me guessing (no sooner did I think I knew where the story was going to go, then she surprised me).

I loved The Suspect so much that I know I need to read her previous two novels. I was told that her stories are good – and this one has convinced me!

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 12th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: I Invited Her In by Adele Parks

Over the weekend I decided to pick up one of the ARCs I had received when I attended the OLA Super Conference. I chose I Invited Her In by Adele Parks because I had seen mention of this novel on social media and I was curious about it. In addition, I always enjoy reading a good thriller.

Genre: Thriller, Suspense

Blurb: 

When Mel receives an unexpected email from her oldest friend Abi, it brings back memories she thought she had buried forever. Their friendship belonged in the past. To those carefree days at university.

But Abi is in trouble and needs Mel’s help, and she wants a place to stay. Just for a few days, while she sorts things out. It’s the least Mel can do.

After all, friends look out for each other, don’t they?

I Invited Her In is a blistering tale of wanting what you can’t have, jealousy, and revenge.

My thoughts: 

The story is told from four different points of view: Mel, Abi (Mel’s friend), Ben (Mel’s husband), and Liam (Mel’s son).As expected with so many different points of view, the background story takes a while for the reader to learn. After reading a third of the story, I do admit that my interest was lagging a little and I could not wait for something to happen. I knew there had to be a catalyst as the novel had been described as a suspense story. It just seemed to take a long time to happen.

About halfway through the novel, the change of pace occurred. From that moment on, I turned the pages quickly and became engrossed in the story. Whereas before the catalyst I was feeling some annoyance at Mel’s behaviour and a little frustration at the slow pace of the novel; after reaching the mid-point I felt an entire range of emotions: disbelief and anger being the foremost. I do not want to say what caused my anger as it will give the story away but it is enough to say that I know of two women who have experienced some of the unpleasantness of what Mel experiences in the story – and I relived the anger and disbelief that I felt on their behalf.

Even though I found the novel slow-going at first, I was later gripped by the story and could not put it down (luckily I did not have to go in to work on the day I completed it). It is a novel that reflects what happens to some women and I cannot help but wonder where the author found her inspiration I Invited Her In is a novel that may sound far-fetched to some; but it is a novel that reflects a partial truth of what may be happening in many families. If you enjoy reading suspense within a family setting, this is a perfect novel for you.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 11th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Inkling by Kenneth Oppel

During the recent OLA (Ontario Library Association) Super Conference, I was fortunate enough to attend a book signing by Kenneth Oppel, a well-known Canadian author of middle grade literature. I got his book Inkling signed for my daughter with the proviso that I read it before she gets it.

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Children’s Fiction

Blurb: 

Ethan’s dad is a comic artist whose greatest creation, the mutant superhero Kren, brought him fame and glory. But after his dad’s string of successful books, a tragedy strikes the family and now his dad is completely stuck.

If only artistic talent were hereditary. Ethan is stuck on a graphic-novel project of his own at school and won’t own up to the fact that he can’t draw. When one night an ink-blot creation emerges from his father’s sketchbook, the family’s whole world begins to change.

Featuring artwork by the beloved, award-winning illustrator Sydney Smith, Inkling is a timeless story that speaks to the creator in us all.

My thoughts: 

I loved this book even before reading it! The illustrations are perfect for the story, and I loved the scent of the novel as I paged through it. It reminded me of the days I used to use the roneo machine to make copies of worksheets for my class.

Right from the first page, I fell in love with the story. We are introduced to an unusual character in the novel: Inkling, a blot of ink that come’s from the sketchbook of Ethan’s dad. With the advent of Inkling, a young boy (Ethan) comes to certain realisations about himself; and a dad comes to realise that he has been neglecting his family and where he should go with his art.

The story kept me engrossed and I finished it in two sittings. There was not a moment when I was bored with the story; or a time when I thought I would put the book aside. Instead as I kept flipping the pages over, I thought of how much my students would love this novel. The one character, Inkling, is unusual and yet Ethan is a normal boy living at home, going to school, and doing things young boys do. It is the type of life readers would recognise and connect with. Readers would also recognise the friendships and rivalries described in the story.

Kenneth Oppel has once again written a story that will capture the hearts and imagination of his audience. This novel is creative, has a sense of adventure, and touches on issues important to young readers. This children’s book will, I believe, keep the young child turning the page to find out what Inkling will get up to next. I highly recommend this book for the 7 – 12 year old in your life. Even a reluctant reader’s imagination will be captured by Kenneth Oppel’s Inkling.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 10th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The Huntress by Kate Quinn

I enjoy reading historical fiction as not only are you introduced to wonderful characters, but you are introduced to a segment of history. I had not read any books by Kate Quinn and was eager to read the ARC of The Huntress sent to me by Harper Collins Canada.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Blurb: 

A fascinating historical novel about a battle-haunted English journalist and a Russian female bomber pilot who join forces to track the Huntress, a Nazi war criminal gone to ground in America.

Bold, reckless Nina Markova grows up on the icy edge of Soviet Russia, dreaming of flight and fearing nothing. When the tide of war sweeps over her homeland, she gambles everything to join the infamous Night Witches, an all-female night bomber regiment wreaking havoc on Hitler’s eastern front. But when she is downed behind enemy lines and thrown across the path of a lethal Nazi murderess known as the Huntress, Nina must use all her wits to survive.

British war correspondent Ian Graham has witnessed the horrors of war from Omaha Beach to the Nuremberg Trials. He abandons journalism after the war to become a Nazi hunter, yet one target eludes him: the Huntress. Fierce, disciplined Ian must join forces with brazen, cocksure Nina, the only witness to escape the Huntress alive. But a shared secret could derail their mission, unless Ian and Nina force themselves to confront it.

Seventeen-year-old Jordan McBride grows up in post WWII Boston, determined despite family opposition to become a photographer. At first delighted when her long-widowed father brings home a fiancée, Jordan grows increasingly disquieted by the soft-spoken German widow who seems to be hiding something. Armed only with her camera and her wits, Jordan delves into her new stepmother’s past and slowly realizes there are mysteries buried deep in her family. But Jordan’s search for the truth may threaten all she holds dear.

My thoughts: 

The novel is told from three points of view: Nina, Ian, and Jordan. Their experiences and thoughts are expertly woven to create a story that I enjoyed and raced through. An added bonus of the story is that the two women (Nina and Jordan) are both shown as being courageous: Nina fearlessly flies a night bomber during the war; and Jordan begins to believe in her own courage and perception.

Even though I learned a little snippet of history in this novel, I was not bored. Instead, the history is a necessary part of the novel that sets the scene for bravery, romance, and heartache. I loved that there was a little romance in the story; and that unexpected happiness could be found in spite of the War. Quinn realistically describes her characters and their experiences and, with the descriptions given, I was able to see in my mind the scenes that she had set. I could not help but turn the pages avidly to discover the next step in the characters’ experiences.

The Huntress was an excellent read. I have enjoyed the story so much I am convinced I need to pick up Quinn’s previous novel, The Alice Network (which is still on the bestseller list). If you enjoy historical fiction, this novel needs to be added to your TBR list.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 9th in my book pledge for 2019)