Book Review: The Holdout by Graham Moore

While browsing the ARCs set out by publishers at the OLA Super Conference, a friend of mine suggested that I pick up The Holdout by Graham Moore as she thought I would enjoy it.

Genre: Legal Thriller, Suspense

Blurb:

In this twisty tale from Moore, young juror Maya Seale is convinced that African American high school teacher Bobby Nock is innocent of killing the wealthy white female student with whom he appears to have been involved and persuades her fellow jurors likewise. Ten years later, a true-crime docuseries reassembles the jurors, and Maya, now a defense attorney, must prove her own innocence when one of them is found dead in Maya’s room. 

My thoughts:

It has been a while since I read a legal thriller and this novel was the perfect one to enjoy this genre once again. In addition to reading about the jury experience, the author encourages us to think about whether the jury system is a good way to serve justice. Moore suggests an answer, but he leaves it to the reader to decide.

The Holdout is a fast-paced novel that leaves you wanting to know the outcome. There is not a lot of action in it (as is usual with legal thrillers) but you continuously want to know the outcome of the mystery. Moore adroitly takes us through the ‘evidence’, encouraging us to make judgements much like a juror would.

If you are looking for a legal thriller that will hold your interest from the first page, The Holdout will not disappoint. I enjoyed my first foray into Moore’s work and will certainly keep my eye out for his name when browsing book stacks.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 26th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Bloom by Kenneth Oppel

I have enjoyed Kenneth Oppel’s middle grade novels in the past and was excited to receive a signed copy of his latest, Bloom, at the OLA Super Conference this year. The line was long and I spent a long time in it but the wait was worth it.

Genre: Middle Grade, Young Adult, Science Fiction

Blurb:

They take over fields and twine around houses. They bloom and throw off toxic pollen—and feed.

Strangely, three Salt Spring Island teens seem immune. Anaya, Petra and Seth. What’s their connection? What’s their secret? A week ago, they wouldn’t have thought they had one.

But they’d better figure it out fast—the invasion has already begun.

My thoughts:

I loved this book so much that I read it in one sitting! The novel is fast-paced and filled with tension – I could not help but turn the pages. Bloom is an excellent choice to get children reading: it is filled with adventure and tension featuring middle grade children.

Children and adults are fighting for survival on the planet. We don’t read much about what the adults are doing – but the group of children featured in this story are doing plenty. They are getting to know one another – and to know their own strengths in a changing world. All three characters (Anaya, Petra and Seth) are good role models and show children that they could contribute in a situation no matter what their strengths and social status.

Oppel has done it again! He has created a story that will engage readers with the written page. Bloom is the first book in a trilogy and I cannot wait to read the next installment.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 25th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier

At the OLA Super Conference this year, I snatched up a copy of A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier when I saw it had been placed on the shelves. I have enjoyed her books in the past and could not wait to read her latest.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Blurb:

1932. After the Great War took both her beloved brother and her fiancé, Violet Speedwell has become a “surplus woman,” one of a generation doomed to a life of spinsterhood after the war killed so many young men. Yet Violet cannot reconcile herself to a life spent caring for her grieving, embittered mother. After countless meals of boiled eggs and dry toast, she saves enough to move out of her mother’s place and into the town of Winchester, home to one of England’s grandest cathedrals. There, Violet is drawn into a society of broderers–women who embroider kneelers for the Cathedral, carrying on a centuries-long tradition of bringing comfort to worshippers.

Violet finds support and community in the group, fulfillment in the work they create, and even a growing friendship with the vivacious Gilda. But when forces threaten her new independence and another war appears on the horizon, Violet must fight to put down roots in a place where women aren’t expected to grow. Told in Chevalier’s glorious prose, A Single Thread is a timeless story of friendship, love, and a woman crafting her own life.

My thoughts:

A Single Thread is a beautifully written story that shines a realistic light on the life of a woman after the First World War. Chevalier pulls no punches in describing the experience of Violet and the obstacles she experienced. We read of her battles to be independent, and of the criticisms (spoken and unspoken) directed towards her.

In the novel we read of single women, unmarried women, and women who fall in love with other women. Chevalier describes a time that seems unusual to us as modern women who are used to being independent. While reading the novel, I could not help but be grateful to these women who were the forerunners of our way of life.

If you enjoy reading historical fiction, you will enjoy A Single Thread. Not only does the writer remind us of the fallout of WWI, but she also takes us into the world of the women who created kneelers with their fine embroidery; kneelers that are found in the Winchester Cathedral. The story embraces women’s camaraderie; the help and companionship that they give and receive from one another. Chevalier did not disappoint me with her latest novel and I would recommend it wholeheartedly.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 24th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Rules For Being A Girl by Candace Bushnell and Kate Cotugno

The title Rules Being A Girl enticed me and when Harper Collins Canada sent me the ARC for the recent novel by Candace Bushnell and Kate Cotugno, I was very pleased.

Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Feminism

Blurb:

It starts before you can even remember: you learn the rules for being a girl.

Marin has always been good at navigating these unspoken guidelines. A star student and editor of the school paper, she dreams of getting into Brown University. Marin’s future seems bright―and her young, charismatic English teacher, Mr. Beckett, is always quick to admire her writing and talk books with her.

But when “Bex” takes things too far and comes on to Marin, she’s shocked and horrified. Had she somehow led him on? Was it her fault?

When Marin works up the courage to tell the administration what happened, no one believes her. She’s forced to face Bex in class every day. Except now, he has an ax to grind.

But Marin isn’t about to back down. She uses the school newspaper to fight back and she starts a feminist book club at school. She finds allies in the most unexpected people, like “slutty” Gray Kendall, who she’d always dismissed as just another lacrosse bro. As things heat up at school and in her personal life, Marin must figure out how to take back the power and write her own rules. 

My thoughts:

I loved this novel right from the moment I read the first page. Rules For Being A Girl is such an important book for emerging women to read..

The story shows us the thought processes a teenage girl could go through when a male teacher makes sexual advances towards her. Marin felt in some way that the sexual advances were her fault and, because of this, she questions all of her actions from the past. It was interesting for me to compare the way Marin responds to her teacher’s advances to the way in which Vanessa in My Dark Vanessa responds to similar advances.

The novel centres on the way in which Marin processes her experience – and what she learns from it. From the responses to her teacher’s actions ( her own and others), Marin learns a lot about herself and about society. The far-reaching implications of the sexual advances are highlighted for both Marin and the teacher.

In the story, Marin learns more about herself and about the solidarity of women in society. She comes to realise that this solidarity can be shown in different ways. Rules For Being A Girl also highlights the need for women to support each other in small ways; and shows that feminism can be expressed in different ways.

Bushnell & Cotugno have written a novel that is a must-read for all teenage girls on the cusp of womanhood. It is a novel that will encourage them to think of the type of woman they want to be; as well as how they could respond to patriarchal assumptions and expectations.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 23rd novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

While at the OLA Super Conference earlier this year, I stood in line to get a signed ARC of Jennifer Hillier’s novel Little Secrets. I smiled with glee when I was able to get a copy of her latest

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Blurb:

From the author of Jar of Hearts, a mother driven to the edge by the disappearance of her son learns her husband is having an affair with the woman who might have kidnapped him. Four hundred and eighty seconds. That’s how long it took for someone to steal Marin Machado’s four-year-old son.

Marin had the perfect life. Married to her college sweetheart, she owns a chain of upscale hair salons, and Derek runs his own company. They’re admired in their community and are a loving family. Up until the day Sebastian is taken.

A year later, Marin is a shadow of herself. The FBI search has gone cold. The publicity has faded. She and her husband rarely speak. The only thing keeping her going is the unlikely chance that one day Sebastian reappears. She hires a P.I. to pick up where the police left off, but instead of finding him, she discovers that Derek is having an affair with a younger woman.

Kenzie Li is an artist and grad student—Instagram famous—and up to her eyeballs in debt. She knows Derek is married. She also knows he’s rich, and dating him comes with perks: help with bills, trips away, expensive gifts. He isn’t her first rich boyfriend, but she finds herself hoping he’ll be the last. She’s falling for him—and that was never part of the plan.

Discovery of the affair sparks Marin back to life. She’s lost her son; she’s not about to lose her husband, too. Kenzie is an enemy with a face, which means this is a problem Marin can fix. But as she sets a plan in motion, another revelation surfaces. Derek’s lover might know what happened to their son. And so might Derek.

My thoughts:

The novel deals with a scary topic – the abduction of your child. The abduction of my children was something I was always scared of when they were little and, as a result, would make sure I held their hand when in crowded places. But mistakes do happen and children do wander off with no sense of danger.

Little Secrets describes the mental state of the mom as she experiences depression after the abduction of her child. The book does have another trigger in that Marin (the main character) has continuous thoughts of suicide. When she learns that her husband is having an affair, she is pulled out of her lethargy and behaves in unexpected ways.

The pacing of the novel was a little slow in the beginning and it did not feel at all like I was reading a thriller. Halfway through the story, however, the pace did pick up which led to me turning the pages at a faster pace. The second half of the story also led to unexpected twists that I enjoyed.

The story does end with a sense of hope and an underlying truth that you need to forgive yourself for the actions you take to protect your family and loved ones. I would recommend this title for those who enjoy reading thrillers.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 22nd novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver

I enjoyed Josie Silver’s debut novel so much that when I saw an ARC of her latest, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird, at the OLA Super Conference I brought it home without reading the blurb.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

Blurb:

Lydia and Freddie. Freddie and Lydia. They’d been together for more than a decade, and Lydia thought their love was indestructible.

But she was wrong. On her twenty-eighth birthday, Freddie died in a car accident.

So now it’s just Lydia, and all she wants to do is hide indoors and sob until her eyes fall out. But Lydia knows that Freddie would want her to try to live fully, happily, even without him. So, enlisting the help of his best friend, Jonah, and her sister, Elle, she takes her first tentative steps into the world, open to life–and perhaps even love–again.

But then something inexplicable happens that gives her another chance at her old life with Freddie. A life where none of the tragic events of the past few months have happened.

Lydia is pulled again and again across the doorway of her past, living two lives, impossibly, at once. But there’s an emotional toll to returning to a world where Freddie, alive, still owns her heart. Because there’s someone in her new life, her real life, who wants her to stay.

Written with Josie Silver’s trademark warmth and wit, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird is a powerful and thrilling love story about the what-ifs that arise at life’s crossroads, and what happens when one woman is given a miraculous chance to answer them. 

My thoughts:

This is a story that describes the stages of grief. We read how Lydia learns to cope with the loss of her love, Freddie and, to a lesser degree, we read of how Jonah, Freddie’s best friend, copes with the loss of a man who was like a brother to him. Even though The Two Lives of Lydia Bird is described as a romance, the novel focuses on dealing with how two people learn to cope without the person who has been the centre of their life.

Earlier on in her grieving process, Lydia uses the alternate reality she experiences through the use of sleeping pills to help her push through her days. As time passes, she slowly comes to certain realisations about herself and about her relationship with Freddy. I enjoyed reading about the events and experiences that led to her personal growth and to the increase of her inner strength. These experiences take place in their own time and the pace of them is realistically suggested.

Silver has written this novel with sensitivity, showing an understanding of the grief process. She suggests that it is okay to move at your own pace when grieving for the loss of a loved one. The author shows that life continues despite the loss of a loved one; and that there is hope in the lives of the people left behind. Silver’s writing pulls at at the reader’s heartstrings and gives one a sense of hope that the grief will cease to be all-consuming.

If you read One Day in December and enjoyed it, you will devour this second novel in a heartbeat. Silver did not disappoint me with this book, and I loved The Two Lives of Lydia as much as I did her debut.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 21st novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: A Girl's Guide to the Outback by Jessica Kate

I had seen reviews of A Girl’s Guide to the Outback by Jessica Kate on Instagram which raised my curiosity. I decided to see whether my library had a copy of the book. They did and soon after it arrived for me to read.

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Christian Fiction

Blurb:

Samuel Payton is a passionate youth pastor in Virginia, but beneath the surface, Sam’s still recovering from a failed business. His coworker—start-up expert Kimberly Foster—is brilliant, fearless, and capable, but her mother’s rejection from a young age till now has left her defensive and longing for a family. Two people have never been more at odds—or more attracted to one another. And every day at work, the sparks are flying.

When Kimberly’s ambitious plans for Sam’s ministry butt up against his risk-averse nature, Sam decides that obligations to family trump his work for the church. He quits the ministry and flies home to Australia to help his family save their struggling farm—much to Kimberly’s chagrin. As Kimberly’s grand plans flounder, she is forced to face the truth: that no one can replace Sam. To what lengths will she go to get him back?

My thoughts:

A Girl’s Guide to the Outback is a romance written in a 3 person point of view. The pacing throughout the novel keeps the reader interested as the author shares a story about ordinary people. What was different in this romance to others I have read, is the Christian slant to it.

Not only was the story clean (no steamy sex scenes) but it also sent out a very Christian message: to trust in God and to let Him lead you to where you are to go in love and life. The growth of the characters in the story as they come to certain realisations is also linked to their belief in God and to their Christian values. They reach their full potential in the story when they realise they have to completely put their trust in God.

The pacing in the novel was good throughout and there was only one section in the story where I got a little bored: the description of when Kimberley doubted herself – it felt a little repetitive. I enjoyed reading a romance that was focused on the spiritual side of a relationship instead of a physical one and will definitely look out for more stories by this author.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 20th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Lost Scroll of the Physician by Alisha Sevigny

At the OLA Super Conference, I was able to get a signed copy of The Lost Scroll of the Physician – a middle grade book of the historical fiction genre. The synopsis intrigued me as I have always been interested by the Egyptian period.

Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction

Blurb:

In her search for answers, Sesha must find a priceless scroll for the pharaoh.

Sesha and Ky, children of the pharaoh’s royal physician, are left charming snakes and stealing food to survive after a brutal fire takes their parents and their home.

Unsure of whom to trust, the pair are found and brought back to the palace, despite misgivings that the royals are somehow involved in their parents’ deaths. Sesha is tasked with finding the rare and valuable medical document her father was transcribing for the pharaoh, who needs it urgently for his upcoming campaign.

Befriended by another scribe and a young princess, Sesha must navigate palace intrigue and temple treachery while desperately seeking the priceless scroll that not only has the power to reveal the circumstances around her parents’ death and mitigate any casualties of battle, but may also be the only thing that can save her brother’s life.

My thoughts:

I loved this middle grade book set in ancient Egypt! The language in the novel hasn’t been simplified and includes some beautiful imagery. The metaphors that were used by the author refer perfectly to the time frame of the story.

The Lost Scroll of the Physician is an adventure story and therefore the writing is paced in such a way to encourage the reader to continue reading. Even though the story is set in ancient Egypt, the characters’ experience is relatable to the modern child as they interact with others their age as well as with adults. Sesha finds herself in situations beyond her control and works at changing what she can. She is a strong character that makes the mistakes that children her age often do – but she is able to bounce back from them.

Sevigny has written the perfect adventure story that will get young readers engrossed and committed to the story. The added bonus is that those who are curious about the past will see a snapshot of life in Ancient Egypt. This novel is the first in a series and definitely encourages me to want to read more about Sesha and her sidekick Paser. I know I will be recommending this story to the 8 – 14 years in my life – especially those who enjoy adventure stories.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 19th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: All The King’s Traitors by Keylin Rivers

My final read during February was All The King’s Traitors by Keylin Rivers. The novel is a fantasy story written by an indie author who contacted me to read and review her novel. I did so with no reservation as I do like to support independent authors.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Dystopian

Blurb:

Over a thousand years have passed since the first Godstones ripped through the skies and mangled the earth. With their fall came centuries of chaos and destruction, but also immense power.

Power that separates humans from Gods.

Now, in the Kingdom of Azanthea, two adoptive brothers flee from unjust conscription.

A fugitive struggles to truly be free.

A double-crossing warrior must choose where his allegiances lie: with his wife or with his daughter.

A traitorous heir to the Kingdom’s throne roams the lands in search of an army to call his own.

A prodigy in the House of Historian competes in a grueling trial to prove her loyalty.

And one God-King rules over them all.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed reading this novel from the fist chapter as I got to know the world and the characters that inhabit it. I did wish for a map insert when I began reading but was soon able to familiarise myself with the world described without it. The story does have a dystopian feel to it as characters often refer to the life humans previously lived.

Rivers creates vivid images with her use of words which enabled me to imagine the world in which her characters live. As with all fantasy series, there are a number of characters to learn about. At no time, though, was I confused and instead grew curious as to how they would all connect. The author’s pacing is perfect as she slowly shows the connections throughout the novel. The connections make sense and left me wondering how they would all pan out.

The novel ends on a cliffhanger – and has left me wanting more! The story slowly builds towards it and leaves the reader with so many questions. These questions are generated naturally and are in no way forced.

Will I continue reading the series? Yes, I definitely will. Not only because the story has left me with unanswered questions, but also because the story is well written. I look forward to the publication of the second book in the series and to my continued enjoyed of the Highwings series. This novel is perfect for fans of Fantasy fiction and for those who enjoy reading series. In addition, you would be supporting an independent author.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 18th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Upside of Falling by Alex Light

While at the OLA conference, I passed by an ARC of The Upside of Falling by Alex Light. The cover of the novel attracted me so I decided to pick it up. Once I had read the blurb, I thought it would be a pleasant read for the month of February.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Romance

Blurb:

It’s been years since seventeen-year-old Becca Hart believed in true love. But when her former best friend teases her for not having a boyfriend, Becca impulsively pretends she’s been secretly seeing someone.

Brett Wells has it all. Being captain of the football team and one of the most popular guys in school, he should have no problem finding someone to date, but he’s always been more focused on his future than who to bring to prom. When he overhears Becca’s lie, Brett decides to step in and be her mystery guy. It’s the perfect solution: he gets people off his back for not dating and she can keep up the ruse.

Acting like the perfect couple isn’t easy though, especially when you barely know the other person. But with Becca still picking up the pieces from when her world was blown apart years ago and Brett just barely holding his together now, they begin to realize they have more in common than they ever could have imagined. When the line between real and pretend begins to blur, they are forced to answer the question: is this fake romance the realest thing in either of their lives?

My thoughts:

The Upside of Falling was the perfect lighthearted, feel good read. The story is told from two points of view – both Becca and Brett. During the story, the reader sees how both characters evolve and come to certain realisations. They learn to accept changes in their lives, and how to move on despite these changes.

The novel describes the first love of Becca, a bookish nerd. It is a love that is unexpected and sweet. In the story Becca finds her voice and learns to express her feelings. It is interesting to note that Brett, the boy she learns to love, also discovers his own voice. The Upside of Falling shows that, with a friend’s support, changes in life can be managed and you can find the courage to have your say.

I loved this novel and read it in one sitting. The characters drew me in and I became invested in their story. Alex Light has written a perfectly paced story that embraces the beauty of first love and the growth of a person into who they will become. This novel is a perfect read for a romantic and for those who enjoy reading about the experience of a first young love.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 14th novel in my book pledge for 2020)