Book Review: Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles

I was interested to read Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles and was pleased when the team at Harper Collins Canada sent me an ARC of the novel.

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Blurb:

In his first contemporary teen novel, critically acclaimed author and two-time Edgar Award finalist Lamar Giles spotlights the consequences of societal pressure, confronts toxic masculinity, and explores the complexity of what it means to be a “real man.”

Del has had a crush on Kiera Westing since kindergarten. And now, during their junior year, she’s finally available. So when Kiera volunteers for an opportunity at their church, Del’s right behind her. Though he quickly realizes he’s inadvertently signed up for a Purity Pledge.

His dad thinks his wires are crossed, and his best friend, Qwan, doesn’t believe any girl is worth the long game. But Del’s not about to lose his dream girl, and that’s where fellow pledger Jameer comes in. He can put in the good word. In exchange, Del just has to get answers to the Pledgers’ questions…about sex ed.

With other boys circling Kiera like sharks, Del needs to make his move fast. But as he plots and plans, he neglects to ask the most important question: What does Kiera want? He can’t think about that too much, though, because once he gets the girl, it’ll all sort itself out. Right? 

My thoughts:

This is a novel that adolescent boys need to read! It describes the fumblings of a teen boy as he attempts to attract the attention of a girl he likes. With all the advice given to him by various people, he learns to make his own decisions – and to live with the consequences. This novel is a diverse read that focuses on a topic that is an essential one for adolescents: the interactions one has with the opposite sex, and how to treat the people you are attracted to.

Not So Pure and Simple focuses on the growth of Del as he learns how girls want to be treated (not how he thinks they want to be treated); and that the girl he likes may not always like him back. Giles takes the reader to the time when relationships with the opposite sex can be confusing. Exciting, but confusing. The author does this with a sense of humour and sensitivity, acknowledging the confused emotions of the teen boys.

A serious thread also runs through the story as the need for sex education is highlighted. The opposing views of the adults towards the programme is shown as well as how the attitudes of the opposing viewpoint can affect the lives of the teenagers. The programme is not only about the intricacies of sex itself; but also about the need to respect the members of the opposite sex.

Not So Pure and Simple is an important story that needs to be told. Yes, relationships can be a minefield when you are a teen but there a certain lessons to be learned that can make it seem less so. I enjoyed reading Lamar Giles’ story and I am sure that many young people would too.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 3rd novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin

In December, the team at Harper Collins sent me a few books to read and review during the Winter.I was so happy to see that they had sent me The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin as I love to read any book that features Paris.

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

When bookshop owner Sarah Smith is offered the opportunity for a job exchange with her Parisian friend Sophie, saying yes is a no-brainer—after all, what kind of romantic would turn down six months in Paris? Sarah is sure she’s in for the experience of a lifetime—days spent surrounded by literature in a gorgeous bookshop, and the chance to watch the snow fall on the Eiffel Tower. Plus, now she can meet up with her journalist boyfriend, Ridge, when his job takes him around the globe.

But her expectations cool faster than her café au lait soon after she lands in the City of Light—she’s a fish out of water in Paris. The customers are rude, her new coworkers suspicious and her relationship with Ridge has been reduced to a long-distance game of phone tag, leaving Sarah to wonder if he’ll ever put her first over his busy career. As Christmas approaches, Sarah is determined to get the shop—and her life—back in order…and make her dreams of a Parisian happily-ever-after come true.

My thoughts:

Reading this novel brought back so many memories of the year I lived in Paris. So many experiences of Sarah, were my own experiences. The Parisian descriptions were what I had gone through myself. I love this city and reading about it in The Little Bookshop on the Seine, took me back to one of my favourite places. The descriptions of the city and its people are truly authentic.

Rebecca Raisin has written more than just a love story. She has written a story about a woman who, despite finding the man she loves, goes on an adventure of discovery. Not only does Sarah go to Paris and experience another country and culture, she also discovers another part of herself. She learns to be a stronger person and to find her voice.

The story centres around a bookshop and, as such, has some beautiful bookish imagery. The imagery is perfect for a reader who loves books – and is the second reason I wanted to read this novel (the first being Paris, of course!). The description of the Parisian bookshop reminds me of my adventures into the bookshops of Paris. Loved them!

The Little Bookshop on the Seine describes the positive experience working in another country can bring. In addition, it shows the growth a woman can experience in her own right while being in a serious relationship. I enjoyed this little novel as it is so much more than a romance. This book has recently been published and is a gem. It is the perfect read for those who love Paris, books, and modern romance stories.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 2nd novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Seven Deadly Shadows by Courtney Alameda and Valynne E. Maetani

In December, the team at Harper Collins sent me a few books to read and review during the Winter. I rubbed my hands in glee when I received Seven Deadly Shadows by Courtney Alameda and Valynne E. Maetani. I looked forward to reading this fantasy novel so much that I chose it to be my first read for 2020.

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Publication Date: 28 January 2020

Blurb:

Kira Fujikawa has always been a girl on the fringe. Bullied by her peers and ignored by her parents, the only place Kira’s ever felt at home is at her grandfather’s Shinto shrine, where she trains to be a priestess.

But Kira’s life is shattered on the night her family’s shrine is attacked by a vicious band of yokai demons. With the help of Shiro—the shrine’s gorgeous half-fox, half-boy kitsune—Kira discovers that her shrine harbors an ancient artifact of great power . . . one the yokai and their demon lord, Shuten-doji, will use to bring down an everlasting darkness upon the world.

Unable to face the Shuten-doji and his minions on her own, Kira enlists the aid of seven ruthless shinigami—or death gods—to help stop the brutal destruction of humankind. But some of the death gods aren’t everything they initially seemed, nor as loyal to Kira’s cause as they first appeared.

With war drawing nearer by the day, Kira realizes that if this unlikely band of heroes is going to survive, they’re going to have to learn to work together, confront their demons, and rise as one to face an army of unimaginable evil.

My thoughts:

I loved this book! It was beautifully written and embraced Japanese mythology and manga traditions. The delightful use of metaphors and similes drew me into the story, and the engaging characters kept me there. I enjoyed reading Kira’s story and watching her growth throughout the novel.

Seven Deadly Shadows is a story that narrates the change Kira goes through in order to achieve her goals. She slowly comes into her own with the support from unexpected sources. Her growth is shown symbolically in the novel – as is the moment in which she realises her strength. Kira is a character that I supported fully while I read the story; she is a character I loved and could not get enough of.

It took me a while to get used to the Japanese names and references in the novel but this in no way hampered my enjoyment of the story. The glossary at the back of the novel was an easy reference that helped me to quickly understand unknown terms. In no time, I was able to read the story without flipping to the back of the book.

Seven Deadly Shadows reminded me of Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa and if you loved that story, you will love this one. It is written in the same style and has the same mythological references. This Fantasy read is also a diverse read as it explores a culture that is not a typical Western culture. If you have not read this genre before, Alameda & Maetini’s story is a good place to start.

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

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 1st novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Taking of Annie Thorne by C. J. Tudor

While vacationing in the Dominican Republic, I picked up one of the novels in the resort’s library – The Taking of Annie Thorne by C. J. Tudor.

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Horror

Blurb:

One night, Annie went missing. Disappeared from her own bed. There were searches, appeals. Everyone thought the worst. And then, miraculously, after forty-eight hours, she came back. But she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say what had happened to her. Something happened to my sister. I can’t explain what. I just know that when she came back, she wasn’t the same. She wasn’t my Annie. I didn’t want to admit, even to myself, that sometimes I was scared to death of my own little sister.

My thoughts:

When I picked up C. J. Tudor’s novel, I expected to read a thriller. A couple of chapters in, I came across a scene that reminded me a lot of Stephen King’s work. It had been a long time since I had read horror and I settled in to enjoy the story. It was not the perfect time of year to read this type of story but I had not brought any other book with me on my vacation.

Right from the start, Tudor’s writing drew me in and impressed me. I enjoyed reading the way she put words together as well as her observations of human nature and society. The story is also perfectly paced and kept me wanting to read despite the many distractions I encountered while on vacation. Despite being inspired by Stephen King, C. J. Tudor has her own voice. Her characterisation is strong, her description of human nature spot-on, her storyline believable.

If you are a fan of horror fiction and of Stephen King, you need to read The Taking of Anne Thorne. The story is chilling and compelling. It grabs your imagination and pushes you through to the basis of human nature. I am now a fan and look forward to reading both her debut novel as well as her next.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 116th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The Christmas Secret by Karen Swan

I chose The Christmas Secret by Karen Swan to be one of my Holiday reads. I had not read any of her novels but I loved the cover of the novel when I picked it up in the second-hand book store.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Blurb:

They say that behind every great man, there’s a great woman, and behind London’s most powerful leaders, there stands only one—Alex Hyde, business coach par excellence. She’s the woman they turn to for advice and strategy when the pressure gets too much. So when Alex gets a call offering an unbelievable sum to discreetly manage a family member on the board of an esteemed Scottish whisky company, it’s business as usual. She can do this in her sleep. Only, she’s never met anyone like Lochlan Farqhuar before. CEO of Kentallen Distilleries, he’s also the son and heir of the company’s founder, and a man for whom there is no “no.” He’s a maverick, and Alex needs to get inside his head before he brings the company to its knees. But as she tasks herself with finding a way in, she finds that for once, she’s not the one in control. And when she stumbles across a chance discovery that changes everything, she’s suddenly not so sure she should be.

My thoughts:

The Christmas Secret was the perfect read that put me in the mood for the Holiday season. It is a light romantic read that is set during the time before Christmas. Swan’s pacing is perfectly suited to this genre as the reader gets to know the characters in the story while has the choice to put the novel aside to tend to life responsibilities. The characters themselves are what you would expect to find in a romance novel – as is the push and pull of the attraction between Alex and Lochan, the love interest in the novel.

The story is told in the first person and in the voice of Alex. As is expected of a romance novel, the reader does not get to see too deeply into the heroine’s thought processes although I did get a glimmer of her pain and was curious as to what had caused it. The story, however, is not a typical Hallmark romance as The Christmas Secret does have more depth than the cookie-cutter romances.

I enjoyed reading Swan’s novel – it was a relaxing read that I could put aside when I needed to and then continue to enjoy with no problem. It was interesting to read a little about the Scottish setting as well as a bit about the making of whiskey. I am curious to see what her other books are like and intend to pick up another of her stories in the future.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 115th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: How To Hack A Heartbreak by Kristen Rockaway

At one of the Harper Collins events, I received an sampler containing the first few chapters of 5 romantic comedies to be released in 2019. I had not yet read How To Hack A Heartbreak by Kristen Rockaway by November so I decided to pick up a copy of the novel from the library.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Blurb:

By day, Mel Strickland is an underemployed helpdesk tech at a startup incubator, Hatch, where she helps entitled brogrammers—”Hatchlings”—who can’t even fix their own laptops, but are apparently the next wave of startup geniuses. And by night, she goes on bad dates with misbehaving dudes she’s matched with on the ubiquitous dating app, Fluttr.

But after one dick pic too many, Mel has had it. Using her brilliant coding skills, she designs an app of her own, one that allows users to log harrassers and abusers in online dating space. It’s called JerkAlert, and it goes viral overnight.

Mel is suddenly in way over her head. Worse still, her almost-boyfriend, the dreamy Alex Hernandez—the only non-douchey guy at Hatch—has no idea she’s the brains behind the app. Soon, Mel is faced with a terrible choice: one that could destroy her career, love life, and friendships, or change her life forever.

My thoughts:

The novel highlights a woman’s working experience in the male dominated world of coding. In addition, it is a commentary on the online dating experience. How To Hack A Heartbreak is the story of a woman’s journey towards self fulfilment in both the workplace and her personal life.

The novel is not a romance following the template as you would expect – instead the romantic aspect of the novel is minimal. This type of story seems to be the new template for the modern romance and I am loving it! After all, a woman’s life is not merely centred around romance; instead romance is only a part of what makes a woman happy and fulfilled.

Mel responds to an experience many women have with online dating – and her response leads her to ultimately make a change in her life. She is faced with some decisions which lead her to make choices that reflect what type of person she is. Mel is a character that grows in the story: her self-reflection does lead to a response that becomes life-changing. She grows as a person – and this growth is not dependent on the love of a man. Instead the acceptance of a man in her life is portrayed as secondary.

I enjoyed reading Rockaway’s novel: I loved the main character as well as the insight into online dating (which I personally have never experienced). The novel is well paced and kept my interest until the end. It was the perfect read for this time of year as it can be set aside for a moment and them picked up again to enjoy.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 114th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is my favourite classic novel and when I saw Melissa de la Cruz had written Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe, I knew I had to read it as I love retellings of Austen’s classic.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Blurb:

Darcy Fitzwilliam is 29, beautiful, successful, and brilliant. She dates hedge funders and basketball stars and is never without her three cellphones—one for work, one for play, and one to throw at her assistant (just kidding). Darcy’s never fallen in love, never has time for anyone else’s drama, and never goes home for Christmas if she can help it. But when her mother falls ill, she comes home to Pemberley, Ohio, to spend the season with her family.

Her parents throw their annual Christmas bash, where she meets one Luke Bennet, the smart, sardonic slacker son of their neighbor. Luke is 32-years-old and has never left home. He’s a carpenter and makes beautiful furniture, and is content with his simple life. He comes from a family of five brothers, each one less ambitious than the other. When Darcy and Luke fall into bed after too many eggnogs, Darcy thinks it’s just another one night stand. But why can’t she stop thinking of Luke? What is it about him? And can she fall in love, or will her pride and his prejudice against big-city girls stand in their way?

My thoughts:

I have read many excellent retellings of Pride and Prejudice in the past and looked forward to this one with eagerness. On the third page when I read the sentence incorporating the phrase “it is a truth universally acknowledged”, I rubbed my hands with glee. I was, however, disappointed as the novel progressed.

The original gender roles in the novel have been swapped – for example Austen’s Darcy is a female character. The gender swapping could have worked (I have seen it done in other novels) however the characters in de la Cruz’s novel fall a little flat. The actions of Darcy, Luke, and even Bingley are presented superficially. The self reflection of the main character (in this novel it is Darcy) seems forced and pedantic. Austen’s characterisation and comment on social issues is perfectly pitched and the characters in this retelling do fall flat by comparison.

Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe was a disappointing read. I felt the story was too superficial and rushed. If the author had spent more time character building and digging deeper into the issues hinted at, the novel would have been a lot meatier and a more enjoyable read.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 113th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Faker by Sarah Smith

I had seen positive comments about Faker by Sarah Smith on Instagram. When I saw the book had arrived at the library, I decided to put the novel on hold.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Blurb:

Emmie Echavarre is a professional faker. She has to be to survive as one of the few female employees at Nuts & Bolts, a power tool company staffed predominantly by gruff, burly men. From nine to five, Monday through Friday, she’s tough as nails–the complete opposite of her easy-going real self.

One thing she doesn’t have to fake? Her disdain for coworker Tate Rasmussen. Tate has been hostile to her since the day they met. Emmie’s friendly greetings and repeated attempts to get to know him failed to garner anything more than scowls and terse one-word answers. Too bad she can’t stop staring at his Thor-like biceps…

When Emmie and Tate are forced to work together on a charity construction project, things get…heated. Emmie’s beginning to see that beneath Tate’s chiseled exterior lies a soft heart, but it will take more than a few kind words to erase the past and convince her that what they have is real. 

My thoughts:

The banter between the two main characters, Emmie and Tate, reminded me so much of The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. I loved it! It made me laugh and definitely encouraged me to read more than I had intended in one sitting. I loved that the author showed the tough side of the characters as well as their gentle side – this made the characters more believable to me – and I eagerly waited for the moment things would change between them.

However, the banter and the sexual tension between Emmie and Tate did seem to end too early – I wished it could have gone on for a little longer. When the novel segued into the next step of their relationship, I was a little let down as I had been enjoying the quips between the two. The next section of the novel went on a little too long, I found, as I kept waiting for that moment when their relationship would hit an obstacle. When it did hit an obstacle, it was resolved with finesse.

Faker is a lighthearted, sexy (but not too sexy!) and humorous read that will want you craving more. I enjoyed this debut romcom by Sarah Smith and I look forward to seeing what story she comes up with next.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 112th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: A Wedding in December by Sarah Morgan

I received A Wedding in December by Sarah Morgan to read and review from Harper Collins Canada. I was excited to read this Christmas-inspired story and decided that I would enjoy it during the month of December. The cover looked like it would be perfect for this time of year.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Blurb:

In the snowy perfection of Aspen, the White family gathers for youngest daughter Rosie’s whirlwind Christmas wedding. First to arrive are the bride’s parents, Maggie and Nick. Their daughter’s marriage is a milestone they are determined to celebrate wholeheartedly, but they are hiding a huge secret of their own: they are on the brink of divorce. After living apart for the last six months, the last thing they need is to be trapped together in an irresistibly romantic winter wonderland.

Rosie’s older sister, Katie, is also dreading the wedding. Worried that impulsive, sweet-hearted Rosie is making a mistake, Katie is determined to save her sister from herself! If only the irritatingly good-looking best man, Jordan, would stop interfering with her plans…

Bride-to-be Rosie loves her fiancé but is having serious second thoughts. Except everyone has arrived—how can she tell them she’s not sure? As the big day gets closer, and emotions run even higher, this is one White family Christmas none of them will ever forget!

My thoughts:

This novel is a perfect read for this time of year. And the bonus is that it centres on three romantic relationships: that of Maggie, Rosie, and Katie. What I enjoyed especially in this novel is that one of the relationships that Morgan describes is that of an older couple. I do not see this too often in romance novels.

Even though romance is a thread throughout the novel, A Wedding in December is more than just a romance. Instead it is a novel that suggests to the reader that a woman has the ability to change her future – all it needs is for her to have the courage to take the step that will change her life. All three women in this story come to a moment of self awareness at different times in the novel that allow them to take a step forward to changing their lives.

The three women in A Wedding in December have different personalities as well as different experiences. As such, their goals and moments of self reflection are different. Personally, I connected with the older woman in the story (Maggie) because some of her experience is what I have felt in my life too. I loved that this novel compasses the experience of so many different women.

I enjoyed Sarah Morgan’s novel and have now put her other novels on my TBR list. I may even head out to pick up another one her stories to read this month! If you enjoy reading stories about women with hints of the Holiday spirit sprinkled in the pages, A Wedding in December is one novel you need to pick up.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 111th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The Home For Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman

I have had The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman for a while now – it has been buried underneath the books I had piled on top of it. I decided to liberate the novel as my first read for December.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Blurb:

In 1950s Quebec, French and English tolerate each other with precarious civility—much like Maggie Hughes’ parents. Maggie’s English-speaking father has ambitions for his daughter that don’t include marriage to the poor French boy on the next farm over. But Maggie’s heart is captured by Gabriel Phénix. When she becomes pregnant at fifteen, her parents force her to give baby Elodie up for adoption and get her life ‘back on track’.

Elodie is raised in Quebec’s impoverished orphanage system. It’s a precarious enough existence that takes a tragic turn when Elodie, along with thousands of other orphans in Quebec, is declared mentally ill as the result of a new law that provides more funding to psychiatric hospitals than to orphanages. Bright and determined, Elodie withstands abysmal treatment at the nuns’ hands, finally earning her freedom at seventeen, when she is thrust into an alien, often unnerving world.

Maggie, married to a businessman eager to start a family, cannot forget the daughter she was forced to abandon, and a chance reconnection with Gabriel spurs a wrenching choice. As time passes, the stories of Maggie and Elodie intertwine but never touch, until Maggie realizes she must take what she wants from life and go in search of her long-lost daughter, finally reclaiming the truth that has been denied them both.

My thoughts:

The first half of the novel was heartbreaking as it deals with the experience of an orphan in Quebec in the 1950s. Goodman highlights an unknown part of history and does it with emotional sensitivity. Her words encouraged me to feel anger at what had been done to the young children as well as empathy for her characters Elodie and Maggie. The subject matter does make the first half of the book difficult to read and it meant that there were times when I set it aside for a little while. I could not stop reading, however, as Goodman’s words had helped me feel a connection to both the child Elodie and her mother Maggie.

Not only did I feel empathy for Elodie and her experience in the system as an orphan, I also felt a connection to Maggie – a teenage girl who falls pregnant and who is forced to give up her baby. The Home for Unwanted Girls is told from the perspective of both characters and it is interesting to see how both of them never give up on reuniting. There are many moments in the novel which are emotional to read despite the thread of hope; moments which had me wishing desperately for a positive end to the story.

If you enjoy historical fiction, The Home for Unwanted Girls is a must-read. Not only does the novel highlight a little-known piece of history, but it is done with sensitivity and thought-provoking skill. The novel pulls at your heartstrings and satisfies a reader who enjoys reading stories of hope.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 110th in my book pledge for 2019)