Teaser Tuesday: After Kilimanjaro by Gayle Woodson

I was accepted to read and review the following novel by BookSparks: After Kilimanjaro by Gayle Woodson. I was happy that my application had been accepted for two reasons: the book was set in Africa; and it dealt with basic women issues.

The novel is interesting so far and centres on a young woman doctor, Sarah Whitaker, who has travelled to work in Tanzania for a year. What she sees and experiences opens her eyes to the reality of the country she is in. The extract I am sharing describes one of the patients that she encounters:

” An awful stench floated in the next patient as she shuffled in with her head bowed. The chart said she was twenty years old, but she looked ancient. Her name was Charmaine. She was a victim of genital mutilation and a pregnancy gone wrong. The baby was tepees by scarring and after four days of labor, a dead infant was delivered in pieces. Charmaine was left with holes in her bowel and bladder and continually leaked urine and faces.” (p 107)

The content of the novel certainly makes me grateful to be living as a woman in a more modern society.

What do you know about female mutilation? 

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2016

(This post is linked to Ambrosia’s Teaser Tuesdays at The Purple Booker)

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Book Review: Break In Case of Emergency by Brian Francis

Harper Collins Canada held a #FrenzyPresents event earlier this month at which they promoted the Young Adult book written by Brian Francis, Break In Case of Emergency. I had the opportunity to attend and meet the author so I was curious to read the novel the folks at Harper Collins were enthusiastically promoting.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, LGBT

Blurb:

Life has been a struggle for Toby Goodman. Her mother died by suicide five years ago, and her father left their small town before Toby was born. Now a teenager living on her grandparents’ dairy farm, Toby has trouble letting people in. She keeps even her closest friend, the brash but endearing Trisha, at arms’ length, and recently ended her first relationship, with Trisha’s burnout brother, Mike. Convinced that she is destined to follow her mother’s path, Toby creates a plan to escape her pain.

But with the news that her father is coming home and finally wants to meet her, Toby must face the truth of her family’s story. Not only is her father gay, but he’s also a world-famous female impersonator—and a self-absorbed, temperamental man-child who is ill-prepared to be a real parent.

When Toby’s careful plans go awry, she is forced to rebuild the life she thought she knew from the ground up. While she may not follow an expected path, through the support of a quirky but lovable circle of friends and family, Toby may finally put together the many different pieces that make up her past, her present, and her future.

My thoughts:

I do admit to beginning this novel with high expectations as it had been avidly promoted. The story also interested me as it dealt with possible mental health issues that so many teens face at this time of their lives. I think it is good that there is literature like this out there to help teen readers realise that they are not alone when experiencing suicidal thoughts or even feelings of worthlessness.

The story is written from the point of view of a teenage girl who does feel worthless; and who comes to believe that the people she is surrounded by would be better off without her. She does have a raw deal: growing up with her grandparents without a dad around, her mom having committed suicide. Francis places us right inside the mind of Toby Goodman, a girl who is having suicidal thoughts. We read of how her mind circles around suicide and why it would be such a good thing for her to do. There were moments, to be honest, when I felt that the thoughts expressed were a bit repetitive and I wished the story would move on – though I can understand that the writer wanted to reflect how a depressed person would focus on the negative and constantly obsess on a point.

Toby Goodman meets her dad who is a well-known drag queen. Not much time is spent on the encounter and subsequent meetings though. At the end of the novel, I wished that more had been written of their interaction. The moment of meeting her dad does help Toby come to certain realisations about herself, and even about her mom. Meeting her dad does put to rest some concerns that Toby had about her mother and her own relationship with her.

Toby is a character that grows in the story. She learns about herself and about what is important to her. She comes to learn more about the people in her lives; and begins to see herself through their eyes. The novel suggests to the reader that in our lives we are part of a group; and that we each have our role within that group. Out role is important and our actions do affect the others around us in a negative or positive way.

Break In Case of Emergency is a novel that celebrates a person who can overcome extreme sadness with the help of those around her. It celebrates that we, as people, can overcome the challenges in our ordinary lives with the love of those in our lives. This contemporary young adult novel will be one of those stories that can help young teens realise that they are not alone; and that they can look to the support of family and friends to help them through difficult times.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 90th in my book pledge for 2019)

Teaser Tuesday: Pressure Point by Jessie Kwak

Yesterday when I opened the door to my home after work, the place was quiet. I was alone: my husband was still commuting home and my daughters were at university. I am still not used to being the only one at home by 5pm on a Monday. With my daughter no longer at high school, I think it is going to take a while for me to get used to these moments alone.

You may be wondering what did with my silent time. Yes, of course! I made myself a coffee, grabbed a new read, and put my feet up on the sofa. I had been wanting to start Pressure Point by Jessie Kwak since I had received it last week.

I haven’t read much of the novel yet so I will share a teaser with you from the prologue:

“Manu’s found that nothing helps a negotiation along quite so well as your enemy knowing just how close you can get to them.” (p 9)

(2019, Jessie Kwak)

I look forward to reading the third novel in Jessie Kwak’s Bulari saga. Guess what I will be doing when I get home today!

Do you enjoy gangster-type stories? 

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2016

(This post is linked to Ambrosia’s Teaser Tuesdays at The Purple Booker)

Book Review: Suggested Reading by Dave Connis

At the Frenzy Presents event at the end of August, I was lucky enough to receive one of the books that I hoped to read: Suggested Reading by Dave Connis.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary

Publication Date: 17 September 2019

Blurb:

A bookworm finds a way to fight back when her school bans dozens of classic and meaningful books.

Clara Evans is horrified when she discovers her principal’s “prohibited media” hit list. The iconic books on the list have been pulled from the library and aren’t allowed anywhere on the school’s premises. Students caught with the contraband will be sternly punished.

Many of these stories have changed Clara’s life, so she’s not going to sit back and watch while her draconian principal abuses his power. She’s going to strike back.

So Clara starts an underground library in her locker, doing a shady trade in titles like Speak and The Chocolate War. But when one of the books she loves most is connected to a tragedy she never saw coming, Clara’s forced to face her role in it.

Will she be able to make peace with her conflicting feelings, or is fighting for this noble cause too tough for her to bear?

My thoughts:

From the moment I started reading this novel, I knew I would love it. Not only does the story centre on a love of reading and censorship, but it also describes the emotions felt by the reader. Connis describes the reader’s experience when reading a beloved book – and it is perfect! The anticipation, the dread, the emotions. all are described as Clara (the main character) expresses her feelings when completing her current read.

Even today, book censorship can be an issue in some circles. These books are seen to have a negative impact on some readers – forgetting that, instead, these books describe the readers voice perfectly. Other books may have us question our social values, or the trends that can be seen in our environment. Books make us think and, if they are censored, those with the decision-making power intend for readers to think within the box.

Clara Evens fights for the books that she believes are important. She fights for the right to think outside of the box. She fights to read and think freely. While she is fighting the censorship of certain books at her school, she comes to the realisation of certain things about herself and how she was censoring other people’s actions. It was interesting to read how she developed as a person in the story. Just like books open a reader’s mind to ideas; her fight for these books opened her mind to the full persona of the people that she had previously disregarded.

This is definitely a book I would read again as there is so much to think about when enjoying the story. Even though it is described as a Young Adult novel, I believe that even older adults would appreciate both the story and the message. Suggested Reading is a novel that is definitely on my suggested reading list and would be perfect for any book lover!

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

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 87th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The Christmas Boutique by Jennifer Chiaverini

I enjoy Christmas stories and was curious about a novel describing quilting as my mom loves to quilt and I see it to be a wonderful talent. It is for these reasons that I requested to read and review The Christmas Boutique by Jennifer Chiaverini from my contact at Harper Collins Canada.

Genre: Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Christmas

Publication Date: 1 October 2019

Blurb:

Just weeks before Christmas, severe wintry weather damages the church hall hosting the Christmas Boutique—an annual sale of handcrafted gifts and baked goods that supports the county food pantry. Determined to save the fundraiser, Sylvia Bergstrom Compson offers to hold the event at Elm Creek Manor, her ancestral family estate and summertime home to Elm Creek Quilt Camp.

In the spirit of the season, Sylvia and the Elm Creek Quilters begin setting up market booths in the ballroom and decking the halls with beautiful hand-made holiday quilts. Each of the quilters chooses a favorite quilt to display, a special creation evoking memories of holidays past and dreams of Christmases yet to come. Sarah, a first-time mother expecting twins, worries if she can handle raising two babies, especially with her husband so often away on business. Cheerful, white-haired Agnes reflects upon a beautiful appliqué quilt she made as a young bride and the mysterious, long-lost antique quilt that inspired it. Empty nesters and occasional rivals Gwen and Diane contemplate family heirlooms and unfinished projects as they look forward to having their children home again for the holidays.

But while the Elm Creek Quilters work tirelessly to make sure the Christmas Boutique happens, it may take a holiday miracle or two to make it the smashing success they want it to be.

Praised for her ability to craft “a wonderful holiday mix of family legacy, reconciliation and shared experiences” (Tucson Citizen), Jennifer Chiaverini once again rings in the festive season with this eagerly awaited addition in her beloved series.

My thoughts:

The Christmas Boutique was written as part of a series – The Elm Creek Quilts series. It is not necessary, however, to have read the previous novels in order to enjoy the story: I had not read the preceding novels and there was not a time in which I was lost or confused. Chiaverini describes her characters well enough for a first reader of her series; and places them in a setting that is very quickly understood.

Women who quilt will enjoy reading the detail that the author adds to the narrative. I am not a quilter myself but some of the techniques described rang a bell in my mind as I have heard my mom speak of them; or I have read the terms as I have browsed her books and magazines.

I enjoyed reading the story that evolved around a group of women who quilt. The group is seen as a reflection of society and a woman’s circle as all types of personalities and problems are described. The story mirrors so much of what happens in life and, as a result, makes the novel totally believable. The book describes the emotions and experiences of each quilter in the group with the author matching up each story to create the whole – much like a quilt.

I enjoyed reading The Christmas Boutique. It was a lighthearted read that would be perfect to read over the holiday period snuggled up warmly under the cover of a blanket or quilt. Definitely a book you can curl up with during the cold winter months.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 86th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: What Happens Now? by Sophia Money-Coutts

My contact at Harper Collins Canada sent me an ARC of What happens Now? by Sophia Money-Coutts to read and review. I was excited to read the story as I had previously read and enjoyed stories by this author.

Genre: Adult Fiction, Contemporary

Blurb:

After eight years together, Lil Bailey thought she’d already found ‘the one’ – that is, until he dumped her for a blonde twenty-something colleague. So she does what any self-respecting singleton would do: swipes right, puts on her best bra and finds herself on a first date with a handsome mountaineer called Max. What’s the worst that can happen?
 
Well it’s pretty bad actually. First Max ghosts her and then, after weeing on a stick (but mostly her hands), a few weeks later Lil discovers she’s pregnant. She’s single, thirty-one and living in a thimble-sized flat in London, it’s hardly the happily-ever-after she was looking for.

Lil’s ready to do the baby-thing on her own – it can’t be that hard, right? But she should probably tell Max, if she can track him down. Surely he’s not that Max, the highly eligible, headline-grabbing son of Lord and Lady Rushbrooke, currently trekking up a mountain in South Asia? Oh, maybe he wasn’t ignoring Lil after all…  

My thoughts:

Pregnant with a stranger’s baby – a scenario that has happened to so many young women. Money-Coutts describes one possible response to the unexpected pregnancy – a response that perfectly suits a story set in modern times.

The novel focuses on the story of Lil Bailey and her experience. Yes, she does have a love interest (i.e., a man she would like to get to know better) but this story is not about her finding love with this man. Instead the story focuses on finding herself and her inner strength. Lil does find the strength and determination to deal with her unexpected pregnancy with the unexpected help and support of those in her life.

The novel is written in the first person and, as such, I felt that I was in the character’s mind while reading the story even though the workings of the inner mind were not often described. I could not help but relate to the main character when Lil’s working experience was described because, as a teacher myself, I could nod in agreement with her teaching experience.

I enjoyed reading What Happens Now. As with her other novels, Money-Coutts tells a story that will resonate with her readers. It is a story of a modern woman who seeks a solution to her problem that is acceptable in today’s society. What Happens Now is an easy read that readers of women’s fiction will enjoy.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 85th in my book pledge for 2019)

Teaser Tuesday: Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

Today I am sharing an extract from Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik. I bought this novel on Amazon about three years ago because I was intrigued by the blurb. At that time, I had not read any diverse novels and I was curious about a story based on the dating experience of a Muslim woman wearing a hijab.

In this novel Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men when her sort-of boyfriend/possible-marriage-partner-to-be proves to be a little too close to his parents – until her boss persuades her to write a tell-all exposé on the Muslim dating scene and she makes a foray into online dating.

I am sharing an extract from when she is describing her first experience of dating on the internet.

“You know what the problem is?” I continued. “There are the men who’ll marry a hijabi – but then expect her to move in with a hole-in-the-wall, or think she’s going to be this weird paragon of traditional values.” I sighed. “And then there are the men who are all, “You’re living in the west – what’s with the hijab?’”(p43)

(2015, Twenty7 Books, UK)

Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged by Ayesha Malik is a story that had me chuckling throughout. This diverse rom-com was published in 2015 and was my first diverse read.

Would you read this diverse rom-com? 

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2016

(This post is linked to Ambrosia’s Teaser Tuesdays at The Purple Booker)

Book Review: The One and Only by Emily Griffin

While working in my room sorting my bookshelves and clearing out the drawers, I listened to the audio book The One and Only by Emily Griffin. The discs were ones I had picked up at a library sale and thought it would be a good opportunity to use them.

Genre: Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

Format: Audio Book

Blurb:

Thirty-three-year-old Shea Rigsby has spent her entire life in Walker, Texas—a small college town that lives and dies by football, a passion she unabashedly shares. Raised alongside her best friend, Lucy, the daughter of Walker’s legendary head coach, Clive Carr, Shea was too devoted to her hometown team to leave. Instead she stayed in Walker for college, even taking a job in the university athletic department after graduation, where she has remained for more than a decade.

But when an unexpected tragedy strikes the tight-knit Walker community, Shea’s comfortable world is upended, and she begins to wonder if the life she’s chosen is really enough for her. As she finally gives up her safety net to set out on an unexpected path, Shea discovers unsettling truths about the people and things she has always trusted most—and is forced to confront her deepest desires, fears, and secrets.

Thoughtful, funny, and brilliantly observed, The One & Only is a luminous novel about finding your passion, following your heart, and, most of all, believing in something bigger than yourself . . . the one and only thing that truly makes life worth living.

My thoughts:

I do not usually listen to audio books and it took me a while to get used to listening to the story. In addition to sorting out the characters in my mind, I had to get used to the Texan accent that the story was read in. What I enjoyed about listening to the story was that I could do things while discovering Griffin’s story. I did miss being able to flip back, however, to past pages in order to check on moments of the story.

The story centres around college football – a sport which I have no knowledge of. As a result, some of the moments when the game was discussed went by me. If I had been reading the text, I probably would have put the book down in boredom but, because the story was being read to me, I continued listening while busy with my tasks.

The blurb suggests that Shea, the main character, takes the time to re-evaluate her life after an unexpected tragedy. I was a little disappointed with the lack of growth of the main character. Even though Shea does change some parts of her life, her romantic one ends up where she began. I was a little disappointed with the final choice that she made – though it was a choice that I was easily able to predict.

In addition to there not being too much character growth in the story, Griffin makes no social commentary in her novel. She has the opportunity – twice – but decides instead to create a story without a social message. A story like this was perfect to listen to – but would have been a little tedious to read (in addition to all the football commentary).

The One and Only was an enjoyable story to listen to while working – but it is one that I will not listen to again.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 72nd in my book pledge for 2019)

Teaser Tuesday: Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Today I am sharing an extract from Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty. I read this novel about two years ago when it first came out. I enjoy Moriarty’s writing as she scrapes off all the layers of people and their relationships and gets to the gritty part of a person.

In this novel we meet Sam and Clementine who have a wonderful albeit busy life. Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbours, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger-than-life personalities there will be a welcome respite. Two month’s later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?

I am sharing an extract in the voice of Sam reflecting on the morning of the barbecue:

“He found himself remembering the morning of the barbecue. It was like remembering someone else, a friend, or someone he’d seen playing the role of a father in a movie. Surely it had been somebody else, not him, strolling about, strutting about his sunlit house, so sure of himself and his place in the world. What happened that morning? ” (p47)

(2016, First Flatiron Books, USA)

Something happens at the barbecue that exposes the underlying faults in the relationships of the characters.

Have you read this novel by Liane Moriarty? What did you think? 

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2016

(This post is linked to Ambrosia’s Teaser Tuesdays at The Purple Booker)

Book Review: My Name is Sam by Joe Siccardi

I was contacted by the author, Joe Siccardi to read and review one of his independent novels. His books are Christian based and the synopsis of My Name is Sam looked interesting as it suggested the story of Christian woman and her lifetime.

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Christian fiction

Blurb:

Sit down with a cup of coffee or a nice wine and visit with Sam as she shares a lifetime of memories in this new Christian-themed fictional memoir. My Name Is Sam … and Heaven Is Still Shining Through is a follow-up to the breakout novella, Heaven Shining Through. It introduces Sam (Samantha), her family and friends in more detail than the original, and picks up where the novella left off. I hope readers get to know Sam as a friend, a life long friend. Share her life … complete with some drama, some humor, some heart tugs. Just a free-willed suburban Jersey girl trying to figure out this journey called life with the presence of God in an ordinary life as the underlying theme.

My thoughts:

My first thought upon reading this book is that the story was too condensed. I would have liked to read the details of Sam’s life and learn more about the ups and downs in her life. Squeezing the story of a life into the form of a short novel did not work for me as it took away my ability to truly immerse myself in the life that was described. In addition, some events in the life story were glossed over – events that could have led to thought-provoking soundbites.

Siccardi tells us Sam’s story instead of showing us. As a result, I did not feel much emotion while reading – even when Sam experiences some sad moments in her life. What is missing from the narrative is the sense of what the characters in the story are feeling. As a reader, I enjoy the experience of the words forming pictures in my mind: of the characters, what they look like, what they are doing, the emotions they are feeling. My Name is Sam did not give me any of that experience and, therefore, I found it difficult to be invested in the book.

When I opened the pages of this novel, I was hoping to read an inspirational story that is Christian-based. As expected, Sam does experience some difficult moments in her faith. These difficulties, however, are not explored. I found myself wishing that they had been as reading about a character overcoming the difficulties of her faith would have been interesting and inspirational.

Siccardi is an independent author who has taken the time to ensure that his book is professional and well written. The book is easy to read and I found it kept my interest right until the end. The ending of the story is beautifully written and brought tears to my eyes. It is the magic of the last page that I was looking for throughout the novel.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 68th in my book pledge for 2019)