Book Review: The Friendship List by Susan Mallery

When at the OLA Super Conference earlier this year, the author Susan Mallery was recommended to me and an ARC of The Friendship List was gifted to me.

Genre: Romance, Contemporary

Blurb:

Two best friends jump-start their lives in a summer that will change them forever…

Single mom Ellen Fox couldn’t be more content—until she overhears her son saying he can’t go to his dream college because she needs him too much. If she wants him to live his best life, she has to convince him she’s living hers.

So Unity Leandre, her best friend since forever, creates a list of challenges to push Ellen out of her comfort zone. Unity will complete the list, too, but not because she needs to change. What’s wrong with a thirtysomething widow still sleeping in her late husband’s childhood bed?

The Friendship List begins as a way to make others believe they’re just fine. But somewhere between “wear three-inch heels” and “have sex with a gorgeous guy,” Ellen and Unity discover that life is meant to be lived with joy and abandon, in a story filled with humor, heartache and regrettable tattoos.

Thoughts:

This is a story about two ordinary women who find themselves living in a rut – an experience that so many women find themselves in once they have reached their thirties. Unity and Ellen make a pact with one another to make a change in their lives and therefore create a list for themselves of things they should do to make a change in their lives. In following this list, they find the courage to do things out of their comfort zone – and in doing so make a change in their lives.

The novel is written in a 4 person point of view and it is interesting to read of the different thoughts and experiences of the characters – characters that influence the lives of these two women. What I liked about the characters in Mallery’s novel is that they are ordinary women living ordinary lives and, as such, I could relate to them. The two main characters, Unity and Ellen, experience growth in the story as they change their lives through their actions, actions that take them out of their comfort zone, actions that help them to realise another part of themselves.

The Friendship List is a woman’s story that will resonate with women readers. It is a read that is perfect for a relaxing summer day while at the beach, in the park, or even on a sofa.

I give this novels ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 53rd novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Siri, Who Am I? by Sam Tschida

When I saw the title of this novel by Sam Tschida at the OLA Super Conference, I had to pick it up. Who wouldn’t be intrigued by the title Siri, Who Am I?

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Blurb:

Mia might look like a Millennial but she was born yesterday. Emerging from a coma with short-term amnesia after an accident, Mia can’t remember her own name until the Siri assistant on her iPhone provides it. Based on her cool hairstyle (undercut with glamorous waves), dress (Prada), and signature lipstick (Chanel), she senses she’s wealthy, but the only way to know for sure is to retrace her steps once she leaves the hospital. Using Instagram and Uber, she arrives at the pink duplex she calls home in posts but finds Max, a cute, off-duty postdoc supplementing his income with a house-sitting gig. He tells her the house belongs to JP, a billionaire with a chocolate empire. A few texts later, JP confirms her wildest dreams: they’re in love, Mia is living the good life, and he’ll be back that weekend.

But as Mia and Max work backward through her Instagram and across Los Angeles to learn more about her, they discover a surprising truth behind her perfect Instagram feed, and evidence that her head wound was no accident. Who was Mia before she woke up in that hospital? And is it too late for her to rewrite her story?

My thoughts:

I had so much hope for this read, particularly because the scenario is so true to modern-day life. However the novel fell a little flat for me. There were moments when I felt bored by the story and wished that it would move on a little faster.

I felt no connection at all with the main character, Mia. Her portrayal in the novel was one dimensional and not very interesting to read. One would expect that she would grow in character during the story when reading the blurb. But even though her growth was suggested, it was glossed over and did not resonate with me. In addition, the romance did fall a little flat.

Siri, Who am I? is a novel with not much substance – maybe a little like the Instagram influencers. This was an okay read for me and not one I would pick up again.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 42nd novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Sea Glass Cottage by RaeAnne Thayne

I have previously enjoyed novels by RaeAnne Thayne so I was pleased when I received an ARC of The Sea Glass Cottage at the OLA Super Conference.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary

Blurb:

The life Olivia Harper always dreamed of isn’t so dreamy these days. The 16-hour work days are unfulfilling and so are things with her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when she hears that her estranged mother, Juliet, has been seriously injured in a car accident, Liv has no choice but to pack up her life and head home to beautiful Cape Sanctuary on the Northern California coast.

It’s just for a few months—that’s what Liv keeps telling herself. But the closer she gets to Cape Sanctuary, the painful memories start flooding back: Natalie, her vibrant, passionate older sister who downward-spiraled into addiction. The fights with her mother who enabled her sister at every turn. The overdose that took Natalie, leaving her now-teenaged daughter, Caitlin, an orphan.

As Liv tries to balance her own needs with those of her injured mother and an obstinate, resentful fifteen-year-old, it becomes clear that all three Harper women have been keeping heartbreaking secrets from one another. And as those secrets are revealed, Liv, Juliet, and Caitlin will see that it’s never too late—or too early—to heal family wounds and find forgiveness.

My thoughts:

I had previously enjoyed novels by RaeAnne Thayne and this novel did not disappoint. The novel shares the story of three generations of women. It is beautifully written in a way that touches your heart with a pacing that is pitched perfectly for this genre. The Sea Glass Cottage is told in a four person point of view (Olivia, Juliet, Caitlin, Cooper) and it is interesting to see how all of their stories are linked to one person, Natalie – a person whose voice we do not read.

We read of the struggles these women have in their personal lives as well as with their relationships. We read how they begin to reconnect with one another, as well as their slow belief that they have the right to be happy in their lives. What I enjoyed about this novel is that we are told stories of ordinary women – women who struggle and achieve in their day to day lives just as we do.

The Sea Glass Cottage is an enjoyable read for those who prefer reading contemporary women’s fiction that embrace women’s stories.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 41st novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez

I had read good things about The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez on Instagram and jumped at the opportunity to read this novel with others. I dug into it quickly when I need some lighthearted reading.

Genre: Contemporary. Romance

Blurb:

Kristen Petersen doesn’t do drama, will fight to the death for her friends, and has no room in her life for guys who just don’t get her. She’s also keeping a big secret: facing a medically necessary procedure that will make it impossible for her to have children.

Planning her best friend’s wedding is bittersweet for Kristen—especially when she meets the best man, Josh Copeland. He’s funny, sexy, never offended by her mile-wide streak of sarcasm, and always one chicken enchilada ahead of her hangry. Even her dog, Stuntman Mike, adores him. The only catch: Josh wants a big family someday. Kristen knows he’d be better off with someone else, but as their attraction grows, it’s harder and harder to keep him at arm’s length.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this story so much more than I thought I would – and it was a relief to see that the many women on Instagram who had recommended it to me had got it right! A bonus for me is that The Friend Zone is more than just a romance. The story explores the experience of a woman who is struggling with a uterine disease that impacts her life and her ability to have children.

Having said that, Kristen’s story is more than her inability to have children. Her story is about her accepting herself for who she is, inadequacies included. In the novel, we see her starting to believe that she does deserve to be happy – and that someone can love her for who she is despite her sterility. I enjoyed reading the story of her self-acceptance, and the acceptance by others of who she truly is.

I read the debut novel by Abby Jimenez in one sitting – which tells you how invested I was in the story. I could not put the novel down and needed to know whether Kristen would find the happiness she deserves. I enjoyed this romance with a thread of seriousness running through it and will certainly pick up the author’s next novel.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 35th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Truths I Never Told You by Kelley Rimmer

When Kelly Rimmer visited Toronto Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to obtain a ticket to hear her speak about her upcoming novel Truths I Never Told You.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary. Historical Fiction

Blurb:

With her father recently moved to a care facility for his worsening dementia, Beth Walsh volunteers to clear out the family home and is surprised to discover the door to her childhood playroom padlocked. She’s even more shocked at what’s behind it—a hoarder’s mess of her father’s paintings, mounds of discarded papers and miscellaneous junk in the otherwise fastidiously tidy house.

As she picks through the clutter, she finds a loose journal entry in what appears to be her late mother’s handwriting. Beth and her siblings grew up believing their mother died in a car accident when they were little more than toddlers, but this note suggests something much darker. Beth soon pieces together a disturbing portrait of a woman suffering from postpartum depression and a husband who bears little resemblance to the loving father Beth and her siblings know. With a newborn of her own and struggling with motherhood, Beth finds there may be more tying her and her mother together than she ever suspected.

Exploring the expectations society places on women of every generation, Kelly Rimmer explores the profound struggles two women unwittingly share across the decades set within an engrossing family mystery that may unravel everything they believed to be true.

My thoughts:

Truths I Never Told You is a story about postpartum depression and the stigma that is attached to this mental illness. The author takes us through the experience of a woman in the past; and of a woman in modern society: the experience of Beth is juxtaposed with what her mother, Grace, experienced when she was born. As the reader, we are shown the state of mind of these women and how debilitating this mental illness is. Rimmer tells us the story with sensitivity and empathy – I could not help feel a connection with these women as I read of their experience.

Not only are readers exposed to the mental health of women as they suffer from postpartum depression, but we are also shown a snapshot of a woman’s life in the 1950s. Reading of a woman’s experience during this time period is quite an eye-opener: women were expected to stay at home and, once married, struggled to find work. Reading this, I could not help but be grateful for the freedom I now experience as a married woman with children living in modern western society. We have definitely come a long way.

Truths I Never Told You is a heartbreaking story that I could not put down. This is the first novel I have read by Kelly Rimmer and it will not be my last. If you enjoy reading women’s stories as well as historical fiction, this novel should be placed on your To Be Read list.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 34th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Undercover Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams

After reading The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams, I could not wait much longer to read the sequel: Undercover Bromance.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

Blurb:

Braden Mack thinks reading romance novels makes him an expert in love, but he’ll soon discover that real life is better than fiction. 

Liv Papandreas has a dream job as a sous chef at Nashville’s hottest restaurant. Too bad the celebrity chef owner is less than charming behind kitchen doors. After she catches him harassing a young hostess, she confronts him and gets fired. Liv vows revenge, but she’ll need assistance to take on the powerful chef.

Unfortunately, that means turning to Braden Mack. When Liv’s blackballed from the restaurant scene, the charismatic nightclub entrepreneur offers to help expose her ex-boss, but she is suspicious of his motives. He’ll need to call in reinforcements: the Bromance Book Club.

Inspired by the romantic suspense novel they’re reading, the book club assists Liv in setting up a sting operation to take down the chef. But they’re just as eager to help Mack figure out the way to Liv’s heart… even though she’s determined to squelch the sparks between them before she gets burned. 

My thoughts:

I enjoyed meeting once again the characters that I had met in the first book of the Bromance Book Club series. As with the first novel, a thread of lightheartedness runs though the story – which was perfect for this period of social distancing. There were times in the novel when I could not help but laugh in appreciation at what the characters said and did.

Despite the humour though, the story does address a more serious issue: that of sexual harassment by a powerful man. Not only does the story address the need for women to stand up against incidents of sexual harassment – but it also suggests the need for women to stand together and support one another when women do find the courage to stand up against the harassment they are experiencing. The need for women to stand together in solidarity and support one another seems to be a theme that runs through many of the recent novels I have read. What I do like about Undercover Bromance is that not all men are tarnished with the same brush.

The main characters (Mack and Liv) are shown as having both strengths and weaknesses – in this way I was able to relate to them as representations of real people. Both these characters grow during the story: they both realise that their past has impacted the way they relate to others. Acceptance of their past leads them to making decisions that will impact positively on their future.

I enjoyed the second novel in the series. Undercover Bromance is the perfect novel if you are looking for a modern romance story that explores issues that women currently face. It is definitely a fun read that draws you in. The second book in the Bromance Book Club is certainly worth a read. Now I wait for the next in the series. 😀

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 31st novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Expectation by Anna Hope

My contact at Harper Collins Canada sent me an ARC of Expectation by Anna Hope to read and review. The story looked like one that encompassed the life of so many women.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary

Blurb:

Hannah, Cate and Lissa are young, vibrant and inseparable. Living on the edge of a common in East London, their shared world is ablaze with art and activism, romance and revelry – and the promise of everything to come. They are electric. They are the best of friends.

Ten years on, they are not where they hoped to be. Amidst flailing careers and faltering marriages, each hungers for what the others have. And each wrestles with the same question: what does it take to lead a meaningful life?

My thoughts:

Anna Hope has written a novel based on women’s lives and their friendships. The story is told in the voices of three people: Hannah, Cate and Lissa. It is interesting to see the different viewpoints that the three women have to the same scenario. As a reader it makes you realise that often we aren’t aware of what a person is thinking and feeling – despite how well we know them.

Expectation is a realistic exploration of three women’s lives: we learn what they expected to achieve once they had left their family home; and what they actually were able to do with their lives. We read of their pain, their struggles, and the choices they make. The novel has references to the experience of many women and will thus resonate with many of its readers.

The novel was an enjoyable read but it did not excite me. This is not a story that will have you turning pages in anticipation and is instead one to be enjoyed slowly. To me, it was a little predictable and thus made it a story easy to set aside to work on other tasks.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 30th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid by Kate Hattemer

I managed to pick up a copy of The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid by Kate Hattemer at the OLA conference. Both the cover and the title intrigued me.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary

Blurb:

A novel about friendship, feminism, and the knotty complications of tradition and privilege, perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli and Stephanie Perkins.

Jemima Kincaid is a feminist, and she thinks you should be one too. Her private school is laden with problematic traditions, but the worst of all is prom. The guys have all the agency; the girls have to wait around for promposals (she’s speaking heteronormatively because only the hetero kids even go). In Jemima’s (very opionated) opinion, it’s positively medieval.

Then Jemima is named to Senior Triumvirate, alongside superstar athlete Andy and popular, manicured Gennifer, and the three must organize prom. Inspired by her feminist ideals and her desire to make a mark on the school, Jemima proposes a new structure. They’ll do a Last Chance Dance: every student privately submits a list of crushes to a website that pairs them with any mutual matches.

Meanwhile, Jemima finds herself embroiled in a secret romance that she craves and hates all at once. Her best friend, Jiyoon, has found romance of her own, but Jemima starts to suspect something else has caused the sudden rift between them. And is the new prom system really enough to extinguish the school’s raging dumpster fire of toxic masculinity?

Filled with Kate Hattemer’s signature banter, this is a fast-paced and thoughtful tale about the nostalgia of senior year, the muddle of modern relationships, and how to fight the patriarchy when you just might be part of the patriarchy yourself.

My thoughts:

The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid is a novel about an emerging young woman who learns to take a look at herself and at the way other people see her. Jemima learns that she needs to take a step back and think about what – and who – is important to her and who she wants to have in her life.

As suggested in the title, the concept of feminism plays a role in the novel. Jemima comes to understand what true feminism is. It is not about being the antithesis of femininity. Instead, it is about knowing who you are, being comfortable with it, and supporting other women who express themselves in ways that are comfortable to them. She comes to realise that a woman can be feminine – and still fight the patriarchy. She also comes to the realisation that her reactions might just be supporting the patriarchal system.

Hattemer has shared with us a story that is a life story – not a love story. It is a story that centres on the message that girls can empower and support one another in subtle ways and, in so doing, work against the patriarchal system.

The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid is a coming of age novel that is a perfect read for those thinking about what type of person they want to be in our society. It is also a story which shows the importance of supporting other young women.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 16th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Sisters By Choice by Susan Mallery

While at the OLA conference, I was discussing novels with the vendor at the Harper Collins Canada booth and we looked at the stories by Susan Mallery. I enjoy novels in which women are the centre – especially ordinary women living everyday lives. The vendor recommended Sisters by Choice. I like the title as it makes me think of the friends I have who are as close to me as a sister would be.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary

Blurb:

Cousins by chance, sisters by choice

After her cat toy empire goes up in flames, Sophie Lane returns to Blackberry Island, determined to rebuild. Until small-town life reveals a big problem: she can’t grow unless she learns to let go. If Sophie relaxes her grip even a little, she might lose everything. Or she might finally be free to reach for the happiness and love that have eluded her for so long.

Kristine has become defined by her relationship to others. She’s a wife, a mom. As much as she adores her husband and sons, she wants something for herself—a sweet little bakery just off the waterfront. She knew changing the rules wouldn’t be easy, but she never imagined she might have to choose between her marriage and her dreams.

Like the mainland on the horizon, Heather’s goals seem beyond her grasp. Every time she manages to save for college, her mother has another crisis. Can she break free, or will she be trapped in this tiny life forever?

Told with Mallery’s trademark humor and charm, Sisters by Choice is a heartfelt tale of love, family and the friendships that see us through.

My thoughts:

Sisters by Choice is a story of three women with different experiences who are all at turning points in their lives. These women have choices that they need to make – choices that are important to them and that will change their lives. Through these women’s stories, Mallery shows the reader that each woman is different and will need to make choices for a different path to keep her fulfilled.

Mallery expertly intertwines the stories of the three women in the novel. The reader sees the connection between these women and is at no time confused by which story belongs to which character. By intertwining the stories, the author also shows that we are connected and that our choices do affect the lives of those around us.

I felt a connection on some level with all three women – despite their varying ages and experiences. Some experiences in life are had by most women and it is these experiences that connected me with the characters. This connection encouraged me to feel empathy for them, and to understand the motives for their choices and behaviour.

Sisters by Choice was the first novel by Mallery that I have read. I will certainly pick up another by this author.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 15th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

I received an ARC of Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis from Harper Collins Canada. I requested this novel as I had read and enjoyed a previous novel by this author and wanted to know how she would address another topic.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary

Blurb:

The world is not tame.

Ashley knows this truth deep in her bones, more at home with trees overhead than a roof. So when she goes hiking in the Smokies with her friends for a night of partying, the falling dark and creaking trees are second nature to her. But people are not tame either. And when Ashley catches her boyfriend with another girl, drunken rage sends her running into the night, stopped only by a nasty fall into a ravine. Morning brings the realization that she’s alone – and far off trail. Lost in undisturbed forest and with nothing but the clothes on her back, Ashley must figure out how to survive despite the red streak of infection creeping up her leg.

My thoughts:

Be Not Far From Me was an intense read that I could not put down. I needed to know what would happen to Ashley – would she survive? And if so, how? The pacing was perfectly pitched as there was not one moment in the novel during which I got bored or my attention strayed.

A change occurs within Ashley as she works on surviving in the forest. She digs deep down into herself and reflects on the reason for her anger as well as her past reactions to the people in her life. She faces some hard truths about herself and makes a few promises to herself on where she will go if she survives the forest. Through Ashley’s experience, the novel suggests the power of Nature and how it can strip a person down to their essence. Nature is seen as something to be respected – as something that can take from a person as well as give something in return.

Be Not Far From Me showcases the strength of a young woman – not only her physical strength but also her inner strength. McGinnis shows that it is a person’s inner strength that can carry someone through many obstacles; that not only is physical strength needed but also the strength that a person has deep down that can help overcome the problems a person can face.

The writing in this novel encourages the reader to feel empathy for the main character. I loved this story of a young woman finding her inner strength and discovering who she is. The story of Ashley finding herself is not told in the traditional sense, but it is one that will resonate with the reader. Be Not Far From Me is a novel perfect for those who enjoy reading survival stories featuring a strong female character.

I give this novel ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 12th novel in my book pledge for 2020)