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)

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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)

Book Review: Postscript by Cecelia Ahern

I was so excited to receive an ARC of Postscript by Cecilia Ahern. I love her writing and could not wait to start reading it. I normally try to read the ARCs near the time of publication – but I could not wait with this one!

Publication date: 19 September 2019

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Blurb:

When Holly Kennedy is approached by a group calling themselves the PS, I Love You Club, her safe existence is turned on its head. Inspired by hearing about her late husband Gerry’s letters, the club wants Holly to help them with their own parting messages for their loved ones to discover after they’re gone.

Holly is sure of one thing – no way is she being dragged back to the grief she has left behind. It’s taken seven years to reinvent herself, and she’s ready to move on with her life.

But Holly comes to realize that when you love someone, there’s always one more thing to say…

My thoughts:

Postscript is a perfect sequel and is as beautifully written as PS. I Love You. I enjoyed reading more about Holly and her life 7 years after she had lost her husband. Life goes on after death, and this is what is shown in this novel. However, a loved one is always with you despite their death; and this, too, is shown in Ahern’s latest writing.

As with the first novel, Holly is the centre of the story. Even though she is in a relationship with another man, her romantic relationship is not what drives the story. Holly still has things to learn and in this novel she grows even more. Our personal growth does not stop at a certain age. Instead our life experiences and the people we come into contact with help to mould us into the people we are. In Postscript, Holly comes into contact with people who need her help. She gives her help – but with trepidation and plenty of uncertainty. And yet, in helping these people, Holly discovers that they help her too. In helping these people, she is able to grow as a person.

As always, Ahern’s writing is spot-on. Her words pull emotions from the reader (I do admit to tears forming in my eyes) and encourage you to become invested in the story. As I was reading, the characters were so vivid in my mind, and so real. Ahern is definitely a master at characterisation.

If you loved PS. I Love You (either the film or the book), you will enjoy Postscript as much as I did. This novel is definitely one you need to place on your TBR!

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

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 67th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern

Cecilia Ahern’s publisher, Harper Collins, sent me an ARC of the sequel to PS I Love You and before I read it, I wanted to read the first novel. Even though I had read the novel before, I had read it many years ago and wanted to refresh my memory on details.

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Blurb:

Some people wait their whole lives to find their soul mates. But not Holly and Gerry.

Childhood sweethearts, they could finish each other’s sentences and even when they fought, they laughed. No one could imagine Holly and Gerry without each other. 

Until the unthinkable happens. Gerry’s death devastates Holly. But as her 30th birthday looms, Gerry comes back to her. He’s left her a bundle of notes, gently guiding Holly into her new life without him, each note signed ‘PS, I Love You’. 

As the notes are gradually opened, and as they year unfolds, Holly is both cheered up and challenged. The man who knows her better than anyone sets out to teach her that life goes on. With some help from her friends, and her noisy and loving family, Holly finds herself laughing, crying, singing, dancing — and being braver than ever before. 

Life is for living, she realizes — but it always helps if there’s an angel watching over you.

My thoughts:

I loved this story when I first read it and with the re-reading, I love it even more. The story is about love of a soul mate – not a perfect love, but a love that has endured the day to day arguments and frustrations that couples experience. Unfortunately Gerry dies and leaves Holly alone. Holly is devastated and we read how she learns to cope without her love. The notes that Gerry has left her guide her through her grief and help her to create a life without her soul mate.

PS I Love You is not only a story about a lost love; it is a story that describes the voyage of a woman who her entire adult life has relied on another person to help her make decisions and help her through the ups and downs of life. During her grieving process, Holly learns about herself and who she truly is. She comes to realise more about herself as well as more on the other people in her life. She learns to see things through her eyes, and not through the eyes of her partner. In addition, Holly discovers her inner strength.

This novel is not a romance like many others. Instead it is about a love that has been experienced; the growth of a woman to find her inner strength; and about the grieving process. Re-reading this story has allowed me to appreciate even more Ahern’s storytelling prowess. Now I look forward to reading the sequel.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 66th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

I had seen The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren all over Instagram as people read the book and stated that it was a good story. I decided to give it a read.

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Blurb:

Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Ami, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.

Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.

Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of… lucky.

My thoughts:

The Unhoneymooners was the perfect rom-com read. It was a humorous story that highlights prejudices and the way we assume what others are thinking. Misunderstandings can morph and escalate into feelings of almost hatred. This pseudo-hatred is what exists between Olive and Ethan, and one which ensures that neither one of them will back down from an unexpected holiday. Spending time together, however, leads Olive to an understanding that it is her own insecurities that began the love-hate relationship between them.

Olive not only comes to an understanding of her relationship with Ethan but she also learns a little more about herself during, and after, her unexpected holiday. Her self knowledge comes from self-reflection as a result of her experiences. As in all modern romantic comedies, the heroine is able to grow without the aid of the male protagonist. Instead, he is the catalyst that encourages self-reflection and self-realisation.

I enjoyed reading Lauren’s latest novel and recommend it if you are looking for a light read that will make you laugh and leave you with a sense of satisfaction at the end.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 65th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The Second Worst Restuarant in France by Alexander McCall Smith

I entered a giveaway for ARCs offered by Penguin Random House Canada and was excited to receive The Second Worst Restaurant in France by Alexander McCall Smith. The reason for my excitement? I love any books set in France.

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Blurb:

In a delightful sequel to the best-selling comedic novel My Italian Bulldozer , we are in a French village where the local restaurant’s haute cuisine leaves a lot to be desired–and two books into an astounding ninth series from one of our most beloved authors. 

Renowned cookbook writer Paul Stuart, renewed and refreshed from his time in Tuscany, has returned to Scotland to work on his new book, The Philosophy of Food in Six Easy Chapters. Writing, though, is complicated by Paul’s changed domestic circumstances. His editor and new girlfriend, Gloria, has moved in with him despite not being specifically invited, and she’s brought her two rather demanding Siamese cats. When Paul’s cousin, Chloe, suggests Paul visit her in the French countryside, Paul jumps at the chance. However, once he arrives, he finds his fortunes tangled up with the infamous local restaurant that gives the book its title. In this story about a man who prides himself on his taste finding delight in the most unexpected places, we have Alexander McCall Smith at his most witty and charming.

My thoughts:

I have not read any previous novels by McCall Smith, and had not read the first book in this series either. My enjoyment of the novel, however, was not diminished by my lack of knowledge of the first. The Second Worst Restaurant in France can be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel.

The main character in the novel, Paul Stuart, is a food writer so many references in the novel are food related – perfect for those readers who are foodies as well. References are made in the novel on the importance of food in our lives and how food is used to bring people together. Food has definitely brought people together in this novel – and in unexpected ways. McCall Smith’s characters are delightful and one cannot help but smile at their antics and observations.

Humour is woven through the novel. It is often a subtle humour, though, and one that suits the serious nature of the main character. Paul is having some issues with his girlfriend, Gloria, but his relationship with her is not the thrust of the novel. The main thread through the novel appears to be food – and the need for Paul to change his focus and find answers in unexpected places.

I enjoyed reading this novel and its brief snapshot into life in the French countryside. I savoured the descriptions and chuckled a few times during my reading. This novel meanders slowly through the tale, and is one that is meant to be savoured and not inhaled in one sitting. I recommend this delightful story for those readers who are charmed by stories featuring ordinary people.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 64th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

I received an ARC of The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai wfrom Harper Collins Canada. I was looking forward to reading the novel as I was in the mood for some romantic comedy and this story looked interesting.

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

Rhiannon Hunter may have revolutionized romance in the digital world, but in real life she only swipes right on her career—and the occasional hookup. The cynical dating app creator controls her love life with a few key rules: 

– Nude pics are by invitation only 

– If someone stands you up, block them with extreme prejudice 

– Protect your heart 

Only there aren’t any rules to govern her attraction to her newest match, former pro-football player Samson Lima. The sexy and seemingly sweet hunk woos her one magical night… and disappears. 

Rhi thought she’d buried her hurt over Samson ghosting her, until he suddenly surfaces months later, still big, still beautiful—and in league with a business rival. He says he won’t fumble their second chance, but she’s wary. A temporary physical partnership is one thing, but a merger of hearts? Surely that’s too high a risk…

My thoughts:

The Right Swipe focuses on internet dating – an experience which I, myself, have not had to go through. The author has made provisions for readers like me who will not know the terms (such as ‘ghosting’) by explaining them through her character Samson Lima. I could definitely relate to him as he wandered through the quagmire of online dating. Some of his responses made me smile and confirmed that I had picked up a lighthearted read.

Even though Rai’s novel is an easy read of the romance genre, character development and growth does occur in the story. It is this character development that I enjoy to read – Rhiannon Hunter, for example, comes to some realisations about herself. She learns what it is that has been preventing her from having a committed relationship with someone. And once she accepts her shortcomings, she is open to considering the inclusion of a partner in her life.

The Right Swipe is a diverse read that features a strong female character. I enjoy stories with strong female characters as so often women are expected to downplay their strengths. Seeing strong women in stories suggests to readers that being strong is not a weakness, and is instead something to be proud of. The novel is also one that hints at the prejudices a person has of those met online. It is these prejudices that have to be acknowledged and worked through in order to appreciate who a person is.

I picked up The Right Swipe hoping for a light and easy read – and was not disappointed.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 57th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven

I received an ARC of The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven when I attended the Frenzy Presents event held by Harper Collins Canada in Spring. The blurb sounded interesting and relevant for young girls today.

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult

Blurb:

Eighteen-year-old Izzy O’Neill knows exactly who she is—a loyal friend, an aspiring comedian, and a person who believes that milk shakes and Reese’s peanut butter cups are major food groups. But after she’s caught in a compromising position with the son of a politician, it seems like everyone around her is eager to give her a new label: slut.

Izzy is certain that the whole thing will blow over and she can get back to worrying about how she doesn’t reciprocate her best friend Danny’s feelings for her and wondering how she is ever going to find a way out of their small town. Only it doesn’t.

And while she’s used to laughing her way out of any situation, as she finds herself first the center of high school gossip and then in the middle of a national scandal, it’s hard even for her to find humor in the situation.

Izzy may be determined not to let anyone else define who she is, but that proves easier said than done when it seems like everyone has something to say about her.

My thoughts:

The novel centres on a theme that is so important for teens to think about. It is so easy for one to trust that the person receiving private photos will treat them with respect. The book recounts how easy it is for a moment of thoughtlessness and trust to snowball into something bigger. Izzy trusts that her nude selfie, for example, will go no further than the recipient of her text – but her moment of impulse leads to events that affect her life in ways that she did not consider.

The female protagonist in The Exact Opposite of Okay is a strong person – she is able to control the bullying and the finger-pointing that results when her actions are exposed to the world. I cannot help but think of those teens who do not have the strength to continue on and stand tall despite what their peers and others are saying. Izzy does not do it alone, however, and Steven shows that her character does have the support of others to get her through a difficult time.

The Exact Opposite of Okay explores the development of shame one begins to feel when an action taken is regarded by society as unacceptable. From the start, Izzy has no problem with her sexual behaviour but slowly she begins to feel shame for her actions. The change in her perspective is powerfully written and had me thinking of how much society pressures a person to feel shame for something that is natural.

A secondary thread that runs through the book is Izzy’s relationship with her friend Danny. Danny wants the focus of the relationship to change, but Izzy doesn’t. The dynamics between the two young people change and it is interesting to read what Danny’s expectations are, and how he expects Izzy to reciprocate. His actions are to control and manipulate Izzy and he gets angry when she does not respond as he feels she should.

Steven has written a novel that touches on an important issue for modern girl teens. The issues brought up in the book are ones that young girls are aware of, and deal with, at high school. The Exact Opposite of Okay is written in the form of a set of blog posts, which creates another link with the reader as the writing style is informal and more personal. This novel is an enjoyable read which, I believe, will touch the hearts of many young women.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 56th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Since You’ve Been Gone by Anouska Knight

I was in the mood for romance and decided to go browsing at our local book store. The cover of Since You’ve Been Gone by Anouska Knight caught my eye and the blurb made the book sound interesting. I brought the novel home with me and settled in to read it.

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Blurb:

How do you learn to love again?

In one tragic moment, Holly Jefferson s life as she knows it changes for ever. Now to the external world, at least she s finally getting back on her feet, running her business, Cake. Then she meets Ciaran Argyll.

His rich and charmed life feels a million miles from her own. However, there s more to Ciaran than the superficial world that surrounds him, and he too is wrestling with his own ghosts. Will Holly find the missing ingredient that allows her to live again and embrace an unknown and unexpected tomorrow? 

My thoughts:

I opened Since You’ve Been Gone with anticipation but was a little disappointed in the reading of it. There were moments when the story led to expected scenarios that I was able to easily predict. I know that in romance the two main characters get together – but in this story, the progress towards that ending followed an expected path. I would have enjoyed the story more if the obstacles set in the path of Holly were a little more difficult, and turned out in unexpected ways.

There were times in the story that I felt the writer rushed over an event: the jump from problem to resolution was too quick. Spending more time on the ways in which a resolution was achieved, would have helped Knight develop more the characterisation of the personalities in her story. Her characterisation of Holly at the start of the novel was good; but what is missing in the novel is the story of her growth and her success in overcoming her grief.

When I reached the end of the novel, I did feel a little cheated out of a richer story. However, Since You’ve Been Gone was a light read that kept me company while I was ill. If lighthearted, breezy romances are your type of read, then this one is for you.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 48th in my book pledge for 2019)