Book Review: Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavours by Dev Sonali

As you may know, my prefered all-time classic is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen so when I saw that another retelling of my favourite had been written, I had to read the story. Harper Collins Canada graciously sent me a copy of the ARC Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavours by Dev Sonali.

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Retellings

Blurb:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that only in an overachieving Indian American family can a genius daughter be considered a black sheep.

Dr. Trisha Raje is San Francisco’s most acclaimed neurosurgeon. But that’s not enough for the Rajes, her influential immigrant family who’s achieved power by making its own non-negotiable rules:

·       Never trust an outsider

·       Never do anything to jeopardize your brother’s political aspirations

·       And never, ever, defy your family

Trisha is guilty of breaking all three rules. But now she has a chance to redeem herself. So long as she doesn’t repeat old mistakes.

Up-and-coming chef DJ Caine has known people like Trisha before, people who judge him by his rough beginnings and place pedigree above character. He needs the lucrative job the Rajes offer, but he values his pride too much to indulge Trisha’s arrogance. And then he discovers that she’s the only surgeon who can save his sister’s life.

As the two clash, their assumptions crumble like the spun sugar on one of DJ’s stunning desserts. But before a future can be savored there’s a past to be reckoned with…

A family trying to build home in a new land.

A man who has never felt at home anywhere.

And a choice to be made between the two.

My thoughts:

I loved this story right from the start. And when I read the line “It is a universally acknowledged truth …” amongst its pages, I could not help but grin.

As in Austen’s novel, the thread running through the story is the exploration of both pride and of prejudice. Both of the main characters, Trisha and DJ, feel pride in what they do and exhibit prejudice towards one another. Trisha reminds me of the haughty Elizabeth Bennet who is quick to judge but slowly comes to realise the truth of others and the rashness of her assumptions. Just like Elizabeth, Dr Trishe Raje is proud: proud of her work, proud of who her family is, proud of what she has thus far achieved in her life. In spite of her pride, Trisha is a character I could relate to as Dev describes the less perfect side of her personality.

Everyone loves the character Darcy; and everyone will love chef DJ Caine who is the Darcy character in Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavours. Unlike in the original Austen story, Dj does not come from an elite background (Dev flipped the social status of the main characters in her novel). His experience, however, has made him a mature person who is still quick to prejudge. While reading the novel, I found myself rooting for him. I wanted him to be successful in spite of all the difficulties he had experienced, and was currently experiencing. Knowing the end of the story (it is a retelling after all), did not prevent me from wishing the best for the Darcy-like character.

One of the best things about this retelling is that it is a story that can be added to my collection of novels featuring characters of a diverse background. The bonus? Chef DJ Caine is of mixed race. I do admit to having a fondness for stories featuring characters in this group as my own children are of mixed race. It is a treat to read stories featuring a mix of race and culture as it shows to readers that being of mixed race is acceptable (or at least, that it should be). In addition to featuring the mixed race, the novel features the experience of some of the people in this group – even the negative. The novel is not one that skims over a happy surface, but also highlights a few uncomfortable experience.

Sonali Dev has written a wonderful retelling of a beloved well-known classic and has done it with humour and expertise. Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavours is a lighthearted romantic comedy that leaves you with a feel-good feeling.

I give this novel an unreserved ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 41st in my book pledge for 2019)

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Book Review: A Willing Murder by Jude Deveraux

After reading the second book of Jude Deveraux’s Medlar Mystery series (you can read my review here), I knew that I had to read the first. On the Monday of the Easter weekend, I decided to delve into A Willing Murder.

Genre: Romance, Mystery, Cozy Mystery

Blurb:

Sara Medlar is a household name in romance, with millions of books sold. But lately, retirement has been boring her and she’s found herself back in her hometown of Lachlan, Florida, remodeling the grand old mansion she’d admired as a child. It’s much too big for her alone, but she’d die before letting anyone in town know that.

Then Sara’s niece Kate is offered a job in Lachlan—a start in what could be a very successful career in real estate. She accepts immediately, but with so little saved up, she’ll have to approach her estranged yet incredibly famous aunt for a place to stay while she gets herself settled. But when she arrives at Sara’s home, she finds she’s not the only long-term houseguest. Jackson Wyatt already has his own room, and though it’s impossible to deny his good looks and charm—he’s clearly got her aunt wrapped around his finger—she’s also never met anyone who irritates her quite like Jack does.

However, when two skeletons are accidentally uncovered in the quiet town, this unlikely trio is suddenly thrust together by a common goal: to solve a mystery everyone else seems eager to keep under wraps. United by a sense of justice and the desire to right old wrongs, Sara, Kate and Jack will have to dig into Lachlan’s murky past to unravel the small town’s dark secrets and work to bring the awful truth to light. 

My thoughts:

I absolutely loved this novel! It has everything I want in a relaxing read: a teaser of romance, mystery, humour. In addition, the pace of the novel is perfect and I could not put it down. I enjoyed getting to know the three main characters of the series: Sara, Kate, and Jack. In A Willing Murder they are still getting to know one another and working out how they will fit. The reader gets to know them as you would a person in reality – slowly and with preconceptions. In this novel, we do not learn everything about the trio but we do read about the beginnings of a friendship.

The mystery takes place in a small town where I imagine people get to know a lot about their community. The amateur investigators use this cleverly to their advantage. Solving the mystery takes intelligence and tact as well as teamwork. This cozy mystery is unlike a detective/murder story. There are no car chases (or people chases), no high tech forensics, no brutal police force. Instead, the the novel describes ordinary people as characters who want to solve a murder of a person in their community.

I completed this story in a day and, as a result, cannot wait for the next Medlar Mystery to be written. If you enjoy cozy mysteries, this novel would be prefect for you.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 34th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke

I won the ARC for Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke by entering a giveaway. I was so excited when I received a copy of the book in the mail as I wanted to read it because of the references to star signs. My daughter loves reading about the star signs and having read the book, I passed it onto her as I know she will enjoy all the references to horoscopes and the personality traits of the various star signs in the novel.

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

Sometimes even destiny needs a little bit of help.

When childhood sweethearts Justine (Sagittarius and serious skeptic) and Nick (Aquarius and true believer) bump into each other as adults, a life-changing love affair seems inevitable. To Justine, anyway. Especially when she learns Nick is an astrological devotee, whose decisions are guided by the stars, and more specifically, by the horoscopes in his favorite magazine. The same magazine Justine happens to write for. As Nick continues to not fall headlong in love with her, Justine decides to take Nick’s horoscope, and Fate itself, into her own hands. But, of course, Nick is not the only Aquarius making important life choices according to what is written in the stars. 

Charting the ripple effects of Justine’s astrological meddling, STAR-CROSSED is a delicious, intelligent, and affecting love story about friendship, chance, and how we all navigate the kinds of choices that are hard to face alone.

My thoughts:

I loved this book – it was such a fun read. And knowing a little bit about horoscopes and the character traits of certain star signs just added another dimension to my enjoyment. Star-Crossed is definitely a light-hearted read that will bring a smile to your face more than once. I enjoyed Justine’s escapades, and Nick’s seriousness and I loved reading about the trouble she gets herself into – all in the name of love.

Minnie Darke has written a true romantic comedy – this is one that should be rewritten as a screenplay. The character Justine learns from the choices she makes, and comes to certain realisations in the novel. She is a complete character like you and me – one that makes mistakes and fuddles her way in life. It is this true-to-life description of her behaviour that makes her endearing to us, the readers, and makes her story believable.

Star-Crossed is one of those novels I will reread in a few years time, and enjoy Again the second time around. This novel is Minnie Darke’s first and I look forward to her publishing her second.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 33rd in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The Object of Your Affections by Falguni Kothari

While at the OLA Super Conference in February, I picked up an ARC of The Object of Your Affections by Falguni Kothari at the Harper Collins booth. The story intrigued me as it is a little different to what one would expect of a romance – it is definitely a story that pushes the social boundaries.

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

Paris Kahn Fraser has it all—a successful career as an assistant district attorney, a beautiful home in New York City, and a handsome, passionate husband who chose her over having a family of his own. Neal’s dream of fatherhood might have been the only shadow in their otherwise happy life…until Paris’s best friend comes to town.

Naira Dalmia never thought she’d be a widow before thirty. Left reeling in the aftermath of her husband’s death, all she wants is to start over. She trades Mumbai for New York, and rigid family expectations for the open acceptance of her best friend. After all, there isn’t anything she and Paris wouldn’t do for each other.

But when Paris asks Naira to be their surrogate, they’ll learn if their friendship has what it takes to defy society, their families and even their own biology as these two best friends embark on a journey that will change their lives forever.

My thoughts:

I liked this story because it centres around an unusual concept – the main character asks her best friend to be her surrogate even though she is able to bear children. It is interesting to see how the people in her life respond to her out-of-the-box thinking. As the reader, I was asked to think of my own prejudices and consider the unusual arrangement Paris wishes to embrace – and think about whether this sort of arrangement would actually work in reality.

Paris is a character who does not embody my favourite type of person. She is self-centred, selfish and arrogant. She focuses on what she wants and how she c attain in it. She does, however, come to a few realisations in the novel about herself. She does not, however, become a selfless woman who abandons her desires. Instead, her self-realisation softens her arrogance a little and helps her to consider other important aspects in her life. Naira, on the other hand, is a woman who allows things to be done to her and does not fight for what she wants. That is, until she is physically away from her domineering family. She, too, grows in the story and blossoms into a more modern woman.

The Object of Your Affections is a novel that show the antithesis between two types of two women. While showing a culture in which women are expected to behave in a certain way, it highlights how women are starting to find ways to achieve what it is they want in modern society. Kothari wrote a romance novel but she put a different spin on it. It is romance in modern society; romance that breaks all the expected moulds.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 29th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The Matchmaker’s List by Sonya Lalli

I was in the mood for reading a romance and while browsing the tables at my local book store, I came across The Matchmaker’s List by Sonya Lalli. The story interested me as it centres around a culture so different to mine. The bonus is that the novel was written by a Canadian.

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

One devoted modern girl + a meddlesome, traditional grandmother = a heartwarming multicultural romantic comedy about finding love where you least expect it.

Raina Anand may have finally given in to family pressure and agreed to let her grandmother play matchmaker, but that doesn’t mean she has to like it–or that she has to play by the rules. Nani always took Raina’s side when she tried to push past the traditional expectations of their tight-knit Indian-immigrant community, but now she’s ambushing Raina with a list of suitable bachelors. Is it too much to ask for a little space? Besides, what Nani doesn’t know won’t hurt her…

As Raina’s life spirals into a parade of Nani-approved bachelors and disastrous blind dates, she must find a way out of this modern-day arranged-marriage trap without shattering her beloved grandmother’s dreams.

My thoughts:

This book was so interesting to read because it is set within a culture so different to mine. I grew up knowing that the choice of my life-partner would be mine – and yet in this book I read of a community that encourages matchmaking and pseudo arranged marriages. The dates that Raina, the protagonist, goes on made me smile – as did her response. The novel definitely embraces the humour of the situation that she finds herself in. It was interesting to see how she negotiated her way around the matchmaking practices of her grandmother.

The Matchmaker’s List is not just a ‘fluffy’ read. Instead it comments on matchmaking and why it may, or may not be, suitable for a modern woman. It also suggests that the desire to match-make comes from a place of love. We see a strong relationship between Raina and her grandmother – and soon realise why she would accept to go on the dates her beloved Nani has organised.

During the novel, the reader sees a growth in the main protagonist as she comes to understand what it is that she wants in a relationship – and what type of man with whom she would like to spend the rest of her life. It is the personal growth of Raina that makes this novel more than just a forgettable story. Her struggles and her realisations are so similar to many young women dating and falling in love in the modern world. In addition, her experience is one that is not seen often in mainstream literature and film.

Lalli has written a wonderful romantic comedy that embraces the experience of a modern woman living in a modern city (Toronto) who embraces her culture. I enjoyed reading this romantic comedy and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading romance.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 28th in my book pledge for 2019)

Top 5 Romantic Reads

I chose my top 5 romances by looking on the bookshelf that holds all my read books. My fingers moved towards books that I had read in the past year – or even further back. There is even one in my stack that I read a number of years ago and which may need to be reread soon. 🙂

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

I picked up The Hating Game from the library and I loved it so much I had to get my own copy. Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman, the two main characters of the story, begin by hating each other and show it through a set of rituals that they perform each day. Slowly different feelings start to seep through and their relationship begins to change. The novel is definitely an original story that I had never read before and is told with a sense of humour. I laughed often while I was reading – and even now I am smiling as I think of it.

Confessions of a Tinderella by Rosy Edwards

I read this book after listening to many stories of Tinder dates
told by our son at the dinner table. The story centres around a character named Rosy Edwards (yes, the author 🙂 ) and her experiences dating via the app Tinder. Hilarious! And totally believable. I finished the book thinking that I am glad I am not on the dating scene!

Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

This novel was sold to me as soon as I learned that it was a Pride and Prejudice retelling. Jalaluddin does justice to my favourite Austin story as well as adds her own flavour to it. The story is set in Toronto and centres on the Muslim community.

One Day in December by Josie Silver

I read this romance in December last year along with a group of readers who are in the bookstagram community. The novel is a beautiful, heartbreaking story that spans ten years of Laurie and Jack, and all their missed opportunities to find love together. Will they eventually be together? You will have to read the story to find out. 🙂

Sofia Khan is not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

This novel was the first one I had read centred around Muslim dating a number of years back. Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men for good after her possible-marriage-partner-to-be proves a little too close to his parents for her liking. Then her boss persuades her to write a tell-all expose about the Muslim dating scene and, with the encouragement of her friends, begins her research. Not only did I find this novel interesting from a cultural point of view, but also funny to read.

Which Romance novel would currently be among your top 5?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This post is linked to Bionic Book Worm and the Top 5 Tuesday challenge. This week we are listing the top 5 romance books).

Book Review: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

I was in the mood for some Romance reading and while browsing at our local bookstore, I came across a book that came highly recommended on social media: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang. They synopsis intrigued me so I picked it up.

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases — a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice — with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan — from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…

My thoughts:

I was in the mood for a feel-good romance and Hoang delivered! I love that Stella is a heroine with a difference and that she is not portrayed as perfect. She makes mistakes, mistakes that are believable as we know she has Asperger’s. As I read Stella’s story, I gained a little understanding of how someone with Asperger’s would react to changes in her life and routine. Her reactions only endeared me more to the character and made me invested in her story.

Not only does the reader get to know Stella’s side of the story, but also gains insight into Michael’s thoughts – a man who works as an escort one day a week. The reader slowly understands why he is a perfect fit for our heroine – and why she is for him. The stories of both characters are told with insight – especially the experience of Stella. The slow pace of their falling in love is exquisite and one that had me rapidly turning the pages.

The Kiss Quotient is not a cheesy romance – though it is steamy and sexy. The sex scenes are described in detail so, if these paragraphs are not for you, skip them and immerse yourself in a wonderful story that will make you smile. This novel was such a fun read for me and perfect for an afternoon of reading on the sofa. I will definitely be reading another romance by this author.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 23rd in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner

I received Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner in the Indigo Book Box with Geekerella by Ashley Postun. Gardner describes a fandom in her novel which promised to be interesting – especially as my own daughter plays Dungeons and Dragons.

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Young Adult Fiction

Blurb: 

Cameron’s cosplay–dressing like a fictional character–is finally starting to earn her attention–attention she hopes to use to get into the CalTech costume department for college. But when she wins a major competition, she inadvertently sets off a firestorm of angry comments from male fans.

When Cameron’s family moves the summer before her senior year, she hopes to complete her costume portfolio in peace and quiet away from the abuse. Unfortunately, the only comic shop in town–her main destination for character reference–is staffed by a dude bro owner who challenges every woman who comes into the shop.

At her twin brother’s suggestion, Cameron borrows a set of his clothes and uses her costuming expertise to waltz into the shop as Boy Cameron, where she’s shocked at how easily she’s accepted into the nerd inner sanctum. Soon, Cameron finds herself drafted into a D&D campaign alongside the jerky shop-owner Brody, friendly (almost flirtatiously so) clerk Wyatt, handsome Lincoln, and her bro Cooper, dragged along for good measure.

But as her “secret identity” gets more and more entrenched, Cameron’s portfolio falls by the wayside–and her feelings for Lincoln threaten to make a complicated situation even more precarious.

My thoughts:

I loved this story about fandom, cosplay, and believing in yourself enough to show the world what you love doing. Chaotic Good, however, is more than just about a fandom. It is about a young girl who comes to believe in herself and in her right to be who she is no matter who surrounds her. It is about a girl who comes to realise that it is okay to be who she is and to follow her passion.

As I was reading the story, I could not help but be reminded of the geeks playing Dungeons and Dragons in The Big Bang Theory – a true representation of geekdom and fandom. I enjoyed reading this story as much as I enjoy watching the show. I enjoyed reading about the camraderie that develops between the players of the game – and how they learn to support one another.

The story does not only encompass the camaraderie between geeks. It also references online bullying. The internet trolls do affect Cameron and for a moment she believes what they are saying about her. She has to learn that with support from her family and friends, she can overcome the negativity that the online harassment brings. So many our our teens face this problem and it is good to see this in a book.

I would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys fandoms and stories about a young person growing into the realisation that they are good enough. This is a book I will pass onto my daughter as I know she will enjoy this read.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 14th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne

I absolutely loved The Hating Game by Sally Thorne so when I saw that she had written another novel, 99 Percent Mine, I knew I had to read it.

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction

Blurb: 

Darcy Barrett has undertaken a global survey of men. She’s travelled the world, and can categorically say that no one measures up to Tom Valeska, whose only flaw is that Darcy’s twin brother Jamie saw him first and claimed him forever as his best friend. Despite Darcy’s best efforts, Tom’s off limits and loyal to her brother, 99%. That’s the problem with finding her dream man at age eight and peaking in her photography career at age twenty—ever since, she’s had to learn to settle for good enough.

When Darcy and Jamie inherit a tumble-down cottage from their grandmother, they’re left with strict instructions to bring it back to its former glory and sell the property. Darcy plans to be in an aisle seat halfway across the ocean as soon as the renovations start, but before she can cut and run, she finds a familiar face on her porch: house-flipper extraordinaire Tom’s arrived, he’s bearing power tools, and he’s single for the first time in almost a decade.

Suddenly Darcy’s considering sticking around to make sure her twin doesn’t ruin the cottage’s inherent magic with his penchant for grey and chrome. She’s definitely not staying because of her new business partner’s tight t-shirts, or that perfect face that’s inspiring her to pick up her camera again. Soon sparks are flying—and it’s not the faulty wiring. It turns out one percent of Tom’s heart might not be enough for Darcy anymore. This time around, she’s switching things up. She’s going to make Tom Valeska 99 percent hers.

My thoughts:

When I read 99 Percent Mine, I was looking for a romance and I was not disappointed. I loved this story. Maybe not as much as The Hating Game – but almost as much. I enjoyed that Darcy still loves the man she fell in love when she was younger and yet she had the chance to grow as a person through her adventures. The sparks between her and Jamie are there but not immediately acted upon which makes for a fun story.

The romantic relationship between a man and a woman is not the only relationship spoken about in this novel. We read as well about the relationship between Darcy and her twin brother. The sibling relationship is not the focus of the story but does play a part. It is a relationship that grows – as does any sibling relationship during our lifetime.

99 Percent Mine is a fun story that I curled up with on the sofa and that left me smiling. This lighthearted read is one I will easily reread in a couple of years and highly recommend it if you are looking for a satisfying story that will leave you feeling contented.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 13th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

I was still in the mood for a little romance so I picked up What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera. I had seen so many positive comments about this novel over social media that I hoped I would not be disappointed.

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Blurb: 

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play? But what if it is?

My thoughts: 

Arthur and Ben: the encounter of two young boys who are meant to meet. The story is told from two points of view: Ben’s and Arthur’s. Ben is the New Yorker who has just come out of a broken relationship. Arthur is in New York for the summer. He is starry-eyed and never been in love. It is his determination and enthusiasm that changes a chance meeting in a post office to the chance to get to know another. I love the naivete of Arthur and how his enthusiasm makes Ben a believer in the possibilities.

This novel definitely made me smile. Who can’t but love the description of first love? And what makes this story relevant for teens today is that it is a love story between two boys who are finding their place in the world and who are learning to be comfortable with who they are. The novel fills in a gap that has existed in the reading world and shows boys that it is okay to fall in love with someone of the same sex – that it is not something to be ashamed of.

Without giving much away, I will say that I liked the ending. It is not a traditional ending for a romance; but it is an ending that is perfect for a teen novel. I started this book wondering if the social media hype was accurate; and ended it with the conclusion that What If It’s Us was well worth the read.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 8th in my book pledge for 2019)