Book Review: The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

I was intrigued by the synopsis of The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary and had read good things about it on social media. The school year was over and I needed some light reading to relax. A romantic comedy seemed to be the perfect solution.

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met…
 

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time. 

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…

My thoughts:

Imagine sharing a bed with someone – and yet never seeing them! I loved this unique story that in no way felt forced. The friendship between the two flatmates evolves slowly as they get to know one another by notes and through their habits. The magic between the two characters happens even before they meet.

The Flatshare not only has a unique story line, but also characters that grow and evolve as the story progresses. Both Tiffy and Leon, the flatmates, need to come to some realisations about themselves and what they want to do with their lives before they can move forward in committing to a healthy relationship. While reading the story, I could definitely see a message from the writer: finish with your current relationship and work out why it is not working before moving forward into one that is more beneficial to you.

O”Leary has written a lighthearted and heartwarming read that will have you curious and smiling. The writing is fluid and the author has cleverly shown us the basics of getting to know a person. The Flatshare is a rom-com that I will surely read again in a few years when I am looking for an uplifting read that I can peruse in an afternoon.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 59th in my book pledge for 2019)

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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: Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim

I had come across Roselle Lim on Twitter through a giveaway. I liked her feed and therefore decided to follow her. When I saw she was having a book launch for her debut novel Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune, I decided to support her and attend. Of course I had to make use of the opportunity and get a copy of her book signed!

Genre: Romance, Contemporary Fiction

Blurb:

At the news of her mother’s death, Natalie Tan returns home. The two women hadn’t spoken since Natalie left in anger seven years ago, when her mother refused to support her chosen career as a chef. Natalie is shocked to discover the vibrant neighborhood of San Francisco’s Chinatown that she remembers from her childhood is fading, with businesses failing and families moving out. She’s even more surprised to learn she has inherited her grandmother’s restaurant.

The neighborhood seer reads the restaurant’s fortune in the leaves: Natalie must cook three recipes from her grandmother’s cookbook to aid her struggling neighbors before the restaurant will succeed. Unfortunately, Natalie has no desire to help them try to turn things around–she resents the local shopkeepers for leaving her alone to take care of her agoraphobic mother when she was growing up. But with the support of a surprising new friend and a budding romance, Natalie starts to realize that maybe her neighbors really have been there for her all along.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this novel so much more than I expected I would. Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune is so much more than a contemporary romance. It is a novel about a young woman who comes to certain realisations about herself as well as her community. It is a novel about people who come together to support one another through difficult times. It is a novel about knowing when it is the right time to begin a romantic relationship. It is a novel about following your dreams and doing what is right for you.

The imagery in Lim’s novel is beautiful. The flavours of cooking are referenced throughout the story, as well as the imagery of birds. The unusual imagery captured my attention; and connects so much to the Asian influence in the novel. The references to food, as well as the recipes that are mentioned, made me want to rush out and get myself a plate of juicy dumplings! The mouthwatering flavours described by the author linked the story to my personal experience and added another level to my reading experience.

Natalie Tan’s experience is so much like what many people experience in their life time: the death of a parent; the realisation that childhood experiences do not tell the entire story; the understanding that one’s community can help during difficult times. Because of this, the reader can connect with Lim’s protagonist and understand the actions that she takes as well as the decisions she makes. While reading the novel, I came to the realisation that romance is a small percentage of the story and that Natalie Tan’s personal growth is the centre point of the tale. I enjoyed the fact that this book is more than the romantic connection between two people. Instead it is so much more – just like our own lives are.

Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune is a book that has so much happening in it. I loved it so much that I encouraged my friend and book buddy to read it too.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 55th in my book pledge for 2019)

First Line Fridays: I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella

“The trouble with me is, I can’t let things go. They bug me. I see problems and I want to fix them, right here, right now. My nickname isn’t Fixie for nothing”

I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella (2019, Penguin Random House Canada)

The opening lines of Kinsella’s latest novel introduces us to Fixie, the main character. Throughout the novel we read how she continuously works to fix things and how she allows opportunities to pass her by because of this. And yet she has a chance to grow and to learn when to let things be. I enjoyed Kinsella’s latest rom-com and if you enjoy reading this genre, you will too. If you want to know more, you can read my review here.

What do you think of the introduction to the main character? Are you curious about her?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This post is linked to It’s Not Hoarding If It’s Books and her One Line Friday challenge.)

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)

Book Review: I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella

I have enjoyed Sophie Kinsella’s novel in the pas so when I saw her latest, I Owe You One, on the library shelves I grabbed it to take home with me to read.

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Blurb:

Fixie Farr has always lived by her father’s motto: “Family first.” But since her dad passed away, leaving his charming housewares store in the hands of his wife and children, Fixie spends all her time picking up the slack from her siblings instead of striking out on her own. The way Fixie sees it, if she doesn’t take care of her father’s legacy, who will? It’s simply not in her nature to say no to people.

So when a handsome stranger in a coffee shop asks her to watch his laptop for a moment, Fixie not only agrees—she ends up saving it from certain disaster. Turns out the computer’s owner is an investment manager. To thank Fixie for her quick thinking, Sebastian scribbles an IOU on a coffee sleeve and attaches his business card. But Fixie laughs it off—she’d never actually claim an IOU from a stranger. Would she?

Then Fixie’s childhood crush, Ryan, comes back into her life and his lack of a profession pushes all of Fixie’s buttons. She wants nothing for herself—but she’d love Seb to give Ryan a job. And Seb agrees, until the tables are turned once more and a new series of IOUs between Seb and Fixie—from small favors to life-changing moments—ensues. Soon Fixie, Ms. Fixit for everyone else, is torn between her family and the life she really wants. Does she have the courage to take a stand? Will she finally grab the life, and love, she really wants?

My thoughts:

I Owe You One was a perfect mix of romance, humour, and seriousness. The story asks the age-old question: If you could be in a relationship with your childhood crush, would you? This is a question Fixie has to ask herself as she discovers the true nature of Ryan, the boy/man of her fantasies. To help her make her choice, Fixie meets a man who may lead her towards the realisation of her dreams.

Kinsella’s latest novel depicts a heroine who is not perfect – after all, she wants to constantly ‘fix’ people and situations when they are not perfect. And yet she has a charm to her which I enjoyed. As the story progresses, Fixie learns some truths about herself as well as her relationships with her siblings. She grows as a person during the novel and with her self-realisation is able to make a choice in her romantic relationship.

I love Sophie Kinsella’s stories and this novel is another one of hers that I have enjoyed. If you have read any other novels written by this author, you can be assured that you will experience pleasure reading this one. And if you enjoy reading romantic comedies, then I Owe You One will not disappoint.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 46th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The Chai Factor by Farah Heron

During the OLA Super Conference this year, I was lucky enough to receive a signed ARC copy of The Chai Factor by Farah Heron. The cover definitely attracted me and I was doubly sold when I learned the story was a romantic comedy written by a Canadian author living in Toronto.

Genre: Romance, Contemporary Fiction, Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

Thirty-year-old engineer Amira Khan has set one rule for herself: no dating until her grad-school thesis is done. Nothing can distract her from completing a paper that is so good her boss will give her the promotion she deserves when she returns to work in the city. Amira leaves campus early, planning to work in the quiet basement apartment of her family’s house. But she arrives home to find that her grandmother has rented the basement to . . . a barbershop quartet. Seriously? The living situation is awkward: Amira needs silence; the quartet needs to rehearse for a competition; and Duncan, the small-town baritone with the flannel shirts, is driving her up the wall.

As Amira and Duncan clash, she is surprised to feel a simmering attraction for him. How can she be interested in someone who doesn’t get her, or her family’s culture? This is not a complication she needs when her future is at stake. But when intolerance rears its ugly head and people who are close to Amira get hurt, she learns that there is more to Duncan than meets the eye. Now she must decide what she is willing to fight for. In the end, it may be that this small-town singer is the only person who sees her at all.

My thoughts:

This novel was perfect for my mood: a light-hearted story that made me smile; and a story that describes a protagonist that finds love unexpectedly.

Amira is a determined young woman who is very sure of what she wants in life and in love. She reminds me of so many young women who want to put themselves first and are not in a rush to marry. She wants to focus on her studies in order to graduate with her Masters; she wants to advance in her work; and she wants a man who is of the same culture as she. But life does not always work out the way that you want it to – as Amira soon finds out.

What I enjoyed about this story is that it does not only focus on the love aspect of Amira’s story. We read, as well, about her relationship with her mother and grandmother; and we learn a bit about her work and her relationship with an admired colleague. During the story, Amira comes to some realisations about her life – realisations which help her accept the changes that could happen to her. The Chai Factor, however, is not a story in which the man saves the day. Instead, it is a story about a woman’s personal growth which eventually leads to her accepting that her life can embrace some changes (and one of those changes happens to be a relationship).

As I was reading, I caught a hint of the Pride and Prejudice scenario – though this book is not a retelling of Austen’s classic – in the description of Amira. She is proud of who she is – proud of her culture, her brown skin, and what she has achieved in her life thus far. She also makes certain assumptions about Duncan (a white musician), assumptions which indicate her prejudice. Slowly her prejudices are shown for what they are and it is this clarity which helps her develop as a character.

While reading Farah Heron’s novel, I embraced the description of a culture that is not well-known by me. Hints of this culture are subtly woven into the fabric of the novel and added another dimension to the story for me. The story is set in Toronto and I smiled at any venue mentioned as I could see exactly where it is in my mind’s eye.

I enjoyed reading Heron’s debut novel. It is a relaxing read that depicts the story of opposites attracting – opposites not only in personality, but also in culture.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 44th in my book pledge for 2019)

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)

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)