Book Review: The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

I was in the mood for a light read and as I browsed through my shelves, my fingers picked out The Bride Test by Helen Hoang.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Blurb:

Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.

As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.

With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love. 

My thoughts:

The characters in this story drew me in and and a cold winter’s day was the best time to get to know them. Esme is a determined young woman who has grown up in poverty and who desires a better life for herself and her family. I enjoyed reading of her experiences as she is spunky and does not give up. Khai is autistic and Hoang has described his character with dignity and sensitivity. I love the way he is presented as well as his interactions with Esme.

The Bride Test is a modern romance that focuses not only on the relationship between two people who fall in love but also in the growth of both the characters. Both Esme and Khai experience growth as both of them come to certain realisations that help them make a choice for their future happiness. What I enjoy most of modern romances, is that the man doesn’t come to the rescue of the woman. Instead, it is her own actions and choices that lead her to a better place in her life.

The relationship between Esme and Khai is beautifully described: the first touches, the sense of hesitancy, the confusion. Their relationship grows slowly and the author teases us with the development of their relationship. The pacing in the novel was a perfect reflection of the connection between Khai and Esme.

I enjoyed The Bride Test and read it in one afternoon.his novel is a perfect choice if you are looking for a light read that will put a smile on your face.

I give this novel ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 9th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Christmas Secret by Karen Swan

I chose The Christmas Secret by Karen Swan to be one of my Holiday reads. I had not read any of her novels but I loved the cover of the novel when I picked it up in the second-hand book store.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Blurb:

They say that behind every great man, there’s a great woman, and behind London’s most powerful leaders, there stands only one—Alex Hyde, business coach par excellence. She’s the woman they turn to for advice and strategy when the pressure gets too much. So when Alex gets a call offering an unbelievable sum to discreetly manage a family member on the board of an esteemed Scottish whisky company, it’s business as usual. She can do this in her sleep. Only, she’s never met anyone like Lochlan Farqhuar before. CEO of Kentallen Distilleries, he’s also the son and heir of the company’s founder, and a man for whom there is no “no.” He’s a maverick, and Alex needs to get inside his head before he brings the company to its knees. But as she tasks herself with finding a way in, she finds that for once, she’s not the one in control. And when she stumbles across a chance discovery that changes everything, she’s suddenly not so sure she should be.

My thoughts:

The Christmas Secret was the perfect read that put me in the mood for the Holiday season. It is a light romantic read that is set during the time before Christmas. Swan’s pacing is perfectly suited to this genre as the reader gets to know the characters in the story while has the choice to put the novel aside to tend to life responsibilities. The characters themselves are what you would expect to find in a romance novel – as is the push and pull of the attraction between Alex and Lochan, the love interest in the novel.

The story is told in the first person and in the voice of Alex. As is expected of a romance novel, the reader does not get to see too deeply into the heroine’s thought processes although I did get a glimmer of her pain and was curious as to what had caused it. The story, however, is not a typical Hallmark romance as The Christmas Secret does have more depth than the cookie-cutter romances.

I enjoyed reading Swan’s novel – it was a relaxing read that I could put aside when I needed to and then continue to enjoy with no problem. It was interesting to read a little about the Scottish setting as well as a bit about the making of whiskey. I am curious to see what her other books are like and intend to pick up another of her stories in the future.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 115th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: How To Hack A Heartbreak by Kristen Rockaway

At one of the Harper Collins events, I received an sampler containing the first few chapters of 5 romantic comedies to be released in 2019. I had not yet read How To Hack A Heartbreak by Kristen Rockaway by November so I decided to pick up a copy of the novel from the library.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Blurb:

By day, Mel Strickland is an underemployed helpdesk tech at a startup incubator, Hatch, where she helps entitled brogrammers—”Hatchlings”—who can’t even fix their own laptops, but are apparently the next wave of startup geniuses. And by night, she goes on bad dates with misbehaving dudes she’s matched with on the ubiquitous dating app, Fluttr.

But after one dick pic too many, Mel has had it. Using her brilliant coding skills, she designs an app of her own, one that allows users to log harrassers and abusers in online dating space. It’s called JerkAlert, and it goes viral overnight.

Mel is suddenly in way over her head. Worse still, her almost-boyfriend, the dreamy Alex Hernandez—the only non-douchey guy at Hatch—has no idea she’s the brains behind the app. Soon, Mel is faced with a terrible choice: one that could destroy her career, love life, and friendships, or change her life forever.

My thoughts:

The novel highlights a woman’s working experience in the male dominated world of coding. In addition, it is a commentary on the online dating experience. How To Hack A Heartbreak is the story of a woman’s journey towards self fulfilment in both the workplace and her personal life.

The novel is not a romance following the template as you would expect – instead the romantic aspect of the novel is minimal. This type of story seems to be the new template for the modern romance and I am loving it! After all, a woman’s life is not merely centred around romance; instead romance is only a part of what makes a woman happy and fulfilled.

Mel responds to an experience many women have with online dating – and her response leads her to ultimately make a change in her life. She is faced with some decisions which lead her to make choices that reflect what type of person she is. Mel is a character that grows in the story: her self-reflection does lead to a response that becomes life-changing. She grows as a person – and this growth is not dependent on the love of a man. Instead the acceptance of a man in her life is portrayed as secondary.

I enjoyed reading Rockaway’s novel: I loved the main character as well as the insight into online dating (which I personally have never experienced). The novel is well paced and kept my interest until the end. It was the perfect read for this time of year as it can be set aside for a moment and them picked up again to enjoy.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 114th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is my favourite classic novel and when I saw Melissa de la Cruz had written Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe, I knew I had to read it as I love retellings of Austen’s classic.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Blurb:

Darcy Fitzwilliam is 29, beautiful, successful, and brilliant. She dates hedge funders and basketball stars and is never without her three cellphones—one for work, one for play, and one to throw at her assistant (just kidding). Darcy’s never fallen in love, never has time for anyone else’s drama, and never goes home for Christmas if she can help it. But when her mother falls ill, she comes home to Pemberley, Ohio, to spend the season with her family.

Her parents throw their annual Christmas bash, where she meets one Luke Bennet, the smart, sardonic slacker son of their neighbor. Luke is 32-years-old and has never left home. He’s a carpenter and makes beautiful furniture, and is content with his simple life. He comes from a family of five brothers, each one less ambitious than the other. When Darcy and Luke fall into bed after too many eggnogs, Darcy thinks it’s just another one night stand. But why can’t she stop thinking of Luke? What is it about him? And can she fall in love, or will her pride and his prejudice against big-city girls stand in their way?

My thoughts:

I have read many excellent retellings of Pride and Prejudice in the past and looked forward to this one with eagerness. On the third page when I read the sentence incorporating the phrase “it is a truth universally acknowledged”, I rubbed my hands with glee. I was, however, disappointed as the novel progressed.

The original gender roles in the novel have been swapped – for example Austen’s Darcy is a female character. The gender swapping could have worked (I have seen it done in other novels) however the characters in de la Cruz’s novel fall a little flat. The actions of Darcy, Luke, and even Bingley are presented superficially. The self reflection of the main character (in this novel it is Darcy) seems forced and pedantic. Austen’s characterisation and comment on social issues is perfectly pitched and the characters in this retelling do fall flat by comparison.

Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe was a disappointing read. I felt the story was too superficial and rushed. If the author had spent more time character building and digging deeper into the issues hinted at, the novel would have been a lot meatier and a more enjoyable read.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 113th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Faker by Sarah Smith

I had seen positive comments about Faker by Sarah Smith on Instagram. When I saw the book had arrived at the library, I decided to put the novel on hold.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Blurb:

Emmie Echavarre is a professional faker. She has to be to survive as one of the few female employees at Nuts & Bolts, a power tool company staffed predominantly by gruff, burly men. From nine to five, Monday through Friday, she’s tough as nails–the complete opposite of her easy-going real self.

One thing she doesn’t have to fake? Her disdain for coworker Tate Rasmussen. Tate has been hostile to her since the day they met. Emmie’s friendly greetings and repeated attempts to get to know him failed to garner anything more than scowls and terse one-word answers. Too bad she can’t stop staring at his Thor-like biceps…

When Emmie and Tate are forced to work together on a charity construction project, things get…heated. Emmie’s beginning to see that beneath Tate’s chiseled exterior lies a soft heart, but it will take more than a few kind words to erase the past and convince her that what they have is real. 

My thoughts:

The banter between the two main characters, Emmie and Tate, reminded me so much of The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. I loved it! It made me laugh and definitely encouraged me to read more than I had intended in one sitting. I loved that the author showed the tough side of the characters as well as their gentle side – this made the characters more believable to me – and I eagerly waited for the moment things would change between them.

However, the banter and the sexual tension between Emmie and Tate did seem to end too early – I wished it could have gone on for a little longer. When the novel segued into the next step of their relationship, I was a little let down as I had been enjoying the quips between the two. The next section of the novel went on a little too long, I found, as I kept waiting for that moment when their relationship would hit an obstacle. When it did hit an obstacle, it was resolved with finesse.

Faker is a lighthearted, sexy (but not too sexy!) and humorous read that will want you craving more. I enjoyed this debut romcom by Sarah Smith and I look forward to seeing what story she comes up with next.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 112th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: A Wedding in December by Sarah Morgan

I received A Wedding in December by Sarah Morgan to read and review from Harper Collins Canada. I was excited to read this Christmas-inspired story and decided that I would enjoy it during the month of December. The cover looked like it would be perfect for this time of year.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Blurb:

In the snowy perfection of Aspen, the White family gathers for youngest daughter Rosie’s whirlwind Christmas wedding. First to arrive are the bride’s parents, Maggie and Nick. Their daughter’s marriage is a milestone they are determined to celebrate wholeheartedly, but they are hiding a huge secret of their own: they are on the brink of divorce. After living apart for the last six months, the last thing they need is to be trapped together in an irresistibly romantic winter wonderland.

Rosie’s older sister, Katie, is also dreading the wedding. Worried that impulsive, sweet-hearted Rosie is making a mistake, Katie is determined to save her sister from herself! If only the irritatingly good-looking best man, Jordan, would stop interfering with her plans…

Bride-to-be Rosie loves her fiancé but is having serious second thoughts. Except everyone has arrived—how can she tell them she’s not sure? As the big day gets closer, and emotions run even higher, this is one White family Christmas none of them will ever forget!

My thoughts:

This novel is a perfect read for this time of year. And the bonus is that it centres on three romantic relationships: that of Maggie, Rosie, and Katie. What I enjoyed especially in this novel is that one of the relationships that Morgan describes is that of an older couple. I do not see this too often in romance novels.

Even though romance is a thread throughout the novel, A Wedding in December is more than just a romance. Instead it is a novel that suggests to the reader that a woman has the ability to change her future – all it needs is for her to have the courage to take the step that will change her life. All three women in this story come to a moment of self awareness at different times in the novel that allow them to take a step forward to changing their lives.

The three women in A Wedding in December have different personalities as well as different experiences. As such, their goals and moments of self reflection are different. Personally, I connected with the older woman in the story (Maggie) because some of her experience is what I have felt in my life too. I loved that this novel compasses the experience of so many different women.

I enjoyed Sarah Morgan’s novel and have now put her other novels on my TBR list. I may even head out to pick up another one her stories to read this month! If you enjoy reading stories about women with hints of the Holiday spirit sprinkled in the pages, A Wedding in December is one novel you need to pick up.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 111th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Unblemished by Sara Ella

I was browsing the discounted stacks at my local bookstore when I came upon Unblemished by Sara Ella. I read the blurb with interest when I saw that it was a fantasy fiction read. The story piqued my interest so I decided to take it home with me.

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Blurb:

Eliyana has always recoiled from her own reflection in the mirror. But what if that were only one Reflection—one world? What if another world existed where her blemish could become her strength?

Eliyana is used to the shadows. With a hideous birthmark covering half her face, she just hopes to graduate high school unscathed. That is, until Joshua hops a fence and changes her perspective. No one, aside from her mother, has ever treated her as normal. Maybe even beautiful. Because of Joshua, Eliyana finally begins to believe she could be loved.

But one night her mother doesn’t come home, and that’s when everything gets weird.

Now Joshua is her new, and rather reluctant, legal Guardian. Add a hooded stalker and a Central Park battle to the mix and you’ve gone from weird to otherworldly.

Eliyana soon finds herself in a world much larger and more complicated than she’s ever known. A world enslaved by a powerful and vile man. And Eliyana holds the answer to defeating him. How can an ordinary girl, a blemished girl, become a savior when she can’t even save herself? 

My thoughts:

I enjoyed Ella’s story in another Reflection of our world – especially her description of the environment (for which some original vocabulary is used). Her description of what she calls a “trome” reminds me a little of a book by Enid Blyton that I reread many times as a young child – The Folk of the Faraway Tree. As expected, the connection resonated with me and I wished to read even more of them.

The romance in the story is set within the format of a love triangle. Eliyana has come to love Joshua and, in the beginning of the story, I was hoping that the two of them would get together. However once Ky comes into the story, I realise that another type of person may be better for her. He seems to bring out the inner strength in her. Does she come to that realisation herself? You would have to read the story to find out! 😀

Unblemished is a romance story; but it is also an adventure story. Eliyana is forced to move out of her comfort zone and, once she does, she learns more about her past as well as about herself. Throughout the novel, our heroine slowly finds an inner confidence that she never thought she possessed. With her confidence, she becomes braver and more willing to stand up for what she believes is right. The gradual unfurling of her confidence is perfectly paced.

The pace of the story kept me interested throughout – though it was not so intense that I was too eager to turn the pages. Unblemished is a fantasy read that incorporates romance and adventure as well as the magical qualities of this genre. I enjoyed this novel and have ordered the rest of the series to read.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 108th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin

When I first heard of Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin at a Frenzy Presents event, I knew that I would have to read it. A group of bookstagrammers planned on reading it during November so I thought it would be a good opportunity to read the novel with others who enjoy Young Adult Fantasy fiction.

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Blurb:

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.

Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.

The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.

And love makes fools of us all.

My thoughts:

I absolutely loved this novel! From the beginning, I could see the subtle undertones of Mahurin’s critique on marriage as well as the Church’s historical view of women. I always enjoy a story that is more than just a story and I enjoy novels that encourage my mind to think of my own experiences as well as what I have read in other books. This novel resonates with the patriarchal view of women – a view which the women (portrayed as witches) fight against. It subtly critiques the expected role of women in a marriage. And it encourages the reader to think of the Church’s role in the subjugation of women in a relationship.

Not only did I enjoy the critique on marriage and the Church, I also enjoyed the characters in the story. I love the sassy Lou who ran away from home and who has survived on the streets. And I just can’t help but enjoy Reid’s character – a man who has been brought up within the strict confines of Church doctrines. His world is turned upside down with the advent of Lou becoming a part of his life. The slow-burn romance between the two is fun to read – and caused a smile or two during my enjoyment of the novel. I also enjoyed reading the antics of Coco (Lou’s friend) and of Ansel, a chasseur-in-training who unexpectedly shows compassion for Lou.

Shelby Mahurin’s novel has all that I love in the Fantasy genre: magic, complicated relationships, a subtle critique of social issues, and interesting characters. Serpent and Dove was a perfect read for me and I cannot wait to read the sequel.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 107th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: 25 Days ‘Til Christmas by Poppy Alexander

I did not think it was too early for Christmas stories when I picked up 25 Days ‘Til Christmas by Poppy Alexander. I love stories that are Christmas themed and I thought this book would be a perfect addition to the Christmas themed movies I have been watching on Netflix.

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Holiday

Blurb:

Kate Potter used to love Christmas. A few years ago, she would have been wrapping her presents in September and baking mince pies on Halloween, counting down the days and hours to Christmas. But that was before Kate’s husband left for the army and never came home. Now she can hardly stand December at all.

Kate can’t deny she’s lonely, yet she doesn’t think she’s ready for romance. She knows that her son, Jack, needs a Christmas to remember—just like Kate needs a miracle to help her finally move forward with her life. So she’s decided if there isn’t a miracle on its way, she’ll just have to make her own.

As Kate’s advent countdown to the best Christmas ever begins, she soon realizes that even with the best laid plans, you can’t plan for the unexpected. For when the path of the loneliest woman in town crosses with that of the loneliest man, these two destined hearts might find a way to save the holiday for both of them.

My thoughts:

I enjoy reading Christmas stories and this one fit the bill perfectly! The story follows the structure of an advent calendar and depicts the changes in Kate’s life – some of them initiated by her, and some of them not. As the days leading towards Christmas pass by, the reader sees the changes in Kate as well as the struggles she experiences.

Kate is a person who is slowly coming out of the fog of grief that has surrounded her since her husband’s death. Moving forward with her life has been hampered by the day to day struggle of keeping herself and her son afloat. One cannot help but admire what she has done to keep going both emotionally and financially. Her frustrations are perfectly described and I often felt those frustrations for her. As a woman and as a mother, I sympathised with Kate’s experience and wished that her circumstances would change.

The romance between Kate and her beau is a slow one. He is not seen as the knight who comes rescue her – though he does push her into the right direction. Instead, he is seen as someone who supports her, and who accepts her and Jack for what they are. I love how Kate manages to come to her own conclusions – and that Daniel helps her once she has made her own decisions.

The novel 25 Days ‘Til Christmas is a perfect story to read this time of year and is a heartwarming one that will stay with you over the Holiday period. The bonus? It is the ideal novel to read while cuddled under an afghan with a hot cup of tea.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 106th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory

I had seen a lot of positive posts on Jasmine Guillory’s novels on Instagram and when I had a chance to read her latest, The Wedding Party, I decided to pick it up.

Genre: Romance, Contemporary

Blurb:

Maddie and Theo have two things in common:

1. Alexa is their best friend

2. They hate each other

After an “Oops, we made a mistake” kiss, neither one can stop thinking about the other. With Alexa’s wedding rapidly approaching, Maddie and Theo both share bridal party responsibilities that require more interaction with each other than they’re comfortable with. Underneath the sharp barbs they toss at each other is a simmering attraction that won’t fade. It builds until they find themselves sneaking off together to release some tension when Alexa isn’t looking.

But as with any engagement with a nemesis, there are unspoken rules that must be abided by. First and foremost, don’t fall in love. 

My thoughts:

I have read and enjoyed the hate-to-love romance tropes in the past (my favourite being The Hating Game by Sally Thorne). Because the novel by Jasmine Guillory was highly recommended on Instagram, I did expect The Wedding Party to be on par with my favourite romance of this trope. The novel, however, did not meet my expectations. even though I did enjoy the story and the budding romance between the two characters, Maddie and Theo.

The beginning of the relationship between the two main characters did remind me a little of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in that both Maddie and Theo prejudged one another and exhibited prejudices towards what each person presented to the world. Their prejudices made me think of how often we may be missing out on potential relationships because of the preconceived ideas we may have of certain people.

I enjoyed reading the slow change of the relationship between the two – and sometimes had a laugh at their expense. There were moments when I felt irritated with Maddie as she kept up the pretence – and breathed a sigh of relief when she realised a change in her relationship with her nemesis. In order for her to come to this realisation, she does go through a little personal growth.

The Wedding Party was a fun read and perfect for rainy, cold days. The story was not original but was well written and presented in an amusing way. It is certainly a novel to pick up if you are looking for a light romantic read to lift your spirits.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 104th in my book pledge for 2019)