Book Review: The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams

The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams is a novel I picked up because of the reviews I had read in Instagram by the bookish community. Staying at home due to social distancing was starting to feel difficult for me, so I picked up this title to give me some cheer.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance, Romantic Comedy

Blurb:

The first rule of book club: You don’t talk about book club.

Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him.

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.

Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.

My thoughts:

This book was just what I needed to take my mind off the need to practice social distancing and the spread of the Coronavirus. The story was lighthearted but with a thread of seriousness running through it. I could not help but read this story in one sitting – I loved the characters so much.

The Bromance Book Club is told in a 2 person point of view: that of Gavin (the husband) and Thea (the wife). In this way, both sides are told of the problems they are experiencing in their marriage. In addition to the 2 person POV, the author has included excerpts from the novel that the Book Club is reading. It is a fun way to contrast reality vs a story, as well as past practices in romantic relationships with the present. It is interesting to see how Gavin applies the story he is reading with his friends to his own marriage.

The book doesn’t promise you to be more than what it is – a romance story that is geared to take you away from the reality of your life with some steamy sex scenes. What it does do, however, is bring a little humour in your day and encourage you to reach for the next book in the series. If you are looking for a contemporary romance read that will take you to another reality, then this is the novel for you.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 29th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

I picked up the ARC to The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi at the OLA Super Conference. What draw me to the novel was the appealing cover and when I read the blurb, I saw it was an historical novel set in India that described a woman’s journey to independence. As I enjoy stories describing a woman’s journey to independence, I brought it home with me.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction

Blurb:

Lakshmi Shastri has spent years carving out a life for herself as a henna artist after fleeing her abusive husband and backward rural village for the Rajasthan capital. Well-versed in apothecary and the miraculous properties of herbs, her services (the effects of which are far more than just aesthetic) are highly sought after by upper-caste women, and Lakshmi’s success brings her within inches from her, and her country’s, ultimate goal: total independence. That is, until the past she has so desperately tried to run from comes knocking at her door…

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this diverse read which shows a culture so different to mine. There were many unknown terms within the story but that was not a problem to my understanding of the setting because I was able to consult the glossary at the back of the novel. Soon I was able to read the story without needing to turn to the back of the book.

The story shows us the life and struggles of a woman living in India in the 1950s. One cannot help but admire her courage and spirit. Lakshmi has the strength and wit to pull herself out of poverty and an abusive relationship. The story shows how she does this – and how she copes with the sudden appearance of a sister she did not even know she had.

The Henna Artist is a story of a strong, independent woman who finally finds the place she belongs. It is a story that shines a light on the empowerment of women – and is also a reminder to the modern woman that those who came before us did not have it easy. Joshi adroitly describes to us the life of a woman struggling to be independent in the caste system in India with sensitivity and realism. I enjoyed the novel and would recommend it to anyone looking for a diverse read that embraces the history of Indian culture.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 28th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver

I enjoyed Josie Silver’s debut novel so much that when I saw an ARC of her latest, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird, at the OLA Super Conference I brought it home without reading the blurb.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

Blurb:

Lydia and Freddie. Freddie and Lydia. They’d been together for more than a decade, and Lydia thought their love was indestructible.

But she was wrong. On her twenty-eighth birthday, Freddie died in a car accident.

So now it’s just Lydia, and all she wants to do is hide indoors and sob until her eyes fall out. But Lydia knows that Freddie would want her to try to live fully, happily, even without him. So, enlisting the help of his best friend, Jonah, and her sister, Elle, she takes her first tentative steps into the world, open to life–and perhaps even love–again.

But then something inexplicable happens that gives her another chance at her old life with Freddie. A life where none of the tragic events of the past few months have happened.

Lydia is pulled again and again across the doorway of her past, living two lives, impossibly, at once. But there’s an emotional toll to returning to a world where Freddie, alive, still owns her heart. Because there’s someone in her new life, her real life, who wants her to stay.

Written with Josie Silver’s trademark warmth and wit, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird is a powerful and thrilling love story about the what-ifs that arise at life’s crossroads, and what happens when one woman is given a miraculous chance to answer them. 

My thoughts:

This is a story that describes the stages of grief. We read how Lydia learns to cope with the loss of her love, Freddie and, to a lesser degree, we read of how Jonah, Freddie’s best friend, copes with the loss of a man who was like a brother to him. Even though The Two Lives of Lydia Bird is described as a romance, the novel focuses on dealing with how two people learn to cope without the person who has been the centre of their life.

Earlier on in her grieving process, Lydia uses the alternate reality she experiences through the use of sleeping pills to help her push through her days. As time passes, she slowly comes to certain realisations about herself and about her relationship with Freddy. I enjoyed reading about the events and experiences that led to her personal growth and to the increase of her inner strength. These experiences take place in their own time and the pace of them is realistically suggested.

Silver has written this novel with sensitivity, showing an understanding of the grief process. She suggests that it is okay to move at your own pace when grieving for the loss of a loved one. The author shows that life continues despite the loss of a loved one; and that there is hope in the lives of the people left behind. Silver’s writing pulls at at the reader’s heartstrings and gives one a sense of hope that the grief will cease to be all-consuming.

If you read One Day in December and enjoyed it, you will devour this second novel in a heartbeat. Silver did not disappoint me with this book, and I loved The Two Lives of Lydia as much as I did her debut.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 21st novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Sisters By Choice by Susan Mallery

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

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary

Blurb:

Cousins by chance, sisters by choice

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

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

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

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

My thoughts:

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

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

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

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

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

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

Book Review: The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa

I was still in the mood for a little romance – it was the perfect genre to take my mind off of the strike action the teachers in the province are participating in. I decided to pick up The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa as the cover of the novel appealed to me.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Blurb:

A wedding planner left at the altar. Yeah, the irony isn’t lost on Carolina Santos, either. But despite that embarrassing blip from her past, Lina’s managed to make other people’s dreams come true as a top-tier wedding coordinator in DC. After impressing an influential guest, she’s offered an opportunity that could change her life. There’s just one hitch… she has to collaborate with the best (make that worst) man from her own failed nuptials.

Tired of living in his older brother’s shadow, marketing expert Max Hartley is determined to make his mark with a coveted hotel client looking to expand its brand. Then he learns he’ll be working with his brother’s whip-smart, stunning—absolutely off-limits—ex-fiancée. And she loathes him.

If they can survive the next few weeks and nail their presentation without killing each other, they’ll both come out ahead. Except Max has been public enemy number one ever since he encouraged his brother to jilt the bride, and Lina’s ready to dish out a little payback of her own.

But even the best laid plans can go awry, and soon Lina and Max discover animosity may not be the only emotion creating sparks between them. Still, this star-crossed couple can never be more than temporary playmates because Lina isn’t interested in falling in love and Max refuses to play runner-up to his brother ever again… 

My thoughts:

The Worst Best Man is an pleasurable read with characters that a reader will enjoy spending time with. However, there is not much depth to the characters who are portrayed in a superficial way. No growth occurs in them as a result of their experience and I missed reading about characters who experience a significant change in their outlook. In writing this novel, Sosa has followed the traditional romance template instead of branching out into the more modern romance which focuses on the character growth of the female character.

Even though The Worst Best Man is an old-fashioned romance novel, it is the perfect read when you need something lighthearted to boost your mood. The novel contains some moments which made me smile and certainly was a pleasure for me to read. The novel is the first in the series and I will probably pick up the second to find out the story of the other characters in the story.

If you are looking for a novel that is a quick read with not too much detail, Sosa’s story is perfect. It will lighten your mood and leave you smiling.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 13th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

I received a copy of the ARC of My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell at a Harper Presents event. The blurb sounded interesting and relevant.

Genre: Adult Fiction, Contemporary

Blurb:

Exploring the psychological dynamics of the relationship between a precocious yet naïve teenage girl and her magnetic and manipulative teacher, a brilliant, all-consuming read that marks the explosive debut of an extraordinary new writer.

2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.

2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—and who professed to worship only her—may be far different from what she has always believed?

Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of RoomMy Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself. 

My thoughts:

The novel shows the slow steps that Strane, the teacher, takes to groom Vanessa to accept his advances, to welcome them, and even to seek him out. The reader is often reminded that Vanessa is fifteen at the time of the seduction; and that she is isolated with no friends. It seems obvious, to me at least, that Vanessa was targeted by the teacher because of this – and yet as the novel progresses Vanessa expresses the belief that she was not a victim; that instead the relationship with her much older teacher was her choice.

As I was reading the novel, I noticed the two opposing views even within Vanessa herself. It is interesting to note that not only was her body seduced but also her mind and emotions. On one level she states that the relationship was her choice – and yet small memories suggest that maybe it wasn’t. Russell adroitly juxtaposes the two, encouraging the reader to reflect on Vanessa’s experience and make a judgement.

Russell expertly describes the give and take of the relationship between Vanessa and Strane – when Vanessa was at school and also once she is an adult and working. Her writing causes the reader to feel an array of emotions both negative and positive. The novel is filled with the see-saw of emotions experienced by Vanessa – a range of emotions which filter through to the reader.

My Dark Vanessa is not an easy read and I had to set it aside for a while because of the way the story was making me feel. It was upsetting to me to read a story of how an experienced teacher takes advantage of a young girl that should have been in his care. Instead of reaching her full potential, she loses the opportunity to be her best as well as loses her innocence. In addition, I know that Vanessa’s experience is the experience of so many young girls who receive the unwanted attentions of men who have no right to foster their desires onto naive and innocent girls.

Despite the novel being a difficult read, it is one that is extremely well-written. The author takes the reader on a roller coaster ride of emotions from the start to the end of the book. The story is a relevant one for today and suggests that one think carefully before ascribing the label of victim to all the women who have been seduced when young by older men. I finished reading My Dark Vanessa having thought about the issues suggested – but still believing that the responsibility of keeping a distance does fall with the person that is older and more mature.

I give this novel ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 10th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

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 Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

I had seen positive reviews of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Westman on Instagram so when I saw a copy of the book on the library shelves, I brought it home with me.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance, Contemporary

Blurb:

The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.

1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.

My thoughts:

I expected much of this book because of the hype but I was low-key disappointed. Even though references were made to certain books (like Harry Potter), the title of the novel gave the expectation that there would be more bookish imagery. It was interesting for me to note that references were made to popular films (Star Trek and Star Wars) as well as TV shows (Friends).

The descriptions of LA, I do admit to skimming. I have never been to LA and Waxman’s mundane descriptions did not entice me to know more. I guess the writing for these moments were too prosaic and did not create an image in my mind of the streets Nina was walking.

The saving grace of the story is that Nina Hill does grow and develop as a character. She learns that being with the right people can calm her anxiety; and that she can accept the changes that have occurred in her life. She learns that the right people in her life can enrich it and make it more enjoyable. There is a little romance in the story; but the novel is focused on the story of Nina’s personal growth.

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill was an enjoyable read; but it is one I will not read twice.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 6th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Twice In A Blue Moon by Christina Lauren

On Instagram many readers have been saying how good Twice In A Blue Moon by Christina Lauren is. When I saw the novel in the library, I took the opportunity to read the story.

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

Sam Brandis was Tate Jones’s first: Her first love. Her first everything. Including her first heartbreak.

During a whirlwind two-week vacation abroad, Sam and Tate fell for each other in only the way that first loves do: sharing all of their hopes, dreams, and deepest secrets along the way. Sam was the first, and only, person that Tate—the long-lost daughter of one of the world’s biggest film stars—ever revealed her identity to. So when it became clear her trust was misplaced, her world shattered for good.

Fourteen years later, Tate, now an up-and-coming actress, only thinks about her first love every once in a blue moon. When she steps onto the set of her first big break, he’s the last person she expects to see. Yet here Sam is, the same charming, confident man she knew, but even more alluring than she remembered. Forced to confront the man who betrayed her, Tate must ask herself if it’s possible to do the wrong thing for the right reason… and whether “once in a lifetime” can come around twice.

With Christina Lauren’s signature “beautifully written and remarkably compelling” (Sarah J. Maas, New York Times bestselling author) prose and perfect for fans of Emily Giffin and Jennifer Weiner, Twice in a Blue Moon is an unforgettable and moving novel of young love and second chances.

My thoughts:

This story had been hyped up on Instagram and I started it with a sense of anticipation. I had enjoyed another novel written by this pair of authors (The Unhoneymooners) and was expecting this one to give me the same sense of enjoyment. I was, however, disappointed.

The story did not always hold my attention and I found myself often skimming paragraphs (not a good sign!). The story line was predictable and, I found, superficial. I felt no connection at all with Tate, the main protagonist in the novel. I saw no growth in her character and felt no empathy for her.

Twice In A Blue Moon was a disappointing read for me and, as a result, I will not be picking up any other if Christina Lauren books quickly.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 4th 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)