Book Review: Under Currents by Nora Roberts

My hold for the audiobook Under Currents by Nora Roberts came in and I eagerly began listening to it. This title had been on my TBR list and I thought that listening to the story instead of reading the text may help me put a dent into my list.

Format: Audiobook

Narrator: January LaVoy

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Mystery

Blurb:

Within the walls of a tasteful, perfectly kept house in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, young Zane Bigelow feels like a prisoner of war. Strangers—and even Zane’s own aunt across the lake—see his parents as a successful surgeon and his stylish wife, making appearances at their children’s ballet recitals and baseball games. Zane and his sister know the truth: There is something terribly wrong.

As his father’s violent, controlling rages—and his mother’s complicity—become more and more oppressive, Zane counts the years, months, days until he can escape. He looks out for little Britt, warning her Be smart. Be careful. In fear for his very life, he plays along with the insidious lie that everything is fine, while scribbling his real thoughts in a secret journal he must carefully hide away.

When one brutal, shattering night finally reveals cracks in the façade, Zane begins to understand that some people are willing to face the truth, even when it hurts. As he grows into manhood and builds a new kind of family, he will find that while the darkness of his past may always shadow him, it will also show him what is necessary for good to triumph—and give him strength to draw on when he once again must stand up and defend himself and the ones he loves… 

My Thoughts:

The audio version of this book was fantastic and I really enjoyed listening to LaVoy as she performed the story. The accents for the different characters were spot on and the emotions were perfectly pitched. I think the audio added another dimension to the story and increased my enjoyment of it.

Under Currents explores a sensitive topic – that of domestic violence. We see the affect of violence on both a child and a spouse. Even though the topic is a difficult one, Roberts explores it with sensitivity. I like that the story ends with a sense of hope even though I know, realistically, that domestic violence doesn’t always end happily.

Roberts is a master at creating the perfect pace to keep a reader’s interest. The story also had a good mix of serious topics, mystery, and romance. The characters are varied and true to life and I enjoyed listening to the connections that they made with one another. I always enjoy reading the contemporary fiction novels by Nora Roberts and this one did not disappoint.

I give this audio novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 58th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Grown Up Pose by Sonja Lalli

I had previously read and enjoyed a novel by Sonja Lalli so when I saw the audiobook for Grown Up Pose was available at the library, I decided to listen to the novel instead of reading the text.

Format: Audiobook

Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Blurb:

A delightfully modern look at what happens for a young woman when tradition, dating, and independence collide, from acclaimed author Sonya Lalli.

Adulting shouldn’t be this hard. Especially in your thirties. Having been pressured by her tight-knit community to get married at a young age to her first serious boyfriend, Anu Desai is now on her own again and feels like she is starting from the beginning.

But Anu doesn’t have time to start over. Telling her parents that she was separating from her husband was the hardest thing she’s ever done—and she’s still dealing with the fallout. She has her young daughter to support and when she invests all of her savings into running her own yoga studio, the feelings of irresponsibility send Anu reeling. She’ll be forced to look inside herself to learn what she truly wants.

My Thoughts:

The narration of this novel is well done and the Canadian, English, and Indian perfect. The excellent narration of the novel enhanced my enjoyment of the story.

The story is that of a woman in her early thirties who has an identity crisis – especially as she married when she was so young. She takes time out from her marriage and the presence of strong women in her life (her mother and mother-in-law). In doing so, she discovers who she is and reconnects with the dreams she had as a young woman.

The story moves between the past and the present. At times the shift did cause me confusion – a confusion, I think, which I would not have experienced had I been reading the text for myself. Looking back to past events helped me to understand, though, the actions of the character and why she made the choices that she did. There were times, though, when her reflections were a bit repetitive – and if I were reading, I would have skim read these paragraphs.

What I did enjoy in this novel was the snapshot into the Punjabi culture and the expectations of women within this culture. Reading this novel helped me to understand a little more the ways of the women within this group. I liked that the novel was unashamedly of a group of people I do not know much about.

The message I got from this story is that a woman can follow her dreams no matter what her responsibilities are. In addition, your age does not determine when it is that you can follow your dreams. Grown Up Pose is not a romance in the traditional sense. Instead, it is one that charts the story of an ordinary woman who rediscovers herself and her dreams, and finds what it is that makes her happy.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 57th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson

I thought it was time to pick up a novel that has been lingering on my bookshelf for a year now. I was in the mood for a contemporary read so I picked up The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson.

Genre: Mystery, Contemporary

Blurb:

A woman inherits a beloved bookstore and sets forth on a journey of self-discovery in this poignant debut about family, forgiveness and a love of reading.

Miranda Brooks grew up in the stacks of her eccentric Uncle Billy’s bookstore, solving the inventive scavenger hunts he created just for her. But on Miranda’s twelfth birthday, Billy has a mysterious falling-out with her mother and suddenly disappears from Miranda’s life. She doesn’t hear from him again until sixteen years later when she receives unexpected news: Billy has died and left her Prospero Books, which is teetering on bankruptcy—and one final scavenger hunt.

My Thoughts:

I picked up this book because the title had the word ‘bookshop’ in it. I enjoy reading stories that involve books and present characters who enjoy reading. I was not disappointed by the novel and enjoyed my foray into a story that embraces a love of reading.

This contemporary read was the perfect novel to spend some time with during my period of isolation. The story centres on the journey of a young woman who not only finds out about her past, but also determines what her future should be. It is a story about a young woman who discovers who she is and what it is she wants from her life. It is a story about a young woman who finds the courage to take the steps required to change her life and to take up the opportunities that have been given to her.

The Bookshop of Yesterdays is an expertly crafted novel that touches on grief, friendship, and the relationship between family members. I enjoyed reading about the main character, Miranda, and seeing how she grows in the story. I felt a connection with her as she works on figuring out her past and who she is. Her life is not perfect, and neither is the relationship she has with her parents. But she tries, and it is this that connected me to her.

If you enjoy contemporary fiction about ordinary lives, this novel is for you. As a reader, you will understand the characters’ love of the bookshop they work to save. You will finish the novel with a feeling of hope and satisfaction.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 56th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Hot and Hammered Series

I picked up the first two books in this series by Tessa Bailey as the people on Bookstagram raved about the stories. And the covers look cute! 🙂

Genre of both novels: Romance, Contemporary

Blurb for Fix Her Up:

Georgette Castle’s family runs the best home renovation business in town, but she picked balloons instead of blueprints and they haven’t taken her seriously since. Frankly, she’s over it. Georgie loves planning children’s birthday parties and making people laugh, just not at her own expense. She’s determined to fix herself up into a Woman of the World… whatever that means.

Phase one: new framework for her business (a website from this decade, perhaps?)

Phase two: a gut-reno on her wardrobe (fyi, leggings are pants.)

Phase three: updates to her exterior (do people still wax?)

Phase four: put herself on the market (and stop crushing on Travis Ford!)

Living her best life means facing the truth: Georgie hasn’t been on a date since, well, ever. Nobody’s asking the town clown out for a night of hot sex, that’s for sure. Maybe if people think she’s having a steamy love affair, they’ll acknowledge she’s not just the “little sister” who paints faces for a living. And who better to help demolish that image than the resident sports star and tabloid favorite?

Travis Ford was major league baseball’s hottest rookie when an injury ended his career. Now he’s flipping houses to keep busy and trying to forget his glory days. But he can’t even cross the street without someone recapping his greatest hits. Or making a joke about his… bat. And then there’s Georgie, his best friend’s sister, who is not a kid anymore. When she proposes a wild scheme—that they pretend to date, to shock her family and help him land a new job—he agrees. What’s the harm? It’s not like it’s real. But the girl Travis used to tease is now a funny, full-of-life woman and there’s nothing fake about how much he wants her..

Blurb for Love Her Or Lose Her:

Rosie and Dominic Vega are the perfect couple: high school sweethearts, best friends, madly in love. Well, they used to be anyway. Now Rosie’s lucky to get a caveman grunt from the ex-soldier every time she walks in the door. Dom is faithful and a great provider, but the man she fell in love with ten years ago is nowhere to be found. When her girlfriends encourage Rosie to demand more out of life and pursue her dream of opening a restaurant, she decides to demand more out of love, too. Three words: marriage boot camp.

Never in a million years did Rosie believe her stoic, too-manly-to-emote husband would actually agree to relationship rehab with a weed-smoking hippy. Dom talking about feelings? Sitting on pillows? Communing with nature? Learning love languages? Nope. But to her surprise, he’s all in, and it forces her to admit her own role in their cracked foundation. As they complete one ridiculous—yet surprisingly helpful—assignment after another, their remodeled relationship gets stronger than ever. Except just as they’re getting back on track, Rosie discovers Dom has a secret… and it could demolish everything. 

My Thoughts:

Both these novels are lighthearted reads that don’t require the reader to think too much about social or relationship issues. Like many romances of this genre, they were a little predictable and did not present any surprises. I liked the storyline of Fix Her Up especially as it is about a woman who is fighting to be taken seriously by her family. The storyline of Love Her Or Lose Her had the potential to be interesting (especially as there aren’t too many romances that deal with marriages that are facing difficulties), but the story was portrayed in a superficial way.

When reading a romance, I expect to read about kissing and sex. The sex scenes in these two novels, however, were a little overdone – and, to be honest, unrealistic. What made it even more unrealistic, to me, was that the scenes in both novels were similar. With different characters, I expect different ways of relating to one another sexually. The focus on sex unfortunately impacted the meat of the storyline and, for me, the enjoyment of the novel.

There is a third book in this series that has come out. I am not sure whether I will read it – time will tell.

I give Fix Her Up ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars and Love Her Or Lose Her ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(These novels were the 54th and 55th novels in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Friendship List by Susan Mallery

When at the OLA Super Conference earlier this year, the author Susan Mallery was recommended to me and an ARC of The Friendship List was gifted to me.

Genre: Romance, Contemporary

Blurb:

Two best friends jump-start their lives in a summer that will change them forever…

Single mom Ellen Fox couldn’t be more content—until she overhears her son saying he can’t go to his dream college because she needs him too much. If she wants him to live his best life, she has to convince him she’s living hers.

So Unity Leandre, her best friend since forever, creates a list of challenges to push Ellen out of her comfort zone. Unity will complete the list, too, but not because she needs to change. What’s wrong with a thirtysomething widow still sleeping in her late husband’s childhood bed?

The Friendship List begins as a way to make others believe they’re just fine. But somewhere between “wear three-inch heels” and “have sex with a gorgeous guy,” Ellen and Unity discover that life is meant to be lived with joy and abandon, in a story filled with humor, heartache and regrettable tattoos.

Thoughts:

This is a story about two ordinary women who find themselves living in a rut – an experience that so many women find themselves in once they have reached their thirties. Unity and Ellen make a pact with one another to make a change in their lives and therefore create a list for themselves of things they should do to make a change in their lives. In following this list, they find the courage to do things out of their comfort zone – and in doing so make a change in their lives.

The novel is written in a 4 person point of view and it is interesting to read of the different thoughts and experiences of the characters – characters that influence the lives of these two women. What I liked about the characters in Mallery’s novel is that they are ordinary women living ordinary lives and, as such, I could relate to them. The two main characters, Unity and Ellen, experience growth in the story as they change their lives through their actions, actions that take them out of their comfort zone, actions that help them to realise another part of themselves.

The Friendship List is a woman’s story that will resonate with women readers. It is a read that is perfect for a relaxing summer day while at the beach, in the park, or even on a sofa.

I give this novels ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 53rd novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Based on Pride and Prejudice

Instagram is a wonderful place to meet like-minded book lovers. Through one of my buddy reads, I connected with someone who loves Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as much as I. She told me about a retelling that I had not yet read, Coming Up Roses by Staci Hart, and I decided I wanted to read it. The bonus was the realisation that Staci Hart is an indie author. When purchasing the novel, I decided to purchase the second in the series, Gilded Lily, as it was claimed to also have connections to Austen’s novel.

Genre of both novels: Romance, Contemporary, Retelling

Blurb for Coming Up Roses:

Everyone hates parts of their job.

Maybe it’s the paperwork. Maybe it’s the day-to-day grind. Maybe it’s that client who never knows what they want, or the guy who always cooks fish in the microwave.

But not me. I love every corner of the Longbourne Flower Shop, every flower, every petal, every stem. I love the greenhouse, and I love Mrs. Bennet, my boss. I love creating, and I love being a florist. I don’t hate anything at all.

Except for Luke Bennet.

The Bennet brothers have come home to help their mom save the flower shop, and Luke is at the helm. His smile tells a tale of lust, loose and easy. He moves with the grace of a predator, feral and wild. A thing unbridled, without rules or constraint.

When he comes home to save Longbourne, I almost can’t be mad at him.

Almost.

He doesn’t remember that night I’ll never forget. That kiss, touched with whiskey and fire. It branded me like a red-hot iron. But it meant nothing to him.

Everyone hates part of their job, and I hate Luke Bennet.
Because if I don’t, I’ll fall in love with him.

Blurb for Gilded Lily:

They say there’s no such thing as perfect.

But I’ve built my life to perfection—the perfect boyfriend, the perfect apartment, the perfect career planning celebrity weddings. My job—my only job—is to make sure every event is absolutely and completely perfect.

What’s not perfect? Kash Bennet.

And I wish I didn’t find that so appealing.

I could have told you every perfectly imperfect thing about the gardener at Longbourne. Like his hair, lush and black and far too long. Or his nose, the flat bridge of a Greek god, bent a little like it’s been broken. Or his size. Beastly. Roped and corded with muscles, gleaming with sweat and peppered with dirt.

There’s no escaping him, not if I’m going to use his family’s flower shop for my events.

But nothing is what it seems. And in the span of a heartbeat, my perfect life is turned inside out.

They say the best way to get over somebody is to get under somebody new. When Kash offers his services to the cause, it sounds like the perfect plan.

What’s not part of the plan? Falling in love with the gardener.

But they were right—there’s no such thing as perfect.
And I’m the fool who finds out the hard way. 

My Thoughts:

The stories are VERY loosely based on Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. The novels do address the theme of the original novel, and reference as well the characterisations of Elizabeth and Darcy – although the sex of the characters has been changed. What I loved was Hart’s representation of Mrs Bennett – it was spot-on and perfectly done. I loved it so much that I would love to see more of her in the stories (that seem to be a series she is currently writing).

The novels do not give an in-depth portrayal of the characters. Even though the characters do come to certain realisations, we do not see their growth and development towards these realisations and, in a way, the characterisations are superficial. Having said that, however, the format followed in general romance novels is that in-depth explorations are not expected.

I enjoyed both of Hart’s romance novels in this series. They were a perfect read for my mood – I wanted something lighthearted that did not encourage too much thought. The well written words made me chuckle and I did want to find out how the characters found their true love (after all, that is what happens in novels like these). If you enjoy romance novels as well as supporting indie authors, the series on the Bennet Brothers is worth picking up.

I give these novels ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 51st and 52nd novels in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Sea Glass Cottage by RaeAnne Thayne

I have previously enjoyed novels by RaeAnne Thayne so I was pleased when I received an ARC of The Sea Glass Cottage at the OLA Super Conference.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary

Blurb:

The life Olivia Harper always dreamed of isn’t so dreamy these days. The 16-hour work days are unfulfilling and so are things with her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when she hears that her estranged mother, Juliet, has been seriously injured in a car accident, Liv has no choice but to pack up her life and head home to beautiful Cape Sanctuary on the Northern California coast.

It’s just for a few months—that’s what Liv keeps telling herself. But the closer she gets to Cape Sanctuary, the painful memories start flooding back: Natalie, her vibrant, passionate older sister who downward-spiraled into addiction. The fights with her mother who enabled her sister at every turn. The overdose that took Natalie, leaving her now-teenaged daughter, Caitlin, an orphan.

As Liv tries to balance her own needs with those of her injured mother and an obstinate, resentful fifteen-year-old, it becomes clear that all three Harper women have been keeping heartbreaking secrets from one another. And as those secrets are revealed, Liv, Juliet, and Caitlin will see that it’s never too late—or too early—to heal family wounds and find forgiveness.

My thoughts:

I had previously enjoyed novels by RaeAnne Thayne and this novel did not disappoint. The novel shares the story of three generations of women. It is beautifully written in a way that touches your heart with a pacing that is pitched perfectly for this genre. The Sea Glass Cottage is told in a four person point of view (Olivia, Juliet, Caitlin, Cooper) and it is interesting to see how all of their stories are linked to one person, Natalie – a person whose voice we do not read.

We read of the struggles these women have in their personal lives as well as with their relationships. We read how they begin to reconnect with one another, as well as their slow belief that they have the right to be happy in their lives. What I enjoyed about this novel is that we are told stories of ordinary women – women who struggle and achieve in their day to day lives just as we do.

The Sea Glass Cottage is an enjoyable read for those who prefer reading contemporary women’s fiction that embrace women’s stories.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 41st novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez

I had read good things about The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez on Instagram and jumped at the opportunity to read this novel with others. I dug into it quickly when I need some lighthearted reading.

Genre: Contemporary. Romance

Blurb:

Kristen Petersen doesn’t do drama, will fight to the death for her friends, and has no room in her life for guys who just don’t get her. She’s also keeping a big secret: facing a medically necessary procedure that will make it impossible for her to have children.

Planning her best friend’s wedding is bittersweet for Kristen—especially when she meets the best man, Josh Copeland. He’s funny, sexy, never offended by her mile-wide streak of sarcasm, and always one chicken enchilada ahead of her hangry. Even her dog, Stuntman Mike, adores him. The only catch: Josh wants a big family someday. Kristen knows he’d be better off with someone else, but as their attraction grows, it’s harder and harder to keep him at arm’s length.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this story so much more than I thought I would – and it was a relief to see that the many women on Instagram who had recommended it to me had got it right! A bonus for me is that The Friend Zone is more than just a romance. The story explores the experience of a woman who is struggling with a uterine disease that impacts her life and her ability to have children.

Having said that, Kristen’s story is more than her inability to have children. Her story is about her accepting herself for who she is, inadequacies included. In the novel, we see her starting to believe that she does deserve to be happy – and that someone can love her for who she is despite her sterility. I enjoyed reading the story of her self-acceptance, and the acceptance by others of who she truly is.

I read the debut novel by Abby Jimenez in one sitting – which tells you how invested I was in the story. I could not put the novel down and needed to know whether Kristen would find the happiness she deserves. I enjoyed this romance with a thread of seriousness running through it and will certainly pick up the author’s next novel.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 35th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Truths I Never Told You by Kelley Rimmer

When Kelly Rimmer visited Toronto Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to obtain a ticket to hear her speak about her upcoming novel Truths I Never Told You.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary. Historical Fiction

Blurb:

With her father recently moved to a care facility for his worsening dementia, Beth Walsh volunteers to clear out the family home and is surprised to discover the door to her childhood playroom padlocked. She’s even more shocked at what’s behind it—a hoarder’s mess of her father’s paintings, mounds of discarded papers and miscellaneous junk in the otherwise fastidiously tidy house.

As she picks through the clutter, she finds a loose journal entry in what appears to be her late mother’s handwriting. Beth and her siblings grew up believing their mother died in a car accident when they were little more than toddlers, but this note suggests something much darker. Beth soon pieces together a disturbing portrait of a woman suffering from postpartum depression and a husband who bears little resemblance to the loving father Beth and her siblings know. With a newborn of her own and struggling with motherhood, Beth finds there may be more tying her and her mother together than she ever suspected.

Exploring the expectations society places on women of every generation, Kelly Rimmer explores the profound struggles two women unwittingly share across the decades set within an engrossing family mystery that may unravel everything they believed to be true.

My thoughts:

Truths I Never Told You is a story about postpartum depression and the stigma that is attached to this mental illness. The author takes us through the experience of a woman in the past; and of a woman in modern society: the experience of Beth is juxtaposed with what her mother, Grace, experienced when she was born. As the reader, we are shown the state of mind of these women and how debilitating this mental illness is. Rimmer tells us the story with sensitivity and empathy – I could not help feel a connection with these women as I read of their experience.

Not only are readers exposed to the mental health of women as they suffer from postpartum depression, but we are also shown a snapshot of a woman’s life in the 1950s. Reading of a woman’s experience during this time period is quite an eye-opener: women were expected to stay at home and, once married, struggled to find work. Reading this, I could not help but be grateful for the freedom I now experience as a married woman with children living in modern western society. We have definitely come a long way.

Truths I Never Told You is a heartbreaking story that I could not put down. This is the first novel I have read by Kelly Rimmer and it will not be my last. If you enjoy reading women’s stories as well as historical fiction, this novel should be placed on your To Be Read list.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 34th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich

One of the things I have discovered during the period of social distancing and staying at home is the use of audiobooks from my local library. The second title I enjoyed in March was Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich. I had previously enjoyed reading novels by this author, so I looked forward to the story.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

Format: Audiobook – read by Lorelei King

Blurb:

Life in Marblehead has had a pleasant predictability, until Diesel arrives. Rumor has it that a collection of priceless ancient relics representing the Seven Deadly Sins have made their way to Boston’s North Shore. Partnered with pastry chef Lizzie Tucker, Diesel bullies and charms his way through historic Salem to track them down—and his criminal mastermind cousin Gerewulf Grimorie. The black-haired, black-hearted Wulf is on the hunt for the relic representing gluttony. Caught in a race against time, Diesel and Lizzie soon find out that more isn’t always better, as they battle Wulf and the first of the deadly sins.With delectable characters and non-stop thrills that have made Janet Evanovich a household name, Wicked Appetite will leave you hungry for more.

My thoughts:

Wicked Appetite was a fun and hilarious story – and I often laughed out loud at the characters’ antics and at the words that came out of their mouths. This book definitely put me in a good mood – in fact, it encouraged me to continue listening even though I was done with my creative task. If you have read any of the Stephanie Plum stories by Janet Evanovich and enjoyed them, then this story is for you. The author’s effervescent humour is found in this novel too.

There is no character building and growth in this novel – but that is not the intention, I think, of the story. Instead it is a fun tale that will definitely take your mind off of the realities of the COVID-19 virus. I enjoyed the slapstick humour of witches and magic, as well as the dig at the fantasy genre.The audiobook is perfectly read by Lorelei King as her voice projects the humour expressed by the text.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 32nd novel in my book pledge for 2020)