Book Review: The Little Teashop on Main by Jodi Thomas

When at the OLA Super Conference earlier this year, I picked up Jodi Thomas’ The Little Teashop on Main. The cover of the ARC attracted my gaze and, as I enjoy reading stories of this genre, I chose to bring it home with me.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

Blurb:

A rainy-day ritual—a tea party between three little girls—becomes the framework of not only their friendship, but their lives. 

Blonde, curly-haired Zoe is openhearted, kind and free-spirited, and dreams of becoming a famous actor in New York City. Shy Emily struggles with mental health but has the heart and soul of a writer. And Shannon—tall, athletic, strong—has a deep sense of loyalty that will serve her well when she heads off to military college.

As Zoe, Emily and Shannon grow into women—forging careers, following dreams and finding love—they’ll learn that life doesn’t always unfold the way they want it to, but through it all, the one constant is each other, and their regular tea parties. And when the unthinkable happens, the girls must come together to face the greatest test of all.

My thoughts:

The novel spans many years and begins when the friends were five years old. Thomas, however, does not take us through every year of their lives. Instead we learn more about Zoe, Emily and Shannon as adults. In addition, we read the thoughts of some of the people in their lives. Told from the point of view of many characters, we are able to see into the mind of each and how each person affects the life trajectory of the women.

Thomas takes us on the journey of three women’s lives. We read about their aspirations, their failures, the fulfilment of their dreams, and the love they experience in their lives. We read about a friendship that is so strong that it spans decades and even distance. I loved that this friendship was an important part of the story. The love and romance between two people and a potential partner is explored while the love between friends is not forgotten.

The Little Teashop on Main is a light read with plenty of romance (if you are looking for steamy sex scenes, however, this one will not deliver). The novel doesn’t delve too deeply into it characters – though as a reader, you will feel a connection with the main female characters. I enjoyed the story and it is perfect for a lazy and relaxing afternoon.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 75th in my book pledge for 2019)

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Book Review: The One and Only by Emily Griffin

While working in my room sorting my bookshelves and clearing out the drawers, I listened to the audio book The One and Only by Emily Griffin. The discs were ones I had picked up at a library sale and thought it would be a good opportunity to use them.

Genre: Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

Format: Audio Book

Blurb:

Thirty-three-year-old Shea Rigsby has spent her entire life in Walker, Texas—a small college town that lives and dies by football, a passion she unabashedly shares. Raised alongside her best friend, Lucy, the daughter of Walker’s legendary head coach, Clive Carr, Shea was too devoted to her hometown team to leave. Instead she stayed in Walker for college, even taking a job in the university athletic department after graduation, where she has remained for more than a decade.

But when an unexpected tragedy strikes the tight-knit Walker community, Shea’s comfortable world is upended, and she begins to wonder if the life she’s chosen is really enough for her. As she finally gives up her safety net to set out on an unexpected path, Shea discovers unsettling truths about the people and things she has always trusted most—and is forced to confront her deepest desires, fears, and secrets.

Thoughtful, funny, and brilliantly observed, The One & Only is a luminous novel about finding your passion, following your heart, and, most of all, believing in something bigger than yourself . . . the one and only thing that truly makes life worth living.

My thoughts:

I do not usually listen to audio books and it took me a while to get used to listening to the story. In addition to sorting out the characters in my mind, I had to get used to the Texan accent that the story was read in. What I enjoyed about listening to the story was that I could do things while discovering Griffin’s story. I did miss being able to flip back, however, to past pages in order to check on moments of the story.

The story centres around college football – a sport which I have no knowledge of. As a result, some of the moments when the game was discussed went by me. If I had been reading the text, I probably would have put the book down in boredom but, because the story was being read to me, I continued listening while busy with my tasks.

The blurb suggests that Shea, the main character, takes the time to re-evaluate her life after an unexpected tragedy. I was a little disappointed with the lack of growth of the main character. Even though Shea does change some parts of her life, her romantic one ends up where she began. I was a little disappointed with the final choice that she made – though it was a choice that I was easily able to predict.

In addition to there not being too much character growth in the story, Griffin makes no social commentary in her novel. She has the opportunity – twice – but decides instead to create a story without a social message. A story like this was perfect to listen to – but would have been a little tedious to read (in addition to all the football commentary).

The One and Only was an enjoyable story to listen to while working – but it is one that I will not listen to again.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 72nd in my book pledge for 2019)

Teaser Tuesday: Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Today I am sharing an extract from Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty. I read this novel about two years ago when it first came out. I enjoy Moriarty’s writing as she scrapes off all the layers of people and their relationships and gets to the gritty part of a person.

In this novel we meet Sam and Clementine who have a wonderful albeit busy life. Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbours, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger-than-life personalities there will be a welcome respite. Two month’s later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?

I am sharing an extract in the voice of Sam reflecting on the morning of the barbecue:

“He found himself remembering the morning of the barbecue. It was like remembering someone else, a friend, or someone he’d seen playing the role of a father in a movie. Surely it had been somebody else, not him, strolling about, strutting about his sunlit house, so sure of himself and his place in the world. What happened that morning? ” (p47)

(2016, First Flatiron Books, USA)

Something happens at the barbecue that exposes the underlying faults in the relationships of the characters.

Have you read this novel by Liane Moriarty? What did you think? 

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2016

(This post is linked to Ambrosia’s Teaser Tuesdays at The Purple Booker)

Book Review: Postscript by Cecelia Ahern

I was so excited to receive an ARC of Postscript by Cecilia Ahern. I love her writing and could not wait to start reading it. I normally try to read the ARCs near the time of publication – but I could not wait with this one!

Publication date: 19 September 2019

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Blurb:

When Holly Kennedy is approached by a group calling themselves the PS, I Love You Club, her safe existence is turned on its head. Inspired by hearing about her late husband Gerry’s letters, the club wants Holly to help them with their own parting messages for their loved ones to discover after they’re gone.

Holly is sure of one thing – no way is she being dragged back to the grief she has left behind. It’s taken seven years to reinvent herself, and she’s ready to move on with her life.

But Holly comes to realize that when you love someone, there’s always one more thing to say…

My thoughts:

Postscript is a perfect sequel and is as beautifully written as PS. I Love You. I enjoyed reading more about Holly and her life 7 years after she had lost her husband. Life goes on after death, and this is what is shown in this novel. However, a loved one is always with you despite their death; and this, too, is shown in Ahern’s latest writing.

As with the first novel, Holly is the centre of the story. Even though she is in a relationship with another man, her romantic relationship is not what drives the story. Holly still has things to learn and in this novel she grows even more. Our personal growth does not stop at a certain age. Instead our life experiences and the people we come into contact with help to mould us into the people we are. In Postscript, Holly comes into contact with people who need her help. She gives her help – but with trepidation and plenty of uncertainty. And yet, in helping these people, Holly discovers that they help her too. In helping these people, she is able to grow as a person.

As always, Ahern’s writing is spot-on. Her words pull emotions from the reader (I do admit to tears forming in my eyes) and encourage you to become invested in the story. As I was reading, the characters were so vivid in my mind, and so real. Ahern is definitely a master at characterisation.

If you loved PS. I Love You (either the film or the book), you will enjoy Postscript as much as I did. This novel is definitely one you need to place on your TBR!

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars with no reservation.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 67th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern

Cecilia Ahern’s publisher, Harper Collins, sent me an ARC of the sequel to PS I Love You and before I read it, I wanted to read the first novel. Even though I had read the novel before, I had read it many years ago and wanted to refresh my memory on details.

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Blurb:

Some people wait their whole lives to find their soul mates. But not Holly and Gerry.

Childhood sweethearts, they could finish each other’s sentences and even when they fought, they laughed. No one could imagine Holly and Gerry without each other. 

Until the unthinkable happens. Gerry’s death devastates Holly. But as her 30th birthday looms, Gerry comes back to her. He’s left her a bundle of notes, gently guiding Holly into her new life without him, each note signed ‘PS, I Love You’. 

As the notes are gradually opened, and as they year unfolds, Holly is both cheered up and challenged. The man who knows her better than anyone sets out to teach her that life goes on. With some help from her friends, and her noisy and loving family, Holly finds herself laughing, crying, singing, dancing — and being braver than ever before. 

Life is for living, she realizes — but it always helps if there’s an angel watching over you.

My thoughts:

I loved this story when I first read it and with the re-reading, I love it even more. The story is about love of a soul mate – not a perfect love, but a love that has endured the day to day arguments and frustrations that couples experience. Unfortunately Gerry dies and leaves Holly alone. Holly is devastated and we read how she learns to cope without her love. The notes that Gerry has left her guide her through her grief and help her to create a life without her soul mate.

PS I Love You is not only a story about a lost love; it is a story that describes the voyage of a woman who her entire adult life has relied on another person to help her make decisions and help her through the ups and downs of life. During her grieving process, Holly learns about herself and who she truly is. She comes to realise more about herself as well as more on the other people in her life. She learns to see things through her eyes, and not through the eyes of her partner. In addition, Holly discovers her inner strength.

This novel is not a romance like many others. Instead it is about a love that has been experienced; the growth of a woman to find her inner strength; and about the grieving process. Re-reading this story has allowed me to appreciate even more Ahern’s storytelling prowess. Now I look forward to reading the sequel.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 66th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

I had seen The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren all over Instagram as people read the book and stated that it was a good story. I decided to give it a read.

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Blurb:

Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Ami, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.

Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.

Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of… lucky.

My thoughts:

The Unhoneymooners was the perfect rom-com read. It was a humorous story that highlights prejudices and the way we assume what others are thinking. Misunderstandings can morph and escalate into feelings of almost hatred. This pseudo-hatred is what exists between Olive and Ethan, and one which ensures that neither one of them will back down from an unexpected holiday. Spending time together, however, leads Olive to an understanding that it is her own insecurities that began the love-hate relationship between them.

Olive not only comes to an understanding of her relationship with Ethan but she also learns a little more about herself during, and after, her unexpected holiday. Her self knowledge comes from self-reflection as a result of her experiences. As in all modern romantic comedies, the heroine is able to grow without the aid of the male protagonist. Instead, he is the catalyst that encourages self-reflection and self-realisation.

I enjoyed reading Lauren’s latest novel and recommend it if you are looking for a light read that will make you laugh and leave you with a sense of satisfaction at the end.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 65th in my book pledge for 2019)

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)