Book Review: The Betrothed by Kiera Cass

When browsing the publishers’ booths at the OLA Super Conference earlier this year, I happened upon The Betrothed by Kiera Cass. I had not read anything written by her but I had heard readers rave about her Selection series. I picked this ARC up in curiosity as I wanted to know what her writing is like.

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, Romance

Blurb:

When King Jameson declares his love for Lady Hollis Brite, Hollis is shocked—and thrilled. After all, she’s grown up at Keresken Castle, vying for the king’s attention alongside other daughters of the nobility. Capturing his heart is a dream come true.

But Hollis soon realizes that falling in love with a king and being crowned queen may not be the happily ever after she thought it would be. And when she meets a commoner with the mysterious power to see right into her heart, she finds that the future she really wants is one that she never thought to imagine.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed the old-world setting of the novel even though it is set in an environment that is not of this world; it is a setting that young readers this would enjoy. Life at Court is described, as are beautiful dresses and manners. The main character seems to be a social butterfly and not have any substance to her. It is for this reason that my interest, at the beginning of the novel, was not securely captured.

The Hollis falls in love. From the moment she realises that she is in love, Hollis has a choice which she needs to make. An it is from this moment that I realised the protagonist does have a sense of character. From the time Hollis makes a choice, I was drawn into the story and found it to be more interesting.

The Betrothed is the first in the series – and it reads as such. The book ends on a cliffhanger and reading the next novel is essential to knowing what happens in the story. The writing style is perfect for young girls who enjoy reading romance novels. They will feel a number of emotions when reading: awe, happiness, and sadness. I suspect, too, that they will see a woman who grows strong from her experience and who will work through obstacles to do what is right.

I am curious enough to pick up the next novel in the series – I want to want to know how the story will continue. And hopefully the second novel in the series will capture my interest from the first page.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 48th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Thorn by Intisar Khanani

When at the OLA Super Conference earlier on in the year, I picked up Thorn by Intisar Khanani out of curiosity. I am always interested in reading fantasy novels and this one contained a retelling of a little known fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Retellings

Blurb:

For Princess Alyrra, choice is a luxury she’s never had … until she’s betrayed.

Princess Alyrra has never enjoyed the security or power of her rank. Between her family’s cruelty and the court’s contempt, she has spent her life in the shadows. Forced to marry a powerful foreign prince, Alyrra embarks on a journey to meet her betrothed with little hope for a better future.

But powerful men have powerful enemies–and now, so does Alyrra. Betrayed during a magical attack, her identity is switched with another woman’s, giving Alyrra the first choice she’s ever had: to start a new life for herself or fight for a prince she’s never met. But Alyrra soon finds that Prince Kestrin is not at all what she expected. While walking away will cost Kestrin his life, returning to the court may cost Alyrra her own. As Alyrra is coming to realize, sometime the hardest choice means learning to trust herself.

My thoughts:

I loved this novel and am not surprised that this Indie author’s work was picked up by a large publishing house. Thorn is a retelling of The Goose Girl, a fairy tale that had been written by the Brothers Grimm. Khanani does an excellent job at recreating the story and putting her own twist on it.

Thorn is a commentary on the social structures that exist in our society; and the divide that exists between the rich and the poor. in addition, references are made to the abuse and treatment of women – and how often abuse is ignored. Through the depiction of women abuse, Khanani asks what is Law, and who is meant to benefit from it. This story is more than just about a girl and her experience in a foreign city.

Alyrra is a character who is well-developed and experiences growth i the story. Not only does she realise things about herself, but she also becomes more aware of her surroundings and of the way in which the society she lives in operates. She comes to realise, as well, that she has a responsibility to uphold the rights of its citizens; and that she can do her duty to society with the strength of others. I enjoyed reading of Alyrra’s growth and the path she takes to find her inner strength.

Thorn is an excellent example of the Fantasy genre and I would recommend reading it with no reservation.

PS: There is a short story at the end of the novel which shows how so much can be said in a few pages!

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 40th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Beckonng Shadow by Katharyn Blair

For my third audiobook since the stay-at-home mandate, I chose to listen to The Beckoning Shadow by Katharyn Blair. I chose the novel for a number of reasons: it is a fantasy, the cover is striking, and it was immediately available from the library.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Format: Audiobook

Blurb:

The Magicians meets Fight Club in this heart-stopping contemporary fantasy stand-alone about a teen girl with special powers who seeks redemption through a dangerous tournament that guarantees the winner a chance to undo the past. Perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare and The Young Elites, and written by debut author Katharyn Blair.

Vesper Montgomery can summon your worst fear and turn it into a reality-but she’s learned the hard way that it’s an addictive and dangerous power. One wrong move and you could hurt someone you love.

But when she earns a spot in the Tournament of the Unraveling, where competitors battle it out for a chance to rewrite the past, Vesper finally has a shot to reverse the mistakes that have changed her forever. She turns to Sam Hardy, a former MMA fighter who’s also carrying a tragedy he desperately wants to undo. However, helping heal Sam’s heart will mean breaking her own, and the competition forces her to master her powers-powers she has been terrified of since they destroyed her life.

My thoughts:

I am slowly being converted to the enjoyment of audiobooks as I can enjoy the stories that have been written by authors while being creative myself (I listened to this one while working on my bullet journal). This audiobook, however, introduced me to the fact that the narrator’s voice does have an impact on my appreciation of the story.

The voice of the narrator for this audiobook I found to be too forceful. Her tone often felt aggressive and I felt myself wondering whether I would have received the impression of aggression if I had read the text of the novel instead of listening to it. There were times, too, when I felt the narrator did not pause at the correct moments in her reading of the text.

While listening to the story, I felt the main character came off as whiny – and the storytelling to be a bit repetitive. Again I wonder if I would have felt this way if I had read the novel myself. I felt I could not connect with the main character as, on some level, I had the sense that she was immature and did not grow at all during the story.

The Beckoning Shadow was an ordinary story for me and did not capture my imagination. It is not a story I will listen to again and am not that interested in reading/listening to the sequel.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 38th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold

When I saw that Elana K. Arnold had brought out another book titled Red Hood, I purchased a copy without even looking at the blurb. I had enjoyed her previous novel and looked forward to reading this one.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Retellings

Blurb:

Since her grandmother became her caretaker when she was four years old, Bisou Martel has lived a quiet life in a little house in Seattle. She’s kept mostly to herself. She’s been good. But then comes the night of homecoming, when she finds herself running for her life over roots and between trees, a fury of claws and teeth behind her. A wolf attacks. Bisou fights back. A new moon rises. And with it, questions. About the blood in Bisou’s past and on her hands as she stumbles home. About broken boys and vicious wolves. About girls lost in the woods—frightened, but not alone.

My thoughts:

Red Hood is a fantasy retelling of the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood. The novel was the second I had read by this author and I loved it! So much so that I completed it in one sitting.

The entire story is told in the second person – as if someone is recounting the story to the main character. It is an unusual technique but one that works for the story – it is almost as if we are seeing the events through the eyes of another person (as we would if we were watching a film).

The references in the novel are symbolic: the Wolf is the symbol men who prey on women and abuse them; the Hunter is the symbol of the women who stand up for and protect these women. It is interesting to note that, unlike in the original story, the Hunter is a woman and not a man whose role it is to save the woman.

The thread running throughout the story is that women are the ones who can save women – women are the ones who have the interests of other women at heart. The story also shows that women can band together to support one another and fight against the abuse of their kind.

I loved this book for its symbolism as well as for its reflection of women’s empowerment. Red Hood is the second Young Adult novel I have read by Elana K. Arnold – and it won’t be my last.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 33rd novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Bloom by Kenneth Oppel

I have enjoyed Kenneth Oppel’s middle grade novels in the past and was excited to receive a signed copy of his latest, Bloom, at the OLA Super Conference this year. The line was long and I spent a long time in it but the wait was worth it.

Genre: Middle Grade, Young Adult, Science Fiction

Blurb:

They take over fields and twine around houses. They bloom and throw off toxic pollen—and feed.

Strangely, three Salt Spring Island teens seem immune. Anaya, Petra and Seth. What’s their connection? What’s their secret? A week ago, they wouldn’t have thought they had one.

But they’d better figure it out fast—the invasion has already begun.

My thoughts:

I loved this book so much that I read it in one sitting! The novel is fast-paced and filled with tension – I could not help but turn the pages. Bloom is an excellent choice to get children reading: it is filled with adventure and tension featuring middle grade children.

Children and adults are fighting for survival on the planet. We don’t read much about what the adults are doing – but the group of children featured in this story are doing plenty. They are getting to know one another – and to know their own strengths in a changing world. All three characters (Anaya, Petra and Seth) are good role models and show children that they could contribute in a situation no matter what their strengths and social status.

Oppel has done it again! He has created a story that will engage readers with the written page. Bloom is the first book in a trilogy and I cannot wait to read the next installment.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 25th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Rules For Being A Girl by Candace Bushnell and Kate Cotugno

The title Rules Being A Girl enticed me and when Harper Collins Canada sent me the ARC for the recent novel by Candace Bushnell and Kate Cotugno, I was very pleased.

Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Feminism

Blurb:

It starts before you can even remember: you learn the rules for being a girl.

Marin has always been good at navigating these unspoken guidelines. A star student and editor of the school paper, she dreams of getting into Brown University. Marin’s future seems bright―and her young, charismatic English teacher, Mr. Beckett, is always quick to admire her writing and talk books with her.

But when “Bex” takes things too far and comes on to Marin, she’s shocked and horrified. Had she somehow led him on? Was it her fault?

When Marin works up the courage to tell the administration what happened, no one believes her. She’s forced to face Bex in class every day. Except now, he has an ax to grind.

But Marin isn’t about to back down. She uses the school newspaper to fight back and she starts a feminist book club at school. She finds allies in the most unexpected people, like “slutty” Gray Kendall, who she’d always dismissed as just another lacrosse bro. As things heat up at school and in her personal life, Marin must figure out how to take back the power and write her own rules. 

My thoughts:

I loved this novel right from the moment I read the first page. Rules For Being A Girl is such an important book for emerging women to read..

The story shows us the thought processes a teenage girl could go through when a male teacher makes sexual advances towards her. Marin felt in some way that the sexual advances were her fault and, because of this, she questions all of her actions from the past. It was interesting for me to compare the way Marin responds to her teacher’s advances to the way in which Vanessa in My Dark Vanessa responds to similar advances.

The novel centres on the way in which Marin processes her experience – and what she learns from it. From the responses to her teacher’s actions ( her own and others), Marin learns a lot about herself and about society. The far-reaching implications of the sexual advances are highlighted for both Marin and the teacher.

In the story, Marin learns more about herself and about the solidarity of women in society. She comes to realise that this solidarity can be shown in different ways. Rules For Being A Girl also highlights the need for women to support each other in small ways; and shows that feminism can be expressed in different ways.

Bushnell & Cotugno have written a novel that is a must-read for all teenage girls on the cusp of womanhood. It is a novel that will encourage them to think of the type of woman they want to be; as well as how they could respond to patriarchal assumptions and expectations.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 23rd novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: All The King’s Traitors by Keylin Rivers

My final read during February was All The King’s Traitors by Keylin Rivers. The novel is a fantasy story written by an indie author who contacted me to read and review her novel. I did so with no reservation as I do like to support independent authors.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Dystopian

Blurb:

Over a thousand years have passed since the first Godstones ripped through the skies and mangled the earth. With their fall came centuries of chaos and destruction, but also immense power.

Power that separates humans from Gods.

Now, in the Kingdom of Azanthea, two adoptive brothers flee from unjust conscription.

A fugitive struggles to truly be free.

A double-crossing warrior must choose where his allegiances lie: with his wife or with his daughter.

A traitorous heir to the Kingdom’s throne roams the lands in search of an army to call his own.

A prodigy in the House of Historian competes in a grueling trial to prove her loyalty.

And one God-King rules over them all.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed reading this novel from the fist chapter as I got to know the world and the characters that inhabit it. I did wish for a map insert when I began reading but was soon able to familiarise myself with the world described without it. The story does have a dystopian feel to it as characters often refer to the life humans previously lived.

Rivers creates vivid images with her use of words which enabled me to imagine the world in which her characters live. As with all fantasy series, there are a number of characters to learn about. At no time, though, was I confused and instead grew curious as to how they would all connect. The author’s pacing is perfect as she slowly shows the connections throughout the novel. The connections make sense and left me wondering how they would all pan out.

The novel ends on a cliffhanger – and has left me wanting more! The story slowly builds towards it and leaves the reader with so many questions. These questions are generated naturally and are in no way forced.

Will I continue reading the series? Yes, I definitely will. Not only because the story has left me with unanswered questions, but also because the story is well written. I look forward to the publication of the second book in the series and to my continued enjoyed of the Highwings series. This novel is perfect for fans of Fantasy fiction and for those who enjoy reading series. In addition, you would be supporting an independent author.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 18th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Upside of Falling by Alex Light

While at the OLA conference, I passed by an ARC of The Upside of Falling by Alex Light. The cover of the novel attracted me so I decided to pick it up. Once I had read the blurb, I thought it would be a pleasant read for the month of February.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Romance

Blurb:

It’s been years since seventeen-year-old Becca Hart believed in true love. But when her former best friend teases her for not having a boyfriend, Becca impulsively pretends she’s been secretly seeing someone.

Brett Wells has it all. Being captain of the football team and one of the most popular guys in school, he should have no problem finding someone to date, but he’s always been more focused on his future than who to bring to prom. When he overhears Becca’s lie, Brett decides to step in and be her mystery guy. It’s the perfect solution: he gets people off his back for not dating and she can keep up the ruse.

Acting like the perfect couple isn’t easy though, especially when you barely know the other person. But with Becca still picking up the pieces from when her world was blown apart years ago and Brett just barely holding his together now, they begin to realize they have more in common than they ever could have imagined. When the line between real and pretend begins to blur, they are forced to answer the question: is this fake romance the realest thing in either of their lives?

My thoughts:

The Upside of Falling was the perfect lighthearted, feel good read. The story is told from two points of view – both Becca and Brett. During the story, the reader sees how both characters evolve and come to certain realisations. They learn to accept changes in their lives, and how to move on despite these changes.

The novel describes the first love of Becca, a bookish nerd. It is a love that is unexpected and sweet. In the story Becca finds her voice and learns to express her feelings. It is interesting to note that Brett, the boy she learns to love, also discovers his own voice. The Upside of Falling shows that, with a friend’s support, changes in life can be managed and you can find the courage to have your say.

I loved this novel and read it in one sitting. The characters drew me in and I became invested in their story. Alex Light has written a perfectly paced story that embraces the beauty of first love and the growth of a person into who they will become. This novel is a perfect read for a romantic and for those who enjoy reading about the experience of a first young love.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 14th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid by Kate Hattemer

I managed to pick up a copy of The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid by Kate Hattemer at the OLA conference. Both the cover and the title intrigued me.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary

Blurb:

A novel about friendship, feminism, and the knotty complications of tradition and privilege, perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli and Stephanie Perkins.

Jemima Kincaid is a feminist, and she thinks you should be one too. Her private school is laden with problematic traditions, but the worst of all is prom. The guys have all the agency; the girls have to wait around for promposals (she’s speaking heteronormatively because only the hetero kids even go). In Jemima’s (very opionated) opinion, it’s positively medieval.

Then Jemima is named to Senior Triumvirate, alongside superstar athlete Andy and popular, manicured Gennifer, and the three must organize prom. Inspired by her feminist ideals and her desire to make a mark on the school, Jemima proposes a new structure. They’ll do a Last Chance Dance: every student privately submits a list of crushes to a website that pairs them with any mutual matches.

Meanwhile, Jemima finds herself embroiled in a secret romance that she craves and hates all at once. Her best friend, Jiyoon, has found romance of her own, but Jemima starts to suspect something else has caused the sudden rift between them. And is the new prom system really enough to extinguish the school’s raging dumpster fire of toxic masculinity?

Filled with Kate Hattemer’s signature banter, this is a fast-paced and thoughtful tale about the nostalgia of senior year, the muddle of modern relationships, and how to fight the patriarchy when you just might be part of the patriarchy yourself.

My thoughts:

The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid is a novel about an emerging young woman who learns to take a look at herself and at the way other people see her. Jemima learns that she needs to take a step back and think about what – and who – is important to her and who she wants to have in her life.

As suggested in the title, the concept of feminism plays a role in the novel. Jemima comes to understand what true feminism is. It is not about being the antithesis of femininity. Instead, it is about knowing who you are, being comfortable with it, and supporting other women who express themselves in ways that are comfortable to them. She comes to realise that a woman can be feminine – and still fight the patriarchy. She also comes to the realisation that her reactions might just be supporting the patriarchal system.

Hattemer has shared with us a story that is a life story – not a love story. It is a story that centres on the message that girls can empower and support one another in subtle ways and, in so doing, work against the patriarchal system.

The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid is a coming of age novel that is a perfect read for those thinking about what type of person they want to be in our society. It is also a story which shows the importance of supporting other young women.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 16th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Auto Buy Author: Elana K. Arnold

When browsing at my local bookstore this past weekend, I came across a book written by an author whose debut novel I enjoyed (Damsel was a five star read for me). Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold had just hit the shelves and I picked it up eagerly.

The novel is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood and features a strong female character. I am looking forward to reading this one and have put it on my March TBR.

Have you read Elana K. Arnold’s books?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018