A New World?

PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook

The view under the iron-rusted beam was breathtaking. None of the stories had prepared them for the sight. The air felt fresh; the sun warm on their backs. Born in the bowels of the earth, they felt a freedom their generation had never experienced: the chance to move unhindered along the sandy beach, to shout out with the joy for life.

“Dare we go?”

“If it weren’t safe, surely we would be dead by now?”

The rebels stepped hesitantly onto the textured sand. Bliss! Even if they were to suffer from radiation exposure, this moment in time was worth it.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This post was inspired by Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle. The challenge asks for bloggers to write a story in 100 words or less in response to the photo prompt.)

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Book Review: Still Mine by Amy Stuart

A while back I read Still Water by Amy Stuart (book review here) and realised that it was the second book in a series. I enjoyed the book and decided that I wanted to read the first novel titled Still Mine.

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Blurb:

Clare is on the run.

From her past, from her ex, and from her own secrets. When she turns up alone in the remote mining town of Blackmore asking about Shayna Fowles, the local girl who disappeared, everyone wants to know who Clare really is and what she’s hiding. As it turns out, she’s hiding a lot, including what ties her to Shayna in the first place. But everyone in this place is hiding something from Jared, Shayna’s golden-haired ex-husband, to Charlie, the charming small-town drug pusher, to Derek, Shayna’s overly involved family doctor, to Louise and Wilfred, her distraught parents.

Did Shayna flee? Was she killed? Is it possible she’s still alive?

As Clare uncovers the mysteries around Shayna’s disappearance, she must confront her own demons, moving us deeper and deeper into the labyrinth of lies and making us question what it is she’s really running from. Twisting and electrifying, this is a get-under-your-skin thriller that will make you question what it means to lose yourself and find yourself in the most unlikely places.

My thoughts:

Still Mine was Amy Stuart’s debut novel and I regret not having read it before her second as some of the suspense she created In this story was ruined as I knew some of what would happen. Having said that, I still enjoyed the story between the pages.

The story is more than about a missing woman; it is also about an abused woman (Clare) who is running away from a violent husband. Throughout the novel, these two threads are interwoven as we learn about the two women. For me, Clare’s story was interesting as she attempts to make a new life for herself. I enjoyed reading her story (as I did in the second) and I look forward to reading the third book in the series (which I know the writer is currently working on). Shayna’s story seems almost to be a backdrop to Clare’s – but it is interesting as well and ends in an unexpected way.

Still Mine is not the type of psychological thriller that will have you biting your fingernails. Instead it follows more the pattern of a mystery with Clare as the character who is searching to solve the puzzle. Stuart’s novel is a well-written tale that is easy to read.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 31st in my book pledge for 2019)

Grateful for BFF Time

Saturday morning dawned with grey skies and the promise of a wet day. The gloomy morning, however, did not dampen my spirits as I was to see my best friend. We had connected on the first day I took my daughter to school soon after we had landed in Toronto. We had bonded while our children played in the park. Now those children are finished high school and we still meet to share our thoughts and experiences.

We decided to take ourselves out for brunch and went to a restaurant that serves all day breakfasts. The meal we chose was delicious, the eggs cooked to perfection. Time was of no consequence as we chatted about our daily lives, what we had read, and what we hoped to do in the near future. I savoured the moment as I knew the next time I would see her would be in a few months time.

After eating, the rain prevented us from taking a walk so we went into Starbucks to continue our conversation. Eventually the time came when we had to return home and to our familial responsibilities. Meeting up with my friend was definitely a treat. I am grateful that she took the time to come down and spend a day with me.

What are you grateful for this week?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This post is part of my weekly gratitude reflection)

Book Review: Love and Other Curses by Michael Thomas Ford

At the Spring event of Frenzy Presents held by Harper Collins Publishers earlier this year, I was lucky to receive an ARC of Love and Other Curses by Michael Thomas Ford. The blurb of the book suggested that the story would be fun to read as well as a little different.

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Blurb:

The Weyward family has been haunted by a curse for generations—if a Weyward falls in love before their seventeenth birthday, the person they love dies. Sam doesn’t plan to fall for anyone in the nine weeks before his birthday. He’ll spend his time working at the Eezy-Freeze with his dad; cooking up some midsummer magic with his grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother (the Grands); and experimenting with drag with the help of the queens at the Shangri-La, the local gay club. But when a new guy comes to town, Sam finds himself in trouble when they strike up a friendship that might be way more than that.

As Sam’s birthday approaches and he still hasn’t quite fallen in love, the curse seems to get more powerful and less specific about who it targets. A mysterious girl Sam talks to on the phone late at night and a woman he’s only seen in a dream might have the answers he’s been looking for—but time is running out to save the people he cares about.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed reading this light-hearted story that centres on a young man who learns about himself through his relationship with others. Not only does he comes to realises who he is, he also discovers what his drag persona is to be. The brief entry that this story gives into the world of the drag queen is a fun and enjoyable one (so much so, that I wished we saw more of this world). Sam learns what is important is his own life as well as realises who plays an important part in his life.

This contemporary young adult read is a perfect story for young teens as they will read about a character who experiences the difficulties of knowing oneself. The young reader will also explore the different aspects of the relationships we have in our lives. Ford’s story also shows the importance of family and how they can support you – even when you are unaware of it. This novel is a beautifully written story that can be enjoyed by adults and teens alike.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 30th in my book pledge for 2019)

Top 5 Mind-Blowing Thrillers

I enjoy reading a good psychological thriller – the twistier, the better. I love the nail-biting tension and the unexpected surprises left for me by the writer. I have some novels on my bookshelf that I picked out for this post with no hesitation.

The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton

Karen Hamilton’s debut novel kept me on the edge of my seat. I could not believe the obsessive nature of the main character and I had to see what she would do next – and whether she would get away with it! This twisty story is well written and I cannot wait to see what this author will write next.

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn

This novel is a story that would make an excellent film – and I was excited to learn that the rights to the story have been bought by film makers. The story – which touches on mental health issues – had some unexpected surprises within its ages. I loved it! Finn is another author who has published only one novel thus far.

Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

Karin Slaughter is one of my go-to writers for thrillers. She adroitly teases the reader and takes you along the unknown path right until the end of the story. Pieces of Her is her last published novel and I am looking forward to her next.

I Know You Know by Gilly MacMillan

Gilly MacMillan is another author that I buy with no hesitation. Like her other novels, I Know You Know is a twisty story with a surprise ending and one I did not see coming. I cannot wait for her soon to be released novel that will be available this year.

All The Wrong Places by Joy Fielding

The most recent novel by Joy Fielding confirmed why this author is known for her thrillers. There is not one novel of hers that has disappointed me. The new story has cleverly used the theme of online dating to explore a possible danger. Loved it!

Have you enjoyed any of these thrillers, or authors?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This post is linked to Bionic Book Worm and the Top 5 Tuesday challenge. This week we are listing the top 5 mind-blowing thrillers).

A Weekend of Relaxation

The Easter weekend is over and so is my time of relaxation. During these past four days, I took some time out for myself and recharged my batteries a little. I spent time with an old friend, lingered over dinner with my family, and did a fair amount of reading.

This year I did not buy Easter eggs and bunnies for my family. While looking at what was on offer in the supermarket, I decided instead to buy each member at home a small bag of Lindt ball chocolates. The smooth texture of the hazelnut filling is so much better that the sugary sweetness of most commercial Easter chocolate. My husband loved the idea and will enjoy the treats with his tea after supper in the evenings.

The long weekend, the stories I read, and the fact I did not eat too much sugar were definitely things to smile about.

Did you enjoy the Easter weekend?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This post is linked to Trent’s Weekly Smile challenge.)

Book Review: The Object of Your Affections by Falguni Kothari

While at the OLA Super Conference in February, I picked up an ARC of The Object of Your Affections by Falguni Kothari at the Harper Collins booth. The story intrigued me as it is a little different to what one would expect of a romance – it is definitely a story that pushes the social boundaries.

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

Paris Kahn Fraser has it all—a successful career as an assistant district attorney, a beautiful home in New York City, and a handsome, passionate husband who chose her over having a family of his own. Neal’s dream of fatherhood might have been the only shadow in their otherwise happy life…until Paris’s best friend comes to town.

Naira Dalmia never thought she’d be a widow before thirty. Left reeling in the aftermath of her husband’s death, all she wants is to start over. She trades Mumbai for New York, and rigid family expectations for the open acceptance of her best friend. After all, there isn’t anything she and Paris wouldn’t do for each other.

But when Paris asks Naira to be their surrogate, they’ll learn if their friendship has what it takes to defy society, their families and even their own biology as these two best friends embark on a journey that will change their lives forever.

My thoughts:

I liked this story because it centres around an unusual concept – the main character asks her best friend to be her surrogate even though she is able to bear children. It is interesting to see how the people in her life respond to her out-of-the-box thinking. As the reader, I was asked to think of my own prejudices and consider the unusual arrangement Paris wishes to embrace – and think about whether this sort of arrangement would actually work in reality.

Paris is a character who does not embody my favourite type of person. She is self-centred, selfish and arrogant. She focuses on what she wants and how she c attain in it. She does, however, come to a few realisations in the novel about herself. She does not, however, become a selfless woman who abandons her desires. Instead, her self-realisation softens her arrogance a little and helps her to consider other important aspects in her life. Naira, on the other hand, is a woman who allows things to be done to her and does not fight for what she wants. That is, until she is physically away from her domineering family. She, too, grows in the story and blossoms into a more modern woman.

The Object of Your Affections is a novel that show the antithesis between two types of two women. While showing a culture in which women are expected to behave in a certain way, it highlights how women are starting to find ways to achieve what it is they want in modern society. Kothari wrote a romance novel but she put a different spin on it. It is romance in modern society; romance that breaks all the expected moulds.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 29th in my book pledge for 2019)

Weekend Coffee Share: A Long Weekend

If we were having coffee, I would wish you a wonderful Easter – or Passover – if that is what you celebrate at this time of year. This weekend has not only been a time of reflection, but also a period in which to relax. I have been feeling quite tired recently and looked forward to 4 days of no work.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that Friday afternoon was spent sleeping. After my nap, I left the papers I had brought home to correct in my bag. They still remain carefully organised on the sofa and will probably see light of day tomorrow. I am a little behind on my marking and will take the opportunity during this long weekend to catch up a little while listening to some music.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that yesterday I met up with a close friend of mine. It had been a while since I had last seen her and we spent hours talking. How I wish we lived nearer to one another so that we could meet up more often. Good friends are definitely treasures to have in one’s life and, to me, she is definitely one of my favourite people.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that now my girls are older, I no longer organise an Easter egg hunt for them. I also do not buy them loads of chocolate. This year I offered each family member a small packet of Lindt chocolates instead of the requisite Easter rabbits and chocolate eggs. These chocolates will definitely be savoured more, I think, than the sugary offerings that line the store shelves.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I am finally going to take the time to figure out how to download/upload some of the music that I have chosen for my practical exam. I currently have 40 minutes of Zumba choreography and will soon I will have enough for an entire class. Maybe another month of practice and I will be ready? On Thursday my Zumba instructor asked me to take over her class quickly for a song – and happily I remembered all of the dance moves! 🙂

If we were having coffee, I would wish you a wonderful week ahead. Schools are closed on Monday so I will have another day at home. 🙂

What would you tell me if we were having coffee?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This post is linked to Eclectic Alli and the Weekend Coffee Share)

Reunion

“The ribs are great here!”

We entered the noisy and dim-lit restaurant. The hum of chatter enveloped us as the server showed us to our table. I was not keen on meeting with the others, the ‘friends’ from high school. I recalled hurtful comments and intentional slights that had battered my self-esteem. Ethan and the others had seen it as fun, gentle teasing but many of their comments had cut to the bone. Ten years later, I still could not believe that I was with Ethan. Back then, he had been my crush and I had been a source for his amusement. Now we spent every moment that we could together.

The group welcomed my boyfriend to the table with cheers and plenty of backslapping. The girls ignored our linked hands and draped themselves over the alpha male. As the moments passed, I felt myself shrinking back into my high school persona. Ethan did not notice the moment my hand slipped away to reside in my jacket pocket. Hunched over at the end of the group, I tried to make myself as small as possible in order to avoid notice and the malicious ribbing that will surely follow.

Once the enthusiastic greetings were over, Ethan’s hand found mine and linked our fingers. He pulled me in to sit next to him, dislodging the ex-cheerleader who had always clung to him in the corridors of our high school. I noticed her disgruntled look and braced myself for the acerbic comment that would follow.

“You all remember Mayah?” Ethan put his arm around my shoulders and tucked me in closer. “Can you believe this beautiful creature has forgiven me and has agreed to be my wife?”

Silence greeted Ethan’s announcement. Years may have passed, but certain facts do not change. I am still of a different race and culture. I am still an oddity with my lisping accent and my dreams of a united world. But some things do change. I am now a well-known figure in the fight for the rights of immigrants. My name is bandied about in courtrooms and on social media. And I am now the love of the alpha male of our teenage group.

I look at Ethan and he winks at me. I realise then that he knew how hard this meeting was for me and, in his own way, he has tried to set things right. As the evening continues, I notice the ‘team’ treating me with a deference that they had not before; especially when Ethan proudly tells them of my work. I see a different side to my love, a side that makes me adore him even more.

Ethan was right. The ribs were good. And as I left the restaurant with my fiance, I knew we would never see our old high school friends again.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This post is linked to Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday challenge)

A Taste of Mushrooms

Sometimes I get bored with cooking the same meals every week for my family. A couple of weeks ago, I had a desire to eat a creamy mushroom sauce and decided to experiment. I put together the ingredients which I thought would go well together and added some white wine into the mix. The result was tasty and my family enjoyed it. This week, I tried to make the recipe again.

Chicken cooked in a mushroom sauce. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

The meal on Tuesday was even better than I had previously made as the chicken was not overcooked. Instead the meat was tender without falling off of the bone. I savoured the flavour of the mushrooms in wine and was happy when the last bit of the meal was scraped off the bottom of the pot. This dish will be added to my repertoire of dishes to make after a busy day at work as it did not take too long to cook. Hopefully the next time I get bored with my cooking, it will be during my summer break and I will have the time to try a recipe from one of my cookbooks.

What made you smile this week?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This post is linked to Trent’s Weekly Smile challenge.)