Favourite Read of the Month: November 2018

During the month of October, I read 7 books for this year’s Book Pledge, bringing my total for read books this year to 83. I am wondering whether I will be able to read 100 books this year – so near and yet so far! – but that means I will have to read 17 books total. Even though I am on break, I do not think I will manage it. Maybe 90 books.

The titles I read in November are listed below. To read my reviews (if you haven’t already), click on the title in the following list:

  1. Beartown by Fredrik Backman – contemporary fiction ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars
  2. Us Against You by Fredrik Backman – contemporary fiction ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars
  3. The Silver Queen by Josie Jaffrey – dystopian, fantasy, vampires ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars
  4. Pride by Ibi Zoboi – young adult, contemporary ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars
  5. Damsel by Elana K. Arnold – young adult, fantasy ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars
  6. The Life Lucy Knew by Karma Brown – women’s fiction, contemporary ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars
  7. Bring Me Back by B. A. Paris – thriller, psychological thriller, suspense ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars

Reflecting on my choice of reads for the past month, I realise that I have two favourites: Beartown by Fredrik Backman as well as Damsel by Elana K. Arnold. Both novels feature the strength of women and how they find the strength within themselves to change what has been done to them by a man. Even though I love the fantasy novel Damsel, I do choose Beartown to be my book of the month. The novel focuses on so many issues, and it made me feel so many emotions while reading it.

What was your favourite read in November? Share your choice, or the link to your post, below.

Favourite Read of the Month:

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

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It Finally Arrived!

Yesterday when I got home I saw that I had bookmail. I have been waiting a couple of weeks for this parcel to arrive but with the rotating postal strike as well as online Christmas shopping, it took an age to get to my place. The parcel was sent to me by the person who runs the blogger programme at Harper Collins Canada. Not only did she send me three Young Adult books to read and review, but she also sent me an invitation to an event early next year to meet one of the authors.

Bookmail – with an invitation. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

The bookmail brought a smile to my face – as will reading the books I received (which I will be reading in the next few weeks).

weeklysmile2aDo you enjoy receiving bookmail?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This post was inspired by Trent’s Weekly Smile, a challenge which focuses on sharing all things positive.)

Book Review: Bring Me Back by B. A. Paris

I decided to dip into the third B. A. Paris novel that my colleague had given to me to read – Bring Me Back, he most recent novel.

Genre: Psychological Thriller, Thriller, Suspense

Blurb: 

Finn and Layla are young, in love, and on vacation. They’re driving along the highway when Finn decides to stop at a service station to use the restroom. He hops out of the car, locks the doors behind him, and goes inside. When he returns Layla is gone—never to be seen again. That is the story Finn told to the police. But it is not the whole story.

Ten years later Finn is engaged to Layla’s sister, Ellen. Their shared grief over what happened to Layla drew them close and now they intend to remain together. Still, there’s something about Ellen that Finn has never fully understood. His heart wants to believe that she is the one for him…even though a sixth sense tells him not to trust her.

Then, not long before he and Ellen are to be married, Finn gets a phone call. Someone from his past has seen Layla—hiding in plain sight. There are other odd occurrences: Long-lost items from Layla’s past that keep turning up around Finn and Ellen’s house. Emails from strangers who seem to know too much. Secret messages, clues, warnings. If Layla is alive—and on Finn’s trail—what does she want? And how much does she know?

A tour de force of psychological suspense, Bring Me Back will have you questioning everything and everyone until its stunning climax.

My thoughts: 

My colleague loved this title so I settled myself in for a thrilling read. B. A. Paris did not disappoint. The story was gripping, with small tidbits handed out to the reader that kept me guessing. No sooner did I think I had guessed the solution to the mystery of Layla, then the author blindsided me with another tidbit. I loved it! If this book were a film, I would have been biting on my fingernails as the tension created by her words is gripping. And the best part? The ending was not at all what a reader would expect.

Like my colleague, I am now a fan of B. A. Paris. Her fast-paced and twisty novel has convinced me that her debut novel was not a once-off thing. Instead, this is the third time that she has succeeded in causing me to leave all other things unattended and read. I am looking forward to seeing what she will bring out next.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 83rd in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Music Monday: A Dance in the Past

On Saturday at my Shab’am dance exercise class, the teacher mixed into her playlist some songs that took us way back. The songs have good memories for me and it was fun to dance to them. The first song that took me back was Starships:

The other song that took me back was Rick Martin’s She Bangs. I remember dancing to this with my friends and having such fun.

Our teacher has promised that she will keep these songs on her playlist for another week so we can look forward to dancing to them next Saturday. 🙂

What songs have taken you back to the past this week?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

Weekend Coffee Share: A Desire to Recharge

Join us for some coffee time!

If we were having coffee, I would greet you with a tired smile. I am looking forward to the winter break for then I can rest and recharge my batteries. This is an exciting time of year for the children and their constant energy tires me a little. Most children in my class are looking forward to Santa depositing gifts at the Christmas tree; and all children are looking forward to two weeks at home with no school. Yes, two more weeks and we can all have a little break.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I have bought all my gifts for the great day – and that most of what I can put in the freezer has been stored. Now I need to buy wrapping paper and tape and then spend time getting the gifts ready for everyone. I bought all of the gifts within walking distance of my home so I did not need to get on buses and spend time travelling to buy what I wanted. I was so pleased when I  found what I was looking for at the stores nearby.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that this week looks to be a busy one at work. On Tuesday, the entire school is going out for the annual movie day to see The Grinch. As can be expected, my class is looking forward to it. When we get back, we will all have lunch and then we will spend the rest of the afternoon working on our Holiday door. Previous experience has shown me that I cannot do anything too academic as the children are all hyper from the field trip.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that Wednesday after school is our staff Holiday party. We will be celebrating at a local restaurant. And eating Mexican food. I will tell you next week all about the food. We don’t get much chance to socialise with colleagues so it will quite a social event.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I blogged a little more this week – and even managed to write a flash fiction which I haven’t done in a while (titled Approaching Change) I have missed writing and need to make an effort to get back to it. I will try to write another piece this week – my creative writing muscles need to be flexed!

If we were having coffee, I would wish you a wonderful week. Mine will be chilly as we have had snowfall and it feels like winter.

What would you tell me if we were having coffee?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

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

Book Review: The Life Lucy Knew by Karma Brown

I attended an event at the Harper Collins Canada offices and had the opportunity to hear Karma Brown speak about her novel The Life Lucy Knew. The synopsis intrigued me and I was interested to hear what would develop in the story.

Genre: Women’s fiction, Contemporary, Romance

Blurb: 

One woman is about to discover everything she believes-knows-to be true about her life…isn’t.

After hitting her head, Lucy Sparks awakens in the hospital to a shocking revelation: the man she’s known and loved for years-the man she recently married-is not actually her husband. In fact, they haven’t even spoken since their breakup four years earlier. The happily-ever-after she remembers in vivid detail-right down to the dress she wore to their wedding-is only one example of what her doctors call a false memory: recollections Lucy’s mind made up to fill in the blanks from the coma.

Her psychologist explains the condition as honest lying, because while Lucy’s memories are false, they still feel incredibly real. Now she has no idea which memories she can trust-a devastating experience not only for Lucy, but also for her family, friends and especially her devoted boyfriend, Matt, whom Lucy remembers merely as a work colleague.

When the life Lucy believes she had slams against the reality she’s been living for the past four years, she must make a difficult choice about which life she wants to lead, and who she really is.

My thoughts: 

The synopsis of this novel intrigued me: what would happen if someone forgot moments of their life and confused their own memories with that of others? I believe that a lot of people would be upset, and that it would be a roller coaster of emotions for the person experiencing the memory loss. It is this continuous charge of emotions a person would feel that Karma Brown so aptly portrays. The reader gets to experience Lucy’s utter conviction that her false memories are real; and reads with understanding the seesaw of emotions that the protagonist feels as she tries to sift through what is real and what is not real.

While reading Lucy’s story, my heart felt for her. It wept at those moments when Lucy realised, on her own, that the memories she currently held so dear had been mixed up and were not what she believed them to be. While reading the story, I kept hoping that she would end up where she was meant to be and where she had been before her accident. It was this hope that kept me turning the pages of the novel.

The Life Lucy Knew is a romance – but a romance with a difference. Girl had already met boy – but she had forgotten what he had meant to her. The novel is about a girl following her heart and finding, once again, where she is meant to be – and with whom. Lucy’s story is written with a sensitivity that readers of emotional reads will enjoy. It is a story that will touch your heart.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 82nd in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Approaching Change

PHOTO PROMPT © Dawn M. Miller

As the train approached the tunnel, the driver pulled on the horn. The abrasive sound was a grim reminder to Becky that her life was about to change. Irrefutably. Her parents’ death meant a change of family, of home, of language, of country. Her eyes scanned the flashing countryside through the window. She would not give in to tears. She would not! She would face the upcoming challenges with gritty determination and make her parents proud. The unknown faces waiting for her at the train station may claim to care for her well-being, but her trust needed to be earned.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(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.)

Book Review: Damsel by Elana K. Arnold

When I attended the Frenzy Presents event in August this year at which they announced the upcoming Young Adult releases, I knew I had to read this novel. I can not resist a story that includes dragons and a strong woman character.

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Blurb: 

The rite has existed for as long as anyone can remember: when the prince-who-will-be-king comes of age, he must venture out into the gray lands, slay a fierce dragon, and rescue a damsel to be his bride. This is the way things have always been.

When Ama wakes in the arms of Prince Emory, however, she knows none of this. She has no memory of what came before she was captured by the dragon, or what horrors she has faced in its lair. She knows only this handsome prince, the story he tells of her rescue, and her destiny to sit on the throne beside him. Ama comes with Emory back to the kingdom of Harding, hailed as the new princess, welcomed to the court.

However, as soon as her first night falls, she begins to realize that not all is as it seems, that there is more to the legends of the dragons and the damsels than anyone knows–and that the greatest threats to her life may not be behind her, but here, in front of her.

My thoughts: 

I loved this new take on the old story of dragons, a damsel, and a prince who comes to rescue her. It was interesting to read what the damsel feels after her rescue – and the confusion that she experiences. The damsel (named Ama by the prince) slowly comes to an awakening and a realisation of who she is and what she wants to be in the future that has been decided for her by Emory, the man who brought her to his castle.

While reading this novel, my heart was definitely captured by Ama. In her, I could see the representation of women in society – women who are expected to fall in with the men who are in their lives. She questions the role that has been given to her – as do so many women in modern society today. Ama’s character has been written with sensitivity, and with the understanding that a woman slowly comes to a realisation of who she is. The novel may be bringing to the fore the woman’s experience, but it is subtly done within the framework of a story in which the man is seen to be the one who rescues the woman.

I enjoyed this novel for so much more than just for the story. I loved the gentle reference to a woman’s strength and her acceptance of it.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 81st in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Christmas Window Display

Each year the retirement home near the supermarket I go to, decorates their front window with a Christmas theme. This year, they are displaying the mail that is sent out to Santa.

I cannot help but smile each time I pass the window. The person who works on the display is definitely innovative and does a wonderful job.

Weekly Smile #WeeklySmileHave you seen any good Christmas displays in your neighbourhood?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This post was inspired by Trent’s Weekly Smile, a challenge which focuses on sharing all things positive.)

Book Review: Pride by Ibi Zoboi

My favourite all-time classic is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice so when I heard that there was another rewrite featuring the characters of Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, I knew I had to read it. Pride by Ibi Zoboi is an original rewrite that puts the main characters in Brooklyn, New York.

Genre:  Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Blurb: 

Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.

When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.

But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.

In a timely update of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi skillfully balances cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant re-imagining of this beloved classic.

My thoughts: 

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that when rich people move into the hood, where it is a little bit broken and a little bit forgotten, the first thing that they want to do is clean it up.” (Zoboi, Ibi. Pride, 2018, p1)

The first line in the novel made me smile in glee as the beginning of this sentence echoes one of my favourite lines in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The remainder of the sentence echoes what is suggested in the rest of the novel: the gentrification of a neighbourhood that, on the outside, may look neglected.

Pride depicts a young woman’s pride in her neighbourhood and in her culture. Zuri (Zoboi’s Elizabeth Bennet) is comfortable with her culture and has no shame of her roots. She does not immediately take to Darius Darcy as he does not appear to fit in with the neighbourhood, nor does he behave in the way Zuri believes he ought to. Her prejudice reflects the prejudice of Austen’s Elizabeth albeit in different surroundings. In addition, Zoboi adeptly transforms the setting of Austen’s novel into a modern day Brooklyn while embedding the prejudices that people living in the environment may embrace.

The neighbourhood described in Pride is unknown to me; and I am not intimate with its culture. Tidbits are added to my knowledge as I read the story – tidbits that are subtly woven into the story. Yet the romance described is a well-known story of two young people who come to know one another and fall in love. This is a story that transcends time.

I love how Zoboi wove a well-loved and well-known story into a story of her own. The story that she created is a contemporary one and is well suited for a young teenager of colour.  Yet Pride is not so far from the original that the reader cannot make the connection. I enjoyed this reworking of Austen’s novel and will surely read it again in the future. If you are a fan of Austen’s novel, you will enjoy this retelling. And if you do not know Pride and Prejudice, you will enjoy this romance for being a story of our times.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 80th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)