Book Review: Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

I was lucky to receive an ARC for Julie Kagawa’s novel Shadow of the Fox. I had heard from someone who had read the novel that it was an excellent example of fantasy fiction and I could not wait to begin reading it.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Blurb: 

One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos.

Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn.

Raised by monks in the isolated Silent Winds temple, Yumeko has trained all her life to hide her yokai nature. Half kitsune, half human, her skill with illusion is matched only by her penchant for mischief. Until the day her home is burned to the ground, her adoptive family is brutally slain and she is forced to flee for her life with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll.

There are many who would claim the dragon’s wish for their own. Kage Tatsumi, a mysterious samurai of the Shadow Clan, is one such hunter, under orders to retrieve the scroll…at any cost. Fate brings Kage and Yumeko together. With a promise to lead him to the scroll, an uneasy alliance is formed, offering Yumeko her best hope for survival. But he seeks what she has hidden away, and her deception could ultimately tear them both apart.

With an army of demons at her heels and the unlikeliest of allies at her side, Yumeko’s secrets are more than a matter of life or death. They are the key to the fate of the world itself.

My thoughts: 

I love reading fantasy novels and opened this one with glee. Within the first few pages, I was entranced by the Japanese lore that is intricately woven into Yumeko and Tatsumi’s story. Even though I do not know much of Japanese culture and myths, my enjoyment of this story was not hampered. The unknown is subtly explained to me; and the cultural practices Are shown to me by the actions and words of the characters.

While reading the first novel in this series, I grew to love the characters: the innocent Yumeko, the battle-hardened Tatsumi, the humorous Okame, the noble Daisuke. I thrilled at the battle scenes and smiled at a budding romance. The intrigues captured my interest, and the descriptions of the world described in the novel absorbed my imagination. I enjoyed reading Shadow of the Fox and was happy that I had chosen to read it over the weekend – I would have had difficulty putting it down to go to work! I look forward to reading the next installment in the series – and I am sure to go and purchase myself a final print copy.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 69th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

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Music Monday: BTS

‘LG Q7 BTS 에디션’ 예약 판매 시작 (42773472410) (cropped).jpg

My daughter is a HUGE fan of BTS, a Korean pop band. Each day she listens to their music and watches their videos on YouTube. She has watched numerous interviews given by them, and stayed up late to watch the AMA in order to see them perform. She loves them so much that she spent all of her money on a ticket to go and see them. For a while now I have been listening to their songs and have grown familiar with them. Most of them are high energy and upbeat. My favourite is titled Fire:

Their recent song is Idol. 

I love the dancing in their videos. During the dancathon I participated in on Saturday, the Zumba teacher played Idol. I recognised the song with glee and danced to it with enthusiasm. When I told my daughter she could not help grinning.

Have you heard of the K-pop band BTS?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

Weekend Coffee Share: Culture and Dance

Join us for some coffee time!

If we were having coffee, I would greet you with a tired smile. Even though the work week was short (we had Thanksgiving on Monday), my days – and nights – were were filled to the brim with a visit to the Art Gallery and a danceathon in aid of charity.

On Wednesday evening I had the opportunity to view a new exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The evening was set aside for teachers, the idea being that we might be interested in taking our classes to the exhibit. The evening began with a talk about the photographer’s work and what he had hoped to achieve with showing his work. The title of the exhibit is Anthropocene and it showcases the changes that humanity has made on the earth’s landscape.

The talk and the exhibit was extremely interesting. It is not an event I would take my class to as I believe they are to young to appreciate it. I would, however, do so if I taught older children.

During the week my husband and I celebrated the fact that we have been married for 19 years. We decided to go to a movie – just the two of us. On Thursday evening, I took him away from his computer and his work to see A Simple Favour. We thought it might be an action movie (my husband loves watching these) but instead it turned out to be a psychological thriller. The story had quite a number of twists in it – just like the novels that I enjoy reading.:)

The late nights were catching up to me (I am normally asleep by 9:15pm), so I was a little bit slow on Friday. On Saturday, however, I looked forward to participating in my first ever dancathon. The event had been organised by some Zumba / Sh’bam / Body Jam teachers at the Gym chain that I belong to. The event was part of a group of events that have been organised to raise money for children with special needs.

The event was fun and the two hours passed quickly. My body felt tired afterwards though, and a little stiff once I had cooled down. When I got home, I could not believe the amount of steps that my fitbit had recorded – this is the most I have moved since I got the watch.

The weekend is almost over. I am on my way to see my cousin then I will come home to complete my weekend chores. The past week has been a pleasant one – and I look forward to what the next week will bring. May your week be a wonderful one.

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 Wife by Meg Wolitzer

I was lucky enough to win a copy of The Wife by Meg Wolitzer with a ticket to go and see the movie. As you know, many film adaptions change the storyline a little so I wanted to read the novel before I went to see the film with my husband.

Genre: Contemporary fiction

Blurb: 

The Wife is the story of the long and stormy marriage between a world-famous novelist, Joe Castleman, and his wife Joan, and the secret they’ve kept for decades. The novel opens just as Joe is about to receive a prestigious international award, The Helsinki Prize, to honour his career as one of America’s pre-eminent novelists. Joan, who has spent forty years subjugating her own literary talents to fan the flames of his career, finally decides to stop.

My thoughts: 

The book seems to begin with a commentary on marriage – and on a marriage that has lasted decades. And yet, as the novel moved between the present and different moments in the past, I became aware that it is much more than that. The novel describes more than just a women’s expected role in a marriage: to support the husband in his desires, to suppress one’s own desires and ambitions. It describes as well the expected role of women in a patriarchal society and how women respond to the expectation. Some women respond in open rebellion, some acquiesce completely, while others find a different way to achieve what they want. The wife in Wolitzer’s novel finds a way to ensure that she gets what she wants. But it is at a price. She plays second fiddle to her husband and her true talents are never acknowledged and recognised.

While reading the novel, I had to remember that the main character is a woman who became a wife in the 1950s and would not have had the same opportunities that women in our modern day have. I needed to remember this when she responded in ways that negated all that women have fought for in the past. And yet, on reflection, I realise that so many women do still respond as Joan Castleman does in this novel.

The Wife is a commentary on a type of relationship between a man and a woman. It is a commentary on how women often give up their own dreams to pursue the ones of their husbands. It is a commentary on the expectations of the husband and how he does not treasure the gift the woman has given to him. I enjoyed reading the novel as the commentary resonated with me as a woman, and as a wife. And yet I could not help feeling frustrated with so many of the choices made by the main character – maybe because I, myself, would never make those choices.

Even though I enjoyed reading the novel, it is not one that enamoured me; it is not one that made me turn the pages quickly to read the resolution. The Wife is a critique on marriage and on the relationships between men and women. It is a serious read and not one that will encourage the reader to forget about the cares of the world.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 68th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: The Lost Queen by Signe Pike

I had read a lot of buzz of Signe Pike’s debut novel The Lost Queen. I love historical fiction and anything on the Queens of the past and so decided to read this description of a long forgotten Scottish queen.

Genre: Historical fiction

Blurb: 

Intelligent, passionate, rebellious, and brave, Languoreth is the unforgettable heroine of The Lost Queen, a tale of conflicted loves and survival set against the cinematic backdrop of ancient Scotland, a magical land of myths and superstition inspired by the beauty of the natural world. One of the most powerful early medieval queens in British history, Languoreth ruled at a time of enormous disruption and bloodshed, when the burgeoning forces of Christianity threatened to obliterate the ancient pagan beliefs and change her way of life forever.

Together with her twin brother Lailoken, a warrior and druid known to history as Merlin, Languoreth is catapulted into a world of danger and violence. When a war brings the hero Emrys Pendragon, to their door, Languoreth collides with the handsome warrior Maelgwn. Their passionate connection is forged by enchantment, but Languoreth is promised in marriage to Rhydderch, son of the High King who is sympathetic to the followers of Christianity. As Rhydderch’s wife, Languoreth must assume her duty to fight for the preservation of the Old Way, her kingdom, and all she holds dear.

My thoughts: 

The thought of learning a little more about the Merlin legend intrigued me; as did reading about a Scottish queen. As I was reading, I referred frequently to the illustration of sixth century Scotland placed at the beginning of the book. The history interested me even more as I came to learn of the differences when comparing the country of the past to what it is now. In my mind I had to compare the two so that I could understand the history of such a long time ago.

The history of the past is woven within the story told to us of a person who lived such a long time ago. My interest peaked as I read of the options available for young girls of noble birth during this time period. Theirr options were limited and they were expected to take a certain path. I could feel Languoreth’s frustration with this as I read the moments described in this forst volume. I felt an empathy for her and eagerly continued reading to see what she would do that made her the queen which encouraged Signe Pike to tell her story.

It was easy for me to immerse myself in this tale. The history interested me. The characters intrigued me. Some scenes described were brutal – but this is what you would expect in a history of the sixth century. Refinement is interspersed with brutality. And all with a realistic lens. I enjoyed Pike’s writing as she encouraged me to invest my time in her story.

If you enjoy historical fiction and love to read of kings and queens of decades past, you will enjoy The Lost Queen. Pike’s superb writing makes the time period come alive and encourages the reader to feel a connection with Languoreth, a queen that has almost been written out of the history books completely. I look forward to reading the second novel in this series.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 67th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

A Thanksgiving Reflection

Today it is Thanksgiving in Canada – a day that has been set aside to give thanks. Originally this day was set aside for Canadians to give thanks for the harvest and for all the blessings the people in the country had experienced during the past year. Now, as I celebrate the holiday with so many other fellow Canadians, I reflect on what I personally have to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving is not a holiday I grew up with; instead it is one I adopted when moving to this country so far north from where I was born. I like that it is a reflective one that encourages people to spend time with family and close friends. For me, it has also come to mean a time when Fall truly begins and people’s attention is focused on certain celebrations (Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas). It is the beginning of a time of year, and of a season, that I particularly enjoy.

When I reflect on what I am thankful for I always think of my needs and the fact that I have a place to call my home, that I am never hungry, and that I have a loving and caring family. I am always grateful, as well, for my own health and the health of my family. Each day as I walk to work, I am grateful to have the opportunity to work at the school that I do, and to have the chance to work with a wonderful group of children. I am really lucky to work where I do at a school that is so close to home.

This year I am also grateful for the fact that I have made a connection with the people at the Harper Collins Canada Publishing House. Through them, I have been able to attend author events, and have been introduced to so many authors – many of them Canadian. As I am reading the books that I do, I am grateful to the authors that write their stories and bring me so much joy. I do prefer reading the hard copies of books, and am thankful that the digital versions have not swept away the bookstores and the feel of turning over a physical page of a novel.

As I sit here typing my post, I feel contented with what I have and experience in my life. There may be more for me around the corner and in the upcoming year but, for now, I am thankful for where I am.

If, like me, you live in Canada, I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends. May your celebrations warm you from within. 

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

Weekend Coffee Share: Commencement and Thanksgiving

Join us for some coffee time!If we were having coffee, I would tell you that we have had a dreary week. Even as I am writing this, it is drizzling outside. The grey clouds have been with us since Monday and the wet has lingered for just as long. I look forward to seeing blue skies again. The sun peeked out a little yesterday but then decided to continue hiding behind the clouds.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that even though the weather has not been pleasant, the week was not too bad. The children in my class worked well and took on the additions to my classroom routine with enthusiasm. Friday was a PA day and therefore the children did not go to school. Teachers attended a staff meeting and did compliance training. It is always weird hearing the bell echoing in the empty hallways as we continue with the work that we have to do.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that Friday was also the day that my eldest daughter graduated from high school. The ceremony was very pleasant and had moments in which we, the parents, felt very proud. My daughter received her school leaving certificate as well as the Ontario Scholar certificate because she had above 80% in at least one of her subjects. In addition, she received two awards: one for visual arts, and one for citizenship. She was so happy to see her friends again – though she says she prefers where she is learning now.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you this weekend is Thanksgiving in Canada and, as per our agreement, my husband will be cooking the dinner (my part of the agreement is to cook Christmas dinner). He has gone off to Chinatown to buy barbecue pork and some vegetables. He always makes a tasty meal and I am looking forward to it. There will be a person missing at our table tonight as we celebrate – our son has moved to Vancouver. We will connect via Skype – and see him for Christmas.

If we were having coffee, I would wish you Happy Thanksgiving if you were Canadian. If not, I wish you a wonderful week ahead.

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)

Share Your World: Relaxation and Music

What’s your go-to for unwinding after a stressful event or day?

Each day that  I arrive home from work, I do the same thing: put on the kettle and grab my favourite read. My day is filled with the noise of chattering young children and when I get home I crave silence and some alone time. My own children know this and only ask me for help after I have relaxed for 30 minutes. I put my feet up on my bed and read while drinking a warm cup of tea. This has come to be one of my favourite times of the day. Twice a week I cook dinner early for my family and I head off to Zumba. Dancing is a great way to release the frustrations of the day and I wish that I could attend classes every day.

The plane you’re flying in is going to crash, no survivors.  If you had one song you could listen to before it happens, what would it be? 

This question is a difficult one as I love so many songs! Would I choose an old French classic (La Vie en Rose by Edith Piaf)?

Or another classic that I have always enjoyed dancing to (In the Mood by Glen Miller)?

Or a more modern classic (Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen)?

I guess it would depend on my mood. Or I would cheat and wish for a remix including all three songs 😀

What is one thing you’re really, really good at and not ashamed to admit it?  I worded that deliberately because aren’t we taught to be humble and not pushy about our achievements?  Celebrate your ability!

I know that I am good at my job. I have helped so many children, adolescents and young, come to enjoy their learning and celebrate their successes. I have come to realise – with the subtle help of my former principal – that I am especially good at helping young children who have no confidence in themselves and who have had difficulty in the past adjusting to the expectations of children in a structured school setting.

Would you rather lose all of your money and valuables or all of the pictures you have ever taken?

Memories are better than pictures, I have found. In the digital age we take so many pictures – and how often do we actually go and look at them? Money, on the other hand, is a necessary evil in our society. We need it to pay for our accommodation, to buy food and clothing, to purchase the things needed for our children. As for the valuables – those can easily be replaced.

What were you grateful for or something that made you smile during the past month?

This week I am definitely grateful for my shelter. We are onto our forth day of rain and wet and I joyfully enter my home at the end of every day.

NEWSYWbannerWhat would you answer to any of these questions?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This post is linked to Sparks, the new host of Cee’s Share Your World weekly challenge).

Grateful for Shelter

One of the basic human needs is shelter: a place to protect ourselves from the elements, a place to keep warm, a place to call home. During the last two days not only has the temperature dropped dramatically, it has also been wet. Grey clouds have covered our skies, and the wet has been constant. Our weather has reminded us that summer is over and a new season has begun.

As I walked home yesterday I was reflecting on the change of season and how lucky I was to be able to have a place to call home. Each year as the summer surrenders to the cooler weather, I think of the homeless and their daily struggle to find a warm place to rest out of the elements. Each day I unlock the door to my home with relief. A joy that the homeless do not experience.

This week I am grateful to have my home. It may be simple and a little overcrowded but at least I am safe from the outside elements. At least one of my basic needs are being met.

Processed with RookieWhat have you been grateful for this week? Share your comments or the link to your post below.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

Favourite Read of the Month: September 2018

During the month of September, I  read 8 books for this year’s Book Pledge, bringing my total for read books this year to 66 books. According to the 50 Book Pledge website, I am ahead of my goal – which leads me to wonder whether I read more books than I think I do 😀

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

  1. The Black Witch by Laurie Forest – YA fiction, fantasy  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars.
  2. The Iron Flower by Laurie Forest – YA fiction, fantasy ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars.
  3. Heartbreaker by Claudia Dey – women’s fiction ⭐⭐ 2 stars.
  4. The Winters by Lisa Gabriele – thriller, suspense ⭐⭐⭐⭐  4 stars.
  5. Born A Crime: Stories From A South African Childhood by Trevor Noah – memoir, non-fiction ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars.
  6. P. S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han – YA fiction, romance ⭐⭐⭐⭐  4 stars.
  7. Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han – YA fiction, romance ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars.
  8. The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn – psychological thriller, mystery ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars.

Reflecting on my choice of reads for the past month,I would say that I have chosen well. It is difficult to choose my favourite: the choice is between Laurie Forest’s Black Witch Chronicles and Trevor Noah’s memoir. I think I will settle for Laurie Forest’s The Black Witch as this novel not only introduced me to a new fiction writer, but also to a fantasy series that I have grown to love (so much so that I am eagerly waiting for her next novel to come out).

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

Favourite Read of the Month:

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018