While driving with our nephew on Saturday, we passed a store that sells South African goods. Of course we had to stop and investigate – especially as we all wanted to indulge in a snack we don’t often get to eat since we have moved here: biltong.
While browsing in the store, my daughter saw the packets of Nik Naks, a crispy snack that she loved to eat when we were last in South Africa. She admitted that she could not remember the taste but recalls that she enjoyed it. I bought a packet which we shared amongst the five of us. The salty, tangy taste took us back to the past and the flavours of home. Definitely a smile for our family.
How To Live on the Edge by Sarah Lynn Scheerger is a powerful novel that explores breast cancer, the preventative surgery that can be taken for this type of cancer, as well as the response members of the family have to the outcome of this disease.
The first lines of this novel drew me in immediately and made me want to read more:
“There’s a curse on the women in my family. We die young. In the last two generations, not a single woamn in my mom’s family has lived past the age of thirty-seven. Aunt Tee is still alive and kicking, and the doctors say she is a perfectly healthy thirty-two year old, but I doubt the silk family curse will pass her by.
Just like I doubt it will pass me by.
Which means almost half my life is over.
I intend to enjoy it.” (p1, 2020)
I enjoyed reading the rest of the novel – the full review can be read here.
In the month of July during my Summer Break from school, I have spent a little time every day reading teacher-related books to be inspired and gain some new ideas to keep my teaching practice fresh. The book I finished recently is the one Larry Swartz brought out last year titled Word By Word.
The book centres on vocabulary building and has many suggestions for activities that can be implemented in literacy centres. The aim of vocabulary building is to encourage children to collect words and to use them in their writing and speaking activities.
“Many of us – including young people – are collectors of things: stamps, coins, plush toys , dolls, figurines, comics, spoons, snow globes, etc. The goal … is to have students become word collectors so they can store them, use them, marvel in them, and expand their knowledge about them.” ( p11, 2019, Pembroke Publishers)
I am already implementing a couple of the activities in my classroom suggested by Swartz. I look forward to trying out a few more of his suggestions to get the kids excited about learning new vocabulary and using the words that they have learned.
The Vanished Queen by Lisbeth Campbell was the second novel I had been accepted for on Netgalley. I chose to apply for this one as fantasy is my favourite genre and I was intrigued by the blurb.
Publishing Date: 1 September 2020
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, LGBT
When a country is held in thrall to a vicious, despotic king, it’s up to one woman to take him down.
Long ago, Queen Mirantha vanished. King Karolje claimed it was an assassination by a neighboring king, but everyone knew it was a lie. He had Disappeared her himself.
But after finding the missing queen’s diary, Anza—impassioned by her father’s unjust execution and inspired by Mirantha’s words—joins the resistance group to overthrow the king. When an encounter with Prince Esvar thrusts her into a dangerous game of court politics, one misstep could lead to a fate worse than death.
Esvar is the second son to an evil king. Trapped under his thumb and desperate for a way out, a chance meeting with Anza gives him the opportunity to join the resistance. Together, they might have the leverage to move against the king—but if they fail, their deaths could mean a total loss of freedom for generations to follow.
I enjoyed the storytelling of this novel as it explores the corruption of kingship and the resistance to its corruption. Resistance as a concept is also explored and is shown to take many additional forms: resistance within the corrupt system as well as resistance against the temptation to embrace the corruption. Throughout the novel, the author is making a commentary on ruling and governance; and how easily a ruler can be swayed by the desire to hold on tightly to power.
While reading the story, I was often reminded of Mao Tse Tung’s purging of the intelligentsia and of knowledge as a way to control the populace. I hoped early on in the novel that the knowledge that had been hidden in the form of library closures and burning of texts would see the light of day.
My favourite character was definitely Anza – a woman who puts herself in danger for her beliefs. She is steadfast and loyal; and does not give up despite her personal losses. There were also other characters in the novel who grew on me; characters who played an important part in the telling of the story.
I enjoyed this novel and will now be on the lookout for other stories written by this author.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I cannot believe that the first week of August has passed! It seems that for months days have merged into one another and time has had no meaning. As the days of August pass, however, I am beginning to acknowledge that time is passing – especially as the new school year approaches.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that we have been told that we will be attending school full-time in September – and that the kindergarten to grade 3 children will not be expected to wear masks. We have also been told that the group will stay together throughout the day in the classroom – including lunch. The ministry of education has also promised that spaces will be deep cleaned daily. I shudder to think what all this means for me as a teacher – I know for sure that more will be expected of me and that I will be expected to follow certain protocols, keep things clean, and keep the children separate from one another. Thinking about all this is causing me stress. As of yet our school board hasn’t given us direction but our union has been on top of things and is having discussions with them.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I am trying my best to not let all the uncertainty affect me. Now that we have opened up a little more in the city and are in stage 3, I am able to meet up with a friend of mine and share a coffee and a meal. This past week we dined in at a restaurant – for the first time since the quarantine began – and were able to linger over our meal. I took public transit to meet up with her and I was surprised by how few people are currently taking the bus and train. I am thinking that will change in the Fall as schools re-open and parents go back to working at their companies.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that meeting up with my friend was definitely the highlight of my week. For the rest of the week, I have been reading and crocheting. Our week inside has not been pleasant, though, as construction work is happening on our balconies and the noise has been unbearable at times. Even though many people complained that the noise is affecting their ability to work from home, the construction activity was not halted. This is what happens when the people who make these decisions live in their big, fancy houses far away from the city!
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that this weekend we have made plans to go to a huge Chinese supermarket. My husband is excited as he is keen to find some supplies for the recipes he wants to try out. My excitement stems from doing something different – and from getting out of the apartment for a while!
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the following week will be more of the same. Hopefully something will happen to surprise me 🙂
This month’s theme for my bullet journal is simple and was inspired by someone I follow on Instagram (@bujoforstars). I was a bit behind with my spreads this month – and as of now have not yet completed my cover page. The reason for this, I suppose, is that there is not much happening in my life and I am able to keep all plans and dates in my head.
I am hoping to slowly fill in the blank spaces with online talks by authors and meetups with friends.
I am sure the end of August will be a busy one as I get ready for back-to-school. I am hoping that soon I will have permission to go into my classroom and start setting up for the new school year. I am sure that I will need to put practices in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. I am starting to think of adjusting my practices as we will not be able to do a lot of group work.
But in the meantime the days continue to meld into one another and I use my journal more as a diary than a planner.
I have enjoyed Robert Bryndza’s thrillers in the past and was eager to read the first book in his new series, Nine Elms. The novel centres on the Nine Elms serial killer that Kate Marshall had captured when she was a young police officer. Capturing the killer led to a scandal and the dissolution of her career. Fifteen years later, Kate is working as a lecturer at a small coastal English university when a copycat killer takes up the mantle and continues the work of his idol. With her assistant Tristan Harper, Kate draws on her long-neglected investigative skills to catch a new monster.
The extract I am sharing are the first lines of one of the beginning chapters in the novel. It is at the start of the investigation and Kate is battling her past demons and her alcoholism:
“Kate didn’t remember leaving the morgue or saying goodbye to Alan. She found herself emerging from the long dank tunnel and out into the car park. Her legs moved, and the blood pumped so hard and fast in her veins that it felt painful. Everything was muffled; the sound of the busy road as she crossed. A thin mist, which was starting to manifest around the dull yellow of the streetlights. The fear she felt was irrational. It wasn’t one image, or one thought, but it consumed her. Is this fear going to finish me this one, once and for all? she thought. Her neck and back were running with sweat, but the cold air made her shiver.” (p 56, 2019, Thomas & Mercer).
I enjoyed the rest of this nail-biting story and look forward to reading more in this new series. If you enjoy mysteries and thrillers, join me in my enjoyment of this author’s work.
Would you read Kate Marshall’s story in Nine Elms?
I was chosen by the Booksparks team to read and review How to Live on the Edge by Sarah Lynn Scheerger for their pop-up tour.
Publication Date: 4 August 2020
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Eighteen-year-old Cayenne barely remembers her mother, who died of breast cancer when Cayenne was four. The women in her family have a history of dying young. Cayenne figures she’ll meet the same fate, so she might as well enjoy life now, engaging in death-defying risks like dodging trains and jumping off cliffs with her boyfriend.
When Cayenne receives a series of video messages her mother made for her before dying, she isn’t sure she wants them. Her aunt Tee has been her true mother figure. But then Aunt Tee tests positive for a BRCA gene mutation–the one that doomed Cayenne’s mom–and decides to get a mastectomy to reduce her chances of developing cancer. As Cayenne helps her aunt prepare for the surgery, she finds herself drawn to her mother’s messages, with their musings on life, love, and perseverance. For the first time, Cayenne starts to question what it truly means to live life to the fullest, even when death might be written into her DNA.
How To Live on the Edge is a thought provoking novel that encourages the reader to think about cancer, grief, and the chance to prevent the disease. The novel references the BRCA gene mutation for cancer and explores the option of preventative surgery by having a mastectomy. The suggested surgery is controversial and the novel does acknowledge this.
When I read the first few chapters of this novel, I was reminded of the book P.S. I Love You because Cayenne and her sister watch the videos that their dying mother had left for them to view. As in Ahern’s novel, Scheerger explores the grief experienced by the loved ones who have been left behind. In How To Live On The Edge, however, the manifestation of the grief is explored many years after the actual death.
I found this novel to be an interesting read – even though I did not appreciate Cayenne’s reckless behaviour. I could understand, though, the reasons for such behaviour. During the novel, I saw a growth in Cayenne’s character as she realised some of the reasons for her behaviour and the fact that she was pushing her loved ones away. I also appreciated the topic of breast cancer – a topic that is often seen as taboo. I like that this novel tackles the subject head-on and explores the preventative treatment suggested for this type of cancer.
Yesterday I had the chance to meet up with a friend of mine and enjoy some time with her. Our city has opened up a little (we are now in stage 3) and we are now able to enjoy, once again, the pleasure of dining in a restaurant. My friend and I decided that we would breakfast at one of our favourite spots and enjoy a meal that we had not prepared for ourselves.
We enjoyed our top-up coffee with some fruit and the eggs Benedict that we had ordered. Delicious! As expected, the conversation flowed non-stop; there was not a moment of quiet as we worked on sharing as much as we could in the time we had together.
This week I am grateful not only to have seen my friend, but also to have had the chance to dine in at a restaurant – an experience pre-COVID that I had taken for granted!
The First Sister by Linden A. Lewis was the third novel I had been accepted for on Netgalley by Simon & Schuster Canada. I chose to apply for this one as the novel is a science fiction one and I was intrigued by the blurb.
Publication Date: 4 August 2020
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction, Young Adult Fantasy, LGBT
First Sister has no name and no voice. As a priestess of the Sisterhood, she travels the stars alongside the soldiers of Earth and Mars—the same ones who own the rights to her body and soul. When her former captain abandons her, First Sister’s hopes for freedom are dashed when she is forced to stay on her ship with no friends, no power, and a new captain—Saito Ren—whom she knows nothing about. She is commanded to spy on Captain Ren by the Sisterhood, but soon discovers that working for the war effort is so much harder to do when you’re falling in love.
Lito val Lucius climbed his way out of the slums to become an elite soldier of Venus, but was defeated in combat by none other than Saito Ren, resulting in the disappearance of his partner, Hiro. When Lito learns that Hiro is both alive and a traitor to the cause, he now has a shot at redemption: track down and kill his former partner. But when he discovers recordings that Hiro secretly made, Lito’s own allegiances are put to the test. Ultimately, he must decide between following orders and following his heart.
I loved this diverse read and see it as a prime example not only of the fantasy genre, but also of science fiction. What I enjoy most about this genre is that often the author is expressing a commentary on the society in which we live – and Lewis is no exception. She explores how a group of people are silenced – both a race, and a gender. In the case of women, their voices are literally taken away; in the case of the marginalised group their rights and ability to speak out are taken away from them by poverty and disempowerment. The author makes references to colonisation and hints at the injustices that it brought about.
In The First Sister, Lewis explores the power the use of technology brings to a group of people; as well as how this power is abused. Linked to this exploration is the corruption of power and how those in power use it to further their own ends. I suspect this exploration will continue in the next book of the series and be expanded even further. I look forward to seeing where Lewis will take this theme.
I enjoyed getting to know Lewis’ characters; and seeing the way in which they interact with one another. I see, too, the potential for their growth which will, I am sure, be expressed more in the following novels. I appreciate the fact that the characters embrace a diverse group of people giving the novel an added richness.
The action of the story ends nicely but the reader is left with some unanswered questions – questions which certainly encourage me to be on the lookout for the next novel in the series. I enjoyed the themes explored in The First Sister as well as the characters. The novel is expertly written and I found it difficult to put aside. If you enjoy fantasy and science fiction novels, this is a novel for you. In addition to reading about a futuristic world, you will also be encouraged to think on our social practices and what is done to silence large groups of people.