Weekend Coffee Share: A Two Week Catch-Up

If we were having coffee, I would apologize for not meeting up with you last week. It was a long weekend – but I was sick. I spent the three days lying on my bed or the sofa resting with a running nose and watering eyes. I was so disappointed as I had been looking forward to three days in which to go out with my family (it was my daughter’s birthday on the Sunday). Alas, the chilly weather and the chills of my body kept me indoors. The plus side is that I read – a lot!

Speaking of reading, today I participated in a readathon that had been organised by the team at Harper Collins Canada. The group of readers who keep track of their books on the 50 Book Pledge website shared their reading and answered fun prompts on the social media platform of their choice. It was fun reading along with participants all over Canada. By Tuesday we will hear how many people participated and who the winners of the giveaways are. From what I can gather on Twitter, the event was a success so I am sure that they will do it again.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that my youngest daughter has gone to her prom. After hair and make-up she looked so adult. I was proud of her, and yet a little sad as this means she is growing up and will soon fly the nest. I am lucky that she is staying home during university – but after that … only the future can tell.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that a couple of parents from my class this year nominated me for the Teacher of the Year Award. I did not receive it but it is good to know that the work I do with the children is being noticed and appreciated by the parents. It was a surprise to hear of the nomination on the day after my daughter’s prom – it certainly brushed away the wisp of sadness I was feeling.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that during the past two weeks we had our school concert. I had been practicing the song with my students and was a little worried that they would be silly when on stage. I don’t know what happened but on the night of their performance, they were perfect! They sang clearly, were focused on me and my direction, and were in sync with the actions. How I wished I could have recorded it to show them! I was proud of their performance and they deserved all the praise that they got.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I am starting to get things together for the children’s report cards. My desk at school is a mess at the moment with papers everywhere. The only time my desk is neat is at the beginning of the year, and at the end! Hopefully within the next couple of weeks I will be able to clear it.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that finally the weather is improving. Today the grey skies of the last couple of weeks has lifted, and the air has a sense of lightness to it. The rain we have been having has turned the grass green and encouraged the buds to bloom. Finally spring is here! I am hoping it will stay this way as I am ready for the warmer weather!

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that it is now time to do my last remaining chores of the weekend. Enjoy your evening and have a wonderful week.

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)

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A Book Mail Smile

Yesterday I came home to bookmail – which I always love. My contact at Harper Collins Canada Had sent me two ARCs of historical novels that I am interested in reading. The covers are beautiful – especially the cover of The Song of the Jade Lily by Kirsty Manning. I was so excited to read Kirsty Manning’s novel that I started it this morning while eating breakfast. The story depicts events during World War II and so far I have met a young Austrian Jewish girl.

My smile for this week is definitely the bookmail I opened when I got home from work yesterday.

What has made you smile this week?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

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

Book Review: Mourning Has Broken by Erin Davis

My colleague picked up Mourning Has Broken by Erin Davis at the OLA Super Conference. She felt it would be an interesting read because she had listened to the radio broadcaster and therefore knew a little of the author’s story. I accepted the book as I have enjoyed memoirs in the past and thought reading about how a person overcame grief would be inspirational.

Genre: Memoir

Blurb:

On the morning of May 11, 2015, Erin Davis, one of Canada’s most beloved radio personalities, suffered a devastating blow when her daughter Lauren, who had marked a joyous Mother’s Day with her husband and young son only hours before, failed to awaken to her baby’s cries.

Thus began Erin’s journey of grieving out loud with her family, friends and listeners, and of demonstrating by example how to pick up and keep going after suffering the worst loss a parent can endure.

For months after Lauren’s heart stopped beating, the reason for which the coroner said might never be known, Erin would awaken from a restless night’s sleep and look at the clock wondering, Is this the time she died? How could a mother sleep through the night when a part of herself had been torn from this life? How did my heart not stop too? she wondered.

My thoughts:

I opened the book with the expectation that I would be reading a personal experience of a person overcoming grief. I was disappointed when I realised that the story was written as a journalist would write it. Even though the memoir was written in the first person, the author does not dig deep and expose raw emotions. It is as if a barrier has been placed between the reader and the writer’s inward emotions. Davis tells us about the facts and outlines a sequence of events but hesitates to let us in and experience the raw grief that she had.

The writing in this memoir is definitely a case of tell and not show. Davis describes to the reader, in detail, her thought processes and what she was thinking as she experienced her grief over the loss of her daughter. At times the writing is a bit repetitive and tedious. In addition, the timeline in the book jumps around a bit and I found myself having to piece together the progression of grief and its lessening over the two years described in the book.

There were moments when I felt that the writing in the memoir was more emotional and in depth. The pages in which Davis writes about her alcohol dependence (before her daughter’s death) made more of a connection with me than the rest. If she had opened up about her grief in this way, I would certainly have enjoyed this memoir more.

Even though I have experienced grief, I have not lost a child and, while reading Davis’ words, I did not experience a sense of what it would be like. For readers who have lost their children to death, the memoir may be more appealing as they could compare their experience to the writer’s. Those who know of Erin Davis as a radio personality, may enjoy this book as well because it gives the reader a snippet of her life. For me, however, the memoir fell flat.

I give this novel ⭐️ 1 star.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 43rd in my book pledge for 2019)

A Dangerous Game

PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

Her mind flashed back to a party game they played as children: blindly they had pinned the tail to the donkey. Mistakes were laughed at and the consequences for errors minimal.

Now the consequences were fraught with danger. Going in blindly to complete the task meant the loss of their company and possibly their lives. What they were planning was no game and had to be done correctly!

Planning and thinking of solutions for all scenarios led to success. The result was not perfect but they had a man in and the transmitter was set and in place.

© 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.)

Book Review: The Favourite Daughter by Kaira Rouda

Harper Collins Canada sent me an ARC copy of The Favourite Daughter by Kaira Rouda to read and review. The bookmail was timely as I was in the mood for a thriller.

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Psychological Thriller

Blurb:

Jane Harris lives in a sparkling home in an oceanfront gated community in Orange County. It’s a place that seems too beautiful to be touched by sadness. But exactly one year ago, Jane’s eldest daughter, Mary, died in a tragic accident, and Jane has been grief-stricken ever since. Lost in a haze of antidepressants, she’s barely even left the house…until now.

As Jane reemerges into the world, it’s clear she’s missed a lot in the last year. Her husband has been working long days – and nights – at the office. Her daughter Betsy seems distant, even secretive. And Jane receives a note warning her that Mary’s death wasn’t an accident. What really happened on the day that Mary died? And who is lying to whom in this family?

The bonds between mothers and daughters, husbands and wives should never be broken. But you never know how far someone will go to keep a family together…

My thoughts:

The story is told from the point of view of Jane Harris, a grieving mother and wife. When I began reading the novel, I definitely felt empathy for her – she had lost a daughter and it was evident that her marriage was failing. The story began like so many contemporary novels and I thought, for a moment, that the book had incorrectly been labelled ‘mystery’.

As I read on, however, I realised that not all was as it seemed. The writer adroitly reveals the true nature of Jane’s personalty as we read her thoughts. It is interesting to feel the turnabout towards a character – the Jane you think you know at the beginning of the novel is not the same woman you get to know while turning the pages.

The chapters begin with the countdown of a timeline which adds to the tension in the book and to the reader’s knowledge that an important day is approaching. I found myself thinking of what may happen on that day – Rouda brought me to a point that predictions were made; a point when I believed I knew how the novel would end. And then the unexpected happened. I loved the twist as it turned around my expectations. And then the novel ended with yet another twist!

The Favourite Daughter was an enjoyable read and is more a psychological thriller than a mere mystery. I enjoyed the twists and the unexpected ending – and seeing into the mind of a woman who feels the need to control her family.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 42nd in my book pledge for 2019)

First Line Fridays: Freefall by Jessica Barry

“Breathe. Breathe.

My eyes open. A canopy of trees above. A flock of birds stare down before taking flight.

I survived.

He may have, too.

I have to see. I pick my way through the wreckage on bare feet.”

Freefall by Jessica Barry (2019, Harper Collins Publishers)

The opening lines of this novel left me with so many questions:

  1. Where is she?
  2. Who is after her?
  3. Did he survive?
  4. What happened to cause the accident?

From the first line of this novel, I wanted to read the pages to find out the answer to these questions. ( If you are interested to learn more, you can read my review here.)

I continued reading. Would you?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This post is linked to It’s Not Hoarding If It’s Books and her One Line Friday challenge.)

Book Review: Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavours by Dev Sonali

As you may know, my prefered all-time classic is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen so when I saw that another retelling of my favourite had been written, I had to read the story. Harper Collins Canada graciously sent me a copy of the ARC Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavours by Dev Sonali.

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Retellings

Blurb:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that only in an overachieving Indian American family can a genius daughter be considered a black sheep.

Dr. Trisha Raje is San Francisco’s most acclaimed neurosurgeon. But that’s not enough for the Rajes, her influential immigrant family who’s achieved power by making its own non-negotiable rules:

·       Never trust an outsider

·       Never do anything to jeopardize your brother’s political aspirations

·       And never, ever, defy your family

Trisha is guilty of breaking all three rules. But now she has a chance to redeem herself. So long as she doesn’t repeat old mistakes.

Up-and-coming chef DJ Caine has known people like Trisha before, people who judge him by his rough beginnings and place pedigree above character. He needs the lucrative job the Rajes offer, but he values his pride too much to indulge Trisha’s arrogance. And then he discovers that she’s the only surgeon who can save his sister’s life.

As the two clash, their assumptions crumble like the spun sugar on one of DJ’s stunning desserts. But before a future can be savored there’s a past to be reckoned with…

A family trying to build home in a new land.

A man who has never felt at home anywhere.

And a choice to be made between the two.

My thoughts:

I loved this story right from the start. And when I read the line “It is a universally acknowledged truth …” amongst its pages, I could not help but grin.

As in Austen’s novel, the thread running through the story is the exploration of both pride and of prejudice. Both of the main characters, Trisha and DJ, feel pride in what they do and exhibit prejudice towards one another. Trisha reminds me of the haughty Elizabeth Bennet who is quick to judge but slowly comes to realise the truth of others and the rashness of her assumptions. Just like Elizabeth, Dr Trishe Raje is proud: proud of her work, proud of who her family is, proud of what she has thus far achieved in her life. In spite of her pride, Trisha is a character I could relate to as Dev describes the less perfect side of her personality.

Everyone loves the character Darcy; and everyone will love chef DJ Caine who is the Darcy character in Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavours. Unlike in the original Austen story, Dj does not come from an elite background (Dev flipped the social status of the main characters in her novel). His experience, however, has made him a mature person who is still quick to prejudge. While reading the novel, I found myself rooting for him. I wanted him to be successful in spite of all the difficulties he had experienced, and was currently experiencing. Knowing the end of the story (it is a retelling after all), did not prevent me from wishing the best for the Darcy-like character.

One of the best things about this retelling is that it is a story that can be added to my collection of novels featuring characters of a diverse background. The bonus? Chef DJ Caine is of mixed race. I do admit to having a fondness for stories featuring characters in this group as my own children are of mixed race. It is a treat to read stories featuring a mix of race and culture as it shows to readers that being of mixed race is acceptable (or at least, that it should be). In addition to featuring the mixed race, the novel features the experience of some of the people in this group – even the negative. The novel is not one that skims over a happy surface, but also highlights a few uncomfortable experience.

Sonali Dev has written a wonderful retelling of a beloved well-known classic and has done it with humour and expertise. Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavours is a lighthearted romantic comedy that leaves you with a feel-good feeling.

I give this novel an unreserved ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 41st in my book pledge for 2019)

Grateful for A Quiet Moment

Tonight is the school concert and it is happening in a couple of hours. When my class is not performing their song, I am expected to supervise them in my classroom while the parents watch the show. The day of the concert is a long one; especially when it is filled with excited children. I am hoping that tonight they will be a little calmer than during the day; and that they will bring something interesting with them to keep themselves occupied.

This week I am grateful that for the few moments of quiet that I will have in my classroom before it is filled again with twittering children.

What are you grateful for this week?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This post is part of my weekly gratitude reflection. You are welcome to join in and share your post in the comments.)

Temptation

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

The calm waters looked so inviting.

“You can do this!”

Her mantra for the last few months echoing in her head, Sandra padded softly to the edge of the pool. She wanted to slice her way through the water but could not allow herself to sink into the contaminated liquid. Her last attempt to fight her allergy had landed her in hospital for a few days.

The sound of women’s chatter and the splash of water roused her from her reverie.

“Morning everyone, welcome to your Aqua Fitness class. My name is Sandra and I will be your instructor today.”

© 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.)

Book Review: Family Trust by Kathy Wang

I popped into the library and was surprised – and very pleased – when I saw a new release on the shelves that I wanted to read. I had read good things about Family Trust by Kathy Wang and it being compared to Crazy Rich Asians enticed me even more.

Genre: Contemprorary Fiction

Blurb:

Meet Stanley Huang: father, husband, ex-husband, man of unpredictable tastes and temper, aficionado of all-inclusive vacations and bargain luxury goods, newly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. For years, Stanley has claimed that he’s worth a small fortune. But the time is now coming when the details of his estate will finally be revealed, and Stanley’s family is nervous.

For his son Fred, the inheritance Stanley has long alluded to would soothe the pain caused by years of professional disappointment. By now, the Harvard Business School graduate had expected to be a financial tech god – not a minor investor at a middling corporate firm, where he isn’t even allowed to fly business class.

Stanley’s daughter, Kate, is a middle manager with one of Silicon Valley’s most prestigious tech companies. She manages the capricious demands of her world-famous boss and the needs of her two young children all while supporting her would-be entrepreneur husband (just until his startup gets off the ground, which will surely be soon). But lately, Kate has been sensing something amiss; just because you say you have it all, it doesn’t mean that you actually do. 

Stanley’s second wife, Mary Zhu, twenty-eight years his junior, has devoted herself to making her husband comfortable in every way—rubbing his feet, cooking his favorite dishes, massaging his ego. But lately, her commitment has waned; caring for a dying old man is far more difficult than she expected.

Linda Liang, Stanley’s first wife, knows her ex better than anyone. She worked hard for decades to ensure their financial security, and is determined to see her children get their due. Single for nearly a decade, she might finally be ready for some romantic companionship. But where does a seventy-two year old Chinese woman in California go to find an appropriate boyfriend?

As Stanley’s death approaches, the Huangs are faced with unexpected challenges that upend them and eventually lead them to discover what they most value. A compelling tale of cultural expectations, career ambitions and our relationships with the people who know us best, Family Trust skewers the ambition and desires that drive Silicon Valley and draws a sharply loving portrait of modern American family life. 

My thoughts:

I began Family Trust with high hopes but was quickly bored with it. I found myself skimming the text and rushing over repetitive descriptions of people concerned only with money. The son wants his inheritance, the current wife wants to make sure she receive money on her husband’s death, the ex-wife stirs the pot, and the daughter seems to have no interest – though she is in need of the money. The entire storyline seemed cliché to me and the only reason I continued reading was because I was interested in the daughter’s story and was curious to see whether she would stand up to her husband.

The aspect I enjoyed the least about Wang’s story is the obvious portrait of a Chinese stereotype. I see my children raging against stereotypes in their lives and yet here, in this modern story, the pages are rife with it. Because of the stereotypes, the characters in the story are one dimensional and do not seem to grow in any significant way. In addition, the experiences described of all the characters in the story were, to me, predictable and hackneyed.

Comparing Family Trust to Crazy Rich Asians is deceiving. Whereas Crazy Rich Asians is full of humour and makes fun of the Asian stereotype, Family Trust falls flat and does not live up to expectations. Wang’s story was disappointing – doubly so because she is Asian herself. Her novel may have been written as a satire but I did not sense this while reading it.

I give this novel a disappointed ⭐️ 1 star.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 40th in my book pledge for 2019)