Favourite Read of the Month: February 2019

I am way behind on my book reviews – which is why I am posting my favourite book for February mid-March! I am definitely in the mood for immersing myself in stories and haven’t been taking the time to write down my thoughts. During February, I read 9 books towards my book pledge for 2019 which brings my total to 17 books.

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

  1. The Huntress by Kate Quinn – Historical fiction ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars
  2. Inkling by Kenneth Oppel – Middle grade fiction ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars
  3. I invited Her In by Adele Parks – Thriller ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars
  4. The Suspect by Fiona Barton – Thriller ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars
  5. 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne – Romance ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars
  6. Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner – YA Contemporary ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars
  7. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling (illustrated edition) – YA Fantasy ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars
  8. The Light Between the Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth – YA Fantasy ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars
  9. Heroine by Mindy McGinnis – YA Contemporary ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars

There were so many good books that I read during February which makes it difficult to choose a favourite! I enjoyed re-reading the second story in the Harry Potter series. Heroine and the story of a girl’s addiction is definitely contemporary and an eye opener. Fiona Barton wowed me with her latest thriller – such a good story! My absolute favourite, though, would have to be the historical fiction written by Kate Quinn. The Huntress was the first novel of her that I had read – and I loved it. Quinn is a skilled writer and her story drew me in. It was difficult for me to put the book down and go about my daily responsibilities.

I hope you read as many wonderful stories as I did in February. What was your favourite read? Share your choice, or the link to your post, below.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

Book of the month: January 2019

Advertisements

Drawing Together

Last week was March Break which meant two things:

  • I was able to sleep in and relax often with a book during the day;
  • I got to see my friend who lives quite a distance away for a day.
Drawing Together © Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

We have known one another since I began taking my eldest daughter to school. Our children have grown up knowing one another and get on well – which has certainly made things easier for our friendship. My friend and I spent the day chatting and catching up – and the children drew.It is quite a coincidence that all of our children love art and that they all wish to make a career out of it. Just another reason why we all get on so well together.

What has made you smile this week?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

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

Book Review: Heroine by Mindy McGinnis

The blurb of Heroine by Mindy McGinnis is definitely what encouraged me to request this ARC from Harper Collins Canada, and I was so pleased when the novel was sent on to me. I was curious to see how much in depth McGinnis would describe opioid addition.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary

Blurb: 

A captivating and powerful exploration of the opioid crisis—the deadliest drug epidemic in American history—through the eyes of a college-bound softball star. Edgar Award-winning author Mindy McGinnis delivers a visceral and necessary novel about addiction, family, friendship, and hope.

When a car crash sidelines Mickey just before softball season, she has to find a way to hold on to her spot as the catcher for a team expected to make a historic tournament run. Behind the plate is the only place she’s ever felt comfortable, and the painkillers she’s been prescribed can help her get there.

The pills do more than take away pain; they make her feel good.

With a new circle of friends—fellow injured athletes, others with just time to kill—Mickey finds peaceful acceptance, and people with whom words come easily, even if it is just the pills loosening her tongue.

But as the pressure to be Mickey Catalan heightens, her need increases, and it becomes less about pain and more about want, something that could send her spiraling out of control.

My thoughts: 

Getting addicted to opioids is a scary thing – and it is so easy when the drug is prescribed as a painkiller by your family doctor. McGinnis describes the ease with which Mickey, a successful athlete, goes down the slippery slope of drug addiction. The author describes the experience and the decisions made with honesty and forthrightness. As I was reading the novel, I could only shake my head in sadness of the path our heroine takes from using oxycontin to heroin. This novel is definitely not filled with fluff. Instead it is brutal and realistic.

Heroine was a book that I could not put down. While reading, Mickey Catalan became someone that I cared about. There were times in the novel when I hoped for a good outcome for her – and yet wasn’t sure she would get it. She is loved – by family and friends – and yet she moves freely and with conscious thought towards addition. The novel shows how easy it is for her to do so – and how she advocates for herself to go down the path she has chosen.

This novel is described as a Young Adult novel and discusses an issue that some teens are faced with. The content, however, is too mature for the younger teen – or one that would not have the ability to process such a harsh reality. However, it is a reality that needs to come out into the open; it is a reality that young people need to consider as drug addiction is so easy to fall into.

I enjoyed this well-written novel and recommend that should be read by both young and older readers as it deals with a topic that affects so many lives.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 17th in my book pledge for 2019)

Top 5 books set in your country

This week for Top 5 Tuesday, we are sharing the books that are set in our countries. I have chosen to talk about books set in my country of birth, South Africa. The books I am sharing with you are ones that I have read even though I no longer have copies of them.

Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

This book is Nelson Mandela’s autobiography. I read it about a decade after the first democratic elections in  South Africa and it describes Mandela’s life from childhood up until the time he became the first black president of the country. I found the description of his life from the time he was released from prison interesting as those are the moments that I lived through in my life as an adult living in the changing country.  

The Last Trek, A New Beginning by F. W. de Klerk

De Klerk was the last president of the National Party in South Africa and he was the one who oversaw the release of Nelson Mandela. It was under his leadership that the beginning of change began in my home country. I read this autobiography after Nelson Mandela’s and it was interesting to compare the two experiences – and to read history from a different viewpoint. 

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

This book is another autobiography but this time of a comedian who was born during apartheid and grew up mostly in a post-Apartheid South Africa. When reading this memoir, it was interesting to compare his upbringing with what I had myself experienced as well as with what I had observed when teaching at a school after the first South African democratic elections. I loved, too, that his sense of humour permeates the writing. I am curious to know whether non-South Africans would understand many of the references that I did as a South African-born reader. 

Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

This novel was one of the set books that I read when I was at university and it is one that resonated with me. It is a deeply moving story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son, Absalom, set against the background of a land and a people riven by racial injustice. Remarkable for its lyricism, unforgettable for character and incident, this novel is one of love and hope, courage and endurance, born of the dignity of man. While doing research for this post, I saw that the book had been published with a newer edition. It is time, I think, to consider re-reading it. 

The Covenant by James A. Michener

This is an epic tale of adventurers, scoundrels, and ministers set in the South African wilderness. From the Java-born Van Doorn family tree springs two great branches: one nurtures lush vineyards, the other settles the interior to become the first Trekboers and Afrikaners. The Nxumalos, inhabitants of a peaceful village unchanged for centuries, unite warrior tribes into the powerful Zulu nation. And the wealthy Saltwoods are missionaries and settlers who join the masses to influence the wars and politics that ravage a nation. This novel is a story of courage and heroism, love and loyalty, and cruelty and betrayal, as generations fight to forge a new world. I read this book over 25 years ago so I cannot remember the details – but I remember being swept away with the epic nature of the story. Not only does Michener tell his story, but he throws in a bit of South African history too.

Other South African Authors

There are many other South African-based stories that I have read in the past. However, I am unable to remember the titles of the books. Some South African authors of note are: Nadine Gordimer, Doris Lessing, Olive Schreiner, and J. M. Coetzee. 

Have you read a story based in South Africa? If you have please share the title and author in the comments. 

© 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 books in your own country).

Book Review: The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth

The synopsis for the novel The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth captured my attention because it reminded me of the Narnia series by C. S. Lewis.

Genre: Young Adult fiction, Fantasy.

Blurb:

Five years ago, Evelyn and Philippa Hapwell cowered from air strikes in a London bomb shelter. But that night took a turn when the sisters were transported to another realm called the Woodlands. In a forest kingdom populated by creatures out of myth and legend, they found temporary refuge. 

When they finally returned to London, nothing had changed at all—nothing, except themselves. 

Now, Ev spends her days sneaking into the woods outside her boarding school, wishing for the Woodlands. Overcome with longing, she is desperate to return no matter what it takes. 

Philippa, on the other hand, is determined to find a place in this world. She shields herself behind a flawless exterior and countless friends, and moves to America to escape the memory of what was. 

But when Evelyn goes missing, Philippa must confront the depth of her sister’s despair and the painful truths they’ve been running from. As the weeks unfold, Philippa wonders if Ev truly did find a way home, or if the weight of their worlds pulled her under.

My thoughts:

I was keen to read this story as I have enjoyed the Narnia series in the past – both as a teen and as an adult. I loved the fantasy world and the symbolism that C. S. Lewis had created and looked forward to reading a story that had been inspired by it.

Weymouth poses the question: what would a person feel once back in the reality of the world and far away from what was experienced in the ‘other’ world? We read of the coping mechanisms of three children who had crossed over to another world – and are introduced to the point of view of two.

The story is told with empathy, and the reader comes to understand the feelings of both Philippa and Ev. We see Philippa as the stronger, older sister; and Ev as the one who is unable to let go of the world and the people she came to love in that world when she was returned to a war-torn London. The reader learns to understand Ev’s plight and her desire to go back. There were times, however, when I felt her actions were selfish and manipulative. And so many times I wished that she would be grateful for the love and experiences of her current world. Because I felt this, I did lose a little sympathy for her and was more moved by Philippa who had always been there to support her sister.

I liked that half-way through the novel, I began to read the viewpoint of Philippa. Even though she does miss the Woodlands and the creatures she met there, her response to being back in London during the war is different to that of her sister. Through the characters of the two sisters, Weymouth shows that a person’s response to the same situation may be different.

I enjoyed the novel The Light Between Two Worlds and reading the thoughts of how a person could react to the Narnia experience. Even though there were moments when I wished the pace of the book was a little faster (when reading Ev’s experience), I did enjoy this heartbreaking story. If you enjoy fantasy novels and references to The Chronicles of Narnia, then this story would be perfect for you.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️  3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 16th in my book pledge for 2019)

Weekend Coffee Share: A Crash Course

If we were having coffee, I would apologise for meeting with you so late – and after the weekend has ended. The weekend was exceptionally busy – as well as the week leading up to it. Thankfully for the next 5 days I will be able to take things a little slowly and catch up a little on my blogging and book reviews as it is March Break – a week in which the schools are closed.

The week leading up to the weekend went by quickly – though my students were very excited for the upcoming break. Two of them left on Monday so I had two children left in my class. During the week, I kept hearing snippets of where others were going: Florida to see The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Switzerland, Amsterdam, and even Montreal. While these children are jet setting all over the world, I plan to stay at home to relax and little and to study.

Study? you may ask. Yes, my March Break began with attendance at a crash course by Canfit Pro to become a group Fitness Instructor. As you already know, I have done my basic Zumba Instructor training. In order to teach at the gym, I need to do my certification with the Canadian licencing board.

The books I spent the weekend with.
© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

The course began at 4pm on a late Friday afternoon and finished on Sunday at 4pm. The weekend was filled with information and lots of new learning. Some of it was very interesting – and gave me insight into not only what the group fitness instructors are doing, but also what they are not. I came home on Sunday afternoon exhausted and sat myself in front of the TV with my crochet. It was a good place to unwind.

I am currently catching up on my viewing of Grey’s Anatomy. I do prefer waiting until all of the episodes are uploaded on Netflix as then I do not have to wait an entire week before finding out what happens next. I am sure that by the end of this week I will be caught up. Then I will be faced with the dilemma of what to watch next!

If we were having coffee, I would leave you now as I have my weekend chores to catch up on.

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)

Top 5 Book Spines

I love seeing the books I have set out on my bookshelves. Their colours are aesthetically pleasing to me – especially those books that have beautiful covers and spines. I have noticed that a number of new releases are competing with some of the older copies on my shelf. And the spines of Fantasy books? Sometimes they have no competition from the other genres.

THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE by Samantha Shannon

I fell in love with this spine from the first moment I saw it on Instagram. The beautiful orange contrasts well with the blue. The hint of a dragon across it definitely adds to its beauty. When I received my pre-order, I saw that the spine looked as beautiful in my hands as it did on social media.

ENCHANTEE by Gita Trelease

I love anything related to Paris – a city I have spent a year in and that I loved visiting. This beautiful spine highlights the colours of the French flag and seems to fit perfectly the story within. I have not read the book yet but the spine will encourage me to pick it up when I am in the mood for something French related.

THE CERULEAN by Amy Ewing

From the first moment that I read the synopsis for this book, I knew that I wanted to read it. What a bonus when I saw the beautiful cover – and the spine certainly looks attractive amongst the other books.

THE SWORD OF SUMMER by Rick Riordon

The Magnus Chase books all have beautiful spines. My daughter has the entire collection on her shelf and they look stunning together. I have put the first in the series on my TBR shelf as I have been curious about these stories for a while now.

NIGHTBLOOD by Elly Blake

The spine of the third book in the series by Elly Blake looks absolutely stunning next to book 1 and 2. The Frostblood Saga is yet another series that I am hoping to read during 2019. I had the opportunity to hear Elly Blake speak last year and could not resist getting to know her more through her story.

I know I will get to read these beautiful books sometime but, until then, I will admire their beauty on my shelf.

Which book spines are among your favourite?

© 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 books that beautiful spines). 

Reading Buddy

I always try to encourage a love of reading in my classroom. I have created a reading space in the room, and I give children time during the day to spend with their library books. Some children in my class gravitate towards the centre when all their tasks are done and immerse themselves in their story while others like to share what they are reading with a friend. One of my students (who enjoys reading) left his reading buddy with a book while he went out to recess.

A Reading Buddy. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

I could not help but smile at the sight. Not only has he kept his spot in the book in a non-traditional way, but his action highlights how much he enjoys spending time with stories.

What has made you smile this week?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

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

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

This year I plan to re-read The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling and during February I read the second book in the series: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. This novel is available in a beautiful illustrated edition and this is the edition I read for my revisit into the Hogwarts world of magic.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy

Blurb: 

The Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike

And strike it does. For in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockhart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls’ bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley’s younger sister, Ginny.

But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone — or something — starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects . . . Harry Potter himself?

My thoughts:

I loved Harry Potter’s world the first time I read the series and my enjoyment was not diminished with a second reading. I smiled at the mischief Harry and his friend Ron got up to, and enjoyed reading about their stealthy adventures in the corridors of Hogwarts.

My enjoyment of this book was amplified by the paintings by Jim Kay in the illustrated edition. The paintings are beautiful renditions of favourite characters and he does them great justice. Like a young child, I ‘read’ the images in the book and admired the detail in Kay’s work.

I am reminded again of why children love this story so much: it is full of magic, adventure, as well as relatable characters. I look forward to reading the next installment in the story.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 15th in my book pledge for 2019)

Music Monday: Sucker by The Jonas Brothers

On Friday my daughter told me about a new song by The Jonas Brothers. I had seen that they had got back together but had not yet listened to any of their new songs. My daughter particularly likes Sucker and has started playing it a number of times since it has come out.We watched the video together:

I like the song. It is catchy and I have always like the music these brothers make. I am not too keen on the video though as there doesn’t seem to be a link between the song and the images on the screen. And it does look a bit pretentious to me.

What do you think of the new song – and video – by The Jonas Brothers?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019