Weekend Coffee Share: First Week of June

If we were having coffee, we would still be meeting virtually. Even though some stores have opened up in our city for curbside pickup, we cannot yet meet up for coffee at our local coffee shop. I long for the time that I can do so and I look forward to chatting with a friend and experiencing the buzz of people around me.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that in the final week of May, we were told that we would continue with remote teaching until the end of June and the end of the school year. I was disappointed to learn that I would not be spending time with my students, but the decision was what I expected. We will know by the end of June what the new school year will look like in September. Our province is looking to others to see what their experience of going back to school is like.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that on Tuesday afternoon I went into school to place my students’ belongings into bags and to tidy up things a little in the classroom. My heart felt a little sad as I saw the incomplete projects lying around in the room; projects that I will not be able to complete with this year’s group of students. I had to organise and tidy everything within a 3 hour framework. Both my daughters came to help me and I would not have managed to do as much as I did without their help.

If we were having coffee, I would ask you if you have noticed the new banner on my blog. My daughter (who is studying art at university) created it for me. She also created the specific banner for my weekly coffee share. What do you think? I like the clean-cut lines of it – and the banners definitely make my space look more professional. Slowly I am cleaning up my blog and hopefully taking it to the next level.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that during the next week I will be focusing on report cards. I have not seen my students for 3 months and I know that writing them is not going to be easy. I will be focusing on what we did in class before the March Break, and mentioning as well the tasks that they have completed during the school closure and the remote learning period. The upcoming week is definitely not going to be an easy one as I grapple with them.

If we were having coffee, I would encouraged you to enjoy the upcoming week and to focus on the positive. This is what I am going to try and do.

What would you tell me if we were having coffee?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

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

Book Review: Under Currents by Nora Roberts

My hold for the audiobook Under Currents by Nora Roberts came in and I eagerly began listening to it. This title had been on my TBR list and I thought that listening to the story instead of reading the text may help me put a dent into my list.

Format: Audiobook

Narrator: January LaVoy

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Mystery

Blurb:

Within the walls of a tasteful, perfectly kept house in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, young Zane Bigelow feels like a prisoner of war. Strangers—and even Zane’s own aunt across the lake—see his parents as a successful surgeon and his stylish wife, making appearances at their children’s ballet recitals and baseball games. Zane and his sister know the truth: There is something terribly wrong.

As his father’s violent, controlling rages—and his mother’s complicity—become more and more oppressive, Zane counts the years, months, days until he can escape. He looks out for little Britt, warning her Be smart. Be careful. In fear for his very life, he plays along with the insidious lie that everything is fine, while scribbling his real thoughts in a secret journal he must carefully hide away.

When one brutal, shattering night finally reveals cracks in the façade, Zane begins to understand that some people are willing to face the truth, even when it hurts. As he grows into manhood and builds a new kind of family, he will find that while the darkness of his past may always shadow him, it will also show him what is necessary for good to triumph—and give him strength to draw on when he once again must stand up and defend himself and the ones he loves… 

My Thoughts:

The audio version of this book was fantastic and I really enjoyed listening to LaVoy as she performed the story. The accents for the different characters were spot on and the emotions were perfectly pitched. I think the audio added another dimension to the story and increased my enjoyment of it.

Under Currents explores a sensitive topic – that of domestic violence. We see the affect of violence on both a child and a spouse. Even though the topic is a difficult one, Roberts explores it with sensitivity. I like that the story ends with a sense of hope even though I know, realistically, that domestic violence doesn’t always end happily.

Roberts is a master at creating the perfect pace to keep a reader’s interest. The story also had a good mix of serious topics, mystery, and romance. The characters are varied and true to life and I enjoyed listening to the connections that they made with one another. I always enjoy reading the contemporary fiction novels by Nora Roberts and this one did not disappoint.

I give this audio novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 58th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

A Flower Treat

Yesterday I was unable to walk in the morning as it was raining when I woke up. I missed being outside but I knew, according to the weather forecast, that I would be able to walk today. I took my usual route which allows me to achieve my goal of 10 000 steps.

I passed by a house that has not showcased any flowers up until now and I could not help but admire the beauty of the flowers that had recently opened up. The colour stands out to me as it is my favourite, and the flower is always impressive.

I look forward to seeing these flowers again on my next walk. I hope their beauty is on display for a couple of weeks.

What made you smile this morning?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2017

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

Book Review: Grown Up Pose by Sonja Lalli

I had previously read and enjoyed a novel by Sonja Lalli so when I saw the audiobook for Grown Up Pose was available at the library, I decided to listen to the novel instead of reading the text.

Format: Audiobook

Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Blurb:

A delightfully modern look at what happens for a young woman when tradition, dating, and independence collide, from acclaimed author Sonya Lalli.

Adulting shouldn’t be this hard. Especially in your thirties. Having been pressured by her tight-knit community to get married at a young age to her first serious boyfriend, Anu Desai is now on her own again and feels like she is starting from the beginning.

But Anu doesn’t have time to start over. Telling her parents that she was separating from her husband was the hardest thing she’s ever done—and she’s still dealing with the fallout. She has her young daughter to support and when she invests all of her savings into running her own yoga studio, the feelings of irresponsibility send Anu reeling. She’ll be forced to look inside herself to learn what she truly wants.

My Thoughts:

The narration of this novel is well done and the Canadian, English, and Indian perfect. The excellent narration of the novel enhanced my enjoyment of the story.

The story is that of a woman in her early thirties who has an identity crisis – especially as she married when she was so young. She takes time out from her marriage and the presence of strong women in her life (her mother and mother-in-law). In doing so, she discovers who she is and reconnects with the dreams she had as a young woman.

The story moves between the past and the present. At times the shift did cause me confusion – a confusion, I think, which I would not have experienced had I been reading the text for myself. Looking back to past events helped me to understand, though, the actions of the character and why she made the choices that she did. There were times, though, when her reflections were a bit repetitive – and if I were reading, I would have skim read these paragraphs.

What I did enjoy in this novel was the snapshot into the Punjabi culture and the expectations of women within this culture. Reading this novel helped me to understand a little more the ways of the women within this group. I liked that the novel was unashamedly of a group of people I do not know much about.

The message I got from this story is that a woman can follow her dreams no matter what her responsibilities are. In addition, your age does not determine when it is that you can follow your dreams. Grown Up Pose is not a romance in the traditional sense. Instead, it is one that charts the story of an ordinary woman who rediscovers herself and her dreams, and finds what it is that makes her happy.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 57th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Diverse Reads: The Book of Negroes

I am horrified to hear of what is currently happening in the US and the steps that have been taken to silence voices. World-wide people have struggled and sacrificed for decades so that they can be heard – and in a few moments all the progress that has been made is taken away. We need to respect the voices of the disempowered; we need to listen to what they are saying.

I ask myself what I can do as an ordinary person living an ordinary life. I can listen and respect the experiences of those different to my own. I can pay attention to the voices of the disempowered. I can read the stories written by those whose lives are disimilar to my own. I can speak up when comments and actions are made to disrespect the experience of those living without ingrained privilege.

Reading fiction is one way in which to explore the voices of those that are often submerged in society. Experiences described by authors of colour can give an insight into a life different to our own. When I was growing up, these reads were not available. Now, however, the shelves in the bookstores are slowly showcasing stories written by authors of different races and culture.

Today I share with you a powerful story written by a Canadian author: The Book of Negroes. Lawrence Hill gives voice to those who were forced from their home country in West Africa and sold as property. The novel centres on the story of Aminata Diallo from the time she was captured, sold into slavery in the United States, and fought for freedom. This powerful novel not only brought tears to my eyes, but it made me think on the slave trade and the far-reaching consequences of this moment in history. Hill writes Aminita’s story with empathy and brings the experience of the woman to life. This is a novel that I have recommended to others to read; and it is one that will always have a place on my bookshelf.

What diverse read has resonated with you?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

Visual Arts: Inspired by Van Gogh

The Ontario Curriculum of Visual Arts for grades 1 and 2 encourages the exploration of lines, colour, and a variety of media with which to create art. For one of my lessons created on the remote teaching platform, I thought students would enjoy a break from math and literacy to create a little and work with paint.

After asking them to watch some videos – in French – on the life and art of Vincent van Gogh, I asked my students to use the painting titled Starry Night as an inspiration for their own night scene.

In order to determine whether the project was possible, I decided to do a painting of my own. I laid out my materials for the project: acrylic paint, a paintbrush, a jar of water, a pencil, a sheet of card stock, a plastic fork, and a copy of Van Gogh’s painting.

For my first step, I lightly penciled in what I wanted to paint. I looked to the original painting for inspiration, knowing that I would not be able to copy the original exactly.

To recreate the lines seen as in the original painting, I used a plastic fork. For the lines to show up, I noticed that I had to layer the paint thickly onto the card.

I painted section by section and then used the fork in specific areas before the paint dried.

I enjoyed the activity and found it calming. I am hoping that the children I work with will find it calming as well – especially those who enjoy creating art with paint.

I like the effect of using the fork on the painting and am now thinking of other ways in which my students can practice this technique.

The acrylic paint is a bit sticky to use – or maybe it is because the paint I had was a little dry. The next time I do this activity (hopefully when in the classroom), I will attempt the task with tempura paint. It would be interesting to make a comparison and to see which medium is more effective.

My final product is not bad for a first attempt though it it nowhere near to what my daughters (who are art students) would produce.

I now look forward to seeing what my students create.

Have you attempted to recreate Van Gogh’s Starry Night?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

TBR: June 2020

During the month of June I plan to read a few more of the books that have been on my shelf for over a year. With both the library and the book stores closed, I have been slowly whittling down the books on my TBR shelf.

In addition to these, my plan is to finish reading the Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J Maas which I began in May. If I have time to read more, I will pick up a novel as dictated by my mood. June is the month for report cards so I will see how many titles I am able to enjoy.

What do you plan to read in June?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

Book Review: The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson

I thought it was time to pick up a novel that has been lingering on my bookshelf for a year now. I was in the mood for a contemporary read so I picked up The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson.

Genre: Mystery, Contemporary

Blurb:

A woman inherits a beloved bookstore and sets forth on a journey of self-discovery in this poignant debut about family, forgiveness and a love of reading.

Miranda Brooks grew up in the stacks of her eccentric Uncle Billy’s bookstore, solving the inventive scavenger hunts he created just for her. But on Miranda’s twelfth birthday, Billy has a mysterious falling-out with her mother and suddenly disappears from Miranda’s life. She doesn’t hear from him again until sixteen years later when she receives unexpected news: Billy has died and left her Prospero Books, which is teetering on bankruptcy—and one final scavenger hunt.

My Thoughts:

I picked up this book because the title had the word ‘bookshop’ in it. I enjoy reading stories that involve books and present characters who enjoy reading. I was not disappointed by the novel and enjoyed my foray into a story that embraces a love of reading.

This contemporary read was the perfect novel to spend some time with during my period of isolation. The story centres on the journey of a young woman who not only finds out about her past, but also determines what her future should be. It is a story about a young woman who discovers who she is and what it is she wants from her life. It is a story about a young woman who finds the courage to take the steps required to change her life and to take up the opportunities that have been given to her.

The Bookshop of Yesterdays is an expertly crafted novel that touches on grief, friendship, and the relationship between family members. I enjoyed reading about the main character, Miranda, and seeing how she grows in the story. I felt a connection with her as she works on figuring out her past and who she is. Her life is not perfect, and neither is the relationship she has with her parents. But she tries, and it is this that connected me to her.

If you enjoy contemporary fiction about ordinary lives, this novel is for you. As a reader, you will understand the characters’ love of the bookshop they work to save. You will finish the novel with a feeling of hope and satisfaction.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 56th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Summer Composition

Today I am in the mood to share music that embodies summer; music that does not distract you from its melody with voice. One of the pieces I have discovered is Summer by Joe Hisaishi. It is an upbeat piece that makes the listener think of the joys of summer.

Sometimes when I am working I listen to musical compositions like this. They relax me and help pass the time when doing mindless work.

What song do you think represents summer?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

Book Review: The Hot and Hammered Series

I picked up the first two books in this series by Tessa Bailey as the people on Bookstagram raved about the stories. And the covers look cute! 🙂

Genre of both novels: Romance, Contemporary

Blurb for Fix Her Up:

Georgette Castle’s family runs the best home renovation business in town, but she picked balloons instead of blueprints and they haven’t taken her seriously since. Frankly, she’s over it. Georgie loves planning children’s birthday parties and making people laugh, just not at her own expense. She’s determined to fix herself up into a Woman of the World… whatever that means.

Phase one: new framework for her business (a website from this decade, perhaps?)

Phase two: a gut-reno on her wardrobe (fyi, leggings are pants.)

Phase three: updates to her exterior (do people still wax?)

Phase four: put herself on the market (and stop crushing on Travis Ford!)

Living her best life means facing the truth: Georgie hasn’t been on a date since, well, ever. Nobody’s asking the town clown out for a night of hot sex, that’s for sure. Maybe if people think she’s having a steamy love affair, they’ll acknowledge she’s not just the “little sister” who paints faces for a living. And who better to help demolish that image than the resident sports star and tabloid favorite?

Travis Ford was major league baseball’s hottest rookie when an injury ended his career. Now he’s flipping houses to keep busy and trying to forget his glory days. But he can’t even cross the street without someone recapping his greatest hits. Or making a joke about his… bat. And then there’s Georgie, his best friend’s sister, who is not a kid anymore. When she proposes a wild scheme—that they pretend to date, to shock her family and help him land a new job—he agrees. What’s the harm? It’s not like it’s real. But the girl Travis used to tease is now a funny, full-of-life woman and there’s nothing fake about how much he wants her..

Blurb for Love Her Or Lose Her:

Rosie and Dominic Vega are the perfect couple: high school sweethearts, best friends, madly in love. Well, they used to be anyway. Now Rosie’s lucky to get a caveman grunt from the ex-soldier every time she walks in the door. Dom is faithful and a great provider, but the man she fell in love with ten years ago is nowhere to be found. When her girlfriends encourage Rosie to demand more out of life and pursue her dream of opening a restaurant, she decides to demand more out of love, too. Three words: marriage boot camp.

Never in a million years did Rosie believe her stoic, too-manly-to-emote husband would actually agree to relationship rehab with a weed-smoking hippy. Dom talking about feelings? Sitting on pillows? Communing with nature? Learning love languages? Nope. But to her surprise, he’s all in, and it forces her to admit her own role in their cracked foundation. As they complete one ridiculous—yet surprisingly helpful—assignment after another, their remodeled relationship gets stronger than ever. Except just as they’re getting back on track, Rosie discovers Dom has a secret… and it could demolish everything. 

My Thoughts:

Both these novels are lighthearted reads that don’t require the reader to think too much about social or relationship issues. Like many romances of this genre, they were a little predictable and did not present any surprises. I liked the storyline of Fix Her Up especially as it is about a woman who is fighting to be taken seriously by her family. The storyline of Love Her Or Lose Her had the potential to be interesting (especially as there aren’t too many romances that deal with marriages that are facing difficulties), but the story was portrayed in a superficial way.

When reading a romance, I expect to read about kissing and sex. The sex scenes in these two novels, however, were a little overdone – and, to be honest, unrealistic. What made it even more unrealistic, to me, was that the scenes in both novels were similar. With different characters, I expect different ways of relating to one another sexually. The focus on sex unfortunately impacted the meat of the storyline and, for me, the enjoyment of the novel.

There is a third book in this series that has come out. I am not sure whether I will read it – time will tell.

I give Fix Her Up ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars and Love Her Or Lose Her ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(These novels were the 54th and 55th novels in my book pledge for 2020)