First Line Fridays: The Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

“It was raining the day Suki came to the Palace of the Sun, and it was raining the night that she died.”

The Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa (2018, Harper Collins Canada)

The Shadow of the Fox is a magical Japanese Fantasy novel that features Yumeko (half kitsune and half human) and Kage Tatsumi ( a samurai of the Shadow Clan). One is sworn to protect part of an ancient scroll, the other to find it.

I loved this story and look forward to reading the next one in the series.

Would you keep reading?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

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

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Bookstagram: Currently Reading

The best thing about my break is that I can read for many hours a day – especially if a book has captured my imagination and I can’t help turning the pages. My last read was one such read and I completed the book in a day. This morning I started another and, even though it has not hooked me as the previous novel I picked up, I am slowly enjoying it.

The story features Solomon and Ash, two people who have experienced a traumatic event when they were twelve. Ash has lost all memory of the event, and Solomon has retreated further and further into a world of his own creation. The book is written in a two person point of view and interchanges between Solomon’s fantasy world and Ash’s realistic one. So far it is an interesting combination.

What are you currently reading?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

Book Review: Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

My friend and I have started reading books together and discussing them. Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin is one of thoses books that I have been telling her to read. In order to have a profitable discussion with her, I decided to reread the book.

Genre: Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Blurb:

Pride and Prejudice with a modern twist.

Ayesha Shamsi has a lot going on.  Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and dresses like he belongs in the seventh century. 

When a surprise engagement between Khalid and Hafsa is announced, Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and his family; and the truth she realizes about herself. But Khalid is also wrestling with what he believes and what he wants. And he just can’t get this beautiful, outspoken woman out of his mind. 

My thoughts:

I LOVED reading the book again! (If you want to read my original review, please click here.) The novel has so much in it to discuss with a buddy: prejudices and reasons for them; the growth of someone as they let go of their own pride; the struggle to become non-conformist; workplace difficulties; social expectations. These are just a few of the issues my friend and I have discussed. We were also able to link the story to some of our own experience even though we are not a part of the Muslim community.

Rereading Ayesha At Last has made me love the story even more. I appreciated once again the characters that Jalaluddin has created; and smiled, unreservedly, at the subtle references made to Pride and Prejudice. The story is humorous, prods at social norms, and has become one of my favourite rom-coms.

Once again, I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 70th in my book pledge for 2019)

Bookstagram: Currently Reading

This morning I began reading Like A Love Story by Abdi Nazema. The novel is set in the eighties during the AIDS crisis and tells a story of the fear as well as the bravery that existed during that time period in the queer community.

The story is beautifully written and looks like it will become one of my favourite stories of the year. At the moment I am pleased that there is nothing to prevent me from reading this book – this is one of those stories that I can’t stop reading!

What are you currently reading?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

Book Review: My Ideal Boyfriend is a Croissant by Laura Dockrill

When at the OLA Super Conference in February this year, I managed to get an ARC of My Ideal Boyfriend is a Croissant by Laura Dockrill. The title captured my attention and the blurb encouraged me to pick it up.

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult

Blurb:

It’s a food diary. I have to tell the truth. That’s the point.

Sixteen-year-old Bluebelle, also known as BB or Big Bones, lives her life unapologetically. She loves life! She loves food!

When BB has a worse-than-usual asthma attack, her mom insists she go to the doctor. There, she is told that she is overweight (no surprise) and prediabetic (big surprise) and must lose weight, move more, and keep a food diary. To get out of this immediate health crisis, she agrees to make an effort.

Then a tragedy occurs in the family, and things get seriously complicated. Suddenly, losing weight and moving more are the least of her worries. As for the food diary, though, BB doesn’t just document what she’s eating, she documents what she’s feeling–and she has a lot to say!

My thoughts:

Our society is focused a lot on looks and on weight and what I love about the main character in this book, BB, is that she is happy with her size. It is so important for teens to hear that message and understand it; to understand that it is important to be comfortable in your own skin.

The food diary that BB keeps shows that she has a healthy relationship with food. She eats good food that she savours. Food is also eaten with others and encapsulates family and friendship. The diary shows that the food she eats has certain connotations and memories for her. Through her food diary, the reader is reminded that food is not an enemy. Instead it is meant to be enjoyed and feted – often in the presence of others.

What is shown in BB’s story is that eating needs to be paired with exercise. I love how this teen is shows others that exercise is hard but, once started, it can become a part of a lifestyle. Exercise is necessary to be healthy and having a medical condition such as asthma should not stop a person on their journey to fitness. The food diary documents her journey towards a healthier lifestyle.

I loved the main character in My Ideal Boyfriend is a Croissant. She is sassy, determined, and loyal. I see her as being a good model for teens because she shows the importance of loving your body for what it is. Dockrill won me over with her story. It is humorous and yet deals with a serious issue that affects so many teens in our society today. This is a book I would recommend highly to any person who is trying to figure out who they are.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 69th in my book pledge for 2019)

Music Monday: A Little Bit of Funkytown

On Friday morning I received a notification that the new Zumba releases were available. I love listening to and watching their new songs – it makes me excited to learn new choreography. The first song on the new playlist is Funkytown.

This song from 1980 brings me back to my teen years. I remember bopping to this tune with my cousins at family parties. This was the song that got EVERYONE on the dance floor: uncles, aunts, grandmother, little kids, and of course the teenagers. Listening to it brings back good memories and always makes me smile.

Funkytown is such an iconic song. Even my girls know it as they used to play the song in the marching band for the Santa Parade. I am now learning the choreography – of course – and look forward to sharing the dance with people.

What are your memories of Funkytown?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(Link your Music Monday post to this one so we can share our love of music.)

Weekend Coffee Share: August Already!

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I cannot believe that it is already August! The time has meandered along but has suddenly caught up with me! I am thinking to myself that I better get done with my cleaning and sorting because, before I know it, I will be in my classroom preparing for the new school year.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that one of the things that I bought to organise my things is a little crate for the pile of books that are next to my bed. The crate keeps my TBR neatly in one place and I no longer have a pie of books teetering on my bedside table.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that twice during the past week I made mini-pies reminiscent of South Africa. On Tuesday, I experimented with the meal and filled puff pastry with the leftover stew I had prepared for Monday night’s dinner. On Friday, I created a mushroom filling for my pies. The results were delicious and my family enjoyed eating the flaky pastry. This is a meal I foresee myself making in the future once I am back at work.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I saw my friend a few times this week. No matter how many times I see her, we do not stop talking while we are together – we definitely do not run out of things to say! Once we get back to work and our regular routines, I will miss seeing her so often. This summer has been a real treat in that we are able to see one another so often.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I am tired of the summer heat. My body is definitely happier with the milder weather. The heat can be tiring at times which has lead me to reading quite a bit – 12 books during the month of July. I have not yet caught up on the book reviews but I should be able to do that this week. Once I have done so, I will post a summary as usual.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that tomorrow is a public holiday. The long weekend does not affect me and the children too much as we are on break – but it does my husband. He is looking forward to the extra day to relax. 🙂

If we were having coffee, I would tell you to have a wonderful week. As I am still on Summer Break, my plans are very fluid and may change.

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)

Book Review: My Name is Sam by Joe Siccardi

I was contacted by the author, Joe Siccardi to read and review one of his independent novels. His books are Christian based and the synopsis of My Name is Sam looked interesting as it suggested the story of Christian woman and her lifetime.

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Christian fiction

Blurb:

Sit down with a cup of coffee or a nice wine and visit with Sam as she shares a lifetime of memories in this new Christian-themed fictional memoir. My Name Is Sam … and Heaven Is Still Shining Through is a follow-up to the breakout novella, Heaven Shining Through. It introduces Sam (Samantha), her family and friends in more detail than the original, and picks up where the novella left off. I hope readers get to know Sam as a friend, a life long friend. Share her life … complete with some drama, some humor, some heart tugs. Just a free-willed suburban Jersey girl trying to figure out this journey called life with the presence of God in an ordinary life as the underlying theme.

My thoughts:

My first thought upon reading this book is that the story was too condensed. I would have liked to read the details of Sam’s life and learn more about the ups and downs in her life. Squeezing the story of a life into the form of a short novel did not work for me as it took away my ability to truly immerse myself in the life that was described. In addition, some events in the life story were glossed over – events that could have led to thought-provoking soundbites.

Siccardi tells us Sam’s story instead of showing us. As a result, I did not feel much emotion while reading – even when Sam experiences some sad moments in her life. What is missing from the narrative is the sense of what the characters in the story are feeling. As a reader, I enjoy the experience of the words forming pictures in my mind: of the characters, what they look like, what they are doing, the emotions they are feeling. My Name is Sam did not give me any of that experience and, therefore, I found it difficult to be invested in the book.

When I opened the pages of this novel, I was hoping to read an inspirational story that is Christian-based. As expected, Sam does experience some difficult moments in her faith. These difficulties, however, are not explored. I found myself wishing that they had been as reading about a character overcoming the difficulties of her faith would have been interesting and inspirational.

Siccardi is an independent author who has taken the time to ensure that his book is professional and well written. The book is easy to read and I found it kept my interest right until the end. The ending of the story is beautifully written and brought tears to my eyes. It is the magic of the last page that I was looking for throughout the novel.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 68th in my book pledge for 2019)

A TBR Crate

During my Summer Break, I am spending time organising my home. While shopping with a friend of mine at IKEA yesterday, I came across a small wooden crate that would be perfect for me to keep the books I plan to read for the month in a neat space. I grabbed it enthusiastically, even though I noticed that I had to build it myself.

Earlier this afternoon as I prepared to build the crate, I hoped it would not be too complicated. IKEA instructions are not always as easy as one would hope.

I pieced the crate together like a puzzle and referred to the instructions to determine which size screws to begin the construction.

Screwing the pieces together were not easy as not all of the holes had been pre-drilled. I found myself having to use my body weight to ensure that the screw would sink into the wood.

I managed to complete putting the box together on my own. For a moment, I thought I would have to wait for my husband’s help and strength to screw the pieces together as I had some difficulty sinking the crew into the wood. Determination and perseverance, however, ensured that I succeeded.

My TBR is now neatly placed in the crate next to my bed. Seeing the box when I enter the room makes me smile. What makes me smile even more is that I managed to build it on my own without any help. 🙂

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2017

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

Book Review: Postscript by Cecelia Ahern

I was so excited to receive an ARC of Postscript by Cecilia Ahern. I love her writing and could not wait to start reading it. I normally try to read the ARCs near the time of publication – but I could not wait with this one!

Publication date: 19 September 2019

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Blurb:

When Holly Kennedy is approached by a group calling themselves the PS, I Love You Club, her safe existence is turned on its head. Inspired by hearing about her late husband Gerry’s letters, the club wants Holly to help them with their own parting messages for their loved ones to discover after they’re gone.

Holly is sure of one thing – no way is she being dragged back to the grief she has left behind. It’s taken seven years to reinvent herself, and she’s ready to move on with her life.

But Holly comes to realize that when you love someone, there’s always one more thing to say…

My thoughts:

Postscript is a perfect sequel and is as beautifully written as PS. I Love You. I enjoyed reading more about Holly and her life 7 years after she had lost her husband. Life goes on after death, and this is what is shown in this novel. However, a loved one is always with you despite their death; and this, too, is shown in Ahern’s latest writing.

As with the first novel, Holly is the centre of the story. Even though she is in a relationship with another man, her romantic relationship is not what drives the story. Holly still has things to learn and in this novel she grows even more. Our personal growth does not stop at a certain age. Instead our life experiences and the people we come into contact with help to mould us into the people we are. In Postscript, Holly comes into contact with people who need her help. She gives her help – but with trepidation and plenty of uncertainty. And yet, in helping these people, Holly discovers that they help her too. In helping these people, she is able to grow as a person.

As always, Ahern’s writing is spot-on. Her words pull emotions from the reader (I do admit to tears forming in my eyes) and encourage you to become invested in the story. As I was reading, the characters were so vivid in my mind, and so real. Ahern is definitely a master at characterisation.

If you loved PS. I Love You (either the film or the book), you will enjoy Postscript as much as I did. This novel is definitely one you need to place on your TBR!

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars with no reservation.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 67th in my book pledge for 2019)