A Lunar Celebration

Last night my family and I went out to eat dinner. The occasion? To celebrate the beginning of the Chinese New Year. Eating out is a treat for us and we looked forward to eating dumplings and many Chinese-style treats. Eating out together is already something to smile about but when we saw the decorations in the restaurant, our smiles grew wider. They were just beautiful.

Our waiter was friendly and welcoming, the food a treat, and the atmosphere perfect. We walked home happy and sated – though a little full. A perfect way to begin a lunar year.

If you celebrate the start of the lunar year, I wish you all the best.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

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

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Music Monday: A Star Wars Theme Song

I love the Star Wars saga – and have done so since I saw Return of the Jedi at the cinema in the early eighties. I have fond memories of spending time with my great aunt and her treating me to a sci-fi movie. I already was a fan of science fiction but had not yet encountered the films of George Lucas. My enjoyment of the film was not diminished because I had not seen the first two films in the series. (Though I did soon catch up!)

Yesterday I watched Solo: A Star Wars Story. I had missed seeing it in the cinema and had received the DVD as a Christmas gift from a fellow Star Wars fan. I loved the film and how the story gave background history to some of my favourite characters (Han Solo and Chewbacca). What I noticed was that the Star Wars theme song still remains the same:

With the thread of this music running through the film, not only were new memories being created but old ones were being revisited. I love how a part of my past has been woven into my present.

What do you think of the Star Wars theme song?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

Book Review: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

I was still in the mood for a little romance so I picked up What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera. I had seen so many positive comments about this novel over social media that I hoped I would not be disappointed.

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Blurb: 

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play? But what if it is?

My thoughts: 

Arthur and Ben: the encounter of two young boys who are meant to meet. The story is told from two points of view: Ben’s and Arthur’s. Ben is the New Yorker who has just come out of a broken relationship. Arthur is in New York for the summer. He is starry-eyed and never been in love. It is his determination and enthusiasm that changes a chance meeting in a post office to the chance to get to know another. I love the naivete of Arthur and how his enthusiasm makes Ben a believer in the possibilities.

This novel definitely made me smile. Who can’t but love the description of first love? And what makes this story relevant for teens today is that it is a love story between two boys who are finding their place in the world and who are learning to be comfortable with who they are. The novel fills in a gap that has existed in the reading world and shows boys that it is okay to fall in love with someone of the same sex – that it is not something to be ashamed of.

Without giving much away, I will say that I liked the ending. It is not a traditional ending for a romance; but it is an ending that is perfect for a teen novel. I started this book wondering if the social media hype was accurate; and ended it with the conclusion that What If It’s Us was well worth the read.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 8th in my book pledge for 2019)

Regroup

PHOTO PROMPT © Renee Heath

It felt like they were at the end of the world. The end of their world. No longer were they the mega-stars of their homegrown company. Instead, they had been publicly disgraced, thrown out to the media wolves. They had escaped to this lonely, desolate place to regroup and plan a new path. If only they could use their downfall to their benefit. Slowly a plan formed in which they rose like a phoenix from the ashes. The added benefit? Revenge on the one who had betrayed them with no conscience. Their comeback would be sweeter with his ruin.

© 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: Geekerella by Ashley Poston

A Cinderella retell, geekiness, and fan fiction. I could not resist reading Geekerella by Ashley Poston.

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Retelling

Blurb:

Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic science-fiction series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck and her dad’s old costume, Elle’s determined to win – unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons – before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he has ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake – until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?

Part-romance, part-love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.

My thoughts: 

This was a sweet romance between two young people that reminded me of my young daughter – who  definitely has her fandoms. Not only does she have her fandoms, but as a young girl she loved the Cinderella story. I enjoyed the modern retelling of her favourite Disney princess – and loved how the aspect of fandom was woven within it. When reading the blurb, I was intrigued by the suggestion of the combination. Did the writer do a good job? Yes, I believe she did. The utter seriousness of those following fandoms is integrated with the notion of an uncaring stepmother who takes advantage of her stepchild.

Geekerella is a simple story that kept me smiling. It is a modern tale that embraces the magic of fandom, and which encouraged me to keep turning thepages. It is the perfect read for those like my daughter – a teen who will understand the seriousness of fandoms, and who wishes for a little romance. I enjoyed this lighthearted read and look forward to reading Postons upcoming book The Princess and the Fangirl. 

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 7th in my book pledge for 2019)

A Basic Training

Last weekend on Saturday, I attended the Basic Training to begin my path to be a Zumba instructor. Saturday morning saw me waking up early to get ready to go. I ate breakfast and then bundled up to go outside. The temperatures were low and discouraging but I had made a decision to go further with the Zumba classes and did not want to let myself down (added to which I had already paid for the training).

After an hour and a half travel time using the public transit, I arrived at the venue to see many people milling about. I had made it just in time and rushed to get registered and changed for the lesson. We had been warned it would be physical so I was prepared to do a little dancing.

The day started with a Zumba class run by the instructor. And already I was smiling 😀 The class was full of energy and so much fun to do – I can only work towards being as good as he is. After the sample class, we continued dancing – and learning. I began to see and understand the patterns that I had followed in the many Zumba classes I have attended.

After lunch, we sat for a bit to talk about theory – but only for a short while. Then we were up again getting our bodies moving. It was nearing the end of the day and my body was feeling the strain: my arms were hurting, and my legs were wobbly. The training was definitely practical-based and not theory-based. The day ended with me receiving my certificate of completion and signing up to be a ZIN (Zumba Instructor Network) member. Now I will work towards preparing to teach my first class.

The Zumba training definitely made me smile. Not only did I enjoy the dancing in the training, but the instructor was funny. I am sure I will do more courses with them as I would love to be able to teach children.

What 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: Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas

I wanted to introduce myself to Sarah J. Maas and her writing as I had seen so much of her work on Instagram. While browsing her offerings at the bookstore, I saw that she had written a superhero story. I love superheroes, so I picked up her interpretation of Catwoman: Soulstealer.

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Superheroes

Blurb: 

When the Bat’s away, the Cat will play. It’s time to see how many lives this cat really has. . . .

Two years after escaping Gotham City’s slums, Selina Kyle returns as the mysterious and wealthy Holly Vanderhees. She quickly discovers that with Batman off on a vital mission, Batwing is left to hold back the tide of notorious criminals. Gotham City is ripe for the taking.

Meanwhile, Luke Fox wants to prove he has what it takes to help people in his role as Batwing. He targets a new thief on the prowl who seems cleverer than most. She has teamed up with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, and together they are wreaking havoc. This Catwoman may be Batwing’s undoing.

My thoughts: 

I loved this story and did not regret picking it up. Maas makes Selina’s story real and believable. Through her words we see the true person behind the mask (and no, I haven’t read the comic book so I am unable to compare). We are told of Catwoman’s background and the journey she took to become one of the masked characters in Gotham city. We learn of the obstacles she has encountered, the decisions she has had to make, and the love that she has for the most important person in her world. In the story we also learn about another superhero – Batwing – and I enjoyed reading the cat and mouse game that Catwoman plays with him.

Reading this story made me realise that I do want to read more of Sarah J. Maas. She weaves her story adroitly and sets a good pace for the story. Reading Catwoman: Soulstealer has also made me want to read the rest of the DC Iconns in the series.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 6th in my book pledge for 2019)

Top 5 Badass Females

What are badass women? you may be asking yourself. The urban dictionary defines her as radiating confidence in everything she does. She carves her own path. She wears, drives, drinks, watches, and listens to what she chooses, when she chooses, where she chooses, uninfluenced by fads or advertising campaigns.

Below are the top five badass females that I encountered in 2018

Juliette in The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton

Juliette is a woman who knows what she wants – and who she wants. She crosses the line to get the life and man she wants and, even though the way in which she does it is socially unacceptable, her determination and persistence is admirable. Juliette is definitely a memorable female character in a scarily good psychological thriller.

Elloren in The Black Witch by Laurie Forest

There are so many good female characters in The Black Witch. For this list, however, I will focus on the main female protagonist. Even though Elloren is young, she knows who she wants to be – and what she does not want to become. All her decisions are made because of her desire to do what is right – even though she has to go against traditional social expectations. Sometimes she has to do what is expected because of circumstances – but even while following tradition, she does not fully adhere to the way things are normally done. The Black Witch is my favourite type of Fantasy novel which includes so many themes and rich characters.

Shirin in A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

As a Muslim girl living in America after 9/11, Shirin has a choice: to wear her hijab and show to the world her religious faith; or not wear the hijab and thus avoid all the racial and religious slurs thrown at her. She chooses to be proud of who she is and wear her hijab regardless. She is a young woman who defies the assumptions made about her – and who comes to certain realisations during this contemporary novel perfect for young adults.

Ayesha in Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

Based loosely on the character Elizabeth in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Ayesha is a woman who knows what she wants to achieve, and does not hesitate to work towards it. She is proud of who she is and of what she is able to accomplish on her own terms. Unlike her cousin who follows the expectations her community has of her, Ayesha steps into an arena that is different to what is expected of a good Muslim woman. I love her feistiness and independence.

Zuri in Pride by Ibi Zoboi

Zuri is also based on Elizabeth in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. As expected, she is proud, feisty, and independent. I love, too, that she is proud of her heritage and her background – and that she makes no apologies for it. She is sassy and motivated to work towards her goals. Zuri is a perfect role model for young adult women of colour who sometimes hesitate to show pride in their background and heritage.

The above-mentioned list highlights the five female characters that stood out for me during my 2018 reading journey. There are others whom I met – and I look forward to meeting new ones this year.

Which strong female protagonist did you discover last year?

© 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 contain badass females). 

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

This year I plan to re-read the Harry Potter books. It has been a while since I have read them and I have forgotten many of the small details – details that the children in my class this year speak about. To begin my journey into J. K. Rowling’s magical world, I began with the illustrated version of The Philosopher’s Stone.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Blurb: 

Harry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a broom far above the ground. He knows no spells, has never helped to hatch a dragon, and has never worn a cloak of invisibility.

All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley–a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry’s room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn’t had a birthday party in eleven years.

But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry–and anyone who reads about him—will find unforgettable.

My thoughts:

I loved re-reading this story and enjoyed it as much as I did the first time. I enjoyed the wizarding world that Rowling created – and the wonderful characters that populate it. The story is so much more than a story about magic, isn’t it? it is one about acceptance, prejudices, teamwork. It is about change and new experiences, about being the best you can be.

What I loved about the illustrated edition were the paintings by Jim Kay. I admired them while I was reading the text, and would often spend some time looking at the details in the illustrations. So many beautiful pictures! I could not help thinking that more Fantasy novels should be illustrated. I love that this picture book does not stop at 20 pages – instead it continues throughout the novel. Yes, the complete novel. I was concerned that the illustrated edition may be abridged but it is not. Something I am thankful for.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is a wonderful start to the series. And the illustrated version is a perfect way to introduce Harry’s story to children.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 5th in my book pledge for 2019)

Music Monday: A Little Bit of Mia and Drake

At my Zumba classes I have danced to a lot of music I do not know. I have also danced to music that is apparently on the radio – music I do not know because, alas, I do not tune in to a radio station.

One of the newer songs I have danced to in my classes is Mia by Bad Bunny (featuring Drake). It is only a few weeks ago that I figured out the name of the song and found it on YouTube:

I have no idea what the singer is saying but the tune is catchy and I enjoy dancing to it. This song has been stuck in my head since our last class and I am wondering if our teacher tonight will have it on her playlist. I hope so as I am beginning to remember the moves 🙂

What song is playing in your head today?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019