Music Monday: Oh Christmas Tree

Christmas is my favourite holiday and I love seeing the Christmas decorations spring up everywhere. Our apartment is too small to contain a huge Christmas tree so I particularly enjoy seeing the beautifully decorated ones in the mall.

Whenever I see the huge trees, the following Christmas song pops into my mind:

I will enjoy all the trees I see around this season – and maybe this will be the year I go and see the big one in the city centre 🙂

Do you enjoy seeing Christmas trees?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

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Weekend Coffee Share: Countdown to Christmas

Join us for some coffee time!

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I am counting down the days to Christmas with many other people all over the world. Christmas is my favourite holiday. I love the decorations. And I love the days that my family and I spend enclosed in our home together. Christmas has come to mean quality time which we spend together with no interruptions from the outside world.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I have begun my shopping for the big day. I have bought most of the gifts, and have started squirrelling away treats for the family as well. I am hoping to get everything bought by the end of this coming week – with the exception of the fresh fruit and vegetables. I do not enjoy the crowds in the shops leading up to Christmas and do my best to avoid malls. In addition, I will be working right up to the weekend before Christmas so getting things done early, means less stress for me.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that Christmas preparations have started in my class as well. Decorating will begin next week, but we have already written letters to Santa. As I work with grade 1s in a French Immersion setting, I created the letter with them in class. The children then chose which sentences they wanted to write. Not all children in my class celebrate the advent of Santa. Those children I asked to write a letter to their parents. The children who celebrate Hanukkah, made reference to this celebration in their letter.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I am feeling very tired and am looking forward to the winter break. In the meantime, I will continue with the preparations for my favourite holiday of the year.

What would you tell me if we were having coffee?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

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

Book Review: The Silver Queen by Josie Jaffrey

I loved The Guilded King by Josie Jaffrey, and was eager to read the second book in the Sovereign series, The Silver Queen.

Genre:  Young Adult Fantasy, Dystopian, Vampires

Blurb: 

The last city on Earth is contaminated. Now blood is the only thing that can wash it clean.

Julia is trapped inside the Blue as the Nobles fight over the few humans who are still alive. When the dust settles and she finds herself shackled to a new master, she knows she must escape or die.

Meanwhile, Cam has gathered a handful of comrades and is on his way into the Red to rescue his queen. But not all of his friends can be trusted, and not all of them will make it back alive.

The Silver Queen is the second book in Josie Jaffrey’s Sovereign trilogy, set in a dystopian Europe where vampiric Nobles control the last remnants of the human race.

My thoughts: 

I opened the pages of this novel eagerly as the last novel in the series had left me wanting more. Jaffrey dove right into the story, picking up where she had left off. Once again I immersed myself in the world of the Noble vampires, and in the experience of my favourite characters. The answers to my questions were weaved expertly into the tale as the experience of the vampires and humans were described. I found myself figuratively biting my nails as I read what happens to Julia; my heart beat just a little faster as I read Cam’s adventures.

The second novel in The Sovereign Series does not disappoint. I eagerly turned the pages, and I found the story difficult to put down. As I read, I could imagine the events playing in my mind. The Silver Queen is a well written and well-crafted story that deserves a place among the best of the Dystopian novels. If you have not yet given this series a try, I recommend that you do so – especially if you enjoy dystopian stories, vampires, and tales of fantasy.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 79th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Blooming Houseplants

Every time I walk into my bedroom during this past week, I cannot help but smile. On the chest of drawers near my window, I have a few household plants – and two of them are flowering: the African violet as well as the Christmas cactus. What a treat!

Blooming Houseplants. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

I am enjoying the colour especially as the skies outside have been grey. The blooms are perfectly timed as I can enjoy them before the Christmas decorations come out.

Weekly Smile #WeeklySmileDo your houseplants flower?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

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

Book Review: Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

After reading Beartown by Fredrik Backman, I could not wait to read the sequel, Us Against You, and picked it up immediately.

Genre: Contemporary fiction, Sports fiction

Blurb: 

After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in Hed, take in that fact. Amidst the mounting tension between the two rivals, a surprising newcomer is handpicked to be Beartown’s new hockey coach.

Soon a new team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.

As the big match approaches, the not-so-innocent pranks and incidents between the communities pile up and their mutual contempt grows deeper. By the time the last game is finally played, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after all they’ve been through, the game they love can ever return to something simple and innocent.

My thoughts: 

This sequel resumes the story begun in Beartown and continues to explore all the emotions aroused in the first novel of this duology. In addition, Backman explores the negative aspect of competitiveness, as well as what binds people together as a team. The issues brought up in the novel are big and not all of them are resolved – and rightly so as these issues are continuously prevalent in our society. Yes, the story is about hockey – but it is so much more than about the sport. It is about competition, team spirit, and what it is that makes a team (whether it is for sport, or other aspects of life).

I love how in this this sequel to Beartown, the reader learns more about what happens to beloved characters. Their growth continues in Us Against You, suggesting that people never stop learning about themselves – no matter how old they are. While reading the novel, I cheered for my favourite people and felt the pain of those who experienced obstacles.

I loved this sequel and really enjoyed Backman’s storytelling. He is certainly talented in weaving emotions and life lessons within the fabric of his story. Us Against You is definitely a novel that will encourage you to pick up another story by this author.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 78th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Weekend Coffee Share: It’s Been a While

Join us for some coffee time!If we were having coffee, you would be wondering why we haven’t spoken for so long. The period after Halloween was busy with parent interviews, and then with trying to catch up my work. I also hurt my back and sitting in front of a computer to post was not a pleasant past-time for me.

My back healed with time.  It was frustrating for me not to be able to go to my Zumba and Shab’am classes! Resting was worth it though as 2 weeks after the initial back pain, I was back dancing. I learned that while I was away one of the Zumba time slots had been cancelled – as well as the Shab’am class. So annoying! I have now had to change my schedule and go to a later class – which is what I did this past week. I will see if I can keep up attending the later class at another location as I did feel tired yesterday in the afternoon.

Last week I had the chance to Dance 4 Kids at a charity event (see my blog post here). It was such fun and I loved it! The three hours went by so quickly and I did not notice the time passing. We had such a pleasurable time and it felt like a party. I wish there were more of these events that we could attend. There are always runs being organised for charity and I would love there yo be more dance marathons for us dancers.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I won a ticket to go to the Read For The Cure event in Toronto. It was a pleasurable evening and I got the chance to hear two more writers speak. I am currently preparing a post about the event and will speak more about it then.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I have read a number of books lately that I have enjoyed. The pile of books to be reviewed is growing and I think it is time for me to get to work and review them. I enjoy coming home each day after work and reading a little – especially when the stories are so good. By goal for this weekend is to have the posts ready so that I can share them with you during the week.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that blogging in the past week has escaped me as I have been going to work early to meet parents. Hopefully in the coming week I can get back to my usual schedule and spend more time in the blogosphere. Looking at the time, I see that is is almost time for me to leave for my class. Enjoy the upcoming week.

What would you tell me if we were having coffee?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

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

A Dancathon 4 Kids

On Saturday I attended an event that I have been looking forward to for about a month – the Spin 4 Kids dancathon organised every year by Goodlife Fitness. For three hours, we dance with our favourite instructors for Zumba, Shab’am, and Body Jam. The music was energetic, the room filled with enthusiasm, and the time passed quickly. Every 20 minutes a different instructor led the dancing while the other teachers spread themselves around the room to dance with us. The organiser had added flashing lights and, with the overhead lights off, it truly felt like a party. Prizes were drawn every hour and I could not help but smile when I won a $50 gift card to the New  Balance store.

But what really made my day, was to see the amount of steps my body took. As a result of doing the laundry, walking to the supermarket to do grocery shopping, walking to the subway to attend the dancathon, dancing, and then going out for dinner, I managed to do the most steps my Fitbit has recorded in the last year and a half.

Now that is definitely something to smile about 🙂

Weekly Smile #WeeklySmileHave you danced for three hours with no break?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

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

An End of the Week Smile

Last week was super busy. I went in early to school, and came home late. Why? “Twas the season of report cards and parent interviews. By Friday I was tired but I had something to look forward to – a chance to hear David Baldacci speak,  one of my favourite authors. I was excited to hear him speak that I went out even though I was tired and it was snowing.

I was surprised at the small number of people attending the talk. I am guessing that the event was not well advertised – and that many people have other things to do on a Friday night. The people who were present, though, listened attentively as the author spoke.

He looked just as he does on the dust jackets of his many novels. He had prepared a speech and recounted many humorous anecdotes. I laughed a number of times – totally unexpected as his novels are not funny at all.

But even though he made us laugh, Baldacci was quiet and reserved during the actual book signing. Most of the author events I have been to, the authors do chat a little with the readers. This writer, however, did not feel comfortable doing so – which is surprising as he must have done so many of these events. I guess it all comes down to personality. And many writers, I believe, are quiet people at heart.

The author event was the perfect start to a busy weekend. But those smiles are for another post. 🙂

Weekly Smile #WeeklySmileHave you heard David Baldacci speak?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

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

Book Review: Beartown by Fredrik Backman

I won an ARC of Us Against You by Fredrik Backman. When I received the novel, I saw that it was a sequel to Beartown and decided that I needed to read the first book in order to enjoy the second.

Genre: Contemporary fiction, hockey

Blurb: 

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

My thoughts: 

I was a bit hesitant to read this book as the story suggests a tale of hockey – and I am not a sports person at all. But the book is so much more than a story about sports. It is a story about community, a story about hopes and dreams, a story about relationships and loyalty. It is a story about issues that communities keep to themselves and how that silence can affect a person.

From being hesitant about reading this story, I have become a fan of Backman’s writing. His words have caused me to feel emotion, and his descriptions of a life in a small town that breathes hockey encouraged me to love his characters. Reading the story reminded me of those family films centring on sports that always have a good moral behind it but instead this story is more adult. It is a story that shows the underbelly of humanity – and yet also shows its positive side. The statements made by the author throughout the novel are succinct, and yet get straight to the heart of the issue.

I would highly recommend this novel – even if you do not watch or play hockey. You will feel emotional, you will feel anger. And you will come to understand what being part of a sports team can be to a person.

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

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 77th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Favourite Read of the Month: October 2018

During the month of October, I  read 8 books for this year’s Book Pledge, bringing my total for read books this year to 76 books. I may have to up my goal from 75 books this year to 100 🙂

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

  1. The Lost Queen by Signe Pike – historical fiction  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  5 stars
  2. The Wife by Meg Wolitzer – contemporary, women’s fiction  ⭐⭐⭐  3 stars
  3.  Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa – Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  5 stars
  4. When We Caught Fire by Anna Godbersen – Young Adult fiction, historical, romance ⭐⭐⭐  3 stars
  5. If Not For You by Debbie Macomber – romance, contemporary fiction ⭐⭐  2 stars
  6. Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris – thriller, psychological thriller, mystery ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  5 stars
  7.  Man of War by Sean Parnell – thriller, military thriller ⭐⭐⭐  3 stars
  8. A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi – Young Adult fiction, contemporary fiction ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  5 stars

Reflecting on my choice of reads for the past month, I would say that I have chosen well. I read so many books that I enjoyed! Two of them, The Lost Queen and Shadow of the Fox, have sequels coming out (hopefully next year). I enjoy both of these genres (historical ad fantasy) and look forward to continuing with the stories. As I have to choose one for my favourite, I would choose Shadow of the Fox. Why? For the humour. Reading the story made me smile, and made me think of the anime that I enjoyed watching with my family a few Christmases ago.

What was your favourite read in October? Share your choice, or the link to your post, below.

Favourite Read of the Month:

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018