Book Review: A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier

At the OLA Super Conference this year, I snatched up a copy of A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier when I saw it had been placed on the shelves. I have enjoyed her books in the past and could not wait to read her latest.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Blurb:

1932. After the Great War took both her beloved brother and her fiancé, Violet Speedwell has become a “surplus woman,” one of a generation doomed to a life of spinsterhood after the war killed so many young men. Yet Violet cannot reconcile herself to a life spent caring for her grieving, embittered mother. After countless meals of boiled eggs and dry toast, she saves enough to move out of her mother’s place and into the town of Winchester, home to one of England’s grandest cathedrals. There, Violet is drawn into a society of broderers–women who embroider kneelers for the Cathedral, carrying on a centuries-long tradition of bringing comfort to worshippers.

Violet finds support and community in the group, fulfillment in the work they create, and even a growing friendship with the vivacious Gilda. But when forces threaten her new independence and another war appears on the horizon, Violet must fight to put down roots in a place where women aren’t expected to grow. Told in Chevalier’s glorious prose, A Single Thread is a timeless story of friendship, love, and a woman crafting her own life.

My thoughts:

A Single Thread is a beautifully written story that shines a realistic light on the life of a woman after the First World War. Chevalier pulls no punches in describing the experience of Violet and the obstacles she experienced. We read of her battles to be independent, and of the criticisms (spoken and unspoken) directed towards her.

In the novel we read of single women, unmarried women, and women who fall in love with other women. Chevalier describes a time that seems unusual to us as modern women who are used to being independent. While reading the novel, I could not help but be grateful to these women who were the forerunners of our way of life.

If you enjoy reading historical fiction, you will enjoy A Single Thread. Not only does the writer remind us of the fallout of WWI, but she also takes us into the world of the women who created kneelers with their fine embroidery; kneelers that are found in the Winchester Cathedral. The story embraces women’s camaraderie; the help and companionship that they give and receive from one another. Chevalier did not disappoint me with her latest novel and I would recommend it wholeheartedly.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 24th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Finally Figured Out My Google Classroom

On Thursday and Friday I sat in front of my computer for hours trying to figure out how to set up a Google Classroom so that I can communicate with my students online. It was not easy doing so as I could not walk into a colleague’s classroom and ask for help. Thursday ended with my online classroom set up. I had made a post with links and attached documents.

On Friday, I worked through the more challenging step – connecting my grade 1 and 2 students to my digital space. I finally connected with two colleagues who gave me some advice. A tweet mentioned by my principal led me to the space where I could create passwords for my students – passwords that they would need to access the platform. By the end of the day yesterday, everything was set up and I closed my laptop with a sense of satisfaction.

I have emailed parents instructions and am waiting on them to attempt to log in and connect. There has been some back and forth between parents as they encounter problems but hopefully by Monday everyone will be connected. The week has been challenging for me as I worked through ways to create an online learning space for my students. It will be worth it, though, once we have crossed this hurdle.

What have you succeeded in doing this week?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This post was my first attempt to participate in the Six Word Saturday challenge)

Book Review: Rules For Being A Girl by Candace Bushnell and Kate Cotugno

The title Rules Being A Girl enticed me and when Harper Collins Canada sent me the ARC for the recent novel by Candace Bushnell and Kate Cotugno, I was very pleased.

Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Feminism

Blurb:

It starts before you can even remember: you learn the rules for being a girl.

Marin has always been good at navigating these unspoken guidelines. A star student and editor of the school paper, she dreams of getting into Brown University. Marin’s future seems bright―and her young, charismatic English teacher, Mr. Beckett, is always quick to admire her writing and talk books with her.

But when “Bex” takes things too far and comes on to Marin, she’s shocked and horrified. Had she somehow led him on? Was it her fault?

When Marin works up the courage to tell the administration what happened, no one believes her. She’s forced to face Bex in class every day. Except now, he has an ax to grind.

But Marin isn’t about to back down. She uses the school newspaper to fight back and she starts a feminist book club at school. She finds allies in the most unexpected people, like “slutty” Gray Kendall, who she’d always dismissed as just another lacrosse bro. As things heat up at school and in her personal life, Marin must figure out how to take back the power and write her own rules. 

My thoughts:

I loved this novel right from the moment I read the first page. Rules For Being A Girl is such an important book for emerging women to read..

The story shows us the thought processes a teenage girl could go through when a male teacher makes sexual advances towards her. Marin felt in some way that the sexual advances were her fault and, because of this, she questions all of her actions from the past. It was interesting for me to compare the way Marin responds to her teacher’s advances to the way in which Vanessa in My Dark Vanessa responds to similar advances.

The novel centres on the way in which Marin processes her experience – and what she learns from it. From the responses to her teacher’s actions ( her own and others), Marin learns a lot about herself and about society. The far-reaching implications of the sexual advances are highlighted for both Marin and the teacher.

In the story, Marin learns more about herself and about the solidarity of women in society. She comes to realise that this solidarity can be shown in different ways. Rules For Being A Girl also highlights the need for women to support each other in small ways; and shows that feminism can be expressed in different ways.

Bushnell & Cotugno have written a novel that is a must-read for all teenage girls on the cusp of womanhood. It is a novel that will encourage them to think of the type of woman they want to be; as well as how they could respond to patriarchal assumptions and expectations.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 23rd novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

While at the OLA Super Conference earlier this year, I stood in line to get a signed ARC of Jennifer Hillier’s novel Little Secrets. I smiled with glee when I was able to get a copy of her latest

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Blurb:

From the author of Jar of Hearts, a mother driven to the edge by the disappearance of her son learns her husband is having an affair with the woman who might have kidnapped him. Four hundred and eighty seconds. That’s how long it took for someone to steal Marin Machado’s four-year-old son.

Marin had the perfect life. Married to her college sweetheart, she owns a chain of upscale hair salons, and Derek runs his own company. They’re admired in their community and are a loving family. Up until the day Sebastian is taken.

A year later, Marin is a shadow of herself. The FBI search has gone cold. The publicity has faded. She and her husband rarely speak. The only thing keeping her going is the unlikely chance that one day Sebastian reappears. She hires a P.I. to pick up where the police left off, but instead of finding him, she discovers that Derek is having an affair with a younger woman.

Kenzie Li is an artist and grad student—Instagram famous—and up to her eyeballs in debt. She knows Derek is married. She also knows he’s rich, and dating him comes with perks: help with bills, trips away, expensive gifts. He isn’t her first rich boyfriend, but she finds herself hoping he’ll be the last. She’s falling for him—and that was never part of the plan.

Discovery of the affair sparks Marin back to life. She’s lost her son; she’s not about to lose her husband, too. Kenzie is an enemy with a face, which means this is a problem Marin can fix. But as she sets a plan in motion, another revelation surfaces. Derek’s lover might know what happened to their son. And so might Derek.

My thoughts:

The novel deals with a scary topic – the abduction of your child. The abduction of my children was something I was always scared of when they were little and, as a result, would make sure I held their hand when in crowded places. But mistakes do happen and children do wander off with no sense of danger.

Little Secrets describes the mental state of the mom as she experiences depression after the abduction of her child. The book does have another trigger in that Marin (the main character) has continuous thoughts of suicide. When she learns that her husband is having an affair, she is pulled out of her lethargy and behaves in unexpected ways.

The pacing of the novel was a little slow in the beginning and it did not feel at all like I was reading a thriller. Halfway through the story, however, the pace did pick up which led to me turning the pages at a faster pace. The second half of the story also led to unexpected twists that I enjoyed.

The story does end with a sense of hope and an underlying truth that you need to forgive yourself for the actions you take to protect your family and loved ones. I would recommend this title for those who enjoy reading thrillers.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 22nd novel in my book pledge for 2020)

A Little Work From Home

If things were normal, yesterday would have been the first day back at school after the March Break but instead we are all practicing social distancing and staying at home. In the morning, I logged into my work email and responded to the ones I had waiting for me from the parents. Reading the email from my principal, the message I got from it was to be patient. I then decided to work on binding the inquiry my class had worked on and completed before the break.

While working, I listened to the second digital book I have borrowed from the library. I chose a book that was immediately available: Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich. I have previously read and enjoyed some of her stories so knew that this one would pleasantly pass the time while doing a mind-numbing task. I am loving the story so far – and laughing out loud at some of the antics the characters get up to (as well as what they say!).

This morning I woke up to an email once again reminding us to be patient as the school board works on the guidelines for distance learning: they want to consider the implications of not all families having access to technology; and the fact that many parents are expected to work at their own job. Today I will begin to figure out my planning and think of ways in which parents can implement what I had planned for the rest of the school year.

Today I begin my second day of working from home while my own children learn from home. The experience is going to be challenging in the small space we have but we are up for it.

Are you working from home?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

Book Review: The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver

I enjoyed Josie Silver’s debut novel so much that when I saw an ARC of her latest, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird, at the OLA Super Conference I brought it home without reading the blurb.

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

Blurb:

Lydia and Freddie. Freddie and Lydia. They’d been together for more than a decade, and Lydia thought their love was indestructible.

But she was wrong. On her twenty-eighth birthday, Freddie died in a car accident.

So now it’s just Lydia, and all she wants to do is hide indoors and sob until her eyes fall out. But Lydia knows that Freddie would want her to try to live fully, happily, even without him. So, enlisting the help of his best friend, Jonah, and her sister, Elle, she takes her first tentative steps into the world, open to life–and perhaps even love–again.

But then something inexplicable happens that gives her another chance at her old life with Freddie. A life where none of the tragic events of the past few months have happened.

Lydia is pulled again and again across the doorway of her past, living two lives, impossibly, at once. But there’s an emotional toll to returning to a world where Freddie, alive, still owns her heart. Because there’s someone in her new life, her real life, who wants her to stay.

Written with Josie Silver’s trademark warmth and wit, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird is a powerful and thrilling love story about the what-ifs that arise at life’s crossroads, and what happens when one woman is given a miraculous chance to answer them. 

My thoughts:

This is a story that describes the stages of grief. We read how Lydia learns to cope with the loss of her love, Freddie and, to a lesser degree, we read of how Jonah, Freddie’s best friend, copes with the loss of a man who was like a brother to him. Even though The Two Lives of Lydia Bird is described as a romance, the novel focuses on dealing with how two people learn to cope without the person who has been the centre of their life.

Earlier on in her grieving process, Lydia uses the alternate reality she experiences through the use of sleeping pills to help her push through her days. As time passes, she slowly comes to certain realisations about herself and about her relationship with Freddy. I enjoyed reading about the events and experiences that led to her personal growth and to the increase of her inner strength. These experiences take place in their own time and the pace of them is realistically suggested.

Silver has written this novel with sensitivity, showing an understanding of the grief process. She suggests that it is okay to move at your own pace when grieving for the loss of a loved one. The author shows that life continues despite the loss of a loved one; and that there is hope in the lives of the people left behind. Silver’s writing pulls at at the reader’s heartstrings and gives one a sense of hope that the grief will cease to be all-consuming.

If you read One Day in December and enjoyed it, you will devour this second novel in a heartbeat. Silver did not disappoint me with this book, and I loved The Two Lives of Lydia as much as I did her debut.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 21st novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Music Monday: I Don't Care

When my children do their chores around our home, the first thing they do is put on their music playlist. Every now and then, one of my daughters play a song that I enjoy listening to. Yesterday it was I Don’t Care by Ed Sheeren and Justin Bieber:

I like the lighthearted and breezy tune of the song – it is definitely one that you can bop to! And it certainly helped my daughter complete the task of sweeping and mopping our floors. 🙂

Do you listen to music while you complete your household chores?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

Currently Reading: The Henna Artist

My family and I are in our second week of social distancing. It has not been easy but we are doing it for the greater good of our community and to flatten the curve of the Covoid-19 spread.

This morning while I enjoyed my bowl of fruit, I opened The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi. Reading has been one of my pleasures during this time period and I look forward to embracing the story of seventeen year old Lakshmi who escapes from an arranged and abusive marriage. She becomes a henna artist – and confidante – to the wealthy women of the upper class. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is confronted one day by her husband who has tracked her down.

This novel contains so much of what I look for in a good read: the description of a culture different to mine, a story set in a different time period, the pursuit of women’s empowerment. I look forward to immersing myself in the unfolding story.

What do you look for in a good read?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

Weekend Coffee Share: One Week Done

If we were having coffee, we would be sharing a cuppa virtually. For the past week my family and I have been practising social distancing and have therefore cancelled all get-togethers with friends. The past week was March Break, a week off for schools in our province. Instead of following my usual routine of shopping, attending group fitness classes at noon, and spending time with a friend, I have spent the week at home minimising my contact with others.

If we were having coffee, I would admit that I do miss the opportunity of socialising with others and the lack of socialisation has sometimes led to moments of sadness. However, I am lucky that I live with people with whom I get on – and my daughter is always good at lifting a person’s spirits. I have spent the week reading (a lot!), working on my bullet journal, speaking to some family members in South Africa, cleaning, and catching up on Grey’s Anatomy. The days have flowed into one another with no distinction and each day I wake up reminding myself of what day it is.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that for the next two following weeks, schools all over the province will be closed in order to combat the virus and attempt to flatten the curve. I cannot say that I look forward to another two weeks of being housebound! I am prepared, however, and plan to work on some of the marking I brought home with me from school. Tomorrow I will check-in and see if our principal has any plans for online meetings. The next two months is usually the time period during which plans are made for the following academic school year. I foresee us doing some planning remotely.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the shelves at the supermarket are not as empty. There are a few reasons for this:

  • The shopping hours have been reduced giving the workers time to unpack the orders.
  • The managers have put up signs stating how many articles of the product a person is able to buy. This is especially relevant for toilet paper. Now if a shopper needs this product, it is available!
  • There is only so much food a person can stockpile!

Other rules have changed in the supermarket such as now it is mandatory to pay with a credit/debit card; re-usable shopping bags will not be packed by the workers; cleaning of self-serve kiosks after each use. It is interesting to note that no-one lingers any longer while doing their shopping. In my neighbourhood, the shopping mall is unusually quiet as the only business open is the grocery store.

If we were having coffee, I would encourage you to look after yourself during this time period. It is so important to think of our mental health as well as our physical health. Keep well and until next week.

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: A Girl's Guide to the Outback by Jessica Kate

I had seen reviews of A Girl’s Guide to the Outback by Jessica Kate on Instagram which raised my curiosity. I decided to see whether my library had a copy of the book. They did and soon after it arrived for me to read.

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Christian Fiction

Blurb:

Samuel Payton is a passionate youth pastor in Virginia, but beneath the surface, Sam’s still recovering from a failed business. His coworker—start-up expert Kimberly Foster—is brilliant, fearless, and capable, but her mother’s rejection from a young age till now has left her defensive and longing for a family. Two people have never been more at odds—or more attracted to one another. And every day at work, the sparks are flying.

When Kimberly’s ambitious plans for Sam’s ministry butt up against his risk-averse nature, Sam decides that obligations to family trump his work for the church. He quits the ministry and flies home to Australia to help his family save their struggling farm—much to Kimberly’s chagrin. As Kimberly’s grand plans flounder, she is forced to face the truth: that no one can replace Sam. To what lengths will she go to get him back?

My thoughts:

A Girl’s Guide to the Outback is a romance written in a 3 person point of view. The pacing throughout the novel keeps the reader interested as the author shares a story about ordinary people. What was different in this romance to others I have read, is the Christian slant to it.

Not only was the story clean (no steamy sex scenes) but it also sent out a very Christian message: to trust in God and to let Him lead you to where you are to go in love and life. The growth of the characters in the story as they come to certain realisations is also linked to their belief in God and to their Christian values. They reach their full potential in the story when they realise they have to completely put their trust in God.

The pacing in the novel was good throughout and there was only one section in the story where I got a little bored: the description of when Kimberley doubted herself – it felt a little repetitive. I enjoyed reading a romance that was focused on the spiritual side of a relationship instead of a physical one and will definitely look out for more stories by this author.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 20th novel in my book pledge for 2020)