Weekend Coffee Share: First Week Back At School

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that last week was my first week back at school. On Tuesday, after the Labour Day weekend, I had met all of my students by 9am. Thankfully there were only a few tears as most of the children knew me by sight even though had had not already been in my classroom. Most of my class this year are grade 2s (16 students of the 20) and I had interacted with some of them last year in the hallways.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the week flew by quickly. I had a lot to do – and the upcoming week will be no different. September is filled with deadlines and I like to get it all done as quickly as possible – before I know it, the time to work on the progress reports will arrive.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that my class is settling in nicely. I am slowly getting to know them; and they are slowly getting to know the routines of the class. Time will tell what I need to focus on this year as I get to know their needs and what it is that they enjoy.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that this weekend I have the sniffles. I was not completely over my summer cold when work started up again and my body is reminding me of this. I have spent the weekend resting a bit in between my chores and I am hoping that I will feel in top form tomorrow.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that yesterday afternoon I spent some time with my weekend read: A Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson. This is a fantasy novel that is all over Instagram at the moment as readers are posting extremely positive views of it. I decided to read it as fantasy fiction is my favourite. And I can say that so far the writing is excellent!

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that supper is ready to be served. My husband knows the way to my heart (read yesterday’s SoCS post to understand this comment more). 🙂

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)

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Book Review: The Christmas Boutique by Jennifer Chiaverini

I enjoy Christmas stories and was curious about a novel describing quilting as my mom loves to quilt and I see it to be a wonderful talent. It is for these reasons that I requested to read and review The Christmas Boutique by Jennifer Chiaverini from my contact at Harper Collins Canada.

Genre: Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Christmas

Publication Date: 1 October 2019

Blurb:

Just weeks before Christmas, severe wintry weather damages the church hall hosting the Christmas Boutique—an annual sale of handcrafted gifts and baked goods that supports the county food pantry. Determined to save the fundraiser, Sylvia Bergstrom Compson offers to hold the event at Elm Creek Manor, her ancestral family estate and summertime home to Elm Creek Quilt Camp.

In the spirit of the season, Sylvia and the Elm Creek Quilters begin setting up market booths in the ballroom and decking the halls with beautiful hand-made holiday quilts. Each of the quilters chooses a favorite quilt to display, a special creation evoking memories of holidays past and dreams of Christmases yet to come. Sarah, a first-time mother expecting twins, worries if she can handle raising two babies, especially with her husband so often away on business. Cheerful, white-haired Agnes reflects upon a beautiful appliqué quilt she made as a young bride and the mysterious, long-lost antique quilt that inspired it. Empty nesters and occasional rivals Gwen and Diane contemplate family heirlooms and unfinished projects as they look forward to having their children home again for the holidays.

But while the Elm Creek Quilters work tirelessly to make sure the Christmas Boutique happens, it may take a holiday miracle or two to make it the smashing success they want it to be.

Praised for her ability to craft “a wonderful holiday mix of family legacy, reconciliation and shared experiences” (Tucson Citizen), Jennifer Chiaverini once again rings in the festive season with this eagerly awaited addition in her beloved series.

My thoughts:

The Christmas Boutique was written as part of a series – The Elm Creek Quilts series. It is not necessary, however, to have read the previous novels in order to enjoy the story: I had not read the preceding novels and there was not a time in which I was lost or confused. Chiaverini describes her characters well enough for a first reader of her series; and places them in a setting that is very quickly understood.

Women who quilt will enjoy reading the detail that the author adds to the narrative. I am not a quilter myself but some of the techniques described rang a bell in my mind as I have heard my mom speak of them; or I have read the terms as I have browsed her books and magazines.

I enjoyed reading the story that evolved around a group of women who quilt. The group is seen as a reflection of society and a woman’s circle as all types of personalities and problems are described. The story mirrors so much of what happens in life and, as a result, makes the novel totally believable. The book describes the emotions and experiences of each quilter in the group with the author matching up each story to create the whole – much like a quilt.

I enjoyed reading The Christmas Boutique. It was a lighthearted read that would be perfect to read over the holiday period snuggled up warmly under the cover of a blanket or quilt. Definitely a book you can curl up with during the cold winter months.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 86th in my book pledge for 2019)

The Way To Our Heart

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

I say the way to my heart is for the man to cook.

They say if you want to win a man’s affections, cook for him. Daily.

I say if he wants to please me, he should spend the time in the kitchen.

They say women are cooks, men are chefs.

I say I am tired of daily meal planning. Let him have a turn.

Why is it that women are expected to be the ones who shop for groceries, plan the week’s menu, cook the meals. In modern society, women are also working at full-time jobs and bringing in the money. Our second job (raising children, running a home, and cooking) should be shared with the husband/partner.

I say the way to a women’s heart is through her stomach.

I say women are the true chefs, putting together meals on a budget and what is found in the fridge.

I say our reign of the home kitchen is over. We want to pass the sceptre to someone else.

What do you say?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This post is linked to Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturdaychallenge)

Book Review: What Happens Now? by Sophia Money-Coutts

My contact at Harper Collins Canada sent me an ARC of What happens Now? by Sophia Money-Coutts to read and review. I was excited to read the story as I had previously read and enjoyed stories by this author.

Genre: Adult Fiction, Contemporary

Blurb:

After eight years together, Lil Bailey thought she’d already found ‘the one’ – that is, until he dumped her for a blonde twenty-something colleague. So she does what any self-respecting singleton would do: swipes right, puts on her best bra and finds herself on a first date with a handsome mountaineer called Max. What’s the worst that can happen?
 
Well it’s pretty bad actually. First Max ghosts her and then, after weeing on a stick (but mostly her hands), a few weeks later Lil discovers she’s pregnant. She’s single, thirty-one and living in a thimble-sized flat in London, it’s hardly the happily-ever-after she was looking for.

Lil’s ready to do the baby-thing on her own – it can’t be that hard, right? But she should probably tell Max, if she can track him down. Surely he’s not that Max, the highly eligible, headline-grabbing son of Lord and Lady Rushbrooke, currently trekking up a mountain in South Asia? Oh, maybe he wasn’t ignoring Lil after all…  

My thoughts:

Pregnant with a stranger’s baby – a scenario that has happened to so many young women. Money-Coutts describes one possible response to the unexpected pregnancy – a response that perfectly suits a story set in modern times.

The novel focuses on the story of Lil Bailey and her experience. Yes, she does have a love interest (i.e., a man she would like to get to know better) but this story is not about her finding love with this man. Instead the story focuses on finding herself and her inner strength. Lil does find the strength and determination to deal with her unexpected pregnancy with the unexpected help and support of those in her life.

The novel is written in the first person and, as such, I felt that I was in the character’s mind while reading the story even though the workings of the inner mind were not often described. I could not help but relate to the main character when Lil’s working experience was described because, as a teacher myself, I could nod in agreement with her teaching experience.

I enjoyed reading What Happens Now. As with her other novels, Money-Coutts tells a story that will resonate with her readers. It is a story of a modern woman who seeks a solution to her problem that is acceptable in today’s society. What Happens Now is an easy read that readers of women’s fiction will enjoy.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 85th in my book pledge for 2019)

An Author Response

On Tuesday I posted my book review of The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton across all of my social media including Goodreads. The historical novel, which is coming out 10 September, is unreservedly a 5 star read for me and I stated my reasons why in my review. When I got home yesterday, I saw that the author herself had responded to my words.

I could not help but smile when I saw that she had taken the time to read my words and respond to them.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

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

Irony

PHOTO PROMPT © Penny Gadd

The plant grew and crept along the wall, its leafy tendrils exploring the pristine wall. The creeper had been genetically altered and transformed into a listening device. In another part of the city, revolutionaries listened to the unfettered conversations of councilmen; conversations that lingered on the changes to bylaws that would prohibit personal freedom.

Prior knowledge enabled the freedom fighters to overcome those in power. In their victory, they claimed that freedom was a person’s right.

Once in power, the new leader ensured no plants graced the surfaces of his home and office. Then he began to enslave the majority.

© 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: The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton

My contact at Harper Collins Canada sent me an ARC of The Last Train To London by Meg Waite Clayton to read and review. I love reading historical fiction and this one centres on a little known story of the era pre-dating World War II.

Genre: Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction

Publication date: 10 September 2019

Blurb:

In 1936, the Nazi are little more than loud, brutish bores to fifteen-year old Stephan Neuman, the son of a wealthy and influential Jewish family and budding playwright whose playground extends from Vienna’s streets to its intricate underground tunnels. Stephan’s best friend and companion is the brilliant Žofie-Helene, a Christian girl whose mother edits a progressive, anti-Nazi newspaper. But the two adolescents’ carefree innocence is shattered when the Nazis’ take control.

There is hope in the darkness, though. Truus Wijsmuller, a member of the Dutch resistance, risks her life smuggling Jewish children out of Nazi Germany to the nations that will take them. It is a mission that becomes even more dangerous after the Anschluss—Hitler’s annexation of Austria—as, across Europe, countries close their borders to the growing number of refugees desperate to escape.

Tante Truus, as she is known, is determined to save as many children as she can. After Britain passes a measure to take in at-risk child refugees from the German Reich, she dares to approach Adolf Eichmann, the man who would later help devise the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question,” in a race against time to bring children like Stephan, his young brother Walter, and Žofie-Helene on a perilous journey to an uncertain future abroad. 

My thoughts:

I absolutely LOVED this novel! I could not stop turning the pages and became so invested in the story and the characters that feature in it. Stephan’s story had me biting my nails; and Truus’ bravery left me astounded. As I read the descriptions of the way the Nazi treated the Jewish children, my heart burned with anger. Clayton’s writing encouraged me to feel a range of emotions: astonishment, anger, hope, surprise, disgust, and even gratitude.

The best thing about the novel The Last Train To London is that Clayton showcases the story of Geertruida Wijsmuller (known as Tante Truus), a woman in the Dutch Resistance who was among those involved in the kindertransport effort. This effort moved some ten thousand children (three quarters of whom were Jewish) through the Netherlands to London before the outbreak of the Second World War. The story of these men and women was unknown to me and I was stunned at the bravery and risks that these people took for these children who were in danger.

Clayton describes the danger that the children did experience – a danger that insidiously crept into Austria; a danger that many did not expect to experience. Her descriptions allow us to almost experience the dangers themselves, the fears, and the hopes of her characters. Reading this historical novel was not at all like reading dry history books. Instead, the pages are alive with the events of the past. Even though the characters of the children are fictional, the reader can imagine the experience of the children who did in fact live through this event.

I could not put this novel down and read it in two days. Yes, I was on vacation but I stopped all other activities in order to immerse myself in the story. If you enjoy historical fiction, this is one novel you need to read this year!

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 84th in my book pledge for 2019)

Teaser Tuesday: Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

Today I am sharing an extract from Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik. I bought this novel on Amazon about three years ago because I was intrigued by the blurb. At that time, I had not read any diverse novels and I was curious about a story based on the dating experience of a Muslim woman wearing a hijab.

In this novel Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men when her sort-of boyfriend/possible-marriage-partner-to-be proves to be a little too close to his parents – until her boss persuades her to write a tell-all exposé on the Muslim dating scene and she makes a foray into online dating.

I am sharing an extract from when she is describing her first experience of dating on the internet.

“You know what the problem is?” I continued. “There are the men who’ll marry a hijabi – but then expect her to move in with a hole-in-the-wall, or think she’s going to be this weird paragon of traditional values.” I sighed. “And then there are the men who are all, “You’re living in the west – what’s with the hijab?’”(p43)

(2015, Twenty7 Books, UK)

Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged by Ayesha Malik is a story that had me chuckling throughout. This diverse rom-com was published in 2015 and was my first diverse read.

Would you read this diverse rom-com? 

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2016

(This post is linked to Ambrosia’s Teaser Tuesdays at The Purple Booker)

Weekend Coffee Share: The End of Summer Break is Near

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that during the past week I went into school to set up my classroom for the first day of school.

When I walked into the classroom it looked so clean! I had also asked the caretaker to remove some items of furniture so the space looked even freer when I placed the desks.

This year I have changed the look of the reading centre and I have added a calming corner. My intention is to implement the Zones of Regulation to help the children self regulate their behaviour.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I had one last coffee date with my dear friend. It was a bittersweet meeting as we will not see one another so frequently until the next school break. This summer has been wonderful as we have met up each week and had a chance to chat, exchange ideas about the books we have read, and even do a bit of necessary shopping.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that on Friday afternoon, I felt the full force of a summer cold. The long weekend has been spent resting and trying to get over it before the first day of school. I am resting my voice and body so that it is fit to work with the twenty new students I will have in my class on Tuesday. I do still experience first day jitters – though not as intense as the students that will be entering my class. By 10 o’clock on Tuesday everything will be fine. I am prepared and that is half the nervousness conquered. The first week back at school will be filled with creating routines with my students and working on the beginning of the school year deadlines.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you to have a wonderful rest of the week and to enjoy all the moments life gives you. I know that I am looking forward to meeting up with my new students.

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: Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite

While at the OLA Super Conference, I had a chance to meet the authors of Dear Haiti, Love Alaine. Both Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite were enthusiastic about the novel they had written together and as I opened the first page of the story, I remembered their enthusiasm.

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Blurb:

When a school presentation goes very wrong, Alaine Beauparlant finds herself suspended, shipped off to Haiti and writing the report of a lifetime…

You might ask the obvious question: What do I, a seventeen-year-old Haitian American from Miami with way too little life experience, have to say about anything?

Actually, a lot.

Thanks to “the incident” (don’t ask), I’m spending the next two months doing what my school is calling a “spring volunteer immersion project.” It’s definitely no vacation. I’m toiling away under the ever-watchful eyes of Tati Estelle at her new nonprofit. And my lean-in queen of a mother is even here to make sure I do things right. Or she might just be lying low to dodge the media sharks after a much more public incident of her own…and to hide a rather devastating secret.

All things considered, there are some pretty nice perks…like flirting with Tati’s distractingly cute intern, getting actual face time with my mom and experiencing Haiti for the first time. I’m even exploring my family’s history—which happens to be loaded with betrayals, superstitions and possibly even a family curse.

My thoughts:

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine is told through a series of letters, texts, journal entries and emails. The various ways in which the story is told suits the age group of the main character and makes her more accessible to the reader. It also gave me the feeling, as I was reading the novel, that I was ‘in the moment’, learning information at the same time as Alaine.

What I found interesting while reading this story were the titbits I received of Haitian culture. Not knowing much about these island people, I was interested in learning more. Having said that, the references to Haitian culture are subtle and discreetly woven into the story.

I am not too sure about a school agreeing to have a student complete her semester volunteering at an organisation in another country for school credit. The idea, though, is an interesting one – and one that could be beneficial to learning. And Alaine does learn – she learns about her own culture (which children of immigrants often lose), as well as a little bit about herself and her family members. She begins to see her parents through the eyes of the adult she is becoming; and gets to spend some important time with her jet setting mom who is suffering from an illness.

I enjoyed the story as a relaxing and light read. I did not find the novel to be a deep one – though it is a fun read. I look forward to seeing what story the two sister writers will write next.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 83rd in my book pledge for 2019)