Book Review: The Boat People by Sharon Bala

Earlier on in the year I had read the buzz on twitter about The Boat People, a debut novel by Sharon Bala. As a result, when I saw the book on the shelf showcasing new books during a visit to my local library, I grabbed it and brought it home.

The fictitious story is based on a true event: the arrival of the ships Ocean Lady and Sun Sea on the coast of British Columbia in October 2009 and August 2010 carrying over 550 Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka. In the story The Boat People, 500 refugees arrive on the shores of British Columbia in a rusty cargo ship. Upon arrival the longed-for freedom is not given to the people seeking refuge and they are instead thrown into prison. The reader follows the experience of Mahindan, a father who has fled Sri Lanka with his six year old son. We read about his experience as a person wishing for refugee status in Canada, and we read about his experience in war-torn Sri Lanka. As the investigation of his claim mounts, Mahindan fears the desperate actions he took to survive and escape Sri Lanka will jeopardise his and his son’s chances for asylum.

The story is told through the voice of Mahindan, his lawyer Priya, and Grace, a third generation Japanese-Canadian who must decide Mahindan’s fate. Through these three different voices, Bala tells her story with compassion. The reader feels the emotions of Mahindan – his fears and his frustrations as he waits for months in the prison for his fate to be decided. At the beginning of the novel, I felt annoyance at Grace’s lack of understanding and compassion for the refugees’ desperate action to take a chance to enter Canada illegally. And then I came to understand that Bala deliberately makes us feel this way in order to highlight how easy it must have been for people to make assumptions about the refugees from the comfort and security of their lives in Canada.

This novel describes an issue that is relevant to readers today: there are so many people seeking refuge from wars and fear for their lives. The Boat People not only gives us insight into the refugee experience, but also into the decision-making process of who gets to stay and who is deported. I found myself shaking my head so often while reading this story; and feeling for the people who are forced to flee their homes and their countries. Reading this novel has added to my understanding of the refugee experience on both sides – the side of the refugee as well as that  of the country determining whether or not to give asylum.

The Boat People is not a lighthearted read for a breezy sun-filled afternoon. Instead it is one that will touch your emotions and cause you to think about the refugee crisis, the desperation of those seeking asylum, and the angst caused in those people who need to determine the fate of those seeking asylum. Sharon Bala’s book is well worth picking up.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars.

Have you read any books on refugees? What was the title of the book?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 39th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)


Weekend Coffee Share: After a Long Weekend

Join us for some coffee time!

If we were having coffee, I would apologise for not meeting with you earlier. The past week has been a little crazy. School has ended (yahoo!), my husband has returned home, and I have been resting during a heat wave.

Last week was our final week at school before the summer break. It was bittersweet because while we were all glad with the start of the school break and the chance to rest, we were also sad to say goodbye to teachers that had been surplussed (I had worked with one of them) and to our principal (who was moving onto a new school). During the week I pushed through my fatigue and put away things in my classroom (summer school is happening in my room) so that I could finish soon after our staff meeting on Friday. A few of my students had already left for their vacation so the number of kids in my room was low. While they played board games and worked on some activities, I worked at making sure everything was sent home and tidied up in the room.

We had our staff party on Thursday evening at which we said goodbye to all those people who were leaving us. The weather was perfect for sitting outside. I enjoyed chatting to some of my colleagues – we really should get together like this more often and get to know one another as people instead of working alone in our classrooms. The evening ended on a sad note. I will, however, see my mentee during the break once we have both gone away on our vacation.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that we met our new principal on Friday. We will see how it goes with her. Her personality is definitely different to our previous principal and the vibe at the staff meeting was not the same. It is certainly stressful to begin again with someone new – and have to prove oneself all over again.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that we went to pick up my husband from the airport on Friday evening. It was good seeing him arrive safely, and to have him back at home. Sunday night dinner was great – he cooked, giving me a break, and the tastes and flavours were yummy. As my daughter said, we had missed eating his food 🙂

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that on Saturday we went to help our son pack up a little as he is moving to Vancouver in August. Another change that is bittersweet. We are pleased that the move means a step forward in his career, but are sad that he will no longer be near us and we will no longer see him every weekend for dinner. At least we will get to spend some solid time with him during our family vacation before he leaves Toronto.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that we have been experiencing a heat wave since Friday. The extreme heat is very tiring and discourages one from doing anything. The country celebrated Canada Day this weekend. but the heat discouraged me from going out to celebrate. Instead we stayed at home near the fans!

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I intend to do a lot of reading and relaxing during the first week of my summer break. Hope you have a good week too.

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: Just Take My Heart by Mary Higgins Clark

I have read novels by Mary Higgins Clark in the past so had no hesitation in picking up Just Take my Heart. The story begins with Natalie Raines, a famous actress. We read of her dying from a gunshot wound and of her soon-to-be-ex husband on trial for her murder two years after the fact. Gregg Aldrich is charged with the murder of Natalie Raines when a career criminal suddenly claims that Aldrich paid him to kill his wife.

The case is prosecuted by the thirty two year old assistant prosecutor Emily Wallace. She spends long hours preparing for the trial, unaware of a neighbour’s violent past; a neighbour to whom she gives the key to her home in order to care for her dog. The high profile trial makes headlines, revealing personal matters about Natalie. The eerie sentiments she experiences during the trial continue even after the jury has decided Aldrich’s fate. She soon comes to realise that her own life is at risk.

The name Mary Higgins Clark promises an enjoyable read, and I was not disappointed. The story, however, is similar to her other tales and has nothing fresh about it. Instead, the novel follows the path of her well-loved thrillers with no unexpected events. Readers who love her thrillers and courtroom tales will enjoy this story.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars.

Have you read any of Mary Higgins Clark’s books?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 38th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Share Your World: A Tweet Response

If aliens landed on earth tomorrow and offered to take you home with them, would you go? (remember this is SYW, they are friendly aliens)

I believe I would go along with them as my curiosity about what is beyond Earth would need to be satisfied. Going on a voyage with aliens would be like experiencing many of the stories that I have read in the past – especially the stories that I read in my adolescence.

How tall are you? Are you satisfied with your height?

I am 5ft7″ and have always wished to be as tall as my mom who is 6ft. Why? Being taller would allow me to see over the average person’s head (as so many of my family members are able to do); as well as enable me to reach for those things on upper shelves that are just out of my reach – no matter how far I stretch.

Do you think you could live without your smartphone (or other technology item) for 24 hours?

I currently do not own a smartphone, or even a mobile phone and connect to social media with my laptop and iPad. When visiting South Africa, or going on holiday, I am able to do without access to wifi or the internet for the duration of our trip. Our vacation is always a perfect time to reconnect with the people I am with, as well as to connect with my surroundings.

What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week?  

As you know, last week I went to an author event and book signing organised by Harper Collins Publishing Canada. While signing our books, the authors commented on the unusual spelling of my name which in turn led to me explaining its origin. Both Karma Brown and Tish Cohen enjoyed the story. When I shared my gratitude for the event on my blog and twitter this week, I received a comment by Tish Cohen. I loved the fact that she took the time to respond – and, of course, I loved her comment. It definitely made me smile! 🙂

041514 sywbannerWhat would you answer to any of these questions?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This post is linked to Cee’s Share Your World weekly challenge). 

Book Review: How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

For a while I saw the cover of How to Stop Time by Matt Haig quite often on social media so when I saw a copy of the book on the library’s bookshelf, I decided to pick it up and take it home with me.

The story centres on Tom Hazard, a man who looks forty-one years old but, because of a rare condition, has been alive for centuries. From performing with Shakespeare, to exploring the high seas with Captain Cook, to sharing cocktails with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tom has seen and experienced a lot. But after over 400 years, he yearns for something in his life.

The moment he catches the eye of a captivating woman named Camille, Tom feels his life unravelling. Caught between the danger of discovery and the desire to live a real life, Tom learns that the thing he can’t have might just be thing that saves him.

How to Stop Time is a story about love but told with a difference. It is a bittersweet time-travelling story that is about finding yourself and discovering who you are – even if it does take centuries. It is a story about the certainty of change, and about the perils of love. It is a story about love for a child, and love for another person. It is about how love can change you – and save you.

The story is heartbreaking and I felt a deep sympathy for Tom and his experience. His story is told with sensitivity and compassion. The tale spans through the centuries as we are told Tom’s story. I really enjoyed the little tidbits about well-known personalities that were woven into the tale – the bits about Shakespeare and F. Scott Fitzgerald, for example.

How to Stop Time is a perfect tale for lovers of Fantasy fiction. It is an unusual tale that you can’t help but fall in love with.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars.

Have you read any of Matt Haig’s books?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 37th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Grateful For Author Event.

Last week Thursday I was lucky enough to be able to attend another author event at Harper Collins Publishing Canada. I was excited to meet the authors as there has been quite a bit of buzz about these books on twitter. The added bonus was that I got to see once again the breathtaking views from the publisher’s offices:

Listening to the authors Karma Brown, Tish Cohen and Uzma Jalaluddin was so interesting. The women had already presented together at other events resulting in joking and gentle teasing. I loved that they made us laugh – and yet were serious when they told us about the inspiration for their stories and spoke a bit about their writing process and supports. The added treat was when they were signing the copies of our books – they chatted personally with us and were not in any rush to leave. Their manner really endeared me to them.

This week I am grateful for the author event organised by Harper Collins Canada. I love getting to meet authors and speaking to others who love books as much as I do.

Processed with RookieWhat have you been grateful for this week? Share your comments or the link to your post below.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

Weekend Coffee Share: A Little Tardy

Join us for some coffee time!If we were having coffee, I would apologise for being a little tardy with my news this week. I did not feel well this weekend so I did a lot of resting, reading, and netflixing – I could not face sitting in front of the computer. I am feeling exhausted and my body is telling me so. The weekend was spent with an aching throat and lethargic limbs. I really do need a break.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that last week was the school concert. It was a long day – and a tiring one. I got home after 9pm – and then it took me a while to wind down. What is really annoying is that so many parents do not thank us for looking after their children while they watch the show. All it takes is a thank you for us to feel appreciated.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that we received bad news last Thursday – our principal is moving onto another school next year. I will miss her as I have a connection with her and will miss her sound advice. She is moving nearer home and onto a middle school. I think she will have many visitors this week – and receive many gifts as parents, teachers, and children love her.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I had the opportunity to go to another author event on Thursday evening. I loved it! I think it is great that Harper Collins Canada introduces us to their authors whenever they get the chance. I enjoy hearing the authors speak about their novel and their writing process.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I need to go now. It is the last week of school and we will be doing a lot of tidying up this week. I wish you a wonderful day and will speak to you next 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)

Book Review: Sophia Khan is not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

After the serious read Sofie & Cecilia, I decided to pick up a lighthearted story that I could read quickly and with ease. Sofia Khan is not Obliged by Ayisha Malik appealed to me. What encouraged me even more to pick up the book was the quote that appears on the front cover: “Fun, fresh and funny”.

At the beginning of the book, we read that Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men when her sort-of-boyfriend/possible-marriage-partner-to-be announces that he wishes to live with his parents after marriage. Sofia is not pleased with this and decides that this type of marriage is not for her.  After speaking about it at work, her boss persuades her to write a tell-all expose on the Muslim dating scene resulting in her need to search for Muslim men. While seeking stories for her book, Sofia leans on the support of her close friends, colleagues and baffling parents. During the search for material for her book, Sofia also faces the possibility that she may be falling in love.

I loved this book. It was a lighthearted, fun read that caused me to chuckle in many places. During the novel, I saw a development in the main character as she became more self-aware and realised what it was she wanted in both her career and in a lifetime partner. This story is a romance – but not a traditional one. Seen through the eyes of a Muslim girl living in London, it touches on social norms in an amusing manner.

If you enjoy reading lighthearted romances with a touch of difference, this novel is for you. This easy read is the perfect story for a relaxing Saturday afternoon and would be humorous addition to your summer TBR list.

Do you enjoy lighthearted romance with a touch of difference?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 36th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Grateful for Internet Connection

It has been strange not having my husband around. After living with a person for just over 19 years, you get used to seeing them everyday day and always having someone around to talk to. Even conversation at the dinner table has been a little different.

Last weekend, my husband had the opportunity to contact us over Facebook messenger. The communication began with texting, and then we managed to have an audio-visual connection. It was good to see his face – he looked a lot better than the last time we had managed to connect. I could see that he was happy to see his family as well, judging by his large smile. Another week and a half and then we will see him in person.

This week I am grateful for an internet connection as it has allowed myself and my family to keep in contact with my husband while he is away.

Processed with RookieWhat have you been grateful for this week? Share your comments or the link to your post below.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

Book Review: Sofie and Cecilia by Katherine Ashenburg

I picked up the ARC for Sofie and Cecilia by Katherine Ashenburg at the OLA Super Conference. The blurb on the back of the book intrigued me as it promised to introduce me to the lives of celebrated Swedish artists Carl Larsson and Anders Zorn. What interested me even more was that the author chose to focus on the rich stories of the wives of these well-known men: the restlessly creative Sofie Olsson and the fiercely private curator Cecilia Vogt.

The book gives detail about art, design, European history, sexual politics, country life, and the salons of Sweden. In addition, Ashenburg weaves within her story a rich tapestry of female friendship that unfolds in unexpected ways over a lifetime.

While reading the novel – especially the first half during the description of Sofie’s life – I learned at lot about how women artists were regarded in Europe in the 1800s. Women were expected to give up their art once married. In addition, they were expected to focus on the more ‘genteel’ subjects (which did not include painting/drawing the human form). While reading the novel, I could not help by think of my daughter who plans to be an artist.

The novel is beautifully written. The description of the women’s lives is told with clarity. This read is not a fast-paced one and is instead a literary type of book that causes the reader to reflect a little on the role of women in society during the time period described. It took me a while to become invested in the story but my interest was maintained due to the subject matter and the author’s indirect comment on women artists during this time period.

This historical novel is the perfect story for those who enjoy reading a little about a time period far from our current one. It is a slow read but one that is worth investing in.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

Do you enjoy reading historical novels depicting artists?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 35th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)