Book Review: Happier Thinking by Lana Grace Riva

The author Lana Grace Riva contacted me to read and review her book Happier Thinking. While catching up on my reviews in the last few days of 2018, I realised that I had not yet shared my thoughts on her work.

Genre: Non-fiction, Self Help


Changing how you think is possible. I wasn’t always so sure that was true until I experienced it myself, but I know now we don’t have to just accept unhappiness. Not always anyway. This book is my collection of tips and suggestions that have helped me achieve happier thinking. It’s sort of a gym for my mind. I’d love to tell you it was easier than the real gym but well… it’s not really. It takes time, effort, and practice but it’s absolutely well worth the rewards.

My thoughts: 

The book is a short, quick read of 50 pages. Written in the first person, you get the feeling that the author is speaking directly to you. After reading the synopsis, I was hoping for a more meaty read that would go beyond what I have already read. Instead, the work reads like a summary of what has already been published and what I have already seen and thought about.

Even though Happier Thinking was a disappointing read for me personally, I can see the benefit of this book for people who have not read much on this topic. It is a good beginning read for a person working towards being more content and happier with their lives.

I give this novel ⭐⭐ 2 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 94th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah is a South African comedian and I love his work. He makes fun of South Africa and its people – and yet the fun is not mean. Instead the snapshots he describes are so true, they are laughable. I had been eyeing his memoir in the bookstore and I finally bought it. I bought it for two reasons: firstly because he is an excellent comedian; and secondly he is South African born as I am.

Genre: Memoir, non-fiction


Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The eighteen personal essays collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

My thoughts: 

I loved reading this book for so many reasons. Firstly his reflections on the past brought up so many memories of my own growing up and living in South Africa during the time period that he describes. Secondly, it was interesting to read of another person’s experience growing up in my Motherland near the end of Apartheid. Thirdly, I love Trevor Noah’s humour and his take on life and people – a humour that found its way into his writing. Fourthly, the memoir was well written and subtly exposed the many things that were wrong with the Apartheid system.

Born A Crime is a retelling of a childhood that keeps a person reading. The book is sprinkled with the laws of the system in South Africa, laws which affected the lifestyle of this comedian. The book has been written for a mainly non-South African audience so many of the social expectations, South Africanisms, and everyday experiences are explained. I read this book quickly, and discussed many of the issues highlighted at the diner table with my family. Now my husband is reading the memoir – and soon afterwards my daughters will too.

Trevor Noah’s memoir is a must-read if you enjoy this genre and are looking to understand the experience of a mixed-race child born during a time when it was a crime to mix intimately with other races.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 63rd in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Bookstagram: September TBR

The new academic school year begins in September and I know, once school begins, that I will not have as much time to read. In my TBR pile for September I have moved over one book I intended to read in August but did not (Heartbreaker by Claudia Day). The rest of my pile comprises of ARCs that I have been lucky to receive during the month of August (mostly at author events). The first book I have started to read is The Iron Flower by Laurie Forest as it the sequel to the book I completed on Saturday – The Black Witch.

What  does your reading pile look like for the month of September?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

Book Review: Jane Austen, A Life Revealed by Catherine Reef

I enjoy reading Jane Austen’s novels and have read them more than once. When I came across Jane Austen, A Life Revealed by Catherine Reef, I was extremely interested to read the book. The blurb promises an insightful and compelling biography that would be fun to read.

The pages within the book were disappointing though. A few tidbits of Austen’s life were given, but these were very brief. The description written of her life was dry and factual (and not at all fun to read). Many of the pages described the story lines of the books she had written – books that I  had already read and knew. I would have preferred a description of a day in her life, as well as a more detailed discussion of the troubles she would have had publishing in that era as a woman. Even though the book outlined in brief the life of Jane Austen, I was disappointed as I had wished for more detail.

I give this novel ⭐⭐2 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 47th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Teaser Tuesday: The Daily Five


Product DetailsDuring this past week I began re-reading the book written by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser titled The Daily Five: Fostering Literacy Independence in the Elementary Grades. My first reading was five years ago and I decided to refresh my memory a little on some of the characteristics of using The Daily Five in the classroom.

Reading the introduction reminded me of why I like the Daily Five concept:

“We wanted to change the atmosphere in our classrooms and our own roles, from trying to “manage” students, rushing around the room putting out fires, to creating routines and procedures that fostered independent literacy behaviours that were ingrained to the point of being habits. Our goal was for all students to have internalized these expectations and shared experiences in a way that allowed for every child to become engrossed in their reading and writing.” (p9, Stenhouse Publishers, 2006)

I have fostered independence in my classroom and this year I aim to fine-tune my students’ independence. Hopefully a re-reading of this book will help me do so.

What are you reading this week? Feel free to share a few sentences from the book in the comments. 

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2016

(This post is linked to Miz B’s Teaser Tuesdays at Books and a Beat)

A Time for Reflection

ddd-bannerThere are times when I finish reading a book that I take a moment to reflect on what I have read: how would I have reacted in that situation? What would have caused the character to react in that way? How can I implement what I have learned in my own life.

Reflection is what I find I am doing as I am nearing the end of the current book I am reading: The Language of Art by Ann Pelo. I find myself thinking about how I can change my teaching practice to incorporate the ideas I have read in the book. While reading the book, I gained, as well, a glimmer of understanding of how to implement the inquiry-based learning that the Ontario Ministry of Education wants us to implement in our classrooms. I have seen, through the example that Pelo gives, that it is possible for the children to learn academic knowledge through play and from the questions they ask that stems from their natural curiosity. The example she gives starts with the curiosity of a group of children who ask “Why do leaves change colour?” By the end of the school year, they realise that the change is based on seasonal temperatures; and they have discovered the life cycle of the leaf.

For me, reflection is a part of reading: whether I am reading fiction or non-fiction. Often it happens while I am reading the text; but it also happens once I have read the last page.

Do you take time to reflect on what you have read?

Five Minute Friday(This post was written for the Dreamy December Days Read-a-thon; and inspired by the Five Minute Friday prompt)

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2013

Dreamy December Days Read-a-thon: Day 4


Last night on the train ride home I began reading The Language of Art by Ann Pelo. This book is a discussion of how to use an inquiry-based method to teach Art to children in the Early Years. This year I am teaching kindergarten and am a part of the group teaching full day kindergarten in Ontario. As a teacher used to focusing on the academics, I am on a steep learning curve in my discovery of how to encourage learning in a class of 5 year olds. During the last workshop I attended, I took the opportunity to ask the presenter where I could start to implement inquiries in a play-based learning programme. She recommended this book. Art, she said, was the best subject through which to learn how to bring the new full day kindergarten programme into the classroom.

Today I will be reading more of this book. I have completed the introduction and will now move into the meat of the book. I am not much of an artists but I have enjoyed dabbling with paint now and then. I am sure my students will enjoy doing so as well.

Are you an artist? Do you enjoy creating with paint?

It is not too late to join the read-a-thon. Head on over to Books Keep Me Sane to join)

The Daily Five

Cover of "The Daily Five"
Cover of The Daily Five

I am currently reading a book on how to encourage literacy in the elementary classroom. The book, The Daily Five, was written by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser (also known as the sisters). The sisters write:

“The Daily Five is the largest part of our literacy curriculum each day – it is the structure that allows all children to do meaningful work independently as we (the teachers) work in small groups and with individual children. The first weeks of school are dedicated to launching the Daily Five and instilling literacy habits that allow for independent work with little or no teacher supervision.” (Boushey & Moser, 2006, p.13)

As I am reading through this text, I am taking note of the strategies I can use in my own classroom to encourage my students to become independent readers; and to have a love for reading. I find the content of this book exciting as well as practical. I look forward to implementing the suggestions in my classroom during the next academic year.

What book are you reading this week? Share a teaser in the comments section – or the link to your post if you have written about it. 

(This post was inspired by Miz B’s Teaser Tuesdays in which you share a few lines from the book you are currently reading.)

Book Review: Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey

Becoming Marie Antoinette French history has always fascinated me and it was for this reason that I picked up Juliet Grey’s Becoming Marie Antoinette. I had learned of France’s last queen when I studied the French Revolution.  Before picking up the book, I knew she was the last queen married to Louis XVI, that she had married young, and that many attributed the phrase “let them eat cake” to her.

This novel is the first of a series of three. In this volume, we read of Marie Antoinette’s early life: her childhood in Austria; the changes she had to go through in order to be deemed an acceptable dauphine by the French; her wedding to Louis Auguste; the early experiences of her life in the French court at Versailles. Reading the pages describing the early events in her life, a sense is given of the lifestyle she led – and of the expectations so many had of her: her mother, the many people who tutored her for her future life, the French who who were expected to treat her as their future queen. Grey describes with authenticity what this girl’s life would have been like surrounded by these expectations and having to forgo her childhood.

The story begins when Marie Antoinette is 10 years old, continues through the time when she is groomed to be the dauphine, leads through her experience of marrying the future king of France, and takes us to the time at Versailles where she leads a life surrounded by sniping and bored aristocrats married to a husband who has difficulty consummating their marriage. The book describes her experience at the French court, the errors she makes, and the decisions she follows through. The last chapter ends with her and Louis XVI leaving Versailles for a period of mourning after the death of Loius XV, “le bien aimé”, who had lost favour with the French people.

Woven within the historical facts, one is able to get a sense of what these historical characters would have felt. Told from the viewpoint of Marie Antoinette, we get a sense of what her fears were, her boredoms, and her hopes. As we read the words written on the pages, we sense the subtle changes in her character, and how she changed from a naive young girl to one that became more adept at dealing with the back-stabbing culture of the French court at that time. The difficulties the young boy, Louis Auguste had are also hinted at, though not expanded upon as he is not the focus of this novel.

I enjoyed reading this novel and was drawn into the life of this fascinating woman. The historical facts have been written as a story with dialogue and descriptions you would find in any fiction novel. Written in the first person, we become one with Marie Antoinette as we read. We hear her thoughts, feel her emotions, and feel a little closer to this person that was born so long ago. If one expects a list of dry facts, stating arguments for and against the reasons for Marie Antoinette’s actions then this novel is not for you. If, however, you are looking for a book that describes the life of France’s last queen while giving you a personal insight into the reason for actions, then you will enjoy what Juliet Grey wrote. This is a treatment of a well-known personage given with  a sense of dignity and honesty.

Do you enjoy reading novels based on French history?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2013