I love receiving bookmail – especially the unexpected kind. Jessie Kwak, an independent author that I read and review for, launched the two final books of her science fiction series during the pandemic. The borders between the US and Canada were closed so I knew she would be unable to send me review copies.
This week I received a brown package that made me grin from ear to ear – the two final books in the Bulari series. Jessie’s kind gesture means that this month I will be able to binge read the rest of the story and find out what happens to the characters that I have grown to love.
And aren’t the covers gorgeous? I adore the artwork on the covers of this series.
What was the last book that you received in the mail?
Many Bookstagrammers on Instagram raved about the book Home Before Dark by Riley Sager – especially those readers who enjoy a good thriller. I was curious about this author’s writing so decided to give the novel a read.
My extract comes from the beginning of the novel:
“I stare at the keys, hesitant to pick them up. I’m uncertain about accepting this part of my inheritance. I was raised to fear Baneberry Hall, for reasons that are still unclear to me. Even though I don’t believe my father’s official story, owning the house doesn’t sit well with me.
Then there’s the matter of what my father said to me on his deathbed, when he pointedly chose not to tell me he stile owned Baneberry Hall. What he did say now echoes through my memory, making me shiver.
It’s not safe there. Not for you.” (p17, Penguin Random House, 2020)
This was the perfect start to an excellent novel with an ending that surprised me. Will I be reading another of Riley Sager’s novels? I think I will.
Have you read any of Riley Sager’s stories? If so, which one?
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that it has been weeks since I have felt the urge to blog. Going back to school has been exhausting – even more so than usual because of the Covid protocols. It has taken a couple of weeks for us all to get used to it – in another few weeks, it may begin to feel like normal.
If we were having coffee, you may ask me what protocols are being implemented. I would tell you that the most tiring one is wearing a mask from the time I enter the school premises to the time I leave. Breathing in my carbon dioxide does fatigue me – as does trying to teach with my mouth and nose covered. I find myself needing to make more of an effort not only with breathing but also with speaking. In addition, the children are also wearing mask and it does make it harder for me to hear them and understand what they are saying.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the masks we are wearing have been provided by the school board and are medical grade masks – I can smell it as soon as I put one on. We are expected to wear the masks provided and no other; and to change them frequently. In addition to the masks, we are expected to wash and/or sanitize our hands frequently.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the children also need to wash/sanitise their hands often. We go through the routine each time they enter the classroom and exit to go out for recess/lunch/home. By the end of the day yesterday, I noticed that the children now have the rhythm of cleaning their hands so often.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that my teaching practice has had to change a little. No longer do round tables fill my room: I needed to switch to individual desks due to the Covid expectation of maintaining physical distance between the students. At the beginning of the year, my room looked bare with only the essential furniture in it.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I am happy it is the weekend. I am feeling tired and look forward to resting a little. Once I have done my weekend chores, I intend to read and probably nap in the afternoon. On Sunday afternoon, I will figure out what to teach in the upcoming week – and start thinking how I will read with each child and still maintain physical distance.
Yesterday I came home from work feeling exhausted and wanted to put up my feet. I made myself a cup of coffee, grabbed my latest read, and took two rusks from the box I had bought over the weekend at the South African store. It has been a while since I have eaten this treat from my homeland and I have been enjoying its crunchy taste since Sunday.
I eat the rusks in the true South African way – by dunking them into my hot coffee. Delicious! The treat and the silent time revived me and I felt the energy needed to go and cut the vegetables for dinner. Eating the rusks brought back the tastes of home and certainly made me smile. I look forward to enjoying the rest of them in the upcoming week.
What do you do to relax when you get home from work?
On Friday last week I discovered the Lindt store while on one of my walks. I love the creamy texture of this chocolate and decided to step into the space to browse. I could not resist buying a bag of chocolate balls for my family and I to enjoy.
This week I am savouring the different tastes of the chocolate after dinner. There are so many that I haven’t tasted before: citrus and mango, sea salt, and even cappuccino. They are all delicious – and they definitely make me smile!
Last week I met up with a friend of mine to go for a walk while we spent some time together. We decided to walk on one of the Discovery Trails in the city as I had not yet walked on its path. I enjoyed walking under the lush green trees with her and listening to the sound of the insects communicating with one another.
During our walk, we came across a few bridges for both cars and trains. On this particular bridge, I noticed that some graffiti and street art had been painted on the walls.
I admired the lettering of some of it; but what I enjoyed seeing even more was the juxtaposition of the man-made steel against the natural green of the trees.
As we passed under the bridge and the reminder that man has encroached on the natural here, I looked forward to walking more on the trail that echoed with the reminder that nature is good for our souls.
My friend and I enjoyed our walk together. Not only did we have a good chat but we also spent some time exercising in a not often visited part of the city.
If we were having coffee, I would greet you with a smile – but still no hug. Even though our numbers have gone down, people are still being cautious. Just seeing my friends, however, has been a big plus for me as I connect with those I care about.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that blogging (or any kind of social media) hasn’t been on my mind recently. As the temperatures have slowly crept up again, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about what going back to school will look like. The last few weeks have been uncertain as I keep checking my email and no news has been sent by the school board. The issue has been front and centre in the news as all the interested parties hash it out in the media. It has certainly been stressful as everything printed is conjecture and no certain decisions have been made.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the school board I work for (the TDSB) did propose a plan which was rejected by the Minister of Education for Ontario. The reason cited was that students would lose 49 minutes of learning time a day. On Friday I learned that the school board had propsed another plan. This plan must have been accepted as I received notification of it via email on Friday evening.
If we were having coffee, you may ask me what this plan is. Honestly I am happy to see that even within the school board, the plan is to spend more funds on the schools that need it; schools that are in areas of greater risk. I am a firm believer that the virus spreads a lot quicker in poverty-stricken areas as the people living below the poverty-line will have less resources to protect themselves and their community. In these areas, class sizes will be a lot smaller and the Board is on the hunt for other spaces that can be used to teach children outside of the school property.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the school I work at is not in a high risk area. So what does it mean for me personally? It means I will have a class of 20 students (which is per usual). The junior classes at our school will be capped at 27 – which is less than usual. We will now wait to see what happens because next week parents will fill in a survey to choose whether they want their children to have in-class sessions or virtual sessions. I will not be surprised if some kids at the school where I teach stay at home especially as there are a few stay-at-home moms in the area.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that my class list, or even my assignment may change. Despite this, I will take the opportunity to go into school next week to label furniture that can be taken out of my room and to place desks to ensure that 20 students are able to keep their distance within the space. When I go in, I will also take to opportunity to have a chat with my principal.
If we were having coffee, you may say to me that all of this is last minute – and you would be right. School will be starting one week later to give everyone the time to get ready: class lists will need to be updated, teachers need to be rearranged, and timetables need to be reconstructed. We will be participating in Professional Activity days on 1, 2, and 3 September during which we will probably be involved in all of this as well as undergo training.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that during this past week I have seen some friends of mine. Before school starts I intend to see them as often as I can. I know when school starts up, I will have a lot to deal with: new students, the new school year and everything that comes with that, and dealing with all the expectations related to COVID-19 prevention. I need to take the opportunity to breathe deeply and relax before all that tension begins.
If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the upcoming week will be the last one before the school-related things begin. I intend to make the most of it.
Yesterday when on my way to meet a friend, I stopped at an unknown to me subway station. The station is relatively new and is near university grounds. As I walked out of the station, the painted electric box caught my eye.
I have noticed that a number of electric boxes around the city have been painted and I have admired them. I decided to snap a few pictures of this one to share.
I love the vibrant colours the artist used as well as the patterns. The artwork really stood out to me and I was happy to see it. The artwork brings a bit of colour to the neighbourhood and changes something dull and grey into something of beauty.
To be honest I thought of Becky while snapping the pictures – I am sure she would have enjoyed seeing this as part of her perspectives challenge last month.
As I walked away from the electric box yesterday, I made a note to myself to snap pictures of any others I may come across.
Have you seen any unexpected artwork recently? Where was it?
While driving with our nephew on Saturday, we passed a store that sells South African goods. Of course we had to stop and investigate – especially as we all wanted to indulge in a snack we don’t often get to eat since we have moved here: biltong.
While browsing in the store, my daughter saw the packets of Nik Naks, a crispy snack that she loved to eat when we were last in South Africa. She admitted that she could not remember the taste but recalls that she enjoyed it. I bought a packet which we shared amongst the five of us. The salty, tangy taste took us back to the past and the flavours of home. Definitely a smile for our family.
How To Live on the Edge by Sarah Lynn Scheerger is a powerful novel that explores breast cancer, the preventative surgery that can be taken for this type of cancer, as well as the response members of the family have to the outcome of this disease.
The first lines of this novel drew me in immediately and made me want to read more:
“There’s a curse on the women in my family. We die young. In the last two generations, not a single woman in my mom’s family has lived past the age of thirty-seven. Aunt Tee is still alive and kicking, and the doctors say she is a perfectly healthy thirty-two year old, but I doubt the Silk family curse will pass her by.
Just like I doubt it will pass me by.
Which means almost half my life is over.
I intend to enjoy it.” (p1, 2020)
I enjoyed reading the rest of the novel – the full review can be read here.