5 Fun Summer Mystery Novels (for both ESL and non-ESL readers)

While some of us (me) can’t believe that we’re halfway through June, believe it or not, we are. Looking for the perfect new book to devour this summer? Check out my list of top mysteries you can download right now (all read and approved by me)! Bonus: This list has titles that both intermediate-advanced ESL readers and non-ESL readers can enjoy 😊

  1. The Murder at Sissingham Hall by Clara Benson

I decided to try out one of Clara Benson’s Angela Marchmont mysteries after they showed up in my recommended titles on the Kobo website, and this is the first in the series (bonus points: it’s free on Kobo!). This novel is super easy to read, yet tightly woven, making it ideal for ESL readers. The author mentions on her website that her goal was to write a novel that felt like it was written in the time period it’s set in (1920s), rather than a historical novel, and this certainly felt that way—sometimes, I even forgot it was written in 2013, not 1920.

  • The Clock Strikes Twelve by Patricia Wentworth

This is something I’m currently reading, so I don’t know the end yet, but so far, it’s looking very promising! Although I’ve read a few of Patricia Wentworth’s Christie-like mysteries before, this one feels much easier to follow and well-structured. Besides the structure, the family-secrets-that-erupt-at-a-family-gathering plot is both delicious and addictive.

  • Murder on the Moor by C.S. Challinor

I read this one several years back, but it still sticks in my head as being such an addictive and humorous cozy mystery. Early-stage ESL learners might find it a bit more challenging due to several Scottish idioms throughout, but overall, it’s a fun and delightful murder mystery, set on a gloriously chilling moor.

  • A Time for Murder by Jon Land & Jessica Fletcher

Although I’ve read several Murder She Wrote novels over the years, this one is one of my favourites. With an intriguing past-present storyline and a surprise twist at the end, this is the perfect read for rainy summer nights.

  • Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

I had to include an Agatha in this list, because she’s the queen (of mysteries, that is)! Although I’d recommend pretty much all of her books, this novel is the perfect treat for anyone mourning a summer holiday abroad this year.


Interview of “The Silence of Bones” Author, June Hur (Part II)

Check out Part II of my interview with June Hur, author of the upcoming YA historical mystery (set in Josean-era Korea)!

Korea-Canada Blog

The Silence of Bones

Is anyone looking for the perfect book to kickstart their spring reading list (or a good story to help take your mind off of the coronavirus worry)? Look no further than June Hur’s upcoming release, The Silence of Bones! Described as a YA historical-mystery set during the Josean period, this book will have something for just about every reader. In this installment of our interview, June and I talk about her favourite books, K-drama reccomendations,  writing snacks, and writing routines. Enjoy! (and be sure to check out Part I here)

From your bio, I learnt that you studied in Korea for a while in high school. Is it really as intense as it looks in Sky Castle?

I only watched one episode of Sky Castle, but I do remember how intense high school in Korea was! I’d be at school from morning until 10 pm. The…

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Interview With “The Silence of Bones” Author, June Hur: Part I

Korea-Canada Blog

The Silence of Bones

Happy Leap Day, Everyone! Since today is an extra-special, once-every-four-years day, I have an extra-special treat for readers; an interview with June Hur, author of the upcoming young adult novel,  The Silence of Bones, which will be out in April 2020.

About a year back, I was working on my yearly “to-read” list (which is mostly still unread a year later, but at least I made the list!) While I was scrolling through my Twitter feed for inspiration, I came across the description for an upcoming, cross-genre, mystery YA novel, set in Josean-era Korea. What can I say? It had me at “hello”!

When I found out that the author of the novel was Korean-Canadian, I knew I had to get an interview for the blog, if I could, and June was so kind and gracious to allow me to interview her. In this section of our interview, we discuss…

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Why Being an ESL Teacher is Awesome!

I know it’s been a long time since I’ve written, but since it is (Chinese) New Year, I thought I should write a brand new post!

I’ve been really lucky to be an ESL (English as a second language) teacher for the past three years, and I have to say, I love my job! There’s always challenges with any job, but as an ESL teacher, you get a lot of cool experiences and 99.9 of the students are so hard-working, lovely and awesome to teach.

Here’s my top reasons why I love being an ESL teacher:

  1. Learning a new language is hard! Especially as we get older, we’re more inclined to be on the shy side and less willing to take risks. Making students feel safe and supported so they can take those risks and further their learning is always super rewarding.


2 .  Sometimes, as we get to be adults, it can be easy to become tired out and not enjoy learning new things anymore. As an ESL teacher, I’m always learning. I love learning more about my students and their day-to-day lives. I’ve had some students for so long, I’ve been able to see them graduate, progress through multiple levels, grow their families, and take on new academic and career challenges. Plus their always so willing to teach me about where they live (usually China) and their culture, so I feel like I get to travel on a regular basis without leaving my city.

3. Honestly, my favourite thing about teaching is getting to talk with my regular students! I tend to teach conversation skills, so even though we’re having a lesson, it feels like a regular chat. It’s always so exciting when I can help a student through a challenge they’ve been having and I’m always so proud of their growth!

To everyone celebrating, Happy Lunar New Year (and to my fabulous student, W / Albee, hope yours is the happiest–send me a comment yet!!)!


GUEST POST: So Long and Thanks for all the Fish: Some Words about Picturebooks

I was so lucky to attend the University of Winnipeg for my undergrad. The entire English department, particularly the Children’s and Young People’s Texts and Cultures program, is so influenced by Perry Nodelman’s work. Loved this piece on the significance of visual cultures!

Children's Literature at Cambridge

Retired from the University of Winnipeg for the last thirteen years, Perry Nodelman volunteers as a guide at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, plugs away at a new novel for young people, reads much of the night and stays safely north in the winter. He occasionally gives talks at conferences—often about picture books, sometimes about fish, sometimes, as at the recent conference in Cambridge, about picture books and fish at the same time.

All photos by Angus Whitby

As the call for papers for Synergy and Contradiction suggested, this year marks the thirtieth birthday of my book Words about Pictures. Thirty years is a long time in academia, and so are the thirteen years since I retired from the University of Winnipeg English department. While I still do the occasional essay or conference talk (sometimes about fish), I’m well beyond my best-before date in terms of knowledge of…

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Korea and the Short Form

Korea-Canada Blog

Cheese in the Trap.pngThere’s nothing like settling in after a hard day to watch your new favorite drama (unless, of course, you have the whole day to binge-watch it). But sometimes, we don’t always have a ton of time to enjoy a full-length series, or even a full-hour episode. That’s why, for times, like these—in the late-night hours before bed, on your commute to work, when you just want to take a quick study break—web series are the go-to solution! Broken into installments of thirty short minutes (or less!) these web series pack in just as much emotional punch as full-length drama episode, but you can still fit them in your weekday lunch break.
Short-form media has long been a popular feature of Asian culture. From webtoons, to web dramas, manga to graphic novels, and “cellphone novels” (I’d never heard of those before!), Korea has a hotbed of short-form choices to fulfil your…

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Why “Because This is My First Life”‘s Ji Ho and Se Hee Will Make K-drama Couple History

Although Because This is My First Life’s run has ended, its impact is still fresh in our minds. From the realistic, yet sweet storyline, to the dreamy romance, to the quirky array of supporting characters, this drama is not one that anyone will forget soon. More specifically, audiences won’t forget Ji Ho and Se Hee and their sweet, awkward, absolutely adorable chemistry. Here are five reasons why Ji Ho and Se Hee will make K-drama couple history!

1. More. More Kissing.
Although we don’t get a lot of kisses between Ji Ho and Se He over the course of the series, the kisses we do get pack a serious punch. Maybe it’s the fact that there are so few, or maybe it’s the insane chemistry and connection between two lonely people, but all of their kisses (even the spur-of-the-moment smack on the lips that Ji Ho bestows on Se Hee at their first meeting) somehow always feel sweet, emotional, and intimate, proving that less is sometimes, much, much more. It also probably doesn’t hurt that these two have some of the most gorgeous lips ever. Seriously, they need to have a kid soon so that they can carry on the gorgeous-lip gene pool.
1. Their Serious Moments
Although there are many beautifully happy and cute moments between the pair, one of the most heartwarming parts of their relationship is how they help each other grow and move forward. Se Hee never falters in fulfilling his promise to Ji Ho’s mother to help Ji Ho achieve her dream of writing. He also realizes the emotional impact of the assistant director’s attempted sexual assault on Ji Ho—so much that you can see the physical pain in his eyes as he remembers Ji Ho’s state on the night of the incident. Not that this writer condones violence, but it also doesn’t hurt that Se Hee is willing to punch out Ji Ho’s enemies for her!
As for Ji Ho’s part, not only does she reintroduce Se Hee to the joys of being a couple, but she stands up for him in the same way that he does for her. She knows exactly what to say to his family to encourage them to repair the hurt they’ve caused in the past, and isn’t afraid to down a whole bowl of rice wine in one gulp in place of Se Hee after he’s had more than enough, but doesn’t want to cause offense by refusing it.
Even more amazingly, not every drama could handle the gritty and painful parts of Se Hee’s past—namely the catalyst of his and Jung Min’s long-ago breakup being the loss of their unborn baby—but Ji Ho not only accepts Se Hee for exactly who he is, but represents one of the best examples of unconditional love I’ve ever seen in television when she describes what she’s willing to do for him. When Jung Min ponders what Ji Ho’s reaction be if she admitted to still having feelings for Se Hee, Ji Ho unflinchingly tells her “even if it was a real marriage, I would have waited for Se Hee’s heart. A heart is not something that is taken or grabbed.” Not only is the line completely believable and genuine coming from Ji Ho, but it’s also one of the most simple, yet touching, lines in the entire series. Even Jung Min knows how great it is. Cue the happy tears!
2. Their Lighter Moments
One aspect of this series that I’ll always be grateful for is that it doesn’t wallow in too much drama, always providing a healthy balance between comedy and drama. And there are many lighter moments that build up Ji Ho and Se Hee’s relationship just as much as the serious ones. Take, for example, Se He’s smile when he share’s Soo Ji and CEO Ma’s dating contract with Ji Ho. Or that cute look on Ji Ho’s face when Se Hee offers to make her “omurice” again.
3. All Their Hand-Holding
This explains itself, but I’ll say it: the way these two hold hands gives us all the feels. From the way Se Hee takes Ji Ho’s hand to help her down the aisle, to when he forgets to let go after “saving” her from Bok Nam, these two prove that hand-holding is the new kissing.
4. Mine
Of all the many beautiful things Ji Ho and Se Hee are as a couple, there is the sense that the two truly and completely belong to each other. Se Hee’s listing Ji Ho in his phone as “mine” only acts as a (particularly swoon-worthy) confirmation of what viewers already know; that these two, after going through their ups and downs, completely have each other’s hearts. Their life (notice that it’s one “life”!) is one that they’re building together as an “us,” and renewing yearly after the “happily-ever-after.” It’s an ending that was both well won, and truly worth waiting for!


The Romeo of Goryeo…or Juliet Empowered? Empowerment in Korean Time-Travel Dramas

Korea-Canada Blog


March (and sometimes April—I live in Winterpeg ;)) is always the time of year that I start getting a little bored and grumpy. Winter is taking too long to finish up, spring isn’t coming fast enough, and then I’ve been a student for the last six years, so there’s the inevitable end-of-school-year slog (anybody else here feel my pain?). Since I’m normally quite the sunny gal, I try to snap out of it quickly, and one of the best ways to do this is to get lost in a little bit of daydreaming. If spring isn’t coming fast enough, you have to bring it to yourself! Because I’ve been fantasizing about finishing my master’s thesis *very* soon, lately I’ve been dreaming about the PhD dissertation that I’m working on, which has lead me to watching a lot of K-drama. While I love all types of K-drama, my favourite type these…

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2017 Round-Up

I can’t believe 2017 is actually over 😦 I don’t know if it’s that I’m getting older, or if it’s that this has been an exceptionally busy year, but it feels like last New Years was, more or less, yesterday. While I want to write a longer update later on, here’s a quick round-up of my highs points of 2017:


  1. Best Show (s) I watched on TV: While being a full-time graduate student and part time teaching assistant (and later ESL teacher) with a ton of volunteer gigs didn’t leave me with much time for TV-watching, I re-developed my love for Korean dramas (K-drama) and found two of my favourite TV shows later on in the year when the workload let up a bit. I absolutely adored Goblin and binge-watched it with my family (full marks for being both emotional and good for a variety of ages and genders), and was about to count it as not only my fav show of the year, but also one of my fav shows ever. Then I watched another K-drama, Because This is My First Life. Oh. My. Goodness! I still loved Goblin, so I had to tie the two as my top favourites, but BTIMFL might have to be my absolute favourite ever! The music, nighttime-scenes, chemistry between the leads, plot, and writing were all so brilliant. Ji Ho (female main character ) feels like a kindred spirit, and anyone who’s ever been a writer will totally get her. She and her husband, Se Hee, might even be right up there with my other favourite fictional couple, Anne and Gilbert. Which is a huge feat, since anyone who knows me knows how much I love Anne and Gil.  Technically, Scarlet Heart: Ryeo (aka, Moon Lovers) was pretty high up there too. I still listen to the soundtrack every day and the cinematography and plot are both some of the best I’ve seen in historical dramas. I just wish that they had given the already great ending just a little something extra (those who saw it would know what I mean) to give my poor heart a break, but overall, it’s still a great watch!
  2. Best Book (s). Despite my masters degree being in English, I honestly haven’t had a ton of time to read for fun from last January to 2018. I have really loved re-reading all of my Anne books (several times) in order to write my thesis, of course, but my favourite new books are also related to the thesis. I loved Maud by Melanie Fishbane (it doesn’t hurt that I have an autographed copy either), and while I was on my little L.M. Montgomery  kick, I also really loved The Blue Castle. It’s one of those books that you always mean to read, but never do, but I promise it’s a delightful, sweet story!

3. A Moment Like This…If I was getting a little monotonous with the Anne stuff (Ah, who am I kidding? You can never have too much Anne), I definitely need to store up for June! While I’ve had several good moments during 2017, one of the highest points was getting my abstract accepted for the L.M. Montgomery Conference at UPEI! I am super pumped to not only revisit a part of my thesis, but also to revisit PEI! Plus I love my job, so its exciting to be able to continue on in doing what I love.

That’s my round-up for now!! Happy New Years everyone! Let me know your best parts of 2017!! 🙂

Author Interview: Brittany Nicole Lewis

Hello Blog Readers! I’m Baaaaaaaacccckkkkk! Although I’ve been in hibernation (well, not really hibernation, but it’s a long story) for the past few months, I was lucky enough to have “met” Brittany Nicole Lewis on Facebook a couple of months back, and even luckier when she agreed to do an interview!

Brittany is the author of Finding Freedom and her YA Zion series, and she regularly donates copies of her books to ministries. Today, she talks about some of her favourite YA books, her writing habits, favourite writing snacks (hello, fellow coffee lover!), and her novels!

Check out her interview below!

1. Hi Brittany! Thanks for talking with us today :)! First of all, could you please tell us a little bit about your latest book?

Brittany: My latest novel is the third book in The Zion Series. The other two books, Finding Freedom (book one) and Heir of Zion (book two) were released in 2017.
2. How did you come up with the idea for your book?

B: I had some spiritual things I needed to work out and I have always loved to write. One of my favorite books is The Giver, and my books are somewhat similar to that one.
3. Do you have a favourite character in your book? If so who and why?

B: No, I love all of them 😊
4. Is there something that you’d like your readers to take away from your book?

B: That community is important. Relationships are important. Reach out when you’re hurting, even though you don’t want too.
5. What’s your favourite genre?

B: Young Adult
6. What’s next for you?

B: I started a children’s series and the main character has autism. That’s a 12 book series, I also started a stand-alone novel (YA) and will be producing at least two more Audiobooks in 2018.
7. Favourite writing snack?

B: I don’t eat, but I drink a lot of coffee.
8. Do you write with music on, or like a quiet writing space?

B: I like quiet, but I write with noisy children in the background.
9. What’s some of your favourite books (and why)?

B: Harry Potter, The Giver, To Kill A Mockingbird, Holes.
10. (Since this blog focuses on YA) What’s your favourite children’s or young adult book (you can pick more than one!) and why?

B: My favorite books are the Harry Potter books and The Giver, because I know what it’s like to be an outcast and know you are meant for something greater.

Thanks so much for the interview, Brittany!