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)

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Book Review: Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner

When I picked up Jennif Weiner’s Goodnight Nobody, I dimly recalled reading one of her novels but could not remember the story. Reading the blurb on the back of this one, I was interested enough to turn the first page. The main character in the story is Kate Klein, a mother of three, who finds herself living in suburbia. Her once-loving husband is hardly ever home, the supermommies on the playground snub her, and her days are spent with three children under the age if five. A fellow mother is murdered and Katie launches an unofficial investigation – from 8:45 to 11:30 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays when the children are at nursery school.

The blurb promised not only a story of investigation, but also a tale that considers the choices that all modern women make as they navigate between independence and marriage, being a mother and having a life of one’s own. The promise, however, was not delivered.

Goodnight Nobody skates on the surface of the above-mentioned themes. The marriage problems between Kate and Ben, her husband, are hinted at but never addressed.  The reader is told that Kate feels to be an incompetent mother – but these feelings are not explored. Even the investigation seems pedantic. And the solution is arrived at by Kate suddenly with with no suggestion as to why she makes the connection between events and the person she suspects to be the murderer.

Reading the appendix to the book, I learned that this novel was Weiner’s first attempt at a novel of this genre. And it shows. Goodnight Nobody  is not a novel I would recommend to readers who enjoy detective stories or novels that explore more deeply the female experience.

I gave the novel ⭐⭐ 2 stars on Goodreads.

Have you read any of Jennifer Weiner’s novels? What did you think?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 34th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Favourite Read of the Month: May 2018

During the month of May, I managed to read 7 books for this year’s Book Pledge, bring my total for read books this year to 33 books.

The titles in March are listed below. To read my reviews (if you haven’t already), click on the title in the following list:

  1. The Second Sister by Claire Kendal – psychological thriller ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars
  2. Something Blue Emily Giffin – women’s fiction, romance ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars
  3. 9 Dragons by Michael Connelly – thriller ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars
  4. The Dutch Wife by Ellen Keith. – historical fiction, women’s fiction ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars
  5. Rosie Coloured Glasses by Brianna Wolfson – women’s fiction, coming-of-age fiction ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars
  6. Right Behind You by Lisa Gardner – thriller ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars
  7. Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King – horror fiction, science fiction ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

I have so many favourites from the month of May. I loved the Kings novel, Sleeping Beauties. I cried when I read Rosie Coloured Glasses. I gnawed my nails when I read The Second Sister. My favourite novel, however, was The Dutch Wife. I experienced a gamut of emotions while reading this story, and savoured every moment. And the best test? I will definitely reread this story in the years to come.

What was your favourite read in May? Share your choice, or the link to your post, below.

Favourite Read of the Month:

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

Book Review: Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King

I popped into the library to renew my library card and saw Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King displayed on the fiction shelf. I have so many books at home to read but that did not stop me from picking up this Stephen King novel. The title intrigued me, as did the blurb on the inside flap of the book cover.

This story is set in a future in which the women go to sleep and become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened or the gauze is disturbed, they become feral and violent. While the women sleep, they go to another place where harmony prevails and conflict is rare. One woman, however, is immune to the sleeping disease – Eve Black. Many come to believe that she is the key to the sleeping disease. Left to their increasingly primal urges, the men divide into two camps: some want to kill Eve while others want to save her.

The novel is an epic tale with the stories of the various characters interwoven in the tale with mastery. The Kings explore human nature at its worst, and at its best. While reading the novel, the reader cannot help but acknowledge the truth of their insight into human nature. The various responses to the disease are realistic and mirror what we see if we observe people responding to the obstacles they face in their lives (even though they may not be as extreme as what is described in the novel).

I love Stephen King’s stories of this ilk and this book is already on my list of books to purchase and enjoy again.

I gave this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5stars on Goodreads.

Do you enjoy reading Stephen King’s novels?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 33rd in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: Right Behind You by Lisa Gardner

When I picked up Right Behind You by Lisa Gardner, I knew that I was to read a thriller with characters that I had ‘met’ before in previous novels.

Right Behind You brings back two well-known FBI agents – profiler Pierce Quincy and his partner Rainie Conner. The story focuses on Sharlah, the girl that is about to be adopted by Quicy and Rannie. Eight years ago her older brother beat their drunken father to death with a baseball bat in order to save their lives. A call comes in about a double murder just as Sharlah has finally moved on with her life. As Quincy and Rainie assistait have solving the murder, they are forced to confront the mounting evidence that Sharlah’s brother, Telly Ray Nash, may be the shooter. And it appears that his killing spree has only just begun. In the past, Sharlah’s big brother has saved her life. But it is uncertain, years later, whether he would be willing to continue to protect her.

The novel contains all that I would expect from one of Gardner’s novels – a fast-paced race to the finish as the mystery of the murder is solved. The novel did not disappoint as it was what I expected. However, the story did not intrigue me too much – and it was very easy to set aside as I continued with my day to day responsibilities. The read was enjoyable, but not a book that I would peruse again.

I gave this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars on Goodreads.

Do you enjoy reading Gardner’s novels?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 32nd in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: Rosie Colored Glasses by Brianna Wolfson

I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of Rosie Colored Glasses by Brianna Wolfson when I attended the OLA Super Conference.

The story is that of Willow, daughter of Rosie Collins and Rex Thorpe. Rosie Collins is a woman who is magnetic and who makes everything dazzle. Rex Thorpe is a man who is serious and unsentimental. When the two meet, Rex is swept up in Rosie’s maniac tornado of love. Rosie is illuminating, but she is also exhausting. The story of Rosie and Rex show that not only do opposites attract, but that they also cause friction.

After their divorce, their child Willow navigates two completely different worlds: the effervescence of her mother’s world, and the structured routine of her father’s. But as Rosie’s swirl of heightened emotions cuts a wider swath, heartache looms for Willow.

Rosie Colored Glasses is a novel about the different ways that love can find you. It describes the struggle of Willow, and her father, to make sense of a world of extremes – extreme loneliness and extreme love. The novel is about how the human heart can break, and how it is resilient and can heal.

The author takes us on the journey of intense love and the disappointments it brings with it. The love experienced by Rosie, Rex, and Willow are described as well as the transformations that this love brings about. This intense story is told with insight and compassion. While reading it, I felt a connection with all three characters. I felt their emotions and understood their feelings. Their experience is told with an empathetic voice that is believable.

Brianna Wolfson’s novel is one that I would recommend for those who enjoy reading contemporary fiction. The story is told with a realism that is hard to ignore. Rosie Coloured Glasses does an excellent job of embracing the effects of a maniac type of love.

I gave this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars on Goodreads.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 31st in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: The Dutch Wife by Ellen Keith

After the fast-paced detective story I had completed (9 Dragons by Michael Connelly), I was ready for a more serious novel and picked up my signed copy of The Dutch Wife by debut author Ellen Keith. The story interested me as I have some Dutch background and had heard my family tell a few stories of the second world war as well as the Dutch Resistance against Nazi Germany.

The Dutch Wife begins its story in Amsterdam, May 1943, with the arrest of Marijke de Graaf and her husband, both members of the Dutch Resistance. They are deported to separate concentration camps in Germany. once there, Marijke is faced with a terrible choice: to accept a slow and certain death in the labour camp, or to join a camp brothel for a chance of survival.

The reader is also introduced to Karl Muller, an SS officer who arrives at the camp hoping to live up to his father’s expectations of war time glory. Faced with the brutal routine of overseeing punishments and executions, he longs for an escape. When he meets the newly arrived Marijke, the meeting changes both of their lives forever.

The narrative set in an SS labour camp is interwoven with that of Luciano Wagner and his 1977 experience during the Argentine Dirty War. In his struggle to endure military captivity, he searches for ways to resist from a prison cell that he may never leave.

The Dutch Wife is a novel about love, resistance, the blurred lines between right and wrong, as well as the capacity of ordinary people to persevere and do unthinkable things in extraordinary circumstances. It is a novel that is more than just an historical retelling of two of the most oppressive reigns of terror in history. Instead, it is a story that captures the heart of humanity – its demonic side as well as its inexplicable capacity to fight for survival against all odds.

I loved this well written novel. The words captured my interest and held me enthralled. Keith made me feel the emotions of her characters: their pain, their suffering, their desires. She describes with empathy the choices they are faced with; and encourages us to understand the choices that they eventually make. The author does not hold back, and does not sugarcoat any of the events she describes in her story. She must have experienced some dark moments in the writing of this tale.

The Dutch Wife is an historical novel which I would highly recommend. There is a reason why it was listed as #1 on the Globe and Mail Bestseller list.

I gave this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars on Goodreads. If I could, I would give it more stars!

Do you enjoy reading historical novels?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 30th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: 9 Dragons by Michael Connelly

When I came across 9 Dragons by Michael Connelly, I could not resist it as I have enjoyed previous stories written by this writer. I settled in for a riveting novel featuring one of Connelly’s beloved characters, Harry Bosch.

9 Dragons features Detective Harry Bosch who is involved in solving the murder of the owner of Fortune Liquors, a small store in tough south L.A.  Harry is familiar with the liquor store as it was there he once picked up a matchbook with the motto Happy is the man who finds refuge in himself inscribed on it. With the help of another detective, Bosch uncovers a link between the death of the store owner and a lethal crime ring. His world explodes when his own daughter is taken from him. With the stakes so high, Bosch needs to travel to a place known as Nine Dragons and risk everything in order to find his daughter.

Connelly has mastered the art of creating a riveting pace. The novel is filled with non-stop action that leaves the reader breathless. Not all the action in the novel ends in a positive note – which makes the story even more realistic. This novel did not disappoint me, and I know that I will choose to read another by this author. This story is perfect for a reader who enjoys fast-paced detective stories.

I gave this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars on Goodreads.

Do you enjoy reading detective novels?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 29th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: Something Blue by Emily Griffen

I have previously read a novel by Emily Griffin and was pleased when I obtained a copy of Something Blue. The story is about Darcy Rhone, a woman who believes that the more beautiful the woman is, the more charmed her life is. This is a premise which she follows and, in her experience, her beauty excuses her lack of substance and her desire to not play by the rules.

Darcy’s perfect life is turned upside down when her best friend, Rachel White ( ‘plain Jane’) steals her fiance. Ignoring her culpability in the break-up, Darcy finds herself alone with a baby on the way. Darcy tries to recover and flees to her childhood friend in London. Once there, she resorts to her usual methods of getting what she wants. As she tries to rebuild her glamorous life in a new city, Darcy finds that her rules no longer apply. She then begins her journey toward self-awareness, forgiveness, and motherhood.

As expected, Something Blue was a light read. I found myself, however, feeling irritated with the main character, Darcy, as she would not acknowledge her part in the breakdown of her life. The portrayal of her vanity, I feel, went on for too long  (over half of the story). Her journey toward self-awareness begins much later on in the story – a journey which is glossed over by the writer. The speed at which Darcy ‘grows up’ left me unsatisfied at the end of the novel. A more in-depth description of the journey the main character takes toward mindfulness would have made the novel more satisfying.

The novel is a quick read which is not too emotionally taxing on the reader. The story would be perfect for a light holiday read that can be put down at will.

I gave the story ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars on Goodreads.

Have you read any of Emily Griffin’s novels?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 28th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: The Second Sister by Claire Kendal

I have come to enjoy psychological thrillers – the tension, the pace, the questions that the story raises in my mind as I read. When I picked up The Second Sister by Claire Kendal, I was looking for a fast-paced read that would keep me enthralled.

The story centres around Ella Brooke whose older sister, Miranda, disappeared without a trace. Ella is now the age of her sister when she disappeared; and resembles her missing sister more closely with the same dark hair and the same piercing blue eyes. Ella has never let go of her sister and still hears her voice and feels her presence. What holds Ella together is her love for her sister’s ten year old son and her work as a self-defence expert helping victims. She is certain that her sister was taken; and she does everything she can to find out the truth. Ella believes one man is key to her sister’s disappearance – Jason Thorne, a sadistic serial killer who has been locked away in a psychiatric hospital. Ignoring the warnings of the police and the disapproval of her parents, Ella seeks Thorne out – and begins a dangerous journey to discover the truth.

The Second Sister was all that I expected it to be – fast-paced and riveting. Kendal kept me guessing as she took me along Ella’s dangerous search for the truth. Turning the pages of the book quickly, I tried to guess the outcome of the story and figure out what had happened to Miranda. I loved the fact that my guesses were incorrect and that the twists took me by surprise.

If you enjoy psychological thrillers, you will enjoy reading The Second Sister. This well written novel will keep you reading until you have turned the last page.

I gave this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 on Goodreads.

Do you enjoy reading psychological thrillers?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 27th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)