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Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Tag: art

Expressions of an Artist by Frances Bildner

“I wonder the wonder, freedom of freedoms, play for you nightly and sing in the rain.I pray for your ghosts to let you off lightly, lessen and get rid of your terrible pain.”Expressions of An Artist: The Whole Shebang is a raw, in depth form of personal expression through the intricate use of English. Frances Bildner’s brave writing speaks from a place of pure honesty and beauty, using a masterful artistry with words to create this unforgettable collection.Using a potent mix of poetry, prose and a stream-of-consciousness style of writing, Bildner creates a completely unique piece that is haunting and moving at the deepest levels. Above all, Bildner emphasises the importance of love, of relationships, of seeing the world and of having an open mind. Her passion for living life away from the beaten track is clear, and her skill with words is nothing short of inspiring.

 

Many thanks to the author and to Publishing Push for this review copy!

This flowing, rambling work of art is most unusual. The author combines her poetry with her paintings in this grand outpouring of emotion called EXPRESSIONS OF AN ARTIST. She explores love, loss, politics, and hatred with her art – discussing uncomfortable subjects and thrusting them almost angrily at the reader.

The first section is autobiographical; read this and the poetry gains another layer of understanding. Ms Bildner is no stranger to sadness, and this is clear in her work. She also lets hope and expectation shine through as well, but not as often. Her words are visceral and filmy at once; the way she combines images and phrases will hit you in the head and the heart.

My favorite section is entitled “Political”.  Bildner sneers at men and their havoc they wreak on the battlefield, weeps for those lost in the Holocaust, and paints a dystopian picture that Orwell would be proud of.  Discrimination, oppression, and hypocrisy are all described, drawn out like sticky taffy being pulled; her words stick in your head and force you to see what she is seeing, what she has seen.  Her paintings in this section are darker as well – rows of skull-like faces below a yellow star gape at the reader. I caught my breath as I stared at them, and felt the weight of a thousand souls inside me.

The mark of a good poet is one who can make you laugh, cry, and most of all, THINK with her words. Ms Bildner is one such poet.  Her words are to be absorbed and considered, for they are very relevant in 2018, where hate and divisiveness still exist around the world.

I dare you to read this book and not be touched by her emotions.  If you aren’t moved by her words, check your chest to see if you still hear a beating sound within.  You can pick up your copy [easyazon_link identifier=”1785546481″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

Champagne Crystals 

Champagne crystals, camaraderie, flight, bubbles in the air, bubbles everywhere, aeration, colour, sanguine moments. Spirit alive entering the gates of nirvana. Chrystal, veuve, what’s in a name, the purity, the semblance of a glass of champagne. Jockeys fly, horses neigh, the culmination of another day. Psychics, mediums, bursting through, who’s to say what’s you and you.

Anticipation, bubbles and expectation. I put my hand around your waist and tasted friendship. Not formed in haste. Champagne you asked, is it free, Champagne you queried for you and me?

Bubbles of life, love and laughter floating above the heavier matter. Champagne cocktails, chitter chatter. Corks that pop, love a lot, fizz in the air. Champagne everywhere, in the bath a glass between friends making many amends.

A Painting To Die For by Joan C. Curtis

Jenna’s quiet weekend turns upside down when she returns home to find her house totally ransacked, and the police uncover a dead body with her name in its possession. Meanwhile her long-lost cousins show up on her doorstep with stories about stolen paintings, hidden masterpieces—worth millions, Mafia friends, and much more.

While Jenna questions the motives of her dead father in connection to the stolen art, the police find a second body with Jenna’s name in its possession, and she becomes the primary suspect in two murder inquiries. Sidestepping the police and dodging the mob, she and her best friend, Quentin, embark on their own investigation to save themselves and Jenna’s lying, double-crossing cousins from untimely deaths.
A Painting to Die For forms a web of deceit that leaves Jenna doubting everything she believes about her father and his Italian family.

Thank you, Joan, for the review copy!

A PAINTING TO DIE FOR is amateur detective Jenna Scali’s third outing.

She is back at it again, when she gets dragged into another mystery – this time by her duplicitous cousins asking her help to locate a missing painting. Before you know it, she is getting involved with another kind of Family and dragging her best friend Quentin along with her on a wild goose chase. She is as stubborn as ever, hiding her activities from her cop boyfriend as needed. She is also very patient – I would have walked away from her crazy cousins without a second glance. This is where most of my frustration with this story lies; the dialogue and actions of her family are circuitous and vague. I understand that is all with the intention to further the plot, and I will say if Curtis’ intention was to make the reader want to shake Joey & Co until their teeth fell out, she has succeeded! However, it is my opinion that some of the round and round could have been trimmed and the plot wouldn’t have suffered one bit.

I did enjoy the bits of art and Italian history mixed in – it shows that the author has done her research. We also get to learn more about Jenna’s heritage, which makes her character more familiar to us. She is becoming more mature also, as we see her concentrating on her schoolwork and career. Curtis has done an excellent job giving Jenna another layer of personality. A character that doesn’t grow in a series is dull and makes all the books the same. She is still the same sarcastic girl we know and love! Quentin and Starr seem to have taken a back seat to the rotten cousins, which may be why this book seemed different to me. Jenna is still supported by her co-stars, but they don’t seem to be shining through as with the other adventures.

There were some suspenseful parts towards the end, and a few twists that always make for good reading. That being said, I was happy to see her cousins in the rear view mirror at the end of A PAINTING TO DIE FOR. I’d love to see what Jenna will get herself mixed up with in the next installment!

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”B0762D2X2Z” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

A PIECE OF THE WORLD by Christina Baker Kline

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the smash bestseller Orphan Train, a stunning and atmospheric novel of friendship, passion, and art, inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s mysterious and iconic painting Christina’s World.

“Later he told me that he’d been afraid to show me the painting. He thought I wouldn’t like the way he portrayed me: dragging myself across the field, fingers clutching dirt, my legs twisted behind. The arid moonscape of wheatgrass and timothy. That dilapidated house in the distance, looming up like a secret that won’t stay hidden.”

To Christina Olson, the entire world was her family’s remote farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. Born in the home her family had lived in for generations, and increasingly incapacitated by illness, Christina seemed destined for a small life. Instead, for more than twenty years, she was host and inspiration for the artist Andrew Wyeth, and became the subject of one of the best known American paintings of the twentieth century.
As she did in her beloved smash bestseller Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline interweaves fact and fiction in a powerful novel that illuminates a little-known part of America’s history. Bringing into focus the flesh-and-blood woman behind the portrait, she vividly imagines the life of a woman with a complicated relationship to her family and her past, and a special bond with one of our greatest modern artists.
Told in evocative and lucid prose, A Piece of the World is a story about the burdens and blessings of family history, and how artist and muse can come together to forge a new and timeless legacy.

I purchased this book on my own and so have no one to thank but myself 🙂

Who doesn’t love this iconic Wyeth painting? When I was growing up I had a print on my bedroom wall. There was a terrible beauty in the stark juxtaposition of the girl and the house; even without knowing that she had an affliction, I just knew that there was something wrong with her. Regardless, I wanted Christina in my life. I wanted to be her friend.

After reading A PIECE OF THE WORLD, I have changed my mind. I would not want to have the author’s Christina in my life. Despite the designation of “historical fiction”, my soul has been crushed by the portrayal of Christina as a mean spirited, stubborn, cold individual. Many times I wanted to grab her fictional neck and wring it! There is a lot to be said for staying the course and holding true to yourself, but there is also holding yourself back and making bad decisions. I’d love to know what impelled Kline to create this version of Christina. I have to hand it to her – she took an icon and tarnished it well, without fear of repercussion.

Kline brings us into Christina’s world bit by bit, making the years sadder and sadder, until we are numb. There are so many chances to make a change, and yet our heroine digs herself in stubbornly. In a way she is the sun around which various planets (Wyeth, her brother) revolve, and in other ways she is just a distant, minor, and fading star. Kline’s writing style is illuminative and evocative. She can make us cringe, gasp, or cheer appropriately. The Maine farming mentality is well illustrated (no electricity!) and helps us understand Christina’s reasons for living the way she does. The best thing about this book is that you will continue to wrestle with the characters for a while after you are done reading. What motivated Christina? Why did Al make the choice to stay with her? I wondered if I truly hated Christina or if I felt sorry for her after all she had been through. I also wished she had been written differently – but then the book wouldn’t have made the impact that it did. This is the crowning moment of what it means to be a writer…having readers continue to discuss the plot and characters long after the book is done. Regardless of whether I liked the fictional Christina, I was impressed with the author’s ability to stoke my emotions.

Whether you are a fan of Wyeth or just want to read some provoking historical fiction, grab this. You won’t be sorry. You can pick up your copy [easyazon_link identifier=”0062356267″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

 

 

In Sunlight Or In Shadow by Lawrence Block

sunight-and-shadow

“Edward Hopper is surely the greatest American narrative painter. His work bears special resonance for writers and readers, and yet his paintings never tell a story so much as they invite viewers to find for themselves the untold stories within.”
So says Lawrence Block, who has invited seventeen outstanding writers to join him in an unprecedented anthology of brand-new stories: In Sunlight or In Shadow. The results are remarkable and range across all genres, wedding literary excellence to storytelling savvy.
Contributors include Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Olen Butler, Michael Connelly, Megan Abbott, Craig Ferguson, Nicholas Christopher, Jill D. Block, Joe R. Lansdale, Justin Scott, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Warren Moore, Jonathan Santlofer, Jeffery Deaver, Lee Child, and Lawrence Block himself. Even Gail Levin, Hopper’s biographer and compiler of his catalogue raisonée, appears with her own first work of fiction, providing a true account of art theft on a grand scale and told in the voice of the country preacher who perpetrated the crime.
In a beautifully produced anthology as befits such a collection of acclaimed authors, each story is illustrated with a quality full-color reproduction of the painting that inspired it.

 

Many thanks to NetGalley for providing this ARC to me!

Edward Hopper is my favorite artist, so when I saw this opportunity to read and review this book, I was ecstatic. I was so curious to see how the authors would interpret the art and translate it into a story.

At the beginning of each chapter, the painting is shown to give the reader an idea of the muse behind the writing. I enjoyed going back to take a second and even third glance at it while I was devouring each story, even if only to compare my own thoughts behind the artwork to the words being written.

The contributors range from the blockbuster (King, Oates, Deaver, Child) to the well known (Abbott, Lansdale, Moore), and the talent follows accordingly.

My favorites: Night Windows (lush writing plus a twisty plotline), The Music Room (simple yet shimmering with darkness), and Autumn at the Automat (satisfying 1930’s detail and a strong female character).

Disappointments: Rooms by the Sea (a bit too fantastical for my taste), The Incident of 10 November (a real departure for Deaver, who usually writes flawlessly; perhaps he was trying something new), and Still Life 1931 (a drab, sluggish tale that needed a bit more action).

I have always considered Hopper’s paintings to be benign, peaceful works of art. Imagine my consternation when I discovered all the seamy, sordid tales that were spun! Was that the collective thought of these writers, to banish all the vague pleasantness and expose the evil lurking below the surface? I’m happy to say that I will still enjoy Hopper’s paintings, despite the remnants of these stories that will surface occasionally.

Final thought: I was not aware of the backstory about the self-aggrandizing and duplicitous preacher who usurped some of Hopper’s work for himself.  Author Gail Levin illustrates the entire sordid tale thoroughly.

Whether you are a fan of the artist, or just like short stories, you will enjoy IN SUNLIGHT OR IN SHADOW. You can pick up your own copy [easyazon_link identifier=”1681772450″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

The Empress of Tempera by Alex Dolan

tempera

The feud began forty years ago. On one side: one of the wealthiest families in America. On the other: an artist known as Qi, heralded as the next Andy Warhol. After an acrimonious falling out, a Cold War began between these two families, and very few people remember the artist at all. Until a piece by Qi appears in New York.
Outside the Fern Gallery, a man stabs himself in the heart while staring at the last Qi, a painting of a young Chinese empress. Paire Anjou, a young art student fresh to the city, stands so close, her dress is freckled with blood. The resurgence of Qi’s art stirs up widespread curiosity and attention. Much like Michelangelo’s David, the portrait evokes powerful reactions from people. Patrons pass out, write love letters, and try to vandalize it. Since the day she saw it, Paire can’t stop ruminating about the painting.
The descendants of both families converge, and Paire, who covets the Empress, is woven into an escalating blood feud. Paire Anjou is herself a descendant of criminal parents with a predilection for theft. And she has decided that she needs to possess the Qi for herself.

Thanks to Diversion Books for gifting me this book for review!

EMPRESS is the kind of book that has a dark undercurrent running through it. The darkness may ebb and flow, but it’s always there. Paire is a character who may be sympathetic at times, and other times she will make you cringe and wonder what you ever saw in her in the first place.

The titular Empress is the sun around which everyone’s world revolves. Dolan’s description of her is so precise, so fawning, that it makes you wish you could see her for yourself and become obsessed. As Paire slowly sinks into lustful infatuation with the Empress, the darkness flows into her and also makes her stronger. Paire gets involved with illegal activities, all the while with the painting at the back of her mind.

The darkness envelops other characters as well, and begets betrayal, or violence. It seems as though the painting is like a Rorschach drawing; people see what they want to see, while the image affects them all differently. I especially enjoyed this aspect of the book – watching everyone decompensate is a delicious, voyeuristic experience.

Another enjoyable facet of this story is the art and artist setting. New York is the perfect backdrop for this beleaguered gallery and its employees. There also was a great deal of authentic art discussion that taught me things and enriched the reading experience.  Any time I can learn something from a book, it’s a plus for me. This shows that the author is not just trying to create a story; he is doing his hardest to immerse the reader in a believable world where things occur because of the setting, not despite it.

THE EMPRESS OF TEMPERA was a compelling and brilliantly conceived story. I loved it! Definitely a must read this year. You can pick up your copy [easyazon_link identifier=”1682302970″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

Praise Her, Praise Diana by Anne Rothman-Hicks and Kenneth Hicks

praise diana

 

 

Call it life imitating art—author Maggie Edwards publishes a chapter of a book detailing seduction, murder and castration by a protagonist named Diana, and suddenly a woman code-named Diana begins to mimic her actions in real time. Women who have been abused find Diana to be an inspirational figure, and begin to fight back in her name. Soon violence erupting throughout New York City threatens to spiral out of control. As the police try desperately to identify Diana, Maggie’s high-powered lawyer, Jane Larson, finds herself at the center of an investigation that threatens to upend the entire world around her.

Many thanks to the authors for providing this book in exchange for a review!

This book is intense. Everything about it is almost larger than life and dramatic—-the women with their desire to show the misogynists of the world how it feels to be afraid, Maggie and Jane’s internal struggle to come to terms with who they really are, the slowly dying figurehead of a feminist group who feels abandoned, and the utter violence that takes place again and again.

There are many subplots within this book. The main story is about Diana and the fervor with which she stirs up the city of New York. Also taking place is the story of a woman abused by her police officer boyfriend,  the growing feelings between Maggie and Jane;  Maggie’s past; the “book within a book” novel that Maggie is writing; and a militant feminist named Judith who hates all men (she calls them “Mr Pigs”) and doesn’t hesitate to turn to violence to make her point.

Judith was the hardest character for me to grasp. I wasn’t sure if I loved her or hated her at times, for her behavior was alternately strident and caring. In the beginning I thought of her as a fringe nutter, but as the book progressed she popped up at crucial times and came to other women’s aid. Brilliantly written.

Maggie and Jane bring a lot of personal drama to the book, and while I totally supported why they behaved the way they did, I grew weary of the push-pull dynamic. I wanted to say to both of them: COMMUNICATE!

Finally, the violence. Anyone who has ever felt fear, or suffered a physical attack by a man, has probably wanted to seek revenge in the way Diana does– with torture and castration. There were a few internal cheers on my end as catcalling men got their comeuppance from Judith and Co., for sure. The authors pull no punches in describing Maggie’s past, or how emotions can sway reason (in the case of the woman domestically abused, yet still in love with her boyfriend). All throughout these subplots, the violence simmers in the background, like a pot about to boil over. The brutality is never far away, even if the scene is just women enjoying coffee or a night out. The threat lingers, a presence lurking in the shady corners.

I feel conflicted about this book. On one hand, the addressing of misogyny is extremely important. However, I felt that the characters and their behavior at times overshadowed this message. I found myself thinking again and again that some of the women  were fulfilling the stereotypical “flaky lesbian” types, bringing the drama and their lack of communication. Do women really behave this way? I suppose there are that do (and those that don’t), but I felt that the juxtaposition of the two was harsh and took a great deal away from the caveats illustrated by the authors.

I may be in the minority on this. I do feel that the ideas put forth are solid and very necessary, and so will recommend this book on the grounds that everyone needs to be aware of the evil women face on a daily basis, just for being themselves.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

You can pick up your copy [easyazon_link identifier=”1612359442″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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