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Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Tag: painting

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].

 

 

 

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].

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