Category: Art

May 08

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Art, Contemporary Fiction 41

Greetings my little Bookworms,

In case you’ve been living under a literary rock, Donna Tartt’s newest offering, The Goldfinch, has gotten a ton of buzz. It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and the book blogosphere has been all a-twitter about its greatness. I couldn’t in good conscience keep going along ignoring this book, but… This mofo is 800 pages.

thegoldfinchEver wonder how becoming a book blogger changes your reading habits? For me, it’s made me acutely aware of the HUGE variety of books out there that I want to read. In the past I’d pick up a chunkster on a whim. Heck, I read Les Misérables just for the heck of it. There was no book too long for me. Now though, not only have I saddled myself with obligations (reviews promised to authors and publishers) but I also want to have something to write about. If I can’t plow through at least two books a week, WHAT am I going to tell y’all? Flimsy excuses, I know.

I’m happy to report that I finally read The Goldfinch! Yay me! So here’s the deal. There’s this kid Theo Decker. He’s 13 years old on the day he and his mother take an unplanned detour to an art museum and into the path of a terrorist attack. In the aftermath of the bombing, Theo meets a dying man who he believes encourages him to take home a painting. A priceless work of art, no less. But Theo is 13. He has a nasty concussion. The poor kid picks through the rubble, arrives home after receiving no medical care, and is unceremoniously informed that his mother was killed in the attack. Through a series of unusual events, Theo and the painting embark on a journey… A journey into a life of antiques, drugs, and the seedy underbelly of the art world.

So. What was my verdict? I thought it was a good book, a solid book. It’s unfortunate I went into this AFTER reading all the rave reviews, because my expectations were sky-high. There were a couple of characters that absolutely embedded themselves in my heart,unfortunately, neither of them were Theo. (Boris and Hobie, though, I loved those guys!) Theo kept getting under my skin, particularly toward the end. He goes on a rather self indulgent rant about the philosophical implications of his actions. Shades of gray, master plans, yadda yadda yadda. It’s all well and good, excellent sentiments, but it felt to me like Theo was giving himself an easy out by over rationalizing things.

All in all, I LIKED The Goldfinch a good deal, but I didn’t love it. I’m a little bummed about that fact. I’m also a little bummed that I never could quite get a mental read on Boris’s accent. I kept TRYING to hear the Australian and Russian accents mingling, but it kept going full Russian in my head. Sigh. Has anybody listened to this in audiobook format? Do they do a good job with Boris’s accent?!

Tell me Bookworms. Have you ever felt let down by a book you were expecting to absolutely adore? Ever been surprised by something you didn’t expect to enjoy? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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May 06

Cover Art For My Walls: Top Ten Tuesday

Art, Top Ten Tuesday 42

Howdy Bookworms,

It’s Tuesday again, which means the time for list making is nigh. This week the ladies of The Broke and the Bookish have asked us this week to list out ten book covers with art lovely enough to hang on our walls. I rarely notice cover art as I do the vast majority of my reading on digital devices, and I’m not what you’d consider artistic by any stretch of the imagination. However. I like pretty things, so I’m going to make a list!

toptentuesday

1. Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah: I think this would look pretty in my dining room.

wintergarden

2. Wouldn’t this cover of The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield look glorious in my magical castle library with the sliding ladders? (review)

thethirteenthtale3. Have I mentioned that in addition to my obsession with penguins, I also collect teapots? I do. And that is part of the reason why I love the cover of Carol Rifka Brunt’s Tell the Wolves I’m Home so very much! (review)

tellthewolvesimhome4. Other things I love? Flowers, obviously. I also get a kick out of it when hummingbirds decide to grace my garden with their presence. They’re so cool! That said, I think that the cover art of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman is perfection. (review)

saving cee cee Honeycut

5. Frog Music by Emma Donoghue has one of the coolest covers ever. The frogs converging and making a woman’s profile? Seriously love this. (review)

frogmusic

6. And while we’re on the subject of lady profiles, how pretty is this one from The House Girl by Tara Conklin? (review)

thehousegirl

7. Sarah Addison Allen’s book covers are always gorgeous, but can we just talk about The Peach Keeper for a second? Hello, gorgeous. (review)

peachkeepr8. Also, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern? So much whimsy. Delightful. (review)

night circus9. My main floor powder room is decked out in penguin swag, so I can totally see plastering the cover of Mr. Popper’s Penguins on the wall. (review)

mrpopper

10. Last but not least, let’s talk about museum style art. There’s no way Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring would wind up on my wall (unless I pull a Goldfinch, but more about that later this week.) I could, however, put a print of Tracy Chevalier’s book cover on my wall and accomplish a similar effect.

girlwithapearlearring

 

Alright folks. Home decor a la Katie. Do you have any favorite cover art?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

 

 

 

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Mar 31

The Fellowship of the Worms: The House Girl

Art, Book Club, Historical Fiction 8

Welcome, Bookworms!

smarty-mcwordypants-199x300It’s that time again. The Fellowship of the Worms is now in session! This month’s selection was The House Girl by Tara Conklin. WARNING: We will be discussing the WHOLE book. This will no doubt include SPOILERS. If you did not read the book and would like to participate, pick up a copy of The House Girl and give it a read. This post will be here waiting for you when you finish. Now that the particulars are out of the way, I’ll remind you of the premise here. I’ll pose questions in bold and answer them in regular type.  If you don’t want your opinions influenced by my rantings, stick to the bold first. Feel free to answer them in the comments, or if you’re so inclined, on your own blog. A linky list will be provided at the end of this post for anybody who has reviewed The House Girl on their own blog, even if it has nothing to do with the following discussion questions. Don’t be shy, please link up!

1. The House Girl is told in a dual narrative, switching back and forth between Lina in modern day NYC and Josephine in 1852 Virginia. In addition to the two major narrators, there are a number of additional characters advancing the story through letters. Did you enjoy the multiple perspectives? Did you find it added or detracted from the story Conklin was trying to tell? 

Personally, I dig the dual (or more) narrative. I like being able to get inside the heads of multiple characters. I thought Conklin did a great job in fleshing out Josephine and Lina’s personalities. Though, if I could lodge one small complaint, it’s that I couldn’t get inside the head of Lu Anne Bell. What a crazy contradiction SHE was. I’m always interested in how people rationalize cruelties to themselves. Given what Lu Anne clearly knew about her husband’s non-consensual relationships with his female slaves, it’s no wonder she seemed to yo-yo between compassion and jealousy when dealing with Josephine.

thehousegirl

2. Do you think that Lu Anne intentionally passed off Josephine’s art work as her own? Do you think she would have done things differently had she known the notoriety the art would eventually garner? 

Lu Anne was a complicated character, I’m a little obsessed with her, since I was thwarted in my desire to get inside her head. The Pollyanna in me doesn’t think that Lu Anne had any idea that the artwork she and Josephine (okay, mostly Josephine) created was going to become famous. Of course, as much as I’d LIKE to think that Lu Anne would have taken steps to ensure proper credit was given had she known what was going to become of the art, I doubt she would have changed her actions. The product of her shameful environment, that one.

3. Lina is the daughter of the artsiest artists in all the land, and yet she chose to pursue a career in law. What in her upbringing to you think helped spur her decision to choose a career so based in reason? 

Lina’s upbringing was never quite stable. When it was just Lina and Oscar, their existence always seemed precarious. I think Lina’s choice of career was based in part on the desire to have some financial security (I can’t blame her for that!) I also think there was an element of rebellion there… She sort of goes Alex P. Keaton and rebels against her artsy upbringing by going corporate. (If you’re too young to get my Family Ties joke, get thee to the CBS.com. Full episodes!)

4. As a house slave, Josephine walks a lonely road. How does her unique status contribute to her desire to run? 

Poor Josephine! Because she was tasked with domestic duties, she was separated from the field workers. However, being in the house didn’t mean that she was a part of the family- she was still a slave, for heaven’s sake. She was stuck in this crappy middle ground trying to muddle through. Yes, she had relationships with Lottie and a few others, but Josephine was still separate. Oh, yeah. And being in the house only made it easier for her master to make his nocturnal visits- that sure as heck wasn’t a perk. Loneliness, prolonged sexual abuse, and, uh, being property? Yep. Seems like enough motivation to get out of Dodge to me!

5. How did you feel when Oscar dropped the bombshell about what really happened to Lina’s mother Grace?

What I want to know is how this was even possible. I know Grace told Oscar to tell everyone she’d died, but COME ON. It can’t be that easy to disappear! Wouldn’t people be suspicious that there was no funeral or memorial service? Maybe artsy people don’t do funerals? The whole thing seemed really weird to me. I’m glad Oscar came clean and gave Lina her mom’s contact information, but sheesh! What would you even SAY to your fake dead mother?! I can’t even.

Tell me your thoughts, Bookworms! How did you feel about The House GirlPlease link up if you’re so inclined! 

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Mar 11

Top Ten Tuesday: Hist-ART-ical Fiction

Art, Historical Fiction, Top Ten Tuesday 40

Howdy Bookworms,

It’s Tuesday and you know what that means! The ladies of The Broke and the Bookish have tempted me with yet another list prompt. Today they’ve asked us to list our top ten books in ANY GENRE WE WANT. I can make up a genre, right? I mean, if I can think of ten books with a similar theme it should count as a genre, shouldn’t it? Historical fiction with  a work of art as a centerpiece is my genre of choice today… I’m going to call it Hist-ART-ical Fiction!

histarticalfiction

1. Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland:  This book follows a fictional Vermeer painting back through time from the present day to its inception. It’s chock full of interesting historical tidbits throughout the eras. I also learned a surprising amount about flooding in the Netherlands… And windmills. Bonus!

2. The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier: The dual narrative is a popular style when it comes to hist-ART-ical fiction, so it’s lucky I love it. A modern American woman moves to France with her husband and uncovers her ancestral history… Along with a very particular shade of blue paint.

3.  I, Mona Lisa by Jeanne Kalogridis: Based on the fictionalized life of the woman who modeled for the world’s most famous painting, I, Mona Lisa takes you deep into Renaissance Italy. You really can’t go wrong with Florence as a backdrop, I tell you. Add DaVinci and throw in Savonarola (the dastardly art hater) and you’ve got yourself a tasty piece of hist-ART-ical fiction!

It's the mother-flipping Mona Lisa, y'all! (Source)

It’s the mother-flipping Mona Lisa, y’all! (Source)

4. I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira: (my review) Mary Cassatt meets up with Degas and Renoir and Monet and Manet in this book and it’s a heck of a good time. I love me some French Impressionists! Funnily enough, I was watching The Simpsons earlier today and Sideshow Bob referred to the Impressionists as “the boy band of the art world.” The art snobbery of a cartoon character can’t destroy my enthusiasm. It’s all so pretty!

5. The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant: Ah yes, back to Renaissance Florence! The young daughter of a cloth merchant is enthralled by the painter the family brings in to decorate their chapel. Art and love and Florentine drama ensue… There’s a rather scandalous tattoo involved as well.

6. The Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier: Another Chevalier? Don’t mind if I do! This book is based on a very real painting by the Dutch master Vermeer. It’s some kind of amazing, I tell you, even if there’s a rather cringe inducing ear-piercing scene…

7. The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes: (my review) More delicious dual narratives! This book is half set during WWI in occupied France and half set in present day England. A (fictional) painting vastly important to two women at the two points in time interweaves the stories. It’s Jojo Moyes, so it rocks pretty hard.

8. Leonardo’s Swans by Karen Essex: Renaissance Italy and the master of them all, DaVinci! This book explores the lives of the models of some of DaVinci’s lesser known pieces. The fame obsessed were as desperate to be immortalized on canvas as reality show contestants are to be immortalized in trashy television. Plenty of scandal to be had!

9. The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan: (my review) Man, I love the crap out of reading about the people behind the art. The model for Degas’s super famous ballerina sculpture? The Painted Girls tells Marie’s story as an impoverished ballerina-in-training. It’s as amazing as you think.

Image from Metropolitan Museum of Art

Image from Metropolitan Museum of Art

10. In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant: Alright, this isn’t as art-centric as everything else on this list, but it’s set in Renaissance Italy, so the art is THERE, if not center stage. Plus there’s a prostitute and a dwarf- how can you go wrong?

Honorable Mention: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. This doesn’t get to count in the official list because A. I haven’t read it yet, and B. it’s really not historical fiction. BUT it’s got a painting in a pivotal role, so it semi-counts.

My dear artsy Bookworms, do you have a favorite hist-ART-ical fiction book?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Feb 25

I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira

Art, Historical Fiction 18

Bonjour Bookworms,

Let’s talk about art. I’m not going to pretend that I understand much art, but I do have a soft spot for the French Impressionists. I got a calendar at the dollar store when I was like 10 and I was all “oooooh pretty!” I’ve been a sucker for Impressionism ever since. I have two Monet poster prints hanging in my office at work. What can I say? I’m a fan. When I saw that I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira got all up in the inner circle of the French Impressionists, I JUMPED at the chance to read it.

ialwayslovedyouFull Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The fact that I’ve been staring at Monet daily for for years to psych myself up was just a bonus.

I Always Loved You focuses on a young Mary Cassatt. She moved to Paris after the American Civil War in order to focus on her painting, but after 10 years she’s feeling disenchanted. Just as she’s about to throw in the towel and moved back into Pennsylvania when she’s introduced to the enigmatic Edgar Degas and his band of misfit painter pals.

Renoir and Manet and Monet, oh my! All the household French Impressionist names are represented in this book with all the behind the scenes glory that only historical fiction can provide. Mary Cassatt is one of the less familiar names among the Impressionist crew, so it was really cool to get a better idea of what she was all about. Heck, I never realized she was an American, given that she is always listed in tandem with the French masters.

This painting is discussed in detail in the book. Check out more of Mary Cassat's work

This painting is discussed in detail in the book. Check out more of Mary Cassatt’s work at www.marycassatt.org or her Artsy page. 

I Always Loved You also provided me with a lovely parallel. One of the books I really dug last year was The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan (my review). That novel focused on the life of the model for one of Degas’ most famous works, Little Dancer of Fourteen Years. This novel offered a little peak into Degas’ perspective while working on the sculpture, and it was wonderful. These books compliment each other beautifully.

 Tell me Bookworms. Have you ever met two books that just sort of belong together? 

*If you choose to make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Dec 03

Holiday Shopping Words for Worms Style

Art, Friendship 29

Hey Bookworms!

I’m skipping another Top Ten Tuesday. Today’s topic is books that I can’t wait for in 2014, and there is BUT ONE: Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon. (Heeeey Diana! Big fan! Jamie and Claire! Ahhhhhhhhh! I can’t wait!)

I’ve still got a list for y’all though, never you fear. I have some incredibly talented friends. Several of them now have their own little shops online where you can purchase their custom wares. Sometimes you’ve got someone on your list that the regular commercial goods just won’t work for. I’ve got your solution. *Full Disclosure: Nobody is paying me a doggone cent for featuring them. They are my ACTUAL friends and I want to share them with you. No ulterior motives up in here.*

1. Crafty Bananas Crochet: I’ve known Jackie since… I don’t know, birth probably? We did girl scouts together and she totally remembers me in giant baggy grunge pants from high school. You know all those amazing little crochet projects on Pinterest? Jackie can make those! She does the cutest hats and scarves and blankets. I mean, MINIONS:

How freaking cute are these?!

How freaking cute are these?!

2. Dome Life Studios: Lillian was one of my first blogging friends, and she is SO amazingly talented. She paints and creates such cool things. You can commission a portrait (COMMISSION A PORTRAIT, GUYS!) for a super reasonable rate, or you can shop her new handmade fun and funky jewelry. She’s got an Etsy store and a Zazzle shop for all your holiday needs. Of course, you can always visit her blog too and check out the latest antics of Tiny-Small, her 3 year old fashionista. I had her paint a portrait of my Gingerbread House and I absolutely ADORE it:

Love it so so so much!

It hangs on the wall in our living room. We’re pretty sure the inside of the Gingerbread House is pleased to know how pretty it is outside.

3. September Soap: I met September in high school, which means she ALSO remembers my grunge phase… High School. Sigh. Anyway, she’s very into the whole natural, organic, no artificial nonsense scene. She’s started a business making soap with all sorts of naturalness and essential oils and such. It’s super super good for your skin, particularly if you’re sensitive to things with a lot of dyes and perfumes. This would be a great gift for the person on your list who’s allergic to all the fun cosmetics in the land. It’s all moisturize-y too. Be gone, winter scale-y skin!

september soap4. Words for Worms Zazzle Shop: Alright, I lied about the ulterior motives.  A little. I’ve got a Zazzle store where you can purchase Words for Worms merch! I know what you’re thinking. “Why would I want a weird blogger’s logo on my stuff?” To which I shall answer: BAM! (The commission on this stuff is tiny, but I know that if I needed a baby shower gift for a fellow bookworm, I’d have jumped at this, so I thought I’d help the world. I’m altruistic and such.)

All the kiddos on my list are getting "future bookworm" onesies.

All the kiddos on my list are getting “Future Bookworm” onesies or “Bookworm in Training” t-shirts. My site isn’t on there, so they aren’t billboards, just cute as heck.

In all seriousness, Bookworms. Check out my artsy/crafty/fabulous friends. I’ll love you forever. I mean, I would have done that anyway, but still. Is it just me, or is anybody else already completely overwhelmed with holiday shopping this year? I shopped for a few hours on Sunday and wanted to weep with the enormity of it all!

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Nov 26

Pinterest and Peer Pressure

Art, Personal 20

Aloha, Bookworms!

Remember 2 weeks ago when I was suckered into joining the Glue Crew for some DIY/Pinteresty crafting? (That Joules is impossible to turn down, she’s too adorable… Then Kari and Chrissy got in on the action, and well? I caved.) If you recall, I decided to create a Christmas card garland. I always run out of space to display my Christmas cards and this project was super adorable. Speaking of Christmas cards, if you want a card and a bookmark from ME there’s still loads of time! Just email your address to wordsforworms@gmail.com and I’ll send one your way! Here was my Pinspiration:

 

I found this on Pinterest, but it seems to have originated at makeandtakes.com

I found this on Pinterest, but it seems to have originated at makeandtakes.com

I’ve been planning to do this project for ages, so I bought all my supplies half price at the after-Christmas sales last year. Now, the original instructions involved decoupage and paint… And, well… Ain’t nobody got time for that. Instead of that mess (which would CERTAINLY have ended up with things glued to my face) I bought 3/8 inch ribbon in a variety of patterns. It’s the exact width of a clothespin, yo! Also, buttons were more expensive than these cute little poinsettias I found, so I swapped them out. Then all I needed was to make friends with my ARCH NEMESIS, the hot glue gun. A little strip of ribbon, a little line of glue, a little bit of fighting with those God-awful strings that come with hot gluing, and VOILA!

pinterestCollage

 

An hour and a few minor burns later, I finished my masterpiece. Now, I am the proud owner of a Christmas card garland that I festively arrayed with place holder cards. (On the off chance you want to help me replace the fake cards with real ones, my address is PO Box 3078, Peoria, IL, 61612-3078. Totally unnecessary, but I’ve had inquiries.) Now behold the glory!

Fun, right?!

Fun, right?!

Yeah, I might have already started decorating for Christmas. Thanksgiving is so late this year! What do you think Bookworms? Is my early bird holiday spirit sacrilegious? And how proud are you that I glued nothing to my face?!

If you’re looking for more crafty goodness, check out what my Glue Crew compatriots came up with!

DIY bloggers headshots

 

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Jul 25

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

Art, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance 31

Bonjour Bookworms!

Remember back when I read Me Before You and I was all agog over Jojo Moyes? Her upcoming release (August 20th!) was listed on NetGalley and I hit the “request” button so enthusiastically, I might have sprained my finger. Alright, that bit about the finger sprain is untrue, but I tend to get hyperbolic when I’m excited. As you saw right there, I am TERRIBLE AT LYING. Therefore, when I tell you that I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, you won’t question my integrity. 

The Girl You Left Behind is told from the perspectives of two different women, living decades apart, who are connected through a painting. The book begins in 1916, at the height of WWI. Sophie LeFevre finds herself living in her hometown in northern France with her sister, brother, niece, and nephew as her husband and brother-in-law fight in the trenches. The town has been occupied by German forces, and life is bleak. The German army has requisitioned food stores, supplies, furniture, and fuel. The local French population is on the brink of starvation, and they are completely cut off from the outside world. Sophie’s source of strength is a portrait her artist husband painted of her. Its beauty offers solace in a home that’s been stripped of its comforts. It represents a connection to Sophie’s beloved Edouard. Her intense expression reminds her in her weaker moments that she’s not a woman to be trifled with.

Cover.Girl You Left Behind

Olivia Halston lives in London in 2006. She is a young widow, and devastated by the loss of her husband. She draws her strength from a painting her husband purchased for her on their honeymoon. It depicts a woman with an intense expression who looks as though she could survive anything… A woman who happens to be Sophie LeFevre. (Dun dun dun!!!) As Liv’s tale unfolds, the origins of  the painting she so cherishes are called into question by a lawsuit. In order to defend her claim to the contested painting, Liv embarks on a journey of historical and personal discovery.

That’s all I’m telling you because I’m lazy and I don’t want to be Spoilerella today. I DEVOURED this book, you guys! Is historical fiction about art and personal discovery a genre unto itself? It should be. I would buy ALL THE BOOKS! This book reminded me of all my favorite historical fiction and art novels: The Girl in the Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland, Girl With a Pearl Earring and The Virgin Blue both by Tracy Chevalier, and The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan. It also reminded me of Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay what with the historical events and the modern day sleuthing to uncover the truth… Of course this was (overall) significantly less depressing than Sarah’s Key, so don’t be frightened away.

I was going to suggest that my authors get a thesaurus for their titles, because there are so many "The Girl..." going on. I just pulled up this lovely impressionist piece by Renoir, titled (ever so creatively) "A Girl." I should probably be blaming the painters...

I was going to suggest that my favorite authors consider getting a thesaurus for their titles, as they’re all so similar. Then I pulled up this lovely impressionist piece by Renoir, titled “A Girl.” I should probably be blaming the painters for the repetitive titles. (source)

Dear Jojo Moyes, please consider this your invitation to the imaginary slumber party I’m having with Diana Gabaldon and JK Rowling. That’s my super creepy way of telling you that your books are fabulous and I’m a big fan. Don’t worry, I’m way too lazy and not nearly crazy enough to actually stalk anyone. I just think you’re the bees knees, Jojo. And your name makes me want to sing Beatles songs.

Now, if you’ll excuse me while I get back to where I once belonged, tell me, Bookworms. Do you ever hang out in antique stores and just wonder what the stuff would tell you if it could talk? How DID those antique penguin salt and pepper shakers wind up in my curio cabinet?! I mean, sure I know that “Aunt” Shelly got them at a swap meet, but who had them first? I want to knoooooooow! Is this my own personal brand of eccentric or does anybody else play this game?  

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Jun 27

Tell The Wolves I'm Home. No, Seriously. Tell Them.

Art, Coming of Age, Contemporary Fiction, Tear Jerkers 43

Happy Monday, Bookworms!

I don’t use the term “favorite” often when it comes to books, because it’s too difficult. All sorts of books have all sorts of great reasons to love them. However,  Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt tugged at all the right heartstrings for me. Dare I say that this may just land on my list of FAVORITES? Oh, I dare. And now I’m going to gush all over the internet. Ready?

tellthewolvesimhome

It’s 1987. June and her sister Greta are posing while their Uncle Finn paints their portrait. The girls spend every Sunday at their uncle’s apartment in the city while he paints. (Oh I should clarify. “The City” in this instance means NYC. “The City” if I use it generally means Chicago. People who grow up in the suburbs of major cities tend to refer to the major cities simply as “The City.” I confused the bejeesus out of one of my book club pals by not clarifying my usage once. It was pretty funny.)

Sadly, these portrait sessions are some of the last hours the girls will spend with their uncle, because he is dying of AIDS. Like I told you earlier. It’s 1987. The AIDS crisis is blowing up. There is no treatment- AZT isn’t even available yet. At this point in time, AIDS is a death sentence, and a quick one to boot. June is exceptionally close with Finn. She spends more time with him than Greta does- they have pretty much the coolest uncle-niece relationship ever. Greta has no trouble making friends whereas June’s favorite activity is to wander in the woods pretending she’s in the Middle Ages. (Right there, June had my heart. We had a little wooded area near our house when I was growing up. Wandering around while pretending to be in another time? Been there.) Finn took June under his wing and gave her an outlet for all her eccentricities, and some sweet boots.

With no antiviral medications, AZT, or drug cocktails, Finn isn’t long for this world. At his funeral, June notices a man lingering outside the funeral home. Greta tells her that the man is responsible for Finn’s death. That he maliciously gave Finn AIDS. A few days later, June receives a mysterious package with a note from a man named Toby. The package contains her Uncle Finn’s beautiful Russian teapot. The note from Toby begs June to meet him.

Fun fact, I collect teapots. Now I desperately want a magical Russian teapot like Finn's!

Fun fact, I collect teapots. Now I desperately want a magical Russian teapot like Finn’s!

June soon realizes that she’s not the only person torn to pieces by Finn’s death. Her friendship with Toby introduces her to facets of Finn she never knew- a whole segment of his life that was kept from her at her mother’s behest. The sibling relationships in this book are painful, but so REAL. Greta and June have this antagonistic love-hate thing going on that really resonated with me. Plus, we eventually learn some of the history behind Finn’s relationship with his sister. Even it was a dick move to  refuse to allow her children to have any interaction with Finn’s life partner, I still sympathized with June & Greta’s mom.  That’s good writing. Flawed characters acting like REAL people are some of my absolute favorites. Seems to me that most of the time people are just trying to do the best they can, it’s just that pesky humanity business goes and gets in the way.

The thing that struck me most about this book was the historical context. By the time I was old enough to have any real understanding of HIV/AIDS, people were pretty well aware of how the disease was spread. There is a scene in the novel where Greta’s mother catches her using Finn’s lip balm and has a bit of a meltdown. At one point June is ashamed to be fearful of getting a kiss from her uncle. Heck, even in the late 90s some of that paranoia remained. When I was in high school, I recall my health teacher saying that he might shake the hand of a person known to be infected with HIV… But he’d immediately wash his hands very, very well. Ten years AFTER this book took place, there were people who refused to listen to the scientific evidence… And they were allowed to pass that attitude on to young teens.

Thanks, Liz. My sentiments exactly. Source

Thanks, Liz. My sentiments exactly. Source

This book isn’t about science or virology. It’s about love, loss, and forgiveness. It’s a coming of age tale where June learns that things aren’t always what they seem. My words feel clumsy and I’m not doing this book any justice. Just trust me and read it, okay?! You won’t be sorry.

Alright Bookworms. I need to know. Anybody out there have an awesome relationship with an extended family member? I want to hear about it! Let’s share the love for our eccentric aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, shall we? (I hope someday my Squishy has such stories to tell about me!)

He already things I'm nuts.

He already thinks I’m nuts.

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Jun 17

The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession by Charlie Lovett

Art, Crime, Historical Fiction, Mystery 43

How fare thee, sweet Bookworms?

Today we explore a book about books! A few weeks ago, one of my aunts left me a note on Facebook asking me if I’d read The Bookman’s Tale: A Novel of Love and Obsession by Charlie Lovett. I said I hadn’t and asked if it was any good. My aunt responded with “I don’t know, YOU’RE the bookworm!” Apparently snarky eyebrows aren’t the only familial trait… Full on sarcasm runs rather strongly as well. I decided to look and see if I could find this book on NetGalley, so I could mention this conversation on my blog and tell the world that my aunt is one sassy broad. As luck would have it, I was able to snag a copy. I am fortune’s fool… Or something. Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley. This shan’t compromise my integrity in the slightest, as I am rather fond of looking gift horses in the mouth. I won’t hesitate to bite my thumb at it, should it come to that.
bookmanus
Are my Shakespearean references annoying you yet? Too bad! This book is about Peter Byerly, an antiquarian bookseller and collector. Peter is a shy young widower with an anxiety disorder. Since the untimely death of his beloved wife, he’s lost interest in his former passion for hunting down lost treasures in antique manuscripts. He has run away from his grief stricken home in North Carolina and settled in a cottage in the English countryside. While half-heartedly rummaging through a collection, Peter discovers a water color that is the spitting image of his late wife. The mystery? The painting is very clearly from the Victorian era… And Peter is in 1995. He is suitably confused, and embarks on a journey to uncover the origins of the painting. During the course of Peter’s research on the painting, he accidentally runs across a book that has the potential to prove that Shakespeare really wrote all of his own plays.
Oh yeah. Background information. There’s always been some rumors swirling about in literary circles that doubt that the works attributed to William Shakespeare were in fact written by William Shakespeare. Theories abound as to who the true author may be, or if the person of William Shakespeare existed at all. Though the works are clearly documented through dates, it’s awfully difficult to prove WHO actually wrote them. Most of the works were originally plays, Shakespeare the business man never spelled his name with an “e” at the end and only had a grammar school education, Francis Bacon may have wanted to use a pen name, blah blah blah. Conspiracy theorists only sound ridiculous when you’ve got solid proof to discredit their claims, and no such solid proof exists of Shakespeare being, well, Shakespeare. Except maybe, just maybe, this book that Peter has come across. Dun dun dun!!!
This book has elements of The DaVinci Code and Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore. We’ve got a mystery of historical proportions that needs to be solved. The stakes are high. The mysteries run deep. People are trying to protect SECRETS.  The story is constructed sort of like a braid. It’s got three distinct storylines going at the same time. We follow Peter’s life circa 1995 with the brooding and the grief and the mystery. We also explore the time line that shows Peter meeting his late wife Amanda in college and the blossoming of their love story (which is rather heartbreaking since you know from the beginning that she’s not long for this world.) The third piece of the puzzle is the story of a rather important book and how it ends up being passed down through the ages.
The black string is Peter in 1995. The red is Peter and Amanda, sitting in a tree. The blue is the book's story.

The black string is Peter in 1995. The red is Peter and Amanda, sitting in a tree. The blue is the book’s story. Analogies in friendship bracelets. Astounding. (Image Source)

I refuse to be a spoilsport, because I rarely read mysteries and I rather enjoyed this one. The ending was a little too tidy for my taste (dare I say predictable?), but I’m willing to forgive Lovett on the grounds that I enjoyed the rest of the story. If you liked Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, I think this will be right up your alley. It’s not quite as whimsical as Penumbra, but it is every bit as engrossing. If you’re at all like me, Peter the super book nerd will steal your heart and you’ll want to hug him and give him tea… And Xanax.

Oh yes. I almost forgot to mention! I felt exceptionally close to this book because it talked about places I’ve been! Several times throughout the book Peter stops at the Russel Square tube station while in London. It’s close to the British Museum (where I’ve BEEN!!!) and it was our “home stop” while I did my two week mini-mester in London approximately 1,000 years ago. I was all, “Russel Square is my ‘hood!” Very exciting for me.

Oh my dear little peaches of Bookworms. We could talk about Shakespeare or mysteries or any number of things. But I must know. Am I the only person who gets unreasonably excited about reading stories with PLACES I KNOW?! When I was reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods I was practically giddy with all the Illinois small town name dropping. It makes me feel a part of it, you know? Is it just me? Don’t leave me hanging y’all. Share your stories. Or tell me I’m crazy. I most certainly am, though this is probably quite low on the list of my “eccentricities” shall we say? Spill!

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