Tag: 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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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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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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May 21

Let's Judge Books By Their Covers!

Art, Blogging, Chick Lit, Coming of Age 38

Hey Bookworms!

I’m sorry about being out of pocket yesterday, but I had a very taxing weekend… Well. That’s a relative term I suppose. My sister’s weekend was certainly MORE taxing than mine, as she spent most of it laboring to make me an aunt for the first time, at least the first time BIOLOGICALLY. I’m an honorary aunt several times over (and I love each and every one of those pumpkins just as much as my new little guy) but THIS one can’t disown me. Good luck, Nathan! Muahahahaha.  I also had an extended conversation with a toad I found in my garden and relocated to the neighbor’s yard so I wouldn’t get startled by a hop and squish him. Then I spent time with friends, saw a movie, drank a martini called “lizard on a mattress,” planted MORE beautiful flowers, and got my crafty on helping a friend with wedding planning. I’m back now. Just in time for TOP TEN TUESDAY!

toptentuesday

This week the ladies of The Broke and The Bookish have asked the bookish blogosphere to list out their top ten favorite book covers. I do the vast majority of my reading on my kindle, so I don’t connect with book covers the way that I used to. Also, there are so many different things I like about different book covers that I decided to rebel. REBEL, I tell you! In my tenure as a blogger, I’ve been lucky enough to be taken into the bosom of some incredibly talented and generous blogger/artists. Some of their work is so incredible it deserves to be on book covers. So. MY list this week will feature art that is NOT on book covers, but should be. Ready?!

hummingbirdpoppies

Courtesy of Lillian Connelly

1. This watercolor was done by the fabulously talented Lillian Connelly. You may know her from her blog, It’s A Dome Life. I absolutely adore the colors and the hummingbirds and the poppies. Couldn’t you just see it as the cover art for an Alice Hoffman or Kate Morton title? I love this piece so much, I bought a necklace of it. Oh yeah, she’s got a zazzle store. Click HERE to get all swagged up!

Courtesy Sandra at BuLaMamaNi

Courtesy Sandra at BuLaMamaNi

2. Sandra at BuLaMamaNi does some amazing collage work, like the piece above. I love that the little girl seems to be crying flower petals. Can’t you imagine it as the cover of a tragic tale of innocence lost? Forgotten childhood? Beautiful.

3. How cool is this?! It’s wacky wonky paper dolls and it’s trippy and fabulous. I imagine it going with a quirky coming of age tale. Some teen angst, perhaps? So cool!

4. Sandra provides another awesome image. See the horses with the super long legs in the background? They remind me of the imaginary creatures at the end of His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman, or some of the fantastical Harry Potter animals.

Lillian Connelly

Lillian Connelly

5. Lily, my dearest dear. Please forgive me this terrible pun, but I cannot resist. This piece would be the perfect cover for some Chick Lit!!! (Wah wah wah…)

BuLaMamaNi

BuLaMamaNi

6. Another piece from Sandra. I adore this one. It feels like childhood and playing in the rain and chasing butterflies. It belongs on a book that embodies these feelings!

7. Okay, okay. Chrissy isn’t an artist in the traditional sense of the word, but occasionally she dabbles in magazine collage. It makes me laugh because it’s so… Her. I like to think this should be the cover of her autobiography, entitled Snowing Like A Banshee. She gave her final creative writing project that title in college. I hated it because it made no sense. The phrase is “yelling” or “screaming” like a banshee, because a banshee is a mythological ghost that flits about making endless wailing noises. It has nothing whatsoever to do with weather. But that’s Chrissy. She makes no damn sense, but she’s tough to resist.

Art by ME!

Art by ME!

8. This is what happens when I try to draw stuff. It should never be a book cover, but I thought it would be amusing to remind you of my limitations. That’s an alligator. Saying “rawr.” Fierce.

Alright. So that’s only 8 covers, but since I cheated at the topic I figure I can fudge the number. What do you like to see in a cover, Worms? What pulls you in? It’s speech bubbles on poorly drawn reptiles, isn’t it?!

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Mar 11

Tutu Girls Walk Into a Barre: The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

Art, Coming of Age, Historical Fiction 28

Bonjour, Bookworms!

Please excuse the pun, I cannot help myself. I’m incorrigible. Today we are taking a trip to 19th Century Paris as we discuss The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan. I don’t know about you, but when I think of ballet, I think of frothy tutus and toe shoes. I danced growing up, so I can tell you that dance apparel is not inexpensive. Thus, I was surprised to learn that the ballet dancers of the famed opera houses were often more Gavroche than Baryshnikov. (It’s probably also part of the reason ballet loves super svelte dancers… The early ones were half starved!) The youngest of the ballet girls were known as the “petite rats,” and successful dancers were frequently, uh, sponsored? by creepy old dudes. So. Yeah. The beautiful ballet had a dirty, seedy, underbelly. Scandalous.

paintedgirls

I suppose I shouldn’t be too shocked by this whole thing- this novel takes place a few decades after Les Miserablesit’s not as though a comprehensive initiative to eradicate poverty had been undertaken. This is a society where a girl could legally prostitute herself at the age of 16 (assuming she was declared STD free, of course. Syphilis was colloquially known as “French Pox.”) When artists were looking for ladies to model in the nude, they didn’t go knocking on the doors of aristocrats, what with all the young nubile flesh for sale. Edgar Degas was one such artist, and if you know anything about his art, you’ll know that ballet girls were among his favorite subjects. Much in the way Tracy Chevalier brought to life the subject in Vermeer’s painting in Girl With A Pearl EarringBuchanan does for Marie Van Goethem, the model for Degas’ sculpture Little Dancer Aged 14.

Marie lives in a sketchy Parisian neighborhood with her widowed, absinthe-swilling mother and her two sisters Antoinette and Charlotte. Antoinette had been a ballet girl, though she’d been tossed out of the company for mouthing off to the director. Instead she began working as an extra in the opera, earning a ridiculously small salary. After the death of their father (and the loss of his income) it is decided that Marie and Charlotte must audition to join the ballet school. Underfed “rats” from the wrong side of the proverbial tracks they may be, but super flexible hips are a commodity worth paying for. Both Charlotte and Marie begin their dance careers, in large part to contribute to the family baguette fund. Dancing for their suppers, as it were.

Image from Metropolitan Museum of Art

This is the sculpture in question. Image from Metropolitan Museum of Art

Eventually Marie catches the eye of Degas, and she is more than willing to pose for him in varying states of undress if it keeps her family from starving (absinthe isn’t cheap, you know.) While Marie is busy being naked in front of weird old men, Antoinette strikes up a romance with a potentially sketchy fellow named Emile, who seems incapable of saving money but terribly fond of spending it (bad combination, Antoinette!) Both Marie and Antoinette (LET THEM EAT CAKE!) try to find ways to hustle for cash so tiny Charlotte will be less affected by their poverty.

In the spirit of not being a major spoilsport, I shall tell you that this novel contains prostitution, petty theft, murder, guillotines, alcoholism, scientific misinformation, and one rather disturbing incident of animal cruelty (you’ve been warned.) It’s all based on true events! A triumph of historical fiction, my friends.

So, Bookworms, how much do you love it when art imitates art?! I even made a list of such novels on Riffle! (Not on Riffle and want to be?! Let me know and I’ll send you an invite.) Tell me, Bookworms. Ballet, street urchins, Paris, art. and scandal- you’ve got to have thoughts on some of those things. Tell me, tell me, tell me!

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