Book Review │ Cherry Scones and Broken Bones by Darci Hannah

This is the second book of the Very Cherry Mystery Series. If you are looking for a cozy sort of mystery mixed up with a love triangle then this is one you have to pick up. We meet our main character Whitney, who has returned to her small Wisconsin town to take over control of her family’s bed and breakfast, The Cherry Orchard Inn.

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Whitney is an experienced manager and baker with her signature dish being cherry scones. Everything seems to be going well for Whitney, until, Silvia Lumiere a renowned portrait painter decides to book a two-month stay at the Inn. At first, everyone is extremely excited to have such a celebrity staying there, however, the tides quickly turn when Silvia’s true character comes out. She is the most unhappy of people and will find anything to complain about which gets on everyone’s last nerve.

It’s almost not shocking when she is found dead at the bottom of the stairs of the Inn with a cherry scone jammed in her mouth. Someone has shut her up permanently and everything seems to be pointing to Whitney as her murderer.

Despite being at the center of a murder mystery, Whitney does find time to find herself in the middle of a love triangle between herself, Jake and Jack’s friend Tate. This is where a lot of the drama happens as even though Whitney is a 30-something-year-old woman, she is incredibly immature when it comes to her romantic life. She’s too afraid to turn down Tate, but also too afraid to be rejected by Jack and it lends itself to much of the drama between all of them.

However, the twist at the end really brought this book together for me. While this is not a murder mystery that is littered with clues and it is more of a cozy, quick read than something more substantial, Darci Hannah does deliver a good, shocking end with a murderer that is not our romantically entwined heroin.

Cherry Scones & Broken Bones (A Very Cherry Mystery Book 2) by Darci Hannah will be released on June 8, 2019 from Midnight Ink with ISBN 9780738758381. This review refers to an advanced electronic galley that was shared in exchange for a review.

Book Review │ Manet and Modern Beauty

The following volume corresponds to exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago which runs from May 26 to September 8, 2019 and the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center which runs from October 8, 2019, to January 12, 2020.

manet

Unlike most Manet exhibitions, the curators of Manet and Modern Beauty chose to focus their show on a less popular period within Manet’s life: his later years. This is a period for the artist that is largely overlooked because it is such a shift from what Manet is so well-known for. The shift in his work is often attributed to his decline in health and his growing interest in fashion and women painters, namely Berthe Morisot, a woman created with being a source of inspiration for this period of his work.

Weaving together gorgeous reproductions of Manet’s works with essays and correspondence from the artist during this period in his life, Allan, Beeny, and Groom create an in-depth view of Manet and his later works. While the writing is academic in tone, the inclusion of the personal correspondence really illuminates where the artist was during this part of his life and how it could relate to why there is such a shift in his work from previous paintings.

As viewers, we get to see the lush social world that Manet found himself in during the 1870’s and 1880’s and in many ways, we can also uncover his commentary on this world that he lived in during his later years. With nearly 300 beautiful reproductions, Manet and Modern Beauty stands as a gorgeous literacy and artistic work that brings to life the later years of Eugène Manet.

Manet and Modern Beauty: The Artist’s Last Years edited by Scott Allan, Emily A. Beeny, and Gloria Groom will be released on June 25, 2019 from Getty Publishing with ISBN 9781606066041. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was shared in exchange for a review.

Book Review: The Southern Side of Paradise by Kristy Woodson Harvey

the-southern-side-of-paradise-9781982116620_lgWhen I had received this galley, I was not aware that I was part of a series. The Southern Side of Paradise is actually the final installment of the Peachtree Bluff Series which focuses on a mother, Ansley and her three daughters: Caroline, Sloane and Emerson as they divide their time between New York City and Georgia. Each are struggling in terms of their relationships: Ansley is engaged to the love of a her, a man that she left when she was young while Caroline has discovered that her husband James has been cheating on her and Sloane is dealing with her injured husband who is back from being captured during the war.

While the first two installments of the Peachtree Bluff Series focused on the stories of the older sisters, The Southern Side of Paradise is narrated by the youngest daughter, Emerson, who is an actress with a flair for the dramatic. This installment is her story. I think her being the youngest of the girls, made the narration seem whiney and immature in parts, but it didn’t take away from the overall feel of the book. It just made for the story to be more believable since this was the story of a young woman who was beginning to find her own way.

Without having read the first two books in the Peachtree Bluff Series, I did find myself somewhat lost in reading the last book. I did not fully understand all of the conflicts and relationships as well as I could have had I had the background of the first two installments. However, The Southern Side of Paradise, was a light read that immediately plunged me into the world of the Murphy girls and their lives and adventures. After reading this installment, it made me want to go back and read the first two books so that I could not only better understand, but more so fully enjoy the lovely Southern town that Kristy Woodson Harvey created for her characters.

This was a quick read that really put me into that summer mindset. I am ready to find my own pool and big hat and enjoy the heat.

The Southern Side of Paradise by Kristy Woodson Harvey is scheduled for release on May 7, 2019 from Gallery Books with ISBN 9781982122096. This review was created using a pre-release electronic galley of the book from the publisher.

 

Book Review: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

The story of Chris McCandless isn’t exactly new. There were plenty of young men before him and plenty after him that believed, almost arrogantly, in their intelligence and ability so much so that they felt that even against the strength and almighty power of nature at its most wild that they would win out regardless of how ill-prepared they were for their journey. McCandless was a smart, well-educated twenty something from a well-off suburb of Virginia. His family, friends and those that knew him described him as such adding that, Chris often liked to be alone, not in the sense of being a “loner” and all that that term conjures, but in that, Chris didn’t mind being alone and often was, finding ways to entertain himself.

He enjoyed wandering. He took long trips across the US and would often disappear for long stretches of time. After his graduation from Emory University, McCandless did just that. He packed up and left, eventually getting rid of his car, possessions and even burning what little money he had on him. From there, he drifts all over the West before finally trekking into the Alaskan bush country with ill-fitting boots and little to no food on him.

He plans to live off the land and strike out on his own totally negating the fact that he does not have the supplies needed nor has he taken the time to build the skill set that is needed to survive in the wilderness. Ultimately, the end of Chris McCandless is evident and it’s easy to write him off as a know-it-all kid that got in over his head and paid the ultimate price.

And in some parts I do have to agree with that. He had a comfortable life set up for him and he gave it all away to pretty much tell his parents, up their’s. On the other hand, Krakauer also includes stories of other boys who did the same as McCandless including stories of his own rebellion and his stupidity and near-death experience in trying to climb the Stikine Ice Cap. He spoke of how in your early twenties you grasp mortality, but your own seems so far off and something you’re incapable to completely understanding that you almost want to push yourself into the tip of it, the brink in order to look down on it and feel it.

Which, I get. It reminded me of how when I was 23, I went sky-diving and nothing makes you feel mortal and face your own mortality more than throwing yourself out of a plane and plummeting to earth with nothing but some flimsy material to save you. It was exciting, thrilling and it took away any and all control I had over myself and my well-being. It was exhilarating and something I probably will never do again.

Overall, did Chris McCandless over do it on the rebellion? Heck yes! But, his story and John Krakuer’s take on it does make for a good read.

And then there’s always the 2007 Sean Penn  movie adaptation which boasts lots of beautiful scenes and enough Eddie Vedder to keep any Pearl Jam enthusiast satiated:

Score: 5/5

Book Information: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer was reissued on August 21, 2007 through Anchor Books with ISBN 978-0307387172. In November 2014, Chris’s sister released her own memoir of why Chris went into the wild and tells the story of what her family and upbringing were truly like in, The Wild Truth.

Sheramy Bundrick’s Sunflowers: A Novel of Vincent Van Gogh – A Review

sunThere is nothing easy about writing historical fiction. Once a writer adds art into the mix, the project becomes something entirely different as many artists, especially those like Vincent Van Gogh are not so easily defined. Furthermore, having the ability to blend factual art historical information with the fiction a writer creates, is difficult and can often produce novels that are more of a creation as opposed to a well-researched, factual backdrop with a fictional story also added for entertainment.

This, however, is not the case with Sheramy Bundrick’s Sunflowers. As an art historian and professor, Bundrick brings to the table a strong set of skills and research that are more than evident in her fictional retelling of the final two years of Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh’s troubled life. She recounts with some liberty, the time that the struggling artist spent with a young woman named Rachel – the very same lady that would be presented with a fragment of his ear.

Rachel Corteau

In reality, there is nearly nothing that has survived in history about the real Rachel, other then a document that lists her name, address, occupation and that she was the woman Van Gogh asked for at the brothel to present her with a piece of his ear. Other artists such as Bernard and Gauguin mention Rachel in their writings and letters only in passing, referring to her as the “cafe girl” or “a wretched girl” respectively.

Irregardless of the reality of the factual, historical relationship between Van Gogh and Rachel, Bundrick writes her story having imagined what it might have been like had there been a relationship between the two people while incorporating factual information regarding the time period and Van Gogh’s work.

Mixing Factual with Fantasy

Moreover, Bundrick creates this mixture of fantasy and art historical fact seamlessly. She captivates her readers from the very first page and does not let them go until they reach the inevitable end of both the novel and of Vincent Van Gogh. Her intricate descriptions make her readers feel as though they are part of the dingy cafe where Vincent and Rachel meet to talk, part of the garden where he draws her and even part of the city and busyness of the city of Arles as a whole.

Overall, Sheramy Bundrick’s work is captured best through Susan Vreeland, author of Life Studies, ” [Bundrick] lays bare in rich, compelling scenes the mystery of the turbulent and misunderstood final two years in Van Gogh’s life.” Sunflowers is a gem of a first novel and makes for an interesting glimpse into the mental decline of one of the world’s most famous artists.

Sunflowers – A Novel of Vincent Van Gogh by Sheramy Bundrick is available for purchase through Avon with ISBN 0061765279.

Museum of the Missing: The High Stakes of Art Crime – A Review

missingKevin Nance of Booklist describes Houpt’s book through the following angle, “when houses like Sotheby’s trumpet their sales records – $104 million for a Picasso! – what’s a self-respecting art thief to do? In this brief and lively book, Houpt laments the transformation of art into an international commodity and sketches a series of quick portraits of famous latter-day art thieves and the intrepid detectives who try to catch them. In a few cases, Houpt has already been outpaced by events. Munch’s The Scream, stolen from a Norwegian museum in 2004, was recently recovered, and the Picasso sales record was eclipsed this year by the sale of a Klimt (once looted by the Nazis) for a reported $135 million.”

The Hypothesis

Auction house pricing has been a big complaint of many in the art world over the years. It is clear that such enormous prices for famous works by such well-knowns as Picasso only drive up the temptation behind nabbing one of these high-priced canvases for claim in a art thief’s private collection. Taking this idea, Houst takes the reader into the dark underbelly of one of the world’s largest markets and shows the reader just how underhanded some of the worst crimes in art have come to be.

From Munch’s The Scream to the Henry Moore Sculpture

Nothing will illicit intrigue more than when a largely famous work of art goes missing. Houpt does not miss a beat of the action in Museum of the Missing: The High Stakes of Art Crime as the author delves into heavy detail over such infamous thefts as the theft of The Scream and the even more bizarre theft of the nearly two-ton bronze sculpture by Henry Moore. Using photographs, illustrations and case studies, Houpt brings these crimes against art to life while still keeping the reader intrigued to learn just how people were able to pull off these brazen acts.

Large-Scale Thefts: From the Nazis to Iraq

What was most intriguing about this book was the coverage that Houpt included on much more large scale operations such as the Nazis’ art theft during World War II and the acts of looting that nearly crumbled the Iraqi Museum and outlaying institutions. If the Rape of Europa piqued your interest, then Museum of the Missing: The High Stakes of Art Crime will take it even another step.

Museum of the Missing: The High Stakes of Art Crime by Simon Houpt is available for purchase with ISBN 1897330448 through Black Walnut/Madison Press.

Book Review: One Summer in Paris by Sarah Morgan

parisWhen I was in my early 20’s, I broke up with my high school/college sweetheart and packed up my life for a semester abroad in Paris. I am all about books that take me back to Paris, especially those that are about a newly single woman navigating her new world in one of the world’s most beautiful cities. I was so excited when I received the galley for Sarah Morgan’s One Summer in Paris.

Morgan’s novel focuses around two women from different worlds: Grace and Audrey. Grace is an American who was looking forward to celebrating her 25th wedding anniversary with her husband whom she books a trip to Paris for. Only, he really surprises her when he tells her that he wants a divorce. Grace packs up her life and her heartbreak for Paris where she finds herself in an apartment of a bookshop. It is here she meets Audrey, a teenage Londoner, who is also working through her own heartbreak. Audrey with her limited French language skills begins to work in the bookstore and forms an unlikely friendship with Grace. Together, the two become their own sort of family.

Inevitably, David, Grace’s husband, decides that he doesn’t want to be with his mistress, Leesa, and wants to reconcile with Grace. This is where the story lost me a little. He is still sleeping with Leesa, but has decided that he rather be with Grace. I felt like he didn’t suffer enough to make up for his crimes and it was here that I was a bit turned off.

Overall, though, this novel is a light summer kind of read that will make you laugh out loud at the scenes between Grace and Audrey. The premise that landed them both there as well as how a small town part time teacher could afford to buy a summer aboard left me guessing, but if you can get past those plot holes, you will definitely enjoy this quick read about heartbreak, female friendship and the power of moving forward in your life even if your heart is broken.

One Summer in Paris by Sarah Morgan is scheduled for release on April 9, 2019 from Harlequin with ISBN 9781335507549. This review was created after reading an advanced electronic copy of the novel from the publisher.