Friday, December 7, 2012

I Was Vermeer

Reviewed by Monique Friloux

Author: Frank Wynne

Publish Date: Oct. 6, 2006 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC 

Get it here: Barnes & Noble, Amazon

I have to admit my inspiration for finding and reading, “I Was Vermeer” by Frank Wynne started with Matt Bomer and his USA series, “White Collar.” Throw in my love and fascination with art and you have me finishing the 300-page “I Was Vermeer” in less than two weeks. People may assume a biography about an artist would be a snooze-fest. Think again.  

“I Was Vermeer” is dedicated to Han van Meegeren, who is known as one of the best art forgers of the 20th Century. Not only that, he invented many of the forging techniques modern day forgers still use, like the use of phenol formaldehyde to give a painting an aged, dusty look. Wynne brings us through van Meegeren’s youth from his disapproving father to his being shunned by the art community. This inspired him to forge paintings by many great “old masters,” including his hero Johannes Vermeer. His forgeries led to his surprising prosecution and trial where the art world is turned upside down. Van Meegeren’s obsession with obtaining fame and fortune, coupled with nasty addictions to morphine and prostitutes, makes for a sad, yet riveting, story without a happy ending.

Wynne draws an interesting contradiction throughout the book: I found myself pitying and shaming van Meegeren for his holier-than-thou attitude and destructive vices, yet respecting his talent and sneering at the critics who said he had none. Despite being laced with art jargon, scientific processes and Dutch words, the writing is enjoyable and easy to follow. I actually ached for a little more of the science behind it all.

Wynne tells a well-researched account of Van Meegeren’s life. I found myself scanning his bibliography for my next book. There a lot of names and players introduced in the book, so keeping track of the Dutch art dealers, critics and experts is a little tough.

Van Meegeren’s life as a sly forger and Wynne’s presenting of the facts as he knows them left me wondering how many of Van Meegeren’s forgeries are actually out there. We’ll probably never know.  

Saturday, December 1, 2012

[Review] Cat's Eye Series

Author: T.L. Shreffler

Publish Date: April 12, 2012 by Runaway Pen, 250 pages

Get it here: Amazon

Rating: 4.5/5

Lately I haven't had a whole lot of time to start, let alone finish, any of the number of books that are on my current reading list. As I got to thinking of other topics I could write a post about I realized 2012 is coming to a close and I definitely need to come up with a top 10 list of the best books that I've read in the past year (not limited to just those published this year).

My mind began to wander as I pondered which books I would put on that list. It's hard to narrow down the list and sometimes my opinion of a book can vary with my mood. However, there are a few books which are absolute shoo-ins as top contenders.

One of the slots I have to give away to a series by T.L. Shreffler called the Cat's Eye series. That includes "Sora's Quest", "Viper's Creed" and "Volcrian's Hunt" (yet to be released). The second book, "Viper's Creed" was released at the tail end of October and I had been waiting for it for a while.

As I began thinking about these books that I've absolutely fallen in love with, a realization dawned on me. I thought, "zoomg (that's OMG with a little extra oomph) why have I not declared my undying love for this series?" That thought led to this post where I will proceed to tell you why Ms. Shreffler is quickly becoming one of my favorite young authors.

"Sora's Quest" is the first of the series. The story opens with a young girl of noble birth, Sora,  who is waiting to be hustled off to an unloving, arranged marriage. As she waits, she plots ways to get out of this situation. She figures the best way to solve this problem is to run away, have an adventure and find her long-lost mother at the end.

While waiting for the first opportunity to break free of the wedding guests, strip off her horrid gown and ride away on her horse she gets a little surprise visit from an assassin who brings about the death of her father. (This all happens pretty quickly so I don't consider that a spoiler.)

She is then kidnapped by said assassin and so the journey she always wished for begins, albeit a little differently than she anticipated. Through the rest of the chapters she meets two Wolfies, pointy-eared creatures of a different race thought to be long extinct, hikes through a swap, learns how to kick some ass and finds out a few things about herself along the way.

Reasons why I adored this book: For starters it had an assassin. I love books with assassins and the reason this one topped my list was due to the fact that Crash is and always will be an assassin. Shreffler doesn't follow the model of other authors who have a seriously bad ass character and then they decide to ruin him/her by having them fall in love and completely changing who they are. An assassin is a cold-blooded killer and falling in love doesn't turn them into a perfect boy scout and prince charming.

Crash continues his bad ass-ery throughout the entire book by pretty much being the face of death. He's a harsh man of very few words but he does have one redeemable quality. Once you're in his wolfpack (Hangover reference for ya there) then he's got your back. He's one of the most interesting, complex and multidimensional characters I have met in a long time and he hardly says anything at all.

The story continues in "Viper's Creed". I can't really say I lot about this one without giving away parts of the first book but I'll just say it's even better than the first. The plot line really starts to come together and you get to meet some more interesting characters.

The best part is the glimpses you get from Crash in the second book. He has small ways of letting his feelings for Sora come through. I think Shreffler did one excellent job of showing the struggles that both characters have in that relationship. You also get to learn a little more about how Crash became an assassin at the young age of 14.

Now that this post is done and way longer than it should ever be, I still don't feel like it did these books justice. All I can say is that I couldn't sleep at night for a week after reading this book because all I could think about was it's supreme awesomeness. Anyone know when #3 is set to arrive?

Happy reading to all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

[Review] Carnival of Souls

Author: Melissa Marr

Publish Date: Sept. 4, 2012 by Harper Collins, 306 pages

Get it here: Barnes & Noble, Amazon

Rating: 4.5/5

Now, I read “Carnival of Souls” by Melissa Marr almost immediately when it came out on Sept. 4. Like I almost always do, I read it virtual cover to virtual cover in a matter of hours. As soon as I finished it I had three thoughts:

 1. I can’t wait for the next one! (Not an overly original thought mind you and one I have frequently, but never the less, it still flashed in my mind).
2. How did I forget how much I love Melissa Marr (Somehow I managed to do it even though I read her Wicked Lovely series not that long ago either.
3. This is definitely going up on my blog. Now that I’ve accomplished it, I’ll tell you why it took me over a month to do it.

I just didn’t know how to put into word how much I enjoyed this story. This book is classified in a number of ways: dystopian, urban fantasy, paranormal, science fiction and the list goes on. The thing is, it fits all of those shelves and even a few others.

It’s set between two worlds. One in the same earth and human realm that we all know, where the main character, Mallory, resides even though she doesn’t belong. Not that she has any idea about that. The second world is that of The City where being bloodthirsty and horny are all in an average day. This is where the rest of our main characters come from.

That’s the beauty of this book. It’s not a simple, single plot of one boy and one girl as protagonists with a few supporting characters mixed in. The book is written from about four different points of view, each one having a different relationship with everyone around them.

If you don’t like one character, that’s okay because you have a couple others to choose from. 
That brings me to why I really enjoy Melissa Marr’s works. She has the ability to create a story and not only give it to you from the perspective of the main character but also give it to you through the eyes of everyone around. What details one character might have missed gets picked up by another, creating a story with depth. Those are the ones that pique and hold my interest.

“Carnival of Souls” revolved around a tournament where the stakes are high. Most will only walk away through death. Others will wish they had died. All of it for the quest for power and each one has their own reasons for entering and wanting that power. They plot against one another, forging allies and retrieving information through any means necessary.
Then in the midst of it all is a kid, trapped in the middle by a web of lies and she has no idea. (For those who have already read the book I just want to say: Can you believe Kaleb did that?!)
Now if you’ll excuse me. I’m off to re-read the book because once just wasn’t enough.

“The urge to be something other than the lowest order was the driving force in Kaleb’s world. Zevi knew that. He’d come to terms with it, stitched Kaleb up, set his broken bones, nursed him through fevers, and avoided questions that would make Kaleb flinch. For years, he’d pretended he didn’t know Kaleb murdered and whore to provide for them...” 
— Carnival of Souls, Melissa Marr

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

[Review] Enshadowed (Nevermore #2)

Author: Kelly Creagh

Publish Date: Aug. 28, 2012 by Atheneum, 429 pages

Get it here: Barnes & NobleAmazon

Rating: 3.5/5

I read the first book in this series "Nevermore" shortly after it came out in 2010. After I put it down I can honestly say I was dying for the second book of the series. It was the first series in a long while that I didn't forget about a few months down the road only to remember it when I saw the next book in stores.

Here's what I loved about it: For one, it was a unique storyline about the mystery surrounding the death of Edgar Allen Poe. Sure, it had the typical good girl falls for bad boy theme but I thought this was well done and not over drawn. The best part is it was dark enough to make it unpredictable and keep me on the edge of my seat but it wasn't bat shit crazy dark (if you know what I mean).

Months before it's scheduled release date I had it mark as to-read-as-soon-as-I-can-get-my-hands-on-it. And that's exactly what I did. I'm pretty sure I went as far as to pre-order the ebook (and I never do that).

When it finally came out I was beyond excited to read it. Unfortunately, as I read each chapter I kept waiting for something to happen. I waited and waited and waited and then the book ended. As much as I love Creagh, her writing and her fresh ideas, I was severely disappointed with the second book in this series.

Varen, one of the main characters of the series is barely in "Enshadowed" until the last few chapters. While you find out some useful information the book is obviously a segway into the third. To be honest, when the next one is published you probably can skip the second one entirely and move on.

So even though I was a bit let down by "Enshadowed" I still have high hopes for the third book. Let's just hope it's not another filler to make more books (*coughcough*) and money.

Happy reading.

Don't forget to sign up on the right hand side of the page to get entered in to win a free copy of the book of your choice. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

[Review] Dark Descendant

Author: Jenna Black

Publish Date: April 26, 2011 by Pocket Books, 325 pages

Get it here: Barnes & NobleAmazon

Rating: 5/5

I started this blog not too long ago with the intention of updating it every few days. Suffice to say, I've sucked at it. Mostly it's because I work horrendous hours and barely have a day off every once in a while. Now, there's good news! I've gotten a new job. One where I won't have to spend sleepless night worrying over. Now I should be able to update this blog much more often. Let the victory dance commence.....

Okay, now that it's out of my system I'll get to the good stuff. I've read so many books recently that I don't even know where to start. There have been a few I've been waiting months for, some that surprised me and even a few that let me down. 

Hmmm... How about I'll start off with a surprise. First I have to explain a little something to you folks out there reading. I'm a big fan of anything related to Greek history, mythology and anything else Greek. You could say I'm a freak for Greek. It's an obsession of mine that I have no explanation for, it's just always been there. My two kittens are even named Artemis and Athena after the goddesses. 

Some of my favorite books are those that take ancient Greek mythology and bring it in to modern day. Authors like Rick Riordan with his Percy Jackson series and Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter novels are among my favorite. 

Recently I've spent a lot of time on (there's a plug for you) because it's just a huge database of books, reviews and recommendations. One handy little feature they have is called listopia where people put books with similar subjects in different lists for other people to find. Happily I was able to find a list for Greek mythology. 

I picked out a book called "Dark Descendant" by Jenna Black because it looked like a good read and it was a couple bucks cheaper than most e-books. It took me about three pages before I was hooked. I stayed up all night reading it and then got up early to read the second book in the series. (Now I'm anxiously awaiting the publication of the third book. Hurry up and get here already!)

Not only does the book have some Greek mythology, it's got Egyptian and Norse as well. It takes a nice spin on the immortality of the gods and those descended from the gods, but it's not too over the top. 

One of the best things about this book is that it doesn't have a heroin that takes everything at face value. Nikki Glass, a descendant of the Greek goddess Artemis, is totally kick-ass, not afraid to question what she's told and she's not too trusting either. There are lots of secrets, mysteries and sneaking around.

Another point I loved about this book is that there's a little romance but it wasn't like the typical book you see today where pretty girl meets handsome boy and boom they are deeply, madly in love within the span of thirty second. Nope, not in Nikki's case. She more concerned with staying alive than finding a boyfriend. That's one thing I'm starting to hate about many of the recent books that came out. 

Now that this post has gone on way too long I'll just give you a glimpse into what I'm books I'm thinking of doing next but I haven't decided anything for sure:
Enshadowed (Nevermore #2) by Kelly Creagh
Blackwatch by Jenna Burthenshaw

The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clark
The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges
Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

Happy Reading!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Why I hate e-readers

If you're expecting a rant on how e-readers are putting bookstores out of business and ruining the industry then think again. In fact, I LOVE them — and that's the problem. I always told myself that I would never go over to the dark side but one day I caved and that's when it all started.

Currently I have both the Nook and the Kindle apps on my smartphone, tablet and PC. You could say I have a problem. I'm constantly downloading new books to add to my virtual shelves which I read during almost every spare moment of my life. This affects two things: my wallet and my sleep. I'm one of those people who can't put a book down if it's really good. Even if it's 4 a.m. and I have to get up for work in two hours.

Part of the problem is that I no longer have to wait to go to the bookstore to get a copy of the newest release anymore. If I want to read something at 3 a.m. it's one click away. BOOM! I'm in business.

Next week I've got my eye on three books due to be released (Don't worry. I'll tell you which ones I'm excitedly awaiting in tomorrow's post). I plan on downloading them all at once and reading whenever I have any spare moments.

On a side note: At least I don't have to clean off my bookshelf every few months anymore!

I may have a book problem but hey, it could always be worse — I could be addicted to heroin. Although, I guess I'm already addicted to a the heroins in the literary sense. (Corny joke, I know).

Happy reading fellow nerds.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Hottest page turners?

What are you reading and absolutely loving right now?

I just read the book "My Boyfriend Merlin" by Priya Ardis. (Available at Barnes & Noble)

It takes the old story of King Arthur and the Round Table and puts a new spin on it. It's got a little bit of everything: legend, action, romance and humor. What more can you ask for?

Welcome to paradise

Ever since I was barely able to walk I've had a book in my hand. Even 20 years later I've never tired from reading everything I could get my hands on. One thing I'm always on the lookout for is new books to read. That's exactly what this blog is for. It's a place for authors and readers alike to promote their works or works they just really like. It can be anything from big bestselling books to some of those hidden gems that deserve some recognition.

My first post will start with the first few chapters of my first short story I'm writing. To set the back story... In addition to being a big book nerd I love all things to do with Greek mythology especially the stories that go along with it. My short story involves the legend of Pandora's Box and what would happen if it survives today.

Feedback, both good and constructive criticism is welcome.

Happy reading fellow nerds

The link will take you to Wattpad where the story is right now.