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.