Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Pages Colored with Love

Lisette's List: A NovelLisette's List: A Novel by Susan Vreeland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"In our life there is a single color, as on an artist's palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of love."~Marc Chagall

This was my first Susan Vreeland, and I'm intrigued enough to read another--Vreeland writes beautifully about paintings and scenery and the hunger for art and artistic expression. The book is conceived as a "trail of the history of art. ... The visible reality expressed through the handling of light and color of impressionism-Pissaro-moved into the solid geometric shapes of postimpressionisn-Cezanne-to the modernism of distortion and cubism-Picasso-and finally to the postmodernism of the expression of the invisible personal reality of dreams. That's Chagall." The flaw is that this history of art is told by characters created to tell that story, who never quite come alive enough to tell their own.

Young Lisette was raised in an orphanage in post-WWI Paris, and she has an eye for art. She marries Andre, a young frame maker, and expects to find a job in a gallery--even cleaning the walls would do. But she and Andre are called to the countryside to take care of Andre's grandfather, Pascal, in his old age. From soirées and cafés to bedpans and roosters--Lisette's life is turned upside down! But Pascal used to be a paint salesman in Paris, a step up from his teenage job as a miner of ochre for paint and dyes in the small commune of Roussillon, and in addition to the stories of paint and artists, he has beautiful paintings from the greats--Cezanne, Pisarro, Picasso--that they can look at and comprehend together. Then, WWII starts, Andre and their friend Maxime enlist, and the rest of the plot ensues. Chagall comes into the story, hiding in a small village before escaping from the Nazis to the United States.

As I said, Vreeland writes beautifully, especially when she is writing about the heart of art and not art criticism and history; she shows what is behind all that jargon. But Lisette does not change, though more than ten years (and the war!) pass; it's as if by being in the countryside she's frozen in time at twenty, though she's thirty-one at the end. Or perhaps it's just that she exists, like her list, like the paintings, as a hook on which to hang some beautiful art.

Despite the flaws, it's a good book--it does fulfill the promise of its Chagall epigraph, coloring the pages with love, and I recommend it to anyone that has an interest in art. (I received an e-galley for review from the publisher and Netgalley.)

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Hermione's Posse: Girls in SFF Who Kick Butt with Their Brains

Brown Tells a Mean Tale

Perfect for lovers of romantic suspense, Sandra Brown's Mean Streak will be a four star for many of her fans. It is a total romance fantasy, with a kidnapping that isn't, really. Or is it? Somebody bonked sexy heiress Dr. Emory Charbonneau with a rock--and if it wasn't the mysterious stranger in whose cabin she wakes up, who left her to die in the winter wilderness? 
The mystery man won't reveal his name, some menacing hillbilly thugs presage violence, Emory's husband might be the one who tried to kill her--but her heart, frozen since her parents' deaths, is starting to thaw in the presence of the fearsome giant who has carried her off to--protect her? 
Dear reader, I read it all the way through, because Sandra Brown is a mean storyteller, but I wasn't surprised, and the story wasn't plausible. That's why I call it a fantasy instead of a thriller. But it is fun to follow the twists and turns, and satisfies in the romance department. 
I am a recent Sandra Brown reader, thanks to netgalley and Grand Central Publishing, and while I rate the previous book four stars and this three, I will continue to read and recommend Sandra Brown's books. 

(I received an e-galley of this book for review.) 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

After Long Silence: Favorite SFF authors write again

Foolish Love

Fool's Assassin (The Fitz and The Fool Trilogy, #1)Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fool's Assassin

This new entry in the Fitz and Fool saga brings the reader right back into the wonder and intrigue of the Six Duchies. I wish I'd had time to go back and re-read the other two trilogies (the Farseer Trilogy and the Tawny Man Trilogy), since they were my favorites of hers in this world. I don't remember such foreshadowing in the other books, nor the impatience of reading whilst thinking that the main character is such an oblivious fool. And I am all uncertain whether I should reveal why I thought so from the beginning page, but I will treat it as a spoiler. Nevertheless, I am sure you will realize far before Tom does the target of the mysterious intruders, and the identity of the unexpected son.

Is the Fool still alive? Why has he never contacted Fitz, now known as Tom, living in happiness and peace at long last, enjoying Molly's love? Unlike some readers, I do not chafe at the long descriptions of bucolic country life and dear daughter Bee's childhood. Let them enjoy their happiness, and me with them, until the wide world intrudes. Here we revisit again the differences between Skill and Wit, the native magics--Skill being a bit more abstract, controlling, and intellectual, and Wit being what some call beast magic. For some of us who might have waited to read the Rainwilds Chronicles until complete (finished recently, not yet read by me), this was a needed, leisurely reintroduction to this world and culture.

So cons: a little slow-moving, sometimes a confusing transition between Fitz/Tom's first-person narration and daughter Bee's first-person narration. And of course people die that you don't want to. Pros: I do love the mind and imagination of Robin Hobbs. Bee is amazing.Father Wolf. Unnamed cat. Stable boy Per.

Recommended--but begin at the beginning. I'll be starting there again, in the year we wait for the next installment! Bravo!
I received an e-galley for review from Del Rey and Netgalley.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Small Blessings is a Big-Hearted Novel

<a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18404204-small-blessings" style="float: left; padding-right: 20px"><img alt="Small Blessings" border="0" src="https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1406526587m/18404204.jpg" /></a><a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18404204-small-blessings">Small Blessings</a> by <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/290987.Martha_Woodroof">Martha Woodroof</a><br/>
My rating: <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1024030281">5 of 5 stars</a><br /><br />
Small Blessings is the heart-warmer of the year. I love this tender story about people trying to do their best no matter what life throws at them. <br><br>Cleverly constructed with the terrible thing at the beginning instead of the end, we have orphans, free spirits, addicts, mental illness, campus politics, mysterious money, love requited and un-, Shakespeare and bookstores, all blended together and gently simmered with hope and humor into a soul-nourishing stew that satisfies the hungry heart in every way. <br><br>Rose, the new campus bookstore manager, has moved around a lot. She's never in her whole life had a place she called home for long, and never wanted to. But there's something about this town.... <br><br>If you'd like a read that brings a smile to your lips and an occasional tear to your eye, Small Blessings is the perfect prescription--for renewed hope in human nature, for a feel-good love story, for a book club read, for a present. Highly recommended! <br><br>I received an advance e-galley for review from St. Martins and Netgalley. 
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