Welcome to my blog where I share my book reviews
and life along the winding road

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro is an in depth look into the world of art forgery. Even the masters signed their names on works done by their students so even an authentic signature doesn't guarantee an authentic work of art. Ms. Shapiro has done a great job at researching the art world and gives a detailed account of exactly how a forgery is accomplished.  She uses the theft at the Gardner museum to begin her story.

From the cover:
Almost twenty-five years after the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum's infamous art heist - still the largest unsolved art theft in history - one of the stolen Degas paintings is delivered to the Boston studio of a young artist named Claire Roth. Claire, whose reputation has been tarnished by scandal and who now makes her living producing famous works of art for a popular online retailer, has entered into a Faustian bargain with Aiden Markel, a powerful gallery owner. She agrees to forge the Degas in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But as she begins her work, she starts to suspect that this long-missing masterpiece may itself be a forgery.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Random Acts of Kindness - Man Saves Turtle

With so much negativity and violence on the news, I thought it would be nice to post some random acts of kindness. Although this turtle was sadly caught up in fishing nets, a kind man hauled the turtle from the sea and released it from the tangle.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

From the cover:
Memphis 1939 - twelve year old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family's Mississippi riverboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge. Strangers arrive and wrench the family from their home and they are taken to the Tennessee Children's Home Society orphanage. The mother is then told the twins she gave birth to had died.
Aiken, South Carolina present day - Avery Stafford, born into wealth and privilege, returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family's long hidden history.

Before we Were Yours is a gripping story based on a real crime scandal in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis based adoption organization (Tennessee Children's Home Society) kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country. Newborns were also taken from hospitals and their parents told the baby was stillborn. Over 5,000 children and babies were kidnapped from 1920 to 1950 (many died while at the home) and because so many officials were bribed (a local judge - Camille Kelley - assisted Tann in threatening legal action if the parents tried to recover their children) it wasn't until 1995 that the sealed records were finally opened. Lisa Wingate does a wonderful job at telling the story from the points of view of Rill and Avery.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Educated by Tara Westover

The Westover children didn't attend school. Many didn't have birth certificates. Their father promoted survival (each had a head for the hills pack in case of emergencies) and stockpiled supplies, in preparation for the end of the world, hidden in the hills of Idaho. Their mother, who became an unlicensed midwife and healer, stewed herbs for treating everything from gashes obtained while the children helped with junkyard scrap, to extensive burns and head injuries. They were forbidden to see a doctor or go to the hospital even for major injuries after a car crash.
But the book is mostly about how the children struggled with trying to get an education. Their "school" was to find a book, go to their room and figure it out on their own with varying amount of help from their mother.  They were oblivious to world events such as the Holocaust, Civil Rights Movement and international and domestic events. The only news they were told by their father was the disastrous Ruby Ridge event which their father used to instill in them that the government, which he called Illuminati, would brainwash them if they entered a schoolroom and the Weaver family (who also lived in the hills) were victims of the FBI/government.
Despite the disadvantages Tara Westover and her siblings had, Tara managed to be accepted into Brigham Young University and eventually studied in Cambridge and Harvard.

The children were split regarding their education. Shawn, Luke, and Audrey worked for their parents either in the scrapyard or their mother's healing oils business. Tony's trucking company in Las Vegas was successful for a while but eventually failed and he returned to work for the parents.
Richard, Tyler and Tara became independent from their family and all obtained doctorates.

The book was a book club read and reminded me of a previous book we had discuseed - Hillbilly Elegy


Friday, March 1, 2019

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

Becoming Mrs. Lewis is the story of Joy Davidman's relationship with C.S. Lewis.
Their friendship began when Joy wrote to C.S. Lewis (while living in New York) looking for spiritual answers and their letters developed into a strong friendship. Joy spent four months in England researching for her books and also meeting C.S. Lewis. She eventually moved there and they wrote together, editing each other's work and provided inspiration - a deep love developed.
Patti Callahan used Joy's sonnets, letters and in depth conversations with Joy's son Douglas Gresham to tell the story. (Douglas was instrumental in turning the Narnia stories into movies).

One thing that bothered me is that Joy left her two sons with an abusive husband for four months while she visited England and then when she brought them to England she enrolled them in a boarding school. I wonder how the children felt about being uprooted and dumped into a strange environment. Later, Douglas Gresham obviously revered C.S. Lewis as a stepfather and friend and speaks of his kindness. I think eventually the boys enjoyed their life living at The Kilns with Lewis and their mother, especially as it was the inspiration for Narnia.

Shadowlands was a movie also covering the relationship of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis.

Friday, February 22, 2019

In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen

I'm a big fan of Rhys Bowen and In Farleigh Field is another hit for me.  As another big plus, it's setting is taken from one of my favorite Kentish towns, Penshurst. We were both born in the lovely county of Kent.

During WWII many stately homes were requisitioned for military use and Lord Westerham's ancestral home was now being used by the army. One morning, his daughter comes across a dead soldier who appears to have fallen to his death when his parachute failed to open. But there are many questions surrounding the dead soldier with no identity and only a photograph tucked away.
The story continues to unfold through once childhood friends, the five daughters of Lord Westerham, their neighbor Jeremy and the vicar's son, Ben. Many of the friends are involved in top secret jobs whether in the military, the code breaking facility of Bletchly Park or MI5.

My thoughts:
Rhys Bowen has done in depth research for the novel. There were lots of things I'd forgotten about living in England in the 40s and 50s - one is that trains had separate carriages for ladies who preferred to be segregated from the male population. She weaves a good story using childhood pals who know a little about the secret societies of nazi sympathizers in England at the time. Although they each stated they had signed The Official Secrets Act they didn't seem particularly concerned with discussing secrets among themselves but was necessary for the story to develop.
This would make an excellent book club read.

A few bits of interesting info:
Dolphin Square was once the largest block of flats in Europe and Ian Fleming was recruited there by MI5
Many of the English aristocrats during WWII (including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor) were Nazi sympathizers and part of the reason why the English government did not want Edward to remain their king.
Girls born in Kent are referred to as either Kentish Maids or Maids of Kent depending on which side of the River Medway they are born. (Or for men - Kentish men or men of Kent).

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Winters by Lisa Gabriele

The Winters is another take on the Daphne du Maurier novel, Rebecca. But unlike the rugged Cornish coast in Rebecca, The Winters by Lisa Gabriele, is set on Long Island and the housekeeper character, Dani has been replaced with a spoiled teenager.

Some of the novel made use of secrets and mysteries to add to the suspense in the novel, but although the narrator of the novel is a young woman whose parents had died and she had worked and supported herself in the Cayman Islands, dealing with men (as she put it) on boat excursions, she seemed very naive after meeting Max Winter. The ending was quite a twist, but sadly I didn't really feel a connection to any of the characters.