Friday, March 08, 2013


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I must admit that I wasn't a fan of M.R. Rose's THE REINCARNATIONIST. It just didn't grip me.  Still, I was intrigued by the premise of this new book. After Victor Hugo lost his beloved daughter in 1843, he began to get involved in the spiritualist world with a series of seances as he desperately tried to contact her.  Those seances may have brought something beyond his daughter.  In the present, mythologist Jac L'Etoile travels to the isle of Jersey to research its Neolithic roots. While there, she reconnects with troubled childhood friend Theo Gaspard and is drawn into his family's secrets while uncovering other hidden mysteries on the island.

There are three story threads in this novel.  The first thread is Victor Hugo and his seances on the isle of Jersey in the 1800's. The second thread follows Jac in the present as she tries to uncover both the mythological roots of the isle as well as the family secrets of the Gaspard Family and Victor Hugo.  The third thread follows a set of Neolithic druids. There is a lot going on here!!!  Still, Rose manages to create a compelling and entertaining novel. I had a hard time putting it down. All three threads were equally interesting.  My main problem with the novel is its title.  A terrible title for such an entertaining book!  I worry that the title will be off-putting for some readers.  The title and book cover make it look like a romance novel when it is truly a novel of mystery and suspense.

BOTTOM LINE:  Recommended. An entertaining novel with both historical and fictional roots.  This would make a great vacation read.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

ART FORGER by B.A.Shapiro

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I was one class short of majoring in Art History in college and I still have a soft spot for any stories having to do with art and the art world.  This fun book combines the world of forgery and art history with a little intrigue thrown in.  This much is true....In 1990, thirteen works of art were stolen from the Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston.  They have never been recovered. This theft is the jumping off point for B.A. Shapiro's story.  Struggling artist Claire Roth is a pariah in the art world after having been involved in an art scandal with her former lover years ago. In order to make ends meet, she makes a living reproducing famous works of art for an online art retailer. When she is approached by famous art dealer Aidan Markel to forge a Degas masterpiece---the very one stolen from the Gardner Museum, Claire jumps at the chance to make some money while re-establishing herself as a legitimate artist. However, this Faustian bargain has consequences. As Claire works, she begins to suspect that the stolen art itself was forged long ago. She begins to research the piece and starts to unravel a mystery one hundred years in the making.

This was such a fun book!!!  It certainly got me thinking about how there are no guarantees that any of the works of art we see hanging in museums are the genuine article.  I thought Claire was a great character and I loved the backstory of how she got involved in her own art scandal. Not only do you get a fun art mystery but also a glimpse into the often cutthroat machinations of the art world.  Shapiro made the discovery of the missing piece and its origins so believable and compelling. After I finished reading the book, I had to go look up more information on the Gardner art heist to learn the truth.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. A really fun read about famous works of art, forgery and the modern day art world. With a little suspense and mystery thrown in! This would be a great vacation read.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

ME BEFORE YOU by Jojo Moyes

I have never seen "Love Story" with Ali McGraw and Ryan O'Neal but I have heard many reviewers comparing this book to that ill-fated story.  I picked up this book at the library with a pretty good idea about how the story would unfold.  While the story itself isn't particularly innovative, surprising or groundbreaking, I was impressed with how Moyes managed to revisit a classic love story trope in a very effective way.

Louisa Clark is a quiet girl who lives a quiet life with her parents in her hometown. She seems to be stuck.  She can't find a good job, she can't seem to move out of her parents' house and she continues a long-term relationship with a boyfriend who can neither commit to her nor has anything in common with her.  Then, her life is turned upside down after accepting a position as a home aide wheelchair-bound Will Traynor. Will was an extremely successful businessman who loved extreme sports and extreme vacations.  All that ended when he was hurt in a pedestrian/motorcycle accident. Will's mental state is as poor as his physical state and Louisa finds her new job more difficult than she expected. Soon, she finds a way to break through Will's tough exterior and the two forge an unlikely connection.  This relationship will change both their lives forever.

While it isn't difficult to figure out what will ultimately happen in the book, I think Moyes does a terrific job with the story. The characters are interesting and compelling and we see how they are BOTH damaged in more ways than one.  The story reveals how each of us can be held back by traumas and secrets. And how sometimes one person can change everything.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. A lovely story about love, loss and recovery and finding one's way in the world.  Keep a box of kleenex handy!!!

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

NEWS FROM HEAVEN by Jennifer Haigh

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I absolutely loved Jennifer Haigh's book FAITH so I was intrigued to read her latest book.  Although this current book references her previous work, BAKER TOWERS, I do not believe it is necessary to have read the first book. (I didn't.)  This book reminded me a great deal of Alice Hoffman's RED GARDEN.  Both books use a series of stories to tell the tale of a specific place.  Each chapter deals with a different story or moment in the town's history. While characters may appear in other chapters, a particular story goes no further than a single chapter. This both keeps the book fresh and also makes it frustrating. Sometimes it feels that you are just getting into one character's story when the chapters ends. You may or may not discover what happens to that particular character.

Bakerton, Pennsylvania is a coal town. Fortunes are made and lost based on the performance of the mines.  The book begins early on in the town's history and ends in the near present. We see the rise and fall of the town as well as its inhabitants.  We see the generations of families in Bakerton as their lives are affected and shaped by their hometown.  There are themes of loss, redemption, regret and acceptance running all through the book.  More than anything, this is the story of a town rather than of particular individuals.  A story told in the little details of moments of the town's history. This structure may be frustrating for some readers but I find it ultimately rewarding.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended.  An in-depth glance at the rise and fall of a small mining town that many will find very moving.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Learning with Bloggers

I get some of my very best inspiration from bloggers.  I have been so thrilled with all the wonderful blogs I have found with quality at-home activities you can do with children.  I am not able to homeschool as I am currently the main breadwinner in the family but I try to find great enrichment activities to do with my son at home and on the weekends. I wanted to share a few of my very favorite bloggers with you:

This wonderful blogger comes up with brilliant art activities that you can do at home.  She has some wonderful seasonal ezines that you can purchase (Spring is coming soon!) but will also be coming out with a book in April. I already have the book on order!!!

The Crafty Crow has some darling art activities for children.

I love this blog!!! It is filled with Montessori-style activities that you can do at home with a few easy-to-find supplies. Especially good for 5 and under.

This beautiful blog is filled with wonderful activities to get you outdoors and exploring nature.  They also have a wonderful book and store.

Sewing for kids!!! The GROWING UP SEW LIBERATED book is one of my favorites!!!

6. TINKERLAB--Art and Science activities for kids!!!

Another wonderful blog (and books) with nature-based and Waldorf-style learning.

This is a fairly new one for me.  I started reading it after I bought her book SHOW ME A STORY.  The emphasis here is on literacy.

The home of one of my favorite ezines ACTION PACK!!! (I am even an affiliate I love it so much)  Filled with many wonderful science-based activities.

Home of another favorite ezine---ALPHABET GLUE. The emphasis here is on reading and literacy.

There are so many more out there and these are just a few of my favorites.  We are so lucky to have so much inspiration at our fingertips!!!

Friday, March 01, 2013

March Read for Parenting Book Challenge

I am running behind!!! Our first two books of the year have been so dense and filled with interesting information that it has been hard for me to complete them in one month. So, I'm still working on HOW CHILDREN SUCCEED.

I thought we could do something a little more light-hearted this month. I have already read this book so it will give me time to catch up:

While Druckerman's book is filled with anecdotal evidence about her experiences as an expat in Paris, I found it pretty entertaining and informative. I was surprised to learn that my husband and I were already doing many French parenting tricks on our own.  This light-hearted read will be great for Spring Break.