Review: The Art of Us by Teri Wilson


Harper Higgins (what a great name!) is a reserved art history professor looking for tenure, until she literally bumps into soldier/dog-walker/artist Tom Stone and realizes she’s really looking for something more. 

Oooooh I just loved that Tom Stone. Talk about the perfect alpha … he’s an ex-soldier, doesn’t take crap from anyone, lives on a boat, doesn’t talk about his feelings but he HAS feelings, and shows his sensitive side when he’s supposed to. 

Harper is a pain in the neck who won’t get out of her head or out of her own way. But between her friends, her part time job teaching social art classes, and that handsome Tom Stone… well, Harper figures out a couple things that might do her some good. 

I liked the art discussions — I learned some fun facts! — as well as Frank’s flowers, the art classes (it’s a big thing where I live – go as a group to paint a picture while having a glass of wine), and the chemistry between Harper and Tom. The writing was fun and funny, even when addressing some serious issues. 

I even liked the villain, in that he tried to be tricky but really wasn’t smart enough to pull it off. As my teenager might say, “Oooh Lars, you just got burned.”

The Art of Us is totally entertaining on many levels… 

-calliope

Buy THE ART OF US ($3.99!)

Review: Salem’s Cipher by Jess Lourey

From San Francisco to Salem, Massachusetts, childhood friends Bel and Salem find themselves running away from psychopaths and toward hiding places for clues to a mystery they don’t even understand. In their quest to save their mothers, the presidential candidate, and the world, the women pick up more clues than they bargained for… and they find themselves. 

I’ve long admired Jess Lourey for her cozy mysteries (Murder by Month series, similar to Stephanie Plum books). So when Lourey came out with a gritty, suspenseful thriller I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m a happily-ever-after girl and I cover my eyes when a bad guy appears on the page! I took a chance and WOW am I glad I did. Salem’s Cipher is rich with art, history, geography, secret societies, conspiracy theories, federal agents, and cracking codes. I enjoyed the authentic friendship between the women, their mad MacGyver skills, and the sweet Mercy child. 

Even if this isn’t your usual genre, I urge you to take a few trips cross-country with this crew. It’s a little scary, a little bloody, and a lot fun!

-calliope 

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Review – The Art Forger, by B.A. Shapiro

14568987I’m subscribed to this service that offers books on demand each month, much like Netflix, and the other day I was browsing through the selections, and came across this book. It sounded interesting enough to start, and well, I only put it down 2 times (and that was due to sleep!). The Art Forger is one of those novels that is ultimately fiction, but bases it upon real life events. Anyone who happens to have a passing interest in art, and/or was alive and kicking in 1990, will probably remember the art heist that occurred at the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum in Boston. To date, this robbery is considered America’s biggest ever art heist. Shapiro sets her book 25 years later, when Clair (a struggling artist – yes, I know, very cliche), is offered a large sum of money to produce a copy of a famous Degas painting, one that happened to be among the collection that was stolen from the museum 25 years ago. Clair goes along with this idea, and the book follows her process, whilst presenting a dual narrative with Isabella Gardner.
What I really loved about this book was that it was an easy, entertaining read, and yet, I learnt a lot. I learnt a lot about the art world, museums, art forgery, and the history behind some big name artists. The characters are authentic enough for you to believe in them, but at the same time, you’ll have no trouble putting this book behind you once you finish it.
I believe it really takes a talented author to write a story that has substance and quick entertainment value at the same time. This is one of those books where you get a cup of coffee and Baileys, curl up on the sofa and read the day away. However, if you’re anything like me, you’ll also spend hours on Google afterwards, researching all the historical truths presented in the story!
If you want a mix of history, contemporary, art, and mystery, then I highly recommend this book. It might not win any literary awards, but in my view it wins the award of providing solid entertainment and intrigue.

P.S., this book won’t even cost you anything if you are part of the Kindle Unlimited program!

Until next time,

Pegasus.

The Art Forger: A Novel

Review: The Collector by Nora Roberts

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Oh my goodness I have read so many mediocre books the past two weeks that I ended up in a book slump. Thankfully a beautiful friend lifted me out of it when she gifted me The Collector.

This romantic suspense was the perfect combination of sweet, thrilling, corrupt, and amateur sleuthing. Right up my alley.

Writer Lila and artist Ashton befriend each other after a horrific murder. While they work together to solve the mystery and get the bad guy, they fall in love. But Lila is independent, a free spirit. Ashton comes from a large, interdependent family and pushes his “helpfulness” onto Lila.

While the romantic tension puts a cramp in their relationship, it doesn’t stop Lila and Ash from exacting revenge on the murderer. Their perseverance is a little implausible at times, but very exciting!

The only thing I didn’t like about this book was Ash’s bossiness. It came off as mean, even though he really cared about Lila. I ended up not liking Ash at all. And that’s sad for me, because an alpha hero is often the best part of a novel!

All in all, The Collector was a welcome addition to my December reading. Great writing, an exciting plot, luxurious descriptions, and international travel all created the perfect base for this romantic suspense.

-Calliope

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Review: Harbor Island (Sharpe & Donovan) by Carla Neggers

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I don’t know HOW I missed out on this series until now. Where have I been? Living under a rock?

Harbor Island is a complex, witty, gritty, romantic suspense novel. Emma and Colin are FBI agents. Right there, Neggers has me as a fan. They have a quiet, affectionate banter … refreshing, as it’s not the usual shtick I experience in rom coms. (I love rom coms, but this is a nice change of pace.) And they are bent on solving a crime that spans decades and the globe.

While I mostly appreciated the underlying romance, and just ate up all the knowing glances, smooches, and warm embraces, I also really enjoyed the FBI adventure set on an island near Boston, MA. Gunshots, murder, larceny, con men, artists… Neggers made it so exciting that I’m on the edge of my seat just remembering it.

There were a lot of characters in this novel, and it took a bit to keep them all straight. I would have been better off reading books 1-3 in the series before jumping into this one (#4). But it was totally doable and enjoyable. Neggers took me on such a great ride that I can’t wait for book 5. I’m off to read 1-3 … and then maybe book 4 again!

-calliope

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Review: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

the goldfinchThis was sorta a tough book for me to finish. It took me close to a month to finish it. It started out strong. But at about 20% I felt it got bogged down in a repeating slump. We were covering the same material page after page. I felt this way though I would say a good 40% of the book. We just didn’t seem to move beyond a certain point in the main character’s life. When the book finally did move on to the next phase, it seemed to be in fast forward trying to make up the lost time it spent in the repeating slump. It flew past the last part of the book and I felt we missed out on some of the story. It felt very lopsided to me. Then we were provided with a hollywood HEA ending for one part of the story.

I won’t lie. At this point, I was going to generously give the book 3 stars. That’s right….3 stars. I felt guilty. I felt ashamed. Everyone else absolutely loved this book. Not me. Yes, I enjoyed it. Yes, I thought it was a great story. But I still felt it was bogged down in so many ways. I felt that it needed to either be 300 pages shorter, or 300 pages longer. Again, it was so lopsided to me….

However, having said all of that, the last 10% of the book was amazing to me. I mean, the type of book to keep you up at night thinking about. The type of book you has you sighing out loud with pure satisfaction. It made up for every other annoyance I had over the book. There was no way I could give it less than 5 stars with the ending. No, I am not talking about the neat hollywood HEA ending. I am talking about the real ending. The one that is true to life. The one that lets us all know that life isn’t perfect. Hell, sometimes it isn’t even nice. It isn’t fair. It simply is what it is. I seriously loved what the main character has realised in life. I love the way he voices what he is feeling. I love that it was not perfect. I want to go though the whole irritation felt at the middle part of the book again, just so I can read the words at the end…This is a book I won’t soon forget. I know this might not be the most gushing review you’ll find. I realise that at times it won’t even seem like an endorsement of the book. But you’re wrong. I’m just being honest with how I felt…and bottom line…I really liked the first part of the book…the middle part was starting to bore me….but the ending…..Holy Hell, it rocked my world….I simply loved it….Here are just a few quotes that moved me….

Well—I have to say I personally have never drawn such a sharp line between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ as you. For me: that line is often false. The two are never disconnected. One can’t exist without the other. As long as I am acting out of love, I feel I am doing best I know how. But you—wrapped up in judgment, always regretting the past, cursing yourself, blaming yourself, asking ‘what if,’ ‘what if.’ ‘Life is cruel.’ ‘I wish I had died instead of.’ Well—think about this. What if all your actions and choices, good or bad, make no difference to God? What if the pattern is pre-set? No no—hang on—this is a question worth struggling with. What if our badness and mistakes are the very thing that set our fate and bring us round to good? What if, for some of us, we can’t get there any other way?

I’d felt drowned and extinguished by vastness – not just the predictable vastness of time, and space, but the impassable distances between people even when they were within arm’s reach of each other, and with a swell of vertigo I thought of all the places I’d been and all the places I hadn’t, a world lost and vast and unknowable, dingy maze of cities and alleyways, far-drifting ash and hostile immensities, connections missed, things lost and never found…

…when in doubt, what to do? How do we know what’s right for us? Every shrink, every career counselor, every Disney princess knows the answer: “Be yourself.” “Follow your heart.”
Only here’s what I really, really want someone to explain to me. What if one happens to be possessed of a heart that can’t be trusted–? What if the heart, for its own unfathomable reasons, leads one willfully and in a cloud of unspeakable radiance away from health, domesticity, civic responsibility and strong social connections and all the blandly held common virtues and instead straight toward a beautiful flare of ruin, self-immolation, disaster?…If your deepest self is singing and coaxing you straight toward the bonfire, is it better to turn away? Stop your ears with wax? Ignore all the perverse glory your heart is screaming at you? Set yourself on the course that will lead you dutifully towards the norm, reasonable hours and regular medical check-ups, stable relationships and steady career advancement the New York Times and brunch on Sunday, all with the promise of being somehow a better person? Or…is it better to throw yourself head first and laughing into the holy rage calling your name?

But sometimes, unexpectedly, grief pounded over me in waves that left me gasping; and when the waves washed back, I found myself looking out over a brackish wreck which was illumined in a light so lucid, so heartsick and empty, that I could hardly remember that the world had ever been anything but dead.

And as much as I’d like to believe there’s a truth beyond illusion, I’ve come to believe that there’s no truth beyond illusion. Because, between ‘reality’ on the one hand, and the point where the mind strikes reality, there’s a middle zone, a rainbow edge where beauty comes into being, where two very different surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life does not: and this is the space where all art exists, and all magic.

Until next time….

Urania xx

Read it now The Goldfinch