Saturday, September 30, 2017

Review: Wildflowers of Texas

Wildflowers of Texas Wildflowers of Texas by Michael Eason
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Back in the early 1990's I was a graduate student in Austin, Texas and one of my greatest joys, given that I lived in an apartment and love gardens, was traveling around on Sundays looking at wildflowers. While my sinuses didn't think much of my plans, the fields, forested areas and prairies in Travis and surrounding county areas were simply unmatched for their diversity and beauty. From asters to wild orchids to Texas' famous bluebonnet, the rich wildflowers and their local appreciation, thanks in no small part to Lady Bird Johnson, gave me so much enjoyment. And so this glorious book, organized by color and within color groups by family, is a feast for the eyes and a great resource for the wildflower lover. Is that really Verbena? Are there truly wild white violets in Bastrop? How I would have loved to lug this 500+ page book around in my backpack! This book leaves me wanting to go back to the Hill Country, to further explore the unique ecological regions that comprise Travis county, one of the only counties in Texas with three distinct ecological environments.

A must-have for Texas plant lovers, and those in neighboring regions and climates.

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Review: Akata Witch

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First things first: A lot has been written (including some misguided marketing blurbs) comparing Akata Witch to Harry Potter books and frankly, I'm not buying it. While there are some vague similarities, the closest statement about Akata Witch would be: "It's like Harry Potter, if Harry was an albino girl, but also if he stayed at home, went to regular school during the day, wizarding school late at night, plus had to trick his family into believing he wasn't in wizarding school at all, all while gaining minimal training before being thrown into very dangerous situations by adult wizards who think there is nothing wrong with sacrificing a few kids to end a problem they don't really exactly know how to fix themselves. Oh, and watch out for the masquerade wasps but you'll love the wasp artist." In sum, no, it's not like Harry Potter unless Harry Potter was like the Earthsea series or Od Magic (which I have to put up a review for one of these days) is like Harry Potter. We don't have to have "an African version of Harry Potter," since to me that diminishes what Nnedi Okorafor has done here and neglects the fact that many West Africans and West African Americans have their own fabulous stories to tell. So let's stick with the idea that wizarding school stories have been around for a while and this is a really awesome one, so read this!

With Nnedi Okorafor you come for the refreshing stories steeped in the West African mythos and stay for her simply stunning imagination. I can think of only a handful of writers that I'm currently reading that can possibly match Nnedi for truly novel worldbuilding. I cannot review in meaningful detail all the rich cultural subtleties of Akata Witch. Nnedi herself recently steered an American reader to what she feels is the most culturally detailed review of her book and I'll steer you there, following her advice: Igbo Cybershrine

Akata Witch, which was published in 2011, is so obviously the first in a series. It is one of the most successful "book within a book" stories I've read and like the reviewer above, I was left coming back to Fast Facts for Free Agents again and again to get better understanding of what I was reading about (and sometimes what brand of foolishness Chichi and Sasha were up to). We are left holding our breath (absolutely not in a cliffhangerish sort of way) to see what our refreshing heroine Sunny Nwazue, albino and recently discovered Akata Witch, will get up to next with her pals Orlu, Chichi and the rambunctious Sasha, what Sugar Cream, her rather terrifying mentor, has in store for her, and what Della, her blue wasp artist, will build for her next. In re-reviewing this book, it's with the happy news that we won't have to wait any longer! Akata Warrior releases October 3rd, 2017! I should have that review of that ARC by publication date.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Review: The Atlas of Beauty: Celebrating the World's Diversity Through Portraits of Women

The Atlas of Beauty: Celebrating the World's Diversity Through Portraits of Women The Atlas of Beauty: Celebrating the World's Diversity Through Portraits of Women by Mihaela Noroc
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

About two and a half years ago, I came across an article in Elle that was making the rounds on social media. The article had some strikingly lovely photographs of young women around the world. There was some information about Romanian photographer Mihaela Noroc and a link to her Instagram page, The Atlas of Beauty . In the magazine article, it's noted that Noroc was photographing only young women, providing a pretty dissatisfyingly narrow definition of beauty. But the photographs themselves were beautiful and sometimes the brief stories of these young women's lives were quite interesting. It was a like a shorter, yet broader, version of Humans of New York, about women. So I followed her Instagram account. Over the following two years, with all the media attention she received, along with a book contract, Noroc began to broaden her subjects, including many older women and sometimes even young girls. I began to eagerly look forward to her posts. Where would she go next? Who would agree to be photographed and what was their story? Traveling to more than fifty countries, she began to capture the common themes in women's lives- their personal struggles, their love of their work, their aspirations, their love of their children. What has emerged in this book is that universal truth, that we are all more alike than we are different, and yet, Noroc has still managed to capture aspects of the unique cultural differences, and, with some delicacy, describe some of the challenges women face.

After such a spectacular period (four years) of traveling the globe, sometimes with just a camera and backpack, I'm interested to see where Mihaela Noroc goes from here.

If you are looking for an affordable coffee table book to give for the holidays, at $18 and 352 pages long, this is a very good selection. Plus, it will help further the photographer's work, which I'm certainly all for!

Goodreads has a Giveaway for ten copies of this truly beautiful book, open until October 15, 2017.

As an addition to my Goodreads review of this book, I also wanted to share the Elle article that released later in 2015, about Noroc's photographs of Women of North Korea. Sometimes in all the rhetoric, we forget the real people in other countries. These young women were brave enough to pose for a foreign photographer. That in itself is beautiful.

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Review: Select

Select Select by Marit Wiesenberg
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from Net Galley, in exchange for an honest review.

I was delighted when Charlesbridge Teen granted my wish for this book late in the Spring. It's not often that publishers grant wishes. Thus I'm sad that I have not enjoyed their gift. The premise of the book- a race of superhumans (except not human) living among us, teen angst, etc. sounded interesting. I downloaded the book, wasn't grabbed by it, set it aside. I picked it up again this past week because I owe the publisher an review since it publishes in less than two weeks. I decided to try harder. But reader, there was no joy. The most I can say is that I liken it to the Twilight books, with the twist that here, the protagonist, Julia Jaynes, is like our old, wise and all-knowing (think psychic powers) vampire-but-not, and poor sweet John Ford is the smitten one who just can't stay away from hauntingly beautiful Julia and her tricky odd family, who want no part of him.

This book was inordinately frustrating, especially over the first 60 or so pages. We have a race of people who don't want to attract attention, who are all gorgeous, billionaire rich, living in an enclave, traveling in packs, doing superhumans things, who once again, did I mention, don't want to attract attention to themselves? Did I mention that they all look alike? Only maybe two dozen or so. No big deal. Inbreeding usually doesn't work this way, but... hey, it worked for the Targaryens. Until it didn't. As you begin to progress further, you don't really gain much of a feel about the sci-fi aspect of the story because it's basically a teen romance in the guise of a YA sci-fi story, (hence the Twilight analogy although John, thankfully, isn't spineless).

Overall, I found it disappointing, plus it ends in a cliffhangerish kind of way, where we are left wondering exactly where Julia and John will go from here if, in fact, we are really sure we care where they do.

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Review: Silver Hair: Say Goodbye to the Dye and Let Your Natural Light Shine: A Handbook

Silver Hair: Say Goodbye to the Dye and Let Your Natural Light Shine: A Handbook Silver Hair: Say Goodbye to the Dye and Let Your Natural Light Shine: A Handbook by Lorraine Massey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

As a long time Curly Girl fan, I jumped at the chance to review Lorraine Massey's new book. I got it and am reviewing it less than 48 hours after having first seen it on Net Galley! First of all, what she's talking about in this book is the exact situation I find myself in at this point time. After years of coloring away the gray (and no, I'm not afraid to call it gray), it's become so overwhelming in the past year, since the stress of my mother's death and its aftermath, that I'm at the point of taking the "grow-it" out plunge myself. This book seemed to just hit a sweet spot for me.

Massey's book is packed with good advice and fascinating photos that lets those of us considering letting our silver hair grow out know what to expect. The time lapsed photos of clients that have started letting the gray grow are helpful because they give us a sense of how long it takes, what it looks like and what we can do to make it attractive. Whether we let it grow out and mingle with fading dyed hair, or get our colorist to match the emerging gray, she offers a ton of advice on how to care for our new silver hair, and how to bring out its best. She also offers general fashion and makeup style advice because for many women, going silver is going to change the color range that will flatter them.

What I liked less about the book was the large number of personal stories of women going gray, which seemed, after a while, a bit repetitive. I get her goal, mind you. Massey seems very driven to convince us that it's okay to go gray or silver. (I would equally add that, to me, it's okay not since many women may find themselves in professional situations where they may not feel this is a good choice right now.) To be sure, I know a lot of people receive pressure to continue to color their hair. She offers sound advice on how to push back on that idea, with the ultimate reward being healthier hair and being released from the salon cycle. The large number of photos of women with spectacular silver hair is enough to convince anyone that it's possible to have silver hair and be very attractive and fashionable.

My other problem is with some of the recipes for hair treatment she offers up in the book. I live in a major metropolitan area, and I'm not even sure where I'd go looking for Indian gooseberry juice. Another recipe, Blue Dew Toning hair bath, calls for at least four of different blue/purple flowers and berries like betony, hollyhocks, iris, indigo, woad, cornflower, elderberry or blackberry. Even if you can acquire these things, while natural colors are great and all, I can tell you as a chemist that your results may vary based on the pH of your water (hard vs. soft) and the pH of whatever you put on your hair after using the toner. Natural pigments can have sharp changes in color based on how hard your water is. (You should see the pretty green color I can make from a juice-based dye extracted from red pomegranate arils, after rinsing a magenta pink-tinged fabric in Miami's hard water!) So I'd approach some of these with caution. And for heaven's sake, don't use blueberries unless you want a greenish gray tinge.

This is still a very enjoyable book and one I'll buy when it releases in February. By then, I'll have some major silver going on!

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Review: Some Lesser Known Irish Faerie Folk

Some Lesser Known Irish Faerie Folk Some Lesser Known Irish Faerie Folk by Tim Stampton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had the pleasure of meeting author/artist Tim Stampton in Helsinki at the 2017 WorldCon. Tim was there with plenty of prints and editions of this charming little book. If you know me and my love of folk and fairy tales, you know I wasn't passing it up.

A slender volume, with illustrations on every page, Stampton recounts some lesser known Irish fae, some of which may sound familiar. From Crow Dancers to Swan Riders (not to be confused with shapeshifting swanmays), to Turf Goblins and Sock Stealers, we see an amusing variety of creatures. Personally, I'm quite convinced I have a Sock Stealer hiding near my laundry basket.

Here's an example of some of the artwork, which I've heavily watermarked to protect the artist's work.

This is a delightful book for children and adults that will be sure to convince you that if you're in Northern Ireland, Inishowen in County Donegal is worth a stop, so you can see more of this artist's work.

You can see more examples of Tim's work on the Ballagh Studios Tumblr page. Creative Inishowen's Facebook page features Tim's work, as well.

My friend Melyna featured one of Tim's dragon drawings for Dragon Thursday on her blog. This image is part of a story that Tim is working on, about a dragon who hires a child to read to him. That's a story I'd love to read!

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Review: These Schools Belong to You and Me: Why We Can't Afford to Abandon Our Public Schools

These Schools Belong to You and Me: Why We Can't Afford to Abandon Our Public Schools These Schools Belong to You and Me: Why We Can't Afford to Abandon Our Public Schools by Deborah Meier
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I received and Advance Reader Copy of this book from Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review.

4.5 Stars

This is such an important book and my greatest concern is that the very people who most need to read this book will perceive it as too overtly political to grasp its most salient points- that a free public education is essential to democracy and that public schools (and universities) model the real world, with people from all backgrounds, beliefs and political positions. Raising and educating our children in an echo chamber of questionable educational quality will achieve nothing for a democratic society.

Deborah Meier is a famous and highly respected educator with a long track record of innovation in the public school setting. Her words in this book, which I wish I could give to every member of every state legislature, are wise words borne of decades of work in the public school setting. She tells us of both the systems failings and potential and most of all, why a public education must remain relevant in a democracy.

My only caveat here is that the occasionally polarizing tone may, as mentioned above, limit the readership. Preaching to the choir is its own narrow echo chamber. Getting people past the introduction and first few chapters may be hard for those keen on vouchers and Christian education. Those might be sllim odds. That audience needs to have this thoughtful discussion of the drawbacks of the voucher system, particularly in quality of education, but also in terms of preparing citizens who can deal with the whole world around them that may not look like them, or believe like them. The rest of the world isn't going away, after all. I'm frankly not sure, however, how this topic can be discussed without getting political.

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Review: Hanna Who Fell from the Sky

Hanna Who Fell from the Sky Hanna Who Fell from the Sky by Christopher Meades
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

3.5 Stars

This is an odd and yet very readable book. In fact, I'd have read it in a straight shot, if life hadn't interrupted. The story is that of a young woman, coming of legal age, in a rural polygynous community called Clearhaven. I found some aspects of the community, which is large enough to have a big daily market, to be rather sketchily drawn. The tremendous economic disparity within the community, and how that works as a justifiable disparity, within the structure of their faith bothered me. In this community, all the older sons are expelled, only the youngest kept and groomed to replace an aging father upon his death, while all daughters are married off to the older men in Clearhaven. In this structure, there are few men competing for all the women of this town. (No mention of inbreeding was made but needless to say, I had a lot of questions about genetics in this enclave.) Women must remain obedient and be guided by their fathers, husbands, adult sons. Frankly, I was amazed that these men were willing to wait until the young women were eighteen in order to force them into polygamy.

Hanna, our protagonist, is soon turning eighteen in her dirt-poor but surprisingly literate family. (Female literacy is especially something I would question in the community since an educated woman is more likely to rebel against the constraints presented.) She receives a new suitably modest dress (one of only three she possesses) for her 18th birthday, but the dress that's ominously awaiting her is the wedding dress (naturally recycled from that of her most recent sister-mother, Jessamina) when she marries Edwin, a man three times her age, becoming his fifth wife. Needless to say, this unusual 18-year-old girl (more on that later) is not down with this plan.

Some aspects of this story so perfectly capture the silenced, obedient aspect of victims of abuse and domestic violence. Encapsulated here we see the circumstances of domestic violence that can leave those with little experience working with DV/child abuse survivors' questioning "why didn't they just leave?" thus failing to understand how constricted one's possibilities appear to be when this life of abuse is all you have ever known. As we come to learn, Hanna hasn't had much violence visited on her personally because of her special status, which is part of a long reveal, in her family. Instead, she sees her beloved sister Emily, her beloved mother Kara, punished and physically abused by her father, often taking blows in her stead, in a sort of whipping -boy relationship. Thus, Hanna is tormented by both her coming fate, as the fifth wife of an old man with a predilection we won't get into here, and by her fear that leaving would be shirking her perceived responsibility to shield her mother, sisters and brothers, from her father's drunken wrath.

Early on in the book, Hanna re-encounters Daniel, the youngest son of a community benefactor, who one can infer is slightly younger than Hanna is, but who is far more worldly, since his parents have taken him and his two older brothers, ages eighteen and nineteen, to "The City" in order to acclimatize the older two boys to their forthcoming expulsion from Clearhaven. Daniel has seen and lived in the outside world for a while and marvels a bit at its wonders, including the monogamous marriage idea. Daniel is ambivalent about his future role in Clearhaven which, when revealed, leaves you ever so briefly questioning what choice he will make about the direction of his life. It's a foregone conclusion that Daniel will be smitten (just like every other man with eyes, don't get me started...) with Hanna, and Hanna is... if not smitten, exactly, quickly warmed to the idea of Daniel as a way out of her situation. Some reviewers have called this "instalove" but that wasn't my take at all. They were two kids with a shared experience, normal attraction, and a heaping share of infatuation. Why wouldn't an 18 year old girl be drawn to a same age boy versus a kinky 60-something-year-old man? Why wouldn't any teenage boy be drawn to Hanna, a pretty teenage girl?

So now we come to my problem with this story. As briefly mentioned above, Hanna is special. A thinly built out aspect of magical realism is woven like a golden thread into the plot. While I won't get into the specific fairy tale aspect of her nature, since I don't want to spoil it for the reader, I am troubled by some aspects of the story. In more than a few instances Hanna is placed in sexually menacing situations. Her entire path out of her being menaced, and out of her community, is conveniently managed by magical realism. Now while I love a good fairy tale, I'm not sure that I think a story with such a gritty plotline should give us our heroine escaping her problems by means of sudden magical intervention. Meades has set this story in a fairly detailed real and present day world, has given us a heroine who is facing real and very ugly threats to her wellbeing. Magic suddenly saves her? This troubles me. Yes, it's a fantasy and make no mistake, I have no quarrel with the caliber of Meades writing which is excellent (and especially impressive given his afterword comments on the terrible TBI he suffered several years back). In this story we have a heroine who is rescued by 1) magic and 2) a boy. Given all Hanna's purported "specialness" I find this so... disappointing. I originally thought it might have been an editorial suggestion but after reading Meades comments about the origin and history of this story, which has been 12 years in the making, I feel he has written exactly what he intended to write. I can respect that choice but still question whether giving Hanna greater agency, either over her actions entirely without magic, or with her use of magic from the very beginning of the story might have given us a better story with a heroine who lives up to her remarkable origins.

A few more comments may go up on the blog about this book post-publication. In summary, Meades is a good writer. I just wish he'd given us a Hanna who lived up to the promise of her fall.

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Review: The Wonderling

The Wonderling The Wonderling by Mira Bartok
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from Net Galley, in exchange for an honest review.

National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author Mira Bartók has ventured back into the rich world of children's literature with a book for middle-grade children. One of the powerful lessons of this book, which is told as a sort of old-fashioned, Victorian-era chapter-book a la Dickens, is that to be broken is not to be without true friends or promise in life. This book begins in a workhouse, with a life of drudgery and maltreatment that could come straight out of Oliver Twist. Thirteen, soon to be renamed as Arthur by the loving Trinket (the best orphanage sidekick anyone could hope to have), is a lost, lonely and downtrodden one-eared fox boy. At first, I was rather troubled by how fearful and lacking in courage Arthur was, over almost the first quarter of the book. He was so beaten down, and yet Trinket, and other friends, eventually manage to draw great things out of Arthur and he finds magic and wonder in himself, in spite of his perceived disability. Over the course of the beautifully illustrated book (and the galley didn't even have half the art of the final work, people!) we see Arthur emerge as stronger, braver and building his own rich life.

For me, this book is personal and poignant because my youngest child, who had permanent health issues, was adopted out of bleak circumstances in the foster care system. At age 8, when he came to live with us, much of his manner resembled that of Arthur's. Almost everything was perceived as too great a hurdle to even dare to try to overcome. (Ironically, including reading, for a time.) And that forms part of my love for this book. It is a story of a wounded boy, who had lost much but found a chosen family and life of his own making, all with the support of friends. You will take a magical journey, with Arthur, to the future and the past, to 17 Tintagel Road and back to where we started.

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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Brightest Fell Giveaway!

To celebrate the release of The Brightest Fell by Seanan McGuire, I'm giving away TWO copies of the book on my blog's Facebook page. Extra entries for following me on Goodreads and on Twitter

Review: The Brightest Fell

The Brightest Fell The Brightest Fell by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from the author.

“Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell.
Though all things foul would wear the brows of grace,
yet grace must still look so."

-Wm. Shakespeare, in which Macbeth, speaking to MacDuff, references Lucifer’s fall, and probingly acknowledges that people who appear to be graceful can still be quite foul.*

4.5 Stars

Note: This review assumes that you are current with all the Toby Daye books and most, if not all, of the shorts bound in the books. If you aren't, just stop, because you won't even understand what is going on in this book.

This latest installment of the October Daye series has me questioning so many things I thought I knew about Toby’s extended family that I am still reeling almost two months after reading the ARC. As we know from the blurb, which has been around for months, Amandine shows up, demanding that Toby find her long lost half-sister, August. She takes Tybalt and Jazz hostage to guarantee results, and this terrible scenario forces Toby to partner with August’s father, Simon Torquill, her liege Sylvester’s elf-shot and utterly disgraced brother, who stole 14 years of Toby's life. Forging a bargain with Sylvester to gain Simon’s aid, Toby goes in search of August, dreading every hour that passes with Tybalt and Jazz existing as captives in unknown conditions. Toby’s quest to find her sister, following a now-cold trail more than a century old, recover her fiancé and her sister May’s lover, will challenge her on a more deeply personal level than any previous outing in the series. Along the way, we see that October's inherent kindness and fairness, perceived by some to be a flaw, has made lasting impressions, creating allies where she might not have expected them.

Did you ever, like me, feel angry at Sylvester Torquill for his keeping his promises to Amy rather than giving Toby, who was supposed to be like a daughter to him, all the facts about her early life and her mother? Did you hate Simon Torquill for his having turned Toby into a fish, an act which he assured us only a few books ago, was the safest thing he could do to her, given what he was tasked with doing by Eira? Did you feel sorry for poor crazy Amy, mysteriously called by the ugly name “Amandine the Liar,” by so many in Faerie? Did you think that Eira killed Toby's sister August, or stranded her in some horrible Old Road or collapsed shallowing off Annwn and that August couldn’t escape, oh, the poor dear girl?

With twists almost as shocking as those in The Winter Long, The Brightest Fell delivers you to a place that will make you reconsider much of what you thought you knew about October’s family. And some of it will certainly break your heart.

Buckle your seatbelts.

*He ain't kidding.

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Monday, September 4, 2017

Review: Sing, Unburied, Sing

Sing, Unburied, Sing Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review.

Ward, winner of the 2011 National Book Award for her stunning Salvage the Bones has given us another searing novel with an elegiac tone about a family, comprising Mam and Pop (grandparents), Leonie their daughter and marginal mother to JoJo, her 13-year-old son, and Kayla, her three-year-old daughter. Other members of the family include Michael, father of Jojo and Kayla, Given, Leonie's brother, and Richie, who was sort of extended family to Pop, who went by the nickname Riv in his younger days.

After introducing us to the family members with POV chapters, Ward draws us into a harrowing tale mingling both recollections of the brutal past of Parchman Farm, aka the Mississippi State Penitentiary, and the forthcoming release of Michael from prison at the Penitentiary. Jojo is both fascinated and horrified by Pop's personal history at Parchman as a teenager. Pop is haunted by his memories of that time. The devastating revelations by the end of the book leave the reader feeling immense sorrow for this kind and gentle man. The imminent loss of Mam to cancer makes his part of the story heartbreaking, for he has already lost so much. The spectral figures of Richie, who Pop tried to shield from the harsh life at Parchman, and Given, Pop's proud and magnificent son, provide heart-piercing elements to the story, bookending a awful road trip that Leonie, Jojo, Kayla and Leonie's friend Misty take to pick up Michael when he is released from prison.

Leonie's problems with addiction, her neglect of her children all while recognizing that neglect, are poignantly rendered. Jojo, who clearly hopes for a better life for himself and his beloved baby sister, is a memorably written character. His loving admiration of Mam and Pop, the closest thing he has to parents, and his devoted love for his sister, are opposed by the growing horror of his father and father's family, an opposition that becomes painful to read. Michael's return to the family's home proves crushing in so many ways for Jojo and Kayla.

This is a beautifully written book that will stay with the reader.

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Friday, September 1, 2017

Review: Rogues’ Gallery: The Rise (and Occasional Fall) of Art Dealers, the Hidden Players in the History of Art

Rogues’ Gallery: The Rise (and Occasional Fall) of Art Dealers, the Hidden Players in the History of Art Rogues’ Gallery: The Rise (and Occasional Fall) of Art Dealers, the Hidden Players in the History of Art by Philip Hook
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received this ARC from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Philip Hook has written a book that could easily be used in university-level Art History classes and probably should be. Rogues' Gallery highlights the vital importance, and occasional really dirty dealing, of art dealers ranging from the Renaissance to Contemporary era of European and American art. Without dealers, artists would often have been unable to sell their works and one need only look at the number of known artists who died in abject poverty to see that even a dealer selling at exorbitant markup was still putting money in an artist's hands that otherwise mightn't have gotten there.

Hook details the lives and business strategies of dealers such as the legendary Durand-Ruel, whose promotion of the successful Barbizon School painters and the edgy Impressionists drove the success of these painters, in spite of heavy criticism of the latter in the more formal Paris Salon of the 1860's. By keeping the work of the great Impressionists on display to the more open-minded British and American art buying public in London and New York, he allowed painters now lauded, like Monet, Renoir and Manet, to survive and later thrive. Likewise, the role of Kahnweiler in promoting Cubism and artists like Picasso and Braque cannot be overstated. Featuring dealers as diverse as the "thrillingly dishonest" Duveen and "gallerist" Castelli, Hook gives us an insiders perspective on making and selling art. For anyone well-versed in Art History, The Rogues' Gallery (still not sure I agree with that title in full) presents a fascinating look at a side of the art world that is little seen. Add to this the fascinating role of famous collector/dealers such as the rather scandalous Peggy Guggenheim, and all in all you have quite the appealing read if you're a lover of Western art.

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