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review 2019-11-03 22:26
The Art of Theft / Sherry Thomas
The Art of Theft - Sherry Thomas

As "Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective," Charlotte Holmes has solved murders and found missing individuals. But she has never stolen a priceless artwork—or rather, made away with the secrets hidden behind a much-coveted canvas.
 
But Mrs. Watson is desperate to help her old friend recover those secrets and Charlotte finds herself involved in a fever-paced scheme to infiltrate a glamorous Yuletide ball where the painting is one handshake away from being sold and the secrets a bare breath from exposure.
 
Her dear friend Lord Ingram, her sister Livia, Livia's admirer Stephen Marbleton—everyone pitches in to help and everyone has a grand time. But nothing about this adventure is what it seems and disaster is biding time on the grounds of a glittering French chateau, waiting only for Charlotte to make a single mistake...

 

One of the best aspects of my 2019 summer reading list (The Summer of Sherlock) was the discovery of this charming series, the Lady Sherlock series. I’m really enjoying a lot of these feminist revisionist Victorian adventures! The Victorian age as it should have been.

I love Charlotte Holmes as a character and I relate to her when she would rather be at home with a cup of tea and a pastry than out in the world pursuing criminals! I rather favour coffee and popcorn, but it’s the same idea. I have to laugh at her concept of Maximum Tolerable Chins, which is the point at which she restricts her pastry consumption until her clothing fits more comfortably. Been there, done that, my dear Charlotte!

My only disappointment with this book was that it did not deal with the Treadles’ plot line until the very last pages! I really want to know what happens between Inspector and his wife, but it seems that I must wait for the next book.

In the meanwhile, I have to applaud the author for being able to bring Charlotte and Lord Ingram together and then separate them so skillfully, retaining the romantic pursuit and it’s accompanying plot tension into the fourth book of the series. Of course I am also interested in the Livia and Stephen Marbleton situation, but it is Charlotte & Ash who command my attention in terms of relationships.

Ms. Thomas also uses the Maharani’s character deftly as a way to explore colonialism and to introduce a person of colour into the very white, upper-class world that the main characters inhabit.

All in all, I will be very excited when Book 5 is published, hopefully next year.

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review 2019-10-24 12:26
A fun read, unique, quirky, and full of love for art.
Stealing The Scream - Theodore Carter

I thank the publisher for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

I had a ball reading this book. This is one of those books that are fun to read (even if you think you know where things are headed, you still want to read all the nitty-gritty details and end up discovering that things can go in unexpected directions), and are also great fun to tell others about. Because the plot of the book is both out-there and plausible at the same time, it’s impossible not to keep thinking about it, pondering over the details, and wondering how far things will go. And my bet is that anybody you tell about this book will also be left wondering and will want to know more.

The book’s description explains the main points of the plot in detail (too much detail for my liking, although luckily for me I didn’t remember the description when I got immersed in the book), so I won’t go over them again. This is a book suffused by art, painting in particular: love of art, the technique of painting, studying art, the obsession for art, collecting art, art museums and how they work, art as a business, but also and more importantly, the way art can communicate and affect people. The author, an artist in his own right, captures and transmits the way some art pieces can have an incredible effect on people, how we can feel moved, stirred, saddened, horrified, or utterly joyous by contemplating some artworks.  The power of some images (or sounds, or movements…) is undeniable and, as the main protagonist of the story learns, does not reside on a perfect technique. Some paintings have a soul that reaches out, touches our hearts and, like here, even screams at us.

The story is narrated in the third person from the four main characters’ points of view. This does not cause confusion as each chapter is told from a single character’s perspective, and it is clearly signposted. Percival, the retired CEO who takes up painting, is the central character, the one whose actions set the story in motion, although he does that at the suggestion of Lucinda, whose role in the story seems to be that of observer/facilitator, but whose motives and actions are, perhaps, the most intriguing of the whole book. She was an actress and seems to have fallen into her role as a mixture of PA, housekeeper, and live-in help of Percival quite by accident. She has lost her self-confidence and is both restless but unable to act, having lost her sense of purpose. Percival is a quirky character, who seems to show traits of Asperger’s (he has difficulty dealing with people other than a few individuals who know him well, is obsessive and once he has focused on something, he finds it difficult to switch off, he is rigid and inflexible in his routines…), and has a peculiar, sometimes child-like, sense of humour. Towards the end of the book his mind goes into freefall, and he reminded me of the Howard Hughes’s character as portrayed in the film The Aviator, but here the focus is on painting and art. Red, the shadiest character, is perhaps the most easily recognisable and familiar of them all, but although not particularly likeable, his resourcefulness and the ease with which he accepts the most bizarre requests make him rise above the typical crooks of novels and films. My favourite character was Leonard, the museum security ward. Although he is not well-educated or sophisticated, he is an observer of people, loves art (for its own sake), and has a curious and clever mind. He is the amateur detective, the only one to make sense of what is going on and who pursues the answers, no matter how difficult it might be.

The author assembles a cast of characters that seem, at first, to be familiar types we’ve all read about or watched on movies, but we might not feel a particular connection to. (As I said, Leonard is perhaps the most “normal” of them all, and, at least for me, the easiest to empathise with). But as we read about them, we discover they all have something in common. They are lonely and disconnected from others. Percival and Lucinda live in the same house (although it is a huge mansion, the author manages to create a sense of claustrophobia and encroachment) but, as Lucinda eventually realises, they live in separate worlds. Red has chosen to live in the edges of society and doesn’t know how to relax or enjoy other people’s company, other than at a very basic/business-like level. And although Leonard has a regular job and some friends, he lives alone in his apartment, has been stuck in his job for years, and has no meaningful relationships to speak off. The “common” experience they go through teaches all of them something, not the same, but important lessons nonetheless.

The language is versatile, adapting well to each different character, with some very funny lines at times (Lucinda keeps collecting Percival’s pearls of wisdom, and some are laugh-out-loud funny), lyrical descriptions of paintings and experiences (some take on an almost hallucinatory quality), and accurate depictions of paranoid and disturbed mental states. The plot involves a variety of locations and settings, and some action scenes, without any real violence (although there is menace and veiled threats), and the narration moves at a good pace, with some reflective and contemplative moments, but never slowing down to a halt.

I also loved the end. As I have mentioned, all the characters learn something new about themselves, and the end of the central story (the robbery of The Scream) will bring a smile to readers’ faces.  I hope somebody decides to make a movie out of it, because it would be a joy.

This is a book a bit difficult to categorise, as it has elements of the mystery novel (perhaps a cozy mystery with a difference), of the alternative historical fiction, even if it is real history (a reimagining of what might have truly happened when The Scream was stolen), of literary fiction, it’s also a study on obsession and art… I’d recommend it to people who love quirky stories with intriguing characters that do not fit into a given genre and are not followers of trends. If you love art, have a sense of humour, and are looking for something fresh and different, you must read this.  I am very intrigued by the author’s biography and his other books, and I’ll be checking out the rest of his work.

 

 

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review 2019-10-03 02:56
GANGSTA GRANNY by David Walliams
Gangsta Granny - David Walliams,Tony Ross
Granny tries to make her life more exciting for her grandson.  Little does he know what he'll be getting involved in. 
 
I howled at this book.  When Ben finds out his grandmother was an international jewel thief, he looks at her with new eyes.  Then when he gets involved in the biggest heist of all I lost it.  Not only his he totally in with the greatest theft of all but poor Ben has raised his parents expectations of wanting to dance ballroom style which is their favorite thing to watch on TV.  Ben and Granny are wild as they plan and execute those plans.  They have no idea who they will meet and who will aid them with their heist.  Then to be almost undone by a nosy neighbor.  The narrator is very prevalent through the story with hints and asides that are as funny as the story.  You will need a hanky at the end, so be prepared.  You also meet Raj who is also in Demon Dentist.  I love this author.  I cannot wait to pick up another of his books and I know exactly to whom to give this book.
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review 2019-09-29 04:10
Mr. Monk on the Couch by Lee Goldberg, based on the TV series created by Andy Breckman
Mr. Monk on the Couch - Lee Goldberg

This book takes place a few months after the final episode of the Monk TV series and is written from Natalie's perspective. Monk investigates a series of murders and meets a group of crime scene cleaners, who he views as kindred spirits, while Natalie feels compelled to learn more about the life and death of a man both Monk and Stottlemeyer say died of natural causes.

The used bookstore I bought this from had a bunch of Mr. Monk mysteries, and, if I remember right, I pretty much grabbed this one at random. I didn't realize it was the twelfth book in the series, and the second book set after the series finale. I'm extremely behind on the series - I can't remember exactly when I stopped watching, but I know I definitely haven't seen any of the episodes in the last two or three seasons.

Although I googled a few characters I was unfamiliar with (Monk's new psychiatrist, Lieutenant Devlin), I didn't feel like the gap in my Monk viewing hurt my reading experience much. I do think it helped that I started re-watching Season 4 of the TV series soon after starting the book. It got me in the right mood and gave me a reminder of what everyone looked like and how they tended to behave. I had somehow forgotten how self-centered and casually awful Monk could be. Yeesh. I'm glad the TV series reminded me of that before I got to the bit in the book where Monk crashed a group therapy session because he couldn't handle his brother suddenly having a sex life.

Parts of this book were perfect. The scene with Monk, Stottlemeyer, and the badly parked police cars was great, and I loved Monk's interactions with the crime scene cleaners. I'm actually kind of surprised that crime scene cleaning never came up in the show at all. Maybe too gross or gory to have on-screen?

Unfortunately, the book's various mysteries didn't intrigue me much. I figured out part of what was going on with Monk's murders well before it was revealed. The way Devlin and Natalie set their part up was interesting, at least, but I had a tough time believing that Monk would quietly allow himself to be involved, even if only a little.

Natalie's investigation into Jack Griffin's death bored me and, after a certain point, struck me as being a terrible idea. Although I appreciated her insights into the way Monk's way of doing things differed from regular detective work, it didn't make her painstaking efforts to track down where Jack Griffin's old photo might have been taken any less tedious. Ambrose and his new girlfriend/assistant Yuki got a few mentions, as they helped Natalie with her research, and Natalie spent some time evaluating her life and the sort of future she might have if she wasn't Monk's assistant. It wasn't necessarily bad, but I don't know that it was worth the amount of pages it took up.

I'm enjoying getting back into the TV series and will probably continue working my way through the seasons, assuming it stays on Amazon Prime long enough. I haven't decided yet whether I'm going to read more books from this series. It did feel, at times, like reading an episode of the show, so it had that going for it.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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photo 2019-09-17 12:55

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