Monday, January 24, 2011

Clara and Mr. Tiffany

Susan Vreeland tells a fictionalized story of Clara Driscoll - the woman proported to be an instrumental part in designing the Tiffany Lamps.  The story takes place during the turn of the century in New York City - Vreeland does a wonderful job of transporting the reader to that time period, so much so that the place becomes a character unto itself.  I loved Clara - she was a gutsy woman in a time when that wasn't very popular.  I was rooting for her from the first page.

My only negative is that I felt that she got a tad bogged down in the details of stained glass window making - I found myself glazing over these parts.  Overall it was a great story - made even better because it was based on an actual person!!!

From Publishers Weekly

Vreeland (Luncheon of the Boating Party) again excavates the life behind a famous artistic creation--in this case the Tiffany leaded-glass lamp, the brainchild not of Louis Comfort Tiffany but his glass studio manager, Clara Driscoll. Tiffany staffs his studio with female artisans--a decision that protects him from strikes by the all-male union--but refuses to employ women who are married. Lucky for him, Clara's romantic misfortunes--her husband's death, the disappearance of another suitor--insure that she can continue to craft the jewel-toned glass windows and lamps that catch both her eye and her imagination. Behind the scenes she makes her mark as an artist and champion of her workers, while living in an eclectic Irving Place boarding house populated by actors and artists. Vreeland ably captures Gilded Age New York and its atmosphere--robber barons, sweatshops, colorful characters, ateliers--but her preoccupation with the larger historical story comes at the expense of Clara, whose arc, while considered and nicely told, reflects the times too closely in its standard-issue woman-behind-the-man scenario. (Jan.) (c)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The first thing to be said about a Vreeland novel is that the reader learns a lot from it, but the joy and delight of a Vreeland novel is that the knowledge gleaned from her beautifully articulate pages is not forced on you, not delivered as if from a podium. Welcome here to the world of Clara Driscoll, whom Vreeland has brought to light from the archives of Tiffany Glass Company to establish what is most probably her rightful place in the history of American decorative arts. This deep-reaching novel is based on the likelihood that Clara conceived the famous Tiffany leaded-glass lamp shade, which has come down from the early years of the twentieth century as the epitome of the creativity in glass for which the Tiffany outfit was known. Clara worked in the women’s studio for founder Louis Tiffany himself and struggled against the anti-female bias of the company—like that of any other company of the time, for that matter—to position herself as a first-rate artisan in her boss’ eyes. Plus, Vreeland takes Clara out of the workplace to give her a personal life quite suitable for not only the time but also her strong personality. There’s no excuse for any reader of high-quality literary fiction to let this novel pass by. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Vreeland will appear as a panelist at the ALA/ERT/Booklist Author Forum at ALA’s Midwinter Conference in January, and librarian interest will be supercharged by that event. --Brad Hooper

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards

Another winner...I feel like I have won the reading lottery lately - I am loving everything I read (this is MUCH better than the times that every book I pick up I hate - and not because they are poorly written, it is just because I am in a reading rut - hateful.)

But I digress.

This book was wonderful - it had some romance, good romance.  Not the drippingly oversentimental kind, just perfect.  It also had a mystery woven in through the story which literally left you guessing how it was all going to come together. 

The story also delved into some really interesting topics - the suffragette movement, glass blowing, stained glass windows, woman in religion - it was so interesting.  The glass blowing part really left me wanting more, so much that my next book is Susan Vreeland's Clara and Mr. Tiffany and I am looking into taking a glass blowing class.  If that doesn't leave you wanting to read this book, then I don't know what will.

From Publishers Weekly

Bestseller Edwards's much anticipated second novel may disappoint fans of her first, The Memory Keeper's Daughter. When Lucy Jarrett returns to her childhood home in Lake of Dreams, N.Y., she learns that her brother, Blake, who's gone into the family business, and his girlfriend hope to drain a controversial marsh to construct a high-end property. Meanwhile, Lucy, who remains haunted by her father's death in a fishing accident years earlier, reconnects with her first boyfriend, Keegan Fall, now a successful glass artist. But when she sees something familiar in the pattern of one of his pieces, and discovers a hidden note in her childhood home, Lucy finally digs into her family's mysterious past. Unfortunately, the lazy expository handling of information mutes the intrigue, and readers will see the reignited spark between Keegan and Lucy coming for miles. All loose ends eventually come together with formulaic ease to rock the family boat. Edwards is at her best when highlighting the strain between her characters. (Jan.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

After her father’s sudden death, Lucy Jarrett leaves her home in upstate New York, hoping to put some distance between herself and her grief. Ten years later, she returns to the Lake of Dreams to find the town a very different place. Her mother’s house has fallen into disrepair, and Mom’s on the verge of a new romance. Developers, including her shady uncle Art, want to turn the village into a housing development. The presence of her former high-school boyfriend, glass artist Keegan Falls, stirs up long forgotten feelings. When Lucy discovers a stack of old letters hidden inside a cupboard, she quickly becomes engrossed in a mystery whose roots go back generations and whose resolution will alter long-established family histories and future plans. Once again, Edwards (The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, 2005) has created a memorable cast of easily recognizable characters. As Lucy’s investigation deepens, past and present join to reach a satisfying and thoughtful resolution. This is a powerful story about the influence of history, the importance of our beliefs, and the willingness to embrace them all. --Carol Gladstein

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Passage by Justin Cronin

Product DetailsWow, just Wow!  I loved, loved, loved this book and I loved it even more after I found out it is the first in a trilogy (with my only complaint being that the next one is not out until 2012.)  There are so many layers to the story - it is about a government experiment gone bad which turns people into vampires; it is about how we as humans have this innate desire to survive, even is the most dire of circumstances; it is about love and relationships.  There were moments that left me utterly breathless, hiding under covers.  There were moments that touched my heart and made me want to cry, it was amazing.  And if you are thinking this is another vampire book, it is so not.  The vampires in this book are like none we have ever seen before - they are much, much scarier.  I read the last page and wanted so desperately to talk to someone ABOUT this book.  There are so many questions left unanswered and it has a humdinger of a last line that left my jaw on the floor.  I will be first in line to buy the next installment in *big sigh* another year.

Amazon Best Books of the Month, June 2010: You don't have to be a fan of vampire fiction to be enthralled by The Passage, Justin Cronin's blazing new novel. Cronin is a remarkable storyteller (just ask adoring fans of his award-winning Mary and O'Neil), whose gorgeous writing brings depth and vitality to this ambitious epic about a virus that nearly destroys the world, and a six-year-old girl who holds the key to bringing it back. The Passage takes readers on a journey from the early days of the virus to the aftermath of the destruction, where packs of hungry infected scour the razed, charred cities looking for food, and the survivors eke out a bleak, brutal existence shadowed by fear. Cronin doesn't shy away from identifying his "virals" as vampires. But, these are not sexy, angsty vampires (you won’t be seeing "Team Babcock" t-shirts any time soon), and they are not old-school, evil Nosferatus, either. These are a creation all Cronin's own--hairless, insectile, glow-in-the-dark mutations who are inextricably linked to their makers and the one girl who could destroy them all. A huge departure from Cronin's first two novels, The Passage is a grand mashup of literary and supernatural, a stunning beginning to a trilogy that is sure to dazzle readers of both genres. --Daphne Durham

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Fans of vampire fiction who are bored by the endless hordes of sensitive, misunderstood Byronesque bloodsuckers will revel in Cronin's engrossingly horrific account of a post-apocalyptic America overrun by the gruesome reality behind the wish-fulfillment fantasies. When a secret project to create a super-soldier backfires, a virus leads to a plague of vampiric revenants that wipes out most of the population. One of the few bands of survivors is the Colony, a FEMA-established island of safety bunkered behind massive banks of lights that repel the virals, or dracs—but a small group realizes that the aging technological defenses will soon fail. When members of the Colony find a young girl, Amy, living outside their enclave, they realize that Amy shares the virals' agelessness, but not the virals' mindless hunger, and they embark on a search to find answers to her condition. PEN/Hemingway Award–winner Cronin (The Summer Guest) uses a number of tropes that may be overly familiar to genre fans, but he manages to engage the reader with a sweeping epic style. The first of a proposed trilogy, it's already under development by director Ripley Scott and the subject of much publicity buzz (Retail Nation, Mar. 15). (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

First Book of 2011- The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

I loved this book so much.  It had so many things that I love, multiple time periods, an interesting mystery, a smattering of love - perfect. 

This is what Amazon had to say:
Amazon Best of the Month, April 2009: Like Frances Hodgson Burnett's beloved classic The Secret Garden, Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden takes root in your imagination and grows into something enchanting--from a little girl with no memories left alone on a ship to Australia, to a fog-soaked London river bend where orphans comfort themselves with stories of Jack the Ripper, to a Cornish sea heaving against wind-whipped cliffs, crowned by an airless manor house where an overgrown hedge maze ends in the walled garden of a cottage left to rot. This hidden bit of earth revives barren hearts, while the mysterious Authoress's fairy tales (every bit as magical and sinister as Grimm's) whisper truths and ignite the imaginary lives of children. As Morton draws you through a thicket of secrets that spans generations, her story could cross into fairy tale territory if her characters weren't clothed in such complex flesh, their judgment blurred by the heady stench of emotions (envy, lust, pride, love) that furtively flourished in the glasshouse of Edwardian society. While most ache for a spotless mind's eternal sunshine, the Authoress meets the past as "a cruel mistress with whom we must all learn to dance," and her stories gift children with this vital muscle memory. --Mari Malcolm