The Collector’s Apprentice – B.A. Shapiro

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Photo Courtesy of Algonquin Books

The Collector’s Apprentice takes readers into the whirling world of art collecting in the 1920s. Paulien Mertens is only nineteen when she meets the dashing George Everard, but when things mysteriously fall to pieces she finds herself exiled to Paris alone and nearly penniless. Drawing on her education and previous work in the art world, Paulien pieces together a new life as the assistant to Edwin Bradley, an up and coming American art collector who seeks to open a museum near Philadelphia. As she weaves her way through Parisian society, Paulien meets wonderful people like Gertrude Stein, Henri Matisse, and Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald. When George finally turns up, things are not as they seem, and Paulien is sent into a tailspin that nearly ruins everything she has built.

Shapiro’s new work tells the story of how one girl came back from the brink stronger, smarter, and braver than ever. It is part coming-of-age, part mystery, part heist novel. Paulien and George provide intriguing lenses through which we discover the events of the story. Indeed, all of the characters’s colorful descriptions paint a picture of Europe and America in the 1920s that is lush and many-layered. The plot thickens gradually, and the shocking finish does not disappoint.

I thoroughly enjoyed this foray into the art world and adored returning to 1920’s Paris, which, if you’ve read my reviews for Therese Anne Fowler’s Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald or Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife, you’ll know I have a bit of an obsession with. While it did not always grip me the way Z and The Paris Wife did, I simultaneously identified and sympathized with Shapiro’s characters, and her storytelling is top notch. The nuggets of information are there for you to guess the ending, though I must confess that I did not, which a refreshing turn of events! I would recommend The Collector’s Apprentice to anyone who enjoys a good historical coming-of-age story or enjoys con artists as main characters.

HHC Rating: 4.75 Stars

The Collector’s Apprentice hits shelves today, and Shapiro will be on tour through December promoting it. You can find the local stops on her tour schedule below, and find the book on Goodreads as well. A huge thanks to Brittani at Algonquin books for thinking of me when it came time for reviews and provided me with an e-ARC to read in exchange for my honest opinions. I loved it! But don’t just take my word for it. Here are some of the advanced praises for The Collector’s Apprentice:

“Shapiro delivers a clever and complex tale of art fraud, theft, scandal, murder, and revenge. [Her] portrayal of the 1920s art scene in Paris and Philadelphia is vibrant, and is populated by figures like Alice B. Toklas and Thornton Wilder; readers will be swept away by this thoroughly rewarding novel.”

Publishers Weekly

“Dazzling and seductive, The Collector’s Apprentice is a tour de force—an exhilarating tale of shifting identities, desire, and intrigue set between 1920s Paris and Philadelphia. Shapiro is a master at melding historical and fictional characters to bring the past alive on the page, and in The Collector’s Apprentice she has forged an exquisite, multilayered story that maps the cogent and singular fire of a young woman’s ambition and the risks she will take for the sake of art.”

—Dawn Tripp, bestselling author of Georgia

“I was engrossed in every twist and turn in this compulsively captivating page-turner, all the way until its astonishing denouement. Shapiro has done it again!”

—Thrity Umrigar, bestselling author of The Space Between Us

Shapiro, Barbara (c) Lynn Wayne_HR

B. A. Shapiro is the New York Times bestselling author of The Muralist and The Art Forger, which won the New England Book Award for Fiction and the Boston Authors Society Award for Fiction, among other honors. Her books have been selected as Community Reads in numerous cities and have been translated into over ten languages. Shapiro has taught sociology at Tufts University and creative writing at Northeastern University. She divides her time between Boston and Florida along with her husband, Dan, and their dog, Sagan. Her website is www.bashapirobooks.com.

The Collector’s Apprentice Press Tour
Stops in New England

Tuesday, October 16 — 7:00pm
Brookline Booksmith
279 Harvard St.
Brookline, MA 02446

Wednesday, October 17 — 7:00pm
Odyssey Bookshop
9 College St.
South Hadley, MA 01075

Thursday, October 18 — 6:00pm
Northshire Bookstore
4869 Main Street
Manchester Center, VT 05255

Friday, October 19 — 7:00pm
Wellesley Books
82 Central St
Wellesley, MA 02482

Wednesday, November 7 — 7:00pm
RJ Julia Booksellers
768 Boston Post Rd
Madison, CT 06443

Thursday, November 8 — 7:00pm
Print Bookstore
273 Congress St.
Portland, ME 04101

Tuesday, November 20 — 7:00pm
Point Street Reading Series
Alchemy
71 Richmond St, 2nd Floor
Providence, RI 02903

Monday, November 26 — 3:00pm
Titcombs Bookshop
432 Route 6A
East Sandwich, MA 02537

Tuesday, November 27 — 7:00pm
An Unlikely Story
111 South Street
Plainville, MA 02762

Wednesday, November 28 — 7:00pm
Savoy Bookshop & Café
10 Canal St.
Westerly, RI 02891

Thursday, November 29 — 7:00pm
Belmont Books
79 Leonard St
Belmont, MA 02478

–Author Bio, Advanced Blurbs, and tour dates courtesy of Michael McKenzie and Brittani Hilles at Algonquin Books.

The Diviners (The Diviners, #1) – Libba Bray

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Source: Goodreads

 

Evangeline O’Neill has special powers. She can see important moments in a person’s life just by holding something that belongs to them. This talent, of course, is not accepted in Zenith, Ohio. After a particularly bad evening of illegal drinking, the seventeen-year-old is shipped off to New York City to live with her bachelor uncle, William Fitzgerald, who runs The Museum of Creepy Crawlies, and his mysterious assistant, Jericho. Evie reunites with her childhood friend and the daughter of revolutionists, Mabel, as well as some new friends including Theta, a showgirl, and her brother Henry, a piano player, a thief named Sam, and a numbers runner named Memphis who might just be magical himself. Life can’t be the berries forever though, and before long Evie is called upon to use her powers to help stop a murderer before he raises the antichrist and wipes out all of man kind. Just another summer in 1920s New York, right?

 

I’ve heard about this book on and off since it came out in 2012, and I finally picked it up from the library in August of 2017. Definitely not disappointing! While the writing is easy to follow (except for the 20s slang, which I had to look up) and the chapters are short, the gruesomeness and maturity of the plot and characters’ thoughts definitely put this book squarely in the Young Adult category. If the reading level were a little higher I might even put it in adult, even though over half of the characters are ages 17-19.

If you can’t stand gore in your books, don’t read this. About half of the murders are detailed, and all of the bodies are described once they are discovered. If I was close to stopping my reading more the night and I knew a murder chapter was imminent, I would stop before it so I didn’t have it running around my brain all night long. Not that it really helped, because I still knew it was coming, so my brain usually decided to try and guess how it would go down *facepalm*. In that regard, I’m glad I’ve finished the book. At the same time, I’m sad to let the world go for a while until I get the next book. Bray’s version of 1920s New York City positively shines. I found myself wishing I could visit for the weekend (sans murders) to visit the theatres and clubs she describes in such vibrant detail. The buildings and the city are just as much characters as the human (and not so human) population.

If I were a cry-in-the-corner type of person, my horror-hating-soul would be doing that, because I don’t like being terrified of what’s coming, but I’m a bloody Gryffindor, and we don’t show fear, so I just marched on and kept reading. Overall, I think the horror aspects were very well balanced with the daily life in the 1920s and the mystery parts, which made me quite enjoy myself despite the demons lurking in the shadows.

Definitely pick this up if you have any interest in America’s supernatural history (I’m personally hoping one of the books in this quartet focuses on the witch trials), or if you adore 1920s period fiction, or if you liked Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, because this book is pos-i-tute-ly for you. Also, this cover is magic. I love it.

 

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – Lair of Dreams
Book #3 – Before The Devil Breaks You
Book #4 – Untitled – TBD

A Dark and Stormy Murder (Writer’s Apprentice Mysteries, #1) – Julia Buckley

Writers-Apprentice-Mysteries-A-Dark-And-Stormy-Murder-Julia-Buckley
Source: Goodreads

Struggling writer Lena London is handed the opportunity of a lifetime when her best friend sets her up with a job as the assistant and ghostwriter to her favorite author of all time, Camilla Graham. As an added bonus, Lena gets to live in Camilla’s beautiful Gothic home overlooking the quiet town of Blue Lake, Indiana.

No town stays quiet for long, however, when you write mysteries and have an alleged murderer for a next door neighbor. Before long, a body appears on the lake shore near Camilla’s home and the ladies become embroiled in solving the case before the wrong person ends up behind bars.

 

 

Full disclosure, this story takes place in the autumn, which just makes the scenery that much more wonderful. The rich mix of scenery, characters, and plot make this a delightful read that sucks you in from the first chapter.

Lena is lovely and has just the right amount of admiration for her esteemed new boss. I identify with Lena. She loves books. She has a degree in writing. She is in her middle twenties and trying to find her place in the world amid the ever shifting relationships between parents, friends, bosses, and significant others.  I just wish I had a few good looking romantic options in my life – because a cozy mystery wouldn’t be a cozy mystery without a dash of romance, am I right?

A Dark and Stormy Murder has plenty of layers. There is the book that Lena and Camilla are writing, the mystery of Sam West’s missing wife, the body on the beach, the various budding relationships between characters, and Lena’s attempts to settle into her new hometown. I love everything about this book, and I can’t wait to read more in the Writer’s Apprentice Mysteries series!

 

HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

 

Other Books In This Series:
Book #2 – Murder in Dark Blue (Review coming in September!)
Book #3 – A Dark and Twisting Path
Book #4 – Death Waits in the Dark

 

 

TV Review – Wynonna Earp, Season #1

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Source: IMDB

Wynonna Earp has been running all her life. Hated by nearly everyone in her small town and thought to be off her rocker by the rest, she had no intention of ever returning to Purgatory. Brought home by the sudden and mysterious death of her uncle, Wynonna gets drawn into a quest for redemption that has been plaguing her family for decades.

 

First off, the diversity in this show is so SO good. Secondly, the number of strong female characters is pretty darn high and that rules. When it comes to the romances, the chemistry and build up isn’t always 100% there, but there is plenty of comical awkwardness to make up for it. I’m not a fan of zombies, but these zombie-esque monsters have been great so far. Even though it’s quite a gory show, it’s still fairly stomachable.

Wynonna, as the title character, is the focus of the show. However, there are plenty of cast regulars that hold their own and often have large storylines of their own. Wynonna’s kid sister, the black-ops agent sent to look into Purgatory’s strange occurrences, the local law enforcement, and even well-known historical characters are all well developed and intriguing to follow along their own paths that criss-cross Wynonna’s life.

To be honest, what I loved most about this show was the old-timey-western nods because I’m a fan of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, but with the season finale, the show takes a turn towards decidedly more Syfy Channel material. I’m still not sure how I feel about it since it was all only in the finale, but I’m just not quite as excited to watch season two as I was season one.

Besides the old-west vibes, I really enjoyed the snarky streak that runs in the Earp family. Waverly’s clearly developed because she is continually underestimated and therefore needs to speak up to get a word in edgewise, while Wynonna built her’s up as a shield against everything being thrown at her. The snark and sarcasm are often used to diffuse awkward situations – usually by making them even more awkward until someone gives up and walks out – and it adds a lot of humor to the show.

Overall, I really really enjoyed this one. Not only is it a win for female characters, it’s a win for diversity as a whole with its character backgrounds, sexuality, and even age. This show encompasses so many good things, and the plot and it’s execution across all 13 episodes of season one are fantastic to boot. I definitely recommend that you go watch it immediately so you won’t have too much catching up to do! The finale cliffhanger(s) are killer, and season two just started at the beginning of June on Syfy in the US, Space in Canada, and Spike in the UK.

 

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

Double Down (Lois Lane, #2) – Gwenda Bond

Lois-Lane-Double-Down-Gwenda-Bond

Source: Goodreads

 

When nothing news-worthy comes her way, Lois is stuck writing a human interest story about an artist painting a community mural. Not her idea of great. It does, however, put her in a prime location to see someone she knows collapse in the street in a bad part of town. On top of that, she’s got a maybe-maybe-not virtual boyfriend and a convicted ex-mayor who might just be innocent to deal with. Once again, Lois Lane is in over her head with only one way out: solve the mystery, and get her story.

 

This sequel to Bond’s first Lois Lane adventure, Fallout, is even better than the first. Now that the characters have been established, the reader gets to learn more about the city that serves as the backdrop to this wonderful series. Metropolis is a big city on a small island, and Lois Lane is determined to protect every part of it from evil, whether that means going up against principles, mayors, or mobsters.

I really enjoyed the flow of the plot in this one. There weren’t many slow parts, I was never bored, and the twists were timed perfectly for effectiveness. While I wasn’t kept guessing at everything until the end, I did enjoy how Bond had Lois put the puzzle pieces together. The character relationships are all developing and morphing, which I find immensely interesting.

The secondary storyline was almost too much for me, but I found that it fit well in the end, and after all life doesn’t wait for it to be a convenient time to drop issues on you. While it does complicate Lois’ storyline, I like that she has this connection with Clark even though he’s not physically in her life. It adds another dimension to her character, and also somewhat polarizes the two parts of her life as business and emotional. I’m interested to see where Bond takes that relationship in relation to the rest of Lois’ life.

Ultimately, this book was well-written and the action did not disappoint. Definitely recommended if you enjoyed the first one or if you enjoy Superman/Lois Lane stories. I still feel that Lois is just the antidote to the superpower-dominated major hero category that we all need in our lives. Her values and gumption are just the sorts of things that people everywhere can look up to and aspire to with rationality rather than impossibility.

 

Curio Street Reads Rating:  4.5 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – Fallout
Book #3 – Triple Threat

Fallout (Lois Lane, #1) – Gwenda Bond

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Source: Goodreads

Before Superman came to Metropolis, the city had another unlikely hero: Lois Lane. The daughter of an army general, Lois has moved more times than she can count and she’s been kicked out of even more schools. When her father takes a permanent assignment in the city, Lois does her best to put down roots and avoid trouble, but it seems trouble isn’t done with her just yet. Before long Lois is on the case of some school bullies with freaky mind control talents, and she’s landed a brand new student reporter job to help her figure it out.

A series based on Lois Lane pre-Superman? Sign me up! As a child, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman with Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher was one of my favorite shows, though I probably watched it mostly in reruns since it originally aired from ’93-’97 when I was still a toddler. I always though Lois was SO cool. She was probably my first female hero, actually. I started writing my own newspapers soon after that so you can see what a major influence the show and the character had on me, haha! Anyway, ever since then I’ve been very interested in Superman and especially Lois, who is just a bad a** reporter who only really needs saving because she falls in love with Superman and then everyone puts her in danger to get his attention. But this series is before Superman really exists.

Lois is just a normal high school student, struggling with the inequalities of this world. The story in Fallout started a little slow, and with my brain stuck in the 90’s (or actually, high school would have been the late 70’s or 80’s for Hatchet’s Lois), I wasn’t prepared for virtual reality headsets and cellphones. Once I accustomed myself to the fact that everything was happening in the modern day, I got sucked right in. Lois is spectacular – spunky, brave, smart, good, and a heavy dose of reckless. And her foes are on a level equal with anything Lex Luthor ever threw at Superman.

The vibrant characters, the high-tech backdrop with a side of high school politics and a heavy dose of up-and-coming reporter combined with murky intentions and fierce foes has created an immersive and captivating world that I can’t wait to explore more of in the next two announced books in the series. Lois Lane is the kind of hero everyone needs in their lives right now: no powers, just morals and smarts. I highly recommend this series to anyone who loves Superman and Lois, but especially to anyone interested in journalism or female heroes. Lois Lane is just one of those role models you’ll want to come back to again and again.

HHC Rating: 4 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – Double Down
Book #3 – Triple Threat

Stone Heart – Luanne Rice

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Source: Goodreads

Maria Dark is returning to Connecticut for the first time in 15 years, ready to start over surrounded by her family at their little house between Bell Stream and the big old brick women’s prison. Not everything is as wonderful as she dreams, however, and soon everyone’s secrets begin to make life in the sleepy seaside town of Hatauquitit complicated, and even downright dangerous.

I picked this book up in August 2016 while I was babysitting in Boston. I was running out of things to read because I hadn’t anticipated just how much a 4-month-old can sleep when I came upon this book in one of those Little Free Libraries. I was intrigued by the title, cover, and location of the story, and brought it home with me. It didn’t hurt that Maria is a “nomad archaeologist” and I just thought that sounded extra cool.

The story starts off innocently enough, but about a third of the way in, it starts hinting at a darker core. I’m not usually one for dark or scary stories, but I was in too deep to back out of this one by that point. The inconsistencies in characters stories fascinated me even as it brought Maria closer to the truth. With some care questioning and superb intuition, Maria unravels the secrets being kept and finds a way to keep a calm and collected head on her shoulders as they all deal with the aftermath.

Honestly, this book kind of blew my mind. I finished it at one o’clock in the morning and immediately pulled out my phone to message one of my communications professors who also teaches women’s studies and like dark stories among other cool things, and told her she needed to read it immediately. It has so many twists and turns! It’s rare for me to be unable to guess the plot of a story or where it’s going/will end up, but this stumped me again and again until the very, very last second. Amazing. I’m only taking a half-star off, and that’s because it tricked me into reading something much darker than I usually like.

HHC Rating:  4.5 Stars