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#Bookreview ALL THINGS GEORGIAN: TALES FROM THE LONG EIGHTEENTH CENTURY by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden (@penswordbooks) A beautiful gift for anybody who enjoys Georgian history and art #non-fiction

Hi all:

I bring you a book for those of you who love beautifully illustrated books and the Georgian period.

All Things Georgian: Tales From The Long Eighteenth Century by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden
All Things Georgian: Tales From The Long Eighteenth Century by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden

All Things Georgian: Tales From The Long Eighteenth Century by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden

Take a romp through the long eighteenth-century in this collection of 25 short tales.

Marvel at the Queen’s Ass, gaze at the celestial heavens through the eyes of the past and be amazed by the equestrian feats of the Norwich Nymph. Journey to the debauched French court at Versailles, travel to Covent Garden and take your seat in a box at the theatre and, afterwards, join the mile-high club in a new-fangled hot air balloon.

Meet actresses, whores and high-born ladies, politicians, inventors, royalty and criminals as we travel through the Georgian era in all its glorious and gruesome glory.

In roughly chronological order, covering the reign of the four Georges, 1714-1730 and set within the framework of the main events of the era, these tales are accompanied by over 100 stunning color illustrations.

https://www.amazon.com/All-Things-Georgian-Eighteenth-Century/dp/1526744619/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/All-Things-Georgian-Eighteenth-Century/dp/1526744619/

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/All-Things-Georgian-Hardback/p/15786

Joanne Major and Sarah Murden
Joanne Major and Sarah Murden

About the authors:

About Joanne Major

Joanne is Lincolnshire born and bred. Originally from the north of the county, she now lives in a village to the south of Lincoln where she happily spends most days half in the present and half in the Georgian era, with an occasional foray into the world of the Victorians. A genealogist of 25-years standing, Joanne, together with Sarah, became distracted from the people she was researching and stumbled accidentally into the path of an eighteenth-century courtesan. Life hasn’t been the same since.

https://www.amazon.com/Joanne-Major/e/B01AY78JWO/

About Sarah Murden

Sarah was living in Hampshire when she first met Joanne via an online genealogy forum. Sarah is slightly more of a ‘nomad’, originally from Nottinghamshire, then moving to the Peak District where she lived for over 20 years, followed by Hampshire for 12 years, she now enjoys the quiet life in a small village in rural Lincolnshire. Having studied Humanities but focusing mainly on history, Sarah has a passion for the eighteenth- and nineteenth centuries and could quite happily have lived in the eighteenth-century (only if very wealthy of course!). Together with Joanne she is the joint author of these compelling biographies, the two brought together through their shared passion for history and genealogy.

Joanne and Sarah share a blog, All Things Georgian, where they publish twice weekly with a wide remit of writing about ‘anything and everything’ connected to the Georgian era. Expect everything from extra and exclusive information relating to their biography to articles about false bums and tums (fashion victims are nothing new!) and local murder mysteries. If it grabs their attention, then they hope it will interest their readers too. Nothing is off limits!

https://www.amazon.com/Sarah-Murden/e/B01AY6NUZ6/

And here you can find their blog, All Things Georgian:

https://georgianera.wordpress.com/

My review:

Thanks to Rosie Croft, from Pen & Sword, for providing me a hardback copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.

This book would make a perfect present for anybody who loves history and historical anecdote, especially from the Georgian era. There are elements that make it useful for reference (it includes family trees for the Hanover House and for the Stuarts, who were also pretenders to the crown; there is a timeline of the main events, covering the whole era [from 1714, when George I’s reign began, to 1830, when George IV died], a map of the UK highlighting all the towns and locations later mentioned in the book, and a detailed bibliography at the back of the book, listing the sources the authors have used to compile each one of the 25 chapters). This is a beautiful book, full of colour illustrations, that would delight art lovers (there are landscapes highlighting the settings of many of the stories and also, portraits of public figures, aristocrats, and other people who are the protagonists of the stories, some by famous artists such as Sir Joshua Reynolds), as well as drawings and cartoons of the period, which help set the stories in their context.

As the authors explain in the introduction, the period has long fascinated people, and not only historians, because it was a quickly evolving era and many events that would change the world took place around this time: the French and the American Revolutions, Napoleon’s rise and fall, technological advances and the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, and many scientific discoveries as well. The book does not cover the whole era in detail, as it would be impossible, and instead choses to pick up some specific events and historical figures that help highlight different aspects of the time, and manage to create a good picture of the era as a whole.

Although the content of the book mostly centres on events in the UK, there are also a couple of chapters dedicated to French characters (notably one to the attempted escape by Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI, to Varennes), and the protagonists do range far and wide, including people from all walks of life. To my delight, there are many episodes dedicated to women (we have male impersonators [probably!], smugglers (high-ranking, as it seems that attempts at keeping the purchases of fine clothing limited to British manufacture made ladies turn very resourceful), actresses, jockeys, astronomers (Caroline Herschel’s story is fascinating), ladies taking to the air in balloons (I have a book on the subject, and I can’t wait to read it), a female bonesetter, a con woman…  There are plenty of men as well, of course, and curious episodes, like that of the Brighton’s travelling windmill, or Queen Anne’s zebra, and some darker happenings, like the assassination attempts on the king’s life, or the trade in dead bodies the resurrection men were involved in.

The authors, who are clearly experts in the subject (and, as mentioned above, have a blog called All Things Georgian, as well), write in a conversational style, and as we read the chapters, it feels as if they were talking about people they knew personally (the same way others would talk about their relatives, or current celebrities), adding titbits of information and connections to other relevant characters as they spin their tale.

I recommend this book to anybody interested in the Georgian era, even if the interest is only in passing. The illustrations are an added bonus, and the stories are so varied that most readers will find topics to their liking that will merit further research. This is not a book that will solve the doubts of people wanting to learn everything there is about the Georgian period, but it is a great appetizer, and will provide hours of entertainment and plenty of material for conversation. Don’t forget to check the authors’ other books if you are interested in the subject.

Thanks so much to Rosie and to the authors, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling!

Categories
Miscellaneous

Visiting #Sitges Hotel Estela, an #arthotel

Hi all:

I wanted to give you a break from book reviews (don’t worry, more to come soon) and also share a place I visited last week that I really enjoyed. Those of you who have visited Barcelona might be familiar with Sitges, a town on the coast, around half-an-hour distance from Barcelona. It is a lovely place, with three leisure ports, a beautiful church, some fabulous museums, good shopping, gorgeous beaches, and a well-known film-festival for those who love fantasy, among many other things. A group of writer friends, as a birthday present, had given me an activity box, and after checking what was on offer, I discovered a pretty special hotel in Sitges and decided to visit. The Hotel Estela is described as an art hotel, and the definition is perfect.

St. Bartholomew’s Church, Sitges

The hotel is like an art gallery, and all corners and spaces are enhanced by some work of art, from sculptures to collages, or paintings. There is a sculpture of Sant Jordi (Saint George, also the patron saint of Catalonia, in case you wonder) by Salvador Dalí outside of the hotel, the name of the hotel is also a sculpture by Josep María Subirachs (if you have visited the Sagrada Família, he was the sculptor responsible for the Passion Façade), and works by many others, including Josep Puigmartí’s, the artist in residence, who has lived at the hotel for over twenty years. The car park is also decorated and, if you fancy a really special experience, there are 16 rooms decorated by artists, each one in a different style.

I love this feature designed by Josep Maria Subirachs

The hotel offers you a free tour of the art, that I enjoyed with my mother, who accompanied me on the trip, and we were lucky enough to be able to visit a couple of the artists’ rooms, including the suite of love, decorated by Josep María Subirachs, a true wonder. Ah, and if you go for the tour, they also give you as a present a print signed by Josep Puigmartí. They do sell some of the artwork, including some pretty iconic pieces, by artists featured throughout the hotel and others, like the wonderful sculptures by Lorenzo Quinn (Anthony Quinn’s son), who has strong links to the area.

This is part of the decor in one of the artists rooms

As there were too many images to share here, and for some reason, Microsoft offered to create a video as I uploaded them, I’m sharing the video here and a few of the images. Sorry, they are not great, but you know me and my pictures. I hope they give you a sense of the place. And, if you are thinking of visiting Barcelona and the area around it, and want a pretty special experience, it is well worth a visit. (We also enjoyed the visits to the museums and the town and you will find a few pics of the town itself too).

 

I hope you like it as well.

Thanks for watching, more than reading, today, and I hope you start the week on a high note.

Sorry about the flash, but I loved the sense of humour of this one…
Categories
Book review Book reviews Rosie's Book Review Team Rosie's Book Team Review

#TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT PAINTED BY Kirsten McKenzie (@Kiwimrsmac). Gothic psychological horror, with haunted house and ghosts for art and lovers of antiques. #Bookreview

Hi all:

Today I bring you a novel in one of my favourite genres. Thanks to Rosie Amber for her great review group where I keep discovering great books.

Painted by Kirsten McEnzie
Painted by Kirsten McKenzie

PAINTED: A Horror Novel by Kirsten McKenzie

If art can capture a soul, what happens when one of those souls escapes?

When art appraiser Anita Cassatt is sent to catalogue the extensive collection of reclusive artist Leo Kubin, it isn’t the chilly atmosphere of the secluded house making her shiver, it’s the silent audience of portraits clustered on every wall watching her.

Kubin’s lawyer didn’t share the detailed instructions regarding the handling of the art, and Anita and her team start work in ignorance of the very instructions designed to keep them safe. Safe from the art.

In the dark, a portrait stirs as the subject eases themselves out of the portrait and stretches, free at last from the confines of a canvas which they have no intention of ever returning to. They have a painting to finish and the people in the house will only be in the way…

Buy Painted now and you’ll never look at the art on your walls the same way again.

Perfect for lovers of early Stephen King and Rachel Caine

What readers are saying about PAINTED:

“Refreshing to encounter this subtle, delicate narrative where horror peeps slyly out…”
“Painted is an effective haunted house book, favoring tension and subtlety over outright violence and kills.”
“McKenzie does an incredible job in the characterization of the people in her novel. With each and every one, I came away with the feeling that I knew them–down to even the secrets they kept hidden from each other.”
“This novel literally took my breath away in places.”
“The plot is sensationally addictive and the creepy factor kept me alert page after page.”
“No gore or cheap scares here, this is a subtle and delicate chiller written in the spirit of a Shirley Jackson novel.”

Links:

Amazon.co.ukhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/PAINTED-Horror-Novel-Kirsten-McKenzie-ebook/dp/B072TT8QXJ

Amazon.comhttps://www.amazon.com/PAINTED-Horror-Novel-Kirsten-McKenzie-ebook/dp/B072TT8QXJ

Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35170823-painted

Author Kirsten McKenzie
Author Kirsten McKenzie

About the author:

For many years Kirsten McKenzie worked in her family’s antique store, where she went from being allowed to sell the 50c postcards in the corner of Antique Alley as a child, to selling $5,000 Worcester vases and seventeenth century silverware, providing a unique insight into the world of antiques which touches every aspect of her writing.

Her historical fiction novels ‘Fifteen Postcards’ and its sequel ‘The Last Letter’ have been described as ‘Time Travellers Wife meets Far Pavilions’, and ‘Antiques Roadshow gone viral’.

Her first horror novel, ‘Painted’, was released in June 2017.

She lives in New Zealand with her husband, daughters, and her SPCA rescue cat, and can be found procrastinating on Twitter under the handle @Kiwimrsmac.

My review:

Thanks to Rosie Amber (from Rosie’s Book Review Team, check here if you would like to have your book reviewed) and to the author for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel, that I freely chose to review.

When I read the description of Painted I knew I had to read it, as it was a horror novel (and despite how much I like the genre, I don’t seem to read many of them), and it had to do with art. When I read that the author had worked in the antiques family business; that sealed the deal for me.  I had not read any work by this author before (and I understand this is the first time she writes horror) but I am pleased to have discovered her.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but let’s say we have a dead painter who left very specific instructions in his will as to how to deal with the artwork he left behind. Unfortunately, there had been changes at his lawyer’s and his instructions were ignored. And we all know what happens when we ignore warnings, don’t we?

There are authors who are better at building characters than at creating a plot, and there are also authors who excel at describing places and objects but are not so good at providing psychological insights. McKenzie manages to create a great gothic atmosphere (some reviewers have said that the novel is more gothic than pure horror, but both things do not exclude each other), with a fantastically eerie and creepy house, full of even creepier portraits, and a variety of objects, furniture, and even plants that all combine to create a fabulous setting for the novel. In fact, the house becomes another character, one that hides many secrets, and of course, many ghosts.

But the author also creates fully-fledged characters, with their passions, foibles, secrets (some darker than others), and stories. Even when we do not get to share much time with them, we get flashes of their personality (be it because of their fastidiousness about their personal appearance, or because of the way they hang on to mementos from the past, or the way they present a false and harmless persona to the world when they are anything but). She manages to do this by using a variety of techniques, especially by her particular use of point of view. The story is written in the third person, but it shares the points of views of different characters. There is a certain degree of head-hopping, although I did not find it confusing and it is very smoothly done. We do see things from the perspective of all the characters. We mostly follow Anita, the young woman sent by the auctioneer’s to catalogue the paintings, because she is the first one to arrive and she spends the most time at the house, but we even get an insight into the thoughts of the lawyer’s secretary and of the farmer’s dog. And of course, the baddies (although it is not easy to decide who is good and bad in the story). There are also moments when we are told something that none of the characters could know (a great way of creating suspense and forecasting future events), like references to shadows, sounds nobody has heard yet, and things that happen behind characters’ backs or when they are asleep.

The character easiest to empathise and later sympathise with is Anita. It is clear from the beginning that she is battling with something that happened to her in the past and is bravely trying to get on with her life (despite still experiencing symptoms of PTSD). Her story is terrible in its own right, and it makes her reactions to what happens more justified. Some characters are nasty and difficult to like (like the lawyer), but most of them are given interesting backgrounds and scenes that make them memorable, and some are much more twisted than we realise.

I loved the details of the process of cataloguing the house contents (as I love antiques and TV programmes about antiques. Yes, I could watch The Antiques Roadshow forever and never get bored), the descriptions of the painting process, and the pace of the novel. The atmosphere is created slowly and we follow the characters’ commonsensical approach to the events to begin with and share with them their descent into paranoia and utter horror. The step-by-step reveal, the twists and turns, and the ghosts (it reminded me of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James) are also masterly rendered. And the ending… No, I did not see it coming, and as a fan of unhappy endings in horror books, this manages to satisfy, to surprise and to leave us wondering.

This is psychological horror, with ghosts and haunted house, at its best, and it does not contain gore or extreme violence (there is more menace and imagining than there is anything explicit), so I would recommend it to lovers of the genre, and to those who love atmospheric readings and don’t mind a scare or two. I cannot comment on the author’s previous writing, but she definitely has a talent for this genre, and based on the quality of her writing, I’m sure we’ll hear more from her.

Thanks again to the author and to Rosie for the novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!

Categories
Book review Book reviews Rosie's Book Review Team Rosie's Book Team Review

#Tuesdaybookblog #Bookreview The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery (Adventures of Zelda Richardson Book 2) by Jennifer S. Alderson (@JSAauthor) A well-paced mystery that takes us back to a fascinating and tragic historical era

Hi all:

I have another review I’ve written on behalf of Rosie’s Book Review Team. I think you’ll love this one!

The Lover's Portrait by Jennifer S. Alderson
The Lover’s Portrait by Jennifer S. Alderson

The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery (Adventures of Zelda Richardson Book 2) by Jennifer S. Alderson

When a homosexual Dutch art dealer hides the stock from his gallery – rather than turn it over to his Nazi blackmailer – he pays with his life, leaving a treasure trove of modern masterpieces buried somewhere in Amsterdam, presumably lost forever. That is, until American art history student Zelda Richardson sticks her nose in.

After studying for a year in the Netherlands, Zelda scores an internship at the prestigious Amsterdam Museum, where she works on an exhibition of paintings and sculptures once stolen by the Nazis, lying unclaimed in Dutch museum depots almost seventy years later. When two women claim the same portrait of a young girl entitled Irises, Zelda is tasked with investigating the painting’s history and soon finds evidence that one of the two women must be lying about her past. Before she can figure out which one it is and why, Zelda learns about the Dutch art dealer’s concealed collection. And that Irises is the key to finding it all.

Her discoveries make her a target of someone willing to steal – and even kill – to find the missing paintings. As the list of suspects grows, Zelda realizes she has to track down the lost collection and unmask a killer if she wants to survive.

** One of The Displaced Nation’s Top 36 Expat Fiction Picks of 2016 **

“Gripping mystery…the suspense is intensely magnetic and the characters equally captivating “ – BookLife Prize for Fiction 2016, No. 14 in Mystery category

“Well worth reading for what the main character discovers—not just about the portrait mentioned in the title, but also the sobering dangers of Amsterdam during World War II.” – IndieReader

“Jennifer S. Alderson delivers a mystery novel not quite like most. It’s not about stolen paintings, but about lives that were stolen… The Lover’s Portrait is a well-written mystery with engaging characters and a lot of heart. The perfect novel for those who love art and mysteries!“ – Reader’s Favorite, 5 star medal

“If you love history, a detailed mystery, and a lovely, yet not run of the mill heroine, then you will love The Lover’s Portrait.” – Author and blogger Vicki Turner Goodwin

“I highly recommend The Lover’s Portrait for artists, art lovers, history buffs, historical novel fans, and anyone else looking for a well-written, enjoyable read.” – Author Pamela Allegretto

This amateur sleuth mystery describes the plight of homosexuals and Jewish artists in Europe during World War II, as well as the complexities inherent to the restitution of artwork stolen by the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s. The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery draws on the author’s experiences gained while studying art history in the Netherlands and working for several Dutch museums.

Related subjects include: women sleuths, historical mysteries, amateur sleuth books, murder mysteries, whodunit mysteries (whodunnit), travel fiction, suspense, art crime, art theft, World War Two, art history.

https://www.amazon.com/Lovers-Portrait-Mystery-Adventures-Richardson-ebook/dp/B01EVVS0RI/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lovers-Portrait-Mystery-Adventures-Richardson-ebook/dp/B01EVVS0RI/

Author Jennifer S. Alderson

About the author:

Jennifer S. Alderson worked as a journalist and website developer in Seattle, Washington before trading her financial security for a backpack. After traveling extensively around Asia and Central America, she moved to Darwin, Australia, before finally settling in the Netherlands. There she earned degrees in art history and museum studies. Home is now Amsterdam, where she lives with her Dutch husband and young son.

Jennifer’s travels and experiences color and inform her internationally-oriented fiction. Her first novel, Down and Out in Kathmandu: adventures in backpacking, is a travel fiction adventure through Nepal and Thailand. The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery, her second book, is a suspenseful ‘whodunit?’ which transports readers to wartime and present day Amsterdam. Both are part of an on-going stand-alone series following the adventures of traveler and culture lover, Zelda Richardson.

Review and discuss her books on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/JenniferSAldersonAuthor), Twitter (@JSAauthor) or Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/JennifeSAlderson).

For more information about the author and her upcoming novels, please visit: http://www.JenniferSAlderson.com

My review:

Thanks to Rosie’s Book Review Team and to the author for providing me with an ARC copy of this book that I voluntarily chose to review. (If you are a writer and are interested in getting first-class reviews do check here).

I love art but cannot claim to be a connoisseur and I’ve never been to Amsterdam (well, I stopped at the airport to change planes once but that was that) but I can reassure you neither of those things prevented me from enjoying this solid mystery set within the world of big art museums and exhibitions, with a background story that would comfortably fit into the genre of historical fiction.

The story is written in the third person but from several characters’ point of view, although it is easy to follow and there is no head-hopping as each chapter, some longer and some shorter, is told from only one character’s point of view. There are two time frames. Some chapters are set in 1942 and tell the story of an art dealer from Amsterdam who is being blackmailed by one of the Nazi occupiers due to his homosexuality. In 2015, Zelda, the intrepid protagonist, is trying very hard to get into a Master’s Programme that will qualify her to work in museums and agrees to help with some very basic editing tasks for an exhibition of art objects confiscated by the Nazis that has been organised in an attempt at locating the rightful owners of the paintings. Readers get also a good insight into the thoughts and motivations of other characters (the evil nephew of the original Nazi blackmailer, Rita, the owner of one of the portraits in the exhibition, Huub, the curator of the exhibition…), although we mostly follow Zelda and her adventures. Although this is book 2 in the series, I have not read the first one and had no problem getting into the story. Zelda at times reflects upon how she got here and we learn that she moved from working with computers to a stay in Nepal teaching English and finally Amsterdam. In effect, I felt the novel was better at offering factual information about her than developing her character psychologically. I was not sure of her age but at times she seemed very naïve for somebody who has travelled extensively and has held important jobs, not only with the mystery side of things but also with her personal life, but she has the heart in the right place, and I appreciated the lack of romance in the story.

The different points of view and time changes help keep the suspense going, as we have access to more information than Zelda, but this can sometimes make matters more confusing (as we are not privy to everybody’s thoughts and there are a few red herrings thrown in for good measure). The author is also good at keeping us guessing and suspecting all kinds of double-crossings (perhaps I have been reading too many mystery books and thrillers but I didn’t trust anyone and was on the lookout for more twists than there were).

The setting of Amsterdam, both in the present and in the 1940s is very well depicted and, at least for me, the wish to go there increased as I read. I really enjoyed the description of the process of documentation and how to search for the provenance of artworks (the author explains her own background and its relevance to the subject [very] in an endnote that also offers ample bibliography)  that is sufficiently detailed without getting boring, and the background theme of the fate of art and the persecution of Jews, homosexuals and other minorities in occupied Europe is brought to life in the memories described by several of the characters and also the fictionalised entries of the art merchant. It is not difficult to see how a book about the research of actual works of art could be gripping too, and the fictionalisation and the mystery elements make it attractive to even more readers.

This is a gentle mystery, with no excessive or graphic violence, with an amateur sleuth who sometimes is far too daring and impulsive (although otherwise there would not be much of a story), with a great background and sufficient red herrings and clues to keep the suspense going. I suspect most readers will guess some aspects of the solution, but perhaps not the full details, and even if they do, the rest of the elements of the story make the reading worthwhile.

A good and solid book, an interesting intrigue that combines present and past, set in a wonderful Amsterdam and the art world, with likeable and intriguing characters,  but not heavy on the psychological aspects or too demanding.

Thanks so much to Rosie and the wonderful members of her team (don’t miss their reviews), thanks to the author, and thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, CLICK and REVIEW!

 

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