Thursday, 30 July 2015

What a Great Event!

I’ve been trying to get this particular post written for a couple of days now and somehow real life just kept getting in the way of sitting down to get my thoughts into the keyboard and onto the screen.  And, I had to finish reading a library book that I could not renew, that was due back (ahem … yesterday).  Sorry to whoever is next on the waiting list.

So here we go …

On July 25th I was fortunate enough to attend the 4th Annual Ontario Book Bloggers Meet.  It was held at The Ballroom in Toronto and let me just start off by saying it was a wonderful venue.

I only started my little blog in April of this year, and while I am no stranger to blogging it’s a step out of my comfort zone – putting my book reviews and bookish thoughts out there for everyone to see.  So, of course when I came across first, the Ontario Book Bloggers website and second, the fact that they have a meet-up every year, I decided that I really wanted to attend.

Downtown Toronto is about a 75-minute drive for me, so I left early enough in the morning to allow for heavy traffic as it was also the final weekend of the PanAm Games being held in Toronto and everyone had been warning me about the traffic.  Well – I don’t know if I just hit a little pocket of traffic-free highway between the traffic jams (not the way my luck usually runs, let me tell you) or if I am just an awesome driver (which, of course, would be my take on the situation) but I had my car parked about an hour before the event was scheduled to start.  Hmmm … as I saw it … that meant time for a little (non book) shopping.  With the only Marshall’s store anywhere near where I live sitting right there across the street from where I parked my car – I mean how could I not?

But I digress …

The Ontario Book Blog Ladies - Wendy, Angel, Liz, Michele and Christa

The five ladies pictured above did a phenomenal job, banding together and getting everything done to organize the event.  As far as I know (and I have been known to be wrong in the past) this event is strictly a private function not sponsored by any publishers or book related organizations.  They just decided to offer book bloggers in Ontario a chance to get together to meet each other and network.  It’s my understanding that it originally started off quite small, meeting in a pub, and has grown into the event that I attended on Saturday.  I don’t know what the attendance numbers were exactly, but the room was full!
The swag table
When I first entered the room I was greeted by a lovely smile and big welcoming “Hello” while promptly being handed a REALLY HEAVY bag that was (gasp) full of books.  I mean FULL to overflowing with books.  What a great grab bag for book lovers --> books!

Inside the "Welcome Grab Bag"
Cue happy dance!

But wait … there was more.

As I walked a little further into the room another very nice young woman handed me a door prize ticket and wished my luck in the upcoming draw.  A few more steps and there was a table absolutely covered in “swag”.  I helped myself to some bookmarks, ‘cause you can never have too many of those; some really cute buttons, a charming little bottle filled with green tea leaves and various and sundry other items as reminders of the event.

Some of the "swag" I picked up

How to use a bookmark ... Priceless!

But wait … there was still more.

Following the “swag” table there was a table laid out with books by the authors who were in attendance that afternoon.  I was told I could choose any two books I wanted.  I was quite prepared to reach for my wallet to pay for them when I was informed that they were also free.  Well – WOW!  

Books by the authors in attendance

I entered the room and found that it was full of happy looking people congregating around the munchies that were placed on each table.  Now I’m not an overly shy person but neither am I a world champion at mingling so I just grabbed a spot and observed for a little while.  Before I knew it people were coming up to me and introducing themselves, asking me about my blog and telling me about their blogs … talk about making someone feel welcome!

Everyone arriving
The event was simply a “meet up” so there was no specific time set up for the author meet and greets.  The authors in attendance were simply mingling with the rest of the crowd and one could seek them out to have a conversation, get a book signed and a picture taken.  Naturally I wanted to get my books signed as well so began digging in my purse for the pen I KNEW I had put in there before leaving home.  Guess I wasn’t as organized as I thought because there was no pen to be found in the Bermuda Triangle of my purse.  I went looking for a pen I could scrounge and sure enough there was a pile of pens on the front table … thank you Random House.

The authors at the event

There was not the minutest detail that the organizers did not think off to make it a pleasurable experience for everyone attending.

So off I went, trying to be unobtrusive as possible, to get my books signed. Each and every one of the authors in attendance was generous with their time, more than happy to sign their books and answer any questions.  It could just be my impression but they seemed quite pleased to be there interacting with their readers.

Special thanks to the following authors who generously gave of their time to indulge me ...

Sally Christie - "The Sisters of Versailles"

Erin Bow - "The Scorpion Rules"
Kevin Sands - "The Blackthorn Key"

K.A. Tucker - "Chasing River"

Sadie Munroe - "All It Takes"

Much to my regret I somehow missed meeting Leah Bobet - "An Inheritance of Ashes" and Danielle Young-Ullman.

While all this mingling, talking, ooohing, aaaahing and signing was taking place there was a constant stream of (very handsome!) waiters strolling around with trays of hot, snack-sized portions of delicious food.  They offered Mac and Cheese, Bruschetta, Rice Balls, Chicken skewers and a number of other things that I was simply too full to sample.  Soft drinks, juices and such were free and a cash bar was available.

It did occur to me to wonder what the wait staff thought of all these people in the room going ga-ga over books.  But then, who cares?  They were probably jealous!

At three-thirty, as promised, they held the draw for the door prizes.
As I, along with everyone else anxiously gazed at the numbers on our tickets, I couldn’t have been more surprised when my number was called.  It took a second to for that “oh, that’s me” to register and then went up to claim my prize.  It was like icing on an already perfect cake, so thank you again to the organizers.

The books in my door prize bag
As things wound down, even more goodies and books were put out … overflow items that had not been picked up as people were coming in at the start.  The sheer volume of books available to people was overwhelming.  Everyone left with a treasure trove of new books to enjoy.

I said my thank-you’s and goodbyes and left to meet my daughter as we had planned.  I texted her as I was leaving to meet me at the nearby Starbucks, but she was about 15 minutes away from where I was ... what was I going to do while I was waiting for her to get there? Oh yeah ... LOL ... I had a few books to look at.
My Book "haul" - such an ugly word but how else to describe this bounty

When she arrived we had a coffee, had a close look at the books while she appropriately ooohed and aahhed as well, quickly requesting some for borrowing.  We did some more shopping – her this time not me – and then went to enjoy a great Mexican dinner.

All in all, a wonderful day.

I have to close with even more kudos to the ladies who put together this event.  I have organized corporate events and know the amount of planning and work that goes into successfully pulling off this kind of meeting.  These ladies outdid themselves and I truly feel privileged to have been able to attend.

I’m looking forward to next year!

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

The Art of Forgery - A Review

THE ART OF FORGERY by Noah Charney.

“Welcome to the world of forgery and remember your Petronius: Munus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur, ‘The world wishes to be deceived, so let it be deceived’”

“Art forgery appears to be an unthreatening and victimless crime (or rather, one that only affects the very rich, with the media and forgers alike implying that these elitist victims deserve to have the wool pulled over their eyes), so its criminals tend to be seen as skilful rapscallions, part-illusionists, part-practical jokers, the ones who point out that the emperor (in this case, the art world) wears no clothes.”

This is the second book I’ve read about art forgery in about as many weeks.  While the subject definitely interests me (obviously) – reading the two books almost in succession does lead to a bit of an overlap in the information and begs for comparisons.  Out of respect for each author’s individual writing style and opinion about the subject matter I am going exercise my barely-there self-control and refrain from making the comparisons.

Mr. Charney gives his readers quite a lengthy introduction with this book, so even if a reader is not familiar with the subject of art forgery, after reading the introduction the rest of the book makes good sense.  He also breaks the book up into interesting sections, each detailing one aspect behind the “art of forgery”.  The sections heading are Genius, Pride, Revenge, Fame, Crime, Opportunism, Money and Power, each a reason in the mind of the perpetrator to commit the fraud.

Mr. Charney points out over and over again that no one is ever charged with forging a piece of art.  The act of copying a piece of art is not a crime.  In fact since the teaching of art began the best way of learning the craft is to copy the masters.  The crime comes in misrepresenting the piece as something that it is not or providing a provenance that is fictitious.  Not only art but also history itself has been altered by clever and talented cons involving faked provenance.  Since the punishment for art crime not involving theft is minimal often the forger emerges from his cell with somewhat of a celebrity status and goes on to make more money legitimately afterwards.  If the case is made well-known to the public even the forgeries become highly sought after works.  Exhibitions made up entirely of art forgeries have often been staged by premier Art Galleries.

“… there is a distinct lack of disincentive for potential criminals to try their hand at forgery..  This is perhaps most obvious in the cases of John Myatt and Wolfgang Beltracchi, both of whom served a minimal amount of time in minimum-security prisons, and both of whom enjoyed lucrative careers following their exposure.  The prison sentences for forgers tend to be so slight, and the popular interest in them so great, that it may seem well worth a year or two in a minimum-security prison to then emerge as a sort of folk hero with a rewarding career”

“In the field of art forgery, the benefits outweigh the risks, and by a mile.”

Mr. Charney concludes his book with examples of forgeries other than art including fine wine, archeological finds, maps, literature and signatures/autographs.  All in all this is another comprehensive book on the subject written in an easy to read and understandable manner complete with beautiful pictures and illustrations.  I’m usually pretty generous with my 5-star ratings of non-fiction, and I would rate this book at 4 stars because I found as Mr. Charney gave his personal conclusions at the close of each section of the book he had nothing new to say – he’d stated the obvious in his introduction – so it just became repetitive.  However, I feel obligated to knock another ½ star off because Mr. Charney sites the 2013 movie “The Art of the Steal” (starring Kurt Russell and Matt Dillon) in this book and – this is only my humble opinion!! – I feel he gets the synopsis of the movie wrong.  BTW … it was an excellent movie to site because this film encompasses almost every aspect of art crime, from theft to forgery and on through fake provenance, skilled con men, intricate planning, questionable art experts, shady deals and greedy buyers in a highly entertaining and very humorous manner.  Now the movie I would rate 5-stars!

Interestingly enough, considering he just published a book dealing exclusively with forgery Mr. Charney makes the following statement in the concluding pages …

“If anything, the media fascination with forgers provides an active incentive for those considering forgery.  If the media collectively sternly condemned forgers rather than applauding their exploits, it would be a step in the right direction.  Likewise, if the media agreed not to publish the names or photographs of forgers, nor images of their handiwork – the publication of which offers forgers a route to celebrity – it would have a similarly dissuasive effect. Such a collective agreement on the part of major media players remains highly unlikely, however.”

Seems a little contradictory?  Or is it my fault for my fascination with the topic?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from his website)

Noah Charney holds Masters degrees in art history from The Courtauld Institute and University of Cambridge , and a PhD from University of Ljubljana. He is Adjunct Professor of Art History at the American University of Rome, a Visiting Lecturer for Brown University abroad programs, and is the founder of ARCA, the Association for Research into Crimes against Art, a non-profit research group on issues in art crime (

His work in the field of art crime has been praised in such forums as The New York Times Magazine, Time Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, BBC Radio, National Public Radio, El Pais, Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Tatler among others. He has appeared on radio and television, including BBC, ITV, CNBC, National Geographic and MSNBC, as a presenter and guest expert.  He is in constant demand as a lecturer.  He has given popular TEDx talks, was a finalist for the main TED event, and teaches a Guardian Masterclass called "How to Write About Art."

Charney is the author of numerous academic and popular articles, contributing regularly to The Guardian, the Daily Beast, Atlantic, Salon, The Art Newspaper, The Believer, Esquire and many others. His first novel, The Art Thief (Atria 2007), is currently translated into seventeen languages and is a best-seller in five countries. He is the editor of an academic essay collection entitled Art & Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World (Praeger 2009) and the Museum Time series of guides to museums in Spain (Planeta 2010). His is author of a critically-acclaimed work of non-fiction, Stealing the Mystic Lamb: the True History of the World’s Most Coveted Masterpiece (PublicAffairs 2011), which is a best-seller in two countries. His latest book is The Thefts of the Mona Lisa: On Stealing the World’s Most Famous Painting (ARCA Publications 2011). Upcoming books include The Art of Forgery (Phaidon 2015) and The Collector of Lives: Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Art (Norton 2015).

He lives in Italy and Slovenia, and lectures internationally in the subjects of art history and art crime.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

File Under # Good News, # Way to Step Up and # Love to Read

I saw a post by Goodreads on my Facebook Page and the link led to the following story by Huffington Post.  I thought it was wonderful ... so thought I'd share.  I'm not tech savvy enough to share the video but this link will get you there if you'd like to watch it.

Here's the story ...

Saturday, 25 July 2015

And I'm off ...

I've got my ticket in my hand and gas in my car, so I'm off to attend the 4th Annual "Ontario Book Blogger Meet-Up".  Having only started my blog this year in April, I have not attended this event in the past but I'm sure it will be fun and interesting.

I'm looking forward to it and will post any interesting goings-on in a future blog post.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Tiffany Girl - A Review

TIFFANY GIRL by Deeane Gist.

* I received this ebook at no charge from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. *

At the end of the 19th Century things were starting to change and Florence “Flossie” Jayne wanted to be a part of that change.  She wanted to be a “New Woman”.  When the all male work force at Tiffany Glass went on strike Louis Comfort Tiffany was on a deadline to finish his Glass Chapel for the upcoming World’s Fair in Chicago.

Pieces from the "Glass Chapel" exhibit

Reconstruction of the "Glass Chapel"

He decided to buck tradition and hire women to do the work.  Women could not join a union so would, technically, not be considered “scabs” if they crossed the picket line.  When he hired Flossie to be one of his Tiffany Girls she jumped at the chance excited with both the job and the independence it would allow her to have.  Against the wishes of her parents she packed up and moved into a boarding house.

Flossie learned the hard way that often things are not as simple as they seem to be in the planning stages.  Coming from the very sheltered existence she was used to, where she could do no wrong and everyone loved her, it was quite an eye opening experience when she had to live with the varied people at the boarding house – particularly the crusty Mr. Reeve Wilder.

I requested this book because I read and very much enjoyed another book about the same era (“Clara and Mr. Tiffany” by Susan Vreeland).  For that same reason that I chose the book I left it to languish on my ereader for far too long before I started reading it. (Sorry Netgalley!).  Books with a high page count do not intimidate me and at over 500 pages this one is moderately hefty, however I quickly became engaged in the story and the pages turned very quickly.  Always a sign of a good read!

I have not enjoyed one of Ms. Gist’s books previously and I found this one to be very easy to read, entertaining and full of historical facts about women in the 1890’s, Tiffany’s and life in a boarding house with a sweet romance thrown in for good measure.  Ms. Gist certainly did her research and she weaves those historical details into her story without making the reader feel as if they are reading a history text.

The "Tiffany Girls"
When I saw the title and read the description of “Tiffany Girl” I knew I would not be able to help myself in making comparisons to “Clara and Mr. Tiffany”.  Yes, the ensemble cast at Tiffany’s is the same (good thing when talking about accuracy in historical fiction) and the story telling is equally well done but where Ms. Vreeland concentrates on the Tiffany Company and delves more deeply into the glass-making and cutting Ms. Gist, while still giving her reader interesting tidbits of information, uses the work at Tiffany’s as background to what is happening elsewhere in Flossie’s life.  I learned a lot about what life must have been life for a “New Woman” in the 1890’s because of Flossie, and learned it while enjoying a beautifully written story complete with pictures, sketches and illustrations depicting the era at the beginning of most chapters.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from the author’s website) 

Deeanne Gist has rocketed up the bestseller lists and captured readers everywhere with her very original, very fun historicals.  Add to this four RITA nominations, two consecutive Christy Awards, rave reviews, and a growing loyal fan base, and you’ve got one recipe for success.

With three-quarters of a million trade books sold, her awards include National Readers’ Choice, Book Buyers’ Best, Golden Quill, Books*A*Million Pick of the Month, Romantic Times Pick of the Month, Award of Excellence, and Laurel Wreath.
She has a very active online community on her blog, on FacebookPinterest, and on her YouTube channel.

Gist lives in Texas with her husband of thirty-two years and their border collie. They have four grown children.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Slim to None - A Review

SLIM TO NONE by Jennifer Gardiner. 

* I received this ebook at no charge from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. *

Abbie Jennings loves three things in life; her job as a restaurant critic, cooking and her husband, quite possibly in that order.  Of course, being a restaurant critic requires being able to dine incognito so she gets the “regular customer” dining experience.  And, being a restaurant critic also involves copious amounts of food being placed in front of her on a regular basis – and for Abbie – that equals an expanding waistline.  One night while leaving a well-known eatery she is “outed”.  Was this accidental as she wants to believe or has someone sabotaged her career?  There is now no way she can go unnoticed into fine dining establishments to do her job because between her picture being published in a rival newspaper and her girth she is too easily recognizable.  Her editor offers the opportunity to write a column for the paper (being fired is the unthinkable alternative) until she can lose some weight.  He assures her the combination of losing weight and the high turnover of restaurant staff will allow her to eventually go back to her old job. 

Aside from probably being politically incorrect (check with human resources), the fact is Abbie doesn’t like the idea.  Losing weight has always been an issue in the past.  But, because she wants her job back she is going to give it her best shot.  With the support of her (long suffering) husband, her (adulterous) best friend and another (wealthy but homeless by choice) new friend Abbie embarks on her weight loss journey.

“Slim to None” is a cute book and a quick, easy read.  Each chapter is titled with a recipe instruction, such as “Separate Fat from Meat with Tongs” and “Mix Two Parts Despair, One Part Rage, Serve with a Splash of Regret” and ends with a recipe that Abbie can “whip up”.  I found the chapter titles amusing and the inclusion of recipes confusing (none of them were calorie friendly and/or low fat).

There is definitely a lot of humor in this book, and for anyone who has ever been on a weight loss diet, you KNOW there is not a lot of humor in that process.  However, the thing that did impress me about this book – and the reason I am rating it at 3 stars instead of 2 – is that this book testifies to the old adage of “many a truth is spoken in jest”.  Abbie’s feelings about her body ring true, her hatred of all things related to the dreaded scale, while funny, are also comments heard at WW and TOPS meetings all over the country.  Her quest for the perfect “quick fix” diet and her willingness to try all kinds of fad diets to achieve success, are sadly, also true … if they were not, the multi-billion dollar diet industry would soon be bankrupt.  My all time favorite in the book was the “Alphabet Diet” … on any given day you could only eat things that start with one letter of the alphabet, which for Abbie meant that on “M” day she could eat Mars Bars and M&M’s.  It’s funny, but it’s sad!  That about sums up this book, it has its sad moments, its funny moments, its touching moments and some recipes.  The most difficult thing for me to get past was the fact that for the first two-thirds of the book I did not like Abbie and it’s difficult to love a book when you don’t care for the lead character.

I did enjoy Ms. Gardiner’s writing style and would pick up another of her books (admittedly, probably at the library rather than the bookstore) just for comparison sake.  My opinion is that this book would have the most appeal to female readers of a certain age group (is there chick lit for the over 40 crowd?) who have at some point in their lives looked in the mirror and decided to try and “lose a few pounds”.

(from Amazon)

I've had pieces appear in Ladies Home Journal, the Washington Post and on NPR's Day to Day. I joke that I honed my fiction writing skills while working as a publicist for a US Senator.

Other jobs I've held have included: an orthodontic assistant (learning quite readily that I wasn't cut out for a career in polyester), a waitress (probably my highest-paying job), a TV reporter, a pre-obituary writer, and a photographer (once being Prince Charles' photographer in Washington!). I live in Virginia with my husband and a small menagerie; we have three grown children. I love all things Italian, dream of traveling to exotic locales, and feel a bit guilty for rarely attempting to clean the house.

Visit me at my website,; my blog, ; my facebook fan page , or twitter

"Write a Nice Review"

I saw this on my FaceBook page this morning.  Usually when something tickles my fancy, as this did, I click "save as" and save it into a file on my computer for just such things.  With this one I ...

          1.  Wanted to make sure I gave credit where credit was due,

          2.  Thought the comment by Susan Dunham McGill was a brilliant idea and wanted to share that too

It's a little small in the picture but she writes, "I teach 8th grade ELA and give extra credit to any student who writes a review on Amazon, Goodreads, What Should I Read Next, etc.  They just need to send me screenshot once it's posted to get the credit.  They feel pretty empowered after doing one!"


          3.  It was time I learned how to take a "screen shot" (YAY me!!)

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Things That Go Bump in the - well ... Anywhere

HAUNTED ONTARIO 4 by Terry Boyle.

* I received this ebook at no charge from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review with special thanks to Dundurn Group
for making it available *

Back in the days of my not-so-misspent youth, when The Amazing Kreskin had his own show, Uri Geller was bending spoons on the Michael Douglas Show (or maybe it was Phil Donahue?) and Kolchak (played by Darren McGavin) chased beasties on Thursday night's episode of Nightstalker, I became quite fascinated with things other-worldly.  I don’t think “paranormal” was a commonly used word yet and the library still had a section labeled “Occult” – before that word become synonymous with all things evil and serial-killer-ish.  My go to guy for ghosts was Hans Holzer (1920 – 2009).  I blame him entirely for my never-ending quest for a really good ghost story, be it fact (?) or fiction.  When I saw “Haunted Ontario 4” as a choice on Netgally I knew I had to request it.

As I started reading I knew I’d made a good choice.

The book tells of haunted houses in cities and towns that I know of, have visited or have lived in so right away that made it fun to read.  The fact that there may be haunted places in some of “my haunts” made it even that much more interesting.

Mr. Boyle takes his readers to such varied places as Fort George in Niagara-on-the-Lake, to restaurants, Inns and hotels throughout Ontario and even to the prestigious University of Toronto.  I even found out a little tidbit I never knew … Marilyn Munro frequented French River in Northern Ontario.

Unlike Dr. Holtzer, who entered supposedly haunted venues with both guns blazing in the form of an entourage of psychics, mediums, infrared and night-vision cameras and a plethora of scientific equipment, Mr. Boyle takes a friendlier approach that I thoroughly enjoyed.  First he introduces his reader to the area explaining much of its history and its historical significance (if any).  The he gives some background on the specific location (because its not always a “house”) and introduces us to the people living and/or working there now, at which point he hands the tale over to them to fill the reader in on the details of the “ghost”; their own experiences, common stories or legends they may have heard and their personal reaction to the ghosts, as some are friendly and soothing and others quite angry and vengeful.  Mr. Boyle ends the chapter, wherever possible, with the current status of the location; some still being open to the public – as in the case of restaurants and Inns, some no longer exist and some are tourist venues – such as Fort George.  Pictures, both historical (if they exist) and current when possible are also included.

As proven throughout this book the stories of many a haunting and ghosts are so often intertwined with love, war and/or tragedy.  My favorite entries in this book?  Definitely the description of the activity at Fort George gave me goose bumps.  I have visited that site and have walked through the buildings and I definitely had an ominous feeling about them … not because I felt the presence of any ghosts, but because the history itself was quite haunting.

The Hockey Hall of Fame story was sad, and the haunting of the doorway and stairwell at the University College in Toronto was downright creepy.  That location is included in many “haunted tours” of the city and one can still see the gouges the axe made as a cuckolded lover chased his rival up into the stairwell. 

What I enjoyed about Mr. Boyle’s writing is he did not try to debunk the ghost story or anyone’s experience, he did not take it upon himself to banish the ghost, he did not try to browbeat his readers into believing with eerie spectral pictures showing misty figures … he simply told a good story.  Whether skeptic or believer, it makes for some interesting reading.  I will definitely be on the lookout for Mr. Boyle’s other books in this series.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from Dundurn Group website) 

Terry Boyle is a Canadian author, lecturer, and teacher who has shared his passion for history and folklore in many books since 1976, including four Haunted Ontario titles. He has hosted television’s Creepy Canada and radio’s Discover Ontario on Classical 103.1 FM. He lives near Burk’s Falls, Ontario.


My two daughters and I went on a trip to Boston a few years ago.  Like their mom, both girls have an interest in all things goose bumpy.  They lay blame squarely on my shoulders for reading Stephen King and Dean Koontz while I was pregnant – I ask you, how do they even know I did that?  Anyway, back to my tale, what would a trip to Boston be without a little side trip to Salem.  We decided to take a walking tour called “Hocus Pocus” which not only gives the participants an excellent informational tour of Salem and its history including the witch trials but covers others points of interest such as the why and how of common architecture of the homes of the time, leading community figures through the years and, of course, some famous places of legend and haunting.

As one does when one is on holiday in this age of digital photography, we took pictures of EVERYTHING and then when we got back to our hotel in the evening we would compare, share and delete accordingly.

Since we had taken the train from Boston to Salem we had time to look at our captured images on the train ride back.  As we were looking through the pictures of John Ward’s (not to be confused with the famous, reputedly haunted house of Joshua Ward) saltbox house (where coincidentally, or not) we had all snapped a picture of the same side of the house at (we assume since we were together) about the same time.  As we were looking from one camera to other my youngest daughter noticed something odd.  Her picture looked a little bit different … there was a glimmer in the window that was not present in the pictures her sister and I snapped.  As she clicked and clicked again on that up-arrow that enlarges the picture on the camera viewfinder we all felt the hair on our arms stand up.  Was that really an image of a man in a hat standing in the window?  We quickly eliminated the most common explanations of car lights (the window is too high and not facing a road), a residual of her flash (she wasn’t using one) or anything else we could think of.  Was there possibly someone (caretaker?) in the house at that time of night?  Nope ... we contacted Hocus Pocus Tours to ask if that was possible and they in no uncertain terms told us there was no one in the house.  We forwarded them a copy of the picture.

Was it an apparition?

               We like to think so!

Friday, 17 July 2015

Just Because ...

It's 3:00 on Friday afternoon







Books on Books

“Books are more than doctors, of course.  Some novels are loving, lifelong companions; some give you a clip around the ear; others are friends who wrap you in warm towels when you’ve got those autumn blues.  And some … well, some are pink candyfloss that tingle in your brain for three seconds and leaves a blissful void.  Like a short, torrid love affair.”

* * * 

“I read books – twenty at a time.  Everywhere: in the toilet, in the kitchen, in cafĂ©’s, on the metro.”

* * *

“Monsieur Perdu set down for the waiter Thierry an ebook reader that a hectic publishing salesman had left behind.  For avid readers like Thierry, who would have his nose in a novel even between orders and had a crooked back from hauling books around (“I can only breath if I read, Perdu”), these devices were the invention of the century; for booksellers, one more nail in their coffin.”

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Red (A History of the Redhead) - A Review

RED: A HISTORY OF THE REDHEAD by Jacky Colliss Harvey.

I picked up this book purely on a whim.  I have a few red-haired people in my life so I thought it would be an interesting read.  And, a couple of years ago, before making “THE BIG DECISION” I read a book about going gray.  If nothing else, I do want to be an equal opportunity reader!

“The study of hair, I found out, does not take you to the superficial edge of our society, the place where everything silly and insubstantial must dwell.  It takes you, instead, to the center of things.”  (Grant McCracken, “Big Hair”, 1995)

If Mr. McCracken’s quote is true then while reading Ms. Harvey’s book I must have been smack dab in the bulls eye.  I can’t think of one thing she left out of this very readable, highly enjoyable and extremely educational study of “the redhead”.  Why write a book about red hair?  Ms. Harvey explains that on the first page when she writes, … “It is, with me, as with many other redheads, the single most significant characteristic of my life.  If that sounds a little extreme to you, well, you’re obviously not a redhead, are you?”

Ms. Harvey takes her readers through the origins of red hair.  Why did red hair appear some time around 50,000 years ago?  Did you know that “the gene for red hair, for pale skin, for freckles, did not originate in Scotland, nor in Ireland, despite the fact that in both those places you will now find the highest proportion of redheads anywhere on Earth”?  There is even a map of showing Europe as populated by redheads.

She then goes on to explain the science behind the recessive gene … the MC1R sitting right there on chromosome 16 … that causes red hair.  She delves quite deeply into the science behind red hair, while certainly interesting, it does point toward the fact that this book started out as a thesis.

From there the book moves on through the history, historical figures, literature and art exhibiting red hair.  Through the ages red hair predisposed our conception of the person’s personality.  Men with red hair are definitely not to be trusted.  They are scoundrels (Erik the Red), traitors (Judas), not to be trusted (Fagin in Oliver Twist), lecherous (Henry VIII) and according to Cartman, “Gingers have no souls” (South Park) which probably explains why they have a reputation as more likely to come back as vampires.

Red haired women on the other hand are “good breeders” (you’ll have to read the science section to get the goods on that comment), very mysterious and intriguing, highly sexual and sexy, and even downright promiscuous (Mary Magdalene is portrayed, more often than not, as a redhead).
 In the 21st century (because we are ever so much more enlightened??) the attitude that prevails is that red-headed women are regarded as the “executive type: brainy but no-nonsense, and slightly scary to the opposite sex (think Agent Scully in the X-files) while, despite the number of red haired CEO’s men are regarded as “good but effeminate – timid and weak”.

Recently artist and photographer Thomas Knights devoted an entire showing to photographs of red haired men, not only to celebrate “Red Hot Gingers”, but to try to dispel some of the stereotyping.

Some other interesting tidbits I learned …

Red-heads … 

  feel more pain than do blonds or brunettes.
  require more anesthesia to knock them out.
  do not bleed more than people with other colors of hair (despite folklore to the contrary).
  do not bruise more easily than others, although they may show bruises more frequently due to (usually) having much fairer skin.
  react badly to cold temperatures, sometimes feeling physical pain at temperatures blondes and brunettes find bearable.
  can tolerate highly spiced (hot) food with less or no discomfort.
  have a higher rate of occurrence of Tourette’s syndrome.
  have a higher rate of occurrence of ADHD.

Ms. Harvey continues on by taking her reader through redheads in art.

As icons in the entertainment field.

And on through to how attitudes are changing in the 21st century. 
The city of Breda – approximately 65 miles south of Amsterdam – best known for chocolate, lemonade, licorice and beer, hosts an event called “Redhead Days”.  For one weekend redheads from the world over converge on the city to rejoice in being … well, Redheads!

As I stated at the beginning of this review “Red” was a very enjoyable and educational book.  I’m glad I picked it up.


Jacky Colliss Harvey is a writer and editor. She studied English at Cambridge University and art history at the Courtauld Institute. She has worked in museum publishing for the past 20 years and is a commentator and reviewer who speaks in both the U.K. and abroad on the arts and their relation to popular culture. Her red hair has also found her an alternative career as a life model and a film extra playing everything from a society lady in Atonement to a Parisian whore in Bel-Ami. She divides her time between New York and London.