Archive for November, 2012

Jen’s Jewels Holiday wrap-up

Friday, November 30th, 2012

With the holidays upon us, finding the perfect gift for the ones we love can be a challenge. Why not start a new tradition and share the gift of reading? Whether it’s a traditional hardcover book or a gift card for an e-book, there were so many wonderful titles published in 2012 any one of them is sure to bring a smile. To help you with your shopping list, I have narrowed it down to my personal Top Ten Must-Read books from this year. Check out my recommendations and see if you agree. I have combined some former Jen’s Jewels authors with some new names to make this list extra-special. And as always, thanks for making Jen’s Jewels part of your holiday reading list.

Top Ten Jen’s Jewels Picks 2012

  1. Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio … a compelling historical mystery and romance
  2. Murder is a Piece of Cake by Elaine Viets … a blend of humor, intrigue, and romance
  3. Sea Change by Karen White …part mystery, part love story from my favorite author
  4. Arranged by Catherine McKenzie … a modern-day spin on the art of matchmaking
  5. Miss Me When I’m Gone by Emily Arsenault … a hilarious whodunit with a twist
  6. Saving Ruth by Zoe Fishman … a coming of age novel, perfect choice for adult siblings
  7. Capitol Murder by Phillip Margolin … a nail-biting political thriller
  8. Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon … a clever look at the marriage of a forty-something woman
  9. Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson … insider’s glimpse into the life of an amazing chef
  10. The Inn at Rose Harbor by Debbie Macomber … a cozy new series

Now that you have your list, it’s time to get busy! Please support small businesses this holiday season by shopping at your local bookstores. Don’t forget to click Like at on Facebook or come Follow Me on Twitter @JenniferVido. It’s the easiest way to keep updated on all the hottest book releases and exercise DVDs each month. From free give-aways to reviews and interviews, I have you covered. As we bid adieu to 2012, I want to personally thank all of my readers for stopping by each month to read my column. I wish you and yours a very merry holiday season. Cheers!

Home Front by Kristin Hannah

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

(Find this book in our catalog) Hannah takes a fresh look at the issues surrounding those military personnel who are sent to war & the impact on their families. Jolene & Michael’s marriage is already teetering on the edge when she learns she is  to be deployed to Iraq. Michael has never accepted Jolene’s life in the National Guard & grieving over the death of his father, finds it impossible to support her. When she leaves he has to take over the care of their two daughters Betsy & Lulu.  Gradually he becomes a better father but when tragedy strikes, can he & Jolene come together again or will their family be split apart? Warning-this is a very emotional book – please read with a box of tissues!

This was the Abingdon Book Group read for November. Members shared other books they had read by this author, including The Winter Garden & Firefly Lane. For a list of books by Kristin Hannah go to

For book group questions & to read a very interesting interview with Kristin Hannah & Chief Warrant Officer 5 Teresa Burgess, go to

Posted by Julia

Outdoors Books

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Try this selection from the winners of the National Outdoor Book Awards, sponsored by the National Outdoor Book Awards Foundation, Idaho State University and the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education, are:

Almost Somewhere: Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail by Suzanne Roberts.

The Ledge: An Adventure Story of Friendship and Survival on Mount Rainier by Jim Davidson and Kevin Vaughan (Find in our catalog)

Before They’re Gone: A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks by Michael Lanza (Find in our catalog)

Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2′s Deadliest Day by Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan.

Polar Bears: A Complete Guide to Their Biology and Behavior by Andrew E. Derocher. photographs by Wayne Lynch (Find in our catalog)

The Forger’s Spell

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

 The Forger’s Spell: a true story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the greatest art hoax of the twentieth century by Edward Dolnick (Find this book in our catalog)

Once you have read The Art Forger, the novel I recommended in a recent blog post, you may want to continue your exploration of the art collecting world, both legitimate and fraudulent by reading the true story of Han van Meegeren.  This small-time painter was such a good fabricator of “Vermeers” that he conned Hermann Goering by selling him one of his fakes.  The fake was so good that van Meegeren was later indicted as a war criminal for selling one of the Netherland’s “national treasures’ to the Nazis.

I read this book some years ago but it sticks in my memory because of the enthralling details of how van Meegeren experimented to find the best way to make a fake look old and pass all the authentication tests.  This true story is referenced a lot in the novel, The Art Forger.


The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro

Monday, November 19th, 2012

(Find this book in our catalog) The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro.

This book is a novel but it reads like a true crime expose of the world in which the story is set – the world of fine artists, museums, collectors and dealers.  This is a fascinating alternative history of the relationship of the famed socialite Isabella Stewart Gardner, benefactor of the famous Boston museum that bears her name, and the even more famous Edgar Degas, painter and member of the Impressionists.  It is also Shapiro’s version of what happened to a group of paintings and drawings which have never been seen nor heard of since they were stolen in real life from the Gardner museum in 1990. The robbery really happened and there is still a $5 million reward out for the art works.

The Art Forger is the story of how Claire Roth, a recent MFA graduate and an aspiring painter in classical oils, has the dubious fortune to become embroiled in the fate of one of the missing paintings, Degas’ After the Bath.  Claire has recently been tainted with a scandal involving the attribution of one of her paintings (it’s a long story and hinges on her ability to copy virtually anyone’s painting style).  All galleries and museum painting competions have boycotted Claire, and so she is scraping a living copying classic pictures for collectors.  They are legitimate reproductions commissioned by a firm called  Claire is a certified copyist of Degas.  One day the sexy owner of a fashionable art gallery visits Claire to give her a dangerous commission: copy Degas’ After the Bath, which he says he is selling for mysterious underworld clients to a collector who knows it is stolen property.  The plan is to pass off Claire’s copy as the original and then return the real picture to the museum.  As the scheme unfolds Claire comes to realize that there is more to this scheme than meets the eye.

This is a very clever plot with many twists and turns.  It is set in a milieu where appearance is everything, ambition is rampant, and sincerity is in short supply.  The book’s setting is believably authentic and will appeal to readers who like to learn about artists and the art world.  It gives a fascinating glimpse into how works of art become commodities and are used sometimes literally as currency financing international criminal deals.  It is the underworld owners of the “original” who up the stakes and turn a clever scam into a desperate struggle for Claire to save, not only her reputation, but the life of the man she loves.

This would make a good book group book – there would be so much to talk about. Adjectives used about the book have included, “pleasurably suspenseful,” “clever,” “provocative,” “enthralling,” and “blazingly good.”  Booklist called it, “classy.”  I have to agree!


National Book Awards

Friday, November 16th, 2012

The National Book Awards dinner was held on Wednesday, November 14.

Winners in the adult cataegories were:

Poetry: David Ferry for Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations (Find this book in our catalog). Summary: “To read David Ferry’s Bewilderment is to be reminded that poetry of the highest order can be made by the subtlest of means. The passionate nature and originality of Ferry’s prosodic daring works astonishing transformations that take your breath away. In poem after poem, his diction modulates beautifully between plainspoken high eloquence and colloquial vigor, making his distinctive speech one of the most interesting and ravishing achievements of the past half century. Ferry has fully realized both the potential for vocal expressiveness in his phrasing and the way his phrasing plays against-and with-his genius for metrical variation. His vocal phrasing thus becomes an amazingly flexible instrument of psychological and spiritual inquiry. Most poets write inside a very narrow range of experience and feeling, whether in free or metered verse. But Ferry’s use of meter tends to enhance the colloquial nature of his writing, while giving him access to an immense variety of feeling. Sometimes that feeling is so powerful it’s like witnessing a volcanologist taking measurements in the midst of an eruption. Ferry’s translations, meanwhile, are amazingly acclimated English poems. Once his voice takes hold of them they are as bred in the bone as all his other work. And the translations in this book are vitally related to the original poems around them.”

Nonfiction: Katherine Boo for Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (Find this book in our catalog). Summary: “From Pulitzer Prize-winner Katherine Boo, a landmark work of narrative nonfiction that tells the dramatic and sometimes heartbreaking story of families striving toward a better life in one of the twenty-first century’s great, unequal cities. In this brilliantly written, fast-paced book, based on three years of uncompromising reporting, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human. Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport, and as India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, a reflective and enterprising Muslim teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood in rural poverty, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption. With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter – Annawadi’s “most-everything girl” – will soon become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest Annawadians, like Kalu, a fifteen-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves inching closer to the good lives and good times they call “the full enjoy.” But then Abdul the garbage sorter is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and a global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power and economic envy turn brutal. As the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths,the true contours of a competitive age are revealed. And so, too, are the imaginations and courage of the people of Annawadi. With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects human beings to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds, and into the lives of people impossible to forget.”

Fiction: Louise Erdrich for The Round House (Find this book in our catalog). Summary: “One Sunday in the spring of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. The details of the crime are slow to surface as Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal what happened, either to the police or to her husband, Bazil, and thirteen-year-old son, Joe. In one day, Joe’s life is irrevocably transformed. He tries to heal his mother, but she will not leave her bed and slips into an abyss of solitude. Increasingly alone, Joe finds himself thrust prematurely into an adult world for which he is ill prepared. While his father, who is a tribal judge, endeavors to wrest justice from a situation that defies his efforts, Joe becomes frustrated with the official investigation and sets out with his trusted friends, Cappy, Zack, and Angus, to get some answers of his own. Their quest takes them first to the Round House, a sacred space and place of worship for the Ojibwe. And this is only the beginning. Written with undeniable urgency, and illuminating the harsh realities of contemporary life in a community where Ojibwe and white live uneasily together,The Round Houseis a brilliant and entertaining novel, a masterpiece of literary fiction. Louise Erdrich embraces tragedy, the comic, a spirit world very much present in the lives of her all-too-human characters, and a tale of injustice that is, unfortunately, an authentic reflection of what happens in our own world today.”


Gone by Randy Wayne White

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

(Find this book in our catalog) If you are in the mood for a mystery that is easy & quick to read, but with enough plot & a new character to keep you interested, author White has begun a series with a lead female character called Hannah Smith. White has kept to the same locations for his new series as his Doc Ford mysteries, set around the Captiva & Sanibel Island areas of Florida. Hannah Smith is a fishing guide who has occasionally worked with her uncle at his small detective agency. After his death a wealthy client asks her to take on a case. His niece has gone missing & he is worried someone is taking advantage of her. Can Hannah help & what dangers will she have to face as she follows the girls trail into remote alligator ridden backwaters.

Randy Wayne White has written nineteen Doc Ford mysteries & was once a fishing guide. Find more information at

Posted by Julia

Editor’s Book Buzz – Illuminations

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen by Mary Sharratt (Find in our catalog) is currently getting a lot of press.  This is what it says about the book in our catalog: “A triumphant portrait of a resilient and courageous woman and the life she might have lived . . . Skillfully interweaving historical fact with psychological insight and vivid imagination, Sharratt’s redemptive novel, Illuminations , brings to life one of the most extraordinary women of the Middle Ages: Hildegard von Bingen, Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath. Offered to the Church at the age of eight, Hildegard was entombed in a small room where she was expected to live out her days in silent submission as the handmaiden of a renowned but disturbed young nun, Jutta von Sponheim. Instead, Hildegard rejected Jutta’s masochistic piety and found comfort and grace in studying books, growing herbs, and rejoicing in her own secret visions of the divine. When Jutta died some thirty years later, Hildegard broke out of her prison with the heavenly calling to speak and write about her visions and to liberate her sisters and herself from the soul-destroying anchorage. Riveting and utterly unforgettable, Illuminations is a deeply moving portrayal of a woman willing to risk everything for what she believed. “With elegance and sensitivity, Mary Sharratt rescues Hildegard von Bingen from the obscurity of legend, bringing to life the flesh-and-blood woman in all her conflict, faith, and unwavering tenacity. Illuminations is an astonishing revelation of a visionary leader willing to sacrifice everything to defend her beliefs in a dangerous time of oppression.” –C. W. Gortner, author of The Confessions of Catherine de Medici.


Thurber Prize for American Humor

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Calvin Trillin has won the 2012 Thurber Prize for American Humor for his book Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin: Forty Years of Funny Stuff (Find this book in our catalog).

Trillin has been a staff writer at the New Yorker since 1963. Thurber was a longtime New Yorker cartoonist.

This is what it says about Trillin’s book in our catalog:  “For at least forty years, Calvin Trillin has committed blatant acts of funniness all over the place–in The New Yorker, in one-man off-Broadway shows, in his “deadline poetry” for The Nation, in comic novels like Tepper Isn’t Going Out, in books chronicling his adventures as a happy eater, and in the column USA Today called “simply the funniest regular column in journalism.” Now Trillin selects the best of his funny stuff and organizes it into topics like high finance (“My long-term investment strategy has been criticized as being entirely too dependent on Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes”) and the literary life (“The average shelf life of a book is somewhere between milk and yogurt.”) In Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin, the author deals with such subjects as the horrors of witnessing a voodoo economics ceremony and the mystery of how his mother managed for thirty years to feed her family nothing but leftovers (“We have a team of anthropologists in there now looking for the original meal”) and the true story behind the Shoe Bomber: “The one terrorist in England with a sense of humor, a man known as Khalid the Droll, had said to the cell, ‘I bet I can get them all to take off their shoes in airports.’ ” He remembers Sarah Palin with a poem called “On a Clear Day, I See Vladivostok” and John Edwards with one called “Yes, I Know He’s a Mill Worker’s Son, but There’s Hollywood in That Hair.” In this, the definitive collection of his humor, Calvin Trillin is prescient, insightful, and invariably hilarious.” From the Hardcover edition.


Man Booker Prize

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Hilary Mantel became the first woman and the first British writer to win the Man Booker Prizetwice when she was honored October 16 for her novel Bring Up the Bodies, the second installment of her Thomas Cromwell trilogy. (Find the book in our catalog) Mantel also won in 2009 for Wolf Hall. Mantel is currently working on a third volume, The Mirror and the Light.  Australian Peter Carey and South African J.M. Coetzee are the other double Booker winners.

This is what it says about Bring Up the Bodies in our catalog:  “The sequel to Hilary Mantel’s 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and New York Times bestseller, Wolf Hall delves into the heart of Tudor history with the downfall of Anne Boleyn, though he battled for seven years to marry her, Henry is disenchanted with Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son and her sharp intelligence and audacious will alienate his old friends and the noble families of England. When the discarded Katherine dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice. At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over three terrifying weeks, Anne is ensnared in a web of conspiracy, while the demure Jane Seymour stands waiting her turn for the poisoned wedding ring. But Anne and her powerful family will not yield without a ferocious struggle. Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies follows the dramatic trial of the queen and her suitors for adultery and treason. To defeat the Boleyns, Cromwell must ally with his natural enemies, the papist aristocracy. What price will he pay for Anne’s head?”– Provided by publisher.