TLC Book Tour: The Shoemaker’s Wife

The Shoemaker’s Wife

Adriana Trigiani

Harper

496 pages

Enza and Ciro are both growing up in small villages in the Italian Alps.  Although tied by their homeland, Enza and Ciro have dramatically different childhoods.  Ciro and his brother had been abandoned at a convent by their mother after their father died in a coal mining accident in the states.  The boys are distraught without their mother but quickly become adapted to the lifestyle of the convent.  Meanwhile, Enza is the oldest daughter of a large family that is barely scraping by.  Both she and Ciro are forced to emigrate to the states due to uncontrollable circumstances.

Enza and Ciro had met shortly before they each emigrated, although they spent many years in the US without seeing one another, except for a few random run ins.  It is only in their mid twenties that the fates conspire and they come together.

The Shoemaker’s Wife follows the couple both before and after they get together and marry, and the difficulties of adjusting to life in another country is something they both must deal with throughout the entirety of the book.

Enza and Ciro are remarkable characters.  They have minor flaws, which only make them more realistic, but more importantly their tenacity enables them to succeed in a life that is full of hardships and disappointments.  I admired them both for the choices they made, although at times they made me shake my head in frustration as well, as despite their good qualities they were both overly stubborn as well!

I had never read anything by Trigiani before, nor had I any interest in doing so.  I can’t say what it is, but something about her books has always struck me as a amateurish.  I think it’s the covers, to be completely honest.  I to tend to judge books by their covers, and it is not out of the realm of possibility for me to write off a book completely solely on the cover.  The cover of The Shoemaker’s Wife is gorgeous, and once I read the synopsis I decided it was time to give into the masses and give Trigiani a chance. I am so glad I did! This book captivated me from the start and I was swept away by both the atmosphere as well as the love story between Ciro and Enza!

About Adriana Trigiani

Adriana Trigiani is an award-winning playwright, television writer, and documentary filmmaker. The author of the Big Stone Gap series; Very Valentine; Lucia, Lucia, The Queen of the Big Time, and Rococo, she has also written the bestselling memoir Don’t Sing at the Table as well as the young adult novels Viola in Reel Life and Viola in the Spotlight. Her books have been published in thirty-six countries, and she has written and will direct the big-screen version of her first novel, Big Stone Gap. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.

Visit Adriana at her website: www.adrianatrigiani.com, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

Adriana’s Tour Stops

Monday, April 2nd: The Huffington Post

Tuesday, April 3rd: Book Journey

Wednesday, April 4th: Reading Lark

Thursday, April 5th: Life Is Short. Read Fast

Friday, April 6th: Amused By Books

Monday, April 9th: Literature and a Lens

Tuesday, April 10th: Book Dilettante

Wednesday, April 11th: Bibliosue

Thursday, April 12th: West Metro Mommy

Monday, April 16th: “That’s Swell!”

Tuesday, April 17th: Confessions of an Avid Reader

Wednesday, April 18th: Reviews by Lola

Monday, April 23rd: Peppermint PhD

Tuesday, April 24th: A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, April 25th: Knowing the Difference

Thursday, April 26th: Library of Clean Reads

Friday, April 27th: Books and Movies

Monday, April 30th: It’s a Crazy, Beautiful Life

Tuesday, May 1st: Walking With Nora

Wednesday, May 2nd: I’m Booking It

Thursday, May 3rd: The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader

TLC Book Tour: Gillespie and I

Gillespie and I

Jane Harris

Harper Perennial

528 pages

Harriet Baxter is a spinster who is traveling alone in 1889 after her aunt has passed away.  She ends up in Glasgow, where she plans to be for only a short time.  That changes under pretty odd circumstances.

Harriet is strolling about town one day when she comes upon a woman lying prostate on the ground.  The woman is clearly in trouble, and not a single person in the crowd surrounding her seems to have the knowledge or inclination to help her.  Just as the woman is on the brink of death, Harriet discovers that she has swallowed her dentures, and as she plucks them out of the woman’s throat, respiration is restored! Such are the circumstances under which she meets Annie and Elsbeth Gillespie.

The woman are the wife and mother of local artist Ned Gillespie, and Harriet immediately befriends the entire family.  She is recounting the friendship decades later for the historical impact, so it quickly becomes clear that something has happened. From the beginning, the reader is pretty much slapped in the face constantly with foreshadowing and foreboding.  It could have become overwhelming, but Harris crafted the story in such a way that it helped build the suspense.

Part of the foreshadowing has to do with Ned and Annie’s daughters, Sybil and Rose.  Sybil, the eldest, is a malevolent child, to say the least.  Despite the fact that Harriet describes Sybil’s actions matter-of-factly, it is evident that something is seriously wrong with the child.  At one point she is even storing bottles of her urine under her bed, but that doesn’t seem to raise the type of alarm one would suppose.

I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t finish Gillespie and I in time for this tour.  I have no excuse for this, as I absolutely love this book so far.  It has just taken me longer to read than I expected.  That being said, I have quite a bit to say about the book!

First off, Harris is phenomenal at character development.  Every main character is fleshed out completely, and the tone for much of the book is a bit tongue and cheek, because that’s just Harriet’s persona, so it makes for fun reading.   She and Ned’s mother, Elsbeth, both had me in giggles quite a few times.  Imagine Mrs Bennett from Pride and Prejudice, but magnified! I much appreciated Harriet’s tenacity as well!

Gillespie and I is obviously historical fiction, and in that respect it is an interesting book.  I am no history buff, so I can never comment on whether or not a particular book is historically accurate, but whether or not each fact checks out, I loved the background of this book.  The international expo is taking place in Glasgow during the story, so there is a rich backdrop on which to build off of.

I read and enjoyed Jane Harris’ previous novel, The Observations, so being on this tour was a no brainer for me.  Despite the fact that I haven’t finished this one, I am certain that the last one hundred pages won’t change how much I already love Gillespie and I.  Highly recommended.

About Jane Harris

Jane Harris is the author of the award-winning novel The Observations. She lives in London.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Jane’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, January 31st: Unabridged Chick

Monday, February 6th: Wordsmithonia

Tuesday, February 7th: The House of the Seven Tails

Tuesday, February 7th: BookNAround

Wednesday, February 8th: Broken Teepee

Monday, February 13th: Library of Clean Reads

Tuesday, February 14th: Reviews by Lola

Wednesday, February 15th: The Lost Entwife

Friday, February 17th: Amused By Books

Monday, February 20th: Amusing Reviews

Wednesday, February 22nd: Tales of a Capricious Reader

Thursday, February 23rd: nomadreader

Book Review: Wench

Wench

Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Amistad

320 pages

Lizzie is a slave involved in a romantic relationship with her master Drayle, with whom she has two children.  Lizzie loves Drayle and clings to the idea of having a companion, even if the situation is not ideal.  Every summer, Lizzie and Drayle travel to a resort in Ohio where white masters customarily take their black slaves.  Lizzie is spending her third summer there, and has formed a strong bond with two other slaves there, Sweet and Reenie.  Their group is joined by a fourth slave, Mawu, who is much more restless than the other women and is constantly planning a way out of slavery.

Wench was much different than what I expected. I was so interested in the idea of this resort that was visited by masters and their slave mistresses, but the resort wasn’t a focus of the book at all, much to my disappointment.  I wanted to hear all about the hotel; what it was like, who was there, what the history of the place was, etc.  Instead it was just a hazy backdrop.  Wench was still a good story in its own right though. The four women were all very different and they each represented a different reaction to a situation that was all too common in the south in the 19th century.  All four women viewed their relationship with their masters in a different light.  All four women had different priorities when it came to their lives, whether those priorities be freedom, their love for their children, or something else.

I had one otherslight problem with Wench, which was that it seemed a little sub par as far as writing goes. The book just seemed amateur and not as polished as I would have liked.  Because of that, I was hesitant at first and it took me longer to submerge myself in the story than it otherwise would have.  I think that the subject matter gave the author a little leeway in the sense that the story alone was enough to keep my attention but I would be a little hesitant to read more by her.

This book will be up for discussion with my book club at the end of the month.  I think it will elicit a great discussion, so I look forward to hearing what my fellow book clubbers have to say.

Other Reviews:

Book Chatter

Book Journey

The Girl from the Ghetto

S Krishna’s Books

Lesley’s Book Nook

Take Me Away

Lit and Life

I read this book on my mom’s nook.

Book Review: The True Memoirs of Little K

The True Memoirs of Little K

Adrienne Sharp

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

348 pages

Mzathilde Kschessinka was prima ballerina of the Russian Imperial ballet company, but she is remembered not only as a ballet icon but as the concubine of the last tsar of Russia, Nicholas II.

The True Memoirs of Little K are the (fictionalized) memories of Mathilde, which she is writing down decades later after the history of Russia has already been cemented.  Having grown up in a family of other ballerinas, Mathilde relishes life on the stage, but she soon is overcome by the desire for the opulence and wealth that is embodied by the Imperial family.

Mathilde is pretty open to bedding any member of the Imperial family, however Nicholas, aka Niki, is held above all else.  He and Mathilde embark on a blistering love affair that ends once Niki marries Alix, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria.  Mathilde had held out hope that she could marry into the royal family, despite the impossibility of such a feat.  She is severely disappointed by his marriage to Alix and is constantly flaunting her relationship in Alix’s face at any chance she gets.

Meanwhile, Alix and Niki are having issues, because Alix is unable to produce a male heir.  She has birthed four daughters, and Niki is at his wits end due to the pressure placed on him to have a son. His desperation leads him back to Mathilde, and for a brief summer they resume their love affair.  This time, Mathilde becomes pregnant.  She is elated when she gives birth to a boy, knowing that she now has a stronghold on Niki.  Just two short years later, Alix gives birth to her son Alexei, and Mathilde believes Niki no longer needs her son as

Mathilde

an heir.

Unfortunately, Mathilde doesn’t realize until later that Alexei is a very sick child.  Stricken with hemophilia, he is a “bleeder”, and because his blood can’t clot, any scratch, bump or bruise is deadly.  He is one death’s door several times, and Niki believes that he can just requisition his son with Mathilde, Vova, as the tsarevitch should the need arise.  Then the revolution hits.

I have always held a strong fascination for Russia’s last tsar and his family.  Something about the horrible way in which they were imprisoned and killed just saddened and captivated me, and then the whole idea that Anastasia has somehow escaped execution and is still alive, most believably as a woman named Anna Anderson.  So when I saw The True Memoirs of Little K was this month’s BOOK CLUB choice, I jumped at the chance to read it, especially because I knew about the presence of Mathilde but had no knowledge about her role in Niki’s life.

I had a few minor issues with the book.  First off, I was bored with any lengthy descriptions of the ballet.  I know that was a major part of Mathilde’s life, but it just didn’t grab me.  I was much more interested in the role she played in the imperial family, so part of the book really fascinated me while the other part fell flat.  I am not sure whether that was the fault of the author, as ballet is not usually something that interests me in the first place.

My second issue was the parentage of Vova.  This was also a small issue, as I understand this is fiction and the author has the right to appropriate facts and embellish the truth to make for a better story, but after finishing the book, I did a little bit of research.  The thing is, I have read multiple books on the Romanovs and I had never heard the possibility that Niki had fathered a child outside of wedlock, so I wanted to see if there was a possibility that Vova really was Niki’s child.  From what I read, his paternity was in question, but it was never believed that Niki was his father.  Furthermore, I have never read anything to suggest that Vova ever lived with the imperial family.  So what Sharp suggested in the book was a big leap from the truth.

The Romanov family

I have always had a soft spot for Alix and the way her circumstances led her to being persecuted.  Her relationship with Rasputin was called into question, for good reason, as Rasputin was a certified whackadoo, but when you look what led up to that, you can’t help but feel sorry for her.  She had moved to Russia and married the tsar, leaving behind everything she knew, including the religion she held dear to her heart.  She was never liked by the people of Russia, who saw her as an outsider and a cold, steely woman.  Then she is unable to bear any sons.  When she finally does, she has afflicted her son with the hemophilia that has run rampant in her family, and her son is on death’s door more times than you can count.  The only respite she seems to get is with the help of Rasputin, who she thinks is healing her son.  Despite how crazy he appears, can you blame her for doing everything possible to save her son?  As much as Mathilde couldn’t stand her, she eventually came around to seeing Alix’s attributes, and although Alix didn’t really play a large part in the book, I think Sharp portrayed her in a sympathetic light.

I wouldn’t say that The True Memoirs of Little K is a good history of the Romanovs, but if you’re interested in that time period, it is a solid read.  If you are interested in books that are more in depth, I would suggest the following two, which are my favorite of what I have read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Reviews:

Devourer of Books

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for participation in BOOK CLUB, hosted by Jen at Devourer of Books and Nicole at Linus’s Blanket.

Book Review: The Alienist

The Alienist

Caleb Carr

Random House

512 pages

It’s 1896, New York City, and teenage male prostitutes are being brutally killed by a serial killer.  The police commissioner at the time, Teddy Roosevelt (yes, THE Teddy Roosevelt) wants the crimes solved at all costs, and he secretly employs the help of Dr Lazlo Kreizler.  Kreizler is an alienist, which is a fancy name for a psychologist, and he is using his background to determine the criminal’s motives and history based on facts he can glean from the respective crime scenes.  Today, Kreizler would be called a criminal profiler, but back in 1896, there was no precedent, so his work had to be completed on the down low.

Kreizler enlisted the help of a Times journalist, John Schuyler Moore, as well as Roosevelt’s secretary Sara and two brother doctors, Marcus and Lucius.  The five rounded out a team that spent every waking minute poring over the cases and carefully constructing the traits of the perp.  As time wears on, they are in a frenzy attempting to find the killer before he strikes again.  Likewise, they are trying to protect themselves because they are being stalked as well.

The Alienist took me ten days to read.  Now, granted, it is a fairly long book but the mystery keeps you engaged throughout.  So I am not sure why it took me so long to finish the book.  I can only surmise that it was just bad timing, with too many distractions coming along.  In fact, there were at least two or three days where I didn’t have a chance to read a single word at all.  But I digress . . . on to my thoughts.

The Alienist was my very first RIP book and it was a great choice. Very atmospheric.  I loved the setting of New York City at the turn of the century.  Delmonico’s, a famous NYC restaurant, was mentioned frequently, and there were even some in depth descriptions of some NYC slums, so there was quite a bit involved.

As for the mystery aspect, it was different than that of most mysteries, in the sense that you know exactly what the detectives know.  They discover the identity of the madman about halfway through the book but then there is the matter of tracking him down and capturing him.  So there is no AHA moment at the end where you discover who the bad guy is–you’ve already uncovered that!

The Alienist is definitely a psychological thriller.  You really get into the mindset of the killer and you learn why he is driven to kill.  It is hard for most people to fathom, but laid out as it is in this book, there is no question as to why someone like this would need to kill.

I am glad I started off RIP with a bang, even if my reading took longer than I normally like.

Other Reviews:

A Little Bookish

BiblioFreak Blog

I purchased this book years ago, and it has languished on my shelves ever since.

 

Book Review: Rules of Civility

Rules of Civility

Amor Towles

Viking Adult

352 pages

Katey Kontent is a working girl living in New York in the 30s.  She is living in a boarding house with her friend Eve, and the two girls are enjoying life.  They don’t have much money, but they appreciate what their lifestyle affords them.

The two girls are out one night at a local restaurant listening to a jazz band when they meet a man named Tinker Grey.  Tinker is a wealthy banker who seems to have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and his charm and wit enamors both girls straight off.  The threesome become fast friends but both girls seem to be battling a silent war for Tinker’s affections.

Plot wise, I have only touched on the very beginning of the book (we’re talking first thirty pages or so!), but I think all the little twists and turns of the novel would be spoiled were I to go any further, so I will let you all wonder where the book goes from there.

Katey seemed so innocent at the beginning of the book, but as Rules of Civility wore on, her characterization seemed much more dynamic.  There were some flaws in her character, but they seemed so real. She seemed so self assured, yet some of the decisions she made had me wondering whether or not she was doing what was best for her, or whether she was bowing down to the wishes of others.  Other times, her decisions seemed impetuous and too headstrong, which made me uncomfortable.  Yet all her flaws  only added to the realistic portrayal.

I was insanely impressed with Towles’ debut, and the way he drew me in so effortlessly.  The characters all had their issues, and at times I wanted to shake each and every one of them.  At the same time, I was transported into Katey’s world.  Even her workplace(s) had me intrigued.  I loved the insight into the secretarial life, which was more indicative of the time period than maybe anything else.

I will certainly read more from Towles, as this was a stunning debut.

Other Reviews:

Linus’s Blanket

The Girl From the Ghetto

The Literate Housewife Review

Medieval Bookworm

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review.

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