Friday, June 23, 2017

Review: Kiss Carlo

Kiss Carlo
by Adriana Trigiani

Why I chose this book? I loved her previous books
When I read this book? June 2017
Who should read this book? Fans of the author and readers who enjoy exploring a different era
Source: TLC Book Tours
My Rating:   ✰✰✰✰½     4½ Stars

Here is a synopsis of The Beach House: Coming Home from TLC Book Tours


• Hardcover: 544 pages
• Publisher: Harper (June 20, 2017)
From Adriana Trigiani, the beloved New York Times-bestselling author of The Shoemaker’s Wife, comes an exhilarating epic novel of love, loyalty, and creativity—the story of an Italian-American family on the cusp of change.
It’s 1949 and South Philadelphia bursts with opportunity during the post-war boom. The Palazzini Cab Company & Western Union Telegraph Office, owned and operated by Dominic Palazzini and his three sons, is flourishing: business is good, they’re surrounded by sympathetic wives and daughters-in-law, with grandchildren on the way. But a decades-long feud that split Dominic and his brother Mike and their once-close families sets the stage for a re-match.
Amidst the hoopla, the arrival of an urgent telegram from Italy upends the life of Nicky Castone (Dominic and his wife’s orphaned nephew) who lives and works with his Uncle Dom and his family. Nicky decides, at 30, that he wants more—more than just a job driving Car #4 and more than his longtime fiancée Peachy DePino, a bookkeeper, can offer. When he admits to his fiancée that he’s been secretly moonlighting at the local Shakespeare theater company, Nicky finds himself drawn to the stage, its colorful players and to the determined Calla Borelli, who inherited the enterprise from her father, Nicky must choose between the conventional life his family expects of him or chart a new course and risk losing everything he cherishes.
From the dreamy mountaintop village of Roseto Valfortore in Italy, to the vibrant streets of South Philly, to the close-knit enclave of Roseto, Pennsylvania, to New York City during the birth of the golden age of television, Kiss Carlo is a powerful, inter-generational story that celebrates the ties that bind, while staying true to oneself when all hope seems lost.
Told against the backdrop of some of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies, this novel brims with romance as long buried secrets are revealed, mistaken identities are unmasked, scores are settled, broken hearts are mended and true love reigns. Trigiani’s consummate storytelling skill and her trademark wit, along with a dazzling cast of characters will enthrall readers. Once again, the author has returned to her own family garden to create an unforgettable feast. Kiss Carlo is a jubilee, resplendent with hope, love, and the abiding power of la famiglia.

My Review

I really enjoyed this book! The cover is inviting and the story is well-written. I have to admit that when I picked the book up, it was a little intimidating because it appears to be such a long story. But I promise you — once you pick it up, you are NOT going to want to put it down!

The story centers around Nicky Castone, an Italian-American who grew up in Philadelphia and along with his cousins, served in WWII. When we meet him, Nicky is struggling with his identity. Because he was orphaned as a young child, he was raised by his aunt and uncle and is now driving a cab and delivering telegrams for the family business. But Nicky isn’t really sure he wants to follow in the family footsteps, and in fact, is secretly working in a neighborhood theater. He has been engaged for the past several years, but they’ve not yet set a date, and he’s not too sure he wants to follow through with that either. And just to make things interesting, the theater director is a lovely Italian-American girl. Now, before you say ‘I know where this is going’, let me tell you — you don’t. This story has romance, but it kept me guessing until the end!

As much as I enjoyed the story, I may have enjoyed even more the ‘Italian-American immersion experience’ I got as I read this. I experienced life in the early 1950s, with church festivals and family meal preparations, and I could almost taste the food! The characters frequently throw in Italian phrases which was particularly interesting for me. I’ve been practicing my Italian with Duolingo for about two years, and if was fun to see that my practice is paying off — I was able to understand much of it before I read the translation!  

The one thing I would change about the book is that I would develop some of the other characters a bit more. I’d have liked to have known more about some of the other family members. In particular, I would have liked to have known more about cousin Gio. He had some issues that I felt were not really resolved at the end of the story. At the same time, I was satisfied with the ending and i have to acknowledge that developing any of the other characters further may have made the story overly long. I wonder if there is enough to Gio’s story to warrant another book. It’s one I would definitely read!

This book is definitely a keeper! It’s going on my ‘I want to read again and again’ shelf right next to The Shoemaker’s Wife! If you enjoy stories about family, and particularly about Italian-American family, you’ll want to read this one!

Visit the publisher’s website to read an excerpt or download a reader’s guide. You can view a book trailer below.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Adriana Trigiani

Adriana Trigiani is the bestselling author of 17 books, which have been published in 36 countries around the world. She is a playwright, television writer/producer and filmmaker. She wrote and directed the film version of her novel Big Stone Gap, which was shot entirely on location in her Virginia hometown. She is co-founder of the Origin Project, an in-school writing program that serves more than a thousand students in Appalachia. She lives in Greenwich Village with her family.

Visit Adriana at her website:, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

This book review is included in a tour by TLC Book Tours. I was provided a copy for review purposes.

Adriana’s Tour Stops
Tuesday, June 20th: Life By Kristen
Wednesday, June 21st: bookchickdi
Thursday, June 22nd: A Night’s Dream of Books
Friday, June 23rd: Time 2 Read
Monday, June 26th: Library of Clean Reads
Tuesday, June 27th: Based on a True Story
Wednesday, June 28th: Always With a Book
Thursday, June 29th: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Friday, June 30th: View from the Birdhouse
Monday, July 3rd: Kritters Ramblings
Tuesday, July 4th: The many thoughts of a reader
Wednesday, July 5th: Tina Says…
Friday, July 7th: My Journey Back
Friday, July 7th: Stephany Writes
Monday, July 10th: Wining Wife
Tuesday, July 11th: West Metro Mommy
Wednesday, July 12th: BookNAround
Thursday, July 13th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Friday, July 14th: Bibliotica

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League

Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League
by Jonathan Odell

Why did you choose this book? The story sounded interesting  
When did you read this book? May 2017
Who should read this book? Readers who enjoy historical fictions or enjoyed The Help
Source: library book fair
My Rating: ✰✰✰✰   4 Stars

Here is a synopsis of Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League from Goodreads

Set in pre-Civil Rights Mississippi, Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League is the story of two young mothers, Hazel and Vida one wealthy and white and the other poor and black who have only two things in common: the devastating loss of their children, and a deep and abiding loathing for one another. Embittered and distrusting, Vida is harassed by Delphi's racist sheriff and haunted by the son she lost to the world. Hazel, too, has lost a son and can't keep a grip on her fractured life. After drunkenly crashing her car into a manger scene while gunning for the baby Jesus, Hazel is sedated and bed-ridden. Hazel s husband hires Vida to keep tabs on his unpredictable wife and to care for his sole surviving son. Forced to spend time together with no one else to rely on, the two women find they have more in common than they thought, and together they turn the town on its head. It is the story of a town, a people, and a culture on the verge of a great change that begins with small things, like unexpected friendship."

My Review

This book has been compared to The Help by Kathryn Stockett, but other than the facts that they are set in the south just as the Civil Rights era is beginning and are stories of African American maids working in white households, I don’t think they are really similar at all. While I enjoyed both books, I think this one is a more intense story, with more historical perspective about the Civil Rights era in Mississippi. There was also an element of mystery.

Hazel is a young white woman who grew up in poverty in the backwoods. While her husband was also poor, upon returning from the war he is determined to ‘make it’ in the world. The settle in Delphi, Mississippi and he works his way up until he can buy Hazel the house of his dreams in the wealthy section of town. However, despite her new-found wealth and her attempts to fit in, she finds she can’t overcome her disadvantaged background and is not accepted by her wealthy neighbors. Eventually her husband hires Vida, a young black woman who has lost the status she once held as the daughter of the local preacher. Both women carry resentments and distrust.

While I enjoyed the book, the story got off to a slow start for me. It kept me entertained, and I never thought about setting it aside, but it took awhile before I could see where the story was headed.  Suddenly about halfway through, something happened and the story ‘clicked’ for me. I want to repeat though, that even though I couldn’t see where things were headed, I never found the story boring. More than the story clicking, I think I finally understood the characters and was able to make a connection to them.

One thing I really appreciated in this story is the historical context of the 1950s. Rosa Parks was a big part of the story, even though the character never actually appeared in the story, and an inspiration to the characters in the story. Blacks were oppressed and women were ignored, and both were expected to keep in their places, and when they didn’t, the consequences were severe.

This would make a great book club selection with the obvious discussions about racism and how the role of women has changed in the last half century. There are author’s notes and discussion questions included in the book. Visit the author’s website for an excerpt and more information.  
I received a copy of this book as a winner of a contest on Darlene’s  book blog, Peeking Between The Pages.
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Monday, June 12, 2017

DNF Review: You Were Here

You Were Here
by Gian Sander

Why did you choose this book? The synopsis was interesting
When did you read this book? May 2017
Who should read this book? Readers of suspense and mystery who have the patience for a slow start
Source: Penguin First To Read
Here is a synopsis of You Were Here from Penguin First To Read
My Rating:  DNF

Readers of Kate Atkinson will delight in this suspenseful debut novel about a woman haunted by nightmares and her grandmother's role in a doomed love triangle almost seventy years before.

What if the past is never buried?

Death, accidental and early, has always been Abby Walters's preoccupation. Now thirty-three and eager to settle down with her commitment-shy boyfriend, a recurring dream from her past
returns: a paralyzing nightmare of being buried alive, the taste of dirt in her mouth cloying and real. But this time the dream reveals a name from her family's past. Looking for answers, Abby returns home to small-town Minnesota for the first time in fourteen years, where she reconnects with her high school crush, now a police detective on the trail of a violent criminal. When Abby tries on her grandmother's mesmerizing diamond ring, a ring she always dreamed would be hers, she discovers a cryptic note long hidden beneath the box's velvet lining. What secret was her grandmother hiding? And could this be the key to what's haunting Abby? As she begins to uncover the traces of a love triangle gone shockingly wrong nearly seventy years before, we, too, see that the layers of our lives may echo a past we’ve never known. With mesmerizing twists and a long-buried secret that may finally rise to light, You Were Here weaves together two worlds separated by decades, asking if the mistakes made in past lives can ever be corrected in the future, and if some souls are meant to find one another time and time again.

My Review

I really tried....twice....but I just could not get into this book. It got off to a really slow start, and I was not able to make it past the first 100 pages either time. That's too bad, because the synopsis is pretty interesting. Sadly, I had to DNF it!

If you read through some of the reviews at other sites, you will find my experience was not unique, and that many complained about the slow start to the book. And like me me, many of those readers DNF’d the book. But you will also see that those that pushed through were glad they did, and say that at about the midway point the book transformed from a chore to struggle through to a book they could not put down!

My recommendation: if the synopsis sounds interesting and you have patience, give this one a try. I may just pick this one up again sometime and test that advice!

I received an advanced review copy of this book through the Penguin First To Read program.

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Sunday, June 4, 2017

Six Degrees of Separation - June 2017

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly meme that was started by Annabel Smith and Emma Chapman. It is currently hosted by Kate on her booksaremyfavouriteandbest blog, and normally runs on the first Saturday of the month. The main idea of this meme is to form a chain of books by linking something they have in common, kind of like forming a word ladder with common letters, and everyone begins their chains with the same book. Other than that, there are no set rules. You get to make your own!

This month, we are starting with Shopgirl by Steve Martin. This is another one that I haven’t read, or until now even heard about! What I know about it comes from the synopsis at Goodreads; a young woman is a transplant to California and working in a department store.

This reminds me of a novel I read a few years ago, Band of Sisters by Cathy Gohlke. The protagonist in this one, a young immigrant from Ireland, also works in a prestigious department store. Along the way, she stumbles upon a sex-trafficking crime ring.

Stumbling upon a group of criminals is also the fate of the the young protagonist of Against The Tide by Elizabeth Camden. This time the crime involves opium.

Though it wasn’t a crime at the time,opium was also a factor in a novel our book club read a couple of years ago, The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. This one is set on a southern plantation in the pre-Civil War era, and slavery was an important theme.

Slavery was also an important theme in another novel my book club read, The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. This is a fictionalized story of the life of Sarah Grimke and her sister Angelina, two women who even though they grew up in a slave-owning family in the south, became active in the abolitionist movement..

Clarina Nichols by Diane Eickhoff, is a middle school biography about a woman who was also active in the abolitionist movement. During her work she became acquainted with the Grimke sisters. Clarina was also active in the women’s rights movement, particularly property rights and voting rights.

Terrible Virtue by Ellen Feldman is a fictionalized story about Margaret Sanger, another woman who devoted her life to women’s rights. Margaret’s focus was on reproductive rights and she is considered the founder of Planned Parenthood.
And there’s my chain; from Shopgirl to Terrible Virtue in six moves, all featuring women with a cause! Visit the current Six Degrees post on Kate’s blog to link up your chain and see what others have done with Room. Next month we will start with Picnic At Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay. Be sure to come back next month to see what I do with it!
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