The Shoemaker’s Wife – Review

Thunder is rumbling outside, and I have sissy-la-la Jinxy shaking in my lap as I write this. All I’m missing is a glass of wine or a cup of tea.

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Bloggin’ and dog-mommin’

Sometimes in your reading life, you almost forget that feeling of becoming so immersed and falling so in love with the characters and the story itself. Of course there have been plenty of good books that I’ve read over the past few years, but reading The Shoemaker’s Wife was an experience that I had been missing without even knowing it.

First of all, let me explain that I had never even heard of Adriana Trigiani (what kind of reader am I??) before receiving this book in a book exchange through Facebook last spring or summer. Talk about happy mail! The woman who sent the book to me included a little note: “Enjoy this book. It was wonderful!” but of course, I kept pushing it aside. Finally, I started a “book club” with two friends of mine at the beginning of this summer, and we added The Shoemaker’s Wife to our list. Thank. God.

The Shoemaker’s Wife centers around the lives of Enza Ravanelli and Ciro Lazzari, who both grow up in neighboring villages in the mountains of northern Italy at the turn of the century. Ciro and Enza meet briefly when Ciro is sent to dig a grave in Enza’s village, and the two feel an instant connection. They are quickly separated when Ciro is sent to America as an apprentice to a shoemaker; he leaves with no word for Enza, and she knows she must forget about him. Not long after, Enza arrives in America herself, and after some struggle, she finds her calling as a seamstress for the opera singer Enrico Caruso at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera House. Enza’s and Ciro’s paths cross a few times over the years, and despite the feelings they have for each other, their lives keep taking them in different directions.

All right, I need to be honest and tell you that there is so much more I could add to that synopsis but I was afraid I would give too much away! Just do yourself a favor and go read this book!

This was truly one of my favorite books that I’ve read in a long time, for so many reasons. There was enough conflict, but it never felt forced.  I felt so connected to the characters and could so easily picture the mountains of Italy, as well as the shops and streets of New York City in the early twentieth century. And the food! It is a miracle that I didn’t run to the nearest Italian restaurant and stuff my face with delicious pasta dishes and mozzarella cheese every single day while I read this book. Let’s be honest, it’s another miracle that I didn’t jump on a plane with a one-way ticket to Italy.
The Shoemaker’s Wife was inspired by Adriana Trigiani’s own family history, and it certainly did feel like I was reading a true-life story of two people who came to America with dreams to help their families back home. This story was such a lovely tribute to those who left their families and all they ever knew at the turn of the century, to go to a brand new place to make a brand new life. This was a beautiful read.

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Book Review – A Hundred Summers

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Source: Amazon

As soon as I finished Tiny Little Thing, I jumped right into A Hundred Summers, also by Beatriz Williams. This has also been on my TBR list for a long time, and on the same shopping spree where I bought Tiny Little Thing, I bought A Hundred Summers. This one solidified Williams as a new favorite author.

A Hundred Summers takes place in the beach town of Seaview, Rhode Island, in 1938. Lily Dane has summered at Seaview for her entire life, and most of those summers were spent with her best friend growing up, Budgie Byrne. This friendship lasts through their senior year of college, until Budgie betrays Lily and Lily stops contact with her. It has been six years since Budgie and Lily’s friendship ended, and Lily is settling in for another summer at Seaview, when Budgie returns to her family’s beach cottage. She is not alone, though; she is with her new husband, and Lily’s former fiancé, Nick. As the summer goes by, Lily begins to form a new friendship with Budgie and to move on from Nick. It isn’t until the summer begins to draw to a close and the Great New England Hurricane approaches, that Lily learns that things were maybe not quite as they seemed six years ago.

I am so glad that I waited to read this book until I was at the beach! With the setting a small beach town, it was the perfect read as I listened to the waves crash – either in my beach chair in the sand, or an Adirondack chair on the porch of the house my family rents! I felt like I was in Seaview with Lily, and even more fun, like I was back in time, living in the 1930s. One thing my mom commented on as she read it (at my suggestion as soon as I finished it!), was how she wanted to have the same drinks the characters were drinking throughout the books. The details and descriptions drew me in so completely, so I knew exactly what she meant. Just like Tiny in Tiny Little Thing, I found Lily very easy to relate to and sympathize with. I also was a huge fan of the incorporation of the Great New England Hurricane of 1938 into the storyline, and the historical note included at the end. This is something I would never have known about if I hadn’t read the book, and I was interested to learn more. I always love learning a thing or two while I’m reading a great story! A Hundred Summers was a fantastic book, and I highly recommend it. But if you’re anything like me and would be depressed reading about the beach while you’re land-locked, then definitely save it until you’re on a beach trip!

Book Review – Tiny Little Thing

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Source: Amazon

Tiny Little Thing by Beatriz Williams has been on my wish list and then TBR list for a while. I’d read about it on another blog or two, and I think I also saw it advertised on Goodreads. Finally, when I went on a shopping spree at the beginning of summer, I picked it up and put it aside for beach reading. I am so glad I had it with me!

Tiny Little Thing is set in the 1960s and is about Tiny Hardcastle, the wife of a Massachusetts politician, who is living the perfect life. She runs the household, including the family home on Cape Cod, and is the model housewife. But, as can be expected, Tiny has secrets. These secrets threaten to spill into the open when some photos arrive in the mail for her and her husband’s cousin returns from Vietnam.

I really loved this book, and I especially loved Tiny. The first person narration made her much more real to me, and made it easy to sympathize with her. This was another book which alternated settings and narration, and it worked so well – the secret was revealed slowly, while the current story took place. When everything came to a climax, I truly was shocked. There were plenty of instances where I thought I knew what would happen, but I never expected what actually did happen.

It’s safe to say that this book was one of my favorites that I’ve read in a long time. I was disappointed to reach the end, only because I was sad to leave Tiny and her world. Beatriz Williams is another author that I need to read more of, and I plan on making a trip to the library very soon!

Book Review – Garden Spells

 

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Source: Goodreads

I continued my Sarah Addison Allen binge with Garden Spells, which is her first novel, and the prequel to First Frost, my first taste of Allen. Garden Spells did not disappoint, and was a perfect start to my beach reading!

Garden Spells tells the story of two sisters from a small town called Bascom, North Carolina. They come from a family known for its mystery, mainly thanks to the apple tree growing in the family garden. Legend has it that a bite of an apple off the tree will show the person the biggest event of their life.

Sydney Waverley left Bascom after graduation, wanting to get away from her family name and its stigma, and her first love who broke her heart. She ran from town to town, stealing, changing her name – living the life her mother had – until she wound up stuck in an abusive relationship. When she finally found the courage to take her daughter home to Bascom, she moved in with her sister Claire, whom she hadn’t seen in ten years.

Claire never left Bascom, but embraced her Waverley name and magic, living in her grandmother’s old house. Claire runs a successful catering business out of the house that specializes in edible flowers. People come to Claire for food that will help them to remember a favorite time, or to forget a feeling, anything they need. When Sydney returns to town and moves in, both sisters work to rebuild their broken relationship, as well as their own lives.

As I said, this book was another great read by Sarah Addison Allen. I liked the switch between Claire and Sydney, and I was glad to get more background on the two after reading First Frost. Of course, I wish I had known in the first place that this book came first, but both books were enjoyable regardless. I definitely consider this a good summer read – not too heavy, but still a good story that sucks you in. If you’re interested in reading Sarah Addison Allen, this would be a good place to start. Just make sure you read this one before you read First Frost!

Review: The Peach Keeper

I’m on a Sarah Addison Allen kick! Immediately after finishing First Frost, I pulled The Peach Keeper off my shelf, because I had so enjoyed my first taste of Sarah Addison Allen. The two books I’ve read so far have been the perfect reads for summer – although, First Frost would have been an even better read once fall comes around and I have my cozy decorations up! I’m sure I’ll be able to find something off my TBR pile.

The Peach Keeper is set in North Carolina, in a small town called Walls of Water. The story centers around two young women who have lived in Walls of Water their entire lives, and whose families have a history. Despite this, Willa Jackson and Paxton Osgood have no interest in each other. So when Willa gets an invitation to the 75th anniversary gala for the Walls of Water Women’s Society Club, she of course brushes it off. Willa is especially uninterested this year because the gala will be held at the Blue Ridge Madam Inn, an old sprawling mansion built by her great-great grandfather…and being restored as a bed-and-breakfast by Paxton and her high-society family. As renovations and landscaping near their end, a skeleton is uncovered beneath a peach tree in front of the Blue Ridge Madam. The mystery surrounding the body brings Paxton and Willa closer together than they could have predicted, and helps them to discover more about their families’ histories, and themselves.

This was a book that I thoroughly enjoyed (I finished it in three days – yay, summer!). I really liked both Willa and Paxton, and was happy to watch their friendship develop. This story had more than friendship, and I loved the romance piece of it, too. I found myself able to connect to the characters, especially Paxton and her relationship with her family. Somewhat similarly to First Frost, I came across several sentences that I especially loved. This story also had just the right amount of magic in it, which is present in all of Allen’s novels (and why I want to keep reading more!). Overall, if I had to compare the two, I may have to place The Peach Keeper slightly above First Frost. My only reason for this would be that I felt more of a connection to these characters, and that could simply be because they were the same age as me and going through similar experiences (kind of…).

Off to the library to check out another book or two so I can continue the Sarah Addison Allen binge!

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Source: Goodreads