Stolen Beauty by Laurie Lico Albanese

  • stolen-beauty-march-17Title:  Stolen Beauty: A Novel
  • Author:  Laurie Lico Albanese
  • Pages:  320
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction
  • Published:  February 2017 – Atria Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  From the dawn of the twentieth century to the devastation of World War II, this exhilarating novel of love, war, art, and family gives voice to two extraordinary women and brings to life the true story behind the creation and near destruction of Gustav Klimt’s most remarkable paintings.

In the dazzling glitter of 1903 Vienna, Adele Bloch-Bauer—young, beautiful, brilliant, and Jewish—meets painter Gustav Klimt. Wealthy in everything but freedom, Adele embraces Klimt’s renegade genius as the two awaken to the erotic possibilities on the canvas and beyond. Though they enjoy a life where sex and art are just beginning to break through the façade of conventional society, the city is also exhibiting a disturbing increase in anti-Semitism, as political hatred foments in the shadows of Adele’s coffee house afternoons and cultural salons.

Nearly forty years later, Adele’s niece Maria Altmann is a newlywed when the Nazis invade Austria—and overnight, her beloved Vienna becomes a war zone. When her husband is arrested and her family is forced out of their home, Maria must summon the courage and resilience that is her aunt’s legacy if she is to survive and keep her family—and their history—alive.

Will Maria and her family escape the grip of Nazis’ grip? And what will become of the paintings that her aunt nearly sacrificed everything for? (from the publisher)

My take:  I love to read historical fiction about works of art so this novel seemed perfect for me. It features a woman, Adele Bloch-Bauer, whose portrait was painted by Gustav Klimt in 1907. There’s another storyline that involves Bloch-Bauer’s niece, Maria Altmann. Maria was almost like a daughter to her aunt who hadn’t been able to carry a pregnancy to term. Many years later Maria would heed the call she felt to save something very important to her beloved aunt and uncle.

It was interesting reading the author’s imagined details in the story of a remarkable young woman, Adele, who captured the artist’s attention. Klimt and his contemporaries were pushing the art world in new directions that weren’t appreciated by the establishment. However, Bloch-Bauer was part of society that hosted intellectual salons that encouraged these artists – all at a time when the drums of change were starting a low-sounding beat in European politics.

Laurie Lico Albanese’s novel had a slow start for me but gradually picked up the pace and captured my interest to the point where I didn’t want to stop reading. I did stop from time to time to look up Klimt’s paintings which I found breath-taking. I learned about aspects of the Viennese culture in the early 20th century that I hadn’t a clue about before reading Stolen Beauty. I also learned about Klimt’s paintings. I’d only been familiar with The Kiss before reading this novel but there are so many more. That’s what I love about historical fiction – when done well the story is what grabs the reader but the truth is the star. I thought the author brought it all together beautifully. Recommended to fans of historical fiction and art.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Laurie Lico Albanese is the author of the novel Stolen Beauty, which brings to life the world of Gustav Klimt and Adele Bloch-Bauer in fin-de-siecle Vienna. Stolen Beauty spans a century and 2 generations of Jewish women. It is the first time that Adele Bloch-Bauer is brought to life in fiction.

Albanese is also co-author of The Miracles of Prato (Morrow, 2009 / Booksense Summer Reading Selection 2009), a work of historical fiction set in Renaissance Italy, and the author of Blue Suburbia: Almost a Memoir (Perennial, 2004 Booksense Best Books of the Year selection) and Lynelle by the Sea (Putnam, 2000), a novel. Albanese is the recipient of a Catherine R. Dodge Foundation Fellowship, a NJ State Council on the Arts fellowship, and co-recipient of a Hadassah-Brandeis Research Grant. She teaches writing, travels widely, and has written travel stories for the New York Times Sunday Travel section, More magazine, and Narratively. In 2016 she received her MFA in Creative Writing from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. She is the mother of two grown children and lives outside of NYC with her husband, Frank, who is a book publishing executive.


Praise for Stolen Beauty:

“This sensual and mesmerizing novel brings to vivid life Gustav Klimt and his greatest muse and model, Adele Bloch-Bauer. For fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and Paula McLain’s Circling the SunSTOLEN BEAUTY is a must-read. I tore through the pages.” — Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of ORPHAN TRAIN.

“Laurie Lico Albanese has given us a powerful and important tale of love and war, art and family. Filled with lush prose and vivid historical detail, STOLEN BEAUTY is a work simultaneously intimate and sweeping in its scope. I was transported; I loved being swept up into the glorious, golden era of fin de siecle Vienna.” — Allison Pataki, New York Times Bestselling Author of SISI: EMPRESS ON HER OWN.


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And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman

  • and-every-morningTitle:  And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer
  • Author:  Fredrik Backman
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Pages:  96
  • Published:  November 2016 – Atria Books
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

My take:  This is a novella about a boy and his Grandpa. Noah and Grandpa have a wonderful relationship – one that Grandpa considers his second chance since he wasn’t always around for his son, Noah’s dad. Grandpa and Noahnoah (that’s what Grandpa calls him) “get” each other. They like the same things. When Grandpa starts forgetting things Noah reassures him even though he’s not quite sure what’s going on.

Fredrik Backman’s characters get to me every time. This time it’s a tale about life through the eyes of an old man and a little boy. Maybe it’s because of where I am in my own life that I could relate. Backman had me smiling on one page and tearing up on the next.

I liked the simple illustrations that were sprinkled through the novella. It took only an hour or so to read and I was left smiling as I turned the last page. It was lovely. Recommended.

 

Blog Tour Review: Swear on This Life by Renée Carlino

  • swear on this life (blog tour 8:11)Title:  Swear on This Life
  • Author:  Renée Carlino
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance
  • Pages:  320
  • Published:  August 2016 – Atria Books
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  When a bestselling debut novel from mysterious author J. Colby becomes the literary event of the year, Emiline reads it reluctantly. As an adjunct writing instructor at UC San Diego with her own stalled literary career and a bumpy long-term relationship, Emiline isn’t thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of a young and gifted writer.

Yet from the very first page, Emiline is entranced by the story of Emerson and Jackson, two childhood best friends who fall in love and dream of a better life beyond the long dirt road that winds through their impoverished town in rural Ohio.

That’s because the novel is patterned on Emiline’s own dark and desperate childhood, which means that “J. Colby” must be Jase: the best friend and first love she hasn’t seen in over a decade. Far from being flattered that he wrote the novel from her perspective, Emiline is furious that he co-opted her painful past and took some dramatic creative liberties with the ending.

The only way she can put her mind at ease is to find and confront “J. Colby,” but is she prepared to learn the truth behind the fiction?  (publisher)

My take:  What would you do if you discovered a book, a best-seller, that told the world about your life – a life that took years of therapy to come to terms with? Emiline has to find the author and find out why he wrote her story. The problem is he was her childhood best friend and first love. They last saw each other ten years earlier at the tender age of fifteen.

It’s not easy to explain this novel. There’s a book within the book that I really enjoyed. I don’t usually care for that device. It’s the main point of this novel and I thought Renée Carlino did a great job with it. I loved Jackson and Emerson’s story (from the book within the book). It was full of the angst and emotions of friendship to first love. I wasn’t as fond of the here-and-now story. I didn’t connect to a few of the people in Em’s current story. But that’s on me, I think.

Overall, I enjoyed Swear on This Life and would definitely read more by Carlino. Recommended to fans of contemporary fiction with a good dose of romance.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Renée Carlino
 is the author of Sweet Thing, Nowhere But Here, After the Rain, and Before We Were Strangers. She lives in Southern California with her husband, two sons, and their sweet dog, June. When she’s not at the beach with her boys or working on her next book, she likes to spend her time reading, going to concerts, and eating dark chocolate.


swear on this life (blog tour 8:11)

SWEAR ON THIS LIFE by Renee Carlino

Atria Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9781501105791 | On sale: August 9, 2016 | 320 pages | $15.00

eBook: Atria Books | ISBN: 9781501105807 | On sale: August 9, 2016 | 320 pages | $7.99

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Spotlight/US Giveaway: The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine

the house between tides (Atria 8:2)

Description:

Following the death of her last living relative, Hetty Deveraux leaves her strained relationship behind in London and returns to Muirlan, her ancestral home in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. Hetty has every intention of renovating and reselling it as a hotel, but before she can dive headfirst into the repairs, century-old remains are discovered by the house’s caretaker, with few physical clues left to identify the body. Only one thing is certain: he or she did not die of natural causes.

Hungry for answers, Hetty sets out to learn more about the body and the house’s owners from the 1910s, including her ancestor, Theo Blake, an acclaimed painter who returned to Muirlan to paint the local birds, and his new bride, Beatrice, who fell for Theo’s brilliance, even as she grew increasingly disturbed by his fascination with a local boy.

Following whispered rumors and a handful of leads, Hetty learns that something ruptured in the Blake’s marriage, forcing Beatrice to leave the country and Theo to withdraw from society. The exact cause has never been known, but as Hetty studies the paintings produced by Theo during his short-lived marriage, she uncovers secrets that will reverberate throughout the community – and lead her to the identity of the long-hidden body.

Sarah Maine is a compelling new voice in women’s fiction – her prose is rich and lyrical, and her storytelling is immersive. THE HOUSE BETWEEN TIDES (Atria Trade Paperback; is on sale now; ISBN: 9781501126918; $16) is a debut novel written with the command of a veteran author and is a perfect read for fans of Kate Morton, Lucinda Riley, and Ellen Marie Wiseman’s What She Left Behind.


About the author:

Sarah Maine was born in England but grew up partly in Canada before returning to the United Kingdom to study archaeology. She now lives in York with her family. The House Between Tides is her debut novel.


Praise for THE HOUSE BETWEEN TIDES:

“Scotland’s Outer Hebrides provides the sensuous setting for [this] impressive debut… [a] beautifully crafted novel.” – Publisher’s Weekly

“Delivering details at a perfectly suspenseful pace… the historic mystery will keep readers guessing right up until the end.” – Booklist

“An eerie odyssey that would be right at home in the pages of the pulpy Warren comics.” – Kirkus Reviews


US Giveaway

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the house between tides (Atria 8:2)

Giveaway ends August 8th, 2016 (it’s a quick one!)

Blog Tour/Giveaway: One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

  • one-true-loves-9781476776903_hrTitle:  One True Loves
  • Author:  Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Pages:  352
  • Published:  June 2016 – Atria Books; Washington Square Press
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure.

On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever. Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness.

That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancé, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves.

Who is her one true love? What does it mean to love truly? Emma knows she has to listen to her heart. She’s just not sure what it’s saying.  (publisher)

My take:  Be sure to read the description above. I wasn’t sure how much to reveal about the story so I went with the publisher’s summary. Sounds like an emotional read, right? It is and I liked it.

I’ve enjoyed all of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novels and her newest didn’t disappoint. What seemed like an improbable premise played out more believable than I initially thought it could. It’s a sweet (but not saccharine) story about the truth about love. I cared about Emma, Jesse and Sam and wondered how they would cope with the new reality each faced at the turning point of the novel. And wondered what I would do in their shoes.

I’ve come to expect that I’ll love reading one of Reid’s novels because I feel good when reading it – meaning I enjoy how she tells a story so much it doesn’t matter whether it’s heartbreaking or hilarious. One True Loves is all that and more and I enjoyed every page.

Recommended – especially to fans of the author and women’s fiction.


author pic TJRTaylor Jenkins Reid is an author and essayist from Acton, Massachusetts. She is the author of Forever, Interrupted, After I Do and Maybe In Another Life. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Alex, and her dog, Rabbit. You can follow her on Twitter @TJenkinsReid.

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2 COMPLETE SETS OF SIGNED TJR BOOKS

5 SIGNED COPIES OF ONE TRUE LOVES

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Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

  • Britt-Marie Was Here (5:10)Title:  Britt-Marie Was Here
  • Author:  Fredrik Backman
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  336
  • Published:  May 2016 – Atria Books
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Britt-Marie can’t stand mess. She eats dinner at precisely the right time and starts her day at six in the morning because only lunatics wake up later than that. And she is not passive-aggressive. Not in the least. It’s just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms, which is certainly not her intention.

But at sixty-three, Britt-Marie has had enough. She finally walks out on her loveless forty-year marriage and finds a job in the only place she can: Borg, a small, derelict town devastated by the financial crisis. For the fastidious Britt-Marie, this new world of noisy children, muddy floors, and a roommate who is a rat (literally), is a hard adjustment.

As for the citizens of Borg, with everything that they know crumbling around them, the only thing that they have left to hold onto is something Britt-Marie absolutely loathes: their love of soccer. When the village’s youth team becomes desperate for a coach, they set their sights on her. She’s the least likely candidate, but their need is obvious and there is no one else to do it.

Thus begins a beautiful and unlikely partnership. In her new role as reluctant mentor to these lost young boys and girls, Britt-Marie soon finds herself becoming increasingly vital to the community. And even more surprisingly, she is the object of romantic desire for a friendly and handsome local policeman named Sven. In this world of oddballs and misfits, can Britt-Marie finally find a place where she belongs?  (publisher)

My take:  The light went out in Britt-Marie’s life when she was a young girl. Feeling pretty much invisible she lives a thankless life that lacks passion.  She finally decides to leave that life and winds up in a small town as their rec center manager. This is funny because she doesn’t know the first thing about managing a recreation center. She’s really good at cleaning though…

The town is populated with quirky characters – some who sneak up on you and break your heart. Britt-Marie has found a place where, little by little, people see her, appreciate her, and maybe even need her. She starts to find hope and a chance for a new start. Will she take that chance?

It took me a while to warm up to this novel but once I did, I really liked it. I think if you enjoyed A Man Called Ove, Backman’s first novel, you might like Britt-Marie Was Here. The author again addressed the human condition in a relatable way that now makes me smile thinking back on the people of Borg.