Spotlight/US Giveaway: The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence by Alyssa Palombo

 

About the Book:  A girl as beautiful as Simonetta Cattaneo never wants for marriage proposals in 15th Century Italy, but she jumps at the chance to marry Marco Vespucci. Marco is young, handsome and well-educated. Not to mention he is one of the powerful Medici family’s favored circle.

Even before her marriage with Marco is set, Simonetta is swept up into Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici’s glittering circle of politicians, poets, artists, and philosophers. The men of Florence—most notably the rakish Giuliano de’ Medici—become enthralled with her beauty. That she is educated and an ardent reader of poetry makes her more desirable and fashionable still. But it is her acquaintance with a young painter, Sandro Botticelli, which strikes her heart most. Botticelli immediately invites Simonetta, newly proclaimed the most beautiful woman in Florence, to pose for him. As Simonetta learns to navigate her marriage, her place in Florentine society, and the politics of beauty and desire, she and Botticelli develop a passionate intimacy, one that leads to her immortalization in his masterpiece, The Birth of Venus.

Alyssa Palombo’s The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence vividly captures the dangerous allure of the artist and muse bond with candor and unforgettable passion.


About the author:  Alyssa Palombo is the author of The Violinist of Venice. She has published short fiction pieces in Black Lantern Magazine and The Great Lakes Review.  She is a recent graduate of Canisius College with degrees in English and creative writing, respectively.  A passionate music lover, she is a classically trained musician as well as a big fan of heavy metal. The Violinist of Venice is her first novel. She lives in Buffalo, New York.

 

 

Photo credit: Elizabeth Snyder Photography, LLC

 

Connect with Alyssa Palombo:

Website: https://alyssapalombo.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/alyssinwnderlnd


US Giveaway

Please click here and fill out the form

Giveaway ends on May 3, 2017 


The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan

  • Title:  The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir
  • Author:  Jennifer Ryan
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction
  • Pages:  384
  • Published:  February 2017 – Crown
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  As England enters World War II’s dark early days, spirited music professor Primrose Trent, recently arrived to the village of Chilbury, emboldens the women of the town to defy the Vicar’s stuffy edict to shutter the church’s choir in the absence of men and instead “carry on singing.” Resurrecting themselves as “The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir,” the women of this small village soon use their joint song to lift up themselves, and the community, as the war tears through their lives.

Told through letters and journals, THE CHILBURY LADIES’ CHOIR moves seamlessly from budding romances to village intrigues to heartbreaking matters of life and death. As we come to know the struggles of the charismatic members of this unforgettable outfit– a timid widow worried over her son at the front; the town beauty drawn to a rakish artist; her younger sister nursing an impossible crush and dabbling in politics she doesn’t understand; a young Jewish refugee hiding secrets about her family, and a conniving midwife plotting to outrun her seedy past– we come to see how the strength each finds in the choir’s collective voice reverberates in her individual life. In turns funny, charming and heart-wrenching, this lovingly executed ensemble novel will charm and inspire, illuminating the true spirit of the women on the homefront, in a village of indomitable spirit, at the dawn of a most terrible conflict.  (publisher)

My take:  My thanks to the Library Thing Early Reviewers program and Crown for the  review copy. The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is a warm and touching novel about life in a village in Kent during 1940. The war is in full-swing and most able-bodied men are away, involved in the fight. When the Vicar sees fit to disband the choir because there are no male voices, the women beg to differ in their opinion. Under the leadership of a confident director, the ladies of Chilbury meet to practice their songs and, at the same time, become a source of support to each other that will be invaluable in the days ahead.

Jennifer Ryan’s novel will probably land on my favorites list this year. Told through letters, diary entries, newspaper items, etc. the story of Chilbury unfolded seamlessly. The drama, humor, fear and sadness were palpable when shared by various characters’ perspectives. When I finished reading I immediately thought ‘there’s more story to be told here’ as only a few months in 1940 were covered. I’d love a series! This is Ryan’s debut novel and I look forward to reading more from her in the future. Recommended to fans of historical fiction.

Note: I also used an Audible credit for the book. It’s a wonderful audio production.

A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner

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  • the-bridge-across-the-ocean-319Title:  A Bridge Across the Ocean
  • Author:  Susan Meissner
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction
  • Pages:  384
  • Published:  March 2017 – Berkley Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  Wartime intrigue spans the lives of three women—past and present—in the latest novel from the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life.

February, 1946. World War Two is over, but the recovery from the most intimate of its horrors has only just begun for Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina desperate to escape her past, and Simone Deveraux, the wronged daughter of a French Resistance spy.

Now the two women are joining hundreds of other European war brides aboard the renowned RMS Queen Mary to cross the Atlantic and be reunited with their American husbands. Their new lives in the United States brightly beckon until their tightly-held secrets are laid bare in their shared stateroom. When the voyage ends at New York Harbor, only one of them will disembark…

Present day. Facing a crossroads in her own life, Brette Caslake visits the famously haunted Queen Mary at the request of an old friend. What she finds will set her on a course to solve a seventy-year-old tragedy that will draw her into the heartaches and triumphs of the courageous war brides—and will ultimately lead her to reconsider what she has to sacrifice to achieve her own deepest longings. (publisher)

My take:  Annaliese was a German girl with hopes of being a ballet dancer. Those hopes were dashed when she unknowingly caught the eye of a Nazi official. After a few weeks of dinners out he convinced her (creepily) to marry him. Her life would never be the same.

Simone’s father and brother were murdered before her eyes. Somehow she followed directions her father had laid out for her to get to safety. It was a harrowing journey but it eventually led her to a new path in life. Annaliese and Simone met in England and sailed on the Queen Mary to the US along with hundreds of other war brides. Once again, things didn’t go as planned.

Brette is a young married woman in California. She’s been able to see things (think spirits) most people can’t for most of her life. After a tour of the Queen Mary (rumored to be haunted) she knows she needs to find answers to a few questions. Her day on the ship compels her to search for Simone and Annaliese. She also hopes to find a way to be comfortable with her ability.

A Bridge Across the Ocean is the story of three women faced with life-changing challenges. Two of their stories took place during WWII and one, Brette’s, is present day. Told from the three perspectives I felt the novel unfolded at a good pace and a few chapters in I had a tough time putting it down. It’s a tale about crossing bridges in life. Often what one finds on the other side is not as frightening as imagined. It’s a story of bravery, acceptance and forgiveness.


 

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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The Echo of Twilight by Judith Kinghorn

  • the-echo-of-twilightTitle:  The Echo of Twilight
  • Author:  Judith Kinghorn
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction
  • Pages:  416
  • Published:  January 2017 – Berkley
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description: From the acclaimed author of The Last Summer, a captivating and moving story of the unlikely relationship between a lady and her maid on the eve of World War I.
 
As I watched him—his long legs striding the narrow path through the heather, his golden hair catching the sun—I had a hideous feeling in the pit of my stomach. For it seemed as though he was already marching away from me.
 
In 1914, despite the clouds of war threatening Europe, Pearl Gibson’s future is bright. She has secured a position as a lady’s maid to a wealthy Northumberland aristocrat, a job that will win her not only respect but an opportunity to travel and live in luxury. Her new life at Lady Ottoline Campbell’s Scottish summer estate is a whirlwind of intrigue and glamour, scandals and confidences—and surprisingly, a strange but intimate friendship with her employer. 
 
But when violence erupts in Europe, Pearl and Ottoline’s world is irrevocably changed. As the men in their lives are called to the front lines, leaving them behind to anxiously brace for bad news, Pearl realizes she must share one final secret with her mistress—a secret that will bind them together forever…  (publisher)

My take:  The Echo of Twilight is the story of two women whose lives are forever changed by circumstances beyond their control – most notably World War I. Pearl, a young woman, accepts the position of Ottoline’s lady’s maid. Raised by her spinster great-aunt, Pearl never knew her parents. When her great-aunt died she had no family left and went into service. When she was hired by Lady Ottoline she found a family of sorts – with a few of the staff and the Campbell family.

The Campbells are an interesting family. The two sons are nineteen and twenty-one and ready to fight for their King and Country. When war is declared they leave the family home and go off to fight. Uncertainty and heartache will loom for those left at home in the years to follow. Ottoline, the boys’ mother, proved to be a complex woman whose character was revealed in layers throughout the novel.

The novel is divided into three parts: Before, during, and after the war. Kinghorn’s story was so addicting that I had a hard time setting it down. I’m a fan of historical fiction, especially set in the early 20th century. The Echo of Twilight is an emotional novel that I recommend to fans of the author and the genre. It was the perfect choice for my First Book of the year.


About the author:

Judith Kinghorn is the author of four novels: The Echo of Twilight, The Snow Globe, The Memory of Lost Senses, and The Last Summer. She was born in Northumberland, educated in the Lake District, and is a graduate in English and History of Art. She lives in Hampshire, England, with her husband and two children.


 

Spotlight/US Giveaway: The Echo of Twilight by Judith Kinghorn

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Description

First Book of 2017

first-book-of-the-year

Happy New Year! I think this is the third year I’ve joined in with Sheila’s First Book of the Year meme. My first book of 2017 is The Echo of Twilight by Judith Kinghorn.

 

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In 1914, despite the clouds of war threatening Europe, Pearl Gibson’s future is bright. She has secured a position as a lady’s maid to a wealthy Northumberland aristocrat, a job that will win her not only respect but an opportunity to travel and live in luxury. Her new life at Lady Ottoline Campbell’s Scottish summer estate is a whirlwind of intrigue and glamour, scandals and confidences—and surprisingly, a strange but intimate friendship with her employer. 
 
But when violence erupts in Europe, Pearl and Ottoline’s world is irrevocably changed. As the men in their lives are called to the front lines, leaving them behind to anxiously brace for bad news, Pearl realizes she must share one final secret with her mistress—a secret that will bind them together forever…

the-echo-of-twilight

Watch for a US Giveaway in a few days. 

I’ll post a review in a couple of weeks.