Monthly Archives: March 2012

Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani *Review*

The Angelini Shoe Company, one of the last family owned businesses in Greenwich Village, has been making exquisite wedding shoes since 1903 but now teeters on the brink of financial collapse. To save their business from ruin, thirty-three-year-old Valentine Roncalli—apprentice to and granddaughter of master artisan Teodora Angelini—must bring the family’s old-world craftsmanship into the twenty-first century. Juggling her budding romance with dashing chef Roman Falconi, her duty to her family, and a design challenge presented by a prestigious department store, Valentine returns to Italy with her grandmother in a quest to build a pair of glorious shoes to beat their rivals. And in the course of discovering her true artistic voice and so much more in la bella Italia, Valentine will be turning her life and the business upside down in ways she never expected.

Very Valentine was a book that was recently nominated for a book club read for February.  Not being a big romance fan and thinking it sounded a little like fluff, I did not vote for it.  I was outnumbered.  Very Valentine made it for our February read.

Reluctantly, a week before book club I finally cracked the spine.  As I turned the pages of the book I remembered why I love being in a book club.  Our book club has introduced me to numerous different books and authors I would not have tried on my own.  Genres I didn’t think I would like, authors that were not “my type” have made me a more well-rounded reader.  Except for science fiction (I don’t think you will ever convert me there) there is not a book I will not pick up, even if I don’t think, initially, that it’s the book for me.

Very Valentine was a great read, not too heavy on romance and not fluff.

Valentine is determined to save the family business from financial ruin.  At first just a cobbler, using her grandfather’s patterns, Valentine realizes that in order to make it in this economy and in this changing world she must come up with something new at a price the average consumer can afford.

Valentine travels with her grandmother to Italy where she learns at the hands of a real artisan and starts to design not only the shoe that could win her the contest  to be featured in the Bergdorf Goodman holiday window, but a shoe that could possible save the family business.

Valentine was a real character to me.  She is the “funny one” in the family, the unmarried sister, the one of which not much is expected.  But when she finally realizes what she wants in life she becomes very determined to get it.

Valentines big, loud, Italian family is the other “character” in this story.  Being from a small, quiet family, the allure of a large boisterous family really drew me in.  They are a very loving family despite their squabbles and differences.

Adriana Trigiani writes with a very relaxed and familiar style, never forced.  It’s easy to pick up the book and immediately feel like you are in your comfort zone. I enjoyed my first Trigiani novel and it will not be my last.

Peppered with mouth-watering descriptions of Italian food and earthy descriptions of the Italian countryside, Very Valentine was a hit with me!        4/5 stars

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan *Review*

When Henry McAllen moves his city-bred wife, Laura, to a cotton farm in the Mississippi Delta  in 1946, she finds herself in a place both foreign and frightening.  Laura does not share Henry’s love of rural life, and she struggles to raise their two young children in an isolated shotgun shack with no indoor plumbing or electricity, all under the eye of her hateful, racist father-in-law.  When it rains, the waters rise up and swallow the bridge to town, stranding the family in a sea of mud.

As the McAllens are being tested in every way, two celebrated soldiers of World War II return home to help work the farm.  Jamie McAllen is everything his older brother Henry is not: charming, handsome, and sensitive to Laura’s plight, but also haunted by the memories of combat.  Ronsel Jackson, eldest son of the black sharecroppers who live on the McAllen farm, comes home from fighting the Nazis with personal–and dangerous–battles against the ingrained bigotry of his own countryman.  It is the unlikely friendship of these brothers-in-arms, and the passions they arouse in others, that drive this powerful debut novel.  Mudbound reveals how everyone becomes a player in a tragedy on the grandest scale, even as they strive for love and honor.

Mudbound is a powerful story that sucked me in as sure as the muck surrounding the family farm.  Laura, married late in life (according to 1940’s standards) is happy to have found a husband.  Even if Henry is not overly affectionate he is a solid man and he does love Laura and the two daughters they have together.

When an opportunity to purchase a run down farm presents itself, Henry jumps at the chance to do something he’s always wanted to do, work the land, and purchases it without consulting Laura.  Unhappy with his decision, but determined to obediently follow her husband, she packs her piano and the rest of their belongings and heads for the Mississippi farmland with it’s rich black soil.

So starts a new chapter in her life.  Living with her hateful father-in-law without electricity and indoor plumbing is a challenge, but with the help of Florence, their black sharecropper’s wife she makes do and ekes out an existence.  It’s when Henry’s brother Jamie, and Florence and Hap’s son Ronsel comes back from the war that the story really takes a turn.  The two unlikely friends form a powerful bond during a time when it’s dangerous to do so that threatens the balance of life on the McAllen farm.

Each chapter is narrated by a different character in the novel; Laura, Henry, Hap, Florence, Jamie and Ronsel.  Told in their point of view evokes different feelings for each of them then you might have had told only by Laura’s point of view, and that’s what makes this story so powerful and gripping.

I absolutely loved this tragic, heartbreaking novel.  Perfect for a book club to explore the themes of bigotry, love, hate, forgiveness, obedience and duty this is a book that I will definitely be recommending at the Bookies next meeting.  5/5 stars

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J.Watson *Review*

Wow! Wow! Wow!  This book drove me crazy!

Before I Go To Sleep is the intense debut novel by S.J. Watson that is centered around Christine Lucas, an amnesic that cannot form new memories.  Several years ago, Christine had an accident that stole her memory from her.  Only able to remember people and events from her childhood, Christine wakes up every morning not able to remember who she is or who the man is sleeping beside her.  Her husband Ben lovingly explains to her daily, the things she needs to know to get through the day and leaves her written reminders on a chalkboard by the fridge.

Without the knowledge of her husband, Dr. Nash is also helping Christine several times a week.  He has encouraged Christine to write in a journal everything that has happened that day and every nugget of memory that comes back to her.  Every morning Chris reads the journal to help her remember what’s going on and is slowly rebuilding a bank of memories.  However, one day she opens the journal to find three words written in her own hand “Don’t trust Ben.”

From there on, the entire novel had me on edge.  I went from “she can trust Ben” to “something funky is going on here, she better not trust him” to “but he loves her, she’s got to trust him!”

The same thing happened with Dr. Nash’s character.  “He’s so kind for her helping her.”  “What does he want from her?”  “Did she have an affair with him?” “Is he her son?”

Yes, my jumbled thoughts may sound confusing, and the novel is confusing…but in a good way.  Only a little bit of information is leaked out at a time and as these hints trickle out it changes your whole perspective on each character in the novel.  This is a book that must be experienced.  It’s a true definition of a page turner and leaves you holding your breath throughout the read until it crashes in a brilliant climax.

Before I Go To Sleep is being adapted to a screenplay by Ridley Scott (Alien, Bladerunner) and possible leads being tossed around are Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett, and Angelina Jolie.  But PLEASE, don’t wait until it hits the theaters!  Grab it now, start it today and be prepared to be blown away!  5/5 stars