The Glittering Court

“Do you think my being someone else’s wife will change anything? Don’t you know that I’d lie with you in the groves, under the light of the moon? That I’d defy the laws of gods and men for you?”

Title: The Glittering Court

Author: Richelle Mead

Series: The Glittering Court # 1, but also a standalone

Publication: April 5th 2016 by Razorbill

Pages: 416

Source: Purchased

Summary from Goodreads:

Big and sweeping, spanning from the refined palaces of Osfrid to the gold dust and untamed forests of Adoria, The Glittering Court tells the story of Adelaide, an Osfridian countess who poses as her servant to escape an arranged marriage and start a new life in Adoria, the New World. But to do that, she must join the Glittering Court.

Both a school and a business venture, the Glittering Court is designed to transform impoverished girls into upper-class ladies who appear destined for powerful and wealthy marriages in the New World. Adelaide naturally excels in her training, and even makes a few friends: the fiery former laundress Tamsin and the beautiful Sirminican refugee Mira. She manages to keep her true identity hidden from all but one: the intriguing Cedric Thorn, son of the wealthy proprietor of the Glittering Court.

When Adelaide discovers that Cedric is hiding a dangerous secret of his own, together they hatch a scheme to make the best of Adelaide’s deception. Complications soon arise—first as they cross the treacherous seas from Osfrid to Adoria, and then when Adelaide catches the attention of a powerful governor.

But no complication will prove quite as daunting as the potent attraction simmering between Adelaide and Cedric. An attraction that, if acted on, would scandalize the Glittering Court and make them both outcasts in wild, vastly uncharted lands…

My Thoughts:

Can Richelle Mead do no wrong? I can tell you that it is safe to assume this is true. I have been in love with Richelle Mead’s writing ever since the Vampire Academy series caught my eye back in grade school. I have followed her through The Dark Swan series, Succubus Blues, Gameboard of the Gods, Soundless, and everything else. The Glittering Court is not Mead’s first bought of fantasy, but it is by far my favorite. It is a sweeping tale of romance that intertwines the old and the new. It is full of historical influences, serious swoon-worthy moments, and so, so much more. It is a tale of friendship, of discovery, and of freedom and what it takes to survive. It is fascinating, all encompassing, adorable, complex, and sheer perfection.

Elizabeth Witmore, Countess, servant, diamond, pioneer. She has quite a lot of different titles, that Elizabeth – who, for the majority of the novel, goes by the name of Adelaide (WHICH I LOVE). Elizabeth is fleeing. Her family is in ruins despite it’s great name and she is about to be forced into marriage with her cousin to attempt to save herself. When all hope is lost, a man appears at the door – a man offering a chance at something greater. A chance at an adventure girls never would have dreamed of yet that makes all their dreams come true. This man is offering an invitation to The Glittering Court, a place where common girls receive a high-born education, a new wardrobe, and a new chance at life in the New World of Adoria. She jumps at the chance. Elizabeth assumes the role of her servant, Adelaide, and starts the biggest adventure of her life.

Adelaide was an interesting character, to say the least. Richelle Mead has this ability to create characters who echo others of her creation all the while being completely original – completely themselves. Adelaide is Rose Hathaway and Sydney Sage merged, as well as being herself. She is headstrong from her noble birth and upbringing, and self righteous for that same reason. She is smart, cunning, and well suited to a cutthroat life. She is also kind, willing to help others at cost to herself, and brave. I have to admit, I didn’t like her – not at first. But, throughout the course of the novel, she kind of grew on me. Her loyalty to the people she cares about is admirable, even though she is far from perfect and had her moments where I wanted to rip her hair out. She is willing to do anything to protect her friends, even throw the tests in The Glittering Court so that her friend can have the top spot. Some of my favorite parts in the book, well, actually – all of my favorite parts in the book were when she was at finishing school and she had to learn how to do everyday, mundane things. It was hilarious, but also – again – admirable. She never gave up.

The other characters, as usual in a Mead novel, were just as engaging. I have to admit, Cedric was my favorite. While I enjoyed Tamisin and Mira, I was more interested in their friendship with Adelaide than anything else. Cedric was a hoot, to be honest. He made me laugh, he made me cry. I think, by the end of the book, I was just as in love with him as Adelaide was. He was kind, humorous, and unafraid. Tamsin was a cutthroat bitch, which is also a trait I admire. Like I said, I enjoyed her friendship with Adelaide – but I also disliked her as a person. She was far too focused on herself without thinking of others, which annoyed me to no end. I did like her character arc, though, and I can’t wait to see more from her in the subsequent novels. Mira, I loved Mira. She is so, so strong. She is independent, kind-hearted, wise, and gentle (until the end, of course. You go girl!).

Overall, the plot was interesting. Now, something cool about this series is the fact that each book is a standalone. So, technically, you only have to read the one. If I understand all of this correctly, each book will be the same timeline from a different point of view – a version of Cubism, if you will. So, Adelaide’s story is over – now it’s the other girl’s turn. But, back to the point at hand, the plot of The Glittering Court is sort of a conglomerate of all sorts of things. The beginning is like The Selection only in the aspect of a pageant to compete for marriage – but then it changes. Things happen, bridges burn, chaos ensues sort of thing, and then the story turns into some sort of Oregon trail/gold rush adventure. It wasn’t my favorite part of the book, I much preferred the fantastical elegance of the society rather than the historical aspect. BUT! (notice, that is a big but) I did like it. It was very entertaining and it completely caught me off guard. So, applause for doing something I didn’t see coming in any way, shape, or form.

The Glittering Court was an amazing read. It was not only something unexpected, but it was also very, very enjoyable. If you’re a fan of The Selection, Matched, Pride and Prejudice, or any other book dealing with high society, marriage, and the other frivilous aspects of our ridiculous lives – I highly recommend it. If you like adventure, forbidden romance, witty and intelligent women, or just like a good story -simple as that – this is the book for you. The Glittering Court might not be as much of a fantasy novel as I had hoped, but it was sure as hell worth reading.

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Girl In The Blue Coat

“Finding this girl is not who I am anymore. That action is soft; I am practical. That action is hopeful; I am not. The world is crazy; I can’t change that.

So why am I still thinking about Mirjam Roodveldt?”

Title: Girl In The Blue Coat

Author: Monica Hesse

Series: Standalone

Publication: April 5th 2016 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Pages: 320

Source: Publisher in exchange for a honest review

Summary from Goodreads:

Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days procuring and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, her nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the Germans invaded. She likes to think of her illegal work as a small act of rebellion.

On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman’s frantic plea to find a person–a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such dangerous work, but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations that lead her into the heart of the resistance, open her eyes to the horrors of the Nazi war machine, and compel her to take desperate action.

Meticulously researched, intricately plotted, and beautifully written, Girl in the Blue Coat is an extraordinary, gripping novel from a bright new voice in historical fiction.

My Thoughts:

I know I have said this before and that I will probably say this again, but this book has left me at a loss for words. I sit here, trying to type this, and all I can think right now is: wow. The Girl In The Blue Coat has completely blown me away. I do not know what or how to say what needs to be said. This book is heartbreaking, awe-inspiring, and worthy of every award known to man. I don’t know whether to try and explain just what makes this book so wonderful or to make another gif montage because I can’t sort through my thoughts but I can show you what I felt. So, without further ado or explanation, please enjoy the physical expression of the emotions running through my brain:

In all honesty, that just about sums it up. But, I also know you’re not here to see various particles of the internet explain what I mean by amazing – so, lemme shed some light on this situation.

The Girl In The Blue Coat is a story about what it means to be brave. It is a story of friendship, of love, the power of choices, and fighting back against innumerable odds in the smallest ways you can even when all else fails. It is a story about war and how we survive it by whatever means necessary. It is a story of decisions, of courage, and of ingenuity. Is is the story of what happens when the monster in your closet comes out to play — and it is beautiful, terrifying, and gut wrenching. It builds and builds and just keeps on building until all you can do is hold on and power through. It is unforgettable. In The Girl In The Blue Coat, Monica Hesse has taken horrific events in our world’s history and has created something powerful that deserves to be read. This book is stunning and it is something I will never forget.

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The Lie Tree

“People were animals, and animals were nothing but teeth. You bit first, and you bit often. That was the only way to survive.”

Title: The Lie Tree

Author: Frances Hardinge

Series: Standalone

Publication: April 19th 2016 by Amulet Books

Pages: 384

Source: Netgalley

Summary from Goodreads:

In this deliciously creepy novel by the author of the critically acclaimed Cuckoo Song, the fruit of a magical tree uncovers dangerous truths

Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is reliable, dull, trustworthy—a proper young lady who knows her place as inferior to men. But inside, Faith is full of questions and curiosity, and she cannot resist mysteries: an unattended envelope, an unlocked door. She knows secrets no one suspects her of knowing. She knows that her family moved to the close-knit island of Vane because her famous scientist father was fleeing a reputation-destroying scandal. And she knows, when her father is discovered dead shortly thereafter, that he was murdered.

In pursuit of justice and revenge, Faith hunts through her father’s possessions and discovers a strange tree. The tree only bears fruit when she whispers a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, delivers a hidden truth. The tree might hold the key to her father’s murder—or it may lure the murderer directly to Faith herself.

My Thoughts:

If I had to describe The Lie Tree in one word, it would be: Fascinating. But, since I don’t have the constraints of one word, I can do a little word vomit. Enchanting, compelling, dark, captivating, historical, hypnotizing, clever, complex, intelligent. Get the picture? Guys, The Lie Tree is an awesome read – it will grab you by your ankles and yank you into its chaos.

The Lie Tree is a mystery set in Victorian England, but there is a twist. For a basic outline of what is going on and what happens throughout the course of the novel – only non-spoilery stuff, of course – Faith, a young Victorian woman, is forced to move to a remote island with her family after her father’s findings and the reaction to them cause a scandal. Oh my! As we know from the synopsis, Faith’s father is soon found dead and everyone rules it to be a suicide, everyone but Faith – that is.

Faith is shy, intelligent, well-mannered, and unafraid. She makes it her mission to uncover the secrets her father kept, restore his good name, and find out the truth of what really happened to him. I admired her, to be honest – especially considering the time period working against her and what she wanted to do. She is courageous, she isn’t afraid to admit mistakes or to allow her mind to wander past her own opinions. She is self-aware, beautifully so – in fact.

I think the most amazing part of this book is how everything comes together in the end. There are so many little details, so many different threads and pieces of a puzzle – you don’t realize it until the end, and then it all suddenly clicks into place. This book is the perfect mystery in that sense. I didn’t figure anything out before it wanted me to, and that alone is an accomplishment.

Overall, The Lie Tree is a gem of a book. It is heart-pounding, thought provoking, dark, witty, and everything a book should be. Frances Hardinge has crafted a beautifully complex story that’s allure is hard to ignore.

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The Smell of Other People’s Houses

“At some point I stopped waiting for Mama to come back. It’s hard to hold on to a five-year-old dream, and even harder to remember people after ten years.”

Title: The Smell of Other People’s Houses

Author: Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

Series: Standalone

Publication: February 23rd 2016 by Wendy Lamb Books

Pages: 240

Source: Publisher in exchange for honest review

Summary from Goodreads:

In Alaska, 1970, being a teenager here isn’t like being a teenager anywhere else. Ruth has a secret that she can’t hide forever. Dora wonders if she can ever truly escape where she comes from, even when good luck strikes. Alyce is trying to reconcile her desire to dance, with the life she’s always known on her family’s fishing boat. Hank and his brothers decide it’s safer to run away than to stay home—until one of them ends up in terrible danger.


Four very different lives are about to become entangled.

My Thoughts:

First things first, the language in The Smell Of Other People’s Houses is absolutely stunning and it beautifully illustrates the complexity of the issue at hand. When I was reading this book, I felt like I was actually there while simultaneously watching a carefully crafted masterpiece unfold before my eyes. Each word matters, each sentence is a piece of art that cannot be overlooked – just like the book itself.

The Smell Of Other People’s Houses is the story of four Alaskan teens in the nineteen-seventies whom are thrown together through their various secrets and who must learn to live with what they have been given. Each of their individual stories was astounding, not to mention the gorgeous complexity of their lives when they are suddenly thrust together. Ruth, Dora, Alyce, and Hank – each has a secret or something they are running from, and each must learn to rely on someone else to bear the weight of their struggles. The development of the characters, hell, the development of the plot throughout the book as a whole was breathtaking. It was simply stunning. Watching these teens -these real people -work through issues that they shouldn’t have to and yet everyone can connect to in some way, brings forth one of the most profound stories in Young Adult fiction I think I’ve ever seen.

I knew nothing of The Smell Of Other People’s Houses when I got it – no synopsis, no prior mention, nada. I went down the rabbit hole that is four teens in Alaska without knowing what I was getting myself into – and boy am I glad I did. In all honesty, I think not knowing made the experience all the more powerful. I had no prior expectations, no idea what it was about – all I knew was that the cover was gorgeous and the title made me giggle. I have to say, this book is one of those rare, inevitably captivating stories that will grab you by the ankles and drag you kicking and screaming into these teen’s lives. It will make you stop and think about what your home means to you, it will make you question everything you think you know – and it will make you realize that everyone, and everything, has a story, too.

One thing I really liked, besides the obvious, was the amount of information I learned. I don’t know how much is true and just what is fictionalized for the plot of the book, but the complete other-worldliness of Alaska and the different ways these people live just blew my mind. From the very first page, and I’m talking the Prologue here, I found myself undoubtedly and impossibly enraptured with the differences. For example, right off the bat Ruth is explaining how her favorite cut of meat is Backstrap – something I’ve never heard of – and she describes how her father carving the deer is just as graceful as her mother curling ribbons on presents. Just think about that for a second. Not only is there a beautiful juxtaposition of language, but the whole process of carving a deer carcass within the home has become so normal to her that she compares it with gift wrapping. It blew my mind, to be honest.  That isn’t the only example, but there are far too many for me to ever accurately explain. Just… read it and see for yourself.

The Smell Of Other People’s Houses is, hands down, one of the most interesting books I’ve had the pleasure of reading so far this year. Not only is the plot unique and interesting, it is specifically centered around a subculture we never pause to think about – hell, it was something I never even knew really existed. The Smell Of Other People’s Houses is a heartbreaking tale that isn’t afraid to deal with hard hitting issues such as teen pregnancy, death, abandonment, abuse, racism, and poverty. It was breathtaking, plain and simple.

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Blackhearts

“After Anne’s father died, her mother often said that sorrow was the only sun that rose for them.”

 

Title: Blackhearts

Author: Nicole Castroman

Series: Standalone?

Publication:  February 9th by Simon Pulse

Pages: 384

Source: Edelweiss

 

Summary from Goodreads:

Blackbeard the pirate was known for striking fear in the hearts of the bravest of sailors. But once he was just a young man who dreamed of leaving his rigid life behind to chase adventure in faraway lands. Nothing could stop him—until he met the one girl who would change everything.

Edward “Teach” Drummond, son of one of Bristol’s richest merchants, has just returned from a year-long journey on the high seas to find his life in shambles. Betrothed to a girl he doesn’t love and sick of the high society he was born into, Teach dreams only of returning to the vast ocean he’d begun to call home. There’s just one problem: convincing his father to let him leave and never come back.

Following her parents’ deaths, Anne Barrett is left penniless and soon to be homeless. Though she’s barely worked a day in her life, Anne is forced to take a job as a maid in the home of Master Drummond. Lonely days stretch into weeks, and Anne longs for escape. How will she ever realize her dream of sailing to Curaçao—where her mother was born—when she’s stuck in England?

From the moment Teach and Anne meet, they set the world ablaze. Drawn to each other, they’re trapped by society and their own circumstances. Faced with an impossible choice, they must decide to chase their dreams and go, or follow their hearts and stay.

My Thoughts:

Blackhearts was so not what I was expecting, and I loved every damn second of it. What I thought was going to be some cheesy, overly romantic rehash of Pirates of the Caribbean completely blew me out of the water (pun intended).  I was obsessed with this book from the moment I heard about it: pirates, blackbeard, and romance? COUNT ME IN. But, what I found was so much more than what I was expecting.

Going into this, I knew next to nothing about Blackbeard, his origin, or what he did beyond the fact that he was a notorious pirate. Blackhearts is his origin story – and boy did it do a good job. Teach: Son of a merchant. A ladies man. A sarcastic, overly witty class A asshole. Pirate. His real name is Edward Drummond, the son of a wealthy man returned home to get married because that’s what his daddy told him to do. But, low and behold, he would rather live in a ship for the rest of his life out at sea rather than marry the woman of his father’s choice, Patience. When are thrust into the action right off the bat, though, rather than told through Teach’s eyes, we get a glimpse into the life of a maid in his father’s household: Anne. They meet, hilarious scene I might add, and they soon find their fates more intertwined than they ever thought possible.

I think I liked Anne more than Teach, actually – I know I did. She was headstrong, smart, and she put up with no one’s shit. She knew what she was, she knew that she wasn’t supposed to be working as a maid and yet she did it anyway despite her privileged upbringing. Anne was not afraid to do what she had to do in order to survive, be it scrubbing floors or putting up with disgusting sexual  advances from her master’s preferred butcher. I also have to commend her on the fact that she didn’t waver in her plan or her ideals – she had her game plan, and she stuck to it. I swear, for a maid during the sixteen-hundreds, she had bigger balls than almost every male character in the book. Good for you woman.

Now, Teach. I did like him, I’d be lying if I said his scoundrel tendencies didn’t make my heart flutter just a little bit. You should all know by now I have a soft spot for the bad boys. He was hilarious, somewhat standoffish, and a downright rake – the perfect pirate in the making. Though, he also had some killer manners and a strong sense of duty. I have to admit, I really did enjoy the chapters from his point of view. Though he was way higher in station than Anne, and had way more freedoms, he was equally trapped.

THE ROMANCE! Holy crap, thank sweet baby Jesus I read a book without instalove. It was the good kind of romance, the kind that slowly builds up over time in such a way that makes you ache for it so badly that you can’t help but squeal and dance around when something finally happens. Anne and Teach basically hate each other for a majority of the book, and rightfully so on her part – that man, I swear I wanted to do more than nail him between the legs with a bucket. Their relationship shifts over time, though, and that was the beautiful part. It builds and grows from something like loathing to a mutual respect, and then so on and so on. It was refreshing, and adorable.

Overall, Blackhearts is something that everyone can pick up and enjoy. If you are a fan of historical fiction, romance, or pirates in general – this is the book for you. Filled with hilarious confrontations, sneaky maid shenanigans, and a romance that will make you melt like a pool of molten lava – Blackhearts certainly shines a new light on an infamous pirate while also creating a name for Debut author Nicole Castroman.

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Salt to Sea

“I raised my face to the sun. My war had been so long, my winter so cold. But I had finally made it home. And for the first time in a long time, I was not afraid.”

Title: Salt to Sea

Author: Ruta Sepetys

Series: Standalone

Publication: February 2nd 2016 by Philomel Books

Pages: 400

Source: Publisher in exchange for a honest review

 

Summary from Goodreads:

Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.

My Thoughts:

While I have never read any of Ruta Sepetys’ work before, her name has always been floating around in my mind. I remember hearing about Between Shades of Grey. I remember seeing it on the shelves way before I started blogging. I remember resolving to read it later and put it back. Well, now I can say I made one of the biggest mistakes when I put it down. Ruta Sepetys is brilliant – her work nothing short of pure genius. Salt to Sea is only the tip of the ice berg about to crush the flood gate and let the rising tide through.

Salt to Sea takes place in 1945 – four years after the German invasion of Russia during WWII. While the war may be drawing to a close, the terrors are still fresh and a daily occurrence in the eyes of refugees fleeing for a ship off the coast. Then the ship is attacked by a Russian submarine, and the refugees are forced to watch their only chance of hope sink right before their eyes – and then they must find a way to survive.

This book is told through four perspectives: a runaway, a thief, a burdened teen, and a Nazi. Joanna is a runaway from Lithuania and a nurse. Her heritage is what drives her throughout the story, the guilt she feels over abandoning her family to create a future for herself is what fuels her need for survival. She was smart, brave, and oh so strong. Then we have a thief, Florian, who was so complex it was like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube blindfolded (hint: I can’t even solve them with my eyes open). His only goal – despite his random and daring acts of kindness – is to find a way to be free of Germany and all of the pain it represents. Then, my favorite for more reasons than I can possibly describe, Emilia. She broke my heart. She’s just so…. real. No matter what happens and what she had already lived through – she just puts one foot in front of the other and keeps truckin’ on. She refused to give up even when giving up was the easiest thing to do. She was so steadfast, so fierce and shameless in her bravery. It was beautiful. Now, the most surprising of the bunch – Alfred. I have no idea what to say about him…. he is everything I hate about WWII and Germany at the time, and yet… it was so damn interesting to see things through his eyes.

If you’re looking for a happy book, a book that will make you smile and help you sleep at night – turn back now. Salt to Sea was not easy to read in any way, shape, or form. It was painful. Each word was like a sharpened knife with a laser sight set directly on your heart. The war was not kind, we know that from our history – but seeing it like this, having it up all in your face flashing every single thing you never wanted to see and what you wanted to forget even existed… Just wow. I had to put this down more than once and walk away. I had to take breaks. Hell, at one point I even chose to do my homework rather than keep reading because it hurt so much. This doesn’t make light of what happened – nor does it make it so obviously horrible that it becomes trivial. It is a careful balancing act. Humans are a bunch of monsters. That’s something we should never forget.

Salt to Sea is one of those special books. It’s one of those books that forces you to stop and think, to remember. Ruta Sepetys creation is a masterful weaving of history, pain, and what it is like to hope when it seems impossible. If you have any sense at all, you will find this book at the nearest opportunity so that you may share in the pain of millions – even if only for four-hundred pages.

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The Violinist of Venice: A Story of Vivaldi and Author Interview

Title: The Violinist of Venice: A Story of Vivaldi

Author: Alyssa Palombo

Series: Standalone

Publication: December 15th 2015 by St. Martin’s Griffin

Pages: 448

Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review

 

Summary from Goodreads:

Like most 18th century Venetians, Adriana d’Amato adores music-except her strict merchant father has forbidden her to cultivate her gift for the violin. But she refuses to let that stop her from living her dreams and begins sneaking out of her family’s palazzo under the cover of night to take violin lessons from virtuoso violinist and composer Antonio Vivaldi. However, what begins as secret lessons swiftly evolves into a passionate, consuming love affair.

Adriana’s father is intent on seeing her married to a wealthy, prominent member of Venice’s patrician class-and a handsome, charming suitor, whom she knows she could love, only complicates matters-but Vivaldi is a priest, making their relationship forbidden in the eyes of the Church and of society. They both know their affair will end upon Adriana’s marriage, but she cannot anticipate the events that will force Vivaldi to choose between her and his music. The repercussions of his choice-and of Adriana’s own choices-will haunt both of their lives in ways they never imagined.

Spanning more than 30 years of Adriana’s life, Alyssa Palombo’s The Violinist of Venice is a story of passion, music, ambition, and finding the strength to both fall in love and to carry on when it ends.

 

My Thoughts:

So this is a little out of my normal sphere of reviews – but I decided to do it anyway. Let me tell you, I am so glad I said yes and took the time to read Violinist of Venice. Going into this, I had no idea who Vivaldi was, what he did, nada. I didn’t really know much about the time period other than what I could assume from the label of ‘eighteenth century’ – but The Violinist of Venice did one thing exceptionally well (actually, it did a lot of things well) and that was educate me on the time period and the circumstances of those involved. The Violinist of Venice is a breathtaking, lyrical, and stunning novel about a young woman named Adriana D’Amato and her love affair with the great composer Antonio Vivaldi – and yet, it is also so much more than a love story.

This book details one woman’s journey from abuse and fear into being a confident woman capable of doing what is necessary for her own happiness.
I did find this book a little difficult to get into at first, but over time, I found myself growing increasingly immersed in the story. The lyrical prose wove a strong connection, just as the description of music and love pulled me deeply within the sweeping narrative. While the beginning of the novel felt a little too rushed for my taste, the rest of the book was perfectly paced and it left me wanting more – it left me on the edge of my seat craving more from these characters and this setting even though I knew that the story was over. If that’s not skill, then I don’t know what is.
Speaking of the characters… oh my goodness, the scope of the character arc tackled throughout the course of this book seemed horribly daunting, and yet Palombo tackled it with poise and grace. Adriana’s transformation from beginning to end was awe-inspiring and the perfect example of how a character should be changed by the events in their life. She was naïve, innocent, and almost the stereotypical, somewhat annoying youngling that didn’t know their left foot from their right. Yet, at the end of the book, Adriana is a confident, strong woman who chooses forgiveness despite all of the wrongs committed. She finds the will to ignore society’s expectations and live the life she wants to life – it was inspiring, especially for a woman of that time.
I think my favorite part, though, aside from the character development, were the descriptions of playing music. Boy did that bring me back. I used to play the cello… and reading the way Palombo tackled the concerts and performances both brought back memories and made my fingers ache for the strings once again. I could hear the notes play through my head and I could imagine it was my own hands creating such beautiful sounds – it was incredible.
The Violinist of Venice is well worth sticking through the convoluted beginning. Not only is it a story of passion, strength, and determination, it is also a story of individuality and the power of your own voice against a larger society. This book is inspiring, it is humbling, and it – by far – is one of the best uses of history and music I have ever seen in literature. Overall, this spellbinding read is the prime example of why literature is beautiful and why I love to read it.

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1. What made you decide to set your novel in 18th century Venice? How did that affect your writing process?
Since the original idea was about a relationship between Antonio Vivaldi and one of his students, it always had to be set in 18th century Venice, as that’s when and where he lived and worked. With that said, when the initial idea came to me, I knew hardly anything about Vivaldi or Venice, and ended up doing the research as I went, because I couldn’t not start writing right away. In the end the book took me a lot longer from draft one to a finished, polished draft because I needed to take time for research in the midst of things. A lot of elements and details in the early drafts needed to change based on things that I discovered while doing the research, but the overall arc of the story remained the same.

2. What advice would you give aspiring authors?
I think it goes without saying that you need to read A LOT. Read books in the genre you want to write in, but read books outside of that genre as well – doing so will ultimately make you more well-rounded as a writer.

Also, know that you’ll need to make a lot of time to write if you’re serious about being an author, but make that time however and whenever works best for you. Don’t feel like you need to write every day if that doesn’t work for you – I found that that doesn’t work for me, as if I’m working on something for a stretch of days in a row, after a while I start to get burned out and need a day or two away so I can come back to it fresh. So go about finding/making your writing time in whatever way makes you the most productive, and make that your routine.

3. How much research did you do prior to writing the book?
As I mentioned above, basically none! I was so excited about the initial idea that I started writing right away, because I couldn’t stop thinking about the story and just had to get it out. I did the research along the way. And once I had a full first draft, I knew specifically where the holes were that I had to fill with historical information, so that helped me to focus my research a bit. I don’t know that I recommend this method for researching and writing a historical novel, but it worked out for me in this instance!

4. Why did you include all of the technicalities about music? What do you think of the general response that it has gotten?
I’m a musician myself, so those musical technicalities are a language that I myself speak, and in writing about music and musicians it never occurred to me to not include those technical details, as that is how these characters would have spoken and thought about the music. That was the one aspect of the novel that I didn’t really have to research!

I realize that the technical musical jargon might be boring or off-putting for some readers who aren’t familiar with the terminology or aren’t as interested in that aspect of the story; I know that’s happened so far and will continue to happen, I’m sure. With that said, though, some people that have read it and are not musicians have really enjoyed the musical details anyway, so I think it’s like anything: it will resonate with some readers and not with others, and that’s fine. That’s the nature of fiction. I wrote a book that I myself would want to read, and as authors I think that’s all we can do.

5. Do you plan to venture out of the Historical Fiction realm for your next novel?
My next novel (for which I’m currently working on revisions with my editor at St. Martin’s) is also historical fiction, set in Renaissance Florence. I’ve also started drafting a new novel that I hope will be my third, which is again historical and is set in post-Revolutionary New York State. So I’ll definitely be sticking with historical fiction for a while and don’t think I would ever abandon it, but with that said I would also like to write novels with a contemporary setting at some point as well. I have a few ideas in that vein, and I have a contemporary adult fiction manuscript that I’ve been playing around with when not working on other things – I call it my “love affair project”  It does have quite a bit in common with Violinist in that it’s also about music and musicians, but this time the musicians are in a heavy metal band! Maybe someday the world will see that manuscript – at the moment I’m content to just see how everything goes!