Tag Archives: Book Review

Review: The Prudent Mariner


The Prudent Mariner by Leslie Walker Williams
Publisher: University of Tennessee Press
Pub. Date: October 2008
ISBN-13: 9781572336414
Prizes: The Peter Taylor Prize & The Hackney Literary Award
336pp

Here is the blurb from B&N:

“In 1913, a young white girl in coastal Georgia fabricates a romance between her elder sister and an African American laborer, inadvertently leading to the man’s lynching. A crowd gathers and a photographer records the event on picture postcards. In one of these, the young girl stands smiling beside the hanged man.

More than fifty years later, nine-year-old Riddley Cross discovers these postcards amid her late grandfather’s belongings. As she tries to make sense of why the postcards are in her family’s possession, and why the photographed girl seems so familiar, Riddley becomes haunted by apparitions and dreams of lynchings. The postcards force her to question what she has been taught about the world, the South, and her family – and what she has not. The mysteries of the lynching postcards start to unravel after her widowed grandmother, Adele, moves in with the family.”

My thoughts:

I love this book! Ms. William’s writing is clear and concise. The story is simple, but well told and very easy to follow. The pacing of the novel is perfect as well. I didn’t notice any slow spots and I am surprised at how quickly the main plot points were presented. I love to pick up a book and know within the first 10 pages if it is something I am going to like and that is how it was with this book.

The main character, Riddley, reminded me very much of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird which has always been one of my favorite novels. At 9-years of age, Riddley has the innocence of a child yet is an old soul at heart. She “gets” things and how the world works. She’s smart and inquisitive but knows what to share and when. Not something your average 9-year-old can do. Then there’s Carver, her grown-up friend who is quirky and odd to everyone around her, but only until you get to know her. Riddley’s grandmother, Adele, is losing her battle with Alzheimer’s disease but is still able to maintain a bond with her grand-daughter through their time spent together. The relationships are strongly written and will touch the heart.

I often ask myself what makes a book a classic and I would have to say it’s a mix of strong characters, a well-told story and one that can survive the trends. To me, this book falls into this category and it’s her first novel which is amazing to me! I would love to share the copy I have with all of you but it’s staying on my shelf.

Author’s Bio:

Leslie Walker Williams was born and raised in Savannah, Georgia, and lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her short stories have appeared in numerous publications, including The Iowa Review, The Madison Review, Harvard Review, and American Fiction. Her collection, Taxidermy, was a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Award. The Prudent Mariner, her first novel, was awarded the Peter Taylor Prize for the Novel, and the Morris Hackney Literary Award for the Novel.

For more information on Leslie Walker Williams, click here to visit her website.

Review: Very Valentine

Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Pub. Date: February 2009
ISBN-13: 9780061257056
384pp

My thoughts:

I have a confession to make. I’m a bit of a book snob. I have a tendency to reach for chunksters that deal with seriously heavy subject matter. It’s like exercise for my brain. However, when Jennifer over at Book Club Girl announced a Blog Talk show with Adriana Trigiani, I had to participate. First off, I love the shows that Book Club Girl hosts. Secondly, I figured I would step outside of my box a bit and try a book that I would never have picked up on my own.

I’m so glad I did.

Reading this book was like taking a vacation without leaving the comfort of my home. The story takes us to Greenwich Village where Valentine works as a cobbler, for a shoe company that she runs with her Gram. The workplace also happens to be her home as the building is situated with living space on top and even includes a beautiful rooftop garden. Trigiani takes much care to describe the environment to the reader. The smell of the leather, the oils used to keep them supple, etc. As I was reading about the shoe designs, I could SEE them in my mind as they were painted so vividly upon the page. I really enjoyed the descriptive detail.

Valentine, who is the only single sister left in a large Italian family, meets Roman Falconi. He’s a chef for an up and coming restaurant in a very trendy neighborhood. Much of their time together is spent in his restaurant. He shares his passion for cooking by preparing exquisite meals for them to enjoy together. Reading these sections was like indulging in a decadent meal but without the guilt! As good as it is though, Valentine begins to question if their relationship can make it.

At the same time, Gram reveals to Valentine that the business is not doing so well, and its fate suddenly falls on Valentine to save it. In an attempt to do so, Valentine and Gram decide to design a custom shoe to submit to a big department store in the hopes of revitalizing the brand. They head to Arezzo, located in the south-east end of Tuscany to search for the materials needed, and while there, Valentine learns of a secret that her Gram has been hiding for nearly a decade.

I don’t want to share too much more of the plot but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I loved the “big family” aspect and that all the women were so strong yet vulnerable at the same time. As I was reading this book it reminded me of two movies: My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) and Only You (1994). If you’ve seen these movies and enjoyed them, you will definitely enjoy Very Valentine.

Guess what? Very Valentine is the first book in a trilogy! I’m so looking forward to reading the other two novels as I really adored the characters and can’t wait to find out what Trigiani has planned for them. If you shy away from traditional chick lit, give this book a try. It’s much more than a boy-meets-girl type of story. I think you will enjoy it.

If you’d like to learn more about Adriana Trigiani, click here.
To listen to Book Club Girl’s Blog Talk show with Adriana Trigiani click here.