My Top 10 Books of the First Half of 2016

I can’t believe we’re already into the second half of 2016! Once again, this is a year in books that will call for two “best of” posts.

Below is my list of the top 10 books I’ve read so far in 2016 that were published in 2016, in rank order:

 

10. The Dutch Girl by Donna Thorland

This novel, set during the American Revolution, really hit the spot after having listen to Hamilton approximately six million times. Additionally, it is set in the Hudson River Valley, and so I read most of the book while on a trip there. I love when I can synchronize my reading and travelling so perfectly!

9. The Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

The conclusion to the saga that Ahdieh began with The Wrath & the Dawn is just as epic, gorgeous, and cinematic as the first book. Someone make movies out of these books, stat!

8. The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Sky

This historical fantasy novel about a duel between two rival enchanters in Imperial Russia hits all of my sweet spots: vivid period detail, romance, lush descriptions, well-rounded characters, and romance. Can’t wait for the second book, which will be out next year.

7. Mrs. Houdini by Victoria Kelly

This historical novel from the point of view of Harry Houdini’s wife Bess is wonderfully researched and brings the period – and the life of one its most notable figures – to brilliant life. The novel also provides a space to meditate on the meaning of magic, and on the fine line between illusion and reality.

6. A Fine Imitation by Amber Brock

This novel about art, artists, and art forgery among the elite and wealthy of 1920s New York City is an absolutely delicious read that you will just sink into. I read this via audiobook, which I highly recommend, as the narrator is just fabulous.

5. I’ll See You in Paris by Michelle Gable

I was a big fan of Gable’s first novel, A Paris Apartment, and so was very much looking forward to this book. I was not disappointed! A big, sprawling novel with storylines in different time periods, long-buried secrets, and one very outrageous duchess make for a read you won’t be able to put down.

4. Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

Any fan of the smash hit musical Hamilton will surely love reading the “Hamiltome”, and I was no exception. I tore through the massive book, loving the wonderful and epic story of how the musical was conceived, written, and developed before finally making its way to Broadway. Miranda’s annotations on the lyrics to each song in the show are by turns enlightening, fascinating, and humorous. The gorgeous pictures from the show and backstage are an absolute treat as well.

3. Down With the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn

This dark yet also funny YA novel is a rollercoaster ride that will have you frantically turning pages until you reach the end. Teenage Lennie’s uncles make moonshine, and before drinking they always make a wish and toast with the words, “May all your wishes come true – or at least just this one”. When Lennie steals some of their shine to take to a high school party, she has no idea that the toast actually does grant wishes. As you can probably imagine, chaos reigns as everyone’s drunken wishes come true. The ultimate tale of “be careful what you wish for”, this book is an original and well-crafted page turner that should not be missed.

2. And After the Fire by Lauren Belfer

This novel, about a woman who discovers a previously unknown Bach cantata with strong anti-Semitic content, is a powerful meditation on the role of music and art in our lives and on the far-reaching repercussions and legacy of prejudice and hate. With two storylines – one set in the present and one tracing the cantata as it moves through various hands over history – this novel poses difficult questions while at the same time still being a riveting read that will keep you turning the pages. This book has made it onto my all-time favorites list.

1. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

The second installment in Maas’s fae series, the novel expands on the worldbuilding of the first book in excellent fashion and presents new challenges for heroine Feyre. This book took many turns I did not expect, and I absolutely could not put it down. The new cast of characters is just wonderful and makes the pages fly by, while Game of Thrones level action keeps your eyes glued to the page. I read this book over a month ago now, and I still have a lingering book hangover from it.

 

Honorable mentions:

Map of Fates by Maggie Hall

A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry

Three-Martini Lunch by Suzanne Rindell

The BFF Bucket List by Dee Romito

 

Non-2016 books that I loved:

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Dressed for Death by Donna Leon

The Woman at the Light by Johanna Brady

The Ludwig Conspiracy by Oliver Potzsch

 

Also, I have to mention these two novels that I was fortunate enough to read early and which will both be out later this year:

Girls in the Moon by Janet McNally (11/29/16)

The Order of the Eternal Sun by Jessica Leake (8/9/2016)


Story & Song: Part 6

Welcome to the sixth and final installment of my blog series that I’m calling Story & Song. Each post will feature two pieces of music: a modern/contemporary song from the playlist of The Violinist of Venice, and a piece of Vivaldi’s music that features in the novel. I’ll describe how both pieces fit into the story with a minimum of spoilers!

Delain – “On the Other Side”

This song, as I’m sure you can hear, is just beautiful. It’s a sad, lovely, and bittersweet song about losing a loved one, about being left behind when they die, and as such it fits perfectly with the epilogue of the novel, as Adriana and Vivaldi say their last goodbyes. I would always play this song when writing/revising/reviewing that final scene in the book, and to me it’s the “rolling credits” sort of song for the book. Even now, every time I hear it I get a little emotional!

 

“Domine deus” from the Gloria in D

In chapter 65 of The Violinist of Venice, Adriana’s children give a concert for their friends and family, and enlist their mother and her best friend, Vittoria, to be the “opening act”, shall we say. Vittoria contacts Vivaldi, her former teacher at the Pieta, for a suitable score for violin and soprano, and what they end up with is this piece, the beautiful soprano solo from Vivaldi’s choral masterpiece Gloria in D, the very famous first movement of which I’m sure most people have heard, even if they didn’t realize it. So Vittoria performs this piece, accompanied by Adriana on the violin (though an oboe is used in this recording for the solo instrumental line). It is an important moment for both of them: for Adriana because she has never really performed before and is able to get a taste of what it is like, and for Vittoria because she gets to return, however briefly, to the performing career that she was forced to give up when she left the Pieta and married. And, of course, it is a lovely piece of music. Vivaldi’s work with the orphan girls at the Pieta meant that he was able to write for the female voice exceptionally well, something that, as a female singer myself, I can personally attest to!

 

This is the last post in my Story & Song series for The Violinist of Venice. If you’ve enjoyed it, though, be sure to stay tuned, as I have something similar up my sleeve planned for closer to the release date of The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence!


The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence – cover reveal!

I am so excited and thrilled to be able to reveal the cover for my second historical novel, The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence, out 4/25/17 from St. Martin’s Griffin. Like with The Violinist of Venice, I was having a hard time visualizing what the cover for this book might look like, and once again the creative team at St. Martin’s absolutely went above and beyond and gave me a cover that is just perfect and is everything that I didn’t know I wanted.

Without further ado, here it is!

themostbeautifulwomaninflorencecoverbigger (1)

 

There are so many things I love about this cover. The first is the pink color scheme. My notes in my notebook for this novel were all color-coded pink, so it’s very fitting that that’s the color scheme here. I also love how the woman looks just like the real Simonetta Vespucci (whom you can see if you take a look at Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus). The angle of her face/head also reminds me of another Botticelli portrait of her, one that she poses for in the novel. Finally, I love the panoramic image of Florence at the bottom – it’s a beautiful city, and this picture really captures that, as well as capturing its dominant feature, the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (aka the Duomo) with Filippo Brunelleschi’s amazing, enormous dome. This same vista can be seen by climbing up to the Piazzale Michelangelo in the hills overlooking the city, which I did when I was in Florence researching this novel. So to have that image on the cover is really wonderful.

I hope you all love this cover as much as I do! Please let me know what you think. And I just can’t wait for this book to be out in the world for you all to read it.

Below is the synopsis of the novel.

A girl as beautiful as Simonetta Cattaneo will never want for marriage proposals in 15th century Italy, but she jumps at the chance to marry Florentine Marco Vespucci. Marco is young, handsome, well-educated, and shares her longtime love of reading. 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 new home, her place in Florentine society, and the politics of beauty and desire, she and Botticelli develop a dangerously passionate artist and muse relationship, which will lead to her ultimately being immortalized in his masterpiece, The Birth of Venus.

Alyssa Palombo’s The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence is a story of love and tragedy, of passion and humor, and ultimately, of what happens when love finds us when we least expect it.


The Violinist of Venice – Slovenian cover!

Check out the beautiful Slovenian cover of The Violinist of Venice! Each different cover so far is equally beautiful, in my opinion!🙂

 

solveniancover


The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence – release date and synopsis!

I have some exciting news today about my forthcoming second book with St. Martin’s Press, The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence. The novel will be released in the U.S. on April 25, 2017!

Also, below check out the synopsis to learn some more about the book!

A girl as beautiful as Simonetta Cattaneo will never want for marriage proposals in 15th century Italy, but she jumps at the chance to marry Florentine Marco Vespucci. Marco is young, handsome, well-educated, and shares her longtime love of reading. 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 new home, her place in Florentine society, and the politics of beauty and desire, she and Botticelli develop a dangerously passionate artist and muse relationship, which will lead to her ultimately being immortalized in his masterpiece, The Birth of Venus.

Alyssa Palombo’s The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence is a story of love and tragedy, of passion and humor, and ultimately, of what happens when love finds us when we least expect it.

I am SO EXCITED for this book to make its way into the world for everyone to read. I hope you will all enjoy it when you do get the chance to read it!

I have seen the cover for this book as well, and hope to be able to reveal it soon – it is absolutely GORGEOUS and just perfect for the book, and I’m sure you all will love it as much as I do!

Stay tuned for more fun book 2 things coming soon!


The Violinist of Venice – Croatian cover

Check out the beautiful Croatian cover of The Violinist of Venice!

violinistcroatiancover

I love how the three covers all have essentially the same picture of the woman with the violin, but different pictures of Venice. There are so many beautiful pictures of Venice in the world that this seems fitting!


Story & Song: Part 6

Welcome to the sixth installment of my blog series that I’m calling Story & Song. Each post will feature two pieces of music: a modern/contemporary song from the playlist of The Violinist of Venice, and a piece of Vivaldi’s music that features in the novel. I’ll describe how both pieces fit into the story with a minimum of spoilers!

Within Temptation – “Forgiven”

This lovely ballad goes with Chapter 68, which I also titled “Forgiven”. It is hard to say too much without giving some of the story away for those of you who haven’t read the novel, but in this scene, Adriana and Vivaldi are meeting again years after the “main events” of the first half of the novel, and Adriana realizes that she no longer bears him a grudge for the wrongs that he did her so long ago. The lyrics of this song fit so perfectly with her thoughts, with their situation, with the history of their relationship. I would always listen to it when revising this scene!

 

“Cosi potessi anch’io” from the opera Orlando furioso

This is the aria performed by Anna Giro in her role as Alcina in Vivaldi’s opera Orlando furioso, in Chapter 67 of the novel. As Anna Giro truly did originate this role, Vivaldi wrote this aria especially for her and for her voice. As you can no doubt hear, it is beautiful and wistful and full of longing. The lyrics of the A section translate roughly to, “If only I could also have with the one I love the peace that my heart cannot find.” In the novel, as Anna sings these words, Adriana reflects on them in relation to her own life.

I have performed this aria several times myself, and I just love singing it. It is fun to sing from a technical aspect, and fits my voice well; it’s also fun from the performance aspect for the emotion I can inject into it. I wanted to learn it because I knew I would need to write a scene such as the one in Chapter 67, and this seemed like the perfect aria. I also loved the feeling of connection that learning and singing this piece gave me to the characters in my novel. When I sang it, I could pretend, for a moment, that I was a part of the story I was writing.


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