Thursday, May 26, 2022

A Roundup of Reviews -- Six Book Reviews to Spring Clean My Blog


I’ve gotten behind on my book reviews here on Rose City Reader. So in a bout of spring cleaning, here is a roundup of a half a dozen reviews to make a dent my backlog and my To Do list:

๐Ÿ“˜Coco at the Ritz: A Novel by Gioia Diliberto (2021, Pegasus Books)

Coco Chanel is remembered today as a fashion icon and strong businesswoman, who redefined feminine chic and built a world-famous design brand. But Chanel was a complex character with a darker side.

Gioia Diliberto’s new novel is based on the true story of Chanel's war-time romance with a German spy and how that affair led to her arrest for treason following the Liberation of Paris. The story is fascinating in how it neither glorifies nor demonizes Chanel, but portrays her honestly, as a 60-year-old woman desperate to preserve a semblance of her pre-war life even if it meant deceiving herself and lying to her friends – and her interrogators.

Coco at the Ritz is historical fiction at its page-turning best. It went straight onto my list of French Connections books.

๐Ÿ“˜Under The Orange Blossoms: An Inspirational Story of Bravery and Strength by Cindy Benezra (2021, Cindytalks)

Cindy Benezra was abused as a child by her father. She struggled with the ongoing trauma of her abuse, especially the shame and self-blame she carried with her. After much work brought her own healing and peace, Benezra wanted to write her memoir to share her story. In her book, she also grapples with her mother’s death, her own divorce, and her son’s ongoing health problems.

Benezra’s strength and bravery are an inspiration particularly for abuse survivors. But the story she tells in Under the Orange Blossoms can be a comfort to anyone who has faced trauma and helpful for anyone supporting trauma survivors.

๐Ÿ“˜One Night, New York by Lara Thompson (2021, Pegasus Books)

One Night, New York is Lara Thompson’s terrific debut novel. The story takes place on one December night in 1932, when two young women plot to get revenge on a man who has wronged them by pushing him off the top of the Empire State Building.

Frances ran away from her life in Depression-wracked Kansas for the fast life of the big city. There, she fell in love with Agnes, a photographer’s apprentice, and they both fell in with a bad crowd. It is a story of romance, corruption, art, Greenwich Village bohemians, nightclubs, and skyscrapers. This fast-paced historical fiction glimmers with the edgy glamor of old New York, right up to the nail-biting culmination.

๐Ÿ“˜The Florentines: From Dante to Galileo: The Transformation of Western Civilization by Paul Strathern (2021, Pegasus Books)

Paul Strathern offers a masterful history of 400 years of Florentine culture. He argues that the ideas that flourished between the birth of Dante in 1265 and the death of Galileo in 1642 -- ideas expressed in the art and architecture of Florence -- led to the emergence of humanism as the driving philosophy of the Western world.

By providing a cross-section of Renaissance society, Strathern shows how science, art, architecture, literature, finance, business, and economics all connected in Florence. Readers see how the Florentine leaders’ interactions – public and private – fomented the ideas that lead Florence, and eventually Europe, out of the Dark Ages and into the modern Renaissance.

๐Ÿ“˜Princes of the Renaissance: The Hidden Power Behind an Artistic Revolution by Mary Hollingsworth (2021, Pegasus Books)

Mary Hollingsworth's latest book tells the history of the patrons of the art and architecture of the Italian Renaissance, during the tumultuous period of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It is an excellent introduction for readers looking to learn about the famous Renaissance families of Italy whose names ring bells but details are sketchy, like Medici, Borgia, d’Este, Farnese, Visconti, Sforza, and Gritti.

Princes of the Renaissance is the kind of well-written “popular” history backed by substantive research that is a delight to read. It is also a beautiful book, filled with photographs and color prints of the of the places and art described. 

(Princes of the Renaissance and The Florentines make a perfect companion set. Good idea for Father's Day if your dad is a history buff!)

๐Ÿ“˜A Few Words about Words: A Common-Sense Look at Writing and Grammar by Joseph J. Diorio (2021, Beaufort Books)

I love any and all grammar books and A Few Words About Words is a first-rate addition to my collection. Joe Diorio is the author of a popular newsletter of the same name that has been around for 30 years. He built this book around those columns, organized by subject and theme, trimmed or expanded as needed, and connected by personal anecdotes for continuity. The end result is a lighthearted and engaging guide to English grammar and a wholehearted apologia for using it correctly.


Have you read any of these? What do you think? Do any of them look good to you?

My thanks to the publishers, authors, and publicists who gave me review copies! With apologies for my tardy reviews. 

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