What’s That Book? A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Welcome to What’s That Book, sharing book recommendations from readers and bloggers. Today’s guest reviewer is Roberta Eaton Cheadle.

Title: A Gentleman in Moscow        

Author: Amor Towles

Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What’s it about?  This book tells the story of the journey of the Bolsheviks and the Russian people from the Russian Revolution in 1917 to 1954 through the eyes of Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, who becomes an ex-person, namely, a person who was previously a member of the Russian aristocracy.

Alexander was raised on an estate in Nizhny Novgorod province. His parents died when he was ten years old and he and his sister, Helena, were raised by his grandmother, the Countess. After the revolution in 1917 and the assassination of the Tsar, Alexander, who has been in exile in France due to rash and hot-headed behavior in his early 20s, returns to Russian to help his grandmother leave and go into exile in France. Alexander decides to remain in Russia and takes up permanent residence in the hotel Metropol in Moscow, across the road from the Kremlin.

Four years later, in 1922, Alexander is called before a tribunal of the Bolsheviks and sentenced to house arrest for life in the hotel because he had written a poem with a revolutionary subtext. Alexander believes the writing of this poem saved his life, although the Bolsheviks who questioned him are disappointed that he seems to have subsequently lost his purpose and ambition.

Alexander is forced to move out of his palatial suite of rooms and into rooms in the attic which were originally built to accommodate the servants of the gentry who were staying at the hotel.

Alexander’s journey of adjustment to his new circumstances as an ex-person begins and he finds the lack of freedom and the changes in the hotel under the new Bolshevik administration hard to bear. Alexander’s circumstances take a turn for the better when he meets Nina, the nine-year-old daughter of a Bolshevik leader and learns how to make the most of his life and situation.

Through his relationships with Nina, a movie star called, Anna Urbanova, who becomes his love interest, and interactions with his University friend, Mishka, Alexander stays abreast of life outside of the Metropol Hotel and the changes that are being implemented in Russian society under the new regime. Ultimately, his friendship with Nina has a far greater impact on his life than he could have ever imagined.

How did you hear about it?  I had not heard of this book which was recommended to me by a blogging friend who had recently read it. I must be honest, I am wondering how I have gone through such a large portion of my life without reading this amazing book, or even hearing about it.

Closing comments:  There are some powerful themes in A Gentleman in Moscow. I have identified them below with an appropriate quote to demonstrate how the them asserts itself in the book:

Change and adaptation: “For the times do, in fact, change. They change relentlessly. Inevitably. Inventively. And as they change, they set into bright relief not only outmoded honorifics and hunting horns, but silver summoners and mother-of-pearl opera glasses and all manner of carefully crafted things that have outlived their usefulness.”

Friendship, Family and Love: “This is where we part. Remember: down another flight and out the black metal door. Naturally, it would be best if you never mentioned to anyone that either of us were here.”

“Osip, I don’t know how to repay you.”

“Alexander,” he said with a smile, “you have been at my service for over fifteen years. It is a pleasure for once to be at yours.” Then he was gone.

Chance, Luck and Fate: “Suffice it to say that once the Count’s clothes had been gathered, the curtains were dutifully drawn. What’s more, before he had tiptoed to the door half dressed, he took a moment to ensure that the actress’s ivory blouse had been picked off the floor and hung on its hanger. After all, as the Count himself had observed just hours before: the best-bred dogs belong in the surest hands.”

Bolshevism and Class Struggle: “For pomp is a tenacious force. And a wily one too.

How humbly it bows its head as the emperor is dragged down the steps and tossed in the street. But then, having quietly bided its time, while helping the newly appointed leader on with his jacket, it compliments his appearance and suggests the wearing of a medal or two.”

Contributor:  Roberta Eaton Cheadle is an author of children’s books, historical fiction, horror and short fiction. She’s also an active WordPress blogger. You can find her at the following sites:

Website: https://www.robbiecheadle.co.za/
Blogs: Robbie’s Inspiration and Roberta Writes
Twitter:  @RobertaEaton17
Facebook: @robertawrites


Have you read something good?  Want to talk about it? Consider being a contributor to What’s That Book.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for information.

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Book Club Mom’s February 2021 Recap

Hi all! I hope you are doing well. Thanks to everyone who visited my blog this month. I very much appreciate your support! February was a pretty good month. We got a lot more snow, but now most of it has melted, except for a big pile the plows made on the island in our cul de sac.

Unrelated to books, this month I participated in the 24th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count. For four days, I counted the different types of birds I saw in our backyard. I downloaded and app called Merlin Bird ID on my phone and it helped me identify them. The data goes to researchers at the National Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Birds Canada and helps them learn more about how birds are doing and how to protect them and the environment. I had a lot of fun doing it and the app was easy to use. This is a global event and anyone can participate. If you’re interested in doing it next year, you can learn more about it at birdcount.org.

I also got back in the reading and blogging swing this month. Here’s a rundown of what I read and other posts.

Book Reviews

Cary Grant: A Brilliant Disguise by Scott Eyman – 5 stars

The Perfect Wife by Blake Pierce – 3 stars

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing – 4 stars

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane – 4 stars

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – 4 stars


Who’s That Indie Author and Author Updates

Angela Paolantonio

B. Lynn Goodwin

Tammie Painter


What’s That Book?

Torn Between Worlds by Nancy Blodgett Klein – reviewed by Darlene Foster


Miscellaneous

Perfect characters and situations gone wrong – books with perfect in their titles

Share your thoughts on What’s That Book – an invitation to you!


Spring is only a couple weeks away – are you as ready as I am?

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Share your thoughts on What’s That Book – an invitation to you!

Hello readers and bloggers! Some of you may remember What’s That Book?, an occasional feature by guest readers. (Here’s one from author Tammie Painter, reviewing The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick.) This feature has been dormant for a while and now I’m bringing back an updated version. So if you’ve read something good and want to talk about it, I’d love to have you as a guest on my blog.

If you are interested, please email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com and I’ll send you more information.

Hope to hear from you!

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Book Club Mom’s January 2021 Recap

We are in the midst of a winter storm and pretty much snowed in with more to come. I was just beginning to think we were going to have an uneventful winter.

January came and went! I only read three books this month, but I’m already on track to read more in February.

Here’s a quick recap of book reviews and other things:

The Searcher by Tana French

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn

A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders


Blog views and other obsessions – two great tools for your blog – I’ve been spending a lot of time on Canva, which I talk about in this post. I have much to learn, though.


I featured two indie authors this month and have more lined up. Look for new Author Updates too!

Who’s That Indie Author? Kaitlyn Jain

Who’s That Indie Author? Bruce W. Bishop


Based on all the comments, I think we all had fun with this “How Well Read Are You” challenge. If you haven’t tried it, hop over and see!

How well read are you? Take this challenge and see!

Books on my list – based on the above challenge


What’s happening now? After finishing The Woman in the Window, I was in the mood for another psychological thriller and recently finished The Perfect Wife by Blake Pierce. Keep an eye out for my review. Right now I’m reading a new biography by Scott Eyman – Cary Grant: A Brilliant Disguise. It’s long, but I’m enjoying it very much and will probably review that before I get The Perfect Wife review out. I have two more books lined up. The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel and My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing.

Pretty soon, I’m going to get up from under this blanket and make some soup for dinner. Back to work tomorrow! What are you doing on this winter day?

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Book Club Mom’s October 2020 recap

I had a great October, but it was very busy at work and at home. Despite the busy times, I managed to squeeze in some good books, a movie and some short fiction, as well as keep up with author updates and two new indie author profiles. And I made the leap to Instagram, so far a lot of fun! Click here if you want to connect with me there.

I’ve started using the new block editor, so bear with me as I find my way around.

These are the last of some flowers I grew from seeds over the summer. I forget the name, but aren’t they pretty?

Here’s a rundown of what happened on Book Club Mom this month.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier – 5 stars

The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand – 3.5 stars

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely – 4.5 stars

Looker by Laura Sims – 4 stars

From left: Carrie Rubin, Jill Weatherholt and Giselle Roeder

Carrie Rubin

Jill Weatherholt

Giselle Roeder

From left: Jonathan Pongratz and Bill Moseley

Jonathan Pongratz

Bill Moseley

Rebecca (1940)

The Best American Short Stories 2004 – “Intervention” by Jill McCorkle

How was your month? I hope you are staying healthy and finding fun things to do.

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Book Club Mom’s September 2020 recap

September was a fast month and now it’s officially fall, my favorite season! My reading was a little slow this month because I had to re-read a book for work (The Escape Room by Megan Goldin), however, I finished the month with two Young Adult books and a short story. New Who’s That Indie Author profiles and Author Updates are underway and I’m working my way through all the author submissions. It’s great to get to know these authors and learn about their books!


Reviews

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

The Year They Fell by David Kreizman

The Raft by S. A. Bodeen

“The Walk with Elizanne” by John Updike


Who’s That Indie Author?

Richard Fulco
Gerald Yeung


Author Updates

Noelle A. Granger
Joanne Kukanza Easley


YouTube

Look at these cool bookish wall tapestries!


Miscellaneous

Happy National Punctuation Day!
New Review of Encounters: Relationships in Conflict by Fred H Rohn


Hope you had a great month. Are you a fall person like me? Here’s a quick video of one of many feeding frenzies at our bird feeder!

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New Review of Encounters: Relationships in Conflict by Fred H Rohn

Hello, today I’m sharing this recent review of my father’s book of short fiction, Encounters: Relationships in Conflict. Thank you to Sam Standard for this wonderful review, posted on Amazon!

Encounters: Relationships in Conflict is a rare, lovely collection of short stories, written by a man with a true grasp on the subtleties and quirky…

Click below to continue reading:

New Review of Encounters: Relationships in Conflict —

Short reviews from 2013: The Fault in Our Stars, The Silent Wife and Old School

In celebration of my 7-year blogging anniversary, here are three short reviews of books I read in 2013.


The Fault in Our Stars
by
John Green

This is the kind of book you are self-propelled to read non-stop until you finish. I loved it because of the many gem-like moments that give you a wonderful, emotional feeling. But this is also a sad story, with heart-breaking moments. Seventeen-year-old Hazel is dying. She meets Gus, a bone cancer survivor, and they fall in love. They have an intense courtship and they know they are short on time.

I think John Green does a great job portraying Hazel and Gus. I have heard others say their conversations are too intellectual for teenagers. I don’t think so and I think he really captures the teenage intensity along with their heightened sense of the loss of time.

Although the story is written through Hazel’s point of view, Green also shows us what it is like to be parents of cancer patients, and how they must prepare themselves for loss. And he shows how Gus and Hazel cling to each other and their friend Isaac, and try to have normal teenage lives.

There are unexpected plot turns and surprising characters, and the story is nicely tied together, with some open endings to keep the reader thinking. I think the ending is uplifting and makes the best of tough loss.


The Silent Wife
by
A. S. A. Harrison

What’s beneath the surface of a seemingly happy relationship? Jodi Brett and Todd Gilbert have a smooth way of being together and it’s worked for twenty-some years. They’ve never officially married, but it doesn’t matter. This is a marriage and they have a nice rhythm, live a very nice life and have everything they want.

Then we get to know them a little better. Todd is a big person with a big personality. He’s made a success of himself in real estate, flipping office buildings in Chicago. He loves Jodi, but has other relationships. Jodi works part-time as a psychologist, seeing patients in their home. She loves Todd, likes taking care of him and making their life nice and comfortable.  She also likes the routine of their life and looks the other way because she’s settled.

Then things begin to happen and the balance is upset. What comes next is a look at how far a person will go to make things right and fair.

Harrison has written a great story and I enjoyed every word. Her characters are fun and, despite the dark side of the plot, strangely likable. The story unfolds in a comfortable and humorous way.  I liked their life, their condo, their conversations and what they ate.  I liked the nice way they had with each other. I think she does a terrific job introducing these characters.

I like the way Harrison builds suspense and then returns to the plot, giving the reader a taste of what’s to come. The story moves at a very good pace and still provides a solid background.

Through therapy sessions that are a required part of Jodi’s training, Harrison explores Jodi’s character, her childhood and the events that shape her. Harrison helps the reader understand these characters by applying psychological theory to their backgrounds. This element adds a nice layer to the story.

There are surprises and twists all the way to the end and that makes it work. I wish I could have read it in one sitting!


Old School
by
Tobias Wolff

I thought this was a very interesting premise for a book, in which actual authors become characters in the story. Wolff’s story takes place in 1960 at an elite Eastern prep school for boys, which takes pride in its literary connections and achievements. The plot revolves around the school’s literary contest, whose winners are given an audience with famous authors.

Robert Frost, Ayn Rand and Ernest Hemingway are featured and, at a reception in Rand’s honor, students and faculty participate in an extended discussion of her characters and philosophies in Rand’s novel The Fountainhead.

There are more complex parts of the story as well. The narrator, on scholarship to the school, is acutely aware of class distinction and privilege and keeps his modest background and Jewish heritage a secret. He struggles with his own self-image as he mirrors the looks and actions of his wealthy classmates, inviting the false assumption of wealth and class. The contest puts him at the center of a scandal that reveals deceptions and radiates to classmates and faculty. Its conclusion shows Wolff’s characters in their true form.

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Book Club Mom’s July 2020 recap

The calendar advances but for everyone much is the same with the many ups and downs of the pandemic. Our birdfeeder continues to be a major source of entertainment. The new development is that squirrels and chipmunks have discovered the food and are very good at jumping on the feeder and sticking their faces in the holes! This poor bird had to wait its turn.


I’m back on track with reading and read three very good books and listened to one audiobook. The River was a great choice to listen to during my walks. Hidden Valley Road is a nonfiction account of one family’s battle with schizophrenia. Six out of twelve children suffered from this debilitating mental illness. Force of Nature is a great atmospheric mystery set in Australia and my fourth read was actually a re-read – Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, a fascinating story of the relationships between and among terrorists and hostages set in South America.

Book Reviews

The River by Peter Heller

Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett


Miscellaneous posts

Grammar check – lay low or lie low?

Grammar check – dos and don’ts or do’s and don’ts?

On YouTube today – sharing a book I got for my birthday

Short reviews from 2013: Twisted, The Shoemaker’s Wife and Steve Jobs

Book trivia and first lines of my Top 15 Faves

2020 Beach Reads

Many thanks to my recent Top Commenters!


Who’s That Indie Author – I posted one author profile this month and now I’m taking a break while I rework this feature with new questions so stay tuned!

Joanne Kukanza Easley


And now on to August. I hope you’re all healthy and doing well – leave a comment and share your updates!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Short reviews from 2013: Twisted, The Shoemaker’s Wife and Steve Jobs

In celebration of my 7-year blogging anniversary, here are three short reviews of books I read in 2013.


Twisted
by
Laurie Halse Anderson

This book is a little bit like a modern Catcher in the Rye and I liked it for that reason. Twisted was on our school district’s summer reading list for rising ninth graders a couple years ago. There is some mature language and content, but I think it is realistic. I think kids want to read something contemporary that has an edge to it and Anderson understands how to incorporate this element into quality writing.

In Twisted, Tyler returns to his senior year of high school, after being punished during the summer for vandalizing the school. He struggles with a poor self-image and how others, most importantly his father, perceive him. Tyler navigates through adolescence and important relationships and, like many coming-of-age stories, learns the true meaning of family and friendship.

Final scenes with his family are raw and emotional and show Anderson at her best.


The Shoemaker’s Wife
by
Adriana Trigiani

I liked this family saga of immigration, near-misses in love and brushes with greatness, with the appropriate doses of disappointment and sadness. It is a light and entertaining read. I enjoyed reading about Italy at the turn of the century and life in the Italian Alps. The author does a nice job bringing the main characters to life.

I think the author’s strengths lie in the story’s initial setting and characters. Her early descriptions of Ciro, Eduardo and their mother are moving. In addition, Trigiani’s descriptions of the Ravanelli family show warmth and devotion. It is the foundation of a really great story.

Ciro’s success as a shoemaker and his assimilation into New York life move at a believable pace. I enjoyed this part of the story much more. Despite the unlikely nature of meeting Enza on her wedding day, we all know it is coming and accept the feel-good moment.

Some other parts I like include Ciro’s relationship with Sister Teresa at the San Nicola Convent. I also like how Ciro is accepted for who he is at the convent, and how the nuns do not force him to be a believer.

An entertaining read and a great way to escape to another time and place!


Steve Jobs
by
Walter Isaacson

This biography gives us the full picture of Steve Jobs, good and bad. It is a detailed history of Jobs, his life and his creations at Apple, NeXT, Pixar and Apple again. And it’s a look at the impatient frustrations of a perfectionist who, with the genius of vision and presentation, liked to distort reality, had poor people skills and thought no rules applied to him.

I don’t know what to think of Steve Jobs. He derived his happiness from creating and was driven to do so. Isaacson shows a man who manipulated people, berated them, and often ignored his wife and children. He regularly took credit for ideas that came from his creative team and rearranged facts to benefit his point, all with no regrets. But time and again he enabled people to achieve the impossible by refusing to believe that something could not be done.  The combination of persistence and genius made him a remarkable man.

AND…Steve Jobs gave us the Mac, fonts, graphics and desktop publishing. Then he gave us the iPhone, the iPod, iTunes and music. He allowed us to re-experience the feelings we used to have in record stores as we excitedly flipped through albums and heard new music on the store speakers. Then he gave us the iPad, movies and books all with a touchscreen. He knew what we wanted, just as he said, before we knew what we wanted.

This was a very interesting read. My only negative comment is that it was sometimes repetitive, particularly on the subjects of distorted reality and Jobs’ belief in closed-end product design. I also thought the author often portrayed Jobs as too much of a beloved hero in the second half of the book, once Jobs returned to Apple. But then again, that’s when we got all these great products. And I don’t think I could live without them.

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