Hello readers! Tonight, I have the pleasure of being a Novel Publicity Blog Tour host for Waimea Williams’s Aloha, Mozart, from Luminis Books. It’s a beautiful story combining several of my favorite interests–classical music, Hawaii, and Europe–but one that I might not have picked up on my own. I’m very glad I did, and I hope by the end of this review, you might be inspired to, as well. Read on for more info about the book, my review, and prizes!
About the book: Would you risk your life–or your soul–for the sake of art?
Born into an impoverished Hawaiian family in the 1960s, Maile Manoa’s quest for a life in music lures her to the high-stakes world of European opera. In Salzburg, Austria she attracts the attentions of powerful men and falls in love–with a troubled young musician, with the city, and the intrigue that surrounds her.
When Werner von Wehlen, the famous conductor at the center of Salzburg’s glamorous music festival, offers her a leading role, she is forced to confront the Nazi heart of the classical music scene and von Wehlen’s treacherous past.
With Soviet tanks threatening to invade the city on the evening of her much-anticipated premiere, Maile must choose between recognition on the world stage or leaving the city with her life–and her conscience–intact.
This debut novel hits all the right notes–following in the spell-casting footsteps of Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto.
My review guidelines: As you know from my first Novel Publicity review, I HATE spoilers as a reader, so as a reviewer, I avoid them as best as possible. As a writer and an editor, I put a lot of value on the language itself used to tell a tale. A 10/10 review for me will be one with an amazing plot, characters I love, and enchanting writing. I can’t get lost in a book without falling under the spell of its words–and the spell will be ineffectual without a great plot to fall into.
With that said, please enjoy my review.
I was shocked to discover this award-winning book was a debut novel from Waimea Williams. Upon reading the author’s bio, which I will include below, I did learn that she has won numerous awards in the past–including the illustrious Glimmer Train–as well as having completed a writing residency. This prior experience would explain how polished this writing was, but it does not diminish how impressed I was!
I would classify this as an adult historical fiction novel. I think the book would most appeal to mature teens and adults, especially those who have an interest in music performance/music theory.
The world: Although the novel took place in several different locations, each was authentically enchanting. Details so minute and charming that only an artist would notice made you feel like you were seeing the world through the main character’s eyes and walking in her shoes. From my own music background, I can personally attest that the sections about music and performance were impeccably described. While I found the heavy level of music detail fascinating, I could see how it might be off-putting to someone who might not be interested in music. I think that you have to have some kind of artistic passion, be it writing, drawing, etc., to connect with this book, and I think the deepest level of connection occurs for music performers (I, personally, was mesmerized). Williams’s Hawaiian origin and operatic background shone through in the text when she described the lush, mesmerizing setting and ethereal singing. Hawaii is one of my favorite places on earth, and classical music is my favorite genre. No wonder they inspired such a desire to express beauty from its…
Characters: I loved Maile Manoa from the very first time you meet her. You see–no, you feel–how she experiences music, and you hope you get to spend the rest of the book in her point-of-view. She is a complex character who is coming into her own, figuring out priorities and making mistakes along the way. She is passionate, sensitive, courageous, and vulnerable; even though she’s not using any weapon but her voice, I would classify her as a Strong Female Character. I don’t think I can talk too much about the other characters without revealing too much of the plot, but I will say that they were well-designed, too. None were as amazing as Maile, but that’s OK; I think it was a good choice to let her shine amongst the rest of the cast.
The plot didn’t come with the nonstop action you would expect from an adventure novel, but that kind of pace wouldn’t mesh well with this story. It was a slower-moving but beautiful journey; sort of like a scenic river cruise, with plenty of surprising turns to keep your interest. Williams represented the mystery, high stakes, and drama well, throughout the novel. The message of this plot is SO IMPORTANT, and it takes the entire novel to earn such a poignant message. You can see a hint of what I mean with one of my favorite quotes, which I’ll include as part of…
The language: “No one owns music,” [he] said…And the divine became human. The ageless gift, the spiritual resonance of music based on selfless love.” Oh my goodness. Jewels like this were sprinkled all throughout the text, but this was one of my favorite. Doesn’t it just sum up the way your heart swells when you interact with a poignant piece of work–be it music, literature, etc.? The generous lyricism and insight offered in this text make the language my favorite aspect of the novel. Readers with some familiarity with Hawaiian vocabulary will enjoy additional meaning from the text (even the multiple meanings embedded in the title), but it is not necessary to the enjoyment of the book.
Review: 10/10. Phenomenal! I am a lifelong fan of the author.
About the author: Originally from Hawaii, Waimea Williams spent a decade in Austria and Germany as an opera singer and has received fiction awards from Glimmer Train, The Lorian Hemingway Competition, and Salamander Review. She has enjoyed the honor of a writing residency at the Ragdale Foundation, and her short story “Vienna Quartet With Dog” received First Prize from the Charlton Review in 2012. She currently lives near Honolulu. Connect with Waimea on her website, Facebook, or GoodReads.
About the prizes: Who doesn’t love prizes? You could win either of two $25 Amazon gift cards, an autographed copy of Aloha, Mozart by Waimea Williams, or an autographed copy of its tour mate, Maybe I Will by Laurie Gray. Here’s what you need to do…
- Enter the Rafflecopter contest
- Leave a comment on my blog.
That’s it! One random commenter during this tour will win a $25 gift card. Visit more blogs for more chances to win–the full list of participating bloggers can be found here. The other $25 gift card and the 3 autographed books will be given out via Rafflecopter. You can find the contest entry form on the official Luminis Duo tour page via Novel Publicity. Good luck!
Luminis Books was launched in January, 2010 by husband and wife team Tracy Richardson and Chris Katsaropoulos with a mission to publish thought-provoking literary fiction for children and adults. We publish what we love: Meaningful Books That Entertain. Our award-winning books engage and inform readers and explore a wide range of topics from love and relationships, teen sexual assault and homelessness to string theory, consciousness, and the Universal Energy Field. Luminis Books is a proudly independent publisher located in Carmel, IN. Learn more at www.luminisbooks.com.