April 30, 2015

The Artisan's Star by Gabriella Contestablie - Review/Interview and Giveaway

I received this book in exchange for a fair and honest review

The Artisan's Star by Gabriella Contestablie
ISBN: 9780996058506

Book Description:
Elio Barati’s perfumery shop in Florence marks its entrance with a mosaic star. This shop immerses Elio in the artisanal world he loves, but he harbors a regret. As a young man he created a full-fledged perfume of jasmine, iris, and cypress at the renowned Ecole des Parfumeurs in Grasse—a fragrance his idealism and stubbornness boxed away before ever bringing it to light.

A second star now brightens Elio’s life, his daughter Romina, an artist. She has her father’s unrealized talent, a precise and intuitive sense of smell. She's also inherited more challenging traits of Elio's: unbridled ambition and an insatiable wonder for the world.

But changes ripple through modern-day Florence. Artisan traditions wane; and when Romina tells her father she has no intention of running the family business Elio fights to hold on to the Florence he cherishes. Confronting the lost opportunities of his youth, Elio is thrust into this journey by five spirited women: his Greek mother, Elena; his mentor Palma; his soul mate, Marina; his astronomer wife, Sofia; and finally his beautiful artist daughter, who like the city of her birth, shows him how tradition and modernity can and must co-exist.

Now he must alter his own path by harnessing the transformative powers of the fine and artisanal arts.

I enjoyed this book about a family and their perfume business. I have to say that I am a sucker for books set in Italy. Since I can’t travel there right now I can use a book to help me transport myself there. The author’s writing style made me feel as if I was a part of this book. She also did a good job with the character development and the descriptions of the scenes. I could feel as if I was a part of this story, smell each smell walking down the streets of Florence, see all the shops and taste all the food. I could tell the author did her research in the perfume making business as you could feel as if you were a part of it.  I enjoyed hearing about Elio’s story. One other thing I liked was how it went from the characters childhood to old age with no trouble at all. If you are looking for a book that will take you on a virtual journey then I suggest picking this book up. 

Author's Bio:
Gabriella Contestabile is an author, educator, and owner of SU MISURA JOURNEYS, a boutique travel company connecting people to the artisans of Florence. She emigrated, with her parents, from Italy to New York City in 1959. In her pre-writer life, she worked as a foreign language teacher, management development specialist, and fragrance/cosmetics executive. Gabriella is a strong advocate of the arts, of multiculturalism, and of social justice—a passion inspired by reading Dickens and Dante at a very young age. She has been an active volunteer with Dress for Success for over eight years and is a member of the Slow Food NYC Food and Farm Policy Task Force. She lives on the Upper West Side with her husband, her daughter, her mom, and a furry Shih–Tzu named Oreo. ‘ The Artisan’s Star’ is her first novel. She is currently working on a collection of short stories, also set in Italy, and a screenplay.

Connect with Gabriella: Website  Twitter  Amazon Author Page  ~  Su Misura  ~  Facebook

Where to buy the book:
Barnes & Noble

1.What made you write a book about Florence, perfume?
My journey was not unlike Elio’s. It was a confluence of experiences; reading “The Passionate Sightseer” at a young age, childhood trips to Florence with my parents, all the books on Michelangelo, Artemisia Gentileschi, and Leonardo Da Vinci given to me by my parents and my teachers, and finally a career that celebrated the artisanship and quality of life inherent in Florence and in Grasse, the art of perfumery, and the relevance of art in shaping human insight and compassion. While I’d always dreamed of being a writer I chose other careers (language teacher, business executive) to pay the bills. But they were all related in some way. I was still able to explore, imagine, and write about the places, people and ideas that inspired me. All those experiences were like the rays in the artisan’s star, with Florence in the center. I wish I could say I went about this, Sofia style, with a pragmatic plan and great organizational skills. I didn’t. I just went where my curiosity took me and for some strange reason it all came together in the end.

2. You categorize your book as ‘general fiction’ or ‘women’s fiction’. If it’s women’s fiction why did you choose a male protagonist?
While Elio is the central character his past, present and future are very much shaped by the multiple female influences in his life, from Elena, his mother to Romina, his daughter. Women are multi-faceted, always growing and re-inventing themselves, and they are key influencers, not only in their family and in community circles, but in the larger societal order. Think Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn’s superb book,“Half the Sky”, where we learn how women, once empowered, change entire villages.

Each of the women in Elio’s world has a defined vision of her own, and it’s just that clarity and determination that break Elio’s stubbornness. Women are tremendously powerful because of their insights, because they problem-solve differently than men and, in many respects, because they are less afraid of change.

3. If you could go back in time, where would you go?

  • Paris in the 20s with Josephine Baker, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Matisse, Bunuel. I loved Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. It reminded me of all the reasons I chose to major in French in college.
  • The late 1800s in New York or London
  • And of course Renaissance Florence

4. What is the strangest thing that ever happened to you?
This felt like a dream. My husband and I were in Venice in winter. It was a foggy, snowy night and we got on the boat to go back to our hotel. Suddenly the boat swerved away from the canal towards a dock. Two people stepped in, a man with blonde hair and very high cheekbones, wearing a tuxedo, and a black cape. A stylish, regal woman in red taffeta, also wearing a black cape sat in front of us, the hood of her cape fluttering in the very harsh wind. The man stood, rested his leg on the hull of the boat and looked out over the canal. They didn’t seem fazed by the cold. They looked as if they’d just stepped out of a movie set.

To make it even more surreal, the boat driver eventually veered away from the canal, deeper into the fog, towards another dock. I heard music; the fog in front of us cleared and out of it rose the façade of a palazzo. There were lights from chandeliers, voices, more music, maybe glasses clinking. The boat stopped. The beautiful cinematic couple got off, their capes swirling in the wind, and disappeared into the fog. That night I went to sleep wondering if I’d dreamt it all. But my pragmatic husband confirms it to this day. What a glorious way to experience Venice. But then, every time I visit Venice something mystical happens.

5. If there is one thing you want readers to remember about you, what would it be?
I’m passionate about the arts and arts education for every individual child and for the future of our planet. Today, as societies become more divisive we need the arts to enlighten and unite us. We live many lives when we read. Virginia Woolf wrote, “As a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.”

So many of my life’s choices and perspective were informed by literature, and travels, connecting with people in different time zones, fresh settings, running into the unexpected, wandering without purpose until the purpose revealed itself. Art, in all its forms, lifts us to a level of understanding more so than anything else. When I read the newspaper I form opinions. When I read about the same issue in a novel or a work of non-fiction I engage, I feel, I see with new and wide-open eyes. There is an intimacy one achieves through reading one doesn’t find anywhere else. Like tentacles or rays of a rainbow the words, images, emotions, draw you into the prism that is the story and the story takes over.

This is why writers write, artists paint, dancers dance, and composers create music. And why future generations need music, art, literature, science, and the humanities. I wrote “The Artisan’s Star” to celebrate my Italian heritage and to highlight the way art enriches and transforms our lives on so many levels, and always for the better. The Florentines, purveyors of the Renaissance, which extinguished the Dark Ages and changed the Western world, have always known this.

Prizes: ​ 5 winners will each receive
 one print or ebook copy of The Artisan's Star, a $10 Amazon gift card and a perfume sample. (Open to USA & Canada) Ends May 16

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

April 20 - Library of Clean Reads - review / interview / giveaway
April 20 - Sarah Rehmatullah - review
April 21 - Working Mommy Journal - review / giveaway
April 21 - Book Stop Corner - review / author interview / giveaway
April 22 - allthingsbookie - review
April 22 - Packabook Travel Novels - review / author interview
April 23 - Girl With Camera - review
April 24 - Young in Rome - review
April 27 - Il Mio Tesoro - review
April 28 - Studentessa Matta - review
April 29 - Roughseasinthemed - review
April 30 - Griperang's Bookmarks - review / author interview / giveaway
May 1 - Hello, my name is Alice - review / guest post
May 4 - Italophilia - review / guest post
May 5 - Rockin' Book Reviews - review / giveaway
May 6 - Svetlana's Reads and Views - review
May 7 - Musings from Sri Lanka - review
May 8 - The Discerning Reader - review / giveaway


  1. This sounds like an interesting book and I would love to read it!

  2. Sounds like a fabulous read. I have added it to my must read list.

  3. I would love to travel to Italy and I have just been reading FLORENCE by Laura Morelli. It's an exquisite book and is satisfying my desire to visit Italy vicariously for now. Your book sounds wonderful and I would love to read it because it has a great storyline and it's set in Italy! Thank you for the terrific post and contest!

  4. I would love to visit Italy. The pictures I have seen and the descriptions I;ve read make it sounds beautful and mysterious. This book description has me intrigued and I need to read it now.

  5. Thank you Angela for the review and for inviting me to your spirited and multi-faceted blog. My intention was to have the reader feel Florence. While the main characters are fictional the places they inhabit are real, as are the artisans. So it's as close to a trip to Florence as I can get. Since you are a bibliophile, a parent, a lover of life and animals you are already there in spirit. BTW I am a big fan of Laura Morelli's books on Italy. They are beautifully written. Vicarious joy is still joy and there is no better place to find it than in a book- or a chocolate gelato!