Friday, December 27, 2013

Book Review Friday: Juliet

Juliet is  Anne Fortier's debut novel.  It is a work of contemporary and historical fiction telling two parallel stories.  Julie Jacobs is 25 years old when her Aunt Rose dies and instead of leaving her estate for Julie and her twin sister Janice to divide equally, as she had always promised to do, she leaves the estate to Janice.  To Julie she leaves a note, a key to a safety deposit box in a bank in Siena, Italy, and a mystery hundreds of years in the making.
Julie soon learns that she and Janice were born Giulietta and Giannozza Tolomei and their distant ancestor, the original Giulietta Tolomei's tragic life and death was the true inspiration for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
The twins were told that their parents died in a car crash when the  girls were 3 years old.  Now Julie discovers that this is not exactly the whole truth, though their parents are dead, the circumstances were suspicious. And a member of Solembini clan, rivals to the Tolomeis for hundreds of years could be responsible. 
When Julie travels to Siena unable to speak a word of Italian the first people she meets are Eva Maria Solembini and her handsome, but aloof godson, Alessandro.  Eva Maria is fascinated by Julie's story and eager to help her learn more about her past, but Julie can't help but wonder why.  And why is Alessandro so distant and suspicious of her motives?  The safety deposit box holds no treasure, but a box full of papers and diaries. As Julie sifts through this memorabilia she discovers it holds the key not only to a fabulous treasure but also to unlocking the mystery surrounding the ancient tragedy of Giulietta and Romeo.  If she plays her cards right, Julie could finally find a way to end the infamous "plague on both your houses" which still curses both the Tolomeis and the Solembinis or she could end up another victim to the tragic curse.
 Fortier's prose is rich and evocative, if perhaps a bit overlong, as she weaves the two stories together.   The book is well researched and thoroughly entertaining.  A fascinating look beyond the story of Romeo and Juliet.

For more books based on Shakespeare's classic plays check out this list: Fiction Based on Shakespeare from the New York Public Library.

If you liked Juliet, you might like these:

The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Violets of March by Sarah Jio
Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay
The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant
The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O'Melveny

Friday, December 20, 2013

Book Review Friday: The Art of War for Writers


The Art of War for Writers: Fiction Writing Strategies, Tactics, and Exercises by James Scott Bell is a small, to the point guide for novelists.  Bell is an accomplished author of several novels as well as writer how-to books.  In this book he uses short chapters to highlight various points he considers necessary for writers to improve their craft.  He quotes liberally from Sun Tzu's classic strategy book The Art of War (in the library catalog the author attribution is "sunzi, active 5th century B. C.), applying those principles to the art of putting words on paper.  He also quotes liberally from Stephen King's On Writing

Bell's book is pocket sized, the chapters are short and each contains a pithy nugget of wisdom that writers can use to their benefit.  There are exercises for practicing the craft, strategies for overcoming writer's block, and tips and tricks that only a veteran writer can share with the novice.  An excellent guide book.  A perfect gift for the writer in your life.

Need more help getting that novel started or finished?  Try these:

On Writing by Stephen King
A Writer's Guide to Characterization: Archetypes, Heroic Journeys, and Other Elements of Dynamic Character Development by Victoria Lynn Schmidt
Story Engineering: Mastering the Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing by Larry Brooks
Beginnings, Middles, & Ends by Nancy Kress
Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing by Elmore Leonard
Writer's Workshop in a Book: The Squaw Valley Community of Writers on the Art of Fiction

More books by James Scott Bell:

Revision and Self-Editing for Publication: Techniques for Transforming Your First Draft into a Novel
Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot that Grips Readers from Start to Finish

Blind Justice: A Novel
City of Angels
Angels Flight
Angel of Mercy
A Greater Glory
A Higher Justice
Presumed Guilty
The Whole Truth
Don't Leave Me

Friday, December 13, 2013

Book Review Friday: A Beautiful Blue Death


A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch

Victorian gentleman and armchair explorer, Charles Lennox likes to spend his winter afternoons with a cup of tea, a good book, and a blazing fire.  But when his good friend and neighbor Lady Jane asks him to help solve a crime he cannot refuse.  Lady Jane's former made Pru Smith has turned up at her new job dead of an apparent suicide.  Lennox accompanied by his good friend, Dr. Thomas McConnell and his valet, Graham investigate and soon deduce that Pru was murdered by a rare poison and the race is on to discover how the girl was killed and why. 
A fascinating glimpse into Victorian England and a first class mystery as well. 

For more Charles Lennox mysteries try:

The September Society
The Fleet Street Murders
A Stranger in Mayfair
A Burial at Sea
A Death in the Small Hours
An Old Betrayal

For more Victorian mysteries try:

The Yard by Alex Grecian
The William Monk series by Anne Perry
The Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series by Anne Perry

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories

Friday, December 6, 2013

Book Review Friday: The Christmas Mouse & No Holly for Miss Quinn

 The Christmas Mouse & No Holly for Miss Quinn are two novellas by Miss Read.  These are sweet, old-fashioned Christmas stories, that were originally published in the 1970s.  The stories tell the tales village life in rural England.

In The Christmas Mouse, old Mrs. Berry is settling in for Christmas Eve when her peace is disturbed by two little visitors.  Mrs. Berry copes delightfully with her Christmas mice and her daughter and granddaughters as well. 

In No Holly for Miss Quinn, executive assistant and spinster, Miss Quinn, is jolted out of her longed for solitary Christmas celebration by an urgent call from her brother Lovell.  Soon Miss Quinn is up to her ears in the the hubbub of domestic dramas as she helps care for her pastor brother's family during the Christmas holidays while her sister-in-law is in the hospital.

No earthquakes, no explosions, no dark family secrets to reveal, just two sweet little Christmas stories to remind you of days gone by and give you a good dose of village life and old-fashioned Christmas Spirit.

I listen to them on audio every December.

For more Christmas stories may I suggest:

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol

The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits by Les Standiford

Matchless: A Christmas Story by Gregory Maguire

For even more Christmas tales search your library catalog for "Christmas Stories."

Sunday, December 1, 2013


To all and sundry who may be viewing my blog I apologize.  I didn't post a book review this past Friday.  I thought I'd scheduled them for the entire month but somewhere down the line, I ran short.  I have a couple of good excuses though:

I spent a few days puppy sitting for the adorable Miss Lily.

And I spent the entire month pounding out a novel for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and the good news is... I did it!


 So maybe someday someone else can review my novel.  Does anyone know how to spell "Long shot"??