Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Spring for Susannah by Catherine Richmond

Teaser Tuesdays is a fun meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. To participate, grab the book you're currently reading, open to a random page and share a few sentences (no spoilers!)

I'm currently reading the novel Spring for Susannah by debut author Catherine Richmond. It is SO good--romantic, sweet and very moving (review coming soon.) Today's teaser comes from page 2000 of the Kindle version:

"Now she knew how a prize heifer felt at the county fair. Behind her in the store, Mrs. Rose plowed on at full volume."

What are you reading this week?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Review: Juliet by Anne Fortier

When Julie Jacobs inherits a key to a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy, she is told it will lead her to an old family treasure. Soon she is launched on a winding and perilous journey into the history of her ancestor Giulietta, whose legendary love for a young man named Romeo rocked the foundations of medieval Siena. As Julie crosses paths with the descendants of the families involved in Shakespeare’s unforgettable blood feud, she begins to realize that the notorious curse—“A plague on both your houses!”—is still at work, and that she is the next target. It seems that the only one who can save Julie from her fate is Romeo—but where is he? (summary from cover).

I read a lot of favorable reviews of Juliet when it came out last year, but just got around to reading it. It was the perfect book for traveling--let's just say I didn't want the plane flight to end! I felt like I was on the hunt with Julie as she uncovered clues about her true identity and tried to unravel the tangled legacy of her family and their relationship to an ancient curse.

The format of alternating between the present day and the events of 1340 that led to Shakespeare's famous play kept my interest, and I loved that the characters were all three-dimensional and complex. Both the hero and heroine have things in their past they'd rather not share, and other characters blur the line between good and evil. The relationship between Julie and her twin sister Janice was especially well-written, as they move from being bitter childhood rivals to working together and finally understanding each other better.

Beautiful Siena
Fortier's writing evoked the lush countryside around Siena and made me want to hop on a plan to Italy immediately. The mix of superstition and family loyalty in the Sienese was really interesting, as was the importance of the Palio, a horse race that still takes place today. I wish the author had explained some of the Italian architectural terms she used (like loggia) as I sometimes had trouble visualizing where the scene was taking place, but that was a minor issue with an otherwise engaging book.

Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars. This is a wonderful book for these last remaining weeks of summer or any time you want to escape into a different place and time. If you love history, mystery or romance (or all three) I would recommend reading Juliet.

Details: 480 pages, published by Ballantine, July 2011
Source: personal copy

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Teaser Tuesday!

Teaser Tuesdays is a fun meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. To participate, grab the book you're currently reading, open to a random page and share a few sentences (no spoilers!)

http://img2.imagesbn.com/images/97050000/97058357.JPGThis week I'm reading Juliet by Anne Fortier. The story is a great mix of history, mystery and romance and I'm anxious to leave work and get back to reading! From page 23:

"The memory of Aunt Rose sitting next to me and in her own sweet way telling me to get a life sent another pang through my heart. Staring glumly through the greasy little airplane window into the void outside, I found myself wondering if perhaps this whole trip was meant as some kind of punishment for how I had treated her."

What are you reading this week?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Faith and Fiction Roundtable: Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker

Lacey Anne Byer is a perennial good girl and lifelong member of the House of Enlightenment, the Evangelical church in her small town. With her driver's license in hand and the chance to try out for a lead role in Hell House, her church's annual haunted house of sin, Lacey's junior year is looking promising. But when a cute new stranger comes to town, something begins to stir inside her. Ty Davis doesn't know the sweet, shy Lacey Anne Byer everyone else does. With Ty, Lacey could reinvent herself. As her feelings for Ty make Lacey test her boundaries, events surrounding Hell House make her question her religion (summary from cover).

The Faith and Fiction Roundtable hosted by My Friend Amy recently read and discussed the YA novel Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker, which focused on perennial good girl Lacey's coming-of-age during her church's annual production of a Hell House. I had a hard time relating to Lacey as a character, and her voice never really rang true for me. I also found the characters a little flat and one-dimensional, especially the adults like Lacey's father, the church's children's pastor. However, I appreciated that Walker left Lacey's spiritual journey open-ended at the conclusion of the book. Faith is such a complicated and personal thing, and I think we'll never have all the answers or our doubts fully resolved this side of heaven. This questioning made Small Town Sinners seem much more authentic.

Faith and Fiction

I personally have never been to a Hell House, but I remember being absolutely terrified after hearing about one my friends went to when we were in middle school (one room involved a young girl screaming for her mother and being told she'd never see her again or something to that effect). I appreciated that this book brought up the subject, because I think hell is a topic that many people have differing opinions about and often find hard to comprehend, myself included. Rob Bell's recent book Love Wins caused a stir when it was released because of his interpretation that Hell is caused by bad choices and that God sentencing someone to Hell for rejecting Him goes against His loving nature. I've found a lot of comfort reading the writings of C.S. Lewis and Dr. Tim Keller on the subject, and of course the Bible. The idea of a Hell House being such a big part of a church's outreach and mission was definitely interesting to think about, whatever flaws I may have found with the writing and characters.

Check out some of the other Roundtable members' thoughts: Heather, Amy, Ronnica, Carrie K, WordLily,

Source: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.