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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Review: Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Fiction
Hardback  371 pages
Book Source: the library
My Rating: 90/100

From Goodreads:

Meet the Roncalli and Angelini families, a vibrant cast of colorful characters who navigate tricky family dynamics with hilarity and brio, from magical Manhattan to the picturesque hills of bella Italia. Very Valentine is the first novel in a trilogy and is sure to be the new favorite of Trigiani's millions of fans around the world.

In this luscious, contemporary family saga, the Angelini Shoe Company, makers of exquisite wedding shoes since 1903, is one of the last family-owned businesses in Greenwich Village. The company is on the verge of financial collapse. It falls to thirty-three-year-old Valentine Roncalli, the talented and determined apprentice to her grandmother, the master artisan Teodora Angelini, to bring the family's old-world craftsmanship into the twenty-first century and save the company from ruin.

While juggling a budding romance with dashing chef Roman Falconi, her duty to her family, and a design challenge presented by a prestigious department store, Valentine returns to Italy with her grandmother to learn new techniques and seek one-of-a-kind materials for building a pair of glorious shoes to beat their rivals. There, in Tuscany, Naples, and on the Isle of Capri, a family secret is revealed as Valentine discovers her artistic voice and much more, turning her life and the family business upside down in ways she never expected.

My Thoughts:

Valentine is the "funny one" in the family.  She is a 33 yr old sweet, honest, Italian girl who also happens to be the only unmarried family member left.  A big no-no in this traditional family.  However, Valentine finds her self at a crossroads in her life:  no immediate plans of settling down, no "serious" job, but a serious desire to continue the family business of custom made bridal shoes.  Valentine is currently the apprentice at Angelini Shoe Company, but must help her Grandmother Theodora in saving the business.  The company is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and only modern day financing can save this olde world company.

Valentine makes her mission to stabilize the company and in the process, she matures and comes into her own, as both a person and a designer.  Valentine realizes her potential, harnesses her craft, and figures out what she wants in a relationship and a man.  Valentine becomes comfortable with herself.  Does she save Angelini Shoes?  You will have to read the book to find out :)

This story is filled with wonderful moments of Val and her family.  These scenes may seem totally stereotypical, but they are spot on accurate.  I'm Italian so I should know.  The trip that Val and her Grandmom take to Italy is beautiful and I felt like I was there with them.  Trigiani's descriptions make it easy to picture, and I really  must move that trip to Italy up the vacation list.  The relationship between Val and her Grandmom is special and I think it's one many granddaughters share with their Grandmoms.  I did and it reminded me of my Grandmom whom I miss dearly.

Very Valentine was an enjoyable, lighthearted read, and a great way to escape.  I look forward to the follow-up titled, Brava Valentine, and will consider reading Trigiani's back list. 

I am a tour stop for the TLC tour of Brava Valentine on December 9th, so be sure to stop back for my review.  For more information about that tour, check out the tour homepage.

For more information about Adriana Trigiani please visit her website:

2010 Challenges Met: 100+, Support Your Local Library, Reading Romance

I am an Amazon Associate.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Review: The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick

The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Historical fiction
Trade paperback, 656 pages
Book Source: Sourcebooks
My Rating: 90/100

From Goodreads:

Married to a king incompetent both on the throne and in bed, Emma does not love her husband. But she does love England. Even as her husband fails, Emma vows to protect her people-no matter what. For five decades, through love and loss, prosperity and exile, Emma fights for England, becoming the only woman to have been anointed, crowned, and reigning queen to two different kings, the mother of two more, and the great aunt of William the Conqueror.

3 Reasons Review:

1.) Reasons you chose this book

I read Book 2 of Hollick's Arthurian trilogy Pendragon's Banner, and thoroughly enjoyed.  Therefore, when another of her works was offered for review, I jumped at the chance.  I am still going to read her Golden Age of Piracy based books though.  Didn't forget about those :)

2.) Reasons you liked or disliked this book

*Although this book is about Emma, it is also about the major players of England's history during this time.  Although these characters are required to tell Emma's story, the manner in which their parts/actions were written into the overall story was insightful and entertaining.  I felt it brought me fully into the story and those drafty "castles".

*Women of this time came from hearty stock.  Emma's delicate beginnings do not bode well, but as you witness her transformation into the Queen of her English people, it is truly amazing.  Emma becomes strong and formidable, and I wonder if Eleanor of Aquitaine didn't model herself after Emma.  One of my favorite scenes of Emma was when she showed her resolve as Swein Forkbeard marched by Winchester, Emma's personal holding.  Emma didn't have to say a word but she did anyway.  Emma knew what her people needed to see from their sovereign, even if her husband the King did not. 

*Which brings us to King Athelred, who is involved way too much in this story, but it is historically based after all.  I don't think I have ever read about such an ineffective leader, ever.  How Athelred managed to stay in power at all is beyond me.  How England survived Athelred's reign would probably be a better statement.

*Death was sudden and sever during this time.  Several characters died in this story and I would say I was sad to see that all except a few pass on.  Some deaths, such as those which take place early in the book (don't want to give things away) made me feel really bad.  I know they are fictional characters but I liked them and didn't want to see them go.  I should have known they were goners the minute they were introduced because despite the terrible times, they were very honest and nice.
*Hollick brings history to life.  Her attention to details and accuracy are impeccable.  Hollick immerses her readers into the story and I love how she brought this little know person, Emma, to life for me.  Actually I knew nothing of any of these characters before I read this book.  So I enjoyed learning about all of them. 

*I do have one reason I disliked the book, and it was due to it's size.  At 656 pages it's a chunkster, and a bit unwieldy to hold and read.  However, I don't believe you could have edited this story down without losing some of the goodness.  Maybe I'm being knit picky, but I'm honest.

*Oh I also love the realistic picture of the woman on the cover.  A Queen with curves, thank you! 

3.) Reasons you are recommending this book

I would recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction.  Have you ever heard of Queen Emma before now?  Didn't think so, so get yourself a copy of this one.  I also recommend this book for those of us who don't know much about early English history, like me.  When I read stories like this, they make me research more information about the actual events are people, and learning is always a good thing.

If you like more information about this book or the lovely author Helen Hollick, please visit her website

This book is currently on tour.  For other review and opinions, please stop by one of these lovely blogs:
The Forever Queen Schedule

















Culminating with a live book chat on Monday, November 22, from 7pm -9pm EST. at

Thanks to Danielle for sending me my ARC.

2010 Challenges Met: 100+, Historical Fiction

I am an Amazon Associate.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Review: Dark Moon of Avalon by Anna Elliott

Dark Moon of Avalon by Anna Elliott
Publisher: Touchstone, a division of Simon and Schuster
Genre: Historical fantasy fiction
Trade paperback 419 pages
Book Source: the author
My Rating:  85/100

From Goodreads:

She is a healer, a storyteller, and a warrior. She has fought to preserve Britain’s throne. Now she faces her greatest challenge in turning bitter enemies into allies, saving the life of the man she loves . . . and mending her own wounded heart.

The young former High Queen, Isolde, and her friend and protector, Trystan, are reunited in a new and dangerous quest to keep the usurper, Lord Marche, and his Saxon allies from the throne of Britain. Using Isolde’s cunning wit and talent for healing and Trystan’s strength and bravery, they must act as diplomats, persuading the rulers of the smaller kingdoms, from Ireland to Cornwall, that their allegiance to the High King is needed to keep Britain from a despot’s hands.

Their admissions of love hang in the air, but neither wants to put the other at risk by openly declaring a deeper alliance. When their situation is at its most desperate, Trystan and Isolde must finally confront their true feelings toward each other, in time for a battle that will test the strength of their will and their love.

Steeped in the magic and lore of Arthurian legend, Elliott paints a moving portrait of a timeless romance, fraught with danger, yet with the power to inspire heroism and transcend even the darkest age.

My Thoughts:

This is the second book in Elliott's trilogy about Trystan and Isolde, which takes place in the days after King Arthur's demise.  This book picks up where the first left off, however, those who haven't read the first one, Twilight of Avalon, will not be lost.  Elliott also provides a list of characters and their relationships in the foreword pages, which can be quite helpful. 

In this piece of the story, the fate of Britain is at a turning point.  With no universally accepted High King, several high rankning lords, notably Lord Marche have banded together against one another.  Throw in bands of the marauding warriors and thieves into the mix, and anyone was left alive is a mystery.  This is a tumultuous time in Britain and in humanity in general, yet there is one shred of hope that Isolde and her people can cling to.  If Isolde as the previous High Queen and descendant of Modred and Arthur, can convince King Cerdic to join her side, then they may stand a chance against Marche and his men.

Isolde must travel across dangerous lands to speak with Cerdic, so she grudgingly asks Trystan to escort her there.  Although Trystan would not trust her safety to anyone else, he also does not want to be in close proximity to her.  It would stir up too many feelings he can't deal with.  Unfortunately, a close friend of Trystan's, Hereric, is injured and requires Isolde's healing skills.  Therefore Trystan strikes a bargain with Isolde: he will see her to Cerdic safely, provided she takes care of Hereric.  Neither one is thrilled with this arrangement, however Trystan is the only person Isolde can trust.

It is during this journey that things fell apart for me.  Trystan and Isolde are thinking and deciding about their feelings for one another, yet hardly speaking to one another about the situation, except to say "Here have some bread."  I understand this section is a journey not so much in the physical sense, but also in the mental sense, in that each one comes to terms with both themselves and their feelings for one another.  In addition, both Trystan and Isolde come into this "relationship" with a lot of baggage.  Trystan has a terrible family history and past, as well as Isolde.  Actually both have been physically and emotionally abused over the years, so the fact that these two are even mentally well balanced is a miracle.  It actually speaks to their character, that they can move on from the past to deal with the present and future.  As you can see there are heavy ideas being dealt with here, not to mention the fate of Britain.

I think it was all of this thinking and deep, dark, emotional concepts that derailed this book for me.  I read for escape and when I was reading this I needed some escape.  Having said that, I will still read Book 3 Sunrise of Avalon, because I want to know what happens.  What happens to Trystan, Isolde, and Britain?  How do they make sense of everything and survive these brutal times?  Elliott's writing is beautiful and the concepts she deals with strike a chord for me, even though I didn't like them.  I felt Trystan and Isolde's pain, but unfortunately I wasn't in the mood at the time.  A reader's mental state influences how receptive they are to the book they are currently reading.  Therefore, some time in the future I will try to re-read this book, and see if I feel differently, hence the middle B rating.   Plus the last line of the book throws the door open wide to how this story will end.

For more information about the author please visit her website:

Thank you to Anna for sending me a copy of her book.  I'm sorry I didn't have a better reaction to it, but I still enjoy your writing.

2010 Challenges Met: 100+,  Reading Romance

I am an Amazon Associate. I will earn a small percentage if you click the links and make a purchase.  Any earnings will be reinvested into this blog.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Introducing the Three Reasons Review Format

Over the past few months, Staci from Life In the Thumb, and I have discussed ways of making reviews easier.  Some books don't require an in-depth review or are too long and complicated, so that quick thoughts or comments about the book are easier for a review.  Through our conversations the Three Reasons Review was born.  (Staci will tell you she had very little input, but don't listen to her.  She listened to me and gave advice, which counts in my book.  Staci is just super modest.)

The Three Reasons Review is a simple way to get your thoughts out there about a book.  The reasons are as follows complete with fancy button:

1.) Reasons you chose this book

2.) Reasons you liked or disliked this book

3.) Reasons you are recommending this book

I hope you like this and please feel free to use this format and button on your blog too.  Life can crazy at times and any method for streamlining a review can be helpful.

Enjoy your weekend and happy reading my Pumpkins!


 I am an Amazon Associate.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Review: Of Bees and Mist by Erik Setiawan

Of Bees and Mist by Erik Setiawan
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Fiction
Trade paperback 416 pages
Book Source: TLC Book Tours
My Rating: 87/100

From Goodreads:

Of Bees and Mist is an engrossing fable that chronicles three generations of women under one family tree and places them in a mythical town where spirits and spells, witchcraft and demons, and prophets and clairvoyance are an everyday reality.

Meridia grows up in a lonely home until she falls in love with Daniel at age sixteen. Soon, they marry, and Meridia can finally escape to live with her charming husband’s family—unaware that they harbor dark mysteries of their own. As Meridia struggles to embrace her life as a young bride, she discovers long-kept secrets about her own past as well as shocking truths about her new family that push her love, courage, and sanity to the brink.

Erick Setiawan’s astonishing debut is a richly atmospheric and tumultuous ride of hope and heartbreak that is altogether touching, truthful, and memorable.

My Thoughts:

Setiawan uses magic to weave his tale of domestic dysfunction and unhappiness. The Mist represents the the unhappy, loveless, and cold home that Meridia grew up in, literally and figuratively. The constant battling between Meridia's parents causes Meridia to latch on to the first safe refuge she stumbles upon, that being Daniel. Not to say that Daniel wasn't a sweet boy, he was. However, I think her unhappy life at home causes Meridia to overlook glaring inconsistencies in the behavior of Daniel's family when she meets them. The Bees represent the constant needling and manipulation employed by Daniel's mother Eva, on her family. In Daniel's house, it is all about Eva. Whatever Eva wants, she gets, and all must please her. No if, ands, or butts. Eva treats her oldest daughter like gold, meanwhile her youngest daughter is treated like a sewer dweller. It is a deplorable family situation, and there are insights given in the story for Eva's behavior. Unfortunately, I could care less what the reasons are: you don't treat people that way.

The bulk of the story is Meridia and Daniel's marriage and how they work, sometimes together, to get out from under Eva's thumb. Meridia does eventually realize how much her parents actually love her, and that all of their fighting was with each other. She was merely a causality of war. As for Daniel, I'm not sure if he ever really figures out his mother. Besides, no one ever wants to believe the worst of their mother, even when they deserve it.

While I enjoyed the way in which Setiawan uses magic to convey the characters feelings and moods, the underlying story, the domestic dysfunction, became boring for me. Yes, I finished the book, but I felt kind of meh as I read it. At times Meridia stands up for herself and Daniel, yet I don't think Daniel ever really sees how manipulative his mother is. I understood the magic of the Bees, but even so, if Daniel loved Meridia so much, he should have believed her more often. There was one instance when Meridia and Daniel do give Eva a piece of their mind. Unfortunately, the situation evolves into Daniel having to choose a side: Eva or Merida. That's never good. Another interesting facet, Meridia and Daniel communicate very poorly with one another, which is part of the problem with their respective set of parents. I wanted to grab Meridia, shake her and say, "Just tell him already how you feel and how he is making this happen. Communicate effectively girl!" But I guess that's part of the overall story. Neither Daniel or Meridia had good role models for marriage so how could they know what a good marriage is?

Setiawan writes beautifully, and I liked the way magic was incorporated into the story. The magic makes for a good backdrop and provides for interesting side descriptions.  Quite clever and inventive. But as I said, the underlying story was a bit boring, so that's why I gave it a high B rating. 

For more information, please visit Eric Setiawan's website or his Facebook page.

For more reviews and other tour stop information, please visit the main tour page.

Thank you to Trish from TLC Book Tours for inviting me to participate in the tour.

2010 Challenges Met: 100+

I am an Amazon Associate.