Book Review: Juliet by Anne Fortier

Title: Juliet
Author: Anne Fortier
ISBN:  978-0345516107
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pub. Date: 2010
Source: Library
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance/Mystery/Treasure Hunting/Shakespeare
Pages:  464
Rating:  5/5

From Goodreads: Twenty-five-year-old Julie Jacobs is heartbroken over the death of her beloved aunt Rose. But the shock goes even deeper when she learns that the woman who has been like a mother to her has left her entire estate to Julie’s twin sister. The only thing Julie receives is a key—one carried by her mother on the day she herself died—to a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy.

This key sends Julie on a journey that will change her life forever—a journey into the troubled past of her ancestor Giulietta Tolomei. In 1340, still reeling from the slaughter of her parents, Giulietta was smuggled into Siena, where she met a young man named Romeo. Their ill-fated love turned medieval Siena upside-down and went on to inspire generations of poets and artists, the story reaching its pinnacle in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy.
But six centuries have a way of catching up to the present, and Julie gradually begins to discover that here, in this ancient city, the past and present are hard to tell apart. The deeper she delves into the history of Romeo and Giulietta, and the closer she gets to the treasure they allegedly left behind, the greater the danger surrounding her—superstitions, ancient hostilities, and personal vendettas. As Julie crosses paths with the descendants of the families involved in the unforgettable blood feud, she begins to fear that the notorious curse—“A plague on both your houses!”—is still at work, and that she is destined to be its next target. Only someone like Romeo, it seems, could save her from this dreaded fate, but his story ended long ago. Or did it?
From Anne Fortier comes a sweeping, beautifully written novel of intrigue and identity, of love and legacy, as a young woman discovers that her own fate is irrevocably tied—for better or worse—to literature’s greatest star-crossed lovers.

My Reveries and Ramblings: I had seen this book on B&N’s coming soon page and had to get it as soon as it was released-which I did at the end of August 2010.  This book brought me into a month long obsession with Italy.  I grilled my parents for days about our family which came from Italy.  I was secretly hoping that there was some sort of cool mystery, death, or curse or something that would allow me to go on the same kind of adventure as the protagonist, Julie, did in Juliet.  I was so disappointed when there was nothing-but I’m not giving my hopes up until I step foot in Italy and find out for myself 😉
      Juliet begins with Julie Jacobs finding out about the death of her great aunt, who raised her and her sister, Janice.  After she is told by Umberto, the butler, and her aunt’s lawyer that the estate was left for Janice, a broke Julie goes to Siena, Italy to find the family treasure that was left for her by their mother.  In college, Julie Jacobs went to Italy with a group of peace activists only to be kicked out of the country and asked to never return.  This time she enters the country as Giulietta Tolomei, her birth name.  On the plane she meets Eva Maria Salimbeni who informs her to be careful about who she tells her name to.  She begins to tell Julie, or Giulietta, about the history between their two families.  What follows is 400 pages filled with a treasure hunt for Juliet’s eyes, a gold statue with very very valuable jewels for eyes.  However, this statue is said to be located at the grave of Romeo and Juliet, which no one has seen since the black plague.  Led by only her dead mother’s notes and a copy of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Julie sets out on a wild treasure hunt.  There is another thing-a powerful curse that all started with the Friar Lorenzo, who was the friar responsible for Romeo and Juliet’s romance all those years ago.  As he was being tortured he cursed the Tolomei (Juliet and Julie’s family) and the Salimbeni (Eva Maria’s family-and the evil man who tore Juliet and Romeo apart’s family) family.

“A plague on both your houses
You shall all perish in fire and gore
Your children forever wail under a mad moon
Till you undo your sins and kneel before the Virgin
And Giulietta wakes to behold her Romeo.”

      Of course Julie doesn’t have an easy time trying to end the curse and find the treasure- what with Alessandro Santini wanting her to stay away from him and his godmother Eva Maria.  Then when he finally befriends Julie, he starts doing some very suspicious things.  Then there’s the issue of someone on a motor cycle who keeps following her everywhere.  And to top it off, the Maestro painter who she befriends and who owns the painting of the original Juliet from all those years ago, tells her that Romeo comes to his studio almost every night to drink a glass of wine and look at the painting.  And no, he is no ghost- for ghosts don’t drink wine.
Take The Da Vinci Code, National Treasure, Romeo and Juliet, and Anne Fortier’s imagination and writing and you get Juliet, a beautiful love story spanning centuries and a treasure hunt.  This is one of my favorite books.  I opened it to skim through before writing this review and ended up rereading it completely -I did not expect to stay up until 5 AM.  And now all I want to do is go to Siena.  Having been to Italy once before (about 4 or 5 years ago) I have to say it felt like Italy, I was right there.  Not only that but I remember seeing the places that she describes in the book, which make it all the more real.
The middle chunk of the book alternates between the past and present.  The past being the “real” Romeo and Juliet in 1340.  The story is sad and tragic.  In my opinion, it’s even more tragic than the Shakespeare version.  Now many years later, their decedents are cursed and trying to break it.  But will Romeo and Juliet of today’s world find love or tragedy?
Julie Jacobs, or Giulietta was a great character.  I truly related to her.  I hated her twin sister, Janice, so much.  But eventually grew to like her.  Alessandro Santini is a hot Italian man.  He is the head of security for the local 500 yr old bank, very hot, and a tortured soul.  Who doesn’t love all that?  Plus he’s got some secrets.
I URGE you to read this book.  Juliet is a passionate tale of love, death, secrets, fate/destiny, and finding oneself.  It will have you believing that Romeo and Juliet existed and that this curse is for real-which of course both aren’t true.  You will be transported to Italy and will never want to leave. You will wish/pray/hope/beg that you can find your Romeo.  You will beseech your parents to let you go to Italy to find love and adventure.  You won’t know what to do with yourself when it ends.

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Juliet

Book Trailer: 

And

Just because I think Romeo and Juliet is one of the greatest (albeit tragic) love stories of all time:

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Book Review: My Antonia by Willa Cather

Title: My Antonia
Author: Willa Cather
Series: Great Plains Trilogy #3
ISBN:  1583485090
Publisher: New Millennium Library
Pub. Date: 1918
Source: Paperback
Genre:  Classics, Historical Fiction, Realism
Pages:  232
Rating:  3/5

From Goodreads: It seems almost sacrilege to infringe upon a book as soulful and rich as Willa Cather’s My Antonia by offering comment. First, published in 1918, and set in Nebraska in the late 19th c., this tale of the spirited daughter of a Bohemian immigrant family planning to farm on the untamed land (“not a country at all but the material out of which countries are made”) comes to us through the romantic eyes of Jim Burden. He is , at the time of their meeting, newly orphaned and arriving at his grandparents’ neighboring farm on the same night her family strikes out to make good in their new country. jim chooses the opening words of his recollections deliberately: “I first heard of Antonia on what seemed to be an interminable journey across the great midland plain of North America,” and it seems almost certain that readers of Cather’s masterpiece will just as easily pinpoint the first time they heard of Antonia and her world. It seems equally certain that they, too, will remember that moment as one of great light in an otherwise unremarkable trip through the world.

Ántonia, who, even as a grown woman somewhat downtrodden by circumstance and hard work, “had not lost the fire of life,” lies at the center of almost every human condition that Cather’s novel effortlessly untangles. She represents immigrant struggles with a foreign land and tongue, the restraints on women of the time (with which Cather was very much concerned), the more general desires for love, family, and companionship, and the great capacity for forbearance that marked the earliest settlers on the frontier.

As if all this humanity weren’t enough, Cather paints her descriptions of the vastness of nature–the high, red grass, the road that “ran about like a wild thing,” the endless wind on the plains–with strokes so vivid as to make us feel in our bones that we’ve just come in from a walk on that very terrain ourselves. As the story progresses, Jim goes off to the University in Lincoln to study Latin (later moving on to Harvard and eventually staying put on the East Coast in another neat encompassing of a stage in America’s development) and learns Virgil’s phrase “Optima dies … prima fugit” that Cather uses as the novel’s epigraph. “The best days are the first to flee”–this could be said equally of childhood and the earliest hours of this country in which the open land, much like My Ántonia, was nothing short of a rhapsody in prairie sky blue. –Melanie Rehak

My Reveries and Ramblings:  My Antonia by Willa Cather is about the friendship between a boy, Jim, and an immigrant girl, Antonia.  Willa Cather’s novel deals with issues such as immigration, suicide, prejudice, and unrequited love.  My Antonia is a charming coming-of-age story set in the late 19th c.  The characters are realistically written.  The story is narrated by Jim and is a compilation of memories from his childhood and young adult life-mostly revolving around Antonia.

To be honest, I did not want to read this book-mostly because it is a realist work.  I’m not a huge fan of realism-I find it quite depressing.  I still wonder why I decided to take a class on American Literature that concentrated on Realist works. Since I had to read and write a paper on a realist work, I was dreading it.  But it truly surprised me.  I did not expect to like it at all.  I recommend you read this if you like classic American Literature.  Even if you don’t, it’s still a good read; and by far my favorite of all the books/short stories I had to read for that class.  I give it 3/5.

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My Ántonia

The following is a clip from the movie (and yes, that is Neil Patrick Harris as Jim)

Book Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

Title:  Soulless
Author:  Gail Carriger
Series: Parasol Protectorate #1
ISBN:  0316056634
Publisher:  Orbit
Pub. Date: 2009
Source: Kindle
Genre: Science Fiction/ Fantasy/ Paranormal / Historical Romance / Mystery
Pages:  373
Rating:  5/5

Synopsis (from Goodreads.com):  Without a morsel of exaggeration, its publisher describes this debut novel as “a comedy of manners set in Victorian London full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.” At the center of Soulless‘s “parasol protectorate” is Miss Alexia Tarabotti, a young woman who lacks not only a suitor but also a soul. And those are not her only problems: When she accidentally kills a vampire, it begins a series of events that she must set out to resolve without the help of any proper authorities. A charming mass market original.

My Reveries and Ramblings: Alexia Tarabotti is the daughter of an Italian-making her tan, assertive, big-nosed, and curvy.  Unlike her mother and half sisters, she also happens to be soulless (the preferred term being preternatural).  After being attacked by a vampire, Alexia is forced to uncover the mystery behind recent vampire and werewolf disappearances.  In doing so, her relationship with the alpha of the London werewolves, Lord Maccon, intensifies in every way.

I loved this book.  Gail Carriger does a fantastic job twisting the paranormal into steampunk Victorian England.  This satire is filled with great characters, an interesting plot, and lots and lots of tea.  The protagonist, Alexia Tarabotti was born a preternatural, or without a soul.  By simply touching a vampire or werewolf, she can rid them of their supernatural abilities, or turn them human.  This only works if she is physically touching them; as soon as she removes her touch, they are back to their supernatural state.  Lord Maccon arrives right after Alexia kills her attacker with her parasol.  He is a Scottish alpha werewolf who finds Alexia to be a pain in his-well, you know what I mean.  Lord Maccon grows deeper feelings for Alexia-or rather, he comes to realize his deeper feelings for her throughout the first half of the novel.  He is accompanied by his Beta, Prof. Lyall.  Even though Prof. Lyall is a werewolf, he is the opposite of Lord Maccon.  Where Lord Maccon is rude, primal, and a bit wild, Prof. Lyall is well-mannered, civilized, and tame.   I loved Lord Maccon.  I really enjoyed reading the banter between him and Alexia.

The story is set in 19th century (steampunk) Victorian England.  This novel had me laughing out loud.  Alexia, like everyone else at that time, is obsessed with manners and proper etiquette.  To her, the end of the world would occur when it ran out of tea.  However, she does realize the absurdity of her family and how they judge others.  Alexia’s family reminded me so much of the Bennet family in Pride and Prejudice.  There were also some similarities between Alexia and Elizabeth, not tons, but definitely some.

I would highly recommend this book.  Warning: there is a sex scene, kissing, some nudity, and a bit of blood.

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Soulless (Parasol Protectorate, #1)

Book Review: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Title: Clockwork Angel
Author: Cassandra Clare
Series: Infernal Devices #1
ISBN: 9781416975861
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Pub. Date: 2009
Source: Library
Genre: Fiction/ Supernatural/ YA/ Steampunk/ Victorian / Magic / Paranormal Romance
Pages:  479
Rating:  5/5
From Goodreads:  When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London’s Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.
Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What’s more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa’s power for his own.
Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by–and torn between–two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm’s length…everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world…and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.
My Reveries and Ramblings:  Tessa traveled to England hoping to live with her brother when she is kidnapped by the Dark Sisters.  They convince her to cooperate by telling Tessa that they have her brother.  They force her to awaken her hidden powers-ones she didn’t even know she had.  When the Sisters tell Tessa of their plans to marry her to the Magister, she attempts to escape and is punished.  Will, a shadowhunter investigating a murder, turns up just in time to rescue her.  Tessa is drawn into a world of magic, vampires, werewolves, warlocks, and secret societies.  Tessa is faced with a difficult question: who is she? And is she really human?
This story takes place in a fictional Victorian England-complete with steampunk and supernatural creatures.  I was drawn in from the start.  Cassandra Clare tactfully catches the reader’s attention in the first few chapters, making it almost impossible to put down.
Her characters were all beautifully written.  Tessa is relatable.  I saw a lot of myself in Tessa.  Like Tessa, I love to lose myself in books.  I really enjoyed all the references Tessa and Will both made to other works of literature.  Tessa, like many sixteen-year-old girls, is insecure.  She falls into a deeper hole of doubt when she realizes that she may not be human.  This causes her to question everything she has ever known.         However insecure she was, her values remained strong.  She never waivered from what she knew was right and wrong.  I felt that Tessa had matured throughout the book.
Will is a witty and arrogant shadowhunter.  I loved reading his witty dialogue.  Most of his remarks had me laughing out loud.  I was concerned, though.  It became apparent partially through the book that there is something deeper there.  Something painful and sad.  Almost all the characters notice this about him.  He uses wit, humor, and fighting as defense mechanisms.  He even keeps Tessa at a distance.
Jem is the only person Will seems to open up the most with-which isn’t a lot actually.  Jem is such a sweetheart.  His character was heart wrenching to watch (read).  I have to say-Jem had the best inspirational quotes.  He’s so cute ❤
I LOVED this book.  I was never bored.  I loved everything about it-the characters, the story, the romance, etc.  I recommend you buy this book!!! It’s definitely worth re-reading over and over again.

*Spoiler Alert * If you have already read this book  then highlight the area below…Those of you who haven’t read Clockwork Angel, you have been warned.

Okay, so I can’t decide who I like better: Will or Jem.  I love Will-his carefree attitude and his wit are hilarious to read.  But he puts up so many walls that it’s so hard to tell what’s going on in his head.  One moment it’s like he loves Tessa and then the next he’s being a jerk.  At the end when he tells her they can’t get married? What’s with that? He doesn’t seem like he loves her but then sometimes he does-I’m so confused with him.  Jem on the other hand is the kind of guy that in real life is my type.  I find Will SO attractive but he’s just not my type-maybe my fictional self’s type (if I ever wrote one), but not mine.  Jem is the perfect gentleman and so optimistic which is so refreshing compared to Will’s I-don’t-give-a-damn approach to life.  
I was shocked when that twist at the end came.  That was just sooooo unexpected.  At that point, I was racing to see what happened next.  How could Nate do that to his sister? And that last scene with Will and Magnus…I want to know what happens!!  It’s going to be torturous waiting for the next book.  
What did you think?

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Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices, #1)

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Book Review: Ransom My Heart by Princess Mia Thermopolis & Meg Cabot

Title: Ransom My Heart
Author: Princess Mia Thermopolis & Meg Cabot
ISBN: 006170007X
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pub. Date: 2009
Source: Library
Genre: Romance/ Historical Romance/ Chick Lit/ YA/ Fantasy
Pages:  396
Rating:  4/5

From Goodreads: Mia Thermopolis, Princess of Genovia and star of Meg Cabot’s insanely popular #1 New York Times bestselling Princess Diaries books, has “penned” her first historical romance novel . . . with help from Meg Cabot
He’s a tall, handsome knight with a secret. She’s an adventurous beauty with more than a few secrets of her own. Finnula needs money for her sister’s dowry, and fast. Hugo Fitzstephen, returning home to England from the Crusades with saddlebags of jewels, has money, and lots of it. What could be simpler than to kidnap him and hold him for ransom?
Well, for starters, Finnula could make the terrible mistake of falling in love with her hostage.
Princess Mia Thermopolis, Meg Cabot’s most beloved character, has always been an outspoken animal-rights activist and committed environmentalist. In keeping with Mia’s true spirit, Meg will be donating her advance to Greenpeace.

My Reveries and Ramblings:
Finnula Crais is a female Robin Hood, known as Fair Finn. She helps feed the poor (by stealing from the rich). She is a skilled archer. If that isn’t enough to cause the town to gossip, she also wears men’s clothes. gasp The horror! When Finnula’s unwed sister becomes pregnant, Finnula is forced to help. Finnula goes in search of a rich man to take hostage to pay for her sister’s dowry. She captures Hugo, a knight on his way home from the Crusades. An amused Hug allows himself to be captured. Their journey back is filled with tension (will they or won’t they)-it is intense. I don’t want to give anything away but that is only the first half of the book. The second half is drenched in mystery, and romance too.
Finnula and Hugo were great characters. Finnula is a redhead tomboy who won’t let anyone push her around. Hugo, on the other hand, is arrogant and bossy. They are constantly arguing. Most of it is playful though. He wants her to wear dresses while she insists on wearing men’s clothes. Underneath all their arguing, they really love each other. The great thing about these characters is that neither changed who they were for the other, they learned to compromise. They both kept their values, which I think makes them work well together-especially for the story. It’s the main cause of their constant head butting.
  Ransom My Heart is a great novel filled with romance (lots of it) and a bit of mystery. The only problem was that it was a bit predictable. Having said that though, I really enjoyed reading it. There were some comical moments throughout. An all together easy read for adults.
Warning: some sex scenes.

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Ransom My Heart

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