Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday Post (18) / It's Monday, What Are You Reading

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news. A post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next. I will also be sharing my It's Monday post on Twitter #IMWAYR.

So I got back from my trip to Canada on Tuesday. I had a great time with my family and even got to see Casa Loma on my last day there. I'd wanted to go there since I was a kid so I'm glad I finally got to visit. It is very Downton Abbey like but probably isn't nearly as grand as Highclere Castle.

Speaking of Downton Abbey, I was excited to see the new trailer. There are some interesting clues of what might happen and I'm pretty sure we even get a glimpse of the Carson/Hughes wedding. The sixth and final season starts on September 20th in the U.K. and next January in the U.S.

Since I've been back to work I've been busy catching up. My coworker Kim and I are working on our first Pinterest Craft Night at the library. So far only one person has signed up but we have some fun crafts planned and once we have something on display it might attract more interest. We'll see. This is the first time I'll be doing a live craft program for adults so I don't know what kind of attendance to expect.

Last week on my blog:

Evergreen Falls by Kimberley Freeman (review)

Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell (review)

Books read:

Maid of Wonder by Jennifer McGowan

While I liked Sophia, the paranormal elements in this historical mystery didn't quite work for me (Sophia is the niece of John Dee and she has prophetic/psychic abilities). I prefer the two prior books in the series that were more solidly grounded in Tudor reality. I definitely plan to continue with the series because I like the characters and the other books shouldn't have the strong emphasis on the paranormal.

The Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev

I think I like the cover more than the book. I felt bad the heroine, Ria who has to deal with some traumatic things in her past but the love interest was a big jerk for the first part of the book (he is bitter because she broke his heart years ago). I ended up liking the book but I prefer romances where the hero is worthy of the heroine from the beginning.

Soundless by Richelle Mead

This is a YA fantasy novel inspired by Chinese folklore. I prefer Mead's other teen fiction with its more vibrant characters. While I liked Fei because of her loyalty and determination, I found her and the story to be pretty bland overall.

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

There was a lot of hype surrounding this book so I was happy to discover that Dumplin' lives up to it.  Willowdean is a complex character. On the one hand she is brave and she can be pretty confident but on the other hand she also struggles with some insecurity regarding her body and she is mad at herself for feeling that way. I liked that the book didn't involve her losing weight to find happiness.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

This is another book that had a lot of hype and an interesting premise (a teenage girl who can never leave her house because of an illness falls in love with a teenage boy who moves in next door). I really liked it and thought it reminded me a little bit of Eleanor and Park and The Fault in Our Stars while being original at the same time. I think Maddy is my favorite new character of 2015. 

Currently reading:

Through Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin

This Christian fiction novel is set during WWII prior to U.S. involvement and there is a lot of anti-war/isolationist sentiment. The main characters are trying to solve a mystery of who is behind the sabotage at the Navy shipyard.

What I might read next:

I have such high hopes for this book that I'm a little nervous about starting it. The Girl of Fire and Thorns is one of my favorite books and the other two books in the series were equally fantastic.

After You by Jojo Moyes

This is the sequel to Me Before You, my favorite of Jojo Moyes's books. I am hoping we will see some characters get a happy ending after the sorrow of the last book.

Madly by Amy Alward

I think this book sounds like fun. The main character Samantha has to save a princess who took a love potion that went wrong. 

I decided to give this book a try after reading a review from Christina at Confessions of a Book Addict (she called it one of her favorite books of the year). I love historical fiction and with such high praise I'm sure I'll love this book too.

New books received:

Madly by Amy Alward (for review)

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (for review)

The Good Neighbor by Amy Sue Nathan (for review)

The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff (library book)

Brown-Eyed Girl by Lisa Kleypas (library book)

The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck (library book)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Review: Mechanica

By Betsy Cornwell
Published: August 25, 2015

Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have turned her into a servant in her own home. 

But on her sixteenth birthday, Nicolette discovers a secret workshop in the cellar and begins to dare to imagine a new life for herself. Could the mysterious books and tools hidden there—and the mechanical menagerie, led by a tiny metal horse named Jules—be the key to escaping her dreary existence? With a technological exposition and royal ball on the horizon, the timing might just be perfect for Nicolette to earn her freedom at last.

Gorgeous prose and themes of social justice and family shine in this richly imagined Cinderella retelling about an indomitable inventor who finds her prince . . . but realizes she doesn't want a fairy tale happy ending after all.

My review:

Nick's mother Margot was a talented inventor who infused her gadgets with Fey magic. When the queen becomes ill from a Fey disease and dies of too much Lovesbane, Fey magic is made illegal and her inventions are no longer in demand. After Margot dies of the same disease, Nick's father remarries a woman with two cruel daughters. Nick's stepmother has the same aversion to the Fey that her father has. Although Nick tries to befriend her new sisters, they repay her with meanness and things only get worse after Nick's father dies and the Steps force her to become their servant.

Nick has her mother's gift for invention and she secretly uses gadgets to help her clean the house and sew her stepsisters' many gowns. On her sixteenth birthday she receives a letter from her mother with instructions leading her to a secret workroom. Inside are some of her mother's inventions including a miniature horse named Jules who seems to have a life of his own. Nick begins studying her mother's designs and creating her own especially after she finds out about the upcoming technological exposition. The exposition could be her chance to get the notice of a sponsor who could help her launch her career and escape the Steps once and for all.

Nick is a smart and plucky heroine. She's had a hard life in the years since her mom died but she is strong and puts up with the Steps. When she finds the workshop and hears about the exposition she is determined to invent something amazing. To help make money for the supplies she needs she even sells beads and the knitting machines she makes at the local market. It is there that she meets Caro and Fin, her new friends who encourage her. 

I thought this was a creative retelling of Cinderella with a different take on the happy-ever-after part of the story. I applaud Nick's choice to find her own happiness rather than the traditional version of the story and how she makes it happen instead of waiting to be rescued by a fairy godmother and a prince. I also appreciated her realizations about the nature of love and family. 

I would have liked the book more if the secondary characters were better developed. While the traditional stepmother and stepsisters in Cinderella don't have much depth I would have appreciated it more if characters like Fin and Caro were explored in more detail especially their relationship with Nick and each other. It seemed to be more telling rather than showing so their friendship felt forced (for instance we get a 10 page letter from Caro about her desire to be best friends with Nick). The fey elements were not completely developed either. If this was the first book in a series then I would hope that the next book would explain things better and that we'd get a better sense of how her world works with regards to the Fey. We get some historic background in a flashback but not much else. A possible future war is mentioned but is just a footnote in the epilogue. Also the ending was rather anticlimactic after all that buildup. 

Overall I liked this book and kind of hope there will be a second book. Mechanica has an interesting premise and a likable protagonist but some minor flaws kept me from loving it as much as I thought I would. I think readers who like fairy tale retellings will enjoy this as long as they don't go into it expecting a traditional take on Cinderella. I would also suggest it to fans of novels like Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore and Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (164)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly meme to discuss upcoming books we can't wait to get our hands on. Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week, I'm waiting on:

Ash and Bramble by Sarah Prineas
Release date: September 15, 2015

The tale of Cinderella has been retold countless times. But what you know is not the true story. Sarah Prineas’s bold fairy-tale retelling is a dark and captivating world where swords are more fitting than slippers, young shoemakers are just as striking as princes, and a heroine is more than ready to rescue herself before the clock strikes midnight.
Pin has no recollection of who she is or how she got to the Godmother’s fortress. She only knows that she is a Seamstress, working day in and out to make ball gowns fit for fairy tales. But she longs to forsake her backbreaking servitude and dares to escape with the brave young Shoemaker.

Pin isn’t free for long before she’s captured again and forced to live the new life the Godmother chooses for her—a fairy-tale story, complete with a charming prince—instead of finding her own happily ever after.

When the glass slipper just doesn’t fit . . .

I love fairy tales retold especially when they have a twist. This sounds like my kind of book!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Review: Evergreen Falls

Evergreen Falls
By Kimberley Freeman
Published: August 4, 2015

From internationally bestselling author Kimberley Freeman comes a captivating new novel about a scandalous attraction, a long-forgotten secret, and a place where two women’s lives are changed forever.

It’s 1926 and Violet Armstrong is a waitress at the grand Evergreen Spa Hotel, where Australia’s glitterati are spending a winter vacation. Among the guests who remain are Sam and Flora Honeychurch-Black, a wealthy brother and sister ensconced in the hotel for an extended stay. Violet and Sam have an attraction that is as passionate as it is forbidden as the hotel closes down for the winter season. When a snowstorm moves in, trapping them all, no one could have imagined what would unfold. The group must let their secrets be buried by the snow, but all snow melts, exposing the truth beneath…

Eighty-eight years later, Lauren Beck takes a job at a café in the Blue Mountains, built as the first stage of the Evergreen Spa Hotel’s return to grandeur. There she meets Tomas, the Danish architect overseeing the project. As their budding relationship grows, Lauren discovers a series of passionate love letters dating back to 1926 that allude to a whirlwind affair—and a tragic secret. Lauren begins to unravel this long-forgotten mystery, but will discovering the truth finally make her brave enough to take a risk that could change her entire life?

Inspired by elements of her grandmother’s life, Kimberley Freeman has created a complex tale of mystery, heartbreak, and love that will keep you guessing with every twist until the very last page.

My review:

Violet is a flirty and headstrong girl with her head in the clouds. She is the daughter of a single mother who worked hard to take care of her until arthritis got in the way. Now Violet is expected to care for her mother. This job at the Evergreen Spa Hotel is a godsend even though it is supposed to be temporary. Violet does not want to return home to take care of her mom. She is young and she wants freedom. Unfortunately Violet isn't wise in the ways of the heart so she gets mixed up with Sam Honeychurch-Black, a tortured soul who fills Violet's head with thoughts of love and a future that may never be. 

Sam's sister Flora is surprisingly kind and caring and down to earth compared to her social peers at the Hotel. She has the difficult task of trying to keep her brother out of trouble and help him get well, the reason for their visit to the Hotel. Their father expects her to sort Sam out and if she doesn't succeed, she'll be disinherited. She is also engaged to a young man handpicked by her father. Although Tony is handsome and Flora thinks she loves him she hesitates to set a date for the wedding.

The story is told from the perspectives of Violet and Flora in the past and Lauren in present day Australia. Lauren has moved to the Blue Mountains after the death of her brother following a long battle with cancer. For her it is a chance to have a life of her own even though her suffocating mother calls several times a day. At least there is some geographical distance between them. Lauren has made some friends in Penny, her boss at the cafe and Mrs. Tait, her neighbor. She also connects with Tomas, a Danish architect who is working on the reconstruction of the Hotel. It is through Tomas that Lauren finds a series of love letters written from a man to his lover and signed only SHB.

Of all the characters, I most liked Flora and Lauren. They are both caring and nurturing people with difficult family situations. Lauren's mom was very controlling. She allowed her fear for her son to translate into being overcautious with her daughter and wanting to keep her close by always. Even after the move, she expects Lauren to return home after awhile. Flora has a society father who expects perfection from his children. He refuses to see the truth about his son and pressures Flora into taking care of things. Flora also has a difficult fiance who isn't that great of a guy but she feels like she has to marry him and even believes that she does love him at times. I wanted both Flora and Lauren to break away from their unhappy situations and stand up for themselves.

Violet was harder to like. She is very naive even though she puts on an act of being more sophisticated around men. She is very flirty with Sam although it is against the rules to fraternize with hotel guests. She is willing to believe him when he spins dreams of the two of them marrying and him taking care of her so she never has to work again, etc. If she were smarter and more world-wise she would question this as his family would never approve of her. She also falls in love with him very quickly when she barely knows him. I also didn't like how she played other people especially Clive, the handyman who is in love with her and helped her get the job and even her boss Miss Zander. 

I didn't like Sam much at all. From the synopsis of the book I was expecting a forbidden romance between a well to do gentleman and a servant but that wasn't exactly what I got. Their relationship wasn't romantic in my opinion. There was a lot of shagging but no real relationship between Sam and Violet. Sam is fighting a losing battle with a major demon in his life and he comes across at times like a spoiled and petulant child. He isn't all bad though or Flora wouldn't love him. He cares about his sister and attempts to be better for her though his improvements never last long.

The novel has a hint of mystery. It starts with a dead body at the hotel and the reader has to puzzle out who has died and why the hotel guests are planning to move the body and hide the circumstances of the death. Some of the secrets of the book were easy for me to figure out. One "big reveal" was not a surprise to me at all and I even guessed the secret surrounding Lauren's family. 

While certain things about the book felt obvious I still enjoyed the story because of the interesting characters. I wanted Flora and even Lauren to have a happy ending. Though I had issues with Violet I wanted to know what happened to her and hoped she'd find a way to break free from her bad situation too. 

I also liked the historical setting of the hotel. I could picture the hotel and the dance parties, the snowstorm and the hidden cave. The Evergreen Spa Hotel is an interesting setting for this novel. The lifestyle of the rich contrasted with the lives of the servants reminded me of Downton Abbey in a way. Kimberley Freeman has a gift for writing settings that are almost a character themselves. Although I prefer Lighthouse Bay, this was an entertaining read that I think fans of Downton Abbey would enjoy. I would also suggest Evergreen Falls to readers who like the works of Sarah Jio.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunday Post (17) / It's Monday, What Are You Reading

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news. A post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next. I will also be sharing my It's Monday post on Twitter #IMWAYR.

My trip to Canada is almost over (we're heading back on Monday) but I've had a great time. I had a really nice birthday celebration with my aunt, uncle and cousin and my cousin's family. It's been very relaxing. I gained a few pounds too which is inevitable on vacation, I think. I did go on some walks in my aunt and uncle's neighborhood but I don't think it helped offset my consuming of cake and cookies. :)

I've also enjoyed helping to bird-sit for my nephew's budgie, Jade. Jade is a one month old yellow and green parakeet. He is hand raised which means he is comfortable with people holding him. I had a budgie when I was a kid but mine would nip you if you tried to touch him.

I wasn't sure how much time I'd have to read but I had a lot as it turns out. I had one review book I had to finish and I made myself plow through it but the rest of the books were enjoyable. I have had a fun vacation but I am ready to return home.

Last week on my blog:

The Rearranged Life by Annika Sharma (review)
The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig (review)
Rome in Love by Anita Hughes (review)
Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman (review)
A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley (review)

Books read:

Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani

My evening book group chose this for our September selection and I wanted to read it anyway because of the movie that will be out this fall. I liked it but I prefer The Shoemaker's Wife. I plan to see the movie in the theater or on DVD but I haven't decided which. The book has a vivid setting and quirky characters so I'm curious as to how that will translate to the film version.

Malice at the Palace by Rhys Bowen

This was a fun mystery. I figured out who the killer was early on but I still enjoyed the book. I liked that it was set at Kensington Palace. There are also some developments in the Georgie/Darcy relationship as well as for Belinda. I'm curious to see where things will go in the next book.

Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt

I liked this book and its exploration of immigration issues though I kind of preferred Joyride by Anna Banks just a little bit more. Both are similar in some ways. The main character in this book is illegal as are the rest of her family. The book also addresses racism, family issues, date rape and addiction. 

Bohemian Gospel by Dana Chamblee Carpenter

This was a strange historical fantasy. I probably wouldn't have read it if I didn't have to review it. I started to really get into the story and then it became too strange for me. 

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

Veronica Speedwell is a very intelligent and spunky heroine. I guess in her time she'd be called a "bluestocking". I liked this mystery thought it took a little time to get off the ground. It isn't as good as the Lady Julia Grey mysteries but still an entertaining start to a new series.

Currently reading:

Soundless by Richelle Mead

I am reading this early because I have a review copy I need to finish for Amazon Vine. So far I like it but it is very different from Richelle Mead's other YA fiction. There isn't really any of the snarky humor I've come to expect from her books.

What I plan to read next:

Maid of Wonder by Jennifer McGowan

I love historical fiction, especially during the Tudor period and I also love mystery. So far I've enjoyed the first two books in this series. Sophia is an intriguing character with her ability to foresee the future.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

I've seen mixed reviews for this book and some have said it is similar to The Fault in Our Stars. I am going to give it a try and see what I think.

I loved the Girl of Fire and Thorns series so I have high expectations for this historical fantasy set in the American West.

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

I have heard so many good things about this book and its body-positive message. We definitely need more books like that.

The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig

I have really enjoyed this mystery/spy series though some books are definitely better than others. This final book is the story of Jane, otherwise known as the Pink Carnation. Jane is highly intelligent so hopefully she finds a hero worthy of her.

New books received:

Spinning Starlight by R.C. Lewis (for review)

Through Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin (for review)

All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani (for review)

The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig (library book)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Review: A Desperate Fortune

A Desperate Fortune
By Susanna Kearsley
Published: April 7, 2015

Beloved New York Times bestselling author Susanna Kearsley delivers a riveting novel that deftly intertwines the tales of two women, divided by centuries and forever changed by a clash of love and fate.
For nearly three hundred years, the cryptic journal of Mary Dundas has kept its secrets. Now, amateur codebreaker Sara Thomas travels to Paris to crack the cipher.
Jacobite exile Mary Dundas is filled with longing-for freedom, for adventure, for the family she lost. When fate opens the door, Mary dares to set her foot on a path far more surprising and dangerous than she ever could have dreamed.
As Mary's gripping tale of rebellion and betrayal is revealed to her, Sara faces events in her own life that require letting go of everything she thought she knew-about herself, about loyalty, and especially about love. Though divided by centuries, these two women are united in a quest to discover the limits of trust and the unlikely coincidences of fate.

My review:

It has been several months since I've read this book so the details aren't as fresh in my mind as I would like. Susanna Kearsley is one of my favorite authors. I love how she blends historic details with romance and mystery. I particularly loved The Winter Sea, which is set in Scotland. A Desperate Fortune, while dealing with Scottish exiles, is set in France and Italy. 

Mary Dundas is the historical protagonist, a young woman who has grown up in her aunt and uncle's home in France, longing to be reunited with her father. When her brother summons her, she thinks perhaps at last she will be going home. Unfortunately he has a different plan in mind--he needs her to pose as the sister to a Jacobite spy as part of his cover story. Mary agrees though she is disappointed to not be with her family. She still has hopes that the Jacobites will eventually take her to her father. Mary keeps a journal of her travels and experiences though it is written in code so if it is discovered, the contents will not be revealed. In the course of her journey she crosses paths with Jacobite Hugh MacPherson

In contemporary times, Sara Thomas is hired to crack the code of Mary's diary. Sara is a computer programmer who happens to have Asperger's Syndrome but with the help of her cousin Jacqui, Sara has learned to cope and interpret social cues better so she doesn't feel like she sticks out like a sore thumb. In Paris, Sara makes new friends and finds a possible new love with Luc Sabran, a Frenchman living next door. 

Both Mary and Sara have some limitations placed on them--Mary by society and family expectations and Sara by labels, some of her family members and her struggles to fit in socially. Fortunately they both rise above those limitations. Mary refuses to be just her brother's pawn and has her own part to play in helping the Jacobite exiles. She also comes to terms with her family relationships. Sara proves that she can have a full life and she refuses to let labels define her. I liked how supportive Sara's cousin was of her though even she also had to step back and let Sara be her own person.

While this wasn't my favorite of her novels I really liked A Desperate Fortune and both the contemporary and historical plots. Usually Kearsley's novels involve some kind of time travel, psychic ability or genetic memory that the contemporary character experiences that allows her to discover the story of the historical character. This time no such device is used and instead things are more straightforward with Sara working to break the code to Mary's diary.  I thought both story lines were good though as usual the historical story was more interesting to me than the contemporary one. The one thing that kept me from enjoying this book as much was the lack of suspense or mystery in the historical story. It kind of fizzled out by the end. 

Overall I would say this is an entertaining story and one that would appeal to readers who like historical fiction and authors like Sarah Jio who tell their stories through historical and contemporary timelines.

I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Review: Prisoner of Night and Fog

Prisoner of Night and Fog
By Anne Blankman
Published: April 22, 2014

In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her "uncle" Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf's, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler.

And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can't stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can't help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she's been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she's always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

From debut author Anne Blankman comes this harrowing and evocative story about an ordinary girl faced with the extraordinary decision to give up everything she's ever believed . . . and to trust her own heart instead.

My review:

I've read plenty of WWII fiction before but never before have I read a book that features Hitler so prominently and close to the protagonist. Gretchen idolizes him at first and he is sort of a father figure for her. She lost her dad at a young age when he was shot and killed supposedly saving Hitler's life. Because of this, Hitler and "the Party" have always looked out for Gretchen and her mom and brother.

Things start to change for Gretchen when she witnesses a Jewish man being beaten (the Party isn't supposed to engage in street violence) and she meets reporter Daniel Cohen who is investigating Hitler and what really happened to Gretchen's dad the night of the failed uprising. Because Hitler's influence is so deeply rooted in Gretchen's character it takes some time for her to realize the truth and start to question what she has always believed about Hitler and her dad and the Nazi party. 

Daniel Cohen is the first Jewish person that Gretchen gets to know. Their relationship develops naturally and over time as she starts to trust and admire him. It isn't easy for Gretchen to break away from her belief system. She is revered by the Nazi Party and her best friends are Hitler's niece Geli Raubal and a young Eva Braun. She also has to deal with her cruel and abusive brother Reinhard. With the help of Daniel and Dr. Whitestone, an Englishman who is researching Hitler, Gretchen is able to find the strength to defy Hitler.

Prisoner of Night and Fog is a fascinating  novel filled with suspense, romance and interesting historical details and real historical figures. Because the book is set in the early 30s before Hitler's rise to power it provides a different perspective on events than what we usually see in fiction from this era especially with a protagonist that is initially pro-Nazi. The novel also looks at mental illness and psychoanalysis particularly in the case of Hitler and Reinhard. 

I really liked this debut and its sequel, Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke. Although it is YA fiction I think adults would enjoy it too. The writing style is different but I would suggest this for fans of Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Review: Rome in Love

Rome in Love
By Anita Hughes
Published: August 4, 2015

When Amelia Tate is cast to play the Audrey Hepburn role in a remake of Roman Holiday, she feels as if all her dreams have come true. She has a handsome boyfriend, is portraying her idol in a major motion picture, and gets to live in beautiful, Italian city of Rome for the next two months.
Once there, she befriends a young woman named Sophie with whom she begins to explore the city. Together, they discover all the amazing riches that Rome has to offer. But when Amelia's boyfriend breaks up with her over her acting career, her perfect world begins to crumble.
While moping in her hotel suite, Amelia discovers a stack of letters written by Audrey Hepburn that start to put her own life into perspective. Then, she meets Philip, a handsome journalist who is under the impression that she is a hotel maid, and it appears as if things are finally looking up. The problem is she can never find the right time to tell Philip her true identity. Not to mention that Philip has a few secrets of his own. Can Amelia finally have both the career and love that she's always wanted, or will she be forced to choose again?
With her sensory descriptions of the beautiful sites, decadent food, and high fashion of Rome, Hughes draws readers into this fast-paced and superbly written novel. Rome in Love will capture the hearts of readers everywhere.

My review:

I was sold on this book because of the setting. Rome is on my bucket list of places to see. I also watched Roman Holiday once years ago and I liked it so I was curious to see what a modern version would be like.

Amelia is an up and coming actress and playing Princess Ann in Roman Holiday is the chance of a lifetime. Her boyfriend doesn't feel the same way about her acting career. He is eager for her to settle down with him and maybe just act a couple of times a year but Amelia doesn't want to leave Hollywood. This kind of echoes Audrey Hepburn's own story as she was engaged at the time she was making Roman Holiday and her fiance wasn't completely supportive (as revealed in the letters Amelia finds). 

After a grueling event where she is grilled by the press, a slightly drunk Amelia sneaks out of her hotel wearing a maid's uniform. It is then that she first runs into Philip, a journalist desperate for a story that will help his career so he can pay back his father. Of course Philip thinks she is a maid but he soon stumbles on the truth but pretends to go along with Amelia's charade as they keep meeting. He hopes to get an exclusive story (his editor's plan is much more dastardly than the one portrayed in the film) and Amelia keeps her secret not yet ready to share the truth.

The other important character is Sophie, a real life princess hiding out in Rome. Amelia and Sophie become fast friends when Amelia helps her out of a sticky situation. In return Sophie helps Amelia to prepare for her part as Princess Ann and the two explore the city and discuss relationship woes. Sophie is expected to marry a prince but she falls in love with a doctor she meets in Rome. While Amelia represents a modern Audrey Hepburn, Sophie is a modern version of Princess Ann, the heroine of Roman Holiday.

While I liked Amelia and Sophie, I didn't really buy into the love story between Amelia and Phillip. I also think he comes across as less likable than Joe Bradley, his film counterpart played by Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday. In the film Joe is charming and even though he wants to get a story it is also really obvious that he cares about the princess. Unfortunately it doesn't translate as well to the modern character. Phillip is motivated by his need to pay back his dad and to get his career back on track but I didn't feel much sympathy for him. It doesn't help matters that his editor expects him to get Amelia to fall in love with him and accept his proposal without revealing the truth of her identity to create the ultimate scoop.

I loved the setting of the novel though at times the description of the tourist sites took on the feel of reading a guide book and the descriptions of the food became too much. Who really tells people everything they want to order at a restaurant when they make plans to go there? I normally love food descriptions but this didn't feel natural in the story and it happened far too many times. Aside from those little issues and the problems with the Amelia-Phillip relationship, I did enjoy Rome in Love, mostly because of the insight it gave us into Audrey Hepburn's life and the making of the film. The letters that Amelia found were very interesting and really felt like things Audrey would have said. I would have loved it if the author had chosen to write a historical novel about Audrey and the making of the film instead of a modern retelling. 

Overall I liked the book in spite of its flaws and I think fans of Roman Holiday would enjoy the parts about Audrey Hepburn as well. It made me decide to watch Roman Holiday again. I appreciated the movie even more based on what I learned while reading the book!

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley