August 24th, 2011

crystal ball

Book 88: Juliet by Anne Fortier


UK Cover
Book 88: Juliet.
Author: Anne Fortier, 2010.
Genre: Historical Romance. Romantic Suspense. Chick-lit.
Other Details: Paperback. 519 pages.

'Of all the great love stories ever told, hers is perhaps the most famous.
To me, she is the key to my family's fate. To you, she is Juliet.'


The protagonist and narrator for those sections of this novel set in modern times is twenty-five-year-old Julie Jacobs. Already heartbroken by the death of her beloved Aunt Rose, she is shocked to learn that the woman who had been a mother to her following the untimely death of her parents had left her entire estate to Janice, her fraternal twin sister. Janice is quite insufferable about this, gloating over her own good fortune and mocking her quieter sister. However, Julie then receives a letter via her aunt's faithful butler that explains Rose's decision, claiming that a more valuable legacy had been bequeathed to Julie. This turned out to be a key belonging to her mother that would open a safety deposit box located in Siena, Italy.


US Cover
So Julie travels to Italy, the country where she and her sister had spent their first few years before being orphaned. There she learns the story of her distant ancestor Giulietta Tolomei, for whom she was originally named before her aunt adopted the sisters and changed their names.

In 1340, following the slaughter of her parents, Giulietta had been smuggled into Siena, where she had met a young man named Romeo. Their ill-fated love story inspired poets and artists through the centuries finally becoming immortalised in Shakespeare's famous tragedy. Julie soon discovers that the old rivalries between families still simmer below the surface and in following the trail left by her mother she finds further mysteries and, of course, danger.

I'd been attracted to this book by its premise as well as glowing recommendations from three of my favourite authors. It was obvious that Fortier had spent a lot of time researching the origins of the Romeo and Juliet story and also that this début novel was a labour of love as she had followed up on original research undertaken by her mother. She'd also clearly walked the streets of Sienna bringing both its modern day and medieval aspects vividly to life.

The romantic aspect was well-handled, as Julie wonders if she is fated to meet her own Romeo. There is an innocence to Julie that made me care about how things turned out for her. This novel reminded me very much of those works of romantic suspense written by Mary Stewart, such as The Moonspinners, which I had adored as a teenager. Pure escapism and perfect for a summer read.

Web Page for 'Juliet' - with links to excerpt, author information including Q&A and background, picture gallery and reading group guide.
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Book #61 -- Joan Druett, She Captains: Heroines and Hellions of the Sea, 304 pages.

The title is a little misleading - this book isn't just about female ship captains but about the history of women's involvement in all maritime occupations. From young women who disguised themselves as men to work on whaling boats or warships to the wives and daughters who managed the household and raised the family alone while their men were at sea, this book chronicle's women's unsung contribution to the nautical world.

Book #62 -- Jackson Pearce, Sweetly, 320 pages.

When Gretchen was eight, she and her brother and her twin sister went looking for a witch in the woods. When they finally made their way home, Gretchen's sister had vanished. Haunted by the loss of their sister and plagued by nightmares of the yellow-eyed being who chased them, Gretchen and Ansel rely only on each other as first their mother, and then their father succumb to their grief. After being kicked out by their stepmother when Gretchen turns eighteen, the siblings travel cross-country looking for a new start. They find it in the small town of Live Oak, South Carolina, when their ancient car breaks down and local candy-maker Sophia takes them in. But something is not right in this small Southern town. Girls are disappearing and the locals blame Sophia, calling her a witch. Troubled by the similarity to her own childhood trauma, Gretchen is determined to find the truth about the disappearances and to vindicate Sophia, but as she digs deeper with the help of local outcast Samuel, she stumbles on more than she bargained for. This is a very interesting conflation of 'Hansel and Gretel' and 'Red Riding Hood' - the atmosphere is dark and perfect.

Progress toward goals: 236/365 = 64.7%

Books: 62/100 = 62.0%

Pages: 19469/30000 = 64.9%

2011 Book List

cross-posted to 15000pages, 50bookchallenge, and gwynraven
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# 39 The Serpent on the Crown


The Serpent on the Crown


Elizabeth Peters




This installment of the Amelia Peabody series brings us back into chronological order.

The Emeraons are approached by a wealthy widow who is also a famous novelist. She appeals to them to accept a stunning golden statue which was bequeathed to her by her husband, and which she claims is cursed. She claims to believe that only Emerson can safely keep it, as his talents for escaping all kinds of danger and for excorcising evil spirits are well-known.

Soon, the Emersons are thrust into the midst of a series of mysterious events involving dead bodies and black afrits. As they work to unravel the puzzle of who is behind these mysterious occurences, they never flinch from what may be the greatest danger they've ever faced.

Of course I loved this! It was one of the most suspenseful in the series.

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# 40 Tomb of the Golden Bird


Tomb of the Golden Bird


Elizabeth Peters




This Amelia Peabody adventure centers on Howard Carter's discovery of King Tut's tomb in 1922.

Of course, the Emerson family gets caught up not only in the excitement of the discovery, but in fighting crime and all kinds of intrigue as well.

This was a very satisfying addition to the series.

I simultaneously read Carter's own account of the tomb's discovery. which made this book even more fun and interesting.

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# 41 Tomb of the Golden Bird


A River in the Sky


Elizabeth Peters




This is the last book in the Amelia Peabody series to date, although it takes place out of chronological order.

This time, in a bit of an aberration, the Emerson family heads to Jerusalem and the Holy Land rather than to Egypt. The plan is to meet up with Ramses who has been working on a dig in Samaria.

While in Samaria, Ramses' insatiable curiousity and nose for trouble, (likely inherited from his fond maternal parent), leads him into a situation which may have dire consequences.

Meanwhile, as the Emersons await his delayed arrival, they must avert an explosion of the powder keg that is made up of Jerusalem's multitude of religious sects. A thoughtless, incompetent excavator, a man who might well have ties to German intelligence, may have deliberately lit the fuse.

I was very sorry to have come to the end of the Amelia Peabody series. It has been a great pleasure to have spent the last two summers with Amelia and her family.

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# 43 Flashman


Flashman


George MacDonald Fraser




The main character, Harry Flashman is a foolish, self-preserving, bigoted, womanizing coward. I didn't like him at all, yet couldn't help but laugh at the scrapes he would get into, and through no real effort of his own, get out of. I enjoyed the adventure, humor, and history. In its way, it was a fun read.

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# 44 Women in Love


Women in Love


D.H. Lawrence




Women in Love is the story of the Brangwen sisters who are very different in their approaches to life and relationships. The novel centers on Ursula's relationship with Birkin and Gudrun's relationship with Gerald Crich, son of the owner of the town's coal mine.

This is my first foray into Lawrence's work, and it will not be my last! In spite of the angst and over-analytical tendencies, it is the most lush, sumptuous writing I've ever had the pleasure to read. I loved it