Reviewed by Alice P.
Fireworks Over Toccoa is a heartwarming story about love, sacrifices, and duty. Written by Jeffrey Stepakoff, who has previously written the screenplay for”Tarzan” and episodes of “Dawson’s Creek”, the book is compelling from beginning to end. This tale of passion and pain is sure to move the readers and envelop them into the mysteries of the love shared between two very special characters.
Fireworks Over Toccoa focuses around two main characters: Lily Davis and Jake Russo. Lily, a beautiful blond, is about to be reunited with her husband, Paul, who is returning from World War II. However, on a warm summer afternoon, just three days before Paul’s return, Lily sees fireworks light up the sky. The fireworks set off a chain of inevitable events that cause Lily to meet the handsome and humble Jake Russo, an Italian working as a Pyrotechnic for the Fourth of July fireworks.
There is undeniable attraction and chemistry between the pair and the instant sparks ignite a fire that no one can escape or deny. Jake is able to take this small town girl and open up a whole new world to her — a world full of adventure and excitement. Lily is unable to stop herself from falling deeper and deeper into this new life, one that she sees herself sharing with Jake. However, Lily cannot forget about Paul and his imminent return from Europe. She married him when she was seventeen and now, at twenty, Lily realizes that she is no longer the same person. Her wants and desires are different than what they were and she knows that Paul won’t be able to refill that void in her soul, not the way Jake can. How can Lily decide between her new found love and her duty towards her husband? Should she follow her heart or her mind? With the pressures of society and the tugs of her own desires, Lily’s choice is sure to shock everyone, including herself.
Jeffrey Stepakoff brilliantly enchants the reader through his descriptive words and enthralling ideas. The reader is able to live in the moment and share in the special moments experienced by the two lovers. Fireworks Over Toccoa is impossible to put down till the last word. The book is able to give a realistic impression of how things were in 1945 and one cannot help but be absorbed into the novel. This beautiful love story is indeed a must read for everyone!
Alice, a.k.a. Sunny, is a full time student at LakeLand College. She is originally from India, but has been traveling the world with her mom and sister ever since she was two.
This book was provided free of any obligation by Thomas Dunne Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.
Reviewed by Alethea B.
In the middle of the Balkan Civil War, Lea Kostovic finds herself on the wrong side of the border for a person of her ethnic descent. Without a realistic possibility of surviving the winter on her own, Lea chooses to accept Major Russell’s offer of trading sex for protection, shelter, and survival. By the end of Major Russell’s deployment, both find that their relationship has grown into something more than just a business arrangement; they must now try and build a marriage from an initially unhealthy bond.
On the one hand, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Sanctuary, Julian’s sophomore novel. I’m interested to see what will develop as she matures in her writing. Her sense of what makes an interesting plot and her pacing have already hit a rather sweet spot. In addition, Julian’s description of the alienation of depression hit the ‘uncanny valley’ for me, matching just enough of my personal experience for the off notes to be really jarring.
On the other hand, I thought the characters were lacking in depth and wanted a better sense of emotional continuity. With a notable exception or two, events felt like rocks that were dropped into a pond but failed to create any ripples.
I also found that Sanctuary’s back cover teaser was at odds with the story within, and seemed to be based on a reading of a summary rather than the entire book. The plot points were accurate, but events that were emphasized did not occur until much later in the novel. The character descriptions were also off enough to give a different feel to the story than what readers get once they delve inside.
For more information, please visit N.E. Julian’s website.
This book was provided free of any obligation by N.E. Julian. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.
Please join Tatjana Soli, author of The Lotus Eaters, as she tours the blogosphere with TLC Book Tours!
Reviewed by Carly M.
The harsh and violent fall of Saigon hardly seems like a place in which a haunting love story could unfold, but Tatjana Soli manages to find beauty and heart in the cruelest conditions in her book, The Lotus Eaters. The author introduces us to Helen Adams, one of Vietnam’s few female photojournalists, as she struggles to capture the truth in Saigon’s final moments without losing herself or her husband. The last days of American involvement in Vietnam, in all their horror, offer an introduction to these characters and set the stage for the story to travel back twelve years, to a time when nobody could guess how bad it would all get.
Helen’s journey from amateur photographer to leading celebrity photojournalist is punctuated by passionate love stories and wrenching crimes against humanity. As Helen struggles to capture the war without letting it devour her, she finds unexpected hope and friendship in the form of two men: Sam Darrow, an accomplished American photojournalist covering the war, and Tran Bau Linh, a Vietnamese assistant fighting to escape his dark past as a soldier. From these men, Helen learns both the roughness of survival and the softness of the details that often get lost in war. Through them, Helen is able to come into her own, as a photographer, a lover, and a woman.
Tatjana Soli’s characters are rich and deep and although the book carries a lot of sadness in it, she manages to weave a strong thread of hope throughout the story. I’ve read many books focused on Americans in Vietnam during the war and found this one to be one of the least predictable and most sincere portraits of humanity in crisis. It was easy to get lost in the story and I read the book from cover to cover in one sitting. The Lotus Eaters was completely mesmerizing, if emotionally exhausting, and I recommend it highly to anyone who loves a good love story.
Please visit Tatjana Soli’s website and follow along with her blog tour!
Carly lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband and their two cats. Her favorite thing to do is to curl up by a window with a library book. When she isn’t reading, she’s usually writing on her blog at www.beingcarly.com.
This book was provided free of any obligation by St. Martin’s Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.
“As the colors snaked their way out onto the pale neutral face of the palette, they asserted themselves individually in their diverse personalities. The Ultramarine hummed into deep and rich low mound, the Yellow Ochre sluiced out hard and straight, the Viridian and the Burnt Sienna made juicy, layered mountains.” - Erika Wood
I honestly had difficult time determining whether or not I liked The Colorman. Like the art it so vividly creates, it is unapologetically what it is. Erika Wood manages to be simultaneously poetic and candid, pure and muddled.
Following this character-driven story is like watching the development of a painting and Wood’s descriptions of art also provide deeper insight into characters. Like paint on a palette, the characters begin in their own worlds, wrapped in their own cares, and completely unaware of the others’ existences. They begin to mix, some blending harmoniously while others clash gaudily. In the end, after much trial and a considerable amount of error, the work is finished. All the colors (and characters) have reached a sense of harmony and purpose. The reader can finally stand back and say, “Ah.”
On a cautionary note, the tale does begin in the bustling New York modern art scene. One “artist” hurls peeled bananas to her feet and screams pop song lyrics, all while wearing nothing but a sexy pair of heels. If you’re a traditionalist, don’t let this introduction deter you. The moment will pass. The charm of the protagonist, Rain Morton, is that she is completely unlike her transient and rather racy foil. She is a character with whom a reader can feel genuine empathy as she struggles to redefine everything she thought she knew about life.
Monet, the master of color himself, best sums up the tale of The Colorman. “Color is my day-long obsession, joy, and torment.”
For more information, please visit Erika Wood’s website.
Hannah M. attends Brigham Young University where she studies Ancient History, Dance, and French. A self-proclaimed bibliophiles of the highest degree, she has a passion for all things written, chocolate, and feline.
This book was provided free of any obligation by Tatra Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.
Reviewed by Dimpel P.
The Writing on My Forehead begins with a young girl’s mother tracing verses on her forehead to quiet her nightmares. Saira Qader is a young Muslim-American girl that is rebellious in every way, wanting nothing more than her independence. Being of Indo-Pakistani descent, she rejects the ideas of strict cultural family values and duties.
Saira’s character is one that many young girls will find is not only easy to relate to, but has desires that are in alignment with their own. Children, especially young women, of Middle Eastern and Indian descent that grow up in America quickly learn that their dreams are not really their own. They are the dreams of those who, in some way, dictate an Indian woman’s life. Women of this culture are expected to live a certain way and fulfill the desires of their elders and parents who want their children to be successful in so many complex ways.
The Writing on My Forehead focuses on the needs of the family as well as the individual. Saira appreciates her familial obligations but also has aspirations of her own. In the novel, she travels to India for a cousin’s wedding and learns that her grandfather, whom she believed to be dead, is really alive. When she realizes that her mother has lied to her, her view of what a family is supposed to be changes dramatically. Saira then becomes resolute in her decision to attend college and not marry early like her sister did.
As she learns of her grandfather’s work with India’s independence movement, she fantasizes about a future as a war journalist. Saira travels the world with her cousin, who is a photographer, and is led to contend with issues ranging from arranged marriages to adultery.
The Writing on My Forehead will appeal to many readers, but will especially speak to young girls of Indo-Pakistani descent and give them courage to discover their hearts and follow their dreams. Haji has a talent for allowing a reader to become connected with the characters in the novel. I found this book to be rewarding in so many capacities and would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about other cultures and the importance of diverse traditions.
Please visit Nafisa Haji’s website and follow along on her blog tour.
Dimpel enjoys writing about Health & Medicine, Addiction & Recovery, and Self-Help. She previously worked as a medical assistant and did transcription and coding for medical and legal practices.
This book was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.
Reviewed by Jennifer J.
Bestselling author Nicholas Sparks has spun a beautiful tale of first love, familial bonds, and faith in God in his 16th novel, The Last Song. Sparks originally wrote the story in screenplay format before transforming it into the novel I had the pleasure of listening to in audio format.
Narrated by Pepper Bingley and Scott Sowers, The Last Song is about rebellious Ronnie Miller’s summer with her estranged father in the small beach town of Wilmington, North Carolina. Unlike her brother Jonah, Ronnie is not as willing to forgive Steve for divorcing her mother three years earlier. After Ronnie is framed for a crime, Steve gives her the one thing she needs more than anything: trust. As their rocky relationship begins to mend, Ronnie’s heart opens to a new kind of love. Though Ronnie and Will Blaklee couldn’t be more different from one another, they fall deeply in love. As the summer draws to an end, Ronnie is faced with the ultimate loss. Ronnie might never be the same again, but the power of the last song and her newfound faith in God promises a bright future.
Like The Notebook and A Walk to Remember, The Last Song will tug at your heartstrings. I have never made it through a Nicholas Sparks novel without drenched Kleenexes at my side, but this was the exception to that trend. There is nothing I enjoy more than having a tangible, written copy of a book in my hands; listening to an audio book was an entirely different feeling. Instead of hearing my own imaginings of the characters’ voices, I was compelled to listen to the narrators’ interpretations of Sparks’ fictional creations.
Pepper Bingley’s youthful voice was the right fit for reading the chapters that mostly focused on Ronnie, but I found her voice for Jonah to be the most entertaining. Scott Sowers gave a heart breaking performance in lending his voice to Steve Miller, perfectly capturing the guilt and regret that Steve had lived with for so many years. The original score written solely for this audio book perfectly complemented the tone and mood of specific scenes in the novel.
Like all other Nicholas Sparks novels, The Last Song will be a permanent addition to my personal library. Although the story was simplistic and at times predictable, I enjoyed it and will not soon forget it. I’m looking forward to all the new meaning this book will provide me when I read it a second time.
The movie version of The Last Song, starring Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth, will be in theaters on March 31st.
Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.
This audio book was provided free of any obligation by Hachette Audio. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.