66 of 77 people found the following review helpful
on August 28, 2010
This book is a somewhat entertaining modern day re-telling of the story of Romeo and Juliet, complete with warring families, a look at Italian history, and, of course, love. I have seen this book variously described as a love story, a historical novel, and a thriller, but it's not outstanding in any of these categories. For this reason, the book fell a bit short.
The story follows Julie Jacobs (aka Giulietta Tolomei) as she learns that her long- deceased mother left a treasure for her to find in Siena, Italy. This sets the stage for Julie's trip to Siena to follow clues in search of her family's great secret. The text alternates between Julie's modern day discoveries in Italy and the historical background of the story of Romeo and Juliet. The bits on the history of Romeo and Juliet were at times revealing and interesting, but a lot of it is really just a re-telling of a story that is already familiar. Julie's modern-day search through Siena for her mother's treasure is at times utterly captivating and fast-paced, but at other times began to fell flat. This seemed particularly true in the case of the romance that blooms for Julie during her search. It felt a bit silly and superficial. Julie's twin sister, Janice, is thrown in for comic relief, but mostly the pair of them squabbled and appeared to be years younger than the age of 25. In many areas it almost read like a teen novel.
In summary, there were chunks of this book that were exciting and interesting and without question lived up to the rave reviews I've read in magazines. But in many other areas the story fell flat. The different elements of the book (thriller, romance, historical fiction) were not terrific as stand-alone plot points, and were just not as tightly woven as they might have been. This uneven quality to the book earned it 3 stars.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
In author Anne Fortier's debut novel, young Julie Jacobs is used to taking a back seat to her flamboyant twin, Janice. The girls were orphaned as babies and raised by their great-aunt, who took the path of least resistance in arbitrating their girlish squabbles. When Great-aunt Rose dies, she leaves her entire estate to Janice, with only a bank deposit key and vague story of a great treasure to console Julie. The key and the treasure story had been left by their long-dead mother, and the bank was in Italy.
So Julie, with nothing to lose, heads to Siena to check it out. She finds that her birth name was Giulietta Tolomei, and that her mother had left translations of 14th century manuscripts, and a code, and a claim that Julie was descended from the first Giulietta Tolomei: the girl Shakespeare later immortalized as Juliet. Our modern Julie learns of the old rivalries between two Sienese families, and the curse on both, and of missing artifacts. There is a ring, a banner, a dagger, friars from a 14-century order, and the promise of a golden statue of two figures marking the long-hidden grave of the young lovers. Julie's mission is to find her Romeo, and reunite with him to finally break the curse.
The story alternates between long passages telling the ancient story, and Julie's passionate relationship with Allesandro--Romeo. Her sister Janice joins her and the danger ramps up as the sisters close in on the prize. They can't depend on any friend or foe being who he seems to be. Harrowing scenes play out in the bone-filled crypts and ancient waterways far beneath the city of Siena, and in the Piazza del Campo where the historic Palio (horserace) is run.
This is a big book, and it's somehow neither one thing nor the other. I found the fictional old story fascinating, and I loved the romantic setting in Tuscany where memories are long and the events of six hundred years ago are still so alive in the buildings, the art, and the hearts of the people. The modern romance suffered in comparison, and the danger/thriller element was often implausible. The pacing could have been better and the book could probably have spared 100 pages and been tighter and better for it.
Still, Juliet was a great escapist experience and if you don't hate romances, you'll probably love this book. I enjoyed the audio edition, beautifully narrated by Cassandra Campbell, who should probably get an Audie Award for reading the entire 20 hours (16 of which would have been plenty) while never mixing up her voices and accents.
Linda Bulger, 2010
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2010
Most definitely not your everyday, over-done, boring rendition (sorry) of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, Anne Fortier's Juliet brings to the table a whole new take on this well-known tragic love story!
Ok. So I am TOTALLY ASHAMED to say I have not read the famous Romeo & Juliet. Oh! It was required reading in high school, but my love for reading just hadn't developed yet and the wonky poetry and wacky wording was just a wee bit too much for me.
So, when presented with the opportunity to review Juliet as a part of Anne's Blog Tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotions, I jumped at the idea! I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I was even a little apprehensive that Anne may have simply regurgitated the classic into a 21st century language and literary format.
Well, my dearest readers, you are in for a wonderful surprise! In an entirely fictional twist to that famous love-story, Fortier will lead you through the streets of Siena on an adventurous and emotional roller coaster of discovery in Juliet's quest for the truth. This author's talent for character development and setting description effectively open up a whole new world of fictional possibilities and events behind the "real" love story of Romeo and Juliet. Or, shall I say Romeo and Giulietta.
While the story itself is fictional, Anne Fortier shares with the reader plenty of wondrous places, events, people and histories surrounding Siena and its culture. Her knack for the descriptive makes it almost too easy for the reader to close his/her eyes and, with pure awe, visualize both historical and present day locales such as Palazzo Salimbeni or Palazzo Tolomei.
So, sit back, relax and open your heart and mind to the wonders of Siena, the dangers and suspense of Juliet's quest, and the full bodied adventure that Fortier has in store for you!
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2011
Being a big fan of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, I grabbed this book when it came out, which turned out to be a big mistake. Although the book's blurbs claims it to be a "retelling" or alternative story to the original play, it's really not. It's a silly mess of a ridiculous story and pretty much of an insult to Shakespeare. I don't often give up on books, but I will admit right away that I did not finish this one. Yes, it's that bad. And I bought it in hardcover. I'm not going to go into the plot much because other reviewers have already covered that; however, I will say that the alternating modern/past story, as far as I read, was very silly and contrived.
In both the contemporary and historical stories, the characters were not believeable, the writing clumsy and dull, the dialogue clunky, and I just plain did not buy any part of either story. The "past" story was boring and as advice to the author I would say, try to make your dialogue SOUND like it's taking place in the past to help make a contrast to the modern dialogue.
As to the characters, the main character's sister was WAY over the top, and her behavior in the later part of the book was a complete contrast to the way she was portrayed at the beginning. I found both the main character and the sister extremely irritating. I didn't believe that the European characters would behave the way they did. The historical characters lacked substance; their dialogue was too modern and their behavior didn't make sense.
My problem with books (and movies and TV shows) like this is: I have to believe that these characters, in these circumstances, would talk and conduct themselves in the manner suggested by this author, and I did not. It's really that simple. It just did not convince me in any way, and that is why I gave up on it. This book is one that I would hold up as a prime example of bad writing and bad editing. Readers would do better to just go read Shakespeare's play, but perhaps the readers this type of book is aimed at would not want to go to that much trouble. It's sad that something this bad can get published and promoted. Don't waste your time and money.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2012
When I read this book, I wasn't expecting to be swept away into such a gorgeous emotionally-enthralling romance so full of adventure and mystery! Are there actually words for this book? It's so many things...
The Shakespearean tale of Romeo and Juliet is so absolutely untouchable in so many ways that it's fearsome to try and replicate it. It's almost sinful. It is a timeless classic that stands alone. Anne Fortier was nothing shy of daring in an attempt to weave this tale into a modern day accolade--yet I must say that she has brilliantly pulled it off!
There are many things I love about this novel, and without giving it away I will try and ennumerate them for you:
1. This is beautifully written piece of work full of color and linguistic artistry. Readers are as different as writers, and if you are someone who enjoys a truly artistic literary adventure that has depth, width, height and breadth then this one is for you! No shallow read here!
2. Historically enthralling. Yet it perfectly balances modern day with 14th century Italy. I absolutely love history and if you enjoy classic pieces of literature as well, then this is something that definitely tantalizes your taste. By the time you get done reading, Shakespeare's 'Romeo & Juliet' is no longer fiction--you're convinced it's real. These were living, breathing, bleeding human beings that lived and died in the 14th century. And that, in my opinion, is the magic of a good novel--and believe me, this novel is good. Very convincing read.
3. A dark and deep romantic plot. This is not the typically boring light, airy, predictable love story which so many novels offer. This plot is well-built, fantastically formulated, and the characters are atypical, which adds interest. There is romance both past and present. The novel delicately shifts from the 14th century when Romeo and Juliet were alive and breathing--to modern day when the treasure unfolds. It is indeed 'heady' as some have said, leaving you breathless, sitting on the edge of your seat, nearly sweating, pages turning and hours going by while your tea is virtually untouched. The emotional engagement this novel requires is not for those who enjoy light fare. This one is deep, complex and brooding. Simply magical. A virtual reality, if you will. And for those who are not (forgive me) intelligent readers, they simply will not understand it. The romance is brilliantly written and it is indeed complex. So you'll need some brains for this one if you're going to keep up.
4. A delightful escape to Italy. If you've never been to Italy, you're about to go. And if you've been there before, you're about to go again. Anne Fortier is able to take you there, as any good author should be able to do when they transport their readers to another time, land, or people. Magnificently written and breathtaking. I felt as if I had gone on vacation when the book was done. You'll visit Italy in ways you otherwise never could.
5. Full of adventure and mystery. They go hand in hand. The adventure and mystery just keeps building, and it keeps getting darker and more suspicious as the story unfolds, nearly to the point you feel you will break. There are continual surprises, unexpected turns and there is irresistible suspense. The grand finale was amazing and I was ever so sad it was over when that last page was turned.
6. A remarkably convincing story!! The detailing is exquisite. This modern story is so inextricably woven with Shakespeare's classic that it leaves you without question as to whether or not there is any conceivable reason it could not be true. That is satisfying to a me as a reader--when a fiction novel suddenly becomes non-fiction. That is the beauty of reading. It's what we all look for in a good book--to be translated into another time and place we would otherwise never experience; meeting new people; living, experiencing and feeling even as they do. This is one of the phenomenal abilities a good writer/author must possess. Anne Fortier has that very gift.
7. Satisfying! Ultimately, a novel should satisfy it's audience. This novel does just that; however, unpredictably. When you finish, you are left exhausted and breathless. I was left awe-inspired. Anne Fortier is a true literary genius! Obviously she is a woman who is well-bred and highly educated who possesses an intelligent imagination that is a force to be reckoned with!
8. This book will appeal to men and women alike. But if you're into short reads that are quick and shallow, this book most definitely is not for you. This is not a coffee break book. I believe these types of readers are precisely those who find the book difficult to finish, boring, or too confusing (as some have said). Personally, I could not put this book down. And there are very few novels like that in our day and time. This novel duely fits such a category.
I consider myself a very advanced and well-developed reader. I enjoy deep, intelligent, and complex stories that are thoroughly fleshed out and precisely but artisically written. This book delivers the goods. Anyone who can pull off a stunt like this deserves rave applause. I don't know of anyone yet who has accomplished it, or dared to do it who has succeeded so marvelously. For those of you lingering in question toward the integrity of 'Romeo & Juliet' and whether or not it remains intact, I assure you that Anne Fortier has done no disrespect whatsoever to Shakespeare's work.
This book is one I do not let out of my hands. I keep it to myself while telling everybody about it saying, "Sorry, but you'll just have to grab your own copy!" That is how good this book is! And I plan to read it again and again...and again! This is the kind of story that never gets old. Timeless indeed.
Read it if you dare. And be sure to crack open a bottle of Cabernet while you're at it!
Thank you, Anne Fortier, for such a wonderful escape of such fine artistry. Simply superb work!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2011
I'm a guy. I bought this book without knowing anything about it. I thought is was some type of take on Romeo and Juliet. When I finally bothered to check the back cover mid-way through the book, I found I was reading "chick-lit." Maybe it's because I lived in Italy. Maybe it's because I'm Catholic and visited Siena several times. Maybel it's because I love the Shakespearean drama form. Whatever the reason, and despite me buying the book on accident, I thought it was excellent.
Yes, the modern-day Juliet was a tad annoying. Yes, her sister was too cruel to start, too nice to end. But sometimes, the unexpected in human nature happens. Annoying people exist. One-dimensional people migrate from one personality quirk to another, never layering them but abandoning the current in favor of the next.
And contrary to several of the hi-falutin reviews that critized this book's dialogue, I had to laugh. You're going to contest how 14th century people actually spoke? I must have missed the soundtrack from the period, because I don't know how they actually spoke. I know how the educated wrote, but I know how no one spoke. And the modern dialogue? Have any of the critical reviewers listened to regular people? Some people have situational conversational epiphanies. They sound brilliant. Next time you see them, not so brilliant. Bad days, good days, chatty days, not-chatty days. Relax.
The story was great. A zesty, creative take on an old bit of Shakespeare - just when you think it's all been done with poor R and J, along comes this fresh take, bound up in history, and with a satisfying ending. I do see a sequel coming. How else to explain why one of the key characters went missing?
Applause all around, except for . . . . editing. This good author could benefit from having a candid chat with a dear friend, during which the dear friend is asked by the author, "can you read my book and remove at least two words per paragraph throughout?" The stray words were mostly adjectives and adverbs.
Good job. Loved it. And I bought it by accident.
20 of 27 people found the following review helpful
The tragic story of Romeo and Juliet is a beast you don't mess with; star-crossed lovers are untouchable in my book. By reinventing this well-known plot, Anne Fortier took a risk; a calculated-check the wind direction and temperature, analyze the audience and market-risk. Thankfully it paid off.
In a maneuver comparable to Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, Fortier retells a well-known story by delicately narrating two distinct plots: present day Julie Jacobs, hunting down a mysterious treasure armed with nothing but a cryptic letter from her dead aunt; and Giulietta Tolomei as she falls for the devilishly handsome, charming, and romantic Romeo Marescotti in 1340 Siena, Italy. Set amongst lush and fragrant vineyards and crumbling ruins, these two women, centuries apart, are somehow linked and it's up to Julie to set the record straight. Was Shakespeare's tale really what transpired so many hundreds of years ago?
Reading two plots with several characters with the same names (lots of Tolomeis, Salimbenis, and Marescottis throughout) can be a little confusing at times (especially when those characters may not be who they say they are). But pushing on, the reader is rewarded with an enthralling and richly detailed story arc. Drifting from the romantic to the tragic to the thrilling, the idea of Juliet is wonderful. My one disappointment was that the 1340 storyline of Giulietta and Romeo ended too swiftly, I didn't feel it was given appropriate time and attention. With such a well-known event and characters being used, I wish there'd been a more dramatic conclusion.
Reading Juliet made me woozy with heady romance; the fourteenth-century kind with flowing dresses and balconies and poetry. In short, it made me desperate to read Romeo and Juliet, or at least watch the movie. The ache of their tragedy seeped through Fortier's words to pierce my heart with sadness. Overall, it was a beautiful and refreshing story, not entirely perfect, but lovely regardless.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 28, 2010
I picked up this book because I heard it described as "The DaVinci Code for women, but smarter." Intrigued, I decided to try it out.
I did enjoy the book - the author's descriptions of Siena were lovely, the characters were easy to relate to (although I did think Julie was a little whiny at times), and the intertwined story of the "real" Romeo and Juliet was both interesting and plausible. However, I do have one nitpick.
The ending of the book felt rushed. They spend all this time search for a treasure... and then have to find it in the last 50 pages? I was disappointed by that. And really, they didn't spend that much time before then searching - Julie hardly did any of the searching at all, I felt like everything fell into her lap for her. I'm also not sure the relationship between the hero and the heroine was that plausible. They hated each other, and then they suddenly fell in love? Not really buying that.
Other than those nitpicks, I really did enjoy the book, and would recommend it to others.
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2011
I have no idea how anyone can get through and actually like this book! I am an avid reader and was barely able to get to the end of this one. I did only because it was a book club pick. Why was it so bad? The main character was thoroughly uninteresting and unlikeable. The supporting characters were weak. The dialogue sounded like it was written for a soap opera and the whole premise of the book was ridiculous. Towards the middle it started to get somewhat interesting and then quicky returned to nonsense thru the end. Do yourself a favor and shelve this one.
26 of 36 people found the following review helpful
This novel takes a bold new look at the tale of Romeo and Juliet, the most familiar version of which is Shakespeare's tragedy. Although Shakespeare set his drama in Verona, Fortier stages her tale in 1340 Siena, Italy. But the current-day part of the novel begins with the death of a woman in America. Aunt Rose has been raising twins Julie and Janice Jordan since childhood, when they were orphaned. With Aunt Rose's death, Janice is given the estate and Julie is granted a mission, to unravel a centuries'-old mystery begun by her mother. The only way Julie can claim her inheritance- whatever it is- is to go to Siena, where she discovers a family history, an assortment of relatives she didn't know existed and the clues to solve the mystery somehow connected intimately to the Sienese Romeo and Juliet. Steeped in an unfamiliar culture, Julie learns of a family curse, the key to understanding the love affair between Guilietta Tolomei and Romeo Salimbeni in 1340.
Perhaps Julie will even find her own Romeo in her quest to understand the mystery her mother left behind, but there is always the matter of who can be trusted, for centuries of secrets have kept two great families in Siena from ever making peace with each other. Blending past and present, the historical details lend the novel its authenticity, Siena the site of another set of star-crossed lovers and their ancestors. The chapters dealing with the doomed lovers are especially well done, from the first meeting to the evolution of the struggles between the two powerful families. But what begins well loses some of its believability as the story progresses, especially in the modern-day chapters. At twenty-five, one would expect a certain level of maturity from this protagonist: and even though the plot continues to build tension and conflict, Julie's reaction to her circumstances is more akin to a younger woman, tossing off language such as "Janice's muffin top tramp stamps, souvenirs from spring break in Australia" and other equally facetious remarks.
In a tale such as this, the quality of dialog, whether historical or current, is critical to story development. Julie's language dilutes the quality and tenor of the well-researched historical events, the girl more like a frustrated Nancy Drew than the Sienese Juliet, or Guilietta Tolomei, if the author's premise is to be believed. So while this tale may be good storytelling, it may also have more appeal to a slightly younger audience or those who prefer the romantic to the believable. There will doubtless be a substantial fan base for this novel, even if it fails to appeal to more seasoned followers of historical fiction. The setting is spectacular, the research impressive, Julie's antics a more childish than I anticipated. Luan Gaines/2010.