Book Review: The Keepsake: An Empress Chronicles Book (The Empress Chronicles 2)

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The Keepsake: An Empress Chronicles Book (The Empress Chronicles 2)

A Fantasy Novel published by Words in a Hurry (09/21/2015)

Summary:

“The way I see it, you can choose love or you can choose control. Not both” (The Keepsake by Suzy Vitello).

The Empress Chronicles continues with the twining stories of the Empress Elisabeth of Austria from 150 years in the past and Liz from present day Oregon. They are connected through the keepsakes: a diary and three lockets. Empress Elisabeth, affectionately known as Sisi, has accepted her fate to wed the emperor and give up on her previous crushed romance. Liz knows that history is not kind to Sisi and writes in the diary, telling Sisi not to marry the emperor. Sisi, at first doesn’t understand, but gradually comes to believe both in the diary’s ability to cross time and the advice that Liz of Port Land gives her. Meanwhile, in present day, Liz has her own issues to contend with but can’t let go of the diary or in her unfailing faith in the fact that she could help Sisi and change history forever.

 

Keywords:

Teens, Drama, Finding Yourself, Disorders, OCD, Family, Fitting In, Love, Adventure, Connecting, Engaging with the World, Brave, Giving In, Trickery, Gossip

 

My Review:

It took a while to get back into the second book of the Empress Chronicles, as the story of the Keepsake continues right where the Empress Chronicles leaves off. Since I had read book one quite a while ago, I had trouble catching up with what was going on in book two, but all the characters I enjoyed were there and all their interesting personality quirks were still in full force. Liz was still very much held down by her OCD, but in a different way. Now she was aware of when it was affecting her and she was trying to overcome her own quirks so that she could ‘engage’ with the world. Sisi is still as dramatic as she was in book one.

Half the book, I felt like Sisi slowed down any action that was happening in the book. In her time, the past, not much happened to a young lady and most of the plot was brought out through gossip and intrigue. Liz, in her modern times, was much more interesting than Siis, at least for the first half and rising action of the story. When Liz decides to intervene in a big way, that’s when both Sisi’s life and Liz’s life jump into action and the story really gets cooking.

I loved all the details regarding the past and all the interesting details regarding Willow and her chosen lifestyle. Willow’s Kombucha-goat cheese farm-lifestyle was fascinating to get a good look at, especially from Liz’s point of view. Sisi’s lifestyle, that of someone in the upper class, in old Austria, was also very fascinating.

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this story in exchange for my honest review.

This novel was published by Words in a Hurry 09/21/2015 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 4.25

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Suzy Vitello’s Blog

Book Review: Empress Chronicles by Suzy Vitello

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The Empress Chronicles by Suzy Vitello

A Fantasy Novel published by Diversion Books (09/01/2014)

Summary:

Two young women are separated by time. They are both at the height of their adolescence, growing and learning. What is expected of each is different because they are separated by 150 years, but both women want what they can’t have.

Liz wants to be normal, but is surrounded by an unstable environment and troubled with an obsessive-compulsive disorder with secondary anorexic symptoms. Elisabeth of Bavaria (Sisi) wants a man who is not in her future and will go to great lengths to try to change this destiny.

The two realities collide through a common diary, and a story of two ladies trying to control their own worlds is born.

 

Keywords:

Teens, Drama, Finding Yourself, Disorders, OCD, Family, Fitting In, Love

 

My Review:

The Empress Chronicles by Suzy Vitello was so raw and convincing that my real life was influenced by the abundance of sensory detail in the book. I had a chiropractor’s appointment and I was so enveloped in Liz’s character’s aversion to germs and dirt that I myself was so grossed out by the minuscule hand print left on the lie-down table that I had to have the entire surface wiped down for me. Vitello uses the senses unlike any other author in her novel The Empress Chronicles. She made me revolt against a normal amount of dirt, not to the point of obsessive-compulsiveness, but  I emulated Liz’s symptoms. .

Vitello not only put me through the discomfort of Liz’s disorder, but also through the awkwardness of a teen coming of age, of the confusion that comes with divorce, and all the unpleasant thoughts and things that happen to teenagers. At times the language was hard and vulgar and into the nitty gritty of the unpleasant realities of a teen girl’s life.

It was as if the book was written about someone the author knew intimately, knew all about. Vitello describes classical music, horses and the intricacies of a teenager with the eye of someone who knows, who has seen this person. All that sensory information from someone living in a world of a disorder was detailed and knowledgeable.

I recently read a coming of age novel of a boy trying to grow into a man and I was very happy to read this book, a coming of age novel for a girl trying to become a woman. Not only that, I got two very different, yet very similar examples: Elisabeth Wittelsback and Liz.

I commiserated with both young ladies. Liz had a tendency to add drama to things when there wasn’t a reason, her imagination and reality wiggling together at times. For Sisi, “The world of pranks and misbehavior was past. Soon, I would be slathering on the beauty potions, quenching my hair in oils, and saving my smiles for what the governess called ‘appropriate occasions for mirth’ – a funny part in an opera. The antics of a young child.” (Location 1030).

Liz and Sisi were part of that limbo stage of beyond puberty, before adulthood that Sis describes as, “Not a child. Not a lady.” (Location 1201). I was very impressed with Vitello for giving her two teenagers life and vitality. Vitello didn’t settle for the easy angsty teen character who commits herself entirely to one bad decision. Teenagers (and adults for that matter) are not just one bad decision, they are many poor choices. Sometimes one of those bad decisions turns into a big mistake with big consequences. Authors tend to turn to the worst case scenario to build up the character of a mixed-up teen, but Vitello stuck with the everyday and the normal in real life. Liz makes a stupid error, brought out in part through her disorder, and part through her poor decision and lack of knowledge (all part of young adult life) and the results are grave, the consequences severe, resulting in a catapulting in her life that begins the story. Vitello used a real teen’s thought process resulting in bad consequences. A logical event with a grave conclusion. Teens are not always at their worst, just make some bad decisions at times. But it only takes one bad decision to have the worst case results.

“The real tragedy to one’s soul is regret.” (Location 2309).

 

I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a coming of age novel starring a female (two females actually), two tales interwoven into one story, or a story featuring young teen-girl drama

This novel was published by Diversion Books 09/01/2014 and is available on Amazon here.

 

TLDR Star Rating: 4.25

 

Links for more information:

On the web: http://www.suzyvitello.com/books/the-empress-chronicles/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22748429-the-empress-chronicles

Blog: http://www.suzyvitello.com/suzys-blog/

Book Review: The Moment Before by Suzy Vitello

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The Moment Before by Suzy Vitello

A Young Adult Novel published January 14th 2014 by Diversion Books

 

Summary:

 Popular Sabine and Broody Brady are Irish twins, born 11 months apart. After Sabine dies, Brady is thrust from her sister’s shadow into a world full of drama, complication, and lies. Brady must find out what really happened to her sister before she died and Brady discovers more about herself along the way.

Keywords:

Teens, Drama, Death, Popularity, Complicated, Angst, Daughters, Irish Twins, Family, Drugs and Alcohol, Finding Yourself, Grief

My Review:

This may be a young adult fiction novel but it is not your typical angsty teen book. Though there are sex, drugs, alcohol, and death, they are dealt with in an adult and masterful way. It is almost as if this is not a work of fiction but an atypical and insightful diary-esque book. I felt, immediately, in touch with the main character as she narrated.

Vitello has such a way of bending a sentence into a beautiful structure that is almost, but not quite, out of reach for understanding. Phrases seem thrown together, such as “Into the growing awkward I say…” (page 50) but they blow me away with their tight structure. Even the dialogue is spot on, “That’s not fair for me, I realize. You have to make mistakes in order to grow. But I’m begging you. Pleading with you. Do not fall in that murky well right now. Now now.” (page 185). Vitello is able to tell me exactly what the main character is feeling and seeing. Her descriptions pack a punch that stays true to each of the characters, defining their complexities: “Mom called her my manic-panic girl. Me? Brady-brooder.” (page 14).

It was refreshing to have the plot thrown in my face in the first few pages so I knew exactly what I was getting into, but I couldn’t just sit tight for the ride because there were layers to the plot that the author expertly revealed in pits and pats.

I absolutely fell in love with Brady’s voice. “The tickle of this feels like a secret I’m sharing with my sister, like back when we were little girls sneaking into each other’s rooms at night to munch on candy under the blankets.” (page 15). Most of the time the author utilizes abrupt and short sentences that feel halting at first but then begin to worm their way into the voice of the character. She is a teenager with a teenager’s voice. But she is not just any teen. She is insightful and charismatic. She is real and emotional. She connects to her unseen audience through her fears and realizations. I love how Brady describes other people around her. “Why am I even friends with this girl? The way she glows with satisfaction when the world matches up to her sense of order and the way things should be.” (page 187) These are the same flaws I saw in Martha and Brady was able to voice them with such eloquence. I could listen to Brady all day.

Who wouldn’t like a book that mentions bacon maple bars?.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys movies with the environment of Clueless or the clever dialogue in the movie Brick.

 

This novel was published by Diversion Books on 1/14/14 and is available on Amazon here.

TLDR Star Rating: 4.75

 

Links for more information:

On the web: http://www.suzyvitello.com/books/the-moment-before/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18701765-the-moment-before

Blog: http://www.suzyvitello.com/suzys-blog/