Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Book Review: "Illuminations of the Heart" by Joyce DiPastena and a Contest

By Nichole Giles

Hello my loyal and faithful friends and readers. It's true, I've been doing a whole bunch of media reviews lately. And I sure hope you aren't getting sick of them. It's just that when I find a book or CD or movie that I just love, I can't help but want to share it with the rest of the world. So, I hope you'll indulge me once more. This one is definitely worth the read!!
Back Cover Blurb:

“Clothilde.” He spoke the name on a breath like a prayer. Then he lowered his head and kissed her.

Her heart is lost in that first embrace, her world shaken to its foundations. There is just one problem: her name is not Clothilde. It is Siriol De Calendri. Trained in the art of illumination in the far-off city of Venice, Siri is directed by her late brother’s will to the county of Poitou in France, where she enters the guardianship of her brother’s friend, Sir Triston de Brielle. Once in Poitou, Siri hopes to find employment in an illuminator’s shop—until Triston unexpectedly snatches her heart away with a kiss.

Triston is a man of quiet honor and courage, but the guilt he carries for the death of his late wife, Clothilde, has left him numb and hesitant to love again. Worse yet, Siri bears an uncanny resemblance to his lost love. Or does she? Her merry laughter and twinkling eyes are very different from his late wife’s shy smiles and quiet ways. Yet when he gazes into Siri’s face, all he sees is Clothilde.

Then Triston’s past returns to threaten them both. Will his tragic life with Clothilde be repeated with Siri? Trapped between the rivalry of the king’s sons on the one hand and a neighbor out for vengeance on the other, Triston realizes it would be safer to send Siri away. But how can he bear to lose her again?

Siri is determined not to be cast off and not to live in another woman’s shadow. She has illuminated many a priceless book with pen and paint. But can her own vibrant spirit illuminate the darkness in Triston’s soul and make his heart beat for her alone?

My Take:

Once again, Joyce DiPastena has outdone herself. I absolutely loved her first book, Loyalty’s Web, and wondered how she would ever write another one with so much depth, so many plot twists and turns, and let’s not forget the heart-melting love story (the kind that doesn’t make you cringe). But how could I have thought such a thing? Of course, Illuminations was up to par! I absolutely loved it.

Okay, first I have to warn you. I’m a sucker for a good romance. Really. But I’m also extremely picky about what I read, especially since I started writing myself. Other than Loyalty’s Web, it’s been quite a while since I found a sweet romance that I just couldn’t put down. But this one was definitely packed full of heart-pounding romance. The downside is that I’m going to have to wait for probably a year or more to read another book by Joyce. (Frown. That’s a long time!) The point is, Illuminations of the Heart has sealed the deal. I’m a fan for life!

My Nitpicks:

I have issues with this section of my reviews. There are those who think a nitpick section is uncalled for or unnecessary. And in most cases, that’s probably true. However, I feel that it’s important for my readers to understand that I will be honest in my review process, and if I end up reviewing a book I wasn’t fond of, that I’ll kindly let them know that, while pointing out the things I did like.

That said, I have a really hard time finding anything to nitpick in this book. Seriously! Oh wait. I got one. (Joyce, we already had this discussion.) After reading Loyalty’s Web, I’d grown very fond of all the characters—except Clothilde and Helen’s extremely EVIL mother—and so was sad to discover Clothilde’s death in Illuminations. Seriously, every time Triston thought of her, I got sad too. So, I guess my nitpick is that I got teary in several places, which can be embarrassing when you’re sitting in the orthodontist’s office waiting for your kids, or waiting in line to meet teachers at the school or something. But worry not. I grew to love Siri as well, and found the ending very satisfying.

So now I’m left wondering who’s story Joyce will tell next. Maybe Acelet's? Or Ettienne's? Hm. Only Joyce herself knows the answer to that question. The rest of us will just have to be patient.

I give Illuminations of the Heart a five on my diamond scale, and recommend that you run out and grab a copy as fast as you can so you can start reading it too.

Wait, running out would require leaving the computer. I’ll make it easier. Click here to order yours from Deseret Book or here to order from Amazon.

Oh, but that’s not all! Leave a comment here and be entered to win an autographed copy of Illuminations of the Heart or one of three gift cards. The best part is that this tour goes until September 15th, and you can leave comments on as many tour stops as you want, and each one counts as a new entry. (Tip: I’ve posted this blog in two places—comment on both for two entries.) Good luck! I belive the winners will be announced on Joyce's blog at the end of the blog tour, but I'll probably post the names here as well.

Being the sweet lady that she is, Joyce was kind enough to take some time out of her busy life to chat with me about the things that really matter in the life of an author.

NG: Hi Joyce! I know you’re super busy, so I’ll get right to the most important questions. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? Today, my new favorite is Ben and Jerry’s Key Lime Pie.

JDP: My favorite is Coldstone Creamery French vanilla with chocolate chips and roasted almonds. I guess you could say that chocolate chip is my favorite, but I LOVE being able to add nuts, which you can never find in a store brand chocolate chip.

NG: Awesome. That does sound yummy. And not just any nuts, roasted almonds. Mmm. Almost makes me wish we’d met in an ice cream shop for this interview. But hey, we can always pretend.

(Pauses to dream about ice cream.)

NG: Who is your favorite author? (Besides yourself or me, since everyone already knows we’re both awesome.)

JDP: Georgette Heyer, who wrote Regency romances, and Diana Wynne Jones, who writes fantasies, and I'm not even a fantasy reader in general, so you KNOW how much I must find DWJ awesome! Of course, that doesn't mean that all of either GH or DWJ's titles are as awesome as others. It's a good thing we're going to break that trend, and write NOTHING but awesome books ourselves, NG!

NG: You bet, Joyce! Trend-breaking is at the top of my priority list. Personally, I prefer to set my own trends and make my own fun. Speaking of fun, what is your most favorite thing to do when you’re not writing?

JDP: I spend way too much time on email and the internet. I don't know if that's because it's a "favorite" thing to do, or if I'm just cyberspace addicted. (Probably the latter.)

NG: Tee Hee. Aren’t we all? Wait, that was supposed to be redundant. I have a better question. If you were an animal, what kind would you be and why?

JDP: Ooo, that one's easy. I would be a cat. I've loved cats for as long as I can remember, and am quite sure I would have been born with a cat in my arms if my mom hadn't (presumably) vetoed that idea. I remember taking "cat lessons" from my grandparents cat when I was a very little girl. Besides, what's not to love about eating and sleeping all day in all the best places in the house?

NG: That does sound nice.

Pauses to dream about naps and snack foods.

NG: Speaking of eating, how about telling us what kinds of power snacks keep you going as you write.

JDP: When I'm being bad, a handful of Hershey Kisses. When I'm being good, a stick of string cheese.

NG: Chocolate and cheese? That pretty much covers the important food groups. One last question and then I’ll let you get back to your next masterpiece. Do you prefer diamonds or pearls?

JDP: Pearls. Don't know why, I just do.

NG: Because you’re classic and feminine. Your choice is unusual, which speaks of your character. Jewelry choice says a lot about a person. But I digress. Joyce, I know you’re super busy, so I’ll let you get back to work. Thank you so much for the visit, and the answers to what makes an author tick.

To read more about the author, click here or here.

Joyce DiPastena will be touring many Costco locations in Arizona. Watch her blog or website for dates and locations.


Elizabeth Morgan said...

I love all of the emotions that she has in her books it helps you to get more involved in the story!

Joyce DiPastena said...

Thanks so much for your review, Nichole! I'm not sure I've ever made anyone teary before. That's a compliment, though I do apologize for poor Clothilde. I'm glad you felt good about the resolution, though.

Loved your comments in the interview! We should meet in an ice cream shop (Coldstone Creamery!) so I can interview YOU when "The Sharp Edge of a Knife" comes out!

L.T. Elliot said...

I loved this book too. It was very, very hard for me to put down. So I didn't!

Cindy Beck, author said...

I already have the book, so hope I'll have the good fortune of winning a gift card. And so far, the book is really interesting!