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Infinite Country by Patricia Engel | Thoughts

   Published : 2021   ||    Format : print   ||    Location : Colombia ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆   What was it about the country that kept everyone hostage to its fantasy? The previous month, on its own soil, an American man went to his job at a plant and gunned down fourteen coworkers, and last spring alone there were four different school shootings. A nation at war with itself, yet people still spoke of it as some kind of paradise.. Thoughts : Infinite Country follows two characters - young Talia, who at the beginning of this book, escapes a girl’s reform school in North Colombia so that she can make her previously booked flight to the US. Before she can do that, she needs to travel many miles to reach her father and get her ticket to the rest of her family. As we follow Talia’s treacherous journey south, we learn about how she ended up in the reform school in the first place and why half her family resides in the US. Infinite Country tells the story of her family through the other protagonist, El

Review: Fireworks over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff

Title: Fireworks over Toccoa
Author: Jeffrey Stepakoff
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First Published: March 30, 2010
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Source: Received for free from the publisher for review
Challenges: 100+ Reading Challenge, A to Z Challenge
260 pages

On the flap
Lily was married for just days before her husband was sent abroad to fight in WWII. Now, he and the other soldiers are returning, and the small town of Toccoa, Georgia plans a big celebration. But a handsome and kind Italian immigrant, responsible for the elaborate fireworks display the town commissioned captures Lily's heart and soul. Torn between duty to society and her husband, and a poor, passionate man who might be her only true love--Lily must choose between a love she never knew and a commitment she'd already made.

Poignant and elegant, Fireworks over Toccoa is a mosaic of all the emotions that only love can make possible.

I had this book on my wishlist, ever since I saw it on someone's blog, so I was pretty excited to receive this one for review! The excitement wasn't misplaced either. This book delivered!

My opinion
Fireworks over Toccoa spans four days in the lives of Lily Woodward and Jake Russo. Lily had been married three years to a man she lived only a couple of weeks with, before her husband, Paul, was sent to Europe to serve in the war. Anticipating Paul's return, Lily is nervous realizing that she is no longer the seventeen year old immature girl she was when she got married. She is even more anxious wondering how Paul would have changed. One day, on her way back home after buying groceries, she stops her car, amazed, staring at a "silver trail of light fly up into the sky", and thence she comes across Jake Russo, who is the pyrotechnics man preparing the fireworks show for the July 4th parade.

A moment in the sky, forever in the heart.

This becomes a defining quote of the fireworks' dazzling effect as well as the meeting between the two. What follows then is a connection between two people who have been little understood by others and find themselves bonding intensely.

This is not a story of many twists and turns nor is it a story of many events conjuring to create a suspense. Yes there are twists, and yes, this is a story of how a chance meeting can lead to a lifetime of memories. But that is not the main focus of this book. Rather, it is in how two people discover and fall in love with each other, and find themselves reveling in their real selves and their life secrets. It is about how duty and desire can come together and conflict violently. Duty to one's husband or desire to follow one's heart. It is about reason vs impulse.

While instincts deep inside pushed her to lean forward, toward him, she willed these forces to stop.

I enjoyed Jake and Lily's relationship. I agree it is quite strange - meeting someone and bonding with him/her almost instantaneously, much less falling in love. Does love at first sight really exist? Or better, love at the first meeting? But the relationship was credible and I didn't feel it out of the ordinary. The way they connect in the initial few minutes of their meeting, which soon expands to a dinner together was quite heartwarming to read. The backdrop of fireworks was well woven into the story of the two characters. Lily's consequent savory of her meeting with Jake interlaced with her sporadic feelings of guilt, were eloquently expressed in the lyrical writing of Jeffrey Stepakoff. And lyrical it is, for the writing is simply beautiful and almost poetic.

Even though the sky is already filled with stars, you can always make your own.

This story is narrated by an eighty-two year old Lily, and drew me in quite from the first line. Lily and Jake's love for each other, Lily's relationship with her parents, her dilemma about Paul or Jake, and the suspense of what her decision would be had me turning the pages till the very end. It made me smile and cry in turns. Overall, I was quite captivated by this story as well as by the writing. I loved it so much, I couldn't stop reading it.

Title Demystified
This story is set in Toccoa, home to the Camp Toccoa. It's one of my places to visit too, and I was surprised that quite a few people I know had once stayed in or near Toccoa. Jake, who himself just returned from the war, moves from town to town preparing fireworks shows, courtesy of his family business, Russo Fireworks.

Cover Art Demystified
This is one beautiful cover. The poster doesn't even fully reveal the perception of beauty that envelopes you as you hold the book in your hands. I took my time reading through the book, simply because half the time, I would stare at this cover. There's so much love and poignancy on the picture and it immediately brings to your mind some of those old romantic classics that you have watched, especially those set during or after the WW2.

***Sneak Peek Alert ***
Also, there's a very cool “sneak peek” campaign for this book beginning on March 10th, yes, today! Simply by visiting the website of Fireworks over Toccoa, you can not only read a huge chunk of the book online but also sign up to win one of 300! free copies, read a note from the author, listen to an audio excerpt, and do more many more fun things. How cool is that!

What did you think?
Have you read this book? I'd like to know what you thought about it. Please leave your review link in the comments, or a brief opinion, if you hadn't reviewed it.


Jenny Q said…
I have got to read this one! Great review! Thanks for sharing the website info, I'm heading over there now!
Morgan said…
This is a must read for me because the summary sounds amazing. And I love the cover. Great review!
bermudaonion said…
I'm not sure that I believe in love at first sight, but I can suspend belief enough to enjoy it in a book or a movie. Great review!
Tales of Whimsy said…
Great review. I'm totally on the fence about this one. But the cover is most definitely lovely.
Aarti said…
Great review! I really didn't have any desire to pick this book up because I had a vague notion that it would be similar to a Nicholas Sparks book. But it sounds much deeper than that!
Stephanie said…
This sounds wonderful. I am impressed that the author took a story of love at first sight and made it convincing and rich.
You know, I keep hearing the most amazing things about this one, and I really can't wait to read it myself. It sounds excellent. Brilliant review!
DCMetroreader said…
This sort of sounds like The Bridges of Madison County. I didn't entirely buy the characters instant falling in love, but I did enjoy the story. Nice review.
Athira said…
Lady Quinlan, you're welcome! I hope you will like it! :)

Morgan, the cover had me in too! So captivating!

Kathy, very true. I'm not a believer in it either, but I appreciated how the author made it feel so very real!

Juju, let me try nudging you into the backyard off the fence! :) You should read it!

Aarti, I only read one Nicholas Sparks and didn't like it much. I don't know if this is anything like Nicholas Sparks' kind of books, but I liked this one (I usually don't enjoy romance).

Stephanie, so true! That's one thing that impressed me a lot!

Melissa, thanks! I hope you do read it!

DCMetroreader, I have to read The Bridges of Madison County! But true, the story was quite enjoyable!
Kristen said…
I'm so glad this one is getting good reviews. I have it here to read as well and it sounds like I have a treat in store for me.
Marce said…
I wasn't going to read this one but your review is beautiful and reminds me of the movie Bridges of Madison County which I loved.

I believe in love at first sight, I think I will read this one.
Sunnysmileqt said…
This book looks great!

There is an award for you at my blog!
Athira said…
Kristen, I sure hope you will enjoy it too!

Marce, Aww, thanks! You will definitely love this one, if you believe in love at first sight!

Sunnysmileqt, thanls! :)
Dana said…
Hm, I'm not particularly attracted to the plot of this book, but I've read so many good reviews for it that I may need to give it a read anyway! Great review!
Athira said…
Dana, there really isn't much of a plot, I agree, other than demonstrating the love between two characters. I normally don't enjoy such books, but I appreciated the way the author wrote this book.