Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Review: Fireworks over Toccoa & Sweepstakes

Summary: Every so often that story comes along that reminds us of what it’s like to experience love for the first time—against the odds, when you least expect it, and with such passion that it completely changes you forever.

An unexpected discovery takes eighty-four-year-old Lily Davis Woodward to 1945, and the five days that forever changed her life. Married for only a week before her husband was sent to fight in WWII, Lily is anxious for his return, and the chance to begin their life together. In honor of the soldiers' homecoming, the small Georgia town of Toccoa plans a big celebration. And Jake Russo, a handsome Italian immigrant, also back from war, is responsible for the elaborate fireworks display the town commissioned. But after a chance encounter in a star-lit field, he steals Lily's heart and soul--and fulfills her in ways her socially-minded, upper-class family cannot. Now, torn by duty to society and her husband--and the poor, passionate man who might be her only true love--Lily must choose between a commitment she's already made and a love she’s never known before.

Fireworks Over Toccoa takes us to a moment in time that will resonate with readers long after the book’s unforgettable conclusion. A devastating and poignant story, this debut novel will resonate with anyone who believes in love. -- Thomas Dunne Books

I really, really wanted to like FIREWORKS OVER TOCCOA by Jeffrey Stepakoff. I think the storyline sounded promising, and I absolutely loved the cover. Plus, I have always been interested in the fireworks industry so I was looking forward to that part of the novel. Unfortunately, this book just didn't work for me. Maybe it's because I'm not a big reader of romance/love stories, or maybe I just wasn't in the right frame of mind for it. But for whatever reason, I didn't "get" this book.

Ever since I finished FIREWORKS OVER TOCCOA, I have tried to figure out why I wasn't really into this book. I'm still not entirely sure where it went wrong for me -- it could just be that I'm not a fan of love stories. But I really think that I just didn't feel that closeness with the characters. While I have said over and over again that I don't have to love or relate to the characters to appreciate a book, I do think that a "connection" is necessary for this type of book. I never felt that connection with Lily (although I did like Jake a lot!)

This is Mr. Stepakoff's first novel, although he has been writing for quite awhile. His writing credits include many popular television shows including The Wonder Years, Sisters, Major Dad, and Dawson's Creek. In addition, he wrote for the Disney movie, Tarzan. At times, I really enjoyed his writing style and his beautiful descriptions; and then there were a few times that I thought his prose was a little odd.

To be honest, I thought FIREWORKS IN TOCCOA was reminiscent of THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY. I actually read that novel about 15 years ago and was pleasantly surprised by the love story. (Although I admit that my reading tastes have changed and I might not like it as much now.) I think this book is going to be compared to THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY a great deal because I have a feeling that many readers are going to have the same kind of response to this novel. Unfortunately, I didn't! While I was a blubbering idiot when I was finished THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY, I just wasn't connected enough with these characters to feel the same way. I didn't cry at all and really didn't even have a tear in my eye -- of course, many of you are going to think that I'm completely unromantic and cold-hearted now!

I also think I might have appreciated this book more if my expectations weren't so high. I admit that I wanted more about the fireworks industry, and that just wasn't the type of book FIREWORKS IN TOCCOA was. I knew it was a love story, but I guess I didn't realize what that really meant. I'm also considering that had I read this book during the summer, either by the pool or at the shore, I would have been more likely to get caught up in the story and the characters.

I'm not sure FIREWORKS OVER TOCCOA is a good fit for all book clubs (mine included), but I can see the appeal for those groups who enjoy a good romance. There are quite a few things that you could discuss including love, romance, marriage, parent/child relationships, choices, and sacrifices. Mr. Stepakoff is available for author chats and is even willing to meet with your group if you live near Atlanta. I couldn't find a reading guide yet, but I will link to it when one becomes available.

While I admit that FIREWORKS OVER TOCCOA wasn't my favorite book, I do think many women are going to love this touching love story. If you think you might be interested in reading FIREWORKS OVER TOCCOA, then continue reading because the publisher has a great sweepstakes going on now:

Visit www.FireworksOverToccoa.com before March 30th for:

1) A note from author Jeffrey Stepakoff

2) An enormous online excerpt from the book

3) An audio excerpt

4) Crazy awesome sweepstakes (new info!)

a. 1 grand prize winner will win a romantic picnic basket for two complete with caviar, crackers & cheese, cookies, chocolates & truffles and MUCH more (see picture below)!

b. 300 runners-up will receive a copy of FIREWORKS OVER TOCCOA.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy of this novel.


Sandy Nawrot said...

I did get pretty excited when I read about the premise of this book, and it is too bad it actually ended up being watered down. (I cried like a baby after Bridges as well. It was about midnight, and I had to wake up my husband and tell him how heartbroken I was!)

Beth Kephart said...

Oh gosh. What a great premise. And fireworks! I've always wondered how they work.

bermudaonion said...

I need to read this soon, but I was afraid it would be too much right after How to Knit a Love Song.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I have to say that although I didn't like this book much, I absolutely loved the cover! It's very beautiful!

Carrie said...

Interesting hearing your thoughts on this one!

Jenny Girl said...

I think sometimes when we get books like these we just have to be ready for them. Like Bridges of Madison County is so not me, but I adored that book. Maybe because it made me cry, or becasue I read it at a certain point in my life, I don't know. Fireworks sounds like one of those books.
It has to catch at the right time. Thank you for your honest review.

Stacie said...

I tried to sign up for the sweepstakes and at the bottom it said I was too young to enter this sweepstakes. Not sure how they know my age and I am flattered that they think I am too young for a romance novel, but couldn't find anywhere to contact someone and find out what the deal was. Anyway, I have heard about this novel too and was curious. Thanks for letting us know about it!

Mom of 5 Boys said...

I read this book not too long ago, and had the exact same reaction you did. I love a good romance story, so I don't think that was the hangup. I think the book just missed the mark. It was somehow too clinical.

S. Krishna said...

Hmm...I have this one to review and may push it back after reading this. Thanks for the honest review!

Anna said...

Sorry to hear you didn't enjoy this book as much as you'd hoped. I'm not big on romances either, but I accepted a review copy because I was interested in the WWII angle. Thanks for the honest assessment.

Diary of an Eccentric

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

Awesome review!! Don't feel bad, I actually felt pretty much the same way about this one, and I am a HUGE fan of romance!! I had a hard time with the cheating aspects as well.