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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Authentic Virtuosity An Engaging Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Grammy-winning violinist Carmen Bianchi only wants one thing:  to win the prestigious Guarneri music competition. The top prize includes serious cash, the use of an antique violin for four years, and performance opportunities all over the world.  But it means even more to Carmen; for the 17-year-old, winning will prove to the world that she's a talented musician in her own right.  Not just because her mother's a famous professional soprano.

Carmen would be a shoo-in if it weren't for Jeremy King, an English violinist who's also 17.  Not only is he gorgeous, but he's the male version of Carmen—a child prodigy who's been winning music competitions practically since birth.  Carmen can't stop thinking about him, obsessing over him.  He's handsome, for sure, but is he, in fact, a better musician?  She doesn't know.  She does know he's an arrogant jerk—ho just happens to understand her better than anyone else.  Carmen absolutely cannot let herself get distracted by Jeremy, the one person who could stand in the way of her fulfilling her fondest dream, but it's happening anyway ...

With Jeremy on the brain, Carmen can't focus.  Keeping herself calm before the competition is hard enough—even with the anti-anxiety pills she pops like candy—but Jeremy's presence is making it downright impossible.  Maybe that was his plan all along, or maybe Carmen just isn't cut out to be a professional musician.  As the competition creeps closer and closer, she'll have to decide what her heart really wants—and needs.

Because Jessica Martinez herself was a child prodigy with the violin, Virtuosity has a very authentic feel to it.  Carmen's the kind of character that speaks to every reader—despite being a world-class musician, she's self-deprecating, down-to-earth, and beset with feelings of inferiority and anxiety.  It's easy to empathize with her, simple to cheer her on.  The story moves along at a good clip, taking interesting turns that lead to intriguing subplots.  To me, the ending felt a little unrealistic and abrupt.  That, coupled with some irritating copy editing errors detracted from my reading experience; otherwise, I enjoyed Virtuosity.  Not as much as I liked Martinez' second novel (The Space Between Us) but still, this one is a solid novel and an engaging read.    

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a bit of Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer)

Grade:  B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG-13 for mild language (no F-bombs) and sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

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Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson

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