Book Review: Glass Hearts by Renee Lovins

I’ve been talking about my own books so much lately, I decided it was time to talk about someone else’s. Lucky for me, I’m on a mailing list with Renee Lovins and had the opportunity to read her new book for review.

Glass HeartsWhat’s not to love about Glass Hearts? It’s a modern-day Cinderella retelling with lots of heart and just enough sexual tension to keep you turning the pages. I read it in three days. And while that’s not a record (held by New Moon, read in less than 24 hours), it should give you an idea of how much I loved this book. When I wasn’t reading, I was thinking about the characters and when I could pick up the book again.

Ember, our heroine, is a recent college grad with a full scholarship to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Normally a risk-adverse woman, she decides to throw caution to the wind right before leaving and engage in a one-night stand with a guy she meets in a bar. The only problem is that tragedy keeps her from fulfilling her Paris dream. In a truly genius plot point, now she’s stuck with a brain-damaged-mom-turned-evil-stepmother and an ungrateful sister, both of whom she has to support with virtually no money.

Her one night stand doesn’t fair much better. Ring (also called Jordan), our Price Charming, sees his nearly completed master’s degree go up in smoke when his father dies, leaving a previously unknown legacy of debt and confusion. Ring quits school to help save his father’s floundering hotel with no idea how he’s going to get it done, only the conviction that he owes it to his dad and needs to do it on his own.

The estranged lovers meet up once again in a bakery where Ember works, cooking up some truly mouth-watering recipes (the author seriously made me hungry while reading it), and decide they need a “fail safe,” a relationship that will let them escape from their problems while not burdening the other with them. So they can hang out, have sex, and talk, but neither knows what is going on in the other’s life. I’ll leave the rest of the plot for you to uncover as you go, but trust that it involves a lot of ups and downs for Ember and Ring, a fairy godfather (of a sort the Brothers Grimm never imagined), a masked ball, and yes, a sort of glass slipper.

I truly fell in love with this book. It’s a feel-good story that defies the norms of the fairy tale (for example Ember is overweight, which is wonderful to see in a heroine) while still keeping with its spirit and giving creative nods to the iconic elements. The characters are great, the kind of people you want to be friends with.  I also loved the theme that getting what you want of out of life takes hard work and effort –nothing is just handed to you–especially since the characters are of a generation known for its acceptance of entitlement.

This five-star book makes me anxious to go back and read the author’s first book, Ink Deep, a modern twist on Beauty and the Beast.

Have you read either of Renee Lovins’ books? If so, what did you think? Are you interested in reading this one? What other fairy tale retellings have you enjoyed?

Living in a Fairy Tale World

Coleen Moore's fairy tale castle at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago

Last week I was driving to work and listening to an audiobook when something in the book reminded me of this really cool exhibit I saw at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago last year. It’s a fairy tale castle with elaborately decorated rooms like a giant doll house, commissioned by silent film star Colleen Moore and built by some of the greatest architects and craftsmen of the 1930s and 1940s. I can’t find a photo to do it justice, but it’s about 8 feet by 9 nine feet (way bigger than my office) and every surface is painted with painstaking detail. Some of the art was done by world renown artists like Walt Disney and it holds a number of valuable miniature treasures, including a book of famous autographs, 1,000 year old carvings and other historical, religious and political artefacts. It has real working lights and plumbing that shoots tiny streams of water in the bathrooms and garden, too.  Just looking the online tour takes me back and makes me happy. If you’re in Chicago, be sure to check it out. (The whole museum is much more interesting than I thought it would be, especially since I’m an English/history person, not math/science.)

The dining room of the castle reminds me of Arthur's Round Table

Why am I telling you this? Well, for one it’s cool and I want people to know it exists. But more importantly, we’ve been talking about sources of inspiration lately and I’ve realized this is one of mine. Call me the little girl who never grew up, but I could easily spend all day staring at it and imagining storylines from the beautiful miniature decorations. (I just bought the book that goes with the exhibit, so pretty soon I’ll be able to do just that.) Anyone who knows of my fascination with castles won’t be too surprised that I love this beautiful representation of the world my brain lives in 90% of the time. And it also reminds me of my new favorite show, Once Upon a Time.

What about you? What are some of your more unusual sources of inspiration? Have any of you seen this exhibit? What did you think?

PS – Let it be known that someday I will own a miniature castle like this (okay, maybe not as big) and decorate it to be my own version of Camelot. Maybe it could even be part of my real castle – because you know I’m going to live in one. Hey, if you’re going to dream, dream big!