October 19, 2011

Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

I wasn't really planning on reading Virtuosity. I'm not sure why, because I'm actually often drawn to stories featuring prodigies or people with highly regimented lifestyles due to their skills/abilities/life choices. Also, I like the title. But, the cover doesn't do a whole lot for me (it looks more paranormal than contemporary). Nothing wrong with it, but I will say that it would help if she was at least holding a violin. Then a galley floated my way, and so I went on the hunt for a few reliable reviews. And wouldn't you know, I found them (see links below). Enough of them to prod me to see for myself. I actually started Virtuosity right after finishing another book, somewhere in the vicinity of midnight, and I was absorbed quickly and deeply enough that I just read it straight through. I kind of feel like it's one of the ones best read that way, one of the ones that benefits largely from a quantity of undivided attention and a lack of breaks throughout.

Carmen Bianchi is a virtuoso. Her mother sang with the New York Metropolitan Opera at an unprecedentedly young age. All set to ride her stardom high, her career was cut short by an unexpected operation and an unexpected pregnancy. And so she transferred all of her drive, all her expectation, all her determination onto her daughter. And so Carmen eats, drinks, and breathes the violin. Her days are regimented to within an inch of her life, and her activities are sharply curtailed by her demanding schedule. With the most important competition of her life just a few short weeks away, she decides to scope out the competition. But it turns out Jeremy King isn't exactly the way she pictured him. And yet while his manner (both onstage and off) is about as far from her own as possible, he does share an unmatched understanding of what her life is like. Both that overwhelmingly innate love of music and the unparalleled isolation the lifestyle engenders. And so an alarmingly inconvenient friendship is struck up just at the moment when she needs to be the most focused and cutthroat she's ever been in her life.

I have never come anywhere even remotely in the vicinity of the kind of talent and dedication Carmen (and Jeremy) possess in this story. But I did grow up surrounded by music, and I played one instrument or another (or a few) nearly every day of my life from the time that I was four years old on. My mother taught me two of them. I was one of her many students, and so there was always the sound of music, the talk of music, and the practice and performance of music in the house. As a result, I was immediately drawn to Carmen's focus and love of everything that goes into the composition, the discipline, the appreciation, and the skill involved in her vocation. Unlike Carmen, however, I was always given the choice. Given options. And so my heart went out to her in sympathy for having none of those. I wanted her to explore the world outside. I wanted her to stand up to her mother and her horrible, horrible destructive influence. And at the same time I was fearful of the repercussions, fearful of what might be unintentionally but inevitably lost in the process. Beauty and fear make up the primary emotions of this novel, and I think the strength of it lies in those emotions and in the incredibly authentic way Jessica Martinez portrayed Carmen's life. I liked her. I liked Jeremy. Both of them so painfully solitary in their ways. And I really liked her mother, her stepfather, her tutor Helen, and her trollish instructor Yuri. I mean, I hated some of them, but I hated them right, you know? In fact, my heart was wrung several times throughout Virtuosity, and I was in the dark all the way up to the very end as to how things were going to turn out. I, for one, was very pleased with the "ending" Carmen got, and I'm definitely looking forward to Jessica Martinez's next offering.

Linkage
All-Consuming Books Review
A Girl, Books and Other Things Review
GReads! Review
Makeshift Bookmark Review
Pirate Penguin's Reads Review
Steph Su Reads Review
There's a Book Review

9 comments:

  1. I actually think the cover is cool but it definitely says paranormal more than contemporary. I love reading a book straight through too. But only if it's good enough to warrant it.

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  2. I was pleased with the ending too; I'm not sure where else the book could've gone if it didn't end there... and Carmen's teacher was awesome! I forgot to mention him in my mini. :/ He reminded me a lot of my own music teacher...minus the trollish quality, haha.

    Thank you for linking my review :)

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  3. You started this book at midnight and then read straight through? O_O I know this has nothing to do with the review, but WHEN DO YOU SLEEP? I enjoy a good book into the wee hours of the morning every once in awhile, but by the sounds of things you don't sleep at all! How do you do it?

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  4. Jenny, I agree. Whenever I find myself doing it it's either because the book is so freaking good, or because clearly something in me needed it. Either way, I enjoyed this one.

    Sandy, you bet. And I agree about the ending. It was the only way to go.

    Lizzy, LOL. I'm laughing because right after I published the review, I thought to myself, do I say that a lot? Do I DO that a lot? They're gonna think all I do is stay up all night every night reading books through. *headdesk* And the truth is, I probably do it more than I should. But it's also true that I report on those books sooner, perhaps, than the others in between. Probably because they're distilled reading experiences, comparatively. But, yeah. Either way, I get nowhere NEAR enough sleep as I need. Just ask my husband.

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  5. Oh, I thought this was paranormal too. I'm regretting now that I didn't request it. One of these days I'll need to pick it up. I'd love to read about a music virtuoso.

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  6. Holly, see? The cover screams it. But it's not at all. Carmen is a great character. I'd read more about her.

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  7. I love up all night books, the ones that you start late and can't stop reading until you finish it.

    Carmen's mother sounds like the mother in Bitter Melon by Cara Chow. The overbearing, sets super high goals for the kids type.

    Glad my parents weren't like that at ALL.

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  8. I really enjoyed this book too, I thought it was pretty neat to get into the head of a prodigy like Carmen. Her Mom drove me crazy but I enjoyed Carmen and Jeremy's romance and the relationships that Carmen had with both Clark and Heidi.

    This book also made me want to break out the violin that I don't have. =)

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  9. April, oh me too. I shudder to think how family life would have gone if they had been. Ugh.

    Rowena, Clark and Heidi were such great side characters. I could have done with a lot more from them. And I liked Jeremy right from the start. :)

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