Review: The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr


Title: The Lucy Variations

Author:  Sara Zarr


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:


Lucy Beck-Moreau once had a promising future as a concert pianist. The right people knew her name, her performances were booked months in advance, and her future seemed certain.

That was all before she turned fourteen.

Now, at sixteen, it’s over. A death, and a betrayal, led her to walk away. That leaves her talented ten-year-old brother, Gus, to shoulder the full weight of the Beck-Moreau family expectations. Then Gus gets a new piano teacher who is young, kind, and interested in helping Lucy rekindle her love of piano — on her own terms. But when you’re used to performing for sold-out audiences and world-famous critics, can you ever learn to play just for yourself?

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr takes readers inside the exclusive world of privileged San Francisco families, top junior music competitions, and intense mentorships. The Lucy Variations is a story of one girl’s struggle to reclaim her love of music and herself. It’s about finding joy again, even when things don’t go according to plan. Because life isn’t a performance, and everyone deserves the chance to make a few mistakes along the way.


I love books set in highly competitive settings, and musical competitions are a favorite.  Lucy’s competitive days are over, though.  At the start of The Lucy Variations, she’s been in retirement for eight months.  Eight months since she quit, since she walked out of a concert hall in Prague.  She has been lost to herself for all of this time; longer, actually, because she lost her love for music and for her piano well before then.  Her journey to find herself is not without mistakes and heartbreak, but when she does find herself again, will she have the courage to stand up to her family and take herself back?

After destructing in Prague, Lucy is happy with her new, stress free life.  That’s what she keeps telling herself, anyway.  After her grandmother’s death, nothing mattered anymore; not her music, not her family, not her schoolwork.  Walking off the stage in Prague was intended as a protest to her grandfather, a message that she didn’t appreciate how he had made the decision that she would be competing instead of with her dying grandmother.  Betrayed, Lucy still hasn’t forgiven her family for lying to her, and she hasn’t forgiven herself for not standing up to her grandfather.  When she walked off the stage, he took her protest to be permanent.  He called her a quitter, and told her her career was over.  Now, the attention is on her talented younger brother, also a gifted pianist.  Now, without the pressure of competition and practice, Lucy can be a teenager.  She can have crushes and make friends and be a normal kid.  Only, truthfully, she will never be a normal kid because she misses being someone, though she can’t even admit that to herself.

Lucy is a compelling character.  She’s confused and angry.  She can’t get past that day in Prague, when she gave everything up, only she didn’t realize at the time that her actions would last forever.  She never thought that her grandfather, a harsh taskmaster, would be so uncompromising, and that he would deny her the chance to apologize and get back on with her piano practice.   Instead, he dumped her faster than a garbage truck emptying a load at the local landfill.  Lucy has no one to stand up for her against her grandfather, and as the months go by, she is more and more resentful of how she has been judged and left wanting. 

When her brother, Gus, needs a new piano instructor, Will and his beautiful wife enter their lives.  Will is so alive and so passionate about music.  He makes Lucy remember all of the things she loved about it.  He makes her want to try new things and play just for herself.  As she gets to know him better and work through her issues with her family, Lucy develops a monumental crush on Will.  This is the part of the story that I liked the least.  Lucy jumps from an inappropriate crush on her English teacher to a crush on Will, but none of the moral dilemmas were adequately explored.  There are no consequences explored, no significant examination of how their friendship is hurting Will’s wife.  I was very disappointed with this aspect of the story.

Overall, I did enjoy The Lucy Variations.  It’s an engaging story about a girl longing to find herself again, and to reestablish her voice in her demanding, controlling family.

Grade:  B/B-

Review copy provided by publisher

Interview with Natalie Anderson, Author of The Right Mr Wrong

I’m delighted to have special guest Natalie Anderson stop by the virtual offices to chat up her latest KISS release, The Right Mr  Wrong.  Please give her a warm welcome!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Natalie Anderson] Romantic, hardworking (though prone to procrastination), maternal, obsessive, useless housekeeper but ok cook, impulsive, silly voice queen.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Right Mr Wrong?

[Natalie Anderson] This book is a bit different from my usual Harlequins in that it is actually two novellas in one. The stories deal with the same hero and heroine in each but look at the different paths they take when the heroine made a decision one way in the first novella and another way in the second. They’re parallel universe stories.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Natalie Anderson] It was just one of those ‘what if’ moments—I was thinking about how the decisions we make can affect our future, and I was imagining what might have happened to Victoria if she’d said yes to her boyfriend, then no – then I got to thinking how much fun it would be to explore both stories, so that’s exactly what I did. Because sometimes one’s life hinges on a split-second decision, right? Haven’t you ever been torn inside over a dilemma and had to leap one way or the other? Don’t you ever wonder what might have happened if you’d chosen the other way?

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Victoria?

[Natalie Anderson] In Liam’s thoughts— gorgeous, touching, precious.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Liam had a theme song, what would it be?

[Natalie Anderson] hmmm – maybe Wild Ones by Flo Rida?

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Oliver is never without.

[Natalie Anderson] His pride 😉

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Victoria’s greatest regret?

[Natalie Anderson] Oh that’s tricky!!! Because this will be different in both stories—probably not freeing herself the moment she met Liam…

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Natalie Anderson] The shower – lol!!!! Seriously, the one thing that always gets my muse working is water—be it relaxing under the shower or walking along the beach, swimming, soaking in a hot pool… I just adore water.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Natalie Anderson] Time, space and snacks 😉

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Natalie Anderson] I’m very spoilt because I get to read Soraya Lane’s books ahead of everyone else and I love them!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Natalie Anderson] Robert the Rose Horse – when I was five I refused to go to school until I had my own copy!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Natalie Anderson] I’m a very busy mom with four young children and a husband who works long hours—our favourite down time together is to watch movies when the children have gone to bed. I just adore movies.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Natalie Anderson] I really enjoy hearing from readers — I’m on  Facebook and Twitter regularly — and you can also sign up to my newsletter at my website
Or you can email me directly of course:

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

Purchase Links:


About the book:

"Will you marry me?"

Isn’t that the question every girl dreams of hearing? Victoria certainly used to think so. And safe, steady Oliver seemed perfect husband material. But that was until she met Liam, his rebellious, scorchingly hot best friend. Suddenly Victoria’s feeling things—crazy lust-fueled things!—she’s never felt before. But for the wrong guy… Then Oliver goes down on one knee, and it’s decision time—head or hormones?

Victoria’s about to discover the truth about guys like Liam—once you go bad you never go back!

Extra bonus: included is The Wedding Dress Diaries by Aimee Carson, the prequel to our fab new quartet!

About the author:

USA TODAY bestseller Natalie Anderson writes fun, frisky, feels-good contemporary romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon, Entangled Publishing and independently. With over twenty-five books published, she’s been a Romantic Times Award nominee & a finalist for the R*BY (Romantic Book of the Year).

She lives in Christchurch, New Zealand with her husband, four children and what feels like a million ducks.

Watch for THE HEAT IS ON coming in July from Jill Shalvis, as her Harlequin KISS novel, BLAME IT ON THE BIKINI is included as a bonus read, and also be sure to grab a copy of BREATHE FOR ME, her first indie novel published in April.

Spotlight and Giveaway! Talking Dirty with the CEO by Jackie Ashenden




Jackie Ashenden and Entangled Publishing are celebrating the release of Talking Dirty with the CEO.  This is a fun and sexy romp with a geeky girl who loves gadgets, and a hunky guy who makes them.  To get the party underway, they are giving away a $50 Amazon or Amazon UK gift card. 
Fill out the widget to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A bit about the novel Talking Dirty with the CEO:

"A perfect mix of heat and humor, add up to a great read." RT Book Reviews 4 1/2 stars! “

Gadget journalist Christie St. John is more geek than chic. But when research for an article she has to write on online dating leads to the bed of the hottest guy she’s ever met, she knows that if the geek is to keep the hottie CEO, she’s going to have to come out of her digital shell.

Tech mogul Joseph Ashton never expected an Internet blind date to end in the best sex of his life. Yet as the chemistry between him and Christie burns out of control, he can’t help but think this woman is out for his money like all the rest. She claims she wants his heart instead – but that’s the one thing he can never give.

A bit about Jackie:

Jackie has been writing fiction since she was eleven years old. Mild mannered fantasy/SF/pseudo-literary writer by day, obsessive romance writer by night, she used to balance her writing with the more serious job of librarianship until a chance meeting with another romance writer prompted her to throw off the shackles of her day job and devote herself to the true love of her heart – writing romance. She particularly likes to write emotional stories with alpha heroes who’ve just got the world to their liking only to have it blown wide apart by their kick-ass heroines.

She lives in Auckland, New Zealand with her husband, the inimitable Dr Jax, two kids, two cats and some guppies (possibly dead guppies by the time you read this). When she’s not torturing alpha males and their stroppy heroines, she can be found drinking chocolate martinis, reading anything she can lay her hands on, posting random crap on her blog, or being forced to go mountain biking with her husband.

Jackie’s Links:

Visit Jackie Ashenden’s website:


Facebook Page:!/jackie.ashenden?fref=ts


Buy Links:


Barnes and Noble: