Nonna's Book Of Mysteries Review And Giveaway

4652654755 e5cf0c2749 m Nonna's Book Of Mysteries Review And GiveawayBuy Nonna’s Book Of Mysteries
Special: $13.60 (Regular price: $16.95)
Publisher: Lake Street Press
Reviewer: Melissa on May 31, 2010
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Have you ever been told that you couldn’t do something because of your gender? Emilia Serafini, the main character of Nonna’s Book Of Mysteries, was told that her dream of becoming a painter in the Florence school was an impossible because she’s a girl. Rather than aiming for her potential, she is told that she shouldn’t look any further than marrying her father’s friend Benozzo Balducci, a man who is 10 years her senior and loathsome to her. Around the same time, however, her mother gives Emilia an old manuscript called A Manual to the Science of Alchemy and encourages her in her quest to find an apprenticeship despite the apparent obstacles.

Often enough, I hear YA readers and bloggers complaining about the apparent lack of supportive parents in many YA novels, but I’d argue that this shouldn’t be an issue for anyone while reading Nonna’sBookOfMysteries. True enough, Emilia’s father does everything in his power to make sure she stays the course of a woman during the Renaissance. At the same time, however, Emilia is able to surround herself with a handful of individuals, including her mother, who value and help her foster her dreams. However, the author, Mary Osborne, uses the motifs of faith and doubt to help Emilia make her own choices despite the advice of those around her. In other words, Emilia doesn’t always accept the suggestions that she is given or follows it while still being unsure about its veracity.

Osborne uses motifs to discuss the key subjects of the novel, Emilia’s growth into not only an artist, but also an alchemist. If you think this means that Emilia is in the backroom late at night mixing various elements to form actual gold, then you ought to think again. Osborne presents us with a spiritual awakening into the mystic laws of alchemy that help Emilia on the path to reach her life goals. Since there is much to learn in both the artistic world of Renaissance Italy as well as the mysticism of alchemy, I really loved the prologue. The narrator detaches itself from the narrative frame and addresses the “gentle reader” as follows: “Unless you are prepared to learn the secrets of the ancient mysteries herewith contained, gentle reader, proceed no further” (xi). By making this narrative decision, Osborne achieves accuracy to the period that is important for me as a reader. This narrative trope signifies a connection with the traditional canon, even as she expands the possibilities for women in the time period. Osborne has done her homework, so readers interested in the Renaissance, alchemy or painting will get a lot from this novel.

Nevertheless, there is more going on here than only learning about history, alchemy and art. Readers of all ages – especially girls in the the tween and teen market, will get a lot out of this book. Osborne has a written a compelling novel that shows young girls that they can get past the usual excuses, like “I can’t succeed because I haven’t had the right opportunities.” Yes, it’s true that some people, like Emilia, have greater obstacles in front of them to achieve success, but this novel shows that if one continues the attempt, they will be able to push past the problems they experience along the way. What a hopeful and timeless message!

I hope that you’ve become curious about Nonna’s Book Of Mysteries and the three forthcoming novels in the Alchemy series. Why? Well, not only did I really like this novel, but also I have a couple of announcements to make. First, I will be running a contest where one lucky person in either the US or Canada will win their very own copy. YAY – I love spreading the YA book love! Second, on Saturday, June 5th, I will be posting an interview with the author. While this news might interest you, it’s even better to note that author Mary Osborne will be popping by to say hi and answer any user-submitted questions.

To enter the contest, you have to be a follower of my blog and of me on Twitter (@YABookShelf). Please leave a comment below to be entered.

CONTEST UPDATE: I’m please to announce today that my contest will have not only one, but two winners! That’s right…I’ve just learned that Mary Osborne herself will offer another copy of Nonna’s Book Of Mysteries for this competition. icon smile Nonna's Book Of Mysteries Review And Giveaway (Date: June 5, 2010)

Entries work as follows:
+1 Answer one of these questions: What has anyone or anything done to empower you to get you where you are today? How have your actions helped to empower others in their lives?
+1 New Twitter Follower (post your twitter name)
+3 Old Twitter Follower (post your twitter name)
+1 Tweet or RT the contest (post the link)
+1 Add this contest to your Facebook profile or page (post the link)
+3 Add this contest to your sidebar (post the link)
+5 Blog about this contest (post the link)
+10 Refer someone else to the contest (you’ll get this for each person you refer, so make sure people mention your Twitter name)
+1 Be referred by someone else and mention this in your comment

I think that’s about it. Remember, you need to post your Twitter account name and the links, so I can verify. If you don’t I won’t be able to count those entries unfortunately. The contest closes on Thursday, June 10th at 8pm EST, so make sure you get your entries in early and refer others for more chances to win! Once you read this book, you’ll want to get the other 3 novels in the series when they’re available. I will use the random number generator from to select the winner, and you’ll have 48 hours to respond to my email before I have to select someone else. Good luck!

  • Ashlyn Rae (TeenageReader)

    Awesome contest! Super excited(:

    +3 Old Twitter Follower (@TeenageReader)
    +1 Tweet or RT the contest (

    Total of +4 entries

  • Liza Wiemer

    Melissa, talking about empowerment is so important. It starts from within. Negative self-talk has the potential to destroy an individual’s positive feelings from her accomplishments. We might buy into someone else’s negativity and then reflect it inward (and outward) or actually believe that it’s true. Empowerment is about finding inner strength to keep moving forward, even in adversity. Who are our friends? Friends often reflect our own inner beliefs – hopefully those who are around us are supportive, want us to succeed, and encourage us to utilize our strengths to their fullest. See friends as a mirror and ask what is being reflected. Let’s hope that what we see is positive!
    I put your contest on twitter @lizawiemer
    Keep up the great work, Melissa! (5 pts!)

  • Kimberly H.

    Loved the review! This book sounds like a great read!

    Tweeted about contest:
    Old Follower (@SimmieTaye)

  • Shauna

    As for empowering – I grew up with my mom and I was the last of her four kids to get out of the house. Still, she encouraged me to move far away from my hometown in order to pursue my dreams and broaden my horizons. It’s changed my life and I’ll always be grateful for her unsurpassed support.

    Old twitter follower – JuniWolf


    thanks! fingers crossed :D this sounds like a great book – not only because of what it’s about but also because i adore anything and everything remotely italian ^_^

  • Casey (The Bookish Type)

    +1 Answer one of these questions: What has anyone or anything done to empower you to get you where you are today? My mother has always believed I could do anything, and never tried to hold me back. Thanks to her, I’m exactly where I want to be in my life =) She’s like my own personal cheerleader.
    +3 Old Twitter Follower (@The_BookishType)
    +1 Tweet or RT the contest (RT:
    +1 Add this contest to your Facebook profile or page (!/profile.php?id=100000818595857&v=wall&story_fbid=101789153203165&ref=mf)
    +3 Add this contest to your sidebar (

    Thanks for this great giveaway!

    thebookishtype [at] yahoo [dot] com

  • Samantha R

    +1 Answer one of these questions: How have your actions helped to empower others in their lives?
    I am a volunteer coach of a collegiate cycling team with my husband and am trying to get more women involved in a sport that has been pretty dominated by men. This includes helping out with skills, going on rides and talking to them about their races. I love it when someone who has never raced a bike before crosses the finish line for the first time. It’s an amazing feeling to watch them achieve that.

    +3 Old Twitter Follower (post your twitter name)

    +1 Tweet or RT the contest (post the link)
    Re-tweeted the contest

  • Annie McElfresh

    old twitter follower +3
    retweet +1

  • kay

    Umm. My empowering influence was my aunt. She traveled and was a career woman which in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where I’m from, is certainly not the norm. She is the head of the National Immunology hospital, in B.A. When I told her I was thinking about leaving, south America on my own to study in the states. She made sure I knew what I was getting myself into from the get go. Then encourage me to spread my wings and Fly High, convincing me that falling, it’s just part of flying… not the ending. There is always other flights ahead.

    I’m an old follower of the blog and tweeter. Also RT.

    Thank you Melissa for the opportunity, and the awesome review.

  • Angie D

    I am a blog follower and twitter follower @bangersis
    +1 My mom has always been an empowering influence in my life. She raised my sister and myself alone and taught us that as women we can do anything we set our hearts on!
    +3 Old twitter follower @bangersis
    +1 I tweeted

  • C. A. Foskey

    Cool contest, and the book sounds fascinating. :)

    +3 Old Twitter Follower @CAFoskey

  • Mary Osborne

    So glad to read all your comments and hear about the empowering influences in your life. My mother was an artist who kept on painting till the end of her life. By example, she taught me to pursue my own creative interests and follow my bliss. I dedicated Nonna’s Book of Mysteries to her memory.

    I wish all of you success in your endeavors!

  • Melissa

    Mary, I think you were very fortunate to have creative parents. Not everyone has these empowering influences in their lives – I think that some people have to struggle to reach that point, and sometimes they stop before they ever do. Congratulations once again for getting your first book published and for the recognition it has already received. I’m really looking forward to reading the three remaining novels in the Alchemy Series.

  • Jackie

    Something that has really changed my life and recently was when I didn’t make a music group that I really wanted too. I decided to work harder and my parents were very supportive. They started paying for me to get lessons from very good music teachers and new instruments and now I am working hard to become a possible music major. Thanks to them, they have changed my life for being so supportive. Music is such a good influence on my life. It is what I spend hours a day doing and is beautiful.
    Fabulous book contest.
    +3 for old twitter follower (@teenbookguide)
    +1 facebook page!/pages/Teen-Book-Guide/126780397337574?v=wall&ref=ts
    +1 twitter

  • Melanie

    +1 Answer one of these questions:

    What has anyone or anything done to empower you to get you where you are today?
    My family has always encouraged and believed in me. Their support made me who I am today.

    +3 Old Twitter Follower (Melanie_Vautour)
    +1 Tweet


  • Living Little Women

    +1 Answer one of these questions: What has anyone or anything done to empower you to get you where you are today? How have your actions helped to empower others in their lives?
    My creative writing teacher in college helped me to understand the importance of word choice. It changed my view of my writing and to own my mistakes.

    +3 Old Twitter Follower (post your twitter name)

    +1 Tweet or RT the contest (post the link)

    +1 Add this contest to your Facebook profile or page (post the link)

    +10 Refer someone else to the contest (you’ll get this for each person you refer, so make sure people mention your Twitter name)
    1 person

    Total: 16

  • Rob

    Was referred by @livinglilwomen

    The person who helped me the most is my first mentor in business. She taught me a lot and never upbraided me for the foolish choices I made. It made me realize that admonishing mistakes sends people a clear message: don’t try.

  • Protagitron

    +1 New Twitter Follower
    +1 Empowerment: My Dad told me he thought I was a cool kid, and a much cooler kid than he had ever expected to have.That might not sound like much, since everyone’s parents think they’re cool. However, my Dad actually is a righteous guy with good taste in everything, and hearing him say that made me feel like I was worthy of respect. In short: I love my Dad.

  • Lanae T.

    This sounds like a really neat book. I would love to give it to my niece.

    I’ve had a few different people help empower me, whether they knew it or not. My parents, whether by direct actions or simply watching them and learning, to a high school teacher who made sure I wasn’t treated any differently when taking a male dominated class. I take pride in my work, regardless of what it happens to be. + 1

    +3 old Twitter follower ltat99

  • Mary Osborne

    The first short story I wrote for my creative writing class at Knox College was quite horrible. However, Professor Robin Metz chose to focus on the positive, and he somehow made me believe I could become a writer. By the time I was a senior, I wrote my first successful short story. Having a mentor who believes in you can make all the difference. There’s a little bit of Professor Metz in the character of Makarios Levantes in Nonna’s Book of Mysteries.

  • Melissa

    Thanks for sharing this story Mary. Being a mentor to someone is a big responsibility, but I’m sure that it is a rewarding one. I only hope that those people who have helped me along the way know how much their guidance has meant to me.

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