Thursday, December 10, 2015

Unlocking Worlds: A Reading Companion for Book Lovers by Sally Allen (Review & Giveaway)



Unlocking Worlds: A Reading Companion for Book Lovers by Sally Allen
Griffins Wharf Productions
ISBN: 978-0983644613
Published November 2015
Trade paperback, 225 pages

Book Description:

Award-winning writer and teacher Sally Allen knows that good books don’t just draw us in; they talk to us, shape us, and transport us to times, places, and minds different from our own.

In Unlocking Worlds: A Reading Companion for Book Lovers, Allen deftly weaves personal stories with fifteen thematized, annotated, and illustrated reading lists for what to read next. By sharing some of the treasures in her library and the secret lives they reveal, she gives us permission to embrace the shameless book lover inside each of us. Unlocking Worlds is a testament to how reading passionately—and compassionately—can unlock the world beyond our back yard. Celebrating books and those who read them, Allen shows how the solitary act of reading can be a powerful thread that creates community and connection. Thought-provoking and eloquent, Unlocking Worlds: A Reading Companion for Book Lovers is a must-have for anyone who can’t leave the house without a book in hand.


My Review:

The minute I began to read Unlocking Worlds I knew I had found a kindred spirit. Sally Allen begins with an anecdote of how she brought along her current read (at the time Goldfinch) tucked in her purse as she went to meet a friend for coffee. You know, just in case her friend was late. That's me. That's a lot of us, right? I even bought a new purse recently based on the specs that I could fit a book in it.

Unlocking Worlds lives up to its name of being a companion to book lovers. Allen who has a PhD in English Education writes without airs, but with a true understanding of someone whose life is revolved around literature from early childhood onward. She writes about her discovery of book blogs and "how despite the illusion that reading is solitary, we readers are always in conversation--with books, of course, but also with other readers and critics." How true, hence the appeal of book blogging.

The book is divided into chapters that list books that touched her and made her reading experience memorable for various reasons. For example, Novels That Play with Time and Space, Books Set in Times of War, Books That Thrill, Chill and Keep You Guessing and so on. It was like being part of Allen's book club where she went into the reason she liked these books. I was intrigued. I made a list of books I now wanted to read because of what Allen discovered through them. She even includes a bibliography at the back of the book of all the books she mentions in her text.

Allen even addresses the issue all book lovers have, agony of not being able to read all the books we want. Who could understand such a thing but another book lover? The book is interspersed with quotes at the beginning of each chapter. My favorite is the one that summarizes the book:

"the great advantage of being a literary woman was that you could go everywhere and do everything."
- Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

Unlocking Worlds is the perfect gift for any book lover.  It's such a pleasure to read and infuses you with warmth and nostalgia. Why nostalgia? Because as Sally is reminiscing about the books she's read as a child, teenager or adult you will inevitable do the same. Thank you, Sally, for telling the world why we love books so much.

To read more reviews, please visit Sally Allen's page on iRead Book Tours.

Buy the book: 

 Amazon 


About the Author:



Award winning writer and teacher Sally Allen holds a Ph.D. from New York University in English Education, with an emphasis in writing and rhetoric, and a M.A. in English Language and Literature. She teaches writing, literature, and communications, leads book group discussions, and is the founder and editor of Books, Ink at HamletHub.

Connect with the author:   Website   ~   Twitter

And now for the giveaway!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: Thanks to the author for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.


Friday, November 6, 2015

Birds of Passage: An Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story by Joe Giordano (Review and Giveaway!)


Birds of Passage: an Italian Immigrant coming of Age Story by Joe Giordano
Harvard Square Editions
ISBN: 9781941861080
Published: October 8, 2015
Trade paperback, 274 pages

Book description:

What turns the gentle mean and the mean brutal? The thirst for wealth? The demand for respect? Vying for a woman? Birds of Passage recalls the Italian immigration experience at the turn of the twentieth-century when New York's streets were paved with violence and disappointment.

Leonardo Robustelli leaves Naples in 1905 to seek his fortune. Carlo Mazzi committed murder and escaped. Azzura Medina is an American of Italian parents. She's ambitious but strictly controlled by her mother. Leonardo and Carlo vie for her affection.

Azzura, Leonardo, and Carlo confront con men, Tammany Hall politicians, the longshoreman's union, Camorra clans, Black Hand extortion, and the Tombs prison.

My review:

Italian historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, so it's no wonder that I was immediately attracted to this book. And I was not disappointed. Joe Giordano's telling of two young men from Naples, Leonardo, the beloved son of a poor farmer's wife, and Carlo, the coddled son of their wealthy landlord who make their way to New York in 1905, is filled with drama, despair, longing and hard choices.

It's not a morose tale, but one that spells reality, a reality that many immigrants, and in this particular case, Italian immigrants lived through. Giordano's own relatives did so and so did mine. My great-grandfather immigrated to Boston, my grandfather to Montreal followed by my father years later after he married my mom in Rome. So like the author, I grew up hearing immigration stories with parents who made sure we had a good education and took advantage of everything our country could give us.

The story takes place both in Naples, Italy and in New York. I was transported to these locations easily with Giordano's descriptions. His crisp writing was perfect for this kind of story. The dialogue clipped and direct. I was totally immersed in the story, pulled into the stark reality of immigrants trying to make a life for themself, caught up in Leonardo's innocence and watching as it was slowly stripped away. The characters are well developed and even the secondary characters get background information. I could easily see this book being made into a move because the compelling story, the realistic characters and the setting were all superb.

There were several layers to this story as it explored the themes of family obligation, vendettas, deciding between right and wrong, familial love, and women's independence. Leonardo struggled with these choices (both his and others), while Carlo followed his gut instincts even when they led to terrible actions. Azzura, the young woman they both fell in love with, also struggled but she made the right choices for herself, even if they were hard and initially caused her heartache. I admired her.

This was a story that made me think. It made me realize how difficult immigration must have been for my relatives, how heartbreaking some choices must have been. Of course, the ugly side of the mafia rears its head and although our parents shielded much of it from their children, they had to have lived in fear of its domination.

There are some rough scenes in the book, religious profanity and violence in the form of brutal killings, but none of it is too excessive considering the setting and circumstances of the story. Giordano is a gifted storyteller whose realistic stories pull you in and bring you back to the turn of the 20th century, where the back-breaking work and sweat of immigrants paved the way for a better future for all generations. 

To read more reviews, please visit Joe Giordano's page on Italy Book Tours.

Buy the book:



eBook Promotion: 

The Kindle copy of Birds of Passage will be free to download for five days starting the day after the end of this virtual tour (Saturday, November 7th through Wednesday, November 11th)


About the Author:



Joe Giordano was born in Brooklyn. His father and grandparents immigrated to New York from Naples. Joe and his wife, Jane have lived in Greece, Brazil, Belgium and the Netherlands. They now live in Texas with their shih tzu Sophia. Joe's stories have appeared in more than sixty magazines including Bartleby Snopes, The Newfound Journal, and The Summerset Review.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook


And now for the Giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure : Thanks to the author for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.



Thursday, October 22, 2015

Port of No Return by Michelle Saftich (Review and Giveaway!)


Port of No Return by Michelle Saftich
Odyssey Books
Published July 31, 2015
Kindle Edition, 219 pages

Book Description:

Contessa and Ettore Saforo awake to a normal day in war-stricken, occupied Italy. By the end of the day, their house is in ruins and they must seek shelter and protection wherever they can. But the turbulent politics of 1944 refuses to let them be.

As Tito and his Yugoslav Army threaten their German-held town of Fiume, Ettore finds himself running for his life, knowing that neither side is forgiving of those who have assisted the enemy. His wife and children must also flee the meagre life their town can offer, searching for a better life as displaced persons.

Ettore and Contessa’s battle to find each other, and the struggle of their family and friends to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of a devastating war, provide a rich and varied account of Italian migration to Australia after World War II.

What can you do when you have nowhere left to call home? Port of No Return considers this question and more in a novel that is full of action, pain and laughter -- a journey you will want to see through to the very end.

My Review

Italian historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. I've had the pleasure of reading several very good novels of this genre these past few months and I now have another author of whom I've become a fan. Michelle Saftich has written a beautiful story of the Saforo family and Italians who once lived in Fiume, now a part of Yugoslavia, under the German rule during WWII.

Right from the first page I was pulled into the story and I simply didn't want to put it down. I was so invested in these characters that came alive for me. I cared about them and wanted to know how they would survive when they lost everything and Ettore is hunted for having worked for the Germans to support his family. The losses are hard and Saftich paints a believable and realistic picture of war-torn Italy and the displacement camps, but it's the characters that stay with you. And among the despair is always the underlying hope that they will pull through.

The children play a prominent role in the book and I liked that because it was realistic. Families in Italy had many children and the scenes with the children reminded me so much of the stories my aunt in Italy told me of her childhood during the war years. Best of all, the story flowed well and I enjoyed every moment of it.

I've read many WWII stories but this was told from the perspective of displaced Italians and what finally led them to leave their beloved country. This is Saftich's impressive debut novel and I am highly anticipating her next novel. Although this story ends well, it does lend itself to a sequel and of course, I am eager to revisit the Saforo family. If you like WWII historical fiction and books set in Italy, don't miss this one!

Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of this book for an honest review.
To read more reviews, please visit Michelle Saftich's page on Italy Book Tours.


Buy the book 

  Amazon 



About the Author



Michelle Saftich is a first-time author who resides in Brisbane, Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Business/Communications Degree, majoring in journalism, from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT). 

For the past 20 years, she has worked in communications, including print journalism, sub-editing, communications management and media relations. She is married with two children.

Connect with the author: Website ~   Facebook   ~  Twitter


Giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Monday, October 19, 2015

Reef Libre: Cuba, The Last Best Reefs in the World by Robert Wintner (Book Spotlight and Giveaway!)

Reef Libre: Cuba, The Last Best Reefs in the World by Robert Wintner
Taylor Trade Publishing (Rowman & Littlefield)
ISBN: 978-1630760731
Published Feb 2015
Hardcover with DVD, 266 pages

I'm kicking off the virtual book tour for Reef Libre, a coffee-table style book with stunning photos. To read the reviews, please visit Robert Wintner's Page on iRead Book Tours.

Book Description:

Cuba reefs host apex predators and coral cover at optimal levels. While Cuban reef vitality may be linked to economic default and no shoreline development, no agricultural pesticides or fertilizers and limited human population growth, the Castro regime is aggressively developing its reef potential.

Friday, October 9, 2015

World's Best Story: Unique Contest for Writers!



2015 CONTEST!
Writers submit your Story
Enter for a chance to join the House of transmedia stories company



What is World's Best Story?

"This is not just a literary contest, we're looking for stories that will be consumed in multiple media formats – from books to the big screen and beyond," says Vincent Salera, founder of World's Best Story. "Our goal is to revolutionize the traditional literary contest and identify a story with blockbuster appeal. We're looking for a story that audiences will love and help authors turn that story into trans-media franchises, which is why we're empowering readers to judge the contest."

How does it work?

Readers will vote for stories and awarded judges will declare the final Top 10 winners.

2015 Judges: Warren Adler, Victor Malarek, Tamarra Kennelly, Brooke Burgess, Samreen Ashan, Alistair Cross, Rhonda Hayter

Timeline:

Entry Period Closes/Public Voting ends. (November 8)

Top 10 Winners Announced! (November 8)

Professional Review/Voting (November 8 - December 8)

Winner and Top 10 Ranking Announced (December 8)


What are the prizes?

The top 3 winners will receive a full publishing package by FriesenPress, trademark protection in the U.S. and Canada by IP agency Benoit & Cote, a virtual book tour by Laura Fabiani of iRead Book Tours as well as consulting/marketing services with book expert Anne Chaconas of BadAss Marketing. Busbud and YoDough will be providing lots of goodies for both writers and readers.

How do I submit my story?

To learn more about World's Best Story, including how to enter, please visit World's Best Story.

World’s Best Story : info@worldsbeststory.com

See what's buzzing at World's Best Story:

How to Get Readers Buzzing About Your Book: Secrets from the World of Book Blogging

Viral campaign with famous characters:

What if Oscar Wilde wrote Sex and the City? (series of posts)

What if Lady Gaga wrote Gone With the Wind? (series of posts)

The Current Top 10 Most Voted Stories

Connect with World's Best Story:

Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Pinterest



Enter your story today!




Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Publisher’s and Book Blogger's Guide to Giveaway Promotions: Enter to Win!



Publishers, authors and book bloggers love giveaways. So with the help of these folks, including iRead Book Tours, Rafflecopter wrote an ebook about it. Let’s celebrate its release with a giveaway!




Everything an author, publisher, or book blogger needs to know to run a giveaway. In this 30+ page ebook, you’ll learn about: 

  • Popular occasions when you should run a giveaway 
  • Selecting the best prize to offer in your giveaway 
  • The benefits of running a giveaway promotion 
  • Tips from publishers who’ve run hundreds of giveaways 

Now through 11/3, download the ‘Publisher’s Guide to Giveaway Promotions’ ebook and enter to win a Kindle Paperwhite and a $250 Amazon GC. Enter up to three ways:

  • Downloading the ebook 
  • Tweeting out a message 
  • Tell us who referred you 
Download the ebook below by entering the giveaway. For the referral entry, please use the name Laura Fabiani at iRead Book Tours. Complete all three options to increase your chances!

The giveaway ends November 3rd. Enter through the entry form below. When time expires, Rafflecopter will announce the winners over social media.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Inheritance by Marianne Perry (Review and Giveaway!)



The Inheritance by Marianne Perry
iUniverse
ISBN: 9781475952834
Published November 2012
Trade paperback, 280 pages

Book Description:

The Inheritance tells the story of a family disintegrating from conflicting loyalties in Calabria, Italy. Set during the period 1897 to 1913, the region was subject to earthquakes and tsunamis; the land harsh and poverty the norm. Superstition clashed with religion and a class system ruled the people. Calabria is the perfect backdrop for the tragedy that unfolds in The Inheritance.

Caterina is an atypical woman, and The Inheritance chronicles her life from birth to young womanhood. Born with an inheritance of loss into a society that has predetermined what she can and cannot do, she vows to live a life of her choosing. Caterina refuses to allow the limits of her gender, the constraints of her class and the demands imposed by those in power to stand in her way. Caterina remains steadfast in her commitment to become the woman she imagines. Her decisions ignite conflicts and fuel a chain of events that result in dire consequences for all whose path she crosses.

My Review:

Italian historical fiction novels are my favorite genre, reminding me so much of the stories my grandmothers and aunts used to tell me. When I picked up The Inheritance, I quickly became immersed in the lives of Anna Marino, the kind wife of Santo, a business man whose wealth and connections made him brutally powerful, and vivacious Caterina Romano, the daughter of Anna's servant.

I was glued to the pages and would have read the book in one sitting if I didn't have work and family obligations. The author deftly wrote a tale that was compelling and heartbreaking. She developed her characters so well that one easily felt strong emotions toward them whether it was contempt or compassion. The village life too was brought to life with secondary characters that supported the role of the main ones and helped us to understand them. How could one not love Bruno, the cook? Food is such a big part of the Italian culture and his character showed the strength of food in connecting people.

Anna, Caterina, Lorenzo and Padre Valentine propelled the story forward and although one got the sense of impending doom, hope was always foremost in these characters. Both Anna and Caterina are strong female characters but they suffered from male dominance and social restraints. Nevertheless, there were little victories in their lives that I applauded. The ending was bittersweet and left me wanting more. One could easily see a sequel in the works. I was hoping for redemption for one of the characters but it fell short.

The setting of a small town in Calabria was vividly portrayed. The rigid class system was manifested in the lifestyle and ways of thinking. The hard life of the peasants clearly helped us understand why many emigrated from there to North America in search of a better life. 

There was only one distraction for me as I read this well-written novel, and that was the misspelling and wrong verb tenses of the Italian words used throughout the text. For those not fluent in Italian, this won't matter at all. The story was so immersive for me that I was able to skip over these words replacing them with the correct ones as I read.

Apart from this, I will consider this novel one of my best reads for 2015. When a story has me thinking about it long after I read it, I know it has touched me deeply. This one can be considered an historical literary fiction, and I look forward to reading more of this talented author's works. 

To read more reviews, please visit Marianne Perry's page on Italy Book Tours.


Buy the book: 
  
   Amazon


About the Author:




Family dynamics, genealogical research to solve ancestral mysteries and international travel are Marianne Perry’s priorities. A second-generation Canadian-Italian, she is the author of The Inheritance, a historical fiction set in Calabria, Italy from 1897 to 1913 inspired by her grandmother’s early life in Calabria. With a thirty-year career in education and communications, Marianne holds a Master of Education Degree from The University of Western Ontario (Canada).

A past member of the Board of Trustees, the Canadian National Arts Centre Corporation, she has also published non-fiction genealogical articles throughout North America. As a girl, Marianne fell in love with The National Geographic Magazine and dreamt of exploring the world. With her recent visit to Antarctica, she achieved her goal of stepping foot on every continent. The mother of two grown children, Marianne and her husband live on the shores of the St. Mary’s River, which drains Lake Superior on the outskirts of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. She continues to research family history and write non-fiction genealogical articles. In addition, she is working on her second novel and planning further adventures.

Marianne blogs about genealogy, travel, family and writing on her website. Visit her at http://www.marianneperry.ca. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Goodreads.

Connect with the author: Website    ~   Twitter   ~   Facebook


Giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Disclosure: I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Roma Series by Gabiel Valjan (Book spotlight and Giveaway!)

Today, I'm kicking off the Roma series blog tour at Italy Book Tours! Look at that cover. If you like thrillers, then be sure to check out this series and follow the blog tour to read the reviews. Gabriel Valjan writes suspenseful thrillers set in Italy. His latest novel in the series is Turning to Stone, just released this past summer. Look out for my reviews of all the books in the series in the next month.



About Turning to Stone:

Alabaster Black aka Bianca Nerini returns as an investigation into a public official’s assassination pits Bianca and her friends against a backdrop of financial speculation, female assassins on motorcycles, and the Camorra—the most ruthless of Italian organized crime gangs—in Gabriel Valjan’s TURNING TO STONE, the fourth book of the highly praised Roma series.

En route to a secret meeting, Aldo Giurlani—the regional commissioner of Lombardy in northern Italy and a specialist on organized crime—is assassinated in the middle of a public square.

More mysterious is the package sent to Giurlani’s hand-picked team of five top investigators within the Guardia di Finanza (GdF), the Italian law enforcement agency that investigates illegal financial transactions, from money laundering to drug trafficking. Within the package are five copies of a book entitled Man of Smoke written by Aldo Palazzeschi.

Then there is Bianca’s tenuous online contact with a mysterious online contact known as Loki, who delivers a cryptic message to her, takes on a new twist with the appearance of a brilliant young obsessive-compulsive man who joins her team.

Complicating matters even further, old enemies and, more problematically, Alabaster’s former employer—Rendition, a murky covert U.S. government agency that does more than just investigate financial crimes—still have grudges to bear against her.

As new mysteries unfold, Bianca’s group quickly discovers that Naples might just be the most dangerous city in Italy.

Readers looking for a suspenseful thriller with mysterious twists and turns abounding will love Gabriel Valjan’s TURNING TO STONE.


Here are the first three books in the series:




ROMA, UNDERGROUND (Book #1)

Savvy forensic accountant Alabaster Black is hiding in Rome from her former employer, covert U.S. organization “Rendition.” While there under an assumed name she meets Dante, an investigator, erstwhile explorer and member of the Roma Underground, a band of amateur archaeologists who map the city beneath Rome. With Italian artifacts disappearing at an alarming rate, Alabaster and Dante search for answers and create a trap for the thieves. Through a mysterious online contact Alabaster learns she is being followed, and with her safety at risk she is forced to rethink her chosen alliances and discover hidden truths about herself.

“A provocative thriller with a riveting and surprising plot.”
—M.J. Rose, International bestseller

“...the strong, captivating heroine and an allure of conspiracy and organized crime make this novel an undoubted success.”
—Kirkus Book Reviews

“Conspiracy, double identities, car chases and espionage, all against the backdrop of magical Rome, with its great food and marvelous art history, make this an entertaining, intriguing read.”
—Blogcritics Book Reviews in Brief


WASP’S NEST (Book #2)

In the highly anticipated sequel to Roma, Underground, Bianca returns to the U.S. for her former employer, the covert organization Rendition, to investigate Cyril Sargent and Nasonia Pharmaceutical. Although ambivalent about the assignment and uneasy about her online “friend,” Loki, she is enticed into researching what Sargent is doing with insect genetics that might upset the world of cancer research and treatment. Old friends Farrugia and Gennaro uncover a twisted conspiracy from their past and join Bianca in Boston where they will experience conflicted loyalties, question allies, and confront uncertain enemies, as they’re drawn into the wasp’s nest.

“Again, Valjan successfully conflates multiple sophisticated narratives that bring the past and present together, which the archaeological theme of the last novel also helps accomplish . . . Black is back and just as entertaining as ever.”
—Kirkus Book Reviews

“…a compelling reading, action-packed and with intriguing characters. The plot had plenty of twists and turns, some surprising secrets, and it kept me on the edge of my seat, guessing until the very end.”
—The Book Junkie


THREADING THE NEEDLE (Book #3)

Milan. Bianca’s curiosity gets a young university student murdered, but not before he gives her a file that details a secret weapon under development with defense contractor Adastra. Guilt may drive her to find justice for the slain Charlie Brooks, but she is warned by the mysterious Loki to stay away from this case that runs deep with conspiracy. Bianca must find a way to uncover government secrets and corporate alliances without returning Italy to one of its darkest hours, the decades of daily terrorism known as the “Years of Lead.”

“It is even more to Gabriel Valjan’s credit that with Threading the Needle he, as an American, was nonetheless capable of unusual insight into the Misteri Italiani, the Italian Mysteries, without taking any prejudicial standpoint, one way or the other, or putting the blame on anyone, but rather inviting readers to judge for themselves.”
—Claudio Ferrara, Italian journalist and translator

“But after the first few pages, I knew I was committed to the end of the book ... and would be reading the two earlier books…Characters, plot, ideas, background: In Threading the Needle, Valjan weaves it all into an international crime novel worth the read.
—Beth Kannell of Kingdom Books, a specialty mystery bookshop in northeastern Vermont.



Buy the books here: 



About the Author:




Gabriel Valjan lives in New England, but has traveled extensively, receiving his undergraduate education in California and completing graduate school in England. Ronan Bennett short-listed him for the 2010 Fish Short Story Prize for his Boston noir, Back in the Day. His short stories and poetry have appeared in literary journals and online magazines.


Connect with the author: Website   ~  Twitter   ~  Facebook


Giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway








Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Song for Bellafortuna by Vincent B. "Chip" LoCoco (author interview and giveaway)

I love discovering new authors, especially when they write a novel set in Italy. This one is set in Sicily and is a historical fiction, one of my favorite genres. Although my parents are from Rome and Abruzzo, I have a lot of friends whose parents are from Sicily, and I've learned to understand the dialect, which is almost a language in itself!

So let me introduce you to Vincent B. "Chip" LoCoco and his second novel. First off, isn't that a gorgeous cover? Makes me want to hop on a plane to Italy, like right now. The minute I read the book's description, I knew I wanted to read this story: a family saga revolving around wine, olive oil and opera? It appealed to my Italian blood, alright. And this book pulled me right into its story from the first page. So watch out for my review of A Song for Bellafortuna on Library of Clean Reads on Sept 14!




Book Description

A Song for Bellafortuna is an inspirational Italian Historical Fiction novel concerning a young man's desire to free his Sicilian village from the domination of one family's long reign.

For years, the beautiful, yet secluded, hilltop village of Bellafortuna, Sicily, was a great producer of wine and olive oil. The entire village prospered. However, after the arrival of the Vasaio family, production dwindles and the villagers soon find themselves in crushing debt to the Vasaios. Only one family in the village remains outside the control of the Vasaios, but the reason haunts Antonio Sanguinetti every day of his life. Antonio is determined to erase this legacy by offering financial and emotional support to his fellow villagers. He introduces them to the choral song from Verdi's opera, Nabucco, which becomes the rallying cry for the villagers and offers them hope for a better life.

When Antonio's only son, Giuseppe, discovers his family's past, he becomes determined to take on the Vasaios and remove them from power. Led by the young Giuseppe, a plan is hatched that could result in either complete freedom for the villagers, or if it fails, forever solidifying the Vasaios' control. Find out what happens in A Song for Bellafortuna, a sweeping epic historical fiction tale of love, drama, sacrifice, and redemption, set among the beautiful landscape of Sicily.


Where to buy the Book: 

  Amazon


An Interview with Vincent B. "Chip" LoCoco:


EI: If you could describe your novel in one sentence, what would it be?

VBL: A passionate story of redemption and sacrifice, set among the beautiful landscape of Sicily.

EI: What does it mean to you to be an Italian- American?

My great-grandfather, Castranzio LoCoco, came to New Orleans from Cefalù, Sicily in 1890. New Orleans is a unique place. So many Sicilians flocked here because of the agricultural life that was similar to the one they left in Sicily. It seems the main reason for the Sicilians coming to New Orleans all around the same time has to do with employment. As the Louisiana farmers lost more and more workers after the Civil War, a call went out to Sicily for those looking for a better life and work in America. The Sicilians answered the call and came by the thousands. But here is the key. Yes, they assimilated into the American culture, but they kept their own customs as well, and introduced those customs into the New Orleans society. These customs were related to food, music and religious rituals. They also kept their strong sense of family and a commitment of living life with passion.

So for me, being an Italian-American means a person who is fully American, yet fully aware of where his/her ancestors hailed from, and incorporating some of those customs from the old county into his/her own life today – and to do it with passion.

EI: How interesting. I did not know that about New Orleans and the Sicilian immigrants. Do you speak Italian or the Sicilian dialect? If so, have you passed the language on to your children?

VBL: I do not speak Italian or the Sicilian dialect. However, I do know phrases and Italian words, which does allow me to understand Italian. Don’t laugh when I say this. I learned Italian from opera librettos. I taught myself words and phrases from the operas I adored. The words I knew best were love and death, since my Italian class was opera.

Growing up in a large Sicilian family did introduce me to the language. My Sicilian relatives spoke some phrases, and when they got excited, would speak in Italian, all of which gave me a love of the language. I try to show in my novels a sense of the beauty of the language. Because I do not speak it, I always use Italian readers to assist me in correcting my mistakes. They get a kick out of American style of Italian I use – as they call it.

EI: Have you ever been to Italy? What are some of your experiences with the country of your ancestors?

VBL: I have been to Italy twice in my life. The first was with my parents and sisters when I was in College. Did the normal Rome, Florence and Venice. I fell in love with the place, as we immersed ourselves into the cultural as much as we could. My father had studied in Rome for 2 years, so he loved taking us around to all of his old haunts.

My second visit to Italy was with my wife. What a magical trip. We travelled all over Italy, and were both convinced that the further South you go, the more beautiful it becomes. Sipping wine at on outdoor café or listening to music in a piazza with someone you love makes for a unforgettable experience. Also, spending the night in Assisi in an old Monastery after all the tourist left was something we will never forget.

EI: Are you working on another novel? Can you tell us a little about your writing journey?

VBL: Let me answer this question by first telling you about my writing journey. I was a history major and I am a lawyer. I never thought I could write a novel. After my son was born, a story came to me about an opera singer growing up in Milan. I outlined the story that night and began writing. My first novel, Tempesta’s Dream, was the result. Then, along came my daughter, so I knew I needed another book. Somehow, the idea of A Song for Bellafortuna came to me. I know the idea of a book that involved Caruso and a village was the impetus.

As for my next book, the joke is I only write when I have a new child, so my wife says my career is over. We shall see. I mean about another novel, not another child.

At this point, I do have germ of an idea about Italian and German POWs during WWII who were shipped to Louisiana and worked on Sugar Cane Plantations. My family has such a farm, and those same German and Italian POWs indeed worked on our farm, sneaking out at night to meet the local ladies. But that is another story.

EI: Oh my gosh, that sounds wonderful! I hope you write that story.

VBL: Thanks for wanting to know a little bit about my writing career and me.

EI: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions! I'm looking up your first novel Tempesta's Dream.




Award winning and bestselling author, Vincent B. "Chip" LoCoco, lives in New Orleans. His first novel, Tempesta's Dream - A Story of Love, Friendship and Opera, became an Amazon bestselling novel and was awarded the 2014 Pinnacle Achievement Award in Historical Fiction. Amazon also has named his book as a Top Rated Novel in Italian Historical Fiction.

His most recent novel, A Song for Bellafortuna, was shortlisted in the William Faulkner - William Wisdom Competition. He is an estate planning attorney in New Orleans, where he lives with his wife and two children.

Connect with the author: Website ~  Twitter  ~ Facebook

The giveaway!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

For those of you who are history buffs (book spotlight)

The last time I was in Rome I did not get a chance to visit the Vatican. I'm not Catholic, but I like religious history and art. Apparently the Vatican tour is worth taking and I hope to do it the next time because I was eighteen the last time I visited. Not much has changed there but I have. :-)

My hubby is currently reading Where Christ is Present by John Warwick Montgomery and Gene Edward Veith. It explores Martin Luther and the reformation of the Church. I've read about Martin Luther in my research and studies of Bible teachings as one of Jehovah's Witnesses, which incidentally is now the second largest religion in Italy.

This book is currently on tour with iRead Book Tours. If you like history, especially religious history, you might like this one.

To read reviews, please visit the tour page on iRead Book Tours.

Where Christ is Present by John Warwick Montgomery and Gene Edward Veith
Publisher: NRP Books
Released April 2015
Trade paperback, 256 pages


Book Description

Five hundred years ago, the church of Jesus Christ underwent a Reformation.

A lot happened after Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the castle church door in Wittenberg. But the fallout was not simply the start of Protestantism. The Roman Catholic Church also recast itself in response to Luther’s call for reforms. And contrary to common belief, Martin Luther did not set out to start a new church. Rather, he was trying to reform the church that already existed by reemphasizing its essence—namely, the “good news” (the gospel) that Jesus forgives and saves sinners.

The unity of the church was broken when the pope rejected this call for reform and excommunicated Luther, starting a chain of events that did lead to the institutional fracturing of Christendom and to a plethora of alternative Christian theologies. But, as many – including conservative Catholics – now admit, the church did in fact need reforming. Today, the church – including its Protestant branches – also needs reforming. Some of the issues in contemporary Christianity are very similar to those in the late Middle Ages, though others are new. But if Luther’s theology can be blamed – however unfairly – for fragmenting Christianity, perhaps today it can help us recover the wholeness of Christianity.

In the hope of that wholeness, Dr. Montgomery and Dr. Veith commissioned these essays celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, gathering some of the best contemporary voices the Lutheran church has to offer.

And we need these voices! The religious climate in the early 21st-century is simultaneously highly religious and highly secularized. It is a time of extraordinary spiritual and theological diversity. This book will propose the kind of Christianity that is best suited for our day. The remedies offered here are available by way of the same theology that was the catalyst for reforming the church five hundred years ago.

About the Authors:



John Warwick Montgomery is the author of more than sixty books in six languages. He holds eleven earned degrees, including a Master of Philosophy in Law from the University of Essex, England, a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, a Doctorate of the University in Protestant Theology from the University of Strasbourg, France, and the higher doctorate in law (LL.D.) from the University of Cardiff, Wales. He is a Lutheran clergyman, an English barrister, and is admitted to practice as a lawyer before the Supreme Court of the United States and is a practicing avocat, Barreau de Paris, France. Dr. Montgomery currently serves as Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy at Concordia University Wisconsin.



Gene Edward Veith is the Provost and Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

Connect with the authors: Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter




Sunday, August 30, 2015

Mailbox Monday for August 31




Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia who now blogs at To Be Continued. It is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. Mailbox Monday now has a permanent home on its blog. Link up to share your MM.

We're at the end of August already!! Where did the summer go? I have a hectic fall coming up. Better gear up with some good Italian themed books to keep me sane. :-)

This one will be on tour with Italy Book Tours from Oct 12 to 23. Sooo looking forward to reading it. A debut from an Aussie author with Italian roots.

Port of No Return by Michelle Saftich

Contessa and Ettore Saforo awake to a normal day in war-stricken, occupied Italy. By the end of the day, their house is in ruins and they must seek shelter and protection wherever they can. But the turbulent politics of 1944 refuses to let them be.

As Tito and his Yugoslav Army threaten their German-held town of Fiume, Ettore finds himself running for his life, knowing that neither side is forgiving of those who have assisted the enemy. His wife and children must also flee the meagre life their town can offer, searching for a better life as displaced persons.

Ettore and Contessa’s battle to find each other, and the struggle of their family and friends to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of a devastating war, provide a rich and varied account of Italian migration to Australia after World War II.

What can you do when you have nowhere left to call home? Port of No Return considers this question and more in a novel that is full of action, pain and laughter -- a journey you will want to see through to the very end.


I bought this one after reading Alchemy's Daughter which I enjoyed so much.

Nonna's Book of Mysteries by Mary Osborne

At age fourteen, all Emilia Serafini wants is to learn to paint so that she can become an artist. But painters' apprenticeships for young women don't exist in the Florence of Renaissance Italy. The odds appear stacked against her until she receives a fascinating book, A Manual to the Science of Alchemy. It once was her grandmother's and Emilia turns again and again to the Manual for guidance. When Emilia meets the wealthy, brooding Franco Villani, her life takes a thrilling but dangerous turn. Franco will do anything to win a place in the court of the powerful Cosimo de' Medici. Well aware that Cosimo prizes ancient manuscripts above all, Franco realizes Emilia's Manual would be invaluable to him in more ways than one. Infused with the mysticism of alchemy, Nonna's Book of Mysteries is an exciting portrait of a young woman who defies convention to seek her destiny.


Hope you all have a great reading week!
 Ciao,
Laura




Sunday, August 9, 2015

Mailbox Monday for August 10





Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia who now blogs at To Be Continued. It is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. Mailbox Monday now has a permanent home on its blog. Link up to share your MM.


I can't believe it's August already. Here in Montreal we are having a bi-polar summer. Weird weather, too hot or too cold. We spent a week in Wildwood NJ and the sun, sand and sea were like therapy. Too short of a vacation though.

I got some awesome books that will be on tour with Italy Book Tours! This one is on tour from Sept 7 to 25:


A Song for Bellafortuna by Vincent B. "Chip" LoCoco

A Song for Bellafortuna is an inspirational Italian Historical Fiction novel concerning a young man's desire to free his Sicilian village from the domination of one family's long reign.

For years, the beautiful, yet secluded, hilltop village of Bellafortuna, Sicily, was a great producer of wine and olive oil. The entire village prospered. However, after the arrival of the Vasaio family, production dwindles and the villagers soon find themselves in crushing debt to the Vasaios. Only one family in the village remains outside the control of the Vasaios, but the reason haunts Antonio Sanguinetti every day of his life. Antonio is determined to erase this legacy by offering financial and emotional support to his fellow villagers. He introduces them to the choral song from Verdi's opera, Nabucco, which becomes the rallying cry for the villagers and offers them hope for a better life.

When Antonio's only son, Giuseppe, discovers his family's past, he becomes determined to take on the Vasaios and remove them from power. Led by the young Giuseppe, a plan is hatched that could result in either complete freedom for the villagers, or if it fails, forever solidifying the Vasaios' control. Find out what happens in A Song for Bellafortuna, a sweeping epic historical fiction tale of love, drama, sacrifice, and redemption, set among the beautiful landscape of Sicily.


I also got all 4 books in the Roma series. You know how much I love Rome, my mother's city, so I can't wait to dig into these books. They are on tour from Sept 21 to Oct 23:


Roma Underground (Book #1) by Gabriel Valjan

Savvy forensic accountant Alabaster Black is hiding in Rome from her former employer, covert U.S. organization “Rendition.” While there under an assumed name she meets Dante, an investigator, erstwhile explorer and member of the Roma Underground, a band of amateur archaeologists who map the city beneath Rome. With Italian artifacts disappearing at an alarming rate, Alabaster and Dante search for answers and create a trap for the thieves. Through a mysterious online contact Alabaster learns she is being followed, and with her safety at risk she is forced to rethink her chosen alliances and discover hidden truths about herself.





Wasps's Nest (Book #2) by Gabriel Valjan

In the highly anticipated sequel to Roma, Underground, Bianca returns to the U.S. for her former employer, the covert organization Rendition, to investigate Cyril Sargent and Nasonia Pharmaceutical. Although ambivalent about the assignment and uneasy about her online “friend,” Loki, she is enticed into researching what Sargent is doing with insect genetics that might upset the world of cancer research and treatment. Old friends Farrugia and Gennaro uncover a twisted conspiracy from their past and join Bianca in Boston where they will experience conflicted loyalties, question allies, and confront uncertain enemies, as they’re drawn into the wasp’s nest.







Threading the Needle (Book #3) by Gabriel Valjan 

Milan. Bianca’s curiosity gets a young university student murdered, but not before he gives her a file that details a secret weapon under development with defense contractor Adastra. Guilt may drive her to find justice for the slain Charlie Brooks, but she is warned by the mysterious Loki to stay away from this case that runs deep with conspiracy. Bianca must find a way to uncover government secrets and corporate alliances without returning Italy to one of its darkest hours, the decades of daily terrorism known as the “Years of Lead.”






Turning to Stone (Book #4) by Gabrial Valjan

Alabaster Black aka Bianca Nerini returns as an investigation into a public official’s assassination pits Bianca and her friends against a backdrop of financial speculation, female assassins on motorcycles, and the Camorra—the most ruthless of Italian organized crime gangs—in Gabriel Valjan’s TURNING TO STONE, the fourth book of the highly praised Roma series.

En route to a secret meeting, Aldo Giurlani—the regional commissioner of Lombardy in northern Italy and a specialist on organized crime—is assassinated in the middle of a public square.

More mysterious is the package sent to Giurlani’s hand-picked team of five top investigators within the Guardia di Finanza (GdF), the Italian law enforcement agency that investigates illegal financial transactions, from money laundering to drug trafficking. Within the package are five copies of a book entitled Man of Smoke written by Aldo Palazzeschi.

Then there is Bianca’s tenuous online contact with a mysterious online contact known as Loki, who delivers a cryptic message to her, takes on a new twist with the appearance of a brilliant young obsessive-compulsive man who joins her team.

Complicating matters even further, old enemies and, more problematically, Alabaster’s former employer—Rendition, a murky covert U.S. government agency that does more than just investigate financial crimes—still have grudges to bear against her.

As new mysteries unfold, Bianca’s group quickly discovers that Naples might just be the most dangerous city in Italy.

Readers looking for a suspenseful thriller with mysterious twists and turns abounding will love Gabriel Valjan’s TURNING TO STONE.


Hope you all got great books in your mailbox!

Ciao!
Laura


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Alchemy's Daughter by Mary A. Osborne (Review and Giveaway)



Alchemy's Daughter by Mary A. Osborne
Lake Street Press
ISBN: 978-1936181179
Published May 2015
Trade Paperback, 288 pages

Book Description:

In medieval San Gimignano, Italy, daughters of merchants are expected to marry. But Santina Pietra cares only for Calandrino, a brilliant young scholar who is preoccupied with his ancient alchemical texts.

Soon Santina meets Trotula, the village midwife, who might or might not be a "strega," a witch. Trotula challenges her to forget Calandrino and become the woman she is meant to be. Some say she is a victim of the midwife’s spell, but Santina is determined to follow in Trotula’s footsteps even as calamities strike.

My Review:

A story set in medieval Italy, a strong female protagonist, midwifery, science, romance, adventure, the Black Death, betrayal, intrigue...these are just some of the elements that made me love reading Alchemy's Daughter. Santina is a great character, well-developed, strong and yet vulnerable, living in a time when science was little understood and women could be considered witches and burned just for practicing advanced medicine little understood at the time.

She is also young and in love, and we feel strongly her coming of age as she makes the bold move to defy convention and live with Trotula, a strong and intelligent woman who would become her mentor. I was totally fascinated by the midwifery practices and very impressed by Osborne's meticulous research. The author also includes a timeline of historical events, sketched maps and a glossary of the Italian words used throughout the text.

I loved Osborne's writing style, which was fluid and compelling. Through the plot, setting and dialogue, we can see that the author understood 14th century Italy with the strong influence of the Church, small village life and endless gossip. I couldn't get enough of this story as I was transported to an era in which I am glad not to have been born, especially since I had to undergo a C-section when giving birth to my children.

This story entertained me and touched me deeply as the plight of some pregnant mothers brought tears to my eyes. It made me applaud the women in the past who took a stand to help their gender and the author for writing about a young woman who chose to be different even at great cost to herself. This was historical fiction at its best and I am Osborne's newest fan. I now look forward to reading her first novel Nonna's Book of Mysteries.

To read more reviews, please visit Mary A. Osborne's page on Italy Book Tours.


Where to buy the book:



About the Author



Mary A. Osborne is the multiple award-winning author of Alchemy's Daughter and Nonna’s Book of Mysteries. A graduate of Rush University and Knox College, where she was mentored in the Creative Writing Program, Ms. Osborne is a registered nurse and holds degrees in chemistry and nursing. Her freelance work has appeared in publications such as Hektoen International, Newcity, and the Examiner.com. Ms. Osborne lives in Chicago.

Connect with Mary: Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter


Giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: Thanks to the author for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.



Friday, June 19, 2015

Out from the Underworld by Heather Siegel (Book spotlight & Giveaway)

Today I'm featuring Out from the Underworld by Heather Siegel, a gutsy memoir of how the author and her siblings faced parental abandonment. It's well-written and almost reads like a novel.

You can find my review on Amazon.ca. This is a story that touches on mental illness, family responsibility and fighting to win against all odds. Heather is an author to watch out for, and I look forward to reading her future work.

In her memoir, Heather tells of how she and her sister are put into foster care with an Italian family. I had to laugh when Heather recounts her first meeting with Mrs. Giordano when even before being introduced, Mrs Giordano opens the refrigerator and offers them food. Heather states in her memoir, "I liked her way of food first, business second."

Food is a big part of the Italian culture. Everything revolves around it. Food is both seen as an art and as comfort. In North America the Italian Americans brought the customs from their small towns and are still practising them today, like making tomato sauce and wine in the fall. I grew up with these customs that are such an inherent part of my life.

Anyhow, be sure to check out this memoir and enter the giveaway!



About the Book:

Out from the Underworld by Heather Siegel
Greenpoint Press
ISBN: 978-0-9906194-0-6
Published: April 30, 2015
Trade paperback, 220 pages

Heather Siegel was six years old when her mother disappeared, sending her father into a tailspin that took Heather and her siblings down with him— from a comfortable suburban home to a barely habitable basement apartment, a dark world they soon found themselves fighting to return to from the exile of foster care, then fighting even harder to escape.

Forty years later, Heather Siegel tells the remarkable story of how she and her siblings, Jaz and Greg, banded together to find out what happened to their mother and fight their way Out from the Underworld with nothing but their wits, determination, unbreakable bonds and gifts for humor and compassion to sustain them. A wrenching, inspiring story filled with heartbreak, hope and love, Out from The Underworld will move you to laughter and tears.


Where to buy the book:



About the Author:



Heather Siegel holds an MFA in nonfiction writing from The New School. Her work has appeared on Salon.com and in The Mother Magazine and Author Magazine, as well as in various trade publications. She was a finalist for the 2010 Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Award in Nonfiction Writing, the 2011 San Francisco Writers Conference Nonfiction Writing Award, the Carolina Wren Press 2012 Doris Bakwin Award and the 2012 Kore Press First Book Award. A multi-creative person with interests in the arts, nutrition, health and beauty, she has founded several independent businesses, including a coffeehouse, a café, an organic juice bar and a natural beauty bar. She currently lives with her husband, Jon, and daughter, Julia, in the woods of Long Island in a house filled with light.

Connect with Heather: Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter


Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway