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 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 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


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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Life Outside the Box by Marilyn R. Wilson (Book Spotlight and Giveaway!)

Today I'm featuring Life Outside the Box: The Extraordinary Journeys of 10 Unique Individuals, written by Marilyn R. Wilson. This book is an absolute gem if you like reading inspirational real life stories of people who achieved success through hard work, creativity and sheer determination, especially when the odds were against them.

You can find my review of this book on Library of Clean Reads, along with my interview of Marilyn, the author. Several of the people featured in the book are part of the fashion world, and we all know Italy is capital of the fashion world. Lisa-Marie Mazzucco is one of the women interviewed in this book. Although she married the world-renowned Italian fashion photographer Raphael Mazzucco, Lisa-Marie forged her own career through sheer creativity, after raising her son. Her story resonated with me. But I liked every single one of the stories in this book.

About the book:

Life Outside the Box: The Extraordinary Journeys of 10 Unique Individuals by Marilyn R. Wilson
Influence Publishing
ISBN: 978-1771410663
Published: Feb 1, 2015
Trade paperback, 236 pages

Real Stories about Real People to Entertain, Inspire and Challenge You.

Get inspired to step out of your box and into a world full of potential. From the corporate world, to the arts, to working with the disenfranchised – the message is clear. There is no such thing as a normal way to live your life and no one right solution to any problem. Selected from amongst over 100 interviews, the stories shared here open a window on the journeys of seven women and three men who have charted their own path, including Ruthie Davis – top U.S. luxury shoe designer and the winner of the 2014 AAFA Footwear Designer of the Year award – and Geir Ness whose perfume is a staple in Nordstrom, Disney World and on Disney Cruise Lines. Enjoy a glimpse behind the scenes into the unique ways these individuals chose to deal with life's challenges and how they define success in their careers.

Where to buy the book:

About the Author:

Marilyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer and editor with a passion for interviewing. It all began in 2006 when the she answered a Craigslist ad from a NY magazine asking for story submissions. Two were accepted. The first live interview was life changing and Wilson has never looked back. With over 150 interviews now behind her, the love of interviewing is still as strong as ever. Whether through a random encounter on the New York subway or via a “one-on-one” interview with an internationally recognized artist, the goal is the same—to share the unique journeys of inspiring individuals.

In 2007, this goal led the author to co-launch a successful, innovative magazine focused on professionals working in the fashion industry, paired with photography and illustrations by local artists. Now on staff at Raine Magazine (NY/Miami/LA), as well as freelancing for other publications, Wilson has taken her passion to a new audience with the release of her first book.

Connect with Marilyn: Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter


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Monday, June 1, 2015

Drawn by Chris Ledbetter (Author interview, Book spotlight and Giveaway!)

Today we kick off the tour of Drawn by Chris Ledbetter! It's on tour with Italy Book Tours from June 1 to 19, so be sure to stop by and read the reviews. My review will be up on June 4 at Library of Clean Reads. It's one of my favorite YA novels this year!

About the book:

Caught between the sweltering fall landscape of Wilmington, NC beaches and southern illusions and expectations, all sixteen year-old Cameron Shade thinks about is art. That, and for Farrah Spangled to view him as more than just a friend. Cameron longs to win her heart through art.

After several warm interactions with Farrah, including painting together at the beach, Cameron discovers just how complex Farrah’s life is with her boyfriend and her family. Following a tense run-in with Farrah’s father, she forbids Cameron to ever speak to her again, but Cameron’s convinced there’s more behind the request.

To impress Farrah with a last-ditch effort, Cameron sketches her portrait. But the sketchbook he uses hides a dark secret. Farrah’s now in grave danger because the sketch he drew of her siphons her real-life’s soul into the sketchbook. Cameron now has twenty days to extract Farrah. To save her, he must draw himself into the book.

If he fails… they both die.

My Interview with Chris Ledbetter:

EI: Welcome to Essentially Italian, Chris! Your book has so many great elements to it, one of them being art. This came through beautifully in your book. Are you an artist who paints?

CL: Thank you. I am a very amateur artist. I began drawing at a young age. My earliest memories are from second grade when I sketched Snoopy during nap time. Through the years, I sought to advance my skills, but only through self-education. I drew a lot of graffiti-style art, especially names for friends. I copied and emulated comic book covers. I began a comic series, but then abandoned it. Interestingly enough, in high school, I did sketch a portrait of a girl I sought to impress. So in that regard, art imitates life.

However, I don't paint at all. HAHA! I wish I could paint. I never truly invested the effort into painting. Only one painting of mine exists... one I painted for my mother when I was in elementary school.

EI: The fantasy and original part of your novel that takes place in a drawn setting resembling Renaissance Italy was fascinating. How did you come up with this idea?

CL: I wanted the world inside the book to be created by artists, for artists. The Italian Renaissance was one of the most artistically creative eras in history. And I'm a Leonardo Da Vinci student. And as I was drafting Drawn, the Da Vinci's Demons television series came on and I just dove into it.

EI: Your love for Italy and its art comes through in your novel. I loved that you knew some of the Italian expressions! What is your history with Italy?

CL: I do have a pretty intense love of all things Italian, and Greek for that matter. But the expressions and language all came from research. Tons and tons of research. I hope to Jove that I have adequately represented the language and culture, while at the same time adding a bit of fantasy to the mix.

EI: I truly enjoyed your writing style that I think not only appeals to your YA audience but to my generation. Your metaphors were both beautiful and appropriately humorous depending on the scene. How long have you been writing? Did you always want to be a writer?

CL: Thank you so much! That's humbling. I work really hard. I began writing seriously in 2006. I joined SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) and other organizations. I joined a super critique group. We all push one another to grow.

It feels fantastic to know that my writing appeals to different demographics. I don't write down to a younger audience. I simply try to get as deeply into the heads of my characters as I can and allow the story to flow out of that.

EI: I loved the fact that your novel includes interracial relationships. The only other YA book I've read that did that was Like No Other by Una LaMarche. Can you tell me more about how you feel about this topic in novels?

CL: Thank you so much! And, I'm really glad you brought that up. Diversity in literature, as a concept, is very close to my heart. But so is reflecting the real world. I've seen scarcely few interracial relationships in novels. And even fewer in young adult novels. In fact, I can't name a YA novel featuring an interracial relationship. But i wasn't trying to make a statement with Drawn. Cameron and Farrah's relationship is as natural as anything to me. I've been in interracial romantic relationships before. As I walk down the street and when I'm working my day job at a vitamin and supplement store, I see relationships between people ranging from all manner of hues and ethnicities and nationalities and so forth. This is something to be celebrated. When we're able to move past superficial differences, our souls grow closer together.

Love is love. In fact, the term "interracial relationship" shouldn't even be a thing. At the end of the day, it's just two human beings, two souls, connecting.

EI: I agree! I just have to ask this one last question because the ending was satisfying but left an opening for perhaps a sequel? Am I correct in thinking this? I hope I am!

CL: Yes. I am currently working on a sequel. It's gratifying to know that the ending was satisfying yet left you wanting more. As an author, that is the exact feeling we want to leave readers with, whether or not it's more of the same characters or more with a new set of characters.

EI: Woohoo! I'm so happy to hear that. I can't wait to read it. Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.

About the Author:

Chris Ledbetter grew up in Durham, NC before moving to Charlottesville, VA in 11th grade. After high school, he attended Hampton University where he promptly "walked-on" to the best drum line in the CIAA. And, without any prior percussion experience. He carried the bass drum for four years, something his back is not very happy about now.

After a change of heart and major, he enrolled in Old Dominion University and earned his degree in Business Administration. He's worked in various managerial and marketing capacities throughout his life. While teaching high school for six years in Culpeper, VA, he taught business management, business law, marketing, and sports marketing, and also coached football.

He has walked the streets of Los Angeles and New York City, waded in the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and climbed Diamond Head crater on Hawaii and rang in the New Year in Tokyo, Japan. But he dreams of one day visiting Greece and Italy.

He's a proud member of SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) and a strong supporter of the Need for Diverse Books. As a self-described, young reluctant reader, he writes young adult stories specifically to reach other reluctant readers. As a participant in the prestigious Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program, he was blessed to be mentored by Suzanne Morgan Williams, 2012 SCBWI member of the year.

He now lives in Wilmington, NC with his family, including three cats.

Connect with Chris: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

And now for the giveaway!

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