Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Seeking a Familiar Face by May Patterson (Book Spotlight and Giveaway!)

I couldn't help but be attracted to this book cover because it depicts Venice. Author May Patterson got lost there once (I did too!) and just as she was panicking she saw a familiar face. This experience drew her to God. I'm spotlighting this book today and you could win your own copy by entering the giveaway below.

Book Details:

Book Title: Seeking a Familiar Face: The Transformational Journey of Connecting with God by May Patterson
Category: Adult nonfiction, 175 pages
Genre: Christian Living
Publisher: Exploration Press
Release date: September 2017
Tour dates: Dec 11 to 29, 2017
Content Rating: G

Book Description:

The greatest adventure of your life awaits. And it will change everything.

Ever feel disappointed? Like your life isn't as fulfilling as you had always dreamed it would be? Are you laden down with responsibilities, feeling overwhelmed and empty, or maybe even a bit caged?

You're not alone.

Many people in the Bible felt the same way. Most had difficulties. Some felt stuck. Others were depressed, afraid and uncertain. And some just wanted to get closer to God. So they set out on life's adventure —seeking God—and encountered the One who fulfilled their longings and changed their lives forever.

The same can happen for you.

Seeking a Familiar Face guides you on the transforming journey of connecting with God, through simple, yet extraordinary ways. It doesn't matter if you are already seeking Him or just getting started, this book will encourage you to go a little farther toward locking hearts with God.

In this book you will discover engaging narratives from ten biblical characters, along with stories, humor, and practical ideas for seeking God. There are thought-provoking questions at the end of each chapter to discuss with a friend or a group. Most of all, Seeking a Familiar Face will offer you fresh hope for deepening your intimacy with God.

Buy the Book:

Video of May Patterson explaining
how she came to write her book:

Meet the Author:

May Patterson has been writing and teaching bible study classes for several years. Her new book, “Seeking a Familiar Face,” was birthed from a Bible study she wrote in 2014 called “A Time to Seek.” She was trained in small group dynamics for over ten years at Bible Study Fellowship, serving as a leader for four years. She has written for several magazines including Focus on the Family, Upper Room Magazine and Shattered Magazine, among others. She is married to her dear friend, Mike, and they have three grown children. She loves to tell stories, laugh, and talk about the adventure of seeking God.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ LinkedIn ~ Facebook

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Ends Jan 6

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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Painter's Apprentice: A Novel of 16th-Century Venice by Laura Morelli (Book Spotlight & Giveaway!)

I'm very excited to be featuring Laura Morelli's newest release! I am currently reading it and loving the story. I was itching for a good historical fiction set in Italy, and this one is set in Renaissance Venice. Look for my review later this week.

Book Details:

Book Title: The Painter's Apprentice: A Novel of 16th-Century Venice
Author: Laura Morelli
Category: Adult Fiction, 482 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: The Scriptorium
Release date: November 15, 2017
Tour dates: Oct 16 to Nov 17, 2017
Content Rating: PG-13 (some adult situations but no sex or explicit violence)

Book Description:

Would you rather sacrifice your livelihood, your lover, or your life? When the Black Death comes knocking on your door, you’d better decide quickly.

Venice, 1510. Maria Bartolini wants nothing more than to carry on her father’s legacy as a master gilder. Instead, her father has sent her away from the only home she’s ever known to train as an apprentice to Master Trevisan, a renowned painter.

When the painter’s servants uncover the real reason why Maria has been sent away, they threaten to reveal a secret that could tear down her family and the future of their trade. She is forced to buy the servants’ silence, but as their greed steadily grows, Maria resorts to more desperate measures. She questions whether her heart’s desire is worth risking her family, her trade, and her future, but Maria’s sacrifices may amount to nothing if the plague arrives on her father’s doorstep before she is able to get back home.

From the author of the award-winning The Gondola Maker comes a rich tale of Renaissance Venice, a heroine with a lust for life, and love against all odds.

Buy the Book:

Meet the Author:

LAURA MORELLI holds a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University, has taught college students in the U.S. and in Italy, and currently produces art history lessons for TED-Ed. She authored a column for National Geographic Traveler called “The Genuine Article” and has contributed pieces about art and authentic travel to CNN Radio, The Frommers Travel Show, and in USA TODAY, Departures, and other media. Laura is the author of the Authentic Arts guidebook series that includes the popular book Made in Italy. Her fiction brings the stories of art history to life. Her debut novel, The Gondola Maker, won an IPPY for Best Historical Fiction and a Benjamin Franklin Award.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram

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Ends Nov 25

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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Wanderers No More by Michelle Saftich (Review & Giveaway!)

Book Details:

Book Title: Wanderers No More by Michelle Saftich
Category: Adult Fiction, 290 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Odyssey Books
Release date: August 2017
Tour dates: Oct 23 to Nov 3, 2017
Content Rating: PG (Very little bad language (if any), kissing, references to sex but nothing actual or explicit, some violence in the way of school bullying - no major adult themes like abortion or suicide etc.)

Book Description:

The war may be over, but the fight to belong is just the beginning.

Left homeless, starving, and almost killed by the Second World War, the Saforo family are refugees fleeing Italy for a better life. The shores of Australia are calling to them and they head off, packing dreams of jobs, a home and… soccer.

But from the moment they get off the boat, adapting to the Australian way of life is harder than it seems. Their family doesn’t speak right, eat right or even look right. As they struggle to build a simple life against the backdrop of 1950s’ racism, they start to wonder if they will be outsiders forever.

A true family affair, Wanderers No More will make you laugh, remind you of your family, and warm your heart.

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

I have long awaited the sequel to Port of No Return, which I loved. (You can read my review here.) And once again, author Michelle Saftich has written a story that I devoured as it brought back my own experiences growing up as an Italian Canadian with immigrant parents.

Wanderers No More begins where Port of No Return ended, with the Saforo family and their friends leaving the displacement camp in Italy after WWII and on a ship headed to Australia. Although, it's a sequel, this book can be read as a stand-alone and still be immensely enjoyed.

The story is told through the eyes of a young Martino, only six when they land in Australia in 1950, until he is a grown man with his own family in the late 1970s. I loved this kid. I thought it a brilliant idea from the author to make him the main character and use his point of view to bring alive both the wonder of starting one's life over in a strange country to the hardships of being different, discriminated against, not knowing the language and the customs of this new land.

The Saforo family and their friends went from one immigrant camp to another, with few belongings, doing menial hard labor so that they could finally afford a modest house after being displaced for years. We get to see the hardships they endure, especially the children, who are bullied at school.  And the triumphs as they excel in soccer and the pride of doing so. It is a story of loss, survival, hope and joy.

I became so invested in this novel and its characters. The pages flew by effortlessly as I lived with them their immigrant experience, making me appreciate all the more what my parents and grandparents did for me. Never boring, filled with emotions and vibrant scenes that pulled at my heartstrings, Wanderers No More is a touching portrayal of a family's will to leave their war experiences behind along with their beloved country and start anew and make their dreams come true.

Based on true events from the author's own family, this is one of the best books I've read this year. I hope Michelle Saftich continues to write novels with heart that celebrate family life and the bond of friendship. If you like immigrant stories, this one is not to be missed.

To follow the blog tour and read reviews, please visit Michelle Saftich's page on Italy Book Tours.

Buy the Book:

Meet the Author:

Michelle Saftich resides in Brisbane, Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Business/Communications Degree, majoring in journalism, from the Queensland University of Technology.

For the past 20 years, she has worked in communications, including print journalism, sub-editing, communications management and media relations.
Born and raised in Brisbane, she spent 10 years living in Sydney; and two years in Osaka, Japan, where she taught English.

Her historical fiction novel, Port of No Return, was inspired by a true family story. It was published by Australian independent publishing house, Odyssey Books in 2015. Its sequel, Wanderers No More was released in August 2017. Michelle is married with two children.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Venetian Blood: Murder in a Sensuous City by Christine Evelyn Volker (Review, Author Interview, & Giveaway!)

Book Details:

Book Title: Venetian Blood: Murder in a Sensuous City
Author: Christine Evelyn Volker
Category: Adult Fiction, 328 pages
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: She Writes Press
Release date: August 2017
Tour dates: Sept 25 to Oct 6, 2017
Content Rating: PG-13 + M (There are a few instances of bad language and a scene with partial nakedness but little concrete description.)

Book Description:

Struggling to forget a crumbling marriage, forty-year-old Anna Lucia Lottol comes to Venice to visit an old friend—but instead of finding solace, she is dragged into a police station and accused of murdering a money laundering count with whom she had a brief affair. In the days that follow, Anna, a US Treasury officer with brains and athleticism, fights to clear her name in a seductive city of watery illusions. But as she tries to pry clues from a cast of uncooperative characters who implausibly deny what she sees and hears, she begins to question whether they are hiding something…or she is losing touch with reality. Racing to unlock secrets, she succeeds instead in unleashing a powerful foe bent on destroying her. Will she save herself and vanquish her enemies, including her darkest fears?

A captivating tapestry of murder, betrayal, and family, Venetian Blood is the story of one woman’s brave quest for the truth—before it’s too late.

My Review:

Well written with rich descriptions, historical details and lyrical language, Christine Volker's debut mystery novel set in Venice is a worthy read.

Anna Lucia Lottol travels to Venice to visit a friend. Having recently decided to divorce her alcoholic husband and put an end to a childless marriage, she is in need of a break. Instead, she gets accused of murdering Count Sergio Corrin, with whom she had a brief affair a few months ago and later regretted when he began to blackmail her.

Anna, a smart US Treasury officer, wants to clear her name and find out who the real murderer is, so she embarks on an investigation with her journalist friend, Margo. Within a week and a half, after being in the company of Venice's high society, many of whom knew, worked with and despised the Count, Anna gets a picture of the money-laundering dirty business that's been going on in Venice and abroad. Her life is at stake, in more ways than one, and many past secrets come to light that affect Anna in surprising ways.

Volker has succeeded in creating shady characters with complex relationships in an atmospheric setting where Venice's lapping waters, hidden canals, narrow streets, bridges and foggy bays cast both a sensual, mysterious and creepy light to this Italian city of masks. As a reader, it was hard to guess who the murderer was since Volker painted every character with suspicion. The ending was surprising although I began to have an inkling of what was coming toward the end.

Anna's own fears, anxieties, broken marriage, longings and sad childhood are interspersed throughout the narrative. Her grandparents were Italian and her memories of them come to the fore now that Anna is on Italian soil. Anna is truly a complex character and her past mistakes and emotional traumas weave in with her more logical world of banking and numbers to create the serious portrait of a woman in midlife crisis. It was painful to read at times. However, the story ends on a hopeful note for Anna, even as the reader is left to wonder how she will cope with what is revealed to her.

If you like literary novels and books set in Italy, especially Venice, then you will enjoy this one. The complex portrait of a woman in search of herself, along with a murder mystery makes this a compelling and worthy read.

To read more reviews, please visit Christine Evelyn Volker's page on Italy Book Tours.

Buy the Book:

My Interview with Christine Evelyn Volker

LF: Welcome to Essentially Italian! We are so pleased to be featuring your debut novel.

CEV: Thank you.

LF: Can you describe your book in 20 words or less?

CEV: A woman’s brave quest to save herself in a city of illusions.

LF: What made you want to write a book set in Venice?

CEV: Back in the 1990s, I lived in Milan and visited Venice many times, falling in love with the city. Its intriguing history, the miracle of its existence as it perches precariously on the shores of the Adriatic, the character of its people, and its pure beauty all appealed to me. A masked city with dark, twisting alleyways and illusory reflections is ideal for a murder mystery.

LF: What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book? The easiest?

CEV: Portraying the protagonist’s complex nature, while enabling her to figure out the identity of the murderer. She’s brilliant, scientific, very rational, yet she has demons. I also wanted to make her likable. The easiest part was rendering Venice; I indulged in memories, managing to relive my time there, and enjoyed researching via many books. The city is so strong in the novel, it’s almost a character.

LF: What do you love about Italy? What do you dislike?

CEV: The warm, vivacious people, the pride Italian artisans take in their work, the exquisite vistas, the delicious food, and the beautiful language. I dislike the inefficiencies, and the feeling that fundamental issues in Italian society are not being resolved.

LF: I was impressed with the correctness of the Italian phrases in your novel. Are you fluent in Italian?

CEV: Thank you. I used to be! I’m pretty rusty now. For the book, I drafted what I wanted to say in Italian, but I had a native speaker offer corrections. I’d love to stay in Italy for a few months and brush up my language skills.

LF: If you could travel back in time, where would you go? Who would you see?

CEV: go back to the sixties. I’d try to figure out how society has frayed. We’ve degenerated from “all you need is love,” to “greed is good” and “screw you.” This is impacting not just people, but the entire earth. I’d love to spend time with Rachel Carson and other early environmental leaders.

LF: What is the funniest (or strangest, or scariest) incident that has ever happened to you?

CEV: Traveling through Italy when I was a junior in college, I had dinner with a young Italian man I had met on the train. Afterward, he took me on a motorcycle ride and we marveled at the Roman Coliseum, lit up like a galaxy of stars that night. Then we had an accident which broke my ankle, landing me in a hospital where no one could speak in English, Spanish or German to me (my languages). My bed was in the hallway of a hospital; after a day, I was transferred by ambulance to another, unknown one. Time passed, and I felt like I had been abducted: an example of how frightening it can be when you can’t communicate. I remember consulting my small, inadequate dictionary and ultimately demanding in Italian: “I want to speak with the American Embassy.” I laugh about this now; the care was quite good for those six days.

LF: Can you share with us some of your favorite authors and what you are currently reading?

CEV: Barbara Kingsolver, T.C. Boyle, Joseph Kanon. I’m currently re-reading Crime and Punishment. The poetry of Federico GarcĂ­a Lorca will be next, in preparation for our trip to Spain.

LF: Any future projects you would like to share with us?

CEV: My second international mystery, taking place in the rainforest of Peru and the city of Cuzco, is half-written. Settings are critical for me—I need to feel them. So we’ll return to Peru, and also go to Extremadura, the land of the conquistadors. The protagonist of my novel searches for the truth about her “disappeared” parents, confronts her own and her country’s past, and fights for its future. This novel will be quite broad in scope.

LF: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me!

Meet the Author:

Christine Evelyn Volker became intrigued by foreign cultures at an early age, which propelled her to study Spanish, German, and Italian. After pursuing an MLS and an MBA, she was drawn to international banking and became a senior vice president at a global financial institution. Her career brought her to Italy, where she immersed herself in the language and made frequent visits to Venice. A native New Yorker, she resides with her husband in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, where she heads a local library non-profit organization and writes about environmental sustainability. She is currently at work on her second international mystery, this one set in the rainforest of Peru.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

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Ends Oct 14 

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Year in the Company of Freaks by Teresa Neumann (Review, Author Interview & Giveaway)

Another winner by Teresa Neumann! Atmospheric and highly readable, this one is a page-turner that will transport you back to the 70s. Whether you remember that time period or not, it's a good trip. I also had the pleasure of interviewing the author, so check it out below. Be sure to enter to win a copy too. 

Book Details:

Book Title: A Year in the Company of Freaks by Teresa Neumann
Category: Adult Fiction, 515 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: All's Well House
Release date: Dec 21, 2015
Tour dates: Sept 11 to 29, 2017
Content Rating: PG + M (Little violence and profanity, no f-words, no sex, but some drug use)

Book Description:

It's 1972 and a seismic clash-of-cultures is rattling northern California. In the redneck town of Trinity Springs, rumors of hippies migrating up from San Francisco have residents bracing for an invasion. When Italian-American hometown boy and Berkeley graduate Sid Jackson is busted for growing pot on his deceased parents' farm, locals suspect the assault has begun. Will a crazy deferral program devised by the sheriff keep Sid out of prison? Or will a house full of eccentric strangers, a passionate love interest, and demons from his past be his undoing?

A "disarmingly appealing" tale of discrimination, transformation and restoration, Freaks is bursting with intrigue, drama, comic relief and romance. Reviewers agree this five-star, coming-of-age classic "very much reflects the attitude and mood of the times."

Praise for A Year in the Company of Freaks:

“This coming of age story will draw the reader right in. Teresa Neumann demonstrates how much she values relationships in her writing … a precious skill. I held my breath all the way through to the final few pages. Five stars!” — The San Francisco Book Review

“As it relates to the complicated clash of culture and counterculture, Freaks acts as an authentic, strongly Seventies book. Northern California works as a strong presence in the novel that is vivid and omnipresent, but never overwhelming. Sure to intrigue and entertain, Freaks will have its digs in you before you realize how involved you’ve become.” — The Manhattan Book Review

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

Two years ago, I read Teresa Neumann's first novel Bianca's Vineyard and loved it. It was historical fiction set during WWII in Italy. This time, Neumann's latest novel is set during the 1970s hippies era in Northern California. Once again, Neumann deftly transported me to a different time with a colorful cast of characters and a poignant story of loss, transformation, love and redemption. I easily flew through the 500 pages of this novel as I quickly became invested in the lives of Sid Jackson and his eccentric boarders.

Italian-American Siderno Jackson returns after 4 years at Berkeley to the beautiful farm house and land he's inherited from his deceased parents in the small town of Trinity Springs. But he has unresolved issues from the death of his beloved parents and is reluctant to be back home to an empty house. He wants to escape rather than deal with his pain, so he plants pot on his property, but gets busted and faces the possibility of eight years in jail. Long-time friends of his parents intervene and Sid is now on probation and has to take care of the farm and lease out rooms to 4 boarders for a year.

Once again, Neumann weaves a story with unforgettable characters that jump off the page. The mood, issues and way of life in the 70s truly come alive in this book. I was a child who grew up in the 70s and 80s and I clearly remember wearing bell bottoms and watching Rambo, a movie  about a Vietnam veteran. I really liked being immersed into that time period through Sid's story. However, you don't have to be baby boomer to appreciate this book. It's well-written with a strong storyline and issues all young and old alike can relate to. Relationships is the backbone of this book. I especially loved how Sid comes to realize the value of friends who love you unconditionally.

Sid's Italian background plays a role in who he is, and as the daughter of Italian immigrants, I could see this clearly. Being close to his grandparents (Nonno and Nonna), growing vegetables and planting a vineyard was common for Italian immigrants that it made sense Sid would be drawn to doing the same thing. The role of the Skinners as godparents is also a very prominent Italian tradition, and small town life in America is not much different from small village life in Italy.

A Year in the Company of Freaks is another winner by Teresa Neumann. Atmospheric and highly readable, this one is a page-turner that will transport you back to an historic time of cultural revolution and small town values. Whether you remember that time period or not, it's a good trip. (Pun intended). This one will be on my list of Best Reads for 2017!

To read more reviews, please visit Teresa Neumann's page in iRead Book Tours.

Buy the Book:

My Interview with Teresa Neumann:

LF: Can you describe your book in 20 words or less?

TN: It’s a fun, engrossing, coming-of-age tale of regret, rebellion, tragedy, comedy, unconditional love, romance, hope, redemption, and reconciliation.

LF: What made you want to write a novel set in the 70s?

TN: Primarily because Freaks is loosely based on my observations living in northern California during that time period. 1972 was a pivotal year for the West Coast counter culture, as that is when the “back to earth” movement really took off and hippies began to spread out of urban areas to seek a more rural environment in order to be closer to nature. The whole polyester leisure suit and disco-music scene had yet to arrive, so the atmosphere was still deeply ingrained with the 60’s full-blown hippie vibe.

LF: How much of what is included in the book is based on true events?

TN: No particular scene, experience or character is based on a single true event. Rather, it is a composite of many different experiences, people I knew, and places I lived in or visited. For example, Ketch – the albino biker from Texas – is a character closely patterned after a Texan my husband and I befriended in the late 70’s in Boulder, Colorado. And anyone who partied during the 60’s and 70’s will, no doubt, identify with the “getting high” scenes in the book.

Most people have also heard about the “Jesus Movement” in the 60’s and 70’s, but don’t realize how truly radical and pervasive it was at the time. I can’t tell you how many times, hitchhiking, or just out and about in San Francisco, that I was approached by what we, at the time, called “Jesus Freaks.” Most of them were long-haired hippies, rather than “red-necks,” so there was at least a superficial connection with them. I’ll never forget one, who gave me a ride in his rainbow painted VW van, praying for me to be safe. He gave me a feeling as though he were my brother who truly cared for my safety. Encounters like that, and others, helped break the stereotype I had of “Jesus Freaks” being totally weird oddities.

LF: I grew up in the 70s as a young child and lived my teen years in the 80s, yet I could relate to some of the cultural references. Do you see any parallels to any other time period with the hippie movement of the 70s?

TN: There was the lawless “Roaring Twenties” that followed WWI (The Wiemar Republic in Germany was notorious for its descent into debauchery). I don’t think it’s a coincidence that rebellion via hedonism is typically higher after a bruising war, such as it was with WWI or Viet Nam. There was a huge loss of faith following WWI with many embracing nihilism. That tendency only increased after WWII and Viet Nam. (For the record, I am NOT a nihilist; far from it!) The “Peace and Love” movement of the 60’s was more accurately called that at its beginning with a select sub-groups of hippies who truly wanted to opt-out of society and pursue utopia.

Soon after, however, the movement became politicized, e.g. the Weathermen, SDS, etc. and some of the initial “hippie” values became radicalized and perverted with cults forming around them. There definitely remains a strong remnant today of the original “Flower Children” who still live communally and live by nearly communistic standards; they’re often parodied today in print and on screen by more conservative Americans – which shows you the cultural divide addressed in my book hasn’t changed that much ;-) Of course, there’s the far tamer hipster movement today. I must say, I love their beards!

LF: The main character is of half Italian descent. Do you think that our parents' culture helps to define who we are?

TN: Though most of us rebel to some degree against our parents, I think their culture definitely contributes to who we are ultimately. As a matter-of-fact, I’d go so far as to say my grandparents (who were born in 1899) were a huge influence in my life – as much as my own parents. You couldn’t have told me that in my 20’s, but today I am thankful for it. And when it comes to Italian families – well, all bets are off. The influence of family members in Italy is nothing short of astonishing. I love it. That’s why it plays such an integral part in my book’s main character, Sid.

LF: What feedback have you received from your readers that has made you happy you wrote this book?

TN: Unlike Bianca’s Vineyard, my first book, where the feedback was about immigration and WWII, people are responding to the issues of stereotypes, divisiveness and cultural discrimination addressed in Freaks The lesson to be learned in, I hope, is that we CAN live together and that we need each other – as different as we might be – to sharpen us; iron as to iron.

LF: What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book? The easiest?

TN: The most challenging aspect of my book were the multiple edits. The original draft of Freaks was basically a novella; half the size and with twice the number of boarders -- TWELVE to be exact! My editor, the incomparable Sandra Byrd, suggested I drastically pare down the characters and considerably lengthen the word count. As always, she was right. I can take her recommendations to the bank. I love meeting my readers, but the actual marketing of my books is the least enjoyable aspect of being an author. The easiest (if you can call it that) part of writing Freaks was immersing myself into that time period. It seems like yesterday!

LF: If you could travel back in time, where would you go? Who would you see?

TN: Ah, it wouldn’t be the 1970’s, I can tell you that ;-) I’m far too much of an old-school romantic for all the relationship incongruities of that era. There’s something about the first decade of the 1900’s where the world was on the cusp of so many exciting inventions and breakthroughs and unjaded by the yet-to-happen world wars. No wonder my favorite seasons of Downtown Abbey, for example, were the years before WWI!

LF: What is the funniest (or strangest, or scariest) incident that has ever happened to you?

TN: Readers may think it’s strange/funny that when I lived in California I was the secretary for a mail-order “head” shop in Sausalito, located on a houseboat. It was called “Interplanetary Posters.” Because we shipped a lot of paraphernalia to prisoners around the country, my boss wanted to protect my identity and told me to create an alias to use in my correspondence. The name I came up with? Marsha Mellow. So 70’s, right?

The scariest experience I had living in California involved hitchhiking. I didn’t have a car (it was cool to be poor and unattached to material possessions) so I hitchhiked every day to my job about 30 miles from Novato where I lived. I also hitchhiked, alone, at night. Just crazy. I’d die if my daughters did that! Anyway, I prided myself in using “safe” tactics – not getting in a car with more than one person, not getting in the back of a two-door car, etc. One day, a guy who picked me up after work asked if I’d mind if he pulled off the freeway to get something he’d forgotten. Stupidly, I said, “Okay.” He parked in front of an apartment complex and said he’d be just a second. When he got back into the car – just a minute or two later – I glanced over and saw a hunting knife in a sheath attached to the driver’s door. My heart stopped and I froze. He started the car and I noticed he was acting strangely; jittery. I guessed that he had “shot up” something. As he slowed on his approach to the freeway entrance I insisted he stop the car. When he didn’t, I opened the door. He slammed on the brakes and I jumped out, feeling as though in doing so I had just saved my life. You’d think that would have compelled me to buy a car, but no. That would have been too bourgeois. Like I’ve often said, it’s a miracle I’m alive thinking of all the stupid things I did in the 70’s!

LF: Can you share with us some of your favorite authors and what you are currently reading?

TN: I cut my teeth on the classics at the parochial high school I attended in the Midwest, so they always score highest: Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Dumas, Hardy, Dickens, Hugo, Austen, the Bronte Sisters, Sigrid Undset, G.K. Chesterton, etc. Tennyson and Edna St. Vincent Millay are my favorite poets. I love Elizabeth Goudge’s book, The Dean’s Watch. There are so many good writers out there today, I don’t know where to begin! Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River is, I think, a modern American classic. I also like fun, light travel memoirs, like Peter Mayle’s “Provence” books. I’m currently reading Map of the Heart by Susan Wiggs.

LF: Thank you so much, Teresa, for taking the time to chat with me!

About the Author:

Author of highly-acclaimed "A Year in the Company of Freaks," Teresa was raised in a large Midwest family and now lives in Oregon. She is also the author of "Bianca's Vineyard," and its sequel, "Domenico's Table." Both books are based on the true stories of her husband's Italian family in Tuscany. In addition to enjoying family, writing, reading, meeting her readers, wine tasting, traveling, and all things Italian, Teresa loves playing the fiddle with other musicians.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter

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Ends Oct 7

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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Nomad's Premonition (Book #2) by Georges Benay (Review & Giveaway!)

Two weeks ago I posted my review of the first book in the Nomad Series Nomad on the Run, which I enjoyed. The Nomad's Premonition is the second book in the series and I enjoyed it even more than the first one. The writing and dialogue is better and it feels like the author has really found his groove. Make sure to enter the giveaway for a chance to win a set of the books or a $15 Amazon gift card!

Book Details:

Book Title: The Nomad's Premonition (Book #2) by Georges Benay
Category: Adult Fiction, 240 pages
Genre: Thriller, mystery/suspense
Publisher: Story Merchant Books
Release date: April 28, 2017
Tour dates: August 14 to Sept 15, 2017
Content Rating: PG-13 (some violence, a couple of swear words - minimal)

Book Description:

​Eric Martin is desperate to forget his past, one that almost cost him his future.

Working in Paris as deputy head of a bank's internal security department, Eric notices a high-speed trader's uncanny ability to predict extremely profitable trades. Even though there's nothing illegal about the activity, he knows the trader's success is more than just luck.

But, no one believes him. Armed only with a handful of data and a powerful instinct, Eric searches for the mysterious trader on his own. He suspects that a predictive algorithm has fallen into the wrong hands.

​Eric sets off for Istanbul to find answers promised to him by an informant. He finds an unlikely ally in Interpol agent Stephanie Brule. With Interpol wanting him back in Paris and out of the way, Eric's quest is also hampered by the sudden appearance of his ex-lover, a boss he's not sure he can trust, and a terrorist who always seems one step ahead.

​Will Eric put an end, once and for all, to the nightmare that began when he accepted a job that was too good to be true? Or will his need for revenge and justice lead him deeper into a treacherous world he has no way of escaping?

My Review:

Two weeks ago I posted my review of the first book in the Nomad Series Nomad on the Run, which I enjoyed. The Nomad's Premonition is the second book in the series and I enjoyed it even more than the first one. The writing and dialogue is better and it feels like the author has really found his groove.

The story takes place three years after the events in the first book. Eric Martin is now in Paris, having accepted a job as the head of a bank's internal security. He is not happy, trying to forget a horrific past and missing his days as an investment banker. It's evident he is not the same person, plagued by the guilt that some of his past actions caused the death of innocent lives and the loss of the woman he loved. So when he notices the work of a high speed trader and thinks it's possibly linked to terrorist work, he stubbornly and obsessively decides to investigate it.

What I liked the most about this story is that it's about a damaged soul who wants to make things right and bring closure to the past, even if it costs him his life. Most thrillers have too much action at the expense of character development. That's not the case with this story. The author builds his characters well and is not afraid to push their limits, reveal their strengths and expose their weaknesses. Eric is wonderfully flawed and compelling as a main character. We get to admire his inner strength even as we shake our heads at some of his foolish actions.

The suspense racks up as Eric gets closer to discovering who the trader is, and it's action-packed for most of the time in Istanbul, which brings me to the setting. What an exotic setting, rich in historical details and landscape descriptions! It prompted me to do research on the Internet of the places mentioned. I was happy that I also got to find out what happened to Eric's late colleague's family, as that was left unanswered in the first book. Once again, the ending is satisfying and left me intrigued. It seems like there is a third book in this series, which I look forward to reading.

Although The Nomad's Premonition is a stand-alone novel, I did like reading it after having read the first book. If you love thrillers set in exotic settings with a strong flawed main character, you will enjoy the Nomad series.

Buy The Nomad's Premonition: 

Meet the Author:

Georges Benay is a former international banker who is now working as a Toronto-based writer and award-winning photographer. He is the author of two novels, including The Nomad's Premonition and a collection of short stories. His award winning pictures have been featured in several magazines and book covers.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Photography Website ~ Twitter

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Nomad on the Run by Georges Benay (Review & Giveaway!)

I was intrigued by this thriller series because of its exotic setting. You know that I love European settings but really, anything exotic, gets my attention. In addition, this book also takes place in Canada, in particular Toronto and my own home city of Montreal. So how could I resist checking it out? Be sure to enter the giveaway to win both books 1 and 2 in the Nomad series!

Book Details:
Book Title: Nomad on the Run (Book #1) by Georges Benay
Category: Adult Fiction, 290 pages
Genre: Thriller, mystery/suspense
Publisher: Bookstand Publishing
Release date: April 15, 2011
Tour dates: August 14 to Sept 15, 2017
Content Rating: PG (No f-words, some profanity, violence and minimal/tame sex scene)

Book Description:

​Beneath the golden desert and azure seas of Morocco lurks a hidden world of greed, deceit and financial terrorism. But the players are not who you might think. Lured away from his seemingly idyllic life as a managing director for a major international bank in Toronto, Eric Martin returns to his ancestral roots in Morocco.

Tempted by a mysterious offer from a boutique financial firm, Eric soon discovers he has walked into the middle of a whirlwind where everyone has their own secret agenda, and he unwittingly has become the key to unlocking them all. From the broad avenues of Toronto to the mean streets of Casablanca, Eric rushes to discover the truth before time runs out. But who can he trust?

The power and attraction of money is strong. In the midst of a dangerous cast of characters, Jeff Offenbach, bank president, knows more than he lets on. But how much does he know? Is he a key player in a scheme to terrorize the global economy, or is he just trying to save his firm from becoming another victim of the global economic collapse? Valerie is the unknown factor. Is she involved in the partners' machinations, or is she as guileless as Eric? Can he trust her? And more importantly, will he survive long enough to find out?

Buy Nomad on the Run: 

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani
I was intrigued by this thriller series because of its exotic setting. You know that I love European settings but really, anything exotic, gets my attention. In addition, this book also takes place in Canada, in particular Toronto and my own home city of Montreal. So how could I resist checking it out?
The story starts off strong but then immediately slows down with details and scenes that do not propel the plot forward, and I was worried it was going to continue at this pace. Once the main character Eric Martin, a managing director for a major international bank in Toronto, decides to accept an invitation to join a boutique financial firm in Casablanca, the action begins. I must admit I did not like Eric at first but his character evolves and he redeems himself several times as he struggles with dilemmas that involve his colleagues and those closest to him. He's a hot tempered cocky fellow, and his flawed character was perfect for the story as he learns valuable lessons.
I enjoyed the story and felt the author's writing and dialogue improved considerably as the plot progressed and became more complex. I thought the plot was intelligent and rang true considering today's financial situation, highlighting the author's keen knowledge of the financial world and how corrupt it can be. I became more and more invested in the story as I continued to read. I also liked the reference to banks, places and French phrases that I am familiar with. I also appreciated that although there was some violence and abduction scenes, they were not explicitly described with gore and blood as in some thrillers I've read.
The ending, especially the last sentence, left me wanting to read the second book immediately following this one. It left the reader intrigued and speculating about Eric's lover. It was the perfect ending to this first book in a series, really. So look out for my review of the second book The Nomad's Premonition on Aug 29!
Meet the Author:

Georges Benay is a former international banker who is now working as a Toronto-based writer and award-winning photographer. He is the author of two novels, including The Nomad's Premonition and a collection of short stories. His award winning pictures have been featured in several magazines and book covers.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Photography Website ~ Twitter

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Monday, July 3, 2017

Appointment with Yesterday by Christopher Stratakis (Review & Giveaway)

Today, I'm kicking off the tour for Christopher Stratakis' first novel. It's a coming-of-age immigrant story that I devoured in two days. This one is an Indie gem. Read what I thought of it and then scroll down to enter the giveaway to win a copy!

Book Details:

Book Title: Appointment with Yesterday: A Novel in Four Parts with a Prologue and an Epilogue
Author: Christopher Stratakis
Category: Adult Fiction, 334 pages
Genre: coming-of-age / WWII / immigrant experience
Publisher: IndieReader
Release date: January 2017
Tour dates: July 3 to 14, 2017
Content Rating: PG-13 + M (There is no bad language or violence, but there are references to sex and sexual situations (including between a pre-teen and teen)

Book Description:

A poignant and compelling first novel, Appointment with Yesterday tells the story of Yanni, a cheeky and delightful Greek boy growing up in a small town on an island in the eastern Aegean.

Left in the care of his loving grandparents, Yanni endures the deprivation and terror of the German occupation during World War II and finally leaves his beloved homeland and family to rejoin the parents who had left him behind to make a better life for themselves in America.

Filled with heartbreaking and heartwarming stories of love, devotion, disenchantment, and dashed dreams, Appointment with Yesterday is, ultimately, the story of hardships overcome and a determined boy’s journey toward finding his destiny.

Buy the Book:

My Review:

I love when I pick up a book without knowing anything about it and discover an Indie gem. Although I wasn't too taken in with the book cover or the title, I was thrilled to discover this book. It's one of the best books I've read this year!

Based, to a large extent on the author's own life story, Appointment with Yesterday is a coming-of-age novel that begins with an old man in Greece, sitting on the veranda of his country home facing the sea and reminiscing on his life. We then go back in time to the story of Yanni, a Greek boy who lives on Erytha, a remote Aegean island, with his extended family, in particular his grandparents who have been raising him since he was a baby. His parents went back to America with the hope that they would soon return, but the years went by and it was only when Yanni was sixteen that he is reunited with them when he emigrates to New York City, where they live.

Yanni is a curious and vivacious boy who grows up loving the sea and his life on the island. He longs for his parents, and feels their abandonment, but is loved by his extended family and develops a very close relationship with them. I loved reading about his early life and the island ways. When Germany invades during WWII, even this small island gets swarmed with soldiers who starve the people when they take control of the food source. Yanni and his family go through some hard times and it teaches Yanni tough life lessons. I had never read about WWII from the perspective of a Greek boy who lived through it, so this made the story even more interesting.

When Yanni finally joins his parents in America, he experiences unbridled joy and excitement but also disappointment and painful disillusionment. As an immigrant he must learn a new language, a new way of life and live with family members who are essentially strangers. Yanni is a survivor though, and he works hard to succeed. As a reader, one cannot help but cheer him as he navigates his way through all of these ups and downs. 

Appointment with Yesterday is a fictionalized memoir that was such a pleasure to read. As the daughter of immigrant parents, this book resonated with me. Greeks and Italians are similar in culture. This book is beautifully written and the characters as well as the island of Erytha came to life under this author's deft pen. I was invested in the story and Yanni's life from the first page. For lovers of historical fiction and coming-of-age stories, this one will not disappoint. It made it's way on my list of Best Reads for 2017.

To read more reviews, please visit Christopher Stratakis' page on iRead Book Tours.

Meet the Author:

Christopher Stratakis was born and raised in Greece. After moving to America, he graduated from Drexel University in 1951 and New York University School of Law in 1955. Shortly after joining the law firm of Poles, Tublin & Patestides in 1960, he became a partner, specializing in admiralty and corporate law.

He has written and published several articles, lectured on professional and historical subjects, served as Legal Advisor to several non-profits (pro bono), and was an arbitrator in maritime disputes. He is the author of Mnimes “Memories” (2010), a book of essays, short stories, and poems that he wrote as a teenager. In 2015, he co-edited Chains on Parallel Roads, a book published by Panchiaki “Korais” Society of New York. In recognition of his extensive community involvement, he has been the recipient of several awards from religious, governmental, and educational institutions.

Mr. Stratakis lives with his wife in New York City. He is the proud father of three and grandfather of three. This is his first novel.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Appointment with ISIL: An Anthony Provati Thriller by Joe Giordano (Review & Giveaway)

Book Details:

Book Title: Appointment with ISIL: An Anthony Provati Thriller by Joe Giordano
Category: Adult Fiction, 299 pages
Genre: Literary Thriller
Publisher: Harvard Square Editions
Release date: June 2017
Content Rating: PG-13 (No f-words but there's mild profanity and religious expletives, some depictions of gory violence and brief sexual content.

Book Description:

This time, Anthony's libido threatens his life. He flirts with Russian mob boss, Gorgon Malakhov's mistress. The Russian deals in death. ISIL, the Islamic State in the Levant, wants the product. Russian Intelligence supplies the means, and an art theft funds the scheme. ISIL's targets are chilling. The chase across the Mediterranean is on. Can Anthony thwart ISIL? Will he survive?

Praise for Appointment with ISIL:

​"A roller-coaster ride to the finish, this book confirms Giordano as a writer to eagerly watch."
- Kirkus Reviews

​"A sexy, all-in-one-breath read, this is a story for those eager to strap on their boots and immerse themselves in a whirlwind adventure that will take them from espresso in New York with the Italian Mafia to walking the Old City of Jerusalem with the chief of Israel’s security service."
- The iRead Review

If you like gritty intriguing thrillers involving the FBI, Russian/Italian mobs or Islamic Terrorists you will absolutely love this book…. The characters, the plot and prose come together for an outstanding work of contemporary Americana. PRIMO highly recommends Appointment with ISIL."
Primo Magazine

My Review:
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

After reading Joe Giordano's first book, Birds of Passage, I was eager to read his latest release Appointment with ISIL and I was not disappointed. Although different in genre, Joe Giordano's crisp writing, complex plot and storytelling skills stand out in this book too. His main character Anthony Provati, an American-Italian with family in the Mafia, is a wonderfully flawed character who propels the story forward.

Anthony made his first mistake when he flirted with Russian mobster Malakhov's girlfriend. This leads to a series of events that gets Anthony involved with the Italian mob and finally leads him to ISIL territory and indirectly stopping terrorists attacks. Like a train, the story slowly builds momentum until it picks up full speed and the reader can't turn the pages fast enough to get to the end.

Giordano skillfully builds his characters, so each one distinctly stands out. Even the secondary characters get background information. Although the plot is multi-layered, it's easy to follow and there are no plot holes. Once again, I was impressed with Giordano's intelligent writing, the witty and dangerous dialogue among the mobsters and his knowledge of organized crime behaviour in different cultures. There was nothing predictable about the story (except perhaps that a pretty face would stir Anthony's libido) and I loved not knowing what was going to happen next.

Of course, the whole Italian connection appealed to me since I'm Canadian-Italian. I was very familiar with the Italian expressions used throughout the novel. I live in Montreal where the Italian Mafia is very active and was a topic of conversation at the dinner table among my father and my uncles. 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.

Appointment with ISIL is an impressive debut in the thriller genre, and a fantastic start to the Anthony Provati series. Joe Giordano is a talented author to watch out for, and I eagerly await his next novel.

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

Disclosure : Thanks to the author for sending me this book. I was not told how to rate and review this novel.

Buy the Book: 

Meet the Author:

Joe Giordano was born in Brooklyn. He and his wife, Jane, have lived in Greece, Brazil, Belgium and the Netherlands. They now live in Texas.

Joe's stories have appeared in more than ninety magazines including The Monarch Review, The Saturday Evening Post, decomP, The Summerset Review, and Shenandoah. His novel, Birds of Passage, An Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story, was published by Harvard Square Editions October 2015. His second novel, Appointment with ISIL, an Anthony Provati Thriller will be published by HSE in June 2017.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Dancing in the Rain by Lucy Appadoo (Book Spotlight, Author Interview, and Giveaway!)

Can she end the turmoil and escape the firmly built trap to find the freedom she craves?

I'm featuring Australian-Italian author Lucy Appadoo with her latest book in The Italian Family series! I have yet to read this series and I'm excited to have discovered this new-to-me author, especially because her books are set in Italy. I had the opportunity to interview Lucy and discovered we have lots in common. Check out her new title (isn't that a great cover?) and then enter for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card. 

Book Details:

Book Title: Dancing in the Rain (The Italian Family Series)
Author: Lucy Appadoo
​Category: Adult Fiction, 274 pages
Genre: Historical Coming of Age/Romance/Family Drama
Publisher: Lucy Appadoo
Release date: March 24, 2017
Tour dates: June 5 to 23, 2017
Content Rating: PG-13 + M (There is physical abuse and death involved.)

Book Description:

Fifteen-year old Valeria Allegro works diligently on the family farm in Italy, where she is torn between her duty to her family and her desire to find freedom from her strict, domineering father. She finds solace in Dario, a young student who provides a blissful escape—until a neighbour’s son, Gregorio, decides he wants her for himself.

This raises an alarm for her father, which leads to family conflict and aggression. When Dario is threatened and her family is plagued by a series of suspicious accidents, Valeria is desperate to keep her loved ones safe. Can she end the turmoil and escape the firmly built trap to find the freedom she craves?

Buy the Book:

Interview with Lucy Appadoo:

EI: Welcome to Essentially Italian, Lucy. I'm excited to be shoecasing your latest release today. Describe your book in 20 words or less.

LA: Dancing in the Rain is an historical/coming of age story about romance and freedom for a fifteen-year girl from Italy.

EI: What inspired you to write The Italian Family Series?

LA: My mother and father both inspired me to write this series as I found their childhood stories touching and emotional. They both grew up in Italy and arrived in Melbourne in the 1960s to forge a life for themselves and their children. As we were growing up, they recounted their challenges, joys, and nostalgia with a resilient soul, and I had always wanted to recreate their stories through fiction. I honour their strength and love for their family through The Italian Family Series.

It is a true inspiration to know about all they had suffered growing up in the Italian village, and to have created a life for their three children when they had no penny to their names after arriving in Melbourne.

EI: Your parents are Italian immigrants, just like mine. Did you grow up speaking the Italian language?

LA: I grew up speaking an Italian dialect, originating from a small village, Piaggine in the south of Italy. I found that when I travelled to Italy at twenty-three, I was learning a whole other language; the purest of Italian rather than the dialect. I learned to use both the pure language and the dialect during my trip.

EI: I noticed we have a lot in common when I read your bio. I too have worked as a counsellor, caseworker and taught English as a second language. How much of your life experience permeates your writing?

LA: Some of my life experience permeates my writing when I describe the challenges and traumatic issues in my novels. I have applied and merged some of my experience with clients with my own personal challenges and grief. I feel that writing is a holistic process and covers both the personal and professional experience.

I use many things in my writing, and that includes my life experience, imagination, professional experience, knowledge, and research.

EI: What was the last great book you read?

LA: The last great book I read was All That Remains by Hannah Holborn, which is a suspenseful story about a missing boy and a deranged villain. It continues with the same characters in Book Two with Strange Lineup but the plot varies. The book is intriguing and captures you until the very end.

I enjoy books with psychological intrigue and suspense as I like to know what’s in people’s minds, given my psychology background.

I also enjoy reading stories about Italy (Adriana Trigiani’s The Shoemaker’s Wife) as I can relate to the culture because of my Italian upbringing.

EI: I loved The Shoemaker's Wife. Any future projects you want to share with us?

LA: I am currently working on a romantic suspense novel that is a spin-off from my novel, Rising Hearts. I am also working on a short story thriller (my second one as part of a collection of three short story thrillers). I am not sure at this stage whether I will continue with other character’s stories from The Italian Family series.

EI: If you could travel back in time, where would you go?

LA: If I could travel back in time, I would travel back to my younger adult days and change some of the bad decisions I had made, as in hindsight you know what went wrong.

EI: Thank you, Lucy!

Meet the Author:

Lucy Appadoo is a registered counsellor and wellness coach with a part-time private practice. She also works as a rehabilitation counsellor for the Australian government. In her spare time, she self-publishes or writes nonfiction and fiction texts. She previously worked as a rehabilitation consultant, caseworker, English as a second language teacher, and proofreader.

Lucy has postgraduate diplomas in psychology, education, and English as a Second Language teaching, as well as specialised qualifications in grief counselling and hypnosis. She has also completed wellness coaching courses (levels 1-3) at Wellness Coaching Australia.

Lucy enjoys reading romantic suspense, romance, thrillers, crime novels, family/historical drama, and sagas. She writes in the genres of romantic suspense, historical fiction, and romance. She has enjoyed travelling to exotic places such as Madrid, Mauritius, and Italy, and draws on these experiences in her creative writing.

Lucy’s favourite authors include Kendra Elliot, Christiane Heggan, Theresa Ragan, Tara Moss, Nicholas Sparks, Adriana Trigiani, Erica Spindler, and James Patterson (to name a few).

Lucy’s interests include meditation, playing tennis, journal writing, reading fiction and nonfiction texts about writing, coaching, and counselling, ongoing professional development, spending time with her husband and two daughters, and socialising with friends and family.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

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