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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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?

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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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Ends July 1

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

More Than a Soldier: One Army Ranger's Daring Escape From the Nazis by D.M. Annechino (Book Spotlight & Giveaway!)




I am thrilled to be featuring the latest title by talented author D.M. Annechino. D.M. usually writes suspense thrillers but he has outdone himself with this one. More Than a Soldier is based on the powerful and true story of Angelo DiMarco’s survival, resilience and courage as he escaped the Nazis in Italy. My review will be posted on June 13 on Library of Clean Reads. Be sure to check it out. In the meantime, enter the giveaway and help us spread the word about this unforgettable story.

Book Details:

Book Title: More Than a Soldier: One Army Ranger's Daring Escape From the Nazis
​Author: D.M. Annechino
Category: Adult Fiction, 316 pages
Genre: Historical Biography, WWII
Publisher: CreateSpace
Release date: April 2017
Tour dates: April 24 to May 19, 2017
Content Rating: PG-13 (A few four-letter words and violence associated with war)

Book Description:

Feeling a patriotic duty to defend his country after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, seventeen year old, Angelo J. DiMarco, enlists in the U.S. Army. Severely short of frontline fighters, the Army rushes Angelo through Ranger training and sends him to Italy as part of the 1st Ranger Battalion. Their objective: stop the German invasion.

Fighting on the front lines in Italy, the German’s teach Angelo a sobering lesson on life when they capture him during the bloody battle of Cisterna. Against insurmountable odds, Angelo miraculously escapes in a way that stretches the imagination. He survives behind enemy lines for over five months, hiding from the Germans and trying to outmaneuver them. He begs for food, sleeps in barns and suffers from many ailments, including dehydration, malnutrition, malaria and exposure to the elements.

More Than a Soldier is Angelo DiMarco’s powerful story of survival, resilience and courage.


Buy the Book: 

Amazon



Praise for More Than a Soldier:

Annechino colorfully draws the actions scenes, and richly brings the supporting cast of characters to life. A moving tale of survival in war-torn Europe.
- Kirkus Reviews

Nuanced and eloquently written, More Than a Soldier adds to the body of WWII literature an extraordinary story of survival and a deeply affecting portrait of a soldier’s coming-of-age.
- The iRead Review

Meet the Author:


Daniel M. Annechino, a former book editor, wrote his first book, How to Buy the Most Car for the Least Money, while working as a General Manager in the automobile business. But his passion had always been fiction, particularly thrillers. He spent two years researching serial killers before finally penning his gripping and memorable debut novel They Never Die Quietly. He has written and published five novels—all thrillers. But his latest work, More Than a Soldier, is a Historical Biography set in Italy during WWII.

A native of New York, Annechino now lives in San Diego with his wife, Jennifer. He loves to cook, enjoys a glass of vintage wine, and spends lots of leisure time on the warm beaches of Southern California.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook


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Ends May 27

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mailbox Monday for May 15



Mailbox Monday 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.

Love these new Italian-themed books that are in my mailbox this week. Can you tell I'm itching to go to Italy?

I got this one free when I signed up to the author's newsletter. This one is a novella and I devoured it. She's written other books set in Italy and I plan to read them too. 


This one is on tour with Italy Book Tours from June 19 to 30. I really enjoyed the author's first book and I look forward to reading this one.


I couldn't help getting a copy when I saw this free on Kindle. A foodie mystery set in Tuscany? Yeah, I'm in.



I couldn't resist this one when I saw it on several blogs. It's a true account set in Italy during WWII.


Did you get any good books in your mailbox this week?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Dreaming Sophia: Because Dreaming is an Art by Melissa Muldoon (Book spotlight & Giveaway!)


Today I'm kicking off the book spotlight for this dreamy novel! If you love books set in Italy and need to escape for a few hours then pick up Dreaming Sophia by Melissa Muldoon. You can read my review here and see why I liked this novel so much. And scroll down to enter the giveaway for a chance to win a copy!

Book Details:

Book Title: Dreaming Sophia: Because Dreaming is an Art by Melissa Muldoon
​Category: Adult Fiction, 232 pages
Genre: Literary
Publisher: Matta Press
Release date: August 2016
Tour dates: Nov 21 to Dec 16, 2016
Content Rating: PG (Mild profanity, and mild religious expletives, exploration Italian swear words, kissing - oh my!)

Book Description:

Dreaming Sophia is a magical look into Italy, language, art, and culture. It is a story about turning dreams into reality and learning to walk the fine line between fact and fantasy. When tragedy strikes, Sophia finds herself alone in the world, without direction and fearful of loving again. With only her vivid imagination to guide her, she begins a journey that will take her from the vineyards in Sonoma, California to a grad school in Philadelphia and, eventually, to Italy: Florence, Lucca, Rome, Verona, Venice, and Val d’Orcia.

​Through dreamlike encounters, Sophia meets Italian personalities—princes, poets, duchesses, artists, and film stars— who give her advice to help put her life back together. Following a path that takes her from grief to joy, she discovers the source of her creativity and learns to love again, turning her dreams into reality.



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Watch the Trailer:





Melissa meets Sophia Loren in March 2016!


About the Author:

Melissa Muldoon is the Studentessa Matta-the crazy linguist! In Italian, "matta" means "crazy" or "impassioned". Melissa has a B.A. in fine arts, art history and European history from Knox College, a liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, as well as a master's degree in art history from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. She has also studied painting and art history in Florence.

Melissa promotes the study of Italian language and culture through her dual-language blog, Studentessa Matta (studentessamatta.com). Melissa began the Matta blog to improve her command of the language and to connect with other language learners. It has since grown to include a podcast, "Tutti Matti per l'Italiano" and the Studentessa Matta YouTube channel. Melissa also created Matta Italian Language Immersion Tours, which she co-leads with Italian partners in Italy.

Dreaming Sophia is Melissa's first novel. It is a fanciful look at art history and Italian language and culture, but it is also the culmination of personal stories and insights resulting from her experiences living in Italy, as well as her involvement and familiarity with the Italian language, painting, and art history.

As a student, Melissa lived in Florence with an Italian family. She studied art history and painting and took beginner Italian classes. When she returned home, she threw away her Italian dictionary, assuming she'd never need it again but after launching a successful design career and starting a family, she realized something was missing in her life. That "thing" was the connection she had made with Italy and the friends who live there. Living in Florence was indeed a life-changing event! Wanting to reconnect with Italy, she decided to start learning the language again from scratch. As if indeed possessed by an Italian muse, she bought a new Italian dictionary and began her journey to fluency-a path that has led her back to Italy many times and enriched her life in countless ways.

Now, many dictionaries and grammar books later, she dedicates her time to promoting Italian language studies, further travels in Italy, and sharing her stories and insights about Italy with others. When Melissa is not traveling in Italy, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is married and has three boys and two beagles.

Melissa designed and illustrated the cover art for Dreaming Sophia. She also designed the Dreaming Sophia website and created the character illustrations that can be found in the book and on the Dreaming Sophia websites.

Connect with the Author:

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Youtube ~ Pinterest


Enter the Giveaway!

Prizes:

Win a copy of Dreaming Sophia (print open to USA & Can, ebook int’l) One winner will also get a $10 Amazon gift card (3 winners total)

Ends March 18

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Italian-themed Books I Hope to Read This Year


Top Ten Tuesday is an original weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This meme is great for those who love lists. 10 is just a suggestion to aim for if you can hit it. You can do a list of 3 or 5 or 20, whatever you decide. And you can put a spin on the topic if you need to. Each week there is a new list to create. This week the list is a FREEBIE --- that super specific list we want to make?? All ours to tackle this week! So mine is:

Italian-themed Books I Hope to Read This Year

I love books set in Italy, written by an Italian author or just based on an Italian theme. It's what made me start Italy Book Tours. Some years, I've read more Italian-themed books than others but last year not so much, so I'd like to change that. Here are the Italian-themed books I hope to read in 2017.


Nonna's Book of Mysteries by Mary A. Osborne
This is YA fiction set in Florence of Renaissance Italy. I already read Alchemy's Daughter which I loved so I've been wanting to read this for a while now.




All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani
I loved The Shoemaker's Wife. Trigiani's historical fiction novels are so good, I'm ready to dig into this one soon.




Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani
Yep! Trigiani is coming out with another one. How can I resist?




Appointment with ISIL by Joe Giordano
Giordano's historical fiction Birds of Passage impressed me last year and I'm looking forward to reading another book by this talented author.




Tempesta's Dream by Vincent B. "Chip" LoCoco
I loved LoCoco's historical fiction A Song for Bellafortuna. So I want to read his first book, an Italian opera love story set in Milan.



Early One Morning by Virginia Baily
I've had this one on my bookshelf since I got it at BookExpo in 2015.  It's got such a good premise.




The Sun and Other Stars by Brigid Pasulka
I bought this one when on vacation one summerSet in a seaside village on the Italian Riviera, it tells the story of a widowed butcher and his son...and there is a good amount of soccer...




The Garden of Letters by Alyson Richman
After reading and loving The Velvet Hours, I couldn't resist this one and I am currently halfway through the audiobook. Another winner!



Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
I just finished this one last week. I had to read it after reading Greg's review at Book Haven. It made me want to visit Florence!


What about you? Do you love books set in Italy?