Monday, October 10, 2016

Michelangelo's Ghost: A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery by Gigi Pandian (Review & Giveaway)

Book Details:

Book Title: Michelangelo's Ghost: A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery by Gigi Pandian
Category: Adult fiction, 288 pages
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Henery Press
Release date: October 2016
​Content Rating: PG

Book Description:

A lost work of art linking India to the Italian Renaissance. A killer hiding behind a centuries-old ghost story. And a hidden treasure in Italy’s macabre sculpture garden known as the Park of Monsters… Can treasure-hunting historian Jaya Jones unmask a killer ghost?

Filled with the unexpected twists, vivid historical details, and cross-cultural connections Pandian is known for, Michelangelo’s Ghost is the most fast-paced and spellbinding Jaya Jones novel to date.

When Jaya’s old professor dies under eerie circumstances shortly after discovering manuscripts that point to a treasure in Italy’s Park of Monsters, Jaya and her brother pick up the trail. From San Francisco to the heart of Italy, Jaya is haunted by a ghost story inexorably linked to the masterpieces of a long-dead artist and the deeds of a modern-day murderer. Untrustworthy colleagues, disappearing boyfriends, and old enemies—who can Jaya trust when the ghost wails?

Praise for Gigi Pandian's Jaya Jones Mysteries:

“Charming characters, a hint of romantic conflict, and just the right amount of danger will garner more fans for this cozy series.” – Publishers Weekly on Quicksand

“Pandian’s sprightly prose celebrates the pleasures of Italian painting, food, and landscape. The light touch, swift pace, and verve maintained throughout the novel disguise the deeper thought and scholarship underpinning the story, which like the stage props of a conjurer, make the magic happen.”– Linda Lappin, Author of Signatures in Stone: A Bomarzo Mystery

Buy the Book: Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble

My Review
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

Every year there is a book that I consider to be a hidden gem, a book from which I wasn't quite sure what to expect that turned out to be one of my favorites of the year. This time, Gigi Pandian's latest treasure hunt mystery novel happens to be my hidden gem. 

Jaya Jones is a treasure-hunting historian (I grew up watching Indiana Jones' movies) so her character really appealed to me. In this fourth instalment Jaya travels to Italy after she studies some manuscripts that point to the possibility of finding lost art, in particular paintings from a Renaissance Italian artist that lived for a time in India. I loved how the author connected two cultures. Jaya is of Indian descent and she links the current story (lost Renaissance art in Italy) with Indian art too. The flavors of Indian and Italian culture are interspersed throughout the novel.

I also loved that this book was set in the little-known Park of Monsters (Parco dei Mostri) also known as Gardens of Bomarzo in Italy. I have never been there although it's not far from Rome and now I really want to visit it! Jaya explores the park, and although the villagers warn her about the ghost that has been haunting the area since the 16th century, this does not deter her. The author cleverly builds on people's superstition (Italians are very superstitious) with art history, in particular that of Michelangelo's to create a suspenseful mystery with a gutsy heroine. Very clever plot!

I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery novel, its characters and the tone of the series. The story was fun, had some romance, lots of mystery and suspense and a great brother/sister relationship. It's fast paced with short chapters that makes the reader want to read just one more because of the cliffhanger endings of each one. Yeah...I read well past my bedtime.

Although this is the fourth book in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery series it's a stand alone novel and can easily be read on its own. It did make me want to read the first three books when references were made to Jaya's past adventures in other countries. Reading this book made me a fan and I will be looking up Gigi's past three novels in the series. 

To read more reviews, please visit Gigi Pandian's page on Italy Book Tours.

Meet the Author:

USA Today bestselling author Gigi Pandian is the child of cultural anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern tip of India. She spent her childhood being dragged around the world, and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Gigi writes the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries, the Accidental Alchemist mysteries, and locked-room mystery short stories. Gigi’s debut novel, Artifact, was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant and named a “Best of 2012” debut by Suspense Magazine. Her fiction has been awarded the Lefty Award and short-listed for Macavity and Agatha Awards. Sign up for her email newsletter at

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

Enter the Giveaway!

One grand prize winner will receive:

- Signed copies of the first 3 books in the series
- 6 book-themed recipe cards from the locations where each book is set (Italy, Scotland, India, France, and the US)
- $20 gift certificate to the winner’s favorite bookstore

Open to USA & Canada
Giveaway ends on Oct 29

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Italian Street Food by Paola Bacchia (Review and Giveaway!)

Book Details:

Book Title: Italian Street Food: Recipes From Italy's Bars and Hidden Laneways by Paola Bacchia
Category: Adult Nonfiction, 274 pages
Genre: Cookbook
Publisher: Smith Street
Release date: October 2016
​Content Rating: PG

Book Description:

Italy’s classic recipes are well known the world over, but few are aware of the dishes that reign on the flourishing Italian street-food scene. Hidden behind the town squares, away from the touristy restaurants, and down back streets are little-known gems offering up some of Italy’s tastiest and best-kept secret dishes that the locals prize.

ITALIAN STREET FOOD is not just another Italian cookbook; it delves into truly authentic Italian fare—the kind of secret recipes that are passed down through generations. Learn how to make authentic polpettine, arancini, stuffed cuttlefish, cannolis, and fritters, and perfect your gelato-making skills with original flavors such as lemon and basil or affogato and aperol. With beautiful stories and stunning photography throughout, ITALIAN STREET FOOD delivers an authentic, lesser known take on a much loved cuisine.


​​Buy the book: Rizzoli ~ Amazon

My Review
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

This hardbound beautiful cookbook is Paola Bacchia's ode to her love of traditional artisan Italian cooking found in Italy's bars and hidden laneways. I savored the stories of her upbringing, her search for these little-known eateries she highlights in her book and also the rich history of these artisanal foods and eateries.

This book is filled with lots of recipes, new ones I had not heard of and many of which I am familiar with because both my mother and father would make them. My dad can make a killer porchetta. I have to say this book brought back so many memories of my childhood. The gelato recipes caught my eye and I will need to try them. For the Italian foodie, this book will provide recipes of beloved dishes or twists on familiar dishes since different regions of Italy will use different ingredients for the same dish. For the North American foodie it will open up the way to bring Italian flavors into your home.

Tomatoes in Bari

The layout is very well done with complete recipe on one page and the full-page matt photograph of the dish beside it. Bacchia uses both the metric and imperial system for the amount of ingredients which is great. I grew up using the imperial because that is how my mother passed on her recipes to me. This cookbook also stays open when you are simultaneously reading and cooking a recipe from it. And there is a handy index in the back of the book. Furthermore, it also contains fantastic street photography.

Fish seller in Naples

This would make the perfect gift for the foodie in your family or if you are of Italian origin like me and want a cookbook with the recipes of dishes you are familiar with and want to preserve. This book is a work of art and clearly a labour of love. A stunningly beautiful cookbook.

Meet the Author:

​Paola Bacchia is one of Australia’s most popular Italian food bloggers. On her blog, Italy on My Mind, she shares family memories and their connections to food. It won awards for best food blog in 2013 and 2015 from ITALY Magazine. Paola returns to Italy every year to expand her knowledge of Italian food, its traditions, and innovations.

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

Enter the Giveaway!

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Corporate Citizen (Book #5 Roma series) by Gabriel Valjan

Book Details:

Book Title: Corporate Citizen by Gabriel Valjan
Category: Adult Fiction, 388 pages
Genre: Thriller / suspense
Publisher: Winter Goose Publishing
Published: Oct 5, 2016
Content Rating: PG-13 + M

Book Description:

A call for help from an old friend lands Bianca and the crew back in Boston. On a timeout with Dante, due to revelations in the aftermath of the showdown in Naples, Bianca is drawn to a mysterious new ally who understands the traumas of her past, and has some very real trauma of his own. Murder, designer drugs, and a hacker named Magician challenge our team, and Bianca learns that leaving Rendition behind might be much harder than she thinks.

Buy the book: Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble

My Review
Reviewed by Laura Fabiani

After having read the first four books I was thrilled to discover that there was a fifth book in the Roma series, thrillers set in Italy with a kick-ass female protagonist and a cast of colorful Italian character that I've come to love.

In Corporate Citizen, Bianca Nerini, a forensic accountant and hacker, decides to return to Boston to help with a case and she takes the "team" with her. Left behind because he and Bianca are taking a break from each other is Dante, her boyfriend. Once again, Bianca gets involved in a situation that involves Rendition, a covert US organization, the US military, designer drugs and murder.

As is his trademark, Gabriel Valjan mixes intelligent writing with suspense, mystery and humor to create the perfect atmosphere for pleasurable reading. I raced through this novel but also savored it as I revisited with characters who are friends that work together both to bring about justice but also because of their individual skills.

Although each book focuses on one character more than the others, Bianca is the person that ties them all together. In Corporate Citizen she seems to be in a transitional period and takes the opportunity to leave Italy when a case in Boston calls. Is she running away from Dante and her inability to share her past traumas with him? The complexity of her character is further revealed when she takes unnecessary risks with her life, as when she meets Nick Adams early on in the game. She senses understanding in him and fortunately she is right as he ends up being an ally.

Another hacker named Magician comes on the scene and he pulls the strings that challenge Bianca and her team. Once again, the twists and turns and unexpected scenes had me trying to figure it all out, but alas although loose plot threads from previous novels are tied, others are introduced. So I was left screaming for more by the end. Mr. Valjan, how can you do this to me!

But wait, to my surprise and absolute thrill, the end of the novel includes the first chapter of Crunch City (Book #6) and oh my goodness! that book starts with a bang. I simply cannot wait to read it! If you are a fan of thriller/suspense novels that include a very likeable cast of characters that not only use their law enforcement skills to solve crime but also know how to enjoy "la doce vita" as only Italians can, then you need to pick up this series. Corporate Citizen I am happy to say was a great addition to the whole series and I eagerly and impatiently await Book #6.

To read more reviews, please visit Gabriel Valjan's page on Italy Book Tours.

Read my previous reviews of the Roma series:

I interviewed Gabriel Valjan on Library of Clean Reads and asked him about his series and his writing. How long will the series continue? What are his future projects? Read my interview and find out!

Meet the Author:

Gabriel lives in Boston, Massachusetts. He is the author of the Roma Series, available from Winter Goose Publishing. Gabriel has also written numerous short stories and essays found online and in print.

Connect with the author: Website ~Twitter ~ Facebook

Enter the Giveaway!

Prizes: ​

5 winners get a paperback copy of CC
5 winners get an ebook copy of CC
1 winner gets whole set of Roma series in paperback (signed)
1 winner gets whole set of Roma series in ebook format

12 winners total
Print copies open to USA and ebooks open international
Giveaway ends Dec 17

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