Venetian Blood – A Book Review

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Venetian Blood

Anna comes to Venice to meet an old friend, only to find out that she has been accused of murdering a very prominent member of Venetian society – and someone whom she’d had a brief affair with. Things get sticky as she tries to clear her name, and it seems like someone is out to get her. Being followed through the labyrinthian calles of Venice and a near death experience are some of the dangers she faces as she tries to sort out the puzzle surrounding her. She meets some very unusual characters and is invited into some of the most amazing palazzos in Venice.

The vivid descriptions of Venice in this book by Christine Evelyn Volker make this story come alive. We are invited into the grand palazzos of Venice and she makes us feel every detail. Sometimes, though, I felt it was a little too much detail and too wordy. I had a little difficulty staying connected to the story. The plot was great and, of course, the setting was perfect, though, so if you enjoy Venice and a good suspenseful story, this is a good read.

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Guest Post by Christine Evelyn Volker:

Venetian Blood: Murder in a Sensuous City traces its origins all the way back to 1991. My friend Laura had invited me to join her in Venice, which I had visited briefly, years earlier.  After she met me at the train station, we squeezed into a packed vaporetto and zigzagged down the Grand Canal. We passed palazzos, hiding their ancient secrets in the night air. We threaded through twisting alleyways and made our way toward Campo Sant’ Anzolo. Hotel Gallini, she explained, would be where I’d lodge; she and the others would be staying with a count, who—at that point—was out of room. His palazzo was already full with three American friends—one pregnant, and two Chileans. The count, as I recalled, was not fond of the singing gondoliers rounding the corner of his sumptuous palazzo. But he did have a special place in his heart for plaster casts of relatives’ hands, and for his exquisite library.

A year later, having moved to Milan for business, I returned to Venice many times, exploring its remote corners, strolling along its embankments, swimming at the Lido beach, and marveling at the city’s beauty and unique history. A place like no other, I was convinced: a miracle of survival in a sometimes hostile sea.

Years passed. My recollections of Venice faded, but my love for the city did not. As I underwent difficult times, I was drawn to writing, giving a voice to pain, fusing memories and imaginings, and rediscovering a magical place.

If those of you who read my book identify parts of my protagonist’s voyage with my experiences above, you’d be right. For many reasons, the story of Anna, striving to prove her innocence in the murder of a Venetian count, could take place nowhere else on earth.

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A Year in the Company of Freaks – A Book Review

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A Year in the Company of Freaks

I recently read this highly enjoyable book by Teresa Neumann. This book was funny, fast paced, and a real pleasure to read. This book takes place during the early 1970″s when hippies were trying to find out of the way places to escape civilization for a while. Sid was born and raised in a small town in Northern California called Trinity Springs. A horrible tragedy during his early life left him feeling lost. While trying to make sense of his life, he ended up doing something really stupid which caused him to earn a year of probation back on his home farm. The sheriff in charge of his parole happened to love this young man, even though he was becoming harder and harder to love. Knowing full well what would set him straight, he “sentenced” him to a year of hard labor on his farm. He also put an ad out for some boarders to help with the expenses of running the farm. Four others joined Sid at his farm – an odd group of people, with nothing in common except for being somewhat lost in their lives – came together for a year to live and work together. Their trials and tribulations during this year were both hilarious and heart-wrenching at the same time. They all needed something and were hoping to find it out in lonely Trinity Springs.

I can highly recommend this book – you end up rooting for each and every character and are anxious to see where life ends up taking them during and after this year spent together.

Meet the Author

Teresa Neumann

 

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.

Here’s a little guest post by the author, Teresa Neumann

Italy Meets California in a Stereo Breaking — or Not — Hippie Adventure 

Years ago, my high-school aged children and their friends began badgering my husband and I about our old “hippie days.” Despite my admonition that it wasn’t all “flowers and rainbows” – that there were equal parts “thorns and twisters” – they, like most fun-loving adolescents and adults, preferred to believe that you can “have your cake and eat it too.”

The truth is, you can have fun, but cross certain lines – illegal or legal — and fun can become dangerous and even criminal, with all the consequences that go with it. Thus was born A Year in the Company Freaks, based on my personal observations and coming-of-age experiences living as a Midwest transplant in northern California in the early 1970’s. Considering the truly stupid, reckless things I did in my youth, it’s a miracle I lived to write a novel about that time period!

Now, for those familiar with my first two books – Bianca’s Vineyard and Domenico’s Table – although the setting of Freaks is America, a deep love for Italy definitely bled over into my third novel. For example, the main character, Siderno “Sid” Jackson, is half-Italian and it’s exactly that Italian “half” that helps ground him as he navigates the challenges he faces after getting busted for growing pot. Of course, wine also figures into the storyline. What story about Italians wouldn’t? However, it takes a back seat to pot. This is northern California – ground zero for the marijuana revolution in the U.S. — and Sid is, after all, Italian-AMERICAN.

Other colorful characters play central roles in Freaks (an albino biker from Texas, a tripwire Vietnam Vet, a Jesus Freak, etc.) giving many opportunities to explore, and often break, stereotypes – a key element of the book as well.

Except, that is, when it comes to Italians.

You just can’t break the stereotype of Italians being family-loving, food-loving, wine-loving, passionate lovers of life because that’s exactly what so many of them are. At least many of the ones I know!

And with family-loving, food-loving, wine-loving Sid Jackson, it just might be his saving grace – from loving pot too much.

Connect with the Author:  Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter

Buy the Book:
Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble
Add to Goodreads

 

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A Love Story and a Wedding

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Once my dad decided that the USA was a nice place to settle down, he sent word home that he was coming back to get married! Since my mom had lost her mother when she was 9 years old, my father’s mother took over that role for her. She took her shopping for everything – mainly the favors and the fabric for her wedding dress. The wedding was going to take place the day after Christmas and the dress had to be designed to fit the season. They decided that it was going to be made of pizzo di lana or wool lace. They chose the fabric and a tea length design to go with the fashions of the times. The seamstress made an incredible gown, that even today, is still in wonderful condition. This dress is definitely an heirloom and a treasure. My mother told me that before sewing the hem, the dress needed to be hung for several days so that the weight of it would settle and the hem could be made straight. One of my mom’s friends was a professional model in Milan, and her wedding gift to my mom was the veil! They went to a very exquisite boutique on the infamous Via Montenapoleone in Milan for the headpiece. Sadly, the veil did not made it through the years. The stays became rusted and ruined the fabric covering the corona.

A few weeks before the wedding, as was the custom, the bride and the groom would make the rounds of their guests and bring the confetti or favors. Because my dad was coming home only two days before the wedding, he wouldn’t be able to go with my mom to make these visits. My uncle ended up going with her instead. Even though she appreciated that he was escorting her, she wished that it had been her fiancé.

The day my father was expected to arrive home was a very foggy and gloomy December day. He would be arriving from Milan by train to their little town of Ispra. My mom wanted to surprise my dad by meeting him at the train station, but it was so foggy that she had a hard time seeing anything. Every person she passed, she stared at them hoping that it would be my father. None of them were, and she went back home forlorn and sad.

That afternoon, my father’s sister came running to her house announcing that my dad had finally arrived!  Why he didn’t go down to her home himself, I don’t know, but maybe that’s just the way things were done back them!

They spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day together and all the final preparations for the wedding were made. My father had brought back some vacuum sealed cold cuts from America that were given to him by some friends that owned a salami factory in San Francisco. Vacuum sealing was a new concept at that time, and everyone was so impressed that these cold cuts had come all the way from America. (It’s funny how, at that time, anything that came from America was the best – and now we know that when it comes to cold cuts, Italian products are so much better!). Little finger sandwiches were made with these American delicacies for the wedding feast!

On the day of the wedding, my dad went to my mom’s house with the wedding bouquet. He and my mom walked to the church with their entire entourage of family and friends following behind them. The walk was not far, but the path was all cobblestoned. That didn’t seem to bother my mom as she wore her silk high heeled shoes. She said it was a good thing it wasn’t raining that day, or her shoes would have been ruined!

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During the wedding ceremony, my mom took off her engagement ring and presented it to the Madonna as she had promised when my dad had gone off to America. He had come back, they had gotten married, and now she was going to keep her promise. To this day, on the feast of the Madonna, when they parade the statue through the town, her ring is still there. My mom’s best friend looks for it every year and reports back to my mom!

The reception took place at the villa where my grandmother lived. They had finger foods, champagne, and a beautiful wedding cake (a gift from the town baker, a good friend of my dad’s). They posed for some gorgeous wedding photos and this album has become a beautiful (and rare) treasure to have.

After the reception, the newlyweds took off to begin their honeymoon. The first night was spent in Milan at the Hotel Principe di Savoia.When I went to Milan a few years ago, I was surprised to find out that my hotel was across the street from this very hotel that my parents had stayed at so many years ago. I had to go in to see it and it was still as beautiful and stately as I’m sure it was back in 1955. Before retiring for the night, they had made arrangements to go see a show – Walter Chiari at the Teatro Nuovo . They took the metro and stayed out enjoying their special night. The next morning, they were woken up by the maid because they were still sleeping at 11 am! They were probably so exhausted from all the preparations and excitement of the days before.

They boarded a train that would take them to their honeymoon destination: San Remo on the Italian Coast. I haven’t heard too many stories of this part of the trip only that they visited the famous casino there and dined in the vagone ristorante on the way to San Remo.

Once home from their honeymoon, my dad had to prepare for his trip back to San Francisco. In the meantime, my mom settled her dad with her sister while she moved into the villa with my dad’s mom and younger sister. She didn’t know when she would get the Visa to come to the USA and therefore felt it would be better if she got all her ducks in a row. Little did she know it would take almost three years before she would get that Visa to come to America.

During her time in Italy, while my dad was in the USA, she continued to work. When she got home, she would help my grandmother with her sewing jobs. She shared a room with my father’s youngest sister and they became close friends. They spent time with the custodian’s sisters who were from Sardegna. Young men would pass on the road, looking at these beautiful young girls, and they would refer to my mom as the frutto proibito or the forbidden fruit! My mom missed my dad and the wait was becoming harder and harder to bear.

My dad would come home when he could, and the last time he came home before my mom was allowed to immigrate was going to be the last time. If she wasn’t granted a Visa, he wasn’t going to return to San Francisco. But in a last ditch effort, he asked a priest whom he had known his whole life for assistance. This priest knew the cardinal of Milan, Cardinal Montini. He and my dad went to Milan where they met with the Cardinal’s secretary. They came back very hopeful and were assured that things would work out shortly. Within days, my mom was summoned to the American Consulate in Genova. She was given a physical, and asked some questions as to her intent to emigrate. She was sent home and within a week, she received the notice that the Visa she desired was approved with the help of Cardinal Montini. She was on her way at last. Little did she realize that this same Cardinal Montini would become Pope Paul VI! She still has the letter from the Cardinal granting her the wish she so desired!

She packed a giant trunk and filled it with her dowry. She had linens, tea sets, clothes, and a Madonna that used to be in her bedroom. The mirror on the back of the Madonna was the only thing that broke on the long voyage to San Francisco. Seven years of bad luck definitely did not follow her, though!

My Dad and America!

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The story of how my family came to the USA is a bit convoluted – but which immigration saga isn’t? The twists and turns of how things turned out are what makes these stories so fascinating. The crazy, and sometimes funny adventures that occurred during the actual immigration, are truly gems in my eyes. They are treasures that I want to remember forever and to pass on to my children. So here goes my story:

It all started out with my paternal grandfather and his brother. These two young boys from the early 1900’s had dreams of coming to America! My uncle came first (around 1905) and somehow found his way to San Francisco. The story goes that he made the voyage in a crate, but who knows how much of that is really true! Perhaps he was a stowaway? Again, who knows! All we know is that he settled in San Francisco and ended up owning a very prosperous restaurant. This SF uncle would eventually become our connection to the USA. My grandfather, on the other hand, came a bit later to enlist in World War I as an American! He probably saw that as his ticket to residency. Here’s a picture of my grandfather in his uniform.

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Even though my grandfather enlisted in World War I in 1917, he never saw battle. At the end of the war, he went back to Italy and got married to my grandmother. It’s not clear if they were already sweethearts or not but that’s why, perhaps, he went back. They married in 1920 and had their first child, my aunt, in 1922. In July of 1926, my dad came along. When my dad was 4 months old, my grandfather decided to bring his family to the USA. They sailed from Genova aboard the Conte Rosso – my grandmother, my grandfather, my aunt and my dad. Here they are posing for their portrait!

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They settled in Milford, NH. My grandfather ran a granite yard there. They stayed for 4 years, during which time my uncle was born (automatically making him an American citizen – this will become important later in the story!). My grandmother tried to endure life in America for her husband’s sake, but she really didn’t like it here. To please her, my grandfather decided to return to Italy with his family in tow. Here they are on their return to Italy (this time there are 3 children):

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They settled in Ispra where my dad stayed until he immigrated in 1955. According to records I discovered on Ancestry, my grandfather returned one more time to the USA in 1930. No one knows why and I guess we never will. I don’t know how long he stayed, but he was back before my aunt was born in 1933! My grandfather died at the young age of 51 from meningitis, leaving behind his family during the height of World War II. Because he died during the War, during a time when everyone was concentrating on the pure act of survival, many of his stories died along with him. Even my dad, who was 15 at the time of his father’s death, didn’t know much of his father’s life. I’ve found, that sadly, the old folks didn’t talk much about their lives and the younger generation didn’t feel it was important to ask. Nowadays, these stories would be so precious to have and to be able to pass down to future generations.

When my dad’s younger brother (the one born in America) turned 18, he was asked to come back to the USA to serve his military duty. I think he did his military duty  up in Alaska, but unfortunately, I’m not really sure of the details. I believe this was during the Korean War. After his military stint, he decided to try his luck in San Francisco (remember, they had an uncle there who owned a restaurant). My dad’s brother met his future wife and settled in SF, never returning to Italy.

Now back to Italy and my dad! My dad was a successful soccer player but he was getting older, and knowing that he couldn’t play soccer forever, he was searching for a change in his life. Italy was still depressed and trying to recover from the devastations of war. There wasn’t much in the way of jobs, and things were not looking too prosperous. He was already engaged to my mom and asked her, if he were to go to America, would she follow? Being young and in love, my mom told him that she would follow him wherever he went! He presented her with an engagement ring and told her he would go to America to scope things out. He promised he’d come back to marry her. And if things were good, he’d bring her back with him to the USA. My mom made a promise to the Virgin Mary that if he truly came back for her, she would give her ring to the Madonna! But she also gave him a one year ultimatum – she wouldn’t wait longer than one year! Back then, men came to America and never went back! My dad decided that he wanted to go to San Francisco, since he had a brother and an uncle already there. My dad left Genoa aboard the Andrea Doria in March of 1955.  My mom, my father’s aunt, and two of his best friends went to see him off. One of his friends was so upset to see him go, that he ran after the ship as far as he could go.

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Upon boarding the ship, my dad felt great! He said the ship was so much fun – he played cards and ate and drank to his heart’s content. As soon as it exited the Straits of Gibralter, though, things took a turn for the worse. My dad ended up getting so sea sick that he wasn’t able to get out of his bunk for the entire 2 weeks of voyage to New York. During this time, he wrote letters to my mom telling her that he wished he could die.

Upon setting foot on shore in New York, he immediately felt better – and hungry! I’m sure he ate something right away, but he also shared a fellow passengers’ yummy Italian treats! I’m not sure how long he spent in New York, but he needed to take a cross-country train to Oakland/San Francisco. He was under the impression that the train he boarded in New York would take him all the way – whoops! No one told him that he would have to change trains in Chicago. When the train stopped in Chicago, he had to scramble to find out where he needed to go for his connection. Not speaking English, he was definitely quite confused. Luckily for him, a member of the Armed Services came to his aid and directed him to where he needed to go. He made the connection and continued his journey to Oakland/San Francisco, where he was united with his brother.

Upon arriving, he lived in a small basement apartment in the same building as his brother. He wrote at least three letters a week to my mom telling her how much he missed her and loved her. They would occasionally make dates for a phone call, a complicated and, often times, frustrating experience. There were very few telephones in their little home town in Italy, and whenever my mom knew that my dad would try to call her because he had made a date with her in his letters, she had to find herself at that location. The place that she chose was the new “supermarket” in town. The owners of this market were probably just as excited as she was whenever she went over to receive the call from America! They quickly became close to this young woman who’s boyfriend was so far away. The calls themselves were difficult because most of the time the connection was so poor that all they could really say to each other was how much they loved and missed each other. When my mom sees the communication nowadays, and sees how I chat to my cousins in Italy via Skype, Face Time, etc. she just shakes her head and says how nice it would have been if she would have been able to have that during those years that her and my dad were apart.

My father went to work as a dishwasher in his uncle’s restaurant and slowly learned the workings of the restaurant business. My dad went from the pampered life of an athlete to being a dishwasher! He never complained and took the blisters and sores as a badge of honor. He realized that the USA presented a lot of opportunities, and so he decided that he liked it and would bring his future wife here. Vowing never to set foot on a ship again, he saved fervently for a flight back home. Air travel was super expensive in those days and he had to work and save for months in order to afford the trip. But after only 3 months of being here, he sent word that he was coming home to marry his sweetheart. Plans were made and a wedding was planned for the day after Christmas 1955.

Surprises with Google Maps

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Ispra’s town square from Google Maps

If you’ve never tried it, looking at the street view on Google maps is loads of fun. I’ve used it, of course, to check out my own home but also to look at potential hotels and other places to visit. The fun thing about it is that sometimes you can see cars, people, and animals that are familiar to you – they just happened to be around when the google car drove by mapping out the street.

 

A few days ago, I decided to “Google walk” down the streets of my parents’ home town in Ispra, on Lago Maggiore. I know the town pretty well so it was fun seeing all the old places that are so familiar to me. While I was “walking” in front of my aunt’s home, I noticed a car with two women standing outside. One of those women was my aunt and it brought such a smile to my face. You see, my aunt passed away a couple of years ago, and seeing her once more was such a blessing. She was always a really fun loving woman, full of life. The expression on her face as the funny-looking google car was driving down her street taking pictures was absolutely priceless! Her and her friend were looking at it like it was “una bestia rara” – a rare beast! (I love that expression – it’s so fitting!).

Try it sometime, you’ll love it! Especially when you discover little gems like I did! What a special treat!

Appointment with Isil – A Book Review

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Joe Giordano has written a suspenseful thriller that sends us all over the Mediterranean – such as Greece, Turkey, Italy, Malta – dealing with Russian and Italian mobsters, as well as ISIL. It all begins when Anthony Provati, a young good looking boy from New York City flirts with the wrong woman! Meeting in a bar while he’s playing music, their eyes meet. This flirtation doesn’t go unnoticed by her Russian mobster boyfriend. Things heat up and Anthony ends up dealing with a whole lot of trouble (and really bad guys). Terrorism, executions – they’re all a huge part of the plot of this story that keeps you hooked until the end.

I would have liked to have a couple of the characters explored more in depth –  particularly Angie Dekker and Noki. Both seemed to be important characters of the story, but their stories weren’t really expanded on. In fact, Angie Dekker was presented at the beginning and then didn’t re-surface until almost the end. When she did re-surface, it was very brief. It’s almost as if they lost their place in the story.

If you’re looking for a quick suspenseful read, this would be a great story to keep you hooked. It has it’s drawbacks, but on the whole, I would recommend it.

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Book Spotlight: Dancing in the Rain

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I’ve been asked to spotlight this new book by Lucy Appadoo on my blog. I haven’t read this book yet, but I’d like to soon! It sounds like something right up my alley!

Dancing in the Rain

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?

Meet the Author:
Lucy Appadoo

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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