The Cadence of Gypsies – A Book Review

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I have to say that this book kept me riveted from start to finish! It was an easy read and a great story!

Carolina Lovel found out at 18 that she had been adopted. Along with receiving this information (something she really wasn’t all that surprised about since she always felt that something was missing in her relationship with her adopted parents), she was given a box containing some mysterious objects, pages from a manuscript written in an unknown language, and her birth certificate which stated that she was born in Italy! From that moment on, translating the document became her obsession as well as her sanity. She found that it was similarly written to a mysterious document called the Voynich Manuscripts – an ancient gypsy manuscript which was almost impossible to decipher without LOTS of research. Carolina worked on this secret project,  revealing every tidbit only to her soulmate, Larry. Even though she shared all with him and he helped her with this endeavor, something was missing in that relationship, too. Carolina had the inner need to find herself before being able to give herself fully to another person. Larry seemed to understand this and hoped that one day she would find all the answers she searched for.

After graduating college, Carolina took a job at the Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women. She was put in charge of 3 highly gifted (genius status) girls – put in charge because, even though these girls had intelligence levels higher than their classmates, they were always getting into mischief – to the horror of the headmaster! Carolina seemed to understand these young girls and they developed a mutual respect and admiration for each other. The girls were “affectionately” known as the FIGS.

When the FIGS crossed the line and trimmed the headmaster’s prize tree into an inappropriate “sculpture”, Carolina was asked to “take care of them!”. Carolina understood the FIGS and loved them, despite their mischievous ways. She decided to channel their high intelligence and creativity with an idea. She presented it to the headmaster to get his opinion, and with his blessing, she approached the girls with a project – to help her with her private research project of deciphering the Voynich Manuscript and, with that, her letter. She planned to take the girls abroad to Italy on a study abroad program. The girls accepted the challenge with great enthusiasm and they all contributed their intellectual powers full force.

Arriving in Italy, they were given rooms in an old farmhouse run by an elderly couple. As soon as they set foot in Italy, the girls and Carolina were accepted with open arms and shown genuine affection by the couple. It was one of the first times that the FIGS knew what it was like to be loved by a family. They all thrived here and realized that they could face their futures without any fear.

Carolina and the girls threw themselves full force into their research, uncovering truths and also dark secrets. All the while that this research was happening, dark forces were also happening at the gypsy camp in town which would ultimately affect Carolina and the FIGS.

The outcome of all these things coming together is what makes the reader keep reading – what’s going to happen? How are all the puzzle pieces finally going to come together?

I can highly recommend reading this book – it will keep you enthralled until the last page!

Buy the Book:  Amazon  ~  Barnes & Noble

Author’s Bio:

Barbara Casey is the author of several award-winning novels for both adults and young adults, and numerous articles, poems, and short stories. In addition to her own writing, she is an editorial consultant and president of the Barbara Casey Agency, established in 1995, representing authors throughout the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Japan.

In 2014 Barbara became a partner in Strategic Media Books Publishing, an independent publishing house that specializes in true crime and other cutting-edge adult nonfiction.

Barbara lives on a mountain in Georgia with her husband and three dogs who adopted her: Benton, a hound-mix, Fitz, a miniature dachshund, and Gert, a Jack Russel terrier of sorts.

Connect with the author:  Website

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Interview with Barbara Casey:

Do you have another profession besides writing?

I am president and owner of the Barbara Casey Agency, representing authors throughout the United States, Great Britain, Japan, and Canada, and I am also a partner in a publishing company that publishes nonfiction/true crime.

How long have you been writing?

I started writing creatively when I was a young child. I loved writing simple rhyming poems, then built up to more involved stories as I got older.

Do you ever get writer’s block? What helps you overcome it?

Occasionally the words just don’t want to cooperate – they don’t seem to say what I want them to say. When that happens, I take my three dogs out for a long walk in the woods, and it is amazing how often that clears my head.

What is your next project?

The Cadence of Gypsies is the first book in THE F.I.G. MYSTERIES. The Wish Rider is the sequel to The Cadence of Gypsies and it is scheduled for publication May 5. So now I am working on the third book in the series.

What genre do you write and why?

I write primarily adult fiction – novels – but occasionally, as in this case, young adult novels. I also write true crime/biography, and Kathryn Kelly: The Moll behind Machine Gun Kelly has just been released.

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The Winemakers – A Book Review

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The Winemakers by Jan Moran debut

About the book:

1956: When Caterina Rosetta inherits a cottage in the countryside of Italy from a
grandmother she’s never known, she discovers a long-buried family secret — a
secret so devastating, it threatens the future of everything her mother has
worked for. Many years before, her mother’s hard-won dreams of staking her family’s claim in the vineyards of California came to fruition; but as an old murder comes to light, and Caterina uncovers a tragic secret that may destroy the man she loves, she
realizes her happiness will depend on revealing the truth of her mother’s buried
past.

From author Jan Moran comes The Winemakers, a sweeping, romantic novel that will hold you in its grasp until the last delicious sip.

Buy the book:   Amazon  ~   Barnes & Noble  ~   Kobo  ~  Chapters ~  Books-a-Million
~   Book Depository   ~  iBooks

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About Jan Moran:

Jan Moran is a Rizzoli bestselling and award winning author. She writes historical
women’s fiction for St. Martin’s Press (Scent of Triumph, The Winemakers),
contemporary women’s fiction (Flawless, Beauty Mark, Runway), and nonfiction
books (Vintage Perfumes, Fabulous Fragrances). Her stories are smart and
stylish, and written with emotional depth. Jan often draws on her international
travel and business experiences, infusing her books with realistic
details.

The Midwest Book Review and Kirkus have recommended her books, calling her heroines strong, complex, and resourceful. She likes to talk to readers at www.janmoran.com and on social media. She lives in
southern California and loves lattes and iced coffee, anything chocolate, and
Whole Foods Double Green smoothies to balance it all out.

Connect with the author at her various sites:

janmoranbooks@gmail.com
Website
Twitter
Pinterest
Facebook
Instagram

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Interview with Jan Moran:

The Winemakers is set in Napa and Italy. Have you ever visited there areas?

Napa Valley and Tuscany are two of my favorite places in the world; The Winemakers grew out of the passion I felt for these regions. I fell in love with the natural beauty and the winemakers’ sense of artistry and stewardship for the land. Add to that a leisurely lifestyle, excellent food and wine, and good friends—need I say more?

How long have you been writing?

I’ve loved reading and writing since I was a little girl. My first nonfiction book, Fabulous Fragrances, was published in 1994, and I turned to writing novels a few years later.

What are your favorite wines?

So many wonderful wines… Some that have special meaning to me include Brunello di Montalcino, one of the wines featured in The Winemakers, as well as Moone-Tsai’s Cor Leonis Cabernet Sauvignon, Chassagne Montrachet, and the Bordeaux: Pomerol, Saint-Émilion, and Margaux. Although I don’t drink a lot, for casual evenings I might enjoy an Argentine Malbec, a Californian Pinot Noir, or a creamy Chardonnay. Every wine-producing region has a unique terroir, or set of environmental characteristics, which make the wines of each area special. When traveling, I love to sample regional wines.

Do you have another profession besides writing?

I’ve had several professions in business. For example, I founded a company that created touch-screen beauty programs for Sephora and Duty Free Stores around the world, so I often draw on these business experiences in my writing. I also studied writing at the University of California in Los Angeles, majored in finance at the University of Texas in Austin (hook ‘em horns!), and earned an MBA from Harvard. After that I worked as a management consultant and headed a nonprofit charity. This variety really serves me well in writing.

If you could put yourself as a character in your book, who would you be?

Actually, I identify with many characters in my books, and I especially enjoy writing multigenerational stories.

Do you ever get writer’s block? What helps you overcome it?

Walking on the beach, exercising, or listening to music are good ways for me to summon the muse.

What is your next project?

I’m working on another historical novel set in the 20th century and can’t wait to share it with readers.

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Digging up the Past – and Discovering Treasures

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The purpose of my trip to Italy this year was to do some research into my mother’s side of the family – particularly her father’s family. I became interested in finding out about them because, unlike the other places in Italy where I have roots, the province of Padova has online records available through http://www.familysearch.org and I was able to do some research before the trip. The records available date from 1879 – 1910. This part of Italy is also where you find Cittadella – my “home town” and where all my civil records are located! My mom was born there and when I became an Italian citizen, I had the opportunity to choose either the town of my mom’s birth or my dad’s as my “home”. I chose Cittadella because it’s a beautiful medieval walled town which I’d be proud to call my Italian home!

Through my online research, I discovered that both my grandfather’s parents died in 1910 within months of each other. He was only 11 years old and was one of the oldest of 8 children. So my first thoughts were: who raised them? Were they kept together? What did his parents die of? My mother didn’t know any of this and I wasn’t sure how I was going to find out since those kinds of details aren’t readily available in civil records. Determined to figure it out, I did a search for my grandfather’s last name in the White Pages for the town where I knew they lived (in my case, Campo San Martino). I came up with 3 names and addresses, and so I wrote them a snail-mail letter! In this letter, I spelled out exactly who I was and asked if perhaps we were related. Lo and behold, I received a response from 2 of them. One response was from a man who had the same last name but was not part of my direct line of ancestors but nonetheless, he was excited to know another person with the same last name and offered to help me find my family. The other response was from the son of my mom’s first cousin! This was a direct hit! His response included pages from a manuscript which told the story of my grandfather’s family and what happened to them. It turned out that my great grandparents died during a cholera epidemic, leaving all their children behind. An adopted uncle raised the children along with his own children. In 1916, he was responsible for 21 people! This manuscript was beautifully written, but I only had parts of it and I wanted to find out who wrote it and how I could get a full copy! All of these things, plus the desire to meet these newfound cousins, sparked my desire to make this genealogical research trip to the Padova area. Here is my story of discovery and amazement – how all the pieces came together, even more so than I had ever expected!

Our first stop on this journey was Busiago, within the city limits of Campo San Martino. This is the town where my mom’s mother’s family grew up and so I thought that this might be where my grandparents had gotten married. We tried to go to Mass but got the time wrong and so ended up at the church after Communion. We hung around after Mass to see if we could meet the priest and ask some questions about locating my grandparent’s marriage records. We didn’t get to speak to him but we learned that the church had been rebuilt in the 1950’s and therefore the original edifice was no longer there.

We wandered around Busiago a bit – there were prosecco grapes growing all around!  That was all the research we had time for that day, but we had plans to return.

The next day, Monday, we headed back out to the Campo San Martino area and made a visit to the archive office. I was able to locate my grandparent’s marriage certificate as well as my aunt’s birth certificate. Another mystery opened up to me – my grandparents didn’t legally register their marriage until 1927, even though my aunt was born in 1925! Their marriage certificate indicated that they were registering their marriage to legitimize the birth of their daughter. My aunt’s birth certificate showed only my grandfather’s name and no mention of her mother. Did they perhaps get married in church years before and didn’t legally register their marriage civilly? As I found out, only beginning in 1929, did the priest have the authority to legally marry a couple. Before that, a church wedding did not constitute a legal one. I am currently awaiting news from the priest from to see if he can locate the church records of my grandparents’ wedding to see when it really took place.

A trip to the cemeteries of Busiago and Marsango was next. Sadly, most of my ancestors’ graves have been dug up – evidently, the graves are dug up from the ground after 30 years. The only old ones remaining are those that have a crypt. Wandering around Marsango’s cemetery, though, I found two graves which were of interest. I took pictures to remind me of the details.

The next day, we visited the archive office of San Giorgio delle Pertiche which comprises the town of Arsego. Arsego is where my mom lived when she was born and before moving to Lago Maggiore. We didn’t find any real info at the archive office, but decided to visit the church in Arsego to see if maybe my mom’s baptismal records were there. When we met with the priest, he informed us that he had a gentleman who was responsible for the research for these types of records and for me to give him a call in the afternoon to set up an appointment. When we met him in the afternoon, he welcomed us into the rectory. I explained my research and when I gave him my mom’s name, he reacted with a surprised stare. When I confirmed the name, he sat back and said that that was a name that meant a lot to him since he was the grandson of the man who had been adopted by my great-great grandparents and who raised my grandfather after his parents had died! This was a huge surprise and totally unexpected. I told him about the pages of a manuscript that had been sent me and he informed me that he was the author of that manuscript!

He had been a professor of history and therefore very knowledgeable about the historical details of the time period in question. He promised me that he would make me a copy of the entire manuscript to have for my records. He and I were so excited about this coincidence that we had to celebrate! So he took us to the children’s afterschool snack shack at the church where we ordered prosecco! Ha! Ha! Only in Italy! We made plans to see each other the following afternoon, when he would give me the manuscript.

The next morning, Wednesday, I had made plans to visit with my mom’s cousin. When we arrived at their house, we were greeted by a whole group of people. They were so warm and welcoming and invited us into their home…and fed us some delicious pastries! They pulled out a lot of old family photos and were explaining to me who everyone was. They were all so excited to meet us and promised to show us around the Veneto the next time we go! Such a warm welcome from everyone!

That afternoon we went to pick up the manuscript. It was given it to me with so much enthusiasm! He was so excited to be able to share his story (and the story of my ancestors) with me! It’s a great memory which I will always treasure. I plan on translating it into English so that I can pass it down to my children! Once more, to celebrate, he took us to the local bar for another toast (Prosecco)! They sure like to celebrate in Italy every chance they get!

Our last day of family research took us to the church in Marsango. This may actually be the church where my grandparents were married, even though I’m still waiting for the results of that search.

Also, with all the excitement, we realized that we never located my mom’s baptismal certificate in Arsego. But then, after talking to the priest, he mentioned that she was probably baptized at the hospital in Cittadella immediately after her birth, and that those records are probably there. Getting these additional records and maybe some others that are missing from my research will be for a future project. For now, I am so excited about the discoveries that I made – this trip exceeded all my expectations!

The Venetian Wine Road

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I had always heard of the Euganean Hills and of the thermal spas there, but I didn’t realize that they were also an area rich in vines. Since we had a few hours to explore before boarding our plane in Venice, we decided to take a short drive from Padua to view this beautiful countryside and charming little villages. The one village which we decided to explore was actually the home of the famous poet, Petrarch from the 1300’s.This tiny town, Arqua Petrarca,known as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, sits up on a hill and overlooks lots of vineyards.

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 Cobblestoned streets and homes made out of stone fill the tiny town which can easily be seen in an hour or so.

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It was fun to stop into one of the little wine bars and have an excellent lunch while overlooking the gorgeous valleys below. We chose one of the few that was open – L’Enoteca di Arqua.

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The food was delicious – we sampled the lasagna and the polenta with mushrooms. Both were delicious!

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It was kind of a sleepy town when we were there in March, but I’m sure during the height of the summer, it comes alive with lots more restaurants and shops. This area is also known for it’s trails, and the Path of St. Anthony wanders through this town – connecting it to others along the path.

 

The Walled City of Cittadella

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Not far from Padova is Cittadella – one of Italy’s best preserved medieval walls.

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Washed out frescoes can still be seen decorating the gates into the citadel.

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It’s duomo is majestic and the Old Town allows you to step back in time!

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We found the town really deserted with the shops closed down and hardly anyone on the streets. A bit confused, we tried to figure it out. As it turns out, we were wandering the town around 1 pm (right during the main meal time of the day) and everyone was either home eating or at the restaurants. We were proven right when we decided to eat at Al Cappello on the main drag – upon entering, we saw all the people that were missing from the street inside! It was packed! I had the special Vitello Tonnato – it was good but a little rich for my tastes. Next time, I’ll know to order something simpler…

 

Padova Finale

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During our trip, we split up our exploration of Padova over several days. Padova is actually very small and you can visit the same places several times over – but the beauty is that you can explore these places at different times of the day and have a completely new experience. During our final saunter into Padova, during daylight hours, we revisited Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza della Frutta (along with the “food court” located between the two underneath the Palazzo della Raggione.) The food court is actually a marketplace for meats, cheeses, pasta, and fish.

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 Everything looked delicious and fresh, and you can be sure if I lived there, this is where I would do all my shopping! In either piazza, you could also pick up your fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers! Supermarkets are great, but I don’t think anything can replace the quality of food that can be found in these establishments – some of them in existence for centuries. I heard a rumor that these kinds of shops were dying…let’s hope not! This slow food movement (at least, that’s what I’m calling it) has to persist and I feel has a very important place in society – not only for our physical health but also our mental one! Neighbors and friends find each other here, and even take a break from their shopping to share an espresso or glass of prosecco! Relaxing and socializing with each other is good for us…we are social creatures who need interactions with others! You can’t get that at the supermarket!

After wandering and lusting over all the food we saw, our appetite was getting the best of us – as well as the desire to sit in an Italian piazza sipping on a glass of wine while eating a delicious panino sandwich! In the Piazza delle Erbe, tucked into a corner, is a gorgeous outdoor restaurant, Bar Nazionale, which specializes in panino’s and tramezzino’s (small sandwiches grilled on thinly sliced bread and filled with all sorts of goodies!)

You can people watch, drink an aperitivo, and eat simple fare while surrounded by stunning architecture.

Right above us was the old Palazzo della Raggione which deserved a quick look see. We had purchased a 48 hour Padova Card for our time in Padova – many of the buildings are free with this card. The buses are free, too, so it’s a pretty good deal. The Palazzo della Raggione was included in the Padova Card and so we thought we’d take advantage of the card and have a look. You need to walk up some stairs, but once up, you have a great view of the piazza below as well as a chance to walk under some heavily frescoed arched ceilings. Anytime I see painted ceilings, I fall in love!

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From here, you enter into a huge hall, which once again, is completely frescoed. The decorations are always so stunning and it’s unbelievable how many places have such rich wall and ceiling decorations! There sure were a lot of artists being kept employed in all this decoration!

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Near these piazzas and definitely within walking distance is the Palazzo del Bo. It is actually one of the University of Padova’s many campuses and, surprisingly, one we had walked through the evening before. Little did we know at that time that this was one of Padova’s main attractions! Within this campus is the Anatomy Theater where the inside of the human body was originally explored. We took a tour to see this interesting theater – it includes 6 or 7 tiers of balconies where the students could look down on the cadaver and observe the interior of the body.

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The cadavers were those of dead convicts and it was believed that by allowing their bodies to be used for science, they would be forgiven their sins and find an easier way into purgatory. The scholars had to find ways to appease the Church in order to perform these scientific experiments and this arrangement seemed to make everyone happy. This campus was also where Galileo Gallilei taught mathematics for many years, before he was excommunicated from the Church for his astrological beliefs.

From here, we walked to the Piazza dei Eremiti to explore the church there. This old church, built in the 13th century, was heavily bombed during WWII so many of the frescoes were damaged.

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An orchestra was setting up on the altar and we got to hear a bit of their practicing – the acoustics were incredible and the sound unbelievably beautiful. Too bad we couldn’t stay for the concert, but we had tickets to see the Scrovegni Chapel decorated by Giotto. This was the private chapel of a nobleman name Scrovegni, who had a gorgeous palace built for him and his family on the grounds of an ancient Roman arena. Sadly, the palace is gone, but fortunately the chapel has remained.

The wall frescoes tell the story of Mary and Jesus, and you can “read” the stories from the Bible within the panels. The Scrovegni Chapel is included in the Padova Card with free admission.

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Dinner tonight was at Gourmeteria – an excellent restaurant and shop! Everything we ate was delicious and very fresh. I had gnocchi with a butter/sage sauce – so good!

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Lots to See in Padova – Even at Night!

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Padova’s noble status becomes evident as you wander around the Old Town. Large plazas, huge churches, immense public buildings, and one of the oldest universities in Europe can all be found within steps of each other.

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One of my favorite spots is Prato delle Valle where on Saturday you can find a huge mercato, but whose immenseness and grandeur need to be appreciated without any obstructions!

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Walking up pedestrian only streets, passing gorgeous storefronts, you arrive at Piazza dei Signori with its ornate public buildings housing the City Hall.

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At one end you find a huge clock which tells you not only the time but the date and the current moon phase (among, I’m sure, other useful information)!

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Passing through an arch, you walk through the most impressive food court that has been there for hundreds of years, ending up in Piazza delle Erbe!

There is so much to see and do in close proximity to each other. Even though we saw most of these sights at night and in the rain, they were still captivating!