Category Archives: Entertainment

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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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!

A Funny Way With Words

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As in all languages, Italian has some pretty funny way with words – idioms that are difficult to understand unless you have a pretty good command of the language! I was even stumped once with an American idiom -probably because I grew up in an Italian house and, unless I heard them at school or in a social setting, I wouldn’t have ever been exposed to them. The one that got me was “bake a file in a cake“….am I the only one that has never heard that one?

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I wanted to share some quirky Italian idioms and try to explain their meaning.

1. “Avere le braccia corte” – having short arms!

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This is used when someone is stingy and never offers to pay for anything!

2. “Hai volute la bicicletta…adesso pedala!” – you wanted a bicycle, now pedal it.

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Kind of like “you made your bed – now sleep in it!”.

3. “Quando il fieno e vicono al fuoco, bruccia” – when hay is near fire, it will burn!

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In other words, when a girl and a boy are close, sparks will fly!

4. “Hai capito Roma per toma” – you understood “roma” for “toma. As far as I know, there isn’t a translation for “toma” – it just rhymes with “roma”. It’s used when someone misunderstands something.

5. “Le piu grand l’uch del buch” – this is Lombardian dialect which translated means “the eye is bigger than the hole“. My grandmother used to tell me this every time I took down a lot of food on my plate and then left half of it uneaten. My eyes were bigger than my stomach.

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Do you have any others to add? I think these are always so funny and descriptive!

 

All in the Family

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This little girl’s voice is quite something – maybe it’s because she shares the same genes as her grandfather, Luciano Pavarotti! She’s only 11 years old but her poise – and also her power when she belts out the notes – is pretty impressive. She definitely needs some voice training to perfect her notes, but for only being 11, she is amazing! Plus, in this video, she’s singing one of the most beautiful and soulful songs ever – and I have to say that her interpretation of this song is very moving! She probably doesn’t really understand the meaning behind the lyrics, but she sure knows how to evoke the appropriate emotion!

La Befana Vien’di Notte….Trullalla!

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I posted this a few years ago….and wanted to share it again for a nice Holiday tradition!

Tonight’s the night….are your stockings hung?  All over Italy, children are awaiting the loot they will find when The Befana comes to visit.  And all women are getting ready for their day….or are they?  There’s always the question if being wished “Auguri” tomorrow is a good thing or not, since La Befana is an ugly old witch….and does it mean that whoever is wishing us cheer is thinking we are like La Befana?  Quite a dilemma, huh?  The story of La Befana is a cute one, and you can read about it on my post here:  La Befana by Tesoro Treasures.

But today, I wanted to share a fun little song from 1978, sung by the great Gianni Morandi, about La Befana.

Enjoy!

Trullalla, Trullalla!

The Befana comes at night

With shoes all broken

With a sock

Around her neck

With carbon, with iron, with brass.

On her broom

To fly

She comes from the sea, She comes from the sea.

And the snow shall fall

On the deserts of Maharaja

From Alaska to Canada.

She’ll need to leave

And she’ll sing while she leaves.

She’ll dress like a woman from the South

And with the sock she’ll arrive.

The storm will win,

And she’ll sing “Trullalla”

The Befana will arrive…

Trullalla…Trullalla!

A child,

The size of a little mouse,

Inserted himself in the chimney

To see her closeup.

When she arrives,

The Befana,

Without teeth,

Jumps and dances for some wime.

Then, hiding, she backs away

With the night stuck to her skirt.

And a warm wind will blow

on the deserts of the Maharaja

From Alaska to Canada.

Only one star will shine,

and she’ll have to follow it

to fly towards the North..

and the road is long, but

the storm will win.

And singing Trullalla

The Befana will go.

The Park of Monsters

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I subscribe to  Atlas Obscura’s facebook page, and just today this video popped up on my feed. The timing was perfect as the book I just reviewed, Michelangelo’s Ghost, takes place here in this park located a little outside of Rome. I had never heard of this place, and now, within a few days of each other, I heard about it twice! It sounds like it might be a very interesting place to visit – what do you think?