Category Archives: Reviews

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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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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Book Review: More Than A Soldier

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More Than a Soldier

 

A few weeks ago, I posted a spotlight of the book More Than A Soldier by D.M. Annechino.

D.M. Annechino

At that time, I had not read the book yet. Reading the excerpt, I was anxious to actually read the entire story – it sounded so fascinating. I’m happy to report that I just finished reading it (and I read it in record speed)! It was excellent! The writing style was such that you felt like you were experiencing all the emotions that Army Ranger Angelo Di Marco did while he was fighting in combat as well as trying to survive as a fugitive from the Nazis. His heartaches at losing his fellow Army Rangers, and his worries for his own survival and those of his comrades, were so real that the words touched my heart. This is an amazing story of determination, strength, courage and hope – as well as devastation and desperation. It’s also a story of love – the love that he felt for his family and for his fellow servicemen. The bonds that connected him to everyone, including those kind Italians that helped him survive, were so strong and beautiful. Knowing that this is a true story is all the more poignant and meaningful. I’m so glad that Angelo decided to share this amazing story before he passed away, as it is a story not to be forgotten. I can highly recommend this book as a great historical account of World War II – I very much enjoyed the humanity of this story.

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More Than a Soldier: One Army Ranger’s Daring Escape from the Nazis

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More Than a Soldier

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.

Where to Buy the Book:  ​Amazon ​

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

D.M. Annechino

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.

Guest Post by Daniel Annechino: The Life of an Author

An ex-workmate of mine who I haven’t seen since I quit my “traditional job” seven years ago contacted me the other day because he’s writing a novel and is looking for some direction. He asked me a bunch of questions that I did my best to answer, questions about grammar, editing, literary agents, and getting published. As I typed away, I realized that not one of his questions concerned marketing or promotion. This led me to believe that many aspiring writers—through no fault of their own—have no idea what the life of an author is like.

There was a time many years ago when an author did three things: They wrote. They read. They participated in book signings. But in this day and age, an age of e-books, the Internet, social media and self-publishing, writers spend more time marketing themselves than actually writing. Unless you’re a well-known author with an established following like Stephen King, Michael Connelly, or Patricia Cornwell, promoting yourself may actually be more important than what you’re promoting. In other words, “the sizzle is more important than the steak”. Buzz is everything and buzz sells books.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve learned a great deal about the complicated world of writing. Although I have a long, long way to go before I could even begin to think of myself as a successful author (at least based on my lofty expectations), each and every day I must manage my blog and frequently add new posts. Admittedly, I’ve not given my website the attention it deserves, but I do my best. I have to maintain a presence on many of the popular writers’ blogs. And perhaps most important, I must be visible on Facebook and Twitter and network as much as I can. I have to promote my book(s) and myself every-single-day.

To be honest, I’m not really fond of marketing and promoting. I wish all that was necessary to become a successful writer was to write. But that is not the way of the world; at least not in the year 2017. So, even though it pains me and gobbles up more of my day than it should, the new world of writing holds me hostage. Before you even think about publishing a book, do some homework and learn to understand the business of writing.

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The Tourist – A Movie Review

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Now I know that this movie didn’t get very good ratings – they said it was slow and predictable – but I have to say that I quite enjoyed it. I guess I’m not that much of a movie critic and I much prefer an easy to understand plot with great scenery! After all, I like to watch movies to be entertained and not to have to put on my thinking cap for too much analysis!

Angelina Jolie was absolutely stunning in this movie – from her hair, to her make up, to her wardrobe – she was so elegant and beautiful!

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She is always a very pretty woman, but in this movie, I think she was the prettiest I’ve ever seen her! Johnny Depp was entertaining as always – even though he wasn’t as good looking as he usually is! He was a bit disheveled but I guess that was the point!

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The scenery in Venice was incredible! I had to notice, though, that the director used some creative license in filming locales. The Hotel Danieli’s lobby was truly the real hotel’s lobby, but the dockside entrance was another hotel altogether. The Hotel Danieli does not have a dockside port on the Grand Canal but a side entrance along one of the little canals instead. The movie also made a plug for SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) properties when it was mentioned that the 3 most elegant hotels in Venice were the Hotel Danieli, The Gritti Palace, and the Westin Regina (all SPG properties!). Maybe SPG was a secret sponsor of the movie? Hmm….

If you want a great location movie, then I would highly recommend this one – the scenery will not disappoint at all!