Category Archives: Reviews

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!

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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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…

 

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!

An Introduction to the City of St. Anthony – Padova

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Arriving into Marco Polo airport in Venice allowed us a great bird’s eye view of the Venetian lagoon and all of its islands! It was spectacular seeing it from this vantage point.

We rented our VW Golf from Europcar and because the car wasn’t quite ready when we got there, the staff made us some espressos while we waited! Only in Italy!

A quick drive later, we arrived at our B & B in Padova: Il Cantelino Relais! The receptionist gave us a choice of 3 rooms and we took the one in a private apartment away from the main villa.It’s an adorable room with a bathroom and a shared kitchen (even though we don’t currently have anyone to share it!) The villa was actually a soap factory at one time so there is a big brick furnace as part of the garden. While we were there, a professional photographer was taking promotional pictures for the B & B’s website. We were asked to be models for their website! Even though I told them they should hire professional and beautiful models, they insisted that we were perfect!

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From the B & B, it is a quick 10 minute walk to many of the historical parts of Padova. Our first destination was the Prato della Valle. We didn’t get to really experience it’s grandeur because today was mercato day and the stands were obstucting the view. But we will return to take it all in. Instead, we enjoyed seeing all the wares at the mercato!

A short walk from the Prato is the magnificent Basilica of S. Antonio.

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The interior is completely covered in frescoes and very beautiful!

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We visited the tomb of S. Antonio and said a little prayer as we touched our hands on his marble tomb. We also visited the reliquary room where we saw his vestments and wooden coffin…not to mention his tongue, vocal cords and lower jaw (complete with teeth!) I know it sounds gruesome, but it was actually very interesting. They were all housed in gloriously ornate receptacles worthy of their priceless treasures. Also housed in another ornate vase was a piece of Christ’s cross.

Across from the Church was the Bar Ristorante Sant’Antonio where we had some great Italian pizza and some Prosecco…all while seeing the gorgeous basilica across the street. We did notice the soldiers with their machine guns standing guard across the street from the Basilica and in front of the restaurant – it seems like security has been greatly heightened around these more famous public buildings and churches.

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Fortified from our pizza, we walked to the Piazza dei Eremiti to try to see if we could visit the Scrovegni Chapel. Too late and already booked up for the day, we made plans to visit it later in the week. The chapel, though, sits inside a park which was once a Roman amphitheater. Crumbling walls still stand encircling the park.

Taking the pedestrian only walkway, we passed by stands filled with chocolate eggs and other chocolate delicacies. These were temporary stands so I’m not sure if they were only there for the day or more permanently. We’ll have to investigate later this week!

We finished off our first day in Padova with an Aperol Spritz before heading back to our little B & B!

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