Tag Archives: book review

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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Disruption – A Book Review

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Chuck Barrett has written a page turning suspenseful novel that kept me wanting to read until the end! Of course the location helped! Much of it takes place in Italy, and especially the scenes in Volterra had me vividly seeing this ancient city through his words.

Jake and Francesca are “secret agents” that are on the hunt for an Iranian madman who is planning on causing a “disruption” of the world’s technological systems. They need to find him and his accomplices before the deadline to ensure that governments don’t topple and anarchy doesn’t reign. They are whisked from Washington to Italy, Belgium, Germany and Austria by a private jet supplied by their employer following all the clues. Along the way, they encounter many roadblocks as well as heartaches. They are smart and working along with other smart individuals, they try to solve many cases in hopes that they can connect all the pieces together to stop”disruption” before it’s too late. One such case was the search for a missing aircraft. This, along with several other interesting similarities to today’s current events, was intriguing to follow. As I was reading about the search for Air Malacca’s flight 910 that disappeared over the Indian Ocean (a story fabricated by the author), I kept thinking about the missing Air Malaysia 370 flight that disappeared a couple of years ago in the same location – never to be found. At that time, I was intrigued by the story and kept following the news – and felt that maybe it had been hijacked and forced to land somewhere. It was funny that this author came to the same conclusion. Only he expanded on that theory, as can be done when you are writing your own story, but I couldn’t help but feel that maybe the same thing could have happened to that real tragic flight.

I can highly recommend this book – I really enjoyed it. The characters were well developed and the story line was easy to follow. There was a lot going on, but the parts were all connected in a logical way that didn’t have me getting confused.

Meet the author

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Chuck Barrett is the bestselling author of the Award-Winning Jake Pendleton series—Breach of Power, The Toymaker, and The Savannah Project, as well as his latest award-winning blockbuster, BLOWN, the first book in his new Gregg Kaplan series. In addition to writing thrillers, Barrett speaks and conducts workshops at book festivals, book clubs, reading groups, writers conferences, and writers groups. Some of his topics include Nuts & Bolts of Self-Publishing based on his book—Publishing Unchained: An Off-Beat Guide To Independent Publishing—as well as, Blueprint for a Successful Book Launch, Getting from ‘Idea’ to ‘Finished Manuscript,’ Mysteries & Thrillers: Fact or Fiction, and Adding the “What if” in Storytelling. Barrett is a graduate of Auburn University and a retired air traffic controller. He also holds a Commercial Pilot Certificate, Flight Instructor Certificate, and a Dive Master rating. He enjoys fly fishing, hiking, and most things outdoors. He and his wife, Debi currently reside in Colorado.

Here is a guest post by the author:

Who is Francesca Catanzaro anyway?

My latest thriller, DISRUPTION, which hit the shelves on October 25, 2016 is the fourth in the Jake Pendleton series. Naturally, Jake is the key character in every book, but there is another character that appeared in the second book, The Toymaker, and has had an increasing presence in each story since.

Sure, I’d given a little backstory in the second and third books, but, in DISRUPTION, I want to explore deeper into her past and I wanted to share that with the readers. I guess I could have just told the readers about her past, but what’s the fun in that…for any of us. So how did I do it?

Francesca is Italian, born and raised. DISRUPTION is set mostly in Italy. What better way to truly acquaint the reader with Francesca and her past than to have her past come back to haunt her while she is in Italy? Which meant, I had to first learn who Francesca really was and what made her the precision operative she had been portrayed in the prior two books. What made Francesca tick? Why is it that she can be a cold killer? Why does she seem hardened? Is it because of the job? Or something else?

DISRUPTION will explore her past, her family, her former job with AISE (Italy’s version of the CIA), her old boss, former co-corkers, ex-lovers, and more. It made me appreciate her character more than I had before this book. Much of this will give the reader an insight into Francesca that Jake doesn’t even have. And what better way to do that than to let it play out in the storyline.

Francesca is forced with moral dilemmas that torment her for most of the story. How she handles them tells a lot about her character and how it grows throughout this book. But, alas, I have probably said too much about Francesca already.

Writers tend to grow their main characters more than their secondary characters. Mostly, I think, because that’s where we want the reader to focus…on our kick-ass protagonist or our evil, sinister antagonist. But, as writers, you should know that those secondary characters, if written correctly, can make or break a story without stealing the thunder from the protagonist or antagonist.

Making Francesca’s backstory part of the main story, without it seeming to be part of the main story wasn’t the challenge I thought it was going to be. Because, deep down inside, I needed to know who Francesca really was. And I found out.

Connect with the author:  Website  ~ Twitter  ~  Facebook

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Michelangelo’s Ghost – A Book Review

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Gigi Pandian has created a tale of suspense and intrigue in the beautiful Italian countryside. Jaya Jones, a professor of art history from San Francisco, is pulled into a treasure hunt to find never-before seen masterpieces created by Lazzaro Allegri,a contemporary of Michelangelo. His sketchbooks showed his drawings of the royal courts of India – an art that spanned two continents in ways never before seen.

This story is a thrilling combination of suspence and romance. It gripped me from the beginning, and had me hooked throughout its many twists and turns, until the end. The characters were all well developed and we came to know each one of them well. You couldn’t help to fall in love with Jaya – her spunkiness and resolve were contagious and I was rooting for her all the way through!

I wholeheartedly recommend this book – it’s a fun read and takes place in my favorite location of all time: Italy!

Where to Buy the Book:   Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble

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Meet the Author:

USA Today bestselling author Gigi Pandian is the child of cultural anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern tip of India. She spent her childhood being dragged around the world, and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Gigi writes the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries, the Accidental Alchemist mysteries, and locked-room mystery short stories. Gigi’s debut novel, Artifact, was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant and named a “Best of 2012” debut by Suspense Magazine. Her fiction has been awarded the Lefty Award and short-listed for Macavity and Agatha Awards. Sign up for her email newsletter at http://www.gigipandian.com/newsletter.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

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Italian Street Food (Spotlight Review)

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Italy’s classic recipes are well known the world over, but few are aware of the dishes that reign on the flourishing Italian street-food scene. Hidden behind the town squares, away from the touristy restaurants, and down back streets are little-known gems offering up some of Italy’s tastiest and best-kept secret dishes that the locals prize.

ITALIAN STREET FOOD is not just another Italian cookbook; it delves into truly authentic Italian fare—the kind of secret recipes that are passed down through generations. Learn how to make authentic polpettine, arancini, stuffed cuttlefish, cannolis, and fritters, and perfect your gelato-making skills with original flavors such as lemon and basil or affogato and aperol. With beautiful stories and stunning photography throughout, ITALIAN STREET FOOD delivers an authentic, lesser known take on a much loved cuisine.

Where to Buy the Book:

Rizzoli  ~  Amazon

Meet The Author:

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Paola Bacchia is one of Australia’s most popular Italian food bloggers. On her blog, Italy on My Mind, she shares family memories and their connections to food. It won awards for best food blog in 2013 and 2015 from ITALY Magazine. Paola returns to Italy every year to expand her knowledge of Italian food, its traditions, and innovations.

 

Connect to the author: Website  ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram

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Corporate Citizen – A Book Review

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This is #5 of the Roma Series, in which we keep up with Alibaster Black (aka Bianca Nerini) and her super-sleuthing adventures. In this episode, the characters are back in Boston and dealing with some gruesome murders of controversial and influential individuals (to whom we were introduced to in previous books of the Roma series), a new strain of heroin called Krockodil, some military drug experiments, as well as meeting some new characters: Nick and the Magician. Nick is a veteran with a mysterious past, who has a knack of showing up after every murder…and the Magician is an online presence who seems to know how to hack into every computer and who knows LOTS of secrets!

As with the other books in the series, the story is basically exciting but I found it hard to keep all the many characters straight! There is a lot of action going on and I felt confused a lot of the time as to who was doing what. The online presences of Loki and now the Magician are mysterious because they seem to know stuff about everything! But, I have to say, I did find the descriptions of Loki’s avatars very entertaining! The descriptions were so vivid that I could easily picture them dancing across the screen morphing and expressing themselves with so many different expressions.

Here is an interview with Gabriel Valjan, the author:

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What advice would you give budding writers?

Read as widely as you can and form your own relationship to language. Each writer has one whether she is aware of it or not. Be true to the story that you want to deliver and set aside ego. Write. Revise. Get feedback from those you trust. Realize that the physical book in your hands is the result of your work, that of an editor and of a publisher. Be grateful for that and once you are done: release it so that the story can live its own life with readers and you can return to writing. Make the next story better.

Which was the hardest character to write? The easiest?

Silvio was the hardest. He is my homage to Andrea Camilleri’s character Catarella in the Inspector Montalbano series. I say that he was the hardest because I wanted to tip my hat, while at the same time do something different with my Silvio. For those readers unfamiliar with Catarella, he is a bumbling cop who, in trying to sound bureaucratic and formal, does hilarious things with language.

Easiest character? I would say Bianca. She is a composite of three people: a famous hacker I knew, a friend with a genius level IQ, and myself when I was younger. I’m not saying that I am brilliant, but I was extremely distant and analytical (and moody, as Bianca is).

Do you write every day?

I do and I am very ritualistic about my writing habit. Coffee. Exercise. More coffee. I’ll write for three to four hours, or more on a good day. My output averages to about a page an hour, although I have done more, or sometimes less. Write this way, with consistency, and you’ll have a novel in no time. I write from beginning to end and then set aside the story for revisions. I wrote Corporate Citizen in forty-three days in 2012.  The release date for the book is October 5, 2016, so that should give you some idea of the time spent editing and revising it.

In today’s tech savvy world, most writers use a computer or laptop. Have you ever written parts of your book on paper?

No. I can’t read my own handwriting at times. I will, however, walk about with a small notebook to jot down notes about dialog, an idea, or an image. I have found that to be conducive to my process.

Favorite dessert?

A Spanish plantain split which consists of deep fried plantains, vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, and toasted nuts.

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Need I say more? It is the perfect combination of crunchy texture, creaminess, sweetness, and chocolate goodness. I dare you to disagree. I’d like to try it with coconut ice cream.

If there is any one thing you want readers to remember about you, what would it be?

For readers to say that I created characters they cared about and that my stories ventured beneath the surface.

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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 Wasp’s Nest – A Book Review

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Continuing with the Roma, Underground series by Gabriel Valjan, this second book finds Bianca (Alabaster) back in Boston and working once again with Rendition.  This time, her assignment is to investigate Nasonia Pharmaceutical and it’s CEO, Cyril Sargent. who is trying to map out the genome for a species of wasp in order to discover a new form of cancer treatment.

Photo by g1.globo.com

Photo by g1.globo.com

Meanwhile, the case of the stolen antiquities which she had been working on while in Rome, continues with the extradiction of one of the key figures in the crime ring to Boston.  Because of the ties to Italy in this specific case, her friends from Rome, Farrugia and Gennaro, come to Boston as well.  While in Boston, these two uncover a conspiracy from their past, and one in which they would like to “settle the score” with.

At first, the book started off with lots of scientific talk, which I happened to understand because of my science background, but which I felt was a bit too technical.  It made for some dry reading (like reading a textbook) and I found I needed to really push myself to continue.  I honestly feel that if I hadn’t been reading this series for Italy Book Tours, I may have put the book aside.  But, I’m glad I persevered through these part, because the story got really interesting and I ended up enjoying it immensely!