Tag Archives: Italy

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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Port of No Return – A Book Review

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Historical fiction novels about Italy during World War II always seem to fascinate me – probably because the stories hit pretty close to home since my parents lived through this horrible time in Italy.  Neither one of my parents, though, remembers it as being really terrible – I guess they were the lucky ones.  But after reading several accounts of the atrocities that occurred in Italy, I am devastated to learn that so many innocent people lost their lives – and if they survived, they lived through some pretty horrible experiences.  My parents speak about the poverty, but their stories tend to be more human interest stories rather than accounts of despair and fear.  My mother tells a great story of her and her sister going to collect the rationed jam, of which each family was only allowed one jar per month. The two little girls, aged 8 & 7, were sent by their parents to go and pick it up.  On the way home, they decided to sample some. One spoonful for one, another spoonful for the other, and by the time they got home, the jam was all gone! My mom says that it tasted so good that they just couldn’t stop!

Michelle Saftich’s novel, Port of No Return, speaks of life in Fiume, a town now a part of Croatia.

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Back before the war, it was a part of Italy, and during the war, it was occupied by the Germans. Towards the end of the war and even afterwards, it became a hotbed of political tensions between the Yugoslav Communists (or Partisans) and those who worked for the Germans. Families were just trying to eek out a living to support themselves and therefore found work wherever there were jobs.  Many of those jobs involved working on German projects.Tensions became so high that the Partisans fought everyone they felt supported the Germans. Families had to split up and flee their homes, taking refuge in refugee camps.  This story tells the story of the Sartoro family – mother, father, nonna and 5 children.  Ettore, the father, had worked in the naval yards run by the Germans, even though his allegiances were always to Italy. Word got out that the Yugoslav’s were coming to even the score with the Germans, and everyone involved with working for them was fair game. Ettore ran for his life, leaving behind his entire family. Months passed and the family had to escape Fiume as well.  They had to leave everything they had ever known.

The story tells of the hardships that both Ettore and his family faced, and their struggle to find each other.Even after the war was over, life was still unbearable – they were living in horrendous conditions in refugee camps – but their spirit remained strong and their commitment to family was beautiful.

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They were determined to create a better life, and this meant leaving the world they knew and venture to unknown lands. The end of the book finds the family embarking on a voyage to Australia and to the new life awaiting them there.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and I hope that a sequel will follow that tells of their new life in Australia.

Threading the Needle – Book 3 of the Roma Underground Series

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51LbKc8yJjL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_[1]This 3rd book in the Roma Underground series finds the characters all back in Italy – this time in Milan.  While there, they investigate the murder of a young American student, Charlie Brooks.  He is murdered right after he meets Bianca at a restaurant and hands her some secret files regarding details of a tank being built by Adastra, a USA defense contractor.  What about this tank makes it so secret that Charlie and his assassins are killed?  That is the answer that Bianca wants to find out, and this involves delving into government secrets and conspiracies.  Loki, Bianca’s online “friend” tells her to stay away from this case, but Bianca doesn’t heed her warnings! Meanwhile this is happening, an aspiring Italian political figure is found dead.  The two cases seem so different, but clues surface which make it seem like the two may be related.

I enjoyed this book more than the other books in the series, and I think it’s because I am now familiar with the characters and know each of their personalities.  This story moved quickly and I liked the descriptions of the locations in Milan…I also liked the history lesson about the terrorism that plagued Italy from the 1960’s to the 1980’s.

 

Roma, Underground (Part 1 of the Series) – A Book Review

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This suspenseful novel follows Alabaster Black, a.k.a. Bianca Nerini, a forensic accountant, as she tries to hide in Rome from her former “mysterious” employer, Rendition, after one of her contacts disappears and is presumed dead.   While in Rome, she meets Dante and gets involved with his archaeological hobby of exploring Rome’s underground.

Courtesy of Argiletum Tour Italy

Courtesy of Argiletum Tour Italy

Dante is also an investigator who is trying to figure out who is stealing and selling Rome’s ancient artifacts.

Courtesy of The History Blog

Courtesy of The History Blog

The two of them devise a scheme to trap the thieves by making up a fake discovery.  Meanwhile, while they are trying to figure out who these players are, Bianca learns that she has been found hiding in Rome. Lots of characters are presented, each with lots of personality, as we’re led around Rome, both above and below ground.

The story is fast moving, but at times, I found that I was getting lost trying to keep all the characters straight.  Also, some things were explained in really technical terms and I wasn’t that interested in the details.  But that’s just me, that sort of stuff doesn’t really appeal to me.  I’m sure others will appreciate the technicality of the descriptions!  All in all, it was a fun read and kept me hooked all the way through.

 

A Song for Bellafortuna – A Book Review

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Vincent B. “Chip” LoCoco wrote this delightful novel full of vivid imagery of the Sicilian hilltops and valleys.  Even though the countryside is beautiful and the citizens of Bellafortuna live in harmony with each other, life isn’t idyllic. At one time, Bellafortuna had been a thriving community that produced it’s own wine and olive oil.  But as hard times came around, the farmer’s were forced to seek assistance from the wealthy Vasaio family – who would loan them money but would, in return, charge exhorbitant interest rates.  So high, that it was impossible for these people to repay the loans, thus resulting in the loss of the properties that had been in their families for generations.  The people became poorer, while the Vasaios became richer and more powerful.  The farmers became disillusioned with their state of affairs, but they never lost the desire to work hard – in the hopes that one day they may be able to regain control of their land.  The one respite, which rallied their spirit, was their love of music.  Every week, they would hold a concert where they could escape reality for a short while. For a particular family,the Sanguinetti’s, successful wine merchants who were not under the control of the Vasaios, the problems facing their neighbors weighed heavily on their conscience.  Their success was, in part, due to their past association with the Vasaio’s.  Even though they had stepped away once they had realized the Vasaio’s sinister ways, they always tried to vindicate themselves by helping out their neighbors any way they could.  The villagers had long since forgotten and forgiven them, but the Sanguinetti’s still felt that they owed their neighbors.  The young Giuseppe Sanguinetti decided to take upon himself the duty of ridding the village of the Vasaio’s control.  He concocted a plan that would either bring about freedom for the villagers or result in squelching the town’s spirit once and for all.

The book stuns in its vivid description of beautiful Sicily, but I found the story to be too predictable.  I always seemed to know what the outcome would be for every situation.  The author’s writing style was simplistic and a bit redundant.  On the whole, though, it was an enjoyable read, but mostly for its imagery and romantic sense of life in an Italian village, surrounded by caring neighbors.

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Here are a few words from Chip LoCoco

A Love of Opera

A Song for Bellafortuna and my first novel, Tempesta’s Dream, all use music in the story, and not just any music, but opera.

I am often asked if I studied opera and if I can sing. My quick answer is, no, I have never studied opera, but I do sing – in the shower of course.  So although I am not musically inclined, I do have a passion for this art form. This love affair began when I was in high school, although, even as a little boy, music and opera surrounded me.

I grew up in a Sicilian/American family. On Sundays, after lunch, all the men would gather in the front room and listen to Giuseppe di Stefano and Mario Lanza opera recordings.

I still remember when I purchased my first opera recording. The compact disc players had just come out. A friend of mine loved Bach, and said how great classical music sounded CDs. So off I went to Smith’s Records in New Orleans to buy a Bach CD. Danny, a young clerk, offered his advice on a Bach CD, and when we started talking about music and opera, he told me I just had to buy a newly released recording of Puccini’s Tosca with a young Jose Carreras as the tenor. I came home and the rest, as they say, is history. Opera, and not just the music, but opera history and lore, became my hobby.

Without a doubt, I always wanted to pass down my love of opera and music to others.  But, because I am nonmusical, I do it through writing, instead of singing. So music is used throughout the story.  In my first novel, Tempesta’s Dream, music plays a central role as the story revolves around a young man from Milan, who wishes to become an opera tenor. In A Song for Bellafortuna, music is not the main character in the story, yet still plays an important role, as it is music that  the villagers rally behind.

I read one time that most writers will write about things that they are passionate about. Writing is hard, telling a story s hard – yet it becomes a lot easier, when you are telling a story that you feel passionate about, know a lot about, and can’t wait for people to read it and hopefully learn something.

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Chip LoCoco

Author of A Song for Bellafortuna and Tempesta’s Dream

The Inheritance – A Book Review

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The Inheritance by Marianne Perry[1]

Marianne Perry has successfully written a wonderful book set in my favorite place, Italy. This story of love and betrayal follows the Marino Family during the early 1900’s when lines were clearly drawn in Italian society between the wealthy and powerful, and the servants and the laborers. It’s the story of good versus evil : the goodness of Anna Marino, the matriarch of the family, with her beautiful eyes which revealed her kindness towards all those who knew her; and the evil and cold heart of her husband, Santo, who sold his soul to that devil called organized crime.  Power was all consuming to him and the ultimate means to an end.  He didn’t care who he betrayed, killed or harmed if it was to his benefit.  Lorenzo, their son, inherited his mother’s kind eyes and that same good heart. He was an artist and looked at the world through different eyes.  His mother was the only one who encouraged him to follow his passions and from her he learned to love, even if it meant he would love someone that his father disapproved of.  Unfortunately, his brothers followed in their father’s footsteps and ultimately would make life unbearable for Lorenzo

The storyline was great and kept me enthralled throughout.  This could have been a GREAT book except for a few distractions that got in the way.  My first criticism was the over abundance of characters – there were way too many presented to keep them all straight and to remember how they all related to each other.  Many were irrelevant and only created a distraction to the real story. In fact, at times, I couldn’t remember who a certain character was after they became important because they had been originally presented quickly and without much more than just their name.  The other distraction was the incorrect use of Italian.  In my humble opinion, if the author was going to use Italian to give her story more depth and credibility, perhaps it would have been best to consult someone proficient in Italian and who would guide her in using the correct words.  It was almost as if she used google translate for the translations (and we all know what happens when we rely solely on that….)  It may have been safer to leave out those Italian words altogether – the book would have been just as good!

Despite these small criticisms, the author had a good story to tell and she made this time in Italy’s past come alive.  We were able to feel the pain, hardship, and passions of the main characters and their lives.  I would highly recommend this book, even knowing that some real Italophiles may flinch at the incorrect use of those Italian words!

Here is an interesting interview with Marianne Perry, the author of The Inheritance –

and I’ll be looking forward to her new books!

Why did you write The Inheritance?

Family mysteries intrigue me. I wanted to understand why my paternal grandmother, Nana Caterina left Calabria, southern Italy in 1913 as a young woman; sailed on a steamship across the Atlantic Ocean; landed at Ellis Island, New York; settled in Canada and never returned to her homeland. Our large family knew scant about Nana’s early life so I started genealogical research to investigate her history, which eventually inspired The Inheritance.

Why did you select “Caterina” as the protagonist’s name?

The Inheritance is set in Calabria, southern Italy from 1897 to 1913.Names help create authenticity and I reviewed Italian genealogical documents to determine those appropriate for this era. As a result, I chose Mafalda, Fortunata and Armida for minor characters. St. Catherine of Siena is a joint Patron Saint of Italy along with Saint Francis of Assisi. The name is a perennial favourite in Italian families plus honours my late Nana Caterina and Catherine Rose, an older sister who died in infancy.

Tell me about the cameo brooch Caterina inherits.

My mother has long suffered from dementia and I cherish a cameo brooch that I inherited from her. It belonged to her Sicilian-born father but she knows nothing about its origin. The clasp is broken and the brooch, fragile. I have long been haunted by the milky carving of the elegant lady depicted and it seemed the perfect gift to symbolize the ailing Anna Marino’s quasi-maternal affection for Caterina.

What is the significance of the crumbling stone cottage on the cover of The Inheritance?

In order to research The Inheritance, I traveled to Calabria in 2004 where I snapped this photograph. The crumbling stone cottage was located in the mountains near my Nana Caterina’s ancestral village. It typified the poverty of my grandmother’s family and is intrinsic to Caterina’s life as a peasant in this novel. I value authenticity as a writer and felt a personal photograph would illustrate this to the reader.

Will your next book be set in Italy?

Yes. To date, I have traveled to Italy seven times. In May 2013, I returned to Calabria for an intensive two week genealogical and writing research trip geared to my next book. It will be set in Calabria with chapters in Rome and Zurich, Switzerland. The time period is modern and the protagonist a Canadian woman of Italian ancestry who inherits a century old deed to property in Calabria plus a holograph will from her deceased godfather under strange circumstances. She travels to Calabria to solve their mysteries but forces attempt to thwart her along the way. My third book will be a sequel to The Inheritance.

Bianca’s Vineyard – A Book Review

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When Italy Book Tours asked me to review this new book by Teresa Neumann, I volunteered right away.  It had all the attributes of a GREAT book!  Bianca’s Vineyard did not disappoint!  And what makes it even more interesting is that it is based on a true story.  Taking place at the beginning of the 20th century and spanning through World War II and a bit beyond, it described the hardships of life in Italy during the difficult war years as well the difficulties of immigrating to a whole new world!  This book hit close to home because my parents and grandparents immigrated here as well, and I am always enthralled by these stories.

Egisto Bertozzi, the youngest of 3 brothers, was expected to immigrate to the United States so that he could earn money and send it back to Italy.  Moving he did, but before he did, he was expected to marry and bring an Italian wife with him.  He was in love with Marietta and she was to be his wife.  But, Egisto wasn’t religious and refused to marry in church.  Marietta’s family forbade their daughter to marry outside the Church and therefore broke up the loving couple.  Heartbroken, but desperate to find a wife, he married a beautiful poor girl, Arilda, from his town whom he didn’t know at all.  Arilda was looking for an escape from her miserable life and thought that this would be just the perfect opportunity to make a change for the better. At first they were happy in their new home, but soon, things started to become difficult for Arilda and she became depressed.  Egisto suffered for his wife and tried to make things work out for their sake as well as their children’s.  Arilda ended up leaving them and moving back to Italy right before the start of World War II.

The story goes on to describe how difficult life became in Italy during this time.  Hunger and fear swept the country, and the citizens of Italy were desperate.  Egisto tried his hardest to help his family in Italy, but even that was hard.  There were times when he didn’t even know the fate of his family.  My parents, who lived along the shores of Lago Maggiore, have described to me what life was like during World War II in Italy, but their tales were nothing compared to the hardships endured in other parts of Italy, especially Tuscany.  The Nazi’s, Fascists and Partisans waged war against each other and anyone else who didn’t support their cause. Many innocent people lost their lives and fear was rampant.  It must have been such a horrible time in this idyllic country.  It’s hard to believe that such beautiful places endured such atrocities, but I know they did from this book as well as lots of other movies and stories I’ve read about life in Italy during the war.

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The story starts off in the present when Egisto’s grandchildren visit Italy to learn about their history and see the family homestead. There they meet Bianca, Egisto’s niece, who is now an elderly woman and who inherited the family vineyard.  She tells them their family’s story so that they may know the strong and proud lineage that they come from.

Egisto Bertozzi, sculptor

Egisto Bertozzi, sculptor

Connections to the homeland are so important to really understand one’s self and realize the sacrifices that were made to improve dire situations.  I’ve always said that it takes a very strong person to leave everything they’ve known all their lives, move to a country where they don’t know the language nor have any family, and forge a new life.  My parents did it and I am so proud of their inner strength.

Interview with Teresa Neumann:

Did you ever know Egisto Bertozzi personally?
Yes. He was amazing; suave but simple, smart but humble. Oliver Towne of the St. Paul Pioneer Press once wrote that “Egisto Bertozzi was part of the creativity of our civilization.” It was truly an honor to have known him.

What inspired you to write Bianca’s Vineyard?
First my husband. One of the things I found fascinating about David, when I met him was that he was half-Italian, which meant he possessed an unusual amount self-confidence along with generous amounts of artistic creativity and scientific savvy. Throw in a unique zest for life, and I realized I’d discovered a “Renaissance man” much like my husband’s grandfather, highly acclaimed sculptor Egisto Bertozzi, the co-main character in my book. My love-affair with Italy had begun.
My mother-in-law, Violenza (Babe)Bertozzi Neumann, was an incredible blessing. So when I learned that after immigrating to the U.S., Egisto’s wife Armida had a mental breakdown, abandoned her family, moved back to Italy, found a job as a domestic to a “high-level fascist leader” and then disappeared during WWII – only to be found years later, her death a mega-mystery – well, who could resist that challenge?!

Your book is set primarily Italy. Have you been there?
In the last 15 years, many times. Egisto was a sculptor, born and raised in Tuscany, near Lucca. He studied at the famous art school in nearby Pietrasanta. Just before WWI broke out, he and Armida secretly married and immigrated to St. Paul, Minnesota, where their two children were born. Later, after WWII, Egisto took Violenza (my mother-in-law) to meet his family and spend the summer in Italy. Until his death decades later, Egisto’s family corresponded with him. Then all letters from Italy abruptly stopped. It wasn’t until much later, after years of research, that we found out why.
Fast forward to 2001: I received a response to a query letter from Egisto’s niece, Bianca Corrotti inviting us Tuscany to meet her and the other Bertozzi cousins. By then, my mother-in-law was in her 80’s and couldn’t travel, so we reluctantly went without her. Our hearts immediately bonded with my husband’s relatives and birthed the passion and motivation to research and write Bianca’s Vineyard.

What about Minnesota, where Egisto and Armida lived after immigrating to the U.S.?
Being as my husband and I were raised in Iowa, Minnesota was in our “back yard” so to speak. Many Bertozzi and Neumann relatives live in the “Land of Lakes,” so we’ve made numerous pilgrimages there over the years. The area is home to many of Egisto’s sculptures. We’ve particularly loved studying his sculptures at St. Paul Cathedral.

What is your next project?
In 2013, Domenico’s Table, the sequel to Bianca’s Vineyard was published. My third book, not a sequel, but with an Italian-American protagonist, is called A Year in the Company of Freaks and should be out this summer. You can read more about it, and my other books, on my website: http://www.teresaneumann.com