Tag Archives: World war II

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.

Italy Book Tours Logo in colour

 

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.

Botticelli’s Bastard – A Book Review

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With a title like Botticelli’s Bastard, I had no idea what to expect from this latest novel by Stephen Maitland-Lewis . But as I began to get absorbed in it, it all began to take shape. The story begins when a middle-aged art restorer, who goes through the motions of living his life without experiencing any passion for it, opens up a crate that has been sitting in the corner of his art studio for years. Within it, he discovers an unsigned painted panel of an old Florentine aristocrat. Little did he realize how his life was about to change!  

Now this is where the story got a little weird for me, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy the rest of it….but the painting of the Count began to speak to Giovanni, the art restorer! And, of course, he was the only one that could hear the painting speak! They ended up conversing a great deal, and Giovanni found himself treating the Count like his confidante and best friend! Weird, right? But actually, these conversations opened up the floodgates of history.  All the time periods between the Renaissance and modern times were described from the viewpoint of this painted Count who  had “lived” through them all. It was all pretty fascinating, especially the description of the pillaging of art by the Nazis in Paris during World War II.

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The Count also dropped a bombshell on Giovanni when he insisted that he had been painted by none other than Botticelli himself! Giovanni had his doubts, but promised the Count that he would have the painting analyzed by the experts for authentication.

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Throughout all these conversations, Giovanni began to renew his passion for living – the Count counseled him about life in general and also gave him a mission to accomplish. Giovanni was ultimately faced with a moral dilemma and his character was put to the test.

This book is a perfect example of what true historical fiction is all about – learning about history in a way that is interesting and entertaining!  I can highly recommend it, if you can get past the fantasy of the talking painting!

Below is a question and answer session with

Mr. Maitland-Lewis:

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  1. How did you do research for your book?

The internet is my primary source for research, but one has to be very disciplined so as not to go off in tangents in reading material with is irrelevant to the topic in hand. For that reason, visits to local libraries are ideal, although more time consuming. With regard to Botticelli’s Bastard, the research covered many different periods of European history, which made the project enjoyable and it did not at any time feel onerous.

 

  1. If you could put yourself as a character in your book, who would you
    be?

Unquestionably, Giovanni Fabrizzi, the art restorer. He was burdened with sadness and later on was faced with the dilemma of Satan on one shoulder and the good angel on the other in determining his course of action. But there is a moral tale for all of us and I found myself inspired by his ultimate decision.

  3.  What made you write a book about a talking painting?

A painting that has survived 500 years, has traveled across continents, and has hung on many different walls, has a life of its own. Just as Oscar Wilde’s
Dorian Grey had a painting that aged, my painting in
Botticelli’s Bastard talks to the restorer. Just as a writer or an actor can get totally immersed in his character, so can a restorer working over a long period of time and in the minutest detail, become overtaken by the painting on which he is working.

4.  What is the last great book you’ve read?

Sophie’s Choice by William Styron. This novel is superb on every level – character, plot, language, and overall style. I first read the book many years ago, at a time when I was not writing professionally, so I didn’t appreciate the subtlety and brilliance of Mr. Styron. Reading it again recently, I realized that the author was one of the major world’s literary geniuses. His writing is so fine that I have to resist the temptation of never writing another word.

 

  1. Do you write every day?

I try to do so. Even if I am not writing a novel, I think it is important to write
something on a daily basis, whether it be a journal entry, or a complex social
or business letter. The great piano virtuoso Arturo Rubenstein remarked once
that “the first day I do not practice, I notice. The second day I miss a
practice, the critics notice. The third day – the audience notices.”

 

  1. What advice would you give budding writers?

Treat the art of writing as a serious professional occupation, and not a recreational activity. Try not to read fiction whilst you are writing fiction, as you could fall into the trap of admiring a particular descriptive passage in something that you have read, and subconsciously repeating it in your own work. Read fiction before or after you have completed your book, not during your exercise.

 

  1. What is your next project?

I have started a novel about a second-rate jazz pianist, and have already
completed about 20,000 words. In the midst of writing this, another project came into my mind and I may well place on hold the earlier one to focus on this latest possible work. I don’t want to say anything about the new project at present, so as not to jinx these very precious early stages.

 

Would you like to win a copy of this book?

Just click here, a Rafflecopter giveaway,
and you will have the chance to get your very own copy FREE!

Of course, you can also purchase the book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble,  Book Depository, and Chapters Indigo.

The Light in the Ruins – A Book Review

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This excellent book by the author of Midwives, Chris Bohjalian, delves into life in the beautiful Tuscan countryside during the ravages of World War II. The Rosati’s, a noble family, who lived in a beautiful villa surrounded by vineyards and olive trees, thought their little world was safe from the horrors of the War even though both their sons were in the military fighting for Il Duce. Their oldest son was off in Sicily and their other son was commissioned in Florence as part of the Nazi pillaging of art, but the rest of them were quietly living out the War in their little corner of Heaven. Heaven was about to turn into an inferno, though, when the Nazi’s learned of the secret Etruscan tomb on their property and the possibilty of gathering priceless artifacts to send back to Germany.

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At first, they treated the Rosati’s with respect and reverence. One of the young German officers even fell in love with Cristina, the youngest daughter, and it all seemed like they would live a happily ever after once the War was over. This fairytale abruptly came to an end, though, when Italy surrendered to the Allies. The Germans became desparate and began trashing the countryside and killing anyone suspected of harboring the Partisans.

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Massacres of innocent people, sometimes a whole town, took place and everyone lived in fear. The Rosati’s were no exception: they soon became prisoners in their own home.

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They were forced to give up their home for it to become a barracks for the Nazi’s. They were allowed to remain, though, but all 6 of them were crammed into one room. Their animals were slaughtered to feed the soldiers and their vineyards and olive groves destroyed. Everything they had was gone! And on top of all the physical and economic hardship they indured, their allegiance was questioned by all…were they Nazi sympathizers (after all, their daughter was in love with one) or were they harboring Partisans?

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Fast forward 10 years or so….the War is over and Italy has somewhat repaired itself from the damages. The Rosati’s have left their war-torn estate behind and moved to Rome. The horrors they endured during the War are still raw scars on their hearts that have yet to heal, and probably never will. And now, their family has become the target of a brutal serial killer. Someone is out for revenge, but why? Who? The pretty, young, female investigator assigned to the case has to untangle clues from the past which puts her back in touch with her own secrets and horrors endured during the War. The story takes its twists and turns, but the reader is always caught up and motivated to keep reading wondering how its all going to come together.

Nutella Has English Roots?

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I bet you never equated Nutella with anything English, right?  After all, it is made in Italy and many Italian children have been raised on Nutella and bread sandwiches as an after school snack!  Nutella was created in Italy, back in the 1940’s, by a Piemontese pastry maker named Pietro Ferrero.

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He had the ingenious idea to incorporate hazelnuts with cocoa beans to extend the chocolate, which was in short supply because of World War II rations.  His original recipe mixed toasted hazelnuts (which are abundant in Piemonte, Italy) with cocoa butter and vegetable oils.  He called this delicious concoction “Pasta Gianduja” (gianduja is hazelnut in Italian).  Then in 1949, he changed the original recipe to make it easier to spread on bread.  This became known as “Supercrema Gianduja.”

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So, I know you’re just dying to find out where this English connection comes in?  Well, in 1964, because hazelnuts were becoming so popular, the Ferrero company decided to change the name to “Nutella”…a combination of the English word “nut” and “ella”.  “Nut” was used to make it clear that it was made of nuts (and not just chocolate), and the ending “ella” to give it a softer ending.   So there you have it – an Italian product with an English name!  I guess they knew that English would one day be the international language and they were tapping into a whole new population to sell their product to!  Now that’s what I call SMART MARKETING!

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Solitaria – A Book Review

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I am going to digress from my travel log in order to review the latest book I read having to do with Italy – Solitaria by Genni Gunn.  I actually won this book from The Italy in Book Challenge that I did in 2011 and finally just got around to reading it.  I have a signed copy with a personal note from the author!  I definitely am going to put this book and note in a safe place – it’s always so special when the author has signed their work.

Solitaria is a wonderfully written book which takes place in the present time,  when the body of Vito Santoro is discovered by a demolition crew at an Italian seaside villa, and it digresses to memories of Italy in the 1940’s.  La Solitaria (the solitary) is Piera, the oldest sister of a family of 5, who barricades herself in her room when the rest of the siblings come back home from their homes around the globe after the body of their oldest brother, Vito, is discovered.  She feels that no one understands her even though she feels she has devoted her entire life to taking care of them and making sure that they were safe.  She has a strong sense of duty and she believes that the rest of her siblings don’t realize that everything she did in her life was out of love and sacrifice.  Instead she feels only lonliness and rejection.  The discovery of her brother’s body after all these years is the right time for her to tell her side of the story of the family’s past and all their secrets, but she will only tell David, her sister’s son and favorite member of the family.  During her private times with him, she pulls out letters that she has written and which she has kept locked up.  She tells him about Aldo, the successful lawyer, whom everyone turns to when they are in need; Teresa, the dead brother’s wife and Marco, their son; Renato the rebel who lost Teresa to Vito; Mimi the spoiled youngest surviving sibling; Clarissa, the famous opera diva whom Piera competed with for attention; Daniela whom sadly was killed as a young child; Vito, the oldest brother and “black sheep” of the family;  and her mother and father who faught with their own demons while trying to provide for such a large family.  The family dynamics were at times loving and other times filled with jealousy and betrayal…and many dark secrets.  Genni Gunn brings Italy of the 1940’s to life with her words, and I could hear the stories told to me by my own parents of the difficulties of living in Italy right before and during the War.

If you are looking for a book that keeps you interested page after page, while giving you some insight into Italy’s history during the Fascist Period, then you will enjoy Solitaria.  I highly recommend it!

Viva L’Italia!

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The war years in Italy were difficult – innocent people were killed by the Germans because they were believed to be helping the Partisans (see my post about this at  An Italian Tragedy), people were hungry and not sure if they would get food, and idlyllic and peaceful places full of history, art, and beauty were being destroyed.  Once the Americans came in and the Partisans triumphed, Italy began to breathe a sigh of relief.  La Festa della Liberazione, a National holiday in Italy marking the end of World War II and the fall of the Fascist government, is celebrated today, April 25th, with parades and other festivities all over Italy.  Rebuilding Italy after the War would turn out to be a significant and difficult task, but the Italians worked hard and persevered.  Even though it is not immune to the problems plaguing the rest of the world, Italy has come a long way from those horrible days during and after World War II to become the Italy that so captivates and enchants those that visit her.

Below is a song written by Partisan sympathizers and sung during the War by the Resistance.   It was sung in the underground and only became popular to the public after the War when it was introduced by some Italian student singers at Berlin’s Youth Festival in 1948.  I have to make note, here, that I am purely sharing this song as part of Italy’s history and I’m not making ANY political statement here!!!  With that said, here it is:

BELLA CIAO

Una mattina mi son svegliato O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao Una mattina mi son svegliato Eo ho trovato l’invasor

O partigiano porta mi via O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao O partigiano porta mi via Che mi sento di morir

E se io muoio da partigiano O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao E se io muoio da partigiano Tu mi devi seppellir

Mi seppellire lassù in montagna O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao Mi seppellire lassù in montagna Sotto l’ombra di un bel fiore

E le genti che passeranno O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao E le genti che passeranno Mi diranno: “Che bel fior”

È questo il fiore del partigiano O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao È questo il fiore del partigiano Morto per la libertà

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One morning I woke up O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao One morning I woke up And I found the invader

Oh partisan, carry me away, O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao Oh partisan, carry me away, For I feel I’m dying

And if I die as a partisan O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao And if I die as a partisan You have to bury me

But bury me up in the mountain O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao, But bury me up in the mountain Under the shadow of a beautiful flower

And the people who will pass by O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao, And the people who will pass by Will say to me: “what a beautiful flower”

This is the flower of the partisan O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao This is the flower of the partisan Who died for freedom

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Here is a song that was sung by the Alpini – a branch of the military that patrols the mountains all around Italy.  It captures the sentiments felt during the War by those Alpini soldiers and their love of the mountains of Italy.  It is in a sort of dialect, and therefore I will try to translate it as best I can!

IL TESTAMENTO DEL CAPITANO

 El capitan de la compagnia l’è ferito stà per morir el manda a dire ai suoi Alpini perchè lo vengano a ritrovar. el manda a dire ai suoi Alpini perchè lo vengano a ritrovar.

I suoi Alpini ghè manda a dire che non han scarpe per camminar O con le scarpe o senza scarpe i miei Alpini li voglio qua. O con le scarpe o senza scarpe i miei Alpini li voglio qua.

Cosa comanda, siòr capitano, che noi adesso semo arrivà? E io comando che il mio corpo in cinque pezzi sia taglià. E io comando che il mio corpo in cinque pezzi sia taglià.

Il primo pezzo alla mia Patria secondo pezzo al Battaglion il terzo pezzo alla mia Mamma che si ricordi del suo figliol. il terzo pezzo alla mia Mamma che si ricordi del suo figliol.

Il quarto pezzo alla mia bella che si ricordi del suo primo amor. L’ultimo pezzo alle montagne che lo fioriscano di rose e fior L’ultimo pezzo alle montagne che lo fioriscano di rose e fior.

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The Captain’s Testament

The captain of the company is wounded and is dying.  He sends a message to his Alpini soldiers for them to come and visit him.

His Alpini soldiers tell him that they don’t have shoes to walk.  He says that with our without shoes, he wants them there.

What do you command, Captain sir, now that we have arrived?  I command that you cut my body up into 5 pieces.

The first piece to my Country, the second piece to my battalion, the third piece to my mother so that she may remember her son.

The fourth piece to by girlfriend so that she can remember her first love.  And the fifth piece to the mountains so that it can be covered in roses.