Friday, September 25, 2015

A Song for Bellafortuna

This historical novel centers on an Italian father and son that live in Bellafortuna, Sicily, Antonio and Giuseppe Sanguinetti, who work in the former’s winery, which they close early so they can go home one evening. With Giuseppe becoming an acolyte in his local church, the father and son eventually meet Luigi Tavelo, who works as a baker and had seen employment as a conductor of an opera orchestra. Some factoids are given about Bellafortuna and Italian culture in general, such as the fact that the village has siestas from twelve to two in the afternoon, and opera begins to play a significant part in the narrative.

The father and so go to the premiere of an opera, which is sold out, although they sacrifice more money and a pocket watch to chance the opportunity, and meet one of the singers in the opera named Enrico Caruso, who provides a drawing that Antonio places in his winery in hopes of attracting more customers. At one point, the villagers of Bellafortuna find themselves harassed by the citizens of Palermo via tomatoes, although they fortunately have the opportunity to return fire. An operatic society forms in Bellafortuna, with Luigi providing transcripts of the lyrics of various operas. Giuseppe also forges a relationship with a girl from a nearby town named Maria.

Playing a significant role in later chapters is Giuseppe’s writing a letter to Enrico to get him to sing at Bellafortuna’s forthcoming Festival Boccale, although the singer proves somewhat tardy in his response as the celebration draws near. Although there are some occasional deaths in the novel, the narrative ends on a positive note, and overall, this is an engaging read that gives good insight into Italian society, with the author showing his work in the Author’s Note after the main text, given the assistance of Italians in transcribing opera lyric translations, among other things. Ultimately, A Song for Bellafortuna is very much a recommended read.


Author's Bio:

Award winning and bestselling author, Vincent B. "Chip" LoCoco, lives in New Orleans. His first novel, Tempesta's Dream - A Story of Love, Friendship and Opera, became an Amazon bestselling novel and was awarded the 2014 Pinnacle Achievement Award in Historical Fiction. Amazon also has named his book as a Top Rated Novel in Italian Historical Fiction.

His most recent novel, A Song for Bellafortuna, was shortlisted in the William Faulkner - William Wisdom Competition. He is an estate planning attorney in New Orleans, where he lives with his wife and two children.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Roma, Underground

Author Gabriel Valjan dedicates this first entry of the Roma series to Andrea Camilleri and Warren Larivee. The novel itself follows a forensic accountant named Alabaster Black, who goes by the alias Bianca, who hides in Rome from her former workplace, an American organization named Rendition. During her stay, she meets an investigator named Dante, who is a member of the titular Roma Underground, archaeologists seeking to map the city’s underworld. National artifacts begin to disappear at a quick pace, with the two seeking answers, and Alabaster learning from an online contact that someone is following her, making her reconsider her alliances.

Dante is one of the only people to whom Alabaster gives her contact information, meeting him for lunch, with the book itself full of Roman history, and revealing that the protagonist held various occupations. There’s plenty of helpful description about Rome and its various highlights, with its streets being far more restrictive than those in America, although she definitely prefers the city to her experience in Lucerne, Switzerland. She eventually begins keeping track of possible surveillance of her apartment, and encounters several characters such as the Italians Gennaro and Alessandro.

The ending of the novel feels somewhat abrupt, although it would spawn a sequel, Wasp’s Nest, which takes Alabaster back to America. The writer at the end acknowledges many individuals that helped him along the way, such as his friends and colleagues at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, indicating that he wrote the story while undergoing cancer treatment, and that it’s an extended version of a short story called “Alabaster.” Overall, this is an engaging thriller that history enthusiasts, given the various factoids throughout the text, will certainly appreciate, and while there are parts that could have been better, this reviewer would very much recommend it.

Author's Bio:

Gabriel Valjan lives in New England, but has traveled extensively, receiving his undergraduate education in California and completing graduate school in England. Ronan Bennett short-listed him for the 2010 Fish Short Story Prize for his Boston noir, Back in the Day. His short stories and poetry have appeared in literary journals and online magazines.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Kill and Run

Like its predecessor Three Days to Forever, author Lauren Carr’s Kill and Run sports before the main text an extensive list of dramatis personae, with a few references to and returners from the former book. The prologue occurs thirteen years before the main text, following State Troopers Nicholas “Nick” Gates and Reese Phillips. The main text begins with a lovemaking seen between Nick and Cameron Gates, along with a practice exercise on part of the special operations team known as the Phantoms in Washington, DC, whose Commanding Officer remains secret throughout the novel.

Other important events occurring in the beginning include Murphy Thornton receiving a medal for his naval service during what is initially an inspection, along with a home invasion in Reston, Virginia, and the nomination of General Sebastian Graham to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with many considering him to be a shoe-in for the position. A mystery soon arises, considering the deaths of five women connected to the United States Army, with a woman named Isadora “Izzy” Crenshaw, found initially in a group home, playing her role within the story as well, and having a mysterious history.

The novel has occasional twists and revelations towards the end, which is reasonable and opens room for continuations, although to keep track of the extensive list of characters can at times be trying unless the reader takes notes, although this reviewer would certainly recommend this book to those who typically enjoy thrillers and mysteries, and would very much relish the opportunity to read prior and future books in the franchise.

Author's Bio:

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, which takes place in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. Open Season for Murder is the tenth installment in the Mac Faraday Mystery series.

In addition to her series set on Deep Creek Lake, Lauren Carr has also written the Lovers in Crime Mysteries, which features prosecutor Joshua Thornton with homicide detective Cameron Gates, who were introduced in Shades of Murder, the third book in the Mac Faraday Mysteries. They also make an appearance in The Lady Who Cried Murder.

Three Days to Forever introduced Lauren Carr’s latest series detectives, Murphy Thornton and Jessica Faraday in the Thorny Rose Mysteries. Look for Kill and Run, the first installment in this series, to be released September 1, 2015.

The owner of Acorn Book Services, Lauren is also a publishing manager, consultant, editor, cover and layout designer, and marketing agent for independent authors. Visit Acorn Book Services’ website for more information.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She also passes on what she has learned in her years of writing and publishing by conducting workshops and teaching in community education classes.

She lives with her husband, son, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Welcome, Reluctant Stranger!

 The third installment of author E. Journey’s Between Two Worlds series opens with quotes by Albert Ellis and Noam Chomsky, the subsequent prologue occurring on a hot day in the schoolyard of a Catholic school on a tiny island in the Pacific, likely fictional, called Costa Mora, with the then-nine-year-old Leilani serving as the chief protagonist, she and her older sister and brother, Carmen and Rudy, not to mention their mother, flee the isle due to political revolution, the Torres family’s patriarch suspiciously missing. The main chapters pick up Leilani’s story years later when she works as a psychologist and values the American holiday of Thanksgiving in her new home in California.

Leilani, throughout the story, constantly yearns for her absentee father, Dr. Renato Torres, although another political refugee from Costa Mora, General Huang (whose surname seems to somewhat clash with the island’s likely Spanish heritage), hints that he might still be alive. Leilani further forges friendship with the married couple Greg and Elise, who have a baby named Goyo. Characters from previous installments of the series such as Agnieszka Halverson eventually play part in the latter chapters, although those who haven’t read the book’s predecessors can certainly enjoy the third entry on its own. Leilani further forms a romantic relationship with a man named Justin, and in the final chapters decides to revisit her homeland of Costa Mora to settle the fate of her father once and for all

Ultimately, this proves to be an enjoyable romance novel that receives sufficient conclusion, although there are occasional filler chapters consisting mostly of banter between characters, although this reviewer would very much recommend the third entry to those who enjoyed its predecessors and typically like romance novels.

Author's Bio:

EJourney is a realist who thinks she has little imagination. Credit that to her training (Ph. D., University of Illinois) and work in mental health, writing for academics and bureaucrats, and critiquing the work of others. She’s been striving ever since to think and write like normal people.

She’s a well-traveled flâneuse—a female observer-wanderer—who watches, observes, listens. And writes. A sucker for happy endings, she finds enough that depresses her about real life, but seeks no catharsis by writing about it. For her, writing is escape, entertainment. She doesn’t strive to enlighten. Not deliberately. But the bias of her old profession does carry over into her writing. So, instead of broad shoulders and heaving bosoms, she goes into protagonists' thoughts, emotions, inner conflicts, insecurities, and struggles to reach balance and grow.

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