Friday, October 23, 2015

Birds of Passage

In this historical novel, which author Joe Giordano dedicates to his parents, a young Italian named Leonardo Robustelli moves from his homeland to America, experiencing the challenges of adjusting to a new country. The story begins in 1905 with the protagonist seeking work but not finding any in his native Naples, although he does have the opportunity to work as a shoemaker for Signor Felicio, as his mother Anna wishes. Disinterested in cobbling, however, Leonardo decides to move to New York, with Signor Gentile having a place for him to stay in the city. The day her son is to leave for America, Anna can’t get out of bed, which foreshadows later events in the novel, with occasional backstory such as Anna learning to read from Dante’s Divine Comedy.

The book explores class differences aboard the ship Leonardo takes to New York, where he is quarantined for a few days due to a pinkeye infection. Giordano also presents a foil to Leonardo named Carlo Mazzi, who is Don Salvatore’s son, back from the University of Bologna, where he majored in Roman History, fencing, and, as the story humorously puts it, women. Carlo developed a love interest in college named Caprice Sacco, although another man doted upon her, Aldo, the nephew to an Italian Prime Minister’s cabinet minister. The peninsula nation’s monarch at the time, King Victor Emmanuel III, is evidently tax-happy, one of the reasons that drives Carlo to leave his homeland.

Thus, Carlo, alongside his friend Vincenzo, travels to New York, where Leonardo finally meets with Signor Gentile, only to experience disappointment and low-paying labor. The Italian mafia group known as the Camorra plays part in the narrative, alongside the political corruption at the time of Tammany Hall and its various officials including Big Jim O’Neill, himself the scion of immigrants to New York. Ultimately, this is an enjoyable historical novel that largely demonstrates the author put some thought and research into his work, although some of the book’s primary themes have been done before in both literature and cinema. Even so, this reviewer would easily recommend this novel to fans of historical fiction in general.

Author's Bio:

Joe Giordano was born in Brooklyn. His father and grandparents immigrated to New York from Naples. Joe and his wife, Jane have lived in Greece, Brazil, Belgium and the Netherlands. They now live in Texas with their shih tzu Sophia. Joe's stories have appeared in more than sixty magazines including Bartleby Snopes, The Newfound Journal, and The Summerset Review.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015


In this modern fantasy novel, which author Trudie L. Hayes dedicates to her grandmother, the late Georgia Williams, also known as Mama G and Mama Georgia, several students, including Marissa, Chandler, and Otis, experience their first days of schools, with the opening chapter told through their third-person perspectives, with the writer sometimes diving many chapters such as the first into subchapters, although she doesn’t consistently retain this style. A recurring theme repeated throughout the narrative is for youngsters to be themselves, individuality largely being the novel’s name of the game, with an insignia showing up several times beginning with a backwards R, a lowercase i, and a normal capital R, standing for “Real it Real.”

A short ways into the novel, several of the students receive the opportunity to become Triigors, which, alongside their nemeses, Vengenites, from a land called Prunder, have existed for all time. Triigors endeavor to exist, uphold, and preserve the human race, while Vengenites law low for lengthy interventions while assessing human vulnerability, seeking to ultimately eradicate mankind from the world, with human beings being completely oblivious to these warring factions. Elements such as time travel not to mention a visit to Washington, DC, from the initial setting of Connecticut, also play some part in the storyline, with the Library of Congress, not to mention the Good Stuff Eatery, serving as occasional settings.

The story contains occasional religious references, with many faiths mentioned, although Lucifer and Satan from Christian mythos seem to play the most significant parts, showing up late in the novel, which concludes with a basketball game alongside a possible cliffhanger, with definite room to continue the story, in spite of its generous length. Ultimately, this is an enjoyable novel, although the author would have done well to keep the first chapter’s style consistent for the book’s remainder, in other words the narration of different third-person perspectives and many subchapters. Even so, this proves an enjoyable read for younger audiences.

Author's Bio:

Trudie L. Hayes’ personal story and family life influenced her mission to spread the core values of self-acceptance, self-esteem, and self-love to children and persons of all ages. An affiliation with physically and mentally disabled adults and children spanning many years is a major contributing factor. The caregiver role has been paramount throughout much of her life, even while furthering her education or working full-time in a corporate setting.

These experiences have given her a deep understanding of the trials and struggles associated with a compromised existence. As well as the inspiration and joy derived from living life to one's personal best.

It is through these myriad life experiences that Hayes began writing and registering several related trademarks. With a grander vision of promoting confidence and self-worth.

Born and raised in Connecticut, Hayes still calls the Nutmeg State home. The oldest of two children, she remains close to her siblings. When Hayes is not writing or managing her business, she dedicates her time to other creative outlets and artistic pursuits. Hayes has a deep appreciation and passion for music in its many forms; she enjoys writing song lyrics, performing, and has an affinity for Jazz.

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Friday, October 16, 2015

Turning to Stone

*may contain spoilers from previous books*

In the fourth installment of Gabriel Valjan’s Roma series, which he dedicates to Roberto Saviano, Alabaster Black, also known as Bianca Nerini, is in Naples and must deal with the crime syndicate known as Camorra, which Alexander Dumas says is the only real power that the region of Italy obeys. Opening the book is a list and description of dramatis personae, including Bianca herself, who once worked as a forensic accountant for the covert American agency named Rendition, not to mention her boyfriend Dante Allegretti, an investigator with a group called Guardia di Finanza (GdF), an Italian law enforcement agency that investigates illegal financial transactions, from money laundering to drug trafficking. Several agents from the group and Italian policemen play significant parts, as well.

The story itself begins with news of financial forecasting, with the initial chapter indicating that the Brooks murder, which happened in the third installment, was a public relations nightmare for the police force, with the Neapolitan crime syndicate Camorra, which is codenamed the System, under investigation. Bianca regularly communicates with the enigmatic Loki via text messaging, with his true identity possibly revealed in the latter portion. There are occasional historical notes such as the creation of the European Union following the Second World War due to the United States wanting a single point of contact within the continent. Overall, this is an enjoyable fourth installment of the Roma series, although there are occasional slow portions, and it can be easy to forget who’s who without referencing the character list. Even so, this read is worthwhile.

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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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Port of No Return

In this historical novel, which author Michelle Saftich dedicates to her father Mauro, the memory of his family, her husband Rene, and her sons Louis and Jimi, who inspire her to write about family and love, Contessa and Ettore Saforo live in Italy close to the end of the Second World War, the couple seeking protection from the bloodshed, although the fragile politics of 1944 doesn’t leave them alone. They live in the German-held and Yugoslav-threatened community of Fiume, with Ettore finding himself on the run, given the potential evil of both sides of the conflict in their town. He and his wife struggled to find one another, with their friends and family gradually recovering from the war’s aftermath.

The action begins in January 1944 in Fiume, Italy, with the town Ettore and Contessa siding with the Germans, the two having young children, and quickly finding themselves seeking sanctuary in a farmhouse on the outskirts of their village. They ultimately settle in their new environment by March the same year, with friends marrying and Contessa finding herself pregnant with her fifth child. In April, however, they decide they want to leave, although doing so would require permission from the occupying Germans, although they do eventually settle in with other relatives. Real-life events such as Mussolini’s death that month, the retreat of the Germans, and the coming of the Americans, occur, with Ettore finding himself imprisoned with friends.

Although America ultimately becomes an emigration point of interest for the Saforo family and their friends and relatives, they hold some apathy towards their supposed liberators, going to Germany, once free from the Nazis, for processing and eventual departure for Australia. Overall, this is an enjoyable historical novel that seems well-researched, the writer acknowledging an extensive interview with her father and the many displaced refugees from the Second World War alongside her editors. The story does have some occasional slow portions, although this reviewer would definitely recommend it to those who enjoy historical fiction.

Meet the author:    

Michelle Saftich is a first-time author who resides in Brisbane, Australia.  She holds a Bachelor of Business/Communications Degree, majoring in journalism, from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT). 

For the past 20 years, she has worked in communications, including print journalism, sub-editing, communications management and media relations. She is married with two children.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Path

In this science fiction novel, which author Peter Riva dedicates to his family, an antediluvian entity is about to terminate all life on Earth in a future world controlled by computers, without need, and where a man named Simon Bank reveals a great secret, finding employment working with the System’s artificial intelligence to fit into human society and keep America running smoothly. However, Earth is threatened, with Simon needing to save his own life and those of others on Earth, needing to reassess all he knows, rely on instinct and intellect, and depend upon new friends, some who are not even human, to resolve things in a limited timeframe.

The fifty-year-old Simon himself narrates the novel, finding something wrong with the sky’s behavior, for instance, producing tornadoes and killing people, although he enjoys his work in spite of finding the nation’s main weather control system, WeatherGood One, to malfunction, with plenty of expository backstory such as the future United States of America, simply called the Republic of America, expanding north and south to include former Canadian Provinces, Mexico, and the rest of Latin America. In light of a catastrophe that occurred a century before the novel’s events, sterilization for those who didn’t have children before the age of thirty years became implemented.

Throughout the story, Simon deals with an increasingly-sentient System, which gives itself the name Apollo, with occasional references to twentieth-century events such as the Calhoun Rat Studies conducted in 1962, which found a link between crowding and social pathology, information on them included in the glossary that doubles to define other terms native to the story. Ultimately, this is an enjoyable dystopian story that ends on a good note, although there are occasional parts that drag after the first chapter, which this reviewer found to be the high point of the narrative given its background on the book’s setting.
Author's Bio:

Peter Riva has worked for more than thirty years with the leaders in aerospace and space exploration. His daytime job for more than forty years has been as a literary agent. He resides in New York City.

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