My 5 star Review of ‘My Alien Self: My Journey Back to Me’, by Amanda Green

I believe I’ve never read a memoir before in my life. I read biographies when I was young — used to love them back then, but never memoirs.

Nevertheless, the moment I read the description of “My Alien Self, My Journey back to me’, by Amanda Green, I wanted to read it.

The journey described is intense, almost brutal at some points. And yet there’s tenderness in the way Amanda tells it all, no holding back—after all, it’s her life; she’s her own main character.

Reading fiction can be easy, even if the subject is difficult, because you have the comfort of knowing it all came from a creative mind; here, however, it all really happened.

This is a tough story, but it’s also about redemption and recovery. It will make you change your pre-conceptions about mental illness, and will certainly help so many people!

Find out more about Amanda Green in my interview with her:

My 5 star Review of ‘Space Orville’, by Jeff Whelan

My daughter and I have just finished reading ‘Space Orville’, by Jeff Whelan. I never read Science Fiction–I have no means to explain why, I love watching Sci-Fi movies and TV shows, but not reading them…go figures! Anyway, my daughter loves reading Sci-Fi, and won a copy of the book as a very generous gift from Jeff Whelan himself, after I interviewed him on my blog. Since I knew it had to be a great book, with so many wonderful reviews, I decided to read it with her, and what a fantastic decision that was!

This book is amazing. Seriously, it was an unforgettable journey.

The attention to detail is remarkable. Everything and every name in the story seem to be thoroughly thought. You keep reading and being pleasantly surprised by Whelan’s ability to create the most unbelievable and bizarre things and people in a way that you simply have to believe. It all makes sense! Just like to Space Orville, the mysteries of the Universe are presented to us. Flabbergasted at first we start to get immerse into this Universe. Suddenly, you are holding your Kindle as if trying to control a spaceship, grinding your teeth as if watching a movie.

The story has it all; laughter, tenderness, suspense, action, everything!

In the final chapters, we were reading really fast to finish and see how it all would end, curiosity taking hold of us. Then, when we finished, we were both hysterical about the great ending and sad because we wanted more! I miss the story already. Actually, I can imagine weekly episodes, toys, lunch boxes, etc about space Orville.

As one reviewer said, how can this not be a Pixar blockbuster yet? Imagine seeing all these characters in big screen (bigger than my mental screen, that is)?

Spotlight on John Nardizzi – Interview with Author of ‘Telegraph Hill’

John Nardizzi is not only an author who writes about investigators; he is a Private Investigator himself! How cool is that?

He’s also a lawyer, and uses his experience to write. His debut novel, Telegraph Hill, has been receiving great reviews, and is definitely added to my (huge) TBR! 🙂

So, let’s learn more about him!

Please, tell us a little about yourself.

Photo on 2012-08-30 at 09.58Pleasure to be a part of your site Renata. I grew up in Boston and lived in San Francisco for a decade. It was in California that I started working as a private investigator and getting more serious about writing. For my crime novel Telegraph Hill, I based a lot of my characters on people I met while working as a PI: witnesses, cops, hookers, street people. While I was in law school, I represented people from a rough part of San Francisco called the Tenderloin, and spent a lot of time in this edgy colorful part of the city. Some of my research involved drinks, or ended up with me buying drinks at these old dive bars and talking to street dudes.

In California, I started to get published–poetry, short fiction and even a short film about some of my homeless clients. After law school, I started working for a well known detective agency in San Francisco. I got re-interested in reading some of the classic PI novels — Raymond Chandler and Robert Parker especially– and wanted to bring some of my real-life experiences to a novel.

A few agents were very high on Telegraph Hill but wanted me to slant it in a certain way. One suggested I make the protagonist an amateur. Which is ironic, of course, given I am a real PI–what was I going to do, write about a dentist who is a part-time sleuth? Then I came across a new publishing venture at www.libboo.com. They offered a great new platform for selling books and published an eBook version of Telegraph Hill. A talented artist named Aldren did the cover.

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing since I was 15 or so. Songs, poems, little biographical sketches of people. I was asked to write a biography of my soccer teammates and I would insert things like “led league in scoring and outstanding arrest warrants” and later I’d get calls from the guy, “Where
did that come from!” Just like to let off steam. Later I got more serious with it.

Do you remember the first story you wrote?

Yeah, it is buried in a box in my attic somewhere. I wrote a story about a piano and a young kid who dreams of being a musician. He becomes possessed by the music he plays. Twilight Zone stuff, I love that show.

 Can you tell us two eccentricities about yourself?

Eccentric–me? Everyone else around here is weird. 2 things I guess I have been told: I eat weird stuff like red cabbage, and pasta for breakfast. And I listen to music obsessively, the same album for 5-6 straight months in the car. Let It Bleed by the Stones was on there in 2012 almost exclusively.

What was the best thing you’ve ever heard (or read) from a reader?

That certain passages in Telegraph Hill have images that are startling and memorable. I like to hear that since I come at fiction from writing
poetry — trying to boil down the writing to hard, spare imagery. A lot of readers say they have a terrific view of San Francisco through the eyes of the characters. So I appreciate comments like that.

Do you have a good Indie author to recommend?

Yes, Thomas Davidson wrote a great thriller with awesome old school rock n’ roll references, it’s called The Museum of Sudden Disappearances. If you like creative language and humor and classic rock music, I definitely recommend it.

Who inspired and/or supported you to become a writer?

Reading J.R.R Tolkien‘s Lord of the Rings was a huge discovery for me as a young kid. Tolkien really lit the fire for me. And my parents always had books all over the house. They encouraged me to read and write, always took us to the library to get books. We were expected to read and be challenged. TV was limited, and while I resented it then, I appreciate that now.

Do you have a WIP (Working in progress)? If so, can you tell us a little about it?

I have 10 chapters done on a sequel to Telegraph Hill. I also have an agent reading chapters for a non-fiction book about some of the cases I have investigated, some big murder cases, cases involving con artists –basically what it is like to work as a PI. I started in this industry working for a flamboyant PI in California who said things like “No one leaves this firm, they either get fired or die.” So it was that kind of place. A weird corner of the legal profession that readers will get to see.

What is your favorite of your books? Why?

Telegraph Hill is my first full length novel so that would be it. I wanted to take some chances in the telling of a detective story, use language like Don DeLillo does in Libra, a novel filled with poetic riffs from a possessed mind. I stay true to the genre but readers are telling me the writing took them to a new places in San Francisco. Especially when the investigator Ray Infantino does interviews with witnesses.

Final_Cover_JPEG

What is your favorite of your characters? Why?

I would say the investigator Ray Infantino, since it is his journey. But my heart goes with his lover Dominique. She reminds me of a lot of the strong women in my family and ones I have met in my life. She has the star qualities–heart and intelligence and character.

Do you like to interact online? What’s your favorite social media?

I always appreciate anyone who takes time to write or email. Twitter is a blast, and perfect for quick jabs and comments. Don’t really do anything anymore on Facebook, irritating company with no sense of privacy.

How do you feel about marketing your books?

Libboo has been a great discovery. They took my novel, got it to eBook form and created a space where readers can discover it. Aside from that, marketing is a lot of work and you have to be a part of it. No one does it for you, even at the big publishing houses. You gotta get the word out and jump the train as it steams on by.

Please, give us all your links – where can your readers find you and your books?

Book sales (Kindle, Nook, iPad etc): https://www.libboo.com/read/telegraph-hill/johnnardizzii

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AuthorPI

Author Site: http://www.johnnardizzi.com/

Thank you for the answers, John. I’m sure we will be reading and hearing about Investigator Ray Infantino for a long time. 

And readers, don’t go anywhere! Stay tuned for the next interview.

  • If you’re an author and want to be in my spotlight, contact me!

My 5 star Review of ‘An Order of Coffee and Tears’, by Brian Spangler

Paperback Edition

Kindle Edition

An order of coffee and tears is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s absolutely glowing in my top ten, and even maybe in my top five. I cried reading the last chapters today on the train, and I can say that not many books made me do that; only three or maybe four so far.

It starts with the covers. Look above; I can’t decide which one is prettier, so I decided to put both.

Brian Spangley brings you a tale so vividly narrated by Gabby, a young waitress, that you feel like watching a beautiful, touching movie inside your head. The story is poignant, but not mushy. It has the exactly right amount of mystery, love, friendship, routine, sadness, redemption and, of course, coffee and tears.

 As each chapter unfolds, we learn more about Gabby and her new family—the other employees and some customers of Angela’s Dinner. It’s an old fashion dinner, where people go not only to eat and drink, but sometimes also to share their problems, to talk, to open their hearts. We have the opportunity to hear many of their stories, through the ears of Gabby. And we can see how she, Ms. Potts, Clark and others (I don’t want to give away too much and spoil your fun, so I won’t name all of them) grow. The whole dinner seems to grow along the story.

The dinner contains a universe so intense, so many lives intersecting inside it, that it’s not difficult to see how Angela’s is a character as important as others.

Many deep and intense themes are presented, in a tender and easy to connect way. You get to know the characters and their secrets, feeling their pain, their fear, their hope. You are, at some level, another customer, sharing your own order of coffee and tears.

 It’s impossible to talk much about the plot without revealing too much and spoiling it, so I’ll refrain from it. But I can tell you this: if you liked Fried Green Tomatoes, the movie, or Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, the novel, by Fannie Flagg, you’ll certainly, utterly love An order of Coffee and Tears. A true masterpiece. Beautifully written, masterfully constructed, amazingly finished.

My 5 star Review of ‘Fallen Men’, by Brian O’Hare

I love reading, and love even more to find a good story and help spreading the word about it. That’s why I review books here, on Amazon and on Goodreads. I’m truly glad that Amazon is [apparently] not going to forbid me of doing that… (read more here)

(*I’ve just joined Readers Favorite’s Review team, so in the future my reviews may also been there too)

I  finished “Fallen Men”, by Brian O’Hare yesterday, and really liked it.

Even though it talks about three Catholic Priests, I don’t believe it can be simply defined as “religious fiction”. It’s way more than that.

It’s more a study of how faith can both save or destroy you. Of how morality and honesty are relative concepts depending on one’s point of view or interests at the moment. It’s also a study of how depression can lead to unthinkable decisions.

Brian O’Hare has talent to describe people and situations without boring the reader. He can also make you enter the characters’ thoughts so you are deeply into the situation with them. And he creates real people, defected, sometimes weak, sometimes strong people. Priests, lay people… they are all real in a way you can relate to them here. And about Father McGennity… Boy, I know a Father really similar to him. Well, the truth is, Fathers are men, and men come in all sizes and kinds; O’Hare presented it greatly in this story.

I thought the way the forbidden relationship was presented was both tender and disturbing, which was perfect  for the story. The gray areas that can surround even a Father’s life were very well described, even with Father Dan, and his black or white view of the world.

As a Catholic myself, I must say that I can relate much more to Father Dan than to Father Ray. What Ray did was inexcusable to me and even though the surroundings (internal and external) might help explain in some level his actions, I still believe his mission as a priest was exactly to avoid temptations at all costs. In my Parish we have amazing examples of Fathers so I may be too biased in my opinion… But I still believe he should have been better. I would prefer at all choices to be publicly accused as Father Dan, of following the Church’s Laws to the end than as Ray.

I may sound too harsh, but the priesthood path is not for the faint of heart. It means an entire life of dedication to others and the Church. The Parish is your family, and God must be in your thoughts at all moments. Sure Priests sin too, but to an extent… Mortal sins in a Father shake the Church’s core. I can understand some falls, but Ray fell too much for me.

You see, O’Hare’s great skills as a writer are still making me think so passionately about Ray’s story… All the moral dilemmas stay with you long after finishing the reading. And that’s what makes me say this book is a must read. It doesn’t matter your religion or even if you believe in anything… Fallen Men is an excellent, well-written story that raises great questions and gives a lot of food for thought.

Find out more about Brian on his blog: http://brianohareprofessor.blogspot.co.uk

 

My 5 star Review of ‘A Cupboard Full of Coats’, by Yvvette Edwards

After posting my first review today, I had to post here my review of this book. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read, and Yvvette Edwards, the author, is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met.

I really loved this book, and I should have posted my review here and on Goodreads long ago, can’t explain why it took me so long!!

Oh my, what a debut!
This author is someone to follow. What a gift with words; so perfectly constructed characters. The whole atmosphere she creates is so lyrical, so many beautiful sentences, I had to highlight and take notes on my kindle almost in every page.

There are points through the novel where you can actually smell the food she’s describing; listen to Lemon with his thick accent; cry with Jinx.

Abuse and passion crimes, unfortunately, are not new themes to many women; the way they are told here is what makes all the difference.

There’s a beautiful Brazilian song that says, in Portuguese, something like: “Certain songs I listen to/fit so well inside of me/ that I have got to ask/ How I’m not the one who wrote it*”. Well,  this is another book that I’d love to have written. 😀 However, I don’t think anyone else would have the sensibility and talent to have written this story.

A masterpiece by Yvvette Edwards.

She’s writing a second book now, and I cannot wait to read it!

*Find out more about this song here (Milton Nascimento – Certas Canções)

Follow Yvvette on Twitter: @YvvetteEdwards

My 5 star Review of ‘Cheer: A Novel’, by Leslie A. Gordon

I’ll start to post my reviews of books I read here. I will also post old reviews I’ve written on Amazon before but that may take some time…

Starting with a book I finished yesterday:

This book is amazingly well written, with a great plot, well drawn characters, and gorgeous prose.

Each chapter follows one of the members of the Dahl family, which is still trying to recover from a tragedy that happened two years before. First person POV for the women, third for the man.

Each one of them – Ethan, the father, Jenny, the mother, and Ella, the teenager daughter – is trying desperately to find a way to cope with the grief. Unfortunately, they are all trying it alone, and the family is, like Ethan states in a chapter, looking more like a bunch of roommates than people united by love and blood.

A tragedy like the one they faced is known to destroy families, and the mother is so consumed by grief and guilt she fails miserably to see what’s happening with little Ella. It’s heartbreaking to read about this young girl ordeal, what she finds to be an answer to her problems. The father is both weak and strong. You’ll love and despise them; you’ll cheer by their happiness; you’ll read fast to finish it and then you’ll feel a little orphan, missing them.

Having the twisted mind I have, I have to confess I knew what she was going to do but I don’t think many ‘normal’ people (:)) would guess. It’s a compelling and inspiring story and also a good mystery.

There’s a beautiful Brazilian song that says, in Portuguese, something like: “Certain songs I listen to/fit so well inside of me/ that I have got to ask/ How I’m not the one who wrote it*”. Well,  this is one book that I’d love to have written. 😀 Excellent job, Leslie A. Gordon!

*Find out more about this song here (Milton Nascimento – Certas Canções)

Find out more about Leslie A. Gordon on her blog: http://leslieagordon.wordpress.com/