‘Culinary Adventures And Others Throughout A Little-Known But Gorgeous Region Of Italy’ @OlgaNM7 reviews Tales From The Hamlet by @CassCK55 for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Olga.

Olga blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

Orange rose and Rosie's Book Review Team
Rosie’s Book Review Team

Olga has been reading Tales From The Hamlet by Cassandra Campbell-Kemp.

Book cover for Tales from The Hamlet by Cassandra Campbell-Kemp
Tales From The Hamlet by Cassandra Campbell-Kemp

As a memoir, this is a book that shares the experiences of the author, narrated in the first-person, at a particular point in her life, rather than being an exhaustive account of her biography. That means that the author has chosen a particular aspect or period of her life to share, and this is interesting in its own right, as from the little she tells us at the beginning and what she reveals throughout the book, it soon becomes evident that she has embarked in many adventures, has lived and worked in many different countries, speaks many languages, and her lifestyle does not conform to what many people would expect in somebody of her age. She is not married, has no children, grandchildren, or close family, and although she loves her own space and her independence, she is neither domestic nor domesticated.

There are several elements that make this book unique: the protagonist is not a young woman, she is not in the best of health, and she makes a risky choice at a point in life when most people would be looking forward to their retirements (or even taking early retirement). After years of living abroad, going from country to country, and moving from one challenging but fulfilling job to another, she doesn’t seem to be able to find a suitable job at home (back in the UK). So when an offer from Italy comes knocking at her door, she does not hesitate. This is not a woman who is trying to find herself or discover anything new (even if she learns plenty); she is moving due to her career. Also, although she meets plenty of people and makes many friends, there is no romance in sight (thankfully)! The topic of the Brexit (the book takes place before the treaty was finalised, but it had been voted already and was in the process of being finalized) results in plenty of jokes about her having to marry an Italian man, but these are only jokes, and despite passing comments about the attractiveness of some of the men she meets, and some harmless flirting, this is not a story about a woman who finally finds “the right man”. She is quite clear in her choices, and she enjoys living by herself.

This being Italy, there is plenty of food, wine, amazing landscapes, and Italian words and phrases, but the protagonist is not a cook, and she enjoys the food but does not share recipes or tricks about Italian home cooking. (Sorry if you were expecting those).

She is not big at sharing her past history either, and, other than a brief introduction (that goes some way to explaining how she found herself with a CV full of experience in many different jobs all over Europe but with no formal qualifications or diplomas, and also a polyglot without any certificates in any of the languages she is fluent in), she only reveals things that are directly relevant to the story or to the background of characters we come in contact with (her best friend from home, Ugo, her Italian friend, who finds her the perfect accommodation…), and she also answers the direct questions of some of the people she meets, but Cassandra is not a woman who spends her time idly mulling over her past and what could have been. Yes, she does worry about the future, and she needs a bit of help to assess her options in a realistic manner. Nonetheless, this is a woman who is always looking forward and thinking of what task she can undertake next, and that might vary from the very practical and every day (like changing banks and getting the internet installed), to projects that could help develop and reshape the region she is staying in, bringing in foreign investment and all that involves. No matter what the difficulties and she has to face quite a few, both personal and bureaucratic, she is a force of nature, and she does not give up easily.

I liked many things about this book: Italy, and Cassandra’s love affair with the area, the province of Emilia Romagna (she doesn’t fall in love with a man, but she does with the location, its history, its traditions, and its people). She is an avid amateur historian and researcher, and she feels strong connections with people and places, to the point of having quasi-mystical experiences when visiting certain spots and natural wonders. I was fascinated by her descriptions of places, the information she shares on the history of the region, the way the food is prepared (I knew little about Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, but now I share in her fascination), and her lyrical renderings of attending a choir concert, or sharing a delightful moment with a boy and his grandmother. You don’t just feel as if you were there, you feel at one with the protagonist, no matter how little or how much you have in common with her (which, in my case, I realise is quite a lot, despite thinking we had very little in common at the beginning). I also loved her observational skills. Sometimes these might result in minute and mundane things being explained in detail (how to get a trolley in the supermarket, or how to access a parking spot at the airport), but, considering how many places she has visited, and the many different ways of doing things she has had to battle through, it makes perfect sense. Who knows how familiar people reading the book might be with things we give for granted in our own environments?

I also enjoyed her love of language, which results in the use of some uncommon words that one is unlikely to read in a newspaper article or a bestseller (but once you’ve read them, and, in some cases, checked them in a dictionary and learned them, you are likely to adopt), but I am sure advanced English students will be enchanted by. I also loved her use of Italian words (whose meaning is always explained), which pepper the narrative and are often more descriptive than any English equivalent.

I am no Italian history buff and had never heard of Matilda di Canossa before, but after reading of her role in the region and the lasting impression she left, palpable even 900 years after her death, now I also share in the protagonist’s interest in this amazing woman, whom we all should know more about.

Oh, and the characters… She does meet some wonderful people, and she never has anything bad to say about anybody. Everybody is a source of information, amusement, knowledge, friendship, help, or delight, and always generous when they encounter this peculiar but good-natured and interesting English woman. And the animals are also wonderful. We have plenty of cats (not only Cassandra’s own Geisha, but the manor house cat, Mimi, the farm cats), a fabulous dog, and some less welcome inhabitants of the area. Yes, Cassandra is a mosquito magnet, another thing we have in common.

Is there anything I didn’t like? Not as such. Readers who prefer their stories streamlined, minimalistic, and pared down, might get frustrated with this book, and many editors would probably trim it down to a fraction of what it is now, as the author narrates similar anecdotes of meeting people who are surprised at seeing her driving a right-handed car, speaking Italian though she is evidently a foreigner, looking at her and asking her all kinds of personal questions, where her husband is, being the most frequent. There are also innumerable descriptions of meals in different restaurants, shopping trips to buy a variety of items and foodstuffs, and her attempts at dealing with Italian bureaucracy. In some ways, this is like having a conversation with a close friend, somebody you might talk to very often, and with whom you share the little things that fill up your days, even when there isn’t anything amazing or extraordinary to say. As the author explains, in her acknowledgments, this book originated in a series of Facebook posts she shared about her adventures in Italy, and as a result of the encouragement, she received from her followers to turn it into a book. With this origin in mind, it becomes easier to understand and appreciate the conversational tone of the writing, which is also full of humour. Life is made up, mostly, of these little quotidian things, and we only realise how much we miss them when “normality” disappears, as we’ve all had to learn recently, unfortunately. (I highlighted many quotes throughout the book, but as I often do, I recommend to those who might not be sure if the writing style will suit them or not, to check a sample of the book and take their time with it. It is worth it).

The ending is a return, to the UK; not a true ending, but a “to be continued” with a promise of a book of Further Tales to be published later. This suits the hopeful nature of the book and leaves us wanting more. I am aware that the author has written about her experiences during the COVID confinement, although I haven’t read her account, so those who are impatient to read more from the author while waiting for the next book in this series can check that.

If I had to issue a warning, I agree with what the author says, on the back cover of the paperback version of this book, also included in the Kindle version: Don’t read this book when you’re hungry, and I would add, especially if you’re on a diet because you might feel compelled to raid your fridge or rush to your nearest restaurant on reading about the wonderful meals Cassandra partakes of. On the positive side, the author includes a list with information, and in some cases links, to the restaurants and eateries she mentions in the narrative, at the back of the book, so those planning a trip to the region can compare notes, try the food and meet some of the people. And if you need any further encouragement, the author includes a link to her website, where you can check photos of the locations mentioned, and also access other useful links. 

In case you want to check it now, here it is.

www.cassandracampbell-kemp.com

By the way, if you are not into paranormal happenings or ghosts, don’t worry. Despite the mention of ghosts in the description, that is not what the book is about.

I recommend this book to people who enjoy non-fiction, especially memoirs, but are looking for something a bit different. Yes, the book is inspiring and life-affirming, but its protagonist is so unique that getting to know her and to expend some time with her is what makes it a worthwhile read. There is plenty of useful and fascinating information as well, and people thinking about moving to Italy, or just visiting it, will find it invaluable. So, if you are ready to meet a truly eccentric and wonderful woman, her cat, and are happy to follow her in her adventures (culinary and others) throughout a little-known but gorgeous region of Italy, don’t hesitate. Cassandra will become the guide you never knew you needed.

Orange rose book description
Book description

At the age of 61, Cassandra, a single and peripatetic Brit, was asked to pack up her house and move to Italy to take up the offer of a much-needed job. 15 months later she was made redundant, leaving her unnerved, broke and unable to return home. Her dream of a new life was rapidly turning into a nightmare and, saddled with all her belongings, her antique furniture, over 800 books and her aged Siamese cat she had nowhere to go.

A kind friend offered them sanctuary in a tiny converted former barn in his family’s ‘Borgo’, a cluster of rustic properties grouped around a late-Medieval manor House in the mountains; the beautiful and mysterious Emilian Appenines of northern Italy. There she was befriended and watched over by the owner; an eccentric octogenarian, his household ghosts and 14 semi feral cats.

The experience proved to be challenging yet deeply transformative as she struggled to recover her equilibrium and rebuild her life.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

🏞 ‘Exploring the awesome beauty of the Emilian Apennines.’ @LizanneLloyd reviews Tales From The Hamlet by Cassandra Campbell-Kemp @CassCK55

Today’s team review is from Liz.

Liz blogs here https://lizannelloyd.wordpress.com/

Orange rose and Rosie's Book Review Team
Rosie’s Book Review Team

Liz has been reading Tales From The Hamlet by Cassandra Campbell-Kemp

Book cover for Tales from The Hamlet by Cassandra Campbell-Kemp
Tales From The Hamlet by Cassandra Campbell-Kemp

Cassandra Campbell-Kemp’s memoir of her time in Italy, when she found herself unemployed and without sufficient funds to return to England with her beloved cat and all her belongings, is an amazing account of a courageous woman whose warmth attracts loyal friends and who is prepared to work hard using her fluent Italian and her wide experience of people’s needs when looking for holiday property, to build a successful business.

Grateful to find a delightful, converted barn in the countryside amongst friends and helpful neighbours, she and her frail old cat, Geisha are cherished and nurtured in the Hamlet. A confident and, according to her Italian friends, fast driver she is happy to use her right-hand drive car on the mountain roads exploring the awesome beauty of the Emilian Apennines. Her descriptive passages are detailed and inspiring and the flowing prose also encompasses the delicious meals she is given by friends and in restaurants. Her accounts of the local history are fascinating and her intense interest in the stories is clear.

Despite mobility issues Cassandra battles Italian bureaucracy, worsening as a result of Brexit, plunges into local social life, including amazing local concerts, and she is widely accepted by the community. As winter approaches, Cass decides that she needs to decamp to the UK, but she keeps on her barn rental intending to return in the following summer. This is where the book ends and I am looking forward to her follow up volume.

4 stars

Orange rose book description
Book description

At the age of 61, Cassandra, a single and peripatetic Brit, was asked to pack up her house and move to Italy to take up the offer of a much-needed job. 15 months later she was made redundant, leaving her unnerved, broke and unable to return home. Her dream of a new life was rapidly turning into a nightmare and, saddled with all her belongings, her antique furniture, over 800 books and her aged Siamese cat she had nowhere to go.

A kind friend offered them sanctuary in a tiny converted former barn in his family’s ‘Borgo’, a cluster of rustic properties grouped around a late-Medieval manor House in the mountains; the beautiful and mysterious Emilian Appenines of northern Italy. There she was befriended and watched over by the owner; an eccentric octogenarian, his household ghosts and 14 semi feral cats.

The experience proved to be challenging yet deeply transformative as she struggled to recover her equilibrium and rebuild her life.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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📚Discovering Northern Italy. Frank Reviews #Memoir Tales From The Hamlet by Cassandra Campbell-Kemp, for Rosie’s #Bookreview team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Frank.

Find out more about him here https://franklparker.com/

Orange rose and Rosie's Book Review Team
Rosie’s Book Review Team

Franks has been reading Tales From The Hamlet by Cassandra Campbell-Kemp

Book cover for Tales from The Hamlet by Cassandra Campbell-Kemp
Tales From The Hamlet by Cassandra Campbell-Kemp

Having recently completed reading two books that featured the horrors of World War Two, seeing this book on Rosie Amber’s list of books for review offered a refreshing change. I am also a sucker for those escapist TV programmes like “A Place in the Sun”, “Escape to the Chateau”, “Great Railway Journeys” and those in which a celebrity chef takes us on a gastronomic tour of some lesser known region, sampling the artisan produce and traditional recipes.

This book follows that pattern. It begins in Verona where Cassandra has just been informed that her services are no longer required. She is in her sixties, not in the best of health and her 30 year career in property sales and development is seemingly over. She faces an uncertain future. Fortunately she has friends and former business associates to whom she can turn for assistance, which is how she finds herself in a region of Northern Italy that she has not previously visited.

Her explorations of the geography, gastronomy, history and culture of the region form the bulk of the book. It is written in an easily accessible style. Her love of everything about the place and its people shines through. And there are cats. Who doesn’t love everything about cats? If social media is anything to go by, no-one! There is the queenly Geisha, Cass’s own aloof Persian, and Mimi the feline mistress in charge of a bevy of farm cats. All recognise in Cass someone whose attention is worth cultivating. So too, it seems, do many of the local proprietors of coffee shops, wineries and the artisan producers of bread, meat, wine and cheese.

There are many delightful descriptions of the villages and ancient buildings, both exterior and interior. One of Cass’s new friends is a member of a male choir and there are a couple of moving depictions of choral performances. Why then, you might wonder, only 3 stars|? Firstly, though the writing is good, this is no literary masterpiece. Secondly it is not a book with an important message to convey about life and relationships. Like those TV programmes I referred to at the beginning, it is informative and entertaining, an easy bedtime read.

By the end Cass seems to be on the verge of a new career promoting the region to potential second home owners and developers. The cynic in me whispers that the book is surely a part of that process, however, it appears that the new venture was cruelly postponed by the Covid pandemic; Cass has written elsewhere about her pandemic isolation back home in Wiltshire. For the same reason the sequel promised to at the end of the book will not now happen. One message that does come across is that Cass is a strong and resourceful woman, well able to take unexpected reversals of fortune in her stride.

Orange rose book description
Book description

At the age of 61, Cassandra, a single and peripatetic Brit, was asked to pack up her house and move to Italy to take up the offer of a much-needed job. 15 months later she was made redundant, leaving her unnerved, broke and unable to return home. Her dream of a new life was rapidly turning into a nightmare and, saddled with all her belongings, her antique furniture, over 800 books and her aged Siamese cat she had nowhere to go.

A kind friend offered them sanctuary in a tiny converted former barn in his family’s ‘Borgo’, a cluster of rustic properties grouped around a late-Medieval manor House in the mountains; the beautiful and mysterious Emilian Appenines of northern Italy. There she was befriended and watched over by the owner; an eccentric octogenarian, his household ghosts and 14 semi feral cats.

The experience proved to be challenging yet deeply transformative as she struggled to recover her equilibrium and rebuild her life.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

‘The writing flowed so well that it swept me up.’ Rosie’s #Bookreview of #ContemporaryDrama The Vernazza Effect by @RobertaRCarr #TuesdayBookBlog

The Vernazza EffectThe Vernazza Effect by Roberta R. Carr

5 stars

The Vernazza Effect is a contemporary drama and revolves around the life of Ella Walker, who works as a premature baby nurse in a San Francisco hospital; she’s hit hard by the death of one her ‘her’ babies. On the home front Ella is in an increasingly abusive marriage; she reaches a critical point in her life when her own mother dies.

Her best friend Tara arranges for them both to go to Italy for a much needed holiday, but when the holiday ends Ella isn’t ready to head back; instead she stays for two more weeks on her own. Her destination is the beautiful north west costal area around the Cinque Terre villages, and it is here that she finds the strength she needs to make the changes in her life. It’s also the place where she meets Jack, another solo traveller, and in their brief time together they find happiness.

This is a revised version of this story and after reading a selection of reviews I know that this new version is a winner. The writing flowed so well that it swept me up into the delightful descriptions of people and places. The Italian scenes were particularly picturesque. The story doesn’t end in Italy, for Ella must return home and face reality and it comes to her in several hard-hitting ways which I’m not going to mention and spoil for other readers. I really enjoyed being part of Ella’s journey as the author made me feel part of the story in just the right way to escape from my own world. I read this in a couple of sittings and it was one of those books that I could have carried on reading into the small hours. Highly recommended.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Desc 1

A woman’s unforgettable journey to find her destiny.

Twenty-nine-year-old Ella Walker strives to live her best life. When tragedy strikes at both work and home, her world spirals out of control. She confides in her best friend, Tara Collins, who helps her confront her fears.

With Tara by her side, Ella embarks on a cathartic journey across Italy to heal her body and soul. The odyssey leads to Vernazza, one of five seaside villages in the Cinque Terre. The enchanting hamlet provides the refuge and tranquility Ella needs to gain clarity about her future.

As she awakens to her heart’s desire, fate intervenes with several cruel twists, threatening to upend her happiness. Will Ella cling to her old ways, or will she fight for her dreams that were born in Vernazza?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Fall In Love With Italy’s Food And Scenery. Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Brings You Cucina Tipica by Andrew Cotto

Today’s team review is from Alison. She blogs here https://alisonwilliamswriting.wordpress.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Alison has been reading Cucina Tipica by Andrew Cotto

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I’ve only visited Italy once, a few days in Rome followed by a week by the sea down the coast from Naples. It was a fabulous holiday – it isn’t clichéd to say the people are incredibly friendly, the weather is fabulous, the scenery stunning and as for the food, it’s wonderful. So this book, although set in a different part of Italy, had a lot that appealed and that was enjoyable.

I love my food, and some of the descriptions of the meals were wonderful. And the descriptions of the countryside and the people really made you feel as though you were there. The author can certainly write, and write well, and this would be a lovely book to take on holiday.

That said, the descriptions did begin to wear a little thin after a while and, to be honest, the book could be a great deal shorter. I didn’t feel that invested in the characters, and there were a couple that I didn’t like at all. I do think the book would be improved with less detail about the food and more depth to the characters.

That said, it’s an enjoyable read.

3.5 stars

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Escaping to Italy was the easy part. Figuring out how to stay forever is where the adventure begins…


When disheartened American Jacoby Pines arrives in Italy on vacation, he has no idea that a family photograph from the previous century would start a search for ancestry through the streets of Florence and the hills of Tuscany.


Jacoby’s quest includes encounters with a septuagenarian ex-pat, an elusive heiress in hiding, a charming Australian museum guide, a Pearl Jam-crazed artisan shoemaker, malevolent hunters, a needy border collie and one very large wild boar. Along the way there are magnificent, wine-soaked meals at every turn and immersion in the sensory splendor and la dolce vita of Il Bel Paese.


At the end of the novel, on the morning of Jacoby’s dreaded return to America, a chance of remaining in Italy arrives in stunning news from abroad. But is it too late?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Food and Travel Adventure Cucina Tipica by @andrewcotto

Today’s team review is from Terry. She blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Terry has been reading Cucina Tipica by Andre Cotto

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4*

New Yorker Jacoby Pines takes a trip to Tuscany with his girlfriend, Claire, a travel/food writer. He’s not having the best of times: a drunken text sent to the wrong person lost him not only his job but any prospect of getting another in that field. Being unemployed is not doing much for his relationship with ambitious, status-orientated Claire. A frustrated former musician, Jacoby has no family, feels insecure, useless, and worried that he and Claire are nearing the parting of ways – particularly concerning their very different reasons for wanting to go to this part of Italy.

The adventure side of the story is fairly low-key, with some interesting relationships and amusing situations. The descriptions of the area and the food probably make up half the book, and I enjoyed these to a certain extent, but I don’t eat meat and dairy and am not a ‘foodie’ (I think knocking up a vegetable chilli with a ready-made sauce is cooking), so it was a bit wasted on me. If of the gourmet persuasion, though, you will adore this.

I liked: 1. Jacoby’s realisations about himself, that he was at home in rural Italy and was not a New Yorker at all, and his observations about his previous wealth-orientated, competitive lifestyle – according to Claire, the ‘real’ world – and the ex-pats of ‘Chiantishire’. 2. The depiction of the place itself, the people and the way of life. 3. The characterisation and dialogue. 4. The writing style. 5. The outcome.

I was less keen on: 1. The food detail. 2. Some of the dialogue being written in Italian. Obviously it was necessary for authenticity, but as I can’t speak it, I didn’t actually know what they were saying. Sometimes I could guess, but more often not.

My only other comment is directed at the publisher – does this book not deserve to be wrapped in colour? I can imagine a cover splashed with luscious olives, lemons, bottles of red wine, pizza dripping with tomatoes and olive oil, sunshine and blue skies, that would leap out at those who long for a Tuscan idyll.

To sum up: a rather lovely book in many ways; not quite my thing but if you do fancy it, there’s a sequel, too!

Desc 1

Cucina Tipica: An Italian Adventure is the story of Jacoby Pines, a disheartened American who arrives in Italy on vacation and decides he never wants to leave. What follows is a food-filled, wine-soaked, travel-laden adventure about one man’s quest for an antiquated existence in the modern world.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Of #ContemporaryRomance FINDING EDWARD by @SuzMcKLink #TuesdayBookBlog

Finding Edward (Save Me, #3)Finding Edward by Suzanne McKenna Link

4.5 stars

Finding Edward is a contemporary romance, although it is the third book in this series it easily reads as a stand-alone. Eddie’s grandmother recently died and left the contents of her estate to be divided three ways; Eddie, his mum and his brother. Each of them also received a personal letter with a last wish for them to fulfil. Growing up was hard, money was tight and school was a challenge. Eddie’s first love was art, but it was only his grandmother who encouraged him to follow his dreams.

Her letter to Eddie involved a long-kept secret which his mother was left to reveal; the man he thought of as his father was not his biological parent. Eddie’s grandmother sets him two tasks; go to Positano, Italy to search for his father, and use his inheritance to enrol in art college. For years. Eddie
had put aside his love of art and taken a more conventional job, and he’d never strayed far from home; a trip to Italy would test his comfort zone to its limits.

The ups and downs of Eddie’s search for his father were believable as was the romantic theme, but it was the author’s creation of vibrant characters and beautiful Italian settings which made this book come alive. They took me right to the Amalfi coast and I could almost taste the coffee, hear the
Italian spoken and see the amazing landscapes. The Italians insisted on calling him Edward or Eduardo and the name artistically fitted the story as it progressed. I loved how Edward’s love of art was reignited and how helpful and welcoming the people of Positano were. It made me want to pack
my bags and book my own holiday. If you want a piece of escapism reading in an idyllic setting, then I can highly recommend this book.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book description

When Edward’s beloved grandmother dies, she doesn’t just leave behind money. His inheritance includes a father he never knew he had.

Now he’s forced to navigate a country he doesn’t know, using a language he doesn’t speak, in search of a man who has no clue Edward even exists.

He’s expecting disappointment, he’s expecting anger, he’s expecting pain. But what Edward isn’t expecting is to stumble across the one woman to ever steal his heart … the one woman he can never have.

Edward’s past and future collide, leaving him more lost — and more alive than he’s ever felt before.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Art Heist #Thriller MARKED FOR REVENGE by @JSAauthor

Today’s team review is from Robbie, she blogs here https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Robbie has been reading Marked For Revenge by Jennifer Alderson

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This is the third book I have read in the Zelda Richardson series which I find quite unique as a whole due to its focus on the world of art museums in the Netherlands. Ms Alderson describes the artworks that feature in her stories with rich clarity which I really enjoy. She clearly has an extensive knowledge of this subject which she shares in an interesting and entertaining way and makes me long to visit the art museums in the Netherlands.

Zelda has is finally coming together. She has a paying job in a local museum as a researcher, her relationship with Jacob is going well and she has a great apartment in a building inhabited mainly by artists. She has befriended on of the artists, a young Croatian woman called Gabriella, and has even started making her own stained glass windows again. Life couldn’t be better until a series of brazen art thefts starts rocking the art world in the Netherlands.

Skilled and daring thieves break into the poorly secured museums around the country and steal a selection of rather unusual artworks. They do not take the most valuable and well know pieces, but rather the more obscure artworks by famous artists. A card saying the art has been taken by Robber Hood due to the poor security of national treasures is left behind at each location.

When Gabriella suffers a diabetic collapse in front of Zelda who takes her to her apartment to administer her insulin, Zelda sees what she believes to be a copy of one of the stolen pieces together with an in-progress copy on Gabriella’s easel. She is attacked by a visitor to Gabriella’s apartment while she is still there and incurs a serious head injury which affects her memory, making it unreliable.

Soon after Zelda returns to work, her museum becomes a victim of Robber Hood and due to various circumstances surrounding her attack and what she thinks she saw in Gabriella’s apartment, Zelda becomes a suspect and is suspended from her job. She teams up with a well-known art theft private investigator hired by the museum to find the missing art and sets of on an adventure to clear her name and find the missing artwork before it disappears forever.

This is my favourite of the Zelda Richardson series so far. The character of Zelda has matured and become a bit more of a thinker and a planner. I enjoyed the step up in her relationship with Jacob and the introduction of a bit of a more stable romance which in no way detracted from the main storyline. All in, a well research, well written and entertaining read.

Book description

An adrenaline-fueled adventure set in the Netherlands, Croatia, Italy, and Turkey about stolen art, the mafia, and a father’s vengeance.

When researcher Zelda Richardson begins working at a local museum, she doesn’t expect to get entangled with an art theft, knocked unconscious by a forger, threatened by the mob, or stalked by drug dealers.

To make matters worse, a Croatian gangster is convinced Zelda knows where a cache of recently pilfered paintings is. She must track down an international gang of art thieves and recover the stolen artwork in order to save those she loves most.

The trouble is, Zelda doesn’t know where to look. Teaming up with art detective Vincent de Graaf may be her only hope at salvation.

The trail of clues leads Zelda and Vincent on a pulse-pounding race across Europe to a dramatic showdown in Turkey that may cost them their lives.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #WomensFiction Bella Toscana by Nanette Littlestone

Today’s team review is from Cathy, she blogs here https://betweenthelinesbookblog.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading Bella Toscana by Nanette Littlestone

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Toscana Blake has an organised, if not perfect, life. She’s content in her marriage to Jackson. Acknowledging the fact it may not be a passionate union, Toscana feels a deep affection for her husband and appreciates the life they have. The only stumbling block is the future of Dolcielo, her bakery business. Much is riding on her visit to the Chocolate Festival in Rome and whether it can open doors for her and her delicious sounding chocolate brownies. Regardless of that, she’s looking forward to seeing her much loved aunt and uncle.

Before the trip though, she and Jackson celebrate her fiftieth birthday at a favourite Italian restaurant. That night Toscana has a disturbing and vivid dream of an unknown lover. Then at the last moment Jackson is unable to make the trip to Rome due to work related issues, so after some deliberation and urging from Jackson and her best friend, Toscana decides to go alone.

While wandering through the streets, after checking into her hotel and having a restorative nap, Toscana stops to look at the ruins of the Temple of Vesta. It’s there that the visions start in earnest.

A chance meeting sets Toscana on a path of discovery. Her ordered life is thrown into chaos and uncertainty. Toscana’s struggle between following her head or heart was realistically portrayed—it’s a choice between staying with the familiar and comfortable or taking a leap of faith into the unknown.

The fascinating historical details and wonderful descriptions of a past and present Rome (not to mention the food—lots of it!) conjure vivid imagery and a strong sense of culture and place, added to by the picturesque representation of the Italian countryside. I enjoyed the themes of reincarnation and spirituality and how they were the foundation and heart of the story. The past life flashbacks and present were woven together as Toscana finds herself on an unexpectedly challenging journey, one of serious consideration, possibilities and potential.

I didn’t realise until after I’d read it that this is a sequel, but it can easily be read as a stand alone.

Book description

An explosive yearning that can’t be denied
Disturbing visions from an ancient past
A mysterious stranger that somehow feels familiar

On the night of her fiftieth birthday, the comfortable ride of Toscana’s life takes an alarming plunge. Haunted by seductive visions, she tries to push aside the desire and focus on the husband who adores her. Then she falls for Flynn, a younger man with an eye for adventure and a heart full of romance, who leaves her doubting everything she’s believed about love and passion.

In Atlanta, Rome, and the lush scenery of Tuscany, Toscana searches for answers to the mysteries of her life while she faces her biggest question. If she listens to her feelings will she lose everything she holds dear, or does her heart hold the key to love and joy?

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #WomensFiction Walls of Silence by @helen_pryke #fridayreads

Today’s team review is from Judith, she blogs here http://judithbarrowblog.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Judith has been reading Walls Of Silence by Helen Pryke

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My Review:

First of all, I’d like to say how fascinating the Book Description is. Just enough to tempt the readers in without giving away the story, as so often happens.

I always try not to give spoilers with my reviews but with Walls of Silence I found it difficult to write the following without giving any of the story away. I hope I’ve succeeded.

To say I enjoyed the whole of this book isn’t totally true; I enjoyed Helen Pryke’s writing style and the fact that all the way though she convinced me of the danger to the protagonist, Maria, if she revealed what was happening to her. There are deeply disturbing sections and the actions of some of the characters are distressing. It is a dark book.

I did have a few problems with pace of Walls of Silence. After being instantly drawn into the story through the Prologue, it then slowed, drastically. I love Prologues and this one was strong; I was intrigued by Pietro’s story. But then the abrupt change to Maria’s story; the flashback, left me a bit stranded. I kept wanting to know the reactions of both Pietro and  his and Maria’s daughter, Antonella, who, presumably , were learning about Maria’s life together. I have to be honest though; I’m not at all sure how else the author could have written it. I just wanted more of these two characters after such an interesting introduction to them

I felt the first half of the first chapter was too drawn out (although I realised later that it was to introduce some of the characters we, as readers, would meet again towards the end of the book). But  I did like the second half; Maria’s early family life in Sicily and the descriptions of the characters in her community, ruled so completely by the Catholic Church during the era of the 1950/60s.

This variation in the pace of the plot, some parts too drawn out, others too quickly passed over, was, I felt, a little awkward.

But I thought the characters that Maria met throughout her difficult life were well drawn and the dialogue was believable and rounded out most of them.

However I did have a problem with the relationship between the protagonist and Pietro; it did feel a little contrived and unsatisfactory. to me as a reader.

Still, as I’ve said I did like the author’s style of writing, I found the descriptions of the settings brilliantly evocative and the story very moving. And Walls of Silence is an excellent title; it gives the claustrophobic sense on enclosure, secrecy, despair that Maria and the other women experience.

And, I must say i do like the cover; to me it embodies the whole story.

After I wrote this review I read the book description. Part of the proceeds from this book will go to a women’s centre in the UK. This kind of statement always gives me a problem; I feel guilty if I don’t rate the book higher. But then I always try to give an honest review, so will leave the above as written.

What I can say yet again, is that Helen Pryke writes well and I look forward to reading more of her work.

Book Description

Living in the mountains of Sicily, Maria has the perfect childhood until the tragic accident that changes her life forever. The events that follow will take her away from her home town to the streets of Milan, in an ever-increasing spiral of abuse and deception. Will she ever be able to trust anyone ever again? Set in turbulent 1960s Italy, Walls of Silence is the story of a girl who must find the courage and strength to survive her family’s betrayal and the prejudices of her country.

About the author

Helen Pryke

I moved to the north of Italy 26 years ago, without knowing a word of Italian! I picked it up pretty quickly, mostly by watching cheesy American soaps dubbed in Italian with Italian subtitles… but was too shy to speak for about a year!
26 years later, I now work as a translator, from Italian to English. It’s a job I love, especially when I got the chance to translate a children’s book and screenplay written by an Italian author. The screenplay is now winning awards at American film festivals!
I have always written short stories and books from an early age – I still have a short story I wrote when I was 10 that was published in the school magazine!
I love reading – I’ll read almost anything! I tend to spend most of my free time relaxing with my husband and two sons, and eating delicious Italian food!
The only thing I don’t like about Italy is the climate – cold and damp in the winter, hot and humid in the summer. With infestations of mosquitoes in the summer and stink bugs in the autumn…
but all in all, it’s a great place to live.

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