Thursday, April 26, 2018

Guest Post by Flavia Brunetti, Author of 'All the way to Italy'


Readers Muse thanks the author for writing this interesting guest post.

The places in Italy I’m in love with (that became characters in my book)

Writing All the Way to Italy felt a bit like writing a love story to the country I had grown up so at odds with: no matter how much I didn’t always want to be there, there were places that always filled my heart, that felt (and still feel) like a healing salve. Writing a book was a form of homage, where the setting becomes a character in itself. Here are three of the ones I most treasure:

Baths of Caracalla (Rome): Named after the emperor Caracalla because he was ruler when they were finished, these gargantuan ruins are some of the most overlooked gems of the city. Visiting them during the daytime is fantastic, walking by them as the sun sets an experience you won’t soon forget. But my most beloved? During the summer, the Opera di Roma moves here for its summer performances, and it is life-changing.

Villa Gregoriana (Tivoli): In the book, Little spends a wondrous afternoon exploring this glorious park run by the awesome people of the FAI (Italy’s National Trust). Lace up your walking shoes and go from the ruins of ancient temples to exploring the waterfalls. You’ll come out feeling a little more cultured and a little more wild; I can never recommend this spot enough.

Palazzo Donn’Anna (Naples): Sitting at the water’s edge of this most colorful of Italian cities is a woman’s heartbreak holding fast against the sea. Palazzo Donn’Anna has one of the most romantic, broken stories in its past, and its poignant beauty against a setting sun is Napoli personified. I’m not going to tell you the story because Betty tells Little in the book, and wouldn’t you rather go read the book?! (Don’t Google! That’s cheating!)

These three, especially the last two, sometimes get passed over when people come to visit Rome, but I hope, when you come to visit us, that you have the chance to let them transform your trip. I’d love to hear what you think, or what your all-time favorite spots in Rome are—after all, in Italian we say: Roma, una vita non basta. Rome, one life is not enough.

Book Spotlight Tour: All the way to Italy by Flavia Brunetti

Book Details:

Book Title: All the Way to Italy: A modern tale of homecoming through generations past
Author: Flavia Brunetti
Category: Adult Fiction, 222 pages
Genre: Women's Fiction (can fit into YA Fiction as well)
Publisher: Ali Ribelli Edizioni
Release date: April 21, 2018
Tour dates: April 23 to May 18, 2018
Content Rating: PG for the occasional use of "for God's sake" and a few religious references (though very mild). No violence, no swear words, and no sex scenes.

Book Description:

Until her dad died, Little considered herself a Californian. Now, thanks to half a letter, a symbol she can’t quite remember, and writer’s block, she finds herself back in Italy, the country of her birth. In a headlong rush to return to her beloved San Francisco, Little will journey throughout Italy, hoping to find the answers she needs to move on with her life so she need never look back. She’ll enlist the help of the woman who raised her, Sira, her father’s sister; but Sira has secrets she’s kept for decades, and Little underestimates the power of the country she fled years before.

In this powerful story of mixed cultures in a world trying to globalize, one girl’s struggle to leave her home behind will lead her back to the women in her family and the memories each of them has safeguarded through the generations. From war-torn Italy to the belpaese of today, All the Way to Italy is a tale for those in search of a balance between wanderlust and the necessity to come home, a reminder that although we may be fragments, we are never a lost cause.

To follow the tour and read reviews, please visit Flavia Brunetti's page on Italy Book Tours.

Buy the Book:

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About the Author:

Photo credit: Roberta Perrone

Born just outside of Rome, Flavia Brunetti grew up bouncing back and forth between Italy and California, eventually moving back to the Eternal City and confirming her lifelong commitment to real gelato. Flavia holds a Master of Arts degree in Government and Politics from St. John’s University and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from John Cabot University. Today she travels the world working for an international humanitarian organization and spends her free time writing and wandering around her beloved Roma in constant search of bookstores and the perfect espresso. You can find her city blog on Rome at and her portfolio of published writing at

Connect with Flavia: Website ~ Blog on Rome ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Claire by Poornima Bhaskar : A Review


AUTHOR: Poornima Baskar


GENRE: Fiction / Thriller


FORMAT: Digital


HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: Took this book up from Kindle Unlimited


A body found in the river has been identified as Claire Rewns, a happily married woman in town to sell her father's handmade toys. Her drowning could be just an accident. But too much doesn't add up and Detective Bracken's instinct is pushing him to probe every lead. With every road leading to a dead-end, is it possible that Bracken is just off his game? Or is there a missing piece to the puzzle that is Claire Rewns?


Some books are from famous authors, and you wait with anticipation to get your hands on them as soon as they are released. And then there are books that are promoted so well, that you have no option but to become curious. And then there are few books that you hear about, and few books that you'd want to read because they pique your interest by the way of word-of-mouth talk from people 'in the know'. Claire came to me, recommended by a friend, with strong (and rightly placed) adjectives that made me want to pick it up and read immediately.

Claire - simply the master of minimalism in covers in recent times. With a simple hand stretching out of water, the whole picture in grey, the cover drew me to the book, making me want to know more. Special mention to the designer. And then there was the summary. Succinct and clear, the summary has just enough to get the reader engaged to the book. It introduces the central character and clearly identifies the questions that would be answered. So with many expectations, I dove into the book.


There are always preconceived notions about the books we pick up to read, and most of them are decided on reading the title, summary and the author's name. The mind moulds itself into the notions and twists itself to read the book with this background data in mind. Claire effectively manages to break through three stereotypes. It is the work of a debutant author - but that is evident only if you know it beforehand. The book is based out of a western fictional town, with local characters, but it is written by an Indian author, a fact that the reader would forget when they read the book. A debutant has managed to steer clear of the tried and tested route of romance / inspirational semi autobiographical stories and has managed to write a clear thriller without resorting to any additional marketing substances inside the story. And for these, this book deserves a special mention.

Claire Rewns - found dead in a lake in the middle of nowhere, presumed drowned to her death. The investigating officers intially face an open and shut case. But with one of the officers having lingering doubts, and another officer behaving strangely enough to arouse suspicion, and yet another officer with a screaming gut instinct, they decide that Claire Rewns's death was anything but accidental. The investigation begins and rushes through a series of dead ends one after the another, making the lead detectives question everything they know. The leads all point to the woman being one of the most innocent people living on the earth - to the point of unrealism, and the race ends up as a mad scramble to find a crack in the perfect veneer.

How could a novel spin with one central character (it is aptly named, by the way) so tightly that the woman could dominate every line, every plot twist and every scene of a novel? How could someone, anyone, be so perfect that not one person remembers anything bad about her and still end up dead under doubtful circumstances? What could have happened in the middle of nowhere in the dead of the night that could have led to a woman's death? Claire (the novel) answers all these questions, as a racy narrative that does not slacken in any single scene. The book scores in the way it sets the plot, poses the questions and ends up answering each and every single one of them.

It is more than a simple murder mystery, and definitely more than the average thriller story. Claire's noteworthy points are its plot and the execution. The twist in the climax may work for some, and end up making some others wonder about the sleight of hand the author deftly practiced throughout the novel. Language wise, the self edited book could have reached a better position with editing, but at no point is the pace slackening. Nitpicking complaints, the book needs better background stories for the characters so the readers are emotionally invested in them, and it needs clarity in dialogues for the readers to follow the book's otherwise fast pace effortlessly. Overall, the book won even without the excuse of a debutant author (which was not factored in during this review) and I would look forward to reading more from the author very soon. The literary scene needs more such authors. 

  • A tight plot, with great twists that never let the pace down
  • All loose ends tied up with precision - a rarity in such novels.
  • That a single woman could dominate a novel despite being dead since the beginning - that is the highlight of the book.
  • The novel did justice to most of the characters but could have given a little more space to the detectives' view of things, especially Hailey.
  • Conversations needed more clarity, and sometimes better identify the speakers.
  • The book could have worked even better with descriptions that will get the readers to empathise with the characters more.

Dead women tell tales - from the bottom of lakes if they have to! Go for it!



Poornima Baskar is a blogger and writer living between Chennai and Singapore. She blogs at She has multiple viral blogs, with over 1.5 million hits across platforms.

She began writing her first novel six years ago and aligned its release date with her 25th birthday in 2017. Her book is a work of fiction, directly in contrast with her blogs that narrate her personal life and emotions.

When she's not writing, she is painting, sketching, or enjoying her coffee while cuddling with her dogs.


PRICE Rs. 192 for Kindle, free on Kindle Unlimited.


Friday, August 11, 2017

Half Pants Full Pants by Anand Suspi : A Review

BOOK TITLE: Half Pants, Full Pants: Real-Life Tales from Shimoga

AUTHOR: Anand Suspi

ISBN/ASIN: 978-8193262016

GENRE: Biographical stories


FORMAT: Paperback


HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank The Book Club and the author for this review copy


Half Pants Full Pants is a sort of childhood autobiography set in Shimoga of the 70s and 80s. Given the era and milieu that he grew up in, it carries a flavor similar to that of Malgudi Days. All the characters in the book are real and most of them are still in Shimoga, of course now in their mid-40s. Quite a few are from prominent families and are now active and important members of Shimoga. The book vividly captures the real childhood adventures of this generation of people in Shimoga. It’s a glorious reminiscence as well as a tribute to this wonderful town.


When this book came up as a review copy, the title was the first thing that intrigued me. With a deeper significance, the title that suggested a shift from childhood to adulthood via adoloscence made me want to pick the book up and read the summary. And the summary actually cinched it for me. Basically a lover of nostalgic tales that my father brought me up with, anything about the 70s and 80s interests me immediately. Half Pants Full Pants promised stories of a childhood in that era, making sure I read it as soon as I got my hands on it. Malgudi Days is one of my most favorite works of Narayan, and I began reading this book with the hope that Shimoga would be the next Malgudi.


Half Pants Full Pants is a very refreshing tale. It stood out in my mind because it was different from the usual trope of stories that flood the market these days. The nostalgic feeling that accompanied the stories this book ensured that I did not put the book down once I began reading. The tales are split into two parts, the Half Pant tales, and the Full Pant tales, each dealing with a different period of the author's life in Shimoga. This book brought smiles, and in some place, happy grins at the innocence of youth in a place that was far removed from the pollution of urban culture, making the experiences endearing in many 'stories'.

The thing that attracted me the most about the independent stories was the unique titles that showed the world from the perspective of a kid wearing a half pant. There was a raw, direct feel to the stories that is usually missing in the doctored tales that undergo heavy altering for publishing. The stories definitely won in the nostalgia department, bringing to the minds of the reader the life in a random Indian village in the 70s and 80s. The small introduction to Shimoga made the stories more relatable, already bringing in a Malgudi like feeling. The names' significance extend to the splitting of the tales into two sets, the age where kids wear half pants and then the age of full pants (from teenage onwards) which is technically a huge shift that made the boys into men. It is in little things like these that the book held my attention, bringing a sure smile.

The narration was on point, gently mixing humour with a raw bluntness. But since this was not the set of tales actually written during adoloscence, the language could have been a bit more refined. There were no major errors in the language and the simple language did make the reading easy. The words fit the tone of the stories well. There is no 'plot' but there are a lot of factors including the relevance to the time period (that the book is set in) that worked in its favour. As far as biographical tales go, this book was the perfect amalgamantion of interesting stories, easy language and unpretentious tone that made it a delight to read.

Half Pants Full Pants scores in the areas of narration, relevance and taking us back to the time it is set in. It would make all the readers relate to the stories, and bring out happy memories of being kids in those days before the distractions of internet, television and mobile phones that take up most of our time these days. The book was a breezy, heartwarming read, making sure it brought the nods, smiles and the laughs at the right places. Even the vernacular bits in between that included the dialogues between the parents and the child did not look forced and helped in the nativity factor. The half pant tales were my most favorite part. The tone was set in the 5 paise chappathi and from there the book told me what to expect. And I was not disappointed with what it delivered.

The book can be read more than once, surely with favorites that can be read over and over again, never failing to bring a smile on our faces. The simplicity and the nativity are what worked in its favour. While it cannot be denied that the book is best enjoyed by someone who has actually lived in that time period, or has heard tales of it while growing up, the book still is an amazing read for anyone who would enjoy reading about life in small town India in the 70s and 80s before globalisation took over and made every village a similar fascimile of the same mould. The author has cleverly crafted the book to appeal to anyone who reads it, no matter their favorite genre. Having such an interesting childhood probably made this an amazing collection. Overall, a book I would remember for some time to come, not only for its brilliace, but for the escape it provided into the uncomplicated era and the nostalgia it brought to me. 

  • The book achieved what it set out to do.
  • The titles (both of the stories and the book itself) were apt and fitting.
  • Scored well in the areas of nostalgia and unassuming humour.
  • The language could have been a bit more refined. It was simple, probably aimed at suiting the mood of the stories.
  • The cover picture could have had a bit more interesting, the stories had that potential.
  • Often, I forgot that the stories were biographical, with the Malgudi like tinge to them. Not a complaint, just an observation.

Surely a book to read, remember and take back from. More than once.



PRICE Free on Kindle Unlimited, Rs. 177 for Paperback


Monday, July 10, 2017

Appointment with ISIL by Joe Giordano : A Review

Book Details:

Book Title: Appointment with ISIL: An Anthony Provati Thriller
Authors: Joe Giordano
Category: Adult Fiction, 299 pages
Genre: Literary Thriller
Publisher: Harvard Square Editions
Release date: June 2017

Book Description:

This time, Anthony's libido threatens his life. He flirts with Russian mob boss, Gorgon Malakhov's mistress. The Russian deals in death. ISIL, the Islamic State in the Levant, wants the product. Russian Intelligence supplies the means, and an art theft funds the scheme. ISIL's targets are chilling. The chase across the Mediterranean is on. Can Anthony thwart ISIL? Will he survive?


Only very few books have the power to capture the readers' attention in the first few pages. Either the story or the narration or the events described would hook the reader to the book, making it impossible to put down. Appointments with ISIL is one such book. I did not have much of an opinion on it when I read the summary which was short and to the point. But the moment I read the first chapter (which was riveting) I realised this was one book to reckon.

In the current slew of 'heroes' who are not adorned with larger than life personas, Anthony is flawed, trying to escape the quagmire he had unwittingly got into and ends up breaking bad people's plots to pieces by his chance, wit and will. The first thing I noticed about the protagonist was - he was not the do gooder who wanted to save the world at any cost. This made him relatable and likeable 'despite' his faults. The second thing I noticed was the Bond-esque flirtation, something that knocked off points in my mind and also got him into trouble.

Appointments with ISIL was a book with a tight plot, all the stories and branches fitting together seamlessly. I loved many characters, even those who appeared minimally. The characters stood in my memory, and did not seem forced or fitted in unnecessarily. The story was fast paced, and I did not want to put the book down. The pages were turned effortlessly. I felt the narration reaching out to bridge the story perfectly. The language was never sugar coated and this was a special feature of the book which made sure the horror of the events described stayed in my mind.

The quickly changing scenes, starting from the US to Iraq and then on to the involvement of Russian mob elements, only increased my interest to keep reading. Even the protagonist who let his libido dictate his sense of reasoning (and usually) got into trouble became an interesting character that I would want to read about in more books. Overall, Appointments with ISIL was a book I loved reading for its quick pace and interesting story line.

Praise for Appointment with ISIL:

"A roller-coaster ride to the finish, this book confirms Giordano as a writer to eagerly watch."

"A sexy, all-in-one-breath read, this is a story for those eager to strap on their boots and immerse themselves in a whirlwind adventure that will take them from espresso in New York with the Italian Mafia to walking the Old City of Jerusalem with the chief of Israel’s security service."

If you like gritty intriguing thrillers involving the FBI, Russian/Italian mobs or Islamic Terrorists you will absolutely love this book…. The characters, the plot and prose come together for an outstanding work of contemporary Americana. PRIMO highly recommends Appointment with ISIL."

Buy the Book: 

Meet the Author:

Joe Giordano was born in Brooklyn. He and his wife, Jane, have lived in Greece, Brazil, Belgium and the Netherlands. They now live in Texas.

Joe's stories have appeared in more than ninety magazines including The Monarch Review, The Saturday Evening Post, decomP, The Summerset Review, and Shenandoah. His novel, Birds of Passage, An Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story, was published by Harvard Square Editions October 2015. His second novel, Appointment with ISIL, an Anthony Provati Thriller will be published by HSE in June 2017.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest


June 19 - Library of Clean Reads - book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
June 19 - Working Mommy Journal - review / giveaway
June 20 - Essentially Italian - review / giveaway
June 21 - Bound 4 Escape - review / giveaway
June 21 - Olio by Marilyn - review / author interview / giveaway
June 22 - Books, Dreams, Life - review / giveaway
June 23 - Readers' Muse - review / giveaway
June 26 - A Mama's Corner of the World - review / giveaway
June 26 - Cassidy's Bookshelves - review
June 26 - SimpliRead - review / giveaway
June 27 - Il Mio Tesoro - review
June 28 - Cheryl's Book Nook - review / giveaway
June 29 - My Reading Journeys - review / giveaway
June 29 - Writer with Wanderlust - on Goodreads - review
June 30 - Leels Loves Books - review

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