Book Review Tuesday – Summoned – #BRT

This is the first book in the From Smokeless Fire series by author M.A. Guglielmo (and her debut novel). Beautiful cover. Wow. I was wayyyyy out of my comfort zone with this one, but stay with me, because I stayed with the story.

I found Summoned a unique paranormal story, and though I don’t usually (ever) read paranormal, I really enjoyed the fact that this book seemed different – jinns!

Zahara is a jinn who loves sex, shoes, and lots of sugary sweets. She is an absolutely mesmerizing character, and kudos to the author for her creativity in drawing out Zahara. Zahara is summoned by an ordinary guy named Daniel Goldstein, and their mission is to stop a fallen angel who’s bent on destroying the world.

Daniel’s deceased Jewish grandmother plays a significant role as well, and Guglielmo takes the reader on a whirlwind journey to mysterious Morocco.

I enjoyed the fact that the author showed a lot of originality with this tale. It’s exceptionally well written, too. Banking on the timeless theme of good vs. evil, Summoned will captivate the reader with its unique spin. I did struggle a bit to stay with the story around two-thirds in – maybe that was just me, but it seemed a little slow. But I stuck with it and I’m glad I did. So, even if you’re not a reader of paranormal, I can recommend this book as a good escape novel.

You can grab a copy of this first-in-a-series book at Amazon

Next book review is Tuesday, June 7. I have some catching up to do!

Book Review Tuesday – Bart the Mysterious – #BRT

“A lesson in acceptance.” This line runs through Connie Ciampanelli’s story of her 10+-year relationship with Bartholemew Thomas Katt, affectionately known as “Bart,” “Black Bart,” and, as the cover indicates, “Bart the Mysterious.”

A stray cat who mysteriously appeared on the author’s doorstep one day, Bart was indeed a warrior, a cat that was slow to trust but one that won over the author’s heart. Ciampanelli points out at the beginning of the book that she wasn’t ‘a cat person.’ Ah, but don’t animals have a way of making us realize we really are? Cat people, dog people – either way, animals can demonstrate to us what unconditional acceptance and love can be.

Ciampanelli has created a book from her own reflections, and added email correspondence she had with the late Dr. Ernest Finocchio, then director of the RI SPCA. Their mutual admiration is evident in these exchanges, as Ciampanelli sought advice and Finocchio recognized how much she cared about Bart. Added to the book are Facebook posts, where the author kept her followers apprised of Bart’s appearances, as well as his sometimes long and worrisome absences.

Through it all, Ciampanelli’s deep love for this fiercely independent feline is apparent. She and her husband owned two “indoor” cats, but always made room for Bart. She worried about him when he was gone and rejoiced when he’d reappear. The “lesson in acceptance,” which is a lesson for us all, is that she allowed him to be the independent cat he was destined to be. After a ten-plus year relationship, Bart, perhaps knowing his own end was near, was euthanized at the RISCPA in the early days of the Covid pandemic. But he didn’t die alone, as Ciampanelli had always feared. He received the tender care that all living things deserve.

This book is a gem, especially for cat lovers, and includes a truly beautiful poem at the end by the author’s friend Deborah Halliday, a very talented poet.

You can get a copy of Bart the Mysterious online at Amazon ( or, if you’re local, please stop by Stillwater Books in Pawtucket ( for a copy.

Book Review Tuesday – Sheep Tales – #BRT

How cute is this book? And what a precious and wonderful gift the author gave to his granddaughter by writing this book. Seriously, she’ll have it forever.

Sheep Tales follows young Chloe and her smart Border Collie sheepherder dog, Tobey, on the family farm. Chloe’s parents have sheep and there is one little lamb named Ellie, who somehow gets away from the rest. Panic ensues! But never fear, for Tobey is there.

This book is a treasure, and would make a wonderful gift for any child, especially a little girl who loves animals. With beautiful illustrations from Jamie Forgetta, Sheep Tales warms the heart.

Want a copy? Great! If you’re local, you can find a copy at Stillwater Books in downtown Pawtucket or online at Amazon. Copies are available in paperback or hardcover.

Reflections on the 2022 #AtoZ Challenge

Hey, it’s over! For two months each year, I blog every day. November is reserved for the annual “Book-a-Day Giveaway” event here, where I feature local authors and offer up books and gift cards, and April brings the annual “Blogging from A to Z Challenge,” in which I have participated for – I believe – 12 years now.

This year I had my theme picked out months ahead of time. That’s usually the case for me, as I am the ultimate planner. It just works better if I have the theme, if I know I can cover all the letters, and I have pre-written and pre-scheduled my posts. Because I had a new novel out (October 2021) that is set in 1981, I looked into the possibility of featuring songs from 1981 as my theme. And it worked! What a variety of music – from classic rock (The Stones, The Who, George Harrison, John Lennon) to country crossovers (Eddie Rabbit, Rosanne Cash, Juice Newton) to new wave and punk (Blondie, Adam Ant) to fading disco and folk (Air Supply, Olivia Newton-John), there was truly a wide range of songs. If you missed out, you can start here:

March and April are always busy months for me. This year I traveled to Portugal and Spain with my sister in March, and I chair and edit the annual anthology produced by the Association of Rhode Island Authors. It didn’t leave me with much time to visit other blogs, but I tried to find a few new ones. And, as always, I’m very grateful for the folks who took the time to visit my posts and like/comment. But having participated in this challenge for so long now, I no longer worry about whether people stop by.

So. on we go. I’m back to posting book reviews on Tuesdays (focusing mainly on my fellow Rhode Island authors) and I’m back to working on a new book, with the hopes of publishing later in the year. So stay tuned for that! And congratulations to all the bloggers who completed the challenge this year!

Book Review Tuesday – All the Rest of Her Days – #BRT

All the Rest of Her Days

Maggie is 16 years old and pregnant, a big problem in the 1960s. When she confesses to her parents, they make the decision to send her away to a home for unwed, pregnant girls, where Maggie will stay until she gives birth. Then, the baby will be taken and put up for adoption. She gives birth to a son and carries her secret with her for decades.

Thirty years later, Maggie receives a telephone call from a man who says he is her son. This is actually how the book begins – so the reader has a pretty good idea where it’s going. But this isn’t a mystery; it’s a story about loss and a mother’s never-ending love for her son.

The first seven chapters make up Part One, which focuses on Maggie Porter – her teenage pregnancy, her return to high school and college after giving up her baby, and her eventual marriage to a man named Joe. It ends with her pregnancy and the birth of a daughter.

Part Two begins in Ireland, with Julia O’Brien preparing to leave for America. She joins her brother there and meets a man she will eventually marry. But this couple finds themselves childless after a number of years, and decide to adopt. And yes, they adopt the little boy that Maggie Porter had put up for adoption.

From there the storylines move along – sometimes so quickly it’s hard to keep up – to the eventual point that begins the novel.

The author had a good plot and developed it thoroughly. However, this book was in desperate need of a copy editor. Spelling errors and in particular, the misuse and lack of punctuation mar an otherwise engrossing tale. Copy editors can polish a story and make it shine.

Many parts of this story seemed rushed. This is really more of a saga, spanning decades, but at times the author covers years in a single paragraph. Also, when shifting to a new scene (and a new time period), it’s a good idea to have a break, even with a symbol, to let the reader know. Otherwise, one is left wondering what happened, thinking something was missing.

This book was published seven-and-a-half years ago – it would be my recommendation to have it professionally edited and re-release it.

You can get a copy of All the Rest of Her Days in digital or print versions here:

#AtoZ 1981 Songs to Remember – “Z” is for “Zerox”

I chose 1981 music as my theme this year. My newest novel The Summer of Princess Diana is set in the summer of 1981, and oh! the music! Let’s take a look back at a pivotal time in the music industry.

Not much to choose from for the letter “Z,” but actually, this song by Adam & The Ants is pretty appropriate. Adam Ant is so symbolic of 1981, with his punk-rock look, his electronic/synthesized music. (By the way, Adam Ant was born Stuart Leslie Goddard, but that name certainly wouldn’t fly in 1981 punk-rock clubs, would it?)

The song title is spelled with a “Z,” but the lyrics do refer to a Xerox copier. According to Wikipedia, whereas Xerox machines are used to make paper copies of documents and other visual images, Xerox (Zerox) is used as a metaphor for plagiarism in the song’s lyrics:

Lock up your brain ‘Cos I’m here again
I’m never bored I’ll steal your chords
Ooh-ooh Zerox Machine Ooh-ooh Zerox Machine

Give me a line Or a middle eight
I’ve got the best So I want the rest
Ooh-ooh Zerox Machine Ooh-ooh Zerox Machine

Let’s get together Before its too late
Collect up the ideas And duplicate
Filling up the forms Send them off tonight
And you’ll be the owner Of the copyright
Of the copyright Of the copyright

Times of the essence Get your ears to the ground
However else Can the hits be found?

I may look happy, healthy and clean A dark brown voice and suit pristine
But behind the smile there is a Zerox Machine

Thanks for coming along on this journey with me! I hope you had fun revisiting some old songs. Many of these were a big part of my life in 1981, especially from April to September, when I was in Switzerland and, yes, working as an au pair for a family very much like the Brusadins.

#AtoZ 1981 Songs to Remember – “Y” is for “You Better You Bet”

I chose 1981 music as my theme this year. My newest novel The Summer of Princess Diana is set in the summer of 1981, and oh! the music! Let’s take a look back at a pivotal time in the music industry.

The Who had been around for more than 15 years when they released “You Better You Bet” in February 1981. Lead singer Roger Daltrey was a young 37 at the time, and is with his bandmates Pete Townshend and John Entwistle. It was The Who’s last single to reach the top 20 on Billboard’s Hot 100 (it got to #18).

According to Pete Townshend, the songwriter, it was written as a love song for his girlfriend at the time. He said, “I developed [it] over several weeks of clubbing and partying. I had gone through a lean period in my marriage and was seeing the daughter of a friend of mine. I wanted it to be a good song because the girl I wrote it for is one of the best people on the planet…It’s just a pop song.”

Roger Daltrey said it was one of his favorite songs of all.

Here it is:

#AtoZ 1981 Songs to Remember – “X” is for “JukeboX Babe”

I chose 1981 music as my theme this year. My newest novel The Summer of Princess Diana is set in the summer of 1981, and oh! the music! Let’s take a look back at a pivotal time in the music industry.

Oh boy. Well, you know that I usually have to get a little creative by the time I reach the letter X, and today is no exception. I found this song on a list of 1981 songs and found the video on YouTube. So, I’m thinking, let’s see how this goes.

“Jukebox Babe” (not “Jukebox Baby” as it is often sung) was released as a single in 1981. This singer? Alan Vega, born Alan Bermowitz in 1938 – so yep, he was 43 when this song was released (I read that he lied about his age often). He was primarily known as a vocalist with the electronic duo Suicide. “Jukebox Babe” was a hit single in France, but to be honest, I had never heard of it, and I listened to a lot of music in the early 80s.

Here is Alan Vega, looking like he’d rather be anywhere else but on that stage:

#AtoZ 1981 Songs to Remember – “W” is for “Woman”

I chose 1981 music as my theme this year. My newest novel The Summer of Princess Diana is set in the summer of 1981, and oh! the music! Let’s take a look back at a pivotal time in the music industry.

I started this series with George Harrison, singing about John Lennon. And here is John Lennon, who died so tragically and prematurely in December 1980. “Woman” was released in January 1981 from his 1980 album Double Fantasy, and was the first single to be released after his murder.

In an interview for Rolling Stone magazine on December 5, 1980, three days before his murder, Lennon said that the song “came about because…it suddenly hit me what women do for us. Not just what my Yoko does for me, although I was thinking in those personal terms… but any truth is universal. What dawned on me was everything I was taking for granted. Women really are the other half of the sky, as I whisper at the beginning of the song. It’s a ‘we’ or it ain’t anything.”

Yoko Ono created this poignant video.

#AtoZ 1981 Songs to Remember – “V” is for “Vienna”

I chose 1981 music as my theme this year. My newest novel The Summer of Princess Diana is set in the summer of 1981, and oh! the music! Let’s take a look back at a pivotal time in the music industry.

Released on January 9, 1981 by the British band Ultravox, “Vienna” is symbolic of the new wave music that defined the early 1980s. It was the most commercially successful song for Ultravox, but did much better in Europe than in the States.

The video, seen below, was shot on locations in London and Vienna.