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 (https://tinyurl.com/ycxeceuu) or, if you’re local, please stop by Stillwater Books in Pawtucket (https://www.stillwaterbooksri.com/) for a copy.

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: https://wordpress.com/post/marthareynoldswrites.com/9561

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!

#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 BONUS SUNDAY!


It’s the last bonus Sunday of the month, and I wanted to feature a song that did make it big. Issued in January 1981 by the Dutch pop group Stars on 45, the song is called “Stars on 45 Medley” and was a medley of hits (you’ll see). It reached #1 in the Netherlands in February, #2 in the UK in April, and #1 in the US in June 1981.

The song kind of kicked off a craze of various medleys. Copyright issues? I have no idea.

#AtoZ 1981 Songs to Remember – “S” is for “Start Me Up”


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.

From their album Tattoo You, “Start Me Up” was the lead single released off the album, and reached #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1981. It was the biggest hit of the 80s for The Rolling Stones in the US.

Music critic Stewart Mason noted, “There were hits after ‘Start Me Up,’ but…it’s undeniable that this…was the last great Rolling Stones song.” Here are The Stones live in 2006:

#AtoZ 1981 Songs to Remember – “P” is for “Physical”


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.

Are you ready for this? “Physical,” by Olivia Newton-John, was the lead single on her eleventh album, released in September 1981. The song was originally offered to Tina Turner, who declined it (but Tina had plenty of big hits). “Physical” was a huge success and spent ten weeks at #1 on the charts. The suggestive lyrics even caused it to be banned in some areas, but check out the video.

#AtoZ 1981 Songs to Remember – “O” is for “One of Us”


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 in 1981 on ABBA’s eighth album, The Visitors, “One of Us” would be ABBA’s last #1 single of their career.

ABBA, if you didn’t already know, took the names of the two women in the group (Agnetha and Anni-Frid) and the names of the two men in the group (Björn and Benny) to form the group’s name.

Fans of the musical Mamma Mia will recall this number in Act II, sung by Donna.

#AtoZ 1981 BONUS SUNDAY!


It’s Sunday (and Happy Easter to those who celebrate). Another Bonus Sunday to cram in a few extra 1981 songs for you.

Written and sung by Rosanne Cash, “Seven Year Ache” was released in February 1981 on Cash’s album of the same name. Yes, she’s the daughter of Johnny Cash and his first wife, Vivian.

This was Rosanne Cash’s first music video, filmed in Nashville and features Cash singing live to a crowd.

#AtoZ 1981 Songs to Remember – “N” is for “(The) Night Owls”


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.

Little River Band was an Australian group originally formed in 1975. Probably best known in the US for their hit “Reminiscing” (1978), this song, “The Night Owls,” was released in September 1981 as the lead single from their album Time Exposure.

Little River Band is considered to be one of Australia’s most significant bands. As of 2004 they had sold more than 30 million records and had 13 US Top 40 hits.

#AtoZ 1981 Songs to Remember “M” is for “Message of Love”


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.

Written by the most fabulous Chrissie Hynde, “Message of Love” was originally released as a single in early 1981, then included on The Pretenders’ album Pretenders II in late 1981. It reached #20 in the UK and got as high as #5 in the US on the Mainstream Rock chart and #44 on the Dance Club chart.

It might not be as well known as some of The Pretenders’ other hits (“Brass in Pocket,” “Back on the Chain Gang”), but it’s really a great song. Everybody stand up!