Friday, August 12, 2022

It Takes a VillaIt Takes a Villa by Kilby Blades


What a wonderful story! It combines armchair travel with a bit of family mystery, all in a region of Italy that I was able to visit last year. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Natalie has done what so many have thought of doing when seeing the advertisements for the $1 homes in Italy. We ask ourselves questions. Is it too good to be true? In some ways, because the rules for purchasing the homes are quite stringent, i.e., earnest money has to be put down and the updates/repairs have to be made within a specified amount of time which requires ready money to pay builders and contractors. Another thing to consider is timing as Natalie found out. Italy and much of Europe are on vacation typically for one full month in the Summer. Permits for the building have to be purchased and there are rules that must be abided by for some of the homes that have historical value to them. That historical value dictates the type of update that must be completed. This of course is just the minimum of what a buyer is signing up for when they purchase a $1 home, especially if they do not have the ability to do any of the work themselves.

Natalie is an intelligent, quick learner who can follow videos she has found on the internet. She had grand plans for purchasing one of the $1 with her grandmother. This property is not just a typical home. It was a much-beloved hotel in a city that is counting on these renovations to draw jobs and visitors to this beautiful region of the Amalfi Coast. The creation of jobs is also another requirement of the purchasers of these homes, so it does draw buyers with dreams of opening their own businesses also. Things really start going wrong for Natalie from the time she lands in Italy, some of which relate to not speaking Italian. Some of the property is in pretty good shape, but, there are things that require update that she is not prepared for either physically or financially.

She is lucky enough to start crossing paths with Pietro, who decides that Natalie needs help and he wants to ensure the renovations to the hotel bring the property back to the standards that are required. Pietro is very knowledgeable and he is also purchasing and renovating many of the properties in their town. Natalie does not want to accept help, but, as she meets others in the renovation program, she realizes that she is one of the few that are working alone and she needs help to meet the deadlines. Pietro, who is also part of the committee responsible for the renovation program, is also butting heads with others on the committee who are more concerned with bringing jobs, money, and people into the area than they are about the renovations being done properly. All of this makes for a great story with a sweet romance, not just between Natalie and Pietro, but, also between the reader and the Italian town on the Amalfi Coast.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

A Secret About a SecretA Secret About a Secret by Peter Spiegelman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Secret About a Secret is a slow-burn thriller based in Europe. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. I became totally enamored of this book because it contained one of my favorite things, which I will call contentious repartee. Normally, I love witty repartee, but, somehow this book has surfaced another subgenre of conversations that I confess to loving.

Myles an agent with what is called Standard Division is assigned to investigate the murder of a Brilliant scientist who at first glance is loved by everyone she comes in contact with, from her co-workers to her running club. But, there are secrets upon secrets, and some go back to the history of the building where the business, Ondstrand Biologic, is located. Something else key here is that what turns out to be a brilliant investigator is pitted against multiple brilliant scientists, who seem to be backed by a sister agency of Standard Division.

Despite Allegra being gone, her personality and history with the local towns and the company shine through as if she is still living. Myles has a way of investigating that puts everyone on edge, just with him walking down the hall or coming into the cafeteria. Just as interesting is how he has a room on the campus of the company which ratches up the tension as it is akin to sleeping with the enemy. A Secret About a Secret had a few good action scenes, but, some of the conversations between Myles and the suspects were so fraught with tension that I kept expecting a slap or something thrown at any time. Myles is very driven and focused and his relationship and conversations with his director drive so much of this story in how he responds to her directives and how he finds a way to rebel against her wishes, sometimes to his detriment. I did get the hint that this may be a series and if I am correct, it is welcome!

Friday, June 17, 2022

Alias EmmaAlias Emma by Ava Glass
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Alias Emma is a wonderful, action-packed chase from one end of London to the other with two lives at risk. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Emma Makepeace is tasked with safely escorting a physician whose life is at risk because of his mother's previous relationship with the Russian government before he was born. His mother has warned him all of his life, but being raised as a British citizen, he has trouble believing that after all of these years, the Russians would care about his parents being Russian dissidents, almost to his peril.

Emma is well aware of what the Russian agencies are capable of, even with only a short time as a British agent under her belt. She knows the danger and is ready to face it head-on. Despite only being an agent for a short time, she does have some surprises and a serious determination to get him to safety within twelve hours. More than just his life is at risk if the Russians reach him. Unfortunately, they have more than just experienced, ruthless agents on their side. They also have serious hacking power and have managed to take over London's extensive CCTV network to monitor Emma and her charge as they cross London on foot. Things get even more serious when Emma learns that she has no help from her agency.

Emma Makepeace is a very well-written character who understands her limitations but definitely has courage. I kept wondering how an agent with no weapons would match up against multiple Russian agents who have no shortage of weaponry. Alias Emma demonstrates how an author can turn a location into one of the characters of a book and make that location stand out as the reader recognizes locations or is even drawn into conducting research to get to know London better. Emma is a character that the reader wants to get to know better. The reader definitely will sit on the edge of their seats, pulling for her to make it to safety. By the end of Alias Emma, I was hoping that this book was the first in a new series, and it looks like I will get my wish. View all my reviews

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Finding Love in PositanoFinding Love in Positano by Lucy Coleman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Finding Love in Positano is a wonderful travelogue as well as a story. There was also a bit of mystery thrown in there. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Marci is extremely close to her Godfather, Richard, as is her mom and brother. But they talk and share what is occurring in their lives more often. Marci's family owns an antique auction business and Richard has an antique business in Positano, Italy. Richard suddenly makes a major change in his life and seeks out his Godchildren to request one of them help him close up his antique shop and ship everything back to the UK. It makes more sense for Marci to go since she travels more for the auction house, and she has spent more time in Italy on behalf of the business. Richard has described the work to be done as pretty simple but, when Marci gets to Positano, Richard's business is anything but simple, and the changes he has made in his life appear to be anything but simple and Marci is quite concerned.

Marci arrives in Positano to find that Richard has made a family there of the family that owns the Italian restaurant down the hill from his shop. Oddly enough, Nico and his family, treat Marci as if she is family and she is not familiar with them at all, which also concerns Marci. The entire situation has Marci questioning her relationship with Richard, what has caused Richard to change so drastically, and even looking more in-depth at her entire family's relationship with Richard.

As Marci spends more time with Nico and his family and exploring Positano, she starts to question more about her life and why Richard really wanted her to go to Positano to handle closing out his business. Positano is amazing. I only saw a very small part of it during a visit of only a few hours. I realized from reading Finding Love in Positano and mapping different parts of it while reading, that I had missed so much which warrants a much longer visit to that part of the world. It was great experiencing Italy through Marci's and local Italian's eyes. Remembering the beaches along the Amalfi Coast and the beautiful, blue water is great. What really stood out for me is how Lucy Coleman makes Positano another character and draws out the character development so well. The relationships between the characters and the development of the friendship between Nico and Marci were well-developed and draw the reader in, for example spending time with the family as they run the restaurant. If you read Lucy Coleman for the travel and characters then you will love this newest book, Finding Love in Positano.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Under the Italian SunUnder the Italian Sun by Sue Moorcroft
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a phenomenal book! Excellent characters, a beautiful story, and an amazing reading travel experience.. Although Montelibertà is a fictional Italian town, I could envision parts of Tuscany and Calabria as I read the story. I look forward to reading more by Sue Moorcroft.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

The Bitter Taste of MurderThe Bitter Taste of Murder by Camilla Trinchieri
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Bitter Taste of Murder is the 2nd book in the Tuscan Mystery series. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Nico is still living in the Chianti area of Tuscany. He spends his days working in his garden with his dog "OneWag" or as his Italian friends like to call him, "Rocco". I will leave it to the reader to find out why poor OneWag has multiple names. The great thing is he seems to answer to both names. OneWag is a character in this series in his own right. One of my favorite parts of this series is the way the stories are told. Yes, Nico is the protagonist, but, the reader also gets to see the thoughts of the key players in each book, including OneWag. I love that! We see just how intelligent he is and I would add that from his thoughts he almost seems like a person in a dog's body. I will stop there as each reader should spend time reading about OneWag to see why I describe him this way. In The Bitter Taste of Murder, a well-known wine critic, who is visiting the area, and pretty much making enemies as he walks down the street, is murdered.

Michele Mantelli is pretty much a messy individual. He is in the middle of a divorce and visiting Gravigna where he happens to own a home. He is traveling with his new girlfriend and pretty much using his articles and blog to try and bully the restaurants in Gravigna into carrying the wine he is pushing. He has a past with Gravigna and more than one resident has good reason to see Mantelli dead. Unfortunately, Aldo, Nico's landlord is top of the list. Nico, Daniele, and Salvatore team up again to investigate the murder, but, this time, a Captain who outranks Salvatore is being sent in to investigate and Salvatore and Daniele are supposed to toe the line. The Bitter Taste of Murder further demonstrates how great Camilla Trinchieri is with creating her characters, central of which, is the Chianti region of Tuscany. If you love Italy, look forward to visiting one day, or just love to armchair travel, this series should be on your list. The reader gets a great glimpse into the language, relationships, food, wine, and mannerisms of the people. I have been studying (okay, not studying enough) but, working with a tutor to learn Italian, and we always spend time on culture, mannerisms, food, etc., and not just the language. I spend a fair amount of time looking up words and pictures of the different villages mentioned in the books. If you love a good mystery, great, colorful characters, learning about regional food and drink, then The Bitter Taste of Murder is a must. I am really looking forward to more in this series.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Marquess Method (The Beautiful Barringtons, #3)The Marquess Method by Kathleen Ayers


The Marquess Method is the third installment in the Beautiful Barringtons series. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. The Barringtons are a quirky lot, a sister that is a clothing designer in secret, another that is an artist, and one that is bold and more outgoing than the other 2 sisters. This does not even take into account the half-brother that owns a gambling hall. Each of the siblings has their own story that describes how they fall in love with the most unexpected person in society. The Marquess Method is Theo's story and based upon her obvious crush on a specific man who appears to have some interest in Theo as well, but, Theo feels unable to compete with the many ladies of the "ton" that also have their eye on Lord Blythe. When Theo creates a sexy art miniature meant as a gift for Lord Blythe but, it is intercepted by Lord Haven, a battle of wills is started. Theo is dead set upon Lord Haven staying away from her and Lord Haven is dead set upon having help for his estate and sister and has realized that he also wants Theo.

The Marquess Method is a great addition to The Beautiful Barringtons series. There are so many fun spots in the book and it is great to see Theo grow and step out of her older sister's shadow, though she has always stood out. She set her mind on Lord Blythe and even spent a hilarious time and a ball trying to get his attention while not wearing her glasses. What is great is how this part of the story is written. Without giving away too much, it is great how this ball is the center of events for two of the sisters and the author does a great job of not leaving the reader hanging at the end of the second book and leaving them to wait for a conclusion in book three. There was a good transition that shows the author is pretty gifted at writing transitions and points-of-view. There are two more siblings left so I am looking forward to the next story about The Beautiful Barringtons.

It Takes a Villa by Kilby Blades What a wonderful story! It combines armchair travel with a bit of family mystery, all in a region of Ita...