Tag Archive | Italy

Stone Mirrors, breaking sculpture barriers (fiction), by Jeannine Atkins

book cover of Stone Mirrors by Jeannine Atkins published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers  | recommended on BooksYALove.comAccused unjustly, white against black.
Hurt unfairly, strong against weak.
Dream pursued intensely, self against society.

How did an impoverished young woman, orphaned by her Ojibwe (Chippewa) mother and freedman black father, overcome being on trial for white classmates’ poisoning during the Civil War to become a prominent sculptor living in Italy?

Check out the Google Doodle honoring her on Feb. 1, to meet Edmonia Lewis, whose determination to create art drove her to become the first noted woman sculptor of African-American and Native American descent.

Read an excerpt for this January 2017 novel in verse here courtesy of the publisher, then head to your local library or independent bookstore.

How far would you travel to accomplish your dream?

Book info: Stone Mirrors: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis / Jeannine Atkins. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017. [author site]  [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Sketching is like breathing for Edmonia, but her art classes at Oberlin Academy can’t prepare the scholarship girl for false accusations of theft and poisoning which may steal her opportunity to be an artist.

Living in the North during the Civil War doesn’t make the skin given by her freedman father any less dark. Dressing in crinolines like her white classmates doesn’t lessen her longing for the forests and woodsmoke of her mother’s Ojibwe village. Being poor and different does make her the ideal scapegoat for her white classmates’ indiscreet drinking – “poisoned by Edmonia!”

Days in the courtroom, scholarship revoked, the young woman must leave town, earn a living, seek the smallest possibility that she may ever sculpt again – and she leaps at opportunity when it finds her!

This novel in verse illumines the sparse facts of Edmonia’s life with possible details as we watch her grow into a noted sculptor living in Italy in the late 1800s when neither women nor persons of color were celebrated for their artistic talents.

Prince Without a Kingdom, by Timothee de Fombelle (book review) – rooftops, espionage, war, love, danger

book cover of A Prince Without Kingdom by Timothee de Fombelle, translated by Sarah Ardizzone, published by Candlewick Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com A zeppelin, skyscrapers, a quest,
war looming, young people fleeing,
across countries, toward memories…

Through the early years of World War II, intrepid teens try to outwit ingenious villains in a game of chase through the US and Europe with deadly consequences.

Yes, it’s Book 2 of a duology. No, you don’t have to read Vango: Between Earth and Sky to get up to speed on the complex and fascinating storylines (I had only this one and easily got up to speed on who was who, etc.). But if you can get Book 1, do it, just so you can doubly glory in the wordplay, round-the-world plots, and stunning translations of the adventurous tale of Vango, Cat, the invisible monastery, Ethel, and Zefiro.

Who would you follow across oceans?

Book info: A Prince Without a Kingdom (Vango, book 2) / Timothee de Fombelle, translated by Sarah Ardizzone. Candlewick Press, 2015. [author bio] [translator interview] [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Chased from his childhood refuge, orphaned teen Vango uses disguise and stealth to track down the man trying to kill him, while Ethel formulates plans to assist him as World War II erupts.

Intricate webs of love, hatred, family, loss, and intrigue flow between Vango and Ethel, a nanny in Russia and a doctor in Italy, an out-of-tune piano and the Black Sea in 1913 and a prize-fighter impersonating a prince, as oceans are crossed by airships, identities are cross-wired, and missed connections can mean life, death, or dessert…

The Cat connects clues and Resistance fighters as she traverses the rooftops of Occupied Paris – too many enemies?
How can the abbot of the Invisible Monastery be aboard the Hindenburg zeppelin?
Is Edith’s brother safe as an Allied aviator?

Second in the Vango duology, A Prince Without a Kingdom can easily be read alone as a cross-continent, multi-stranded adventure of love and loyalty during wartime, stunningly translated from the French original.


Love and Gelato, by Jenna Evans Welch (book review) – Italy! Family! Really??

book cover of Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch published by Simon Pulse | recommended on BooksYALove.com Travel abroad!
Meet her missing dad!
Read mom’s journal and wonder if…

After her mom’s death, Lina is bombarded with changes – moving to Italy where her mother studied photography in college, meeting the dad she never knew, maybe even falling in love!

But it’s all so fast, and the entries in her mom’s journal are like a puzzle that she must solve, even if the answers raise more questions!

Family secrets – unearth them or let them stay hidden?

Book info: Love and Gelato / Jenna Evans Welch. Simon Pulse, 2016. [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Leaving Seattle for sunny Italy, Lina mourns her late mother, worries about meeting her father for the first time, and is sure that going to school in a new country will be terrible, until her dad’s co-worker brings the journal that Mom kept while she was a photography student here and Lina meets the cute Italian-American guy next door.

Mom’s journal brings up so many questions – what does “I made the wrong choice” mean?

Her dad Howard is a nice man, but why doesn’t Lina have even one physical feature like him?

Ren helps her find all the places Mom mentions in her journal, but is he just interested in Lina as a friend?

Not just a simple “American teen in Europe for summer meets true love” story, Lina’s search for answers as she tries to find a future without Mom is by turns heart-wrenching and hopeful. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

G is Garage Band, graphic novel by Gipi (book review) – guys+music=rock band?

book cover of Garage Band by Gipi, translated by Spectrum, published by First Second Books One borrowed garage, four teen guys,
four instruments, four opinions,
their own garage band!

The new band’s problems, from equipment problems to practice schedules, mix with Gipi’s gritty sketch-plus-watercolor art to show just how far four working-class Italian teens will go to make their music.

This 2007 graphic novel is still in print, definitely worth your time to read.

Have you ever given it your all striving for a goal?

Book info: Garage Band / Gipi; translation by Spectrum. First Second Books, 2007.  [artist/author info – English]  [artist/author blog – Italian]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: When a blown amplifier short-circuits their band’s big audition, four Italian teens must decide whether their integrity or their potential rock music future is more important in this graphic novel by Gipi.

If he’ll stay out of trouble, Giuliano can use his dad’s old garage – perfect place for the band to practice! Also a refuge from the not-so-wonderful family lives of the four guys in the band: Giuliano (obsessed with his music even more than with his girlfriend), Stephano (obsessed with dread diseases after his brother died), Alex (obsessed with all things Nazi after his father fled), and Alberto (obsessed with his father’s precarious health).

Stefano’s dad gets the guys a chance to have a record company listen to their demo songs, so that means lots of practice.

Then their old amp shorts out and can’t be fixed – now what?
“Borrowing” some equipment, that’ll work!
But who they borrow it from…

Italian graphic novelist Gipi’s edgy line art and earth-based watercolors convey all the grit of working class kids trying to make music and make sense of the world on their own terms. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Love, Lucy, by April Lindner (book review) – Italy, love, goodbye forever?

book cover of Love, Lucy by April Lindner published by PoppyOne last summer of freedom,
the beauty and glory of Florence,
the excitement of love…

And then Lucy must give up her theater dreams to become a business major, or her father won’t pay for college at all! Hard choices…and Jesse back in Italy so hard to get in touch with.

Read the first 2 chapters on the publisher’s website free here as you listen to the author’s Love, Lucy  playlist, and you’ll be whisked away to Florence with Lucy, love just around the corner.

This modern interpretation of E.M. Forster’s classic A Room With a View  comes from the author of Catherine (based on Wuthering Heights – my review here) and Jane (Jane Eyre).

Could you give up true love for family demands?

Book info: Love, Lucy / April Lindner. Poppy, 2015.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Giving up her dream of being an actress is hard for Lucy, but giving up the young man she loves so her dad will pay for college is heartbreaking – must she really choose?

Her ever-practical father reluctantly allows Lucy to backpack through Europe with Charlene after high school graduation, in trade for Lucy majoring in business (which she hates).

When Lucy meets Jesse in Italy, she delights in the beauty of Florence, the shimmer of Tuscan sunlight, the warmth of his kisses. However, her troubadour intends to continue traveling abroad, playing his guitar, not returning to his family in New Jersey any time soon.

So it’s a tearful goodbye at the train station, a sad flight back to dad’s alma mater. Spying a poster for theater tryouts puts some pep in Lucy’s step – why can’t a business major be in a play?

How can she reconcile her father’s demands with her love for performing?
Why hang out with college boys when she can’t stop thinking about Jesse?
Will she ever see him again?
(One of 7,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Curses and Smoke, by Vicky Alvear Shecter (book review) – love, class conflicts, Pompeii

book cover of Curses and Smoke by Vicky Alvear Shecter published by Arthur A LevineOld gods and older gods,
gladiators and slaves,
Pompeii is prosperous and proud…

Enjoy Curses and Smoke for its glimpses into the port city’s everyday life, its recounting of the weird phenomena observed prior to Vesuvius’ most famous eruption, its love story between owner and owned.

Forget not the past…

Book info: Curses and Smoke: a Novel of Pompeii. Vicky Alvear Shecter. Arthur A Levine Books, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: As handsome Tag returns to her father’s gladiator school at Pompeii, Lucia’s unease about her upcoming marriage to an old man and the recent loss of her mother are echoed by the earth’s tremors.

It was different when Lucia was a little girl roaming the hillsides and Tages was the medical slave’s small son at her side, before he was sent away to learn the healing arts in Rome, before her mother’s untimely death, before these sulfurous emanations near Vesuvius began.

As Lucia tries to break her betrothal to elderly Vitulius and Tag tries to cure his father’s failing memory, rich young Quintus arrives at the school to play at being a gladiator – with a hidden agenda.

Is there any way for Lucia to escape her dreaded marriage?
Can Tag ever end his captivity in the gladiator school?
Are the old Estruscan gods angry that Romans took their sacred grounds at Pompeii?
Why will no one listen to Lucia’s ideas about the strange things happening?

A richly detailed story of love, loss, and the human spirit fighting against the inevitable. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Ravens of Solemano, by Eden Unger Bowditch (book review) – journey of secrets, families lost?

book cover of Ravens of Solemano by Eden Unger Bowditch published by Bancroft PressBelongings vanish, then reappear.
Mysterious coins and curious murals.
Fabulous food, but no parents to share it with.

The remote village hides the five Young Inventors and their teacher well, but it also hides many secrets, perhaps even the origins of the Mysterious Men in Black who guard, guide, and confuse them! Hopefully, its ravens can hide the children from evil Komar Romak long enough for them to solve a baffling problem which endangers the world.

Just published on Sept. 24th, The Ravens of Solemano  surprises with clever puzzles, endearing characters (except for Romak),and links to historical figures famous and obscure. Ask for it today at your favorite local library or independent bookstore – if they don’t have it, use the Book Info below to request it.

Of course, you’ll enjoy these further adventures of the Young Inventors Guild even more  if you’ve already read The Atomic Weight of Secrets (my no-spoiler recommendation here) , so check it out, too.

If the expectations of the world are on your shoulders, can you ever put family first?

Book info: The Ravens of Solemano: The Order of the Mysterious Men in Black (Young Inventors Guild, book 2) / Eden Unger Bowditch. Bancroft Press, 2013.   [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: A daring escape, a too-brief family reunion, then the five Young Inventors must solve cryptic puzzles in a puzzling village before their dreadful enemy strikes again – now the world itself is in danger!

Fortunately, their schoolteacher Miss Brett is with Jasper and little sister Lucy, Wallace, Noah, and Faye as they must travel across the sea from the explosion site where they spent such a short time with their parents, on the run from evil Komar Romak. The Men in Black hustled the children and Miss Brett to safety aboard the strangest ship, crewed by more like them. Such wonders in its library and labs!

But a murdered man’s message sends danger their way, even before the Young Inventors reach the Italian village of Solemano with its ever-present ravens, mysterious garden labyrinth, and many puzzles to solve. Miss Brett helps the children settle in and resume their experiments – their inventive minds find much to ponder here.

Underground passageways with possible clues, garden statues that are not what they appear to be, friendly villagers with secrets of their own. How long will the children stay in Solemano? The Men in Black who guard/protect them cannot (or will not) say.

Has Komar Romak discovered their hiding place yet?
Can the Young Inventors discover enough of Solemano’s secrets to protect themselves?
Will they ever see their parents again?

This second tale in the Young Inventors Guild series takes readers far away, into an imaginatively peopled land of puzzles and parallels as the brilliant children who first met in The Atomic Weight of Secrets  must work together to save themselves and the world. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)


Falcon in the Glass, by Susan Fletcher (book review) – secrets and more secrets in Venice

book cover of Falcon in the Glass by Susan Fletcher published by Margaret K McElderry BooksSecrets passed from master to apprentice,
Sand to glass to beauty,
Death for sharing the secrets.

The all-powerful Doge did indeed control Venice with an iron fist during its heyday as a world trading center. Imagine how he’d respond to intelligent birds who could soar out of his reach, at the behest of their human partners!

Pick up this intriguing window into the world of medieval glassblowing, family bonds, and criminal skullduggery today at your local library or independent bookstore – and wonder if the Bird Children’s descendants may still live among us!

Book info: Falcon in the Glass / Susan Fletcher. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2013.   [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Without help, Renzo cannot practice his glassblowing for the test. Without help, the refugee children and their birds will freeze. Without fail, the Doge of Venice will have them all killed if he finds them together in his city!

As the lowest helper in the padrone’s glassworks, twelve-year-old Renzo wishes he was still working with his father in their studio, before Papa was murdered and Uncle fled Venice with his glassblower’s knowledge and a price upon his head. Now Renzo must demonstrate to the Guild that he can work glass like his father or he will never become an apprentice.

Practicing late at night, Renzo spies a starving girl huddled in the studio’s warmth and her falcon in the rafters – no spies allowed in the glassworks, no strangers, no birds! If she is one of the green-eyed Bird Children who were banished from mainland Venice for witchcraft…but he needs another set of hands to work the glass and she needs only a place to rest.

With Letta’s help, he can create beautiful glass pieces, including a falcon that looks like it could fly. But the other Bird Children need warmth and food, too. Perhaps they can stay for a little while, even if their silent communication with their birds makes Renzo nervous.

But sometimes, doing good carries a heavy price. The ruler of Venice is intent upon capturing the Bird Children, a man who looks like Uncle is spotted on the island, and Mama worries about Renzo’s late nights at the glass furnace.

Can Renzo keep the Bird Children safe and out of sight?
Can he ignore the whispers about his uncle and criminal mischief?
Can he keep his hands steady on the glass pipe when the Guild test comes?

Strong is the psychic connection between these green-eyed children and their birds, strong is Renzo’s love for his mother and sister, strong are the Doge’s prisons awaiting the smallest error by these young ones in this fantasy set in the 15th century. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

World traveling, page by page (reflective)

Lots of traveling lately on BooksYALove, especially on World Wednesdays as we look at life through the eyes of folks living outside the USA.

Which is the real Australia – the remote Red Center where Gemma’s kidnapper has taken her, Stolen from her parents in a busy airport?
The sleepy country town where Laura and Leon investigate the mysteries surrounding The Visconti House?
Urban Sydney where The Reformed Vampire Support Group meets every Tuesday night, trying to keep out of temptation’s way?

Deo loves soccer and his family – will he have either one left after fleeing a massacre? Now is the Time for Running as he suddenly becomes one of the many refugees struggling to enter South Africa.

Maya’s trip from her birthplace in Canada to her parents’ homeland of India became a much longer and more perilous journey than she or her father ever imagined, as chronicled in the verse-novel Karma.

When I Was Joe jumps right out of the headlines about urban London gang fights and the witness protection programme, followed by the gripping Almost True – yes, Keren David is writing a third book about Ty right now.

Trapped between a massive glacier and the frozen fjord, Solveig and her siblings pray for rescue by their royal father, listening for Icefall, trapped in a mountain fort with a traitor.

Louise suddenly went from the Connecticut suburbs to the decks and plush staterooms of the Titanic as she unwittingly became The Time-Traveling Fashionista.

Of course, the River of Time series took us far away and far back in time, as Gabi and Lia traveled back to the 14th century from their archaeologist mother’s dig site in Tuscany. Swordfights, romance, and intrigue! Start with Waterfall (first in the series), then continue the adventure in Cascade and Torrent. Lisa T. Bergren is working on the next book in the series, after her recent trip to Italy for more research.

More of the wide world coming up, as we travel soon to Iran, to the Moon, to the future, to Australia, and beyond with the BooksYALove (but won’t find on the bestsellers’ lists).

Found this great statue of kids reading in Kingston, Jamaica.

Torrent (fiction)

Welcome to World Wednesday as we return to 14th century Tuscany with the third volume of The River of Time series, being released tomorrow.

Battles a-horseback and on foot.
Treachery and loyalty.
Faith and hope, gained and lost.
And, oh, you will so want to be with Gabi and Lia again as they time-travel to be with those they love!

Please be sure to read Waterfall (#1) and Cascade (#2) first so that you get the full backstory of how two bored American teen sisters become the She-Wolves of Siena and inextricably entwined with the people and destiny of Castello Forelli. Swashbuckling gal heroes – my favorite kind!

Book info: Torrent / Lisa T. Bergren. David C. Cook, 2011. [author’s website] [publisher site]

Recommendation: Traveling back in time, the Betarrini family hopes that they’re not too late to save their friends in 14th century Tuscany. Bringing Dad with them is an unexpected blessing, but being separated from Marcello is causing Gabi such anguish and pain!

Once again, Gabi and Lia exit the ancient Etruscan tomb into a battle zone – this time they may have the upper hand as the Forellis have left weapons hidden for them. Ah, Castello Forelli has been rebuilt, but over it fly the flags of the treacherous Lord Paratore who started the border wars! Traveling the backways by night, the Betarrinis hope to find safety and information in the city.

How happy the people of Siena are to see that the battling Ladies Betarrini have returned to them from their mysterious travels! How delighted handsome young knight Marcello is to have Gabi back in his arms! How wonderful to see that his election to The Nine is benefiting the people of the region through Marcello’s able decisionmaking.

But how sad the sisters are to discover that Fortino Forelli is a captive of Lord Paratore, being tortured despite all offers of ransom from his brother.

Can the She-Wolves of Siena help rescue the lord of Castello Forelli while keeping Gabi safe from Paratore’s bitter desire for revenge? Is Lord Greco still a double-agent for Siena, or has he decided that Florence will win the war? Will the Betarrini family stay in the 1300s, knowing that the Black Plague is coming – or will Gabi be taken away from Marcello forever?

Swordplay, expert archery, the rough road to Rome, narrow escapes, and the power of true love – you won’t want to miss this thrilling sequel to Waterfall and Cascade!
Review copy courtesy of the publisher.