Book Review: Florence and Me by Elaine Bertolotti

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Florence and Me (...And Me #1)Florence and Me by Elaine Bertolotti
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What an adorable and fantastic memoir. Florence and Me, the first in the ‘… And Me’ series by Elaine Bertolotti brought back tons of memories for me today. July 2019 is a month of memoirs and autobiographies for me… as I’m trying to choose at least half of my reads this month in that genre. I visited Florence last year, as well as other places in Italy, and this was the perfect book to take a trip down memory lane.

Elaine went there over forty years ago on a whim to start new after school. She knew no one. She barely spoke any Italian. It was a very different time period. Through ~12 chapters, she shares with us how she learned the language, cooked meals, took public transportation, and made friends. Written in a simple but immersive manner, I fell in love with the place all over again. Elaine sounds like a wonderful woman, and now that she’s permanently living in Italy, I’d love to see a follow-up about it. There is another book in the series about a different city she visited years ago, but what about a memoir showing the differences across her lifetime in the country?

These are the types of books that I love to devour in an afternoon… 90 minutes of culture and emotional connection with a beautiful person and a fantastic story. A definite recommend for those who like to see how someone else has lived their life.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.


Book Review: Blood Rain in Trieste by George Henry

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Blood Rain in TriesteBlood Rain in Trieste by George Henry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Blood Rain in Trieste is a thriller written by George Henry and published in 2015 by Creativia. I saw the book available on Amazon at a discounted price last month and picked it up. I’d definitely recommend keeping an eye out for future discounts or heading to the site to grab a copy now. What a roller coaster of emotions, battles, and intense drama.

I am a frequent thriller reader, but it’s usually psychological or medical. I’ve read a few international ones (mostly series) about various historical time periods that I love, but this was a new kind for me. The story mostly takes place in Italy but there are American, Canadian, and Afghani components that created a much larger cultural and religious read than I’ve devoured before. Not a worry, I found it all easy to follow and quick to suck me in.

Milo is a former… well, I’ll let you be the judge of how former his job really is, hit man. His Muslim wife was murdered. His Canadian CIA-equivalent boss seems to be responsible. A lookalike shows up begging for his help. And that’s just the beginning. Milo’s life explodes in the dirty and wealthy streets of Trieste where he beds hookers, murders mafia folks, falls in love, gets injured, and learns many secrets of the underworld (not Hell, although it certainly could feel like it at some points). Author Henry has a powerful voice in his protagonist, one who I loved in many scenes and wanted to sucker punch for being stupid in others. But that’s real life, we don’t always make the right decisions. And talking about real life, while I’m sure some people might experience similar things to Milo, this was about as far removed from my cozy little world as one could get. But I loved it!

George Henry is a new author to me. I’ll read his work again. He’s created memorable characters and settings. He’s unfolded layers of drama where no one stays on one side forever — there are secret allies, promises, and vengeance that must be fulfilled. Just when you think you know who’s behind it all, or which character is double-crossing another, one of the nuts in this cast releases a flame thrower, and readers, you better watch out! You won’t see it coming, but it makes sense when it glides past you and singes the hair off your arms. If you don’t have any, maybe just your shirt sleeve!

This is the kind of book that is consuming. While a few sections were overly detailed, the majority was a perfect balance of dialog and narrative that kept me coming back for more. My favorite scenes had to be between Mohammed and Milo. There is a tension not unlike father and son, but of two men who could kill each other or promise to protect one another forever at given times. There is anger but respect, admiration but pain, love but frustration. The author has done a phenomenal job at creating the tentative bond between these two characters, then tossed Mohammed’s greedy and sinning children in the mix.

Take a chance on this new author… especially if you like a raw, sometimes explicit but tasteful, and challenging read full of spider webs and multi-level dimension.

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Introductions: Meet Puppy ‘Baxter’

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As many of you know, I lost my shiba inu, Ryder, earlier this year. It was unexpected and heartbreaking, and I have many moments still today where my eyes tear up or I feel a melancholy about everything he missed out on. He was only ten and had such energy and love, but he was too sick to stay strong and we had to let him go. W and I had always talked about adopting another dog, but Ryder was very much an only-child and preferred to be with just us. We didn’t want to make his days more difficult, so we postponed bringing another puppy into the house.


Around March, we started discussing the best timing for adopting another dog, as we both missed having that lovable pet to play with at night or on the weekend. And perhaps with W and I suddenly by ourselves, we thought… hmmm… can we really only talk to ourselves and each other now at night? Ryder had been such a big piece of our lives together, we found ourselves with more free time and less conversations. The void needed to be filled but we knew it would take a while to find the right one. We love the breed and looked at a few rescue shelters, puppy stores, and breeders from the AKC website. It could take 9 to 12 months for the breeder to produce a puppy and reach us on the list.  We had some specific requirements as we wanted to get a different color than Ryder so the memory wasn’t too obvious. Ryder had a red coat, so we searched primarily for a red coat female or a black and tan male. I’ve had a cream colored before, and the red sesame is adorable but hard to come by.


We registered online with a few lists. I went to a few puppy stores and found one the day before our 3-week vacation. Timing is everything, huh? I couldn’t get him, but I also didn’t want to let him go. My mom (she’s awesome) volunteered to keep him for the three weeks, but we knew the puppy would develop an attachment to her (or vice versa?) and we might never bond the same way with him, so we said thank you, but we shouldn’t. We’ll wait to see if he’s still there when we return from Italy. The day before we returned, the little rugrat was adopted… it wasn’t meant to be. We arrived home the next day, unpacked, took a nap, picked up some groceries and did laundry. By late afternoon, we’d received an email saying we were now third on a list for a black and tan puppy from Kansas — so much sooner than we’d expected. It was too hot to ship him to the location of the person who was first on the list, so the breeder was letting us know that if the second person said ‘no’ that he was ours. An hour later, we had an email that the second person preferred a female, so we were faced with the choice: Are we ready?


We talked about it a bit and timing really is everything… It’s summer, we aren’t going anywhere for a few months, and I haven’t completely dived into writing my next book, so I’d have some free time. His pictures were adorable. We needed something to shake up our return from Italy (pictures and stories to come next week — this news took priority) as who wants to come back to normal life after such amazing vacation? So… we said yes, made the arrangements, and the little pup arrived in NYC on Thursday afternoon. He was born on March 16th, which is right in the middle of W’s and my birthdays. The other very coincidental connection is the timing on his birth. Shiba puppies are usually born about 60 days after they are conceived. Ryder passed away 60 days before this little one was born. I like to think maybe a little bit of Ryder’s spirit was passed into the new addition, so we have a bit of a connection already.


We’ve had him for 48 hours so far and he is every bit of a puppy. He’s voracious about biting things, way more than any other dog or puppy I’ve had in the past. I’ve threatened war with him many times. He’s successfully ripped off my glasses both mornings, torn a toy into pieces, pulled my shorts down while I was walking from one room to the other, and decided the couch legs are evil and must be sawed off with his teeth. Let’s not even discuss the corners of the carpet or any electrical cords. I’ve pulled up everything I can to keep him away, but there are a few we can’t unplug… he is my shadow or W’s shadow 24/7. We were lucky and he slept 7 hours straight the first night. Last night, he only made it 4 hours before getting restless in his crate. I might be too old to sleep on a floor again. It’s a work in progress yet one we already love!


More pictures to come, but I wanted to share a little bit of my news since returning from vacation and finishing up this week’s blog tour for Father Figure. Meet the new puppy: Baxter! I’m sure he’ll be all over the place on the blog in the coming months, but for now, he says hello and that he plans to torture us in these first few weeks.

A View From Siena

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I am so happy to hear that my little Bro is feeling much better!  If he chooses to not return from Italy, I won’t blame him!  The photos are just breathtaking! I had trouble narrowing down which pictures to share, so I thought a few photo montages were in order…



It sounds like Jay not only had a bit of wine, during his tour of the vineyards, but cleared all of the cherries off every cherry tree he could locate!



I apologize for not having more details about the photos.  Jay did not have a great connection.  His text messages were coming through mumbled and out of order…or maybe he just had a bit too much wine???  Now that I think about it, that makes a whole lot of sense!  I will let our amazing author man share the truth, when he returns…

While Jay is off wine tasting, I will be opening up the hives to observe the honey bees!  Feel free to check out today’s post, and see what I discovered!

What’s the Buzz?!




Jay Catches a Bug in Florence!

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If you are like me and love insects, today’s title might excite you.  But, don’t get too excited!  Jay did not catch a really cool spider or a beautify butterfly…Jay is sick!  While exploring the wonders of Florence, Jay caught a big, bad “Bug”.  This morning, I was happy to hear that he is feeling much better and enjoying Siena.  It sounds like there are some exciting wine tours coming up, in his near future, too.  Let’s send healthy and positive thoughts to our dear author friend, today!

Let’s take a look at what he was up to, while in Florence…





“Of all the books in the world, the best stories are found between the pages of a passport.”  ~ Author Unknown


An Update From Ravello

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I thought it was time for an update on Jay!   Where in the world is our amazing author man now!?  I have been informed that he has arrived safely to Ravello, in the village of Marmorata.  The photos are incredible…the perfect setting for a mystery novel, I do believe!

That magical mist!

A secret door…

Seaside villages

That View!!!

An Italian Stud Muffin!

As you can see, Jay appears to be having a miserable time!  I think we should all hop on a plane and cheer him up, with wine and gelato!





An Update From Rome!

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Happy Tuesday!  From what I gather, our amazing and talented friend Jay had a fabulous time in Rome.   By the looks of it, he is going to return to NYC in the form of Nutella and espresso gelato!  It sounds like it has been his main meal, washed down with lots of extra strong grape juice!  My secret agents sent me some stunning shots that I have to share with everyone…

Gelato…Jay’s new best friend!

Look at that view!


We know he is having fun, when we see a little grin!

OMG…I have no words! (And that never happens!)

I was told that Jay spent the rest of his time in Rome, at the Vatican.  He even had  brunch with the Pope.  Of course, that is why my secret agents could not take any photos!  Stay tuned for more of our Author Man’s exciting travel updates, from Italy!


Growing Self