Book Review: Under A Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

Book Review: Under A Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan 3 Stars ***

Let me start off by saying it hurts my heart to give this book only three stars but the overlooked and forgotten tragedies inflicted upon the Italian people during WWII are not represented with compassion, voice, or heart-felt sympathy. The author majored in journalism in college and the systematic listing of facts reads more like a newspaper article than an account of a real person’s struggles. Giuseppe (Pino) Lella’s  story, although not corroborated by verifiable facts, is better than the writing.

We start off with a typical teenager—sixteen year old Pino Lella,  living in Milan, Italy—who falls in love at first sight and moons throughout the book about his beautiful Anna, a widow six years his senior.  It is the beginning years of WWII when Mussolini and Hitler were Allies and most Italians believed their country was backing the wrong side. The city of Milan is heavily bombed by the Allies who have targeted what they believe are sites used by the Nazis to manufacture and store war supplies and ammunition. Many civilians are killed and maimed.

When he turns seventeen  his parents send him and his younger brother up north to the mountains bordering Switzerland to keep them safe. One of the priests at the school, Fr. Re, in response to the directive from Milan’s Cardinal Schuster to aid the fleeing Jews, enlists Pino to lead Italian Jews under cover of darkness to safe haven through mountain passes en route to Switzerland.

Under duress, Pino enlists in the German army, and becomes a translator for General Hans Leyers, a major player in the German army. By this time, Mussolini has been killed by the Italian people who mostly support the Allies. Despite dangers posed by Italian Fascists and Nazi corroborators, Pino agrees to spy for the Allies, again putting his life on the line.

Pino is wracked with guilt when despite his belly-aching about missing his beloved Anna, he has a chance to save her from the firing squad, but is too afraid to stand up for her. (Hard to believe he had the strength to endanger his life for strangers, but not for the great love of his life.)

According to the author, “Of the roughly 49,000 Jews in Italy, some 41,000 evaded arrest or survived the concentration camps thanks to the Catholic, Italian, and clergy underground that ran north to Switzerland.

“By the end of WWII, a third of Milan lay in ruins. The bombardment and the fighting had left 2,200 Milanese dead and 400,00 homeless.”

Usually after reading a book on this subject matter, I cry for the dead, for the maimed, for the losses, and heartaches. I feel sad for days with examples of man’s inhumanity to man fresh in my mind. But not with this book. I rest my case.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

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Please Borrow My Books From the Public Libraries!

Great news! Printed copies of my books can now be borrowed from Queens, Nassau and Suffolk County Libraries in New York. Request an inter-library loan!

Queens Libraries—Bay Terrace, Central(Jamaica), and Whitestone 

Nassau Libraries—Manhasset, Port Washington

Suffolk Libraries— East Hampton Library

The digital copies are available in Queens Public Library and may be available in other library systems throughout the country. If your library cannot provide access to these books, please ask them to purchase in digital or paperback formats to add to their collection.

The Science Project
The Ocean’s Way
Who Do Voodoo?
The Ocean’s Way Poetry Companion
Sojourn Into The Night—A Memoir of the Peruvian Rainforest

Happy reading! If you do decide to borrow my books from the library, please remember to write a review on the library website.

Thanks,

Elaine

Please let me know how you do. I’d love to hear from you author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

Remembering- A 9/11 Tribute

I recently visited the 9/11 Memorial in downtown Manhattan. It was something I wanted to do, but no one wanted to go with me. “Too far,” they said. “Too sad,” they added. “Besides, you can’t park there and I don’t do subways.”

I guess the universe picked up my thoughts. One of my former colleagues soon called me unexpectedly to ask if I was at all interested in visiting the Memorial. I was very thankful for this gift.

We boarded the Express Bus in Queens to the Wall Street area and rode in air-conditioned comfort on a scorching hot day.

At first the memorial seemed disappointing because we kept looking up, expecting to find the exhibits on the upper floors. Instead, we were directed to descend deeper and deeper into the very heart of the earth where the exhibit slowly revealed itself. We walked the same stone steps that led the few lucky survivors to life, and helpless victims to death—the remaining remnants of the stairwells filled with terrified employees rushing down, and brave first responders confidently moving up.

How many made it out alive to tell their stories? How many left their wallets, shoes, photos, lipstick, handbags, ID cards, uniform buttons as proof they had once lived? Their bodies somehow missing, only scant possessions remained.

Sad for days, the visions stayed with me—the thwacking sounds as their bodies hit the pavement after jumping out of windows to escape the flames, screams of terror and disbelief, tears of sadness.

I remember.

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

Book Review: The Secret to Southern Charm by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Book Review: The Secret To Southern Charm by Kristy Woodson Harvey 4 Stars ****

Love Hallmark and Lifetime Channels? Then , this book is for you!

This is a heart-felt story reminiscent of Hallmark movies and series with families full of secrets and complications, but all still loving and supporting each other. Chesapeake Shores comes to mind with the multi-generational family story line: setting on the water in Peachtree Bluff, Georgia; boats, fishing, nature loving activities; supportive grandmother; struggling, flawed parent(s); striving, heart-broken, seriously ill children; adorable, rascally grandchildren; hidden lovers and old relationships that never really ended and somehow still create longing…You get the idea.

You might wish you were a member of this family. Everyone is basically normal, high achieving, loving, caring, and cooperative.  We have a mother, Ansley, and her three grown daughters and spouses, and kids, grandma and handsome neighbors and nosy neighbors. They support each other through loss. A spouse MIA in Iraq, a much-loved family member passes peacefully and quietly into the afterlife, true paternity is revealed. Yes, of course, there is some lying, manipulating, withdrawal into the self. But, the characters’ other redeeming qualities manage to shine through, creating a balance. Nothing is forever. A bad mood is for a reason, but then discarded as each new day brings more joys and adventures.

So, what exactly is the secret to southern charm? Grandma believes it’s all about the southern accent. Sloane, mother of two, and wife of Adam, who is MIA in Iraq, heart-broken, withdrawn and feeling guilty for past lies and manipulations, tells us, as she gazes with love upon her family, “This putting on a brave face, carrying on , helping others, being kind and humble and giving, believing with all your heart that the world could be a better place and that maybe you could make it that way…that was Southern charm. Looking around at these women who all embodied those qualities so well, I had to think that maybe Grammy was wrong. Maybe it wasn’t a secret at all.”

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

Book Review: The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

Book Review: The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
4 Stars ****

Written with the elements of the old-time Gothic Novel, we have the story of modern day (2016) twenty-one year old Harriet (Hal) Westaway whose story contains all that’s necessary to fit into that genre: orphaned at eighteen; never knew her father or other family members; no friends; flat-out broke; living a hand-to-mouth existence; the mob is strong-arming her for exorbitant interest payments on a $500 loan; works as a tarot card reader on an English Channel pier; screeching magpies punctuate her life; receives a mysterious letter informing her she has a huge inheritance from her “grandmother”; arrives at the grandmother’s funeral during a torrential rain storm; is invited to stay at Trepassen, the family home, to find a dark, creepy old mansion without basic heat, hot water, bathroom, electrical amenities; is sourly greeted by a surly, unwelcoming housekeeper and lousy cook; discovers old, faded documents and photo albums; is introduced to her newly found feuding, dysfunctional, secret-keeping family who try to accept her but an underlying resentment and skepticism prevail so that Hal never feels safe.

How’s that for a checklist?

The story unfolds very slowly. There is a lot that needs development and follow-up. For instance, when Hal discovers someone has removed the lightbulb from her bedroom ceiling fixture (leaving her in complete darkness on the attic level) she never questions this or requests a replacement bulb. Strange things happen and are quickly pushed aside. Story development is needed in a number of scenes to give insight. Most family discussions are in groups so it’s hard to keep track of individual characteristics.

Hal believes she is a fraud and that a mistake has been made as to her true identity. She is so desperate for money and fearful from the threats and roughing -up at the hands of the loan shark’s henchman, that she takes her chances that no one will discover that she is an imposter.  Hal, along with the family at Trepassen, are in for some very big surprises!

One thing I really like about the book is how the author coordinates messages from tarot cards with each event in Hal’s journey. As Hal’s self-confidence increases, so does her belief in the message of the tarot. As her mother taught her: the tarot tells you what you already know. Now that Hal has faith in her ability to find the truth, she sets out to discover the real story lurking behind the impassive, unyielding walls of Trepassen.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

 

Please Borrow My Books From the Public Libraries!

Great news! Printed copies of my books can now be borrowed from Queens, Nassau and Suffolk County Libraries in New York. Request an inter-library loan!

Queens Libraries—Bay Terrace, Central(Jamaica), and Whitestone 

Nassau Libraries—Manhasset, Port Washington

Suffolk Libraries— East Hampton Library

The digital copies are available in Queens Public Library and may be available in other library systems throughout the country. If your library cannot provide access to these books, please ask them to purchase in digital or paperback formats to add to their collection.

The Science Project
The Ocean’s Way
Who Do Voodoo?
The Ocean’s Way Poetry Companion
Sojourn Into The Night—A Memoir of the Peruvian Rainforest

Happy reading! If you do decide to borrow my books from the library, please remember to write a review on the library website.

Thanks,

Elaine

Please let me know how you do. I’d love to hear from you author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

Book Review: The President Is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

Book Review: The President Is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson 2 Stars **

Let me start off by saying if Bill Clinton wanted to co-write a political thriller, he should have sought out Daniel Silva or Nelson DeMille. James Patterson may not have been the best choice. Sure, Patterson is the highest grossing author who ever lived BUT he does not write about political intrigue or complex situations.  His early books were exciting with main character Alex Cross struggling to keep his family safe while chasing down psychopathic killers. Then, Patterson decided to branch out and help unknown writers by co-authoring books with them to boost their sales. Patterson’s writing style changed from that point. Most of these books are geared to Middle Grade readers (8-12 years old) and The President Is Missing reads exactly like one of his kids books. Not all good writers are good across the board.

The chapters are mostly short—one, two or three pages with a few chapters as long as ten pages. There are 128 chapters plus an Epilogue in the book. The president tells his story in the first person, a technique used in middle grade books. The terrorists’  activities are described by a third person narrator. Sentences are short, choppy and lacking in sophisticated vocabulary the reader would expect to find in an adult political thriller. The characters are shallow, the dialogue preachy, self-congratulatory, and often repetitious.

The title is misleading because the president is not missing. He’s holed up with a small group of advisors and foreign dignitaries trying to thwart a cyber attack on the United States that would destroy every known system that keeps the United States going. The American people are unaware of this danger. All attempts at avoiding disaster take place in one room, presenting a missed opportunity to show the president’s strength in calming and guiding the American people. Way too much tell, and not enough show.

The president’s ego is always on display—from his rugged good looks to his POW loyalty to his fellow soldiers to his undying, faithful devotion to his daughter and late wife. Of course, it’s his suggestions that save the day. By the way, despite what TV interviewers implied about the president in the book taking advantage of a young woman by having an affair or sexual relationship,  it never happened. It’s not there. Period. So, I don’t know how this misinformation prevailed. This is one aspect of President Clinton’s life that did not find its way into this book.

Whatever you may think of Bill Clinton’s politics and private life, the man is extremely intelligent and also distinguished himself as a Rhodes Scholar.

Bill, you should have and could have done better than this. Next time, work with a writer who displays knowledge of how systems work, has sophistication in international relations, displays a mastery of the English language, and who also deals in well-researched facts and exotic locations.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

Kudos to B & N Stamford, CT For A Successful Book Signing!

Kudos to Barnes & Noble Stamford, CT for a Successful Book Signing Event!

EDUCATORS DISCOUNTS APPLY

Please join me

                                     Today Is the Last Day

Sunday, August 19, 2018
12:00pm-6:00pm

Stamford Town Center  
100 Greyrock Place
Stamford, CT
203-323-1248

 My Book Titles
The Science Project
The Ocean’s Way
Who Do Voodoo?
The Ocean’s Way Poetry Companion
Sojourn Into The Night—A Memoir of the Peruvian Rainforest

Please visit my website elainedonadio.com for study guides aligned with state standards for science, social studies, and literacy.

All rights reserved August, 2018.

Book Review: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Book Review: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah 4 Stars ****

Also appropriate for Young Adult Readers

Written by the author of The Nightingale, this book also has a magnetic pull on the reader with its sympathetic characters and wild, untamed setting in the Alaska of the 1970’s. A wonderful, but sometimes repetitious story, often undeveloped, melodramatic events, too many hints about what the future holds, confusing innuendo, and rather abrupt contrived ending made this 4 Stars for me instead of the 5 Stars it should have had. Please don’t misunderstand. This is a terrific book.

Thirteen year old Lenora (Leni) Allbright abruptly leaves city life behind as her parents inform her they will start a new life in the wilderness of Alaska. Leni’s father, Ernt, a POW and Vietnam veteran suffering from severe post traumatic stress, has inherited a small house in the Alaskan wilderness from an army buddy who was killed during his captivity as a POW. Ernt views this as a saving grace, Cora, Leni’s mom, goes along with whatever she feels will make her husband happy, while Leni expresses skepticism that a change of scenery will improve her father’s psyche. Leni is the only one of her family grounded in reality and her fears prove to be prophetical.

Leni’s family is totally unprepared for life in the wilderness. With the help of caring, experienced neighbors, they begin to learn basic survival techniques. They must carry a knife and/ or gun at all times for protection from bears and wolves. The family learn to hunt, trap, fish, grow and store their own vegetables, chop wood, pilot boats, ride snowblowers, read the sky for signs of storms, and try to keep their balance with the unusually long days and nights according to the season. They live without electricity, central heating, and indoor plumbing. Trips to the outhouse are dangerous at night because bears lurk in the woods. Walking and driving are treacherous. It’s possible to fall through the ice and into crevasses and never to be found. And yet, they come to love this land and its people.

Leni forms a deep friendship with Matthew who is the only child her own age in the town. This friendship leads to love and romance. Leni’s father becomes increasingly more violent, plotting, controlling, and reclusive while Leni’s mother continues to live in denial as she provokes her husband’s jealousy by her flirtations with Matthew’s divorced father. It would be impossible to summarize what happens without spoiling the story. The reader is subjected to great emotional upheaval as we fear for the safety and well-being of all the characters in the book. This is a heart-wrenching tale.

We have a sense of being there since the descriptive passages  give a clear sense of life in the wilderness—its loneliness and dangers. The last few chapters come and go quickly and abruptly. Is the ending realistic? In some ways the possibilities exist, but how probable is this “happy” ending?

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

 

Kudos to B & N Stamford, CT For a Successful Book Signing Event

Kudos to Barnes & Noble Stamford, CT for a Successful Book Signing Event!

EDUCATORS DISCOUNTS APPLY

Please join me

                                     Today Is the Last Day

Sunday, August 19, 2018
12:00pm-6:00pm

Stamford Town Center  
100 Greyrock Place
Stamford, CT
203-323-1248

 My Book Titles
The Science Project
The Ocean’s Way
Who Do Voodoo?
The Ocean’s Way Poetry Companion
Sojourn Into The Night—A Memoir of the Peruvian Rainforest

Please visit my website elainedonadio.com for study guides aligned with state standards for science, social studies, and literacy.

All rights reserved August, 2018.

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