Will I need space for a broken heart in my handbag?

Now and Then in Tuscany

Angela Petch

Will I need space for a broken heart in my handbag? 

 

 

 

Click here to buy on Amazon

‘In my heart there was a storm that needed to break and my heart hurt like thorns on the wild rosa canina growing in the hedgerows…’

If you embark on this journey of discovery then be sure to prepare some delicious crostini, in advance, as you will not be able to put the book down….

This is a story of love wrapped up in an insight into rural history and customs of Tuscany. Meet ancient craftsmen and farmers, of Montebotolino, and marvel at the tenacity of their families; see how they survived difficult times.

The history of Giuseppe, a farrier and a cobbler, is completely absorbing.  Giuseppe was born at the beginning of last century.  His naivety leads him down some challenging paths, but this shapes the man, and ‘suffering begins the journey to wisdom.’   I found myself wanting to shout at Giuseppe and send him in the direction of love; the loves story is beautiful.

For me, the novel unlocked secrets of the enchanting holiday destination.  I have often wondered who had once walked along the ancient tracks, and who once lived in the ancient dwellings that nestle in the mountains.   As the title suggests, the reader delves into rural Tuscany as it is now and as it was back then at the beginning of last century. The reader has the privilege of meeting characters from the different generations and has more knowledge than the characters:  it is satisfying to fit the jigsaw together.  Indeed, there is a cleverly crafted narrative, in which there are emotional parallels in the lives of the characters from the past and the present.

Giuseppe’s grandson, Francesco, and his English wife, Anna have turned the ancient houses into holiday lets. Their son, Davide, encounters some of the emotional challenges of childhood that Giuseppe, his great-grandfather, had to face. Alba, Giuseppe’s great-granddaughter, faces choices about education very different to her great-grandparents.   Whilst Giuseppe’s grandson Francesco and his wife face different daily routines; this reminds us of how life has changed. However, the tenderness between the couples from both generations is crafted skilfully, and there is an exploration of love.

Life, in Montebotolino, was hard at the beginning of the last century.  Yet, the people had to make the most of nature’s larder, and the peasant food is so tempting.  It seems that the working people, from the past, shaped the menus in contemporary Italy, sadly many of their homes have been left empty as their lifestyle was too difficult. The charm, and majestic beauty of the Tuscan landscape is still there to seduce the modern traveller.  Fortunately, we can still see:

‘Cypress tree lined twisting white ribbon roads up hills towards impressive stone buildings…trees like stakes holding down the land.’

This story takes the reader beneath the surface of the magical holiday destination, associated with a paradise for the eye and the belly.

The transumanza is the Italian term for transhumance, the traditional twice yearly migration of sheep and cows from the highlands to the lowlands, and vice versa. The word literally means “crossing the land”. Ref:  Wikipedia

 

See My Reading for all my other reviews at jessiecahalin.com/my-reading/

See my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Originally posted 2017-04-22 09:37:05.

Cramming my bag full of Angela Petch’s books and her lovers of Italian

Angela Petch 

 

Books in my Handbag is delighted to welcome the inspirational Angela Petch to the Chat Room

‘I’m inquisitive about different cultures and people. Writers are usually nosy, I think.’

Angela Petch was born in Germany, brought up in Italy and England, worked in Amsterdam, Sicily and Tanzania, East Africa. It is no wonder that she is ‘inquisitive about people and culture’. We can also thank Angela’s late father for introducing her to Italy, and I feel certain that he would have been proud of her writing.  Her colourful life is reflected in her colourful writing pallet.  Angela is sensitive, funny and creative: the perfect qualities for a writer

Angela has published ‘Tuscan Roots’ and ‘Now and Then in Tuscany’.  Currently, she is working on the frolics and escapes of ‘Mavis and Dot’- need I say more?

Always full of joie de vivre, Angela insisted that we open a bottle of Prosecco before we commenced the chat.  The sun was shining and butterflies dancing in the Italian garden as we commenced the conversation.

I adore ‘Now and Then in Tuscany’, but please capture your novel in forty words…

Now and Then in Tuscany is a historical narrative which oozes love for Italy and its culture.

The saga of three generations of a Tuscan family which recalls recent hardships and traditions of country life, too easily forgotten in today’s affluent and comfortable Europe.

Absolutely, these elements were beautifully presented in the novel. Now here’s another challenge, read me an extract that captures the essence of your book.

“The ancient wheel beside the convent door stood waiting … like the mouth of a hungry beast, ready for me to place the baby in its wooden drum and push it to the inside of the orphanage.”

You paint the experiences and emotions with words and tell a heart-breaking yet beautiful story. What do the reviewers say about your 5* novel?  Angela searched through the Amazon reviews while I ate crostini. 

This is no disappointment! What-happened-next books are so often disappointing. After the enchanting ‘Tuscan Roots’ (Angela Petch’s first novel set in Tuscany) I was almost afraid to read on. I needn’t have worried. This new book, which continues the story of Anna and Francesco Starnucci, like its predecessor blends a modern-day story with family history in an intricate weaving of now and then. Once again, the author’s love of the landscape and people of this beautiful region shine through, but this is far from being a mere travelogue. Angela Petch is an inspired storyteller who knows how to blend in a touch of mystery to keep the reader guessing.

Reviewer: Perdisma on 13 May 2017

Fascinating people and places. It reminds me in many ways (though it’s much less relentlessly tragic!) of “The Tree of Wooden Clogs”, the prize-winning film by Ermanno Olmi – it has the same intensely imagined and exquisitely detailed recreation of a lost way of life. The photographs are part of this too – at first sight they’re just grainy little black and white images, but each one explains and is explained by the text, so that the more you read the more alive they seem, like Facebook pages from a hundred years ago.
Reviewer:  Rose on Amazon 11 May 2017

Beautifully written and researched. This is a beautifully written and researched family saga that spans three generations of an Italian family. Giuseppe comes from a poor village in Tuscany where the rhythm of life is set by the Catholic Church and the menfolk’s annual winter pilgrimage to warmer winter grazing land for the sheep… The book is full of a subtle yearning. The prose is evocative. The historical narrative is impressively authentic and riven with the author’s love of her subject.

By CA reviews on 7 May 2017

I am not surprised that you have received such accolades that all are all genuinely inspired by your storytelling.  The book has been a labour of love so how did you feel when you had finished the book?

I felt a mixture of relief and sadness when I had finished writing the book. This book took me five years to research and write. At times, it was an agonising process. I struggled with the balance between history and narrative, fearing that my desire to include details about the era was pushing the plot out of shape. At first, I listened to the reactions of too many Beta readers and grew despondent and confused. But I wanted desperately to give birth to “Now and Then in Tuscany”, as I felt it was a period of history that needed to be recorded. I had help from a professional editor in the end.

It is so reassuring to hear that such a great book is the result of a challenging journey.  Do you miss the characters?

I still miss my main character, Giuseppe. He is so firmly placed in the location where we live in Tuscany that I’m sure I catch glimpses of him every now and again as he strides along the mule track.

Two weeks ago, we ate in the old stone house that I had imagined was his. I’m sure he was sitting in a corner by the stove, listening to our conversation and smiling wryly at the way we enjoyed the meal so much: our friend had recreated a peasant’s meal of nettle soup and frittata prepared with the tips of Vitalba (Old Man’s Beard). We enjoyed it as if it were a delicacy. But he would have eaten these ingredients out of necessity.

Would you like any of your characters to read the book, or maybe there is someone else that you have in mind?

My father, Kenneth Sutor, who died twenty six years ago. He introduced his three young children to Italian culture in the 1960’s, when he relocated to Rome to work for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. I still have his 1956 edition of Hachette’s World Guide to Italy that he carried in his pocket for our excursions. Every Sunday he would take us to Mass and afterwards treat the family to a slap-up meal in a simple trattoria. Then, out would come his little blue book and we would be guided round the Villa d’Este or the Via Appia Antica, Colosseum, Subiaco, Assisi…He refused to have us penned up in an apartment in the centre of Rome and found us a ramshackle villa on the outskirts of Rome. The garden was stuffed with Roman statues, orange trees and bordered by vineyards and peach groves. How could I, as an impressionable seven year old, fail to fall in love with Italy?  He was self-educated. Today he would have enjoyed a university education but his family were not wealthy enough to support him. I remember him often engrossed in a history book, reading glasses perched on the end of his nose.

I know you can’t say, but I wonder if I can sense your father in Giuseppe…  I am sure that your father would have been so proud of your book.

I would have loved to see him read my books. Undoubtedly, he would have pointed out the warts but I think he might have been proud of me too. He loved Italy and, on my mother’s request, I scattered his ashes on Italian soil.

I don’t need to be convinced but why should I keep your book in my handbag?

If you are the type of person who recognises that understanding the past helps towards an understanding of the future…

If you want to explore a beautiful and little-known corner of Eastern Tuscany…

If you want to read the story of a young boy with a big heart who overcomes adversity…

If you want to weep and smile at Tuscan love stories…

Then, find a space in your handbag for “Now and Then in Tuscany”.

What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook? Angela poured herself another glass of Prosecco and wiped the condensation from the glass. There was a distinct look of mischief in Angela’s eyes as she read the following line:

“…a fluttering of fans from menopausal worshippers, in a church smelling of candle wax and cold, cold stone…”

(For an idea for my WIP, “The Adventures of Mavis and Dot”).

What is the biggest challenge for an independent author?

Getting noticed. To be read in a competitive world where thousands of self-published authors are jostling for space. Engaging with social media has been my biggest challenge but it is the springboard. For a child of the ‘50’s, it doesn’t come easy. I was advised to set up a Twitter account. “Look for like-minded people,” was the advice from a writer friend. So, I typed “Lovers of Italian” in the search bar. I shall leave it to your imagination about the photos of gigolos and semi-naked escorts that popped up. Learning curve is the phrase that is constantly on the tip of my independent author’s tongue.

What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?

Just write. Get it down, capture your words before they fly away.

Afterwards you will have to check and chop, but just write first. In order to have something to work on, just write. I don’t believe in writer’s block.

I agree with you!  Just let the writing flow and banish writer’s block.  Does the countryside inspire you to write more than the city environment?

I like cities in small doses – for the theatre, concerts, art galleries, museums and monuments – but my heart sings in the countryside. I have played tennis all my life but at the moment I need a shoulder operation, so I can’t. Instead, I go for wonderful walks in the mountains. Better than a sweaty gym, any day.

Following the interview, I meandered down an ancient track. I reflected that we are all influenced by the past and the present. And I pondered whether anyone would make a wonderful art house film of Now and Then in Tuscany – the setting is there waiting to be captured on film. 

 

Please see My Guests for all the authors that I have interviewed.

 

Originally posted 2017-06-17 07:00:18.

Kindness of tweeters

Kindness of Tweeters

Twitter is such a polite form of communication that seems to promote that good old fashioned courtesy.  It is wonderful that good people can ‘like’ your comments and always thank you for a re-tweet; perfect strangers wish me ‘Happy Monday’, or tell me to have a good weekend.

Recently the lovely Diane Need wished me ’Happy Friday’ on Thursday and this prompted a string of humorous comments from others – all very courteous.  My phone beep, beeped for two days with various comments until it was indeed Friday and Diane’s birthday.  Here are some snatches of the conversation:

Sue Moorcroft‏ @SueMoorcroft

And the same to you! 🙂 (But isn’t it Thursday?)

 

Erin Green Author‏ @ErinGreenAuthor

If you want Friday… we will give you Friday – official

 

Diane Need Author‏ @dianeneed

Trust me, LOL. I think I’ll carry on with the Friday illusion! 🙂

 

Books in my Handbag‏ @BooksInHandbag

Always poised and ready for Friday with a cocktail in your hand – love the positivity! It made us all think of Friday!

 

John Jackson‏ @jjackson42

In the same vein, the sun is ALWAYS over the yardarm, SOMEWHERE!! Cheers!

 

Sue Johnson‏ @SueJohnson9

It’s your birthday – it can be whatever day you want it to be. x

 

Such interactions punctuate your day with positivity and make you laugh out loud in public places.  How, I wish that we could apply the same etiquette to everyday situations and people would walk past and share a positive greeting, rather than looking at their feet. Wouldn’t it be great if we could hand out cards with emojis on them, just to confirm our feelings?   They wouldn’t have to say anything just hold up a smiley face.  The only down side could be that one wouldn’t stop saying thank you.  In Twitterland, everyone keeps on acknowledging your comments and it is difficult to know when to stop: I haven’t yet learnt this etiquette as I like to have the last word.

I had a great dilemma when Angela Petch sent me a picture of an orchid from Italy and presented ‘an orchid in Tuscany for favourite Blogger.’  What could I do?  I couldn’t go on pressing the ‘like’ button forever and working my way through all of the emojis? I had to be courteous and creative so I sent her a picture of a cup with an appropriate message on it.  Does anyone know if that was sufficient or if I have missed something?

I adore the way in which Twitterland guides you down the path of courteousness, reinstates good old fashioned values and inspires creativity.  I want to share this love and hand out emojis as I walk the streets.  Of course, it would be even better if more strangers would just smile occasionally and pass the time of day – just as the lovely people do on Twitter.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone on Twitter for future re-tweets and any ‘likes’ that they want to share.  I like you all, with big hearts, and thank you!  I am happy, excited and winking simultaneously.

Please see my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Originally posted 2017-05-17 07:00:39.

Saving Private Tiggy-Winkle

Once upon a time…

As I collected my washing from the washing line, a hedgehog paused at my feet and rested next to a peg on the ground.  Mrs Tiggy-Winkle had come to help me with the washing.  I rushed to collect my camera, hoping that she would wait for me to return.

Hurray!  Mrs Tiggy-Winkle waited for me to capture the moment.  I couldn’t wait to send out the image via Twitter and Facebook.  My husband downloaded the image whilst I searched for an extract from one of Beatrix Potter’s books. The photo was saved in a folder labelled ‘Home Hedgehog’, because she was our hedgehog. Having constructed the post, I pressed send and we raised a glass to our hedgehog.

As expected the notifications and re-tweets followed.  Jenn Bregman said, ‘Sooooo cute!!’.  Angela Petch remarked, ‘Eat those slugs Mrs Tiggy-Winkle…’  The hedgehog charmed everyone.  Author, Jacqueline Kirk, asked, ‘Was the hedgehog out in daylight?’ Pondering this, I knew something was wrong.  Jacqueline tweeted more information. ‘#WildlifeOrphan1 says they are in trouble if out in daylight. The little fella looks small.’

Reality started to kick in, I realised that this wasn’t Mrs Tiggy-Winkle: it was either Ms or Mr Tiggy-Winkle.  Returning to my prized photo, I noticed that he/she was indeed a tiny, fluffy creature.  As my grandmother would have said, he/she is ‘nowt but a bairn’. Should he/she have been out at that time of day?

Jacqueline Kirk sent out a Code Red asking for advice.  I worried all night about the little hedgehog.  The Hedgehog Helpline didn’t answer my call. The following morning, I had a brainwave and contacted John Jackson, author of, ‘Heart of Stone, and hedgehog whisperer. Thankfully, the lovely man messaged me instantly.

‘That’s early, but not exceptional. We’ve had the hedgehogs out before sunset many times.’

Phew! Feeling better, I made myself a cup of tea and then called the Hedgehog Helpline again.  The wonderful woman was so calm and grateful for the call.  Her words echoed those of The Hedgehog Whisperer.  However, I can call the helpline again if the hog appears and they will assess his/her behaviour.  I may have to take my little hog to Hedgehog Hospital.  I didn’t know that these wonderful people existed.  Thank you, Hedgehog Helpline SEW, John Jackson and Jacqueline Kirk!

I will end with Jacqueline Kirk’s tweet:

That’s the beauty of twitter. I only found this out last week and now a little hog on the other side of the country has a kind person looking out for them.

And I hope that the hedgehog lives happily ever after!

 

Please see all of my adventures at Handbag Adventures and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

Love blogging, reviewing and moving authors to tears

Please see my blog at jessiecahalin.com to read my reviews and subscribe to receive the weekly updates.

Thank you to everyone who regularly visits my website and a massive thank you to my wonderful subscribers.  I have been overwhelmed with the praise for my website and book reviews.  Angela Petch captured my motivation perfectly when she wrote that ‘your blog shows me that you are a true book lover.’

I am dedicated to reviewing authors’ books as it is simple act of kindness that lets them know that they are valued.  For instance, Sue Moorcroft responded to a review with ‘There are few things that give me greater pleasure than people enjoying my book.’ Carol Drinkwater wrote that my review was a ‘wonderful surprise’. Authors are the wordsmiths, the dream weavers and storytellers and it is an honour to read their work.  It has made me so happy to discover that Angela Petch was ‘moved to tears’ by my review, and Jan Ellis said that my review made her ‘well up’.  It was a delight to receive Diane Need’s comment that she was ‘so thrilled with the review of her debut novel’.

In addition, to writing the weekly review, I have also enjoyed interacting with the authors about their characters.  Angela Petch has updated me on Giuseppe, Marisa, Francesco, Anna, Ines, Danilo and the little horses of San Francesco from Now and Then in Tuscany. Diane Need has sent messages from Beth in Press Three for Goodbye. Jan Ellis has kept me posted with regard Eleanor’s social life in A Summer of Surprises. I have exchanged postcards with Leah in Just for the Holidays and as Sue Moorcroft said, ‘it was so much fun’. I will catch up with Leah again soon when I read the book.

This week I am reviewing Practicing Normal by Cara Sue Achterberg and feel honoured to have read this before the official release.  I know that I will not be able to resist reading Sue Moorcroft’s Just for the Holidays and The Bookshop Detective by Jan Ellis.  Angela’s Tuscan Roots is also speaking Italian to me.  The Vineyard in Alsace by Julie Stock is tempting me with dreams of wine. I wonder if any other authors will be moved to tears of joy by the reviews?

 



Please visit jessiecahalin.com to read my reviews and subscribe to receive the weekly updates.

Originally posted 2017-05-11 08:00:54.

The trouble with my handbag adventures

Connecting with the virtual world of WordPress, Twitter and Facebook has encouraged me to find a message in the ordinary world around us.  I am always looking for photograph opportunities to support a tweet, Facebook post or blog. My mind is constantly buzzing with ideas and it’s great. These adventures can result in some fulfilling interactions in the real world, but my photographing adventures can also get me in into trouble.

On the whole people are very accommodating and let me take photographs of their shops, museums, pubs, gardens, houses etc.  For instance, the porters on The Grand Hotel, in Brighton, were happy to let me capture the glamorous setting with my camera. I needed the photographs for Ally Bunbury’s book review and interview.  The helpful porters even cleared some luggage to enhance the shot.  Later that day, a kind gentleman pointed out various signs for me to capture in his grocer’s shop, but I did get a little suspicious when one of the signs read: ‘New husband for sale’.

During my adventures, I have learned to smile at the museum curators and carry on.  Unfortunately, I was chastised for photographing Churchill’s writing desk. Though, I was delighted to be informed that Churchills would ‘fight me on the beaches’ if I dared to take photos.  Another curator pretended not to see me taking a view of the garden from the window.  One antique shop owner looked at me suspiciously when I declared, ‘I need pictures of old spades etc to display as murder weapons.’  I intended to use these in a murder story lark developed, on Facebook, with Angela Petch and Patricia Stoner.  On this occasion, I didn’t use the photos but they will be useful at some stage.

Walking through the Beacons, I decided to write a blog about the inspiring environment.  I spied an opportunity to throw a stone in the water to represent a big splash.  The splash would represent a thought or an idea.  Unfortunately, I was chased away from the lake by the people who were fishing for trout.   I did ask if they would like me to ‘sling my hook’ but they weren’t amused.

Sue Moorcroft’s ‘Just for the Holidays’ got me into the most trouble.  I required some images of holiday items as mine weren’t glamorous enough for a friend of Leah.  While shopping in a supermarket, I saw lots of holiday goodies. Bingo! I set to work removing the various items, placing them in better light and clicking my camera phone.  The Canadian security guard was not impressed with me and said, ‘Ma’am, would you please follow me?’  I followed him.  Disappointingly, I was led to his security post and not his horse.  He was very polite and soon accepted my explanation.

The most frightening experience occurred when I was taking a photo of a street sign for Muddles Green.  That day, I was in a muddle with editing so the sign was perfect.  I stood in the middle of the quiet country lane to snap the image.  A motorbike almost ploughed into me as it raced around the corner. It was worth it when lots of authors connected with the message.

Not everyone can connect with my adventures.  I asked shop owner if I could place Jan Ellis’s The Bookshop Detective’ in his window display and then take a photograph.  Sadly, he wouldn’t allow it as he was concerned that there would be breakages.  How did he know that I am clumsy?  Maybe, he thought that I was the detective and wanted to get inside of the window display.

It is great fun to think about representing my adventures through social media. It is a bonus that my everyday experiences and thoughts mean something to like-minded people out there in the world.  My handbag adventures have enabled me to connect with a wealth of creative people who challenge and inspire me.  These connections wouldn’t have happened without social media, and now I am exploring how I can further develop some creative collaborations.  I am looking forward to working with Jenni Lopez from @TheJennieration.  

 

More of my adventures can be found at Handbag Adventures and see my blog at jessiecahalin.com 

Characters Trapped in the Mind of a Book Blogger

Please visit my website at jessiecahalin.com  

This week has been a busy adventure for @BooksInHandbag.

I have been communicating with fictional characters and trying to get into their world.  I feel as if have been residing in a corner of my mind that is neither reality nor fiction and it’s a great place.

Leah, from Just for the Holidays, has been sending me postcards about her dilemma out there in France, and other characters from the books that I am reviewing have asked for help.  Annoyingly, the author, Angela Petch is also travelling to Leah’s holiday destination and she has been trying to get into the heart of the gossip.  I am sure that Angela wants material for her next book.

I have been desperately trying to get out to France to support Leah, but it is proving to be quite a challenge.  Locating a ferry ticket has been an absolute nightmare, holiday shopping has been horrendous and I am petrified of driving in France.  As I write, I am planning how to get out there to Leah and find out what is happening.  It is difficult because I can sense that she doesn’t want me to go out there for some reason, but doesn’t want to offend. I need to see Leah face to face. It is a concern that Angela will hunt out any gossip and spill the beans in her next novel.  Despite my reservations about driving in France, I will just have to get on with it and race out there.

Must stop!!! Someone is knocking at the door and the next-door neighbour’s dogs are going mad.  Who is it?  I can see a camper van outside. I will be back soon…

It’s me…I am back again.

The characters from my debut novel You Can’t Go It Alone were knocking on my door. Sophie and Jack have arrived in a camper van and they have said that I can borrow it for the journey to France.  It is so typical of Sophie and Jack to think of others when they are going through so much.  However, I don’t know why they have changed the lovely tangerine orange colour to a yukky pale blue.  I might have to take them up on their offer, if I can find an available ferry crossing.

I hope that I get to France on time!

It’s frightening as the characters, from the books, are taking over and I am not sure what is reality and what is fiction: all I do is write, write, write the events of my day.  It’s great fun, and it’s amazing to connect with the creative minds of other authors.  I may never have to face reality again thanks to Twitter and the power of the imagination. The author Linn B Halton has just messaged me to say that there ought to be an ‘Authors Anonymous’ to assist with our addiction to writing.

Are the characters, in the books that I am reviewing, taking over my life?

Please visit my website jessiecahalin.com to find out more about these authors.

#PostcardsJFTH

 

Originally posted 2017-04-27 19:14:16.