Book review: Waking Isabella, because beauty can’t sleep forever by Melissa Muldoon

Book Details:

Book Title:  Waking Isabella: Because beauty can’t sleep forever by Melissa Muldoon
Category:  Adult Fiction,  250  pages
Genre: General Fiction
Publisher:  Matta Press
Release date:  December 2017
Format available for review: print & ebook (mobi, ePub, PDF)
Will send print books out: internationally
Tour dates: Feb 19 to March 23, 2018
Content Rating: PG-13 + M (The story begins with violent rape and murder scene, touches on themes of miscarriage, murder, Nazi violence during war, adultery)

Book Description:

Waking Isabella is a story about uncovering hidden beauty that, over time, has been lost, erased, or suppressed. It also weaves together several love stories as well as a few mysteries. Nora, an assistant researcher, is a catalyst for resolving the puzzle of a painting that has been missing for decades. Set in Arezzo, a small Tuscan town, the plot unfolds against the backdrop of the city’s antique trade and the fanfare and pageantry of its medieval jousting festival. While filming a documentary about Isabella de’ Medici—the Renaissance princess who was murdered by her husband—Nora begins to connect with the lives of two remarkable women from the past. Unraveling the stories of Isabella, the daughter of a fifteenth-century Tuscan duke, and Margherita, a young girl trying to survive the war in Nazi-occupied Italy, Nora begins to question the choices that have shaped her own life up to this point. As she does, hidden beauty is awakened deep inside of her, and she discovers the keys to her creativity and happiness. It is a story of love and deceit, forgeries and masterpieces—all held together by the allure and intrigue of a beautiful Tuscan ghost.

Watch the trailer:

Melissa Muldoon

 Meet the Author:

Melissa Muldoon is the Studentessa Matta—the crazy linguist! In Italian, “matta” means “crazy” or “impassioned.” Melissa has a B.A. in fine arts, art history and European history from Knox College, a liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, as well as a master’s degree in art history from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. She has also studied painting and art history in Florence.

Melissa promotes the study of Italian language and culture through her dual-language blog, Studentessa Matta ( Melissa began the Matta blog to improve her command of the language and to connect with other language learners. It has since grown to include a podcast, “Tutti Matti per l’Italiano,” and the Studentessa Matta YouTube channel. Melissa also created Matta Italian Language Immersion Tours, which she co-leads with Italian partners in Italy.

Waking Isabella is Melissa’s second novel and follows Dreaming Sophia, published in 2016. In this new novel about Italy, the reader is taken on another art history adventure, inspired by Melissa’s experiences living and traveling in Italy, specifically Arezzo, as well as her familiarity with the language and art. For more information about Waking Isabella and links to Melissa’s blogs and social media sites, visit

As a student, Melissa lived in Florence with an Italian family. She studied art history and painting and took beginner Italian classes. When she returned home, she threw away her Italian dictionary, assuming she’d never need it again, but after launching a successful design career and starting a family, she realized something was missing in her life. That “thing” was the connection she had made with Italy and the friends who live there. Living in Florence was indeed a life-changing event. Wanting to reconnect with Italy, she decided to start learning the language again from scratch. As if indeed possessed by an Italian muse, she bought a new Italian dictionary and began her journey to fluency—a path that has led her back to Italy many times and enriched her life in countless ways. Now, many dictionaries and grammar books later, she dedicates her time to promoting Italian language studies, further travels in Italy, and sharing her stories and insights about Italy with others. When Melissa is not traveling in Italy, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Melissa designed and illustrated the cover art for Waking Isabella and Dreaming Sophia. She also curates the Dreaming Sophia blog and Pinterest site: The Art of Loving Italy. Please visit the Pinterest page for pictures of Arezzo, the Giostra del Saracino, and all the places we go in Italy in both books. Visit for more information about immersion trips to learn the language with Melissa in Italy, as well as the Studentessa Matta blog for practice and tips to learn the Italian language.

Connect with Melissa:

Website ~ Twitter ~  Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram ~ Youtube


For  anyone who loves history, art and anything Italian, this is the perfect novel for you.  The story begins with Isabella de Medici, a 16th century Italian princess and her mysterious, and the circumstances surrounding her untimely death as well as the disappearance of  her most beloved painting.

Nora, a researcher and art lover is recuperating from a failed marriage.  She is at a point in her life where she must decide to take the safe route and remain a researcher or follow her dreams to return to Italy.  A chance Facebook message from an old friend ignites her passion for Italy once again and inspires her to investigate Isabella de Medici and her mysterious past.

The author’s historical research really makes this novel “come alive” as we are transported to different time periods and places in search of elusive clues to missing pieces of artwork.  The introduction of realistic characters and multiple storylines that ultimately lead back to the beginning of the story made for an interesting and enjoyable read.  Brush up on your Italian, there is plenty in this book!  Take care, you may end up enjoying a cappuccino yourself on sun drenched day somewhere in historic Italy.


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Book review: The Designer by Marius Gabriel

  • Title & Author:  The Designer by Marius Gabriel
  • Publisher:  Lake Union Publishing
  • Date published:  October 1, 2017
  • Pages: 388 pages
  • Genre:  biographical fiction / general fiction / historical fiction

Book Description:

In 1944, newly married Copper Reilly arrives in Paris soon after the liberation. While the city celebrates its freedom, she’s stuck in the prison of an unhappy marriage. When her husband commits one betrayal too many, Copper demands a separation.

Alone in Paris, she finds an unlikely new friend: an obscure, middle-aged designer from the back rooms of a decaying fashion house whose timid nature and reluctance for fame clash with the bold brilliance of his designs. His name is Christian Dior.

Realising his genius, Copper urges Dior to strike out on his own, helping to pull him away from his insecurities and towards stardom. With just a camera and a typewriter, she takes her own advice and ventures into the wild and colourful world of fashion journalism.

Soon Copper finds herself torn between two very different suitors, questioning who she is and what she truly wants. As the city rebuilds and opulence returns, can Copper make a new, love-filled life for herself?

Buy the book:   Amazon    Barnes & Noble

Meet the author:  

Marius Gabriel is an international thriller and mystery writer.  Under the pseudonym Madeleine Ker, he wrote over 30 romance novels in the 1980s.

As Marius Gabriel he has written several mystery best-sellers, some of them historical novels. 

He has three grown-up children and currently lives in Cairo and London.

Connect with the author:   Twitter    Facebook    goodreads


As a photographer and fashion enthusiast, I was looking forward to exploring the rise of fashion and the world of Christian Dior during the remaining years of WWII.  The story revolves around Oona Reilly (Copper), a young American woman stationed in Paris with her journalist husband.  After her marriage falls apart and her husband is stationed elsewhere, Oona becomes heavily involved in the bohemian art and fashion world.  This association leads her to become a protege of Christian Dior, a talented designer who has yet to establish his own design house.

Although this book is primarily historical fiction, there are several historical events relating to the war described in this novel such as the concentration camps, the severe living conditions in France at the time as well as the role the American army and the French resistance played in liberating France from the Nazis.  I found myself googling the characters and events in the book for more information and found that the events described were accurate.

Although Oona’s meteoric rise as a photographer and  a successful freelance journalist seemed “a little too effortless” to be believable I really did enjoy reading this novel.


Book review: Inheriting Edith by Zoe Fishman


  • Title:  Inheriting Edith by Zoe Fishman
  • Publisher:  William Morrow Paperbacks
  • Publication date:  (October 18, 2016)
  • Genre:  Women’s fiction / general fiction
  • Pages:  320

ABOUT THE BOOK:   A poignant breakout novel, for fans of J. Courtney Sullivan and Elin Hilderbrand, about a single mother who inherits a beautiful beach house with a caveat—she must take care of the ornery elderly woman who lives in it.

For years, Maggie Sheets has been an invisible hand in the glittering homes of wealthy New York City clients, scrubbing, dusting, mopping, and doing all she can to keep her head above water as a single mother. Everything changes when a former employer dies leaving Maggie a staggering inheritance. A house in Sag Harbor. The catch? It comes with an inhabitant: The deceased’s eighty-two-year old mother Edith.

Edith has Alzheimer’s—or so the doctors tell her—but she remembers exactly how her daughter Liza could light up a room, or bring dark clouds in her wake. And now Liza’s gone, by her own hand, and Edith has been left—like a chaise or strand of pearls—to a poorly dressed young woman with a toddler in tow.

Maggie and Edith are both certain this arrangement will be an utter disaster. But as summer days wane, a tenuous bond forms, and Edith, who feels the urgency of her diagnosis, shares a secret that she’s held close for five decades, launching Maggie on a mission that might just lead them each to what they are looking for.

BUY THE BOOK:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   HarperCollins 

6a0120a73fd4ec970b019aff273dfb970d-800wiMEET THE AUTHOR:   Zoe Fishman is the critically acclaimed author of the upcoming Inheriting Edith, (Morrow, November ’16), Driving Lessons (Morrow, April ’14), Saving Ruth(Morrow, May ’12) and Balancing Acts (Harper, March ’10). Her books have been translated into German, Italian, Dutch and Polish. She’s the recipient of myriad awards, including Target’s Breakout and Emerging Author Picks, a NY Post Pick, a Mom’s Choice Award and a Barnes & Noble Hot Read.

Interviews and profiles of her have been featured on NBC’s “Atlanta & Co.” and FGTV, as well as in Publisher’s Weekly, Mobile Bay Magazine, The Atlanta Jewish Times and The Huffington Post. Her articles have been published in Time Out and on, among others.

Zoe worked in the New York publishing industry for thirteen years in the editorial department of Random House, the rights department of Simon & Schuster and later, as an agent for two boutique literary firms before moving to Atlanta in August of 2011 with her husband. Now the mom of two little boys, she’s working on her next novel and teaching writing at The Callanwolde Fine Arts Center.

Connect with the author:   Website   Twitter   Facebook


“Hey, if you were going on a road trip with two old ladies and a two-year-old, what would would you bring?”   –  “Valium” Sam answered.

Maggie and Edith don’t exactly hit it off.  They are both unexpectedly thrown together when Edith’s daughter dies and leaves her Sag Harbour home to her former friend and housecleaner.  Throw in a feisty, Jewish girlfriend Esther (Edith’s) who doesn’t hesitate to “tell it like it is” (she’s my favourite character) and we see a few fireworks.

An engaging novel that shows that we don’t always have the answers, heck, we don’t always have the right questions but somehow we fumble through life and can feel pretty good about what we’ve accomplished.  The dialogue was candid and refreshing and I really enjoyed the repartee between Edith and Esther.  I really didn’t get what was happening between Maggie and Sam, the signals were “all over the place” and didn’t feel there was enough development in this part of the story.

A light read despite the fact that the overall theme was about how to deal with an Alzheimer’s patient in a dignified manner.

Considerable strong language was liberally used throughout the story as well as mature themes that may not appeal to some Christian readers.

Sunday, October 16th:
Tuesday, October 18th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Thursday, October 20th: BookNAround
Monday, October 24th: Reading is My Super Power
Tuesday, October 25th: The Book Bag
Tuesday, November 1st: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, November 2nd: bookchickdi
Thursday, November 3rd: Lesa’s Book Critiques
Friday, November 4th: Books and Bindings
Monday, November 7th: Broken Teepee
Tuesday, November 8th: I’d Rather Be At The Beach
Wednesday, November 9th: she treads softly
Thursday, November 10th: A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, November 17th: Tina Says…
Friday, November 18th: Art @ Home
Tuesday, November 22nd: Kahakai Kitchen
Monday, November 28th: Becklist
Wednesday, November 30th: 5 Minutes For Books
Thursday, December 1st: Readaholic Zone


Book review: Rare Objects by Kathleen Tessaro



  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (April 12, 2016)
  • General fiction


In Depression-era Boston, a city divided by privilege and poverty, two unlikely friends are bound by a dangerous secret in this mesmerizing work of historical fiction from the New York Times bestselling author of The Perfume Collector.

Maeve Fanning is a first generation Irish immigrant, born and raised among the poor, industrious Italian families of Boston’s North End by her widowed mother. Clever, capable, and as headstrong as her red hair suggests, she’s determined to better herself despite the overwhelming hardships of the Great Depression.

However, Maeve also has a dangerous fondness for strange men and bootleg gin—a rebellious appetite that soon finds her spiraling downward, leading a double life. When the strain proves too much, Maeve becomes an unwilling patient in a psychiatric hospital, where she strikes up a friendship with an enigmatic young woman, who, like Maeve, is unable or unwilling to control her un-lady-like desire for freedom.

Once out, Maeve faces starting over again. Armed with a bottle of bleach and a few white lies, she lands a job at an eccentric antiques shop catering to Boston’s wealthiest and most peculiar collectors. Run by an elusive English archeologist, the shop is a haven of the obscure and incredible, providing rare artifacts as well as unique access to the world of America’s social elite. While delivering a purchase to the wealthy Van der Laar family, Maeve is introduced to beautiful socialite Diana Van der Laar—only to discover she’s the young woman from the hospital.

Reunited with the charming but increasingly unstable Diana and pursued by her attractive brother James, Mae becomes more and more entwined with the Van der Laar family—a connection that pulls her into a world of moral ambiguity and deceit, and ultimately betrayal. Bewitched by their wealth and desperate to leave her past behind, Maeve is forced to unearth her true values and discover how far she’ll to go to reinvent herself.

Buy the book:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   HarperCollins

ktessaro2Meet the author:

Kathleen Tessaro is the author of EleganceInnocenceThe Flirt, and The Debutante. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her husband and son.

Connect with the author:   Website   Twitter   Facebook


Is it possible to “come of age” when one is already “of age”?  Maeve, the daughter of an Irish immigrant mother has a secret box. What she hides in this box reveals much about her personality, a bowtie, silver and gold gum wrappers and used train tickets.

Maeve decides that life in Boston isn’t what she wants.  She wants to go to New York.  The lack of a suitable job and wrong friends combined with too much drinking and partying take its toll and Maeve eventually ends up in a psychiatric hospital.  There she meets Diana, an enigmatic and apparently wealthy socialite.  At this point, Maeve decides that it’s time to grow up and try to live more responsibility.  Back home she hears of a job in an antique shop and armed with a bottle of bleach to hide her “Irishness” and a fake story, she applies for this job and is hired.

Unexpectedly, Diana appears in her life.  At first, Maeve is suspicious about Diana’s motives but the lure of experiencing how the rich live proves to be too strong for her resist.  She soon discovers that the sparkle and gaiety are only a facade to darker issues that haunt Diana and her family.  Disillusioned, she begins to explore the world of antiques and antiquities.  A map with pins on a wall as well as the man who put them there in the office fascinate her.

In Rare Objects we follow Maeve on a tumultuous journey of self discovery and a passion for the world outside that of her own.