Book review: Sass, Smarts, and Stilettos: How Italian Women Make the Ordinary Extraordinary by Gabriella Contestabile

Book Details:

Book Title:  Sass, Smarts, and Stilettos: How Italian Women Make the Ordinary Extraordinary by Gabriella Contestabile
Category:  Adult Non-Fiction,  201  pages
Genre: Travel / Arts / Fashion / Self-help
Publisher:  Sumisura Publications
Release date:  November 2017
Format available for review: print & ebook (PDF)
Will send print books out: internationally
Tour dates: April 23 to May 11, 2018
Content Rating: G (No violence. No swear words. No sex scenes.)

Book Description:

Ah, that inimitable Italian style. It’s embedded in an Italian woman’s DNA. Fashion doesn’t define her. She defines herself. She knows an extraordinary life is not about status, money, or achievement. The only mastery it requires is one her heritage has given her, the irrepressible passion to make art of life itself.

Ask an Italian woman where she gets her sense of style and she will tell you it’s not about labels. It’s tethered to humble roots; humanity, community, conscious consumerism, and a profound appreciation for art in all its forms.

Sass, Smarts and Stilettos takes the reader on a journey from the humble hill towns of Abruzzo to the revered fashion capitals of Milan and Rome, into the artisan workshops of Florence, and the humanistic business practices of Luisa Spagnoli, Brunello Cuccinelli, and Alberta Ferretti, from the emergence of Italy’s fashion industry after WWII, to slow food and sustainable fashion initiatives taking root around the world.

Life lessons echo in the words of the author’s mother and grandmother, in the voices of Italian film divas, designers, tastemakers, writers, and artisans across generations, from the first Sala Bianca in Florence to the game changing design ethic of Franca Sozzani, Miuccia Prada, and Donatella Versace.

Learn how to live fully within your own philosophy of living. Say good-bye to mindless consumerism, emotional clutter, and others’ expectations. Create a personal style that fits like a custom blazer by Ferrè and enchants like the colors of a Sicilian sunset. Then go on to craft an extraordinary and empowering life made-to-measure for you alone.

Gabriella Contestabile

Meet the Author:

Gabriella Contestabile is the author of the novel, The Artisan’s Star, and owner of Su Misura (Made to Measure) Journeys; a boutique travel concept for the female traveler who relishes off-the-beaten-track adventures that celebrate the Italian way of life.

​The book/travel initiative has its roots in her pre-writer life as a foreign language teacher, later as Executive Director and Vice President of International Training in a number of global companies (including Estee Lauder, Shiseido, and Prada Beauty) where she would create immersive and unconventional learning experiences in unique settings around the world.

One of her favorite pastimes, wherever she is in the world, is to scout out the best, and most ‘Italian’ espresso in the hood. It requires multiple tastings, but that’s the idea. Gabriella was born in Italy, and raised in Ottawa and New York City, where she currently lives with her husband, her mother, and a furry Shih Tzu named Oreo.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram ~ LinkedIn

This little book is a delightful combination of memoir, fashion history and practical advice about how to live your life to the fullest and most stylish.  I loved every little chapter – each beginning with a catchy quote.  This book will gently motivate you to be a better you – happier and more fulfilled.
Here are a few of the tidbits  from the book that I love: (both from the book and cited quotes)
It’s not about the label.  It’s about the art.
Don’t over-purchase.  When you have less, what you own is precious.
Bad food is never an option.
Travel is the enemy of prejudice, bigotry and small mindedness.
Age is the prison women make for themselves.
Fashion history has been a passion of mine for many years so I enjoyed the chapters outlining the history of Italian fashion.  I would google the different designers and pour over examples of the clothing they designed.
All this good advice had me re-think the way I was living, from the food I eat to the clothes I wear.  Of course, I’m not Italian but I am willing to adapt my lifestyle to be more mindful of the way I live and dress. Everyone keeps telling me to get a Vespa … one day who knows?

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Book review: Katharina Luther: Nun, Rebel, Wife by Anne Boileau

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  • Publisher:   Clink Street Publishing
  • Publication date:  4th October 2016
  • Genre:  Non-fiction / history
  • Pages:  224 pages

ABOUT THE BOOK:  On 31st October 1517, Martin Luther pinned ninety-five theses on the Castle Church door, Wittenberg, criticizing the Church of Rome; they were printed and published by Lucas Cranach and caused a storm. Nine young nuns, intoxicated by Luther’s subversive writings, became restless and longed to leave their convent. On Good Friday 1523 a haulier smuggled them out hidden in empty herring barrels. Five of them settled in Wittenberg, the very eye of the storm, and one of them – Katharina von Bora – scandalised the world by marrying the revolutionary former monk. Following a near miscarriage, she is confined to her bed to await the birth of their first child; during this time, she sets down her own story. Against a backdrop of 16th Century Europe this vivid account of Katharina von Bora’s early life brings to the spotlight this spirited and courageous woman.

BUY THE BOOK:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble

Polly without BlakeMEET THE AUTHOR:

Anne Boileau studied German in Munich and worked as a translator, interpreter and language teacher, both in England and abroad. In 1985 she took a degree in Rural Resource Development at Writtle Agricultural College after which she worked with various organizations to do with nature conservation, campaigning, giving talks and writing articles about the countryside and the natural world for local publications.

Ten years ago she turned to poetry and learnt a great deal fromGraham Fawcett’s reading workshops at Poetry School; she attended two poetry writing courses with Arvon, one with Carole Satyamurti, the other with Simon Armitage.  Dr. Ronald Blythe of Wormingford, her neighbour and long-time friend, taught her the importance of place, of looking closely at what is all about us, and seeing the wonder in the everyday.

She has published three books under the name of Polly Clarke: Simple Symphony, Assorted Toffees and White Sand, Grey Sand (Orphean Press).  She contributed five translations to a bilingual anthology of German and French poetry entitled Over the Water with the Camden Mews Translators (Hearing Eye 2007).  She now writes (and translates) poetry under her maiden name of Anne Boileau.     Website 


It takes real talent to take a historical figure and make them come alive. Anne Boileau has vividly recreated the life of Katharina Luther from the time of her childhood, her subsequent enclosure as a nun and later on as a young woman desperately trying to adapt to life outside the convent.

The time she lives in is perilous as religious upheaval and change are overturning long-held traditions and beliefs.  Her decision to follow Martin Luther and reject Church doctrine causes her years of anguish.

This is not a dry re-telling of Katharina’s life but a tender and moving courtship story between a compelling and fiery orator who happens to be shy and uncertain when he must convince this former nun and woman he admires to become his life’s partner.  Katherina, practical and realistic, understands the role she must play in Luther’s life.  Together they learn compromise and enjoy a marriage that satisfies them both.

The author writes beautifully and convincingly.  This was not an easy subject to tackle and I admire the way she has succeeded in bringing Katherine to life.


Book review: Newspaper Boys Always Deliver by Joseph Gulesserian


Book Details:

Book Title:  Newspaper Boys Always Deliver by Joseph Gulesserian
Category:  Adult non-fiction, 338 pages
Genre:  Pop Culture, Music and Technology Journey
Publisher:  CreateSpace
Release date:  January 5, 2016
Available for review in:  Print,  PDF
Will send print books:  USA & Canada
Tour dates:  March 7 – 25, 2016
Content Rating:  PG (F word is only used to quote a movie scene once, book refers lightly to some promiscuous activity. Ridicules religious zealots)

Book Description:  

A Personal Journey into Pop and Technological change in the last Fifty Years.

In Newspaper Boys Always Deliver, Gulesserian takes us on a captivating adventure by combining personal essays and historical insights for an enlightening look at how we got here, and the earlier inventions that paved the way for current cutting-edge technologies. While exploring pop-culture trends, unexpected impacts, and memorable moments in time, this collection of thought-provoking and humorous reflections paints a fascinating picture of the changes half a century can bring—and its implications for what could be just around the corner.

In just fifty years, Western culture has gone from culture to techno-culture—from the swinging sixties to rap, encyclopedia to Wikipedia, slide rule to artificial intelligence.

Newspaper Boys Always Deliver, shares a personal journey of how we got here, in a Book that delivers an eclectic plethora of knowledge, controversy and humorous entertainment in a newspaper format.

Buy the book here:   Amazon

Joseph Gulesserian

Meet the author: 

Joseph Gulesserian came of age during the seventies, and was exposed to many changing technologies with a career that has ranged from metallurgic to manufacturing, from business equipment to information technology, and brand creation.

After earning his MBA, he taught Corporate Finance, Marketing and Statistics as an adjunct professor at Toronto colleges, and in 2000 established a Toronto-based company that designs and produces health and beauty brands for both domestic and international markets.

​Currently, Gulesserian lives in Toronto with his wife.

Connect with the author:   Website   Facebook   Instagram


​March 7 –   Amie’s Book Reviews – review / guest post / giveaway
March 8 –   Book Reviews Nature Photos and Everything in Between – review
March 9 –   A Mama’s Corner of the World – review / giveaway
March 10 – Sahar’s Blog – review
March 11 – The Cheshire Cat’s Looking Glass – book spotlight / giveaway
March 11 – Svetlana’s Reads and Views – review
March 14 – Brian’s Book Blog – review
March 15 – Jaquo Lifestyle Magazine – review
March 16 – – review / giveaway
March 17 – Jaquo Lifestyle Magazine – guest post
March 17 – Library of Clean Reads – review / giveaway
March 18 – She Treads Softly – review
March 21 – Readers’ Muse – review / guest post
March 22 – Take It Personel-ly – review / guest post / giveaway
March 23 – Room With Books – review / author interview / giveaway
March 24 – Bound 4 Escape – review / giveaway
March 25 – 3 Partners in Shopping – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway

Joseph Gulesserian has a lot to talk about.  About 50 + years worth.  Reading Newspaper Boys Always Delivery is like sitting next to someone who has very strong opinions about well, pretty much everything – from Cat Woman’s costume to platform shoes worn by disco-goers (is that a word?).
I enjoyed the historical aspects of Joseph’s book – they brought back quite a few memories, especially since I grew up during the same time period.  I would do my own research since as many of the events he described piqued my curiosity.  However, this book was exhausting! It was as if 50 years of history was being crammed into one small volume (along with the author’s personal memories and observations).  Added to the fact that the language used to write the book switched continuously back and forth from informal to formal English with “high-sounding” dictionary word liberally interlaced throughout, it was really hard to read more than a few pages at a time.
I appreciate all the research and work that went into this book.  A reader who is a history buff with a tolerance for abrasive comments would probably get a kick out of reading this personal journey into pop culture.

Book review: Birds of Passage, An Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story by Joe Giordano


Book Details:

Book Title: Birds of Passage, an Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story by Joe Giordano
Category:  Adult Fiction,  260 pages
Genre: Historical coming of age romance
Publisher: Harvard Square Editions
Release date:  October 9, 2015
Available for review in:  ebook (PDF)
Will send books: Internationally
Tour dates: October 19 to November 6, 2015
Content Rating: PG (PG because there is mild profanity, no sex scenes, some violence.)

Book Description: 

What turns the gentle mean and the mean brutal? The thirst for wealth? The demand for respect? Vying for a woman? Birds of Passage recalls the Italian immigration experience at the turn of the twentieth-century when New York’s streets were paved with violence and disappointment.

Leonardo Robustelli leaves Naples in 1905 to seek his fortune. Carlo Mazzi committed murder and escaped. Azzura Medina is an American of Italian parents. She’s ambitious but strictly controlled by her mother. Leonardo and Carlo vie for her affection.

Azzura, Leonardo, and Carlo confront con men, Tammany Hall politicians, the longshoreman’s union, Camorra clans, Black Hand extortion, and the Tombs prison.

Buy the book here:    Amazon  ~   Barnes & Noble

“With Birds of Passage, Joe Giordano delivers a rollicking, wholly entertaining take on the Italian immigrant story.  His rich cast of characters arrives seeking the usual: Money, honor, love, respect, a decent shot at the pursuit of happiness.  But things get complicated fast as they plunge into the rough-and-tumble world of rackets, scams, and politics of early 20th-century New York City.  Giordano serves up a thick, satisfying slice of the entire era in all its raw and brutal glory.”

Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, soon to be a major motion picture directed by Ang Lee.

Joe Giordano author pic

Meet the author:

Joe Giordano was born in Brooklyn. His father and grandparents immigrated to New York from Naples. Joe and his wife, Jane have lived in Greece, Brazil, Belgium and the Netherlands. They now live in Texas with their shih tzu Sophia. Joe’s stories have appeared in more than sixty magazines including Bartleby Snopes, The Newfound Journal, and The Summerset Review.

Connect with the author:   Website  ~   Twitter  ~   Facebook

REVIEW:   (written by Anne Benard)

As a historical fiction this book introduces the reader to New York City during its immigrant years. I enjoyed learning the history of the dock yards, Little Italy and the clashes between rival cultures and the Mafioso clans. I  found the descriptions of every day life to be realistic and engaging, giving me a feel for what life was like for these struggling young men and women.

However, the introduction of so many characters lead to some confusion at times and I eventually gave up trying to keep them straight.  Also the dialogue, at times,wasn’t clearly defined leading me to wonder who was speaking. It was a good story but it’s lack of clarity took away what could have been a 4 star rating for me.


Book review: Bianca’s Vineyard by Teresa Neumann


Book Description:

Bianca Corrotti’s vineyard is more than a piece of mouth-watering real estate in Tuscany. It’s an inheritance; a storehouse harboring the secrets of her Uncle Egisto, a world-class sculptor, and his troubled wife — a woman whose destiny converges with Mussolini’s when WWII overtakes them all. Based on a true story,Bianca‘s Vineyard follows a devoted family of strong-willed men and lion-hearted women waging an epic battle against a gathering storm intent on destroying their lives.

Meet the Author:

Teresa Neumann and her musician husband live in Oregon’s beautiful Willamette Valley near their three children. As well as being an author and journalist, Teresa loves to fiddle on her violin and live “la dolce vita” in Italy whenever she can talk her family into going with her.

Connect with Teresa:  Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter

Buy the book:   Amazon    Barnes & Noble


Egisto Bertozzi is a sculptor who must leave his family in Italy to find work in America in order to support his family back home. His family demands that he bring an Italian wife with him and after he refuses to marry his first love in the Church, he is willing to leave on his own until he meets feisty Armida and together they leave for America.

This story (based on true-to-life events) spans several decades when Egisto and Armida raise their family in America until modern times when the family comes together again. A parallel account of his family in Italy follows simulataneously as the threat of war and invasion overtake their peaceful lives.

With Armida’s return to Italy the story becomes tense and precarious in the face of danger from several fronts. I found the historical references to be interesting, I really learned a lot about European politics during WWII in Italy.

I had a few issues trying to keep track of the multitude of characters and needed to refer to the family tree at the beginning of the book. I’m still not sure who the characters are on the front of the book and why the title was chosen as Bianca’s character didn’t really come into play until the second half of the book and as only a secondary character. A small issue.

For those who enjoy Italian history and a good family saga.


Book review: The Twentieth Wife

27298This book describes life in the Moghual court of pre-colonial India. The Twentieth Wife recounts the story of Mehrunnisa, a Persian girl that eventually marries Emperor Jahangir.  Her story is unusual in that she was a widow when she was chosen as his twentieth wife.   Mehrunnisa not only captures Jahangir’s heart but rules the empire alongside him as his equal.

I have always found Moghul history fascinating, and this book, interwoven with historical fact and fiction to bring Mehrunnisa’s story to life is magical. The story flows seamlessly, despite the fact that there are so many different characters.  From the author’s description of daily life in the Moghual court you can almost taste the different curries and sweets, smell the incense and flowers and imagine the colourful silks and jewels.  I look forward to reading more of Indu Sundaresan’s work.

You can buy Indu`s book here:    Amazon