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An Ambition To Belong

An Ambition to Belong (Leaving Home Trilogy Book 2) by [Sniechowski, James]

Young Jim has reached adolescence and is struggling with where he fits in life. Mostly because he doesn’t know himself well enough at this point to figure out where he feels most at home. He doesn’t fit in school. He joins a gang where he can only hope to belong, but never really does. His home is more house than home with both his parents living almost separate lives. Will the relationships he fosters be meaningful enough to withstand the tumult of adolescent existence?

Jim’s story is quite representative of what teens go through. The author has woven an almost poignant tale of Jim’s struggle to find a home. The story is thoughtfully narrated with an evocative plot and colored with insightful observations. Most of all, it is candid. All has been bared for the reader to see and experience. The reader is pulled into this abyss of raw emotion and overwhelming teenage confusion from the minute Jim celebrates his entrance into the Lancers (the gang) to the point where he loses his friend.

The book makes sparing use of dialogue and utilizes mostly internal dialogues between Jim and the ‘Voice’. The reader gets in depth peeks into Jim’s mind. This helps carry the story and paints a clearer picture of what Jim must have been going through. It is actually easy to lose oneself in Jim’s mind as it is a web of unanswered questions, self-doubt and all-around uncertainty. This is brilliantly executed and is well suited to the plot.

The book is written in plain language that is easy to understand, utilizing simple language to create striking imagery. Keeping the focus on the intriguing characters rather than on some grand literary design. Each character represents some form of human insecurity or peculiarity. Almost every reader will recognize themselves in one or more of the characters. Thereby enhancing the bond between the reader and characters for a more fulfilling experience.

This book left me feeling… haunted (I suppose that’s the right word). Although in the end Jim seems to be settling down, I felt that his questions of where he really belongs and his purpose have not been fully covered. This begs the question; will human beings always carry a degree of uncertainty with them?

This is an exceptional installment in the Leaving Home Trilogy. The first one was an absolute delight, the second one is undeniably beautiful and I am positively giddy for the third.

Pages: 234 | ASIN: B07CPDY81Y

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Celebrate Their Origins

Stephanie Longo Author Interview

Stephanie Longo Author Interview

Italians of Lackawanna County uses photography to show readers how the region’s Italian community seeks to preserve its heritage. Why was this an important book for you to write?

This book was extremely important to me to write, especially in a time when so many stereotypes against the Italian-American community as a whole exist. My goal was not just to seek to preserve and promote the Italian culture and heritage of Lackawanna County, it was also to show a positive image of Italian Americans working hard to celebrate their origins and how they are working to make the region a better place to live and work. Pictures tell the story in a way that words cannot—thanks to the wonderful photographers and community members who submitted photos, this book comes alive and readers hopefully get a true sense of what it means to be an Italian American living in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania.

In this book you not only cover modern day traditions but you also trace the history of Italian immigration. What kind of research did you undertake for this book?

I have worked as a historian focusing on Italian American studies for the past 15 or so years, always placing an emphasis on local Italian history because my region is so heavily populated with people of Italian origin, like myself. Most of the research for this book is through interviews with the citizens, as well as through archives, such as the Lackawanna Historical Society and the Dunmore Historical Society. I also consulted scholars and archivists in Italy as they also have a wonderful catalog of history surrounding the various town festivals—this helped provide a background for the festivals that were brought here and I was able to truly tie them in to their towns of origin. This kind of work is more of a historic reconstruction, because a lot of the background information has either been lost or is unavailable—because of this, I rely heavily on people in the community who are willing to share their stories.

This book showcases Italian-Americans’ pride in their heritage and place in America. What were some themes you wanted to focus on throughout this book?

As I said before, I truly wanted this book to be a positive representation of Italian Americans and show how they contribute to the good of our society. I really wanted to focus on the fact that we are three or four generations away from the original immigrant generation here in Lackawanna County, but people are still passionate and proud to preserve the traditions their ancestors brought over so long ago. I also wanted to highlight the fact that our area truly embraces everyone of all ethnicities—while I focus on Italians, I do make mention that our Italian festivals have become more inclusive and you don’t have to be Italian to participate. I think that welcoming spirit is one of Lackawanna County’s greatest attributes and I wanted to showcase it as best as I could.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I have two projects that I am working on right now. The first is a passion project about the Guardiese community in the United States. My grandfather came to the United States from Guardia dei Lombardi (AV), Italy, and he was extremely proud of where he came from. These Guardiese traditions were passed down to me by my mother and inspired me to research our local as well as our national Guardiese community. My research locally is complete and now I am working on the national research.

I am also researching Sylvester Poli, a theater magnate from Italy who really revolutionized vaudeville. I was part of the Leadership Lackawanna Core Program this past year and our team project was to create a historic display in downtown Scranton’s Ritz Theater, which Poli founded in 1907. The research we did for the project took on a life of its own and I want to continue to pursue it and possibly publish a book.

Both projects do not have a set time commitment due to research, but I would like at least one to be complete within the next 2-3 years.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | FacebookWebsite | Blog 

Boasting one of the nation’s largest and most diverse Italian American populations, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, joins old and new with events such as La Corsa dei Ceri or St. Ubaldo Day in Jessup and La Festa Italiana on Scranton’s Courthouse Square. Every town in the county with an Italian population has its own story. Whether the people can trace their origins to Guardia or Gubbio, Felitto or Perugia, the Italians of Lackawanna County all share one thing in common: a strong sense of pride in their ethnic origins. In Images of Modern America: Italians of Lackawanna County, readers will find familiar images of summertime traditions, as well as new representations of how the region’s Italian community seeks to preserve its heritage.

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Italians of Lackawanna County

Going through this book is akin to being virtually in touch with the Italian culture and customs. The author compiled text and images which show how beautiful the Italian community in America is and how wonderful the people are as they co-exist with others. Stephanie Longo tells the story of Italians of Lackawanna in a distinct and brilliant way that can’t help but admire the way of life of the Italians. The author starts by narrating the history of Italian immigrants who first moved to the county. The immigrants had to do menial jobs like farming, mining and other works that required hard labor. The first wave of Italian immigrants knew that only hard work would help them fend for their families. This notion was passed through different generations of Italian Americans as everyone had to work to survive.

The author shows the deep connection between Lackawanna county authorities and the Italians who live in the county. With pictures, the author talks about Italian-American themed events that happen throughout the county, the close ties between Pennsylvania administration and Italian officials in Sicily, the Lackawanna County Library System which promotes Italian American events throughout all nine of its branches, and the heritage and Italian pride witnessed in the county among other things. The author also highlights the monuments and buildings which were made in honor of Italian heroes and legends. They include the Gino J. Merli Veteran’s Center, The Christopher Columbus statue on Scranton’s Courthouse Square and the statue of Dante among others.

I absolutely loved the images Stephanie Longo shared of the La Cosra dei Ceri festival. The pictures were colorful and everything seemed perfect. La Cosra dei Ceri is a festival I would want to be part of if I ever get to be in Lackawanna County around May. I appreciate the author’s effort to explain in detail what the festival is about, and what each family does in honor of their patron saints. Religion and by extents Catholicism is a huge part of Italian living. It is beautiful how religion brings the masses together as they worship and celebrate life as one people.

Italians of Lackawanna County is about 70% images and 30% text. This is one of the things that made me enjoy reading this book. Pictures tell a lot and one can easily and quickly understand the content without having to read a bunch of words in a paragraph. I loved reading this book because the author shared a little history of the Italians in the county and how Italy is. Italians of Lackawanna County is a great educational read that I would recommend to everyone who wants to learn more about Italian-American culture.

Pages: 98 | ISBN: 1540228266

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Ameher’s No More Crumbs Chronicle of a 4-D Woman Rising from Hate to Hope

Ameher's No More Crumbs Chronicle of a 4-D Woman Rising from Hate to Hope: Beloved I Wish Above All That You Prosper and Be in Health Even as Your Soul Prospers by [Ameher]

Ameher is a woman of strength, compassion, and a faith like no other. From a very early age she endured hardships in Nairobi only to pursue the American dream as an immigrant and face immeasurable abuses and prejudices in her new home. When she struggles to find a safe place for herself and her children, she is met head-on with one challenge after another but chooses to hold her head high and never give up as she battles a system designed to protect citizens but fails in all too many cases. Nowhere is faith more explicitly exemplified than in Ameher’s life as immigrant to the United States.

Ameher’s No More Crumbs Chronicle of a 4-D Woman Rising from Hate to Hope is the author’s own story of harrowing experiences as she tries desperately to find someone she can trust. Her story in an important one and one that bears repeating until a broken system is finally repaired.

At 400 pages, the author has enough striking material to make a short series of three separate books based on her life. The many abuses and the detail to which she goes into regarding her life with Todd make for an entire work on their own. The author takes great care to explain the entire process to which she was subjected, and this section of the text would make for a moving book all by itself.

The author recounts the expectations placed upon her as one raised in a religious home. She addresses the stigma attached to having a child out of wedlock quite well. Throughout her ordeal battling the system in the United States, she is able to lean on her faith and holds strong as she relies on friends who seem to exhibit a shared strength of faith. As I see it, Ameher has the makings for a fantastic self-help/devotional book centered entirely on her own faith. A book of this nature would make a fascinating read.

Because Ameher is an amazing example of persistence in the face of adversity, she is a prime candidate to pen a book on the discrimination faced by a woman of color in the United States. The challenges she faces are a sad but true testament to the daily struggles faced by people of color across this nation.

Ameher’s work is explicit enough to be engrossing, but not graphic in nature. The author takes care to explain the horror of her trials without turning readers off with vulgarities.

As effective as Ameher’s work is in capturing readers’ attention, it could use some additional editing. At times, it reads a bit like a rough draft with more care placed in the emotion of the wording than in the accuracy.

Ameher has bared her heart and soul to the world in order to help other women with her book. Any reader who picks up her story will be inspired to keep the faith and rise up in the face of adversity.

Pages: 400 | ASIN: B079438P7M

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Hitherto & Thitherto – Trailer

A memoir of four decades into the future set against the backdrop of difficult times in the United States, starting from late 2010 and ending in 2045. This is the story of an unusual American family as they struggle against the convergence of oncoming economic hard times, social ills and political instability. From witnessing a complete economic collapse to the unfolding of a race war to a full-scale revolution, the family matriarch’s dream of riding the success of American civilization, instead veers to living the nightmare of the country’s demise.

This is the only futurology book where three of the predictions in the book have, in such a short amount of time, manifested: the disintegration of the Iran nuclear deal, Trumps tariff wars and the Russian meddling in US affairs. Read to find out further…

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Trillium

As the Niagara River flows into Lake Ontario, a young farm boy sits at the front of a boat as lookout, in the year 1758. A man from Sicily steps off a ship and finds himself in the bustling Hamilton Harbour as he looks for work, in the year 1835. Finally, a man from Dublin looking to make his fortune finds himself tossed out of a bar on Barton Street, in 1885. These are the seeds that Holton plants to begin the intricate intertwining of stories throughout the book. Trillium sees these three characters, with three vastly different backgrounds, struggle to make a home in Canada, and follows their legacies as their memory lives on through their descendents.

The book connects with the history, not only of Canada, but of the world. It draws upon various historic events, including both world wars, as its context. This grounds it in the real world and gives it a universal sense of what we all strive for in much the same way as the three families – a home. As generations pass, they seem to take a firmer grasp on the land they live on and become part of the history themselves. As such their progress fits well with the underlying rural theme that the chapters take, such as roots, growing vines, and the grape harvest. The book seems to create a family tree, which intertwines with the other family trees in the book, as they grow.

The reader is plunged into a world shaped by conquest. The characters in the book encounter wars, displacement and enterprise, all of which are constantly shaping the landscapes. Each character tries to find their place in this world of uncertainty. Throughout the generations, they all have a hope to find their way in a changing world and to settle down somewhere – to carve out their own patch of land to call their home.

Holton brings this world to life with poetic prose. As the book spans literally centuries, the passage of time is very clear in its writing. The natural setting is gorgeously described through the changing of the seasons, right down to the colors of the leaves. The natural Canadian landscape appears utopian when set in the foreground against the chaos of the world wars or the bustle of a city harbour or the noise of a railway being built. This contrast is eloquently drawn in the prose, especially when WWII hits the novel, where, though the characters have deep personal ties to the war, daily events in the book still transpire on a humble peach farm in Ontario.

I give this book a four out five for its awe-inspiring approach to the natural world and everyone’s place in it as we carve our path in the landscape through agriculture, enterprise, and even war. I cannot recommend this book enough. The stories connect beautifully and get to the heart of what it means to have a place to call home.

Pages: 340 | ASIN: 0992127289

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The Story Transformed

Karma Kitaj Author Interview

Karma Kitaj Author Interview

Beguiled follows young Miriam as she struggles to follow her dreams through a turbulent time in history. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?

Initially, I had the idea to write a story of the kind of life my mother, born in 1910, might have had, if she’d had the gumption. Which she did not, so the story of Miriam Levine, 1st generation Russian-Jewish girl, is entirely fictional. There are a few biographical markers, e.g., Miriam’s Pop was active in the leftist-unionist organization called the Workmen’s Circle. My maternal grandfather was as well. Similarly, he was a cultured fellow, albeit not formally educated, and introduced my mother to cultural events from a young age. The character Miriam developed her aspirations to go on stage from the experiences her Pop exposed her to from a young age.

The story transformed itself immediately from anything biographical to an exciting adventure of Miriam and her girlfriends as they make their way through a difficult time in history punctuated by WWI, the “Spanish” flu, women’s getting the vote, the Roaring 20s, the relationship between young people and their immigrant parents, and the status of women.

Miriam is a well developed character that I grew attached to. How did you capture the thoughts and emotions of a young woman in the 1900’s?

Research, research, and more research helped me to describe a girl of the early 1900s. I read many books about the times, including novels of women of that period.

Perhaps more importantly, I’ve been a psychotherapist and life coach all my adult life, so am accustomed to hearing people’s stories and helping them to make sense of their lives. So, the emotions of a woman of this period seemed little different to me from my clients’ stories. Yes, women have approached the glass ceiling and many are in marriages that are fundamentally equal or mutually enhancing, but with the outing of many in the MeToo movement, it’s clear that women’s place has not appreciably changed vis a vis powerful men.

I liked how the politics and drama of the time was not front and center, but served as a backdrop to Miriam’s story. Did you do any research for this story to keep things accurate?

As stated above, I pored over many historical books of this period, as well as historical novels about the early 1900s. Having been in graduate school for a PhD back in the 1980s, I learned how to do research and to enjoy it. I was not, however, a big history buff, so my becoming absorbed in this research was a surprise to me. One funny thing: in one of my last drafts, I realized that NO character ever was described as smoking. So, I had to go back and add smoking Lucky Strikes, Camels, pipes, and cigars to many scenes.

WWI was certainly in the background only in Beguiled. Miriam and her friends barely seemed to register that there was a world war going on in Europe, until Miriam arrives home and discovers that her father’s Workmen’s Circle is having an important emergency meeting to discuss US entry into the War. Then a young German boy barges in to say that his family was beaten bloody right in their neighborhood, an unthinkable thing in their multi-ethnic close community.

Many people have suggested I write a sequel to Beguiled, but that would take me into the Depression of the 1930s and I don’t know if I want to go there, particularly since our country seems liable to get there itself.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

Beguiled was just released on May 1st 2018, so I’m devoting some time to publicizing it before embarking on my next story. But, I’ve had the idea of locating an appealing news story of a woman who lived in another era. I enjoy researching historical fiction and being an archaeologist in searching out details of a bygone period. In order to find this appealing person, I’ll need to immerse myself in the Boston Public Library’s newspapers from the last century or even before. There are also archives of women’s letters housed at the Schlesinger Library at Harvard, where I’ve done research before. I look forward to being able to do this, once my initial marketing campaign is over.

Auhtor Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Beguiled is about every person who ever had dreams that were interrupted by cultural mores, by discrimination, or by their own shortcomings. Miriam Levine, born in 1900, dreamed of going on stage, until an almost fatal mis-step forced her to postpone her “real life.” A serendipitous offer compelled her to confront her inner demons and society’s expectations. As Glinda, the Good Witch of the South in the Wizard of Oz, she recites at age 16: “You’ve always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”

The story is inspirational for young people and their parents who dearly wish to access the American dream. The historical context of the decades before the Great Depression, the role of immigrants and women’s suffrage parallels tough political dilemmas that the US faces today.

Will Miriam have the gumption to follow her dreams? Will those dreams yield her the happiness she seeks? Or will she find that her childhood fantasies “beguile” her to seek ‘fool’s gold?’

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Conservative Views 101 Plus

Conservative Views 101 Plus by [Gall, Alex]

Life is more difficult now than it was a few years ago. More and more people have to work multiple jobs just to stay above water. Utilities cost more than they used to and money is losing value. By the time one receives their salary, it’s already spent. With high trade deficits and national debts, people have much less purchasing power. What is happening now that was not happening before? How have we gotten to this point? What conversations do we need to have to change things? How can there be more employment opportunities? How can the citizens live to work as opposed to working to live?

Alex Gall has produced a well-written account of everything people should be saying but will not. The language used in the book is strong but not abrasive and drives the point home effectively and firmly. The authors passion and commitment to the subject matter is commendable and infectious. I consider myself to be an average citizen, I read the occasional hot headline. But this book made me look a little further, and a little deeper, and find something that was shocking and appealed to the citizen in me. This book is delivered from the point of view of a concerned citizen painting a picture, a person who is inviting others to a well thought out and open conversation.

I would appreciated more references of source material because, as stated previously, this book will leave you digging for more information and getting more involved in politics. Some statistics or studies to back up the subject matter would have been appreciated. This book is well researched and is laid out in an easy to follow manner in a compact and readily available format. At times I felt the content a bit dense, or maybe the topics overwhelming. I had to put the book down and think about what I just read. This book certainly causes one to reflect. But once you come out of your reflection, once you put the book down, you will come away with an overriding need to do something.

There are some sensitive topics covered but the author uses a neutral approach which is inviting. His approach to the subjects is completely ‘take it or leave it’. This is one of the best qualities of this book. The fact that the author lays out his position without dragging people with him. The intensity of the book and the truth in the subject matter will carry you effortlessly.

This book does a fantastic job of starting a serious and necessary conversation. This is necessary for anyone who wants to be an informed citizen.

Pages: 260 | ASIN: B079YP7LGM

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Grandma’s Secret Blessings: A Memoir with a Twist

Grandma's Secret Blessings: A Memoir with a Twist by [JohnEgreek]A chance encounter in the park leads Yianni to develop a relationship with a family similar to the one in which he grew up and in need of the same love, unconditional support, and unfailing guidance provided him by his grandmother once upon a time. His recurring meetings with little Christina, her parents, grandmother, and brothers reveal more interesting and, sometimes, amazing coincidences between their family and his own. Eager to share the stories of his youth and finding more reasons all the time to reveal his most troubling and painful secrets, Yianni begins to save his newfound family while he saves himself in the process.

Right out of the gate, JohneEgreek strikes a powerful chord in Grandma’s Secret Blessings: A Memoir with a Twist with his emotional reaction to his first encounter with three-year-old Christina. Yianni is clearly missing a piece of his heart due to the strained relationship with his son. The fact that he has never met his young granddaughter, Aubrey Rose, eats away at his soul, and the warm reaction he feels from Christina’s mother and brothers begins to fill that tremendous void. It is difficult to read without becoming overwhelmed with emotion at Yianni’s thoughtful reflections upon each of their storytelling sessions.

There exists an entire demographic of readers who will relate to Yianni’s description of his childhood. The abuse and unrelenting savagery with which his father throws his way from a tender age is unbelievably horrific. To find that Yianni is able to grow, thrive, and find a way to cope with his past is truly amazing. His story gives readers hope and provides them with a virtual shoulder on which to lean as they battle their own childhood demons.

Yianni’s grandmother, the basis for his strength, is a phenomenal woman indeed. She provides young Yianni with all the love and protection he needs once he loses his grandfather, his idol. The advice flows freely from her day after day, and she builds Yianni’s self-esteem when his father has beaten him down. Her words alone are enough to heal Yianni’s spirit.

The regular meetings Yianni has with Christina’s family are fascinating to say the least. I was stunned at the coincidences he discovered week after week between his own lineage and theirs. I felt as though the story was leading to an aha moment in which a secret relationship was revealed–that’s how coincidental and numerous the connections are. Story after story, Yianni builds a life with Christina and her parents–even her reluctant father, Ray. I have to say, I was more than pleased to see the final turn of events involving Ray and Yianni.

I give Grandma’s Secret Blessings: A Memoir with a Twist by JohneEgreek 5 out of 5 stars. To have so freely opened his life to the eyes and ears of the world is an admirable thing indeed. The years he spent being abused by his father and the time he spent living as the one sibling his father refused to love shaped JohneEgreek into a man who can heal others with his own stories.

Pages: 316 | ASIN: B077PLR98B

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The Butcher’s Daughter: A Memoir

The Butcher's Daughter: A Memoir by [Grende, Florence]

Florence Grende’s parents survived the Holocaust and managed to settle in New York City to provide a new life for their children. The horrors of their past, however, never leave them and infiltrate every aspect of their lives in the United States. Florence, their daughter, grows up watching her parents keep their demons at bay as she learns as much about her family’s haunting past as she learns about herself. Grende’s questions about her mother’s outbursts and her father’s deep, dark sadness lead her to answers she is afraid she already knows but is not willing to admit.

The Butcher’s Daughter is Florence Grende’s own recollection of her life in New York City and her struggle to come to terms with her parents’ own battle with the memories of their lives in Germany during the Holocaust. Grende’s memoir is written in a unique and gripping style. Her words flow from page to page in the most poetic fashion with emphasis placed on short, striking bits of text highlighting especially difficult memories.

Grende pulls her memoir together with short chapters, each focusing on specific situations, distinct memories, and her own analyses of events from her childhood and teenage years. I looked for the memoir style to follow a sequential order but, in Grende’s case, the random scattering of memories and the jumps she makes from one time period backwards and then forward again works well. Her own confusion and the turbulence dictating her life as a result of her family’s past is reflected effectively in the style of writing chosen by the author. Short bursts of memories are easy to read, engaging, and incite the reader’s curiosity.

It is not often readers are afforded a look into the author’s own experiences. Grende gives readers a particularly vivid picture of the trauma and the lasting impact the Holocaust had on the ensuing generations. Her father’s behavior and neediness are sad in a way I find it almost impossible to describe. She underscores the way he seems to emotionally cling to her in a markedly poetic chapter in the second of the book’s three sections. Never is her father’s tragic past more clearly defined than in his sadness and desperation at losing her to her new husband.

Closure being the goal for Florence Grende, I felt relief for her as she details her journey for answers and the meeting which brings her face to face with people on all sides of the Holocaust. Her writing experience begins with her trip to Berlin and the diary that starts it all. I felt the tension as I read of Grende’s meetings with fellow survivors and descendants of Nazis. The horror stories flow, and Grende, at last, shares her own with those who can, not only relate, but wish for the same closure as the author herself. Grende writes of these meetings with raw emotion and does more to help readers absorb the truth of history than is ever possible with any textbook.

Florence Grende has bared her soul and shown readers a perspective on history that most of us will never fully grasp. She walks readers eloquently through a minefield of emotions and tackles the savagery of the Holocaust with truth, directness, and poetic prose.

Pages: 148 | ASIN: B01M751TN4

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