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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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The Three Lives of One

The Three Lives of One by [Mooney, Lesley]

A massive tsunami destroys the island home of a little girl. Left without a family, she is rescued by missionaries who name her ‘Patchula’ or ‘Patches’ and take her to Darwin, Australia. What follows is a story of misfortune and tragedy; adoption, death, abuse, forced prostitution, but also of hope as Patches finds joy and meaning, especially in her talent for photography and singing, in spite of the pain. Spanning Australia, America and Japan The Three Lives of One by Lesley J. Mooney is a sweeping tale which carries us across time and continents in search of love and fulfillment.

The book is written in beautiful yet un-flowery prose which is at times poetic. Mooney conjures up place incredibly well, and I found the movement between different continents particularly fascinating –the depiction of the sights, sounds and geography of these places gave me total wanderlust! The description of the tsunami and the wreckage and devastation that follows is extremely affecting and pulled me into the narrative immediately. Mooney is also skilled at portraying her time periods, which begin in the 1920s and move to the 1980s, and the changing biases and turbulent politics of the times.

There are many themes running through the narrative including womanhood, nature and environment, religion, the importance of family, and the value of keeping faith and resilience in times when despair seems never-ending. Although many terrible events occur in Patchula’s life, the book is ultimately about hope in the face of the unknown and what we can achieve if we have the strength to carry on.

Mooney has written a large and diverse cast of characters, and the world she has developed seems utterly real. Patches in particular leaps off the page as a fully-formed individual. Some of the mistreatment she endures is quite harrowing and difficult to read, but it feels very honest. Her hardships elicit great empathy in the reader; I was constantly rooting for her to overcome all of the tragedy in her life and felt completely invested in her development. The more peripheral characters are also well-drawn and prove to be quite emotive, some invoking feelings of intense anger!

One aspect of the book that bothered me slightly was the pacing. We are introduced to Patchula’s predicament, and the narrative subsequently moves very swiftly through the first part of her life and I would have liked this introduction to the story to be slightly more drawn out. Despite this, the rest of the book has a really good tempo, and because there are so many unexpected twists and turns I was always eager to find out what would happen next in Patches’ story.

This book moved me to tears, but it also gave me a great sense of hope. I finished it feeling as though I had been on a long journey–and an extremely rewarding one at that.

Pages: 361 | ASIN: B074M3LW12

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Never a Choice but Always a Gift

Never a Choice but Always a GiftMax Kristoff, a man in his thirties who is living in New York, is about to come face to face with his past. When he walks into a house in Brooklyn, trying to connect with a person from that very past, he is plunged into a haunting situation. This situation sets him on a journey that will reveal—not only his character—but what lies in his heart and soul.

Will Max find what he is searching for?
Will he ever find closure?
Will he find himself along this journey?
Or will he die without every knowing the answers he’s always been seeking?

3 Stars

Never a Choice but Always A Gift By Adam Que is a book about change. Que takes you on a journey of Max’s life. Max was born and raised in the Bronx and currently living life with no real thought of tomorrow. After receiving some surprisingly unsurprising news, his life is bound to change.

Trials and tribulations surround Max and his long time friend, Bibby. Love, sacrifice and pride are challenged throughout the story. Memories are always with us. Can these two forgive and forget, or will they live the remainder of their lives holding a grudge?

Que’s use of vocabulary helps the reader relate to the different characters and really help you feel the emotions. The reader is lead along an easy to follow narrative that is sure to stimulate emotional response. That being said, there are times where the vocabulary becomes redundant and phrases are repeated which disrupts an otherwise sentimental novel.

Max is a well developed character and the story is gripping, but I felt that his thoughts in the beginning of the novel were constantly interrupted by tangents, side stories and information dumps which caused the story to lose focus. But when Max meets his love interest Celeste the background information is given in a less dense format and the novel flows easily and keeps the readers attention.

This novel is one of the more unique one’s I’ve read in 2016. Story detail is revealed through the use of double narrative. Things that Max is not willing to tell the reader is revealed through Bibby’s perspective. The switch of perspectives results in a change of language and tone which truly captures the feel of a new narrator. Few books I have read with a similar method of perspective change have lacked that quality.

I recommend this book to people going through hardships. Hope and unconditional love are cornerstones in the characters relationship. Never a Choice but Always A Gift is about a journey, but not the kind where characters trek through exotic locales. It’s a journey through life, to find love.

Pages: 266 | ASIN: B01EYS4Z9U

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Finding A Cat Through A Dream ~(^-^)

tjungle_bio.jpgChicken: A Comic Cat Memoir is about a girl named TJ who grew up allergic to cats, but over time, the allergy faded. As an adult she finds a tuxedo cat with bright green eyes. It’s a beautiful story of life, cat’s, and loss. What was your inspiration for this story?

My daughter who, when she was 5-years-old, repeatedly wanted to hear this true story about how we found our cat, Chicken. I told her every night for a year, at which point she suggested I “make pictures” for it. That lead me down an unexpectedly long path to finally officially publishing.

Do you have cats? If so, what are their names? What do you think your cat named you?

Yes, we now have Cha-cha who, like Chicken, also found me in a dream. I’d have to say Cha-cha named me “hu-mom” (made up word for human mom) because she wanted me to find her as much as Chicken did. She’ll be the star of the next story!

Through the story there are little doodles and background decorations that tell a different story. Can you tell us more about that story and why you chose to weave that in?

About halfway into creating the artwork, it hit me that through telling the cat’s story, I was telling my own. I think that every life is multi-layered and wanted to communicate some of those other layers that coincided with the one of finding a cat through a dream that then materialized. While I wanted to offer a “nod” to some of the details of my life as a relatable subtext, I didn’t want it to take over the primary cat story as told to my daughter. I think this may be why much of the positive feedback I’ve been getting is essentially saying it’s “fun for all ages.”

I liked the artwork through the story. I thought it went very well with the story. Were there any panels that you didn’t include in the story? What was the biggest challenge in creating the art for the book?

As the author/illustrator, I did all the writing and artwork. Once I did the rough sketches and managed to capture the accurate mood of most of the panels, I was preparing to ink them in the way that traditional cartoonists work. However, I faced a rather daunting creative block in taking that next step. I didn’t do anything for about two whole years and then my daughter and I made a mini book called The Frizzball from Outer Space. The fun of working on that project and getting it done so quickly, gave me the courage to begin the Chicken illustrations. Once I got ball rolling, I quickly realized that I wanted to include some photography and collage so it made more sense to to all of it digitally. My background is in graphic design—both practicing and teaching it—so I know how to use the tools of the trade. What I hadn’t done before this book, was create artwork on an iPad. While I’m always up for learning something new, it took so long to get up to speed that by the time I reached the end, I had to start back at the beginning and re-do most of those first panels. Also, there are limits to digital tools and, in some instances, such as creating the front cover title art for the word “Chicken,” I was only able to attain the look and result I wanted by doing it by hand with brush and ink then scanning it in. In the end, keeping track of and backing up the thousands of files it took to create this was a real accomplishment in and of itself!

What is the next book that your fans should be on the look out for?

When you get to the end of Chicken, the next character presents itself. It’s very small, but if you look closely you’ll see the star of the next book.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook | GoodReads | Website

Chicken: A Comic Cat MemoirA great book to read to cats (and kids: -)!

A true tale about the magical meeting of a cat and her person told in 72 full-color illustrations in a rustic, cartoon, doodle, collage style. A cat allergy sets the stage for this colorful romp in which a cat named Chicken finds her way into the arms and affection of TJ, an artist in search of adventure and meaning. Brought together by seeming divine intervention, the storyline ranges from funny to emotional, sweet to silly, thoughtful to mystical, as readers travel with TJ and Chicken between coasts, encountering diverse friendships along the way.Buy Now From Amazon.com

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