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Naples 1943: Besieged

Posted on: April 19th, 2015 by Sylvia Sarno No Comments


Naples - Final Book Cover- April- IMAGE for SOCIAL MEDIAI’m nearing completion of my second novel, Naples 1943: Besieged, a historical thriller showing my interpretation of the legendary rebellion of the citizens of Naples against their Nazi occupiers. Book 2 of this three-part series will be completed by the end of 2015. Book 3 will be available in 2016.

I first learned about the “Four Days of Naples” in a December 2013 New York Times article about Naples. After researching that event I decided I would write a story that celebrated the indomitable people of that time, as well as the spirit of my beloved Neapolitan grandmother, a colorful figure and big influence in my life, growing up. My grandparents had moved to the States before the war and thankfully had not had to suffer through that terrible time.

Imagine a small group of scrappy men, women and children, going up against the German army, and winning! And it really happened. The events of that time are well known outside of America, but little known here. It’s about time Americans were inspired by the heroism of the Neapolitans.

Naples 1943: Besieged is coming this summer. Stay tuned….

The Inheritance (1998) by Tom Savage

Posted on: August 3rd, 2014 by Sylvia Sarno No Comments


INHERITANCE-cover-6X9-600-DPI-199x300[1]I had a feeling Savage’s fifth novel, The Inheritance, would be good when I read his tribute to the writers that influenced him, among which are Charles Dickens and Nathaniel Hawthorne—two of literature’s greats.

I wasn’t disappointed.

This gothic mystery has a fairy tale set-up. Beautiful, twenty-four year old Holly Smith, from Indio, CA heads to Randall, New York to assume her rightful place as Holly Randall, heir to a six hundred million dollar fortune. Adopted at birth by the Smiths, Holly soon learns that her deceased mother had spent nineteen years in prison for murdering her bio dad.

Ensconced in the family’s New York mansion are Holly’s ne’er do well Uncle John, and his wife, Aunt Catherine. They greet their niece with phony smiles on their lips and bitterness in their hearts. Because of Holly, the one hundred and fifty million-dollar inheritance that would have been theirs after the death of great aunt Alicia has now been slashed to a mere five million.

As Holly navigates the pitfalls in her new life, with the caretakers’ son, Kevin Jessel, by her side (he’s also her love interest), we soon learn that everything is not what it seems. Some very clever twists and turns later, and the shocking truths about the Randall family are deliciously revealed.

Author Gillian Flynn has nothing on Tom Savage. Read this book and find out why.

Conspiracy of Silence by Gledé Browne Kabongo

Posted on: May 1st, 2014 by Sylvia Sarno No Comments


51+G9WsqOkLFrom the beginning, Gledé Browne Kabongo’s Conspiracy of Silence grips you with a big question: What is Nina Kasai hiding? Why would this beautiful, successful executive—an Ivy League graduate—deceive her loving husband and her best friend? And what is the real identity of the blackmailer who threatens to upend Nina’s life if she defies his will?

Kabongo takes us deep into Nina’s world as one by one the pillars of deceit Nina has spent much of her life building come crashing down. Through skillful writing, the reader is kept wondering whether Nina is a lying sociopath, or if there is method to her deceit. Through masterful pacing, the essence of Nina’s internal and external conflict is revealed, one heart-rending detail at a time. Will Nina have the courage to face her demons, or will she let her fear of the truth continue to rob her of happiness and peace of mind?

Conspiracy of Silence is a satisfying read on multiple levels. A story about justice and what happens to those who flout it, and about the importance of taking responsibility for one’s actions and making restitution to others and to oneself, when appropriate. I recommend this gripping suspense novel to readers who want to lose themselves in an emotional story that is impeccably written, with deeply drawn characters entangled in a major conflict. A cautionary tale of devastation wrought when one hides from the truth.

Art Immersion: Photographs of Chihuly Artwork

Posted on: April 16th, 2014 by Sylvia Sarno 1 Comment


March-April-2014-Chihuly 086March-April-2014-Chihuly 081 March-April-2014-Chihuly 101 March-April-2014-Chihuly 090

After spending my time writing most weekday mornings and early afternoons, I find myself craving physical reality.

When I can pull myself away from my desk, I like to head to Marshalls or TJ Maxx to touch the clothes, the furniture, the delicate, colorful porcelain, towels, soft blankets, and the kitchen gadgets. When I have extra cash in my pocket, I'll treat myself to a little personal something. Or I'll shop for birthday cards or for upcoming birthday presents for loved  ones. I always notice the other women, like me, slowly shopping the aisles, their eyes intently searching the shelves for their personal somethings; reaching out to touch the wares. Women who need a break from whatever they do. Relaxing as they immerse themselves in the world of beautiful things.

Lately, I discovered another aspect of physical reality that I like to immerse myself in - photographing beautiful colorful things. I got the chance to do exactly that in Phoenix last week at the Desert Botanical Gardens. They hosted a Chihuly exhibit. Seeing these beautiful works of art in the natural landscape as the sun was setting was so uplifting. I took many photos. These are some my favorites.

The Moonstone (1868) by Wilkie Collins

Posted on: March 12th, 2014 by Sylvia Sarno No Comments


the-moonstone[1]When the Moonstone, the legendary yellow diamond and crowning jewel of the Hindu god of the Moon is gifted to young  Rachel Verinder, and stolen that same night, the first detective in western literature, Sergeant Cuff, investigates the theft.What makes this seemingly unsolvable jewel heist different from any other? By contrast to his literary heirs, Christie and Doyle, Collins develops his characters in great depth. This rich characterization takes much space in the story but is also necessary for the full Collins experience. Collins can be very funny. Ample dry  humor directed at Drusilla Clack, a meddlesome Christian missionary and Collins' depiction of Clack’s pious hypocrisy is dead on. She reads like a modern annoying evangelical.Puzzling the theft of the diamond while trying to figure out the marriage question kept me turning pages until the very end. Will Rachel Verinder choose pompous philanthropist Godfrey Ablewhite for a husband? Or does she secretly want her other cousin, carefree Franklin Blake, whom she outwardly despises?Ironically and with much theatric fanfare, the solution to the theft of the diamond is spearheaded not by Sergeant Cuff, but by Ezra Jennings, an eccentric character reminiscent of Count Fosco in The Woman in White.The Moonstone, the first modern detective novel ever written, is worth rediscovering again.

Light in August (1932) by William Faulkner

Posted on: December 10th, 2013 by Sylvia Sarno No Comments


Light-in-August-2771642[1]After suffering through As I Lay Dying in college I had decided that I would never again read William Faulkner (WF). For years after, whenever I chanced across a WF novel I would wonder why people read him. I thought he was just too malevolent.

Three or four years ago, I happened upon an old copy of Light in August (LIA) at my mother-in-law Alison’s house. I remember thinking that even if it was Faulkner I could still satisfy, through his writing, my hankering to commune with an earlier, simpler time. (I get in this mood sometimes). Alison, a wonderful southerner from Mississippi, gifted me Faulkner’s tome, and I took it home.

I must have read ten or fifteen pages before that old feeling of disgust with WF came over me again. The first pages are about very pregnant and seemingly simple-minded woman, Lena Grove. Lena is trekking barefoot from Alabama to Mississippi looking for Lucas Burch, the man who knocked her up. Along the way, she tells the people who help her that Lucas Burch left to find a better job to support her and the baby, and that he’ll marry her when they meet up. And she really believes it, though everyone else doesn’t. I put LIA down determined not to waste my time reading about stupid people.

Recently the desire to immerse myself in classic American fiction came over me again. Maybe because I am now older, wiser, and more patient, but this time LIA did appeal to me.

Faulkner has a subtle and sly sense of humor which he puts to good use writing about the most ridiculous situations; in this case: Lena Grove’s. His style is at once dead pan and earnest. It is only after reflecting upon the story that I realized there might be more to WF's writing than I first thought. The pages about Reverend Hightower’s galloping grandfather, by the way, are hilarious. And Lena's “My, my. A body does get around,” is one of the funniest lines in all of literature (that I know of.)

Though WF writes a lot about small-town racists, he also writes about sensitive people who care about justice. The POV character, Byron Bunch, is a good example of a moral person who seeks to do the right thing. WF's characters are deeply drawn, real flesh and blood people. His literary voice and choice or words are truly unique.

The plot of LIA held my interest. I was curious to see how the many threads Faulkner had woven would resolve. Does Lena find her man? If she does, how he will he react to her? Why did the Preacher’s wife leave him and how did she die? Is Lena’s man a killer? Or was it his bootlegger partner, Joe Christmas, the ruthless “black” man who did the killing? And will Bunch be satisfied in love or not?

Negatives? Some parts of LIA could benefit from a major haircut—Joe Christmas’s childhood, the Burden family history, and minor character Grimm’s history, for example.

Lastly, Faulkner shows how the absurdity and evil of racial prejudice leads to the mental enslavement of those who hold these ideas. (A pretty profound insight, if you ask me.) The plot, the rich characterization, and the alternating sardonic and poignant tone—together with a deep understanding of the southern mindset in racially troubled times—make for a memorable read.

If you do try Light In August please do return to post your comments here. I’d love to hear your reaction.

The Valley of Fear (1915) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Posted on: September 8th, 2013 by Sylvia Sarno 1 Comment


Valley_of_fear Why post about The Valley of Fear (VoF), the fourth and last Sherlock Holmes novel, and not A Study in Scarlett, his first. Or The Hound of the Baskervilles his most famous? Simply because VoF is so scary, with a hunk of a main character, (not Holmes), with such spectacular twists, that I want you all to know of it.

VoF opens with Holmes receiving a mysterious cypher. This slightly contrived beginning provides some of the background necessary to understand the resolution to this intricate plot. Decoded, the cypher anticipates the killing of country gentleman, John Douglas. Too late to stop the murder of this mysterious stranger, Holmes and company get busy solving the who and the how of it.

In typical Sherlockian fashion, the detectives use deductive logic to poke holes in their theories based on new facts that surface, all the while spiraling closer to the truth.

After Doyle solves the murder (with a twist of course), he uncovers the origin of the secret conflict that twenty years earlier had motivated the killing. When John Douglas, a member of the Ancient Order of Freemen started a new life in Vermissa Valley he fell in with a corrupted chapter of Freemen who terrorized the region with murder, arson, beatings, and blackmail. Anyone who dared to defy them was summarily killed. In love with a woman whom one of these cutthroats covets, Douglas finds himself in a conflict so engrossing, so realistically depicted, I felt I was reading a novel that had just published, its sensibility was that timeless.

If I say more, I’ll spoil this suspenseful plot for you! Read the rest to find out what happens….


Death Comes As The End (1944) by Agatha Christie

Posted on: August 20th, 2013 by Sylvia Sarno No Comments


Death_Comes_as_the_End_1944_US_First_Edition_cover[1]Foolish patriarch, Imhotep, is ka-priest of the Meriptah tomb in ancient Egypt. When his young concubine, Nofret, turns him against his grown children they rise up against her. Multiple murders follow. Who is doing all the killing and why?

The love story that unfolds alongside the "investigation" adds to the mystery and provides the reader with an anchor character to follow along with. Will the young widow Reniseb marry her father's handsome new scribe, or her father's trusted man of business? Both who fall under suspicion, along with pretty much everyone else.

Since there are no detectives in ancient Egypt the mystery is solved by the characters taking turns puzzling through the evidence. That this book doesn’t have a Poirot or a Marple, with whom the reader is likely already acquainted, an introspective main character, in Reniseb is a necessity. That Reniseb is also a very likable character makes this novel even more fun to read.

It was Christie’s friend, Professor Stephen Glanville, who suggested she write a book set in ancient Egypt, and who provided her with the research necessary to create a realistic setting. Christie once said she found the act of writing detailed story settings tedious. Thanks to the Professor, the world in this novel is richly depicted. I can see the sprawling homestead the characters (most of whom are quite neurotic) share. The pomegranates they consume. The oils they rub on their bodies. The jewelry the women wear. And the sparkling river meandering through the desert.

Death Comes In The End is an intriguing read and the only Christie book set in ancient times. I hope you enjoy it too!

Time Envy

Posted on: August 12th, 2013 by Sylvia Sarno No Comments


119768142_-from-the-worlds-most-harried-moms-paperback-beth-[1]I’m not an envious person. I don’t pine for others’ bigger homes, fatter bank accounts, or personal beauty. I don’t even envy other writer’s book deals, or the success they’ve had selling their books. I figure the world is mine to win. If I want something, I just have to work hard to get it.

There is one little thing, however, that I envy in certain others, that is the extra time that they might possess.

An acquaintance once told me that her in-laws had come to town to take care of her kids for three months so that she could get her second novel in shape for her agent. “Three months,” I said with a pang of envy. “Wow!”

Imagine having someone else packing the kids’ school lunches and doing the laundry while you sit cloistered in your home office writing. Imagine these angels buying ingredients for dinner, making dinner, and cleaning up, while you enjoy dinner and leisure time with your family afterwards. With no dishes to clean, no floor to sweep, no lunches to prepare, there would be a lot more time to play with the kids.

Let’s get this straight. I can’t imagine life without children, mine in particular. But come on! To have a little reprieve from the labor part in order to write, while the kids are happily enjoying their grandparents?  If only. Do you hear that, mother? If only.

I’m happy my writer friend received such a valuable gift. Maybe if I start making money from my writing I can get some help somewhere. Help that would save me an hour and a half a day. Time that is not taken from children, my husband, or my work.

Having time is a precious gift, one I certainly envy in those who have more if it than I do.

The Sixth Man by David Baldacci

Posted on: August 4th, 2013 by Sylvia Sarno No Comments


The-Sixth-Man-277x420Private detectives Sean King and Michelle Maxwell are called to Maine by King’s mentor, attorney Ted Bergin, to consult on a case involving serial killer Edgar Roy who is being held in the “only federal maximum security institution for the criminally insane in the country.” Sean and Michelle—both formerly in the secret service —soon find themselves embroiled in a political, high stakes murder fest. Sean, who is also an attorney, and Michelle, a highly skilled marksman happen to be in love—a nice softening touch to two people who are in many ways pretty hard boiled.

Structured like a spiraling funnel, the plot moves swiftly through a series of crimes as the detectives analyze clues, posit theories, encounter more bad stuff, meet more people, exonerate some suspects, and implicate others, all the while discovering how ruthless the world of U.S. intelligence can be.

The complex story, the fast pace, the clean prose, and a worthwhile political theme make The Sixth Man an enjoyable and light read.

Lastly, the fact that some of the action in this novel takes place in Maine also contributed to my enjoyment of it. The salty sea air, the no nonsense people, and the rugged coast brought me back to the happy summer days of my childhood in southern Maine.

The Sixth Man was my first Baldacci novel but it won’t be my last.