June's Literary Blog

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions

Some, if not all of the better fiction is based upon true life. My own characters, for example, stem from close friends and family or are composites of larger-than-life personalities. “They” say: Write what you know. Or, in the case of Mario Giordano, write whom you know.

Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions, released yesterday by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is actually an homage to the author’s aunt who, like the eponymic title character, really did retire and moved from Germany to Sicily. She is, Giordano claims, is just as “outrageous” as his mystery-solving protagonist. But, alas, in real life, has not – yet – solved any murders. Which is exactly what the fictitious Auntie Poldi did in the first novel of her very own series.

Auntie Poldi – Isolde – was a dressmaker before retiring to the Isle of Sicily where she sought to quietly live out the rest of her days soaking in the local wine, sunshine, and the view of the sea. With only a few visitors. Ah, blissful peace and tranquility. Until the young, handsome handyman that she hired to tend to her small villa in Via Baronessa goes missing. Nowhere to be found, it seems he has fallen off the face of the earth. So, like the real-life gregarious Auntie Poldi, the intrepid fictional Auntie Poldi starts asking questions, discovers his body – obviously he was murdered – and then,  despite the objections of her sisters and the chagrin of the ever so handsome detective Vito Montana, jumps head-long into a full-fledged investigation of her own.

Add a few shady characters, the disappearance of one of a pair of a lion sculptures, several false leads, a romantic entanglement or two, a roof-top show-down, and a roman à clef nephew who occasionally carries the narrative, and you’ve got a nearly first-class mystery on your hands. Let’s say, Nancy Drew fair for adults. And I say “nearly first class’ because this quirky novel does have its minor foibles easily overlooked by the mad-cap antics of its major characters and Giordano's deft command of his writing skills. Overlooking the fact that the book was originally written in Italian and is the author’s first literary offering translated into English.

As huge fan of light-heartened mysteries – although there is nothing light-hearted about murder – I really enjoyed reading this novel. Especially following the complex plot-lines as Poldi weaves her inebriated way through a maze of clues to solve the crime. And not to mention that the intrigue is refreshingly set in modern-day Sicily and is sprinkled with touristy comments and descriptions. Actually, the whole of the conceit had me joyously second-guessing Poldi’s and Montana’s next moves – delightfully together as well as deliciously apart.

However, the recaps at the beginning of each chapter were annoyingly glaring spoiler alerts. “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them” was once a hallmark of 17th and 18th Century books and still might be fine today in other aspects of the real world. But, please, please do not use this egregious antediluvian technique in novels. Especially mystery novels in which the reader wants the plot line to unfold without advance hints, clues, and pre-action tells. That is the whole point of reading a mystery. Headings describing what you’re about to read is like eating dessert before dinner; devouring the olive before sipping the gin martini; those annoying people in movie theatres who blurt out what will happen next. Yuck. The whole concept of pre-mature précises and re-caps smacks of immature writing. So, rather than ruin an otherwise decent read, I skipped the headings.

And reveled in the fictional Auntie Poldi’s life and times. Eager for the next installment to be released next Spring…

Enjoy the read!

5:03 pm est          Comments

Monday, March 5, 2018

My Journey in Philanthropy

“’Tis better” the saying goes, “to give than to receive.”  One of epitomes of this is the charming, historical Borough of Phoenixville, with its more than 125 charitable organizations, including the Phoenixville Community Health Foundation. Established in 1998, it fosters a health-care safety net for the greater Phoenixville community, comprised of 19 municipalities spanning significant parts of Chester and Montgomery counties. Not only that, PCHF is an active participant in just about every major charity in Phoenixville, partnering with, to name a few, Rotary Club, Kiwanis, Orion Communities, Phoenix Hose, Hook & Ladder No. 1, Good Samaritan Services, and St. Ann’s Heart Code Blue. All which, among other things, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, plan cultural events, and reach out into the community to help those in need.

There are a number of events scheduled this spring and summer to celebrate the Foundation’s 20th Anniversary, including a special exhibit in PCHF’s honor currently mounted in the Historical Society of the Great Phoenixville Area Museum. Running from March through June, it is entitled “The Greater Good: A History of Community Organizations Giving Back in Phoenixville”. This interested display features key high points of giving in Phoenixville’s diversely complex history.

And one of the highlights is the display [and promotion] of My Journey in Philanthropy: Memoir, Reflective Essays & True Stories by none other than the director of the Community Health Foundation, Louis J. Beccaria, Ph.D.

Published in December of last year, this relatively small book packs a big wallop. For those of you who might think the subject of philanthropy is dull and arid as dust bunnies… Lou’s book will make you think again. Informally written in an almost “Chatty Charlie” style, the author relates his 48-year journey learning the art and craft of assisting others in giving. His interesting and multi-faceted life, as related in the memoir section, is, in fact, the epitome of sharing. I have known Lou for several years and he is, indeed, a humble, generous, thoughtfully kind person who, in his 20 years as Director and CEO of PCHF [He is the first and, so far, only…] has dedicated himself to ensuring our community’s well-being.

The book goes on to differentiate between those that give their money – philanthropists – and those that help them – philanthropoids [a term Lou created]. And depending in which category you might find yourself or those that you know, there are rules, principles and guidelines that govern each. Tenets of generosity that are clearly explained and expounded upon. For those of us venturing into the world of philanthropy – even those that are “old hands” – Lou’s book, I suspect, will quickly become the go-to manual of personal experience and knowledge for those in philanthropic endeavors.

Of course, the best part is the compilation of 34 humorous stories gathered in the course of the author’s philanthropic work. Funny, poignant, and salted with foibles of giving [and taking], they portray the warm and human side of the world of philanthropy. A world with which if you are not already familiar, I most heartily suggest that you take the time to visit.

Enjoy the read!

4:34 pm est          Comments

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June J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is an author, poet, and librettist. Her currently published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations, two volumes of poetry, stories for children (of all ages) and a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Miss Elmira's Secret Treasure: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
Colonial Theatre: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Roarin' 20s 
Phoenix Hose, Hook & Ladder: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War I
Columbia Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members

Adventures of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Spinach Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A Collection of More Spiritual Poems

We Three Kings

Beauty and the Beast


Noah's Rainbow

Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding Hood



Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She is currently working on her sixth novel.

June's novels can be purchased at amazon.com, through Barnes and Noble,
at the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area,
the Gateway Pharmacy in Phoenixvile, PA

For more information about her musicals, which are also available on amazon.com,