June's Literary Blog

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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Out of Season

Deputy Police Chief Rocco Schiavone is like a cannoli, the Italian pastry whose hard crust is wrapped around a mushy middle of sweet congealed cream. A heart of gold lurks behind his rough exterior and under his convention- eschewing demeanor. It is this intuitive heart that gets him into all sorts of tangled situations and relationships. And out of them.

In Out of Season: A Novel (Rocco Schiavone Mysteries), the third of Antonio Mazini’s popular mystery series set for release this coming Tuesday, Schiavone has been exiled to the bitter cold Italian Alps of Aosta where a van skids off a rain-slicked road, killing its occupants, and a young woman is reported missing by her best friend. The unfolding of the connection between these two seemingly dissimilar events is a series of sparks that set Mazini’s story on fire. It’s a no-holds-barred, fast-paced thriller that kept me engrossed for the better part of a rainy afternoon and evening. I simply just could not put it down until Schiavone, with the aid of his crack-a-jack team, solved the mystery. And the mystery of Rocco’s own personal life was unfolded and finally laid to rest.

Unfortunately, I have not yet had the opportunity to read the first two novels in Manzini’s series. Thus, I am not familiar with Schiavone’s background story. But what I gleaned from reading the third is that he has suffered a few major set-backs in life, including the loss of a loved one and being sanctioned for refusing to follow orders while a police officer in Rome. Hence, his more recent “punishing” posting to Aosta. I also discovered that throughout and, perhaps, because of these tragedies, he is both rebellious and witty; respectful of others, but adamantly contemptuous of any and all crime. And, most importantly, he defies all conventions as he doggedly goes about solving crimes.

In the process of unravelling the mystery of the missing girl, Schiavone is embroiled in a seamy love affair; is steeped in his own imaginary brand of loneliness; and withstands the most enigmatic of spring snowstorms. Through it all he is, as Manzini describes him, “the most Roman of men” – swagger mixed with urbane machismo, with a dash of vulnerability. Just like a well-baked and seasoned cannoli. My kind of guy… And, quite deservedly so, because of him, my kind of book.

Manzini is an Italian author with several other titles under his belt. A quick scan on Amazon reveals that most of his works have been translated from the Italian into not only English, but also Spanish and French. His writing is as bold and brash as his main protagonist. And just as detail-oriented as any experienced  and successful sleuth. Combining the innate terrors of a well-crafted thriller with wit and compassion, Manzini once again makes his mark as a master of the literary world of fast-paced mystery and intrigue.

Enjoy the read!

4:26 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit

The one thing you can say with certainty about Amy Stewart’s Kopp Sisters series main character is that Constance Kopp, the first female deputy sheriff of Bergen County, is, well, constant. In three previous volumes, she has constantly gotten herself in and out of scrapes; butted heads with, Norma, her dogmatic sister; gone after and “gotten her man” (the criminals she’s chased, captured, and brought to justice); and persisted in fighting for what is right, good, and fair, especially for the rights of wronged women. In Miss Kopp Just Won't Quit, the fourth of the series, Constance continues on fighting while coming to grips with corrupt and crooked politicians who conspire to take away her very position and livelihood.

One dark and stormy night (yes, folks, I actually wrote that!), Constance and another deputy are assigned to transport two prisoners to the Morris Plains insane asylum. When they stop to pick up Anna Keyser at her home, Constance instantly realizes that there is something terribly wrong. Anna, with her neat kitchen and rational demeanor, doesn’t seem at all deranged. But following orders anyway, Constance takes her into custody. When a swamped-put road prevents the deputies from driving their charges directly to the asylum, they return to the Hackensack jail. Immediately upon arrival, the second prisoner jumps out of the car and into the raging waters of a canal. Constance jumps in after him… and the latest in yet another exciting Kopp family adventure unfolds

Based upon actual events and people, Amy Stewart’s novels are not only entertaining, but are also educational and elucidating – my trilogy of criteria for a well-written historical novel. And, in many respects, they are also allegorical. Especially this fourth one with its blatant undertones of collusion and corruption during the high-stakes election year of 1916 (Woodrow Wilson was elected president). The similarities and parallels between 1916 and 2016 are not surprisingly uncanny. Sheriff Heath, Constance’s boss, is running for Congress, and anything she does throws her directly into the contentious political fray. Stewart, through Constance and her fight to save Anna from the clutches of amoral and immoral men, makes no bones about the mind-numbing consequences of greed, deceit, and dishonor.

When Constance discovers that Anna Keyser has been wrongly committed – simply on her husband’s word – she goes into high gear to stand up to an arrogant physician and an ego-centric candidate running for Sheriff’s Heath’s office who is bound and determined to sully her reputation, if not to have her job. And if that wasn’t enough, there are small battles to fight on the home front, too.

What I like best about this author, who also penned my favorite non-fiction, The Drunken Botanist, is her straight-forward and often witty writing style. Her fictionalized accounts of events, based upon impeccable research, are laced not only with humor, but with vibrant descriptions of places and richly-drawn character portrayals. In Stewart’s capable hands, Constance comes back to life to grace ours with her many adventures. Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit, while fourth in what I hope is a long list of Kopp Sister titles, is yet another sterling literary accomplishment.

And just like her main protagonist who constantly and consistently refuses to quit, here’s hoping Amy Stewart doesn’t stop writing about her. I, for one, am eagerly awaiting Constance Kopp’s next adventure.

Enjoy the read!

1:58 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Summer in the Garden Cafe

When last we left Hanna Casey in Lissberg on the Finfarran Peninsula, she had moved into a coastal cottage inherited from her Aunt Maggie; nearly single-handedly saved the small library from being closed; and had begun to make amends with her daughter, Jazz, upset over the divorce of her parents. That was in The Library at the Edge of the World, volume one of the Finfarran Peninsula series by Felicity Hayes-McCoy. Volume two, Summer at the Garden Cafe,is even more complex. And, in my humble opinion, a much better read.

In the second Peninsula book, Hanna continues on as the village librarian, struggling not only with how to deal with her daughter’s feelings and animosity after her parent’s divorce, but attempts to deal with her own feelings as she is caught up in the rekindling of her relationship with Brian Morton. Centered in and around the Garden Café in what was once the convent courtyard garden and now part of the Lissberg Library complex, the plot weaves through the intertwining lives of the residents of Lissberg. It is a virtual montage of character portrayals and Irish cultural morés and traditions, with its foundation steeped in a dark history brought to light.

In addition to the main protagonist, there is Conor, the assistant librarian, straddling the fence whether to propose to Aideen who works in the deli; Fury and his devilish, but lovable dog, who pops in an out of the narrative in the most auspicious, yet surprising moments. Mary, Hanna’s bull-headed mother, who softens as her friendship with Louise, Hanna’s ex-mother-in-law deepens; Susan and Gunther who run The Forge were Jazz works… And then there is Aunt Maggie who comes to life once again as a young girl though her diary. She speaks from the past of a life ripped asunder by the consequences and aftermath of the Irish Civil War and offers solace for the futures of Hanna  and Jazz. The parallels between two eras are uncannily astute, filled with intriguingly complex twists and turns that are the hallmark of a great read.

It took me a good fifty pages to become immersed in Hayes-McCoy’s second work of fiction, but it was well worth the effort. Once into it, I found myself lost on the craggy beaches and in the charming quaint village, steeped in yet another of her beautifully-crafted literary endeavors. Having previously penned four non-fiction books, including a memoir, about Ireland and also a contributor to theatre and television shows – most notably Ballykissangel – this author has a fluid, no-holds-barred style of writing that, once you get used to it, sparkles with ageless wisdom liberally sprinkled with local humor as she relates an emotionally moving tale about the captivating bonds of friendship and family.

Enjoy the read!

2:24 pm edt          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,