Archive for September, 2010

September 21st, 2010

Dogfight, A Love Story by Mark Burgess

by Gwen

Dogfight, A Love Story


Gritty. Dark. Unforgiving. Yet, hopeful, uplifting, and worth the effort.

Dogfight was challenging to get into at first. Taking place in Queens, “a place where Pakistanis, Puerto Ricans, Haitians, Anglos, African Americans, and West Indians scrap and mingle with love”, it was a world that I have never known. Drug dealing is a way of life. Relatives in prison are nothing new. It made me feel sad and so dirty that I wanted to take a shower.

I hung in there because it felt so authentic. Burgess brought me along with his characters; I felt included. The prose was like nothing I have ever read. How can a writer make sleeping next to your boyfriend that smells like B.O., on his parent’s pull-out couch in the living room sound beautiful?

He drew me in. I cared what was going to happen to Alfredo. I wanted to see what happened to him when his brother, Tariq, is released from prison to find that not only has Alfredo stolen his girl, but is pregnant with his nephew. I don’t know about you, but I consider myself pretty well adjusted and I would have been miffed if I was Tariq.

When Alfredo decides to throw his brother a welcome home dogfight, it seems like a crazy idea, but fights right in with the world that they live in. The whole thing was like an out of body experience, a peek into another life. A life that is harder than anything I have ever imagined. It made me feel for the characters, root for them.

The ending is just as gritty, but silly and hopeful at the same time. Can you tell that I am struggling here? Don’t get me wrong, I liked the book. I just feel like I have to include a warning label. Leave the world you know behind. Lose yourself in another life, another kind of love story. It will make you grateful for what you have.

Incredible story from a new voice, Mark Burgess.

Dogfight, A Love Story by Mark Burgess

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (September 21, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385532989
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385532983
September 20th, 2010

The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi (NF)

by Gwen

The Monster of Florence


Did you know that Italy had its own serial killer? Or that Thomas Harris was inspired by those murders when he wrote the sequel to the uber successful Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal? Let me introduce you to II Mostro or The Monster of Florence.

The Monster murdered 16 people in the province of Florence from 1968 to 1985 and he has never been tried for his crimes. Unfortunately, a few other men were tried, but they were not II Mostro and many men, families, and careers were destroyed during these.


Douglas Preston sort of stumbled into learning of the story when he moved to Florence in August of 2000 to work on a new book. It turns out that the house that he rented for his family just happens to be next to the olive grove that was one of the murder sites. Preston, a well know thriller writer, is intrigued and by meeting the journalist that covered II Mostro for more than twenty years, Mario Spezi, he ends up becoming part of the story himself.

II Mostro murdered lovers. He shot both dead and then usually dragged the woman’s body off a ways and took a biological trophy from her, leaving her exposed almost in a ritualistic fashion. In Italy, courtship rituals are a wee bit different from here in the US, young people live with their families until they are married, so where are loving couples going to go when they are desirous of a bit of one-on-one time? They take their cars and find quiet semi sheltered back-roads often near olive groves or vineyards that provide great views of the Florentine valley and most importantly, privacy.


This practice didn’t shock me at all, but a cottage industry that it spawned did. It seems that there is a whole group of men, called Inidiani, would creep around in the dark like peeping toms to watch these young lovers. Can you imagine? They had specific spots where they liked to watch and many even brought along night vision goggles and cameras to get better angles and just maybe something to blackmail adulterers with!

Anywho, when Preston gets into the story, there hadn’t been a murder since 1985, yet police were still busy investigating and pointing fingers and that suspect or another with craze and lack of evidence so much so that they reminded me of a Peter Sellers caper movie. You see, there are the police, then there are the carabinieri (military police), different prosecutors, and magistrates are all involved in the case and that makes for a big fat mess if you ask me.

For the book, Spezi catches Preston up by telling him everything that has happened so far and then the work on finding the killer together. They seem to think that the killer lies down in a direction that had long been considered closed by the police. The police and magistrates are off chasing leads and creating flimsy facts looking into a vast conspiracy of rich satanic worshippers. I kid you not, they are ready to arrest pretty much every nobleman in the province as being a member of a satanic cult.

It hits the fan when the police get tired of Preston and Spezi saying that the police are on the wrong trail. Italian men are proud men and they don’t like to be told that they are wrong. Next thing you know, Preston and Spezi are indicted and Spezi is then suspected as being II Mostro.

My thoughts-

This is true crime like no other and what made it more interesting was that it takes place in Italy. Not only do we get to read beautiful descriptions of Florence, we get to peek inside how the Italian Justice system works…..or doesn’t work in this case. I hate to judge how another county runs things, but the way they do it isn’t in no way efficient and in this case, seldom leads to justice. It is like a bunch of clowns took over and the attending media add to the circus atmosphere.

It should be no surprise that I couldn’t put the book down. I wanted to know who II Mostro was and just couldn’t fathom the lengths that the legal system would go to in order to push their theories of the case ahead, no matter how out there they were.

Of special interest was how they could turn on journalists, whose job it is to investigate and report the story to the masses. That aspect of the story had journalists all over the world crying foul, just as it should have.

Brava Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi!

The Monster of Florence by Douglass Preston with Mario Spezi

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (June 10, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 044650534X



September 17th, 2010

A Bit About Me(Me) ~ I Dodge the Question

by Gwen


It is time once again, to step out from behind the book and get to know one another better.

We all have a story and a life beyond the book and thanks to Danielle from There’s A Book, we get share. She asks the questions and we get to answer.

Who is a famous person (dead or alive) that you most admire? And why?

I am struggling with this question. First off, what does admire really mean?

ad·mire (d-mr)

v. ad·mired, ad·mir·ing, ad·mires

1. To regard with pleasure, wonder, and approval.

2. To have a high opinion of; esteem or respect.

3. Chiefly New England & Upper Southern U.S. To enjoy (something): “I just admire to get letters, but I don’t admire to answer them” (Dialect Notes).

4. Archaic To marvel or wonder at.

See, in my house, we use admire, as in “I admire you.” because we are too chicken to say that we love each other. Really long story could be inserted here, but we don’t have all night and it is a wee bit personal.

So If I go back to the real definition of admire; I am looking for someone that I approve of and fills me with wonder.

Well, there’s a might big whopper of a problem right there. Just about everyone and everything fills me with wonder. For example, the people that drive 50 MPH on the highway where the speed limit is 65 MPH. Those drivers fill me with tons of wonder…and a few expletives tend to come out of my mouth to take part in the wonder.

So I was at a loss to pick just one person that I admire. Then I realized that it doesn’t just have to be one person. After all, there aren’t any hard and fast rules to these posts. It’s my post and I can do what I want to, do what I want to…..sing it!

You know the people that amaze me? It is all of you that are reading this post! I have diddled in all sorts of different groups of people on these grand interwebs and book bloggers rock, let me tell you.

Sure, we have the occasional blow ups over  who gets ARCs and who doesn’t, then there are the book blogger police that like to tell you what to do. Those squabbles are quickly put to rest around here with very few feathers ruffled.

That is special because it doesn’t happen on my relationship or home decorating blogs or on other non blog sites. Those dustups can get nasty and the bad juju can last for months.

We also embrace new people into what we do, we involve all, and we work at doing things as a team.

So I admire ya’ll. Give yourselves a group hug!


September 16th, 2010

I Want to Blow the Roof Off Chew & Dig in the Upcoming Year!

by Gwen



Photo Credit- DavidRphoto Flikr

So, BBAW is pretty much leaving me as pumped up as ArmChairBEA did. I am filled with motivation and ready to make some changes. I don’t know about you , but I cruised so many blogs, made new friends, and got loads of ideas for how I want to kick it up a notch around here.

Me thinks it be time for a Bloggiesta of sorts in a couple of weeks. Anyone with me?

Here are some goals that I want to work on:

  • Make my reviews easily searchable by author
  • Maybe add some cover art to my books read list
  • Actively work on selling ad space to book related items (this is to cover host costs)
  • Toying with the idea of splitting off into two blogs, one for nonfiction, one for fiction
  • Working on a few new series ideas and have lined up some great author interviews
  • More giveaways, I am drowning in ARCs and the library is starting to give me the evil eye!
  • Put on my new snazzy robe to judge the Indie Lit Awards with a great group of panelists.

My question for you is this, What is Chew & Digest missing? Are there ways you would like to search that you can’t? What plug-ins, buttons, or whathaveyou  do you really use on other sites that you would like to see here?

My other question for you ……… did the whole BBAW experience make you feel? What are you really excited about? Are there any changes that you want to make? Anything I can help with?

I love these events because they get me all pumped up! Move over Arnold, cuz I am the one that “will be back”!

Viva BBAW!



September 16th, 2010

My Lost Daughter by Nancy Taylor Rosenberg ~Review

by Gwen

My Lost Daughter

My Lost Daughter by Nancy Taylor Rosenberg

Three intriguing stories collide like rivers racing into the sea with an exciting ending. What? That isn’t enough for you to read it? Where is the love?

Lily, a Ventura County Court Judge, is hearing a case of a Paris Hilton-ish woman on trial for the murder of her toddler. The defense attorney just happens to be the man that broke up her marriage years ago which doesn’t bother her, but does lead her mind to wander back in time.

Shauna, Lily’s daughter, hasn’t called or answered her phone in days. Lily runs up to Stanford, where her daughter in law school, to find her, for lack of a better term, out of control. Shauna hasn’t slept in days, her apartment is a mess and her boyfriend has dumped her. Lily knows that she needs professional help but being the weekend, the only option she finds is treatment facility that promptly determines that she is addicted to drugs and locks her up.

While this is all going on, Special Agent Mary Stevens is transferring from the Behavioral Science Unit to the Ventura field office. The only problem is that she is hot on the trail of case that not everyone agrees is actually a case. Four suicides in Dallas and San Francisco are very similar and Mary thinks that they are actually part of a suicide club and are homicides.

Are you still with me here? Lily is on the case of the toddler killer, while worrying about Shauna, who is in drug rehab and Mary is moving to Ventura and busy trying to turn suicides into homicides.

My Lost Daughter has a fast pace and even though you can see where the stories are going to merge, it still keeps you glued to the page. I enjoyed the strong female characters and Nancy Taylor Rosenberg never fails to hit a home run.

My Lost Daughter by Nancy Taylor Rosenberg

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books; First Edition edition (September 14, 2010)
  • ISBN-10: 0765319039
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765319036