SIENA’S PALIO: THRILLING TRADITION, COMPETITION, & PRIDE

Imagine that your hometown team will be competing in the biggest sporting event of the year, as it does every year, right in the center of town. Pack the venue with over 50,000 spectators, both local and international, all there to see your team participate. Now bring on all the fanfare and hoopla in the days leading up to the main event, including an open-air feast and a ritual blessing of the key player. Now imagine that this monumental sporting event lasts just seventy-five seconds…

Palio Aug 1995 news

For the people of Siena, Italy, this fantasy is a reality. Considered Italy’s most famous annual sporting event, Palio is a horse race that combines pageantry, competition, and civic pride. The Tuscan hillside town of Siena fans out from the central, shell-shaped Piazza del Campo town square, where the race is run. It extends outward, through the maze of cobblestone alleyways, stone houses, shops, and smaller piazze. Siena is divided into seventeen contrade, akin to the boroughs of Manhattan, in which neighborhoods aspire to a passionate regionalism based on centuries old tradition. Since the Middle Ages, ten of the contrade vie one another for bragging rights achieved by a victory in a bare-back horse race that’s one lap around the piazza. The first horse to cross the finish line, with or without the rider, wins.

The race, held twice a year on July 2 and August 16, is preceded by as much pomp and circumstance as the post-race victory parties. Participants and spectators have been brought to their knees over a loss, or a win. Every stage is critical, from the initial presentation of the horses, to the “tratta” in which the horses and jockeys are matched. It continues with the five preliminary runs, to the final rehearsal dinner, to the blessing of the horse and jockey inside the contrada’s parish church, and finally to the race.

Palio July 1981

I attended my first Palio with my dad when I was ten years old. With my Aquila scarf wrapped securely around my shoulders, I cheered parade flagbearers marching down the ancient cobblestone streets while my gelato ran down my arm. We watched a trial run. Serious business, as men in suits converged to hash out the players’ worth, similar to a football draft, only with horses. My favorite part was the pre-race dinner. I couldn’t believe that with all the eating, the drinking, the singing, and the cheering, they had yet to run the race! Though we missed the main race, I’d experienced something truly memorable.

Palio Aug 1995

Years later, my husband, Jamie, and I made it to the big event. We packed into Piazza del Campo with my cousins in early morning…and waited. For hours beneath the August sun, the piazza filled with spectators, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, or peering out from hotel windows overlooking the track. Fans from competing contrade would argue, laugh, make bets, and proudly wave their flags’ colors. At dusk, the tension was palpable. The crowds roared as the horses cantered into the piazza. The tradition of centuries past, and the competitive spirit roiling between the contrade, and the anxiety built up over days of preparation all came down to a race lasting just over a minute. In one mad dash around the track, colors blazed past us in a blur. Men, women, and children shouted and chanted the names of their contrada. Cameras flashed. Hoof-beaten dust flew into the humid Sienese twilight. I don’t remember who won. But I bet it was Aquila.

Like a good thriller, Palio’s suspense builds to a satisfying climax that resonates with fans until long after it ends. Want to live the thrill? Head to Palio. Want to read about it? My latest mystery novel, FORMULA, features Palio, and it’s coming soon!

Gina Fava’s THE SCULPTOR wins GOLD for Best Mystery/Thriller Ebook in the Indie Pub Awards!

 THE SCULPTOR has won the GOLD medal for the Best Mystery/Thriller E-Book in the 19th Annual, 2015 Independent Publisher Book Awards.

Gold medal ippy

I’m so honored and thrilled. Thank you, sincerely, to the judges, and most humbly to every one of my readers.

Congratulations to all the winners, and if you write everyday, you win everyday.

E3. BEST MYSTERY / THRILLER E-BOOK

GOLD: The Sculptor, by Gina Fava (Steepo Press)

SILVER: Twisted Vine, by Toby Neal (Self-Published)

BRONZE (tie): All Good Deeds, by Stacy Green (Twisted Minds Press)

Last Words, by Rich Zahradnik (Camel Press)

Click Here to Buy a Copy of THE SCULPTOR.

Click Here for the full list of the all those who submitted their work and medaled.

Congratulations to all who submitted, as the work is the ultimate reward.

 

Review of Jeff Klima’s L.A. ROTTEN: A TOM TANNER MYSTERY

Are you a reader who enjoys a gritty story with a still-beating touch of heart? Jeff Klima’s L.A. Rotten is an intriguing and refreshingly entertaining hard-boiled mystery.

L.A. Rotten: A Tom Tanner Mystery

Book Details
Genre: Suspense Thriller
Published by: Random House Publishing Group – Alibi
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Number of Pages:

Purchase Link: LA Rotten bk cvr
e9177-amazon33

 

Book Synopsis:

L.A. Rotten is a thriller about a cleanup man entangled in the viscera of a crime spree as a reluctant sleuth.

My Review:

The perfectly flawed characters, the subtle, edgy humor, and the description so vivid that I found it hard to breathe through my nose in some scenes, all make this a must-read novel for those who enjoy raw, “pulpy” mysteries, akin to Stieg Larsson’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Protagonist Tom Tanner’s character arc, from a man in tune with his basest instincts to one who finally gets in touch with the shred of humanity he forgot he had, is delicious, as the satisfying, issue-ridden secondary characters all struggle to push him over that edge throughout. The reader will surely find that the “A”ntagonist reeks of just the right amount of bile and intrigue to make him a terrifyingly interesting yet astonishingly credible serial killer. Klima must get to work on the next one – I need another Tanner fix!

Engrossing and satisfying, L.A. Rotten is a hard-boiled thriller that readers will be unable to put down.

My rating: 4 out of 5 FAVA beans.

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The author, Jeff Klima, an expert cleanup artistjeff klima in Orange County, writes what he knows, and it shows. He’s also written, The Dead Janitor’s Club, and you can follow him on Facebook and Twitter, or visit his website at jeffklima.com.

How Many Shopping Day Are Left?! Top 10 Reasons For a Family Gift Registry

"Shoppers on Dundas, near Yonge" by Ian Muttoo - originally posted to Flickr as Alone / TogetherUploaded using F2ComButton. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Shoppers_on_Dundas,_near_Yonge.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Shoppers_on_Dundas,_near_Yonge.jpg

“Shoppers on Dundas, near Yonge” by Ian Muttoo

It’s the first full day of Fall 2014, which means 92 shopping days left ’til Christmas. Since nearly every retailer has had decorations on display for weeks, I got to thinking about my own gift-giving list.  There’s a lot to be said for the idea of implementing a Family Gift Registry.

Now I know both sides of the aisle have started barking at me already, but you decide whether a Family Gift Registry (FGR) is either a parody of ghastly nonsensical consumerism, OR just plain common sense. In the meantime,

Here are my Top 10 Reasons

for a Family Gift Registry:

#1: The sweaters that mom sends me are hideous. Or the closely related, who buys someone chartreuse hand towels?

#2: I would really rather have preferred the hip-high fishing waders, not the knee-highs. Or the red wine, not white.IMG_0415

#3: My mother-in-law keeps buying me cooking utensils, but I do not cook. Or hairstyle magazines,  but I like my hair the way it is.

#4: My child drinks a lot of milk and has already outgrown his/her entire wardrobe, and it’s back to school time again.

#5: My entire wardrobe is so “last season.” Or the closely related, my waist has outgrown all of my pants.

#6: How do I buy for the person who has everything? Or hates everything I ever buy him/her? Or hates me?  I’d love to donate to their favorite charity instead.

#7: I’m not sure what my niece/nephew is into right now. Frankly, what I think they’re into is scary and ridiculous, and I’m not sure where I’d go to buy something like that.

#8: My friend is disabled, and I’d love to buy him/her something she could really use, instead of just another sweater.4bb69592617bc_130315b

#9: I’d never spend the time and/or money to buy that for myself, but drawing farm animals is my favorite hobby and my sketch pad is full.

#10: How do I tell friends/relatives that I could really use a grocery/gas/home improvement gift card instead of another blender?

After perusing the Top 10 reasons for the concept of FGR, it really comes down to these fundamentals:

  • Preference,
  • Style,
  • Charitable donation,
  • Waste management, and
  • Need

Think about it. A couple gets married, and they set up a Wedding Registry. Why don’t they just maintain it, adding and deleting items as the years go by? They’d get what they need or desire most during the changing times/needs in their life together, and your gift giving checklist is widdled down in a day.

The same couple has a baby, and they set up a Baby Registry. Simply maintain it as the child grows, allowing for updates in the clothing or diaper sizes, changes in the style of the child’s room, or any unexpected costly special needs items that a group may chip in on. When the child is of the age to start asking for new sneakers, a video game, or Lite Brite, then others can easily pick and choose for their child’s birthday, Hanukkah, or graduation. With size and preference updates, the child gets what it wants/needs (NO rival team Zubaz from Grandma for the 5th year in a row,) and there is no wasted time, money, or effort, as regular quantity or “item received” notices are provided.

Similar to an online family website that may be private or public, where people share photos and news with loved ones near or far, every family could establish a Family Gift Registry, that’s mobile, password protected, and possibly linked to favorite stores, or linked to preferred charities for giving donations instead of gifts, or listing gift cards in various denominations, etc. FGR’s would provide a separate page with distinct profiles for mom, dad, child, grandpa, the dog, etc. that each would regularly update in time for the next occasion.

What’s more, an FGR App could stem from the registry, downloadable to any device, so that last minute shopping is convenient and painless, both for the shopper and the recipient who rack their brains for last minute ideas, while party-goers are waiting for cake.

Of course, there’s still something to be said about spur-of-the-moment gifts, like a bottle of wine for a dinner party, a bracelet for that special someone, flowers for mom, a juicy mystery novel for a great friend, or a restaurant gift certificate for a shining employee. Spontaneity AND variety are truly the spice of life. And don’t let your significant other forget it.

SculptorCoverWithBlurb

But, say goodbye to Boxing Day holiday, Canada…there’ll be no more cause for returns. The entire dynamic of the day-after-a-holiday would switch from battling traffic, weather, and fellow patrons traveling store to store with arms laden with returns/exchanges, to strolling through the park with loved ones and a picnic of leftover turkey sandwiches. Black Friday would still be black for retailers, but so would many other days, as the need for returns becomes obsolete.

Sure, you can put together a site yourself, but here’s a quick list of some Family Gift Registry sites that offer to do the work for you:

So make a list, and check it twice…because Santa’s job has never been easier! What do you think? Does a Family Gift Registry take the magic out of gift giving? Or does it provide a money- and time-saving way to choose THE perfect gift? Let me know what you think…

Review of Steve Ulfelder’s WOLVERINE BROS. FREIGHT & STORAGE: A Conway Sax Mystery

What does it take to transform an average Joe into a bad ass dick (sleuth, that is)? Pure grit and hard core determination. Just ask critically acclaimed, Edgar-nominated author Steve Ulfelder, whose gutsy yet affable hero, Conway Sax is back, with a vengeance.

Wolverine Bros. Freight & Storage: A Conway Sax Mystery

Book DetailsJH-01027
Genre: Suspense Thriller
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Number of Pages: 320 print pages

Purchase Link:  

  e9177-amazon33

 

Book Synopsis:  

“Conway Sax is a man on a mission—this time in Los Angeles, where he uses his race-driving experience in a desperate bid to rescue Kenny Spoon, a washed-up TV star who’s been kidnapped. It’s a favor for Kenny’s mother Eudora, Conway’s dear friend and a fellow member of the Barnburners, his tight-knit maverick AA group.

After hauling Kenny back to Massachusetts, Conway finds himself caught between Eudora and her two sons: Kenny, and Harmon, a cop who resents his talented, troubled half-brother. Each member of the Spoon family distrusts and even despises the others, it seems… and each has a past full of dark secrets that may explain why.

While Conway tries to learn why Kenny was kidnapped and protect him from further harm, a shocking murder devastates this complex, all-too-human family. Conway vows to find the killer and avenge the death, but each clue only points to more suspects.

Things get even more complicated when Conway, separated from his girlfriend Charlene, begins a passionate affair that can’t help but cloud his judgment. The more secrets he uncovers, the more danger he’s in as this masterfully written page-turner builds to a wrenching confrontation.” –Official Website of Steve Ulfelder

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My Review:

You’ll love this guy. The protagonist, Conway Sax, relies on his keen instincts, a healthy man card, and a zealous reliance on his own baggage to get him to the bottom of the mysteries that encroach on his life as a car mechanic. His lovable soft side, his resiliency in the face of whatever bad guys throw at him, and his enduring loyalty to his friends and his comrades in dependency (“Barnburners”) make him a true hero in my mind.

Ulfelder’s writing style is steady and approachable, reeling in the reader from the first page. His use of first-person perspective is vulnerable, acute, and engaging. Ulfelder taps into Sax’s recovery from dependency with affecting honesty and humor. He unfolds the mystery with gradual pace that feels real and justified.

Ulfelder also plunges a dip stick into some car racing jargon that’s smooth and slick. You’ll find yourself adding “bootlegger turn,” “tank slapper,” and “bump drafting” to your everyday vernacular. His secondary characters are spot on, full of enough vitality that you’d think they were idling in a Crown Vic outside your front window. The authentic journey through the winding roads of Central MA will have you dropping your Rs. The dialogue, as well as Sax’s inner monologue, is sincere, fresh, funny, and noteworthy (“Two times a year, I wish I had a gun.”)

If you’re a fan of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer novels, this Steve Ulfelder mystery is for you. It is fresh, raw pulp fiction that’s refined into a sweet and coarse concoction, and it’s sure to please.

My rating: 5 out of 5 FAVA beans.

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SteveUlfelder-e1363706586930-150x150Steve Ulfelder is the author of three mystery novels featuring unlikely hero Conway Sax: SHOTGUN LULLABY, THE WHOLE LIE, and PURGATORY CHASM. Steve left journalism to write novels and focus on Flatout Motorsports, a company he co-founded that builds, rents, sells and services race cars. Steve’s debut novel, PURGATORY CHASM, published by Minotaur Books in 2011, was nominated for the Edgar and Anthony Awards in the Best First Novel category, and was named Best First Mystery by RT Book Reviews. Steve is a proud member of Mystery Writers of America (serving as president of MWA’s New England chapter), Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. He holds a BA in Creative Writing from Ohio Wesleyan University, and lives with his family in Worcester County, Massachusetts. Learn more about Steve Ulfelder’s books at www.ulfelder.com.

 

 

Recap of the Murder Mystery Show

As a follow-up to my previous post about the Murder Mystery Show, SO MUCH FUN was had by all:  the actors, the stage hands, the audience, the wine drinkers, and the readers…

Pre-Launch of THE RACE

Did I mention readers?  Oh yes, Zorvino Vineyards in Sandown, NH was packed to the gills with mystery lovers last month who spent the evening trying to figure out who dunnit, after kindly purchasing a mystery novel from one of the in-character authors.

Thank you to the owners of Zorvino Vineyards (beautiful venue!), to the script writer and my author friend, CJ West, who included me as a saucy, sassy, British reporter capable of murder, along with a whole slew of lovely people who took the stage for a great romp, including another fellow author, Steve Ulfelder.

To all the readers who picked up pre-launch copies of my forthcoming novel, THE RACE, I must tell you mahvelous dahlings, you are all wonderful!

THANK YOU!!

Gearing up before the event…

The Cast...before

Letting loose after the show…

The Cast...after

Review: Dinner at Deadman’s, by C.J. West

Dinner at Deadman's

Established author, C.J. West, has released something completely different from anything he’s written thus far, a novel entitled, Dinner at Deadman’s.

Dinner at Deadman’s

Book Details
Genre: Mystery
Published by: 22 West Books
Publication Date: November 2012
Number of Pages: 298
Purchase Links:  

Synopsis:  Junk man Lorado Martin discovers that one of his clients has been murdered and believes her estate is headed to a homicidal grandson.

My Review:  A traditional who-dun-it mystery, Dinner at Deadman’s revolves around a burly, family-man junk dealer with an affinity for aiding recovering addicts.  Lorado Martin is an atypical, intriguing character with whom anyone would want to sit back and have a beer and some laughs before jumping into his car to take down the local riff-raff that’s messing with his family or his junk.

The other characters are also well-thought out, but it’s mostly his wife, Roxie, and his brother, Chris, who always have Lorado’s back, that kept me wanting to come back for more.

Great local flavor seeps from the pages of the story.  I felt like I was traipsing the neighborhoods of the Massachusetts South Shore tracking murder suspects right there with Lorado; it left me wondering if the underbelly of society might be closer to home than I once thought.

I must admit that I guessed the identity of the murderer early on, but the perfectly paced suspense, the hearty helpings of humor, and the affability of the main character kept me reading until the end.  The journey was worth it.

I’d recommend this novel to anyone looking to sink their teeth into a juicy mystery with an unusual, yet solid premise, based around an unlikely hero that one just can’t help rooting for.

My Rating:  It’s worth a hill of beans, 4 out of 5 FAVA beans to be exact.

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CJWEST

C.J. West is the author of seven suspense novels including The End of Marking Time and Sin and Vengeance, which was optioned into development for film by Beantown Productions, LLC (screenplay by Marla Cukor).

C.J. blogs at www.cjwestkills.wordpress.com. You can also find him at www.22wb.com or at www.facebook.com/cjwestfans.

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DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review. No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends. I do not have any affiliation with Amazon.com or
Barnes & Noble.  I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.