Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Dusty Pages Review: Fantasitc Beasts and Where to Find Them

An approved textbook at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry since first publication, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an indispensable guide to the magical beasts of the wizarding world. Muggles who have seen the eponymous film or read the Harry Potter novels will be familiar with some of these beasts - the Niffler, the Thunderbird, the Hippogriff ... This new paperback edition features the recently revised 2017 text, which includes six curious new creatures that inhabit the North American continent, and a new foreword from Newt Scamander that sheds fascinating light on the events surrounding a serious breach in the International Statute of Secrecy which took place in New York in the 1920s.

This new paperback edition features gorgeously shimmery snakeskin detail on the foil effect jacket and line illustrations throughout by Tomislav Tomic. Newt Scamander's masterpiece has entertained wizarding families through the generations. Witches, wizards and Muggles of all ages will delight in discovering the extraordinary habits and habitats of magical beasts from across five continents.

I loved the film adapted from this pseudo text book, and really enjoyed reading this from cover to cover. Its a lovely little pocket guide to the creatures that inhabit the magical world of Harry Potter. I loved reading the little foot notes that were humorous and some of the illustrations were beautiful but I would have liked them better in colour. Of course I suppose that is the point of the illustrated edition, but it would have been lovely to have a few more pictures, like one for each entry like you get with bird watching books.

I read it in one sitting, little over an hour from cover to cover and look forward to getting to the other two books I have that are like this one, fictional books from a fictional book.

I give it

Monday, 11 November 2019

Lost Innocents

The second title in the Cassandra Farbanks series is now Live! Updated version only available on Kindle.

Deck the halls with magic, monsters, and mystery.

With Christmas fast approaching, Cassandra stumbles across a case of missing children but finds she is being blocked by the Preternatural Crime Unit at every turn. Regardless, nothing will stop her from finding a way to help.

Jumping between realities, juggling a boyfriend, college, and keeping her secrets, Aram being put on trial for biting her, only complicates matters further, as she wrestles with how to save him or if she wants to.

With her powers on the fritz, determination and luck might be all she has to see her through, but will that be enough?


Monday, 4 November 2019

Meet A Writer Monday Presents...

...Lisa Romeo

1. Tell me about your book, Starting With Goodbye, and where you got your inspiration for it?

Starting With Goodbye is the story of getting to know my father better after he’d died. I wanted to document my grief experience, which unfolded in ways I found surprising and unpredictable, allowing me to get closer to the parent I wasn’t so close to in life. It’s mostly about those two years after he passed, when I investigated our relationship, learned valuable truths about his life, and came to see how they shaped mine—via travel, money, Italian-American family dynamics, shared and opposing interests. And even in a grief memoir, you’ll find some funny stuff, too.

2. If your book was made into a film, who would you like to see play the lead?

The book has dual “leads” – me at age 46 and my dad just before he died at age 79, but there are flashbacks to our earlier lives too. Dad was an extremely handsome man, so I’ll go with George Clooney…and then later on, Jerry Orbach. Yes, Orbach is deceased, but in the book, Dad visits me after his death, so to my mind, this works! As for me, while I’m tempted to say Mariska Hargitay or Sigourney Weaver (wishful thinking!), in the end, I’d settle on Jane Cusack —the right mix of normality and a curious mind.

3. What is the longest you’ve gone without writing?

If you mean creative writing of my own, probably three years or so. This would have been about 18 years ago, when I had two young children and was working in public relations. Although that involved a lot of writing—press kits, customer stories, speeches—it’s not the same. Yet I still draw on my 15 years in P.R. It taught me to think in terms of what story I want to tell in everything I write—especially in pitches and queries—and to ruthlessly cut extra words and needless tangents.

4. Mountains or the beach?

Beach! I love to sit under an umbrella and read a book, listen to the waves, and go for long walks along the water’s edge. But it has to be blazing hot for me to venture into the ocean beyond my shins.

5. You’ve just been kidnapped and the people from the last TV Show/Movie you watched have to save you. Who is it?

Oh dear, my husband and I are binge-watching “The 4400”—about thousands of people who disappeared over 70 years, then all returned together. The government agency “taking care” of them is looking more suspect, corrupt, and incompetent as the episodes pile up. I’d probably wind up sick, hunted, or dead if my rescue depended on them!

6. What is your best childhood memory?

Many Sundays when I was small, my father took me for pony rides, and it was always the same—an aging horse plodding around in circles. Then one week, I was put on a new horse; in my memory, he was shiny black and huge (probably not!). After a few quiet strides, he bucked, put his head down and galloped around the ring a few times before someone could grab a rein to stop him. I don’t know how I stayed on! After, everyone was making a fuss over me, asking if I was okay. Are you kidding? A thrilling excitement coursed through me. I didn’t get my own horse (followed by five more) until I was 14, but it all began for me that day.

7. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why?

England—and stay for as long as possible. I’m the biggest Anglophile! Perhaps in another life I was British, because I’ve always felt that’s my true home.

8. If you could live in a book, TV show or Movie, what would it be?

Any of those old black-and-white movies about journalism with female reporters in an otherwise all-male newsroom. Those trail-blazing women reporters were gutsy. They had grit and gumption!

9. If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?

This might not sound enjoyable, but I’d go to the 1930s and 1940s: two decades and events—the Depression and WWII—that made my parents who they were, and shaped my generation via what they passed down and how deeply they were affected. I’d especially like to see how my Noni (my maternal grandmother)—an impoverished Italian immigrant who didn’t read or write English and tossed out her bigamist husband—raised four children.

10. What makes you cry?

Everything! The older I get, the more I cry at the vagaries of life, both happy and sad. I’ll cry over a sentimental TV commercial! If we’re all watching a movie, my husband and sons compete to be the first to notice me crying and tease me.

11. What genre do you write in and what draws you into this genre?

I write creative nonfiction—mainly memoir and personal essay. I was the youngest child in a loud, Italian-American family, and grew up feeling as if no one ever really listened to me. When I discovered I had a talent for writing, and that my family members would read what I wrote, I must have figured that was my way to get my personal thoughts and feelings across.

12. Do you let a book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?

I let everything I write—from a flash essay to a book manuscript—marinate and rest before I revise. And I revise a lot, so that means the work has to rest just as often. When you’re away from the work—for a day, a week, a month—more of the story can bubble up. I gain perspective, and when I return to the work, I often have a much clearer idea of the story I’m trying to tell. Highly recommended!

13. Do you think the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

Certainly. We all judge things by appearance, and a book is often judged by its cover, especially online. When I was working with University of Nevada Press on the cover for Starting With Goodbye, we wanted it to pop in terms of colors and intensity, and also suggest the idea of a father who both was and was not there. They eventually used a photo I had taken years before (of Dad walking on the beach) as the background and combined that with well-positioned typography. I’ve had many compliments about the cover, and I do think it helps.

14. What has your experience been like as a new Indie Author? Bruises, Highlights, and lessons?

I enjoyed working with a university press; they invest in making the book as editorially polished as possible, and regard their authors as artists whose opinions matter. The downside is that your book doesn’t get much national brick-and-mortar bookstore distribution, and you have to do a lot of promotional work yourself—though this is also true with many small traditional publishers.

I like to work hard, and dug deep into the process of getting the word out about the book, to varying degrees of success. There’s so much competition for a reader’s attention (and the attention of reviewers, librarians, book festival organizers, etc.). I got quite good at asking for what I wanted, but also rolling with whatever came along, trying to make the most of every opportunity—and met many lovely, supportive folks along the way: other authors, booksellers, librarians, etc.

15. What is the toughest criticism given to you as an author?

The first version of my memoir was a linked essay collection, and several people whose judgment I trusted told me to pull the essays apart and rewrite as a narrative memoir. That was tough to hear; I was so devoted to the idea of an essay collection. I put the manuscript on the shelf for 18 months until I felt able to tackle a rewrite. The book is so much stronger for it, and I learned massive amounts during the rewriting process. It was the right advice, but I didn’t know that when I first heard it.

16. Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day?

I edit novel and memoir manuscripts (freelance); teach in the Bay Path University MFA program; run writing workshops where I live in northern NJ; and coach/edit writers on a one-on-one basis.


Starting with Goodbye begins with loss and ends with love, as a midlife daughter rediscovers her enigmatic father after his death. Lisa has little time for grief, but when her dead dad drops in for “conversations,” his absent presence invites Lisa to examine why the parent she had turned away from in life now holds her spellbound.

Lisa reconsiders the affluent upbringing he financed (filled with horses, lavish vacations, bulging closets), and the emotional distance that grew when he retired to Las Vegas and she remained in New Jersey where she and her husband earn moderate incomes. She also confronts death rituals, navigates new family dynamics, while living both in memory and the unfolding moment.

In this brutally honest yet compelling portrayal and tribute, Lisa searches for meaning, reconciling the Italian-American father—self-made textile manufacturer who liked newspapers, smoking, Las Vegas craps tables, and solitude—with the complex man she discovers influenced everything, from career choice to spouse.


About Lisa

Lisa Romeo is the author of Starting With Goodbye: A Daughter's Memoir of Love after Loss (University of Nevada Press, 2018). Her short nonfiction is listed among Notables in Best American Essays 2018 and 2016, and has appeared in the New York Times, O The Oprah Magazine, Longreads, Brevity, Human Parts, Inside Jersey, and many other places. She lives in New Jersey.

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