Thursday, November 7, 2019

How Fires End by Marco Rafala (TLC Book Tours)

Can a curse carry through the generations?  David is a young boy growing up in Middletown, Connecticut in the 1980’s.  He lives alone with his aloof father, Salvatore, after his mother’s death, but has the support of his Aunt Nella and family friend Vincenzo.  David is constantly bullied by Tony Morello at school and there seems to be a history between their two fathers that David can’t quite piece together.  As the town celebrates Saint Sebastian, it brings the family history to the forefront as it harkens back to Salvatore’s youth in World War II era Sicily.  Will family secrets of yesterday bring about tragic circumstances today?

The story is told from three different view points in the first person, David, followed by Salvatore, and the final third is Vincenzo’s story.  Nella has a short chapter at the start and end of the novel.  I also liked the brief author note at the end that states that the author was inspired by stories his father told about hiding in caves in Sicily during World War II.   His father often told the story of Saint Sabastian and how his statue came to Melilli.  Its fate remains a mystery except for in the fictional world of this story.

I thought the story was unique and very interesting. I have never read about World War II in Sicily and I thought it was fascinating.  I also liked the ripple effect that the choices made during the war had moving down through the generations.  I was shocked by the end of the first third of the book and it really kept me reading quickly through the end as I thought it couldn’t be true.  I was a bit confused on the timing as I thought that Salvatore was pretty old to have a kid in the 1980’s and it seemed strange that another man his age would also have a late in life baby.  The math seemed slightly off to me.  As a Catholic, I enjoyed how the Catholic faith played a role throughout the story.  I had to look up Saint Sabastian when I got done reading this one.

Favorite Quotes:
“That was the first time I noticed, but when I thought back on it, I recognized the small way he carried himself in the world when he thought no one was watching.”

“The left Melilli, chasing the promise of good-paying jobs and a better life.  They left to forget war, forget poverty, forget hunger, and forget the bodies of the loved ones they lost.  But they would not forget their saint.”

Overall, How Fires End was a riveting debut novel that told a unique story of family tragedy set in WWII era Sicily that spanned through the generations.
Book Source:  Review copy for being a part of the TLC Book Tour.  Thank-you!  For more stops on this tour, check out this link.

About How Fires End

• Hardcover: 400 pages  
• Publisher: Little A (October 15, 2019)  

A dark secret born out of World War II lies at the heart of a Sicilian American family in this emotional and sweeping saga of guilt, revenge, and, ultimately, redemption.

 After soldiers vacate the Sicilian hillside town of Melilli in the summer of 1943, the locals celebrate, giving thanks to their patron saint, Sebastian. Amid the revelry, all it takes is one fateful moment for the destiny of nine-year-old Salvatore Vassallo to change forever. When his twin brothers are killed playing with an unexploded mortar shell, Salvatore’s faith is destroyed. As the family unravels, and fear ignites among their neighbors that the Vassallo name is cursed, one tragedy begets another.

 Desperate to escape this haunting legacy, Salvatore accepts the help of an Italian soldier with fascist ties who ushers him and his sister, Nella, into a new beginning in America. In Middletown, Connecticut, in the immigrant neighborhood known as Little Melilli, these three struggle to build new lives for themselves. But a dangerous choice to keep their secrets hidden erupts in violence decades later. When Salvatore loses his inquisitive American-born son, David, they all learn too late the price sons pay for their fathers’ wars.

 Written with elegiac prose, How Fires End delves into the secret wars of men; the sins they cannot bury; and a life lived in fear of who will reveal them, who will survive them, and who will forgive them

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Photo by Jeffrey Mosier Photography

About Marco Rafalà

Marco Rafalà is a first-generation Sicilian American, novelist, musician, and writer for award-winning tabletop role-playing games. He earned his MFA in fiction from The New School and is a cocurator of the Guerrilla Lit Reading Series in New York City. Born in Middletown, Connecticut, he now lives in Brooklyn, New York. How Fires End is his debut novel. For more information, visit Follow Marco on Twitter and Instagram.

Thursday, October 31, 2019


The Doyenne of Austenesque fiction, Diana Birchall, tours the blogosphere October 28 through November 15 to share her latest release, The Bride of Northanger. Thirty popular bloggers specializing in historical and Austenesque fiction will feature guest blogs, interviews, excerpts, and book reviews of this acclaimed continuation of Jane Austen’s Gothic parody, Northanger Abbey.  

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen was Austen’s humorous response to the Gothic novels of her day.  In that novel she introduces one of the best Austen heroes, Henry Tilney, who not only has a great sense of humor, but is an honorable man.  The heroine Catherine Moreland, learns to put aside her Gothic fears and learns that you can’t always judge people by your first impression. 

Bride of Northanger picks up right where Northanger Abbey left off.  Catherine and Henry marry and begin life at Henry’s parsonage.  Before their marriage, Henry tells Catherine of a curse on the Tilney family that dooms the wife of the eldest Tilney son.  Catherine feels some angst, but as she is the wife of the second son, she does not overly worry. General Tilney does not approve of their marriage and manages to ignore Catherine whenever he can.  The curse slowly seems to envelope the Tilney family and control their actions.  Will Henry and Catherine get their happily ever after, or will they become a part of the Tilney curse?

I enjoyed this novel and was sad when it ended.  Author Diana Birchall truly captures the essence of all of the characters from Jane Austen’s original novel.  They acted just as I would imagine they would.  It was a perfect sequel.  Bride of Northanger was more Gothic in tone than the original novel, which was a perfect read for this time of year.  The humor of the original was also apparent in this novel.  I loved seeing Henry and Catherine’s marriage, it was a sweet, nice marriage that worked well for both of them. 

Favorite Quotes:
“If Catherine Morland was not born to be a heroine, she ended by becoming something very like one.”

“And it is wonderful that you have turned out a woman not only of strength, but of positively exemplary steadiness of mind!  I used to think you rather a creature of imagination, but in truth the qualities of sense and sensibility are most admirably blent in your character.”

“No, thought I must say that there are some things between heaven and earth, that cannot quite be explained.”

Overall, Bride of Northanger by Diana Birchall is a perfect sequel to Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen that captures the essence of the original characters and introduces them to a new Gothic adventure.
Book Source:  I received a review copy for being a part of this tour.  Thank-you Austenprose for putting this tour together!


October 28    My Jane Austen Book Club (Interview)
October 28    Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog (Review)
October 28    vvb32 Reads (Spotlight)                               
October 29    A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide of Life (Guest Blog)
October 29    From Pemberley to Milton (Excerpt)
October 30     Drunk Austen (Interview)
October 30     Silver Petticoat Review (Excerpt)
October 31     Jane Austen’s World (Review)
November 01  So Little Time… (Interview)
November 01  Laura's Reviews (Review)
November 04  English Historical Fiction Authors (Guest Blog)
November 04  Confessions of a Book Addict (Spotlight)
November 05  More Agreeably Engaged (Review)
November 05  Vesper’s Place (Review)
November 06  Jane Austen in Vermont (Interview)
November 06  Diary of an Eccentric (Interview)    
November 07  All Things Austen (Spotlight)
November 07  A Bookish Way of Life (Review)
November 07  Let Them Read Books (Excerpt)  
November 08  Babblings of a Bookworm (Review)
November 08  vvb32 Reads (Review)
November 11  My Jane Austen Book Club (Review)
November 11  Reading the Past (Spotlight)
November 12  Jane Austen’s World (Interview)
November 12  The Calico Critic (Excerpt)
November 13  The Book Rat (Review)
November 13  Austenesque Reviews (Review)
November 14  Fangs, Wands, & Fairy Dust (Review)
November 14  The Fiction Addiction (Review)
November 15  My Love for Jane Austen (Spotlight)
November 15  Scuffed Slippers and Wormy Books (Review)                  


  • Title: The Bride of Northanger: A Jane Austen Variation
  • Author: Diana Birchall
  • Tour Dates: October 28 – November 15, 2019
  • Genre: Austenesque, Historical Fiction, Gothic Mystery
  • Publisher: White Soup Press (September 19, 2019)
  • Length: 230 pages
  • Trade paperback ISBN: 978-0981654300
  • eBook ASIN: B07Y2HGSMX
  • Author’s website:



A happier heroine than Catherine Morland does not exist in England, for she is about to marry her beloved, the handsome, witty Henry Tilney. The night before the wedding, Henry reluctantly tells Catherine and her horrified parents a secret he has dreaded to share - that there is a terrible curse on his family and their home, Northanger Abbey. Henry is a clergyman, educated and rational, and after her year’s engagement Catherine is no longer the silly young girl who delighted in reading “horrid novels”; she has improved in both reading and rationality. This sensible young couple cannot believe curses are real...until a murder at the Abbey triggers events as horrid and Gothic as Jane Austen ever parodied - events that shake the young Tilneys’ certainties, but never their love for each other...


“Diana Birchall once again proves herself the worthiest of Austenesque fiction writers, with keen powers of observation, discernment, judgment, fire, genius, and wit on every page.” — Devoney Looser, author of The Making of Jane Austen

“No one captures Jane Austen's vibrant style, sense of humor, intelligence, and voice better than Diana Birchall. I flew through this charming novel, which makes a delightfully spooky and most welcome sequel to Northanger Abbey.” — Syrie James, author of The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen

“One of the most enjoyable returns to Austen to be found. Not to be missed.” — Susan Franzblau, author and film director


Diana Birchall worked for many years at Warner Bros studios as a story analyst, reading novels to see if they would make movies. Reading manuscripts went side by side with a restorative and sanity-preserving life in Jane Austen studies and resulted in her writing Austenesque fiction both as homage and attempted investigation of the secrets of Jane Austen's style. She is the author of In Defense of Mrs. Elton, Mrs. Elton in America, Mrs. Darcy's Dilemma, and the new The Bride of Northanger. She has written hundreds of Austenesque short stories and plays, as well as a biography of her novelist grandmother, and has lectured on her books and staged play readings at places as diverse as Hollywood, Brooklyn, Montreal, Chawton House Library, Alaska, and Yale. Visit Diana at her Austen Variations author page, follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.