Thursday, March 15, 2018

Mommy's Thursday! Review: Waking Isabella by Melissa Muldoon with Giveaway

Every so often, I present a book which isn't for kids but for all of those moms and dads out there. Why? Simply because parents love to read too.
I chose this  book thanks to a friend's love for everything Italian and her voice in my head when I was offered this slightly historical piece of woman's fiction. It does start with a violent scene, but it is by no means graphic and not inappropriate for an upper YA audience. However, the subject matter is definitely centered around more mature themes such as marriage and the strength of a woman against odds..
Anyway, Happy Reading, Moms and Dads!

Waking Isabella:
 Because beauty can't sleep forever by Melissa Muldoon
Matta Press
Adult Fiction 
December 2017
250 pages

Tour dates: Feb 19 to March 23, 2018
Content Rating: PG-13 + M (The story begins with violent rape and murder scene, touches on themes of miscarriage, murder, Nazi violence during war, adultery)

Waking Isabella is a story about uncovering hidden beauty that, over time, has been lost, erased, or suppressed. It also weaves together several love stories as well as a few mysteries. Nora, an assistant researcher, is a catalyst for resolving the puzzle of a painting that has been missing for decades. Set in Arezzo, a small Tuscan town, the plot unfolds against the backdrop of the city’s antique trade and the fanfare and pageantry of its medieval jousting festival. While filming a documentary about Isabella de’ Medici—the Renaissance princess who was murdered by her husband—Nora begins to connect with the lives of two remarkable women from the past. Unraveling the stories of Isabella, the daughter of a fifteenth-century Tuscan duke, and Margherita, a young girl trying to survive the war in Nazi-occupied Italy, Nora begins to question the choices that have shaped her own life up to this point. As she does, hidden beauty is awakened deep inside of her, and she discovers the keys to her creativity and happiness. It is a story of love and deceit, forgeries and masterpieces—all held together by the allure and intrigue of a beautiful Tuscan ghost.

To read reviews, please visit Melissa Muldoon's page on Italy Bok Tours.

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Trying to regain footing in life, Nora dives into the history behind a fifteenth-century Tuscan duke's daughter and the mystery surrounding her death as well as a missing painting.

Isabella does not have a wonderful marriage, but it isn't so awful that she expects her husband to enter her bedroom and murder her once her father's dead. Hundreds of years later, Nora, a modern woman just leaving a divorce, searches for the answers surrounding what-could-have-been and what-ifs. After reading and studying much of Isabella's strange history, she decides to film a documentary about the woman. In Italy, Nora not only submerges herself in the historical sites surrounding Isabella's past but also digs deeper into the mystery behind a missing painting. Both searches take unexpected turns into deceit, forgery and a touch of paranormal activity.

The first chapter starts with the rape and murder of Isabella. It's dramatic, grabs right away and, yet, is tastefully done. When the next chapter switches to modern-day Nora, the tone is set. The author does a great job at weaving the past with the present and dabs here and there in time without ever becoming confusing. The past slips in with Nora's thoughts seamlessly, making it easy as well as a joy to read. 

Isabella was an easy character to connect to from the very first moment. I enjoyed learning more about her as the story progressed. Nora, however, wasn't quite as easy to relate to. In the first part of the book, the story is presented from her own head with little dialogue, which kept those personality traits, which make a character endearing, a bit at bay. Still, she approached the mystery and her own troubles very naturally and understandably.

There is a romance, and it builds slow and steady, slipping perfectly along with the rest of the pacing. But this isn't about action, it's a story which hits on a more personal level and takes the time for the characters to build and the plot to settle in. Italian fans will adore the true-to-life descriptions not only of the architecture and towns, but of the culture and people in all of their subtleties. Even the historical aspects demonstrate well-grounded research and give the book a lovely foundation.

Summed up, it's a story that woman fiction and mystery fans who love Italian flair are sure to enjoy. 

And here she is. . .

Melissa Muldoon is the Studentessa Matta—the crazy linguist! In Italian, “matta” means “crazy” or “impassioned.” Melissa has a B.A. in fine arts, art history and European history from Knox College, a liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, as well as a master’s degree in art history from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. She has also studied painting and art history in Florence.

Melissa promotes the study of Italian language and culture through her dual-language blog, Studentessa Matta ( Melissa began the Matta blog to improve her command of the language and to connect with other language learners. It has since grown to include a podcast, “Tutti Matti per l’Italiano,” and the Studentessa Matta YouTube channel. Melissa also created Matta Italian Language Immersion Tours, which she co-leads with Italian partners in Italy.

Waking Isabella is Melissa’s second novel and follows Dreaming Sophia, published in 2016. In this new novel about Italy, the reader is taken on another art history adventure, inspired by Melissa’s experiences living and traveling in Italy, specifically Arezzo, as well as her familiarity with the language and art. For more information about Waking Isabella and links to Melissa’s blogs and social media sites, visit

As a student, Melissa lived in Florence with an Italian family. She studied art history and painting and took beginner Italian classes. When she returned home, she threw away her Italian dictionary, assuming she’d never need it again, but after launching a successful design career and starting a family, she realized something was missing in her life. That “thing” was the connection she had made with Italy and the friends who live there. Living in Florence was indeed a life-changing event. Wanting to reconnect with Italy, she decided to start learning the language again from scratch. As if indeed possessed by an Italian muse, she bought a new Italian dictionary and began her journey to fluency—a path that has led her back to Italy many times and enriched her life in countless ways. Now, many dictionaries and grammar books later, she dedicates her time to promoting Italian language studies, further travels in Italy, and sharing her stories and insights about Italy with others. When Melissa is not traveling in Italy, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Melissa designed and illustrated the cover art for Waking Isabella and Dreaming Sophia. She also curates the Dreaming Sophia blog and Pinterest site: The Art of Loving Italy. Please visit the Pinterest page for pictures of Arezzo, the Giostra del Saracino, and all the places we go in Italy in both books. Visit for more information about immersion trips to learn the language with Melissa in Italy, as well as the Studentessa Matta blog for practice and tips to learn the Italian language.

Connect with Melissa: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram ~ Youtube

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