Tag Archives: Maria Elena Sandovici

Review & Giveaway: Storms of Malhado by Maria Elena Sandovici

STORMS OF MALHADO
by
MARIA ELENA SANDOVICI
Genre: Historical Fiction / Ghosts
Publisher: Independently Published
Date of Publication: March 26, 2020
Number of Pages: 252

Scroll down for the giveaway!
 

 

Galveston Island, Texas, September 2008 Katie doesn’t believe in ghosts. And she certainly doesn’t believe the rumors that her family’s home is haunted, despite its tragic history: two young women who lived there in different eras died in hurricanesone during Hurricane Carla in 1961, one during the Great Storm of 1900, the greatest natural disaster to befall the United States. But that was the past, a fact Katie reminds herself of when she returns to Galveston to await Hurricane Ike with her parents and boyfriend in her family’s Broadway mansion, hoping to rekindle her flailing relationship.

While Katie is not afraid of the ghost stories she’s heard, she is afraid of the monster storm approaching. As even die-hard Islanders evacuate, her fears grow—fear of the looming hurricane, fear that she’s talentless as a painter, fear that her relationship with her boyfriend is already over. As Katie struggles against her fears, the past whispers to her of the women who died there and the haunting similarities they share with Katie’s own life. 


Through three different timelines, Storms of Malhado weaves a story of Galveston’s past, underscoring its danger and isolation, as well as its remarkable resilience, and its capacity for both nostalgia and reinvention. Full of contradictions, at once insular and open to the world, Galveston Island is as much a character of the novel as Katie, Suzanne, Betty, their lovers, and their confidantes.
 
PRAISE FOR STORMS OF MALHADO:


“Taking place entirely on a beautifully moody Galveston Island, Ms. Sandovici weaves three simultaneous stories with ease. With a timeless tale, ethereal language, and complicated characters, readers will be entranced by this modern ghost story. How many times can the past repeat itself? How do we recognize people through generations? The author tackles this topic amid a backdrop of violent nature and intangible dreamscapes.” 

—Courtney Brandt, author of The Queen of England: Coronation, Grand Tour, Ascension

”Three women, three great storms, and one house, haunted by forbidden love and frustrated ambition. Get ready to be swept away by Sandovici’s foray into Galveston Island’s tempestuous history in this tale of lives intertwined across time.”
—Donna Dechen Birdwell, author of Not Knowing

CLICK TO PURCHASE
Amazon

Review

Storms of Malhado is the second book that I have ready by Maria Elena Sandovici. I read Lost Path to Solitude almost exactly four years ago and remember being very impressed with Sandovici’s excellent storytelling and her talent for writing natural dialogue. Those two traits are present in this latest book and Sandovici has certainly honed her craft to create such a fascinating story.

As a Houston native (a far north suburbanite, at the least) I was a little annoyed with Katie’s decision to leave Houston in order to weather the storm of Hurricane Ike in Galveston of all places. When Ike was about to hit, distant relatives of mine left Galveston to hunker down with my family, so Katie’s reverse evacuation didn’t make sense to me. But alas, there would be no story if she acted rationally. The story spans three different timelines and takes place in the same mansion on the Island.

I recall wishing with Sandovici’s previous book that she had used character names at the beginning of chapters when she switched POV because it sometimes became confusing. I was happy to see that she gave us the year and a short description of what was happening at each break in this book. I also was delighted to see that her characters had names indicative of the times that they lived in. Names like Desmond and Esmeralda feel distinctly 1900s while names such as Betty and Edna are perfect for the 1960s. Details like those are among the many that Sandovici thoroughly researched so that the reader could be transported without the rude shock of glaring inaccuracies.

Authenticity is obviously important to Sandovici as her vivid details of Galveston across the timeline ring true when compared to the photographs I have viewed and the stories that I have read in museums and historical landmarks. The relationships between the characters within each era and spanning across the three time periods are intricate and bursting with color. Which makes sense when you take into account that the main character and the author herself are artists.

I don’t want to go into specifics and ruin the ending for you but I felt like the point where everything merged felt a little too perfect, for lack of a better word. When I have read about similar phenomena in real life accounts or fiction, there usually isn’t so much clarity, especially when multiple people are involved. There, I will zip my lips now and let you see for yourself.

I think that this book would resound with practically any reader, but I think that it would truly affect those who are into the supernatural or very realistic historical fiction (the kind that borders on nonfiction when it comes to details). This is not your fluffy historical fiction, which you might have guessed since it takes place during times of devastation. However, I like how it leaves you feeling hopeful, like seeing a rainbow after the storm.

 

Maria Elena Sandovici is a full-time writer, artist, and gallery owner living in Houston, Texas. After obtaining a Ph.D. in political science from the State University of New York at Binghamton in 2005, her curiosity led her to Texas, where she taught at Lamar University for fourteen years. She felt attracted to Galveston Island from her first visit and lived there part-time for three years before her artistic career took her to Houston. 

 
Sandovici is a 2008 graduate of John Ross Palmer’s Escapist Mentorship Program, a program that teaches artists business skills. She resigned from her tenured academic position in December 2018 and opened her own private gallery space. Her previous works of fiction are Dogs with Bagels, Stray Dogs and Lonely Beaches, Lost Path to Solitude, The Adventures of Miss Vulpe, and Lone Wolf. She is also the author of Stop and Smell the Garbage, a volume of poetry in the voice of her dog, Holly Golightly. You can follow her daily adventures on her blog HaveWatercolorsWillTravel.blog.

———————–

GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!
ONE WINNER receives a signed copy of Storms of Malhado
MAY 21-31, 2020
FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY. 
Or, visit the blogs directly:

5/21/20
Notable Quotable
5/21/20
Review
5/22/20
Author Video
5/22/20
Review
5/23/20
Playlist
5/24/20
Excerpt
5/25/20
Character Interview
5/25/20
Review
5/26/20
Review
5/27/20
Excerpt
5/28/20
Guest Post
5/28/20
Review
5/29/20
Scrapbook
5/30/20
Review
5/30/20
Review
   blog tour services provided by
  

1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Giveaway, Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Excerpt: The Adventures of Miss Vulpe by Maria Elena Sandovici

THE ADVENTURES OF
MISS VULPE
A Coming of Age Story for Adults
by
MARIA ELENA SANDOVICI
  Genre: Contemporary / Women’s Fiction / Coming of Age
Date of Publication: April 7, 2017
Number of Pages: 160

Ana Petrescu (aka Miss Vulpe) is a troubled teenager determined to solve the mystery of her parents’ double suicide. Escaping the scrutiny of her legal guardian and the unwanted interference of several therapists, she starts looking up people from her mother’s past. Her sleuthing requires her to lie about her identity, her age, and her lack of experience with men. While impersonating Miss Vulpe is more fun than going to school, there’s bound to be trouble and heartache when her web of lies unravels.





03f22-excerpt

 

Excerpt from The Adventures of Miss Vulpe

By Maria Elena Sandovici


“Bucharest 2009”


I didn’t want to go to Louise’s party. But in the end I couldn’t stay away. And when I saw her I was glad to be there. She opened the door and smiled, not in surprise, but in acknowledgement that naturally, if she invited me, I’d come. She stood before me in her gold dress, almost a private joke between us, or maybe her way of making a point that she’d won an argument of sorts. She’d won more than that, in fact, she’d won a battle I didn’t want to see her lose. I was happy to see her like this, her cheeks slightly flushed, her glow restored. She was radiant again, the golden girl of days gone by, and as she grabbed my hand and led me into the room to introduce me I was mesmerized by her ability to rise from her own ashes like a phoenix. The rooms were lit by candles, jazz music was playing on an actual turntable, and the house seemed full of people, of champagne bottles, and of vintage ashtrays filled to the brims. All the windows were open, the curtains blowing in the linden-scented breeze of late spring in Bucharest, dancing dangerously close to the candles, and everything had an air of magic and mystery. I had no idea who most of the people were, or where she’d collected them from. It was one of her talents, wilting then re-blooming, dropping away from the world, then reigniting her social life out of nothing. The only one I recognized was her dentist – Louise had constant trouble with her teeth, and the man was an eminence of sorts to whom the old dragon paid a small fortune. He was supposed to be in high demand. I wouldn’t have been surprised to find out that Louise had met all the others in his waiting room, a place where even people with connections were reduced to spending hours.

I didn’t like this crowd, but I didn’t care. I didn’t like her portrait on the wall, something one of the guests, a pretentious fellow with an obvious drinking problem, had painted. I didn’t like that she hesitated in introducing me.

“This is Richard, my…” My what, Louise? My lover? “My husband’s friend, I mean my ex-husband’s friend.” I let it slide. In the end, I was grateful he wasn’t there, the current husband. By the look of things he’d been gone a long time, and I was hoping he’d stay gone forever. “Richard often comes by to see my girls,” she lied to no-one in particular as nobody was listening at this point. They were all drinking heavily. I also doubted they knew her well enough to know how many husbands or children she’d had. They were all blissfully unaware of the girls sleeping upstairs. I was sure the old dragon was of the school of thought that children should be seen and not heard, but the thing about Louise’s children was that one never got to see them either. It was as if they inhabited a parallel universe, and I knew more about them from Rogers then I ever did from visiting their mother.

I tried to put that out of my mind. I didn’t like the party, but I liked watching her. She was so in her element. She was putting on a show for her own amusement, and everything and everybody was part of it, from these people who barely knew her to the portrait on the wall that didn’t really look like her but that validated the role she chose to play that night. I knew this Louise. She was the lady of the manor, the centerpiece in a tableau vivant she had created for her own artistic satisfaction, like a director casting us all in a scene from a movie. I liked this side of her, the energy she put into weaving together elaborate fantasies to entertain herself.

She saw me watching her and she smiled. She looked pleased with how the evening was turning out, pleased with her own reflection in the mirror hanging above the improvised bar on top of the credenza. Maybe she wore the dress not so much as a symbol, but because it matched the sparkle of champagne in the glasses, and champagne seemed to be the theme of the evening. Somebody must have bribed the old dragon with several cases full of it, and Louise must have decided it needed to be consumed right away.

When people started leaving, she started making eye contact with me from across the room. I decided I’d talk her into coming back to my place. There wasn’t any way I’d spend the night here on the old dragon’s domain, and if Louise thought that was kinky in a fun way, I’d have to talk her out of it, which would be hard. But then I heard a key in the door, and Petrescu walked in. He looked like shit, pale and skinny and like he hadn’t showered or slept in a while. Louise’s face registered a look of surprise first. But then she flew to him. I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. The two other couples that were still there looked at him, and I wondered if these people even knew who he was.

“A party,” he said, “it’s nice to come home and find a party. But I have urgent business with my wife.”

The women in the room laughed, and one shoved her husband.

“Why can’t you be more like that? See, that’s hot!”

“Excuse us,” Louise said. “Please stay, we won’t be a minute.”

Among her guests, I was the only one who wanted to leave. The wife who’d misinterpreted Petrescu’s intentions with Louise was now busy using what she’d thought she’d seen to add passion to her own marriage, so she’d climbed onto her husband’s lap and was kissing him. The other couple were draining all the champagne bottles strewn across the room.

I pulled out my phone and called myself a cab. The only good thing about Louise’s guests was that they were drunk enough to be oblivious to anything that didn’t concern them. No one would notice my departure.

“Two minutes,” the dispatch said.

I got up and stepped into the hallway. I heard Louise’s heels clicking on the linoleum, saw her gold dress shimmering in the dark. She was coming from the kitchen. 

“Richard,” she said. “Don’t leave.”

She followed me outside.

“I’ll only be a minute,” she said, as if I were an unreasonable child clinging to her skirts when she needed to go use the bathroom. 


Maria Elena Sandovici lives in Houston with her dog. She travels to Bucharest often and also to Spain, but her favorite trip remains 45 South to Galveston. She has an art studio at Hardy and Nance in the Warehouse District, open the third Saturday of every month, blogs daily at havewatercolorswilltravel.com, and writes poetry in the voice of her dog. She is also the author of three previous novels about women who are struggling with finding their place in the world.




CHECK OUT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:
5/20
Review
5/20
Excerpt 1
5/21
Sketchbook 1
5/22
Review
5/22
Promo
5/23
Excerpt 2
5/24
Review
5/24
Guest Post
5/25
Review
5/26
Sketchbook 2
5/27
Review
5/27
Excerpt 3
5/28
Promo
5/29
Review
5/29
Sketchbook 3
   blog tour services provided by



Leave a comment

Filed under Guest Post, Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Review: Lost Path to Solitude by Maria Elena Sandovici

LOST PATH TO SOLITUDE

 

(A Follow-Up to Dogs With Bagels)


by 


Maria Elena Sandovici
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Date of Publication: February 12, 2016
# of pages: 315
Scroll down for Giveaway!

Once you leave home, can you ever return? Two characters, mother and daughter, contemplate this question in Lost Path to Solitude. Twenty-five years after leaving Romania in order to follow the man she loves to New York, Maria Pop still struggles with accepting her decision. She is determined to go back and recapture the poetry and joy of life in Bucharest, even at the expense of risking her marriage. Meanwhile, her daughter, Liliana, second-guesses her own choice of moving to a small town in Southeast Texas, ironically called Solitude, where she finds herself lonely, bored, and nostalgic for the fast pace of life in New York City. Facing the claustrophobic social climate of a town that goes to bed early, as well as the constrictions of her emerging academic career, Liliana longs for something that would give her existence meaning. The parallel soul-searching and the frustration they experience does little to bring mother and daughter closer. Instead, as each struggles with finding her own place in the world, they become increasingly critical of each other. Will their relationship survive the growing pains they each must suffer in their quest for self-fulfillment?

Review
If I don’t judge a book by its cover, I have a tendency to judge it by its synopsis. At first glance, I decided rather quickly that this book would be interesting but not something that I could relate to. I was very wrong.
I’m the same age as Liliana but our lives have followed very different paths. She’s single due to a broken engagement 10 years prior and on track for tenure at the university she works for. I’m married with a kid and working from home. But we both struggle with the question of whether that is all there is to us. And throw in the drama with our mothers, and I think that Liliana and I could hang out all day after a yoga class.
On the surface, it might seem I could relate more to Liliana’s mother, Maria. She studied to be a librarian and a string of events prevented her from working in the field. I actually quit working as a librarian to raise my son. Ok, well, maybe we don’t have as much in common as I thought. But we do have that existential crisis thing going for us like Liliana. Also, when she makes the decision to stop speaking to Liliana, I can definitely relate. If only my family were like hers, letting the two quarrelers be and not getting in the middle.
I don’t know a lot about Romania and its people, but it was interesting how much the culture and people seem to parallel people in the Philippines (my parents’ homeland). I thought it was hilarious that the family from America was expected to bring back gifts that could probably be purchased in Romania. Or that you had to stay with family when you visited rather than stay at a hotel even though it might be uncomfortable or inconvenient. Don’t even get me started on the sexism, religious fanaticism, and general hypocrisy. When you’re in the thick of it, it’s not pleasant. But when you read about it or think about it in retrospect, it’s pretty entertaining. It’s nice to know that this translates across so many cultures. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel left out.
In a funny coincidence, just the other day my brother-in-law, who is a flight attendant, was explaining to me the difference between Texans and New Yorkers. Both BIL and book pointed out that New Yorkers are very straight forward and don’t sugarcoat things and waste your time like Texans often do. How New Yorkers can be misconstrued as rude because of this, whereas Texans seem sweet even when they insult you with a “Bless your heart.” This might not be earth shattering news, but I felt like it deserved a mention since I felt like New York and Texas were sort of characters as well. Romania, too, of course. But like I’ve said previously, I know nothing of Romania.
Sandovici writes a great tale. My only nitpick on this book is that I wished she put the name of the character at the beginning of each section when she switched perspectives. I sometimes had to read a whole page before figuring out who it was about, and then circling back to the start of the section so that I fully understood what was happening.
I applaud her writing style because of the subtle things. Like Maria’s broken English when she’s speaking to her kids, non-Romanian friends, and strangers. But then her vast vocabulary and colorful dialogue when speaking to her husband and those who do speak Romanian. It’s these little things that speak volumes about an author’s abilities.
Maria Elena Sandovici moved to Texas on a Greyhound bus in the summer of 2005. It would be the beginning of a great adventure. Born in Bucharest, Romania, a place she loves and where she returns often, she’d spend the requisite time in Manhattan to call herself a New Yorker, but also to know she was looking for something else. Her debut novel, Dogs with Bagels, is very much a New York story: the story of an immigrant family forging new identities for themselves in the city that never sleeps. 

Her second novel, Stray Dogs and Lonely Beaches, is the story of a young woman traveling the world in search of herself. This theme persists in Lost Path to Solitude, her third novel, in which characters suffering an identity crisis are caught in a search for the ideal place to call home. Three locales dominate the story: New York City, Bucharest, and an imaginary, caricaturized town in Southeast Texas, called Solitude.In addition to writing fiction, Maria Elena Sandovici paints every day. She has a studio at Hardy and Nance Studios in Houston, and also shows her daily watercolors on her blog, Have Watercolors Will Travel, accompanied by essays about whatever inspires or obsesses her at any given moment.

To support her art and writing, she teaches Political Science at Lamar University. She is also the well-behaved human of a feisty little dog. 

Her favorite places in Texas are Houston and Galveston. 

—————————————————————————–

GIVEAWAY! TWO WINNERS EACH RECEIVE  COPIES OF BOTH DOGS WITH BAGELS & LOST PATH TO SOLITUDE

 

  May 23 – June 1, 2016
Check out the other great blogs on the tour!  

5/23   Missus Gonzo  –  Review
5/24   It’s a Jenn World – Author Interview #1
5/25   Country Girl Bookaholic  – Promo
5/26   Forgotten Winds  — Review
5/27   Texas Book Lover  – Guest Post #1
5/28   My Book Fix Blog – Excerpt
5/29   Hall Ways BlogReview
5/30   The Page Unbound – Author Interview #2
5/31   StoreyBook Reviews      – Review
6/1     A Novel Reality– Guest Post #2
 
 
 
blog tour services provided by
 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Giveaway, Lone Star Book Blog Tours