Jordin Sparks as Shasta Carvell
Nicky Whelan as Hattie Durham
Lance E. Nichols as Bruce Barnes
William Ragsdale as Chris Smith
Martin Klebba as Melvin Weir
Quinton Aaron as Simon
Judd Lormand as Jim

THANKS to Gotham Conference with permission from
Sheryl Tirol | ROGERS & COWAN - have allowed me to bring you this interview. I was unable to make the conference call but I was sent the transcript to promote this film I saw on Sept 18th. 

My complete review of this movie is in BOOK FUN MAGAZINE 

ABOUT CASSI THOMSON: Cassi has steadily worked her way up since she first showed promise as a natural talent at age 11 when she began working in commercials. In her early years as a child actress Cassi began appearing as a guest star on primetime shows such as “Without A Trace,” “House,” “ER,” and “CSI.”

In her breakout role at age 15, Cassi joined the cast of the critically acclaimed HBO original series “Big Love” (2006-2011) at the end of season three, playing the character Cara Lynn with a raw passion and compelling authenticity.  She quickly turned heads and became a series regular in season four, staying with the show until the series ended, having starred in a total of 20 episodes.

Cassi’s most current work includes numerous projects for both film and television; she has appeared as a guest star on many series, along with landing lead roles in television movies and independent films. In addition she enjoys her recurring role on the ABC Family award-winning series “Switched At Birth.”


 Cassi Thomson: Well when I read the script it was just, you know, as Vic said it was very much character-driven which is something you don’t really see that often in a movie that does have so much action involved. And it also is a very strong female character which there unfortunately aren’t that many of, nowadays. So, when I read it, I mean I honestly thought I would never,  I would never book it. Just because I, I you know, I’m not a big A-Lister name. I’m, I’m, I have been working for a long time but I, you know I just assumed I would never get this opportunity. But still, I, you know I put a lot of work in, and I sent in tapes, and then I auditioned. And, luckily they, you know, they gave me a chance to be a part of something that was one of, really the most memorable times of my life. And, you know, I had always wanted to do a film like this. And it just, it was great. I mean Vic was great. Nic, Nic, Nicolas Cage was great. All the producers were amazing. It really was, when they say it was a dream team it really was on all, on all ends. It’s very rare that you get to work for producers that you love so much and a director that allows you to be so free, and, and Vic and I have become really close. I just did another film with him. And he, he’s just one of those directors that you want, that you want. You want them on set because they do allow you to be free. And they allow you to experience your character. And let you really be the actor that, that you want to be but they’re also there with all the support, and trust, and he was just amazing. Everybody was really amazing to work with.

Moderator: So when you mentioned that it was one of the most memorable experiences of your life, what’s something that sticks out and what was one of the most memorable parts of it, or what, what was just compelling to you about this movie?

Cassi Thomson: Well I probably one of the most, well I mean I took away a lot of friendships from this film and I, you know I, I feel like I grew a lot as an actor working with someone like Nicolas Cage. That’s something that so many young actors don’t get a chance to do. And his professionalism and his talent really kind of changes you. Experiences like that I think change you always for the better. And I also luckily got to do all of my own, pretty much all of my own stunts on the film. And at one point (laughing) Vic had me climb like this 400’ bridge. So I free-climbed the 400’ bridge and was on top of the bridge with a helicopter kind of circling me with a camera and that was amazing. That’s something that I probably will never get to do again. So that was, that was very memorable.

Vic Armstrong: That was stunning. (laughing)

Cassi Thomson: That was good, it was just awesome. (laughing)

Moderator: Cassi what do think are the main issues and struggles for your character in the film? I know she goes back and forth from a lot of different emotional places throughout this movie. What do you think just as a character? Help some of the people on this call who have not seen this movie and don’t really even, maybe know much about the story. What will they get from your character and what is it that you feel like she really went through in this movie?

Cassi Thomson: Well in the beginning of this film, you, you quickly learn that “Chloe” doesn't really have any kind of spiritual beliefs at all and she doesn't, her family growing up didn't have any kind of faith, didn't go to church, didn't, wasn't really involved with the Christian faith whatsoever. And then her mom found her faith and kind of it, it, it threw a wedge into the family and it kind of pushed “Chloe” away. Because any, any conversations she did have with her mom was always centered around faith and her believe in God and “Chloe” needs to really, you know, get in tune with that and kind of was warning of, warning her of what is coming. And “Chloe” just saw it as more nagging and felt like she kind of lost her mom in a way I think. And that pushed her to separate from not only her mom but her whole family. So in the beginning of the film, I think that’s kind of her main struggle is she’s coming home for her dad’s, you know, her dad’s prized birthday party and then learns that he’s been called off to work. And so then she’s stuck on a, you know, she’s stuck with a one on one interaction with her mom which is uncomfortable. And then very shortly in to the film, the rapture hits and obviously when that happens "Chloe’s” struggles shift dramatically and become a lot more real, and become a lot more intense. But I think the thing that’s so beautiful about “Chloe” and so beautiful about the way she’s written is that she, no matter if it is the beginning, you know, the middle or the end, her struggles do always, kind of circle around her family. And you can tell how much she does love her family. And I think that that was my favorite thing about her is that she’s, you can really, you watch her struggle through this film so much with losing her mom and then, you know feeling like she’s just lost her whole world. And, it’s pretty, it’s pretty great to watch her, you know, watch her struggle through the film, I guess (laughing).

Moderator: Yeah. For sure. Is there one part of the filming or something just from your experience in the movie that stands out above the rest that you want people to hear or that you want to kind of just share, talk about regarding this movie here?

Cassi Thomson: I think one of the most interesting things for me is, they did, really our, our team did such an amazing job of creating these sets and situations of, of the world being in ruins. And for me, you know as a human being, Cassi Thomson, I know the world’s fine, and I know that everything’s OK but you’re really kind of sucked into these sets that you’re put on and there’s this, there’s this specific scene in a hospital and in the nursery section where all of the babies are kept. And, you know all of children, when the rapture hit, they’re all taken off the Earth. And so when “Chloe” finds herself in this nursery all the babies have been gone and you can just see, you know the remnants of these children and for me that was such a, such a crazy experience and such an eye-opening experience and it really was bone-chilling in a sense. To be put in these situations where you did, it did feel real for that instant. And that was just very, it was very interesting to, to be a part of something, like that. If that makes any sense.

Moderator: Yeah. No that’s great, great. We really appreciate. We’ll be back and ask most of you guys more questions. But thank you so much Cassi for your participation in this call with us. 

THIS ENDS IT FOR TODAY - COUNTING DOWN UNTIL OCTOBER 3rd when this movie is released in theaters nationwide!! Check out your local listings and my review of this movie at BOOK FUN MAGAZINE here is the link PAGE 84

 I'll have some more of the Left Behind interview with the cast members tomorrow!
Nora St. Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins! 
The Book Club Network blog
Book Fun Magazine  



Moderator: .... Is there something anybody would just put out here that you would hope people take away from this movie? It seems something people have asked many, many times. I have a handful of emails asking that question. Is there something that you think would be important for someone who watches this to get out of it?

Nicolas Cage: Well Hi, this is Nicolas Cage and I was just listening and I, I’d like to answer that question. I was very taken by the family dynamic that plays out in this script. And that’s what drew me to the project. That and an opportunity to work again with Vic Armstrong. I had a good rapport with him on another movie. So I felt that I could get to where I wanted to go with Captain Steele. Because this is, this is a person who is in an extraordinary situation and realizes really what his values are through the, he reaches a catharsis through the experience of this extraordinary flight that he’s on. And, gets back to the heart which is his relationship with his family, which is his relationship with “Chloe” his daughter which is so powerfully, she’s so powerful Cassi Thomson in the movie. And I think that that’s what I want, if there’s anything for me, I want that to come across that people realize, yeah we all make mistakes but in a moment of crisis what we really want, what we really go to, go back to is, the love we have for our families. And that’s what, that’s what pulled me in, into this, into this project. That, and also how you make such an extraordinary set of circumstances authentic and how do you make that real and that was a tremendous challenge for, for all the actors to, to play it almost Cinema verite that this is really happening and we’re really believing in this situation and it’s to, to convey that to the audience is the challenge. I've always been attracted to movies that aren't afraid to venture into the unknown. City of Angels, movies that were knowing, movies that aren't afraid to face the possibility of these extraordinary circumstances and, and the challenge of making that real.

Moderator: That’s great. Thank you so much Nicolas we knew you were going to get on and we really appreciate you joining us so, thank you so much. Everyone has anxiously been awaiting your arrival here. So we’re going to ask you a few questions here. And then, you know I had said at the beginning of the call if there’s anything that, you know, you want at any time or anybody from the cast just wants to interject or add in that maybe we’re not asking specifically. One of the things we’re getting a lot of questions about that people are writing in is, you know, we’re all fans of your interviews, we know you've worked on many different types of roles, you've probably already been asked this but people here would really like to know, what about this script or what regarding the movie in general, you know, I know you've mentioned things about, you know, your brother before, you've mentioned things about just, you know, we've all talked, I don’t know if you heard us, a little earlier in the call about, you know The Leftovers, and other, like, shows that are out right now, kind of speaking to end-times. Is there anything regarding just culture today or anything that you could share about you know, why you would say yes to a movie like this?

Nicolas Cage: Well again, I, I really said yes on the merits of the screenplay. And also to work with, to work with Vic again, the director. I think all artists, if you’re tapped in, if you’re tuned in, to the zeitgeist, you know when they’re open to that, they’re going to pick up on, on that. And things happen I think, I really believe things happen collectively around the world that, people get thoughts and they start, you know, I didn't know about The Leftovers. I didn't know that was a television show that was already happening but you can pick up on these things. I mean, at one time I think someone invented a steam train in one part of the world and another person was inventing the same thing and they had never talked. So I mean, there are times when you can, you can, you can tap into something subconsciously. But that wasn't on my mind, I wasn't aware of any of it. I just felt that the script was a challenge and it gave me a chance to really try to make the extraordinary, believable. And, and to do something authentic within performance so that everything around me was, was going into chaos. People were just appearing on the airplane and how did I make that organic? How did I make that authentic? And again, all the actors, Chad Michael Murray, Cassi Thomson, Nicky Whelan, they were all on-point. And I find that exciting. To me, it was, it was an exercise and I’m very happy with the results.

Moderator: That’s great. So the story centers on “Rayford Steele” and his daughter "Chloe”. How do you describe their relationship? How does it relate even maybe to your own thoughts as a father? What makes them relate-able characters and for most of the people on the call here, they haven’t seen the film. Explain a little bit about your relationship there and why this matters in this movie.

Nicolas Cage: Well I mean “Ray Steele” is a, he’s a captain of a jumbo jet, a transatlantic jumbo jet going, you know to London, England. And, you know, he’s, he’s, he’s an important guy on that airplane and he has a flirtation and this, there’s, there’s a chemistry that’s happening with the flight attendant, so marvelously played by Nicky Whelan and he loses track, you know, he loses sight of what’s really valuable to him in terms of you know, his treasures within which is his love for his family. He’s kind of, not that he’s a bad guy but he’s making a mistake that many people make that are in powerful positions where they, you know lose track of the importance of family. They’re drawn away, or they’re seduced or they’re taken from their true inner-values by, by, by something attractive, or something flirtatious, or something that, that has the call of the wild. And they lose their place, and what I like about that is that many people do it. But that “Ray Steele” gets back to his true need for family through this experience, through this extraordinary experience and understands the value of family and just wants to get back to that no matter what happens. Just to be able to get back on the phone with his daughter. Say I’m sorry. And say “I love you.” And I think that’s, it’s as simple as that. I think that is heart-wrenching. And if you have a heart, I don’t think it’s possible to see the movie and not get a little verklempt. I mean it, there’s some very poignant, emotional moments.

Moderator: Yeah. Great. Was there, is this the first time you've really heard about this story? Like when you heard about the potential (inaudible) people being taken away from the earth or disappearing. Is this the first time like, the rapture was kind of a new concept…(cut off).

Nicolas Cage: No, no. I’m familiar with the rapture of course. I mean, I’m not familiar with it in any aspect outside of what the bible says, but you know, I was not familiar with the LEFT BEHIND series. My brother, Mark, is a Christian pastor, and he was very excited about this. And he said, you know, Nicky, you've really got to do this. I mean this is a, and so I, I, you know I’d already wanted to make the movie because I thought it was such a great script and an opportunity again to do something challenging. But when I saw how passionate he was, I thought, well yeah I want to make this movie for my brother too.

Moderator: That’s great. Well I think that you’re making this movie for lots of people because people are very excited about it coming out and it’s got a lot of anticipation around it so people are excited to hear from you. We’re getting lots of questions. And, you know one of the questions too that has come in is, you know, with a lot of the roles that you take that are very heartfelt, there’s a lot of things that you are drawn to, or that you play where you tell a human story with a larger than life narrative. Is that something you, you love to play just because it really has the potential to affect people in their lives deeply? Or is it usually just like you said with this one where it’s the script or is there something about that, that is just meaningful to you because you probably see it affect people in a positive way.

Nicolas Cage: Well there’s, I mean if you look at my filmography, there’s no secret to the fact that I, I am drawn to movies that aren't afraid to take on spiritual themes. And you know, without going into my own personal, you know, spirituality which is very sacred to me and not something that I think is, you know for public consumption or to be put on the, or in the media but, but I like to let my work speak for me. I like to find movies that allow me to explore these inner or outer worlds through the work without having to really talk too much about it.

Moderator: Yeah that’s, that’s great and you do a fabulous job doing it. So, you may know that we have most of the cast on the call and then we have Paul LaLonde, we have Vic Armstrong on with us. Paul, Vic is there anything, since we have Nicolas on the line with us now that you want to make sure is said, or that is just communicated on this call.

Paul or Vic is there anything that you want to still bring up here, or even Nicolas, Cassi, Nicky, anybody that’s on the call, is there anything that you want to also add in that maybe has, you know sparked a thought from you that you want to include here before we wrap up this call?

Vic Armstrong: Hi this is Vic. Hi Nic. Welcome. (chuckling).

Nicolas Cage: Hi.

Vic Armstrong: So what was, what was interesting with what you’re saying there, I go back to when we sat down to discuss this script at Great Fosters at Egham in London before you flew out and I flew out here. We actually sat down and we, we both agreed we loved the script which was, you know the basis for any movie and we both loved the script but what was fascinating when I think back to it, all we discussed was our families and how this would affect our families. And how people aren't 100% pure. They do wave a slightly left or right on their journey through life. And it’s what you said there, it’s when “Ray Steele” does see the light. And he goes back to, to his family, and his love for his daughter and everything else. To me it’s fascinating, it brought it all back, hearing you say that. Because we didn't discuss the nuances of the characters. We've discussed in general how much your family does lead you through life and how much they mean to all of us. So that was wonderful to re-live that again.
Nicolas Cage: Yes. And also I, the only other thing that I would mention is that I, I want this movie to work for people, for me, of all faiths. It’s about when you have those moments there really are no atheists in fox holes. And so when you’re in a crisis, in a crisis like that, I want people from all faiths be able to say, you know, we’re, we’re all invited to the table. I mean we’re all going to get something from this movie.

Vic Armstrong: Exactly. Yeah.

Moderator: Yeah. That’s great. So since Vic just spoke up, Nicolas you may be kind of, we’ll all wrap this up here momentarily. It would just be great to hear you speak to what it was like to work with Vic Armstrong as your director. Right in front of him (laughing).

Nicolas Cage: Well actually I’m very comfortable working with Vic. I got to spend quite a bit of time with him on another movie that we made, called Season of the Witch. And it was a good experience and I thought that he directed me to a good performance and something that I was very proud of and wanted to work with him again. I, I knew that I would be able to relax with him and that I would be able to go within and just sort of exhale and be in the moment, be in the scene. That he would allow his actors to breathe and to be relaxed and to find the truth of their performances. And it really shows in the movie. I mean, across the board, of Chad Michael Murray, and Nicky, and Cassi again just, just powerfully real performances. And I knew that that would happen working again with Vic.

Moderator: Mmm hmmm. Great. And one last thing, you touched on a little bit but I know you have spoken to how just the importance of family and just how you really want people to take away from this too just how important that is. Is there anything more that you could just share with people about how this movie, does, kind of draw people to want to, I mean I know you mentioned that you know, the, the entire concept of the movie is about making sure, you know where your family is and thinking about them but is there something just about family to this movie that meant something personally to you as well?

Nicolas Cage: Well, anytime I make a movie, no matter how, how extraordinary the circumstances of the movie I try to come at it from a place of truth even if it’s truth in my imagination. I don’t want to act. I don’t want, because in that, in some way that implies lying. For me acting is trying to get the truth of an experience in my past or with in my memory almost like an impression and try to make it, you know, real within a performance. Recall it, and then bring it to the situation that my character finds himself in. And, it was, without thinking too much about it or breaking it down too much it was more about recalling emotions that I may have experienced in my own life, and applying them to the relationship between “Ray Steele” and “Chloe”, his daughter. And having a chance to say what I wanted to say through that character. And that, I think I've already probably said too much. But, but in other words, I don’t want to fake it, I want it to be authentic. And this character, in this movie, you know, within the context of the extraordinary circumstance gave me the chance to do that.

THIS ENDS IT FOR TODAY - COUNTING DOWN UNTIL OCTOBER 3rd when this movie is released in theaters nationwide!!  I'll have some more of the Left Behind interview with the cast members tomorrow! READ my complete review in BOOK FUN MAGAZINE here is the link PAGE 84

Nora St. Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!
The Book Club Network blog

Book Fun Magazine 

Jordin Sparks as Shasta Carvell
Nicky Whelan as Hattie Durham
Lance E. Nichols as Bruce Barnes
William Ragsdale as Chris Smith
Martin Klebba as Melvin Weir
Quinton Aaron as Simon
Judd Lormand as Jim
Lolo Jones as Lori

THANKS to Gotham Conference with permission from
Sheryl Tirol | ROGERS &COWAN - have allowed me to bring you this interview. I was unable to make the conference call but I was sent the transcript to promote this film I saw on Sept 18th. 

My complete review of this movie is in BOOK FUN MAGAZINE 

ABOUT NICHOLAS CAGE-  Academy Award-winner Nicolas Cage is one of the most versatile actors of all time, equally known for his poignant portrayals in both drama and comedy.

Upcoming, Cage stars in “Left Behind,” a Christian-themed apocalyptic action film based on the best-selling book series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins set to be released in October. He will also next be seen in “Outcast,” an American-Chinese action film alongside Hayden Christiansen. Additionally, Cage recently completed filming Paul Schrader’s “The Dying of the Light” with Anton Yelchin. He is currently in production on “The Runner,” which also stars Sarah Paulson, Peter Fonda and Connie Nielsen.

Most recently, Cage starred in David Gordon Green’s “Joe,” which premiered at the 2013 Venice International Film Festival and in the thriller “Rage” with Danny Glover.

In 2013 Cage renewed his appointment as a UNODC Goodwill Ambassador for Global Justice for the United Nations committing to a second tenure of two years. Cage’s original appointment took place in 2009. He traveled to Africa to undertake a mission with the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime in Gulu, Uganda, Mombasa, Kenya and Nairobi, Kenya. Here he met with child soldiers, gang members, inmates, Kenyan judges and magistrates to help stop human trafficking, child slavery and kidnapping. Cage is also a Luminary for Amnesty International and helps with their focus on human rights. This is not his complete body of work see his full bio at Online Media Spot |)


Movie Synopsis
Left Behind is an apocalyptic Action-Thriller movie starring Nicolas Cage based on the New York Times bestselling novel that brings biblical prophecy to life in modern times.

The most important event in the history of mankind is happening right now. In the blink of an eye, the biblical Rapture strikes the world. Millions of people disappear without a trace. All that remains are their clothes and belongings, and in an instant, terror and chaos spread around the world. The vanishings cause unmanned vehicles to crash and burn. Planes fall from the sky. Emergency forces everywhere are devastated. Gridlock, riots and looting overrun the cities. There is no one to help or provide answers. In a moment, the entire planet is plunged into darkness.

“Left Behind” FAQs
A. Producers made the original “Left Behind” films specifically for a Christian audience. But it has always been their intention to create a film based on the books that not only appeals to the core audience but has the potential to expand to a broader audience as well. It depicts the immediate aftermath of what the day of the Rapture might look like in realistic bold and graphic detail. The Producers also wanted this film to be character driven to help the audience identify with how real people might react to this unthinkable event.

Q. When will “Left Behind” be released in theaters?
A. “Left Behind” will be released nationwide in theaters on October 3, 2014.

Q. What is the budget for this movie?
A. $16 million (this is for the production itself and does not include the print and advertising budget).

Q. Who has been cast, and whom will they play?

Nicolas Cage: Rayford Steele,
Chad Michael Murray: Cameron “Buck” Williams
Cassi Thomson: Chloe Steele
Nicky Whelan: Hattie Durham
Lea Thompson: Irene Steele
Jordin Sparks: Shasta Carvelle
Lance E. Nichols: Pastor Bruce Barnes
Major Dodson: Raymie Steele
Quinton Aaron: Simon - Olympic hurdler and bobsledder LoLo Jones has a cameo as an airport attendant

Q. Why are there characters that are not from the books in this film?

A. Writers and producers wanted to not only make a large action thriller; they also wanted engaging and character-driven storylines that depict the authenticity of how people would react in this circumstance. The film focuses on the first few hours after the Rapture occurs and follows the main characters but also layers additional characters on the plane for a well-rounded perspective.

Q. Who will play the anti-Christ in this movie?

A. “Left Behind” will focus on the first few hours after the Rapture. The character of the Antichrist, Nicolae Carpathia, will not be in this movie, but will be introduced in the second movie.

Q. Does the entire movie take place on a plane?

A. No. A significant portion of the film also focuses on the chaos and destruction happening on the ground when millions of people suddenly vanish. For that part of the movie, the story follows main character Chloe Steele as she searches the city for her family and the truth behind what really happened.

Q. Who is the director for “Left Behind”?

Vic Armstrong, a veteran filmmaker in the action genre.

Q. Where was the movie filmed?

Baton Rouge, LA

Q. Will there be a sequel? Will you do films for all 16 books?

A. Stoney Lake Entertainment intends to create a franchise for this property. How many movies that will be has not been determined.

Q. When will the DVD/Blu-ray/Download be released?

A. This date has not yet been confirmed but will follow the theatrical release.

Q. Are the actors all Christian?
A. Stoney Lake Entertainment produces faith-inspired films, but faith is not a factor in the casting process. Casting is solely based on talent and fit for the role.

Q. Will it still have Christian themes?
A. “Left Behind” is about the events following the Rapture, so it will always have a Christian theme.

Q. Are Left Behind book series authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins supportive of the movie?

A. Yes. Both authors have screened “Left Behind” in advance and both have given it a big thumbs up. “I believe it does justice to the novel and will renew interest in the entire series,” author Jerry B. Jenkins said. “It is the best movie I have ever seen on the rapture,” added Tim LaHaye. Jenkins provided very useful notes to the script during pre-production and visited the set during principal photography.

Q. How close will “Left Behind” be to the book?

A: “Left Behind” is based on a portion of the first book in the “Left Behind” series and will feature the main characters from the book, including Rayford Steele, Cameron “Buck” Williams, Chloe Steele, and Hattie Durham. The entire film takes place on the day of the Rapture, focusing on the chaos in the world in the wake of millions of people vanishing with no explanation.

Q. What is the Rapture?

A: The term Rapture is used to refer to the Bible prophecy where faithful believers are taken up to heaven before the apocalyptic end of days.

A poll conducted by the Barna Group in August 2013 found that four in 10 Americans (41 percent) over the age of 18 believe that “the world is currently living in the ‘end times’ as described by prophecies in the Bible.

Q. What is Stoney Lake Entertainment?

A. Stoney Lake Entertainment (SLE) is a film production company created in 2012 by CEO Paul Lalonde, co-founder of Cloud Ten Pictures. Unlike Cloud Ten, SLE will focus on producing bigger budget theatrical features. “Left Behind” will be SLE’s first feature film.


Sheryl Tirol | ROGERS &COWAN - have allowed me to bring you this interview to promote this film I saw on Sept 18th. 

Nora St.Laurent

TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!
The Book Club Network Blog
Book Fun Magazine 

EXTRA VIRGIN by Gabriele Corcos And Debi Mazar REVIEWED

Extra Virgin
By Gabriele Corcos
And Debi Mazar
Published by: Clarkson Potter
272 Pages

ABOUT BOOK: DEBI MAZAR and GABRIELE CORCOS are ambassadors of contemporary Tuscan cooking. In Extra Virgin, food, family, and style come together in a celebration of the pleasures of the rustic Italian table with 120 recipes for simple yet exquisite meals that are accessible, full of fresh flavor, and easy to prepare. Gabriele is a traditional Italian with a big heart, and Debi is an outgoing, brash New York City girl. Their sassy and playful exchanges illuminate what’s important in everyday life: good food and a lot of love.

Ranging from traditional antipasti and soups to their spin on entrees, pizzas, and desserts, recipes include Pecorino and Honey Dip, a sweet and salty way to start a meal; tangy, luscious Grilled Apricots with Goat Cheese Ricotta, inspired by wild Tuscan apricot trees; and Sausage and Beans, which offers hints of fennel in a Tuscan red sauce. Here, too, are Braised Artichokes softened in guanciale-infused oil, Breakfast Pizza, and Coffee Granita just as Italians make it.

So flag these recipes, get sauce on them, let splashes of olive oil mark the pages—and invite Debi and Gabriele’s charisma and passion for cooking to spill into your kitchen.

Review: I was pleasantly surprised when I received the review copy of this book. First of all I didn't realized this was the couple that has a cooking show on T.V. called Extra Virgin. Second, I loved all the color pictures and the recipes. They reminded me of food I had growing up in an Italian family. I was thrilled to learn of these lighter ways of cooking these wonderful meals.

I enjoyed hearing Gabriele and Debi’s story about growing up and their relationship with food. Debi says, “…New Yorkers talk about where your street could be a meeting place not just for people, but for aromas from seemingly all corners of the earth. There would be friend chicken from one window, spicy island dishes from another, and down the block something garlicky and peppery wafting out of an Italian’s houses. And all that might be in the air while I was thinking about the dinner I was about to have in China Town….

When Debi turned 8 years old they moved to upstate N.Y….”We had neighbors in Woodstock who were form Northern Italy and it was at their house that I had my first taste of freshly made pasta, which was always hanging over drying racks…I always adored Italian cuisine and it’s well-honed use of ingredients…but meeting and falling for Gabriele, I discovered how much great food also comes from a desire to feed the ones you love.”

Gabriele says, “The recipes collected here represent my deep, abiding love for how Tuscan’s approach cooking. It’s a region devoted to honoring fresh, natural ingredients using them sparingly but wisely, cooking them with respect they deserve and letting their flavor shine…Tuscan food is a language all to itself, and teaching that language as I was taught it by my family is what I hope to do with this book.”

I like when Gabriele says, “I don’t believe good food needs to be expensive, or time-consuming. It doesn’t even always have to be one hundred percent handmade, especially when more and more grocery stores offer plenty of quality ingredients and prepared items.”
They introduce themselves then they talk about the Tuscan Kitchen Essentials. Things that you should include in your pantry and refrigerator. Then they talk about cooking tools/appliances/vessels. In this section Debi says, “We are big believers in spending money on great ingredients over expensive gadgets…”

The Chapters of this book are as follows Appetizers, Pasta and sauces, Risotto, Soups, Meat, Fish, Vegetables, Pizza, Panini, Desserts, Drinks.

There are beautiful color pictures throughout the book. There are pictures of food and some of Gabrielle and Debi cooking and times with their family. It’s a fun combination. This book is not for beginners. You don't have to be a Chef to use and enjoy this book but they expect this to not be your first rodeo. Grin!

Eggplant Parmesan
They each have something to say before each section for example: Pasta and Sauces. Debi says,”Gabriele and I believe that pasta brings a family together at meal time like no other food. We get so much enjoyment out of the looks on our daughters faces when we dig into their favorite pastas that sometimes it feels like that bow of shells, and pesto, or penne and red sauce, is as Italian a way of saying, “I love you” as blurting out “Ti Amo!” Gabriele says, “Pasta is at the heart of so many of our fondest memories.”

Shrimp & Zucchini Risotto
I liked the variety of dishes in this book. Most meals look like they can be made easily and some meals are for those days you have more time to prepare dinner than others (for example making hand made pasta). The dishes I made were Baked Pasta in Eggplant  Shrimp and Zucchini Risotto, Eggplant Parmesan, (I love eggplant and the picture of this in the book- mine almost looked like the book Grin!) Sausage and beans (my family loves sausage) and Carnival Rice Fritters -fun dessert!

I loved getting to know the personalities behind the show Extra Virgin and I LOVED these dishes. I can’t wait to make more of them. They reminded me of the Italian dishes I ate growing up. I liked that they were made with fresh ingredients and healthier. This is a beautiful hard back book with yummy recipes inside and fun chefs to hang out with. You'll enjoy reading this book as much as making the wonderful recipes inside. This book is a keeper or can be given as a gift. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Rice Fritters

You can connect with these authors below
At the Extra Virgin Cooking Channel website


Nora St.Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins
The Book Club Network Blog
Book Fun Magazine


Palace of Darkness
By Tracy L. Higley
Published by Thomas Nelson
350 pages

Back Cover: In an ancient city carved from stone, one desperate young woman searches for peace—in the calm before the deadly clash of empires.

 In 106 AD, a single mother can be certain of one thing—destitution. So Cassia and her six-year-old son flee to Petra, her late husband's birth city, in hopes of finding refuge in the loving arms of family.
But the great stone city is not what Cassia imagined. And a secret about her husband reveals her son's true bloodline, making the boy the target of a royal conspiracy. 

In her darkest hours, Cassia finds herself surrounded by followers of the Way, a subversive new religious group whose disciples are frequently sentenced to arenas with starved lions and blood-soaked sand. Why would this sect seek out more danger by helping her? And what kind of religion gives freely and asks for nothing in return?

Roman soldiers soon surround Petra, immersing the city in panic and further endangering her son, and Cassia realizes he cannot be saved by human efforts alone. Her only hope lies with the followers of the Way . . . and her willingness to trust their One True God.

REVIEW: I’m thankful for the review copy of a book that grabbed my heart and never let got! I’m a Tracy Higley Fan. I love how this author takes me on adventures that are fascinating and I learn a thing or two along the way!

“The Behind the Story….and Beyond notes” (section at the back of the book); she has a picture of “The Treasury” made famous in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the authors says, “it’s a marvelous site, and so is the entire rock-carved City of Petra.”

You can go to this author’s website where you can escape into the music, food and feel of the places she is writing about. You can discover what fact is and/or fiction in her novels at her site. I like when authors do this. It helps me when I read the story! I like learning about the City of Petra from someone who’s been there. Tracy has journeyed to the places she writes about and takes lots of pictures, her familiarity comes through her writing.

Cassia and her 6 year old son are driven to Petra to find family. They both find more than they bargained for in this rock City of Petra. The city is an unfriendly place, until she meets Malik. He’s fed and clothed her and her son. She’s afraid of what he will ask or demand in return.

“Malik seemed to sense her concern. “It is a special joy of ours, to feed and to care for the sick and strangers, even the least of them. A special Joy.”

Cassia has never met a person like Malik. She later learns he’s a follower of Jesus. There are others that care for her the same as Malik. She doesn’t understand them or the God they serve. She is very grateful they have taken her and her son, Alexander under their protective care.

As she gets to know Malik and the other followers. She tells them who she is seeking. They try to help her but things get complicated. Malik says to Cassia, “It is a fearful and grievous thing to be unloved, and you have sought to never allow yourself to be that child again. You have instead used your fight to see the hearts of the people to mold yourself, to please a succession of men, of whom Aretas was the last. You let them control you, abuse you, trample the unique heart given to you by God. And you did all this believing they would love you in return……But now you have believed another lie……You believe that you cannot love and be loved and still be a woman of strength. This is not truth….You can have both, my child. Love and Strength. But only when the love of Jesus has taken your son and filled your heart!”

Cassia replies, “How?” The word barely escaped her tight throat. “How can I have both?”

Good word for Cassia and readers! Tracy writes powerful and moving stories that are relevant to us today. She does an amazing job of breathing life into these historical characters, having you instantly care for them in this captivating story I couldn’t put down. I was up late reading this one because I had no idea how this high energy and suspenseful story would end.

I highly recommend this for a great read and one that would be wonderful for a book club pick. Tracy has included sixteen discussion questions that will help create lively discussion in your group. It’s a win-win for everyone. 

Nora St. Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins
The Book Club Network

Book Fun Magazine


ABOUT AUTHOR: Melissa Jagears is a homeschooling mom who writes Christian Historical Romance after everyone else is asleep. She’s the author of the Unexpected Brides Series with Bethany House. The prequel ebook novella, Love by the Letter is free to try. A Bride for Keeps and A Bride in Store should be available wherever books are sold. You can learn more about her, her books, and where she hangs out online 

What was your favorite scene in A Bride In Store? Which was the most fun to write? Which was the hardest? Why?

My favorite scene that was also the most fun to write was the dance scene near the end. It wasn't going to be the typical dance scene and I couldn't wait to get to it and write it.
The hardest was the beginning scenes, trying to get the characters to the point of being attracted, but not too much and not too little.

When you sit down to relax and read, what genre do you turn to? Do you prefer hardback, paperback or digital when you read? Why?

Always Christian Historical Fiction. I dislike Hardbacks, I hate the inflexibility in my hands. Right now I definitely prefer digital because my twelve month old likes to rip paper and doesn't like anything stealing mom's attention, so swiping at a paperback book has meant a few of our books have gotten torn pages, swiping at my kindle only moves screens. :) Plus I can read in the dark rather easily with my kindle fire while putting him to bed, which truly is the only time I have to read right now...

I still love to color with crayons
Nora: There are some advantages to digital! One of the surprising disadvantages to me is when I'm engrossed in a book, staying up late to finish and the Kindle dies! Hate that! (I was to involved in the story to notice it was about to die! Yikes!

Can you share your testimony with us?

My parents moved into my grandparents house when I was little and Grandpa required anyone under his roof to attend church. My parents diligently looked for somewhere else to live! I enjoyed church. When I was six, my grandma said, "do you believe in Jesus?" and I answered yes because I believed what was taught in Sunday school classes, and then she asked if I wanted to pray to become a Christian. I was a very bright girl, and a liar if I was dealing with anything that would strip me of my pride, so I knew it would be stupid to say, "No, I don't want to become a Christian; I want to go to hell." 

It was easier to say I already prayed so she would be drop it and be happy. Then she said, "do you want to be baptized?" Well, I knew my Bible, and that's what you’re supposed to do, so I had to follow through. In the baptistery, I was asked to tell when I became a Christian, I distinctly remember making up a story on the spot about being scared in the dark and asking God to save me--seemed logical, I'd heard it before, and yet it made me feel stupid to admit to people I was scared of the dark when I wasn't, but I went with it.
Does this six year old Melissa look like she'd be afraid of the dark?

Then for 10 years I struggled over that lie and my faith, but at 16, I really felt I needed baptized again because I knew the first time was a lie and the devil was trying to pester me with the question of "are you really saved?" My pastor told me "the devil isn't telling you that, he doesn't want you saved and wouldn't be bringing it up--he'd want to keep you in the dark." Which made total sense, so I took care of it.

Nora: Thanks for sharing your faith journey and picture!

What are the challenges of writing historicals?
German Chocolate cake makes one star reviews tolerable

The fact that I'm not from that time! It's daunting to check out every word and idiomatic phrase that just naturally comes as I write. But even knowing you have to check things, sometimes you don't realize you need to check. Something like "Nope" can get you in trouble without you even realizing it. And sometimes I know a word is wrong and change it, but an editor puts it back in because it's the much easier, natural way to say something and I have to edit it back out if I catch it. And then, sometimes you can prove that a word was used back then, but a reader will flag it as "too modern" and then you have to weigh the desire to use the word against the desire not to make people think you don't know the word's history, even when you're right. Word History is a daunting task when you're dealing with a 100,000 word book!

Nora: Interesting Melissa. I haven't heard anyone talk about this before. "Word History" I'm dyslexic and just hearing you talk about this makes it hard for me to breathe!! I'm glad we all have different gifting's and I'm not forced to do this task!

Women dressed very differently in the time period you wrote about, what do you think you’d enjoy wearing? What do you think you’d dislike?

Halloween picture is last year's. I was in my "stay-at-home mom" costume. :)
I think it'd be great to wear long skirts all the time. I'd never have to worry about what my legs looked like. :) What I'd least like is having to be covered from neck to wrist to toe in certain eras during the summer!

Nora: I'll Amen long skirts! Being completely covered could be very hot too!! Yikes!

What type of transportation do you think you’d prefer that they used then? Why? 

There's something rather romantic about having a horse as your vehicle. To be able to talk to and get attached to your mode of transportation is something that would be fun. 

Nora: Yes. Fun!


You are shipwrecked on an uninhabited tropical island with a group of Christians – all friends and relatives of yours. You all have to work as a team to survive. Many roles have to be filled. Which role do you think you’d play?

My personality is one that is willing to let others take the limelight positions.....unless the organization is incompetent, then we come out of the woodwork and organize everything so it works efficiently and then creep back into the shadows. So if there's a competent leader, then I'd do all the grunt work. If the shipwrecked group is in chaos, I'd just start organizing the whole effort and delegate who does what until things are working like clockwork, then go back to the grunt work if I could. So depending on the others, either manual labor or organizer. :)

Nora: I'm glad others have the gift of organizing. I'm good once it's set up but thinking about putting it all in order gives me a headache! Again, I'm glad we all have different talents!

A friend of yours has a time machine and they will let you use if for a while. Where would you go and what would you do?

Go back to 30 AD and follow Jesus around until he says something to me.

What three things would you rather not live without (besides your family)?

Books, milk, and sugar

Out of all the sounds in the world which are your favorite?

Happy children, especially toddler belly laughs

Nora: One of my favorites too!

There are so many types of weather which is your favorite? Which to you try to avoid?

I love loud thunderstorms--plus that means no one is wondering why I'm staying inside. I don't poke my head outside unless I have to. :) I'd avoid below freezing days--well, unless I wasn't required to leave the house, then it's just fine and dandy!

I love to hear from readers. One fan, by the name of Monica who is an artist; blessed me with this picture. This is fan art is for A Bride for Keeps (It’s the first book in this series) by Artist Monica Bruenjes - see her novel review blog and more fan art for Christian fiction here:


Thanks Melissa, for stopping by and helping us get to know you and your books. I’m thrilled about the Giveaway Opportunity at TBCN starting the 20th of SEPTEMBER at . Looking forward to reading the participation between you and readers! It’s always so much fun! Everyone has to be a member of TBCN in-order to participate. It’s FREE and EASY. Participate as your schedule allows. Last day to enter drawing is Sept 30th

Nora :o)

Nora St. Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!
Book Fun Magazine
The Book Club Network Blog