Author: Christine Evelyn Volker
Narrator: Gabrielle de Cuir
Length: 12 hours 6 minutes
Publisher: Christine Evelyn Volker⎮2018
Release date: Mar. 27, 2018
A captivating tapestry of murder, betrayal, and family, Venetian Blood is a story of one woman's brave quest for the truth - before it's too late.
"A riveting whodunit that makes full use of its dramatic setting." (Kirkus Reviews)
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I gave the story 3.5 stars because I felt like the author got bogged down in the details. She described Venice, its people, and the artwork in painstaking detail. There were parts I felt that did not lend themselves to the story much UNTIL I got to around the last 10 chapters or so. All that stuff I thought was miscellaneous rambling turned out to be relevant to the story. My point here is this, don't give up on the story. It is worth it in the end. However, I do think the author could have condensed some of her descriptions down a bit.
Despite that, this was quite an intriguing tale of murder, money laundering, infidelity, and secrets galore. The residents of Venice certainly lived complicated lives. You cannot take any of the characters at face value as none are what they appear to me. Everyone was hiding behind the proverbial mask. The MC, Anna, was smart, strong and resilient. She had to be as she attempted to proof her innocence in the murder of a Count.
I was pleasantly surprised by "who done it" and how all the major players were interconnected. The author did a wonderful job of spinning a complicated and torrent web with many characters and story lines converging into one at the end. There was a surprise gem at the end as well that i cannot go into due to spoilers.
The narrator, Gabrielle de Cuir, did a phenomenal job. Her accent and pronunciation was immaculate. She made me fall in love with Venice.Audiobook Review
Christine Evelyn Volker became intrigued by foreign cultures at an early age, which propelled her to study Spanish, German, and Italian. After securing a BA in Spanish and an MLS at University at Albany – SUNY, followed by an MBA at UC Berkeley, she was drawn to international banking and became a senior vice president at a global financial institution. Her career brought her to Italy, where she immersed herself in the language and made frequent visits to Venice. Venetian Blood marks a return to her roots in the humanities, and just won the Sarton Women’s Book Award for contemporary fiction.
She is currently at work on her second international mystery, this one set in the rainforest of Peru.
Gabrielle has narrated over 400 hundred titles specializing in fantasy, humor, and titles requiring extensive foreign language and accent skills. Her “velvet touch” as an actors’ director has earned her a special place in the audiobook world as the foremost choice for best-selling authors and celebrities. Short list of those directed: Anne Hathaway, Emilio Estevez, Wil Wheaton, Dr. Daniel G. Amen, Elijah Wood, Deepak Chopra, Eric Idle, Nancy Cartwright, Michael York, Ed Herrmann, and Joe Mantegna. She is the writer and director of the Award winning short film THE DELIVERY, which deals with an Alice-in-Wonderland version of audio books. She spent her childhood in Rome growing up with her wildly artistic and cinematic father, John de Cuir, four-time Academy Award winning Production Designer, an upbringing that her to be fluent in Romance languages and to have an unusual appetite for visual delights.)
Yes. But it didn’t enter the choices that I made. If you’re a writer doing your job, you’re already making decisions based on the cadence of words, their sounds, how realistic your dialog is and how it would be spoken. All of these factors are critical for a good audiobook. After the first few drafts, I read the book out loud to hear how the words sounded and made changes if they didn’t work well together.
How did you select your narrator?
Gabrielle de Cuir auditioned, and I loved her voice – its pitch and expressiveness. She brought out the characters’ emotions while also creating interest in paragraphs of pure description. Once I heard her Italian pronunciation (I also speak it), I knew she could handle the super-challenging text I had written: lots of Italian and Spanish words, plus six types of accents in English. I checked her background. She had won awards, and was highly experienced. She didn’t have to learn the craft via my book. I used Audiobook Creation Exchange (acx). Despite the audition and the first fifteen minutes where the author listens to the narrator’s recording and provides feedback, going forward there’s a lot riding on faith. Faith that the rest of the voice actor’s work holds up to the standard of the first part. Given the linguistic and emotional complexity of my book it would have been easy for someone with less talent and experience to go astray.
How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process? Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters?
We worked together very smoothly. I spent a lot of time at the beginning by preparing six pages of written character descriptions, including minor ones. I boiled the key characters down, their attitudes, what made them tick, and where important, how I thought their voices could sound. This allowed her to reflect before she started, to figure out how she’d breathe life into their words. Since Gabrielle grew up in Rome, I didn’t need to give her Italian pronunciation tips. That was a huge boost. We did have a back and forth, surprisingly to me, about the first name of the main character, Anna. I didn’t have to consider this at all when writing the book. But Anna’s name would sound different when pronounced by Italians or Americans (“Ah-na” vs. “Anna.”) This could confuse listeners. Gabrielle needed to nail it down. We decided on the “Ah-na” pronunciation, no matter which character was saying it.
Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?
Certainly there’s my visceral love for Venice which becomes a character in the novel. I tried to bring out the city’s rich and storied past, its faded glory and its contradictions. Venice still exists, against all odds. Then there are bits of my own life hidden away in the pages. In 1992, I went to Italy for work but also to seek space from a troubled first marriage, so I fused pain with my love of Venice and the desire to create. The time period for the book is the same. Also, wildlife is a sub-theme in the book; nature and the future of the earth are important to me.
Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?
Definitely when there are two characters engaged in a suspenseful or moving dialog, like Anna being grilled by Detective Biondi, Anna and Pablo confiding in her about Sergio – the dead man, Anna, Margo and Agatha together later in the book when Agatha reveals shocking secrets. I’ve listened to my audiobook three times now, and its emotional punch is greater throughout. Whether it’s the fact that language is meant to be spoken, or that in our history, the spoken word came before the written one, or that many of us had the pleasure of hearing our parents tell us stories before we learned to read, or that listening is a more elemental pleasure than following dots across a page, or that hearing is something we engaged in before we were even born, or that it’s all of the above—I can’t say. But a well-narrated story is more gripping than the written one.
If this title were being made into a TV series or movie, who would you cast to play the primary roles?
This is a fun question. Anna: Rachel Weisz, Margo: Jennifer Connelly, Alessandro: Giancarlo Giannini, Detective Biondi: Daniel Craig (I think he can pronounce Italian well), Dudley: Gary Oldham, Agatha: Helen Mirren. Pablo: Javier Bardem or Edward James Olmos. I could go on, but I’ll stop there!
What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading?”
Stop being so judgmental. Each has its advantages. Certainly, it’s important for all of us to be literate, so reading is a skill we all must master. Assuming we have, then a written book or a spoken book is a choice we’re free to make. Technology made audiobooks portable, and that means people who endure commutes to work can benefit, folks who exercise can get involved in a story as they’re on the treadmill, and even dreaded housework can be made more pleasurable while listening to a book. Everybody’s short of time and may not be able to just sit and read. I fail to see a problem.
Is your favorite food, song, or city referenced in your work?
Yes. Anna manages to savor a lot of food in my mystery. We’re talking about Italy – so how could I leave food out? One of my faves is porcini mushrooms crowning warm polenta. Outstanding. I first ate it in Verona, but it makes its way onto Anna’s plate in Venice. I can’t resist getting into wine. The first time I drank fruity and sublime Amarone was at the Hotel Metropole in Venice with my husband, Stephan. Of course, I had to feature it.
A unique and moving song I love came out around the time of the book. Eros Ramazzotti sings the story of two dolphins, Missie and Silver, almost from their point of view. They were real dolphins, kept in a small tank in England, and eventually set free. One of my characters, Angela, listens to the song; it has a special meaning for her. My favorite city, Venice, infuses the entire book, even when I don’t mention it.
What bits of advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Reach high, get uncomfortable, and repeat after me: “I am the only one who can tell my story.”
What’s next for you?
Polishing my novel, Jaguar Moon. It’s a mystery based in Peru, with a Latina journalist. She returns to Cusco to find out what happened to her parents many years ago. On assignment, her photographer goes missing. Her journey takes her through Cusco’s cobbled streets to the lushness of the rainforest. Will she be as fearless as her father in seeking the truth?