Friday, 31 December 2010

1 month, 100 books: Getting ready to read

By @liveotherwise:

So January the 1st is racing towards us, and we're getting ready for our book reading and reviewing challenge. I hadn't realised how much preparation we would need to do, and I've been thrilled with the response from publishers and others on Twitter. Parcels of books have started to filter through the Christmas backlog, and that's led to its own set of problems, as Small just can't wait to get his hands on them!

He's been preparing by devouring his Christmas novel, which he's polished off in 4 days. He's going to have to read a little faster than that though, if he's going to hit his target of 10 books in a month. Has to be said though, that Alien Storm by A G Taylor is not a small book for a 7 year old.

Big is fairly confident with the reading, but a little nervous about the reviews. We started a book review website back in the summer, but never got as far as actually publishing it *blush*. That has to change, and its our New Year's Eve project to get it shipshape and ready and waiting for reviews to go live, as she's got a personal target of 10 books too.

My pile is stacking up nicely. What I'm wondering is where I'm going to find the time to fit in 20 books in 30 days. Especially as I've got the reviewing and the publicising to do too. I think my Twitter time may be adversely impacted...

Most of the books I'll be reading are your traditional paper and ink versions, but I have got a couple of ebooks to read too. Seems only fair to keep up with technology given I'm using it to promote the challenge. I'm a bit nervous about whether I've bitten off more than I can chew, but the level of support means I'm more determined than ever to succeed and
raise some serious money to build an Oxfam Unwrapped library somewhere that doesn't have the facilities we take for granted. I'm hoping that we can find out some more about projects that have already taken place and share some more information on mine and other blogs.

I'm also hoping that other people will take up the challenge to read and raise money. I'll be contributing cash for each book we read myself, but I'm (obviously) hoping that a few of my many challengers will do likewise, and either read or donate, or both. With a bit of luck I'll be running some giveaways as well, but I'm open to any suggestions anyone has as to how else I can use this challenge and this time to fundraise.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have several pages to write and a whole book review blog to get ready - do keep reading, and let us know what you think of what we're up to. We love comments!

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Help! My wish list #5

One more title from my long reading wish list.

** The cover image is for illustrative purposes only. If you are a publisher and would kindly like to offer me a copy of this book for review, I will change the cover so as to reflect the edition received. **

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee
By Rebecca Miller

Borders product description: What part of our selves do we hide away in order to have a stable, prosperous life? Pippa Lee has just such a life in place at age fifty, when her older husband, a retired publisher, decides that they should move to a retirement community outside New York City. Pippa is suddenly deprived of the stimulation and distraction that had held everything in place. She begins losing track of her own mind; her foundations start to shudder, and gradually we learn the truth of the young life that led her finally to settle down in marriage -- years of neglect and rebellion, wild transgressions and powerful defiance. The Private Lives of Pippa Lee is the study of a brave, curious, multilayered woman -- an acutely intelligent portrait of the many lives behind a single name.

Why I want to read this book: I really liked the film! If it's based on a book I'm interested in, I normally watch a movie after having read the book. In this case, I became interested in the book after watching the film. Given my short memory (I have already forgotten how the story ends!), it won't make much difference that I've seen the film already!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The Zoo Keeper - Part 4

Do you think we are finally going to find out the truth about the zoo?

The Zoo Keeper
Part 4 of 10
By Amanda Sington-Williams

She giggled and ran out of the room with her class mates.

The director was at the door. ‘So your class went well, did it?’ she asked. She glanced around my room at the abandoned books scattered on the floor, up at the white board where I’d written out the learnt phrases. ‘A little different from where you used to teach, isn’t it?’

For a year, I’d taught in a hot dry southern city famous for its Moorish palace with fountains and domes rising to the sky like blown-up balloons. Beautiful though the palace was, I’d found the metropolitan hub too noisy, with its screeching cars speeding past my bedroom window every night. From a hamlet on the edge of Dartmoor, my tolerance for traffic noise was low.

The director and I chatted about the class. All the time, I was checking the pauses in our conversation, searching for an opportunity.

It didn’t come out right, the question sounded childish, as if I wasn’t taking part in the conversation: I felt the familiar bloom growing on my face.

‘Is there a zoo in the park,’ I asked. ‘Only last night, I heard roars, whines and howls.’

‘Oh. A zoo you say? I don’t know of any zoo.’

With a flick of her hand, she wiped the board clean, moved the chairs back into a semi-circle, picked up a book open at a picture of a crocodile, then left.

That afternoon, I resolved to find out for myself. I returned to the street where my apartment stood. Shops snoozed, sunshades pulled over slabs of meat where flies dozed, too stupefied by the still hot air to bother with feeding, while left over bread in baker’s shops dried and hardened.

The barman couldn't help. Nobody at the school seems able to help. Or are they all hiding something? Come back on Sunday for a little exploration of the park...

Monday, 27 December 2010

My favourite quotes

The struggle of literature is in fact a struggle to escape from the confines of language; it stretches out from the utmost limits of what can be said; what stirs literature is the call and attraction of what is not in the dictionary.

Italo Calvino

What are your favourite quotes? Send them in and I'll share them with the readers of Book After Book!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

The Zoo Keeper - Part 3

We have arrived in front of the school. Let's step in...

The Zoo Keeper
Part 3 of 10
By Amanda Sington-Williams

Inside the school, the walls were covered in tiles. Red and green, like a sunset on a northern sea, they shimmered in the half-light of the shuttered room. The school director was pleasant enough, a Catalan woman with dyed blonde hair, protruding teeth and a strong belief that the entire Spanish population should become conversant in English so that the works of Shakespeare and Chaucer could be fully understood. Her love of language was derived from her father’s defiance during the Franco years, his insistence that she learn Catalan and study the great Catalan poets. She had travelled in England and visited Kipling’s house; after my interview for the teaching job, she’d exulted over the illustrations for his Jungle Book. And so, as I stood on the threshold of the school, adjusting my eyes to the cool interior, I thought she would be just the person to ask about the zoo in the park. But she was too busy to be bothered with the cause of my interrupted sleep. She rushed from filing cupboard to telephone, from the photocopier or computer to grasp each student as they came into the school, taking their hands in both of hers, and securing a kiss on each cheek.

I was introduced to my students: a class of eight year old children; beginners.

‘I am Rosalind,’ I said and they all repeated my name rolling the r as if mimicking the call of a tropical bird.

The school book had drawings of elephants, tigers, lions, parrots, zebras, cats and dogs.

I pointed. ‘It’s an elephant.’

They all repeated the sentence, their round eyes watching, their bodies leaning forward in their chairs. I pointed to each picture of the animal and they repeated the names in loud voices.

They learnt quickly and soon the lesson was finished. They crowded round me, pushing each other to get closer to me, to be the first to ask me a question about myself. One girl’s mane of curly hair was tickling my cheek.

I decided to aim my question at her. ‘Do you know,’ I asked, feeling my face flush. ‘Is there a zoo in the city park?’

What do you think the answer is going to be? Check back on Wednesday...

Thursday, 23 December 2010

"Italy in Books" - Who's participating?

Here is a list of all the readers who have signed up to take part in the "Italy in Books" reading challenge 2011.

If your name is listed below, a huge thank you for signing up! I look forward to sharing reading experiences and talking about books and Italy with you in the New Year!

If your name is not listed... go and sign up now! You can register here and find out what it is all about here. And if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I'll reply asap.

01. Jeane from Dublin, Ireland
02. Julie from Teignmouth, UK
03. Monica from Venice, Italy
04. Emma from Brighton, UK
05. Shelley from Preston, UK

06. Betsy from Maryland, USA

07. Denise from Eltham, UK

08. Lara from Milazzo, Italy

09. Mark from Ferrara, Italy

10. Beth from New York State, USA

11. Lucy from Edinburgh, UK

12. Juliet from Edinburgh, UK

13. Ceil from Illinois, USA

14. Luci from London, UK

15. Dorla from Texas, USA

16. Kathy from California, USA

17. Stuart from Brimington, UK

18. Patricia from California, USA

19. Robert from Sydney, Australia

20. Parrish from Thanet, UK

21. Bellezza from Illinois, USA

22. Laura from Ontario, Canada

23. Packabook from London, UK

24. Elizabeth from Thatcham, UK

25. MJ from Pennsylvania, USA

26. Christine from New York, USA

27. Roger from Illinois, USA

28. Laura from ??

29. Barbara from California, USA

30. Mary Jo from Washington, USA

31. Darla from the USA

32. Amy from Washington, USA

33. Lisa from North Carolina, USA

34. Cath from Southport, UK

35. BJ from North Carolina, USA

36. Lindy from Viterbo, Italy

37. Roz from South Carolina,
38. Pete from Cambridge, UK

39. Una Scribbles from ??

40. Nina from New York, USA

41. Scribacchina from Italy & Portugal

42. Colleen from Dunedin, New Zealand

43. Beth from Illinois, USA

44. Lynn from Texas, USA

45. Coffee and a Book Chick from Florida, USA

46. Gretchen from Indiana, USA

47. Engred from Oregon, USA

48. Roberta from Varese, Italy

49. Laura from Quebec, Canada

50. Mary from New York, USA

51. Christy from Texas, USA

52. History and Women from Alberta, Canada

53. Jose from Madrid, Spain

54. Angela from New York, USA

55. Tina Marie from Florida, USA

56. Ania from Gdańsk, Poland

57. Samantha Jo from Texas, USA

58. Reva from ??

59. Sue from Aylesbury, UK

60. Maggie from St. Marcouf du Rochy, France
61. Hilda from North Carolina, USA
62. Angela from New York, USA

LGBT reading challenge - Who's participating?

Here is a list of all the readers who have signed up to take part in the LGBT reading challenge 2011.

If your name is listed below, a huge thank you for signing up! I look forward to sharing reading experiences and talking about books with you in the New Year!

If your name is not listed... go and sign up now! You can register here and find out what it is all about here. And if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I'll reply asap.

01. Tony from Maryland, USA

02. Phillipe from Utah, USA
03. Juliet from Edinburgh, UK

04. Steven from Bradford, UK

05. Luci from London, UK

06. Jenny from Menith Wood, UK

07. Dorla from Texas, USA

08. Natalie from Sheffield, UK

09. Rosie from Canada/UK

10. Saranga from Norwich, UK

11. Natazzz from Groningen, the Netherlands

12. Chloe from Auckland, New Zealand

13. Abi from Ontario, Canada

14. Barbara from Germany

15. Lucy from Wakefield, UK

16. Shellie from Arizona, USA

17. Eric from Mexico City, Mexico

18. Kathy from Vermont, USA

19. Alice from the UK

20. Natalie from Sheffield, UK

21. The Bisexual Guy from New York, USA

22. Dante from Michigan, USA

23. J Seth from Arizona, USA

24. Orange Sorbet from Singapore

luna81de from Marburg, Germany
26. Irene from Bückeburg, Germany

27. MJ from Pennsylvania, USA

28. Sylva from Brno, Czech Republic

29. Michael from Alaska, USA

30. Susan from Brighton, UK

31. Rachel from Cambridge, UK

32. SJ from Leatherhead,UK

Help! My wish list #4

Two more titles from my endless reading wish list.

** The cover images are for illustrative purposes only. If you are a publisher and would kindly like to offer me a copy of any of these books for review, I will change the cover(s) so as to reflect the edition received. **

Don’t Look at Me Like That
By Diana Athill

Amazon’s product description: In England half a century ago, well-brought-up young women are meant to aspire to the respectable life. Some things are not to be spoken of; some are most certainly not to be done. There are rules, conventions. Meg Bailey obeys them. She progresses from Home Counties school to un-Bohemian art college with few outward signs of passion or frustration. Her personality is submerged in polite routines; even with her best friend, Roxane, what can't be said looms far larger than what can. But circumstances change. Meg gets a job and moves to London. Roxane gets married to a man picked out by her mother. And then Meg does something shocking - shocking not only by the standards of her time, but by our own. As sharp and startling now as when it was written, Don't Look at Me Like That matches Diana Athill's memoirs After a Funeral and Instead of a Letter in its gift of storytelling and its unflinching candour about love and betrayal.

By Diana Athill

Amazon’s product description: Diana Athill's memoir of a life spent working with some of the charismatic characters who have dominated 20th-century literature. In a prose style of inimitable wit and rare candour, she recounts tales from a long life in publishing, including her reflections on editing writers such as V.S. Naipaul, Jean Rhys, Gitta Sereny and Brian Moore. She also provides an account of her own writing career, whcih includes the two critically-acclaimed works, Instead of a Letter and After a Funeral.

Why I want to read these books: Don't Look At Me Like That is a title that stood out among many while I was idly browsing shelves in a bookshop. I think I like the way it sounds: irreverent and rebellious! I found out about Stet when looking up Diana Athill and I challenge any booklover not to be attracted to this title!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Italy in Books: An early Christmas present!

The start of the "Italy in Books" reading challenge 2011 is getting increasingly near and I'm doing my best to provide you with great entertainment all year round, be it in the form of amazing monthly prizes or brilliant guest bloggers!

As an early Christmas present, here is a little anticipation...

Ciao a tutti! (or) Hello everyone! I'd like to take a moment to introduce myself to the readers of Book after Book! I'm Kimberly Menozzi, the author of Ask Me if I'm Happy, and Silvia has invited me to join her blog for a series of guest posts in 2011. I'll be writing about my experiences as a foreigner living in Italy in "Senza Ali e Senza Rete – Without Wings and Without a Net". Once a month, I'll share a short story/essay about my life here in northern Italy – a place I'd never even dreamed of seeing until I found myself living here, quite by chance. I hope you'll enjoy my posts and that you'll share your thoughts with us on the blog.

A presto! Until then!
Kimberly Menozzi


I have already read Kimberly's first instalment in the series and I couldn't be more impatient to share it with you in January! In the meantime, for a little taste of her wonderful way with words, why don't you go and have a browse on You'll thank me!

The Zoo Keeper - Part 2

Welcome back! Are you ready to find out what the barman knows?

The Zoo Keeper
Part 2 of 10
By Amanda Sington-Williams

‘I didn’t realise there was a zoo in the park,’ I said to him in my exquisitely pronounced Spanish, learnt in an English university.

He spent a great deal of time polishing a glass, rubbing and chafing it with a cloth until it squeaked like a frightened mouse. ‘There is no zoo,’ he said in a deliberate voice.

‘But I heard a lion’s roar in the middle of the night.’ I saw that his left eye was starting to twitch. ‘It came from just over there.’ I pointed to the park.

‘Dogs,’ he said. He licked his finger and smoothed down his moustache. ‘No zoo.’

I wanted to question him further, to engage him in a conversation about zoos. For I knew about zoos: my uncle had been a zoo keeper. A kindly man with hair sprouting, multi layered like an orangutan and eyes the same colour as a seal’s coat, his job was to look after the ape house. It is said that he fell in love with Nancy, the matriarch, and that often they could be found squatting together in the enclosure, staring lovingly into each other’s eyes. At any rate, my aunt became jealous. All that overtime, and never enough money or interest to redecorate the house. Finally, she left him. Two months later, Nancy died from a virus peculiar to her species and a month later my uncle died. It is said of a broken heart.

The barman was intent on polishing more glasses, setting them down in neat rows behind the bar. Without another word, I finished my café latte and left to catch a train to the suburb where I was going to work.

The street which led from the station to the school was lined with orange trees. It was the season for orange picking, but here on the road the oranges fell and were allowed to soften in the gutter, dispelling a sweet smell of rotting fruit. I remembered that brown bears had a particular liking for citrus fruit, and my thoughts returned to the zoo sounds I'd heard during the night.

To be continued on Sunday…

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Books and snow

I don't really know how copyrights work so - just in case - I am not going to post here one of the pictures that on Friday, December 17th was part of the Europe under snow slideshow on the Guardian's website.

However, nobody forbids me to encourage you to click here and take a look!

The photograph was taken by Margriet Faber in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The caption says: A man removes snow from the awning of a bookstore in the city centre. The picture portrays really nicely the disruptions and complications that snowfalls are causing to our daily lives all over Europe.

As a booklover, however, I am looking at this good shot and all I can think of is: why on earth are they leaving their books outside while it's snowing?!

The Zoo Keeper - Part 1

It is with great pleasure that I am able to present The Zoo Keeper, a short story by Brighton-based author Amanda Sington-Williams.

The story will be serialised on Book After Book twice weekly over the next five weeks. It has been read at Short Fuse live literature events at Brighton Komedia and is also available in downloadable format from Ether Books.

So, are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin…

The Zoo Keeper
Part 1 of 10
By Amanda Sington-Williams

It was before dawn when the first growl wove through my dream. A few minutes later a howl startled me out of sleep. I hurried over to the balcony that overlooked the park. This was my first night in my new apartment and it was the balcony with its balustrades and pots of flowering geraniums that had first attracted me to it. Chosen out of dozens advertised for renting in the local Spanish newspaper, the aspect was just what I was looking for. After I’d unpacked, I’d taken a walk round the park: a playground, a restaurant serving speciality dishes from that region of Spain, benches set in the shade of cypress trees, all this, yes. But no zoo. So on that first night I stood on my balcony and searched the moonless night. But I could see nothing beyond the halos cast from street lights. Then there was another howl.

For the remainder of the night, I slept fitfully; the roars and whines entered my subconscious, disturbing my sleep. I pulled the sheet over my head, but the sounds penetrated the cover. The next day would be my first day of working in this easterly Spanish town where the surrounding mountains yielded snails for the local paella and there was a history of rebellion during the Franco years.

When I woke, I stood on the balcony again, stretched and gazed out towards the park. It looked serene, like any other park in the world: a space in which to relax. Joggers, mothers with babies in pushchairs, a couple of elderly men chatting as they leant on their sticks. It all looked normal, and I wondered if I had been mistaken, that the animal sounds I’d heard last night were all down to an overactive imagination, fed by the late night beers I’d drunk in the bar beneath the apartments. I dressed quickly and went downstairs. The man behind the bar had a moustache that was combed and waxed. It hung beneath his chin like a couple of black snakes. The previous night, I’d sat by the window, with the door wide open and the cool evening air had massaged my skin. There were no zoo sounds then. I was sure of that.

That morning, the bar was quiet. It took me a while to gather enough courage to talk to the barman and I felt my face burn as I approached the gleaming bar.

Will the barman be able to shed any light on this nocturnal mystery? Come back on Wednesday for the next instalment!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

One month, one hundred books!

Jax is a UK-based home-educating mother of three and - to use her own words - has been "blogging, ranting, wibbling and waffling" at Making it up since 2003. I came across her blog a few weeks ago. You know how it is with the world wide web: you jump from link to link and from page to page and half of the time you don't actually find anything that can hold your interest for more than a few moments. That's not the case with Making it up! What grabbed my full attention was a post announcing her and her children's intention to read 100 books in a month to help raise money for charity. Yes, that's right: one hundred books in one month. I just had to contact this woman to know more and she kindly agreed to write a piece for the readers of Book After Book, explaining how this wonderful but intimidating idea was born!


Recently, I took part in a Simplify Your Christmas carnival hosted by Who’s the Mummy. The item I chose to highlight was the Oxfam Unwrapped library - build a library somewhere that doesn't have one.

Libraries are fantastic facilities. If you can't afford books, and maybe don't have much access to education, how much better can it get to have books free to borrow, as well as computers and other tools to use too?

So, after I'd blogged all of that, I got to thinking. I got to thinking about how I'd like to use my blog for some good, and the good I'd really like to do is building a library. (Or more, I wouldn't say no to building more.) So I set up a fundraising page to run for a year to see if we could build a library.

The first fundraising challenge we've set ourselves as a family is to read and blog/review 100 books in January. This seemed like a great idea when we discussed it but now that January is getting nearer it's beginning to seem rather daunting. 100 books is a big pile, and even though we plan to include the baby by reading board and picture books to and with her (say 1 or 2 a day), that's still 40 books in 30 days for me and the two children who can already read.

Say the 7 and 10 year-old (11 part way through our challenge) manage a book every three days (they are both voracious readers; if we can find books that they enjoy, it's probably doable). That leaves 20 books for me to read. I'd probably better step away from anything meaty, but I really don't want to just plough through 20 piles of mindless twaddle. So I'd love some help, obviously in the form of sponsorship, but also by people commenting, suggesting books to read and really getting behind us on this.

If you've book suggestions for any of us, I'd love if you can comment here, or trek over to my blog, where I'm opening a page on the challenge to keep track of suggestions.

Thanks to Silvia for hosting this and getting behind the challenge by publicising it!


If you're curious to know how Jax and her children will prepare for the challenge they have set for themselves and how they will cope with it, keep following as there will be more updates here on Book After Book!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Jeanette Winterson reads Italo Calvino

This is such perfect timing!

To celebrate my "Italy in Books" reading challenge 2011,
Jeanette Winterson has kindly agreed to read The Night Driver, a short story written in 1967 by the famous Italo Calvino.

OK, maybe that's just wishful thinking! Jeanette Winterson is simply one of the authors taking part in the Guardian's podcast to introduce their favourite short story by another writer.

I believe that the English version is a translation from the Italian by William Weaver and it begins like this:

As soon as I am outside the city I realize night has fallen. I turn on my headlights.

So click here, sit back, close your eyes and enjoy the drive...

Help! My wish list #3

Two more titles from my ever-expanding reading wish list.

** The cover images are for illustrative purposes only. If you are a publisher and would kindly like to offer me a copy of any of these books for review, I will change the cover(s) so as to reflect the edition received. **

Mrs Woolf and the Servants
By Alison Light

Amazon’s product description: Virginia Woolf was a feminist and a bohemian but without her servants – cooking, cleaning and keeping house - she might never have managed to write. Mrs Woolf and The Servants explores the hidden history of service. Through Virginia Woolf’s extensive diaries and letters and brilliant detective work, Alison Light chronicles the lives of those forgotten women who worked behind the scenes in Bloomsbury, and their fraught relations with one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers.

A Boy at the Hogarth Press

By Richard Kennedy

Amazon’s product description: After a rather unsuccessful education at Marlborough College, in 1926 sixteen-year-old Richard Kennedy was put firmly under the wing of Leonard Woolf as his new protegee at the Woolfs' printing press. Responsible for making tea, packing boxes and a host of other menial tasks, Kennedy observed unnoticed the social milieu of the sophisticated Bloomsbury set as it revolved around the Hogarth Press. Some forty years later, and by then a professional illustrator, he put pen to paper, recalling his time with Virginia and Leonard Woolf in candid and often hilarious detail. He tells of the success that Virginia enjoyed ('There is much talk of Mrs W's new book Orlando and plenty of tension'), of their chaotic office with its collapsing shelves, rats and arguments over toilet paper, and of his own often hapless attempts to keep pace with the literary giants around him. Illustrated throughout with Kennedy's own sketches, this is a delightful work that offers a unique peep into the Bloomsbury set.

Why I want to read these books: I just can’t get enough of Mrs Woolf!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Book review: A Soup for Every Day

By New Covent Garden Food Co.
Published by Boxtree

New Covent Garden Food Company has been providing quality, homemade soup to British supermarkets since 1987 and has recently produced a wonderful cookbook containing 365 of their favourite recipes.

Starting with the front cover, the hardback looks as appetising as their iconic soup cartons. Then, once you start browsing the pages, you can’t help but noticing the elegance and simplicity of the design. All daily entries neatly display the name of the featured soup with its ingredients, cooking time and number of servings, neatly followed by clear and simple instructions.

I always feel like there is something missing from a cookbook without photographs but you won’t even notice their absence once you start reading about all the mouth-watering soups that you could be cooking for yourself and your family. Tomato, pepperoni and parmesan; red lentil, lemon and thyme; king prawn and chorizo; sweet potato, butternut squash and chilli… 365 days of deliciousness!

The recipes are presented so that, according to the month and season, you will be able to cook using fresh ingredients. And if you’re craving a soup with a particular ingredient or are looking for ideas to use up what’s left in the fridge, the comprehensive index at the end of the book will help you find exactly what you need.

A culinary diary that – after trying only two recipes – I already couldn’t do without.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

LGBT reading challenge 2011

Why this challenge? LGBT literature is so rich and varied and worth talking more about. That’s why I am hosting this challenge: to keep learning and sharing reading experiences. And, why not, to do my own tiny bit for a more accepting world – one book at a time!

The details of the challenge

  • The challenge will run from January, 1st 2011 to December, 31st 2011.
  • Because I’m also completing another challenge, I’m not setting a goal. You can decide how many books you want to read during the year. Obviously: the more you read, the more prize draws you’ll be able to enter! See the section “Resources” below for some suggestions.
  • What qualifies as LGBT reading? I will accept reviews of books whose author is LBGT, whose topic is LGBT and/or whose characters (even minor ones) are LGBT. Fiction and non-fiction titles are equally accepted.
  • The challenge is open to bloggers and non bloggers alike.
  • There will be monthly prizes for participants.

How to sign up

  • If you are a blogger: create a post about taking part in the challenge and link back to this post. After that, click here and register. In the URL field you need to indicate the URL of the challenge-related post, not the general URL of your blog.
  • Also for bloggers: display the image below on your sidebar. To do this, you just need to copy and paste the following code.
  • If you are not a blogger: click here and register. In the URL field, just put n/a.
  • I will constantly update the list of participants.

What to do once you’ve read a book

  • If you are a blogger: write a review on your blog and link back to the challenge-related monthly post that I will create at the beginning of every month. After that, click on the relevant link to send me your review. In the URL field you need to indicate the URL of the relevant post, not the general URL of your blog.
  • If you are not a blogger: click on the link in the challenge-related post that I will create at the beginning of every month to send me your book review.
  • Everyone who sends in their reviews during a specific month will be entered into a prize draw. Details to follow at the beginning of every month.


  • You don't need to select your books at the beginning of the challenge. You can choose them as you go. If you do want to make a list of the books you aim to read, don’t feel bound to it.
  • Need ideas?
    a) Visit Amazon, enter “LGBT” (or gay, lesbian etc.) in the search box. On the left-hand column of the results page, you will find a box called Listmania! Enter your keyword again in the “Search Listmania!” box and click “go”. You will be directed to a page containing lists of relevant boos compiled by users of the website.
    b) Visit and choose the required character’s sexuality (under “change to character, plot, setting). If you’ve never used this website, you can find a useful demo on the homepage.
    c) Visit and search for “gay literature”. The results will contain many suggestions and further links to explore.

Help! My wish list #2

This week's two titles from my reading wish list share an incredible writer...

** The cover images are for illustrative purposes only. If you are a publisher and would kindly like to offer me a copy of any of these books for review, I will change the cover(s) so as to reflect the edition received. **

The Devil and Miss Prym
By Paulo Coelho

Amazon’s product description: The Devil and Miss Prym is the conclusion to the trilogy And on the Seventh Day which began with By the River Piedra, I Sat Down and Wept and the hugely popular Veronika Decides to Die. Each of the three books focuses on a week in the life of ordinary people faced with a major life-changing force; be it love, death or power, it is Coelho's firm belief that "the profoundest changes take place within a very reduced time frame". The Devil and Miss Prym sees a stranger arriving in the remote mountain village of Viscos carrying with him a notebook and 11 bars of gold. The first person to strike up conversation with the stranger is the inappropriately named Miss Prym, the hotel barmaid. Unbeknownst to her, Chantal Prym is exactly the subject the man had been hoping to find. The stranger puts a proposition to Chantal and with it gives her the power to prove or disprove a supposition that has tormented him for years--"Given the right set of circumstances every human being on this earth would be willing to commit evil". Should Chantal prove him right, all her dreams of escape to a new life would come true, but proving the stranger right would mean casting aside her deeply ingrained beliefs about right and wrong. So ensues a moral dilemma and a spiritual struggle between good and evil that will impact on everyone in the village.

The Witch of Portobello
By Paulo Coelho

Amazon’s product description: From one of the world's best loved storytellers, Paulo Coelho, comes a riveting novel tracing the mysterious life and disappearance of Athena dubbed 'the Witch of Portobello', which was a top ten Sunday Times bestseller in hardback. This is the story of Athena, or Sherine, to give her the name she was baptised with. Her life is pieced together through a series of recorded interviews with those people who knew her well or hardly at all -- parents, colleagues, teachers, friends, acquaintances, her ex-husband. The novel unravels Athena's mysterious beginnings, via an orphanage in Romania, to a childhood in Beirut. When war breaks out, her adoptive family move with her to London, where a dramatic turn of events occurs! Athena, who has been dubbed 'the Witch of Portobello' for her seeming powers of prophecy, disappears dramatically, leaving those who knew her to solve the mystery of her life and abrupt departure. Like The Alchemist, The Witch of Portobello is the kind of story that will transform the way readers think about love, passion, joy and sacrifice.

Why I want to read these books: So far I have read five books by Paulo Coelho, including the famous Alchemist, and none has failed to touch me deeply. I look forward to more wisdom from the Brazilian author.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

“Italy in books” - reading challenge 2011

Why this challenge? This year I’ve decided to host a reading challenge because I think that they are a brilliant idea. They help to make reading a more collective experience and are a great way to find out more about any particular author / genre / topic and get to know about books you might never have come across. I chose this topic because - as an Italian who has been living abroad for many years now - I feel the need to learn more about my home country and I’m curious to see the difference between the way it is portrayed by native Italians and others.

The details of the challenge

  • The challenge will run from January, 1st 2011 to December, 31st 2011.
  • The aim of the challenge is to read at least 12 books that are set in Italy. Whether written by Italian authors or not, it doesn’t matter. They don’t have to be set exclusively in Italy but this country needs to play a significant role in the book. The challenge can include non-fiction books about Italy. You can also review Italian learning books but this is limited to a maximum of two titles. See the section “Resources” below for some suggestions.
  • The challenge is open to bloggers and non bloggers alike.
  • There will be monthly prizes for participants.

How to sign up

  • If you are a blogger: create a post about taking part in the challenge and link back to this post. After that, click here and register. In the URL field you need to indicate the URL of the challenge-related post, not the general URL of your blog.
  • Also for bloggers: display on your sidebar the challenge-related image that you can also find on my sidebar. To do this, copy and paste the following code.
  • If you are not a blogger: click here and register. In the URL field, just put n/a.
  • I will constantly update the list of participants.

What to do once you’ve read a book

  • If you are a blogger: write a review on your blog and link back to the challenge-related monthly post that I will create at the beginning of every month. After that, click on the relevant link to send me your review. In the URL field you need to indicate the URL of the relevant post, not the general URL of your blog.
  • If you are not a blogger: click on the link in the challenge-related post that I will create at the beginning of every month to send me your book review.
  • Everyone who sends in their reviews during a specific month will be entered into a prize draw. Details to follow at the beginning of every month.


  • You don't need to select your books at the beginning of the challenge. You can choose them as you go. If you do want to make a list of the books you aim to read, don’t feel bound to it.
  • Need ideas?
    a) Visit, enter “Italy” (or Tuscany, Italian etc.) in the search box. On the left-hand column of the results page, you will find a box called Listmania! Enter your keyword again in the “Search Listmania!” box and click “go”. You will be directed to a page containing lists of relevant boos compiled by users of the website.
    b) Visit and select “Italy” as the setting. If you’ve never used this website, you can find a useful demo on the homepage.
    c) Visit and choose “Italy” on the left-hand column.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Help! My wish list #1

As anticipated, here are the first two titles on my reading wish list.

** The cover images are for illustrative purposes only. If you are a publisher and would kindly like to offer me a copy of any of these books for review, I will change the cover(s) so as to reflect the edition received. **

Impossible Country: Journey Through the Last Days of Yugoslavia
By Brian Hall

Amazon’s product description: Brian Hall journeyed through Yugoslavia in the spring and summer of 1991, just as Croatia and Slovenia were seceding and the country was starting to slide into civil war. In this book he describes a country in which the release of communism's iron grip and a wave of rumour and propaganda had reopened older wounds, turning uneasy co-existence between the various national and religious communities into open hostility. His conversations - with farmers, artists, defence fighters, politicians - demonstrate how intelligent, liberal citizens can be persuaded to believe the very worst of another person, merely because that person is a Serb, or a Croat, or a Muslim. The author was shortlisted for the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award for "Stealing From a Deep Place: Travels in South-Eastern Europe".

This Was Not Our War: Bosnian Women Reclaiming the Peace
By Swanee Hunt

Amazon’s product description: This Was Not Our War shares first-person accounts of twenty-six Bosnian women faced with reconstructing their society following years of devastating warfare. A university student working to resettle refugees, an engineer and paramedic who founded a veterans' aid group, a fashion designer running two non-profit organizations, a government minister and professor who survived Auschwitz - these women are advocates, politicians, farmers, journalists, students, doctors, businesswomen, engineers, mothers, and daughters. They are from all parts of Bosnia and represent the full range of ethnic traditions and mixed heritages. Their ages spread across sixty years, and their wealth ranges from expensive jewels to a few chickens. For all their differences, they have this much in common: each survived the war with enough emotional strength to work toward rebuilding their country. Together, their perspectives provide a complex portrait of the war as well as possibilities for peace. Ambassador Swanee Hunt met many of these women through her diplomatic and humanitarian work in the 1990s. Over the course of seven years, she conducted multiple interviews with each woman. In This Was Not Our War, she explains some of the history and circumstances surrounding the Bosnian conflict, and she provides a narrative framework that connects the women's stories, allowing them to speak to one another. The women describe what it was like living in a vibrant multicultural community that suddenly imploded in an onslaught of violence. They relate the chaos; the atrocities, including the rapes of many neighbours and friends; the hurried decisions whether to stay or flee; the extraordinary efforts to care for children and elderly parents and to find food and clean drinking water. Reflecting on the causes of the war, they vehemently reject the idea that age-old ethnic hatred made the war inevitable, and instead attribute it to the unchecked greed of politicians afraid of losing privileges they had long enjoyed. The women share their reactions to the Dayton Accords, the end of hostilities, and international relief efforts. While they are candid about the difficulties they face, they are committed to rebuilding Bosnia based on ideals of truth, justice, and a common humanity encompassing those of all faiths and ethnicities. Their wisdom is instructive, their courage and fortitude inspirational.

Why I want to read these books: Sometimes when I visit a country it creates a whole new extension of the wish list. A fondly remembered road trip through Croatia in the summer of 2008 inspired me to learn more about the history of this beautiful but scarred country.

Book review: Rendezvous

By Ester Verhoef
Translation from the Dutch by Alexander Smith
Published by Quercus Publishing Plc

Esther Verhoef is the author of Rendezvous, a book that can only be described as unputdownable. A term that I don’t particularly like but that is the only way to define this 345-page-long hardback.

The story opens in prison, where a desperate Simone is being held in a cell waiting to be questioned for what we’ll later find out is a case of murder. Unable to talk to anybody, she starts going through the events of the past year in her mind, trying to understand how she lost everything she had.

Everything had started when, together with her husband Eric and their two children, Simone had left behind the hectic city life of Amsterdam and moved to a little village in the south of France. On impulse, they had bought an 18th century house with the intention of turning it into a successful B&B. Between the present and that idyllic future, however, the renovation works posed a big obstacle for the couple, who, not fluent in French, didn’t know how to find trusted workmen to help them with their project.

It was then that, by chance, Peter had entered their lives. A Belgian man who had completely settled in the French village, he had a construction company that was thriving by helping foreigners fulfil their dreams of a sunny and quiet life. He seemed to be the solution to all of their problems. Or was he the source of more trouble ahead? Things took an unexpected and dangerous turn when Simone first laid eyes on Michel, a young and attractive man working on the house.

Simone, the loyal and obedient wife and mother, who had always followed her husband and complied with what was best for the family, was unable to restrain herself any longer. Or rather, she didn’t want to. The emigration, the sacrifices and Eric’s recent neglect suddenly became a burden and, for once, she just wanted to be free. Even if that meant making a huge mistake.

Narrated in first person, Rendezvous never ceases to keep its readers alert and, even when you learn to expect a twist in the plot, you can never imagine its full extent. Be ready to be blown away as you uncover betrayals, fear, sexual tension, blackmail, murder and, ultimately, unconditional love.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Help! My wish list

My reading wish list is getting longer and longer. My reading time, however, remains the same. New titles, new covers, new authors… every day I am exposed to new bookish stimuli and my mind is finding it difficult to keep up!

That’s why I have decided to start a new, weekly post!

It will serve as a reminder for me and as an opportunity for you to tell me what you thought of the books I want to read. There is a risk that this could lead to more recommendations and that I will end up with an even longer wish list… but I’m that reckless!

The first post of the Help! My wish list series will follow soon…

Book review: Bloomsbury in Sussex

By Simon Watney
Illustrated by Barbara Childs
Published by Snake River Press

With its pale rose cover and elegant layout, the sixth volume in the Snake River Press series “Books About Sussex for the Enthusiast” is dedicated to Bloomsbury in Sussex.

Bloomsbury is normally associated with London but the members of the celebrated group of artists, writers and thinkers were also very fond of the rural landscape of the South Downs and enjoyed the freedom that living in the country allowed them.

In this resourceful guide, Simon Watney provides an overview of the Modernist group before delving deep in what you could call its “Sussex heritage” – from Virginia Woolf’s homes in Firle and Asheham, which helped her form a strong bond with Sussex, to Monk’s House, in Rodmell, where she lived with her husband Leonard until her death. The tour continues with the Charleston farmhouse, home to Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant and, perhaps, the most famous meeting place of Bloomsbury in Sussex and, last but not least, the beautiful Berwick Church, whose murals were painted by the two artists in 1941.

The book comes complete with short biographies of the key members of the group, which highlight the relationships between them. There are also extremely informative descriptions of the works of art and elements of interior design that can be found at Berwick Church, Monk’s House and Charleston. They are all open to the public, the latter two being managed by the National Trust.

The detailed explanations and the interesting insight into the domestic lives of Virginia Woolf and her contemporaries, cleverly dispersed with quotes from their letters and diaries, have certainly enriched my visits and gave me a real understanding of the Bloomsbury-Sussex connection.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Book review: Back Row Brighton

Published by QueenSpark Books

Back Row Brighton – Cinema-going in Brighton & Hove is a glossy paperback that should feature in the library of anyone who’s interested in the history of cinema or in the past of this vibrant city. And if you’re interested in both, you will be amazed by the amount of information provided.

Chapter after chapter, we learn about the cinemas that have graced the streets of Brighton & Hove from 1909 to the present. Some have had a short life, while others have lasted longer. Some have changed name an innumerable amount of times. Some were considered classy, while others were places that parents forbad their children to go to. Going to the cinema, however, whether shiny or shabby, was always considered a treat: an almost magical experience that most of the uninspiring buildings that host our cinemas today are unable to offer.

The only cinema that is featured in the book and that is still operating today is the independent Duke of York’s Picturehouse, which celebrated its centenary this year and maintains the reputation of classic cinema-going. What has happened to the others? The answer to that can also be found in the pages of Back Row Brighton, whilst enjoying photographs of how they looked then and how they look now.

The book is brought to life by the recollections of the residents of Brighton & Hove and includes a useful list of 25 films – from the 1948 Brighton Rock to the 2008 Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging –that give us a glimpse of how the city has changed through the years. Your “to watch” list might suddenly get longer!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Book review: The Winter Ghosts

By Kate Mosse
Published by
Orion Books

Expanding an idea that she previously explored in The Cave - a novella that was part of the 2009 Quick Reads initiative - Kate Mosse has created an evocative ghost story that I just could not get enough of.

In 1933, Freddie Watson travels to Toulouse in search of Monsieur Saurat, a known translator of Occitan, an old Romance language. Presented with an antique parchment written in this ancient tongue, the French librarian enquiries about its origins. And so the tale begins…

It’s 1928 and Freddie, still unable to cope with the loss of his beloved brother during the Great War, has been recommended a change of scenery by his doctors. He sets off to the South of France and, while travelling through the Pyrenees, he gets caught up in a snowstorm and loses control of his car. Surviving the crash, he walks in the woods until he arrives in an eerily quiet village where he takes refuge at the pension run by Madame Galy and her surly husband. Despite being tired, Freddie accepts the woman’s invitation and decides that he will join her later in town to celebrate the fête de Saint-Etienne. By this time, he has forgotten all about the female voice that seemed to be whispering in his ears while he was driving through the mountains. On his way to the village hall, Freddie gets lost in the maze of narrow streets but, in the end, he is welcomed by the villagers and starts talking with Fabrissa, a fascinating young woman who, to his surprise, seems to know everything about him and understands him like no-one before. Her voice… has he heard it before?

Freddie is extremely touched by the encounter with this mysterious woman who nobody seems to know. Her voice, whose memory he clings to, is the only certainty amid the feverish delirium that follows the night of the party. She had told him her story – the story of her people – and had asked him to find her. He intends to honour his promise, even if it means risking his own life. Only by bringing to light the truth, will he be able to come to terms with his own loss.

The Winter Ghosts is not a ghost story of the “scary, can’t bear to put the lights out” kind. The wintery landscape of the French Pyrenees is an important presence and the perfect setting for the inexplicable events that Freddie experiences. The words have been so carefully chosen that it’s almost as if you can feel the snow underfoot and the cold air touching your face. It’s as if you can distinctly hear the crystal-clear voice carried by the wind.

I would have certainly loved for the main characters, as well as some of the minor ones, to be further developed but I believe that the delicate structure of this novel would have suffered under the weight of details. As it is, it is a perfectly formed story, as light as the snowflakes that decorate the pretty cover of its paperback edition.

Bookish bites

In her autobiographical first novel, Wild Swans, Jung Chang narrates the story of three amazing women: her grandmother, her mother and herself. A fascinating account of Chinese history that spans from 1909, when the country was ruled by warlords, to the 1990s and the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution.

Isabel’s Daughter, written by Judith Hendricks, focuses on Avery James and on her journey from a founding home in Colorado to the art élite of Santa Fe, New Mexico. It’s there that, piece after piece, she puts together the puzzle of the mother she never knew.

Two books, five strong women – it doesn’t matter whether they are real or fictional. And again: two book and two authors who, with their skilful words, are able to bring times and places to life.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Competition time: 1 copy of Another Night Before Christmas

For a chance to win a copy of Another Night Before Christmas by Carol Ann Duffy you need to fill out this form and be a follower of this blog.

For one extra entry, follow me on Twitter too and RT my competition-related messages:

One copy available. The competition ends on December 13th at 14:00 GMT. The winner will be chosen at random and contacted on the same day.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Book review: Another Night Before Christmas

By Carol Ann Duffy
Published by Picador

Christmas is approaching. Never mind presents and roast turkeys, it’s time for another magical tale penned by our Poet Laureate! For the joy of children and adults alike, Carol Ann Duffy takes the Christmas Victorian classic and transforms it into a modern, yet timeless, story of hope and belief.

Late on Christmas Eve, a child creeps down the stairs and hides behind an armchair. She is determined to find out whether Santa Claus is real. As a shooting star high up above starts to take the shape of a sleigh pulled by reindeer, she falls asleep by the fireplace. Will she wake up in time to see the man dressed in red from head to toe who suddenly stands in her living room?

Rob Ryan’s gorgeous illustrations, appearing like dreams in black and white vignettes enriched by golden details, are a perfect accompaniment to the beautifully rhyming verses of this cute, little hardback.

Book review: R2D2 Lives in Preston

By Shaun Keaveny
Published by

Do you live in a small village in the middle of the British countryside? In a moderately-sized town? Or in one of the big cities? Have you often boasted a famous connection to the place you come from? Or, perhaps, always wondered if anything interesting had ever happened there?

If you’ve answered ‘Yes’ to at least one of these questions, go and get this book. But then, I recommend it to anyone who is interested in geography and historical anecdotes! A dose of national pride wouldn’t hurt either because Shaun Keaveny, helped by the faithful listeners of his BBC 6Music show, aims to do exactly that: Toast the Nation.

Helpfully divided into six regions, the featured places come with lists of wittily compiled ‘Favourite facts’ and ‘Local heroes’. In some cases, there are even a Playlist and comments by both Keaveny and his radio listeners. All of this in a refreshing font and layout that set an extremely playful tone.

And why not, you could use the book as an alternative travel guide too!

Friday, 12 November 2010

Book review: Mock the Week: Next Year’s Book

Published by Boxtree, an imprint of Pan Macmillan, this new and colourful hardback is an explosive collection of one-liners from the successful BBC2 comedy show.

With its compact and immediate format, it’s a perfect gift for humour lovers and a great tool to lighten up a bad day – or to make a good day even better!

As a bibliophile, my favourite categories are: Lines you won’t find in an Enid Blyton book, Unlikely things to read in a romance novel and Things you wouldn’t read in a children’s book. The absolute winner, though, would have to be: Unlikely things to read on the back of a book.

Mock the Week has something for everybody but it comes with a warning: contains strong language – and your stomach might hurt from laughing too much!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Book review: I have waited , and you have come

By Martine McDonagh
Published by
Myriad Editions

With her début novel, Martine McDonagh delves into the hotly debated topic of climate change. And what a dark world she envisages: submerged lands and isolated territories where death and hunger are common realities.

Rachel, the post-apocalyptic heroine of this book, avoids human contact as much as possible and finds comfort in a solitary life, far away from the communities that have sprung up to help people cope with the new and disastrous state of affairs. What pushes her then to make a first step towards another person? Whatever it is, it unwillingly develops into an obsessive search for the elusive Jez White, who is in turns the hunter and the hunted.

In this ominous future, the landscape is not just a background rather a heavy presence, one of the main characters. It shapes the way that people think and behave; it decides where they can go and what they can do. McDonagh’s skilfully chosen words almost have a palpable structure, wet and cold to the touch.

The pages burst with psychological tension and the secrets they carry are slowly revealed as the readers are drawn into a bone-chilling dystopia. With echoes of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, this is a masterfully written warning.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

First impressions can be deceptive!

My two new recommendations are books that I wouldn't have normally picked up myself but that I ended up enjoying a lot.

First up is A Special Relationship - by Douglas Kennedy. It tells the story of Sally Goodchild, an American who falls in love with British fellow journalist Tony Hobbs. She gets pregnant, they marry and, taking advantage of her post-natal depression, he takes their baby away from her soon after his birth. Battle ensues. Now, I thought: how can a male author successfully narrate this story from the female point of view? I was sceptical. After reading the book I still don't know how he has done it but I do know that it is possible.

My second recommendation is Save Karyn - by Karyn Bosnak. A young woman moves to New York for work and - shop after shop, beauty salon after beauty salon - ends up owing lots of money to lots of people. Not seeing a way out, she builds a website telling her story and asking people to contribute to her salvation. She does it out of sheer desperation, not really believing that people would give anyone anything without a personal return. The result: many offensive letters and, surprisingly, a little money from a lot of people. Not just a book about a person useless with money, rather a true story to teach you that there are still good people around.

Book review: Room

By Emma Donoghue
Published by

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2010, Room is a book that, regardless of any literary prize, will be remembered for a long time.

Little Jack and his Ma live in Room with Wardrobe, Rug and other various objects-cum-friends. They spend their time playing, singing, reading, exercising and watching a little television. At night, the person they named Old Nick comes to visit Ma and Jack goes to sleep in Wardrobe. Jack likes his world with the exception of those days when Ma doesn’t move from the bed, when she is “gone”.

Ma has also another name but Jack doesn’t know it. He is going to find it out soon though because Ma decided that she doesn’t want to live in Room anymore. She wants to live in Outside. Jack is not sure. There is Room and then there are the people in television. Now his Ma his saying that the things they see in television are real and he doesn’t really understand that. But he will have to. Soon.

Room makes you smile even when you almost want to cry. The boundaries between sadness and happiness are blurred. Horror and hope co-exist. It is one of those books that you will find yourself coming back to again and again.

Book Review: The Prince of Mist

By Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Translated from the Spanish by Lucia Graves
Published by
Orion Books

Carlos Ruiz Zafón, better known as the author of The Shadow of the Wind, is the pen behind The Prince of Mist, a 1993 mystery and horror novel that earned him the Edebé literary prize in the young adult fiction category. Labelling it as a YA book only, however, would be a great mistake.

The story follows Max Carver and his family to a small coastal town that, at least during the war, will be their home. Following their arrival at the station, Max, his two sisters and his parents are met by what can only be described as dark forces. A clock moves backwards, a cat coldly observes them. Is it just Max’s fervid imagination? The answer becomes more evident as more discoveries are made. The house that the Carvers moved into holds many secrets, as does the old lighthouse keeper.

In Zafón’s typical style, this book grabs the reader’s attention from the very first page and never lets it go. One could complain that the compact format of this narrative leaves many questions unanswered but this could also be considered the beauty of this little gem.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Book review: Pavilion

By Deborah Tyler-Bennett
Published by
Smokestack Books

Rex Whistler's allegory of H.R.H. the Prince Regent Awakening the Spirit of Brighton dons the front cover of Pavilion, Deborah Tyler-Bennett’s second collection of poems, and is a perfect pictorial representation of the self-indulgent and gaudy characters that roam the pages of the little booklet.

The carefully chosen words of Tyler-Bennett’s pen kept me company many times while sitting at the beach. The West Pier, one of Brighton’s icons, stars in many of the poems. My favourites, West Pier Serenade and The Brighton Mystery, allow readers to catch a glimpse of a pier that is derelict by day and alive by night, the setting of romantic moonlit dances.

Browse the pages and the “spirit of Brighton” truly comes alive, with scenes of grandeur and decadence and a city populated by holidaying tourists, thugs, homeless people and all those picturesque characters that can be found between the piers.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Competition time: 3 copies of Glasshopper

For a chance to win a copy of Glasshopper by Isabel Ashdown simply follow me on Twitter and RT my competition-related message.

For one extra entry become a follower of this blog too!

Three copies available. The competition ends on August 10th at 14:00 GMT. Winners will be chosen at random and contacted on the same day.

If you missed my review of the book, please click here:

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Book recommendations in a nutshell

Not your usual love stories...

Random Acs of Heroic Love
by Danny Scheinmann

Leo and Moritz are the heros of this book. In 1992, Leo is separated from Eleni, his love, by death. In 1917, Moritz is separated from Lotte, his childhood sweetheart, by thousands of miles. How will these two men deal with their situation?

The Time Traveler's Wife

by Audrey Niffenegger

The love story between Henry and Clare is confusing to say the least. They first meet when Clare is 6 and Henry is 36. They meet several other times at different ages and, at last, they meet in the "present" - if such a concept can exist in this book - when Clare is 20 and Henry is 28! A beautiful relationship both created and hindered by time travel...

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Book review: Glasshopper

By Isabel Ashdown
Pubished by
Myriad Editions

In 2009, Brighton-based Myriad Editions published Isabel Ashdown’s début novel, Glasshopper, an extract of which had won the 2008 Mail on Sunday Novel Competition. I can only agree with the competition judges who described the author’s writing as “magnificent”!

Set in Portsmouth in 1984, Glasshopper is the story of a troubled family. Thirteen-year-old Jake is an endearing main character, trying his best to live as normally as possible for the sake of his little brother, while his mother goes in and out of alcohol-induced depression bouts and his father, who moved out of the family home, makes an appearance only at weekends.

Initially, Mary, Jake’s mother, is easy to despise for letting herself go and not thinking of her two children. However, not wanting her to be merely considered as a “hopeless alcoholic”, Ashdown decided to give her a voice. Hence the brilliantly balanced book structure of alternating chapters written from the points of view of the two characters.

Mary’s life is told starting from May 1957 and readers can start to understand what hides behind her behaviour. The last entries of both narratives date to August 1985, which coincides with the first holiday after Jake’s parents reconcile. The newly reunited family visits Mary’s long-lost sister Rachel and her two children at their country farm in Dordogne, without suspecting what is waiting for them.

What secrets does this family hide? There is only one way to find out: follow Jake around the South-East of England, the Isle of Wight and all the way to France…