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Showing posts from January, 2011

Book review: Brother of the More Famous Jack

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I read this book as part of the Italy in Books and LGBT reading challenges 2011!

By Barbara Trapido

Winner of the Whitbread Special Prize for Fiction, Brother of the More Famous Jack is a coming-of-age novel centred on 18-year-old Katherine. Approached in a bookshop by the queer John Millet, who takes a shine on her and introduces her to the Goldmans.

Jacob Goldman is going to be Katherine philosophy professor at university and he leads an extremely messy family life in the Sussex countryside, where he lives with his wife Jane and their six children. Despite her initial apprehension, Katherine is soon drawn to this unconventional household and ends up falling in love with Roger, the couple’s eldest son.

Katherine is in awe of him but, on his part, Roger doesn’t consider her to be his equal and, once he moves to Oxford to continue his studies, he breaks up with her. Feeling lost, Katherine turns to John Millet, whom she knows spent some time living in Italy, and asks him for help. With his…

Amanda Sington-Williams and her writing tips

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Amanda Sington-Williams, whose short story The Zoo Keeper has previously appeared on Book After Book in serialised form, has generously agreed to share her writing tips with us over the next few months.

With an MA in Creative Writing and Authorship from Sussex University and her debut novel, The Eloquence of Desire, published by Sparkling Books, she teaches novel writing at The Hanover Centre in Brighton.
So, my dear aspiring writers, remember to come back on February 11th for your first lesson, which will be about characterisation.

Help! My wish list #9

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One more title from my endless 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. **

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
By Jeanette Winterson

Amazon's product description: Jeanette, the protagonist of Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit and the author's namesake, has issues --"unnatural" ones: her adopted Mam thinks she's the Chosen one from God; she's beginning to fancy girls; and an orange demon keeps popping into her psyche. Already Jeanette Winterson's semi-autobiographical first novel is not your typical coming-of-age tale. Brought up in a working-class Pentecostal family, up North, Jeanette follows the path her Mam has set for her. This involves Bible quizzes, a stint as a tambourine-playing Sally Army officer and a future as a missionary in Africa, or some other "heathen state". When Jea…

Competition time: The Eloquence of Desire

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If you enjoyed The Zoo Keeper - the serialised short story that has appeared on Book After Book over the past five weeks - and look forward to reading more by its author, Amanda Sington-Williams, this is your chance to win her first novel, The Eloquence of Desire.

Published by Sparkling Books, The Eloquence of Desire is set in the mid 1950s and is set in old Malaya, London and Brighton. After his affair with his boss’s daughter is discovered, George is sent to Malaya as punishment. His wife Dorothy follows him while their twelve year old daughter, Susan, goes to boarding school. Still ruled by Britain, Malaya is in the throes of the Emergency. The intense tropical heat and her fear of the civil unrest turn Dorothy into a recluse while George, frustrated by her rejection, embarks on another affair. After an attack by Chinese Communists, Susan, over from England, finds her father and lover together. An event that will have serious consequences...

Here is a short interview with the author,…

Kimberly Menozzi and... The Space Between Languages

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As anticipated, here is the first guest blog appearance of Kimberly Menozzi on Book After Book… Enjoy and, please, leave your comments below!

Seven years ago (December 23rd, 2003, to be exact), I arrived in Italy totally unprepared for what I would find. I knew that Alessandro would be here, essentially acting as a guide, much like I had done for him in the States. However, he'd had one advantage there: he spoke English. Not perfectly, not fluently, but well enough to get by and ask all the essential questions. I, on the other hand, spoke no Italian at all, in spite of his attempts to teach me over the phone and when we were together in the US for his three-week visit.

Next thing I knew, I was in Italy and like one of the songs on the mix CD Alle had given me said, I was "senza ali e senza rete – without wings and without a net". Although I've lived in various parts of the United States, I've never lived in a bigger city there. I'd only taken a public bus once

Help! My wish list #8

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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 Lace Reader
By Brunonia Barry

Amazon’s product description: Drawn by family. Driven by fear. Haunted by fate. Would knowing the future be a gift or a burden? Or even a curse!? The Whitney women of Salem, Massachusetts are renowned for reading the future in the patterns of lace. But the future doesn't always bring good news -- as Towner Whitney knows all too well. When she was just fifteen her gift sent her whole world crashing to pieces. She predicted -- and then witnessed -- something so horrific that she vowed never to read lace again, and fled her home and family for good. Salem is a place of ghosts for Towner, and she swore she would never return. Yet family is a powerful tie and fifteen years later, Towner finds herself back…

The Zoo Keeper - Part 10

It's time to say goodbye to our heroine, Senor Fernandez and Juan...


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

At last he spoke again. ‘When the animals were all killed, the people wanted to forget, to pretend the past never existed, that the memories of Fascism, of the killings, belonged to a different place, another landscape. So, for the month of the anniversary of the death of Franco, I play recordings of their roars, their bellows, and screeches to remind people of what humans are capable of, to remind them of the past that they would rather didn’t exist at all.’ His eyes opened wide and for a short moment I thought I saw a yellow glint in them, before he blinked and waved his hands at us, ushering us out of the room. His neck retreated into folds of flesh as he slept, snoring like a hippo wallowing in shallow water. Juan knocked back his brandy and stood.

‘The old man gets very tired these days,’ he said.

‘Then we must leave.’ I bent to kiss Senor Fernadez on his th…

Educational graphic novels

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During a recent trip to Amsterdam I visited the Dutch Resistance Museum and, as it happens, I couldn’t help but stopping at the museum’s bookshop on my way out. Whatever the language, books are books and need to be looked at and admired!

My eyes were immediately drawn to two displays on neighbouring shelves: each highlighting a graphic novel by Eric Heuvel in the original Dutch and in its English and German translations. On closer inspection, I found out that A Family Secret and The Search - paperbacks in a light A4 format - are everything that you could ever wish books for teenagers to be: well-drawn, entertaining and informative. Both focus on the Second World War and the Holocaust in a way that will catch the kids’ attention and make them think and learn about the past without being too harrowing.

If you click on each of the two titles above, you can see in which other languages they are available and where they can be purchased from. Some editions come with learning materials as wel…

LGBT reading challenge - January reviews

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Thanks again for joining the LGBT reading challenge 2011! If you haven't joined yet, don't worry: there is still time.

Below is a list of all the book reviews that have been submitted in January (via this link). Hopefully you will all find new and interesting titles to explore - I, for one, am sure to gather another few books to add to my TBR list!

Whether you already know the books that are being discussed or not, I strongly encourage you to leave comments below and on the other blogs. I want to hear your voices! Despite its name, the reading challenge is not simply a competition, more of an opportunity to share ideas and bond over our common interests!

And so, let's begin!

01. Saranga read and reviewed Herald by N.F. Houck.
02. Orange Sorbet read and reviewed Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi.
03. Chloe read and reviewed Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters.
04. Juliet read and reviewed Wish I was Here by Jackie Kay.
05. Lucy read and reviewed Landing by Emma Donoghue.
06. D…

The Zoo Keeper - Part 9

Don't let anybody disturb you while Senor Fernandez continues recounting the zoo's past...


The Zoo Keeper
Part 9 of 10
By Amanda Sington-Williams

‘Did you know the mayor?’ I asked.

Finger to lips, Juan looked at me. ‘You must let him talk. He doesn’t get much chance these days to tell people about the zoo.’

I nodded.

Senor Fenandez continued. ‘And so, the people of this city began to think of the animals in the zoo as representing themselves. They were the oppressed, the imprisoned in their lives of obedience, of poverty and deprivation, as the animals were imprisoned in their cages. When the animals howled and roared, desperate for their freedom, so did the people of the city. When they stared into the eyes of the caged lion, they saw themselves. But I fed the animals, I soothed them when they were ill, I watered them in the height of summer.’

I looked up at a picture of young apes wrestling in their enclosure and remembered my uncle. I thought of how he had been made fun of by his …

"Italy in Books" - January reviews

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Thanks again for joining the "Italy in Books" reading challenge 2011! What? You haven't joined yet? No worries, there is time to sign up until the very last day of the year...

Below you can find a list of all the book reviews submitted in January (via this link). I am sure that everyone will find it useful to learn about new and interesting reading ideas - in fact, I suspect that as a result of this challenge my TBR list will expand dangerously!

Whether you know the books that are being discussed or have never heard of them, I strongly encourage you to leave comments below and on the blogs themselves. I want to hear your voices! Despite its name, the reading challenge is not a mere competition, rather an opportunity to share ideas and bond over common interests!

And so, let's begin!

01. Mary Jo read and reviewed Beyond the Pasta by Mark Leslie.
02. Patricia read and reviewed Juliet by Anne Fortier.
03. Dorla read and reviewed The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje.
04. Je…

Help! My wish list #7

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One more title from my 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. **

Howard's End
By E. M. Forster

Amazon’s product description: In Howard's End, E.M. Forster unveils the English character as never before, exploring the underlying class warfare involving three distinct groups: a wealthy family bound by the rules of tradition and property, two independent, cultured sisters, and a young man living on the edge of poverty. The source of their conflict: Howards End, a house in the countryside which ultimately becomes a symbol of conflict within British society.

Why I want to read this book: Because it's a classic and I'm interested in all things British!

Roman Holiday

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It is not a book, I know – although John Dighton and Dalton Trumbo did have to write a script – but I have recently watched Roman Holiday, loved it and decided that I am going to take advantage of the connection with my “Italy in Books” reading challenge and post some pictures of “Italy in Films”!

Enjoy a tour of Rome, the eternal city, through some stills of the 1953 romantic comedy directed by William Wyler and starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn.




The Zoo Keeper - Part 8

Are you ready to find out about the history of the zoo?


The Zoo Keeper
Part 8 of 10
By Amanda Sington-Williams

‘Some people,’ Senor Fenandez said to me. ‘Are frightened of themselves. They think that if they change their outer appearance, their memories will vanish like the steam of a train as it chugs round a corner. But memories should pass from generation to generation. They must be kept alive, so that we can prevent it from happening again. So it is possible to learn from mistakes.’ For a long moment, his eyes closed and I thought perhaps he’d fallen asleep. ‘Juan will take over from me when I’ve gone,’ he said.

‘And the zoo?’ I asked. ‘What happened to the zoo? Why-’

‘Senor Fenandez will explain.’ Juan poured out three shots of brandy, handed them round.

The old man scrutinized Juan, then drank his brandy

‘In 1960,’ Senor Fenandez said, ‘the mayor of this town, one of Franco’s men, ordered that the park should be turned into a zoo. He had grand ideas of self-importance, he thought that …

Book review: The Small Hand

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By Susan Hill
Published by Profile Books

Due to unprecedented amounts of snow and extremely low temperatures, this winter I’ve lost count of all the times I’ve seen a book described as “perfect for a day spent sitting by the fireplace”! I promised to myself that I wouldn’t say that about this book – not only because I think that The Small Hand is perfect for any time of year but also because it makes for a rather chilling read.

The Small Hand opens with Adam Snow, a dealer in antiquarian books, getting lost while driving back from a client’s. While looking for help he finds The White House, whose derelict appearance and overgrown garden are obvious signs of abandon. While standing in front of the house, Adam senses a small hand – the hand of a child – creep into his own. He looks around but there is no-one there. Despite the strangeness of this event, however, Adam is not scared. On the contrary, the hand feels benevolent and in the following months he will often hope to experience that…

1 month, 100 books: Week one

By @liveotherwise:

One week into our 100 book challenge, and to be honest, it's not looking too promising.

I'm keeping up my end of the bargain, in terms of the number of books I've read myself, but the children are lagging behind in their reading, and haven't got anywhere with their reviewing. Part way through the week we had the first mutiny as Big struggled with the idea of having to read and review, and I wondered if I was asking too much of her. But she pulled herself together and has made notes, so if we can only find a little time to sit together, we can write up the two books she's read so far, and we won't be looking quite so out of touch.

Small has read 2 books too. And the baby is very happy to be being read to - it's possibly her favourite activity. Other than eating chocolate! (She's a girl after my own heart.)

And I'm finding unexpected benefits. I'm finding a whole world of book blogs out there that I didn't know existed. And I&#…

The Zoo Keeper - Part 7

Are we going to trust the man in the park and follow him? Read on to find out...


The Zoo Keeper
Part 7 of 10
By Amanda Sington-Williams

We left by an exit I’d not noticed before, where the apartments were older than mine, leaning in on each other, with rusted iron railings on balconies where sheets, towels and underwear hung out to dry. A lead stretched between the buildings dipping across the narrow street; a dog lay in the dust, its mouth slack, tongue lolling. The man turned into one of the buildings, waiting at the entrance and my heart began to pound.

We climbed two flights of stairs. Standing at a little distance away from him, I watched as he opened an apartment door.

‘No problem,’ he said. ‘Nothing to worry about.’

I insisted on the door staying open. Rolling his eyes, he left the door ajar for me. I followed him into a shadowed room overlooking the street. Black and white photos of animals were stuck to the walls: a zebra, an elephant, a lioness, a tiger, monkeys, a fat carpet-…

Book review: The Hand That First Held Mine

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By Maggie O’Farrell
Published by Headline Review

I finished reading The Hand That First Held Mine, Maggie O’Farrell’s fifth and latest novel, on the same evening that it was awarded the Costa Novel Award and I couldn’t agree more with the jury’s choice. In fact, I am surprised that it hasn’t won all the literary prizes available. Yes, it has made a lasting impression on me!

The narrative of The Hand That First Held Mine, a novel whose subtitle could be “on forgetting and remembering”, is divided into two skilfully crafted storylines at the centre of which are two very strong female characters living in the same city but at different times.

In the 1950s we see Lexie Sinclair leaving her family home in rural Devon and looking forward to an exciting future in London. Through her acquaintance with the mesmerizing Innes Kent, editor of an emerging art magazine, she plunges into the Bohemian life of Soho. Love soon follows but tragic events loom on a not too distant horizon.

In present-day Londo…

LGBT challenge: link for January reviews & prize draw

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Welcome to the first month of Book After Book's LGBT reading challenge 2011!

This month, courtesy of Duckworth Publishers, ONE of you will have the chance to win a copy of Putting It On - The West End Theatre of Michael Codron by Michael Codron and Alan Strachan.


To participate in the prize draw, all you have to do is: Read a book - fiction or non-fiction - whose author is LBGT, whose topic is LGBT and/or whose characters (even minor ones) are LGBTShare your review (or opinion, if it sounds less intimidating!) by clicking hereSimple!IMPORTANT! Please note that you need to have signed up for the challenge to be eligible for the prize draw. If you haven't signed up yet, you can do it here (full instructions here). If you can't remember whether you have or haven't signed up, you can check whether your name is listed here. And now...HAPPY READING!

Help! My wish list #6

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Two more titles from my rapidly growing 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. **

Just Take You Coat Off: A lesbian Life
By Barbara Bell

From http://www.brightonourstory.co.uk/: The daughter of a mill worker in Lancashire, Barbara Bell had her lesbian 'initiation' the year after Radclyffe Hall's The Well Of Loneliness (1928). Since then, she has never had the time to be lonely. [...] Barbara Bell here tells the full story of her extraordinary life and times.

Truly Wilde: The Unsettling Story of Dolly Wilde, Oscar's Unusual Niece
By Joan Schenkar

Amazon's product description:
Born a scant three months after her uncle Oscar's notorious arrest, raised in the shadow of the greatest scandal of the turn of the twentieth century, Dolly Wilde attracted people of taste and talent…

Kimberly Menozzi on Ask Me If I'm Happy

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Ladies and gentlemen, it's without further ado that I introduce the talented Kimberly Menozzi, author of...

Eccoci qua – Here we are


Okay, then; first things first. I'd like to thank Silvia for this opportunity to do a guest blog and to share with her readers a little more information about my novel, Ask Me if I'm Happy. And, again in the nature of first things being first, here's some blurbage (As we say in the trade. Occasionally. After a few drinks):


Ask Me if I'm Happy, by Kimberly Menozzi.

Determined to put ten years living in Italy and a loveless marriage behind her, Emily Miller wants nothing to do with anything – or anyone – Italian ever again. Still, she has no choice but to accept help from Davide Magnani, a kind and charming professor, who takes her on an impromptu day-long tour of Bologna and wins her heart in the process. One year later, circumstances dictate that she return to Italy. The only question this time is whether she’ll choose to remain.


Or an …

The Zoo Keeper - Part 6

A man is broadcasting zoo sounds across the park! What is he up to?


The Zoo Keeper
Part 6 of 10
By Amanda Sington-Williams

Very slowly, he turned round to face me, just as the sounds of monkeys hooting, reverberated round the park.

‘Aha, a tourist,’ he said.

I corrected him, noticing him stifling a yawn. The man was smaller than me with a head of disorderly curls and dark skin.

‘They kept me awake, these roars, all the animal sounds. I thought there must be a zoo.’ I said. ‘Why? Is it some sort of joke?’

‘I can explain,’ he said.

‘Please do,’ I said in my teacher voice.

He narrowed his eyes and shook his head as if he had just woken. ‘Better still follow me. Then you will understand. For some people it is important. For others…’ He shrugged his shoulders.

‘I can’t possibly-’

‘Why not?’

‘Well. I don’t know you for a start.’

‘You are frightened of me?’

The murmur of voices from the restaurant was dissipating, replaced by the clatter of plates as the waiters cleared up. I wondered whether…

"Italy in Books" - Link for January reviews and prize draw

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It’s January and the “Italy in Books” reading challenge 2011 has officially started!

This month, courtesy of the independent publisher Diiarts, TWO of you will have the chance to win a copy each of Ask Me If I’m Happy, Kimberly Menozzi’s debut novel - which, if I may add, I'm really looking forward to reading!

To participate in the prize draw, all you have to do is: Read a book set in Italy or about Italian culture & languageShare your review (or opinion, if it sounds less intimidating!) by clicking hereEasy, isn't it? IMPORTANT! Please note that you need to have signed up for the challenge to be eligible for the prize draw. If you haven't signed up yet, you can do it here (full instructions here). If you can't remember whether you have or haven't signed up, you can check whether your name is listed here. And now... To celebrate this first giveaway, the author herself has agreed to give us a little more insight into her novel, Ask Me If I'm Happy. Come back …

The Zoo Keeper - Part 5

Ok, let's go and explore the park...


The Zoo Keeper
Part 5 of 10
By Amanda Sington-Williams

I wandered over to the park, to the restaurant with its striped blue and white parasols. Waiters rushed from table to table, balancing plates as if executing part of a juggling technique, careful not to sweat too much, tea towels slung over an arm. Fish, lentils, rice, succulent juice from roasting, frying, or boiling, wine glasses never allowed to fall empty. The customers chatted and drank, preparing for their afternoon of love and slumber.

I drifted past, following the path that wound round the park, trying to find a bit that I’d missed the day before. But I couldn’t imagine how a zoo could possibly function in a park of this size.

I turned a corner in the park. There was a loud roar. Close this time. And another. I backed in the direction of the restaurant and the park gates. My hands were beginning to sweat and I broke into a run. I would go home and take a siesta. I would sleep for the…

On the train - a sketch in Italian

Today is the official beginning of the "Italy in Books" reading challenge 2011 and I want to celebrate it by sharing a short and intriguing piece written by an Italian friend, Lara. She composed this as part of an assignment for her creative writing group, Terremoti di Carta, and has kindly agreed to having it published on Book After Book.

I apologise to those of you who don't speak Italian. I want this blog to be as inclusive as possible but sometimes the choice is between sharing something that will be understood by a minority of people and not sharing it at all. In this case, the decision was easy; this is too good to be left out only because it's not available in English.

So, here it goes...

La mattina era uggiosa, cielo grigio e nuvole gonfie di pioggia. Attendevo che arrivasse il treno che mi avrebbe catapultato, come ogni giorno, nelle mie quotidiane incombenze. Eccolo, puntuale o quasi, al binario; salgo facendomi largo tra tanti altri pendolari ed entro nel …