Thursday, 31 March 2011

Help! My wish list #18

One more title from my ever-expanding 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. **

Falling Angels
By Tracy Chevalier

Amazon's product description: 1901, the year of Queen Victoria's death. The two graves stood next to each other, both beautifully decorated. One had a large urn -- some might say ridiculously large -- and the other, almost leaning over the first, an angel -- some might say overly sentimental. The two families visiting the cemetery to view their respective neighbouring graves were divided even more by social class than by taste. They would certainly never have become acquainted had not their two girls, meeting behind the tombstones, become best friends. And furthermore -- and even more unsuitably -- become involved in the life of the gravedigger's son. As the girls grow up, as the century wears on, as the new era and the new King change social customs, the lives and fortunes of the Colemans and the Waterhouses become more and more closely intertwined -- neighbours in life as well as death.

Why I want to read this book: Because I find stories that the develop around English graveyards oddly fascinating.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Book review: The Savage Garden

My "Italy in Books" reading challenge continues with The Savage Garden by Mark Mills.

In 1958, Adam Strickland, a Cambridge art history student, travels to Tuscany to study the sixteenth-century garden belonging to Villa Docci. His intention is to write his thesis on the Mannerist garden that occupies a sunken grove near the imposing villa. His Italian summer, however, will teach him much more than he could have ever imagined.

Conceived by Federico Docci in 1577, the garden had been created in memory of his beloved wife and was inhabited by classical statues that re-enacted their tales of love and longing amidst grottoes, fountains and triumphal arches. Instantly fascinated, Adam seems to think that the apparently clear display of grief and love hides a secret message.

Adam is also intrigued by the Docci family. There is Signora Docci, the matriarch, who takes a shine to the English student. There is her son, Emilio, whom Adam finds oddly suspicious. And then, Antonella, the “wild one”, the granddaughter who immediately wakes Adam’s interest. Last but not least, the presence of Emilio, the Signora’s other son, hovers above them all.

Emilio’s death at the hand of German soldiers at the end of World War II is the second mystery that Adam is determined to solve. Unlike the protagonists of the garden mystery, however, the people involved in the murder of Emilio are very much alive and determined to keep the past in the past.

The Italy that Mark Mills describes is a post-war country where political and personal tensions are intensified by the summer heat. The Savage Garden is a well-structured novel and the characters – both main and minor ones – are portrayed in a way that makes you doubt of them all until the very end.

If you like this genre and have a soft spot for Italy, this is the book for you!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Help! My wish list #17

One more title from my ever-expanding 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. **

Breakfast In Brighton: Adventures on the Edge of England
By Nigel Richardson

Amazon's product description: Inspired by Brighton as a state of mind as much as a place, Nigel Richardson returns after a gap of 20 years to capture its spirit. The narrative is woven from strands of memoir, travelogue, reportage and fiction.

Why I want to read this book: Because I live in Brighton and absolutely adore it!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Kimberly Menozzi and... Mail Call!

It's been one of the most difficult things to get used to, here. Having been raised in the suburbs outside of a smaller town in the United States (not an urban upbringing by any stretch of the imagination), I'm accustomed to a postal service which leaves mail in a mailbox alongside the road in front of my house, or even, when the occasion calls for it, places a package on the front porch or by my front door for me to find when I return home.

Nothing could have prepared me for the row of mailboxes on the wall outside the main doors of the palazzo where I now live, or for the ringing of my rather alarming doorbell which brings to mind the change of classes in my high school days. How many times have I been startled by a prolonged, startling ring of that bell, which scares the cat and shakes me with the sudden unexpectedness of it? Alternatively, how do they time it so perfectly to catch me at the most inconvenient time possible? Are they spying on me? Does my doorbell have a hidden camera which peeks into my flat and shows when I'm "indisposed"?

It most frequently rings while my husband is away at work and I'm home alone, leaving me to pick up the citofono and call down to the street – loud enough for people in the building to hear, because the apparatus is by my front door and because the street noise on the other end is too loud for the visitor to hear me speak in a normal voice. Unless I'm expecting a package, I seldom bother answering it.

And when I do, it's almost always the same thing. A peddler, a salesperson or a "survey taker" is the one waiting for me to answer, to grant access to the building. Needless to say, I don't, and I can hear the bells ring all through the palazzo as the would-be Willy Loman tries his luck with the other residents who are home during the day. La vecchia upstairs will let him in, she always does, and so I ignore the next loud assault on my quiet day and bide my time until I'm sure they're gone, lest I find myself repeating: "Mi scusi. Non parlo italiano molto bene… I'm sorry. I don't speak Italian well." Invariably, they just keep repeating whatever they're saying, louder and sometimes faster, until they just give up. (I understand more than they realize. I just don't speak the language well.) At least the frate who comes round to bless the house at Easter is amused and tries to practice his English with me even though he doesn't come in.

Sadly, more often than not, my admittedly disgruntled "Chi è?" is met by silence or the sound of traffic. Occasionally, I hear the wasp-like whine of the postal carrier's scooter disappearing into the distance – or to the front of the next palazzo, a few meters away. No human voice replies. In the few moments between the jarring bell and my response, the other party has already gone, usually leaving a sticky note on the outside intercom, next to my doorbell, indicating they were trying to deliver a piece of mail or a package and couldn't wait the fifteen seconds or so for me to answer their summons.

But I won't know until I check. And yet, how many times has this proven to be a fruitless exercise? After all, the people who drop the advertising flyers are in the habit of ringing the bell, too, occasionally barking "Pubblicità! Advertisements!" when I ask who's there. (You rang my bell why, now? To tell me you just dropped three copies of the SIGMA circular in my mailbox? Gee, thanks for that.)

Grumbling, I make my way downstairs and hope they've left that note in my mailbox on the wall instead. Often, this isn't the case. The message is outside, sometimes already having fallen to the sidewalk, so I must unlock the gate (never mind that the driveway gates are wide open on either side) to retrieve it.

If the note is there, that means I've got to make a trip to the Post Office to pick it up. That is another adventure in the making, of course.

Back home in the US, this is a pretty simple procedure. Sure, the line might be long, but there's usually only the one counter to go to, where I hand over the card the postal carrier left behind, show my I.D. and wait until the clerk retrieves my package and gives it to me. Done and…done!

Not so, here. Instead, I take that little card and play a sort of Italian Postal Roulette: is the package in the main office, or in the undelivered goods warehouse, or magazzino, as it's called? It's only been one day, so it's reasonable to expect it might be in the main office. But it wasn't delivered, so it might be in the warehouse. Decisions, decisions…

It really is a crapshoot. I mean, I've tried going to the main office first, only to be sent to the magazzino. When I've gone to the magazzino first, I've been told to go to the main office instead. This is after taking a number and waiting ages while the line crept slowly along, and in spite of the fact the card itself said to come to whichever place I already was in order to get the package.

However, there is a sense of theatre while waiting one's turn in the magazzino. The performance goes like this: A number is called. Someone rushes forward with that number held aloft as they eye their neighbors anxiously – Can't let them poach my place in line! – and then the nervous handing over of the claim card follows.

The worker looks the claim card over and gives the customer a book in which to sign their name. That done, they compare signatures and go to get the package – whether it's an envelope or a crate, it's the same procedure – which seems to involve going right past it at least two or three times, looking up the last name each time and then calling over a coworker for assistance.

Once the package is found, it's brought forward to the customer, who can't leave yet. Another signature is necessary, perhaps another check of the I.D., too, and then there are papers to separate and stamp.

No, sorry. I got that wrong.

There are papers to separate and STAMP! STAMP! STAMP! And stamping means there has to be a suitable WHAM! on the ink pad and then STAMP! on the paper. Again and again. And again, for good measure. Oh, that one didn't take. I'd better STAMP! it again. (It's best not to go to the Post Office with a headache, if one can help it.)

At last, the customer is given the package, bade a perfunctory "Buongiorno" and the next number is called so the performance can be repeated in its entirety.

I must confess now, that there's something almost reassuring in all of this. Something about the fact that I can count on it, that even this little sojourn along the edges of bureaucracy is as familiar and habitual as it can possibly be is heartening. Maybe it means I'm becoming a part of this place? Or that this place is becoming a part of me?

Nah… Let's not take it quite that far. Not yet. I've got a lifetime to go.

Monday, 21 March 2011

My favourite quotes

Books represent infinitely more than money. A book is not only a friend, it makes friends for you. When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold.
Henry Miller

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

Friday, 18 March 2011

Book review: The Lost Symbol

By Dan Brown

Having enjoyed The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, I approached The Lost Symbol with certain expectations. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Robert Langdon, professor of religious iconology and symbology at Harvard University, is invited to hold a speech during an important event at the Capitol. When he arrives in Washington, however, there is no gala dinner. Instead, he is welcomed by the gruesome finding of Peter Solomon’s severed hand. A dear friend and significant member of the Freemasons, Peter has been kidnapped by a man who calls himself Mal’akh and who’s determined to gain access to the legendary Mason's Pyramid and the power that it contains. Professor Langdon has only a few hours’ time to try and save his mentor.

True to his style, Brown has created a thriller capable of keeping your interest at all times. The narrative is fast-paced, packed with sudden twists and revelations. Some of these might become predictable as events unfold but not so much in advance that they spoil the suspense.


During the eventful night, Robert Langdon is flanked by a series of characters whose purpose is not always clear. Are they trying to help him or hinder him? And what are these powerful secrets that are threatened to alter life as we know it? Like its predecessors, The Lost Symbol is chock-full of notions of symbology, Freemasonry, science and religion. Perhaps there is too much information to retain but, after all, this is not a textbook. Every detail included feels just right, making you want to know more.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Help! My wish list #16

One more title from my ever-expanding 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 Journal of Dora Damage
By Belinda Starling

Amazon's product description: London, 1859. By the time Dora Damage discovers that her husband Peter has arthritis in his hands, it is too late - their book-binding business is in huge debt and the family is on the brink of entering the poorhouse. But Dora proves that she is more than just a housewife and mother. She resolves to rescue her family at any price and finds herself irrevocably entangled in a web of sex, money, deceit and the law.

Why I want to read this book: I must admit that, apart from the mention of the book-binding trade, the description above doesn't really make me want to read this novel. The fact that it has been compared to Sarah Waters's work, however, does!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Book review: Relatively Norma

The LGBT reading challenge continues and this month I’ve read Relatively Norma by Anna Livia. Described as a “widely read lesbian feminist writer and linguistic theorist”, she was active in London during the 1980s and she was apparently “one of the most widely read of that generation”.

Relatively Norma, published by Onlywomen Press in 1982, was her first novel and “a wry exploration of coming out”.

As the blurb on the back cover reveals, Minnie, a lesbian feminist from London, travels to Australia to see her mother and come out to her. That’s it. 220 pages and nothing really happens. Even the coming out only sort of happens.

I really wish I could write something positive about this book but I didn’t enjoy it one bit. The narrative is almost non-existent. There are many characters, mostly female – Minnie, her mother Beryl, her sister Ingrid, her foster-sister Laura and a couple of Australian feminists. All have their issues, presented in a messy and tangled way which seems to have no logic whatsoever. In fact, dialogues are often a mixture of different dialogues and, while one paragraph refers to one character, the following might concern someone else altogether, without notice. And even if we are given all this insight in what they are all thinking and worrying about, it’s not like I felt that I really knew any of the characters by the end of the book. No plot, no character building.

I was expecting a witty novel and was sorely disappointed. Sure, there was the odd sentence that made me smile but, all in all, I struggled to get to the end of the book and was relieved when I did.

However, I’m not saying that this novel couldn’t be enjoyed. Whenever we read, we put our expectations and our experiences into every word. I like to believe that, under different circumstances – if I knew more about feminism, perhaps – I might have appreciated this book. For example, I’d never have thought that the fact that all men in the book are called John was “an early indicator of her [Anna Livia’s] move towards radical feminism”.

I am not going to read Relatively Norma again but please don’t let me put you off. You never know!

* All quotes are from Anna Livia's Obituary published in The Guardian.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Book review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth

By Carrie Ryan
Published by Orion Books

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is not the kind of book that I would normally go for but I was attracted by its cover and – after reading the blurb on the back – I was hooked.

Carrie Ryan describes a world dominated by fear. Fear of the Unconsecrated, zombie-like creatures that populate the forest surrounding the village that’s home to Mary and her family. Life is governed by the rules of the Sisterhood and is protected by the Guardians, who strive to keep the mass of hungry Unconsecrated on the other side of solid fences that run around the whole perimeter of the village.

Despite making the village a safe place, in Mary’s eyes the fences become the symbol of her imprisonment. She was born after the Return and she craves a life that she has not known but that she has glimpsed through the tales of her mother. She grew up hearing about the ocean and buildings so tall that touched the sky. “Fancies,” people call them. To Mary, however, they are as real as the fences that separate her from the vastness that she is sure lies beyond the forest.

Her quiet life suddenly changes when her mother is bitten by an Unconsecrated and becomes one of them. Not being allowed to live on her own, Mary is taken in by the Sisterhood, where she understands that secrets are being kept from the villagers. This knowledge shakes her already dwindling faith in the edicts of her society, which, for example, have turned marriages into pragmatic unions rather than romantic relationships.

The order of the village plunges into chaos as the fences break and a ferocious attack of the Unconsecrated begins. Mary manages to escape with a few others – including her betrothed and the man she loves – and starts following paths that they had never been told existed. Where do they lead? Which trials will she have to face on her way towards the unknown?

All in all, I must say that I have enjoyed reading this book. The characters are developed in a way that makes you care about their fate, the story reads well and gore is kept to a minimum. After a while, though, the attacks of the Unconsecrated started to sound a little repetitive. I would have loved to read less about these assaults and more about the Return, the Sisterhood and the secrets it hid.

I have just learnt that The Forest of Hands and Teeth is the first of a series of three books, which include The Dead-Tossed Waves and The Dark and Hollow Places. Perhaps all my questions will be answered once I read them. However, I am unsure whether I'll want to risk reading two more books which I fear might be exactly like the first. I feel like I should have been given something more to tickle my curiosity.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Tips for aspiring writers – part 2

Amanda Sington-Williams on: First person narrators.

***

Choosing the type of narrator to tell your story is as important as knowing your character. If you choose to tell your story using a first person narrator, some readers might be confused about who the narrator is and who the author is. Authors must be clear about their role, so that they don’t slip into autobiographical mode. This is why character building is so important.

When writing in first person, the narrator is the character that drives the story. The author must be able to ‘possess’ their character so it reads authentically. Using a first person narrator can be limiting, as the view of the world is restricted to how he/she sees it.

You might choose a first person present to narrate your story, or a first person past. Alternatively you might use a combination of the two.

First person present gives a strong sense of immediacy and allows the narrator to explore the consciousness of the character. It has a sense of ‘freshness’ about it; events happen as the narration unfolds. One of the main disadvantages of using first person present is that the narrator is locked into the character as events occur and it can be difficult to move the action on. Using first person present can also be difficult to sustain whilst writing a full length novel.

First person past is a good vehicle for in-depth characterisation. Because the narrator is wise after the event(s), he/she is able to reflect on the incidents which form the story. The narration can be moved around in time and locality. One of the disadvantages of using first person past is that there can be a temptation for the author to be too analytical about the narrator’s past. Spending too much time on the narrator’s ‘back story’ can also frustrate the reader if it holds up the narrative.

***

Amanda and I would love to hear your views so please feel free to leave your comments below. And if you’re considering the use of third person narrator, don’t miss the next instalment on April 11th!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Help! My wish list #15

One more title from my ever-expanding 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. **

Once on a Moonless Night
By Dai Sijie

Amazon's product description: Beguiling and ambitious, this new novel by the author of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is ostensibly a search for an ancient text and a love story. But beneath that is a haunting tale about language and identity, about the shifting layers of history under the confusing surface of Chinese life and politics, with a final Buddhist twist. A young French woman in Peking in the late 1970s interprets between Chinese professors and Bertolucci for his film The Last Emperor. Afterwards, she follows a disgruntled old professor who tells her about a text believed to be taken directly from Buddha’s teachings and inscribed on silk cloth centuries ago. It was written in a now-dead language called Tumchooq (coincidentally, the name of a young Chinese man she has just met), so beautiful in its simplicity it is almost impossible to render accurately in translation. Puyi, the last emperor and last owner of this relic, allegedly tore the silk in two with his teeth while being flown to Manchuria by the Japanese, and threw the fragments from the plane. Only half of the mutilated manuscript was recovered and the reader, like the narrator, must wait till the end of the novel to discover the rest. When the complete text is finally pieced together, its message is devastatingly simple, and all the more poignant because it has taken such sacrifice and effort to decipher. Comprising ancient texts and fables, stories within stories, and a young man’s desperate search for his father’s legacy, this brilliant novel, covering almost a century of China's history, has the modernity and tenderness of the film, Lost in Translation.

Why I want to read this book: I haven't read Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress but I've seen the film based on it and loved it. It convinced me that Dai Sijie must be a great storyteller! Besides, this novel seems to be about everything that I love: languages, translations, lost manuscripts and love!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Book review: Next World Novella

By Matthias Politycki
Translated by Anthea Bell
Published by Pereine Press

Next World Novella, the English translation of the German Jenseitsnovelle by Matthias Politycki, is the fourth title published by Pereine Press, which specialises in contemporary European literature.

Hinrich Schepp wakes up one morning to find his wife Doro sitting at the desk. He thinks that she must have fallen asleep while editing one of his writings but as he gets nearer to her slumped figure, he realises that she is dead.

Not wanting to let her go so quickly, he decides to read the last comments she wrote – her last words to him – while she’s still there with him. During the following hours he will experience a spectrum of emotions – tenderness, anger, forgiveness, astonishment – as he re-reads through Marek the Drunkard, his only attempt at novel-writing.

Far from being simple comments on his style, what he finds on the margins is his wife’s account of their marriage. Years of a life shared misunderstanding after misunderstanding, disappointment after disappointment. And secret after secret.

True the publisher’s motto, this short novella can be read in two hours. Personally, however, I chose to read it over three or four days to be able to better savour the choice of words and appreciate every single detail of this delicate story about the fleeting nature of life and the intricacies of relationships.

And then, as you reach the last few pages and are starting to draw your conclusions, Politycki will surprise you and will make you want to start reading everything from the beginning.

Under 200 pages and so much food for thought!

Monday, 7 March 2011

My favourite quotes

Literature has to take us beyond. If it cannot take us there, it is not good literature.

Elif Shafak

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

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Book review: Kill Chain

By Meg Gardiner
Reviewed by Natazzz

I'm a big fan of crime novels. In fact, it's one of my favourite genres when it comes to books. Over the years I must have read hundreds of crime novels and I have a pretty good idea of what they usually entail and what I like and dislike about them. I picked up the paperback of Kill Chain by Meg Gardiner (2006) at a book fair last year because the cover appealed to me and I thought I would enjoy it. The book didn't disappoint but it also did not stand out much.

Kill Chain tells the story of Phil Delany, whose car is found at the bottom of a ravine. The cops think Phil just wanted to disappear but his daughter Evan finds out he's been kidnapped by some very bad people. They tell Evan her father will die is she doesn't give them something they want within 72 hours. In order to do so she has to figure out what exactly they are looking for and where to find it. Evan ends up travelling all around the world, stopping at nothing to save her dad. But this isn't as straightforward as it seems and she finds out things about her dad's past she might wish she had never known.

I really liked this story and I read the first part of the book pretty quickly because it was fast paced and I was eager to find out what would happen next. However, the further I got into the book, the less excited I became. It's not that I did not enjoy the novel but the storyline became a little predictable. It's never good when you have already figured out what the deal is chapters before your main characters do. It kills all the suspense.

In addition, I thought too much space was devoted to details and background stories that did not even matter much. The chase scenes with the bad guys seemed never ending and could have been cut much shorter. Having said that, the novel was entertaining enough to help me through a long train ride home.

I don't consider this book as a must read but if you enjoy crime novels it's a great book to keep you company while travelling or if you have some time to kill.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Help! My wish list #14

One more title from my ever-expanding 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 Bell Jar

By Sylvia Plath

Amazon's product description: The Bell Jar is Sylvia Plath's only novel. Renowned for its intensity and outstandingly vivid prose, it broke existing boundaries between fiction and reality and helped to make Plath an enduring feminist icon. It was published under a pseudonym a few weeks before the author's suicide. 'It is a fine novel, as bitter and remorseless as her last poems . . . The world in which the events of the novel take place is a world bounded by the Cold War on one side and the sexual war on the other . . . This novel is not political nor historical in any narrow sense, but in looking at the madness of the world and the world of madness it forces us to consider the great question posed by all truly realistic fiction: What is reality and how can it be confronted? . . . Esther Greenwood's account of her year in the bell jar is as clear and readable as it is witty and disturbing.

Why I want to read this book: Because it's a classic!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

LGBT reading challenge - March reviews

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 March (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!

Let's begin!

01. Natazz read and reviewed The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson.
02. Lucy read and reviewed Summer Will Show by Sylvia Townsend Warner.
03. Juliet read and reviewed Secret of the Sands by Sara Sheridan.
04. Orange Sorbet read and reviewed Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult.
05. Irene read and reviewed Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins.
06. Dorla read and reviewed Strapped for Cash by Mack Friedman.
07. Orange Sorbet read and reviewed Fingersmith by Sarah Waters.
08. Chloe read and reviewed Landing by Emma Donoghue.

Don't forget, two March reviewers are in for a chance to win a copy of The Mammoth Book of New Gay Erotica edited by Lawrence Schimel, courtesy of Constable & Robinson!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

"Italy in Books" - March reviews

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 March (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!

Let's begin!

01. Jose read and reviewed Involuntary Witness by Gianrico Carofiglio.
02. Barbara read and reviewed God's Spy by Juan Gomez Jurado.
03. Juliet read and reviewed La luna e i falò (The Moon and the Bonfires) by Cesare Pavese.
04. BJ read and reviewed A House in Sicily by Daphne Phelps.
05. Dorla read and reviewed The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco.
06. Jeane read The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough. Scroll down to read her review.
07. BJ read and reviewed Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life in Italy by Frances Mayes.
08. Gretchen read and reviewed The Dark Heart of Italy by Tobias Jones.
09. Coffee and a Book Chick read and reviewed The Second Duchess by Elizabeth Loupas.
10. Parrish read and reviewed The Periodic Table by Primo Levi.
11. Angela read A House in Sicily by Daphne Phelps. Scroll down to read her review.
12. Pete read and reviewed Naples '44 by Norman Lewis.
13. Patricia read and reviewed Tomato Rhapsody by Adam Schell.
14. Lindy read and reviewed Etruria by Mary Jane Cryan.
15. Lara read Le perfezioni provvisorie by Gianico Carofiglio. Scroll down to read her review.

Reviews by non bloggers

The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough. Read and reviewed by Jeane:
I read the 1000 pages The First Man in Rome and I feel that whatever I will say about will only undo how great this story was. For anyone who liked this book it must have been a joy reading it, for someone like me who loves Italy and its history it was like walking there, being part of its life.....pure joy. This book is all about the great Gaius Marius, a nobody who becomes everything. It is about him and the people surrounding him. Joining him in the story is the something who is destroying his chance and lacking the money to become more. Put them together with the help of a Caesar and you get a great, interesting story which was thanks to the author also wonderfully written. I am so glad I read this book and hope I will read all the others in this series.

A House in Sicily by Daphne Phelps. Read and reviewed by Angela:
An OK book, Not an easy read. It is a true story about an English lady who inherits her uncle's house and the stories are all about the different people who help her establish the house for guests and about the visiting guests themselves. I liked the stories of the people who worked for her the best. I think it tells you that in Italy, at least in the forties, it's all about who you know and who you can finesse, if you want to get anything done. The characters get a bit confusing at times, so the story doesn't always flow. There are very nice photos included in the book.

Le perfezioni provvisorie by Gianico Carofiglio. Read and reviewed by Lara:
Gianrico Carofiglio is a lawman. Before becoming a writer he has been a public prosecutor, hence, responsible of law enforcement. His task should be obvious: however, behind an apparent linearity, reality can be much more intricate, so that law enforcement is not so easy. Carofiglio has been the first one to analyze the complexity underlying a legal procedure and for this reason has been defined as the inventor of the so called “legal thriller” in Italy. “Le perfezioni provvisorie” is the seventh book written by Gianrico Carofiglio, and the fourth where the protagonist is Guido Guerrieri, penal lawyer, a solitary man whose best friend and confident is a punching bag. Our hero spends his days at the Tribunal and his evenings and nights at home, listening to music and making exercise with the punching bag. His life could be perfect, from a single man’s perspective. Guido is asked to solve a case regarding a young girl’s disappearance. Manuela did not come back home after a weekend spent with some friends in the countryside of Bari, Puglia, a region in Southern Italy. Manuela is apparently a good girl: her parents fear that something terrible might have happened and do not want the case to be forgotten. Guido is initially reluctant to start the investigation (he is a lawyer, not a detective); as soon as he learns more about the facts, he starts to be attracted by the sequence of events that led to Manuela’s disappearance. He meets several people who had seen Manuela the days before she decided to go to the “trulli” (typical building from Puglia countryside, so traditional and, in this book, insidious) to enjoy a weekend out and might know something more about her. Caterina, one of Manuela’s closest friends seems well informed about what happened: however, the solution of the enigma is still far. Guido Guerrieri falls in love with Caterina and goes on with his investigation in the wrong direction, following Caterina’s suggestions. Guido’s life is still perfect: he is not a single man anymore. He is experiencing new feelings, living in a sort of “temporary perfection”, till the tragic discovery that Caterina is involved in Manuela’s disappearance and death. Bari, the author’ hometown, is, once again, the scenery of such a dark story: the town can be, at the same time desolate and vivid, bright and shady reflecting the protagonist’s soul. The novel is so intimate that transcends the events to perform a deeper investigation: the reader may discover a frail lawyer, a man, first of all, who does not always appreciate his loneliness and look for a moment of perfection. I apologize if I have partially revealed, in this review, how the story ends. However, it is not the end of the story what matters: rather, it is the mixture of feelings experienced by Guido Guerrieri, isolation, euphoria, bewilderment, and, above all, humanity. This is the peculiarity that makes a lawyer together with the place where he lives so impressive and distinguished in the readers’ memory

And remember, two March reviewers are in for a chance to win a copy of Blood Sisters by Alessandro Perissinotto, courtesy of Hersilia Press. Buona fortuna!

LGBT challenge - Link for March reviews and prize draw

It’s March and the LGBT reading challenge 2011 continues!

This month, courtesy of Constable & Robinson, two of you will have the chance to win a copy of The Mammoth Book of New Gay Erotica edited by Lawrence Schimel.


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 LGBT
  • Share your review (or opinion, if it sounds less intimidating!) by clicking here

Easy, 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.

Happy reading!

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

It’s March and the “Italy in Books” reading challenge 2011 continues!

This month, courtesy of Hersilia Press, two of you will have the chance to win a copy of Blood Sisters by Alessandro Perissinotto. To participate in the prize draw, all you have to do is:

  • Read a book set in Italy or about Italian culture & language
  • Share your review (or opinion, if it sounds less intimidating!) by clicking here

Easy, 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.

Buona lettura!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

LGBT challenge - February winner

11 reviews. All books that I didn’t even know existed… my wish list is getting longer and longer!

Did you miss the reviews? Don't worry, follow this link and catch up with all the bookish goodness! And if you’ve just come across the LGBT reading challenge 2011, you can find all the information you need by clicking here. Joining couldn’t be easier!

And now, the long-awaited moment of the prize draw!

The lucky reviewer who, courtesy of Serpent's Tail, will receive a copy of Wavewalker by Stella Duffy is:

Saranga, who read and reviewed Antique Bakery by Fumi Yoshinaga & Midnighter: Anthem by various writers and artists.

"Italy in Books" - February winner

23 reviews: a few books that I had heard of but mostly books that I wasn't familiar with. That's what I call a good month!

Did you miss the reviews? Fear not, follow this link and catch up with all the bookish goodness! And if you’ve just come across the Italy in Books reading challenge 2011, you can find all the information you need by clicking here. Joining couldn’t be easier!

And now, the long-awaited moment of the prize draw!

The lucky reviewer who, courtesy of Duckworth, will receive a copy of Why Italians Love to Talk About Food by Elena Kostioukovitch is:

Coffee and a Book Chick, who reviewed The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland