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Showing posts from June, 2011

Help! My wish list #29

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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. **

Seven Days in the Art World
By Sarah Thornton

Amazon's product description: The art market is booming. Museum attendance is surging. More people than ever call themselves artists. Contemporary art has become a mass entertainment, a luxury good, a job description and a kind of alternative religion for atheists. Art receives the sort of breathless media attention that was once reserved for celebrities and royals. But the art world is still opaque to outsiders. In Seven Days in the Art World, Sarah Thornton takes us on an unusual journey, exploring the most puzzling aspects of buying, selling, creating and exhibiting contemporary art. In a series of beautifully paced, fly-on-the-wall narratives, we witness the drama of a Chris…

Book review: Why Girls Are Weird

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By Pamela Ribon

Reviewed by Natazzz

A few years ago I discovered the blog Pamie.com by writer Pamela Ribon, which I have been reading ever since. Here she shares personal accounts of her life as a writer, as well as what she gets up to in her spare time. The blog is quite popular and was already around ten years ago, when having a personal blog was still something unique. During those early years Ribon decided that her blog and the traffic it created might be an interesting topic for a novel and that's when Why Girls Are Weird was born.

Why Girls Are Weird (2003) tells the story of Anna Koval, who decides to start a personal blog. To make it more interesting, and mainly to entertain herself, she starts making things up. For example, that she is still together with her ex-boyfriend, whom she broke up with ages ago. Little does she realize that thousands and thousands of people are reading her blog every day, and believing her every word. She soon starts to receive tons of e-mails from…

Book review: Italian Neighbours

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By Tim Parks
Published by Vintage Books

As an Italian who has been living in the UK for several years I have developed an ambiguous relationship with my home country: I have little praise for Italy but will defend it with fervent national pride if foreigners say anything negative about it. Unless the negativity is aimed at the current leadership of the country… but that’s another story.

So, when I decided to read Tim Parks’s Italian Neighbours – An Englishmen in Verona as part of the Italy in Books reading challenge 2011, I thought that I’d have to sigh and tut frequently at all the clichés I was sure to find. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I grinned, I chuckled, I laughed out loud and not one single frown crossed my face.

In Italian Neighbours we follow the writer and his wife during the difficult months of being the new people in town, which in this case is an Italian village nestled among the hills of the beautiful Veneto region. A witty and inquisitive observer, Parks’s descriptions…

Help! My wish list #28

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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. **

We Are a Muslim, Please
By Zaiba Malik

Amazon's product description: For Zaiba Malik, growing up in Bradford in the ‘70s and ‘80s certainly has its moments – staying up all night during Ramadan with her father; watching mad Mr Aziz searching for his goat during Eid; dancing along to Top of the Pops (so long as no-one’s watching). And, of course, there’s her mother – whether she’s writing another ingratiating letter to the Queen or referring to Tom Jones as ‘Thumb Jone’. But Zaiba’s story is also one of anxiety and seemingly irreconcilable opposites. Growing up she is constantly torn between two identities: ‘British’ and ‘Muslim’. Alienated at school and confused at home, the racism she encounters as a child mirrors the horr…

Kimberly Menozzi and... Italian Summers

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The only time my life in Italy seems to come close to the usual images most people have of it is in the summer. Though I spend most summers away – my teaching work ends for the season and I usually go to the US to visit my family – I still carry the memories of the summers I've spent in Italy. One memory in particular stands out:

One a.m. on a mid-summer night. I lay sprawled atop the bed, alone. My husband was asleep in our other bedroom because his proximity in our bed seemed to increase the temperature of the room. The heat was too intense, the fan blowing on me providing precious little relief from the all-enveloping warmth. The zanzare – the mosquitoes – tormented me, buzzing past my ears whenever sleep beckoned, alighting on my too-sensitive, exposed skin until I was forced to take shelter beneath a bed sheet in spite of the heat.

Facing toward the wide-open window, desperate for some sort of breeze, I found myself distracted anew. A bright light shone in my direction in spite…

Book review: Teach Us to Sit Still

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By Tim Parks
Published by Harvill Secker

In Teach Us to Sit Still - A Sceptic's Search for Health and Healing, British novelist, essayist and translator Tim Parks describes his difficult path to wellbeing – both physical and mental.

Page by page, Parks details a long series of hospital tests and discussions with doctors and specialists both in Italy and in the UK, he takes us to India for a consultation with an Ayurvedic doctor and, after sleepless nights of Internet research, he shares his enthusiasm for finding a book that seems to promise an end to his pain.

The authors of this book, two Californian doctors, suggest that the discomfort in the pelvic area might be caused by muscle tension. Having found nothing wrong with his bladder or prostate – but still in excruciating pain - Parks is willing to believe this new possibility and the more he thinks about it, the more he realises that he’s been thinking too much his whole life. He’s hardly ever felt thoroughly relaxed.

He thus embark…

Tomorrow Pamplona Blog Tour 2011, Gig 4

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Jan van Mersbergen and Laura Watkinson, respectively author and translator of Tomorrow Pamplona, are on a blog tour organised by Peirene Press.

Here is what I asked them...

To what extent was Jan involved in the translation process and what do you both feel has been gained and/or lost during the transition from Dutch to English - both linguistically and culturally? Perhaps you could give us an example of a particularly successful solution or of a compromise that had to be reluctantly made.

Jan:
In the first place I think a translation is wonderful, because readers now can read the novel in English. My English isn't good enough to write a novel, that would be a disaster, so I only can write in Dutch and our language is really small. I guess about 25 million people read Dutch (Holland, Belgium, Surinam, Antillen). English is big!
It's hard for me to judge if the translation is ok. When I read my novel now it's like reading an English novel. It feels English. That's a good thi…

Help! My wish list #27

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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 Last Supper: A Summer in Italy
By Rachel Cusk

Amazon's product description: When prize-winning author Rachel Cusk decides to travel to Italy for a summer with her husband and two young children she has no idea of the trials and wonders that lie in store. Their journey leads them to both the expected – the Piero della Francesca trail and queues at the Vatican – and the surprising – an amorous Scottish ex-pat and a longing for home – all seen through Cusk’s sharp and humane perspective. Exploring the desire to travel and to escape, art and its inspirations, beauty and ugliness, and the challenge of balancing domestic life with creativity, The Last Supper is a wonderful travel book about life on the most famous art trail i…

Book review: Sing You Home

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By Jodi Picoult
Published by Hodder & Stoughton

Being a fan of Jodi Picoult’s novels – and having always received positive feedback from friends whom I had recommended them to – I couldn’t wait to read her latest work, Sing You Home. Now that I have, I remember all that makes her a great writer: an elegant style, thorough research, tri-dimensional characters and, last but not least, a good story.

Always thought-provoking, Sing You Home is no exception.

At the beginning of the novel we meet Zoe and Max Baxter. They have been married for nine years and have spent the best part of them trying to conceive a baby; naturally at first and then through assisted conception methods. Zoe’s last miscarriage, however, marks a turning point for their relationship. Zoe wishes to undergo a new cycle of IVF treatment, while Max is unwilling to face further stress and disappointment. They divorce.

At this very delicate time in her life, Zoe - a professional music therapist - is asked to help with the ca…

Tips for aspiring writers – part 5

Amanda Sington-Williams on: The first chapter.

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Right, so - you’ve got your main character(s) and you’ve decided which is the best type of narrator to tell your story. You’ve either got a chapter by chapter plot with a detailed plan written out with military style precision or you’ve got an idea running round your head that you want to explore. Perhaps your novel plan exists somewhere in between: notes on the back of an envelope or a spidergram.

Anyhow, there you are with a blank screen/paper in front of you and you’re trying to think of that winning first line. But the time spent in this task might be better spent writing. So just write. Let the words flow and imagine that you are the character. This will be the first of many drafts so there is plenty of time to think of the opening sentence and it’s always a possibility that once you’ve finished the first draft of the novel, it will be apparent that it needs to start either earlier or later in the plot.

So, how to start? Firstly, lo…

Help! My wish list #26

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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 Secret of Lost Things
By Sheridan Hay

Amazon's product description: A stunning debut from a new Australian writer -- the story of a treasure hunt through a vast New York bookshop. At eighteen, Rosemary arrives in New York from Tasmania with little more than her love of books and an eagerness to explore the city she's read so much about. The moment she steps into the Arcade bookstore, she knows she has found a home. The gruff owner, Mr. Pike, gives her a job sorting through huge piles of books and helping the rest of the staff -- a group as odd and idiosyncratic as the characters in a Dickens novel. There's Pearl, the loving, motherly transsexual who runs the cash register; Oscar, who shares his extensive, eclect…

LGBT reading challenge - June 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 June (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. Natazzz read and reviewed Pages for you by Sylvia Brownrigg.
02. Dorla read and reviewed Room by Emma Donoghue.
03. Juliet read and reviewed The Passion by Jeanette Winterson.
04. Lucy read and reviewed Carol by Patricia Highsmith.
05. J Seth read and reviewed Men Who Love Men by William J. Mann.

Don't forget, one…

"Italy in Books" - June 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 June (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. Barbara read and reviewed The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt.
02. Scribacchina read and reviewed Pompeii by Robert Harris.
03. Juliet read and reviewed The Passion by Jeanette Winterson.
04. Maggie…

Book review: Tomorrow Pamplona

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By Jan van Mersbergen
Translated by Laura Watkinson
Published by Peirene Press

Were it a film, Tomorrow Pamplona would keep your eyes glued to the screen. Being a book, it keeps your eyes glued to its pages and makes your fingers itch with anticipation!

To celebrate its publication day, here is what some lucky readers had to say about Jan van Mersbergen's enthralling novel...


Sonya from London said:

This is the first time in a while that I have read a book written by a foreign author. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure if I would enjoy it but I really did, so much so that I found it extremely hard to put down. Praise has to be given also to Laura Watkinson who made a really good job of translating this novel into English.

The storyline follows a professional boxer who is fleeing from an unhappy love and a family man who likes to escape his dull routine once a year by going to the annual Pamplona Bull Run. These are two strangers who meet on the road and end up travelling together. The boxe…

LGBT challenge - Link for June reviews and prize draw

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

This month, courtesy of Little Island, one of you will have the chance to win a copy of Flick by Geraldine Meade.


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!

LGBT challenge - May winner

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6 interesting reviews this month!

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 Skin Lane by Neil Bartlett is:

Natazzz, who read and reviewed Martin Misunderstood by Karin Slaughter.

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

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

This month, courtesy of Constable & Robinson, two of you will have the chance to win a copy of Roma by Steven Saylor.

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!

"Italy in Books" - May winner

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15 reviews: mostly books that I wasn't familiar with. Another 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 Glen Grymes Husak, will receive a copy of Passeggiata: Strolling Through Italy is:

Maggie, who read and reviewed Summer School by Domenica de Rosa.

Help! My wish list #25

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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. **

Strangers
By Taichi Yamada

Amazon's product description: Middle-aged, jaded and divorced, TV scriptwriter Harada returns one night to the dilapidated downtown district of Tokyo where he grew up. There, at the theatre, he meets a likable man who looks exactly like his long-dead father. And so begins Harada’s ordeal, as he’s thrust into a reality where his parents appear to be alive at the exact age they had been when they had died so many years before.

Why I want to read this book: It sounds mysterious and it's set in Tokyo, a city that constantly fascinates me. This books ticks two big boxes!