Friday, 22 July 2011

Kimberly Menozzi and... Water Makes Rust

As one might suspect, family dinners are a huge part of my Italian life. These happen an almost-monthly basis, marking the important events on the family calendar: holidays, birthdays and the occasional "Just Because" meetings. In the last eight years, there are certain things I have come to expect and look forward to each time we meet.

A typical dinner usually goes like this:

Unless there is a storm of some kind, my husband, Alle and I walk the three or four blocks to his father, Paolo's place. I enjoy this most in autumn or winter, my favorite seasons, as the quiet and calm of our neighborhood is especially noticeable then. A walk in the cold tends to increase the appetite, after all – and it keeps the bottle of wine we bring along that much colder, too.

When we arrive at the palazzo, we call on the citofono to let him know we're there. He buzzes the door open and we take the elevator up to the top floor, where the door to Paolo's flat is already open, waiting for us to enter. The smell of whatever is cooking wafts out to us, filling the small entryway when we step inside and start to remove our coats and hang them up in the small corridor where the bedrooms are.

We go into the living/dining room, where the TV is usually on, the sound low while everyone talks or plays with Mia, the littlest member of the family. The chit-chat continues, sometimes in a mix of Italian and English. My sister-in-law, Roberta and her English husband, Andrew let us know what's new with them (even though we just saw them the night before at their place, in the flat right below our own).

A few minutes pass while Paolo and his girlfriend, Tamara, bustle about in the kitchen, one or the other of them popping out to put some sort of appetizers out on the table. Various types of bread and sliced meats frequently feature in this part of the dinner, and I allow myself a few bites only, so I won't spoil my appetite.

It isn't long, however, before we're encouraged to sit for the meal we've come to share, and that's when it happens. You see, there's a little ritual my Italian father-in-law undertakes each time we gather for a meal; at least, it happens whenever I'm there. Sometimes it's before we sit down to eat, sometimes it's after, but it always happens.

Paolo takes care to show me that he's purchased at least one or two 1.5-liter bottles of Coca-Cola (or Pepsi). One is placed on the table amongst the bottles of mineral water – both still and sparkling – and vino, the other left out on the balcony (in winter, of course) to chill along with the other, unopened bottles of wine. Then, he points out the one or two bottles of Lambrusco amabile – which he doesn't much care for, but he purchased just for me, because I once let him know I could drink it.

You see, I'm not much of a wine drinker. I never developed a taste for wine or other alcohol (aside from Bailey's Irish Cream – which tastes like candy to me), and this was something which puzzled Paolo from the start. For what it's worth, my husband isn't a big drinker, either: the occasional glass of wine with friends, a sampling of bitters with Andrew after a dinner and he's satisfied.

At one dinner – one of the first I can recall – Paolo offered me some wine. When I refused as politely as I could, my husband explained that I didn't drink it, and everything was fine. At the next dinner, Paolo offered again, and Alle explained once more that I'm not a wine drinker. Soon enough, this happened at every meal, until at last Paolo insisted that I try a particularly sweet dessert wine. I liked that one well enough (it was, I believe, a fragolino, or strawberry-infused wine).

In time, I realized he was on a quest. Every meal brought with it another bottle of wine, selected with me in mind. Whether it was dessert wine (dolce) or something simply a little less dry, Paolo brought out another glass for me to sample. If I tried it and didn't like it, that was okay: but I had to try it.

On occasion, when I tried to refuse altogether, Paolo would resort to pouring a splash into my empty water glass (the other glass would usually have some sort of cola in it). This made me laugh, as it was done playfully, and I would drink a little and then give the rest to my husband.

As I sat at one dinner drinking my water after refusing the wine yet again, Paolo shook his head with a half-grin and poured himself another glass. "Kim, Kiiim..." he said, making sure I looked his way. "L'Acqua fa la ruggine," he said, toasting me. I looked at my husband, puzzled, as everyone laughed.

"What did he say?" I asked, and my husband laughed again.

"He said, 'Water makes rust'," Alle explained, and I had to laugh, too.

Clearly, I was part of the family if my father-in-law was so willing to work so hard to protect me from rusting.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

"Italy in Books" - July 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 July (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 Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon.
02. Maggie read and reviewed The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato.

03. Gretchen read and reviewed Caesar's Legions by Stephen Dando-Collins.
04. Laura read and reviewed Chique Secrets of Dolce Vita by Barbara Conelli.
05. Juliet read and reviewed Sul Po by Mario Bonfantini.
06. Patricia read and reviewed The Lady in the Palazzo by Marlena di Blasi.
07. Tina Marie read and reviewed The Daughter of Siena by Marina Fiorato.
08. Lynn read and reviewed The Neapolitan Streak by Timothy Holme.
09. Lynn read and reviewed Tuscan Holiday by Holly Chamberlin.
10. Pete read and reviewed The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli.
11. Jeane read Il giorno del lupo by Carlo Lucarelli. Scroll down to read her review.
12. Angela read Tuscan Rose by Belinda Alexandra. Scroll down to read her review.
13. Lara read La curva del latte by Nico Orengo. Scroll down to read her review.

Reviews by non-blogger

Il giorno del lupo by Carlo Lucarelli. Read and reviewed by Jeane:
Coliandro is a disaster. Working for police he doesn't really makes mistakes but seems to be that kind of person that manages to make everything go wrong. Good intentions most of the time, but that's where it stays.
Nikita is a punk girl delivering packages. Nothing too bad would have happened if the package she forgets to deliver one day, wouldn't be for someone linked to the mafia in the North of Italy. It might have even been going less bad for her if she wouldn't have shared her problem with past 'friend' Coliandro.
Nothing seems like it is and nobody can be trusted, not even the ones supposed to be at the good side. Nikita just wants to deliver the package but is afraid. Coliandro is afraid too but keeps cool next to the girl he still likes. And everything gets worse until a suprising but at the same time (thinking about the subject) not that suprising end. This is the second Lucarelli book I read and again I enjoyed it.

Tuscan Rose by Belinda Alexandra. Read and reviewed by Angela:
A mysterious stranger known as THE WOLF, leaves an infant with the sisters of Santo Spirito. A silver key hidden in the infants wrappings. This is the only clue to her identity. As the years go by her life story unravels. She is named Rosa by the nuns. Her life has many twists and turns, a rape, a child born out of wedlock. Love, marriage, more children. War. Italy is ruled by Mussolini, and Hitler is invading all of Europe. When he invades Italy, Rosa joins the Parisans. Japan bombs Pearl Harbor, the allies finally gets to the Italians to rid them of the Nazi's. Through all this Rosa finds the answer to her birth. A good story, I learned a lot about the war in Italy.

La curva del latte by Nico Orengo. Read and reviewed by Lara:
Nico Orengo, in “La curva del Latte” chooses to describe a precise moment in Italian history. The year is 1957, a period relatively quiet; II World War is far away and modernity is approaching: the Sputnik has been launched, Grace Kelly and Prince Ranieri’s wedding is still occupying magazines’ pages, the economic boom has still to arrive; the television will become soon a constant presence in Italian families’ daily life with tv shows like “Lascia o raddoppia?” and the “Festival di Sanremo”.
We are in Latte, in Liguria, a village close to the French border, the writer’s favorite scenery for his works: it is a border region, where the Riviera di Ponente of Italian Liguria is already France.
Here, many people’s lives will cross for a while. We observe many inhabitants’ lives: Jolanda gives birth to a baby whose father is unknown. The teacher at the primary school Puglisi tries to compose a song whose refrain goes as “Nuotare oh oh, nel blu dipinto di blu” (while one year later Domenico Modugno will win the “Festival di Sanremo” with the most famous refrain in Italian music “Volare oh oh, nel blu dipinto di blu”). A statue of the Virgin is beheaded. Libero, an old communist, would like his “companions” Baciui and Luisò could carry on the party activities, as they are distracted by their wives and lovers. Giustin and Ettore dream about transforming the village in a touristic site. Mrs. Canzani evokes ghosts. A mysterious presence is wandering around the village, maybe the monster assembled by the eccentric Earl Voronoff. A various humanity in an agricultural site, where nobody is like he/she appears. Everyone, in Latte, has a secret to keep. The final of the story is not clear too, since many of the secrets mentioned remain undisclosed.
However, this is the peculiarity of the book. A linear landscape should call for a linear story. Instead, “La curva del Latte” starts following many threads; the reader would expect a finite conclusion, that does not arrive. Maybe this derives from a precise strategy followed by the author. The reader has to keep his/her attention on people and events while the real protagonist is just the landscape with its variety: mountains, hills, valleys, the river Latte and the sea. A rural and, therefore, “real” environment, without modern buildings, hotels, petrol stations, that today is only a picture of ancient times.

And remember, two July reviewers are in for a chance to win a copy of Inspector Cataldo's Criminal Summer by Luigi Guicciardi, courtesy of Hersilia Press. Buona fortuna!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

LGBT reading challenge - July 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 July (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. Juliet read and reviewed The Mammoth Book of New Gay Erotica edited by Lawrence Schimel.
02. Lucy read and reviewed All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West.

Don't forget, one July reviewer is in for a chance to win a copy of Before Night Falls by Reinaldo Arenas, courtesy of Serpent's Tail!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Book review: Faithful Place

By Tana French
Reviewed by Natazzz

There are crime novels that you read to pass the time and crime novels that you truly enjoy. Faithful Place (2011) by Tana French is one of the latter. Having already read her previous two novels - In the Woods and The Likeness - which I thought were both great, I was eager to get started on this one. Luckily, it did not disappoint.

Faithful Place tells the story of Frank Mackey, an undercover cop in Dublin (who was also a main character in the previous novels). Twenty years ago he planned to run away with his then girlfriend Rosie, but she didn't show up and he never heard from her again. He decided to leave home anyway and hasn't looked back since. That is, until he hears that Rosie's suitcase has been found. Frank is forced to return to the place where he grew up and get reacquainted with his dysfunctional family. Back home, Frank is soon to discover exactly what happened all those years ago.

It is your typical crime novel, but with a difference. The difference being that it is narrated really well. Just as in her previous novels, French makes you identify with her main characters and you end up feeling what they are feeling and even rooting for them. The novel is fast paced and doesn't waste pages on unnecessary details, which is always a plus. It also scores pretty good on the suspense factor, as for most of the novel I was not aware, yet very curious, as how the story would unfold.

To sum it up, Faithful Place is everything I look for in a good crime novel. It's got a good storyline, it's fast paced, suspenseful, with likeable main characters you can identify with and an outcome that it not too predictable. If you enjoy a good crime novel, you will enjoy this one!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Win Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy!

To celebrate the start of my summer reading challenge, MacLehose Press has been so kind as to offer one set of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy for one of you lucky readers!

What do you have to do to win?

Not much!

You just need to sign up for the reading challenge via this link and sit back. On July, 31st I will randomly select a winner, who will then be contacted by e-mail.

Good luck!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

LGBT challenge - Link for July reviews and prize draw

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

This month, courtesy of Serpent's Tail, one of you will have the chance to win a copy of Before Night Falls by Reinaldo Arenas.


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!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

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

It’s July 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 Inspector Cataldo's Criminal Summer by Luigi Guicciardi.


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!

LGBT challenge - June winner

5 book reviews this month!

Did you miss them? 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
Little Island, will receive a copy of Flick by Geraldine Meade is:

Lucy, who read and reviewed Carol by Patricia Highsmith.

Monday, 4 July 2011

"Italy in Books" - June winners

20 reviews: people seem to read more in summer!

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 reviewers who, courtesy of Constable & Robinson, will receive a copy of Roma by Steven Saylor are:

Dorla, who read and reviewed The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi & Juliet, who read and reviewed The Passion by Jeanette Winterson.