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Showing posts from October, 2011

Book review: Interpreters

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By Sue Eckstein
Published by Myriad Editions

Author of the acclaimed debut novel The Cloths of Heaven, Sue Eckstein has come back with her second work of fiction, Interpreters. A successful return, I should add.

On opening the book, we read the beginning of a (fictional) magazine article about non-traditional families. In it, Susanna and her uncle Max talk about their household and Susanna’s choice, when she was very young, to move from Africa, where she used to live with her mother, to England, where Max lived in a sort of commune.

It is in this indirect way that we are introduced to Julia Rosenthal, mother of Susanna and sister of Max. It is her that we follow as, on her way to an appointment with a notary, she drives to her childhood home and lets the memories flood back. Spotted by someone she used to know when she was little, she is invited into the house she used to live in. As the morning passes and each room is explored, we learn about her mother, her father and the life she had w…

Books through my lens #6

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Wandering around Amsterdam last winter, I came across this little bookshop: Leeshal Oost. At first, its cute candy-striped awning made it look like it might be an old-fashioned greengrocer's but upon closer inspection the mistake was rectified!

I believe that this bookshop, which can be found at Commelinstraat 53, 1093 Amsterdam, deals in used and rare books and magazines only. I might be wrong but I don't remember seeing brand new books. That said, I think that I was too fascinated by the shop itself to pay too much attention to books that, as far as I could see, were exclusively in Dutch. Look at the curved glass in the window - so beautiful!

The use of shopping trolleys to display the books was also very original. The more I think about all those sad, discarded trolleys polluting our fields and rivers, the more this seems to be the way forward!


Kimberly Menozzi and... The Little Things

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I woke up last Monday determined to take a bike ride. The sky was clear and bright, a deep autumnal blue freshened by the chilly winds which have finally arrived after a prolonged delay. It wasn't too cold, but it was cool enough to reassure me I wouldn't suffer too badly. I could wear long sleeves to protect my skin from the sun and have a nice, leisurely ride along the path on the torrente which runs just outside of town.

This was something I'd longed to do all summer while I was visiting family in the US, something I've looked forward to since I returned to Italy in September, but put off thanks to the unseasonable, overbearing heat and humidity. Now was my chance.

I saw my husband off to work and then set about getting ready. I dressed in my workout gear (long-sleeved lycra workout top, hoodie, an old pair of jeans and some trainers) and went down to the garage where we keep the bikes.

Our garage is an entity unto itself – a hodgepodge of bicycles, hardware left over …

LGBT reading challenge - October reviews

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Thanks again for joining the LGBT reading challenge 2011!

Below is a list of all the book reviews that have been submitted in October (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 Before Night Falls by Reinaldo Arenas.
02. Lucy read and reviewed Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult.

Don't forget, one October reviewer is in for a chance to win a copy of Quicksand & Passing by Nella Larsen, courtesy of Serpent's Tail!

Book review: A Writer's Britain

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By Margaret Drabble
Published by Thames & Hudson

Having visited most of the Bloomsbury-related sites in Sussex, I have been left with a thirst for ‘literary tourism’ that the updated edition of Margaret Drabble’s A Writer’s Britain seems perfectly able to quench.

Focussing on different areas of interest - such as the description of sacred places, the Romantic movement and the portrayal of rural and industrial landscapes - Margaret Drabble sets out to investigate the relationship between writers and place and to understand how this has changed over the years.

Painters are not the only artists capable of depicting landscapes. As the plentiful quotations and excerpts remind us, writers are equally able to give a sense of place through evocative poems and detailed descriptions alike.

Functioning as a mere background at times, landscapes can also be as important as the main characters of a book. Think of Jane Austen’s Yorkshire moors, Wordsworth’s Lake District, Virginia Woolf’s London. And…

Book review: As Good as God, as Clever as the Devil

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The Impossible Life of Mary Benson
By Rodney Bolt
Published by Atlantic Books

'As Good as God, as Clever as the Devil' was the phrase once used by Ethel Smyth to describe Mary Benson, née Mary Sidgewick. In his extremely well-researched and beautifully presented book, Rodney Bolt introduces us to this extraordinary woman.

Despite being a work of non-fiction, As Good as God, as Clever as the Devil is so readable and engrossing that you almost forget that Mary is not a fictional heroine of a Victorian historical novel. Bolt has succeeded in portraying the wife, and then widow, of Edward Benson in a most exquisite way.

Complete with a detailed bibliography and enriched by photographs of the Benson family and their circle of friends, this chronicle of the upbringing, married years and widowhood of Mary Benson is extremely interesting. Not only do we learn about the life of a fascinating woman but – as we follow her from birth to death (1841-1918) – we also gain a valuable insight into …

In conversation with... Nina Bell

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Hello Nina! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the publication of your latest novel, The Empty Nesters. Can you tell us what it is about?

A: Three friends – Clover, Laura and Alice – have shared school runs, sleepovers and holidays for years, but now that their children are all off to uni, the friendship begins to crack apart. Alice wants what Clover and Laura have, while Laura faces two of her marriage’s major challenges. And Clover has to work out what’s important in her life – and then fight for it.

I can’t wait to read it! Where did you take the inspiration to write this novel? Are you perhaps an empty nester yourself?

A: Our twins left home – one for gap year, one for uni – in September 2008, and it’s taken this long to process how it turns your life upside down. It’s exciting – all that extra time and new opportunities. But sad too – even the dog obviously misses them.

The Empty Nesters was published on the 1st September. At the time of this interview, you haven’t yet…

Book review: Happy Accidents

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By Jane Lynch
Published by Fourth Estate

Being a bit of a Gleek, I couldn’t help but want to read Jane Lynch’s memoir. I started the book knowing her only as Sue Sylvester, the most evil cheerleading coach ever to walk the planet, and I ended it with a long list of films to watch and an even bigger respect for her.

Happy Accidents takes us from Jane’s childhood and her dreams of stardom all the way through to her successful present life as an actor. We learn about the hard times – her insecurity, her alcoholism, her feelings of isolation and not belonging – as well as the good times – her flourishing career, her acceptance of her sexuality, her marriage. It seems that she holds nothing back and comes across as absolutely honest, page after page.

Her memoir is moving and funny, sometimes both sad and amusing at the same time. And, as I said before, totally candid.

I recommend Happy Accidents to any Glee or Jane Lynch fan, to anyone interested in acting and films, to anyone who enjoys a well…

Genni Gunn on writing Solitaria

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First of all, thank you for inviting me to write a post for your readers. How wonderful that you’re all reading books with Italy in them. My novel, Solitaria, is set in Italy, and features both an Italian protagonist, Piera, and a Canadian one, David. It moves between the present (2002) and the past (1930s to 1950s). Here’s my try at a quick summary:

When Vito Santoro’s body is inadvertently unearthed by a demolition crew in Fregene, Italy, his siblings are thrown into turmoil, having been told by their sister Piera that Vito had fled to Argentina fifty years earlier after abandoning his wife and son. Now scattered over three continents, Vito’s siblings regroup in Italy to try to discover the truth. Piera locks herself in her room, refusing to speak to anyone but her Canadian nephew David. As the stories emerge, weaving past and present, so do versions and perspectives, memories and secrets.

I am Italian by birth, and arrived in Canada when I was eleven. Other than my immediate family –…

"Italy in Books" - October reviews

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Thanks again for joining the "Italy in Books” reading challenge 2011!

Below you can find a list of all the book reviews submitted in October (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 House in Amalfi by Elizabeth Adler.
02. Patricia read and reviewed Sicilian Odyssey by Francine Prose.
03. Pete read and reviewed A Season with Verona by Tim Parks.
04. Lindy read and reviewed Recipe for Life by Nicky Pellegrino.
05. Tina read and reviewed Cucina Povera by Pamela Sh…

Book review: Everything and Nothing

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By Araminta Hall
Published by HarperPress

A family employs a live-in nanny to look after their two children and she turns out to be a bit of a psycho. Don’t you think that this plot might have been used just a little too often? I did. For this reason, I approached Everything and Nothing with caution.

The next thing I remember is a happy and satisfied smile on my lips as I finished the book not too long afterwards.

In Everything and Nothing, readers are thrown into the life of the Donaldsons at a difficult time. Ruth and Christian have two little children, a nanny who’s just left them and a career to think of. While they try (and don’t really succeed) to juggle family and work commitments, Aggie arrives. With impeccable references and full of enthusiasm, she moves in with the family and, little by little, she becomes indispensable to the smooth running of the household.

Smooth is, however, an adjective that can be only applied to what goes on on the surface. Deep down, the situation is mor…

Books through my lens #5

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I do like a tidy bookshelf but I'm not impartial to the charm of a slightly messy composition, especially in the right context. This photo was taken this summer at Compton Verney, an art gallery housed in a Grade I listed mansion in Warwickshire. I loved the soft light coming in through the big windows! In the background you can see a current art installation by Marcia Farquhar entitled The Horse is a Noble Animal.

Many thanks to the friendly museum assistant who allowed me to take this photograph where it might not have been entirely permitted!

Book review: Edge

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By Jeffery Deaver
Reviewed by Natazzz

Jeffery Deaver is an international bestselling author of crime novels, having written over 25 books in the last 20 years. Yet somehow I'd never read any of his novels, let alone heard of him. After finishing Edge (2010), I wish I'd discovered him sooner. Edge is a crime novel, which, at first glance, looks kind of average and run of the mill. However, once I started reading I could not stop and it had me interested and intrigued throughout.

Edge tells the story of Corte, a protection officer whose job it is to protect a family targeted by a lifter named Henry Loving. The last time Corte came across the man, he ended up killing one of his mentors. Needless to say, Corte is very determined to catch Loving and not let him hurt anyone else every again. The members of the family he is protecting aren't making his job easier with all their personal drama, but in order to find out who hired Loving he does have to delve deep into their lives.

Luck…

LGBT challenge - Link for October reviews and prize draw

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It’s October 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 Quicksand & Passing by Nella Larsen.

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 October reviews and prize draw

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

This month, courtesy of Diane Saarinen, one of you will have the chance to win a copy of Solitaria by Genni Gunn. If you live in the US or Canada, you'll receive a hardback copy. If you live anywhere else, you'll receive the book in Kindle format.
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!

In conversation with... Elizabeth Buchan

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Hello Elizabeth! First of all, thank you for agreeing on answering a few questions for the readers of my blog. I know for a fact that you will make many of them happy!

Your latest novel, Separate Beds, came out in 2010 and it will be followed next year by the publication of Daughters. Can you give us a little anticipation of what we are to expect?

A: Thank you for asking. Here is sneak preview of the blurb on the back jacket.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that all mothers want to see their daughters happily settled. But for Lara, mother to Maudie and stepmother to Jasmine and Eve, this is looking increasingly unlikely.

With an ex-husband occupied with his second marriage, and the surprising developments in her own love life to contend with, Lara has enough to worry about, especially with Eve’s upcoming wedding.

And when she begins to fear that Eve is marrying a man who will only make her unhappy, and Maudie reveals something that shocks the entire family, Lara faces a dilemma. Do…

LGBT challenge - September winner

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Only 2 book reviews this month... where have all the participants gone?!

Only 2 reviews but not to be missed! 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 Hodder & Stoughton, will receive a copy of Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult is:

Lucy, who read and reviewed Flick by Geraldine Meade.

LGBT reading challenge - September 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 September. 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. Lucy read and reviewed Flick by Geraldine Meade.
02. Juliet read and reviewed New Selected Poems by Edwin Morgan.

Don't forget, one September reviewer is in for a chance to win a copy of Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult, courtesy of Hodder & Stoughton!

"Italy in Books" - September winners

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9 reviews this 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 five lucky reviewers who, courtesy of Betsy Hoffman, will receive a copy of Dreaming of Sicily are:

1. Jeane, who read and reviewed Ask Me If I'm Happy by Kimberly Menozzi.
2. Gretchen, who read and reviewed Venice by Jan Morris.
3. Lindy, who read and reviewed The Summer House by Christobel Kent.
4. Pete, who read and reviewed Christ Stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levi.
5. Lara, who read and reviewed Io ci sto by Marco Zarfati. Scroll down to read her review.