Friday, 30 December 2011

My top 5 reads of 2011

The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell
Published by Headline Review

Unbearable Lightness by Portia De Rossi
Published by Simon & Schuster

The Brave by Nicholas Evans
Published by Little, Brown

Interpreters by Sue Eckstein
Published by Myriad Editions

The Empty Nesters by Nina Bell
Published by Sphere

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Book review: Lizzie Siddal

By Lucinda Hawksley
Published by
Andre Deutsch Ltd

It was the year 1996. I was in London for the first time when I saw her at the Tate Britain. For some time I would simply think of her as the model for John Everett Millais’s haunting Ophelia. But she had a name, that peculiarly beautiful woman: Elizabeth Siddall or, as she was later known, Lizzie Siddal.

In Lizzie Siddal: The Tragedy of a Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel, British biographer and author Lucinda Hawksley uses her talent as a writer to bring Lizzie to life and narrate her fascinating ascent to fame. To do so, she combines her storytelling skills with the words of the people who knew her. It’s not just a woman, who arises from the page, it’s the whole Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the people who followed and were connected to the artists of the group.

Similar to
Mary Benson’s biography, which I read earlier on this year, this work of non-fiction reads like a novel and keeps you hooked from start to finish. Friendship, love, betrayal, obsession, success, addiction… In the nineteenth-century, Lizzie’s brief life certainly had all the ingredients of a modern best-seller.

Enriched by photos, reproductions of paintings, extracts from letters and poems, Lucinda Hawksley’s book will be appreciated both by art lovers and anybody who enjoys reading about strong women and their extraordinary lives.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

In conversation with... Kate Morris

Hello Kate! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the publication of your latest novel, Seven Days One Summer. Can you tell us what it is about?

A: It’s about a group of people sharing a holiday villa together and how all their lives change in subtle and different ways over the seven days they are together. The one thing they have in common is that they all know the host, Sam.

I can’t wait to read it! Did you have the plot entirely figured out when you started writing or did it develop before your eyes as the characters grew on the page?

A: I was interested in the idea of what goes on with people when the usual social veneer slips away, as it must do when people are thrown together. In Seven Days One Summer, old rivalries begin to emerge, relationships are questioned, and unrequited love is painfully brought to the surface. I started with that theme, and the plot and characters developed as I began to write.

Seven Days One Summer is set in Italy, which, incidentally, is where I come from! Why did you choose this country?

A: I have always loved Italy. I lived in Rome for a short period in my twenties, and it remains, to this day, my favourite city. I love the Italian language, which is sensual and lyrical to listen to. I also love Italian food, Italian cities, Italian countryside – everything about it.

Due to the popularity of social networking websites, interacting with readers – be it via a Twitter account, a Facebook page etc. – is becoming increasingly important. How do you cope with these new demands on authors and do you think that they somehow disrupt your writing schedule?

A: This is a good question. I found myself doing much of my own marketing on facebook and twitter when the book came out and was agitated that days were slipping away without me actually getting down to work. But authors have to play this game today. It is what is expected.

You used to write a marriage column for the Times and you have a blog. Do you think that diversifying your writing is the secret to keep your fictional works fresh and exciting?

A: I’m not sure that writing articles and blogs is the way to keep my writing fresh, but writing a column is a good discipline and I like having a break from the huge task of novel writing. The regular income helps too.

What is your one fundamental piece of advice for aspiring writers?

A: Read.

And lastly, is there anything that you would like to share that I haven’t asked?

A: I would just like to thank you for inviting me to answer these questions!

Thank you for your time!

And now, for a chance to win one copy of Seven Days One Summer, click here and complete the form. The competition is open to UK readers only and will close on the 9th January at 1pm.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas 2011!




Thursday, 22 December 2011

Kimberly Menozzi and... December 23rd

It's December and here you will find the last instalment in the Senza Ali e Senza Rete series, our monthly piece of Italy as kindly offered by author Kimberly Menozzi.

I don't know about you, but I will definitely miss this appointment on the 22nd of every month...

My letter to Santa included a whole new series of exclusive guest blogs penned by Mrs Menozzi. Will my wish be granted? We can only wait and see...

In the meantime, please let Kimberly feel your love by leaving a comment below!

December 23rd, 2003

I am finally here.

My plane lands in darkness, the runway lights looking hazy in the light fog, and I sit quietly in my assigned seat wondering: What happens now? What lies ahead of me?

I wait for everyone around me to gather their things before I stand and get my own bag from the overhead compartment. I look out the windows as I walk to the doors and take a deep breath when I reach the metal stairs there.

I am shaking. I haven't seen him in nearly four months. I grasp the cold metal handrail and descend on unsteady legs.

Even the air smells different, even though I've been breathing recycled air in one form or another since I arrived in Atlanta nearly two days ago. Or was it only one day? What day is it, now?

After spending about twelve hours in Gatwick waiting for my flight to Bologna, after flying about seven hours from the US to London, after several hours in the airport in Atlanta, after five hours of driving from my home to the airport…

Time doesn't mean anything, now.

I follow the people ahead of me to the buses waiting on the tarmac in the freezing cold. We pile in and I feel a momentary urge to cry. I am tired and a little scared, too. I've never done anything like this in my whole life. I am thrilled and intimidated all at once.

All around me conversations ebb and flow, a still-foreign tongue surrounding me. How will I ever learn this? Will those words ever make sense to me?

The bus stops with a jolt and I try to make myself small so the people can get out around me. I follow the crowd inside the automatic doors and I see the signs for Passport Control and the indications for EU citizens and others.

I go forward, wait. Step, step, pause. Watch. Listen. Wonder.

Somewhere my suitcase – loaded until it was ready to burst at the seams – is being unloaded onto a conveyor belt. I have to collect it.

Crap. Customs! Do I need to worry about Customs? What is it called here?

I'm so unprepared. What was I thinking? Why can't he be here with me?

Step, step, pause.

My turn. I hand over my passport, hating my picture and knowing that it's the most accurate image of me after so much travel, and so much waiting. The agent looks at the picture, looks at me, stamps the random page with a flourish and slides the passport back. He doesn't say anything, just nods and tilts his head toward the baggage claim.

It's late, maybe after eleven p.m. I didn't set my watch correctly.

I go to the conveyor belt where passengers I recognize are standing. This airport seems so tiny after Gatwick. There's no sign of activity beyond the flaps where the bags will come out. The people around me are chatting calmly, so this must not be unusual.

Again, I sniff the air. A hint of cigarette smoke is coming in from somewhere. I shrug the thought away.

Under my coat I'm warm, where it's open I'm chilled. I spy Christmas wrapping paper in some of the shopping bags and backpacks of my fellow passengers. Before I left home, he told me that the Christmas present I ordered for him is already here. It was expensive, but worth it, I think.

The belt jumps to life with a low grinding of gears just as I notice a policeman with a German Shepherd dog on a leash. The animal is sniffing around, investigating, inspecting. The policeman is handsome beneath his black cap.

Looking around at the other passengers, I find myself thinking that they don't look like I thought they would. But I didn't really expect them to look any particular way, either.

I turn back to the conveyor belt and watch for my bag. Long after nearly everyone else is gone, it finally comes around, looking none-the-worse for wear. I collect it and orient myself.

The exit is that way.

Clumsily dragging my bag along behind me, I go to the doors which slide open with a soft "whump" to reveal rows of seats facing my way. There are people scattered about, some right in the path of people exiting, exchanging hugs and greetings and chattering loudly to one another.

Panic tightens my chest. Where is he? He has come to pick me up, hasn't he? Will I recognize him? Is it possible that I might have forgotten his face? What is wrong with me?

Then I see him. Rather, I see it: The small smiley-face balloon I greeted him with in Tennessee is waiting for me here in Bologna. It's a little deflated, but it's there, and Alessandro is the one holding it. He's smiling at me and I feel a warmth flow through me, cold weather be damned, and the room seems a little brighter than it did a moment ago.

He's here. He's come for me.

He takes me in his arms and hugs me tight, gives me a kiss like the ones I remember from before, from the last time I saw him, even from my dreams. I want to cling to him. I've come far enough, and he's here, so what else could I ask for? What else could I need?

I have returned the favor of his journey to meet me last August, and now there's so much more ahead. I know it, though I can't possibly know it. I will go away, and I will come back, again and again, sometimes by choice, sometimes not.

For now, though, that doesn't matter.

We go out into the cold, to his car, where he loads my suitcase into his little Fiat Bravo. He pays the parking fee and we go out of the bright lights of the airport into the darkness of a wintry Emilian countryside.

He tells me stories about everything we pass which is illuminated against the night. The drive seems endless – mostly in a good way, though I'm getting so tired it's hard to think – and all the road signs mean nothing and the names of the cities and companies along the road don't quite sink in to my frazzled, harried brain. It's all a blur. All that matters is his voice in the night, his profile lit by the reflection of his headlights off the road and the glow of the car's dashboard.

We arrive at last to his home town, few cars on the road, silence all around. His building is on a quiet street just outside of the city. He has to get out of the car to open the gate so we can park.

Once inside his building he puts me in the elevator with my bags – there's no room for him, so he tells me "Press number three" and closes the doors. When I get to the third floor, he's there, waiting.

His father is asleep in his room, and we try to enter the flat quietly, but there's no carpeting and my suitcase's wheels seem loud on the marble tiles. He shows me the light switch for the bathroom – it's on the outside – and I freshen up before returning to the bedroom in my flannel pajamas, ready for sleep.

We settle in at last. It's now the 24th of December.

I'm in Italy, with the man I love.

And even though it hasn't sunk in just yet…

I am home.

LGBT reading challenge - December reviews

For the last time this year, thanks for joining the LGBT reading challenge 2011!

Below is a list of all the book reviews that have been submitted in December (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 Nights Beneath the Nation by Denis Kehoe.
02. Lucy read and reviewed Starting from Scratch by Georgia Beers.

03. Juliet read and reviewed The Mammoth Book of Lesbian Erotica edited by Barbara Cardy.

Don't forget, one December reviewer is in for a chance to win a copy of Femmes of Power by Del LaGrace Volcano and Ulrika Dahl, courtesy of Serpent's Tail!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Books through my lens #10

In Ferrara, until the 8th January 2012, you can visit Gli anni folli: la Parigi di Modigliani, Picasso e Dalì, which focuses on the Parisian art scene in the years following the Great War and until the early Thirties. Personal favourites on show: Christopher Nevinson's A Studio in Montparnasse and Gino Severini's Window with Pigeons. At the end of the exhibition, which is hosted in the city's Palazzo dei Diamanti, you also get to enjoy the museum bookshop - full of bookish goodness and featuring the amazing floor that took centre stage in my photo.

Monday, 19 December 2011

My top 5 wintry reads

Miracle on Regent Street by Ali Harris
Published by Simon & Schuster

Another Night Before Christmas by Carol Ann Duffy
Published by Picador

Mrs Scrooge: A Christmas Tale by Carol Ann Duffy
Published by Picador

The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse
Published by Orion Books

The Silent Land by Graham Joyce
Published by Orion Books

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Book review: An Italian Education

By Tim Parks
Published by Vintage Books

Earlier in the year I read and reviewed Tim Park’s Italian Neighbours, where the British author recounted with wit and humour the first steps of his new life in Italy. An Italian Education follows up on Park’s experiences in the land of la dolce vita and is as successful as its predecessor.

The book opens with the writer and his wife in the process of buying a flat in the surroundings of Verona and having their first baby. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve lived in Italy or how long you’ve been paying taxes for: this is what makes you accepted! Buying a house and having a baby means that you’re not going to leave any time soon!

As Parks demonstrates with his funny observations and sharp remarks, Italy is a country where kids rule. They are pampered and made to feel like they’re the only ones who count in the world – by parents, relatives and strangers alike! At the same time, having a family (the hilariously-described concept of tenere famiglia) will provide excellent excuses for misbehaving and cause financial struggles, aka i sacrifici.

As Parks writes on his website, this book is “about how kids grow up in Italy, about how they become Italians, since clearly nationality isn’t a genetic thing, but a sort of general conditioning, a group destiny”. It is about school, grandparents, summer holidays and all those exquisite idiosyncrasies that make Italians Italian!

Like Italian Neighbours, An Italian Education is not a sentimental ode to il Bel Paese. As a British man living in Italy, Parks is able to see Italian society with a critical but affectionate eye, which will teach a thing or two to foreigners and Italians alike.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Event review: The Big Book Group

In parts of Italy, December 13th - or Saint Lucia’s day - is a very special day. Forget about Santa Claus and Christmas day, this is when you get your presents! I haven’t celebrated Saint Lucia’s day since I was a little girl… until this year, when the people who organised The Big Book Group event at Brighton’s Pavilion Theatre brought the magic back into an otherwise uncelebrated day!

As the name suggests, this was an occasion for book groups to come together and enjoy an evening of bookish delights. “Unattached” book lovers, however, were also welcome, which was good for me as I haven’t yet taken the plunge into the world of book groups.

The stars of the evening were authors Carol Birch and Araminta Hall, who both experienced a very successful 2011.

Carol Birch’s latest novel, Jamrach's Menagerie, was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize, while Araminta Hall’s debut novel, Everything and Nothing, made it to Richard and Judy’s Autumn Reads. The two writers took it in turns to have a chat with the evening’s host, Craig Melvin, and interact with the audience. They shared their top 5 books of all times, the experiences that got them to write and, ultimately, led them to publication, they read an extract from their novels and they answered the public’s questions.

What a treat that was!

The evening included a book quiz and tips for book critiquing, both skilfully and wittily presented by Craig Melvin. He also touched the print vs digital debate, cited bookish quotes and generally made interesting remarks about writing and reading. He was a perfect guest: engaging and resourceful. And he seemed to produce books out his pockets as easily as a magician might produce rabbits out of his hat!

As Melvin pointed out, in Brighton one every two people is a writer and the audience did in fact hide at least two of them, Nina de la Mer and Lizzie Enfield, who briefly introduced their debut novels : 4am and What You Don’t Know.

The literary night was amusingly concluded with a spot of flash fiction by Carol Birch, who followed the public’s suggestions to create a short piece of writing featuring Nick Cave, the Prince Regent, Brighton’s sewers and a bad samba band. You must be a good writer to be able to work with that!

As Flaubert put it: The only way of tolerating existence is to lose oneself in a perpetual orgy of literature. And events like The Big Book Group certainly help achieve this.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

"Italy in Books" - December reviews

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

Below you can find a list of all the book reviews submitted in December (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. Juliet read and reviewed Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel.

02. Lindy read and reviewed The Blue Demon by David Hewson.
03. Juliet read and reviewed Miss Garnet's Angel by Salley Vickers.
04. Gretchen read and reviewed Livia, Empress of Rome by Matthew Dennison.
05. Laura read and reviewed Juliet by Anne Fortier.
06. Lara read and reviewed Il silenzio dell'onda by Gianrico Carofiglio:
Roberto Marias, the protagonist of “Il silenzio dell’onda”, the last Gianrico Carofiglio’s book, has been working for years as carabineer, involved in complex investigations, mainly about drug trafficking. Then something happens: he attempts to suicide and is suspended from work. Roberto now lives a depressing existence, where the only diversions are two psychoanalytic sessions per week. He uses to walk to the psychoanalyst’s, exploring the streets of Roma, enjoying its smell, its noises, while thinking about his condition. He regrets his youth: he lived in California and the only big challenge at that time was surfing the waves with his father. He has learnt how to recognize the movements, colours, noise and silence of the waves.Roberto does not have friends or relatives: occasionally, some colleagues call him asking how things are going. One day, before a session, he meets a woman, Emma, another psychoanalyst’s patient. She used to be an actress, but no one, today, is even remembering her career. She too, tries to give a sense to her existence; as a mother, she feels herself responsible towards her son, Giacomo. Giacomo is still a teenager, although much more mature than his age: he is growing without his father; in his dreams he often meets a dog, Scott, his guide in his daily struggles.Roberto and Emma become friends: probably this is due to their loneliness as well to the sadness that characterizes their lives. When Giacomo experiences some problems at school (a girlfriend of him is victim of a blackmail), Roberto, called by Emma, will be able to rescue the girl and will gain Giacomo’s confidence as well as more self-confidence.Gianrico Carofiglio forgets, in this book, his well known character, Guido Guerrieri, to build a story where action is replaced by psychological implications. Bari is not the usual scene, but Roma and its small places, public gardens, long crowded streets. We assist to a sort of catharsis of the main characters: they try to put aside shadows in their lives and to see the future in a different perspective. Roberto, at the end, will succeed in this pathway, even establishing, at the same time, a frank and more sincere relationship with his psychoanalyst.Although this is not the best book by Carofiglio, I would suggest to read it, on one hand, to appreciate the smooth and fluent author’s writing and, on the other hand, to start looking forward to Guido Guerrieri’s new investigations!

And remember: this month, courtesy of
Peirene Press, one of you will have the chance to win a copy of Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman by Friedrich Christian Delius.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

In conversation with... Ella Kingsley

Hello Ella! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the publication of your novel, Confessions of a Karaoke Queen. Can you tell us what it is about?

A: Thanks! I’m very excited. Confessions of a Karaoke Queen follows Maddie Mulhern, the daughter of 80s pop duo Pineapple Mist, who, when her parents embark on a one-hit-wonder nostalgia tour across Europe, is left to look after their struggling karaoke bar. But Maddie’s aversion to the mic becomes the least of her worries when a cutthroat TV crew take an interest in the club, promising to rescue its dodgy finances if she agrees to a fly-on-the-wall reality series. Cue camera, lights, action – and rather more than Maddie or her friends bargained for. Not least the appearance of sexy, mysterious director Nick Craven . . .

Did you have the plot entirely figured out when you started writing or did it develop before your eyes as the characters grew on the page?

A: Characters always grow a little of their own accord – that’s when you know you’ve got them right! I had the plot mapped out broadly before I began, so I knew where everybody needed to be and when, but it’s nice to keep things reasonably flexible in case a character says or does something that steers it in a slightly different direction. It’s always important to commit to an end point, though, so while the twists and turns are happening you’re comfortable with where it’s heading.

Readers will be able to close their eyes and step into Sing It Back, the karaoke bar created by your pen, feeling like they’re really there. Would you say that it is as much a main character as the people who work there?

A: That’s sweet of you to say. I love it when I read a book and I feel like I’m really there – that’s what fiction is all about. Yes, I would agree that Sing It Back is a character of its own. I thought it would be really fun to have lots of 80s memorabilia all over the place, like cushions with Five Star embroidered on them (imagine!) and Gary Numan’s face as a clock. I love the 80s, so I hope readers will be able to picture it in its full beauty/monstrosity. And the club, of course, gets The Makeover Moment. I’m a purist about this: I think every romcom should have one.

Have you already started working on your next project? Can you give us any clue as to what it might be about?

A: Let’s just say that Maddie Mulhern has a few more tales to tell . . . so watch this space!

Due to the popularity of social networking websites, it seems that interacting with readers – be it via a Twitter account, a Facebook page etc. – is becoming increasingly important. How do you cope with these new demands on authors and do you think that they somehow disrupt your writing schedule?

A: It’s a funny combination because writing is a solitary, quite isolated pursuit, then on publication you’re suddenly, like, Ta-da, here I am! But it’s for those same reasons that things like Twitter and Facebook are so valuable to authors, because they give you a support network. The only dangerous thing is that they encourage procrastination, which any writer will admit to at some point in the process: I try not to get drawn into it till I’ve met a target (easier said than done). Being in touch with other authors is lovely, though, because they’re doing the same thing and understand how it works, and hearing from readers is especially rewarding.

What is your one fundamental piece of advice for aspiring writers?

A: Keep trying. There are so many stages as an aspiring writer where the easy thing is to give up: when you’ve only just started and you think what you’ve done is crap; when you’re halfway through and you’ve lost the thread and have no idea where it’s going; when you finish it and are plagued with self-doubt and vow never to show anyone EVER; when you receive your first rejection, then your second . . . Every author’s been there and every author kept trying. So keep trying! Stamina is half the battle.

And lastly, is there anything that you would like to share that I haven’t asked? Embarrassing karaoke anecdotes are also welcome!

A: Oh dear I’ve got plenty of embarrassing karaoke anecdotes. The worst was when I sang ‘Ice Ice Baby’ and that gruesome Halifax ad must have brainwashed me because I started warbling ‘ISA ISA Baby’ without realising and when I did I wanted to shoot myself.

Thank you for your time!

And now, for a chance to win one of two copies of Confessions of a Karaoke Queen, click here and complete the form. The competition is open to UK readers only and will close on the 26th December at 1pm.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Book review: Miracle on Regent Street

By Ali Harris
Published by Simon & Schuster

Who doesn’t enjoy curling up with a good book when a storm rages outside? I certainly do. I must admit, however, that my choice of wintry reading normally falls on reinventions of modern classics, like Carol Ann Duffy’s The Night Before Christmas, or chills-down-the-spine kind of stories, like Kate Mosse’s The Winter Ghosts.

With Miracle on Regent Street, Ali Harris opened up a whole new world for me of Christmas tales for old-fashioned modern women - if you allow me the oxymoron!

The heroine of this novel is one such woman. Her name is Evie Taylor and she works as stockroom manager at Hardy’s, an elegant London department store that has seen better days. Relegated to the stockroom, Evie would like to work on the shop floor and has big dreams for Hardy’s, a place that – being where her parents fell in love – has always had a special meaning for her. Her dreams, however, might never come true. If the profits don’t increase, Mr Hardy will be forced to close and sell the store.

And so, in true super-heroine style, Evie turns into Christmas Evie! When nobody sees her, she starts transforming every sad-looking department into the retro extravaganza that she knows will be perfect to attract both old and new customers into the store. And what a success this turns out to be! Will it be enough to save Hardy’s difficult financial situation though?

Whatever the outcome of her work, the transformation of the store goes hand in hand with the transformation of Evie herself. A little bit like the ugly duckling that becomes a swan. Except that she’s always been a swan, at least in the eyes of the people who matter most. To be perfectly honest, I found myself rolling my eyes at her (or at the book… let’s hope nobody’s ever seen me!) quite a bit. Evie has a nice way of listening to others like they matter and a very big heart but someone should have told her a long time ago that owning up to one’s merits is not a bad thing to do.

Still, like any well-rounded character in a well-written book, you learn to accept their weaknesses and praise their qualities.

And what about Hardy’s? The way it is described in such exquisite and evocative detail, as are all the vintage clothes and accessories… I have no words to explain the feeling of bereavement that pervaded me once I finished the book. In a way, I didn’t keep reading Miracle on Regent Street because I wanted to know what happened next. I kept reading it because I wanted to go back to Hardy’s. I went to London a few days ago and I was sad – truly sad – that Hardy’s wasn’t a real store. I still go past shop windows and think “oh, that display would have been perfect in Hardy’s…”

Ali Harris, who was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, wrote a gorgeous debut novel that will place lots of expectations on her second work of fiction. Out in 2012, that’s a publication day that I certainly look forward to.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Christmas competition - 2nd bundle

If you thought that Book After Book's Christmas competition couldn't get any better, you're going to have to think again because this year I’m offering you the chance to win not only one but TWO bundles of gorgeous and exciting gifts!

Before scrolling down to check out the pictures and the list of prizes included in the second bundle, please join me in thanking the generous sponsors that agreed to donate all these goodies… In no particular order, a massive THANK YOU to:

Thames & Hudson teNeues
The World of Beatrix Potter Fourth Estate
Bloomsbury Publishing Hodder & Stoughton Barefoot Books Brighton Peach Bookish

And now, without further ado, this is what you could win!

teNeues CoolDiary Black / Baroque Silver 2012

The World of Peter Rabbit: A Box of Postcards
To celebrate 110 years since the publication of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, this delightful collection of one hundred postcards features the beautiful and iconic illustrations of Beatrix Potter.

Pre-Raphaelite Drawing by Colin Cruise
A comprehensive and superbly illustrated study that reveals for the first time how drawing was central to the activity of making art for the Pre-Raphaelites.

Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman
A story of innocence and experience, hope and harsh reality, Pigeon English is a spellbinding portrayal of a boy balancing on the edge of manhood and of the forces around him that try to shape the way he falls.

RIOT Scrabble Brooch

Honey and Camomile Soap (200g)
Nourish your skin with this moisturising soap made with Sussex honey and camomile.

Woodland Bluebell Soap (200g)
No need to wait for spring - just close your eyes and experience the wonderful scent of a bluebell wood.

Genovese Fig Soap (200g)
A rich deep perfume based on the scent of wild genovese figs.

The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai by Ruiyan Xu
A sensitive exploration of the power of words and of silence this novel is a wonderfully evocative debut about love and language, duty and passion, in a vibrant modern city.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
Are the great love stories of the nineteenth century dead? Or can there be a new story, written for today and alive to the realities of feminism, sexual freedom, prenups, and divorce? With devastating wit and an abiding understanding of and affection for his characters, Jeffrey Eugenides revives the motivating energies of the novel, while creating a story so contemporary and fresh that it reads like the intimate journal of our own lives.

bookish Tree Christmas Card

A Sky Full of Kindness by Rob Ryan
With magical, intricate papercuts Rob Ryan tells the story of two birds about to become parents for the first time.

Singalong Gift Set
Paperback editions of Barefoot best-sellers The Animal Boogie, The Journey Home from Grandpa’s, and The Farmyard Jamboree — all with singalong CDs — are packaged in an eco-friendly, reusable green shopper tote.

And, last but not least, a Virginia Woolf bag, courtesy of bookish!

What do you think? The competition is open world-wide and will close on 15th January 2012.

How to enter:

1. Become a follower of this blog by clicking on the “Join this site” button (shown below) that you can find in the sidebar on the right.

2. Fill in this form so that I have all the details I need to send the bundle of prizes asap.

3. Leave a comment below.

4. Optional for one extra entry: if you use Twitter, please tweet “I’ve just entered @BrightonBlogger’s Christmas competition:”


Books through my lens #9

Books are the new black! I found proof that books go with everything in an Italian clothing store. For those who care about the details, this was the November display at the OVS shop in San Bonifacio's shopping centre, near Verona.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Memory and identity

No matter how straightforward an event might seem, it will be remembered and interpreted in a different way by different people. One person might even give an altered version of the same event if asked to recount it at different moments in times. With memories closely linked to identity, does this mean that our sense of self is fluid and changeable?

To reflect on this, I highly recommend:

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Winner of the 2011 Man Booker Prize, this is the story of Tony Webster, who, already retired, receives a letter that will make him think about his past and reconsider some of the truths that he didn’t think he would ever question. Easily read in one sitting, you will be thinking about it for much longer.

Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult
Moving and full of twists in the best Picoult tradition, this is the story of Delia Hopkins, who, in her thirties, discovers that her beloved father has been lying to her since she was four. Torn between the life that she’s had and the life that she could have had, Delia needs to reassess her life and the truths that she’s always taken for granted.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

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

It’s December and the “Italy in Books” reading challenge 2011 enters its last month!

This month, courtesy of
Peirene Press, one of you will have the chance to win a copy of Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman by Friedrich Christian Delius.

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

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. 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 - Link for December reviews and prize draw

It’s December: the last month of the LGBT reading challenge 2011!

This month, courtesy of Serpent's Tail, one of you will have the chance to win a copy of Femmes of Power by Del LaGrace Volcano and Ulrika Dahl.

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. 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" - November winner

8 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

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

The lucky reviewer who, courtesy of Fourth Estate, will receive a copy of Made in Sicily by Giorgio Locatelli is:

Jeane, who read and reviewed Letters to Juliet by Lise and Ceil Friedman

LGBT challenge - November winner

One book review this month...

I must congratulate Juliet for her perseverance and thank her for not giving up on the LGBT reading challenge 2011!

It is not a surprise that the lucky reviewer who, courtesy of Serpent's Tail, will receive a copy of Nights Beneath the Nation by Denis Kehoe, is:

Juliet, who read and reviewed Zami by Audre Lorde.