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Showing posts from 2011

My top 5 reads of 2011

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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

Book review: Lizzie Siddal

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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, betray…

In conversation with... Kate Morris

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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 …

Merry Christmas 2011!

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MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

WISHING YOU LOTS OF BOOKS UNDER THE TREE!

HAPPY READING!

Kimberly Menozzi and... December 23rd

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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 co…

LGBT reading challenge - December reviews

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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, co…

Books through my lens #10

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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.

My top 5 wintry reads

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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


Book review: An Italian Education

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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) wil…

Event review: The Big Book Group

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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…

"Italy in Books" - December 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 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…

In conversation with... Ella Kingsley

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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 kn…

Book review: Miracle on Regent Street

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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 f…

Christmas competition - 2nd bundle

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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 & HudsonteNeuesThe World of Beatrix PotterFourth Estate
Bloomsbury PublishingHodder & StoughtonBarefoot BooksBrighton PeachBookish

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…

Books through my lens #9

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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.

Memory and identity

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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 t…

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

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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 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.

Buona lettura!

LGBT challenge - Link for December reviews and prize draw

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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

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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 here.

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

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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.

Christmas competition - 1st bundle

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To celebrate Christmas, this year I’m offering you the chance to win a bundle of gorgeous and exciting gifts! Knowing me, this mostly means lots of wonderful books (!!) but I’m sure that you’ll be delighted by the little extras. Literary and not!

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

teNeuesPuffinThames & HudsonBloomsbury PublishingFourth Estate
PicadorBarefoot BooksBookishBrighton Peach

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

teNeues Art Nouveau 2012 Deluxe Diary

Postcards from Puffin
An irresistible set of 100 postcards, each with a different iconic Puffin cover, in a beautifully designed box.

Stone: Andy Goldsworthy
In Stone, Andy Goldsworthy presents a remarkable collection of photographs of his work and reveals through his own words his uniquely personal relationship with nature.

Pigeon English by …

In conversation with... Araminta Hall

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Hello Araminta! First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the publication of your first novel, Everything and Nothing. Can you tell us what it is about?

A: It is the story of a couple run ragged by work and children – one of whom doesn’t eat and one who doesn’t sleep. Into the chaos comes Aggie, a seemingly perfect but very flawed nanny. My initial idea was to write a story about modern marriage and parenthood, but after a while I wondered if it would be engaging enough and so I introduced the character of Aggie. She was meant to shine a light on to Ruth and Christian, but ended up becoming a main character herself. I tried to explore themes of madness and responsibility and your past catching up with you. It is basically about a family imploding and trying to understand what they want out of life.

How does it feel to be a published author? And not just a published author: you were also selected for Richard and Judy's Autumn Reads 2011!

A: It feels really great and Richard an…

LGBT reading challenge - November 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 November (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 Zami by Audre Lorde.

Don't forget, one November reviewer is in for a chance to win a copy of Nights Beneath the Nation by Denis Kehoe, courtesy of Serpent's Tail!

Reading challenge 2012: first prize draw!

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To encourage you to join my new reading challenge for 2012, all those who will sign up by the 31st December 2011 will be entered into a prize draw to win a

GBP 30 gift voucher to redeem on Amazon.co.uk

(or the equivalent sum to redeem on any of the other Amazon sites, depending on the location of the winner).

Wait no longer: click here, scroll down the page and submit your details.

Good luck!

Kimberly Menozzi and... Day Trip

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Yesterday, my husband, Alle, and I accompanied his sister and her family and another friend for lunch in le colline di Canossa, the foothills of the Apennine mountains which surround the Canossa castles in the Reggio Emilia province.

We left home around 11:30, under grey and gloomy skies, with a mist drifting around the tops of the palazzi of our neighborhood. As we drove out toward the hills, Alle and I chatted about the scenery, how nice it was that the colors of the trees had turned and not fallen immediately, and how I am strangely appreciative of the grey, cold weather. As we approached Puianello, the fog began to break and allow the first hints of sun to shine through.

We drove on through the outskirts of the town where a small market was open for the coming holidays. It seemed that everyone for miles around was coming to sample the wares on offer, but we continued on our way, following his brother-in-law's car as it bypassed the town, continuing for the hills.

Soon enough, we…

Books through my lens #8

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With its narrow alleys, imposing castle and beautiful architecture, it's no wonder that Český Krumlov, in the Czech Republic, has been elected UNESCO World Heritage Site. This picture was taken in the summer of 2011 to capture the ubiquity of the Bard! The sign leads to Shakespeare and Sons. I must admit, to my utter shame, that I did not go and investigate. If any of you have comments on this bookshop, please feel free to share them below.

Book review: The Empty Nesters

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By Nina Bell
Published by Sphere, an imprint of Little, Brown

Big family drama is what Nina Bell is famous for writing about and rightly so. At first I was attracted by the beautiful cover of The Empty Nesters. My interest was piqued by the blurb. The book then proceeded to conquer me. What a cleverly-plotted novel!

To make it really simple: Clover and Laura became friends when their children started school and have spent years sharing school runs, sleepovers, holidays etc. Alice is their friend too but – as a single mother trying to build a successful business – she’s mostly been receiving the two women’s help while unable to give much support in return. But helping each other out is what friends are for, right?

Now that the kids have all grown up and are leaving their parents’ homes to go onto university, Laura and, especially, Clover are looking forward to a more equal relationship with Alice. Now that she has found success and her daughter is away at Oxford, though, she doesn’t seem c…

"Italy in Books" - November 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 November (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. Gretchen read and reviewed The Day of Battle by Rick Atkinson.
02. Juliet read and reviewed Roma by Steven Saylor.
03. Gretchen read and reviewed Italian Neighbors by Tim Parks.
04. Barbara read and reviewed The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato.
05. Pete read and reviewed A Death in Tuscany by Michele Gi…