"Italy in Books" - September 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 September (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 Scarlett Contessa by Jeanne Kalogridis.
02. Jeane read Ask Me If I'm Happy by Kimberly Menozzi. Scroll down to read her review.

03. Gretchen read and reviewed Venice by Jan Morris.
04. Juliet read and reviewed The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici by Christopher Hibbert.
05. Patricia read and reviewed Falling Palace by Dan Hofstadter.
06. Christie read and reviewed The Villa Triste by Lucretia Grindle.
07. Lindy read and reviewed The Summer House by Christobel Kent.
08. Pete read and reviewed Christ Stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levi.
09. Lara read Io ci sto by Marco Zarfati. Scroll down to read her review.

Reviews by non bloggers

Ask Me If I'm Happy by Kimberly Menozzi. Read and reviewd by Jeane:
I’ve started reading ‘Ask me if I’m happy’ this morning and am enjoying it a lot already. On page 26 and before she realizes what the last reason is why he watched her… I think I realized it too and went to check in the previous pages. At the moment I have this joy of what might come going through me … and instead of preparing to go out and buy groceries, clean the flat….. I continue reading and enjoy being in Bologna at least in the story if not in real life. I guess it is a compliment if you feel like you are there or feel sad not to be there, where the story is happening …. It just feels so real and I can feel, smell the atmosphere of Bologna.
What a hard story to read this one is going to be for me….. Needing to close the book, wanted to read on and not wanting to read on because each page I read is one less to read. It is like eating a home made mascarpone dessert. Following Emily on her way through Bologna, being in one of the stations of Milan with her, while she is dealing with a painful past and a very special guide filling her present.
Emily or Emilia like Davide calls her in Italian, is leaving Italy after having lived there for ten years. She can’t wait to leave Italy, the Italians and everything else around her and go back to the States. That special day in Bologna where a typical Italian train strike makes everything go wrong, will also change her life in a huge way.
Back in the States, back where she should feel home Emilia can’t stop thinking about Italy, the Italians or a certain Italian and like the author writes it so correctly, she feels a nostalgia not only for the coffee at the bar in the morning but also for the typical things you don’t have in Italy which could make you go crazy. Those typical, in some way negative, Italian things like shops closed on Sunday or long closing hours during noon … they make her want to go back. But what can she expect back in Italy? She left Italy after ten years, being married and divorced … now she goes back to finalize the sell of the house. Back to Bologna, to where a day, a year ago, everything changed for Emilia.
Her visit back in Italy is like coming home and she knows she made the correct decision, but ten every story has a ‘but’. The but for Emilia is that suddenly everything goes unexpected, her visit back goes like a whirlwind of emotions, unexpected situations. The end of the story felt so intense that I was scared to learn how it would happen.
Kimberly, thank you so much for sending me your book. I absolutely loved it. I loved the story and the feeling it gave me of really being in Italy. Next time I see Neptuno on the piazza in Bologna… I might watch for the ring! Oh and, I loved the creation of Davide. Who wouldn't?

Io ci sto by Marco Zarfati. Read and reviewed by Lara:
Io ci sto, by Marco Zarfati, is the story of three young guys, who met by chance, become friends and share some formative experiences.
Tito, Lele and Matteo spend every day together: it is summer, holidays have just started. The three guys repeat themselves their motto, that is the title of the book: “Io ci sto”, I agree. Someone of them can suggest something, even crazy, to do: “Io ci sto”, I agree, is the magic formula to transform any suggestion in reality.
The story takes place mainly in Roma and its surroundings: the guys move by car, bike, motorbike, explore new places, practice sports. Life is easy for them, who have finished high school and wait for the university to start. There are no worries about the future, since days are suspended in a continuous present.
One day they even decide to go to the beach to a natural reserve, owned by the Italian president. The experience revealed to be extremely fascinating: only wild nature surrounding them, who would not allowed to be there.
However, their lives change, as soon as holidays end, the university start and girls arrive in the story. Stella and Ludovica. Stella is Tito’s girl, but she ended up with Matteo, Ludovica betrayed Matteo with Tito, Matteo, who had always been attracted by his friend, kisses Lele… The harmony between the three friends is broken… What remains of their friendship? They discover they are different, but the link among them is still so strong that, at the end, they agree to meet up and greet each other by saying, as usual, “Io ci sto”.
I bought and read this book, written by a young Italian writer, after having met him personally at the bookshop: I admired his enthusiasm towards his new career as writer. However, I have to raise several criticisms to the author. Although there is a good narrative rhythm at the beginning, the story slows down: the reader realizes soon that there is not anything else to discover and loses interest in the three guys and their adventures. The style is too easy and characters and places are not so accurately depicted. As a curious reader about new narrative proposals, I did not find the story so promising as I was expecting.
It is too early to express a judgment about the young author: I prefer to wait for another book, that, maybe, will be more mature than this one, easy as its leading motto “Io ci sto”.

And remember: this month, courtesy of author Betsy Hoffman, five of you will have the chance to win a copy of Dreaming of Sicily!


  1. Hi Jeane! I loved your review of Ask Me If I'm Happy! So happy you liked it!

  2. I looooved the book Silvia and still think about it. So often I feel like picking it up and just start rereading it!

  3. Lara I'm an Italian reader I'm agree with you it's very difficult for a young writer to realize the best without a very good editor. I would like to suggest you also to read from the same author L'agosto di mario rossi or Never mind (storie e canzoni degli anni novanta) which is short stories collection with a very interesting and amusing link with music from 31 different author (marco zarfati wrote one story and was the editor of the book.)

    I suggest also to read Simona Vinci (in tutti i sensi come l'amore) and If you like hungarian author I loved "L'altra Eszter" (Magda Szabò).

    P.S.: sorry for my bad english :) !


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