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Showing posts from February, 2011

Book review: The Gift

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By Carol Ann Duffy and Rob Ryan
Published by Barefoot Books

After falling in love with Another Night Before Christmas, I knew that I had to find anything that had ever been created by the joint efforts of Carol Ann Duffy and Rob Ryan.

When a poet and a paper-cut artist meet, magic ensues!

The Gift narrates the tale of a little girl who, while collecting flowers in the woods one day, comes across a plot of land so beautiful that it makes her wish she could be buried there when she dies. No sooner than this strange thought crosses her mind, an old woman appears. In exchange for the girl’s flower necklace, she promises that her wish will come true. A moment of distraction and the older lady has vanished.

Was it just a dream? Carol Ann Duffy and Rob Ryan conjure up sweet words and images to tell the story of a girl who becomes a woman, a wife, an artist, a mother, a grandmother. A girl that, despite all the changes in her life and all the responsibilities that her ever-changing roles require, …

Help! My wish list #13

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One more title from my ever-expanding reading wish list.

** The cover image is for illustrative purposes only. If you are a publisher and would kindly like to offer me a copy of this book for review, I will change the cover so as to reflect the edition received. **

Mr Dick or the Tenth Book
By Jean-Pierre Ohl

Dedalus product description: Jean-Pierre Ohl's brilliantly inventive debut novel is inspired by Charles Dickens's last work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, left incomplete, and the mystery unresolved, on the author's death in 1870. Ohl’s narrator, Francois Daumal nurtures a passion for Dickens. From the moment his young eyes first light on the opening line of David Copperfield - ‘Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages will show’ – he is addicted. He systematically devours everything Dickens ever wrote, and develops a particular obsession with Edwin Drood. He becomes an expert on the subject, s…

Kimbery Menozzi and... A Nodding Acquaintance

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No more waiting! Here is your monthly treat signed by Kimberly Menozzi

When we meet, we always meet on the same corner. We wait for the traffic light to go from rosso to verde, and then at almost the same moment, we step out onto le strisce which define the crosswalk. After a couple of years of these inadvertent meetings, he now acknowledges me with a quirk of the corner of his mouth or a slight nod in my direction before we take that first step together.

The first time I saw him is still clear in my mind, though I couldn't say when it was. It was cool outside though. I know this because he wore a lavender sciarpa around his neck and a black velvet baseball cap. His thigh-length overcoat looked like a wool blend – I can't be sure because there was no way to touch it without being obvious – his dress slacks were dark grey, tailored to break perfectly where they touched his black leather shoes.

It shouldn't have worked, but it did, on him. Even from where I stood behind him, …

Help! My wish list #12

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One more title from my ever-expanding reading wish list.

** The cover image is for illustrative purposes only. If you are a publisher and would kindly like to offer me a copy of this book for review, I will change the cover so as to reflect the edition received. **

Still Alice
By Lisa Genova

Amazon's product description: When Alice finds herself in the rapidly downward spiral of Alzheimer's Disease she is just fifty years old. A university professor, wife, and mother of three, she still has so much more to do - books to write, places to see, grandchildren to meet. But when she can't remember how to make her famous Christmas pudding, when she gets lost in her own back yard, when she fails to recognise her actress daughter after a superb performance, she comes up with a desperate plan. But can she see it through? Should she see it through? Losing her yesterdays, living for each day, her short-term memory is hanging on by a couple of frayed threads. But she is still Alice.

Why I w…

Book review: Bella Tuscany

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My “Italy in Books” reading challenge continues with Frances Mayes. She is the author of Under the Tuscan Sun, a book made famous by its film version starring Diane Lane in the role of the American writer who, during a holiday in Italy, falls in love with a thirteenth-century house and decides to renovate it.

I saw the film when it came out in 2003 and then forgot everything about it until, on a recent holiday, I found the written sequel of that first book: Bella Tuscany. Subtitle: The Sweet Life in Italy. Sounded good as a light beach read! And it was. It didn’t impress me a lot though and I’m not sure how I’d feel about reading her latest book, Every Day in Tuscany. Let’s face it, there are just so many times that you can get away with describing in such detail any flower, plant and crumbling wall that you come across. And I think that they were exceeded by chapter three of Bella Tuscany!

There is no denying that, seen through the eyes of Frances Mayes, Italy is an extremely beautiful…

Tips for aspiring writers – part 1

Amanda Sington-Williams on: Characterisation.

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Characters drive a novel and it is important that novelists know their characters almost better than they know themselves. A writer must know where and when their characters were born, what they like and dislike, what kind of childhood they had, where they’ve lived, what they fear and how they react in a crisis.

In order to hold the reader’s interest, the characters need to be interesting. Though it is not essential that the reader likes them, there must be something about them that makes the reader want to find out what happens to them.

Some novels have an innumerable amount of main characters (Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie is an example), but it is probably easier to work with three or four. It is the main character(s) that form a novel and I spend a lot of time thinking about them before I start writing. In a novel, there are usually minor, walk-on characters too; sometimes they can be stereotypical of a certain kind of perso…

Help! My wish list #11

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One more title from my ever-expanding reading wish list.

** The cover image is for illustrative purposes only. If you are a publisher and would kindly like to offer me a copy of this book for review, I will change the cover so as to reflect the edition received. **

Lizzie Siddal: The Tragedy of a Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel
By Lucinda Hawksley

Amazon's product description: The supermodel did not arrive when Twiggy first donned false eyelashes; the concept began more than one hundred years previously, with a stunning young artists' model whose face captivated a generation. Saved from the drudgery of a working-class existence by an astute young Pre-Raphaelite artist, Lizzie Siddal rose to become one of the most famous faces in Victorian Britain and a pivotal figure of London's artistic world, until tragically ending her young life in a laudanum-soaked suicide in 1862. In the twenty-first century, even those who do not know her name always recognise her face: she is Millais' do…

Book review: The Love of Good Women

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By Isabel Miller

Alma Routsong, an American novelist who came out as a lesbian writer under the pen name Isabel Miller, is the author of the classic Patience and Sarah. The Love of Good Women, which I chose to read as part of the LGBT reading challenge 2011, is also one the novels that she signed as Isabel Miller – apparently a combination of an anagram for "lesbia" and her mother's birth name.

First published in 1986, The Love of Good Women is set in America towards the end of World War II and is centred on two main female characters, Gertrude and Millie. Married respectively to brothers Earl and Barney, they are both unhappy - even though for different reasons.

Having married across class lines, Gertrude is an extremely insecure woman. She looks up at her husband, who, in her eyes, could do nothing wrong. Ever. If he’s mean to her or is impatient, she thinks it’s her fault for being a woman and as such, in his words, a “stupid and inferior creature”. She believes that bei…

LGBT reading challenge - February 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 February (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!

And so, let's begin!

01. Natazzz read and reviewed Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite.
02. Dante read and reviewed Drag King Dreams by Leslie Feinberg.
03. Orange Sorbet read and reviewed Yes Means Yes! by Jaclyn Friedman & Jessica Valenti.
04. Juliet read and reviewed My Alexandria by Mark Doty.
05. Irene read and reviewed The War…

Book review: Fiere

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By Jackie Kay
Published by Picador
Reviewed by Juliet Wilson
Jackie Kay is a talented writer, a novelist, a short story writer, a playwright and a poet. I recently really enjoyed her book of short stories Wish I Was Here and her brilliant novel Trumpet. I was therefore looking forward to reading her new poetry collection Fiere, which is described on the book jacket as ‘her most accomplished, assured and ambitious collection of poems.’

Fiere (the title means friend in Scots) is billed as a lyric counterpart to Kay’s Red Dust Road (the story of her search for her birth parents) which I haven’t read, but the collection stands alone. It is full of the different voices that make up the poet’s heritage, so Scots poems such as Body o’ Land are found alongside poems set in Nigeria such as Egusi Soup. There are poems about ancestors and children, adopted parents and birth-parents; poems inspired by paintings and poems about love and friendship. All are heartfelt, simply written and accessible.

The …

Help! My wish list #10

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One more title from my ever-expanding reading wish list.

** The cover image is for illustrative purposes only. If you are a publisher and would kindly like to offer me a copy of this book for review, I will change the cover so as to reflect the edition received. **

The History of Love
By Nicole Krauss

Product description: We first meet Leo Gursky when he believes he is nearing the end of his life, living alone in a tiny apartment in Manhattan. He is an elderly Jew who came to America from Poland after the second world war, having survived the Holocaust. [...] Although he seems to be a man without much of a life, we soon learn that he was once rich in art and love. He loved a woman, Alma, in Poland, but because he took too long to get to America she married somebody else. He also wrote a great novel in Poland, The History of Love, but entrusted it to a friend who later told him that it was lost. [...] We soon move from Gursky's empty little apartment to a more lively home, a family whe…

"Italy in Books" - February reviews

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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 February (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!

And so, let's begin!

01. Monica read and reviewed The Undrowned Child by Michelle Lovric.
02. Stuart read and reviewed The Leopard by Tomasi di Lampedusa.
03. Stuart read and reviewed If on a Winter's Night a Trav…

LGBT challenge - Link for February reviews and prize draw

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It’s February 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 Wavewalker by Stella Duffy.

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 LGBTShare your review (or opinion, if it sounds less intimidating!) by clicking hereEasy, 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!

LGBT challenge - January winner

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12 reviews. Books that I have already read, books that were already on my wish list, books that I didn’t even know existed… if every month is going to be like this, it’s going to be a great year!

Did you miss the reviews? 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 Duckworth, will receive a copy of Putting It On: The West End Theatre of Michael Codron by Michael Codron and Alan Strachan is:

J Seth, who read and reviewed Gay Bar by Helen Branson.

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

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

This month, courtesy of Duckworth, one of you will have the chance to win a copy of Why Italians Love to Talk About Food by Elena Kostioukovitch. Sounds mouth-watering, doesn’t it?

To participate in the prize draw, all you have to do is: Read a book set in Italy or about Italian culture & languageShare your review (or opinion, if it sounds less intimidating!) by clicking hereEasy, 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!

"Italy in Books" - January winners

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16 reviews: books that I have already read, books that were already on my wish list, books that I didn’t even know existed… if every month is going to be like this, it’s going to be a great year!

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 two lucky reviewers who, courtesy of the independent publisher Diiarts, will receive a copy each of Ask Me If I’m Happy by Kimberly Menozzi are:

Jeane, who reviewed The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
& Kathy, who reviewed The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato

Book review: Moonlight in Odessa

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By Janet Skeslien Charles

I first became acquainted with Janet Skeslien Charles’s debut novel at the beginning of 2010, when it was featured on BBC Radio 4 as Book at Bedtime. For two weeks, every day I looked forward to my 15-minute escape to the Ukraine and the world of Daria, via the voice of Jane Collingwood. I wasn’t expecting to read the book as well – in the same way that I tend not to read a novel when I have already seen the film version – but when I saw it by chance on a bookshelf in the library I couldn’t resist.

And I’m glad I didn’t.

Moonlight in Odessa is the story of Daria, a smart Ukrainian girl who lives in Odessa with her grandmother, Boba. She loves English and, despite having to dodge the advances of both her boss and a local mobster, she is happy to work as a secretary at an Israeli shipping company where she can use the language on a daily basis. Daria has also a second job as interpreter at Soviet Unions, an online matchmaking service for Western men looking for an…