Thursday, 28 April 2011

Help! My wish list #21

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. **

Man Made Language
By Dale Spender

Amazon's product description: This edition of this feminist study of language offers clear analysis of the ways in which our language is "man-made", of all the subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which the masculine is asserted as the norm, while feminine experience is muted and pushed to the margins of life and language.

Why I want to read this book: I am extremely fascinated by the feminist view on language and the way it shaped society.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Kimberly Menozzi and... Thoughts on Italy While Riding A Bike

I love bicycles. I've had them all my life, and I have one now - a Legnano city bike, a simple one-speed with handbrakes, which I ride to work when I have to teach in the mornings. My hubby bought it for me in 2004, shortly after I arrived in Italy and we married. I remember walking that bike home with my hubby (it wouldn't be fair to ride it when he didn't have one with him), feeling anxious and excited in a way I hadn't felt in years. I love my bike, and I love my hubby's Masi racing bike which he's had since a long time before we met.

I love the zing-zing of the bell when someone needs to pass, and the soft hum of the tires on the pavement. I love the jostling clatter of the frame when a bike hits a bump in the road, and the slowing whirr as the brakes are applied.

I love Italy's understanding of the needs of cyclists. I love the well-maintained cycling paths which were added when the city upgraded the phone and internet lines through the town. I love the spaciousness of the paths and the tree-lined streets they follow. I love that I can ride in the shade almost all the way to work, when the days get too hot. I love the fact that I can ride here safely, along with countless other people who ride to work or for pleasure. There are bike paths almost everywhere, and the city center is largely closed to traffic, ensuring increased safety if I venture there.

I love that most people here understand how to ride properly, and that drivers actually (for the most part, anyway) seem to expect cyclists to be on the road in the first place. I love that cyclists aren't routinely targeted by car or truck drivers out of spite.

I love seeing people of all ages on bikes, from helmeted toddlers on trikes to silver-haired pensioners on old Atala or Sparta city bikes, the latter speeding along with surprising agility and lack of fear. I love the elderly man who sings as he rides along. I love the dashing young man in his impeccably clean business suit, gliding along toward the train station with one pant leg held with a fastener to keep it from getting dirtied on the chain. I even love the women riding in their skirts and high heels (although I'd never try that myself), confident that their gown guards will keep the flowing fabric from tangling in the back wheel.

I love the riders who can steer the bike and hold an umbrella at the same time in the rain. I love the Bici Bus - a long line of little kids riding to and from school together with chaperones keeping them safe - and how excited they all look, round, perpetually delighted faces beneath comically large helmets.

I love the teenagers riding two on a bike, and how creative they can be in finding the configuration which works for them: one on the seat, the other standing and pedaling; one on the handlebars, the other seated; one riding the rack over the back wheel while the other sits toward the front of the saddle. It's unsteady and dangerous, but as long as they're on the path, they're having fun.

I love the riders in lycra, brilliant colors flashing in sunshine or gloom, male and female, young and old. Some are incredibly fit, some are pudgy, some are dreaming of races to win, while others recalling their glory days long past.

I love the fact that I can still start a prolonged debate in my lessons by asking "Who was the better rider: Coppi or Bartali?" The passions still run high even though those riders had their moment in the sun over fifty years ago. Here, it's like it all happened yesterday.

And finally, I love the fact that as I ride, I see all of these things at a comfortable pace: Not too fast, not too slow. Italy from the back of my bike is, quite simply, the Italy I know and love most, and every time I ride, I'm glad to be a part of it.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Book review: Unbearable Lightness

By Portia De Rossi
Published by
Simon & Schuster

Sometimes I choose what to read for reasons that go beyond the content of the book. In fact, when I decided that I wanted to read Portia De Rossi’s Unbearable Lightness, I didn’t even know what it was about. I had watched no interviews and read no reviews. I figured that whatever one half of the world’s most famous lesbian couple had to say, I wanted to know!

Despite not knowing anything about the book, I did have preconceptions. I was definitely not expecting the amazing book that this turned out to be.

In Unbearable Lightness, whose subtitle is A story of loss and gain, Portia De Rossi gives an acutely honest account of her struggle with eating disorders. Brought on by factors such as the need to feel above average when she was only in her teens and the perceived necessity to hide her sexual orientation when she was beginning her acting career, her difficult relationship with food and the hatred towards her body and herself are described with extreme openness and candidness.

Far from being a textbook on anorexia and bulimia, Unbearable Lightness takes readers on a journey that will enrich them without feeling too oppressed. I highly enjoyed De Rossi’s narrating approach. The chapters are relatively short and, despite the seriousness of the topic and the shocking revelations, they read incredibly easy. The tone is light but it does not make you take the subject lightly. That is an amazing feat.


De Rossi’s has written about her experience in a way that is not in the least patronising and that could really help bridge the gap between those who suffer from eating disorders and those who are trying to help them. Unbearable Lightness is a book that could change people’s attitudes and, ultimately, lives.

Read as part of the
LGBT reading challenge 2011.

Monday, 18 April 2011

My favourite quotes

When we are reading a good novel, we leave our small, cozy apartments behind, go out into the night alone and start getting to know people we had never met before and perhaps had even been biased against.

Elif Shafak

What are your favourite quotes? Send them in and I'll share them with the readers of Book After Book!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Book review: Living on a prayer

By Sheila Quigley
Reviewed by
Natazzz

I'm a fan of crime novels, but picking the right one can sometimes be tricky. A good story combined with a nice paperback cover is sure to get my attention, but it's not until you actually start reading that you notice if it's any good. At that point things can go either way. A crime novel that looked very promising can disappoint, while a novel that you did not really expect too much of can surprise you. Living on a prayer (2006) by Sheila Quigley falls into the latter category.

This novel is set in a small town in the UK, where just before Christmas a teenager commits suicide. His mother is convinced he couldn't have killed himself and the local police also find the circumstances of his death suspicious. Once they start looking into the boys' life they find out he and his friends were involved in all kinds of stuff, including a weird, creepy, religious cult. Whenever a religious cult shows up in a crime novel you know that there's bound to be trouble, but the drama that unfolds goes far beyond what I expected. One by one, the teenagers end up dead and it's up to detective Lorraine to catch whoever's responsible.

The plot is not very original, but it is told very well. They way in which it's written, detailed yet fast paced, combined with the fact that it doesn't get predictable until you get towards the end made me not want to put this novel down. It's not always easy to create suspense, but this novel nails it.

Another thing I really liked is the teenagers described in this novel. They are basically a group of troubled kids, who don't quite fit in, mainly because of their bad home situation. But through the religious cult they find a place where they belong. The cult might end up being rather dangerous and creepy, but at least they have made some lasting friendships. I really felt for these teens and I cared about what was going to happen to them. It almost made the cliché of the cult be ok.

One thing I didn't like about this book is that a lot of the dialogue was written in dialect. I guess the author was trying to capture exactly how these people spoke, but I just found it very distracting and annoying. Then again, that is all I could think of that I did not like. This crime novel was a nice surprise and I would definitely recommend it if you enjoy the genre.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Help! My wish list #20

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 Zookeeper's Wife
By Diane Ackerman

Amazon's product description: When Germany invaded Poland, Warsaw zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski began fighting their own war against the Nazis. With most of their animals killed by bombs, the couple rescued Jews from the ghetto and gave them sanctuary in the empty animal enclosures. Drawing on Antonina's diary, Diane Ackerman recreates this extraordinary wartime story in a dazzling tale of subterfuge, courage and endurance. Written with passion and energy, The Zookeeper's Wife is a testament to the courage and heroism that illuminated some of the darkest days of the twentieth century.

Why I want to read this book: Stories about wartime heroes are always inspiring and the title has definitely drawn me to find out more about this book.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Go on… Ask Me! by Kimberly Menozzi

It's inevitable. There are certain questions every writer is asked throughout their career, and this is one of the most persistent: "Is the book autobiographical?"

Since Ask Me if I'm Happy's release, I've already been asked that question more times than I'd ever dreamed would be possible. The answer is always a kindly-delivered but emphatic "No," and most folks are satisfied with that. However, some aren't, and they persist, delivering a variation on that theme:

"How much of you is in the book, then?"

This is where it gets tricky for me, because the answer is "None," and the answer is also "All of me."

Many writers will say the same, or something similar, so I know I'm not alone. Every character in every book I write has some part of me in them. I don't mean this in a completely literal sense, of course – it's not that I've assigned some of my own traits to every character that crosses the page.

And yet, in some small way, perhaps I have. Some traits are direct and obvious, and I'd be hard pressed to say they're not shared by me.

For example, in Ask Me if I'm Happy, Emily Miller is an ex-pat American involved with an Italian man. Right off the bat, then, she has a lot in common with me. What's more, she shares something else with me, which is illustrated when she has this to say about returning to Italy after time away:

“Anyway, every time I come back to Italy, I dread it. Just a little, but I do dread it.”
“Why is that?”
“Oh, it’s just... I don’t know. Even this time, I had a little feeling of ‘Ugh, here I go again’ before I got on the plane. I couldn’t wait to get back and I was looking forward to seeing you, but I still felt that ‘Ugh’ feeling.”
Dimmi: exactly what do you dread so much?”
“I guess it’s the whole mixed bag. It’s a beautiful place and it’s full of beautiful people. Sometimes, that makes me feel like maybe I don’t really belong here. Then there’s that whole different rhythm of life to readjust to every time.” She shook her head and shrugged. “Sometimes I can just jump right back into it—like this time, I got over the jet lag pretty quickly, my Italian hadn’t suffered too much and it wasn’t so hard.”

“And then,” she continued, “there’s the fact that once I’m here, I’m thrilled to be here again. Almost every time I’ve come back, I’ve had another little ‘honeymoon’ period, you know? Where everything I see just seems so beautiful, I can’t believe I wanted to leave it in the first place.
“I fall in love with this place every time I step out of the airport. Even the people who drive me crazy make me want to grab them and give them a hug. Well, except for the guy peeing under the overpass.”
“Who is that?” Davide laughed harder than ever and Emily did the same.
“Seriously, you haven’t noticed? There’s always a man peeing under the overpass—especially when you leave the airport.”
Oddio, Emilia. This is too much.”
“It’s true, Davide! Watch the next time you go to the airport—I’m telling you, you’ll see him! It might even be same guy.”
“So you think there’s a serial overpass pisser? Really?”
“Well, okay. I’m not sure it’s him every time. I don’t look that closely, to be honest.”


Other things Emily clearly has in common with me include her dress sense (she loves sweaters and jeans, sweatshirts and sneakers), her sense of humor (see above) and what attracts her to someone.

Which brings me to another question I'm frequently asked: How much do my male characters have in common with me? And how much of my real life is in my work?

The character of Davide was influenced by me, but also by my husband and by other people I've had the pleasure to know in my life. For instance, some of the conversations Emily has with Davide (such as the one above) are very similar to the conversations I've had with my husband. One or two scenes in Ask Me if I'm Happy even started out as nearly verbatim recollections of the mini "lectures" Alessandro is prone to delivering, which were then tweaked to suit the characters better.

However, Davide's fatigue after a day spent speaking English with Emily is something he has in common with me. I know first-hand how exhausting it can be to try to think and speak for an extended length of time in a language different from my own, after all. I see Davide as a man outside of his own time, a gentleman and a scholar, and his sense of being lost in a time and place which no longer seems to value these attributes is something I've observed all around me, in family and friends alike.

Of course, there are negative aspects to these characters, too – and to most of the characters I write. If there's a chance to go in depth, I will write them as they are, warts and all. I believe that it's vital for a reader to see these imperfections if they really want to sympathize, empathize and believe in these characters as real people.

Sometimes the characters are aware of their flaws: Emily knows she has a tendency to "dig in her heels" at the worst moment possible in a given situation, yet she is helpless to do anything else when challenged. Davide's past has embittered him somewhat to the world around him and even though he tries not to let it show, his latent anger and resentment sometimes surface.

One of my favorite threads in the story involves the repeated, minor interactions Davide has with a rather unpleasant elderly gentleman who lives in his building. I wanted people to see a slightly less gentlemanly, more natural side to Davide, and his slightly antagonistic encounters with Signore Montanari were (I have to admit) a fun way to do it.

…he resumed running, this time for home.
There wasn’t even a breeze as he headed downhill, carefully picking his way and gaining speed.
One, two, three, four—one, two, three, four…
Soon the soothing repetition was back in place and he concentrated on that for a while. The closer he got to the city, the hotter the day became, and he reduced his pace to a quick walk by the time he reached the center of town. Winding back to his palazzo, the idea of a shower and a nap to escape the heat had already taken on an irresistible appeal.
Stepping inside the lobby area of his building, he paused to check his mailbox, even though he could see the space behind the narrow Plexiglas window was empty. Glancing down
he found a jagged thread of blood trailing down from his knee to soak into his sock. With a sigh, he turned to ascend the stairs and tugged his shirt up to wipe his face again.
“Eh, Magnani!” an elderly voice called. Davide paused halfway up to the first landing to see who it was.
Sì?” he called back, before understanding he’d have to go back down to find out what they wanted. Once in the lobby, he braced himself for what he knew would be an unpleasant encounter. “Signor Montanari, come sta?
Prendi la tua posta. Your mail was in my box again,” the old man scolded, as though Davide had done it himself.
Mi dispiace; I’ve told them several times they’re putting it in the wrong box. I don’t know why they do.”
Mr. Montanari grunted in response and looked Davide up and down, wrinkling his nose in obvious distaste for the younger man’s unkempt condition. Annoyed, Davide again pulled up the bottom of his t-shirt and wiped his face with it, exposing his stomach, well aware this would lead to even more unpleasantness in the future.
For now, his neighbor did his best to turn on his heel—a shuffle step punctuated with the rubberized thump of his cane—and pretend to ignore him.


So, do I share any of these possibly unpleasant traits with them? Perhaps, yes. Or, perhaps not. At the very least, I can recognize shades of myself and my loved ones in every character I write, which further enriches the experience of writing them.

I hope it enriches the experience of reading them, as well.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Book review: Ask Me If I'm Happy

By Kimberly Menozzi While organising the “Italy in Books” reading challenge, someone on Twitter suggested that I read Ask Me If I’m Happy, debut novel of American-born Kimberly Menozzi. Curious, I started reading her blog and I was instantly hooked on her fresh and witty writing style. So much, in fact, that I just had to invite her to be a guest blogger on Book After Book!

It was with trepidation that this month I picked up my copy of Ask Me If I’m Happy and started reading. Having developed great expectations, I was concerned that I might end up being disappointed. I’m glad to report that I needn’t have worried!

Ask Me If I’m Happy opens on the last day that the Emily Miller ever intends to spend in Italy. Following a whirlwind romance and an excruciatingly difficult marriage with Italian playboy Jacopo, she is looking forward to leaving her adoptive country behind and starting afresh in America. Italian train strikes, however, are unforgiving and Emily finds herself stranded in Bologna on her way to the airport in Milan.

It is while Emily is giving in to panic that, in the best knight-in-shining-armour tradition, Davide Magnani makes his appearance. A fellow passenger, he couldn’t help but notice the sad-looking American and he is inexplicably overwhelmed by the urge to help her and make sure that she reaches her destination safely. He has never met her before and yet he wants – needs, almost – to make her happy.

Despite Emily’s initial reserve, the two of them spend a wonderful day together in Bologna, Davide’s hometown. So wonderful that, in less than 24 hours since first laying eyes on each other, Cupid seems to have struck his arrow. Suddenly, that America-bound plane stops being so appealing. There is no doubt that Davide would like Emily to stay in Italy. Is she ready though?

And this is where I’m going to stop because I don’t want to give away too much. I want you to read this book and experience first-hand the joy of getting to know Kimberly’s tri-dimensional characters. You will cheer their bravery and be frustrated when they can’t see what is in front of their eyes. At times, their romance will seem too good to be true, but Emily and Davide are such credible characters that you will be happy to suspend your disbelief and dream along.

And what can I say about the way Italy is portrayed? Simply. Brilliant. Italy is very much the third main character of this novel. Sometimes it sits quietly in the background and sometimes it comes forward in all its splendour. The exaltation of food flavours and textures, the colourful descriptions of people and places… they all help create a genuine picture of Italy, which is not idyllic in any way.

Kimberly’s Italy is a place with flaws as well as merits. It is a country that can annoy you as well as make you fall in love with it. To accomplish this, you need talent. And Mrs Menozzi has plenty of it!

Come back tomorrow for exclusive insight into the world of Ask Me If I'm Happy...

Monday, 11 April 2011

LGBT reading challenge - April reviews

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 April (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
Strong for Potatoes by Cynthia Thayer.
02. Lucy read and reviewed
Katherine Mansfield: A Secret Life by Claire Tomalin.
03. Saranga read and reviewed
Wavewalker by Stella Duffy.
04. Saranga read and reviewed Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

05. Dorla read and reviewed Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris.

Don't forget, one April reviewer is in for a chance to win a copy of
Wilde's Last Stand by Philip Hoare, courtesy of Duckworth Publishers!

Tips for aspiring writers – part 3

Amanda Sington-Williams on: Third person narrators.

***
There are three main types of third person narrator. Within each , however, there are many variants, some of which I’ll talk about in other writing tip instalments.


An omniscient narrator is ‘god-like’ and has knowledge of all the characters and events. An omniscient narrator often has opinions about characters. The reader is often given information about the weather, location, or characters’ moods in a way which could appear as subjective. This is the narrators’ view of the world. In addition, the omniscient narrator is able to see inside the characters’ minds, has full knowledge of their feelings and intentions and understands their emotions. The omniscient narrator is always written in the past tense and this kind of narration is the traditional way of telling a story. It was used by classical writers such as Dickens and the Brontës, and perhaps less in contemporary fiction.

A non-omniscient third person past narrator is a narrator that stays with one character’s viewpoint. As opposed to an omniscient narrator which has access into every character’s viewpoint, the non-omniscient narrator is only privy into one character’s mind. It is possible to go into detail about what the character is thinking. Consider a narrator as being on a sliding scale in relationship to the character. When the narrator is close to the character, the reader is privy into the character’s every thought as if the narrator is the first person. At the other end of the scale, a narrator ‘sits on the character’s shoulder’ and tells their story without going into too much detail about their thought processes. There is a need to be careful about sentence structure: make sure it is varied. Avoid starting every sentence with ‘He/She’. It can, if not handled carefully, sound contrived when the narrator moves back in time.

A third person present narrator sticks to one person’s viewpoint, giving a sense of immediacy and easily providing an opportunity for the narrator to observe what is happening around the character. It can give a ‘poetic’ feel to the narrative as there is no past history to haunt the character. The narration occurs as events take place. It may be easier to use a mix of present tense and past tense if the narrative requires any kind of reference to past events. A novel purely written in the third person present can be difficult, though not impossible, to sustain for a full length novel.

***
Amanda and I would love to hear your views so please feel free to leave your comments below. And don’t miss the next instalment on May 11th: Multiple view points and 2nd person.

Friday, 8 April 2011

"Italy in Books" - April 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 April (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. BJ read and reviewed An Italian Affair by Laura Fraser.
02. Barbara read and reviewed The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie.
03. Dorla read and reviewed Postscript to the Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco.
04. Tina read and reviewed Bella Tuscany by Frances Mayes.
05. Lynn read and reviewed Juliet by Anne Fortier.

06. Gretchen read and reviewed The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi.
07. Tina read and reviewed Dolci di Love by Sarah-Kate Lynch.
08. Jeane read Mussolini by Denis Mack Smith. Scroll down to read her review.
09. Parrish read and reviewed The Faber Book of 20th-Century Italian Poems edited by Jamie McKendrick.
10. Patricia read and reviewed Involuntary Witness by Gianrico Carofiglio.
11. Lara read I promessi sposi by Alessandro Manzoni. Scroll down to read her review.
12. Laura read and reviewed The Eternal City by Domenica de Rosa.
13. Angela read The Rule of Nine by Steve Martini. Scroll down to read her review.
14. Juliet read and reviewed Titian - The Last Days by Mark Hudson.
15. Lindy read and reviewed The Villa in Italy by Elizabeth Edmondson.
16. Pete read and reviewed Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano.




Reviews by non bloggers


Mussolini by Denis Mack Smith. Read and reviewed by Jeane:
Non-fiction books about history are for me always very interesting but at the same time I am always wondering if it is all true or what is and what not. But then I think that what is true depends often, especially in war related history, at which side you were. I am Belgian and for sure we thought negative about what was happening in our country during WWI and II, while the Germans were probably thinking completely different. My Italian boyfriend always advise me to read about Italian history in books written by non-Italians. The author is English and he is specialized in a part of Italian history. But how can I now if he wrote this completely neutral or not. And if he wrote this neutral, how do I know if the information he used was pro-, contra or neutral towards Mussolini? Whatever it is, I learned a lot from this book. Having an Italian boyfriend it keeps amazing me how people over the world have learned different things at school, have a different idea or feeling about historical aspects. One of them is Fascism. What I learned about is completely different than what he learned. So reading this book taught me about Fascism, but especially about the person Mussolini was. Even if I don't know if everything is true or not. It also taught me about parts different countries played just before WWII and about wars or occupying countries beginning 20th century. The book went very slow, besides during the parts towards wars, but is very interesting. It talked about Mussolini being a young boy, through his young life and how he came in contact with politics and made his entrance in national politics at high level. It also makes me want to read for sure more about him and the people mentioned in the book like for instance Cavour.

I promessi sposi by Alessandro Manzoni. Read and reviewed by Lara:
This is the story of all the love stories. A story that combines adventure, drama, passion, war, political issues, and takes place in Northern Italy, between Como, an astonishing lake scenario, Milano and, overall, Lombardy.
Two souls are hampered from realizing their love dream because of other people’s intrusion and adverse events (war, famine, black death). They will meet up again after long time, mature, aware, and destiny will reward them with the wedding, in a classical happy end.
I have chosen this book because I recently read again some pages of it. I Promessi Sposi is a compulsory reading at school and not always it appears a pleasant reading, just the opposite. I could not stand the naïve Lucia, the impetuous Renzo, the two protagonists, and I found implausible the series of events that made for them impossible to celebrate this wedding. Why such a wedding, recalling Don Abbondio’s words “non s’ha da fare”?
Moreover, I found not so useful to the story dynamic the intervention of so many characters. Ok for Don Abbondio and Don Rodrigo, whose choices and behaviour will determine the beginning of everything, but why to include, like in a fantasy parade, the Innominato, the Monaca di Monza, the Cardinale Borromeo, and so on, each character with his/her personal history that deviates from the main story? Finally, some tragic scenes constitute mere digressions: it is the case for the chapter dedicated to the black death, where Cecilia’s death is widely described.
Even today I could not say if I liked “I Promessi Sposi”. Anyway, it is a reading that I would strongly suggest to anyone who would like to learn more about Italy. Why, someone could ask, given my strong criticism? Well, Alessandro Manzoni put in this story so much passion, sorrow, fears, hopes, desires, history and places, that each one at the end, would be able to say “I learnt a lot, I know a lot about a country and its people, I finally understand Italy”.


The Rule of Nine by Steve Martini. Read and reviewed by Laura:
This is the first novel I read by Mr. Martini. I enjoyed it very much. It was clear and the story moved along at a fast enough pace to keep me interested. The book is Post 9/11 and talks of terrorism since then. The lead character is Paul Madriani, a defense attorney caught up in a terror plot because his business card is found on a dead body. The ending left one part of the story hanging, one of the bad guys, a cold blooded killer is still tracking and is on the way to kill Mr. Madriani's daughter, I am hoping that his next novel will pick up this part of the story, as the killer, Lakita, is intense, and I would like to see this part of the story wind up.


And remember, one April reviewer is in for a chance to win a copy of Young Michelangelo: The Path to the Sistine by John T Spike, courtesy of Duckworth Publishers. Buona fortuna!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Help! My wish list #19

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. **

Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England
By Sharon Marcus

Amazon's product description: Women in Victorian England wore jewelry made from each other's hair and wrote poems celebrating decades of friendship. They pored over magazines that described the dangerous pleasures of corporal punishment. A few had sexual relationships with each other, exchanged rings and vows, willed each other property, and lived together in long-term partnerships described as marriages. But, as Sharon Marcus shows, these women were not seen as gender outlaws. Their desires were fanned by consumer culture, and their friendships and unions were accepted and even encouraged by family, society and church. Far from being sexless angels defined only by male desires, Victorian women openly enjoyed looking at and even dominating other women. Their friendships helped realize the ideal of companionate love between men and women celebrated by novels, and their unions influenced politicians and social thinkers to reform marriage law. Through a close examination of literature, memoirs, letters, domestic magazines and political debates, Marcus reveals how relationships between women were a crucial component of femininity. Deeply researched, powerfully argued, and filled with original readings of familiar and surprising sources, Between Women overturns everything we thought we knew about Victorian women and the history of marriage and family life. It offers a new paradigm for theorizing gender and sexuality -- not just in the Victorian period, but in our own.

Why I want to read this book: A supporter of relationships between women, I am deeply interested in accounts of past lives.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

"Italy in Books" - March winners

15 reviews: a few books that I had heard of but mostly books that I wasn't familiar with. Another good 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 lucky reviewers who, courtesy of Hersilia Press, will receive a copy of Blood Sisters by Alessandro Perissinotto are:

Barbara, who reviewed God's Spy by Juan Gomez Jurado and Gretchen, who reviewed The Dark Heart of Italy by Tobias Jones

LGBT challenge - Link for April reviews and prize draw

It’s April and the LGBT reading challenge 2011 continues!

This month, courtesy of
Duckworth Publishers, one of you will have the chance to win a copy of Wilde's Last Stand by Philip Hoare.

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 April reviews and prize draw

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

This month, courtesy of Duckworth Publishers, one of you will have the chance to win a copy of Young Michelangelo: The Path to the Sistine by John T Spike. 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!

LGBT challenge - March winners

8 reviews and lots of books added to my wish list!

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 reviewers who, courtesy of Constable & Robinson, will receive a copy of The Mammoth Book of New Gay Erotica edited by Lawrence Schimel are:

Dorla, who read and reviewed Strapped for Cash by Mack Friedman
and Juliet, who read and reviewed Secrets of the Sands by Sara Sheridan.

Film review: Howl

Film review, that's correct!

Juliet Wilson, fellow blogger and poetry expert here at Book After Book, had the great idea of writing a review of this recently released film in occasion of the LGBT reading challenge.

This is how it begins...

Howl, the film, centres on Allen Ginsberg's famous poem of the same name. It juxtaposes an animated interpretation of the poem alongside clips from re-enacted interviews with Ginsberg (played brilliantly by James Franco), scenes from the first reading of Howl in San Francisco in 1955 and scenes form the 1957 obscenity trial against the publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

more...

Monday, 4 April 2011

My favourite quotes

Briefing is terse, factual and to the point. Reading is untidy, discursive and perpetually inviting. Briefing closes down a ubject, reading opens it up.

From “The Uncommon Reader” by Alan Bennett

What are your favourite quotes? Send them in and I'll share them with the readers of Book After Book!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Book review: The Romantic Dogs

By Roberto Bolaño
Translated by Laura Healy
Reviewed by
Juliet Wilson
Published by
Picador

Roberto Bolaño was a Chilean novelist and poet, who travelled and lived in Mexico, El Salvador, France and Spain. He saw himself primarily as a poet, setting up infrarrealista an anarchic school of poetry. He later turned to writing novels as a way of supporting his family.

The Romantic Dogs, a collection of his poetry written between 1980 and 1999, was published in 2006 and this bilingual edition, with translations by Laura Healy came out in 2008. The poetry is varied in style and content, some of the poems are long narratives, while others are fragments, some are clearly inspired by political events, while others seem to be based on personal experiences. The poet’s obsessions quickly become clear, particularly in a sequence of five poems about detectives.


‘I dreamt of frozen detectives in the great
refrigerator of Los Angeles.’

from Dirty Poorly Dressed

‘Detectives who stare at
Their open palms,
Destiny stained by their own blood.’

from The Lost Detectives

These poems stand by themselves but many readers who aren’t familiar with Bolaño’s life or his fiction (including his short story The Detectives and his novel The Savage Detectives) would probably appreciate a biographical or contextual note here (he was arrested, after Pinochet’s coup in Chile, on suspicion of terrorism and then gained his freedom through the intervention of some old classmates who had become detectives. In addition, he had an abiding interest in the interrelationship between poetry and crime).

Knowing that I lack some of the political context to many of the poems, I most enjoyed Bolaño’s ability to come up with a striking image:

‘If we look, however, with X-rays inside of the man,
we’ll see bones and shadows; ghosts of fiestas
and landscapes in motion as if viewed from an airplane
in tailspin.’

from X-rays

and from Half Baked, a poem that, additionally, uses repetition particularly well to evoke atmosphere, we have this:

‘Like embers defoliated like an onion
beneath the Latin American detective’s baton.’


My favourite imagery though comes in the poem The Donkey, a poem inspired by a road trip with Mario Santiago on his black motorcycle:

………………………… Our bike
Is a black donkey dawdling
Through lands of Curiosity.

……………………… A donkey from another planet
That is the unrestrained longing of our ignorance,


This is poetry that intrigues and dazzles, taking the reader into surreal parallel worlds, where things probably aren’t what they seem. This means that it is poetry to enjoy reading over and over, with each reading revealing more, particularly to the reader who is prepared to do some background reading.

It is worth a note about the translation. I find Spanish to be a much more naturally poetic language than English. Lines such as:

‘En el camino de los perros mi alma encontró
a mi corazón. Destrozado, pero vivo’


flow much more beautifully than the (entirely accurate) translation:

‘On the dogs’ path, my soul came upon
my heart. Shattered but alive.’


and sometimes I did wonder if the poetry could have been translated in such a way as to preserve more of this flow of the original Spanish, without compromising the meaning in the English. That said, Laura Healy's translation is expert and correct.

I would be very interested in a bilingual edition of this book with contextual notes and The Savage Detectives is definitely on my reading list now!