Thursday, 27 July 2017

Book Review: Where'd you go, Bernadette - M. Semple

“That's right,' she told the girls. 'You are bored. And I'm going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it's boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it's on you to make life interesting, the better off you'll be.” 

Loved this novel! I kept them in my TBR pile for ages, I kept putting it off and this summer I finally decided to read it - why did I not do it before? It is a brilliant novel, both for the plot, the characters and the writing style. It did not remind me of anything else i read before, so it was very refreshing.
Bernadette is a legend, she is so funny and, even if she clearly has some issues, what she does and says is what a lot of times all of us would like to do and say. The satire with with Seattle's Mercedes and Subaru parents are described is hilarious, and the Microsoft's culture where her husband work is really interesting to read about too.
The novel is written in the form of letters, emails, bits of narration for Bee, Bernadette's daughter, who is the real force of the book, a wise and sweet teenager.
This book never lets you down and he has a lot of plot's twist so you never imagine where it is going to take you.
If you think about it beyond the humour, it is quite a sad story, Bernadette has quite a lot of unresolved problems and her husband is not such a nice person as it appears at the beginning. The poor Bee is also under a lot of pressures in the books.
The ending is a bit abrupt maybe.but overall this book is brilliant and I would highly recommend it to anybody.

I can pinpoint that as the single happiest moment of my life, because I realized then that Mom would always have my back. It made me feel giant. I raced back down the concrete ramp, faster than I ever had before, so fast I should have fallen, but I didn't fall, because Mom was in the world.” 

Overall rating: 8,5      Plot: 8,5     Writing style: 9      Cover:  8

Title:Where'd you go, Bernadette
Author: Maria Semple
Publisher: W&N
Pages: 336
Publication year: 2012

To Elgie Branch, a Microsoft wunderkind, she's his hilarious, volatile, talented, troubled wife.
To fellow mothers at the school gate, she's a menace.
To design experts, she's a revolutionary architect.
And to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, quite simply, mum.
Then Bernadette disappears. And Bee must take a trip to the end of the earth to find her.

The Author:
From the author's web page:
Maria Semple spent her early years traveling around Europe with her bohemian parents, but that ended abruptly when her father, Lorenzo Semple, Jr., finished a pilot for Batman while living in Torremolinos, Spain. He airmailed it in, they shot it, and the family moved to LA.  After the Batman TV series and feature, Lorenzo went on to write a bunch of movies. Once he was established, the family moved to Aspen, Colorado.Maria attended boarding school at Choate Rosemary and college at Barnard, where she majored in English.Maria moved to LA shortly after graduating Barnard and wrote screenplays which never got made, and then TV shows. 90210, Mad About You, Arrested Development and others. She quit to give fiction a try.This One Is Mine was published by Little, Brown in 2008.In 2008 Maria, George Meyer and their little daughter moved to Seattle just because. It was a difficult adjustment for Maria, which became the basis for Where’d You Go, Bernadette. The novel came out in 2012 and became an instant bestseller. Today Will Be Different is her latest.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Book Review: Swimming home - D. Levy

“... to be forceful was not the same as being powerful and to be gentle was not the same as being fragile...” 

A peculiar book, the first words that come to mind to describe this novel are languid, sad, summery, poetry.
The book is set in Cote d'Azur, in a villa not far from Nice where two families are holidaying. The found a naked girl swimming in the pool when they arrive and she ends up staying.
A depressed yet cheerful poet, a depressed and neurotic young woman, a girl too wise for her age, a wife detached and so very lonely, a man whose focus is food.
A very strange book, short and easy to get through, quite sad, it reminded me a bit of Fitzgerlad's novels set in France, where underneath the patina of drunken wealthiness, all the characters were in reality depressed and lonely.

Overall rating: 5      Plot: 5     Writing style: 5      Cover:  7

Title:Swimming hone
Author: Deborah Levy
Publisher: Faber&Faber
Pages: 176
Publication year: 2012

As he arrives with his family at the villa in the hills above Nice, Joe sees a body in the swimming pool. But the girl is very much alive. She is Kitty Finch: a self-proclaimed botanist with green-painted fingernails, walking naked out of the water and into the heart of their holiday. Why is she there? What does she want from them all? And why does Joe's enigmatic wife allow her to remain?
A subversively brilliant study of love, Swimming Home reveals how the most devastating secrets are the ones we keep from ourselves.

The Author:
Deborah Levy FRSL is a British playwright, novelist, and poet. Her work has been staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company. She was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1959, and she emigrated with her parents to London at the age of 10. 

Monday, 24 July 2017

Book Review: The Nest - C. D'Aprix Sweeney

“This was the part she hated, the part of a relationship that always nudged her to bail, the part where someone else’s misery or expectations or neediness crept into her carefully prescribed world. It was such a burden, other people’s lives.” 

The Nest is the story of a semi-disfunctional family and these 4 siblings who have set all their grown up lives around The Nest, a fund that was left to them by their father but to which they can access just when the younger of them turnes 40. However, the fund is used by their mother to "rescue" the black sheep of the family, Leo, and, as to avoid a family scandal, pay off a girl he had a car accident with.
And of course his siblings are politely furious and want Leo to pay them back.
I loved the NY setting and the bits of NY life in the novel, I liked Bea, the most composed, caring and "normal" of the siblings, and I liked Stephanie, Leo's on and off partner. I also liked the fact that a lot of the characters are part of the literary world of NY.
I was not so taken with the story, very wordy for what the plot really is, and I was not very taken by the writing style, nice enough but it did not completely engage me in the story. I did not like at all Jack and Melody, both weak and plotty and not nice people really. I didn't think that the side story of Melody's twins daughters Nora and Louise has anything to do with the novel itself, it is a bit of an addition to "pulp" things up a bit, but in reality it felt to me as the odd one in.
In summary, an ok read but there are other novels about families which are a lot more interesting and funnier - Jonathan Tropper's books for example comes to my mind.

“She supposed she could Google, but she preferred to wonder.”

Overall rating: 6      Plot: 6     Writing style: 6      Cover:  7.5

Title:The Nest
Author: Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
Publisher: The Borough Press
Pages: 416
Publication year: 2016

When black sheep Leo has a costly car accident, the Plumb siblings’ much-anticipated inheritance is suddenly wiped out. His brother and sisters come together and form a plan to get back what is owed them – each grappling with their own financial and emotional turmoil from the fallout. As ‘the nest’ fades further from view, they must decide whether they will build their lives anew, or fight to regain the futures they had planned . . .

The Author:
Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney is the New York Times bestselling author of The Nestwhich has been translated into more than 25 languages and optioned for film by Amazon Studios with Sweeney writing the adaptation. She has an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and children.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Book Review: What dark clouds hide - A. Holt

Serie Vik/Stubo - book 5

OMG I have just finished this book and I am shocked! I do not want to spoil it for anybody so I will not go into details but it is one of those crime novels where the end is not at all what you would expect. An extremely good book, Stubo is very much a secondary character in this volume, while Johanne Vik is more central. I  read three previous books in the serie - not sure why I skipped book number two - and I have to say this is dfinitely my favourite one out of all the four I read. 
A child is dead on the same day where Oslo is devastated by a terrorist attack which left all the police force busy in dealing with finding the killer. A police man just out of the police school is left investigating the child case and, in all his inexperience and mistakes, has suspicions on the accidental death so he decides to go in depth into the case. Joahnne Vik is a friend of the child's family and she finds herself called in by different parties and she decides at the end to look into it for her own ethics. As usual in her novels Anne Holt is very good at pitching the atmospheres that cloud the facts and Vik, with all her strange behaviours, is an interesting character with great profiling skills. Compared to UK and USA crime books, in my view you feel the difference in setting and in the culture and that's what makes Holt's books so interesting in my view. 
I highly recommend the serie - preferably in order to get to know the characters and their story - and I particularly recommend this fifth book in the serie.  

Overall rating:  7.5     Plot:  8     Writing style: 7.5       Cover: 5

Title:What dark clouds hide
Author: Anne Holt
Publisher: Corvus
Pages: 320
Publication year: 2017

On a summer's day, Johanne Vik arrives at the home of her friends Jon and Ellen Mohr and was greeted by a scene of devastation: their young son, left unattended, has tragically fallen to his death.Meanwhile, Oslo is under attack. An explosion has torn the city apart and newly qualified police officer Henrik Holme is the only one available to attend the Mohr household. As Holme investigates, he casts doubt on the claim that the death was a tragic accident and calls upon Johanne's profiling expertise to understand what really happened. But neither realise that those involved are determined to hide the truth - no matter what. Before the summer is over, more shocking deaths will occur
The Author:
Anne Holt is Norway's bestselling female crime writer. She spent two years working for the Oslo Police Department before founding her own law firm and serving as Norway's Minster for Justice between 1996 and 1997. She is published in 30 languages with over 7 million copies of her books sold worldwide. 
Books in the Vik/Stubo serie - in publication order:
The final murder
Death in Oslo
Fear not (Modus)
What dark clouds hide

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Book Review: The Doll House - F. Davis

“Isn’t she a gem? You never know who you’re going to meet here. Now that you’re living in the greatest city in the world, anything is possible.” 

One of my favourite books' genre is American fiction set in New York City in the 50s. I have now read a couple and the atmosphere, the jazz clubs, the independence of the women leaving their little provincial towns to find a profession in the Big Apple, just fascinates me. 
The Doll House, which is a nickname given to the Barbizon Hotel for Women, is the setting for this novel which splits its chapters between the present and the 50s. In the present, Rosie is a journalist and she lives in a luxurious condo at the former Barbizon Hotel. She comes across by chance the story of Darby, an old lady who still lives at the hotel on the 4th floor together with a dozens of other old ladies who were given an apartment as former long term guests of the hotel. Rosie gets interested in to the story of the differences between NY in the 50s and now and especially in the secret drama that surrounds Darby, who has been cut with a knife on the hotel terrace in 1953 while a maid of the hotel was killed. In the 50s we meet Darby, a young girl sent to the Barbizon by her mother and step father to learn a profession as a secretary. But Darby is not really cut as a typist and she finds herself involved, through a maid/wannabe actress - Esme, in the excting NY downtown world of bebop music, jazz clubs, singing and exotic spices. 
I loved how the novel gives to the Barbizon such a sense of a "home away from home" to these girls and even at present to Rosie, I loved the strength of these women in the 50s that left all they knew to make a career for themselves and had, even for a short period of time for some, the time of their life. Of course there are tragedies, and a deep sense of loneliness and, well, one of the most famous inhabitants of the Brbizon, for a month or so, was Sylviat Plath, who then wrote The Bell jar on the topic. I would have loved to be one of them, one of the assistant editors!
I just love NY and I particularly love the feeling of NY in the 50s for women, full of opportunities and freedom in a time where women were still the "fragile sex". 
I would recommend this novel to readers who love a secretive and engaging story, who love NYC and who love the 50s. I would also recommend on the same topic the famous The Bell Jar by S. Plath, Searching for Grace Kelly by M,G. Callahan, both novels set at the Barbizon, but also the great The Best of everything by R Jaffe, which is not set at the hotel, but it is set in the 50s and is about girls who come to NY to look for a career.

“No matter how she had suffered, Darby hadn’t retreated from life after all. In fact, she’d embraced it. Quietly, carefully, but with dignity and love.” 

Overall rating: 7.5    Plot: 7     Writing style: 7.5      Cover: 7

Title:The Doll House
Author: Fiona Davis
Publisher: Dutton Books
Pages: 304
Publication year: 2016


When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, Darby McLaughlin is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren’t: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn’t belong — a notion the models do nothing to disabuse. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she’s introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that’s used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance.Over half a century later, the Barbizon's gone condo and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby’s involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman’s rent-controlled apartment. It’s a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby’s upstairs neighbor, to resist — not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose’s obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed.

The Author:
Fiona Davis  was born in Canada and raised in New Jersey, Utah, and Texas. She began her career in New York City as an actress, where she worked on Broadway, off-Broadway, and in regional theater. After ten years, Fiona changed careers, working as an editor and writer, and her historical fiction debut, The Dollhouse, was published in 2016. She's a graduate of the College of William & Mary and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and is based in New York City.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Book Review: Harbour Street - A. Cleeves

Vera Stanhope is a force of nature! She is blunt, direct, doesn't care about appearances, she loves detecting but under all that being strong there is a big lonely heart. 
This is the first crime novel featuring Vera I read and I am very glad that I received it through my Willoughby Book Club subscription. In reality it is book 6 of the serie, so I have some catch up to do!
This novel is set in the seaside town of Mardle near Christmas; the setting is very suggestive, this dark and rough street covered with snow, a B&B, a fish&chips shop, a pub and a boat yard. The body of a distinct old lady is found on the metro by one of the DS's daughter and from there there is a thorough investigation into Harbour Street, where the victim lived and worked. 
There are several characters that could be the suspect and it is really enjoyable to read how Vera plans her investigations, the interviews and finally arrives at the conclusion.
It is quite a classic, very hard to guess who the killer is, I personally did not find out till it was announced in the book!
In summary a great crime story with an unusual female lead detective, a great read for crime fiction readers.

Overall rating: 7      Plot: 7     Writing style: 7      Cover:  6

Title:Harbour Street
Author: Ann Cleeves
Publisher: Pan MacMillan
Pages: 384
Publication year: 2014

As the snow falls thickly on Newcastle, the shouts and laughter of Christmas revellers break the muffled silence. Detective Joe Ashworth and his daughter Jessie are swept along in the jostling crowd onto the Metro. But when the train is stopped due to the bad weather, and the other passengers fade into the swirling snow, Jessie notices that an old lady hasn't left the train: Margaret Krukowski has been fatally stabbed as she sat on the crowded train. Why would anyone want to harm this reserved, elegant lady? Arriving at the scene, DI Vera Stanhope is relieved to have an excuse to escape the holiday festivities. As she stands on the silent, snow-covered station platform, Vera feels a familiar buzz of anticipation, sensing that this will be a complex and unusual case. Soon Vera and Joe are on their way to the south Northumberland town of Mardle, where Margaret lived, to begin their inquiry. Then, just days later, a second woman is murdered. Vera knows that to find the key to this new killing she needs to understand what had been troubling Margaret so much before she died - before another life is lost. Retracing Margaret's final steps, Vera finds herself searching deep into the hidden past of this seemingly innocent neighbourhood, led by clues that keep revolving around one street . .Why are the residents of Harbour Street so reluctant to speak?
The Author:
Ann Cleeves is a British crime-writer. In 2006 she won the inaugural Duncan Lawrie Dagger, the richest crime-writing prize in the world, for her novel Raven Black. Cleeves studied English at Sussex University but dropped out. She then took up various jobs including cook, auxiliary coastguard, probation officer, library outreach worker and child care officer.[2] She lives in Whitley Bay,[and is married with two daughters.The Vera Stanhope novels have been dramatized as the TV detective series Vera and the Jimmy Perez novels as the series Shetland.

Vera Stanhope serie - books:

  • The Crow Trap (1999)
  • Telling Tales (2005)
  • Hidden Depths (2007)
  • Silent Voices (2011)
  • The Glass Room (2012)
  • Harbour Street (2014)
  • The Moth Catcher (2015)
  • The Seagull (2017)

Saturday, 1 July 2017

June 2017 Wrap up

Before the Fall - N. Hawley
First few pages very gripping, then it becomes boring and confusing. Abandoned!

Ragione&Sentimento - S. Bertola
I ritratti satirici della Torino bene della Bertola colpiscono sempre nel segno! Molto carino.
Rating:  6.5 out of 10

In cold blood - T. Capote
The account of a horrible real crime, a compelling read. 
Rating:  6.5 out of 10

Commonwealth - A. Patchett
A great family saga about two interlinked families.
Rating:  8 out of 10

Summer at Shell Cottage - L. Diamond
Summery chick lit, nice enough but a bit too long.
Rating:  6 out of 10

Harbour Street - A. Cleeves
A very good crime novel with an unusual main character. Unexpected ending!
Rating: 7 out of 10

The doll house - F. Davies
A very pleasant story set in NYC, split between the 50s and the present.
Rating:  7.5 out of 10

What dark clouds hide - A. Holt
Book 5 of the Vik/Stub serie - great crime novel, still shocked by the ending!
Rating:  7.5 out of 10

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Midyear 2017 Wrap up - The best books so far!

So we are mid year already and it is time to wrap up the 5 best novels read this year so far.
On reflection my favourite books so far are all about friendship and simple life, they are quite sad and yet full of hopefulness.

(Click on titles for full reviews)

A really good, good book, the confirmation of my love for Kent Haruf's writing style and contents. A book which is tragic and sad and quite dark, and yet leaves with a sentiment of hope and good values.
It is an 8.5 out of 10 for me.
A novel that got me completely identify with a character that is anywhere similar to me! a highly emotional read.
A big 10 out of 10 from me.

A story of friendship and of simple life and simple values, written beautifully, with great characters and a stunning setting. Absolutely loved it.
It deserves a 9 out of 10 from me.

A novel that covers several years and several characters interlinked in a story about marriage, parenthood and life. Superb writing style, a must read.
It is an 8.5 out of 10 for me

I love Strout and I loved these stories set in Illinois. Simple lives, struggling, sadness but a lot of hope too. A must read.
It is a 9 out of 10 for me.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Le due nuove uscite nell'editoria italiana che aspetto con impazienza!

Esce il 31 agosto per Sellerio, Pulvis et umbra, il settimo libro di Antonio Manzini con protagonista il mio amatissimo Rocco Schiavone! 

Sul fondale del nuovo atteso romanzo di Manzini sono Aosta e Roma, i poli opposti dove si snoda la vita di Rocco Schiavone e si riannodano i fili della vicenda che avevamo lasciato alla fine di 7-7-2007, quando Adele non aveva ancora avuto giustizia né vendetta, lei uccisa per errore da chi pensava di colpire Schiavone, quell'Enzo Baiocchi che ritorna ad agitare la mente e i sogni del vicequestore. E mentre Rocco è ancora oggetto di insinuanti sospetti da parte dei vertici della polizia, e reagisce disinteressandosi a ogni attività della questura di Aosta, il cadavere di un transessuale affiora nelle acque della Dora; per prima cosa si procede a perquisire la casa del morto, ed ecco la prima sorpresa: l'appartamento risulta totalmente vuoto, né un mobile, né un vestito, e neanche un foglio di carta, come fosse passato al setaccio fitto. Nessuno dei vicini si è accorto del trasloco, tutti fingono di non sapere; ma cosa c'è dietro la facciata di quella rispettabile palazzina di Aosta che appartiene per intero a un unico inquietante proprietario? Quando anche il giudice Baldi decide di glissare sul caso del transessuale, l'odore dei servizi segreti arriva alle narici di Schiavone più forte di quello dell'erba. Su quel caso che molti vogliono far apparire un omicidio senza importanza Schiavone può fare luce solo ignorando le procedure e agendo a modo suo; ma ha anche altro per la testa, trovare Enzo Baiocchi in fuga per scampare alla vendetta di Sebastiano, una corsa contro il tempo all'inseguimento dell'amico e dell'assassino...

Esce il 10 novembre Arabesque, il settimo libro della serie L'Allieva - protagonista Alice Allevi - dalla penna della brava Alessia Gazzola per Longanesi - non vedo l'ora, Alice mi e' proprio simptica!!! (tra l'altro la copertina e' uno spettacolo!)

Nel nuovo romanzo Alice è a pieno titolo una Specialista in Medicina Legale. La libertà tanto desiderata ha però un sapore dolceamaro: di nuovo single dopo una lunga storia d’amore, Alice teme di perdere i suoi punti di riferimento. È un nuovo inizio, ma i nuovi inizi a volte fanno paura. Al centro del suo primo incarico di consulenza per un magistrato c’è il mondo del balletto legato a una donna di 45 anni, molto bella e ricca di fascino, un tempo étoile della Scala e oggi proprietaria di una scuola di danza. La donna sembra in apparenza deceduta per cause naturali, ma il fato intesse con Alice elaborati e inattesi passi di danza, seguendo una musica capricciosa come un’arabesque, portandola a scavare più a fondo in cerca della verità. In tutto questo Alice dovrà fare anche i conti con il suo passato e soprattutto affrontare ciò che finora ha sempre temuto: la necessità di fare scelte difficili.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Book Review: Summer at Shell Cottage - L. Diamond

I grabbed this novel from the library mainly as the day was dull and rainy and the title made me think of sun, sand and summer. The first thought was that to be chick lit, it was quite thick.
The first few pages of the novel are lovely, the description of this young newlyweds finding this cozy cottage by chance is charming. Then it goes into the other characters in the book, the couple's grown up kids and their partner and the grandchildren. Each of them has issues or any way is leaving a troubling period in their lives, plus they are all grieving for the death of their father Alec.
And then the bombshell, which I am not going to spoil, but which will turn all the nice thoughts you had for some of the people in the book.
This is what I liked. What I did not like and I think the story could have lived perfectly without, was all the other big themes thrown in, which made the novel thick and me bored through some of the chapters.
In summary a nice enough summary, light read, but a bit too long for what the story is.

Overall rating: 6,5   Plot: 6   Writing style: 6,5    Cover: 6,5

Title:Summer at Shell Cottage
Author: Lucy Diamond
Publisher: Pan MacMillan 
Pages: 480
Publication year: 2015

A seaside holiday at Shell Cottage in Devon has always been the perfect escape for the Tarrant family. Beach fun, barbecues and warm summer evenings with a cocktail or two… who could ask for more? But this year, everything has changed. Following her husband’s recent death, Olivia is struggling to pick up the pieces. Then she makes a shocking discovery that turns her world upside down. A busy mum and GP, Freya’s used to having her hands full, but a bad day at work has put her career in jeopardy and now she’s really feeling the pressure. Harriet’s looking forward to a break with her husband Robert and teenage daughter Molly. But unknown to Harriet, Robert is hiding a secret – and so, for that matter, is Molly…

The Author:
From the author page:
First of all, a confession. My name isn’t really Lucy Diamond at all, it’s Sue Mongredien. I’ve used a pen name because ‘Diamond’ is a lot easier to spell and pronounce than ‘Mongredien’ and also because I’ve written lots of children’s books too and wanted to keep the genres separate. (There is actually another Lucy Diamond on Amazon who writes religious children’s books. That isn’t me, though.) I was born in 1970 and grew up in Nottingham. I read English at Leeds University then moved to London and worked for various publishers before I packed it all in to go travelling around the world for a year and a half. When I came back to the UK, I worked in publishing again, then moved to the BBC. I now live in Bath with my husband and three young children and divide my time between writing and looking after them. .

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Book review: Commonwealth - A. Patchett

“He was making an effort to write a sermon in his head for the follow Sunday. He wanted to tell the congregation, the few who were not presently in the Keatings’ backyard, how the miracle of loaves and fishes had been enacted here today, but he couldn’t find a way to wring enough booze out of the narrative.”

There are simple family saga stories that really engage you, even if they are set in a completely different location and if whatever happens there will never happen to you. But you feel you are there, you live with the characters, your emotions follow the flow of theirs in such a way that mesmerize me every and each time. The power of books.
To me, it generally happens with American contemporary novels based on families, where the story line is quite simple yet dramatic, where there is suffering and loss, yet joy and hope.
And Commonwealth is one of those novels that had me glued in from the very beginning to the last word. It is a story about brotherhood and about families, it is the story of a group of kids who are somehow "forced" to grow up together, it is the story of three marriages, two that falls apart to create a new one which brings two family, six kids as a big family. But it is also the narration of the individual lives of the character from when they were little children until their older age. 
It is a book of summers of freedom at the lakeside, of California and Virginia, of mischievousness and tragedy, of a book inside the book.
Fix and Beverly have two daughters, he is a policeman, she is very beautiful, she leaves him for a lawyer who leaves his wife and four kids behind. In summer all the kids get together in Virginia, but one summer a tragedy happens and the oldest kid dies. Forward twenty years later, one of those kids - Franny, now in her late twenties meet a famous author and they fall in love and he writes a novel based on Franny's families story. Forward other twenty years later, Fix is very ill, his daughters get together to spend time with him and listen to all his stories. 
My favourite scene has to be the opening one: Beverly and Fix throw a christening party for baby Franny and then Bret arrives uninvited with a bottle of gin and magically oranges appears from everywhere to make cocktails. 
It is not a lighthearted novel, yet it never gives you the suffocating sensation of tragedy. Life is a mess, the two families are a mess, the single individuals are a mess, and yet you go through it. 

"Life ... was a series of losses. It was other things too, better things, but the losses were as solid and dependable as the earth itself."
I truly enjoyed Ann Patchett's writing style, swift and clever and never boring. The novel made me think a bit of We were never ourselves by Matthew Thomas, even if there are massive differences between the two, or A spool of blue thread by Anne Tyler.

In summary, I really enjoyed Commonwealth and I want to read other books from the same author as in both plot and writing style she really ticks all the boxes for me! 
Overall rating:  8  Plot: 8    Writing style: 8     Cover: 2

Author: Ann Patchett
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Pages: 336
Publication year: 2016

One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another. 
The Author:
Ann Patchett is the author of seven novels, The Patron Saint of Liars, Taft, The Magician’s Assistant, Bel Canto, Run, State of Wonder, and Commonwealth. She was the editor of Best American Short Stories, 2006, and has written three books of nonfiction–Truth & Beauty, about her friendship with the writer Lucy Grealy, What Now? an expansion of her graduation address at Sarah Lawrence College, and This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, a collection of essays examining the theme of commitment.Ann Patchett lives in Nashville with her husband, Karl VanDevender, and their dog, Sparky. She has opened a bookshop in Nashville, Tennessee, Parnassus Books.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Book Review: In cold blood - T. Capote

"I thought that Mr. Clutter was a very nice gentleman. I thought so right up to the moment that I cut his throat."

Gosh, how awful! Not the book, the facts described in the book. It is just a horrible story, this poor decent, hard working, well respected family killed in cold blood for not even 50 dollars in the end!
I get why Truman Capote got so fascinated by those murders and those killers to want to write a book about it. It is just unbelievable that two people, yes two "disturbed" people, no doubts, with a bad luggage of stealing, could committee such an atrocious act without any kind of remorse or nightmare at night!
The book itself is the account of what happened, who the family killed was, what the killers background was. There is a long part about their movements to reach the farm and then an account of the killing themselves. The end chapter is about the trial and the subsequent appeal.
It is a chronicle of what happened, well written, quite cold and factual, with some feelings from the various characters in the story in it, but generally it is quite a detached account of events. But the events themselves are so horrible that it becomes addictive to read on and on, to try and understand if they had a motive and what went on in their minds to commit such brutal assassinations.
A good read for the readers that like real crime story and are not too weak in the stomach!

Overall rating: 6,5   Plot: NA   Writing style: 6,5    Cover: 4

Title:In cold blood
Author: Truman Capote
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 352
Publication year: 1965

The chilling true crime 'non-fiction novel' that made Truman Capote's name, In Cold Blood is a seminal work of modern prose, a remarkable synthesis of journalistic skill and powerfully evocative narrative published in Penguin Modern Classics. Controversial and compelling, In Cold Blood reconstructs the murder in 1959 of a Kansas farmer, his wife and both their children. Truman Capote's comprehensive study of the killings and subsequent investigation explores the circumstances surrounding this terrible crime and the effect it had on those involved. At the centre of his study are the amoral young killers Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock, who, vividly drawn by Capote, are shown to be reprehensible yet entirely and frighteningly human.
The Author:
Truman Garcia Capote born Truman Streckfus Persons, (September 30, 1924 – August 25, 1984) was an American novelist, screenwriter, playwright, and actor, many of whose short storiesnovelsplays, annonfiction are recognized as literary classics, including the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958) and the true crime novel In Cold Blood (1966), which he labeled a "nonfiction novel". At least 20 films and television dramas have been produced of Capote novels, stories, and plays.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Book Review: Le addizioni femminile - A. Fezzi

"Ogni riferimento a fatti e persone realmente esistenti è puramente casuale.
Tranne i riferimenti a te, che hai sempre sperato che il grande amore della tua vita ritornasse."

Verona e' una bellissima citta', con un sacco di monumenti storici (in primis L'Arena) e di cultura, una movimentata vita notturna e tanti ristoranti e bar. E' una citta' molto frequentata da turisti provenienti un po' da ovunque nel mondo.
Verona e' anche una citta' molto borghese, una sorta di paesello in versione gigante dove tutti conoscono un po' tutti e sanno i fatti di tutti. E' anche una citta' paesello dove le amicizie, che si stringono di solito alle elementari/medie e non cambiano poi piu' di tanto fino alla geriatria, sono importanti e molto strette, cosi' strette che a volte chi non e' nella "cerchia" giusta si sente un po' un outsider.
Detto questo, amo Verona con i suoi pro e contro e adoro tornarci per un weekend lungo e ritrovare lle solite persone, le solite routine, la placida Borgo Trento bondalara dove vivono i miei genitori (e, dove, soprattutto, c'e' il Gelatone che fa un gelato alla stracciatella da urlo!).
Tutto questo per dire che per me Fezzi parte avantaggiato, poiche' scrive romanzi ambientati nella mia Verona, e quindi si becca gia' un paio di punti solo per questo motivo. Non ho trovato nessun altro autore che basa i suoi libri esclusivamente su Verona e su luoghi, usanze in cui mi ritrovo cosi' tanto. Il primo libro di Fezzi - Ho sognato un Negroni - mi ha fatto ridere a crepapelle perche' e' un ritratto cosi' vero della "Verona da bere" che ogni riga mi faceva pensare a qualcuno di mia conoscenza o ad un episodio simile.
Con quest' ultimo romanzo, Fezzi e' piu' riflessivo e meno "pacione" rispetto ai precedenti. Le addizioni femminile e' un romanzo "di crescita", retrospettivo, in cui il protagonista, Luca - veronese 30enne proprietario di un bar nella sonnacchiosa Borgo Trento - si ritrova faccia a faccia con i suoi quattro amori passati, che ritornano da lui in carne ad ossa. E ovviamente Luca si trova a riflettere - fin troppo - su what if con ognuna dei suoi grandi amori.
Un libro sull'amore, certo, anzi su diversi tipi di amore, da quello adolescenziale, a quello piu' maturo dei trent'anni, ma soprattutto un libro sull'essere se stessi e la propria felicita' interiore e un libro sull'importanza dell'amicizia e dei solidi valori familiari.
Un libro che consiglio a tutti i veronesi che ritrovanno un bellissimo ritratto della loro citta'. ma anche a tutti i 20-30-40enni che vogliono una storia piacevole ma non sdolcinata, riflessiva ma non pesante.

Overall rating: 8   Plot: 8  Writing style: 8    Cover: 7

Title:Le addizioni femminili
Author: Alberto Fezzi
Publisher: Historica Edizioni
Publication year: 2015

Che cosa succederebbe se gli amori passati si ripresentassero tutti insieme, a confondere passato e presente, realtà e immaginazione? È quello che capita al protagonista, Luca, barista trentenne con tutte le incertezze e le domande di una generazione. Serio ma non troppo, ingenuo fino a strappare la risata, Luca si trova assolutamente impreparato di fronte a questi nuovi vecchi incontri. Ne segue una serie di eventi inaspettati, che vengono a scombinare la sua vita tranquilla, in una Verona che, timidamente, riesce a raccontare tutta la bellezza della vita di provincia. Le aritmetiche amorose del protagonista verranno definitivamente sovvertite; un gioco del destino, in cui la realtà è più sorprendente di tutte le innumerevoli ipotesi. Il risultato dell'assommarsi dei ritorni, infatti, sarà per Luca una rivelazione ben più grande, che arriverà, sul finale a sorpresa, a mostrargli il volto dell'unica persona con cui veramente fare i conti.

The Author:
Direttamente dal sito dell'autore: "Sono nato a Verona nel 1977, terzo figlio di madre professoressa e casalinga, e padre dirigente d’azienda e cantante lirico, e tutta questa è la ragione per cui dentro di me suona sempre il Rigoletto.
Mi sono diplomato al liceo classico, mi sono laureato in Giurisprudenza e sono diventato avvocato. Ma nel frattempo ho fatto il rocker, l’attore e poi lo scrittore. Certo, tutte attività da senzadio che agli occhi della maggior parte della gente appaiono inconciliabili con quella dell’avvocato, un uomo palloso intento solamente a leggere vecchie pergamene con il monocolo."