Thursday, 30 March 2017

Book Review: After the crash - Michel Bussi

I read the plot summary and I was very intrigued by it: a baby as only survivor of a plane crash, two families fighting over the identity of the baby and a detective trying to solve the mystery. Sounded really good.
However, in reality it is not really a mystery, it is more a series of half truth, strange characters which change from being very bad to good and viceversa, a lot of avoidable and repetitive passages.
It is my first French mystery from memory and I am not impressed, even if I read brilliant reviews about this book in the UK and very good ones about his other books in Italy.
I must say that I did not like any of the characters either, from the private detective to the family members to the "miracle baby". I found all them unilateral, with not enough depth in them as if the author just draw their shapes without filling them in. An the sudden change of their behaviours and attitudes in not something you would see so dramatically in the real life.
The line of investigation that Credule - the private investigator - is following are also all over the place, and some of them are too dragged out and they stopped to be interested after a while.
On top of everything, the solution of the mystery is very guessable from about 3/4 of the novel, so I was also missing that "who has done it?" feeling that I love from crime books.
I really struggle to get to the end of the book as I was bored of it and un-involved. I progressed in the reading just because it'd be have been annoying not to confirm my suspicions on the truth.
In summary, a negative read for me and I would need to be extremely lacking any other source of reading to go back to a book from Bussi I am afraid.

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

Title:After the crash
Author: Michel Bussi
Publisher: W&N (Orion books)
Pages: 416
Publication year: 2015

On the night of 22 December 1980, a plane crashes on the Franco-Swiss border and is engulfed in flames. 168 out of 169 passengers are killed instantly. The miraculous sole survivor is a three-month-old baby girl. Two families, one rich, the other poor, step forward to claim her, sparking an investigation that will last for almost two decades. Is she Lyse-Rose or Emilie?Eighteen years later, having failed to discover the truth, private detective Credule Grand-Duc plans to take his own life, but not before placing an account of his investigation in the girl's hands. But, as he sits at his desk about to pull the trigger, he uncovers a secret that changes everything - then is killed before he can breathe a word of it to anyone.
The Author:
Michel Bussi has won 15 literary awards, making him one of France's most prestigious crime authors. When not writing fiction, he is a Professor of Geography at the University of Rouen and a political commentator. AFTER THE CRASH is his first book to be published in the UK.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Book Review: The tie that binds - K. Haruf

"I remember saying something innocent and foolish like "But it's not fair". And he said, "'Course it's not fair. There ain't none of it that's fair. Life ain't. And all our thinking it should be don't seem to make one single damn. You might as well know that now as later.".

Haruf has done it again: back in Holt, back to that countryside where hard work, sense of duty, friendship, neighborhood are the main values. And Haruf with his honest, smooth, hard writing style makes you fall in love all over again with Holt and the good people in this novel and hate the baddies.
This is the fifth book I read of Haruf's and Holt feels now a bit like home. I have one last novel of his to read - Where you once belonged - and part of me would like to read it immediately, part of me wants to wait and delay the pleasure I gather from reading Haruf's books.
The tie that binds is actually Haruf's first novel, written in 1984, before the probably more famous "Holt trilogy". And because I read his more recent novels first, I could tell it was an earlier writing as the style is more raw than in the Plainsong volumes. And yet you can recognise the important elements in all of Haruf's books: the farm work, the difficult family relationships, the despotic fathers, the sacrifices made in name of family and work, the friendship and good neighborhood that are probably deeper than blood.
The strong female figures also are a constant in his novels and in The tie that binds, Edith is a portrait of strength and solidity and trust. And she lives a life completely sacrificed in name of her role as a daughter and substitute mother, in the shadow of her horrible father and then her nut-job brother, working hard to keep them fed and well, despite everything going on around her. She sacrifices her personal life, her love life, her freedom, for a sense of duty to a family that doesn't really gives her anything back. And yet her "tie" to them, to her brother in particular, is so strong that she does feel "bind" to it. The other "tie" is between her and the narrating voice's father, that goes above and beyond words and worldly links and which then goes on over the years becoming a beautiful friendship between Edith and Sanders Roscoe, the son that could have been hers.
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.

Overall rating: 8.5    Plot: 8   Writing style: 9    Cover:  8

Title:The tie that binds
Author: Kent Haruf
Publisher: Picador Books
Pages: 272
Publication year: 1984

In his critically acclaimed first novel, Kent Haruf delivers the sweeping tale of eighty-year-old Edith Goodnough. Narrated by her neighbour, Edith's tragedies unfold: a tough childhood, a mother's death, a violence that leaves a father dependent on his children, forever enraged. She is a woman who sacrifices everything in the name of family - until she is forced to reclaim her freedom in one dramatic and unexpected gesture. Breathtaking and truthful, The Tie That Binds is a powerful tribute to the demands of rural life, and to the tenacity of the human spirit.

The Author:
Haruf was born in Pueblo, Colorado, the son of a Methodist minister. He graduated with a BA from Nebraska Wasleyan University in 1965, where he would later teach.
Before becoming a writer, Haruf worked in a variety of places, including a chicken farm in Colorado,a construction site in Wyoming, a rehabilitation hospital in Denver, a hospital in Phoenix, a presidential library in Iowa, an alternative high school in Wisconsin, as an English teacher with the Peace Corps in Turkey, and colleges in Nebraska and Illinois. He lived with his wife, Cathy, in Salida, Colorado until his death in 2014. He had three daughters from his first marriage.
All of Haruf's novels take place in the fictional town of Holt, in eastern Colorado. Holt is based on Yuma, Colorado, one of Haruf's residences in the early 1980s. His first novel, The Tie That Binds (1984), received a Whiting Award and a special Hemingway Foundation PEN citation. 
Plainsong was published in 1999 and became a U.S. bestseller. Verlyn Klinkenborg called it "a novel so foursquare, so delicate and lovely, that it has the power to exalt the reader."Plainsong won the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Award and the Maria Thomas Award in Fiction and was a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction.
On November 30, 2014, Haruf died at his home in Salida, Colorado at the age of 71.He died of interstitial lung disease.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Book Review: Nessuno come noi - L. Bianchini

"La casa dove nasci segnerà per sempre la tua vita. Potrai abbandonarla, dimenticarla, dipingerla o trasformarla. Potrai riempirla di libri e svuotarla di ricordi, nasconderla dietro le persiane o lasciare che la luce la investa. Potrai aprirla agli altri o tenerla tutta per te, averla perennemente in ordine o disseminare i tuoi vestiti in giro. Ma le mura fra cui sei cresciuto condizioneranno chi sei e chi sarai."

Seguo Luca Bianchini da quando, nel lontano 2003, usci' con Istant Love che ho amato moltissimo, e lo venne a presentare in una vinoteca a Verona in cui eravamo quattro gatti e lui simapticissimo. Poi Bianchini e' diventato "famoso", ha partorito altri 8 libri, che mi sono piaciuti tutti, anche se nessuno mai come il suo primo romanzo - anche se Dimmi che credi al destino ci va molto vicino.
Trovo che Bianchini scriva bene, riesca a coinvogere molto il lettore e sia molto "schietto" nelle trame e nel modo di scrivere. E poi lo seguo su Facebook ed Instagram e mi pare proprio gentile, educato, onesto e simpatico!

Nessuno come noi mi ha davvero riportata indietro ai tempi del liceo ed anche se e' sfasato di una decina d'anni rispetto alla mia adolescenza, in realta' le tematiche/problematiche sono le stesse e parlando con mia madre, mi pare di capire la vita liceale fosse "devastata" dagli stessi drammi anche ai suoi tempi! 
Leggere dei primi amore, delle prime paure di innamorarsi, di essere rifiutati, di avere la felpa "giusta" o essere nel gruppeto dei fighi o degli sfigati, le gite, i motorini, il trascorrere pomeriggi al telefono per dirsi chissa' cosa, quanti bei ricordi!
Per me gli anni del liceo sono stati molto belli, anche io, come nel romanzo Cate, avevo un migliore amico maschio, e ripensandoci ora che ci siamo allontanati, per distanza e per evoluzione naturale direi, mi manca quella "simbiosi" che solo nelle amicizie adolescenziali riesci a formare. 
Certo questo romanzo non e' un capolavoro di letteratura, ma e' molto carino,a "blast from the past" che mi ha fatta sorridere ed emozionare ripensando al passato ed ai vecchi amici. Quindi Luca si riconferma per me una sicurezza quando voglio leggere qualcosa di italiano, leggero ma non troppo e piacevole.
Last but not least, copertina bellissima!

Overall rating: 7    Plot: 7   Writing style: 7    Cover:  9

Title:Nessuno come noi
Author: Luca Bianchini
Publisher: Mondadori
Pages: 250
Publication year: 2017

Torino, 1987. Vincenzo, per gli amici Vince, aspirante paninaro e aspirante diciassettenne, è innamorato di Caterina, detta Cate, la sua compagna di banco di terza liceo, che invece si innamora di tutti tranne che di lui. Senza rendersene conto, lei lo fa soffrire chiedendogli di continuo consigli amorosi sotto gli occhi perplessi di Spagna, la dark della scuola, capelli neri e lingua pungente. In classe Vince, Cate e Spagna vengono chiamati "Tre cuori in affitto", come il terzetto inseparabile della loro sit-com preferita. L'equilibrio di questo allegro trio viene stravolto, in pieno anno scolastico, dall'arrivo di Romeo Fioravanti, bello, viziato e un po' arrogante, che è stato già bocciato un anno e rischia di perderne un altro. Romeo sta per compiere diciotto anni, incarna il cliché degli anni Ottanta e crede di sapere tutto solo perché è di buona famiglia. Ma Vince e Cate, senza volerlo, metteranno in discussione le sue certezze. A vigilare su di loro ci sarà sempre Betty Bottone, l'appassionata insegnante di italiano, che li sgrida in francese e fa esercizi di danza moderna mentre spiega Dante. Anche lei cadrà nella trappola dell'adolescenza e inizierà un viaggio per il quale nessuno ti prepara mai abbastanza: quello dell'amore imprevisto, che fa battere il cuore anche quando "non dovrebbe". In un liceo statale dove si incontrano i ricchi della collina e i meno privilegiati della periferia torinese, Vince, Cate, Romeo e Spagna partiranno per un viaggio alla scoperta di se stessi senza avere a disposizione un computer o uno smartphone che gli indichi la via, chiedendo, andando a sbattere, scrivendosi bigliettini e pregando un telefono fisso perché suoni quando sono a casa. E, soprattutto, capendo quanto sia importante non avere paura delle proprie debolezze.

The Author:
Nato a Torino nel 1970, Luca Bianchini ha deciso di cimentarsi nella scrittura dopo la lettura di dieci pagine della sceneggiatura di Santa Maradona, film del 2001 del regista Marco Ponti, amico dello scrittore dai tempi dell'università, nel quale recita nel ruolo del commesso di una libreria, rimanendo affascinato, a suo dire, dal modo con cui la vita reale viene trasposta nella finzione, prima letteraria e poi scenica, e comprendendone tale meccanismo. Luca Bianchini conduce su Rai Radio 2 il programma Colazione da Tiffany e collabora con la rivista Vanity Fair.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Book review: The President's hat - A. Laurain

“Sometimes life carries you in different directions and you don’t even realise you’ve gone down a fork in the road; the great GPS of destiny has not followed the planned route and there has been no sign to indicate you’ve passed the point of no return. Life’s Bermuda Triangle is both myth and reality.”

I have recently discovered that I have a think for contemporary French writers. They are quite peculiar in their plot and "magic" behind the scene.
I previously read The red notebook by Antoine Laurain and really liked it, both for the story and for the writing style so I went and bought his other two novels!

The President's Hat is just charming, a modern fairy tale without being too cheesey, it has that combination on French savoir faire and magic that so enchanted me in Laurain's previous books and, generally, in the French literature.
A man finds a hat left in a restaurant and on an impulse he takes it. But the hat is not just a hat, it is President Mitternad's signature hat.The hat somehow changes the life of this man, or better it is a symbol that permits the man to exploit his inner potential, I'd say. Then for a serie of circumstances the hat passes to various hands with the similar result of changing its new owners lives for the better.
It is also quite a "nostalgic" book, set in the 80s in Paris.

Laurain's writing style is very elegant in my view, the book is quirky but not weird to the point of silliness, the translation is also very good, I did not feel I was reading a book who was originally written in another language as sometimes it happens with translations.
So Laurain confirms himself to me as a "winner" and I am looking forward to read French Rhapsody and then the latest novel coming out in 2017 (The Portrait).

In summary, The President's hat is an exquisite read, which I'd recommend if you like French novelists.

Overall rating: 6.5    Plot: 6.5   Writing style: 7    Cover:  6.5

Title:The President's Hat
Author: Antoine Laurain
Publisher: Belgravia Books
Pages: 208
Publication year: 2013

Dining alone in an elegant Parisian brasserie, accountant Daniel Mercier can hardly believe his eyes when President François Mitterrand sits down to eat at the table next to him.
Daniel’s thrill at being in such close proximity to the most powerful man in the land persists even after the presidential party has gone, which is when he discovers that Mitterrand’s black felt hat has been left behind.
After a few moments’ soul-searching, Daniel decides to keep the hat as a souvenir of an extraordinary evening. It’s a perfect fit, and as he leaves the restaurant Daniel begins to feel somehow … different.

The Author:
Antoine Laurain was born in Paris and is a journalist, antiques collector and the author of five novels. The President’s Hat, a charming fable set in the Mitterrand years, was awarded the Prix Landerneau Découvertes and the Prix Relay in 2012 and is published in English by Gallic. It was a Waterstones Book Club book and ABA Indies Introduce pick in 2013. Antoine was chosen to represent France at European Literature Night 2014.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Book Review - La sostanza del male - L. D'Andrea (coming to UK market in July 2017)

La location e' cio' che mi ha attirata a questo libro. Non sono molti i romanzi, soprattuto gialli, ambientati in Alto Adige. Quindi ero molto entusiasta di leggere questo thriller di uno scrittore bolzanino esordiente, ambientato nelle mie amate Dolomiti.
Il libro parte anche bene, con belle descrizioni dei luoghi, spiegazioni sul soccorso alpino e un colpo di scena inziale. Poi, a circa un terzo, inizia ad essere un groviglio di tematiche, personaggi piuttosto stereotipati, viaggi mentali del protagonista assurdi e finisce proprio nel ridicolo, secondo me, con colpi di scena che si susseguono, uno piu' assurdo dell'altro ed un finale che va beh....
Peccato, veramente peccato. perche' le premesse ci sarebbero state, ma poi la mia sensazione e' che il romanzo sia diventato piu' uno script per un film che un semplice racconto. Davvero esagerato coi colpi di scena, coi segreti. Quindi in complesso, voto negativo per me, non lo consiglio di certo.

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

Title:La sostanza del male
Author: Luca D'Andrea
Publisher: Einaudi
Pages: 451
Publication year: 2016

Jeremiah Salinger è un giovane autore televisivo newyorkese che, insieme alla moglie Annelise, si è trasferito per un periodo a Siebenhoch, il piccolo centro del Sud Tirolo dove lei è cresciuta. Con loro c'è la precoce figlia Clara, di cinque anni. Affascinato dalla montagne e dalla gente che vi abita, Salinger comincia a realizzare un factual sul soccorso alpino, ma nel corso delle riprese viene coinvolto in un pauroso incidente. Mentre cerca in ogni modo di dimenticare la sua esperienza traumatica, viene a sapere per caso di un fatto sanguinoso risalente a molti anni prima: il massacro di tre giovani avvenuto durante un'escursione nella gola del Bletterbach. Il delitto non ha un colpevole, e in paese nessuno vuole parlarne: forse perché il solo pensarci potrebbe risuscitarne l'orrore, o forse perché sono in tanti ad avere qualcosa da nascondere. Nonostante l'ostilità crescente che lo circonda, e l'opposizione di Annelise, Salinger si mette a scavare nel passato, penetrando sempre più a fondo nella vicenda. Fino a scoprire l'imprevedibile, terrificante verità.

The Author:
Luca D'Andrea è nato a Bolzano, dove vive, nel 1979. La sostanza del male è il suo primo thriller,

Monday, 6 March 2017

February 2017 Wrap up

Chaos - P. Cornwell
Nothing new, nothing happens, I am a bit fed up with the usual complicated relationships around Kay Scarpetta now.
Rating:  5 out of 10

- Paris for One - J. Moyes
Pleasant short romantic story, you can read it in a couple of hours.
Rating:  6.5 out of 10

- La piramide del caffe' - N. Lecca
Good plot, not so good execution
Rating:  6 out of 10

- Shotgun Lovesongs - N. Butler
A great, simple story of friendship - Loved it!
Rating:  9 out of 10

- Sone cose da grandi - S. Sparaco
A letter to a son about the big scary world - could have done without
Rating:  5 out of 10

- Defending Jacob - W. Landay
Is Jacob guilty or innocent? How far would you go to defend your son? Good legal thriller
Rating:  6 out of 10

- The course of love - A. de Botton
Great idea behind, but I am not keen on de Botton's writing style.
Rating:  5 out of 10

- The Baltimore boys - J. Dicker
Nice story of friendship, a bit exaggerated at points
Rating:  7 out of 10

- La sostanza del male - L. D'Andrea
Thriller set on the Dolomites, great setting, good start but absolutely ridiculous from the sedon half.
Rating:  4 out of 10

- The president's hat - A. Laurain
The magical power of finding an object, Very French, very peculiar, very pleasant.
Rating:  6.5 out of 10

- When In French - L. Collins

- Nessuno come noi - L. Bianchini
A pleasant memory trip to the high school years. Cute
Rating:  7 out of 10