Saturday, December 31, 2016

My year in books

Starting unexpectedly shy and without any clear promise, 2016 was one of my best reading years. With 300 books on Goodreads and over 200 reviews on NetGalley.com, a fresh new Twitter account and the discovery of more bookish treasures from Berlin public libraries, I was privileged to read or to be invited to read one of the best titles of the year. 
My modest blog that I started as an incentive to write more and share my passion for books, moved fast forward on the blogging ladder, with a record number of blogs published and interesting topics covered, including guest posts by authors or interviews or covered various literary destinations encountered during my travels. From children books to strategy and branding, there was hardly a topic not properly addressed in 2016.
More interestingly, this year I had the chance to discover wonderful authors and their books, even as ARC or books that were on my reading list for quite a while. With an intensive reading schedule every day, I succeeded to cover a lot of titles and topics of interest that I wanted to learn about or just explore for years. For all the real-life and imaginary encounters, I am more than grateful!
What is to be next? My list of books waiting for reviews is even longer and I expect an even higher frequency of reviews. I will continue to cover interviews with authors and literary destinations, and more quality literary content. Reaching more audiences through higher quality targeted content is an aim for any blogger, and when it comes to bookish blogging, the standards are even higher.
As in the case of many other aspects of my life, I am grateful for all the challenges I went through this year and although I wish for a kinder 2017, I am, as usual, ready to take the best of it and looking forward to share to more and more people my love for good books and literature!
Have a great year everyone and to many many good books ahead!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Unlocking worlds: a reading companion for book lovers

Book lovers are a special breed, that thanks to the expansion of communications networks seem to live nowadays in the best possible worlds. We - I always considered one of them - can connect with each other not only through long and focused views over the metro neighbour's shoulder trying to figure out what book he or she is reading, but also through blogs and social media. Talking about bookish voyeurism, one of my favourite lines in Berlin is the U3 line ending to the Free University headquarters, where in the old-style wagons, more than 90% of people are intensively reading. There, I feel at home.
Unlocking worlds: a reading companion for book lovers is an overview of important books reviewed by the author through 15 thematic chapters, covering from childhood books to Russian and Soviet literary encounters - one of the world's literature I love the most -, university life, American worlds or British literature. The list of topics is not exhaustive and so is the summary of books mentioned, but overall, there are great recommendations, many of them on my reading list or to-read bucket list as well. I really appreciated the short yet comprehensive summary of the books, as well as the personal connection and feelings provoked by the some of the books. After all, reading is not a mechanical act of going through pages or finding topics of conversation, but about 'unlocking worlds', be it discovering historical episodes or revealing human behaviors or feelings. As the author, I've often felt overwhelmed at the end of a book and had to take a break before finding the next book. However, it doesn't take too long until I am back on the couch with my newest bookish addi(c)tion.
Each chapter is starting with a inspiring quote about the world of readers and bookish life, which I also appreciated, as a guidance and confirmation that reading remains an acceptable and highly desirable endeavor, although, recently, a crazy ex found ridiculous my love for books - and I couldn't care less. 
The merit of this book is also that it sets order and creates categories to organize the virtual libraries, focused on specific topics and following the main narrative. It is useful particularly for book reviewers and bloggers, because it set criteria and keeps your ideas better organised and to aim to read even more. Sounds like a good new year's resolution, isn't it?
Strongly recommended to any bookish human around here!

Rating: 5 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Your Fathers, where are They?...

A cosmonaut, a former congressman, followed by a teacher, policeman, nurse are kidnapped and brought for interrogations in a disaffected military base by a mentally unstable 30 something guy. He also brings here his own mother and a girl that he met on the beach and he believes is the woman of her dreams. 
His questions are simple, about why and where his life is headed to, why some people succeeds and other not, why his Vietnamese friend was killed, why a famous and motivated cosmonaut cannot achieve his dream of walking in space due to budget restrictions. It is chaos in his mind and darkness and sudden outbursts of 'prophetic' light. 
'No one had a plan for anything. I guess that's the crushing thing, the thing that drives us all crazy. We all think there must be someone very smart at the controls, spending the money, making plans for our schools, parks, everything (...) No one has a fucking clue'. This is the post-apocalyptic Cold War America, out of itself, running naked and unable to stop or head somewhere sure. Thomas - the main character - doesn't put everything under question, but need to find a person available to answer his questions. He is not going online to ask Google, but has his plan. Just kidnap for a while some people that might have the answer, keep them hidden - without molesting then, bring together some pieces of the puzzle and move forward with his life, running away. 
Did America fail, do people fail to be human, ending up doing what they were told and not going anywhere? Does Thomas solve the riddle of his life? 
It is an absurd play, with absurd outcome and sickness-pathological curiosity. Thomas is maybe the victim of the overwhelming impact of the everyday politics on the daily lives whose enormous pressure could make the everyday life unbearable. He wants to hold someone accountable for the mess, but it is no Gd either. 
Many of the arguments were not so or not at all appealing to me, hence the three star rating of this book. What I really loved enormously was the art of dialogue, a perfect point-counterpoint way of asking, with fantastic smart twists that keep you interested and your brain awake. An excellent inspiration for writers and a pleasure for the reader!
Rating: 3 stars

Sunday, December 18, 2016

YA books to read: Girl Online

The first from the Girl Online series, this first novel by the Internet celebrity Zoella is a fine, well-written YA novel about coming at terms with friendship and outgrowing relationships. A clumsy British teenager facing often panic attacks after a car accident, Penny is coping with anxiety and the loneliness of growing up. She is sharing some of her stories anonymously on her blog, Girl Online. Her life is about to change after meeting a mysterious charming 18-year old Noah in New York.  
This is just the beginning of more tensions and emotions, after gossip online media brings her under the spotlight, as Noah, in fact seems to be a very promising young musician interesting enough to create media waves on the other side of the pond. 
The story has all the ingredients of a good YA story - there are some psychological pains and there is drama - besides Penny's panic attacks, there is also the story of Noah's being an orphan. There are the everyday challenges of the teenage life and their nowadays realities of the online life - from social media communication via Twitter or blogging to online bullying.  The characters don't need to do dramatic choices and are relatively well recovering even from quite dramatic experiences as for instance, being exposed online. Everything is well tempered and nothing goes too far away out of control which makes the book an easy read yet interesting enough to keep you interested until the end of the story. I must recognize I am not necessarily the target readership of the book - would love to give a try to the rest of the series as well - but I consider myself a reader always young at heart and thus, able to recognize a good book, regardless of the real age limit. 
To conclude, Girl Online is a 'cool' read, easy with some interesting and surprising twitches, the kind of book to read while on a long haul or commuting. It makes you think about friendships and helps you understand the challenges of the young people nowadays and only for that and it's worth to spend an afternoon with. 
Rating: 3-star
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Black Widow, by Daniel Silva - the permanent suspense

I've read all the books from the Gabriel Allon series, not necessarily in the chronological order, but right now, with The Black Widow I am for the first time in sync with the story. In every case, I appreciated the carefully constructed intrigue and suspense and the feeling of being part of a reality movie, that might have resemblance with real cases, but are so well created that you can accept it as a thriller story. Every time, there are some fragments of the daily political reality - Cold War feuds, terrorism in the Middle East, the delicate condition of the State of Israel - featured as the main background of the story.
Out of all Daniel Silva's books, The Black Widow stands up for its elaborated story, connection and deep psychological understanding of the latest evolution on the international stage, mainly the raise of the ISIS, the terrific intelligence mistakes of France faced with the terrorist threat and the lenience of the current US administration regarding the Middle East, particularly Syria and Iraq. The legendary - as a literary character - Israeli spy Gabriel Allon is back from the death - to coordinate a world-wide coalition aimed to prevent another bloody terror attack, using a young Israeli doctor as a mole inside the terror camps of Syria. As in real life, the complex operation to stop the attack didn't succeed - probably there is something coming up for the next novel -, but the agent although captured is saved in the last minute.  
There are more than 500 pages, hard to put down, with observations that you read not as a short lecture, but intelligently inserted into the story. All the details of the story are well documented, from the historical part until the elements of reality, particularly the latest wave of terror in Israel. The writing art turns the entire context into a credible story, full of the passion given by the special operations of the intelligence. It also raise human dilemma and approaches personal feelings, which give depth and authenticity to the characters.  
My conclusion, after two days of intensive reading: probably this is one of the best and complex thriller book I've read - and wanted to read - this year. Recommended to anyone interested in stories from the Middle East, either imagined or real, and in a good entertaining and well written thriller story with a lot of intelligence and suspense.
Rating: 5 star book

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Book review: The Followers by Rebecca Wait

Stephanie, the single mother of the 12-year old Judith is struggling to meet the daily life ends. During her work at a coffee she meets the intellectually charming Nathaniel. After their relationship advances, despite the Judith disapproval, he is luring her and her daughter into the hopes of a better, protected life, into the Ark, a communa-like built community in the moors of England, where Nathaniel is the self-proclaimed prophet. Once entered, the women and their children are not going out, while the men are allowed to work and move freely out of the community. 
Once Stephanie is becoming member of the cult, and becoming a new name - Sarah - Nathaniel is showing his dictatorial, at the limit, psychotic personality, ordering the members - chosen following his personal dialogue with Gd - to obey and renounce their free will. The outer world - the Gehenna - is depicted as a reign of evil and decadence, a frightening world deemed to die. The entire world is built around the Prophet. He 'had created a world ad then he'd destroyed it'. 
The brainwashing process as such, the detailed ideology of the cult or the histories of all the members of the Ark are not particularly detailed, but one can see how it works through every individual, from the children born here that never saw the outside world and will be later scared to death when they see a TV set for the first time to the newest member, Sarah. 
In her passivity and assumed condition of follower of the Prophet - not necessarily as a strong Gd believer - but for the love and comfort offered by the man Nathanel, she is a terrifying example of how and to whom a religious cult can operate. She doesn't protest when her daughter is taken away from her and confined to the education - predominantly religious, based on selections ordered by the Prophet - of the community, and assumes easily her new role as the woman of the Prophet - one of them as she will soon discover but even this reality is not strong enough to wake her up. She doesn't think twice when Nathaniel orders her to cut the throat of Esther, her sexual competitor condemned as sinful because failed to report her husband's intentions of leaving the community. She is both the perfect victim and perpetrator and 'what's taking place is beyond her'. 
I was particularly impressed by the meeting between strength of the writing and the deep psychological analysis that resulted in a book that makes you think and reconsider religious and leader-based group allegiances. The suspense is skillfully created in a way that even one can have a guess that Stephanie/Sarah might have done something terrible, you are not revealed until the final part of the book. An intelligent literary construction that makes the book even more memorable.
Rating: 4 stars

Monday, November 28, 2016

A different perspective on Mata Hari

The controversial and exotic story of the spy woman Mata Hari remains a fascination for those interested in conspiracies and secret histories. Based on recent documents released by MI5 and German intelligence, the newest novel by Paulo Coehlo is changing the angle regarding the codename H21. 'I am a woma who was born at the wrong time and nothing can be done to fix this', seems to be the motto underlying the story.
Using different time frames and voices, including Mata Hari's, the different aspects of her personality - less of her apparently irrelevant intelligence activity - are revealed. She is portrayed as an independent woman faced with difficult choices, free - 'Though at the moment I am a prisoner, my spirit remains free'. This freedom seemed to overpass love, contrary to the usual love story and heartbreaking associated with her. 'Because that's what I always sought: freedom. I did not seek love, though it has come and go. Because of love, I have done things, things I shouldn't have, and traveled to places where people were lying in wait for me'.
Escaping an abusive marriage and following a forced sexual relationship with one of her teachers during her school years, Mata Hari completely reinvented herself as a do-it-yourself hobby Javanese dancer and mesmerized Europe, particularly France, with her charms and innovative Orientalism. 'I decided to be what I always dreamed. And the price of a dream is always high'.
But she is caught in the WWI circle of events and may accept to be part of some spy-related opportunities, both for France and Germany, by using her extensive network of acquaintances, admirers and lovers. Her freedom to move between countries and worlds is closing to the fatal end as she will be arrested and send to prison, and condemned without clemency to death. Although concerned about the gravity of her situation, she moves through facts as a bird, somehow before ever touching wings to the ground. This is probably something rarely expected from a fatal woman and also a trained spy.
In the book, there are often made comparisons between her case - condemnation without appeal - and that of Cpt. Dreyfus, outlining the lack of popular demands and intellectual debate regarding her case. As a woman, she is a victim of justice and machinations and will go straight forward to the last steps towards execution.
I've found the writing a bit cautious, a fine balance between the need to cover properly historical facts and the need to let the imagination fly and create a literary work. Otherwise, it is an interesting approach and another work part of the literary works I had the opportunity to read this year dedicated to free women.
Rating: 4 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Book review: The Visitors Book and other ghost stories, by Sophie Hannah

I wish I didn't like this book at all. That I keep the memory of it as one of the my reading adventures of this year, of discovering new authors and exploring topics that I am not necessarily passionate about but that landed on my to-read-list just because I need to use my spare free time and my mind as much as possible for books. Regardless what kind of books, even ghost stories can be good for a short read.
My indifferent plan was foiled dramatically. From the fist story (The Visitors Book) until the last (All the Dead Mothers of My Daughers's Friends) I devored every single page. The sentences are so well crafted to create a story that I hardly noticed that once in a while, there are some ghosts popping up in the story, either at the post office or while crossing the street (Justified True Belief), or at the end of a children birthday party (The Last Boy to Leave). There is no shock and awe or traces of blood or terrible apparitions in the middle of the night, preferably near an abandoned building - castle, anyone?. Every story goes to naturally, with intense dialogues and conversations - like in The Visitors Book - that the reader hardly acknowledges terrible realities. Nothing kitsch or Gothic, just simple facts of the everyday life, when extraordinary things are interwoven naturally with the uneventful routines. 
An excellent read recommended to faithful lovers of good books, like you - and me.
Rating: 4 stars

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A political thriller with a taste of reality

Forget about the similarities with the latest American elections, and even the name of the main candidate-characters, not by accident called - Ronald Drump and Valery Clayton. Before to start reading, it is recommended to leave aside all wishful thinking, as it is only a book and it is too well written to miss the real writing experience. 
According to the saying, every dog has its day, meaning that everyone gets a chance during some period a time. From the presidential candidates, to the paid assassins and accidental killers, everyone in this book is playing with chance and luck, more or less successfully. Like everyone in life, but at the high-end of politics, life has a different price and the survival charges are significantly different. Two life-long billionaire friends decide to pay $10 million to an ex-Marine to eliminate the Republican candidate, considered too clumsy and trouble-makers to win the elections against Clayton. 
Regardless of the political choices, the book is well written, page-turner and meticulously researched. Clayton sounds even more credible and articulated than the candidate it - probably - emulates. The dialogues are smart, the action is well crafted and the entire story and discussions sound authentic. 
For my own reasons, I preferred to read the book at the end of the electoral campaign, assuming that it is a good book, regardless of what is happening and the results, it should remain a good read, and in this case, my choice proved to be right. It resists the test of time, which is a good indicator of the quality. 
Rating: 4 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange of an honest review

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Vacationers: Writing about the simple things in life

Some writers to have the special gift of outlining the extraordinary in the ordinary lives, to explain and explore simple facts in life, revealing hidden meanings and normal ways of being not always visible at the first sight. A middle-class US family is heading to an impossible-to-pronounce-correctly place in Spain for the usual summer vacation. Two family friends are also invited. On the lifespan of 14 days, hidden dramas and personal struggles will be revealed. 
Every chapter is structured as a day, covering the various events taking place in the life of the characters. The novel is slow-paced, not with many events taking place, with a lot of food hints, food being not only the writing topic of the main woman character Franny, but also the common denominator bringing people together. Sounds stereotypical, but there are the facts of life. 
From teenage drama to midlife crisis, age difference in couples or gay marriage, all the simple facts of the everyday life are covered, explained and scrutinized. Like many of us, at least once in a while, the characters in this book learn to ask questions or wonder why they didn't ask the right question earlier on. In the words of one of the book characters, Lawrence: 'Life would be so much more interesting if one could ask all the questions one wanted to and expect honest answers'. Hence, the enormous inspiration for the writer who is able to play with the interstices between questions. 
In the comfort of the big Spanish holiday house, they learn to listen to their silences and remake commitments. One of the most difficult things, despite the easiness we sometimes assume them or take them for granted, at least for a while. 'There was nothing in life harder or more important than agreeing every morning to stay the course, to go back to your forgotten self of so many years ago, and to make the same decision'. 
Another plus of the book is the fine irony and the humor of some episodes, again simple things in life outlined under a different angle. My favorite so far is the moment when Franny 'hit herself in the head with the butt of her tennis raquet and briefly knocked herself unconscious'. 
Families might be mysterious - 'Other people's families were as mysterious as an alien species, full of secret codes and shared histories' - or just equally unhappy, but they may offer infinite inspiration for the good writer. 
Rating: 4 stars

Friday, November 4, 2016

Writers secrets: Monica Bhide about writing and her beautiful new novel

Monica Bhide is not only a beautiful writer, but also an inspiring person. Writer of cookbooks, novels, short stories and poetry, she is sharing on my blog her experience with words and the publishing process. If you haven't read it yet her books, you can start with her last book, Karma and the Art of Butter Chicken. As usual, I am honored by her kindness and for her precious time for answering my questions about the challenges of being a full time writer and the process of writing Karma.

How did your love story with writing start?

I have always loved to write. Even as a young child, I would write poetry and create “worlds.” Whenever someone would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say “story teller.” The practical world beat me into submission and I stopped saying that for many decades. But, here I am now, a story teller! 

What inspires you most to write? Do you have any model writers?

Oh, everything. I love writing about things that surprise me, questions that I want answered, demons inside my head. Everything!
Model writers? There are so many! I love the work of Yasmina Khadra, Vaddey Ratner, Amish, Rohinton Mistry and so many more.

What is the most challenging part of being a writer? What are your recommendations for the aspiring writer?

I love the writing aspect. The marketing aspect.. not so much! That is the most challenging part for me. My recommendations: write. That sounds simple and silly but most aspiring writers will talk about it, discuss it, read about it, worry about it but will not actually DO IT! So sit down and write. That is it!

How do you find inspiration for your books, for instance, for Karma…?

Karma is largely based on a dear friend, a chef in Washington, DC, who works relentlessly to end hunger. I so admire what he does and it inspired me to create a young character who also aspires to do the same!

What is your next writing project?

I am working on a couple of different books. At this time, looks like my next novel will be based in Washington, D.C. and the genre is fantasy!

How do you spend your time in-between books?

Marketing the last book! Obsessing about the next one!

Photo: Courtesy of Monica Bhide

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Guest post: Marie Benedict about writing The Other Einstein

Marie Benedict, author of The Other Einstein
Today, I have the honor of hosting a guest post by Marie Benedict, the author of the beautiful novel, The Other Einstein. In her post, she shares her experience in doing research and preparing the background for the novel.

The fact that the setting of THE OTHER EINSTEIN consisted of scientifically-minded Zurich at the cusp of the twentieth century nearly turned me away from writing the novel. History, not science, had always been my passion, and initially, this seemed an insurmountable barrier. But once I dug into the electric developments in physics occurring at this time and in this unique place — understanding it on a high level only, of course — I overcame my hesitation and embraced the excitement of the world in which Mileva Maric and Albert Einstein lived and worked in their early years as a couple.
Using this scientific and historical knowledge, I constructed the story of the young couple, linked by their feelings and their passion for physics but ultimately torn apart by personal tragedy. I utilized whatever factual informational I could gather to act as anchors in the story. But because it is the historical research that draws me into stories of the past — in fact, I could not imagine writing a novel without that as a major component — I tried to stay close to the historical record. In the nether spaces where research could not answer questions about the tale, I used a blend of logic and fiction to narrate Mileva’s life as I imagined it must have been. These nether spaces are the reason why THE OTHER EINSTEIN could only be a work of historical fiction, one of the first of many I hope to write about women forgotten by history.
Photo: Marie Benedict archives

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Book review: Ru, by Kim Thuy

Decades before the current refugee crisis in Europe, the world had faced an almost similar - by means of transportation, at least - human catastrophe: the Vietnamese trying to escape by boat the war ravaged country. Kim Thuy was one of those people, arriving in Canada when 10. Ru - lullaby in Vietnamese, but sounding also like the French word for street and river - is her account of her identity appropriation.
Like a slow river, the writing - I've read the English translation, as the book was published in French - flows, with point-counterpoint of topics developed from a vignette to the other. 'I first saw the light of day in Saigon, where firecrackers, fragmented into a thousand shreds, coloured the ground red like the petals of cherry blossoms or like the blood of the 2 million soldiers deployed and scattered through the villages and cities of a Vietnam that had been ripped in two'. 
It is less than autobiography, and more an account of the 'boat people' destinies and past, aimed to be a 'voice of the Vietnamese people', aiming to compensate the silence of historical references. The life in the new society - Canadian in this case - was hard, but achievable, and many succeeded build a new life. According to her literary testimony, there were less tensions and drama, just a lot of work and desire to integrate. Each one of the slow paced stories is a testimony, tells a little human story revealing more about the Vietnamese society, its human touch and lost memories. Although a literary fiction, it forces the reader to go deep into the anatomy of feelings and to open up to a new world. At the end of the book, the slow sound of the river song still flows in your ears, reminding you to see more than a thing differently. It is both history, especially political history - and psychology in one single little book. You may feel guilty that it took some time to understand this generation of Vietnamese and grateful for such a testimony to bring you the shades of truths. 
Rating: 4 stars

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Behold the Dreamers, by Imbolo Mbue

One of the few things I tried to teach myself during my various expat adventures was to avoid high expectations - 'dreams' - in order to spare myself the luxury of big disappointments. As one who spent a high amount of time living in other country that the one I was born, this helped me to cope better with harsh realities of learning new languages, finding friends, connecting with the place, going through the bureaucracy and the hardship of a life on the road. But I haven't come here for a dream, but for the chance of being myself, living in a big European country and being able at any time to walk in historical places and see big artists at work. Call this cultural immigration, but this was my choice. And you need a lot of courage to make this step, at any age. 
The protagonists of the debut novel Behold the Dreamers, by Imbolo Mbue, Jende and Neni, do have a lot of dreams about America. Compared with their native Cameroon - the author's country of origin -, they assume it is a country of equality of chances, with no corruption and where in a spam of a generation you can achieve social and financial stability. But you need to work hard, day and night, more than job, but it is achievable. 
Jende is working as chauffeur for the rich Edwards rich family, with the father a top executive at Lehman Brothers, and he is closer than ever to the American dream. But then Lehman filed for the largest bankruptcy in American history and the dream is over. Not necessarily because of the financial turmoil, but because the Edwards are going through their own bankruptcy, a family drama unfolding behind the white walls of their luxurious  penthouse. Caught between his boss, trying to recover after the financial shock with adventures with prostitutes and the over-controlling Edwards wife, who had asked him to report all the moves of his husband, Jende will fail, being fired for being loyal. He returns to a life of scarcity when two jobs are hardly able to make their daily ends meet. Meanwhile, his wife, Neni, who has the dream of becoming a pharmacist should put her aspirations on the side, as she is pregnant with their first American-born child. She is even awarded membership in an elitist fraternity, which doesn't guarantee her success to apply to scholarships, as long as her legal situation isn't solved. And it will never be solved anyway. 
People can wake up from the dream though. Like Vince, the oldest son of the Edwards, who decides to give up a career in law for searching mindfulness in India. Or Jende himself, who will ask to return to Cameroon, after his immigration file is deemed to fail - the immigrant's bad luck to rely on a unreliable lawyer. As for the end of the novel, the family is back 'home', using their savings and knowledge to build a new life. Even Neni, in whom I put all my chances for staying, resigned and for the sake of the family she gave up her dreams. Instead, she returns to Limbe with loads of brand clothes, gifts from Edwards, and fake Gucci bags, convinced to show her people that her times in the States wasn't for nothing. Vanity.
The writing is so captivating, particularly the dialogues, that I couldn't resist to give up the story until was over. The characters are so real and individual that you even can think about people you know and stories you've heard. 
The social - and political - message is not obvious, but insidiously spread over the story, the kind of anti-system and Western-critical kind that usually enfolds in times of such big doubt, as the financial turmoil and the world after 9/11 in general.  
Imbolo Mbue is the writer I wish to read and hear more about in the next years.
Rating: 4 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange of an honest review

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Redefining writing categories: Teju Cole, Every day is for the thief

An unnamed Nigerian doctor in residence in the US is coming back for a couple of weeks in his country after 15 years of absence. From the moment he is landing until the return, he keeps a clear mind to observe everything that he sees around, from the small attention asked at the airport until the 'yahoo yahoo' - scam - letters people are writing in an Internet cafe. He revisits old friends and illusions of love and chat with his family, all of them identified by their name. Coming back to a country where the childhood memories are set is like revisiting a magic land, but as often happens, this exploration has the poisonous risk of leaving you without the magic and with altered memories of the idealized past.  
The story unfolds as a memoir with some alert travel observations, but it is a work of fiction we are offered, although we can easily give a name to the storyteller. The fictional construction uses the hopeless Nigerian reality - in the country where people were recently labelled as one of the happiest in the world - and elements of everyday life to build a fictional story, with autonomous characters sharing a life of their own. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter that much the assigned literary category, but the art of writing. And in this respect, I didn't read for a long time a book with such clear writing, where simple words are enough to express simple or complex feelings, trying to understand human behavior and political craziness. The tone is often changing, from irony to deep sadness and the sense of ending. The volume is accompanied by the black-and-white author's photos, which deepens the elegiac tone of the novel. 
Rating: 5 stars

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Book review: The Other Einstein, by Marie Benedict

After The Atomic Weight of Love, that I particularly loved - including the fine cover - I had the chance to read another book dedicated to a woman with scientific aspirations brutally ended by marriage. In this case, the main character is the first wife of Albert Einstein, the Serbian-born Mileva Maric, the first woman to graduate the Zurich Polytechnic School. 
The two of them met there during the study years and fell in love, promising each other a 'bohemian' future, with husband and wife equal partners in sharing their science and advancing research. As in real life, the courtship part and the effervescent study years are the most vivid and light part of the novel, with Mileva discovering her inner strength and exploring her intelligence while slowly learning her feminine part too. Einstein is hardly noticeable in this section, a shy student looking for alternatives to the classical theories of the teachers and longing for the musical evenings together with his future wife. This section is also an exploration of the deep prejudices and stereotypes typical at the time - we are talking about the end of the 19th century, the beginning of the 20th - regarding women. But Mileva has to cope with a bit more prejudices, as she is originally from Eastern Europe, not an advantage among the predominantly German elites, but also suffers from a limp from birth. One of the most achieved sequence of the book is when Mileva, at the time a primary school student, is humiliated by her peers during a relatively innocent invitation to play, after outperforming her mathematical skills in the classroom. The perspective of a husband-less future was the reason why her parents encouraged her scientific endeavors and invested in her future.
Once she become the life partner of Mr. Einstein - against the wishes of his family and skeptically approved by her parents - her scientific life is about to finish. She is pregnant before being married and gave birth to a girl, Liserl, that will later die in Serbia, her grades fail, and once officially married to him she is just a 'hausfrau' that should answer the needs of the mercurial husband. Probably keen to portrait Mileva better, Einstein looks in this book as a complete arsehole: cheating on her, stealing her academic endeavors - including her contribution to the development of the relativity theory, belittling her as often as possible in a very mean way. 
Partly, the research is based on various new documents published in the last years about Einstein, including exchange of letters and an infamous list imposed upon his wife in order to maintain their cohabitation, shortly before the inevitable separation - according to which, she was limited to do his laundry, cook and clean for him, without requiring any other physical intimacy or special attention. The book doesn't pretend to be anyway a scholarly investigation into the authorship of Einstein works and the ways in which their relationship developed was a good opportunity to create a captivating story. The comparison between the fate of Marie Curie and Mileva Maric offers the alternative, not very common but still possible, when marriage and brains can exist happily ever after.  But even today, it is not a common occurrence. Hence, the need of such inspiring books to make women feel less guilty because intelligent and outperforming. 
Rating: 4 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange of an honest review

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Book review: The Clothing of Books, by Jhumpa Lahiri

I am one of those people who are very often the cover of a book. Once in a while, I am mentioning in my book reviews, if necessary, aspects related to the cover, because I still think that the cover should be the perfect expression of the book content. Unfortunately, it doesn't happen too often to notice many spectacular book covers, in many cases recognizing the same patterns used for various titles - the most frequent one being the different colour mix used initially for the Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert, for instance. Not too much imagination around, it seems.
The Clothing of Books by Jhumpa Lahiri develops this topic and creates the author's perspective on the choice and meaning of the book covers. It is an essay offering more insights into the subject outlined by Lahiri on the occasion of the discourse made on June 10, 2015, in Florence, upon the awarding of Premio Gregor von Rezzori. 
Similarly with clothes, the cover of a book is a sign of identity, which singles the literary work apart and confers its specific meaning. For the writer, 'a cover appears only when the book is finished, when it is about to come into the world. It marks the birth of the book and, therefore, the end of my creative endeavor. It confers on the book a mark of independence, a life of its own. It tells me that my work is done. So, while for the publishing house it signals the arrival of the book, for me it is a farewell'. 'I know when the cover makes its appearance, the book will be read, it will be criticized, analysed, forgotten'. For marketing and publishing purposes, '(...) the book jacket is not only the text's first clothing, but also its first interpretation - booth visual and for sales promotion'. 
Interestingly, Lahiri succeeds to explore all the sides involved in the elaboration and evaluation of the 'clothing of books', from the sentimental to the intellectual and practical-technical stages. Step-by-step, she covers with a lot of attention paid to the smallest details. If you want to have a full overview of the process of creating and understanding book covers, this essay offers an extensive overview.
She confesses that in most cases, she isn't happy with her book covers, a feeling I personally share. As for the the current one, that imitates a hand-made cover, made by the needle, it might look a bit unusual, moderately likeable, but much better than most of the other covers I've seen in the last months.
This is a book recommended to book lovers that still hope that the fine art of book covers is still alive, especially in the era of e-books and speed reading (which is not necessarily a bad thing).
Rating: 5 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange of an honest review

In the city of birth of Hans Fallada

The posthumously admired German writer Hans Fallada was born in this house, in Greifswald, in 1893, in Fernstrasse 58-59. On the street facade, a memorial inscription mentions his birth name: Rudolf Ditzen. His full name was Rudolf Wilhelm Friedrich Ditzen, but took the name Fallada later in life, a combination of different names of Brothers Grimm characters. 
He lived in this house, that can be visited during the week, until the age of 6, when his father, a court judge, got a job promotion and had to move to Berlin. In his memory, there is a street bearing his name and the city library also is named after him. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Book review: The Storified Life of A.J.Fikry

I am a very bookish person myself that spends an average of three hours the day reading, and often finishing a book the day - at least. I also believe, once in a while, that two persons can fall in love while reading the same book. Thus, I am very tempted by books about book lovers. 
The mediocre life of a newly widower, AJ, owner of a bookstore in a remote locality, only visited during the summer vacation, is shaken after a little 2-year old girl is left in the front of his store by his single mother who shortly after commits suicide. A couple of weeks before that, a precious copy of the Tamerlan poem by E.A.Poe, disappeared from his room in a moment of inebriation, and with it, his hopes of a smooth retirement plan. And before that, AJ did his best by being repugnant to the young Amelie, the new representative of an edition house, showing off his love for books but minimum human empathy. Amelie herself was searching unsuccessfully for good years for her other significant bookish part.
After a while, they fell in love, and get married, while the little Maya is growing up a book lover and writer herself. Meanwhile, you got to know the little community, with its traitors and gossips and the way in which the bookstore become an important social player in the life of the community. I also love how the life of people is changed by books, and I resonate with the sad story of AJ's death, losing his precious gift of using words and ideas. 
However, I was not very happy with the pace of the story: either things are going too fast, or you go pages after pages without anything committing you to keep turning the pages. Some of the characters, including AJ, look and behave sometimes uni-dimensional, despite their complex thoughts and long reading list. I was not expecting pages of intellectual debate and high-end discussions, but in a way I was disappointed that it is not too much of it anyway. The risk is that it can be taken as chick-lit when it haven't aimed at being one.
Rating: 3 stars

Literary Greifswald: Pomeranian Sappho

My words will never be enough to show my gratitude for the opportunity to travel that much around Germany and abroad, discovering so many interesting places and histories. As books are one of the most important part of my life, my gratitude increases as I am revealed interesting stories about writers and their books.
A couple of weeks ago, I visited Greifswald, in the Pomeranian part of Germany, part of my usual travel assignments, and on a side street near the main square, I stumbled upon a derelict building, that looked as once used to be one of the beautiful stone houses built in the local architectural style. In this house used to live the so-called Pomeranian Sappho, a young poetess named Sibylla Schwarz. Her father used to be the mayor of Greifswald in the 17th century, particularly during the hard years of the 30-year religious war in Europe that affected considerably this part of Germany. 
Sibylla - or Sibylle, according to other version, lived a very short life, thinking in our 21st century terms, of only 17 years. Most of her work, over 100 poems published posthumously by her teacher Samuel Gerlach - were written as a consequence of the unstable and troubled times of the war. 1627 was the end of the good times, as the war and its terrible enfolding tragedies entered Greifswald. As a consequence of the war, this part of Germany ended being under Swedish rule for almost 200 years.
Sibylla's poems are talking about friendship, war and dead, and the need of human solidarity. She also shared her love and nostalgia for her beautiful domain of Fretow, near Greifswald, that her family had to leave after the war. 
Although she lived a short life, her poems are considered as one of the few examples of Baroque literature in Germany. In the front of the house, there are often organised various literary happenings and shows inspired by her poetry. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The arts of storytelling: Nutshell by Ian McEwan

There is a story with many other stories. It starts as all our stories: 'So, here I am, upside down in a woman'. The story teller is an embryo in the last trimester - was it this choice a diplomatic way to avoid the discussions about when exactly the fetus is becoming a human - who is the silent, but mind active witness of the plans of her mother and lover to kill his father. The location of the plot by Trudy and Claude - who happens to be the less gifted brother of the poet husband - is a decaying house in Central London, on a location worth many millions. 
From the comfort of his amniotic sac, where he learns, among others, to distinguish between different sorts of wines and had the first taste of a scotch - half water though - the soon-to-be-baby is listening, reading emotions, learn together with his mother from the audio classes, is memorizing the poetry his father wrote for the mother when they once were in love, listen the latest news about the world - which is not feeling well at all - 'children are used as bombs in market places'.
They, the adults, do a lot of plotting and end up by hating each other and they regret hating each other when it is too late. Despised by the decaying humanity encapsulated in the equally decaying house, the little embryo tries to kill himself but fails. Meanwhile, his father is dying by poisoning, freeze liquid mixed in his favorite (yellow) smoothie. He cannot stop the crime but he can decide when exactly he wants to go out, the moment when his mother and Claude were about to run, estimating correctly that their story doesn't stand up for suicide and they will be caught, sooner than later. 
Although predictable, the crime story is written in alert mood and you, the reader, remain captivated about the details and the preparations and the ensuing episodes. The author doesn't want to create more than that, and the emotional shocks are strong enough. You can see how big love is turning into utter hate, how the excitement of the crime preparation and the emotions provided by sex are followed by sour guilt and fear. 
And you have a lot of questions to ask: why Trudy ended up with the loser from the family, when her husband was so achieved, although without financial skills? why the baby is so neglected in their conversations - except when he is promised to be get rid of? how the story between Trudy and Claude started?
Now, there are other stories too, many of them as exciting as a crime novel. For instance, the Hamlet-ian references, with a bit of Macbeth too, of the triangle: (Ger)trudy, Claude(ius), John. It can be also a reference to the Indian Mahabharata. Or to any story regarding the envy between brothers and the woman that is the most vulnerable trophy to take.
There is also the ironic references to our contemporary world: where people go to the popular Dubrovnik destination, eat smoothies and listen to self-improving podcasts, often just to have some buzzing background, or can be victims of the real estate sharks.
My favourite monologue is about the state of the poetry, the architecture of words and their coming up together in beautiful structures, like the pieces of the colourful kaleidoscopes.  
'So, here I am, upside down, in a woman'.
Rating: 5 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange of an honest review

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Start living the creative life you deserve

I had the chance to meet Elizabeth Gilbert in Berlin, during the tour for promoting The Signature of All Things, a book that I particularly loved for its well researched plot and inspired characters. But before reading the book, I was for ever charmed by the author's personality: bubbling, always smiling and happy to answer questions. For her, every person she was signing the book for was there, in the front of her, not as I've often noticed in other cases, just the bearer of a book where you leave your signature and you pray that everything finishes as fast as possible (Salman Rushdie, for instance). Usually such an impression might bring more substance to the reading experience (but I will still keep reading Rushdie's books, regardless of what I felt). 
Big Magic has a bit of Gilbert personality and out of her books - I've read them all - is very direct, creating a lively dialogue with the readers. It can be read quite fast, not because it is very easy, but because you feel that you need to sip every single word. It is a lot of inspiration for creative people - although focused particularly on writers - without being a guide of becoming a writer, or a successful artist. The main concept is to create for every human with a penchant for creativity the premises to continue or start improving his or her gift and 'living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear'. 'A creative life is an amplified life. It's a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life'. I know, personally, a couple of people who, even late in late, decided to fill their time creatively and I could see how happy art makes them. They not necessarily dream of having exhibitions or selling their art, they just enjoy the act of doing art in itself. 
Honesty is another important feature of this book. You will not be advised to leave your job and start doing art, or lied that from now on, all the pain and unhappiness will disappear once you have the easel in your hand. Rather the contrary. You should regard your creative gift as serious as possible, without losing contact with reality. 'I believe you can live a creative life and still make an effort to be a basically decent person'. The creative life is difficult and full of disappointments and ups and downs, and anxiety, but once you realize that you cannot live without it, you shall continue working hard, for every bit of word. Until the laws of the universe will make the big magic happen. Warning: there is no guarantee this will happen to you during this life span. The good news: you can keep exploring your creative side without bothering to check what other people think about you. '(...) always remember that people's judgement about you are none of your business'. 
As for the critics distinctions, you better follow Gilbert's own example: 'I cannot even be bothered to think about the difference between high art and low art'. This is one of the things I noticed this weekend, while at an exhibition of contemporary arts at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin. The 'democratization' of arts allowed a high diversity of exploration of various creative paths. You can beatify and dignify anything only by adding a text or changing the location or the context or creating a different context yourself. 
Between the fear of exploring your creativity and sharing openly your ideas and works, and curiosity to explore more, including your own limits, the choice should be for the latter. Start working with 'stubborn gladness' and bring more reasons into your life. For various reasons, I personally went through different anti-creative stages in my life, but always returned to my creative world more determined than ever to stay there as much as possible. An aim that I am more stubborn than ever to focus on accomplishing, be it writing - my main life mission, or photography, or travel, or arts. 
It is a book that every creative being should read, because it gives you more than one reason to be yourself and cope with all the challenges and temptations of the life of the spirit. It gives a lot of hope for humanity and for the life of ideas, without being openly optimistic. It opens the door to a world that I had the chance to discover many years ago, when reading The Glass Bead Game, a book I wished it was quoted in the Big Magic. Regardless of this omission, I feel like I woke up from the creative sleep. Suddenly, I have so many things to do to keep my creativity alive and improve the life of my ideas.
Rating: 4 stars

Friday, September 30, 2016

Writers secrets: Ed Graziani about her time travel novels

You probably know alreasy Ed Graziani from my latest Alice - Angel of Time Blog Tour. After the book reviews and the guest post by Ed, I am back with an interview where she shares her writers secrets and the inspiration. 
Enjoy!
PS Thanks again to Writerly Yours for the introduction and the opportunity to get in touch with beautiful books and an inspiring author!
Photos are from Ed Graziani archives.

- What was your inspiration for the Alice' books?

It’s actually quite funny and rather thoughtful at the same time. I was rummaging through my basement cleaning it out one day, when I found an old university essay on ‘Women and the Renaissance’ – my daughters were at an age where their television female idols were questionable – so I decided to write about a 21st century girl who travels back in time to 1512 Florence. I wanted to compare life as women know it now and how it was back them – quite different in terms of freedom, parity to men, etc. I wanted to spark an appreciation for the gains women have made but at the same time entertain.

- How are you usually preparing the historical background?

With much research! I needed to research the timeline of which Medici existed at which time, what was happening in Florence then and when da Vinci happened to be there, too. I also had to research lifestyle, customs, social hierarchy, dress…, even food, to make the book as authentic as possible.

- What is the most difficult part of writing time travel novels?

Probably making it believable, even though the premise is totally outrageous. I didn’t want Alice to just walk into a time-warp in a field or something. I just think my audience is smarter than that. I wanted the science fiction to be rooted in science fact. I felt it had to be so, in order for it to be convincing.

- What are your next writing plans?

I’ve just finished up a multiple edit on my latest novel, ‘Breaking Faith’ which will be released in the Spring of 2017. I’m really excited about this one. It’s a little different than ‘Alice’ in that it is realistic fiction. I do have another book on the back burner, but that’s a long way from being done.

- What is your recommendation for a beginner writer?

I believe that one really must love what they’re writing in order for it to be any good. Write in the genre you love, because your audience can tell when you’re not being true to them. Also, read… a lot! If you read you’ll be a better writer. And don’t be afraid to write from the heart – just write what comes to you – you can always edit later. You can’t edit if there is nothing on the page!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Book review: The Married Man, by Edmund White

I first discovered Edmund White almost by accident, through his insightful account of the years spent in Paris, Inside a Pearl. This book is more than an usual travel account or collection of expat short stories, but an extensive investigation into identity and cultural encounters, spiced up with some stories about his love stories.
With this previous lecture fresh in my mind, my reading of The Married Man was at a certain extent hampered because notwithstandingly I can remember episodes about his adventures or people he featured in the Paris memoir. But there is more to the book that this. 
First, it seems that every word and sentence are carefully crafted, and the result is a piece of literary work, as perfect as a jewel. Every word is used at its place, without too much fluffy pretentiousness or snobbish references. 
Another interesting part of the book deals with the process of redefining identities. The identities in the couple, especially given Julien's heterosexual past, the identities as professionals - Austin as a teacher of humanistic topics in an academic world that couldn't care less, Julien about his architecture profession in France and abroad, the identities of citizens belonging to different cultures and worlds - France versus USA, but also different identities given by the particular time and long-historical frames. All this topics are so dangerous and worned out, the perfect ingredients to produce a stereotypical result that White admirably avoids, by balancing the emotions with intelligence, instead of ending up with verdicts.
It looks like he had the strength and inspiration of an alchemist to filter the good from the unnecessary, using some archetypal French intuition. 
Rating: 5-star books

Bookish travel: Where to buy books in Augsburg

As a dedicated traveller and travel writer, but also a born booknerd, I love to discover not only the history and culture of a place, but also to pay visit to various bookstores, in order to discover local writers and get a glimpse into the reading tastes in a specific place. While in Augsburg this summer, I used my time to have a look at some bookstores. My short-listed destinations for book lovers are as follows:
Situated close to the historical Rathaus - Cityhall, on Annastrasse 20, quite a busy shopping avenue, Schlosser'sche Buchhandlung is a destination for book lovers in this city since 1716. You can find here the best and well awarded books in Germany, alongside international bestsellers, mostly in German translations. I particularly appreciated the rich repertoire of art books. The ambiance is up to the expectations, a very high-end place where book lovers are inspired and guided to find their beloved matched ones books.
As everywhere in Germany, classical bookstores as Thalia.de are also present, but also regional chains, such as the one-storey Bücher Pustet, from Karolinenstrasse, near the Rathaus. The network is also present in other big cities in the area, such as Regensburg and Augsburg. 
If you dream of getting lost into the lecture of a book, with a cup of coffee and some fine pastry near you, Kolonial is the perfect destination. It is situated on the relatively quiet and discrete Mittlerer Lech street and has a fine selection not only of great books, but also of teas and coffees. It offers an intimate ambiance and a being-at-home exquisite feeling. 

What about you, what are your favourite Augsburg bookstores?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Alice Angel of Time Blog Tour: Why you should read this book

 Alice - Angel of Time Blog Tour - #AliceofTime - continues today with a review of the series. If you are looking for an interesting, page turning YA Novel, this is the best choice. Personally, I've read them in two separate days, too curious to see how things are unfolding to go to sleep.
The book tour will continue with an interview with author Ed Graziani, ready to be published the next week! Stay tunned!


                                                       A love from another century

Meet Claudio and Eliza, in the 16th century Florence, whose encounter and love is highly impossible. She is a scullery maid, he is a count, who would imagine them together? Slowly paced at the beginning, the story is becoming more and more mysterious, once we are introduced to the world of the 2029 Alice and her encounter with the handsome Claudio, in Tuscany. She came from her hometown of Toronto to visit relatives and ends up caught into the layers of time and historical intrigues. Because Eliza and Alice are the same person, only a couple of centuries distance. Claudio will convince her of the outstanding destiny and his journey through centuries - using a sophisticated portal developped by the curious Leonardo da Vinci. Together, they return to Florence to render justice. Alice will not only remember her former adventures, but is definitely in love with Claudio, that she has to leave for returning, alone, in her century. I particularly appreciated, besides the love story where the words are so well chosen that you actually feel the deep feeling love of the two of them, without using too much sweetness and kitsch adornments, the interesting scientific references to various space-time variations. The historical ambiance is accurately and carefully described, introducing the young adult reader to a world that might look very unattractive in the history books. The messages regarding women rights and discrimination is also elegantly spread. I only found a bit relatively uninteresting and not too spectacular the 2029 references, incredibly similar with our 2016 times. 


Even if you didn't read the first book of the installment, you have enough references to understand and love Alice Angel of Time too. I personally did at least as much as I appreciated the first book. This time, Claudio and Alice/Eliza are meeting on the other end of the century, as Alice decided to return back in time to bring Claudio with her. Sophisticated references to time travel machines and challenging physics experiments abund, even more as in the first part. The pace starts slow, but ends up with a lot of page turning surprises, until the very ending. Will Alice succeed to save Claudio's life, who was mean to be killed according to the famous Castiglione chronicle of court events? How will she turn back home in her century ? Can history be changed as easily? In addition to the messages of gender equality from the first volume, there are interesting ethical amd moral questions regarding the human nature. It is possible to forgive the bad deeds? How much you can trust someone declaring its desire to repent? 
Overall, I've found that both books to have a story to tell, and the historical and scientific context is created with care and using smart references. The writing is also good and personally, I am looking for more novels by Ed Graziani, either YA historical time travel or just good writing in general.

Rating: 4 stars
Disclaimer: Books offered by the author in exchange of an honest review

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Bookish travel: At Brechthaus in Augsburg

In the so-called trade center of Augsburg - Handwerkviertel - Lechviertel, flanked by two of the many water chanels, one can find the Brechthaus, the house where the famous rebel playwriter and theatre director Bertold Brecht was born, on February 10, 1898. It is one of the many modest houses in the area, close to the paper mill where his father used to work and manage later at the beginning of the 20th century. 
Brecht was born in a Catholic-Protestant family. Nowadays, there is more than a school bearing his name. The family leaved the house shortly after his birth. This house hosts nowadays a permanent exhibition about Brecht, as well as books by him. 

Bookish travel: Neue Stadtbücherei Augsburg

Newly renovated and open to the public, the Neue Stadtbücherei - the New City Library - in Augsburg is an invitation and inspiration to reading. It is situated in the central Ernst Reuter Platz no.1, close to the historical city center, on the original location of its first official opening in 1920.
The architectural concept was elaborated by the architecture company Schrammel Architekten, based on the binome: Open Book-Open House (Offenes Buch - Offenes Haus). The main source of light is coming from the geometrically asymetric roof openings, which melts the natural light into the various reflections of the material used to cover the crevasses. Especially during the summer days, the time when I visited the library, it covers the entire building in a warm and cosy light.
The predominant colour is orange, with traces of pistachio green and white, which embraces the entire space into a warming cover. The choice of colours is aimed to outline the feeling of being welcomed, whatever your age and your social status, as long as you love books. During my short stay there, a Friday afternoon, the people were coming and going, bringing or taking home books. The library also has a Lesekaffee - Reading Coffee -, a social meeting point of book lovers from Augsburg. 
This library is one of the four important bookish centers in the city. It has over 170,000 books and almost 200 publications. As in the case of many libraries in Germany - at least this is the case in Berlin -, it uses a high-tech electronic system of registering the delivery and recording the books taken. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

(Too) Good on Paper (to be true)

Job hopping from a month to another, the former PhD student on Dante Shira Green is contacted out of nowhere by the Nobel Prize poet Romei to help him translate from Italian his new book, Vita Nuova - yes, the same name as Dante's famous work. A single mother that saved a paternity arrangement with her gay friend Ahmad, this translation could be her way to get out of the precarious financial life but also to bring her back on the academic track. But Rachel Cantor did not write that kind of easy novel that happily ends when Shira delivers a bright translation after some interior conflicts and maybe some heavy cocktails disappointment nights in the Village. The easy going appearance of the daily life is hidding way too many layers of events, explanations and mystery. Like everyone's life if you are looking for more sense and understanding - even the chances to ever find it are slim once the personal stories are getting more detailed. 
Most of the soliloqui and discussions though are about the meaning and limits of translation, the famous couple traduttore/traditore (which reminds me a lot of early teenage years discussions with my mother about languages). At the end of the book, Shira will declaim: 'There is no true translation, no absolute fidelity', which might also draw the border of the limited understanding that we have when translating our thoughts in the everyday conversation. We never say enough or even worse, we are often misunderstood when using other language than the mother tongue.
But the book is even more than that. I particularly loved the natural way in which the intellectual questions and discussions - big big ones, about life and sense and other delicious stuff - is insidiously entering the daily conversations. On the way to ordering a coffee, in the middle of a sleepless night. There is no haughtiness and emphasis and a special room with Louis XV upholstery and tapestry where such thoughts are developped. 
Plus, there is more than one mystery and a secret - how and why Romei found Shira - in the book. But Shira succeeds to fly freely between a story and a new discovery, as a veritable luftmensch she actually is. Her best and permanent lifetime assignment. 
Such books embellish your everyday life, regardless how good of paper it might look like.
Rating: 5 stars

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Wild Writing Life Guest Post – Alice and Claudio’s Urban Modern-Day Florence

Welcome to my first installment of #AngelofTime book blog tour, skilfully organized by Writerly Yours Book Club. In the next days, you will read more than a post dedicated to this beautiful time travel novel where love, history and action will not let you put the books down too easyly. Although the holidays are almost over, there is always time for a good book and the more I advance with the reading the more I am tempted to keep reading and reading.
As I always find interesting to explore the genesis of books, how writers are documenting the writing particularly, I am happy to share E.Graziani experience that kindly accepted to write a guest post for WildWritingLife!
Happy reading and see you soon with a review and an author's interview too in the very next days!

A Virtual Tuscany Tour with Ali and Claudio ...

Hello to my good friend Ilana and all her followers. Many thanks for hosting me on this blog tour celebrating the launch of my newest title, the sequel to Alice of the Rocks… Alice-Angel of Time in which the conclusion of Alice and Claudio's journey is available for all to read!

The theme of the blog tour is A Virtual Tuscany Tour with Ali and Claudio ... I thought that since I recently traveled to Italy, that I would share some pics that relate directly back to my novel, Alice-Angel of Time. I hope they inspire you to pick up a copy!

I also want to send out a huge thank you to Priya Prithviraj, of Writerly Yours (writerlyyoursco.blogspot.ca) for putting all this together. This blog tour would not have happened if it were not for Priya and Jennifer Jaquith, my managing editor at Morning Rain Publishing. Go to the Writerly Yours website for a full schedule of the entire tour – there are lots of interviews, reviews and other great stuff, so you can backtrack and check out all the lovely pics and fun posts!

So now, on with the post – Alice and Claudio’s story is set in Florence (no surprise there!) I love the art, wealth of history and richness of culture that defines this ancient Italian city, which is one of the reasons I set my books there, but I also love the current vibrancy and fast-paced lifestyle. It is a hub for shopping, nightlife and tourism. The following pics will show Florence’s modern-day face as Ali and Claudio would have seen it!

The first pic is of one of Florence’s oldest streets, leading to the Ponte Vecchio – it is a Lungarno street, which means literally ‘along the Arno’, the river running through Florence. Ali and Claudio would have travelled this street to get to the Uffizzi and the Palazzo Pitti. 


The next pic is of the ‘Old Palace’ now Florence’s City Hall and an iconic presence in the main piazza – it was the home of the Medici, and Claudio before the Pitti Palace. 


The last pic is of the Porta Rossa (actually it is the Porta Romana – Porta Rossa does not exist anymore) a strategic entrance and exit that was referred to often in both novels.


I hope you enjoyed the images of modern Florence. Make sure to visit Priya’s blog at writerlyyoursco.blogspot.ca/ for a detailed schedule of the entire tour. Thanks for joining me on Wild Writing Life and thanks so much to Ilana for hosting - Cheers!