Category Archives: Book Reviews

The Italian Girl by Lucinda Riley

The Italian Girl by Lucinda Riley
I have had The Italian Girl by Lucinda Riley sitting on my kindle for nearly a year now but I have just never got around to reading it until this week.

I am a big fan of Lucinda Riley with The Midnight Rose being one of my favourite reads of recent times. I know that I like Lucinda’s style of writing and the way she tells her heroine’s story with such skill that they are always a treat to read. I loved The Italian Girl and couldn’t put it down, The story was a lot less complex than some of Riley’s other novels but was no less absorbing.

The book is based around the story of Rosanna Menici a young girl from a run down part of Naples with a precocious talent.

Rosanna Menici is just a girl when she meets Roberto Rossini, the man who will change her life. In the years to come, their destinies are bound together by their extraordinary talents as opera singers and by their enduring but obsessive love for each other – a love that will ultimately affect the lives of all those closest to them. For, as Rosanna slowly discovers, their unison is haunted by irreversible events from the past . . .

Rosanna’s journey takes her from humble beginnings in the back streets of Naples to the glittering stages of the world’s most prestigious opera houses. Set against a memorable backdrop of Lucinda Riley’s trademark evocative locations, The Italian Girl unfolds into a poignant and unforgettable tale of love, betrayal and self-discovery.

At the age of 11 she is discovered for her sweet voice and secretly visits a retired opera tutor for a number of years, with her older brother paying for her lessons from the wages he earns in their family café. The story follows the next 20 years as Rosanna and Roberto Rossini’s lives become intertwined.

One of the things I loved was that the lovely village of Lower Slaughter, which is only 2 miles from our village plays a huge part in the story, something I had not been expecting. I loved the local references in the book and how Cheltenham also featured prominently.

The characters in the book are all interesting and you can’t help but become deeply absorbed. I have to admit that I do not know much about opera at all having only been once to see La Boheme. (You can read more about my picnic at Longborough Opera here.) Luckily this was one of the key opera’s in the book so I understood the references to this through the story. If you love opera then I am sure this book would be even more interesting, but even with little or no knowledge of the opera world this is an enjoyable read.

This is a story about love and passion but it reminds that these are not always positive things in our lives. A great read for the holidays or if you are looking for a good back that is enjoyable and easy to read you won’t be disappointed with The Italian Girl.

 


Book Review – ‘The Versions of Us’ – Laura Barnett

Playing Parent The Versions of Us

I so enjoyed reading ‘The Sudden Departure of the Frasers’ by Louise Candlish that when I was in Cheltenham recently I dropped into Waterstones to find another good read. Talking to the guy on the shop floor he recommended ‘The Versions of Us’ by Laura Barnett which he thought I would enjoy.

The Versions of Us has just been published so is still only available in hardback making it quite expensive at £12.99 but the story sounded so good I decided to treat myself. Also the cover of the book is beautifully designed and I rather liked the idea of this beautiful book sitting on my shelves!

Playing Parent The Versions of Us

Waterstones described it as ‘One Day’ meets ‘Sliding Doors’ which I thought sounded intriguing as I really enjoyed reading One Day (but have yet to see the film) and Sliding Doors was a film I loved back in the days before Gwyneth Paltrow started annoying me with her holier than thou approach to life on her site Goop.

I have to say that describing this book as One Day meets Sliding Doors does not do this book justice. It is infinitely better than either of these and I couldn’t put it down. It is really hard to describe the book without giving too much away so I have taken the description from Laura’s own website.

Eva and Jim are nineteen and students at Cambridge in 1958 when their paths first cross. Jim is walking along a lane when a woman approaching him on a bicycle swerves to avoid a dog. What happens next will determine the rest of their lives. We follow three different versions of their future – together, and apart – as their love story takes on different incarnations, twisting and turning to the conclusion in the present day.

Moving from 1950s Cambridge to present-day London, via New York, Cornwall, Paris, Rome and Los Angeles; from youth to old age, via thirtieth birthdays, children’s weddings, and all the fallout of failure and success, The Versions of Us is the – multiple – love story of one vivid, unconventional couple, and an examination of the different paths our own lives and loves might have taken.

I would recommend starting this book when you have some quiet time on your hands as you do need to concentrate to begin with. The story jumps between the three different versions at quite a pace to begin with. I had to keep thinking about what the story line was in each different version until about a third of the way through the book when something just clicked and I was totally immersed in each separate version of events.

What I particularly loved about the three different versions was that each story had it’s ups and downs. None of the versions were a perfect idyll which is so true of real life. What was very clever was that in each version of Jim and Eva’s story certain things remained the same, maybe an outfit or a particular party but the circumstances were altered enough to create a totally different chain of events. There are different secondary characters in each story which can get a bit confusing but you soon pick it up as the book is so well written.

I can not recommend this book enough. I was absolutely absorbed in the story and felt like I knew Jim and Eva so well by the end of it, that when I had finished the book it took me a while to stop thinking about them. Laura Barnett has been confirmed as a speaker at The Cheltenham Literature Festival in October so I can’t wait to hear her talk about the book and how she tackled the three different versions of the book. One of the things I love about Twitter is that you can reach out to people and I tweeted Laura @laura_jbarnett  to say how much I had enjoyed The Versions of Us. I was really chuffed when she tweeted me back thanking for me for reading it. During our twitter exchange she told  how she found version 2 of Jim and Eva’s story the hardest to write, which is funny as this was perhaps my favourite version out of the three and Laura said it seems to be the version that people like the most.

I have been recommending this book to lots of people as a great read. It is definitely worth purchasing in hardback if you love a great story and a beautiful book. Laura is currently working on her second novel Greatest Hits which I will be waiting for with much anticipation.


Book Review – The Sudden Departure of the Frasers

Louise Candlish

My book group had chosen The Sudden Departure of the Frasers by Louise Candlish as our book this month and I was determined to read this one. Our book club has been going for over two years and what started off as a suggestion in the pub one day has turned into a thriving group.

The last few months have ben so hectic that I have either not managed to read the book club choice or not been able to make our nights out. Nothing beats a good book and over the years I have been an avid reader but these days I enjoy reading blog posts just as much so it takes something pretty special to hold my attention. Boy did this book do that, I could not put it down!

Christy and Joe can not believe their luck when a beautiful home, far beyond their means comes on the market at a bargain price. It is as though all their Christmases have come at once. The house is on a leafy street, in a trendy London suburb, surrounded by good schools and more designer finishes than you can shake a stick at. It is only once they move in that they begin to realise everything is not as it seems.

Christy and Joe never met the previous owners Amber and Jeremy Fraser, all they know is that they left in a hurry and no one seems to know where they went. Looking forward to getting to know their new neighbours, Christy begins to develop a sense of unease and paranoia as she and Joe are shunned by all those around them. When Christy loses her job and finds herself at home all day long and Joe working long hours to pay their huge mortgage she becomes a little obsessed with finding out why the Frasers left so suddenly and how their bearded, rude and unfriendly neighbour is implicated, which she is sure he is.

Candlish writes each chapter in turn from the perspectives of Christy and then Amber Fraser, hoping backwards and forwards between the past and current occupants of the house. These characters are so well written that you feel as though they are in the room with you, especially the character of Amber whose chapters are written in the first person.

I won’t say much more as I really don’t want to take anything away from your enjoyment of the book. I could hardly put the book down, as soon as I had read a chapter from Christy in the present, I wanted to quickly read on to Amber in the past and so on and so on it went. I even took it with me on the school run with me in case I was early to pick up and could cram in 5 minutes of reading in the car! This book was like sitting down and having your own view of the street and all that had been going on for the last few years. The cast of characters were all just as you would find in any suburban street and all very believable in their actions and behaviours.

If you are looking for a good read this summer you will not, in my humble opinion, go far wrong with this book. It is a real page turner and although the plots seems blindingly obvious quite early on, don’t be fooled. there are more twist and turns than a country lane taking you far from where you thought you would end up. I have never read any books by Louise Candlish before but will definitely be seeking more out by her in the future.


Book Review of the One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

 

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Recently I was lucky enough to be picked to be one of 10 bloggers to review The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes for Mumsnet. The book I arrived almost immediately and I was ready to get going. However I soon realised that signing up for a book review to be done by a certain date was a bit like having to have an essay in on time. The more I looked at the thick book, the less inclined I felt to pick it up!

However this weekend I knew I had to get going. Reading a book seemed a bit strange having moved over to reading with a Kindle but I have to say it was great reading a book again. I really enjoyed it and realised how much I miss the smell and hold of a book. I have only read one of Jojo Moyes books before ‘Last letter to Your Lover’ and had absolutely loved it, so was interested to see how her latest novel measured up. I have to say I was not disappointed. Once I got into the book I could not put it down and felt quite bereft when I finished it.

The story revolves around a young single mum, Jess, her maths prodigy daughter Tanzie and awkward teenage stepson Nicky. Their lives are changed forever when Ed Nicholls, whose beachfront holiday home Jess cleans comes into their lives by a number of coincidences. Each chapter is written from a different character’s perspective which makes the story and the characters come to life. Mr Nicholls ends up driving the family and their dog Norman to Aberdeen for Tanzie to take part in a Maths Olympiad and the novel follows the highs and lows of this journey coupled with the developing relationship between Jess and Ed. When I read the first few chapters I thought, this would be predictable girl meets boy, they end up together, but this book is something different. It is far more about family, relationships between siblings and parents and so much more. I find as I write this I don’t want to say a lot as all I want to scream is ‘READ THIS BOOK!’ It was absolutely brilliant from start to end and I literally could not put it down. I don’t want to tell you what happens or how the characters develop as I don’t want to take away one moment of enjoyment from this fantastic novel. So all I can do is apologise for such a naf review and implore you to read it,  The One Plus One = 5 * from me. Another amazing novel from the very talented Ms Moyes.