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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.


Cirencester Children’s Literary Festival

Cirencester This week sees the third Cirencester Children’s Literary Festival that is running from Monday 27th July  until Saturday 1st August. The Festival is funded by the Bingham Library Trust and organised jointly by Gloucestershire Library Service and Octavia’s Bookshop. (We love Octavia’s Bookshop but I am saving that up for a future blog post!) Cirencester, a large market town in Gloucestershire, is often referred to as the capital of the Cotswolds. It was a Roman settlement that was originally known as Corinium but perhaps now is more famous for it’s celebrity residents that scatter the surrounding villages.

The festival was opened today by zoologist and award winning author Nicola Davies. Her books for children include the best-selling A First Book of Nature, illustrated by Mark Hearld. We went along to Nicola’s session toady as my auntie had bought us tickets last week. With this event having a strong animal focus she thought G would love it and he was absolutely rapt. Although the session was aimed at slightly older children (maybe 7+) he sat and listened with fascination as Nicola told the children where she got her ideas and inspirations for her stories.

The Festival has lots events for all ages including Ian Whybrow, author of the famous Harry and his Bucketful of Dinosaurs bringing a Bucketful of Stories and acclaimed illustrator Emily Gravett, celebrating the 10th anniversary of her prize-winner debut, Wolves.

This year there is a theme of illustration running through many of the events. There are various competitions being run through the week and the winning artwork will be displayed at a special opening of Bingham Art Gallery on Saturday 8th August 2015.

The events are being split between Cirencester Library and Octavia’s Bookshop with one special illustration workshop by Sophie E Tallis taking place in the Bingham Art Gallery. Here is the line up for the rest of the week.

Tuesday, July 28th 2015

  • Ian Whybrow -11am, Cirencester Library. A Bucketful of Stories – reading and interactive event with a signing. Aged 4-6.
  • Helen Peters – 2.30pm, Octavia’s Bookshop. The Farm Beneath The Water. Aged 9-11.

Wednesday, July 29th 2015

  • Sophie E Tallis – 11am, Bingham Gallery. Illustration workshop plus competition for best artwork. Aged 5-10.
  • Tracey Corderoy -2.30pm, Octavia’s Bookshop. Introducing Shifty McGifty & Slippery Sam with reading and craft activities. Aged 4-7.

Thursday, July 30th 2015

  • Faye Hanson – 11am, Cirencester Library. Wondering Workshop – reading, drawing and Daydreamer Boy draw-a-long plus competition for best artwork. Aged 4-9.
  • Emily Gravett – 2.30pm, Octavia’s Bookshop. Illustration, reading and signing plus competition for best artwork. Aged 6+.

Friday, July 31st 2015

  • Kristina Stephenson -11am, Cirencester Library. Theatrical reading of ‘Sir Charlie Stinky Socks – The Pirate’s Curse’, with costumes, props and a giant pop-up book. Aged 4-7.
  • Ben Davis – 2.30pm, Octavia’s Bookshop. Reading and signing with ‘Create a Hero’ activity. Aged 10+.

Saturday, August 1st 2015

  • Piers Torday -2.30pm, Octavia’s Bookshop. Reading, Q&A and signing. Aged 8-12.

Tickets for each event are just £2 with proceeds going back to the Trust. This makes the festival an inexpensive activity with all the rainy weather we have forecast this week.

The Festival has its own Facebook page CirencesterLitFest and Twitter feed @CirenLitFest which will be tweeting regular updates.

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



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.