Malevolence and Murder in Modena

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The Girl With The Painted Face – Gabrielle Kimm

I thought it was time for a change. I don’t really tend to read historical romances set before the Victorian era, (the only exception being The Other Boleyn Girl) but there was something about the press release for The Girl With the Painted Face by Gabrielle Kimm which intrigued me.

I was really excited to read the novel and started it on the very day Little Brown sent it to me. The book is set in Italy and charts the journey of the young and innocent seamstress Sofia. From the first page the reader is flung straight into the action as Sofia is running away from a man who has tried to assault her. This sets a pattern for Sofia’s life – trouble follows her and she runs from it.

Due to the father like figure of Niccoló Zanetti who is the effectively the anchor of the story, she meets The Coraggiosi who change every aspect of her life. The group are a travelling band of actors and perform to hundreds of audiences around Italy. Sofia falls in love with actor Beppe and the chemistry Kimm devotes to the couple is smouldering and really believable. All is well until the vindictive Sebastiano plans to thwart the young couple’s new found happiness as Sofia is accused of murder.

Feminists would have a ruddy field day with this novel as it is full of submissive women depicted as sexual objects in 16th century Italy. Sofia is an extremely naïve young women which men attempt to take full advantage of. There were a good few times where I just wanted to give her a good slap but I guess Kimm was trying to connote that women had little power during this era.

I think the novel was extremely well researched through the description of clothing, buildings and Italian phrases. Typically historical romances are set in England so I liked that it was set in Renaissance Italy and I enjoyed the fact the content was so far removed from today’s society. I loved that Kimm incorporated some of the dialogue from The Coraggiosi’s plays into the novel too. It is the perfect escapist novel to curl up in front of the fire to on a wintery Sunday afternoon.

My only criticism – I got very confused with the characters and their names to begin with. It was only after reading the novel for a considerable length of time on a train journey that I began to make sense of who was who. But do not let this put you off! It is definitely worth a read and it made a nice change to read something historical that was not set in the 19th century.

Thanks goes to Little Brown for sending me a copy of the novel.

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The Best Bridget Jones Yet!

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Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy – Helen Fielding

Normally when there is a big fuss over a film, TV programme or musician I tend to do everything I can not to jump on the fickle bandwagon. However I could not get enough of the hype surrounding Helen Fielding’s latest Bridget Jones offering Mad About The Boy and read pretty much every article the Daily Mail produced on the novel – which was an awful lot! I even pre-ordered the book to make sure I had it the day it was released which was unheard of for me!

I was however a little annoyed when Fielding announced a few weeks before the book was released that she had only gone and killed off Darcy (I felt there must have been a publicity strategy behind this announcement).

Even though I was filled with rage about the spoiler Mad About The Boy definitely lived up to the hype and I can see why Fielding decided to kill Darcy off. Bridget Jones would not be Bridget Jones if her life was perfect and she had settled down with a husband and two children and lived happily ever after. Women seem to be able to relate her mishaps and blunders and thrive on reading it – an idea I feel I am an absolute expert on as I studied Bridget Jones’ Diary for my dissertation.

So in Mad About The Boy we find Bridget nearly reaching her half century, reeling from Darcy’s death and left with two adorable children – Billy and Mabel. She yet again navigates her way through the world of dating but is given a twenty first century update. No longer is she checking her answerphone; instead she is constantly on Twitter and texting potential boyfriends.

In my opinion this is the best Bridget Jones yet and not just because it was a hardback- I love a hardback book! In all seriousness I feel this maybe down to the fact that for me it is set in the present therefore I can relate to all the cultural zeitgeists.  When Bridget Jones’ Diary first emerged I was seven and still reading Enid Blyton novels so I read the book ten years after it was first released and a lot of the cultural and technology references were old and dated.

Even though Bridget’s life has changed dramatically in Mad About The Boy underneath it all is still the same old Bridget that we know and love. Fielding’s creation will most definitely live on for years to come.

I Love Bob.

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A Street Cat Named Bob – James Bowen

Anyone who knows me knows I love cats. I sometimes like them more than humans and I like to browse pictures of cute kittens when I’m bored. So I really am unsure why it has taken me so long to read A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen. I was a little apprehensive that it was going to be an emotional feline rollercoaster – I do get a bit fretful when Marie falls off the train track in The Aristocats, so there was not much hope.  But I needn’t have worried A Street Cat Named Bob is truly heart-warming and a story of companionship.

If you have not read it before I will give you a brief outline. James Bowen is a recovering drug addict struggling to make ends meet busking on the streets of London. One day he notices a scrawny ginger tom outside his flat and thinks nothing more of it. However when he finds the cat there again he cannot ignore him and there starts a remarkable tale of friendship. James welcomes Bob into his home, work and life.

Bob truly is a special cat. I could not for one minute imagine my cat; Molly, sitting on my shoulder whilst I walked through the streets of London or sitting next to me on a bus. I also cannot contemplate Molly sitting in my guitar case whilst I’m busking – namely because I do not have a guitar and I can’t sing but you get the point. Bob is a unique animal.

I will certainly be reading more of Bowen’s books as Bob’s tale is incredible. I will keep his adventures and exploits a mystery but there were a number of times when I did think it was the end of the road for Bob.

After reading the book I did attempt to make Molly become Bob-esque and put her on my shoulder but she was having none of it. As I am writing this she is currently staring at me, I like to think it is due to her love and affection for me but she’s probably just hungry. Anyway here is some pictures of my rather odd cat…

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Jude and Tess

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Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

I feel that I cannot really write this blog post without sounding like a former English student, either that or a little bit pompous, after all who am I to critique or pass judgement on one of the greatest English writers EVER?! So instead of reviewing Tess of the D’Urbervilles I’m just going to ramble on about Thomas Hardy for a bit.

I have not always liked Thomas Hardy’s work. Back in school when I thought I was too cool for books I was forced to read Jude the Obscure and HATED IT. I think it was because I did not have a clue what was going on, my poor little brain could not cope with Jude’s ever changing antics. Fast forward five years and I was faced with the chore of reading it again in my second year at university. Seeing it on my reading list filled me with complete dread. But ever the optimist I thought I would try it again and I am glad I did. It turned out to be one of my favourite books on my reading list that year.

What changed hear you ask? In all honesty I am not sure – possibly the fact I understood it a lot more and was not made to watch the film version where Kate Winslet gives birth and you see EVERYTHING. I also think that the second time around I was not affected by peer pressure as the majority of my friends at school did not finish the book (or even pick it up for that matter), so I immediately felt compelled to dislike it. Free from feeling the urge to dislike the same things as my friends I really enjoyed Jude the Obscure the second time – it will definitely be staying on my bookshelf for years to come.

Hardy is a master in depressing tales. I will admit (although it is embarrassing) I did not know the story of Tess of the D’Urbervilles, so I was optimistic that it may be a little happier than Jude. I was wrong; my former notion was not helped by the fact my mum decided to tell me when I was only half way through the book that it was not a happy ending – brillo. Or as she put it ‘Hardy’s characters have not seen a ‘appy day in their lives’. She’s right, if you want a book to lift your spirits do not read Tess of the D’Urbervilles – the ending is not pretty. That said, for some bizarre reason I always find comfort in reading nineteenth century novels, so I did thoroughly enjoy the novel. In my opinion is it as good as Jude, ‘fraid not but it is a classic so everyone should read it!