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Claire's Book List 2016

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Good decision!  The Persephone books are so beautiful, you really want a copy in very good condition as it's part of the charm of the book.  Thank you for thinking of me though. :smile2:

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I've been wanting to read The Making of a Marchioness ever since Linda (in The Pursuit of Love) replaced Karl Marx's The Formative Years with it .. when she took over running the communist bookshop twice a week :D But yes .. the Persephone copies are so beautiful that it adds to the pleasure of reading them when you get a good copy. 

 

Great reviews Claire :) I'd forgotten that Julia Strachey wrote Cheerful Weather for the Wedding .. I was just reading about her yesterday in Among the Bohemians .. the consensus being that she wasted her talent (by not writing more I think.) 

I agree wholeheartedly with your review of The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth .. it's better than the first even though that was great too. I liked the secondary characters very much as well as the regulars. It's like the Wells & Wong series .. I can't see me getting fed up with them anytime soon ... unless the quality drops.

I love the sound of The Little Shop of Happy Ever After .. very tempting :D  

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I love the sound of The Little Shop of Happy Ever After .. very tempting :D  

 

I second that!  It sounds like a perfectly light and lovely book, and I've added it to my wishlist.

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Mobile Library by David Whitehouse

 

Synopsis:

Twelve-year-old Bobby Nusku is an archivist of his mother. He catalogues traces of her life and waits for her to return home.

Bobby thinks that he's been left to face the world alone until he meets lonely single mother Val and her daughter Rosa. They spend a magical summer together, discovering the books in the mobile library where Val works as a cleaner. But as the summer draws to a close, Bobby finds himself in trouble and Val is in danger of losing her job. There's only one thing to do -- and so they take to the road in the mobile library . . .

 

Review:

I don’t like stories that start at the end and then go back to the beginning, and unfortunately this was one of those books.  I really wanted to like it … it’s about a mobile library for goodness sake! … but in the end I felt it a very slight way of telling a story with some difficult themes.  I realise that Bobby is a child with a difficult life, but at times he acted like a very young child and at others he appeared far beyond his years, and I just didn’t find him convincing which then made it difficult to enjoy the story.

 

The whole story felt a bit preposterous, and all the things that were supposed to be unexpected revelations seemed obvious to me.  I kept reading to the end (which was unbelievable for me, and didn't benefit from having been touched upon at the beginning of the book), but it was definitely not my cup of tea, and it was one I wish I hadn’t been swayed by the cover.  Maybe I was in the wrong mood for it, as it seemed like the sort of thing I would normally enjoy, but I just didn't like it.

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Review for The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers in the English Counties thread for the book.  Not my cup of tea, as I just don't get on with the crime genre generally, particularly this sort of style of detective novel, but not a bad book.  I wouldn't have read it if it weren't for the challenge, and I won't be reading any more of the series, but that's just a personal preference.  I think if you like Agatha Christie and Colin Dexter style of murder mysteries, you'd enjoy it though, so don't go on my opinion! :D

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I don’t like stories that start at the end and then go back to the beginning, and unfortunately this was one of those books. 

 

Interesting! I tend to like books like that....provided what has happened at the end piques my interest. I always find it interesting to see how a story/person gets to a destination, when I (as the reader) already have  the destination in mind. I've read a few like that (but of course I can't think of any off the top of my head :blush2: ), and I enjoyed them a lot more than you enjoyed Mobile Library. :giggle2:

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Interesting! I tend to like books like that....provided what has happened at the end piques my interest. I always find it interesting to see how a story/person gets to a destination, when I (as the reader) already have  the destination in mind. I've read a few like that (but of course I can't think of any off the top of my head :blush2: ), and I enjoyed them a lot more than you enjoyed Mobile Library. :giggle2:

 

Do you know, it's probably just my mood.  I'm sure I've read other books that start at the end and go back to the beginning, and I've enjoyed them, but at time time I read Mobile Library and now as I'm writing this review, I've decided it's near the bottom of the list of things I like! :lol:

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Interesting! I tend to like books like that....provided what has happened at the end piques my interest. I always find it interesting to see how a story/person gets to a destination, when I (as the reader) already have  the destination in mind. I've read a few like that (but of course I can't think of any off the top of my head :blush2: ), and I enjoyed them a lot more than you enjoyed Mobile Library. :giggle2:

Yes, me too, as long as they don't give too much away and are done well. Rebecca was a great example of it being done well. Mood is so important when reading a book, I really think we need to create an app where we can programme in our moods and our TBR list and it will come up with the perfect book for that time! :)

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I don't mind books like that either.

 

Mood is so important when reading a book, I really think we need to create an app where we can programme in our moods and our TBR list and it will come up with the perfect book for that time! :)

That sounds like a great idea :)! I sort of wish there was such an app :P.

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Hi Claire!  Just popping by to say thank you for the lovely surprise in the post today!   :exc:  I love surprises and I love books - you are so thoughtful. :wub:  I promise to look after it for you and to return it when we meet for coffee (maybe next time, maybe the time after, depending upon how long it takes me to get round to it!  :D  ).   I can't believe you were so close to where I live recently.  :o  We could have snuck in an extra coffee if we'd realised!  :giggle:

 

Thanks again.  :hug:

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Please do!  :D  I *think* there is a coffee shop where you went...?  (Or in the adjacent garden centre - but I haven't been there for a long time so I might be wrong).  :)  It's not a million miles from the Bookbarn either! 

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The Children Who Lived in a Barn by Julia Strachey

Synopsis: (from Amazon.co.uk)
This 1938 novel became a children's literature classic when it was reissued as a Puffin paperback in 1955; but Persephone Books has published it for both adults and children to read. It shows five children successfully looking after themselves when their parents go away and fail to return; and 'it is partly because of modern curtailment of childhood independence that Persephone Books (which has a cult following for its elegant resurrection of novels by women writers) has reissued the novel,' wrote Rachel Johnson on the "Daily Telegraph" Education page.Jacqueline Wilson observes in her Preface: 'Back in the fifties the book seemed entirely convincing. Reading it now I'm in my fifties it seems extraordinary...that the Dunnett children in the book were deliberately left on their own...Yet in spite of all her enormous household responsibilities the eldest girl, Sue, experiences a freedom and a sense of achievement not available to most Western teenage girls. She could certainly teach the teenage girls in my books a valuable lesson.'A starring role in the book is played by the haybox, which makes a lasting impression on every reader...

Review:
I think this may be the only children's book in the Persephone catalogue, but it's a fantastic, nostalgic read. For someone of my age (well past 40 now ;)), it feels so much like the books I read as a child, reminiscent of Enid Blyton, but with a slightly more realistic feel to the characters, who seem more rounded and less caricatured than Blyton's.

It's the perfect escapism for a story book, absentee parents, children fending for themselves, siblings desperate to stay together, the "villainous" busybodies, the friendly farmer ... oh, it's all there! There is an introduction by Jacqueline Wilson who remembers her copy of the book from childhood, and I can imagine that if I'd read it when I was small, I'd have devoured the gem of a story.

That's not to say there aren't flaws with it ... it's hard to believe that even in the 1930s, middle class parents would have left a thirteen year old girl in charge of her three younger brothers and sisters, and that even if they had, the authorities wouldn't have got involved from an early age, especially when the children are evicted from their home and end up staying in the neighbouring farmer's barn. As a piece of childhood nostalgia, though, it's wonderful fare.

Another step along the road of my Persephone journey, and I've yet to put a foot wrong. :smile2:

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Film Freak by Christopher Fowler

 

Synopsis: (from Amazon.co.uk)

It is the late 1970s and twenty-something Christopher Fowler is obsessively watching lousy films in run-down fleapit cinemas. He longs to become a famous screenwriter and so heads for Wardour Street with an armful of terrible scripts.

 

But he arrives just as Britain’s filmmakers are being brought to their knees by the arrival of video and the destruction of the old movie palaces, reduced to making smutty low budget farces and TV spinoffs. And instead of being asked to write another ‘Bullitt’, Chris is churning out short films about boilers and nylon sheets. Somehow he finds success, albeit not quite the sort he’d expected.

 

Hilarious and acutely observed, Film Freak is both an entertaining trawl through the arse-end of the British film-industry and an affecting search for friendship and happiness.

 

Review:

Hmmm. I wanted to love this book, as I usually enjoy trips down memory lane into the world of film memoirs (love Mark Kermode's books!), but this didn't quite fit the bill. It was far more about the murky world of the publicity side of the business and in a period before my time, I found it difficult to connect with the life and society of the times that the author describes. It's also a very male world, which made it feel a bit exclusive for me.

 

It's certainly not a bad book, I did enjoy reading it on the whole, the writing's good and there are some amusing and horrifying stories, but it just wasn't what I was expecting and I never felt like I had to keep reading, or desperate to pick it up again when I next picked up the book.

 

I think perhaps if you're twenty years older than me, there will be more to associate with from your youth, and it is an interesting look at the film industry in the UK at the time ... just not for me.

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Rain: Four Walks in English Weather by Melissa Harrison

 

Synopsis: (from Amazon.co.uk)

Whenever rain falls, our countryside changes. Fields, farms, hills and hedgerows appear altered, the wildlife behaves differently, and over time the terrain itself is transformed.

 

In Rain, Melissa Harrison explores our relationship with the weather as she follows the course of four rain showers, in four seasons, across Wicken Fen, Shropshire, the Darent Valley and Dartmoor.

 

Blending these expeditions with reading, research, memory and imagination, she reveals how rain is not just an essential element of the world around us, but a key part of our own identity too.

 

Review:

Melissa Harrison's debut novel, Clay, was my favourite book of last year, and I follow her on Twitter, both of which have increased my perception of the natural world around me at all times, even in the city, so I was delighted to see this book of essays in my local bookshop.

 

Let's face it, if you live in England, you're going to have had to walk in the rain at some point. In these essays, Harrison explains how that can be a good thing, and the changes you will find in nature when it's raining. The different sights, sounds, scents ... all these things change the experience of a walk, but also makes you realise how much the inclination of the British weather to get us wet, is a part of our history and our lives. There are diversions into local history of the walks as well as the contemplation of rain in classic literature and poetry, making for a engrossing read and encouragement to put on your wellies and get out there in the rain! Which reminds me ... I need a new waterproof coat. :D

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Great reviews Claire, I particularly like the look of The Children Who Lived in a Barn, I'll keep my eye out for that one. I suspect 13 year olds were very different in those days, far more mature and given more responsibilities as a rule, many of them would have been working. I'm not sure if I'd trust my modern day 16,15 and 11 year olds! :)

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Thanks! :)  It's was a lovely read and originally a Puffin book, so you might be lucky and find it in some charity shops in its original edition, but I'm collecting the Persephone books, so I'm very happy with my dove grey cover :D

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Once Upon A Time In The West...Country by Tony Hawks

 

Synopsis: (from Amazon.co.uk)

Comedian and born and bred townie, Tony Hawks is not afraid of a challenge - or indeed a good bet. He's hitchhiked round Ireland with a fridge and taken on the Moldovan football team at tennis, one by one. Now the time has come for his greatest gamble yet - turning his back on comfortable London life to move to the wilds of the West Country.

 

With his partner Fran in tow and a first child on the way, he embraces the rituals of village life with often absurd and hilarious results, introducing us to an ensemble of eclectic characters along the way. One minute he's taking part in a calamitous tractor run, the next he's chairing a village meeting, but of course he still finds time for one last solo adventure before fatherhood arrives - cycling coast to coast with a mini pig called Titch.

 

In the epic battle of man vs countryside, who will win out?

 

Review:

I've really enjoyed Tony Hawks' other books, and I love a good city to country, fish out of water memoir, so I had a pretty good idea I'd be onto a winner with this latest book from the comedian. I was not wrong!

 

For the most part, this is a warm, affectionate story of how Tony meets his girlfriend, then their eventual move to a small village in Devon, and how they adapt from a life in the city to country living. Their introduction to gardening, getting involved with the local community and all the sort of tales I've come to expect from this type of book. Alongside this, Tony somehow manages to get involved in another one of his bets, this time to cycle from the north coast of the county to the south ... carrying a pig!

 

Hawks' style of comedy is a gentle one for the most part, but this is perfect for this memoir as it brings out the humour brilliantly, and there are even a few laugh out loud moments (I looked like a right numpty trying not to choke while trying to laugh and eat in the coffee shop at one point :roll:).

 

If you've enjoyed any of his earlier books, I'm convinced you'll enjoy this one, and if you haven't well, it's as good a place to start as any. :D

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Perijee and Me by Ross Montgomery

 

Synopsis: (from Amazon.co.uk)

When 11-year-old Caitlin discovers a shrimp-like alien creature on the shores of her island home, she takes responsibility for teaching it about the world. Mostly, this just involved stopping little Perijee from eating everything! Caitlin becomes increasingly close to her alien friend, treating him like a brother.

 

There's only one problem - Perijee won't stop growing.

 

Then the authorities try to hunt him down and through his fear, Perijee disappears and starts causing trouble. Caitlin must leave home and travel across the country to try and convince Perijee to stop destroying everything before it's too late.

 

Review:

It feels like I've been waiting for this book for years! It was originally due out early last year but the publication date got put back a few times, but I finally got my copy a few weeks ago. This is another fantastic book from Montgomery. He writes fantastical tales for children, but, they pack a punch with the themes. This latest book is perfect for our times, using an alien in order to give a view on outsiders (for this read immigrants or refugees) and the different viewpoints of how we interact with each other.

 

It's a brilliant way to allow children to familiarise themselves with this concept, with classic types of pitchfork wielding locals, bureaucratic agencies and media sensationalism among other things. There's plenty of humour and many thought provoking elements, but overall, as with both his previous books, there's just a cracking story that will captivate children, without any preaching or moralising. Great stuff. :)

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The Secret Paris Cinema Club by Nicolas Barreau

 

Synopsis: (from Amazon.co.uk)

Alain Bonnard, the owner of a small art cinema in Paris, is a dyed-in-the-wool nostalgic. In his Cinéma Paradis there are no buckets of popcorn, no XXL colas, no Hollywood blockbusters. Alain holds firm to his principles of quality - to show films that bring dreams to life, make people fall in love. And Alain would do anything for his clientele - particularly the mysterious woman in the red coat who, for some time now, has turned up every Wednesday and always sits in row seventeen. What could her story be?

 

Finally one evening Alain plucks up courage to invite the unknown beauty to dinner. But just as the most tender of love stories is getting under way, something happens that turns Alain's life upside down, shoving his little cinema unexpectedly into the public eye. So when the woman in the red coat suddenly vanishes from his life, the cinema owner can't help but wonder if it is more than a coincidence. Taking matters into his own hands, Alain sets off in search of the stranger he has come to love - roll the opening credits for a timeless cinematic romance worthy of the Parisian silver screen!

 

Review:

I can't deny it was definitely the title that drew me to this book - what could be better than a novel about films, cinemas and set in Paris? The story is basically a romantic comedy from a male perspective, set in and around a cinema. It was a good story, although I thought it was a bit too long and drawn out at times. Nothing ground breaking, but an entertaining read for a few hours. There's a little bit of a mystery that pootles along nicely, with a few twists and turns along the way, but it pretty much ends up where you'd expect it too.

 

I did enjoy that it was set in Paris, as it made a nice change to read about a different location from the British Isles, but it didn't sell Paris to me (even though I've visited it before) or make me dream of travelling there again, which is a bit of a shame, and I didn't feel like I gained any knowledge of it from an inhabitants point of view.

 

Enjoyable and passes the time nicely, but I can't say I'd rush out and buy any other books by the author.

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The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

 

Synopsis: (from Amazon.co.uk)

Previously adapted into a critically acclaimed film by Sofia Coppola starring Kirsten Dunst, this is the story of the five Lisbon sisters – beautiful, eccentric, and obsessively watched by the entire neighbourhood.

 

The boys that once loved them from afar are now grown men, determined to understand a tragedy that has always defied explanation. For still, the question remains – why did all five of the Lisbon girls take their own lives?

 

This hypnotic and unforgettable novel treats adolescent love and death with haunting sensitivity and dark humour, and creates a coming-of-age story unlike any of our time.

 

Review:

Now, I know lots of people on the forum have recommended Eugenides, but it was actually someone from my library book group who suggested a whole bunch of authors for me to read that prompted me to buy this one when it was on sale last month. It's my first book of his that I've read, and if I'm honest, I really don't know what to make of it.

 

I was never gripped by the story, but I never thought about stopping reading either. I didn't enjoy it particularly, but I didn't dislike it either. Apparently, there's humour in there, but I didn't find anything remotely amusing. I couldn't place the book in a particular time period either, which made it tricky to understand what the social aspects of the time were and how to match that with the attitudes of the parents, particularly the mother. And the biggest problem was, I still had no idea what the point of it was by the end, but I suspect that's my problem. I think there's something in there that I haven't picked up on.

 

I appreciate that the narrative is from an outsider to the family, so that as a reader, it's very difficult to understand what's going on with the girls in their home and in their minds, but surely that's inevitably leading to an unresolved conclusion, so by the end what should I have got from the story? I'm never going to understand why the girls committed suicide and neither are the boys who were witness to their story, so I found it difficult to see what I might get from this book. Perhaps I'm too black and white in my reading and find grey areas unfulfilling?

 

Having said all that, I will definitely be reading Middlesex, as this has also been recommended and I want to read another of Eugenides books before passing my own judgement.

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Hmmm, I've had The Virgin Suicides on my TBR pile for a while, but have never read it because I always thought it would be a bit too....complex. I think I have Middlesex on my list as well, but again it has never grabbed me enough to pick it up. I haven't seen the movie.... have you seen it, and does it follow the book closely?

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Honestly, it's not complex, but I would like someone to explain to me what I missed!  I haven't seen the film, and based on my experience of the book, I don't think it will be my cup of tea.  Like I said, I'm still planning to try Middlesex as the writing certainly hasn't put me off the author, and that is the book that my friend from the book group recommended.

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I remember enjoying The Virgin Suicides, but feeling a little underwhelmed. I think I had hyped it up a lot in my mind. It's been ages since I read the book or saw the movie, but I think the movie was a fairly good adaptation.

 

I wasn't at all interested in reading Middlesex, but I heard so many good things about it that I bought it anyway. It sat on my TBR pile for ages before I finally decided to give it a go. For me it was one of those 'OMG. Why didn't I read this sooner?!' books. It blew me away. Awesome book. And I know Frankie will back me up on that.  :D

 

These two reading experiences nicely explain my philosophy in life: 'If you don't get your hopes up, you won't be disappointed'. :D

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