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      February Supporter Giveaway   02/07/2019

      February already! And with February comes the next supporter giveaway. This month, with great thanks once again to www.thestorygift.co.uk , we have a brilliantly bookish set of 'storyteller' pencils (featuring famous first lines) and a retro library card notebook!      As always, you'll be automatically entered into the giveaway if you support the forum on patreon, or if your pre-patreon membership is still active. If you want to be involved in the giveaway but don't currently support, you can join the patreon at any point in February here:  www.patreon.com/bookclubforum . 
Madeleine

Madeleine's Book Log - ongoing

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Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - Years ago I was given a lovely illustrated version of this book, which was gorgeous (I've still got it somewhere) but now that I've read the original novel I realise it was a very truncated version! A good introduction though, to the "real" book. I have mixed feelings about it, I found the first part unbearably twee and sometimes found it hard to figure out the way they spoke - maybe they did talk like that back then, as it's partly autobiographical and is based on the author's own life and her own sisters. I did nearly give up on it a few times but persevered and it did get a bit better, although I was surprised to discover that most of the TV and film versions, well the ones I've seen anyway, combine LW with the second book. Overall it wasn't bad, but I did find it very saccharine at times. 6.5/10

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1 hour ago, Madeleine said:

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - Years ago I was given a lovely illustrated version of this book, which was gorgeous (I've still got it somewhere) but now that I've read the original novel I realise it was a very truncated version! A good introduction though, to the "real" book. I have mixed feelings about it, I found the first part unbearably twee and sometimes found it hard to figure out the way they spoke - maybe they did talk like that back then, as it's partly autobiographical and is based on the author's own life and her own sisters. I did nearly give up on it a few times but persevered and it did get a bit better, although I was surprised to discover that most of the TV and film versions, well the ones I've seen anyway, combine LW with the second book. Overall it wasn't bad, but I did find it very saccharine at times. 6.5/10

I used to love this book but on my second read recently, I felt exactly the same as you about it being too saccharine. I also didn't like some of the archiac stereotyping of gender in this too. Then again, it was written in a different time. Great review!

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I think you have to look at something like gender stereotyping in relation to when the book was written (or set if it's a historical by a more modern author) as that was how things were, however with the men away it was the women who kept things going at home of course.  So I don't think you can really call it archaic as that was the situation then.

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The Frost Fair by Edward Marston - Edward Marston has written many historical crime series, and this book features architect Christopher Redmayne and his friend, constable Jonathan Bale, and takes place in the years following the Great Fire. Both men have different views of the current monarchy, Redmayne doesn't mind flamboyancy (after all, many of his customers are wealthy and part of his job in designing their houses is to show this), whereas Bale is very puritanical and disapproves of drinking, carousing and general hedonism. Despite this, the men are good friends and both are enjoying the legendary Frost Fair on the Thames when one of Bale's sons finds a body under the ice. The victim was an Italian fencing master, and his circle of friends and clients includes Christopher's dissolute brother Henry. When Henry's dagger is revealed to be the murder weapon, he's hauled off to Newgate and it looks like a open and shut case. But Christopher has his doubts, and when he's attacked twice after making his own enquiries, Bale is forced to admit that his friend is probably right, and is forced to investigate the case further himself. This was an enjoyable novel, the main characters were believable and likeable, although some of the supporting characters were a bit two-dimensional, and although there is obviously a back story here (it's not the first time Christopher's brother's lifestyle has got him into trouble, and it would be interesting to see how he and Bale became friends), but it worked well as a stand-alone novel. 7.5/10

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I agree completely with your Frost Fair review. I've read some of Marston's 'Railway Detective' books since I read Frost Fair and they're quite similar, good mysteries, fun to read but don't have a great deal of depth.

 

I'm glad I'm not the only one who was surprised to learn that there are actually two Little Women books, both of which are included in the film version. I think the book is worth reading, because it's interesting in its historical context (when Jo actually seems a lot more rebellious) but I agree it is painfully twee by modern standards. 

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I must admit I was surprised that

Spoiler

Beth was still alive at the end and didn't  realise she dies in the second book!

 

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That's exactly the same thing I was most surprised about! I thought it made the book feel very different in the end too.

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On 2/1/2019 at 11:02 AM, Madeleine said:

I think you have to look at something like gender stereotyping in relation to when the book was written (or set if it's a historical by a more modern author) as that was how things were, however with the men away it was the women who kept things going at home of course.  So I don't think you can really call it archaic as that was the situation then.

In the sense of the situation they were faced with, no, I don't think it's setting gender stereotypes. However, some of the references the men used for the women and the assumptions about them, were archaic. Then again, this book was written in a different time.

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17 hours ago, Madeleine said:

I must admit I was surprised that

  Hide contents

Beth was still alive at the end and didn't  realise she dies in the second book!

 

Spoiler

In the version I have on my Kindle, Beth dies. Perhaps I have the two stories in one.

 

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Yes my original version had that too, they obviously put the two together.

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13 hours ago, karen.d said:

In the sense of the situation they were faced with, no, I don't think it's setting gender stereotypes. However, some of the references the men used for the women and the assumptions about them, were archaic. Then again, this book was written in a different time.

Exactly, so I don't think you can really say it was archaic.  Apparently it's semi-autobiographical, as the author was one of four sisters, so I assume she wrote of her own experiences too, as that was how it was back then.  Jane Austen's books have similar themes too.

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10 hours ago, Madeleine said:

Jane Austen's books have similar themes too.

I've never really been keen on Jane Austen. Have you read many Jane Austen novels?

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I have read Austen, and I'm not a big fan myself - I hated Emma and Persuasion, was left cold by Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey, but Pride... and Sense.. are OK.  Too twittery really for me, plus studying the first two for A level probably didn't help either!

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19 minutes ago, Madeleine said:

Too twittery really for me, plus studying the first two for A level probably didn't help either!

Yes I'm not keen on her qork, for more or less the same reason!

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The Darkness by Ragnar Jonasson - this is the first in a new trilogy by the author of the Dark Iceland series, this is Hidden Iceland and the main protagonist is a female police officer called Hulde (sorry can't remember her surname!) who is, so she thinks, a few months away from retirement, and dreading the day when she has to leave, as her job is pretty much her life, following the death of first her young daughter and then her husband. But then her boss calls her into his office and tells her that her successor is starting in 2 weeks, all her cases have been delegated to her colleagues and she can leave right now if she wants to. Stunned, she asks for a little more time and so her boss gives her two weeks notice, and tells her that, to keep herself busy, she can look into any cold case she chooses. She immediately picks the case of Elena, a young Russian asylum seeker who had been found dead on a remote beach a few months earlier, but a quick investigation concluded that her death was suicide, case closed. But when Hulde discovers that Elena had been granted asylum, and that the investigation was at best sloppy and at worst left vital details off the record, she starts to dig deeper and, inevitably, makes some discoveries that others would like kept secret. And that's all I can really say, it's a fairly standard police procedural, but gradually we also find out about Hulde's own past, there are several twists along the way, and the final ending is quite surprising and certainly original. A quick enjoyable read and I look forward to the next book, which is a prequel. 9/10

Edited by Madeleine

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The Bear and the Nightingale" by Katherine Arden - this is the first book in the Winternight trilogy, set in Russia and featuring a girl called Vasya, who lives with her family in a small town in the countryside, and is viewed with suspicion as she is able to communicate with strange creatures, including the household demons. But the real trouble starts when her father re-marries; his new wife claims to see demons everywhere and is a religious fanatic who hates Vasya. When a prospective marriage offer is rejected, her parents threaten to send her to a convent, but before she can go she runs away into the woods, where the Frost Demon has other plans for her, for he sees her special qualities and also her potential. Meanwhile a freezing winter is taking it's toll, and various neighbours, having succumbed to either illness, the cold or old age, start coming back as vampires. Vasya and her brother manage to fight them off, but the threat is growing and eventually she has to decide whether to stay at home (and certain misery in a convent) or join the demons. I found this disappointing, although I liked Vasya's character I found it all a bit disjointed, I think perhaps I thought it might be more like the Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, but it seemed to go on forever. I may however give the sequel a go, as the early chapters at the end of this book were promising. Plus it was cheap on the web, and the cover is gorgeous.5/10

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