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Claire's Book List 2017

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Through The Mirror Door by Sarah Baker is a ghost/timeslip story for older middle grade readers (I'd say probably 11-12 year olds) about Angela, an orphaned girl who lives in a children's home.  Just as she's about to be forced to move to a new orphanage, an aunt who had previously refused to take her in, suddenly decides to take her on holiday with her own to some long lost relatives in France.  The story takes a mysterious turn with a mirror door that leads Angela to the past, and soon she has to help a young boy from the 19th century while trying to keep her own life in order in the present day.  

 

Sarah Baker is a debut author, and the book is published by Catnip which is a publisher I haven't heard of before, so if it hadn't been given to me for Christmas, I'm not sure I'd have ever come across it.  While it's not a particularly terrifying horror story, there are some descriptions of the way Angela's family died that are a bit scary and there's a sense of peril at times as well, which is why I'd probably keep it for the older end of MG readers, but it was a good story and I enjoyed reading it a lot.

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I listened to The Summer Before The War by Helen Simonson on an Audible audiobook narrated by Lucy Scott.  It's set in Rye in East Sussex, just before the start of the first world war.  Beatrice Nash comes to the town to take on the job of the latin mistress at the local school after the death of her father.  After the death of her father, she find out her inheritance has conditions attached which mean she can't live the independent life she wanted, so has chosen to work and earn a living.  Her appointment to the post has been championed by Agatha, who in her own way is trying to progress the rights of women as well as making her mark on the local society.  The story starts in Agatha's home with her two nephews, Hugh and Daniel, staying for the summer, and Beatrice's introduction to the family and community.  As the summer progresses, the prospect of war looms, and the story follows a quintessentially English town on its journey to war.

 

I absolutely loved this story.  Beatrice is a wonderful character, and her story allows us to follow different aspects and class within the town, giving a beautiful roundness to the story, while keeping it a personal story too.  It starts off reasonably gentle, but as more and more aspects of the story of the pending conflicts are brought in, it deepens and felt like a very genuine interpretation of the period and how war affects all classes of people.  Hugh and Daniel's stories bring a richness and breadth to the story too, and towards the end of the book, the action moves to the frontline where there is a brilliant yet terrible encounter that brings old emotions to the fore.  The plot builds throughout and the ending was very satisfying for me.

 

I've mentioned a few times elsewhere, but Lucy Scott does an absolutely fantastic job narrating the story. Some people may know her as Charlotte Lucas from the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice, and she has the perfect cut glass English voice to suit the story.  I enjoyed her reading so much, I've actually looked up what other books on Audible she has narrated and added a few to my wish list!

 

A very good book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. :)

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Another Christmas present was The Snow Merchant by Sam Gayton, which is another middle grade book.  It follows the story of Lettie Peppercorn who lives in a house on stilts of which she is the landlady and runs as a guest house and whose life is changed forever when a traveller appears asking for a room and signs in as "The Snow Merchant".  He says he's an alchemist and is selling a new inventions ... snow.  I'm not going to write anymore than that about the story, as I think it would spoil it, but it's a magical, fairytale like story, with beautiful illustrations by Chris Riddell.  

 

At first, I wasn't sure I liked the fairytale style of story, but by the end, I have to admit I did enjoy it.  It's an adventurous quest about family and friendship, and I think it would make a great book to read to (or with) children at bedtime.

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More middle grade Christmas presents ... The Secret Cooking Club by Laurel Remington was my next read!  I read this in about three hours yesterday as I couldn't put it down. :D  It's the story of Scarlett, who over the last couple of years has retreated from any sort of social life with friends and has tried to shun any attention, after people at her school realised that her mum was a popular and successful blogger, who has inadvertently made Scarlett a laughing stock with her tales of the trials and tribulations of being a mum.

 

I loved Scarlett and her story, and I think it's got an important message to youngsters, who are probably just starting to use social media on their own, and how what is posted online can affect them.  The story has a happy ending, although there is some poignancy there too, with one of the storylines, which actually made me well up (but then I tear up and cry at anything, I'm such a crybaby :roll:).  On the whole though, it's just a semi-comic, feel good story and I'd definitely like to read more books by this author. :)

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Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce was another Christmas present book, and another middle grade story.  It's a great premise for a story - two brothers find a bag of money that has been stolen as part of a train robbery.  The only problem is, it's old pound notes and the country is converting to euros within days, when the money will become worthless.  It's a cracking story, but on top of that, the boys have lost their mother recently, and Anthony, our narrator, has become obsessed with religious saints, and the brothers have very different views on how they should use the money.  All the while, the train robbers are closing in ...

 

A very easy read, and it's easy to understand why Frank Cottrell Boyce is such a successful children's writer.  Believable characters, a story that's exciting, thrilling and heart wrenching at the same time, and educational about saints too! :lol:  Very enjoyable.

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I've written a lot more about Barchester Towers on the thread for the book in the English Counties challenge, but just mentioning it in here for completeness.  I listened to it on audiobook, and I loved it.  Having said that, I don't feel inclined to read any of the others in the Chronicles of Barsetshire series of books by Trollope, but I'm very glad I read this one. :D

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Oh lordy, I was planning to try and reduce my TBR a bit over the first few weeks of the year, but after having read 8 books, I've already bought another 6! :o  I would say it's the Daily Deals that get me, but then I couldn't not buy a book in the bookshop we went in at the weekend either.  :doh:

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The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin is the story of a twelve year old girl and her journey through grief at the death of her best friend.  Suzy's friend Franny drowns while on holiday, but Suzy struggles to come to terms with it, knowing that Franny was a very strong swimmer, and decides that the only logical explanation can be that Franny must have been stung by a deadly jellyfish, and sets out to prove this fact.

 

One of the interesting things that the author has done with this book, is to set up the sections like a science report, e.g. starting with the purpose, and then through to the conclusion, and ties up the story to fit in these sections, and it works really well.  It looks at the grieving process, but also looks at key moments in childhood, when children start to become interested in more grown up things, and how they develop at different rates and it can break up friendships and cause conflict, and some children don't deal with this as well as others.  But, it does all this through the eyes of Suzy, making it accessible to children and still feeling like there's a narrative, so it doesn't feel like it's being pushed in your face.

 

I enjoyed reading the book, although I've been reading mostly British children's books recently, and it was a very different experience reading an American story after such a long break!  I can't say I'd seek out any more books by this author, but I thought this was a very good book, and I'd happily recommend it.

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I re-read Cold Comfort Farm for the English Counties Challenge.  I've put my thoughts down in the thread for the book, but I loved revisiting it again.  I think I'm going to see if I can find the television adaptation the BBC made in the mid 1990s, as I'd love to see it again.  I hope it's available somewhere!

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Every Christmas, Jodi Taylor releases a short story to run alongside the main series of novels she writes about the Chronicles of St. Mary's, and My Name is Markham was the latest one from last Christmas.  For a change, she chose to write it with Markham as a narrator instead of the usual main character, Max, and it was a refreshing change!  Not the most exciting of stories, and perhaps with less peril than we usually see, but it's always lovely to return to the world of St. Mary's and I was as charmed as I always am with this little Christmas presents. :D

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I've heard read good things of The Thing About Jellyfish from several Dutch book bloggers. I'm glad to see an English review for it also, I'm glad you liked it :).

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I've been interested in reading The Reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent since I saw frankie's review of it last year.  It was on sale on Kindle a couple of weeks ago, so I thought I'd give it a go.  Not for the faint-hearted book lover, as the hero of the story works in a factory that pulps books!  :o

 

It's a quick, easy read, but very enjoyable.  Like quite a few French translations I've read over the last couple of years, it's got a roster of quirky characters who live on the margins of society, not quite fitting into the 2.4 children mould, and who have small lives but which weave together to make a lovely story.  Thanks frankie, I really enjoyed it! :D

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I re-read Cold Comfort Farm for the English Counties Challenge.  I've put my thoughts down in the thread for the book, but I loved revisiting it again.  I think I'm going to see if I can find the television adaptation the BBC made in the mid 1990s, as I'd love to see it again.  I hope it's available somewhere!

I reserved and borrowed it from the library, Claire.  :)    I think DVDs are around £2 per week (plus reservation fee).

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I read Jellyfish last year, I think it was, and liked it. Glad you enjoyed it too. :)

 

I've seen Cold Comfort Farm mentioned a lot... I wonder would I like it. I've stuck it on my wishlist anyway.

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I reserved and borrowed it from the library, Claire.  :)    I think DVDs are around £2 per week (plus reservation fee).

 

 

Thanks Janet.  I think I might have it on DVD somewhere (probably in storage), so I'll see if I can find it first, but otherwise, I might well go and get it from the library. :)

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I read Jellyfish last year, I think it was, and liked it. Glad you enjoyed it too. :)

 

I've seen Cold Comfort Farm mentioned a lot... I wonder would I like it. I've stuck it on my wishlist anyway.

 

I've just gone and re-read your review, Noll, and it looks like we pretty much agree on this one. :D

 

I'm not sure if you would like Cold Comfort Farm but no harm in trying.  There are two editions on Kindle at the moment, and one is only £1.89.  I bought the more expensive one a while back, mainly because I tend to prefer the Penguin Classics editions, but also because it was the only one available at the time! :D

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Ooh I might grab it so while its cheap :) I like stepping outside my usual reading zone from time to time so it's worth a go for sure.

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Thanks Janet.  I think I might have it on DVD somewhere (probably in storage), so I'll see if I can find it first, but otherwise, I might well go and get it from the library. :)

Do you mean the Kate Beckinsale one, Claire? (or is there another?) I'm pretty sure I have it on DVD so don't go spending any money :)

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Yes, that's the one!  With Stephen Fry as Mybug and all sorts of other great actors in it.  It would be great if you do have it, although if not, I'll follow Janet's advice and borrow from the library :)

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Yes, that's the one!  With Stephen Fry as Mybug and all sorts of other great actors in it.  It would be great if you do have it, although if not, I'll follow Janet's advice and borrow from the library :)

I've just been down to the basement and found it :) I'll bring it with me when I see you in Feb :hug: Or let me know if you want to see it before then and I'll put it in the post :)

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