Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Janet

Janet's Log - Stardate 2017

Recommended Posts

Cool photos, Janet. Love Hot Fuzz. Completely bonkers film. :lol:

 

Interesting to see you've bought a Betjeman collection. One of my grandma's favourite poets - she absolutely loves his stuff. Enjoy your new books anyway. :yes:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I love Wells Cathedral - in fact, it's a lovely little walk up through the town to the Cathedral, spotting all the Hot Fuzz locations on the way! :lol:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks, guys.  :)  I'm feeling the Hot Fuzz love!  :wub:

 

I bought a new book today (oops!) - it's Through the Woods by H E Bates - recollections of woodlands in Kent.  

 

3.%20Through%20the%20Woods%20by%20H%20E%

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think we're pretty much all crazy here! :D

 

I don't think we would like it any other way :D 

 

Thank you everyone for the lovely comments (although all I did was follow a video and some instructions :giggle2:).

 

I'm sure there are a lot of people who could watch the video for days on end and who would not be able to produce anything remotely resembling the Kindle case :D 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm sure there are a lot of people who could watch the video for days on end and who would not be able to produce anything remotely resembling the Kindle case :D

 

Thank you. I will take the compliment gratefully. :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

006-2017-Jan-11-The%20Bookshop_zpspbk5dn

The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

The ‘blurb’
In a small East Anglian town, Florence Green decides, against polite but ruthless local opposition, to open a bookshop.

Hardborough becomes a battleground. Florence has tried to change the way things have always been done, and as a result she has to take on not only the people who have made themselves important but natural and even supernatural forces, too. Her fate will strike a chord with anyone who knows that life has treated them with less than justice.

 

(There is a longer version (with spoilers because it's assumed the book has been read) as part of the Counties Challenge here)

 

Florence Green, a widow of advancing years, decides to open a book shop in the Suffolk town of Hardborough. After some investigation she settles on The Old House, a neglected and rather damp property that comes with its own poltergeist! Whilst she gets off to a good start, she soon faces a problem in the form of a local, powerful, woman called Violet Gamart who will stop at nothing to get her own way. With few allies apart from local near-recluse Edmund Brundish will Florence's business survive?

I enjoyed this gentle story which is set in the late 1950s. It's a very short book – 176 pages and the audio version I listened to (ably narrated by someone called Stephanie Racine) is only a fraction over four hours long so I was able to listen to it in one day. I really liked the writing and the characters, especially Florence. I really wanted her to have a happy ending. Does she? Well, that would be telling!

There is a film coming out this year starring Emily Mortimer as Florence, Bill Nighy as Edmund Brundish and Patricia Clarkson as Violet Gamart which I will probably go to see.

The paperback edition is 176 pages long and is published by Harper Collins. It was first published in 1978. The ISBN is 9780006543541.

3½/5 (I liked it)

(Finished 11 January 2017)
 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That sounds like an interesting read - great review!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

007-2017-Jan-11-The%20Palace%20of%20Curi

The Palace of Curiosities by Rosie Garland

The ‘blurb’
A luminous and bewitching debut novel that is perfect for fans of Angela Carter. Set in Victorian London, it follows the fortunes of Eve, the Lion-Faced Girl and Abel, the Flayed Man. A magical realism delight.

Before Eve is born, her mother goes to the circus. She buys a penny twist of coloured sugar and settles down to watch the heart-stopping main attraction: a lion, billed as a monster from the savage heart of Africa, forged in the heat of a merciless sun. Mama swears she hears the lion sigh, just before it leaps…and when Eve is born, the story goes, she didn’t cry – she meowed and licked her paws.

When Abel is pulled from the stinking Thames, the mudlarks are sure he is long dead. As they search his pockets to divvy up the treasure, his eyes crack open and he coughs up a stream of black water. But how has he survived a week in that thick stew of human waste?

Cast out by Victorian society, Eve and Abel find succour from an unlikely source. They will become The Lion Faced Girl and The Flayed Man, star performers in Professor Josiah Arroner’s Palace of Curiosities. And there begins a journey that will entwine their fates forever.


The Palace of Curiosities tells of two people forced together due to their differences. Eve lives with her mother in a small room where they make ends meet by taking in sewing. Life is hard for Eve, who has a condition that means she is covered in fur like a lion. One day, a Mr Arroner arrives at the house and wastes no time in courting Eve. She can hardly believe her luck and readily agrees to marry him, but when they get back to his villa (which is palatial compared to what Eve is used to) it quickly becomes apparent that he hasn't married her for love.

Meanwhile, across the city a man called Abel dwells in a boarding house and works as a slaughter-man. He has trouble retaining memories and relies on a friend to help him. When he loses his job things go from bad to worse and soon he finds himself jobless and friendless. But Abel has a strange 'talent' which will also lead him to Josiah Arroner where he, and Eve, will join the other people in the Palace of Curiosities. But as Josiah's greed increases, Eve and Abel find themselves in danger. Can the pair escape their fate or will they be forever exhibited as freaks in Aaroner's show?

This was chosen for Book Club and I did wonder whether it might be similar to The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – but sadly it wasn't!

I can't put my finger on what it was – the writing is good (the author is also a poet) and the story is interesting but somehow I just didn't love it as much as I hoped. I don't have a problem with magic realism, but it just didn't seem to work for me. I didn’t particularly like the main characters very much, although I did like one of the minor characters, Lizzy. I shan't mention what Abel's 'talent' is, but let's just say that some of the… surgical… descriptions were difficult to read. It did make for a good discussion at Book Club, so that's something. This was the author's debut novel. She has since published The Vixen and The Night Brother is out this year, but I don't think I'll be rushing to read them.

The paperback edition is 336 pages long and is published by The Borough Press. It was first published in 2013. The ISBN is 9780007492787.

2½/5 (it was okay)

(Finished 14 January 2017)
 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting review of The Palace of Curiosities, Janet.  I have picked it up in the bookshop before, but I saw the "magical realism" and put it back down again!  Now I've read your review, I think I'm glad I did. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd be more than happy to lend it to you, but honestly, I think there are so many other books out there that it would be kinder not to!  :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd be more than happy to lend it to you, but honestly, I think there are so many other books out there that it would be kinder not to!  :D

 

I think you're right! :lol:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

008-2017-Jan-21-Coffin%20Road_zpsmyyh9gh

Coffin Road by Peter May

The ‘blurb’
A man stands bewildered on a deserted beach on the Hebridean Isle of Harris. He cannot remember who he is. The only clue to his identity is a folded map of a path named the Coffin Road. He does not know where this search will take him.

A detective from Lewis sits aboard a boat, filled with doubt. DS George Gunn knows that a bludgeoned corpse has been discovered on a remote rock twenty miles offshore. He does not know if he has what it takes to uncover how and why.

A teenage girl lies in her Edinburgh bedroom, desperate to discover the truth about her scientist father's suicide. Two years on, Karen Fleming still cannot accept that he would wilfully abandon her. She does not yet know his secret.

Coffin Road follows three perilous journeys towards one shocking truth - and the realisation that ignorance can kill us.


A man wakes up on a beach, freezing cold and with unaccountable injuries. He struggles to his feet to head for home and the warmth he needs to prevent him from dying of hypothermia. There is just one problem – he cannot remember who he is, or where he lives. Finding out through a chance meeting with a woman who is his neighbour, he heads inside and once he's warmed up (and been greeted by his dog, Bran) he sets out trying to learn his identity. He discovers a laptop computer and fires it up, but it appears to be empty. There are traces of a manuscript, but when he clicks on the chapter names, the files are empty. As he digs deeper in an effort to discover his identity, and just what he's doing on a remote Outer Hebridean island, he eventually discovers that his name is Neal Maclean and he appears to be researching the story of the mysterious disappearance of three lighthouse-keepers in the 19th century…

Meanwhile, in Edinburgh a young girl struggles to accept her father's suicide. Relations with her mother are fraught, and she sets out to try to uncover the real reason her father killed himself.  It appears that he ruffled a few feathers in the pharmaceutical world after publishing some research. As Karen Fleming seeks the truth she unwittingly sets of a chain of events that will put both herself and Neal McClean in grave danger…

We listened to this audio book in the car. It was slightly longer than we anticipated (only 10 or so hours, so not really that long, but there was limited driving time!), so we started it in December and only finished on 21st January! It was such a great story. It got off to quite a slow start (hence the dropping of one star) but once it picked up it had us gripped as the story-line twisted and turned. Each time we thought we'd sussed out where it was going it took another turn. The narrator, Peter Forbes was just perfect – a gentle Scottish lilt that was so easy to listen to. I really liked the main characters and was disappointed when it came to an end – always the sign of a good book. I hadn't read any of Peter May's books before, but we will definitely listen to the first of his 'Lewis Trilogy', The Blackhouse sometime later this year when we go on holiday.

The paperback edition is 400 pages long and is published by Riverrun. It was first published in 2016. The ISBN is 9781784293130.

4/5 (I really liked it)

(Finished 21 January 2017)
 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So many interesting-sounding books, Janet!  I've taken note and will look for them next time I visit the book store :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

009-2017-Jan-27-Howards%20End_zps894l0jo
 
Howards End by E M Forster
 
The ‘blurb’
'The poor cannot always reach those whom they want to love, and they can hardly ever escape from those whom they love no longer. We rich can'
 
'Only connect.' is the idea at the heart of this book, a heart-breaking and provocative tale of three families at the beginning of the twentieth century: the rich Wilcoxes, the gentle, idealistic Schlegels and the lower-middle class Basts. As the Schlegel sisters try desperately to help the Basts and educate the close-minded Wilcoxes, the families are drawn together in love, lies and death.
 
Frequently cited as E. M. Forster's finest work, Howards End brilliantly explores class warfare, conflict and the English character.

 
As I know Jane Austen's wonderful Pride and Prejudice backwards I decided to read this as an alternative to Hertfordshire on the English Counties Challenge.
 
Margaret Schlegel has looked after her younger siblings Helen and Tibby (short for Theobald) since their parents died.  The book opens with letters from Helen to Margaret from Howards End where she is staying with the Willcox family.  When Helen informs her family that she plans to marry Paul Willcox, despite them having only met briefly, their Aunt Juley is despatched to step in and prevent the engagement.  However, as is the fickleness of youth, before the Aunt can arrive the relationship is over!   Despite this, Margaret and Mrs Willcox form an unlikely friendship.  
 
The Schlegels then meet Leonard Bast.  He is a man of lower-class who wants to improve himself – he meets the siblings at a classical concert and when Helen leaves early and takes Leonard's umbrella with her, Margaret gives him her card and tells him to call for the umbrella.  They decide to make a project out of Leonard but he is held back by his wife (although I don't think they're actually married – at least, maybe not at the start of the book – I really can't remember!) and by lack of money.
 
There are quite a few themes in this book including (and perhaps most importantly) class and social standing.  The Schlegels and Willcoxes are of different backgrounds but similar classes, whereas life is a struggle for the Basts who are held back by their lack of money.  When the lives of the three families collide, these societal differences are highlighted with serious consequences for all.
 
It took me a long time to read this because I wasn’t enthused enough to pick it up!  I don't usually mind character-driven plots, but it helps to like the characters (or to hate them, I guess) but the characters in this book just left me feeling a bit ambivalent.  It's not my first read of E M Forster – I read A Room with a View a few years ago and that left me feeling unsatisfied too.  I think maybe Forster's writing is just not for me (different strokes for different folks, and all that), although I have wanted to read A Passage to India for a long time, so who knows – maybe I'll give him another go some time.
 
The paperback edition is 400 pages long and is published by Penguin Classics. It was first published in 1910. The ISBN is 9780141199405.   I read it on Kindle.
 
3/5 (I liked it)
 
(Finished 27 January 2017)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

010-2017-Jan-30-A%20Child%20in%20the%20F

 

A Child in the Forest by Winifred Foley

 

The ‘blurb’
Winifred Foley grew up in the 1920s, a bright, determined miner's daughter - in a world of unspoilt beauty and desperate hardship, in which women were widowed at thirty and children died of starvation. Living hand-to-mouth in a tumbledown cottage in the Forest of Dean, Foley - 'our Poll' - had a loving family and the woods and streams of a forest 'better than heaven' as a playground. But a brother and sister were dead in infancy, bread had to be begged from kindly neighbours and she never had a new pair of shoes or a shop-bought doll. And most terrible of all, like her sister before her, at fourteen little Poll had to leave her beloved forest for the city, bound for a life in service among London's grey terraces.

I absolutely loathe the word belly! Sorry if that offends anyone, it's probably just me, but ugh – it's up there with moist! :giggle: However, Winifred Foley's excellent book A Child in the Forest, first published in 1974, has been rebranded as Full Hearts And Empty Bellies: A 1920s Childhood from the Forest of Dean to the Streets of London - catchy, huh!  :giggle2:

In the 1960s, the social historian John Burnet put out an appeal for people to write down their memories, and so, aided by her husband who helped to edit her writing, she submitted her memoirs which were turned into this book. I managed to find a copy of it in the Bookbarn and read it for Gloucestershire, having already read (and loved) Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee. Foley and Lee were born within a month of each other in 1914, but their reminiscences are quite different, in particular, Lee's are more whimsical than Foley's.

Winifred, known as Poll to her family, was a lively child who lived with her mother and father and younger siblings in the small Gloucestershire village of Brierley. The family lived in abject poverty, subsisting by cadging food from willing neighbours, persuading the local shopkeeper to let them have goods 'on tic' and even, on occasions, scrumping – an activity which wasn't always successful! The conditions in which the family lived – the fleas, the hunger, the ragged clothing are almost incomprehensible (although of course poverty does, sadly, still exist). Despite the family's lack of money it was mostly a happy childhood for the young Poll. She recounts her early years in the Forest, and the period from the age of 14 when she went into service in London up until the point she met her husband, with humility, warmth and humour. She uses quite a lot of dialect in the book. Although I'm not a native of Somerset I have lived here for nearly 29 years and have learned many phrases. The language of Somerset is quite similar, which I think helped!

I very much enjoy books about social history, particularly the Victorian to post WW2 period, so this book was right up my street and I very much enjoyed it. There are two more 'Forest' books (both rebranded for a modern audience) and I would definitely like to try the second one at some stage. :)

The paperback edition is 256 pages long and is published by Abacus. It was first published in 1974. The ISBN is 9780349122182.

4/5 (I really liked it)

(Finished 30 January 2017)
 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have this one Janet! I knew I had read the name Winifred Foley before and then your review explained it: I have it as the Full Hearts And Empty Bellies version. I am reading it in between other things. I haven't got to the part where she goes off to London yet.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Glad you found something good as an alternative to Cider With Rosie, Janet.  I didn't particularly get on with it myself, but it was a re-read after 30-something years, so I thought it was worth revisiting, but I can't say I'd want to read something similar, even without the whimsy. :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have this one Janet! I knew I had read the name Winifred Foley before and then your review explained it: I have it as the Full Hearts And Empty Bellies version. I am reading it in between other things. I haven't got to the part where she goes off to London yet.

I hope you're enjoying it.  :)

 

Glad you found something good as an alternative to Cider With Rosie, Janet.  I didn't particularly get on with it myself, but it was a re-read after 30-something years, so I thought it was worth revisiting, but I can't say I'd want to read something similar, even without the whimsy. :D

I can see why it wouldn't appeal to everyone, but it was right up my street. :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've actually just bought Coffin Road for my tablet. Sounds right up my street and like the sort of thing I'm in the mood for right now :D

 

ETA: Turns out, I have the first of Peter May's Lewis trilogy on my Goodreads wishlist already, so that's two books by him that have caught my eye! If I enjoy Coffin Road (and I'm loving the writing so far - reading it on my lunch break at work!) I may well dive straight into that trilogy!

 

Great reviews, as always! :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Loved the Lewis trilogy, wasn't so keen on Coffin Road but still worth reading.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×