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    • Hayley

      Something Wicked This Way Comes...   10/09/2019

      The Autumn Supporter Giveaway!       Welcome to the very first of the seasonal BCF supporter giveaways! This month also marks one year since I took on the forum, so I want to say an extra huge thank you to all of you for keeping this place going. I have a little bit more to say about that later but, for now, let's get to the giveaway!     The Autumn Giveaway winner will be getting two Penguin Little Black Classics, The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe and To Be Read At Dusk by Charles Dickens. Both of these little books contain three atmospheric short stories, perfect for autumnal evenings. The winner will also get Mary Shelley tea (a lavender and vanilla black tea) from Rosie Lea Tea's Literary Tea Collection (https://www.rosieleatea.co.uk/collections/literary-tea-collection) and a chocolate skull, to really get that spooky atmosphere .   and...   A special treat for a special month. The winner will choose one of the following recent paperback releases from the independent bookshop Big Green Bookshop:       The Wych Elm by Tana French A House of Ghosts by W.C. Ryan Melmoth by Sarah Perry The Familiars by Stacey Halls  The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White   The winner will be chosen via the usual random selection process in one week. Patreon supporters are entered automatically. If you aren't a patreon supporter but you'd like to join in with this giveaway, you can support here: https://www.patreon.com/bookclubforum.   I really hope you're all going to like this introduction to the seasonal giveaways. It's been a lot of fun to put together. Other chocolate skulls may have been harmed during the selection process…     
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Janet

Janet's Log - Stardate 2017

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The Book People are fantastic value, can't beat 'em!

Yes, I've only bought from them a few times (my set of Dickens are wonderful and 'proper' quality too) but they have some very tempting sets.   :)

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I've always been keen on that Dickens set, I just didn't want to buy it before my big move to the UK, and the other day I looked on their website again and it seems like they don't have it anymore? Which is a shame, it was such good value and I loved the covers too...

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Oh, that's a shame.  :(  I bought mine several years ago now and am slowly reading my way through them.    Maybe they'll get them back in again some time?  :)

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The front covers of those vintage books look beautiful on the website though! Half tempted myself, even though I don't know if I'd read some of them :roll:

 

Looking through the website now - they have some brilliantly priced collections. I might get the Ann Cleeves one for my mum, I know she wanted more of her books.

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Good luck with the Calvino, Janet!  I think it must be a marmite book, but I only managed about 20 or 30 pages before I gave up, I just couldn't face any more, but I know others have loved it. Fingers crossed you'll be one of them. ;)

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loved If On a Winter's Night a Traveller! It blew my socks off. :) I hated Miss Smilla though.  :lurker: Those books are so pretty! And so ridiculously cheap!!

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I'm sorry, guys - I thought I'd replied to this already.  :)

 

Good luck with the Calvino, Janet!  I think it must be a marmite book, but I only managed about 20 or 30 pages before I gave up, I just couldn't face any more, but I know others have loved it. Fingers crossed you'll be one of them. ;)

Well I guess on the plus side,  I'II know quite quickly whether I'II like it or not!  :lol:

 

loved If On a Winter's Night a Traveller! It blew my socks off. :) I hated Miss Smilla though.  :lurker: Those books are so pretty! And so ridiculously cheap!!

I'm not sure when I'll get round to them but I'm intrigued by both.  :)  They are pretty, aren't they.  And one is A Christmas Carol - happy days!!  :D

 

See, I told you it was a marmite book! :lol:

You did!  :lol: 

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017-2017-Feb-18-The%20Ashes%20of%20Londo

 

The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor

 

The ‘blurb’

A CITY IN FLAMES

London, 1666. As the Great Fire consumes everything in its path, the body of a man is found in the ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral – stabbed in the neck, thumbs tied behind his back.

 

A WOMAN ON THE RUN

The son of a traitor, James Marwood is forced to hunt the killer through the city’s devastated streets. There he encounters a determined young woman who will stop at nothing to secure her freedom.

 

A KILLER SEEKING REVENGE

When a second murder victim is discovered in the Fleet Ditch, Marwood is drawn into the political and religious intrigue of Westminster – and across the path of a killer with nothing to lose…

 

1666, and London is still recovering after the Restoration of the Monarchy just six years earlier.   The city is also in the grip of a terrible fire, and watching St Paul's burn is John Marwood, a lowly civil servant and the son of a Fifth Monarchist, wanted as a traitor.  He stops a boy from rushing into the burning Cathedral, which is on the brink of collapse, and as he wraps his cloak around the shivering lad he discovers that it is actually a woman, but she runs off into the crowd, still wearing his cloak, and he loses sight of her.

 

The fire spreads, destroying everything in its path as the desperate Londoners try to stop it, and in the ruins of St Paul's, a body is recovered.  At first it is believed that the man was simply a victim of the fire, but on examination it is found that the man has been murdered, and left with his thumbs tied behind his back.  Marwood is tasked with identifying the corpse.

 

Meanwhile, in another part of London, the young woman has troubles of her own and is forced to flee the place she has called home since the death of her parents, or face the consequences of her actions there.  Taken in by a kindly woman, Cat has to work for the first time in her life, but she is not unhappy. 

 

As another murder victim is discovered it quickly becomes apparent that the Fifth Monarchists are not, as previously thought, now inactive, and Marwood and Cat's lives entwine, putting them both in grave danger as a consequence of their fathers' past deeds.

 

The time of the Great Fire of London is a fascinating period of history and so when this book was a Kindle 99p deal I thought I'd give it a go.  I had heard of the author, but not read any of his works, so I didn't really know what to expect.  What I got was a right rollicking adventure, told in two voices – those of John Marwood and Cat.  At first it doesn't appear the two – a lowly civil servant with a reputation due to the actions of his father – and a woman from the gentry – have much in common, but as their lives converge the tensions rise.   The book is so descriptive, but without being over the top or waffly, that it really brings London to life and I found that I couldn't put it down! 

 

In previous years, this would have been a firm 5* book, but I am trying to be more subjective this year (I do find it hard to 'mark' books, especially at the start of the year).   It may be promoted later on, but for now it's a definite 4 – I really enjoyed it.  

 

The paperback edition is 496 pages long and is published by Harper. It was first published in 2016. The ISBN is 9780008119096.   

 

4/5 (I really, really liked it!)

 

(Finished 18 February 2017)

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The front covers of those vintage books look beautiful on the website though! Half tempted myself, even though I don't know if I'd read some of them :roll:

 

Looking through the website now - they have some brilliantly priced collections. I might get the Ann Cleeves one for my mum, I know she wanted more of her books.

Sorry, Noll - I managed to miss your post.  Do you buy for your Mum for Mothering Sunday?  That's next weekend, so maybe a good excuse (if you needed one!!).  :)

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I've got Ashes of London on my tbr pile, glad you liked it.  Have you read "The American Boy" by the same author?  One of my all time favourites, it's lovely.

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I've got Ashes of London on my tbr pile, glad you liked it.  Have you read "The American Boy" by the same author?  One of my all time favourites, it's lovely.

No, I haven't, but that's good to know.  I shall definitely look out for it.  Thanks. :)

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018-2017-Feb-19%20-%20Danse%20Macabre_zp

Danse Macabre by Laura M Hughes

The ‘blurb’
The dead beckon and the little girl obeys. Night after night she answers the graveyard’s call, though she dreads her encounters with the creature that dwells there. But she’ll soon come to learn that memories are much more dangerous than monsters…

Young Blue visits the cemetery every evening to visit the graves of her dead relatives. There she encounters a strange figure who hands her an ultimatum which will test Blue to the very limit. Along with the characters snail and crow…

With more than a passing nod to Edgar Allen Poe and Neil Gaiman, this is a very well-written novella which packs such a lot into just 56 pages. The protagonist Blue is remarkable and endearing and manages to be eloquent despite actually having no dialogue.

This book is definitely not my usual type of read. Not that I stick to the same genre, but horror is definitely something I avoid. I downloaded this because I got to know the Laura on here and was a bit concerned that it might be too scary for me, but actually it felt more like a fantasy than horror. I loved the quirky nature of it – both in the characters and the fact that the chapters ran backwards from ten to one.

I'm not sure that it has made me want to explore other authors in this genre, but I liked the writing and story enough in this to read more work by Laura.

The paperback edition is 118 pages long and was privately published in 2016. The ISBN is 9781519047298.

4/5 (I liked it!)

(Finished 19 February 2017)

 

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I'm so behind with my reviews (again!)  :rolleyes:

 

019-2017-Feb-19%20-%20Agnes%20Grey_zpsh5

 

Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë

 

The ‘blurb’

Agnes Grey is a trenchant exposé of the frequently isolated, intellectually stagnant and emotionally starved conditions under which many governesses worked in the mid-nineteenth century. This is a deeply personal novel written from the author’s own experience and as such Agnes Grey has a power and poignancy which mark it out as a landmark work of literature dealing with the social and moral evolution of English society during the last century.

 

When Agnes Grey's father, a minister, loses money when the merchant ship carrying his investment is lost at sea, his younger daughter Agnes vows to do her bit for the family by taking on a position as a governess in order to help financially.  Agnes' parents and older sister are initially reluctant to give permission, but eventually Agnes obtains a situation and is allowed to head off into the big wide world.  

 

Initially she joins the Bloomfield family but the three children there, the eldest of whom is seven, are rowdy and the parents unwilling to back Agnes up when she tries to discipline them and eventually Agnes returns home.  She resolves to try again and her second position is with the Murray family.  The Murray sons are sent to boarding school a year or so after Anne's arrival and the girls are selfish and rather thoughtless and Anne is rather lonely as she has very few friends there apart from the curate Mr Edward Weston, but soon her father's failing health forces Agnes to one again return to the family home and she seems destined not to see her dear friend Edward again.

 

Said to be based on Anne's own experiences as a governess, this isn't as powerful as The Tenant of Wildfeld Hall, and Anne is a little too moral and preachy in places, but it's a good story and is, as you would expect, beautifully written.  We're going on holiday to Bradford (yes, really!) in July and I'm really looking forward to visiting the home of the brilliant Brontës whilst we're there!  :wub:

 

The paperback edition is 192 pages long and is published by Wordsworth. It was first published in 1847. The ISBN is 9781853262166.   

 

4½/5 (I really liked it!)

 

(Finished 22 February 2017)

 

 

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020-2017-Feb-23%20-%20In%20Darling%20Woo

 

In Darkling Wood by Emma Carroll

 

The ‘blurb’

 

'You're telling me there are fairies in this wood?'

 

When Alice's brother gets a longed-for chance for a heart transplant, Alice is suddenly bundled off to her estranged grandmother's house. There's nothing good about staying with Nell, except for the beautiful Darkling Wood at the end of her garden - but Nell wants to have it cut down. Alice feels at home there, at peace, and even finds a friend, Flo. But Flo doesn't seem to go to the local school and no one in town has heard of a girl with that name. When Flo shows Alice the surprising secrets of Darkling Wood, Alice starts to wonder, what is real? And can she find out in time to save the wood from destruction?

 

Do you believe in fairies?  I do, I do… fairy%203_zps2erx8yp3.gif

 

Ahem, sorry – wrong story!  :D

 

When her little brother Theo is taken into hospital for a heart transplant, Alice has no option but to agree to go and stay with her Grandmother.  Nell is Alice's Dad's mother but she has been estranged from her family for some time.  The house on the edge of Darkling Wood is very remote and Nell wants the woods to be removed as she thinks they might be hazardous to her house.  With the locals in opposition, Alice's time at her new school is not very happy, especially when she clashes with one of the local traveller families.  She finds an unlikely ally in a girl called Flo whom she meets in the woods and together they try to prevent the destruction of the woods, but in order to do so, Alice must put her faith in the unexpected…

 

I know I'm not the target audience, but I really like Emma Carroll's books.  For me, this marks a welcome return to form after The Girl Who Walked on Air (a good story, but one which I felt lacked spark).  I loved the characters in this book, especially our protagonist Alice.   I have Strange Star on my 'to read' pile, and am looking forward to the forthcoming Letters from the Lighthouse - a copy of which I'm going to buy for a family member whose father was a lighthouse keeper! 

 

The paperback edition is 320 pages long and is published by Faber & Faber. It was first published in 2015. The ISBN is 9780571317578.   

 

4/5 (I liked it!)

 

(Finished 23 February 2017)

 

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Glad you liked In Darkling Wood, Janet.  It's probably my least favourite of her books, if I'm honest, but I still enjoyed it a lot, so it's no criticism by any means.  I did love Strange Star though, so I hope you really enjoy it!

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021-2017-Feb-25%20-%20My%20Name%20is%20L

 

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

 

The ‘blurb’

Lucy is recovering from an operation in a New York hospital when she wakes to find her estranged mother sitting by her bed. They have not seen one another in years. As they talk Lucy finds herself recalling her troubled rural childhood and how it was she eventually arrived in the big city, got married and had children. But this unexpected visit leaves her doubting the life she's made: wondering what is lost and what has yet to be found.

 

I had picked this book up a couple of times for purely aesthetic reasons before it was chosen as a Book Club book –  I bought the  hardback (the paperback wasn't out when it was chosen) and it's beautiful too look at, and the quality of the cover and pages is excellent!

 

Lucy Barton reflects on her past in this short novel.  The book opens with Lucy recalling a spell in hospital, in a room that overlooks the Chrysler Building in New York.  There she is recovering from an operation when her mother, whom she hasn't seen for many years, turns up.  Lucy begins to reflect on her past and her strange upbringing and takes the reader through her life via marriage, children and later, divorce.  Although I don't generally mind books that are character driven rather than plot driven I found this book to be lacking something and it didn't really engage me.  Although other members of Book Club did enjoy it, our discussion of it was over quite quickly.  I didn't hate it, but I'm not sure I'll be reading any more by this author!

 

The paperback edition is 208 pages long and is published by Viking. It was first published in 2016. The ISBN is 9780241248782.   

 

3/5 (It was okay)

 

(Finished 25 February 2017)

 

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On 21/04/2017 at 2:57 PM, chesilbeach said:

 I did love Strange Star though, so I hope you really enjoy it!

Thanks, @chesilbeach  I am looking forward to it.  :)

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022-2017-Mar-05-The%20Old%20Wives%20Tale

 

The Old Wives' Tale by Arnold Bennett

 

The ‘blurb’

First published in 1908, The Old Wives' Tale affirms the integrity of ordinary lives as it tells the story of the Baines sisters--shy, retiring Constance and defiant, romantic Sophia--over the course of nearly half a century. Bennett traces the sisters' lives from childhood in their father's drapery shop in provincial Bursley, England, during the mid-Victorian era, through their married lives, to the modern industrial age, when they are reunited as old women. The setting moves from the Five Towns of Staffordshire to exotic and cosmopolitan Paris, while the action moves from the subdued domestic routine of the Baines household to the siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War.

 

The Old Wives' Tale centres around Mr and Mrs Baines and their daughters, Constance and Sophia who live over the family draper's shop in Bursley (based on Burslem in Staffordshire).  Mr Baines is an invalid who doesn't leave his bedroom.  Mrs Baines works in the shop, aided by her daughters and a salesman called Mr Povey.  Whilst Constant is reasonably happy with her lot, the headstrong Sophia longs for more.  She wants to be a schoolteacher, but is prevented by her mother.  When she falls in love with a travelling salesman, she is forced to see him in secret and eventually elopes with him but things aren't straightforward for her and she finds herself alone in Paris.  Meanwhile, back in Bursley life continues to plod along for Constance, who marries Mr Povey and remains working in the shop.  Years pass before the sisters are eventually reunited…

 

This is the second book I've read by Arnold Bennett set in the Five Towns – this one is much more meaty a tale than Anna of the Five Towns.  I really enjoyed this one which I 'whispersynched' – as in I part-read, part-listened to it.  The audio version was brilliantly narrated by David Haig.  A particularly enjoyed Bennett's portrayal of Sophia as a strong character in a world when women were often not in control of their own destinies. Despite the book being around 700 pages long, it didn't feel like a long book – I felt it was definitely quality over quantity.  In terms of the English Counties Challenge, whilst Staffordshire is not an area I'm familiar with (my paternal great-grandfather was born in this county so I'd like to visit at some stage) I think it probably does give a real feel for the country.  Stop stuff.

 

The paperback edition is 624 pages long and is published by Penguin. It was first published in 1908. The ISBN is 9780141442112.   I read it on Kindle.

 

4/5 (I really liked it)

 

(Finished 5 March 2017)

 

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12 hours ago, Janet said:

022-2017-Mar-05-The%20Old%20Wives%20Tale

 

The Old Wives' Tale by Arnold Bennett

 

The ‘blurb’

First published in 1908, The Old Wives' Tale affirms the integrity of ordinary lives as it tells the story of the Baines sisters--shy, retiring Constance and defiant, romantic Sophia--over the course of nearly half a century. Bennett traces the sisters' lives from childhood in their father's drapery shop in provincial Bursley, England, during the mid-Victorian era, through their married lives, to the modern industrial age, when they are reunited as old women. The setting moves from the Five Towns of Staffordshire to exotic and cosmopolitan Paris, while the action moves from the subdued domestic routine of the Baines household to the siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War.

 

 

 

 

I might give this one a go! Thanks Janet

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