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      Important Announcement!   07/28/2018

      Dear BCF members,   This forum has been running now for many years, and over that time we have seen many changes. Generalised forums are nowhere near as popular as they once were, and they have been very much taken over by blogs, vlogs and social media discussions. Running a forum well takes money, and a lot of care and attention, as there is so much which goes on behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly.   With all of this in mind, and after discussion within the current moderator team, the decision has been made to close this forum in its current format. I know that this will disappoint a lot of our long term members, but I want to reassure you that it's not a decision which has been taken lightly.    The remaining moderator team have agreed that we do not want to lose everything which is special about our home, and so we are starting a brand new facebook group, so that people can stay in touch, and discussions can continue. We can use it for free and should be easier for us to run (it won't need to be updated or hosted). We know not everyone has FaceBook, but we hope that those of you who are interested will join the group. We will share the link, and send invites as soon as we are ready to go. Added: We may as well get this going, find us here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/195289821332924/   The forum will close to new registrations, but will remain open for some time, to allow people to collect up any information, reading lists etc they need to, and to ensure they have contact details for those they wish to stay in touch with.    The whole team feel sad to say goodbye, but we also feel that it's perhaps time and that it feels like the right choice. We hope we can stay in touch with all of you through our new FaceBook group.   I personally want to thank everyone who has helped me moderate the forum, both in the past and the present, and I also want to thank every single person who has visited, and shared their love of books.. I'm so proud of everything we've achieved, and the home we built.   Please visit the new section in the Lounge section to discuss this further, ask questions etc.
Janet

Janet's Log - Stardate 2018

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019-2018-Apr-04-Our%20Man%20in%20Havana_

 

Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene

 

The ‘blurb’

Wormold is a vacuum cleaner salesman in a city of power cuts. His adolescent daughter spends his money with a skill that amazes him, so when a mysterious Englishman offers him an extra income he's tempted. In return all he has to do is carry out a little espionage and file a few reports. But when his fake reports start coming true, things suddenly get more complicated and Havana becomes a threatening place..

 

Wormold is a normal, steady man, bringing up his teenage daughter in Havana and running a business selling vacuum cleaners. His daughter Milly is materialistic and wants the best of everything, and Wormold isn't making very much money. So when, due to a series of odd circumstances, he is offered a career as a secret agent he jumps at the chance, thinking it will be quite the game. There is just one problem - he has absolutely no idea how to be a spy! He sets about making up information to send in reports back to London and creates a set of drawings pretending they are secret military operations, when in reality they are really drawings of scaled up vacuum cleaner parts! Everything is going swimmingly until one of his fake agents – or at least the person upon whom Wormwold based his agent – is murdered, and suddenly the game becomes much more dangerous.

 

This is Greene's eighteenth novel, and the first I have read (I gave up on Travels with my Aunt many years ago, but plan to try it again one day) – Greene drew inspiration from his own days as an MI6 agent and the result is this satirical and entertaining story. I was surprised at the humour in this book. It didn't make me laugh out loud (few books do), but it did amuse me.

 

The paperback edition is 256 pages long and is published by Vintage. It was first published in 1958. The ISBN is 9780099286080.

 

4/5 (I enjoyed it)

 

(Finished 4 April 2018)

 

 

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A Time to Change by Callie Langridge

 

020-2018-Apr-07-A%20Time%20to%20Change_z

 

The ‘blurb’

I'm putting the blurb behind a spoiler as I think it gives so much away…

 

In a house full of history and secrets, the past will not stay where it belongs…

 

Lou has always loved Hill House, the derelict manor on the abandoned land near her home. As a child, the tragic history of its owners, the Mandevilles, inspired her dream to become a history teacher. But in her late twenties, and working in a shop to pay off student debts, life is passing her by. That changes when a family disaster sends Lou’s life into a downward spiral and she seeks comfort in the ruined corridors of Hill House.

 

The house transforms around her and Lou is transported back to Christmas 1913. Convinced she has been in an accident and is in a coma, Lou immerses herself in her Edwardian dream. With the Mandevilles oblivious to her true identity, Lou becomes their houseguest and befriends the eldest son, Captain Thomas Mandeville, a man she knows is destined to die in the First World War. Lou feels more at home in the past than the present and when she realises the experience is real she sets out to do everything in her power to save her new friends.

 

Lou passes between 1913 and 2013, unearthing plots of murder and blackmail, which she must stop no matter the cost. On her quest to save the Mandevilles by saving Thomas, Lou will face the hardest decision of her life. She will learn that love cannot be separated by a century.

 

Lou had such plans – she was going to be a history teacher and inspire future generations, but saddled with debt, her dream seems so far away and she struggles to survive on her wage from a local supermarket – a job she finds dull. When Lou's world comes crashing down around her, she longs to escape to the past where life was… if not perfect, then far happier. Drawn to a long-abandoned manor house called Hill House – scene of childhood hide-and-seek with her brother Stephen – Lou seeks solace amongst the memories of childhood, but there is something strange going on at Hill House, and when past and present collide Lou is drawn into a mystery that may change things, not only for her, but for the ghosts of long ago.

 

I really like time slip books – the majority that I have read have been children's (Tom's Midnight Garden is one of my favourite children's books ever!) or young adult, but this one is firmly aimed at adults (I don't think it would appeal to the younger reader, but I could be wrong). Although not my normal type of read, this was like an entertaining, supernatural Downton Abbey!

 

Yes, one has to suspend disbelief, and okay, it's not going to win any prizes for being great literature, but it was fun with plausible characters and a really entertaining story. It would make a perfect holiday read, I think. In any case, it was perfect for me stuck indoors feeling poorly and just what I needed!

 

The paperback edition is 346 pages long and is published by Bombshell Books. It was first published in 2017. The ISBN is 9781912175628.

 

4/5 (I enjoyed it)

 

(Finished 7 April 2018)

 

 

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I got this after someone on another book forum recommended it, good review!

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3 hours ago, Madeleine said:

I got this after someone on another book forum recommended it, good review!

Thanks, @Madeleine - I hope you enjoy it.  :)

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Great reviews Janet - you’ve been powering through them :D 

 

Jane Eyre is on my list this year (Round Robin challenge) so I shall definitely attempt A Wide Sargasso Sea after that following your review. 

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On 06/05/2018 at 9:28 PM, Alexi said:

Jane Eyre is on my list this year (Round Robin challenge) so I shall definitely attempt A Wide Sargasso Sea after that following your review. 

I hope you enjoy them, Alex.  :)  Jane Eyre, particularly, is great.

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021-2018-Apr-17-The%20Pickwick%20Papers_

 

The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club by Charles Dickens

 

The ‘blurb’

The Pickwick Papers was Dickens' first novel and was a huge success when it was first published. It tells the tale of the irrepressible Mr Pickwick and his fellow Pickwick Club members who travel around the English countryside getting into all kinds of scrapes and adventures. Funny, warm-hearted and full of memorable and engaging characters, this is an enchanting novel that continues to delight readers today. .

 

In a nutshell, this is the story of Mr Samuel Pickwick who, together with three colleagues - Mr Nathaniel Winkle, Mr Augustus Snodgrass, and Mr Tracy Tupman (collectively known as 'Pickwickians') form The Pickwick Club, the purpose of which is to travel around England making observations to report back to the club. This results in various adventures and mishaps which form the basis of this novel.

 

Initially serialised in a periodical in 20 instalments, it was published in book form in 1837. The escapades of the four are amusing, and I very much liked Pickwick as a character. I think my favourite parts of this novel were those set in Fleet Prison following Pickwick's incarceration after a misunderstanding with his landlady. It is well known that Dickens was a great social reformer and he must have drawn on his own experiences of his father being sent to a debtor's prison.

 

At the time of publication this book was hugely popular with its readers, who eagerly awaited publication of the next part. I felt there were too many incidental unrelated stories, which to my mind were unnecessary padding. However, despite it not being a favourite I did enjoy it and I'm looking forward to continuing my journey through Dickens's books!

 

The paperback edition is 801 pages long and is published by Vintage. It was first published in 2017. The ISBN is 9780099518884.

 

3/5 (I liked it)

 

(Finished 17 April 2018)

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022-2018-Apr-20-The%20Couple%20Next%20Do

 

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

 

The ‘blurb’

You never know what's happening on the other side of the wall.

 

Your neighbour told you that she didn't want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn't stand her crying.

 

Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You'll have the baby monitor and you'll take it in turns to go back every half hour.

 

Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last. But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She's gone. You've never had to call the police before. But now they're in your home, and who knows what they'll find there. What would you be capable of, when pushed past your limit?.

 

Losing a child must be every parent's worst nightmare – it certainly would be mine. What would you do if you were invited to a dinner party and your babysitter pulled out at the last minute? Well, most of us would, of course, ring to say we couldn't make it. Any decent host would understand and rearrange – or say to bring the baby along. But neither of these things happen. Anne and Marco are only going to be next door - they will check on Cora at thirty minute intervals, and of course they'll take their baby monitor. After all, what could go wrong?

 

When they return home their world is turned upside down when they discover Cora has gone missing. What follows is an investigation where everyone becomes a suspect and family and friends turn against each other as the police investigate what happened, and try to find Cora… dead or alive.

 

I read this book for a friend! Someone in her extended family bought it for her birthday last year, but due to her anxieties she felt she couldn't read it. However, the family member wasn't very sympathetic about what she saw as a rejection of her gift (families, eh?!), so I volunteered to read it for her and write up notes so she could blag it! :D

 

I have to say that whilst it wasn't a chore to read this, neither did I really enjoy it. It was rather predictable and it put me a little in mind of The Dinner by Herman Koch, in that I didn't warm to any of the characters (apart from maybe the lead detective, but he wasn't very fleshed out – I'd have liked more character about him). However, it was *marginally* more enjoyable than that (which I only gave 2/5) – if I wasn't eliminating half marks this would only be a 2½! It's the sort of book that would probably make for a good book club read, as there would be plenty to discuss, but I shan't actively be seeking anything else by this author.

 

Oh, and I hated the ending which I thought was completely unnecessary!

 

As for my friend, she was thrilled with my 23 page version of the book! :D

 

The paperback edition is 368 pages long and is published by Corgi. It was first published in 2017. The ISBN is 9780552173148.

 

3/5 (it was okay)

 

(Finished 20 April 2018)

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It's so nice of you to write down notes about the book for your friend :)!

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On 17/05/2018 at 7:00 PM, Janet said:

 

It was rather predictable and it put me a little in mind of The Dinner by Herman Koch, in that I didn't warm to any of the characters (apart from maybe the lead detective, but he wasn't very fleshed out – I'd have liked more character about him).....Oh, and I hated the ending which I thought was completely unnecessary!

 

'Nuff said for me!  Especially, anything that puts anybody even remotely in mind of The Dinner is a complete no-no for me.  That 23-page summary sounds like gold dust!

 

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16 hours ago, willoyd said:

 

'Nuff said for me!  Especially, anything that puts anybody even remotely in mind of The Dinner is a complete no-no for me.  That 23-page summary sounds like gold dust!

 

The only saving grace was that it was a quick read.  I read it a few chapters at a time and then dictated a summary into an email so I could copy/paste and tidy up the grammar! I know she was very appreciative.  But yes, definitely save yourself the bother.  :)

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023-2018-Apr-28-The%20Silent%20Companion

 

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

 

The ‘blurb’

Some doors are locked for a reason... Newly married, newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband’s crumbling country estate, The Bridge. With her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie only has her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. For inside her new home lies a locked room, and beyond that door lies a two-hundred-year-old diary and a deeply unsettling painted wooden figure – a Silent Companion – that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself....

 

After Elsie Bainbridge's husband Rupert leaves her widowed and pregnant shortly after their marriage she and her husband's cousin, Sarah, head to his ancestral home, The Bridge, for comfort. Their arrival is not as they had imagined – the mansion has been subject to many years of neglect, the staff are not very welcoming and the villagers are positively hostile, reusing to set foot anywhere near the estate. When Elsie and Sarah force open a locked room they discover some old wooden figures, one of which looks suspiciously like Elsie, and an old diary written by a relative of Rupert's, Anne Bainbridge, in 1635. The narrative of the book switches between Elsie's story in the 1860s and that of Anne's. What is the connection to these sinister wooden figures and have they unwittingly unleashed a dark force?

 

I thought this was an impulse purchase when I picked it up on Waterstones recently, but then I discovered that I've had it on my Amazon Wish List since October last year when it was first released, so I think I must have seen it advertised somewhere (this often seems to happen!). The novel opens with the protagonist in a hospital in London – it soon becomes apparent that she is suffering from some kind of breakdown and the hospital is, in fact, an asylum. The majority of the action then moves to The Bridge and the two timeframes I've already mentioned, but with occasional references back to St Martin's hospital. I didn't find it scary but it was certainly haunting and atmospheric and I didn't want to put it down – I was frustrated not to have been able to read it quicker, but real life kept getting in the way!

 

It was definitely bordering on a 5/5 and I'm already looking forward to her next book, The Corset which comes out in September (although I'll probably wait for the paperback to be published).

 

The paperback edition is 384 pages long and is published by Raven Books. It was first published in 2017. The ISBN is 9781408888032.

 

4/5 (Great!)

 

(Finished 28 April 2018)

 

 

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The Silent Companions sounds really good.  I've picked it up a few times, but I thought it might be too close to horror for me, but maybe I'd be okay if you didn't find it scary.  I'll have a ponder about it :D 

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One review I've read likens it to cross between Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca and The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.  I preferred it to the Waters' book, and Rebecca is one of my favourite books, but I'd say that's a fair comparison.  It's certainly not what my understanding of the horror genre is, but I would describe it as chilling.  I think you'd enjoy it.  You'd be welcome to borrow my copy next time we meet up   :)

 

 

 

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It sounds really interesting Janet. :) Like you, I loved Rebecca (definitely on the favourites list!) so will look out for this too. 

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I've read both of those so it sounds like a good comparison.

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21 hours ago, Alexi said:

It sounds really interesting Janet. :) Like you, I loved Rebecca (definitely on the favourites list!) so will look out for this too. 

 

8 hours ago, Madeleine said:

I've read both of those so it sounds like a good comparison.

It was great - it has stayed with me for a few weeks (which is a good sign as I seldom remember the plot for long!)  :giggle2:

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On 16.4.2018 at 11:26 PM, Janet said:

I have an infection in both ears.  The doctor started me off with antibiotic drops, but I was allergic to them so then I had tablet antibiotics for a week with no improvement so I went back to the surgery and saw the practice sister who looked in both ears and then called a doctor in who told me that I have a 'normal' (for want of a better word) infection in my left ear, but a fungal infection in my right - and that the antibiotics would have been feeding that infection and making it worse!  So now I have a steroid spray but no antibiotics (I also have infection in the tube that goes between my ears and the back of my throat!).  I have about 50% hearing back now, which is better, as I was virtually totally deaf for a week!  It's been a horrid one!

 

I've only just read about your flu and infections ordeal, I'm sorry to hear you've been so poorly! :hug:  I read in a later post that you've started feeling a lot better. Are you fully recovered by now? :)

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3 hours ago, frankie said:

I've only just read about your flu and infections ordeal, I'm sorry to hear you've been so poorly! :hug:  I read in a later post that you've started feeling a lot better. Are you fully recovered by now? :)

I'm feeling very much better now, thanks.  :hug:  Thanks for asking :)

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I'm very behind on reviews (of course.  It was ever thus!), but this is a snapshot of what I have read so far this year:

 

FICTION / CLASSICS (#006600) / CHILDREN'S/YOUNG ADULT / NON-FICTION (#0000cc) / SHORT STORY (#ff3399) / PLAYS  / POETRY

 

1. Father Christmas and Me (2017) by Matt Haig - 01.01.18 - 3/5

2. The Keeper of Lost Things (2017) by Ruth Hogan - ( K ) - 02.01.18 - 3/5

3. Village Christmas: And Other Notes on the English Year (2015) by Laurie Lee - 07.01.18 - 4/5

4. A Redbird Christmas (2004) by Fannie Flagg - 13.1.17 - 4/5

5. England, England (1998) by Julian Barnes -  23.01.18 - 3/5

6. Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1864) by Jules Verne - 29.01.18 - 5/5

7. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (2017) by Gail Honeyman - 02.02.18 - 4/5

8. The Bette Davis Club (2015) by Jane Lotter - ( K ) - 14.02.18 - 3/5

9. Caravel (2017) by Stephanie Garber - ( BC ) - 22.02.18 - 4/5

10. A Vicarage Family (1963) by Noel Streatfeild - 23.02.18 - 4/5

11. Career of Evil (2015) by Robert Galbraith - ( K ) - 27.02.18 - 4/5

12. The Word is Murder (2017) by Anthony Horowitz - ( K ) - 03.03.17 - 4/5

13. Wives and Daughters (1866) by Elizabeth Gaskell - ( K ) - 16.03.17 - 5/5

14. Aberystwyth Mon Amour (2001) by Malcolm Pryce - ( BC ) - 20.03.18 - 4/5

15. The New Mrs Clifton (2016) by Elizabeth Buchan - ( K ) - 26.03.18 - 4/5

16. Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) by Jean Rhys - 28.03.18 - 4/5

17. Parliament of Rooks: Haunting Brontë Country (2017) by Karen Perkins ( K ) - 30.03.18 - 3/5

18. Sky Chasers (2017) by Emma Carroll - 31.03.18 - 4/5

19. Our Man in Havana (1958) by Graham Greene - 04.04.18 - 4/5

20. A Time to Change (2017) by Callie Langridge ( K ) - 07.04.18 - 4/5

21. The Pickwick Papers (1837) by Charles Dickens - 17.04.18 - 3/5

22. The Couple Next Door (2016) by Shari Lapena - 20.04.18 - 3/5

23. The Silent Companions (2017) by Laura Purcell - 28.04.18 - 4/5

24. How to Stop Time (2017) by Matt Haig - ( BC ) - 07.05.18 - 4/5

25. Reservoir 13 (2017) by Jon McGregor - 16.05.18 - 4/5

26. My Family and Other Animals (1956) by Gerald Durrell - 31.05.18 - 5/5

27. The Spy Who Came In from the Cold (1963) by John le Carré - ( A ) - 03.06.18 - 4/5

28. Birds, Beasts and Relatives (1969) by Gerald Durrell - 06.06.18 - 4/5 

29. The Tattooist of Auschwitz (2018) by Helen Morris - ( K ) - 11.06.18 - 4/5

30. The Walworth Beauty (2018) by Roberts, Michèle – 21.06.18 – 4/5

31. Less (2017) by Sean Andrew Greer - (K) - 06.07.18 - 3/5

33. Knots and Crosses (Rebus #1) (1987) by Ian Rankin - ( A ) - 11.07.18 - 4/5

34. The New Woman (2015) by Charity Norman - ( K ) - 11.07.18 - 3/5

35. A Lesson in Dying (Inspector Ramsay #1) (1990) by Ann Cleeves - ( A ) - 15.07.18 - 3/5

36. Alice (Alice Chronicles#1) (2015) by Christina Henry - ( K ) - 22.07.18 - 4/5

37. The Stormkeeper's Island ( 2018 ) by Catherine Doyle - 26.07.18 - 4/5

38. Hide and Seek (Rebus #2) (1991)  by Ian Rankin ( A ) - 29.07.18 - 4/5

39. Tooth and Nail (Rebus #3) (1992) by Ian Rankin ( A ) - 07.08.18 - 4/5

40. Heartburn (1983) by Nora Ephron ( BC ) - 08.08.18 - 3/5

41. The Grand Babylon Hotel (1902) by Arnold Bennett ( K / C ) - 16.08.18 - 3/4

42. Secrets of a Sun King (2018) by Emma Carroll - 18.08.18 - 4/5 

 

5/5 - I loved it

4/5 - I really liked it

3/5 - I liked it

2/5 - It was okay

1/5 - I hated it

 

:)

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