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      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…     
Mac

Mac Reads (started 2009)

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Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

 

When he hears her favourite Beatles song, Toru Watanabe recalls his first love Naoko, the girlfriend of his best friend Kizuki. Immediately he is transported back almost twenty years to his student days in Tokyo, adrift in a world of uneasy friendships, casual sex, passion, loss and desire - to a time when an impetuous young woman called Midori marches into his life and he has to choose between the future and the past.

 

This is the first real time I've ever tried to put my thoughts about a book down in words. Along with everyone else, I'm sure, I find certain books striking a chord within me and therefore feel them to be more personal. This is one of those times. Being a private sort of chap, I'm experiencing difficulty in saying how and why this book affected me so, but here goes. Apologies if I'm rubbish at it.:D

 

The protagonist, Watanabe, focusses heavily on the past, on death and on the conflicts he finds between social situations and his own core beliefs. The skillful way Murakami (as usual) deals with this is extraordinarily thought provoking and made me wander off into my own world on more than one occasion. Obviously, because paralells can be drawn between Watanabe's past and my own, it is bound to have at least some effect upon me.

 

Interestingly, I went out late last night, after I had finished the book, to pick up my girlfriend from a night out in town. Increasingly, over the last few years, I have really struggled with town night life, preferring a quiet one in my local pub, or even a bottle of wine at home. Driving through the town to the arranged pick-up point, I was watching the behaviours of the...shall we say lubricated?...revellers and feeling all sorts of anxieties (nothing unusual here, really) which made me want to remain in the safe confines of my car.

 

The novel hightened these feelings, I'm sure. I connected with the prose, which is very gentle, evocative and beautiful. Do you know what I mean if I say it sang to me? Despite some of the content, I find Murakami's writing lullaby-like. Does that sound weird?

 

Also, what I found curious is that, again - like Kafka On The Shore - the sex in the novel seemed to be detached, clinical, almost as if he was describing how to make a smoothie or the actions required to set up a PA system. In other words, I wouldn't have a problem recommending this to my mum, because it's so matter-of-fact.

 

All in all, I loved the book. It's a novel that will stay within me. As chrysalis_stage says:- Read Haruki Murakami :eek2:

 

10/10 definitely

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I almost picked up this one the other day I think, is it quite short and has a line from Eleanor Rigby on the front? Maybe I should go back and get it next time I'm near a book shop, I can remember it wasn't expensive

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Yes indeed, do. You won't be disappointed. Enjoy it :D

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Mac

 

I read your post last night when I was a little 'lubricated' and thought that I may be falling a little bit in love with you :).

 

I refrained from posting. ;)

 

This morning I have read it again and have vowed not to lubricate myself so generously next time. However, I still think your girlfriend is one very lucky person.

 

I am going to look out for this author.

 

Thank you.

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The protagonist, Watanabe, focusses heavily on the past, on death and on the conflicts he finds between social situations and his own core beliefs. The skillful way Murakami (as usual) deals with this is extraordinarily thought provoking and made me wander off into my own world on more than one occasion. Obviously, because paralells can be drawn between Watanabe's past and my own, it is bound to have at least some effect upon me.

 

The novel hightened these feelings, I'm sure. I connected with the prose, which is very gentle, evocative and beautiful. Do you know what I mean if I say it sang to me? Despite some of the content, I find Murakami's writing lullaby-like. Does that sound weird?

 

 

10/10 definitely

 

See this book was low down on my tbr of Murakami's, but you have made it sound so intriguing I think I shall try this one sooner!

 

I love books that strike a chord with you so much that make you stop reading and see your own life in a new light. :)

 

I too can relate to the focuses you said of the protagonist, so looks like I too shall enjoy it.

 

It doesn't sound weird saying his words were like a lullaby, I too find his words comforting even if its not a comforting time in the book, it is like a dream trance....

 

I'm rubbish at describing how I feel about writers and stories, I feel it but no words seem to be perfect enough to portray the feelings I get all at once.

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The Hard Way by Lee Child

 

I'm not going to quote the synopsis, because the blurb always put me off these books, and I wish they hadn't.

 

I'm not a macho kind of guy. I don't like 'Laddishness'. I don't like fighting. I don't have any sporting competitiveness in my being at all. So the blurb on the back of these books were always going to put me off.

 

I read Killing Floor, the first of Lee Child's novels, purely because someone had left it on a seat in the departure area at Manchester Airport and I picked it up. I was immediately hooked. I like to alternate my reading through 'thrash-through-them' thrillers to the more...worthy, if you like. You know, Man Booker Prize winners, historical fiction, that sort of thing. There is definitely an art to creating a thumping good page-turner of a thriller where you can't put them down.

 

The Hard Way is one of these. Yes, there are clich

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I love Murukami. It's different to his other books in that it is more conventional in structure.

 

But as Mac says, the prose-style is still very similar.

 

I also completely agree on the sex. It's something Murukami does that I find very disorienting (but in a good way). His descriptions are so detached as to seem almost cold. I think it's very deliberate and is a great way of moving the reader out of a comfort zone.

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The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason

 

On a misty London afternoon in 1886, piano tuner Edgar Drake receives a strange request from the War Office: he must leave his wife, and his quiet life in London, to travel to the jungles of Burma to tune a rare Erard grand piano. The piano belongs to Surgeon-Major Anthony Carroll, an enigmatic British officer, whose success at making peace in the war-torn Shan States is legendary, but whose unorthodox methods have begun to attract suspicion.

 

There is more to the blurb on the back, but I feel it is unnecessary to write out here. I did not read the blurb beforehand and don't feel it's loss.

 

This has been a wonderful book. Mason's prose has been, rather fittingly, melodic to me. Idiosyncratic at times, his descriptions are dexterous, nimble, soothing, fashioning beautiful images in one's mind both full of colour and yet, simultaneously bleaching the same image with the drought-bringing sun.

 

The protagonist, Edgar Drake, is a quiet, thoughtful man, very likeable in his neat, precise ways. I found it interesting that the first half of the novel is about the journey from London to the village of Mae Lwin, where the piano is situated. It is also at this point we first meet Surgeon-Major Anthony Carroll - although we hear of him and his exploits in tales told to Edgar and via letters Carroll has sent for Edgar to read. I found my feelings towards Carroll moving and changing throughout the novel, making him a very realistic character.

 

This novel has made me thoughtful over this last week, wondering about my own pre-conceptions of different cultures, considering visiting countries I read about and experiencing them first-hand. Sure, I've been to a number of countries, but always with a heavy dollop of Western comfort.

 

Having just finished it, I feel moved, somewhat emotional even, and saddened that my - now this may sound weird - friend Edgar has gone. I wonder about this. The character remains safe within the pages of the novel, which very shortly will be returned to its place on the shelf. There he will be if I revisit the novel in time to come, and yet this time is lost. The growth one experiences with a character can only be felt once.

 

I remember feeling like this with other books, such as The Lord Of The Rings when I was younger, or The Last Witchfinder. Curious, isn't it? I hope I'm not going bonkers and that all who read this thinks I'm a nut-job.

 

So, yes, I thoroughly recommend this book to everyone, particularly if you enjoy well researched historical fiction. In fact, even if you don't as a rule, try it anyway. It's beautiful.

 

9/10

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I know the feeling Mac, I felt the same after finishing Harry Potter, and, more recently, after reading The Partisan's Daughter.

This book sounds like one I'd like too (especially as I tend to like books that stay with you after you have put them down), so I think I will add it to my wishlist. I think we have pretty similar taste :lol:

 

Oh yes and turns out Norwegian Wood wasn't the book I had been looking at but it actually sounds better! I almost bought it the other day but decided I had already spent too much money and had bought 2 other books.

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Having just finished it, I feel moved, somewhat emotional even, and saddened that my - now this may sound weird - friend Edgar has gone. I wonder about this. The character remains safe within the pages of the novel, which very shortly will be returned to its place on the shelf. There he will be if I revisit the novel in time to come, and yet this time is lost. The growth one experiences with a character can only be felt once.

I felt there was a little bit of Heart of Darkness in Edgar's journey to Burma, and the author captures the jungle atmosphere pretty well.

It's tragic what happens. I recognize the build-up is all there, but the way the novel was paced and how events were presented made the ending a little unexpected and all the more tragic.

Three or four years after reading this, I can still remember Edgar's final image vividly.

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Three or four years after reading this, I can still remember Edgar's final image vividly.

 

I absolutely agree with you. This was just a book I happened to pick up that was being thrown out by someone, so I rescued it. I'm so very pleased I did.

 

And thanks to you, Jo. I'm loving (predictably, some might say) After Dark by Haruki Murakami so watch this space for the point where I wax rhapsodic about him all over again...

 

:lol:

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After Dark by Haruki Murakami

 

The midnight hour approaches in an almost empty all-night diner. Mari sips her coffee and glances up from a book as a young man, a musician, intrudes on her solitude. Both have missed the last train home.

 

Later Mari is interrupted again by a girl from the Alphaville Hotel; a Chinese prostitute has been hurt by a client, and she needs Mari's help.

 

Meanwhile Mari's beautiful sister Eri sleeps a deep, heavy sleep that is 'too perfect, too pure' to be normal; she has lain asleep for two months. But tonight as the digital clock displays 00:00, a hint of life flickers across the TV screen, though the television's pug has been pulled out.

 

Strange nocturnal happenings, or a trick of the night?

 

This is the third Murakami novel I've read and I've been pondering for some time how best to describe his style. The other night I was chatting with some friends and it suddenly struck me that, if Murakami was a food, he would be Sushi. Crisp, refreshing, unexpected sometimes, yet interesting, fragrant, somewhat clinical... Murakami is Sushi for the mind. I've said that on another thread somewhere when I thought about it.

 

After Dark is a shorter novel that follows the paths of three events occurring simultaneously, and I've rattled through it. As usual, it's left me ruminating on some of the more heavier questions in life, but this is something I have come to expect from this guy.

 

As usual, his writing is beautiful and absorbing, very clearly creating the atmosphere of the time, drawing one in as though an independent, completely ineffectual observer. The writing makes me feel as though he is heading in the same direction as us, but just slightly off the tracks, running parallel to our own juggernaut of a train but somewhat off-kilter. I also enjoyed the fact that many things were left unexplained. Sometimes this would bother me, but not here. He fashions something that is 'other-worldly' for me and therefore demands exemption from my need to have things sorted out.

 

Once again, I highly recommend that Murakami should be read. This might be a good one to start with. Again, as Sarah says: Read Haruki Murakami. :)

 

8/10

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The Stormwatcher by Graham Joyce

 

The Dordogne in August. Each morning, a dense damp mist drapes the landscape like thick muslin. Each afternoon, the sun beats down from an unchanging blue sky. But the rising Mistral signals a change in the weather.

In a carefully restored farmhouse with a swimming pool, James, an English advertising executive, his French wife Sabine, their two children and their friends sit uneasily around the dinner table. This should be at the beginning of a wonderful holiday, but Jessie, the eldest of James and Sabine's children, is disturbed. She talks to a face in the mirror, responds to whispered commands no one else can hear. Sabine is determined to find who in the company is poisoning her daughter's mind.

Sexual and personal conflicts, disturbing psychological failings, secrets and lies beckon the approaching storm. In a matter of days everyone is implicated in a tragedy which will sweep aside the web of deception and artifice they have built atound their lives.

 

When I first started reading this book, because I don't read the blurb, I thought I'd inadvertently picked up a book for teens. It very, very quickly proved to be not a book for teens. The reason I thought this way at first is that Graham Joyce is a very skilled writer. The parts written from the 11 year old's perspective reads like the thoughts of a young girl. I thought she was the main protagonist from how it was written. It's not for youngsters, this book.

 

The novel covers the human condition, the class system, relationships, love and betrayal. Read this and you will identify with one of the characters, of this, I am sure. During this book, I have questioned actions I've made in the past, regrets that I have; I've pondered on past relationships, making me wonder about my own need to 'fix' people; I've thought about my personality type and the impact I have on those around me. It has made me quite introspective at times, even at work with my mind supposedly on other things. But then, reading does this to me. I've always been a bit of a soul searcher and this has increased in potency since the break-up of my marriage. It's not at all attractive, I'm afraid, but I tend to keep it all to myself, fortunately for my friends.

 

There are so many passages I would quote from, but the following is one I particularly liked...

 

"Temperature is not the same as heat. Heat is a form of energy, whereas the principle of temperature is the transfer of heat between bodies. In the case of two bodies at different temperatures, heat will always flow from the hotter to the colder body until the temperatures are identical and thermal equilibrium is reached."

 

This comes from the tiny chapters interspersing the plot, drawing the similarities between the weather and relationships. I love the way this guy writes, and I want more of it. I'm off to Waterstone's!

 

I would thoroughly recommend this book (just be warned that the language can be a little 'fruity' at times...)

 

9/10

Edited by Mac

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I like your review on 'After Dark' Mac,you describe Haruki Murakami really well. I thought 'After Dark' had brilliant characters, I really liked Kaori :)

 

:lol:

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I'm going to jump back a page. I was wondering what your final thoughts on The Piano Tuner would be once you finished reading it and I have to say that I'm looking forward to reading it even more now that I've read your review of it. :)

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Bad Things by Michael Marshall

 

On a beautiful summer's afternoon four-year-old Scott Henderson walked out onto a jetty over a lake in Black Ridge, Washington State. He never came back.

John Henderson's world ended that day, but three years later he's still alive. Living a life, of sorts. Getting by. Until one night he receives an email from a stranger who claims to know what happened to his son.

Against his better judgement Henderson returns to Black Ridge, unleashing a terrifying sequence of events that threatens to destroy what remains of everything he once held dear.

Bad things don't just happen to other people - they're waiting round the corner for you too. And when they start to make their way through the cracks in your life, you won't know until it's far too late...

 

Back in 1994 I read a book called Only Forward by a brand new author called Michael Marshall Smith. This transpired to be one of the best novels I had ever read and went on to win many awards. I have followed this author's work over the years, never feeling disappointed by any of his new releases. He now mostly writes as Michael Marshall (much in the way that, when Iain Banks writes his Sci-Fi novels, he writes as Iain M Banks, which you'll already know). These are crime fiction.

 

Bad Things reeled me in from the very start. Michael Marshall paints a dark picture, using insightful yet sombre tones to describe his feelings on paper. Throughout the book, I found many passages that I would wish to quote, but two in particular leapt out at me:

 

"It's odd the things people remembered about you, that however much you tried to be someone in particular you might always be defined by acts that had been unintentional."

 

And;

 

"Good things never change the world. Nothing is different after you drop coins into a charity box, lend your arm to an old lady, or help build a school in some doomed, Third World disaster area. You may get a fleeting kick out of some of these deeds but nothing in you is actually altered. You can never define yourself through actions you know witnesses would find admirable. They're too easy. They don't count. After you do a bad thing, however, everything is altered."

 

As you can tell, there is an element of nihilism running through this book, but not at such a level as you might find in Chuck Palahnuik's or Glen Duncan's work. I think Michael Marshall is possibly more accessible, as he does retain a modicum of optimism.

 

He still gets me thinking about things, and I still look forward to him having his next novel published. If you check out the thread McRecommends, I'll list there his other works. He's well worth having a look at.

 

I thought this book was great. I think Sarah (Chrysalis_Stage) will like this very much.

 

8.5/10

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I should really stop looking at your thread, my wishlist grows every time!

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I should really stop looking at your thread, my wishlist grows every time!

Sorry, Lucy. I'll camouflage it next time I post something! :)

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:lol: at least I won't be short on ideas!

Don't check out the thread McRecommends, then, Lucy, because I wax rhapsodic about stuff all the time on there...:)

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Your right Mac, I LOVE the sound of Bad things :) ....and I'm with Lucy, my wishlist either expands or my money decreases lol but thank you, keep reading and recommending. I love finding people with very similar tastes :lol:

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So do I, Sarah. I really think Michael Marshall (Smith) is right up your street.

 

Have a great evening!

 

:)

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