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    • Hayley

      Moving Day Coming Soon   01/11/2021

      As many of you know, we've been looking at changing hosts for a while now. This will allow us to access the tech support we need for the site and should speed up the forum as well as ironing out a few issues we've been having recently.    We are now signed up to the new hosting plan and can go ahead with the move as soon as the new hosts have everything they need (which is currently being sorted!). The forum should not be offline for more than a day during the switch and hopefully it won't even take that long. I don't have an exact time or day for the move yet but this is an early warning to expect some downtime soon.   When we are offline, no matter how briefly, you can follow the forum twitter page (@bookclubforum) for updates.  

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  1. Past hour
  2. Walking in Memphis - Cher/Marc Cohn
  3. Imagining books in your head

    (You are on my wavelength, be concerned!)* Be afraid, be very afraid...... or maybe great minds think alike? You make some interesting points, fascinating to see how people visualise things in different ways. Small point - I thought they got the Game of Thrones casting pretty spot on, and I agree with LoTR too, great casting (except maybe Liv Tyler as Arwen, who hardly appears in the books compared to the films), a shame another version is being made but t then it is now 20 years since the first film came out
  4. Yesterday
  5. Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again ~ Bob Dylan
  6. Raven's Reads

    I've read a book! Yes, one with words and only one picture! To Be Taught, if Fortunate By Becky Chambers The crew of the Merian are on a mission to explore a new solar system, part of a number of crowd-funded ships sent out from Earth, taking mankind's first steps to gather information on worlds only hither-too glimpsed from afar. The four worlds they visit all present different challenges for the genetically altered humans, and then they lose contact with Earth... I've been picking up Becky Chamber's book in Waterstone's for a while now, reading their back covers and then putting them down again. They sound good, and they have certainly garnered enough plaudits - a Hugo award, and nominations for pretty much every other science fiction writing award going - but I've never been quite convinced enough to make a purchase, and then this novella popped up on my Kindle for 99p so I thought I would give it a go. The story is told in the form of a mission report from one of the crew members, related in such a way that the layman on Earth will be able to understand. It deals with the practicalities of an extended multi-year mission and the effect that has on the Merian's crew, especially when things don't go to plan. This is a science fiction story that is heavy on the science; Chambers comes from a family that her bio says were "heavily involved in space science" and the acknowledgments at the end of the book is largely a list of scientists who helped with the writing of the story. The story explores some solid science fiction concepts, but it is heavily grounded in the characters as seen from the point of view of the narrator. I don't like comparing books directly, but there was a lot in this that reminded me of Velocity Weapon, by Megan E. O'Keefe which I abandoned last year (I think it is probably because there are a number of scenes in both with characters in space suits, passing through airlocks and cargo holds etc. and it all seemed very familiar). I suspect that had I read this a year down the road, I wouldn't be drawing the same comparisons, but in this books favour I can say that it is definitely far better written! Whilst I enjoyed a lot of the story, I did find some parts of it were a little laboured, and I don't think some of the ideas were explored as fully as they could have been, but I did like the ending. Will I read more of Chamber's novels? I'm not sure... There was a lot to like, but at the same time nothing that really grabbed me. A full novel could be a different kettle of fish, though, so if I see her first novel The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet on offer on my Kindle I may very well give it a go. Not bad, but if you don't like science fiction or scientific concepts in general, this probably isn't the book for you.
  7. Finished Au Bonheur des Dames (The Ladies' Paradise) by Emile Zola tonight. What a contrast to the last 2 books: powerful, vivid, highly topical. Absolutely loved it. An initial 5/6.
  8. Last week
  9. A Book blog 2021 by Books do Furnish a Room

    The Glamour Boys by Chris Bryant This is a largely untold slice of queer history. The Glamour Boys were a group of largely Conservative MPs who opposed appeasement in the 1930s, supporting Churchill’s stance in Parliament. They were all either homosexual or bisexual at a particularly difficult time to be gay because of the way the law was applied and the still looming shadow of Wilde. It is written by Labour MP Chris Bryant, who has an interesting background himself, long campaigning for LGBTQ+ rights. The first civil partnership ceremony held in Westminster was that of Bryant and his partner. I also remember an appearance of Gaydar wearing just his pants in 2003 (I kid you not), which was not usual for a sitting MP and the right wing press having a field day. This isn’t his first outing as a historian and this is well researched and detailed. The Glamour Boys were 17 strong, but Bryant focuses on ten of them: Rob Bernays, Victor Cazalet, Robert Boothby, Jack MacNamara, Harry Crookshank, Ronnie Cartland (Barbara’s younger brother), Ronnie Tree, Harold Nicolson (Vita Sackville-West’s husband), Philip Sassoon and Jim Thomas. Five of them were dead by the end of the war and they are largely forgotten. Their name was coined by Neville Chamberlain and his dirty tricks team and was meant to be deliberately ambiguous as all of them were very aware that because of their sexuality there was always a danger from the police and justice system. They were all familiar with Germany, having taken full advantage of the sexual liberality of the Weimar Republic. Bryant takes the reader through the lives of each of the characters from the late 1920s to the end of the war. As they were all familiar with Germany they noticed the changes in the culture and political climate in the early 1930s when the Nazis became more prominent. The Night of the Long Knives in 1934, when many prominent gay Nazis were killed, confirmed how thing were going. Many still had friends in Germany and were aware of the rising anti-Semitism and the concentration camps. This led the Glamour Boys to realise that fascism had to be opposed and they sided with Churchill in arguing against appeasement in Parliament. This meant that they were taking a very unpopular stance in Parliament and in the country as well as always in danger of prosecution because of their sexuality. Chamberlain, who doesn’t come out of this well, set up a dirty tricks department to discredit them and tapped their phones; they had to be very careful. A couple of them were Jewish and that added even more to the dangers they faced. Bryant maps in detail the role they played in opposing appeasement and goes as far as to say: “Had it not been for the Glamour Boys’ campaign against Chamberlain we would never have fought, let alone won, the Second World War.” Bryant did a great deal of research for this book and discovered that a good deal of information had either been ignored or erased. Barbara Cartland destroyed most of her brother’s papers before she died. So Bryant had to do detective work and piece together information from many sources to put this together. There are lighter moments as well. Bryant runs through a number of the meeting places for gay men (many of them in the military) in London, including the basement bar at the Ritz, which became known as the “Pink Sink”. The army often provided something of a refuge for gay men at the time and Bryant does describe the complex net of relationships that went to protect gay men in some areas of army life. Cazalet was in charge of an anti-aircraft battery during the first part of the war and it became known as the “Buggers Battery” amongst other things. Cazalet, Bernays, Cartland and MacNamara all died in action during the war: Sassoon died of natural causes. Bryant has uncovered a story that was little known and little told and has done a good job of telling it. 9 out of 10 Starting Boy Blue by Stevie Davies
  10. Imagining books in your head

    [Bit of an epic brain-dump post - sorry if it rambles around a bit!] I missed this thread the first time round, and have just read through it for the first time; very interesting! I read that and thought "Colin Dexter did that with Inspector Morse", and then I read: Genius! (You are on my wavelength, be concerned!)* I don't know if I'm unusual - well, more than the obvious, anyway - but I have a very visual imagination and "see" books as I am reading them, like a mini movie is being projected on the inside of my tiny brain (the same happens when I listen to film/TV scores etc. I see the images that were on screen as I hear the music, but I digress...). When I read a book, I "see" characters and places clearly, but in some cases there is a bit of an odd twist on this, because quite often the characters I see are a little "cartoonish" in nature. It's hard to describe in words just what I'm seeing, but George Smiley, for example, I think is described by le Carré in one of his early books as being reminiscent of a frog (or possibly toad like?) and ever since I read that I've always imagined a slightly cartoonish frog/toad [human] wearing a raincoat, but at the same time I've also always associated Alec Guinness with the character as well, so throw in a bit of Obi Wan (actually, one of his Ealing characters would be better) and you have a bit of an odd mental mix (in more than one way...)** Like willoyd, above, I don't like seeing film/TV adaptations of books I am interested in reading before I do read them. I stopped watching Game of Thrones after the first series as the show - good though it was - didn't match the mental images I had of the characters and settings, so I stopped and will watch it after Georgie boy finally finishes his written saga (assuming he ever does...) and I have finished reading it (yeah, I know the ending of the TV series sucks!). This is a bit of a double-edged sword, however, as I have a copy of The Martian I am pretty sure I will never read, but I cannot bring myself to watch the film without having read the book first! There are some books I have read, that have been made into films, that - in my opinion - have got it pretty much bang on; The Lord of the Rings being front and foremost in that list. I read The Fellowship of the Ring shortly before the film was released and it was like Peter Jackson had been inside my head (especially for Hobbiton and Rivendell etc). Back to the inside of my head (sorry) and there are mental images from books I have read that are still very strong in my mind, many years after I first read the passages that inspired them. The planet of Echronedal and it's fire driven eco-cycle, as described by Iain M. Banks in The Player of Games; a Cockchafer droning over a hedge in HG Wells The War of the Worlds (and the Martian manoeuvrings that play out around that scene); a city on the edge of collapse, in John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids (along with the story of the Triffid's origins). I could go on, and - obviously - all of these books are science fiction novels, which leads me to wonder whether vivid visual imagery is more easily conjured when the source material is more unworldly, although there are a lot of books I have strong visual imagery for that are contemporary and otherwise far more mundane (I developed a very strong and vivid mental image of the character Emma in David Nicholls novel One Day, for example, that is still with me many years after I read the book). I don't know if others find this, but I often don't pay proper attention to descriptions at the beginning of books, and although authors may have clearly described what their characters look like it doesn't always sink in with me until later (and sometimes not until subsequent re-reads). Thinking about it, I would liken it to background noise. Authors rarely jump straight into the action; description (obviously) is often used to set the set the scene, but although I read these sections, my mind seems to block some of it out whilst I'm waiting for the story proper to get started and I end up with characters in my head that possibly have little in common (certainly physically) with the characters as described by the author (but I still have my own, strong image, of what that character looks like). These errors usually get corrected in my head in subsequent re-readings, but not always. A couple of examples of my probably (and certainly) getting it wrong: I've read a lot of Mike Gayle's novels. For those that have not, these are contemporary novels that he started writing from the point of view of the male character in the story, and as someone who is roughly the same age as him the subjects he was talking about and the culture around them struck a chord with me (life post-university, relationships etc.) More recently, his books - to my mind - have veered away from the male confessional genre (books in a similar ilk to High Fidelity and Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby) and more towards Chick-lit. I can't say I've enjoyed his more recent books as much as his earlier ones - that were more relevant to myself - and they sometimes seem to be a little too far-fetched in the leaps the plots take, but they are generally enjoyable, life-affirming stories. Anyway, back to the point, Mike Gayle is black, and for some reason, after seeing him being interviewed on the BBC program Bookworm - many, many moons ago - I have (for the most part) visualised his main characters as being all black as well - although I am pretty sure that isn't the case. I don't really know how the visual part of my brain came to that conclusion. The second example, and one that may surprise some - given how much I type about these books - is that it took me nearly half of Rivers of London to realise Peter Grant wasn't white (and once I realised that, it took a lot longer to realise his dad, in subsequent books, is). It also took me several books to realise that the rivers themselves are almost all black as well. Re-reading the books, I don't know how I missed it as it is clearly described from the start but, for the first reading of the first few books, I had a mental image of Fleet as being an upper class, elderly white woman, when she is anything but! The only reason I can think to explain this is that I know Ben Aaronovitch is white, so I'm guessing that on some level my brain was thinking white author equals white characters... My mental image of Peter now, btw, comes largely from the graphic novels. *shrugs* I sometimes wonder if the vivid images my mind conjures up are - in part - due to me being a relatively slow reader, and that gives my mind more time to fill in the detail (I have friends who can rip through a book in an afternoon, and remember nothing about it a month later other than they enjoyed it, whilst I can usually remember the plots and characters years after I have read them). Now that I am typing this, and thinking about it in more depth, I'm also beginning to wonder if there is a link between the stories I enjoy the most and the ones I can see most clearly in my mind... *Especially when you read what follows... **Yeah, okay, I'm not sure this is going to give you, the reader, an accurate impression of what I actually see in my head space, but - hell - hopefully this is entertaining you, if nothing else!
  11. A Book blog 2021 by Books do Furnish a Room

    Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto The book consists of a novella (Kitchen) and a short story (Moonlight Shadow). There is a focus on loss and grief and its effects and the ensuing loneliness: “Usually, the first time I go to a house, face to face with people I barely know, I feel an immense loneliness. I saw myself reflected in the glass of the large terrace window while black gloom spread over the rain-hounded night panorama. I was tied by blood to no creature in this world. I could go anywhere, do anything. It was dizzying. Suddenly, to see that the world was so large, the cosmos so black. The unbounded fascination of it, the unbounded loneliness…For the first time, these days, I was touching it with these hands, these eyes. I’ve been looking at the world half-blind, I thought.” And, of course the title has its relevance: “The place I like best in this world is the kitchen. No matter where it is, no matter what kind, if it’s a kitchen, if it’s a place where they make food, it’s fine with me. Ideally it should be well broken in. Lots of tea towels, dry and immaculate. White tile catching the light (ting! ting!).” Kitchen is the story of Mikage and Yuichi. Mikage loses her grandmother with whom she is living and she is alone in the world and has to move out of her grandmother’s apartment. She moves in with Yuichi and his mother Eriko, who is transgender. There are many nuances of pain, loss and hope here. There’s also a great deal of food: “This katsudon, encountered almost by accident, was made with unusual skill, I must say. Good quality meat, excellent broth, the eggs and onions handled beautifully, the rice with just the right degree of firmness to hold up in the broth — it was flawless.” Food is part of what holds the characters together and part of the healing process. Inevitably part of me wants to ask if the centrality of the kitchen for Mikage and the fact she is drawn to cooking is just another way of saying the way of happiness for women revolves around domesticity. The transgender parent might indicate a different attitude to conventional family life. However the working out of the story points to a more conventional sense of family, but that obviously is a matter of opinion. It could be argued Eriko is a victim of society’s hatred and transphobia or that Eriko’s removal eases the way to a conventional heteronormative ending. Nevertheless the approach to grief is sensitively handled and there is no minimizing of it. There is an unavoidable truth; life ends, for all of us. But in the meantime life goes on: “Despair does not necessarily result in annihilation that one can go on as usual in spite of it. I had become hardened. Was that what it means to be an adult, to live with ugly ambiguities? I didn’t like it, but it made it easier to go on.” 7 out of 10 Starting Eclipsed by Danai Gurira
  12. "Inside and Out" - Dave Clark Five
  13. Imagining books in your head

    Sometimes I do imagine a certain actor fitting the description of a character in the book, for example I only saw Nicole Kidman as Ada in Cold Mountain, maybe it was written with her in mind? I never pictured Jude Law as Inman though. Other times I do the same as Lau Lou, ie a sort of blurry image without definite features, except for maybe hair colour, I think I have a sort of generic idea of what a character would look like and then project that onto the written description. I think once some books are filmed the authors do sometimes alter the characters in subsequent books to match the actor/s more, I think this happened with the later Inspector Morse books for example, and once I have a physical image of an actor then it's hard to shake that when I read a book featuring their character. Poldark was a difficult one - sometimes I can see Aiden Turner in the book, other times it's Robin Ellis, even though I've only seen a handful of the original episodes.
  14. (Something Inside) So Strong ~ Labi Siffre
  15. Something So Strong ~ Crowded House
  16. Finished two book group reads in the past couple of days: distinctly unimpressed with both of them. First off was Man at the Helm by Nina Stibber. 'Comedy Gold' supposedly. Dull, repetitive and all too obvious in my view. Feeling generous...2/6. Then Body Surfing by Anita Shreve. What on earth do people see in her, if this is anything like a representative example of her writing? Trite, predictable, bland, repetitive, unengaging, and no I'm not interested in the minutiae of the colour of people's clothing, furniture or hair. 1/6.
  17. The Book Club Forum Awards 2020!

    I appreciate that - and thanks for kickstarting the thread: I always enjoy this to wrap up the year! I think my comment reflected my slight bemusement about book groups, forums etc, and the widespread emphasis on fiction, with non-fiction so often treated as a bit of an afterthought. I belong to three book groups, and whilst all three are great in their own very different ways, only one treats non-fiction with any seriousness, and even then it's a distinctl minority activity. For me, non-fiction takes up a good two-thirds of my library, and last year one-half of my reading; it's increasing every year.
  18. Things in books that annoy you

    I am thinking how would they do the move the USA if she was already an American in the film version. I seem to notice in a lot of books that the male love interest is usually always over a certain height and has a body like he goes to the gym all the time but never does. I read a book last year and one of the characters (minor) was named Jodie and in one paragraph she was called Josie. So I reread it to see if it was another character that hadn't been introduced in the story but no it was meant to say Jodie but of course nobody noticed the mistake.
  19. Imagining books in your head

    Like a few have mentioned I can not see a character very vividly. More of a blank canvas. Hair and body shape but not a full on facial features. Also if the author is describing a lay out of a house for example i can only imagine it so far. It's not really easy for me. Athena, it is interesting you say about having the way a character looks in your head only for the author to describe them later on and its completely different. I read a book a few years ago and the main character had brown curly hair (how I for whatever reason imagined her) then the author goes and mentions her blonde hair. I was like no her hair isnt blonde! My brain just could not change it. Another thing is if a character is driving. The driver always is sat on the right hand side. Currently reading shopaholic to the stars. Whenever Becky is driving of course she'll be sat on the left hand side as she is in LA but i will always picture her sitting on the other side.
  20. Something For The Ages - Hammerfall
  21. Kindle and ebooks deals

    The excellent The Player of Games, by Iain M. Banks is 99p on Kindle today - well worth a read if you haven't done so already!
  22. I've got a few reviews to catch up on, this is the first. Affluenza by Oliver James (1/5) I can sum up my emotions about this book in one word. Bilge! James promises to provide evidence for all he writes and yet mistakes anecdotes for proof, and correlation for causation. I already believe in what he set out to say but he somehow manages to make such a mess of it I wanted to throw the book across the room. His basic premise is that we need to get away from constantly desiring new things, ie greed Capitalism. This is great, I wholeheartedly agree with him on this. However, he underpins his evidence of this by claiming that rich people are unhappy, and poor people are happy. This is a ridiculous generalisation for anyone to make, let alone a clinical psychologist. His evidence is endless, repetitive, anecdotal interviews with people that are clearly chosen because they back his viewpoint. I'm sure, given a few hours I could find rich people who are happy and poor people who are unhappy, yet magically he couldn't find any. At the end of the book there is a section titled 'The Unselfish Capitalist Manifesto' where the book really takes a turn for the bizarre. It ends up being a 37 page tirade against specific Labour MP's and the party as a whole. I'm no fan of politicians in general but none of this ire is aimed at a Conservative MP. He stops just shy of telling people to vote for the Conservatives at the next election but only by the thinnest of margins. It felt as though he decided to use the space at the end of the book as a political campaign, justifying it by the most tenuous links possible to the premise of the book. From time to time I like to seek out books that oppose my viewpoints and they generally provide a few thinking moments or alter my thoughts about something. I think this is a good thing to do. Mental or physical debate to challenge your beliefs is ever more important in an age where we can surround ourselves in an echo chamber. However, this book almost made me go against something I strongly believe in because I hated it so much, and that is a first.
  23. Words (Between the Lines of Age) ~ Neil Young
  24. Word Association

    frog (a bonus point for anyone who correctly gets that link!)
  25. (Great song by Connie Francis) Sorry Is A Sorry Word - The Temptations
  26. I'm Sorry - Brenda Lee https://youtu.be/BGLR25EJtfE
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