Jump to content
poppyshake

Poppyshake's Reading Year 2013

Recommended Posts

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a wonderful book. We had a reading circle with it a couple of years back. Do beware of the very longwinded section on Notre Dame and Paris though. A lot of people struggled and gave up at this point. With any Victor Hugo skim-reading is your friend.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Your photos don't show up for me, poppyshake :(. I'm not sure why.

Oh that's a shame Athena .. I wonder why :confused: 

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a wonderful book. We had a reading circle with it a couple of years back. Do beware of the very longwinded section on Notre Dame and Paris though. A lot of people struggled and gave up at this point. With any Victor Hugo skim-reading is your friend.

Yes, Alan's been talking about that Andrea. I asked him how it was going and he said fine .. though there were long passages about architecture and stuff and he was thinking 'just get back to the story' :D I was fine with Moby Dick ... and there are some very long winded passages in it .. Herman Melville describes every species of whale known to man .. as well as every plank and screw on the Pequod :) I'm looking forward to reading The Hunchback of Notre Dame .. it'll be my first Hugo :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

BUY ME POPPYSHAKE!!

 

bernadette1.jpg  bernadette2.jpg  bernadette3.jpg

 

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

 

Synopsis: Bernadette Fox is notorious. To Elgie Branch, a Microsoft wunderkind, she's his hilarious, volatile, talented, troubled wife. To fellow mothers at the school gate, she's a menace. To design experts, she's a revolutionary architect. And to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, quite simply, mum. Then Bernadette disappears. And Bee must take a trip to the end of the earth to find her. WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE is a compulsively readable, irresistibly written, deeply touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's place in the world.


Review: Now this book illustrates .. literally .. what we were talking about earlier. If I see this sort of cover (take your pick .. they're all gorgeous) and this sort of title in a bookshop I am going to pick it up because it's screaming 'you will love me'. Sometimes that's where it ends, I read the blurb and nothing catches fire but luckily, in this case, I loved the sound of the story too. So that's three hurdles overcome. Sadly, it has happened, that when I get to read the story .. all the good stuff is in the cover, the title and the blurb. You wouldn't want to see my face then .. it's like :irked: only more mutinous. I feel cheated and what's worse deceived. However, nine times out of ten, it turns out to be (as if some canny publisher has had exactly me in mind) just my cup of tea and hallelujah .. this was one of those times.


To say I loved it would be an understatement, I'm not usually a fan of stories where there is a mix of narrative, e-mail exchanges, reports, presentations etc ... I find them confusing and scrappy but I persevered for a few pages and was soon in the thick of it and engrossed. Later on in the story you realise why it's being told in that style and everything falls into place. For a rather sad tale it's incredibly funny .. most of the humour is provided by Bernadette's neighbour who is the most self righteous, interfering, do-gooder ever to walk the planet. She's what you'd imagine a Mean Girl would be like when grown up and worried about the school intake .. so busy sticking her nose in and disapproving that she doesn't notice what's going on at home (but she is unintentionally hilarious). I loved Bernadette's humour too which was a lot darker .. in fact I loved her in general because I saw a kindred spirit (a bit anti-social, slightly agorophobic, more than a tad reclusive, bonkers etc etc). She's very close to her daughter Bee and the pair are the best of friends. Things are sliding out of control for Bernadette though, she's losing her grip on life .. (and we don't learn until later what caused the slide.) It's nothing she can't fix with time (although she does rather rashly .. in an effort to avoid contact with nearly everybody .. hire a virtual assistant from India .. who turns out to be more than a little corrupt .. and not even from India) but due to the interference of others and pre-occupied by his own busy lifestyle, Bernadette's husband thinks she needs help .. and when convinced she won't seek it voluntarily .. sets about trying to force it on her. This is when Bernadette suddenly disappears.

The book deals with all sorts of issues but is never depressing, the author is too good a satirist for that .. and though it is emotional it doesn't wallow in sentimentality thankfully. I've made it sound a bit ordinary actually but it wasn't at all .. it's witty and warm and quite delicious. I gobbled it up in no time (all the while patting myself on the back for not having made another 'Franny & Zooey' book cover mistake).

 

It probably wasn't without fault but .. if there were any .. I've decided to overlook them :D 5/5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I saw this book in a bookshop yesterday and thought that looks really interesting, I was in a hurry so didn't have to time to look and read the blurb. Thanks to your review I will be going back to buy it. A great review Poppy and your thread is always such a great place for me to find new books I really enjoy!! :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have this one on my Kindle -- will be reading it at some point. I'm glad you liked it so much !

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I saw this book in a bookshop yesterday and thought that looks really interesting, I was in a hurry so didn't have to time to look and read the blurb. Thanks to your review I will be going back to buy it. A great review Poppy and your thread is always such a great place for me to find new books I really enjoy!! :D

Thanks tunn :) I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. It's up for loads of awards which of course proves nothing .. but does mean that there are more people to blame than just me :D

I have this one on my Kindle -- will be reading it at some point. I'm glad you liked it so much !

Thanks Julie ... fingers crossed that you will love it too :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To say I loved it would be an understatement, I'm not usually a fan of stories where there is a mix of narrative, e-mail exchanges, reports, presentations etc ... I find them confusing and scrappy but I persevered for a few pages and was soon in the thick of it and engrossed.

 

I love this style (presentations, e-mails, etc.), so I have just bought it for my Kindle. Sounds like a really great read, hopefully I will get to it soon. :boogie:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have added the book to my wishlist! Sounds like one very exciting read. :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I love this style (presentations, e-mails, etc.), so I have just bought it for my Kindle. Sounds like a really great read, hopefully I will get to it soon. :boogie:

I hope you like it bobbs :blush2: .. it gets mostly good reviews everywhere so I'm not as worried as I normally would be .. books I rave about often turn out to be books other people loathe :D

I have added the book to my wishlist! Sounds like one very exciting read. :D

Yay!! I do hope it will be your cup of tea Devi or that, if it isn't, by the time you read it you will have forgotten that it was me that recommended :blush2: ('note to self' .. you must have more confidence in your recommendations :haha:

Edited by poppyshake

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I didn't buy many books in Paris .. just the one I'm currently reading (Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple) which was very restrained of me. Alan bought The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo and of course, I'll be availing myself of it as soon as he's finished with it (which could take anything from a week to a year :D)

I did also buy three french books from the bouquinistes by the Seine. I can't read french .. or much of it anyway but they look lovely and I'm all for getting more if I can because I'm rather taken with them.

 

bouquinistesseine.jpg

 

nelson.jpg

I have no idea what they're about .. they could be quite scandalous :D I know 'La Petite Soeur' means the little sister .. that's as far as I've got :blush2: 

 

Lovely pics! 

I was in Paris a few years ago, very hard to restrain myself from buying books with all the second hand little places. 

I think Hector Malot wrote "Nobody's Boy" which is a favourite of mine...so those should be ok :lol:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

queenwhalecay.jpg

The Queen of Whale Cay by Kate Summerscale

 

Synopsis: Born in 1900 to a promiscuous American oil heiress and a British army captain, Marion Barbara Carstairs realised very early on that she was not like most little girls. Liberated by war work in WWI, Marion reinvented herself as Joe, and quickly went on to establish herself as a leading light of the fashionable lesbian demi-monde. She dressed in men's clothes, smoked cigars and cheroots, tattooed her arms, and became Britain's most celebrated female speed-boat racer - the 'fastest woman on water'. Yet Joe tired of the lime-light in 1934, and retired to the Bahamian Island of Whale Cay. There she fashioned her own self-sufficient kingdom, where she hosted riotous parties which boasted Hollywood actresses and British royalty among their guests. Although her lovers included screen sirens such as Marlene Dietrich, the real love of Joe's life was a small boy-doll named Lord Tod Wadley, to whom she remained devoted throughout her remarkable life. She died, aged 93, in 1993.


Review: I do like odd-bods and formidable old (and young) biddies and did admire Joe in lots of ways but the main problem for me was that she wasn't very likeable. I never got the impression that she cared for anybody much .. except for Lord Tod Wadley .. who was not a person at all but a doll and if that's not the oddest thing ever then I don't know what is. Don't misunderstand me, I have some bears that I'm very attached to .. Bimbo for one who's been with me all my life, but this was another thing altogether. Tod Wadley had his own sets of clothes .. his own props (his own cheque book!!) .. even his own opinions. Her friends treated him as a real person too and the Whale Cay islanders were superstitiously scared of him (so would I be for that matter .. creepy or what!) That's him pictured with her on the front cover and he was cremated with her too at the end of her life (not very feeling to Lord Tod if you ask me .. because he might not have reached the end of his life :D). Very strange too because she didn't really take to people and absolutely hated animals (and this was one of the reasons I couldn't warm to her .. she liked to trophy hunt.) She strove hard to improve life for the indigenous people of Whale Cay but the impression was that some of this was done for her own gain, not financial gain but reputational gain and she could've turned 'holding a grudge' into an Olympic sport :D Then again she was fairly generous to old lovers and hangers on so I'm not sure .. she was an odd mix of selfishness and generosity.


The info on her is a little sketchy, Joe did some taped interviews in the 1970's but as she wasn't always feeling communicative, you don't really get under her skin .. perhaps they would have got more from Tod Wadley ;) .. but there's no denying she's an interesting subject .. I've never come across anyone quite like her. I do hope Bimbo doesn't start demanding golf clubs and cheque books .. that'll play havoc with my book buying fund. 3/5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lovely pics! 

I was in Paris a few years ago, very hard to restrain myself from buying books with all the second hand little places. 

I think Hector Malot wrote "Nobody's Boy" which is a favourite of mine...so those should be ok :lol:

Well that's good to know Mona .. I was just wondering how much my reading rate would slow down if I attempted to read them :lol: .. my french is so rusty. I wish I had bought more .. hindsight is a wonderful thing .. or very annoying .. one of the two :D   

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

wonder.jpg

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

 

Synopsis: 'My name is August. I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.' Auggie wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things - eating ice cream, playing on his Xbox. He feels ordinary - inside. But ordinary kids don't make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids aren't stared at wherever they go. Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life. Now, for the first time, he's being sent to a real school - and he's dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted - but can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, underneath it all? "Wonder" is a funny, frank, astonishingly moving debut to read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page.


Review: For the most part I really liked this story. It's a great mix of funny, sad and endearing and I liked spending time with Auggie who is just the funniest, honest little boy. The blurb on the back makes comparisons with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and it does have that feel to it. I thought the story was going to be told solely by Auggie and was surprised when the narrator changed (several times) but this worked well because it was important to understand what the other characters in the book were feeling especially with regard to Auggie. Mostly though we're with him .. and his reflections on his life will break your heart. The sad truth of the matter is we do tend to judge a book by it's cover and people's first reaction to seeing Auggie is one of shock (he has a craniofacial abnormality which gives him the look of someone melted by fire.) However they try to cover it up (and most of them don't) he recognises every flinch, double take and horrified look. His new classmates avoid him, they won't even touch him .. and wash themselves immediately if they accidentally make contact. It's an act of sheer bravery on his part to persevere past the first day. As a young child he permanently wore an astronaut's dress up helmet when going out and Halloween is his favourite time of year because he gets to wear a mask and be just like every other child. To know him is to love him though and those few that make the effort are rewarded because he's smart and very funny. His family are lovely and very supportive and protective but Auggie needs to find a way of standing on his own two feet so people can accept him for who he is. It was all going really well but then came the ending .. and boy did I hate it. I always hate films when they have those sort of ticker-tape/standing ovation type endings. I like a happy ending as much as the next person but I hate it if it's overdone and to me it was laid on with a trowel. I felt it was patronising actually and unnecessary, and I was all the more disappointed because up until then it had seemed really honest. It may just be me though .. others might not mind a bit of a sentimental wallow. 3/5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well that's good to know Mona .. I was just wondering how much my reading rate would slow down if I attempted to read them :lol: .. my french is so rusty. I wish I had bought more .. hindsight is a wonderful thing .. or very annoying .. one of the two :D   

 

Just gives you another reason to go back! :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wonder is on my wishlist, I'm glad to hear you liked it! Nice review :).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well that's good to know Mona .. I was just wondering how much my reading rate would slow down if I attempted to read them :lol: .. my french is so rusty. I wish I had bought more .. hindsight is a wonderful thing .. or very annoying .. one of the two :D   

I've only managed one book in French, when I was getting tutored. One of my summer assignments was to read an entire novel...such a struggle! Was very proud at the end...

You should definitely try reading them, it helps the French! And then go back and buy some more books ;) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just gives you another reason to go back! :D

Yes well .. maybe someday .. if only for the books (and the pastries of course :D)

Wonder is on my wishlist, I'm glad to hear you liked it! Nice review :).

Thanks Athena :)

I've only managed one book in French, when I was getting tutored. One of my summer assignments was to read an entire novel...such a struggle! Was very proud at the end...

You should definitely try reading them, it helps the French! And then go back and buy some more books ;)

They say it's the way to learn so maybe I'll give it a go. Hubby has just ordered three more french Nelson books (I think it's three .. it might only be two) .. The Pickwick Papers no less and I have that in English so it would make deciphering it much easier :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

doradamage.jpg

The Journal of Dora Damage by Belinda Starling

 

Synopsis: This work is set in Lambeth, London, in the year 1859. By the time Dora Damage discovers that there is something wrong with her husband, Peter, it is too late. His arthritic hands are crippled, putting his book-binding business into huge debt and his family in danger of entering the poorhouse. Summoning her courage, Dora proves that she is more than just a housewife and mother. Taking to the streets, she resolves to rescue her family at any price - and finds herself illegally binding expensive volumes of pornography commissioned by aristocrats.Then, when a mysterious fugitive slave arrives at her door, Dora realises she's entangled in a web of sex, money, deceit and the law. Now the very family she fought so hard for is under threat from a host of new, more dangerous foes. Belinda Starling's debut novel is a startling vision of Victorian London, juxtaposing its filth and poverty with its affluence. In "Dora Damage" we meet a daring young heroine, struggling in a very modern way against the constraints of the day, and whose resourcefulness and bravery have us rooting for her all the way.


Review: Oh .. goodness me  :blush2:  :blush2:  :blush2: I'm not sure I would have read this book if I had known about the content (though the blurb on the back does hint at it.) It starts normally enough, in fact I thought it started wonderfully .. I love books about Victorian London and it took no time at all for me to become interested in Dora, her lovely daughter Lucinda and the book binding company run by her husband Peter. Business has been dwindling and Peter is no longer able to work due to ill health. Money is tight and Dora has to pawn practically everything she owns to put food on the table. The debts are piling up and the creditors are knocking. Dora believes that, with a little tuition, and the help of their apprentice Jack, she can take on Peter's role in his absence (Peter is adamant that she can't .. it would be humiliating .. women shouldn't be degrading their menfolk by taking on manual labour and all that sort of chauvinistic nonsense which .. to be fair .. was probably standard thinking in 1859.) Eventually and reluctantly he agrees, which is all to the good because Dora finds a new and potentially lucrative client. At first she's asked to bind ladies journals, notebooks and bibles etc .. which she does very prettily .. she has an eye it seems for the unusual and the decorative, but soon she is binding manuscripts that on closer inspection turn out to be more than a little risqué. Dora keeps this from Peter (in fact .. due to his illness he's pretty much incapacitated and dosed up on opium .. and truth be told .. though I don't like to speak ill of the ill :D he's becoming a real pain in the ****) but begins to feel increasingly uneasy about the content .. and so did I because there's no other word to describe it than perverse (though sick and twisted would do as well :D). I didn't know such things existed in the world .. well perhaps I did but was happier blocking it (and Belinda's notes at the end leave you in no doubt that .. though a work of fiction .. much of it is based on truth). It's a mark of how much I was enjoying the story up to that point that I didn't abandon because at times the content was shocking and discomforting .. I hated reading about it but there was no way I could abandon Dora, I had to know her fate. Obviously this new client (or clients .. there's a bunch of these miscreants) is dangerous and by accepting their commissions Dora is now complicit. She soon realises she must disentangle herself .. but how will she be able to do it without putting herself .. and particularly her daughter .. at risk?. 


It's a difficult book to recommend but at least forewarned is forearmed .. my mind's not particularly broad and it was utterly stretched to it's limits at times but the writing was so excellent and Dora's story so wonderfully told that it seems a shame to judge it purely on this one aspect. Make no mistake though .. it's not just pornographic .. it's completely depraved (with regards to the manuscripts). You will know anyhow what you're comfortable with. I wish Belinda had written more, I would love to have read something by her that didn't have such an alarming subject but sadly she died just four days after completing this .. her debut story :( 4/5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm intrigued by this title, sounds like something I would never read - which is why I kind of want to - if that makes sense. Its different to what I normally read, colour me curious.

 

Don't judge me! :blush:

Edited by Devi

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I tempted to add Dora Damage to my wishlist just out of curiosity about the rude bits  :blush2: However i couldn't cope with reading about anything that involved children & you mention her daughter might be at risk so i'm wondering just how depraved it is  :10_confused:  Where would you put it on a scale of 1-10 of depravity ? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm intrigued by this title, sounds like something I would never read - which is why I kind of want to - if that makes sense. Its different to what I normally read, colour me curious.

 

Don't judge me! :blush:

I never would Devi :friends0: 

I tempted to add Dora Damage to my wishlist just out of curiosity about the rude bits  :blush2: However i couldn't cope with reading about anything that involved children & you mention her daughter might be at risk so i'm wondering just how depraved it is  :10_confused:  Where would you put it on a scale of 1-10 of depravity ? 

Lord! now that's a question :D I've got nothing really to compare it to. What I would say is that the depraved content makes up only a small fraction of the book .. there is so much more going on. I had to flick the book this morning to familiarise myself with said content .. I do believe the first time around I read those bits with squinty eyes :blush2:

I'm not sure about children .. there may have been mention but I think it was scant .. mostly it was animals :o self harming for sexual gratification, sexual humiliation, sadism and a fascination for pickled body parts. If the book had been just page after page of depravity I never could have got through it and would score it 10/10 on the perversity scale, but because it is just a small part of the overall story then I'd probably only say 6/10. I'm sure there's far worse out there .. hopefully I'll never read them.

With regards to Lucinda, Dora's daughter .. *warning .. not for the sensitive* 

The threat to her is sexual but of a different nature .. Lucinda suffers from epilepsy and initially Sir Jocelyn (the ringleader of this group of miscreant aristos and a qualified surgeon) gives Dora bromide which helps to control Lucindas fits. She is later informed (when trying to extricate herself from the group) that epilepsy is caused by an excess of sexual energy and that, to be cured, Lucinda must have her clitoris removed. Dora is outraged but also terrified that they will attempt to carry out this procedure.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Poppyshake, it seems an unusual topic for a woman to choose to write about, not sure if i have a strong enough stomach i'm afraid  :smile:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Poppyshake, it seems an unusual topic for a woman to choose to write about, not sure if i have a strong enough stomach i'm afraid  :smile:

Yes quite .. the shame of it is that Dora's own story and all the stuff regarding the binding of the books etc was fascinating and brilliantly told.

This is what Claire had to say about it on the London fiction thread and also Alexander the Great on the same thread. It's definitely a 'proceed with caution' book.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I love the sound of Where'd you go Bernadette. Added to the wish list! (Also talking of forgetting recommendations, lately I've started linking to recommendations in my wish list so I'll definitely know it was you :P:giggle2:)

Edited by ~Andrea~

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

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

Create an account

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

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×