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      Summer Supporter Giveaway   08/31/2020

      Going on a Summer Holiday (Sort Of...)     The summer giveaway for Patreon supporters is finally here and this time we're doing something a little bit different. I want supporters to tell me where you would go on holiday, if you could go anywhere. The winner will receive a bookish prize based on their answer!   Terms and conditions are as usual. Patreon supporters will be automatically entered into the giveaway and selected at random. As we're a little late this year the draw will be held on the second weekend of September. If you aren't currently a supporter but want to be involved in the giveaway you can sign up to support us here:   https://www.patreon.com/bookclubforum  
Janet

Janet's Log - Stardate 2014

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That's not science fiction, that's your Mr Blobby books :P  :D

:rolol:  Oh, so that's where I'm going wrong! 

 

The Radleys sounds interesting. Matt Haig sounds familiar, so I looked him up on Amazon, and I have The Humans on my wishlist.

Someone on FB recommended The Humans, but I haven't actually looked at it.  I will go and check it out now.  :)

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037-2014-July-09-DrawnfromMemory_zpsd051

 

Drawn from Memory by Ernest H Shepard

 

The ‘blurb’

Childhood memories of the artist who added another dimension of magic to such famous books as The Wind in the Willows and Winnie the Pooh. Ernest Shepard was brought up in the eighties.  Here, in words and drawings, he uncannily recalls a horse-drawn London where a penny was wealth and the fire at Whiteley’s the event of the year.

 

A kindlier, less austere view of Victorian England emerges from these recollections of the Jubilee, of bathing at Eastbourne and hop-picking in Kent, of the Drury Lane Pantomime and aunts and illnesses, of hansom cabs and pea-soup fogs.  It was a world where the spirit of Dickens still walked.

 

A A Milne’s wonderful books featuring Winnie the Pooh and also the poetry collections When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six were some of my favourite books when I was a child.  They are beautifully illustrated by Ernest H Shepard who found Winnie the Pooh to be both a blessing and a curse as he felt the books overshadowed his other work.   I came across this little book in the Bookbarn a couple of months ago so thought I’d give it a go.

 

It covers Shepard’s life at ages seven and eight in the last decade of the twentieth century when he lived with his parents and siblings Ethel and Cyril in the St John’s Wood area of London.  Shepard’s family were very comfortably off and his life during this period was pretty idyllic.  His Grandmother was a singer and moved in social circles that included famous people such as Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan fame) and Shepard recollects with fondness his Grandma telling him that she thought that Sullivan was “sweet on your Mamma.

 

Shepard was from an artistic family so it was no surprise that he followed that career path.  He showed a wonderful aptitude for drawing from a very young age, and his illustrations (along with those of Edward Ardizzone*) are some of my favourite from children’s books.  This book is illustrated with black and white drawings on nearly every page – some from when the author was a little boy.  The book is a charming recollection of an upper-middle class life in London and I really enjoyed it.  There is a second biography called Drawn from Life covering the period of his life from his school days to his marriage which I shall look out for. 

 

The paperback edition is 175 pages long and is published by Penguin.  It was first published in 1957.  The ISBN is 9780413753007 but the book is currently out of print.   

 

4/5 (I really enjoyed it)

 

(Finished 9 July 2014)

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I started The Humans, but couldn't get into it - but that may have been my frame of mind. I keep looking at The Radleys, and I have a signed copy of The Echo Boy to get to. :)

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038-2014-July-17-TheBeacon_zpsc1e107b0.j

 

The Beacon by Susan Hill

 

The ‘blurb’

Colin. May. Frank. Berenice. The Prime children grew up in a bleak country farm house called The Beacon. Colin and Berenice married locally. May went to university in London, but came home within a year and never left again. Only Frank, quiet, watchful Frank, got away. He left for Fleet Street and a career in journalism but it’s the publication of a book about his childhood that brings the fame and money he craves - and tears his family apart.

 

This was another audio book that I picked up from the library to listen to whilst walking.  I chose it because I enjoyed A Kind Man  by the same author, and this had the same narrator, Maggie Ollerenshaw, whose narration really suits this style of Susan Hill book.

 

This tells the tale of four siblings who grew up on a remote country farm somewhere in the north of the country.   Three of the siblings escape their isolated home – two by getting married and the third by leaving to move to London in order to obtain a job as a journalist.  May is left behind and after a failed attempt at university she resigns herself to a life on the farm looking after her ageing parents.  Frank loses touch with his family… that is until his memoirs are published, revealing facts that will divide opinions within the family and their community.

 

I have enjoyed many of Susan Hill’s books.  She writes beautifully and her characterisations are good.  Despite the fact that the period it is set in is not mentioned it evokes a feeling of post-World War Two – for example, it is suggested that May wear a hat and white gloves to make an impression at her university interview, which I suppose backs up this theory, along with the fact that mental health issues seem to be hushed up… something to be embarrassed by and definitely not in the spirit of the British ‘stiff upper lip’.

 

However, unlike A Kind Man which has a similar feel to it, this book felt rather unsatisfactory.  There were glimpses of interest.  May’s brief spell at university, for example, was intriguing, but it didn’t seem to me to have been explored fully, although that could have been intentional to tie in with the end section of this novella.  Overall it felt as though the book took a long time to get going and then didn’t really go anywhere and the ending, when it came, was rather ambiguous, leaving the reader to draw their own conclusions.   Generally I don’t mind this type of ending at all, but in this case it all felt rather unsatisfactory.  Still, it whiled away a few pleasant hours walking so it wasn’t all bad!

 

The paperback edition is 160 pages long and is published by Vintage.  It was first published in 2008.  The ISBN is 9780099526957.   

 

3/5 (It was okay)

 

(Finished 17 July 2014)

 

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I bought that one for Amy, and yes, I was tempted too!

I think you should try it - then you can let me know if it's worth acquiring!  :D  :P

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039-2014-July-22-InstructionsforaHeatwav

 

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell

 

The ‘blurb’

It's July 1976. In London, it hasn't rained for months, gardens are filled with aphids, water comes from a standpipe, and Robert Riordan tells his wife Gretta that he's going round the corner to buy a newspaper. He doesn't come back.

 

The search for Robert brings Gretta's children - two estranged sisters and a brother on the brink of divorce - back home, each with different ideas as to where their father might have gone. None of them suspects that their mother might have an explanation that even now she cannot share.

 

I have enjoyed two of this author’s previous works, especially  The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, which I thought was great.  That, coupled with the fact that this book is set in the long, hot summer of 1976, which I remember with fondness (being only 10 at the time and therefore not concerned with, drought, forest/heath fires, failing crops with food price rises as a result) meant I was eagerly looking forward to reading it.

 

Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy it as much as I was hoping.  The heat wave didn’t really feature in the story – it could have been set any time period in the twentieth century.  I suppose it being set in the 1970s made it slightly more plausible that

nobody picked up on the fact that Aoife couldn’t read.   There is so much more emphasis on literacy in schools these days that this situation would have been less believable if the book was set in the 1990s for example. 

 

Part of the trouble is that I didn’t find any of the characters in the book particularly likeable.   I don’t mind characters being unlikeable – in fact, they quite often add a lot to a book, but none of them really seemed to have any redeeming qualities which made it difficult for me to care what had made Robert disappear or whether he would come back.  

 

I gave it a 3/5 when I initially finished it, but I’m not really sure why.  It’s been about a month since I finished it and the details have faded so I can’t really remember what it did that made it a 3 and not a 2.  I do feel bad about that – I really wanted to like it, but it just didn’t do it for me.  :(

 

The paperback edition is 324 pages long and is published by Tinder Press.  It was first published in 2013.  The ISBN is 9780755358793.   

 

3/5 (It was okay)

 

(Finished 22 July 2014)

 

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I'm sorry to hear you didn't enjoy this book as much as you'd hoped. It's odd sometimes, we really enjoy one or two books by a particular authors but can be quite disappointed by another book by them. Great review, though :). I have The Distance Between Us by the author on my TBR.

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040-2014-July-32-WhentheGreenWoodsLaugh_

 

When the Green Woods Laugh by H E Bates

 

The ‘blurb’

'There!' Pop said. 'There's the house. There's Gore Court for you. What about that, eh? How's that strike you? Better than St Paul's, ain't it, better than St Paul's?'

 

And so Pop Larkin - junk-dealer, family man and Dragon's Blood connoisseur - manages to sell the nearby crumbling, tumbling country home to city dwellers Mr and Mrs Jerebohm for a pretty bundle of notes. Now he can build his daughter Mariette the pool she's long been nagging him for.

 

But the Larkin's new neighbours aren't quite so accepting of country ways - especially Pop's little eccentricities. In fact, it's not long before a wobbly boat, a misplaced pair of hands and Mrs Jerebohm's behind have Pop up before a magistrate.

 

This is the third instalment in the ‘Pop Larkin’ chronicles which started with The Darling Buds of May.   Pop is still the same old larger-than-life character who enjoys (with Ma’s blessing, of course) a bit of flirtation with the local ladies who flock round him like the proverbial bees round a honey pot.   It’s an easy read but, as might be expected, it is very similar to the first two books. 

 

This time, however, there is a rather darker side to it when Pop takes his flirting with Mrs Jerebohm a bit too far and finds himself in court.  Of course, Pop being Pop decides to represent himself which has the potential to backfire on him…

 

As alluded to above, Pop is accused of indecent assault.   Pop and the other ‘regular’ characters don’t take the situation seriously though.  I have mixed feelings about this part of the book.  Whilst Pop’s behaviour is acceptable in the books and is just part of his character and is written to be amusing rather than sinister, and although it appears that Mrs Jerebohm is overreacting, I think the flippant way it is written is rather “of its time”.   Disturbing to the modern reader is the line by “if you’re going to be raped you might as well relax and enjoy it while you can” spoken by one of the female characters, Pop and Ma’s friend Angela Snow.  I know it’s because it was published in the 60s but it did shock me and leave a feeling of distaste in my mouth and somewhat tarnished my enjoyment of it.  

 

The first book in the series was great, but the following ones haven’t quite lived up to it and I’d go as far as to say that with this particular episode it’s definitely a case of the TV series being better than the book – and that’s not something I’d often admit!

 

The paperback edition is 224 pages long and is published by Vintage.  It was first published in 1960.  The ISBN is 9780099555445.   

 

2½ /5 (did not live up to expectations)

 

(Finished 31 July 2014)

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I'm sorry to hear you didn't enjoy this book as much as you'd hoped. It's odd sometimes, we really enjoy one or two books by a particular authors but can be quite disappointed by another book by them. Great review, though :). I have The Distance Between Us by the author on my TBR.

Thanks, Gaia.  :)   I suppose once someone has written a few novels then there is statistically bound to be one that one is not so keen on, even if the others have been great. 

 

It certainly won't put me off reading more by her.  :)

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I think I enjoyed Instructions for a Heatwave more than you did, but I can't remember the details. I recall thinking the ending was a bit wishy-washy, but that's about all I remember. :hide:

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It faded for me too!  I think I set my expectations too high because of when it was set.  I thought it might resonate with me but it really had nothing to do with my life in 1976 so I didn't relate to it in the way I thought I might... if that makes sense!  :giggle:

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041-2014-August-11-TheMarryingofChaniKau

 

The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris

 

The ‘blurb’

19 year-old Chani lives in the ultra-orthodox Jewish community of North West London. She has never had physical contact with a man, but is bound to marry a stranger. The rabbi's wife teaches her what it means to be a Jewish wife, but Rivka has her own questions to answer. Soon buried secrets, fear and sexual desire bubble to the surface in a story of liberation and choice; not to mention what happens on the wedding night...

 

A friend recommended this to me at Book Club and a few days later it popped up as a 99p ‘Deal of the Day’ on Kindle so I thought I’d take a punt. 

 

Firstly I will start by saying that at no time do I mean any offence with my thoughts about this book.  I know that religion is a very emotive, personal subject, and it is difficult to review this book because I do not know a great deal about Judaism (although I would absolutely love to visit a Synagogue), and especially not the specific Haredi Jews which I believe are meant to be portrayed by the characters in this book.  

 

I have read lots of comments from Orthodox Jews since finishing it who are disappointed by the way the have been represented by Eve Harris.  She is of Jewish descent but is not a practising Jew herself.  She apparently worked for a year in a school for Jewish girls and wrote the novel after that - so the criticism from some quarters that it is not at all realistic is probably justified because you really can’t learn about an entire culture in twelve months. 

 

The Times of Israel’s correspondent Miriam Shaviv says this about the novel: “After teaching in a UK haredi girls school, secular Jewish author Eve Harris writes a sympathetic 400-page novel about that world’s biggest problems”, and the Jewish Book Council’s website do not slate it, but merely label it as a “novel written by, and for, outsiders.

 

There is no doubt that this novel has divided opinions.

 

Anyway, to the story. 

 

20-year-old Baruch Levy spies Chani Kaufman, who is a year younger, in the Synagogue they both attend and he manages to engineer a meeting with her.   Chani’s family are under pressure to find a husband for her and so they agree to the meeting.  Baruch’s parents, and particularly his mother, are not so sure about the match.  The book mainly follows the young couple’s journey through courtship to marriage – a journey which isn’t always easy as various cultural obstacles are placed in their way.  Chani, who is rather naïve about what will happen on her wedding night, receives instruction from Rivka, who is a Rebbetzin – a Rabbi’s wife.  

 

The story also follows Rivka.  She was a secular Jew who met her husband whilst they were studying abroad.  As he becomes more Orthodox she must make the decision whether to marry him and conform to the expected standards of a Rabbi’s wife, or to go her own way and live a life with more freedom.  She chooses marriage, but it is a path that she doesn’t find easy.

 

As a story I really enjoyed it.  There were a few negative points for me.   For one, there are literally dozens and dozens of Jewish terms used throughout the book.  Some were obvious by the context of what else was happening but the vast majority of them I didn’t understand.  There is a glossary but it’s at the back of the book and being on Kindle I didn’t discover it until I’d finished the story!  I think having definitions at the bottom of each page can be a bit messy, so I can understand why the glossary is at the back (and in the book too) but it’s difficult to read something when you keep having to flip to the back of a book.

 

I also don’t think it portrays the people of this religion in a particularly good light, or even very accurately.  However I do believe that most readers will be sufficiently intelligent to work out that they are “caricatures”, designed to exhibit stereotypes rather than be an accurate reflection of the people of this faith.

 

I am a bit surprised that this was nominated for a Booker prize as it doesn’t seem to have enough depth for that.  I can only think it’s because of the parts of the story that deal with Rivka and her husband Chaim.  

 

However, despite the few niggles I had with it I thought it was a really good story and I would definitely like to read more fiction about Judaism. 

 

The paperback edition is 350 pages long and is published by Sandstone Press Limited.  It was first published in 2013.  The ISBN is 978 1908737434.   

 

4/5 (I really enjoyed it)

 

(Finished 11 August 2014)

 

 

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I think I enjoyed Instructions for a Heatwave more than you did, but I can't remember the details. I recall thinking the ending was a bit wishy-washy, but that's about all I remember. :hide:

Same!

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042-2014-August-18-Longbourn_zpscf5a20d8

 

Longbourn by Jo Baker

 

The ‘blurb’

If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah thought, she would be more careful not to trudge through muddy fields.

 

It is wash-day for the housemaids at Longbourn House, and Sarah's hands are chapped and raw. Domestic life below stairs, ruled with a tender heart and an iron will by Mrs Hill the housekeeper, is about to be disturbed by the arrival of a new footman, bearing secrets and the scent of the sea.

 

I think this is the first ‘sequel-written-by-a-different-author’ that I’ve ever read, so I started with a bit of trepidation, especially as I really love Pride and Prejudice upon which it is based.   I have to say it was a letdown -

 

What I really hated was what the author did to Mr Bennet!  I know he wasn’t the perfect father, but I really didn’t believe the whole ‘love-child-with-Mrs-Hill’ storyline.  Even if, and it’s a big if, Mr Bennet did father a child with Mrs Hill I think it is a huge stretch of the imagination that she would have stayed working for him.  In reality she’d probably have been sent away to have the baby (as indeed happened in the book and then packed off with a reference to work somewhere else.   

 

I didn’t hate it.  I enjoyed the part where it flashed back to 1808 when one of the characters went off to sea.  I also liked the below stairs characters and their interaction with each other.  However I'd have much preferred it if it had been a stand-alone novel, rather than one backing off the huge popularity of P&P.   If it had been called Fennymore, or The Larches or Cragmore House… i.e not anything to do with Pride and Prejudice then I think the story would still have worked, although maybe it would have been harder to get it picked up by a publisher without the link to something so popular?

 

The paperback edition is 443 pages long and is published by Black Swan.  It was first published in 2013.  The ISBN is 9780552779517.   

 

2/5 (Disappointing)

 

(Finished 18 August 2014)

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My latest acquisitions:

 

2014NewBooks12_zps494ef251.jpg

 

2014NewBooks11_zps65cc662c.jpg

 

This is the last of the five books in the series.  I've been collecting the Beryl Cook covers and I found this in Oxfam in Bath whilst I was waiting for my daughter to enrol at college.  :)

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I'm not sure why but I can't get your photos to show up. It could be my internet or something though :shrug:.

 

I hope you enjoy the books, anyway :)!

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Hmmm, that's odd.

 

One is The Young Ardizzone by the illustrator Edward Ardizzone (he illustrated books including 100s of children's books) and the second is A Little of What You Fancy by H E Bates. :)

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043-2014-August-20-OhTobeinEngland_zpsde

 

Oh! To Be in England by H E Bates

 

The ‘blurb’

Here’s Pop clinching a deal for two suits of armour, a butter churn, three Regency chamber pots (with pink roses on them) and a load of other junk; and here are all the younger Larkins being taken into the bosom of the church at a mass baptism (with marquee and private fairground); and here’s the Rev. Candy locking a half-nelson on an unwelcome visitor.

 

When Mariette and Charlie decide to get their son Christened the vicar, Rev’d Candy, calls at the house to discuss arrangements and is stunned to discover than none of Ma and Pa’s children have been baptized themselves.  Soon arrangements are in hand for all of the children to get ‘done’ at the same time.    As arrangements for the party start to come together, Pop buys a funfair, but not before there is a nasty altercation with “two youths in winkle pickers”.   With Primrose mooning after Rev’d Candy and the threat of a disturbance on the horizon, will the Christening go off without a hitch?

 

This is the penultimate book in the Larkin Chronicles.  It’s a pleasant read, but none of them have come close to the first in the series, which was Kent’s book for the Counties Challenge.  It is fair to say that they are all, predictably, rather dated now but I will read the last one just to finish the set – they’re certainly an easy read so it won’t take too much time! 

 

The paperback edition is 143 pages long and is published by Penguin.  It was first published in 1963.  The ISBN is 9780141029665.

 

3/5 (It was okay)

 

(Finished 20 August 2014)

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Interesting to read your review of Longbourn, Janet.  It's one I keep going back and forth on whether I want to read it.  I read a glowing review, and I think I will definitely read it, then I read one that is not so complimentary and I think maybe I won't bother!  In the end, I guess I need to read it and make up my own mind, but it's probably not top of my list at the moment. :dunno:

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Sorry, Claire, I missed your post above. It's difficult when a book has so many mixed reviews. You're right that sometimes you just have to decide for yourself. I hope you do enjoy it. Are you still doing your Austen challenge? :)

 

I can't believe it's been over a month since I posted in here!

 

I met the lovely Alexi last night. We've been chatting online for a long time (maybe 8 years?) so it was lovely to finally meet. For me the time just whizzed by and I found her so easy to chat to. We didn't have any awkward pauses in conversation. We did discuss books and reading... a little! :giggle:

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I have said it elsewhere but I thought I would add it was lovely to meet Janet last night. Time flew by and I'm afraid I forced us both into very late dinners because we were nattering! :D

 

It was brilliant to chat face to face after so long chatting online. It was really easy too, we had lots to say which was great and I was also privileged to meet Janet's husband who was also lovely! Had such a nice evening.

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Sorry, Claire, I missed your post above. It's difficult when a book has so many mixed reviews. You're right that sometimes you just have to decide for yourself. I hope you do enjoy it. Are you still doing your Austen challenge? :)

I am still doing my challenge, although I haven't done much on it recently. It's still on my radar, and a few of the books have recently become available on Kindle, so perhaps once I've got my TBR under control, I'll get back to it again. :)

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