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      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.  
Janet

Janet's Log - Stardate 2014

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...although it didn't do my fear of heights any good! :D

Oh goodness - twitchy feet here I come!  :D

 

I have finished Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw and Winnie-the-Pooh by A A Milne.   Unless I manage to read a book this afternoon (unlikely as Peter has finished work early so we're popping to Wells for coffee and cake!  :giggle: ) that takes my total number of books read up to 57.  Not as many as the last few years but I'm pleased with that total.  I need to do a 'year in review' now.

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I have bought my last book of 2014.

 

2014NewBooks13_zpsb9440a98.jpg

 

I've been meaning to buy this since I read about the Paddington sculptures in London at the start of November.  I thought I'd got my original copy of it but I was unable to locate it (I'm sure I have a Paddington book from my childhood somewhere but it may not have been this one).   I'm looking forward to reading it - I loved the books and also the animated series of it.  :)

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050-2014-December-01-CuttingforStone_zps

 

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

 

The ‘blurb’

Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mother’s death in childbirth and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution.

 

Moving from Addis Ababa to New York City and back again, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles—and two brothers whose fates are forever intertwined. 

 

Another brilliant Book Club book, Cutting for Stone is a colourful, vibrant tale about a pair of twins born in Ethiopia in 1958 and follows their lives through to their adulthood. It is a novel about love, betrayal and forgiveness – a work of fiction which is loosely based on factual events in Ethiopia including the attempted coup against Emperor Haile Selassie by General Mengistu. 

 

Marion and Shiva are conjoined twins whose arrival comes as a surprise to all the staff at the Mission Hospital (known colloquially as Missing) where their mother is a young unmarried nun.  She dies in childbirth and their father, the hospital’s surgeon Thomas Stone, abandons them.  They are brought up at Missing by two physicians – a woman called Hema and a man named Ghosh who become like their mother and father. 

 

Ghosh becomes a surgeon in order to keep Missing running and as the boys grow, Marion, the book’s narrator, takes an interest in medicine and learns his skills from Hema and Ghosh.  Also living at the medical compound are a servant called Rosina and her daughter Genet, and as Marion and Shiva mature, their lives and Genet’s intertwine with potentially disastrous consequences that will send Marion half way across the world to America.

 

I found the book a little slow to get into but once I did I flew through it.  The writing is beautiful and the characters and story are so vivid that it’s another of those books that played out in my head like a film!  The author is a doctor and as such, and due to the setting of the book, there are a lot of very descriptive medical scenes which are told with so much depth that at times I found them difficult to read because I am rather squeamish – but I persevered through them and it was worth it. I really enjoyed it, as did the other book club members.  We had a great discussion about it!

 

I think that anyone who enjoyed this might also enjoy A Fine Balance by Rhointon Mistry, (and vice versa).  Although the stories are different, I think they have the same sort of feel about them.

 

Going completely off-topic, I had no idea until after I’d read this and done some Googling that Haile Selassie lived in Bath during his exile years of 1936–1941!  When he returned to Africa he left his house to the elderly people of Bath.  It has had various uses throughout the years but is still currently used by people.  Next time I’m in that part of Bath, although it’s not an area I often have cause to visit, I am going to see if I can track the house down to photograph it!

 

The print in the edition I’ve linked below is quite small (the book comes in at around 550 pages).  Luckily one of the other Book Club members mentioned this to me so I ordered a second-hand copy on Amazon which was thicker (same width and height) and therefore the print was much easier on the eye – the ISBN for that version is 9780375714368.

 

The paperback edition is 658 pages long and is published by Vintage.  It was first published in 2009.  The ISBN is 9780099443636.  

 

4/5 (Very enjoyable)

 

(Finished 1 December 2014)

 

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051-2014-December-10-AllCreaturesGreatan

 

All Creatures Great and Small by James Heriott

 

The ‘blurb’

Fresh out of Glasgow Veterinary College, to the young James Herriot 1930s Yorkshire seems to offers an idyllic pocket of rural life in a rapidly changing world. But from his erratic new colleagues, brothers Siegfried and Tristan Farnon, to incomprehensible farmers, herds of semi-feral cattle, a pig called Nugent and an overweight Pekingese called Tricki Woo, James find he is on a learning curve as steep as the hills around him. And when he meets Helen, the beautiful daughter of a local farmer, all the training and experience in the world can’t help him…

 

Since they were first published, James Herriot’s memoirs have sold millions of copies and entranced generations of animal lovers. Charming, funny and touching, All Creatures Great and Small is a heart-warming story of determination, love and companionship from one of Britain’s best-loved authors.

 

The TV show about James Heriott and the Farnon brothers was a staple in our house when it was first broadcast on the BBC and I remember the books being on our bookshelves before this, so I was pleased when this was chosen as an alternative choice for North Yorkshire.

 

James Alfred Wright, known as Alf, was born in County Durham and grew up in Glasgow. He qualified as a vet in 1923 and in 1940 moved to a veterinary practice in Thirsk, Yorkshire, where he remained for the rest of his career.

 

This book, which is published under his nom de plume of James Heriott, is made up of stories influenced by the cases and people he dealt with during his working life.  They start from his arrival at Thirsk – called Darroby in the books - and this, the original first two books in one edition, ends with James and his wife Helen returning from their honeymoon.  The book really captures the feeling of Yorkshire and tells of a time when veterinary methods were modernising and treatments and medicines were moving on from Victorian techniques and remedies.  Like in human medicine, things were moving on apace as new drugs were discovered and technology was improving. 

 

They are gentle stories and most are very amusing.  Obviously they feel rather dated as they are set in a bygone era but that just helps to add to the charm of the book in my opinion.  One thing that struck me (which I don’t remember from the TV show, although that’s not to say it wasn’t a feature) was how often the three vets drove after consuming more alcohol than is probably good for one person – this was particularly obvious in the

section where they go to the races and Siegfried bumps into an old acquaintance in the bar!

 

Bizarrely, although I pictured Christopher Timothy, Robert Hardy, Christopher Timothy and Carol Drinkwater (not Lynda Bellingham) when reading, 'my' surgery and Darroby looked nothing like they did in the TV series!

 

Overall the book was very enjoyable.  I particularly liked the stories about Tricki Woo and his very slow courtship of Helen. I’m not sure whether I’ll go on to read the sequels or not – although I enjoyed the book I can imagine that they might be a bit samey?  We’ll see.    :)

 

The paperback edition is 560 pages long and is published by Pan.  It was first published in 1972.  The ISBN is 9781447225997.   I read it on my Kindle.

 

4/5 (Very enjoyable)

 

(Finished 10 December 2014)

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052-2014-December-12-AChristmasCarol_zps

 

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

 

The ‘blurb’

'Bah! Humbug!' Mr Scrooge is a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, miserable old man. Nobody stops him in the street to say a cheery hello; nobody would dare ask him for a favour. And I hope you'd never be so foolish as to wish him a 'Merry Christmas'! Scrooge doesn't believe in Christmas, charity, kindness - or ghosts. But one cold Christmas Eve, Scrooge receives some unusual visitors who show him just how very mistaken he's been... 

 

My favourite thing ever to read in December (well, maybe not ever, but certainly since the first time I read it!).  I also like to watch as many film/TV versions of it as I can too.

 

It’s the perfect Christmas tale of how someone can change if they want to, and how their life will improve beyond imagination if they are just able to follow some very sound advice – delivered in a very unique way.   I will never tire of reading this and Christmas just wouldn’t feel like Christmas without it.  It’s a bit late now as I type this review, but if you are dithering about trying it – if the fact it’s written by Charles Dickens who has a reputation of being wordy is putting you off – please do give it a try in 2015 – I’m sure you won’t regret it.  J

 

This paperback edition is 160 pages long and is published by Vintage.  It was first published in 1843.  The ISBN is 9780099573753.   It is unabridged.

 

5/5 (Wonderful!)

 

(Finished 12 December 2014)

 

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053-2014-December-15-WalkingBackwardstoC

 

Walking Backwards to Christmas by Stephen Cottrell

 

The ‘blurb’

Though the Christmas story is well known, most of us have learnt it from school nativity plays and carols. On the whole, this familiar version is more concerned with light than darkness. The backwards approach taken here allows the movement to be in the opposite direction, enabling us to get under the skin of a complex narrative. We begin by seeing through the eyes of Anna, the prophetess; followed by Rachel, who weeps for her children; King Herod; Casper, a wise men; David, a shepherd; Martha, the (so-named) innkeeper's wife; Joseph; Elizabeth; Mary; Isaiah and, finally, Moses. 

 

I read this as part of a Christmas group read with some friends.  The author, Stephen Cottrell, is the Bishop of Chelmsford (I didn’t know Chelmsford had a Bishop or a cathedral!)

 

As the blurb suggests, most people, even if they have never set foot in a church, are familiar with the nativity.  However this book looks at some of the slightly lesser-known characters in the bible who are connected with the story. 

 

It’s a short book and an easy read.  A lot of it is embellishment, for some of the passages on which the chapters are based make scant reference to the events that take place, but the writing is gorgeous. It was an enjoyable read for a group discussion at Christmas, but I can’t imagine it will appeal to people who aren’t interested in the Christian message of Christmas.

 

The paperback edition is 128 pages long and is published by SPCK Publishing.  It was first published in 2013.  The ISBN is 9780281071470.  

 

4/5 (I enjoyed it)

 

(Finished 15 December 2014)

 

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Great reviews! I'm glad you enjoyed all three books :). I've got All Creatures Great and Small on my TBR. I read A Christmas Carol in December 2013 and liked it.

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054-2014-December-21-NicholasNickleby_zp
 
Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
 
The ‘blurb’
When Nicholas' father dies he, his mother and sister are left penniless. To earn his keep, Nicholas becomes a tutor at Dotheboys Hall but soon discovers that the headmaster, Wackford Squeers, is a one-eyed tyrant who insists on a harsh regime. Nicholas embarks on an adventure that takes him from loathsome boarding schools to the London stage. Dickens confronts issues of neglect and cruelty in this blackly comic masterpiece. 
 
I read this as a group read for the English Counties Challenge for County Durham, that being the setting for Dotheboys Hall in the novel.  I already owned the book but that had 831 pages of tiny print so I read most of it on my Kindle.  I also borrowed the audio book from the library. However I found listening to it didn’t work as my mind kept wandering so I had to go back and listen again so I quickly abandoned that idea.
 
Nicholas Nickleby’s father dies and it falls to his uncle Ralph to provide support for Nicholas, his mother and his sister, Kate.  Ralph finds Nicholas a position at Dotheboys Hall, a boarding school in Yorkshire.  But things are far from happy there and soon Nicholas leaves, taking with him a young man who now was a pupil there but who in latter years worked at the school as a general dogsbody.  The pair head for London with Nicholas determined to make his own way in the world…
 
I was a bit nervous about reading this huge tome and so was glad to be able to read it in partnership with Alex and Claire on the forum.  We read it in instalments – in the same way as the book was originally published in a magazine before being printed as a book, and we discussed the book as we went. 
 
Despite my fears, and to my immense surprise, it turned out to be a relatively easy read.  The plot cracks on apace and at the end of each part I was left wanting to know what would happen next to Nicholas and the other characters.  I do find that as I get older I struggle to remember what I’ve read (I don’t think this is a problem – it only seems to happen with books, not with everyday stuff so I’m not worrying about my memory just yet!) so from chapter 21 to the end (there are 65 chapters in total) I wrote a brief summary of the action which I think helped me to soak up all that goes on in the novel.  My only slight criticism of it is that in terms of this challenge it didn’t really give much insight into County Durham – the school is actually in Yorkshire, but in a part which is now in County Durham – and I also felt that some of it was a bit… well, a bit of a filler maybe, specifically the parts set in Portsmouth.  That’s a bit of a harsh criticism really though as it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book in any way.
 
The characterisation is, as you would expect from Dickens, absolutely great.  All manor of different types of people feature in the book – from Ralph, a bitter man for whom money is his driving force to Newman Noggs who had Nicholas’s interests at heart from the moment he knew of Ralph’s involvement in that branch of the family’s lives. There was tragedy within the pages but also a lot more comedy than I was expecting. 
 
Mrs Nickleby was one character who provided comic relief – she was also rather selfish at times I thought. 

I was amused by her suitor – the man next door who wooed her by throwing cucumbers over the wall to her! 


 
Aside from Nicholas, Newman Noggs was possibly my favourite character.  I loved the way he looked out for Nicholas right from the start and Nicholas always had him to turn to.  He was a real hero throughout the novel but there were also plenty of villains and lowlifes – most of whom were associates of Ralph’s!   
 
Even if one hasn’t read Dickens before (I’ve only read two others) it is well known that he was a great campaigner for social reform.  He loathed institutions like Dotheboys Hall and workhouses – Dickens’ father, mother and a younger sibling had a spell in a debtors’ prison when his father got into financial difficulties, and Charles was forced to find work at the age of 12 – and the publication of Nicholas Nickleby ultimately lead to the closure of ‘northern’ schools the like of which Dotheboys Hall was based upon.  If you’re interested you can read more here.
 
As I said above, I’ve only read two other Dickens novels - Oliver Twist (which was published before this book) and A Christmas Carol (which was published after) but I did think there were a lot of echoes of both of those novels in this one.  :)
 
The ending of the novel was rather predictable and almost twee – but it didn’t detract from the fantastic story and I think it was the right ending. 

I must confess that I actually shed a tear when Smike died.   I hadn’t worked out that he was Ralph’s son so that came as a complete surprise to me.  I did almost feel pity for Ralph at the end, but he made no effort to redeem himself and so his death was fitting.   


 
Reading Nicholas Nickleby has made me more determined than ever to read more of Dickens’ novels.  I haven’t watched any adaptations on TV apart from Great Expectations – the version with Gillian Anderson which was broadcast on the BBC a few years ago – so I am in for some wonderful new stories when I eventually get round to them!  I believe he wrote 15 full-length novels (not including A Christmas Carol so I have 13 left.  At the rate of one book a year I’ll be 61 by the time I’ve read them all!  :giggle2:
 
Nicholas Nickleby was an excellent read, and I’d like to thank Alex and Claire for reading along with me.  :)
 
The paperback edition is 831 pages long and is published by Vintage.  It was first published in 1838-9.  The ISBN is 9780099540793.   I read it on my Kindle.
 
5/5 (I loved it!)
 
(Finished 21 December 2014)

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I'm glad you enjoyed this massive read! Great review :). I didn't get on with Dickens so much in Christmas Books, really liking A Christmas Carol but not really liking the other four stories. I do however have some of his books on the TBR, which I might get to at some point (I'm thinking Oliver Twist might be the next one), though I'm not in a rush at the moment.

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Thanks, Gaia.  Oliver Twist is a great book so I hope you get on with it - and enjoy it - when you eventually read it. :)

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Thanks, Gaia.  Oliver Twist is a great book so I hope you get on with it - and enjoy it - when you eventually read it. :)

Thanks, Janet :).

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055-2014-December-27-FrostHollowHall_zps

 

Frost Hollow Hall by Emma Carroll

 

The ‘blurb’

The gates to Frost Hollow Hall loomed before us.  And they were very definitely shut.

 

Winter, 1881

 

In the middle of a frozen lake a girl is skating.  She’s not supposed to be here.  No one is.  Not since Kit Barrington drowned at Frost Hollow Hall ten years ago.  But the dead don’t scare Tilly Higgins.

 

The ice is thin.  It cracks.  Suddenly she’s under the water, drowning.  Near death, a strange spirit appears to her, a boy so beautiful Tilly’s sure he’s an angel.  But he’s a ghost.  A very troubled ghost.  And he desperately needs her help…

 

Matilda, known as Tilly, lives with her mother and her sister Eliza in a small run-down cottage. Her father is working away and Tilly is eagerly awaiting his return home.  When the local butcher’s son, Will, knocks on her door one day holding a pair of skates, Tilly is reluctant to go out with him, but when he dares her to skate on the pond that some ten years ago had claimed the life of the local Squire’s son, Kit, Tilly agrees to go along, for Tilly never turns down a dare.  An accident on the pond results in Tilly nearly losing her life before being mysteriously rescued by a ghost and Tilly quickly realises that it needs her help, so she and Will hatch a plan to enable her to gain access to the Hall where with a bit of luck she may be able to lay the ghosts of the past to rest…

 

This book was my choice for Book Club and will be discussed in January. I chose something short because our December read can often feel like a trial to some of our members I wanted something either Christmassy or wintery and this one fit the bill – and on a purely shallow basis how gorgeous is that cover?! 

 

It’s a lovely book and an easy read – it’s aimed ages between about eight and eleven – there is just enough spookiness to make it feel edgy but it’s not really scary, so hopefully our member who is a self-proclaimed ‘wuss’ will have enjoyed it – I know I did!  My only slight criticism of it is – and this is the reason it drops a mark - is that I found the overuse of terms such as “for flip’s sake a bit wearing – and I’m pretty certain the word gobsmacked didn’t exist in 1881!  It sort of made it feel less authentic really.  Nevertheless it was a great read and a fantastic debut and I’m definitely going to read her next book, The Girl Who Walked on Air.

 

The paperback edition is 359 pages long and is published by Faber.  It was first published in 2013.  The ISBN is 9780571295449.  

 

4/5 (Very enjoyable)

 

(Finished 27 December 2014)

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056-2014-December-30-Pygmalion_zps31b788

 

Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

 

The ‘blurb’

"Pygmalion" is considered to be one of George Bernard Shaw's greatest works. It is the story of how the arrogant phonetics professor Henry Higgins teaches the lowly flower girl Eliza Doolittle to lose her cockney accent and speak like a lady. "Pygmalion" is a witty comedic play that examines the artificiality of social class distinctions and shows that it takes more than just talking like a lady to become one.

 

I love the film My Fair Lady which is based on this play by George Bernard Shaw and I’ve had this on my Kindle for a long time. I was looking for something short and easy with it being Christmas (and us being away for a few days) so this seemed to fit the bill.

 

I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I’ve read a few Shakespeare plays, but plays are, of course, written to be watched and not read.  And when I got to the following text…

 

THE FLOWER GIRL: 

Ow, eez ye-ooa san, is e?  Wal, fewd dan y’ de-ooty bawmz a mather

Should, eed now bettern to spawl a pore gel’s flahrzn than ran awy atbaht pyin.  Will ye-oo

Py me f’them?

 

…my heart sank, because it took me a few minutes to process what she was saying, and that was with benefit of knowing her words from the film, so I was mightily pleased when Shaw added a bracketed note saying Here, with apologies, this desperate attempt to represent her dialect without a phonetic alphabet must be abandoned as unintelligible outside London. Thank goodness, or I’d have had to have abandoned it!

 

When performed on stage, directors often changed the ending from Shaw’s (which differs from that of Lerner and Loewe’s film).

 

Eliza returns to Henry at the end of the film and it is implied that they become a couple.  In the play this does not happen.

 

It seems that when the play was shown just after its publication a number of directors also disagreed with Shaw’s rather abrupt ending and wanted to make it a love story between Henry and Eliza.  This annoyed Shaw to the extent that he published a postscript in 1916 explaining why Henry and Eliza didn’t end up together – and never would have – going on to say that Eliza “will, if she marries either of them, marry Freddy.  And that is just what Eliza did.

 

The play starts off exactly like the film but as it progresses there are some differences.  The scenes in Higgins’ study where he and the colonel teach Eliza to speak do not appear in the play so we do not learn their coaching methods.  Differences aside, and going back to the play, I really enjoyed reading it.  It’s such a great story.   :) I don’t really know much about Shaw – I will have to Google him!

 

The paperback edition is 160 pages long and is published by Penguin.  It was first published in 1912.  The ISBN is 9780140450224.  

 

4/5 (Very enjoyable)

 

(Finished 30 December 2014)

 

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I didn't read any wintry / Christmas books this time around. I will have to get my act together a bit better for Christmas 2015.   :smile:

Edited by Chrissy

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057-2014-December-31-Winnie-the-Pooh_zps

 

Winnie-the-Pooh by A A Milne

 

The ‘blurb’

Winnie-the-Pooh may be a bear of very little brain, but thanks to his friends Piglet, Eeyore and, of course, Christopher Robin, he’s never far from an adventure. In this story Pooh gets into a tight place, nearly catches a Woozle and heads off on an ‘expotition’ to the North Pole with the other animals.

 

In this stunning edition of Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne’s world-famous story is once again brought to life by E.H. Shepard’s illustrations. Heart-warming and funny, Milne’s masterpiece reflects the power of a child’s imagination like no other story before or since. This charming edition is the ideal gift book for children of 5 to 55.

 

My last book of the year was a revisit to a very old friend - Winnie-the-Pooh, which I read as part of the Counties Challenge.

 

Winnie-the-Pooh lives in the Hundred Acre Wood with his friends Piglet, Rabbit, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, Owl and of course Christopher Robin.  Together they get up to all sorts of adventures.  This is the perfect book for reading to children – as an adult I appreciate even more the different personality traits of the characters and some of the humour that bypassed me as a child.  This book is still utterly charming – even 89 years after it was first published.  It is also beautifully illustrated by E Shepard.  Perfect.

 

The paperback edition is 146 pages long and is published by Egmont.  It was first published in 1926.  The ISBN is 9781405211161.  

 

5/5 (A childhood favourite)

 

(Finished 31 December 2014)

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I've never read this book before, but I believe I may have seen it at the library. I would like to read it some day. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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Winnie-the-Pooh is simply marvellous, isn't it? :D I think I read WtP when I was a child, but I don't remember anything of it, so when I read it a couple of years ago, it all seemed brand new to me. I utterly adored it and will re-read it many times, I'm sure. :)

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