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Janet's Log - Stardate 2016


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As ever, I'm behind with my reviews!   I finished book #71 yesterday and the last review I wrote is #61.  I keep opening the next document and then doing nothing with it! 


I've just started Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg which I chose for book club. 


I've just added a book called Estuary by Rachel Lichtenstein to my wish list. 


The Thames Estuary is one of the world's great deltas, providing passage in and out of London for millennia. It is silted up with the memories and artefacts of past voyages. It is the habitat for an astonishing range of wildlife. And for the people who live and work on the estuary, it is a way of life unlike any other - one most would not trade for anything, despites its dangers.

Rachel Lichtenstein has travelled the length and breadth of the estuary many times and in many vessels, from hardy tug boats to stately pleasure cruisers to an inflatable dinghy. And during these crossing she has gathered an extraordinary chorus of voices: mudlarkers and fishermen, radio pirates and champion racers, the men who risk their lives out on the water and the women who wait on the shore.


From the acclaimed author of Brick Lane and Rodinsky's Room, Estuary is a thoughtful and intimate portrait of a profoundly British place. With a clear eye and a sharp ear, Rachel Lichtenstein captures the essence of a community and an environment, examining how each has shaped and continues to shape the other.


Roland Butter who used to post on here mentioned it on Facebook, and as I spent a lot of time playing on the Higham Marshes (part of the Thames Estuary) as a child it sounds like my sort of thing.  I'm waiting for the paperback though. 

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Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe sounds like an interesting title! I hope the book is good.


I'm waiting for the paperback though.

That's nice to hear, now I feel less alone in waiting for paperbacks :friends0:. I hope you enjoy the book when you get it :).

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The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

The ‘blurb’
England,1976. Mrs Creasy is missing and The Avenue is alive with whispers. As the summer shimmers endlessly on, ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly decide to take matters into their own hands. And as the cul-de-sac starts giving up its secrets, the amateur detectives will find much more than they imagined...

Mrs Creasy has gone missing. Nobody knows why and nobody knows where she is… or even if she is still alive. 10-year-old Grace and her best friend Tilly watch the people of the Close and Grace decides that they must start their own investigation, so they set out to question all the residents. They soon discover that the secret of what has happened to Mrs Creasy isn’t the only secret in the Close…

The action which is driven by the two girls not only happens in various locations in the close but also slips back to the year 1967 – did something happen then which has had a bearing on the disappearance…?

I listened to this, Joanna Cannon’s debut novel, on audio book. It was narrated by Paula Wilcox who did a good job – I’d listen to her again. I liked Grace and Tilly, although sometimes I did feel that some of their dialogue was a bit too grown-up. However, I enjoyed the story and the way it unfolded. This is the second book that I read in August to be set in 1976. That’s a coincidence but it’s a summer I remember well as I was 10 and it’s the summer of the famous English drought and I have happy memories of playing out with my friends and not really understanding why the adults were complaining! Happy days. Maybe that added to my enjoyment of the book? Either way, I will definitely be looking forward to seeing what else Joanna Cannon does!

Although I listened to this on audio book, I do love the hardback - it has a great cover! :D

The hardback edition is 464 pages long and is published by The Borough Press. It was first published in 2015. The ISBN is 9780008132163. I listened to the audio book.

4/5 (I really enjoyed it!)

(Finished 27 August 2016)

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The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin

The ‘blurb’
To the dismay of her ambitious mother, Bolanle marries into a polygamous family, where she is the fourth wife of a rich, rotund patriarch, Baba Segi. She is a graduate and therefore a great prize, but even graduates must produce children and her husband's persistent bellyache is a sign that things are not as they should be. Bolanle is too educated for the 'white garment conmen' Baba Segi would usually go to for fertility advice, so he takes her to hospital to discover the cause of her barrenness.

Weaving the voices of Baba Segi and his four competing wives into a portrait of a clamorous household of twelve, Lola Shoneyin evokes an extraordinary Nigerian family in splashes of vibrant colour.

Despite being educated and her parents hoping she’ll have a career, Bolanle chooses to marry Baba Segi and become wife number four in his family. The other wives are jealous of her and her life is pretty miserable. When she fails to fall pregnant, Baba Segi takes her to a doctor to find out what’s wrong with her. Meanwhile, the other wives come up with a plot to drive Bolanle out… but things don’t go as plan and instead set off a disastrous chain of events that will have repercussions for the entire family…

This book was chosen for my Book Club and was also another tick in the box of my Very-Long-Term World Challenge (neglected at the moment, in favour of the English Counties Challenge!). I enjoyed the story - I didn’t warm to Baba Segi at all, nor did I have great sympathy for the first three wives, but I did like the way Bolanle was strong and dignified in the face of some terrible treatment.

The author had some experience of the subject matter as her Grandmother was happily married until her Grandfather, suddenly and by circumstances beyond his control, became ruler of Iperu (a region of Nigeria) and bowed to pressure to take more wives as a status symbol. What started out as a happy marriage for Shoneyin’s grandmother Jolade deteriorated as a result. Polygamy is still a way of life for many families in the country.

This is Shoneyin’s only novel (so far), but she has written some poetry and short stories. I’m not sure I’d read more by her, but as a book club book it made for some great discussion.

The paperback edition is 256 pages long and is published by Serpent's Tail. It was first published in 2010. The ISBN is 9781846687495.

3/5 (I liked it)

(Finished 1 September 2016)


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I can't upload the cover at the moment as Photobucket is having a hissy fit!


Another World by Pat Barker

The ‘blurb’
At 101 years old, Geordie, a proud Somme veteran, lingers painfully through the days before his death. His grandson Nick is anguished to see this once-resilient man haunted by the ghosts of the trenches and the horror surrounding his brother's death. But in Nick's family home the dark pressures of the past also encroach on the present. As he and his wife Fran try to unite their uneasy family of step- and half-siblings, the discovery of a sinister Victorian drawing reveals the murderous history of their house and casts a violent shadow on their lives ...

This was the Counties Challenge book for Tyne & Wear. I read it whilst we were staying in the county as we had short break in the fab city of Newcastle.

Nick and his wife Fran live in an old Victorian Villa. They’ve been married for a few years and it’s the second time round for both - each has a child from their first relationship whilst they also have a toddler together and one on the way. Fran’s son lives with them whilst Nick’s daughter Miranda lives with her mother and comes to stay for the holidays. Whilst renovating their house they discover a painting which has lain undiscovered behind years of wallpaper – research reveals that the people in the picture are the Fanshawes who lived in the house around a hundred years or so before and who, as Nick’s daughter Miranda observes, could be them.

Family life is challenging for the couple, and as well as dealing with the difficulties of what is sometimes known as a blended family, Nick also becomes the main carer for his beloved grandfather, Geordie, a WW1 veteran who is dying.

The book starts so promisingly and seemed as though it was going to be a ghost story, or at least have some kind of supernatural element, but the business with the Fanshawe family is not fully explored, which was a real disappointment. Geordie is the best character in this book. The way Barker writes about his impending death is very touching and very real – Geordie may be old and may be reaching the end of his life, but he is proud and his loss of dignity is a real frustration for him. He is troubled by flashbacks to the First World War where he came home but his brother, their mother’s favourite, didn’t. As Geordie’s life reaches its conclusion his survivor’s guilt comes to the fore. I liked his relationship with Nick. Unfortunately, the story which promised so much failed to deliver for me and left me feeling unsatisfied. If it wasn’t for the fact that this was a Counties Challenge book, and for the character of Geordie, I probably wouldn’t have finished it, which is a real shame as I enjoyed the writing.

The paperback edition is 288 pages long and is published by Penguin. It was first published in 1998. The ISBN is 9780140258981.

3/5 (I enjoyed bits of it)

(Finished 8 September 2016)


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I still have to write a review of Another World but it will be very similar to yours!


Promised so much yet totally failed to deliver. I was left wondering what the point of the painting was in many ways it felt so unfinished and unexplored.

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Promised so much yet totally failed to deliver. I was left wondering what the point of the painting was in many ways it felt so unfinished and unexplored.

I felt almost cheated!  I expected it to have a The Woman in Black vibe to it!

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I'm hosting Book Club at my house tonight and I had planned to make the Buttermilk Biscuits from the back of the book, which is Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whilstlestop Cafe.  


I bought the ingredients without reading the method and having just read it I've realised that they're not biscuits, they're scones!  :rolol:  It's a good job I'd made a cake too as a back up.  D'oh!

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Mind to Murder by P D James

The ‘blurb’
A piercing scream, shattering the evening calm, brings Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh hurrying from his literary party to the nearby Steen Psychiatric Clinic, where he discovers the body of a woman sprawled on the basement floor, a chisel thrust through her heart. As Dalgliesh probes beneath the apparently unruffled calm of the clinic, he discovers that many an intrigue lies hidden behind the Georgian terrace's unassuming façade. Professionally, he has never known the taste of failure. Now, for the first time, he feels unsure of his own mastery as he battles to unmask a cool killer who is proving to be his intellectual equal, and who is poised to strike again.

Peter and I listened to this on our trip to the North East in September. I read Cover Her Face many years ago and although I can’t recall it I remember enjoying it so we thought we’d have a change from a Poirot. I enjoyed this book – in fact, I scored it a 3½ out of 5 – but now I come to review it (three months late! :o ) I can’t remember much about it. The story has faded. I know there was something to do with inheritance (but that might have been a sub-plot running alongside the main one), I remember the corpse, murdered with a fetish (no, not that kind!), being found surrounded by a mess of clinical records, and I remember the treatments included art therapy, electroshock treatment and even the use of LSD. I also remember that there was a plan for someone to go to France and that there was a second, attempted murder – but I can’t knit all those facts together!

If I was to look for a positive, I guess it means I can listen to it again! :giggle2: I would listen to another Dalgleish mystery, but I think I need to concentrate harder next time – usually audio books stay with me better than paper ones – but definitely not in this case!

It was narrated by the actor Daniel Weyman. It’s the first book I’ve listened to narrated by him and I thought he did a good job.

The paperback edition is 240 pages long and is published by Faber & Faber. It was first published in 1963. The ISBN is 9780571228577.

3½/5 (I enjoyed it - apparently!)

(Finished 10 September 2016)


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The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

The ‘blurb’
After his deadly plunge over Reichenbach Falls, Sherlock Holmes seemed gone forever – but, as mysteriously as he left, he returns three years later. Now, reunited with Watson, a host of thrilling new adventures through London’s underworld awaits, battling thieves, kidnappers and killers alike. But Holmes is about to meet his most despised villain yet: the dastardly Charles Augustus Milverton.

Book six of the tales featuring Sherlock Holmes is another collection of short stories which starts with

Holmes’ return after his confrontation with his enemy Moriarty and his apparent death

and contains thirteen stories including The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton about an infamous blackmailer where Holmes and Watson try to get some damning evidence about the man to use against him, but the scoundrel is always one step ahead of them until fate steps in to lend a helping hand, and; The Adventure of the Priory School where a young heir disappears from boarding school and Holmes and Watson must safely reunite him with his parents – but all is not as it seems with the boy’s family.

I enjoyed this set of stories. Now I’ve read a few Sherlock books, some of them are slightly formulaic, but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of them. One thing that did strike me was that there are quite a lot of ‘this act was justified so they don’t report it to the police’ and ‘crisis averted’ endings in this edition – more than I remember happening in the previous books! Two more books to go!

The paperback edition is 384 pages long and is published by BBC Books. It was first published in 1903. The ISBN is 9781849907606.

3½/5 (I enjoyed it)

(Finished 19 September 2016)

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My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal

The ‘blurb’
Leon is nine, and has a perfect baby brother called Jake. They have gone to live with Maureen, who has fuzzy red hair like a halo, and a belly like Father Christmas. But the adults are speaking in low voices, and wearing pretend faces. They are threatening to give Jake to strangers. Since Jake is white and Leon is not.

As Leon struggles to cope with his anger, certain things can still make him smile - like Curly Wurlys, riding his bike fast downhill, burying his hands deep in the soil, hanging out with Tufty (who reminds him of his dad), and stealing enough coins so that one day he can rescue Jake and his mum.

Evoking a Britain of the early eighties, My Name is Leon is a heart-breaking story of love, identity and learning to overcome unbearable loss. Of the fierce bond between siblings. And how - just when we least expect it - we manage to find our way home.

I bought this on a whim on Audible – I hadn’t heard of the book which is the author’s first published full-length novel but liked the sound of it. I wasn’t disappointed. This is a great representation of life in the 80s, especially for Leon who has a black father and a white mother.

Leon is only nine when his brother is born. Unlike Leon, Jake is white – and Leon simply adores him. His mother struggles to cope and Leon is a godsend – he helps out around the home and takes care of Jake, with the help of their upstairs neighbour. But things come to a head and Leon and Jake are taken into care. Maureen, their foster mother, is very kind, but she’s not their Mum and when she becomes ill, Leon is sent away again, this time to stay with Maureen’s sister. He is initially very unhappy and lonely but as he explores the area and heads further afield, he discovers an allotment, which seems an unlikely playground for a young boy, but Leon finds some unexpected friends there and life is okay. There is only one problem – Leon faces losing Jake - but he’s not going to give in without a fight…

I very much enjoyed this. Leon is an endearing child and despite his flaws, he is easy to like. Understandably, he is is variously stroppy, angry, kind, sad, happy… the book itself is also funny and sad in equal measures. All the way through it I was willing for Leon to have a happy ending.

I’m sure things still aren’t perfect within the care system, but I do think (or at least, hope) we’ve come a long way since this story was set. This was narrated by Lenny Henry – I was a bit unsure about him as a narrator as he does (in his comedic life, at least) come across as quite over the top, but he did an excellent job, and actually, it worked really well with him narrating the black characters in a West Indian-type accent – it helped to make the story come alive. This was a great debut – I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what else this author has to offer.

The hardback edition is 272 pages long and is published by Viking. It was first published in 2016. The ISBN is 9780241207086.

4/5 (I really enjoyed it!)

(Finished 20 September 2016)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Janet! Have you heard about a recently released new edition of A Christmas Carol? It's the 'original manuscript edition'. Here's the synopsis:
Every year at the holidays, the historic Morgan Library & Museum in Manhattan displays one of the crown jewels of its extraordinary collection: the original manuscript of Charles Dickens’s, with its detailed emendations, deletions, and insertions in Dickens’s own hand.
Here, for the first time in a beautiful trade edition, A Christmas Carol: The Original Manuscript Edition presents a facsimile of that invaluable manuscript, along with a typeset version of the story, a fascinating introduction by the Morgan’s chief literary curator on the history of the story, and a new foreword by Colm Tóibín celebrating its timeless appeal.


I've added it to my wishlist. :)

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