Monthly Archives: July 2010

One Day – David Nicholls

Don’t judge me for the next paragraph because it’s me laying my reading soul bare for you and ridicule would vex me, ha! There are some books I read that whilst not putting me into a life changing state, I find I have to give a hug because they sort of touch me in some way, or just make reading a pure unadulterated pleasure. ‘One Day’ by David Nicholls is one such book. It didn’t leave me in such awe I couldn’t breathe (though it did make me cry) but I when I finished it I wished I still had pages and pages to go. Maybe we should look at this in more detail?

The title of David Nicholls third novel ‘One Day’ is rather brilliant as in part it sort of sums up the plot in which we meet two people on the same day over twenty years, and it sums up the slightly nostalgic feel to the book of ‘oh, maybe one day…’ I am pretty sure we have all experienced that feeling at some point (if not several) in our lives; which of course is a master stroke because if you can empathise with a book naturally you are much more drawn into it, just as I was in this case. But let’s look at the plot a little more before I go off on a tangent about me.

As the book opens in on St Swithun’s Day (July 15th) in 1988 we meet Dexter and Emma who have just spent a drunken night together at the end of their university studies in Edinburgh. It’s that awkward morning after, and one Dexter is rather prone to, however in this instance for some reason they decide to keep in touch both with that feeling that this could be something special, but neither really having the guts to say so, or being made a fool off in case of getting rebuffed. Over the next twenty years we meet these two people wherever they might be and follow their lives which interlink and separate with a slight feeling of inevitability but nothing, as we learn, ever goes the way you think it might. I don’t want to say anymore as I wouldn’t want to spoil what a treat the reader has in store, I will say that Nicholls pulls the rug from under you several times so just when you think ‘aha, I see where this is going’ you’re proven wrong.

Really the book is about Dexter and Emma and their journeys from early twenties until their forties and the almost present day. The cast of additional characters that come in and out of their lives are well drawn and real but because of the nature of the book they never become big characters. Dexter becomes a celebrity bringing out ever more the arrogance that he has from the start whilst Emma dreams of being a writer whilst serving food from hell in a horrid restaurant chain. Again I won’t say how things progress for fear of plot spoiling. I mentioned Dexter is arrogant, yet he’s not a complete twit, in fact both our lead characters have flaws which would normally make you think ‘eurgh’ but with Nicholls writing makes them all the more real, we know people like them and in some instances we have even been people like them.

I didn’t think hopping from year to year would work. I didn’t think I would bond with our leading duo or be able to follow the stories from the previous year. Once again I was wrong on both counts as Nicholls manages to convincingly, without it ever feeling forced, drop small hints as to what has happened since – even when Dexter and Emma don’t speak for several years but meet mutual friends – so really you feel you live the whole story with them. In fact it’s like those friends you catch up with year to year but it’s like you only saw them last week and by the end these two fictional characters do weirdly feel like your mates.

I am well aware that this book won’t be for everyone but anyone who is looking at it and thinking ‘chick-lit by a man with no literary merit’ (and I have heard that said) would be wrong. The prose is incredibly readable without being throw-away. I laughed and cried whilst reading this book in one sitting, it was rather like spending a day on an emotional rollercoaster I have to say and yet once I had put it down I really just wanted to start all over again and I don’t say that too often. It’s not a modern masterpiece but I hope it becomes a contemporary classic.

A book that will: leave you an emotional wreck, make you want to hug it and also start all over again all at once possibly. 9/10

Have you read this and if so what did you think? I know it has had some real Marmite reviews of both loving and loathing but I was so pleasantly surprised! Has anyone read anything else by David Nicholls, I am hoping they are all this brilliant? I have had to put my thinking cap on for some perfect prose partners for this, any suggestions from any of you?

69 Comments

Filed under Books of 2010, David Nicholls, Hodder & Stoughton, Review

Simon’s Bookish Bits: A TBR Special

I thought I would do a Simon’s Bookish Bits Special this week with regard to my TBR. Its been a rather stressful week at Savidge Reads HQ as we weren’t sure if we still had the HQ and might indeed have to look for another one. Yes that horrible end of contract moment had sneaked up on us and the landlord out of nowhere. Worryingly the mention of ‘rent increase’ came up which with Brazil coming and the like was just a no go. I had had to start thinking about moving and possibly severely culling the TBR. However phew that’s all sorted though I am currently sulking as seeing some family oop north this weekend was one thing I was looking forward to after the stressing, but I have the contagious Norovirus from The Converted One so a weekend stuck in the confines of my room is ahead! The whole TBR thing did in part inspire this post though as I was thinking about my TBR and what dreadful things might have to happen to it (lugging of culling),  there were two other inspiring factors too.  

Another big part of writing this post was that I wanted to dispel something which has been concerning me for a while; that all the books I own are from publishers, as its simply not the case. In fact most are from hoard buying over the last two or three years as you will see. There was also a post Kim of Reading Matters wrote on hers, which asked if we would share ours with readers, would anyone dare? Well with a challenge like that how could I refuse? So I thought I would walk you through mine… you lucky things.

I like to have everything nicely organised and so I always give priorities to books that I have asked for (which aren’t actually that many out of this picture – which I took a few weeks ago and so a fair few of these have now been read), though I will admit these are also intermingled with some unsolicited copies of books that I have heard great things about or instantly take my fancy and these are organised into hardbacks and trade paperbacks on one shelf and paperbacks on the other. Which means that I can find things although I have an excel spreadsheet too but that’s not for now!

There is also all my Du Maurier books and Man Booker winners which I bought before I started the great Book Buying Ban of 2010. Speaking of which it is my previous buying habits having once been so crazy that takes up a large amount of my shelves. So I have had to create shelves such as the Big Books and Biographies/Autobiographies which you can see below. There are a couple of piles of short books on a self below which I didn’t manage to get in my shot below… sorry…

…And the books I bought before 2010 started do go on and on (as you will soon see) and I actually have four boxes that are separated, in an order only apparent to me, just for them. I hope this shot breaks any illusion that all the books I own are from publishers, not true at all. I have just this minute spotted that there are three unsolicited books in these boxes but that’s because I am running out of space…

So these unsolicited books that come in, and are gratefully received – just saying I don’t ask for them all (hammering a point home, ha), where do they go? Well some of them ended up in the only spare box that was available, which also happens to be in the spare bedroom. The bottom one below of the two is filled with my previous hoarding purchases the one of top is unsolicited copies for a rainy month. Books frieshly in become a literal Mount TBR which teeters on a set of drawers in my room awaiting being sorted, some stay, some are rehomed with friends and family…

 

So there that’s your lot, and it is rather a lot. Hopefully some Savidge myths are dispelled ha, ha. The idea of having no TBR fills me with dread though, I love the fact I have a delightful library hidden away in my flat. I know visitors here do too. Maybe a cull is required though as I haven’t had  a clear through for a while and my Mum is coming down next weekend so I am sure she and my sister wouldn’t mind some cast off’s? So what’s your TBR like? How do you arrange it? How many books have you on yours?

I will pop a new page with my list of TBR titles very soon and a number… I might just have that cull first though ha, ha, ha.

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Filed under Simon's Bookish Bits

Eclipse – Stephenie Meyer

Hmmm, I am in quite the quandary as to how to go about writing about ‘Eclipse’ by Stephenie Meyer as know it’s the readers, on and off the blogs, book version of Marmite. Some people love it, some people hate it, and some even avoid it. However strangely as someone who after reading Twilight was left completely puzzled by the experience I didn’t think I would read on. Then the film changed all that and reading ‘New Moon’ before seeing the film which carried on making me want to read further. Naturally with the ‘Eclipse’ movie coming out in the UK and wanting to see it – I had to of course read the book first. Warning there are some spoilers if you haven’t read ‘New Moon’.

It almost seems pointless to mention the characters or plot of ‘Eclipse’ because due to its success I think even those people who haven’t read it, steer clear of it or don’t want to touch it with a barge pole probably know the in’s and out’s. However what is a review with out mentioning either of these things? I must and so I shall. ‘Eclipse’ is the third of the Twilight series in which Bella Swann has moved to Forks and fallen in love with Edward Cullen who happens to be a vampire. This then gets doubly complicated when she discovers her friend Jacob, who she might or might not have feelings for – teenage hormones are devious aren’t they, is a werewolf. She also has a team of the Volturi (a vampire coven) after her, as knowing Vampires exist is something no human should know as it threatens their existence. She also has another vampire, Victoria, trying to kill her after Edward killed Victoria’s partner who tried to kill Bella… have I lost you yet?

So that’s where we are when ‘Eclipse’ starts and strangely, and rather annoyingly, that’s where we stay until around page 350 and things start to move at long last. After all Bella’s graduation is looming and she has said she wants to become a vampire herself after that, Victoria has been spotted by the werewolves and Cullen’s locally, and a new threat arrives as the ‘Newborns’ (uncontrollable young vampires) start a killing spree in Seattle and start looking in the direction of Forks. I can’t tell you what happens as that would be taking spoilers too far.

I feel rather like I did after reading ‘Twilight’ in terms of not being sure how I feel about ‘Eclipse’. I enjoyed it to a degree but I wasn’t bowled over and after ‘New Moon’ I expected quite a lot. I think if I look at it objectively it really did feel like a filler book in the series, we moved on a few people died, characters histories came to light (which was one of my favourite parts of the books as it had a mythical feel) and yet we weren’t really any further forward than I felt we could or should have been after 628 pages. I am well aware I am not the target audience for this book so that probably has something to do with it, but the teen angst that ‘Twilight’ was so full of and I got irked by seemed to have returned. If the book had been 200 pages shorter I would have been happier, I think for the true hard core fans it could happily have been another 200 pages.

All that said I will still be reading ‘Breaking Dawn’ how can I not when I have got three quarters of the way through the whole lot. I have also heard it is brilliantly over the top which I am more than happy for it to be, as long as it doesn’t dawdle over too much angst. Drama over angst anytime for me with this series which has been a rather bizarre and yet brilliant in parts reading rollercoaster for me.

A book you will: read because you have read the rest of the series.

What are your thoughts on the Twilight Saga? Love it or loathe it, or really not fussed at all? (By the way have seen the film and its brilliant escapism which of course made my dilemma all the more complex!)

43 Comments

Filed under ATOM Books, Little Brown Publishing, Review, Stephenie Meyer

Review Ratings

Isn’t it funny how you read a book and it makes you want to change the way that you review books a little? Having just finished ‘One Day’ by David Nicholls (review to come at a later date) I am wondering if my reviews need to change a little. I think we all have these moments don’t we, or is it just me? I am pleased I am mentioning ‘One Day’ today even in a roundabout way as the book takes place on the same day over twenty years which happens to be today… the 15th of July and St Swithun’s Day!

How we all review books and rate them is quite a personal thing and until this year I didn’t actually give books marks out of anything. Some people do, some people don’t and as a blog is a personal thing I think it’s up to them, enthusiasm does seep out of some reviews after all. When I was thinking, possibly overly, about how I could urge people to read books that I have loved (always a risky business in case someone reads one and hates it – eek) I decided to go for the out of ten system.

Image from the BBC

Thanks to that marvellous yet pesky thing called hindsight I am not sure that was so wise, for me and my blog personally. After all I still find I pop in those pesky half marks and it would be very unlikely that anything below 5 out of ten would see the light of day on my blog, down to my personal choice I try not to do negative reviews, even if I don’t half mind reading them when others choose to do so. I was also looking back at some of the scores I have given so far and wondering if on occasion maybe a ten should have been a nine, or seven should have been an eight. I have changed my review regime as once I used to review a book the moment I finished it, now I like to leave them for a while after all some of the books I instantly love fade a little and some I wasn’t sure about grow on me over time and through talking about them a lot off the blog.

Without saying too much about it ‘One Day’ is a book that made me have a certain reaction to it – positive of course – and yet I wouldn’t give it ten out of ten despite how much I loved reading it. Am I still making sense? A ten out of ten cannot be taken lightly, they need to be books that almost change my world a little bit, maybe leave me breathless or just in awe. So thinking that way I thought maybe I should try to do a simple line at the end of the review summing the effect of a book in one sentence. I thought of a few, am sure many, many more will crop up over the next few reads/months/years. So here are some examples…

  • A book that will: leave you beaming from ear to ear.
  • A book that will: leave you in awe.
  • A book that will: make you want to start all over again.
  • A book that will: leave you wondering why on earth you persevered. (Rare to see on here I would imagine.)

I am hoping that’s given you the sort of insight into my way of thinking and how it could work. However it is you lovely lot that read the blog and so before I bring this into account, as soon as tomorrow if I edit the scheduled post, I would ask you what you all thought about my new idea and the ratings of reviews in general.

 So… Do you like the idea of ‘a book that will:’ as a new way of Savidge Reads rating at the end of a review (I will keep on doing the suggestions of perfect prose partners)? Do you prefer marks out of ten just for consistency? Do you not bother about ratings and just the review as a whole? Let me know, will be interesting to see what you all think, over to you.

43 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts

The Lost City of Z – David Grann

I don’t know if I mentioned it but I am off to Brazil for a few months at the end of this year? Ha, that’s said tongue firmly in cheek and I do hope if I mention it now and again that it won’t get too annoying, I just keep getting waves of excitement. You know the waves I mean? Plus in the lead up I will be doing my ‘Reading for Brazil’ which today’s title is part of. I personally would have thought that a book that discussed a group of explorers going missing in the Amazon jungle of Mato Grosso (the very state I will be spending lots of time and actually camping in) including all the insects, reptiles, cannibal tribes and other horror stories would put me off. Bizarrely ‘The Lost City of Z’ by David Grann has made me more desperate than ever to go of on an exploring trek in the rainforest.

I doubt that I would have picked up ‘The Lost City of Z’ if it wasn’t for the fact that I am actually going off to spend time in the Amazon, and I would have been missing out on an absolute treat. If you are planning on heading out into the vast jungle then you really couldn’t ask for a better book for warning s of just what awful things can be lurking in the trees, rivers and even the air. It also makes the book rather grisly from time to time, mind you this book is really in the main a jungle from 1911 – 1950 so I am hoping in the now if you had a ‘vampire fish’ making your nether regions a home or were slowly ingested by nesting maggots a nearby hospital might do the trick. Mind you I don’t think anyone could stop the venom of a Jararaca snake killing you very painfully rather quickly. Sorry let me expand on this a little better; I think my excitement and enthusiasm for this book might mean I come across a little disjointed in my thoughts, bear with me.  

In part really David Grann’s book, for it isn’t a novel, is a biography of the life and quests of Percy Harrison Fawcett and what became his obsession of finding the Lost City of El Dorado, a man who I had never heard of and yet a man whose quests and eventual disappearance had the world gripped for years back in the 1920’s. Fawcett had a lust for adventure from an early age and in his life time as well as being an adventurer he was also a spy and fought in WWI, the latter is hinted as the cause of his obsession with the lost city, a kind of coping mechanism for all he saw during the conflict on the battlefield. He became so well known along with his adventures many believe he was the inspiration for his friend Conan Doyle’s ‘The Lost World’ which I am now going to have to read very soon.

It was however his disappearance that made him infamous and became the obsession of not only the press and headlines in the years that followed but of the public. Many people volunteered in the years after and actually went on quests themselves, not to find ‘El Dorado’ – or ‘Z’ as Fawcett called it, but to find the very man who quite literally vanished and either vanished themselves, went mad, died or came back very sick. This happened as recently as 1996 when a Brazilian accountant and his son decided to try. In fact the book then sees David Grann himself going off in search of Fawcett himself and following in his footsteps which itself adds another dimension to the book. I might ask The Converted One if we can go on a little hunt ourselves… maybe?

Grann manages to discuss all of these different threads as well as look at some of the other competing explorer’s expeditions of the same era and never once do you get confused. All the information is digestible and at the same time reads as an adventure in a way. Grann also manages to look at what is happening to the rainforest at the moment which makes the reader pause for thought too. I was really impressed with this book. Non fiction doesn’t normally do anything for me and I actually couldn’t put this book down, in the end finishing it in two sittings. 9/10 (I was going to give this ten out of ten but I have a post coming up on my review ratings this week that will explain why I didn’t!)

Who else has read this marvellous book and can help in my mission to make everyone else give this a whirl? Have any of you read The Lost World, as I love Sherlock Holmes but I am not sure how I will fair with ‘adventure’ stories – mind you I have done well with this one, what did you think of it? Has anyone read ‘Exploration Fawcett’ as I now really want to read that too? Which was the last and/or best non fiction book you have read that totally hooked you from start to finish?

15 Comments

Filed under Books of 2010, David Grann, Review, Simon & Schuster

Do It In Public…

Sorry for two posts in one day today, especially as you have been so helpful with The Prose Practice already, but I thought you might not mind so much as this post is in a random roundabout way all about how some of you could get some lovely free books this Thursday should you happen to be in the right place at the right time, and all in the name of promoting people to read on public transport.

I get quite a lot of marketing twaddle in the Savidge Reads inbox, and I don’t mean from publishers which is normally lovely catalogues to feast my eyes on, yet every now and again you get something that is a little bit different and unusual. One such email was from Chris of Global Cool who have started a new venture encouraging people to read on tubes and buses and asking people to ‘Do It In Public’ and with the help of publishers Hodder and Stoughton will be handing out copies of ‘One Day’ by David Nicholls. (Which I am reading now and can tell you is really rather good.) Simply sign up HERE by 8pm Wednesday 14th of July GMT and you will be told in advance the secret locations these books are being released. Simple as that!

If that wasn’t enough they also have an Online Book Group planned and some interesting posts from celebrities and bloggers (possibly even me) coming up over the next few weeks with suggestions for the perfect train/bus read! Will be interesting to see some of the recommendations I think. Who do you think has already suggested Jane Eyre (which I still shamefully haven’t read)?

I did wonder if any of you can think of any books that feature public transport in them. Do you? I could only think of ‘The Maintenance of Headway’ by Magnus Mills which I only read recently. In fact here’s a give away… if you suggest some books with tubes/underground trains/subways, buses or over ground trains you can go into a drawer for a copy of the Magnus Mills book – how’s that sound? No planes or boats of any kind!!!! You have until midnight GMT tomorrow Wednesday the 14th! Good luck!

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Filed under Give Away

The Prose Practice – Single Ladies With A Twist

It’s been a while since we all got out thinking caps on in order to help another fellow reader with a prose problem. So when I got this email last week from one of my lovely reader Jodie, who also has a blog here, I thought ‘oooh I must put it up straight away’ and have now left it a week – sorry Jodie!! Now this latest reading conundrum I thought initially was really easy… only I have become quite stumped. So I wonder if you can help, well I know you can, answer this…

Hi Simon,

I might have a bit of a tricky one for you and the Savidge Readers. I’m looking for happy novels about single women who stay single. Yep, women who don’t marry, but stay single and happy. Sounds simple doesn’t it, but I think it might be a bit of a challenge as I’ve already asked for recommendations on my blog and people reading there have managed to turn up about ten. All the recommendations were gratefully received (and some were bought), but ten is not many for a whole world of books.

The women should be single by the end of the book (although it would be fab if they were single throughout the entire book) and living, or about to go off and live, happy lives. Preferably they should be the main characters of their novels/novellas, but I’ll take secondary characters if you can rustle them up. Any genre works for me.

Thanks for any help you and the readers can provide.

 Jodie

Beyonces video still was the only image that sort of summed this problem up... sort of!

Simon Says: My instant reaction on hearing the  words single lady were of Bridget Jones but the whole point of that book is that she isn’t totally fulfilled until she has two men chasing after her, some people are never happy are they, ha?  It is hard to think of books where people stay single and like it though, really hard. Currently the closest that I can come up with at the moment is ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ though it doesn’t quite fit the criteria… I/we wont say why as it would spoil the plot. I am trying to think of others and may come back and add a few more titles into the comments as the day progresses! What can you all suggest?

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Filed under The Prose Practise

Dead Babies – Martin Amis

Sometimes books that come up as choices for the Riverside Readers book group will throw a small grenade in my general reading direction. The latest choice for our meeting last Tuesday ‘Dead Babies’ by Martin Amis was one such book that almost had me running for cover when I knew that it was what we would be reading next. You see at a previous book group I was in ‘London Fields’ was chosen and I went into it with open arms only to have to give up about a quarter of the way through simply because I hated it, absolutely loathed it (not a reaction you will hear on Savidge Reads very often, I tend to keep those negative thoughts to myself) and swore I would never read an Amis again. But when Dom chose this latest title I thought ‘second chances’ and so through myself into Amis’ second novel, to a strange and surprising outcome.

‘Dead Babies’ has to be one of the most off putting titles of a book that I can think of, though undoubtedly there are some other horrors out there. The image it instantly brings you isn’t pleasant; there are no dead babies actually in the book though I can report there are some decidedly unpleasant characters. The premise of Martin Amis’ second novel, originally published in 1975, is that a group of friends are in a house on the more rural outskirts of London for a weekend  of drug and sex filled chaos with some American friends arriving in tow. Somewhere in the midst of this a mysterious character ‘Johnny’ is causing an unsettling feeling through the group, already beyond paranoid from their concoctions, by leaving evil messages and gifts. That pretty much sums up the book without giving anything away.

In writing about the book like that it doesn’t sound like its really anything special and unfortunately in some ways it isn’t. However I think that is because having read books later published such as Irvine Welsh’s ‘Trainspotting’ and the horrifically brilliant ‘American Psycho’ by Brett Easton Ellis the book doesn’t read as being as original as it perhaps was at the time, though in the 70’s there was a wave of this sort of fiction. What separates it from those other books is a mixture of humour and character history. They are all vile but you find out why, even if on occasion the reasoning behind their mental states is slightly contrived. However, with characters like Giles Coldstream who is obsessed with teeth and the vile and appalling – yet strangely likeable – Keith Whitehead who when he takes his clothes off makes people vomit and their backgrounds you do find you want to read on.

“The Whiteheads have several claims to being the fattest family alive. At the time of writing you could go along to Parky St, Wimbledon, any Sunday, one o’clock in the afternoon – and you’d see them, taking their seats in the Morris for the weekly Whitehead jaunt to Brighton.
‘Get your huge fat arse out of the way’ – ‘Whose horrible great leg is this?’ – ‘Is that your bum Keith or Aggie’s?’- ‘I don’t care whose guts these are, they’ve got to be moved’ – ‘That’s not Dad’s arm, you stupid great bitch, it’s my leg!’
‘It’s no good,’ says Whitehead Sr eventually, slapping his trotters on the steering-wheel. ‘The Morris can’t be expected to cope with this. You can take it in turns staying behind from now on.
And indeed, as each toothpaste Whitehead squeezes into the Morris, the chassis drops two inches on its flattened tyres, and when Frank himself gets in behind the wheel, the whole car seems to sink imploringly to its knees.
‘Flora, close that sodding door,’ Frank tells his wife.
‘I can’t, Frank. Some of my legs still out there.’”
  

What really works in ‘Dead Babies’, and makes this an accessible Amis book to my mind, is the humour, because in laughing your head of you do get through some pretty horrific people and their goings on without ever hating the book. I find authors who can write a book with vile lead characters like this and yet make the book enjoyable a rare breed and ‘Dead Babies’ should be applauded for that. It is also the two nicest vile characters Keith and Giles that you want to follow, in fact the book would be incredibly readable if it was just about Keith’s life.

What stopped this book from rating higher with me, because I did actually weirdly enjoy reading most of it, was that I felt like this was a book set to shock and therefore sell rather than say anything (it does clearly state drugs are stupid) and despite my personal feelings on Amis (both the pro’s and the con’s) I did think he was maybe cleverer than that. I don’t think every book you read should change your life, but surely there needs to be some substance behind what is shocking, rather than simply to make shocking scenes with no value? Also, though I liked it and it creeped me out a lot at the end, I didn’t see the relevance of the ‘Johnny’ storyline other than purely a plot device to make the book longer and make the reader carry on. That being said I finished it, which was a feat in itself both due to my prior reading of Amis. Plus despite the fact it gets quite uncomfortable amid the tears of laughter in parts its left me open to reading more of his work in the future, especially knowing that Keith Whitehead features in his new book ‘The Pregnant Widow’. 6/10

Savidge suggests perfect prose partners;

Trainspotting – Irvine Welsh (we discussed at Book Group that this may have been inspired/a homage from ‘Dead Babies’ only in the 90’s rather than the 70’s)
American Psycho – Brett Easton Ellis (possibly one of the nastiest books I have ever read which is also a complete and utter masterpiece. Interestingly I would recommend this book and yet know I could never read it again, if weirdly felt I could read ‘Dead Babies’ again but am not sure I could recommend it – odd?)

Which Amis books have you read and what you recommend I read and avoid? What books have you read you would read again but might not recommend? Which books will you never read again and yet would tell anyone who hasn’t read it to rush out and get instantly? What other books have you read despite their horrid or off putting titles?

15 Comments

Filed under Book Group, Martin Amis, Review, Vintage Books, Vintage Classics

Man, Did We Take Some Holiday Snaps?

Well I don’t know about you but I have really enjoyed the Summer Reads Week here on Savidge Reads, a big thank you to everyone who has contributed. I will be doing a follow up post of more summery suggestions over the next week or three as have some more authors, publishers and bloggers who have sent me their suggestions over the last couple of days and I couldn’t edit my scheduled posts in time so apologies but they won’t go unmentioned. To end the Summer Reads Week I thought I would share some pictures from my mini break in the Isle of Man with you all. I cannot recommend people visiting enough, especially if you are as lucky with the weather as we were (it rained once for a morning)!

I am rather annoyed at myself as in the mad dash from the airport to Port Erin and the B&B I completely forgot to take any pictures of it as we dashed straight to the Calf of Man…

We had gone there to spot the wild life have some lunch and a cream tea, we didn’t know the two would mix with each other.

We saw some seals (more of those later) and most excitingly some whales – which was just amazing to watch but neither of us got any good shots apart from the splashes. We did also find what The Converted One (TCO) called ‘Devil Sheep’ though…

In the small incredibly historic and idyllic town of Cregnaesh…

We went to the delightful docks of Port St Mary before discovering it was a bit of a ghost town and that nothing was going on there.

So took a bus to Castletown and did some rock pooling whilst waiting for a Ghost Tour of the town, it wasn’t a hit with the TCO can you tell?

Next day it was full steam ahead on the train, which impressed TCO more and made me feel like I was in a Victorian scene from Sherlock Holmes…  

The boat around the freezing Douglas bay on the west of the island was lovely, we saw some basking shark fins but couldn’t get close because of the currents…

A hotel room with a  view of Douglas, as soon as the weather brightened it looked more like the Mediterranean…

A night in Douglas where we went to the ancient theatre to see ‘Joseph’ was followed by a bus to the Enid Blyton-esque Peel Castle which looks like the Famous Five must have been there…

It also has a Rapunzel’s tower I was rather obsessed with (I had a duck called Rapunzel once)…

We then lazed on our own private beach for several hours…

We also saw quite a few of the below, though this one was getting very close and very friendly…

Next day was a tram ride from the Hollywood like Douglas in the drizzle…

To see the Laxely Wheel…

And the mines which took me back to my cave guiding days in the Peak District, seriously that’s what I used to spend summers doing…

Then next day it was back to the Castle in, erm, Castletown before we flew home in the afternoon…

Oh and though I didn’t get any reading done, seriously not a page, which was in some ways rather nice I did get a book as TCO knows how I love Victorian authors and myths, fables and fairytales and so bought me something in the castle shop that combines the two.

I will be reporting back on that book very soon as I read it on the plane back and then on the tube home. So that was our hols in all its pictoral glory! I had a lovely, lovely time and if you ever get the chance you should go, its very idyllic and in some ways a bit like an island time since the Victorians has forgotten which of course I adored. Now I am looking forward to Lisbon in August. You off anywhere nice soon? Been to the Isle of Man at all?

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Summer Read Suggestions – The Bloggers (Part Two)

So after yesterdays post which unveiled what some bloggers will be reading over the summer months and which books they have already loved during summers passed here are the second instalment of bloggers and their thoughts on summer reads.

Just in case you might be wondering why you didn’t get an email asking… check your spam, as I sent this out to loads and loads of bloggers who I enjoy but only got half the responses back. However as I have enjoyed these sort of posts so much (and hope you all have) I will be doing another one in the non too distant, a summery follow up I guess, so don’t worry about sending responses in late. Right, anyway on with the recommendations…

Polly, Novel Insights

My summer recommendation would have to be Peyton Place (starting out with that wonderful Indian summer passage and heady atmosphere).

As for what I am looking forward to reading this summer… A Room Swept White, by Sophie Hannah – I’d love to read this on holiday as her books are so gripping and I never fail to be surprised by her plot twists. I will also be heading to Sri Lanka so I might be taking some fiction set there or by authors from there if I can get my hands on some.

Simon, Stuck in a Book

People talk about beach literature as though it ought to be something trashy, preferably with the torso of an anguished woman taking up most of the cover.  I prefer to take something meaty on holiday with me, where I’ll have fewer distractions – a dense Victorian novel, say, or a tricky experimental novel which would confuse me if read in short bursts.  Having said that, my favourite summery read is actually The Summer Book by Tove Jansson.  These tales of summer on a Finnish island are wonderful wherever they’re read, but there’s something perfect about reading them on a windy beach with the sun in your eyes. For those of us who only have holidays in this Sceptred Isle, a touch of Scandinavian summer is welcome, if only vicariously.

Bearing in mind my answer to question 1, I am considering taking Fanny Burney’s Camilla off on my holiday this year.  It’s got more pages than I’ve had hot dinners, and a Yorkshire moor (for this will be a beachless summer for me) could be the perfect place to immerse myself in the dalliances of the eighteenth century.

Harriet, Harriet Devine’s Blog

I would suggest Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures for a summer read. It would be especially apt for a beach holiday (and even more so if that was taking place in south west England) as it is set in beautiful Lyme Regis, on the Dorset coast, and much of the action takes place on the beach, where a couple of women are searching for fossils. This is much more exciting than it sounds — a real page turner, in fact! Set at the time of Jane Austen, this is a lovely, sensitive, thoughtful read, not too demanding for a relaxing holiday but intelligent and thought-provoking too.

Claire, Paperback Reader

It entirely depends on whether I am going on a summer holiday or not.  If I’m staying at home over the summer months then my reading won’t change all that much but if I am going to be in the sun then my reading choices tend to reflect that.  I usually go for something a tad lighter in content, nothing too heavy that will bring me down; however, I have also seen me take Vanity Fair by William Thackeray to the pool-side with me!  Sometimes I pack in the suitcase is a classic I’ve been meaning to read or a book I have been saving up for uninterrupted reading time. I do like books set in sunnier climes too for when I’m likewise baking in the sun or relaxing in the shade or air-conditioned room with ice-cream or refreshing watermelon.  The perfect examples I can give of my  favourite type of summer reads are those I read the last time I was in Florida; I took with me A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini; The Return by Victoria Hislop; The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak; The Rain Before it Falls by Jonathan Coe; The Private Lives of Pippa Lee by Rebecca Miller. All were perfect choices with none of them too literary but with more than enough substance to keep me immersed on long flights and the beach.

This summer I am not going abroad but will head home for a couple of weeks.  I intend to take The Passage by Justin Cronin with me because it’s long enough to keep me going although I foresee not having many free moments to read it and it extending out to a seasonal-long summer read.  I’m also going to pick up a couple of lighter books that everyone else seems to have read: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert before the film is released.  Depending what makes it onto the Man Booker longlist, I may include a few of those on my summer reading list; I say list metaphorically though as I’m going to try this year not to plan my reading too much and make my choices on a whim instead.

Dot, Dot Scribbles

The perfect summer read for me has to be a page turner, I need to be gripped by it so I can happily spend an afternoon in the sun with my book! These can vary from quite light chick lit type books to something a bit heavier, I always find Daphne du Maurier to be a good holiday author as you can be totally absorbed.

This summer my one holiday read that is already in the suitcase is actually down to the wonderful reviews from yourself and Novel Insights and that is Peyton Place, I wanted to read it as soon as it arrived but I decided that it would make perfect holiday reading. In terms of general summer reading I prefer books that are set more in that season, I find it really hard to read something in July/August that is talking about snow and the freezing cold! For some reason as well I tend to prefer to read mystery type books in the Winter but I have no idea why!

Jackie, Farmlane Books

The long list for the Booker prize will be announced on 27th July so I will spend most of my Summer reading time trying to complete the list. I don’t change the books that I read based on the seasons – I enjoy the same types of book all year round. If I’m going away then I prefer to take a few longer books with me – I’d hate to run out of reading material half way through a holiday! Fingersmith by Sarah Waters or Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel are great examples of long books that would be my favourite holiday reads.

This Summer I am looking forward to reading The Elephant’s Journey by Jose Saramago. Blindness is one of my favourite books and I hope that The Elephant’s Journey contains his usual blend of fantastic writing and original story telling. His recent death has made this book even more important to me.

Claire, Kiss A Cloud

The perfect summer read for me would be something that makes me feel lighthearted and young and happy to be alive, of which the perfect example would be Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle.

Although I would read anything in the summer, what I most look forward to is Maggie O’Farrell’s The Hand that First Held Mine. While I have never read her yet, I’m convinced that it’s going to be a wonderful experience, based on many blogger recommendations. The book is said to pull on our heartstrings, and this leaves my mind imagining a summer romance.

Tom, A Common Reader

Summer reads? Well, I’ve been thinking about that and in all honesty I don’t think I differentiate between summer and other seasons. The books keep rolling in, and I keep reading them! However, thinking of summer books, I suppose something like my recently reviewed Hundred Foot Journey by Richard Morais would be ideal combining humour, al fresco eating and France. I think most people would be happy to take something like that on holiday with them.

Or a book of short pieces like the one I’ve just read called ‘Are We Related?’ which is the New Granta Book of the Family. Perfect for dipping into but by no means trivial.

Karen, Cornflower Books

It so happens I’ve just finished a perfect, relaxing, summery read, Rosy Thornton’s A Tapestry of Love. It’s set in rural France (a mountain hamlet in the Cevennes, to be exact) and it was inspired by a visit Rosy made there on holiday some years ago. The novel takes you through a year in that beautiful, relatively remote spot, and its heroine has her ups and downs, but it’s a warm, gently uplifting book which will entertain whether you’re already drowsy with summer heat or stuck in the cold and damp and wishing you could get away from it all.

In ‘real life’ Rosy is a Law don at Cambridge, a Fellow of Emmanuel College, and – impressively – she manages to combine that academic career and a family with being a novelist, but combine them she does, and her intelligent, lively books are pure pleasure to read.

Frances, Nonsuch Book

Working in education, I still have summer vacation every year just like the small people so summer reading has special meaning to me. Reading on a whim, at odd hours, as much as I can ingest before falling asleep with a book. Also enjoy a bit of a fluff parade those first few weeks out of school. Nothing to task the brain too much and a little off course from my usual reading choices.

My only reading obligations this summer are to my Non-Structured Book Group. We are reading A Personal Matter by Kenzaburo Oe in July and In the American Grain by William Carlos Williams in August. I say “obligation” but that is a bit of a joke as no one in our group would give a fig if I decided not to read or gave up on a book and emailed everyone, “I quit. This sucks.” And this is just one reason I love my online book group. Others include big brains, great writers, and Olympian quality smack talking.

Looking forward to re-reading Agatha Christie books for the first time since I was a teenager, Lit by Mary Karr, Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English by Natasha Solomons, The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman, The Pregnant Widow by Martin Amis, and a whole bunch of Parisian inspired reads for the Paris in July event hosted by Book Bath and Thyme for Tea.

So that’s your lot, for now anyway, I am probably going to do a follow up post from a few more bloggers authors and co in the next few weeks. So what will you be reading over the summer season?

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Summer Read Suggestions – The Bloggers (Part One)

In the first instalment of my final set of vox pops (this runs over two days) for the Savidge Reads ‘Summer Reads Week’ that I have left scheduled and running while I had both a real holiday and a little blogging holiday I decided that after the publishers and the authors I would ask some bloggers what they were thinking of. Especially after my NTTVBG blogging co-hosts and I announced our Summer Selection this week, sadly we aren’t doing anything more than suggesting titles this summer. So I thought what about some other bloggers? Which summer reads have they loved and what are they looking forward to devouring over the summer?

Annabel, Gaskella

I do find it harder to concentrate on reading in the summer, with the long daylight hours I’m always more tired by the time I go to bed, but then I am up with the lark and read in the early morning a lot instead. On holiday I read even less. As to what I read, crime and thrillers often take over from lit fiction – books that are more plot driven and not so meditative work best at this time for me. James Bond, Michael Connelly and Henning Mankell for instance.

This summer I was thinking of starting to read Charlie Higson’s young James Bond series!  But also have had my eye on Robert Wilson’s Inspector Javier books and the Martin Beck series by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo for a while.

Rachel, Book Snob

Something that’s very gentle, atmospheric, and reminiscent of tea parties under parasols in English country gardens; light, witty, fresh and cheering to the soul after a long, hard winter. My favourite summery read? Can I have two? I would have to say The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim and Illyrian Spring by Ann Bridge. Both perfect examples of what I’ve described, filled with the natural, evocative imagery of summer and the hope and fresh promise it brings.

This summer I really want to get Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth Von Arnim read.

Thomas, My Porch

Since I read all year, I don’t really believe in the whole notion of summer reads. But if I think about what I like to read while on vacation I can say that I am more prone to pick up something that would fall into the category of popular fiction. Like on my last trip I stumbled across Her Fearful Symmetry which I would never have picked up otherwise, and ended up totally enjoying it. The Potato Peel book would be another perfect example even though I didn’t read it on vacation.

If I follow the notion set forth above, I would have to say that I am probably most interested in Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. It looks fun and easy and I liked the feel of the writing when I glanced at the first page.

Elaine, Random Jottings

I am not sure why I feel this way, but when the sun is shining and the sky is blue I have no desire to read a book that requires a huge amount of mental effort.  Almost as if the lazy, hazy days of summer affect my concentration and it has always been this way for me.  So toss the Margaret Atwood and the AS Byatt onto the to be read pile, ditch Ulysses and Recherché le Temps Perdu (for the umpteenth time) and turn to a more relaxed read, one that requires no flexing of the little grey cells, one that you can sink into and simply enjoy.

So into that category, oddly enough comes murder and detection but only of the so called ‘cosy’ variety.  In the last few months I have read the detective novels of Georgette Heyer, revisited those two redoubtable Dames, Agatha and Ngaio and have thoroughly enjoyed reading these stories with which I am so familiar.    Even knowing the books backwards and the identity of each murderer in each title does not lessen my enjoyment and relish with which I reacquaint myself with Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Inspector Alleyn and also Lord Peter Wimsey as I have  just reread Gaudy Night.

In the last fortnight I have read two of my favourite summer reads and I don’t think it is a coincidence that these books are always published at this time of year.  First up,  Perfect Proposal by Katie Fforde which I have had on pre-order at Amazon for months.  Love her books, witty and amusing and, yes formulaic, but written with such lightness and joi de vivre they are a joy.   Read this one through in a straight two hours one afternoon last week as the sun shone. The other was The Wings of the Sphinx by Camilleri the latest Inspector Montalbano story.  I love, love, love these books and Montalba no’s attitude to life, love and food and they are the perfect summer read.  I also read the latest Donna Leon set in Venice a month or so ago and now all my summer delights are done and dusted.

I am sure I can find some more though if I look hard enough….

Rob, Rob Around Books

Like many readers I get a lot more mobile in the summer. I’m never in the same place for too long, and there’s so many other non-bookish activities screaming for my attention that I can’t seem to find the time I need to get through as many full-length novels that I’d like to. So in the summer months I prefer to keep my reading choices short and simple – choosing instead to read short stories and novellas – just so I can keep myself free from any long-term reading commitments. As for a favourite ‘summery read’? Well, I don’t tend to schedule my reading around the seasons but one particular favourite title that sticks firmly in mind partly because of its summery theme, is Niccolò Ammaniti’s ‘I’m Not Scared’ (Canongate).

Bearing in mind my preference for choosing to read shorter works in the summer months, there are a myriad of titles in my TBR that I’m looking forward to reading this summer. But picking just one – well two actually – there’s that wonderful duo of translated titles from Peirene Press that every blogger seems to be talking about right now, ‘Beside the Sea’ by Véronique Olmi and ‘Stones in a Landslide’ by Maria Barbal.

Verity, Cardigan Girl Verity

The most summery book I have read is The go-between by L.P.Hartley; partly because it is set over a long hot summer, but mainly because I remember reading it in my teens lying in the back garden over a very hot Bank Holiday weekend.  But perfect summery reads for me are generally either books which I have been saving for my holidays (and thus hugely anticipating) and/or books which are lighter in feel, whether this is in terms of plot, style of writing or target market.  Generally nothing too literary and dense!

Over the summer months I am most eager to read The Wavespotter’s Guide; I have a huge TBR of fiction but this new non-fiction book by the author of the Cloud-spotters guide is hugely appealing to someone who loves to spend their time at the seaside and who likes nothing better than to sit on the beach and watch the surf and the tide coming in and out.

Marcia, Lizzy’s Literary Life

Summery reading is something that I avoid.  Reading about hot places when it’s invariably pouring down in Scotland is not good for my psyche!  If I’m travelling, I like to read something associated with my destination.  Invariably I spend the second half of August in Edinburgh at the Edinburgh Book Festival and so somewhere along the line, I’ll read something set there.  Perhaps this year, I’ll allow myself to read the final novel in Alexander McCall-Smith’s 44 Scotland Street Series, “The Unbearable Lightness of Scones”.  I just love that title!   I’ve been saving it as I don’t want the series to end.

My reading list during July and August is dominated by the events I’ll be attending at the Edinburgh Book Festival.  The program was published last week and my first pass wish list amounted to 48 events!  At £10 a ticket, I don’t think so.  I will definitely be attending David Mitchell’s event and so,  even though the title contains the wrong season for the purpose of your feature,  “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet” is top of this summer’s TBR.

So what do you reckon to these recommendations? Which books of the list today have tempted you? Which ones have you read and agree make the perfect summer read?

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Henrietta Sees It Through – Joyce Dennys

So today I thought I would look at a book that I have already devoured from a series of perfect summer reads. These are of course the new Bloomsbury Group titles which look like they are going to live up to the ones released last year (though I still have three of those to read – whoops, nice to have something to look forward to) and are wonderful books that once forgotten are being fondly re-read or delightfully discovered. I loved Henrietta’s War when I read it last year and so of course was incredibly excited about Henrietta Sees It Through being published and naturally it’s the first in the new series I simply had to read.

‘Henrietta Sees It Through’ is the war years from 1942 – 1945 as written by our narrator Henrietta the doctors wife in the Devonshire countryside in the form of letters to her childhood friend Robert. It’s a side to war you don’t often see as really bar the rationing people aren’t that aware there is a war on (and this is written to much comical effect in the previous book Henrietta’s War too) to begin with. In fact most of them are in competition with just what they can do in order to be a part of the ‘War Effort’. Be it from the amount of heating materials they use, the way they can create clothes out of curtains and pyjama’s, who can knit the most and who can house the most evacuee’s.

There is a much darker twist though as the book goes on and suddenly Devonshire isn’t quite as safe as it once was – the siren is even rung on several occasions which has been unheard of until now. Though still incredibly funny in parts I can imagine Joyce Dennys couldn’t just make a set of columns for Sketch magazine (which is where Henrietta was created) constantly funny despite the fact the idea behind it was in some way to make people laugh during these trying times, Dennys own war effort if you will. So people in the village that Henrietta knows do loose loved ones as many people did and though there is sadness Dennys mixes in the hope of the Blitz Spirit which wasn’t just alive and well in London but around the whole country.

I wanted to include a passage which sums up a lot of the Henrietta spirit and also something that will strike a chord with all us book lovers out there. Here is a small drama in the world of Henrietta whilst trying to ‘do good’ during war times…

 ‘But it’s monstrous! It’s frightful! It’s a crime!’ I cried, getting red in the face. ‘Here we are stuck down here: no theatre, no music; the only thing which stops us becoming screaming savages is books, and now —‘
‘Pulp, all pulp,’ said Mrs Savernack, who dislikes books as some people dislike cats.
‘Do go away, Henrietta,’ said Mrs Admiral. ‘You really are terribly in the way.’
I rushed blindly into the street, nearly colliding with little Mrs Simpkins in her bath-chair, who was bringing Stray Thoughts For Girls as her offering.
On the way home I decided to steal the Fieldings. It was quite simple. That night, while the nine o’clock news deadened the sound of my burglarious entrance, I walked into the Savernacks’ house, saw the key of the depot on the hall table, picked it up, and walked out again. Then I went to the depot, lifted the Fieldings tenderly from their shelf, put five one pound notes on the counter under a copy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, returned the key to the Savernacks’ hall table, and went home.
‘More books?’ said Charles, looking up from The Times. ‘You’ll have to get another shelf put up soon.’
Next morning, like a murderer unable to keep away form the scene of his crime, I took another book down to the Good Book depot. The empty space on the shelf where the Fieldings had been yawned accusingly empty, but nobody seemed to have noticed it, and Mrs Savernack accepted Gone With The Wind very graciously.

I again thoroughly enjoyed the second, and sadly I think final, instalment of Henrietta and the goings on of her and her friends such as the wonderful Lady B, the ditzy flirtatious Faith (a lovely happy story line there) and a few new characters too not just of the human variety either. I said last year that ‘I haven’t smirked, giggled and laughed out loud at a book so much in quite some time. A perfect and delightful book’ after reading ‘Henrietta’s War’ (as you will see from the picture below where it is features on the back of this very book) and was worried this one might not be able to live up to the last one. However with Dennys adding a few darker shades of the war in I found the contrast added something extra that made this a wonderful follow up and whilst I carried on laughing, I was made to think much more about war and its effects. 9/10

Savidge suggests perfect prose partners;

Henrietta’s War by Joyce Dennys (you have to read both, it’s as simple as that really)
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer (wonderful novel of wartime Guernsey as told through letters between several wonderful characters, it will make you laugh and touch you emotionally, a favourite from 2008)

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Summer Read Suggestions… From Authors

Earlier in my ‘Summer Reads Week’ I asked for suggestions of favourite summer reads from publishers pasts and the ones they were looking forward to having a read of over the coming months. So I then thought what about authors? I have noticed in the past some papers and the like get some authors to tell us just what they will be reading over the summer, so I thought why not do the same with authors? Asking simply what makes the perfect summer read for you and which book is your favourite summery read? Which book are you most eager to read over the summer months and why?

Rather than go off and just get any author I could to answer these questions I decided to go for some authors who have produced some of my favourite reads over the last few years of me writing Savidge Reads. I was most chuffed that they all said yes…

Maria Barbal

It depends quite on the time to spend. If I have a complete month it’s a good moment to read a long novel but also for a second rereading or for reading the whole work of an author.

I have read one book by Herta Müller and I would like to read some more.  Specially Tot el Que Tinc ho duc al damunt  (Atemschaukel, English: Everything I Possess I Carry With Me), because she has a poetic and piercing style, and reaches the reader with her writing.

Neil Bartlett

A perfect summer read for me is one which is utterly engrossing, but which I can safely fall asleep while reading on the flagstones of my garden, and then pick up the thread of at once, once I awake. Two contrasting examples currently in my pile; The Leopard (Lampedusa- perfect, as it makes the Visconti movie replay in my head) and My Memories of Six Reigns by Her Highness Princess Marie Louise – a junkshop find, full of great pictures and bizarre bejewelled stories.

Which book for this summer ? Andrew Graham Dixon’s new Caravaggio biog, which I think will piss me off, as he’s very determined to de-queer the paintings, but he’s a serious historian, and Caravaggio is an artist whose works I hope to spend the rest of my life looking at.

Stella Duffy

I read really widely anyway, and have never really bought into the ‘some books are for the beach’ idea, BUT I do like the books I’m hungry to get through in one or two sittings when I happen to have an afternoon free (we don’t have much skill at actually going away on holiday in our house!). I’ve had splendid summers in my garden where, after working all morning, I’ve spent the afternoon speeding through a friend’s very fast-paced dark crime novel or another mate’s bonkbuster.

I remember a great summer week of working every morning and reading Val McDermid’s Mermaid’s Singing in the garden in the afternoons. It hardly sounds summery, but there was something about the contrast between the warmth and sunshine and the darkness of the book that I really enjoyed.

I have Anna Quindlen’s ‘Every Last One’ on my TBR pile and I’m definitely looking forward to that. Unusually I HAVE been swayed by the quotes on the cover – Anne Tyler, Elizabeth Jane Howard, and Alice Hoffman in praise? It has to be good! I also have some newly released Janet Frame short stories ‘The Daylight and The Dust’ which I’m definitely looking forward to, and I do think they will need a long, slow, quiet afternoon or two to really do them justice.

Tess Gerritsen

The perfect summer read… A book that takes me completely out of my own surroundings and transports me to a different one.  I especially love being plunged into a different time period, or even a different world.  An historical mystery by Arianna Franklin, for instance, would be an example of a perfect summer read.  Or a fantasy novel along the lines of Tolkien.

I have a copy of Justin Cronin’s The Passage.  I can’t wait to dive in. And I also have a copy of Manda Scott’s mammoth work Boudica, which I’ve been putting off until I have the time to do it justice.  I’m looking forward to them both so much!

Sophie Hannah

The perfect summer read, for me, is anything that pins me to my sun-lounger long after I would ordinarily have leaped into the swimming pool – a book worth getting sunstroke for. I have lots of favourite holiday reads dating back several years – the one that springs to mind is ‘The Memory Game’ by Nicci French, which I read on holiday in Florida in 1999. It remains one of the most sophisticated, intelligent, sensitive and gripping thrillers I’ve ever read.

On my holiday this year, I plan to read the new Scott Turow, ‘Innocent’, the sequel to ‘Presumed Innocent’, which I have no doubt will be as stylish and compelling as Turow always is, and ‘The Disappeared’ by MR Hall, a brilliant new crime writer whose series protagonist is a coroner.

Hillary Jordan

My perfect summer read is a beautifully written novel that grabs hold of me on page one, pulls me into another world and doesn’t let go till The End. I think my best ever summer read was Lord of the Rings.

This summer I was hoping to read The Lacuna but am racing to finish my own second novel, Red…so I suspect that’s the only book my nose will be buried in over the next few months!

Paul Magrs

There are several novels I associate with summer – and I’d be keen to reread them at some point during the holiday… R C Sherrif – The Fortnight in September, a suburban family between the wars goes to the seaside. Nothing happens – from everyone’s POV. A perfect novel! Haruki Murakami – The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, it’s long, episodic and puzzling. I read it in Paris last summer and loved it. Scarlett Thomas – The End of Mr Y. This is another holiday read that’s all mind-bendy and completely absorbing and perfect for sitting at cafe tables with strong coffee and fancy ice cream. Jacqueline Susann – The Love Machine. Perfect sleazy soap opera set in the world of 60s television. Jonathan Caroll – The Land of Laughs, a wonderful supernatural thriller about a writer of children’s books.

And, of course, as many unread or favourite Puffins, gobbled up alongside all of these. The papery fragrance of Puffins *is* what summer smells of, to me. Too many, no..?

Dan Rhodes

My reading habits aren’t particularly affected by the seasons, although I did once give up on Kafka’s The Castle while lying on the beach in Majorca. I just couldn’t feel the cold. At the moment I’m going through a cop novel phase. Two in particular I’ve found supremely original and well worth a look: Bad Traffic by Simon Lewis takes a Chinese detective and drops him in the English countryside, and Pocket Notebook by Mike Thomas follows a ‘roided-up firearms officer as his life and career unravel quite spectacularly. Most cop novels are by whey-faced writer types who would run a mile from a genuine crime scene, but Mike Thomas happens to be a serving police officer, which adds a frisson of authenticity to proceedings. Should that matter in fiction? Possibly not, but either way it’s a cracking read. I’m impatient for more from those two.

I’m going to plough through my short story shelf. There’s still plenty of stuff I haven’t read by William Trevor, VS Pritchett, Katherine Mansfield, Paul Bowles, etc, etc. And just when I think I must be nearing the end of Chekhov’s fiction I always seem to find a bunch of stories I’d never heard of. And while I’m on the subject of short stories, may I recommend Rhapsody by Dorothy Edwards? I’m always on about this book, but it’s criminally overlooked. It’s one of the best things ever to have happened on Earth.

Natasha Solomons

I remember my summers by the books I was reading. The summer of 2000 wasn’t island hopping through Greece with a slightly dodgy boyfriend and his dodgier moped, it was ‘A Thousand Years of Solitude’. The August I left school was ‘Moontiger’ and ‘A Town Like Alice’  — (which did cause me to develop a slight obsession with the sarong). During summer I want a book that transports me — I want the story to be more real than the British drizzle and to be so compelling that I’m flipping the bbq burgers in one hand and clutching my book in the other.

The books I love this year are Irene Sabatini’s ‘The Boy Next Door’, which has already won the Orange New Writer’s Prize — it’s the love story of a mixed race couple struggling amidst the growing chaos in Zimbabwe. I love these kinds of books: the small and personal set against the vast and cataclysmic. The other is Emma Henderson’s ‘Grace Williams Says it Loud’, which made me cry. The book is inspired by Emma’s own sister who lived for many years in a unit for disabled people. Yet, this is a sweeping love story narrated with such verve by Grace that you forget she is unable to speak. You’ll also fall in love with Daniel — he’s so dapper and debonair. I’ll also be re-reading Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’ for the seventieth time. No summer is complete without a little strawberry picking at Donwell Abbey.

Evie Wyld

I love a really massive book for a summer read, and preferably something a bit spooky or scary, like Murakami’s Wind up Bird Chronicles. That was perfect. But this summer I’m looking forward to The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. I’ve heard amazing things about this book.

Other things I’m taking on holiday are Larry’s Party by Carol Shields and The Trout Opera by Matthew Condon. I love Carol Shields and I’ve been meaning to read this for ages, and I’ve just been given a copy of the Trout Opera by my partner. He says I’ll love it, and he should know. All Australians I’m afraid!

So there you have it, on Friday and Saturday it’s a two parter of books that some other bloggers (some still haven’t responded tut tut, ha) have suggested for your summer reading TBR’s. Back to today though, anything taken your fancy from the selection of titles above? I am most intrigued by some of them I have to say. Did any authors surprise you with what they could be reading over the summer?

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Filed under Dan Rhodes, Evie Wyld, Hillary Jordan, Maria Barbal, Natasha Solomons, Neil Bartlett, Paul Magrs, Sophie Hannah, Stella Duffy, Tess Gerritsen

The Mephisto Club – Tess Gerritsen

It might look like I am taking a small detour from the weeks ‘Summer Reads Season’ but I’m not really (though I will be on Thursday a little) because Tess Gerritsen novels are actually wonderful summer reads, compelling, page turning, both character and plot driven and a little bit gory. In fact they are really all year round kinds of reads. In fact Tess Gerritsen is one of those wonderful writers who I know if I open any of her books I am just going to completely escape (she’s my guilt free guilty pleasure) and we all need books and authors like that don’t we?

‘The Mephisto Club’ is the sixth in what has become the Rizzoli & Isles series, though like most of the series you can read this as a standalone novel. Actually having said all that you couldn’t read ‘The Apprentice’ without having read ‘The Surgeon’ before hand as it is sort of a sequel, but I digress.  One of the things I think Tess Gerritsen always does well as the series goes on is to give you brief hints of what has gone on before rather than any catch ups and means that the books don’t suffer from too much retrospective unless its part of the plot, and believe me Gerritsen is all about the plot.

The book opens with the murder of a woman which looks to be sacrificial, dismembered parts of her are surrounded by words in Latin and satanic looking symbols. What becomes more ominous is when Dr Maura Isles has the body in one place she realises one of the hands doesn’t belong to the woman they found and Detective Jane Rizzoli is going to have to find a serial killer. That’s sort of the opening state of play though actually not only does Gerritsen create a fast paced thriller from all this and move Isle’s and Rizzoli’s lives forward (Maura’s love life gets ever more complicated and scandalises Rizzoli testing their already ropey friendship) she does more with this novel.

Through symbolism at the crime scene and as the story moves on a much bigger story, which leads us to Italy, is going on. Mythology and legends come into play through the mysterious ‘Mephisto Club’ which I will say no more about as you won’t read the book if I do. I will say that Gerritsen looks at how humans become evil and if there is the God people say there is, then surely there must be demons and the devil too? It never gets supernatural, though it does get quite scary, but looks at the possibilities behind certain beliefs. I was hooked from start to finish and read it in two sittings. I shouldn’t be surprised though as this happens with every single Gerritsen I pick up. 8/10

Do you have any faithful authors of any genre that you know as soon as you open the pages you will be lost in the book and devour in a few sittings? What or who your guilt free guilty pleasure all year round? This was the book I read o the plane to the Isle of Man last week to stop myself being aware I was on the plane, it worked! Which other series do you think I might like if I enjoy Gerristen so? I am well aware I am catching up with the Gerritsen books far too quickly as have started the next one, which interestingly has Isles in it but is completely and utterly different from this series, more on that soon…

Savidge suggests perfect prose partners;

The Surgeon – Tess Gerritsen (to start at the very beginning)
Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell (I liked this a lot and know she has a huge readership, I do think Gerritsen’s books read better and are more addictive – is it bad to say that? Too late!)

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Filed under Review, Rizzoli and Isles, Tess Gerritsen, Transworld Publishing