Monthly Archives: October 2010

Happy Halloween… Any Spooky Suggestions?

I have only just discovered the code to my mother’s Wi-Fi and so haven’t been able to do much in the way of blogging or catching up which has been a mixture of a horror and a delightful rest. I had hoped to have a spooky review for you today but I have as yet to pick up a book which can hold my interest during this bout of recovery. Tricky times and no treats as yet!!

Now on the subject of tricks or treats, monsters, goblins, ghosts and ghouls, can any of you suggest any spooky stories for adults and for children as my siblings have been asking too and I have been a bit rubbish in recommendations for them. I am stuck on which books used to really spook me when I was a kid! So could I have suggestions for both please?

Happy Halloween everyone!!!

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Recuperation Retreat

By the time this post goes up I will be up north at my Mums getting some well needed relaxation and recuperation after my ‘investigation’ at the hospital. Everything went well by all reports which is a good sign and is half the battle won it would appear. Now I guess it is simply a waiting game for results so we know what the heck is going on but for now I can just have some time out for a few days in the middle of nowhere (seriously where my Mum lives is like a little retreat from the world, they have a pub and that’s about it).

I have brought some guilty pleasure reads along with me and will quite probably be curling up with ‘The Girl Who Reads Too Much’ on the sofa and just taking some time out. Blissful, just what the doctor ordered. Oh and see I promised I would share a picture of me in my lovely hospital gown, you lucky, lucky things.

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Alls Not Quite Well

Hello one and all, I wanted to pop a little note up on Savidge Reads as there may be some silence for a little while. As I have mentioned I have been feeling rather unwell on and off of late and after a several visits to mystified doctors and walk in clinics and finally a mad dash to A&E last weekend it seems now I have to have a procedure or two before I can get back to my good old self.

I’m not going to go into details or moan because its not very me anyway and at the moment no one is quite sure what’s going on. I am however going to be heading up north to my Mum’s for some respite after a visit to the hospital later this week for an ‘investigation’. I will try and pop by with a picture or two of me in my hospital gown, bet you’d all love to see that, hee hee.

Hopefully both me and Savidge Reads will be up and running good as new again in due course.

Now then lets be a bit more cheerful and have a bookish related request!!!! What can you recommend as hospital and respite reads? I was trying to get through China Mieville’s ‘The City & The City’ which I was enjoying but proved a bit too concentration orientated for my abilities at present. Would love your recommendations. I want some books which are fun (though not necessarily comic), maybe a little upbeat (though can still be literary), have delightful characters and will provide great escape, your mission is set…

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Exchange – Paul Magrs

I have to say I really ummed and ahhed for a while as to whether I should review this book. As some of you will know Paul Magrs is the Chair of The Green Carnation Prize (the shortlist will be announced in a week, which has come round very quickly) which I am one of the judges and co-founding members of. So I was worried that if I loved it, and I did like it lots, that people might think I was being biased through knowing the author. I don’t want people thinking that I would be biased towards an author on any account so I just wanted to clear that up before we go forward. So lets talk about this book, which if you are a lover books – and lets face it if you have popped by here then you must be – will be right up your street.

When I picked up ‘Exchange’ in a book shop a few years ago I will be honest and admit that I hadn’t heard of Paul Magrs before and had never read his ‘Brenda and Effie’ series, which I now love, I initially really liked the cover and then when I read the blurb I knew I had to pick it up from the line “united by their voracious appetite for novels, Simon and his grandmother stumble across the Great Big Book Exchange – a bookshop with a difference.” I was sold not only because it was a book about books and bookshops but also because Simon and his voracious reading Granny sounded a little bit familiar…

We meet Simon as he walks the streets with an old ladies shopping trolley, the initial protagonist of ‘Exchange’, following the death of his parents. He’s a bit of an outsider as well as an orphan. I will admit as soon as I read that I almost inwardly groaned. I have an issue with novels that start with orphans as they have become a cliché today and simply a good way to get rid of the parents so the kids can go and have some marvellous adventures. ‘Exchange’ is different because it actually looks at the emotional turmoil that bereavement can leave behind not only in the deceased’s 16 year old son but in their parents too as we discover when Simon moves in with his grandparents (Winnie and Ray).

It’s the love of books between him and his Gran which both furthers their bond and helps them move forward and escape the real world of grief after such an event especially when they accidentally discover ‘The Great Big Book Exchange’ and its owner Terence and assistant Kelly, who starts a touching relationship with Simon. Its this moment that becomes a catalyst in their lives and also turns the tale to Winnie and her childhood with the now world famous Ada Jones giving insight into what makes a writer and what makes a reader. So as you can see there is a lot going on and I haven’t even covered the burning of books either by Granddad Ray who after years of being married to a reader flips. I was weirdly expecting something magical to happen, I don’t know why this was, but instead you just have a charming story with no bells and whistles, it’s just a lovely tale.

I won’t give anything more away, I think it will suffice to say that it’s an entertaining and heart felt read which will appeal to anyone who loves books, books about books and the people who love books. I did have one tiny sticking point with the book exchange itself as I wasn’t sure about how it worked as you signed up, paid some money borrowed some books and then got some money back when you brought them back. I just thought with libraries and charity shops why would you exchange and what if you wanted to keep one as Winnie does? I have heard that there are such places though. I actually think this book will appeal to adults and teenage readers alike. 8/10

I was quite freaked out about book loving Simon and his book loving Gran and their adventures to book shops and tearooms being so like me at 16… and even now at 28! I wondered if you had ever read a book and thought ‘ooh that’s so like my life’ and if so what was it? Have any of you found a book exchange and how did it work? Who else has read this? Which other fictional books, I have some non fiction but you can recommend those too, embrace the world of books and reading that I might have missed out on?

I bought this book myself a few years ago.

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Our Man in Havana – Graham Greene

Graham Greene is an author that I have meant to read much, much more of (there are loads of authors like that aren’t there, well there are for me) ever since I read ‘The End of the Affair’ back before I blogged in 2007 and was really, really bowled over by it. I fancied something funny and for some reason when I have heard about ‘Our Man in Havana’ I have always heard it’s a comedy. Now I wouldn’t personally have called it that myself, though I would say it’s an entertaining spy caper and one that was something very different for me to read which made a nice change.

I found it very interesting reading, on my rather old battered copy of this book, that Graham Greene himself rated ‘Our Man in Havana’ as not a novel but as an entertainment. Having now read it I can see what he means I think. A novel is a novel but this isn’t the kind of book that you might expect from Graham Green because its not exactly literary even thought it’s actually very well written. In fact you would almost think that ‘Our Man in Havana’ was a pastiche of a James Bond novel whilst also being a comedy of errors in some ways. Hmmm, hard one to describe, maybe a little sharing of the story will help.

‘Our Man in Havana’ is of course set in Cuba under the regime of Batista and our protagonist Wormold, who’s wife has left him alone with his daughter who is rather high maintenance in more ways than one, is selling vacuum cleaners for a living with the odd drink or five with his friend Dr Hasselbacher. This all changes however when he meets Hawthorne, a man from British Intelligence who is looking for a new agent and who decides that Wormold is the perfect man for the job. However Wormold isn’t the perfect man or agent for the job, though he thinks the money is brilliant and to keep it coming starts making up agents, their storylines and tales of espionage in the depths of Cuba. Things start to get a little more complicated for Wormold, and all the more entertaining for the reader, as the things he makes up start to actually happen.

I did enjoy this book as a read, it didn’t blow me away liked I hoped it would. I liked the idea of your average man becoming a hopeless spy, yet really all we had was Wormold telling lies and creating mild deceptions for his own gains which kind of put me off him. I know that shouldn’t matter but it did a bit. In fact it was really his daughter Milly and British Intelligence secretary Beatrice that sort of saved the book in many ways, apart from a very funny moment involving vacuum parts which tickled me. I don’t know who told me it was a comedy because though in parts it’s farcical it didn’t ever really make me laugh out loud, well actually maybe on occasion in the scenes with Wormold’s daughter Milly in them.

I did find it interesting learning afterwards that Greene had actually been part of MI6 in the 1940’s and also that he seemed to pre-empt the Cuban Missile crisis in some ways, well more the trouble in Cuba than anything specific though. I was definitely entertained with ‘Our Man in Havana’ yet I don’t think I was ever well and truly sold on it, I think I wanted and expected more maybe, the fault could therefore be mine. I’m still glad I read it though. 6.5/10

I think it being my second novel of Greene’s that I read honestly didn’t help this book, especially after the first was the impeccable ‘The End of the Affair’. I think maybe this should be the first of your Greene reads or maybe one when you have read a few more of his others. I could be alone in this though as I know a lot of people think this is an utterly brilliant book. I think its good, I just wonder if I should have read it now, maybe it was all about the timing and its place in my reading relationship with Greene, maybe its one to go back to? I am not sure what I will read of Greene’s next. I will have to see what people recommend.

I bought myself this lovely old 3’6 orange Penguin edition from a charity shop a few years ago, before the 2010 book buying ban, for 50p I think.

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That Lovely ‘What To Read Next’ Feeling…

Having finished my latest read last night before I went to sleep I awoke this morning and stretched with that lovely feeling of ‘ooh I can browse my bookshelves at whim and read whatever I want to next’. Sometimes that can be a daunting prospect when you have a rather massive Mount TBR however this morning it feels much more like I have a world of endless characters, places, situations and stories ahead of me and that is the perfect feeling on a chilly, yet sunny October morning.

In fact as yet I have still not decided what I want to read next (and people have been very helpful in adding to the TBR of late which you may see in a separate post today or later in the week) thought there are about five major contenders at the moment.

   

  • Hawksmoor – Peter Ackroyd
  • Purple Hibiscus – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Still Missing – Beth Gutcheon
  • The City & The City – China Miéville

I don’t want to rush to choose what my next book will be yet (so it might not be any of the ones I am mulling over) or even rush to start another, though I am not in a reading funk; I just want to enjoy this feeling for a little longer instead. Sometimes I really think this is one of the loveliest feelings in the world, don’t you?

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Book Reviews vs. Posts About Bookish Bits & Bobs

I was having a nice coffee with a lovely friend today who really doesn’t get the whole book blogging thing and has often rather bemused and amused by the fact that one of her closest friends is so very into it. Chatting with her has given me enough food for thought for a blog post which I am going to let sit with me and conjure up next week. However in the mean time there was one thing she said, which I will surmise as best as my memory will allow, which is something I have occasionally pondered (not with other blogs – just my own) which in its full glory sounded something like this…

“The thing is shouldn’t a book blog just be your thoughts or reviews on a certain book. I mean I looked at yours once and you were explaining what books had been sent to you, what books you weren’t sure if you should read, which book shop you’d spent ages perusing and also what you’d been up to of late which had no bookish value at all. I mean apart from reading about someone’s thoughts on books is the other stuff actually relevant or are you over sharing?”

So I thought I would do a mini post, which is sort of book related – oops she will be furious ha, quickly asking for your thoughts. Do you read a book blog just for the book reviews/book thoughts or do you want to know more about the blogger’s book addiction and their life. Would you stop reading a book blog if the reviews were drying up and only the ‘sort of bookish bits’ were appearing instead, or do you like a bit of both? Can we bloggers occasionally over share?

There’s no right or wrong answer, in fact I haven’t made up my own mind on what my own response is to this quite yet, I just thought I would put it out there. And don’t be mean about the original question, not that you would, as it wasn’t meant meanly. I would love to hear from fellow bloggers and followers of blogs alike. Simply let me know what your thoughts are and whatever your response/personal preference is let me know the why. It’ll be interesting to see what the results may show…

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