Monthly Archives: November 2010

Coconut Unlimited – Nikesh Shukla

After the Costa shortlists were announced I was lucky enough to be emailed by some of the publishers who wondered if I would like to read some of the novels on the lists. As I mentioned a while back it was the debut novels that intrigued me. One of them was ‘Coconut Unlimited’ by Nikesh Shukla which I had heard mentioned in the broadsheets and had intrigued me from its synopsis partly because it was a coming of age story, which is something I am trying to get my small bias around, and also because it was a comic novel by all accounts.

Quartet Books, paperback, 2010, fiction, 200 pages, kindly sent to me by the publisher

‘Coconut Unlimited’ does seem like it could be very much on the authors, Nikesh Shulka’s, youth. It’s a tale of Amit from his childhood growing up in Harrow in North West London in the mid 1990’s. Born left handed his Indian family are rather concerned for him due to its religious connotations and so he is sent to a very white and rather middle/upper class private school where the teachers are known to make racist comments and expect no comeback. With his friends Anand and Nishant they create a rap band based on their passion for hip-hop (such as the Wu Tang Clan, Skee-Lo, Nas etc – which really took me back – who in honesty some of them have never heard of and in fact some of them make up hip-hop acts they have heard of to try and sound street) called ‘Coconut Unlimited’ as his sister says ‘because you are brown on the outside and white on the inside’.

The story then follows the bands highs and the lows both as they try and get noticed, get street (with some very funny consequences) and also whilst they deal with the perils of growing up and becoming men and belonging. It is much more than just a coming of age story, with humour Shukla deals with the issues of race and class as they were, and in some cases still are, just a decade ago. It is very funny, occasionally in a slightly bittersweet way, and if you didn’t or don’t love hip hop there is much to entertain you whilst enlightening you and certainly making you laugh and remembering your awkward teenage years.

Nikesh Shukla has a great voice, and in writing through the eyes of Amit he never makes the reader feel patronised, it’s all very authentic. In fact I would say that he deals with these three young men with a kind of tenderness which adds that extra something to the novel as a whole. His prose is fluid and energetic which may have something to do with the fact Shukla is a performance poet. It’s a very promising debut from a novelist I think we will be seeing much more from in the future. 7.5/10

Has anyone else given ‘Coconut Limited’ a whirl? If you have been umming and ahhing about it, possibly as from the blurb it sounds slightly niche as was my slight concern, then give it a whirl. I’m glad the Costa Book Awards shortlist brought this novel to my attention, and then to my door, now which one of the shortlisted titles should I try next?

This book was kindly sent to me by the publishers.

6 Comments

Filed under Nikesh Shukla, Quartet Books, Review

Gearing Up For The Green Carnation Finale

It’s all gearing up now as the winner of The Green Carnation Prize 2010 is finally (weirdly it seem like ages ago we started it and yet also only five minutes ago) announced! I am going to be busy nattering with the other lovely judges over the next 24 hours and hopefully we will all be aligned with our final choice… Though what we do if we aren’t goodness only knows! Any suggestions?

It’s been a joy to do this year, despite a little blip we don’t speak of, and I am very excited about next years which can only be bigger and better – in part as we have a good nine months to get a longlist rather than the frantic diligent one month we had this year! We’ve some announcements coming about judges for 2011, new rules and the like coming up in the next weeks and actually if you pop to the site (http://greencarnationprize.wordpress.com then you can see the shortlisted authors getting a grilling or two!!!

Now I ummed and ahhhhed about this due to previous events but I do love your feed back and so wondered if you had any thoughts on what could be done in 2011 that would make the prize better for you all? We’ve some ideas but it’s always good to hear from you lovely lot for added inspiration?

Would you like more info on the longlisting process? More quotes and insights from all the judges? More info on the books? Forums? More, or indeed less, of anything else? We want it to be really interactive and an award you all love! Or you could let us know which is your favourite book award and why? Over to you…

Note:- you can now win a copy of The Green Carnation winning ‘Paperboy’ by Christopher Fowler if you leave a comment… it’s a competition open internationally so get suggesting and commenting!

15 Comments

November 29, 2010 · 12:37 pm

Books of 2010… Your Thoughts

It’s getting to that time of year when you start seeing ‘The Books of The Year’ in all the broadsheets, which I always find quite interesting as invariably I have missed out on these choice reads!

Its also the time of year when I start to think which books will make it into my end of year lists and the question always arises ‘have I missed any?’ So I thought I would ask you for some of your favourites from 2010, be they published this year or ones of old (or the last few years/decade) that you have only discovered this year!

Which books might I have missed that you’ve loved this year and I should try and get reading before the end of December? (You might also save some books from getting culled… The cull is almost done, more on that later in the week!)

13 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Books of 2010

Fancy Some Free Books?

We all like free books don’t we? As I mentioned yesterday in the earlier of two posts I am giving two of you the chance to win over 20 books each, but more of that in a little bit. Free books have made my year of not buying books all the more liveable, not that it’s been as hard as I thought – more on that in a post nearer the end of the year though.

The first way you could get a free book, I know one isn’t as good as twenty but its still a free book, this week is by popping into Waterstones (if you are in the UK) and getting the latest issue of Waterstones Magazine. It’s £2.95 normally but if you have a Waterstones card, and every book lover should, then it’s free and along with lots of great author interviews you also get over 116 reviews and this month it comes with a free read…

I haven’t read any Philip Kerr so I don’t really know what to expect from ‘The One From The Other’ so if any of you have read any Kerr then I would love to hear more about him. I know this is part of a series of Bernie Gunther but I don’t think it’s the first which might cause me some issue with my wanting to read everything in order rule, ha.

Now then speaking of series the moment you have been waiting for as thanks to the lovely publishers Constable and Robinson I am going to be giving two of you the chance to win the whole of one of my favourite series of books… the whole Agatha Raisin series, all 20 novels and ‘The Companion Guide’ which will make the perfect Christmas read for any book lover.

So what do you have to do to win this lovely lot? Simply leave a comment below saying that you want to be entered into the mix for these lovely treats and I will pick a winner in time for my bookish bits next Saturday. There is a small glitch, you need to be in the UK and Ireland only because the cost of shipping this lot is going to be rather high, so maybe if you have a friend in the UK who could forward it on get them to enter. So good luck!

24 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Give Away

Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks

Isn’t it funny how something in your real life can lead you down a different reading path than the one you were expecting? I was planning to make a start on ‘Middlesex’ by Jeffery Eugenides earlier in the week when I received a text from my big sister Holly asking if I wanted to go and see the stage adaptation of Sebastian Faulks ‘Birdsong’ in the West End on Friday (today) as her acting agency have a lot of their members as cast in the show. Naturally I couldn’t turn down time with her or the change to go and see a show and so I said yes, and will actually be on the way there when you read this. The thing was though I hadn’t read the book, which has been languishing on my TBR for about 4 years, so with slight trepidation to its size and subject matter I thought ‘right I shall pick it up and read it now’ and wow was it a real reading experience!

‘Birdsong’ is such a wonderful novel that when you try and write about it, and this is my sixth edit, you never feel like you could do it justice without simply telling people to go and read it. However people might want to know a little more about it and I shall try and furnish the finer detail for you a little without giving anything away. Or you could stop reading here and simply go and grab the book if you haven’t already. Anyway, I digress…

As ‘Birdsong’ opens its first of seven parts we are in Amiens, France in 1910. Here we follow Stephen Wraysford as he joins Rene Azaire to spend time in his textile factory at the behest of his benefactor in England. Not only does he spend time in Azaire’s empire he also lives with his family including daughter Lisette, son Gregoire and second wife Isabelle. This is Faulks way of not only setting up life in middle class France before the First World War but also the first dimension of the story as Stephen embarks on a dangerous and secret love affair with one of the women of the household.

The second part of the novel is set six years after the latter parts dénouement as we rejoin a slightly altered Stephen as he fights in the trenches during the Battle of the Somme, his previous years have turned him cold and dedicated so much to the war, for escape I felt, that he will take no leave and seems to want to fight fiercely all he can. The battle rages and soon as Stephen is let in on a sad secret of the next part of their fight, and therefore we the reader learn the same, we follow the war in the most realistic fictional account I have ever read of it. The reader then follows Stephens story through both his eyes and the eyes of his granddaughter in the 1970’s and just when you think the story couldn’t unfold anymore it does and not the way you might expect.

It is incredibly hard to try and encapsulate ‘Birdsong’ in a mere few paragraphs and I am sure I haven’t done it justice. The writing is incredible, as I mentioned above I don’t think I have ever had war depicted to me – especially life in the trenches themselves – with such realism. By turns dramatic yet never melodramatic you find you heart racing as much as you do feel the longing of a love affair that seems doomed from the start in the first section. I did initially get thrown by the addition of the modern narration through Elizabeth, Stephen’s granddaughter; however Faulks uses this to add a further dimension to the journey we are already on whilst adding a further tale of the effects of war. The only word for it really is epic, ‘Birdsong’ is a book you’ll want to get lost in for hours and yet be unable to put down. 10/10

I loved this book and read it in three sittings, I don’t think I can put it any simpler. I was carried away by the love story, equally horrified and gripped by Faulks war scenes and left quite bereft when I finished the final page. I am sure I am preaching to the converted and you have all read this already, however if you haven’t then you must… in fact go, go right now and get it. I am just left wondering which of the novels of Sebastian Faulks to read next and if any could ever compete with this one? Maybe I should have read it last rather than have it as my first read of his work? Though of course I could read everything else and return to this one, which I think I will definitely do at some point. Will the play do it justice I wonder?

This is a book I have had on Mount TBR for about 4 years and always meant to read… how many more like this might I unwittingly own I wonder?

19 Comments

Filed under Books of 2010, Review, Sebastian Faulks, Vintage Books, Vintage Classics

Very Human Hearts

I wanted to pop a small thank you post up before a bigger review, which I am currently having a fifth stab at getting right as I keep feeling I havent done the book justice, later today. I havent gotten around to responding to comments you have posted lately which I have been wanting too (though I do have time pencilled in this evening to do just that) but a big thanks for them all. Especially the ones which concern ‘Do I Want To Read?’ as your thoughts are always really helpful, in fact Gran says thanks for your suggestions for her book group choices for next year too, you all seem to know just what I might like and what more could I ask for?

I do have to extend an extra thanks as I received a little surprise parcel from a reader who has sent me things before this morning (it had been left at the shop next door) which took recommendation a little further with a note attached saying ‘I didn’t comment, I just thought this would say it all… read it’ and enclosed was…

… a copy of ‘Any Human Heart’ by William Boyd! I am most chuffed,so a huge thanks to you who wishes to remain nameless! Though of course it now causes a new dilemma, when oh when to read it?

Oh and in case you think it’s all take, take, take at Savidge Reads HQ you might want to pop onto the blog tomorrow when I will be giving away to two lucky readers over twenty books each … all will be revealed tomorrow!!

4 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts

The Man Booker Judges 2011… Can Judges Make A Prize More Interesting?

I am feeling a little bit fickle today. The reason I think this is all because of The Man Booker. I have to say I was a little disappointed with The Man Booker Prize winning novel this year, without having read it I will freely admit, and the prize in general. Wonderful titles like ‘The Long Song’ and ‘Room’ were included but I couldn’t get passionate about it like I did back in 2009 when ‘Wolf Hall’ won and I read the whole long list. I couldn’t be bothered about reading them all this year (and have culled quite a few of the titles I haven’t read that were in the long and short lists) the prize seemed to be really stuffy and trying to be trendy all at once. Though of course that could just be me who thought that?

However the fickle me is now quite excited about The Man Booker 2011 because of the announcement of the judges earlier today who are author Matthew d’Ancona (who I hadn’t heard of before), author Susan Hill, politician Chris Mullin, Head of Books at The Telegraph Gaby Wood and Dame Stella Rimmington who was the head . Rather an eclectic mix don’t you think?

I don’t know two of the judges, sorry, but the other three I am really intrigued and pleased about. I am not majorly into politics but I am a big fan of Chris Mullin and his political views so that’s endeared me to him, we have something in common to a degree, though I do wonder if people will be a bit ‘why is a politician judging a book prize’? I am of course ecstatic that one of my favourite authors Susan Hill is one of the judges I need say no more. The one I am most excited about is Dame Stella Rimmington… because she worked for blinking MI5!!! I wonder if this could be the year for crime appearing more heavily on the list with her and Susan Hill at the helm.

Interestingly as ‘The Green Carnation Prize 2010’ draws to a close with the winner announced next Wednesday and yet we are already working on ‘The Green Carnation Prize 2011’ and currently its judges, some of us are staying and some sadly just have too manic a year but maybe joining as ‘guest judges’ after longlists and shortlists are announced, it’s a different way forward for a judging panel but will mean new insights at each stage and yet some of the same faces year by year. So we have been looking at who we should approach and why which has had me thinking a lot about judges and their appeal, so I thought I might ask you your thoughts!

Does who is on a panel affect what you think of an award? Can certain judges endear you and if so why? Would any particular people put you off? Who, if you created an award for books, would you love to have on your five piece judging panel along side you and why?

7 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts