Monthly Archives: November 2010

The Bone Garden – Tess Gerritsen

You all probably know how much I love the books by Tess Gerritsen and you also probably know how much I love all things Victorian, so imagine if the two things were combined, it would be just the perfect read. That is exactly what ‘The Bone Garden’ is and as you might guess I won’t be recommending it to you enough. Even if you haven’t tried Gerritsen before or have never planned to give this book a whirl do give this post a read and you might just be convinced.

‘The Bone Garden’ is something a little bit different from the other Tess Gerritsen novels that I have read so far in the fact that really this is a historical mystery and a modern mystery set in alternating chapters and, you guessed it, somehow they both link to each other in a way that twists and turns as you read along.

As the book opens we read a letter regarding ‘The West End Reaper’ who terrified Boston in the 1830’s. I have to admit I did go and google to see if ‘The West End Reaper’ actually existed which shows how believable the story is. It is also a nod in the direction of the UK’s very own ‘Jack The Ripper’ a mystery which still puzzled the world today. We are then taken to modern day Boston where Julia Hamill has recently bought a new house after a messy divorce and whilst clearing the garden discovers a skeleton. Alternating between Julia’s efforts to find out who the body is and why its there and going to the events of the 1830’s which proves to be a particularly gripping romp and mystery combined, especially as you learn that one of the characters became one of the pioneers in medicine.

I liked the modern elements of the novel yet it was definitely the older period of the book which got me hooked especially when seen through the eyes of our plucky (I hope that word doesn’t put people off) heroine Rose Connelley and Norris Marshall a young farm boy who gets accepted at medicine school despite all odds and must do all he can, including grave robbing, to support himself. There is also the man Oliver Wendell Holmes (who I thought was Gerritsen’s homage to Sherlock but is actually real) and the mysterious cloaked figure who is determined to murder at any cost.

In some ways ‘The Bone Garden’ has been described as a spin off from the Isles and Rizzoli novels which have become one of my favourite series to read. Realistically though there is no Rizzoli in this novel and not as much Isles as you might think from the blurb, though Isles does appear on and off in the modern alternating part of the story and its always nice to see a friendly character now and again. Yet I would say if you haven’t given Tess Gerritsen a whirl and you fancy trying her out then this would be a great starting point (though I would of course say start the series with ‘The Surgeon’ if you are after the modern storylines alone).

I really enjoyed this and it has been the perfect read to help cure a rather depressing period of reading difficulty. It is also yet further proof of why Gerritsen deserves to be the number one best seller in the UK which she has been with her latest novel. So should you want a gripping historical mystery, some winter escapism or to give Gerritsen a whirl; then you can’t go wrong with this. 8/10.

Anyone else given this a whirl or any other of Tess Gerritsen’s novels? There will be a special post tomorrow which will give you much more insight into the world of Tess Gerritsen. I shall say no more for now!!

I was bought this book as a present a couple of years ago, I am savouring the series as they come though (even though I now realise its actually a seperate novel rather than part of the series).

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

The Prose Practice – Books for Book Groups

I am currently ‘oop north’ in Manchester and have been joined at my aunties by the lovely Granny Savidge Reads (though she does prefer to be known as simply Gran) and last night she was asking me my advice on possible choices for one, of the three that she is a member of, book groups and their choices of reads next year.

They already have a list of possible options and the idea is that each member of the group chooses twelve of the titles from the list giving them points in order of preference (twelve being the maximum and working down) and the ones that get the most votes are the twelve they head for in 2011.

Naturally I thought that all of you would make a wonderful panel who could recommend a title of twelve from the list, rather than just me. So here without further ado, and in order of authors first name, is the list of the possible reads, I have crossed some out as Gran had already read them and didn’t fancy them again or just didn’t fancy end of – though I am sure she could be persuaded by you all…

  • The Children’s Book – A.S. Byatt
  • The Yacoubian Building – Alaa al Aswanny
  • La’s Orchestra Saves The World – Alexander McCall Smith
  • The Long Song – Andrea Levy
  • The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga
  • The Card – Arnold Bennett
  • Dreams From My Father – Barack Obama
  • Our Mutual Friend – Charles Dickens
  • Last Train From Liguria – Christine Dwyer Hickey
  • Short Stories – D.H. Lawrence
  • Death Sentence – David Lodge
  • Counting My Chickens – Deborah Devonshire
  • These Foolish Things – Deborah Moggach
  • The Good Soldier – Ford Maddox Ford
  • Girl in a Blue Dress – Gaynor Arnold
  • Adam Bede – George Elliott
  • Three Cups of Tea – Greg Mortenson
  • Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami
  • Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel
  • Family Romance – John Lancaster
  • Paradise Postponed – John Mortimer
  • The Plague of Doves – Louise Erdrich
  • An Education – Lynn Barber
  • The Red Queen – Margaret Drabble
  • The Memory Box – Margaret Forster
  • The Glassblower of Murano – Marina Fiorato
  • Florence Nightingale – Mark Bostridge
  • The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
  • The Hamilton Case – Michelle De Krester
  • Memento Mori – Muriel Spark
  • The Wasted Vigil – Nadine Aslam
  • Great Fortunes – Olivia Manning
  • Border Crossing – Pat Barker
  • Peripheral Vision – Patricia Ferguson
  • The Law of Dreams – Peter Belling
  • Trespass – Rose Tremain
  • Sacred Hearts – Sarah Dunant
  • The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters
  • Engleby – Sebastian Faulks
  • Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
  • The Beacon – Susan Hill
  • Restless – William Boyd
  • A Whispered Name – William Brodrick
  • The Believers – Zoe Heller

That’s quite a list isn’t it? I am sure you can understand why I thought opening this up to all of you would be much more helpful as I haven’t heard of half of the authors. Which is also an apology if therefore I have spelt some titles and authors wrongly, I am going by the spreadsheet Gran brought with her. I did recommend ‘The Little Stranger’ oddly as though I didn’t initially love it, it grew on me over time, I would have loved to have read it and been able to discuss the ending and what it all seemed to mean.

So which twelve would you pick and why? I know Gran will be popping by and checking, as will I as I have some of these on Mount TBR which I have been itching to get around too. Let us know, if you could suggest twelve in orderof preference and why that would be amazing…

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Filed under Book Group, The Prose Practise

A Green Carnation Night…

This Thursday night will see a lovely event going on in London which I am very excited about as it’s all in honour of The Green Carnation Prize and I would love to see you all there!

I would try and write something eloquent on the whole evening but I think Nick (one of my lovely fellow judges) has done it much better already so I’ll copy and paste, here the details are…

We’re delighted to announce a night of readings from Green Carnation shortlisted writers on Thursday, November 18th.

Christopher Fowler will be there with his hilarious and moving memoir, Paperboy; Jonathan Kemp will guide us through his psychogeographic multi-narrative of urban desire, London Triptych; and Rupert Smith will let us in on the private lives of men separated by decades, linked by stories, with Man’s World. It’s going to be brilliant.

And it couldn’t have a better venue: Gay’s the Word has been a veritable map reference for gay and lesbian readers for thirty years or more. What with the fabulously wide-ranging stock (fiction and non-, “from the liberating to the indulgent”) and wonderful, discerning, enthusiastic booksellers, it would be a treat of an independent bookshop, even without its specialism in gay lit. With that, though, they’re invaluable: a reason to love London.

From 19.30, then, we’ll be indulging in some of the best writing by gay men – some of the best writing, end of – this year, in London’s first and only lesbian and gay bookshop. There’s really no reason for you not to join us – so, see you there, then?

(Unfortunately, Max Scahefer and James Hannaham won’t be able to attend – but we will be raising a glass to them and their fantastic books nevertheless…)

You can find out more on… The Green Carnation Prize website

So might any of you attend? I’ll be doing a full report of course, it would be nice to see some of you there though!

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Do I Want To Read… Ayn Rand?

I have to admit from a purely materialistic view I have often seen the massive books of Ayn Rand in book shops and merely wanted them because of the wonderful covers that the Penguin Modern Classic editions have. This, whilst natural, is also rather ridiculous as actually when they are on the shelves, after what would possibly be about two months it could take to read, all anyone is going to see is the massive spines. Yet it does seem like fate has been pointing me in her direction lately and this has got me wondering.

On The First Tuesday Book Club, possibly my favourite book based show, one of the choices for this months discussion (which you can see on their website) was ‘Atlas Shrugged’ which is one of host Jennifer Byrne’s favourites. It ended up, bar Byrne, being universally disliked and accused of being overly long and less a novel more a book of philosophy. Yet strangely I ended up thinking ‘oooh maybe that would be a monster I could try and tackle one day’ though of course I have said the same about ‘Ulysses’ and look where that got me… absolutely nowhere. I tried it failed, but have kept it on the book shelves for a rainy day or ninety.

Now, in fact just yesterday, I am reading (one of my naughtily ignored until now library loots) Norah Ephron’s collection ‘Wallflower at the Orgy’ and who is one of her essays about? You guessed it, Ayn Rand and also her book ‘The Fountainhead’ which Ephron seems to rather praise and which became rather a cult classic against all odds. This has piqued my interest yet again and I am left wondering if actually this is an author who not only has come out in delightful editions of late (I cant loose the materialistic streak, sorry) and who it seems can write a blinking long yarn or three.

I am tempted by the two mentioned ‘The Fountainhead’ and ‘Atlas Shrugged’ but am wondering whether I should really start at the beginning with ‘We The Living’ which has a rather saucy cover it has to be said. I haven’t yet looked at the blurbs and maybe that would be the place to head to next. However I thought you lovely lot might be the perfect place to start really, so…

Have you read any Ayn Rand? Was it a pleasant affair or really just hard work with no real rewards? Where would you suggest I start or would you actually say that the idea of even contemplating one of her novels doesn’t bear thinking about? Would anyone else be willing to join in with some ‘Rand Reading’ and maybe we could provide each other with some support and hand holding through the blogosphere?

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Library Lunacy?

I have not long just been online to renew my library loans and am now feeling rather guilty. You see I currently have fifteen books out… and I have renewed them for the THIRD time, eek! The problem is that when I look at them all I still don’t want to cull any, even though I know there are other people who might have read them and returned them by now. (Actually having said that no one has reserved them and they could have.) Also, I do feel I shouldn’t be getting books from the library, as I do have a library of my own indoors. Oh it’s a bit of a dilemma really isn’t it?

So what are the books that I have been hoarding for the last month or two with selfish intent…

  • The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
  • Portnoy’s Complaint – Philip Roth
  • Un Lun Dun –China Mieville
  • The Worst Street in London – Fiona Rule
  • Solo – Rana Dasgupta
  • Ghost Hunters – Deborah Blum
  • Honor & Other Peoples Children – Helen Garner
  • The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack – Mark Hodder
  • Dimanche & Other Stories – Irene Nemirovsky
  • Still Missing – Beth Gutcheon
  • Wallflower at the Orgy – Norah Ephron
  • Dark Places – Gillian Flynn
  • Barbequed Husbands – Betty Mindlin
  • The City & The City – China Mieville (half read)

I do want to read them all, its just not knowing where to start. I am off in Manchester for a few days so am only talking library books with me as my choice reads as I really do need to get through them, I am not allowing myself to press the renew button one more time. I am not!

Do you ever have a library loot dilemma? Any advice on how I should stop this naughty habit? Recommend any of these titles get read instantly, I always love your recommendations? What have you taken out of the library of late?

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King Kong Theory – Virginie Despentes

It does seem that non fiction seems to be something that I can turn to when I having a bit of a problem with reading and ‘King Kong Theory’ which is a set of autobiographical essays by Virginie Despentes was just the thing I needed. Though I have to say it’s not for the faint hearted and you might not want to read my thoughts if you are offended by certain language as Virginie Despentes tells it how it is from the very first paragraph of the book… you have been warned.

“I am writing as an ugly one for the ugly ones; the old hags, the dykes, the frigid, the unfucked, the unfuckables, the neurotics, the psychos, for all those girls that don’t get a look-in in the universal market of the consumable chick. I’m making no excuses for myself. I’m not complaining. I would never swap places, because it seems to me that being Virginie Despentes is a more interesting business than anything else going on out there.”

Virginie Despentes became one of the most notorious women in France because of her rape-revenge novel, and then film, ‘Baise-Moi’ which I have neither read nor seen – though of course I now want to so I can see what all the fuss was about. In these essays, with titles such as ‘Your Arse or Mine’, ‘Porno Witches’ and ‘She’s So Depraved, You Can’t Rape Her’, she looks at the rape that she endured, her life in prostitution and pornography and how society today doesn’t allow feminists to be true feminists and what should change.

This isn’t a misery memoir and nor does it feel like a book written to shock and sell copies it does read as a true account of a rather notorious woman’s life told with a bluntness and candour that you cant help admiring whilst occasionally wincing at. Its also isn’t a book that is only for women to read, and in fact I would recommend a lot of men give this a go because of the openness of what’s discussed. Despentes isn’t a man hater despite all she has been through, she does look at how male dominated the world is.

“But women still feel the need to say that violence is not the answer. And yet, if men were to fear having their dicks slashed to pieces with a carpet knife should they try to force a woman, they would soon become much better at controlling their ‘masculine’ urges, and understanding that ‘no’ means ‘no’. I wish I’d been able to escape the values instilled in my gender that night, and slit each of their throats, one by one. Instead of having to live with being someone who didn’t dare defend herself, because she’s a woman and violence is not her domain, and the physical integrity of the male body is more important than that of the female.”

It’s hard to say too much more on this book because it’s a short collection of 131 pages of essays and they really need to be read to be believed. If you’re a fan of feminist works then you might find this quite a new, emotionally honest and distinctive voice filled with sadness, anger and courage. Its quite something and it’s a book that will make you uncomfortable and yet change your thoughts about the world all in one and books like that make important reads. 8/10

I was sent this book from the publisher.

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Filed under Review, Serpent's Tail, Virginie Despentes

Reading Guides, What Do You Make of Them?

There is a little bit of excitement going on at Savidge Reads HQ as this week I was asked by a publisher (who will remain nameless for now) if I would be interested in writing reading guides as they are republishing lots of their backlist. The title is one that I have read and loved within the last year, its also one that’s been long listed for the Man Booker award so I am also feeling slightly daunted but I am going to give it my best shot.  It has brought up the whole question of reading guides and what readers look for in them, or if they even actually turn to them?

I have to say after I have read a book that I really enjoyed and want more, more, more (which happens on occasion but sadly not that much at the moment) I do sometimes turn to the Reading Guide at the back. There you can find out a little more about the author and then see the discussion points and set off wandering down thoughtful paths you may not have spotted elsewhere( no pressure for me then with this, ha). It’s a bit like a book group for me but one I end up having in my head, or does that make me sound weird? I do always love book group books, even if I don’t like the actual book; it’s the discussion that adds a certain something. I think that’s why I love book blogging so much following on from my question earlier in the week.

So I thought I would hand over to you to get some feedback on the whole Reading Guide thing with a question or two. Where would I be without you all, seriously where?

  • Do you turn to the Reading Guide at the end of every book you read or do you veer away with disgust/fear? Why in either case?
  • Do you like the formula of background, then discussion points, then about the author and ending with resources and additional links?
  • What would make you rush to a reading guide once you have finished a book?
  • What could make a reading guide stand out and be a little bit different?
  • Any other thoughts on reading guides?

P.S I am very aware that I haven’t done a book review for a little while, I just haven’t read very much of late… well not finished anything is the main problem.

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Book Blogs… Why?

A while ago I mentioned one of my friends who was rather nonplussed on the whole book blogging thing. I said I would follow it up but everything’s gotten a bit mad over the last few weeks and I admit that I forgot. However being up at my mothers some of her friends reminded me as it appears they read my blog on Mum’s recommendation (nice to know she’s proud) but they were mystified why people who didn’t know me would want to read my recommendations on books or on other blogs. Fair enough, good question. I also saw some more bile in the press about blogs recently (though cant find the link) and so thought I would ask a few questions to book bloggers and their readers that might answer some critics people who just wonder and critics alike…

  • If you are a book blogger then why do you blog and what drew you to it and what keeps you blogging?
  • If you’re a book blog reader (whether you have a blog too or not) what is it that makes you head to book blogs?
  • Book blogs or press review pages, which do you prefer and why?
  • Have you actually bought or borrowed from the library any books you have seen because of a blog (I don’t just mean mine but if you have do let me know) and was it the perfect read?

Right answer as many of those you can or you want to and lets see what the results show, so let people know to come and comment too! I will have to have a think for my own responses to these and will update with them later!

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Losing A Reading Icon…

He won’t be mentioned in the press or anything but the world; well my world in particular, has lost a real reading legend who I am sure I have spoken to you about before. Sadly on Saturday night my Great Uncle Derrick, the man who inspired my love of stories and reading, passed away after several years of dementia. I feel he deserves a special post this Monday morning in loving memory of a bit of a legend. You see if he hadn’t been such a huge part of my childhood, in many ways he was like a second granddad to me, I am not sure I would have loved books as much as I do right now.

You see when I was little and in my teens I used to go on walking holidays with my Granny Savidge Reads (who has inspired me to read as has my Mum but Uncle Derrick was a really big influence), Bongy (my Granddad) and Gran’s brother Derrick and his wife Pat. These holidays would consist of between ten and thirteen miles walking a day. Nowadays I would imagine I would have simply popped my iPod in my ears if it all got a little bit boring but at the time I didn’t even have a personal stereo. So my Uncle Derrick, aware that it could be boring on occasion for a young man of my age – bless him, would memorise tales of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and recite  different ones to me from Sherlock Holmes to his tales of mystery and everything in between and this storytelling would keep me going. It was this that stuck in my head as the magic of storytelling more than being bought lots of books for Christmas by various other family members, which of course I am also grateful for.

Me, Uncle Derrick and Aunty Pat

In fact it was a second hand copy of the complete tales of Sherlock Holmes that started me back reading after a few years in the book loathing wilderness of my late teens and early twenties. Interestingly though one book I have always taken with me wherever I have been and gone over the last few years is ‘The Conan Doyle Stories’ which Uncle Derrick gave to me, and was one of his favourite books, when I was about eleven. However though I have dipped into it over the last decade I have never properly given my attention to it… now I think is the time.

So I think that maybe its time to give ‘The Conan Doyle Stories’ a real go and am also dusting off ‘The Complete Illustrated Short Stories of Sherlock Holmes’ along with ‘The Complete Brigadier Gerard’ which is somewhere on my shelves after being recently sent to me. So I am thinking as a small tribute to Uncle Derrick I might have a Conan Doyle fest. If anyone wants to crack open some Conan Doyle too that would be lovely.

So that’s that, my little tribute to a reading legend, and one that will be much missed. We all need reading legends like this in our lives and his love for reading is something that will live on in me and hopefully I will pass on to many more people.

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Carrie’s War – Nina Bawden

I know I have often been a little… erm, not sneery exactly but slightly nonplussed by people heading either to children’s classics or to young adult fiction now and again, apart from Harry Potter of course. I am now quite prepared to eat my words because one of the books that seems to have given a rather annoying period of multiple reading block the heave-ho is a children’s classic from the 1970’s, Nina Bawden’s novel ‘Carries War’. This book was just the ticket for an undemanding read that has a lot going on in it. Am I making sense, I do hope so.

‘Carrie’s War’ is set in, you guessed it, the second world war when Carrie Willow and her brother Nick are evacuated to Wales and into the lives of Mr Evans and his sister Louise, who likes to be called ‘Auntie Lou’. Now you would think that this would be a delightful household and indeed when it is just ‘Auntie Lou’ and the children times are quite happy. However as Nick describes him ‘Mr Evans is an OGRE’. A difficult and often bullying man who likes everything just so and who slowly but surely makes Carrie and Nick’s lives a less than happy one (not that they are fearful of him) apart from when they reach the sanctuary of ‘Druid’s Bottom’.   

Druid’s Bottom is actually the home of Mr Evans estranged sister Mrs Dilys Gotobed (I loved Nina Bawdens choice of names for people and places) her carer Hepzibah Green, who people believe is a witch, and the young Mr Johnny a boy with what we would now call cerebral palsy though people call him ‘simple’ at the time. It is also the home of one of the other evacuated children Albert Sandwich who becomes and unlikely friend to both Carrie and Nick. Druids Bottom also holds a legend of the screaming skull which Hepzibah keeps in the house. As time goes on Carrie is unwittingly drawn into almost spying for Mr Evans on his sister Mrs Gotobed and does something terrible, possibly the worst thing she ever did in her life!

Naturally I am not going to tell you what is it or you wouldn’t read the book. Mind you having said that I would imagine most people have read this book already and so I am probably really behind everyone else in actually getting around to reading it. I think this is a book a lot of children now study at school and rightly so because it’s a really rather enjoyable book for an adult and I would imagine it would be for a child, though as there isn’t really any magic, more myth, or any vampires maybe I am wrong? What has happened to the simple tales of old that people used to write for children, or am I merely just showing my age?

I was charmed by Nina Bawden’s story telling, her plotting and also her characters in this novel. I thought her perceptions of the war, the unknown and the good and the bad from the perspective of Carrie and her brother were incredibly well written, yet for some reason I never quite gelled with Carrie herself. I couldn’t always understand her motives be they wrong or right, intentional or not however that didn’t stop me from really enjoying this as a read. 7/10

I am now keen to read some of her adult literature such as ‘The Lost Man Booker’ nominated ‘The Birds On The Trees’. Have you read any of her adult fiction? Any thoughts on ‘Carrie’s War’ or any of her other younger fiction? I think I could have been missing out on a rather wonderful storytelling author for quite some time!

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Filed under Nina Bawden, Puffin Books, Review

Updates & Big Thank You’s

I have been meaning to say a big thanks for everyone who has popped by and wished me well over the last week or so since my hospital visit. An update on that is that I had another procedure last week and have another one coming next week after which, fingers crossed, we should know what the heck we are dealing with as everything seems a bit cloak and dagger at the minute. I am once again up at Mum’s for some recuperation and it also happens to be her birthday TODAY! Gran is here too and there have already been quite a few discussions about books… my poor step-dad and brother!

Anyway one of the things that I wanted to say a big thanks for was your recommendations for books to read whilst resting (am having a bit of a rubbish reading time at the mo) but also to those of you who have sent me some reading material especially, some of you want to remain nameless but regardless I want to share some of the lovely loot, which I photographed last week on my window seat.

The Woman’s Room by Marilyn French – really excited about this as heard its superb, hope that it lives up to the hype.

Reality and Dreams by Muriel Spark – you all know how I am quite into my Spark and this sounds like it could be a corker.

Suite Francaise
by Irene Nemirovsky – I tried this for a book group a few years ago and really didn’t love it but since reading ‘Jezebel’ I have been of a mind to give this one another try.

The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle
by Catherine Webb – I had never heard of this until an email asking me for my address to receive a ‘Victorian treat’ arrived and it does indeed like this will be a wonderful escapist Victorian romp.

The Silence of the Rain
by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza – The lovely Marcia of Lizzy’s Literary Life sent me this one for my Reading for Brazil challenge which I have been a little lax on, however with my health it looks like I might not be going so I shall have to read about it instead 😦

The Great Stink by Clare Clark – another Savidge Reader thought this book and its Victorian routes might be just the thing for me, am rather excited about this one instantly.

Wait For Me!
by Deborah Devonshire – sent by the lovely Simon T of Stuck-in-a-Book as a thank you for staying at mine a while back, this is one I am desperate to read… and so am naturally holding back from reading, why do we do this to ourselves? I actually had two of these but have given the second to Gran, in fact Mum and Gran have recieved two large piles of my cast off books which they have been thrilled with!

So a HUGE thanks for all of these as they are most appreciated and will be read at some point. I do love it when surprise parcels pop through the letter box it’s been an added boost to all your kind comments and emails. So seriously thank you very much.

I should also thank the publishers as a few newly released books have appeared of late in the house which I am also looking forward to.

Book of Clouds by Chloe Aridjis – not sure where… but have heard this is brilliant.

The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek – I have never heard of this or the other ‘Serpents Tail Classic’ I was sent (see below) but this does really appeal.

They Shoot Horses Don’t They
by Horace McCoy – Another classic as mentioned above that I hadn’t heard of but sounds like it might be an interesting read. I do worry sometimes that I have such a limited knowledge of certain classics.

The Unit
by Ninni Holmqvist – Sounds a bit sci-fi and I am having some cravings for science fiction which is most unlike me, so if you have any suggestions let me know.

Packing For Mars
by Mary Roach – ridiculously excited that this has arrived as I loved ‘Stiff’ so much and think that having gotten on so well with her when she talked me through cadavers she might be just the person to get my head around the science of space, especially as she asks all the questions I would want to such as ‘what happens if you need the toilet or throw up in a spacesuit?’

The Bride Time Forgot
by Paul Magrs – I was thrilled to see this arrive as I love the ‘Brenda & Effie’ series, I then realised I still haven’t read the fourth in the series ‘Hell’s Belles’ oops.

The Distant Hours
by Kate Morton – I am not sure how I feel about this book. You see I read her first book and thought it was ok but nowt special, and this looks a monster… and yet there is something about the cover that makes me think I do want to read it! Eek!

So what have you had arrive or been out and bought of late? What have you read that’s blinking brilliant that everyone should know about? Right I best get back to Mum’s birthday celebrations, we are all shortly off to see ‘RED’ at the cinema, Mums choice (!!!) and then off to a Charity Hog Roast, Bonfire Party and Firework Display later on. Hope you’ve got good weekends lined up?

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Multiple Reading… How Did That Happen?

I don’t know if it’s me not being at my best currently or just what seems to be before me but I have realised at the moment I seem to be reading about six books at once, or have been as actually for the last two days I haven’t picked up a book, which again is rather strange. I have never been into multiple reading so how is it that this has come about?  Why is it nothing seems to be grabbing me as much as it could and I have tried all sorts and do want to be reading.

In fact on the go in the last week I had…

The City & The City by China Mieville – I really liked this but the multiple cities and the ‘unseeing’ of each seemed a little too much for my brain.
The Shadow Guests by Joan Aiken – I fancied something dark and thought going to some classic 80’s young adult fiction (which is shockingly no long in print) might appeal, it did but then I trailed off onto something else.
If On A Winters Night A Traveller by Italo Calvino – As you can see I couldn’t finish this one off for sheer annoyance at it all.
Agatha Raisin & The Love From Hell by M. C. Beaton – has been in my bag all the time but not opened it.

I have also been dipping into the five Green Carnation Short Listed books again and yet can’t quite get on with those either, not because I have read them before as I am actually looking forward to reading all five of those books again. I have been managing to read lots of newspapers though which is most unlike me and have actually started to buy one daily, the new ‘i’ paper. Every day is has excellent mini book reviews which then brings back the pang for a good read. That’s the thing you see I do want to read something most desperately, I want to be lost in a good story and don’t know why I can’t.

I am going to my Mums hopeful though. And have packed a selection of books that I am hoping to spark my reading properly once more. They are all quite different so hopefully one of them will grab me and start the reading ball rolling once more.

The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice – I have been fancying reading this for ages.
Agatha Raisin and the Love From Hell by M.C. Beaton – I do genuinely fancy some Beaton although maybe I should try one of the new Edwardian books?
The City & The City by China Mieville – I am determined to finish this and time is ticking before its due at the library soon, mind you that pressure could cause issues in itself.
Was by Geoff Ryman – This sounds so up my street am just worried in my mind set I won’t give it the chance that it really needs.
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides – This is the next choice at book group and I always start book group choices a little late and at 544 pages this might be worth getting a crack on with now.

I only hope that I come back from the north with a book or two read and not another set of books that I have only gotten a quarter or half of the way through.

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If On A Winters Night A Traveller – Italo Calvino

I have been back in London for a few days this week before another little ‘procedure’ and my next return for some convalescing back up home this weekend, which coincides with my mother’s birthday. Whilst back I made sure I managed to get to The Riverside Readers book group for our discussion of ‘If On A Winters Night A Traveller’ by Italo Calvino which was chosen by Anirban. I have to admit I felt a bit of a cheat because I hadn’t finished the book… because I had thrown it across the room and given up on it a few days before. So this isn’t a ‘review’ more a public exorcism of a book that started off with a ridiculous amount of promise and then swiftly became the bane of my reading life.

Italo Calvino’s ‘If On A Winters Night A Traveller’ is claimed by many to be a ‘masterpiece’ and that always intrigues me with a book and makes me feel like maybe I should read it, apart from that I knew nothing of the author or his works. When I started the book I had high hopes, as I do with every book, and the quirky initial opening paragraphs of the book seemed to charm me…

“You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveller. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade. Best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room. Tell the others right away, “No, I don’t want to watch TV!” Raise your voice–they won’t hear you otherwise–“I’m reading! I don’t want to be disturbed!” Maybe they haven’t heard you, with all that racket; speak louder, yell: “I’m beginning to read Italo Calvino’s new novel!” Or if you prefer, don’t say anything; just hope they’ll leave you alone.”

I liked this starting point, it seemed playful and so I was gearing up for a really enjoyable read that would take me away. However after the initial brilliance of the opening chapter (and I do mean chapter) which is a rather wonderful set of pages about reading, it just went down hill for me. You see the plot is rather confusing. We follow ‘you’ a reader who buys a copy of Italo Calvino’s book ‘If On A Winters Night A Traveller’ however there is something wrong with it after exchanging to for another copy he gets a completely different book, and again, and again each one in a differing genre style. We then get the first chapter of each of these books in alternating chapters… well I wont lie I was really, really confused by it all.

As we started to have scenes set such as a scene in a café where Calvino starts to analyse setting with things like ‘could this story all be in the café, is the outside world important, maybe we will find out, maybe we wont’ I just started to get really annoyed. I felt I was being patronised and that the writer was being rather smug, and that’s when I decided to throw it across the room. I found it mildly amusing after being so cross that in the initial chapter when Calvino describes varying books Books Made For Purposes Other Than Reading, Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them Too, Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days are Numbered, Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified”  and seemed to include one that described his own “Books You Needn’t Read” and so I stopped.

I also laughed when Armen, one of the other members of book group, dug out his copy which was in another language (sorry Armen I have forgotten which language) and it looked like it might possibly have made more sense to me in a language I couldn’t read.

A weird book that annoyingly defeated me, almost non fiction in the way it looks at how readers read and writers write it should have worked for me but instead almost brought me out in hives. Pretty much everyone else managed to finish it, bad me, and you can see Kim’s review here. Anyone else managed it or anyone else who has been defeated?

This was a book that Armen from our book group gave me at our Christmas book swap at book group last year, and then it ends up as a read, how random!

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Filed under Book Group, Italo Calvino, Vintage Books, Vintage Classics

The Girl Who Read Too Much #2

Hello its me The Girl Who Read Too Much again. While Simon is still having a break of sorts I thought that I would take over the blog for the day and let you all know of some books which I have been reading of late. All of these books are books the publishers very kindly sent me which I really wasn’t expecting and so has been very exciting. Thanks publishers!

Dead Man’s Cove – Lauren St John

When I first saw the book I thought it would possibly be really childish and about pirates but in fact it wasn’t! I’d give it to either 11 or 12 year olds. It’s a really good book to read in bed though you might not get to sleep very quickly as it’s a book with a cliff hanger at the end of every chapter!

Laura Marlin is in an orphanage but they don’t know wkether her Dad is alive or not but their is a possibility he’s in America yet they’ve given up looking. But, what they have found is her Mother’s brother, who lives right by the sea. He has agreed to take Laura in to be her guardian. When they arrive at his house it’s the dead of night and all she can hear is a dog barking inside the house. She suddenly feels the terror boiling up inside her and she wants to go back to the orphanige but she can’t. Her driver goes up and rings the bell and the dog goes silent for a minuite but then they can hear it coming closer and closer. Her Uncle opens the door and peers out. He greets them with warmth but Laura isn’t convinced. He still could be a villen out of one of her favourite books, Matt Walker the detective. As she thought of her childhood idol she felt stronger as she was introduced to Lottie the dog who was calmer than she sounded. She was invited in and offered cake. As her new life started she noticed some strange things about the town. Like everyone was scared of a Coast calle Dead Man’s Cove, but why?

The storyline is thrilling and unpredictable I would definitely read more of this series in the future. It’s a spooky ending and is scary to read before bed! See if you dare!

Mistress of the Storm – M. L. Welsh

This book isn’t the best ever book and it takes a while to get into the story, I think I expected more. It has a very good ending though. The main character is interesting yet is also quite hard to understand.

Verity is a bullied girl the sort that every day has something taken out of her school bag. One day in gym class her teacher announces that she needs another girl for the sailing race at the end of the week. Verity is the only girl avalible so she, against her will, is volunteered to do the race. Before the race a strange visitor is announced in the house so she is kicked out of her room. The guest is her horrible Grandma. She needs a kit for the race so all the females in the family come with her (her, her Mum, her sister and her Grandma). She has a lovely kit in mind and finds a perfect one but her Grandma sees a disgusting one and because her Mum wants Grandma to feel welcome she buys the horrible one. All the girls tease her at the race as she gets into the boat. Then when she gets in she feels upset. But, then as if by magic she feels at home. She steers the boat with another girl so well it’s like she’d been doing it for years. She wants to find out more about her family history to see where that gene comes from and that is how it all starts… what happens next you will have to read it to find out. This book has a lot of detail and unfortunately takes too long to set up, maybe it’s because there is a series planned. I am not sure if I would read more. If you want a long read choose this book as it does take a while without being that big.

Half a Sister- Kelly McKain

When I received this book I didn’t think it would be the best book ever. But, when I’d read it all it ended up just that! I recommend it as a present to female teenagers for Christmas!

When I got this book I was instantly pulled into its pages and couldn’t get myself out. An only child called Hannah is always pushed aside by her best friend Maya who has become best friends with another girl called Beth. Beth is a really selfish, spiteful girl who wants to hurt Hannah as much as possible.  But, when Hannah’s parents do nothing but fight Hannah is determined to find out why but when she tells Maya and Beth they aren’t at all sympathetic they don’t really even care. The source of all the fighting is that her Dad has another daughter that he never realised he had. The only problem is the daughter’s not her Mum’s. Her name’s Ellie and she’s half French. Her Mum was in a car crash so she’s now in a hospital in France so she has to go and live with them for a while. Ellie is lovely and beautiful but what Hannah doesn’t realise is that Ellie has a darker side.

The book is in diary format and is a really good read. I found the ending surprising and really suspention full. All in all an amazing book!

So that is all from me for a while, I’ll be back soon. Thanks for reading! Enjoy your books!

The Girl Who Read Too Much.

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Filed under Kelly McKain, Lauren St John, M.L. Welsh, Orion Publishing, The Girl Who Read Too Much, Usborne Publishing