Monthly Archives: January 2011

Simon’s Bookish Bits #29

As a change is as good as a rest I thought I would do one of my recently more random ‘Bookish Bits’ posts. I’ve a few little asks of you, when don’t I, all based around book groups including ideas for a great book group read, the TV Book Group and possible return of the Not The TV Book Group, oh plus a little health update and to remind you to let me know your thoughts on some books that I must get my mitts on in 2011.

First up for discussion today is Book Group choices. I am sure I have mentioned ‘ideal book group books before’ but now I call upon you for recommendations. Tonight I will be meeting up with my new book group for the second time to discuss Sara Gruen’s ‘Water For Elephants’ (which I will be discussing on the blog tomorrow) and afterwards I think I have to come up with a novel that’s my suggestion for a future read. Eek! I mean it’s not like I don’t have enough choice, and ideally I will be nominating something which is currently languishing on Mount TBR, it’s just when you put forward your first choice it says a lot about you. Well, that’s what I think anyway. So what do you suggest, what will cause great discussion without being something too light or too heavy?

Last night saw the return of The TV Book Group who discussed ‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue. I was very sad not to see Laila on the opening show as I do have a soft spot for her, I think she really thinks it all through and quietly gets her point across. I did think Meera Syal was an absolutely brilliant addition to the show, really down to earth and real and quite happy to argue the case. You can see all the choices on their website, let me know if you have read any of them already and what you thought, and next week they will be discussing another of my favourite reads from last year The Long Song’ by Andrea Levy.

Now along those lines… I have had a few emails and enquiries in the flesh wondering whether in 2011 we might be repeating ‘Not The TV Book Group’. I would love, love, love to do it again and so have sent the feelers out via email to my lovely co-judges from last year to see their thoughts. I am hoping they all say yes, no pressure of course ha, ha, ha! Would you like to see the ‘Not The TV Book Group’ return in 2011? What sort of titles would you like to see? Unknown new or older books, books from certain eras, debut novels? Let me know your thoughts.

Oh and a little note on my health while we are catching up, no real news because it seems all my records from London have gone walkies and so now I am going through the whole rigmarole again. Back to the tests and the hospital visits and all that palaver… eurgh, let’s go back to discussing books shall we?

So to recap… which books on Mount TBR do you think would make great book group reads and why? Or what other books would you recommend from your own book group experience? What were your thoughts on the new series of The TV Book Club and would you like to see Not The TV Book Group return and with what? Oh and I almost forgot… any thoughts as to books I simply must try and devour in 2011, pop here if so!

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Filed under Book Group, Not The TV Book Group, Simon's Bookish Bits

84 Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff

I have heard so much praise for ’84 Charing Cross Road’ by Helene Hanff it’s a book that I have been meaning to read for ages. It is also one of those books where because I had heard so much praise for it I hadn’t picked it up because I was worried it wouldn’t have the effect on me that it did on everyone else. We all have books like that don’t we, it’s not just me? Anyway I was lucky enough to receive as a Christmas present from the lovely Paul Magrs who thought it would be a perfect read for me, and he was spot on.

’84 Charing Cross Road’ is a series of very real letters, for some reason until I actually had the book in my hand I thought that it was a work of fiction, between writer Helene Hanff and Frank Doel a bookseller of Messrs Marks & Co a second-hand book shop in the heart of London. What initially starts as very much a business correspondence, between the rather outspoken Hanff and the more reserved Doel, from October 1949 becomes a friendship through letters and a love of books that lasts over twenty years.

“I just happen to have a peculiar taste in books, thanks to a Cambridge professor named Quiller-Couch, known as Q whom I fell over in a library when I was 17. And I’m about as smart-looking as a Broadway pan-handler.”

If that hasn’t already had you running to a book shop to buy it, as it is a most perfect book about books and reading really, there is so much more. As Hanff and Doel’s friendship blossoms she starts to send packages of food to him and the other workers in the store during the war, getting friends to visit with nylons etc, thus she creates further friendships all by the power of the pen. Initially (and I wondered if Frank himself might have felt this) Hanff’s lust for life, over familiarity and demanding directness almost pushed me to annoyance until her humour and her passion for books becomes more and more apparent along with her thoughtfulness during the war years as mentioned. I was soon wishing I had become Hanff’s correspondent myself.

“You’ll be fascinated to learn (from me that hates novels) that I finally got round to Jane Austen and went out of my mind for Pride and Prejudice which I can’t bring myself to take back to the library till you find me a copy of my own.”

There is a bittersweet twist in the tale, and I don’t think it spoils anything to give this away but skip this paragraph if you don’t want any spoilers, is that sadly Frank died before Helene could ever go and finally visit the shop. There are several times that she endeavours to get herself to London but due to finances, teeth and other circumstances it never happens. That all changes after the publication of ’84 Charing Cross Road’ which being a huge success means she flies to London to visit the shop, some of the people and the city she has always dreamed of visiting. She keeps a diary during this trip which is now included in every edition of this novel/la named ‘The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street’ which makes for additional fascinating reading.

“I got out of bed, had hysterics, a martini and two cigarettes, got back into bed, and whiled away the rest of the night composing cables saying I wasn’t coming.”

It’s hard to say anything further about these two novels, or are they technically novellas, because they simply need to be read. I can’t say anything other than go out and get a copy if you haven’t already. It was certainly a book that was right up my street! 9.5/10

This book was bought for me for Christmas by a very kind friend.

Who else has had the pleasure of reading ’84 Charing Cross Road’? Has anyone seen the movie, and if so what did you make of it? Which books about books and book lovers should I look out for next? Has anyone read any of Hanff’s other novels? Which books have been sat on your TBR and have you been putting off as everyone else loved them so much you fear you might not?

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Filed under Books About Books, Books of 2011, Helene Hanff, Review, Virago Books

Books of 2011?

When I remembered to do a post announcing which two lucky people won a copy of one of the titles in my ‘Best of 2010’ selections of their choices, I also realised that I hadn’t done a post on the books that I am most looking forward to in 2011. Currently due to naughty Royal Mail it seems none of my post is being forwarded so only a few catalogues have very recently arrived or been emailed and I’ve not hunkered down to read them yet. So before I do I wondered if you can help with any of your suggestions, and I don’t mean just with new books coming out in 2011, I mean any books I should really consider reading in 2011 that have already been published too.

I normally instantly devour all the catalogues when they arrive (and if anyone has any they want to send do email me at savidgereads@gmail.com) but I have held off a little this year with the ones that have made it to my new abode. In part I think I want to get through a few I meant to read in 2010 before I do and also I think I am still mentally thinking it is 2010 – I can be a little slow on the uptake sometimes. I also think because I want to read by whim in the forthcoming year I want to see just what crosses my path naturally (or via an arrival through the letterbox) and what you guys keep me abreast with. So I thought today, before I knuckle down with the catalogues early next week, I would simply hand it over to you with three simple questions…

  1. What book are you particularly excited about that’s coming out in 2011?
  2. What book came out in 2010 that didn’t get noticed as much as it should have and would you demand I try?
  3. What one single other book from any era, by any author, in any genre would you say that I should give a whirl at some point (if there are any in Mount TBR that’s great) in the near future on a whim?

Over to you then…!

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Books of 2010 Winners Are…

I popped a post on the site letting you know what my books of 2010 were, if you missed them and want to have a gander you can pop here and here as I did them in two parts, I also offered to give two of you a change to win a copy of one of the titles of your choice each. All you had to do was tell me which book this opening line was from…

‘Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him’. 

Which was of course from Graham Greene’s ‘Brighton Rock’, the names have been picked out of a big kitchen bowl at random and the winners are… Alice and Anna.

Congrats to the winners, sorry everyone else but there are some corking comps coming up over the next few months, please email me your details and which title from my best of lists you would like me to pop into the post to you!

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Debut Novels, Let’s Discuss…

When I was writing my thoughts on yesterdays post all about Sanjeev Sahota’s debut novel ‘Ours Are The Streets’ it got me thinking, what are all of our thoughts on debut novels? I ask this because it made me think about mine and how my attitude has slowly changed towards them and so I thought that I would do a little post where we could discuss debuts.

I don’t know if I ever used to pay attention to whether a book was a debut or not, I simply picked up books based on the premise or the good things that I had heard about them. In fact if I looked back at the last decade of reading it wouldn’t be until my new love for reading, and the blogging that followed it, that I would really note if a novel was a debut or not. Yet if someone told me that a book was someone’s first and they didn’t then have a huge back catalogue to read I am not sure I would have run towards it, in fact I am still not sure I would and I find that a bit bizarre. Which seems harsh when someone has taken years to write it and finally put pen/pencil to paper, or finger to computer…

Could it be a case of too many books and too little time? I mean for example if it’s a choice between Margaret Atwood’s latest offering and a debut novel I know which one I would probably plump for… the Atwood of course. I know I like her work, I know I am in safe hands yet I can never be sure if this will be the case with a debut novelist. I also have the added benefit with established authors that should I love the latest Atwood and then need a binge there is much more work of hers I can throw myself into, in fact at some point I must.

However having said that I have just realised that I haven’t actually read Margaret Atwood’s debut novel! Maybe I should dig out ‘The Edible Woman’ and see if I would have continued, that might be a little exercise maybe. This of course could be applied to any author I love for some reason Atwood sprung into my mind when I started this. I haven’t read Daphne Du Maurier’s debut either, maybe that’s another I could give a whirl.

Yet I do often wonder, shouldn’t I as a blogger try and highlight some of the new talent out there? Should I not be highlighting debut authors who won’t get read instantly like some of the more recognised names? I think that to do it totally would probably be forcing an issue, and go against my resolution of 2011 to read at a whim, if I only sought out debuts (it would also not help Mount TBR go down very much, see I don’t even own that many debuts – or if I did they have languished so long that the author now has a second or third book out, oops) to read. Maybe a few debuts a month might be an idea?

So what are your thoughts on debut novels? Do you make sure to seek them out? Are you wary of them? Would you rather go with more established authors over a debut, or vice versa? What’s the best debut novel you have ever read? Any other debut musings you would like to share?

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Ours Are The Streets – Sunjeev Sahota

I don’t think I would have picked up Sunjeev Sahota’s debut novel ‘Ours Are The Streets’ if it wasn’t for the fact that I heard him read from it at a Picador event last year and was really entertained. It’s got a cracking cover which would have caught my eye but the line on the back of the novel ‘a story of our times’ would possibly have then put me off if I am being 100% honest, it just sounds a bit presumptuous. However I heard him read and loved the excerpt that we were treated to and so snatched a proof copy as I was making my way out (along with several other books, well why not) and finally got to reading it earlier this week and was pleased to see the whole book was as good as the snippet I heard promised it might be.

9780330515818
‘Ours Are The Streets’
is probably going to get labelled as a ‘terrorism novel’ which it indeed is, yet it would be a shame if it was only seen as this as there is so much more to the novel than just that. In fact I think the terrorism is a fairly secondary aspect to the book which is really about finding out your heritage and belonging. When we meet our narrator Imtiaz Raina, as he writes from the bedroom of his parent’s house in Sheffield, we learn he is intending on becoming a suicide bomber- though whether he does or not I will leave it for future readers to find out.

As Imtiaz writes in his journal each night, to his parents, to his daughter or to his wife Rebecca or ‘B’, we follow the life he has led up to this point as a married man, of a white wife he loves but who adds to his confusion and conflicts in some ways, and father ready to give his life in an act of terrorism for what he feels he believes. I say feel because there is some question as to Imtiaz’s general state of mind as the book goes on.

Imtiaz also looks at the history of his family and their migration to the UK and the heritage he is from through the first and second generations and how this affects his life now and the fact that really he doesn’t seem to feel he truly belongs. It isn’t until an extended trip to Pakistan for a family funeral that a sense of true belonging and home begins to emerge from his consciousness and that’s when things start to change in both his life and therefore slowly but surely the narrative before the readers eyes.

I actually found the unwinding story of Imtiaz and his discovery and feelings of his background and all this creates far more interesting than that of his radical turning of mindset. Partly, though this might be me at fault as the reader, because it doesn’t seem to have a sudden turning point or true explanation, it merely suddenly seems to happen and make sense. That is the only flaw I can find in what is an incredibly well written debut novel. Sahota holds the reader quickly and then swiftly takes us into the mind of Imtiaz and makes it all believable and real.

Most importantly Sunjeev Sahota writes modestly and you are in no doubt its controlled, this is not a debut novel that is crammed with every word and story that a debut novelist might want to use in one go. It’s funny, it’s dark, it’s harrowing and it’s entertaining all in all it’s a cracking and, though this sounds a cliché, Sahota is definitely an author two watch out for in the future. I don’t think I have read such an accomplished and rounded debut novel in quite some time. 8.5/10

I will say that though I was initially put off by the label of ‘a story of our times’ and indeed ‘the story behind the news story’ in many ways it actually is, yet its also much more. I really hope this book doesn’t get missed by people because it’s ‘a terrorism novel’ and therefore people might think a one trick pony, and also because it’s a debut novel. Why could its being a debut novel be off putting, well, that I will be discussing tomorrow.

I pilfered this copy from the publishers when I went and saw the author, along with others, reading last year.

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Filed under Picador Books, Review, Sunjeev Sahota

Audiobooks

I might get struck down for what I am about to say but I do believe in being honest with all of you who pop by Savidge Reads, so here goes… I have always thought that audio books are cheating. I know, I know I should be expelled from the book blogosphere but do bear with me while I explain and also why I might be changing my tune.

The reason I have previously never believed that an audio book really counts as a book is because you don’t actually read it. Oh and I must mention I am only applying this to me (myself and I personally – not everyone else) and audio books. I am not saying that I feel like this about people who use them as some people may need them as they are sight impared etc and other people just really like audio books when they are driving, cleaning or simply whenever they fancy! So lets close the lid on that can of worms before we go any further…

I know some people would strongly disagree with that statement, and I am fine with that and invite you to leave a comment saying why that’s wrong below. I just think that if you say you have ‘read’ a book then you have to actually have ‘read’ it. I wouldn’t for example watch ‘Revolutionary Road’ on DVD and say I had therefore read the book too. Do you know what I mean? Note: Having said that films are generally a rather abridged and often highly edited adaptation of a book, an audio book is the book word for word. That doesn’t mean I don’t like audio books, I just seemed to loose my way with some slightly (and I am being really honest here) snooty thoughts on them.

However the author Paul Magrs (who blogs too if you didn’t know, do pop and have a look if you don’t already) kindly lent me and audio book or two which he thought might be right up my street, and he was right…

Yes, I have now got some wonderful Agatha Raisin novels on my iPod and with the wonderful Penelope Keith being Agatha they are an absolute joy to listen to though not to read and have been with me on several trips into town and on shopping expeditions. I have been highly entertained by them and now want to get my mitts on the rest of the set, with one small condition… I have to have read the mysteries first, rather like I would if I was going to see a film adaptation I guess.

I do wonder though if audio books might make good companions to a book. For the first time in a long while I considered downloading an audio book when I was reading ‘Brighton Rock’ and had found myself floundering somewhat. I wouldn’t have switched exclusively to the audio version. Maybe just turned to it and then back to the book and so on while I got a grasp on Pinkie and all he was up to.

I am wondering if I am missing a trick though and so thought I would start a little light discussion on audio books today to get your thoughts. Are there any you would recommend? Have you read a book and found it so tough you’ve turned to an audio version and suddenly sailed on with or without the actual novel? What are the pro’s and con’s of audio? Do you think if you have listened to an audio book you have then read it and if so why, what makes the distinction? Looking forward to your thoughts, you might convert me. Maybe I could end up reading a book and then listening to the audio and see how they compare… ooh I already have a possibility in mind.

Update note – Paul Magrs has done a brilliant post in response to this please do have a look!

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Brighton Rock – Graham Greene

So my first book of the year has been read and it was quite an experience in many ways. ‘Brighton Rock’ is a book that I think a lot of people have read already, or indeed studied, or certainly heard of at some point in their lives. I think I was bought a copy by Granny Savidge Reads way back in the dark ages when I didn’t really like reading and so sadly have no idea where it went. It’s a book that I have often been told ‘you really must read’ and therefore, being the way I am, its one that I have somewhat veered away from. However having seen the trailer for the new adaptation in the cinema and really wanting to see the film it felt rather fateful that the next day in the library I saw a copy that seemed to have my name on it.

‘Brighton Rock’ tells the tale of an antihero in the form of Pinkie Brown, a young leader of one of two gangs running and trying to rule the streets of 1960’s Brighton. It’s not giving anything away to say that the book starts with the murder of Charles Hale, who we know through most of the story as Fred, who  betrays one of the gangs of Brighton and the final hours leading up to his demise. By chance Fred meets Ida Arnold, who is such a wonderful character its almost untrue, a woman he tries to keep with him to save his skin and who is lead into action because of his death. Throw in Pinkie and his role in all of this, along with his chance encounter with a young waitress called Rose who could become the perfect alibi which could also lead her into more and more danger. Can Pinkie silence everyone around him and get away with it? Can Ida save Rose from Pinkie and their unlikely love affair whilst avenging Fred?

You could be a bit lost right now as though Graham Greene makes this all seem relatively simple… I haven’t quite. You might be also be thinking ‘blimey there is a lot of this story that seems to be by chance and coincidence’ and you would be in the position I was in about a quarter/half way through. I couldn’t 100% get my head around why Ida cared about a man whom she had met once on a chance encounter or why she was so desperate to save Rose from Pinkie. I just had to let go of that and enjoy the story for what it was and Ida for who she was. I have to be honest with and say Ida stole the show for me and every chapter with her in was guaranteed to have me gripped. Pinkie is a fascinating character, especially as his feelings for Rose develop both for good and bad, yet he isn’t likeable which doesn’t matter, just occasionally makes for harder reading, especially as I couldn’t see what Rose saw in him.

That’s not to say the rest of the book didn’t have me at hello because despite the initial confusion of Charles being Fred and also “Kolley Kibbler”, on assignment to anonymously distribute cards for a newspaper competition, followed by the fact Greene also calls Pinkie ‘The Boy’ (and then their are the two gangs and some of their members nicknames) I was actually rather into the book early on. ‘Brighton Rock’ actually made me read slower when I started to struggle, only I didn’t give up, something (quite possibly Ida) made me carry on reading. It was just wonderfully written in a fantastic prose which managed to stun you with its simplistic beauty and be gritty rather than flowery all at once, and the atmosphere of a slightly bleak and darker Brighton is done to perfection.

I am aware that I haven’t mentioned the points on Catholicism this book makes, that’s because it wasn’t the focus of the book for me and I don’t really want to open that particular can of worms either Though not quite being the pitch perfect read I was expecting or hoping for ‘Brighton Rock’ forced me to read slowly, to think a lot, get through the quagmire like bits (I do wonder if the dreary Brighton portrayed was so vivid it made me feel a little dreary reading it) and enjoy the story and characters while it led to its fateful dénouement. 7/10

It does seem rather strange that I have found my first review of 2011 much harder than any of 2010 to write. I wonder if it’s because I am slightly out of practice or the fact that this particular book is hard to encapsulate, especially with such mixed emotions about it. I am hoping its not an ominous sign. Maybe I should have let the book lie a little longer in my mind? In fact I am now getting most cross with myself for not feeling like I have done the book justice and explaining enough why I thought it was a truly remarkable novel and yet also occasionally an underwhelming one all in one go. Grrr!

I am not sure if it is the same for everyone but the first book I read each year does have quite a bit of pressure resting on it. I want something that will set the mood for my reading year, something good, something that I want to talk about in the hope this will lead to others. I think Graham Greene’s classic novel ‘Brighton Rock’ was just such a book. Even though on a couple of occasions I wasn’t sure it would be; it forced me to read slower, it had highs and lows (though the highs won), it felt like a real story, it was flawed and yet wonderfully written, as were some of its characters, most importantly it held me even when I might not have wanted it to. You can’t really ask more than that in a book and hopefully it’s set the scene for some corking reading in the year to come.

This book was spotted by chance at my new local library.

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Filed under Graham Greene, Review, Vintage Books, Vintage Classics

The Book Buying Ban… Is Over!

For those of you who might be new to Savidge Reads, or those of you who might have forgotten (possibly because actually I didn’t mention it that much) for the whole of 2010 I put myself on a book buying ban. Why?  Well you would be right in wondering why as surely someone who loves books as much as I do shouldn’t be curbing their addiction. Yet with a really wonderful charity book shop down the road (which you have no idea how much I now miss) and more and more books coming in from publishers I felt that my TBR was going out of control and some books I had always meant to read were missing out. So how did I manage…?

Well if I am honest I actually managed really rather well I think. I will happily admit that the initial month or two, especially when January saw some marvellous book sales unlike this year, things were a little bit tough, March brought my birthday and saw a fresh stockpile of some I wanted but after that it really seemed to be quite easy. Though I did have to avoid book shops at all costs for about 5 months, seriously if I saw one I quite clearly veered away. Book group also proved trying as I couldn’t always get one (so thanks to a few members and a few publishers for there help, credit where credit is due) but there were some great benefits.

The biggest benefit was rediscovering the joys of the library. I don’t know why, especially as I used it so much as a child, in the last few years or so I had been a little snobby about the library. That is all officially blown out of the water now. Where could I go when I fancied an old classic? Where could I turn to if a few books on other blogs had really tickled my fancy and I was trying not to beg publishers? Where could I peruse the shelves and pick up books at random and pop them back spending a good hour lost in the endless possibilities of books? The library of course! In fact if it wasn’t for the last year I don’t think I would have been rushing to join my local one when I moved up north, me and the library are now the firmest of friends.

Another great thing it has taught me is that I need to read much more by whim and let my mind lead me rather than how cheap a book is in the charity shop, how lovely a new edition looks, how I kind of want that third book in the 3 for 2 and then I don’t read it. I could go on and on. It also taught me that books you don’t own have an impulse about them, this should be obvious I know, I would see/read about a book I didn’t have and desperately want it and then just go and buy it. Last year I learnt that there is an initial itch to read it as soon as you have read about it, however if you leave it a few days/weeks later you forget you really wanted it.

So when I finally allowed myself to wander around Waterstones and some second hand shops in town did I rush and buy everything I saw? Nope, not at all in fact I was most restrained. I had two books I’ve wanted for about four months yet have not seen in the library (I know I could order one in but you might as well buy cheap off Amazon or in a shop for the prize the libraries charge to reserve), one impulse charity buy, and two books I had already read but were a bargain…

‘The Man in the High Castle’ by Philip K. Dick is rather a left field choice in some ways as I don’t think I like sci-fi (and just like ‘coming of age tales’ I am often proved this isn’t the case) but I have been meaning to read his work for quite some time and this sounds like the most accessible for me, the idea of a world where the Nazi’s won the war petrifies me. ‘The Edwardians’ by Vita Sackville-West was a bargain in a lovely Virago edition, I know nothing about this it just sounds rather upper class society shenanigans which I quite fancy since ‘Downtown Abbey’. Edith Wharton’s ‘The House of Mirth’ is a classic I’ve been hankering to read for a while, I like a good femme fatale who might just fall from the heights she climbs. ‘Kafka on the Shore’ is a Murakami book that I lent out… and never got back and remains my favourite of his I have read so far, and Sophie Hannah’s ‘The Other Half Lives’ I have in hardback but its so blinking heavy I saw this for 50p and decision made. Is that a bit OCD, maybe that’s another post for the future?

So would I do it again, yeah – I think I would. I admit I am lucky as I got parcels from readers, publishers, family and friends but I did so much better than I thought I could, and didn’t break the book buying ban once. Me and my local library are now in love and its made me change my book binge habits for good I think!

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The Final Bits of 2010… What Where My Favourite Books?

I wasn’t really planning on doing a specific post on my favourite books of 2010 and yet I didn’t really feel like I could move onto a new year of reading unless I did. Maybe it’s something to do with having actually finalised the year or some such? Or maybe its simply my love of lists? Anyway its now done…

Well when I say ‘it’ is now done I mean ‘they’, as I couldn’t actually just do a single list of the top ten – I went for two. Now knowing some people don’t like these lists, though I have to say I love them, I thought I would hide them in the blog at the end of 2010, so you can find Part One here and Part Two here.

I have started my first book of 2011 (and almost finished it in fact) finally, and I thought I would have a little competition to get us off to a delightful start to 2011. So if you can tell me what my first read is from its first line pop your answer in today’s comments and two of you will be plucked at random and I will send you a copy of any paperback edition of a book on my best of 2010 lists, and its open world wide… how does that sound?

So the first line is this… ‘Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him’.  So what’s the book? Good luck, you have until the review goes up at some point tomorrow!

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Books of 2010, Give Away

A Book Exchange is No True Crime

I don’t think that the whole time I was in London I ever came across a book exchange. In fact I would sometimes go to the Southbank and wander hopefully to find one of those famous book crossing exchanges, all to no avail. I am sure there were some book exchanges somewhere I just never seemed to find them. So imagine my slight glee when I was doing some Christmas shopping a few weeks a go and had just rested my weary legs in a café and saw this sign…

Yes, a book exchange not too many miles away! Naturally I had to go and scour the shelves which were brimming and there were two titles that I instantly wanted, yet I didn’t feel without bringing two books back myself I could actually take them. So I had to go back the very next day, well how could I wait, with a few books (it was actually four) that I could leave to find lovely new homes and scooped up two books that looked a little bit different but right up my street.

‘Victorian Murderesses: A True History of Thirteen Respectable French & English Women Accused of Unspeakable Crimes’ by Mary S Hartman possibly has the most impressively long title I have seen for quite some time and with my obsession with all things Victorian this should be a great read. More of a risk/rogue choice however is ‘A Death in Belmont’ by Sebastian Junger which is also none fiction and also based on true crimes, in this case The Boston Strangler, maybe I will be heading for lots of true crime reading in 2011?

Do you have a local book exchange? Have you ever come across a book crossing novel anywhere and which book was it? Any true crime novels I should hunt down as it now seems that I am subconsciously craving it!?!

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New Year Readolutions

Every New Year there seems to be a natural urge built inside me to make lots and lots of resolutions. This doesn’t just apply to life in general (go to the gym more etc) but to my reading habits. I tend to always make lots and lots of reading resolutions. The biggest of the challenges which I set myself book wise was not to buy any books in 2010. How did I do? Well I think that deserves a post of its own and that’ll be coming in the next day or so. Before I announce what I am doing for 2011, lets have a look at how I did with 2010…

  • Whimsical reading is the priority; challenges, long lists and read-a-thons (unless they fit in with a whim) are out and other than the one book group book each month I will let recommendations, random mentions or books I read lead me onto other books – DONE
  • Read more books in translation, I think I do this more than I think I just don’t note down or notice if some books are translated and I should – DONE
  • Read some more prize winners, even if not doing prize long lists – DONE
  • Go through more of the back catalogues of Atwood, McEwan, Duffy, Hill and Atkinson and some of my other favourite authors like I always mean to – SORT OF
  • Try more short story collections and novellas – DONE
  • Retry books that have left me cold such as ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’, ‘Ulysses’, ‘Suite Francaise’, etc – FAILED
  • Carry on with the classics which I enjoyed last year, I own a lot that I often say ‘I must read one day’ this year will be filled with a lot of those ‘one days’ – SORT OF
  • Read a Jodi Piccoult (can you believe I own four!?) – FAILED, I NOW OWN NONE
  • Be tougher, if I don’t like it stop reading it, move on and give it to someone else/charity shop – DONE TO EXCESS LATE IN 2010
  • Read more non-fiction, end of (which the above will help with) – DONE

So all in all apart from some re-readings and Jodi Piccoult I think I did blinking well actually. I wasn’t expecting to have had so many passes. 2010 was a fantastic reading year for me, with loads and loads of highlights, so much so I am still figuring out what my best reads of 2010 actually were, but another post on that in due course. Blimey I am full of promises at the moment. So what about my resolutions for reading in 2011? Well I’ve actually decided that I don’t have any. That’s right none, not a sausage.

I want 2011 to be a year where my reading has no plans, apart from The Green Carnation Prize 2011 to a degree, where if I want to read something new, something classic, something heavy or something light and trashy (and with lots of hospital visits and waiting rooms likely this year the latter will be most needed) then that’s what I will do and I will enjoy every minute of them and report back to you along the way. Now then, I need to go and choose the first book of my reading year… decisions, decisions.

Have any of you made any resolutions at all, care to share them?

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A New Book for a New Year

My family were really taking the mickey out of me over New Years because naturally we were talking about what we had been reading (well when me, my mother, Granny Savidge Reads and The Girl Who Read Too Much get together the conversation will of course descend into all things books) and I said that I was between books because I like to start the new reading year with a nice new read, though of course I have to be picky about what it is. They all looked at me like I had gone mad!

Maybe I am the only person in the world (unlikely) who does this? I just really like the idea that when one year ends that’s my reading palette closed, have a quick breather and then let the new year can bring in lots of new and exciting reads. It’s a habit that I have had for the last five years I think. Is it just me?  I will of course report back on my decision!

Speaking of new books that might delight me in 2011, which is of course now this year which I am also struggling to get my head round, I thought I would share some books I got for Christmas. I am thrilled to add more are coming because of the pesky snow and postal problems, so will report on those when it arrives. I did mainly get vouchers for new flat stuff though, but over to the more exciting things… new books!!

  • Jonathan Livingston Seagull – Richard Bach (from The BookBoy)
  • Witch Week – Diana Wynne Jones (from Nick of A Pile of Leaves)
  • 84 Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff (from Mr Paul Magrs)
  • The Best of Books and Company edited by Susan Hill (from Mum)
  • A Tiny Bit Marvellous – Dawn French (from Mum)
  • Chocolate Wars – Deborah Cadbury (from Mum)

And to think more are arriving in due course. I am not sure if any of these will make it as my first read of the year, I think that might take a full day of mulling over what is in Mount TBR before I can decide, but these titles are all lovely and one could just do the job. I am beginning to think that whatever read I go for first will shape my reading year ahead and therefore it has to be REALLY good, is that too much pressure for any book?

So what books did you all get for Xmas? Any other lovely things, I seemed to get lots of vouchers for things to live in new flats which is very kind of people. Do any of you start the new year with a new book? I will be discussing New Years Reading Resolutions with you tomorrow, any suggestions, I am struggling for 2011!!

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Wishing You A Happy New Year

I just wanted to take the opportunity of wishing all the avid readers, commenter’s, lurkers and accidental passersby of Savidge Reads a Happy New Year and a wonderful 2011. May all your wishes and dreams for the New Year come true! I wonder what bookish treats lie in store for us all in the next twelve months?

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