Monthly Archives: May 2011

May’s Incomings…

If you don’t like blog posts about lots of books arriving look away now… However if like me you love them you are in luck. So without further ado here are the books that have arrived throughout the month of May at Savidge Reads HQ. First up are the paperbacks which have come from the lovely people at Oxford University Press, Quercus, Vintage, Atlantic, Pan MacMillan, Serpents Tail, Peirene Press, Capuchin Classics, Beautiful Books, Faber, Gallic, Penguin and Myriad Editions…

  • Cranford – Elizabeth Gaskell (unsolicited proof, this one came at a very fortuitous time as they are discussing this on The Archers for their village book group, love the new cover OUP have done)
  • The Crossing Places – Elly Griffiths (the first of a crime series which has been getting lots of buzz, I like to start at the beginning)
  • The Upright Piano Player – David Abbot (I have been wanting to read this since I saw it on the World Book Night debut novelists Culture Show special)
  • Loaded – Christos Tsiolkas (unsolicited proof, another book I whooped at, have wanted to read this for year since I saw the film, pre-The Slap fame – a book I realised I read twice last year for The Green Carnation Prize and never blogged bout, and it’s been reissued)
  • Tell-All – Chuck Palahnuick (unsolicited proof, another book I read last year as a Green Carnation submission, maybe I should dig out all my thoughts on those, what do you think?)
  • Mr Peanut – Adam Ross (unsolicited proof, another book I was sent in Hardback, this a reminder I still haven’t read it and heard lots of good things about it)
  • On Black Sisters Street – Chika Unigwe (I begged for this one after seeing a wonderful review of it here)
  • The Wolf/Taurus – Joseph Smith (unsolicited proof)
  • Silence – Jan Costin Wagner (unsolicited proof, and another scandi-crime)
  • Kamchatka – Marcelo Figueras (unsolicited proof)
  • Kraken – China Mieville (I saw him talk at the beginning of May in Manchester thanks to his publishers who then sent me this after my loving ‘Embassytown’)
  • Union Atlantic – Adam Haslett (unsolicited proof, another book read for The Green Carnation last year and never discussed)
  • Wish You Were Here – Travis Elborough (unsolicited proof)
  • Tomorrow Pamplona – Jan van Mersbergen (I love the Peirene Books, so am sure their fifth will be brilliant)
  • The Undiscovered Country – Julian Mitchell (TGCP2011 submission)
  • Role Models – John Waters (TGCP2011 submission)
  • The Observations – Jane Harris (will be discussing Gillespie and I tomorrow, this is one of my favourite books ever and am really excited as I have been asked to write the reading guides for book groups and libraries for both Jane’s books, eek – a re-read is coming)
  • Hector and the Secrets of Love – Francois Lelord (I was one of the very few people who loathed the first Hector book, lets see how this one does it came with the below book which I am desperate to read)
  • Monsieur Montespan – Jean Teule (really excited about this as I loved ‘The Suicide Shop’ and this is Teule’s 17th Century French romp)
  • In the Country of Men – Hisham Matar (loved ‘Anatomy of a Disappearance’ so have high hopes for this one)
  • Hurry Up and Wait – Isabel Ashdown (unsolicited proof, I have her debut ‘Glasshopper’ very high on the TBR so am hoping this is a new author to love)

Next up are the trade paperbacks and hardbacks from the publishers Persephone, Quercus, Pam MacMillan, Vintage, Picador, Bloomsbury, Doubleday, Penguin and Atlantic…

  • Mrs Buncles Book – D.E. Stevenson (this was actually the present Claire had sent me for my birthday but the sequel arrived and Persephone kindly sent this one and let me keep the other, a present that kept on giving)
  • Monsieur Linh and his Child – Philippe Claudel (we read ‘Brodeck’s Report’ for the first Not The TV Book Club and so I am very excited about this)
  • Phantoms on the Bookshelves – Jaques Bonnet (a book about books and bookshelves, too exciting)
  • The Ritual – Adam Nevill (unsolicited proof, I just recently read ‘Apartment 16’ which I will be discussing in the far distant future as its my next book group choice in like five turns, I changed my mind but everyone had bought it, oops)
  • The Winter of the Lions – Jan Costin Wagner (unsolicited proof)
  • Mr Fox – Helen Oyeyemi (unsolicited proof, but a very exciting one as I am really keen to read Oyeyemi’s work)
  • The Sickness  – Alberto Barrera Tyszka (a book I have heard a lot about, was drawn in by the cover, and want to read)
  • The Dubious Salvation of Jack V. – Jacques Strauss (I begged for this one after reading this review)
  • State of Wonder – Ann Patchett (unsolicited proof, though I have a feeling Patchett could become a new favourite author)
  • Before I Go To Sleep – S.J. Watson (any book that has Sophie Hannah, Val McDermid and Tess Gerritsen singing its praises has to be a book for me, this is also a submission for TGCP2011)
  • Do No Harm – Carol Topolski (another beg after seeing this review by Kim who loved it, I got ‘Monster Love’ from the library too)
  • Last Man in Tower – Aravind Adiga (unsolicited proof, very excited about this as I liked ‘The White Tiger’ a lot, must read his short story collection too)   

Finally are four books that I have bought/swapped in the last month…

  • The Memories of Six Reigns – Princess Marie Louise (this book is really hard to get hold of but I found it early in the month in a pub that sold books for charity for 50p, it’s a book Neil Bartlett recommended to me,and you, last summer, I might have whooped when I saw this, ok I did)
  • The Ice Princess/The Preacher – Camilla Lackberg (I managed to swap these at the Book Exchange early in the month, I have heard a lot of praise for this author and the fact she is one of the female scandi-crime writers intrigues me)
  • The Hypnotist – Lars Kelper (I bought this with some birthday vouchers from Gran, its yet more scandi-crime but with a difference having been written by a couple and being a thriller meets horror, interesting, and a book I have been more and more desperate to read)

That’s the lot, and it is a lot I have noted, that have come in this month. I think its time for a clear out of the book boxes and mount TBR again isn’t it? Eek! That always fills me with dread. Anyways because I love getting books, and I know you do too I have teamed up with Headline to give away some books to all of you, you’ll have to pop here to find out how. It’s a good book though, one of my favourites of the month just passed.

So which of these would you like to hear more about and see me reading, on a whim of course, and which books or authors have you read and what did you think?

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Give Away… When God Was A Rabbit – Sarah Winman

I love getting new books and as you can see I am very lucky as a lot wing their way to me. This also has its benefits as it means that with building relations with publishers means that I can pass on the book getting by giving some away, and today I have 4 copies to give away of a book I read and loved in May which was ‘When God Was A Rabbit’ by Sarah Winman.

I am so pleased I can give you all the chance to win what is a wonderful, wonderful read. Like with the Natasha Solomon’s give away this is open until June the 3rd, its open worldwide and all you have to do is simply stick a little ‘yes, please’ in the comments. It’s that simple. Good luck!

P.S I will be doing a big giveaway catch up next weekend, so stay tuned as I have lots and lots of books to do the draws for.

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Jamrach’s Menagerie – Carol Birch

Generally speaking any book that evokes the Victorian period is one that is going to win me over. Equally any book that is set one a boat is highly likely to be a complete failure with me. This therefore was an interesting dichotomy which faced me before I started reading ‘Jamrach’s Menagerie’ because I knew this book was a mixture of both my very favourite of settings in time and also one of my least favourites places to base a book. So before I had even turned a page of this book I knew that this was going to either be a book which I absolutely love or absolutely loathe.

‘Jamrach’s Menagerie’ opens in 1857 as we meet Jaffy Brown aged eight years old as he gets born for the second time. Sounds odd, but when you have come close to death it is said you often feel reborn. You see Jaffy Brown is an inquisitive little fella, and on one of his wanderings through London’s streets he comes across ‘Jamrach’s Menagerie’ and a tiger, a creature he has never seen before and wants to befriend, only tiger’s don’t always want to be friends as he soon learns when it tries to eat him. This is the moment that Jaffy meets Jamrach himself (despite the title Jamrach is not really in the book much he is more a catalyst) and his life changes forever. He becomes one of the workers at the menagerie, an equally thrilling, surreal and slightly dark world filled with unknown creatures from all over the seven seas. It’s here he makes friends, and equal foes on occasion, with Tim Linver a friendship that is going to be tested and tried through their life time, especially when they both set sail on the hunt for a dragon for one of Jamrach’s wealthiest clients.

From here, as we set sail, I was expecting to either loath the book, or Carol Birch might do what several authors have failed to do before and have me captivated as we went to sea. I was hoping after such a stunning start to the book in the East End that Carol Birch would take me on an epic adventure, and guess what, she did. As Jaffy and Tim, alongside their new sea fairing friends including the wonderful but rather mad Skip whose story might just break your heart, start their three year voyage on The Lysander initially hunting for whales I was both thrilled at the chase and horrified at the event when it took place. The same applied as they then arrived in the Dutch East Indies and hunted the islands for dragons. I had thought that the book would lose its drive after this, but Birch has much more hidden up her sleeves, or should that be in the pages that follow, as the book continues.

There were two things that I would never initially have expected from a book like this. The first of which was to feel that I had actually lived the adventure and been with the crew on every step of the way. Can you say you felt camaraderie with a bunch of fictional sailors? If so then I did. The second was that I would find the book such an emotional one. Jaffy and Tim’s friendship which has turbulent times to begin with becomes one of equal comfort and malice a decade on as the wave’s crash around them. There is competition, one-upmanship and secrets. There is also one of the most heartbreaking twists when tragedy strikes, of course I am not sharing what the tragedies or twists are but never in a million years did I expect to be sat reading a book about a boat and being on the edge of tears for any reason other than boredom. Oh how wrong I was.

This is by no means ‘the’ perfect book, it could do with the tiniest of thinning out on the sea in between hunting for whales and the dragon, but it’s a gripping novel that is written utterly brilliantly. Birch never shows off how much research she has done, Jamrach was a real person and the event on The Lysander is based on a true life whale hunting boat in the early to mid 1800’s, but sometimes she does slightly over egg the Victorian descriptive pudding. For someone like me who loves that period too much is never enough, yet I did wonder if I wasn’t would I love how descriptive it was or feel the tiniest bit claustrophobic with the description? There were so many parts of the book I wanted to quote I have decided to quote none of them as this review would never end. It’s like a modern twist on the adventure stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and that to me is a great thing. I would heartily recommend everyone giving it ago.

Carol Birch’s ‘Jamrach’s Menagerie’ is a book that beguiles you with its cover (if awards for covers were being dished out on books published in 2011 then this one would have to win hands down in my personal opinion) and then leads you through the vivid city streets of Victorian London before taking you on an emotional adventure on the high seas. It’s an epic book, filled with surprises, twists and turns, and with characters you will route for. Yet it’s one which manages to achieve its status without having to be over 350 pages. I think this is an incredible achievement and one which should be widely read. 9/10

This book was kindly sent to me by the publisher.

I really enjoyed this book so was surprised that it didn’t make the Orange Prize Shortlist (I read it quite a while ago when I was reading the whole longlist). I was thrilled to learn that this was Carol Birch’s eleventh novel (after I went and did some research, I like to go into a book a little blindly and see what avenues I want to discover afterwards) so there are more for me to go and discover which I shall now be doing. Anyone got any recommendations of her earlier novels? Anyone else read ‘Jamrach’s Menagerie’ and what did you make of it?

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Libraries Will Survive…

I was actually looking for another, very, very, very, very funny library based clip on youtube when I found this wonderful and rather fabulous video which I thought you would all appreciate and , so do watch..

Well we all hope they do don’t we? And who says librarians are boring? I never have but I really, really love this lot!

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Savidge Reads Grills… Natasha Solomons

I haven’t done a ‘Savidge Reads Grills…’ post in quite some time (which is interesting as I have quite a lot of them planned in the next two months) but after reading ‘The Novel in the Viola’ by Natasha Solomons and being as charmed by it as I was, and want all you to be, I had to rush off some emails and see if she would take part. With it having just been chosen as a Richard and Judy title I wasnt sure she would have time, but hoorah she did and so we sat down with a virtual cup of tea or two (and possibly one of her freshly baked pies) and had a natter…

Can you explain the story of ‘The Novel in the Viola’ in a single sentence without giving too much away?

One sentence? Are you kidding? I’m a novelist — it takes me 100,000 words to say anything… (That’s why I’m rubbish on twitter).  Someone described the book succinctly in a review, so I shall steal that: ‘The Novel in the Viola’ is both a love story set during the Second World War, and an elegy to the English Country House.’

How did the story come about? Was there anything in particular that inspired you with this novel?

I’d always wanted to write a story set in the Dorset ‘ghost village’ of Tyneham, a place I’ve been haunted by since I was a kid. During the Second World War, the War Office requisitioned Tyneham for military occupation. Churchill promised that the village would be returned at the end of the war. The departing villagers pinned this note to the church door:

‘Please treat the church and houses with care; we have given up our homes where many of us lived for generations to help win the war to keep men free. We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly.’

But the villagers never returned. After the war, Churchill reneged on his promise and the village was requisitioned permanently. I wanted to tell the story of Tyneford/ Tyneham through the eyes of an outsider, a young refugee maid.

Elise is a character that really lives and breathes through the pages of the book, where did she come from? Is she based on anyone you know? How hard is it to create a heroine?

Elise Landau is inspired by my great-aunt Gabi Landau, who, with the help of my grandmother, managed to escape Nazi Europe by becoming a ‘mother’s help’ in England. Many refugees escaped this way on a ‘domestic service visa’ – swapping cosseted lives for the harsh existence of English servants. I read a series of articles by Austrian and German women who had been domestic servants in Britain, and also spoke to several ladies in London. One woman I spoke to had never even on put on her own stockings before she came to England – she had a maid to do it for her. In London she became a char.

I’m glad you called Elise a heroine – she’d like that. It would make her want to stand very tall and flick her hair. Elise was so easy to write, an absolute pleasure. When I started writing ‘Viola’, I realised that she wanted me to get out of the way and let her tell her own story. I think in this instance I felt rather like I was the reader.

The opening line ‘when I close my eyes I see Tyneford House’ instantly made me think of Daphne Du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’ and I was wondering if this was intentional or just a coincidence?  There were flavours of other books here and there which I found really comforting, was that something you wanted to create? It’s a lovely nostalgic reading experience either way.

Absolutely. I’ll never forget the first time I read Rebecca. The Novel in the Viola is a modern take on the 1930s novel. It’s inspired by Stevie Smith’s The Novel on Yellow Paper, A House in the Country, Marianna and so on. I also remember the pleasure of those long adolescent summers spent reading books like Jane Eyre, Moon Tiger and A Room with A View. I lost days and weeks to those novels – I was far more interested in those worlds than I was in the real one. With The Novel in the Viola I wanted to recreate that feeling in an adult reader; return them to those summers where they had to read on, had to find out what happened to the girl in the story.

Tyneford is as much a lead character as the wonderful, wonderful Elise, well I thought so anyway, was it hard to make Tyneford’s story and Elise’s coexist without one taking over the other?

I didn’t really think of the stories as separate – Elise is telling the story of Tyneford, and it is all filtered through her memories. She loves the Tyneford coast, and now that she’s in exile, it’s even more precious.

‘The Novel in the Viola’ has recently been chosen as one of the next Richard and Judy reads, congratulations you must be thrilled, how did you find out, do authors have any input in the process or do your publishers keep it hush, hush? How much effect do you think being in that bunch of books will have on ‘The Novel in the Viola’?

Thank you – it’s really exciting. There are lot of great books out there and as a reader it’s really hard to know what to choose. So, I think it’s fantastic to have an endorsement from Richard and Judy – it’s like a recommendation from a friend, and I think that does make a difference for people. They do really choose the books themselves. These are the ones they enjoyed reading – it’s actually very genuine.

Have you read any of the other Richard and Judy recommendations you’re amongst and can you give us any recommendations?

I haven’t yet. But I’m really looking forward to all of them – the fun is that they’re all so different. I’m going to take ‘The Poison Tree’ on holiday with me, and Lizzie Speller’s ‘The Return of Captain John Emmett’ is on my bedside.

After the success of Mr Rosenblum’s List’ did you ever worry about that ‘second book syndrome’ or feel any additional pressure about ‘The Novel in the Viola’?

I had a bit of panic and then spoke to a great friend of mine, a composer called Jeff Rona (who composed the music for ‘The Novel in the Viola’). Jeff told me a story that I found really helpful. When he was a young flibbertigibbet of a composer, he thought about his music as ‘important’. He knew he was creating pieces of art, and this thought often made writing music difficult. Nothing was good enough – what would posterity think? Sometimes it wasn’t even fun. Then, one day he was in the studio trying some stuff out when he ran into a well known RnB artist. This guy was recording and having a great time, and he and Jeff got chatting. ‘The problem is,’ said RnB guy to Jeff, ‘You think of your music as fine china while I think of mine as paper plates.’

From that moment, Jeff resolved on only ever making paper plates. He sits in the studio and plays about, experiments, tries stuff out, has fun and doesn’t worry about the significance of his composition. And believe me, his music is amazing (it’s the staple of my playlist when I’m writing).

While Jeff is talking about composing music, I think the metaphor holds for writing fiction too. I don’t think of my writing as either important or significant. I like to have fun when I write. It’s not always enjoyable – some days it’s just hard and I feel that everything I do is nonsense. But, when I don’t worry and try stuff out, play with words and see what works and what doesn’t, good things happen. I can always cut the mistakes. Throw stuff away. After all, I only write on paper plates.

When are we going to finally see the film of ‘Mr Rosenblum’s List’?

We’re just starting to think about directors. That’s super-fast for the film business!

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? How long have you been writing for?

I always knew I wanted to be a writer. I’m a story monster. But I’m dyslexic so learning to write was really hard for me. As is spelling the word dyslexic. It’s a really mean word to give to people who struggle with spelling.

Which current contemporary authors do you really rate?

Ian McEwan, Andrea Levy, David Mitchell, Nathan Englander, Penelope Lively, Siri Hustvedt, Michael Chabon, Aaron Sorkin, David Chase, David Simon. I think that some of the best writing at the moment is in long-form tv.

How relevant do you think book blogging is to the publishing industry? Do you ever pop and see what people have thought of your book or is it something you avoid at all costs?

I think anything which promotes reading and books is a great thing, especially with the ever shrinking arts pages in newspapers. It’s lovely to have a place where people can chat about books whether it’s online, in a living room or coffee shop. I don’t tend to read reviews. I try to focus on what I’m reading and what story I want to tell next.

Which book, apart from your own, would you demand Savidge Reads and readers run out and buy right this instant, a book you would call your favourite?

Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively. I read it first as a teenager – actually, that’s not true – I listened to it on story tape travelling around France with my parents. For once, I never wanted the driving to end. I re-read it again last year terrified that it wouldn’t be as good as I remembered. It wasn’t. It was better.

Describe your typical writing routine, do you have any writers quirks or any writing rituals?

I like to start the morning with a good walk. It’s both a great way to procrastinate and also gets the mind moving —  When it’s raining like it was this morning, I feel very discombobulated. I liked to work in the summerhouse at the bottom of the garden. There is no phone and no internet. I have to avoid the internet or I get nothing done.

 What is next for Natasha Solomons?

I’m just starting book 3, which instead of ‘Untitled 3’, I’m referring to as ‘Ethel’. It won’t be called Ethel. There is no Ethel in the book. Unless someone gets a dog. The dog could be called Ethel.

***

A big thank you to Natasha for taking the time out of her, rather ridiculously, busy schedule and doing a Savidge Reads Grills. You can read her blog here and visit her website here. Also a big thank you to her publishers, Sceptre, who have kindly said they will give four copies of ‘The Novel in the Viola’ away, you can see how you can be in with a chance here. Also if you have any questions for Natasha you might just want to pop them in the commemts and she just might pop by and answer them…

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Give Away… The Novel in the Viola – Natasha Solomons

As you will have seen I was utterly charmed by Natasha Solomons latest novel ‘The Novel in the Viola’, so much so that above you will see a ‘Savidge Reads Grills…’ with her (frankly if Richard and Judy can have her on their lovely sofa, I can have tea and cake with her on my virtual chaise longue) and in conjuncture with all of this I have four copies to give away of this wonderful book, worldwide I will have you know, thanks to her lovely publishers Sceptre.

All you have to do is leave a ‘yes please’ in the comments and four winners will be drawn at random. You have until next Friday the 3rd of June as on Saturday the 4th of June I will be doing a bumper giveaway catch up post (I am so sorry I havent sooner but you know how it has been with me of late, so do forgive). Good luck!!

Oh and if you fancy asking Natasha any questions she might just be answering in comments on her ‘Savidge Reads Grills’ on and off when she can. What a treat today is!

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Help! Those 3 For 2’s…

I am sure it’s the same for any book lover but aren’t those 3 for 2 book offers that they have in book shops just so tempting. I have to say of late I have been rather incapacitated in terms of getting to many but whenever I have I am sooo tempted, regardless of how many books I have in my house to get more. They are just sent to tempt you aren’t they? Does anyone take pictures of the books that they see in them to find out more about later? Or is that just me? Anyway I wondered if we could all share what three books we would most love to read at the moment, as it might also help my aunty out, which you are always so good at.

I currently have about six titles on my most wanted list but if I currently had to choose any three books that I would get in such an offer it has to be the following…

  

The first is a hardback which naturally means it wouldn’t be in any of these book shop offers but it’s my game so my rules. On the odd occasion I have made it to a book shop it has been ‘The Hypnotist’ by Lars Kelper that has caught my eye because of the spooky cover. The fact it’s meant to be ‘riddled with irresistible, nail-biting suspense, this first-class Scandinavian thriller is one of the best I’ve ever read’ also adds to its allure. The next is the fault of Karen of Cornflower Books who mentioned the novels chosen for ‘Fiction Uncovered’. My initial response to the list of 8 chosen titles was ‘oh no not another list of books which I want to read every single one of’, because actually I do. However ‘Forgetting Zoe’ by Ray Robinson is a book that sticks out as ‘the dark, unflinching tale of ten-year-old Zoe, abducted and imprisoned after a chance encounter’ sounds short and rather disturbing. Finally, there is ‘Some Hope’ by Edward St Aubyn who I asked you all about last week. I want to start his series at the beginning and this one is the three first stories in one volume.

So what does this all have to do with my aunt? Well she asked a while back, and I then forgot, what books she should download for her Kindle (don’t say it) while she goes to Italy shortly and I was a bit stumped. I have given her a spare copy of ‘Trick of the Dark’ by Val McDermid which she loved, and I know she likes the Kate Atkinson ‘crime-lit’ (not my phrase) novels, but she wants to try ‘a few different things’ can you help?

So what would your current ideal 3 for 2 be? In fact maybe by sharing your three most wanted books, and why, at the moment would not only be a fun post but one she could have a meander through? I know you’ll come up with some corkers, and would be interesting to see if any books have caught all our eyes. Go on, have a go.

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