Monthly Archives: June 2012

Granny Savidge Reads Update #1; Big Thanks

I promised you updates on Granny Savidge Reads and so here without fail is my first one and it involves a lot of thank you’s. Firstly though, how is Gran? Well, touch wood, while sadly she still has no feeling or movement in her left hand side it appears we might have been through the most dangerous/nerve wrecking bit, you know the stuff that doesn’t even bear thinking about. However we are by no means out of the woods. Seeing her yesterday for most of the day (when she wasn’t asleep, how rude when you have visitors, ha) was the first time she has looked so bright, well as bright as you can in the circumstances, this week but her headaches and nausea and frustration are high. We still have a long way to go, but let us not dwell on that.

I told her that you had all been sending her your well wishes and she was really grateful and wanted to me say a big thank you all for your thoughts. She was also delighted with her iPod from myself and The Beard, which I had filled with the only audio book I owned personally until this week, ‘Gillespie & I’ (because if I ever sleep on my own now I like a familiar story in the background) which she laughed and said I had been ‘determined to make me read for quite some time, now I have no choice’ (Jane, if you read this she was being wry).

You may have noticed I said it was the only audio book I owned until this week as I have been rather inundated with them thanks to lovely publishers (and also three I borrowed from the library) and this is only the beginning apparently…

Even more are on their way, which is such a lovely gesture and I am very grateful as she will probably be in the hospital for quite some weeks/months to come and will now have hours of entertainment and stories to come. So yet more thanks from Gran and from me to the lovely people at Simon & Schuster and Orion, whose books are pictured, and to Penguin, Sceptre, and Random House who have parcels in the post en route. (Is it bad if I listen to some of them myself?)

I will be off to see her, and update her iPod, tomorrow and will keep you posted on how she is doing. I won’t do it too often as a) it will be a long haul and progress might be slow b) I don’t want her getting too used to all the attention. But seriously, a big thank you for all your support, it means a lot to me, Gran and indeed the Savidge family clan.

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Thoughts for Granny Savidge Reads

As some of you will have seen on Twitter last night we had a bit of a big shock in the family yesterday. Granny Savidge Reads, who those of you who have been/are regulars of the blog will know and love from her posts, sadly had a brain haemorrhage and stroke yesterday morning. This was completely out of the blue and has been rather serious.

I did go and see her last night, and of course will be visiting regularly, and whilst she is still able to talk and has her wry sense of humour she is unfortunately paralysed down her whole left side. This for a very social and mobile jet setting 70 year old is very frustrating and scary as I am sure you can imagine. Not only that but she has shocking double vision so she can’t move her head without feeling sick and most vexing for her she cannot read, one of her main lifelong loves.

As her future possible recovery is going to take weeks and weeks The Beard and I have decided we are going to get her an iPod and fill it with audio books, that way she can be lost in the world of fiction she loves so much even if she can’t focus on a page/screen. So any recommendations of good ones with a literary or comic bent would be most welcome.

Anyway, I thought I would share the sad news with you as I know some of you enjoy her posts and hearing about one of the biggest book influencers of my life. Let’s hope she gets well as soon as she can, I will keep you posted even if my posting might go to pot over the next few weeks/months as we spend as much time with her as we can supporting her recovery.  Please send her your get well vibes and thoughts!

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Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

Sometimes I think that we all need to read books that take us out of our comfort zone don’t we. In fact that can be a main factor of why people join book groups be they in the flesh, like the Manchester Book Club which I have just started reading ‘The Master and Margarita’ for,  or online, as I am with the Readers Summer Book Club. One title that I was insistent should be on the Summer Book Club list, because I wanted to read it and test myself, was Ernest Cline’s novel ‘Ready Player One’ which with its mixture of science fiction and dystopian themes I thought would be rather a test and a change from my usual reads.

Arrow Books, paperback, 2012, fiction, 384 pages, kindly sent by the publishers

The earth we meet in ‘Ready Player One’ is not a pleasant one. It is 2044 and humans have consumed the entire world’s oil, famine and poverty are widespread and the climate is pretty much ruined. The world is such a dreadful place that most people find themselves escaping it by plugging into the OASIS, a virtual utopia where you can become anyone you want in one of the ten thousand planets available online.

Yes, humans are escaping their lives by living virtual ones. However when the founder of OASIS, James Halliday, dies he makes the OASIS an even more exciting and dangerous place by leaving all his money (billions) and control of the OASIS to whomever can find a hidden set of keys within the OASIS on the biggest, and most riddle filled, quest that the virtual world has ever seen. Our narrator, Wade Watts, a young guy living in the poverty ridden stacks (trailers piled high shared by multiple families) with his unloving aunty is one such man, and he has not long found the first of the keys.

Phew! That looks like quite a synopsis but actually there are no spoilers in that and really I have only given you the very beginnings of the story as you join it, though I won’t give much else away because part of the fun of ‘Ready Player One’ is following Wade and his competitors, some good some very bad, as they try to solve the riddles Halliday has left them in a virtual world of endless possibilities.

‘A small mirror was mounted inside my locker door, and I caught a glimpse of my virtual self as I closed it. I’d designed my avatar’s face and body to look, more or less, like my own. My avatar had a slightly smaller nose than me, and he was taller, and thinner. And more muscular. And he didn’t have any teenage acne. But aside from all these minor details, we looked more or less identical. The school’s strictly enforced dress code required that all students avatars be human, and of the same gender and age as the student. No giant two-headed hermaphrodite demon unicorn avatars were allowed. Not on school grounds, anyway.’

I have to admit that when I knew this virtual world held around ten thousand planets within it I almost let out an inward grown. I pictured in my head a book that would never end because it has these endless places that could be explored; this isn’t the case at all. Ernest Cline clearly had a framework set in mind, the plotting of this novel and its riddles must have been incredibly hard work and meticulously done, and so you go on an exciting journey where the possibilities are endless but because there is a goal the characters remain quite focused yet there are of course thrills and twists along the way too, all as Halliday had planned you imagine. There is also much humour thrown in along the way which really adds to the enjoyment and you almost feel like you are playing a game as you read. It reminded me of the ‘fighting fantasy’ game books I played as a teenager by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone where you had to chose which page you would turn to next and a scenario where you were the hero played out… I always died, I risked too much (I bet none of you would even have thought I would have played these games, ha). In ‘Ready Player One’ we the reader can’t decide or die but the characters can, the homage seemed to be there though.

I think actually this feeling of those game books is a purposeful one by Cline as this book is also really a huge nostalgia fest and homage to the 1980’s, as much as it is a geek fest to comics, video games etc. This could have been alienating, I was after all only born in 1982, yet I got a lot of the references (the fact She-Ra was mentioned in this book won it brownie points, I loved that fact Halliday’s funeral was superimposed over a funeral scene in ‘Heathers’ too) and even when I didn’t get all the jokes it didn’t matter. I was really impressed by the way Cline managed this and liked the additional twist this gave to the book, I think Cline’s passion came through and I found myself reminiscing and embracing my not so long forgotten inner geek.

If I had to draw out any quibbles I had with the book the first would be that just on occasion I sometimes couldn’t work out if we were in the OASIS or back on earth in 2044, and occasionally I did get a little lost in the OASIS but I was expecting this, in fact I was expecting to do it a hell of a lot more than I did. The other slight issue was that because the book is such an epic adventure and because so much of it is set in the virtual world I didn’t really feel like I got to know any of the characters, apart from Wade, as much as I would have liked to. You do get snippets of their back stories but I liked them and wanted more, which is a compliment, and as most of the time we know them as their avatars it is expected they might be a little one dimensional as they project who they want to be known as. That said there is a love story and a real tale of friendship in this novel.

I really, really enjoyed ‘Ready Player One’. I wasn’t sure it would be my kind of book at all but the adventure and story really took hold of me, along with the humour, and I was gripped. Ignore the fact that it’s got quite a sci-fi twist, or the fact it may be deemed as a tale for those who want the 80’s nostalgia because it is more than that. It’s a funny, rollicking and escapist read that I thoroughly recommend.

Who else has read this and what did you think? Had you initially been put off a little by the premise at all? If you are a diehard sci-fi fan what were your thoughts?

This was a book  I read for The Readers Summer Book Club, alas due to some complications we have had to postpone the show with Ernest, hopefully we will be able to record one soon.

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Filed under Books of 2012, Ernest Cline, Review, The Readers Podcast, The Readers Summer Book Club

Shelving Posts for Shelving…

I really thought that this weekend I would have time to post about a new page on Savidge Reads and also write some more about Beryl Bainbridge. This was not to be. I have actually been furniture hunting, shifting things from Manchester to Liverpool and seeing some am-dram. The furniture hunting and shifting has been the best bit of the weekend as after an hour so of bearded building (meaning The Beard did it), and then some serious sorting of books, I am now the proud owner of these gorgeous book shelves.

When I sent a picture to Gavin of said shelves the reply when we had a phone meeting about The Readers future (exciting not worrying) was ‘I am just amazed there are so little books.’ Well you see while my TBR might be out of control, though I am having a big cull this week as it is moving cities, I am very picky about the books that end up on any bookshelves I have in the lounge. You see these shelves are my ‘see what I have read shelves’. Not in an arrogant up-my-bum kind of way, though I admit I did use to keep classic and renowned books I had read but loathed on them so people could see I had read them if they popped round, but people do look at your bookshelves when they pop round. I love rooting through new-to-me friends bookshelves.

Anyway, I have been really strict and I am only keeping books which I know I will read again, are by a favour author/part of a series (though most of these are on another shelf in the bedroom), or have bowled me over even though I will never read them again (yes, I am thinking of you ‘American Psycho’) any books that don’t fit into that category are out. It seems the severity in which I last culled my TBR has taken hold full stop.

I did umm and ahh for ages about what should stay and what should go. Then I had the debate of which order I should shelve them. Ordering by colour was debated, then paperbacks in one area hard backs in the other, in the end I settled with alphabetical order by authors surname… easier to find books that way.

Shall we see them with mood lighting? A kindle couldn’t do this with all the books you have read on it could it?

I am smitten with them and thought I would share them with you all as I suspected you might all have a penchant for a picture of some brimming shelves. How do you organise yours? Do you shelve unread books and read books separately (I did once have a chat with Gavin about this and he thinks I am mad, he mixes his up)? Do you keep all the books you have read, or is there a culling process? Let me know, and apologies for the lack of posts I sort of promised, this shelving situation took over and just couldn’t wait.

P.S This was my 1,400th post aparrently, I got a little excited and also surprised by that.

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Filthy Lucre – Beryl Bainbridge

I always find it fascinating to read the earlier works of authors that I love as, in my head, it is a way of looking at their writing in the raw and how they went on to develop it. So when I saw that Annabel of Gaskella was doing Beryl Bainbridge Reading Week, and it was Annabel that made me read Beryl, I knew just which book I was going to read to take part. ‘Filthy Lucre’ was not Beryl Bainbridge’s debut novel in the published sense (that was ‘A Weekend with Claude’) yet it was a book she wrote at the tender age of thirteen. My mother had a copy and so I pilfered it from her shelves on my last visit, oops, sorry Mum.

Fontana Books, paperback, 1986, fiction, 144 pages, pilfered from my mothers shelves

‘Filthy Lucre’ is a tale of cheating and deception all around money.  We meet Martin Andromikey on his death bed in 1851, right until his last breath Martin believes that he was cheated of his inheritance by the Ledwhistle family. Asking his friend Richard Soleway to impersonate him, and keep his death a secret, he requests that Richard wreak revenge on them through the thing they love most, business and a business that he is set to be a partner of and so our story starts. What follows though is not unlike many Victorian melodrama’s and sensation novels that have gone before with twists and turns, murders, deceptions, love affairs and even treasure islands.

Initially I did think that because Beryl Bainbridge wrote this when she was so young it was quite possibly going to be a precocious rather annoying book, that’s the cynic in me. This is not the case. The only time I could sense it was the fact that almost every chapter ended with ‘ruin’, ‘disaster’ or ‘forever’ but this in a way is because it is also a Victorian melodrama. Here you can see an author and her influences. The Victorian sections of the novel are rather Dickensian, with the darker and occasionally other worldly elements of Wilkie Collins. There is also a real flavour of Robert Louis Stevenson and Arthur Conan Doyle when the book sets sail to distant shores, and ‘dear reader’ there is also a flavour of Charlotte Bronte in the very prose.

“We will leave now, dear readers, the bright Ledwhistle parlour, and, like a bird, pass out into the November night. We will journey down to a wharf where the slimy Thames moves like some loathsome adder, and the houses huddle together in squalid patterns. Here the lamplight falls on wasted limbs and shaking hands. It lights up sin and filth, all aware, the cruel river twists its reptile course.”

Yet this is more than just a homage though, it is a book where the characters live and breathe and where the atmosphere of London really comes off the pages. The prose is tight and what I should mention here, because it impressed me so much, was that for a book with some legal elements that reminded me of the case in ‘Bleak House’ (while I haven’t read the books I have seen the TV series) this novel is 144 pages long, not 500 plus and I found that quite incredible.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from ‘Filthy Lucre’ when I opened it, especially with the young age at which it was written and the fact that it is no longer in print. What I got was a tale of intrigue and deception that took me on a real escapist adventure and entertained me for a good hour or two as I read it in a single sitting. Like all Beryl Bainbridge’s books that I have read so far I would highly recommend you give this book a whirl.

Do pop and visit Gaskella to see Annabel raving about more of Beryl’s books, if you haven’t read her you really should. I will be doing another post which features Beryl and a new Savidge Reads project (not a read-a-thon, I am now in Green Carnation submission mode reading wise) tomorrow and then another Beryl review on Sunday as I finished this one and wanted to read more. I also wanted to read a Dickens novel after finishing this but that opens a whole can of reading worms I am not quite ready for. If you have read any Beryl, including this one, do let me know what you thought and what books I should read next, as always.

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Can a Book Group Be Bad For a Book?

Both whilst recording the latest episode of The Readers Summer Book Club and then compiling my post on the book, ‘Bleakly Hall’ by Emlaine Di Rollo, itself afterwards has raised a question in my head… Can a book group be a bad thing for certain books and the reading experience around them?

One of the things I love most about a book group is the discussion, the gossip; chatting and wine afterwards is all a bonus. I have found with book groups in the past that discussing a book I didn’t like and hearing everyone else’s thoughts on it can sometimes make me d a complete 180 with my opinion. It can also be an utter joy, and rather bonding as I found with ‘Mary Barton’, if you all loathe a book and can sit and pick it apart. Yet what if you really enjoyed reading a book and others pick it apart, can it kill it for you?

This has very rarely happened to me before in any book groups that I can think of. Why is this so? Well I think it is because I tend to be more critical about books I am reading with my ‘book group’ brain on, yes even more so than when I am reading a book to review. With reviews I analyse the way a book made me feel and the questions it raises itself of makes me ask myself, yet with a book group book I tend to pick it apart all the more. Or maybe I do this all the time and yet am only aware of it when prepping for a book club – yes indeed, I prep.

It is this very reason why I have never suggested reading a Daphne Du Maurier book as a choice of my own to any group I have been part of, other members have and I have always been quite fearful that my favourite authors work will be picked to death and my love of Daphers altered. Fortunately Daphne tends to be so wonderful that this rarely happens.

Yet for the first time ever recently as I read a book I was thoroughly enjoying, the aforementioned ‘Bleakly Hall’, I found that as I knew I would be discussing it in detail I started to pick it apart as I read not afterwards. Normally I always do this afterwards, not during, and I am not sure why it changed with this book but I ended up almost sabotaging reading it because I was pre-empting the questions/reactions/subjects that the book would raise. It had a house of cards effect/loose thread effect and I started picking.

This then made me wonder if some books are just not book group books. For example, and I am not comparing ‘Bleakly Hall’ to this series it is just an example, I would never take an Agatha Raisin mystery to a book group. It and I would be annihilated and those, for me, are just books I read for pleasure, no more no less and there is nothing wrong with books that you simply read and are entertained by the whole way through. I think ‘Bleakly Hall’ would have been just such a book if I wasn’t reading it in the context I did.

So I wondered if any of you had found that there are some books that simply should be avoided as book group choices. Obviously with book group books the idea is no one has read them and so there is always the risk it won’t work I suppose but maybe some experiences/titles stick out in particular? Do you agree some books should simply be read and enjoyed, not picked apart or should all books be treated with the same analytical internal eye of a reader?

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Sponsor (Mummy) Savidge Reads…

I have ummmed and ahhhhed about doing this post because I do always find the whole ‘sponsor me’ etiquette kind of awkward. However firstly I am not the one that you would be sponsoring, and secondly what my mother is doing is a good thing, for a wholly worthwhile charity and I think spreading the word and work of any charity is a good thing. So now I have waffled rather inarticulately let me explain. This weekend my mother is going to be donning a wetsuit (that comedy image alone is worth sponsoring her for) and will be swimming 2 miles in the vast Lake Windermere for the Great North Swim. She is doing this partly because she is mad but mainly for MacMillan Cancer Care (cancer being something close to my heart) and in memory of my granddad, Bongy, (who sadly is no longer with us but remains extremely close to my heart) who I have told you about before and who MacMillan where incredible with supporting when he was terminally ill, and indeed supporting us when we were caring for him at home.

Lake Windermere

I don’t want to do a hard sell because that would be uncomfortable but should you want to sponsor her anything then please do, you don’t have to sponsor more than ten pounds as it tries to make you do you can sponsor smaller, by visiting her page here. I shall plug it no more than that. I will say that I am so impressed with my mother doing this; she herself had a big C scare last year, well done Mum. The Beard and I are hoping that we can get to see her go in at the start and be waiting for her (and my uncle and aunty) at the end so I will hopefully report back.

It has made me think, what could I do for charity that involves books, preferably books and cancer or books and Alzheimer’s? Hmmm, any suggestions? Big thanks if you do sponsor my mother by the way. A normal bookish post coming soon.

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