Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Halfway Point…

It is hard to believe but at midnight tonight we are technically half way through 2013! How on earth did that happen? It actually only occurred to me a few minutes ago despite the fact that myself and the lovely Gavin Pugh had recorded our biannual episode of the Readers where we look at the books we are excited about each half of the year earlier this very afternoon. As soon as the penny drooped and I finally realised the implications of this I had a little wobble, mainly thinking of all the books I had pencilled in to read in 2013 and so far don’t seem to have made much of a dent into…

Just some of the books I haven't got round to yet in 2013, oops!

Just some of the books I haven’t got round to yet in 2013, oops!

Instead of freaking out about the books that we haven’t read, as it only adds to the pressure and feeling of utter incompetence to my mind, I thought we could switch it and make it more positive. So I wondered if you would let me know which books are the best that you have read this year so far?

I am thinking of doing something along those lines myself next week with a ‘Savidge Reads Summer Reading Guide’ as I laid into the Guardian’s Summer Reading list over the weekend on Twitter, not to be rude but it is a bit generic in terms of titles I think with nothing a bit left field in sight. Anyway, I will be using it to recommend my favourite reads of the year so far and also to highlight some of the books I am most looking forward to over the summer months (if anyone else does this you know where they nicked it from, ha) which may include some you recommend, thank you.

I am also making a mini mid-year resolution with myself, apart from to go off the beaten track with books, as I am going to make more of a concerted effort to catch up with comments on this blog (thanks for the Amsterdam recommendations so far) and then go and catch up with some other blogs as I seem to have fallen off the wagon. In fact I nearly fell of my chair when I popped by Just William’s Luck and saw he has gone from blog to vlog, but it is equally brilliant to be fair and very well produced unlike my rubbish random attempts. Anyway, I have just about caught up with comments before June, so only a month behind now. I will keep at it, though I might not say thank you to all the lovely comments when Gran had her major decline, I hope I have made it clear to all of you how much your thoughts and support has meant. I am seeing her on Friday and will report back. Back to books though…

…What have been you books of 2013 so far? AND, without freaking yourself out of course, which are the books you are most looking forward to, or planning to read in the second half?

Note: They don’t have to be books published in 2013, just read in it!

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Books To Take On My Travels #1

I have a little routine with my reading habits whenever I go away be it a work trip or a holiday. I really like to try and learn about the places I am going through books be they nonfiction, travel guides or fiction itself (new, old, any genre). Well as I am off again in the next few weeks for a long weekend I thought I should ask in advance for some of your recommendations on what books I should be hunting out. It would help if I told you where I was going really wouldn’t it?

Yes I am off to Amsterdam for work, a travel feature, in a few weeks and so I could really do with some recommendations of books that I should take with me. I am already doing some of my ‘lead up reading’ as I grabbed as many guidebooks from the library as I could find the other day, however what I really want is some books that I can read once I am there.

Amsterdam Guides

I have already had a think and, of course, Amsterdam’s most famous book is ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ and one of the things that is firmly written down in mine (and The Beard’s, as managed to get him a place on the trip) itinerary is to make sure we visit the Anne Frank house. I only read that infamous book last year so it might be a little early for a re-read, and also I read Etty Hillesums diaries and letters this year, so with going and the pre-reading I think I need something different to be reading whilst I am there. The only other book I could think of was Ian McEwan’s ‘Amsterdam’ but that was only for the title and indeed I have read that one already too.

So, what books written about Amsterdam, set there or indeed by someone from Amsterdam should I be tracking down before I go away to pack in my luggage?

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All The Birds, Singing – Evie Wyld

I think it would be fair to say that Evie Wyld’s second novel, ‘All The Birds, Singing’, is one of the books that I have been most excited about reading this year. Back in December 2009, way back before she was (rightly) included in the Granta Best Young British novelists, when I first read her debut ‘After The Fire, A Still Small Voice’ I said “I thought this was a marvelous piece of work, an incredibly impressive debut, I think Wyld is definitely an author to watch out for in the future.” Having read ‘All The Birds, Singing’ and spending a few days thinking about it, and possibly hugging it, I initially thought it was bloody good now after more mulling I think it is a masterpiece… so it seems I was right with my prediction.

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Jonathan Cape, 2013, hardback, 240 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

“Another sheep, mangled and bled our, her innards not yet crusting and the vapours rising from her like a steamed pudding.” And so starts ‘All The Birds, Singing’ and so we find our heroine Jake as she takes in the sight before her, another of her sheep has been mutilated, killed by some ‘thing’. Yet what is the ‘thing’ that could be killing her flock one by one? Could it be the local kids who think she is some out of town witch? Could it be the neighbours’ crazy son? Could it be a monster, be it real, imagined or from Jake’s hidden past? Could it be linked to the sudden appearance of a new ‘incomer’ in the area?

As we read on we realise there is going to be a lot more to Jake, and indeed ‘All The Birds, Singing’ than meets the eye. Jake has clearly taken herself as far away from the world and place of her childhood, Australia, as it could be possible to be. She has hidden herself and even alienated herself from everyone around her. But why?  Now I am not, of course, going to tell you because Wyld herself plays a master stroke of leaving it until quite literally the very end of the book to find out. Thus adding a thrilling sense of you simply bursting to know both what the hell is out there in the fields and the forests in the now and just what the hell happened to send her there now. The unease of her present mixed with the unknown of her past becomes equally unnerving and intriguing as the book continues.

“I slammed the fridge and lent my head against it. Stupid to have become so comfortable. The fridge hummed back in agreement. Stupid to think it wouldn’t all fall to shit. That feeling I’d had when I first saw the cottage, squat and white like a chalk pebble at the black foot of the downs, the saafety of having no one nearby to peer in at me – that felt like an idiot’s lifetime ago. I felt at the side of the fridge for the axe handle.”

The way Evie weaves all of this together is just masterful. She doesn’t simply go for the route of alternating chapters from Jake’s present and her past, which would be too simple and has been done before. In the present Evie makes the story move forward with Jake from the latest sheep mauling, in the past though we go backwards making the reader have to work at making everything make sense. I had several ‘oh bloody hell that is why she is where she is’ moments with the past storyline before thinking ‘what there is more, that might not be the reason…’ Jakes mistrust of things it seems it catching. This style is a gamble and admittedly initially requires a leap of faith and chapter or two of acclimatizing to the structure, yet it is a gamble which pays of dividends by the end and if you see the end coming, and aren’t left completely jaw droppingly winded by it, then you are a blooming genius. I was honestly blown away.

It is also Jakes character, along with Wyld’s prose throughout, which makes the book a real stand out. She is barbed, brittle and rather damaged, yet in the same vein and with the way she loves her sheep she is also gentle and, with the way she jumps at the smallest thing, rather fearful and mistrusting. She is a dangerous dichotomy, which can be compelling but there is also the question of whether we should trust her, how reliable is she and just what on earth is being kept from us. It all creates a heady mix.

Throw in some corking set pieces like a sex scene which will have any reader with arachnophobia utterly hysterical in both senses, ghostly apparitions and spending nights alone on a farm with Jake that could be taken from a horror story and you have the reader undergo the full spectrum of emotions from horror to hilarity and back again. Like ‘All The Birds, Singing’ it is a book that stands alone, it isn’t like anything else. That said, some people are comparing Wyld to Du Maurier, I love both and can see the link yet I think Wyld is an author in her own right and doesn’t need to be likened to anyone if I am truthful.

I love books where the brooding sense of atmosphere and menace are palpable to the reader at all times, even in the lightest of moments. ‘All The Birds, Singing’ is such a book. It is one of those rare books you read (‘The Proof of Love’ by Catherine Hall and ‘Gillespie and I’ by Jane Harris spring to mind) that you feel the author actually wrote for you as it chimes with you so much. I asked Evie if she had, she hadn’t, rude. It is a book that I simply cannot recommend to you enough. You will be intrigued, horrified, laugh (when you possibly shouldn’t) and thrilled by an author whose prose is exceptional. I liked it even more than its predecessor. I want ‘All The Birds, Singing’ to win awards it isn’t even eligible for, most of all I want it to be read by YOU! Simple as that.

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Filed under Books of 2013, Evie Wyld, Jonathan Cape Publishers, Review

Other People’s Bookshelves #14 – Roz Campion

After a small hiatus Other People’s Bookshelves is back, back, backity, back… Hoorah! Thank you to everyone who has responded to my plea for more of you to share your book porn with us, keep them coming as I would love this series to run and run. Anyway, for the fourteenth in the series we get to have a lovely nosey through Roz Campion’s shelves, first though (I know you are desperate to see the books, the books, the books) let us find out a little bit more about Roz…

Roz works for the Foreign Office and currently lives in Washington DC. She has been obsessed by books and reading since she was little and never really understood why anyone would give a gift that isn’t a book. She says she is the kind of person who would read the instructions on a bottle of shampoo if there was nothing else to read – though fortunately she ensures that there always is… Her tastes are a combination of modern fiction, 19th century novels and Persephone-type books. Having a reasonably busy job plus more interests and friends than she did when she was a kid, means that she reads less than she might like. Or at least she did until this year, when the lovely Thomas of My Porch blog made a bet with her about who could read more during the course of the year. Being a determined girl this means she’s already had a fabulous year of reading and is now on book number 53. She listens to books as she walks to work and also listens to novels when she runs, which she admits most people think is weird (she ran her first half marathon whilst listening to an Anthony Trollope novel). She has been with her civil partner, Layla, for almost 6 years, and one of the most difficult things when they first moved in together was merging book collections…not least because Roz kept on trying to take Layla’s books to the local charity shop (to ensure there was enough room for hers). She occasionally blogs for the Foreign Office, though sadly not about books: http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/rosalindcampion/ Right, lets take a look at her books and reading habits…

Roz Shelves 5

Do you keep all the books you read on your shelves or only your favourites, does a book have to be REALLY good to end up on your shelves or is there a system like one in one out, etc?

When I lived in London, I’d assess a book before putting it up on a shelf. That’s not to say that most of them didn’t end up on my shelves anyway – a book has to be really quite bad for me to be certain that I won’t want to read it again and therefore can “risk” giving it away. But now we live in the US I’m not really sure how to get rid of books – they don’t have charity shops in the same way we do in the UK (or not that I’ve been able to find) – which means I keep pretty much everything. After all, it feels just wrong to put a book in the recycling – no book deserves that fate.

Do you organise your shelves in a certain way? For example do you have them in alphabetical order of author, or colour coded? Do you have different bookshelves for different books (for example, I have all my read books on one shelf, crime on another and my TBR on even more shelves) or systems of separating them/spreading them out? Do you cull your bookshelves ever?

I was a nerdy child, and worked in the school library for 6 years (finally becoming Head of Library, which unsurprisingly didn’t bring with it the kudos or glamour that I’d hoped). This means that I like order in my books. Fiction is ordered alphabetically by author (though I’m ashamed to say that the last two times we’ve moved I’ve managed to get someone else to do the alphabetising!). Things have started to go awry a little since we are running out of room a bit. Non-fiction is downstairs and there’s a bit of me that would like to recreate the Dewey decimal system. Fortunately we don’t have enough non-fiction for that to be possible, so there’s a biography section, and then “other” which also has a few TBR books (which I’ve put there when doing a mad dash to tidy up before someone arrives and then forgotten about). My other TBR pile is my bedside table, which is impractical and messy but there you are. I used to cull books reasonably regularly when we lived in London (to Layla’s sorrow as I kept deciding we didn’t need her books!) but without somewhere to take unwanted books that’s not a feature of our lives anymore. And I’m still struggling with trying to work out how to organise my Kindle – I have created numerous different categories, but problem with organising books on a Kindle is that it is very much out of sight out of mind with me.

What was the first book you ever bought with your own money and does it reside on your shelves now?

When I was about 6 or 7 I won a £5 book token in a drawing competition. In retrospect, this seems most bizarre since I am completely talentless when it comes to anything artistic and so I suspect it must have been some kind of pity prize. Anyway, I agonised for a while about what to buy and then was told I had to make a decision “now”. This meant I was rushed into buying a paperback of Rosemary Sutcliffe’s The Silver Branch. It’s a wonderful book (and I do still have my very dog-earred copy of it) but unfortunately it is the second in a trilogy. So it wasn’t a very successful first purchase… Fortunately (or unfortunately) my book-buying talent has improved a lot since then.

Roz Shelves 1

Are there any guilty pleasures on your bookshelves you would be embarrassed people might see, or like me do you have a hidden shelf for those somewhere else in the house?

I gave away most of my guilty-pleasures before we moved here. I’m ashamed to say that I thought that the packers would judge me for my low taste (in fact, I think they mainly hated me for the quantity of books they had to pack). I think, though, I did keep a few Sophie Kinsella books but these are now languishing unpacked at the back of a closet. Other than that, most of my guilty pleasures are on display. In some ways I quite like seeing the Harry Potter series nestled against Philip Roth…

Which book on the shelves is your most prized, mine would be a collection of Conan Doyle stories my Great Uncle Derrick memorised and retold me on long walks and then gave me when I was older? Which books would you try and save if (heaven forbid) there was a fire?

Most of the books which I have a sentimental attachment to are still at my mother’s home in England. I’d definitely save her copy of Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes which she got as a school prize in the 1940s, if there was a fire, for example. The only thing I might grab in case of fire that I have with me here is the set of Jane Austen books which my godmother gave me when I was a child. She taught my mother English literature and always sent my books as gifts – they were always a bit too hard for my age, but is one reason why I read so much great British literature when I was in my teens.

What is the first ‘grown up’, and I don’t mean in a ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ way, that you remember on your parent’s shelves or at the library, you really wanted to read? Did you ever get around to it and are they on your shelves now?

The first “grown-up” author I wanted to read, and wasn’t allowed to, was PG Wodehouse. I think my mother thought that I wouldn’t appreciate him if I read him too young and didn’t want me to spoil his books for myself. I managed to persuade the local library to let me get one out of the adult library when I was around 10 and I completely adored it, and read pretty much all of the others I could get my hands on. The one that sticks out most for me (and which I have re-read most often) was Psmith, Journalist. It gave me an all-consuming desire to go to New York, and is a brilliant combination of a humour and social conscience.

Roz shelves 2

If you love a book but have borrowed the copy do you find you have to then buy the book and have it on your bookshelves or do you just buy every book you want to read?

I don’t borrow many books these days since to my sorrow I’ve not managed to find that many friends here who have my all-consuming enthusiasm to read (other than Thomas). But looking at my bookshelves now, I can see some books that I “borrowed” from my best friend in London (sorry, Hugo!) so perhaps that’s just as well…

What was the last book that you added to your bookshelves?

The last book I bought was Appointment in Samara, by John O’Hara. I bought it in a lovely bookshop in Greenwich Village in New York, mainly because it had a beautiful cover and I saw it described as one of the great American novels – I’m very keen to read more American literature whilst I’m living here. I really enjoyed it, though no-one could say it’s a cheerful book.

Are there any books that you wish you had on your bookshelves that you don’t currently?

Always. The recent Barbara Pym reading week made me want to buy some of Barbara Pym’s works (but I promised myself I wouldn’t till I got through more of my TBR pile).

Roz TBR

What do you think someone perusing your shelves would think of your reading taste, or what would you like them to think?

I think that most people’s first thought would be bemusement that I shipped quite so many books across the Atlantic. I suspect that there would be some surprise that I don’t have more non-fiction – most houses that I’ve visited in DC seem stuffed with books on politics and biography (which make my three small shelves look paltry). And people often wonder why we keep the travel guides to the places we’ve been – to which there’s no clear answer except that it’s quite jolly to remember where we’ve been, they can lead to some good conversations (“you’ve been to Eritrea? why?”) and, of course, I don’t know how to get rid of books here…

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A huge thanks to Roz for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves. Don’t forgot if you would like to participate (and I would love you to) in the Other People’s Book Shelves series then drop me an email to savidgereads@gmail.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance. In the meantime… what do you think of Roz’s responses and/or any of the books that she mentioned?

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Radio Silence/Radio Savidge

That blinking thing called work is a pesky so and so isn’t it? Every time I think I am going to get back into the swing of things something like an International Music Festival comes along and reading, let along blogging, goes out of the window. On a serious note – I am actually really, really loving my new job. Second to books in my life is definitely music (family and friends are somewhere along the pecking order) so to work on a new exciting project like this is bloody amazing really. If that wasn’t enough the people are also bloody lovely (it is all bloody lovely really) and they are being really supportive with everything that is going on with Gran, no change there at the moment.

The blog has been suffering a little though I will admit, though I think (blowing my own trumpet maybe, as you may all disagree) that my reviews have become more ‘me’ I think. Still a work in progress as always but I feel much happier putting them out, even if they are taking (and becoming) a bit longer. Let me know if you think otherwise!

Anyway, I realised that whilst my blogging has gone a bit more sporadic there are three other ways you can catch up with me being bookish and those are the podcasts I am on, and this got me thinking about Radio Savidge. You see there are the three podcasts I do (The Readers, The Readers Book Club) and also the podcasts that I am always listening to and so I thought I should share some of them with you so that, should you fancy, you can hear me waffling on about books or listen to a few of the podcasts I have in my ears at the moment.

TheReadersTRSummerSeasoBannerYWTB

So as some of you will know I host two book groups, one which also has a monthly spin off. The first is ‘The Readers’, which has now gone fortnightly, which I co-host with the bloody lovely Gavin of Gav Reads. We subtitled it ‘Book Based Banter’ because generally we waffle on, and off on tangents, about books for roughly 30/40mins per episode. We also have a monthly book club which we have now made seasonal. For the summer selection we have gone for ‘The Case of the Missing Servant’ by Tarquin Hall, which you can hear here and see my review of here, and for July we have ‘Snake Ropes’ by Jess Richards (which we are recording next Wednesday) and ‘The Last Banquet’ by Jonathan Grimwood in August. Each show features Gav and I discussing the book, being joined by the author and sometimes a special guest PLUS asking your questions. So, if you have any for Jess or John let me know.

The final podcast I am involved with is the one I host alone. You Wrote The Book! is a fortnightly ‘in conversation’ show where I (lightly) grill an author. Some people love author interviews, some people loath them, I love them as I find authors brains rather fascinating and I have been very, very lucky as already I have had Evie Wyld, John Boyne, Xiaolu Guo, Alan Bradley, Taiye Selasi, Joanne Harris, Patrick Ness, Damian Barr and Maggie O’Farrell on the show! Eek, squeal. If you fancy having a listen to them you can do here.

Sorry about that slightly shameless plug, I will now redeem myself by sharing three of my favourite bookish podcasts that I listen to every episode without fail and think you should be checking out too. First up is ‘Books on the Nightstand’ which I think I have raved about endlessly already on several occasions. Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness have become firm friends of mine, though we have never met, simply through hearing them and tweeting bookish stuff with them. They both work for random, know their books, love their books and are brimming with recommendations – recently they discussed ‘A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon’ by
Anthony Marra which had completely gone under my radar and was absolutely amazing, A–MAZ–ING! Next up are another duo, who also happen to be boyfriend and girlfriend (does playground giggle behind hand) too, in the form of Rob and Kate who make up ‘Adventures With Words’, this is another weekly podcast and I often sit with a cuppa and listen, occasionally responding to them before realising I am not in the same room as them, oops. Finally, another duo, only this time related as Trevor of Mookse and Gripes blog now does a podcast with his brother discussing NYRB classics, with the occasional extra show thrown in for good measure.

I could of course mention the vodcast of the ABC Book Club, formerly The First Tuesday Book Club with my heroine Marieke Hardy, and also the Radio 2 Arts Show with Claudia Winkleman, who I am currently slightly obsessed by and who I would like to steal many an interview technique off as well as spend many hours with discussing books. They are two further goldmines of audio joy, well one is visual too. Oh, I mentioned them anyway.

So which podcasts do you listen to regularly that I should be adding to my own Savidge Radio Station? Do we listen to any of the same ones?

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The Case of the Missing Servant – Tarquin Hall

Not being funny but I would never have thought I would be recommended a book by both Gav of Gav Reads (his review here) and also my Gran, yet in the case of ‘The Case of the Missing Servant’, the first Vish Puri mystery by Tarquin Hall, these two recommendations came most highly. Had Gavin not chosen this book for The Readers Book Club earlier this month I would definitely have ended up reading it on their recommendations and the fact that this was a crime series set in India, a country I am rather fascinated by though I have not had the pleasure of visiting yet.

Arrow Books, 2010, paperback, 312 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

Vish Puri is one of India’s leading private detectives, well that is what he would have you know although occasionally you are left to wonder how much of that is truth and how much is pomp. In the main Vish’s line of detection is that of families wishing for one of their offspring’s betrothed to be investigated for their background and if they might be an ideal addition to the family. It isn’t the most glamourous or exciting investigating but occasionally there are instances with twists. However off and on Puri gets a real mystery and in ‘The Case of the Missing Servant’ Puri is hired to find the maid servant of Ajay Kasliwal, a prominent lawyer, who he has been accused of murdering since her sudden disappearance. It is cases like this Puri thrives on, they are also the kind of cases where one might make enemies which might be why someone is trying to get Puri killed.

One of the things that I most admired about ‘The Case of the Missing Servant’ was how Hall created a genuinely intriguing mystery that managed to really look at Indian society and how it treats the classes/caste system in many ways. He looks at how things have changed in India over the decades and how the modern world is changing time-honoured traditions for everyone living in the country. It gives the book an additional depth, on top of the intrigue of the mystery that is at the forefront of the book. From the judicial system, or lack of it, to the situation with arranged marriages Hall manages to really encapsulate a country in a time of great change.

“In the old days, there would have been no need for Puri’s services. Families got to know one another within the social framework of their own communities. When necessary, they did their own detective work. Mothers and aunties would ask neighbours and friends about prospective grooms, and the families’ standing and reputation. Priests would also make introductions and match horoscopes.
Today, well-off Indians living in cities could no longer rely on those time-honoured systems. Many no longer knew their neighbours. Their homes were the walled villas of Jor Bagh and Golf Links, or posh apartments in Greater Kailash. Their social lives revolved around the office, business meetings and society weddings.”

Another thing that I really liked about the novel was that it is really a book of team detection. Puri might be the lead detective yet really he can, to a degree, be rather bumbling and without a team around him it would be highly unlikely that he could solve the puzzle by himself, though he would have you think the contrary. I mean without Facecream, who he sends to pretend to be a maid and spy on the Kasliwal family, or Tubelight and Flush who do some of the menial hunting (and truly dangerous and physical things) he wouldn’t be able to solve everything that came his way.

“Puri had positioned two of his best undercover operatives, Tubelight and Flush, down in the street.
These were not their real names, of course. Being Punjabi, the detective had nicknames for most of his employees, relatives and close friends. For example, he called his wife Rumpi; his new driver Handbrake; and the office boy, who was extraordinarily lazy, Door Stop.”

I also greatly admired Hall’s way of interweaving several mysteries all at once. In some crime novels we simply get one criminal on the run doing all sorts of horrendous things. With Vish Puri we not only get ‘The Case of the Missing Servant’, we also get three investigations into future spouses of families (one is ending at the start of the book, one sort of peters out and vanishes, one has a brilliant twist which I loved) and on top of that we get Puri’s own mother investigating who has tried to shoot her son. This strand for me, and indeed Puri’s mother, really stole the show for me and I loved every single chapter with her in it, in fact I am hoping that she gets her own standalone series.

 “Puri had learned from hard experience that it was impossible to hide dramatic elements in his life from his mother. But he would not tolerate her nosing about in his investigations.
True, Mummy had a sixth sense and, from time to time, one of her premonitions proved prescient. But she was no detective. Detectives were not mummies. And detectives were certainly not women.”

This I suppose is a positive way to tap into some of the flaws that I found in the book. Firstly I wasn’t sure if it knew what sort of crime novel it wanted to be. In some ways, particularly with its sense of humour and the bumbling and pompous Puri at the helm, it felt like it was a cosy crime novel (which as a fan of M.C. Beaton I have no prejudice about at all) yet with its additional depth and uncovering of Indian society it also felt like it was trying to be a more thought provoking novel too – yet in being both something was lost from both parts. I do wonder if having read Kishwar Desai’s Witness The Night’ first some time ago, which was the latter but very funny with its darkness, might have had something to do with this, maybe.

I also didn’t really think (and I wonder if this is why the Poirot comparisons have been made) that Hall liked Puri very much and was actually using him as a figure of fun in more than just a ‘ha, ha’ way. It could be, as Gavin mentions on The Readers Book Club (and we have a small tiff about it) that it is a debut novel. This could also link into the fact that I don’t think anyone could guess the culprit, as it felt a little bit like a triple twist thrown in at the end last minute, whilst I don’t expect to guess every crime novels denouement (I’m not that clever) I want to at least be able to try.

‘The Case of the Missing Servant’ leaves me a little conflicted. On the one hand I loved the fact that the book gave me so much more (I haven’t even touched on the fascinating bits about the history of Indian detection) than I was expecting and met the eye, all done without trying to prove a moral point or bash me over the head with research. Yet occasionally I didn’t connect and I am wondering if it was with Puri himself? Overall though I enjoyed it, see I am puzzled.

I think I will have to try another one to make my mind up about this fully which shouldn’t be difficult to do as they have become so popular. With two more already published, another on the way, and mentions in this book of Puri’s past cases like ‘The Case of the Missing Polo Elephant’, ‘The Case of the Pundit with the Twelve Toes’ and ‘The Case of the Laughing Peacock’ it looks like there will be plenty more to choose from, though as I like to read a series in order I should try the second, ‘The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing’, next – though I do know the ending having read some of it to Gran in hospital. Hmmm.

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Filed under Arrow Books, Review, Tarquin Hall, The Readers Podcast

Savidge Reads Library Loot #5

I won’t write a big long intro about the return of my Library Loot vlog post, as I do that in the video. I will say you might like to make yourself a cup of tea and grab a fairy cake as it lasts about 16/17mins – who knew I could waffle so much? Anyway hopefully you will enjoy me embarrassing myself once more talking to you all about the latest books that I have borrowed from the libraries of late, a list of which you can see below, and waffling a lot about why.

The books that I have borrowed from library number one, in author surname order, are…

The Afterparty by Leo Benedictus
Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
Nothing to Envy – Barbara Demick
I’m the King of the Castle by Susan Hill
Zoo Time by Howard Jacobson
The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas

The books that I borrowed from library number two, in author surname order, are…

The Bridge by Iain Banks
World War Z by Max Brooks
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
Lightning Rods by Helen DeWitt
Starlight by Stella Gibbons
Landfall by Helen Gordon
Why We Broke Up by David Handler and Maira Kalman
Pig Iron by Benjamin Myers
The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi
Bad Blood by Lorna Sage

Phew, that is quite a selection. Do let me know your thoughts on any of the books on the list you have read or if there are ones that you’d like to give a whirl. Also let me know what you have borrowed from the library of late, or even simply what you are reading at the moment. Look forward to chatting to you about them in the comments below, hint! Ha!

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Filed under Library Loot

Other People’s Bookshelves – Volunteers Needed!

I don’t know about you but I bloody love having a nosey through other people’s bookshelves. It is one of the first things I do when I go to the abode of a relative/friend/stranger/future friend. I find it a really interesting way of getting to know people, plus it is another excuse to get the illicit hit that only fresh book porn of the shelving variety can give. Well I want to bring ‘Other People’s Bookshelves’ back as a series, which means I need volunteers… like you. Yes, the person reading this, you!

I don’t give a monkey’s what sort of shelving you have, be it messy or neat, organised or an all over the place hotch-potch mess – frankly I like my book porn any way I can get it. I just want pictures of yourselves and some of your time to fill in a questionnaire all about you. That simple! So get on it.

Simply email savidgereads@gmail.com with ‘Other People’s Bookshelves’ as the subject and an email from yours truly will wing its way to you asking all sorts of personal (not really) questions about you and your book habits and shelves. Thrilling! You can also leave a comment below if you have done it, or possibly an excuse as to why you won’t. Oh and tell your friends, the more the merrier. Thank you.

If you have already sent them and not been featured, please accept my humbles and send them again could you? Lovely, thanks!

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Idiopathy – Sam Byers

It was author Nikesh Shukla who I heard raving about Sam Byers ‘Idiopathy’ so much that when I saw it in the lovely new sparkly Liverpool Central Library I simply had to pick it up. I admit it had been on my radar with its Waterstones 11 inclusion but it was Nikesh who sealed the deal. He didn’t really talk about the plot, just said that the writing was pretty much genius stuff. So when I read the cover description, as I don’t read blurbs on the whole, as ‘A novel about love, narcissism and ailing cattle’ it sounded both intriguing and rather quirky.

4th Estate, hardback, 2013, 300 pages, borrowed from the library

‘Idiopathy’ is, as defined at the start of the book, “a disease or condition which arises spontaneously or for which the cause is unknown”. Bearing this in mind, initially a reader may assume this applies simply to the strand of the book where cows are randomly becoming very ill and being culled, some thinking this means the end is nigh others just that the price of beef is about to soar. However I wondered (if I am trying to be deep and clever) whether in fact it is a condition that each of the three main characters, Katherine, Daniel and Nathan, have. Each has a feeling of unhappiness, loneliness or just in some way, possibly rather self indulgently, being a bit out of the loop with the world.

Katherine and Daniel used to be a couple not so long ago. A couple in one of the most possibly toxic relationships ever; she liked to annihilate him, twisting every sentence he gave her and playing mind games galore, while his insecurities made him snappy, unhappy and always in the wrong with every barbed sentence she threw him. They only really had one friend in common at the time, Nathan, a man who they decided to befriend as they thought he might know where to get some drugs and a crazy night out – they weren’t wrong. Yet Nathan disappeared one night, a night they both seemingly forgot along with Nathan himself, yet Nathan hasn’t and so when he comes back from a psychiatric ward a reunion looks imminent, if slightly doomed.

What Byers does with is characters, which I found both clever and fascinating as a reader, is make his three main protagonists all hideously dislikeable yet also incredibly readable. Prime example, and probably my favourite, was Katherine. I don’t think I have met anyone so barbed, cynical and downright miserable in fiction for some time, yet I have met so many Katherine’s in my life. If I am really honest I may even have (in some very dark times) had a bit of a Katherine phase in my time, without the half-arsed suicide attempt though thankfully. She sleeps around with the men she doesn’t paralyse with fear in the office because she has no self worth, then feels worthless but quite likes it and so spends nights eating in her dressing gown in front of the telly. She hates her job, in fact really her life, in Norwich, a place she doesn’t even want to be in yet fled to. She is the perfect anti-heroine.

“She met with Keith only on selected evenings. They fucked and drank and rarely spoke, which suited Katherine. He bought her a vibrator as a present; gift wrapped. With a heart-shaped tag that read ‘Think of me’. She donated it, tag and all, to her local charity shop on her way to work, buried at the bottom of a carrier bag filled with musty paperbacks and a selection of Daniel’s shirts she’d found amidst her archived clothes. She never saw it for sale, and wondered often what had become of it. She liked to think one of the elderly volunteers had taken it home and subjected herself to an experience so revelatory as to border on the mystical.”

Because she was such a big and brash and brilliantly vile character, she sort of stole the show. I liked Nathan, and actually wanted more of his back story and why he self harmed so much, and enjoyed watching him move back in with his parents, his mother now being a twitter and blog superstar turned author ‘Mother Courage’ a fame reached at the expense of her own son and his issues. Daniel I struggled with. I just found him a bit pathetic, a man who stuck with an utter bitch, Katherine, for five years and has now ended up with Angelica who is really a bit of nothingness he quite fancied when things were bad and whose friends and cat he hates. As someone who hates ineffectual people I found my teeth grating when ever Daniel’s narration took over even when it was very funny, though I think that is what Byers wanted.

‘Love you darling. Could you pass the milk?’
‘Course I can baby. Here you go. Love you.’
‘Love you too.’
They had, Daniel thought, crossed all acceptable boundaries of decency.

The book is hilarious by the way. You wouldn’t think it could be with such a bunch of miserable self serving so and so’s at the helm (even though you will love Katherine, honestly she is genius) yet I found myself laughing out loud a lot along the way. Interestingly as I read on I found I needed breaks from it, the humour made me want to gulp the book down yet the characters and their conversations become cloying after a time. A gamble by Byers as it is very realistic yet because they are so vile it can get quite heady, particularly the rows between Katherine and Daniel, or rather her turning every utterance back at him in which I soon found I had to stop reading as I was getting so cross at Katherine for being such a bitch and Daniel for being such a bloody doormat. Shows how real they were though. This could alienate some though because it almost gets too much on occasions.

Without sounding like a bit of a swanky twat (hopefully) I would describe this book as being ‘a very modern novel’ which simply typing makes me want to vomit in my own mouth somewhat. Yet it is true. There does seem to be something of a ‘turning thirty crisis’ nowadays; at thirty you should be like previous generations, have a house, marriage, kids and a pension yet it just isn’t like that and I don’t think that is something that is written about often. These people are also the ‘me’ generation who think everyone gives a toss what they think on twitter, their blogs, etc. (Oh dear, that me isn’t it? See I made it all about me, I must be one of them too – help!) Byers also has a pop at environmentalists, corporations… in fact everyone gets a swipe, and then the bovine issue after ‘swine flu’ and the recent horse meat scandal is another gem – though it was a tangent that trailed I thought until the almost too farcical ending.

I think the best way to describe ‘Idiopathy’ is that it is a timely novel, it is also occasionally a rather testing novel yet a novel that overall, for me, announces an author that I am really looking forward to watching in the future and seeing what he comes up with next. If it is a book about cantankerous pensioners living in a seaside town where people go to basically die then I think it could win every prize going, if not maybe I should right that book myself. Oh there I go again, making it all about me. Oops. Back to Sam and ‘Idiopathy’ then, I would strongly recommend giving them both a whirl; it could cause some corking debates at a book club.

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Filed under Fourth Estate Books, Review, Sam Byers

Going Off The Beaten (Bookish) Path…

I am going to be heading off on a bit of a bookish adventure over the next few weeks and months I have decided. Having done less reading and more thinking recently, I decided that Savidge Reads needs to change its trajectory. When I started this blog five, very nearly six, years ago I started it as a diary of the books I was reading so I didn’t bore so many of my friends about books they really didn’t give a toss about – little did I know what a wonderful world of bookish friends it would earn me online and in the flesh all these years later! Anyway enough of all about you, back to me. *Cough* When I started these bookish thoughts and notes I had no real bookish direction. I would randomly read books that, if I am really honest, I knew very little about unless I knew the author already, liked the cover or the bookshop recommended it.

I had no idea of all the book prizes (ironic now I have co-founded one) and really didn’t know what the latest bookish buzz was, what a heathen! I just wanted to read good books, ones that simply appealed to me at that moment. I didn’t have a TBR that needed several rooms of shelves to house it, I simply went by instinct. I wasn’t aware of the big books on the periphery or any hype, nor was I part of the literary world really. Whilst I guess I am now through work, this blog and podcasts and it is all lovely and I love it, I do think it is time for me to have a blogger’s kind of GAP year and do some travelling off the beaten bookish path.

Pathways 1

This I have just realised all sounds rather final. It honestly isn’t, I can confirm that Savidge Reads is not going to disappear for a year. It might just mean I start talking about much more random books than I have been. This of course might mean lots of you decide you don’t want to read on, I hope not but if that is the case fair enough. Yet I personally am becoming a bigger fan of blogs that tell me about books I might not have heard of in the review pages, on prize shortlists or published by the latest ‘literary darling’ – and there are bloody loads of books out there that fit that category.

I think it was the Fiction Uncovered list that inspired this. Eight books, one of which I had read and the others heard about a little, that sound really intriguing and I am thrilled to have been recommended after all that is how I first read one of my favourite books, which I probably don’t need to tell you all about (but sod it my blog my rules) so I will, ‘The Proof of Love’ by Catherine Hall. Does it sound grand to say I would like to do my bit for those books too? I have already been scanning my shelves for copies of books publishers have sent that fit into that description. I am also planning on reading most of the Fiction Uncovered books which may seem ironic I suppose after all I say above, but I am a contrary Mary what can I say? Ha!

Speaking of irony… I have looked at what is currently residing on my bedside table and those books don’t, initially, reflect my new found state of mine. Let me explain them though if you will! I have just finished ‘A Constellation of Vital Phenomena’ by Anthony  Marra, which the lovely Michael Kindness raved about on Books on the Nightstand has been raving about so I decided I wanted to read it before the hype goes bananas, which I think it will as it is amazing. I have since started the new Evie Wyld novel ‘All The Birds, Singing’ but that is because her debut blew me away and I would have read it regardless of the buzz of her Granta listing and the reviews its getting (and the fact I asked her nicely to come on You Wrote The Book and she said yes). There is also an advance proof of a newish favourite author Niccolo Ammaniti which I am desperate to read and tell you about before everyone else does, ha! Then, below Niccolo, is ‘World War Z’, now seriously how often do I read books about Zombies, erm hardly at all if ever. It is a ‘new to me but known by pretty much everyone else’ book and a challenge, plus couldn’t be more removed from the previous titles. I am waffling now aren’t I?

Basically I am going to be doing the reading equivalent of interrailing or back packing, ‘bookpacking’ if you will. Along the way there might be the odd reading equivalent of treating myself to a regular hotel along the way, in this case The Persephone Project, Readers Book Group of prize winning novel that just takes my fancy (like ‘The Detour’ by Gerbrand Bakker currently is) if you will. I already have a book waiting in the wings to talk about tomorrow; I just hope you will join me on this random adventure, direction and destination unknown.

P.S Sorry this post is so late I started writing it hours ago but we have had Oscar bring in a baby Blue Tit (now called Bertie) who I have decided to rescue and the drama of it all took over.

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The Victorian Chaise-Longue – Marghanita Laski (Revisited)

I feel the need to apologize that The Persephone Project has gone a little awry. Last Sunday we really should have been talking about ‘The Home-Maker’ by Dorothy Canfield Fisher and instead a month and a week late we are back with ‘The Victorian Chaise-Longue’ by Marghanita Laski. Oops. This seems all the more ironic as the 6th in the Persephone series is actually one of, if not the, shortest books they have published. Yet do not let the size of this book fool you, like the chaise-longue of the title this book is very deceptive and packs much more in than you would think – hence I am glad I decided to read it again rather than upload an older review (look how many comments I used to get, what has gone on there?). In my memory ‘The Victorian Chaise-Longue’ was a ghostly spooky tale, now having re-read it I am in fact wondering if it is not a small tale where horror meets a sci-fi time travelling edge. Not what you would expect from a Persephone title, but I am learning to expect the unexpected.

Persephone Books, paperback, 1953 (1999 edition), 99 pages, from my own personal TBR

“Will you give me your word of honour,” said Melanie, “that I am not going to die?” Almost from the very first line of ‘The Victorian Chaise-Longue’ Marghanita Laski gives you a sense of foreboding and the impression that this is not going to be the most settling of reads. At some unnamed time around the late 1940’s/1950’s we find Melanie in bed after recently suffering from a particularly bad bout of TB, an illness she had mildly before the ill advised birth of her son, which has led her to being in bed for such a prolonged period of time. However the last test results have shown some signs of recovery and so, as a treat, Melanie’s doctor has agreed to let her be moved to a more engaging part of the house where she may get more sun and fresh air yet must be able to rest. So Melanie finds herself in one of the parlour rooms on the chaise-longue that she bought, spur of the moment, on an antiques shopping trip when she should have been looking for a cot. Yet when Melanie wakes from a sleep on it she finds herself not in her home but somewhere quite other, somewhere in the past, and as someone else far weaker than her though also in a consumptive state. And so the confusion and terror begin…

‘The Victorian Chaise-Longue’ is a book that I think works on two levels, and shows the depths of this novella. In the first instance this is a tale of horror and terror, and it was meant to be. As P.D James mentions in the preface, Marghanita Laski actually took herself of to a remote house in the middle of nowhere to write this so she could feel vulnerable and frightened and try to pass this on to the reader which I think she does excellently. We have all woken up after an afternoon nap feeling groggy and disorientated (or in my case thinking it is the next day, having my body clock thrown out of all context and subsequently being a royally mardy so and so) yet to wake up in somewhere unknown, being called ‘Milly’ and slowly realizing you are in the past – the Victorian period as it transpires – full of consumption, shut away from the world being watched over by a sibling who seems to hate you for some unknown reason would be quite enough for anyone. (Actually I wouldn’t mind waking up in the Victorian era just for a day or two as long as I had had some jabs beforehand.)

What Laski does her, which I think is so brilliant, is that she slowly allows Melanie to learn more and more about Milly. There is the initial fear of waking up somewhere so other without your loved ones, however as she puts the jigsaw puzzle of Milly’s life together further we see Melanie has even more to fear. It is that horrid slow trickling sense of dread that we have all had at some point, even over something minor (like thinking your Gran’s house might have a gas leak and suddenly sitting bolt upright by her bedside at hospital as you think you left the grill on – as an example completely plucked from thin air) and so we empathise with Melanie even though initially we are not sure what we make of her. Laski’s second master stroke as I discovered on this second read.

Melanie is quite a flighty thing when we first meet her, in fact the words ‘insipid’ or ‘vapid’ might be the words that spring to your mind initially. Yet as we read on we realise there is more to Melanie than we might think. She has a steely core, she knows what she wants and is a bit spoilt too. She is told not to have children while she has a mild case of hopefully curable TB, and ignores it. She also plays the men around her, shes independent enough to go shopping alone for what she likes and going against doctors orders, but she plays herself as the frightful fool when she wants her own way, making men think they are the better sex. It’s actually a bit nauseating.

‘How clever you are, darling,’ said Melanie adoringly. ‘You make me feel so silly compared with you.’
‘But I like you silly,’ said Guy, and so he does thought Dr. Gregory watching them. But Melanie isn’t the fool he thinks her, not by a long chalk, she’s simply the purely feminine creature who makes herself into anything her man wants her to be. Not that I would call her clever, rather cunning – his thoughts checked, a little shocked at the word he had chosen, but he continued resolutely – yes, cunning as a cartload of monkeys if she ever needed to be. But she won’t, he told himself, and wondered why he felt so relieved to know that Melanie was loved and protected and, in so far as anything could possibly be sure, safe.

What I thought Laski did this for was that clearly she wanted to look at how roles for women had AND hadn’t changed. It is too easy to label this book showing how much things for women had moved forward and how awful things were in the Victorian period. Actually I think more reviews have done that than Laski because she shows that women like Melanie may be in a much better situation than the likes of Milly but they still have to play the game of making men feel superior in order to get what they want. What I think Laski is asking in hen will the sexes truly become equal and until then won’t women always been in some sort of confinement in one sense or another?

Maybe I have gone too deep? However is was that statement on women that I came away really thinking about on the second read and I liked ‘The Victorian Chaise-Longue’ all the more for having that hidden depth in a genuinely oppressive, confusing and claustrophobic tale of time traveling terror. The more and more I have thought about this book the more of an understated masterpiece it seems.

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Filed under Marghanita Laski, Persephone Books, Review, The Persephone Project

The Baby-Sitter – R.L. Stine

I am a little late for the Point Horror Book Club, alas yesterday I was taken over by a migraine and so spent the morning trying to stave it off, then having to simply let it have its wicked way all afternoon and evening – missing two bloody parties too I will have you know. However some of you are running late to this too, shame on you, by not getting your mitts on some of these Point Horror gems. I know some people have been surprised to see Savidge Reads take on this monthly challenge, especially when my other monthly challenge The Persephone Project (which we will be catching up with on Sunday) is rather at the other end of the spectrum of books and literature. Yet one thing I have been thinking about is how reading needs to be fun, and my reading sometimes needs to be more fun, and revisiting these dark yet kind of camp classics of my childhood is the perfect thing. Anyway the latest Point Horror Book Club choice has been R.L. Stine’s ‘The Baby-Sitter’ which I actually think all wannabe crime and horror writers should read, seriously.

**** Scholastic Books, paperback, 1989, fiction, 203 pages, from my own personal TBR

**** Scholastic Books, paperback, 1989, fiction, 203 pages, from my own personal TBR

For Jenny Jeffers money is tight and Christmas will soon be here. Needing the extra cash to help her mother she takes a job babysitting for the Hagen’s on the other side of town every Thursday and Saturday. The Hagen’s house is (surprise, surprise) rather like something out of a horror movie. Surrounded by woods and rather a way off the main road, their decrepit house and Mr Hagen’s odd nervous disposition would make any teenager feel slightly uneasy. Throw in the fact that Jenny has a highly over active imagination, some maniac has been beating up/killing local babysitters and the fact Jenny is in the 80’s and doesn’t have a smart phone and you are headed for horrors ahoy aren’t you?

“Maybe the kids a monster,” Jenny said, somehow feeling she had to justify her nervousness. “Maybe the parents are weird. Maybe they belong to some sort of secret cult and when I find out about it, they keep me locked up in the basement for the rest of my life so I can’t tell anyone. Maybe the house is haunted. There’s the ghost of a young girl trapped in the attic, and I accidentally let her out, and she inhabits my body and I’m not the same person anymore.”

I am slightly saddened that I had read last month’s Point Horror Book Club choice, ‘Trick or Treat’ by Richie Tankersley Cusick (a review that shows me at my most natural), before we read ‘The Baby-Sitter’ because the two both use the same object of fear – the creepy phone call. Now I know, rather like cosy crimes, most Point Horror’s do stick to the same-ish scenario but these two are very similar from that perspective. What we have to remember is that Stine did it first and so really, apart from the original urban legend of the babysitter who is called by a scary voice from the house she is in, that is what we should remember. Also Stine shows he is a master of building suspense and ending chapters on a cliff hanger that means you have to read on, hence why any budding horror or crime writer should be reading this.

For a horror novel, regardless of the market it is aimed at, ‘The Baby-Sitter’ actually lacks a lot of full on terror or jumpy moments. There are a few of the latter yet what Stine does impeccably with this book is build a sense of unease, tension and menace. Each time Jenny goes to the Hagen’s something creepy happens (a sinister phone call, banging outside, neighbours creeping around, cars parked sinisterly on the end of the drive) so as she goes back each time to babysit for the (very precocious and also sinister) little boy Donny, after convincing herself it is all in her very over active imagination, we are waiting for the next slightly more awful thing to happen until it comes to a head. I thought this was done really deftly and honestly lots of writers, budding or not actually, could learn from this.

Our host, James Dawson, your dream babysitter

Our host, James Dawson, your dream babysitter

So good was it that I forgave him for bringing in one of the most annoying characters I have ever come across in the form of Jenny’s possible boyfriend Chuck. Irritating doesn’t even cover it. Unhinged too, which adds to it all, could it be that Jenny’s own possible love interest could be the one calling and threatening her? I also forgave Stine for lines like “Let’s go into Sock City,” Jenny said. “I like to look at socks.” I don’t know any teenagers who like socks, or even give a monkey’s about their socks, not so in the case of Jenny and her friends.

I’m really pleased I read ‘The Baby-Sitter’ and actually think it was the first time I had read it, which is quite shocking as it is one of the most famous with several sequels and I was such a fan of this series as a youth. You can see why Stine became one of the kings of teen horror, he puts a real effort into unnerving the reader and building the fear rather than going over the top like ‘Trick or Treat’ did – enjoyable as it was. Alas I don’t see any writing courses taking me seriously and popping this on any courses about suspense, unease and atmosphere but they bloody well should.

So who joined in to read this and what did you make of it? Which were your favourite Point Horror’s that we should be looking out for? Did Point Horrors completely pass you by? Have you read any of Stine’s other non PH work and should I be off to read that? Don’t forget to pop to host James’ website for more and do join us next month for ‘Funhouse’ by Diane Hoh.

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Filed under R.L. Stine, Review, Scholastic Books, The Point Horror Book Club

Back into Book Groups…

Thank you for all your nice thoughts when you popped round for tea and biscuits last week , lovely to catch up with some of you, even though I proceeded to vanish again I did read all your comments. Now that I have actually managed to be at home for a few days on the trot, though I am back off to Derbyshire to see Gran this weekend, and have actually managed a few days of no work and just ‘being’ I have to say I am feeling slightly more normal and caught up with myself a bit – not quite fully but not far off.

Anyway, today I am going to talk to you about book groups because back at the end of last year I said that I wasn’t going to join any more. In fact I think I said I would just stick to doing The Readers Book Club with the lovely Gavin every month, and we have. Oddly we had to have a small crisis meeting about this the other week as over the last few months we’ve been having a bit of a nightmare. Authors have vanished meaning we couldn’t record with them, three publishers promised us books then withdrew last minute making us look a bit stoopid and we thought ‘right, let’s sort this out’. So, we have decided to go seasonal and from now on every three months we will announce three books in advance so people have more of a change to read along and get involved. The summer selection was announced yesterday and here they are…

  • The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall (14th of June 2013)
  • Snake Ropes by Jess Richards (12th of July 2013)
  • The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood (8th of August 2013)

So hopefully this will entice some of you to read along, have discussions on our blogs on the same day and even (fingers crossed) get questions to us and possibly appear on the shows when they go live. What say you?

Thinking about book groups then made me realise how much I have actually missed being in one. To be fair when Gran has been lucid we are still talking about books but as she can’t read I haven’t been able to introduce the idea of an ‘End of Your Life Book Club’ ala Will Schwalbe which we had thought to, though as we are listening to the same audiobooks when together maybe that counts? Regardless of that I decided it might be nice to join one, something I am actually rather nervous about as I have tended to start (and then leave the city within months/a year) book groups in the past rather than join one with friendships already running through it.

Yet the lovely Rosario lives in Liverpool and had invited me to join the book group she is in when I moved over here and I initially said yes but then got too busy with everything. However now, after a slightly humble email from me, I have asked to rejoin and if I can get a copy of ‘Watchmen’ from the library in time I will be joining them next week. If not I will be joining the month after for ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’. From Alan Moore to Agatha Christie, that sounds like my kind of book group! I also caught up with one of my best friends from secondary school, who I hadn’t seen for sixteen – yes SIXTEEN – years but now live two miles from, yesterday and we joked about one on the Wirral. Could I handle two? Well Gran was in three, so maybe it is in the genes?

So what are your thoughts on the Readers Book Club Summer Selection 2013? Have you read any and what did you think? Also do you have any tips for me as someone joining a book group that has been going a while? Are you in a book group and how are you finding it, and what are you reading, what have been your groups highlight reads? Any of you love books but can’t think of anything worse than a book club, just out of interest?

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Filed under Book Group, Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

Catching Up With A Cup Of Tea…

Now I feel a bit rusty at this blogging malarkey so please bear with me. I thought, after my absence from the blogosphere, that it might be nice to have a bit of a catch up with you all. I suggest you quickly pop and make yourself a nice cup of tea, coffee or pour yourself some fruit juice if you are one of those lovely but crazy people who somehow survive without caffeine. I don’t think I could have survived without caffeine in the last few weeks, it may not be how I make it or how I personally like it, but the NHS tea has been keeping me going – possibly as it bears a slight resemblance to rocket fuel.

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As you may have gathered from my last post I had dashed to Derbyshire as Granny Savidge Reads was really, really poorly. I won’t lie, we all thought the inevitable had come. However, with the wonders of modern medicine two and a bit weeks later Gran is still really, really, really poorly and they can’t cure her but she has stopped constantly throwing up (this tended to be brought on by my arrival into the room, no lie – I have chosen not to take offense at it and instead think it was just excitement gone rife). Whilst her paralyzed side has now become pretty much paralyzed again we have in the last few days had her out and about in the sunshine in a wheelchair which seems to have boosted her spirits rather a lot. She did also, due to the drugs, go quite delightfully doolally for a week. Some of the stuff she was coming out with I have noted for future use one day.

I did come home for a break last weekend – and also because after two weeks I needed to show my ugly mug in the office really – yet this ended up an ironic break as guess who caught a stomach infection and wound up in A & E themselves over the weekend? Yes, me. Silly boy. Clearly can’t keep away from hospitals… maybe the tea has something in it, that addictive thing, MSG? I randomly got put on some drugs not dissimilar to Gran’s, though probably weaker as she is hardcore now, and was seeing giant spiders on the ceiling and my cats at the end of the ward – so no wonder Gran went a bit bonkers last week.

Do you want a biscuit to go with that tea/coffee/juice by the way? How rude of me not to offer. Let me just riffle through Gran’s treat cupboard which is normally brimming. Oh, someone seems to have been here before, there only seems to be some cappuccino flavoured wafer twirls, about four of them. Awkward. Let’s move on and not make a scene about it though…

Book-wise, and I know you come here for the books not my endless ranting waffle, I am slightly ashamed to admit that… I haven’t read a single book in THREE WEEKS. I read some of Gran’s new favourite author, Tarquin Hall, ‘The Man Who Died Laughing’ the second Vish Puri mystery. Though I was slightly grumpy about it as she was 3/4 of the way through and I hadn’t even read the first in the series (though I have started it now as spookily Gav chose it for June’s selection of The Readers Book Club). This grumpiness may have fed into me not reading it ‘with the voices’, though I also withheld for fear of being accidentally arrested for a mistaken hate crime rather than acting, whatever the reason Gran stopped asking me to do it after about four chapters. Thankfully the very kind publishers have sent me the audiobooks so we are going to give those a whirl imminently when I am here and the weather isn’t so stunning. Other than that (and starting Kate Atkinson’s ‘Life After Life’ which I thought was amazing, but at the time didn’t have the head space for) nada, nothing, diddly-squat!

So as you can see I have been a bit book barren. But sometimes that is a good thing isn’t it? We probably need a complete book break now and again to appreciate books and reading all the more I reckon, in fact I have been doing some reading re-evaluating on and off, more on that in due course. It has been the same with blogging and ‘social reading’ (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, GoodReads, etc) to be honest. In fact when I have gone back I have found social media really alienating after a break, everyone’s moved on, Savidge Reads is behind the times, maybe even past it? Speaking of Savidge Reads; I haven’t really had the time to blog in the main, or the inclination when I have been free as I  have been rather emotionally and physically drained, but the desire will come back gradually I am sure. Nor have I read anyone else’s blogs. But I will. At some point. Honest. I don’t want to be a blogger than never reads other blogs, I just need a bit of a break from that too.

Anyway enough about me, you’ve finished your drinks (and the wafer twirls, I have noticed) whilst mine has gone cold. Let me pour myself another brew and you tell me all about what you have been up to? What have you been reading? What books are you desperate to get your mitts on? You might all inspire more of a reading urge in me. What else has been going on with you outside of books?

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