Monthly Archives: March 2015

A Bloomin’ Brilliant Birthday

Thank you for all your lovely birthday wishes. I had an absolute blast and managed to turn a day into a week and a half thanks to a weekend in Newcastle with my Mum, a trip to London for my birthday and a few days after and then my birthday party proper this weekend. I was quite pleased with it all and thought, as this blog is about books and more, I would share some of the lovely times I had over the week.

First up was the weekend that I had in Newcastle with my mother which was just lovely. I might report on it in the next few weeks but in the meantime, and in case I decide not to or my Mum doesn’t want me to, we had a marvellous time visiting the old haunts we lived in and visited, eating marvellous food, drinking wonderful cocktails, shopping and seeing Still Alice. Note – Still Alice is just wonderful (I haven’t read the book and feel like I now might need to, should I?) I cried from about twenty minutes in until the end. Julianne Moore is sublime, see it.

This is not me and Julianne Moore, it's me and my Mum outside the old flat we lived in 30 years ago!

This is not me and Julianne Moore, it’s me and my Mum outside the old flat we lived in 30 years ago!

Next up, after a brief day back in the office, I headed off to London on my birthday morning (after opening a large array of wonderful presents from my wonderful loved ones) and to the first meeting of the Fiction Uncovered 2015 judges. It was only at the bloody Groucho Club – I couldn’t take pictures, not of the amazing macaroni on a bed of grilled mushrooms which won everything nor the cake and Happy Birthday they wrote around the bowl, it was lovely though. We all had a marvellous time and are now fully ready and prepared for the mammoth yet marvellous task ahead of us. I then spent a few hours with Catherine Hall and Kerry Hudson with far too many sweet things and bubbles before meeting Polly and going to Ebury’s Fiction Party where I had a good old natter and catch up with many lovely folk and met some wonderful authors

Wednesday was meetings and then it was my London party night, woohoo. I was joined at dinner by the aforementioned Polly and Catherine and also Kate and Rob of Adventures with Words, who are also my cohosts on Hear Read This, as well as the lovely Leng Monty – who is one of the Independent’s Rainbow List Ones to Watch, so watch out.

Polly, Rob, Kate, me, Leng and Catherine - post food and cocktails!

Polly, Rob, Kate, me, Leng and Catherine – post food and cocktails!

Things carried on in a more messy vain as Polly, Catherine, Leng and I headed to my favourite beardy bar in London, The Duke of Welly, and were joined by my mates Uli of Gays The Word, Eric of Lonesome Reader (a blog which makes me sick with jealousy because his reviews are sooooo good) and that Kerry Hudson…

Uli (not impressed at having a selfie), me, Catherine, Kerry and Leng - living it up in the Welly

Uli (not impressed at having a selfie), me, Catherine, Kerry and Leng – living it up in the Welly

It all ended in many giggles on a nightbus as all the best nights do.

You can't take them anywhere!

You can’t take them anywhere!

After another day in London and a day in the office, Saturday was birthday party part two. I had my lovely friends Kate, Barb, Sarah, Sue and Rachael (or my harem as now I refer to them) for some wonderful (rather amazing to be honest) grub and lots and lots of drinking and laughing…

The Lovely Liverpool Ladies and I...

The Lovely Liverpool Ladies and I…

It has, all in all, been a ruddy marvellous week. I think 33 is going to be a really, really, really good year – I just feel it in my bones. Finger crossed eh? What have you all been up to?

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Like This, For Ever – Sharon Bolton

Murders are horrific, they are also grimly fascinating. I know I am now alone in this, yet many people might not like to admit that they feel this way. With a murder we empathise with the victim and their family, we also find the little horrific facts that get reported along the way grimly fascinating, we also like to try and work out who the killer might be even if we have very few of the facts and nothing evidential. It is human nature; it is why crime has become one of the biggest selling genres of books around the world.

Transworld Books, paperback, 2013, fiction, 512 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

In Like This, For Ever we see a series of murders through the eyes of an eleven year old boy, Barney, who has become fixated by them. Part of this is the element of human nature as I mentioned above, part of it is also that the victims are young boys like himself which adds empathy for them to him and also a fear that he could at some point fall under the killers eyes and become a potential victim. Part of it is that Barney would really like to catch the killer, gaining some acclaim and attention from his dad but also from some of the kids at school who bully him for the black outs that he sometimes gets. He is not alone and soon, along with some of his friends, he decides to play investigator yet catching a killer can mean catching that killer’s attention.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in London, Dana Tulloch and Mark Joesbury of the Major Investigations Team are getting nowhere in trying to solve who this killer is. With the slowly dawning realisation of the public that this might be a serial killer and then the disappearance of more children Tulloch and Joesbury have to work fast before time runs out. Yet this killer is clever, so clever in fact that soon the police start to be taunted by a killer that is making themselves known on social media and making the public interest and fear all the wider spread.

Now you may be wondering where on earth Lacey Flint is in all this, after all this is the third Lacey Flint novel. I know I was. Without giving away any major spoilers I can say that Lacey, who is currently off the police force after what happened in her last case (in Dead Scared, which is bloody scary) does get involved and at a time when she swore to herself that she wouldn’t get involved in another case herself, especially one which chimes to a time in Lacey’s murky past which we are slowly but surely learning more and more about.

The kids on the touchline were watching her approach. Lacey studied each in turn. The smaller boy was edgy and nervous. The girl was bold-faced and defiant, just like she’d been at that age, but scared underneath it. The young were so bad at hiding their feelings. All except Barney, who, she had to admit, was a pretty cool customer. He’d turned back to watch the match again, she’d almost be convinced if it weren’t for the angle of his head. He was watching her. Then the taller of the boys followed his lead, turning his back on Lacey, slinging an arm around Barney’s shoulders, saying something a little louder than necessary. Then he laughed. Barney laughed too, as though the two of them had just shared something hilarious.
As Lacey drew close, the girl looked her up and down, sizing up everything she was wearing, and then turned her back, as though she wasn’t worth any more interest. Little minx. The younger boys couldn’t take their eyes off her. They were like small mammals when a snake gets ready to strike.

These three stands create a fantastic thriller from an author who is easily becoming one of my favourite crime writers. With its many viewpoints Like This, For Ever really looks at a series of murders from all angles from those involved closely and those from a distance. I have to admit I wasn’t sure that the voice of an eleven year old would really work for me in a crime novel but in many ways I think it is what gives this book a real edge. Barney sees and hears things going on around him, he might not always understand them or may not catch their implications, we as the reader do however and this adds a really clever, and sometimes incredibly sinister, dynamic to the book. Doubly cleverly it also adds a certain naivety to the novel, child murders are very uncomfortable ground, yet Barney’s narration somehow softens the horror as it ups the fear. It is really hard to describe and genius of Bolton to do, a true masterstroke.

Also, as always in this series, Lacey Flint adds another edge to it. Rogue at the best of times, without being assigned to the case or indeed being on the force any longer, Flint takes it even further with this novel. As she does so we get snapshots into a part of her past, and her psyche, that we haven’t seen before. In the Lacey Flint series, really it is the mystery of who Lacey really is and what on earth has happened in her past, which we are slowly uncovering. Just as I didn’t have a clue who was the murderer in this book until the last chapter, I have no idea where Lacey’s back story will take us next. Part of me is desperate to, whilst the other part is enjoying the slow reveal and doesn’t want this series to end.

To cut to the chase Sharon Bolton (or S J Bolton as you may know her) has gone and done it again. Like This, For Ever is an intelligent, scary, chilling and gripping thriller that will have you reading until the small hours, both because you are gripped and because you are too tense or scared to turn the light out. Each novel in this series just gets better and better, and the first one was blooming brilliant, so I cannot wait for the next – which thankfully is sat on my shelves already. I love the mix of intrigue, genuine fear and hint of something ‘other’ that they evoke. If you haven’t given them a whirl then you really, really must.

If you would like to hear more about the Lacey Flint novels you can hear Sharon and myself in conversation here. Who else out there has read the Lacey Flint series? What about the standalone novels? I am very excited because in the forthcoming Little Black Lies guess who makes an appearance? Yes, a certain Simon Savidge, I am both thrilled and nervous about this.

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Filed under Books of 2015, Review, S.J. Bolton, Sharon Bolton, Transworld Publishing

Barcelona Shadows – Marc Pastor

The Barcelona of 1911 is a dark, dangerous and gothic place. Its streets are filled with filth, sickness, poverty and crime. One of the men fighting crime is Inspector Moises Corvo whose latest case is to try and hunt down a monster that is abducting and killing children, draining them of their blood. The problems he face are the fact that this killer somehow evades him at every turn and also that with the children being those of the prostitutes and the penniless of the lower classes, most of his seniors either refuse to see it as being a problem or believe that it is actually happening at all. Yet Corvo is determined to catch the killer, even if it leads him to the depths of Barcelona’s underbelly and to the depths of what humans can do.

Pushkin Press, paperback, 2014, fiction, 272 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

There were a few things I instantly found captivating about this book, and instantly stood out to me. First was the narration, which I won’t give away because when you realise who it is you do a really ‘oh, oh really’ and it hooks you in a little more. I can give away the fact, and the second thing I really liked about it, that the book is based on the true series of crimes caused by the real-life Enriqueta Marti who indeed killed children or abducted them for paedophiles and became one of Spain’s most famous killers ‘the Vampire of Barcelona’. This isn’t a spoiler as we the reader know this from the start while Corvo doesn’t, yet we follow them both in time, even passing each other in the street which was the third element I really liked instantly from this book.

Before we go much further on let me vent some of my issues with the book, though there were only a couple, before I look at the positives. One aspect was, and I feel dreadful saying this, the translation which I think gave the book a strange distance and slightly clunky feeling, I also felt (which I haven’t noticed in other translated books often) as if I knew I wasn’t reading this in its original language, that I was missing something be it a connotation or just a little bit of its soul. The other aspect was that every so often the book, rather like its main character Moises, seemed a little over confident in itself. On occasion it seemed to feel it was as worthy of, if not better than, one of the original Victorian crime stories. Now this might have been the style and been designed to make the modern reader see the author was aware of the homage, for me it was a little annoying on occasion.

“Dupin, Edgar Allan Poe’s detective, is even worse than Holmes. Holmes at least, is seen through Watson and Watson’s got a constantly crafty streak, even though Holmes is a bully and treats him like shit. Ma’am, out of the way, goddamnit, do you know how late it is?” he scolds. “Dupin is a some sort of crime-solving machine who’s never set foot on the street. I’d like to see him out in the real world, off the page, where all the murderers aren’t stupid monkeys.”
“There must be one that you like…”
“Lestrade. I like Lestrade. A Scotland Yard detective who does his job even though Holmes insists on humiliating him.”
“Moises, you read too much.”

It isn’t the normal way I would start a review but I wanted to get that out of the way because it has somewhat clouded my overall memory of the book and is the initial remaining feeling I had. Yet when I think about it more all of the brilliant part of the books slowly come for the for and remind me that when Pastor is on form he does have some right to potentially be a little cocky, though he might not be his character might have rubbed me up the wrong way a little too much slagging off my hero Sherlock Holmes. Who can say?

Pastor is very good at both restraint and knowing when there is just enough of a certain tension or mood within his story without it getting a little too much. For example within Barcelona Shadows there are some pretty vile characters and walks of life and they do some pretty horrible things. However even though we know these people are wicked and evil, there are moments when even when we think something awful is coming it spring at you suddenly, speedily and then is gone making it both more shocking and also giving you a real ‘did I actually read that’ moment without the reader ever feeling a voyeur or complicit, just stunned. He also knows just when to give the book a swift injection of dark humour which lightens the moments a few pages before. I liked this sense of a little light within the shade, or vice versa, very much.

Luckily for the detective, the smell of rotting corpse is so strong it drowns out the scent of shady intentions and sex for money, and Conxita is left to think that her husband has only been seeing cadavers and criminals. Conxita is a bit thick, but she doesn’t know it, so she’s happy.

I also liked the brooding atmosphere of the book throughout. Along with the narration, which I am still not giving away, the book really envelops you in the dark streets and underbelly of a city at that time. Indeed Barcelona is in some ways a character all of itself, and one which Pastor seems to have a wonderful fondness for and often describes quite poetically.

Barcelona is an old lady with a battered soul, who has been left by a thousand lovers but refuses to admit it. Every time she grows, she looks in the mirror, sees herself changed and renews all her blood until it’s almost at boiling point. Like a butterfly’s cocoon, she finally bursts. Distrust becomes the first phase of gestation: no one is sure that he whom they’ve lived with for years, whom they’ve considered a neighbour, isn’t now an enemy.

It seemed a fait accompli that I would love Marc Pastor’s Barcelona Shadows; I love a gothic novel, I love a crime novel, I love Barcelona and I find fictional accounts of unusual or lesser known factual happenings really interesting. As it was I really enjoyed it and found it gripping at the beginning and thrilling as it whirls towards its dramatic and actually incredibly gut wrenching and emotional ending. Yet I was let down somewhere in the middle through both a slight lack of connection with the text and the main character as I mentioned earlier. I was actually briefly tempted to get a ‘learn Spanish’ set of mp3s (I have always wanted to learn Spanish anyway) so I could read the book in its original, that is how sure I was I should love it. I would still be very interested to read some of Marc Pastor’s other novels as when he blends the horror, gothic and atmosphere just right it gives you the proper shivers and shocks.

Has anyone else read Barcelona Shadows and if so what did you make of it? I might be asking something bonkers but if anyone out there has read it in the original Spanish and the English translation I would love to hear your thoughts. Have you any recommendations for any other unusual and quirky thrillers out there?

For more thoughts on the book head over to Hear Read This where you can hear myself, Gavin of Gav Reads and Kate and Rob from Adventures with Words discussing it in more detail.

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Filed under Marc Pastor, Pushkin Press, Review

Savidge Reads 3.3

Today is my birthday and I turn 33! I will have woken up with some presents and cards and now be whizzing down on the train to London, or in London where I will be having a wonderfully booky day. First up the judges for Fiction Uncovered 2015 will be meeting for the first time over lunch (there is possibly going to be cake) and discussing what we want from winning books and indeed some of the books we have been sent. As you know I love this prize so much so meeting today seems doubly apt. After that I will be meeting two of my fav writer chums (and also fav writers) Catherine Hall and Kerry Hudson, or the other way round, before meeting Polly, formerly of Novel Insights for a night at a publishing party, I am then staying for another two days of fun and booky nonsense, a big night out on Wednesday, all in all a mini birthday break.

I don’t know if I have mentioned before but I celebrate my birthday for as long as I can. My mother and I had a weekend in Newcastle which was a late Mother’s Day and early birthday celebration with much cocktails, yesterday at work we celebrated with these…

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Yes those are cupcakes with books on that The Beard baked for me. Seriously, aren’t they amazing. If you don’t believe me and think they are from a stockphoto, here is me about to eat one in the office yesterday…

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Then Friday is my birthday part two, where I might go and see Cinderella *coughs*, and then my birthday (dinner) party is on Saturday night. Exciting times! Oh and if that wasn’t enough… My book buying ban is officially over, watch out London bookshops, I am coming! Oh and now I am 33 I am thinking it is time for for a 3.3 upgrade of the blog – maybe not in look but certainly in feel.

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Other People’s Bookshelves #54 – Susan Halligan

Hello and welcome to the latest Other People’s Bookshelves, a series of posts set to feed into the filthy book lust/porn and either give you a fix of other people’s books and shelves. This week we are off to Manhattan, to join Susan who has nicely just popped the kettle on and will be serving us all some pastries and the like, so kind. Before we have a nosey through her shelves, let’s find out more about her…

I’m a digital marketer and work (mostly) with non-profits on social media strategy, online and offline communications integration, content development, analytics and implementation. You can learn more about my work here. I’ve lived in Manhattan for most of my adult life and grew up in Baltimore, that wonderful, complex city that manages to be both Anne Tyler as well as The Wire and is home to the beautiful Enoch Pratt Central Library. I spent a lot of time in libraries as a kid (I was parked there after school, because both my parents worked) and remain an advocate of them as an important community resource. I even worked in one — The New York Public Library — one of the worlds greatest. I began my career in book publishing and still have many friends in the industry. I thank them all for continuing to send me free books.

 SRH6

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?

A book does not have to be a masterpiece for me to wedge it into the shelves. If I like it, I generally keep it. I have a weakness for fast-paced mysteries (The Girl on the Train is the most recent example) and I very often pass those along to family and friends. About a quarter of the books on my shelves are unread. Should I admit that? The reasons vary: someone sent me the book and I just wasn’t interested in the subject, but I appreciated the gesture; I started the book, but couldn’t get going with it (and these include a couple of literary masterpieces); and the books that I am determined to read … one day, like The Adventures of Augie March.

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?

My shelves are organized very broadly: cookbooks all together, by cuisine or subject. Art books — one long bottom shelf — together, Rembrandt next to Michelangelo. They painted, right? Oh, yes, Michelangelo sculpted. Perhaps I should move him next to the Rodin. Fiction, by author. As I glance over I do see that all the Highsmith’s and Cormac McCarthy’s ‘s are together, one after the other. Half my shelves are devoted to biographies (from Princess Diana to the LBJ of Robert’s Caro’s magisterial biography) and history, mostly 20th Century, everything from Margaret Macmillan’s Paris 1919 to Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower about the lead up to 9/11. I love big, sweeping looks at lives — the famous and the forgotten — and history. I consider these two particular interests my continuing education.

I do not alphabetize and rarely cull.

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

Quotations From Chairman Mao Tse-Tung (Second Edition.) I bought it in a bookshop in Lagos, Nigeria. I wasn’t particularly drawn to Communism (likely I had no idea what it was), I simply loved the red plastic cover. And, yes, it still has a place on my shelves.

Here’s one of Chairman Mao’s quotes: “We are now carrying out a revolution not only in the social system, the change from private to public ownership, but also in technology, the change from handicraft to large-scale modern machine production, and the two revolutions are inter-connected.” Hmm.

SRH4

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 am completely unembarrassed to admit that I love books about the movies. This includes bios, cheesy as well as scholarly, and inside Hollywood accounts. Barry Paris’ Garbo, Katharine Hepburn’s Me, A. Scott Berg’s Goldwyn, Debbie Reynolds’ autobiography and tons of others have a home on my shelves. Anything that gives me a look behind-the-scenes at the movies — Old Hollywood, New Hollywood — delights me. Steven Bach’s Final Cut about the disastrous meet up of money v creative in the making of the movie, Heaven’s Gate, is probably the best inside-Hollywood account ever written and should be required reading for any entrepreneur today. Brooke Hayward’s Haywire, about the disintegration of the marriage of her parents, the 1930s cult actress Margaret Sullavan (The Shop Around the Corner) and the bigger-than-life Broadway producer, Leland Heyward, and its eternal effect on the lives of their three children, remains a devastating read.

Fun fact: Katharine Hepburn and Leland Hayward had a romance in the early 1930s before his marriage to Margaret Sullavan. In Me, Hepburn describes their relationship this way: “I could see very quickly that I suited Leland perfectly. I liked to eat at home and go to bed early. He liked to eat out and go to bed late. So he had a drink when I had dinner and then off he’d go. Back at midnight. Perfect friendship.”

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?

The Junior Illustrated Library signed by my maternal grandparents and given to me between the ages of six and eight.

SRH2

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?

“Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.” I was 14. I thought I could learn something from Scarlett. A friend gave me a boxed 60th Anniversary edition of Gone With the Wind.

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?

Timely question. A friend’s mother just loaned me Thomas Beller’s J.D. Salinger: The Escape Artist. I will definitely add to my shelves just to reread the section where Beller is in the Princeton University library moving between two tables of Salinger papers, the one with his laptop set up and a box of material that he was allowed to quote from, and the other, with letters, that he was prohibited to quote from. At that table, he’d read a bit, try to memorize something and then scoot back to the table with the laptop and start typing. A librarian never stopped him.

I got my first iPad about four years ago. From that moment, every book I read was digital. I did not add them to my shelves (just the cloud.) And then about six months ago, I began to weary of the screen and the swipe and long for the pinch of paper between thumb and forefinger as I turned the page. To test whether this was a phase or a physical need, I reread three books in hard cover — all novels — that had made especially powerful impressions on me at one point. Could I still read a physical book? Were the books as wonderful as I remembered?

SRH5

The Great Gatsby still glistens. Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist is still one of the most thrilling-paced and potent novels that I have ever read. And that end? I still don’t know exactly what happened. It’s haunting. Twenty odd years ago, I read Peter Taylor’s exquisitely written A Summons to Memphis in the back seat of a car as my parents drove me back to New York after the Christmas holidays in Baltimore. It’s a story about a sympathetic older widower who falls in love and wants to remarry, but is thwarted by his evil children. That’s how I remembered it anyway. This time? Still beautifully written (and if you haven’t read Taylor’s two novels and his many short stories, get thee to a bookstore.) But my conclusions about the family completely flipped: the father was far less sympathetic, now revealed as selfish and emotionally absent from his children while they were growing up. The children remain manipulative and cruel, but the reasons why are far more complex. An interesting exercise to read a book when you are young and then re-read after you’ve experienced more of life’s nicks.

So I have a new rule: I will only read fiction on paper and I will buy the books in stores, not on the Internet.

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

Charles Blow’s Fire Shut Up In My Bones. Blow is a New York Times columnist that I admire a lot. He writes with a clarity that has cumulative power. He’s been an important voice in much of the recent anguished conversation about racism in the United States, from the death of Trayvon Martin to the Oscar snubs of the movie, Selma. The book is a memoir of his growing up in rural Louisiana. Months before the book’s publication, Blow began to tweet and Facebook like mad about the book to build interest. Turns out he’s a genius marketer, too. Authors should closely study his pre-publication, digital promotion model (@CharlesMBlow)

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

Lemony’s Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. I’ve read them all, borrowed from my niece, Amy, but I only have the first, The Bad Beginning. Never was a book so inaptly named, it was a fantastic beginning. I also must find a hard copy of Mommie Dearest 🙂

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

Whenever someone comes over, even repeat visitors, they spend some time eye-balling the shelves. The shelves run floor-to-ceiling along a 21-foot wall and are hard to ignore. Sometimes the objects displayed attract attention — especially my grandmother’s clock and the pieces of African art — but, mostly it’s the books. I have a lot of interests (did I mention the boxes of board games at the bottom of one shelf?) and am endlessly curious. I hope my shelves reflect that. I love it when a visitor pulls a book off the shelf and opens it up…

SRH8

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A huge thanks to Susan for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves! If you would like to catch up with the other posts in the series of Other People’s Bookshelves have a gander here. Don’t forget if you would like to participate (and I would love you to – hint, hint, hint as without you volunteering it doesn’t happen) in the 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 Susan’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that she mentions?

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I’m Off Away For The Weekend…

By the time this goes live I will be off on my travels to meet my mum, or just on my way, or even sat with her in a cocktail bar. We are going to be spending the weekend visiting going back down memory lane to the city that we lived in for about 5 or 6 years from when I was about three years old…

No we didn’t live in Sydney, we I have always thought this looks like, we lived in the wonderful city of Newcastle up in the north of England. The weekend looks like there will be lots of nostalgia as we visit the old houses we lived in plus places like Jesmond Dene (and the awesome ‘Pets Corner’), the Hancock Museum, Tynemouth Beach and more that we used to visit. There will also probably be plenty of food, cocktails and talk of books. Oh and of course reading, though not when we are together I mean on the never ending journey to and from, I have two Fiction Uncovered submissions packed at the ready.

I will report back on me and my mums adventures in due course. In the meantime what will you be doing this weekend and, of course, what will you be reading?

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Narrative Non-Fiction, Well, Just Great Non-Fiction Really…

Last night I had the pleasure of hosting an event with Kate Colquhoun in Liverpool Waterstones, where we were discussed her latest book Did She Kill Him (which I loved and reviewed here) which is the non-fiction account of the Maybrick Murder here in Liverpool back in 1889. As Kate talked about that, and her book previous to it Mr Briggs’ Hat which I haven’t read yet, I was reminded by how much I had enjoy going back to my favourite periods in time and reading these accounts of those times, with all the brilliant and bonkers facts you learn and insights you get, when they are exciting and engaging…

Kate Colquhoun & I in conversation...

Kate Colquhoun & I in conversation…

The thing is not all of them are, some can read rather like the dusty old fusty old academic text books which bash you over the head with facts and figures (though recently I read a fictional futuristic novel that did just that *coughs* The Martian *coughs*) and make you feel like your back in those school lessons where you looked out the window yearning to be free. It is this that keeps me stuck to only really dabbling with non-fiction when it is set in an era that already fascinates me or is about a place or thing I know.

I think I need to branch out more. Actually, I think I need to branch out more when I have finished reading the mass of contemporary novels that have been submitted of Fiction Uncovered, yet it would make a nice change after all that. Before and after the event Kate and I were talking about books we loved and she mentioned a few non-fiction novels (H is for Hawk, which I own, and The Iceberg in particular) and I thought ‘right Savidge, you need to test yourself more.

So what I would love from you all is recommendations. You are welcome to recommend non-fiction accounts of Victorian drama’s, the Mitford’s and other aristocracy or adventures in the Brazilian Jungle which you know I will most likely love of course, I would be delighted. I would also really like to hear about some books which you think might send me out of my comfort zone in terms of topics or themes, I can add some of them to my upcoming Birthday list. Thanks in advance.

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Newcastle Writing Conference 2015 – Come & Join Us…

On the 6th of June I will be taking part in an innovative one-day writing conference in Newcastle upon Tyne, the homeland of my early years. The conference is hosted by New Writing North and Northumbria University (where my mum used to go) and is all about the things that writers can do for themselves to move their careers forward, from standing out in the digital age to finding out what agents and publishers really want. There’s a properly great line-up of speakers, including novelists, editors, publishers, agents, journalists and bloggers. No seriously the line up it brilliant.

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Highlights include a Keynote Speech from novelist Meg Rosoff who will talk about her journey to publication, which began in her forties and then will be signing books. There will then be a panel event ‘How to Stand Out in a Digital Age’ where a group of panelists – including Ben Willis, head of digital publicity at Transworld; Costa-shortlisted author and social media expert, Nikesh Shukla; vlogger and Hotkey Books digital coordinator, Sanne Vliegenthart, who also vlogs at Books and Quills; and, erm, me – will be discussing how digital media can help with an authors career and reaching a bigger audience.

Then the rest of the day is dedicated to break out sessions which include; ‘Websites and Blogging’ – where myself and digital designer, Mel Ashby, guide you through the process of creating a website or blog, from crafting your online persona and making websites; ‘How to Edit Your Work’ – with acclaimed novelist Fiona Shaw where you can bring a page of your draft work to go through; ‘Vlogging’ –  where Sanne will give a practical guide to getting started with vlogging.

Then after lunch you can join sessions such as; ‘Meet the Agent’ with Jo Unwin, of the Jo Unwin Literary Agency; ‘Develop Your Online Presence where you can find out how to use social media to promote your work with Ben Willis from Transworld and author Nikesh Shukla and ‘What’s Hot and What’s Not’ where the blooming lovely Picador editor Francesca Main, Rachael Kerr is the editor-at-large of publishers Unbound, Rachel Kerr; lovely Anna James from The Bookseller and Elle magazine plus Jo Unwin will discuss all aspects of the book industry now.

Phew,  and that isn’t even the full list, for details of everything happening on the day you can head to the website here. I am really, really looking forward to this, especially as Newcastle University was the university that my mother went to, taking the three year old me along with her, and so Newcastle has a very special place in my heart, along with the uni, so it will lovely to go back. I am actually off up to Newcastle with my mother this weekend for a pre-birthday treat and nostalgic trip down memory lane which I will share with you in due course.

So yes, exciting times. If you would like to join us, the lovely folk at New Writing North have given me a special code for a limited number of tickets available half price for special people, like you reading here, which you can buy through this link if you fancy it: http://bit.ly/1BAgTFf

It would be lovely to see some of your friendly faces, so do let me know if you might be attending.

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The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

We have all done it haven’t we? Or should that be, we all do this don’t we? We have all been sat on a bus, the train, been in the car (preferably not driving) or just been nosey through the net curtains and seen certain faces again and again and made up lives for those people we regularly see but don’t  dare to speak to. This has been the case with Rachel as she makes her way to and from London, creating the perfect life, projecting her own dreams, on one couple who she names “Jason and Jess” whose house she passes twice a day. However one day on her way into London Rachel sees something that isn’t right, “Jess” is kissing a man who definitely isn’t “Jason” ut on their decking.  Things take a twist a few weeks later when it turns out that “Jess” is actually a girl called Megan who has gone missing, with the knowledge of what she has seen has Rachel got the key to the mystery?

Transworld Books, hardback, 2015, fiction, 320 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

This could be a simple and thrilling, erm, thriller in itself until we see Rachel realise that the night Megan went missing was also a night when Rachel got off the train at the nearby station, very drunk, to go and watch the house she used to live in with her ex husband, who now lives there with his new wife Anna and their child. Yet, in one of her more and more frequent drunken states, Rachel blacked out and can’t remember what happened. Yet from the state she wakes up in and with the fuzzy feeling of dread it would appear that whatever it was it was very, very bad – what could this mean?

The Girl on the Train is one of the best thrillers I have read in quite some time and not just because of the intriguing premise. Hawkins does some very clever, tricky and twisty things with this novel that make it one of those brilliant mysteries that work on many levels. Firstly of course there is the above mentioned plot, a mystery which quite simply begs for the reader to follow Rachel as she tries to solve or absolve herself from any involvement with what has or hasn’t happened.

Secondly is the unexpected way in which the novel is written. I imagined that the whole novel would be Rachel trying to find out just what the blinking heck has happened. Wrong! Initially we get the story from Rachel ‘in the present’ but soon we get the narratives both of Megan (before and leading up to her disappearance) and Anna, who Rachel seems to have just as much of an obsession with as she did “Jason and Jess”, giving us a whole new light on Rachel. All this creates an additionally compellingly complex aspect to the novel, without being hard work or off putting, along with three intricate and multifaceted female narrators.

I am not the girl I used to be. I am no longer desirable; I am off putting in some way. It’s not that I’ve put on weight, or that my face is puffy from the drinking and lack of sleep; it’s as if people can see the damage written over all over me, they can see it in my face, the way I hold myself, the way I move.
One night last week, when I left my room to get myself a glass of water, I overheard Cathy talking to Damien, her boyfriend, in the living room. I stood in the hallway and listened. ‘She’s lonely,’ Cathy was saying, ‘I really worry about her. It doesn’t help, her being alone all the time.’ Then she said, ‘Isn’t there someone from work, maybe, or the rugby club?’ and Damien said, ‘For Rachel? Not being funny, Cath, but I’m not sure I know anyone that desperate.’

Rachel is someone you both feel rather sorry for, when she is vulnerable and heartbroken/just plain broken, yet feel really creeped out by when she starts hitting the bottle and hanging around her old street either to watch her old house or try and ingratiate herself within Megan’s. On the one hand you want to sit with her and a bottle (or six) and just let her vent, then you want to give her a bit of a shake and tell her to get a grip of herself, then feel you would avoid her in the street at all costs and cross to the other side, before promptly feeling bad and sympathising again. This is wonderfully depicted in Rachel’s relationship with Cathy, an acquaintance of sorts who kindly let her stay and is really quite regretting it now.  As she is clearly down the road to alcoholism you sympathise whilst also being fully aware that she us completely unreliable and possibly an obsessive stalker trying to fill the sad and cold emptiness in her life in any way she can. At the same time you just know all she wants is to be happy. This adds an emotive and often slightly uncomfortably realistic side to life that we have all had elements of in our lives, though hopefully we didn’t go to quite the same lengths.

Megan and Anna’s narratives may not appear as often but that doesn’t make them any less vivid, human or naturally flawed. Anna is a woman who came into Rachel’s ex husband’s life all confidence and stole him from her, now with a new baby and Rachel drunkenly turning up out of the blue she is becoming a paranoid bag of nerves, is this karma for what she has done? Megan may also seem perfect and have the most handsome of men in her life, she is also a sex addict who cannot stop herself from having affairs and getting herself into trouble. As the novel moves on each of the women lets more and more of the facade they have given their lives slip a little more creating a fascinating, brooding and ominous tension that makes you (cliché alert, but true) turn the pages faster and faster to the final dénouement. I won’t say too much more as I want you to go out and grab this book and spend some riveting time with these three characters.

The Girl on the Train is one of those thrillers I love because it can be read in a number of ways. You can read it as a bloody good thriller. You can read it as a fascinating insight into the psyches or three women and how they are trying to survive in the situations they find themselves. You can read it as a look at how society sees, and often pigeon-holes women, into certain categories based simply on the expectation of women morally, how they look on the surface or their lifestyle choices and how that affects them and what the realities are. Or you can read it as all three. Whatever you do read it!

Oh and don’t pay attention to the comparisons to other novels in the genre (novels which I also loved I will hasten to add) as I really think The Girl on the Train should be read for its own merits as it can certainly stand up for itself. Who else has read it and, without spoilers, what did you think of it?

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Filed under Books of 2015, Paula Hawkins, Review, Transworld Publishing

Other People’s Bookshelves #53 – Geoff Whaley

Hello and welcome to the latest Other People’s Bookshelves post. If you haven’t seen it before this is a series of posts set to feed into the filthy book lust/porn and either give you a fix of other people’s books and shelves. This week we are off to Boston, yes the place I have always wanted to stay longer than the 24 hours I once did and home of my favourite series Rizzoli and Isles – though hopefully there won’t be any murder today, to join Geoff who blogs at The Oddness of Things Moving and has a podcast (which I am secretly hoping he will one day invite me on to discuss Rebecca) Come Read With Me. You can follow him on Twitter here. Before we have a nosey through his shelves, let’s find out more about him…

I currently live in Boston, Massachusetts and took a very roundabout way to get here. North Carolina born and bred, I moved to Boston after post-graduate studies in the UK and I haven’t looked back. I picked Boston for a few reasons, it’s just as confusing as any English towns (would street signs really kill anyone?) and it has so many things to do from the numerous cultural institutions to the Boston Book Festival! And that doesn’t even get me started on the wonderful independent bookstores throughout Greater Boston! As much as I wish reading were my whole life, apart from blogging it’s not. I get a lot of my reading time while commuting to and from my day-job where I raise money for a small private college. I love what I do because I hear people’s stories of why they support the causes they do and I get to connect those people (and their gifts of course) to something meaningful.

OPB - Big Bookshelf

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?

For the longest time I kept every book I owned, including 100+ Star Wars novels, but when I went to college I seriously pared down. My general rule is I have to have space on my bookshelf, but I do cheat with multiple layers on some of the shelves. Most books come in until I read them and when I’m done they either stay on my shelf (hardly ever) or they go in the bag to the left of my shelf to be sent to a used bookstore or donated to the local library.

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 don’t worry too much about organization in the alphabetical sense, but I do group an authors work together. Aside from generally putting them in size order (big to small), they’re broken down by shelves:

  1. On top of my big bookshelf are my TBR quick reads, the piles to the right are those that I could read in one-to-two sittings, and the larger hardback TBR books that won’t fit elsewhere.
  2. The shelf immediately below that, a little bit of the middle shelf and all of the shelves by my bed are my “forever” books. They’re the ones that friends and family have given me, those signed by authors or those that had a profound impact on me at the time.
  3. The middle and bottom shelf are all the other books I’ve picked up over the five years I’ve been in Boston that I will read and probably pass on. They’re the books that sound fascinating at the time but I just haven’t gotten around to reading yet.

I haven’t had to do a cull yet, but like I said above I have been cheating a little bit and my quick read piles are growing really fast, so I might need to in the near future.

OPB - Harry Potter 2

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

Honestly, it was probably a Star Wars novel, and if it wasn’t Star Wars it was an Irene Radford Dragon Nimbus book. I kept two trilogies when I cleared out my Star Wars novels and I have a few books floating around from high school so there’s a good chance it’s still on my shelf.

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?

Thankfully Kindles were invented so I can hide my smuttier books on there, but in seriousness it’s hard to say. I’m not embarrassed by books or my guilty pleasures from Star Wars to Jane Austen fan-fiction I display them proudly and am always looking for converts! The only book I would be embarrassed about people seeing, because I’d be afraid they’d assume things about me I bought out of morbid curiosity: Going Rogue by Sarah Palin. I guess it’s tempered a little bit by Frank Bailey’s Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin, but I still wouldn’t want people to get the wrong idea.

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?

Isn’t this like asking which child you’d save? It’s a tough choice for me There are two collections I prize more than I probably should. The first is my slowly growing Wuthering Heights collection. I’ve stumbled across a few beautiful paperback editions, two from the 1950s, two from the 1960s and one from the 1980s, and I couldn’t help myself so I bought them. They’re all from before I was born and that’s my unofficial cut-of date when I look at copies in stores.

The second is my Harry Potter collection: complete and well loved American hardback and paperback series, complete British hardback, all the extras books, plus the first two in French and the first in Spanish! It’s only a matter of time before I get the new American edition and complete the Spanish edition.

OPB - Wuthering Square

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?

Any of the classics. No, seriously, any of them. I grew up with big bookshelves in my house and my dad’s parents house was wall-to-wall bookshelves. At our house I really wanted to read the big leather bound tomes because they just looked so magical and at my grandparents house the classics just looked so worn from being read and loved so often, that I wanted to be a part of that. I’ve read a lot of Classics since then, especially those I was forced to read in school, and have fallen in love with many of them and have select copies on my shelf.

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’m a strong supporter of local libraries, so I try to get as many books from the libraries as possible. I do spend more money than I should at used bookstores (Hello trade-in credit!). I do have a running list of books that I want to read and if I keep thinking about a book I will purchase it in hopes that I’ll read it faster, but that’s not serving me too well with almost three shelves of to-be-read books.

OPB - Harry Potter 1

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

I just purchased a copy of The Private Lives of the Impressionists by Sue Roe. This is surprising as I don’t have a lot of non-fiction, but I’ve wanted to read about Mary Cassatt and this seemed like a good introduction. I also pre-ordered paperback copies of Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage and Laline Paull’s The Bees after listening to the last episode of The Readers, but those won’t arrive until May!

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

I wish I had the first copy of Wuthering Heights that I read back in high school on my shelf. I didn’t appreciate it enough when I read it then and even though it wasn’t a beautiful copy it was still the first one I read. I also wouldn’t say no to an original copy either, I did get to hold a First American Edition last December.

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

I’m not sure what they’d think because most of the time I’m not sure what to think! I have Star Wars novels next to Jane Austen novels, I have five copies of Wuthering Heights beside Gender and Queer Theory text books. I’d like to think people would see it as charmingly eccentric, but I’m not sure if I need to be an 80-year-old-professor or not for that one!

OPB - Bedside Books

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A huge thanks to Geoff for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves! If you would like to catch up with the other posts in the series of Other People’s Bookshelves have a gander here. Don’t forget if you would like to participate (and I would love you to – hint, hint, hint as without you volunteering it doesn’t happen) in the 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 Geoff’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?

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And So Uncovering Fiction Starts…

So a while back I told you of my recent exciting news, fingers crossed I will have even more coming in the next few weeks and months. While I have been busy getting lots of reading done before I dive into the submissions, I have also been thinking about what I will do with the blog over the forthcoming books. I am not sure how much I will talk about my reading habits and adventures over the next few months. I was told that I could review the books that came in for the Fiction Uncovered, just not say they were for the prize, yet I know what cunning clever kinds of folk you lot are and I think you would guess. However fret not I am not about to go silent on you all for a few months, honest…

I have got a backlog of a whopping, yes I counted them, twenty three books that I have yet to read – well twenty four once I have finished Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven which I am reading before I interview her next Friday for the first episode of You Wrote The Book when it returns for the new series in July. With a some posts on non booky outings, other bits and bobs and booky thoughts in general which the Fiction Uncovered submissions might inspire as the reading gets under way. I can safely say it has now indeed getting under way as the first batch (there will be a few) of submissions have arrived…

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Obviously I can’t tell you what is in the box, I can tease you all and say that there were some I had heard of, and indeed had hoped might be in the mix, there are also loads of books filled with promise which I hadn’t heard of so I am really excited and ready to get reading which is what this weekend will entail. Bring on the reading adventures ahead! There may be some phases of silence, do bear with me though – and think of all the reviews (almost a hundred) I will have afterwards and all the wonderful book to tell you about.

Now unlike me, with my now firmly sealed lips, you can tell me what you are reading at the moment and how you are getting on with it? You can also tell me what you will be doing this weekend, so I can live vicariously through my books and through you!

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Guessing the Bailey’s Prize Longlist 2015

I haven’t done this for a year or two I don’t think, yet as it is International Women’s Day it seemed fitting for me to celebrate it by celebrating female authors and what could do that better than by playing guess the Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction longlist which will be revealed on Tuesday next week. Initially I didn’t think I would be able to hazard a guess at this, yet when I started thinking about the books that I have read and loved plus went and looked through my shelves of all the books I have meant to read in the last year I suddenly had far too many. You see that is my criteria for guessing, which books have I read and loved that are eligable and which ones would I love to see listed because I am desperate to read them and think they may well be corkers, as may you!

So here are the books that I have read and would LOVE to see on the list on Tuesday, I have linked if I have reviewed them…

The Bees by Laline Paull, He Wants by Alison Moore, After Me Comes the Flood by Sarah Perry, Thirst by Kerry Hudson, Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey, Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth, The Repercussions by Catherine Hall (which I edited one edition of so haven’t reviewed yet but will with that caveat) and finally The Miniturist by Jessie Burton, which I just read and absolutely adored, more soon.

Then for the books that I really want to read…

Dept of Speculation by Jenny Offill (which I actually have finished since scheduled this post), Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel, Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre, How to be Both by Ali Smith, Mr Mac and Me by Esther Freud, An Untamed State by Roxanne Gay, Rise by Karen Campbell, Her by Harriet Lane, Weathering by Lucy Wood, I Am China by Xiaolu Guo, Mother Island by Bethan Roberts and Young God by Katherine Faw Morris.

(I could also have mentioned The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie and We Were Liars by E. Lockhart which I have read all of. And I also mulled over Academy Street by Mary Costello, The Ship by Antonia Honeywell, The Exit by Helen Fitzgerald, The First Bad Man by Miranda July, Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller, The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, A Blue Spool of Thread by Anne Tyler and The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer.)

Blimey hasn’t it been an amazing year, again, for women’s fiction. What are your thoughts on the Bailey’s Prize longlist, let me know if you have had a guess and if not which ones would you like to see on the list? Have you read any of the above and if so what did you think? Who would you love to win?

P.S Sorry the pictures aren’t all the same size, it is setting off my OCD slightly too!

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

Whoops!

I’ve been a little more silent on the blog the last few weeks with fewer reviews. I have been busy doing this…

Yep. Reading like a loon making sure I have got all my last Hear Read This, You Wrote The Book and book group reads before I have a break from them over the summer, plus some other books for various events I have. All this BEFORE I start the serious reading task of the Fiction Uncovered submissions, some of which have arrived already and I am really excited to read.

The picture above was taken by The Beard as I read my choice for book group. Seems I’m having a reading binge before the reading binge I can’t talk about. Means I have plenty of reviews lined up while I am hidden away judging though. Now best start Susan Hill’s I’m the King of the Castle so back to more reading!

What are you reading at the mo?

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It’s World Book Day; Celebrate With A Quick Read (Or A Long One…)

It is World Book Day, hooray! A day devoted to celebrating the love of books around the world. It is all too easy to forget though, especially in the bubble of the book blogosphere, that not everyone out in that there big wide world has the ability, time, money or simply the inclination/desire to read books. Some people may even be wary of the world of books or find reading difficult.

As I have mentioned many a time on this blog, I myself was a great reader as a child but my late teens and early twenties were a barren time for books. I had been put off by the endless re-reading and re-reading of school texts which had to be analysed to the umpteenth degree. I felt that books were more for academics than for enjoyment. Oh and I was more interested in getting drunk on alcho-pops and dancing to Britney in my early twenties and so was lost in a bookish wilderness. I had become alienated from the wonderful world that books can provide for us all and in actual fact, hold on to your hats, thought that books were for the pretentious and elite. Now I know different, obviously, all it too was the recommendation of the right book to try (in my case The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie) and I was off…

Sometimes all it takes is that quick recommendation, loaning of a book or pointing in the direction of a library that can create the spark needed to fire a love of reading. Or of course re-reading. Quick Reads is an initiative which aims to do the same and selects several titles by well-known authors that are short, sharp reads aimed to attract those who think books and reading might not be for them and get them hooked. They are designed to encourage those who have been put off reading or are late to reading to ‘give a book a whirl’ and who knows they might become a book addict? Great stuff!

Yet they are also perfect, as I discovered when reading three of them after this year’s titles were announced, for an avid reader who might fancy trying out an author you have meant to read for a while, or just getting time to read something short and sharp whilst on your commute or having a nice cup of tea in your favourite book nook. Here are my thoughts on three of them…

Dead Man Talking – Roddy Doyle

Vintage Books, paperback, 2015, fiction, 98 pages, kindly sent by Quick Reads

Pat had been best friends with Joe Murphy since they were kids. But five years ago they had a fight. A big one, and they haven’t spoken since — till the day before Joe’s funeral.

What? On the day before his funeral Joe would be dead, wouldn’t he?

Yes, he would…

This was my first foray into the work of Roddy Doyle (despite my mothers best efforts, unless you count having watched The Commitments film at a young age and spending hours singing the soundtrack in the car) and I was not sure what to expect but I enjoyed it very much. Regular readers will know that I quite like ghostly tales and stories that are quite quirky and this is both.

There is a wonderful surreal element to this story without it ever veering too far off into magical realism which some new and avid readers might find off putting, it almost has a ‘fairytale for adults’ feel whilst as it goes on and takes stranger and stranger twists reminded me somewhat of a Roald Dahl sinister short story and a Hitchcock movie. What I thought Roddy Doyle did wonderfully was give the book an underlying message of grief, regret and mortality yet never making it overtly melancholy. All in all an interesting and thought provoking twisting tale, I need to read a novel of his now don’t I? Where would you recommend I start?

Out of the Dark – Adele Geras

Quercus Books, paperback, 2015, fiction, 101 pages, kindly sent by Quick Reads

Rob Stone comes back from the horrors of the First World War with a ruined face and a broken heart. Lonely, unable to forget the things he has seen, and haunted by the ghost of his dead captain, all that Rob has left is a picture of the captain’s family. Rob sets out to find them, hoping that by giving them the picture, he can bring peace to the captain’s ghost – and to his own troubled heart.

Another author that I have been meaning to read for ages (another which my mother has also raved about reading her young adult novels with her studenst) and another quick reads with a ghost in it this year.

I am normally not the greatest fan of wartime novels, I think the subject has been overdone, yet I really, really loved this story. In a very short space of time Adele Geras makes you sympathise and empathise with our main character and the affects that war has had on him both physically and mentally. The tale of Rob’s heartbreak after his fiancé backs out of the marriage was one which I found both heart-breaking and also, for me, added a side to the war that I have never seen depicted in another piece of writing about the time. In fact I think that was one of the things that I liked so much about Out of the Dark was that it really put me in the head of a young man who had been to war far more than anything else I have read has done. More food for thought, and another author that I shall return to.

Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen – Sophie Hannah

Hodder & Stoughton, paperback, 2015, fiction, 117 pages, kindly sent by Quick Reads

After Chloe and her daughter Freya are rescued from disaster by a man who seems too good to be true, Chloe decides she must find him again to thank him. But instead of meeting her knight in shining armour, she comes across a woman called Nadine Caspian who warns her to stay well away from him. The man is dangerous, Nadine claims, and a compulsive liar. Alarmed, Chloe asks her what she means, but Nadine will say no more. Chloe knows that the sensible choice would be to walk away – after all, she doesn’t know anything about this man. But she is too curious. What could Nadine have meant? And can Chloe find out the truth without putting herself and her daughter in danger?

Regulars to Savidge Reads will know that I am a big fan of Sophie both as an author or some corking thrillers, and a wonderful collection of short stories (which were recommended to me by a friend and got me into her work – see it’s all about the recommendations) of which you can find out more here. Shockingly though, and despite having them all, I have not read one of her books since 2011!?!? Where has the time gone?

Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen is, as you might expect, like the perfect condensed versions of one of her Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer thrillers, and indeed they turn up in this one. From the off you are constantly question who is telling the truth and who is doing some serious lying and manipulating, the guessing only gets greater as Sophie throws in some twists, turns and potential red herrings. If you love this then go and get your hands on Little Face which is the first in the series, I need to grab Lasting Damage just as soon as I have finished the Fiction Uncovered reading, promise!

This isn’t the whole collection of books either, I still have three more to dip into in due course – which I will be eating with more of the Galaxy chocolates these arrived with – but hopefully gives you some insight into the diversity of the books which Quick Reads produce (and they have a whole backlist you can go through, here are some more I’ve read) and how easy they are to get into and just taking you away. As I said, perfect reads for any reader be you avid or just wanting to give books and reading a try. And all for just £1 or to be found in your local library, what could be better? (Though if you’re reading something longer that’s good too, I will be spending some of the evening with Maya Angelou, you?) Happy World Book Day all!

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Filed under Adele Geras, Quick Reads, Roddy Doyle, Sophie Hannah