Monthly Archives: September 2015

The Readers Roadtrip Day 2; Birds Nests, Buffalo, Niagara & Canada

I quite like living on the edge and I have done that twice in the last twenty four hours. It started straight away with a change of plans as Thomas decided we would ditch Pittsburgh and head to Buffalo – as a punishment for my naughty behaviour the night before, ha not really. So we hit the road early straight away and headed to Buffalo. One thing was on my mind… My first American breakfast, we found a corker.   If you’re ever passing Bedford Pennsylvania then serious head to the Birds Nest Cafe, it was wonderful in both ambience…


And in choice, I went for the Farmers Daily, which was three egg omelette red peppers bacon and mushroom, plus some of the best buttered toast and fried potatoes I have ever eaten. Ever. I could have become a farmer just to have it daily. 

And they had a great selection homemade of cookies which Thomas and I definitely didn’t take 12 of each, oh no, definitely not.  

Okay so we did. We then drove for four hours to Buffalo, not sniggering at signposts on the way…

Our Buffalo aim was to find some shops (where I could get a belt and a baseball cap and man bag with bears on) and couldn’t so we had to park and eat some more. I had my first ever fried green tomatos, which were amazing… 

Followed by a ‘light bite’ which was anything but a light bite and in fact a ginormous pulled pork sandwich with Mac and Cheese which I adored. We then head to Niagara where on the outskirts Thomas introduced me to yet more food in the form of my very first Dairy Queen. I somehow managed to eat it all.  

Then, after a trip through customs we finally got to Niagara Falls where it decided to unless torrential rain just as we got our the car park blinding our view and getting us soaked.   

But once it passed… Wow. 

I stood on the edge and everything. The noise and the actual size just cannot be done justice to. Nor can the full force of it when you’re stood next to it. Even when you’re taking a selfie.  

I was mesmerised. And top tip the Canada side really is the better view because you really are on top of it.  

Look at those crazy America people on a massive metal ledge miles away.


Exactly see, you can’t even see them. Crazy. So a life long dream has been filled (which was amazing) my daily dream of amazing breakfasts has been reached and I have tried lots of new foods. No books though, yet. I’ve still a week to go, ha!

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The Readers Roadtrip Day 1; Willa Cather & Losing It…

So the good news is that despite my fear of flying I had a pretty brilliant flight from the UK to the USA. Okay so I didn’t get any reading done but as the child next to me screamed if they had earphones on and screamed if they didn’t have their DVDs on, I had to watch movies as trying to read with Peppa Pig or Chuggington in my ears wasn’t working. Seriously, anyone up for grown up only flights? I would pay extra! 

So flight was smooth, as was customs and I came out to find Thomas’ happy smiley face waiting for me at the airport rating and ready to go to stop one… Willa Cather’s childhood home. And so we did combing the road side with our eyes for the sign and a place to park to get a much needed selfie…  

Look how happy we are there? I’m slightly delerious post flight and feeling like it’s 9pm when it’s 4pm but we were on form chattering away in the car about all sorts with some stunning views of mountains, forests and lakes…  

You can tell there’s a but coming can’t you? Well I needed a wee and as I got out the car I felt something was missing… My passport. Sure enough after we ransacked my bags, Thomas’ bags and practically took the car apart we realised it was missing. Either I’d dropped it at a service station (did I mention my belt broke on the plane so my trousers were rather prone to slipping and losing items) or Willa Cather’s childhood back yard, both of which were an hour and a half back down the road. I felt like my world had fallen in. 

An hour and a half later, and several frantic calls to every grocery in Virginia none of which were the one we’d been in, we left the shop in dire straights. I was feeling sick and thinking of all the paper work. We decided to try Willow Shade when we passed it but as it was pitch black and I was sure I’d had it in the store I had no hope. Well blow me down, after five minutes of searching by the torches on our phone WE FOUND IT. The elation. 

Though by this time we were three hours behind schedule and Thomas has motion sickness so now we’re checked into a random hotel in Cumberland, not the one we had booked in Morgantown, and I am feeling like the worst worst worst roadtrip companion ever. Fingers crossed today will be as ace as the first half of today… And just get better. Blimey!

UPDATE – It is 4am here and I’ve woken up for the second time as our random Ramada hotel backs on to the (fairly regular) freight train line. Choo Choo. You couldn’t make it up. I’m informed by my former Readers host this whole story makes it an official roadtrip. So that’s something. Oh. Here’s another train. Must. Sleep. More. Must. 

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I’m Off to America… The Readers Roadtrip is Finally Here!

It feels like I have been talking about, and indeed plotting, my trip to America for ages and ages when in actual fact it was only back in June that it was all discussed and booked. If you have been under a rock or somehow missed the excitement today, as this goes live, I will be taking off or flying away on my journey over to Washington DC where I will be meeting my lovely friend, blogger and co-host of The Readers podcast Thomas of Hogglestock, formly My Porch. We are then immediately off on a six day road trip recording the podcast as we go and falling into every bookshop we pass (and Dairy Queen or Mexican restaurant) as we head to Booktopia in Petoskey on Lake Michigan.

America

If you are wondering what Booktopia is, well, it is a two day bookfest of listeners of Books on the Nightstand (and in some cases The Readers too) organised by its hosts Ann and Michael (who I adore) and we will be on some panels with Ann and Michael talking about our favourite books as well as recording a special live episode of The Readers with an audience. Then hitting the road and many more bookshops on the way back to DC where I will then have a few days of mooching around – and seeing baby panda’s fingers crossed.

Now shamefully last year when I went to Booktopia Asheville, followed by Washington DC to stay with Thomas and then onto New York I seemed to tweet and facebook it and not blog about it – which was both foolish and bonkers. Not this time. This time I am going to do a series of posts over the next week and a half as Thomas and I make our booky journey around some of North America, and popping into Canada, so you can join us, sort of. It’s something a bit different but hopefully you will enjoy it! (If not book reviews will resume on September 29th!)

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A Little Bit Late… Savidge Reads is Eight!

Shockingly, as someone who spends their life looking for the next opportunity to have a slice of cake or some sweet treat, I somehow completely missed the fact that this blog turned eight years old on tuesday. How the time has flown. I was reminded as the lovely Annabel of Gaskella is celebrating her 7th blog birthday today  (go and wish her a happy one too) and I suddenly thought ‘hang about…’ So now I will have to buy a cake on the way home. In the interim, would you all like to join me having a slice of this?

Eight

So 8 years old… almost at the big 1-0! I am not going to do an Oscar speech, as much as I might want to, I just want to say thank you all for reading, commenting, lurking, participating and chatting! Here’s to the years ahead, just as soon as I have finished that cake!

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The Man Booker Prize Shortlist 2015

Sorry if I have been a bit quiet of late. The new job that I mentioned the other week has been a bit bonkers (in a brilliant way), I was also at Gladfest , then giving a masterclass to some brilliant new reviewers and bloggers up in Newcastle whilst also working on something secret but very fun with Lynne of Dovegreyreader which we might be able to talk about next year, sorry to be a tease. Oh and I have been reading for Booktopia Petoskey next week. Phew, it has been a bit manic!

Anyway to show I still have my finger on the booky pulse here is the Man Booker Shortlist (you can see my thoughts on the longlist here) for you all, if you haven’t seen it already.

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  • Marlon James (Jamaica) – A Brief History of Seven Killings (Oneworld Publications)
  • Tom McCarthy (UK) – Satin Island (Jonathan Cape)
  • Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria) – The Fishermen (ONE, Pushkin Press)
  • Sunjeev Sahota (UK) – The Year of the Runaways (Picador)
  • Anne Tyler (US) – A Spool of Blue Thread (Chatto & Windus)
  • Hanya Yanagihara (US) – A Little Life (Picador)

I am really keen on it, obviously because Yanagihara is my book of the decade and that’s in the mix, but also because I want to read every single one of the other five. In fact I may have to buy Tom McCarthy’s Satin Island as a treat for myself (and my new job, coughs – this excuse will last months) at lunchtime. I like the mix of authors and the disparity between publishers (which I didn’t like but didn’t bemoan when the longlist came out) seems to have been more balanced out, unintentionally I am sure.

What are your thoughts? Which have you read and what did you make of them? Which do you want to read?

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Other People’s Bookshelves #72 – Ayo Onatade

Hello and welcome to the latest Other People’s Bookshelves, a series of posts set to feed into the natural filthy book lust we all feel and give you a fix through other people’s books and shelves. This week we are in South London to meet blogger, reviewer and crime fiction expert Ayo Onatade and have a nosey at all of her books. However before we do that let’s grab a nice cuppa and a fondant fancy or two (or three)  that Ayo’s put out for us  whilst we get to know a little more about her.

I am an avid reader, blogger and critic of anything and everything crime, detective and mystery fiction related. I live in South London and work as a civil servant with very senior members of the UK Judiciary as my day job.  I hasten to add that my day job has nothing to do with my love of genre. I run the Shotsmag Confidential blog, review books and also write for Crimespree Magazine.  I also give occasional papers and write academic articles on crime fiction. In 2014 I co-edited along with Len Tyler a collection of short stories entitled Bodies in the Bookshop. Amongst my family I am known as the family library. Whilst my main passion is crime fiction I do actually read other types of books though I don’t think my family actually believes me when I say this.

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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?

I can categorically say that the books on my bookshelves have nothing to do with whether or not they are my favourites or if they are really good.  It is more a matter of having somewhere to store them and being able to get my hands on a book when I need it. I certainly do not have a system of one in one out! God forbid. I can barely get rid of books. If that were the case, what would I do with all my “comfort reads” and books that I want to keep? I freely admit that I am to a certain extent a book hoarder and I can get very upset when books are not treated or looked after very well.  I do however have periods where I look at the state of my study and flat in general and shake my head in dismay when I take in the amount of books that I have. The books that I tend to keep fall into a number of categories and are invariably the ones that I value.  They are my signed first editions (especially those of authors whose works I really love), my reference books and literary criticism on crime fiction, which are incredibly useful when I am trying to write a paper and I don’t want to traipse up to the British Library, my comfort reads and books given to me as presents.  I will give away duplicates (especially if I have my own copy already), books that I know that I am not going to read again and occasionally books that I have been judging. With the cutbacks and the closure of many libraries I have found myself giving quite a large number of books to my local library, which luckily for me is at the end of my road. I think that it is outrageous the way in which libraries are being dismantled.  The other person who gets books is my local postman who reads a lot and it is my way of saying thank you since he is the one who as to lug a post bag full of books up to my flat every Saturday.

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 organised in a very disorganised way. They are not in alphabetical order of author but I have for example all my crime fiction reference books and literary criticism on crime fiction in one place, my short story anthologies are together and most of my historical crime novels are together in one place as well. Also my non-crime books are gathered together. Aside from that I generally tend to group an author’s books together in one place.  However, it doesn’t always work and I am not really too bothered as I generally tend to know where a book is when I am looking for it.  My TBR pile is all over the place.  My TBR pile tends to be split into books that I am planning on reading because I want to review them, books that I want to read for pleasure and books that I am reading because I am judging an award. Culling my books upsets me but over the years I have become a lot more resilient about it.  I do purge my collection but generally tend to do it through gritted teeth and with a lot of angst.

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

I honestly can’t remember the first book I ever bought with my own money.  I can remember the books that have had a significant meaning for me for various reasons.  The first is The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie.  This was the very first mystery novel that I read and unknowingly introduced me to my love of crime, mystery and detective fiction.  The second book is Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. I read this whilst I was at secondary school and it was the first African novel that looked at the social and political aspects of Igbo society and the effects of European colonisation on Africa. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell, which for me was the first, ever autobiography that I read that did not seem to be an autobiography.  It was funny, full of interesting information about collecting animals and what fun it was to live in Corfu with a rather eccentric family full of love. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett and Farewell my Lovely by Raymond Chandler changed my crime fiction reading tastes forever. Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale, which is the first of the Bond books. Reading it after I had started to watch the Bond films certainly confirmed for me the saying “Never judge a book by its movie” by J W Eagan. The first Casino Royale film featuring David Niven is a prime example. I have all these books on my bookshelf and every time I see them they make me smile and bring back memories.

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?

Nope! I think all books are meant to be read whether good or bad. I do have a few books that I read at least ever 18 months and they tend

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?

I think my most prized book is actually the collection of Raymond Chandler novels that were published by the Library of America.  When you line them up in the correct order in the box then they show a man wearing a fedora holding a smoking gun.  They were given to me as a surprise present by a former boss who used to collect 1st edition works on William Shakespeare. I was very surprised when I received it as it was unexpected. Which books would I save? Bearing in mind the number of books that I have I would find it rather difficult to choose a few but I would certainly have to ensure that following are rescued. Certainly my Raymond Chandler collection published by the Library of America. My complete works of Dashiell Hammett. My collection of Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher, my JD Robb collection, all my James Lee Burke books and books by George Pelecanos, 100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello.  Finally my collection of crime fiction reference and books on crime fiction literary criticism specifically The Blues detective by Stephen Soitos, Colleen Barnett’s encyclopaedia on Mystery Women and Spooks, Spies and Private Eyes: Black Mystery, Crime and Suspense Fiction of the 20th Century by Paula L Woods. Oops! That seems to be quite a lot.

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?

Argh! I can’t remember that far back. I wish I could. For me the division between when I stopped reading children’s books and moved to adults is rather blurred. We are all readers in my family. My brother and sisters and I used to spend a lot of time in the library when we were younger.  I do have books on my shelves that I have solely because they bring back memories of my childhood for example T H White’s Once and Future King, but aside from that my mind is blank.

Book shelves6

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 can’t remember the last time that I borrowed a book. I tend to resist doing so.  We are talking about over 25 years ago. It generally ends up being the other way around and nowadays I hardly ever loan my books out.  The only people that I will consider lending my books to are my family and very close friends.  I am quite lucky because of the amount of blogging and writing that I do on crime, detective and mystery fiction I get sent quite a lot of books.  I have been known to buy a book (sometimes second hand) if I have wandered into a bookshop and have seen a book that I have been looking for to add to my collection or a book (mainly American authors) that I can’t get here in the UK.  I generally tend to buy most of my reference books and literary criticism as well as my non-crime books.  I freely admit that I am a bit paranoid and precious about my books as I tend to believe that they won’t be treated well.

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

The Killing Kind by Chris Holm.  Chris Holm is much better known in the States as opposed to here in the UK.  However, he has a UK publisher and The Killing Kind was published in August this year. He is an award winning novelist and he has written a brilliant trilogy of  Collector novels which is a mash-up of fantasy and crime pulp.  The Killing Kind is a page turner of a thriller where an assassin that solely kills assassins finds himself on the run from both the FBI and the Mafia.

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

There are too many! Where do I start?  The geek in me would very much like the four volume hardback edition of 100 Bullets.  I would also like a colour version of House of Leaves by Mark L Danielewski, which was published in 2000.  A postmodern novel I first encountered it when I was doing my Masters degree.  The layout and page structure is very unconventional and you certainly have to have patience to read it. The novel is also distinctive for its multiple narrators, who interact with each other in elaborate and disorienting ways.  There is a coloured version and a red version.  Either one would do. Would it be too greedy for me to also want a complete set of original Penguin Greens and the complete works of James M Cain?

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

The first thought would be “how the hell can you find anything” as my shelves are not neat and tidy. The word eclectic also comes to mind. I would think that anyone perusing my shelves would initially think that I read too much crime fiction and that I need to get a life and that I am a bit of a book hoarder.  On the other hand I would also hope that they would ask me about my favourite books and authors and possibly ask me for recommendations as well. I would like them to think that my taste spans different sub genres of crime, detective and mystery fiction and that my bookshelves are an insight to my love of reading. I think that it would also depend on whether or not they are readers themselves. Other readers tend to be a lot more understanding and interested in what is on other peoples bookshelves but non readers are more likely to be disinterested.

Book shelves2

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A huge thanks to Ayo 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 Ayo’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that she mentions?

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American Editions and Additions

The grass is always greener isn’t it? The amount of times I have seen a cover in America/Canada/Australia etc. of one of my favourite books (or actually lots of books that I haven’t read if I am being really honest) and instantly wished that that was the cover they had chosen in to use in the UK is high. Interestingly the same happens, well the opposite happens, when I talk to fellow book lovers across the various oceans that divide us. See, the grass is always greener like I said. In fact this went to quite an extreme when I wanted to read Anna Krien’s Night Games but loathed the UK cover (really bland) and one of my lovely twitter friends Anna very kindly sent me the Australian copy which is stunning, and much more apt, from the other side of the world. Anyway…

This time next week I will either be in the air flying to Washington DC, or I will be in a car with Thomas as we start to make the first leg of our Readers Road Trip around some of the north of America and dip into Canada. Yet as we visit every bookshop that we can as we drive, the US edition of Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life will not be on my list of books to buy – not because I don’t love it as we all know it is one of my favourite books of the year (and I do I think the cover is so much better than the UK one and much more appropriate). Instead I will be looking for lots of exciting and unusual books that are out in the grand old US of A but which haven’t reached our waters yet.

Books like these…

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Now the books (The Water Museum by Luis Alberto Urrea, Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League by Jonathan Odell and The Dog Master by W. Bruce Cameron) above are actually a small cheat as these books were very kindly sent from Michael Kindness as they are all books by authors who will be at Booktopia Petoskey where myself, Thomas, Ann and Michael (of Books on the Nightstand) will be hanging out with them and also doing some panel events and the like. None of them were available in the UK, all of them looked amazing. It is more of these books that I will be looking for.

I already have a few which are very much on my radar. The first is the new collection of short stories by Rebecca Makkai whose novel’s I have loved and have come out in the UK, yet this short story collection currently has no publication plans here. I am going to also see if I can find some of Ryan Gattis’ earlier novels pre All Involved. I also really, really, really want to get my hands on James Hannaham’s Delicious Foods which I have heard amazing things about. However I am taking a very large case and so I would love recommendations of other books which I should get my hands on while I am in the US and indeed in Canada.

So which books would you recommend I get my mitts on if I can find them in the bookshops of the USA? And if you are on non-British soil, are there any British editions of books you would love, or any that have yet to be published where you are yet are available here in the UK? I wonder if there will be any trends, publishers might want to take note, ha!

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