Monthly Archives: January 2017

Library Update; Getting Plastered and Stripping…

No this is not a blog post about some of the weekends I had in my twenties, and possibly into my thirties, this is an update on all things library wise since I told you last week that work had begun on the building of a library here at Savidge Reads Towers. Ha, if only this house had towers, I have always wanted turrets. Anyway, as I mentioned before, two rooms have been knocked into one and shape wise were looking much more like the final design…

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So this week it has been all about getting plastered. Literally. There have been men in and out of there for most of the week (it has played havoc with my carpets, dust and dried plaster are now on my list of things I loathe) and where there was a divide is slowly starting to look more like it is all part of one room…

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Well a room with a big alcove which is bang on what I want, I am aiming for a room that feels very much one room yet sort of two or three separate zones if that makes any sense. You can’t even spot where there once was a door.

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What I hadn’t realised was that all the room was wallpapered. Oh the plasterers weren’t impressed when they made this discovery I can tell you. I thought it was just the wonderful (and camp as can be) pastel animal wall, which I know many people on here and on twitter have been huge fans of. Alas this will soon be no more, if you really loved that wallpaper then look away now…

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…Yep it is going, going, gone.The question is of course what is going to take place of butterflies, giraffes and other unidentifiable creatures? This is the next big decision, paints. I know in my head I want it either blue or green, I just can’t decide between the two and of course the tones. Blue can become too oceanic or really cold, green can make you feel like your on acid or in an army bunker, so these are tricky times. Luckily I have discovered a very bookish series of paints which might help me whittle down my decisions, or go for something completely different, simply because it might be wrong to have anything but a pain collection called The Bookcase on my library walls.

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I can hear you all gasp almost as loudly as I did when I discovered it. Any thoughts on paint do let me know, I have until the end of Monday to make my decision as there is a deadline between now and having my operation in late February to get everything done. No pressure.

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Filed under Building A Library, Random Savidgeness

#DiverseAThon 2.0

Last year over on lovely booktube, I had the pleasure of joining in with a great initiative called #DiverseAThon which was started with the simple desire to make people read more widely and diversely. Well, we all want that really don’t we? I mean one of the great joys of reading is that we can learn about all walks of life from all over the world, walking in their shoes whilst actually sat on our own sofa’s or lying in our own beds. I have always been a fan of anything promoting diverse and minority groups, that is why I started the Green Carnation Prize for LGBTQ writing. So imagine my joy when the organisers of last years DiverseAThon kindly asked if I would like to be one of the hosts for its return, I jumped at the chance and excitingly it all starts today.

Now before anyone switches off or clicks away (unlikely I know, but possible) thinking this is something just for booktubers, this is most definitely not the case. Christina Marie, Joce, Monica and myself are all incredibly keen that everyone who wants to join in can join in. You don’t have to have a channel, a podcast, a blog (though if you do lovely), you just have to have some books to hand that fit the bill. Buy them, borrow them, root through your shelves, the more the blooming merrier. All we would like you to do is try and read books from own voices, so not just books about race, sexuality, disability etc, or with characters of those groups… We want you to find the authors writing from those groups and writing through that own narrative voice. That doesn’t mean we are anti straight writers writing about LGBTQ stories or white writers writing about issues around race, we appreciate those voice hugely but we all know the publishing industry could used a little more diversity and if we don’t support those own voices publishers won’t think we want them in our hands and then we miss out on some incredible books and we all lose out then.

I have made a video on the whole idea behind #DiverseAthon 2.0 including some of the books I am planning reading over the next week, I will link them down below. Grab a cuppa and have a watch if you care to take the time, if not ask me any questions down in the comments below.

I am quite passionate about this so I would love lots of you to join in, be it a twitter chat, the instagram challenges, posting on your blogs and vlogs and pods, ha the options are endless. I will be sharing some own voices reviews as the week goes on, some from the backlog I have mentioned a few times, and reviewing the books in my #DiverseAThon TBR as I go, so should hopefully be talking about and sending some great own voices stories, fiction and none, in the forthcoming week. Who is up for this then? Which books will you be reading? Which books do you recommend?

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And The Library Starts To Be Built

Apologies for the Savidge silence (again) I have a very valid reason though, there have been builders invading my life rather a lot of late as, get ready for it, my library is being built. No, you heard right I am having a library built here at the new house and work has finally started which is so exciting but also somewhat disruptive and distracting. I thought however it would be nice to have a series of posts as the process happens and that you might be quite keen to read about it and join the journey. Ugh, journey has become sucha cliche saying but you know what I mean. So what are the plans? Well they look like this…

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However that doesn’t really cover the logistics as lovely as that picture is. Basically two bedrooms are being converted into one, though the smaller one will feel slightly like a separate space where my reading chair, youtube filming area and desk and the like is. The rest will be wall to wall bookshelves and nothing more, well apart from a comfy sofa bed for me to read on and very special guests to sleep in. Only very special ones, the others just get the normal two spare bedrooms though they have some bookshelves in too of course. So week one has been the rooms being joined, or as the Spice Girl fan in me likes to say, two become one.

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Is it just me or does anyone find this sort of thing, getting to look at what makes a wall essentially, really bizarrely interesting? As you can see it has gone great guns…

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Though they did make the hole between the rooms which will make the one room feel like two spaces a bit too big so they will be rebuilding some.

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I was told this made me a diva by someone, however my thoughts are if this is my forever home and that is going to be my dream library then I need it to be just so. Plus they have to build a new wall where one of the doors has been taken out. It is looking good so far. Then next week, the second in what will probably be a month (so just in time for my operation in late February) the plasterer comes, and the floorboards get sanded down, week three is decorating, so I need to do the painful decision making on that, followed by week four when the bookshelves will get built. I will report back as it goes on. Hopefully it will be of interest…

In the interim how are all of you and what are you reading at the moment?

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Filed under Building A Library, Random Savidgeness

Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine – Diane Williams

I am a sucker for a good cover and let us be honest Diane Williams latest collection of flash fiction, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine (which always makes me think of the Mary J Blige song Just Fine), has a rather fantastic cover indeed. So that pulled me to it in Foyles when I saw it, then the line ‘folktales that hammer like a nail gun’ in the blurb made me almost 100% sure that this was going to be the best collection of short stories I had read for a while. Hmmmm. How to put this? Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

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CB Editions, paperback, 2016, short stories, 118 pages, bought by myself for myself

How to start with a review of Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine when one of the main things you loved about it was the cover and you have already mentioned that? I guess I had better just simply go for it. What I was hoping to find in this collection of very (very, very) short stories was forty (yep, forty) little spiky modern fairytale and folklore like gems. As I started to read I discovered I was getting snap shots into people’s lives that felt like that the prose version of an Instagram feed, only the pictures all seemed to be out of focus, blurred or sometimes an accidental snap shot of the floor because so vague were they, I would read one and think ‘what on earth am I meant to make of that?’

The sad issue here is that the themes I felt Diane Williams was trying to write about, when I did grasp what I thought it was she was on about, are ones that I am really interested. She seems to be giving encounters of a wide and diverse group of women (I can’t remember if any are in a male narrative, though sometimes the gender of the narrator isn’t mentioned) from all walks of life at pivotal moments in their lives. The only thing is so vague and often flimsy did these snippets seem that any poignancy that Williams was trying to give, or maybe I was desperately trying to clutch to, was then lost. Take for example the opener of Head of a Naked Girl

One got an erection while driving in his car to get to her. Another got his while buying his snow blower, with her along. He’s the one who taught her how to blow him and that’s the one she reassured ‘You’re the last person I want to antagonize!’

Firstly I don’t even know if that opening paragraph makes sense, or is it just me? Anyway, what I thought I was getting here was the account of a young woman who had found herself in a profession of which she might have not intended. I was intrigued this might be a tale of how a beautiful woman couldn’t help the affect she had on men for better and for worse, from a neutral view point. We then follow some of her sexual exploits before something, unknown, goes wrong and then she ‘blamed herself – for yet another perfect day.’ Huh? What? I have no idea what I am meant to take from that. Well, apart from mild annoyance.

Now you could say that maybe I am just not one for flash fiction, however I would have to disagree somewhat there. Firstly because I have seen Val McDermid create a story from a tweet which was brilliant and also in this collection there was one very, very, very short story which I loved called The Skol which I will include below in all its entirety.

In the ocean, Mrs. Clavey decided to advance on foot at shoulder-high depth. A tiny swallow of the water coincided with her deliberation. It tasted like a cold, salted variety of her favourite payang congou tea. She didn’t intend to drink more, but she did drink – more.

I loved this. It is very vague, which I know is a criticism I have made in all the stories but here it works. I loved the fact my mind could leap of and ask loads of questions about it. Why on earth was Mrs. Clavey walking into the ocean? Was she just in the mood for a swim or did she have a more dark or sorrowful reason for walking in? Speaking of which, at the end of the story is Mrs. Clavey simply drinking the water because she likes the taste or has she gone a bit mad? Or worse still is she trying to drown herself or just drowning accidentally? Or, the fairytale part of my brain pondered is she actually a mermaid? From four lines all those thoughts. That is what I wanted in every tale.

You might also say that maybe Diane Williams writing isn’t for me. Which is fine, fine, fine, fine, fine (sorry, couldn’t help it!) we don’t like every author in the world, we can’t our heads would explode with all the books we could read; it would be bookshop/library carnage, we might never read anything again because of all the options. I think this is probably the main reason; Diane Williams possibly just isn’t for me. It isn’t her fault. It isn’t my fault. It just is what it is. Though I do want to say there are moments here and there where I just loved how she observes the little things that by saying so little say so much. One paragraph in To Revive A Person Is No Slight Thing has really stayed with me as a character describes the cracks in her marriage, well that is what I thought she was doing but who knows?

A fire had been lighted, drinks had been set out. Raw fish had been dipped into egg and bread crumbs and then sautéed. A small can of shoe polish was still out on the kitchen counter. We both like to keep out shoes clean.

Sadly though, despite a few short bursts of prose and a couple of stories that appealed to me, I was not a big fan of Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine which I am quite cross about as I wanted to be. I think I need something that has some anchor in a sea of vagueness and this only really had that a couple of times for me. You can happily ignore me though Lydia Davis, Jonathan Franzen and many more authors think she is the absolute flash fiction queen. What reading this collection has taught me, delightfully, is that I enjoy flash fiction on the commute to and from work though. So if you have any recommendations of flash fiction collections I should try then do please let me know. Have you read Diane Williams? What have you made of her work?

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Filed under CB Editions, Diane Williams, Flash Fiction, Review, Short Stories

This Sweet Sickness – Patricia Highsmith

I am quite superstitious about the first book that I read of any year. However after possibly one of my ropiest reading years back in 2016, I was feeling it even more. (Ironically I started 2016 with a brilliant book which frankly puts my superstitious theories to pot, but anyway.) So the big question came of what I should start 2017 with. I wanted something that would hook me in, be well written, have characters that delighted me be they villainous or heroic and be a little dark. Basically I wanted a book that infuses all of the elements which give me a good old book tingle.

So after much mulling I settled on Patricia Highsmith’s This Sweet Sickness, after all none other than Marieke Hardy had recommended it on The ABC Book Show (alas not personally over a cocktail or two) selling it in all its twisted glory. Plus I read and absolutely bloody loved Deep Water in 2015 and was smitten, before also loving Highsmith’s very different but also fantastic Carol – which I am ashamed to say I have not reviewed from last year, 2016 really was a pesky pest. So with rather a lot of pressure I opened up the first page…

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Virago Modern Classics, paperback, 1960 (2016 edition), fiction, 320 pages, bought by myself for myself

It was jealousy that kept David from sleeping, drove him from a tussled bed out of the dark and silent boarding house to walk the streets.
He had so longed lived with his jealousy, however, that the usual images and words, with their direct and obvious impact on the heart, no longer came to the surface of his mind. It was now just the Situation. The Situation was the way it was and had been for nearly two years.  No use bothering with details. The Situation was like a rock, say a five-pound rock, that he carried around his chest day and night. The evenings and the nights, when he wasn’t working, were a little bit worse that the daytime, that was all.

Seriously, how could anyone fail to be hooked from the opening paragraphs of This Sweet Sickness? Without meaning to come over all English Professor on you all, let us dissect that opener. A man, David, is overcome with jealousy. Instantly I am intrigued, jealousy being a fascinating and wicked subject and emotion. He lives in a dark and silent boarding house, gothic setting instantly ticked. Then comes ‘the Situation’ but what on earth is it, what on earth is going on? You simply have to read more don’t you, you can’t not. Well, I couldn’t anyway.

What transpires after this opening, and it transpires quickly so this is by no means a spoiler, is that David is in love with Annabelle. Annabelle is a woman who merely a few years ago, back in their home town, he had pondered asking to marry – and many people believed would have said yes – that is until another man asked and she said yes to him. However, despite the fact that they have a child together, it is David’s belief that Annabelle will leave her husband and their true love will soon run smooth, okay so there might be a slightly annoying child involved, but he would still have Annabelle wouldn’t he?

Yes, this is when you realise that David might be slightly unhinged, further confirmed when you realise that despite his pretty decent job, David is living economically in that slightly gothic boarding house because he has bought (and decorated, just to add another level of madness) a house for himself and Annabelle for when she sees sense and leaves everything for him. Yes, David is deluded and possibly a bit bonkers. Gripping stuff right?

The leaves fell, brown and yellow, and others turned red and clung for weeks longer. It was the first of November, and still Annabelle has not answered his letter. Should he send her another letter, or had she gotten into trouble with one letter and was Gerald now pouncing on all the mail that came in?

What I loved so much about This Sweet Sickness is also what I loved about Deep Water, though delivered just as originally whilst very differently… The way she goes inside the mind of someone who has quite possibly lost theirs. Not only is it a fascinating portrait into the mind of someone quite sick (she referred to many of her creations as her beloved little psychopaths) yet she does so in a way that humanises them and some of the deeds that they may or may not commit. As we follow David, slightly ironically following Annabelle, we feel for him even though we know what he is doing is creepy and even when he goes too far.

In a small part this is also because Annabelle quite frankly is a bit of a psycho-tease. As the novel went on I found her wet and insipid responses quite pathetic and questioned if actually it was adding some spice to her and her husband’s relationships. Anyway, I digress. If I was her I would have told him to absolutely do one, but that wouldn’t have made for novel, more a piece of flash fiction. Yet the main reason for us feeling for David when we probably (ha, definitely) shouldn’t, is that Highsmith somehow manages to make us empathise with him. After all haven’t we readers all fallen for someone who we thought loved us back but didn’t? Erm, yes. Haven’t we all become slightly besotted with someone we shouldn’t? Erm, yes. Haven’t we all deluded ourselves that the one doesn’t know they are the one and so we buy a house we don’t live in but decorate how we imagine the one would want us to even though they don’t know about it and might not want to live in their too? Erm… just David then. But in other ways many of the things David has done we have done too, just slightly less extremely and I think that is where Highsmith’s true power lies.

She can also write a downright gripping and addictive plot. Chapters just long enough. As sense of impending dread that gets larger as you read on. Twists coming when you least expect them. And the ear, or eye, for a great main character who is flawed, nuts and yet you can’t get enough of and even sometimes like. She also knows how to add extra meat to the bone with a thriller, the plot and the main character aren’t enough and in This Sweet Sickness that comes in the form of an interesting friendship between David, his colleague Wes and Effie, a slightly lost young woman who I loved and felt deeply sorry for, which also becomes a slightly warped and strange love triangle all of its own.

I cannot recommend This Sweet Sickness enough; it is a thriller that should be up there with so many of the infamous classics it is quite remiss that it is not. As with Deep Water, which I also urge you to read, it has all the elements of a gripping thriller whilst being a fascinating insight into the darker parts of the human psyche. I know we get into the heads of some really warped characters in crime fiction right now, but never in the way or on the same level as we do in a Highsmith, all the more eerie as we sometimes empathise with it. Simply writing this review has made me want to run and take another of the shelves.

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Filed under Books of 2017, Patricia Highsmith, Review, Virago Books, Virago Modern Classics

Resolutions for 2017

In an attempt to break with tradition and also give a little more personal insight I thought I would share all of my resolutions with you for 2017. I did mention in a previous post (where I was seeing the New Year in by the seaside) that I am not someone who strikes those who know me as the resolution type, and they would be right really as to be honest I see these more as guidelines. Clearly we can see tangents are not something I am resolute against in 2017, where were we? Oh yes, sharing my resolutions guidelines for the forthcoming year with you all. Personal wise, reading wise and blogging wise. Right…

Excuse the cheesy image, but I didn't know what else to use.

Excuse the cheesy image, but I didn’t know what else to use.

Personal Guidelines

  • Free up more time, ‘real’ time – I am quite busy. I have a full time job, I also consult for Orion, I also blog, booktube and podcast. I also spend far too much time faffing around on the internet with apps and other shenanigans on my phone when I could be a) reading and/or b) doing real things in the real world with real people. So this year I want to free up more ‘real’ time, with less time on the internet and slightly less of my ‘scheduled reading hours’ (I have told you about those haven’t I?) and do real things which means…
  • Stop procrastinating and be more organised – I am the world’s worst procrastinator. I mean it has taken me until the 4th to actually type up my new year’s resolutions, says it all. Less faffing and waffling about will mean I can have more of the time and be…
  • Doing more things – By ‘things’ I mean travelling, weekends away, walking in the countryside, going to events and concerts, having guests to stay (that was the whole idea of a bigger house) and just doing more of all the things. I am planning a spring break, either another all inclusive like Cyprus last year or a week in America for my birthday (35, jeez) and then off to Japan and Thailand in September fingers crossed. It doesn’t have to be grand though, trips to galleries and museums and all that sort of stuff too please. All the culture please. Good for my brain and my…
  • Wellbeing and health – After being diagnosed with Dercums last year I am more aware than ever of my health. I have been aware for a while that less Mars bars and more stairs might be the attitude I should take, it is good for the body and the brain, and so I am heading back to the gym next week. I also want to do more walking, here there and everywhere, I have loved going on walks all over Christmas and the new year so more of that please.
  • More reading time – I know I said I was thinking of having less ‘scheduled reading time’ but this is also to break the habit that I have of reading in big stints and just reading whenever and wherever. Which leads onto…

Reading Guidelines

  • Read by whim – I have started to plan and plot what I read too much and I think this is in part what made me have a more ‘meh’ reading year last year and read less. So far this year I have picked up what I want as whim dictates, even stopping one book ten pages in yesterday to flit to one of the Costa Book Awards category winners. Fickle and whimish but it was the right choice, I am reading like a demon.
  • Read older books – I don’t just mean the classics, though I would like to read more Bronte this year. I am talking about authors back catalogues; I have loads of favourite authors whose backlists I am ignoring. I also want to start a few authors from the very beginning and work my way through their books in order, Sarah Moss and Helen Oyeyemi,  I am coming for you.
  • Diversify my reading even more – non fiction, graphic novels and poetry could all do with a little more work from me, short stories I am getting addicted to since I started reading more. I would like the same here.
  • Books set in Japan and the rest of Asia – as I am off there later in the year I would like to read all about this part of the world in all the genres. This includes Manga, recommendations of where to start welcome.
  • Own voices – I am still getting to grips with the ‘own voices’ discussion going on in the book sphere, however I am all for it and would like to make sure I am reading more own voices works. So those are my guidelines there, finally…

Blogging Guidelines

  • Find a better balance – I have noticed with blogging I either do it all the time for week and months or I am really patchy, this has admittedly been more in the last year or two (maybe since Gran died actually when my flow was as broken as I was) I would like to get an even keel. I don’t want to be reading to blog, I just want to blog what I read. Same for booktube and podcasting. Real life and reading come first, the blog will be the retellings and the rewards of all that lovely stuff.
  • Have a random schedule – yep, I know this sounds like a complete contradiction but what I would like to do ideally is have two or three posts a week, it might not always be possible but it would be nice, maybe on a Wednesday, Friday and Sunday (with a bonus of Other People’s Bookshelves as and when I get them) maybe. Regularly irregular.
  • More unusual content – not sure what yet, am still thinking about it.
  • Keep on keeping on – simple as that. I love the blog and all the wonderful chats, friends and books it has brought me, so I want to carry one and keep having fun with it and enjoying it. As I said, simple as that.

Let me know what you think and if you have any suggestions and/or recommendations books, blogging and anything else wise. Blimey, that is  quite a list isn’t it?

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Blowing Away The Cobwebs of 2016 & Looking Forward to 2017

I am not exactly renowned for my traditions and rituals. In fact many people I know would imagine that I would say ‘oh come on it is just another day like any other’ or ‘you can make changes in your life at anytime you don’t need a special day’ when it comes to a New Year. However, there is something about a New Year that, well apart from it literally being new, really does chime with me as a time to rid yourself of the silly or stressful stuff, the negativity and just look forward to the forthcoming year and years ahead. Nothing quite does that like a bracing walk by the beach and for the last few years, since I lived near the sea really, that is exactly what I have done. And this year was no different.

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There really is something quite calming, mind clearing and freeing about simply wandering along the sand, the waves crashing in the distance, saying a ‘hello’ to strangers and their dogs and watching nature (there were lots of wonderful squeaking sandpipers everywhere)  before just being still and staring off into the distance and revelling in the moment.

It is also perfect for blowing the cobwebs, negativity and the like of a weird old year away. Quite literally with the winds the way they were.

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So today, as you can see, I took part in that ritual again. Where I had a bit of an unwind in the freezing sea winds (and mini sandstorms which took me by surprise and made fellow passersby laugh with my squeals that competed with the sandpipers) said goodbye to the old, hello to the new, contemplated my resolutions – of which there are quite a few, more on those soon – and then just stopped. Something I rarely do. I just stopped and took it all in, thought how bloody lucky I am and how we can all be responsible for the future and our futures, we just have to appreciate it and work on it and try not to take too much shit. It isn’t always easy, things can be crap, but we need to celebrate what we do have, quit grumbling and act on it, making every moment count.

It is time to simply look forward. So here’s to 2017… again.

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P.S I know this had nothing to do with books and that is probably why you are here. I just felt the need to jot these possibly nonsensical and rambling thoughts down, after all this was always meant to be a diary of sorts. You don’t just come here for the books do you? Hahaha. Course you do.

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