Category Archives: Book Spree

A London Bookshop Crawl (and Why I Bought The Books I Did)…

I mentioned at the end of my literary London post on Thursday that I was very excited as I was off on a bookshop crawl around some of London with Gavin of Gav Reads and formerly my co-host on The Readers. Well we have done it, in fact we did it for most of Friday afternoon and I thought I would share it all with you because come on, let’s face it, we all love going on a really good bookshop. Even the rain in North West and Central London couldn’t put Gav and I off our strides (well once we found a shop selling umbrella’s) as we both took our wallets and some gift cards out for a battering…

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Now what the rain did put off was me taking any actual pictures of the outside of the bookshops because it was honestly pretty grey, bleak and a little bit dire outside, which only made these book havens all the better, so I didn’t take any pictures of them from the front so fingers crossed I can bring them all to life. I didn’t take any pictures inside either as I always think people will think I am taking a picture with my phone to go and buy it on some evil website cheaper, which is frankly unforgivable. Anyway…

First up was Foyles flagship store on Charing Cross Road where I had a meeting before and so seemed like the best meeting point. If you haven’t been to Foyles flagship store before you must, it is six stories of books, books and more books from childrens on the lower ground to textbooks on the fourth and everything in between, from fiction to music, magazines to plays, the list is endless. You can see it all here. Admittedly Gav and I had been in the day before and I had spotted my first purchase in advance, Scholastique Mukasonga’s Our Lady of the Nile which is currently on the The International Dublin Literary Award shortlist and stood out a mile because I had never heard of it before, so naturally it was the one I most wanted to read and had to be mine…

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We then headed in the mild drizzle to the tube as I had planned that we would head over to Notting Hill to three bookshops which I had never visited before but had heard all sorts of marvellous things about. The first was Book and Kitchen on All Saints Road which Jen Campbell has mentioned quite a few times on her vlog. We arrived, after having found a belated umbrella shop) rather like drowned rats but were instantly made to feel welcome by the staff and encouraged to get downstairs and get a coffee, in the really homely cafe, to shelter from the rain. We were both advised on specialist coffee’s depending on our caffeine tastes/requirements (Gav’s wanted something like rocket fuel, my request was more mild) before being given a guide that downstairs was children’s, young adult, travel, non fiction, coffee, food and crockery and upstairs was fiction, all of it has the wonderful feeling of being in someones home and being allowed to peruse their shelves and then buy one or two of their favourite books, it’s really lovely. We both left with grins on our faces and a book each in our hand’s. Gavin bought Sarah Ladipo Manyika’s Like A Mule Bringing Ice Cream To The Sun from newly established Cassava Republic Press which was recommended to us both highly and with such enthusiasm I nearly bought one too, as I had it at home already I went for The Hiding Place by Trezza Azzopardi…

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This is a book I have been hankering after for a while as I am going away with my friends Polly, Michelle and Dom to Cardiff next month for a weekend away and we like to read a book together set in or with links to where we are. The Hiding Place  tells the story of the six daughters of a Maltese family growing up in Cardiff through the eyes of the youngest, Dolores. Sounds really interesting and I had not yet got my copy so fate stepped in.

After a fond farewell from all the staff at Book and Kitchen we headed to Lutyens & Rubinstein on Kensington Park Road which is both a book shop and a literary agency in one building, Gav and I were secretly hoping to get scouted. As soon as I walked through the door I felt like I was back in America as the store has that feel of culture curated high fashion literature, if that makes any sense. What I loved here was that once you go down into the ground floor all the paperbacks there are a mixture of fiction and non fiction. Initially this threw me slightly but I was won over by the end as because it is a smallish collection of books (its a few thousand I am guessing so not that small) I was more engaged in the non fiction books than I might be elsewhere, which is why I left with a book that (peer pressure alert) Kim has reviewed on Reading Matters, Helen Garner’s This House of Grief which is a tale of a murder trial. I have a small grim fascination for true crime but I like it to be really well written and having read Helen Garner’s novel The Spare Room I have no doubt this is going to blow my socks off.

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We then took a small tour of Holland Park as we headed to Daunts, erm, Holland Park branch. I am a fan of Daunts and have visited the Marylebone store many a time, where you can find fiction by country as well as by author, which is rather exciting. There is the same sort of feel in Holland Park though it is more non fiction by country and fiction in author order. I already had my mind set on a few possibilities as I wanted to get a Daunts Books book in Daunts Books. Sounds confusing but really it is just me taking a long winded approach to saying they publish their own books. I mulled a few options before settling on K J Orr’s short story collection Light Box which I have been seeing lots of pictures of on social media, which as we all know is one of the best places to get a recommendation to head to a book store to buy.

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By this point we were quite hungry from all the perusing and headed back to town for a pizza and then a wander around Waterstones Piccadilly, because we both had Waterstones gift cards which were burning holes in our pockets. Thank you to my lovely team at work, who got me some vouchers for my birthday, I came away with these five gems.

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Waterstone’s Piccadilly is probably has one of my favourite laid out fiction sections as they have it by genre and by author but also by imprints and so you can find some wonderful indie imprints shelve or on display. This is why I left with the Penguin Modern Classic edition of François Mauriac’s Thérèse Desqueyroux, which I don’t even mind having a film cover because its a stunner; the Australian classic and newly reissued The Man Who Loved Children, by Christina Stead which is from a new imprint Apollo (part of Head of Zeus) as well as Will Eaves new book The Inevitable Gift Shop from indie imprint CB editions. I hadn’t heard of the Mauriac, the cover won me then the dark blurb sealed the deal. I saw Stead’s novel (which is HUGE) discussed on The ABC Book Club ages ago and it divided the panel so much I have been meaning to get it since and this edition is STUNNING. Will Eaves is my favourite author that I have never read. We all have those don’t we an author we just know we will love for some gut/supernatural/bizzare/random reason.

I also bought two books by authors I have read and loved. Beryl Bainbridge I discovered a while back and have read many books of, I have always wanted to read Harriet Said as it is set down the road from me in Formby and apparently there is frolicking in the sand dunes. Graham Swift is new to me after reading the wonderful, wonderful, wonderful Mothering Sunday earlier this year. There was a Swift display and Shuttlecock appealed because it deals with the ‘dead crime unit’ which won me over the moment I read it. So I managed quite a haul there.

This was when Gav and I said goodbye as he had a train to run for. I headed off to catch my bus  after a marvelous day and as I did realised I hadn’t bought Catherine Hall a thank you card for letting me stay, so I had to get one and which shop is my bus stop outside… Foyles. Somehow as I was in stationery I remembered I wanted to get Ta-Nehisi Coates Between the World and Me, a book written as a letter to the author’s teenaged son about the feelings, symbolism, and realities associated with being black in the United States. Coates recapitulates the American history of violence against black people and the incommensurate policing of black youth. I saw this all over the place in the States and like a dafty didn’t buy it so made sure I went and found it, as I did I passed another apt book I just couldn’t help getting too…

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Bookshelf by Lydia Pyne, part of the Object Lessons series from Bloomsbury. How could I not take a book about bookshelves of the bookshelf to take home to mine, all about bookshelves? It would have been a crime not to and don’t you pretend otherwise. I then hurried away from town and anywhere too close to anymore stores, feeling very happy with my loot.

What do you make of the books I bought and the reasons for buying them? What makes you buy a book? Which books have you bought recently AND have you read any of my purchases and if so what did you make of them? I would love to know answers to all those questions. Right, best do some reading…

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Books All Over The Underground (They Made Me Do It)

I am down in big London at the moment, which is becoming my second home at the moment, for lots of meetings. What has been lovely to see as I have dashed here, there and everywhere from meeting to meeting is how many adverts there are for books, and not just your usual suspects – you know the big dark thrillers aimed at men or the bright pink ones aimed at women commuters. Okay, maybe I am being slightly harsh, however the ones I have seen have shown books for the joys we know they are; a gift that keeps on giving, a lovely present someone will really get joy from, etc.

So well done Foyles…

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And well done The Folio Society…

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I blame you both for the amount of books that I have bought so far on this trip. I think I need to take shares in Foyles the way I am going. Though I actually popped into Persephone Books yesterday and had a wonderful shopping splurge, one of which was a gift for my lovely pal Polly who I met for lunch. Bookshops eh? I can’t be stopped.

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What is the latest book you bought for yourself and for someone else? I would love to know, because I am a nosey so and so.

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And I’m Back…

Though not quite back in the land of the living I am not far off, I don’t think. Jet lag has hit rather heavily since my return flight on which I got no sleep, so I spent all of Monday in an over tired fog. Yesterday was sorting everything out day after a corking twelve and a half hour sleep, which involved lots of shopping (because it was my first new job pay day, I bought one book which wasn’t even for me) and then sorting out of my luggage and loot. Here is my final collection of book haul from America… 

I think I did quite well with this nineteen strong haul! There’s some brilliant bargains, some random risks, some US only published chances, some gems I didn’t expect and two books I was bursting to buy. All in all a grand old haul. I will be telling you about them all over the next weeks, months and possibly years. Ha. I also came home to a small, select and brilliant bundle of parcels…

Today I have been back to work which has been a small effort as I have felt I have been behind a screen watching everything at a distance (my team were all so lovely to me about it) and at once point I thought I was seeing things at one meeting…

I wasn’t. I was just having a meeting that involved a Dalek. As you do. Can you see why I love my job?!? Now I am super shattered and am watching the semi final of the Great British Bake Off before going to bed with a book that probably going to terrify me more than any episode of Dr Who…

So what have you all been up to? What are you reading? What’s new? Let me know, or I will weep and being as overtired as I am that is quite likely!!!!

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I’ve Had Visitors…

I have just had the joy of my mother and my little brother coming to visit for a few days and it has been really, really lovely. The weather was amazing and so we headed to Crosby and Anthony Gormley’s statue (see below) as well as going to Formby which I had completely forgotten was where my Great Uncle Len and Great Aunty Betty used to live, and so where my mother spent quite a few summer holidays visiting as a girl. We had gone to see if we could see any red squirrels and after a serious bit of hunting we did in deed see… one. Yes, just the one but still one was better than none.

My mother, some random man and I

My mother, some random man and I

Of course my mother being my mother, there was a huge amount of book chat that went on. In fact at one point my mother said ‘I am so sorry but with all these books on all these shelves I find it very difficult to talk about anything else without staring at the shelves and talking about what I have and hadn’t read.’ It is at moment’s like this that I know we are really family, ha. I also managed some rather good book shopping as in Formby we played, with my brother and The Beard (whose mother met my mother for the first time this trip, eek) of course, the Charity Shop Challenge – who could get the best gift for someone else, chosen from a hat, for just a fiver! We all did very well, though I did most well at finding these bargains for myself…

Bargain book haul!

Bargain book haul!

It has been a wonderful few days. There is nothing quite like some quality time with family and fresh air, or indeed a cheeky charity shop haul, especially when you get some real gems. None of these were more than £2. I am thrilled with all of the above and they will feed my current need for some older fiction between my contemporary reads. What have you been up to recently? Got any book bargains at all? Have you read any of the books that I managed to get my hands on?

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Bear With…

Oh dear. This blogging malarkey. What has happened to it and I? The last few weeks have been a little bit bonkers (new job, the Green Carnation Prize 2014) and so when I have finished at work the last thing I have been feeling like doing is blogging.

I have appallingly, and more gallingly, been really slow on the uptake with reading, though I can report that this has recently suddenly come full force and I have a weekend of it planned (while the Beard is off working) this weekend and I am so excited.

The blogging will probably return in full this weekend too as I have been doing lots of thinking about it which always a good sign. Another good sign is that I have been binge bulk buying lots of exciting books (sometimes you need a new book – or three – you’ve chosen and are raring to read to get you back in the swing) which I have added to this very evening on the way home…

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So lots to be talking about soon! Though as I will be discussing tomorrow the end of the year is approaching scarily fast which always sends me into a book panic, more tomorrow. In the meantime what have you lovely lot been reading? Any gossip? And do keep your latest purchases or borrowings coming in, my bank balance hates it but I blooming love it!

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Second Hand Book Binge

There is always something nice about going to small towns or villages and having a good old nosey through their second hand book or charity shops looking for a bargain or two. I have noticed that in the bigger cities you tend to get more of the modern or contemporary books whilst in the towns and villages there is a wider range of treats to be had. This seemed the case when I extended a trip to do some shopping for Gran, as she had guests so wasn’t just left on her own, and I managed to pop to see what I could find in Matlock. Alas I didn’t find any Persephone books, as I was secretly hoping, but I did come away with all of these…

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I do like to read true crime now and again, though actually not as much as I think I do in my own head, and ‘The Killing of Julia Wallace’ by John Gannon seemed like the ideal find. Apparently this was ‘Liverpool’s most enigmatic and brutal murder’ that has remained unsolved since it happened in 1931. Now living so near Liverpool, on the Wirral, I have seen this book in lots of the ‘local interest’ sections of bookshops and so I snapped it up (with that ‘ooh I have a bargain’ feeling) there and then.

I had never heard of Tadeusz Borowski or his book ‘This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen’ but when I saw this Penguin Twentieth Century Classic that was partly what made me buy it. This book is actually a selection of accounts from Borowski himself from his time in Auschwitz as well as other people who survived and indeed those who didn’t but he witnessed or learnt the stories of. I have a feeling it is going to be a rather difficult read but one that I think I should experience if you know what I mean.

On a much lighter note, well that said its meant to have some very dark parts, next up is Patrick Gale’s ‘The Cat Sanctuary’. I picked this up for three reasons, firstly I seem to have rediscovered my love for Gale’s books after a few years absence and so want to get them all, secondly it is a tale of siblings torn apart which I always find an oddly compelling premise and thirdly because I am slightly worried I may end up becoming a crazy old cat man or turn this house into a cat sanctuary with the rate I have gained felines this year.

The next three books were all bought for the same reason… I love the authors but didn’t have copies of these books. Actually not quite true, my mother lent me her copy of Muriel Spark’s ‘The Only Problem’ and will want it back at some point so I thought I would pre-empt that. Speaking of my mother this edition of Margaret Atwood’s ‘Lady Oracle’ makes me think of her as most of my mother’s Atwood editions are these, I think now, rather brilliant bold 80’s editions. I think I have ‘The Edible Woman’ in the same cover edition too. As for ‘The White Company’, well you can never have too many short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as far as I am concerned and I loved this old edition – makes me think of what the books history might be.

Now you may be wondering why I didn’t include Susan Hill in my favourite author sweeping statement above, after all she is one of them. Yet this collection of ‘Ghost Stories’ is just that; a collection of spooky tales as selected by Susan Hill. I have to say I had no idea this book even existed but was thrilled when I spotted it and so it simply had to leave the shop with me.

Though all these books, and in particular John Gannon’s and Susan Hill’s, thrilled me as I found them I think that ‘Agatha Christie’s Murder in the Making’ was the one that had me doing a secret little jig of joy when I spied it. I thought that John Curran’s previous book on the Queen of Crime ‘Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks’ was wonderful when I read it (I reviewed it almost two years to the day) and I always meant to get my hands on this latest when it came out last year. So seeing this (and this was the most expensive of my purchases) for just £2 really thrilled me. I was so excited to see it that I didn’t look at any of the other books on the shelves in the final shop as I just wanted to escape with this find. I probably looked quite shifty.

All in all, for a whopping £5.25 I don’t think I did too badly, do you? Have you read any of these and if so what did you think? What are your thoughts on second hand books? I recently shockingly discovered that Gavin doesn’t like them! Is he mad? What are the best bargains you have found? I don’t think anything beats my Persephone haul as yet.

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Chorlton Bookshop & Charity Shops Galore

A few weeks ago I went on a trip to post flyers for Bookmarked in all the places that I could think of in South Manchester. There were two particular destinations I had in mind, the Oxfam Bookshop in Didsbury (which I have been in before and almost spent silly money) and the Chorlton Bookshop which is meant to be one of the finest independent bookshops in the country. I went and got a bus day-saver, the buses up here are something else cost wise honestly, and set about my journey and eventually found my destination…

Doesn’t it look like the shop in ‘Black Books’ from the outside? As you can see there was the dreaded/thrilling words ‘book sale’ on a sandwich board outside, and just peering in the window I knew temptation would be a possible issue. I haven’t seen these publisher specific display shelves in years (the books don’t actually correspond to the publishers but I like the look)…

So in I went and was instantly smitten by the fact they had comfy chairs and a fireplace, I covertly took pictures, in what is the children’s and non-fiction section, doesn’t it have a homely feel?

It also has a really impressive selection, especially for a smaller shop, of the latest fiction which I had a gander through and saw some books I wanted, but I am being very strict and only buying books if I am desperate for them – I did want to give them some business but hopefully some of you will dash there and spend oodles on my behalf. 

So what about the charity shops, oh dear I did cave in on a few ‘must buys’. I didn’t even have anyone with me egging me on. You see rather than get the bus to Didsbury and then straight to Chorlton after Oxfam wouldn’t put my poster up (because it wasn’t part of the charity, fair enough) was then wander all down Didsbury High Street (which has lots of charity shops), then get off at Withington to visit some more, and then found lots more in Chorlton-cum-Hardy itself. Mind you out of a whopping twelve charity shops I visited I only came away with four treats…

‘The Beekeeper’s Apprentice’ by Laurie R. King because all of you who know I love Sherlock Holmes have said I should try this spin of series (and I loved the cover), ‘Curriculum Vitae’ which is Muriel Sparks autobiography of sorts so how could I not, ‘The Child That Books Built’ by Francis Spufford a book about books I have been meaning to get for ages, and finally Stella Duffy’s ‘Fresh Flesh’ which is the fourth of her five (so far) Saz Martin crime novels and one I have been hunting down for ages. Hoorah.

So what was your last charity find? Have you discovered any local independent bookstore gems?

The Chorlton Bookshop sadly doesn’t have a website but you can find it at 506, Wilbraham Road, Manchester, M21 9AW its open Monday to Saturday from 9.30 – 5.30 do pop in if you can the staff are lovely.

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Wigtown, Scotland’s National Book Town – The Bookboy Reports

Wigtown is world renowned as Scotland’s National Book Town. You hear those words and frankly, if you love books as much as we all do, you feel like you might have died and gone to heaven, or you need to book a ticket and run there just as fast as you can. A while back The Bookboy was lucky enough to be taken up that way with his grandparents, and so went undercover to discover if this was a book lovers haven, or a town cashing in on book lovers everywhere, here is his report…

During the recent holidays, I went up to Scotland, and stayed in the county of Wigtownshire, which is home to Scotland’s national town of books, Wigtown. Throughout the course of the week, I had several opportunities to check out Wigtown, and take full advantage of the spending money I had to invest in a possible bulging carrier bag full of books.

We visited most of the bookshops in Wigtown, and found that quite a lot of them dealt in specialist books, but that a few were really good. Also, most of the staff in the bookshops were working on computers when we entered and did not even look up, which I thought was rather hostile. Anyway, I’ll go on to describe each bookshop we visited individually. First port of call was ‘The Book Corner’…

This bookshop was clearly a specialist bookshop, and you could tell just by walking through the door. It did have a quite big children’s section for a specialist bookshop, which was an added bonus. I managed to pick up a copy of Tanglewreck by Jeanette Winterson and Snake Dance by Anthony Horowitz, although they were £3.50 each, which was, I think, a bit of a rip off considering this was a second hand store!

The Old Bank Bookshop, which, sadly, I don’t have a picture of, was clearly another specialist bookshop, which mainly dealt in wartime diaries and historical volumes. However, I did manage to pick up a copy of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, with a classic cover, of which Simon is very envious! (Yes, I blinking am!)

Reading Lasses was, as it said on the leaflet, a shop that specialises in books about and by women. It also said that it was the only specialist women’s bookshop in the UK, but to be honest it wasn’t up to much, and I didn’t buy anything!

Byre Books, I’m afraid, also went down with a resounding no. The stock was out of date, even for a second hand book shop, and worse the woman there only answered our questions briefly, before her head swivelled back to her computer screen!

This bookshop, called ‘The Bookshop’ is the largest in Scotland, and boasts nine rooms, but the children’s section was, once again, well past it’s sell by date! Do bookshop owners not think children read books anymore I wondered?

The Creaking Shelves Bookshop (which is Simon’s favourite name for a bookshop yet) was well organised, had new, just published, and in some cases, children’s books, but they were still charging full price for them, so I didn’t indulge!

The Box of Frogs was by far the best for me, as it was a children’s specialist bookshop, and I picked up a couple of Alex Rider’s, including a signed copy of Eagle Strike for £2.50, Bargain Alert! I also picked up three old Doctor Who books for my friend, and as an added bonus the staff were lovely! In fact I was surprised overall just how unfriendly the staff were in a lot of these shops, you want friendly staff who want to help once you have meandered through all the shelves.

Altogether, I wasn’t too impressed with Wigtown, but if you happen to be in the area, and you love books its worth a visit. Maybe I just had too high expectations, but wouldn’t we all? Plus, I did come back with a book or two, or eleven. I just bought them from the friendlier stores. These books were…

  • The Alex Rider Series by Anthony Horowitz
  • Loser by Jerry Spinelli
  • The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Nightime by Mark Haddon
  • Tanglewreck by Jeanette Winterson
  • The Diary of a Doctor Who addict by Paul Magrs
  • The Da Vinci code by Dan Brown

Has anyone else been to Wigtown? What did you think of it? Did we just catch it on an off week?

Until next time, BookBoy out!

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March’s Incomings…

March has been a bumper month for books arriving at Savidge Reads new HQ and initially I wasn’t sure I should share them in case you were all appalled and disgusted. But… then I though well lots arrived for my birthday, lots arrived as get well parcels and I bought (and in some cases exchanged) quite a few of them and also March has proved a proof-tastic month with lots of books not out until the summer suddenly arriving. What I am going to do is simply list the books this month, marking out the proofs as I go. I haven’t included the books that I got for the Orange longlist as I did a separate post on those, nor have I listed the ones I have read and reviewed. So let’s start with the paperback and middle sized hardbacks/trades…

  • Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen by Marilyn Chin (Penguin)
  • The Once Was A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbours Baby by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (Penguin)
  • True Things About Me by Deborah Kay Davies (Canongate)
  • Hotel Iris by Yoko Ogawa (Vintage)
  • Ruby’s Spoon by Anna Lawrence Pietroni (Vintage)
  • Advice for Strays by Justine Kilkerr (Vintage)
  • Blue Heaven by C.J. Box (Atlantic Books)
  • Naming The Bones by Louise Welsh (Canongate)
  • My Last Duchess by Daisy Goodwin (Headline)
  • These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf (Mira)
  • The Godless Boys by Naomi Wood (Picador) – review coming very soon
  • There But For The… by Ali Smith (Penguin) – proof copy for summer
  • Irma Voth by Miriam Toews (Faber) – proof copy for summer
  • Saints and Sinners by Edna O’Brien (Faber)
  • Anatomy of Disappearance by Hisham Matar (Penguin)
  • The Alice Behind Wonderland by Simon Winchester (Oxford University Press)
  • The Possessed by Elif Batuman (Granta)
  • The West Rand Jive Cats Boxing Club by Lauren Liebenberg (Virago)

Blimey, now onto the big hardback books, which consist of over half that aren’t out till June/July which makes me feel a bit better…

  • Nothing To Envy by Barbara Demick (Granta)
  • To Be Sung Underwater by Tom McNeal (Abacus) – proof copy for summer
  • The History of History by Ida Hattemer-Higgins (Faber)
  • The Devils Mask by Christopher Wakling (Faber) – proof copy for summer
  • The Possessions of Doctor Forrest by Richard T. Kelly (Faber) – proof copy for summer
  • On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry (Faber) – proof copy for summer
  • My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira (Penguin)
  • What The Do In The Dark by Amanda Coe (Virago) – proof copy for summer
  • The Book of Lies by Mary Horlock (Canongate)
  • The Emperor of Lies by Steve Sem-Sandberg (Faber) – proof copy for summer
  • Lasting Damage by Sophie Hannah (Hodder)

Finally, I have succumbed to buying books again, and its all the fault of the local book exchange, the new charity shop, and my occasional second hand book hunts with Paul Magrs. I either bought these books or exchanged them, I shall give reasons why I got them…

  • Fraud by Anita Brookner – a read in the lead up to International Anita Brookner Day.
  • The Last Temptation & The Torment of Others by Val McDermid – because I have a new favourite crime writer and want to read them all during my hospital visits. They are the perfect recovery read.
  • The Scapegoat by Daphne Du Maurier – a rare Daphne find as I have almost all of them.
  • The Sign of the Cross by Colm Toibin – I love Toibin and this is non-fiction and travelogue which will be interesting.
  • The Penguin Book of Modern Women’s Short Stories edited by Susan Hill – It’s a collection of lots of lady authors by one of my favourite lady authors, perfect pre-Womans Word Literary Festival reading.
  • Dancing Backwards by Salley Vickers – I want to read all her books this is her latest novel.
  • Talking Heads by Alan Bennett – I have wanted to read this for years and years
  • Rude Britannia by Tim Fountain – sounded hilarious and rather like something Mary Roach would do.
  • One Extra Large Medium by Helen Slavin – I am quite obsessed by mediums and all things spooky and it was short.
  • A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry – been told by everyone and everyone I should read this and is the first World Book Night book I have found.
  • Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann – you have all said I must read this and so I now shall, its also playing a part in ‘Reading With Authors’ more on that soon.

There I am looted out. If you have read any of these or anything by the authors (especially with the first two lots of books as I know very little about most of them) then do let me know. I best get off here and get reading hadn’t I?

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This Could Be A Dangerous New Book Haunt…

As I was walking along the high street at the weekend I spotted a sign that made me stop in my tracks, a new charity shop was opening and it simply said ‘Bookshop Opening March 21st’. Due to a pesky hospital visit I couldn’t go yesterday, you can imagine my annoyance I’m sure, and so this morning (armed with lots to donate) off I went and discovered endless shelves of joy…

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Well I simply had to take a look through while my gift aid account was sorted didn’t I? I actually proved rather restrained, nothing to do with the fact that I only had £5 in my wallet, and only came away with four books…

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The Nicola Beauman book was a pure destiny find (when this happens I always think that I am exactly where o should be in life, is that just a me thing) as I am on a panel with her in June discussing women’s fiction and this is all about the woman’s novel from 1914-1939 so will be just the job. I carried on a Virago binge with Elizabeth Taylor’s ‘Angel’ and a rogue novella purchase of ‘Ellen Forster’ by Kaye Gibbons. Finally swooped of the shelves was Julia Darlings ‘The Taxi Drivers Daughter’ which I had been annoyed at myself for not buying in another charity shop a few weeks ago!

So a lovely loot, and my birthday (only 2 days to go) treat to me. I’ll just have to try not to go there too often, it’s on the way to the library which could prove hard work to resist!

Have you read any of these? What charity gems have you found of late?

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The Highs of Hebden Bridge & Heptonstall (A Book Crawl in Yorkshire)

Before I take you on a virtual tour which includes beautiful countryside, several book shops, Sylvia Plath’s final resting place and an impressive book loot, I just want to say a huge thank you for all the comments, emails and texts I got yesterday after I told you of the latest with my health. It was lovely to have all your thoughts and meant a lot. Anyway before I get any mushier let me tell you about a wonderful day out I had on Tuesday which was something of a destination lottery as it turned out.

Wanting to do something to keep me occupied before ‘results day’ on Wednesday myself and the lovely Paul Magrs decided we would head to the train station and pick a random destination to head to for some kind of bookish adventure. And what a lovely station it was that we chose, you know how I love my Victoriana…

As soon as we stepped inside I had a good feeling that we would have a great day for books and adventure when I saw this wonderful old signage from the original station…

We decided we would get the next train which happened to take us into the Yorkshire Dales with Hebden Bridge as its destination. With a lovely M&S sandwich selection (which Paul rather took the mickey out of me for) and some nibbles we got onto a train that looked like it should be sat on a snowy peak and be taking us off to the top of the alps. Instead it took us as far as Todmorden where we sneakily got off (sometimes you need to stop and hop off along the way)…

Paul had raved about a wonderful bookshop that was housed there; unfortunately it seemed that like most of Todmorden on a Tuesday it was closed… which was rather unimpressive, did they not know we were coming? Oh no, they didn’t. We did pop into several charity shops though before both grabbing a corned beef pasty (I might also have had a gingerbread man) which we ate by the canal…

Soon enough though we headed off to Hebden Bridge which has one of the most wonderful train stations I have scene, its literally like going back in time…

Again, sadly the independent book shop here was also closed on a Tuesday (maybe we should have said we were coming) it looked a corker too…

We did visit a marvellous remainder book shop…

In which I found an absolute gem I could have walked away with about five books from this store but I was incredibly restrained, well ok I was restrained because we had visited every charity shop going in Hebden Bridge and had already got a corking seven books in my bag. Which meant rather than walk all the way to the peak point of Heptonstall I begged to get a bus, which was driven by the happiest bus driver I have ever had the pleasure of meeting – he drove us back down too rather like a taxi service), and came to the stunning derelict Heptonstall church which either got struck by lightening or was bombed, I need to look it up…

It honestly was incredibly haunting and rather spooky. It has stayed with me since and seems to have got my creative juices flowing, I have been scribbling away in my notebook ever since seeing this…

Before we left we went and, after rather a lot of searching, found the final resting place of Sylvia Plath, I was rather surprised by her grave to be honest I think I expected something more showy or extravagant. Instead was a rather understated grave in the middle of a simple hidden church yard…

Paul and I then had a rather interesting, if slightly sacrilegious, discussion on the way back down with the jolly bus driver as to whether ‘The Bell Jar’ (which is the only Plath that I have read, I am not so good with poetry) would have been quite so successful if Sylvia hadn’t died early? All in all it was an amazing bookish day. Oh of course… you will want to know what books I came away with. So without further ado…

  • Murder At The Laurels/Murder in Midwinter/Murder in Bloom by Lesley Cookman – you may have noticed in the last few hauls I have managed to get almost all the Libby Sarjeant series. I will be tucking into these soon.
  • Dewey by Vicky Myron – I am actually rather cross with myself for buying this but it’s become a rather’in’ joke with Paul and I and for 50p I couldn’t hold back. A book about a library cat, I have an awful feeling that like ‘Marley & Me’ I will love this and be ever so slightly disgusted with myself.
  • Eating For England by Nigel Slater – I almost squealed when I saw this after LOVING ‘Toast’ earlier in the year.
  • This Is Not A Novel by Jennifer Johnston – You don’t see Johnston’s books very often in second hand shops and I do like her style and prose a lot plus I loved the title, so in the bag it went.
  • The House of Mitford by Jonathan Guinness – This was the bargain I found in the discount store, it was the most expensive purchase of the day at a whopping 3.99 but it’s normally over a tenner, its about The Mitfords which is themost important factor and is normally quite hard to get hold of – hoorah!
  • Fear The Worst by Linwood Barclay – I can’t deny that I am having a real ‘Savidge Reads Crime’ phase and I really liked the first Linwood Barclay ‘No Time For Goodbye’ so even though I haven’t read the one between these I picked this up anyway.

What an ace bookish day it was. Books, Sylvia Plath, adventures in the dales, and stunning locations. No wonder we had to have a drink afterwards in central Manchester to calm ourselves down. Have you visited Heptonstall? Read any of the books that I picked up? When did you last go on a random book haul trawl and where?

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A Peak Book Buying Binge

I know I said I’d not post too many ‘books in’ posts BUT I seem to have had my first severe book buying binge since my year of not buying books. So I thought I should share it with you!

I have been in Matlock, for a little break, for less than 48 hours so far and my book buying had had a little ‘Matlock Meltdown’ as I have been on a slight book binge through the second hand shops and even, oh dear you may judge me, Sainsbury’s and am the proud owner of 6 new books!!!

I know that supermarket book buying is sometimes deemed a crime but they had 2 for £7 and I had turned up with three books I didn’t really fancy reading just at the moment and their was the first in the series, well that has been translated at least, of Jo Nesbø’s books and I’ve wanted the Catherine O’Flynn for ages, hang on let me share a picture of my spoils…

Murder on the Green – Lesley Cookman
Murder by the Sea – Lesley Cookman
My Judy Garland Life – Susie Boyt
The News Where You Are – Catherine O’Flynn
A Darker Domain – Val McDermid
The Redbreast – Jo Nesbø

I’m holding some of you responsible because of your feedback on McDermid and Nesbø the other day! I had to buy the Lesley Cookman books because I have been promising myself a read of them since Lesley was my co-judge on last years Green Carnation Prize Panel! Oh and the Susie Boyt book has been recommended to me sooo many times by those who know how much I ridiculously love the Wizard of Oz (I have dish cloths and all sorts) and Judy too! I wonder if I should write ‘My Doris Day Life’? Anyway I digress…

Have you read any of these and if so what did you think? Did I take a book buying binge a little too far?

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The Book Buying Ban… The Update

So I haven’t bought a book since the end of October when I had a bit of a haul that I reported to you guys on a week later. I have to say that I can’t really moan about how difficult it has been because the main way through the issue so far has been being very busy and most of all… Avoidance!!!

Yes I admit I have not really been in many bookshops or charity shops (I know, it’s not normal) but there have been opportunities such as a visit to Foyle’s waiting for a late friend. Then there is the weekly Sainsbury’s shop with its tempting best sellers section (though one was bought for me while we were in there the other day) yes the answer for me has been avoidance. What has been promising though, if I do give up buying books for charity next year, has been that still books have been arriving (despite the woes of the flood) in some abundance in the last week or so thanks to the library, swapping and publishers.

Despite the fact that I have been reading some corkers and then been sulking at having to give them back I am still using the library much, much more than I was. It’s the perfect way of trying out authors or publishers (as you will see) that I am interested in and getting my mitts on books you have recommended.

  • The Boat by Nam Le – So many of you recommended this how could I not pick this up? I think I am going to love it.
  • The Tragedy of the Korosko by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – I am the biggest Sherlock Holmes fan but had never heard of this, not that it’s Holmes, and it’s a Hesperus book which is a publisher I must read more of since Lady Into Fox.
  • A Dog’s Heart by Mikhail Bulgakov – Want to read some of this author, never have and like the idea of a beast created by mixing a stray dog and a criminal. Sounds gothic and dark and is also Hesperus Press.
  • Betrayal by Marquis de Sade – Another author I want to try and a short Hesperus I can dip into.
  • Girl in the Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold – Long listed for the Man Booker and sounds a little sensational.
  • The Drivers Seat by Muriel Spark – After reading The Girls of Slender Means lots of you recommended this.
  • Wedlock by Wendy Moore – Some non fiction about ‘how Georgian Britain’s worst husband met his match’, sounds fabulous.
  • The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter – Loads of you have said I should try this and after Atwood’s Good Bones I want to try some more twisted fairy tales.
  • Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym – Again many of you have raved about Pym and I have not tried one of her books.
  • The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri – Yet again through your recommendations of the author. So all these are basically your fault, and if you are getting bored of lists it’s your fault too.

I have also re-activated my Read It Swap It account again and used my unwanted books to get books I really wanted. Ok it costs a bit for postal… that’s not buying books though is it and I have got some gems.

  • The Spy Game by Georgina Harding – Has been on my wish list an age.
  • Birds of America by Lorrie Moore – As am trying my hand at shorter fiction and short stories have heard Moore is the queen of this. Is that so?
  • Perfect Happiness by Penelope Lively – After the review at Other Stories how could I not want to read this?
  • Hotel World by Ali Smith – I actually gave this one away on Read It Swap It ages ago… why?
  • A Partisan’s Daughter by Louis De Bernieres – After loving Notwithstanding I am keen to read much more from this author.
  • Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian – So many of you told me this was a must read when I asked about Asian fiction.
  • The Little White Car by Danuta de Rhodes – Or actually by Dan Rhodes who’s Gold I love, love, loved and this sounds a wonderful tale of some crazy capers of two ladies.
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt – After swapping this I realised already had it but this is actually a much nicer copy with bigger type and that can matter can it not?
  • Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xialong – Another Asian author recommended after I read the latest Xiaolu Guo novel.
  • The Provincial Daughter by R.M. Dashwood – I am about to read The Provincial Lady and so reading about the daughter after might be fun, have heard great things about both from you all.
  • The Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie – Well I like reading books in order and this was the one I was missing and one which Eva said was one of her favourites.

Phew, that’s a bit of a barrage of book titles and some of my Read It Swap It’s haven’t arrived yet. I was going to add in the books received from publishers but think you might all be asleep if I do that so will follow up with part two later in the week. As ever your thoughts on my latest arrivals are most welcome and I will be delighted to hear what you think.

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Could This Be The Last Book Binge?

Now this is going to be the last pile of books that I have bought you will be seeing for a while as I have decided to now officially test myself and see how long I can go without buying a book. There are a few reasons for this. The main one (at the moment) is that I am seriously considering, and I have mentioned this a few times of late, seeing if I could manage not to buy a single book in 2010. Pick your jaws up off the floor, or the pages of your book, I am being quite serious. Could I spend a year not buying any books at all? At the moment I am in the ‘yes I could’ camp, mind you shortly you will see a picture that will make you all say ‘pah… as if’.

There are two more factors one of which has been watching Verity of The B Files curbing, well actually stopping, her spenditure on books which is making for really interesting reading and she is doing amazingly well. The other factor is my own binge spending knows no limits; as can be shown by the array of books I came back with from the north last weekend. Do note I didn’t spend more than 50p on a single book in fact most of them were 25p. That’s what I love about it up home in the north everything is cheaper even the second hand shops. It also illustrates why it’s best I don’t live there. As you will see though every book had a reason for being bought…

The Final Book Binge?

  • The Story of Lucy Gault – William Trevor (Gran keeps telling me its his best)
  • The Ghost Road – Pat Barker (I like paperbacks normally but this Man Booker winner I never find and like the Trevor above was 25p for a hardback)
  • Surfacing – Margaret Atwood (I love this green Virago edition)
  • The Tortoise and the Hare – Elizabeth Jenkins (everyone’s recommended it to me)
  • The Body of Jonah Boyd – David Leavitt (really hard to get hold of new which I have been wanting to for ages)
  • Instances of the Number 3 – Salley Vickers (am planning a Vickers binge)
  • Dubliners – James Joyce (no luck with Ulysses lets try this)
  • Incendiary – Chris Cleave (meant to get this from publishers but Royal Mail strikes mean it’s gotten lost and if does turn up I can do a giveaway, I also loved The Other Hand)
  • Queens – Pickles (this is an out of print book that came out in the 80’s and describes the underground gay scene in London and the secrecy is also very, very funny apparently)
  • After You’d Gone – Maggie O’Farrell (have been wanting to read more of her since The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox which was superb)
  • Mr Golightly’s Holiday – Salley Vickers (another one for the Vickers binge)
  • Gigi & The Cat – Colette (an author always wanted to read)
  • To Love & Be Wise – Josephine Tey (want to read one Tey book before start Nicola Upson’s books where Josephine is the main character)
  • The Blessing – Nancy Mitford (just because it’s Nancy Mitford need I say more?)
  • A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry (several people have said this is one of their favourites)

Now in total this book binge came to the whopping price of £4.75!!! An utter bargain, but then I have to think actually in reality how long will it take me to read all these fifteen books? It’s that which makes me think maybe, just maybe, I should try and not buy anything next year. After all I get review copies in the post so that’s latest books covered, there is always the library which I am using more often now but not making the most, plus I do own over 600 books I haven’t read. There are also gifts and swaps. As the picture below demonstrates…

Gifts and Swaps

Only at book group on Thursday did Kimbofo give me a copy of David Vann’s ‘Legend of A Suicide’ which I have been really hankering after. Novel Insights sent me a surprise gift copy of The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbit from Amazon after she saw I had loved Tuck Everlasting. Also through ReadItSwapIt I have rid myself of some books I thought were duds but other people wanted and gotten Salt and Saffron by Kamila Shamsie and, another book for the Salley Vickers binge, Where Three Roads Meet. So could this be the very last book binge? Well I cant say for definate as if I am not to buy a book throughout the whole of 2010 I may need one final mass binge to see me through. For now though let’s just see how the rest of November goes and if I can manage that small amount of time!

Have you been on a book binge of late? Are you under a book ban? How do you cope with the guilt after a binge, if you have any, or the restraint a ban takes? Have you read any of the above? Have you any advice for me? Should I try a year with no book buying?

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