Category Archives: Gregory Maguire

Simon’s Bookish Bits #4

Hello, hope you are all well? I sadly have the lurgy so this is a bit of a late bookish bits from my bed where I can have a ramble on about lots of different bookish things that have been on my mind or caught my eye this week. Things coming up are Wallander, book winners, podcasts and vlogs and some more sympathy supplies from publishers. Plus possibly a few other bits and pieces.

First up, and I am probably really behind with this subject, is Wallander. I am sure most of you have heard about this series by Henning Mankell and have also probably read most of them. I am officially late to this Swedish crime series; however as I have a spectacular lurgy this week I have been watching more catch up TV than I have been reading books. (I have devoured some more short stories and a small book plus Jasper Fforde – ok I have been reading less than normal.) One series I came across was the BBC’s version of Wallander played by Kenneth Branagh (pictured below) which you can see on iPlayer.

Wallander... cleary a man who doesn't get hayfever!

Wallander, cleary a man who doesnt get hayfever!

It is absolutely superb, I only watched The Man Who Smiled as I have Faceless Killers on the TBR and am now about to get cracking on reading it before I watch it. I am sure many of you have read it and will be able to tell me where to go after Faceless Killers which I am sure I will be discussing next week in more detail, so don’t give any plots away please.

So next up Podcasts and Vlogs. I am new to Vlog’s and know of only one blogger who does them and its one of my other favourite posts each week which is Eva of A Striped Armchair and her weekly library loot. I have to add I wish my local library was as wonderful as hers as the titles she gets are just marvellous. You must have a watch of her Vlog’s (the latest can be found here) as they are utterly charming and in watching them you get to know Eva even better. I couldn’t do a Vlog I have to say the camera does not flatter me. I would love to make podcasts though I have no idea how do any of you? Do any of you have any Podcast recommendations as I have been bereft since Radio 5 stopped doing there’s, even if I still have Mariella on a Sunday and World Book Club.

Speaking of Podcasts I have found a wonderful new Podcast this week thanks to Mee who had written about it in one of her past blog posts. It is called Books on the Nightstand and is by Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman who work for Random ‘but don’t only talk about our publishers books’. Its marvellous and its like you are overhearing a conversation of two friends over a coffee nattering away about books they have read and loved. You can (and should) download them here and read their blog they are just brilliant from the latest books to ‘challenges on blogs’ they discuss it all. Marvellous!

Now finally an update on the BBB, so far so good but then I have been in bed most of the week. One thing thats been a delight while I have been feeling vile is that I have had rather an influx of books as some lovely publishers have sent me some sympathy parcels. I have had to take a picture on the stairs as there has been rather a wonderful deluge of books here. I did try and put them in publisher order but with all the different sizes it didn’t work. So before I list them all too you a big thanks to Canongate, Orion, Random House, Headline, Penguin, Faber, OUP, Constable and Robinson and Bloomsbury for these. Here they are;

  • The Blasphemer – Nigel Farndale
  • City Boy – Edmund White
  • The Unnamed – Joshua Ferris
  • The Help – Kathryn Stockett
  • Lost – Gregory Maguire
  • Dog Boy – Eva Hornung
  • A Life Apart – Neel Mukherjee
  • Wedlock: How Georgian Britain’s Worst Husband Met His Match – Wendy Moore
  • God’s Own Country – Ross Raisin
  • Shadow – Karin Alvtegen
  • A Lion Among Men – Gregory Maguire
  • Direct Red – Gabriel Weston
  • Depths – Henning Mankell
  • The Chalk Circle Man – Fred Vargas
  • Cutting For Stone  – Abraham Verghese
  • The Complete Short Stories – Oscar Wilde
  • Consolation – James Wilson
  • The Rapture – Liz Jensen
  • A Kid For Two Farthings – Wolf Mankowitz
  • Miss Hargreaves – Frank Baker
  • Love’s Shadow – Ada Leverson
  • Mrs Tim of the Regiment – D.E. Stevenson
  • Timoleon Vieta Come Home – Dan Rhodes
  • Anthropology – Dan Rhodes
  • Little Clapping Hands – Dan Rhodes

As ever if you have read any of the books or the authors let me know your thoughts. Ooh I nearly forgot… The Istanbul competition winner is… Michelle aka Su(shu) do email me your address! If you haven’t won don’t be disheartened as I have some more giveaways related to some of the above titles coming up (I like you all to benefit too) and some I haven’t mentioned! So keep your eyes peeled.

So that’s all from my sneezy wheezy sick bed for today. Let me know your thoughts on Wallander, the latest arrivals at Savidge Towers and details of any podcasts and vlog’s I am missing out on. Oh and if you know how to make podcasts do let me know! Over to you all, I look forward to your comments to cheer me up with this horrid lurgy.

Oh and another quick question as you guys are always helpful with things like this and I can’t work out which is better. Should I title these posts like this “Simon’s Bookish Bits: Wallander, Podcasts, Vlogs and Incoming” or simply “Simon’s Bookish Bits #5”? That would be as helpful as answers to all the above!

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Filed under Dan Rhodes, Edmund White, Gregory Maguire, Henning Mankell, Joshua Ferris, Kathryn Stockett, Neel Mukherjee, Nigel Farndale, Oscar Wilde, Simon's Bookish Bits, Wolf Mankowitz

As We Get To The End Of The Year…

So naturally I have started to go through what I think are the best books of the year which I will announce on the 30th of December, in the lead up and looking at other people blogs everyone is working out how many books they have read and by male or female authors like Simon Stuck in a Book. I liked this idea of as well as blogging your favourites of the year you do something a bit different too. However I thought of a few extra questions I would ask people, so here we go…

How many books read in 2008?
I think the one I am reading now will be the last one of the year as after that am reading Anna Karenina and don’t think could read that in less than three days and finish this one so “When Will There Be Good News” will be my 102nd book of the year beating last years 69.

How many fiction and non fiction?
In total 94 fictions and 8 non fictions.

Male/Female author ratio?

50 male and 52 female which really shocked me as I thought I had read much more books by women than men, odd.

Favourite book of 2008?
I have a pretty sneaky suspicion but you’ll have to wait until the end of the year!

Least favourite?
Midnight Cowboy by James Leo Herlihy was incredibly boring though I finished it, I didn’t finish Iain Pears ‘An Instance of the Fingerpost’. I also thought that ‘Son of a Witch’ by Gregory Maguire was poor; I don’t think anything he has done has been as good as ‘Wicked’ though. I refuse to mention Abby Lee. I was also underwhelmed by Emily Bronte sadly.

Any that you simply couldn’t finish and why?
I didn’t finish the aforementioned ‘An Instance of the Fingerpost’ just because after realising that I was going to have to read the same boring storyline four times from different people I gave up during the second. My Gran read this and struggled on through but said she wished she’d given up. The other was ‘Company of Liars’ by Karen Maitland which I really wanted to read but just wasn’t in the right mind frame for, maybe in 2009!

Oldest book read?
Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ which I thought didn’t live up to expectations at all.

Newest?
I have read a fair few new ones of which isn’t out until January, so a few pre-publication.

Longest book title?
I read quite a lot of long titled books such as any of the M.C. Beaton ‘Agatha Raisin’ novels but it was Mary Ann Shaffer’s ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ is officially the longest.

Longest and shortest books?
Nicola Barker’s ‘Darkmans’ was easily the longest; shortest I think is ‘The Tales of Beedle the Bard’ by J.K. Rowling.

How many books from the library?
None, which is shameful isn’t it!?

Any translated books?
‘The Reader’ by Bernhard Schlink, ‘Strangers’ by Taichi Yamada and ‘In The Miso Soup’ by Ryu Murakami.

Most read author of the year, and how many books by that author?
Stella Duffy, I managed to devour three of her books this year!

Any re-reads?
Not this year.

Favourite character of the year?
Julie Ashton the narrator of ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ just completely and utterly stole my heart this year, either her or Atticus from Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’.

Which countries did you go to through the page in your year of reading?
England and America through the ages, Italy, China, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, France, Africa, Afghanistan, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, The Netherlands, Guernsey, Mexico, post apocalyptic somewhere, and of course the land of Oz.

Which book wouldn’t you have read without someone’s specific recommendation?
‘The Reader’ by Bernhard Schlink.

Did you read any books you have always been meaning to read?
Five classics; Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’, Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’, Henry James ‘Turn of the Screw’ and John Buchan’s ‘The Thirty-Nine Steps’.

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Filed under Bernhard Schink, Emily Bronte, Gregory Maguire, Harper Lee, Henry James, Iain Pears, John Buchan, M.C. Beaton, Mary Ann Shaffer, Nicola Barker, Ryu Murakami

Great Expectations, Can Readers Expect Too Much?

After reading Son of a Witch and feeling rather let down by the whole novel, I wondered whether I was at fault. I wondered if maybe I had expected too much. Having loved its predecessor so much maybe I had hyped the new novel up far too much in my own head? I don’t think this is the case though, lets take another example of this shall we which we can compare and contrast this with.

Harry Potter. Last year saw the launch of the latest and last Harry Potter novel, and ‘Potter-Mania’ reached a whole new level with the final instalment. People had been guessing for weeks (months and years) would Harry die or survive? I wont spoil the ending for the very few of you who haven’t read it yet. The expectation of the novel was so high a large amount of people who I heard say ‘oh it was such a let down’ or ‘well I had guessed the ending and found J. K. Rowling’s ending below par’. She wouldn’t have been able to win either way. Now Harry Potter is a cult, a series of novels so popular with both adults and children it’s untrue. Was I disappointed by it? Slightly but only because I read the epilogue, if you have read it you might understand why, god this not giving things away is difficult.

Now Gregory Maguire’s novels have a following though not on such a grand scale The Wizard of Oz almost does. So I think I was fair in expecting a lot, I mean if you are going to write a prequel or prequels sequel to a classic tale you have to be bloody good, and Wicked was. However there are factors that a reader should take into consideration after they have read something they feel is poor or below what they expected. These could be…

1. Where you really in the right mood for that book? It’s all very well finishing off a crime novel and saying ‘oh I hated that’ when actually when you started you wanted a light read with some comedy. In that case can I please recommend the Agatha Raisin series by M.C Beeton? This collection hits both nails of crime and comedy firmly on the head every time, in my opinion.

2. Did you give enough of your concentration to the novel? I have been doing all the rehearsals for a Pantomime (don’t ask) so I admit I have been shattered whilst reading this and occasionally felt my concentration waver. This is a 50/50 relationship this writing and reading malarkey. A writer spends hours writing the thing, you should try and spend as much time and concentration on a novel as you can.

3. Did you take too long to read it? Now this sounds a silly question but think about it. If you love a book it’s very difficult to put down. If your not enjoying one you read it slower therefore prolonging what could be a kind of good book into a kind of boring one. This is all dependent on your reading habits, be they 30 minutes before bed when your kids/partner/cat gives you some piece, that 50 minute train/tube/bus journey, or be in a ten minute on the loo number.

4. Peer Pressure/Others Reviews? Now this isn’t applicable to me in this instance but should be mentioned. My Gran can be a nightmare she can rave about a book so much I will read it and find it soulless. She can also dislike and berate a novel I am going to read and I love it. (I am sure this will come up in more detail in another blog one day.) Did you read a glowing or poor review in your favourite store, magazine or paper that’s slipped into your subconscious?

These are all things to be wary of. Yes we should expect a lot from our literature, be it £7.99 in Waterstones or 99p in Oxfam you are spending your spare money but most importantly your spare time on these works and you should be getting something out of it. You need to remember, as the saying goes, sometimes ‘you get out of it what you give it’ at least I think that’s an old saying and not something I have just made up? You get the drift.

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Gregory Maguire, M.C. Beaton

Son Of A Witch – Gregory Maguire

I never really believed in the phrase over egging the pudding, I now feel that I can apply this to Son of a Witch the latest Gregory Maguire novel. One of my favourite books is ‘Wicked’ now also a successful award winning musical. What I loved about Wicked was its originality. It added such a clever twist to a very well known tale of Elphaba the wicked witch of the west before Dorothy lands in Oz and questions how wicked she really was.

Wicked was rare in the fact that, for someone who doesn’t generally like peoples sequels or prequels to novels, I got totally re-emerged into the wonderful world of Oz that I loved so much from The Wizard of Oz. So when this novel came out on import (even though it’s coming out in paperback in the UK very soon) I had to grab a copy, the US covers are so much better anyway.

So would I love Oz as much as I did the last time? Not really. This is the tale of Liir who could or could not be the son of Elphaba. It tells of how he is found in the desert and the journey that leads him there which includes a few faces from the past. I like Maguire’s writing style. Wicked had so much imagination and involved some wonderful story telling, everything I loved in Wicked seemed completely lacking in this novel. I wasn’t interested in the characters, sub plots or references to the tales of Oz that we know and love. I felt cheated. I do not claim to think I could have written this novel better, I am just saying that the magic of Oz seems to have worn off.

I have also read ‘Mirror, Mirror’ a retold version of Snow White and have to admit I find that a lacklustre retelling of the original fairytale, so maybe Wicked just ticked all my boxes. It has mystery, witches, talking animals and a real gothic and epic feel to it, sadly its ‘son’ falls flat on its face whilst learning to crawl. A disappointment, maybe I had too high expectations. Is this something a reader can be guilty of? That sounds like the next blog to me…

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Filed under Gregory Maguire, Headline Review, Review