Category Archives: John Connolly

The Gates – John Connolly

Though I have never read any of John Connolly’s crime and mystery fiction but I am a huge fan of ‘The Book of Lost Things’ which a friend recommended to me for being a wonderfully warped adult fairytale and it was. This was during pre-blogging days which is a shame as I could rave about that until the cows come home; maybe it’s another book to add to my never ending list of re-reads? So when I saw that ‘The Gates’ was another slightly fantasy and supernatural based book I simply had to read it. I probably would have if I hadn’t read any Connolly as the cover is a delight to behold.

Imagine you are just out walking your dog at the end of your street and there is some huge bang coming from number 666. You go to investigate and find that some of your neighbours have been a little bit bored one afternoon and decided to open up another dimension and the gates of hell? What on earth do you do? This is the situation that school boy Samuel Johnson finds himself in three days before Halloween when he goes out ‘showing initiative’ to do some early trick or treating with his sausage dog Boswell.

As no one believes him it seems that only Samuel can save the world from the evil Mrs Abernathy, or what has possessed the body of the originally not too nice Mrs Abernathy, and her mission to bring ‘The Great Malevolence’ and all his followers to turn earth to ash and dust. Fortunately the portal also brings up the demon called Nurd, who has been banished from several parts of hell for not joining in with evil doings, who becomes an unlikely comrade for Samuel and a very funny one.  

The book is a gripping adventurous romp from start to finish with heaps and heaps of funny moments, I laughed out loud twice and giggled at several points. I thought Mrs Abernathy was a brilliant villain and all the demons where brilliantly described you could just envisage them. I was slightly concerned when I started reading as there were footnotes in the book. I have to say footnotes annoy me normally but these ones make you laugh. In parts the book can be quite scientific and so through these humorous footnotes certain parts of physics and chemistry seem to become really easy to understand and I do not have a chemist/physicist mind as my science teaching step-father would happily vouch for, he taught me these at school. 

Whereas John Connolly’s previous fantasy (I use that term loosely) novel ‘The Book of Lost Things’ was an adult book that teenagers could enjoy ‘The Gates’ is very much a book aimed at teenagers that will love it and adults who will love it even more so. It seems some kind of serendipity or blogendipity if you will (or maybe just timely) that after writing about my favourite children’s books yesterday I should be posting about a book that very much appealed to the inner child in me.

If you like a very well written escapist thrill then you will love this book as I did. I am quite pleased to know that I still have more of Connolly’s supernatural and scary tales to go as there is a seven story collection called Nocturnes which I am now absolutely desperate to read (is that a big enough hint?) I am intrigued about his crime mysteries and may look at those in the future too. Would you recommend his crime what is it like? Have you read any of Connolly’s work? If you haven’t do give this a whirl.

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Filed under Books of 2009, Hodder & Stoughton, John Connolly, Review

Simon’s Bookish Bits #1

So it’s already Saturday once more and I thought I would do another Simon’s Bookish Bits (thanks for all your votes and comments last week) featuring all things bookish that has caught my eye this week. I have to admit I haven’t really been whizzing around the blogs too much over the last week and I blame Gran for that completely, ha, that will get me in trouble.

I have created a new blog though! After having a chat with Kimbofo, who I founded a book group with, we decided that a separate site for The Riverside Readers would be good (my page is looking a bit barer now) and you can pop here and check it out, do feel free to leave feedback over there. I think its nice giving it its own space as it’s out there for everyone in its own right rather than a page on Savidge Reads.

What I have seen on the blogs that have caught my eye are delights such as the link which Thomas at My Porch put up so you can create your own blue plaque and waste a good few hours, lovely! I also thoroughly enjoyed Simon Stuck-in-a-Book’s post on children’s books which I will be doing my own special post about on Tuesday. That doesn’t seem much to report but I do have some serious blog reading catching up today.

I have once more managed to go to a book shop and spend absolutely no money at all. This week it was quite worrying and also shameful as it was at Persephone Books on Lambs Conduit Street. I think I was overwhelmed by all the titles and just being there. I wish I had known of this shop when I worked on Gray’s Inn Road even though it would have meant I would never have had any money. I did manage to get a couple of pics though I didn’t introduce myself as they seemed to be in the middle of a huge mail out or something exciting. Gran loved it; she is now an official Persephone convert.

  

Podcast of the week has to be The Dog Who Came in from the Cold which is the serialised sequel to Corduroy Mansions by Alexander McCall Smith. I save them for a binge of six in one long listen over the weekend. There’s only ten episodes to go so if you want to download the series you don’t have long left, you can pop here and it’s easy as pie.

Finally, though I have still not bought a book since November (which I will have to break for the next book group choice) somehow several have arrived in the post from lovely publishers. Parcels from Profile, Canongate, Hodder and Headline brought some joys.

  • A Life Like Other Peoples – Alan Bennett
  • Perfumes: The A-Z – Luca Turin & Tania Sanchez
  • The Bird Room – Chris Killen
  • Shades of Grey – Jasper Fforde
  • The Gates – John Connolly
  • Hell’s Belles – Paul Magrs

However Random House seemed to go crazy, in a good way, with all there imprints (Vintage etc) sending me joys in the post. Some of these parcels did date from the 11th of November though, so it seems all is not well in my sorting office, not impressed at least they are arriving now though. Sorry I digressed…

  • Sunday Daffodil & Other Happy Endings – P. Robert Smith (what a fab title)
  • Once on a Moonless Night – Dai Sijie
  • The Mayor’s Tongue – Nathaniel Rich
  • Voluntary Madness – Norah Vincent
  • The Last Dickens – Matthew Pearl
  • The Bonfire of the Vanities – Tom Wolfe
  • Get Me Out of Here – Henry Sutton
  • February – Lisa Moore
  • The Convent – Panos Karnezis

Have you read any of these books or authors? What has been going on for you that’s bookish this week?

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Filed under Alan Bennett, Canongate Publishing, Headline Review, Hodder & Stoughton, Jasper Fforde, John Connolly, Paul Magrs, Persephone Books, Profile Books, Random House Publishing, Simon's Bookish Bits, Vintage Books, Vintage Classics

The Savidge Top Ten Best Books of 2007

This is a really hard decision after such a brilliant year of reading, though am gutted didn’t managed 100 books, maybe this year, we shall see. I have to say part of me wanted to do a top twenty or a top 13 like the ‘Man Booker Dozen’ because I simply had so many that I would heartily recommend to you all. But enough of me waffling on, here is my list of what I thought was superb reading in 2007.

10. The Book of Lost Things – John Connolly
This was possibly one of the most surprising books of the year for me which I read after a recommendation from on of the book group members. She had read it and thought that it would be right up my street and she was indeed right. This is a tale of David a twelve year old boy who has just lost his mother. Having moved to a new house he buries himself in the world of books to beat out the grief in his head. However these stories start to seep into the real world and bad things start to happen and The Crooked Man comes to claim David. This book was dark enthralling and added a new exciting twist to fairytales that brought out your childhood fears.

9. Case Histories – Kate Atkinson
I fell in love with Kate’s writing, not with ‘Behind the Scenes at the Museum’ as I didn’t really take to that and never finished it, with ‘Human Croquet’ which had a brilliant dark otherness about it. Having re-found my love for crime fiction in the last twelve months I was overjoyed to discover she has written a combination of crime and literary fiction and ‘Case Histories’ was simply superb. Following Jackson Brodie, a brilliant complex main character, ex soldier and police man as he is hired as a private detective Atkinson takes a look at how small the world is and how coincidences can change everything and interlink. Brilliant plotting, superb characters.

8. Winter in Madrid – C.J.Sansom
Having also read his Historical Literary Crime (now there is a new genre) novel ‘Dissolution’ this year I have really rather enjoyed my two experiences of Sansom. However this novel set in 1940 after the Spanish Civil War in the ruins of Madrid was just stunning. Harry Brett is sent by the government to spy and find out as much as he can about old school chum Sandy Forsyth who has become somewhat of a shady character in Madrid. Harry becomes involved in a dangerous game of plots, skeletons in closets and emotional warfare. I thought this was absolutely brilliant and let out a huge ‘gasp’ at the ending I didn’t see coming. I also bought a few copies for people for Christmas.

7. Restless – William Boyd
This book was another complete surprise for me and a fresh take on the war from a female point especially from the point of a spy. In 1939 Eva Delectorskaya, twenty eight, is a Russian living in Paris when she is recruited by the British Secret Service and put under the tutoring of Lucas Romer a man of mystery. The book starts as in the present day Eva’s past comes back to haunt her as a grandmother happily settled. I found this book both thrilling and unique, you don’t think of grandma spies really do you. I found it fast paced and yet it really got into the characters and their motives. I bought this for a lot of people over the year.


6. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox – Maggie O’Farrell This was a recommendation from my Gran who herself is a great reader and it takes a lot to impress her after 60 odd years of reading and three book clubs, she devoured this in two sittings. I devoured it in one. When Iris Lockheart gets a phone call telling her she has a long lost Aunt she has never heard of and who is due for release from an asylum and could she come and get her, her independent lifestyle gets embroiled in secrets from the families past. I found this unsuspecting thriller completely sucked me in and wasn’t expecting the tale of Esme’s journey to the Asylum to be so gripping whilst also so emotional. This was unputdownable if that’s a word.

5. The Observations – Jane Harris
This was one of those books that you should judge by the cover. I was in a little independent book shop in Cromford when I saw this as one of their recommended titles and it looked so gothic, dark, mysterious and full of secrets, I thought ‘why not?’ This is brilliant novel and without a doubt Bessy Buckley is my favourite character of the year, and her narration is wonderful (I didn’t find her Scottish and Victorian slang annoying at all) I though it was a unique voice. The story tells of Bessy taking a job for Arabella in her grand house on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Bessy is more than happy at first as she is escaping her past in Glasgow, however, when asked to keep a journal of her most intimate thoughts along side her employer’s odd behaviour she starts to worry. Worries that build up further when she finds her employer had a slight obsession for her predecessor Nora who died mysteriously. This book is just brilliant, gripping, mysterious it has all the makings of a future classic and with a heroine like Bessy it deserves to be.

4. Half Of A Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
It was difficult to only put this at number four because it was so brilliant but the competition was really, really tough this year with so many good books. This is possibly one of the most heart wrenching novels I have ever read set in the lead up, and start, of Nigeria’s Biafra War. The book has three unique outlooks from that of a servant boy Ugwu, his employer’s wife Olanna, and Richard a journalist who is Olanna’s twin sister’s lover from England. I found this book incredibly moving and upsetting the vividness of the war engrained so much on the page that you felt you were there for the shock and awe of it all. Not an easy read by any standard but a book I think should be in everyone’s collection.

3. Atonement – Ian McEwan
I have officially started to become a huge fan of McEwan and plan to read a lot more of his books this year. Of course with the big movie out I would be surprised if there is anyone now who hasn’t read the book or who doesn’t know the story. A story based all around confusion, childhood interpretations and mistakes, after Briony sees her sister Cecilia jump in a fountain whilst their childhood friend watches. From then on more mistakes are made and people’s lives are changed forever. I wasn’t expecting the war to loom in the book but it was dealt with well and added an extra something to the book. This is one of McEwan’s longest and possibly one of his best.

2. The Book Thief – Marcus Zusack
I remember when I was recommended this by the same lady who recommended ‘Restless’ I thought “not another book about the War”. I have to say the originality with which Zusack writes this novel made it without question one of the best books of the year. The narrator of the novel is Death during his particularly busy phase in 1939 Germany and a book thief that he encounters, nine year old Liesle who lives with her adoptive family in bomb torn Himmel Street. I didn’t think a book written by Death sounded like it would be much fun, and there isn’t fun in war, however this book is full of real hope for humans written in beautiful prose where every word has been thought through. It was easy to see why this was the biggest selling debut adult novel in 2007.

1. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again’… I didn’t expect to find my new favourite read of all time (so far) this year, especially after ‘The Woman in White’ is such a tough act to follow, but with Daphne Du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’ from the first few pages it was a complete love affair. I love all things gothic and this book had it all. Following the unnamed second Mrs De Winter after she marries Maxim this books takes us through mystery, a beguiling ex-wife an evil housekeeper (Mrs Danvers was my favourite character in the whole book), a rambling estate and a possible murder. This book is a great gothic mystery but is also a great insight into people and how they work. If I hadn’t made the decision to put only one book per author in my top ten then I would have had to have ‘Jamaica Inn’ on the list which is almost as good. I am only worried now that having read what’s meant to be the best Du Maurier first I might be let down from now on, somehow though I doubt it.

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Books of 2007, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Daphne Du Maurier, Ian McEwan, Jane Harris, John Connolly, Kate Atkinson, Maggie O'Farrell, Marcus Zusack, William Boyd