Category Archives: Random Savidgeness

See What I Have Done – Sarah Schmidt

Sarah Schmidt’s See What I Have Done was eagerly thrust into my hands pretty much fresh off the printer with the words ‘this book is wonderfully dark, gritty and gothic, very you, you’ll love it’. Which instantly made me nervous of it. I am one of those people who gets reader stage fright. You hear a book is going to be ‘very you’ and you feel the pressure is already too much or start to contemplate what that person recommending you the book thinks of you before you have even opened the cover. In this case I was oddly flattered, strangely even more so when it turned out that Schmidt’s debut was a fictionalised account of the true crime case of Lizzie Borden, who many believed a murderess. I like my fiction dark, gritty and gothic, so believe me when I say that if that too is your bookish bag then this is just the sticky icky twisty treat for you too.

9781472240873

Tinder Press, paperback, 2017, fiction, 356 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

He was still bleeding. I yelled, ‘Someone’s killed father.’ I breathed in kerosene air, licked the thickness from my teeth. The clock on the mantle ticked ticked. I looked at father, the way hands clutched to thighs, the way the little gold ring on his pinky finger sat like a sun. I gave him that ring for his birthday when I no longer wanted it. ‘Daddy,’ I had said. ‘I’m giving this ring to you because I love you.’ He has smiled and kissed my forehead.
A long time ago now.

From the very beginning of See What I Have Done we are thrown straight into the macabre action and cloying, dirty atmosphere of the Borden household as Lizzie finds her father dead on the sofa with his head caved. It starts as it means to go on for this is a house that from the very start feels sick. It is grubby, meat being recooked over and over leaving a stench that pretty much sticks to the walls – and all this before it turns out there is not one dead body in the house but two as Lizzie’s step-mother is soon discovered to have met the same end. But who would take an axe to the heads of these two people, especially with such savagery? That of course is what we the reader, seemingly along with everyone in the Borden household and the surrounding streets of Fall River wonders, though of course deep down they all know it must be one of them.

And this, from the very off, is one of the things that makes See What I Have Done so utterly delicious to read, if a rather gory morsel. Everyone is under suspicion; from the police, from each other and from us as readers. Schmidt kindly, with a cunning and beguiling smile as her prose grips us and pulls us in ever more, invites us to play detective alongside the, erm, detectives. Yet she doesn’t make it easy, where would the fun in that be. Instead she takes us into the minds of four people who as it happens could be the main suspects and through them introduces us to some right shady characters on the side lines who could also be worth further investigation.

Bridget looked me over, her caterpillar eyebrows cracked like thunder, and the second officer took notes, took notes. My feet traced circles across the carpet, I opened my eyes wide, felt the house move left then right as the heat ground into walls. Everyone pulled at their necks to unloose their tightly wound clothing. I sat still holding my hands together.

First of all there is Lizzie, who I actually want to come back to as I think she is probably the finest creation (though there is a plethora) of the whole novel alongside the atmosphere. Lizzie however is the one who discovers the body, she is the one who has been home all day, though the house is like a  disorientating maze so anyone could have got in, and she is also, as we get to see her through others eyes and some hints of her own, the one who seems to have the biggest axe to grind – I am sorry I couldn’t help it.

We then turn to Bridget who is the maid of the house, she cooks and cleans (well both of those are debatable when you take into account the slop in a pan on the cooker and the absolute state of the house) does she know secrets that she shouldn’t, does she have a grudge or a secret of her own to keep? We also have Emma, Lizzie’s sister who mysteriously goes out that day but no one really knows where to, there are vague places alluded to and most people seem to believe her but could she have a grudge against her father and his wife, or worse her own sister. Then there is Benjamin a man who has suddenly appeared in the town, looks like a whole heap of trouble and who has met Lizzie’s (incredibly sleazy and delightfully creepy, remember what I said about shady side characters) Uncle John and may have made a pact with him and the devil.

Exciting isn’t it, all these possibilities. I have to say I really enjoyed, if that is the right word, getting into these four people’s heads, watching them watching each other and taking in all their interior viewpoints whilst having a bit of a root around in their potential motives and trying to work out just who on earth did it. I do have my theories but I will say no more for I don’t want to give anything away and take any of the fun of finding out yourself, or at least trying to.

Of course, being based on true events, even if still brimming with grey areas and shrouded in what ifs and maybes which has kept so many people fascinated, you know what actually happened or can look it up. What Schmidt does with Lizzie’s character, which also makes you forget it is real, will have your absolutely hooked even when you sometimes want to look away or pop the book down for a five-minute breather.

Under Schmidt’s prose, Lizzie is probably one of the most interesting women in fiction you will meet this year and also one of the most grimly fascinating character studies I have come across in a long time. Broken and vulnerable yet cunning and sneaky. Is she a misunderstood victim of her household or a product of it? Is she a potential killer or is she mentally unwell? Whatever the case she is completely enthralling to read, all the more so because her narration is slightly off; sometimes repetitive and childlike, sometimes wise beyond her years and almost gleefully sinister and knowing. You never know where you are with her and you feel she knows this all too well – I could be talking about Lizzie Borden or Sarah Schmidt herself when I say that, ha.

Underneath the sofa were tiny pieces of paper that had come away from police officers’ notebooks, trailing from sofa to kitchen like Hansel’s and Gretel’s hoping to find their way back home. I rubbed my forehead again. There would be many things Emma would have to fix to make everything right. I could see father’s blood on the sofa. I considered things.
Words slipped out of me then. ‘I was here talking to Mrs Borden this morning.’
Emma seized. ‘When was this?’ Her voice scratched at my ear.
‘After she told Bridget to keep cleaning the windows. She said there was a strange smell.’
Emma’s nose twitched. ‘What kind of smell?’
The sweet syrup tripped through my limbs. ‘I don’t know. It was probably her.’ I giggled.

One of the benefits of leaving it sometime between reading a book and writing a review of it is that you can get a distance from it – an excuse which I will be using for why some reviews have taken so long to write. I digress. After all, sometimes books fade a little from that first reading rush, or of course they can grow on you as the themes and thoughts they bring up bloom the larger the more time that you have away from them. Then there are books like See What I Have Done, which as your read them worm their way deeper into your psyche and leave something lingering there long after, these are the books you don’t forget the ones whose characters and places just refuse to budge. I urge you to read Lizzie’s tale and let yourself become entwine in the Borden house before it starts to stick in your head, rather like an axe could.

In rather exciting news, as sometimes books can bring people into your life who become lifelong friends or soul siblings, myself and Sarah will be starting a ‘sinister’ book group later this year where we read an unsettling read a month and you can all join in, titles and dates to be released soon. In the interim, you can get Sarah’s book here if you haven’t already which you really should have.

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Filed under Books of 2010, Books of 2017, Random Savidgeness, Review, Sarah Schmidt, Tinder Press

Savidge Reads in Spain

As this goes live, I will be in the city of Bilbao for a week of escape. It dawned on me a few weeks ago that I had not had a trip away to properly relax since Cyprus back in spring last year and so it seemed the perfect time for me to getaway with a big pile of (Costa) books and just go somewhere I could read, relax, wander and escape. So I picked a city that I have always dreamt of going to… Bilbao.

Believe it of not I actually took this picture.

Why Bibao? Well of course there is the Guggenheim which I have always wanted to see (and I have already walked past as I type this, it was closed so it was just an initial nosey as I walked along the river to get my bearings) then there is the pintxos (like tapas only more intricate and hand crafted, just as scrummy if not more so) then there is all the other culture which it has in abundance. A lot like Liverpool, only on a much grander scale and with possibly better craft and design) Bilboa went from an busy industrial harbour, where the river meets the estuary and meets the sea, to a place forgotten, slightly worn down and then has emerged through culture and art into one of the most exciting and vibrant cities. I type this like I know it (well, I do know Liverpool) yet this is my first trip though already a 30 minute walk has shown me it appears to be true.

So before I head back out to find some more pintxos, because when in Bilbao how can I not, I wondered if a) you had any delightful recommendations for places for me to go and b) if you would like me to do some posts on here of some of the things that I get up to while I am in such a culture brimming city? I have heard of a floating library which might be up many of your streets.

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A Decade of Savidge Reads

Dear lovely reader of this here blog,

Yes YOU looking at this screen, I do mean you. This is as personal as I can get through the ether to speak directly to YOU.

Today Savidge Reads turns ten whole years old, which (obviously) means that I have now been banging on about books on the internet for a whole decade, which just seems madness. Who would have thought it, eh? Certainly not 25 year old me when I first pressed published back in 2007. Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday dear me, happy birthday to me!

Kitkat-Cake

Last year I had a cake, this year I don’t but if I did it would be this one.

To commemorate this milestone I thought it would be nice to do three things (I wanted to do ten but some of them involve that figure so bear with) to mark the occasion over the next year. Yes, the next year. And one of them involves you as I think it would be lovely to hear more from you lovely bookish lot. After all it is thanks to lovely readers like yourself reading this now, that have made this blog what it is and I am super-duper grateful for that. I don’t know if I say it enough, thank you, you all mean and have meant a lot.

The first, which is all me, new content. Woohoo! Really I should have done my relaunch now, what a silly sausage. Life, it gets in the way sometimes doesn’t it, like that pesky thing – work, ha! Anyway, I will be backdating the blog with content now that a WordPress glitch has been fixed. I will also be bringing some new features and series onto the blog which I have been working on a while. I am still tweaking these but one will be a book club with the wonderful Sarah Schmidt where we choose a dark/gothic/creepy/unsettling book each month (launching the first six in advance soon)  for you to read along with us which I am super excited about.

The second, which will happen over the next few weeks/months, is that I would like you to suggest various lists of tens that you might like to see. I asked on Twitter what I should do to celebrate ten year of the blog on the blog and, apart from the obvious ask of actually write a blog) people came up with the following of which more suggestions are most welcome in the comments down below so get suggesting…

  • Top ten best things that have happened because of the blog.
  • Top ten tips for blogging.
  • A blog on blogging, ten highs and lows.
  • Top ten books of all time.
  • Top ten writers.
  • Top book from each of the ten years.
  • Top ten book to film adaptations.
  • Top ten authors or books I discovered because of the blog.

Now that last bullet point links into my third idea of celebration which all comes down to you. I would love, love, love, love, love for you all (yes ALL, ha) to email me with a favourite book that YOU have discovered because of this blog and give me a paragraph or two on why you loved it. So we all keep spreading the booky LOVE. Lovely. And as a thanks I will pick someone every so often at random who will win a book or two based on the book you loved and why you loved it. Does that make sense? Basically email me your thoughts on a book you found from Savidge Reads and then loved to savidgereads@gmail.com with ‘A Book of the Decade’ as the title and you could win a book or two at any point through the next year, and with that a new series was born.

I hope that seems like a nice set of ways to celebrate? As always I would love your thoughts on anything else you would like to see and the like in the comments below, let’s get book chatting. And thank you again for a decade of delight. It has been ace.

Here’s to the next ten.

Simon xxxxx xxxxx

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Telling Hometown Tales Again… An Update

So, way back when in the depths of the past, I told you all about how I was joining the lovely team at Weidenfeld & Nicolson, part of Orion and the monster (in a large way, not scary or evil) publishing house Hachette. Basically, it is an initiative to find more diverse voices in the landscape of writing from all over the UK. We not only can I tell you what the first four books will be and who the eight authors are (as each book has a published author writing about their home town and then an unpublished author from the same town or region if you flip the book over) for the first in the series AND excitingly I can tell you who the next four published authors are and where we are looking for new voices. One of them could be you…

The first four books out in June are from Glasgow, Yorkshire, the Midlands and Highlands and Hebrides and they are…

  • Hometown Tales: Glasgow will include a “moving” account of growing up in the shadow of Woodilee Hospital by short story writer and author of The Gracekeepers (Harvill Secker) Kirsty Logan, and “a deeply personal portrait of the city” by new voice Paul McQuade.
  • Hometown Tales: Yorkshire will feature Cathy Rentzenbrink, author of The Last Act of Love and A Manual for Heartache(Picador), writing about her childhood home in Snaith, and new voice Victoria Hennison on village life in Holme-on-Spalding-Moor.
  • Hometown Tales: Midlandswill pair a story about a Jamaican girl adopted by a couple living in Fleckney, Leicestershire, by Kerry Young, author of the Costa First Novel-shortlisted Pao (Bloomsbury), with new voice Carolyn Sanderson’s tale of young love in Milton Keynes.
  • And, last in the four-strong tranche, Hometown Tales: Highlands and Hebrideswill include an account of growing up on the Isle of Mull by Colin MacIntyre, author of The Letters of Ivor Punch (W&N) which won the Edinburgh International Book Festival First Book Award in 2015. MacIntyre’s piece will appear alongside a “bold and inspiring” coming-of-age story set in Inverness by new voice Ellen MacAskill.

As you will know if you have been round this neck of the blogosphere for a while I am a huge fan of both Kirsty Logan and Cathy Rentzenbrink as writers and as people. for a while what they have written (because I have read these between Costa submissions and everything else) is ruddy marvellous. As are Colin and Kerry’s, who have both been on my book periphery for a while so I am keen to go and read their novels even more now, and I can’t wait to see what Paul, Victoria, Carolyn and Ellen come up with in the future. Ooh, it is exciting.

Now then, what about the next set of books and the areas we are looking for authors from or to write about their links to? Well we have these fabulous four.

  • Hometown Tales: Birmingham will feature both a new writer and BAFTA award-winning comedian, writer and author Stewart Lee, who will write about the post-punk scene in Birmingham and how music has shaped his memories of the city.
  • Hometown Tales: Wales will be contributed to by Tyler Keevil, a writer originally from Canada, now living in Wales, who will explore the idea of migration. Keevil won the Journey Prize and the Wales Book of the Year People’s Prize, and is is one of the judges for the Wales Book of the Year 2017, while his new novel, No Good Brother, is due topublish with The Borough Press in February.
  • Hometown Tales: Lancashire will see a new voice juxtaposed by novelist Jenn Ashworth’s story set over a pub crawl one night in Preston. Ashworth, who has previously written about what it’s like growing up in a Northern working-class Mormon community and how it influenced her novel The Friday Gospels (Sceptre) for The Bookseller,last year published Fell (Sceptre)and lectures in Creative Writing at Lancaster University.
  • Hometown Tales: South East will welcome a new writer in the company of award-winning BBC broadcaster and founder of Boom Shakalaka Productions Gemma Cairney, writing about her home town of Margate.

I had a sneaky suspicion Jenn Ashworth might be up for it (because I asked her to her face) and I am so thrilled as she is just a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful writer – and also now a pal, but that doesn’t mean I have rose tinted glasses just to clarify. I also nearly passed out from joy when I heard Gemma Cairney had said yes, seriously, almost passed out. I am looking forward to what they, Stewart and Tyler come up with and just as importantly, if not more so, what some new writers come up with and submit.

So there we have it, if you are someone with a hometown tale to tell, or know someone with a hometown tale to tell then please make sure you head here and get in touch. Oh and if you are thinking ‘but my hometown isn’t on here’ we want this series to grow and grow and so please submit for your area too. Basically, get writing because we want to get reading.

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Ooh He’s in the News…

I am aware that this could be seen as a huge brag, when really I am just a little bit proud, however if you happen to be passing a newsagent or news stand today then you might like to pick up a copy of The Times where there might be a face or two (or three or four) that you know…

Times pic

Yes, myself and the fabulous Jen Campbell, Sanne of Books and Quills and Lucy The Reader, have all been featured in an article on BookTube and books which is all rather exciting. I have to say I was nervous as nervous on Tuesday when I went down for the photo shoot, as I am definitely not model potential, but had and amazing time and could quite possibly have quite easily got used to the pampering and hair teasing. Ha. Here is a picture from the set, well shoot, which I love…

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If you can’t get a copy (not that you might even want to, ha) to read physically, then you can head here to do so, it is behind a paywall but I think you can sign in once without paying to read an article. I think. If you don’t follow my channel but fancy a nosy it is here.

I know from some of the feedback that people like the blog or YouTube and not both, but as this is a bit of a moment I thought I would share it with you lovely lot as without people visiting this for the last nine and a half years (almost a decade, jeez) then it might never have happened. I think even my mother is quite proud of this, so it must be something special. Ha!

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And Savidge Reads Is Back…

Hello everyone, yes after some tinkering and some tearing out of hair (more on that in a moment) Savidge Reads is back. It has been a few months of false starts and was almost one again tonight (remember that tearing out of hair moment) but I am back and am ready to bring you lots of book reviews, bookish chatter and all that staff I did before with a few new occasional series and the like. Oh and a library update, finally. It is all finished and looking lovely.

So how have you all been, what has been happening? Huge thanks to those of you who filled in the survey that I asked you to give a whirl if you had the time, I am going to leave it open for a couple more weeks as I have found it really helpful. If you haven’t filled it in and fancy it please do, you could win some lovely books too as a thank you.

So what has changed on Savidge Reads? Well there are the lovely new logos (refresh the page and they change colour) because I fancied something that reflected me a little more. There is a new events page so if you fancy coming to some events I host with authors or any workshops or talks I am giving you can head there. I will update it fairly regularly as I have some lovely bits and bobs planned over the next few months. I have also given my bio, review policy and guidelines a tweak. Other than that not a lot has changed. I did try and give a new theme and layout a try and it all went wrong so I have kept it as is, familiar is the term I like, and actually lots of the feedback from the survey was simply ‘leave it as its, just post a lot more’ so I have taken that on board.

The layout change wasn’t what almost made me tear my hair out though (yes remember that) the fact that for some reason I can’t seem to upload backdated posts at the moment was. Ooh I am cross. I promised you some reviews to meander back through when I relaunched but I haven’t been able to upload them (they are just sat waiting in limbo for now) as soon as I can I will – if you are subscribed you will probably get notifications of these. These were reviews of some books I have read this year but now shared here yet, would you like my thoughts on some bookish highlights from last year too?

Anyway, I didn’t want to let that stop me so get ready for all the reviews and bookish business as usual to return. Is there anything in particular you would like to see over the next few weeks? Let me know. Looking forward to it!

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The Man Booker Prize Longlist 2017

I know I said that the relaunch of Savidge Reads would be next week, however one of the  most common comments from those of you who have done the feedback survey (which I posted earlier in the week and would love even more of you to fill in, you might win some books if you do) was that people loved hearing about prizes on here. So with that in mind here is the Man Booker longlist for 2017 which has not long been announced…

MB2017 BookStack

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (US) (Faber & Faber)
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Ireland) (Faber & Faber)
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan-UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Ireland) (Canongate)
Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (UK) (4
th Estate)
Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK) (JM Originals)
The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (India) (Hamish Hamilton)
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US) (Bloomsbury)
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (UK-Pakistan) (Bloomsbury)
Autumn by Ali Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
Swing Time by Zadie Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (US) (Fleet)

What do I think of it? Well my initial thoughts (as I am literally typing this moments after the list going live) is that it is an interesting list if not a wholly surprising one. Barry, Hamid, McCormack, Roy, Saunders, Shamsie, the Smiths (not the band but imagine if Zadie and Ali made a band that would be something) and Whitehead have all been heralded and been up for several awards – if not winning them before.

This is by no means a slight as a) long time readers will know I do have a thing for the Booker b) I have read and loved the Barry, Hamid and Whitehead novels this year (reviews coming soon) and indeed love Ali Smith full stop, plus as with Ali’s I have been very keen to read the new much awaited Roy novel. I am also intrigued to get to both the Saunders and the McGregor as they have been on my TBR for quite some time. So interestingly this is one of the most instantly ‘yes I would read all those books’ Booker longlist I have seen in some years, in fact it is also one of the most ‘ooh I have actually read a few of those’ Booker linguists. Yet one of the things I love about book awards is discovering something or someone completely new to me.

This is possibly because I am a contrary old so and so but it is true. So for me the Fridlund and the Mozely are the ones I am the most keen to rush out and read now (if I wasn’t myself judging the Costa’s, though I may still have to get it). That said alongside the Mozely the other book I most want to read is the Shamsie, an author who has been up for many an award with both Burnt Shadows (which I funking adored) and A God In Every Stone (which I also thought was pretty blinking brilliant) and whose new novel feeds into my recent mini obsession of greek myths retold. So those may be three I try and squeeze into my summer/fall reading.

Which would I like to win at this point? Without a seconds thought Mohsin Hamid is my current personal favourite to win, which may shock some of you as you may know that I fell hard for the Barry. Yet, I utterly adored Exit West when I read it and it has grown on me more and more since both in the way it looks at refugees, war and love with a speculative yet oh so realistic twist or two. More on that book, and some of the others, very soon.

In the meantime… What about all of you? What are your thoughts on the list? Are you happy, is there a title or two missing for you? Which have you read and what did you make of them? Any favourites?

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Feedback for The Future, A Relaunch is Coming (Plus a Give Away)

After an on and off few months or so, and several posts promising a return to the old routine of Savidge Reads, I have some news. Savidge Reads will be relaunching on the 1st of August 2017 and I am very, very, very excited.

New logos have been made, I have been beavering away making content both for the next few weeks (to get ahead of myself) as well as some backdated content (only a few weeks) so you to have some stuff to discover if you fancy a binge, I know I like a bookish binge here and there every once in a while.

In the interim while I make a few final tweaks and edit a few last posts I thought I would ask you all for some feedback moving forward, we all need feedback now and again and I know I love filling in a survey now and again, especially when there is the promise (or bribery) of a potential treat at the end.

So I have made a survey of ten questions here for you lovely lot to fill in all about the blog in particular.

Should you be kind enough to do so, which I am hoping all of you will because you are all a lovely bunch in my head, then one of you will be picked at random after the 1st of August and you can win this lovely selection of books which I am happy to send anywhere in the whole wide world. (See what I said about bribery, ha!)

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In the meantime though, please let me know that you are still out there, what you have been up to in the last few weeks/months and of course what you have been reading – the good the bad and the ugly. Ha.

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Manchester

Many of you who’ve been visitors here a while will know that I moved to Manchester at the end of 2010 during a very turbulent time in my life. I was welcomed, distracted, rebuilt and made incredible friendships, some will be life long. So the news last night devastated me for the city, the people (especially as it seems to be people so young) and there loved ones. I just wanted to leave this poem by Adam O’Riordan here for people to understand the Manchester spirit and why I love it and it’s people so.

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David France wins The Green Carnation Prize (And You Could Win It!)

So as many of you know, I cofounded a prize called The Green Carnation Prize which celebrates LGBTQ+ writers and their fantastic books be they fiction, poetry, memoir, graphic novel, short stories or non fiction. Well the winner has not long been announced AND as I am feeling full of the Green Carnation spirit I will be giving a copy away at the end of the post, but first here is all you need to know about the winning book which was chosen from an INCREDIBLE shortlist…

How to Survive a Plague (hadback)-1

The Green Carnation Prize today announces David France’s insider account of the AIDS epidemic, How To Survive A Plague: The Story of How Activists and Scientists Tamed AIDS, as the unanimous winner at a ceremony hosted by Foyles in London, UK.

The third non-fiction winner in the Prize’s seven-year history, France’s book was up against a shortlist that also featured Stella Duffy, Garth Greenwell, Kirsty Logan, and Kei Miller. First released as a film in 2012, How To Survive A Plague was dedicated to France’s partner Doug Gould, who died of AIDS-related pneumonia in 1992, and went on to be nominated for best documentary in 2013 Academy Awards.

Double Emmy-nominee, France, an investigative reporter and a chronicler of AIDS since the early 1980’s, used his unparalleled access to the community to share the story of the AIDS epidemic and the grassroots movement of activists, many of them facing their own life-or-death struggles, who grabbed the reins of scientific research to help develop the drugs that turned HIV from a mostly fatal infection into a manageable disease.

Chair of judges and internationally acclaimed author John Boyne said: ‘In this time of renewed activism in an increasingly uncertain world, France’s definitive account of the AIDS crisis and the activists who changed the fate of so many lives, seems vital and important to inspire everyone, not just the LGBTQ+ community. We couldn’t be prouder to choose this book as the rightful winner.’

Simon Heafield, Head of Marketing at Foyles, said: ‘I’m so glad to have another excuse to recommend David France’s magnificent book to Foyles readers. This essential and inspirational account of one of the darkest periods of recent history is also a breathtakingly riveting read, full of unforgettable characters. This is arguably one of the most important books published in 2016, and a very deserving winner.’

In addition to his trophy, France also received a bottle of champagne and his winning book will receive national in-store promotion across Foyles bookshops. Now in its seventh year, the Prize, with the support of Foyles, seeks to champion the best writing by an LGBTQ author in the UK. It is a vital recognition and celebration for books as diverse as the community it represents and unified by a common thread: sheer quality of writing.

Simon Savidge, Director of the Prize, said: ‘I am delighted that David France has won The Green Carnation Prize with this incredible and important book. We have made many steps forward in the 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK, however some of the voices of our history have often been silenced. I hope this book will enlighten people, make them question what they think they know and encourage discussion. That is what every great book does.’

Previous winners have included Patrick Gale, Catherine Hall, and Christopher Fowler. Last year, following the highest number of submissions to date, the Prize was awarded to Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings. Upon winning the prize, James said: “Six years ago I wouldn’t have been able to voice that I was LGBT, so to be recognised for that and for work the judges felt was great is fantastic.”

So there you have it. I now instantly have to start thinking about next year’s prize, well maybe after a few celebratory shandies. Before that though I promised you the opportunity to win a copy of the book. So how can you? Well simply leave a comment below telling me what your favourite LGBT book is and why by the 1st of June and I will select one entry from anywhere in the world and email you and send it over. That simple. So go for it and good luck!

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Catching Up With a Cuppa or a Costa…

So another month or so goes by and after promising to get the blog up and running and back in business, I haven’t. I am a dreadful sausage and should be ashamed. Well I am ashamed if I am honest, I am not going to apologise too profusely as a) I already have several times b) you can’t spend your whole life apologising for being busy can you? For I have been busy, very busy. There has been work where I have taken on another person’s workload because they have gone on maternity and I have also been part of the recruitment plus planning for the next year… exhausting. Then there has been all the bookish stuff which is frankly much more likely to be what you want to hear about isn’t it? Grab a cuppa this could be quite a post, ha.

So what have I been upto? Well… Firstly I was reading all of the Baileys longlist. As many of you know I don’t half love the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and so I was reading the longlist before the shortlist was announced which was quite a mission as even though there were 16 books instead of 20 it was still tough going. It does mean I have loads of wonderful books to talk to you all about though in the next few weeks and months (I may even cheat a bit and backdate some of them, ha naughty) which I am looking forward to.

Secondly I have been getting The Green Carnation Prize all sorted and the admin behind the longlist, shortlist and winner (which will be announced a week today) and the finale party. The judges have been amazing and the wonderful Maura Brickell has been a diamond organising things so really this year it has been minimal and I have felt slightly distanced from it but both long and short lists were wonderfully received, so I am thrilled. I am even starting to look towards next year. Have I read the shortlist? No, only one of them which is shameful isn’t it. But sometimes is it about time, which leads me on to the third and fourth things I have been upto.

Well actually I am a slight tease because one I cannot talk about until June, so let’s put the third on whole. The fourth though is amazing because (and many of you may have seen me explode with joy on Twitter) I have been asked if I will be one of the judges on one of my favourite book prizes. Can you guess which one it is?

Yes, it is the Costa Book Awards!!!! I am beyond excited and still think they might have had one too many coffees when they asked but I am running with it. I can’t tell you which category I have yet, I can say it is one that I am thrilled about and cannot wait to get reading. More in due course. Of course this does mean things might change with the blog as I can’t talk about the submissions I don’t think, however as I have been so shoddy with review since Christmas (ok and possibly a bit before) it does mean I have a stack of other books I can chat to you about. It’s almost like I planned it, in fact let us pretend I did. Ha.

Penultimately, fifthly, I have been doing lots of house and garden sorting. The library has been a slight nightmare but more on that in a future post, it is getting there now though and the lounge, dining room, bathrooms and master suite in the attic are all looking lovely. As is some of the garden, some not all.

Then finally, the sixth reason for being so bonkers busy, is because I have been doing quite a few events (I am wondering if I should have an events page on here?) with the likes of Paula Hawkins, Sarah Schmidt, Patrick Ness and Natalie Haynes over the last few weeks PLUS I have been quite a social butterly. I know, what happened to the man who liked to hide form the world with a book on the sofa or in bed? Well he has been up and down to London, had guests staying and been on a wonderful weekend in Kent. There are a couple more balmy weeks before June (do you want to come on some of these trips with me, would it interest you?) So it really has been quite busy. Oh and I have a wedding to plan, how do I forget that?

So that is me, what have you all been upto? I would love to know, let’s chat in the comments.

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An Op-portunity For A Catch Up…

Once again the words ‘it has been too long’ are typed up on the screen, as once again all has gone a little quite on Savidge Reads. However for those of you who have been following me elsewhere on the internet, you will know that on Monday I had a rather large operation to remove the tumours and lipoma’s that my body produces as I have dastardly Dercum’s disease. These lumps can turn nastier but in the interim they just really hurt as they sit on a vein, a nerve or stretch the skin in the various places that they grow. (This has been getting really bad in the last few months and why I have been quieter, too much typing can be agony.) Anyway that is quite enough information, suffice to say I went in on Monday and was sliced to bits and now resemble a pin cushion/scarecrow/bruised cooking apple. Ha.

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Due to some slight complications with my blood pressure not all of those pesky lumps have gone, but 12 out of 20 sure ain’t bad. And I am finally home, though I feel like someone is still stabbing me or using the top half of my body as a bouncy castle. Interesting. Now I have the three weeks recuperation to look forward to where I aim to rest, relax, read and get this old blog back on track. That said it has taken me almost two hours to type this because a) woozy and forgetful b) ouch. Good to have aims and things to focus on though. The most skills I have at the moment seem to be the ones that involve lying on the sofa and moaning a lot. Ha. I have had some lovely bookish parcels, chocolates and flowers (the ones below from lovely Rob and Kate of Adventures with Words) which have made me smile, look I have proof I am not just a wincing whinge bag.

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So, how are you all? What are you reading? Any books you think I should be heading too while my body recuperates that will stop my mind being bored and me going insane with cabin fever? Not that I am desperately worried about that of course. Hope all is good with you all, fill me in on all your news and bookish recommendations please!

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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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