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Merry Christmas and a Happy Boxing Day

Belated Christmas wishes to you. After waiting what seemed like forever for Christmas and the Christmas break to come suddenly it was upon me and then it had gone so I didn’t get a chance to wish you all a very very very Happy Holidays and a…


I had a lovely, lovely Christmas. I hope you lovely lot did too whatever you were doing?

I know Savidge Reads has been a bit ropey with content (and reading which has been awful for me, I never have slumps like this) in the past 6 months so I appreciate all of you who have stuck by and popped by. You wait for 2017 it’s going to be all fresh and new, you’ll see.

In the interim I am celebrating my favourite day of the year today… Boxing Day. A day spent having a big lie in, a lovely leisurely brunch and then long walk in the countryside with my family before heading home with my brother and sister in tow for a week having lots of fun with them while they stay here and my mother has a holiday.


Very lovely times ahead. How were your christmases, or holiday if you don’t celebrate Christmas? I would love to know. I’ll be sharing the (impressive considering people don’t normally by then for me) pile of books I got with you tomorrow, what did you all get?

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Young Writer of the Year Award 2016 (And Shadow Judging It)

This morning the four titles eligible for The Sunday Times/Peters Fraser Dunlop Award (quite a mouthful but bear with it because it is a wonderful prize) have been announced. Now before I go onto introduce them, I just thought you might like to know what qualifies for the prize, because if you are anything like me this stuff fascinates you. The basic rules are that £5000 is awarded to a work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry by an author of 35 years or under. The winning book being an work of outstanding literary merit. Last year the prize was won by Sarah Howe with Loop of Jade a collection of poetry which I was rather a big fan of.

So what about the shortlist this year, which I am going to be one of the official Shadow Judges for (more on that below), well let me share the wonderfully eclectic list of titles with you now…

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I have read all four of them already, so there may be a giveaway of a set at some point, though Jessie Greengrass is in my small pile of ‘reviews to finally tweak and put up on the blog’ so that review will be coming soon. I have linked to all the others above. What I can say about them as a collective is a) they are all rather marvellous b) they all do some really innovative (a marmite word I know but true) things with their form be they poetry, a novel, a collection of short stories, or in one case a mix of them all c) the judges are going to have a very difficult time choosing one of these winners… and so are the shadow panel, of which I am one.

Yes, thrillingly I am one of the inaugural official Shadow Judges (which I think sounds quite mystical/magical, like I can summon myself in a shadow and appear anywhere at anytime, possibly now sounding ominous oops) this year along side the wonderful Kim of Reading Matters, Eric of LonesomeReader, Naomi of The Writes of Women and Charlie of The Worm Hole, Dan Dalton will be joining us as a chair for a very exciting official shadow meeting. You can find out more about us as a collective here. We will be discussing, debating and convening over the next few weeks before we announce our winner a few days before the official winner is revealed in early December. So that is going to be great. I am planning on dipping into all four of them again over the forthcoming weeks.

So which of the titles have you read and what did you make of them? Which of these that you haven’t read hold a certain appeal to you? Do let me know and we can have a natter about them in the comments below.

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I’m In Italy, You Can Come If You Like…

I meant to do a post saying I was going off to Italy for a holiday, but in a pre-holiday whirlwind of all sorts of shenanigans I forgot to. I’m now here and, as we are waiting for the worst service by a car company (Firefly Car Rental) ever for the last hour or so and I’ve caved in and turned my data roaming on. It does mean I can share the view of the Alps on the way though.


They were stunning. I was mesmerised and had to put my Tess Gerritsen (one of my favourite thriller writers as you may know) down for quite a while. Fingers crossed we will be off to Pisa shortly.

Let me know if you’d like some blogs of Italy along ten way, we are mainly in a farmhouse in the middle of the mountains away from it all so I’ll also be able to catch up on reviews and most importantly… Loads of reading. I am hoping for a day trip to Assissi which is supposed to be lovely. So I may do some posts along the way if you like it or not.

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And The Winner of The Man Booker International Prize is…

Han Kang’s compelling, quirky, terrifying, slightly bonkers and utterly wonderful The Vegetarian translated by Deborah Smith. I thought that this book was ruddy brilliant and I am ruddy thrilled. You can find my full thoughts here.

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I won’t ramble on I will simply say that you should rush this right up your TBR if you haven’t read it already. If it isn’t on your TBR then head to your nearest library/bookshop as soon as you can. It is a brilliant, brilliant book. Okay, I am in danger of rambling on…

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Visiting a Fairy Tale Castle (Castle Coch)

Those of you who have been long term visitors to Savidge Reads will know that I adore fairy tales. I love the unadulteratedly dark originals, I love the old Ladybird and (most of) the Disney adaptations, I love retelling and I love modern fairy tales. I even named my first pet, a duck, Rapunzel. Basically this is all just a very long way of saying I REALLY love fairy tales. So when we visited Castle Coch (and yes there may have been a smattering of giggles about the name, the ‘ch’ is meant to be quite throaty not a ‘k’ – snigger – or ‘ch’ as you might automatically do) I was greeted by what to my mind was like Sleeping Beauty’s castle as we arrived towards it.


I won’t lie this is a photo of a postcard I bought as you can’t quite get the magnificence in some of the photos I took from the back of a car on a motorway. After we made it (we almost didn’t) up the windy drive we were in fact greeted by this wonderful silhouette because Dom, Michelle, Polly seemed to bring the sun to Wales with us…


And possibly a ghost if that random blue orb is anything to go by. One up the drawbridge and inside you feel even more like you are in Sleeping Beauty. It is utterly silent. 

We were the only people there and the design of the building is that you open doors and just wander, seriously just wander anywhere. Well anywhere that isn’t locked, as with visiting the farm meant to be Wuthering Heights Polly tried to get in anywhere extra she could only with little success unlike in Haworth. Anyway… as I was saying it’s so still and so silent and the rooms have been left like everyone has just vanished. I imagined Sleeping Beauty would have had this suite, I know she’s not real, at the top of one of the turrets…


And Castle Coch does give great turret…


It also has some of the most beautiful paintings, murals, tiling and utterly breathtaking frescos. I was smitten with the one below which I would love on my own ceiling in my next house or maybe as inspiration for my next tattoo. Isn’t it stunning?


After we had done the inside we went back out for a wander of the grounds which you could quite easily imagine Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf wandering through.


It also had a pretty fantastic moat which also showed the depths of the very, very creepy dungeons plus its ramparts and battlements. Okay, I am just using castle based words I think I know the meaning of but might actually not, so let’s move on.


All in all it was pretty magical really. The perfect way to start our trip away in Cardiff. Who doesn’t love an amazing old castle, or a manor, or stately home. Plenty of room for a huge library… One day guys, one day.


If you are ever in the Cardiff vicinity please do visit this wonderful, wonderful Welsh castle. It’s an absolute treat. Speaking of treats if you tell me about your favourite castle (this one might compete with my other favourite, Warwick) or your favourite manor/stately home (mine is Hardwick Hall thanks for asking) then I might have a spare Castle Coch bookmark for one of you. Yes I know, how could you not want that?

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Hello. It’s Me. 

Though my actual birthday is in two weeks time, I have just had my big birthday present which was an evening watching one of my favourite singers. Can you guess who?

  

Well if you guess that is was only blooming Adele then you would be be absolutely correct. And she was absolutely phenomenal. 

 
She looks a lot futher away that she felt to be honest, despite being about 10,000 other people in the arena it felt really intimate. From the moment we heard the word ‘Hello’ come from out of the darkness to the confetti cannons at the end of Rolling in the Deep two hours later it was just incredible. There were all the wonderful songs (Set Fire To The Rain is my fav and made me cry, Someone Like You just makes everyone cry)  but there was also the chat and the banter, and the swearing six as the’F**k, stop. I’ve sung the wrong bloody words. What am I f**king like? Sorry everyone, let’s start again.’ moment. She just hung out with us then belted the songs out way better than on her albums, which are obviously amazing. 

  
So that was that. I thought I would share it all with you because it was amazing. Definitely worth a night off from reading for, hahaha. 

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Guessing The Baileys Women’s Prize Longlist & Introducing The Bailey’s Bearded Book Club

A week today the longlist for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction will have been announced. This is something I get excited about every year, as I am a huge fan of the prize and the books it has listed in the past as well as its reason for being, however this year I am particularly excited as hopefully I am going to be doing some very exciting Bailey’s Prize based things alongside the lovely Eric of LonesomeReader. Over the next few weeks Eric and I will be the Bearded Bailey’s Book Club. Not only will be reading the entire longlist (all 20) we will be doing some podcasts on it and then, once the shortlist comes out in April, fingers crossed be doing some specific posts and podcasts (with the authors if all goes to plan, on The Readers Bailey’s Bonus Episodes) that you can all join in on, as well as hopefully some give aways and other random bits and bobs. What makes this all the more exciting is that both the lovely team and the board at the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction are all behind these bearded posts so we might be able to do even more. Hoorah. We would love you to join in with it, beard not required and we are not going to be ‘mansplaining’ just to nip that in the bud pronto.

So all that is all to come from next Tuesday onwards, so in the meantime we thought (and Eric’s will be on his blog) we would share the twenty books that we would like to see on the Bailey’s longlist. Now I have to say firstly that it has been an exceptional 12 months for women’s fiction, as I was doubly reminded looking up lots of eligible books, so this has been no easy task. Secondly I haven’t tried to second guess the judges (no one can do that), I have just gone on the books I have read and think should be on the list as well as some of the books I would really like to get around to reading, though I had to whittle this down from a very long list of books I would love to read. Thirdly, it will be wrong and that is good as it will introduce me to lots of great new books as Eric and I read the longlist over the following month, four a week if we have read zero of them – no pressure.

So here are my 20 (I got down to 31 titles that tore my mind, which I have saved in a document that I will send to Eric after this goes live, as we don’t know the others lists) so if those seven are on I have proof I loved them) guesses of books that might make the Bailey’s Prize for Women longlist next Tuesday…

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The Kindness of Enemies – Leila Aboulela (W&N)
A God in Ruins – Kate Atkinson (Transworld)
Devotion – Ros Barber (OneWorld)
Spill Simmer Falter Wither – Sara Baume (William Heinemann)

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The Trouble with Goats and Sheep – Joanna Cannon (Borough Press)
At Hawthorne Time – Melissa Harrison (Bloomsbury)
Mr Splitfoot – Samantha Hunt (Corsair)
Fishnet – Kirstin Innes (Freight)

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The World Without Us – Mireille Juchau (Bloomsbury)
Things We Have in Common – Tasha Kavanagh (Canongate)
Hot Milk – Deborah Levy (Penguin)
Eileen – Ottessa Moshfegh (Vintage)

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Signs for Lost Children – Sarah Moss (Granta)
Girl at War – Sara Novic (Little Brown)
The Little Red Chairs – Edna O’Brien (Faber & Faber)
Under The Udala Trees – Chinelo Okparanta (Granta)

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Martin John – Anakana Schofield (And Other Stories)
If You Look For Me, I Am Not Here – Sarayu Srivatsa (Bluemoose Books)
Gold Flame Citrus – Claire Vaye Watkins (Quercus)
A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara (Picador)

So those are my guesses, I daren’t even call any of them predictions for fear of jinxing them. Any I have read are in italics and those I have reviewed have links to the review. Do go and have a look at Eric’s, I will be as I haven’t seen it yet, over on LonesomeReader and most importantly let me know what you think of this list and which books you are hoping will make the longlist when it is announced next week. After all the effort that has gone into that I need a Baileys, though as this goes live (thanks to the genius of scheduling) I will be sat at my desk, so best not.

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