Tag Archives: Agatha Christie

Savidge Reads’ Books of 2015 Part One…

So we have hit the penultimate day of 2015, where does the time go? Back by popular demand (well David kindly asked me) is the first of my two lists of the books that I loved most in 2015. Today’s selection for your delectation are the books that I have loved the most this year that were actually published originally before 2015 (yes, even the ones that came out in paperback in 2015 but were in hardback before then) which means some classics have given way to more modern books but this really reflects my tastes in general. More on that another time though. Without further waffle or ado, here are the first twelve books I really, really, really loved in 2015; you can click on the titles to go to my full reviews, with one exception…

11.

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2015 has been a year that has seen me devour and enjoy more graphic novels and memoirs than ever before and I have loved it. Undoubtedly that love was started this year with The Encyclopaedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg which combines history, myths and fairytales (with a slightly wonky twist) to create a wonderful visual world of Vikings, giants, gods, eskimo’s and more and celebrates the marvels of great stories and wonderful storytelling. A delight from start to finish.

10 (=).

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If you’d told me back at the start of 2015 that one of my books of the year would involve giant mutant preying grasshoppers /praying mantises then I would have laughed in your face. This would have been a) cruel and b) completely wrong. Grasshopper Jungle is a thrilling, gripping and entertaining rollercoaster of a read that looks at love, sexuality, friendship and how to survive if mutant killer insects who only want to breed and eat take over the world. What more could you ask for?

10 (=).

From the off, and indeed throughout, the world in Louise O’Neill’s Only Ever Yours is, to be frank, pretty f***ed up. (I honestly tried quite hard to not use ‘the f bomb’ but it is the only word that seems apt.) Girls are now bred, yes bred, for three reasons. They can become a companion to the men in society who can afford it and have babies, which will only be boys as these girls have been bred to be breeders of the male line; they can become a concubine, and have sex (with no babies) with all the men in society who can afford it; or they can become chastity’s and shave their heads, wear black gowns and raise more manufactured young girls to keep the cycle ticking along. See, I told you, f***ed up, and that is only the beginning. I have a feeling Louise O’Neill is one of those authors whose careers we are just going to watch grow and grow and grow. Atwood, watch out, ha!

9.

Before I read it, I had some really odd preconceived ideas about H. G. Well’s The Invisible Man. First up I thought that it was a tome of some several hundred pages, wrong, it is a novella. Secondly I thought that it was set in the 1970’s (impossible as it was written in 1897) and involved some old man in a mackintosh who smoked, wrong, that is just something I naively surmised from an old 70’s edition of the book my mother had on her shelves. Thirdly I didn’t think I would enjoy it in any way shape or form, so wrong. What I got was an incredibly dark and sinister novel that suddenly becomes both incredibly moving and incredibly disturbing as you read on. Naturally with that in mind, I absolutely loved this book.

8.

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Imagine if Thomas Hardy and Cormac McCarthy had a bastard lovechild… He would be Benjamin Myers in my humble opinion and I think Beastings testifies that notion. I almost don’t feel I need tos say more, but I will. We know it is raining, we know that a young woman has fled the house she was living in with a baby that isn’t hers, we also have the sense that both her and the baby were in danger. We soon learn that she is being followed, although hounded/stalked sounds more sinisterly appropriate, and is heading for a secret island somewhere off the coast. Because on an island in the ocean no-one can sneak up on you. The question is if she can get through the forests and mountains of Cumbria and head to the ocean without being caught and without hardly any supplies. And with that, we are off…

7.

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I only recently devoured Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None yet it shot straight into my top ten without hesitation. Ten strangers are sent to an island under false pretenses, they are soon all accused of murder or implicated in a death, then they start to die one by one following the pattern of an old nursery rhyme. The premise is impossible, yet as Agatha Christie’s fantastic novel unfolds we soon come to learn that anything is possible, no matter how chilling or unbelievable it might first appear. An utterly stupendous thriller, once you have read it you understand why it is the biggest selling murder mystery in the world, ever.

6.

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Sometimes all I want as a reader is a bloody good story. I want a twisting plot, characters that walk of the page and that you love, hate or preferably a bit of both. I want mystery and intrigue. I want to be taken to a world I know nothing about and get lost in it and its entire atmosphere. I can be a right demanding so and so however Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist delivered all this to me in abundance as it took me on a gothic journey with Nella as she walked onto the threshold of Brant house in Amsterdam 1686.

5.

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2015 has also been a year where memoirs have been a hit, in several cases centring around grief and this is one of those. H is for Hawk is an incredibly special kind of read, which all the above culminates towards, simply put it is a generously open, honest and brutal yet beautiful book. Helen Macdonald takes us completely into her life and her world at a time when she was at her most broken and vulnerable and shares that with us in all its technicolour splendour of emotions. You will laugh, you will cry and you will have felt incredibly privileged to have spent time in the company of Helen, Mabel the Goshawk and the writer T.H. White.

4.

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Until this year I had never read a word of Patricia Highsmith’s, well don’t I feel a fool after reading this. Deep Water is one of the most entertaining, snarky, camply dark, vicious and twisted psychological thrillers I have read. It is also one of the most unusual as the reader watches a sociopath come to the fore from their normally meek mild mannered self… and we egg him on and like him, even understanding him oddly, the whole time. It is a fascinating insight into the mind of a killer, if this is a prime example of what Highsmith fondly described as “my psychopath heroes”, I can’t wait to meet the rest.

3.

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It seems that 2015 was the year of insects in fiction for me, this time with bees and heaven forefend ones that talk. From this alone I should have had some kind of anaphylactic shock to this book (see what I did there) however I was completely won over by the story of Flora as she works her way through and up the hive in Laline Paull’s wondrous debut The Bees. I have been talking about this book ever since and also been boring as many people as possible with the fascinating facts I learnt about these winged beings as I read. A book which for me had it all; brilliant writing, fantastic pace, fantastic facts and a real heart looking at class, religion and women’s rights.

2.

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Now then, this is the book I have yet to review and yet is a book which took over my life as I was enravelled in the whole life of another man, Logan Mountstuart. A man which I am still struggling to believe isn’t real as his diaries from 1923 – 1998, which make up William Boyd’s Any Human Heart, take us through school romps, to wild affairs, marriages, more affairs, wars and gossip with famous people through the decades and give us not only a vivid encounter with the recent history of Britain and its endeavours (which take us all over the world) but celebrate the lives of us strange folk and the power of the pen and the written word. Ruddy marvellous and a complete and utter nightmare to review hence why I haven’t managed as yet. You can hear me talking about it here though.

1.

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I talked about book tingles earlier in the year, that wonderful feeling you get when you read a book and the words just wash over you and you know everything in this book in front of you is going to encapsulate everything you love about reading. Carys Davies’ The Redemption of Galen Pike had that for me within paragraphs of it’s very first story. In this collection we are taken to places all over the world, to all walks of life and never given the story we expect in the beginning but something so much more; be it funny, dark or magical. It was a book that arrived completely new to me, no hype or anything and completely bowled me over. I adore this book with all my heart, it brought joy to my beardy face for the whole time I read it.

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So there we are the first half of my books for the year. I do feel like I should give some honourable mentions to Susan Barker’s The Incarnations, Susan Hill’s I’m The King of the Castle and Kirsty Logan’s The Rental Heart, but that will be deemed as cheating. Let me know your thoughts on those in my first list you have read and do pop and see my next list tomorrow. What have been some of your books of 2015?

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And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie

I hope you have all had a marvellous Christmas? I certainly have so far. Those of you who have been kind enough to pop by over the last seven years will know that today, Boxing Day, is my very favourite day of the festive season. I love it because the stress of Christmas is gone, you generally end up seeing another set of family and so have all the grub and present delight but it is more of a slobbing day where you can wear your pyjamas for 70% of it and read, catch up on some telly or both. I am actually making the following two days additional Boxing Day’s I love it so much. Where does this link in with Agatha Christie? Well, it is the perfect day to read a classic crime and invariably there is one on the telly, tonight being the night a whole new adaptation of And Then There Were None starts, so I thought I’d better read the book before I watched it.

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Harper Collins, 1939 (2011 USA edition), paperback, fiction, 247 pages, bought by myself for myself

Soldier Island! Why, there had been nothing else in the papers lately! All sorts of hints and interesting rumours. Though probably they were mostly untrue. But the house had certainly been built by a millionaire and was said to be absolutely the last word in luxury.

When eight strangers are separately invited to spend a weekend on Satin Island, they find their host missing with only the staff, Mr and Mrs Rogers, left to attend to them. After having settled in and having a pre-dinner drink they are all shocked to hear a message from an unknown voice telling them all of their complicity in various deaths. No sooner have they taken in the shock, one of their group suddenly dies and the poem ‘And Then There Were None’ hanging in their rooms along with the ten figurines in the dining room start to take on an even more sinister twist. Who is it who wants revenge on this party and why? More importantly with a murderer in their mist, who seems to be one of their own, will anyone survive?

From the very start of And Then There Were None I was hooked. As we travel with each member of the party by train, car and boat the tension is instantly racked up by the fact that we know from the off that they are being lied to. There’s also a wicked streak to it where  we know that doom is around the corner and the characters don’t, so we are ahead of them as the apprehension, tension and fear slowly dawns on the hapless guests and suspicions begins to mount. 

Mrs. Rogers had a flat monotonous voice. Vera looked at her curiously. What a white bloodless ghost of a woman! Very respectable-looking, with her hair dragged back from her face and her black dress. Queer light eyes that shifted the whole time from place to place.
Vera thought:
“She looks frightened of her own shadow.”
Yes, that was it – frightened!
She looked like a woman who walked in mortal fear.
A little shiver passed down Vera’s back. What on earth was the woman afraid of?

For me this novel is Agatha Christie at the most gothic and sinister that I have read her so far. She is also at her sharpest in terms of plotting. As I read on I had no idea who the victim might be (though thanks to the nursery rhyme I had the ability to guess how they might be bumped off) and certainly had no clue as to who the murderer was and if they were one of the group or not which is brilliantly puzzling. It seems impossible the more it goes on and then at the end I marvelled at Christie’s cleverness rather than feeling miffed I didn’t cotton on. Something only the best crime writers can achieve, especially as it does make sense (and there are some very clever clues left) by the end. She’s a genius.

It would be amiss of me not to mention this book without the history of the title which I think has somewhat unfairly labelled it as being a classic that is racist. Here me out… Firstly, language and times have changed thank goodness and the original title isn’t acceptable anymore, rightly so. I admit initially when one of the characters started saying some pretty anti-Semitic things I had a wobble until it clicked, Agatha Christie is pointing out how stupid and backward these attitudes and thoughts are. You are meant to flinch at the casual racism and sexism throughout.

“Ah, I understand you now. Well, there is that Mr. Lombard. He admits to having abandoned twenty men to their deaths.”
Vera said: “They were only natives…”
Emily Brent said sharply: “Black or white, they are our brothers.”
Vera thought: “Our black brothers – our black brothers. Oh, I’m going to laugh. I’m hysterical. I’m not myself…”

I actually think characters prejudices are all part of the plot, they certainly add to the flaws of all the characters and their unreliable nature. You might think ‘good on Emily Brent’  (above) one minute, before she launches a tirade about single mothers and women having children out of wedlock. None of these characters a lacking in prejudice, often it is this that has lead someone to the island and to their deaths. Christie is using a page turning novel to make a point and possibly educate a few people along the way about the ridiculous nature of some views, she does it without bashing them over the head (well, with the exception of some of the fates of her characters – is this symbolic?) or taking a moral high ground which turns any reader off frankly. We don’t want to be preached to and Agatha doesn’t, she just makes a point, with murder.

So there you have it, I can completely understand why And Then There Were None has gone on to become not only Agatha Christie’s best selling novel, but one of the bestselling thrillers/crime novels of all time. It certainly ties with Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (which is totally different but if you haven’t read you simply must) as my favourite of Christie’s novel and shows what an incredible master of plot she was. Highly recommended, if you aren’t one of the 100+ million people who have already read it!

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Books of 2015, Harper Collins, Review

Other People’s Bookshelves #72 – Ayo Onatade

Hello and welcome to the latest Other People’s Bookshelves, a series of posts set to feed into the natural filthy book lust we all feel and give you a fix through other people’s books and shelves. This week we are in South London to meet blogger, reviewer and crime fiction expert Ayo Onatade and have a nosey at all of her books. However before we do that let’s grab a nice cuppa and a fondant fancy or two (or three)  that Ayo’s put out for us  whilst we get to know a little more about her.

I am an avid reader, blogger and critic of anything and everything crime, detective and mystery fiction related. I live in South London and work as a civil servant with very senior members of the UK Judiciary as my day job.  I hasten to add that my day job has nothing to do with my love of genre. I run the Shotsmag Confidential blog, review books and also write for Crimespree Magazine.  I also give occasional papers and write academic articles on crime fiction. In 2014 I co-edited along with Len Tyler a collection of short stories entitled Bodies in the Bookshop. Amongst my family I am known as the family library. Whilst my main passion is crime fiction I do actually read other types of books though I don’t think my family actually believes me when I say this.

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Do you keep all the books you read on your shelves or only your favourites, does a book have to be REALLY good to end up on your shelves or is there a system like one in one out, etc?

I can categorically say that the books on my bookshelves have nothing to do with whether or not they are my favourites or if they are really good.  It is more a matter of having somewhere to store them and being able to get my hands on a book when I need it. I certainly do not have a system of one in one out! God forbid. I can barely get rid of books. If that were the case, what would I do with all my “comfort reads” and books that I want to keep? I freely admit that I am to a certain extent a book hoarder and I can get very upset when books are not treated or looked after very well.  I do however have periods where I look at the state of my study and flat in general and shake my head in dismay when I take in the amount of books that I have. The books that I tend to keep fall into a number of categories and are invariably the ones that I value.  They are my signed first editions (especially those of authors whose works I really love), my reference books and literary criticism on crime fiction, which are incredibly useful when I am trying to write a paper and I don’t want to traipse up to the British Library, my comfort reads and books given to me as presents.  I will give away duplicates (especially if I have my own copy already), books that I know that I am not going to read again and occasionally books that I have been judging. With the cutbacks and the closure of many libraries I have found myself giving quite a large number of books to my local library, which luckily for me is at the end of my road. I think that it is outrageous the way in which libraries are being dismantled.  The other person who gets books is my local postman who reads a lot and it is my way of saying thank you since he is the one who as to lug a post bag full of books up to my flat every Saturday.

Do you organise your shelves in a certain way? For example do you have them in alphabetical order of author, or colour coded? Do you have different bookshelves for different books (for example, I have all my read books on one shelf, crime on another and my TBR on even more shelves) or systems of separating them/spreading them out? Do you cull your bookshelves ever?

My shelves are organised in a very disorganised way. They are not in alphabetical order of author but I have for example all my crime fiction reference books and literary criticism on crime fiction in one place, my short story anthologies are together and most of my historical crime novels are together in one place as well. Also my non-crime books are gathered together. Aside from that I generally tend to group an author’s books together in one place.  However, it doesn’t always work and I am not really too bothered as I generally tend to know where a book is when I am looking for it.  My TBR pile is all over the place.  My TBR pile tends to be split into books that I am planning on reading because I want to review them, books that I want to read for pleasure and books that I am reading because I am judging an award. Culling my books upsets me but over the years I have become a lot more resilient about it.  I do purge my collection but generally tend to do it through gritted teeth and with a lot of angst.

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What was the first book you ever bought with your own money and does it reside on your shelves now?

I honestly can’t remember the first book I ever bought with my own money.  I can remember the books that have had a significant meaning for me for various reasons.  The first is The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie.  This was the very first mystery novel that I read and unknowingly introduced me to my love of crime, mystery and detective fiction.  The second book is Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. I read this whilst I was at secondary school and it was the first African novel that looked at the social and political aspects of Igbo society and the effects of European colonisation on Africa. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell, which for me was the first, ever autobiography that I read that did not seem to be an autobiography.  It was funny, full of interesting information about collecting animals and what fun it was to live in Corfu with a rather eccentric family full of love. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett and Farewell my Lovely by Raymond Chandler changed my crime fiction reading tastes forever. Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale, which is the first of the Bond books. Reading it after I had started to watch the Bond films certainly confirmed for me the saying “Never judge a book by its movie” by J W Eagan. The first Casino Royale film featuring David Niven is a prime example. I have all these books on my bookshelf and every time I see them they make me smile and bring back memories.

Are there any guilty pleasures on your bookshelves you would be embarrassed people might see, or like me do you have a hidden shelf for those somewhere else in the house?

Nope! I think all books are meant to be read whether good or bad. I do have a few books that I read at least ever 18 months and they tend

Which book on the shelves is your most prized, mine would be a collection of Conan Doyle stories my Great Uncle Derrick memorised and retold me on long walks and then gave me when I was older? Which books would you try and save if (heaven forbid) there was a fire?

I think my most prized book is actually the collection of Raymond Chandler novels that were published by the Library of America.  When you line them up in the correct order in the box then they show a man wearing a fedora holding a smoking gun.  They were given to me as a surprise present by a former boss who used to collect 1st edition works on William Shakespeare. I was very surprised when I received it as it was unexpected. Which books would I save? Bearing in mind the number of books that I have I would find it rather difficult to choose a few but I would certainly have to ensure that following are rescued. Certainly my Raymond Chandler collection published by the Library of America. My complete works of Dashiell Hammett. My collection of Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher, my JD Robb collection, all my James Lee Burke books and books by George Pelecanos, 100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello.  Finally my collection of crime fiction reference and books on crime fiction literary criticism specifically The Blues detective by Stephen Soitos, Colleen Barnett’s encyclopaedia on Mystery Women and Spooks, Spies and Private Eyes: Black Mystery, Crime and Suspense Fiction of the 20th Century by Paula L Woods. Oops! That seems to be quite a lot.

What is the first ‘grown up’, and I don’t mean in a ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ way, that you remember on your parent’s shelves or at the library, you really wanted to read? Did you ever get around to it and are they on your shelves now?

Argh! I can’t remember that far back. I wish I could. For me the division between when I stopped reading children’s books and moved to adults is rather blurred. We are all readers in my family. My brother and sisters and I used to spend a lot of time in the library when we were younger.  I do have books on my shelves that I have solely because they bring back memories of my childhood for example T H White’s Once and Future King, but aside from that my mind is blank.

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If you love a book but have borrowed the copy do you find you have to then buy the book and have it on your bookshelves or do you just buy every book you want to read?

I can’t remember the last time that I borrowed a book. I tend to resist doing so.  We are talking about over 25 years ago. It generally ends up being the other way around and nowadays I hardly ever loan my books out.  The only people that I will consider lending my books to are my family and very close friends.  I am quite lucky because of the amount of blogging and writing that I do on crime, detective and mystery fiction I get sent quite a lot of books.  I have been known to buy a book (sometimes second hand) if I have wandered into a bookshop and have seen a book that I have been looking for to add to my collection or a book (mainly American authors) that I can’t get here in the UK.  I generally tend to buy most of my reference books and literary criticism as well as my non-crime books.  I freely admit that I am a bit paranoid and precious about my books as I tend to believe that they won’t be treated well.

What was the last book that you added to your bookshelves?

The Killing Kind by Chris Holm.  Chris Holm is much better known in the States as opposed to here in the UK.  However, he has a UK publisher and The Killing Kind was published in August this year. He is an award winning novelist and he has written a brilliant trilogy of  Collector novels which is a mash-up of fantasy and crime pulp.  The Killing Kind is a page turner of a thriller where an assassin that solely kills assassins finds himself on the run from both the FBI and the Mafia.

Are there any books that you wish you had on your bookshelves that you don’t currently?

There are too many! Where do I start?  The geek in me would very much like the four volume hardback edition of 100 Bullets.  I would also like a colour version of House of Leaves by Mark L Danielewski, which was published in 2000.  A postmodern novel I first encountered it when I was doing my Masters degree.  The layout and page structure is very unconventional and you certainly have to have patience to read it. The novel is also distinctive for its multiple narrators, who interact with each other in elaborate and disorienting ways.  There is a coloured version and a red version.  Either one would do. Would it be too greedy for me to also want a complete set of original Penguin Greens and the complete works of James M Cain?

What do you think someone perusing your shelves would think of your reading taste, or what would you like them to think?

The first thought would be “how the hell can you find anything” as my shelves are not neat and tidy. The word eclectic also comes to mind. I would think that anyone perusing my shelves would initially think that I read too much crime fiction and that I need to get a life and that I am a bit of a book hoarder.  On the other hand I would also hope that they would ask me about my favourite books and authors and possibly ask me for recommendations as well. I would like them to think that my taste spans different sub genres of crime, detective and mystery fiction and that my bookshelves are an insight to my love of reading. I think that it would also depend on whether or not they are readers themselves. Other readers tend to be a lot more understanding and interested in what is on other peoples bookshelves but non readers are more likely to be disinterested.

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A huge thanks to Ayo for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves. If you would like to catch up with the other posts in the series of Other People’s Bookshelves have a gander here. Don’t forget if you would like to participate (and I would love you to – hint, hint, hint as without you volunteering it doesn’t happen) in the series then drop me an email to savidgereads@gmail.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance. In the meantime… what do you think of Ayo’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that she mentions?

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It’s World Book Day; Celebrate With A Quick Read (Or A Long One…)

It is World Book Day, hooray! A day devoted to celebrating the love of books around the world. It is all too easy to forget though, especially in the bubble of the book blogosphere, that not everyone out in that there big wide world has the ability, time, money or simply the inclination/desire to read books. Some people may even be wary of the world of books or find reading difficult.

As I have mentioned many a time on this blog, I myself was a great reader as a child but my late teens and early twenties were a barren time for books. I had been put off by the endless re-reading and re-reading of school texts which had to be analysed to the umpteenth degree. I felt that books were more for academics than for enjoyment. Oh and I was more interested in getting drunk on alcho-pops and dancing to Britney in my early twenties and so was lost in a bookish wilderness. I had become alienated from the wonderful world that books can provide for us all and in actual fact, hold on to your hats, thought that books were for the pretentious and elite. Now I know different, obviously, all it too was the recommendation of the right book to try (in my case The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie) and I was off…

Sometimes all it takes is that quick recommendation, loaning of a book or pointing in the direction of a library that can create the spark needed to fire a love of reading. Or of course re-reading. Quick Reads is an initiative which aims to do the same and selects several titles by well-known authors that are short, sharp reads aimed to attract those who think books and reading might not be for them and get them hooked. They are designed to encourage those who have been put off reading or are late to reading to ‘give a book a whirl’ and who knows they might become a book addict? Great stuff!

Yet they are also perfect, as I discovered when reading three of them after this year’s titles were announced, for an avid reader who might fancy trying out an author you have meant to read for a while, or just getting time to read something short and sharp whilst on your commute or having a nice cup of tea in your favourite book nook. Here are my thoughts on three of them…

Dead Man Talking – Roddy Doyle

Vintage Books, paperback, 2015, fiction, 98 pages, kindly sent by Quick Reads

Pat had been best friends with Joe Murphy since they were kids. But five years ago they had a fight. A big one, and they haven’t spoken since — till the day before Joe’s funeral.

What? On the day before his funeral Joe would be dead, wouldn’t he?

Yes, he would…

This was my first foray into the work of Roddy Doyle (despite my mothers best efforts, unless you count having watched The Commitments film at a young age and spending hours singing the soundtrack in the car) and I was not sure what to expect but I enjoyed it very much. Regular readers will know that I quite like ghostly tales and stories that are quite quirky and this is both.

There is a wonderful surreal element to this story without it ever veering too far off into magical realism which some new and avid readers might find off putting, it almost has a ‘fairytale for adults’ feel whilst as it goes on and takes stranger and stranger twists reminded me somewhat of a Roald Dahl sinister short story and a Hitchcock movie. What I thought Roddy Doyle did wonderfully was give the book an underlying message of grief, regret and mortality yet never making it overtly melancholy. All in all an interesting and thought provoking twisting tale, I need to read a novel of his now don’t I? Where would you recommend I start?

Out of the Dark – Adele Geras

Quercus Books, paperback, 2015, fiction, 101 pages, kindly sent by Quick Reads

Rob Stone comes back from the horrors of the First World War with a ruined face and a broken heart. Lonely, unable to forget the things he has seen, and haunted by the ghost of his dead captain, all that Rob has left is a picture of the captain’s family. Rob sets out to find them, hoping that by giving them the picture, he can bring peace to the captain’s ghost – and to his own troubled heart.

Another author that I have been meaning to read for ages (another which my mother has also raved about reading her young adult novels with her studenst) and another quick reads with a ghost in it this year.

I am normally not the greatest fan of wartime novels, I think the subject has been overdone, yet I really, really loved this story. In a very short space of time Adele Geras makes you sympathise and empathise with our main character and the affects that war has had on him both physically and mentally. The tale of Rob’s heartbreak after his fiancé backs out of the marriage was one which I found both heart-breaking and also, for me, added a side to the war that I have never seen depicted in another piece of writing about the time. In fact I think that was one of the things that I liked so much about Out of the Dark was that it really put me in the head of a young man who had been to war far more than anything else I have read has done. More food for thought, and another author that I shall return to.

Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen – Sophie Hannah

Hodder & Stoughton, paperback, 2015, fiction, 117 pages, kindly sent by Quick Reads

After Chloe and her daughter Freya are rescued from disaster by a man who seems too good to be true, Chloe decides she must find him again to thank him. But instead of meeting her knight in shining armour, she comes across a woman called Nadine Caspian who warns her to stay well away from him. The man is dangerous, Nadine claims, and a compulsive liar. Alarmed, Chloe asks her what she means, but Nadine will say no more. Chloe knows that the sensible choice would be to walk away – after all, she doesn’t know anything about this man. But she is too curious. What could Nadine have meant? And can Chloe find out the truth without putting herself and her daughter in danger?

Regulars to Savidge Reads will know that I am a big fan of Sophie both as an author or some corking thrillers, and a wonderful collection of short stories (which were recommended to me by a friend and got me into her work – see it’s all about the recommendations) of which you can find out more here. Shockingly though, and despite having them all, I have not read one of her books since 2011!?!? Where has the time gone?

Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen is, as you might expect, like the perfect condensed versions of one of her Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer thrillers, and indeed they turn up in this one. From the off you are constantly question who is telling the truth and who is doing some serious lying and manipulating, the guessing only gets greater as Sophie throws in some twists, turns and potential red herrings. If you love this then go and get your hands on Little Face which is the first in the series, I need to grab Lasting Damage just as soon as I have finished the Fiction Uncovered reading, promise!

This isn’t the whole collection of books either, I still have three more to dip into in due course – which I will be eating with more of the Galaxy chocolates these arrived with – but hopefully gives you some insight into the diversity of the books which Quick Reads produce (and they have a whole backlist you can go through, here are some more I’ve read) and how easy they are to get into and just taking you away. As I said, perfect reads for any reader be you avid or just wanting to give books and reading a try. And all for just £1 or to be found in your local library, what could be better? (Though if you’re reading something longer that’s good too, I will be spending some of the evening with Maya Angelou, you?) Happy World Book Day all!

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Filed under Adele Geras, Quick Reads, Roddy Doyle, Sophie Hannah

The Floating Admiral – The Detection Club

One of the big talks in recent months on a certain social media platform that I got involved with was about bloggers and how much positivity they put out there in the ether, though hardly a bad thing right? Yet interestingly I can see if I don’t write about books I don’t like then how will people know the full extent of my tastes. The problem then lies in the fact that generally I don’t finish or get very far with books I don’t like and so then just bin them off and carry on with something else, after all reading is all about enjoyment, or should be. There is one exception to this rule, book group books! And as I would probably have never chosen The Floating Admiral unless Gavin hadn’t chosen it for the latest episode of Hear Read This I ended up reading a book I didn’t like very much. Well, I utterly loathed it, yet somehow finished it, so thought I would share a gloves off moment with you all…

Harper Collins, 1931 (2011 edition), paperback, fiction, 336 pages (in tiny print), sadly bought by my good self

The Floating Admiral is a crime novel like many of its ilk written in the 1920’s and 1930’s. This should come as no surprise when you see that Agatha Christie, G.K. Chesterton, Dororthy L. Sayers and many more were part of The Detection Club who collaborated on novels such as this one, taking it in turns to write the chapters. In this tale the body of Admiral Penistone (try not to snigger as I did) is found having been stabbed and left in the vicar’s boat which has been set adrift, ideally to be undiscovered but of course getting found or there would be no mystery. Sure enough it is up to Inspector Rudge to solve the mystery, though with fourteen writers at the helm who can do what they want with the plot (as long as they have a solution to their twists, part of the Detection Club rules, more on later) good luck to him I say.

From the cover of the book, with a bloody boat on it (and you know how I feel about them), I have to say I was thinking of ways to murder Gavin for his choice. Saving grace though is that the boat is just a piece of evidence really and even the Admiral’s Navy past isn’t brought up to much. So I soon started to relax into the story and was reminded for a while of how much I enjoy the golden age of crime novels, I even smirked once or twice…

Everyone in Lingham knew old Neddy Ware, though he was not a native of the village, having only resided there for the last ten years; which, in the eyes of the older inhabitants who had spent the whole of your lives in that quiet spot, constituted him still a “stranger”.
Not that they really knew very much about him, for the old man was of a retiring disposition and had few cronies. What they did know was that he was a retired petty officer in the Royal Navy, subsisting his pension, that he was whole-heartedly devoted to the Waltonian craft, spending most of his time fishing in the River Whyn, and that, though he was of a peaceful disposition generally, he had a vocabulary of awful and blood-curdling, swear words if anyone upset him by interfering with his sport.

…Then I got so bored; so, so bored. This novel wasn’t even chundering along; it dragged itself rambling through several chapters. This was like a really bad/tedious/dull version of an Agatha Christie novel. Then thank heavens Agatha actually turns up for Chapter Four and it is like a breath of fresh air; it is wryly camp, she brings in a brilliant character which adds some gusto… and then she hurries away as fast as she can after 8 pages!

“Now,” he said with a twinkle; “I’m going to ask you a question.”
“Yes, sir?”
“Who is the biggest talker in Whynmouth?”
P.C Hempstead grinned in spite of himself.
“Mrs. Davis, sir who keeps the Lord Marshall. Nobody else can get a word in edgeways when she’s about.”
“One of that kind, is she?”
“Yes, indeed, sir.”
“ Well, that will just suit me. The Admiral was a new comer to the place. There’s always talk about a new comer. For ninety nine false rumours, there will be one true thing that somebody has noticed and observed. Attention had been focussed on Rundel Croft. I want to know just what has transpired in village gossip.”
“Then it’s Mrs Davis you want, sir.”

It then swiftly descends again and I found myself thinking ‘just hold out for Dorothy L Sayers, Simon, she is meant to be amazing.’ Amazing? Amazingly full of herself! Her chapter rambles on and on and on, compared to Agatha’s eight snappy pages Dorothy decides why go for eight when forty will do. It is relentless. I even tried to be charitable and say to myself ‘poor Dorothy, she’s been given some dross to work with and sort out’ still that dreary never ending chapter doesn’t read well. She’s a pro so I feared for what followed and I was right to.

The whole idea behind The Floating Admiral was supposedly a fun exercise for the authors involved to test themselves and just be creative, sworn over a skull or some such delightful gothic ritual. It becomes a case of showing off and one-upmanship. Take the chapters after Agatha; John Rhode decides that Inspector Rudge Begins to Form a Theory, then clearly not happy with this at all Milward Kennedy decides that in the following chapter Inspector Rudge Thinks Better Of It. And I almost wept as after Dororthy had finished her smug tirade Ronald A. Knox decides to go over the whole case again with Thirty-Nine Articles of Doubt where basically, possibly out of confusion or more likely one-upmanship, he decides to go over the whole case again from the beginning and see what can be worked out. By then there was so little left I felt I had to get to the final chapter, ironically called Clearing Up The Mess, where upon I wish I hadn’t bloody bothered. I can’t think why we have hardly heard of most of these authors can you?

There was one small glimmer of hope, though this shows how bad it got for me; the Appendices’ were quite good, sort of. You see as I mentioned before each author had to give their solution to explain why they had done what they had. As you read them you can see how the writers were writing and plotting and twisting and that is quite interesting. I say quite because one of two of them (yes you Dorothy) decide they need to show how clever they are by almost writing the rest of the book word for word. Here the star of the show shines through again, Agatha Christie’s solution is brilliant (it involves cross-dressing) and frankly should have been a book, and in fact I am hoping it is actually the plot of one of hers I have yet to read.

You could say that The Floating Admiral really just isn’t a book for me. I would go further and say it is possibly one of the most tedious crime novels I have ever read/endured. I will not be reading another; I may also now never read Dorothy L. Sayers unless someone does some serious convincing. I would rather just read Agatha; you can see why she was Queen of Crime at the time.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, Harper Collins, Review, The Detection Club

Books That I’ve Bought of Late; The London Edition

I spent most of last week down in London having a lovely time catching up with lots of friends and getting very nervous before getting rather tipsy at the Green Carnation Prize winner event. This all naturally included rather a lot of falling to bookshops and buying quite a lot of books, which I thought I would share with you all as we all like a bit of book porn don’t we?

First up were four books that I have been meaning to get my hands on for ages and ages after lots and lots of people were talking about them around Halloween…

Galley Ghosts

These four gorgeous mini paperbacks are ghostly short stories by E. L Barker, Robert Louis Stevenson, Edith Wharton and P.G. Wodehouse. Don’t they look great as a little collection? As usual I am rather slow to the party and indeed have been meaning to buy them via Galley Beggar Press’ website online, however they were on prominent display at the gorgeous new Foyles store (they haven’t paid me to say that you wait till I share it with you on Thursday) and so they were whipped off the shelves and run to the tills.

Next up was a find when I fell into Hatchard’s which is one of my favourite bookshops because of its oldy-worldy-ness. You feel like you have fallen back in time in some way, which was apt as I was after a classic crime novel by members of The Detection Club…

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Gavin has chosen The Floating Admiral (yes a book on a bloody boat) as his classic choice on the next episode of Hear Read This. I don’t know masses about The Detection Club, just that they were a select group of crime novels, including Agatha Christie, who would wrote a chapter of a book each – one of which was this one. I am really looking forward to this one as it is from the golden age of crime, which links in with the next two random purchases…

British library editions

The British Library have started publishing books, these are not any old books (though they are old books) but recovered crime classics that have gone out of print. My eye was caught by J. Jefferson Farjeon’s (who wrote more than sixty books, who knew?) Mystery in White, in part as it was in prime position in Waterstones Islington, as it had the subtitle A Christmas Crime Story and regular visitors to this blog will know I like a Christmas story over, erm, Christmas. This seemed perfect, a broken down train in the snow and a deserted country house, what more could you want. As I looked around Murder Undergound by Mavis Doriel Hay which couldn’t have been a better present to myself from London could it?

Just as I was leaving the store I then spotted a book that I had to buy because of the title alone…

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How could you not want a book by Murakami with the title The Strange Library. This was a no brainer and at the till the bookseller was super duper effusive about it saying it was a marvellous dark little fairy tale, so it should be just my sort of read.

Finally I should add another three books though admittedly I didn’t buy them, though I think I did quite well on the buying front frankly.

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On the Thursday night I attended the Penguin Annual Bloggers Night at Foyles (yes them again) where I was lucky enough to meet three authors who have books out in 2015; Emma Hooper, Claire Fuller and Julia Rochester, so I grabbed their books. I also spoke to and shook the hand of William Gibson which was nice, though his books went like gold dust. I hear Marieke Hardy is a fan. It was also lovely to see Annabel, Simon, Sakura and Kim (the latter two also very nicely showed up at the Green Carnation Party) and we had a lovely catch up and natter, including the idea of having bloggers meet ups, as we did it once and it was lovely.

All in all a rather wonderful trip and a rather good book haul don’t you think? Which of these have you read and what did you make of them? Which of them do you fancy reading? What have you bought of late?

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Books That I’ve Bought of Late; The American Edition

I haven’t really mentioned my trip to America. I am currently working out how to do it in a way that won’t feel like one of those stomach dropping moments when you visit someone and they say ‘oh, let’s look at the pictures of my holiday’ and then go on to show you about a thousand pictures of which only about ten or twenty interest you in anyway. I will keep thinking. In the meantime before Other People’s Bookshelves returns next weekend (if you want to take part in a future one I would love you to) I thought I would share with you the books that I bought whilst I was away…

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The first book I bought on my trip was, some might say fatefully with my love of her, Daphne Du Maurier’s The Winding Stair. When Thomas and I went to the rather amazing and never ending second hand bookstore Capitol Hill Books in Washington, which I will have to post about, I could have bought lots and lots of books. The sensible boring part of my brain though was thinking of luggage allowance and so I snatched up just this. It is a nonfiction historical biography of Francis Bacon. I love the Tudor period and had seen this with its British title Golden Lads here in the UK ages ago for a small fortune. $4 was simply too much of a bargain.

Next up is the last book that I actually bought, but to put this at the bottom of the pile would have set off my OCD as it is so slim it would look odd – sorry too much ramble. Anyway, I was in the airport and still had about $40 that I knew would be turned into tuppence if I exchanged it burning in my pocket. So instead of buying The Beard another NYC police t-shirt or hoodie (don’t tell him) I decided to treat myself to Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage by Murakami who I am a big fan of and thought having the American version would be extra special and so snapped it up.

Many of you may be surprised that I have never read Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, which is actually the world’s bestselling mystery ever. Well I haven’t. E Lockhart had been singing its praises at Booktopia so it was fresh in my mind. Fate then intervened as I got caught in a torrential downpour in NYC so took refuge in Barnes and Noble and this was on one of the tables I perused and was just $10 (I of course forgot about the tax) and seemed like a good purchase in return for using the shop for thirty minutes while the rain passed.

Some of you may have heard on The Readers that I struggled with bookshops in Washington initially. Everyone said I would love Politics and Prose, and I probably would have if it hadn’t been for the fact a member of staff who had been hacking up phlegmy coughs as we perused was then incredibly rude to a customer on the phone and so I decided it wasn’t for me. However that all changed when Thomas took me to Books for America before his Spanish class where I found some gems which lead me to leaving The Goldfinch in Thomas’ spare room.

Life After Life by Jill McCorkle is a book I heard about on some US blogs and possibly Books on the Nightstand around the time that Life After Life by Kate Atkinson came out. It sounded right up my street as it is set in an old people’s homes and as I mentioned in my review of The Long Road I have a thing about old people’s homes as a setting, not as some strange fetish just to clarify again. It was also mentioned soooo fondly at Booktopia I had been hunting it in bookshops and not found it, then Thomas came up with it for just $4 and for a charity, oh hello!

I then also saw two of Truman Capote’s books that I don’t own and couldn’t leave without at such a bargain price as I love his writing so much. Music for Chameleons is a collection of some of his reportage and gossipy tales. Discussions smoking with his cleaner and trading sexual gossip with Marilyn Monroe were mentioned on the back. Sold. I also got A Christmas Memory as I love reading Christmas based tales at Christmas and this is three in one which I can sneakily hideaway with when the family get too much (we are at my mother’s this year, so probably on day two) if they do. Coughs.

The final four books came from the most infamous bookstore in NYC, The Strand, which I visited on my penultimate day and so felt I could go crazy in. Initially I thought I might go crazy at how big it was, then I couldn’t find any fiction books apart from the tables at the front… then I actually found the map and all became clearer. Well after I had decoded the symbols they use to illustrate different sections. If you ever go to NYC you have to go to The Strand, its endless and books are slightly discounted in the main fiction and downstairs there is a secret section where some hardbacks are half price, legendary.

I came away with two paperbacks that I had been mulling over since I saw them, but refused to buy them because of Mardy Mark, in Politics and Prose. Wilton Barnhardt’s Lookaway, Lookaway sounds so up my street. Jerene Jarvis Johnston is in the high society of her town, yet of course she has many a secret and a really dysfunctional family, but how long can she keep them under cover. Genius, very me. Oh and it was set in North Carolina where I started my trip, so I knew I would be able to conjure it when I was reading. Amy Grace Loyd’s The Affairs of Others caught my eye because of the cover, which helpfully you can’t see, then as soon as I read the blurb and saw it was a tale of a woman who has been widowed and so becomes a landlady soon welcoming unwelcome guests (that makes sense right?) into her life and her building, I knew I had to get it at some point. Lovely stuff.

On The Books is a graphic novel by Greg Farrell and comes with the subtitle, a graphic tale of working woes at NYC’s Strand Bookstore. I spotted it when I got hopelessly lost (I think they do this on purpose for this very reason) on the first floor and it seemed the perfect souvenir booky book to remind me of NYC. Oh and it was signed.

Hardback’s are quite pricey in the US, especially when you take into account tax which I constantly forgot about. The one that I had seen and most fancied getting was Your Face in Mine by Jess Row as it sounded unlike anything I have read before. One afternoon after moving back home Kelly Thorndike is called to by someone he has never seen before and has no recollection of. The man identifies himself as Martin, one of his oldest friends, only Martin was white and Jewish then and now he is very much an African American man. Why would he change his colour and what is his plan behind it all? Martin is about to be coerced into finding out and even helping Martin with his plan… Doesn’t that sound brilliant? It was amazingly in the half price hardback section and was the last copy. It had to leave with me.

So that was my holiday loot. I think I did quite well don’t you? I wasn’t excessive but definitely came back with some great finds. I am particularly excited by Life After Life, On The Books, The Affairs of Others, Your Face in Mine and Lookaway, Lookaway as they aren’t published in the UK (yet) which makes them seem all the more special and undiscovered, though I am sure some of you over the pond will have read one or two of them. I would love to know if you have, well, I would love to know if any of you have read any of them or about any books you have bought abroad. Oh and I was also a book enabler whilst in DC with Thomas as you can see here, ha!

I won’t be sharing any posts on books I have been sent anymore after my recent decision to change my blogging style and review policy. I will still be getting them and sharing them on Twitter and Instagram though so add SavidgeReads on both of those if you fancy a nosey at the occasional bookish post parcels. I will be posting intermittent Books That I’ve Bought posts though.

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Books That I've Bought of Late, Random House Publishing