Tag Archives: Book Thoughts

More Tales From Home; Why I have Decided to #ReadBritish2014

A week or so ago I mentioned that I had been honoured to be asked to be the Inaugural Guest Editor for Fiction Uncovered’s website for a month. As I mentioned then, and have been mentioning for quite some time, I am a big fan of the initiative which every year highlights eight British authors that we really should be reading or should have read yet for various reasons (coverage, missing out on long lists, pure bad luck/chance, etc) we haven’t done.

Since then I have been thinking about it more and more, partly because I was writing my first post which you can see here (which looks at what might lead to some amazing authors going under the radar) and so was looking at it in different ways, without being too pessimistic I hope.

Having given it all this extra thought I decided that rather than just have a month of ‘The Best of British’ or ‘Being British’ which I was planning, and sounded unintentionally xenophobic, I think my aim for the forthcoming year is just to make sure I am reading more of the books about my home country from my fellow country folk. In short I am going to #ReadBritish2014.

This doesn’t mean that I am only going to be reading British authors, as that isn’t me at all I love books from all over the world – I am planning on joining in with Kim of Reading Matters wonderful ANZ month in May for a start. Nor does it mean that I will only be reading the well-known British authors, though I won’t ‘not’ read them to make a point either, but it would be marvellous to find some lesser known gems, all in the spirit of Fiction Uncovered.

Who else fancies reading some more fiction from home, wherever in the world you are? Or are you already a clever clogs and make sure you do this already? Do you think it is important to support local authors as you would a local indie store? Which British authors should I make sure I try and encounter over the next year? Oh and do go over and see my piece for Fiction Uncovered if you have a spare moment, it would be lovely to have you pop by and even comment if you fancied it, hint, hint!

 

 

 

 

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Aaaaaaaaaaargh, There Are Just Too Many Books…

Is it just me or do any of you ever get the feeling that there are just too many books out there and that you might not be able to read all the ones you want and how do you find out about the amazing ‘just you’ kind of books that would make your life a better place and what about all the authors you love and never seem to catch up on reading the back catalogue of and what about all the authors in translation, being translated or yet to be translated, and what about the classic novels, not just the ones from your countries canon but the ones from all over the rest of the world too and then what about all the books that are being edited or written or even just thought of or not even imagined yet for the future? And breathe.

That is how I have been feeling a little of late. I love books, can’t get enough of the blighters, yet sometimes the sheer numbers of them (be they from the past, present or forthcoming) just daunts me. It could be simply going through my shelves and boxes and boxes of books ‘to be read’, popping to the library, perusing publishing catalogues or book magazines and sites, listening to bookish podcasts, having a look at other people’s bookshelves or going to the London Book Fair (see picture below, post coming soon) etc – suddenly the amount of books just looms on you, and you get readers fright, your unable to perform reading-wise. Eek.

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That is where I am at the moment and I am sure I am not alone. There is excitement about all the reads ahead but also some fear and general bafflement. Then that sense of panic that I should be reading every spare second I have and if am not getting really frustrated and cross. Serioulsy the later happens, you can ask The Beard (who I have been with 2 years today, hoorah) all about my epic grumps if I haven’t had enough reading time. The ranting about ‘why can’t I just quite my job, eat dust and read all day’. Frightful. So how do we get through these moments? Should I switch off the bookish bit of my brain and spend some time doing other things or just get a grip and read on?

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The Inheritance of Books…

So today is going to be a bit of a strange day as we scatter Gran’s (and half of my Granddads, which seems strange too) ashes and say a final farewell to her. It’s sure to be a day of mixed emotions and knowing us Savidge’s there will probably be hysteria from all extremes, laughter and tears.

As she was such a big part of the blog, as regular readers will know, and of my life on and off the blog I thought I would mark the day in some way. What could be more apt than sharing the books that I have inherited from her.

032It has to be said that when I was asked to go through her books and take what I liked there were three thoughts. First, I just wanted to regime them all because the idea of them going out the family bothered me. Secondly, I thought how she loved lending books and buying second hand books and wouldn’t it be nice to continue that tradition with her books. Thirdly I thought about how bloody many she had, even after my mother and aunts had been through them, and so I decided to pick books in a certain way. Initially I decided to take the books of hers I had read and had on my shelves but were her editions.

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There seemed something rather special and pay about this until again I realised that we’d read so many in common. So I changed tactics and took ones I had read and lent and never got back from other people, or books I had but her edition is nicer. I love the idea of our personal libraries merging.

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Next I turned to any books by my favourite authors. Now you might think there would have been hundreds of these but I have a bad habit, if I love an authors book I invariably go on a hunt/spree (second hand shops then readitswapit then regular trips to a bookshop) to find all the others of theirs. I’ve curbed it somewhat but it still happens and Anne Tyler and Nevil Shute, as you can see were two top choices. The Shute’s are particularly special as Gran used to have these editions by her bed in our old house Sunbury when I was really little till I was about 12 so many memories there with those.

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After that it may look a bit like a free for all but there was still method to my madness, what books had I not read that a) Gran had told me I must read b) would have liked me to read. These I split three ways; classic, modern…

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And of course non fiction, something that I’m not the best reader of, Gran was especially stuff around WWI and WWII, but want to improve with.

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I do have to admit I did take a selection of books just because they looked pretty. Any special series Penguin do are generally a treat to behold, Great Ideas are no exception. I probably won’t read them but I don’t think Gran ever did either, no disrespect Gran. Ha!

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What has been lovely is since getting them home I have been sorting them (into hardbacks, paperbacks and then in alphabetical order) and as doing so I have discovered more of Grans reading habits. She often wrote her name in the front and the date she got it and then the date she read it. Occasionally other relatives (my mother or aunties Caroline and Alice) names appear in the inlay, I’ve not told them. Oops. What’s been doubly lovely are the books that are inscribed by her friends and indeed my Granddad (as you’ll see below on her 43rd birthday when I was 3) which conjure lovely images of relationships and friendships don’t you think?/p>

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I was sad I couldn’t take the remaining ones with me, there is only so much WWI and WWII literature anyone can stomach though. Ha. Jokes aside the idea some shared reads we had and now in a combined library is a lovely one. Even more lovely is that with all the books I’ve not read and have ahead, I can think that Gran was flicking those pages and reading those words before me, so we are still reading together in a way.

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The Best Love Stories Ever Told…

So before a week of reviews next week (well maybe a week of mainly reviews as I have become terribly behind with them all) I thought I would ask all of you lovely readers out there a bookish Valentine’s Day, for that is what today is, question. No, it isn’t will you marry me, ha. What I would really like to know is which are the best love stories ever told?

You see earlier in the week when myself and Thomas were gearing up to record the latest episode of The Readers we wanted to talk about love stories but realised we hadn’t really read any. I could think of three; Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles, Jojo Moyes Me Before You and David Nicholls One Day. All of these I have loved (pun intended) but have to say they don’t all end in the most delightful of ways, yet maybe that is what I think the nature of love is set to end like? Anyway, my old faithful response of Rebecca didn’t seem right and Jane Eyre is debatable as Rochester is a bit of a bastard really on occasion. Oh and of course I haven’t read Pride and Prejudice.

So I would love (did it again) some recommendations of old and new books that are love stories, yet aren’t so saccharine I might vomit in my own mouth. There I have thrown the gauntlet down, do your worst ;)

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The Folio Prize Shortlist 2013; What Do We All Think Then?

This afternoon the inaugural Folio Prize, which was the prize that the Folio ‘Academy’ started after the Man Booker was deemed too readable (is that a bad thing really?), unleashed its first ever shortlist and it’s a rather interesting bunch…

  • Red Doc – Anne Carson
  • Schroder – Amity Gaige
  • Last Friends – Jane Gardam
  • Benediction – Kent Haruf
  • The Flamethrowers – Rachel Kushner
  • A Girl is a Half Formed Thing – Eimear McBride
  • A Naked Singularity – Sergio De La Pava
  • Tenth of December – George Saunders

Now amazingly I had heard of all of them bar one, which is Red Doc by Anne Carson and is poetry so would be why it might be off my radar as I am not known for my poetry prowess. Amazingly I have also read one of them, A Girl is a Half Formed Thing is an incredible debut by Eimear McBride (who you can hear talking to me about it on You Wrote The Book) which is unlike any book I have ever read or am likely to read again. It’s a marvel.

The rest of the list I have all heard of. Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers has had a rather mixed response, people either saying it is the best thing ever or saying its completely overrated, I haven’t bothered with it shamefully because I don’t like either of the covers and think it has motorcycling in it which makes me inwardly groan. Maybe I should look into it more? Another book I was sent and didn’t read was Amity Gaige’s Schroder which I have no real reason for not reading, I think the cover (again, sorry) put me off as it looked like it might be a heart breaking tale of a child being abused or a father losing his daughter – no idea why the cover makes me think that but it does. Another to possibly find out more about?

Jane Gardam and George Saunders are two authors I have heard wonderful, wonderful things about and have been meaning to read so I might just get my mitts on those in the next few weeks. I also own two of the other books which I have kept to read at some point. A Naked Singularity I do have on my shelves and am rather fascinated by because no one would publish it for ages, then it did quite well self-published before a small press did and then it exploded. I have held off because it’s HUGE, like mammoth, so maybe a book to take on holiday. Kent Haruf is an author I have heard the most wonderful, wonderful, wonderful things about and have three of his books which make the trilogy that Benediction finished so I am going to dig out Plainsong and read that pronto. I am not sure I will read all three before the winner is announced, but then again I am not sure when that is from all the reports I have read… so maybe I will, ha!

So what are your thoughts on the Folio Prize Shortlist 2014? Do you think it knocks ‘readability’ on its head? Which ones have you read and what did you think? Which should I make sure I read? Any thoughts on who will win? I have fingers crossed for Eimear as I think everyone should read that book! Let me know your thoughts.

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Multiple Reading of Multiple Books in Multiple Slots; Multiple Madness?

I never used to be someone who could more than one book at a time, let alone three, yet weirdly that is the situation that I have found myself in. What has lead me to this unusual, for me at least, situation? Well, in the main, it is circumstances. Firstly there is the fact that work is so bloody busy (I know, I know, Simon sounds like a stuck record at the moment, but it is true) and then there is also what I am reading.

With work being rather bonkers (the small side effect of being on a project team running a £15million two month event with the aim of creating £100million in UK business, no pressure) at the moment I seem to be finding less time to read; grabbing mini reading moments (which I have to say I don’t like as I invariably need to re-read whatever I had read) or reading in stints of an hour or two when I get in, an hour after tea and/or an hour or so before bed.

Now normally this would just be valuable stints to read my way through just the one book, but because of what I am reading these have become stints to juggle three books. Two books of short stories (Sherlock Holmes as I started them for a nostalgic read, Oscar Wilde short stories for next week’s Hear… Read This!) and the latest choice at book group Sophie’s World which I am reading in bits as I am struggling with it – it feels like a very thinly veiled text book on philosophy if I am honest, so I am reading it in bits to get through it as I don’t like to give up on a book group book.

Multiple Reading

Weirdly, though I wouldn’t choose to do this normally, I am not struggling with it all. I am not even getting mixed up with the two sets of Victorian tales, not that they are the same genre but you would think that might happen. It is even helping me get through Sophie’s World in a way. If I am a bit philo’sophie’d (see what I did there?) out then in my next reading stint I turn to Sherlock or Oscar and they get me through.

Do any of you do this with books? Especially if you are struggling with one and are determined to finish it. Or do you just do this anyway, swapping between books between reading spaces or commuting and home etc? I would be very interested to know, as I would if Sophie’s World might actually be worth all the hard work in the end. Cough.

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Let’s Talk About Sex…

Well ok, let’s talk about sex in books – as I bet the title of this post raised a few eyebrows which sex seems want to do including sex in books. Last Sunday I posted a review of Mateship With Birds, Carrie Tiffany’s second novel, which I thought was a rather amazing and brilliant book. I also mentioned that it had rather a lot of sex in it, which I had taken as a kind of metaphor for the characters inner frustrations. After I write and post a review I allow myself to go and read other reviews of the book by other bloggers or broadsheet critics and see if my thoughts matched up with theirs, what surprised me was how many of them had judged the book for the amount of sex that was in the book (apparently too much) and how this took away from the books other qualities, some people even saying it would have been a better book without the sex.

Initially this made me think ‘oh what a bunch of prudes’ as I had thought the sex was very powerful, not arousing but very powerful in terms of the insight it gave to the characters, the way it matched the charge of the atmosphere and everything else. I then thought ‘oh goodness, does this make me a bit of a pervert’ as I seemed to be one of very few people who hadn’t minded it that much. Yes it was graphic, but it wasn’t gratuitous or just done for the sake of it. It gave me a lot to ponder, and indeed I talked about it with Thomas on the latest episode of The Readers. Would I have felt differently if the book simply had been gratuitous?

Well, if it had been the case I probably would have thought ‘is there any need’ but I wouldn’t have called it ‘a dirty, filthy book’. Sex is after all a part of our lives, we are all the products of it in general and we have all done it, so why is it still such a tricky (I nearly said sticky but that would have been wrong) subject for some people to read about? Especially in an era where one of the biggest selling books of all time is now Fifty Shades of Grey which from what I read (when I skimmed through a copy I bought The Beard’s mother as she didn’t want to) I thought was really just graphic and gratuitous sex for the sake of getting tongues wagging (no pun or euphemism intended) and sales – which worked.

But who am I to judge. Look at Lady Chatterleys Lover or Lolita both of those were released to horrors and have become classics. Then there is of course Marquis de Sade or Anais Nin, one who has become seen as a saucy romping classic writer the other a feminist. I also noted that here in the UK we have an award for the worst sex in a book and yet not one for the best, is that because really sex in books makes us cringe and feel awkward and so it is best to laugh at the awful sex scenes? Yet surely the good sex in books should be celebrated as books embrace all that we as people do, or should it be like the Mills and Boons of old and simply leave the bedroom door firmly closed?

It is interesting isn’t it? What your thoughts about sex in books? Or will you all be too shy to comment?

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The Week That Whizzed By Before The Looooong Weekend

I feel like I have no idea where the last week has gone. Actually that is a big lie, I know exactly where the week has gone. Work ate it. I spent Sunday working most of the day, then working until 9pm on Monday (in the office) and then 11pm (at home so in some comfort/reach of cupcakes) last night. I have been well aware that the summer will be utterly mad and I will be working left right and centre (which I embrace as I like to be busy at work), I wasn’t quite expecting it to be this mad this soon.

Hopefully the madness is over, for a while at least, though this has meant that in the last four/five days has involved working or slobbing on the sofa/sleeping. Though I did manage to record an episode of The Readers where I moan about having no time to read – oh dear! Hoorah’s ahead though as with all those extra hours I have now got a lovely long three day weekend ahead of me and (after having spent this afternoon having a lovely lunch and then lazing with a DVD, the cats, sweets and the Beard – who feels he hasn’t seen me in forever) I am going to dedicate those days to these…

A Long Weekend of Books

Yes it is time for a long weekend of book binging. I have a huge craving for crime so plan on heading straight into some S. J. Bolton, then I really want to read Nathan Filer’s The Shock of the Fall which I bought in Waterstones when I fell in deliriously the afternoon before it won the Costa, Deborah Levy because I have become a huge fan and some lovely ‘early Levy’ books turned up in the post this week. Then I have two books with ‘deadlines’ of sorts to them. Oscar Wilde’s short stories have been chosen by Kate for the next Hear… Read This! and book group is a week on Saturday and Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder has been chosen by Rita – all I know is it is a fictional tale involving philosophy and its history, I am terrified of it yet also hoping reading it might make me seem brainier and able to spout philosophical diatribe left, right and centre. Ha!

I also plan on doing some reviews and catch up on comments here and blogs all over the shop. Bliss. What are you reading at the moment or are planning to read? How do you manage to find time to read when there seems to be no time to read? Have you read any of the books I plan on devouring this weekend? Note: I know I won’t read all of them! What else is news?

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Does The Imprint Matter?

A few things have been making me ponder the imprints of books over the last few weeks. First up was when I was discussing a book and someone asked me what the imprint was and then if that imprint was very good which was something I wasn’t aware I give much thought to but then realised that I do. A bit like prizes actually thinking about it, you know the ones you really trust the selection of, or not as the case may be.

While in London I bumped into Meike Ziervogel who wrote Magda and also runs Peirene Press, who translate novella’s, which instantly reminded me I hadn’t read as many of their brilliant (they have all been very good so far) books as I have meant to. I also have a friend who has been looking for a new publisher and who asked me if I would recommend any, I instantly reeled off three or four who I would recommend because a) the staff there are lovely b) overall the books I read from their publishing house are just up my street – a publisher to trust on all counts. I also spotted a receptionist in a museum reading a Penguin Modern Classic this weekend, which I instantly recognised from the brand which whenever I see a copy of second hand I snatch up even if I know nothing about it because I trust them on previous experience.

This isn't a biased subliminal picture, it just looks pretty.

This isn’t a biased subliminal picture, it just looks pretty.

Mulling it (I like a good mull) all over made me wonder if I am partial to certain publishing houses in particular and where my bias lies. To get a negative out of the way, a certain book won a prize the other day and I looked at the publisher and rolled my eyes as I don’t really like them, not because of their books but because their publicity departments are a nightmare to work with. It shouldn’t matter but then again it does, a lot like one publishing house who has a publicists whose tweets were so up their own bottoms I blocked them and have avoided their books since. Bad, I know. Judgemental? Very. Yet once you have an impression of an imprint it sticks, good or bad. And it isn’t just the publishers you know in reality, it is also just the publishing houses you read regularly simply as a reader. For example Gran used to say she could generally trust Virago’s if she was stuck for a book to read.

Obviously I am working my way through the Persephone Classics (if a little slower than intended) and the reason for this is because through all the ones I have read, which I think is about ten or twelve now in total, maybe more, there is only one which I haven’t like and I have forgiven it everything because it is a Persephone – which is clearly a rather partial leaning isn’t it? I am hoping that when I re-read it (it was The New House by Lettice Cooper) I ‘get’ it the second time around and am 100% proven that all Persephone’s are brimming with wonder. Anyway, I digress…

Another pair of publishers that haven’t gone wrong for me are another two small independents (I need to mull over the bigger imprints more). They are Peirene Press (who I have already mentioned) and And Other Stories. Both feature novels that tend to be short-ish and cover fiction from all over the world and even though every book has something different about it you understand why it fits in the imprints umbrella, a certain je ne sais quoi if you will? I have actually rearranged my shelves recently so that these imprints’ titles all sit together and I can make a beeline for them as I must read more of them. In fact I really must pick one of them up next!

What about all of you? Do you have a certain publisher that you turn to when you need a good read and are pretty much certain any of their books will do the trick? (Feel free to tell me which one publisher it is!) Are there any you’ve had a pretty bad failure rate with? Do you have a classic or independent print you make sure you have the whole collection of and really support? Or does it simply not matter?

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The First Book of the Year

As I mentioned before the festive season hit, I like to wind down at the end of the year and start the year afresh. This normally means finishing off any serious or bigger reads before reading some nice comfort reads over the festive period making sure I have finished whichever book I am reading before the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. I managed the latter, though Vere Hodgson’s diaries Few Eggs and No Oranges was a close call as its much denser than you think (thoughts to follow soon) and because, rather shockingly, I hardly had any time for reading over the Christmas period making me even more Scrooge like than normal – which I didn’t think was possible. Now 2014 has started but I am yet to start a book, because I always think the first book of the year is an important year.

Part of this is superstition, as I think if you love the book that you start first in a year you are going to have a very good year of reading. Part of this is because it feels like the start of a new phase in reading with a fresh momentum. So I always choose a few options which I hope will reflect my reading mind in the months ahead before I pick a definate…

Possible First Books of 2014

First up a classic, or modern classic, because every year I want to delve into the literary past as well into what is about ‘right now’. One such modern classic that seemed to fit the bill is Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety which I have been meaning to read for a couple of years now and unintentionally haven’t. It is also an American classic which ticks a subliminal box as I read very little of the American classic (be it modern or not) oeuvre, well less than I might intend anyway.

Then there is the modern and the new, well it is a new year after all, and Ray Robinson’s Jawbone Lake is one I have been looking forward to since I discovered it is set in my home region, the Peak District. I also loved Robinson’s Forgetting Zoe so have been meaning to read more of his books to see if he might become a fav, something I mean to do with many an author. It also starts at this time of year which could be apt.

Ali Smith is an author that I love, and I tend to pass over authors I know I love to read someone new, or newish (as above shows) and Artful ticks an important box as a possibility as it is a book which I think will be very different, and may make me think outside the box of what a book can stereotypically do from all reports, it may also be a little bit difficult which is no bad thing. Give the brain some extra work! Oh and it is my choice for the next episode of Hear… Read This! which we are due to record next week. Hmmmm.

Finally, a book from the previous year which I meant to read and didn’t! A shoulda-woulda-coulda read from 2013 if you will. Rupert Thomson’s Secrecy is a book which went a little under the radar, despite Fiction Uncovered (my favourite bookish endeavour) listing it last year. It sounds deliciously Gothic too, possibly murderous as well, which I love in a book.

Which one will I choose? Here I should say that any thoughts above are NOT reading resolutions, I am going to discuss those (and my blogging resolutions all in one) tomorrow. Back to these books, I aim to have made a decision by bedtime but whichever it is I hope it will be a sign of a brilliant reading year ahead. I might try a bit of each one or just see which my mood leads me to. I will, of course, keep you posted. In the meantime what is your first read of the year? Are you superstitious about it at all? Or am I, as many suspect, a little bit bonkers?

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A Lovely Bookish Tale Before Christmas (Well I Think So)

I have mentioned a few times on the blog that I believe that some books are simply meant to be yours. Sometimes you find them just when you need them (like when I left London and on my first day up north saw a copy of this book with Polly, who used to write Novel Insights and I have known since I was four, which felt like a friendly nudge I was doing the right thing) or when you find a copy of the book you have been hunting for ages or ages in a second hand book shop.

Well going back to March of last year, when I was turning 30, I was celebrating my birthday with my mother, Gran and little sister Mim in Much Wenlock and going around the antique shops, delicatessens for treats and (most importantly frankly) bookshops. On the trip I discovered a first edition of Daphne Du Maurier’s very, very, very short novella (really a short story if we are all being honest) called Happy Christmas and I ummed and ahhhed about treating myself for ages before realising I didn’t have my wallet. My mother then offered as a present and I ummmed and ahhhhed some more over tea and cake and by the time I had decided that yes I did want it… the shop, Much More Books, was shut. I felt rather miffed, to put it nicely.

Last summer, on a mini trip to Mum’s again, I decided to call in on the way back. The shop was shut. Then in the autumn on the way back from a day in Shrewsbury, where The Beard was working and so I went mooching, we diverted and tried again and had just missed the closing by minutes. I gave up. Back in May Liz from Much More Books left a comment on the blog post to say they still had the book but with Gran being so ill and all that was going on I didn’t respond and thought again how I had missed out.

So a few weeks ago I decided to go for broke and finally email back and see if they still had it. I didn’t expect them too as I had checked their online stock list and couldn’t see it. A few days later Liz emailed back and amazingly THEY STILL HAD IT… a little money transfer and waiting for the postman every morning for a few days and it arrived!!!!

Daphne Happy Christmas

The very same copy, meant to be owned by me. I am honestly beyond thrilled and it seems to have come at the perfect time of year too. Fate, I swear it – and won’t hear anyone say otherwise.  Isn’t that great though, warms the cockles of your very heart I think. What is also lovely is that Liz then asked for a list of any titles and authors who she would look out for in the store and on her bookish travels – doubly amazing. See definitely fate! I wondered if you all had any tales like this, you must have found a gem in a bookstore you’d been hunting for ages? Or some other tale to warm our bookish hearts at this festive time of year, share them all with us…

P.S This post was unusually late, I started a new job yesterday so things may be sporadic for a while, well until I get a week paid leave from next week – planned that well didn’t I?

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Wrapping Up For The Year…

As each year comes to a close I have the same feeling of needing to wrap up (pun slightly intended) my reading, the blog and just my life in general. I have always been a fan of seeing every New Year as a new start. Out with the old and in with the new, sort of. The feeling has suddenly come upon me late this year as it only really hit home that we don’t have much of 2013 left earlier today, twice.

Firstly I had the pleasure of interviewing Christos Tsiolkas (who is bloody lovely) about his new novel Barracuda for You Wrote The Book. The book isn’t out in the UK till the beginning of January and the podcast will follow, but it suddenly made me realise 2014 wasn’t far away at all, despite the fact that in my head it is months away – a small wake up call. Unlike some bloggers (who I call show offs, ha, ha) I haven’t started reading books of 2014 unless they are to record podcasts or the like for next year – there are too many books from 2013 (and actually EVERY year before that but I won’t freak myself out) I still haven’t read yet!!

This was followed this afternoon by recording the penultimate episode of The Readers for 2014 and my last with Thomas (as Gavin is back for a special episode discussing the books to look out for in 2014 – there it is again – on the 31st) before the new year starts. We were discussing books we would like to get for Christmas and books we would like to give, the latter being some of our individual books of the year, another reminder it was nearly over. Then the second section of the show really hit the fact home as we discussed resolutions for 2014; what mine are shall remain a secret for a little while longer. But it really hit home and I had a mini panic.

Had I got my lists of Books of 2013 ready? No. Have I reviewed all the books that will make my list of books of the year? No. Have I worked out how many reviews I can fit in within the last few weeks of the year? No. (I have a weird habit of not liking to review books I read in the year before the following year, even if in fact it was read a few days ago. I also have a weird habit of not allowing myself to be mid-read as the New Year starts.)Have I read all the books that I meant to before I start afresh in 2014? No. And that was just the tip of the panic iceberg! I then realised I start a new job next Monday so how will I fit all this in, what with Christmas to and oh… oh… oh!

Several hours later I am much calmer. There are piles of all the books I haven’t reviewed yet and should, of which there are over twenty; some will be reviewed alone, some in bulk, some not reviewed at all – sorry about the latter I have either forgotten them or enjoyed them but don’t have enough thoughts to make a blog post on. Then I went through a selection of books I have on a secret hidden shelf, the unfinished books, and simply popped them on a pile to give away. After my time with The Luminaries I have decided I need to be tougher, better at letting go and just ditching something that isn’t working. Unreviews will have to start next year though as some of these have been half read for months and my thoughts on them are a little hazy and nonchalant – probably why I have never gone back to them.

So now I can get my house, well blog, in order for the New Year which will be a new start both in my reading and my blogging (which is really going to change next year – I have been mulling and plotting the blogosphere and my blog for some time now) and now the only question is which books do I think I want to spend the rest of the year with? I feel it is time to head for some old favourites or new comfort reads? Not quite time for any more books of 2014 just yet, they can wait – it is time for some simple self indulgence. What about all of you though? Do you feel you that the oncoming of a new year signifies a time to put your reading thoughts in order? An ending of one reading year and a start of another and all the experiences it will bring? Do you read more comfort reads and old favourites over the festive season?  Do you have any end of year reading traditions of ticks like I do?

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The Internet & Reading

Sometimes, even though it lasts 40 minutes, there are sometimes subjects that we cover on The Readers that either I feel like I need to add to or simply want to discuss on the blog in more detail. On the latest episode Thomas and I talked about the internet and how it has affected books and reading and so I thought I would bring the discussion here because the more you think about it the internet has changed the book world even more than we think both in good and bad ways. Being a bit of a cynic, only a slight one, almost every ‘pro’ has a slight ‘con’ twist to it in my view but it’s not all bad, not all bad by far.

The first way in which it has most obviously changed has got to be blogs, vlogs and podcasts. The rise of the blog across the whole of the internet has been vast. Even in the years since I started blogging, talking out into the empty ether for a few years, the amount of book blogs has more than quadrupled. It is wonderful that there are so many of us, I just can’t keep up. In a time when review pages in the broadsheets are down there are now lots of places for books to be discussed and reviewed that aren’t just book forum sites etc. That said I do wonder if it has created a small monster in terms of book blaggers, which I have discussed before, you know the blogs that appear write some reviews ask for lots of review copies and then never seem to read them. Those. That has almost created a competitive edge to blogging of who can read what first, which I think is really sad.

The second thing, and probably actually the biggest change, is the arrival of e-books and the e-reader. This has made books available anywhere at any time, even if you might not be able to log on another countries version of a certain site you can the publisher and download there. Yet as this means we can bridge the gap of books coming out at different times in different territories it also means that a whole new world of self published books, some which have become huge hits and ended up in print and some which are utter bobbins and clog up the bookish parts of the internet, everyone can be an author now!

The third and possibly most obvious change is what social media has done with books. I remember being really reluctant to join Twitter as I couldn’t see it as a bookish vehicle of any kind, who knew it would be a haven for much bookish geekery? If I want to have a chat about what I am reading, or thinking of reading where is better to pop in and have a chat? If I want to have a chat, or in some cases try and have a chat, with an author about a book where is quicker? It is marvellous. The only issues with it are when some people (authors, publishers, and bloggers) don’t know when to shut up. I don’t mean Twitterer’s diaorrhea, as I call it, which I occasionally get when I find I can’t stop binge tweeting but more a case of inflated egos or attitudes of self importance. I think sometimes people take the word ‘followers’ a little too literally and think they are some super/superior voice – always awkward to watch. Or there are the ‘controversial’ tweets begging for attention, or the misers just moaning about everything. I am a strong believer that Twitter should be a happy place, but the with fake profiles and anonymous comments sadly one of the biggest cons of the internet is how vile people can be and get away with it. Anyway, I digress; there is also the fact that if I tweeted less (and indeed the blog could fall under this category) then maybe I would read more? The distraction factor…

Let us move to the most positive parts though and for me personally there are two. The first is that a book has always been a spring board of sorts to go and discover more, initially through the power of fiction as it is what I read the most of, and then in the past I would go off and find non-fiction around any subjects the book brought up. Now of course, thanks to the internet, I can finish a book and go off and find out more from the tapping of a few buttons. For example, after I read Magda, I went off and found documentaries about the Goebbels, other books I could read, films I could watch. I had done all of this in a few minutes, which frankly is amazing and shows what a great tool it can be. Though I have yet to go as far as Thomas and actually look up somewhere the author describes to see it in the flesh, I leave the authors descriptions and the images they create or it breaks the spell. You can also find out more about the author and interviews about why have written the book, what else they have written etc. Simple Googling. In fact Thomas made me laugh and laugh as he was saying how when, in Rebecca (a book I am not sure if I have mentioned on the blog), the narrator firsts meets Maxim Thomas wondered why she didn’t Google him to check his credentials – alas she didn’t have an iPhone.

The other equally wonderful thing about the internet of course, which is all down to blogging and social media with all their pro’s and con’s, is the people I have now befriended through books and the conversations we have had, readalongs we’ve taken part in, the podcasts we have made and book groups we have started or joined. That is probably the best thing about it, be they on the internet or have they actually led to meeting in real life. They/you have made me think, made me laugh in some of the darkest times (Gran being ill and dying, me being ill, my marriage breaking down), made me think and rethink and led me to some amazing books and brilliant conversation. Reading is a lonely hobby, and sometimes the internet breaks that down whilst finding you something else fabulous to read. Can’t really fault that overall can you?

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Incoming Thoughts…

It has been about a month since I shared some of the highlights of the books that have come through the Savidge letterbox and so I thought I would share some of the books (as I am being very tough on books that now come through the door unsolicited) that I will be reading over the next few months as the mood takes me. Though I have been thinking about how I might change things on Savidge Reads in the New Year, but more on that after I have mulled it further. Anyway back to the books that have come to Savidge Reads HQ and have made themselves most at home. First up some books which have come out quite recently…

Out Now

First of all, I have to mention the book that is causing some big buzz here there and everywhere at the moment and that is S by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst. I have to admit that initially I was a bit sceptical about the book because of all the hype. I knew it was written by ‘the man behind Lost’ and if I am honest I wasn’t sure about it because I stopped watching Lost after the first series as I got, erm, lost. However as I saw people discussing it and how the book houses postcards, napkins with maps on, letters and much more my interest was officially piqued. When it arrived in the post last week I will admit I did do a little dance of glee. As yet I haven’t dared open it, I am planning on spending the day with it next weekend – as I don’t want to lose the pieces inside or put them in the wrong order. This is partly why I still haven’t opened Building Stories by Chris Ware, it is still wrapped on the top of my bookshelves.

Elsewhere in that pile are some new to me authors such as Ismail Kadare (who won the International Man Booker Prize, and its short so worth a punt), Jorn Lier Horst (who I was recommended I would like for giving a very different twist on the cold crime genre) and Nadifa Mohammed (whose Black Mamba Boy I have always meant to read and haven’t and is one of the Granta Best Young British Novelists), all of whom I am going to give a try.

There are authors I know too of course. M.R.C. Kasasain’s The Mangle Street Murders was one of the books I mentioned in my ‘books to look out for in the second half of 2013’ on The Readers, I love a Victorian mystery and this looks like a great start of a new series with a duo with a new dynamic and looks at the roles of women in Victorian society, ace. Val McDermid I have been a big fan of for ages and am very excited to read the next Tony Hill and Caron Jordan series after how she left us with The Retribution, this time Tony is prime suspect in a crime. Kishwar Desai’s series is one I often tell myself off for not reading more of, this is her third so I really must read her second.

The last two books are from more famous authors I suppose you would say. Donna Tartt really needs no introduction at the moment as The Goldfinch has had more press and social media buzz than I have seen in a book in ages. It has really put me off and after hearing the last episode of The Readers, her publishers sent me this to see if I could be tempted. We will see. I loved The Secret History so I am not sure why I am so anti this one. Finally there is the memoir of Anjelica Huston (who I like to call Jelly Who-Who, and have been slightly obsessed by since she played the Grand High Witch in the adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches and as Morticia in The Addams Family) I can be a bit funny about celebrity memoirs but I find her a fascinating woman and apparently her mother was a great writer and it runs in the family by all reports. Actually a bit giddy about this one.

Next up, some more books to keep your eyes peeled for in 2014…

Coming 2014

Oh actually Essie Fox’s latest The Goddess and the Thief, another Victorian delight, is out at the start of December my mistake. Louise Welsh is back with A Lovely Way To Burn the start of a new trilogy which sounds like a crime set in a dystopian London from the blurb. Tim Winton is back with Eyrie a novel of a man who has shut himself off from the world and whose past comes to haunt him through some neighbours he meets. Kinder Than Solitude by Yiyun Li (who I have meant to read for some time) also sees the past coming back to haunt three friends, now living continents apart, who were involved in a mysterious accident in their youths that saw a woman poisoned.

Eat My Heart Out is meant to be the debut of the Spring as Zoe Pilger has apparently written The Bell Jar meets The Rachel Papers, intriguing – Sam Byers loves this book. Lost tribes are hunted in 1950 in Hanya Yanagihara’s The People in the Trees which Ann Kingman of Books on the Nightstand has been raving about. If you like your books with a dark disturbing twist and sense of malice The Bear by Claire Cameron looks amazing as a camping trip goes horribly wrong and five year old Anna is left to fend for her and her three year old brother as her parents have disappeared and something is lurking in the woods.

Ray Robinson’s Jawbone Lake is one that will intrigue me personally as it is set in the Peak District, which is of course my homeland, and you know I love a good tale set in the countryside and a literary thriller, which apparently this is. I actually spent some time with Ray when he was writing it and we hunted murderous spots in Matlock – though I’ve noted there are no thanks for this tour in the author’s acknowledgements, the bugger, ha! This is probably going to be my next read.

Finally, blimey I have gone on, three books I bought when I fell into a second hand bookshop the other day…

Second Hand Treats

You will read my thoughts on A.M. Homes May We Be Forgiven in the next few weeks and suffice to say I am a bit on the fence with her. I think she’s an incredible writer but almost too good. That might sound crazy though it will make sense when you see my review; I decided to grab Jack as I want to try more of her work. Tove Jansson is an author many people, especially Simon T of Stuck in a Book, have recommended so I thought I would try her short stories. Paul Bowles The Sheltering Sky I know NOTHING about but it was a silver Penguin Classic and so I thought ‘oh why not?’ and snapped it up.

Phew – that is more chatter than I had planned, I do apologise. So do tell me your thoughts on any of the books that are out, the ones that are coming and any of the authors mentioned. Oh and if you think this is a showy off post go here and see my thoughts on that. Also do let me know what books you have got your hands on lately or what you are keen to read, I look forward to hearing all about them.

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