Tag Archives: Chris Cleave

The Book Buying Ban… The Update (Part II)

Only earlier this week I mentioned that though it was in many ways painful and was taking some serious avoidance my month of no book buying hasn’t been quite as difficult as I thought it would. This is both thanks to ReadItSwapIt and the Library as I mentioned in the earlier post. I also said I had received some lovely parcels from some lovely publishers and would let you know what had arrived and so I thought as its a Saturday and book shopping is so tempting I would tease you with these delights that you could run out and buy; as none of you are doing anything as silly as a self imposed ban like I am hopefully!! First up some classics…

I have been making a concerted effort to read more classics and two publishers you cant go wrong with are Vintage Classics and Oxford University Press. When a rather large thud resounded through the building from the letterbox I came down and found ‘The Bronte Collection’ which includes Wuthering Heights, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Villette and Jane Eyre. I will admit I didnt love Wuthering Heights but after reading The Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan which is all about the sisters earlier this year I think a Bronte-Binge is on the way and the season after New Year seems perfect for this don’t you think? Might be a good Xmas pressie for relatives this Christmas maybe. (Hang on did I just mention the C word before December starts – I should be ashammed!) They also sent The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever and a huge collection of his letters. I havent read any Cheever but am thrilled about these two delights. Oxford University Press kindly sent the last of the Sensation Season novels (don’t cry they may be back again next year) in the form of Charles Dickens ‘Great Expectations’ along with George Moore’s ‘Esther Waters’ which hit my attention waves on BBC Radio 4’s Open Book show when they looked at neglected classics. Be warned – the neglected classics are dangerous list of books which could lead to a huge spree.

From the people at Harper arrived a very diverse collection of books in one big parcel, the postman is not a fan of this address – his arms certainly aren’t, quite an eclectic mix indeed. Two of the books are from thier new imprint Blue Door ‘The Ballad of Trench Mouth Taggart’ (great title) by M Glenn Taylor and Mots d’Heures: Gousses, Rames by Luis d’Antin Van Rooten the latter can only be described by a post on their new blog. Sounds bizarre but will give it a go. They also sent me Snow Hill a thriller by Mark Sanderson, who has written a memoir so heartbreaking I have owned it for years and never able to read, Mark will be doing a Savidge Reads Grills very soon. Last but not least by any means as actually this is one of the books I have been most excited about in weeks (as you know I am having an Agatha Christie binge) is ‘Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks’ compiled by John Curran, I had to stop myself reading it as soon as it arrived. It’s a treat for a very lazy Sunday.

Now in a few weeks I will be doing a piece on the books to look forward to over the next year, you can see the predictions I made for this year here should you wish. Already some are coming through the letter box and Sceptre have done some very clever marketing with a collection of three books and three characters “you simply must meet in 2010”. They are called Nevis Gow, Lindiwe Bishop and Jack Rosenblum and I shall tell you more about them in the forthcoming weeks. I just love how they have packaged it all, no titles or authors on the cover, intriguing.  Books already out arrived too and they are The Sorrows of an American by Siri Hustvedt, which I think has a stunning cover, and Incendiary by Chris Cleave and you all know how I loved The Other Hand.

Another massive parcel has arrived from Orion. I have succumbed to the latest in the Twilight Saga and it seems more Vampire delights await me with the first two of Charlaine Harris’ series about Sookie Stackhouse (great name) which have become the incredibly successful True Blood tv series. I haven’t heard much on the blogosphere on these but am very much intrigued by them as have seen tonnes on the tube.  The final tome that you can see is one thats not out until June next year but I have been priviledged enough to be asjed to take a very early look at. ‘The Passage’ by Justin Cronin is massive, comes with very little, though intriguing blurb and has already had the film rites bought by Ridley Scott, more on that soon too as I think this is going to be huge (and not just in size) next year. And finally…

It’s always nice when a publisher emails you be they big or small. I have to admit I hadn’t heard too much about Honno Press when they emailed me asking if they could send me a catalogue. Honno Press is an independent publisher of Welsh Women’s fiction (so a bit like a welsh version of Persephone if you are a fan) and they have a wonderful selection of books, they also go the extra mile as they went through my blog and picked three books they thought I would love. A welsh sensation novel ‘A Burglary’ by Amy Dillwyn, a book where “each generation looks back into the tragic past, loves, secrets and lies are hauled into the open with surprising consequences for all” in ‘Hector’s Talent for Miracles’ by Kitty Harri and finally a collection of witty, wry and sharply observed stories about women with ‘Stranger Within The Gates’ by Bertha Thomas. Sounds like they have got me spot on!!!

Blimey. Now over to you… are Bronte’s and other classics the perfect pressies for Christmas and reading as Spring… erm… springs up? Who has read the Charlaine Harris books, are they like Twilight? Who has tried Honno Press and what did you think?  What will you be curling up with this weekend? What books have you accumulated of late?

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Filed under Book Thoughts

Book Groups… The Good & The Bad

Firstly before I go any further what-so-ever I wanted to just say that I don’t claim to be an authority on Book Groups. The posts that I have been doing on them are simply my opinions and experiences of Book Groups from my experiences of a new one, a random one and one I was in just over two years before I quit. The latter lead me to this piece, which I think is my last for now on Book Groups… the good, the bad and the ugly. I actually think my book group is quite aesthetically pleasing and yes that is partly an excuse to pop a picture of The Riverside Readers on my blog again.

Anyway, I am sure you will all have been pointed to a certain article in the New York Times about book groups go sour. It was with much sadness that just over a year ago I decided that it was time for me to leave the Book Group that I had started with all the best intentions. Partly because of the fact it became a huge money sucking monster, partly because someone was taking over (never got to the bottom of if it was intentional or not) and partly because of the books I got sick of reading the latest best seller or Richard and Judy choice.

Some of you may have raised your eyebrows at that last statement as you may know I actually don’t mind the Richard and Judy Book Club, its getting people reading and that’s great. The other reason might be after seeing my list of books for book groups. I don’t think I made myself very clear in that post and actually the list of twelve books wasn’t what would by my choice of  the perfect book group reads but a list of ones that (from my experience so far) have worked really well for discussion.

So why did my previous book group go wrong for me? It started off really well, a few friends/work colleagues would meet once a month in a local boozer for beer and book chatter each choosing one book and that would be the book for the month end of. By the time I left we had to bring a choice of five books and if anyone had read one it was discounted and we would vote on the others. Then the book chatter went to twenty minutes before a gossip, though the venue for dinner (?) had to be from the country the book was set in or the author was from. The final straw came when I got tired of people not finishing the books, saying they wouldn’t read ‘scary’ ‘murder filled’ or ‘too tough’ books or ‘books that are clearly for boys’. So I quit. I did for a while wonder if it was me, but I don’t think I am a hard person to be in a book group with, but I wouldn’t… you would have to ask my fellow book groupers I guess.

I do think that both the book group as a whole and each individual member has to work together to make a book group work it’s not down to just the organizers. Naturally friendships are formed or friends join together and that’s lovely at the end of the day though you all have the same goal and that is to read interesting books and discuss them. As being part of a book group I expect I should…

  • Make sure everyone is involved.
  • Welcome all opinions. 

As a book group individual I should;

  • Back up any opinion with reasons not simply ‘I loved it’ or ‘I hated it’.
  • Embrace any book that I wouldn’t normally read and give it a go minimising any prejudice I may have of it for random reasons.
  • Listen and not talk over people, actively encourage others to talk up.
  • Enjoy myself.

There are probably lots more but those are the initial thoughts that come to mind but no book groups are the same. In the new one I started with Kimbofo the only real rules we have are that the book needs to be easily available, not too expensive and we choose in turn and that persons choice is final. Simple as that and so far I think its working really nicely and hopefully it will stay that way as I love it.

If you have read this far, and I appreciate it if you have as this was a longish post and possibly a bit rambling, I would love to hear all your good and bad tales of book groups. I know you all have some so don’t be shy out with it. In fact to make it even more fun. To sweeten the sharing even more the best book group tale (positive or negative) and how your book groups work by midnight tonight will be sent these wherever you are in the world…

 

Yes two lovely Chris Cleave books The Other Hand, or Little Bee in the USA, and Incendiary which has been republished. So you now have a good incentive, though I am sure you would hopefully have lots to say without it too. So now it’s all over to all of you book group’s tales and book group workings (I do like the idea of themed book group meetings does anyone do those). Good luck…

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Filed under Book Group, Book Thoughts, Give Away

Could This Be The Last Book Binge?

Now this is going to be the last pile of books that I have bought you will be seeing for a while as I have decided to now officially test myself and see how long I can go without buying a book. There are a few reasons for this. The main one (at the moment) is that I am seriously considering, and I have mentioned this a few times of late, seeing if I could manage not to buy a single book in 2010. Pick your jaws up off the floor, or the pages of your book, I am being quite serious. Could I spend a year not buying any books at all? At the moment I am in the ‘yes I could’ camp, mind you shortly you will see a picture that will make you all say ‘pah… as if’.

There are two more factors one of which has been watching Verity of The B Files curbing, well actually stopping, her spenditure on books which is making for really interesting reading and she is doing amazingly well. The other factor is my own binge spending knows no limits; as can be shown by the array of books I came back with from the north last weekend. Do note I didn’t spend more than 50p on a single book in fact most of them were 25p. That’s what I love about it up home in the north everything is cheaper even the second hand shops. It also illustrates why it’s best I don’t live there. As you will see though every book had a reason for being bought…

The Final Book Binge?

  • The Story of Lucy Gault – William Trevor (Gran keeps telling me its his best)
  • The Ghost Road – Pat Barker (I like paperbacks normally but this Man Booker winner I never find and like the Trevor above was 25p for a hardback)
  • Surfacing – Margaret Atwood (I love this green Virago edition)
  • The Tortoise and the Hare – Elizabeth Jenkins (everyone’s recommended it to me)
  • The Body of Jonah Boyd – David Leavitt (really hard to get hold of new which I have been wanting to for ages)
  • Instances of the Number 3 – Salley Vickers (am planning a Vickers binge)
  • Dubliners – James Joyce (no luck with Ulysses lets try this)
  • Incendiary – Chris Cleave (meant to get this from publishers but Royal Mail strikes mean it’s gotten lost and if does turn up I can do a giveaway, I also loved The Other Hand)
  • Queens – Pickles (this is an out of print book that came out in the 80’s and describes the underground gay scene in London and the secrecy is also very, very funny apparently)
  • After You’d Gone – Maggie O’Farrell (have been wanting to read more of her since The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox which was superb)
  • Mr Golightly’s Holiday – Salley Vickers (another one for the Vickers binge)
  • Gigi & The Cat – Colette (an author always wanted to read)
  • To Love & Be Wise – Josephine Tey (want to read one Tey book before start Nicola Upson’s books where Josephine is the main character)
  • The Blessing – Nancy Mitford (just because it’s Nancy Mitford need I say more?)
  • A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry (several people have said this is one of their favourites)

Now in total this book binge came to the whopping price of £4.75!!! An utter bargain, but then I have to think actually in reality how long will it take me to read all these fifteen books? It’s that which makes me think maybe, just maybe, I should try and not buy anything next year. After all I get review copies in the post so that’s latest books covered, there is always the library which I am using more often now but not making the most, plus I do own over 600 books I haven’t read. There are also gifts and swaps. As the picture below demonstrates…

Gifts and Swaps

Only at book group on Thursday did Kimbofo give me a copy of David Vann’s ‘Legend of A Suicide’ which I have been really hankering after. Novel Insights sent me a surprise gift copy of The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbit from Amazon after she saw I had loved Tuck Everlasting. Also through ReadItSwapIt I have rid myself of some books I thought were duds but other people wanted and gotten Salt and Saffron by Kamila Shamsie and, another book for the Salley Vickers binge, Where Three Roads Meet. So could this be the very last book binge? Well I cant say for definate as if I am not to buy a book throughout the whole of 2010 I may need one final mass binge to see me through. For now though let’s just see how the rest of November goes and if I can manage that small amount of time!

Have you been on a book binge of late? Are you under a book ban? How do you cope with the guilt after a binge, if you have any, or the restraint a ban takes? Have you read any of the above? Have you any advice for me? Should I try a year with no book buying?

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Filed under Book Spree, Book Thoughts

Elementary Dear Oscar

Last night was my first visit to the goings on at Wimbledon Bookfest. Now believe it or not I have never been to a book festival before, I know isn’t that shocking for someone who loves books so much? So I didn’t really know what to expect or what the whole thing would be like. I was intrigued, excited and as The Converted One had refused to come feeling slightly like a sad billy no mates. However when you are in a theatre people aren’t there to look at you are they, they are there to look at the stage. I always say this about going to the cinema alone which is something I love doing, oh dear painting rather a sad picture of myself, some people hate it.

I couldnt take a picture of him talking as theatre rules dont allow!

I couldn't take a picture of him talking as theatre rules dont allow!

So my first event at a book festival had something of a sensational era twist about it which I thought was just perfect both for my current reading and just because the whole late 1800’s fascinates me. It was a talk by Gyles Brandreth, at the Polka Theatre, all about his Oscar Wilde mysteries. I have only so far read the first in the series Oscar Wilde and The Candlelight Murders but have had the second one, Oscar Wilde and The Ring of Death, waiting in the wings for quite a while.

I wondered just how a modern author could put themselves into that historical era and make everything so real. Gyles admitted he had trouble and actually Oscars grandson phoned him after reading the first book and said ‘Oh Gyles why oh why have you done this, you have done something dreadful’ which of course left Gyles very worried ‘you let Oscar drink Bollinger… it wasn’t made until the 1920’s and he only drank Perrier Jouet’ which made us all laugh, and showed how much research needs to be done into the era. Laughter was a theme as Gyles Brandreth discussed his diaries which are soon to become a memoir ‘Something Sensational To Read On The Train’.

The part I was there for was all things Victoriana and it soon came as Gyles discussed how reading The Trails of Oscar Wilde had lead him to find a real hero as well as having his fictional hero Sherlock Holmes as a young man. When he went to boarding school he became a friend of the founder who he played Scrabble against once a week and who turned out to be one of Oscar Wilde’s oldest friends and illuminated him to the life of Oscar without the scandal and painted a portrait of a man many could not say they had met.

It was when a few years ago reading a biography of Arthur Conan Doyle that he found the two had met in a hotel invited by an American publisher looking for murder mysteries to publish. The two became great friends and two legendary books were created ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ and ‘A Study In Scarlet’. The friendship and that evening is what inspired Gyles to write the Oscar Wilde Mysteries where Conan Doyle plays sidekick to Wilde’s amateur detective role which has now spawned a series.

Why the Victorian era for the basis of his fiction apart from the two main characters? “I love being lost in it. It was such a time of great change and great drama. It was a time when six men would meet at a table, some unpublished at the time, for a dinner club. These six men included Arthur Conan Doyle, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, and J.M. Barrie. What was it in that fog of London during that time that made it such a creative era, it must be what makes modern authors go back and live it in order to be even more creative themselves.”   

A fascinating evening and a delightful first taste of book festivals. I am now very excited about Kamila Shamsie on Friday and Tom Rob Smith on Saturday, also annoyed missing Chris Cleave tomorrow and Sadie Jones on Wednesday but focus on the positive. I definitely need to go to more and shall do, which are the best ones? I also managed to get my copy of the second in the series signed and should really stop typing and get on with reading it…

A Savidge Reads Signed Oscar Wilde Mystery

Now before I do dash off I have something of a competition for you which involves the Bookfest. I have a spare ticket on Friday night to see the wonderful Kamila Shamsie talk about the wonderful, wonderful ‘Burnt Shadows’ and wondered if any of you would like it? It does mean spending about two hours with me which could be a downside ha! So if you can be in Wimbledon for 7pm and have read it and loved it, could read it by Friday but haven’t yet or are desperate to read it then do enter in comments either with a link to your review (I will be checking your reviews were positive – or why would you want to be there ha) or saying why you are desperate to read the book and The Converted One Will do a draw by 9pm tomorrow! Good luck, I may cry if no one wants to spend a few hours with me though! Ha!

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Gyles Brandreth, Oscar Wilde

The Other Hand – Chris Cleave

This definitely wasn’t in my bag of books to read on the train this weekend but after finishing ‘The Bookseller of Kabul’ I didn’t fancy any of the three I had in my bag and as I didn’t do much reading over the weekend I came back on Sunday night and couldn’t decide what to read next. Now near in mind I am reading Ulysses along in the background, you might understand why big heavy tomes aren’t ideal to read along side that. So in the end I decided to follow the latest reading trend on the tubes, which thankfully seems to be less and less Twilight Saga novels, Chris Cleave’s ‘The Other Hand’. 

Now the blurb on this book has always puzzled me. “We don’t want to tell you what happens in this story. It is a truly special story and we don’t want to spoil it. Nevertheless, you need to know enough to buy it so we will just say this: This is the story of two women. Their lives collide one fateful day, and one of them has to make a terrible choice. Two years later, they meet again — the story starts there… Once you have read it, you’ll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don’t tell them what happens either. The magic is in how it unfolds.” Which not only makes you puzzled when you pick it up (though is also quite clever PR), but now makes it a nightmare for me to review. But here goes… 

The story is told from the alternating aspects of two wonderfully written female characters. One is Little Bee, who I think is a brilliant creation and could read books and books told through her eyes, the book also has the title ‘Little Bee’ in other countries. The other woman is Sarah. Through their eyes we look at sometimes shocking, sometimes saddening and sometimes incredibly funny times whwre both their lives meet. Through both of them we watch humans doing what humans do best, making mistakes, enduring hardship and building and breaking relationships through two polar opposite opinions. That is all I can say about the plot. 

If you are thinking ‘well that sounds a little dull” I promise you that its not. There is a great plot in there I just don’t want to be one of the reviewers, I am sure there have been some out there in the ether, who give the story away as I don’t think it would work if you knew more. I will say that it’s rare a book can shock me, this one managed. It’s rare a book can move me to tears, this one managed. It’s also rare a book makes me laugh out loud on public transport, this one managed. Which all in all is incredibly well done I think if one book manages all of those in less than 400 pages. In fact I think I had moved through these emotions by page 80 and continued from there on afterwards. I won’t dumb it down I thought it was brilliant. 

I will agree with a few critics on one thing not that its prose is badly written or that it’s ‘just good’ as I don’t agree with either of those statements. I do agree that whoever thought that including a letter to the ‘Dear Reader’ from the Editor at the publishing house was a very bad move. It was so patronizing and cheesy it almost stopped me from reading the book. The fact that the editor compared it to ‘Schindlers Ark’ was ridiculous as you just can’t. Then the fact that she went on to compare it to ‘Cloud Atlas’ (which I hated) and therefore compare that with ‘Schindlers Ark’ was not only incorrect but very misleading and alienating if you didn’t like either of those books. That really, really bothered me. The blurb was mysterious enough and the hype has been just about enough without a saccharine lecture added for good measure. 

Other than that it was a great read, I would recommend everyone give it ago. Don’t expect a book that will change your life, it might make you look at things differently though. You’ll enjoy yourself either way. If you have read the book do let me know just don’t give the ending away in comments for anyone who hasn’t please, thank you.

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Filed under Books of 2009, Chris Cleave, Hodder & Stoughton, Review

The Latest Books To The Never Ending TBR Pile Are…

That sounds like a bit of an Oscar Nominations announcement doesn’t it? However I really like seeing the latest books that everyone in the blogosphere is getting and so I thought I would share with you what has been arriving and being purchased of late in The Savidge Reads Towers.

Naturally I have already been back to my new favourite local bookshop in the hunt for bargain books and not come out empty handed. I have managed to pick up two more Orange Prize winners (which I may intermingle with the shortlist as I read it) so I came away with Geraldine Brooks ‘March’ and Linda Grant’s ‘When I Lived In Modern Times’ the latter which, oddly as a prize winner, is quite hard to get hold of. I loved Geraldine Brooks ‘The Year of Wonders’ (which is all about how the plague ended up in a small Derbyshire village – just down the road from my Gran – and how they shut themselves off to save others) so will be interested in this book which is a retelling of the father of the ‘Little Women’, maybe I should read that first? I haven’t read any of Linda Grant before but know she was long listed for the Booker prize last year I think it was, so am intrigued by her and the story of “20-year-old Evelyn Sert who leaves post-war Soho after her mother’s death for a new life in Palestine”. I also bought Margery Allingham’s “The Tiger in the Smoke” as many book bloggers have mentioned this classic crime story and also it featured heavily in the wonderful, wonderful ‘The Earth Hums in B Flat” which I read a few weeks ago, as well as Chris Cleave’s ‘The Other Hand’ after Claire Kiss A Cloud was raving about him the other day. Please, please, please do not give any of the storyline away on this one if you comment as it’s meant to be one of those sorts of books!

Arriving from lovely publishers I have had one more of the Orange Short List books as Picador have sent me Ellen Feldman’s ‘Scottsboro’ which I think is the first one I am reading. I received Emily Listfield’s thriller ‘Best Intentions’ all the way from the USA so will be giving that a good read of that in the non to distant future. Atlantic Books sent me a biography (not a book genre I tend to go for but often find I like them more than I think I do) ‘The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, The Mayor of Castro Street’ by Randy Shilts which after the film ‘Milk’ is getting a big re-release in a few weeks. Finally, and possibly one that I have been most excited about, the lovely people at Capuchin Books have sent me ‘The Green Hat’ by Michael Arlen which sounds very, very me “Iris Storm, femme fatale, races around London and Europe in her yellow Hispano-Suiza surrounded by romantic intrigue, but beneath the glamour she is destined to be a tragic heroine.” They have also made me one of the ‘blogs we love’ which has thrilled me and I had no idea of until they contacted me. You can see their blog here.

Finally for two books that have actually been sent by the authors themselves. Karen Campbell has sent me a copy of her latest book ‘After The Fire’ which I have not long actually just finished reading and will be raving about very soon, Kate Atkinson is a fan so I knew I would be and I wasn’t wrong. Karen has a very interesting story as an author and I will be divulging more over the weekend! Rosy Thornton sent me a copy of her latest book ‘Crossed Wires’ which arrived yesterday and is all about “the story of Mina, a girl at a Sheffield call centre whose next customer in the queue is Peter, a Cambridge geography don who has crashed his car into a tree stump when swerving to avoid a cat. Despite their obvious differences, they’ve got a lot in common — both single, both parents, both looking for love. Could it be that they’ve just found it?” It’s also described as “an old-fashioned fairy tale” which sounds quite me. Phew with all that I better get reading…

Have you read any of these or any books by these authors do let me know! Also what’s the latest book that you bought?

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Chris Cleave, Ellen Feldman, Geraldine Brooks, Karen Campbell