Tag Archives: Jess Richards

Mini Review Madness Part I; Arnott, Sloan, Grimwood & Richards

So as Christmas is now only a week away it means that New Year is a mere fortnight away and in an attempt to try and have written about nearly all the books I have read this year I thought  would write a couple of catch up mini-review posts. I would love to give them all a full review but I am running out of days to do that and all of the books have been featured on one of the three podcasts I co-host or host so links for more on them will be available below. For the first instalment (seeing as some of you have said they would like to see more ‘meh’ thoughts on books) we have two books I really wanted to love but sadly didn’t and two books I really, really liked but wasn’t in the best frame of mind to write about? Intrigued? Read on…

The House of Rumour by Jake Arnott (Sceptre, hardback, 2012, fiction, 403 pages, kindly sent by the publisher)

I have had an interesting relationship with Arnott for quite some time. His books either leave me feeling he is an absolute genius or they leave me feeling quite cold. The House of Rumour is a book which left me feeling both. It tells multiple tales which all interweave in various ways from a group of cult sci-fi writers in California to Ian Fleming as he spies for his country and is embroiled in an operation to use occultists against Hitler and the Nazi’s across the water. It sounds bonkers and indeed it is bonkers and I really should have loved it but overall I was just really, really confused. Initially I couldn’t work out how all the strands interlinked and started to resent Arnott for being too clever and showing off with it frankly. A shame for me as the story of Fleming and his days in the secret service which inspired Bond was absolutely blindingly brilliant and I could have read a whole book of. I just didn’t care about the rest, even when Arnott includes some brilliant short pieces of gender bending they lost their sheen when he almost repeated his tricks over and over again. Many people will love this, I just wanted the Fleming sections sadly – it is where the heart of this book really lies.

You can hear myself, Rob, Kate and Gavin discussing this on the second episode of Hear… Read This.

Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (FSG Books, hardback, 2012, fiction, 288 pages, bought by my good self)

A book about a bookstore, or bookshop as we Brits like to call them, should be the perfect read for me and initially this one was. Who could fail to fall for a book that centres around a mysterious bookshop and its mysterious owner, who Clay comes to work for after the recession hits his career, open twenty four hours with some members who take out the strangest books from the most secretive section of the bookshop? I know, sounds amazing. Until Sloan goes all modern world and technological on us, gets the object of Clay’s desires, Kat, to help him solve a mystery and the book then seems to be sponsored by Google every sentence as that is where Kat works. It began to get on my nerves, I wanted less about this one dimension modern youths and more about the strange old people reading the mysterious books in a certain order. Wholly unsatisfying and a wasted opportunity if you ask me, many people LOVE it though.

You can hear myself, Gavin, Kate and Rob discussing this on the first episode of Hear… Read This.

The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood (Canongate, hardback, 2013, fiction, 359 pages, kindly sent by the publisher)

The first of the two books that I really wish I had been able to write about after reading them, but Gran was sadly so poorly, is The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood. Set in eighteeth century France, which I know nothing about, I thought I would struggle with the life story of Jean-Marie d’Aumont but I was completely immersed as we followed him begging on the streets, and eating dung beetles (wonderfullt described), to his rise – through patronage and the military – to becoming one of France’s best diplomats and a spy. The period, especially all the shenanigans going on in Versailles, are brought vividly to life without ever having any ‘research’ or showy off detail being banged over your head which I think Grimwood is rather a genius for. The prose is as brilliant as the story, which I thought the ending of was superbly done, and Grimwood creates a heady atmosphere all through the descriptions of food. Subtly and deftly done, marvellous!

You can hear Gavin and myself talking about the book with Jonathan Grimwood on The Readers Book Club (rest its soul) here.

Snake Ropes by Jess Richards (Sceptre,hardback, 2012, fiction, 343 pages, kindly sent by the publisher)

I feel doubly bad about not mentioning Snake Ropes more as not only have I not given it a full review, I also couldn’t record the full episode of The Readers Book Club with Gavin, but family had to come first. Let’s not get maudlin though. So, Jess Richards’ debut is a tale set on an island somewhere just off the edge of any map where all the boys are disappearing. As the novel opens ‘the tall men’ come to the island bringing trade after which Mary, one of our two gutsy narrators, soon discovers her brother is missing and decides she must find him. Elsewhere on the island Morgan tells us of her life locked away from society, but how are the two stories linked? The mystery and tale that follows involves selkies (I loved the heartbreaking selkie tale so much), crows that turn to stone and the Thrashing House, one of the most scary and creepy created building houses I have fictionally stepped into. A wonderfully written, and incredibly emotive, magical tale for adults, highly recommended.

You can hear Gavin and I in conversation with Jess Richards about the book on The Readers Book Club here.

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So that is my first mini-review madness of the week. Let me know if you have read any of these books, or any of these authors other works and what you thought of them? Also let me know your thoughts on what you think about mini-review posts like these, is it nice to get a quick glimpse of some other reads every now and again or do you prefer the longer (and they are getting longer) fuller reviews?

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Filed under Jake Arnott, Jess Richards, Jonathan Grimwood, Mini Reviews, Robin Sloan

Radio Silence/Radio Savidge

That blinking thing called work is a pesky so and so isn’t it? Every time I think I am going to get back into the swing of things something like an International Music Festival comes along and reading, let along blogging, goes out of the window. On a serious note – I am actually really, really loving my new job. Second to books in my life is definitely music (family and friends are somewhere along the pecking order) so to work on a new exciting project like this is bloody amazing really. If that wasn’t enough the people are also bloody lovely (it is all bloody lovely really) and they are being really supportive with everything that is going on with Gran, no change there at the moment.

The blog has been suffering a little though I will admit, though I think (blowing my own trumpet maybe, as you may all disagree) that my reviews have become more ‘me’ I think. Still a work in progress as always but I feel much happier putting them out, even if they are taking (and becoming) a bit longer. Let me know if you think otherwise!

Anyway, I realised that whilst my blogging has gone a bit more sporadic there are three other ways you can catch up with me being bookish and those are the podcasts I am on, and this got me thinking about Radio Savidge. You see there are the three podcasts I do (The Readers, The Readers Book Club) and also the podcasts that I am always listening to and so I thought I should share some of them with you so that, should you fancy, you can hear me waffling on about books or listen to a few of the podcasts I have in my ears at the moment.

TheReadersTRSummerSeasoBannerYWTB

So as some of you will know I host two book groups, one which also has a monthly spin off. The first is ‘The Readers’, which has now gone fortnightly, which I co-host with the bloody lovely Gavin of Gav Reads. We subtitled it ‘Book Based Banter’ because generally we waffle on, and off on tangents, about books for roughly 30/40mins per episode. We also have a monthly book club which we have now made seasonal. For the summer selection we have gone for ‘The Case of the Missing Servant’ by Tarquin Hall, which you can hear here and see my review of here, and for July we have ‘Snake Ropes’ by Jess Richards (which we are recording next Wednesday) and ‘The Last Banquet’ by Jonathan Grimwood in August. Each show features Gav and I discussing the book, being joined by the author and sometimes a special guest PLUS asking your questions. So, if you have any for Jess or John let me know.

The final podcast I am involved with is the one I host alone. You Wrote The Book! is a fortnightly ‘in conversation’ show where I (lightly) grill an author. Some people love author interviews, some people loath them, I love them as I find authors brains rather fascinating and I have been very, very lucky as already I have had Evie Wyld, John Boyne, Xiaolu Guo, Alan Bradley, Taiye Selasi, Joanne Harris, Patrick Ness, Damian Barr and Maggie O’Farrell on the show! Eek, squeal. If you fancy having a listen to them you can do here.

Sorry about that slightly shameless plug, I will now redeem myself by sharing three of my favourite bookish podcasts that I listen to every episode without fail and think you should be checking out too. First up is ‘Books on the Nightstand’ which I think I have raved about endlessly already on several occasions. Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness have become firm friends of mine, though we have never met, simply through hearing them and tweeting bookish stuff with them. They both work for random, know their books, love their books and are brimming with recommendations – recently they discussed ‘A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon’ by
Anthony Marra which had completely gone under my radar and was absolutely amazing, A–MAZ–ING! Next up are another duo, who also happen to be boyfriend and girlfriend (does playground giggle behind hand) too, in the form of Rob and Kate who make up ‘Adventures With Words’, this is another weekly podcast and I often sit with a cuppa and listen, occasionally responding to them before realising I am not in the same room as them, oops. Finally, another duo, only this time related as Trevor of Mookse and Gripes blog now does a podcast with his brother discussing NYRB classics, with the occasional extra show thrown in for good measure.

I could of course mention the vodcast of the ABC Book Club, formerly The First Tuesday Book Club with my heroine Marieke Hardy, and also the Radio 2 Arts Show with Claudia Winkleman, who I am currently slightly obsessed by and who I would like to steal many an interview technique off as well as spend many hours with discussing books. They are two further goldmines of audio joy, well one is visual too. Oh, I mentioned them anyway.

So which podcasts do you listen to regularly that I should be adding to my own Savidge Radio Station? Do we listen to any of the same ones?

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Filed under Random Savidgeness

Back into Book Groups…

Thank you for all your nice thoughts when you popped round for tea and biscuits last week , lovely to catch up with some of you, even though I proceeded to vanish again I did read all your comments. Now that I have actually managed to be at home for a few days on the trot, though I am back off to Derbyshire to see Gran this weekend, and have actually managed a few days of no work and just ‘being’ I have to say I am feeling slightly more normal and caught up with myself a bit – not quite fully but not far off.

Anyway, today I am going to talk to you about book groups because back at the end of last year I said that I wasn’t going to join any more. In fact I think I said I would just stick to doing The Readers Book Club with the lovely Gavin every month, and we have. Oddly we had to have a small crisis meeting about this the other week as over the last few months we’ve been having a bit of a nightmare. Authors have vanished meaning we couldn’t record with them, three publishers promised us books then withdrew last minute making us look a bit stoopid and we thought ‘right, let’s sort this out’. So, we have decided to go seasonal and from now on every three months we will announce three books in advance so people have more of a change to read along and get involved. The summer selection was announced yesterday and here they are…

  • The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall (14th of June 2013)
  • Snake Ropes by Jess Richards (12th of July 2013)
  • The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood (8th of August 2013)

So hopefully this will entice some of you to read along, have discussions on our blogs on the same day and even (fingers crossed) get questions to us and possibly appear on the shows when they go live. What say you?

Thinking about book groups then made me realise how much I have actually missed being in one. To be fair when Gran has been lucid we are still talking about books but as she can’t read I haven’t been able to introduce the idea of an ‘End of Your Life Book Club’ ala Will Schwalbe which we had thought to, though as we are listening to the same audiobooks when together maybe that counts? Regardless of that I decided it might be nice to join one, something I am actually rather nervous about as I have tended to start (and then leave the city within months/a year) book groups in the past rather than join one with friendships already running through it.

Yet the lovely Rosario lives in Liverpool and had invited me to join the book group she is in when I moved over here and I initially said yes but then got too busy with everything. However now, after a slightly humble email from me, I have asked to rejoin and if I can get a copy of ‘Watchmen’ from the library in time I will be joining them next week. If not I will be joining the month after for ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’. From Alan Moore to Agatha Christie, that sounds like my kind of book group! I also caught up with one of my best friends from secondary school, who I hadn’t seen for sixteen – yes SIXTEEN – years but now live two miles from, yesterday and we joked about one on the Wirral. Could I handle two? Well Gran was in three, so maybe it is in the genes?

So what are your thoughts on the Readers Book Club Summer Selection 2013? Have you read any and what did you think? Also do you have any tips for me as someone joining a book group that has been going a while? Are you in a book group and how are you finding it, and what are you reading, what have been your groups highlight reads? Any of you love books but can’t think of anything worse than a book club, just out of interest?

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Filed under Book Group, Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

The Green Carnation Prize Longlist 2012

One of the joys of blogging was meeting lots of new people and getting very excited about books. Three years ago along with Paul Magrs, Nick Campbell and joined by Lesley Cookman I started on an exciting new venture co-founding a prize for LGBT literature of all kinds which eventually, after a small glitch with the initial name, was called The Green Carnation Prize. Well just over three years later the prize has changed a little bit yet the current team of judges, and one is an old ropey judge who refuses to leave, has brought you a very exciting longlist of thirteen books which are…

  • Carry The One – Carol Anshaw (Penguin)
  • Are You My Mother? – Alison Bechdel (Jonathan Cape)
  • Ninety Days – Bill Clegg (Jonathan Cape)
  • The Purple Shroud – Stella Duffy (Virago)
  • Absolution – Patrick Flanery (Atlantic Books)
  • A Perfectly Good Man – Patrick Gale (4th Estate)
  • Scenes From An Early Life – Philip Hensher (4th Estate)
  • Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Before He Stole Me Ma – Kerry Hudson (Chatto & Windus)
  • Snake Ropes – Jess Richards (Sceptre)
  • Hawthorn & Child – Keith Ridgway (Granta Books)
  • Valentine Grey – Sandi Toksvig (Virago)
  • Moffie – Andre Carl Van Der Merwe (Europa Editions)
  • Jack Holmes and his Friend – Edmund White (Bloomsbury)

It is nice to be able to share at least the titles of some of the books that I have been secretly reading away over the past few months. Alas, I can’t tell you exactly what I thought of these thirteen because there is the short listing and the winning announcement to go, but it might be time to start telling you about some of the amazing books that didn’t make the longlist this year… because that is how good the submitted books were this year.

Always keen to get in on the act, a certain Oscar cat is now casting his eyes over the selected few and will be accompanying me in some re-reading. However I think I might have a week of reading just what I fancy first.

So what do you think of the list? Have you read any of them? What do you think might make the shortlist? Are there any you are surprised not to see? Are you going to give any of them a whirl? All thoughts, as always, most welcome.

Full details and thoughts from all the judges, and updates over the next few weeks, on the Green Carnation Prize can be found on the website.

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Filed under The Green Carnation Prize