Tag Archives: Justin Cronin

Something Is Almost Yours… A Giveaway!

You may remember that I went a little bit bonkers for a book that I never expected to last year. The book was Justin Cronin’s ‘The Passage’ which by being labelled a vampire apocalypse novel by many and being over 700+ pages long really didn’t sound like my cup of tea, well just goes to show how wrong you can be as I thought it was brilliant. In fact I even gave it good quote for the trade edition alongside some literary heavyweights…


Well now you can try it for yourself (in a limited run edition which I think looks rather smart) by popping over to Novel Insights, watching a little video of the author talking about the book, and answering this question… “Who inspired Justin Cronin to write ‘The Passage’?”  and email the answer to novelinsights@googlemail.com yep its that simple!

Good luck, Polly will announce the winner on 22nd of May. Oh, and keep an eye out for an announcement from Novel Insights and myself this Friday on a rather exciting project we are doing together, we are a little excited about it!

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Filed under Give Away

Summer Read Suggestions – The Bloggers (Part Two)

So after yesterdays post which unveiled what some bloggers will be reading over the summer months and which books they have already loved during summers passed here are the second instalment of bloggers and their thoughts on summer reads.

Just in case you might be wondering why you didn’t get an email asking… check your spam, as I sent this out to loads and loads of bloggers who I enjoy but only got half the responses back. However as I have enjoyed these sort of posts so much (and hope you all have) I will be doing another one in the non too distant, a summery follow up I guess, so don’t worry about sending responses in late. Right, anyway on with the recommendations…

Polly, Novel Insights

My summer recommendation would have to be Peyton Place (starting out with that wonderful Indian summer passage and heady atmosphere).

As for what I am looking forward to reading this summer… A Room Swept White, by Sophie Hannah – I’d love to read this on holiday as her books are so gripping and I never fail to be surprised by her plot twists. I will also be heading to Sri Lanka so I might be taking some fiction set there or by authors from there if I can get my hands on some.

Simon, Stuck in a Book

People talk about beach literature as though it ought to be something trashy, preferably with the torso of an anguished woman taking up most of the cover.  I prefer to take something meaty on holiday with me, where I’ll have fewer distractions – a dense Victorian novel, say, or a tricky experimental novel which would confuse me if read in short bursts.  Having said that, my favourite summery read is actually The Summer Book by Tove Jansson.  These tales of summer on a Finnish island are wonderful wherever they’re read, but there’s something perfect about reading them on a windy beach with the sun in your eyes. For those of us who only have holidays in this Sceptred Isle, a touch of Scandinavian summer is welcome, if only vicariously.

Bearing in mind my answer to question 1, I am considering taking Fanny Burney’s Camilla off on my holiday this year.  It’s got more pages than I’ve had hot dinners, and a Yorkshire moor (for this will be a beachless summer for me) could be the perfect place to immerse myself in the dalliances of the eighteenth century.

Harriet, Harriet Devine’s Blog

I would suggest Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures for a summer read. It would be especially apt for a beach holiday (and even more so if that was taking place in south west England) as it is set in beautiful Lyme Regis, on the Dorset coast, and much of the action takes place on the beach, where a couple of women are searching for fossils. This is much more exciting than it sounds — a real page turner, in fact! Set at the time of Jane Austen, this is a lovely, sensitive, thoughtful read, not too demanding for a relaxing holiday but intelligent and thought-provoking too.

Claire, Paperback Reader

It entirely depends on whether I am going on a summer holiday or not.  If I’m staying at home over the summer months then my reading won’t change all that much but if I am going to be in the sun then my reading choices tend to reflect that.  I usually go for something a tad lighter in content, nothing too heavy that will bring me down; however, I have also seen me take Vanity Fair by William Thackeray to the pool-side with me!  Sometimes I pack in the suitcase is a classic I’ve been meaning to read or a book I have been saving up for uninterrupted reading time. I do like books set in sunnier climes too for when I’m likewise baking in the sun or relaxing in the shade or air-conditioned room with ice-cream or refreshing watermelon.  The perfect examples I can give of my  favourite type of summer reads are those I read the last time I was in Florida; I took with me A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini; The Return by Victoria Hislop; The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak; The Rain Before it Falls by Jonathan Coe; The Private Lives of Pippa Lee by Rebecca Miller. All were perfect choices with none of them too literary but with more than enough substance to keep me immersed on long flights and the beach.

This summer I am not going abroad but will head home for a couple of weeks.  I intend to take The Passage by Justin Cronin with me because it’s long enough to keep me going although I foresee not having many free moments to read it and it extending out to a seasonal-long summer read.  I’m also going to pick up a couple of lighter books that everyone else seems to have read: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert before the film is released.  Depending what makes it onto the Man Booker longlist, I may include a few of those on my summer reading list; I say list metaphorically though as I’m going to try this year not to plan my reading too much and make my choices on a whim instead.

Dot, Dot Scribbles

The perfect summer read for me has to be a page turner, I need to be gripped by it so I can happily spend an afternoon in the sun with my book! These can vary from quite light chick lit type books to something a bit heavier, I always find Daphne du Maurier to be a good holiday author as you can be totally absorbed.

This summer my one holiday read that is already in the suitcase is actually down to the wonderful reviews from yourself and Novel Insights and that is Peyton Place, I wanted to read it as soon as it arrived but I decided that it would make perfect holiday reading. In terms of general summer reading I prefer books that are set more in that season, I find it really hard to read something in July/August that is talking about snow and the freezing cold! For some reason as well I tend to prefer to read mystery type books in the Winter but I have no idea why!

Jackie, Farmlane Books

The long list for the Booker prize will be announced on 27th July so I will spend most of my Summer reading time trying to complete the list. I don’t change the books that I read based on the seasons – I enjoy the same types of book all year round. If I’m going away then I prefer to take a few longer books with me – I’d hate to run out of reading material half way through a holiday! Fingersmith by Sarah Waters or Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel are great examples of long books that would be my favourite holiday reads.

This Summer I am looking forward to reading The Elephant’s Journey by Jose Saramago. Blindness is one of my favourite books and I hope that The Elephant’s Journey contains his usual blend of fantastic writing and original story telling. His recent death has made this book even more important to me.

Claire, Kiss A Cloud

The perfect summer read for me would be something that makes me feel lighthearted and young and happy to be alive, of which the perfect example would be Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle.

Although I would read anything in the summer, what I most look forward to is Maggie O’Farrell’s The Hand that First Held Mine. While I have never read her yet, I’m convinced that it’s going to be a wonderful experience, based on many blogger recommendations. The book is said to pull on our heartstrings, and this leaves my mind imagining a summer romance.

Tom, A Common Reader

Summer reads? Well, I’ve been thinking about that and in all honesty I don’t think I differentiate between summer and other seasons. The books keep rolling in, and I keep reading them! However, thinking of summer books, I suppose something like my recently reviewed Hundred Foot Journey by Richard Morais would be ideal combining humour, al fresco eating and France. I think most people would be happy to take something like that on holiday with them.

Or a book of short pieces like the one I’ve just read called ‘Are We Related?’ which is the New Granta Book of the Family. Perfect for dipping into but by no means trivial.

Karen, Cornflower Books

It so happens I’ve just finished a perfect, relaxing, summery read, Rosy Thornton’s A Tapestry of Love. It’s set in rural France (a mountain hamlet in the Cevennes, to be exact) and it was inspired by a visit Rosy made there on holiday some years ago. The novel takes you through a year in that beautiful, relatively remote spot, and its heroine has her ups and downs, but it’s a warm, gently uplifting book which will entertain whether you’re already drowsy with summer heat or stuck in the cold and damp and wishing you could get away from it all.

In ‘real life’ Rosy is a Law don at Cambridge, a Fellow of Emmanuel College, and – impressively – she manages to combine that academic career and a family with being a novelist, but combine them she does, and her intelligent, lively books are pure pleasure to read.

Frances, Nonsuch Book

Working in education, I still have summer vacation every year just like the small people so summer reading has special meaning to me. Reading on a whim, at odd hours, as much as I can ingest before falling asleep with a book. Also enjoy a bit of a fluff parade those first few weeks out of school. Nothing to task the brain too much and a little off course from my usual reading choices.

My only reading obligations this summer are to my Non-Structured Book Group. We are reading A Personal Matter by Kenzaburo Oe in July and In the American Grain by William Carlos Williams in August. I say “obligation” but that is a bit of a joke as no one in our group would give a fig if I decided not to read or gave up on a book and emailed everyone, “I quit. This sucks.” And this is just one reason I love my online book group. Others include big brains, great writers, and Olympian quality smack talking.

Looking forward to re-reading Agatha Christie books for the first time since I was a teenager, Lit by Mary Karr, Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English by Natasha Solomons, The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman, The Pregnant Widow by Martin Amis, and a whole bunch of Parisian inspired reads for the Paris in July event hosted by Book Bath and Thyme for Tea.

So that’s your lot, for now anyway, I am probably going to do a follow up post from a few more bloggers authors and co in the next few weeks. So what will you be reading over the summer season?


Filed under Book Thoughts

Summer Read Suggestions… From Authors

Earlier in my ‘Summer Reads Week’ I asked for suggestions of favourite summer reads from publishers pasts and the ones they were looking forward to having a read of over the coming months. So I then thought what about authors? I have noticed in the past some papers and the like get some authors to tell us just what they will be reading over the summer, so I thought why not do the same with authors? Asking simply what makes the perfect summer read for you and which book is your favourite summery read? Which book are you most eager to read over the summer months and why?

Rather than go off and just get any author I could to answer these questions I decided to go for some authors who have produced some of my favourite reads over the last few years of me writing Savidge Reads. I was most chuffed that they all said yes…

Maria Barbal

It depends quite on the time to spend. If I have a complete month it’s a good moment to read a long novel but also for a second rereading or for reading the whole work of an author.

I have read one book by Herta Müller and I would like to read some more.  Specially Tot el Que Tinc ho duc al damunt  (Atemschaukel, English: Everything I Possess I Carry With Me), because she has a poetic and piercing style, and reaches the reader with her writing.

Neil Bartlett

A perfect summer read for me is one which is utterly engrossing, but which I can safely fall asleep while reading on the flagstones of my garden, and then pick up the thread of at once, once I awake. Two contrasting examples currently in my pile; The Leopard (Lampedusa- perfect, as it makes the Visconti movie replay in my head) and My Memories of Six Reigns by Her Highness Princess Marie Louise – a junkshop find, full of great pictures and bizarre bejewelled stories.

Which book for this summer ? Andrew Graham Dixon’s new Caravaggio biog, which I think will piss me off, as he’s very determined to de-queer the paintings, but he’s a serious historian, and Caravaggio is an artist whose works I hope to spend the rest of my life looking at.

Stella Duffy

I read really widely anyway, and have never really bought into the ‘some books are for the beach’ idea, BUT I do like the books I’m hungry to get through in one or two sittings when I happen to have an afternoon free (we don’t have much skill at actually going away on holiday in our house!). I’ve had splendid summers in my garden where, after working all morning, I’ve spent the afternoon speeding through a friend’s very fast-paced dark crime novel or another mate’s bonkbuster.

I remember a great summer week of working every morning and reading Val McDermid’s Mermaid’s Singing in the garden in the afternoons. It hardly sounds summery, but there was something about the contrast between the warmth and sunshine and the darkness of the book that I really enjoyed.

I have Anna Quindlen’s ‘Every Last One’ on my TBR pile and I’m definitely looking forward to that. Unusually I HAVE been swayed by the quotes on the cover – Anne Tyler, Elizabeth Jane Howard, and Alice Hoffman in praise? It has to be good! I also have some newly released Janet Frame short stories ‘The Daylight and The Dust’ which I’m definitely looking forward to, and I do think they will need a long, slow, quiet afternoon or two to really do them justice.

Tess Gerritsen

The perfect summer read… A book that takes me completely out of my own surroundings and transports me to a different one.  I especially love being plunged into a different time period, or even a different world.  An historical mystery by Arianna Franklin, for instance, would be an example of a perfect summer read.  Or a fantasy novel along the lines of Tolkien.

I have a copy of Justin Cronin’s The Passage.  I can’t wait to dive in. And I also have a copy of Manda Scott’s mammoth work Boudica, which I’ve been putting off until I have the time to do it justice.  I’m looking forward to them both so much!

Sophie Hannah

The perfect summer read, for me, is anything that pins me to my sun-lounger long after I would ordinarily have leaped into the swimming pool – a book worth getting sunstroke for. I have lots of favourite holiday reads dating back several years – the one that springs to mind is ‘The Memory Game’ by Nicci French, which I read on holiday in Florida in 1999. It remains one of the most sophisticated, intelligent, sensitive and gripping thrillers I’ve ever read.

On my holiday this year, I plan to read the new Scott Turow, ‘Innocent’, the sequel to ‘Presumed Innocent’, which I have no doubt will be as stylish and compelling as Turow always is, and ‘The Disappeared’ by MR Hall, a brilliant new crime writer whose series protagonist is a coroner.

Hillary Jordan

My perfect summer read is a beautifully written novel that grabs hold of me on page one, pulls me into another world and doesn’t let go till The End. I think my best ever summer read was Lord of the Rings.

This summer I was hoping to read The Lacuna but am racing to finish my own second novel, Red…so I suspect that’s the only book my nose will be buried in over the next few months!

Paul Magrs

There are several novels I associate with summer – and I’d be keen to reread them at some point during the holiday… R C Sherrif – The Fortnight in September, a suburban family between the wars goes to the seaside. Nothing happens – from everyone’s POV. A perfect novel! Haruki Murakami – The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, it’s long, episodic and puzzling. I read it in Paris last summer and loved it. Scarlett Thomas – The End of Mr Y. This is another holiday read that’s all mind-bendy and completely absorbing and perfect for sitting at cafe tables with strong coffee and fancy ice cream. Jacqueline Susann – The Love Machine. Perfect sleazy soap opera set in the world of 60s television. Jonathan Caroll – The Land of Laughs, a wonderful supernatural thriller about a writer of children’s books.

And, of course, as many unread or favourite Puffins, gobbled up alongside all of these. The papery fragrance of Puffins *is* what summer smells of, to me. Too many, no..?

Dan Rhodes

My reading habits aren’t particularly affected by the seasons, although I did once give up on Kafka’s The Castle while lying on the beach in Majorca. I just couldn’t feel the cold. At the moment I’m going through a cop novel phase. Two in particular I’ve found supremely original and well worth a look: Bad Traffic by Simon Lewis takes a Chinese detective and drops him in the English countryside, and Pocket Notebook by Mike Thomas follows a ‘roided-up firearms officer as his life and career unravel quite spectacularly. Most cop novels are by whey-faced writer types who would run a mile from a genuine crime scene, but Mike Thomas happens to be a serving police officer, which adds a frisson of authenticity to proceedings. Should that matter in fiction? Possibly not, but either way it’s a cracking read. I’m impatient for more from those two.

I’m going to plough through my short story shelf. There’s still plenty of stuff I haven’t read by William Trevor, VS Pritchett, Katherine Mansfield, Paul Bowles, etc, etc. And just when I think I must be nearing the end of Chekhov’s fiction I always seem to find a bunch of stories I’d never heard of. And while I’m on the subject of short stories, may I recommend Rhapsody by Dorothy Edwards? I’m always on about this book, but it’s criminally overlooked. It’s one of the best things ever to have happened on Earth.

Natasha Solomons

I remember my summers by the books I was reading. The summer of 2000 wasn’t island hopping through Greece with a slightly dodgy boyfriend and his dodgier moped, it was ‘A Thousand Years of Solitude’. The August I left school was ‘Moontiger’ and ‘A Town Like Alice’  — (which did cause me to develop a slight obsession with the sarong). During summer I want a book that transports me — I want the story to be more real than the British drizzle and to be so compelling that I’m flipping the bbq burgers in one hand and clutching my book in the other.

The books I love this year are Irene Sabatini’s ‘The Boy Next Door’, which has already won the Orange New Writer’s Prize — it’s the love story of a mixed race couple struggling amidst the growing chaos in Zimbabwe. I love these kinds of books: the small and personal set against the vast and cataclysmic. The other is Emma Henderson’s ‘Grace Williams Says it Loud’, which made me cry. The book is inspired by Emma’s own sister who lived for many years in a unit for disabled people. Yet, this is a sweeping love story narrated with such verve by Grace that you forget she is unable to speak. You’ll also fall in love with Daniel — he’s so dapper and debonair. I’ll also be re-reading Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’ for the seventieth time. No summer is complete without a little strawberry picking at Donwell Abbey.

Evie Wyld

I love a really massive book for a summer read, and preferably something a bit spooky or scary, like Murakami’s Wind up Bird Chronicles. That was perfect. But this summer I’m looking forward to The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. I’ve heard amazing things about this book.

Other things I’m taking on holiday are Larry’s Party by Carol Shields and The Trout Opera by Matthew Condon. I love Carol Shields and I’ve been meaning to read this for ages, and I’ve just been given a copy of the Trout Opera by my partner. He says I’ll love it, and he should know. All Australians I’m afraid!

So there you have it, on Friday and Saturday it’s a two parter of books that some other bloggers (some still haven’t responded tut tut, ha) have suggested for your summer reading TBR’s. Back to today though, anything taken your fancy from the selection of titles above? I am most intrigued by some of them I have to say. Did any authors surprise you with what they could be reading over the summer?


Filed under Dan Rhodes, Evie Wyld, Hillary Jordan, Maria Barbal, Natasha Solomons, Neil Bartlett, Paul Magrs, Sophie Hannah, Stella Duffy, Tess Gerritsen

The Passage – Justin Cronin

I have been trying to think of the last time I have seen so many posters of a book as I have for Justin Cronin’s ‘The Passage’ on the underground in London. It almost feels like its every station plus every single book site it going crazy about it. It’s already being heralded as ‘the publishing event of the year’. When I received the proofs from the publisher (I got two, they were very keen I read it, and gave on to Novel Insights) I knew that this was going to be a huge book, not just in size, for 2010. There were four pages of quotes from Orion staff almost screaming how much they loved it, its film rights have been sold to Ridley Scott and the book arrived in November, a whole seven months before its release. Now that’s a lot of pressure for any book and a huge amount of hype so instantly my mind was made up ‘it won’t be worth it’ then  when someone mentioned the word ‘vampires’ I could feel my eyes visibly roll, shows how wrong you can be though doesn’t it?

There is something I want to say about ‘The Passage’, before I go any further, do not watch the promotional trailer. It gives something away about the book that you aren’t even sure about as you get to page 500. In fact I would be wary of reviews unless, like I am about to do, they say they aren’t going to give too much away. Erm, I am not going to give too much away!!

‘The Passage’ is a very hard book to encompass in a review purely from it’s size, plot, cast of characters, twists and turns and I do think some people might just blurt everything out from excitement and that could ruin the reading experience. I was most cross when someone let the word ‘vampire’ out the bag before I had even started, but that is a bit of a given with this book and without mentioning them you couldn’t explain how brilliant this book is, don’t let vampires put you off like they almost did me as you would be missing out on a trick.

The only way to categorise ‘The Passage’ is epic, not just in size but also in scope. You can’t label it a thriller, horror, science fiction, supernatural or literary fiction because actually it’s all of those and more. Cronin has a vision and imagination that has no bounds. ‘The Passage’ starts in modern times (I found out late on when a character looks back it actually starts in 2012) with three characters going about their lives. Anthony Carter is facing the death penalty for murder. Agent Brad Wolgast is on what he thinks is simply another assignment. Amy Harper Bellafonte has just been abandoned by her mother at the doorstep of a nunnery. Elsewhere in the world, Bolivia in fact, the army have found a horrifying virus but power hungry as we humans are someone decides to harness it as a weapon against terrorism creating a new species of ‘Subjects’ semi-human weapons (vampires, but not like we have seen vampires before) by infecting prisoners on death row. Only they now need a child to test it on. What’s more is humans haven’t bargained on these ‘Subjects’ thinking for themselves and the true nature of the virus.

“Subject Zero glowed. In the infrared, any heat source would do that. But the image of Subject Zero flared on the screen like a lit match, almost too bright to look at. Even his crap glowed. His hairless body, smooth and shiny as glass, looked coiled – that was the word Grey thought of, like the skin was stretched over lengths of coiled rope – and his eyes were the orange of highway cones. But the teeth were the worst. Every once in a while Grey would hear a little tinkling sound on the audio, and knew it was the sound of one more tooth dropped from Zero’s mouth to the cement. They rained down at a rate of half a dozen a day. These went in the incinerator, like everything else; it was one of Grey’s jobs to sweep them up, and it gave him the shivers to see them, long as the little swords you’d get in a fancy drink. Just the thing if, say, you wanted to unzip a rabbit and empty it out in two seconds flat.”

You might now be thinking it sounds like it gets magical. It doesn’t.  It’s just a new race of super killing predators have been created which changes the world forever. What happens after?  You would have to read it to find out as I really, really don’t want to give the slightest thing away for anyone. I think I can say that the book does very much feel like it has two parts as at one point Cronin suddenly  tips everything you have thought, assumed and been heading towards right on its head in front of your eyes. I gasped. Yes it’s a book with vampires in but its also a book about the nature of humanity too.

Unlike many books that get this sort of hype and have the mix of thriller, sci-fi etc not only does this have fantastically fast paced plot (page turning addiction) it has a marvellous set of fully living and breathing characters and is very well written. I don’t know if we have had literary vampire fiction before have we, ha? The plot and speech of the characters are designed to move the book forward quickly but never at the expense of the prose. And what a cast of characters, women will fall for Wolgast as he is brave and caring though never clichéd, you will feel sympathetic for Carter despite the fact he is on death row, Sister Lacey may be the best fictional nun ever, later on you will love Auntie and the strong willed Alicia. Every character has a back story you learn about, even those who are only featured for a page or two. Cronin also has the master stroke of giving us some of the viral ‘Subjects’ back stories and humanising them.

There was one down side for me, caused really by the addictive nature of the book, and that was the size and sheer weight of it. I initially thought it might need a good editor but that’s not the case, it needs to be the length it is and I never got bored or thought ‘hurry up already’. I just couldn’t cart it everywhere with me and I really, really wanted to. In fact at one point the book and I nearly fell out because it was making me want to read on and yet I couldn’t just sit and read it in one go. I had a rather large sulk, but I guess that’s a positive though really?

Do not let the media craze put you off ‘The Passage’ or indeed it’s size. It’s a fantastic read that will grip you, entertain you, horrify you all in one go. Did I mention how real it is? You can actually imagine it all happening which is really rather scary. The characters are marvellous – though never get too attached, they don’t always last out as long as you might hope (and sometimes you will be hoping with every fibre of your being). This is a book that’s actually worthy of all the fuss, don’t let the hype put you off as you’d be missing out on a treat. I would never have picked this book up had it not been sent my way but I am very glad I did. 10/10 (Yes, even with the small huff along the way.)

Savidge suggests some perfect prose partners;

The Road – Cormac McCarthy (though much shorter than ‘The Passage’ this book is a tale of love and hope in an apocalyptic world and Cronin has moments of true human emotions, hope and beauty after the end of the world that this book does)
Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell (I wouldn’t dare compare ‘The Passage’ and this classic as I would be berated to infinity. I can compare its sheer scope though and the fact a futuristic world is created to the tiniest levels of detail yet remains readable whilst page turning and combines science fiction with the literary)


Filed under Books of 2010, Justin Cronin, Orion Publishing, Review

Reading Retreats…

Savidge Reads will be off on a little holiday by the time you read this. Fear not though I have some rather interactive posts coming up over the weekend, even if I don’t manage to respond until I get back… buts that the whole point of a holiday isn’t it? So where will I be, who with and what will I be reading? That is of course what today’s post is about.

Well I will be ‘glamping’ which is apparently a version of camping with a few mod cons. Oh and not in a tent, rather in a log cabin in the delightful setting of woodlands and ponds in Surrey, I did try and convince everyone I was going camping but nobody bought it, I can’t think why…

I won’t be with The Converted One, but I won’t be alone as the lovely Novel Insights is coming, along with our very wonderful and delightful friend Michelle. It’s going to be a bit of a break that gets us all back to nature, we are banning  most of the mod-cons the place offers (well apart from the comfortable beds, shower and maybe the hot tub ha, ha) for the break and having a sort of companionable reading retreat!  So what will I be reading? These books have made it into my luggage…

  • Peyton Place – Grace Metalious (I have almost finished this; we have all been reading it in advance and are discussing it over dinner and drinks on Saturday Night in a sort of rogue book group)
  • Stone in a Landslide – Maria Barbal (very excited about the new novella from Peirene Press after having loved their first release ‘Beside the Sea’)
  • The Passage – Justin Cronin (I will finish this, I will, I will!)
  • The Woodcutter – Reginald Hill (I have never read Reginald Hill but was sent this to read for a magazine and being in the woods seems to team with the theme)

So what are your plans this weekend? Read any of these or eager to? Have any of you given Reginald Hill a whirl, as I never have, and what did you think? Have any of you any reading retreats planned?


Filed under Book Thoughts

Simon’s Bookish Bits #23

Don’t Saturdays seem to be coming around quickly at the moment? Before I know it its time to do a Simon’s Bookish Bits and I feel like I only did one five minutes ago. Maybe that’s just a sign I am getting older? So this week I thought we could look at what we all have on our bedside tables and I would also treat you to another gem of a book store that I found last weekend on my travels.

First up though, here in the UK it is a three day weekend. In fact I am getting rather over excited as next week is only a two day working week for me as I have another long weekend coming in the woods, more on that later in the post and in the week though. This weekend I am treating myself… to doing nothing! We unless you count spending the weekend reading (and a brief trip to see the musical Spamalot) in fact I am considering trying a little read-a-thon on my own tomorrow maybe.

There are some books though which will be getting my attention either way this weekend…

  • A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle, I have been craving to read a Sherlock Holmes for ages – in fact since seeing the film – and what better way than to start at the very beginning dear Watson.
  • Peyton Place by Grace Metalious, a book I suggested myself, Novel Insights and our friend Michelle all read before we go away next week so we can have a rogue book group. They have both started from what I can gather whilst I have not.
  • Theodora by Stella Duffy, its out next week and though I was sent it well in advance I didn’t want to write about it too far before. I have in the last week or three been so excited about it I have been saving it and saving it as a treat. Why do we do that with books sometimes, why don’t we just go for it?
  • The Passage by Justin Cronin, I will finish this epic this weekend, after all aren’t long weekends designed for long books?

I will also be catching up with blogs and comments as I have gotten slack again with that hence why I have no blog post of the week for you so I do apologise, can I possibly make up for it with a delightful book shop that I found when I was out and about last weekend?

I took The Converted One to Kew Gardens which is one of my favourite places in the whole of London. It’s the fact possibly down to the fact that though you wouldn’t initially think it the whole area is so Victorian, in fact here is a shot for you of The Converted One in front of one of the greenhouses from 1848.

It amazes me you can walk in the footsteps of all those people from the past.  It also makes you feel like you are walking in the jungle and so was perfect practice for myself and the autumn ahead in Brazil.

Anyway how does this relate to books? Well, as we were walking back through the village of Kew, I was saying how I wanted a house there yet it was a shame there wasn’t a book shop, we turned the corner and low and behold what did we find? A picture perfect bookshop, in fact I found this painting of it (my photo’s were lost as my Blackberry died this week, now have a lovely new iPhone which some of you recommended) which actually looks exactly like it.

Inside it’s a wonderful treasure trove, filled with shelves of delightful books and most importantly staff recommendations. I always look at those in bookshops. I had no idea until this week that The Guardian once wrote a list of the top London bookshops and this one is on the list. So thats yet another bookshop I would highly recommend paying a visit to, and you can visit Kew Gardens afterwards. Or maybe before, depending on which of the two you most prefer ha, ha.

Well I think that’s it from me, am off to go and read for a few hours (it’s just started to drizzle and The Converted One is studying for a very important exam on Wednesday). What have you lined up this weekend? Which books are lined up on your bedside? What are you reading and what have you loved in the last week?

Oh and a brief additional note, Simon’s Bookish Bits is having a holiday next weekend as have something else planned so it will be back in a fortnight by which point I will have lots of lovely links and the like to share!!!


Filed under Simon's Bookish Bits

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?


Filed under Book Thoughts