Tag Archives: Random Savidgeness

Audiobook Advice

Firstly, thank you all so much for your recommendations of book to take to a spooky old mansion last weekend. I took Lesley Glaister’s Little Egypt which might have actually been recommended on Twitter. Anyway it was lovely to get all your recommendations, almost as lovely as it was to stay in a house where I had several moments mentally being Mrs Danvers. As it was I actually did no reading all weekend as it took so long to get to Kent (6 hours) that we arrived with just enough time to change into our glad-rags and get to my Great Aunt’s 80th, the next morning waking up for (one of my favourite things in life) the hotel breakfast before deciding we would dash straight home in case it took the same time again, which it nearly did. Too much time in a car. Though this does lead me into my ponderings of this post, audiobooks.

I have always had very mixed feelings on audiobooks in the past, I completely understand why they are brilliant for many but have never been that sure they are for me. I have had some dalliances and some have been brilliant (Agatha Raisin is wonderful on audiobook) others I have tried I soon realise I have missed a chapter of because I have been too busy watching the world go by and ignoring my headphones. However on the first lengthy road trip we stopped early on, well as early as two hours is out of six, and I was looking at CD’s I could buy to possibly stop The Beard going mad from my 1990’s-early-2000’s pop music fest, when I saw there were audiobooks.

What stopped me from buying any was a) the choice was somewhat limited in a motorway service station b) I couldn’t work out what would work to both mine and The Beard’s tastes c) the price, so expensive were they in this franchise of a high street store that I won’t name them, I opted for a wifi-dooberry-whatsit-thing – official name – that means I can transmit my whole iPod to a radio station and play that. Many hours of The Archers, Woman’s Hour and The Beard’s favourite, Cher, then ensued. The allure of the audiobook was there and has remained, as we have another epic drive next week for a wedding, we may call on them then as I don’t think (no matter how good I think they are, and I am gutted one is leaving us) book podcasts will do the trick now we have run out of the other variety.

Yet I have realised this week that this is not the only time audiobooks could work. I have quite a lot of admin hours at work where I could ‘pop a book in my ears’, plus with several festivals ahead quite a lot of setting up and de-rigging hours ahead, oh and there is the fact I have rejoined the gym (and the dreadful ‘diet’ world) which I am really enjoying as you can see…

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(I know, any excuse to share a picture of me looking sweaty and beardy on the internet!) So I could possibly have books in my ears in all those times, I think the question is which ones are best for me. This is of course where you come in. I would love to get some recommendations of audiobooks for me that a) have a great plot b) a hook so I want to listen on c) a narrator I can bear to listen to. My normal tastes of literary novels, thrillers, short stories etc apply. I would just love for you to rave about some that you have listened to and loved. I would also love some recommendations of narrative non-fiction ones which The Beard (or Mr Non Fiction as I may rename him) and I could listen to together. That would be lovely. Thank you.

Oh and PS – Reviews are coming, I have a long weekend this weekend and so can play catch up. PPS – I hope all is well and lovely with you all?

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What Should I Read Whilst Staying in an Old Manor House?

After another bonkers week at work (where we had our diaries cleared to plan and deliver a huge parade through Liverpool if LFC won – which we won’t talk about after the game went the way it did) I am shattered but very much looking forward to this weekend when I am off to my Great Aunt’s 80th birthday party which plans to be full of food, drinks, merriment and dancing. The additional highlight to celebrating this with her is that I have booked to stay in a rather wonderful, and slightly spooky – in a good way, manor house as an extra treat. And after visiting a fairytale castle last weekend too, I do love a castle, stately home or manor. I would never normally dream of staying in one. Doesn’t it look marvellous?

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The question on my mind now is, of course, what on earth to read while I am there. I am almost at the end of a brilliant collection of contemporary short stories and feel that next I should read something that befits the setting. I would therefore love to hear your recommendations of favourite books set in slightly gothic houses (I don’t want to read Rebecca again at the moment, though did contemplate it) be they mysteries, crimes, boarding school tales or anything else that might fit the bill. Name as many as you like, I will be squeezing in as much reading time as I can.

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Visiting a Fairy Tale Castle (Castle Coch)

Those of you who have been long term visitors to Savidge Reads will know that I adore fairy tales. I love the unadulteratedly dark originals, I love the old Ladybird and (most of) the Disney adaptations, I love retelling and I love modern fairy tales. I even named my first pet, a duck, Rapunzel. Basically this is all just a very long way of saying I REALLY love fairy tales. So when we visited Castle Coch (and yes there may have been a smattering of giggles about the name, the ‘ch’ is meant to be quite throaty not a ‘k’ – snigger – or ‘ch’ as you might automatically do) I was greeted by what to my mind was like Sleeping Beauty’s castle as we arrived towards it.


I won’t lie this is a photo of a postcard I bought as you can’t quite get the magnificence in some of the photos I took from the back of a car on a motorway. After we made it (we almost didn’t) up the windy drive we were in fact greeted by this wonderful silhouette because Dom, Michelle, Polly seemed to bring the sun to Wales with us…


And possibly a ghost if that random blue orb is anything to go by. One up the drawbridge and inside you feel even more like you are in Sleeping Beauty. It is utterly silent. 

We were the only people there and the design of the building is that you open doors and just wander, seriously just wander anywhere. Well anywhere that isn’t locked, as with visiting the farm meant to be Wuthering Heights Polly tried to get in anywhere extra she could only with little success unlike in Haworth. Anyway… as I was saying it’s so still and so silent and the rooms have been left like everyone has just vanished. I imagined Sleeping Beauty would have had this suite, I know she’s not real, at the top of one of the turrets…


And Castle Coch does give great turret…


It also has some of the most beautiful paintings, murals, tiling and utterly breathtaking frescos. I was smitten with the one below which I would love on my own ceiling in my next house or maybe as inspiration for my next tattoo. Isn’t it stunning?


After we had done the inside we went back out for a wander of the grounds which you could quite easily imagine Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf wandering through.


It also had a pretty fantastic moat which also showed the depths of the very, very creepy dungeons plus its ramparts and battlements. Okay, I am just using castle based words I think I know the meaning of but might actually not, so let’s move on.


All in all it was pretty magical really. The perfect way to start our trip away in Cardiff. Who doesn’t love an amazing old castle, or a manor, or stately home. Plenty of room for a huge library… One day guys, one day.


If you are ever in the Cardiff vicinity please do visit this wonderful, wonderful Welsh castle. It’s an absolute treat. Speaking of treats if you tell me about your favourite castle (this one might compete with my other favourite, Warwick) or your favourite manor/stately home (mine is Hardwick Hall thanks for asking) then I might have a spare Castle Coch bookmark for one of you. Yes I know, how could you not want that?

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More Thoughts…

Whilst I have not been blogging anywhere near as much of late, despite my best intentions, I have been thinking a lot about blogging, books, reading and all that stuff it is just finding the time to do it. Between a rather crazy work life, a fair few nights and all the forthcoming weekends in May doing lovely cultural and social things plus viewing potential new homes and trying to sell this one, it has been a bit difficult to do these booky delights. That said I have just done a lovely episode of You Wrote The Book with Wellcome Prize winner Suzanne O’Sullivan, which you can hear here, with a review (along with about 15 more) just waiting to be finished and up on the blog very soon. Anyway, I digress…

I was thinking about all the non booky things and thought I would ask your opinions on something, rather like I did a few weeks ago on vlogging and the like here. I have been wondering if I should blog more about the non booky stuff that is going on in my life of I am working on. For those of you who don’t know I work for Culture Liverpool and we work on most of the cities major events (Giants that walk through the city – see below which got me in the newspapers here, the Three Queens, the International Mersey River Festival, the Blitz commemorations a few weeks ago, Liverpool International Music Festival, the Tower of London Poppies tour and more) so I was wondering if you would like some posts on those, as we are about to go into festival season, on here to give you some insight into that?

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I was also pondering if you might like more posts on some of the random things I do outside of work, blogging and books – I know who knew that there was anything else outside those things? For example more pieces on theatre trips be they bookish or not (I saw an opera set in a men’s toilet in a gay bar starring Lesley Garrett the other week which was quite something) or other outings to castles and museums and the like – I may have asked this before, forgive me – as well as trips away. I am off to Cardiff, below, with some of my dearest friends tomorrow and was thinking of doing some posts while I am away rather like I did with The Readers Roadtrip with Thomas last year. Would they be fun?

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So yes, more thoughts which need more of your opinions. Would you like some non booky content amongst the booky content, or when I can’t quite sit down for long enough to give the booky content the time and thought it deserves? Do let me know, I value your opinions, even if I might just run along and do it anyway. Ha!

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Catching Up & Some Thoughts…

The last three weeks have been a bit of a madness, in fact April as a month seemed to be there and gone in the blink of an eye. There was a week in London which all centred around the London Book Fair which became a wonderful whirl of catching up with people, though one of them (or more likely a stranger on the tube) gave me flu which lead to me having almost an entire week feeling lousy to the point where I was actually in bed, in a darkened room, for four days I was that sick. I felt like a mad Victorian character locked in an attic until they could come to their senses, it was pretty awful. Then, whilst still feeling pretty rough, I was back down to London for work, all whilst liaising with my team working on Hillsborough – the families of whom deserve a medal I think, before a big family do yesterday. No wonder I slept for over twelve hours last night. I still have a cough like a 20-a-day pensioner but I am certainly feeling more human and am now feeling like I can return to the digital world after a week of being forced to returning to the real one in an exhausted haze. Have you missed me? Ha!

I have spent most of today catching up, partly on some telly I became addicted to Line of Duty (in the two days of bed when I could cope with light after the four I couldn’t) and have watched three series in less than a week, if you haven’t seen it you must – I am trying to get The Beard to watch it so I can start it all over again. I have also done a bulk set of recording of The Readers with Thomas, plotting with Gav, Kate and Rob on a new project, as you know how I love those, and sorting out over a month’s worth of books coming in. They are now looking rather delightful here.

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Now this leads me to something I have been pondering a little over the last few weeks and was something I was talking to the lovely Jen Campbell about when we had lunch in Dishoom (I feel so current as it is THE place to eat in London now) last week… Some light vlogging. I have been wondering if you guys would be interested in me occasionally vlogging/making videos on that there YouTube (again, as I did it a while back) about some of the books that come in (be then sent by publishers like the first two piles above – of which 24 were unsolicited – or bought by me like the last pile) to Savidge Reads HQ as well as some mini posts on books I have read in the month, as my reviews are soooooooooooooooo behind (we are talking about 15 reviews behind) as well as some ad-hoc videos that might take my fancy, for example I am off to Cardiff with some mates in two weeks and thought that could be fun as we explore castles and bookshops. What do you think?

This doesn’t mean I will be blogging less, though doing some geeky checking of stats and Savidge Reads facts, this last month has been the least I have ever blogged – which I am blaming solely on London and flu. I just thought it would be another way of you all getting to know me and my books a bit better. You might all think it is a rubbish idea, let me know along with your thoughts on vlogging in general in the comments below either way.

Speaking of books… Reading. I have done hardly any of that of late. I am almost finished with My Name is Leon, the debut novel by Kit De Waal who I had the joy of meeting for a coffee last week, which is due to be HUGE and I think rightly so both for the writing and some of the topics that it brings up. I am also still reading Christos Tsiolkas’ short story collection Merciless Gods which I have been slowly (very bloody slowly) devouring since February but am determined to finish this long weekend. More on those soon and more reviews in general soon, full stop. In the meantime though I would love to hear what you have been reading of late, books you would recommend and books you might not too and which books you have your eyes on, that would be lovely.

So over to you all, what are your thoughts on vlogging (and any recommendations of vlogs you love, I have mentioned Jen’s above which is my fav) and all your thoughts on what you have been reading, ta very much in advance!

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A Lovely Literary London Trip…

The blog has been a little bit quiet this week because I am down in London and whilst I did bring my laptop (with the intention of catching up with lots of backlogged reviews and the lije) I haven’t turned it on very much as I have been out and about doing some lovely literary and/or touristy things, so I thought I would share some of them with you. First up on arrival in London last Sunday I did something slightly sneaky, I told hardly anyone I was here. I love, love, love catching up with people however I never end up getting time to just have a wander, go shopping or take in an exhibition. I have been desperate to see the Crime Museum Uncovered at the Museum of London for ages and ages (and Sunday was it’s final day) and so stealthily I went, it was amazing.

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You can’t take pictures once you are in, because there are murder weapons and all sorts inside and it is all still owned by Scotland Yard (though there is a book), what impressed me so much was that the way the exhibition is curated and worded the emotion of it all hits you, it is very much about how murder and crime can suddenly happen to anyone by anyone and really, really makes you think about all those involved. I found it horrifying, grimly fascinating but overall very moving and effecting, the Museum of London is also just marvellous, I have no idea why I have never been there before. I spent ages wandering through the exhibitions on London during the plague, the Great Fire, the War and wandering through a Victorian street. Brilliant.

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I then went and pottered around St Paul’s, possibly looking for the First Dates restaurant and then actually for some food. I never visit tourist sights like this and it is SO London, so I wanted a potter round, though I wasn’t paying to go in – I have a theory on paying to go into churches, but that is not for now.

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I then headed to my favourite park in London, Postman’s Park. If you haven’t been you must. There is an area of the park that is a place of memories of those who have died sacrificing themselves for someone else and I never cease to find it moving.

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So that was my Sunday, I managed to be a complete tourist. Monday was spent wandering the shops and reading in cafes, or over pizza, before I met up with Eric of LonesomeReader so the Bearded Bailey’s Book Group could go to the Bailey’s Shortlist party which was very good indeed. The highlight for me might just have been standing with Janet Ellis and Sophie Ellis Bextor talking about books for 10 minutes over cocktails. Lovely stuff.

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Tuesday was more mooching and wandering sprinkled with a meeting or too, sometimes it is just nice to have a wander, before catching up with my almost ex-husband (not long to go) before heading out for dinner with the lovely Catherine Hall and some interestingly spelt Turkish food…

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Wednesday was day one of the London Book Fair. Now if, like I once did, you imagine the London Book Fair to be the Motor Show of the book world (lots of free books and the like) think again. It is a madness of sweltering sales people and deals and other goings on.

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I did however have meetings there on the Thursday but headed over on the Wednesday, with the lovely Rob of Waterstones and Adventures with Words, to go and see Deborah Levy talking about Hot Milk with Alex Clarke, who through Twitter I feel like I have known for years and who is just as lovely as I wanted her to be in real life…

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Before then seeing Jeanette Winterson talking about her new novel which takes on Shakespeare.

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I then ended up seeing lots of friendly faces as I milled round getting my bearings for the following day. I left with Rob feeling like this…

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I then caught up with my mate Andy who I hadn’t seen for seven years for an epic decompress after Olympia before readying myself for a second day, filled with meetings, before meeting up with my old co-host of The Readers, Gav of Gav Reads, we were much happier about it than we looked…

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…Before heading of to Kensington Palace (as you do) for the Man Booker International Prize shortlist party. Where I saw so many lovely faces, some who I had only met on Twitter, some who I have known a while and was delighted to catch up with all of them, and had lots of lovely bookish chats whilst also keeping my eyes peeled for royalty, ha.

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Then it was probably one of the highlights of my trip so far, but something ace is coming tomorrow, as I went off to Soho post Booker party to meet up with some of my fellow Waterstones Bloggers; Kim, Nina, Rob, Kate and Eric for some wonderful cocktails, nibbles and gossip, I mean natter…

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Rob, Kate and I then went off to meet Gav, who had been to the Terry Pratchett memorial, in a cafe on Leicester Square where we proceeded to drink coffee, eat cake and end up plotting a whole new project, more on that soon. Blimey, it has been a full week. I am now off to dash to two more meetings before going on a bookshop crawl with Gavin today, which I will report back on. It’s been such good fun and I still have a few days left. What have all of you been up to lately?

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I’m Planning A Bookshop Crawl in London…

…Next week with Gavin of Gav Reads and An Unreliable Reader when we are both in London. Gavin and I haven’t seen each other in aaaaaaages, though we talk all the time, but we thought a fun way to spend a day would be to wander the streets of London book hunting, and possibly book hauling. What could be better? The question though now is which bookshops do we go to?

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Now while I lived in London for 12 years the first few were spent in a barren period of book buying as I only regained my love of books and bookshops in the last few years that I was there and then I generally spent times in the ones in central or the ones in and around Tooting. So I was wondering if you lovely lot could tell me about your favourite bookshops (be they chains, indies, in central or out of it) in the capital and why you love them so much? We may just pop to them and I may just get one of you, picked later at random, a gift as a thank you, ha!

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