Tag Archives: Richard & Judy

Other People’s Bookshelves #5– Shelley Harris

This week on Other People’s Bookshelves we get to have a nosey through an authors book shelves as we are joined by the lovely Shelley Harris. Shelley was born in South Africa and emigrated to Britain at the age of six. She has been a local journalist, a secondary school teacher, an assistant in a wine shop and a bouncer at teenage discos (no, really). She likes slapstick humour and salted caramels. Her first novel, Jubilee (Weidenfeld and Nicolson – which I have on my shelves) was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize and picked as a 2012 Richard and Judy Summer Read. So let us have a nosey through her shelves…

Do you keep all the books you read on your shelves or only your favourites, does a book have to be REALLY good to end up on your shelves or is there a system like one in one out, etc?

I tend to keep all the books I read – except the atrocious ones. Those go straight to Oxfam. My favourites never leave unless by mistake, when I lend them to someone who doesn’t give them back (see also: Behind The Scenes At The Museum, A Christmas Carol).

Do you organise your shelves in a certain way? For example do you have them in alphabetical order of author, or colour coded? Do you have different bookshelves for different books (for example, I have all my read books on one shelf, crime on another and my TBR on even more shelves) or systems of separating them/spreading them out? Do you cull your bookshelves ever?

OK, this is a bit complex, but here goes:

Most of my books are upstairs, in the room I write in; three walls are covered in shelves, and most are mine (I allow my husband a measly three shelves – he’s very good about it). One of the walls is for non-fiction, and within that there’s history (chronological), auto/biography (alphabetical by subject) and general non-fiction (autobiographical by author). My fiction used to be alphabetical by author too, but this summer I decided to arrange it by colour, and it’s bee-ootiful. I should admit here that it’s sometimes just the teensiest bit hard to lay my hand on exactly the book I want, but – did I mention it’s bee-ootiful? I’ve also got very un-arranged shelves connected with whatever I’m writing at the moment or want to write next. My To-Be-read pile is downstairs. It’s four shelves big.

I do cull my books from time to time, and it’s a curiously double-edged thing for me. I feel that liberation you always get when you shuck off some of your possessions, but also the anxiety that you might be throwing out something you’ll want next week. That actually happened once; a novel stayed on my shelves for two years unread, so I got rid of it. The next week, someone told me it was brilliant.

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What was the first book you ever bought with your own money and does it reside on your shelves now?

I’ve racked my brains, but I can’t remember. What I do know is that at the age of ten I read two books alternately for months on end – maybe I bought them, I don’t know. They were Antonia Barber’s The Amazing Mr. Blunden, and E. Nesbit’s The Railway Children. At some unsentimental moment in my life (stupid early adulthood) I threw them out, but now have replacement copies on my shelves.

Are there any guilty pleasures on your bookshelves you would be embarrassed people might see, or like me do you have a hidden shelf for those somewhere else in the house?

Oooh, now I’m really interested in your Hidden Shelf. I don’t have one; I’m not at all ashamed of anything I take pleasure in, and that includes books which are…what would people scoff at? Stuff that’s considered lowbrow? Erotica? It’s all good.

Which book on the shelves is your most prized, mine would be a collection of Conan Doyle stories my Great Uncle Derrick memorised and retold me on long walks and then gave me when I was older? Which books would you try and save if (heaven forbid) there was a fire?

That’s a tough one, but I think I might try to save the books my students gave me as gifts when I finished teaching them (they were so relieved, the poor mites). I’m massively proud of having taught, and to have been called ‘a WICKED English teacher’ is one of the best things anyone’s ever said about me.

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What is the first ‘grown up’, and I don’t mean in a ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ way, that you remember on your parent’s shelves or at the library, you really wanted to read? Did you ever get around to it and are they on your shelves now?

I remember being transported (as many girls my age were) by Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights, and read the book soon after the single was released. I was maybe eleven at the time. But my parents were responsible for lots of the books I read – grown-up and not-so. Dad used to quote a lot of Shakespeare and poetry at me, using a voice he thought sounded like Laurence Olivier (it sounded like a Dalek). And my Mom read and loved The Women’s Room and passed it over when I was about seventeen – it was a really important book for me.

If you love a book but have borrowed the copy do you find you have to then buy the book and have it on your bookshelves or do you just buy every book you want to read?

If I love it I tend to want to keep it – some of my Oxfam purchases are novels I’ve borrowed and loved but want for myself. I read Jane Harris’s Gillespie and I on Kindle (very rare for me) and now have the hardback on my shelves.

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What was the last book that you added to your bookshelves?

A copy of A Christmas Carol which I bought from Oxfam because it’s weirdly disappeared from my shelves. I suspect our resident twelve-year-old reader.

Are there any books that you wish you had on your bookshelves that you don’t currently?

Yes – I want to magic the next Sarah Waters onto my shelves right now.

What do you think someone perusing your shelves would think of your reading taste, or what would you like them to think?

I don’t mind what they think, but my best guess is that they’ll notice I mainly read contemporary novels, that I love books passionately (I have lots of them), and that they may suspect I’m borderline OCD.

Red books

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A big thank you to Shelley for letting me grill her and allowing us to nosey through her shelves. Don’t forgot if you would like to participate (and I would love you to) in Other People’s Book Shelves series then drop me an email to savidgereads@gmail.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance. In the meantime… what do you think of Shelley’s responses and/or any of the books she mentioned?

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Simon’s Bookish Bits #32

Today is the first day I actually seem to have stopped still for weeks and weeks and so I thought I would do a little ‘bookish bits’ post as I have been rubbish at commenting back to you all or even visiting other book blogs (though I have spotted Polly and Jessica are back, yippee) between going and seeing Gran in Derbyshire, reading for the Green Carnation longlist, helping change a magazine from print to online and then manically reading, re-reading and prepping for the Manchester Literature Festival events I had earlier this week. That said I did manage to fit in a dash to A&E in the small hours of Saturday morning as I thought I was having a heart attack, turned out to thankfully be a rather large panic attack resulting in an almost phantom angina attack, lovely.

I have to say the staff at the hospital were great, so good I don’t mind the fact I am covered in bruises from the blood tests, turns out though that I have to have some rest and calm down, too many projects (which I think keep me going) have ground me down. Bed rest was ordered and so I am spending the next few days chilling out. Lots of writing and reading to do ahead then, shame! Now speaking of reading and readers, tenuous link I know, but The Readers Podcast was actually one year old yesterday, the birthday blog should be going up shortly/be up now – the biggest episode of absolute rambling yet.

That deserves some cake really or maybe several Jaffa cakes, doesn’t it?

Since everything stopped the one thing I have noticed is that my TBR has gotten completely out of control, like really badly. There are piles of books in places you didn’t think books could accumulate. The Beard believes I have let them breed (he actually said like bacteria but we will over look that) and so the next big task, apart from catching up on your comments on here and other blogs is a full on TBR sort out. I am actually quite excited about this. Then I can have a good old rummage and decide what random whim reads I want to treat myself too for a week of no work based reading. Exciting.

Speaking of work based reading. I thought, as they have just happened and yet the festival is still in full flow, I would give you a quick round up of the two events I hosted at Manchester Literature Festival this week. The first was on Monday night when I had the pleasure of being in conversation with Patrick Gale and Catherine Hall about their latest books in front of a packed out audience in Waterstones…

I had met Catherine before and so got my ‘fanboy’ moment out of the way with her but I have to admit I was really nervous about meeting Patrick. Fortunately a) so was Catherine and b) Patrick was utterly lovely. We all had a lovely few drinks before the event looking over Piccadilly Gardens in his hotel cafe in the afternoon before wandering to the event chatting about utterly random nonsense (I admit I grilled him about Richard and Judy) before sitting and having more fun, if more structured, at the event. I felt a bit like the cat that had got the cream and was one a little bit of a bookish high, can you tell?

Isn’t that t-shirt fancy? Then yesterday, dragging The Beard along in tow, I had was in conversation about all things Victoriana with the lovely Jane Harris, who I have gotten to know and adore, and Essie Fox who I have interviewed before and had a hoot with too. It was actually Essie’s first visit to Manchester and the venue could not have been more apt as we had the banqueting hall at Manchester Town Hall (which they use in a lot of the Victorian period dramas as it looks just like Westminster on the outside and hasn’t been tampered with inside, perfect). It was a really enjoyable event that could have gone on for hours longer and had me weeping with laughter and dumbstruck with fascination all at once.

So that has all been lovely, and a big thanks to all of you who came and said hello afterwards, really nice to meet several of you at both events. Maybe if we start The Readers Retreats I will see even more of you, but that is for another time.

Finally, before I go and try and sort out lots of books, I just want to say a huge thanks for all your well wishes; however I have received them, for Gran. Whilst everything with her has been going on I am trying to carry on as normal as it’s a good focus and the supporting emails/comments etc you have sent for her, myself and the family has been lovely. She has gone home today and so we will all be looking after her for the time that is left, I will be off there again for her 71st birthday and will keep passing on your kind words. I will also be buying her the BIGGEST birthday cake ever. But seriously thank you.

Right, best go and root through all these books before anyone trips over them and seriously hurts themselves, or indeed before a certain teething kitten chews any more of them. Hope all is well with all of you?

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One Book, Two Book, Three Book, Four… and Five…

Well Simon of Stuck in a Book is something of a genius in the book blogging world isn’t he? He’s always coming up with great bookish bits and bobs on his blog and the latest meme he has created has taken the blogosphere by storm. I might be the last to the party but I simply couldn’t miss taking part as it looked like so much fun. So here are the five books that are or have been on my ‘reading radar’ at the moment, its made me realise just what an eclectic reader I am which I don’t ever see myself as…

The Book I Am Currently Reading…

I have not long started it but my latest read is ‘Apartment 16’ by Adam Nevill. It’s a little bit of a departure for me as I haven’t read a modern horror novel before so I don’t really know what to expect, I have been wanting to try new genre’s though. I shall report back in due course, is it wrong I am hoping this one makes me scared at night? I really fancy something really scary at the mo.

The Last Book I Finished…

‘When God Was A Rabbit’ by Sarah Winman which has been chosen as one of the Richard and Judy Summer Reads this year, along with ‘The Novel in the Viola’ by Natasha Solomons and ‘The Return of Captain John Emmett’ by Elizabeth Speller. Why mention those three particular books well…  I only found this out last night and am a bit spooked as I have these three books scheduled for reviews on the blog next week… how weird!!

The Next Book I Want To Read…

Well I am going to bite the bullet and finally read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen. I am yet to read any of her work which always surprises people. I would normally have found this book the hardest to call however I have a special reason to have started it before the weekend, more on that soon.

The Last Book I Bought…

Well I simply couldn’t resist this old 80’s Penguin edition of ‘The Group’ by Mary McCarthy when I saw it at the local second hand book store only yesterday. It was a little bit naughty as I have just got the new edition out of the library but I wanted one of my own, although the print is very small so I might read the new one and have this one on the shelves. Isn’t the old cover wonderful? I love, love, love the tagline “Eight eager, innocent girl graduates starting life in 1933 – pioneering their way from sex and interior décor to cooking and contraception…”

The Last Book I Was Given…Well before book group on Monday my friend the author Paul Magrs kindly gave me a copy of his new book ‘Enter Wildthyme’ which is going to be a foray for me into some Doctor Who-esque sci-fi (I love a bit of Doctor Who) and should be interesting, especially as the companion to Iris is called Simon. I hope I will like it, though Paul did say ‘you know you don’t have to review this’ so if I don’t who will know? Ha, ha, ha. I think with the tag line ‘Time and space. Good and evil. Gin and tonic.’ this is going to be a treat.

Isn’t this a lovely way of having a nosey through everyone’s reading sights in a short space of time? You can see other people’s five books, if they have popped their links down, just here… do have a gander. A big thank you to Simon for coming up with this, I think its ace. Let me know if you have a go, or if indeed you have already. Any thoughts on my selection?

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What Arrived Before I Departed

I dont know how interesting other people find these but I have always loved seeing what fellow book bloggers have either been sent or been out and bought of late. If you are one of those people who dont like those sorts of blogs then you might want to look away now…

The latest books to have been sent from lovely publishing people to Savidge Reads Towers are (for those of you who cant see the picture well, or dont like reading sideways);
The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite – Beatrice Colin
Home – Marilynne Robinson
The Invention of Everything Else – Samantha Hunt
A Long, Long Time Ago & Essentially True – Brigid Pasulka
The Earth Hums In B Flat – Mari Strachen (actually from a blogger not a publisher)
The Behaviour of Moths – Poppy Adams
Burnt Shadows – Kamila Shamsie
Ask Alice – D.J Taylor
Devil In Disguise – Julian Clary
The Glass of Time – Michael Cox
Now some of you maybe thinking “he has already read Lilly Aphrodite” well yes I have and this was a suprise arrival from the lovely Caroline at John Murray who had sent a parcel only its was “To Simon’s Gran” c/o Savidge Reads not actually just another copy for me! This was a truly lovely thing to have done and I will let you know my Gran’s thoughts when she has read it. It has been mine (and Caroline’s) favourite read of the year so will be intrigued how Grans takes to it. I am slightly worried that through the amount of mentions that she gets in this blog Gran might suddenly become infamous herself. That would never do ha!
I am not going to give you the blurbs for all the books as I think that may over egg the pudding but it gives you a hint as to what is coming up in my reading in the rest of May. By the time I am home the rest of the Orange short lists should have arrived and this is one of my big reading plans for May before the winner is announced in June, I do have to say though that I think I might already have a definate idea of who will win just from a gut feeling having not read a word. Lets see if the reading changes my mind or proves that particular book is deserving of winning.
The other thing that has, oddly quite quietly, been announced is The Richard and Judy Summer Read which I am having a lengthly mental debate as to whether to do it as another challenge for the next few months or am I biting off more than I can chew… I am never as big a fan (bar The Island) of the summer books they choose but the list this year there is one I have already read (Mr Toppit) and several I would love to read (Guernica just sounds wonderful) I shall mull it all while I am away.
So of the new books which ones have you read (no plot spoilers please) or have you read others by any of the authors mentioned? Any Orange/Richard & Judy Summer Reads thoughts? What books do you have on the go?

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The Cellist of Sarajevo – Steven Galloway

Sorry for the fact that I didn’t blog yesterday but I had a weekend of being quite under the weather sadly, I am feeling a bit better today though. The good thing about being sick though of course is the fact that I spent a lot of the weekend in bed reading and finally got round to reading the final Richard and Judy book of this years selection The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway.

The Cellist of Sarajevo is set during the siege of Sarajevo which took place in the 1990’s although with the level of atrocities I couldn’t actually believe that it had taken place so recently but then I suppose similar things are still happening now. The whole tale behind The Cellist of Sarajevo is a fictional work based on the true story of Vedran Smajlovic who actually played Adagio in G Minor for 22 days to mark the death of each of the 22 people killed in the street queuing for bread. Steven Galloway opens the book with the cellist going out and playing for the first time. However the book doesn’t actually focus on him, more three particular people who have the cellist and his music enter their lives in some of the hardest times in their lives.

The three lives that we join during some of those 22 days are Dragan a man in his mid sixties, Arrow a female sniper and Kenan a man in his forties struggling without life’s necessities. Each one of these characters has the cellist in their lives. Dragan for example, whose family had left Sarajevo whilst he has stayed behind to look after his apartment which sadly got bombed and now lives in his sisters house, can hear the cellist as he plays roulette with his life simply crossing the road to get to the bakers. Kenan does the same as he travels across the whole city with the possibility of being shot in order to collect fresh water as the resources are running low and he collects it for his family and neighbour (who is a wonderfully difficult disagreeable character). Arrow’s story is the one that I found the most interesting, that of a female sniper who gets the job to protect the cellist from snipers and in doing so protecting the people of the city and their hope.

Through these three lives we are given snapshots of what happened in Sarajevo and how people lived, well barely existed through it all. Galloway writes these characters and their situations with a grim reality but with wonderful lyrical prose. I know you can’t call the subject a wonderful one but you know what I mean I hope. I found seeing the world through these peoples lives opened my eyes to what happened in Sarajevo and how people coped. How they explained it to their children, how they avoided catching up with people as all they would swap would be depressing tales of woe and how strangers, who might not chose to see each other if they could help it, come together in these times of trial.

I was incredibly impressed with this novel and as a final read of the Richard and Judy Challenge I thought it was one of the selections highlights (and I am really chuffed that I read them all) and without the challenge I might not have read it and I would have been missing out on a gem of a book. Though this has been one of the most emotional and horrific books in parts, I actually had to put the book down every so often to breath and compose myself before reading on, it is one of the best books that I have read in ages and would urge everyone to give it a go.

Now what should I read next. I have a pile of six contenders at the moment I just cant decide upon. ‘Daphne’ by Justine Picardie, ‘The White Tiger’ by Arvind Adiga, ‘The Blind Assassin’ by Margaret Atwood, ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ by Mohsin Hamid and two Salman Rushdie. ‘The Enchantress of Florence arrived in the post from Dovegreyreader this morning and I have been meaning to read ‘Midnights Children’ for ages. Oh its a quandry… any advice?

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Filed under Books of 2009, Review, Richard and Judy, Steven Galloway

No Time For Goodbye – Linwood Barclay

I have had this book on my TBR pile for ages and ages and finally have gotten around to reading it as I needed some serious escapism. Escapist reading for me can be one of a few things, a comedy, a who-dunnit or indeed a gripping page turning thriller. Everyone has different escapist reading, I know on person who can find no finer escapist reading than Mills and Boon. So as it was also one of the books on mine and Novel Insights books to read (I still have to conquer The Blind Assassin yet to have caught up) I decided that this would be my next read.

Linwood Barclay’s debut novel No Time For Goodbye is definitely escapist reading. It is also a very thrilling read with possibly one of the most unpredictable plotlines that I have come across (bar the immense Child 44) in some time. One day a fourteen year old girl wakes up to find her entire family have vanished. There are no traces of them anywhere they have simply disappeared. Come forward twenty five years and Cynthia is still none the wiser to what has happened, however when a TV show decide to pick up the story again things slowly but surely start to unfold and Cynthia may begin to wish that she remained in the dark.

I found this a real thriller, it’s a proper page turner and you are thrown some big red herrings and then random possible theories that turn up later to make much bigger plot twists. I have seen reviews of this that state ‘this is no literary masterpiece and doesn’t deserve the sales’ and I have to disagree with that. I am not a literary snob, I like what I like some of it isn’t literary and some of it is, it’s the same with books I don’t like. No Time For Goodbye is a book that I enjoyed thoroughly because the plot and pacing are fantastic. I quite liked the characters without being attached to them but most of all it did what I wanted and drew me in, took me on a thrilling mysterious adventure and most of all I escaped.

What I will say was a slight issue for me was that despite the blurb, I have issues with blurbs that don’t tell the truth (this one says a letter arrives that changes everything – that doesn’t happen), the book isn’t actually written from Cynthia’s point of view. The thrilling tale itself is told through her husband Terry’s eyes. I really wanted more insight into how she felt about it all rather than what she told him she felt throughout it all if that makes sense? He was a great narrator and got fully entrapped in the whole situation and scenario and I enjoyed reading it from his perspective I just think hers would have given the book an extra something.

I thought that the plotting was brilliant, the end of every chapter makes you want to read on. Yes, there are parts that go slightly beyond coincidence and what is and isn’t believable but that’s what makes a great thriller and also some things that happen to people in real life you couldn’t make up, I never myself stopped believing that the whole situation could have happened.

Other reviews I have seen say that the plot is over the top. Yes it is, that tends to happen in most thrillers and if you don’t like that then don’t you tend to stay away from these types of books? I mean I don’t believe in goblins so I have always avoided J.R Tolkien. In the same vain don’t we all like to have the realms of our beliefs pushed I don’t really believe in magic but I really enjoyed the Harry Potter books. Sorry I have gone off on a bit of a tangent.

Overall I found this a ‘thrilling’ thriller. I became completely engrossed in the whole story line and though I predicted some of the ending there were still lots of twists that left me reeling. I can understand why this book has sold so well, I think the fact it was a Richard and Judy Summer Read (which I can find hit and miss) probably helped, but even without that I think this book would have done well. It has a very original and unsettling storyline, and you simply cannot stop reading it… well I couldn’t anyway. 4/5

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Filed under Linwood Barclay, Orion Publishing, Review, Richard and Judy

December – Elizabeth H Winthrop

…And so onto the penultimate of the Richard and Judy Reads 2009. I knew very little about December or its author Elizabeth H Winthrop before this book was placed on the list and when the lovely people at Sceptre sent me a copy. I looked and saw that it has received slightly mediocre reviews on Amazon and in some ways I can see why and in others I can’t.

December tells the tale of a winter and in particular the lead up to Christmas Day for the Carter family. Husband and wife Wilson and Ruth are concerned with their daughter Isabelle who has not spoken for over nine months. There seems to be no reason as to why Isabelle has put herself under a self imposed silence that they can see. They have tried many different psychiatrists who have been unable to work out what is wrong and now Isabelle’s school are thinking of letting her go.

It is interesting for the reader to see this from all three parties’ sides. Winthrop looks into the minds of all three and how they each cope very differently with the situation and really gets into each of these peoples heads without melodrama which could have been quite easily done. The pressure put on the marriage and how it affects Wilson and Ruth is an interesting subject as they both have moments of denial, anger and unbound love about the whole situation. The voice I didn’t feel I quite got as much as I would have liked was Isabelle herself which was slightly frustrating as the story does in essence evolve around her.

I agree whole heartedly with two comments made by Farmlanebooks One was that it is a ‘gentle’ novel and that is an absolutely spot on word for this novel. This is a very delicately written novel that doesn’t pull out all the stops to dramatise or go over the top. The writing takes you a long without it ever being a page turner. That style leads me to another review that said it was in some ways very ‘like Anne Tyler’ and that is also spot on. In fact after reading Breathing Lessons and Anne’s writing about family issues earlier this year I was reminded of it again with this book. Winthrop looks at real life and writes about real people and situations and maybe that is why some people have found this a slightly underwhelming read.

I didn’t personally find it underwhelming, I actually quite enjoyed it without being blown away. In fact overall I would say it was an ‘enjoyable gentle’ read, even though really very little happens I still wanted to know more. For those who love a book with a punch and want to get lost in a great tale this is possibly not for you. Those of you who like books that looks into families and how they deal with things, observations of people and how they behave or just love Anne Tyler like I do then you will enjoy this I would imagine.

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