Tag Archives: SJ Watson

Could This Be My Year for YA?

Yesterday I told you about the incredible novel that was ‘A Monster Calls’ and now I want to try his Chaos Walking series, at the same time the book that is currently highest on my wish list at the moment (and this has come completely out the blue as I don’t really like horses or war in real life or books) is ‘War Horse’ by Michael Morpurgo. ‘Erm, and, so what?’ I can hear you cry. Well, the thing that these two books have in common is that they are YA novels. What makes that all the more interesting is that I will admit that I have been somewhat of a YA snob, hey honesty is the best policy, in the past. So I am wondering if 2012, and oddly the year I go into my thirties, might be the year that I start to become a convert to YA novels.

I got talking about this rather a lot on twitter the other day and there were several novels discussed that came from that stable. One was ‘The Hunger Games’ which I have tried (loathed) and failed with and sadly got a bit cross and bored with everyone talking about when it came out, the next were the ‘Twilight’ series  which I tried and read some of but then decided the films were better. The two titles that came up that I fancied were ‘My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece’ by Annabel Pitcher which I was sent last year and have yet to read and the other was ‘Life: An Exploded Diagram’ by Mal Peet about the Cold War which The Book Boy has read and really enjoyed.

  

Naturally I thought I would ask you all for recommendations as people aren’t on twitter 24/7 (not that I am saying any of you are on Savidge Reads all day either, ha) and your thoughts on adult dipping their toes into YA. I should note I was asking my 13 year old sister for some recommendations at Xmas but she was re-reading SJ Watson’s ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ though will be reading ‘The Knife of Never Letting Go’ by Patrick Ness next, as might her big brother. So what say you, which titles modern or classics have you loved and would recommend giving a whirl?

We will be discussing this on The Readers in a few weeks too.

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Savidge Reads Books of 2011 – Part II

The midway point though the last day of the year seems an appropriate time to pop up part two of my books of 2011 and my last post of the year (is it me or does that feel weird?). We have already had the books released prior to this year and we now move onto the books that were released this year in the UK (I don’t think any of them came out anywhere else in the world but just in case I have popped that clause in). I actually think that 2011 has been one of the best for contemporary fiction and this was a much harder exercise to whittle these down to just ten. So without further waffle from me here they are again with a quote from the full reviews which you can find by clicking on the title…

Gillespie and I – Jane Harris

“Like its predecessor, the wonderful ‘The Observations’ (which I am going to have to re-read soon, it’s one of my favourite books which made me rather nervous about this one), ‘Gillespie and I’ is a book that is all about evoking an atmosphere, wonderful writing, an unforgettable narrator, and those clever twists you never see coming. Yet it is no carbon copy by any stretch of the imagination and stands in its own rite. I loved this book, it’s very easy to find a fault with a book, particularly one at over 500 pages in length, yet there are none I can think of. I would go as far as to say I think ‘Gillespie and I’ could be an almost perfect book…”

The Proof of Love – Catherine Hall

“I can’t hide the fact that I loved ‘The Proof of Love’. It’s a book that gently weaves you in. You become both an ‘outcomer’ and one of the locals. You are part of the loneliness and isolation of Spencer as well as the gossiping heart of the community, part of the mystery and part of the suspicions. It’s a very subtly clever book, it doesn’t show off the fact that it’s a rare and wonderful book at any point, but I can assure you it is.”

Annabel – Kathleen Winter

“I don’t think I have read a book that uses the third person in such a way that you see every person’s viewpoint so vividly. Every character, no matter how small a part they play, springs to life walking straight off the page and I honestly felt I was living in Croydon Harbour (atmosphere and descriptions are pitch perfect), whilst also being shocked that such a place still exists in modern times, and went along with Wayne’s journey every step of the way. It is incredible to think that ‘Annabel’ is Kathleen Winter’s debut novel; I was utterly blown away by it and will be urging everyone I know to rush out and read this book.”

The Borrower – Rebecca Makkai

“Rebecca Makkai is certainly a big fan of books of all genres, this adds to her prose and not just in the words and descriptions she uses but also the style. We have a letters and one of Ian’s short stories interspersed in some chapters, there are also chapters in the style of other books such as ‘Choose Your Own Fiasco’ where Lucy gives you her current scenario and you have to decide for her by going to ‘number three or go to number five’ like those quest books I used to read. It’s a really inventive way of writing the book, there is even a table or two in there, and adding another dimension to the whole experience of reading, in some books this doesn’t work, in this one it did.”

The Hunger Trace – Edward Hogan

“There is a real sense of humour in this novel, dark but often very funny, yet in many ways it is a moving tale of people and their sense of isolation or being an outsider often leading to events in their pasts be the recent or from years ago. These are events that leave a trace on you and which is described beautifully when Louisa discusses her prized bird Diamond who she saves and leads to the novels title. ‘When a falcon is undernourished, the feathers cannot grow properly. A fault line appears, even if the bird is fed again. The fault is called a hunger trace.’ It is this hunger trace that runs through the main character of this novel and their obsessions which keep the real world at bay be they Louisa’s birds, Christopher’s obsession with Robin Hood or Maggie’s need to succeed despite what anyone else says.”

There But For The – Ali Smith

“…so far it’s my favourite of Ali Smith’s works to date that I have read. She has taken bits of her earlier work; great characters, observations, comedy, unusual narratives, prose and pacing and put them all together. It’s a tour-de-force as opposed to a hotch-potch. I don’t want to say this is her most accessible book, even though in many ways it is, because that makes it sound like it’s not experimental and it is. It’s just honed down, controlled and done without ego.”

The House of Silk – Anthony Horrowitz

“I loved spending time with Holmes and Watson again and was gripped and tricked along the way. I just loved the adventure of it all. It doesn’t try to take Holmes anywhere new that the loyal fans will be unhappy with, nor does it become a pastiche of a Holmes novel. I knew it wasn’t Conan Doyle but I knew I was in safe hands. It has certainly made me want to turn back to the original Holmes novels; I hope Horowitz and Holmes fans will do the same, to me that is the sign of a great return and a successful one.”

In Other Worlds: SF & The Human Imagination – Margaret Atwood

“…because the way Atwood writes makes it feel like you are sat having a conversation about these things with her (if only), there is a humour and knowingness as you go along, secondly because it shows the forming of a writer which I always find fascinating and thirdly because it made me think. A lot. This isn’t writing you can rush, you need to read it, pause, think a bit, make some mental notes, read on, have a bigger pause, think more. I loved that this was the effect it had on me.”

Before I Go To Sleep – SJ Watson

“It takes a relatively simple, and equally possible, scenario and flips it on its head. In fact it’s the very domestic and almost mundane ordinariness of the books setting which makes it so unnerving. The fact Watson does this, on the whole, in one house between three characters is truly impressive. It’s an original, fast paced, gripping and rather high concept novel. I am wondering just what on earth, Watson is going to follow this up with… and how?”

When God Was A Rabbit – Sarah Winman

“You see initially after reading it I was a little conflicted about it, however with time for the dust to settle I realized I really, really liked it. There’s a warmth in this novel which is quite unlike any other I have read and it lingers. So as I was saying all in all I really, really, really enjoyed ‘When God Was A Rabbit’. It’s a book you gulp down for the first half and then watch unfold more delicately in the second.”

So there you have it, my top twenty books of the year. (I should add here that ‘Grace Williams Says It Loud’ by Emma Henderson and ‘Mr Chartwell’ by Rebecca Hunt were initially on this list but then I discovered this morning they were actually published initially in 2010 and had already popped Part I up – oops, there’s two more recommendations snuck in there though.) So over to you, what do you think of this list and what were your favourite books of 2011?

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Début Delights – The Savidge Reads Advent Calendar Day 4

Apologies for belatedly posting this, as my computer got wiped by a nasty virus everything has been a little delayed. Just imagine you have been away for a weekend and forgotten your advent calendar so you have double/triple the treats to catch up with.

In the last week specifically I have not only started to think about the books which I have enjoyed the most this year, I have also started to think about the direction that I want the blog to go in 2012. This has been through certain contemplation here on the blog and in discussion elsewhere too. I have been feeling like I am forgetting the careers of authors I love and want to go back to them more often than I do, yet I wouldn’t want to miss out on new authors I might love and in particular début authors especially as 2011 has been such a fantastic year for them.

I think début authors will actually feature rather heavily on my ‘Books of the Year’ when I get around to finally compiling it and whittling them down (something I keep putting off) there have been joys like ‘When God Was A Rabbit’ by Sarah Winman, ‘White Heat’ by MJ McGrath, ‘Ours are the Streets’ by Sunjeev Sahota, ‘Grace Williams Says It Loud’ by Emma Henderson, ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ by SJ Watson… I could go on. So I thought I would give a couple away as my fourth day of festive fun, and the titles I have chosen to give are ‘The Godless Boys’ by Naomi Wood (who I hosted a Reading With Authors with earlier this year and ended up in a fig roll fight with) and ‘Snowdrops‘ by A.D. Miller which I read and really enjoyed (and lost the almost finished review of in the great computer wipe mentioned above) in the Man Booker Longlist blur way back when.

 

Three of you, wherever in the world you are, could win a copy of both of these books. All you have to do is tell me which book, or books, have been your favourite début novels of the year and why? You have until 11am GMT on December the 7th – Good luck!

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The Green Carnation Prize Longlist 2011

Sorry I have been off blog for a few days. Brussels completely relaxed me, though I didnt get as much reading done as I would have liked, and then I have come back to the whirl of books and been in the final discussions (through email, skype, phone, face to face meetings – you name it) and deliberating over the mass of submissions we had to make the Green Carnation Longlist 2011. So a drumroll please as here we have the thirteen books that have made this years rather diverse longlist…

  • By Nightfall – Michael Cunningham (Fourth Estate)
  • The Strange Case of the Composer and his Judge – Patricia Duncker (Bloomsbury)
  • The Proof of Love – Catherine Hall (Portobello)
  • Red Dust Road – Jackie Kay (Picador)
  • The Retribution – Val McDermid (Little Brown)
  • Purge – Sofi Oksanen (Atlantic Books)
  • There But for The… – Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Remembrance of Things I Forgot – Bob Smith (Terrace Books)
  • Ever Fallen in Love – Zoe Strachan (Sandstone Press)
  • The Empty Family – Colm Toibin (Penguin Books)
  • Role Models – John Waters (Beautiful Books)
  • Before I Go To Sleep – S.J Watson (Doubleday)
  • Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? – Jeanette Winterson (Jonathan Cape)

I am very pleased with the list indeed, despite a few of my favourites not quite making it through and I am looking forward to getting back to all the titles as the re-reading starts before the shortlist on November 2nd 2011. You can find out more on the website here.

So what do you think of the longlist? Any questions (I will try and answer any I can without breaking the submission clause) you have? Which books are you suprised to see on there, which are you surprised aren’t on there? Which have you read and what did you think? Any that you particularily fancy giving a whirl? As ever I would love your thoughts.

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Reading With Authors #8: At Swim, Two Boys – Jamie O’Neill; With SJ Watson

  

Firstly Steve thanks for coming all the way to Brussels to join me, especially after you’ve just been travelling to Oz and back. It was a very last minute work trip but I have found a nice quiet café where we can have a good natter, what would you like to drink, I’ll get us lots of Belgian chocolates to have with it. Oh, was the Eurostar ok? 

Hi Simon! Yes, thanks, the Eurostar was fine. I slept for the entire journey. I’m still suffering with jetlag, I think. But it’s nice to be back in Brussels. I was last here for New Year’s Eve about eight or nine years ago. There were some spectacular fireworks and very nice beer. I don’t remember much more after that… 

By the way, no chocolates for me. I’ve returned from Australia about a stone heavier than when I went. They do look good, though.

Oh well, maybe just one…

When you chose ‘At Swim, Two Boys’ by Jamie O’Neill you actually saved it from a fate worse than a charity shop, as I had had it on my shelf for years and just thought ‘it’s huge, am I really going to read it?’ It felt like fate. Why did you want us to read this book together and with readers?

There were a few reasons. I’ve been reading a lot of crime fiction, lately, so I fancied a change, and when it came time to decide what type of book I’d like to read I realised that it’s been a while since I read anything with gay themes. I remember loving things like ‘The Swimming Pool Library’, Edmund White’s books, ‘Becoming a Man’ by Paul Monette and so on. They were tremendously important to me as a teenager and in my early twenties, so I thought it might be nice to try something similar. Plus, if I’m honest, ‘At Swim, Two Boys’ has also been on my shelf for about five years – my partner loves it and has been nagging me to read it for all that time – so it felt like a good time to give it a go.

 But there’s something about a book that’s so long, isn’t there? It feels kind of daunting…

 Oh tell me about it, I was thinking ‘I am never going to manage this in time’. How did you get on with it as a read?

 Well, my first problem was finding it. We moved house earlier this year and haven’t unpacked all the books yet, plus I’d helpfully labelled all the boxes Miscellaneous. In the end I had to buy it again, out in Australia, so I began reading it on a beach in Sydney, on one of my days off. That was sort of weird, especially as the opening pages are so dense. I had no idea what it was about, so it was a bit of a struggle to get into it. But straight away I loved the poetry of the language – I think in some ways it’s a book to be read aloud – and that carried me through until I settled into its rhythm and started to understand the characters and their world. 

I thought this was going to be a real struggle for me for several reasons, the first being that it opened slightly like ‘Ulysses’, which I have tried and failed to read at least three times, I was expecting to be confused… then I was… and then suddenly I wasn’t did this happen to you? O’Neill introduces a lot of characters very quickly, but quite vaguely, so I was doing a lot of flipping back pages and keeping notes like ‘who on earth is Gordie’? Was this just me?

No. Exactly the same happened to me. It’s one of those books that creates its own world, but it’s not an easy read. Compared to many books today it asks a lot of the reader, but even in the early pages you can tell it’ll repay your investment.

How’s your coffee, by the way? I gave up caffeine while I was Melbourne so I’m kind of jealous. I did it on a whim, but I’m starting to wish I’d given something else up instead. Like chocolate. 

How can you give up on caffine, are you bonkers? It’s lovely, I am feeling very cosmopolitan right now. The book starts in 1916 as the famous ‘Easter Rising’ starts in Ireland, for the book is set in Dublin. I say famous, actually I had never heard of it and had to stop reading the book at about page 100 to go and find out. I don’t think the book sets it up for you, which I struggled with a lot, I was loving the characters (we maybe loving some, like MacMurrough who we will talk more about, is a bit extreme) but thinking what on earth is all this political/religious stuff? It was hinted at rather than explained for me.  

I agree. I was also pretty ignorant about that part of Ireland’s history. One of the things I loved about the book is that I feel I have a better understanding now of what happened at that time. But you’re right – the book doesn’t really give much of the religious and political background away. When writing it can be tricky to know how much background needs explaining, and how to explain it in a way that feels true to the story. You don’t want to end up in a situation in which characters are having conversations they wouldn’t have had, just to inform the reader about what was going on at the time! On balance I think the way O’Neill did it works, as the book is first and foremost a human story. 

What did you make of Brother Polycarp? I thought perhaps that was one element that felt unfinished, or unsatisfying at least. 

Did you, I thought there may be still waters running deeper, but he wasn’t a focus, or maybe I missed a trick? Once I got my head around the backdrop, which I would have liked O’Neill to paint in more detail, or maybe more clearly, the novel suddenly started to really set off. I think for me this was after the two boys, Jim and Doyle who are the great love story at the novels heart, finally met and also with the arrival of Anthony MacMurrough to the area after his release from prison, though this was about 100 pages in… 

I agree. I did wonder where the book was taking us in those early chapters. I didn’t get frustrated, as such, but I did feel that the story moved up a gear when Doyler and Jim met. I think it was because I still wasn’t quite used to the pace of the book. It’s almost languorous in places, and all too often we’re used to books with a bombshell on every page.  

More drink? Fancy some more of those chocolates, the pralines are lovely…

Thanks. I’ll have a hot chocolate, I think. And I will try a praline, but only because you’ve told me how nice they are. Oh, and pass me one of those marzipan fruits, would you? They’re fruit, so therefore have no calories, and quite probably contribute towards one of my five-a-day.

Hahaha, I have just eaten six of them so I won’t need the gym… this month. Hem, hem, moving on! I loved how the love story between the two boys developed, Doyler teaching Jim to swim seemed to me a great metaphor, and the aim of getting to Muglins Rock, a climax of sorts, though I was worried what would happen after… why is it there must always be a sense of dread in a love story, especially a homosexual one, why would I instantly think ‘uh-oh’? Did you, and did you enjoy how the love story developed?

I think the sense of dread, or threat, is probably vital in most love stories, if not all. Fiction has to have conflict, or else why read on? If they’d met and everything had gone swimmingly (pardon the pun!) then it would have been an unsatisfying read. But it’s interesting what you say about homosexual love stories. Maybe in some way the stakes seem higher, particularly in a story set in a time when homosexuality was totally unacceptable and gay people were regularly imprisoned, because there’s a feeling that these two boys have been incredibly fortunate to have found each other, against the odds, in secret, and that for their love to work they have to transcend a repressive and hostile society.

Of course things are better now, in the UK at least, but that’s still true to a large extent. And we mustn’t forget that there are parts of the world where even today Jim and Doyler would be imprisoned for life or even put to death for loving each other. But one of the things I love about the book is that it’s first a foremost a love story. The fact that it’s a love story between two men is almost immaterial

Of course the path of true love never does run smooth does it?

Certainly not in books, no!

I loved the MacMurrough’s even though I shouldn’t. Anthony is just letcherous and opportunist, whilst also almost mirroring the things that happened to Oscar Wilde, yet he is fascinating to read. His aunt Eveline is also a wonderful, if rather scary, character too. They were just so immensely readable I found, did you? I think the book needed them and not just for the plot.

I agree! I couldn’t stand Anthony at first, but his character opened up very quickly and I realised what a good person he is at heart. By the end he’s really teaching the boys how to love, and how to be who they are, knowing that their love for him will pale into insignificance next to their love for each other.

And Eveline? She follows a long tradition in fiction of slightly bonkers posh women that I love. I love them in real life, too, though I don’t meet them often enough. Maybe I’d meet more of them here in Brussels? More chocolates, by the way? I ought to get a box to take home with me. You know, as a present? Or maybe two. Just in case.

I did cry at the end, don’t take the mickey, but I did. Did you?

I didn’t, if I’m honest. I thought the ending was intensely moving, and I did have a lump in my throat, but I’m weird about what brings on actual tears. I think it’s more to do with me and the mood I’m in than the book. Sometimes I can cry at Coronation Street, other times I can be the only person in a cinema not blubbing away. But I would never take the mickey! I love it when books do make me cry. Isn’t that why we read, on some level? To be moved?  

Right, this is definitely my last chocolate.

Jamie O’Neill turned the book around for me. Initially I thought this was going to be a book I wouldn’t enjoy. It seemed a little pretentious and confusing, yet after the initial hurdle of 100 – 150 pages I was swept up in it and the last 400 or so pages flew by. Did you find this?

I did, yes. But, unlike with some books, I wouldn’t say those first 100 or so pages ought to have been edited. I think they were necessary to the book, in order to introduce the reader to its world.  

I wonder if the plodding start has put other people off and what makes you persevere. I don’t think I would have had we not read it together, so thank you. Will you be picking up any more of Jamie O’Neill’s novels? 

I’m sure the beginning has put people off, which is a shame. It’s really a fantastic book, poetic and beautiful and amazingly rich. I think I will pick up some more of O’Neill’s work, but I also intend to re-read ‘At Swim, Two Boys’ one day. I read it in less than a week, and with jetlag, so I think there’s a lot there that I missed. I think it’s a book that rewards the time you give it, so I’d like to give it more time at a future date.   

I’m glad you enjoyed it, though. It was a lot of pressure, choosing a book, so I’m glad I went for one that surprised both of us!

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Filed under Jamie O'Neill, Reading With Authors 2011, SJ Watson

Bookmarked Debut Night… The Report

It’s been over a week since an idea I had became a reality and the Bookmarked Literary Salon opened its doors in Manchester’s Waterstone’s Deansgate for its debut night. I thought I would give those of you who couldn’t be there a report on the event, which started with me being unusually nervous. In fact have to admit I don’t think I have been that nervous before. I went all giddy at about lunchtime however my Mum and sister aka ‘The Girl Who Read Too Much’ (who read both books the weekend before, impressive) had come to visit, sadly no Granny Savidge Reads, and offered support and calming words like ‘get a grip’ before I had to leave to pick up our Bookmarked t-shirts and go and meet the authors off the train.

After an initial slightly shy hello at the station, I had met SJ before yet still felt rather nervous, I took Sarah Winman, SJ Watson and their lovely publicists Helena and Alison off to the venue in style… on the free bus. Soon we were chatting away like we had known each other for ages, then shared some pots of tea and chips before being joined by my co-host Adam and getting holed up in the Managers Office so that the authors could prepare and also so I couldn’t keep popping in the events room had actually turned up. You might spot the slightly nervous smiles from em and Adam just before we were ready to go and meet our audience…

We then went in and couldn’t quite believe out eyes, the room was pretty much full; people were standing at the back (though there were a few seats at the front, why does nobody ever want to sit at the very front), I have to say I could have done a little weep of joy, instead – like true professionals – we introduced the authors and started with a reading. Sarah had everyone in stitches with her reading from ‘When God Was A Rabbit’ and SJ had us all on the edge of our seats when he read from ‘Before I Go To Sleep’.

Adam and I then lead a sort of ‘grilling/conversation’ about some of the in-depth themes of each book and how the books compared and contrasted…

 

Which seemed to keep the authors on their toes, especially when we asked about their debut author journeys and their writing process (I cannot for the life of me remember what I asked that got this response)…

Soon we handed over to the audience (some not in the photo below, my Mum managed to hide somehow) who all had great questions to ask, one included my mother who almost had me saying ‘yes Mum, what would you like to ask?’ she asked about the grieving process that leaving characters behind might cause. I don’t think the authors had been asked that before. The rest of my family who included my aforementioned mother and sister were joined by ‘The Aunt Who Doesn’t Read So Much’ (who had read ‘When God Was A Rabbit’ beforehand and has since read ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ in about three days and three sittings) and ‘The Bookboy’ kept unusually quiet…

 

These too kept the authors in great discussion as we discussed the second still in writing process novels, adaptations, and their previous books ever seeing the light of day and what their writing lives are like…

Then suddenly over an hour had vanished before our eyes and it was time to stop and also time for a quick photo again, can you see the mix of relief, joy and ‘oh no its finished’ on my face?

The authors then took part in a signing or several…

 

Before it was all over and we were saying goodbye as the authors headed back to the train station and I headed for a strong drink and a meal with friends and family. I did manage to ask Sarah which she preferred, a comfy chair with me and Adam or with Richard and Judy… I am too polite to share the response, hee hee. 

Thank you to everyone who came, we had a great time and we so hope that you did. I know Lucy has written up her thoughts, which was really kind, but Lucy why did you not come and say hello, in fact that applies to a few tweeters and followers who turned up. Oh and Emma, thank you for saying hello I am so sorry our conversation was cut short, email me and lets go for a coffee. We hope we will see you all on the 12th of September when we will be having a crime-fest with Val McDermid and a special guest. You can find out more here.

Right, I will stop waffling on and on but I am just thrilled it went so well. If you came, thanks again, if you didn’t thanks to those of you who wished me luck, it meant so much to me.

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Filed under Bookmarked Literary Salon, Sarah Winman, SJ Watson

Bookmarked, Get Set, Go…

Well in the next few hours I will be an utter nervous wreck as I wait at the station to greet Sarah Winman and SJ Watson from the train, along with their lovely publicists, and we head for a drink. Yes it’s finally here (and scarily too soon), Bookmarked Literary Salon opens it’s doors tonight, sometime between 6.30 and 6.45pm.

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I say I will be nervous but I already am. My heads full of the following… Are my questions too silly? Will the authors think I’m a loon? Will people enjoy themselves? Will anyone turn up?

Well not long to find out. Wish me lots of luck…and please feel free to let people know. I’ll report back, if I survive it, ha!

For more info do check here! Eek!

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Bookmarked Literary Salon, Random House Publishing

Simon’s Bookish Bits #30

I thought whilst I am busy with ‘The Book Cull of the End of Reading Days’ today and various meetings with Waterstones and my co-host Adam for Mondays delights I would bring back my bookish bits (they haven’t been seen since January so needed a bit of dusting off and airing) which have as of today hit the big 3-0! So here are some links and the like that I have loved of late…

  • First up, which is probably old news but was new news to me, the Guardian’s First Book Award has caused some kerfuffle by sharing its submissions. I can’t decide if I like the idea, we have been debating it for The Green Carnation Prize (which extended its deadlines this week due to so many submissions), or not to be honest. I do like the fact you can vote for a title not on the list though, so maybe it’s a good thing? What do you think?
  • Speaking of awards (and indeed the Guardian again) what has become one of my favourite events of the year, the Not the Booker Prize, opened this week. You can vote for one title to be put forward (as long as it is eligible of course). I have cast my vote, which was for the wonderful ‘The Proof of Love’ by Catherine Hall – I know I haven’t shut up about it, but its that good – let me know if you vote, there has already been some, erm, disharmony and mass voting. Ha.
  • Speaking of disharmony that leads me to a little plea for people to come and join the Man Booker Forum. I don’t know how many of you are currently reading the longlist but you are a lovely lot and it would be nice to see some friendly faces, even if you are behind a nickname, on their as its all got a bit tetchy on there… I might have got a bit grumpy about it and said my piece.
  • The lovely Kimbofo has done a brilliant list of other literary links that you should have a look at. She has also had my bestest friend in the world, since the age of three, and book blogger Polly of Novel Insights on her Triple Choice Tuesday this week so do look at that too.
  • Remember tomorrow is the first in the ‘Reading With Authors 2011’ series. Belinda Bauer and I are ready to be live on the virtual sofa all day with tea and biscuits tomorrow so do pop by for a discussion on ‘The Man Who Fell From Earth’ by Walter Tevis.
  • Finally a reminder that on Monday in the heart of Manchester there is a new literary salon called Bookmarked starting. You might know one of the hosts, in fact their was an interview with him over on Nick Campbell’s A Pile of Leaves blog. This month is ‘Debut Night’ and will see Sarah Winman and SJ Watson on a very real sofa at Waterstones Deansgate AND you could win a chance to meet them for a private chat, and a glass of wine, before hand. I so hope to see some of you there.

Right off to cull books, good weekends ahead all of you, any plans or any special reading ahead?

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Bookmarked, A Week To Go…

I can’t actually believe that the ‘Debut Night’ of Bookmarked is going to be actually happening in just 7 days. I am getting very excited but also slightly nervous. When I first mentioned it on the blog it seemed that the actual night was a million miles away, now it is just a mere week away. Eek.

This of course means panic planning is now in full flow. We have the lovely authors Sarah Winman and SJ Watson, we have the venue, we hopefully have posters and flyers up there and should you walk through Waterstones Deansgate you will be inundated with multiple subliminal and blatant messages of our impending first night. If not then there will be tears before the weekend. Anyway, it’s meant some additional re-reading has been in order (I have just re-read ‘Gillespie and I’ and ‘The Observations’ by Jane Harris to write the Reading Guides) with post it’s, pen – nothing can beat a simple Bic – and a lovely new Black n’ Red notebook at the ready…

So now all I have to do is think about what to ask the lovely Sarah Winman (I am also listening to her read her book whilst I wander round the supermarket/library/clean the house) and SJ Watson, I have lots and lots of things I am dying to grill them about, its simply simplifying them and leaving stuff to my co-host Adam to the lovely audience to ask too.

What have you always wanted to ask an author? What would you ask Sarah Winman or SJ Watson if you could, let me know and I will mention your question specifically? Will any of you be coming to Bookmarked so I can make sure I say hello?

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Savidge Reads Gets Criminally Star Struck

As I mentioned on my book giveaway post this week it has been a funny old one. Some of it has been a bit rubbish for various reasons but there was one HUGE highlight. I found out quite randomly that Tess Gerritsen and SJ Watson were doing an event at Bolton Library. This is something I simply couldn’t miss, no work, no health issues, nothing would stop me from going. They were in Bolton, which I thought was miles away but is actually 20mins, to discuss their books at the library, little did I know I was going to be able to meet them after and have a natter (thanks to the lovely Alison at Transworld who I also had a lovely chat or two with). I was sooo nervous.

However it was lovely…

… Even if I did get rather star struck! It is something which very rarely happens in my day job, where I do ‘showbiz interviews’ and yet when I got the chance to meet Tess I went a bit shy and suddenly didn’t know what to say. I think it’s because Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles series (which I have just noticed is one of the only series I have started since blogging) have become such favourites. I have emailed her and interviewed her via email for her Savidge Reads Grills and yet still I went really shy and quiet. She was utterly delightful, really warm and friendly, happy to sign a book for me (and one for Polly, it’s in the post, of Novel Insights who first bought me a Tess novel) and we had a lovely chat.

However it didn’t stop there as the same thing happened when I met SJ Watson. I went all nervous in part as I was a fan of his debut ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ and both he and Sarah Winman were my two first choices for the ‘debut night’ of Bookmarked Literary Salon (so imagine my joy when they both said yes) but I hadn’t taken into account I would have to meet them. I know, I know. Anyway Steve was lovely and really excited about the event and now I am quite buzzing about it all. Though now of course I am very nervous about meeting Sarah Winman… and I haven’t even begun to think about Val McDermid and Sophie Hannah coming in September. Let’s move on before the palpitations start.

It did make me wonder why meeting an author you are a big fan of can make you so nervous? We have all had a moment like this (in fact me and Novel Insights had it together last year when we met Ian McEwan and both talked gobbledygook at him, lucky man) haven’t we? Is it because there is a worry that they won’t be nice and you will never want to read a book of theirs again? Or is it simply the awe of meeting someone who has created a world, or several, that you lived and loved? What do you think? Which authors have you met and gone a bit unnecessary over?

P.S I am slightly obsessed about that first picture of Tess, Steve and me, I feel like I could be a crime writer – though I’m obviously not, but one can dream.

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Bookmarked Literary Salon Launches… It’s ‘Debut Night’

I have been desperate to tell you all about this for weeks and weeks, but until everything was signed, sealed and sorted I didn’t want to jinx it. So excuse the slight self promotion as I bring you the exciting news of Bookmarked Literary Salon’s opening night, the appropriately themed ‘Debut Night’. I am actually so excited about the authors we have coming I could ramble on for hours, instead here is the official wording about it all (let me know what you think)…

Two stand-out debut British novelists launch “Bookmarked” – a new literary salon co-hosted by Simon Savidge and Adam Lowe at Waterstone’s Deansgate.

Monday 8th August, 6.30pm at Waterstone’s Deansgate in the heart of Manchester – “Bookmarked” aims to bring something new and fresh to the Manchester cultural scene. Two of the most talked-about and bestselling first-time novelists of 2011, Sarah Winman, author of “When God Was A Rabbit” and SJ Watson, author of “Before I Go To Sleep will be in conversation for the first time together – discussing their writing; plotting and characterisation – and how they travelled the rocky road to publication. 

About the Authors

S J Watson was born and grew up in Stourbridge, in the West Midlands.  After graduating with a degree in Physics from Birmingham University, Watson moved to London and began working with the hearing impaired in various London hospitals, eventually specialising in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing impaired children, whilst spending evenings and weekends writing fiction. In 2009 Watson was accepted into the first Faber Academy ‘Writing a Novel’ Course, a programme that covers all aspects of the novel-writing process. ‘Before I Go to Sleep’ is the result. Now sold in over 30 languages around the world, ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ has been also been acquired for film by Ridley Scott’s production company, Scott Free, with Rowan Joffe to direct. It was also chosen for a ‘Book at Beachtime’ on Radio 4 Extra.

“It’s exceptionally accomplished…The structure is so dazzling it almost distracts you from the quality of the writing.” Guardian

“SJ Watson’s debut doesn’t put a foot wrong… brilliantly simple… Unforgettable.” Financial Times Weekend

Sarah Winman grew up in Essex. She attended the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art and went on to act in theatre, film and television. ‘When God Was A Rabbit’ went straight into the Sunday Times Bestseller List and has been chosen by endless book groups over the year including Richard and Judy, Waterstones and Grazia. It was selected for Simon Mayo’s Book Club on BBC Radio 2 and it was also chosen as one of the ‘Waterstones 11’ which highlighted the debut novels to get excited about in 2011. Sarah lives in London and loves to escape to the family home in Cornwall as much as possible. ‘When God Was a Rabbit’ is her first novel and she is currently working on her next.

‘Gloriously offbeat… Winman’s narrative voice is beautifully true, with a child’s unsentimental clarity. A superb debut’ The Times

‘It’s rare to find a novel you’re recommending to friends, family and colleagues by page 60 but When God Was A Rabbit is just that kind of book… A truly great book to lose yourself in; prepare to bore everyone else around you by telling them just how much they need to read it’ Stylist 

Dates For Your Diaries

  • Bookmarked ‘Debut Night’ will be Monday 8thof August 2011 at Waterstones Deansgate with warm up drinks at 6.30pm.
  • Bookmarked ‘Crime Night’ will be the first week of September 2011 same venue, same time, with two of the biggest British female crime writers. More details to be announced soon.

Further Information

For further information on Bookmarked, the authors it is featuring, the hosts Simon Savidge and Adam Lowe (who are available for interview and features) email bookmarkedsalon@gmail.com you can also visit the website here.

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Bookmarked Literary Salon, Sarah Winman, SJ Watson

Recommended Reading, My Books of 2011 So Far…

Can you believe we are halfway through 2011 already? I have more thoughts on all that coming later on today. Why is it that knowing you are halfway through a year makes you think about everything more? Like I said, more on that later today. In the meantime I thought I would give you a list of my books of the year so far. There have been more than ten in my ‘Books of 2011’ category, some have grown on me, some faded over time and some like the marvellous new Ali Smith novel ‘There But For The’ still need a little time to settle on me as do about six books I have read recently and have still only done small notes on pre-review. Getting back to the point without further ado, here are my favourite reads of 2011 so far…

  1. The Proof of Love by Catherine Hall
  2. Gillespie and I by Jane Harris
  3. Annabel by Kathleen Winter
  4. Cat’s Eye – Margaret Atwood
  5. Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford
  6. Grace Williams Says It Loud by Emma Henderson
  7. The Mermaid’s Singing by Val McDermid
  8. A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley
  9. Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch
  10. Before I Go To Sleep by  SJ Watson

I wonder if these will still be some of my favourites by the end of the year. There are a few contenders that I haven’t put reviews up on the blog, in fact ‘Swamplandia!’ by Karen Russell which I read ages ago, but haven’t reviewed yet could be a contender. Of course my end of year favourites allow me to cheat a little more, I have ten released in the year and ten released before, this mid-way post is more of a merge.

It is of course now pretty much summer time, and so you could really say that really this is my list of summer reading recommendations, should you be in the need of any. What are your favourite books of the year so far? What would you recommend I get reading over the summer months?

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Before I Go To Sleep – SJ Watson

I was actually recommended SJ Watson’s debut novel ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ by none other than Tess Gerritsen, who you will all know I am a huge fan of, back in November when I grilled her. Just on her word alone (and indeed she is quoted on the cover of the novel too) I would have read this yet when it arrived at Savidge Reads HQ I also saw there were remarkable quotes from two of my other favourite authors Sophie Hannah and Val McDermid. The only problem with such high praise from sources I regard so highly is that there was a certain level of expectation before I have even turned the first page. I can tell you though that this praise is indeed founded.

Imagine waking up in a bed you don’t remember getting into and lying next to a man that you don’t recognise. Could this be another drunken night out? Imagine the fear of going to the bathroom only to find the face in the mirror isn’t yours, or is it? This is the daily sequence of events each morning for Christine Lucas, a woman who we discover wakes up every morning with the same feeling of utter confusion because she has amnesia and one that reoccurs every time she has a deep sleep. It transpires that the man she is lying next to is her husband, Ben, and that her condition has been lasting for decades since a terrible accident.

This could make for an interesting novel in itself; however SJ Watson adds something that takes this psychological thriller to the next level. You see as the day goes on Chrissie gets a call from a Dr Nash, a man who says he has been treating her for some time without the knowledge of her husband. Chrissie is naturally suspicious until Dr Nash tells her to look in her wardrobe for the journal that he knows she has been keeping. She does, and is distressed to discover on the very first page the words ‘DON’T TRUST BEN.’ From here we, along with Chrissie, read back through her history. Only of course the problem is as we read on, discovering many a secret, twist and turn, is who do we believe?

“I have the bedroom door closed. I am writing this in private. In secret. I can hear my husband in the living room – the soft sigh of the sofa as he leans forward or stands up, an occasional cough, politely stifled – but I will hide this book if he comes upstairs. I will put it under the bed, or the pillow. I don’t want him to see I am writing in it. I don’t want to have to tell him how I got it.”

The premise of the book is a good one, it’s the way that Watson writes and weaves the tale that really sets it apart. He really gets into the mind of a character who must face the fact that they in many ways have lost themselves as well as their trust in the people around them that they think are dear. Its this feeling of utter confusion mixed with a sense of self loss, and much more as you discover as the book goes on, that really makes you empathise with Chrissie. The way the novel is written gently forces you into her mind. This only adds to the helplessness of Chrissie’s situation.

“I had been right. I felt my mind begin to close down, as if it couldn’t process any more grief, any more of this scrambled past, but I knew I would wake up tomorrow  and remember none of this.”

The fact that we only have the journal, which is the form the novel takes for the main part of the book, means we can only learn what Chrissie learns and relearns each day. The problem is do we trust her very own word, can we be sure that what she is telling herself hasn’t been planted by someone else? Are we sure she can’t trust Ben? To top it all off Watson also uses the science behind amnesia to add to this too. People with amnesia tend to confabulate and invent history as a way of coping, as Dr Nash reminds Chrissie every now and again. This of course then makes us question why Dr Nash keeps saying this, does he know more than he is letting on? Who on earth can we trust? The answer is no one and that’s what makes this domestic thriller, there are no police detectives to be seen, so enthralling.

I did worry that the novel was going to become rather repetitive. In part because of the situation that Chrissie finds herself in, re-learning every morning, but also because for the first three quarters of the book there are only three characters to be found. Therefore there are going to be certain facts, explanations and scenes (I can’t say more for fear of giving anything away) which are going to be recovered now and again and again. Watson gets around this by adding a certain fact, or possible fiction, to these scenarios which only add to the doubts and questions in our minds. It’s the uncertainty that is the only certainty in this novel.

‘Before I Go To Sleep’ is a very clever book. It takes a relatively simple, and equally possible, scenario and flips it on its head. In fact it’s the very domestic and almost mundane ordinariness of the books setting which makes it so unnerving. The fact Watson does this, on the whole, in one house between three characters is truly impressive. It’s an original, fast paced, gripping and rather high concept novel. I am wondering just what on earth, Watson is going to follow this up with… and how? 9/10

This book was kindly sent by the publisher.

Who else has read ‘Before I Go To Sleep’? Which books have you read on the recommendation of your favourite authors? What was the last thriller you read that almost turned the genre on its head?

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Filed under Books of 2011, Doubleday Publishers, Review, SJ Watson