Tag Archives: Stella Duffy

Books on Trains

I just realised that the title of this mini-post looks like I am about to talk about books about trains, and I swear I’m not though I do have a train themed question coming for you slightly later on. The reason for todays post is that I will be spending about 8 hours on trains and tubes this weekend as I am off up north again this time to visit my youngest Aunty Alice, her husband (who I have a big bag of books for as he is a mammoth reader too) and my two year old twin cousins. So this gives me the perfect chance for some reading time and so I selected four, yes four – in case of all possible reading errors as mentioned in Back Up Books earlier this week, books for my trip away which are…

  • The Birds & Other Stories by Daphne Du Maurier – I am halfway through and this will be ideal if any of the others don’t quite do the trick (which I am sure they will) and if I finish one of the novels this can be a palate cleanser.
  • Wavewalker by Stella Duffy – I havent followed up on Stella Duffy’s crime series since reading ‘Calendar Girl’ and I swore I would so this has been on my hit list a while and both crime and Stella Duffy tend to do me well so a mix should be ideal.
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – I need to crack on with this for our discussion on the 26th of this month with ‘Spending Sunday with a Classic’. I always forget how big it is till I actually take it off the shelf.
  • C by Tom McCarthy – One of this years Man Booker contenders and one I think I might struggle with but really want to try so will be cracking (though not literally spine cracking) this one open first and seeing, or c-ing ha, how I get on.

So that is what I should be reading over the weekend (not all of them of course but bits of or a few of), what will you be reading this weekend? How many books do you take a way for a weekend vacation? Oh and trains… I was desperately looking for books which are set on trains and other than the Agatha Christies which I have read I couldnt think of any, can any of you help? I do like the idea of a good train journey to read on a train journey.

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Summer Read Suggestions… From Authors

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

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

Maria Barbal

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

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

Neil Bartlett

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

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

Stella Duffy

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

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

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

Tess Gerritsen

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

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

Sophie Hannah

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

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

Hillary Jordan

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

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

Paul Magrs

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

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

Dan Rhodes

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

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

Natasha Solomons

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

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

Evie Wyld

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

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

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

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

Those Summer Reads…

I mentioned on my bookish bits last week that I was planning on having a ‘Summer Reads Season’ and what time could be better than when I am away myself on a shortish summer break (longer one coming next month). Ahead this week you can expect to hear from publishers, authors and bloggers regarding favourite reads and what delights they have been saving for summer. The newspapers will be going crazy over this in a few weeks (I always read those seasonal lists) and so I thought ‘why don’t I too?’ But for today lets just look at summer reads as a genre shall we?

Two things made me think of what summer reading as a subject, if I did any – which I have now noted I do, for a post which then became a week long jaunt. One was a post Lija of A Writer’s Pet made which really got my mind whirring. The other was that I was already having to look at what books I had read that were my idea of a perfect summer read for something which launches tomorrow (I am shrouding it in mystery to build up the anticipation, ha) and I came up with this delectable eight of which I have had  to whittle down from.

I was going to list them but then the post might be never ending, if you want a list though let me know! Anyway, I never thought that I was someone who subscribed to the idea of summer reading; in fact I thought I read the same things all year round. When I looked into it though from what I read last year I noticed I do actually read a little seasonally. These books initially look like they have nothing in common but the more I thought about it the more as a group they sum up my summer mentality…

  • They are all well written and yet not hard or oppressive (crime doesn’t have to be dark just have some shades) nor are they froth
  • They each have big themes but never make them depressing
  • They have a slightly magical touch to them even if they aren’t surreal (it makes sense in my head to me if it doesn’t to anyone else)
  • They are books you could languish in no matter the genre
  • They are books you want to rave about to people
  • There is generally sunshine in them to my memory, be it the place, the season it’s written about or just a sort of jovial summery prose (even the war time ones)
  • They are literary yet punchy/paced too
  • None of them is trashy

Not all of them tick all those criteria but each one hits at least four or more… So I guess that must be my criteria for a good summer read from me. Weirdly I could probably sum up an autumnal gem for me far easier than I could a summer. I have also noticed that none of them are particularly long, even though one that looks like it might be.

Interestingly when I looked at what was on my current bedside it seems the ridiculously humid London heat of the last few weeks has started to have a summery effect on my reading subconscious already as I have these lined up and ready to go by the bedside.

I think they all fit with my summer bullet points don’t you? So do you read seasonally? What criteria can you list for me that you need from your summer reads? Don’t give any recommendations yet, save yourself for next week when it all goes recommendation mad! Hope you’re looking forward to it?

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Theodora – Stella Duffy

In her twelfth book Stella Duffy sets herself several challenges. The first is stepping into a slightly new genre for her with a historical novel. The second is the book is about a real if rather mysterious woman ‘Theodora’, which leads to the third challenge; we know what happens to the character. The word ‘Empress’ is on the cover of the book too after all. It’s the latter that I think is the most challenging. If the reader knows from the start where a book is going then why would they read on? All three together is quite a risk for any author to take, some risks fail and others really pay off.

I think the most important thing in any book where the main character is also the title of the novel is that the author makes that character reader friendly, why are you going to get through 300+ pages if you don’t like the star of the book. Theodora definitely is the star of ‘Theodora’ (that sounds a bit weird, you get what I mean). From the death of her father at five killed by his own favourite bear of his trade, which we see through flashbacks of a kind, and the fact as the plainer and less talented in dancing and singing sister of three Theodora has a slight underdog status from the opening of the book and you feel for her, you side with her, you like her.

However do not let first impressions fool you as Theodora is determined, I want to say gutsy but it’s a bit of a cliché, and what she lacks in some talents she makes up with more, her mind and her body tend to win people over though not necessarily in that order. We follow her journey from the dark underbelly of Constantinople and its prostitution, through the theatre and onwards (I don’t want to give too much away) as she breaks the mould to become the woman no one would believe she could. There is a twist in the middle as she follows her heart rather than her head and exposes another side to her we have not seen before, you like her more.

The book isn’t just about Theodora though and there are a few characters that deserve there own mention too because characters are something that Stella Duffy does exceptionally well. There is the tough loving teacher and eunuch Menander, the butter wouldn’t melt (though watch out) Chrysomallo, the dashing Hecebolus and the delightfully wicked Euphemia. For me though a fowl mouthed dwarf and ‘Madame’, Sophia, who becomes Theodora’s pimp and best friend was possibly my favourite character and almost stole the show from Theodora herself.

What about the historical aspect? Well, it may surprise you to find out but I wasn’t born during the Byzantine period in history, so I have no real inkling how spot on the novel is. My mother is a classist though, and has been reading the book in advance, and says it brings it fully to life and I would agree with her. I did have a little wobble with the first chapter as Duffy explains a lot of the history and sets the seen. Not in a text book way but I did feel I was getting a lot and very instantly. However that’s a small niggle and Duffy doesn’t do the unforgivable, as some authors do, and show off how well they researched everything or how what an authority they are on the period each chapter. The research is there but Duffy keeps it subtley in the text, no historical sledge hammers, just the initial foundation.

Constantinople comes to life on the page, you can smell the backstreets, hear the voices and the stage shows almost play out before your eyes they have a genuine atmosphere. In fact I would have liked a bit more of that phase in Theodora’s life as I wanted to go off and explore it further. As the book progresses the heat of the holy desert of Alexandria sears through the pages and you do really feel you are with our heroine in the various settings of her journey.

I really enjoyed ‘Theodora’ it is historical and yet mythical (which is apt) all in one.It also almost has an element of adventure about it and you feel its a tale the people of its setting would really rather have enjoyed it if Duffy had been able to read it to them at the Hippodrome herself. I am glad to know there is hopefully a sequel in the pipeline as I would happily spend much more time with her. Especially if I get to meet Sophia again along the way, though maybe she should get her own book too? 9/10

Savidge suggests some perfect prose partners:

Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel (I am not comparing the two because you can’t in terms of historical period, length etc. This is another wonderfully written historical gem and a favourite read of last year for me)
Singling Out The Couples – Stella Duffy (a mythical and magical fairytale of an evil princess who comes to London in search of a heart)

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Simon’s Bookish Bits #23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Simon’s Bookish Bits #10

Did you know that today the 27th of February 2010 is the very first day of Jewish Book Week? Well if you did or didn’t know I only found out thanks to the rather retro library that I went to earlier in the week (they have a wonderful information centre on all things bookish too if I haven’t sold this library enough). Anyway I got a lovely brochure on an event happening in London starting today, sorry for the late warning, and going on until next Sunday.

I hope that any of you who have heard of it before will forgive me when I say that I thought this was the first year it started as I had never heard of it ever before. Having now done some research into the whole event it actually was initially started back in 1948 and yet I hadn’t heard of it until now and so am spreading the word to all of you. Hoorah! I will definitely be going to some of the upcoming events, will you? If you want more information than me just waffling on then go to www.jewishbookweek.com

This book week also made me think quite a bit and I am actually not sure how many Jewish books I have actually read whether they be by a Jewish author or with a Jewish theme. I thought I must have read a few yet it seems I haven’t read many. The only one that I could instantly think of and was indeed on the blog is ‘When We Were Bad’ by Charlotte Mendelson. I still have another of hers to read actually, maybe this is the week. I was thinking that what I might do is make take a slow and steady read of ‘The Diary of Young Girl’ by Anne Frank which I actually cannot believe I haven’t read. I though going through this slowly might be the way to go with the subject matter. What Jewish based books would you recommend? I would love your thoughts I may just have more in my TBR I hadn’t a clue about.

Oh and an additional note the lovely Simon T of Stuck in a Book did a lovely post on all this, which I wasn’t aware of when I scheduled this, and Simon T links into the next part of my Bookish Bits. I think I have mentioned that there is a UK Book Bloggers meeting going on in May, on Saturday the 8th as a matter of fact and you need to email Simon if you want to attend and get any further details. I will be there and am really, really looking forward to the whole day, including a book swap, and hope to see some of you there!!!

Now before I dash off for a day with Novel Insights looking at books but not buying them yet discussing them to death over coffee, I have another question for you which came to me when a book that I have been very excited about dropped through my letter box (I will be doing a bigger book incoming round up next week)…

Yes, big hoorah, the new Stella Duffy novel ‘Theodora’ has been sent to me rather in advance as its not actually out until June though naturally I will be reading it almost immediately. I wondered if seeing advance reviews, as in way, way in advance; actually make you want to buy/read/borrow a book. Or do you forget the book as it’s far off in the future? Would you rather read a review of a book just as it comes out? Let me know as it interests me, oh and Jewish books too. Thanks in advance!

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Read The Whole Lot?

Now today is of course Thursday and by now those of you who pop by regularily would normally have seen me write a Booking Through Thursday but it arrived later than normal and so now you get two posts today instead of one after my earlier post about Tuck Everlasting, aren’t you the lucky ones? Today’s question is more of a theme and simply asks us to write about something we have wanted to discuss with a lot of fellow book lovers.

So I thought and thought about what there was that I have always wanted to discuss with you all. Was there one thing I have always wanted to discuss and haven’t yet? Well even though we do have lots of wonderful discussions on here there were actually a few (which is good as this blog would dry up sharpish if not), is reading the entire works of an author or an entire series. It will make sense I promise if you bear with me.

I love several authors such as Margaret Atwood, Susan Hill, Stella Duffy, Colm Toibin (very recently), Sophie Hannah, Daphne Du Maurier… the list could go on. I have never read all of any authors work, not even some of my favourites mentioned and the same applies with a series of books. I love all of the Isles and Rizzoli series of Tess Gerritsen’s, The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency, Miss Marple, Agatha Raisin (again I could go on)  but I don’t ever quite catch up with the latest books in these series or ‘the one book I haven’t read’ by a specific author… why?

Mainly I think it’s because I fear that the one I haven’t read, or the latest in the series is going to be the last one and that really worries me. If authors are living its less likely, once I read the last Daphne Du Maurier I can get my mitts on I won’t have any left so what would I do? How would I cope? It’s like with my sensation season, I am not reading all of them as then there would be none left, I have made sure some gems are still lying in wait to be discovered in years to come.

I also worry that an author I love might write a new book I don’t like, or have a real dud in their back catalogue. You can for give it once, maybe twice but then I would loose a favourite author. Mind you if they wrote that many books I didn’t like they wouldn’t be a favourite author would they? It is a worry and so I always leave one, or two, or ten. Is there anyone else out there who does this?

So that leaves me with lots of questions for you all and I am excited about the answers already, though I think its going to play absolute havoc with my recently whittled down TBR. Which series must I simply read? Which author’s entire works would you demand must be purchased and devoured now? Do you hold back on reading everything in a series or by an author or do you think life’s too short and if you love them read them now and not hold back? Who has finished a series and knows the agonising wait, or is enduring one now, for the next book? Who has read everything by an author and is now bereft not knowing which author to turn to next? I will leave the floor, or in this case the blog, open for you all to discuss…

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The Book Club Boutique

Something of a slightly different blog post for you all today as its not a  readers rambling’s or a book review but actually a review of a bookish event. As you may all be aware Kimbofo and I have set up a Book Club (which starts on Thursday) after my researching that London didn’t seem to have many or any. I contacted libraries which of course run them and a few as mentioned on Bookgroup.info and tried a few but nothing stuck, in fact I didn’t get any replies at all from some people I contacted.

Randomly, after having organised the new book group, my lovely friend Lotte emailed me saying that there was a night that we simply must try. The night was called ‘The Book Club Boutique’ and so last night we decided that in the name of ‘book group research’ aka ‘being a bit nosey’ we would go and check it out.

The Book Group Boutique is “London’s newest literary salon and Soho’s only free weekly spoken-word book club. It was created by the notorious poet and raconteur Salena Godden and her partner-in-crime Rachel Rayner in ‘Dick’s Bar’, the cosy basement bar at 23, Romily Street. The salon brings poets, authors and book lovers together to hear new and established writers, spoken word acts, and eclectic music in an informal speakeasy environment. This is no square affair; there is dancing, merriment and mingling over cocktails from the infamous Dick Bradsell and a different DJ every week.” Sounded perfection, something a bit different where book lovers could get together listen to poets and writers and natter endlessly about books!

Though in reality it wasn’t actually a book group, as in reading and nattering about books kind of group, it was a fun night. I did worry a little at the start when someone started singing ‘welcome to the book club boutique’ with a bass guitar over and over again but I needn’t have as there were several highlights. Two in particular… I am not the biggest fan of poetry I will admit but Mark Walton was fantastic, funny, emotive, just wonderful raw poetry. I will be buying a copy pronto and I never buy poetry. There was of course one more major highlight for me and that was…

Savidge Reads Meets Stella Duffy... outside a bar!

Savidge Reads Meets Stella Duffy... outside a bar!

… The delight that is Stella Duffy! Who took to the stage to read a very funny poem before doing a reading from the wonderful ‘Singling Out The Couples’ and then later from her Saz Martin crime series. In fact that reminds me I need to read the second of those as I loved ‘Calendar Girl’. You all know how I am a huge fan (without verging on being a stalker) of Stella’s and it was lovely to see her and have a good old natter over some wine. So if your in London and fancy a very unique and interesting night then I would say drop in to ‘The Book Club Boutique’ and give it a whirl. It made me wonder what other literary events there are out there especially after yesterday and discussing the Daphne Du Maurier festival in Fowey after my review of Justine Picardie’s ‘Daphne’. I would love, love, love to go to that… what other great bookish events do you know of I might be missing out on?

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Taking On My Travels

It’s all going a little bit wrong in the land of Blogger which I am finding quite annoying as it isn’t seeming to let me do any blogs before today when I want it to (additional note this should have been posted successfully at 11am not almost 11pm) and I am fairly unimpressed as I am desperately trying to get my Orange thoughts to you before tomorrow. Burnt Shadows finally seems to be up but it’s not letting me do two more which is really irritating! What I may have to do is put the reviews up in advance and you can get my full thoughts on the list on Wednesday and reviews of the final two afterwards, that cant be considered cheating as frankly I have read them and done the time. It is also annoying when you are trying to write a week worth of blogs so that while you are away magically there is something fun for your readers daily! I have to admit I am seriously thinking about moving blog provider when I come back from Switzerland or will that confuse things even more? Any advice or thoughts would be much appreciated.

Anyway onto happier things I am off on holiday, in fact by the time this goes up I will be there… or even back who knows (I mustn’t think of that or I will worry while I am away and am on an internet break) and so of course I need to have some books to take on my travels. I think I have shown you how I do this before, in fact I have, but I base my travelling choices like this…

a) Something big I have been meaning to read for ages
b) A guilty pleasure read in case the above really just doesn’t work out, you know something slightly erm… un-literary??!!
c) Something by one of my favourite authors
d) Something brand spanking new ‘just in’ as you never know
e) A good crime novel
f) Something that has been hovering on my TBR pile and reading radar for sometime

Now because I am away for a week and doing a lot of train travelling across the Swiss landscape there will therefore be a lot of dragging of suitcases, so I have limited myself to five but some of them fit in several categories! So my Swiss TBR pile is looking very much like this…


Vanish – Tess Gerritsen
I love Tess as and author and frankly I have been holding of the next in the series for as long as physically possible. She’s becoming less and less of a guilty pleasure and more and more of an open obsession plus its crime and something that should keep my mind off being up in the air in a plane which I hate with a passion.

Wavewalker – Stella Duffy
You know that I love Stella’s work and this is the second in her crime series. I really enjoyed the first and so have high hopes for this, I will be saving it for my flight back as think it will take my mind of being in a tin can so many miles above the earth. Moving swiftly on…

Daphne – Justine Picardie
I have now said I will take this with me and read it on three holidays and its getting out of hand. A book all about the wonderful Daphne Du Maurier and The Bronte’s really is a must read, shame on me. I have just realised I still haven’t done a review of the new Daphne short stories so I will sort that out when I am back.

The Devil’s Paintbrush – Jake Arnott
This sees Jake leave the crime Genre and go all historical on us. I don’t have too much of an insight into what it’s about as I am desperate for it to be a surprise. It’s also been on a travel trip with me and come back unread, second time lucky let’s hope.

The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters
How could I not, I have managed to hold of the whole way through the Orange shortlist and I refuse to hold off any longer. That is all I have to say on it for the matter. A few of you seem quite divided on this book which has made me all the more intrigued.

…Now tell me London City Airport doesn’t have a book shop does it that could be lethal with time to kill and nerves galore!?! Oh and additional comment, please don’t be offended if I don’t visit your blogs or comment back on here while I am away, I will do so with gusto when I am back!

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Jake Arnott, Justine Picardie, Sarah Waters, Stella Duffy, Tess Gerritsen

The Lesser of Two Bookish Evils

What I love about Booking Through Thursday is that it always makes me think. I generally end up waffling on (as I am sure I will do today) and find varying tangents to discuss. It makes me think out the box though and this weeks question “Which is worse… finding a book you love and then hating everything else you try by that author, or reading a completely disappointing book by an author that you love?” has not only made me think more about books and what I have read but also how I read.

Out of the two I don’t think I could say which is worse because of some ‘reading rules’ I have, in fact I think I may have to do a blog in the near future on reading and reviewing rules I have, though they aren’t set in stone. If I read one book I absolutely love by an author I will undoubtedly pick another of their books up but it might take me weeks, months even years for me to read another of their books or for them to write another if it’s their debut. If I couldn’t wait (very rare that that happens) and the next one was rubbish I would sadly probably write them off. There is a clause in that statement though in respect of if someone whose opinion I trust raved about another of their works I would possibly give them a second chance.

So what about an author I love who releases a dud book? Well in order to love an author I have to have read more than three/four of their books. If one of them was a dud before that the rule above would apply so they wouldn’t be an author I love. I only at present have authors like that Daphne Du Maurier, Ian McEwan, Stella Duffy, Tess Gerritsen and Susan Hill all who so far with all their varying writing styles and genres haven’t failed me once.

I do get nervous reading the next of their works though that it might be the one book by them that will really bad or put me off them (in my head for some reason I am thinking of McEwan’s ‘Saturday’ instantly which I haven’t tried yet but worries me in advance) as yet none of them have written a bad word. If one did… I would be disappointed but I would forgive them. It has happened with one author who would have made my favourite readers amount to six not five and that is Kate Atkinson whose books I love only I had a really, really hard time with ‘Behind The Scenes At The Museum’ which was the second book I read of hers after ‘Human Croquet’. I didn’t get on with ‘Behind The Scenes…’ and so much so, though I am going to try again, I was tempted not to bother with her again. Luckily three people recommended ‘Case Histories’ to me and my oneside relationship with Kate has never looked back.

So not only has today’s blog made me think about my reading in a different way its also made me look at my reading pattern (is that what you call it) as I have noticed I have quite a lot of books I have absolutely loved and either not read another word by that author yet or (like Margaret Atwood) read the second one a year or so down the line. I am thinking maybe I need to start reading the whole works of some authors such as Margaret Atwood, Anne Tyler… oooh who else? Any recommendations, what about all of you?

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Filed under Anne Tyler, Book Thoughts, Daphne Du Maurier, Ian McEwan, Kate Atkinson, Margaret Atwood, Stella Duffy, Susan Hill, Tess Gerritsen

The Room of Lost Things – Stella Duffy

After having so loved State of Happiness earlier this year I was really looking forward to reading Stella Duffy’s latest novel once more. Every so often you come across a book where you just think ‘what a great idea’ and ‘how the hell did they come up with that?’ This is the case of Stella Duffy’s latest novel ‘The Room of Lost Things’. As you will all probably know I am a fan of Stella’s work and re-reading this recently has made the book even better the second time round. Has that happened to any of you? I think first time I was simply devouring it and couldn’t gat enough of the characters and had to know what happened instantly. This time it was a much gentler devouring and I spotted a lot of things that I had possibly missed the first time round and characters that grew on me even more so this time.

The story focuses on several characters but in particular Robert Sutton who is the keeper of the room of lost things. What is the room of lost things? Why it is a laundry in Loughborough Junction which he is leaving and where many people leave hints of their secrets in their pockets which Robert has collected. A laundry that he inherited from his mother Alice (one of my favourite names, I know not one horrid Alice) though sadly he himself has no Indeed the deal is very much done and he is handing the shop over to Akeel and his wife, meaning that he is packing up and dealing with his past and not only the secrets that other people have left in their laundry, but his own demons. All this whilst also training Akeel to do his job.

The rest of the book looks at the people in the area some of whom go into the laundrette and others who merely pass it day by day. Two of my favourite characters were the two homeless men who can often be found on the unwanted sofa on the street watching the world go by. Actually saying that I don’t think I had any favourites exactly I enjoyed all the characters and their tales and there is a huge scope in this novel be they the nanny who is having an affair with her boss, an old lady who has Alzheimer’s though doesn’t know it (that’s not a bad joke it’s the truth) or the commitment phobic dancer.

With a book filled with so many characters Stella Duffy’s additional skill is managing to give you insight into all their lives, relationships and stories without you feeling confused. There is really though one true star of the story and that is London and not the London that everyone knows and loves, not the tourist traps and the hustle and bustle of the West End. This is a truer London that those, like me, will know and love. Those of you who don’t will be entranced and will be left wanting to find the more hidden parts where tubes dare not tread when you next visit.
This book is in some ways a love letter (the prose is beautiful) to a part of London that Stella herself lives in and indeed loves. Though this is not a crime novel I feel Duffy has used her skills from her crime series to weave the plot whilst dropping hints and herrings along the way until you come to the end of the book. I want to say more about the ending but I shan’t as I could give things away, it’s a very well written and thought provoking ending is probably the best way to describe it.

I was moved, I fell in love with London even more (especially as it was based on my side of the river) and I had read it before I realised it again, it just enveloped me. A wonderful book I whole heartedly recommend. All in all this is a really accomplished and human novel that tells of some of the residents of Loughborough Junction and celebrates the often forgotten ‘south of the river’ part of London. I really loved this book and not just for the real characters but for the idea of the room of lost things. This is more proof that Stella is a wonderful writer, and one I hope will be doing an interview for Savidge Reads in the forthcoming weeks. I need to get begging. So in the hope she does and you have any questions for her or questions you have always wanted an author to answer then let me know!

*Note* if you are looking for my Booking Through Thursday it is here… I had done a similar topic last month!

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Filed under Books of 2008, Review, Stella Duffy, Virago Books

A Month in Books: March & The Orange Prize

Can you believe March has almost been and gone, is it me or is this year going incredibly quickly? So as with February here is my review of the month as a whole. It has to be said on the whole it was a really good reading month, a very diverse range of authors and genres of books. March has been quite influenced by Richard and Judy looking back, mind you now their reads are over next month will be quite different, I still have The Cellist of Sarajevo to go though. I have also travelled a lot going to Los Angeles, New York three times, Russia under Stalin’s regime and the aftermath, Germany during both wars, in the land of theatre twice, strolled through Paris with Edmund White and been to Wonderland. It’s no wonder that I am shattered.

Books read: 12 which I think is a record.
Books added to the TBR Pile: 46 though I have absolutely no idea how that happened.
New author I tried and want to read ‘the works of’: Tom Rob Smith, and I did, all two.
Character of the month: Lilly Aphrodite
Best crime: Child 44 – Tom Rob Smith
Best non-fiction: The Flaneur – Edmund White
Surprise of the month: The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite – Beatrice Colin
Book of the month: Ok this month there are three. The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite by Beatrice Colin, Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith and The State of Happiness by Stella Duffy which you all have to read.

I am excited about what April will bring. It already seems a promising month as I have started The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry and it seems like its going to be a complete corker what more could I ask for at the start of the month. Now this leads on to the next topic of my blog The Orange Prize. The long list has been announced and I have one (Blonde Roots) and heard of three others (Burnt Shadows, Girl in a Blue Dress and The Lost Dog – the latter two were long listed for the Man Booker last year) here is the full long list.

The Household Guide To Dying – Debra Adelaide (Harper Collins)
Girl in a Blue Dress – Gaynor Arnold (Tindal Street Press)
Their Finest Hour and a Half – Lissa Evans (Doubleday)
Blonde Roots – Bernadine Evaristo (Penguin)
Scottbro – Ellen Feldman (Picador)
Strange Music – Laura Fish (Jonathan Cape)
Love Marriage – V.V. Ganeshananthan (Orion)
Intuition – Allegra Goodman (Atlantic)
The Wilderness – Samantha Harvey (Jonathan Cape)
The Invention of Everything Else – Samantha Hunt (Vintage)
The Lost Dog – Michelle De Krester (Vintage)
Molly Fox’s Birthday – Diedre Madden (Faber & Faber)
A Mercy – Toni Morrison (Vintage)
The Russian Dreambook of Colour & Flight – Gina Oschner (Portobello Books)
Home – Marilynne Robinson (Virago)
Evening Is The Whole Day – Preeta Samarasan (Fourth Estate)
Burnt Shadows – Kamila Shamsie (Bloomsbury)
American Life – Curtis Sittenfeld (Doubleday)
The Flying Troutmans – Miriam Toews (Faber & Faber)
The Personal History of Rachel DuPree – Ann Weisgarber (Pan MacMillan)

They sound like a real mixture of books and I so want to read every single one. Is anyone planning on doing the Orange Challenge and reading the whole long list or will people be waiting until the short list is announced?

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Filed under Beatrice Colin, Book Thoughts, Edmund White, Sebastian Barry, Stella Duffy, Tom Rob Smith

State of Happiness – Stella Duffy

I don’t know about you but when you find an author that you love there is that mingled desire to read everything that they have ever written before you discovered them as quickly as possible. There is also the desire to savour these books and not have finished all of someone’s books before the next one is out. There can also be the niggling worry that you might not like it either at all or just not as much as the others. Which authors is it for you? For me there are a few authors that I have these thoughts with, I bet you could guess them, and those are Ian McEwan, Susan Hill, Kate Atkinson, Anne Tyler, Daphne Du Maurier, Tess Gerritsen and last but not least Stella Duffy. So I opened the first page of State Of Happiness with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.

This book is amazing, simply stunning. I don’t know where to start a review exactly because I don’t want to give anything away so I will try and stick to the blurb with my additional babbling along the way. Jack (a Mancunian living in New York trying to make it in TV and the news) and Cindy (a mapmaker and published writer) meet at a mutual friend’s party and by the end of the evening know that they have both met someone special. What follows is the story of their relationship over the first five years moving from New York to LA and then dealing with the shocking blow when Cindy becomes incredibly ill.

The first half of the novel tells of the way relationships start and flow as they become more and more serious. The hesitations and customisations people have and make as they go through the new emotions and make room in their life for someone new, someone to become the other part of their life. I don’t know how she does it but Stella Duffy writes in a way that we see all these things in ourselves and smile at them. I kept thinking as I read on ‘oh yes, I have felt like that’ when she describes making space in your life for someone else and their habits. It’s written with a delightful realism that made me empathise with the characters which only made things harder in the second half of the novel.

Oddly when Cindy moves to be with Jack from the busy city and lights of New York to the sunny skies of LA the book becomes much darker. When Cindy falls sick (and I am not going to tell you what happens) you live the moments with her. I think my journey with her was so much harder because I liked her so much (I know books aren’t about characters we like but like her I did) and because someone close to me became very ill and it brought it back. I don’t think I have read such a spot on description of all the emotions you go through, the questions, the anger, the sadness and the laughter apart from in Helen Garner’s The Spare Room. ‘State of Happiness’ has it all encapsulated in less than two hundred and fifty pages.

The other thing that Duffy does that I thought was wonderful is relate all of these factors with mapping. Cindy herself is a cartographer as I mentioned, we read some of the excerpts of her book and possible future novel throughout the book, and how our lives are mapped and how the routes change as we go along is a big subject of the book. It’s the prose that gets me though frank yet poetic and subtle yet poignant. A friend of mine read the book just before me (and gave away the ending – tut) and summed it up in a sentence ‘a wonderful book, I have never read anything like it’ and she was spot on. This is a must read… must read.

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Filed under Books of 2009, Review, Stella Duffy, Virago Books

The Risk of Darkness – Susan Hill

Now you may all know that I am quite a Susan Hill fan, in fact I was surprised (only partly not hugely) when I saw realised she is the author with the most books on my bookshelves, and as you will see from yesterdays post I only put books on my shelves I have actually read. Therefore not only is she one of my favourites she’s actually my most read (followed closely by Daphne Du Maurier, Kate Atkinson, Stella Duffy and Tess Gerritsen), that was a long winded way of saying I like her work a lot basically. I started with her ghost stories, The Woman in Black being on of my all time favourite reads. Bizarrely as my mind started to develop a fondness for crime she started writing her Simon Serrailler Series. I have just finished the third ‘The Risk of Darkness’ and I think that so far it’s my favourite of the three.

If you haven’t read any of the other Simon Serrailler series such as The Various Haunts of Men or The Pure in Heart, I actually would recommend you start with them. While they can stand alone, in particular the first, I think you’ll get the most out of the book if you read them in order, though there is ‘what happened so far’ intro in The Risk of Darkness. I have to say personally I can’t read a series in the wrong order I don’t know why this is I just can’t. Simon Serrailler is a Detective in the city/town (I always imagine it’s a town but having a cathedral it must be a city – in fact in my head its very like Salisbury) of Lafferton, he is also an artist and this novel sees him weighing up the two careers. He is quite a complex character being a bit of a loner and having serious issues with women along the way. His family all live in Lafferton except on of his triplets who remains hidden in Australia, I always think something is going to happen with that story.

As for the plot I don’t want to say very much as if you haven’t read the previous two I could give quite a lot away. I will say this novel deals with the dark subject of female mass murderers which is one that isn’t tackled that often in crime. Well in my limited experience anyway. In all Hills ‘crime novels’ she deals with big subjects she wants to talk about. In this novel its not only female murderers but what might make someone who you would never think a killer become one, and in this novel there is a separate storyline discussing just that. We also gain more insight into Simon’s personality in this novel as he meets the new priest Jane Fitzroy. Could there be a happy ending for the two? In this particular series of Hill’s it would be most unlikely but that is what is great about Hill’s writing she is unpredictable and takes you to places and subjects you didn’t think she would.

This is a really good novel regardless of fiction genre. I don’t really label these as crimes like I don’t label Kate Atkinson’s Broadie novels as crimes though Atkinson’s have a lot more humour in them. It’s dark fiction with quite a lot of chaos, quite a lot of death which also looks at what makes people who they are and why. Apparently this is now the end of the trilogy but we do have the new Serrailler novel The Vows of Silence to look forward to which I will be reading in the next couple of weeks.

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Filed under Review, Susan Hill, Vintage Books