Tag Archives: Val McDermid

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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Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

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

May’s Incomings…

If you don’t like blog posts about lots of books arriving look away now… However if like me you love them you are in luck. So without further ado here are the books that have arrived throughout the month of May at Savidge Reads HQ. First up are the paperbacks which have come from the lovely people at Oxford University Press, Quercus, Vintage, Atlantic, Pan MacMillan, Serpents Tail, Peirene Press, Capuchin Classics, Beautiful Books, Faber, Gallic, Penguin and Myriad Editions…

  • Cranford – Elizabeth Gaskell (unsolicited proof, this one came at a very fortuitous time as they are discussing this on The Archers for their village book group, love the new cover OUP have done)
  • The Crossing Places – Elly Griffiths (the first of a crime series which has been getting lots of buzz, I like to start at the beginning)
  • The Upright Piano Player – David Abbot (I have been wanting to read this since I saw it on the World Book Night debut novelists Culture Show special)
  • Loaded – Christos Tsiolkas (unsolicited proof, another book I whooped at, have wanted to read this for year since I saw the film, pre-The Slap fame – a book I realised I read twice last year for The Green Carnation Prize and never blogged bout, and it’s been reissued)
  • Tell-All – Chuck Palahnuick (unsolicited proof, another book I read last year as a Green Carnation submission, maybe I should dig out all my thoughts on those, what do you think?)
  • Mr Peanut – Adam Ross (unsolicited proof, another book I was sent in Hardback, this a reminder I still haven’t read it and heard lots of good things about it)
  • On Black Sisters Street – Chika Unigwe (I begged for this one after seeing a wonderful review of it here)
  • The Wolf/Taurus – Joseph Smith (unsolicited proof)
  • Silence – Jan Costin Wagner (unsolicited proof, and another scandi-crime)
  • Kamchatka – Marcelo Figueras (unsolicited proof)
  • Kraken – China Mieville (I saw him talk at the beginning of May in Manchester thanks to his publishers who then sent me this after my loving ‘Embassytown’)
  • Union Atlantic – Adam Haslett (unsolicited proof, another book read for The Green Carnation last year and never discussed)
  • Wish You Were Here – Travis Elborough (unsolicited proof)
  • Tomorrow Pamplona – Jan van Mersbergen (I love the Peirene Books, so am sure their fifth will be brilliant)
  • The Undiscovered Country – Julian Mitchell (TGCP2011 submission)
  • Role Models – John Waters (TGCP2011 submission)
  • The Observations – Jane Harris (will be discussing Gillespie and I tomorrow, this is one of my favourite books ever and am really excited as I have been asked to write the reading guides for book groups and libraries for both Jane’s books, eek – a re-read is coming)
  • Hector and the Secrets of Love – Francois Lelord (I was one of the very few people who loathed the first Hector book, lets see how this one does it came with the below book which I am desperate to read)
  • Monsieur Montespan – Jean Teule (really excited about this as I loved ‘The Suicide Shop’ and this is Teule’s 17th Century French romp)
  • In the Country of Men – Hisham Matar (loved ‘Anatomy of a Disappearance’ so have high hopes for this one)
  • Hurry Up and Wait – Isabel Ashdown (unsolicited proof, I have her debut ‘Glasshopper’ very high on the TBR so am hoping this is a new author to love)

Next up are the trade paperbacks and hardbacks from the publishers Persephone, Quercus, Pam MacMillan, Vintage, Picador, Bloomsbury, Doubleday, Penguin and Atlantic…

  • Mrs Buncles Book – D.E. Stevenson (this was actually the present Claire had sent me for my birthday but the sequel arrived and Persephone kindly sent this one and let me keep the other, a present that kept on giving)
  • Monsieur Linh and his Child – Philippe Claudel (we read ‘Brodeck’s Report’ for the first Not The TV Book Club and so I am very excited about this)
  • Phantoms on the Bookshelves – Jaques Bonnet (a book about books and bookshelves, too exciting)
  • The Ritual – Adam Nevill (unsolicited proof, I just recently read ‘Apartment 16’ which I will be discussing in the far distant future as its my next book group choice in like five turns, I changed my mind but everyone had bought it, oops)
  • The Winter of the Lions – Jan Costin Wagner (unsolicited proof)
  • Mr Fox – Helen Oyeyemi (unsolicited proof, but a very exciting one as I am really keen to read Oyeyemi’s work)
  • The Sickness  – Alberto Barrera Tyszka (a book I have heard a lot about, was drawn in by the cover, and want to read)
  • The Dubious Salvation of Jack V. – Jacques Strauss (I begged for this one after reading this review)
  • State of Wonder – Ann Patchett (unsolicited proof, though I have a feeling Patchett could become a new favourite author)
  • Before I Go To Sleep – S.J. Watson (any book that has Sophie Hannah, Val McDermid and Tess Gerritsen singing its praises has to be a book for me, this is also a submission for TGCP2011)
  • Do No Harm – Carol Topolski (another beg after seeing this review by Kim who loved it, I got ‘Monster Love’ from the library too)
  • Last Man in Tower – Aravind Adiga (unsolicited proof, very excited about this as I liked ‘The White Tiger’ a lot, must read his short story collection too)   

Finally are four books that I have bought/swapped in the last month…

  • The Memories of Six Reigns – Princess Marie Louise (this book is really hard to get hold of but I found it early in the month in a pub that sold books for charity for 50p, it’s a book Neil Bartlett recommended to me,and you, last summer, I might have whooped when I saw this, ok I did)
  • The Ice Princess/The Preacher – Camilla Lackberg (I managed to swap these at the Book Exchange early in the month, I have heard a lot of praise for this author and the fact she is one of the female scandi-crime writers intrigues me)
  • The Hypnotist – Lars Kelper (I bought this with some birthday vouchers from Gran, its yet more scandi-crime but with a difference having been written by a couple and being a thriller meets horror, interesting, and a book I have been more and more desperate to read)

That’s the lot, and it is a lot I have noted, that have come in this month. I think its time for a clear out of the book boxes and mount TBR again isn’t it? Eek! That always fills me with dread. Anyways because I love getting books, and I know you do too I have teamed up with Headline to give away some books to all of you, you’ll have to pop here to find out how. It’s a good book though, one of my favourites of the month just passed.

So which of these would you like to hear more about and see me reading, on a whim of course, and which books or authors have you read and what did you think?

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Help! Those 3 For 2’s…

I am sure it’s the same for any book lover but aren’t those 3 for 2 book offers that they have in book shops just so tempting. I have to say of late I have been rather incapacitated in terms of getting to many but whenever I have I am sooo tempted, regardless of how many books I have in my house to get more. They are just sent to tempt you aren’t they? Does anyone take pictures of the books that they see in them to find out more about later? Or is that just me? Anyway I wondered if we could all share what three books we would most love to read at the moment, as it might also help my aunty out, which you are always so good at.

I currently have about six titles on my most wanted list but if I currently had to choose any three books that I would get in such an offer it has to be the following…

  

The first is a hardback which naturally means it wouldn’t be in any of these book shop offers but it’s my game so my rules. On the odd occasion I have made it to a book shop it has been ‘The Hypnotist’ by Lars Kelper that has caught my eye because of the spooky cover. The fact it’s meant to be ‘riddled with irresistible, nail-biting suspense, this first-class Scandinavian thriller is one of the best I’ve ever read’ also adds to its allure. The next is the fault of Karen of Cornflower Books who mentioned the novels chosen for ‘Fiction Uncovered’. My initial response to the list of 8 chosen titles was ‘oh no not another list of books which I want to read every single one of’, because actually I do. However ‘Forgetting Zoe’ by Ray Robinson is a book that sticks out as ‘the dark, unflinching tale of ten-year-old Zoe, abducted and imprisoned after a chance encounter’ sounds short and rather disturbing. Finally, there is ‘Some Hope’ by Edward St Aubyn who I asked you all about last week. I want to start his series at the beginning and this one is the three first stories in one volume.

So what does this all have to do with my aunt? Well she asked a while back, and I then forgot, what books she should download for her Kindle (don’t say it) while she goes to Italy shortly and I was a bit stumped. I have given her a spare copy of ‘Trick of the Dark’ by Val McDermid which she loved, and I know she likes the Kate Atkinson ‘crime-lit’ (not my phrase) novels, but she wants to try ‘a few different things’ can you help?

So what would your current ideal 3 for 2 be? In fact maybe by sharing your three most wanted books, and why, at the moment would not only be a fun post but one she could have a meander through? I know you’ll come up with some corkers, and would be interesting to see if any books have caught all our eyes. Go on, have a go.

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Why Don’t Men Read Books By Women… Or Do They?

Today’s post title might seem like a silly question initially but actually it is a rather pertinent one as it is a common fact that a lot of male readers will only read books by men. I can hear people here there and everywhere saying ‘pah, that’s not true’ and if that is the case then that’s great, but as I am one of the speakers on ‘Why Don’t Men Read Books By Women?’ at the Lucy Cavendish Woman’s Word Literary Festival in June this year, which I will also be reporting on from behind the scenes too, I thought it was a subject that we could have a good old natter about on Savidge Reads today please.

As I am sure you will have gathered by now I am definitely a man who does read books written by women, in fact I think I read more books by women than I do by men actually. I myself have a whole host of varied female authors in Mount TBR some of which, as pictured above, that I am going to be reading in the lead up to this event. I have chosen some modern crime, some classics (I didn’t feel that I could do this even having never read a full novel by Jane Austen, oops, it is frankly high time I did, I do think the reasons I have been put off are possibly rather like a lot of blokes I know – more on that in due course), some recently released contemporary novels (which nicely combine with my decision to read the whole of the Orange longlist, currently on hold at the halfway point as I have slight Orange overload at the moment) and some of the female greats I have loved in the past and want to read more of. Where oh where to start with a lovely loot like this?

I have noticed that apart from two modern debut novels and a Booker winner from many moons ago, I haven’t plucked out any books by female authors I haven’t tried before so any recommendations for those are welcome if you have any?

So in the name of research, and also because I am rather nosey and fascinated by other peoples reading habits, what about all of you? Which men will happily put there hands up and say that they too read lots of books by women? Any male readers of this blog who are happy to say they don’t and if so why not? And my lovely female readers what about your male relatives and partners do they read books by women or not and if so which titles have they particularly loved? Oh and let me know your thoughts if you have read any of the books pictured above and what you thought of them please. Oh and of course if you are a female reader, do you find you read more books by women than you do men, or vice versa? All thoughts welcomed and, as ever, most appreciated.

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Guessing The Orange Prize Longlist 2011…

It seems that the day when the Orange Longlist is announced for 2011, which is today and will be in a couple of hours of this post going live I am sure, has taken a really long time to come around and then has suddenly swooped down on us fast. In fact I commented pretty much that very thing on Dovegreyreader the other day. You see I always think it gets announced in February and then there is a big lead up to June. I do wonder how my head works sometimes. Anyway… soon we will know what the twenty books that make the Orange Prize Longlist for 2011 will be, and so it’s my annual Orange Prize guess also known as ‘Simon shows how wrong he can be about women’s writing in the last year’ (see my 2010 guesses for more)…

Initially I started off getting competitive with myself over trying to come up with a list which contained the winning lot. Then I sat back and thought that seriously who else apart from the judges would know what these might be as the options are endless as are the books that could have been put forward. This year I went through all the books eligible, books written in English in print in the UK between April 1st 2010 and March 31st 2011, and came up with my twenty based on what I had read (in blue as you can read my thoughts), what was on my TBR/on loan from the library (in italics) and books I have been wanting to get my mitts on and haven’t yet (in bold – as a birthday, which is 8 days away, hint). So without further waffle here is the Savidge Orange 20 in alphabetical surname order to make it fairer…

   
Started Early, Took My Dog – Kate Atkinson
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake – Aimee Bender
True Things About Me – Deborah Kay Davies

Scissors, Paper, Stone – Elizabeth Day

   
Room – Emma Donoghue
Theodora – Stella Duffy
The Cry of the Go-Away Bird – Andrea Eames
A Visit From The Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan (which I would have but it went missing in the move)

   
The Cookbook Collector – Allegra Goodman
We Had It So Good – Linda Grant
T
he History of History – Ida Hattemer-Higgins 
Mr Chartwell – Rebecca Hunt

   
The Report – Jessica Francis Kane

The Hand That First Held Mine – Maggie O’Farrell
The News Where You Are – Catherine O’Flynn
The Tigers Wife – Tea ObrehtDark Matter – Michelle Paver (which I would have but it went missing in the move)
The Fates Will Find Their Way – Hannah Pittard
Mr Rosenblum’s List – Natasha Solomons
When God Was A Rabbit – Sarah Winman

   

I did umm and ahhh about putting ‘Grace Williams Says It Loud’ by Emma Henderson on the list but I have seen that in the Orange Book Group displays in Waterstones (where I got the new Books Quarterly) so assumed that it would be off the list. I have it and will be reading it any way. I know that maybe Kate Atkinson is a random pick as its essentially a crime novel as I mentioned yesterday if Val McDermids latest is as good as ‘The Mermaids Singing’ that would be a welcome entry, I wondered also if Susan Hill’s ‘A Kind Man’ might be too short?

I wonder how I will do with this lot, can I bet my 8 out of 20 best from last year? In a weird way I hope I do the same as the last or a little worse, as one of the joys of a longlist is learning about the books you werent aware of. Which books would you bet on being in the list? Will anyone, sadly I don’t think I could, be trying to read them all?

I have of course updated the blog with the actual longlist now.

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Orange Prize

The Mermaids Singing – Val McDermid

I know that to describe a book as ‘a page-turner’ is an over used cliché in a lot of reviews, including my own, but sometimes no other short expression will suffice. Val McDermid has been an author that I have wanted to try for a while and so when, a while back, I was in the mood for crime and lashings of it McDermid’s first Tony Hill novel ‘The Mermaids Singing’ seemed like it could be the ideal choice. The only slight hesitation that I had with reading her work was that I heard it was an utter gore fest, however as I have been watching all the Saw films on and off whilst recovering from various procedures I was fairly sure I could face any written gore fest after such visual ones.

Men are being tortured and killed before being dumped in Bradfield. Tony Hill, a clinical psychologist and criminal profiler, has had an inkling that this has been the work of one serial killer ever since the first murder several months ago. The police, except for Inspector Carol Jordan, disagree until the fourth murder victim is found and what the police and papers call ‘The Queer Killer’ is given the focus and attention that they crave. (This is where we join the story really so I haven’t given anything away.) Only is everything as simple as is first made out? Might the killer not be a homosexual themselves and using the local gay hot spots to leave victims in as a clever cover? Might it be on of the police dealing with their own sexuality? As you start to read McDermid, just as her character Tony Hill does, gives you so many hypothesis that anything could be possible.

The novel is written in an interesting way as you jump in every chapter between several of the characters, namely Hill and Jordan, as they see things from the latest discoveries. At the end of every chapter we also get into the mindset of the killer, all in italics which slightly annoyed my eyes, as they start preparing to kill and the research and planning that they do. I found this double angle on the whole thing rather fascinating and was also impressed how McDermid set both of the stories up from opposite ends and never gave a hint of anything away. Yes, that’s right; I had no idea who the killer was until the very end though I did kick myself at the end – I will say no more.

If that wasn’t enough there is also the back story of Tony Hill and the strange late night ‘booty calls’ he receives from a mysterious stranger he only knows as Angelica which both fascinate, arouse and disturb him and give us a glimmer that not all of Tony Hill is quite as clear cut or baggage free as we might think. In fact, bar a some of the crime clichés that we all love so much – sexism in the police, Detectives thinking anyone outside the police is an imbecile, the homophobia (which is addressed well and occasionally poignantly), neither lead character being successful at relationships and yet fancying the other – the characters are well rounded and interesting, no loner alcoholic protagonist Detective to be found in this series so far, you find yourself routing for them.

‘The Mermaid’s Singing’ should really come with a warning or two. The first should be that it is quite a graphic book, not just in terms of the murders that take place through it and the remains of their victims but it’s also quite graphic on the sex front too. In neither case did I feel that this was ever done simply for thrills, maybe occasionally to shock but not in a calculated way. However if you aren’t faint hearted or easily shocked then the second warning would be that if you pick up this book, and possibly McDermid’s other novels (though I haven’t read them yet), then you might want to cancel any engagements as they are incredibly addictive. I read all 443 pages in a horrified, tense, thrilled sitting. 9.5/10

I treated myself to this at the local charity shop as I had the latest ‘Trick of The Dark’ from her publishers and a seperate standalone one but wanted to start the Tony Hill series after seeing Hermione Norris was in the TV series and wanted to catch up with that too – is that a bit strange? Have you seen the TV series?

If you are a lover of crime, or books that draw you in and simply will not let you rest until the final page is turned (when you realise you used so much energy reading it you need to sleep a good day or two to catch up) then this is seriously a book for you. It did ponder in their might be a slim chance McDermid’s latest novel ‘Trick of the Dark’ will make it on to the Orange Longlist tomorrow, but its crime so I guess its unlikely which is a shame as she writes incredibly, taught and real, and is immensely readable. I am wondering if all of her novels are this good, have any of you read some of her others?

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Filed under Books of 2011, Harper Collins, Review, Val McDermid

February’s Incomings…

I do love those lists that some bloggers have down the side of their blogs where  the jacket covers of all the incomings that they have received or are receiving as the weeks go on can be seen. Sadly, though I am sure that there is one on wordpress, I have no idea how to do such a thing and as I started one last month I thought I would do another end of month post (which might become a monthly feature) of the books that have arrived this month. Now if you don’t like these sort of posts fear not as you can discuss the pro’s and con’s of big books with me today on this post here instead. However if you love these posts, as I do on other blogs, then lets take a gander at what has been quite a crop of books.

First up it’s the hardbacks and as you will see while a lot of books do come from publishers some are treats from other lovely people, or simply treats from me.

  • Snowdrops by A.D. Miller – This is a book I had been told was winging its way to me and I got very excited about and then the mail man mislaid it. Now it’s here and over the next week or so I am going to be throwing myself into Russia which is a country that fascinates me and yet I know very, very little about. I am wondering if the atmosphere, which is meant to be incredible in this novel, will send me off to read some of the Russian greats.
  • Beautiful Forever by Helen Rappaport – This came out last year and is non-fiction about “Madame Rachel of Bond Street – cosmetician, con-artist and blackmailer” true life Victorian dastardly goings on, what could be more me. This was a belated Xmas pressie from my mother which she brought down last week.
  • One of Our Tuesdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde – The latest Thursday Next novel and a timely reminder I need to start at the beginning (I wanted to see him at Waterstones tomorrow but I will be in hospital, grrr).
  • The Tenderloin by John Butler – a Green Carnation Prize submission from Picador.
  • The Path of Minor Planets by Andrew Sean Greer – One of Faber and Faber’s entries for the Green Carnation Prize. (Publishers are really onto it early this year – hoorah!)
  • Mrs Fry’s Diary by Mrs Stephen Fry – I bought this at Sainsbury’s for £3 on a whim as thought might make me laugh at hospital.
  • Sleeping With Mozart by Anthea Church – I was thrilled when Virago got in touch and asked me to read this but sadly I didn’t care for it much and as I don’t like doing negative reviews it’s leaving me in a real quandary, to write about or not to write about? Hmmm!
  • Darkside by Belinda Bauer – I loved Belinda’s debut ‘Blacklands’ and having been in a crime mood this was ideal. Thoughts will be up tomorrow (if everything works right) on this murder mystery.
  • Ape House by Sara Gruen – After reading ‘Water for Elephants’ for book group and loving it, I am thrilled that Sarah’s publishers Two Roads wanted me to give her latest a whirl.
  • Cedilla by Adam Mars-Jones – This is the second Faber entry for the Green Carnation so far and its HUGE (I am talking big books later) and one I am looking forward to as it’s the sequel to the rather marvellous ‘Pilcrow’ though I will be judging it as a stand alone book of course.

Phew that’s quite a few. Onto paperbacks which have been arriving thick and fast. I haven’t included the Jo Nesbo parcel which arrived and I mentioned before, nor have I included the two rather large shopping spree’s which I undertook in February both on a visit to Granny Savidge in Matlock and on a day out in Yorkshire earlier this month. Shame on me, still somehow I managed to buy a few in this lot too.

  • Through The Wall by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya – The lovely Novel Insights brought me this Penguin Mini Classic last week on a visit as she thought it would be right up my street. I have a feeling she will be spot on.
  • Heat & Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala – A booker prize charity shop find for 50p. I have said I do intend to read all the winners at some point and have devoured this one so expect thoughts soon.
  • The Novel in the Viola by Natasha Solomons – I really enjoyed ‘Mr Rosenblum’s List’ when I read it last year and actually chattered and nattered to Natasha when she was working on this one so I know a bit about the plot and it sounded fascinating so I have everything crossed this will be a corker.
  • The Bride That Time Forgot by Paul Magrs – The latest Brenda and Effie adventure in paperback, again reminding me I am slightly behind with this series. I also have a spare so expect a give away at some point.
  • Where The Serpent Lives by Ruth Padel – I know nothing of this book but isn’t she the lady that caused a lot of controversy over something and nothing?
  • South Riding by Winifred Holtby – I have devoured this one and my thoughts on it are here.
  • The Surrendered by Chang-Rae Lee – Another book I know nothing about but having read the quotes and page 29 (all the blurb says is ‘read page 29’) this looks like it could be an astounding book.
  • Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue – As you will all know I loved ‘Room’ and this is a reissued copy of her earlier historical novel (I am hoping it’s a Victorian romp) which I am excited about. I have already got an American edition of this which I am now handing over to Granny Savidge Reads who, after reading ‘Room’, is a Donoghue fan too.
  • The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund De Waal – I so wasn’t bothered about this when it came out but since winning the Costa Prize and having heard about it all over the place when it arrived I was super chuffed and have started dipping into it already.
  • The Magnificent Spilsbury and the Case of the Brides in the Bath by Jane Robins – I do like true historical crime, modern stuff makes me feel uncomfortable in general – too close to home maybe, but this sounds like its right up my street. Maybe not one to read in the bath though?
  • 31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan – I bought this in Sainsbury’s, bad me, partly because the cover is so good and also thinking it was non-fiction from the blurb, wrong. I will give it a whirl though and see.
  • Half a Life by Darin Strauss – A memoir about accidental murder. I had to sign a confidence clause before I could get the proof for this and then forgot the date had been and gone so will schedule my thoughts to be shared soon.
  • The Long Song by Andrea Levy – I have already read this, however it’s a book group choice in the next few months and I’d had mine signed for my Gran so a new one has magically turned up. I am actually really looking forward to re-reading this one even so soon after I originally did.
  • Dog Binary by Alex MacDonald – I don’t know anything about this, it came with Half a Life.
  • Trick of the Dark by Val McDermid – I am hoping this is another entry for the Green Carnation Prize as we do want a mixture of genres, I don’t think the other judges have had this one though so I will have to check. I have heard McDermid is very good at murder so this should be good.

So lots of books to read while I am in waiting rooms, hospital wards and in bed when I get home over the next few weeks or so which is an utter delight. I wonder how much of a dent in them I will make. I also really need to have a fresh cull and clear out too. It never stops. Have you read any of these books and if so what did you think? Any you would like to see me give priority to if the whim takes me?

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A Peak Book Buying Binge

I know I said I’d not post too many ‘books in’ posts BUT I seem to have had my first severe book buying binge since my year of not buying books. So I thought I should share it with you!

I have been in Matlock, for a little break, for less than 48 hours so far and my book buying had had a little ‘Matlock Meltdown’ as I have been on a slight book binge through the second hand shops and even, oh dear you may judge me, Sainsbury’s and am the proud owner of 6 new books!!!

I know that supermarket book buying is sometimes deemed a crime but they had 2 for £7 and I had turned up with three books I didn’t really fancy reading just at the moment and their was the first in the series, well that has been translated at least, of Jo Nesbø’s books and I’ve wanted the Catherine O’Flynn for ages, hang on let me share a picture of my spoils…

Murder on the Green – Lesley Cookman
Murder by the Sea – Lesley Cookman
My Judy Garland Life – Susie Boyt
The News Where You Are – Catherine O’Flynn
A Darker Domain – Val McDermid
The Redbreast – Jo Nesbø

I’m holding some of you responsible because of your feedback on McDermid and Nesbø the other day! I had to buy the Lesley Cookman books because I have been promising myself a read of them since Lesley was my co-judge on last years Green Carnation Prize Panel! Oh and the Susie Boyt book has been recommended to me sooo many times by those who know how much I ridiculously love the Wizard of Oz (I have dish cloths and all sorts) and Judy too! I wonder if I should write ‘My Doris Day Life’? Anyway I digress…

Have you read any of these and if so what did you think? Did I take a book buying binge a little too far?

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Do I Want To Read… Criminal Authors; Val McDermid, James Ellroy & Jo Nesbø

I haven’t done a  ‘Do I Want To Read’ post on for a while but now seemed the perfect time. I don’t mean to bore you all with health issues at the moment but I think between the various waiting rooms I have managed to catch a corking cold and its put me in the mood for some crime anyway and I don’t mean cosy either. In fact what I have been hankering after is chilling and page turning crime and three authors have sort of been on my horizon who fit the bill for various reasons and who I wondered if you could recommend or not…

I was listening to one of my favourite book podcasts ‘The Book Show’ the other day and they repeated and interview with Val McDermid and her latest novel ‘Trick of the Dark’. Val McDermid is an author that I have always wanted to read and yet haven’t gotten round to. I actually got a copy of ‘Wire in the Blood’ ages ago and then a) found out it was the second in the series and I do like to read in order and b) the cover was atrocious (I think it was a magazine freebie) and I went right off it. Listening to her talking about her latest book, which also happens to be a standalone novel, I found her really compelling and so of course now I want to read all of her work. I have heard she is very chilling and it’s quite brutal which oddly, with flu and therefore furious at the world, is just what I am in the mood for right now.   

Another author I have wanted to read on and off is James Ellroy. I saw the film ‘The Black Dahlia’ a few years ago and was left rather confused and also really compelled, I thought ‘ooh I should read the book’ and then of course didn’t. I did the same with ‘L.A. Confidential’ actually thinking about it. Strolling through the City Library, which I will be reporting back on very soon, I caught sight of a What’s On pamphlet and saw that it was LGBT month and there is a regular book group which is ‘a monthly group for anyone who enjoys LGBT-interest fiction’ and one I thought with The Green Carnation Prize now back in swing (yes we are receiving submissions already) it might be interesting to pop by. Their next choice of novel is James Ellroy’s ‘The Big Nowhere’ so of course now I need to read the book. I am just worried it might be a little bit too hard boiled for me. What do you think?

Finally there is an author I seem to be seeing everyone reading, and who was recommended by a few of you when I tweeted my desire for chilling crime the other day and that was Jo Nesbø. I was actually sent ‘The Snowman’ a while back and passed it onto Novel Insights as ‘the new Stieg Larsson’ tag annoyed me (though oddly I have been mulling those over again after loving the films and being in this crimey mood) but I new she loved that series. It also bothered me that it seemed a bit Henning Mankell like an I had only read the first of those, and in fact must read the second at some point, and didn’t want to get my detectives confused. And yes the fact that it wasn’t the first in the series put me off too. Of course I am now intrigued and want to read the series from the start and apparently that’s ‘The Redbreast’ although on Wikipedia it says it’s ‘The Bat Man’ but that’s not out yet which leaves me in confusion, can any of you help and which have you read? Does the order matter?

So can you help? Recommendations on all three authors would be great, as would any specific thoughts on the titles that I have mentioned and pictured above or indeed any of the other titles by those very authors. I am looking forward to your thoughts, I have a feeling this is a post lots of you will be able to advise me on. Ooh, I just thought if there are any cracking crime authors I might have missed do let me know about those too!

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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