Top Lists

Top Books of 2016

Top Books of 2016

It’s the end of the year, and that means it’s time to share my top books of 2016! For Sci-Fi Month I always share my top science fiction novels of the year, so this list won’t include any unless they were read in November or December. Otherwise, this list includes anything read for the first time this year, published at any time. And because I’m not very picky with my ratings and really bad at deciding top tens, I actually have a top fifteen, and would have gladly made this a top twenty or twenty-five…

This Savage Song The Road to Little Dribbling Uprooted

  • This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) by V.E. Schwab – I really don’t expect anything less than perfection when I read one of V.E. Schwab’s novels now. It might be an issue one day perhaps, but it hasn’t caused any problems so far. This Savage Song was so unique and mesmerising, dark and mysterious. And my review is so overdue…
  • The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson – I love travel writing, and no-one more than Bill Bryson. I think I’ve now read all of his books but one, and this was just as fantastic as usual. He is one of those writers who can take something really mundane and make it hilarious, who can narrate pretty much any kind of situation.
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik – This was one of the Dragons & Jetpacks Fantasy Books of the Month this year, and it is just gorgeous. It felt so real and layered, yet so fairytale-like. I don’t normally like to read in places like coffee shops, but I remember sitting in one just utterly entranced by this, ignoring everything else around me.

Goldenhand Invisible Library Voyager

  • Goldenhand (Abhorsen #5) by Garth Nix – The long-awaited sequel to Lirael, Goldenhand was absolutely worth the wait! I’ve loved this series ever since I first read it around the age of 12, and have re-read all the books several times. Clariel, the prequel released a few years ago, was good, but Goldenhand is something else. It drew me back into the world that Nix created, and made me feel like I was reading the series for the first time all over again.
  • The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library #1) by Genevieve CogmanThe Invisible Library feels like Genevieve Cogman peered into my brain, saw all my favourite elements of fantasy and steampunk, and threw them into a book. Libraries, assassins, alternate worlds, intrigue, secret societies… this was another Dragons & Jetpacks Fantasy BOTM, and for some reason at first I wasn’t too bothered about reading it – but I’m so glad I did!
  • Voyager (Outlander #3) by Diana Gabaldon – More Jamie and Claire Fraser, how could I not rate this one five stars? I don’t think any of them will ever live up to the first book (Cross Stitch/Outlander), but I just love this series so much. I’m torn between rushing through the rest of the books, and taking my time with them so that they last longer.

Paper Girls Nevernight You're Never Weird on the Internet

  • Paper Girls (Paper Girls #1) by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang and Matthew Wilson – A graphic novel set in the 1980s, about a group of 12-year-old paper girls who encounter something weird on Halloween night. This was a gift from one of my colleagues when I left my job in Oxford, and it was so good! I can’t wait to read the other installments. Also, I absolutely love the colours on the cover…
  • Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle #1) by Jay Kristoff – Nevernight was one of those books that I knew I was either going to love or hate, because one of Jay Kristoff’s books really doesn’t appeal to me, but I really enjoyed another. However, this really worked for me. It was dark and brutal and relentless.
  • You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day – Back in 2006/2007, I discovered a little webseries called The Guild, a series about a bunch of socially awkward geeks who played an MMO together. It spoke to me like nothing else, and I loved that it was fronted by a woman (gasp!). From that moment on, I’ve followed Felicia Day’s journey, and it was so amazing to get to read about it – and really identify with so many of the things she went through.

Wild Traitor's Blade Queen of Shadows

  • Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed – I have to admit: I watched the film first. It was a fantastic film, and no wonder with such great source material. Strayed’s heartbreaking account of the reasons behind her journey, and her tenacity and determination are amazing.
  • Traitor’s Blade (Greatcoats #1) by Sebastien de Castell – Another Dragons & Jetpacks Fantasy Book of the Month that I should have read sooner, because once I picked it up I couldn’t stop. This was so, so good, and amazingly refreshing. I feel like there’s not a lot of fantasy written from the first person. I’ve now read book two in the series as well.
  • Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4) by Sarah J. Maas – Words cannot express how much I love this series. Some people seem to have gone off it lately, but I just love how dark it has gotten. Who needs happy endings? 😉

The Demon King Assassin's Apprentice Americanah

  • The Demon King (The Seven Realms #1) by Cinda Williams Chima – This is a book I grabbed from the library because it was available, and I’ll be reviewing next month – but oh my gosh I am SO glad I picked it up. I can’t wait to get my hands on the rest, and I am honestly quite tempted to just go out and buy the boxset…
  • Assassin’s Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy #1) by Robin Hobb – My first ever Hobb, even though I own about seven of her books, and WHY DID IT TAKE ME SO LONG. This was another one I rushed through in about three days. I’m just really glad I have a whole selection waiting for me on my bookshelf.
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – I read this as part of my Novel Experiment to branch out genre-wise, and only read books from my parent’s bookshelves. It was so different from what I’d been reading before, and I loved it – but maybe that’s why.

What were your top books of 2016? Have you read any of the books on my list?

Top Lists

Top Ten Brand New Books On My Shelf

top ten

For me, buying a book brand new is a very rare occurrence. Charity shops tend to be where I do most of my book buying – it’s so much cheaper, the money goes to a good cause and I’m not really too bothered about reading something that is a bit dog-eared. Brand new books are mostly for treats or when I am feeling particularly extravagant – they’re exciting, and often I want to read them sooner than second-hand books (because that new book smell is the BEST), but I definitely can’t afford to buy every book brand new. So what are the top ten brand new books on my shelf, that I just can’t wait to read? By ‘brand new’ I mean bought/given new, rather than brand new releases. Some of these have actually been waiting for me to read them for a while…

Jane Steele The Road to Little Dribbling

  • Jane Steele by Lyndsey Faye – This is a Gothic retelling of Jane Eyre, one of my favourite classics ever? Um, yes please. Jane Eyre is already a Gothic novel, so it looks like this one promises to be even darker than the original. And I know it must be good, because it has the official stamp of approval from the Jane Eyre afficionado, Charlene of Bookish Whimsy.
  • The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson – I actually bought this one very recently, for half price in Waterstones when Claire of Bitches with Books was visiting. Of course we spent forever in Oxford’s bookshops… I love Bill Bryson and have read almost everything he’s ever written. He is hilarious, and I long for more travel writers like him.

Mirror Empire Red Queen

  • The Mirror Empire (The Worldbreaker Saga #1) by Kameron Hurley – This is a fantasy novel I’ve wanted to read for a while, especially when I heard that is features a matriarchy. A MATRIARCHY. IN FANTASY FICTION. WHAAAAAAAT. So I really really hope it lives up to the hype.
  • Red Queen (Red Queen #1) by Victoria Aveyard – Ever since reading Throne of Glass and Graceling, I’ve been looking out for some more great YA fantasy. I really like the sound of this one, although it’s had very very mixed reviews, with a lot of people feeling very strongly about it either way. How cool is that cover though?

Queen of Shadows Long Way

  • Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4) by Sarah J. Maas – I fell in love with this series on first read, and did a re-read of the first two books earlier this year on the blog. I still need to re-read book three (finally in paperback rather than e-galley) before moving onto this one, but I feel like I’ll need a rainy day, curled up in bed with a mug of tea, to prepare myself for all the FEELS that come from this series.
  • The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1) by Becky Chambers – For Sci-Fi Month last year, Lisa organised a read-along of this book, and I was unable to join in at the time. It was hugely successful, and that plus the blurb, which makes the book sound very Firefly-esque, have been enough to convince me that this is one worth buying brand new. And I’ve just now noticed that it is the first in a series, not a standalone – which is exciting, because it means there is more to come!

Dark Days Club Court of Thorns and Roses

  • The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen #1) by Alison Goodman – A bit of steampunk, a bit of the supernatural, a bit of a thriller – all set in Regency London. Yes please! This has the potential to be really amazing or really awful, but I feel like it will be the former. We shall see!
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1) by Sarah J. Maas – I am slightly in love with the cover for this one – another fantasy series by Sarah J. Maas. Unlike Throne of Glass, this series is a retelling, using the story of Beauty and the Beast for inspiration.

Hero of Ages Hunter's Kind

  • The Hero of Ages (Mistborn #3) by Brandon Sanderson – I have lost count of how many times I’ve said I need to continue with this series. All I can say now is SOON! Especially because I have not just book three waiting for me on my shelf, but books three to six…
  • The Hunter’s Kind (The Hollow Gods #2) by Rebecca Levene – I LOVED the first book of this, it was the fantasy novel I’d been waiting for – with a gorgeous cover to boot. I’ve now had book two on my shelves for about a year, so I need to hurry up and read it, especially if there are going to be others in the series.

Which brand new books on your shelves can you not wait to read?

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: December 2015

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Every first Wednesday of the month, I’ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, and writing about what’s to come in the next few weeks.

 

Spectacles Bridget Jones Bridget Jones Midnight Never Come Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J. Maas Will Grayson An Ice Cold Grave The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde At Home Half Bad The 100 The Dinner

 

Last month I read a total of twelve books: Spectacles by Sue Perkins, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (Bridget Jones #2) by Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones’ Diary (Bridget Jones #1) by Helen Fielding, Midnight Never Come (Onyx Court #1) by Marie Brennan, Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J. Maas, Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green, An Ice Cold Grave (Harper Connolly #3) by Charlaine Harris, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson, Half Bad (Half Bad #1) by Sally Green, The 100 (The 100 #1) by Kass Morgan and The Dinner by Herman Koch.

December saw three re-reads, two because I just fancied re-reading them when I was at my parents’ for Christmas (both Bridget Jones books), and the other in preparation for my Throne of Glass readalong! In terms of a standout book for December, I’d have to go for Bill Bryson’s At Home: A Short History of Private Life. I’ve always loved Bryson, he has a fantastic way of writing that makes just about anything interesting – proven once again by this book, where I was entranced by the history of everyday objects such as the lightbulb or the staircase…

 

Challenge progress:

  • The DC vs Marvel Challenge is now done and dusted, although I didn’t manage to complete it entirely! 2016 sees another version of the challenge, run once again by the wonderful Michael.
  • I beat my Goodreads goal – originally 52, then 75, then 100 books! 2015 saw me read 102 books.

 

Currently reading:

Cress
How was December for you?

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: June 2014

monthlyru16

Every first Wednesday of the month, I’ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, and writing about what’s to come in the next few weeks.

june142

Last month I read a total of thirteen books: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, X-Force Vol 2: Old Ghosts by Craig Kyle, Ultimate X-Men: Ultimate Collection Vol 1 by Mark Millar, The Quick by Lauren Owen, Marvel 70th Anniversary by Stan Lee, Prince of Fools (The Red Queen’s War #1) by Mark Lawrence, Uncanny X-Men: Divided We Stand by Ed Brubaker, Dangerous Days in the Roman Empire by Terry Deary, Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant, Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson, The Three by Sarah Lotz, Boy21 by Matthew Quick and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

I’m still reading Marvel comics! There are suddenly a lot more available on the county library system, so I’m making use of it while I still can. My standout book of the month was definitely Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant, about the Borgia family. I find them fascinating, and this account of their lives (albeit partly fictionalised) was just brilliant. Brave New World was my book group’s Sci-Fi Book of the Month – unfortunately I didn’t get round to our fantasy choice, but I’m hoping to read it this month.

 

Challenge progress:

  • I read four books towards the Avengers vs. X-Men Challenge and fully recruited Storm, contributing three bonus points to my team. I also managed to defeat Loki for an extra three bonus points! July’s villain is no other than the notorious Dr. Doom, and I already have my books planned to defeat him. They’re all ARCs waiting for review – even better!
  • I raised my Goodreads goal to one hundred books, and have currently read eighty-four towards that goal.

 

Currently reading:

Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen

Off the blog:

June has been STRESSFUL – hence a lack of posts towards the end, as well as lack of commenting on other blogs. If you saw my post on accommodation last week – well I think it’s sorted. I’ve finally been able to reserve a room. But the email says they’ll let you know at the latest five days before the move in date whether it’s approved. FIVE DAYS?? What if you get rejected? I expect they rarely reject anyone unless they’re not a student and have somehow got through the system – but WHAT? What if you’re rejected, how do they think you’ll find somewhere else in five days, because all other student accommodation will have gone by then. Ugh. Well… if all goes to plan, I have myself my own little apartment in Leiden. A little further than I thought from the faculty, about a 10-15 min bike ride/25 minute walk to the centre, but it’s somewhere to live! And an actual apartment to myself. And of course I’ve nosed around the area on Google Maps, and it looks lovely 🙂 Now that it’s sorted, I feel like I can get on with making other arrangements for Leiden.

Oh, and I also discovered a new love for Jane Eyre, which I re-read for the first time in seven years after reading it at school. I watched the newer film version with Michael Fassbender and Mia Wakowski, and the soundtrack is just GORGEOUS.

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How was June for you? Hopefully less stressful than mine!

Misc.

Reads for April Fools’ Day

April Fool's Day

Yes, it’s the first day of April, which means it’s also April Fool’s Day! Have you played any evil tricks yet? Spotted any funny jokes or pranks? Today I thought I’d share some of the funniest and most humorous books that I’ve read, perfect for a day like today.

Is It Just Me? by Miranda Hart

Is It Just Me? by Miranda Hart

Oh Miranda, how I love you so. If you’ve not heard of the wonderful Miranda Hart, she is a British comedian and actress, and absolutely 100% relatable – and hilarious. Her sitcom, Miranda, is a semi-autobiographical portrayal of a single woman in her mid-thirties (34 IS LATE TWENTIES!) who runs a joke & gift shop. Miranda manages to get herself into the most awkward of situations, is quite possibly the clumsiest person alive as well as just slightly socially inept… Many of the things that happen to Miranda in the sitcom actually happened in real life, either to Miranda Hart or people she knows. In this book, she discusses some of the more embarrassing horrors she’s lived through, so prepare to both laugh out loud and cringe – but it’s SUCH FUN!

Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson

Anything by Bill Bryson

I think I’ve mentioned Bill Bryson on the blog a couple of times before, but if you’re looking to start reading some travel writing then in my opinion, he is definitely the place to start. With a wonderful sense of humour and a brilliant way of turning even a mundane story into something amusing, each of his travel books have never failed to make me laugh. He has a way of observing and noticing things that might not be fascinating on first glance. He’s written about travelling through Europe, along the Appalachian Trial, Australia, Great Britain and the USA (on several occasions), as well as an autobiography.

Azumanga Daioh by Kiyohiko Azuma

Azumanga Daioh by Kiyohiko Azuma

One of my favourite manga series, Azumanga Daioh is the tale of a group of high school girls, and centered around the character of Chiyo. Chiyo is a child prodigy, already approaching the end of high school at the age of eleven. Her friends are a group of misfits: the sporty one, the clever one, the ditzy one, the tomboyish one, the mischievous one, but these stereotypes don’t get old. Unlike many manga, it’s presented in four-panel comic strips – some are continuations of ones before, but mostly you get a new story every page. It’s absolutely hilarious and also completely adorable.

Mort by Terry Pratchett

The Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett

Pretty much any of the Discworld books are perfect if you want a humorous read. Terry Pratchett’s unique and brilliant sense of humour is unparalleled. My particular favourite of his is Mort, but with over forty books in the series alone there’s plenty of choice. And you don’t even need to read the series in order: some characters occupy multiple books, some only appear the once, plotlines and events vary greatly, and he’s even written some for children. But you can guarantee that each one will have you laughing.

What are some of the funniest books you’ve read? Do you have any recommendations?

Thoughts

Thoughts #12: Neglected Non-Fiction

thoughts_16

There is one thing I’ve noticed a definite lack of in the blogosphere.

Non-fiction.

Personally, I love many genres of non-fiction: autobiographies, memories, history and archaeology books, books on nature, science, linguistics… But it feels that many bloggers don’t have a particular interest, or at least don’t share it. So why is it not a common feature amongst the blogs?

  • It can be quite difficult to review (apparently I’ve reviewed only six non-fiction books since starting the blog), which means that whilst my fellow bloggers may enjoy non-fiction, it’s difficult to feature on the blog.
  • How do you review something that is fact? You can’t criticise so many of the different areas you would look at for a work of fiction. It seriously reduces the amount you can really say about the book.
  • Some people read to escape to other worlds, so non-fiction just doesn’t work for them.
  • I know that when I was at university, I avoided reading any history or archaeology books that were NOT relevant to my course, because I had so much to take in anyway, and didn’t want to end up remembering stuff about Henry VIII when my course was in ancient history! So perhaps, for that same reason, many fellow bloggers who are still studying prefer to avoid non-fiction.

I thought perhaps I’d share some of my favourite non-fiction books, in various categories, and hopefully you can share yours with me!

History & archaeology

Pompeii by Mary Beard The Borgias by Christopher Hibbert Love and Louis XIV by Antonia Fraser

This is perhaps, along with travel, one of my more read areas of non-fiction – as my degree was in ancient history and archaeology. I’ll read about almost any period of history up until the twentieth century. Mary Beard is one of my favourite classicists so anything by her is good. I also have a particular interest in the Borgia family (so much scheming!), and Louis XIV after studying him for History A Level when I was 18. I think books like this can often have a reputation for being stuffy, written by scholars who know everything about these ancient worlds and nothing about the present day one. And whilst that may be the case with some books of this type, there are so many wonderfully written and accessible history books. You could start with books that accompany a TV series of the same subject, as they’re often written for people who are learning along with the show.

Travel

A Ride in the Neon Sun by Josie Dew The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson Hitching Rides with Buddha by Will Ferguson

If you’ve not yet read anything by either Bill Bryson or Josie Dew, then step on it! The two write very witty travel accounts – Bryson travelling alone by car (normally), and Dew alone by bicycle. They both capture the spirit of the countries they visit, and somehow poke fun at various elements of culture without being offensive in any way. Words cannot describe how excited I was last year when I realised there was a Bill Bryson book I hadn’t read yet – and so I got to experience that first read through joy!

Biography & memoir

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson 35488 How To Be A Woman

When it comes to biographies and memoirs, to me they either have to be witty and perhaps a bit self-deprecating, or of truly fascinating lives. Some memoirs I’ve read just don’t have either – even after the ‘big break through’. Or perhaps it was just how they were written. Once again, Bill Bryson makes the list with his autobiography, as does Caitlin Moran with her hilarious anecdotes of her younger self. And I recently read Johnny Cash’s autobiography and absolutely LOVED it. He is one of my very favourite musicians and had such an interesting life – plus the way it was told was just wonderful. He rambles from tale to tale, nothing is in chronological order – but it works. It’s as if you were sat there, having drinks with him and listening to him talk about his life.

What about you – do you enjoy reading non-fiction? What are your favourite genres of non-fiction? If you don’t enjoy it, tell me why! Why do you think it’s not often featured on book blogs?

Challenges

Challenge: 2013 TBR Pile Challenge


I am continuing this challenge throughout 2014, as I hope to have read all 30 books by the end of the year.

I have decided to join the 2013 TBR Pile Reading Challenge, which runs from 1st January – 31st December 2013. You can read the rules and join the challenge here. There is also a handy Goodreads group for the challenge, which will track your challenge books for you, as long as you shelf them correctly.

I have almost 300 books on my TBR list, and some have been sitting there for years. One of the rules of this challenge is no books published after 2013, and no ARCs – which rules out a lot of my review books. This means I can read the books I want to, and have been meaning to read for some time – which means they’ll most likely be ones that I already own. I have set a goal of 15 books (considering that I also have to read review copies), any from this list:

1. The Odyssey by Homer
2. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (read 2014)
3. Endymion by Dan Simmons
4. The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons (read 2014)
5. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
6. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
7. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
8. Redhead by Ian Cook
9. Tristan and Iseult by Rosemary Sutcliff
10. The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez
11. The Ice Storm by Rick Moody
12. The Twelve by Justin Cronin
13. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
14. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
15. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
16. The Magicians by Lev Grossman
17. Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs
18. The Sun in my Eyes: Two-Wheeling East by Josie Dew
19. The Weeping Empress by Sadie S. Forsyth
20. A Walk in the Wood: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trial by Bill Bryson
21. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
22. Dear Fatty by Dawn French
23. Gone by Michael Grant
24. Virals by Kathy Reichs
25. Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds
26. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (read 2014)
27. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (read 2014)
28. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
29. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
30. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Keep track of my progress or take a look at my tbr-pile-challenge shelf!

 Just under half of my list…