Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: February 2017

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Every first Wednesday of the month, I’ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, including discussing books read that month, challenge progress, and a summary of all posts for the month.

Last month I read a total of eight books: The Left Hand of God (The Left Hand of God #1) by Paul Hoffman, Drums of Autumn (Outlander #4) by Diana Gabaldon, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Red Queen (Red Queen #1) by Victoria Aveyard, Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne, The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave #1) by Rick Yancey, Moranthology by Caitlin Moran and The Humans by Matt Haig.

I continued the Outlander series of books with Drums of Autumn, which was excellent, even if it felt very different to the first two. Revolution was a nice surprise, and I enjoyed it a lot more than expected. Disappointments included Red Queen, which felt very generic and unoriginal, and The Left Hand of God, which just felt like an utter mess.

I start my new job this month (yes I finally got one after two months of dull dull unemployment!), and will finally be moving into a place of my very own – I can’t wait! It’s going to be fun trying to fit my books into a studio flat, but I will try 😉 It also means I’ll be internetless for a few weeks whilst it’s all set up, so I expect I’ll get a lot of reading (and TV watching) done during that time.

 

Challenge progress:

  • I have currently read 23 books towards my Goodreads goal.

 

Currently reading:

How was February for you?

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Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: August 2016

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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.

Voyager The Aeronaut's Windlass Blood of Elves The Forever War Nevernight A Little Princess New Pompeii You're Never Weird on the Internet An Astronaut's Guide How to Build a Girl

Last month I read a total of ten books: Voyager (Outlander #3) by Diana Gabaldon, The Aeronaut’s Windlass (The Cinder Spires #1) by Jim Butcher, Blood of Elves (The Witcher #3) by Andrzej Sapkowski, The Forever War (The Forever War #1) by Joe Haldeman, Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle #1) by Jay Kristoff, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, New Pompeii by Daniel Godfrey,
You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day,
An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield and How to Build A Girl by Caitlin Moran.

August was a month of pretty good reads! I started with Voyager, which I could not WAIT to read – I absolutely love the Outlander series and everything about Claire and Jamie. Both The Aeronaut’s Windlass and Blood of Elves were read as part of my book group, Dragons & Jetpacks, and both were sadly disappointing – especially considering how good the Witcher games are. However, The Forever War was a nice surprise that I enjoyed quite a lot more that expected – it’s not so much military sci-fi as a bit of cerebral, to be honest. How do those who have been into space and come back centuries later, when it has only been a couple of years for them, feel? How do they adjust to this new planet, and a life without family and friends? Nevernight was a really fun, dark fantasy that definitely caught me off guard toom and all my other reads for the month were highly enjoyable – especially Felicia Day’s You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost), which was so relatable.

 

Challenge progress:

  • I don’t remember how many books I read towards the DC vs Marvel Challenge, but I do know I defeated the villain! September’s villain is Deadshot, who is proving to be very tricky to beat with my current Novel Experiment – so I may have to make a few exceptions.
  • I have currently read 85 books towards my Goodreads goal – 17 books ahead of schedule!

 

Currently reading:

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

How was August for you?

Review

Review: The Chronicles of Narmo by Caitlin Moran

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3 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Having first read Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman a few years ago, I was definitely intrigued to read something that she had written at the age of only sixteen. Her previous writing showed that she is one incredibly funny woman, and as The Chronicles of Narmo shows, she was also an incredibly funny teenager.

A semi-autobiographical look at the life of the ‘Narmo’ family, there isn’t much of a plot to the story – just that Morag’s mother decides to take her and her siblings out of school and educate them at home, which leads to much tomfoolery and many shenanigans. There is no clear plotline and it is more like a series of events patched together, but that didn’t really matter when I considered the writing. I just cannot believe that Caitlin was only fifteen/sixteen when she wrote this – the descriptions are vivid, wonderful, odd and just so unique. Take this one for example:

“Bill smiled a smile last seen on a piranha with toothache that has just eaten the last dentist in the Amazon.” The Chronicles of Narmo, 32%

I just can’t imagine writing like Caitlin did at the age of sixteen as I am now, in my twenties. She has clearly always had a great talent. This is the kind of book that you can’t really compare to many others due to the author’s age at the time, and it is really very astounding all things considered – I mean just look at the quote from Terry Pratchett on the front cover! Her view on the world and her environment are, for a teenager, actually incredibly mature, and she is not afraid to really make fun of herself.

If you’re a fan of Caitlin Moran, definitely give this one a try for more of her wonderful wit and humour.

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: November 2014

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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.

November 2014

Last month I read a total of three books: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, The Wise Man’s Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle #2) by Patrick Rothfuss and The Chronicles of Narmo by Caitlin Moran.

So it’s been a completely insane month and I can’t believe I only read three books… The Wise Man’s Fear was definitely the standout book for November, and I can’t wait to move on to The Slow Regard of Silent Things, which Gollancz kindly sent me. I just barely made any time for reading this month, I’ve been so exhausted!

 

Challenge progress:

  • I read one book towards the Avengers vs. X-Men Challenge. The final villain of the year is Apocalypse. I’d love to finish recruiting the X-Men by the end of the year, but we’ll see…
  • I have currently read one hundred and twenty books towards my Goodreads goal. I’ve hit it again after raising it for the fourth time, and I’ll leave it there for now!

 

Currently reading:

Moriarty The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick

How was November for you?

Thoughts

Thoughts #12: Neglected Non-Fiction

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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?

Recap

Last few days of the Cheltenham Literature Festival 2012

Well, the festival is finally over, and I really wish it wasn’t! It was such a fantastic two weeks that seemed to fly by, and there was never a dull moment. I last told you about the events of Tuesday 9th October, so this post will cover from Wednesday until the very end.

Wednesday got off to an exciting start: we met Dan Snow, who has presented many history TV programs, and got a team photo:

I also caught a glimpse of Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn, who work on the TV show Wartime Farm (and are archaeologists, yeahhh!). As I was working the early shift, I missed the evening events which included Adam Hart-Davis, Pam Ayres, Andrew Marr, Hilary Devey, AA Gill, Nigella Lawson and Mark Haddon.

Thursday was my day off, but notable guests included Lucy Worsley, John McCarthy, Tom and Henry Herbert (the Fabulous Baker Brothers), Ben Fogle, Caitlin Moran, Gunnar Staalesen, Stephen Mangan and Victoria Pendleton.

Welly boots signed by Caitlin Moran (apparently all guests were signing wellies – I don’t know why!)
 
Friday’s guests included Sinclair McKay, Michael Smith and Julian Baggini, all of whom I managed to see; as well as Robert MacFarlane, Rose Tremain, Erica Wagner, Sandi Toksvig, Kirstie Allsopp, Alan Garner, Dom Joly, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Paul O’Grady.
On Saturday, I saw Kathy Reichs (creator of TV show Bones) and Val McDermid (creator of Wire in the Blood), and then met Larry Lamb in the afternoon!

Larry Lamb – more like Mick Shipman than Archie Mitchell 😉
 
I also had to stand next to Ian Rankin whilst he was signing books, to stop any over eager fans from invading his personal space. One man there was obviously a massive fan – he brought practically the entire back catalogue with him, and couldn’t stop shaking whilst talking to Ian! Whilst we were waiting for Ian Rankin to turn up, I heard a customer saying he couldn’t find any T.S. Eliot – so I showed him where the books were, and he spent a good ten minutes explaining why everyone should read Four Quarters, and that your life is not complete unless you have. It was so nice to see someone so passionate about it. Later on both Jeremy Vine and Ben Miller were just wandering around the tents, browsing – I got to speak to Jeremy Vine.

Sunday, the last day of the festival proper, was just as eventful. A.C. Grayling was signing in the morning, and I took some stock over for him to sign and had a chat with him – he was lovely, and took a real interest in my degree. He was so polite and came over and personally thanked me when he left. I also saw Ian McEwan when he was doing his signing, but the biggest event of the day (at least when I was there)? David Walliams.

He signed so much – 240 stock copies before the event even started, then whatever customers took him! The queue was massive, and there were crowds of people taking photos and hanging around the signing area. He was lovely, making people laugh and chatting with them, posing for photos and just being an all round friendly guy. Finally, the last guest I saw was David Mitchell. I apologise for the awful photo…

His publicist was very stern though… me and a colleague were just about to get a photo with him when she whisked him away. I did manage to grab one of a friend with him though, so that’s something! I got the impression he was happy to be there, signing what people wanted, but his publicist wanted him to sign only his autobiography.

Autographs from Larry Lamb, Polly Findlay and Christopher Eccleston.

Yesterday was packing up day. Boxing up books, taking down shelves, tidying up the mess… and it was so fun. It was just all of us temps together, and at one point we had run out of boxes to pack books in, so had nothing to do. Instead, we sat around on the beanbags in the kid’s tent chatting for a bit, which was really great.

Meerkats surveying the clearing up…
 
This was all such a fantastic experience and I will definitely be applying to work again next year! I actually find it quite hard to write about the festival properly. I can tell you all about the famous people I met, post some photos, but honestly the bit that was the most fun was meeting new people: colleagues and customers. Meeting people who share the same passion as me: books. And it would be really hard to write those experiences down, and make them interesting to others, so I’m just going to keep them all to myself =)