Top Lists

Top Reads of 2014

Top Reads 2014

As the title suggests, it’s time to share my top reads of 2014! I read so many good books this year that it’s not a top ten, but a top fifteen… And now, in no particular order:

Lexicon by Max Barry Smiler's Fair by Rebecca Levene Jane Eyre

Lexicon by Max Barry was a wonderful surprise. Sent to me by Hodder, it took a little while for me to pick it up, but I’m so glad I did. It is insanely clever and unique and DEFINITELY worth a read. Smiler’s Fair by Rebecca Levene was another surprise from Hodder (who spoil me!), a fantastic new start to a fantasy series, with a truly gorgeous cover. And Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë… oh this book. I am so SO glad I re-read it!

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor was one of those books that I’d heard such good things about, bought a copy of and still hadn’t read. Then I finally got to it at the beginning of the year, and was blown away. I even met Laini in April, when the third book in the series was released, but I still have yet to read that one. Perfect for my Borgia fascination, Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant is a wonderful piece of historical fiction that I just devoured. It’s got everything you could ever want in historical fiction – backstabbing, court gossip, murder – and everything you would expect from a book about the Borgias. And The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson, why did I take so long to get to you?? I have the second book in Leiden, and I’m looking forward to reading it in January.

Brideshead Revisited Insignia by S.J. Kincaid 2495562

Another classic I’m glad I tried, Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh is truly wonderful, and completely satisfied my taste for books set in Oxford (yes this is a thing). Insignia by S.J. Kincaid, on the other hand, completely satisfied my thirst for another book similar to Ready Player One. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss is a fantastic, if rather long, follow up to The Name of the Wind. It is one epic fantasy series I will not forget.

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co #1) by Jonathan Stroud Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud was one of those books that took me completely by surprise; I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did and now I recommend the series to everyone. Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes was another wonderful library find, the first in a Young Adult fantasy series that I can’t wait to continue. And when it comes to autobiographies, I’m not sure if you can beat Cash by Johnny Cash. One of my favourite singers, his life was absolutely fascinating to read about and I loved the way it was written too – as if the reader is just sat having a drink with Johnny.

Seraphina Fangirl Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

A very recent addition to my list, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman is another one that caught me by surprise. At first I wasn’t sure, but as I read more of the book I was utterly enchanted by her take on dragons. And once again showing that I really need to branch out and maybe not always judge books based on genre, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell was an ABSOLUTE treat. I loved Cath and instantly identified with her. And finally, Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding pretty much satisfied my post-Firefly needs. SO GOOD.

What were your top reads this year?

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Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: February 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.

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Last month I read a total of eight books – less than January, but no novellas or graphic novels this time. Cash: The Autobiography of Johnny Cash (with Patrick Carr), Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgewick, Lockstep by Karl Schroeder, Paper Towns by John Green, The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson and The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris.

Standout books include The Final Empire, The Gospel of Loki and Cash: The Autobiography of Johnny Cash – one of my favourite musicians ever, his life was absolutely fascinating to read about. I’ve now read twenty-three books towards my goal of fifty this year, but I’m unsure about raising it just yet.

Challenge progress:

  • I read four more books towards the Avengers vs. X-Men Challenge, and managed to beat this month’s boss – Crimson Dynamo! Gooooo X-Men! *waves mutant flag*
  • Another one ticked off of the Dragons & Jetpacks Ultimate Booklist Challenge, which handily also happened to be February’s Fantasy Book of the Month!
  • I’m slowly finishing off my TBR Pile 2013 Challenge – I achieved my goal for the year last year, but I had a list of thirty books, and aimed to read at least fifteen in 2013. Now I want to read the rest throughout 2014.
  • And finally, the Review Copy Clean-up Challenge! I read three review copies this month, which isn’t quite as many as I’d hoped to – but my Netgalley ratio is now 55.5%, which is a bonus. I still have to review one of the books, although that one was from Goodreads.

Currently reading:

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Reviews on the blog this month:

Other posts:

Upcoming:

  • A couple of reviews, including She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgewick and The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson.
  • A post about my time at the Harry Potter Studio Tour, which I visited on 19th February!
  • The usual discussions and features will return, minus Weekly Roundup which has become rather infrequent as I’m trying to not buy books. CRAZY, I know.

Off the blog:

Well as I mentioned, I was ill at the end of February… I had really bad tonsillitis in November (during Sci-Fi Month!) so I was really worried it would be another case of that – but luckily it was just a throat infection and cold. Earlier in the month I visited the Harry Potter Studio Tour with one of my best friends which was amazing, but more on that in another post! I then had another best friend to stay for a few days, and it was so lovely to see her – we met up with another friend from uni and had a lovely day out at a National Trust place nearby, then went out for tapas in the evening. I’m really quite scared at how fast the year is going, see as I’ll be moving to the Netherlands in mid-August and I have a LOT to sort out before then. Better get on it!

And that was my February! I remember writing up the Review Copy Cleanup post quite clearly, so I think it’s gone a *little* too quickly for my liking. How was your month?

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?