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?

Misc.

Burns Night – Books Set in Scotland

In honour of Burns Night, a Scottish holiday that celebrates the life of Scots poet Robert Burns, I thought I’d share a selection of books set in the beautiful country that is Scotland. So prepare your haggis wi tatties an neeps, pour out a wee dram, and settle down by the roaring fire with one of these reads…

Outlander & A History of Scotland

  • If you’ve been following the blog since 2015, you’ve probably heard me mention the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon more than once… I’m just a little bit obsessed! It follows Claire Randall, a combat nurse from 1945, who is in the Scottish Highlands on her honeymoon. Whilst out exploring the countryside, she somehow steps back through time, via a stone circle, and ends up in 1743. She gets caught up with the clans, the Jacobite Rebellion, one dastardly ancestor of her husband, and one very, very sexy be-kilted James Fraser. I’m slowly working my way through the whole series, but so far the first book has been my favourite, because we get to watch Claire and Jamie’s relationship grow.
  • If you fancy a bit of non-fiction instead, then A History of Scotland by Neil Oliver might do the trick. I bought this last year and haven’t yet read it, but I have read his A History of Ancient Britain, which was excellent and very accessible, whether you know your history or not.

Harry Potter & Macbeth

  • It might be forgotten at times, but the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling is set in Scotland! Students take the Hogwarts Express from King’s Cross all the way up north into Scotland. Hogwarts is supposedly located somewhere near Dufftown, in the Highlands, which interestingly is near the Glenfiddich Whiskey Distillery… Although I’m pretty sure Hogwarts students are more interested in Butterbeer and Firewhiskey!
  • Of course, William Shakespeare’s classic Macbeth is set in Scotland. The ‘Scottish play’ tells of Macbeth, a Scottish general who receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that he will become King of Scotland. Not wanting to delay his ascension to the throne, and also spurred on by Lady Macbeth, he murders King Duncan and takes the throne. His actions make him paranoid and guilt-ridden, and his reign is one of tyranny.

Trainspotting & The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

  • The infamous tale of heroin addicts, Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh is a 20th century classic. It is made up of short stories, all set in Leith, Edinburgh, and written in a mix of Scots, Scottish English and British English. Maybe not the thing to read if you’re looking for a nice, cosy read about Scotland… but a classic all the same.
  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark is one of the author’s best known works, and is set in 1930s Edinburgh. Miss Brodie teaches a group of six girls, in subjects such as classical studies and art history. The book frequently flashes forward through time to show glimpses of the future, and reveals that one of Miss Brodie’s students will eventually betray her.

Kidnapped & Knots and Crosses

  • Kidnapped by Robert Louise Stevenson is a classic adventure story, about the orphaned David Balfour. After a trip to find his last living relative, Uncle Ebenezer, goes horribly wrong, David finds himself kidnapped and imprisoned on a ship. However, it is soon wrecked off the coast of Scotland, and David must make his way back across the Highlands. Kidnapped is set in the period after the Jacobite Rebellion, a very tumultuous period of Scotland’s history.
  • Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin is the first of Rankin’s famous Inspector Rebus series, which follows Detective Sergeant John Rebus as he investigates grizzly crimes throughout Edinburgh. Like Trainspotting, this might not be the one to read just before going off on a weekend away to Edinburgh! 😉

Have you read any of these books? Can you suggest any other great reads set in Scotland?

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?

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?

Thoughts

Thoughts #48: My Favourite Female Authors

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As mentioned at the end of January, I’m focusing on female authors for the entire month of February, as my book group Dragons & Jetpacks has declared it ‘Women Writers Month’. I thought I’d start off by discussing my favourite female authors, and I’d love to hear yours!

Diana Gabaldon

diana gabaldon Outlander

My current lady of the moment is Diana Gabaldon, author of the fantastic Outlander series. If you’re into historical fiction, give it a try (or give the show a watch, totally worth it just for Sam Heughan alone, not to mention the beautiful Catriona Balfe and the gorgeous Scottish landscapes). Diana: thank you SO MUCH for creating the beautiful Scotsman that is Jamie Fraser.

J.K. Rowling

JK Rowling Harry Potter

Do I really need to explain this one? J.K. Rowling is my queen and shaped my childhood, forever.

Sarah J. Maas

sarah j maasThrone of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J. Maas

Sarah J. Maas is another female author I love, although I’ve only read one of her series – Throne of Glass. I met her in 2013 and she was the sweetest. She brought her own copy of Throne of Glass for fans to sign, and it travelled all over the world. It was pretty cool being able to sign something that my fellow bloggers had also signed!

Jaine Fenn

Jaine Fenn Downside Girls by Jaine Fenn

I’m going to make a mention of Jaine Fenn, who is truly lovely. She writes science fiction, and I first came into contact with her in 2013. She took part in my Sci-Fi Month event with an author interview, and I’ve met her twice now, both times at Bristolcon (where I was very shy because I actually don’t know how to act around authors…). She recognised my name instantly, thanked me for my review of her recent short story she’d sent me, and mentioned she had a new release coming and would I like to review it. Basically, she knows how to interact with her fanbase very well. Her sci-fi series is a mix of books to be read in order, and others that can be read as standalones within the same universe.

Marianne Curley & Katherine Roberts

Marianne Curley Katherine Roberts

Marianne Curley and Katherine Roberts cannot be forgotten! Both of these ladies write fantasy for younger audiences, and wrote some of my favourite books as a child/teen. And both of them took time out of their busy schedules to let me interview them for my blog. Like Jaine, they are lovely people and know how to treat their fans 🙂 Marianne has written the Guardians of Time series which involves time travel (yaaaas) and Katherine has written several series, my favourite being the Echorium Sequence, where words and song are power.

And because this post will be an entire novel if I write a paragraph about every awesome lady, honourable mentions go to…

Kristin Cashore, S.J. Kincaid, Suzanne Collins, Laini Taylor, V.E. Schwab and Rhonda Mason.

Which fabulous ladies of fiction are your favourites?

Top Lists

My Top Ten Series To Continue Reading in 2016

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Inspired partly by Amber reminding me that I need to hurry up and read the rest of the Mistborn series, here are the series I want to continue reading in 2016. This only includes books that are already published. Next week I plan on sharing the series I’ve given up on…

Hero of Ages The Alloy of Law Shadows of Self

I love Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series soooo much – well, the two books of it that I’ve read. So I really need to get my arse in gear and read the remainder of the currently published books, especially as Gollancz sent me a beautiful hardcover of Shadows of Self just before it came out. I’m looking out for some good deals – perhaps 3 for 2 in Waterstones or something – to get myself copies of books three and four.

Voyager Drums of Autumn The Fiery Cross

I fell in love with the Outlander series by Diana Galbaldon in 2015, both the television adaptation and the books. As with Mistborn, I’ve read the first two books but no further. However, most of the rest of the series is waiting for me on my shelf, minus book six and the most recent release, which I’m waiting for in paperback. I can’t wait to escape back to Jamie and Claire, but I have to space these books out because they’re just so huge and epic.

The Tropic of Serpents The Voyage of the Basilisk

I finally read the first book in this series, A Natural History of Dragons at the end of last year. But I still have two more books to go with Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan. Titan sent me a copy of the third book, and I can’t wait to get to it – I just need to pick up a copy of book two, although I’m pretty sure my local library has a copy.

Red Seas Under Red Skies The Republic of Thieves

The first book in the Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch was a previous Fantasy Book of the Month for my Goodreads book group. I enjoyed it quite a lot – perhaps not as much as some of the other books we’ve read together, but definitely enough to want to continue. I found the second book in a free (!) book shop, the third I requested on Netgalley when I first started blogging, long before I realised it was part of a series. So not only will this allow me to catch up with the series in time for the release of the fourth book this year, but it will help me tackle my Netgalley ratio.

The Merchant of Dreams The Prince of Lies

Having bought the first book in the Night’s Masque series by Anne Lyle at Bristolcon last year, I was completely swept away by the author’s fantasy version of Elizabethan England and the court politics at the time. I’d love to finish the trilogy soon – this is one of the very few series on this list that is actually completely published.

Queen of Sorcery Magician's Gambit Castle of Wizardry

I was first introduced to the Belgariad series by David Eddings by two of my friends in Leiden. Once they knew I was really into reading, particularly fantasy fiction, they told me I had to try this series and were amazed that I’d not heard of it before they mentioned it. Anyway, the sweeties that they are, they clubbed together to buy me the first book for my birthday – and they were right, I really enjoyed it. It’s quite a long series if you also count the two other series that link into it, but each book is fairly short, especially for fantasy novels.

Before They Are Hanged Last Argument of Kings

The first book of The First Law series by Joe Abercrombie was another one of my book group’s choices for Fantasy Book of the Month. And again, it was something I put off reading for far too long, and I am repeating that with the sequels – both of which are sat on my bookshelf!

The Black Lung Captain The Iron Jackal The Ace of Skulls

Chris Wooding’s Tales of the Ketty Jay series is a perfect, perfect series for fans of the TV series Firefly (taken too early RIP), who are looking for something in book-form to quench that Firefly thirst. Or at least that’s what I assume – because have I read the entire series? No. No I have not. Despite absolutely LOVING the first book and thinking it was everything I needed post-Firefly, I haven’t even touched the sequels. NEED. TO. CHANGE. THAT.

Rebel Spring Gathering Darkness Frozen Tides

I picked up the first book in the Falling Kingdoms series by Morgan Rhodes a year or two ago, thinking it looked like some fun Young Adult fantasy fiction. It was – but I also fell a little bit in love with it. Now apparently the FIFTH book is scheduled for release this year and I haven’t even picked up the second – get a move on, Rinn!

Caliban's War Abaddon's Gate Cibola Burn

The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey is another of my book group’s monthly picks. We have read the first book together, but I have book two waiting me on my shelf. The first book has recently been made into a television series, and I’d quite like to make sure I’m caught up with the books by the time the series catches up to them!

What series are you planning on continuing? Have you read any of these?

Top Lists

My Top Books of 2015

As the title says, it’s time to discuss my top books of 2015! I already shared my top science fiction novels of 2015 as part of Sci-Fi Month, so most of the sci-fi has already been covered. However, there are a couple that I read after writing that post, meaning that some science fiction will sneak its way in! And because I’m super indecisive, I haven’t gone for the usual top ten, but top twelve…

And now, in no particular order…

Red Rising Golden Son The Empress Game

Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown was by far one of my ultimate favourite books of the year. It was chosen as Science Fiction Book of the Month by my Goodreads book group, Dragons & Jetpacks, and it was an instant huge success with almost every member who read it. It completely and absolutely blew me away, and I posted my review back in November. The sequel, Golden Son (Red Rising #2) was just as fantastic, and my review will be posted next month as part of the Golden Son readalong, in preparation for the release of the next book. The Empress Game (The Empress Game #1) by Rhonda Mason was another science fiction standout that just missed my last list. I don’t know what I expected when I started it, but it certainly wasn’t what I read. It was a true thrill ride, and I shared my five star review last month.

Skin The Alchemist of Souls Thief's Magic by Trudi Canavan

Skin by Ilka Tampke was a lucky library find. I’d been eyeing it up after browsing Hodder & Stoughton’s catalogue, and had been hoping for a review copy in the post. Although I wasn’t lucky in that respect, I did manage to find it in the library not long after release, and snatched it up. It was a truly gorgeous tale of Celtic Britain, specifically Somerset, and a young girl who is seen as ‘skinless’ by her tribe, due to her unknown parentage. The Alchemist of Souls (Night’s Masque #1) by Anne Lyle was my ‘brand new book treat’ at Bristolcon, and I was drawn in initially just by the cover. After reading the blurb I was certain that I had to own the book – and I started reading it the very next day. Let’s just say that I now want to read as many Elizabethan historical fantasies as I can get my hands on. Thief’s Magic (Millennium’s Rule #1) by Trudi Canavan was one of the many Netgalley reads that I finally got around to – and one that I really wish I’d read sooner. Although that does mean less time to wait for the sequel… a steampunk type fantasy, that also featured archaeology, it was full of adventure. I shared my review back in October.

Simon and the Homo Sapien Agenda Warbreaker The Well of Ascension

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli was a total surprise, and a completely adorable book. I picked it up at the library because I’d seen a few bloggers raving about it, and thought I’d take the risk – after all, it was a library book. However, I fell a little bit in love. I feel that no top book list will ever be complete without at least one Brandon Sanderson book, but that’s okay because I have two. Both Warbreaker (Warbreaker #1) and The Well of Ascension (Mistborn #2) were typical Sanderson: basically amazing and all you could ever want in a book. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed everything of his that I’ve read so far, and need to hurry up and catch up with the rest of the Mistborn series.

Outlander Dragonfly in Amber A Darker Shade of Magic

2015 saw me get rather addicted to the TV series Outlander and fall in love with beautiful Scotsman Jamie, so imagine my delight when I discovered it was based on a book series – and a long one at that. Extra sexy Scotsman! Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon are both gorgeous, heartbreaking tales, and I can’t wait to continue the rest of the series. I’m slowly building up my second-hand collection of the books, I’m only missing two of them now! A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab was a book I was offered by Titan, and absolutely jumped at the chance to read. They even kindly posted me a copy out to the Netherlands whilst I was there. I devoured the book in two or three days, and then lent it to a friend who also loved it. Can’t wait to read some of her other work! I reviewed the book back in April this year.

What were your top reads of 2015?

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: May 2015

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.

May 2015

Last month I read a total of seven books: Tracer (Tracer #1) by Rob Boffard, City of Dark Magic (City of Dark Magic #1) by Magnus Flyte, The Eye of Minds (The Mortality Doctrine #1) by James Dashner, Tarzan of the Apes (Tarzan #1) by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Warm Bodies (Warm Bodies #1) by Isaac Marion, Batgirl of Burnside by Cameron Stewart and Outlander (Outlander #1) by Diana Gabaldon, .

With a short break between thesis draft hand-in and feedback, I was able to get some time to relax and read for fun! I should have the same again halfway through this month, as my thesis is due on 15th June! The stand-out book of May was definitely Outlander – a book which stole my heart and mind, it’s an absolutely gorgeous tale of unexpected romance and sexy Scotsman… I would like my own Jamie Fraser, please and thank you. Tarzan of the Apes was also highly entertaining, more so than expected, and Batgirl of Burnside was my first ever DC comic!

 

Challenge progress:

  • I read five books towards the DC vs Marvel Challenge and managed to defeat Gorilla Grodd. Next month’s villain is Bullseye, and I’m still hunting for some books that fit him…
  • I have currently read thirty-one books towards my Goodreads goal.

 

Currently reading:

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

How was May for you?

Misc.

Rinn Recommends… Historical Fiction

Rinn Recommends...

This may or may not become a regular feature, or at least semi-regular. But it’s pretty much what it says on the tin – my various recommendations from different genres! Today, after finally finishing the beast of a book that is Outlander, I wanted to share my recommendations of historical fiction, a genre that is very close to my heart just behind fantasy and science fiction.

So prepare to travel back in time, and whisk yourself away by reading…

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Achilles, “the best of all the Greeks,” son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful— irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods’ wrath.

They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

  • Time Period: Pre-8th century BC, when the Iliad was written.
  • Location: Various Greek city-states, Troy.
  • Why Should I Read It? This is a beautiful love story based on ancient works, and one of the most gorgeous portrayals of ancient Greece I have ever read.

Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield

Gates of Fire

At Thermopylae, a rocky mountain pass in northern Greece, the feared and admired Spartan soldiers stood three hundred strong. Theirs was a suicide mission, to hold the pass against the invading millions of the mighty Persian army.

Day after bloody day they withstood the terrible onslaught, buying time for the Greeks to rally their forces. Born into a cult of spiritual courage, physical endurance, and unmatched battle skill, the Spartans would be remembered for the greatest military stand in history–one that would not end until the rocks were awash with blood, leaving only one gravely injured Spartan squire to tell the tale…

  • Time Period: 480 BC.
  • Location: Sparta, Thermopylae.
  • Why Should I Read It? If you’re a fan of the film 300, then give this one a try. It is told from the point of view of a Spartan, captured by the Persians, and through him we get a glimpse into Spartan society. Definitely one for the ancient history buffs!

Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant

Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant

Is there a family in history more dazzling, dangerous and notorious than the Borgias? A powerhouse of the Italian Renaissance, their very name epitomizes the ruthless politics and sexual corruption of the Papacy.

The father, Pope Alexander VI, a consummate politician and a man with a voracious appetite both as Cardinal and Pope. The younger Juan, womanizer and thug, and their lovely sister, Lucretia, whose very name has become a byword for poison, incest and intrigue. But how much of the history about this remarkable family is actually true, and how much distorted, filtered through the age old mechanisms of political spin, propaganda and gossip?

What if the truth, the real history, is even more challenging?

  • Time Period: The 15th century AD.
  • Location: Rome.
  • Why Should I Read It? The Borgias were a fascinating family, and although the truth about them is now pretty much lost amongst all the gossip and scandal of the past, Sarah Dunant writes a fabulous version of their story. Just enough back-stabbing and political corruptness to keep you turning the pages, without being over the top.

La Reine Margot by Alexandre Dumas

La Reine Margot

Margot is one of several in line to inherit the crown in France, where Roman Catholics and Protestants are jockeying for power. Margot’s mother, Catherine de Medici, is intent on seeing her son take the throne once the reign of King Charles IX ends. After being married to a man she doesn’t love and starting a tryst with one she does, Margot contends with her mother’s at-all-costs plan to control the political fate of the volatile country.

  • Time Period: 1572 during the reign of Charles IX.
  • Location: Paris.
  • Why Should I Read It? It’s a fascinating period of history, and Dumas illustrates it wonderfully. I had to study this particular period for history at school, and ended up reading lots of books set in around it.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Outlander

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach — an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord… 1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

  • Time Period: 1945 and 1743.
  • Location: Scotland – Inverness and the Highlands.
  • Why Should I Read It? Jamie Fraser. Is that enough? Oh, well… the only time I really enjoy romance is fiction is when it is in historical fiction, and this book basically has it all. A time travel element, a female lead who doesn’t take crap from anyone, sexy Scotsmen in kilts, castles, beautiful landscapes, adventure, intrigue… ahh just read it please.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy

Armed with only his wits and his cunning, one man recklessly defies the French revolutionaries and rescues scores of innocent men, women, and children from the deadly guillotine. His friends and foes know him only as the Scarlet Pimpernel. But the ruthless French agent Chauvelin is sworn to discover his identity and to hunt him down.

  • Time Period: During the French Revolution (1789-1799), but specifically in 1792.
  • Location: Paris, Calais and London.
  • Why Should I Read It? ODDS FISH, M’DEAR! Percy Blakeney is one of the best characters of all time – acting out a foolish aristocrat in order to keep his cover, he is really incredibly clever and charming. The whole book is a real adventure, and I also highly recommend the film version starring Anthony Andrews.

Empress Orchid by Anchee Min

Empress Orchid

To rescue her family from poverty and avoid marrying her slope-shouldered cousin, seventeen-year-old Orchid competes to be one of the Emperor’s wives. When she is chosen as a lower-ranking concubine she enters the erotically charged and ritualised Forbidden City. But beneath its immaculate façade lie whispers of murders and ghosts, and the thousands of concubines will stoop to any lengths to bear the Emperor’s son.

Orchid trains herself in the art of pleasuring a man, bribes her way into the royal bed, and seduces the monarch, drawing the attention of dangerous foes. Little does she know that China will collapse around her, and that she will be its last Empress.

  • Time Period: 1852.
  • Location: The Forbidden City and Beijing.
  • Why Should I Read It? It’s a fascinating look at one woman’s rise to power. For me it really appealed because I hadn’t read many books about China, and was interested in learning more. I would not recommended the sequel though!

Have you read any of these recommendations, or do you have any recommendations of your own?

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #20: Historical Fantasy

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: historical fantasy

I’m sorry, I’m aware it’s been a little while since I did a Fantasy Friday post – but these are always the ones that take me the longest to write, and as I haven’t been feeling too much up to blogging for the past month, they were also the first posts to get put aside!

Historical fantasy is a particularly wonderful branch of the fantasy genre, and to me it can mean two things. Either a story based on real events, places or people but with some magical or fantasy elements, or a new fantasy world that is inspired by real history or places. I wanted to share some examples of the sub-genre – they’re all ones I have either read, or heard very good things about.

1. Lion of Macedon (Greek Series #1) by David Gemmell

Lion of Macedon

To be honest, I can’t think of anything much better than blending ancient Greek history and mythology with fantasy fiction. And with Lion of Macedon, David Gemmell has done that.

2. Across the Nightingale Floor (Tales of the Otori #1) by Lian Hearn

Across the Nightingale Floor

I read Across the Nightingale Floor about seven or eight years ago, when I had a great interest in Japanese history. It’s loosely based on the feudal era of Japanese history, with plenty of fantastical elements. I never quite finished the series, but I do remember enjoying the first two books a lot.

3. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Tigana

I’ve been aware of Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay for a while now, but I only just recently decided to add it to my ‘to read’ list as I finally looked into what it’s really about. It is based on Renaissance Italy, which is an interest of mine – so definitely one to look out for! Would it be too much to hope that there are characters influenced by the Borgias?? I can dream.

4. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian

I first read The Historian when I was about fifteen or sixteen, and it just completely grabbed me and pulled me right in. I devoured it in a matter of days. Following a young woman tracing her family’s history, she soon finds herself tangled up with the history of one Vlad Tepes, and his fictional equivalent Count Dracula. It’s creepy and dark but very addictive.

5. Fool’s Assassin (The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy #1) by Robin Hobb

Fool's Assassin

A very recent release from Robin Hobb, Fool’s Assassin is inspired by elements of medieval history. In fact there are plenty of fantasy series which draw from medieval history (including one that has been turned into a hit TV show…), but I wanted to showcase this book in particular as I will hopefully be reviewing it soon!

6. Outlander (Outlander #1) by Diana Gabaldon

Outlander

Kind of hard to ignore Outlander when it’s been everywhere recently, thanks to a recent TV show adaptation. I honestly hadn’t heard of it until a few weeks ago, despite the book being nearly as old as myself, but as soon as I read about it, it went straight onto the wishlist. It’s about a woman who gets teleported back in time, from 1945 to the highlands of Scotland in 1743. EVERYONE is raving about it!

7. His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire #1) by Naomi Novik

His Majesty's Dragon

Napoleonic Wars? Check. Dragon combat? Check. His Majesty’s Dragon is an alternate history of the Napoleonic Wars, imagining that they were fought with dragons. Do I need to say any more?

8. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

Another one set during the Napoleonic Wars, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell features magic instead of dragons. I can’t remember how many times I’ve been recommended this book by various people, and how many times I’ve heard friends speak highly of it.

9. Sabriel (Abhorsen #1) by Garth Nix

Sabriel by Garth Nix

I’ve spoken a lot about Sabriel in the past, so if you’re a regular reader of the blog then you will know of my love for the series. It’s set in an alternative early twentieth century England, but instead of the First World War the people of Ancelstierre have to fight the dark forces of Necromancy.

10. Leviathan (Leviathan #1) by Scott Westerfeld

Leviathan

Another alternate history that everyone needs to read, Leviathan imagines that World War I was fought using beasts, developed using Darwinist theories, and machines. I cannot recommend this series enough, and as a bonus it has some gorgeous illustrations.

What are your favourite historical fantasy novels? Did you enjoy any of the ones listed here?