Top Lists

Top Ten Tuesday #7: 2016 Releases I WILL Read This Year!

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Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme is new book releases you meant to read in 2016, but never got round to… and definitely plan to read in 2017! As I’m a bit of an expert on hoarding books that I will ‘read next’ for several years, I thought this might be a good one to do.

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Five of the six books above are sat on my bookshelf, waiting to be read. I remember buying them eagerly, knowing that I’d soon be lost within them. And did I pick them up straight away? Nope. One was sent to me, Cloak of War, and I’d planned on reading it during Sci-Fi Month 2016 as I absolutely loved the first book, The Empress Game, which also took me ages to get around to. And the remaining book, A Closed and Common Orbit, I am DESPERATE to read, but I want to buy it – and I want the paperback. Which actually isn’t available until April so… that’s my excuse. I just really don’t like hardbacks, okay?! 😉

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I own both Time Siege and The Crown’s Game from the four books above, but still haven’t touched them. I’m also waiting for the paperback of Truthwitch, which I believe comes out in June!

What 2016 releases do you still need to read? Would you recommend any of the books on my list?

Thoughts

Thoughts #49: Favourite Non-Fiction Books Written By Women

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As the title suggests, today I wanted to discuss my favourite non-fiction books written by women, as part of Women Writer’s Month. Non-fiction is a topic that’s not often included in the book blogging community when we gush over books, as I have discussed before. I’d love to hear whether you’ve read any of these or have any recommendations; let me know in the comments.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Yes Please

Yes Please is Amy Poehler‘s autobiography, or rather anecdotal memoir. Amy is one of my comedy queens and I absolutely love her, a love which began when I first watched Parks & Recreation, where Amy appears as Leslie Knope. It is one of my favourite series ever, one that I can watch again and again and again. This book is typical of her sense of humour and is pretty perfect for any fan of hers – or fan of Parks & Rec.

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Bossypants

The second of my comedy queens, and often seen on screen with Amy Poehler, Tina Fey has also written a memoir: Bossypants. I read this one more recently, and I’d also recommend it if you’re a big fan of either Saturday Night Live or 30 Rock, as Tina discusses various events that went on behind the scenes of those two shows.

A Ride in the Neon Sun by Josie Dew

A Ride in the Neon Sun by Josie Dew

If you enjoy travel writing, then Josie Dew‘s A Ride in the Neon Sun is definitely for you – particularly if you’re a fan of Bill Bryson, because Josie has that same wonderful wit. However, all of her books are about travelling a new country by bicycle. I’ve read a couple of her other travel memoirs and they’ve all been wonderful, but this one was definitely my favourite.

Love and Louis XIV: Women in the Life of the Sun King by Antonia Fraser

Love and Louis XIV by Antonia Fraser

Antonia Fraser is very well-known for writing historical non-fiction, and Love and Louis XIV: Women in the Life of the Sun King is one of the few that I’ve read, although I plan on reading many of her other works. I first read it when I was 18, whilst studying Louis XIV as part of my A Level History course. I’ve been trying to find more books about female historical figures that are also written by women – and if you’re looking for the same, this is a good place to start.

Pompeii by Mary Beard

Pompeii by Mary Beard

Mary Beard is one of my absolute favourite historians – she is so enthusiastic and passionate, I love it. Pompeii is my favourite of all her books so far. Instead of looking at the elite of the town, she takes a look at the life of the ordinary citizen. There is also an accompanying television show if you are interested!

What are some of your favourite non-fiction books written by women?

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: June 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.

June 2015

Last month I read a total of ten books: Vortex (Insignia #2) by S.J. Kincaid, Promise of Blood (The Powder Mage #1) by Brian McClellan, The Witch Hunter (The Witch Hunter #1) by Virginia Boecker, Way Down Dark (The Australia Trilogy #1) by James Smythe, Time Salvager by Wesley Chu, The Great Bazaar and Brayan’s Gold (Demon Cycle #1.5) by Peter V. Brett, Armada by Ernest Cline, The Ships of Aleph by Jaine Fenn, The Parthenon by Mary Beard and The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North.

I managed to read more this year, due to handing in my thesis and having no work to do – what a relief! 😉 I read some really great books this month. Time Salvager and Armada really stood out, and the latter was definitely worth the wait.

 

Challenge progress:

  • I read five books towards the DC vs Marvel Challenge. Next month’s villain is Bane, and I’ve already managed to select my books to defeat him.
  • I have currently read 41 books towards my Goodreads goal.

 

Currently reading:

Shadowscale

How was June for you?

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: December 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.

December 2014

Last month I read a total of thirteen books: The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1) by Stephen King, In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant, Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little, Moriarty (New Sherlock Holmes #2) by Anthony Horowitz, Yes Please by Amy Poehler, The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez, Seraphina (Seraphina #2) by Rachel Hartman, Across the Universe (Across the Universe #1) by Beth Revis, The Lost Hero (Heroes of Olympus #1) by Rick Riordan, Revival by Stephen King, The Slow Regard Of Silent Things (The Kingkiller Chronicles #2.5) by Patrick Rothfuss, Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix and Confronting the Classics by Mary Beard.

My standout books for the month were definitely Revival by Stephen King, and Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. I have a review of Revival coming up so I won’t talk about it now, but Seraphina caught me totally by surprise. I also really loved Amy Poehler’s Yes Please – I have so much love and respect for her. It was also fantastic to finally start The Dark Tower series by Stephen King!

 

Challenge progress:

  • I read five books towards the Avengers vs. X-Men Challenge. The challenge is now over, and I earned a total of ninety-four points for my team! There is now a DC vs. Marvel Challenge for 2015.
  • I read 135 books towards my Goodreads goal, and managed to complete it – my goal was 120!

 

Currently reading:

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

How was December for you?

Past Features

Turning Off The TV #14: HBO’s Rome

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Welcome to my regular Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I recommend books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes.

The TV series this week is: HBO’s Rome.

HBO's Rome

A down-to-earth account of the lives of both illustrious and ordinary Romans set in the last days of the Roman Republic, from Julius Caesar’s civil war of 49 BC to the Battle of Actium in 31 BC.

Yet another series that I haven’t seen, but really need to – especially as it covers one of my favourite periods of history. I can think of so many different books to recommend for fans of this show, so I’ve tried to narrow it down a bit. I’ve included both fiction and non-fiction in today’s feature.

Looking for fiction?

The Aeneid by Virgil Imperium by Robert Harris Ovid the Augustan Scapegoat by Michael Soloman

The Aeneid by Virgil is the classic tale of the foundation of Rome, by Aeneas, a Trojan who escaped the Trojan War and traveled to Italy. I’ve chosen this one not so much because of what it covers, but when it was written – during the fall of the Roman Republic and therefore during the period that Rome is set. Robert Harris’ Imperium follows Cicero, the famous orator, lawyer and politician (and whose name means ‘chickpea’, a fact that will always amuse me), of the Roman Republic. The series is a fictional biography of his life, and features familiar historical figures from the show such as Julius Caesar and Pompey. Ovid: An Augustan Scapegoat by Michael Soloman is set a little after the end of the show: in 14 BC, after the death of Emperor Augustus (Octavian). It uses fact mixed with fiction to create a tale of the poet Ovid, exiled from the Roman Empire and never pardoned.

Or non-fiction?

Rubicon by Tom Holland The Roman Triumph by Mary Beard The Classical World: An Epic History of Greece and Rome by Robin Lane Fox

Tom Holland’s Rubicon is a very highly regarded account of the end of the Roman Republic, with lively portraits of historical figures such as Cicero, Cleopatra, Spartacus and Virgil. Mary Beard is quite possibly my favourite historian/classicist EVER, and I had the privilege of meeting her last year, so naturally I have to recommend one of her books! I’ve chosen The Roman Triumph because it’s more of a general look at Rome than some of her other work – although to be honest, I’d recommend any book by her. My final non-fiction book of choice would be The Classical World: An Epic History of Greece and Rome by Robin Lane-Fox (who also comes recommended by Mary Beard, if I remember correctly). This book is a pretty brilliant brief account of the ancient world and is wonderfully written. I could list so many more non-fiction books (basically half of my coursebooks for university) but I think that’s enough for now!

Are you a fan of HBO’s Rome? Do you have any recommendations to add? Are there any series or films you’d like to see recommendations for?

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?

Past Features, Recap

Weekly Roundup #32 + meeting Mary Beard!

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My ‘Weekly Roundup’ is where I share the books I have received in the past week, whether bought, gifted, borrowed etc.

Bought

  • Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers – I think I first spotted this one through following Felicia Day on Goodreads. I’m not sure how romance-y it is, so I don’t know how much I’ll like it, but we’ll see! It is about an assassin after all…

Won

  • She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick – I won this from Goodreads. I’ve seen it around a lot recently and heard some good things about it.

On Sunday, I got to meet Mary Beard!

I also just wanted to quickly share some photos from this Sunday, when I met Mary Beard at Cheltenham Literature Festival. If you’ve not heard of her before, she is a classicist and a Don at Cambridge University. She’s written some fantastic books and made some wonderful TV shows, and I really, really admire her.



Her talk was about her recent book, Confronting the Classics, and how the ancient world is often presented in the modern day. It was really fascinating, and I plan on getting hold of her book at some point – sadly the hardback is £25 and I can’t really afford it right now. I told her that I’d studied ancient history and archaeology, and my plans for the future: I want to be a museum curator. It was so wonderful to meet a big role model of mine!

I got her to sign my copies of Pompeii and It’s A Don’s Life, and she even added in an extra message after I told her of my plans! Now all of the books that I own written by her are signed – when I was working at the festival last year I picked up a signed copy of All in a Don’s Day. That was also the last day of the Cheltenham Literature Festival – now to look forward to next year’s line-up!

Past Features

Weekly Roundup #13 & Happy New Year!

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An appropriate number for this week’s Weekly Roundup, which comes to you a day late – I apologise! My ‘Weekly Roundup’ is where I share the books I have received in the past week, whether bought, gifted, borrowed etc.


This week I want to show you my book-related Christmas gifts, and discuss New Year’s Resolutions.


I received It’s A Don’s Life from my parents, and Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town from my grandparents, both by Mary Beard. I’m a big fan of Mary’s, and managed to get a book signed by her when I was working at the Cheltenham Literature Festival – but sadly I didn’t get to meet her.


And I got these amazing bookmarks – one in my stocking, one from my grandparents; as well as a Waterstones giftcard from my sister! Talking of The Hobbit – I’ve seen it twice now, and absolutely love it – what do you all think of it? I’m a massive Tolkien fan, The Lord of the Rings is my favourite book ever and I re-read it every year – but I didn’t get round to it in 2012!

I did, however, achieve my book reading goal – I managed to read 105 books, when my aim was 52! I think this was partly down to being a student and then unemployed for three quarters of the year though, so this year’s goal is 75.

So that’s one of my resolutions – read 75 books. Another book-related one is to work on my challenges a little more (links are in the right-hand sidebar) – not complete them, but at least make some progress. As for non-book related resolutions, I want to carry on with my healthy eating – which I was doing just fine until the end of September, when I was going through a bad situation and kind of gave up on it. And with the healthy eating comes keeping up my exercise – I did manage that at least for all of last year! I also need to work on my Dutch, which I’m learning because I plan on doing my Masters degree in the Netherlands. The course is in English, but I would feel really ignorant going out there not knowing a word!

So… gelukkig nieuwjaar/Happy New Year to my lovely readers!

Recap

Cheltenham Literature Festival: Days 3 – 5

Well… look who I had the pleasure of meeting on Sunday:

Christopher Eccleston! He was there to discuss Antigone, as he is starring in the new production directed by Polly Findlay. I joined the end of the queue (you know… to make sure no-one else joined as they only had a certain amount of time… yeah…) and grabbed an autograph from both of them, as well as a photo (or two)! I think the look on his face is because when I told him my name he looked confused and asked me to spell it – well that’s what I’m hoping…

I really didn’t know what to say to him though. I didn’t want to discuss Doctor Who because that’s not what he was there to talk about. I did tell Polly about my degree and interest in classics though, so at least I managed some sort of conversation!

That was the first exciting part of the day. The second was seeing (well catching a brief glimpse of, behind the crowds) Eoin Colfer, author of the Artemis Fowl series. Although I haven’t read the books for years, and only read the first few – I didn’t realise there were so many! – it was exciting seeing an author that I was a big fan of as a child. Unfortunately, I was unable to grab a photo of him, as the tent was heaving, unsurprisingly.

I also spoke very briefly to Brooke Magnanti, author of Belle du Jour: the Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl, as her publicist wanted to know where she needed to go for signings. Other interesting people who were at the festival on Sunday, but I didn’t manage to see include Neil Oliver, Paul Hollywood, various cast/crew members of Call the Midwife and Downton Abbey, Rupert Everett and T.C. Boyle.

Mary Beard had a couple of events on Sunday but I was unable to attend them so I put aside a book for her to sign. Sadly I couldn’t get it dedicated, but I tweeted her and she replied, yay! I think she is the epitome of a classicist – eccentric and truly, truly passionate about what she does, and her recent TV series Meet the Romans with Mary Beard was great.

Monday was my day off, but looks to have been as exciting a day as any other – P.D. James, David Stuttard, Bel Mooney, Esther Rantzen, Orlando Figes, (‘what I call’) Patricia Hodge, Will Greenwood and Greg Searle, amongst others.

And that brings us to today – my shift started at 8am, which meant getting a bus at 6.20am; I am shattered! The hours go so quickly, I can barely believe I was working for seven and a half hours, and I only feel the tiredness on the journey back home. I’m working the same time tomorrow, so it’s another early night tonight… I managed to see Caroline Shenton, Head Parliamentary Archivist who has just written her first book, and the poet Simon Armitage, as well as Mark Hill (of Antiques Roadshow fame) and Judith Miller. This afternoon/evening’s guests include Clare Balding, Frankie Dettori, Emma Bridgewater, Kate Summerscale (which reminds me, I really need to read The Suspicions of Mr Whicher) and Sue Townsend, to name but a few.

I really can’t express just how much I’m loving this experience! I’ve never know a job to pass so quickly, I don’t really want it to end. I’ve met some great people, both famous, those I’m working with and customers, and I hope to meet many more before the week is up. Unless I write up another review before then, my next post will be on Friday evening, covering both Wednesday and Friday, as Thursday is my day off.
Recap

Cheltenham Literature Festival: Days 1 & 2

So instead of my usual features, I thought I’d post about the Cheltenham Literature Festival for the next two weeks, as I’m working there, and a round up post at the end would be far too long! If you want to know more about the festival, click the logo above to visit the website.


I was so excited when I found out I’d gotten a job working at the festival – and right in the Waterstones tent where all the action happens! I’m working as a bookseller, which is self-explanatory, but we also help out with queue management and chat to people queuing for events, keep the tent looking tidy, set up for events and signings, etc. I’ve already seen some interesting people!

Yay! Waterstones jumper!

We started setting up on Monday, but yesterday was the first official day of the festival. There are events spread out in various venues, and the tent I’m in is often used for book signings, meaning I get the chance to see some exciting people! Events didn’t start until 12pm, and combined with the fact that it was a weekday, it was a little calmer. The tent is heaving just before and after events – you can always tell when someone big is talking, because it’s like a ghost town for a while and then absolutely packed! 

The first person I saw yesterday was Will Gompertz, the BBC Arts Editor and former Tate Gallery director, who has recently written a volume on the history of modern art. He was doing a signing but we had a slight problem – a large amount of the stock was faulty, the second lot of photo inserts being upside down and back to front! Luckily this was soon sorted out by the editor, who offered to send a free second (and correct) copy to anyone who bought the faulty one, and Will signed bookplates for those who got faulty copies to place in the corrected ones. It was a bit of a scare, with it being the first event but I was really impressed with how easily it was handled and actually how the customers didn’t even seem to mind too much – a lot of them saw it as a bit of a novelty, actually.

Later in the afternoon, Sebastian Faulks was giving a talk as well as signing copies of his new book, A Possible Life. I managed to see him, but didn’t get to snap a photo! Paul Auster was also signing at the same time. Other guests at the festival that day that I didn’t get the opportunity to see included Salman Rushdie, Tom Holland, Pat Barker, Anthony Horowitz, Kofi Annan, Jon Ronson and Peter Serafinowicz.

Today, being a Saturday, was much busier. Michael Frayn did a signing in the morning, though I actually didn’t get a chance to catch a glimpse of him – I remember all my friends doing A Level English (which I regret not doing) having to read Spies. Later in the afternoon, Sean Borodale, Ann Gray and Adam Horovitz were all signing, after doing a panel together. I was at the tills with a colleague, who normally works in a Waterstones elsewhere, and this woman came over asking if we had Jack Straw‘s books out. We both assumed that she was asking where they were because she wanted one signed, and then Jack Straw practically materialised next to her – she was actually his publicist!

Now for the exciting bit – the big event of the day (at least where I was): Philip Pullman:


There was a HUGE queue for him, here’s just a little part of it:


And bless him, a lot of authors set a limit on how much they sign or how long they’re there for, but Philip said he would sign for everyone waiting. He was still signing when I left (stupid bus service only running until 6.45pm…). The queue snaked all through the tent and for ages down the path through the park. Luckily the Bookshop Band were there to keep customers entertained (and they’re great – check their website out!)


There were (and still are, the day isn’t over yet!) so many exciting people at the festival today that I didn’t get a chance to see: Alexander McCall Smith, J.K. Rowling, Michael Palin, Roger Moore, Benedict Cumberbatch, Iain Banks, Jung Chang and more. 

Mary Beard is there tomorrow, and I love her but I’m going to miss her event so I’ve reserved a book for her to sign for me, which I can pick up. Exciting! My next post will be on Tuesday evening, covering tomorrow and Tuesday (as Monday is my day off).