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 πŸ˜‰ 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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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! πŸ˜‰

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? πŸ˜‰

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?

Top Lists

Top Ten Tuesday #6: My Top TV Shows

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I am once again taking part in Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme is all to do with your top TV shows!

Parks and Rec Community

I think Parks and Recreation and Community are quite possibly my absolute favourite shows of all time. I’d just left university, had moved home and had broken up with my boyfriend whom I’d been with for several years. I was not in a good place – and these two shows helped me through. They’re funny, thoughtful and just so, so perfect. If I could find a job that I love as much as Leslie Knope loves working in the Parks Department, I would be so happy. I basically force people to watch these two shows at every chance I get, and even got one of my friends in Leiden to watch all of Community – every week we’d watch a couple of episodes with dinner and wine, until slowly I got him to love the show and no longer had to be the one to encourage the Community marathons. πŸ˜‰ I’m so sad that they’re both over – Parks and Recreation had a perfect finish, but Community was cancelled, not once but twice.

The Office Green Wing

Clearly I enjoy workplace comedies! It may be blasphemy for me to say this as a Brit, but The Office US was far more enjoyable to me than the original UK version… Firstly, there was so much more and secondly JIM AND PAM. JIM AND PAM. The world’s most perfect, beautiful couple, who took far too bloody long to get together, but watching every interaction between them was amazing and my god do I want a relationship like that. Plus just about every other character in the Dunder-Mifflin office is an absolute treat – I’m still annoyed that Netflix decided to remove this show from its UK streaming titles. Unlike the first three titles here, Green Wing is a British comedy. It is set in a hospital, and follows employees from various departments – all of whom are very weird in their own way, but perhaps no-one more than Dr. Alan Statham, played by Mark Heap. It is surreal and possibly one of the strangest comedies you’ll ever watch, but 100% worth it if you get the chance. Also my go-to show for when I’m feeling ill or sad.

Game of Thrones Black Books

I’m pretty sure that Game of Thrones will make a lot of these lists. I didn’t actually start watching it until either halfway through the first season, or at the end, but when I did I immediately fell in love. I then devoured all the books, making sure I finished the first book before watching past episode one of season one. It consistently amazes me, and I love that my whole family now watch it – although watching Game of Thrones with your parents can be a rather awkward experience at times… Black Books is another British comedy, and also another workplace comedy, set in a second-hand bookshop in London. Owned by grumpy Irishman Bernard Black, it follows him and his two friends, Manny and Fran. Another surreal yet hilarious comedy that, like Green Wing, is definitely worth your time.

outlander firefly

I cannot get ENOUGH of Outlander, based on the fabulous books by Diana Gabaldon. Following a combat nurse from 1945 who ends up travelling through time via a stone circle, and lands in 18th century Scotland, it truly has a bit of everything. Time travel, romance, sex, action, adventure, sex, violence, did I mention sex? – just reading about Claire and Jamie together makes me feel a bit weak at the knees sometimes. This has been televised so perfectly, with gorgeous locations and an even more gorgeous cast. I can’t wait for season three, although 2017 now feels way too far off. Firefly is another case of an excellent show that was ended far, far too soon. A sci-fi show with steampunk elements, the main characters were basically space scavengers/pirates and were all completely loveable. If you’ve not yet watched this, but loved books such as The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, then this might just be the show for you.

Orange is the New Black how to get away with murder

So apparently when I’m not watching workplace comedies, I enjoy shows about criminals and murderers. If you haven’t yet watched Orange is the New Black, then you’re probably one of four people on the planet who hasn’t. This drama, set in a women’s prison, is so so so GOOD. The depth of every character is astounding, and it’s refreshing to have a show where the cast aren’t all stunning and made-up every second of their lives (like when women often spring out of bed on TV looking all made-up, what?). So basically, if you’re one of those four people, please amend that asap. How To Get Away With Murder (probably not the best phrase to have on your internet history) is one of those shows that leads you on, makes you think you know what’s happening or what’s going to happen – then it tears out your heart, stomps on it and serves it back up to you. It is brutal, it is amazing and every single episode is basically a giant cliffhanger that leaves you screaming in frustration. And it makes me so happy.

Have you watch any of these shows? What did you think? Let me know your favourite TV shows in the comments!

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 πŸ™‚ 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?