December 2023
« Mar    

Give the Gift of History: Non-fiction

On Monday I published a little gift guide to historical fiction books for you, so today I’m going to talk about actual history – you know, the non-fiction variety that I adore. Some excellent history for the general reader was published in 2011; here are the recommendations that I think would make beautiful gifts.


Cleopatra, Stacy Schiff

Okay, I lied already; this book wasn’t published in 2011, it was published in 2010. But now it’s out in paperback, which means it is the perfect gift for anyone who has enjoyed any manifestation of Cleopatra. This book was sold a bit strangely in that many people thought it was closer to historical fiction, but as an actual biography which peels back the layers to reveal a little bit more of the real Cleopatra, it is an amazing choice.

she wolves

She-Wolves, Helen Castor

I’ve read both of Castor’s published popular histories and they are both fantastic. This one is a choice for the feminist on your list. It looks back at medieval women in power and examines how history changed to allow Elizabeth, England’s first fully fledged female queen, to reign in peace at last. It demonstrates that women have not been simple chattel throughout history while at the same time acknowledging the difficulties they had and still have in being in power without becoming a man. Brilliant.

blood work

Blood Work, Holly Tucker

Not a book for the squeamish, this goes into depth about the history of blood transfusions and a curious mystery surrounding one of the principal players. It’s one of those books I love that uses a single case to illuminate a whole era of history, which is why I recommend it highly. And, like She Wolves above, it doesn’t hesitate in demonstrating how history is still incredibly relevant to our lives today.

The Plantagenets, Derek Wilson and The Age of Chivalry, Hywel Williams

I’ll admit that I haven’t finished either of these books yet, but I’ve been dipping in ever since they hit my mailbox, and in truth they seem to suit that method. These large, beautiful, coffee table books are absolutely perfect for the person who loves history and who wants to show it off. They are both full of beautiful illustrations and provide a surface, top layer view which is excellent for someone who perhaps enjoys World War II history but has never felt the desire to go further back. They are completely gorgeous gift choices – so I couldn’t omit them from this list!

What histories would or are you giving as gifts this year?

I received some of these books for free for review.


Give the Gift of History: Fiction

Historical fiction is incredibly hot right now. If you ask me, history has always been fascinating, but historical fiction gives us the ability to imagine ourselves into a time and place that no longer exists, and never will again. Even those who don’t think they like history – probably because they associate it with memorizing endless lists of names and dates – will find that they enjoy an excellent historical novel just as much as those of us who know we’re obsessed with it!

So, here are a few of my favorite historical fiction books of the year that I think would work exceptionally well as gifts:

Russian Winter, Daphne Kalotay

This fascinating book about a Russian ballerina, both in her prime and in her old age, completely captivated me when I read it. I didn’t hesitate in my praise for the book when I reviewed it either – it’s the perfect choice for a winter read as well.

lady of the english

Lady of the English, Elizabeth Chadwick

Those of us who love historical fiction set in medieval England are intimately familiar with Chadwick’s work, but why not give someone else the gift of discovery? This is a fantastic place to start.

Madame Tussaud, Michelle Moran

Perfect for anyone who has ever visited the famous wax museum, especially the one in London, and wondered about the woman who started it all. Also excellent for those interested in the French Revolution, and an all-around wonderful historical novel.

rules of civility

Rules of Civility, Amor Towles

For the friend or family member who loves New York City, or at least the idea of it, Rules of Civility is just the ticket, capturing a culture alongside a smart, beautifully written story.

22 Britannia Road, Amanda Hodgkinson

A beautiful book that deals with the trials of immigration after World War II, this would be an amazing choice for a family member studying psychology with its peek into the brain of a child and their adaptation skills. Its relatively common immigration story has what was in my opinion an excellent twist.

death of kings

Death of Kings, Bernard Cornwell

While the latest in a series, this one is ideal for anyone who doesn’t mind getting down and dirty with history. Pair with Praetorian by Simon Scarrow and you have two great new books. Alternatively, start them out fresh with The Last Kingdom and Under the Eagle.

The Autobiography of Mrs Tom Thumb, Melanie Benjamin

For anyone who has ever enjoyed the circus, this glimpse into the life of Miss Lavinia Warren Bump is guaranteed to please. This fascinating, contradictory, stubborn women will captivate all those who encounter her.

Which historical fiction would you or have you chosen as a gift this year?

Some of these books were sent to me for free for review.


May 2009 reading wrap-up

Amazingly, I read the exact same number of books in May as I did in April, which is 27.  I’m extremely pleased with that, especially because I’ve signed up to read 30 books in June with Shauna for the Summer Reading Blitz.  That’s only 3 more than I read this month, so if I stay on track with my dissertation, it’s a distinct possibility.

92. The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje
93. The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire – C. M. Mayo
94. Welcome to Temptation – Jennifer Crusie
95. The Well of Lost Plots – Jasper Fforde
96. The World in Half – Cristina Henriquez
97. The Vampire of Ropraz – Jacques Chessex
98. House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski
99. The Founding – Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
100. Simply Unforgettable – Mary Balogh
101. The Reincarnationist – M.J. Rose
102. Silk – Alessandro Baricco
103. The Convenient Marriage – Georgette Heyer
104. Atlas of Unknowns – Tania James
105. The Ghost Brigades – John Scalzi
106. Undead and Unwelcome – MaryJanice Davidson
107. Starfinder – John Marco
108. The Bridge of the Golden Horn – Emine Sevgi Ozdamar
109. Moon Called – Patricia Briggs
110. Warrior Daughter – Janet Paisley
111. Shanghai Girls – Lisa See
112. Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict – Laurie Viera Rigler
113. Fugitive Pieces – Anne Michaels
114. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane – Katherine Howe
115. Tethered – Amy MacKinnon
116. Simply Love – Mary Balogh
117. Beauty – Robin McKinley
118. Love Walked In – Marisa de los Santos

As you can see from the distinctly sparse number of links up there, most of these books have not been reviewed yet.  The reviews have mostly been written and are waiting to be posted.  I have a truly ridiculous backlog of reviews because I read so fast.  I haven’t yet graduated to posting a review a day, but I’m almost there.  My blog can at this point run without me for about a month.  Logically, I’m not really expecting to slow down until I get married in October, at which point I will probably be grateful for the backlog!

My favorites:

At least, I think.  It’s so hard to choose!

As far as my TBR pile goes, I read 20 of my own books this month and I acquired 15, so I cleared a total of 5.  Not as good as last month; we’ll see how this one goes!

Did you read any fantastic books last month?


No BEA? Books Anyway!

Yesterday, a few book bloggers and I were lamenting our lack of books and fun from not attending BEA this weekend.  (I hope you are all having fun there!)  With that in mind, we all realized that we’d saved money on travel expenses and could purchase a few books instead!  Jen has put up a post over at Devourer of Books explaining a little more and for you to sign up if you can’t attend BEA but decide to acquire a few books this weekend anyway.  If you’re looking for some socializing with those of us who are sitting at home, you can also catch the BEA Twitty Party happening on Twitter, and all the info is located with the wonderful creator of the event, Rebecca, at The Book Lady’s Blog.

I was lucky, I had a library sale starting today.  This is what I found:

  • Split Ends by Zoe Barnes
  • Fast Women by Jennifer Crusie
  • Astonishing Splashes of Colour by Claire Morall
  • The Story of Henry Sugar and other short stories by Roald Dahl
  • The Book of Atrix Wolf by Patricia McKillip
  • Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk
  • Villette by Charlotte Bronte
  • The Rival Queens by Fidelis Morgan
  • The Conjurer’s Bird by Martin Davies
  • The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette by Carolly Erickson

None of these were really ultra wishlist, dying-to-read books, except Villette, but I do think they look good. Since a whole bag was a fixed price of £3.50, it only hurt my TBR pile, not my wallet.  Now I just have to read all of these and five more before my Borders order comes so I can get my TBR pile back where it was this morning!


January wrap-up and looking ahead to February

January was a great start to my reading goal of 200 books this year.  I read 21 books in total, which is more than the roughly 17 books I have to read each month to get there.  I’ll admit that most of this reading was accomplished during the two weeks I was still mostly on holiday from grad school, but that’s how it goes, isn’t it?

1. Blindspot – Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore
2. Juror No. 7 – Mallory Kane
3. The Lost Duke of Wyndham – Julia Quinn
4. Nox Dormienda – Kelli Stanley
5. The Seduction of the Crimson Rose – Lauren Willig
6. The Temptation of the Night Jasmine – Lauren Willig
7. Cam’s Quest – Dian Curtis Regan
8. The Piano Teacher – Janice Y. K. Lee
9. Mr. Cavendish, I Presume – Julia Quinn
10. The Tales of Beedle the Bard – J.K. Rowling
11. The Vampire Who Loved Me – Teresa Medeiros
12. The Ruins of Gorlan – John Flanagan
13. The Burning Bridge – John Flanagan
14. Twilight – Stephenie Meyer
15. A Pale View of Hills – Kazuo Ishiguro
16. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet – Jamie Ford
17. A Thousand Veils – D.J. Murphy
18. Something Like Beautiful – asha bandele
19. Deerskin – Robin McKinley
20. The Help – Kathryn Stockett
21. Our Longest Days – Sandra Koa Wing

As you can see, I have a ton of reviews to post! Most of these are actually written and waiting for their appropriate day. I don’t normally like to post more than once a day, especially not with reviews. I have a feeling that people want to stop by once and then that’s enough, although I could be wrong. Regardless, I have myself well covered for any future busy periods when I either have no time to read or just can’t be bothered to write reviews (probably when I start working on my essays again!). It’s nice to have a safety net for when I don’t feel like spending much time on the computer.

I read quite a few books that I genuinely didn’t like or which disappointed me this month.  Most of these were review copies and I have renewed my determination to only choose ones which really interest me for the future.  I think most of those up next month and in March are definitely more to my liking – I must have gotten pickier at some point!  I also read a lot of easier reads, the romance and the YA in particular, but even those didn’t provide much of what I really wanted.  When it comes down to it, the best I can say is that my TBR pile took a hit and actually went down some!

So in summary, I wasn’t up for thinking in January, but I guess I can pick two favorites: The Help and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.  They were both rewarding and ultimately stunning reads that I’d recommend to everyone.

So, that leads us to what’s ahead for February! Not only will you get reviews of all the non-linked books above, I’m also participating in 3 blog tours and have a ton of review copies for release in February. The first of these is The Help, which you can see I’ve already read. The rest:

  • Cry of Justice by Jason Pratt
  • The Book of Night Women by Marlon James
  • Drood by Dan Simmons
  • The Kingmaking by Helen Hollick
  • The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson
  • American Rust by Phillipp Meyer

A few others I’d love to get to just for fun:

  • Rebel by Bernard Cornwell
  • The Scarlet Lion by Elizabeth Chadwick
  • New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
  • Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels
  • On Beauty by Zadie Smith

Other than that, we’ll see how much time I have and what sort of mood I’m in!  Thanks for stopping by in January (and in the first few days of February)!