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TSS: Good-bye February, Hello March

tssbadge1February did not hold much excitement over here – in fact, I felt like I was away from home a lot, given that we kicked off the month with a weekend visit to family and the month consisted of not one but two trips for work. Small ones, but time away from home nonetheless. I’m taking this weekend as an opportunity to relax, at least a bit, and recharge, although there is some work that I need to catch up on (isn’t there always?).

In reading terms, February started off slow, as I read two non-fiction books simultaneously. Things warmed up pretty soon, though, and in the middle of the month I rocketed through The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, reading two in a day and the third one in a day shortly afterwards. I can already tell you those were the standout books of the month.

As for the rest:

Fiction

  • Spilt Milk, Amanda Hodgkinson
  • The King’s Damsel, Kate Emerson
  • Cinder, Marissa Meyer
  • Scarlet, Marissa Meyer
  • Book of a Thousand Days, Shannon Hale
  • The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Queen Jezebel, Jean Plaidy
  • Blood Kin, M.J. Scott
  • Gabriel’s Ghost, Linnea Sinclair
  • Cress, Marissa Meyer

Non-Fiction

  • Montaillou, Emmanuel La Roy Ladurie
  • Germania, Simon Winder

I managed to continue holding to my reading goals, although just barely; Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland is both by an author of color and set partly in India. Both of my non-fiction choices were set outside of the UK and US, and so was Queen Jezebel, which was set in France. I know Europe isn’t actually very far outside of my comfort zone, but it’s an improvement. I didn’t succeed in writing review this month, though. In fact, I hardly blogged at all.

Favorite of the Month

cinderscarletcress

Book of a Thousand Days should probably be in here too. I just devoured these books; they were the perfect reading experience for a month when I truly felt down in the dumps and stressed for a number of reasons. Really loved them and would highly recommend them.

Ahead for March

Primarily I’m hoping everything calms down a little. I’m also hoping to plan that holiday I mentioned. I need something to look forward to until the current malaise subsides! The increased light in the mornings and evenings is getting me there, bit by bit.

I’m also hoping to read:

  • Empress by Shan Sa (actually for real this month – it’s next on the pile!)
  • One Night in Winter, Simon Sebag Montefiore
  • A Dance with Dragons, George R.R. Martin
  • The Iron Kingdom, Christopher Clark

What’s on your schedule for March?

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TSS: Belated monthly wrap-up: January 2014

tssbadge1I do realize that we’re a third into February, but I wanted a chance to sum up January anyway. I’ve learned that when I’m away from home on the weekend, blogging doesn’t really happen, so here we are on the following weekend looking back.

As the start to 2014, January wasn’t great. Another family member landed in the hospital for serious reasons and most of the goals I had for the year got derailed already – primarily the ones involving doing things that weren’t reading. I’ve had a lot on at work and in general I have not been getting on as well as I’d hoped. The weather in this part of the world certainly hasn’t helped. While my family and friends at home in the US have been buried in snowfall after snowfall, it’s merely been grey and rainy in the UK, almost every day its seems. As a result it doesn’t feel much like winter – a season that’s going to go away eventually – but instead an endless trudge of cold, wet, and dark.

Fortunately at this point, the above-mentioned family member is out of the hospital (by far the most significant), there are signs of the sun rising earlier and earlier, and I’ve buried my sorrows by acquiring a slightly ridiculous number of new books, so there’s hope yet.

I read:

Fiction

Non-Fiction

  • Edward III and the Triumph of England, Richard Barber
  • The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, Richard P. Feynman
  • Orange is the New Black, Piper Kerman

That’s 12 books, which is pretty high for me. The eagle-eyed amongst you will also note that most of my long-awaited reads actually got read. The only exception was Empress, which will probably be read this month, as it’s in the middle of the immediate reads pile.

I also hit all of my reading goals for at least the first month. We Need New Names is set in Zimbabwe and by an author of color (these don’t have to coincide but they happened to this month), I acquired Demon Angel and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay pre-2013, and I read 3 non-fiction books.

Favorites of the month

life after lifewe need new namesedward iiithe amazing adventures of kavalier and clay

I couldn’t choose between the three fiction books, so have all of them. I loved all four of these books.

All those other goals

As I mentioned above, I haven’t been doing terrifically well with my other goals. Exercise and cooking have both been sporadic, but I’m taking the fact that I’m doing them sometimes as a small victory.

How was your January?

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2013 In Review

2013 was a mixed year. I think I’ll always remember it as the year I lost my grandma, so it probably won’t go down in memory very well. But that’s the only bad thing that happened; I started a job that I actually might like back in March and just got promoted in December, we finally sold the flat which had been preventing us from gaining substantial savings after over 3 years of trying, and everything in a relationship and friend direction has been positive.

My reading year went well. I set myself a goal of 150 books, as I’d read 138 books in 2012 and wanted to do slightly better than that. I ended up finished 160 books, which is great; I found reading much easier to fit in when I started commuting as I’d read a guaranteed 50-100 pages per day just sitting on a train. Commuting itself is not that pleasant, but I like the reading benefit.

And I read some great books this year. Now that the year is finally over, I can finally sum up my favorites. So, without further rambling, my top ten of 2013 (not in any particular order, or in any particular genre or type of book):

vanished kingdoms

  1. Vanished Kingdoms, Norman Davies – This book stands out so strongly in my memory, because it filled in so many gaps in what I already knew and spurred me on to learn more, the perfect combination for a book about history. I’m now just waiting for Davies to pick up his pen and write about vanished kingdoms in the rest of the world!
  2. The Spirit Keeper, K.B. Laugheed – For some reason, I fell in love with this book – the historical setting, the romance between two unlikely characters, and just the surprise that I enjoyed a book in this setting so much. It still lingers in my mind. I think I might need to buy a paper copy.
  3. The Truth of Valor, Tanya Huff (and the rest of the series, all of which I read this year) – I loved these books. I’m sorry that I didn’t rave about them individually, but I loved so much about them. Strong yet imperfect Torin was the star of the show for me, but all the books also had that epic, no-holds-barred feel about them that I adore.
  4. Daughter of the Sword, Steve Bein – This was my favorite new urban fantasy of the year. I think I’ll be getting myself the next for a birthday present this month. I loved the way this book intertwined history with a modern fantasy; either storyline could have stood on its own.
  5. Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie – I didn’t manage to even review this book – plenty of stellar reviews out there already, anyway – but I loved the way it subverted gender expectations, made me feel sympathy for a ship, and ultimately confused me until suddenly everything popped into place. So much good about this book – if you haven’t read it already, you should make it a 2014 priority.
  6. the spirit keeperEleanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell – I didn’t review this one, either, but I never caught up with November’s reviews. I loved the way that Rowell created two imperfect characters whose love for each other shone through the pages. She perfectly captures what it’s like to be a teenager but still made me fall in love with these two. There will be more books by Rainbow Rowell in my future.
  7. Carter Beats the DevilGlen David Gold – This was one of 2013’s long-awaited reads and it was definitely a book I should have read sooner. Fantastic characters, a whirlwind story, a perfect conclusion, with an unusual historical setting and magical focus that helped it stand out.
  8. Proust and the Squid, Maryanne Wolf – I loved this in depth look at the reading brain and how complex it is, plus an overview of the history of reading and alphabets. Not to be missed.
  9. The Wild Girl, Kate Forsyth – Another historical novel that I adored this year. I can’t believe I hadn’t discovered Forsyth earlier; this is something I’m going to look to remedy in 2014.
  10. Cooked, Michael Pollan – Taking a look at each type of cooking, Pollan goes on another journey through food that inspired me to think about what I could create. A lot of things have contributed to me becoming more conscious of what we’re eating and cooking from scratch more often, but this book is definitely up there.

I should also mention Chasing Magic by Stacia Kane, Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews, and Chimes at Midnight by Seanan McGuire for continuing series that I love with solid, wonderful books. I can only hope for the same this year.

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2014, everyone!

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September 2013 Reading Wrap-Up

September this year came in with a visit to the United States and ended with me banned from my home computer due to wrist problems. I went to visit my parents, saw a friend, and enjoyed a trip down the shore; I visited a couple of other friends another weekend; I continued working. My responsibilities have increased and I’ve got a couple of new clients, so I’ve been relatively – amazingly – happy. Unfortunately a renewed interest in writing meant that I actually started spending too much time on the computer towards the middle of the month, and my wrists paid the price. They’re feeling much better now, so I hope to go back to it next week. In the meantime, though, Upstairs Downstairs has been keeping me company, so no complaints.

The month felt slow in terms of reading, too. It’s felt like certain books have taken me a while to read, but I don’t have any particular complaints; for some I simply enjoyed being in their worlds longer than normal. I really want to get back into reviewing most of what I read, too, but the motivation just isn’t there at the moment.

  • The Golem and the Jinni, Helene Wecker
  • Songs of Willow Frost, Jamie Ford
  • When the Marquess Met His Match, Laura Lee Guhrke
  • The Curse of the Pharaohs, Elizabeth Peters
  • Skinwalker, Faith Hunter
  • The Iron Daughter, Julie Kagawa
  • Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells, ed. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
  • Carter Beats the Devil, Glen David Gold
  • The Pagan Lord, Bernard Cornwell
  • The Spirit Keeper, K.B. Laugheed
  • Confessions of Marie Antoinette, Juliet Grey

Favorites of the Month

the spirit keeper

All the love for this book. I also really enjoyed my time with Carter Beats the Devil – once again discovering that a book which has sat on my TBR shelf for literally years (since January 2010) should have come down much, much sooner.

October is on track to be a very busy month, in the best of ways; for instance tonight I’m going to see Philippa Langley, one of the guiding influences of the search for Richard III, at my local bookstore as she’s giving a talk. I’m really looking forward to it and have even dragged along my not-so-willing husband. I’m hoping to carve out some time for blogging and writing that won’t kill those little muscles in my wrists. We’ll see how it goes!

How’s your October looking?

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July 2013 Reading Wrap-Up

I’m not sorry to see the back of July – it was a rough month. On the positive side, as I’ve seen many UK bloggers commenting, we’ve had the best weather I’ve ever seen in this country this month. We’ve had some absolutely beautiful days, with the temperature reaching into the low 80’s and weeks of sunshine. My cold-blooded body has been soaking up every minute, and particularly enjoying the opportunity to wear dresses without worrying about leggings, tights or cardigans. We skipped summer last year, but we’ve had it in earnest this year. The sunshine has gone a long way towards boosting my spirits and I hope those of others, too.

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Can’t ask for more than reading in the sunshine right outside the York city walls!

I’ve still been reading, though! I’ve tried to post at least twice a week to catch up with some book reviews, which has been working decently. I’m also doing my best, as usual, to come up with some different post ideas. Hopefully I’ll have the brain power to invest in those soon.

I finished a total of 16 books this month.

Fiction

  • Revealed, Kate Noble
  • The Darkest Edge of Dawn, Kelly Gay
  • The Engagements, J. Courtney Sullivan
  • On Basilisk Station, David Weber
  • Once Upon a Tower, Eloisa James
  • Greywalker, Kat Richardson
  • Me Before You, Jojo Moyes
  • Madame Serpent, Jean Plaidy
  • The Brides of Rollrock Island, Margo Lanagan
  • Valor’s Trial, Tanya Huff
  • Truth of Valor, Tanya Huff
  • The Long Earth, Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
  • The Ill-Made Knight, Christian Cameron
  • Cobweb Bride, Vera Nazarian

Non-fiction

Favorites of the Month

the truth of valor valor's trial

I loved this series such an absurd amount that they win over everything else, although I did read some wonderful other books this month too. It appears that my new favorite genre is character-focused sci-fi, especially featuring amazing women. (On Basilisk Station is pretty good too, and also happens to be offered by the publisher for free in ebook form.) I’m writing a series love post, so you will be hearing more about these books very shortly.

What’s Ahead for August

I have a few books for review in that list up there which you’ll be seeing in August.

I also have this lovely pile which I plan on getting through:

August reads

I hope I’ll manage to read all 8 of those, plus the two I’m currently reading – The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth and Witchling by Yasmine Galenorn.

In addition, I’m planning to post about my upcoming trip to Spain. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but now I’ve gone ahead and booked hotels, planned flights, and worked out costs, so it’s actually happening and I can get properly excited. I’ve already picked out a couple of books that I’d like to read beforehand, but any suggestions on books set in medieval Spain, especially Andalucia, are much welcomed.

How was your reading month? What’s ahead for August?

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The Sunday Salon: An exceptionally late June 2013 Reading Wrap-Up

tssbadge1Hello everyone. It’s been silent here for one of the longest stretches in blogging memory, and I only managed to post a review last week because I’d written it significantly ahead of time. My family have had a rough week and a half as my grandma passed away last Sunday night, and I flew home to the United States last Tuesday for her wake and funeral. My grandma was a wonderful woman, and my favorite grandparent by far, so this has been a difficult time, and was a really hard end to June. But at least her struggles are over and she can rest in peace, and life will now resume some semblance of normality for the rest of my family too.

As you can imagine, I spent a lot of June buried in books. And not writing reviews of them. I really had very little enthusiasm or energy for anything at all. I had a brief period where I started to get my energy back and I had three days of posts in a row, and I’m hoping that will happen again and stick around this time in a couple of weeks. I’ve read so many amazing books and I really do want to talk about them, so I intend to do so eventually, even if only in mini reviews. (And this week I will choose winners of my giveaway – apologies to those waiting for the news!) I’m as usual reading a lot of series, and I think I’ll probably write little cluster reviews rather than individually review books, like with the Confederation novels by Tanya Huff.

Fiction

  • The Heart of Valor, Tanya Huff
  • The Enchanted April, Elizabeth von Arnim
  • Tipping the Velvet, Sarah Waters
  • Deception, Kris Kennedy
  • Three Parts Dead, Max Gladstone
  • The Better Part of Darkness, Kelly Gay
  • Have His Carcase, Dorothy L. Sayers
  • Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers
  • Busman’s Honeymoon, Dorothy L. Sayers (yes, I went on a binge)
  • Graveminder, Melissa Marr
  • Shapeshifted, Cassie Alexander
  • Elisha Barber, E. C. Ambrose

Non-fiction

  • Pompeii, Mary Beard
  • The Churchills, Mary S. Lovell

Favorites of the Month

gaudy nightthe heart of valor pompeii

 

I continue to love the Confederation novels; The Heart of Valor made me instantly buy the next two in the series, after which I *think* it ends. I also spent a good week immersed in the world of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, but Gaudy Night was (predictably) my favorite, as it not only brings up a lot to think about and an interesting perspective on academia for women at the time, but also shows Harriet’s opinion of Peter changing beautifully for the better. And Pompeii was just fascinating. All recommended.

What’s Ahead in July

More posts, I hope! Here are the books I have lined up to read over the course of the rest of this month:

July 2013 reads

I’m actually looking forward to all of these books without exception. You can see that I want to finish the Confederation novels, as they’re both on the pile. And look, there are even two works of historical fiction, so I might actually feature a book that is in my “niche”. Crazy.

What’s ahead for you in July?

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May 2013 Reading Wrap-Up

Hello everyone! I’ve been very absent on the blogging front lately; one of my close extended family members back home in the United States has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, which is devastating news, and it has had a huge impact on how much energy and creativity I’ve had in the last few weeks. Just going to work and getting everything that needs to happen done has consumed most of my effort, leaving very little left for writing. In less severe news, our car broke down a week ago, so overall May has actually just been a terrible month. I’m aware things could be a lot worse, but at the moment I would be very happy for some good news. Here’s hoping that June is more positive; we’ve already booked a camping trip to Scotland to try and get away from it all next weekend, since I’m pretty helpless across the pond anyway, so I’ve perhaps foolishly got my hopes up.

In May I read 12 books, mostly series and urban fantasy books, although I’m pleased that I actually read some non-fiction. AND an older book, The Doctor and the Diva. And I started going back to the library – two of the books below are borrowed.

Fiction

  • A Clash of Kings, George R.R. Martin
  • Stray, Rachel Vincent
  • The Doctor and the Diva, Adrienne McDonnell
  • A Confederation of Valor, Tanya Huff
  • Frost Burned, Patricia Briggs
  • Moonshifted, Cassie Alexander
  • She RisesKate Worsley
  • Maisie Dobbs, Jacqueline Winspear
  • Paris, Edward Rutherfurd
  • The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides

Non-fiction

Favorite of the Month

a confederation of valorthe secret rooms

I’m falling deeply in love with character-driven science fiction these days and Tanya Huff’s A Confederation of Valor is fantastic for it. It’s military sci-fi and a bit of the jargon and alien names takes some time getting used to, but once you’re in the main character, Torin, simply steals the show. I loved the camaraderie between her and her men, the new worlds she explores, and the way that each of the two books contains a particular expedition that grows her as a character. Loved it, should probably actually review it. I immediately bought the next in the series, Heart of Valor, and I’ll probably buy the following two in quick succession.

As for The Secret Rooms, I actually managed to review it, so you’ll find all of my thoughts contained in that post, but it’s a really intriguing mystery and simultaneous look at the declining aristocracy just before, during, and after World War I.

What’s Ahead for June

I’m considering taking a blogging break, but I’m not sure I will. I have this feeling that as soon as I decide to leave the blog for two weeks, I’ll immediately want to write something – which surely wouldn’t be a bad thing, but puts me off officially going away. I might take an impromptu break here and there, and posts are scarce enough as it is, but I’m just going to see how it goes and not stress.

In the meantime, what am I reading this month?

IMG_0608[1]_667x500

I’m definitely not doing as well sticking to the immediate TBR pile as I used to; I read 12 books as above in May but two of these books in the picture have been on the pile since the beginning of April. Those are In a Fix and Deception, so I’m aiming to read both of those this month and in general start to work through some of the books I’ve had for a while. From this pile, I’m excited to read The Churchills and The Engagements the most, so I think both of those will definitely be June books.

What’s ahead for you in June?

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April 2013 Reading Wrap-Up

tssbadge1It’s May! The sun is out, flowers are blooming, and it’s warm! Despite some family problems that cropped up in April, these things make me feel more positive. It would be nicer for the weather to go above 60 degrees one of these days, but I’ve learned to take what I can get here.

I also like reading and, fortunately, I’ve been doing a lot of that. I read 12 books this month:

Fiction

  • Fudoki, Kij Johnson
  • With This Kiss, Eloisa James
  • Widow’s Web, Jennifer Estep
  • Seraphina, Rachel Hartman
  • Steel’s Edge, Ilona Andrews
  • Any Duchess Will Do, Tessa Dare
  • The Crane Wife, Patrick Ness
  • Dark Currents, Jacqueline Carey
  • Rivers of London, Ben Aaronovitch
  • Charmed Life, Diana Wynne Jones
  • Midnight Blue-Light Special, Seanan McGuire

Non-fiction

Favorite of the Month

fudoki seraphina

Amazingly, the two books I loved, I managed to review! I’m going to move more in this direction in the future and do more currently reading style posts. I want to make this blog chattier and more fun, at least for me, and I think that might be the way to do it!

In May, I’m going to carry on with re-reading A Song of Ice and Fire and read more non-fiction I hope! What’s ahead for you this month?

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March 2013 Reading Wrap-Up Post

Good morning and happy April (and a happy belated Easter to those who celebrate it)! I missed the opportunity for a Sunday Salon post yesterday because it was actually sunny and we decided to start going walking again. This has made me very happy; after the majority of March was completely gloomy, the weather is finally going in the right direction. And it’s very nice to be outside and able to enjoy some of the British countryside again.

In March I read 14 books, a number that actually astonished me. Reading for 50 minutes to an hour extra on the train every day makes a huge difference, but I’ve also noticed that I pick shorter or kindle books to read as they’re easier to carry. In any case, I’m very pleased, not least because my TBR number has gone down for the first time in months, but I’m also wondering when I’m ever going to review all of these books!

Fiction

  • The Painted Bridge, Wendy Wallace
  • Fair Game, Patricia Briggs
  • The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams (regular readers will recall that I started this in January – so not entirely read in March)
  • Strong Poison, Dorothy L. Sayers
  • The Second Empress, Michelle Moran
  • Chasing Magic, Stacia Kane
  • Sins of a Ruthless Rogue, Anna Randol
  • Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, Therese Anne Fowler
  • Cold Days, Jim Butcher
  • The Devil’s Heart, Cathy Maxwell
  • The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey
  • Four Sisters, All Queens, Sherry Jones
  • The Family Trade, Charles Stross
  • By a Thread, Jennifer Estep

Sadly, no non-fiction this month, although I am actually reading Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie right now.

Favorite of the Month

z zelda fitzgerald

Easy for once! Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald was completely captivating and sticks out to me as one that I’ll remember for a while.

How was your reading month?

 

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TSS: February 2013 Reading Wrap-Up

tssbadge1I think the weather obeyed my last week’s post at least a little bit, because we did have a few sunny days this week. Unfortunately, I’ve now proceeded to get a milder version of my husband’s flu, right in time to start my new job tomorrow. It’s going to be an excellent week, I tell you – so I’ve decided to go on a week-long break just to make sure I’m recovering. If I’m well and energetic enough to come back before next week, I will do so.

In the meantime, though, let’s see what I read in February.

Fiction

Non-fiction

  • Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond
  • The Curious History of Love, Jean-Claude Kaufmann

That’s 10 books read; not too bad for the shortest month of the year! I’m aiming for 150 books this year, and according to Goodreads I’m only one book behind schedule.

That reminds me – I am not sure I said here, but after 6 years of loyal LibraryThing-only usage I’ve actually started using Goodreads, too, for 2013. The main reason is, honestly, because they have an iPhone app, and I like the way I can update how far I am in a book at any given time and reliably track how long something takes me to read. I can do it in LibraryThing too, but Goodreads is easier.

Also, as a last note, there is one book on that list above which I’m definitely not going to review, and that book is The Curious History of Love. I am not really sure what to say about it because I found it a really bizarre book that was very incoherent and, as a result, I’m not sure any review I could give it would be coherent. Mainly, I’d recommend not reading it at all.

Favorite of the Month

state of wonder

I haven’t managed to review this book yet, but I loved it. I’ve actually loved all that I’ve read of Ann Patchett so far, and I’m looking forward to reviewing this one. Quite a few of the other books I read this month were really good, too, but this one was a gem.

How was your reading month?

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