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TSS: January 2013 Reading Wrap-Up

tssbadge1I feel as though the days between Christmas and today have gone in a single blink of my eye and suddenly it’s February. January felt like a busy month, although looking back I’m not entirely sure why! I’m pleased with myself, though; I spent nearly the entire month writing my 500 words a day, and it’s turned into an actual habit, which is what I aimed for in the beginning.

Alongside this, I still managed to read 9 books. They are as follows:

I’m as bad at reviewing as ever, unfortunately. The last two books will get reviewed this month at least, so it doesn’t look too bad. I should also mention that I’m in the middle of two other books, the big Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy omnibus and Guns, Germs, and Steel, which is taking me eons to read. I’ll need to read more non-fiction in February to make up for the complete lack of it this month.

Favorite of the Month

blackout connie willis all clear

Actually not a particularly easy choice, but I got so absorbed in these two books that I had to highlight them. Almost everything I read this month was great, though – the only book I wouldn’t really recommend is Heat Stroke.

How was your reading month?


Top 10 Books of 2012

I noticed best of 2012 posts going up at least a couple of weeks ago, but I always like to give the books I read at the very tail end of the year a chance. My list is also a top 10 just for me, from books that I read in 2012, not books that were published in 2012. With any luck, I might even have reviewed most of these!

In no particular order:

the song of achillesThe Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller

This book was such a poetic, moving portrayal of the love between two people who happened to both be men. Tying it together with one of the world’s oldest stories made it an incredible read.

Girl Reading, Katie Ward

I loved this interpretation of girls reading throughout history; each vignette, based on a portrait, was well written and gave a snapshot of women’s lives throughout history. It’s striking how things are different and yet so much the same. I really loved this one.

Chime, Franny Billingsley

Chime was a book I wanted to reread as soon as I reached the last page. It had every element that I love in a fantasy novel, and then some. It’s a shame the cover actually kept me away for as long as it did.

miss pettigrew lives for a dayMiss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, Winifred Watson

My first Persephone classic ends up on this list – I simply adored this book and the way that Miss Pettigrew found herself and her independence in the space of a day.

Imagined Lives: Portraits of Unknown People

This compilation by multiple different authors of fiction takes portraits featuring those whose identities have been lost from the National Portrait Gallery and imagines what their lives might have been like. Combining history with humanity and focusing on the people, this was a surprisingly good and touching read that was connected to history in a way I loved.

Among Others, Jo Walton

There aren’t many words to describe how much I loved this book. A young girl’s coming of age steeped in books and loneliness and loss, but a magical read nonetheless. If you like science fiction and fantasy, it’s so worth your time.

ashes of honorAshes of Honor, Seanan McGuire

The October Daye series is probably my favorite urban fantasy out there, and this latest book was simply the best. I loved it to pieces, just like I love the rest of the series.

Feed, Mira Grant

And, a rare appearance by the same author, this book, the best of the trilogy in my opinion, was a political drama, emotional wringer, and zombie-infested thrill ride through the world of the news. I liked the combination of great story with the blogging angle and this particular version of the future, plus the amazing character of Georgia Carolyn Mason.

Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein

I doubt I need to say anything else about this book besides read it, now – it’s been on so many other lists and so frequently mentioned this year that my little mention isn’t particularly significant.

The Secret Countess, Eva Ibbotson

Finally, my most recent read on the list, I consumed this book on the train and now cannot wait to read more Eva Ibbotson.

And a couple of honorable mentions for the series that I made progress in this year:

storm frontThe Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

I inhaled most of these books this year, buying them one by one from the bookstore when I’d finished each. I’ve completely gotten sucked into this series, and having just finished Changes with my jaw almost literally on the floor, I don’t see myself stopping in 2013 until I’ve reached the end of the series. Unfortunately, I’m only two books away from running out of books, so I hope Jim Butcher learns to write faster than I can read soon.

The Downside Ghosts series by Stacia Kane

While I liked the first book in this series, I fell in love – as much as you can love a drug addict who is so bad for herself – with the following three. These books are like emotional gut punches, making me fall in love with characters I never even thought I’d like. Chess Putnam is a train wreck waiting to happen, but she’s a train wreck that I am genuinely concerned for and constantly rooting for, too.

What are your top books of 2012? Feel free to send me a link in the comments, I’d love to take a look!


September 2012 Reading Wrap-Up

Another month gone, another monthly wrap-up post. Is it my imagination, or do these posts come closer together as we approach the end of the year?

September was incredibly indicative of the genre fiction I like – historical fiction, fantasy, and science fiction comprised more or less the entirety of the list. I am a bit disappointed that I didn’t manage any non-fiction this month, but my first book for October is non-fiction, so I won’t be too unhappy with that.

Here’s what I read, with 11 books in total:

  • A Most Improper Magick, Stephanie Burgis
  • Spartacus: Rebellion, Ben Kane
  • Small Favour, Jim Butcher
  • The Hidden Goddess, M. K. Hobson*
  • 1356, Bernard Cornwell
  • Ashes of Honor, Seanan McGuire*
  • The Flower Reader, Elizabeth Loupas*
  • Fledgling, Octavia E. Butler
  • Blackout, Mira Grant*
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor*
  • Imagined Lives: Portraits of Unknown People, anthology*

Except for the truly atrocious lack of reviewing, I haven’t done too badly! I’ve taken a page out of Memory’s book and put an asterisk next to the ones I intend to actually review. I hope by sometimes not reviewing books to be able to feel a bit freer around here – I already have been skipping some in practice, but it is better to get that out there.

Favorite of the Month

ashes of honor

I just loved the former, for all the reasons I love the October Daye series (and for Tybalt). Fledgling, on the other hand, was a book I enjoyed, but which also made me think, and I don’t always think as deeply about books as I would like to.

I could have added Blackout to this list, but I thought I should probably choose just one of the books by the same author.

What have you read in September that you’d recommend to me?


TSS: June 2012 Reading Wrap-Up

We are now officially halfway through 2012 and well on our way to 2013. I’m already not 100% sure where the first half of the year has gone, but it’s been a busy one for me. Lots of work, lots of travelling for work (or so it felt to me), and even a trip to the United States to see my parents and their array of parrots. In 2012 I gave up my second, self-employed job, to give myself more free time, I got a computer that I can call my own again, and I got promoted at work. I’ve got my provisional driver’s license, and I’m planning to achieve my full UK driver’s license before 2012 is up. I’m about to go on what I hope is the first of two trips exploring a little bit more of the world this year, as well, which I cannot wait to do. Next weekend I’ll be heading to Munich to meet two of my friends from home, and we’ll be going through Munich, Berlin, and Prague before I have to return to the UK.

All this going on means I’ve not read nearly as much as I have in years previous. I’m up to 67 books for the year. This is, interestingly enough, about how many books I thought I’d be reading when I started working over 2 years ago. So I slowed down to my expectations eventually. Unfortunately, I’m still terrible at keeping up with reviews. Since I stopped reviewing urban fantasy except in large series reviews (expect one for the Elemental Assassin books shortly), there haven’t been as many to review, regardless.

This month, I read 11 books:


  • Fifty Shades of Grey, E. L. James
  • The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes
  • Venom, Jennifer Estep
  • The Sister Queens, Sophie Perinot
  • Deadline, Mira Grant
  • Tangled Threads, Jennifer Estep
  • Proven Guilty, Jim Butcher
  • The Ugly Duchess, Eloisa James
  • Spider’s Revenge, Jennifer Estep
  • Wonder Girls, Catherine Jones


Favorite of the Month

the sister queens

Much as I had my gripes with Deadline, I still had a fantastic time with it, and The Sister Queens was a terrific historical fiction read that reminded me just why I love the genre.

I also posted reviews for:

Right now, I’m reading 3 books. The first, which I’ve been reading the longest, is The War on Heresy: Faith and Power in Medieval Europe, by Professor R.I. Moore, which is very interesting but slow going on my fragmented brain. I also started Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson, my very first venture in “hard” science fiction as opposed to the space opera types I normally love. I’m close to halfway through this and I’m surprising myself by intensely enjoying it, to the degree of marking out passages of surprising beauty and meaning, something I hardly ever do. I made it a condition that I like the Mars trilogy before I purchased Robinson’s newest, 2312, but I think I’ll be getting that too. Finally, when I can’t really process either of those, I’m reading The Way to a Duke’s Heart by Caroline Linden. In short, a microcosm of my incredibly eclectic taste in books.

I’m also continuing with Babylon 5 and Battlestar Galactica, so I’m seriously indulging my science fiction obsession. We’ve just finished the first season of Babylon 5 and we’re very close to saying the same for BG, and I’m still loving both of them.

Have a fantastic July, all!


The Sunday Salon: January 2012 Reading Wrap-Up

I felt like January was an exceptional reading month. It was good in other respects, too; I received my Indefinite Leave to Remain visa for the UK and celebrated my birthday on the 12th. I’ve made peace with the fact that I’m never going to resume a review every weekday, I don’t read enough or have time to write 5 reviews, and have aimed for 3 instead, which I’ve been managing pretty well. I haven’t decided if I’m going to fill the other two days with something or not, we’ll see where the mood takes me!

In terms of actual reading, I finished sixteen books and most of them were excellent. I typically haven’t found the time to review them all yet, not even close, but if you stick around, I’ll be sharing some absolute gems with you later on this month!

Here’s what I read:


  • Arthur & George, Julian Barnes
  • Castle in the Air, Diana Wynne Jones
  • Death Masks, Jim Butcher
  • The Art of Fielding, Chad Harbach
  • If Jack’s in Love, Stephen Wetta
  • A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal, Meredith Duran
  • Miles, Mutants, and Microbes, Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Full Dark, No Stars, Stephen King
  • A Rogue by Any Other Name, Sarah Maclean
  • Spartacus, Ben Kane
  • Affinity, Sarah Waters
  • The Winter Palace, Eva Stachniak
  • Blood Rites, Jim Butcher
  • Agent to the Stars, John Scalzi


  • The Etymologicon, Mark Forsyth
Though I didn’t do so well with the non-fiction, it’s partly because I’ve been reading an absolutely massive history in the background with all of these books. The fiction I read was incredible. In many ways it was typical of the latter half of last year, but better – there’s a ton of variety in there, and I feel as though I’ve read some meaningful stories that are going to stick with me. Isn’t that what all readers are looking for?

Favorite of the Month

the song of achillesarthur and george

I can’t pick just one, so have both! I loved both of these and recommend them whole-heartedly. It’s early now, but I’m confident they will end up on my best of 2012 list.

Ahead for February

There are so many books I wish I could be reading now that it’s difficult to choose! I’ve just started World War Z and I’ve been reading The History of the World in 100 Objects, which covers the history of the whole world through various objects at the British Museum. It’s a fascinating book – I love how much the author can pull from just one object, and I’m looking forward to seeing some of the objects in person (most for the 2nd or 3rd time) when I head to London towards the end of February.

Other books I’d just love to get to:

  • Leviathan Wakes, James S.A. Corey
  • A Discovery of Witches, Deborah Harkness
  • The Hare with Amber Eyes, Edmund de Waal
  • The Kingdom of the Gods, N.K. Jemisin
How was your January reading month?

2011 in Books

Another year, more bookish statistics to share!

2011 has been busy! It was my first calendar year of full-time work. This means it was also the first year in which I could buy a lot of books, and unsurprisingly, I did just that, ending the year with 509 unread books. I read a lot of books, too; I also (finally) got back into gaming, and resurrected my writing ambitions, mostly towards the end of the year. I travelled to three new countries, with notable stops in Bruges, Amsterdam, and finally Rome for my second wedding anniversary. We moved into our first (rented) house of our own, and I am thrilled to not be living in a flat with noisy neighbors any longer.

In the midst of all of this, how was my reading?

Fiction Favorites

I could easily talk, this year, in terms of series for favorites. I’ve delved deeply into them this year, falling back in love with fantasy and science fiction, and even some romance.

But, let’s start with the stand-alones.

the color purplethe perks of being a wallflower

I can’t believe I didn’t read The Color Purple until this year. Simply a brilliant book; not much more needs to be said. Ready Player One satisfied the gamer in me completely, with an amazing adventure, questions about character and assumptions, and geeky trivia galore. As for The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I can’t believe I never reviewed it, but I adored it and actually had to stop reading for a while after I’d finished just to process the story.

the namesakethe buddha in the attic

I haven’t reviewed The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri yet either, mostly because I’m trying to actually write something remotely intelligent, but this too was a brilliant book that I waited far too long to read. Such an insightful look at family, at immigration, at feeling foreign versus feeling at home – I loved it intensely. And The Buddha in the Attic was short, but an amazingly moving look at the lives of “mail-order” Japanese brides.

Series and Authors Discovered

young milesI had what felt like a massive year for amazing series. My first science fiction obsession was kicked off by Lois McMaster Bujold with the Miles Vorkosigan series. I tore through these books on my Kindle; I wasn’t at all put off by their length or the time invested in them. I’ve only stopped because I don’t want to run out – I’m sure I’ll read the rest in 2012, though. I just won’t be able to resist. I started with Young Miles, but Cordelia’s Honor is the actual chronological beginning for the omnibus editions I read.

Another series I discovered these year was Seanan McGuire’s October Daye books. Urban fantasy set in an utterly fantastic world, these books have incredible storylines, characters that haunt you when you put the books down, and a truly epic feel that will keep me coming back over and over again. McGuire is an author to watch, and I’m already counting the days until the next book. I already posted about my love for the series earlier this year, and reviewed the first book, Rosemary and Rue.

unlockedFinally, my top historical romance author this year has been Courtney Milan. Her books are almost unbelievably addictive, with fantastic characters, emotionally wrought plots, and romances to warm your heart. If you enjoy romance and you haven’t read her yet, I don’t know what you’re waiting for. I took a chance with her self-published novella, Unlocked, and I haven’t looked back since – any author that can pull off such a spectacular romance in novella form (notoriously unbelievable due to the short format, for me) is an author well worth reading again, and again, and again. In terms of series, the Turner series is her most recent, and comes highly recommended by me.


Non-fiction favorites

I can’t close out a year without mentioning a few of the extraordinary histories I read this year.

matildashe wolvesthe ghost mapheretics

I’ve already recommended She-Wolves in my gift guide for 2011, but it’s well worth another mention here. I loved how this book looked at female rulers of England in the Middle Ages. It’s well matched with a book I read later in the year, and just reviewed yesterday, Matilda: Queen of the Conqueror. The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson is an older book, with a few rough edges at the end, but altogether a brilliant look into the history of illness, sanitation, and London. Finally, Heretics by Jonathan Wright was a book designed just for me – and for anyone else who loves poking around in the history of religion. I found every page fascinating.

As for books that weren’t just pure history:

packing for mars

The Statistics

Note that the percentages here don’t usually add up to 100%; I only picked out the most interesting of them.

Total Read: 197
Non-fiction: 41 (20.8%) – a percentage I really want to be higher next year. I aimed for 25% this year and failed.

  • History: 15 (36%)

Fiction: 156 (79.2%)

  • Historical Fiction: 45 (29%) – nice to see this actually still is top
  • Fantasy: 29 (18.6%)
  • Historical Romance: 28 (18%) – higher than expected
  • Science Fiction: 8 (5%)
  • Contemporary / Literary Fiction: 14 (8%)
158 different authors read
  • 46 books by male authors (23.3%)
  • 151 books by female authors (76.7%)
Top 5 most-read authors
  • Ilona Andrews (5 books – I reread the Kate Daniels series this year)
  • Seanan McGuire (5 books)
  • Lois McMaster Bujold (5 books)
  • Courtney Milan (4 books)
  • Jim Butcher (4 books)
Ebooks read: 49 (24.8%)
Pages read: 72,664
Own books: 97 (49.3%)
Review books: 93 (47.2%)
Library / borrowed books: 7 (3.5%)

A few notes on these; I read about 60 books less than last year, but I’m happy with what I did in the rest of my time, and I’m fully aware that 197 is still a lot of books. I essentially stopped going to the library this year. I felt more comfortable buying books I was after, and I got frustrated because I started getting fines. I’d like to start going to the library again, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. The ebook statistic is way up thanks to Netgalley, but still about right at a quarter of all books read. I don’t think that will change much – I very rarely buy ebooks.

I’m actually a bit shocked by how many more female authors I read than male authors this  year. I had no idea – and that’s far off from last year, although women were still in the majority then. I’m curious to see what happens to this in 2012; I know I actually used to read far more male authors. I wonder what happened?

Overall, though, I’m happy with these. I feel like I’ve reached a balance in terms of how I’ve been spending my free time. Mostly, I’d like to read more books I’ve had for a while, and read more non-fiction. I’m looking forward to see if I actually achieve those goals, but I’d like my reading to remain as stress-free and enjoyable as possible.

How was your reading year in 2011?


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.


October 2011 Reading Wrap-Up

As usual, it’s hard to believe we’ve already hit November! I’m on my third day of #nanowrimo and so far the first couple have gone pretty well, even though it is really hard to try and fit that writing in after work. Unfortunately, you’ll definitely be seeing less of me this month, but we’ll see how it goes.

October, though, was a decent month for reading. Even though I spent a week in glorious Rome, I still read quite a few really amazing books. The Read-a-thon helped too! 17 books in total, not bad.



Pick of the Month


I couldn’t really choose between these two, and I think they have very different audiences, so I chose them both. I loved them and would wholeheartedly recommend them, so there you go.

In November, I expect I’ll be reading a lot less as I try to shift my focus to writing this month. I’ll try to keep up with reviews, which should actually be a lot easier if I read as little as I’m expecting to, and I will be posting about my trip to Rome this weekend and probably a few times over the next few weeks – it was quite a busy vacation!

I’d still like to squeeze in the following books:

  • Rome by Robert Hughes (already reading!)
  • Flawless by Carrie Lofty
  • The Courtesan’s Lover by Gabrielle Kim
  • Praetorian by Simon Scarrow
  • The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
What’s on your list for November? Wishing you all fantastic months!

June 2011 Reading Wrap-Up

We’ve made it all the way into July! I can’t believe half of the year is over. And it’s the painful half of the year; I have no less than three trips scheduled in the last six months of this year and I’m really excited for all of them. So, roll on July, August, and October, and after that comes November and Christmas.

June was exciting, too, though; I got to see Kathy from Bermudaonion!


I also met her lovely husband Carl and we spent a nice afternoon wandering around London. Definitely worth the train trip!

June was a month that was decent for reading, considering how much else I had going on, and not so decent for reviewing. They’ll turn up eventually, trust me!



  • Magic Bites, Ilona Andrews
  • Magic Burns, Ilona Andrews
  • Magic Strikes, Ilona Andrews
  • Magic Bleeds, Ilona Andrews
In terms of romance, Unlocked is the clear winner this month, but can’t top Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews for a book containing everything I love, especially coming after I reread the entire series in anticipation of it. And for non-fiction, I’d be torn between Blood Work and Super Mario, the latter a book that ticked several of my nostalgia boxes and gave me lots of cool information besides.
I have no idea what I’ll read in July. I’m going to visit my parents, so I’ll undoubtedly get lots of new and exciting books that have piled up there, but I want to get a few of the books that have lingered here read. I’m thinking:
  • I’m Feeling Lucky by Douglas Edwards
  • The Maid by Kimberley Cutter
  • The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King
  • Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes
  • Sugar by Elizabeth Abbott
  • And most definitely more Nalini Singh!
How was your reading month in June? What are you planning on reading in July?