Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Ten Underrated Books I've Read in the Past Year

http://www.brokeandbookish.com
 
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is Ten Underrated Books I've Read in the Past Year. Here are ten books I read last year that I think deserve more recognition:
 
The Bard's Daughter by Sarah Woodbury
A short murder mystery set in medieval Wales, prequel to a longer series of mysteries, of which I've read the first couple.
 
Five Glass Slippers by various authors
This was an anthology of five novellas by different authors all based on "Cinderella". While I liked some of the stories better than others, overall I enjoyed this collection and the last two stories in it were both really good.
 
Alice-Miranda at School by Jacqueline Harvey
This book was aimed at fairly young children, but I still found it very enjoyable. It's the sort of book I'd have absolutely loved as an eight- or nine-year-old, and my enjoyment of it was probably partly nostalgia, but I do think it's a good book, too.
 
Happy and Glorious by Hilary McKay
A collection of entertaining stories about a young Queen, again written for younger readers, but enjoyable for older one too.
 
The Battle of Castle Nebula by Stephanie Ricker
This is a prequel to one of the stories in Five Glass Slippers, which was my favourite of the anthology, and this book did not disappoint. The sequel, The Star Bell, was also very good.
 
Escape from Rome by Caroline Lawrence
(review
The first book in a new series, which is a spin-off of one of my favourite series as a child. Obviously I was going to read it for that reason, but I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did; I think in many ways it was better than the original books! The second book in the series, The Archers of Isca, is also out and I enjoyed it almost as much.
 
A Cathedral Courtship by Kate Douglas Wiggin
A sweet romantic tale set in England in the late 1800's.
 
Mother Carey's Chickens by Kate Douglas Wiggin
A story about four siblings growing up in the early twentieth century. It's rather reminiscent of children's classics like Anne of Green Gables, and definitely deserves to be much better known. I enjoyed this book a lot.
 
The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke
A beautifully written Christmas tale of the "other", forgotten wise man, who is accidentally left behind when his three friends when they go following the star, and has to make his own way to Bethlehem in order to seek the new King. The story didn't entirely go where I was expecting, but it was very good.
 
Raider's Tide by Maggie Prince
The story of a young girl living in the north of England in the time of Elizabeth I - a time of danger when the people live in fear of marauding Scots come to raid the borderlands, killing, destroying and stealing. A romantic/coming-of-age tale. I'm not sure why I like this as much as I do, but I've read it twice now and enjoyed it a lot both times. I'm looking forward to reading the sequel, North Side of the Tree, soon.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

2017 Reading Challenges

I've decided to sign up for a couple of reading challenges this year. First, Mount TBR, hosted by My Reader's Block, because I have a lot of books that I've bought but haven't got around to reading yet, and I really want to make some progress on the stack this year. I've decided to sign up for Mont Blanc, which is 24 books that I already own. This doesn't sound particularly challenging but it's twice as many as I managed last year, so it seems a reasonable number to aim for! I'm including Kindle books that I paid for, but not free ones.

https://myreadersblock.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/2017-mount-tbr-headquarter.html
 
I've also discovered the Old School Kidlit reading challenge hosted by Read-at-Home Mom. This sounds very much my sort of thing, so I decided to participate. The idea is to read classic or older children's books, with monthly themes; January's theme is Award Winners, and I will probably be reading either The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge or The Circus is Coming by Noel Streatfeild, both of which have won the Carnegie award, and both are currently sitting unread on my shelf, so this will also help my progress towards Mount TBR.
 
http://www.readathomemom.com/2016/12/old-school-kidlit-reading-challenge-2017.html
 
Besides these challenges, I'm also going to try to read one book from my Classics Club list, one non-fiction book and one re-read per month. I'm not sure how long this will last, but I'd like to aim for it! This month I'm reading The Two Towers for the Classics Club, L is for Lifestyle by Ruth Valerio for non-fiction (although I have several other non-fiction books on the go which may or may not be finished this month), and I've just finished re-reading Raider's Tide by Maggie Prince, which I recently got the sequel to but realised that I remembered very little about this book! I enjoyed it just as much this time around, and am looking forward to reading the next book, North Side of the Tree.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Books I'm Looking Forward to Reading This Year

I'm not very good at sticking to reading lists, but this is partly because I tend to list books that I feel I ought to read, because I've had them for a long time or whatever other reason, rather than ones I really want to read. While I'm still hoping to make a significant dent in my TBR pile and to read some important books this year, I thought for now I'd make a list of some of the books that I am currently excited about reading. Most of them are ones I already own, but there's a few I'll have to either buy or get from the library.


2982309825794830205873903
 
Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë
The Shadow Things by Jennifer Freitag
Sylvia's Lovers by Elizabeth Gaskell
The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
Graustark by George Barr McCutcheon
Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery
Further Chronicles of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
North Side of the Tree by Maggie Prince
The Lord Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy Sayers
The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
Forged in the Fire by Ann Turnbull
Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
Once by various authors

19289272781025035254479
 
I'm also intending to make re-reading more of a priority, since only three of the books I read in 2016 were re-reads and I would like it to be a few more than that this year, especially as my "to-re-read" list grows ever longer.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016 in Review

2016 has been a very good reading year for me - both in quantity and quality. In total, I read 86 books, which exceeds last year's total of 80. I also read quite a number of very good books and discovered several new favourite authors.
 
My total includes 67 fiction, 15 non-fiction and 4 poetry; I'm fairly happy with these proportions. Not surprisingly, my most-read fiction genre this year was classics, with 32 books. However, I am surprised that fantasy/sci-fi came in second, with 14 books; this is clearly something I've been reading a lot more of this year than in previous years. Besides this I read 12 historical novels, 11 contemporary fiction, and 10 mysteries (some books have been counted in multiple genres). Only 3 of my reads were re-reads - I intend to improve upon this next year.
 
In total I read 73 different authors this year - this is my highest title to date, but this is mainly because I read quite a few books which had two or more authors. 47 of these authors were new to me. My most-read authors of the year were Kate Douglas Wiggin and Elinor M. Brent-Dyer, both with 5 books.
 
Some of the best books I read this year were:
 
Fiction
Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers
One Corpse Too Many and Monks-Hood by Ellis Peters
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Escape from Rome and The Archers of Isca by Caroline Lawrence
My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows
Outcast by Rosemary Sutcliff
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne
Five Glass Slippers by various authors
 
Non-Fiction
Medieval Wisdom for Modern Christians by Chris Armstrong
Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber
 
Re-Reads
1066 and All That by W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Gatty's Tale by Kevin Crossley-Holland

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Book Review: In Wartime

Summary:
28587994
From one of the finest journalists of our time comes a definitive, boots-on-the-ground dispatch from the front lines of the conflict in Ukraine.
 
Ever since Ukraine’s violent 2014 revolution, followed by Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the country has been at war. Misinformation reigns, more than two million people have been displaced, and Ukrainians fight one another on a second front—the crucial war against corruption.

With In Wartime, Tim Judah lays bare the events that have turned neighbors against one another and mired Europe’s second-largest country in a conflict seemingly without end.

In Lviv, Ukraine’s western cultural capital, mothers tend the graves of sons killed on the other side of the country. On the Maidan, the square where the protests that deposed President Yanukovych began, pamphleteers, recruiters, buskers, and mascots compete for attention. In Donetsk, civilians who cheered Russia’s President Putin find their hopes crushed as they realize they have been trapped in the twilight zone of a frozen conflict.

Judah talks to everyone from politicians to poets, pensioners, and historians. Listening to their clashing explanations, he interweaves their stories to create a sweeping, tragic portrait of a country fighting a war of independence from Russia—twenty-five years after the collapse of the USSR.

I enjoyed reading this book; I found it interesting and informative, and it was well written. It describes recent and current events in Ukraine,  focusing particularly on the experiences and opinions of people caught up in the conflict, although there is also a fair amount of background and historical context given. As I knew very little about Ukraine before starting it, this was very helpful. It probably would help to have known a little more before going in as I found it hard at times to keep track of the people and places mentioned, but this wasn't a great disadvantage.
 
I liked the focus on telling people's stories; it helps to understand where people are coming from and the different viewpoints people have, and how they are affected by various events. The book also includes quite a few photos. There's definitely plenty of food for thought here as well.
 
I'm afraid this isn't a very good review; I don't really know how to review non-fiction. But it was a good book and I would definitely recommend it to people who are interested in knowing more about the topic it covers.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.
 
I probably won't be posting much, if at all, over the next week or two but hopefully will return in the New Year. Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Top Ten New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2016

 
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is Top Ten New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2016. I've read a lot of new authors this year - 43 according to my stats - and discovered quite a few new favourites, who I am looking forward to reading more from in the future. Here are my top ten:

1. Dorothy Sayers (Gaudy Night, Whose Body?)
2. Jules Verne (Journey to the Centre of the Earth)
3. Stephanie Ricker (A Cinder's Tale, The Battle of Castle Nebula, The Star Bell)
4. Jacqueline Harvey (Alice-Miranda at School)
5. Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird)
6. G.K. Chesterton (The Innocence of Father Brown)
7. Susie Day (Pea's Book of Best Friends)
8. Paula Byrne (Belle)
9. Suzannah Rowntree (The Rakshasa's Bride)
10. Henry Van Dyke (The Story of the Other Wise Man)

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Review: Rose in Bloom

664675
 
Summary (from Goodreads): In this sequel to Eight Cousins, Rose Campbell returns to the "Aunt Hill" after two years of traveling around the world. Suddenly, she is surrounded by male admirers, all expecting her to marry them. But before she marries anyone, Rose is determined to establish herself as an independent young woman. Besides, she suspects that some of her friends like her more for her money than for herself.
 
I read this for the 14th Classics Club Spin. It was my third time participating, and the first that I actually completed my book on time. I'd been meaning to read this for quite some time - since I read Eight Cousins in fact, which was more than three years ago! Because of this I found the beginning part of the book a little confusing as it took me a while to remember who everyone was and so on. But that was more a fault of mine than of the book, and once I got going, I really enjoyed this, more so than Eight Cousins.
 
I thought it was a sweet story. The main question of the story of course is who Rose (and Phebe) will marry but there are other things going on too, as Rose and her cousins mature and try to find their paths and vocations in life. I definitely enjoyed getting to know these characters more and, although I liked some of them a lot more than others, they were all well-drawn and interesting characters. There were one or two pretty sad parts, but the ending was happy and satisfying.

Despite the author's preface claiming that there was no moral to the story, there did seem to be a fair amount of moralising in it, but this was generally coming from the characters rather than the authorial voice, and is part of what is expected from this sort of novel. I didn't find it detracted from the story for me.
 
Overall, I did enjoy this book a lot. It wasn't quite up there with Little Women, but that would have been a hard one to match! I would definitely recommend this, especially if you've enjoyed some of Louisa May Alcott's other books, but I would suggest reading Eight Cousins first.