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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 we…

Book Review: In Wartime

Summary: 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…

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)

Book Review: Rose in Bloom

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…

Monthly Recap: November

How is it already the end of November?! Christmas is nearly here!
What I read: November was a pretty good reading month for me. All of the books I read were pretty good, and there were a few that were really good. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (****) (review) Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers (****) (review) Unequal Affections by Lara S. Ormiston (****) The Archers of Isca by Caroline Lawrence (****) The Princess Virginia by A.M. and C.N. Williamson (****) (thoughts on these three) Penelope's English Experiences by Kate Douglas Wiggin (***) (This was entertaining, but I didn't enjoy it as much as some of the author's other books) Mother Carey's Chickens by Kate Douglas Wiggin (****) (I really enjoyed this; it reminded me quite a bit of children's classics like Anne of Green Gables and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm) The Old Peabody Pew by Kate Douglas Wiggin (***) (Enjoyable, but nothing really happened) Book of the Month: This is actually pretty difficult, because T…

Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers

This is the first in Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey mystery series, but the second that I have read. Gaudy Night was really good but, since many people consider it the best in the series, I was worried that this book wouldn't live up to it; especially as GN focuses mostly on Harriet Vane, who doesn't appear in this book, and I wasn't sure I would enjoy this as much with only Peter. I needn't have worried though; although this isn't quite as good, it's definitely still very enjoyable.
The mystery itself was interesting; it begins with the rather bizarre circumstance of a man discovering a body in his bath, having no idea how it got there. Naturally this is rather intriguing to Lord Peter, who decides to investigate, working with a friend in the police. There are quite a few twists and turns along the way to the conclusion (which I guessed just after Lord Peter had solved it, but before he revealed the solution), which is certainly original. Some aspects …

The Bookish Time Travel Tag

This tag seems to have been going around for quite a while now, as I've seen it on a lot of blogs. I haven't been specifically tagged for it, but it looked fun so I'm going to steal it and fill it out anyway :) It originated from The Library Lizard.
What is your favourite historical setting for a book?
Just one?! I've long had an interest in reading about Ancient Rome (started by the Roman Mysteries series, which I loved when I was about thirteen) but I also feel a strong draw seventeenth-century England (the Civil War and so on), although I'm not entirely sure why. More recently I've developed a love of the Middle Ages. Basically anything before about 1700 :) Although I enjoy books with more recent settings too!

What writer/s would you like to travel back in time to meet? This is another hard one, because I have a lot of favourite authors who are no longer around :) I think I'd like to meet Elizabeth Gaskell, because I really enjoy her books and it seems li…

Mini-Reviews #4: Historical Settings

The Archers of Isca by Caroline Lawrence The sequel to Escape from Rome; this was almost as good as its predecessor! This book focuses more on Fronto, the eldest sibling, although we also get a lot more of the other characters than the book description implies. I love the characters in this series so much, so that was great. Like the first book, there is a fast-moving plot but it is also quite character-driven, which I like. The ending does feel a bit inconclusive, as there are a few plot strands left quite open, but since this is part of a series that is understandable (although it is quite a long wait until the next book comes out!) There was one twist in the story that, as a Roman Mysteries fan, I found very exciting, but I won't spoil it for you! All in all, this was a very good book, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the story develops through the rest of the series. Unequal Affections by Lara S. Ormiston For a Jane Austen sequel, this was actually pretty good! It tells…

Ten of My Favourite Movies That Were Based on Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is a movies freebie, so I've decided to list ten of my favourite films that were based on books. I've included miniseries as well, because there were a few that I couldn't not include. There were quite a few others I could have included, but here are ten films/miniseries that I really like and could watch over and over again: Sense and Sensibility (1995) Wives and Daughters (1999) Les Miserables (2012) The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) North and South (2004) The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010) Cranford (2007) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) Ballet Shoes (2007) Little Women (1994)

Thoughts on The Fellowship of the Ring

So, I have finally finished part one of The Lord of the Rings!
Some thoughts: I am completely blown away by the depth of the world-building. This reads more like a historical narrative than a story set in a made-up world. The level of detail and the different languages and cultures within the world feel real. I think this is one of the main strengths of this book for me - it makes me want to discover more about this world, and it feels like really it is only scratching the surface in this book. Some of the descriptive passages are also beautiful. I rather enjoyed most of the songs and poems as well, and felt that they added to the authenticity of the world, as many of them tell legends and well-known stories within Middle-Earth. As for the story itself, I have to admit that I found it rather slow going at times; there were sections where really not a lot happened. So that did make it a little hard to get through at times. The pace did pick up a bit as the story progressed, and I'…

Ten Books I've Added to My Wishlist Lately

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is Ten Books I've Added to My Wishlist Lately. So, here are ten books I've recently discovered that I want to read: Lady in Waitingby Rosemary Sutcliff I much enjoyed the last of Rosemary Sutcliff's books that I read, and this one, about Walter Raleigh's wife, sounded interesting. Once: Six Historically Inspired Fairytalesby Elisabeth Grace Foley and others A collection of six historical fairytale retellings which is coming out in December.


Death on the Cherwellby Mavis Doriel Hay A classics mystery set in 1930s Oxford sounds like something I would enjoy.
A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George Another mystery - this is a genre I've been getting back into recently. I can't remember much about this but I obviously thought it sounded good when I added it.

Ending Slavery: How We Free Today's Slaves by Kevin Bales Human trafficking and modern slavery is a major issue today that I …

Mini-Reviews #3: Children's and YA

Here are my thoughts on four books I've read recently. Read previous mini-review posts here and here.
My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows I really liked this book. It retells the story of Lady Jane Grey, set in an alternative version of sixteenth-century England where some people (Edians) have the ability to turn into animals. Others think that this ability is unnatural and that Edians should all be destroyed. It's very well done and very entertaining. Definitely recommended, especially if you are a history fan.
Outcast by Rosemary Sutcliff This was my second attempt at reading this author; I have to admit I didn't especially enjoy The Eagle of the Ninth, but I'm glad I gave Rosemary Sutcliff another try! I really enjoyed this book. It was in essence a fairly straightforward story, about a boy trying to escape from slavery and find a place to belong, but it was very well done. I think the tension between "light" and "dark" mom…

Favourite Authors: Charlotte Mary Yonge

Charlotte Mary Yonge (1823-1901) was an extremely popular and prolific author in the Victorian era, which her writing career more or less spanned; her first book, Le Chateau de Melville, was privately printed in 1838, and her last, Modern Broods, was published in 1900. Despite this, she is almost forgotten nowadays. However, she was very influential at the time and was admired by many contemporary authors such as George Eliot, Anthony Trollope, Christina Rossetti, and (especially) Louisa May Alcott. Although her books were definitely "of their time" in terms of the prevailing morality and sensibilities present in many of them, which is one of the reasons why they are not read much today, I think there are still things that can be appreciated about them today (although they are not for everyone). She is most known for her Victorian domestic chronicles, which detail the lives of (usually very large) families of characters, most of whom are interconnected (which can be confusin…

October Recap

What I Read Chronicle of a Last Summer by Yasmine El Rashidi. A story about a girl growing up in Egypt. This was OK, but I didn't love it. Read my review to find out more.
Autumn Term by Antonia Forest. A classic children's book about twins who go to boarding-school determined to live up to the achievements of their four older sisters (which, not surprisingly, proves much harder than they expected). I enjoyed this story, but I didn't love it as much as I expected to.
Notebooks of a Middle-School Princess by Meg Cabot. This is the first in a spin-off series of The Princess Diaries for younger readers. It was a very quick read, which I thought was OK, but it would probably be good for the target audience.


Pea's Book of Best Friends by Susie Day. A MG contemporary novel about three sisters who move from the country to London when their mother becomes a quite successful author. It's sweet and quite funny at times, and I enjoyed it a lot.
Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott.…

Jane Austen Adaptations

I wrote about my favourite Jane Austen adaptations here, but I've been meaning to write a post about all the ones that I've seen for a long time - so here it is! (You can also read my thoughts on books based on Jane Austen's novels here.) Pride and Prejudice (1995 & 2005) I feel like my opinion is quite controversial here, because I actually really like both versions. Overall, I think the 1995 version slightly wins out, but only slightly. It's longer, and thus includes more of the story, as well as being more historically accurate, but I do also like the more fast-moving story in the 2005 adaptation, and I prefer Keira Knightley to Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth. The 2005 version was also my first (proper) introduction to Jane Austen, which does bias me in its favour.

Sense and Sensibility (1981, 1995 & 2008) The 1995 Emma Thompson adaptation of Sense & Sensibility is one of my favourite films, and I basically love everything about it. Even though they did add…

Favourite Authors: Noel Streatfeild

I've decided to start doing a series on my favourite authors, probably focusing more on lesser-known authors, but including some better-known ones as well. I'm not sure how often I'll post these, but I'll try to keep it fairly regular.

Mary Noel Streatfeild (1895-1986) was an author who wrote a great many children's books (and also some adult books, although I haven't read any of those). Recurring themes in her books include: family (most books focus on a group of siblings or cousins); children who are especially talented, mostly in the performing arts (acting, dancing, or music), although other talents and interests such as sports (swimming, tennis, skating) also appear; dealing with financial difficulties (sometimes in creative ways). The best known of her books is Ballet Shoes, her first children's novel, published in 1936.

What I like about her books: Portrayal of family life: her families are mostly fairly realistic (except in terms of the amount of tal…