Looking back, looking forward: November 2015


November was an interesting month reading wise. I feel I’ve read a good mixture of new books and old, some by authors who are new to me and others by authors I already know and love. Most of my reads were classics and historical fiction, but I also read one collection of short stories and one fascinating non-fiction book.

Let’s look back at November before looking forward to December.

Favourite books this month:


Lustrum by Robert Harris (2009) – This is the second part of a fictional biography of the Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero. I loved the first book, Imperium, and thought this one was even better.

The Last Enchantment

The Last Enchantment by Mary Stewart (1979) – I enjoyed all three books in Mary Stewart’s Merlin trilogy, of which this is the last.

Also read and reviewed this month:

The Silvered Heart by Katherine Clements (2015)
Master of Shadows by Neil Oliver (2015)
Death in Venice & Other Stories by Thomas Mann (1897-1912)
Dickon by Marjorie Bowen (1929)

Read but not yet reviewed:

The Master of Ballantrae by Robert Louis Stevenson (1889)
The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (1915)
Royal Mistress by Anne Easter Smith (2013)
The Georgian Menagerie by Christopher Plumb (2015)

Looking forward to December

As we move into December, I am in the middle of two books – The Storm Sister, which is the second book in Lucinda Riley’s Seven Sisters series, and The Sea-Hawk by Rafael Sabatini – and am enjoying both. The Sea-Hawk is the last book I need to read for my Ten from the TBR project, so you can expect an update on that (and another selection of ten books) later in the month.

I don’t have any other plans for December’s reading, so I’ll just see what I’m in the mood for. At the end of the month, of course, I’ll be posting my list of favourite books of the year. I feel that I’ve read a lot of good books in 2015, but not many that really stand out from the rest, so this year’s list could be either very easy to compile or very difficult! I’m hoping that some of my December choices will be the outstanding reads I’ve been waiting for.

How was November for you? Do you have any reading plans for December?

Looking back, looking forward: October 2015

It’s hard to believe that there are only two months left of 2015, especially as the weather has been so lovely here this weekend. It was even warm enough to sit outside with my book this afternoon; it didn’t feel like the first day of November at all!

Looking back at October I read ten books, which seems to be about average for me this year. Apart from two recently published books, the rest were older books and classics.

Book of the month:

Flood of Fire

Flood of Fire by Amitav Ghosh (2015)

This is the final part of Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis Trilogy, set in China and India during the First Opium War. I enjoyed the first two books in the trilogy but in my opinion this one is the best of the three. I’m hoping to post my thoughts within the next week.

Read and reviewed in October:

A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie (2014)
Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer (1932)
The Glass Blowers by Daphne du Maurier (1963)
My Antonia by Willa Cather (1918)
Beau Geste by P.C. Wren (1924)
Hammer for Princes by Cecelia Holland (1972)

Also read in October but not yet reviewed:

Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell (1936)
The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles (1969)
Non-Combatants and Others by Rose Macaulay (1916)

Plans for November:

Lory of The Emerald City Book Review is hosting a Witch Week this week, celebrating fiction based on fairy tales, folklore, myths and legends. I am reading The Last Enchantment, the third book in Mary Stewart’s Merlin trilogy and enjoying it so far.

November is also German Literature Month. I haven’t decided what to read yet – I was thinking about reading Wolf Among Wolves by Hans Fallada, but the length is putting me off. I also have Death in Venice by Thomas Mann, which is shorter but sounds less appealing to me. I do want to participate, though, so I will definitely try to read something!

What have you been reading in October? Do you have any plans for November?

Looking back, looking forward: September 2015

September has been a good month for me in terms of reading (I’ve read eleven books and enjoyed most of them) but less productive where blogging is concerned. I’ve only written about five of those eleven books and hope I can catch up in October before I get too far behind. I have a week off work coming up so that should help. September was also a lucky month – I won a new Kobo Glo HD in a NetGalley Prize Draw which I couldn’t even remember entering. I don’t usually win anything so that was a nice surprise!

Let’s look back at September before looking forward to October…

Favourite books this month:


Oswald: Return of the King by Edoardo Albert

This is the second book in Edoardo Albert’s Northumbrian Thrones trilogy and I loved it as much as the first. I don’t want to say too much about it here as I’m hoping I’ll be ready to post my thoughts very soon!

The Last Queen

The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner

I didn’t know what to expect from this book as I’ve never read any of C.W. Gortner’s historical fiction before, but I was very impressed by this moving story of Juana of Castile. Again, further thoughts will follow soon.

Read and reviewed this month:

Glorious Apollo by E. Barrington
April Lady by Georgette Heyer
Nelly Dean by Alison Case
What Angels Fear by C.S. Harris
The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy

Also read this month but not yet reviewed:

The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory
The Heart of Midlothian by Sir Walter Scott
The Queen’s Man by Sharon Penman
The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami – review will appear in the next issue of Shiny New Books

Looking forward to October:

As the nights continue to get darker and Halloween approaches, I’m looking forward to reading more books for this year’s RIP challenge. I’ve only read two so far (What Angels Fear and The Queen’s Man, both mentioned above) but I’m in the middle of a third – Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer.

I’m taking part in A More Diverse Universe, which is hosted by Aarti of Booklust and begins this Sunday. I’m still trying to decide what to read, but some possibilities are A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie, The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende and Flood of Fire by Amitav Ghosh.

I also still need to read my Classics Spin book, The Glass-Blowers by Daphne du Maurier. I have just over three weeks left to read it if I’m going to meet the deadline!

How was your September reading? Do you have any plans for October?

August Reading Summary

August I still haven’t come up with a better format for my monthly round-up posts but hopefully I’ll have thought of something different by the end of September. For now, I’m posting my usual summary of the month’s reading.

I started August with 1066: What Fates Impose by G.K. Holloway, a novel which, as you can probably guess, follows the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings and the Norman Conquest of 1066. This is a fascinating period of history and, later in the month, I had the pleasure of reading Gildenford, the first in Valerie Anand’s Norman trilogy. I have now read enough books set in this period to be able to compile a list of Pre-Conquest England and House of Normandy suggestions in the Journey Through Time section of my blog. Please feel free to comment on that list with any more recommendations.

George Gissing - The Odd WomenI didn’t make much progress with my Classics Club list in August, only reading one classic – The Odd Women by George Gissing – but that one counted towards my Ten from the TBR Project too, so I’m pleased with that! Another book read for the TBR Project was The Thief of Time by John Boyne. I do love Boyne, but this particular book isn’t one of his best and I was slightly disappointed by it. I also found The Raven’s Head by Karen Maitland a bit disappointing – after a wonderful start the story just didn’t hold my attention. I will read more by both Boyne and Maitland, though, and will hope for better luck with my next choices.

The other three novels I read last month were excellent and certainly didn’t disappoint me at all! The first of these was The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins, Antonia Hodgson’s sequel to The Devil in the Marshalsea, an entertaining mystery novel set in Georgian London. The other two, Kit by Marina Fiorato, and The Old Man’s Birthday by Richmal Crompton, have not been reviewed here yet so I won’t say any more about them. Finally, I read one work of non-fiction: She-Wolves by Helen Castor, which looks at the lives of Empress Matilda, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France and Margaret of Anjou. I don’t read non-fiction very often but I did enjoy this book.

Looking ahead to September…

The Glass-BlowersAs September begins, I am in the middle of three books – The Heart of Mid-Lothian by Sir Walter Scott, Glorious Apollo by E. Barrington and April Lady by Georgette Heyer. After I finish those, I will be reading my Classics Spin book, The Glass-Blowers by Daphne du Maurier and I would also like to read a few books in September for the R.I.P Challenge. I posted a list of possible R.I.P. reads yesterday and am already being tempted by other books not on my list!

How was your August? Do you have any plans for September?

July Reading Summary

pretty-july These end-of-month posts seem to come round so quickly! I have to admit, I often find them difficult to write – although in theory they should be very easy – and I almost didn’t post one at all today. I will be experimenting with some different formats in future months to see if I can make them more interesting for me to write and for you to read.

Looking back at July, I have read ten books and have reviewed eight of them. As usual, I’ve been reading a mixture of historical fiction, classics and ‘older’ books, so I thought it would be fun to see exactly where and when my reading has taken me this month.

The Luminaries In July I have visited:

18th century Portugal – The Devil on her Tongue by Linda Holeman

Arthurian England – The Hollow Hills by Mary Stewart

New Zealand during the Gold Rush – The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

16th century Scotland – Dacre’s War by Rosemary Goring

Tudor London – The Lady of Misrule by Suzannah Dunn

Days End Rural England in the early 20th century – Day’s End & Other Stories by H.E. Bates

19th century Paris – Cousin Bette by Honoré de Balzac

Ancient Rome – Imperium by Robert Harris

17th century France and England – The Vicomte de Bragelonne by Alexandre Dumas

14th century England and France – Isabella by Colin Falconer

(My thoughts on the final two books above will follow soon.)

I enjoyed most of these books; the only ones that disappointed me slightly were Day’s End, Isabella and The Lady of Misrule and I have explained why – or will explain why – in my reviews of those books. My favourite reads this month were The Hollow Hills, Imperium and The Vicomte de Bragelonne – luckily for me, all three of those books are part of a trilogy or series so I can look forward to continuing with The Last Enchantment, Lustrum and Louise de la Vallière respectively.

At the moment I’m in the middle of two books: The Odd Women by George Gissing and 1066: What Fates Impose by G.K. Holloway. When I finish those I would like to read my copy of the new Antonia Hodgson book, The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins, as I had hoped to read it in July but didn’t have time. Beyond that, I don’t want to make any definite plans for August; choosing books depending on my mood works much better for me!

Have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned above? What have you been reading in July?

It’s the last day of June…

…and summer seems to have reached the UK at last. I’m hoping it will stay for a while as I have a week off work coming up!

JuneLooking back at my June reading, I have read eight books this month and my favourite was Sharon Bolton’s wonderful Little Black Lies. I’ve loved all of her books (apart from Blood Harvest, which is the only one I still haven’t read) but I think this one is possibly her best so far.

Cyrano de BergeracAlso in June, I decided to set myself the challenge of reading the three plays on my Classics Club list and I’m pleased to say that this was a success! I read all three and enjoyed them all, especially the last two. I’ve never had a lot of interest in reading plays in the past but I feel much more enthusiastic about them now and will choose some more to read soon. The plays I’ve read this month are:

Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand

In another attempt to tackle my out of control TBR pile, I chose ten random books from my Goodreads to-read shelf. The idea is to go through them one by one, either reading them or deciding not to read them – so that in one way or another they can be removed from my shelf. I have read one of the ten so far (Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood, which I loved and will be reviewing very soon) and I’m hoping to continue with some of the others in July.

Rebel QueenMy final three reads this month were all historical fiction, set in three very different time periods: Godwine Kingmaker by Mercedes Rochelle (Anglo-Saxon England), Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran (19th century India) and If You Go Away by Adele Parks (the First World War). I enjoyed all three of these, especially Godwine Kingmaker – my thoughts on that one will be coming soon too!

As we move into July I am still reading The Vicomte de Bragelonne by Alexandre Dumas; I’m loving it but it’s a very long book and I want to take my time with it. And because I can never just read one book at a time the way I used to, I’m also reading Linda Holeman’s The Devil on her Tongue, a novel set in 18th century Portugal. After this, I have a copy of The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins by Antonia Hodgson, the sequel to The Devil in the Marshalsea, which I can’t wait to start reading!

How has your June been? What will you be reading in July?

Looking back at May and forward to June

May has been a better reading month for me than April was. I read nine books, most of which I enjoyed, and have written about five of them; I’ll be posting my thoughts on the other four in the next few weeks.

The Invention of Fire The first book I read in May was a non-fiction one – Piu Marie Eatwell’s The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and the Missing Corpse. I was pleased to find that the book was as fascinating as the title suggested! I then read The Invention of Fire by Bruce Holsinger, the sequel to A Burnable Book which I read last year. Both novels are historical thrillers following the adventures of John Gower, 14th century poet and ‘trader in secrets’.

My next read was also part of a series…When Will There Be Good News?, the third in Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series. Having loved the first three, I’m now looking forward to reading the fourth book in the series.

A Country Doctor’s Notebook by Mikhail Bulgakov was the book chosen for me in the last Classics Club Spin. It was very different from the only other Bulgakov novel I’ve read (The Master and Margarita) but I really enjoyed it for its humour and its insights into life in a remote Russian hospital.

thetutor Back in March I signed up for the Once Upon a Time challenge. I knew this really would be a challenge for me as the genres it covers (fairy tale, folklore, fantasy and mythology) are not ones that I often read, but I’ve finally read a book that counts – Uprooted by Naomi Novik. I won’t say too much about that book here as I’m hoping to post a review soon. I also still need to tell you about The Tutor, Andrea Chapin’s new novel about William Shakespeare. I welcomed Andrea to my blog in April to talk about her research for the novel, so it was good to have an opportunity to read the book for myself.

In the middle of May I visited Dubrovnik and this inspired me to pick up Sara Nović’s new novel, Girl at War, a book set in Croatia during the Yugoslavian wars in the 1990s. Also this month, I read The Chosen Queen, the first in a trilogy of historical novels by Joanna Courtney telling the stories of three women who played an important role in the Norman Conquest. And my final May read was The Morning Gift by Eva Ibbotson, which I enjoyed, though maybe not quite as much as the other Ibbotson novels I’ve read.

Plans for June

As we move into June, I am in the middle of two books by two authors who are very different but both of whom I would name among my favourites: Alexandre Dumas (The Vicomte de Bragelonne) and Sharon Bolton (Little Black Lies). I want to concentrate on finishing these two books first, but I have also set myself a little challenge for June…to read the three plays on my Classics Club list. They are:

Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

I struggle with plays and have been avoiding reading these, so it would be nice to be able to cross them off my list!

Another thing I would like to do in the next few months is try some of the books on Ancient Rome that were recommended to me in the comments section of my last Historical Musings post. I have compiled a list of all the suggestions which you can see here – feel free to add more!

What are you hoping to read in June?