Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish resolutions

Starting this week, Top Ten Tuesday is now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. Her first topic is “Bookish resolutions and goals”. I sometimes put a post like this together at the beginning of January but didn’t get round to it this year, so I’m posting it today instead.

I don’t set goals in terms of numbers (apart from the Goodreads Challenge which I use more as a way of keeping track of what I’ve read rather than an actual ‘challenge’) so I prefer to call this a list of resolutions. Some of these are the same as my resolutions from previous years (most of which I didn’t manage to keep) and others are new.

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1. Make more time for re-reads. I say this every year and never seem to do it. I re-read three books last year, because I needed to so I could finish my Classics Club list, but there are many more old favourites I would like to revisit as well. I will definitely try to re-read some of them this year!

2. Make some progress with my new Classics Club list. I posted my second list in November after completing my first one. The new list has 50 classics on it and a target date of 14th November 2022. So far I have only read one book from the list – Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather – but there are a lot of others I’m excited about reading.

3. Continue to work on my Walter Scott Prize project for which I’m working my way through all of the shortlisted titles since the prize was first awarded in 2010. This year’s shortlist will be announced in March, but I still have some from each of the previous years’ lists to read too.

4. Read more books set in different countries. Reading can be a great way to learn about the culture and history of countries other than our own. When I posted my analysis of the historical fiction I read in 2017, I found that the majority of the books I read last year were set in Britain, with the USA, France and Italy also well-represented. This year I want to include more books set in countries I know less about.

5. Join in with other bloggers’ projects or events which sound appealing e.g. Jane’s Birthday Book of Underappreciated Lady Authors (for which I’m currently reading Britannia Mews by Margery Sharp) and Karen and Simon’s club years (1977 Club is coming in April).

6. Request fewer books from NetGalley and get caught up with my backlog. I have had the opportunity to read some great books through NetGalley but it’s easy to find yourself requesting more than you know you’ll realistically have time to read. This year I want to limit the number I request until I’ve read all the books already on my NetGalley shelf.

7. Continue to work through some of the series that I’m in the middle of reading. I’m very good at starting them but not so good at continuing with them!

8. Read the books that I really want to read. There are a lot of books that I’ve been wanting to read for years and am sure I’m going to love, but that I’ve been avoiding reading because I’m ‘saving them for later’ or ‘want to have something to look forward to’. I’m aware of how silly this is, so 2018 is going to be the year I finally read those long-anticipated books!

9. Abandon books that I’m not enjoying. Sometimes I can tell almost immediately that a book is not for me, but sometimes I’m not sure and decide to keep going in the hope that it will get better – and then even when it doesn’t improve I still struggle on to the end.

10. Try to make every book I read a potential favourite book of the year. I know this won’t actually happen, but it’s what we would all like, isn’t it? Resolutions 1-9 should help with this!

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What resolutions, goals or plans do you have for your 2018 reading?

Top Ten Tuesday: New-to-me authors read in 2017

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is:

Top ten new-to-me authors I read in 2017

I don’t take part in Top Ten Tuesday every week, but I thought this one would give me an opportunity to take another look back at 2017’s reading as well as looking forward to the future. The ten authors I’ve listed below were all new to me last year and I am now interested in reading more books by all ten of them, in 2018 if possible.

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1. Rebecca Mascull

Rebecca Mascull was the first author to come to mind when I saw the topic for this week. Until 2017 I had never read any of her books, but The Wild Air and Song of the Sea Maid both impressed me enough to win a place on my books of the year list. I still have her first novel, The Visitors, to look forward to.

2. Robert Graves

I read I, Claudius in 2017 and enjoyed it more than I’d expected to (Ancient Rome is not one of my favourite periods to read about). The sequel, Claudius the God, is on my Classics Club list and I will try to get round to it this year.

3. Helen Steadman

I was pleased to discover Helen Steadman in 2017 because she writes about the North East of England, which is where I am from. Her debut novel, Widdershins, is about the Newcastle witch trials of 1650 and apparently a sequel is on its way.

4. Allan Massie

Death in Bordeaux is the first in a quartet of crime novels set in 1940s France. I liked it enough to want to read the others, which is fortunate as I need to read the fourth one for my Reading the Walter Scott Prize project.

5. Elizabeth Jane Howard

Having heard so much about Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Cazalet Chronicles, 2017 was the year I got round to starting the series myself. I enjoyed The Light Years and am looking forward to continuing with the second book, Marking Time.

6. Nicholas Blake

Nicholas Blake (Cecil Day-Lewis) is one of several classic crime authors I read for the first time in 2017 (Michael Innes is another). So far The Corpse in the Snowman is the only book of his that I’ve read, but I have another of his Nigel Strangeways mysteries lined up to read soon.

7. Nicola Cornick

I enjoyed reading two Nicola Cornick books in 2017 – The Phantom Tree and House of Shadows. Both are historical fiction involving dual time periods; her earlier novels don’t really appeal to me but I’m hoping she will write more books like these two!

8. RF Delderfield

Delderfield’s Long Summer Day was another of my favourite books of 2017. I’m planning to read the other books in his A Horseman Riding By trilogy this year, before going on to explore everything else he has written.

9. Antonia Senior

Antonia Senior’s The Winter Isles is a fascinating story set in 12th century Scotland. Although I didn’t quite manage to love it, it has made me curious about her other novels.

10. Gerald Durrell

I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but I did enjoy Gerald Durrell’s Three Singles to Adventure and Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons in 2017. Maybe 2018 will be the year I finally read his Corfu trilogy!

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Have you read anything by any of these authors? Which new-to-you authors did you discover in 2017?

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten books on my Winter TBR

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is Top Ten Books On My Winter TBR. I have a lot more than ten books on my TBR, but I’m listing below some that I’m hoping to get to in the next few months.

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1. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

At the top of my TBR is the book that was chosen for me in the recent Classics Club Spin. I’m looking forward to reading more Willa Cather.

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2. Voice of the Falconer by David Blixt

I read and loved David Blixt’s The Master of Verona a few years ago. This is the second book in the series and I really didn’t mean to wait this long to read it!

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3. The Pearl Sister by Lucinda Riley

The fourth book in Lucinda Riley’s Seven Sisters series will take us to Thailand and Australia. I’ve enjoyed the first three books so am looking forward to this one.

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4. The Oaken Heart by Margery Allingham

Not one of Allingham’s mystery novels but a non-fiction book giving an account of life in her Essex village during the Second World War.

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5. The Snow Globe by Judith Kinghorn

I’ve read all three of Judith Kinghorn’s other novels and this is the only one I still have left to read. The title sounds appropriate for winter anyway!

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6. Munich by Robert Harris

I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by Robert Harris so far (particularly his An Officer and a Spy and Cicero trilogy). I haven’t had a chance yet to read his latest book, Munich, but it’s quickly moving up the TBR!

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7. Post of Honour by RF Delderfield

This is the second part of RF Delderfield’s Horseman Riding By trilogy. I was intending to read it straight after finishing the wonderful Long Summer Day, but got distracted by other books.

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8. Fool’s Errand by Robin Hobb

Having loved Robin Hobb’s Farseer and Liveship Traders trilogies, I think it’s time I started the Tawny Man trilogy. I’ll probably read the first book, Fool’s Errand, in the new year, if not before.

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9. Marking Time by Elizabeth Jane Howard

I read the first of Howard’s Cazalet Chronicles earlier this year and want to move on to the next one. I can’t wait to catch up with the characters from The Light Years again.

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10. Sugar Money by Jane Harris

I’ve been waiting for a new book from Jane Harris for a long time! I loved Gillespie and I and The Observations, so have high hopes for this one.

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Have you read any of these books – or would you like to? What is on your Winter TBR?

Top Ten Tuesday: Unique book titles

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) asks for our ‘top ten unique book titles’. I have interpreted this as meaning titles that I find unusual, intriguing or interesting in some way – and this is the list I’ve come up with:

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1. The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag by Alan Bradley

Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce novels were the first that came to mind when I saw this week’s topic. This one comes from Walter Raleigh’s To His Son (“The wood is that which makes the gallow tree; The weed is that which strings the hangman’s bag”), but others such as Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d and As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust are taken from Shakespeare and I am Half-Sick of Shadows is a line from Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott.

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2. The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and the Missing Corpse by Piu Marie Eatwell

This non-fiction book is exactly what the title suggests: the story of a dead duke, his secret wife – and possibly a missing corpse as well. I won’t go into any more detail here as I’ve already said it all in my review, but I found it as fascinating to read as you would expect from the title!

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3. Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? by Agatha Christie

Many of Agatha Christie’s books have interesting titles, but I found this one particularly intriguing. “Why didn’t they ask Evans?” are the dying words spoken by a murder victim at the beginning of the novel, but – unless you are better at solving mysteries than I am – you won’t understand their meaning until you reach the end!

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4. Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson

This isn’t one of my favourite Atkinson novels but I did enjoy it. The title is intriguing – what is human croquet and how do you play it? – and I didn’t really understand its significance until the end of the book when the roles of some of the characters became clearer.

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5. Watch the Wall, My Darling by Jane Aiken Hodge

This gothic suspense novel set in 19th century Cornwall features smuggling as a major element of the plot, so it is appropriate that the title comes from Rudyard Kipling’s A Smuggler’s Song:
“If you wake at midnight, and hear a horse’s feet,
Don’t go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street,
Them that ask no questions isn’t told a lie.
Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by.”

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6. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

This was Mary Ann Shaffer’s only novel, published posthumously in 2008. The unusual title refers to a fictional society formed during the German occupation of Guernsey during World War II.

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7. Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell

This 1930s novel by George Orwell is the story of a man who leaves a well-paid job to concentrate on his poetry and escape what he thinks of as ‘worship of the Money God’. The aspidistra of the title refers to the popular house plant he sees as symbolic of the middle-class lifestyle he has rejected.

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8. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

Swamplandia! is the name of a fictional theme park in the Everglades. With its alligator-themed attractions, it does sound unusual – and so is the novel itself!

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9. Baba Yaga Laid an Egg by Dubravka Ugresic

This is an imaginative retelling of the Baba Yaga story, relating aspects of the Slavic myth to the lives of modern women. It’s another strange title, but the reference to eggs will have more significance once you’ve read the book.

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10. Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart

Mary Stewart is another author who sometimes drew on songs, poems and plays for her titles (This Rough Magic and Nine Coaches Waiting are other examples). Madam, Will You Talk? is taken from a folk song possibly called The Keys of Heaven which contains the line “Madam, will you walk and talk with me?”

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Have you read any of these books? Which other books with interesting titles can you think of?

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten books I loved in my first year of blogging

Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and Bookish) is not something I participate in every week, but sometimes a particular topic appeals to me and I decide to put a list together. This week’s ‘throwback freebie’ theme gives me a chance to look back at some of the great books I read during my first year of blogging (from October 2009 to October 2010) – it seems so long ago now! This list could have been much longer, but I have narrowed my choices down to the following ten:

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1. The Scapegoat by Daphne du Maurier (read May 2010)

I also read and loved My Cousin Rachel in 2010, but I’ve chosen to feature this one here as it’s a less well-known du Maurier novel which really deserves more attention!

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2. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë (read February 2010)

Despite having read both Charlotte Brontë and Emily Brontë as a teenager, I didn’t get round to trying one of Anne’s books until 2010. I loved The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and went on to read Anne’s other novel, Agnes Grey, later in the year.

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3. Wild Swans by Jung Chang (read April 2010)

The first of two non-fiction books on my list, I found this memoir of Communist China shocking, fascinating and completely riveting.

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4. The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox (read May 2010)

I loved this complex and atmospheric mystery set in Victorian England – and I thought the sequel, The Glass of Time, was even better.

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5. The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas (read June 2010)

Dumas is a favourite author of mine and although this book is much less famous than The Count of Monte Cristo or The Three Musketeers, I still loved it. A book about a contest to grow the world’s first black tulip may not sound very exciting, but this one certainly was!

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6. Miss Ranskill Comes Home by Barbara Euphan Todd (read June 2010)

2010 was the year, thanks to blogging, that I discovered Persephone Books. This one, about a woman who returns home after four years trapped on a desert island only to find that war has broken out in her absence, is still one of my favourites.

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7. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (read November 2009)

This was one of the first books I reviewed on my blog. I loved it and, despite the length, I would like to read it again one day!

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8. A Pair of Blue Eyes by Thomas Hardy (read July 2010)

I also read and loved Tess of the d’Urbervilles in the same year, but, as with the du Mauriers, I want to highlight this one because it is the less well-known of the two.

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9. Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain (read November 2009)

This moving account of Brittain’s time as a VAD nurse during the First World War is the second non-fiction book on my list. It’s both heartbreaking and inspirational!

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10. Middlemarch by George Eliot (read August 2010)

Having previously had two failed attempts to get into Middlemarch, I joined in with a readalong in the summer of 2010 – and was glad I’d given it another chance because I loved it.

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Well, I’ve enjoyed my little trip down memory lane! Have you read any of these books? If you’ve been blogging for a while, as I have, which books do you remember loving in the first year you started your blog?

Top Ten Tuesday: Best books read in 2017 so far

Unbelievably, we’re now halfway through the year – and for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and Bookish), we are asked to list our top ten books read in 2017 so far.

I found this list surprisingly easy to put together, although there were a few other books I would have liked to include but couldn’t as I was limited to ten. Maybe some of them will make it onto my end-of-year list in December, when I won’t be restricted by numbers! For now, here is my list of ten, not in any particular order:

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1. Golden Hill by Francis Spufford

2. East of Eden by John Steinbeck

3. Wintercombe by Pamela Belle

4. The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

5. Towers in the Mist by Elizabeth Goudge

6. The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne

7. His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

8. They Came to Baghdad by Agatha Christie

9. Lost Horizon by James Hilton

10. The Red Sphinx by Alexandre Dumas

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Have you read any of these? What are the best books you’ve read in the first six months of the year?

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 recent additions to my Historical Fiction TBR

For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and Bookish) we are asked to list our ten most recent additions to our TBR pile in a genre of our choice. The genre I have chosen is historical fiction – no surprises there! A few of these (books 4, 6 and 9) are also on my 20 Books of Summer list, so I’ll be reading those soon.

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1. Elizabeth, the Witch’s Daughter by Lynda M Andrews

I already have one or two unread books about Elizabeth I on the TBR and didn’t really need to add another, but I was intrigued when I discovered that Lynda M Andrews is also the Lyn Andrews who wrote The Queen’s Promise, a book I read a few years ago and enjoyed.

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2. The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

I remember seeing a lot of praise for Natasha Pulley’s first book, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, but I never got round to actually reading it so was pleased to find her new one available through NetGalley.

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3. Claudius the God by Robert Graves

I read I, Claudius last month (my thoughts on that one should be coming soon), so the sequel went straight on my TBR.

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4. By Gaslight by Steven Price

This promises to be the sort of atmospheric Victorian mystery novel I would usually enjoy, but now that I have my copy I’m not sure about it. I think the writing style could be a problem for me, but we’ll see!

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5. Death in Bordeaux by Allan Massie

I need to read the fourth book in this historical crime series for my Walter Scott Prize project, but I decided to start with the first book as it sounds like a series that should really be read in order.

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6. The Silk Merchant’s Daughter by Dinah Jefferies

I loved the last Dinah Jefferies book I read, The Tea Planter’s Wife, and am looking forward to reading this one which is set in 1950s Vietnam.

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7. He Who Plays the King by Mary Hocking

I hadn’t heard of this until I saw Ali’s review a few months ago, but it’s set during one of my favourite periods of history – the Wars of the Roses – and I thought it sounded like my sort of book.

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8. Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre

Another book I will be reading for the Walter Scott Prize project. I feel a bit wary of this one as it sounds very unusual and experimental. I’m not sure what to expect from it but I’m happy to give it a try.

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9. Beneath a Burning Sky by Jenny Ashcroft

I don’t know much about this book, but it’s set in 19th century Egypt which sounds good to me. I’m looking forward to reading it soon for the 20 Books of Summer.

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10. The Words in My Hand by Guinevere Glasfurd

This book is set in 17th century Amsterdam and is the story of Helena Jans and her relationship with the philosopher René Descartes. I usually like books set in the Netherlands, so I’m hoping I’ll enjoy this one too.

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Have you read any of these books? Do any of them tempt you? Which historical fiction novels have you added to your TBR recently?