After the Sunday Papers #16

newspaper-clip-art-4 What a difference twenty-four hours can make! Yesterday I was walking in the sunshine at Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire; today has seen the return of heavy rain and miserable grey skies. At least the disappointing weather has given me time to sit down and write one of my Sunday posts which were originally intended to be weekly but have become more and more sporadic. It also means I’ve had a chance to work on my Journey Through Time, which some of you may already have noticed in the menu at the top of my blog. This is really just a way for me to arrange my historical fiction reviews by period, but I’m hoping it will also eventually act as a guide for other readers who are looking for recommendations. Please have a look and let me know if this is something you find useful! So far I have put two pages together: The Wars of the Roses and The Tudors: Part 2. It may seem strange that I’ve posted Part 2 before Part 1, but Part 1 is proving to involve a lot more work so will take me a bit longer to finish.

I received some lovely new books this week courtesy of Bookbridgr. I’ve started one of them, Smiler’s Fair, and I’m looking forward to the other two.

New books Aug 2014

Smiler’s Fair by Rebecca Levene
The Vanishing Witch by Karen Maitland
Gutenberg’s Apprentice by Alix Christie

Have you read or will you be reading any of these?

Like many of you I’m waiting for the announcement of the Classics Club Spin result which will determine what my next classic read will be. There are one or two numbers that I’m particularly hoping for, but there are no books on my list that I’m actually dreading so I honestly don’t really mind which number comes up. All will be revealed tomorrow! For now, I’ll leave you with some pictures from my visit to Fountains Abbey yesterday:

Fountains Abbey 1

Fountains Abbey 2

Fountains Abbey 3

After the Sunday Papers #15

newspaper-clip-art-4 Well, this week was a lot more stressful than I’d expected, unfortunately! I was driving home from work on Wednesday when I was hit from behind while waiting at traffic lights. Nobody was injured but the back of my car was quite badly damaged – and to make things even worse, it’s a new car that I’ve only had for a week! I couldn’t believe it! The other driver was entirely at fault and her insurance company have arranged for the repairs (which could take up to two weeks) and provided me with a courtesy car, but as you can probably imagine I didn’t have much time or enthusiasm for reading and blogging for a couple of days.

Madame Bovary Readalong Things have settled down now, so I’m starting to catch up and am looking forward to telling you about some of my recent reads, including Eva Stachniak’s Empress of the Night, a novel about Catherine the Great, and Watch the Wall, My Darling by Jane Aiken Hodge, a great romantic suspense novel from the 1960s. I’m also taking part in a readalong of Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert this month, hosted by ebookclassics and Cedar Station. I have never read it before and have had a copy on my shelf for a while so this seemed like a good time to read it. I started it last night and have enjoyed what I’ve read so far.

I noticed on Friday that the shortlist for this year’s Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction has been announced. I always follow the progress of this prize with interest as historical fiction is my favourite genre. The books on the shortlist are:

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Harvest by Jim Crace
Fair Helen by Andrew Greig
An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris
The Promise by Ann Weisgarber

The only one of these I have read is Life After Life, though Fair Helen sounds great and I’ll probably read The Luminaries eventually too. The winner will be announced in June.

How has your week been? I hope it’s been better than mine!

After the Sunday Papers #14

Richard III In my last Sunday post, I promised to give you an update on the FutureLearn course on England in the time of Richard III that I’m participating in. I’m three weeks into the course now and have mixed feelings about it so far. The format of the course is very different from the courses I’ve previously taken with Coursera which have been in the form of video lectures. This course is delivered through a mixture of written articles, audio clips and short videos, and this method of learning actually suits me better as I have found it difficult in the past to concentrate on the longer Coursera videos. The disadvantage is that the course feels more impersonal and there’s less direct engagement with the course leader.

I had been looking forward to starting the course as this is one of my favourite periods of history. I understand that the course assumed no prior knowledge so had to start at a very basic level, but so far I’m not sure I’ve actually learned much more about England in the time of Richard III than I already knew at the beginning. Although the third week was more challenging, taking us through the development of the written word and the technicalities of medieval scripts, some of the articles during weeks one and two felt more like pages from a school textbook than something you would expect from the University of Leicester. It does seem that the idea of the course is not to go into a lot of depth but to just provide a starting point for further research and discussion. I’m enjoying reading the comments of other participants (there are some very knowledgeable people taking part) and I think I’m learning more from their comments than I am from the course material itself.

As this is my first FutureLearn course I don’t know if they will all be very similar or if the quality and methods of teaching will vary from course to course. I’ve signed up for some others starting next year so will find out soon.

What I’m reading…

Larkswood This week I’ve finished two books: the first was The Plantagenets by Dan Jones, a fascinating biography of the Plantagenet monarchs who ruled England from 1154-1399; the other was my re-read of The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett, which I’m pleased to say I loved as much as the first time! I will be starting a re-read of Queens’ Play soon.

I am now reading Larkswood by Valerie Mendes and the second of Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody books, The Curse of the Pharaohs. I’m enjoying both!

What have you been reading? Are you ready for Christmas?

After the Sunday Papers #13

newspaper-clip-art-4 This week has been devoted to reading my Classics Club Spin book, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I admit that when my spin book was revealed on Monday, I didn’t feel very enthusiastic about it but decided to start reading it immediately as I anticipated it taking a long time to read. It actually took less than a week and I finished it last night! I’ve had mixed experiences with Dickens in the past…there have been some of his books that I’ve enjoyed and some that I struggled with, but this is the first one I’ve really loved and have found truly ‘unputdownable’. Definitely one of my books of the year!

Also this week I’ve been reading Quicksilver, the first in Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, a historical fiction series set in the 17th and 18th centuries. I’ve been curious about this book for a while but have been putting off reading it because of the length. I’m enjoying it so far (despite not having understood half of what I’ve read) but at nearly 1,000 pages it’s going to be a long and challenging read and I’m hoping it will be worth it in the end.

Dunnett Companions With no other reading commitments at the moment (until Wilkie in Winter in the middle of December), I’ve taken this opportunity to start a re-read of the Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett. It’s been nearly two years since I first read The Game of Kings and I know that if it wasn’t for blogging throwing other tempting books in my way I would probably have re-read the whole series as soon as I finished it. There was so much I missed on my first read and this time I’m armed with the Dorothy Dunnett Companions I and II and the new book by Laura Caine Ramsey, The Ultimate Guide to The Game of Kings, which will hopefully enhance the experience. I probably won’t post ‘reviews’ again as I did review them all in 2012, but I’ll give you an update in another Sunday post in a few week’s time.

Also this week, I’ve signed up for a reading challenge for next year: the What’s In A Name? challenge. This has been hosted for the last few years by Beth Fish Reads but has now been taken over by Charlie at The Worm Hole. I don’t sign up for many challenges anymore but I wanted to support Charlie’s first year of hosting and this is a fun challenge which I’ve taken part in once before. The idea is to read five books, each with a title that fits one of the five categories below:

challenge_2014whatsinaname A reference to time
A position of royalty
A number written in letters
A forename or names
A type or element of weather

I already have one or two books in mind for each category, but the challenge doesn’t start until January so I have plenty of time to think about what to read. To find out more please visit The Worm Hole!

Something else I’m looking forward to is starting my first course with FutureLearn tomorrow. The course is called England in the time of King Richard III, which, as followers of my blog will know, is a period of history I’m particularly interested in. FutureLearn is a new UK-based company offering free online courses from a selection of universities; this will be the first of their courses I’ve tried, so I’m not sure what to expect. I’ll let you know how I get on!

After the Sunday Papers #12: Trying again

newspaper-clip-art-4 “She had read novels while other people perused the Sunday papers”
~ Mary Elizabeth Braddon, The Doctor’s Wife

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I know I say this every time I write one of my Sunday Papers posts, but I can’t believe how long it’s been since the last one! It was always my intention to have a weekly roundup of my reading, upcoming reading events and other book-related musings, but for one reason or another I’ve never been able to get organised and post on a regular basis. As I do like to have some variety in my blogging and I feel that I’ve been posting nothing but book reviews recently, I’m going to try again and aim to post on at least one or two Sundays each month, even if I can’t manage every Sunday. Thinking about this has made me consider my whole blogging schedule (or lack of it) and I’ve been wondering whether it would be more or less stressful to have a fixed schedule where I post, for example, two reviews a week on a Tuesday and Thursday, with a post like this one on a Sunday, if I feel like it. What do you think? Do you plan ahead and post on certain days or do you prefer to be more spontaneous?

A More Diverse Universe Anyway, let’s start with an update on what I’m reading at the moment, beginning with my choice for A More Diverse Universe, which is being hosted by Aarti of Booklust from 15-17 November. Aarti has defined this on her blog as follows: “A More Diverse Universe celebrates diversity in speculative fiction by encouraging people to read books in the fantasy or science fiction genres that were written by people of color.” Who else is taking part in this? You can sign up here.

I had some trouble at first finding a book that would fit the requirements and that actually appealed to me (which I think highlights the need for an event like this, as there are so many more fantasy and science fiction books to choose from that are written by white authors), but when I saw that a few participants last year had read Salman Rushdie, I thought it would be a good opportunity to finally try one of his books. I am currently halfway through The Enchantress of Florence, which is full of magical realism, and enjoying it so far.

Speaking of fantasy, it’s not a genre I read often, but over the last few days I’ve been having fun re-reading my favourite fantasy series for the first time in more than a decade. More on that in a future post!

wilkieinwinter-1024x1024 Another event coming up in December is Wilkie in Winter hosted by The Estella Society. Wilkie Collins is one of my favourite authors and it’s been too long since I last read one of his books!

There are going to be two readalongs as part of Wilkie in Winter – The Frozen Deep and The Woman in White – though I haven’t decided yet if I want to participate in them. I’ve never read The Frozen Deep so I’m tempted to join in with that one, but I’ve already read The Woman in White a few times and while I do love it, I think I would rather re-read one of his others…possibly Armadale. I can never decide whether The Woman in White or Armadale is my favourite!

What have you been reading this week? What are your reading plans for the rest of 2013?

After the Sunday Papers #11

“She had read novels while other people perused the Sunday papers”
~ Mary Elizabeth Braddon, The Doctor’s Wife

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Time for one of my (very) occasional Sunday posts, I think!

War and Peace Readalong – May update

I’ll start with some brief thoughts on May’s reading for the War and Peace Readalong I’m participating in this year. In May, we read Book 2, Parts 3 and 4. I’m finding the book much easier to read now that we’re further into it and have had the opportunity to get to know the characters. However, I’ve also found that for some reason I have very little to say about this section of the book. I was pleased that there was no ‘war’ – though instead, we get a very long and detailed description of a hunt, which made me think I might actually have preferred a battle scene after all! It was good to spend more time with some of the female characters, especially Natasha and Sonya, whose storylines are starting to move forward now. And I still feel sorry for poor Princess Marya. I’m looking forward to reading Part 5 in June – and being halfway through the book!

Barbara Pym Reading Week

Barbara Pym Reading Week

Are you taking part in Barbara Pym Reading Week? I’ve never read anything by Pym before but so many of the bloggers I follow love her books that I knew it was time to try one. I’m reading Less Than Angels, which is maybe not the one I would ideally have chosen to begin with (I really wanted to read Excellent Women first) but it’s the only one I actually own. Anyway, I’m enjoying it so far and will post my thoughts on it later in the week.

New book arrivals

I haven’t bought any new books for a while, but I’ve received a few review copies. Paris is the one I’m most looking forward to reading as I love Edward Rutherfurd and have read all of his previous books. I don’t know much about the others (The Son by Michel Rostain, The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout and The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed) though I’ve read some very positive reviews of the first two.

I hope you’ve all had a good weekend! What are you planning to read this week?

After the Sunday Papers #10

“She had read novels while other people perused the Sunday papers”
~ Mary Elizabeth Braddon,
The Doctor’s Wife

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I can’t believe it’s been nearly two years since my last After the Sunday Papers post! I had intended it to be a weekly feature, looking back on the previous week and forward to the week ahead, but obviously it didn’t work out like that. Today, not having any reviews ready to post and wanting to mention a few book-related events, I decided to revive my Sunday posts and hopefully can make them a more regular feature, if not a weekly one.

Giveaway Blog Hop success!

I was lucky enough to win two books in the recent Literary Giveaway Blog Hop and I received both of them this week. Thanks to Heavenali for the beautiful Penguin English Library edition of Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy and thanks to The Little Reader Library for The Long Song by Andrea Levy – both books I’ve been wanting to read for a long time.

Lymond is back

Annabel of Gaskella is hosting a readalong of The Game of Kings, the first of Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles. As I’m currently immersed in Dunnett’s other series, The House of Niccolo, I won’t be officially taking part, but to anyone who has been thinking about reading the Lymond Chronicles this could be a good time to start. Annabel has even made a bookmark with the character list, which should be very useful!

Advent with Atwood

Following the success of last year’s Advent with Austen, this year Yvann, Alex, Iris and Ana will be co-hosting Advent with Atwood. The event includes a readalong of The Blind Assassin, but participants can read any book by Margaret Atwood during the month of December. I would like to join in as I’ve never read anything by Atwood before and she’s an author I’ve been meaning to read for years. I have no idea which of her books to start with, so any suggestions are welcome.

That’s all for now – hope you all have a good week!