2015 Roundup

“Scars are memory. Like sutures. They stitch the past to me.”

China Mieville

Happy New Year, Constant Reader!

2015’s been an eventful year, starting in January with my penultimate term of university, spending six weeks on a dissertation on Gormenghast and Rebecca (such fun!), studying like mad for my final exams in May, having two long and eventually rather boring months off in June and July, and moving away from home for my first real job in July, after which point my time was rather tightly circumscribed. In 2015, I started watching Firefly with the Circumlocutor; Sir Terry Pratchett died; Stephen Moffat finally, unarguably ruined Doctor Who; the Hugos got broken, and then sort-of half-mended again; Star Wars came out and made more money than any other film ever; and I failed to enjoy my reading as much as last year (though I still reached my reading challenge target).

The English Student’s Favourite Things of 2015

As ever, these are things I reviewed or wrote about in 2015, not necessarily things released or published in 2015.)

TV: Firefly: Serenity. For clarity: not the fan-made film, but the first episode of the TV show. It’s a flawless, glorious hour and a half of spacey fun, less banal than most television entries in the genre, with more interesting and more relatable characters, and certainly better dialogue.

Film: Bridge to Terabithia. I still haven’t read the book, but I just thought this film was a beautiful piece of storytelling: bittersweet, layered and complex, with a deeply interesting refusal to distinguish between fantasy and reality. It wasn’t at all what I expected from this children’s classic.

Book: The Scar – China Mieville. A baggy, absorbing and intelligent novel about the sea and about possibility. It’s grown on me since I read it in January – possibly because nothing I’ve read this year has yet been layered and complex enough to challenge this particular behemoth.

Misc.: Philip Pullman at the Oxford Literary Festival. Pullman wasn’t, it has to be said, very forthcoming about, well, anything; but it was a great chance to see the fantasy author in the flesh, as it were, and he does have a lovely reading voice.

2016 Reading Stats

  •  In 2016 I read 72 books – one more than I read last year.
  • The longest was Stephen King’s Wizard and Glass, at a frankly unnecessary 845 pages; the shortest was The Library of Unrequited Love, by Sophie Divry, at a short and sweet 92 pages. Overall, I read fewer pages than last year: 27,390, compared to 28,105.
  • My average rating in 2015 was 3.5, exactly the same as last year, which just goes to show that star ratings for books are absolutely meaningless.
  • The oldest book I read this year – the one published longest ago – was Fanny Burney’s Evelina, a re-read, published in 1778. The average age of the books I read this year was just 25 – significantly lower than last year.
  • Genre: I read 35 fantasy novels in 2015 (49%), 11 non-fiction books (15%), 10 SF novels (14%) and five contemporaries (7%). I also read a couple of historicals, a couple of horror novels, three classics, an animal book (Cat Stories), a drama (A Game at Chess) and a thriller (Zero Sum Game). Though I’ve read considerably more fantasy than I read last year, my non-fantasy reading has been considerably broader.
  • I’ve read just 11 YA novels this year (15%, compared to 31% last year), with the rest, 89%, being adult works; I read no MG novels, compared to four last year.
  •  Again, I bought about half of the books I read this year.
  • I managed to do less re-reading this year; just 19% of 2015’s reads were re-reads, compared to 25% last year.
  • I also managed to read more books by women this year: 40%, compared to last year’s 31%. In 2016, I’d like to get that percentage up to 50%.

TBR Pile Reading Challenge Mar/Apr Wrap-Up

“A Library should not shush; it should roar!”

Catherynne Valente

I’ve done even worse this time around. I only spent a week at home this Easter, so everything on my TBR shelf is new to it.

Books I’ve Read for the TBR Challenge

  1. The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in TwoCatherynne Valente.

That is all. However, with my Jan/Feb score, that gives me a total of 3/10 – not bad, but not good either. Must try considerably harder.

TBR Pile Reading Challenge Jan/Feb Update

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”

Lemony Snicket

Oh gods.

I kind of forgot I was meant to be doing the TBR Challenge, and then I went away to university and left all my books at home…and bought a whole load more…so I have not done well.

Books I’ve Read for the TBR Challenge

  1. The Scar – China Mieville
  2. Courtesans and Fishcakes – James Davidson

(That’s 2/10, which isn’t too bad, actually.)

(Linking is not working properly at the moment – gods damn you, Internet Explorer – so if you have a burning desire to read either review, feel free to use the search box on the right.)


Throne of Glass: January Readalong Post the Second

“Sometimes, the wicked will tell us things just to confuse us–to haunt our thoughts long after we’ve faced them.”

Sarah J. Maas


  • Celaena receives help from many sources throughout the novel. Of all these characters, who do you think helped her the most? What does he/she do or teach Celaena that further develops her as a character? I want to say Elena, the ancient fae queen, but I don’t know if that’s because the whole magic element to the book is my favourite thing about Throne of Glass. I certainly think Celaena’s sense of loyalty to Elena is one of the major things driving the plot; I think it’s when Celaena meets her that she starts to realise just how deep the rabbit-hole goes, so to speak.
  • Who do you think is Celaena was before Arobynn found her? I’m not sure. I’m guessing originally the daughter of a noble family from a conquered magic-using kingdom? Then perhaps she got thrown out on the streets and was rescued from starvation by Arobynn?
  • Are there any aspects of Throne of Glass that you wished Sarah had gone into more detail about? I definitely wanted more about magic: about the wyrdmarks and Elena and why magic was banned. Like I said, that whole side of the novel was really intriguing to me.
  • What are your thoughts about the kinda love-triangle? Are you favoring Dorian, Chaol, or is it too soon to tell where you loyalty lies? It’s got to be Chaol. Like, the scene at the duel was quite sweet, but Dorian in general is just too insufferable. And Chaol has a much more equal relationship with Celaena. I also love that she chooses not to marry the prince at the end of the book – how’s that, Disney?
  • What do you think of Nox now? Do you think he’ll come back into play later? And are you hoping for it? Meh. He’s pretty decent as a character, but I can’t really be bothered to work up any enthusiasm about him.
  • Who’s your favorite character so far? Do you imagine this could change throughout the series? Elena. I know she’s not really a main character, but I am fascinated by her. I’m not intending to read any more of the series, though.
  • How surprised were you by who was behind the Champion murders? Did you guess before it was revealed? I was a bit disappointed by how…mundane the answer was, I think. There’d been all these hints of Great Evil throughout the book, and then it was just someone trying to win a competition.
  • What do you think of Nehemia NOW? And her friendship with Celaena? Oh, yeah, Nehemia is badass. I like that there’s a close female friendship in Throne of Glass; it helps to balance out the love triangle, I think.
  • How satisfied were you with the story as a whole? Do you plan to continue the series? I really thought there was way too much emphasis on the love triangle; it seemed like Maas was more interested in that than in anything else in the story. And the Tests disappointed me in happening mainly off-page. Like I said, I won’t be continuing the series.
  • Do you have any predictions as to what may happen next? It would be nice to think that the magic stuff gets more coverage in the next book.

Throne of Glass: January Readalong Post The First

“I can survive well enough on my own— if given the proper reading material.”

Sarah J. Maas


I SAID I WAS GOING TO DO MORE READALONGS, DIDN’T I? As part of the 2015 TBR Reading Challenge, Bookish is running a Throne of Glass January readalong, so this is my discussion post for the first half of that novel.

OK, disclaimer: I read Throne of Glass a while back, for last term’s essay on Children’s Literature, so I’ll try not to do spoilers for the second half of the book.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Did you read The Assassin’s Blade? If so, do you think it enhanced your reading of Throne of Glass? If you haven’t, do you plan to go back and do so before continuing with the series? No, I didn’t read The Assassin’s Blade, mainly because I wasn’t originally aware of its existence. And I probably won’t continue with this series (sorry); it’s not that Throne of Glass is bad, it’s just that a book has to be REALLY good for me to read sequels (or prequels), because there are so many lovely books out there waiting to be read.
  2. Who do you think is behind the Champions’ murders? Um, the first time I read it? I think I was just being sucked into the mystery of it all. I kind of assumed it was an Evil Murderous Force of Evil rather than a specific murderer (which was a pretty cool thought, actually), although I might have suspected Lady Kaltain or the Duke.
  3. Thus far, what are some of your favorite scenes from Throne of Glass? I actually love the bit where Celaena dresses up and goes round being like “LOOK I’M SO PRETTY”, because that’s an unusual attitude for a badass heroine, and it has nothing to do with being vain or silly or weak; she just likes looking pretty. Also the library, because libraries.
  4. Have you tried sticking to Sarah’s pronunciations or did you make up your own way to say all these names? I made up my own pronunciations. It’s really, really irritating when people look down their noses at you for saying names wrong (and I’m a member of my university Tolkien Society, so it happens A LOT), as if it really matters. What matters is the story, and what you as a reader take away from it.
  5. Is this the first time you’ve read Throne of Glass? We’re you like Andrea and Jessica and completely unsure as to why you waited so long to read it? Or, if you reread it for the Read Along, did your reading experience change from the first time? I’ve only read it once all the way through, but I did write about it, which was really interesting in terms of how I changed my mind about what it says about materialism and feminism. Compared to some of the other books I read for that essay, it’s actually quite progressive, and, like I said before, I love that Celaena gets to dress up AND be an assassin.
  6. Okay, let’s just get into this: As of this moment, who are you more fond of–Chaol or Dorian? Chaol, hands down. He actually behaves like a normal person, and relates to Celaena on a more equal footing, whereas Dorian just swans around like, “Hey, I’m the Crown Prince! I am irresistible to all women!” SHUT UP.
  7. What do you think about Princess Nehemia and her friendship with Celaena? Are you a fan, or are you giving the princess a side-eye? I was…quite sceptical about Nehemia. She totally seems to have an ulterior motive – no-one is that nice in that kind of court.
  8. How are we liking Nox? Do you think he’ll end up as someone to count on in the future, or should we not trust him? Nox is cool, in a kind of lovable-villain-y way. I liked that he seemed to have an actual moral code, as far as it went, instead of just trying to Win At All Costs.
  9. The writing! Are you loving Sarah’s writing as much as I am? Because seriously–it is so gorgeous. I do like how she describes the material things of Adarlan – that’s actually my favourite thing about Throne of Glass. I really enjoyed experiencing that sort of faux-medieval world.

Courtesans and Fishcakes

“Most of the time we forget the strangeness of reading.”

Peter Schwenger

Now, this has been on my TBR (at the Book Repository) for about four years, so I think it probably qualifies for the TBR Reading Challenge at Bookish. I won it at school as a prize for Latin, which is a bit of a puzzler since it’s actually a book about Ancient Greece. But hey ho. Never turn your nose up at free books.

I was slightly (well, very) worried that it might be rather dull and dry, being a 300-page history book with extremely small, dense type. Actually, it’s surprisingly engaging: an account of attitudes to food and drink and sex in classical Athens. I personally find social history much more interesting than political history – Greece is alien enough to make reading about it a little like reading about a really well-built fantasy world – and books about food are always good.

(Mmmm. Food.)

It helps, of course, that Davidson has a nicely accessible prose style, conversational without being unacademic, and amusingly sardonic in places, as when he’s criticizing Foucault and Freud. (It’s about time someone argued with Foucault, after all). I actually found the first half of the book, in which Davidson extrapolates specific details about Greek pleasures from textual evidence, more interesting than the second half, which discusses these details in the political context of Greek democracy (overindulgence being, apparently, an early-warning sign for tyranny); but that’s a personal preference, and certainly doesn’t reflect on the quality of the second half.

Of course, I don’t read enough history to say anything about the factual accuracy of any of this, but, certainly, it’s well-written and quite fascinating; great for the casual reader.

(Those Greeks were seriously weird, though.)

2015 TBR Reading Challenge at Bookish

“The road to fairyland is not the road to Heaven; nor even to Hell, I believe, though some have held that it may lead thither indirectly by the Devil’s tithe.”

J.R.R. Tolkien


So I’ve never taken part in a reading challenge before, but this one at Bookish looks fun. I am a chronic book-buyer, and the books at the bottom of my TBR pile have been known to sit there for years. Plus, joining in with stuff is fun. Apparently.

Any book qualifies for the TBR Reading Challenge so long as it was published in 2014 or before – so currently that’s all the books on my TBR. I’m going to aim low, for level 1: 1-10 books from the Pile of Doom, because I’ll still be doing university reading for about half of next year. (Also, I only have about 8 books on the Pile, which is ridiculously small, I know.)