The Monthly Round-Up: February 2018

Welcome to The Monthly Round-Up. Join me as I look back on the past month to see which books I’ve read, the reviews I’ve posted, the goals I’ve completed and my all important Book of the Month!

| The Monthly Round-Up: February 2018 |

February has been a fantastically busy month but I couldn’t be happier to have returned to Books by Proxy. It’s been wonderful catching up with books, posts and this wonderful blogging community, and I have a whole heap of ideas for the future of this blog – as well as a ‘to-be-read’ pile as big as a mountain!

And with the weather turning into a veritable winter wonderland, I can’t think of a better place to be than being wrapped up in the warmth with a good book!.. Or settled down to write some long overdue reviews!

I hope you’ve all had a wonderful month! 😀

| Books Read |


by Sebastien de Castell

| February Goals |

To read four books

Status: 4 of 4 Complete


To write a review once a week

Status: 2 of 4 Complete

| Reviews Posted |

The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley

The Hit by Nadia Dalbuono

| Other Posts From February 2018 |

The Month Ahead: February 2018

Tough Travelling: Shapeshifters

Chapter + Verse – The Hobbit: Chapter I – An Unexpected Party

Chapter + Verse – The Hobbit: Chapter II – Roast Mutton

Chapter + Verse – The Hobbit: Chapter III – A Short Rest

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Books I Still Haven’t Read

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Doomed Romances of Fantasyland

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Books I’m No Longer Interested In Reading

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Books I Could Re-Read ForeverTeaser Tuesdays: The Grace of Kings + The Hobbit: Chapter I

Teaser Tuesdays: Half the World + The Hobbit: Chapter II

Teaser Tuesdays: Spellslinger + The Hobbit: Chapter III

Teaser Tuesdays: Lois the Witch + The Hobbit: Chapter IV

Waiting on Wednesday: February 07 – Black Mirror: Volume 1 by Charlie Brooker

Waiting on Wednesday: February 14 – King of Ashes by Raymond E. Feist

Waiting on Wednesday: February 21 – The Bitter Twins by Jen Williams

Waiting on Wednesday: February 28 – The Hyena and the Hawk by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The Friday Face-Off: February 02 – Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

The Friday Face-Off: February 09 – My, What Big Teeth You Have

The Friday Face-Off: February 16 – Groovy Baby

The Friday Face-Off: February 23 – The Staircase

Friday Firsts: February 02 – The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

Friday Firsts: February 09 – Half the World by Joe Abercrombie

Friday Firsts: February 16 – Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell

Friday Firsts: February 23 – Lois the Witch by Elizabeth Gaskell

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Waiting on Wednesday: The Hyena and the Hawk

Welcome to Waiting on Wednesday, a weekly meme linking Waiting on Wednesday by Breaking The Spine and Can’t Wait Wednesday by Wishful Endings

| Waiting on Wednesday: February 28 |

The Hyena and the Hawk

Book Three of Echoes of the Fall

by Adrian Tchaikovsky

They face a hunger that could consume the gods themselves

From the depths of myth an ancient enemy has returned: the Plague People, whose very presence obliterates whole villages; whose terror destroys minds. In their wake, nothing is left of the people, not their places, not their ways.

On the plains, the warriors and the wise of all tribes gather to confront the aggressor. Loud Thunder leads his great war-host south, even as Tecumet and Asman head north with the Sun River army. With Maniye Many Tracks, they plan to forge a new unity between the tribes such as the world has never seen. But will it be enough to stave off an oblivion that might devour even their gods?

Their adversary’s presence is like a wound in the world, and wakes all the old terrors and evils from the peoples’ stories. But before they can deal with the enemies without, they must conquer their demons within.

The Hyena and the Hawk is the third book in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s epic fantasy trilogy, Echoes of the Fall, following The Bear and the Serpent.

To be published by Pan Macmillan on 05th April 2018

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Teaser Tuesdays: February 27

Welcome to Teaser Tuesdays – a weekly feature hosted by The Purple Booker. Expect a new teaser every week!

| Teaser Tuesdays: February 27 |

Lois the Witch

by Elizabeth Gaskell

Classics | 256 Pages | Published by Penguin Books in 2008

Lois sickened and shuddered at the whole scene; and this was no intellectual shuddering at the folly and superstition of the people, but tender moral shuddering at the sight of guilt which she believed in, and at the evidence of men’s hatred and abhorrence, which, when shown even to the guilty, troubled and distressed her merciful heart. She followed her aunt and cousins out into the open air, with downcast eyes and pale face.

~ Chapter 3 | 59% | Lois the Witch by Elizabeth Gaskell

| Synopsis |

Set against the backdrop of the Salem witch hunts, Elizabeth Gaskell’s sombre novella reveals much about the complicity of mankind. Recently orphaned, Lois is forced to leave the English parsonage that had been her home and sail to America. A God-fearing and honest girl, she has little to concern her in this new life. Yet as she joins her distant family, she finds jealousy and dissension are rife, and her cousins quick to point the finger at the “impostor.” With the whole of Salem gripped by a fear of the supernatural, it seems her new home is where she is in most danger. Lonely and afraid, the words of an old curse return to haunt her. Collaborator and friend of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins, Elizabeth Gaskell is a leading figure in Victorian literature.

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The Hobbit

by J.R.R. Tolkien

Fantasy | 306 Pages | Published by HarperCollins in 1995

He dreamed that a crack in the wall at the back of the cave got bigger and bigger, and opened wider and wider, and he was very afraid but could not call out or do anything but lie and look. Then he dreamed that the floor of the cave was giving way, and he was slipping – beginning to fall down, down, goodness knows where to.

~ Chapter IV: Over Hill and Under Hill | Page 58 | The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

| Synopsis |

The Hobbit is a tale of high adventure, undertaken by a company of dwarves in search of dragon-guarded gold. A reluctant partner in this perilous quest is Bilbo Baggins, a comfort-loving unambitious hobbit, who surprises even himself by his resourcefulness and skill as a burglar.

Encounters with trolls, goblins, dwarves, elves and giant spiders, conversations with the dragon, Smaug, and a rather unwilling presence at the Battle of Five Armies are just some of the adventures that befall Bilbo.

Bilbo Baggins has taken his place among the ranks of the immortals of children’s fiction. Written by Professor Tolkien for his own children, The Hobbit met with instant critical acclaim when published.

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| Join In |

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Please leave a comment with either the link to your own Teaser Tuesdays post, or share your ‘teasers’ in a comment here!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Books I Could Re-Read Forever

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday – a weekly feature from The Broke and the Bookish, now hosted by ThatArtsyReaderGirl. Expect a new top ten list every week!

| Top Ten… Books I Could Re-Read Forever |

Welcome back to Top Ten Tuesday! This week we’re looking at the Top Ten books we could re-read forever.

There are so many books I would happily pick up and read again and again and, in the past few years, this list has only grown. Keeping this Top Ten to only ten books was, therefore, quite a challenge. But, as with all these lists, there are those books that ultimately deserve a place.

These are the books that I adored as a child and inspired my love of the weird, the magical, the fantastic and the witty; these are the books that will always have a place on my bookshelf.


| 1. |

The Lord of the Rings

by J.R.R. Tolkien


| 2. |

The Hobbit

by J.R.R. Tolkien


| 3. |

The Silmarillion

by J.R.R. Tolkien


| 4. |

Harry Potter

by J.K. Rowling


| 5. |

The Little White Horse

by Elizabeth Goudge


| 6. |

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen


| 7. |

The Chronicles of Narnia

by C.S. Lewis heart

| 8. |

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland + Through the Looking Glass

by Lewis Carroll

| 9. |

The Secret Garden

by Frances Hodgson Burnett


| 10. |

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen

by Alan Garnerheart

Which books would you re-read again and again? If you would like to join in with Top Ten Tuesday, head on over to ThatArtsyReaderGirl and sign up!

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This Week by Proxy: 19 – 25 February

Welcome to This Week by Proxy. Join me as I look back on the past week to see which books I’ve read, the reviews I’ve posted and the goals I’ve completed.

| This Week by Proxy: 19 – 25 February 2018 |

Once again, I’ve seemingly been mired under a never-ending to-do list – which didn’t even manage to include a review! At least this week I managed to finish two books, which is a far cry better than the last. I’ve also moved on to my first re-read of The Fellowship of the Ring in preparation for future There and Back Again posts – and because I couldn’t resist starting it already! (Mostly because I couldn’t resist starting already). And I can’t even describe my joy at picking up a book I used to re-read on a yearly basis.

I hope you’ve all had wonderful weeks, happy reading everybody!

| Books Read |

| 1. |

Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell

With an interesting magic system, a witty narrator and twists and turns a-plenty, the first book in the trilogy of the same title is an exciting young adult fantasy that had me tearing through its pages. (Though not really as I’m very gentle with my books… also it was on kindle).

| 2. |

Lois the Witch by Elizabeth Gaskell

Lois the Witch is a short story by Elizabeth Gaskell published in 1861. This piece of historical fiction, depicting a young girl’s experience of the Salem witch trials, is a dark, depressing and incredibly well written tale.


| Posts |

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Books I’m No Longer Interested In Reading

Teaser Tuesdays: February 20 – Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell + The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Waiting on Wednesday: The Bitter Twins by Jen Williams

Friday Firsts: Lois the Witch by Elizabeth Gaskell

The Friday Face-Off: The Staircase

Chapter + Verse – The Hobbit: Chapter III – A Short Rest

| February Goal Progress |

To read four books

Status: 4 of 4 Complete


To write a review once a week

Status: 2 of 4 Complete

What have you been reading this week? Have you accomplished any goals?

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Chapter + Verse – The Hobbit: Chapter III – A Short Rest

Welcome to There and Back Again: A Journey Through Middle Earth – an indefinite season of all things Tolkien here at Books by Proxy. Join me as I make my journey through the most defining literature of my childhood, and unravel the details behind one of the most spectacular fantasy worlds ever made.

| Introduction |

Welcome to the third post of Chapter and Verse! This is a brand new weekly feature where I will be re-reading and analysing every chapter of The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien as part of my indefinite There and Back Again season.

If anyone wishes to join in with the re-read, please feel free to do so – the comments are open to anything and all things Tolkien. And for those of you yet to discover The Hobbit, there will be spoilers a-plenty throughout these posts.

The Hobbit

by J.R.R. Tolkien

| Chapter III: A Short Rest |

Subsequent to their encounter with the trolls, and with a feeling of danger both before and behind them, the company continue on their journey through desolate wastes, unexpected valleys and dark ravines. As Bilbo wistfully reminisces about home, Gandalf explains that they are headed to Rivendell, to rest, recover and resupply what had been lost on their journey.

Following a trail marked with white stones, they are led on a difficult path to the secret valley of Rivendell. As they descend, they hear the elves laughing and singing from the trees, and Bilbo is surprised to hear that they know his name. In haste for supper, the company is directed to the Last Homely House, which they find with its doors flung wide in welcome.

After a stay of two weeks, the company find they are fully refreshed and recovered of all their ills. On the evening before their departure, the master of the house, Elrond, examines the swords retrieved from the troll hoard, and explains that they were made by the High Elves of the West in Gondolin for the Goblin-wars. Thorin promises to keep the sword and use it well.

Learned in runes of all kinds, Elrond then examines the old map. Holding it up to the moonlight, he discovers that the secret to opening the hidden entrance to the Lonely Mountain is written in moon-letters upon the parchment. Its naming of Durin’s Day, however, troubles Thorin as such a time is hard to predict.

The next morning the company depart from Rivendell in high spirits and with a clearer knowledge of the road ahead.

| Commentary |

This relatively short chapter introduces the reader to one of the most prominent locations in Middle Earth lore, Rivendell, along with one of its most well known characters, Elrond. It is also host to one of the biggest disparities between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, that of the character of the elves.

Beginning with a description of the journey from Trollshaws to the hidden valley, A Short Rest gives a relatively clear depiction of the outlying landscape, indicating the hazards and the length of the journey ahead:

“They saw that the great mountains had marched down very near to them.” 

These descriptions provide a clear contrast between Rivendell and the surrounding wilderness and, though different in tone and length to the found in the subsequent novels, their quality is unquestionably Tolkien. Interestingly, however, the path to Rivendell is marked out by a trail of white stones; a detail which continues the fairytale-like quality of  the narrative. 

The shortness of this chapter is weighed by the length at which the company is supposed to have stayed there – “They stayed long in that good house, fourteen days at least.” Rather than elaborate however, the narrator briefly summarises this respite in their journey, of which, “there is little to tell.” This can be considered a means of maintaining the momentum of the adventure as later in the narrative we are told, “I wish I had time to tell you even a few of the tales or one or two of the songs that they heard in that house.”

The company’s first encounter with the elves depicts them as being a merry and mischievous race who find great enjoyment in laughing and singing songs. The verse in this chapter, with its abundance of tril-lil-lil-lolly’s, appears very contradictory to what we now understand the character of Tolkien’s elves to be and, reading in retrospect, is a little harder to enjoy.  The good humoured – if a little rude – comments made by the elves to Bilbo and Thorin are similarly contrary but help maintain the less-serious tone of this book.

In describing the Last Homely House as, “perfect, whether you liked food, or sleep, or work, or story-telling, or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all”, we are given a depiction that ties accordingly with our experience in The Lord of the Rings. And though the elves seem a little disparate to those found in rest of Tolkien lore, the character of Elrond is in fact reasonably similar:

“He was as noble and as fair in face as an elf-lord, as strong as a warrior, as wise as a wizard, as venerable as a king of dwarves, and as kind as summer.”

Chapter III: A Short Rest is a brief interlude in the ensuing adventure, allowing questions to be answered, bodies and minds to recover, and another pocket of Middle Earth to be uncovered. And though it throws up some contradictions and, as adults, can appear a little silly in places, my only memory of Rivendell and the elves from childhood is that of sheer enjoyment.

What did you think of the company’s encounter with Rivendell? Please leave a comment below!

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The Friday Face-Off: The Staircase

Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme here at Books by Proxy. Join me every Friday as I pit cover against cover, and publisher against publisher, to find the best artwork in our literary universe

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

Welcome to the Friday Face-Off where this week we’re comparing covers that feature a staircase.

The cover which immediately sprang to my mind was the first book in the Lockwood & Co. series by Jonathan Stroud, The Screaming Staircase; which, as luck would have it, almost always features a staircase!

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

Doubleday – UK Cover

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud - UK.jpg

Cover Art by Alessandro ‘Talexi’ Taini

Disney / Hyperion Books | US Cover

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud - US

Cover Art by Alan Ayers

| The Friday Face-Off: Winner |

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud - Win.jpg

I really love both these covers. They’re atmospheric, feature dramatic lighting and manage to express the tension of the illustrated scene.

The UK cover is dramatic and eye-catching, bathing the scene in an intense blue light, which casts shadows into the corners of the page. I love that the two figures in the foreground appear frozen in action as the eerie spectral figure appears at the top of the staircase, and that the typeface is clearly an integral part off the overall composition.

The US cover is simlarly dramatic but rather than using light, uses a thick green mist which clings to a staircase deep in shadow. The two figures appear primed to face battle, as an unsettling red light falls upon them and they hold aloft their weapons. Although I prefer the typeface on the UK cover, there is nothing to distract from the beautiful and bold illustration on the winning US cover.

Which cover wins your vote this week? Have a cover of your own? – Post the link below!

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Next week’s theme is:

 The only true wisdom is to know that you know nothing

A cover featuring something from Greek mythology

Remember to check The Friday Face-Off Feature Page for upcoming themes

| Links |

Lynn @ Books and Travelling with Lynn

S. J. Higbee @ Brainfluff

Mogsy @ The Bibliosanctum

Wendall @ Bookwraiths

Steve Smith @ Books and Beyond Reviews

Wendle @ MarvelatWords

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Friday Firsts: Lois the Witch by Elizabeth Gaskell

Welcome to Friday Firsts – a new weekly meme created by Tenacious Reader. New Book: First paragraphs. First impressions. New favourite?

| Friday Firsts: February 23 |

Lois the Witch

by Elizabeth Gaskell

Classics | 256 Pages | Published by Penguin Books in 2008

| First Paragraphs |

In the year 1691, Lois Barclay stood on a little wooden pier, steadying herself on the stable land, in much the same manner as, eight or nine weeks ago, she had tried to steady herself on the deck of the rocking ship which had carried her across from Old to New England. It seemed as strange now to be on solid earth as it had been, not long ago, to be rocked by the sea, both by day and by night; and the aspect of the land was equally strange. The forests which showed in the distance all round, and which, in truth, were not very far from the wooden houses forming the town of Boston, were of different shades of green, and different, too, in shape of outline to those which Lois Barclay knew well in her old home in Warwickshire. Her heart sank a little as she stood alone, waiting for the captain of the good ship Redemption, the kind rough old sailor, who was her only known friend in this unknown continent. Captain Holdernesse was busy, however, as she saw, and it would probably be some time before he would be ready to attend, to her; so Lois sat down on one of the casks that lay about, and wrapped her grey duffle cloak tight around her, and sheltered herself under her hood, as well as might be, from the piercing wind, which seemed to follow those whom it had tyrannized over at sea with a dogged wish of still tormenting them on land. Very patiently did Lois sit there, although she was weary, and shivering with cold; for the day was severe for May, and the Redemption, with store of necessaries and comforts for the Puritan colonists of New England, was the earliest ship that had ventured across the seas.

How could Lois help thinking of the past, and speculating on the future, as she sat on Bostonpier, at this breathing-time of her life? In the dim sea-mist which she gazed upon with aching eyes (filled, against her will, with tears, from time to time), there rose the little village church of Barford (not three miles from Warwick — you may see it yet), where her father had preached ever since 1661, long before she was born. He and her mother both lay dead in Barford churchyard; and the old low grey church could hardly come before her vision without her seeing the old parsonage too, the cottage covered with Austrian roses, and yellow jessamine, where she had been born, sole child of parents already long past the prime of youth. She saw the path, not a hundred yards long, from the parsonage to the vestry door: that path which her father trod daily; for the vestry was his study, and the sanctum, where he pored over the ponderous tomes of the Father, and compared their precepts with those of the authorities of the Anglican Church of that day — the day of the later Stuarts; for Barford Parsonage at that time scarcely exceeded in size and dignity the cottages by which it was surrounded: it only contained three rooms on a floor, and was but two stories high. On the first, or ground floor, were the parlour, kitchen, and back or working kitchen; up-stairs, Mr. and Mrs. Barclay’s room, that belonging to Lois, and the maid-servant’s room. If a guest came, Lois left her own chamber, and shared old Clemence’s bed. But those days were over. Never more should Lois see father or mother on earth; they slept, calm and still, in Barford churchyard, careless of what became of their orphan child, as far as earthly manifestations of care or love went. And Clemence lay there too, bound down in her grassy bed by withes of the briar-rose, which Lois had trained over those three precious graves before leaving England for ever.

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| First Impressions |

Gaskell’s prose always endears me to her work from the very start. The lengthy, evocative descriptions which make up the opening pararaphs are characteristic of her writing, a key detail in her abilty to portray realistic characters.

Already drawn in, I cannot wait to continue Lois’ journey to the New World – though I fully expect that it will be marred by hardship and tragedy, a trait that no Gaskell novel would be complete without.

What are you currently reading? What were your first impressions?

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Waiting on Wednesday: The Bitter Twins

Welcome to Waiting on Wednesday, a weekly meme linking Waiting on Wednesday by Breaking The Spine and Can’t Wait Wednesday by Wishful Endings

| Waiting on Wednesday: February 21 |

The Bitter Twins

Book Two of The Winnowing Flame

by Jen Williams

The Ninth Rain has fallen. The Jure’lia are awake. Nothing can be the same again.

Tormalin the Oathless and the fell-witch Noon have their work cut out rallying the first war-beasts to be born in Ebora for three centuries. But these are not the great winged warriors of old. Hatched too soon and with no memory of their past incarnations, these onetime defenders of Sarn can barely stop bickering, let alone face an ancient enemy who grow stronger each day.

The key to uniting them, according to the scholar Vintage, may lie in a part of Sarn no one really believes exists – a distant island, mysteriously connected to the fate of two legendary Eborans who disappeared long ago.

But finding it will mean a perilous journey in a time of war, while new monsters lie in wait for those left behind.

Join the heroes of THE NINTH RAIN as they battle a terrible evil, the likes of which Sarn has never known.

To be published by Headline on 08th March 2018

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