2015: A Year in Review


2015


| Books by Proxy – A Year in Review |

Welcome to my first end of year post – and what a year it has been! I started this blog on the last day of July and, over the last half of 2015, have found myself as part of a wonderful community of readers and bloggers. In my albeit limited experience, we book bloggers are lucky to enjoy a very friendly and supportive community, where sharing our books, our reviews and our experiences is all done for a love of reading and can be enjoyed by many. So thank you readers and thank you bloggers for making 2015 such an enjoyable year. I hope you all have a fantastic 2016!heart


| A Year in Books |
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I think we can all agree these two very similar and equally profound books, Blood Song by Anthony Ryan and The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, deservedly made it into my longest and shortest book categories.heart


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Donna Leon

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Leon 10

with ten books in her Commissario Brunetti series

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2015 - 6

P.G. Wodehouse

with nine books in total including seven from his Blandings series

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Jim Butcher

with eight books in The Dresden Files series

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AC - 6

Agatha Christie

with six books in her Hercule Poirot series

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best fantasyBlood Song

Book One of the Raven’s Shadow Series

by Anthony Ryan

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Best SciFiRed Rising

Book One of the Red Rising Trilogy

by Pierce Brown

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best novellaThe SerpentThe Serpent

The Gameshouse I

by Claire North

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best crimeThe Few

A Leone Scamarcio Thriller

by Nadia Dalbuonoheart

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best historicalLamentationLamentation

Book Six of the Matthew Shardlake Series

by C.J. Sansom

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best classicSomething FreshSomething Fresh

Book One of the Blandings Series

by P.G. Wodehouse

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There were so many more amazing books which deserve to be on this list but then it would just be most of 2015’s books!

Thank you all for reading and have a wonderful 2016!

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The Monthly Round-Up: August 2015


The Monthly Round-Up - augWelcome to the first post in my Monthly Round-Up feature. 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!


| Books Read |

August Reads

August was pretty much my first month in the bookoblogosphere and, barring a few missed posts here and there, I don’t think it’s gone too badly! Over the course of this month I managed to get through ten books. Not bad. I even finished all those neglected classics that had begun to stack up on my currently reading pile. Hurrah! One goal complete and reviews for said classics will be appearing shortly! I’m moderately happy with ten books (actually, very happy!) but I would have liked to see more fantasy in the mix. I was obviously deceived by my reviews of fantasy novels from other months. Oh well, there’s nothing like self-deception to spur on new goals! So without further preamble, in order of reading, here are this month’s time consumers:

| 1. |

Agamemnon by Aeschylus

| 2. |

Inquisitor by Mitchell Hogan

| 3. |

The Somnambulist by Essie Fox

| 4. |

Armada by Ernest Cline

| 5. |

Doctor Who: The Drosten’s Curse by A.L. Kennedy

| 6. |

Pigs Have Wings by P.G. Wodehouse

| 7. |

The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie

| 8. |

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

| 9. |

Hard Times by Charles Dickens

| 10. |

Persuasion by Jane Austen 


Book of the Month


8

A Darker Shade of Magic

by V.E. Schwab


| August Goals |

To finish the classics on my currently reading pile (Agamemnon, Pigs Have Wings, The ABC Murders and Hard Times) 

Status: Completed


| Goals for 2015 |

Goodreads 2015 Reading Challenge: 82/100 Books Read (82%)

Status: +10% during August

Dragons and Jetpacks 2015 Reading Challenge: 36/50 Books Read (72%)

Status: +12% during August


| Reviews Posted |

August has been a month of very good reviews, most of which were at the four and a half (heart shaped) star level! The highest rating given was five stars (awesome!) and the lowest rating given was three (still a good read!). Here’s the run-down:

5 Stars

3

The Scarab Path by Adrian Tchaikovsky


4 and a half Stars

4

The Stormcaller by Tom Lloyd

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The Heir of Night by Helen Lowe

5

The Somnambulist by Essie Fox

8

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

9

Morningstar by David Gemmell


              4 Stars

2

Inquisitor by Mitchell Hogan


                  3 and a half stars

6

Armada by Ernest Cline


                                  3 Stars

7

Doctor Who: The Drosten’s Curse by A.L. Kennedy


| Other Posts From August |

The Month Ahead: August 2015 

Blast from the Past: The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner

Bookish Beats: The Machine OST

Bookish Beats: The Secret Garden OST

Bookish Beats: Röyksopp – The Inevitable End

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Authors on my Bookshelf

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Auto-buy Authors

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Books in Escapology 101

The Rapid Review: Crime Classic Firsts

N.B. Reviews can also be found in the Blast from the Past and The Rapid Review features

Bookish Beats: The Secret Garden OST


Bookish BeatsMusic, much like literature, has the power to drive your imagination; it can lift the soul and create real emotion.This is Bookish Beats, a feature which will showcase some of the soundtracks which have enriched the worlds I’ve found between the pages. 


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The Secret Garden (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Composed by Zbigniew Preisner


Listen to with:

A haunting and atmospheric tale

Such as:

The Somnambulist by Essie Fox

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett was one of my favourite books as a child. Burnett could create a world of magic, a world from secret and simple wonders which I would dream I was a part of. The film was no exception; I would watch it over and over again, and become lost in the gardens and halls of Misselthwaite Manor.

This soundtrack suffuses haunting melodies with tension and magic, interspersing them with  joyous crescendos.  As soon as I started reading The Somnambulist, I knew which soundtrack to go to. In fact, there are a lot of similarities between Misselthwaite Manor and Dinwood Court, and this soundtrack accompanied Essie Fox’s writing like it was made for it. During the opening track, Main Title, you could envisage Phoebe Turner and the exotic and dazzling world of the music halls, and Leaving the Docks was a perfect complement to her conflicted journey to Dinwood Court.

This is a soundtrack with a good range of music; exotic tracks lead into magical and haunting piano pieces, which lead into light and airy choir numbers. The main theme, which I can’t help but love, runs through many tracks including Leaving the Docks, First Time Outside and Shows Dickon Garden. If you are looking for a soundtrack to accompany a haunting and atmospheric tale, or indeed a Victorian Gothic novel, then I wouldn’t look any further – The Secret Garden could just be perfect.

Favourite track

04 – First Time Outside

Top track for action

01 – Main Title

Top track for tension

03 – Mary Downstairs

Top track for emotion

02 – Leaving the Docks

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Review: The Somnambulist by Essie Fox



The Somnambulist

by Essie Fox

Historical Fiction | 405 Pages | Published by Orion in 2012


| Rating |


I first discovered the work of Essie Fox through her blog, The Virtual Victorian. I had been writing my dissertation and had been musing on Penhaligon’s Hammam Bouquet, a Victorian fragrance inspired by Turkish Baths, when a random search took me into Fox’s world of Victoriana. After reading through countless posts I discovered that Essie Fox had also become a published author of fiction. I knew that if I saw The Somnambulist I would buy it; Fox’s blog was so aligned with my own interests that I was certain her novel would win me over. And I did just that. Then the deadlines came thick and fast, reading time was down to a minimum, and here I am several years later having only just read it!

The Somnambulist is a haunting tale of life, love and loss in Victorian England. Phoebe Turner lives under the rule of her strict, fanatical mother in the East End of London and takes every opportunity to escape into the world of the music halls where, dazzled by the lights and sounds, she watches her aunt Cissy perform. But when a dark and mysterious stranger turns up at Wilton’s Music Hall, Phoebe’s universe is turned upside down. Through heartbreak and pain, Phoebe is whisked off for a new life at Dinwood Court – a life of comparative luxury. But appearances can be deceiving. Dark secrets and lies hide beneath the surface and threaten to become exposed at every turn. Haunted by past mistakes, broken promises and cries in the night, Phoebe must unravel the past and find the truth at the heart of Dinwood. Nothing will ever be the same again.

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The Somnambulist is a beautiful tale, which Essie Fox has written in an incredibly poignant and honest way. It thrives on its power to convey the reality and complexity of life; the tough choices we all must make, the truths we must conceal, and the hardships we must endure. Written entirely from Phoebe’s perspective, the descriptive style of narrative makes her every thought and action, her entire world, come alive. From the rough and grimy streets of London to the imposing and atmospheric beauty of Dinwood Court, Victorian England becomes vivid and real.

This novel sets the stage for a whole cast of characters. No one is wholly good, nor are they wholly bad, they’re just very real. They lie, they cheat, they make mistakes; they care, they love, and they forge ahead with good intentions and bad luck. Phoebe is a very likeable protagonist who is incredibly easy to empathise with and care for, and the rest of the cast are well fleshed out and given room to grow. Essie Fox has written a book which successfully captures the duality of human emotion and personality, and weaves it through the narrative to create a haunting, but ultimately believable, story.

Though some may find the ‘plot twists’ predictable and there are several instances where it is hard not to know what will happen next, I felt more like a voyeur. I was watching Phoebe make the wrong choices, I knew the pain and heartbreak that lay ahead, and I could see the way a road would lead as she stumbled on down it. This is, after all, historical fiction and isn’t a crucial element of history knowing the outcome whilst continuing to unravel the story behind it? However much you may feel like Old Riley by the end of it, this book isn’t diminished by the lack of ‘surprise’.

And maybe this book holds a special place in my heart – my great grandparents were also Music Hall Artistes in late Victorian Britain – but I truly think there is magic to be found in The Somnambulist. This is an enchanting, haunting and utterly compelling tale which cast its spell over me from start to finish and which I, quite literally, couldn’t put down.

…And thank you Penhaligon’s Hammam Bouquet for leading me to the musings of an author I feel sure I will read for years to come.

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