Reading Diary – Jan/Feb 2019


I’ve set myself a much more manageable target of 25 books to read this year and I’m off to a good start. I finished two trilogies which was satisfying and only gave up on Little Women because I wasn’t really in the mood for it.

Frazzled by Ruby Wax

I don’t believe personal development books should be reserved for the New Year but they are particularly helpfully in dealing with the dreaded January Blues. I’ve always liked Ruby Wax and followed her through her different incarnations as a comic actress, interviewer and now mental health warrior. After her TV career ended she studied mindfulness at Oxford University and this book includes a six-week starter course. It made me realise that yoga is actually moving mindfulness (duh) and has changed the way I practise it. Ruby’s personal stories of dealing with depression and anxiety which are interspersed throughout, were often as hilarious as they were heart-wrenching. 4/5




The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

“Magic is forgetting the world was ever other than as you willed it.”

This was the final book in the Winternight trilogy: a historical fantasy incorporating  folklore and fairy tales in medieval Russia. I loved our outcast heroine Vasya and always adore stories about women coming into their power. I also discovered that I relish books set in a magical, frost-bitten environment. I couldn’t get enough of the beautiful descriptions of snowy forests and icy winds. I imagine some people might find the writing a bit too flowery and the plot a little slow to take off, but not me. 5/5

winter of the witch


Tipping The Velvet by Sarah Waters

“I have been being careful since the first minute I saw you. I am the Queen of Carefulness. I shall go on being careful for ever, if you like – so long as I might be a bit reckless, sometimes, when we are quite alone”

I wanted to read more historical fiction this year and one of the great writers in this genre is Sarah Waters. Tipping The Velvet is set in one of my favourite eras, late 19th Century England. It follows the fortunes of Nancy, who is working in her family’s oyster restaurant when she becomes infatuated with Kitty, who performs as a male impersonator at the music hall. This takes her life off in a very different direction and around the mid-point of the book it starts to get very grim (as well as explicit) and Nancy seemed to act out of character. I was worried it would all spiral downhill from here but the final section set in London’s East End was excellent.  The author’s other books look rather bleak though so I’m mulling them over. 4/5




The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

The Mistborn fantasy trilogy is much hyped and while about the first fifth of this final instalment was a little slow, it did meet my expectations as events unfolded towards the end and everything was tied up. Sanderson is a master at creating complex worlds, magic systems and plots. In The Final Empire ash falls constantly from the sky and the nightly mists cause fear. There are mysterious creatures and a selection of the populace gain powers from ingesting metals. The way the revelations in The Hero of Ages doubled back to events in the first book was particularly clever. (I still prefer the Shades of Magic trilogy by V.E. Scwab though). 4.75/5



The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

“Asking is, in itself, the fundamental building block of any relationship.”

Indie rock musician Amanda Palmer is a badass in about a thousand different ways. One of those ways is that – unlike me – she is unafraid to ask strangers for whatever she needs, including funding an album. She was the first artist to raise a million dollars through Kickstarter. Her TED Talk about this experience and the ensuing backlash spawned this book.  Ultimately, for Palmer, it’s all about human connection and trust. However this is as much a memoir as it is a treatise about why artists shouldn’t feel shame about asking for support. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about her early life as street statue in Boston and her burgeoning relationship with one of my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman. 4/5



I’d love to hear if you’ve read any of these or if there’s another book you’d like to recommend. Let me know in the comments.


Filed under Book Review

16 responses to “Reading Diary – Jan/Feb 2019

  1. 25 is a good target. 24 is mine but I will probably still miss it. You have reminded me that I have never tried Sarah Waters, though I have one of her books on the shelf (The Night Watch).

    I wouldn’t fancy the TED talk book, mind, as I have a thing about crowd funding – strikes me as a modern form of begging. But it is good to ask for help if you are ill, say.

    And yes, I like a good frost-bitten environment, haha. Can recommend Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow and Snow Falling on Cedars in that chilly vein!


  2. lady jane grey

    Dearest T., you got me with the one by Waters and the Amanda Palmer book, because the two quotes touched ny heart deeply. I‘m in the US right now, flying from the East Coast to the West today and than back to Europe on Saturday, so there is lots of time for reading… Thank you, as always!


    • Dear M, lovely to hear from you.
      I picked out quotes that spoke to me so it’s great to hear they did the same for you.
      I hope reading can occupy your mind during all that travelling. I don’t know how you do it.


  3. Hayley

    Loving the book posts, read and enjoyed Essex serpent on the back of one of them. Have also joined good reads but have set 12 books challenge as am just getting back into reading. I so want to read the winter night books but I might save them for next winter as they strike me as a cosy read.


    • Hayley, I’m so happy you enjoyed The Essex Serpent. It’s fantastic.
      You know, you’ve done the right thing setting a low goal on GoodReads. It was getting me down when I was falling behind last year. It’s just a nice way to check your progress and keep a record. I’m addicted.
      Oh yes, do wait for next winter to start the series because it’s SO GOOD reading it when it’s freezing outside.


  4. Hamamelis

    Loving the book posts too! I have read and loved the Winternight Trilogy, besides the snowy forest I loved the nearness of the faery worlds, domovoi being one of my favourite entities. I loved Circe even better. I read the Song of Achilles, also good but a bit too much killing and bloodlust for me to be comfortable with. I liked the Essex Serpent very much too, and the Mermaid and mrs Hancock. I read and loved the Words in my Hand (Guinevere Glasfurd), historical fiction situated in 17th century Holland, I recommend it. I am about to read Once upon a River, and Lady into Fox, a birthday gift of my favourite aunt. I will try Tipping the Velvet, sounds up my alley!


    • It’s so nice to hear you’re enjoying the book posts. I have quite different tastes to a lot of perfume people who tend to prefer thrillers.
      I was wondering about The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock so I will give a go now I know you liked it.
      The Night Watch and Fingersmith by Sarah Waters are both supposed to excellent.


      • Hamamelis

        The Mermaid is a little bit like the Essex Serpent in the sense of a hint and sense of the supernatural. And it is has a happy end…I do think you may like the Words in my Hand too, but no happy end, it is fairly close to what history says happended between Descartes and his (beloved) maid.


  5. Tara C

    Ruby Wax sounds very interesting. Love the comment about yoga as moving mindfulness, this thought has recently occurred to me as well. Fortunately my anxiety has dropped tremendously in the past week as we have taken the decision not to move cross country and I feel very happy with the decision. We will instead be staying put and redecorating and decluttering our current home in Montreal.


    • I’m so happy to hear you’re feeling better! That shows that you’ve made the right decision. I love decluttering and once you’ve redecorated it will feel like a new home anyway.


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