My 2016 Year in Books

It’s not *quite* the end of the year yet, but think it’s the right time to review my 2016 year in books!

I started this year with the aim of really, truly, enjoying each book that I read. You can never have a perfect year, but I like to think that I came pretty close to achieving this aim =) most importantly my attitude toward reading moved from the emotional crutch that colored much of 2015, to something much more fun and indulgent.

2016 seems to have been a year of fantasy reading for me, a genre that I once gave up. I haven’t really tackled the tougher issues in my reading this year, but life has thrown plenty of the big stuff my way, so having a literary playground to escape to has been a welcome relief.

Highlight of this year:  My 4-and-a-half read throughs of the Harry Potter series, Ms. Rowling I salute you! This epic repeated marathon got me through the worst parts, & I am forever grateful that this series exists.

My ‘2016 favorites’ shelf has some excellent books on it that I know I will return to again and again.  From ‘A Discovery of Witches’, which felt like it had been written just for me (isn’t it lovely when that happens?); to ‘Slade House’ my first success with reading David Mitchell.

From a social POV I made a lot more friends on Goodreads, especially since joining the ‘Catching Up on Classics’ group, & it’s been so lovely talking about books with you all!  I still haven’t quite got the hang of book club reading, but I’m sure I’ll get there eventually =)

Some books deserve to be read slowly, & make up part of each year despite not quite making it on to the virtual shelves.  ‘Palimpsest’ by Catherynne M. Valente, continues to colour my days with its strange beauty, whilst ‘Moby Dick’, which my partner & I read to one another on the rare days we are together, is a reading experience that I doubt will ever be surpassed, maybe we’ll finish it by 2019, but I wouldn’t complain if we were still reading it in 10 years time.

And finally, in contrast, I think my least favorite book of the year is obvious….’The Cursed Child’, (is it even a book?  I’d say no…but it won the Goodreads fantasy book of the year award…so I guess we’ll let that debate slide).  I’m quite thankful that it had some redeeming points &, unlike my least favorite book of 2015, a book that mentally scarred me to the point where I can’t even name it….The Cursed Child was merely a story that I didn’t enjoy that much, and seems to have brought happiness to a lot of people….even the literary negatives are positive this year =)

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas & looking forward to a lovely, bookish 2017! =)

My 2016 Year in Books can be found here:


Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This latest instalment in the Harry Potter franchise lacks the spark & intelligence of the original books. There are certainly moments where Rowling’s influence can be felt, and these were very welcome, but the script largely reads as if it were written by another, far clunkier, hand. This isn’t surprising given the format change and the writing team but I had hoped that this would be an opportunity to showcase some of the original magic (if you’ll pardon the pun) in a new way & unfortunately I felt ‘The Cursed Child’ fell short on this front.

Scorpius Malfoy is a wonderful character & I’m not sure this story gave us enough chance to explore him fully. I’d certainly welcome more writing on him in future.

I’m looking forward to ‘Fantastic Beasts’, the clips released so far look very promising, & I can’t imagine anything will stop my (near constant) rereading of the original Harry Potter series but, alas, ‘The Cursed Child’ will probably not be getting a second read through from me.

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Athene Donald: Embedding the People in our Labs

More and more I’m finding that it’s the people, rather than the equipment that makes a lab, so re-blogging this wonderful piece by Athene Donald:

Scientists are people, they have emotions and they interact with their peers, their students, their professors….and indeed the public. Sometimes, however, scientists are represented as interacting with little more than glassware or white lab coats. We can be perceived as living in a hermetically sealed bubble of our own construction occasionally churning out papers which…

via Embedding the People in our Labs — Athene Donald’s Blog

Growing & changing: Bank holiday PhD thoughts

I haven’t blogged since 2015; partly because workload & health problems left me short on time, but partly because I just couldn’t think of anything I wanted to write about.

I tried writing down a few thoughts today to help with my anxiety and, while I quickly got sidelined thinking about current projects, I thought this section was worth preserving:

It was suggested during my viva that my understanding of biological concepts relating to my project needed to ‘grow up’.  I fully agree with this comment, and note the difference in my personal satisfaction between earlier projects, where I was immersed in developmental biology, and my current PhD project, in which I focus on ‘getting work done’ with my existing physical science & programming skills.  While I feel confident in my element (in this case, physical sciences) I think in order to be truly satisfied with my work I need to be continually gaining new skills and growing as a scientist, only then can I focus on the more difficult & much needed task of growing as a person.

The wisdom of letting my well-being hinge so heavily on my job can, perhaps, be debated another day, but becoming more satisfied, excited & engaged are definitely things to look forward to.

Review: The Eyre Affair

The Eyre Affair
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is fluff; wonderful, witty, alternate reality, time travelling, comic fantasy, mystery fluff.

I loved every minute.

This book isn’t going to appeal to everyone, it’s certainly not fine literature, but if you’re after surreal wit and some serious escapism I’d recommend it wholeheartedly.

If you enjoyed this try: Jodi Taylor, Robert Rankin, Terry Pratchett.

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Review: Night Watch

Night Watch
Night Watch by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My favorite Discworld novel and one of my all time favorite books.

Sam Vimes leads the cast in this Time travelling – Les Mis – Detective – Fantasy mashup.

Prepare for origin stories galore as the children of the revolution head to the streets of Ankh-Morpork. Fight for “Truth, Justice, Freedom, Reasonably Priced Love, and a Hard-Boiled Egg”.

…And finally find out what happens on the glorious 25th of May.

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Review: The Nothing Girl

The Nothing Girl
The Nothing Girl by Jodi Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reviewing this book is proving quite challenging.

It’s “Romance or Erotica” month in the UK Bookclub Genre Challenge and I think it was immediately clear that I was out of my depth, it was finally time to face up to my literary blindspot.

Initially I planned to read ‘Emma’ by Jane Austen or ‘Evelina’ by Frances Burney but, as ‘Pride and Prejudice’ was the only romance novel I could remember reading, Emma seemed like a bit of a cheat and a few pages into Evelina I found I just wasn’t in the mood for it.

What about a contemporary romance? This was certainly new territory but I was tempted, if only because I’d recently read some of Jodi Taylor’s fantasy novels and something about her first romance novel caught my eye:

A character named Jen who finds communicating with others beyond difficult, is overly invested in her imaginary world, cripplingly anxious, seems a bit mad and has a beautiful love rival named Francesca.

*awkward cough from my inner 17 year old*

I don’t want to sound like a narcissist but if I didn’t get on with a book with this heroine, I probably wasn’t going to click with this genre at all.

So what about the book itself?

‘The Nothing Girl’ is a book of two very different halves. I’m rarely surprised by a plot twist but I honestly didn’t see this one coming, amazing job Jodi Taylor.

I found the first half of this book incredibly frustrating; the characters seemed nonsensical, a bit wet, I couldn’t work out where Taylor was going with them. I kept reading because it was a book club challenge and figured I’d just give it 1* at the end. I got the feeling there was some degree of pastiche that I might have understood and potentially enjoyed if I was a regular romance reader, but in my limited experience I just wasn’t getting it. The central relationship seemed to purposefully refer to elements that I’d associate with a classic romance: an element of financial transaction, inheritance, infantilisation of women, the shock of a woman without a chaperone and (the reference that even I could identify) the mad woman in the attic. I wondered if maybe this was the whole point of the book and maybe I was ill-equipped to get the most out of it.
The book I was expecting to read ended about half way through and I wondered what all those extra chapters were for. This is when the book got really good.

In the second half the book becomes interesting, then exciting and finally absolutely gripping. Taylor managed to create some kind of beautiful Thriller-Cosy-Romance-English-Countryside genre fusion.

I’m not sure how common this multidimensionality is in modern romance, but ‘The Nothing Girl’ has definitely persuaded me to give this genre another go. Maybe I’ll even get over my apprehension and join the Vaginal Fantasy Book Club, which I’ve secretly wanted to do since reading ‘You’re Never Weird on the Internet’.

If you’re not sure whether this book is for you (and don’t mind a few small spoilers) I’d recommend trying the short story ‘Little Donkey’, which is currently free on audible. It features the same characters and showcases Taylor’s writing but falls more into the romance/humor category.

Pleasantly surprised by my first contemporary romance!


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Combi 101: Day 4 – Sick Day Science Podcasts

Black Butte Blackberry - Scott Bauer
“Black Butte blackberry” by Scott Bauer, USDA ARS

Black Butte blackberry” by Scott Bauer, USDA ARS – This image was released by the Agricultural Research Service, the research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture, with the ID K7774-1 (next).This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information.English | français | македонски | +/−. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

This post is a day overdue, I know, I know….

But I have a good excuse, I was off work ill yesterday.  I don’t usually take sick days, so I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself…In the end I opted for a hot bath, some fresh air and a lot of podcasts.

You might be wondering at this point, what does any of this have to do with Thursday’s Blogging 101 & Writing 101 tasks?  And what’s with that tasty looking photo?

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