First up, Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton.
What a curious world Jo Walton has created. I definitely think this will win the prize for the most 'different' book I've read come the end of the year. It's a world very similar in manners and customs to our Regency or Victorian period and it does read like a novel from Jane Austen or Anthony Trollope. Except of course that the characters are all dragons. And here's the thing: you forget that. They talk and behave like humans so you forget they're dragons... until a servant is eaten for making a mistake, or the runt of a litter is taken away and made a meal of, and you're brought up sharp and reminded that these are not humans. Very odd indeed. And it's a complicated world these dragons inhabit. Extremely hierarchical, hide-bound with traditions and rules, the women have very little power, servants have their wings bound... and hanging over all is the fear of being devoured alive by a stronger dragon who wants your job or because you're surplus to requirements or just plain 'weak'. It's all utterly fascinating and I loved it. Jo Walton is fast becoming one of my favourite authors.
Tooth and Claw is my book eight for Bev's 2015 Mount TBR challenge and my first book for Carl's Once Upon a Tine IX.
Lastly, Clear Waters Rising: A Mountain Walk Across Europe by Nicholas Crane.
I think a map would help here:
Map from www.worldatlas.com
I really enjoyed this travelogue. Nicholas Crane has a very engaging, self-deprecating writing style but also very nicely descriptive. Some of his adventures were amusing, some fascinating, some downright frightening... especially in the Balkans where he felt properly threatened for the first time on the whole trip. Mostly he came across kindness and friendliness and a willingness to talk. Hunters with dogs scared him rather. A weird, ghostly experience one night in The Alps also scared him. He did the walk not long after the Iron Curtain had come down and the situation in those countries was sometimes a bit hairy. He even decided not to go into Serbia as he was too worried for his own safety. But overall it seems he was amazed that he'd actually acheived his goal after 14 or 15 months of non-stop walking, and I have to stay I find it astonishing that he did. An excellent read and I'm pleased that I have another of his books on the TBR shelf: Two Degrees West, in which he walks the length of the UK along the Central Meridian.
Clear Waters Rising is my book nine for Bev's 2015 Mount TBR challenge.