For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:
February 5: Upcoming Releases I’m On the Fence About (these are the books you need help deciding if they’re worth adding to your TBR or not.)
I wasn’t really feeling the topic this week, so I decided to do my own thing. I have been looking at the ballad of Tam Lin recently for some inspiration and it got me thinking about how many retellings of this ballad I’ve read over the years. I’d love to do my own retelling of this story someday, but I’d want to do something different from the others! It may seem like an odd TTT but who cares? It’s my blog:
1. Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones– Polly has two sets of memories. One is normal. It features her life: school, family, friends. The other begins when she was nine years old and gate crashed a funeral near her grandmother’s house. She embarked on some kind of frightening adventures with Tom Lynne, a friend of the family, and everything changed… Ten years later, Polly still can’t remember what happened, and what she did. But she knows that unless she does regain those memories, she, and her true love, may lose everything. I read this a long time ago but I remember finding it compelling and well written with a confusing/ambiguous ending.
2. Roses and Rot by Kat Howard Imogen and her sister Marin survived a nightmarish childhood with an abusive mother. As adults, they’re both accepted to an elite, prestigious post-grad arts program (Imogen is a writer and Marin is a dancer) but they soon realize that there’s more to the small, rural campus than there seems on first glance. Imogen and Marin find themselves pitted against one another to win a chance to achieve everything they’ve ever wanted and- possibly- be plunged into their childhood nightmares in the process. This had some rather unexpected turns that I liked.
3. Thorn Jack by Katherine Harbour-After her sister, Lily Rose committed suicide, Finn Sullivan and her father move to a small town in upstate NY where Finn enrolls in a local college. As Finn settles in, she meets the charming and dangerous Fata family. Jack Fata is undeniably attractive, and Finn seems to run into him everywhere. As she gets to know Jack and the Fatas, Finn learns that they guard a secret that could lead her to a shocking truth involving her sister’s death. While this features some gorgeous lush prose and is the start of a compelling trilogy, it does feature some rather tired YA tropes as well.
4. An Earthly Knight by Janet McNaughton– Lady Jeanette Avenel is the younger daughter of a 12th century Scottish nobleman. When her older sister, Isobel is dishonored and shamed by running away with a suitor and marrying for love, Jeanette is put forth as a replacement bride in her sister’s arranged marriage. She too finds herself torn between love and family honor. Tam Lin, a dispossessed heir, with rumored supernatural ties, has her heart. But his fae connections might put both him and Jeanette at risk. This novel actually combines inspiration from two ballads, “Tam Lin” and “Lady Isobel and the Elf Knight.” I actually didn’t know about those connections at first: I started reading this one pretty randomly. I found the character aspects pretty successful but some of the historical aspects fell a bit flat.
5. Tam Lin by Pamela Dean- This one was disappointing because I’d read some excellent reviews beforehand. But I found this retelling set in a small liberal arts college in the 1970’s to be really dull, and it only incorporated the events of the ballad in the last 1/3 of the book. Janet Carter is a freshman at the beginning of this story and it follows her through her four years at Blackstock College. She falls in with a group of students who circle around the mysterious Professor Medeous. When she embarks on an affair with Thomas, a fellow student, she becomes aware of the ghost of a pregnant student who killed herself, late night horseback rides led by Professor Medeous and some members of the Classics department who encourage Janet on a dangerous quest to save her lover. Unfortunately there’s a lot of exposition before we actually get to the story, and none of the characters were particularly likable.
6. The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope– I read this many years ago, and I’d like to reread it at some point. I remember it being really good though. Kate Sutton is a young maid to Princess Elizabeth. In 1558 she is exiled by Queen Mary I to a remote countryside castle where there are a lot of rumors about the inhabitants. When a little girl disappears and Kate’s guardian’s brother Christopher begins to act strangely, Kate is brought face to face with a world she never knew. She’s led to an underground world inhabited by a people with customs that predate the Druids. Those customs include human sacrifice, and Kate might have to stand up to their leader in order to save her friend.
7. Ill Met By Moonlight by Sarah A. Hoyt– When young Will Shakespeare comes home to find his wife and daughter missing, he assumes that she has returned to her family. Heading to her village, he makes his way into Arden Forest. He finds a palace where none should be, and dancing lords and ladies, among them, his wife. When a beautiful woman approaches him, she promises to help will rescue his wife and child, if he helps her destroy the fairy king. I read this a long time ago and it combines the ballad of Tam Lin with Shakespeare, imagining the inspiration for his work including A Midsummer Night’s Dream and his Dark Lady poetry.
8. Tithe by Holly Black- Kaye is a high school dropout. She drinks and smokes and after her mother’s boyfriend tries to kill her, moves to New Jersey. It turns out that this turn of events was rigged by a supernatural world where a power struggle is taking place. Fairies want her to be a tithe (“the sacrifice of a beautiful, talented mortal”) in order to earn them seven years of freedom. This is enjoyable but not recommended if the tropes of YA fictions aren’t for you! It starts Black’s Modern Faerie Tale trilogy.
9. The Demon Lover by Juliet Dark- Callie McFay accepts a teaching position at a small college in upstate NY. As soon as she arrives, she finds herself having the same, sexy dream. Could it have something to do with the book she wrote called The Sex Lives of Demon Lovers, about the intersection of fairy tales and Gothic literature? She thinks so at first, but as she comes to realize, she’s visited by a incubus, a supernatural demon lover who who will eventually suck the life from her. She also discovers that this incubus is far from the only supernatural creature at Fairwick College. Some of the others have a plan to get rid of this incubus, but Callie suspects that this incubus may not be ultimately responsible for his actions. Can Callie save her lover and still destroy the evil spirit that might destroy her? One of the most compelling aspects of this book (IMO) was Callie’s academic research into the link between fairy tales and Gothic literature! It launches Dark’s Fairwick trilogy.